Wenstrom Bible MinistriesMarion, IowaPastor-Teacher Bill Wenstromwww.wenstrom.org
Thursday September 27, 2012Daniel: Daniel 4:20-22a-Daniel Tells Nebuchadnezzar That The Tree Symbolizes HimLesson # 126
This evening we will study Daniel 4:20-22, which records Daniel telling Nebuchadnezzar that the tree which he saw in a vision represents him and his Babylonian empire.
Daniel 4:20 ‘The tree that you saw, which became large and grew strong, whose height reached to the sky and was visible to all the earth 21 and whose foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt and in whose branches the birds of the sky lodged, 22 it is you, O king; for you have become great and grown strong, and your majesty has become great and reached to the sky and your dominion to the end of the earth.’ (NASB95)
We will begin our study of Daniel 4:20 by noting the figure of “asyndeton” which is employed because the Holy Spirit wants the reader to dwell upon this description of the tree in verses 20-22 since as Daniel’s interpretation will reveal, it is a symbolic description of Nebuchadnezzar’s rule in Babylon.
“You saw” is the second person singular peʿal (Hebrew: qal) active perfect form of the verb ḥǎzā(h) (חֲזָה) (khaz-aw´), which means “to see” in the sense of receiving a prophetic revelation in a dream.
The word refers to Nebuchadnezzar “receiving a prophetic revelation” in a dream which was concerning the future.
Specifically it concerned itself with God deposing Nebuchadnezzar for seven years until he acknowledged that the Most High God was the ruler over all mankind and bestows it to whomever He so chooses.
“Became large” is the third person masculine singular peʿal (Hebrew: qal) active perfect form of the verb reḇā(h) (רְבָה) (reb-aw´), which means “to become massive, to become enormous” in height and width and describes the tree that appeared to Nebuchadnezzar in a vision in a dream and which tree is symbolic of the king.
Therefore, Daniel is describing this tree as “becoming enormous” in height and width and symbolizes the growth of Nebuchadnezzar’s power and authority.
“And grew strong” is presenting the result of the tree becoming enormous.
“Grew strong” is the third person masculine singular peʿal (Hebrew: qal) active perfect form of the verb teqip̄ (תְּקִף) (tek-afe´), which means “to be strong” and it too is used to describe the tree that appeared to Nebuchadnezzar in a vision in a dream and which tree symbolized the king.
Therefore, Nebuchadnezzar is describing this tree as “being strong” in the sense of being sturdy as a result of becoming enormous in height and width.
This symbolizes the state of Nebuchadnezzar possessing enormous resources and great political and military power as a result of becoming a world-ruler.
The growth of the tree to an enormous height and its strength represented the rapid rise of the Babylonian empire under Nebuchadnezzar and his father Nabopolassar.
“Whose height reached to the sky” is an emphatic clause meaning that it is advancing upon and intensifying the previous statement Daniel made to Nebuchadnezzar.
Daniel goes from telling Nebuchadnezzar that the tree became enormous in height and width so that it was strong to telling him that this tree’s height reached to the sky so that it was visible to everyone on the earth.
“And it was visible to the end of the whole earth” presents the result of the previous statement, which records Daniel recounting for the king the tree as reaching to the heavens.
This statement symbolizes the fact that Nebuchadnezzar’s rulership was recognized by everyone throughout the entire earth.
“And whose foliage was beautiful” describes Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom in symbolic terms as being outwardly attractive in appearance, implying that it was healthy and flourishing.
The beautiful foliage of the tree symbolizes Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom as being outwardly attractive in appearance, implying that it was healthy and flourishing and represents that Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom was glamorous.
“And its fruit abundant” represents Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom provided plenty of food for everyone in his world-wide empire.
“And in which was food for all” presents the result of Daniel’s previous description of the tree which appeared to Nebuchadnezzar in a vision in a dream and represents Nebuchadnezzar’s government as providing food for the entire empire.
“Under which the beasts of the field dwelt” symbolizes that Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom provided protection for all in his empire.
The beasts of the field and birds of the sky represent every human being under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom according to Daniel’s interpretation in Daniel 4:19-27.
