Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Nebuchadnezzar's Dream and His Madness - Daniel 4:1-37 (3:31-4:34)
This section (Daniel 4) is in the form of a proclamation by king Nebuchadnezzar to all the peoples of his kingdom, informing them of a wonderful event in which the living God of heaven made Himself known as the ruler over the kingdoms of men. After a short introduction (Daniel 3:31-4:2 [Dan 4:1-3]) the king makes known to his subjects, that amid the peaceful prosperity of his life he had dreamed a dream which filled him with disquietude, and which the wise men of Babylon could not interpret, until Daniel came, who was able to do so (Daniel 4:1-5 [Dan 4:4-8]). In his dream he saw a great tree, with vast branches and bearing much fruit, which reached up to heaven, under which beasts and birds found a lodging, shelter, and food. Then a holy watcher came down from heaven and commanded the tree to be cut down, so that its roots only remained in the earth, but bound with iron and brass, till seven times shall pass, so that men may know the power of the Most High over the kingdoms of men (vv. 6-15 [Dan 4:9-18]). Daniel interpreted to him this dream, that the tree represented the king himself, regarding whom it was resolved by Heaven that he should be driven forth from men and should live among the beasts till seven times should pass, and he should know that the Highest rules over the kingdoms of men (vv. 16-24 [Dan 4:19-27]). After twelve months this dream began to be fulfilled, and Nebuchadnezzar fell into a state of madness, and became like a beast of the field (vv. 25-30 [Dan 4:28-33]). But after the lapse of the appointed time his understanding returned to him, whereupon he was again restored to his kingdom and became exceeding great, and now praised and honoured the King of heaven (vv. 31-34 [Dan 4:34-37]).
If the preceding history teaches how the Almighty God wonderfully protects His true worshippers against the enmity of the world-power, this narrative may be regarded as an actual confirmation of the truth that this same God can so humble the rulers of the world, if in presumptuous pride they boast of their might, as to constrain them to recognise Him as the Lord over the kings of the earth. Although this narrative contains no miracle contrary to the course of nature, but only records a divine judgment, bringing Nebuchadnezzar for a time into a state of madness, - a judgment announced beforehand in a dream, and happening according to the prediction, - yet Bleek, v. Leng., Hitz., and others have rejected its historical veracity, and have explained it as only an invention by which the Maccabean pseudo-Daniel threatens the haughty Antiochus Epiphanes with the vengeance of Heaven, which shall compel him to recognise One higher than himself, namely, the God of Israel. A proof of this assertion of theirs they find in the form of the narrative. The proclamation of Nebuchadnezzar to all the nations of his kingdom, in which the matter is set forth, shows, in its introduction and its close, greater familiarity with biblical thoughts than one would have expected in Nebuchadnezzar. The doxologies, Daniel 3:33 (Dan 4:3) and Daniel 4:31 (Dan 4:34), agree almost literally with Psa 145:13; and in the praise of the omnipotence and of the infinite majesty of God, Daniel 4:32 (Dan 4:35), the echoes of Isa 40:17; Isa 43:13, Isa 43:24, Isa 43:21 cannot fail to be recognised. The circumstance that in vv. 25-30 (Dan 4:28-33) Nebuchadnezzar is spoken of in the third person, appears to warrant also the opinion that the writing was composed by some other person than by the king. But the use of the third person by Nebuchadnezzar in the verses named is fully explained from the contents of the passage (see Exposition), and neither justifies the conclusion that the author was a different person from the king, nor the supposition of Hv. that the vv. 26-30 (Dan 4:29-33) are a passage parenthetically added by Daniel to the brief declaration of the edict, v. 25 (Dan 4:28), for the purpose of explaining it and making the matter better understood by posterity. The circumstance that v. 31 (Dan 4:34) refers to the statement of time in v. 26 (Dan 4:29), and that the royal proclamation would be incomplete without vv. 26-30 (Dan 4:29-33), leads to the opposite conclusion. The existence of these biblical thoughts, however, even though not sufficiently explained by the supposition that Nebuchadnezzar had heard these thoughts and words in a conference on the matter with Daniel, and had appropriated them to himself, cannot be adduced against the genuineness of the edict, but only shows this much, that in the composition of it Nebuchadnezzar had made use of the pen of Daniel, whereby the praise of God received a fuller expression than Nebuchadnezzar would have given to it. For in the whole narrative of the event the peculiar heathen conceptions of the Chaldean king so naturally present themselves before us, that beyond question we read the very words used by Nebuchadnezzar himself.
Then it has been found in the highest degree strange that Nebuchadnezzar himself should have published to his people an account of his madness, instead of doing all to make this sad history forgotten. But, notwithstanding that the views of the ancients regarding madness were different from ours, we must say, with Klief. and others, on the contrary, that "publicity in such a case was better than concealment; the matter, besides, being certainly known, could not be made either better or worse by being made public. Nebuchadnezzar wishes to publish, not his madness, but the help which God had imparted to him; and that he did this openly does honour indeed to his magnanimous character."
But the principal argument against the historical veracity of the occurrence is derived from the consideration that no mention is anywhere else made of he seven years' madness, an event which certainly could not but introduce very important changes and complications into the Babylonian kingdom. It is true that the Hebrew history does not at all refer to the later years of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, though it extends, Jer 52:31, to a period later than these times, and should, without doubt, give as much prominence to such a divine judgment against this enemy as to the fate of Sennacherib (Kg2 19:37) (Hitz.). But the brief notice, Jer 52:31, that king Jehoiachin, thirty-seven years after his deportation, was delivered from prison by Evilmerodach when he became king, afforded no opportunity to speak of Nebuchadnezzar's madness, which for a time rendered him incapable of conducting the affairs of government, but did not cause his death. And the reference to the murder of Sennacherib proves nothing regarding it, because, according to the view of Jeremiah and the biblical historians, Nebuchadnezzar occupied an altogether different relation to the theocracy from that of Sennacherib. Nebuchadnezzar appeared not as an arch-enemy, but as the servant of Jehovah he executed the will of God against the sinful kingdom of Judah; Sennacherib, on the contrary, in daring insolence derided the God of Israel, and was punished for this by the annihilation of his host, and afterwards murdered by his own son, while Nebuchadnezzar was cured of his madness.
But when the opponents of the genuineness moreover argue that even the Chaldean historian Berosus can have announced nothing at all regarding Nebuchadnezzar's madness, since Josephus, and Origen, and Jerome, who were well-versed in books, could find nothing in any author which pointed to such an event, it is to be replied, in the first place, that the representations of seven years' duration of the madness, and of the serious complications which this malady must have brought on the Babylonian kingdom, are mere frivolous suppositions of the modern critics; for the text limits the duration of the malady only to seven times, by which we may understand seven months as well as seven years. The complications in the affairs of the kingdom were, moreover, prevented by an interim government. Then Hgstb. (Beitr. i. p. 101ff.), Hv., Del., and others, have rightly shown that not a single historical work of that period is extant, in which one could expect to find fuller information regarding the disease of Nebuchadnezzar, which is certainly very significant in sacred history, but which in no respect had any influence on the Babylonian kingdom. Herodotus, the father of history, did not know Nebuchadnezzar even by name, and seems to have had no information of his great exploits - e.g., of his great and important victory over the Egyptian host as Carchemish. Josephus names altogether only six authors in whose works mention is made of Nebuchadnezzar. But four of these authorities - viz.: The Annals of the Phoenicians, Philostratus, author of a Phoenician history, Megasthenes, and Diocles - are not here to be taken into account, because the first two contain only what relates to Phoenicia, the conquest of the land, and the siege of Tyre, the capital; while the other two, Megsth. in his Indian history, and Diocles in his Persian history, speak only quite incidentally of Nebuchadnezzar. There remain then, besides, only Berosus and Abydenus who have recorded the Chaldean history. But of Berosus, a priest of Belus at Babylon in the time of Alexander the Great, who had examined many and ancient documents, and is justly acknowledged to be a trustworthy historian, we possess only certain poor fragments of his Χαλδαι"κά quoted in the writings of Josephus, Eusebius, and later authors, no one of whom had read and extracted from the work of Berosus itself. Not only Eusebius, but, as M. v. Niebuhr has conclusively proved, Josephus also derived his account from Berosus only through the remains of the original preserved by Alexander Polyhistor, a contemporary of Sulla, a "tumultuous worker," whose abstract has no great security for accuracy, and still less for integrity, although he has not purposely falsified anything; cf. M. v. Niebuhr, Gesh. Assurs, p. 12f. Abydenus lived much later. He wrote apparently after Josephus, since the latter has made no use of him, and thus he was not so near the original sources as Berosus, and was, moreover, to judge of his fragments which are preserved by Eusebius and Syncellus, not so capable of making use of them, although one cannot pass sentence against the trustworthiness of the peculiar sources used by him, since the notices formed from them, notwithstanding their independent on Berosus, agree well with his statements; cf. M. v. Niebuhr, p. 15f.
