This chapter is the last of the ‘interventions’ by God into the life of Nebuchadnezzar. Each time God apparently cuts deeper into his heart spiritually. This is the ultimate blow to the king’s sin and pride. Unlike in chapters 2 and 3, Daniel and his friends are not in any danger. This time the focus is completely on the king of Babylon and how God deals with him.
The king begins with an autobiography of a dream he had of a mighty tree that shades the entire earth with its branches. This tree is chopped down and only the trunk is left – bound up and humbled. The king has, as previously, studied, not yet come to grips with who God is and he first seeks his astrologers until, powerless yet again, he turns to Daniel. Is it possible that he really didn’t want to know the Truth as is so common with fallen men.
Daniel reveals that the dream signifies his humbling and that a period of madness would overtake the king. Yet again, Daniel demonstrates respect and humility toward the king but forthrightly declares the truth of God. The decree of God is certain – God will humble the king – but Daniel calls upon the king’s repentance demonstrating the concurrence of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Daniel is predicting the fall of the king and his inability to obey as commanded but God will show grace toward the king through this event. The gospel is manifest in this episode as the God shows unmerited favor toward a king. Why this king? Only God knows but it is clear, on Nebudchanezzar’s confession that it brings true knowledge and worship of the living God.
At the end of seven years, King Nebudchanezzar lifts his eyes heavenward and his sanity is restored. All who are spiritually dead are captive in the futility of idolatrous minds and it takes God’s work to lift the gaze toward His holiness and grace. He scourges the sons who He loves and uses painful, yet effective, means to bring them to a true knowledge of their status before a Holy God so they can fall at the feet of a Savior who provides redemption of their souls. Those who, likewise, have eyes to see can only marvel at God’s grace to them and see a kindred spirit in a proud king who is humbled, and at the end of the humbling, praises a God who could have justly destroyed him but, instead, gave him eyes to see that he might rightly worship and be saved from his sins.