What does Daniel 4:15 mean?
ESV: 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.
NIV: But let the stump and its roots, bound with iron and bronze, remain in the ground, in the grass of the field. " ‘Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth.
NASB: Yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground, But with a band of iron and bronze around it In the new grass of the field; And let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, And let him share with the animals in the grass of the earth.
CSB: But leave the stump with its roots in the ground and with a band of iron and bronze around it in the tender grass of the field. Let him be drenched with dew from the sky and share the plants of the earth with the animals.
NLT: But leave the stump and the roots in the ground, bound with a band of iron and bronze and surrounded by tender grass. Now let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the wild animals among the plants of the field.
KJV: Nevertheless leave the stump of his roots in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth:
NKJV: Nevertheless leave the stump and roots in the earth, Bound with a band of iron and bronze, In the tender grass of the field. Let it be wet with the dew of heaven, And let him graze with the beasts On the grass of the earth.
Verse Commentary:
This verse makes a subtle, but important shift in perspective. As part of a troubling dream (Daniel 4:4–5), King Nebuchadnezzar saw a massive tree (Daniel 4:11). This was a renowned and valuable resource, providing shade and food for all (Daniel 4:12). But it was to be cut down and all its beautiful leaves, branches, and fruit were to be scattered (Daniel 4:13–14). Here, the angelic messenger starts speaking of the tree as "it," then transitions to speaking of "he" and "him." This relates to the idea that the tree symbolizes Nebuchadnezzar himself (Daniel 4:20–22).

Although the tree is cut down, the stump is to be left intact. This is an important detail, as the stump and roots retain the potential to grow in the future. This imagery is used in other Scriptures to depict something ruined, or defeated, which yet survives and returns to a state of growth (Isaiah 6:13; 11:1; Job 14:7–9). As the king's vision is untangled, Daniel reveals that Nebuchadnezzar's power will be ruined, but not eliminated (Daniel 4:26).

The reference to binding the stump is part of the transition from symbolism to something more direct. The stump is being "bound" into the grass. The angelic speaker then begins to speak of "him," meaning the same entity once depicted by the tree. This being is depicted as soaked in grassy dew and confined to an animal-like existence. Upcoming verses will speak of this person being plagued by a period of insanity, as both judgment and education in humility (Daniel 4:16–17). This transition to a person, rather than a tree, is likely what most bothered King Nebuchadnezzar.
Verse Context:
Daniel 4:1–18 introduces another of Nebuchadnezzar's mysterious dreams (Daniel 2:2–3). As before, the king summoned his wise men to interpret the experience. They failed, but Nebuchadnezzar also spoke with Daniel (Daniel 2:46–47). This time the king told his wise men and Daniel what he had dreamed. This sets the stage for Daniel's interpretation and the fulfillment of another prophecy.
Chapter Summary:
Daniel 4 opens with a proclamation in which Babylon's king, Nebuchadnezzar, declares what God has done for him. He recalls yet another frightening dream (Daniel 2:1). He sees a tree cut down to the stump, and a man made like an animal. Once again, only Daniel could interpret the dream's meaning. The news is terrible: the king will be driven insane for "seven periods of time" until he learns humility. A year later, this happens. Also as promised, Nebuchadnezzar humbles himself and regains his senses and his throne. He praises God for this miraculous work.
Chapter Context:
Daniel chapter 1 depicted Babylon's King Nebuchadnezzar as powerful. Chapter 2 showed his vindictive nature. His extreme vanity was on display in chapter 3. Daniel chapter 4 records his submission, repentance, and return to prominence as the King of Babylon, all under God's humiliating judgment. Chapters 5, 6, and 7 continue to speak about Gentile rulers and related prophecies.
Book Summary:
The book of Daniel contains famous Old Testament stories and prophecies. Daniel was taken from the Israelite people and made an advisor for a conquering empire. He demonstrates faithfulness and wisdom during many years serving in this role. Though Daniel does not deliver a public message, Jesus refers to him as a "prophet" (Matthew 24:15). The first portion of the book mostly describes Daniel's interpretations of dreams and other events. The second portion looks ahead to the end times. Daniel is classified in English Bibles as a "major" prophet, meaning the book is relatively long and the content has broad implications. The book of Revelation echoes and expands on many of the same themes.
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