But if Josephus did not himself read the work of Berosus, but only reported what he found in the extracts by Polyhistor, we need not wonder though he found nothing regarding Nebuchadnezzar's madness. And yet Josephus has preserved to us a notice from Berosus which points to the unusual malady by which Nebuchadnezzar was afflicted before his death, in the words, "Nabuchodonosor, after he had begun to build the fore-mentioned wall, fell sick and departed this life, when he had reigned forty-three years" (contra Apion, i. 20). In these words lies more than the simple remark, that Nebuchadnezzar, as is wont to happen to the most of men, died after an illness going before, and not suddenly, as Berth., Hitz., and others wish to interpret it. Berosus uses a formula of this kind in speaking neither of Nabonedus nor of Neriglissor, who both died, not suddenly, but a natural death. He remarks only, however, of Nebuchadnezzar's father: "Now it so fell out that he (his father Nabopolassar) fell into a distemper at this time, and died in the city of Babylon," because he had before stated regarding him, that on account of the infirmity of old age he had committed to his son the carrying on of the war against Egypt; and hence the words, "at that time he fell into a distemper," or the distemper which led to his death, acquire a particular significance.
(Note: When Hitzig adduces Kg2 13:14 in support of his view, he has failed to observe that in this place is narrated how the tidings of Elisha's sickness unto death gave occasion to the king Joash to visit the prophet, from whom he at that time received a significant prophetical announcement, and that thus this passage contains something quite different from the trivial notice merely that Elisha was sick previous to his death.)
If, accordingly, the "falling sick" pointed to an unusual affliction upon Nebuchadnezzar, so also the fact that Berosus adds to the statement of the distemper the account of his death, while on the contrary, according to this chapter, Nebuchadnezzar again recovered and reigned still longer, does not oppose the reference of the "distemper" to the king's madness; for according to Berosus, as well as according to Daniel, the malady fell upon Nebuchadnezzar in the later period of his reign, after he had not only carried on wars for the founding and establishment of his world-kingdom, but had also, for the most part at least, finished his splendid buildings. After his recovery down to the time of his death, he carried forward no other great work, regarding which Berosus is able to give any communication; it therefore only remained for him to mention the fact of his death, along with the statement of the duration of his reign. No one is able, therefore, to conclude from his summary statement, that Nebuchadnezzar died very soon after his recovery from the madness.
A yet more distinct trace of the event narrated in this chapter is found in Abydenus, in the fragments preserved by Euseb. in the Praepar. evang. ix. 41, and in the Chronic. Armen. ed. Aucher, i. p. 59, wherein Abydenus announces as a Chaldee tradition (λέγεται πρὸς Χαλδαίων), that Nebuchadnezzar, after the ending of his war in the farther west, mounted his royal tower, i.e., to the flat roof, and, there seized by some god (κατασχεθείη θεῷ ὅτεω δὴ), he oracularly (θεσπίσαι) announced to the Babylonians their inevitable subjugation by the Πέρσης ἡμίονος united with the Medes, who would be helped by their own Babylonian gods. He prayed that the Persian might be destroyed in the abyss of the sea, or condemned to wander about in a desert wilderness, inhabited only by wild beasts; and for himself he wished a peaceful death before these misfortunes should fall on the Chaldean empire. Immediately after this utterance Nebuchadnezzar was snatched away from the sight of men (παραχρῆμα ἠφάνιστο). In this Chaldean tradition Eusebius has recognised
(Note: In the Chron. Arm. p. 61, Eusebius has thus remarked, after recording the saying by Abyd.: "In Danielis sane historiis de Nabudhadonosoro narratur, quomodo et quo pacto mente captus fuerit: quod si Graecorum historici aut Chaldaei morbum tegunt et a Deo eum acceptum comminiscuntur, Deumque insaniam, quae in illum intravit, vel Daemonem quendam, qui in eum venerit, nominant, mirandum non est. Etenim hoc quidem illorum mos est, cuncta similia Deo adscribere, Deosque nominare Daemones.")
a disfigured tradition of this history; and even Bertholdt will not "deny that this strange saying is in its main parts identical with our Aramaic record." On the other hand, Hitz. knows nothing else to bring forward than that "the statement sounds so fabulous, that no historical substance can be discovered in it." But the historical substance lies in the occurrence which Daniel relates. As, according to Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar was on the roof of his palace when he was suddenly struck by God with madness, so also according to Abydenus he was ὡς ἀναβὰς ἐπὶ τὰ βασιλήΐα when seized by some god, or possessed. Here not only the time and the place of the occurrence agree, but also the circumstance that the king's being seized or bound was effected by some god, i.e., not by his own, but by a strange god. Not the less striking is the harmony in the curse which he prayed might fall on the Persian - "May he wander in the wilderness where no cities are, no human footstep, where wild beasts feed and the birds wander" - with the description of the abode of the king in his madness in Dan 5:21 : "And he was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses; and they fed him with grass like oxen." Moreover, though the designation of the Persian as ἡμίονος in Abyd. may not be formed from the ערדין of Daniel, but derived from old oracles regarding Cyrus diffused throughout the East, as Hv. (N. Krit. Unters. p. 53, under reference to Herod. i. 55, 91) regards as probable, then the harmony of the Chaldean tradition in Abyd. with the narrative in Daniel leaves no doubt that the fact announced by Daniel lies at the foundation of that tradition, but so changed as to be adapted to the mythic glorification of the hero who was celebrated, of whom Megasthenes says that he excelled Hercules in boldness and courage ( ̔Ηρακλέως ἀλκιμώτερον γεγονότα, in Euseb. Praep. ev. l.c.).
To represent the king's state of morbid psychical bondage and want of freedom as his being moved by God with the spirit of prophecy was natural, from the resemblance which the mantic inspiration in the gestures of the ecstasy showed to the μανία (cf. The combination of וּמתנבּא משׁגּה אישׁ, Jer 29:26; Kg2 9:11); and in the madness which for a time withdrew the founder of the world-kingdom from the exercise of his sovereignty there might appear as not very remote to the Chaldeans, families with the study of portents and prodigies as pointing out the fate of men and of nations, an omen of the future overthrow of the world-power founded by him. As the powerful monarchy of Nebuchadnezzar was transferred to the Πέρσης ἡμίονος not a full generation (25-26 years) after the death of its founder, it might appear conformable to the national vanity of the Chaldeans to give the interpretation to the ominous experience of the great king, that the celebrated hero himself before his death - θεῷ ὅτεω δὴ κατάσχετος - had prophesied its fall, and had imprecated on the destroyer great evil, but had wished for himself a happy death before these disasters should come.
But even if there were no such traditional references to the occurrence mentioned in this chapter, yet would the supposition of its invention be excluded by its nature. Although it could be prophesied to Antiochus as an ̓Επιμανής (madman) that he would wholly lose his understanding, yet there remains, as even Hitz. is constrained to confess, the choice of just this form of the madness, the insania zoanthropica, a mystery in the solution of which even the acuteness of this critic is put to shame; so that he resorts to the foolish conjecture that the Maccabean Jew had fabricated the history out of the name נבוכדנצר, since נבוך means oberravit cum perturbatione, and כדן, to bind, fasten, while the representation of the king as a tree is derived from the passages Isa 14:12; Eze 31:3. To this is to be added the fact, that the tendency attributed to the narrative does not at all fit the circumstances of the Maccabean times. With the general remark that the author wished to hold up as in a mirror before the eyes of Antiochus Epiphanes to what results haughty presumption against the Most High will lead, and how necessary it is penitentially to recognise His power and glory if he would not at length fall a victim to the severest judgments (Bleek), the object of the invention of so peculiar a malady becomes quite inconceivable. Hitzig therefore seeks to explain the tendency more particularly. "The transgressor Nebuchadnezzar, who for his haughtiness is punished with madness, is the type of that arrogant ̓Επιμανής, who also sought unsuitable society, as king degraded himself (Polyb. xxvi. 10), and yet had lately given forth a circular-letter of an altogether different character (1 Macc. 1:41ff.)."
