Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Palace. He continues the edict, having subdued all his enemies. (Calmet) — Daniel recites his words. The king had the dream in the 34th year of his reign, which continued in all forty-three, including the seven of absence. (Worthington)
Ver. 5. Colleague. Chaldean also, “another, or afterwards, (Haydock) or at last.” (Calmet) — My god. He says this, because the name of Baltassar, or Belteshazzar, is derived from the name of Bel, the chief god of the Babylonians. (Challoner) — Gods. He speaks conformably to his false opinion; (St. Jerome) or, being instructed by Daniel, he testifies that the Holy Spirit enlightens the prophet. (Theod.) Greek has “god,” which St. Jerome disapproves; though the plural is often used for the true God. Reason evinces that only the Deity can disclose the secrets of futurity, Genesis xli. 38. (Calmet)
Ver. 6. And the. He is convinced that Daniel could do both, but condescends now to relate his dream. (Haydock)
Ver. 7. Tree often denotes princes; (Ezechiel xxxi. 3.) and according to the false principles (Calmet) of those who pretend to explain dreams, always (Haydock) implies some great personage. (Achmet. C. 200.) (Grotius) — But nothing is more vain than these pretensions. (Calmet)
Ver. 10. A watcher. A vigilant angel, perhaps the guardian of Israel. (Challoner) — Chaldean hir; (Haydock) whence Iris the messenger of the gods, is derived. (St. Jerome) — Theodotion retains eir. See St. Jerome in Psalm lxxvi. 4. The scholiast (Rom. ed.) says: “the Septuagint render it an angel, the rest a watcher.” These supernatural agents (Haydock) and saints are represented as judges, ver. 14. (Calmet)
Ver. 11. Branches, to shew that all (Haydock) the king’s subjects should abandon him.
Ver. 12. Let it, the tree, representing the king who was confined when he began to shew signs of madness: but he broke loose, and fled away. (Calmet)
Ver. 13. Changed, &c. It does not appear, by Scripture, that Nabuchodonosor was changed from human shape, much less that he was changed into an ox, but only that he lost his reason, and became mad; and in this condition remained abroad in the company of beasts, eating grass like an ox, till his hair grew in such a manner as to resemble the feathers of eagles, and his nails to be like birds’ claws. (Challoner) — Origen represents the whole as an allegorical description of the fall of Lucifer. See St. Jerome. But his arguments have made little impression: and it is universally believed that Nabuchodonosor was thus punished for his pride, after a whole year had been allowed him to see if he would repent. The manner of this strange metamorphose has been variously explained. But it seems that he was seized with the species of madness styled Lycanthropy, (Calmet) as Virgil (Ec. vi. 48.) relates of the daughters of Prœtus, who “with mimick’d mooings fill’d the fields.” (Haydock) — Thus many fancy they are kings, or horses, (Calmet) and that they are continually mounting above the clouds, of which we have an instance in a woman still living at Whitby, who in other respects appears to be sufficiently sensible, (Haydock) as Tertullian and others think Nabuchodonosor was, that he might suffer more. Yet it is commonly supposed he lost his senses for a while, till God was pleased to restore them at the time appointed; when his former humiliating state might make a deep impression upon his mind, as well as upon his subjects, and caution all future generations to guard against the fatal consequences of pride. His son, Evilmerodac, probably ruled during his absence. Most of the Chaldean writings have perished; so that we need not be surprised if they take no notice of this event, which was so disgraceful to the nation. Yet Megasthenes, (in Eusebius pręp. ix. ult.) seems to hint at it, when he represents the king seized with a divine fury, and crying out: (Calmet Diss.) “I, the same Nabuchodonosor, foretell unto you, Babylonians, a fatal calamity, which neither my ancestor Belus, nor even the kingdom of Bel, (Haydock, the gods) have power to avert. For a Persian mule (Cyrus; Calmet) shall come, assisted by your demons, and bring on slavery….Having uttered this oracle, he suddenly disappeared.” (Haydock) — Beast’s heart. In his hypochondriac temper he imagined himself (Calmet) to be an ox, (Haydock) avoided the society of men, going naked and feeding on grass, upon his hands and feet, till (after seven years) God restored him to his senses and kingdom. (Worthington) — The food which he used would tend to purge him, and naturally abate the disorder. (Barthol.) — Yet none but God could tell precisely when the madness would seize or leave him. — Times. This usually denotes years, in Daniel; (vii. 25. and xii. 7.) and of course (Calmet) we must understand it here in this sense; (Worthington) though some have explained it of an indeterminate length of time, or of weeks, months, or seasons. Only winter and summer were admitted, so that half this period would thus suffice. See Theod. (Calmet)
Ver. 14. Over it. Kings are not always of the most noble dispositions. (Haydock) — “All honour comes from Jove.” (Homer, Iliad 17.) — Let the greatest monarchs be humble, (Haydock) and cast their crowns at the feet of God. (Calmet)
Ver. 16. Hour. Chaldean shaha, (Haydock) implies “a little while;” (Grotius) yet of some duration, not precisely like one of the modern hours. The prophet was silent, being troubled by the divine spirit, (Chap. x. 8.) at the view of impending misery; or unwilling to hurt the king’s feelings, till he should urge him to speak. (Calmet) — He was sorry to denounce such calamities, yet must speak the truth. (Worthington) — Trouble. Theodotion, “make thee hurry.” He perceived the prophet’s anxiety, and encouraged him.