Daniel 4:22 ‘it is you, O king; for you have become great and grown strong, and your majesty has become great and reached to the sky and your dominion to the end of the earth.’ (NASB95)
“It is you, O king” is composed of the second person masculine singular form of the personal pronoun ʾǎnt (אַנְתְּ) (ant), “you” which is followed by the third person masculine singular pronominal suffix hû(ʾ) (הוּא) (who), “it is” and then we have the masculine singular form of the noun mě∙lěḵ (מֶלֶךְ) (meh´-lek), “king.”
We have the figure of “asyndeton” which emphasizes with the reader how profound and terrible are the implications of Daniel’s statement for Nebuchadnezzar since he says to the king that the tree symbolized him.
The personal pronoun ʾǎnt is an independent personal pronoun which means “you” referring of course to Nebuchadnezzar and emphasizes Nebuchadnezzar as the subject and indicates that Daniel is expressing great emotion when he tells the king that the tree represents him.
We have the vocative use of the noun mě∙lěḵ, which expresses Daniel’s emotion when telling the king that the tree represented him.
Daniel 4:20 ‘The tree, that you saw which became enormous so that it was strong. Indeed, whose height reached to the heavens so that it was visible throughout the entire earth 21 and in addition whose foliage was beautiful. Moreover, its fruit was abundant so that food was in it for the benefit of all. Under it, the beasts of the field lived as well as in its branches, the birds of the sky nested. 22 It is you O king!’ (My translation)
In Daniel 4:20-21, we have Daniel repeating back to Nebuchadnezzar the content of the dream as the king had previously narrated it for him as recorded in Daniel 4:10-12.
This would assure Nebuchadnezzar that Daniel understood completely the content of the dream so that his interpretation for the king would be accurate.
The repetition is for emphasis and to impress upon Nebuchadnezzar the seriousness of his situation.
Interestingly, not only is Daniel telling Nebuchadnezzar that the tree symbolizes the king but he is also reminding the king that God raised him up and gave him his world-rulership, authority, power, success and prosperity.
The fact that Daniel repeats the content of the dream back to the king is to emphasize with Nebuchadnezzar that God is responsible for his position and success and not the king.
The discipline that Nebuchadnezzar is to receive if he does not repent by confessing his sin of rebellion and obeying God is designed to teach the king this.
Then, with the first statement in Daniel 4:22, Daniel comes right out and pulls no punches and with no hesitation, tells the king that the tree symbolizes or represents him and his kingdom.
The symbol of the tree denotes the king’s greatness and power as a world ruler.
In the Bible, great men and princes are often represented as trees (Psalm 1:3; 47:35; Jeremiah 22:15; Ezekiel 17:5, 6; 31:3).
In Daniel 4:22, Daniel displays great courage in telling the king the truth that the tree represented him, which is reminiscent of Nathan confronting David with regards to his murder of Uriah the Hittite to cover up his adulterous affair with his wife Bathsheba that got her pregnant.
Daniel’s courage like Nathan’s was the result of their great faith and trust in the Lord and their understanding that God is sovereign over the men who rule over the kingdoms of this earth like David and Nebuchadnezzar.
Daniel displays great emotion when telling the king that the tree represents him, which indicates his love, concern and respect for the king since the king at this point in the narrative is a believer as indicated by the fact that in Daniel 3:28 he praises the God of Israel, which the Scriptures record only believers doing.
Though the king mistreated the poor as Daniel tells the king in Daniel 4:27 and was extremely arrogant before God as revealed in Daniel 4:29-30, Daniel’s attitude toward the king was that the king was a fellow believer.
Daniel’s desire in Daniel 4:19 that the content of the dream and its interpretation would be applied to Nebuchadnezzar’s enemies expresses Daniel’s brotherly love for the king and that he did not want to see the king disciplined by God.
Daniel’s desire that the king would not be disciplined by God but rather that the king would repent as he tells the king in Daniel 4:27 corresponds to the prophets of Israel and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
So Daniel is speaking the truth to Nebuchadnezzar in love (cf. Ephesians 4:15).
He is also rebuking the king for his open sin of rebellion against God with gentleness (cf. Galatians 6:1).