Nebuchadnezzar staggered as if waking from a dream. Try as he might, he couldn’t shake the hazy fog that wrapped around his mind, blocking any memory of recent events. The last thing he remembered was taking a walk in the royal palace. Surveying the splendor of his wealth and fame, a boast had sprung unheeded to his lips.
“Look at this great city of Babylon!” he’d declared. “By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.” (Daniel 4:30)
His heart jumped as another memory surfaced. The words had barely left his mouth when a booming voice had filled his ears, his mind, his entire consciousness. “O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom. 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.’” (Daniel 4:31-32)
Horrified, Nebuchadnezzar looked down. He was standing on all fours in the midst of the forest. His hair lay limp against his cheeks, caked with dirt and leaves. His entire body needed a shave. Leaning back on his hunches, he flinched at the sight of his gnarled hands. His nails had grown so long, they curved over. He tried to wipe his hands clean against his torso, but they only picked up more grime as they mixed in with the dew that wet his body.
Slowly, painfully, Nebuchadnezzar stood. He shivered as the dew drops coursed over him. He groaned, feeling very much like an animal shaking itself after a wet dip.
As he stood, his memory came crashing back. The dream, Daniel’s warning. Everything had happened just as the Hebrew said – he, the great king, had dwelt alongside the beasts of the forest.
Sinking back down to his knees, Nebuchadnezzar spat out the remnants of his last grassy meal and spoke with the understanding of a man for the first time in seven years.
“Blessed [be] the Most High! Praise and Honor to Him who lives forever! For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have you done?’
Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.” (Daniel 4:34-37)
As he spoke, his nobles followed the sound of his voice and helped him back to the palace, to his throne. But things were different now. Nebuchadnezzar had his human understanding back, but he now carried the wisdom of the beasts who know instinctively that the Lord is God.