King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was given an unusual opportunity to learn about what happens to those who walk in pride in Daniel 4. It was a hard lesson to learn, but an important one.
The king had a dream that troubled him, and only the prophet Daniel was able to provide the interpretation (Daniel 4:6–7). Nebuchadnezzar explained the dream: he had seen a great and glorious tree (Daniel 4:10–12). As he watched the tree, he saw someone come down from heaven and give an order that the tree be chopped down, but the stump was to remain (Daniel 4:14–15). Remarkably, the one who had come from heaven began to speak of the tree as if it were a person. From those words, the king understood that the person the tree signified would share with the animals the grass of the earth (Daniel 4:15) and his mind would be changed from that of a man to that of a beast for seven periods of time (Daniel 4:16). This sentence was pronounced so that all would know what happens to those who walk in pride (Daniel 4:37), that God is the Ruler of all, and that He bestows authority on whomever He wishes (Daniel 4:17).
As Daniel explains the meaning of the dream, he is alarmed, realizing it is about Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:19). The king certainly walked in pride (Daniel 4:37), and God planned to humble him. The tree that was cut down in the dream was Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:20–22), who would lose his glory and become like a beast for “seven times” so he would learn that God is the one who gives authority (Daniel 4:23–25). Once Nebuchadnezzar humbled himself before God, his kingdom would be returned to him (Daniel 4:26–27).
As the narrative of Daniel 4 continues, Nebuchadnezzar describes that all these things happened just as the dream predicted. A year later, Nebuchadnezzar was filled with pride as he commended himself for the greatness of the kingdom he had built (Daniel 4:29–30). While he was still speaking, Nebuchadnezzar lost his mind and became like a beast (Daniel 4:30–33). After the prophesied time, Nebuchadnezzar’s reason returned to him, and he humbled himself before God, exclaiming that God is sovereign and does according to His own will (Daniel 4:34–35). Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom was restored, and, this time, rather than view it with personal pride, he praised, exalted, and honored God:
“His dominion is an eternal dominion;
his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
All the peoples of the earth
are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:34–35).
Nebuchadnezzar had learned what happens to those who walk in pride.
God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (see Psalm 138:6; Proverbs 3:34; Matthew 23:12; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). Jesus modeled the importance of humility—the willingness to treat others as worthy of more honor than oneself (Philippians 2:1–11). The quality of being humble before God (Micah 6:8) and treating others accordingly is demonstrated clearly in many ways in the Bible. Some of the lessons on humility show what happens to those who walk in pride (Daniel 4:37).