(1) Peace . . .—For this mode of address comp. Ezra 4:17; Ezra 7:12. The date of the matter recorded in this chapter cannot be ascertained, as a blank falls upon the last eighteen years of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. The only facts that occurred during this period, so far as is known, are the terrible form of mania from which the king suffered, by reason of which he was kept under restraint for some time, and the further extension of his dominions after his recovery (Daniel 4:34).
All the earth—By this time the king has become so powerful that he regards himself as universal monarch, so that some time must have elapsed since the events mentioned in the last chapter.
The high God.—Referring to his language (Daniel 3:26).
My palace.—See Layard’s Nineveh and Babylon, p. 506.
Belteshazzar.—See Note on Daniel 1:7; Introduction, § 6.
The spirit . . .—He means his own gods, for though he recognised Jehovah to be a “high God,” yet he acknowledged Him only as one out of many.
The sight thereof—i.e., the tree could be seen from the most distant parts of the known world.
Hew down.—The plural is here used, implying that several persons are employed in carrying out the order.
A band.—As the vision continues, the typical language is gradually laid aside, and it begins to appear that by the tree a man is intended. We must not understand by “the band” the chains by which the unfortunate king would be confined, but metaphorically trouble and affliction, as Psalm 107:10; Psalm 149:8. It has been assumed that during his malady the king wandered about at large. This is highly improbable. That his courtiers did not avail themselves of his sickness to substitute some other king in his place is sufficient proof of their regard for him. It is natural to suppose that he was confined in some court of his palace. The inscriptions of Nebuchadnezzar, and accounts of his reign written by historians, being all composed with the view of glorifying the monarch, naturally suppress all mention of his madness.
Seven times.—On the use of the number “seven” see Note on Daniel 3:19. The period intended by “time” is very uncertain: from the use of the word in Judges 17:10 it has been inferred that “years” are intended. This is purely conjectural. It is more probable that the word is used to signify some definite period of time, which, as appears from the words “over him,” was in some way marked out by the heavenly bodies. The word “time” is used by Daniel in the same sense (Daniel 7:25). (Comp. Daniel 12:7, where, however, a different word is employed.)
The demand.—Comp. Isaiah 44:26. According to the use of the word in Chaldee elsewhere, this can be the only true meaning. The “holy one” makes this request of God, and the carrying out of His decree pertains to the “watcher.” “This,” says Dr. Pusey, “gives another glimpse into the interest of the holy angels in ourselves. They, too, longed that oppression should cease, and joining in the cry which for ever is going up from the oppressed to the throne of mercy and judgment, prayed for that chastisement which was to relieve the oppressed and convert the oppressor” (Lectures on Daniel, p. 525).
Ruleth . . .—i.e., Almighty God disposes of human empires as He pleases. (Comp. Daniel 5:21.)
To them that hate thee.—A delicate way of expressing his hopes for the best. “May that which is implied in the interpretation overtake thine enemies.”
Thy kingdom.—To make the sense plain we must supply before this word, “The interpretation of it is,” or some sentence to that effect.
Shall be sure.—Literally, shall arise. No successor shall be appointed during his life.
Do rule—i.e., the heavens, or One in heaven ruleth the kingdoms of men.
Righteousness.—In all wars of conquest many acts of injustice are perpetrated. The king is warned here to show justice or to act justly for the future. Similar counsel is given, though in different language (Micah 6:8). The idea of “alms” and “redeeming” is not conveyed by the Chaldee words, so that the translation “redeem thy sins by alms” is incorrect and unwarrantable.
If it may be—i.e., if Nebuchadnezzar will repent, his prosperity and peace will be prolonged.
Palace of the kingdom of Babylon.—He had palaces in other towns. Daniel lays a stress upon the fact that this occurred in the town of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar, the golden head of the image, was in the very centre of his dominions, in his own proud capital, when this occurred. It is needless, therefore, to assume that this was written by a person who lived a long way off from Babylon.
Whose dominion . . .—These words, like those in Daniel 4:3, recall Psalm 145:13; and the next verse is not unlike Isaiah 40:17; Isaiah 43:13; Isaiah 43:21. It is hard to suppose that the king was so thoroughly versed in the Hebrew Scriptures that he should be able to make use of them as doxologies. This gives support to the conjecture that the letter was composed by Daniel and not by the king.