*Minor differences ignored. Grouped by changes, with first version listed as example.
At the close of.the edict, Nebuchadnezzar joins the ingenuous confession of his faults with the praises of God! What he says of the proud, he doubtless applies properly to himself; as if he had said, God wished to constitute me a remarkable monument of his method of humbling the proud for the instruction of all mankind. For I was inflated with pride, and God corrected this by so remarkable a punishment, that my example ought to profit the world at large. Hence I said, King Nebuchadnezzar does not simply return thanks to God, but at the same time confesses his fault, for though subdued with deserved harshness, yet his haughtiness could not be arrested by any lighter remedy. First of all he says, I praise, extol, and glorify the king of heaven! This heaping together of words doubtless proceeded from vehement affection. At the same time a contrast must be understood, on the principle formerly mentioned; since God is never rightly praised unless the ignominy of men is detected; he is not properly extolled, unless their loftiness is cast down; he is never glorified unless men are buried in shame and he prostrate in the dust. Hence, while Nebuchadnezzar here praises, extols, and glorifies God, he also confesses himself and all mortals to be nothing -- as he did before -- to deserve no praise but rather the utmost ignominy. He adds, since all his works are truth Here qsvt, kesot, is taken for "rectitude or integrity." For dyny-'mt, dini-ameth, mean true judgments, but refer here to equity. God's works are therefore all truth, that is, all integrity, as if he had said, none of God's works deserve blame. Then the explanation Follows, All his ways are judgments We see here the praise of God's perfect justice; this ought to be referred to Nebuchadnezzar personally, as if he had said, God does not deal with me too strictly; I have no reason for expostulating with him, or for murmuring as if he were too severe with me. I confess, therefore, that I deserve whatever punishment I sustain. And why so? All his ways are justice; meaning the highest rectitude. Then, All his works are truth; that is, nothing contrary to equity is found there, nothing crooked, but everywhere the highest justice will shine forth. We see then how Nebuchadnezzar by this language condemns himself out of his own mouth by declaring God's justice to be in all his works. This general form of expression does not prevent Nebuchadnezzar from openly and freely confessing himself a criminal before God's tribunal; but it acquires greater force by his example, which admonishes us by the general confession of God's justice, rectitude, and truthfulness in whatever he does. And this is worthy of notice, since many find no difficulty in celebrating God's justice and rectitude when they are treated just as they like; but if God begins to treat them with severity, they then vomit forth their poison, and begin to quarrel with God, and to accuse him of injustice and cruelty. Since therefore Nebuchadnezzar here confesses God to be just and true in all his works, without any exception, notwithstanding his own severe chastisements, this confession is not feigned; for he necessarily utters what he says from the lowest depths of his heart, through his having experienced the rigor of the divine judgment. He now adds at last, He can humble those who walk in pride. Here Nebuchadnezzar more openly displays his own disgrace, for he is not ashamed to confess his fault before the whole world, because his punishment was known to every one. As God then wished his folly to be universally detested, by making so horrible an example of him by his punishment, so Nebuchadnezzar now brings his own case forward, and bears witness to the justice of the penalty, in consequence of his extreme pride. Here then we see God's power joined with his justice, as we have previously mentioned. He does not attribute to God a tyranny free from all law; for as soon as Nebuchadnezzar had confessed all God's ways to be just, he condemns himself of pride directly afterwards. Hence he does not hesitate to expose his disgrace before mankind, that God may be glorified. And this is the true method of praising God, not only by confessing ourselves to be as nothing, but also by looking back upon our failings. We ought not only to acknowledge ourselves inwardly guilty before him, but also openly to testify the same before all mankind whenever it is necessary. And when he uses the word "humility," this may be referred to outward dejection; for Nebuchadnezzar was humbled when God east him out into the woods to pass his life in company with the wild beasts. But he was also humbled for another reason, as if he had been a son of God. Since this humbling is twofold, Nebuchadnezzar wishes here to express the former kind, because God prostrates and throws down the proud. This is one kind of humiliation; but it becomes profitless unless God afterwards governs us by a spirit of submission. Hence Nebuchadnezzar does not here embrace the grace of God, which was worthy of no common praise and exaltation; and in this edict he does not describe what is required of a pious man long trained in God's school; yet he shews how he had profited under God's rod, by attributing to him the height of power. Besides this, he adds the praise of justice and rectitude, while he confesses himself guilty, and bears witness to the justice of the punishment which had been divinely inflicted on him.
Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the King of heaven - Compare Daniel 2:47, and Daniel 4:1-3. He felt himself called on, in this public manner, to acknowledge the true God, with whose supremacy he had been made acquainted in so affecting a manner; to "praise" him that he had preserved him, and restored him to his reason and his throne; to extol or exalt him, by recognizing his sovereignty over the mighty kings of the earth, and the power to rule over all; and to "honor" him by making his name and attributes known abroad, and by using all his influence as a monarch to have him reverenced throughout his extended empire.
All whose works are truth - See Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 33:4; Revelation 15:3. The meaning is, that all that he does is done in accordance with the true nature of things, or with justice and propriety. It is not based on a false estimate of things, as what is done by man often is. How often are the plans and acts of man, even where there are the best intentions, based on some false estimate of things; on some views which are shown by the result to have been erroneous! But God sees things precisely as they are, and accurately knows what should be done in every case.
And those that walk in pride he is able to abase - What had occurred to Nebuchadnezzar might occur to others, and as God had shown that he could reduce the most exalted sovereign of the earth to the lowest condition in which a human being can be, he inferred that he could do the same to all, and that there was no one so exalted in rank, so vigorous in health, and so mighty in intellect, that he could not effectually humble and subdue him. This is indeed an affecting truth which is constantly illustrated in the world. The reverses occurring among men, the sick-bed, the loss of reason, the grave, show how easily God can bring down rank, and beauty, and talent and all that the world calls great, to the dust. In the Greek Codex Chisianus there is at the close of this chapter a beautiful ascription of praise to God, which has nothing to correspond with it in the Chaldee, and the origin of which is unknown.
I will translate it, because, although it is not of Divine authority, and is no part of the sacred writings, it contains sentiments not inappropriate to the close of this remarkable chapter. It is as follows: "To the Most High I make confession, and render praise to Him who made the heaven, and the earth, and the seas, and the rivers, and all things in them; I acknowledge him and praise him because he is the God of gods, and Lord of lords, and King of kings, for he does signs and wonders, and changes times and seasons, taking away the kingdoms of kings, and placing others in their stead. From this time I will serve him, and from the fear of him trembling has seized me, and I praise all his saints, for the gods of the pagan have not in themselves power to transfer the kingdom of a king to another king, and to kill and to make alive, and to do signs, and great and fearful wonders, and to change mighty deeds, as the God of heaven has done to me, and has brought upon me great changes. I, during all the days of my reign, on account of my life, will bring to the Most High sacrifices for an odor of sweet savor to the Lord, and I and my people will do what will be acceptable before him - my nation, and the countries which are under my power.
And whosoever shall speak against the God of heaven, and whosoever shall countenance those who speak anything, I will condemn to death. Praise the Lord God of heaven, and bring sacrifice and offering to him gloriously. I, king of kings, confess Him gloriously, for so he has done with me; in the very day he set me upon my throne, and my power, and my kingdom; among my people I have power, and my majesty has been restored to me. And he sent letters concerning all things that were done unto him in his kingdom; to all the nations that were under him."
Nebuchadnezzar is supposed to have lived but about one year after this (Wintle), but nothing is known of his subsequent deeds. It may be hoped that he continued steadfast in his faith in that God whom he had thus been brought to acknowledge, and that he died in that belief. But of this nothing is known. After so solemn an admonition, however, of his own pride, and after being brought in this public manner to acknowledge the true God, it is to be regarded as not improbable that he looked on the Babylon that he had reared, and over his extended realms, with other feelings than those which he had before this terrible calamity came upon him. "Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded in his kingdom by his son Iloarudam, according to Ptolemy, who is the Evil-Merodach of Jeremiah. After the death of Evil-Merodach, who reigned two years, Niricassolassar, or Neriglissar, who seems to have been the chief of the conspirators against the last king, succeeded him. He had married a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar, and in the course of his reign made a great stand against the growing power of the Medes and Persians; but at length, after a reign of four years, was killed in a battle with them under the command of Cyrus. His son Laborosoarchod succeeded him, and having reigned only nine months, and not reaching a Thoth, or beginning of an Egyptian year, he is not mentioned by Ptolemy; but he is said to have been quite the reverse of his father, and to have exercised many acts of wanton cruelty, and was murdered by his own subjects, and succeeded by his son Nabonadius, or Belshazzar." - Wintle.
