King Nebuchadnezzar’s life teaches us one lesson: God is sovereign. He limits the power and authority of all governments and empires. Those who live in luxury, self-indulgence and freedom find this very difficult to understand much less to believe. Nebuchadnezzar thought of himself as a god and was persuaded to build a gold statue that all were to worship. He robbed people’s lives, took their lands and controlled them.
He had married a beautiful princess from the mountains of Persia, which is modern day Tehran, the capital of Iran. This princess came to the palace of Nebuchadnezzar but was homesick. She missed the mountains, the trees and wild animals. When Nebuchadnezzar heard the source of discontent, he promised to alleviate her problem. He built a huge mountain of brick and covered it with trees, shrubs and plants that came to be known as the “Hanging Gardens of Babylon.”
It was so magnificent that it became one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Many tourists came to visit this place. To further please his wife, he placed a private zoo of wild animals on top of the gardens. However, along with success and fame, he was overcome with pride. He initially refused to acknowledge that God alone had the power to raise up kings and kingdoms and also to bring them down.
A year later as he was on the roof of his magnificent palace he boasted that his power and glory had built the Babylonian Empire. He forgot Daniel’s warning and took personal credit for the creation of Babylon: The king said, Is not this the great Babylon that I have built as the royal residence and seat of government by the might of my power and for the honor and glory of my majesty? (Daniel 4:30) The Scriptures tells us:
While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, and you shall be driven from among men and your dwelling will be with the living creatures of the field. You will be made to eat grass like the oxen, and seven times [or years] shall pass over you until you have learned and know that the Most High [God] rules in the kingdom of men and gives it to whomever He will. (Daniel 4:31-32)
He fell asleep and God gave the prideful king a prophetic dream to warn him of the coming judgment if he refused to repent. The Lord gave Nebuchadnezzar a terrifying vision of the great tree in the middle of the earth that grew to the heavens. The leaves and fruit gave food to all and provided shelter to everyone. (See Daniel 4:14-17)
Nebuchadnezzar related the details of this dream to his wise men and counselors. However, none of them could provide an accurate interpretation. Finally Daniel was called, but he hesitated to interpret the dream because it revealed that his king would be afflicted with madness.
Daniel said to the king, Belteshazzar, let not the dream or its interpretation trouble or alarm you. Belteshazzar answered, My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its message for your enemies. (Daniel 4:19) As Daniel interpreted the vision of the destruction of a great tree, the prophet explained that a terrible madness would afflict the king:
This is the interpretation, O king: It is the decree of the Most High God which has come upon my lord the king: You shall be driven from among men and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field; you shall be made to eat grass as do the oxen and you shall be wet with the dew of the heavens; and seven times or years shall pass over you until you learn and know and recognize that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and gives it to whomever He will. (Daniel 4:24-25)
After interpreting the vision, Daniel urged Nebuchadnezzar to repent of his pride in the hope that God’s judgment would be averted:
Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you; break off your sins and show the reality of your repentance by righteousness (right standing with God and moral and spiritual rectitude and rightness in every area and relation) and liberate yourself from your iniquities by showing mercy and loving-kindness to the poor and oppressed, that if the king will repent there may possibly be a continuance and lengthening of your peace and tranquility and a healing of your error. (Daniel 4:27)
During this time Nebuchadnezzar lost his human reason, his enormous empire and was reduced to insanity, living as a beast in the gardens of the royal palaces for the next seven years. He ate grass like a cow, and was drenched with the dew of heaven.
He lived like this until his hair was as long as eagles’ feathers and his nails were like birds claws. During this time his son Evil-Merodach ruled for seven years. Finally at the end of these seven years the king recovered his sanity and acknowledged the sovereignty of God.
I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted up my eyes to heaven, and my understanding and the right use of my mind returned to me; and I blessed the Most High [God] and I praised and honored and glorified Him Who lives forever, Whose dominion is an everlasting dominion; and His kingdom endures from generation to generation. (Daniel 4:34)
He resumed his reign which again was prophesied in a dream: And in that it was commanded to leave the stump of the roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be sure to you after you have learned and know that the God of heaven rules. (Daniel 4:26) Nebuchadnezzar ruled for one final year and died in 562 B.C. after forty-three years on the throne.
Nebuchadnezzar’s story is a reminder to all of us, especially human rulers who get intoxicated with power and want to build human empires, that God is the only one Who determines the destiny of nations and empires.
No empire has an automatic right to exist forever. For instance, all the mighty Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman Empires have disappeared from history. Ironically, all of these empires have persecuted Jews and Christians. The question is, could it be a coincidence or a curse that every empire or nation that has come against or persecuted the Jewish people has sooner or later come to an end?
Fast forward, there is crumbling of the great Spanish Empire after the Spanish Inquisition, the fall of the Turkish Empire. In the twentieth century there was the destruction of Nazi Germany in 1945, the British Empire, and the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991.
When the apostle Paul preached to the Greeks on Mars Hill at Athens, he said that God made from one common origin, one source, one blood all nations of men to settle on the face of the earth, having definitely determined their allotted periods of time and the fixed boundaries of their habitation (their settlements, lands, and abodes).… See Acts 17:26-27) God allots every nation its place in time and space. He allows a nation to rise and become an empire, and it is God who brings it to an end.
Many scholars believe that God brought the British Empire to an end when they washed their hands of the Jewish people in 1947 and said they wanted nothing more to do with the Jews. Within five years the British Empire had gone. Could this happen to America when it breaks its military agreements with Israel? Again only time will tell.
World Empires in Historical and Successive order