Daniel 4 – Part One

Continuing in our series in Daniel, we begin a two-part look at chapter 4: the story of King Nebuchadnezzar, and his dream about a tree. Today, we’ll mostly just read the story (with a little bit of comment). It’s a long one, but we need the whole story before we can think about what we might learn from it.

Some context: remember that Nebuchadnezzar has twice been forced to acknowledge the power of Israel’s God (Daniel’s interpretation of his previous dream, in chapter 2; and the miraculous preservation of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo, in chapter 3). Yet it seems to take this encounter with God, in chapter 4, for him to completely get the message. It’s written in the first person, as a letter from the king to his whole empire, testifying to the lesson God had taught him:

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Daniel 4 – Part Two

Yesterday, we read most of the way through the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Daniel 4:1-33). The king dreamed of a tree – the symbol of created order, given by the gods and maintained by the king. (In other words, he dreamed of himself.) But the tree was cut down, sent mad, and forced to live like a wild beast, in one of the weirdest mixed-metaphors of the Bible. The message to Nebuchadnezzar was: because you’ve been proud-  thinking that your status, power, and wealth is all your own doing – you’ll be cut down, sent mad, and driven out of your position and away from human society. And you’ll live like that until you repent of your pride, and acknowledge the sovereignty of God.

As one writer puts it: “A man who thinks he is like a god must become a beast to learn that he is only a human being” (Danna Nolan Fewell, Circle of Sovereignty, p.101).

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