The biblical account of Nebuchadnezzar reveals a king who moves between the extremes of subjecting himself and his empire to God and declaring himself lord of the known world. It seems his self-adulation would escalate to a pinnacle, and then he would be smacked down and realize that there was only one true God.

The biblical account of Nebuchadnezzar reveals a king who moves between the extremes of subjecting himself and his empire to God and declaring himself lord of the known world. It seems his self-adulation would escalate to a pinnacle, and then he would be smacked down and realize that there was only one true God.


One such incident puts the king in the presence of a divine being. In Daniel 3, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego find themselves at the center of Nebuchadnezzar’s rage. The three sons of the nation of Israel refuse to pay homage to an image of gold that was 90 feet tall. The king brings the trio in for questioning, and they declare their faithfulness to the God of Israel. Further incensed, he has them cast into a fiery furnace. They are protected by what Nebuchadnezzar describes as "the son of God,” and emerge unscathed without even the smell of fire on their clothes.


The king is stunned. He has a dramatic change of heart, and declares that no one speak against the God of Israel upon pain of death.


Of Nebuchadnezzar’s multiple encounters with the divine, his experience in Daniel 4 might be the most memorable in terms of uniqueness. The king has a dream about an immense tree, which Daniel interprets to mean that Nebuchadnezzar will go insane for seven years because of his pride. The vision is fulfilled as one day Nebuchadnezzar reflects on Babylon as a testimony to his own “glorious majesty,” and immediately loses his sanity. He spends the next seven years living like a wild animal and eating “grass like oxen.” When his sanity is restored, the king again acknowledges God’s sovereignty over all who dwell on the earth.


Reflecting on Nebuchadnezzar’s spiritual changes, I was often perplexed by his inability to be permanently moved by the close encounters with God’s miraculous hand. Having seen the very laws of nature defied, how could he fall back on his own pride?


However, these thoughts were checked with a very simple self-assessment: I noticed that I frequently responded to blessings in my life with an increased sense of self-sufficiency. Something as benign as the successful repair of a household item would leave me in an independent mindset of doing things on my own. In like manner, material gains led to steps away from dependency on God.


My convictions were amplified when I considered that Nebuchadnezzar was the head of a world superpower. His distractions were not those of a member of the public, but all the beauty, power and indulgences available from the known world of his day. How could he not drift into a spirit of self-admiration? In his position, I would probably cave in to such thoughts in a matter of hours, not years.


The disappointment I harbored for a Babylonian king was transformed to empathy. There was a Nebuchadnezzar in me, and it was time to repent.


Robert Mann is managing editor of eChristianNews.com and can be contacted at rmann@echristiannews.com.