Adult Sabbath School Lesson Study Outlines

Skip Navigation
Get these Sabbath School lessons by e-mail! Subscribe to the Bible Study of the Week mailing list:

 Subscribe in a reader

Lesson 4: Nebuchadnezzar's Judgment *

Introduction: When I was a boy I would watch the Walt Disney program on Sunday evening. The program always began with the same musical introduction. When I heard that little tune, I knew that I was about to be entertained with a story of some sort. Our study this week in Daniel 4 starts out in a similar way. We have this royal proclamation by King Nebuchadnezzar which praises the true God of Heaven and says "I've got a testimony - a story - for you." Let's dive right into our study of this amazing story!

  1. Royal Proclamation

    1. Read Daniel 4:1-3. Most translations find the king wishing peace for his listeners. Do you want to have peace and prosperity in your life?

      1. Do you think that this is the way King Nebuchadnezzar began all of his proclamations?

      2. Or, do you think he intends to link acknowledging God with peace and prosperity? (We will see the answer to that more clearly when we hear the King's story.)

    2. How large is the audience for this story? (Verse 1 indicates this is addressed to the entire world.)

  2. The Dream

    1. Read Daniel 4:4-5. How was life for Nebuchadnezzar before he had the dream? How was it after he had the dream?

      1. Nebuchadnezzar's prior dream ( Daniel 2:1 "troubled" him so that he "could not sleep." But, this latest dream terrifies him. Have you ever had a dream that terrified you? If you were in the King's place, would you prefer to just forget the dream?

    2. Read Daniel 4:6-7. You remember that this same group of wise men could not reliably interpret the king's first dream ( Daniel 2:10-12). Why does Nebuchadnezzar bring a dream to this same group a second time? Why not go first to Daniel? (This suggests a couple of things. First, that the pagan wise men had again come into favor with the king. Second, that Daniel's job during the intervening years was probably being an administrator rather than a dream interpreter.)

    3. Read Daniel 4:8-9. What does this suggest about the reason Daniel was not consulted first? (It seems that Daniel took his time coming before the king.)

      1. Why delay? (It allowed the power of God to be shown after the others failed. Maybe Daniel was annoyed for not being specifically called in first by the king.)

      2. What do you think about the description in the parenthetical about Daniel and his Babylonian name? Would Daniel be proud or would he cringe? (Daniel would not like this. First, Nebuchadnezzar identifies Daniel with a Babylonian god, not the true God. Second, Daniel is supposed to have the "spirit of the holy gods" in him.)

      3. What is the "spirit of the holy gods?" (Whatever it is supposed to be, this description does not honor the One God of Heaven. It appears that Nebuchadnezzar is trying to attribute God's power to some of his own gods.)

      4. Can you find anything good in the reference to the "spirit of the gods?" (At least Daniel's point that it is God, and not himself, that reveals dreams had gotten through to the king. See Daniel 2:27-28.)

    4. Read Daniel 4:10-14. Let's stop here a moment. If you knew nothing about the rest of the story, but you knew about the vision of Daniel 2, what would you guess this tree represented? (Since Nebuchadnezzar was the worldly star of Daniel 2, it is not a very big stretch to see that this great tree also represents him.)

      1. Now, consider again the statement of the wise men that they could not interpret this dream. Are they being honest with the king? Is this one dream they are most willing to pass on to Daniel? (Who wants to bring bad news?)

      2. Recall that Nebuchadnezzar was terrified by the dream. Does this seem to be a scarey dream to you? (No. The only reason to find it terrifying is if you have the general idea that it refers to you - that you are the tree that is about to be cut down and stripped. My feeling is that even Nebuchadnezzar knew this dream was about him.)

    5. Let's continue with the dream. Read Daniel 4:15-17. The tree now has no top, only a stump and roots, but it has a mind. What does this suggest? (A tree can sometimes revive from the stump. The reference to a man's mind suggests again this is a dream about a person. However, the mind of a man becomes the mind of an animal. You can see why the king was terrified by this dream.)

      1. What is the primary point of this dream? What is the purpose? (Verse 17 reveals that the purpose is to teach "the living" that the true God of heaven controls kings and kingdoms.)

    6. Read Daniel 4:18. Why does Nebuchadnezzar still refer to "holy gods" when he just (v.17) recited the line "the Most High is sovereign?" Is Nebuchadnezzar a Trinitarian? (I think Nebuchadnezzar is being stubborn about his polytheistic thinking. However, you can take a more sympathetic view of him by looking again at verse 17. It refers to "messengers, the holy ones." Nebuchadnezzar could simply be referring back to the dream.)

      1. What do think is meant by the "holy ones declare the verdict?" What kind of event is this? (This sounds like the decision of a heavenly conference such as is referred to in Job 1:6.)

  3. The Interpretation

    1. Read Daniel 4:19. Now Daniel is terrified by the dream. Does this show in his face?

      1. What kind of attitude does Nebuchadnezzar reveal towards Daniel? (He has a good attitude towards Daniel. This does not sound like the guy with an "anger management" problem that we have seen in past weeks.)

    2. Read Daniel 4:20-22. Why does God, who seems to want to teach the king a lesson in humility, send the king dreams which glorify the king's power?

    3. Read Daniel 4:23-26. Daniel knows that this dream has both good news and bad news. Why does he start with the good news first?

      1. Does this dream give Nebuchadnezzar hope? (Yes, in verse 26 he is told that his kingdom will be restored when he acknowledges God.)

    4. Read Daniel 4:27. Daniel gives some unsolicited advice: repent. What does Daniel's advice teach us about God? (God does not desire to harm us. He desires our willing obedience. For that reason, He warns us in advance about judgment and gives us the opportunity to turn from sin.)

      1. Recall that Nebuchadnezzar had previously acknowledged the great God of Heaven. ( Daniel 2:47 and Daniel 3:28-29.) Why hasn't the king already made the statements that God requires? (This gets to the heart of things. God is not looking for us to just say the right things, He is looking for us to do the right things. Verse 27 explains that we renounce our sins by doing what is right. We renounce our wickedness by being kind to others in need.)

  4. The Result

    1. Read Daniel 4:28-31. How long did God give Nebuchadnezzar to repent? (A year.)

      1. We seem to have a bit of a contradiction here. Daniel tells the king to repent by doing what is right. However, what triggers the predicted punishment is the king's self-glorification speech. If God's goal is to have the king acknowledge that "heaven rules" ( Daniel 4:26), then why is Daniel babbling on about good works? (When we understand that life is not about us, but about God, we follow His rules about being just and kind to others. That brings glory to God.)

    2. In Daniel 4:32-35 all that is prophesied happens to King Nebuchadnezzar. Read Daniel 4:36-37. As you read verse 36, does it seem to you that Nebuchadnezzar has learned his lesson?

      1. Since God has restored Nebuchadnezzar to his former "honor and splendor," what, really, is the lesson for him?

      2. Recall that at the beginning of this lesson I posed the question, "Why does God keep sending these dreams that specifically glorify Nebuchadnezzar?" Now tell me, "Why did God restore (v.36) "my [Nebuchadnezzar's] honor and splendor?" (God is not against honoring individuals. Nebuchadnezzar is entitled to "glory" for what he has done. He is a very successful man. What he needs to do, and what he does in verse 37, is to acknowledge God as the source of his success. His problem was that he did not give the proper glory to God. He now does that.)

    3. Friend, how to you handle the success in your life? Do you claim responsibility for it? Do you become proud? Or, do you give glory to the great God of Heaven who enabled you to be successful?

  5. Next week: Surprise Party.
* Copr. 2004, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
Back to Top | Home