Daniel 4 – The King’s Dream & Nebuchadnezzar’s Madness

Well Father, I have to tell You that in itself is scary, I think that would be horrible to go through life as an ox like Nebuchadnezzar did, even just for a day.  I’m sure a lot of people don’t believe that really happened, they probably think it’s symbolic.

But maybe not because Moses said You created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1) and that isn’t symbolic.  I know that when You talk things happen:

“So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Is 55:11).

I have seen You do things, they were small things, but they should not have happened and could not have happened without You.  I know You can do anything:

“For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Lk 1:37).

Who were…

Daniel 4
The King’s Dream

Clinical lycanthropy is defined as a rare psychiatric syndrome that involves a delusion that the affected person can or has transformed into an animal or that he or she is an animal. Its name is connected to the mythical condition of lycanthropy, a supernatural affliction in which people are said to physically shapeshift into wolves. The terms zoanthropy and therianthropy are also sometimes used for the delusion that one has turned into an animal in general and not specifically a wolf.

1 Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you.

4:1-3 – Nebuchadnezzar reached this conclusion after the experiences of vv. 4-37.  The language of his confession may reflect Daniel’s influence.

2 I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me.

3 How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation.

4 I Nebuchadnezzar was at rest in mine house, and flourishing in my palace:

5 I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts upon my bed and the visions of my head troubled me.

6 Therefore made I a decree to bring in all the wise men of Babylon before me, that they might make known unto me the interpretation of the dream.

7 Then came in the magicians, the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers: and I told the dream before them; but they did not make known unto me the interpretation thereof.

The Epic of Gilgamesh, an epic poem from Mesopotamia, is amongst the earliest surviving works of literature. The literary history of Gilgamesh begins with five independent Sumerian poems about ‘Bilgamesh’, king of Uruk.

8 But at the last Daniel came in before me, whose name was Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods: and before him I told the dream, saying,

“According to the name of my god” – Bel (“lord”) was a title for the god Marduk.

9 O Belteshazzar, master of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in thee, and no secret troubleth thee, tell me the visions of my dream that I have seen, and the interpretation thereof.

10 Thus were the visions of mine head in my bed; I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great.

11 The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth:

“Grew…strong” – in one of Nebuchadnezzar’s building inscriptions, Babylon is compared to a spreading tree.

“The height thereof reached unto heaven” – a phrase often used of Mesopotamian temple-towers.

12 The leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all: the beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed of it.

13 I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven;

Dolon wearing a wolf-skin. Attic red-figure vase, c. 460 B.C.

14 He cried aloud, and said thus, Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit: let the beasts get away from under it, and the fowls from his branches:

15 Nevertheless leave the stump of his roots 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 in the grass of the earth:

16 Let his heart be changed from man’s, and let a beast’s heart be given unto him; and let seven times pass over him.

“Seven” – signifies completeness.

“Times” – or “years.”  The term referred to a given season of the year, and so the year as a whole.  For example, every recurrent spring meant that another full year had elapsed since the previous spring.

17 This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.

“Watchers” – the agents of God who is the ultimate source.

18 This dream I king Nebuchadnezzar have seen. Now thou, O Belteshazzar, declare the interpretation thereof, forasmuch as all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known unto me the interpretation: but thou art able; for the spirit of the holy gods is in thee.

Building Inscription of King Nebuchadnezar II at the Ishtar Gate. An abridged excerpt says: “I (Nebuchadnezzar) laid the foundation of the gates down to the ground water level and had them built out of pure blue stone. Upon the walls in the inner room of the gate are bulls and dragons and thus I magnificently adorned them with luxurious splendour for all mankind to behold in awe.”

19 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.

20 The tree that thou sawest, which grew, and was strong, whose height reached unto the heaven, and the sight thereof to all the earth;

21 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:

22 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.

23 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;

24 This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the most High, which is come upon my lord the king:

25 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.

This painting of a stamped brick of king Nebuchadnezzar II is from one of the 15 million baked bricks were used in the construction of his official buildings. The actual cuneiform inscribed name is translated as “Nabu-ku-dur-ri-usur” which means “Nebo, protect the boundary.”
Bricks like this Nebuchadnezzar II Brick are very common around the ruins of ancient Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar used them in all of his official building projects and they were made in the millions and every one of them was stamped or inscribed in cuneiform. The discovery of this Nebuchadnezzar II inscribed brick is important in the study of Biblical Archaeology because it contains a declaration by king Nebuchadnezzar II, the monarch who is mentioned so often in the Bible and is the one who destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem in 586 BC and carried the Jews away into exile.

26 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.

27 Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquility.

28 All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar.

29 At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon.

30 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 honor of my majesty?

31 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.

“The word was in the king’s mouth” – see Lk 12:19-20.

32 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.

33 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.

This clay cylinder is one of three cylinders found in the ruins of ancient Babylon that describe Nebuchadnezzar’s royal palace that he built for himself in Babylon.
He actually built 3 palaces and his summer palace was on the Euphrates River. The Nebuchadnezzar II Clay Cylinder is an important discovery in Biblical Archaeology, it mentions Nebuchadnezzar by name and confirms the Biblical account.

34 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:

35 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?

36 At the same time my reason returned unto me; and for the glory of my kingdom, mine honor and brightness returned unto me; and my counselors and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me.

37 Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.

“Those that walk in pride he is able to abase” – see Prov 3:34; Jas 4:6, 10; 1 Pet 5:5-6.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Madness

Nebuchadnezzar reigned from 605-562 B.C. over Babylon at the peak of its power.  Inscriptions reveal his great pride over his achievements in building temples and greatly fortifying the city of Babylon.

This is not a man wearing a werewolf mask. He has a rare condition known as hypertrichosis.
The legend of lycanthropy may predate written language. Both the Greeks and the Romans believed in the existence of men who could temporarily transform themselves into wolves. The word, lycanthrope, itself is Greek: lycaos means wolf, anthrope means man. A belief in the existence wolf men persisted in medieval Europe.

The book of Daniel records that God struck Nebuchadnezzar with a strange affliction in order to humble him. Extra biblical records deal with his infirmity only obliquely.

The ancient Jewish historian Josephus cited a report by the Babylonian priest Berossus that Nebuchadnezzar died following a period of weakness.

The Christian writer Eusebius preserved a tradition from the Greek historian Megasthenes (c. 300 B.C.) that Nebuchadnezzar, having ascended to the roof of his palace, became inspired by some god. (In antiquity insanity was looked upon as possession by a deity.)

A psychiatrist would describe Nebuchadnezzar’s behavior in Dan 4:22-34 to have been a delusional disorder. The typical onset for this kind of malady occurs in later life; it frequently lasts from months to years and remits spontaneously, often without subsequent relapse.

Lycanthropy, in which patients imagine themselves to be wolves, is one such disorder. Nebuchadnezzar’s condition has been described as boanthropy, or cow-like behavior. However, the imagery implied by his behavior may be related to a figure of the Gilgamesh Epic

This myth, known from the library of Ashurbani pal (668-626 B.C.), tells of Enkidu, a savage, animal-like creature who was hairy, unclothed and ate grass until becoming civilized – the antithesis of what would be expected of a cultured, self-sufficient builder of cities like Nebuchadnezzar.

Little is known of Nebuchadnezzar’s final years in power. The seven “times,” or periods of the illness could represent years, months or various other units of time. If his illness lasted seven years, then its onset must have been toward the end of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, after the completion of his numerous building projects.

…Nabonidus and Belshazzar?