Ver. 23. Remain. His son and the nobles should act in his name, ver. 13.
Ver. 24. Alms. Chaldean, “justice,” is often taken in this sense. (Syr. &c.; 2 Corinthians ix. 9.; Calmet) — The prediction was conditional, and therefore Daniel exhorts the king to strive to obtain pardon by the powerful remedy of alms-deeds; as he did, after enduring some punishment. (Worthington) — Yet this is very doubtful, ver. 31.
Ver. 25. Came. Daniel informs us of this event, unless the king speak of himself in the third person, from ver. 16 to 31, giving an account of what he had heard and experienced. (Haydock) — A year of trial was allowed him at first; (Theod.) or he obtained this reprieve by his alms, and lost his former merit by relapsing into pride. (St. Jerome)
Ver. 27. Answered his own vain thoughts. (Haydock) — He was admiring the city, (Calmet) which he had greatly enlarged and beautified. (Beros. &c.)
Ver. 31. Heaven: God having looked on me with pity. (St. Augustine, ep. 111. (Calmet) or 122.; Worthington) seems to think that he was saved; and the author [St. Augustine?] of the Book on Pred. & grace, (chap. 15) attributes to him, remarks that his repentance was different from that of Pharao. Hence none must despair. (St. Jerome, ep. vii. to Lęta.) — See Theod.; Cornelius a Lapide, &c., who maintain that same opinion: but St. Thomas Aquinas expresses his doubts. Isaias (xiv. 9.) seems to consign him to hell; and the king here manifests his adhesion to Bel, (ver. 5.) and great inconstancy, chap. ii. 47., and iii. 15. His conviction seems therefore to have been only in speculation, (Calmet) or momentary, like that of the philosophers, (Romans i.) which would render them only more criminal; and we must confess, (Haydock) that this conversion is very equivocal. (Sanctius, ver. 24 and 34.) (Haydock)
Ver. 32. With, or “by the powers (angels. ver. 10.)….as by men.” (Grotius) — The stars are also frequently thus described, Matthew xxiv. 29. The king probably believed that the God of the Jews was above his gods, the sun, fire, &c. (Calmet)
Ver. 33. Shape. He had not assumed that of an ox, (Haydock) but had greatly neglected his person, (Calmet) so that he was covered with hair, &c., ver. 30. (Haydock)
Ver. 34. I, &c. From this place some commentators infer, that this king became a true convert, and dying not long after, was probably saved. (Challoner) (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 10.) — This is the last act of his which is recorded. If he had lived much longer, he would probably have restored the Jews. (Worthington) — But the time decreed by heaven for their liberation was not yet arrived. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:Nabuchodonosor’s dream, by which the judgments of God are denounced against him for his pride, is interpreted by Daniel, and verified by the event.
1 I, Nabuchodonosor, was at rest in my house, *and flourishing in my palace:
2 I saw a dream that affrighted me: and my thoughts in my bed, and the visions of my head, troubled me.
3 Then I set forth a decree, that all the wise men of Babylon should be brought in before me, and that they should shew me the interpretation of the dream.
4 Then came in the diviners, the wise men, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers, and I told the dream before them: but they did not shew me the interpretation thereof:
5 Till their colleague Daniel, came in before me, whose name is Baltassar, according to the name of my god, who hath in him the spirit of the holy gods: and I told the dream before him.
6 Baltassar, prince of the diviners, because I know that thou hast in thee the spirit of the holy gods, and that no secret is impossible to thee: tell me the visions of my dreams that I have seen, and the interpretation of them?
7 This was the vision of my head in my bed: I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was exceeding great.
8 The tree was great and strong: and the height thereof reached unto heaven: the sight thereof was even to the ends of all the earth.