"If in v. 28 (Dan 4:31) the loss of the kingdom is placed before the view of Nebuchadnezzar (Antiochus Epiphanes), the passage appears to have been composed at a time when the Maccabees had already taken up arms, and gained the superiority (1 Macc. 2:42-48)." According to this, we must suppose that the author of this book, at a time when the Jews who adhered to their religion, under the leadership of Mattathias, marched throughout the land to put an end by the force of arms to the oppression of Antiochus Epiphanes, had proposed to the cruel king the full restoration of his supremacy and the willing subjection of the Jews under his government, on the condition that he should recognise the omnipotence of their God. But how does such a proposal of peace agree with the war of the Jews led by Mattathias against the πׂδψσ, against the heathen and transgressors, whose horn (power) they suffer not to prosper (1 Macc. 2:47, 48)? How with the passionate address of the dying Mattathias, "Fear ye not the words of a sinful man (ἀνδρὸς ἁμαρτωλοῦ, i.e., Antiochus), for his glory shall be dung and worms" (v. 62)? And wherein then consists the resemblance between the Nebuchadnezzar of his chapter and Antiochus Epiphanes? - the latter, a despot who cherished a deadly hatred against the Jews who withstood him; the former, a prince who showed his good-will toward the Jews in the person of Daniel, who was held in high esteem by him. Or is Nebuchadnezzar, in the fact that he gloried in the erection of the great Babylon as the seat of his kingdom, and in that he was exhorted by Daniel to show compassion toward the poor and the oppressed (v. 24 [Dan 4:27]), a type of Antiochus, "who sought improper society, and as king denied himself," i.e., according to Polybius as quoted by Hitzig, delighted in fellowship with the lower classes of society, and spent much treasure amongst the poor handicraftsmen with whom he consorted? Or is there seen in the circular-letter of Antiochus, "that in his whole kingdom all should be one people, and each must give up his own laws," any motive for the fabrication of the proclamation in which Nebuchadnezzar relates to all his people the signs and wonders which the most high God had done to him, and for which he praised the God of heaven?
And if we fix our attention, finally, on the relation of Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar, shall that prophet as the counsellor of the heathen king, who in true affection uttered the wish that the dream might be to them that hated him, and the interpretation thereof to his enemies (v. 16 [Dan 4:19]), be regarded as a pattern to the Maccabees sacrificing all for the sake of their God, who wished for their deadly enemy Antiochus that his glory might sink into "dung and the worms?" Is it at all conceivable that a Maccabean Jew, zealous for the law of his fathers, could imagine that the celebrated ancient prophet Daniel would cherish so benevolent a wish toward the heathen Nebuchadnezzar, in order that by such an invention he might animate his contemporaries to stedfast perseverance in war against the ruthless tyrant Antiochus?
This total difference between the facts recorded in this chapter and the circumstances of the Maccabean times described in 1 Macc. 2:42-48, as Kranichfeld has fully shown, precludes any one, as he has correctly observed, "from speaking of a tendency delineated according to the original of the Maccabean times in the name of an exegesis favourable to historical investigation." The efforts of a hostile criticism will never succeed on scientific grounds in changing the historical matters of fact recorded in this chapter into a fiction constructed with a tendency.
These verses form the introduction
(Note: The connection of these verses with the third chapter in the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin Bibles is altogether improper. The originator of the division into chapters appears to have entertained the idea that Nebuchadnezzar had made known the miracle of the deliverance of the three men from the fiery furnace to his subjects by means of a proclamation, according to which the fourth chapter would contain a new royal proclamation different from that former one, - an idea which was rejected by Luther, who has accordingly properly divided the chapters. Conformably to that division, as Chr. B. Michaelis has well remarked, "prius illud programma in fine capitis tertii excerptum caput sine corpore, posterius vero quod capite IV exhibetur, corpus sine capite, illic enim conspicitur quidem exordium, sed sine narratione, hic vero narratio quidem, sed sine exordio." Quite arbitrarily Ewald has, according to the lxx, who have introduced the words ̓Αρχὴ τῆς ἐπιστολης͂ before Daniel 3:31, and ̓Ετους ὀκτωκαιδεκάτου τῆς βασλείας Ναβουχοδονόσορ ει before Dan 4:1, enlarged this passage by the superscription: "In the 28th year of the reign of king Nebuchadnezzar, king Nebuchadnezzar wrote thus to all the nations, communities, and tongues who dwell in the whole earth.")
to the manifesto, and consist of the expression of good wishes, and the announcement of its object. The mode of address here used, accompanied by an expression of a good wish, is the usual form also of the edicts promulgated by the Persian kings; cf. Ezr 4:17; Ezr 7:12. Regarding the designation of his subjects, cf. Dan 3:4. בּכל-ארעא, not "in all lands" (Hv.), but on the whole earth, for Nebuchadnezzar regarded himself as the lord of the whole earth. ותמהיּא אתיּא corresponds with the Hebr. וּמפתים אותת; cf. Deu 6:22; Deu 7:19. The experience of this miracle leads to the offering up of praise to God, Dan 4:33 (Daniel 4:3). The doxology of the second part of Dan 4:33 occurs again with little variation in Daniel 4:31 (Dan 4:34), Dan 7:14, Dan 7:18, and is met with also in Psa 145:13, which bears the name of David; while the rendering of עם־דּר , from generation to generation, i.e., as long as generations exist, agrees with Psa 72:5.
With Daniel 4:1 (v. 4) Nebuchadnezzar begins the narration of his wonderful experience. When he was at rest in his palace and prospering, he had a dream as he lay upon his bed which made him afraid and perplexed. שׁלה, quiet, in undisturbed, secure prosperity. רענן, properly growing green, of the fresh, vigorous growth of a tree, to which the happiness and prosperity of men are often compared; e.g., in Ps. 52:10 (8), Psa 92:12 (10). Here plainly the word is chosen with reference to the tree which had been seen in the dream. From this description of his prosperity it appears that after his victories Nebuchadnezzar enjoyed the fruit of his exploits, was firmly established on his throne, and, as appears from v. 26 (Dan 4:29)f., a year after his dream could look with pleasure and pride on the completion of his splendid buildings in Babylon; and therefore this event belongs to the last half of his reign.
While in this state of security and peace, he was alarmed by a dream. The abrupt manner in which the matter is here introduced well illustrates the unexpected suddenness of the even itself. הרהרין, thoughts, from הרהר, to think, to meditate; in the Mishna and in Syr. images of the imagination; here, images in a dream. The words משׁכּבי על הרהרין are more properly taken as a passage by themselves with the verb, I had (I saw), supplied, than connected with the following noun to יבהלנּני. Regarding ראשׁי חזוי see under Dan 2:28. On this matter Chr. B. Michaelis has well remarked: "Licet somnii interpretationem nondum intelligeret, tamen sensit, infortunium sibi isthoc somnio portendi."
