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Lowell Brueckner

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The Tree Dream


The Book of the Prophet Daniel

“… some stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire!” Hebrews 11:33, 34

Chapter 4:1-18                                       The Tree Dream

1.  King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! 
2.  It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me. 
3.  How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation. 
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. 
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. 

This chapter tells one of the most amazing testimonies in all of Scripture and there are few that surpass it, in all the centuries of church history. It is the first person account of a world emperor, which he sent to his kingdom throughout the earth. In it, he praises God and relates his experience of conversion in the common Aramaic language. The writing is worthy of the quotes of a couple commentators:

Adam Clarke: This is a regular decree, and one of the most ancient extant (voc. note: still in existence); and no doubt contains the exact words of Nebuchadnezzar, copied out by Daniel from the state papers of Babylon, and preserved in the original language.”

Matthew Henry: The royal style which Nebuchadnezzar makes use of has nothing in it of pomp or fancy, but is plain, short, and unaffected. If at other times he made use of great swelling words of vanity in his title, now he laid them all aside; for he was old, he had lately recovered from a distraction which had humbled and mortified him, and was now in the actual contemplation of God's greatness and sovereignty. The declaration is directed not only to his own subjects, but to all to whom this present writing shall come - to all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth. He is not only willing that they should all hear of it, though it carry the account of his own infamy (which perhaps none durst have published if he had not done it himself, and therefore Daniel published the original paper), but he strictly charges and commands all manner of persons to take notice of it; for all are concerned, and it may be profitable to all.

It is an open document, which any people may read and contemplate; in truth, it has extended beyond the cradle of civilization in the Middle East to the lands of Buddha, Mohammed, the Hindus and Confucius. It has reached the Native American and his natural religion and has come to the attention of remote tribes in South American and New Guinea. Nebuchadnezzar gives to all of us his royal blessing and tells us his personal experience with the living and true God. He says, “It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me.” 

He has received a worshipful heart and praise is upon his lips. He extols the greatness of God’s supernatural power, always evident, when a human being encounters divinity. He shares the knowledge that he has learned of His eternal kingdom and the enduring stability of His sovereign rule. It never skips a generation, nor does it fade in its prominence, but remains steadfast and within the reach of all nations at all times.

His outstanding transformation began with a dream, the second, with which God had favored him. Life and rule was continuing as normally as could be possible for an emperor, with ease and a growing prosperity. This state of comfort was interrupted one night, as he lay on his bed. Consciousness towards the external, material environment never gives a true picture of reality and so, the mind must be alarmingly awakened to the underlying world of the spirit. The Lord manifests Himself in this realm and deals with the internal affairs of a man.

Again, as in the first instance, his inner being has been so profoundly disturbed that he makes a decision to take this personal matter before the full force of his religious advisors… the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. These people were surely possessors of dark, demonic powers, but God has dealt the emperor a dilemma that is beyond their capabilities and the entire force of his religious machine breaks down and fails him.

I have looked a little into these various mediums and methods in order to give us an idea of what took place in Babylonian religion. I will group all of them together, rather than trying to explain the practice of each particular group: There were those, who practiced magical arts or incantations (charming with songs), which used occult whispering or muttering of strange sounds. Then they had those, who by mysterious and supernatural witchcraft, accomplished that, which surpassed human power. There was a group, who were called “pen-men” or horoscope-writers, who drew magical lines and circles. Closely related was the practice of astrology, explaining situations or telling the future by studying the stars. The Chaldeans were a priesthood, who took their place as descendants of a certain tribe or clan. I think we can see that some of these practices are very much alive today.  

Nebuchadnezzar has been in this situation before, but he hasn’t learned the necessary lesson. It is always characteristic of mankind that he will seek truth and go to the right source, after all other resources have been employed and there is nowhere else to turn. The evangelist must be well aware of this fact, if he expects to see true conversions. His first duty is to bring the sinner to a place of desperate need, by expounding to him the hopelessness of his own condition, the degradation of his nature, and the infinite crimes that he has committed. Only then, will he let go of his self-trust, surrender to His God and look for help at the cross of Christ. The source of help that God has put near the king to lead him to Himself is Daniel and Daniel is the last one to be brought in for counsel.

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. 
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. 
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. 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. 
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." 

Reverting to the spiritual state that he was in at the time, Nebuchadnezzar introduces Daniel by the name he had given him, Belteshazzar, in honor of his god. He had a plural concept of divinity at that time and saw Daniel as one “in whom is the spirit of the holy gods”. Although he is the chief of the spiritual department, yet he is called in last, proving the explanation I have given before. The fallen nature of man, under the influence of the world of evil spirits, will not turn in the direction of truth, until all other sources are exhausted.

He has forgotten Daniel’s confession that supernatural knowledge has come from outside of his personal abilities, “not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind” (2:30). The king would first give the glory to a man, rather than to the God, against whom he has lived in rebellion. “No mystery is too difficult for you,” he said.

Then he relates his dream. It comes in the form of an allegory and he sees an exceptionally tall tree. In prophecy, a tree symbolizes a great nation of people (Ezek.17:22-24; 31:3-18; Mt.13:32). The tree grew in the middle of the earth and its fame reached to the ends of the earth. It was beautiful, productive and provided shelter and shade.

A heavenly being comes down and he is called “a watcher”. There are angels, which are given special assignments over certain nations, as guardians, and that seems to be the case here. He came as a messenger of doom to prophecy against the tree. It is to be chopped down, stripped of its leaves and branches and its fruit wasted. All that took shelter in it fled and only the stump was left.

Now, the dream personalizes and we see a man bound with fetters in the open field. He loses his mind and is living as an animal without a house for shelter for seven years. Here we see a distinct example of the rule of spirits over the affairs of men. The watchers confirm the decree given by the Most High ruler of heaven and are assigned to see that it comes to pass.  

The decree comes as a lesson to Nebuchadnezzar and to all those, who will come in contact with this book and chapter throughout the world. The lesson is that God is sovereignly and directly in charge of the nations of the world. He sets up rulers, according to His own will, and shows His particular manner of operation by raising the lowliest of men to the highest offices. If this has not been the case with Nebuchadnezzar, it certainly will be after seven years. He will restore a mad man to sanity and return the great Babylonian Empire to him.

No one has been able to interpret this dream for the emperor and, certainly, no one given the interpretation, would find any pleasure in revealing it. The king is convinced that Daniel has the ability to do this, while Daniel knows, from Whom his wisdom comes. The Lord from heaven has in him a faithful servant, to whom He can reveal mysteries. He knows that Daniel will be true to his mission and will not hide the bad news from the great king.

Every servant of God must be trustworthy in delivering the negative truth, as well as the positive. We can be assured that the speaker, who holds back from telling the whole truth, is not a true servant of God. A careful study of the Gospels will prove that Jesus was a perfectly faithful bearer of truth.

Samuel had to learn this principle from the time that he was a boy. “Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. But Eli called Samuel and said, ‘Samuel, my son.’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ And Eli said, ‘What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.’ So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him” (1 Sm.3:15-18). Throughout Scripture, men and women, whom God used, needed to convey His full counsel. It was the false prophets, who hid the hard truth from their hearers, and gained popularity by doing so. In this way, they contributed to the downfall of the people. These kind of preachers abound among us today. As Nebuchadnezzar’s men, who were not able to help him in his dilemma, there are many, as well, who by their lack of contact with heaven, are unable to solve spiritual problems.


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