9 Its leaves were most beautiful, and its fruit exceeding much: and in it was food for all: under it dwelt cattle, and beasts, and in the branches thereof the fowls of the air had their abode: and all flesh did eat of it.
10 I saw in the vision of my head upon my bed, and behold a watcher, and a holy one came down from heaven.
11 He cried aloud, and said thus: Cut down the tree, and chop off the branches thereof: shake off its leaves, and scatter its fruits: let the beasts fly away that are under it, and the birds from its branches.
12 Nevertheless, leave the stump of its roots in the earth, and let it be tied with a band of iron and of brass, among the grass, that is without, and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let its portion be with the wild beasts in the grass of the earth.
13 Let his heart be changed from man’s, and let a beast’s heart be given him: and let seven times pass over him.
14 This is the decree by the sentence of the watchers, and the word and demand of the holy ones: till the living know, that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men: and he will give it to whomsoever it shall please him, and he will appoint the basest *man over it.
15 I, king Nabuchodonosor, saw this dream: thou, therefore, O Baltassar, tell me quickly the interpretation: for all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to declare the meaning of it to me: but thou art able, because the spirit of the holy gods is in thee.
16 Then Daniel, whose name was Baltassar, began silently to think within himself for about one hour: and his thoughts troubled him. But the king answering, said: Baltassar, let not the dream and the interpretation thereof trouble thee. Baltassar answered, and said: My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thy enemies.
17 The tree which thou sawest, which was high and strong, whose height reached to the skies, and the sight thereof into all the earth:
18 And the branches thereof were most beautiful, and its fruit exceeding much, and in it was food for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt, and the birds of the air had their abode in its branches.
19 It is thou, O king, who art grown great and become mighty: for thy greatness hath grown, and hath reached to heaven, and thy power unto the ends of the earth.
20 And whereas the king saw a watcher, and a holy one come down from heaven, and say: Cut down the tree, and destroy it, but leave the stump of the roots thereof in the earth, and let it be bound with iron and brass, among the grass without, and let it be sprinkled with the dew of heaven, and let his feeding be with the wild beasts, till seven times pass over him.
21 This is the interpretation of the sentence of the most High, which is come upon my lord, the king.
22 They shall cast thee out from among men, and thy dwelling shall be with cattle, and with wild beasts, *and thou shalt eat grass, as an ox, and shalt be wet with the dew of heaven: and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth over the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.
23 But whereas he commanded, that the stump of the roots thereof, that is, of the tree, should be left: thy kingdom shall remain to thee, after thou shalt have known that power is from heaven.
24 Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to thee, *and redeem thou thy sins with alms, and thy iniquities with works of mercy to the poor: perhaps he will forgive thy offences.
25 All these things came upon king Nabuchodonosor.
26 At the end of twelve months he was walking in the palace of Babylon.
27 And the king answered, and said: Is not this the great Babylon, which I have built, to be the seat of the kingdom, by the strength of my power, and in the glory of my excellence?
28 And while the word was yet in the king’s mouth, a voice came down from heaven: To thee, O king Nabuchodonosor, it is said: Thy kingdom shall pass from thee.
29 And they shall cast thee out from among men, and thy dwelling shall be with cattle and wild beasts: thou shalt eat grass like an ox, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.
30 The same hour the word was fulfilled upon Nabuchodonosor, and he was driven away from among men, and did eat grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven: till his hairs grew like the feathers of eagles, and his nails like birds’ claws.
31 Now at the end of the days, *I, Nabuchodonosor, lifted up my eyes to heaven, and my sense was restored to me: and I blessed the most High, and I praised and glorified him that liveth for ever: **for his power is an everlasting power, and his kingdom is to all generations.
32 And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing before him: for he doth according to his will, *as well with the powers of heaven, as among the inhabitants of the earth: and there is none that can resist his hand, and say to him: Why hast thou done it?
33 At the same time my sense returned to me, and I came to the honour and glory of my kingdom: and my shape returned to me: and my nobles, and my magistrates, sought for me, and I was restored to my kingdom: and greater majesty was added to me.
34 Therefore I, Nabuchodonosor, do now praise, and magnify, and glorify the King of heaven: because all his works are true, and his ways judgments, and them that walk in pride he is able to abase.
1: Year of the World 3434, Year before Christ 570.
14: 1 Kings ii. 8. and xvi. 11. and following verses.
22: Daniel v. 21.
24: Ecclesiasticus iv. 8.[iii. 33.?]
31: Year of the World 3442, Year before Christ 562. — ** Daniel iii. 100.
32: Jeremias xxiii. 13.; Psalm cxv. 3.