It has been another three months since my last post. My goodness. I have no good excuse. At any rate, let’s jump right into a look at Daniel Chapter 4. I’m going to treat this study a bit differently by presenting the entire text of the chapter first, and then offering some comments. I’ll just introduce it by pointing out that the entire chapter is conveyed from King Nebuchadnezzar’s perspective. He speaks at the beginning based on the ending of the story and then proceeds to tell what happened to him to bring him to a point of offering his praised to God.
King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me.
How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.
I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace. I saw a dream that made me afraid. As I lay in bed the fancies and the visions of my head alarmed me. So I made a decree that all the wise men of Babylon should be brought before me, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. Then the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers came in, and I told them the dream, but they could not make known to me its interpretation. At last Daniel came in before me—he who was named Belteshazzar after the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods—and I told him the dream, saying, “O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation. The visions of my head as I lay in bed were these: I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great. The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the heavens lived in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it.
“I saw in the visions of my head as I lay in bed, and behold, a watcher, a holy one, came down from heaven. He proclaimed aloud and said thus: ‘Chop down the tree and lop off its branches, strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts flee from under it and the birds from its branches. But leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, amid the tender grass of the field. Let him be wet with the dew of heaven. Let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth. Let his mind be changed from a man’s, and let a beast’s mind be given to him; and let seven periods of time pass over him. The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.’ This dream I, King Nebuchadnezzar, saw. And you, O Belteshazzar, tell me the interpretation, because all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation, but you are able, for the spirit of the holy gods is in you.”
Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was dismayed for a while, and his thoughts alarmed him. The king answered and said, “Belteshazzar, let not the dream or the interpretation alarm you.” Belteshazzar answered and said, “My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies! The tree you saw, which grew and became strong, so that its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth, whose leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which beasts of the field found shade, and in whose branches the birds of the heavens lived— it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth. And because the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field, and let him be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven periods of time pass over him,’ this is the interpretation, O king: It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king, that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. And as it was commanded to leave the stump of the roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be confirmed for you from the time that you know that Heaven rules. Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, hand your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”
All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.
At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.
I titled this post “The Lure of AI.” AI, if you for some reason don’t know, stands for Artificial Intelligence and it has been in the news quite a bit lately. Fundamentally, it is the next generation of computer technology that has created software that learns and improves its own functioning. ChatGPT is a recently released version, and Google is testing one called Bard. Just out of curiosity, I decided to give these AI tools a whirl for this Bible Study. Using primarily Bard, and 1 iteration from ChatGPT, I generated 13 commentaries on Daniel 4 in a matter of less than a minute. I won’t bore you with all 13, but here is a synopsis of my process.
I asked BARD and ChatGPT to “write a commentary on Daniel Chapter 4 based on the English Standard Version Bible (ESV).” I received 3 versions from Bard and 1 from ChatGPT. All four were similar in their content. I present the 2nd draft from Bard below because I was interested in the choice of language and formatting of it.
“The chapter opens with Nebuchadnezzar boasting of his greatness and power. He had conquered many nations and built a great empire. He was proud of his accomplishments and thought that he was invincible.
However, God had other plans. One night, Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that he could not understand. He called for his wise men to interpret the dream, but they could not do it. Finally, Daniel was called in. Daniel was a wise man who had been trained in the ways of the Lord. He was able to interpret the dream and tell Nebuchadnezzar what it meant.
The dream told Nebuchadnezzar that he would be driven from his kingdom and live like an animal for seven years. This was God’s way of humbling Nebuchadnezzar and teaching him that God is the one true God.
Nebuchadnezzar was humbled by the dream and by the experience that followed. He realized that he was not invincible and that God was in control. He repented of his pride and turned to God.
After seven years, Nebuchadnezzar was restored to his kingdom. He learned a valuable lesson about humility and the sovereignty of God.
The sovereignty of God: God is in control of all things, even the lives of kings.
The need for humility: We should not be proud of our accomplishments, but should always remember that God is the one who gives us power and success.
