“Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astonied for one hour, and his thoughts troubled him.
The king spake, and said, Belteshazzar, let not the dream, or the interpretation thereof, trouble thee.
Belteshazzar answered and said, My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies.” (Daniel 4:19)
When Nebuchadnezzar described his dream to Daniel, he just set there in shock for about an hour, worried about how to break the news to Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar saw his distress and told him not to be worried because he wouldn’t blame him for it. Daniel told him that the dream would be good news to Nebuchadnezzar’s enemies, and that they would be glad to learn it’s meaning.
“The tree that thou sawest, which grew, and was strong, whose height reached unto the heaven, and the sight thereof to all the earth; Whose leaves were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all; under which the beasts of the field dwelt, and upon whose branches the fowls of the heaven had their habitation: It is thou, O king, that art grown and become strong: for thy greatness is grown, and reacheth unto heaven, and thy dominion to the end of the earth.” (Daniel 4:20-22)
The huge tree that Nebuchadnezzar had seen in his dream was Nebuchadnezzar himself. He was a king who was widely known as a good and tolerant ruler, and many other nations and ethnic groups had come to Babylon for protection and to conduct business, making him one of the most powerful kings on earth, known everywhere.
“And whereas the king saw a watcher and an holy one coming down from heaven, and saying, Hew the tree down, and destroy it; yet leave the stump of the roots thereof in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven times pass over him; This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the most High, which is come upon my lord the king: That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.” (Daniel 4:23-25)
Although he was such a great king, Nebuchadnezzar did not recognize God’s power and authority, worshipping other gods, and doing as he pleased. God had decreed that he would be cut down, losing his prestige and power for seven years. He would go insane and people drive him away in fear, forcing him to live like a wild animal until he recognized that God was the one who controlled his destiny and gave him his power.
“And whereas they commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots; thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule. Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity.” (Daniel 4:26-27)
The one bright spot in the interpretation was that the stump was to be left in the ground stong like iron or brass. When Nebuchadnezzar finally recognized Gods authority over his own life, he would be restored to power, Daniel’s advice was that he put away his pride by focusing on doing what was right, and being considerate of the poor instead of just enforcing what he wanted. Daniel could only hope doing so would delay the judgment, but he knew it would not prevent it.
“All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon. The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:28-30)
A year later, What he had dreamed about began. Nebuchadnezzar was walking around the palace thinking about what all he had accomplished, taking the credit for those accomplishments. He believed it was his own wisdom and power that had produced those things.
“While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.” (Daniel 4:31-32)
While he was still talking about what he had accomplished, God spoke to him telling him theat the prophecy was being fulfilled and that he had lost the kingdom. He would be driven out and unable to exercise that power until he learned that he was subject to God just like everyone else.
“The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles' feathers, and his nails like birds' claws.” (Daniel 4:33)
Within the hour, Nebuchadnezzar had lost his mind, and was driven out into the wilds where he lived like a wild animal, eating whatever he could find and exposed to the elements, with his hair long and straggly like an eagles feathers in a rainstorm, and his finger and toe nails as long as a bird’s talons.
“And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most high, and I praised and honored him that liveth forever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation.
And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” (Daniel 4:34-35)
After seven years, Nebuchadnezzar recovered his sanity, and recognized who God really is. He realized that God has the final authority and that no mere person can prevent him from having his way, He began to praise God for giving him back his sanity, acknowledging that he is the eternal God and creator, and that no one has the right to challenge his decisions.
“At the same time my reason returned unto me; and for the glory of my kingdom, mine honour and brightness returned unto me; and my counsellors and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me.” (Daniel 4:36)
As soon as it was demonstrated that he was able to make intelligent decisions, his advisors and leaders restored him to leadership, gladly relinquishing they responsibility, and giving him even greater respect and prestige than before, because they understood what his job entailed.
“Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.” (Daniel 4:37)
Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had influenced Nebuchadnezzar, but it wasn’t until God got a hold of him that he believed in God himself. While we can influence people, only God can cause them to believe in him. John 6:44 says, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him…” Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:”
Gedaliah’s murder and the Jew’s flight to Egypt appears to have occurred during the period of Nebuchadnezzar’s insanity, and in 568 BC, Nebuchadnezzar invaded Egypt to punish them.