The fourth chapter of Daniel is, in some respects, the most wonderful chapter in the Bible. It is a public document written by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, after his humiliation by the God of heaven. It was sent "unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth." It therefore comes to us with as much freshness and vitality as though it were issued to the generation in which we live. The object was, says Nebuchadnezzar, "to show the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me." Contemplating what had been done, he exclaimed in language similar to that of the apostle Paul, "How great are his signs! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation."
Nebuchadnezzar's reign had been one long scene of warfare. He was a man of war. This characteristic was so prominent in the life of the great king that prophecy calls him "the terrible of the nations," and the "hammer of the whole earth." He had met the foe on every side and had been successful, because God had put his "sword into the hand of the king of Babylon," and had made use of this monarch to punish other nations which had refused the light of truth. To illustrate: For thirteen years the city of Tyre resisted every effort made by Nebuchadnezzar.
Finally he was successful, but gained no spoils, for Tyre, captured on the seacoast, removed to an island. Then Nebuchadnezzar turned his arms against Egypt, and that nation, which years before held Israel in bondage, now became a slave to the Babylonian power.
The prophet Ezekiel, one of the Hebrew captives, was given a view of the capture of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar, and was told to send the testimony to Pharaoh, king of Egypt. In this prophecy Egypt is represented as a mighty tree towering above all the trees of the earth. Even the trees of Eden envied the splendor of this one. All the fowls of heaven nested in its boughs; the hosts of earth dwelt beneath its branches. But this tree of Egypt was lifted up because of its greatness, and God sent Babylon to hew it to the ground. The crash of its fall shook the earth.
This prophecy must have been known to Nebuchadnezzar, if not before, at least after his victory over Egypt, for it was familiar to the Jews and there were Hebrews in the Babylonian court. This throws light on the fourth chapter of Daniel.
Having conquered the world, Nebuchadnezzar was at rest in his house, when one night he dreamed a dream. Success had followed him wherever he turned. At his feet bowed the representatives of all nations. Into his coffers flowed the wealth of the east and the west, and the north and the south. About him was clustered the wit and the learning of the age. Libraries were at his command, and art flourished. Why should not King Nebuchadnezzar flourish in his kingdom? But he had dreamed a dream which troubled him, and he called upon his wise men
for an interpretation. They listened, but strange to say, could give no explanation. God always permitted the wise men of earth to have first trial. When these wise men failed, Daniel was called.
Daniel's name had been changed when he first entered the Babylonian court, and to the king and his associates he was known as Belteshazzar, a son of the heathen god Bel, but Daniel himself always retained his own Hebrew name. Years before this, however, the God of Daniel had said, "Bel boweth and Nebo stoopeth; . . . they could not deliver the burden, but themselves are gone into captivity." Daniel again had an opportunity of proving the wisdom of his God and the weakness of the Babylonian deities.
The dream, as repeated by the king in Daniel's hearing, is wonderful to contemplate. The tree was a familiar object and a striking symbol. The most magnificent specimens that the world afforded had been transplanted into the Babylonian gardens. The story of Eden and its trees was handed down by tradition, and the people knew of the tree of life, and also of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The tree seen in the dream was planted in the midst of the earth, and as he watched, the king saw it grow until the top reached heaven, and its boughs stretched to the ends of the earth. Strange that this tree which grew toward heaven in spite of everything, which was watered by the dews of heaven and fed by God's own sunshine, knew only of the earth and earthly kingdoms!
As it had been with the Egyptian tree, so with this; fowls rested in the branches and beasts dwelt in its shadow. The king in his dream
saw only the upper part of the tree, the branches, leaves, and fruit, but the roots of any tree are as numerous and widespread as its branches; hence this mighty tree, whose top reached heaven, and whose branches spread forth to the ends of the earth, was supported by roots which, though hidden, ran through all the earth. Deep-rooted, it was drawing nourishment from hidden springs. In fact, the fair leaves and abundant fruit were dependent upon the condition of the roots.
As Nebuchadnezzar gazed upon the tree, he saw a "watcher, even an holy one,"-a messenger from heaven, whose appearance was similar to the one who walked in the midst of the fiery furnace with the Hebrew children. At the command of this divine messenger, the tree was hewn down, the stump alone remaining. Hewing down the tree did not kill the stump nor the roots. The life remained, and it was ready to send forth new shoots more numerous than before.
