The Humiliation of Nebuchadnezzar
by Zack Howard
Have you ever looked at all that you have accomplished, and felt proud of it? We all have had those moments, feeling accomplished and proud of all that we have done. In the book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar exemplifies this attitude, and provides a blueprint on how to handle the issues of pride.
Nebuchadnezzar has a dream in chapter 4, and he calls upon a servant, Daniel, who had interpreted his dreams before. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream revolved around a tree that grew great and cared for many creatures. The tree is then cut down by a holy messenger, and a curse is provoked. The curse is one of humiliation, where the tree is utterly destroyed from its lofty heights, and made like the lowest of animals it once had dominion over. The purpose of the message was explained, in 4.17: “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.”
Daniel interpreted the dream, and it was all about Nebuchadnezzar; he was the great tree that would be made low, so that he’d recognize the authority of God, over kingdoms. The dream comes to pass as Nebuchadnezzar proclaimed his greatness and all that he had done with his hands, the messenger of God proclaimed his curse upon Nebuchadnezzar, and he was driven out from men, and made to be like the beasts of the earth. After the 7 periods of time, Nebuchadnezzar is restored to his sanity and humanity, and praises God for his authority and the dominion he has over all things. Nebuchadnezzar’s humiliation teaches us a few things about our own pride.
Our Pride Comes From a False Sense of Accomplishment.
Looking at this story, it is easy to see how Nebuchadnezzar’s false sense of accomplishment feeds his pride. He is so proud of all that he had done: “30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty? (4.30). Nebuchadnezzar attributed all the glory and wonderful things to what he had done, with no mention of God blessing him with prosperity and with servants like Daniel. Just like Nebuchadnezzar, we have been richly blessed by God’s love and care. And just like Nebuchadnezzar, we can cut God out of the picture completely and attribute all the good things in our own life to our actions and our ambition. When we think this way, we become like Nebuchadnezzar.
Humiliation is an Opportunity to Change.
Nebuchadnezzar is humiliated for his pride, made like an animal and taken from his lofty heights as a king. However when he is restored to humanity, there is a clear change in his attitude and thought process. No longer is he all about himself, but he praises God for his authority in the world: “34 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, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; 35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done? (4.34-35).” Nebuchadnezzar completely changed who he was and how he thought, because of the humiliation that came to him. Like Nebuchadnezzar, our own humiliation is an opportunity for us to change. Instead of being so prideful of ourselves, we should be praising God for all He has done in our lives. Instead of counting all things as our handiwork, we should view everything with the lens of God’s handiwork. Humiliation gives us an opportunity to change our attitudes and lifestyles.
Nebuchadnezzar’s story is a sad one, but also a hopeful one. In humiliation there is hope of restoration. In restoration there is praise of the one who is truly in command and has authority: God.