(1) The narrative in this chapter furnishes an illustration of the disposition among men to make arrangements for their own ease and comfort, especially in view of advancing years, Daniel 4:4. Nebuchadnezzar had drawn around him all that it is possible, perhaps, for man to accumulate with this view. He was at the head of the pagan world - the mighty monarch of the mightiest kingdom on the earth. He was at peace - having finished his wars, and having been satiated with the glory of battle and conquest. He had enlarged and beautified his capital, so that it was one of the "wonders of the world." He had built for himself a palace, which surpassed in richness, and elegance, and luxury, all the habitations of man in that age. He had accumulated vast wealth, and there was not a production of any clime which he could not command, nor was there anything that is supposed to be necessary to make man happy in this life which he had not in his possession.
All this was the result of arrangement and purpose. He designed evidently to reach the point where he might feel that he was "at ease, and flourishing in his palace." What was true in his case on a large scale is true of others in general, though on a much smaller scale. Most men would be glad to do the same thing; and most men seek to make such an arrangement according to their ability. They look to the time when they may retire from the toils and cares of life, with a competence for their old age, and when they may enjoy life, perhaps, many years, in the tranquility of honorable and happy retirement. The merchant does not expect always to be a merchant; the man in office to be always burdened with the cares of state. The soldier does not expect always to be in the camp, or the mariner on the sea. The warrior hopes to repose on his laurels; the sailor to find a quiet haven; the merchant to have enough to be permitted to sit down in the evening of life free from care; and the lawyer, the physician, the clergyman, the farmer, each one hopes, after the toils and conflicts of life are over, to be permitted to spend the remainder of his days in comfort, if not in affluence.
This seems to be based on some law of our nature; and it is not to be spoken of harshly, or despised as if it had no foundation in what is great and noble in our being. I see in this a high and noble truth. It is that our nature looks forward to rest; that we are so made as to pant for repose - for calm repose when the work of life is over. As our Maker formed us, the law was that we should seek this in the world to come - in that blessed abode where we may be free from all care, and where there shall be everlasting rest. But man, naturally unwilling to look to that world, has abused this law of his being, and seeks to find the rest for which the soul pants, in that interval, usually very short, and quite unfitted for tranquil enjoyment, between the period when he toils, and lies down in the grave. The true law of his being would lead him to look onward to everlasting happiness; he abuses and perverts the law, and seeks to satisfy it by making provision for a brief and temporary rest at the close of the present life.
(2) There is a process often going on in the case of these individuals to disturb or prevent that state of ease. Thus there was in the case of Nebuchadnezzar, as intimated by the dream. Even then, in his highest state of grandeur, there was a tendency to the sad result which followed when he was driven from his throne, and treated as a poor and neglected maniac. This was intimated to him by the dream; and to one who could see all the future, it would be apparent that things were tending to this result. The very excitements and agitations of his life, the intoxication of his pride, and the circumstances of ease and grandeur in which he was now placed, all tended by a natural course of things to produce what followed. And so, in other cases, there is often process going on, if it could be seen, destined to disappoint all those hopes, and to prevent all that anticipated ease and tranquility. It is not always visible to men, but could we see things as God sees them, we should perceive that there are causes at work which will blast all those hopes of ease, and disappoint all those expectations of tranquility. There may be
(a) the loss of all that we possess: for we hold it by an uncertain tenure, and "riches often take to themselves wings." There may be
(b) the loss of a wife, or a child and all our anticipated comforts shall be tasteless, for there shall be none with whom to share them. There may be
(c) the loss of reason, as in the case of Nebuchadnezzar, for no human precaution can guard against that. There may be
(d) the loss of health - a loss against which no one can defend himself - which shall render all his preparations for comfort of no value. Or
(e) death itself may come - for no one has any basis of calculation in regard to his own life, and no one, therefore, who builds for himself a palace can have any security that he will ever enjoy it.
