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Relationship to Daniel. The relationship of Chapter 4 to Daniel as a whole, and in particular to the account of Belshazzar's feast in Chapter 5, is discussed at Daniel. The historical setting of Chapter 4 is also discussed at Daniel.
Story. Chapter 4 tells the story of Nebuchadnezzar's insanity. Chapter 4 has ___ principal parts.
Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapter 4 include:
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- a. introduction praising God’s power (1-3)
- b. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and resulting dread (4-5)
- b. Daniel’s dismay at the interpretation of the dream (4:19)
- a. conclusion praising both God’s power and his justice (34-37)
- a. introduction praising God’s power (1-3)
This outline of Daniel 4 is not pretty and could be improved, but it does probably track the train of thought. In this episode Nebuchadnezzar is sentenced, because of his pride, to spend seven “times” as a beast eating the grass of the field. He is then restored to his reason and to his kingdom when “I lifted up mine eyes unto heaven,” having learned that God “ruleth in the kingdom of men.”
The trigger for imposing this sentence is Nebuchadnezzar’s pride in his own greatness (4:30-31, 37). Pride interferes (a) with faith by obscuring the need to rely on God, (b) with hope by hiding the need to repent, and (c) with charity by causing one to devalue others. The purpose of the sentence imposed upon Nebuchadnezzar is (a) to teach him enough faith to recognize that God rules in the affairs of men (4:25, 31). Daniel’s exhortation on how to avoid the dream’s sentence is to “[b] break off thy sins by righteousness, and [c] thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor” (4:27). Daniel, in contrast to Nebuchadnezzar, humbly praised God as the source of his wisdom and might at the center of chapter 2 (2:19-23).
The Lord teaches that kings are often the basest of men (4:25). Nebuchadnezzar “dwells with the beasts of the field” until “his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws” (4:32-33). This ties Daniel 4 to the den of lions in chapter 6 and to the vision of four beasts in chapter 7. Daniel 4 is also tied to chapter 2 when Daniel interprets the king’s dream after the king’s magicians cannot (2:4-7, 19-23, 27; 4:6-9; also 5:8, 11). Also compare 4:5 to 7:1, 15 and 4:1 to 6:25. The two stories in chapters 4-5 are placed at the center of Daniel, and many of the other stories share literary ties to the central story and lesson of Daniel 4.
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