It is doubtful whether man ever received a message freighted with greater importance than this one given to Nebuchadnezzar. In his former dream he was shown the shortness of his kingdom and given proof of the decline of the empire. Had he lived in harmony with what was then revealed to him, the experience about to come would have been avoided. The parting words of the angel as he left Nebuchadnezzar were, "This matter is by the decree of the watchers . . . 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." More than that, "He setteth up over it the basest of men."
Because a man holds a position, it does not signify that he is better than others.
When Daniel realized the true significance of the dream, and foresaw the humiliation of the king of Babylon, "his thoughts troubled him." He was encouraged by the king not to be troubled, but to give the true interpretation. He did so, plainly telling the king that the tree seen in the vision was emblematic of Nebuchadnezzar himself, and his dominion. "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." Great as was Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom, it had grown from a small beginning. Gradually the principles upon which it was founded-principles much older than the king, for they originated with Lucifer, and were a perversion of heavenly truths-had taken root. In government it was the most rigid monarchy; the king held the lives of his subjects in his hand. Slaves bowed before him in abject subjugation; exorbitant taxes were forced from subject provinces; crowned heads were laid low and men enslaved that the king of Babylon might revel in the wealth of the world. The seeds of that form of government were sown wherever Babylon established her power, and as she sowed, so she, as well as others, have reaped. When Babylon fell, the principles by which she had controlled others were in turn applied to her. Wherever there is tyranny in government in any nation of earth to-day, it is an offshoot of that root which filled the earth, the stump of which was allowed to remain until the end of time.
Wherever Babylon laid her hand in conquest,
the principles of her religion were implanted. The vilest forms of worship were practiced in that kingdom with all its outward glory. The heart was rotten. The mystery of iniquity held full sway, hidden by the outward glitter of gold. The mysteries of Greece in a later day were but a repetition of the Babylonian mysteries. From the golden cup which she held in her hand, and which was a familiar symbol in Babylonian secret societies, she made all nations drunk with the wine of her fornication.
Nations and peoples to-day, unconscious of their origin, are perpetuating Babylonian religious customs when they celebrate Christmas with feasting, lighted candles, holly, and mistletoe. It is in commemoration of Babylonian heathen gods that they eat eggs on Easter, and even the wild capers of Hallowe'en repeat the mysteries of Babylon. The root was not destroyed; her religious principles have sprung up afresh in every generation and borne fruit in every country.
The influence of Babylon in educational lines was no less marked than her influence in government and religion, and the educational root of the tree was as vigorous as the others. We are in the habit of tracing the educational system of the world to Greece or Egypt; its principles are older than Greece. They belong to Babylon. The prominence given this phase of Babylonian life by the Spirit of God in the book of Daniel, and the fact that the leading educators and educational institutions of the world were brought in direct contact with the more simple principles of true education every time the Hebrews met the Chaldeans and wise men, shows the place which education
occupies both in the false kingdoms of which Babylon is a type, and in the true, which the Hebrews represented. The so-called "higher education" of to-day, which exalts the science of the world above the science of salvation; which sends forth students bearing worldly credentials, but not recognized in the books of heaven, students who love display, who are filled with pride, selfishness, and self-esteem,-this education is a plant which has sprung from that broad root which supported the tree representing the Babylonian dominion.
Seeds of truth had been planted in Babylon. The holy Watcher sought constantly for the growth of a tree which would bring life. All nations were gathered under the influence of Babylon in hopes that they might there be fed with fruit which would prove to be the bread of life; but instead, it was a mixture of good and evil, which poisoned the consumer.
The leaves of the tree were fair to look upon, and might have been for the healing of the nations; but the very odor they exhaled, intoxicated and led to excesses. So with the plant which has sprung from those hidden roots. It may be fair to look upon, its fruit may be so sweet that the eater can not be persuaded that it is not truth, but the wisdom of God will stand long after that of the world has been destroyed. We should watch and guard against the evils which spring from the Babylonian root.
Aside from the general application to the entire kingdom, a part of the dream pictures the experience of Nebuchadnezzar personally. Because of his pride of heart, he would lose his reason, forsake the abodes of men, find his home
with the beasts of the field, and remain in this condition for seven years-until he had learned "that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will." Daniel exhorted the king, "Let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor." There was yet time for repentance, and had the king heeded this counsel, it would have saved him from the great humiliation which came upon him. But when men's hearts are set, the message to change, though given by an angel from heaven, remains unheeded. Consequently, "all this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar."
