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…
First, we have not so wonderful an opinion of God, or of His word, or of His heaven, as we have of our own acts, although we be never able to do half that Nebuchadnezzar did. Secondly, this is our manner, to attribute all to ourselves, whatsoever it be, riches, honour, health, or knowledge; as though all came by labour, or policy, or art, or literature. If we cannot draw it to one of these, then we think it fortune, although we understand not what fortune is. If we did count ourselves beholden unto God for them, then we would find some time to be thankful unto Him. Lastly, when we overview these matters, this is our solace and comfort, to think these are the things which make me famous and spoken of; and then we end as though it were enough to be pointed at, "Is not this great Babel?" That which one loves seems greater and more precious above all which he loveth not, although they be better than it; so did these buildings seem to Nebuchadnezzar. One would not think that a house were a matter to make a king proud, although it were never so fair; stone walls are not so precious that he should repose all his honour upon lime and mortar. Therefore, as the faithful soul looketh up to God, or upon the Word, or up to Heaven, and saith to itself, Is not this my hope? is not this my joy? is not this my inheritance? so the carnal man, when he looketh upon his buildings, or his ground, or his money, saith to himself, Is not this my joy? is not this my life? is not this my comfort? So, while he pores and gapes upon it, by little and little the love of it grows more and more in his heart, until at last he hath mind on nothing else. This was the first dotage of Nebuchadnezzar; the second was, "which I have built by the might of my power." What a vaunt was this, to say that he built Babylon! when all histories accord that it was built by Semiramis before Nebuchadnezzar was born. Therefore, why doth he boast of that which another did? The answer is easy. We see that everyone doth labour to obscure the fame of others, that they may shine alone, and bear the name themselves, especially in great buildings; for if they do but add or alter anything in schools, or hospitals, or colleges, they look straight to be counted the founders of them, and so the founders of many places are forgotten. So it is like that Nebuchadnezzar did add or alter something in this city, and therefore, he took all to himself, as the fashion hath been ever since. Lastly, whom he putteth in "for the honour of my majesty," he showeth that he was of Absalom's humour, who, although he had deserved shame, yet he would have fame. So when Nebuchadnezzar came to himself again, he showed that when he sought his own honour, honour departed from him, and he was made like a beast; but when he sought God's honour, honour came to him again, and he was made a king. Thus you have heard what Nebuchadnezzar spake in secret, as though God would display the thoughts and pride of such builders. These are the meditations of princes and noblemen; when they behold their buildings, or open their coffers, or look upon their train swimming after them, they think as Nebuchadnezzar thought, "Is not this great Babel?" Is not this great glory? Is not this the train that maketh me reverenced in the streets? Are not these the things which shall make my children rich? Is not this the house that shall keep my name, and cause me to be remembered, and make them which are children now to speak of me hereafter? Now Babel is destroyed, and the king that built it laid in the dust; had it not been better to have built a house in Heaven, which might have received him when he died? Thus you have heard what the voice spake from earth; now you shall hear what the voice spake from Heaven; for it followeth, "While the word was in the king's mouth, a voice came from Heaven, and said, O king, to thee be it spoken; thy kingdom shall be taken from thee, etc. God will warn him no more by dreams nor by prophets, as He did; but His judgments shall speak (Job 33:14). The first note in this verse is the time when God spake from Heaven. "Pride." saith Solomon, "goeth before the fall"; so when pride had spoken, then judgment spake, even while the proud word was in his mouth. See how God shows that these brags offended Him, and, therefore, He judges while he speaks. How short is the triumph of the wicked! When they begin to crow, God stoppeth their breath, and judgment seizeth upon them when they think no danger near them. We cannot sin so quickly, but God seeth us as quickly. How many have been stricken while the oath have been in their mouths! as Jeroboam was stricken while he struck, that they might see why they were stricken, and yet all this will not keep us from swearing.
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?