The importance of repentance: When we sin, we should repent and turn to God. He is always willing to forgive us.
We should be careful not to become proud of our accomplishments. We should always remember that God is the one who gives us power and success.
If we do sin, we should repent and turn to God. He is always willing to forgive us.
We should learn from Nebuchadnezzar’s experience and humble ourselves before God.”
This is not really a bad commentary. All 4 of them made the (erroneous) statement that the chapter opens with Nebuchadnezzar’s boast about his greatness when in fact he’s boasting of the greatness of God. Otherwise, they all summarized the story and then offered some sort of commentary afterwards.
I then asked Bard to “write a Christian devotional about Daniel Chapter 4 like Chuck Swindoll would write.” Draft #2 is shown below. I felt it to be the most similar to Swindoll’s approach, but all 3 drafts were not bad.
The Humbling of Nebuchadnezzar
Nebuchadnezzar was a great king. He had conquered many lands and built a vast empire. He was proud of his accomplishments and thought himself to be invincible. But one day, God humbled him.
In a dream, Nebuchadnezzar saw a huge tree that grew to the heavens. The tree provided food and shelter for all the animals of the forest. But then a decree went out from heaven to cut down the tree. The tree was cut down, and its stump was left to wither in the ground.
Daniel interpreted the dream for Nebuchadnezzar. The tree represented the king himself. The decree to cut down the tree represented God’s judgment on Nebuchadnezzar’s pride.
For seven years, Nebuchadnezzar was driven from his palace and lived like an animal. He ate grass and lived in the fields. He was drenched with dew from heaven and his hair grew like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws.
At the end of the seven years, Nebuchadnezzar’s sanity returned. He praised God and acknowledged that God is sovereign over all. He also said, “I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because all his works are true and his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble” (Daniel 4:37).
Nebuchadnezzar’s story is a reminder that God is in control. No matter how powerful or successful we may be, we are nothing without God. When we forget this, God will humble us. But if we humble ourselves before God, he will exalt us in due time.
Are you proud of your accomplishments? Do you think you are invincible? If so, this story is a warning to you. God is sovereign over all, and he will humble those who walk in pride.
Are you humble before God? Do you acknowledge that he is the one who gives you your strength and success? If so, this story is a reminder that God will exalt you in due time.
Lord, help me to be humble before you. Forgive me for my pride, and help me to acknowledge that you are the one who gives me my strength and success. I pray that you would exalt me in due time, for your glory. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
I then asked Bard to “write a devotional about Daniel Chapter 4 like Joel Osteen would write it.” Here is one of the 3 similar results:
The Power of Humility
Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful king who ruled over the Babylonian empire. He was a proud man, and he thought he was invincible. But one day, God humbled him.
In Daniel 4, we read that Nebuchadnezzar had a dream about a great tree that was cut down. The dream was interpreted by Daniel, who told Nebuchadnezzar that the tree represented him. God was saying that Nebuchadnezzar would be humbled and lose his kingdom.
And that’s exactly what happened. Nebuchadnezzar was driven from his palace and lived like an animal for seven years. During that time, he learned the importance of humility. He realized that he was not God, and that he needed to humble himself before God.
When Nebuchadnezzar finally humbled himself, God restored his kingdom to him. And Nebuchadnezzar learned an important lesson: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
What does this mean for us?
The story of Nebuchadnezzar is a reminder that we are all human beings, and that we all need to humble ourselves before God. When we are proud, we are setting ourselves up for failure. But when we humble ourselves, God will exalt us.
So if you’re struggling with pride, I encourage you to take a lesson from Nebuchadnezzar. Humble yourself before God, and He will lift you up.
Here are some practical steps you can take to humble yourself:
Admit your weaknesses and shortcomings.
Be willing to serve others.
Be quick to forgive others.
Be grateful for what you have.
Put others before yourself. When you humble yourself, you will find that God will bless you in ways you never imagined.”
