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Daniel 4:10-26

Context
4:10 Here are the visions of my mind 1  while I was on my bed.

While I was watching,

there was a tree in the middle of the land. 2 

It was enormously tall. 3 

4:11 The tree grew large and strong.

Its top reached far into the sky;

it could be seen 4  from the borders of all the land. 5 

4:12 Its foliage was attractive and its fruit plentiful;

on it there was food enough for all.

Under it the wild animals 6  used to seek shade,

and in its branches the birds of the sky used to nest.

All creatures 7  used to feed themselves from it.

4:13 While I was watching in my mind’s visions 8  on my bed,

a holy sentinel 9  came down from heaven.

4:14 He called out loudly 10  as follows: 11 

‘Chop down the tree and lop off its branches!

Strip off its foliage

and scatter its fruit!

Let the animals flee from under it

and the birds from its branches!

4:15 But leave its taproot 12  in the ground,

with a band of iron and bronze around it 13 

surrounded by the grass of the field.

Let it become damp with the dew of the sky,

and let it live with 14  the animals in the grass of the land.

4:16 Let his mind 15  be altered from that of a human being,

and let an animal’s mind be given to him,

and let seven periods of time 16  go by for 17  him.

4:17 This announcement is by the decree of the sentinels;

this decision is by the pronouncement of the holy ones,

so that 18  those who are alive may understand

that the Most High has authority over human kingdoms, 19 

and he bestows them on whomever he wishes.

He establishes over them even the lowliest of human beings.’

4:18 “This is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, saw. Now you, Belteshazzar, declare its 20  interpretation, for none of the wise men in 21  my kingdom are able to make known to me the interpretation. But you can do so, for a spirit of the holy gods is in you.”

Daniel Interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream

4:19 Then Daniel (whose name is also Belteshazzar) was upset for a brief time; 22  his thoughts were alarming him. The king said, “Belteshazzar, don’t let the dream and its interpretation alarm you.” But Belteshazzar replied, “Sir, 23  if only the dream were for your enemies and its interpretation applied to your adversaries! 4:20 The tree that you saw that grew large and strong, whose top reached to the sky, and which could be seen 24  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 25  used to live, and in whose branches birds of the sky used to nest – 4:22 it is you, 26  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 27  from human society, 28  and you will live 29  with the wild animals. You will be fed 30  grass like oxen, 31  and you will become damp with the dew of the sky. Seven periods of time will pass by for you, before 32  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 33  rules.

1 tc The LXX lacks the first two words (Aram “the visions of my head”) of the Aramaic text.

2 tn Instead of “in the middle of the land,” some English versions render this phrase “a tree at the center of the earth” (NRSV); NAB, CEV “of the world”; NLT “in the middle of the earth.” The Hebrew phrase can have either meaning.

3 tn Aram “its height was great.”

4 tn Aram “its sight.” So also v. 17.

5 tn Or “to the end of all the earth” (so KJV, ASV); NCV, CEV “from anywhere on earth.”

6 tn Aram “the beasts of the field.”

7 tn Aram “all flesh.”

8 tn Aram “the visions of my head.”

9 tn Aram “a watcher and a holy one.” The expression is a hendiadys; so also in v. 23. This “watcher” is apparently an angel. The Greek OT (LXX) in fact has ἄγγελος (angelo", “angel”) here. Theodotion simply transliterates the Aramaic word (’ir). The term is sometimes rendered “sentinel” (NAB) or “messenger” (NIV, NLT).

10 tn Aram “in strength.”

11 tn Aram “and thus he was saying.”

12 tn Aram “the stock of its root.” So also v. 23. The implication here is that although the tree is chopped down, it is not killed. Its life-giving root is spared. The application to Nebuchadnezzar is obvious.

13 sn The function of the band of iron and bronze is not entirely clear, but it may have had to do with preventing the splitting or further deterioration of the portion of the tree that was left after being chopped down. By application it would then refer to the preservation of Nebuchadnezzar’s life during the time of his insanity.

14 tn Aram “its lot be.”

15 tn Aram “its heart.” The metaphor of the tree begins to fade here and the reality behind the symbol (the king) begins to emerge.

16 sn The seven periods of time probably refer to seven years.

17 tn Aram “over” (also in vv. 23, 25, 32).

18 tc The present translation follows an underlying reading of עַל־דִּבְרַת (’al-divrat, “so that”) rather than MT עַד־דִּבְרַת (’ad-divrat, “until”).

19 tn Aram “the kingdom of man”; NASB “the realm of mankind”; NCV “every kingdom on earth.”

20 tc The present translation reads פִּשְׁרֵהּ (pishreh, “its interpretation”) with the Qere and many medieval Hebrew MSS; the Kethib is פִּשְׁרָא (pishra’, “the interpretation”); so also v. 16.

21 tn Aram “of.”

22 tn Aram “about one hour.” The expression refers idiomatically to a brief period of time of undetermined length.

23 tn Aram “my lord.”

24 tn Aram “its sight.”

25 tn Aram “the beasts of the field” (also in vv. 23, 25, 32).

26 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.

27 tn The Aramaic indefinite active plural is used here like the English passive. So also in v. 28, 29,32.

28 tn Aram “from mankind.” So also in v. 32.

29 tn Aram “your dwelling will be.” So also in v. 32.

30 tn Or perhaps “be made to eat.”

31 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.

32 tn Aram “until.”

33 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).



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