Daniel 4-6 Behold, a tree in the midst of the earth

From Daniel 4-6

27 Daniel Lions den thumbDo you remember your dreams? In today’s passage Nebuchadnezzar has a dream about a magnificent tree. The dream predicts what will happen to him and gives him a chance to avert judgment. In the gospel, people are often likened to trees. What kind of tree are you? Do you acknowledge the most high God?

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

King Nebuchadnezzar has another dream. Like the other events that have occurred in Daniel, this dream glorifies the God of Israel, the one true God when others try to take his place.

4  I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace. 5 I saw a dream that made me afraid. As I lay in bed the fancies and the visions of my head alarmed me. 6 So I made a decree that all the wise men of Babylon should be brought before me, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. (Da 4:4–6)

The ESV (approximate word for word translation) text sometimes uses strange words. ‘Fancies’ in my head. the noun is more commonly rendered ‘thoughts’ (KJV, AV). Sometimes it is rendered ‘fantasies’ (NRSV), other times ‘revelation’ (LEB), still others ‘images’ (NIV). These fancies and visions alarm Nebuchadnezzar so he gets all the wise men to help him interpret the dream.

7 Then the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers came in, and I told them the dream, but they could not make known to me its interpretation. 8 At last Daniel came in before me—he who was named Belteshazzar after the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods—and I told him the dream, saying, 9 “O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation. (Da 4:7-9)

Hopefully Nebuchadnezzar gets out of his bed before all the people come see him… This time the king lets them know what the dream is, but they still have no idea what it means.

Today we may not think much about dreams. Dreams are significant in the scriptures. They believed they communicate spiritual realities and foretell the future.

Daniel eventually comes in. He comes in last, perhaps an indication of how the Babylonians feel about him and his people. Daniel is recognised by the king to have two names. Daniel, his Jewish name and Belteshazzar, named after Nebuchadnezzar’s god. Not sure how Daniel would have felt about being named thus, but this was probably a high honour in Nebuchadnezzar’s mind.

27 big tree

10 The visions of my head as I lay in bed were these: I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great. 11 The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. 12 Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the heavens lived in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it. (Da 4:10-13)

The tree represents Nebuchadnezzar and his nation. The tree is big and strong, providing fruit and shelter for all.

Do you normally see parts of creation representing people and or nations?

Perhaps Nebuchadnezzar liked this idea. Perhaps he understood he was the tree in some way.

13 “I saw in the visions of my head as I lay in bed, and behold, a watcher, a holy one, came down from heaven. 14 He proclaimed aloud and said thus: ‘Chop down the tree and lop off its branches, strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts flee from under it and the birds from its branches. 15 But leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, amid the tender grass of the field. (Da 4:13–15a)

The dream takes a bad turn when a holy watcher comes down from heaven. Presumably this is an angel. The tree will be chopped down with only the stump remaining. Humbled by heaven. The remaining stump becomes the focus of the holy waters attention and proclamation.

Let him be wet with the dew of heaven. Let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth. 16 Let his mind be changed from a man’s, and let a beast’s mind be given to him; and let seven periods of time pass over him. (Da 4:15b-16)

The holy watcher from heaven changes the way he speaks about the tree. Previously the watcher called the tree ‘it’. Now the watcher refers to it as ‘him’.

Know any big trees?

The tree is Nebuchadnezzar and look what happens to him. His mind will become like a beasts for ‘seven periods’. We are never really told how long this is. Probably in the order of months, perhaps years (cf. Dan 4.33).

17 The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.’ 18 This dream I, King Nebuchadnezzar, saw. And you, O Belteshazzar, tell me the interpretation, because all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation, but you are able, for the spirit of the holy gods is in you.” (Da 4:17–18)

The dream and what will happen to Nebuchadnezzar so ‘that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men’.

Who do you acknowledge put you in the position you are in now?

At this point Nebuchadnezzar commends Daniel for the interpretation he gave him. He recognises it is from the ‘spirit of the holy gods’ in him.

Story of Israel

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

The dream is fulfilled and Nebuchadnezzar is humbled. The story is an encouragement for the people of Judah in exile. They are reminded the LORD, their God is still in control. They are being punished for their sins, yet they know their sovereign God will restore them.

Story of Jesus

Nebuchadnezzar isn’t the only one in the scriptures likened to a tree. In the gospel, John the baptist does the same.

3 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’ ”

4 Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Mt 3:1–12)

His warning still stands and we should look at ourselves and see if we need to repent before the LORD.

Nebuchadnezzar glorified himself and did not acknowledge God, and that is why he was humbled. John the baptist predicts a greater judgment on those who continue in sin and do not bear good fruit. Someone greater than he will return to judge the living and the dead. Jesus Christ.

Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2015. All Rights Reserved.