The Madness of Nebuchadnezzar
Babylon, the city, in which Nebuchadnezzar lived was a wonderful city. It was surrounded by walls which were sixty miles long, in which were beautiful gates made of brass and on which were many high towers. The palace of Nebuchadnezzar was a magnificent house filled with gold and silver ornaments which he had captured in his wars.
He was a great king, surrounded by princes and rulers who flattered him and made him think that he was greater than he really was. At first Nebuchadnezzar was a good man and worshiped God, but after a while he became very proud of his greatness and thought only of his riches and power. God sent a strange punishment upon him and this is the way it happened:
Nebuchadnezzar was at rest in his house, surrounded by all his wealth and vain of his power. He lay down to sleep and a dream came to him. He saw a tree in the midst of the earth, the height of which was very great. The tree grew and was strong and reached unto heaven and the branches spread out to all the ends of the earth. The leaves were fair and beautiful and the tree was full of fruit which was good to eat. The beasts of the field lay down under the tree to rest and the birds of the air made their nests in the boughs of the tree.
Then the king also saw in his dream an angel come down from heaven and cry with a loud voice: "Hew down the tree and cut off the branches and shake off the leaves and scatter the fruit. Let the beasts get away from under it and drive the birds from the branches. Nevertheless, leave the stump of the tree in the ground where it shall be wet with the dew from heaven."
When the king awoke from this dream he sent for the magicians and wise men and told them of it, but they could not explain the meaning of the dream to the king. He then sent for Daniel and said to him: "Daniel, all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to explain to me the dream which I have had, but you are able to do so for the spirit of God is in you." He then told Daniel about his dream.
Daniel was troubled for about an hour and was afraid to tell the king the meaning of his dream, but Nebuchadnezzar told him not to let the dream nor the interpretation trouble him, but to speak out what was in his mind.
Daniel then interpreted the dream of the king: "O, king, the tree which you saw which grew and was strong and whose height reached to heaven and whose branches reached to the ends of the earth and whose leaves were fair and whose fruit was, abundant, under which the beasts of the field lay down to rest and in whose branches the birds of the air did roost, that tree, O, king, is you, yourself. You have grown and become strong, your greatness reaches to heaven and your dominion is to the ends of the earth." Daniel, furthermore, said to the king: "The voice of the angel which you heard means that you shall be driven from the sight of men and from your dwelling and you shall live with the beasts of the field and shall eat grass as an ox. This you shall do for seven years until you shall know that God is the ruler of men and greater than you."
It came to pass just as Daniel had said. At the end of the twelve months the king was walking in his palace. He was still vain and proud and said to those around him: "Is not Babylon a great city? I have built it up by the might of my power and for the honor of my majesty." His heart filled with pride when he saw the gold and the silver and the statues and the many ornaments which he had captured from his enemies. He looked at the great walls which were strong enough to resist any enemy and gazed upon the mountain which he had built and planted with flowers to please his beautiful wife.
Hardly had he spoken before a voice came from heaven, saying: "Nebuchadnezzar, your kingdom has departed from you. You shall lose your reason and dwell apart from men and be like unto the beasts of the field."
And it happened as the voice said, for that very same hour Nebuchadnezzar lost his mind and went forth from his beautiful palace and many friends and much wealth and dwelt in the fields and ate grass like an ox and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, his hair grew long like the feathers of an eagle and the nails of his fingers and toes became like the claws of birds. Everybody shunned him and spoke of him as the mad king who was no longer fit to rule.
Seven years passed, and one day Nebuchadnezzar lifted up his eyes to heaven and suddenly his understanding came back to him. He returned to h kingdom and put on again his raiment and lived again in his palace, surrounded by his nobles. But he was no longer the vain and proud man, but a humble king who worshiped God and kept His commandments. He said: "I praise and honor the King of Heaven who is greater than I or any other man."