Daniel 4 • An Old Fashioned Testimony


The truly remarkable thing is that this chapter of Scripture is actually an official Babylonian document written by the king of Babylon himself. It is his personal account of his conversion, something that not long ago you used to hear people share publicly in the course of not just witnessing to others, but even in church services proper. Since v.1-3 and 37 were written by Nebuchadnezzar after what transpired between him and God, we will study those verses at the end of this lesson after we fully understand the dream, its meaning, and how it was fulfilled.

Read verses 4-18
The Dream Received

Q: How does v.4 set the tone for this event?

A: It was a time of peace and prosperity. Nebuchadnezzar felt secure, but it would turn out to be a false security.

Q: What might be significant about the mention that Nebuchadnezzar the King of Babylon was “flourishing in my palace”?

A: His was not just one of the largest palaces ever, but the site of the famous hanging gardens of Babylon which were one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was at the height of his reign as probably the richest man in the known world at the time.

Point: When the world is resting in “peace and safety” God’s judgment often falls because in reality the only true peace and safety that anyone can rest in is with Christ. There is no peace without the Prince of Peace.

While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.

— 1 Thessalonians 5:3-6

Q: How does this dream compare in terms of its general theme to the previous great dream Nebuchadnezzar received from God?

A: Both dreams provide insight into the future of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign and kingdom. Whereas the first one was void of any specific bad news for Nebuchadnezzar personally, this second one is dramatically different in that respect.

Q: Why is it sort of amusing that the king’s wise men could not interpret his dream?

A: Because during his demand that these same experts interpret his first dream they claimed, “Tell us the dream and we will explain it”. (Dan. 2:4) When it comes to God’s Word these non-believers were incapable of properly interpreting whether or not they knew the specifics. The king told them this second dream but they still could not explain it.

Q: How is it possible that they did not want to actually interpret it for the king in the first place?

A: Since the king admitted that the dream made him “fearful” and obviously anxious in every negative way imaginable, they may not have been enthusiastic about giving him “bad news” anyway.

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one.

— 1 Corinthians 2:14-15

Q: If Nebuchadnezzar called in “all the wise men of Babylon” (v.6), why did Daniel not immediately come in with them but separately?

A: Because Daniel is neither a “magician”, a “conjurer”, a “Chaldean”, nor a “diviner”. He does not associate with them nor assume any semblance of their titles. This is a very important characteristic about the true prophet of God. In Daniel’s case we can see in v.9 that this was an issue between Daniel and the king because the king calls Daniel, “chief of the magicians”.

Application: We should never allow the confusion of using worldly terms and categories to describe our service and/or relationship with the One True God. It is important to remain distinct both personally and publicly.

Q: How does v.8 provide the most revealing information about Nebuchadnezzar’s true spiritual state?

A: He confesses that at that time his god was Bel, the meaning of the Babylonian name given to Daniel. (“Bel protect his life”.) In spite of his past encounters with God, in spite of believing in His existence and even acknowledging Him, Nebuchadnezzar never changed his heart. In fact, Nebuchadnezzar still does not fully understand and recognize the true character and authority of God because he describes Daniel in v.9 as having “a spirit of the holy gods in you”.

Q: What is the contrast between the positions and spiritual states of Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel that is being taught in these verses?

A: It is the contrast of the earthly king on his earthly throne surrounded by earthly power, riches, and glory who in reality is spiritually bankrupt compared to the Believer who is far richer and more powerful because of possessing God’s Word and ways. Even the poorest Christian on earth is more powerful, rich, and at peace than the most powerful unbeliever.

Q: How does v.17 explain what is the greater spiritual message behind the “signs” mentioned in the dream?

A: “In order to know the Most High is ruler of the realm of mankind”. Judgment always works for one of two results: to save the soul choosing to change, or to destroy the soul refusing to do so.

Q: What is contained in v.17 that is a personal message from God to Nebuchadnezzar?

A: God “bestows it on whom He wishes and sets over it the lowliest of men”. Nebuchadnezzar only has what he has on earth because it came from God and not by anything Nebuchadnezzar did or inherited. And it is God’s to give to anyone He chooses, even “the lowliest of men”.

Application: We could draw a lot of parallels between Nebuchadnezzar and that drawn by Jesus in the Parable of the Rich Farmer:

Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.” ’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

— Luke 12:15-21

Application: Nebuchadnezzar is like those we might categorize as “nominal” believers, people who say they believe in God and might even have some kind of regard for Him, but who in spite of that knowledge continue to live in exactly the way they want and blending their beliefs with other false religious practices.

Read verses 19-27
The Dream Revealed

Q: Overall, how does Daniel exemplify a true prophet where the message is concerned?

A: A true prophet has sympathy for the message and always speaks the plain truth faithfully whether it is good news or bad news. He does not take it lightly nor deliver the message in a careless fashion.

Q: Overall, how does Daniel exemplify a true prophet where the intended recipient of the message is concerned?

A: A true prophet has sincere sympathy for the recipient even though he feels the burden to deliver the truth.

