on Daniel 4 :25
on Daniel 4 :25
That they shall drive thee from men - That is, thou shalt be driven from the habitations of men; from the place which thou hast occupied among men. The prophet does not say "who" would do this, but he says that it "would" be done. The language is such as would be used of one who should become a maniac, and be thrust out of the ordinary society in which he had moved. The Greek of Theodotion here is: καὶ σὲ ἐκδιώξουσιν kai se ekdiōxousin. The Codex Chisianus has, "And the Most High and his angels shall run upon thee - κατατρἑχουσιν katatrechousin - leading thee into prison," or into detention - εἰς φυλακὴν eis phulakēn - "and shall thrust thee into a desert place." The general sense is, that he would be in such a state as to be treated like a beast rather than a man; that he would be removed from his ordinary abodes, and be a miserable and neglected outcast.
This commences the account of the calamity that was to come upon Nebuchadnezzar, and as there have been many opinions entertained as to the nature of this malady, it may be proper to notice some of them. Compare Bertholdt, pp. 286-292. Some have held that there was a real metamorphosis into some form of an animal, though his rational soul remained, so that he was able to acknowledge God and give praise to him. Cedrenus held that he was transformed into a beast, half lion and half ox. An unknown author, mentioned by Justin, maintained that the transformation was into an animal resembling what was seen in the visions of Ezekiel - the cherubim - composed of an eagle, a lion, an ox, and a man. In support of the opinion that there was a real transformation, an appeal has been made to the common belief among ancient nations, that such metamorphoses had actually occurred, and especially to what Herodotus (iv. 105) says of the "Neuri" (Νευροι Neuroi) "It is said by the Scythians, as well as by the Greeks who dwell in Scythia, that once in every year they are all of them changed into wolves, and that after remaining in that state for the space of a few days, they resume their former shape."
Herodotus adds, however, "This I do not believe, although they swear that it is true." An appeal is also made to an assertion of Apuleius, who says of himself that he was changed into an ass; and also to the "Metamorphoses" of Ovid. This supposed transformation of Nebuchadnezzar some have ascribed to Satan. - John Wier "de Prcestigiis Daemonum," I. 26, John 4:1. Others have attributed it to the arts of magic or incantation, and suppose that it was a change in appearance only. Augustine ("de Civit. Dei." lib. xviii. cap. 17), referring to what is said of Diomed and his followers on their return from Troy, that they were changed into birds, says that Varro, in proof of the truth of this, appeals to the fact that Circe changed Ulysses and his companions into beasts; and to the Arcadians, who, by swimming over a certain lake, were changed into wolves, and that "if they ate no man's flesh, at the end of nine years they swam over the same lake and became men again."
Varro farther mentions the case of a man by the name of Daemonetus, who, tasting of the sacrifices which the Arcadians offered (a child), was turned into a wolf, and became a man again at the end of two years. Augustine himself says, that when he was in Italy, he heard a report that there were women there, who, by giving one a little drug in cheese, had the power of turning him into an ass. See the curious discussion of Augustine how far this could be true, in his work "de Civit. Dei," lib. xviii. cap. 18. He supposes that under the influence of drugs men might be made to suppose they were thus transformed, or to have a recollection of what passed in such a state "as if" it were so. Cornelius a Lapide supposes that the transformation in the case of Nebuchadnezzar went only so far that his knees were bent in the other direction, like those of animals, and that he walked like animals. Origen, and many of those who have coincided with him in his allegorical mode of interpreting the Scriptures, supposed that the whole of this account is an allegory, designed to represent the fall of Satan, and his restoration again to the favor of God - in accordance with his belief of the doctrine of universal salvation.
Others suppose that the statement here means merely that there was a formidable conspiracy against him; that he was dethroned and bound with fetters; that he was then expelled from the court, and driven into exile; and that, as such, he lived a miserable life, finding a precarious subsistence in woods and wilds, among the beasts of the forest, until, by another revolution, he was restored again to the throne. It is not necessary to examine these various opinions, and to show their absurdity, their puerility, or their falsehood. Some of them are simply ridiculous, and none of them are demanded by any fair interpretation of the chapter. It may seem, perhaps, to be undignified even to refer to such opinions now; but this may serve to illustrate the method in which the Bible has been interpreted in former times, and the steps which have been taken before men arrived at a clear and rational interpretation of the sacred volume. It is indeed painful to reflect that such absurdities and puerilities have been in any way connected with the interpretation of the Word of God; sad to reflect that so many persons, in consequence of them, have discarded the Bible and the interpretations together as equally ridiculous and absurd. The true account in regard to the calamity of Nebuchadnezzar is undoubtedly the following:
(1) He was a maniac - made such by a direct Divine judgment on account of his pride, Daniel 4:30-31. The essential thing in the statement is, that he was deprived of his reason, and that he was treated as a maniac. Compare Introduction to the chapter, II.((1).
