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Notes on the Book of Daniel: Chapter 4

Posted by lehunt on October 9, 2015

Chapter 4:

v. 15: Note that the object receiving punishment is referred to as “it” in the first part of the verse, but as “him” in the second.  I believe this is because vs. 15b-16 are the angel’s interpretation of the symbolism of the tree.  “Him” (the one drenched in dew) refers to Nebuchadnezzar, as Daniel points out later.  Given his fear (v. 5), Nebuchadnezzar must have suspected that it referred to him.

William Blake Nebuchadnezzar

William Blake Nebuchadnezzar // larryhuntbiblecommentary.wordpress.com

Tate Collection, The William Blake Archive.  Used with permission. 

v. 17: Some may interpret this “lowliest of men” to refer to some lowly man who was placed on the throne of Nebuchadnezzar during the king’s absence, but I think the term “lowliest of men” describes Nebuchadnezzar after the madness settles on him.  I could be wrong, of course.  It may refer to Daniel.  Having come to Babylon as a captive slave, he could be described as the lowliest of men, and I suspect that Daniel acted as steward of the throne during Nebuchadnezzar’s madness.  In fact, Daniel’s honest stewardship may be the only reason Nebuchadnezzar had a throne to return to after his recovery.

v. 19: There is a change here from the first person (“I”) to the third person (“he”).  The whole chapter is an epistle written by Nebuchadnezzar; the shift in person, therefore, seems strange to me since I would have expected it to stay in the first person.  I suppose the person could shift as a matter of style.  The explanation I prefer, however, is that the shift to third person reflects Nebuchadnezzar’s reliance on other people to write the letter at that point.  Perhaps Daniel or some other narrator supplemented the epistle’s contents in order to describe the time when Nebuchadnezzar was mad; Nebuchadnezzar himself may not have had a clear memory of that period.  If this is the case, then the third person picks up a bit early here, since Nebuchadnezzar is not mad yet.  Nevertheless, it would fit nicely with v. 34, where Nebuchadnezzar’s sanity returns and the first person voice picks up again.

I think this verse displays the genuine friendship and respect that Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel had for one another.  Daniel is distressed that such things have been decreed for the king to experience, and the king has compassion on Daniel’s distress.

v. 29: Given what has been shown of Nebuchadnezzar’s personality,[1] I think he may have heeded Daniel’s warning at first but then slipped back into his accustomed habits by this time.  He certainly does not seem worried about the dream anymore.

v. 33: Both of these descriptions use bird imagery.  I wonder how that is significant.


[1] See note on 3:19.

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