Men who build splendid houses for themselves may yet experience sad scenes in their dwellings; and if they could foresee all that will occur in them, it would so throw a gloom over all the future as to lead them to abandon the undertaking. Who could engage cheerfully in such an enterprise if he saw that he was constructing a house in which a daughter was to lie down and die, or from which his wife and children were soon to be borne forth to the grave? In this chamber your child may be long sick; in that one you or your wife may lie down on a bed from which you will never rise; from those doors yourself, your wife, your child, will be borne forth to the grave; and if you saw all this now, how could you engage with so much zeal in constructing your magnificent habitation?
(3) Our plans of life should be formed with the feeling that this is possible: I say not with the gloomy apprehension that these calamities will certainly come, or with no anticipation or hope that there will be different scenes - for then life would be nothing else but gloom; but that we should allow the possibility that these things may occur to enter, as an element, into our calculations respecting the future. Such a feeling will give us sober and just views of life; will break the force of trouble and disappointment when they come; and will give us just apprehensions of our dependence on Him in whose hand are all our comforts.
(4) The dealings of God in our world are such as are eminently fitted to keep up the recognition of these truths. What occurred to Nebuchadnezzar, in the humbling of his pride, and the blighting of his anticipated pleasures, is just an illustration of what is constantly occurring on the earth. What house is there into which trouble, disappointment, and sorrow never come? What scheme of pride is there in respect to which something does not occur to produce mortification? What habitation is there into which sickness, bereavement, and death never find their way? And what abode of man on earth can be made secure from the intrusion of these things? The most splendid mansion must soon be left by its owner, and never be visited by him again. The most magnificent banqueting-hall will be forsaken by its possessor, and never will he return to it again; never go into the chamber where he sought repose; never sit down at the table where he joined with others in revelry.
(5) The counsel given by Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar Daniel 4:27, to break off his sins by righteousness, that there might be a lengthening out of his tranquility, is counsel that may now be given to all sinners, with equal propriety.
(I.) For, as in his case, there are certain consequences of sin to which we must look forward, and on which the eye of a sinner should rest. Those consequences are
(1) such as spring up in the course of nature, or which are the regular results of sin in the course of events. They are such as can be foreseen, and can be made the basis of calculation, or which a man can know beforehand will come upon him if he perseveres in a certain course. Thus he who is intemperate can look upon certain results which will inevitably follow if he perseveres in that course of life. As he looks upon the poverty, and babbling, and woe, and sorrow, and misery, and death of an inebriate, he can see that that lot will be certainly his own if he perseveres in his present course, and this can be made with him a matter of definite calculation or anticipation. Or
(2) there are all these consequences of sin which are made known in the sacred Scriptures as sure to come upon transgressors. This, too, is a large class; but these consequences are as certain as those which occur in the regular course of events. The principal difference between the two is, that revelation has designated more sins that will involve the sinner in calamity than can be ascertained in the ordinary course of events, and that it has carried the mind forward, and discloses what will take place in the future world as well as what will occur in this. But the one is more certain than the other; and alike in reference to what is sure to occur in the present life, and what we are told will occur in the future state, the sinner should allow himself to be influenced by the anticipation of what is to come.
(II.) Repentance, reformation, and a holy life would, in many cases, go far to arrest these calamities - or, in the language of Daniel, "lengthen out tranquility." This is true in the following respects:
(1) That impending temporal calamities may be often partially or wholly turned away by reformation. An illustration of this thought occurred in the case of Nineveh; and the same thing now occurs. A young man who is in danger of becoming intemperate, and who has already contracted some of the habits that lead to intemperance, could avert a large class of impending ills by so simple a thing as signing the temperance pledge, and adhering to it. All the evils of poverty, tears, crime, disease, and an early death, that intemperance produces, he would certainly avert; that is, he would make it certain that the large class of ills that intemperance engenders would never come upon him. He might experience other ills, but he would never suffer those. So it is of the sufferings produced by licentiousness, by gluttony, by the spirit of revenge; and so it is of all the woes that follow the violation of human laws. A man may indeed be poor; he may be sick; he may be bereaved; he may lose his reason, but these ills he will never experience. But what Daniel here affirms is true in another sense in regard to temporal calamities. A man may, by repentance, and by breaking off from his sins, do much to stay the progress of woe, and to avert the results which he has already begun to experience. Thus the drunkard may reform, and may have restored health, rigor, and prosperity; and thus the licentious may turn from the evil of his ways, and enjoy health and happiness still. On this subject, see the notes at Job 33:14-25, particularly the notes at Job 33:25.
