Daniel 4 and the Testimony of Nebuchadnezzar

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Excerpt When we consider the topics of evangelism and epistolary literature in the Bible, we normally think of the NT documents. Might the OT book of Daniel contain an evangelistic epistle?

Six of Daniel’s twelve chapters originally appeared in Hebrew, and the other six in Aramaic. The Aramaic section, chapters 2–7, conveys conceptual parallels as illustrated below. The central segments of the parallelism, chapters 4 and 5, describe the dethronements of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar. Belshazzar clung to his pride until the bitter end (5:22–23). He died at a drinking party, unrepentant and possibly even inebriated (“under the influence of beer,” v. 2). Nebuchadnezzar, on the other hand, arguably experienced true spiritual conversion. This foray into Daniel 4 contends that Nebuchadnezzar published his personal testimony as a redeemed evangelist in order to persuade the nations to submit to the Most High God.
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Nebuchadnezzar’s Epistle

Nebuchadnezzar stands as one of the most famous rulers of antiquity. He comes to the fore in the books of Kings, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and numerous other sources. According to the Nebuchadnezzar Chronicle, after the battle of Carchemish he captured Jerusalem. He prospered as the world ruler and reigned 43 years (605–562 BC).

Later in life, the emperor issued an epistle “to all the peoples, nations, and languages” (Dn 4:1). His purpose for writing emerges in verse 2: “It seemed good to me to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me.” By writing an autobiography, the king made known the miracles that God had performed for him.

The theme of Nebuchadnezzar’s epistle surfaces in verse 3: “His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion endures from generation to generation.” This excerpt derives most notably from Psalm 145:13. Nebuchadnezzar employs Scripture—a psalm by David. Not only that, but he repeats the excerpt at the end of his epistle. The monarch begins and ends his testimony by appealing to Scripture. The excerpt brackets the letter and therefore reveals the theme: God’s kingdom endures.

Nebuchadnezzar’s own kingdom, by contrast, would not endure. That reality bothered the king earlier in his reign. As a young king, Nebuchadnezzar envisioned a colossus with a head of gold. A stone came hurling out of the sky and pulverized the colossus. The message was clear: mankind’s kingdoms will not endure. Obviously, Nebuchadnezzar rejected the message, because soon thereafter he defied the Most High by erecting a 90 ft (27 m) gold-plated effigy on the plain of Dura (Dn 3:1). Hubris certainly characterized Nebuchadnezzar. Subsequently, however, Nebuchadnezzar used his platform as the world ruler to tell everyone what the King of heaven had done for him. And what had the Most High done? It all began with God giving the emperor a nightmare.

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