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Sabbath School Lessons on Daniel
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About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 38 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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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!
- Royal Proclamation
- 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?
- Do you think that this is the way King Nebuchadnezzar
began all of his proclamations?
- 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.)
- How large is the audience for this story? (Verse 1
indicates this is addressed to the entire world.)
- The Dream
- Read Daniel 4:4-5. How was life for Nebuchadnezzar before
he had the dream? How was it after he had the dream?
- 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?
- 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
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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?)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- The Interpretation
- Read Daniel 4:19. Now Daniel is terrified by the dream.
Does this show in his face?
- 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
- 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?
- Read Daniel 4:23-26. Daniel knows that this dream has both
good news and bad news. Why does he start with the good
- Does this dream give Nebuchadnezzar hope? (Yes, in
verse 26 he is told that his kingdom will be restored
when he acknowledges God.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- The Result
- Read Daniel 4:28-31. How long did God give Nebuchadnezzar
to repent? (A year.)
- 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
- 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
- Since God has restored Nebuchadnezzar to his former
"honor and splendor," what, really, is the lesson for
- 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.)
- 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?
- 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.