Therefore Nebuchadnezzar commanded the wise men of Babylon (Dan 2:2) to be called to him, that they might interpret to him the dream. But they could not do so, although on this occasion he only asked them to give the interpretation, and not, as in Dan 2:2, at the same time the dream itself. Instead of the Kethiv עללין, the Keri here and at Dan 5:8 gives the contracted form עלּין, which became possible only by the shortening of , as in חשׁחן Dan 3:16. The form אחרין is differently explained; apparently it must be the plur. masc. instead of אחרן, and אחרין עד, to the last, a circumlocution of the adverb at last. That אחרין means posterus, and אחרן alius, Hitzig has not yet furnished the proof. The question, wherefore Daniel came only when the Chaldean wise men could not interpret the dream, is not answered satisfactorily by the remark of Zndel, p. 16, that it was the natural course that first they should be called who by virtue of their wisdom should interpret the dream, and that then, after their wisdom had failed, Daniel should be called, who had gained for himself a name by revelations not proceeding from the class of the Magi. For if Nebuchadnezzar had still the events of Daniel 2 in view, he would without doubt have called him forthwith, since it certainly did not come into his mind, in his anxiety on account of his dream, first to try the natural wisdom of his Magi. The objection offered by Hitzig, that the king does not go at once to his chief magician, v. 6 (Dan 4:9), who had already (Daniel 2) shown himself to be the best interpreter of dreams, is not thereby confuted; still less is it by the answer that the custom was not immediately to call the president of the Magi (Jahn), or that in the haste he was not at once thought of (Hv.). Though it may have been the custom not to call the chief president in every particular case, yet a dream by the king, which had filled him with terror, was an altogether unusual occurrence. If Daniel, therefore, was in this case first called only when the natural wisdom of the Magi had proved its inadequacy, the reason of this was, either that Nebuchadnezzar had forgotten what had occurred several years before (Daniel 2), and since the chief president of the wise men was only in special cases called on for counsel, therefore only the incorporated cultivators of the magician's art were called, and only when these could not accomplish that which was asked of them was the chief president Daniel required to come, - or it lay in this, that the king, afraid of receiving an unwelcome answer, purposely adopted the course indicated. Kranichfeld has decided in favour of this latter supposition. "The king," he thinks, "knew from the dream itself that the tree (v. 8 [Dan 4:11]) reaching unto heaven and extending to the end of the whole earth represented a royal person ruling the earth, who could come to ruin on account of the God of the Jews, and would remain in his ruin till there was an acknowledgment of the Almighty; cf. vv. 13, 14, (Dan 4:16, Dan 4:17). There was this reason for the king's keeping Daniel the Jew at a distance from this matter of the dream. Without doubt he would think himself intended by the person concerned in the dream; and since the special direction which the dream took (Dan 4:14) set forth as its natural point of departure an actual relation corresponding to that of the king to the God of Daniel, it must have occasioned to him a well-grounded fear (cf. Dan 4:24), as in the case of Ahab, the idolater, towards Micah, the prophet of Jehovah (cf. Kg1 22:8), of a severe judgment, leading him to treat with any other regarding his matter rather than with Daniel." For the establishment of this view Kranichfeld refers to the "king's subsequent address to Daniel, designed especially to appease and captivate (vv. 5, 6 [Dan 4:8, Dan 4:9]), as well as the visibly mild and gentle deportment of the king toward the worshipper of the God of the Jews." This proceeding tending to captivate appears in the appellation, Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god; for Nebuchadnezzar, by the addition of a name of honour in commemoration of the celebrated god of the kingdom, intended to show favour toward him, as also in the expression which follows, In whom is the spirit of the holy gods, which Nebuchadnezzar repeats in the address. But neither in the one nor the other of these considerations can we perceive the intention of specially captivating and appeasing the Jew Daniel; - not in the latter of these expressions, for two reasons: 1. because Nebuchadnezzar uses the expression not merely in the address to Daniel, but also in the references to him which go before; had he designed it to captivate him, he would have used these words of honour only in the address to him; 2. because the expression, "in whom is the spirit of the holy gods," is so truly heathenish, that the Jew, who knew only one God, could not feel himself specially flattered by having the spirit of the holy gods ascribed to him.
If Nebuchadnezzar had had the intention of gaining the favour of Daniel, he would certainly, according to his confession (Dan 2:47), have attributed to him the spirit of the God of gods, the Lord of lords, - a confession which even as a heathen he could utter. We cannot give the king so little credit for understanding as to suppose that he meant to show
(Note: Calvin here rightly remarks: non dubium est, quin hoc nomen graviter vulneraverit animum prophetae.)
a special favour to Daniel, who held so firmly the confession of his father's God, by reminding him that he had given him the name Belteshazzar after the name of his god Bel, whom the Jews abhorred as an idol. Thus the reminding him of this name, as well as the saying that he possessed the spirit of the holy gods, is not accounted for by supposing that he intended to appease and captivate Daniel. In showing the unsatisfactoriness of this interpretation of these expressions, we have set aside also the explanation of the reason, which is based upon it, why Daniel was called in to the king only after the Chaldean wise men; and other weighty considerations can also be adduced against it. First, the edict contains certainly nothing which can give room to the conjecture that Nebuchadnezzar entertained no true confidence, but much rather want of confidence, in him. The comparison of Nebuchadnezzar also with king Ahab in his conduct toward the prophet Micah is not suitable, because Ahab was not a mere polytheist as Nebuchadnezzar, but much rather, like Antiochus Epiphanes, persecuted the servants of Jehovah in his kingdom, and at the instigation of his heathenish wife Jezebel wished to make the worship of Baal the only religion of his kingdom. Finally, the relation of the dream does not indicate that Nebuchadnezzar, if he knew or suspected that the dream referred to himself as ruler over the whole earth, thought that he would come to ruin because of the God of the Jews. For that this does not follow from v. 14 (Dan 4:17), is shown not only by the divine visitation that happened to the king, as mentioned in v. 27 (Dan 4:30) in fulfilment of the dream, but also by the exhortation to the king with which Daniel closes the interpretation, "to break off sin by righteousness, and his iniquities by showing mercy to the poor" (v. 24 [v. 27]).
Thus there only remains this supposition, that the former revelations of God to the king had passed away from his heart and his memory; which was not surprising in the successful founder and ruler of a world-kingdom, if we consider that from twenty-five to thirty years must have passed away since Daniel interpreted to him his dream in the second year of his reign, and from ten to fifteen had passed since the miracle of the deliverance of the three from the burning fiery furnace. But if those earlier revelations of God were obscured in his heart by the fulness of his prosperity, and for ten years Daniel had no occasion to show himself to him as a revealer of divine secrets, then it is not difficult to conceive how, amid the state of disquietude into which the dream recorded in this chapter had brought him, he only gave the command to summon all the wise men of Babylon without expressly mentioning their president, so that they came to him first, and Daniel was called only when the natural wisdom of the Chaldeans had shown itself helpless.
The naming of Daniel by his Hebrew name in the manifesto, intended for all the people of the kingdom as well as for the Jews, is simply intended, as in Dan 2:29, to designate the interpreter of the dream, as distinguished from the native wise men of Babylon, as a Jew, and at the same time as a worshipper of the most high God; and by the addition, "whose name is Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god," Nebuchadnezzar intends to indicate that Daniel by this name was brought into fellowship with his chief god Bel, and that not only as a worshipper of the God of the Jews, but also of the great god Bel, he had become a partaker of the spirit of the holy gods. But by the holy gods Nebuchadnezzar does not understand Jehovah, the Holy One, deriving this predicate "holy," as M. Geier says, ex theologia Isralitica, and the plur. "gods" denoting, as Calovius supposes, the mysterium pluralitatis personarum; but he speaks of the holy gods, as Jerome, Calvin, and Grotius supposed, as a heathen (ut idololatra) in a polytheistic sense. For that the revelation of supernatural secrets belonged to the gods, and that the man who had this power must possess the spirit of the gods, all the heathen acknowledged. Thus Pharaoh (Gen 41:38) judged regarding Joseph, and thus also the Chaldeans say to Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 2:11) that only the gods could know his dream. The truth lying at the foundation of this belief was acknowledged by Joseph before Pharaoh, as also by Daniel before the Chaldean king, for both of them declared before the heathen kings that the interpretation of their dreams was not in the power of man, but could come only from God (Gen 41:16; Dan 2:28). But when in the case before us Nebuchadnezzar speaks of the holy gods, he means by the expression the ἀγαθοδαίμονες as opposed to the κακοδαίμονες, using the word holy of the good gods, probably from his conversation with Daniel on the subject.
In the address, Dan 4:6, he calls Belteshazzar חרטמּיּא רב, master of the magicians, probably from the special branch of Chaldean wisdom with which Daniel was particularly conversant, at the same time that he was chief president over all the magicians. אנס, to oppress, to compel any one, to do violence to him; here, to make trouble, difficulty.
