Thoughts to Ponder: Chapter 12
Chapter 12: The King’s Second Dream—God Tries Again ~ Daniel 4:1-18
Q1 – What is the significance of the enormous tree in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream? What does this tree reveal about Nebuchadnezzar and his kingdom?
A1 – God had already revealed to Nebuchadnezzar with the dream of the great statue that it was He who had placed the king in such an exalted position. However, time passed and Nebuchadnezzar lapsed back into his self-serving, egotistical ways. So with this dream, God again reminds him that his greatness is not his own doing. It is God who has planted him, represented by this enormous tree, so firmly and mightily in the middle of the earth.
Trees help sustain life on this earth. Humans, animals, and other plants all benefit greatly from the presence of trees. They were such an important part of God’s creation that He created trees and other vegetation on Day 3, right after he separated the sea from the sky on Day 2. He even created trees before he created the sun, moon and stars on Day 4. He wanted them to be in place well before he created animals and mankind on Day 6. (See Genesis 1.)
So with this dream, God is showing Nebuchadnezzar how important he is in God’s plan. Like this tree, he helps provides food and shelter for many. But just as God created this magnificent tree, He can take it down as well. God wants Nebuchadnezzar to learn once and for all who’s really in control and reveals what is about to happen to the king.
But God still holds out hope for Nebuchadnezzar, because instead of completely destroying the tree, He preserves the stump, keeping it bound with an iron and bronze band (keeping things all together for him). After the king’s stint as an animal (a huge dose of humility for someone so powerful), God will restore the king to his former position with even more greatness than before.
Without God’s intervention, do you think Nebuchadnezzar’s place would have been held for him? Other leaders would have seen this as an opportunity for them to quickly step in and fill the void. And without God’s intervention, do you think the advisers and nobles would have sought out someone who had just spent seven years living as an animal? Maybe they would seek him out of curiosity but definitely not to reestablish him over the kingdom. Truly, Nebuchadnezzar must have been someone special in God’s eyes, else why would God have placed him in such an exalted position and then gone to such efforts to turn the king’s heart to Him?
Q2 – What other trees have been mentioned in the Bible? Why were trees so important in ancient times?
A2 – Remember that most people in Bible times lived much closer to the earth than most of us do today. Those who lived the nomadic lifestyle likely had tents made from animal skins or fabric woven from various fibers. Those who lived in villages and towns may have had structures of stone or mud bricks made from mud and straw. Regardless, except for homes of the wealthy and the royalty, family dwellings were much, much smaller in size than homes today. They tended to spend a lot of time outdoors, whether caring for their crops or their animals, preparing food, or performing various other tasks. Trees provided shade and welcome coolness for them when the weather was hot, as well as a place to lounge or sit and visit with one another. Some trees provided fruit, others were used in building structures, and dead branches and fallen trees were an excellent source of firewood for cooking and keeping warm.
In certain areas, trees were few and far between, and large trees served as notable landmarks. Recall that Abraham, after he and Lot parted company, went and lived near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron (Genesis 13:18). He built an alter to the Lord there, and it was there that the Lord appeared to him and told him that Sarah would give birth to a son (Genesis 18). Unfortunately, “spreading trees” also served as sites for idol worship. (Search on this term at biblegateway.com to see the many times such practices were mentioned.)
Then, of course, the two most notable trees in the Bible are the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil which God placed in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9). He had commanded the man not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil or else he would die (Genesis 2:16-17). Later, after God had created woman, the serpent came to her and tempted her to eat from that tree (read the entire account in Genesis 3). As a result, God drove them out of the Garden of Eden so that they would not also be able to eat from the Tree of Life and live forever (Genesis 3:22-24).
However, in the book of Revelation, the Tree of Life appears again. “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7) It is there that the faithful will be able to partake of the Tree of Life. Jesus said, “‘Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.’” (Revelation 22:14-15) Then comes the warning not to add to nor take away from the words of this prophecy, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.” (Revelation 22:18-19)
Q3 – In finding someone to interpret his dream, compare Nebuchadnezzar’s actions concerning his first dream with this dream. Do you think the confidence Nebuchadnezzar now had in Daniel dampened the king’s typically explosive nature?
A3 – By the time this dream occurred, Nebuchadnezzar was older. Although the scriptures don’t state how old he was, he had likely finished his conquering of other nations. He now contented himself with domestic living, enjoying the lavishness of his palace. The king had mellowed considerably, having already proved his prowess on the world stage.
Also by this time, Nebuchadnezzar had had much interaction with Daniel and others of the Jewish community. He had personally witnessed the power of their God on several occasions. He had held Daniel in high regard since the early days of his training, and for years he had placed Daniel in positions of great authority in his kingdom. Certainly, Daniel had more than earned the confidence of the king.
However, when Nebuchadnezzar had this second dream from God, it frightened him. He knew it was a message from the Divine, and it didn’t sound good. This God of the Jews had proven Himself much more powerful than the king could have ever imagined. Nebuchadnezzar now knew what he was up against, and he knew that lashing out at humans in an attempt to learn the meaning of this dream would prove futile. So perhaps the king’s knowledge of God’s great power also played a part in dampening his response.