(2) But by repentance and holy living a man may turn away all the results of sin in the future world, and may make it certain that he will never experience a pang beyond the grave. All the woe that sin would cause in the future state may be thus averted, and he who has been deeply guilty may enter the eternal world with the assurance that he will never suffer beyond the grave. Whether, then, we look to the future in the present life, or to the future beyond the grave, we have the highest conceivable motives to abandon the ways of sin, and to lead lives of holiness. If a man were to live only on the earth, it would be for his welfare to break off from the ways of transgression; how much higher is this motive when it is remembered that he must exist forever!
(6) We have an illustration in the account in this chapter of the evil of "pride," Daniel 4:29-31. The pride which we may have on account of beauty, or strength, or learning, or accomplishments; which we feel when we look over our lands that we have cultivated, or the houses that we have built, or the reputation which we have acquired, is no less offensive in the sight of a holy God than was the pride of the magnificent monarch who looked out on the towers, and domes, and walls, and palaces of a vast city, and said, "Is not this great Babylon that I have builded?"
(7) And in view of the calamity that came upon Nebuchadnezzar, and the treatment which he received in his malady, we may make the following remarks:
(a) We should be thankful for the continuance of reasons. When we look on such a case as this, or when we go into a lunatic asylum, and see the wretchedness that the loss of reason causes, we should thank God daily that we are not deprived of this inestimable blessing.
(b) We should be thankful for science, and for the Christian religion, and for all that they have done to give comfort to the maniac, or to restore him to a sound mind. When we compare the treatment which the insane now receive in the lunatic asylums with what they everywhere meet with in the pagan world, and with what they have, up to a very recent period, received in Christian lands, there is almost nothing in which we see more marked proof of the interposition of God than in the great change which has been produced. There are few persons who have not, or may not have, some friend or relative who is insane, and there is no one who is not, or may not be, personally interested in the improvement which religion and science have made in the treatment of this class of unfortunate beings. In no one thing, so far as I know, has there been so decided progress in the views and conduct of men; and on no one subject has there been so evident an improvement in modern times, as in the treatment of the insane.
(c) The possibility of the loss of reason should be an element in our calculations about the future. On this point we can have no security. There is no such vigour of intellect, or clearness of mind, or cultivation of the habits of virtue, and even no such influence of religion, as to make it certain that we may not yet be reckoned among the insane; and the possibility that this may be so should be admitted as an element in our calculations in regard to the future. We should not jeopard any valuable interest by leaving that undone which ought to be done, on the supposition that we may at a future period of life enjoy the exercise of reason. Let us remember that there may be in our case, even in youth or middle life, the loss of this faculty; that there will be, if we reach old age, in all probability, such a weakening of our mental powers as to unfit us for making any preparation for the life to come, and that on the bed of death, whenever that occurs. there is often an entire loss of the mental powers, and commonly so much pain. distress, or prostration, as to unfit the dying man for calm and deliberate thought; and let us, therefore, while we have reason and health, do all that we know we ought to do to make preparation for our eternal state. For what is our reason more certainly given us than to prepare for another world?
Now I - praise and extol - It is very probable that Nebuchadnezzar was a true convert; that he relapsed no more into idolatry, and died in the faith of the God of Israel. It is supposed that he lived seventeen years after his restoration. But the authorized Version, which is followed in the margin, states the date of this decree to be b.c. 563, the year preceding Nebuchadnezzar's death.
Now I Nebuchadnezzar (u) praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works [are] truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.
