Daniel 4 & Psalm 108-109

Daniel 4

     King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me.

    How great are his signs,
        how mighty his wonders!
    His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
        and his dominion endures from generation to generation.
         I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace. I saw a dream that made me afraid. As I lay in bed the fancies and the visions of my head alarmed me. So I made a decree that all the wise men of Babylon should be brought before me, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. Then the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers came in, and I told them the dream, but they could not make known to me its interpretation. At last Daniel came in before me—he who was named Belteshazzar after the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods—and I told him the dream, saying, “O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation. The visions of my head as I lay in bed were these: I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great. The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the heavens lived in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it.

    “I saw in the visions of my head as I lay in bed, and behold, a watcher, a holy one, came down from heaven. He proclaimed aloud and said thus: ‘Chop down the tree and lop off its branches, strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts flee from under it and the birds from its branches. But leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, amid the tender grass of the field. Let him be wet with the dew of heaven. Let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth. Let his mind be changed from a man's, and let a beast's mind be given to him; and let seven periods of time pass over him. The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.’ This dream I, King Nebuchadnezzar, saw. And you, O Belteshazzar, tell me the interpretation, because all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation, but you are able, for the spirit of the holy gods is in you.”

    Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was dismayed for a while, and his thoughts alarmed him. The king answered and said, “Belteshazzar, let not the dream or the interpretation alarm you.” Belteshazzar answered and said, “My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies! The tree you saw, which grew and became strong, so that its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth, whose leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which beasts of the field found shade, and in whose branches the birds of the heavens lived—it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth. And because the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field, and let him be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven periods of time pass over him,’ this is the interpretation, O king: It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king, that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. And as it was commanded to leave the stump of the roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be confirmed for you from the time that you know that Heaven rules. Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”

    All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” While the words were still in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles' feathers, and his nails were like birds' claws.

    At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,

    for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
        and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
    all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
        and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
        and among the inhabitants of the earth;
    and none can stay his hand
        or say to him, “What have you done?”
        At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

(Daniel 4 ESV)

Psalm 108

A Song. A Psalm of David.

    My heart is steadfast, O God!
        I will sing and make melody with all my being!
    Awake, O harp and lyre!
        I will awake the dawn!
    I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the peoples;
        I will sing praises to you among the nations.
    For your steadfast love is great above the heavens;
        your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
    Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
        Let your glory be over all the earth!
    That your beloved ones may be delivered,
        give salvation by your right hand and answer me!
    God has promised in his holiness:
        “With exultation I will divide up Shechem
        and portion out the Valley of Succoth.
    Gilead is mine; Manasseh is mine;
        Ephraim is my helmet,
        Judah my scepter.
    Moab is my washbasin;
        upon Edom I cast my shoe;
        over Philistia I shout in triumph.”
    Who will bring me to the fortified city?
        Who will lead me to Edom?
    Have you not rejected us, O God?
        You do not go out, O God, with our armies.
    Oh grant us help against the foe,
        for vain is the salvation of man!
    With God we shall do valiantly;
        it is he who will tread down our foes.

(Psalm 108 ESV)

Psalm 109

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

    Be not silent, O God of my praise!
    For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me,
        speaking against me with lying tongues.
    They encircle me with words of hate,
        and attack me without cause.
    In return for my love they accuse me,
        but I give myself to prayer.
    So they reward me evil for good,
        and hatred for my love.
    Appoint a wicked man against him;
        let an accuser stand at his right hand.
    When he is tried, let him come forth guilty;
        let his prayer be counted as sin!
    May his days be few;
        may another take his office!
    May his children be fatherless
        and his wife a widow!
    May his children wander about and beg,
        seeking food far from the ruins they inhabit!
    May the creditor seize all that he has;
        may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil!
    Let there be none to extend kindness to him,
        nor any to pity his fatherless children!
    May his posterity be cut off;
        may his name be blotted out in the second generation!
    May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD,
        and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out!
    Let them be before the LORD continually,
        that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth!
    For he did not remember to show kindness,
        but pursued the poor and needy
        and the brokenhearted, to put them to death.
    He loved to curse; let curses come upon him!
        He did not delight in blessing; may it be far from him!
    He clothed himself with cursing as his coat;
        may it soak into his body like water,
        like oil into his bones!
    May it be like a garment that he wraps around him,
        like a belt that he puts on every day!
    May this be the reward of my accusers from the LORD,
        of those who speak evil against my life!
    But you, O GOD my Lord,
        deal on my behalf for your name's sake;
        because your steadfast love is good, deliver me!
    For I am poor and needy,
        and my heart is stricken within me.
    I am gone like a shadow at evening;
        I am shaken off like a locust.
    My knees are weak through fasting;
        my body has become gaunt, with no fat.
    I am an object of scorn to my accusers;
        when they see me, they wag their heads.
    Help me, O LORD my God!
        Save me according to your steadfast love!
    Let them know that this is your hand;
        you, O LORD, have done it!
    Let them curse, but you will bless!
        They arise and are put to shame, but your servant will be glad!
    May my accusers be clothed with dishonor;
        may they be wrapped in their own shame as in a cloak!
    With my mouth I will give great thanks to the LORD;
        I will praise him in the midst of the throng.
    For he stands at the right hand of the needy one,
        to save him from those who condemn his soul to death.

(Psalm 109 ESV)

 The following is taken from D.A. Carson's For the Love of God series...


ONE OF THE REASONS WHY the narratives of Daniel 4 and Daniel 5 are put side by side, even though they clearly come from two quite different periods of Daniel’s life, is that each serves as the foil of the other. Both are accounts of rich, powerful, arrogant men. The first, mercifully, is humbled and therefore spared and transformed; the second is simply destroyed.

Many critics doubt that the account of Daniel 4 is anything more than pious fiction to encourage the Jews. They note that there is no record of Nebuchadnezzar’s insanity in the surviving Babylonian records, and they doubt that the empire could have held together had the emperor himself gone mad for a period of time. Neither argument is weighty. Official records would not have talked much of Nebuchadnezzar’s period of insanity, and in any case records from the latter part of his life have not so far come to light. Moreover, we do not know exactly how long Nebuchadnezzar was insane: it is uncertain what “seven times” (4:16) means. Certainly the Roman Empire survived under Caligula, whose insanity no one doubts.
In our short space, we may reflect on the following:

(1) Nebuchadnezzar’s dream reflects his megalomania. He has a narcissistic personality: he is corroded by his own greatness yet is so insecure that his grandiose fantasies must be nurtured by incessant self-admiration. Unlike the egotist, who is so supremely self-confident that he does not care a rip what anyone thinks of him or her, the narcissist is often hypersensitive and emotionally fragile. Regardless of all psychological speculations, the man’s arrogance before God is unrestrained (despite the experience of chaps. 2 and 3), and God resolves to humble him.

(2) Daniel’s approach to Nebuchadnezzar, once he has heard the dream, should be studied by every Christian preacher and counselor. On the one hand, he is deeply distressed to grasp what Nebuchadnezzar is going through, or going to go through (4:19). On the other hand, once he is prevailed upon to give the interpretation of the dream, he does so with admirable clarity and forthright truthfulness. He neither maintains professional detachment nor resorts to mealy- mouthed indirection.

(3) The psychotic breakdown is probably a form of lycanthropy (which today is subdued by antipsychotic drugs). But once his sanity is restored (4:36), Nebuchadnezzar articulates the lesson he has learned: God is sovereign, he raises and abases whom he wills, none can withstand him, and every virtue or strength we possess we derive from him. To think otherwise is to invite rebuke, for “those who walk in pride he is able to humble” (4:37).