From Pride to Humility

Daniel 4
Lesson Number: 

Lesson 5

From Pride to Humility

(Daniel 4)

Copr. 2020, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 Biblica, Inc. (TM), unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. If you normally receive this lesson by e-mail, but it is lost one week, you can find it by clicking on this link: Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you study.

Introduction: Do you like to avoid being embarrassed? I do! Being publically shamed is one of the worst things for most people. It hurts even more if you have a very high status in your community. The Bible warns in Proverbs 16:18 that “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Our study this week is a warning to us. Let’s jump into our study and learn more!

  1. Good News
    1. Read Daniel 4:1-3. Who is writing this part of the book of Daniel? (King Nebuchadnezzar!)
      1. Would you guess that he would become a Bible writer?
      2. What do you think this is? (It is a proclamation by the King to all of his subjects in every land.)
      3. What would you say if the most famous and powerful person on the earth wrote this about God? That would be a great tool for evangelism, right?
  2. Worrisome News
    1. Read Daniel 4:4-5. How was life for Nebuchadnezzar before he had the dream? How was it after he had the dream?
      1. Nebuchadnezzar’s prior dream (Daniel 2:1) “troubled” him, but this one “terrified” him. Have you ever had a dream that terrified you?
        1. Why do you think it would terrify him? (He thought it might be warning him about something awful that would happen in his future.)
    2. Read Daniel 4:6-7. You remember that this same group of wise men could not interpret the king's first dream (Daniel 2:10-12). Why does Nebuchadnezzar bring a dream to this same group a second time? Why not go first to Daniel? (There are several possibilities. First, that the pagan wise men had again come into favor with the king. Second, that Daniel's job during the intervening years was administrating rather than dream interpretation. Third, Daniel was off on a trip.)
    3. Read Daniel 4:8-9. What does this suggest about the reason Daniel was not consulted first? (The use of the word “finally” suggests that it took Daniel a period of time before he came to the king. This supports the idea that he was off on a trip.)
      1. Why is this delay a positive thing? (It allows the power of God to be shown after the others failed.)
      2. What do you think about the description in the parenthetical about Daniel and his Babylonian name? Would Daniel be proud or would he cringe? (Daniel would not like this. First, Nebuchadnezzar identifies Daniel with a Babylonian god, not the true God. Second, Daniel is supposed to have the "spirit of the holy gods" in him.)
        1. What is the "spirit of the holy gods?" (Whatever it is supposed to be, this description does not honor the One God of Heaven. It appears that Nebuchadnezzar is trying to attribute God's power to some of his own gods.)
      3. Can you find anything good in the reference to the "spirit of the gods?" (At least Daniel's point that it is God, and not himself, who reveals dreams has gotten through to the king. See Daniel 2:27-28.)
      4. Notice that Daniel is “chief” of the magicians and Nebuchadnezzar expresses no doubt about his ability to interpret the dream. What additional clue does this give us about the reason for Daniel’s delay? (This provides even more evidence that something like a trip must have caused Daniel to be delayed. The King seems to have a preference for Daniel.)
    4. Read Daniel 4:10-12. Given the fact that Nebuchadnezzar turned the Daniel 2 dream into something that was all about him, what would Nebuchadnezzar logically think was represented by this tree? (I have little doubt that Nebuchadnezzar thought it represented him.)
    5. Read Daniel 4:13-14. If you thought the tree represented you, would you be terrified too?
    6. Read Daniel 4:15-16. What would you think it meant that the stump and roots remained? What would you think the “bound with iron and bronze” means? What would it mean to still have a mind, but it be like that of an animal?
      1. Look again at Daniel 4:7. Do you have any additional thoughts on why they could not interpret this dream? (It seems obvious the dream is about a horrible future for Nebuchadnezzar. If I were them I would say, “Let’s leave this one to Daniel.”)
    7. Read Daniel 4:17-18. Notice that part of the dream states that it has to do with ruling the “kingdoms on earth.” Does Nebuchadnezzar have good reason to think he is interfering with the idea that the God of Heaven is sovereign? (Yes. Even now he refers to the “spirit of the holy gods.”)
  3. Bad News
    1. Read Daniel 4:19. Why is Daniel terrified?
      1. Why is Nebuchadnezzar trying to calm Daniel?
      2. Does this sound like the same Nebuchadnezzar who has an anger management problem? (Perhaps his terror has calmed his anger.)
    2. Read Daniel 4:20-22. Is Nebuchadnezzar’s worst fear confirmed?
      1. If God wants to humble Nebuchadnezzar, why does He use a dream that starts out by reinforcing Nebuchadnezzar’s glory?
    3. Read Daniel 4:24-26. Does this punishment have a specific goal? (Yes, to pressure King Nebuchadnezzar to acknowledge the Lord.)
      1. How can Nebuchadnezzar acknowledge God when he has a brain like an animal? (He must have been capable of this decision. Why it would take seven years is hard to understand.)
        1. Is there another explanation for this - that this time period is not in the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, but rather in God’s hands? Should we conclude that God believes it will take seven years? Is that time period significant?
    4. Read Daniel 4:27. Is Nebuchadnezzar being given a second chance?
      1. Is this second chance something that God has decreed? Or, is this just something that Daniel thinks is consistent with God’s mercy?
      2. Let’s explore the reforms Daniel suggests. First, he says “Renounce your sins by doing what is right.” Is that still valid advice for us today? Do good works save us?
      3. Second, he says, “Renounce ... your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed.” Who would likely be the one oppressing people in the Babylon? (Nebuchadnezzar. Some commentaries point out the problem of people being dragged into public works projects without pay.)
        1. Does Daniel bear some responsibility here because he is a top administrator?
      4. Is this a warning to us about being kind to the oppressed?
      5. Do we have any reason to believe that Daniel’s advice has anything to do with God’s concern about Nebuchadnezzar?
    5. Read Daniel 4:29-31. We just discussed Daniel’s advice to the king. How does Nebuchadnezzar actually trigger the punishment in the dream? (It seems to have nothing to do with the reforms Daniel suggests. Recall that Daniel 4:26 pointed to a different problem, that Nebuchadnezzar needed to “acknowledge that heaven rules.” Nebuchadnezzar is once again claiming that he is in charge.)
    6. Read Daniel 4:32-33. Why do you think that Nebuchadnezzar hears a voice from heaven? What is the stated goal of the punishment?
  4. Restoration
    1. Read Daniel 4:34. What has changed about Nebuchadnezzar’s attitude? (This is further reason to wonder about Daniel’s advice. Nebuchadnezzar does precisely what the punishment was intended to do - acknowledge the great God of Heaven.)
    2. Read Daniel 4:36-37. What is the result of giving glory to God?
    3. Friend, examine your own life. Do you give the glory to God or do you claim it for yourself? Why not, by the power of the Holy Spirit, determine to give God the glory in everything.
  5. Next week: From Arrogance to Destruction.