We have here Nebuchadnezzar’s dream accomplished, and Daniel’s application of it to him justified and confirmed. How he took it we are not told, whether he was pleased with Daniel or displeased; but here we have,
I. God’s patience with him: All this came upon him, but not till twelve months after (Dan. 4:29), so long there was a lengthening of his tranquility, though it does not appear that he broke off his sins, or showed any mercy to the poor captives, for this was still God’s quarrel with him, that he opened not the house of his prisoners, Isa. 14:17. Daniel having counselled him to repent, God so far confirmed his word that he gave him space to repent; he let him alone this year also, this one year more, before he brought this judgment upon him. Note, God is long-suffering with provoking sinners, because he is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, 2 Pet. 3:9.
II. His pride, and haughtiness, and abuse of that patience. He walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon, in pomp and pride, pleasing himself with the view of that vast city, which, with all the territories thereunto belonging, was under his command, and he said, either to himself or to those about him, perhaps some foreigners to whom he was showing his kingdom and the glory of it, Isa. not this great Babylon? Yes, it is great, of vast extent, no less that forty-five miles compass within the walls. It is full of inhabitants, and they are full of wealth. It is a golden city, and that is enough to proclaim it great, Isa. 14:4. See the grandeur of the houses, walls, towers, and public edifices. Every thing in Babylon he thinks looks great; “and this great Babylon I have built.” Babylon was built many ages before he was born, but because he fortified and beautified it, and we may suppose much of it was rebuilt during his long and prosperous reign, he boasts that he has built it, as Augustus Caesar boasted concerning Rome, Lateritiam inveni, marmoream reliqui—I found it brick, but I left it marble. He boasts that he built it for the house of the kingdom, that is, the metropolis of his empire. This vast city, compared with the countries that belonged to his dominions, was but as one house. He built it with the assistance of his subjects, yet boasts that he did it by the might of his power; he built it for his security and convenience, yet, as if he had no occasion for it, boasts that he built it purely for the honour of his majesty. Note, Pride and self-conceitedness are sins that most easily beset great men, who have great things in the world. They are apt to take the glory to themselves which is due to God only.
III. His punishment for his pride. When he was thus strutting, and vaunting himself, and adoring his own shadow, while the proud word was in the king’s mouth the powerful word came from heaven, by which he was immediately deprived, 1. Of his honour as a king: The kingdom has departed from thee. When he thought he had erected impregnable bulwarks for the preserving of his kingdom, now, in an instant, it has departed from him; when he thought it so well guarded that none could take it from him, behold, it departs of itself. As soon as he becomes utterly incapable to manage it, it is of course taken out of his hands. 2. He is deprived of his honour as a man. He loses his reason, and by that means loses his dominion: They shall drive thee from men, Dan. 4:32. And it was fulfilled (Dan. 4:33): he was driven from men the same hour. On a sudden he fell stark mad, distracted in the highest degree that ever any man was. His understanding and memory were gone, and all the faculties of a rational soul broken, so that he became a perfect brute in the shape of a man. He went naked, and on all four, like a brute, did himself shun the society of reasonable creatures and run wild into the fields and woods, and was driven out by his own servants, who, after some time of trial, despairing of his return to his right mind, abandoned him, and looked after him no more. He had not the spirit of a beast of prey (that of the royal lion), but of the abject and less honourable species, for he was made to eat grass as oxen; and, probably, he did not speak with human voice, but lowed like an ox. Some think that his body was all covered with hair; however, the hair of his head and beard, being never cut nor combed, grew like eagles feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws. Let us pause a little, and view this miserable spectacle; and let us receive instruction from it. (1.) Let us see here what a mercy it is to have the use of our reason, how thankful we ought to be for it, and how careful we ought to be not to do any thing which may either provoke God or may have a natural tendency to put us out of the possession of our own souls. Let us learn how to value our own reason, and to pity the case of those that are under the prevailing power of melancholy or distraction, or are delirious, and to be very tender in our censures of them and conduct towards them, for it is a trial common to men, and a case which, some time or other, may be our own. (2.) Let us see here the vanity of human glory and greatness. Isa. this Nebuchadnezzar the Great? What this despicable animal that is meaner than the poorest beggar? Isa. this he that looked so glorious on the throne, so formidable in the camp, that had politics enough to subdue and govern kingdoms, and now has not so much sense as to keep his own clothes on his back? Isa. this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms? Isa. 14:16. Never let the wise man then glory in his wisdom, nor the mighty man in his strength. (3.) Let us see here how God resists the proud, and delights to abase them and put contempt upon them. Nebuchadnezzar would be more than a man, and therefore God justly makes him less than a man, and puts him upon a level with the beasts who set up for a rival with his Maker. See Job 40:11-13.