A year of probation was granted the king after this solemn warning had been given. At the end of this time the king was in his royal palace, and thinking of his kingdom with pride and satisfaction, exclaimed, "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?" He was repeating the thoughts, almost the exact words, of Satan, when he sought to exalt his throne above God. When proud thoughts were entertained, and these words were uttered, the sentence was pronounced which blasted the tree, and degraded the monarch whom the tree symbolized. It was God who had given the king his reason and ability to establish a kingdom like this. The same God could take away the judgment and wisdom upon which the king prided himself. And God did so. It is the mind which elevates man above the beasts. When the power of the mind is removed, he sinks to the lowest
level. Nebuchadnezzar became as the beasts. David says, "I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found."
When God can not save men in prosperity, he brings upon them adversity. If in all this they reject God, then they bring upon themselves destruction. Let the results be as they may, God is clear from all censure. This is illustrated by Nebuchadnezzar's case. The proud and powerful monarch no longer swayed the scepter. He became a maniac, and for seven years he was found with cattle, the companion of beasts, feeding as they fed. His reason dethroned, he was no longer regarded even as a man. The mandate had gone forth, "Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit."
It is necessary in the cause of God and in the world, that men bear responsibility. But when men are lifted up in pride and depend upon worldly wisdom, God can no longer sustain them, and they fall. Nations and individuals alike have this experience. Even the professed church of Christ which departs from the humility of the Master, loses its power, and will certainly be brought low. The people who glory in wealth, or intellect, or knowledge, or in anything save Jesus Christ, will be brought to confusion. In Christ alone "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Every brilliant thought, every intellectual idea, which in any way brings greatness, originates with our Lord. It is God who is dealing with humanity. He rules.
It should be remembered that in all of God's
dealing with the king Nebuchadnezzar, God was working for the salvation of the ruler and those affected by his influence. God allowed him to suffer seven years of deplorable degradation, and then removed his chastening hand. After passing through this terrible humiliation, he was brought to see his own weakness; he confessed his guilt, and acknowledged the God of heaven. He sent to all the world the description of this experience as recorded in the fourth chapter of Daniel. He had learned that those who walk in pride, God is able to abase. In comparison with God and his universe, the inhabitants of the earth sink into insignificance, and are reputed as nothing. "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?"
Page 50: Dan. 4:1-3; 1 Cor. 10:11; Dan. 2:44, 45; 2 Peter 1:11; Eze. 30:10, 11; Jer. 50:23; Eze. 31:12; Eze. 30:25; Eze. 29:17-21.
Page 51: Eze. 30:9-11; Eze. 31:1-8; Dan. 4:4-8.
Page 52: Jer. 8:9; Dan. 4:9; Isa. 46: 1, 2; Isa. 37:19; Dan. 4:10-12; James 3:15.
Page 53: Ps. 37:35 [margin]; Rom. 11:18; Dan. 4:13-19.
Page 54: Dan. 4:20-23; Jer. 50:15, 16, 29; Gal. 6:7; Hosea 8:7.
Page 55: Isa. 13:11; Jer. 51:7; Rev. 18:3; Gal. 3:9-11; Eccl. 1:9, 10; Eccl. 3:15; Dan. 1:20; Dan. 2:27, 19; Dan. 3:18.
Page 56: Dan. 4:6-9. Dan. 5:8, 13, 14; Dan. 6:1-3; 1 Tim. 6:20, 21; 1 John 2:16; Jer. 51:9; Gen. 2:17; Dan. 2:38; Job 14:7-9; 2 Cor. 11:3; Dan. 4:24-26.
Page 57: Dan. 11:13 [margin]; Isa. 1:16-20; Isa. 58:7-11; Matt. 23:12; Luke 16:31; Eze. 14:4-8; Dan. 4:27, 28; Isa. 14:13, 14; Dan. 4:29-32.
Page 58: Ps. 37:35, 36; Heb. 12:4-11; Ps. 94:12, 13; Dan. 4:33; Isa. 42:8; 1 Peter 5:6; 1 Cor. 2:28-30; Col. 2:3; Gal. 6:14.
Page 59: Dan. 4:34-37.