4:20 The tree that you saw that grew large and strong, whose top reached to the sky, and which could be seen 1 in all the land, 4:21 whose foliage was attractive and its fruit plentiful, and from which there was food available for all, under whose branches wild animals 2 used to live, and in whose branches birds of the sky used to nest – 4:22 it is you, 3 O king! For you have become great and strong. Your greatness is such that it reaches to heaven, and your authority to the ends of the earth. 4:23 As for the king seeing a holy sentinel coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave its taproot in the ground, with a band of iron and bronze around it, surrounded by the grass of the field. Let it become damp with the dew of the sky, and let it live with the wild animals, until seven periods of time go by for him’ – 4:24 this is the interpretation, O king! It is the decision of the Most High that this has happened to my lord the king. 4:25 You will be driven 4 from human society, 5 and you will live 6 with the wild animals. You will be fed 7 grass like oxen, 8 and you will become damp with the dew of the sky. Seven periods of time will pass by for you, before 9 you understand that the Most High is ruler over human kingdoms and gives them to whomever he wishes. 4:26 They said to leave the taproot of the tree, for your kingdom will be restored to you when you come to understand that heaven 10 rules. 4:27 Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you. Break away from your sins by doing what is right, and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps your prosperity will be prolonged.” 11
4:28 Now all of this happened 12 to King Nebuchadnezzar. 4:29 After twelve months, he happened to be walking around on the battlements 13 of the royal palace of Babylon. 4:30 The king uttered these words: “Is this not the great Babylon that I have built for a royal residence 14 by my own mighty strength 15 and for my majestic honor?” 4:31 While these words were still on the king’s lips, 16 a voice came down from heaven: “It is hereby announced to you, 17 King Nebuchadnezzar, that your kingdom has been removed from you! 4:32 You will be driven from human society, and you will live with the wild animals. You will be fed grass like oxen, and seven periods of time will pass by for you before 18 you understand that the Most High is ruler over human kingdoms and gives them to whomever he wishes.”
4:33 Now in that very moment 19 this pronouncement about 20 Nebuchadnezzar came true. 21 He was driven from human society, he ate grass like oxen, and his body became damp with the dew of the sky, until his hair became long like an eagle’s feathers, and his nails like a bird’s claws. 22
1 tn Aram “its sight.”
3 sn Much of modern scholarship views this chapter as a distortion of traditions that were originally associated with Nabonidus rather than with Nebuchadnezzar. A Qumran text, the Prayer of Nabonidus, is often cited for parallels to these events.
7 tn Or perhaps “be made to eat.”
8 sn Nebuchadnezzar’s insanity has features that are associated with the mental disorder known as boanthropy, in which the person so afflicted imagines himself to be an ox or a similar animal and behaves accordingly.
9 tn Aram “until.”
10 sn The reference to heaven here is a circumlocution for God. There was a tendency in Jewish contexts to avoid direct reference to God. Cf. the expression “kingdom of heaven” in the NT and such statements as “I have sinned against heaven and in your sight” (Luke 15:21).
11 tn Aram “if there may be a lengthening to your prosperity.”
12 tn Aram “reached.”
13 tn The word “battlements” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied from context. Many English versions supply “roof” here (e.g., NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV); cf. NLT “on the flat roof.”
14 tn Aram “house.”
15 tn Aram “by the might of my strength.”
16 tn Aram “in the mouth of the king.”
17 tn Aram “to you they say.”
18 tn Aram “until.”
19 tn Aram “hour.”
20 tn Or “on.”
21 tn Aram “was fulfilled.”
22 tn The words “feathers” and “claws” are not present in the Aramaic text, but have been added in the translation for clarity.