Finally, I asked Bard to “write a Hellfire and Brimstone sermon based on Daniel Chapter 4.” Again, similar but different results. However, interestingly, 2 of the 3 drafts erroneously included Daniel being thrown into the lion’s den by Nebuchadnezzar, which doesn’t happen until chapter 6 and which was done by an entirely different king and political realm. Aside from that, here’s the one I liked the best (with the error highlighted in red:
“The Humbling of Nebuchadnezzar
In the book of Daniel, we read the story of Nebuchadnezzar, a powerful king who was humbled by God. Nebuchadnezzar was a proud man, and he thought that he was greater than God. But God showed him that he was nothing without God’s power.
In Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar has a dream about a great tree. The tree is so tall that it reaches to the heavens, and it provides food and shelter for all the animals of the forest. But then, a voice speaks from heaven and says, “Cut down the tree!”
The next morning, Nebuchadnezzar wakes up and immediately remembers his dream. He calls for his wise men and asks them to interpret it. But the wise men cannot understand the dream. They tell Nebuchadnezzar that they have never seen anything like it before.
Finally, Daniel is called in to interpret the dream. Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar that the tree in his dream represents himself. He says that God has given Nebuchadnezzar great power and authority, but that he has become proud and arrogant. He says that God is going to humble Nebuchadnezzar by taking away his power and making him live like an animal for seven years.
Nebuchadnezzar is furious when he hears Daniel’s interpretation. He has Daniel thrown into a lions’ den, but God miraculously delivers Daniel from the lions. —– NOPE! [Note: Google does list a disclaimer with Bard that it is a Beta version and may not return completely accurate information.)
After seven years, Nebuchadnezzar is restored to his throne. He has learned his lesson, and he never forgot that God is the sovereign ruler of the universe.
The story of Nebuchadnezzar is a reminder that we should never be proud. God is the one who gives us everything we have, and he can take it away just as easily. We should always be humble and grateful to God for his blessings.
But what about those who do not repent of their pride? What about those who continue to live in sin? What will happen to them?
The Bible tells us that those who do not repent will be condemned to hell. Hell is a place of eternal torment, where the wicked will be punished for their sins. It is a place of fire and brimstone, where the damned will suffer for all eternity.
I do not want to go to hell. I do not want to be punished for my sins. That is why I have repented of my sins and turned to Jesus Christ. Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins. He rose from the dead, and he offers me the gift of eternal life.
If you do not know Jesus Christ, I urge you to turn to him today. He is the only one who can save you from hell.
Do not wait until it is too late.”
I’ll leave you to ponder these results and think about Daniel 4. I want to comment, though, on the larger reason for this post. While the internet is useful and AI seems to be an interesting additional development – and I’m not going to comment on the fears of some that AI could get out of control and doom us all as has been depicted numerous times in the arts – I want to comment on the use of AI and the internet in general for Bible Study. I’m the first to admit that I appreciate the usefulness of these tools and find them very helpful in doing research. However, just as Nebuchadnezzar was tripped up by his pride and needed to repent, so it goes with any shortcuts that we might choose to substitute for the real work of reading, studying, and understanding God’s Word. We should always approach His Word with humility and seek to gather what He desires for us to glean from it through the work of the Holy Spirit living in us (as Christians). If we get too puffed up, or even just lazy, and rush our approach to Scripture, we set ourselves up to be humbled by God just as Nebuchadnezzar did.
On a side note – I had a humorous thought as I was writing this. Do you remember how easily the Israelites conquered the first city after they entered the promised land. It was Jericho. Basically they did nothing except follow God’s plan and God defeated the city for them. You can read about it in Joshua Chapter 6. However, one of the Israelites decided not to completely obey God and pridefully took some of the spoils of the defeat for himself, even though God and explicitly directed them not to do that. Also, pridefully, the Israelites launched an attack on the next town without consulting God, assuming that He was just going to continue to bless them despite the sin that they harbored. You can read about their defeat in Joshua Chapter 7.
Oh…. the name of the town that defeated them?