(2) The particular form of the insanity with which he was afflicted seems to have been that he imagined himself to be a beast; and, this idea having taken possession of his mind, he acted accordingly. It may be remarked in regard to this,
(a) that such a fancy is no uncommon thing among maniacs. Numerous instances of this may be seen in the various works on insanity - or indeed may be seen by merely visiting a lunatic asylum. One imagines that he is a king, and decks himself out with a scepter and a diadem; another that he is glass, and is filled with excessive anxiety lest he should be broken; others have regarded themselves as deprived of their proper nature as human beings; others as having been once dead, and restored to life again; others as having been dead and sent back into life without a heart; others as existing in a manner unlike any other mortals; others as having no rational soul. See Arnold "on Insanity," I. pp. 176-195. In all these cases, when such a fancy takes possession of the mind, there will be an effort on the part of the patient to act in exact conformity to this view of himself, and his whole conduct will be adapted to it. Nothing can convince him that it is not so; and there is no absurdity in supposing that, if the thought had taken possession of the mind of Nebuchadnezzar that he was a beast, he would live and act as a wild beast - just as it is said that he did.
(b) In itself considered, "if" Nebuchadnezzar was deprived of his reason, and for the cause assigned - his pride, nothing is more probable than that he would be left to imagine himself a beast, and to act like a beast. This would furnish the most striking contrast to his former state; would do most to bring down his pride; and would most effectually show the supremacy of the Most High.
(3) In this state of mind, fancying himself a wild beast, and endeavoring to act in conformity with this view, it is probable that he would be indulged as far as was consistent with his safety. Perhaps the regency would be induced to allow this partly from their long habits of deference to the will of an arbitrary monarch; partly because by this indulgence he would be less troublesome; and partly because a painful spectacle would thus be removed from the palace. We are not to suppose that he was permitted to roam in forests at large without any restraint, and without any supervision whatever. In Babylon, attached to the palace, there were doubtless, as there are all over the East, royal parks or gardens; there is every probability that in these parks there may have been assembled rare and strange animals as a royal menagerie; and it was doubtless in these parks, and among these animals that he was allowed to range. Painful as such a spectacle would be, yet it is not improbable that to such a maniac this would be allowed, as contributing to his gratification, or as a means of restoring him to his right mind.
(4) A king, however wide his empire, or magnifient his court, would be as likely to be subject to mental derangement as any other man. No situation in life can save the human mind from the liability to so overwhelming a calamity, nor should we deem it strange that it should come on a king as well as other men. The condition of Nebuchadnezzar, as represented by himself in this edict, was scarcely more pitiable than that of George III of England, though it is not surprising that in the eighteenth century of the Christian era, and in a Christian land, the treatment of the sovereign in such circumstances was different from that which a monarch received in pagan Babylon.
(5) it cannot be shown that this did not come upon Nebuchadnezzar, as stated in this chapter Daniel 4:30-31, on account of his pride. That he was a proud and haughty monarch is apparent from all his history; that God would take some effectual means to humble him is in accordance with his dealings with mankind; that this would be a most effectual means of doing it cannot be doubted. No one can prove, in respect to any judgment that comes upon mankind, that it is not on account of some sin reigning in the heart; and when it is affirmed in a book claiming to be inspired, that a particular calamity is brought upon men on account of their transgressions, it cannot be demonstrated that the statement is not true. If these remarks are correct, then no well-founded objection can lie against the account here respecting the calamity that came upon this monarch in Babylon. This opinion in regard to the nature of the affliction which came upon Nebuchadnezzar, is probably what is now generally entertained, and it certainly meets all the circumstances of the case, and frees the narrative from material objection.
As a confirmation of its truth, I will copy here the opinion of Dr. Mead, as it is found in his "Medica Sacra:" "All the circumstances of Nebuchadnezzars cage agree so well with a hypochondriacal madness, that to me it appears evident that Nebuchadnezzar was seized with this distemper, and under its influence ran wild into the fields; and that, fancying himself transformed into an ox, he fed on grass after the manner of cattle. Forevery sort of madness is the result of a disturbed imagination; which this unhappy man labored under for full seven years. And through neglect of taking proper care of himself, his hair and nails grew to an uncommon length; whereby the latter, growing thicker and crooked, resembled the claws of birds. Now the ancients called people affected with this kind of madness, λυκάνθρωποι lukanthrōpoi, "wolf-men" - or κυνάνθρωποι kunanthrōpoi, "dog-men" - because they went abroad in the night imitating wolves or dogs; particularly intent upon opening the sepulchres of the dead, and had their legs much ulcerated, either from frequent falls or the bites of dogs. In like manner are the daughters of Proetus related to have been mad, who, as Virgil says, Ecl. vi. 48,
' - implerunt falsis mugitibus agros.'
on Daniel 4 :25