(u) He not only praises God for his deliverance, but also confesses his fault, so that God alone may have the glory, and man the shame, and so that God may be exalted and man cast down.
Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven,.... Now he knew that the heavens ruled, and that there was a God and a King there, above all gods and kings; who had brought him low, and raised him up again, and to whom were owing all his present glory and magnificence, and therefore worthy of his highest praises; and which he in the most public manner gave by words before his lords and counsellors, and by writing under his own hand, by this edict and proclamation:
all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: everything he does in providence, and every step he takes therein, are according to truth and righteousness; he is true to his word, and righteous in his works, as he had been to him:
and those that walk in pride he is able to abase; not only that show it now and then, but always, and in everything; in their looks and gestures, in their talk and walk, and throughout the whole of their conversation; in whom it is public, visible, notorious, and constant; but let them carry their heads ever so high, and be as proud and haughty as they will, God is able to humble them; he has various ways of doing it. Such as are proud of their outward beauty, or the strength of their bodies, he can, by sending a disease upon them, make their beauty to consume like a moth, and weaken their strength in the way; such as are elated with their wealth and substance, and with honours conferred upon them, or dignity they are raised to, he can soon strip them of all their riches by one providence or another, and bring down those that stand in slippery places of honour and dignity to destruction in a moment; and such as pride and plume themselves with their wit and knowledge, the natural endowments of their mind, he can take away their reason and understanding from them, as he did from this monarch, and put them upon a level with brutes: such who behest of their own righteousness and good works, and trust in themselves, that they are righteous and holy persons, and despise others; and think to be justified and saved by them, and not to be beholden to any other, but be their own saviours; these the Lord, by his Spirit, can humble, by showing them the impurity of their nature; their impotence to that which is spiritually good; the imperfection of their best righteousness to justify them in his sight; so that they shall appear to be polluted and defiled creatures, who thought themselves very holy; and to be very weak and insufficient of themselves, to do anything spiritually good, who gloried in the power and strength of their free will; and see that their best works are no other than filthy rags, and to be renounced in the business of their justification and salvation: in short, he humbles by showing them that all their temporal good things are owing to the good providence of God, and are dependent on it; and that all they have in spirituals is owing to the grace of God, and not to any desert of theirs; in consequence of which they become meek and lowly, and walk humbly with their God, who before walked in the pride of their hearts, and in the vanity of their minds. And a power to do this is peculiar to God himself; none but God can look upon him that is proud, and abase him, and bring him low; and sooner or later, by one means, or in one way or another, he will stain the pride of all glory: it is his usual way to abase him that exalts himself, and exalt him that humbles himself; see Job 40:11, pride being a most hateful sin to him, contrary to his nature and glory, to his grace and to his Gospel; the first sin of angels and men. And of abasement and humiliation of such proud ones, Nebuchadnezzar was an instance in various respects; who was one of the proudest monarchs upon earth, yet was humbled with a witness; but, after all, whether truly converted, is a question.
praise . . . extol . . . honour--He heaps word on word, as if he cannot say enough in praise of God.
all whose works . . . truth . . . judgment--that is, are true and just (Revelation 15:3; Revelation 16:7). God has not dealt unjustly or too severely with me; whatever I have suffered, I deserved it all. It is a mark of true contrition to condemn one's self, and justify God (Psalm 51:4).
those that walk in pride . . . abase--exemplified in me. He condemns himself before the whole world, in order to glorify God.
Now I praise - Thus can the Lord make the stoutest hearts to stoop, and do him homage. This doxology proceeds from his heart. Are truth - God is truth essentially: he is the rule and standard of truth, his words are truth, his ways are truth, and they are judgment: he is wise, and hath dealt justly with me for my pride, and in very faithfulness hath afflicted me, and in very tenderness hath restored me; I do, and ever shall adore him for it. Able to abase - As he hath declared upon me, in stupendous changes, which I proclaim to all the world. He had a just controversy with me, and I have no ground to quarrel with him, but to give him glory by this confession. What authority had any one to say, That this man "was no convert?" We can no more doubt of his salvation than of Solomon's.
*More commentary available at chapter level.