And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?

—Daniel 4:35

The sovereignty of God involves all authority and all power. I think you can see instantly that God could never be sovereign without the power to bring about His will or the authority to exercise His power. Kings, presidents and others who rule over men must have the authority to govern and the power to make good on that authority. A ruler cannot stand up and say, “Do this, please; if you feel like doing it, do it.” He says, “Do it,” and then has an army and a police force behind him. He has authority to command and power to carry out his commands. And God has to have both of these.

I can’t conceive of a God who has power and no authority. Samson was a man who had power but no authority, and didn’t know what to do with it. There are men who have authority but no power…. Authority without the power to carry out that authority is a joke. Power without authority puts a man where he can’t do anything. But God Almighty, to be sovereign, must have authority and power. AOGII146

Lord, though the forces of evil often seem to have control of this chaotic world, I will rest in Your authority and power. My hope is in You. Amen. [1]

34–37 The conclusion of the fourth court story returns to first-person narrative, as King Nebuchadnezzar resumes his personal testimony of events associated with his dream of the great tree. The story not only recycles back to its beginning by way of the narrator’s voice, but also to its theme as the king recapitulates his doxology lauding the Most High God and published in the form of a royal letter (vv. 34c–35; cf. vv. 2–3). Porteous, 73, comments that Nebuchadnezzar’s praise “of Daniel’s God is more generous than what he had to say of the God of the three confessors [ch. 3]. This time he had not only witnessed the power of God, he had felt it in his own person.” Critics of the historicity of Daniel remind us that “extant Babylonian records say nothing of Nebuchadnezzar’s losing control of or vacating his throne for a significant period of time” (Redditt, 85; cf. Gowan, 84). But the argument from silence is just that—inconclusive for want of evidence.

The phrase “at the end of that time” (v. 34a) simply refers cryptically to the period of “seven times” stipulated for the duration of Nebuchadnezzar’s madness (cf. vv. 16, 25). The king’s “sanity” or “reason” (NASB) was restored, but not automatically. The expression “I … raised my eyes toward heaven” suggests seeking God’s aid (so Goldingay, 90), even a simple act of repentance (cf. Seow, 72; Russell, 82). The restoration of Nebuchadnezzar’s sanity (and subsequently his honor and splendor; v. 36) is testimony to God’s grace (cf. Miller, 143) and a reminder that the book of Daniel teaches that such “transformation is possible” (Smith-Christopher, 77). The king’s experience has taught him that the Most High is sovereign over human kingdoms (vv. 17, 25), thus demonstrating “the point which animates the narrative” (Towner, 64; cf. Russell, 82).

Nebuchadnezzar’s doxological confession is the longest of such testimonials in the book of Daniel. Smith-Christopher, 76, has isolated three important themes in the king’s confession: (1) the perpetual or eternal sovereignty of God as his kingdom or dominion endures from generation to generation (v. 34c; cf. 3b); (2) God’s rule extends to all the earth; and (3) no one has the power or ability to question the work of God. Nebuchadnezzar’s declarations about God are in keeping with OT teaching about the nature and character Yahweh of Israel (e.g., Pss 115:3; 145:13; Isa 14:27; 40:17; cf. Baldwin, 115).

The full restoration of King Nebuchadnezzar both to physical health and his position of royal authority on the throne of Babylonia (being accorded even greater honor and splendor than before; v. 36) is a reminder that God honors those who honor him (1 Sa 2:30; 1 Ch 29:12). The king’s reference to his “advisers and nobles,” who seek him out, speaks to his formal reinstallation as king of Babylonia (v. 36b). The king’s praise of God as the “King of heaven” (v. 37) is a unique epithet for God in the OT, and the repetition of the term “heaven” echoes what Baldwin, 116, has observed as a “catch-word” in ch. 4 (vv. 13, 20, 26, 34, 37). Ironically, Nebuchadnezzar confesses that God does what is right and that his ways are just (v. 37)—essentially the instructions Daniel gave the king in his summons to repentance (v. 27).

Goldingay (97) summarizes ch. 4 by citing King Nebuchadnezzar as an example—“a warning of how not to be led astray by power and achievement, a model of how to respond to chastisement and humiliation … [and] a promise that earthly authorities are in the hand of God, not merely for their judgment, but for his glory.” And though Nebuchadnezzar’s formal acknowledgment of God’s power and justice may fall short of penitence and true faith (so Baldwin, 116; cf. Gowan, 83, “Nebuchadnezzar is not ‘converted’ ”), the king is also an example of another important biblical principle, namely, that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (Jas 4:6; 1 Pe 5:5; cf. Pr 3:34). Nebuchadnezzar has learned the lesson of humility tragically but confessed the truth of the proverb with conviction given the aftermath of his personal experience (v. 37c). In fact, his confession encapsulates the basic message of the Bible: assume a posture of humility before the Most High God (cf. Isa 57:15; Mic 6:8; Mt 18:4; 23:12; Php 2:8).[2]

[1] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Hill, A. E. (2008). Daniel. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Daniel–Malachi (Revised Edition) (Vol. 8, pp. 99–100). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


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