Application: Some may hold to the idea that spiritual wisdom and knowledge always produce joy and the inability to hold back sharing the message, but sometimes it actually leads to sorrow and silence. Although biblical love is defined by biblical truth, the speaker of such truth is still operating under the burden of love. What might be indicated in a person who is all truth and no love?

Q: Why is the use of a tree as a symbol of Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom not surprising?

A: This has often been the symbol of an earthly kingdom throughout Scripture. (See Ezek. 31 & Mt. 13:31-32). It is something that is rooted in the earth and depends on the earth for its nourishment and stability.

Q: What is the significance of the mention in v.23 of “an angelic watcher, a holy one”?

A: Later in Daniel 10 we learn that angels are very active in the affairs of the nations of the world and shows the greater spiritual authority and working behind them. It clearly shows that such kingdoms are God’s to give and that the earthly head is ultimately subject to God whether they do so willingly or not.

Q: Why does the intended punishment fit the crime?

A: In Daniel 3 in the king’s first vision Nebuchadnezzar was depicted by God as the head of gold. Nebuchadnezzar made an ENTIRE image of himself out of gold so he could be deified and worshiped. This judgment simultaneously addresses the issue of the king’s pride and God’s sovereignty.

Q: If we sneak a peek at Daniel 7, what might be particularly telling about God showing Nebuchadnezzar that he is actually a beast at heart?

A: The vision in Daniel 7 depicts EVERY kingdom of the earth as wild beasts.

Q: How does Daniel exemplify a true prophet of God in v.27?

A: True prophets of God always call people to repentance.

Q: What sin does Daniel suggest needs to be most urgently addressed?

A: The king’s treatment of others.

Application: The proof of unfaithfulness to God Himself is most often proven in our treatment and lack of love for others. The commandments to love God are in fact broken when we forsake the commandment to love others.

Read verses 28-36
The Dream Realized

Q: What is probably the greater lesson where the timing of the dream coming true is concerned?

A: God still provided the opportunity to consider the warning and repent from sin.

Q: How did the king use the time given him?

A: He actually became even more proud of himself and his achievements rather than humbling himself and seeking God.

Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.

— Ecclesiastes 8:11

A man who hardens his neck after much reproof

Will suddenly be broken beyond remedy.

— Proverbs 29:1

Observation: The account of this happening while Nebuchadnezzar was “walking on the roof of the royal palace” might have a familiar ring about it. This is very similar to what Satan did in tempting Jesus by taking Him to the pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem to show and offer Him all the kingdoms of the world. (Mt. 4:5-7)

Q: How does what happened to Nebuchadnezzar teach us something about what it means in Scripture when judgment is said to come “quickly”?

A: Because God’s grace allows the execution of His judgment to linger in order to provide an opportunity for repentance, it does not come “quickly” in terms of taking place immediately at the time warns of it. However, once it is initiated, at that very point in time it happens with terrifying speed.

Q: What was the first step to the king’s recovery?

A: “I…raised my eyes toward heaven”. (v.34) It is a visible, physical acknowledgment of God’s authority and sovereignty as the King of Heaven over the king of the earth.

Q: How was this followed up?

A: “I blessed the Most High and honored Him”. (v.34) It was an expression of having learned the right lesson from judgment that he was nothing and God was everything and expresses spiritual acknowledgment of God.

Q: What are the specific lessons that Nebuchadnezzar learned?

  1. His dominion is an everlasting dominion…His kingdom endures from generation to generation”. (v.34)
  2. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing”. (v.35)
  3. He does according to His will”. (v.35)
  4. No one can ward off His hand” (v.35)

They are all lessons of God’s authority and sovereignty.

Application: The purpose of judgment is to either change hearts or bring to destruction those hearts refusing to be changed.

Read verses 1-3 & 37

Q: What is probably the first, most remarkable indication in Nebuchadnezzar’s address to all the people that proves he has been profoundly changed?

A: He first addresses them sending them peace. This was someone with such a reputation (proven through his actions) of a cruel man of war who was never known for his “peaceful” activities. It reflects a serious change in his personal treatment of others. (Remember Daniel’s advice to him in v.27?)

Q: How is Nebuchadnezzar’s declaration in v.2-3 a summary of the effects of God’s judgment?

A: Just seven years before he had been boasting about his own power and majesty as king of the earth; now he is a personal witness to the power and majesty of the King of Heaven.

Q: How is Nebuchadnezzar’s change reflected in his summary of these events in v.37?

A: It is no longer about the king of the earth but entirely about the King of Heaven.

Q: Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges that God has performed “signs and wonders”, but in what context does he place them?

A: In the context of the greater overall spiritual message to change one’s heart. Signs for believers affirm faith, for unbelievers it condemns them for their unbelief, both proven by what they do from the heart.

Q: What might be Nebuchadnezzar’s ultimate testimony

A: “He is able to humble those who walk in pride”. (v.37)

Application: It is no longer about the king of the earth but entirely about the King of Heaven.

Overall Application

  1. God gives ample and detailed warning.
  2. God gives ample time to heed His warning and repent.
  3. God’s judgment comes on those who steadfastly refuse to repent.
  4. God’s judgment works to either change hearts or destroy those hearts refusing to change.