These small group studies of Daniel contain outlines, verse by verse commentary, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Daniel 4 Bible Study Guide – Verse by Verse Commentary And Questions For Small Groups

Outline

I. Nebuchadnezzar addresses the nation with praise for God (1-3)
II. Nebuchadnezzar has another dream: only Daniel can interpret it (4-8)
III. Nebuchadnezzar relates the dream (9-18)
IV. Daniel interprets the dream (19-27)
V. The dream is fulfilled (28-33)
VI. Nebuchadnezzar repents, is restored, and praises God (34-37)

I. Nebuchadnezzar addresses the nation with praise for God (1-3)

Discussion Questions

• Why do you think Nebuchadnezzar wanted to declare the things God had done?
• Why would he be willing to bring public shame on himself for the embarrassing episode?
• If something like this happens to you, would you like to share it with everyone?
• What does the fact that he was willing to share it show about his new attitude?

Cross-references

Psalms 92:1-2 – It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night.

Psalms 66:16 – Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul.

Psalms 72:18 – Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.

Psalms 86:10 – For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Nebuchadnezzar praises God – This chapter is like a movie that shows a shocking ending, backs up, and shows how the story arrived at that surprising conclusion.

The king makes a surprising declaration to the nation. In his proclamation, he praises the “Most High God.” He gives the Lord glory while finally admitting that God’s kingdom is “an everlasting kingdom.”

Throughout the first three chapters of Daniel, we have seen God working in the king’s life to teach him humility. In chapter 2, God sends a vision to Nebuchadnezzar of the statue. The purpose of that vision was to remind him that even the most powerful human civilizations would fall, but God’s kingdom would endure forever. Instead of responding with humility and submitting himself to God, Nebuchadnezzar built an idol (reminiscent of the golden head) and demanded everyone in his empire to worship it. The vision went to his head!

God therefore used the occasion of the dedication of the image to remind Nebuchadnezzar of who was really on the throne. The Lord crashed the party. His three chosen instruments would not bow down to the idol. The king was furious and had them thrown into the furnace. He thought his power was absolute. But God protected their lives and once again demonstrated that He was the King of Kings.

After this, Nebuchadnezzar made a perfunctory statement about God’s greatness. But it was just a temporary blip and soon he reverted to his arrogant ways.

And then, boom, out of nowhere comes this seemingly very sincere and heartfelt proclamation of praise to God. Where did this come from? Why the change of heart?

God must have done something truly extraordinary to humble Nebuchadnezzar. And that is the story he shares with the nation here. He humbles himself to share a testimony, even when that story highlights the depth of his own sin and shame.

Application – Throughout the course of our lives, God will teach us many lessons. Some of those lessons are painful. Sometimes we are brought low and are dragged through the gutter (many times because of our own choices). In each of those events, God is working. Rather than hide our sin and project an image of perfection, we should be vulnerable. Open up and testify of God’s grace in your lives. Our goal should not be to look good but to exalt God. What testimony of God’s goodness can you share?

II. Nebuchadnezzar has another dream: only Daniel can interpret it (4-8)

Discussion Questions

• What similarities are there between this and the last time Nebuchadnezzar had a dream?
• Why do you think he would turn to the ineffective “wise” men again?
• Did he believe Daniel could solve this problem? Why didn’t he turn to Daniel sooner?
• Can you think of any comparable situations in the world where people keep turning to something ineffective? (Turn to politicians)
• Why do they do it?
• Why do people not want to turn to God/Church/Believers more?

Cross-References

Luke 12:19-20 – And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”‘ But God said to him, Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’

Isaiah 44:24-26 – Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the Lord, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself, who frustrates the signs of liars and makes fools of diviners, who turns wise men back and makes their knowledge foolish, who confirms the word of his servant and fulfills the counsel of his messengers.”

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. I was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace – Nebuchadnezzar had an easy life. He was rich and powerful. Servants stood by 24-7 answering to his beck and call. What did the king do with his power and prosperity?

There is no evidence that Nebuchadnezzar sought to reach out and help others. Instead of using the resources God had given him to improve the lives of his subjects, Nebuchadnezzar lived a very self-absorbed life. His focus was on his own pleasure, power, and prosperity. With thoughts centered on himself, Nebuchadnezzar was the object of his own most profound admiration.

2. I saw a dream that made me afraid – It is the second time God communicated with the pagan despot through a dream. Notice when he had this dream. It was when everything was going smoothly and he was enjoying the good life in the palace.

He wasn’t seeking God, but God was seeking Him. God took the initiative to reach out and communicate to Nebuchadnezzar when he was enjoying his merry life.

From this, we can learn two lessons.

A. Don’t get too comfortable! Pride goes before the fall. Live humbly in complete reliance upon God daily, not just when things are going poorly.

Micah 6:8 – He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

If we don’t keep our focus on God, then don’t be surprised if He intervenes in our lives to turn our attention back to its rightful place.

B. God is the one who takes the initiative in our relationship with Him. We love because He first loved us. This is one aspect of His character which we should appreciate. It reminds us that our salvation is not due to our own goodness but to His mercy. And if He sought us out while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8), how much more is it true that He will remain faithful when we are already saved?

3. I made a decree that all the wise men should be brought before me –

Whenever Nebuchadnezzar faced a complicated puzzle, he called in the empire’s experts. It was an esteemed group that included the wise men, magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers. Each group was a special class specifically trained up to aid the king in these challenging matters.

How they managed to hold on to their jobs all this time beats me! Once again, they failed to solve their potentate’s problem. The only thing they seem to be good at is consistency. They are consistently totally inept in understanding or communicating the things of God.

While they were experts at the magic and sorcery the Babylonian religion was based on, they didn’t know the true God and were therefore of no help in understanding Him or His message. Though they looked and sounded clever, they were blind leaders of the blind.

Reflect – Why did Nebuchadnezzar keep calling for help from these wise men?

Application – Go to the right people for counsel and help. If you need help with a math problem, go to a math teacher. If you need help with a medical issue, go to a doctor. If you need help with a moral or spiritual problem, go to a godly believer.

4. At last Daniel came in before me – Daniel should have been plan A but somehow was still plan Z. The fact that Daniel came in last seems to indicate that Nebuchadnezzar was still reluctant to embrace Daniel’s God. It was as if the king was hoping that his own native gods would come through. When they didn’t (as he may have expected all along), he had no choice but to turn to Daniel if he wanted the answer.

In verse 8, Nebuchadnezzar emphasized that Daniel’s name was Belteshazzar, “after the name of my god.” He is writing this after his life-changing experience. And the way he emphasizes this fact (and the fact that Daniel came in last) contrasts the true power of Yahweh with his weak gods.

III. Nebuchadnezzar relates the dream (9-18)

Discussion Questions

• What is an angelic watcher?
• What role did he have?
• How long do you thin is seven periods of time?

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you – Nebuchadnezzar had already witnessed amazing miracles in the lives of Daniel and his friends. God had been working in his life through them. There was clearly something different about Daniel’s God. And yet the fact that the king turned to Daniel last, shows he hadn’t yet become a follower of the LORD.

Application – Sometimes it takes many encounters with the Lord before a person is saved. Do not be discouraged if your initial efforts to share the good news with others aren’t met with immediate results. Some seeds grow quickly. And some seeds grow more slowly. The seeds planted in Nebuchadnezzar’s heart were the slow-growing kind. Yet they were growing, little by little.

Galatians 6:9 – And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

2. The visions of my head – Nebuchadnezzar related the dream along with every detail he could remember. He had clearly seen these visions in his head as he lay in his bed.

Many times when we have a dream at night we can barely remember it in the morning. Or, if we do remember it, the details have fled, and only a fuzzy, vague impression remains.

Not so with this dream. The astonishing level of detail is one indicator that this was no normal dream. It was sent by God with a clear message for Nebuchadnezzar.

He seemed to sense that it was loaded with personal meaning. And that knowledge drove him to find out the answers to the riddle.

3. Nebuchadnezzar had confidence that Daniel could tell him the interpretation –

Proverbs 22:29 – Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.

God had greatly blessed Daniel. One of the ways He blessed Daniel was by giving him the gift of interpretation. As Daniel continued to faithfully use his talents and gifts (given by God), he was given more opportunities and a bigger stage. With each new opportunity, Daniel once again proved faithful.

We are reminded that he who is faithful in a little thing (Daniel 1) is faithful also in much (Daniel 2,4,5,6).

Application – God has given you talents and gifts as well and He expects you to use these for building His kingdom. As you prove to be faithful in the small things, He will give you more opportunities.

• What is your gifting?
• If you don’t know, how can you find out?
• How can you use your gifting for building God’s kingdom this week?

IV. Daniel interprets the dream (19-27)

Discussion Questions

• Why do you think Daniel was appalled?
• What does this show about his relationship with Nebuchadnezzar?
• Do you think the latter part of verse 19 is genuine or just flattery?
• Does verse 22 remind you of any other prophetic condemnations (Nathan against David)?
• Why was Nebuchadnezzar going to face this punishment?
• What principle does this teach (pride goes before the fall and God’s sovereignty)?
• Did you ever experience God humbling you when you were prideful?
• What advice did Daniel have for Nebuchadnezzar?
• Did he listen?

Cross-References

Psalms 119:46 – I will speak of your statutes before kings and not be put to shame.

Proverbs 28:13 – Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.

Isaiah 55:6-7 – “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

Ezekiel 18:21 – But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die.

Matthew 3:8 – Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Daniel was dismayed – When Daniel heard the dream, he was very troubled. His emotion wasn’t faked. He was clearly disturbed when he realized what was going to happen to the king, saying, “My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies!”

This response gives us some insight into Daniel’s character. Notably, he was loyal and cared for others. Most of the professional wise men class in Babylon cared only for themselves. What set Daniel apart was his care for the king. That was also a big reason his service was such an asset to the king. Daniel genuinely sought Nebuchadnezzar’s well-being.

Application – Do you have this same loyalty for the people around you? If your boss was hit with bad news like this, how would you feel?

2. The dream and its interpretation – Daniel broke down the dream and its meaning for Nebuchadnezzar. The main idea was simple. Nebuchadnezzar and his kingdom had grown very powerful, its reach and influence extending across the earth. However, the king did not give credit to God. Therefore, he himself would be disciplined by God. He would be driven out from among men and become like a beast of the field for seven periods of time (perhaps years). But the discipline would be temporary. His kingdom would be held for him until he humbled himself. After that point in time, he could be restored.

One of the key themes in the book of Daniel is that God’s kingdom is the only one that endures forever. Everything else, from the lowest person to the most powerful kingdom on earth, is temporary and will fade away.

Throughout this book, we have seen God teaching Nebuchadnezzar this lesson. But despite all of the miracles to this point, the king had not yet gotten the point. He was still prideful and credited himself for his great empire. In the end, God wins. Truth wins. Sooner or later, every person will learn the same lesson that the Lord sought to teach Nebuchadnezzar.

Application – Understand that this world and everything in it is temporary. Riches will not last. Do not set your hope on them. At the same time, what you do have is given to you by the Lord. Give Him full credit for everything good in your life. If you don’t give glory to God and declare that your achievements are solely the result of your ingenuity and hard work, you are the same as Nebuchadnezzar. God gives grace to the humble but is opposed to the proud (1 Peter 5:5-6). If you have a good job, give glory to God. If you have a happy family, thank God for His blessings. If you have achieved something significant, acknowledge it was due to the abilities, gifts, and talents God gave to you first.

3. Daniel’s counsel –

Daniel 4:27 – Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.

I love this. Daniel is so bold and forthright. The king had asked for the interpretation, not for counsel. But Daniel gave both. His loyalty to the king and his role as God’s messenger both compelled him to use this opportunity to speak the truth. The stage was not too big. Though Nebuchadnezzar was the most powerful man in the world (and had a notorious temper), it did not faze Daniel.

Reflect – What gave Daniel the confidence to boldly confront the king in this manner?

His trust was in the Lord. Daniel lived out the verse, “If God is for me, who can be against me?” (Romans 8:31)

Application – Do not let fear of man silence you when you should speak. Standing on the truth of God’s word can strengthen you to courageously be the voice of wisdom. Is there a situation in your life you have been afraid to speak into? Is God calling you to speak up and say what needs to be said? Will you do it?

V. The dream is fulfilled (28-33)

Discussion Questions

• What event immediately brought God’s punishment down?
• Is this a common problem for rich/powerful people?
• Is it a common problem for poor/not powerful people?
• How can we apply the lessons Nebuchadnezzar learned to our lives?
• What kind of condition did Nebuchadnezzar have? Is this a parable or an actual event? Why?

Cross-References

Numbers 23:19 – God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. All this came upon Nebuchadnezzar – God did just what He said He would do. The most powerful king the world had ever seen could not thwart God’s sovereign will.

Application – Let know one think that he will be the one to escape God’s justice.

2. Nebuchadnezzar pridefully gives himself the glory for his kingdom –

Daniel 4:30 – Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?

This happened twelve months after the initial dream. Most likely, the dream shocked Nebuchadnezzar. He had seen the divine hand of God many times so he knew what God’s power could accomplish. This knowledge and Daniel’s counsel probably sparked something like a revival for Nebuchadnezzar. He would have been very pious and careful to demonstrate the appropriate attitude of humility.

However, traumatic events don’t really change one’s underlying character. Emotional-based responses are short-lived. And once the immediate danger seems past, people let their guard down again, and their fundamental nature takes over.

In the face of death, many people have promised to give their life to God if He will only save them. When the moment of danger is gone, most forget their promises and return to their previous ways. The same is true for many who face a health crisis. Some pray, “if only you will heal me, I will follow you.” But after being healed, they forget God again.

Thus, twelve months later, after the initial adrenaline rush of piety, memories of the dream faded and Nebuchadnezzar began boasting again. The gardens of Babylon are known as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. And as he viewed those gardens, visions of his own splendor overcame him. All credit for the beauty of his kingdom was assigned to himself. After all, God Himself had said that Nebuchadnezzar was the golden head!

Application – Develop a deep-rooted relationship with the Lord, one that will remain firm in the face of the emotional ups and downs of life. It is easy to reach a spiritual high after some amazing moment in your life. It is harder to maintain humility and an awareness of God’s hand on your life in the day-to-day grind.

3. While the words were still in the king’s mouth – God’s justice was swift. There were no more warnings. The King of Kings had already issued His decree one year before. When Nebuchadnezzar refused to change his ways, God decided to humble him and teach him a lesson he would never forget.

4. God hates pride – One of the key lessons of this chapter is that the Lord hates pride. Rather than thankfully acknowledging God as the source of his success, Nebuchadnezzar exalted himself.

Whenever a person glorifies himself, he is stealing from God. Only God is worthy of our praise. Replacing him with anything else is blasphemy.

Many Scriptures attest to God’s opposition toward the proud. One day every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.

Application – You can choose to bow, or you will be forced to. It’s much more comfortable to choose to submit to God yourself.

5. Nebuchadnezzar became like an animal – Some scholars speculate that he was kept in the royal gardens during this period. Some doctors speculate that Nebuchadnezzar was afflicted with boanthropy, a disease in which the sufferer believes he is a cow or ox.

Whatever the scientific explanations are, God’s hand was clearly behind it. God can use natural or supernatural means to accomplish His purposes. Both demonstrate His sovereign power.

VI. Nebuchadnezzar repents, is restored, and praises God (34-37)

Discussion Questions

• What was Nebuchadnezzar’s response to the punishment?
• Do you think after this he finally learned his lesson?
• Do you think he was genuinely saved?

Cross-References

James 4:6-7 – But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

1 Peter 5:5-6 – Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,

Proverbs 3:34 – Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor.

Proverbs 29:23 – One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.

Proverbs 16:18 – Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Nebuchadnezzar was restored – Note when the king was restored. It was as soon as he “lifted up [his] eyes to heaven.” This was a tacit acknowledgment that God is sovereign. In his animal-like form, words were not possible. The only gesture Nebuchadnezzar could make to show his remorse was looking up at heaven. And his change of attitude is clearly seen in the following verses.

From this, we can see the mercy of God. His discipline was not one second longer than it needed to be. Nebuchadnezzar was disciplined for his own good. It was not punitive but loving and corrective.

Hebrews 12:6 – For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.

This discipline was evidence that God loved Nebuchadnezzar. God could have left him in his sin, but He didn’t. Instead, He mercifully taught him the error of his ways and led him to confess.

Nebuchadnezzar was fully restored in mental faculty and power as his throne was returned to him.

2. Nebuchadnezzar finally glorifies God – This is the last we see of Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel. And his story ends here on a very positive note. After multiple encounters with the Most High God, Nebuchadnezzar gives Him full glory. It is a beautiful testimony and a powerful proclamation.

This proclamation was sent to the entire kingdom. The brutal truth of what had happened painted King Nebuchadnezzar in a terrible light. He was exposed as arrogant. More than that, he was exposed to his subjects as being weak. All could see that the king was not really in charge. There was a higher authority. Most leaders desperately try to cover this truth as they demand total allegiance. That is the same thing Nebuchadnezzar had done before, but no more!

Now the king publicly acknowledged God’s authority, superiority, power, and sovereignty. He also finally learned the lesson of the book, which is that God’s kingdom is the only one that endures forever.

Reflect – Was Nebuchadnezzar a real believer?

Application – Nebuchadnezzar learned the lesson. Have you? Do not love the world or the things in the world. All of it is fading. Humbly submit to the King of Kings. Wisely invest in His eternal kingdom. What is one way you can invest in His kingdom this week?

Study Daniel 5
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