Scripture: “You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. …Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.” Daniel 4:25b and 27 ESV
Observation: Having gained Nebuchadnezzar’s trust, Daniel is summoned and asked to interpret the king’s bizarre and disturbing dream. Dismayed, Daniel pauses (likely praying for wisdom) and then informs the king that he will graze like an ox for an extended period until he comes to his senses and recognizes that the “Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (verse 25). Compassionately, Daniel urges Nebuchadnezzar to turn from his sinful ways and show mercy to the oppressed. Then perhaps God would lengthen his prosperity.
Unfortunately for Nebuchadnezzar, he did not heed Daniel’s advice. One year later, while boasting of his accomplishments, the Lord afflicted the king with boanthropy, a delusional state, where one “believes themselves to be an ox or cow and attempts to live and behave accordingly” (Wikipedia). Nebuchadnezzar’s hair and nails would grow long as he grazed in the field until he was repentant (verse 33-34). As the king later chronicles: “At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever” (verse 34).
Takeaway: As the wise King Solomon taught: pride comes before the fall (Proverbs 16:18). Whether in this life or when we face our Maker, the unrepentant will be held accountable. Thus, Jesus repeatedly warned his audiences that God would humble the exalted (Matthew 23:12, Luke 14:11, 16:15, 18:14). But if we confess our pride and repent, like Nebuchadnezzar, our gracious Lord will restore us to good standing. Indeed, this humbled Babylonian king learned his lesson. For even after the God of Israel restored his health and reputation and expanded his kingdom, he rightfully praised the Lord: “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble” (verse 37).
Prayer: Father God, we give you thanks for all the ways you bless us. Would you please help us not to lose sight of the Source of our accomplishments and good fortunes, that we might remain humble in heart and bring you the glory? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling