Nebuchadnezzar and Pride

Bible Prophecy predicts in both the Old and New Testaments that a time is coming when there will be no more proud people living upon the earth. Right now we are a long way from such a condition and the question could be asked, How will such a wonderful condition be achieved?

Notice what it says in Malachi 4:1: “ ‘For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘that will leave them neither root nor branch.’ ”

Jesus talked about that time in His Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5:5, Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” The Old Testament, of course, says that too. One of the problems that we have as human beings is that, if we are successful, if we believe that we are more beautiful than those around us, or if we think that we are more intelligent, or if we have more riches, or more power, it has a tendency to go to our heads and make us think that we are really somebody special.

It is pride that brings contention, and strife, and war. The Old Testament tells many stories of the problems that people had due to pride. One of the most famous of these is about a man who actually was called “the king of kings.” He did the work of God, even though he himself was an idolater. The Bible reveals that even idolaters, people that do not follow Him, end up accomplishing the Lord’s will in the earth. The books in the Major Prophets talk about how the heathen actually work out God’s will although they do not understand what they are doing.

God judged against Tyre, one of the more wicked cities of antiquity: “Thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold I will bring against Tyre from the north Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, king of kings, with horses, with chariots, and with horsemen, and an army and many people.’ ” Ezekiel 26:7. Notice, Nebuchadnezzar is called not only the king of Babylon, but in this text he is called the “king of kings.” In Ezekiel 28:7, the Lord refers to him and Babylon as the most terrible of the nations.

Nebuchadnezzar had a dream and had been very greatly impressed by the dream that had been given him by the Lord God of heaven.

“You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome. This image’s head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth” (Daniel 2:31–35).

Daniel then gave the interpretation in verses 37–45: “You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all—you are this head of gold. But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others. Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay. And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold—the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure.”

The king understood that this marvelous kingdom that he had built was not going to last forever, as he had thought. The time was going to come when it would be overturned. There would be other nations that would control the world and not Babylon.

Babylon, of course, is in the modern area of the world that today we call Iraq. Babylon was taken over by the Medes and the Persians. Since 1935, the modern name for Persia has been Iran. The Medo-Persian kingdom was also not going to last forever. It would cease to be a world power, and the kingdom of Greece would take its place, as you can read in the prophecy in Daniel 7 and 8. The kingdom of Greece would be divided and not last forever, either. It would be overtaken by a fourth kingdom, the kingdom of Rome, which would exist in two phases lasting until the very end of the world.

Nebuchadnezzar had been very impressed by his dream and Daniel’s interpretation that his kingdom was only temporary and would not last forever. Other kingdoms were to arise that would rule the world in his stead, but as time went on, Nebuchadnezzar became more and more prideful. He conquered not only Tyre, but also Egypt, and nation after nation bowed to his sway.

These victories added to his fame. He was considered to be the ruler of his age and as a result of his success, Nebuchadnezzar ended up turning from the path of humility, which is the only path to true greatness. He built up the city of Babylon until it became known as one of the seven wonders of the world. It became the chief glory of his kingdom. It was called the “golden city” and is referred to in the Bible as the praise of the whole earth (see Jeremiah 41:51). This recognition also increased his pride.

In an attempt to save his soul, the Lord God of heaven, in mercy to him, gave him another dream. In Daniel 4:4–6, it says, “I Nebuchadnezzar, was at rest in my house, and flourishing in my palace. And I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts on my bed and the visions of my head troubled me. Therefore I issued a decree to bring in all the wise men of Babylon before me, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream.”

So Nebuchadnezzar brought in his “brain trust,” all the wise men of Babylon—the astrologers. Astrology being a very ancient branch of knowledge, Babylon had astrologers and soothsayers, or fortunetellers, referred to collectively in Scripture as Chaldeans. When he brought them in and told them his dream, he demanded that they tell him the meaning, but they could not. Starting in verse 8, he stated, “But at last Daniel came before me (his name is Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god; in him is the Spirit of the Holy God), and I told the dream before him, saying: ‘Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the Spirit of the Holy God is in you, and no secret troubles you, explain to me the visions of my dream that I have seen, and its interpretation.’ ”

Daniel, now standing before Nebuchadnezzar, then told him what he had dreamed. Verses 10–17 say, “These were the visions of my head while on my bed: I was looking, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great. The tree grew and became strong; its height reached to the heavens, and it could be seen to the ends of all the earth. Its leaves were lovely, its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it. The birds of the heavens dwelt in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it.

“I saw in the visions of my head while on my bed, and there was a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven. He cried aloud and said thus: ‘Chop down the tree and cut off its branches, strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts get out from under it, and the birds from its branches. Nevertheless leave the stump and roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field, let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let him graze with the beasts on the grass of the earth. Let his heart be changed from that of a man, let him be given the heart of an animal, a beast. And let seven times pass over him. This decision is by the decree of the watchers, and the sentence by the word of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men.’ ”

Then the king said to Daniel, “Then this dream, I King Nebuchadnezzar, have seen. Now you, Belteshazzar, declare its interpretation, since all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation; but you are able, for the Spirit of the Holy God is in you.” When Daniel heard the dream, he knew immediately what it meant. The Bible indicates that because Daniel was troubled and astonished, he hesitated to say anything. It says in verse 19, “Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astonished for a time, and his thoughts troubled him.” He did not want to relate the meaning of the dream, but Nebuchadnezzar pressed him. “So the king spoke and said, ‘Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its interpretation trouble you.’”

So Daniel told the king what this dream meant in Daniel 4:19–26. As Daniel began to reveal to the king the meaning of the dream, he said, “My Lord, may the dream concern those who hate you, and its interpretation concern your enemies! The tree that you saw, which grew and became strong, whose height reached to the heavens and which could be seen by all the earth, whose leaves were lovely and its fruit abundant in which was food for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt, and on whose branches the birds of the heaven had their habitation—it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong; for your greatness has grown and reaches to the heavens, and your dominion to the end of the earth.

“And inasmuch as the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave its stump and roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze in the tender grass of the field; let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let him graze with the beasts of the field, till seven times [seven years] pass over him’; this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king. They shall drive you from men, your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make you eat grass like oxen. They shall wet you with the dew of heaven and seven times shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.

“And inasmuch as they gave the command to leave the stump and the roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be assured to you, after you come to know that Heaven rules.”

After giving the king the awful interpretation of his dream, Daniel made a direct appeal to king Nebuchadnezzar: “Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you; break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity” (verse 27).

So, Daniel gave the interpretation. Even though the king then knew his destiny, he did not acknowledge the real ruler in the heavens. By means of this dream, God was trying to save his soul. Nebuchadnezzar thought about what Daniel had said, but because he was not converted and was not under the impressions of the Holy Spirit, the message that God sent through this dream did not have the effect that God intended.

The same is true with us today. If we are not converted, any message that God sends to us has little impact and any conviction that it might bring wears away after a time. The judgments of God that are threatened against wickedness do not bother us so much. There are a lot of people in the world like that today. However, the Bible says the time is coming when there will be no proud people left alive on the earth. Somehow, though, people do not comprehend the message. They don’t realize that they are headed toward eternal death if they keep living the way they are living.

The Bible says in Malachi 4:1, “ ‘For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘That will leave them neither root nor branch.’ ” All of the proud will burn up!

What happened to Nebuchadnezzar? Even though everything that was predicted came true, the judgment was postponed for a year to give him time to repent. “All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of the twelve months he was walking about the royal palace of Babylon. The king spoke, saying, ‘Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty’ ” (Daniel 4:28–30)? He was proud of what he had done. He considered himself the ruler of the world and therefore the most important person in it. “While the word was still in the king’s mouth, a voice fell from heaven: ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you! And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses’ (verses 31, 32).”

In an instant, the reason that God had given him was taken away. The judgment that he thought was perfect, the wisdom and ability in which he had prided himself were all removed and he became an insane, raving maniac. He was driven from human society to live out in the field and eat grass like the animals. “That very hour the word was fulfilled concerning Nebuchadnezzar; he was driven from men and ate grass like oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws” (verse 33).

And he lived like a beast of the field with his reason removed for seven years. He was humbled in the sight of the world and before his own subjects. Then the Bible says that at the end of seven years, when he had been an astonishment to all of his subjects and humbled before all the world, “And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation.

“All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth, no one can restrain his hand or say to Him, ‘What have you done?’ At the same time, my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my honor and splendor returned to me. My counselors and nobles resorted to me, I was restored to my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to me” (verses 34–36).

This is the last event that we have recorded in sacred Scripture concerning the life of a heathen, idolatrous king who finally, by a terrible judgment that was inflicted on him for seven years, became converted. At last he acknowledged that God really is the ruler, Who gives, for a temporary time, the kingdoms of this world to whomever He chooses, but their reign, their power are all temporary. It is the God of heaven that we need to adore and to Whom we need to surrender and obey. Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged that in verse 37: “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the God of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to abase.”

There will not be any proud persons in the kingdom of heaven. If you want to have eternal life, you have to be willing to humble yourself and to surrender to the God of heaven and choose to follow Him and obey Him. True greatness is manifested with true humility. That’s why the greatest person who has ever lived in our world was the man Jesus Christ Who is described this way in Philippians 2:5–11: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

True greatness is manifested in true goodness and true humility. The time is coming when there will not be any proud people left on the earth alive. Where are you going to be? The decisions that you make day by day will determine your destiny.

(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)

Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church of Free Seventh-day Adventists in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at:, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.