Nebuchadnezzar in these verses tells his dream. The first part of v. 10 is an absolute nominal sentence: the visions of my head lying upon my bed, then I saw, etc. - A tree stood in the midst of the earth. Although already very high, yet it became always the greater and the stronger, so that it reached eve unto heaven and was visible to the ends of the earth. V. 11. The perf. רבה and תּקיף express not its condition, but its increasing greatness and strength. In the second hemistich the imperf. ימטא, as the form of the striving movement, corresponds to them. Daniel B. Michaelis properly remarks, that Nebuchadnezzar saw the tree gradually grow and become always the stronger. חזות, the sight, visibleness. Its visibility reached unto the ends of the earth. The lxx have correctly ἡ ὅρασις αὑτοῦ; so the Vulgate; while Theodotion, with τὸ κύτος αὐτοῦ, gives merely the sense, its largeness, or dome. Hitzig altogether improperly refers to the Arab. ḥawzah; for ḥwzh, from ḥwz, corresponds neither with the Hebr. חזה, nor does it mean extent, but comprehension, embracing, enclosure, according to which the meanings, tractus, latus, regio, given in the Arab. Lex., are to be estimated.
At the same time the tree abounded with leaves and fruit, so that birds and beasts found shadow, protection, and nourishment from it. שׁגיא, neither great nor many, but powerful, expressing the quantity and the greatness of the fruit. The בּהּ the Masoretes have rightly connected with לכלּא, to which it is joined by Maqqeph. The meaning is not: food was in it, the tree had food for all (Hv., Maur., and others), but: (it had) food for all in it, i.e., dwelling within its district (Kran., Klief.). The words, besides, do not form an independent sentence, but are only a further view of the שׁגיא (Kran.), and return in the end of the verse into further expansion, while the first and the second clauses of the second hemistich give the further expansion of the first clause in the verse. אטלל, umbram captavit, enjoyed the shadow; in Targg. The Aphel has for the most part the meaning obumbravit. The Kethiv ידרוּן is not to be changed, since the צפּרין is gen. comm. The Keri is conform to Dan 4:18, where the word is construed as fem. The expression all flesh comprehends the beasts of the field and the fowls of heaven, but is chosen with reference to men represented under this image. For the tree, mighty, reaching even to the heavens, and visible over the whole earth, is an easily recognised symbol of a world-ruler whose power stretches itself over the whole earth. The description of the growth and of the greatness of the tree reminds us of the delineation of Pharaoh and his power under the figure of a mighty cedar of Lebanon, cf. Eze 31:3., also Eze 17:22., Eze 19:10. The comparison of the growth of men to the growth of the trees is every frequent in biblical and other writings.
By the words "I saw," etc., a new incident of the dream is introduced. "A watcher and an holy one came down from heaven." וקדּישׁ with the explic. ,ו even, and that too, brings it before us in a very expressive way that the עיר was an "holy one." עיר is not to be combined with ציר, a messenger, but is derived from עוּר, to watch, and corresponds with the Hebr. ער, Sol 5:2; Mal 2:12, and signifies not keeping watch, but being watchful, one who is awake, as the scholium to the εἴρ of Theodotion in the Cod. Alex. explains it: ἐγρήγορος καὶ ἄγρυπνος. Similarly Jerome remarks: "significat angelos, quod semper vigilent et ad Dei imperium sint parati." From this place is derived the name of ἐγρήγορος for the higher angels, who watch and slumber not, which is found in the book of Enoch and in other apocryphal writings, where it is used of good and of bad angels or demons. The designation of the angel as עיר is peculiar to this passage in the O.T. This gives countenance to the conjecture that it is a word associated with the Chaldee doctrine of the gods. Kliefoth quite justly, indeed, remarks, that this designation does not come merely from the lips of Nebuchadnezzar, but is uttered also by the holy watcher himself (Dan 4:14), as well as by Daniel; and he draws thence the conclusion, that obviously the holy watcher himself used this expression first of himself and the whole council of his companions, that Nebuchadnezzar used the same expression after him (Dan 4:10), and that Daniel again adopted it from Nebuchadnezzar. Thence it follows that by the word angel we are not to understand a heathen deity; for as certainly as, according to this narrative, the dream was given to Nebuchadnezzar by God, so certainly was it a messenger of God who brought it. But from this it is not to be concluded that the name accords with the religious conceptions of Nebuchadnezzar and of the Babylonians. Regarding the Babylonian gods Diod. Sic. ii. 30, says: "Under the five planets (= gods) are ranked thirty others whom they call the counselling gods (θεοὶ βούλαιοι), the half of whom have the oversight of the regions under the earth, and the other half oversee that which goes on on the earth, and among men, and in heaven. Every ten days one of these is sent as a messenger of the stars from the upper to the lower, and at the same time also one from the lower to the upper regions."
If, according to Dan 4:14, the עירין constitute a deliberative council forming a resolution regarding the fate of men, and then one of these עירין comes down and makes known the resolution to the king, the conclusion is tenable that the עירין correspond to the θεοὶ βούλαιοι of the Babylonians. The divine inspiration of the dream corresponds with this idea. The correct thought lay at the foundation of the Chaldean representation of the θεοὶ βούλαιοι, that the relation of God to the world was mediate through the instrumentality of heavenly beings. The biblical revelation recognises these mediating beings, and calls them messengers of God, or angels and holy ones. Yea, the Scripture speaks of the assembling of angels before the throne of God, in which assemblies God forms resolutions regarding the fate of men which the angels carry into execution; cf. Job 1:6., Kg1 22:19., Psa 89:8 (7). Accordingly, if Nebuchadnezzar's dream came from God, we can regard the עיר as an angel of God who belonged to the קדשׁים סוד around the throne of God (Psa 89:8). But this angel announced himself to the Chaldean king not as a messenger of the most high God, not as an angel in the sense of Scripture, but he speaks (Psa 89:14) of עירין גּזרת, of a resolution of the watchers, a fatum of the θεοὶ βούλαιοι who have the oversight of this world. The conception עירין גּזרת is not biblical, but Babylonian heathen. According to the doctrine of Scripture, the angels do not determine the fate of men, but God alone does, around whom the angels stand as ministering spirits to fulfil His commands and make known His counsel to men. The angel designates to the Babylonian king the divine resolution regarding that judgment which would fall upon him from God to humble him for his pride as "the resolution of the watchers," that it might be announced to him in the way most easily understood by him as a divine judgment. On the other hand, one may not object that a messenger of God cannot give himself the name of a heathen deity, and that if Nebuchadnezzar had through misunderstanding given to the bringer of the dream the name of one of his heathen gods, Daniel ought, in interpreting the dream, to have corrected the misunderstanding, as Klief. says. For the messenger of God obviated this misunderstanding by the explanation that the matter was a decree of the watchers, to acknowledge the living God, that the Most High rules over the kingdom of men and gives it to whomsoever He will (Dan 4:17), whereby he distinctly enough announces himself as a messenger of the Most High, i.e., of the living God. To go yet further, and to instruct the king that his religious conceptions of the gods, the עירין, or θεοὶ βούλαιοι, were erroneous, inasmuch as, besides the Highest, the only God, there are no other gods, but only angels, who are no θεοί, but creatures of God, was not at all necessary fore the purpose of his message. This purpose was only to lead Nebuchadnezzar to an acknowledgment of the Most High, i.e., to an acknowledgment that the Most High rules as King of heaven over the kingdom of men. Now, since this was declared by the messenger of God, Daniel in interpreting the dream to the king needed to say nothing more than what he said in vv. 21, 22 (24, 25), where he designates the matter as a resolution of the Most High, and thereby indirectly corrects the view of the king regarding the "resolutions of the watchers," and gives the king distinctly to understand that the humiliation announced to him was determined,
(Note: We must altogether reject the assertion of Berth., v. Leng., Hitz., and Maur., that the language of this verse regarding the angel sent to Nebuchadnezzar is formed in accordance with the Persian representation of the seven Amschaspands (Amēschȧ-cpenta), since, according to the judgment of all those most deeply conversant with Parsism, the doctrine of the Amēschȧ-cpenta does not at all occur in the oldest parts of the Avesta, and the Avesta altogether is not so old as that the Babylonian doctrine of the gods can be shown to be dependent on the Zend doctrine of the Parsees.)
not by the θεοὶ βούλαιοι of the Babylonians, but by the only true God, whom Daniel and his people worshipped. For Nebuchadnezzar designates עיר as קדּישׁ in the same sense in which, in Dan 4:5, he speaks of the holy gods.
