What does Daniel 4:32 mean?
ESV: 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.”
NIV: You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.'
NASB: and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the animals of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.’
CSB: You will be driven away from people to live with the wild animals, and you will feed on grass like cattle for seven periods of time, until you acknowledge that the Most High is ruler over human kingdoms, and he gives them to anyone he wants."
NLT: You will be driven from human society. You will live in the fields with the wild animals, and you will eat grass like a cow. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.’
KJV: And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.
NKJV: And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.”
Verse Commentary:
The king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, dreamed of a prospering tree which was sentenced to be cut to a stump. This dream also featured a decree for a man to be driven to animal-like madness (Daniel 4:10–17). Daniel confirmed that this was a prophecy: the king would be judged to make him humble before God (Daniel 4:22–27). A year passed before the prophecy was fulfilled (Daniel 4:28–29). Nebuchadnezzar was smugly looking out over his kingdom when a heavenly voice declared his punishment had begun (Daniel 4:30–31). As predicted, Nebuchadnezzar would be ostracized from society. He would eat grass like an ox; this either means he would think of himself as an animal or simply have a mindless, animalistic insanity.

Fortunately, this sentence was not permanent. It would last "seven periods of time." Scholars vary on what those periods were. Other references to "times" in Daniel are generally interpreted as "years" (Daniel 7:25). The next verse says the king suffered long enough for his hair and fingernails to become unkempt (Daniel 4:33). Earlier this passage referred to "twelve months" (Daniel 4:29) rather than "one year." There are no historical records of Babylon's king being incapacitated for seven years, let alone re-taking the throne afterwards. For those reasons, some interpreters believe this insanity lasted seven weeks, or months, or some other, shorter span. What's more important is the purpose of the judgment: humility. Only when the king came to accept that God, the "Most High," was sovereign, was his mind and kingdom restored (Daniel 4:34).

Undoubtedly, as Nebuchadnezzar looked with pride upon Babylon, he considered himself the most exalted ruler on earth. In earlier incidents, he arrogantly assumed that his will could even overcome that of a god (Daniel 3:15). In this period of humiliation, he would learn a hard lesson. The One True God is infinitely more exalted and powerful than any earthly ruler. Nebuchadnezzar would leave his beautiful, comfortable palace and live like an animal. This would drain his pride and replace it with an awe of the Lord (James 4:6).
Verse Context:
Daniel 4:28–37 records the fulfillment of Nebuchadnezzar's dream, which Daniel had faithfully interpreted (Daniel 4:4–27). As God said would happen, the king's arrogance is judged with humiliation and insanity. Only when Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges the supremacy of the Lord is he restored to his right mind. The passage returns to where the chapter began: with the king's praise for God's power and majesty (Daniel 4:1–3).
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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