The king spoke, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power…
Nebuchadnezzar had reigned over the kingdom of Chaldea for forty years. At the end of this long lapse of time, sated with victory, and weary of excitement, he determined to dwell at Babylon, and gather about him, in this city of his greatness, enduring monuments of his wide-spread renown. In enlarging upon this portion of Nebuchadnezzar's history, we shall be guided by the three prominent points.
I. HIS SIN. It was no crime in Nebuchadnezzar that he was a great man. There was no harm at all in being the ruler of a mighty kingdom, provided that his elevation to so high a place had been accomplished by honest means. His sin was pride. His success, in everything he undertook, called forth no gratitude to God. His constant prosperity only hardened his heart. He drank with greediness the fulsome flatteries with which fawning courtiers filled his ears. Pride has its degrees. It is measured by circumstances. None of us can reach the giddy height where Chaldea's monarch stood. The hero, of nerve and judgment, and military skill, who can direct the movements of armies, and plan the successful assault, and head the fierce onset, is proud of this. The man of letters, who can read with fluency the languages of the dead, and tell the measure of the stars, and trace out the pathway of comets, is more than gratified with his complete success. The individual possessed of neither genius nor learning, but who, by plodding industry and far-sighted investments, or by lucky speculations, gathers up a heap of gold, gazes upon it with heartfelt satisfaction, as the fruit of his labours. We need not go into the higher ranks of life to witness the effects of pride. They may be found in the humblest mechanic, the farmer, the day-labourer of any sort. (Deuteronomy 8:11-13, 14-17.)
II. HIS PUNISHMENT. Daniel had foretold it in these dreadful words: "O bring Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken," etc. No further time is allowed for repentance. The day of mercy had gone by. The same hour was the sentence carried into execution. Had trembling princes bowed before his throne, anxious to win his favour, or turn aside his wrath? Now is he banished from the abodes of men, an object of pity or contempt; "and none so poor to do him reverence." Did a hundred provinces send in their yearly tribute, to swell the coiners of the king, and purchase dainties for his festive board? Grovelling in the dust, crushed in mind, lost to all the tastes and habits of a man, "he did eat grass like an ox." Had the carved and gilded roofs of magnificent palaces shielded him from the heat and cold? Not even a tattered tent was left. His body was wet with the dew of Heaven, and the pitiless storm spent its fury upon his defenceless head. (Isaiah 14:12.) The degree of punishment is determined by the degree of wide. Few can be guilty to the extent that Nebuchadnezzar was. Few can fall so terribly and so low. But pride is always hateful unto God. Pride will certainly be punished. (Proverbs 16:5; St. James 4:6; Proverbs 29:23.) Can you call to mind no instances, within your own remembrance, in which pride has been most signally punished? Can you think of no one who boasted of the abundance of his wealth, afterward crippled by misfortune, and brought down to want and beggary? (Jeremiah 9:23, 24.) One stage more in Nebuchadnezzar's history is left.
III. HIS REPENTANCE. Seven long years of wretchedness accomplished that blessed work. Listen to his own touching account of it: "At the end of the days I lifted up mine eyes unto Heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honoured Him that liveth for ever and ever." With humble and contrite heart he now confessed that God's judgments, although so terrible, had been good and just. This sincere acknowledgment received its merited reward. The glory and greatness of his kingdom was again restored. How kind and merciful is God! The first and faintest prayer of the returning penitent he heard in Heaven. Does the possession of money fill your heart with delight, and lessen your desire for bettor things? God will find means to take it away. Are the powers of mind which He has given used only to advance your selfish purposes, or turned against the cause of truth? The palsy or madness may be near to put an end to your hopes.
(J. N. Norton.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?