The messenger of God cried with might (cf. Dan 3:4), "as a sign of the strong, firm utterance of a purpose" (Kran.). The command, Hew it down, is not given to the angels (Hv., Hitz., Auberl.). The plur. here is to be regarded as impersonal: the tree shall be cut down. אתּרוּ stands for אתּרוּ according to the analogy of the verbs 3rd gutt., from נתד, to fall off, spoken of withering leaves. In consequence of the destruction of the tree, the beasts which found shelter under it and among its branches flee away. Yet the tree shall not be altogether destroyed, but its stock (v. 12 15) shall remain in the earth, that it may again afterwards spring up and grow into a tree. The stem is not the royalty, the dynasty which shall remain in the house of Nebuchadnezzar (Hv.), but the tree with its roots is Nebuchadnezzar, who shall as king be cut down, but shall as a man remain, and again shall grow into a king. But the stock must be bound "with a band of iron and brass." With these words, to complete which we must supply שׁבקוּ from the preceding context, the language passes from the type to the person represented by it. This transition is in the last part of the verse: with the beasts of the field let him have his portion in the grass of the earth; for this cannot be said of the stock with the roots, therefore these words are in the interpretation also (Dan 4:22 ) applied directly to Nebuchadnezzar. But even in the preceding passages this transition is not doubtful. Neither the words in the grass of the field, nor the being wet with the dew of heaven, are suitable as applied to the stock of the tree, because both expressions in that case would affirm nothing; still less is the band of iron and brass congruous, for the trunk of a tree is not wont to be surrounded with bands of iron in order to prevent its being rent in pieces and completely destroyed. Thus the words refer certainly to Nebuchadnezzar; but the fastening in brass and iron is not, with Jerome and others, to be understood of the binding of the madman with chains, but figuratively or spiritually of the withdrawal of free self-determination through the fetter of madness; cf. The fetters of affliction, Psa 107:10; Job 36:8. With this fettering also agrees the going forth under the open heaven among the grass of the field, and the being wet with the dew of heaven, without our needing thereby to think of the maniac as wandering about without any oversight over him.
Here the angel declares by what means Nebuchadnezzar shall be brought into this condition. His heart shall be changed from a man's heart, according to the following passage, into the heart of a beast. מן שׁנּא, to change, to make different from, so that it is no longer what it was. The Kethiv אנושׁא is the Hebr. form for the Chald. אנששׁא of the Keri, here, as in v. 14, where along with it also stands the Hebr. plur. form אנשׁים. אנושׁא stands here for the abbreviated comparison frequent in Hebr., אנושׁא מן לבב, and the 3rd pers. plur. ישׁנּון impers. for the passive. לבב is the heart, the centre of the intelligent soul-life. The heart of man is dehumanized when his soul becomes like that of a beast; for the difference between the heart of a man and that of a beast has its foundation in the difference between the soul of a man and the soul of a beast (Delitzsch, bibl. Psych. p. 252). And seven times shall pass over him, viz., during the continuance of the circumstances described; i.e., his condition of bondage shall last for seven times. Following the example of the lxx and of Josephus, many ancient and recent interpreters, down to Maur., Hitz., and Kran., understood by the word עדּנין years, because the times in Dan 7:25; Dan 12:7, are also years, and because in Dan 4:29 mention is made of twelve months, and thereby the time is defined as one year. But from Dan 4:29 the duration of the עדּנין cannot at all be concluded, and in Dan 7:25 and Dan 12:7 the times are not years. עדּן designates generally a definite period of time, whose length or duration may be very different. Seven is the "measure and signature of the history of the development of the kingdom of God, and of all the factors and phenomena significant for it" (Lmmert's "Revision of the biblical Symbolical Numbers" in the Jahrbb.f. deutsche Theol. ix. p. 11); or as Leyrer, in Herzog's Realencykl. xviii. p. 366, expresses himself, "the signature for all the actions of God, in judgment and in mercy, punishments, expiations, consecrations, blessings, connected with the economy of redemption, perfecting themselves in time." Accordingly, "seven times" is the duration of the divine punishment which was decreed against Nebuchadnezzar for purposes connected with the history of redemption. Whether these times are to be understood as years, months, or weeks, is not said, and cannot at all be determined. The supposition that they were seven years "cannot well be adopted in opposition to the circumstance that Nebuchadnezzar was again restored to reason, a thing which very rarely occurs after so long a continuance of psychical disease" (J. B. Friedreich, Zur Bibel. Naturhist., anthrop. u. med. Fragmente, i. p. 316).
The divine messenger concludes his announcement with the words that the matter was unchangeably decreed, for this purpose, that men might be led to recognise the supremacy of the Most High over the kings of the earth. The first two passages have no verb, and thus the verb. substant. must be supplied. Accordingly we must not translate: by the decree of the watchers is the message, i.e., is it delivered (Kran.), nor: the decree is included in the fate, the unalterable will of Heaven (Hv.); but בdenotes the department within which the גּזרה lies, and is to be translated: "the message consists in, or rests on, the decree of the watchers." גּזרה, the unchangeable decision, the decretum divinum, quod homini aut rebus humanis tanquam inevitabile impositum est (Buxtorf's Lex. talm. rabb. p. 419), the Fatum in which the Chaldeans believed. Regarding פּתגּם see under Dan 3:16. Here the fundamental meaning, the message, that which is to happen, can be maintained. The second member is synonymous, and affirms the same thing in another way. The word, the utterance of the holy ones, i.e., the watchers (see under Dan 4:13), is שׁאלתּא, the matter. The meaning lying in the etymon, request or question, is not here suitable, but only the derivative meaning, matter as the object of the request or inquiry. The thing meant is that which is decided regarding the tree, that it should be cut down, etc. This is so clear, that a pronoun referring to it appears superfluous.
דּי דּברת עד, till the matter that ... to the end that; not = דּי עד, Dan 4:25, because here no defining of time goes before. The changing of עד into על (Hitz.) is unnecessary and arbitrary. That the living may know, etc. The expression is general, because it is not yet said who is to be understood by the tree which should be cut down. This general expression is in reality correct; for the king comes by experience to this knowledge, and so all will attain to it who consider this. The two last passages of Dan 4:14 express more fully how the Most High manifests His supremacy over the kingdom of men. The Kethiv עליה is shortened from עליהא, and in the Keri is yet further shortened by the rejection of the ;י cf. Dan 5:21; Dan 7:4., etc.
Nebuchadnezzar adds to his communication of his dream a command to Daniel to interpret it. The form פּשׁרא (its interpretation) is the old orthography and the softened form for פּשׁרהּ (cf. Dan 4:6).
The interpretation of the dream.
As Daniel at once understood the interpretation of the dream, he was for a moment so astonished that he could not speak for terror at the thoughts which moved his soul. This amazement seized him because he wished well to the king, and yet he must now announce to him a weighty judgment from God.
Daniel 4:16 (Dan 4:19)
The punctuation אשׁתּומם for אשׁתּומם is Syriac, as in the Hebr. Dan 8:27; cf. Winer's Chald. Gram. 25, 2. חדא כּשׁעהmeans, not about an hour (Mich., Hitz., Kran., etc.), but as it were an instant, a moment. Regarding שׁעה, see under Dan 3:6. The king perceives the astonishment of Daniel, and remarks that he has found the interpretation. Therefore he asks him, with friendly address, to tell him it without reserve. Daniel then communicates it in words of affectionate interest for the welfare of the king. The words, let the dream be to thine enemies, etc., do not mean: it is a dream, a prophecy, such as the enemies of the king might ungraciously wish (Klief.), but: may the dream with its interpretation be to thine enemies, may it be fulfilled to them or refer to them (Hv., Hitz., etc.). The Kethiv מראי is the regular formation from מרא with the suffix, for which the Masoretes have substituted the later Talmudic-Targ. form מר. With regard to שׂנאיך with the a shortened, as also השׁחין (Dan 3:16) and other participial forms, cf. Winer, Chald. Gram. 34, III. That Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 4:16) in his account speaks in the third person does not justify the conclusion, either that another spake of him, and that thus the document is not genuine (Hitz.), nor yet the conclusion that this verse includes an historical notice introduced as an interpolation into the document; for similar forms of expression are often found in such documents: cf. Ezr 7:13-15; Est 8:7-8.
Daniel 4:17 (Dan 4:20)
Daniel interprets to the king his dream, repeating only here and there in an abbreviated form the substance of it in the same words, and then declares its reference to the king. With vv. 17 (Dan 4:20) and 18 (Dan 4:21) cf. vv. 8 (Dan 4:11) and 9 (Dan 4:12). The fuller description of the tree is subordinated to the relative clause, which thou hast seen, so that the subject is connected by הוּא (Dan 4:19), representing the verb. subst., according to rule, with the predicate אילנא. The interpretation of the separate statements regarding the tree is also subordinated in the relative clauses to the subject. For the Kethiv רבית = רביתּ, the Keri gives the shortened form רבת, with the elision of the third radical, analogous to the shortening of the following מטת for מטת. To the call of the angel to "cut down the tree," etc. (Dan 4:20, cf. Dan 4:10-13), Daniel gives the interpretation, Dan 4:24, "This is the decree of the Most High which is come upon the king, that he shall be driven from men, and dwell among the beasts," etc. על מטא = Hebr. על בּוא. The indefinite plur. form טרדין stands instead of the passive, as the following לך יטעמוּן and מצבּעין, cf. under Dan 3:4. Thus the subject remains altogether indefinite, and one has neither to think on men who will drive him from their society, etc., nor of angels, of whom, perhaps, the expulsion of the king may be predicated, but scarcely the feeding on grass and being wet with dew.
Daniel 4:23 (Dan 4:26)
In this verse the emblem and its interpretation are simply placed together, so that we must in thought repeat the פשׁרא דּנה from Dan 4:12 before מלכוּתך. קיּמא, קאם do not in this place mean to stand, to exist, to remain, for this does not agree with the following דּי-nim; for until Nebuchadnezzar comes to the knowledge of the supremacy of God, his dominion shall not continue, but rest, be withdrawn. קוּם, to rise up, has here an inchoative meaning, again rise up. To שׁלּיטין (do rule) there is to be added from Dan 4:22 (25) the clause, over the kingdom of men. From this passage we have an explanation of the use of שׁמיּא, heaven, for עלּיא, the Most High, God of heaven, whence afterwards arose the use of βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν for βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ.
Daniel 4:24 (Dan 4:27)
Daniel adds to his interpretation of the dream the warning to the king to break off his sins by righteousness and mercy, so that his tranquillity may be lengthened. Daniel knew nothing of a heathen Fatum, but he knew that the judgments of God were directed against men according to their conduct, and that punishment threatened could only be averted by repentance; cf. Jer 18:7.; Jon 3:5.; Isa 38:1. This way of turning aside the threatened judgment stood open also for Nebuchadnezzar, particularly as the time of the fulfilment of the dream was not fixed, and thus a space was left for repentance. The counsel of Daniel is interpreted by Berth., Hitz., and others, after Theodotion, the Vulgate, and many Church Fathers and Rabbis, as teaching the doctrine of holiness by works held by the later Jews, for they translate it: redeem thy sins by well-doing (Hitz.: buy freedom from thy sins by alms), and thy transgressions by showing mercy to the poor.
(Note: Theodot. translates: καὶ τὰς ἁμαρτίας σου ἐν ἐλεημοσύναις λύτρωσαι καὶ τὰς ἀδικίας σου ἐν οἰκτιρμοῖς πενήτων. The Vulg.: et peccata tua eleemosynis redime et iniquitates tuas misericordiis pauperum. Accordingly, the Catholic Church regards this passage as a locus classicus for the doctrine of the merit of works, against which the Apologia Conf. August. first set forth the right exposition.)
But this translation of the first passage is verbally false; for פּרק does not mean to redeem, to ransom, and צדקה does not mean alms or charity. פּרק means to break off, to break in pieces, hence to separate, to disjoin, to put at a distance; see under Gen. 21:40. And though in the Targg. פרק is used for גּאל, פּדה, to loosen, to unbind, of redeeming, ransoming of the first-born, an inheritance or any other valuable possession, yet this use of the word by no means accords with sins as the object, because sins are not goods which one redeems or ransoms so as to retain them for his own use. חטי פּרק can only mean to throw away sins, to set one's self free from sins. צדקה nowhere in the O.T. means well-doing or alms. This meaning the self-righteous Rabbis first gave to the word in their writings. Daniel recommends the king to practise righteousness as the chief virtue of a ruler in contrast to the unrighteousness of the despots, as Hgstb., Hv., Hofm., and Klief. have justly observed. To this also the second member of the verse corresponds. As the king should practise righteousness toward all his subjects, so should he exercise mercy toward the oppressed, the miserable, the poor. Both of these virtues are frequently named together, e.g., Isa 11:4; Psa 72:4; Isa 41:2, as virtues of the Messiah. חטייך is the plur. of חטי, as the parallel עויּתך shows, and the Keri only the later abbreviation or defective suffix-formation, as Dan 2:4; Dan 5:10.
The last clause of this verse is altogether misunderstood by Theodotion, who translates it ἴσως ἔσται μακρόθυμος τοῖς παραπτώμασιν σου ὁ Θεός, and by the Vulgate, where it is rendered by forsitan ignoscet delictis tuis, and by many older interpreters, where they expound ארכּא in the sense of ארך אפּים, patience, and derive שׁלותך from שׁלה, to fail, to go astray (cf. Dan 3:29). ארכּא means continuance, or length of time, as Dan 7:12; שׁלוא, rest, safety, as the Hebr. שׁלוה, here the peaceful prosperity of life; and הן, neither ecce nor forsitan, si forte, but simply if, as always in the book of Daniel.
Daniel places before the king, as the condition of the continuance of prosperity of life, and thereby implicite of the averting of the threatened punishment, reformation of life, the giving up of injustice and cruelty towards the poor, and the practice of righteousness and mercy.
The fulfilling of the dream.
Nebuchadnezzar narrates the fulfilment of the dream altogether objectively, so that he speaks of himself in the third person. Berth., Hitz., and others find here that the author falls out of the role of the king into the narrative tone, and thus betrays the fact that some other than the king framed the edict. But this conclusion is opposed by the fact that Nebuchadnezzar from v. 31 speaks of his recovery again in the first person. Thus it is beyond doubt that the change of person has its reason in the matter itself. Certainly it could not be in this that Nebuchadnezzar thought it unbecoming to speak in his own person of his madness; for if he had had so tender a regard for his own person, he would not have published the whole occurrence in a manifesto addressed to his subjects. But the reason of his speaking of his madness in the third person, as if some other one were narrating it, lies simply in this, that in that condition he was not Ich = Ego (Kliefoth). With the return of the Ich, I, on the recovery from his madness, Nebuchadnezzar begins again to narrate in the first person (v. 31 34).
Daniel 4:25 (Dan 4:28)
In this verse there is a brief comprehensive statement regarding the fulfilment of the dream to the king, which is then extended from v. 26 to 30. At the end of twelve months, i.e., after the expiry of twelve months from the time of the dream, the king betook himself to his palace at Babylon, i.e., to the flat roof of the palace; cf. Sa2 11:2. The addition at Babylon does not indicate that the king was then living at a distance from Babylon, as Berth., v. Leng., Maur., and others imagine, but is altogether suitable to the matter, because Nebuchadnezzar certainly had palaces outside of Babylon, but it is made with special reference to the language of the king which follows regarding the greatness of Babylon. ענה means here not simply to begin to speak, but properly to answer, and suggests to us a foregoing colloquy of the king with himself in his own mind. Whether one may conclude from that, in connection with the statement of time, after twelve months, that Nebuchadnezzar, exactly one year after he had received the important dream, was actively engaging himself regarding that dream, must remain undetermined, and can be of no use to a psychological explanation of the occurrence of the dream. The thoughts which Nebuchadnezzar expresses in v. 26 (Dan 4:29) are not favourable to such a supposition. Had the king remembered that dream and its interpretation, he would scarcely have spoken so proudly of his splendid city which he had built as he does in v. 27 (Dan 4:30).
