In an official proclamation to his people, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon told how the signs and wonders he saw in Daniel 2,3 made him realize that Daniel’s God was God, and that he was only king of the world because God made him king of the world (1:1-3). But a lot of years had passed by Chapter 4, and he’s gotten pretty full of himself (v. 30), so God gave him another bad dream (4:4-7). He consulted the wise men who couldn’t interpret his last dream because he was still calling Bel “my god” (v. 8), so still believed in them.
Trees (v. 10) in the Bible often represent men (Mt. 7:15-17), and this one represented a man that got big and powerful (Dn. 4:11, 12). The mention of birds and beasts may have had the king wondering if the tree represented him, because of what Daniel had told him back in Daniel 2:37,38.
The “watcher” (v. 13) was a holy angel. God sees all, but chooses to use angels to see (cf. Gen. 18:20, 21 cf. 19:1; II Chron. 16:9). That means if the king thinks the tree represents him, he knows he’s being told he’s about to lose control over the world (Dn. 4:14). But he also knows he won’t die, for if you leave a tree’s stump (v. 15) it will grow back. He learns this man’s heart will be turned into the heart of a beast (v. 16) for “seven times,” or seven years (cf. Rev. 12:14).
The watcher’s decree (v. 17) came from God (cf. v. 24), the same God who made a “base” man named Pharaoh king of the world (Ex. 9:16), and now Nebuchadnezzar. “Base” means lowly. Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar probably thought a lot of themselves, but God didn’t.
Daniel told the king that his dream was good news for his enemies (v. 18, 19) because it meant he was about to go mad for seven years (v. 20-25). That explains Daniel’s astonishment (v. 19), for Nebuchadnezzar probably quit worshipping idols after Chapter 3, so Daniel probably couldn’t figure out why God would do this to him. But the watchers saw the pride in his private life that Daniel couldn’t see. All that being said, the preservation of the tree’s stump meant the king would live to get his kingdom back (v. 26).
Daniel went on to tell the king that if he’d mend his ways he could avoid all this (v. 27), and for awhile it seems he did, But then his pride got the best of him (v. 28-33). Becoming like a “beast” for seven years makes him a type of the Anti-christ in the Tribulation, aka “the beast.” An “ox” is associated with Satan. God created him a cherub (Ezek. 28:14), and cherubs were oxen (Ezek. 1:4-10 cf. 10:14). That’s why Satan was cursed “above all cattle” (Gen. 3:14).
We see more proof that the king was a type of the Antichrist when Daniel told him that he’d have bird claws, for birds in the Bible are not good things (Mt. 13:4, 19). They are associated with leaven (Lu. 1:18-21), a type of sin. Antichrist’s kingdom will be full of devils called birds (Rev. 18:2). This symbolic type is telling us that after the Rapture, the world is going to be under the dominion of a bird-like beast for seven years, and ruled by a madman.
But how can Nebuchadnezzar be a type of the beast if he ends up blessing God (Dn. 4:34, 35)? Well, there will be “many” antichrists (I Jo. 2:18) called “natural brute beasts” (II Pe. 2:12; Jude 1:10). If they don’t take the beast’s mark they can be saved and end up blessing God like Nebuchadnezzar, who typifies those antichrists in his conversion.
We can’t be sure, but I think Nebuchadnezzar gets saved here (Dn. 4:36, 37) by doing what Daniel told him to do: being merciful to the poor (4:27). The poor in Babylon would certainly involve the Jews. And blessing Jews is what Gentiles had to do to be blessed by God with salvation (Gen. 12:1-3). That’s also what Gentiles and Jews will have to do in the Tribulation to get saved, as the Lord told people who were heading into the Tribulation—the Tribulation that would have come if God hadn’t interrupted Daniel’s prophecies with the mystery (Lu. 18:18, 22). If Nebuchadnezzar did get saved, someday you’ll get to ask him how much weight he lost on The Oxen Diet, and you ladies can ask him how he kept those long nails from breaking for seven years.
Pride can be your undoing as well, for “pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Don’t let it undo you!