Every time I teach this chapter, I have confused students. It’s not my fault – they’re confused when they come to class after working independently on the chapter. Of course, by the time they leave, all confusion is cleared away. Okay, I’m probably not that good, but I can help with a few things.
Here’s what confuses them. The chapter starts with Nebuchadnezzar making wonderful statements about the Most High God. Then we read about his crazy dream with the tree and about his incredible arrogance (“Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” v. 30). Then we hear him praising and exalting God again at the end.
This is not a schizophrenic king who can’t make up his mind whether to praise God or himself. He doesn’t start with great exaltation for the Most High God and then regress into his snotty old ways. (Though, if he did, he wouldn’t be the first or last person to do just that.) The king is telling a story, so the chapter starts with him saying, “Hey! I’ve got something to say about how great God is, and I know He’s great because of what He did for me. Let me tell you about it…”
Nebuchadnezzar is doing what we like to call “giving a testimony.” He’s a witness to what God has done in his life. Then the bulk of the chapter is the story of God’s amazing work in his life. At the end of the chapter (v.37), he returns to the present and says, “Now you get it, right? You see why I praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven?” And we should say, “Wow, no kidding, Nebuchadnezzar. That’s quite a God!”