The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar,
&c.] Whence it appears that this was a true history, and a matter of fact; and not a parable or allegory, as Origen thought, describing the fall of Lucifer or Satan; but relates what befell Nebuchadnezzar himself: nor was the change real as to soul and body; for then he would not have been the same person, not Nebuchadnezzar, and so not he himself punished, but the beast into which he was changed: and though there was a strange alteration, both in his body and mind; in some parts of his body, and perhaps in his voice, in his senses of feeling, tasting, and smelling, in his palate, and appetite, and stomach; in his rational powers, understanding, judgment, and memory; so that he acted like a beast, and choosing to live as one; yet so as to retain the essential parts of a man; his case was, that at once he fell raving mad and distracted, when they first bound him with chains, that he might not hurt himself and others, and afterwards turned him loose into the woods among the wild beasts; or perhaps into one of his parks, among the deer, hares, foxes, and such like creatures; whither he might incline to go, fancying himself to be a beast, and delight to be among them:
and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen;
which he did by choice: so Aben Ezra reports of one in the island of Sardinia, who fled from his parents, and lost his reason, and lived among deer for many years, and went upon his hands and feet like them; and the king of the island going a hunting one day, caught many deer, and among them this man, that was taken for one: his parents came and owned him, and spoke to him, but he answered not; they set before him bread and wine, to eat and drink, but he refused; they then gave him grass with the deer and he ate that; and in the middle of the night made his escape to the deer or the field again.
And his body was wet with the dew of heaven:
lying all night in the woods or fields without clothing:
till his hair was grown like eagles' feathers:
thick, black, and strong; the hairs of his head having not been cut, not his beard shaved for seven years: the Septuagint and Arabic versions read, "as lions":
and his nails like birds' claws:
the nails of his fingers and toes were hard, long, and sharp, like theirs, having not been cut during this time; this shows that the seven times are not to be understood of weeks or months, but of years. Some have understood all this as a real metamorphosis, and that Nebuchadnezzar was changed into a beast; the upper part of him was the form of an ox, and the lower part that of a lion, as Epiphanius F8; so Cyril F9 says of him, that he was changed into a beast, lived in a desert, had the nails and hair of a lion, ate grass like an ox; for he was a beast, not knowing who gave him the kingdom; and so others; closely adhering to the letter of the text, but wrongly, for reasons before given: nor is it to be ascribed merely to any natural disease of body, or melancholy in him, by which the fancy may be so disturbed, as for a person to imagine himself a beast; for though this was the case, yet not through any diseases, such as is called the lycanthropy; an much less to any witchcraft, or any diabolical art, exercised on him; but to the mighty hand of God, taking away the use of his reason, and throwing him into madness and distraction for the demonstration of his power, and humbling the pride of an insolent monarch; not but that God could, if it had been his pleasure, have changed him into a brute, as he turned Lot's wife into a pillar of salt; and as a certain wicked nobleman in Muscovy was turned into a black dog, barking and howling, upon uttering horrible blasphemies against God for some judgment upon him, as Clurerius F11 relates, who had it, he says, from both ear and eye witnesses of it; but such a judgment was not inflicted on Nebuchadnezzar, not are such things usual. Herodotus F12 reports, though he himself did not credit it, of some people among the Scythians, that were every year, for a few days, changed into wolves, and then returned to their former shape again; and Pomponius Mela F13 relates the same of the same people; and the poets frequently speak of such transmutations; but these are all fictions and delusions.