When he surveyed the great and magnificent city from the top of his palace, "pride overcame him," so that he dedicated the building of this great city as the house of his kingdom to the might of his power and the honour of his majesty. From the addition רבּתא it does not follow that this predicate was a standing Epitheton ornans of Babylon, as with חמת , Amo 6:2, and other towns of Asia; for although Pausanias and Strabo call Babylon μεγάλη and μεγίστη πόλις, yet it bears this designation as a surname in no ancient author. But in Rev 14:8 this predicate, quoted from the passage before us, is given to Babylon, and in the mouth of Nebuchadnezzar it quite corresponds to the self-praise of his great might by which he had built Babylon as the residence of a great king. בּנה designates, as בּנה more frequently, not the building or founding of a city, for the founding of Babylon took place in the earliest times after the Flood (Gen 11), and was dedicated to the god Belus, or the mythic Semiramis, i.e., in the pre-historic time; but בּנה means the building up, the enlargement, the adorning of the city מלכוּ לבּית, for the house of the kingdom, i.e., for a royal residence; cf. The related expression ממלכה בּית, Amo 7:13. בּית stands in this connection neither for town nor for היכל (Dan 4:29), but has the meaning dwelling-place. The royalty of the Babylonian kingdom has its dwelling-place, its seat, in Babylon, the capital of the kingdom.
With reference to the great buildings of Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon, vide the statements of Berosus in Josephi Ant. x. 11, 1, and con. Ap. i. 19, and of Abydenus in Eusebii praepar. evang. ix. 41, and Chron. i. p. 59; also the delineation of these buildings in Duncker's Gesch. des Alterth. i. p. 854ff. The presumption of this language appears in the words, "by the strength of my might, and for the splendour (honour) of my majesty." Thus Nebuchadnezzar describes himself as the creator of his kingdom and of its glory, while the building up of his capital as a residence bearing witness to his glory and his might pointed at the same time to the duration of his dynasty. This proud utterance is immediately followed by his humiliation by the omnipotent God. A voice fell from heaven. נפל as in Isa 9:7, of the sudden coming of a divine revelation. אמרין for the passive, as Dan 3:4. The perf. עדּת denotes the matter as finished. At the moment when Nebuchadnezzar heard in his soul the voice from heaven, the prophecy begins to be fulfilled, the king becomes deranged, and is deprived of his royalty.
Daniel 4:29-30 (Dan 4:32-33)
Here the contents of the prophecy, v. 22 (v. 25), are repeated, and then in v. 30 (v. 33) it is stated that the word regarding Nebuchadnezzar immediately began to be fulfilled. On שׁעתא בהּ, cf. Dan 3:6. ספת, from סוּף, to go to an end. The prophecy goes to an end when it is realized, is fulfilled. The fulfilling is related in the words of the prophecy. Nebuchadnezzar is driven from among men, viz., by his madness, in which he fled from intercourse with men, and lived under the open air of heaven as a beast among the beasts, eating grass like the cattle; and his person was so neglected, that his hair became like the eagles' fathers and his nails like birds' claws. כּנשׁרין and כּצפּרין are abbreviated comparisons; vide under Dan 4:16. That this condition was a peculiar appearance of the madness is expressly mentioned in v. 31 (Dan 4:34), where the recovery is designated as the restoration of his understanding.
This malady, in which men regard themselves as beasts and imitate their manner of life, is called insania zoanthropica, or, in the case of those who think themselves wolves, lycanthropia. The condition is described in a manner true to nature. Even "as to the eating of grass," as G. Rsch, in the Deutsch. Morgenl. Zeitschr. xv. p. 521, remarks, "there is nothing to perplex or that needs to be explained. It is a circumstance that has occurred in recent times, as e.g., in the case of a woman in the Wrttemberg asylum for the insane." Historical documents regarding this form of madness have been collected by Trusen in his Sitten, Gebr. u. Krank. der alten Hebrer, p. 205f., 2nd ed., and by Friedreich in Zur Bibel, i. p. 308f.
(Note: Regarding the statement, "his hair grew as the feathers of an eagle," etc., Friedr. remarks, p. 316, that, besides the neglect of the external appearance, there is also to be observed the circumstance that sometimes in psychical maladies the nails assume a peculiarly monstrous luxuriance with deformity. Besides, his remaining for a long time in the open air is to be considered, "for it is an actual experience that the hair, the more it is exposed to the influences of the rough weather and to the sun's rays, the more does it grow in hardness, and thus becomes like unto the feathers of an eagle.")
Nebuchadnezzar's recovery, his restoration to his kingdom, and his thankful recognition of the Lord in heaven.
The second part of the prophecy was also fulfilled. "At the end of the days," i.e., after the expiry of the seven times, Nebuchadnezzar lifted up his eyes to heaven, - the first sign of the return of human consciousness, from which, however, we are not to conclude, with Hitzig, that before this, in his madness, he went on all-fours like an ox. Nebuchadnezzar means in these words only to say that his first thought was a look to heaven, whence help came to him; cf. Psa 123:1. Then his understanding immediately returned to him. The first thought he entertained was to thank God, to praise Him as the ever-living One, and to recognise the eternity of His sway. Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges and praises God as the "ever-living One," because He had again given to him his life, which had been lost in his madness; cf. Daniel 6:27 (Dan 6:26).
Daniel 4:31b (Dan 4:34)
cf. with 3:33 (Dan 4:1). The eternity of the supremacy of God includes His omnipotence as opposed to the weakness of the inhabitants of earth. This eternity Nebuchadnezzar praises in v. 32 (v. 35) in words which remind us of the expressions of Isaiah; cf. with the first half of the verse, Isa 40:17; Isa 24:21; and with the second half of it, Isa 43:13. כּלה for כּלא, as not, as not existing. מחא בידהּ in the Pa., to strike on the hand, to hinder, derived from the custom of striking children on the hand in chastising them. The expression is common in the Targg. and in the Arabic.
Daniel 4:33 (Dan 4:36)
With the restoration of his understanding Nebuchadnezzar also regained his royal dignity and his throne. In order to intimate the inward connection between the return of reason and the restoration to his sovereignty, in this verse the first element of his restoration is repeated from v. 31 (Dan 4:34), and the second follows in connection with it in the simple manner of Semitic narrative, for which we in German (and English) use the closer connection: "when my understanding returned, then also my royal state and my glory returned." The passage beginning with וליקר is construed very differently by interpreters. Many co-ordinate מל ליקר with וזיוי מדרי, and then regard ליקר either as the nominative, "and then my kingly greatness, my glory and splendour, came to me again" (Hitzig), or unite וזיוי מדרי as the genitive with מלכוּתי: "and for the honour of my royalty, of my fame and my glory, it (my understanding) returned to me again" (v. Leng., Maur., Klief.). The first of these interpretations is grammatically inadmissible, since ל cannot be a sign of the genitive; the other is unnecessarily artificial. We agree with Rosenmller and Kranichfeld in regarding וזיוי מדרי as the subject of the passage. הדר [splendour, pomp] is the majestic appearance of the prince, which according to Oriental modes of conception showed itself in splendid dress; cf. Psa 110:3; Psa 29:2; Psa 96:9; Ch2 20:21. זיו, splendour (Dan 2:31), is the shining colour or freshness of the appearance, which is lost by terror, anxiety, or illness, as in Dan 5:6, Dan 5:9-10; Dan 7:28. ליקר as in Dan 4:27. In how far the return of the external dignified habitus was conducive to the honour of royalty, the king most fully shows in the second half of the verse, where he says that his counsellors again established him in his kingdom. The בּעא, to seek, does not naturally indicate that the king was suffered, during the period of his insanity, to wander about in the fields and forests without any supervision, as Bertholdt and Hitzig think; but it denotes the seeking for one towards whom a commission has to be discharged, as Dan 2:13; thus, here, the seeking in order that they might transfer to him again the government. The "counsellors and great men" are those who had carried on the government during his insanity. התקנת, on account of the accent. distinct., is Hophal pointed with Patach instead of Tsere, as the following הוּספת. If Nebuchadnezzar, after his restoration to the kingdom, attained to yet more רבוּ, greatness, than he had before, so he must have reigned yet a considerable time without our needing to suppose that he accomplished also great deeds.
Daniel 4:34 (Dan 4:37)
The manifesto closes with praise to God, the King of heaven, whose works are truth and righteousness, which show themselves in humbling the proud. קשׁוט corresponds to the Hebr. אמת, and דּין to the Hebr. משׁפּט. Nebuchadnezzar thus recognised the humiliation which he had experienced as a righteous punishment for his pride, without, however, being mindful of the divine grace which had been shown in mercy toward him; whence Calvin has drawn the conclusion that he was not brought to true heart-repentance.