Downfall and Restoration

Nebuchadnezzar has another dream, and as before, one that only Daniel can interpret. Yahweh will remove the king from power until he learns that the “Most-High God” is sovereign over the affairs of men. Chapter 4 begins and ends with the Babylonian ruler acknowledging the sovereignty of the God of Israel.

In the opening paragraph, the terms “great,” “kingdom,” and “dominion” are repeated from the preceding chapter. This prepares the reader for the concluding declaration by the king concerning the sovereignty of God.

  • (Daniel 4:1-3) – “Nebuchadnezzar the king, to all the peoples, races and tongues who are dwelling in all the earth: Let your prosperity abound! The signs and the wonders which the most-high God has wrought with me, it is pleasing before me to declare. His signs, how great! And his wonders, how mighty! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.”

The term “earth” occurs eight times in the chapter in reference to Nebuchadnezzar’s sovereignty.  In contrast, “heaven” is applied sixteen times to the rulership of Yahweh. The king must learn that “heaven” alone rules over the earth - (Daniel 4:26).

Nebuchadnezzar recounts the dream that gave him great anxiety when he was “luxuriating” in his palace. This translates an Aramaic word for the “greening” of plants. It anticipates the representation of the king in the dream by the great tree that nourishes all earthly creatures.

This tree “grew great and its height reached to the heavens and its sight to the end of all the earth.” The same description is repeated in verses 20-22 and applied to Nebuchadnezzar, but the king attributes his greatness to his own majesty.

As before, Nebuchadnezzar summons all the “wise men” of Babylon to interpret his dream, the “scribes, enchanters, astrologers and soothsayers.” And, as previously, none can do so except Daniel.

In the dream, the king sees a large tree in the center of the earth that grows until its height reaches heaven. It is visible from the extremities of the earth. The animals of the earth are fed by its fruit and the birds of the air are sheltered and nourished in its branches - (Daniel 4:4-18).

Nebuchadnezzar then sees a “holy watcher” descend from heaven. The figure commands the removal of the tree so that nothing of remains visible above the ground.  It is “cut down,” its branches are “lopped off,” its leaves “stripped,” and its fruit “scattered across the earth.” Only the “tip of its root” remains in the ground.

The “watcher” declares that the heart of the king will change from that of a man to a “beast” until “seven seasons passed over him.” The great tree will become a pitiful tethered animal dependent on others for nourishment, and through his downfall, “All the living would come to know that the Most-High rules in the kingdom of men and gives it to whomever he will and sets up over it the lowest of men.”

Once again, “set up” translates the same Aramaic verb used in Daniel 2:21 when the prophet declared that God “removes kings and sets up kings.” Likewise, the same verb for “removed” is used in both passages - (“Nebuchadnezzar, the kingdom is removed from you”).

The power of the heavenly decree is demonstrated when the ruler of the World Empire turns to Daniel for understanding.  Through his God-given ability, the “lowly” Jewish exile exercises dominion over the Babylonian sovereign.

Thus, Daniel declared the removal and the restoration of political power to one who presumed to possess it through his own might, rather than acknowledge it as a gracious gift from the “God of Heaven.”


The great tree represents Nebuchadnezzar. He “became strong, his greatness reached to the heavens, and his dominion to the ends of the earth.” The command of the “watcher” to cut down the tree was “the decree of the Most-High.”

Men would drive him from society to live among wild animals for “seven seasons” until he comprehended that “the Most High has sovereignty over the kingdom of men and gives it to whomever he pleases.” Then his kingdom would be restored.

The term “seven seasons” is ambiguous and does not necessarily mean seven years.  It could refer to seven weeks or seven months. Nebuchadnezzar would be in this state until the divine pronouncement ran its course, however long that was. The dream was a warning to Nebuchadnezzar, one he all too soon forgot.

A year passed, then “all this came upon Nebuchadnezzar.” At the very height of his power, he boasted of his majesty and achievements: “Is this not Babylon the Great that I built by the might of my power and for the dignity of my majesty?” A voice from Heaven responded:

  • O Nebuchadnezzar, the kingdom is removed from you…until you come to know that the Most High has dominion over the kingdom of men and gives it to whomever he pleases.

His understanding departed and he was driven from society to live like an animal for “seven seasons.” However, after his mind was restored, Nebuchadnezzar looked to heaven and declared:

  • Blessed is the Most-High who lives forever! I praise and honor the One whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation. Before Him all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and according to his own pleasure He deals with the Host of Heaven and the inhabitants of the earth. There is none who can say to him, What have you done.”

History remembers Nebuchadnezzar as a great ruler and builder, as well as the conqueror of vast territories. He established an empire larger and mightier than any that preceded his realm.

His downfall is an object lesson in just how hollow such boasts are, even when made by the mightiest rulers on the earth. His fall demonstrates how decisively and quickly God can remove any ruler or regime to suit His purposes.


There are verbal parallels in the story with the incident at the Tower of Babel. For example, in the Genesis account, “all the earth was of one language” and came to “inhabit the plain of the land of Shinar.” The inhabitants set out to “build for us a city and a tower whose height reaches to the heavens and, thus, let us make for us a name lest we be scattered over the face of all the earth.”

But Yahweh “came down” from heaven to see the city that men had built. When He pronounced judgment, He mockingly used the first-person plural - “Let us go down and confuse their speech.” Thus, He “scattered them over the face of all the earth, and so they left off building the city.”

The “watcher” pronounced judgment using verbs in the first person, plural form, as did God in the Genesis account – “Let us” cut down the tree, destroy it, and leave the stump of its roots. The fruit of the tree would be “scattered” and the king was driven from among men until he understood that the “Most High has dominion over the kingdom of men, and to whomever, he pleases he gives it.”

At the end of the “seven seasons,” Nebuchadnezzar was restored to his right mind and his sovereignty was reconfirmed.


The passage in Daniel is echoed in the judgment pronouncement on end-time “Babylon” when the “kings of the earth” wailed over her demise:

  • Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city; for in one hour is your judgment come… and a strong angel took a great millstone and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus, with force will Babylon, the great city, be cast down and be found no more at all” – (Revelation 18:10-21).

From start to finish in Revelation, Babylon symbolizes the determination of human society to arrogate to itself self-rule in opposition to the sovereignty of the “God of Heaven,” the creator of all things.

Likewise, the term “inhabitants of the earth” is derived from this story, which is then used repeatedly by Revelation to refer to humanity in its hostility to the “Lamb” and the “one who sits on the throne.”


Destruction of Babylon

Gog and Magog