Daniel 4:17

17 The sentence is by the decree of 1the watchers, the decision by the word of 2the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High 3rules the kingdom of men 4and gives it to whom he will and 5sets over it the lowliest of men.'

Daniel 4:17 Meaning and Commentary

Daniel 4:17

This matter is by the decree of the watchers
That is, the cutting down the tree, and what is signified by it, was with the advice, consent, and approbation of the watchers, by whom is generally understood angels; not that they were the authors of this decree, but approvers of it; and were ready, not only to subscribe it, but to execute it; it being against a wicked man, and an oppressor of the Lord's people: they are represented as assessors with God; called into a consultation with him; alluding to the manner of kings and princes, who have their privy council, whom they advise with on occasion; though, properly speaking, nothing of this nature is to be attributed to God, only after the manner of men; see ( 1 Kings 22:19-22 ) and the demand by the word of the Holy Ones;
the same as before, in other words; watchers and Holy Ones being the same, the holy angels; (See Gill on Daniel 4:13): and the decree and the demand the same; or the request F15, or petition; which shows what concern they had in the decree; they only requested it might pass, or be carried into execution; though some understand this of saints on earth, who, in their prayers and supplications, requested for the judgments of God to come down upon this proud monarch: though, after all, it may be best to interpret the whole of the three Persons in the Godhead, who are perfectly pure and holy, essentially and inderivatively; and may be called watchers, because they watch over the good, to bring it upon the Lord's people; and over the evil, to bring it upon their enemies: and to them well agree the decree and the demand; and the rather this may be thought to be the true sense, since this decree is called the decree of the most High, ( Daniel 4:24 ) , and who is expressed in the next clause: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the
kingdom of men;
though men have kingdoms on earth, and multitudes subject to them, yet they are not absolute sovereigns; there is a God that is higher than they, at whose control they are, and does whatsoever he pleases in their kingdoms, of which the event signified in this dream was a proof; and would be brought about on purpose to make it appear that those that live on earth (for, as for the dead, they know nothing what is done on it), both princes and people, might be sufficiently convinced of the truth of it: and giveth it to whomsoever he will;
that is, the kingdom; he takes it from one, and gives it to another; pulls down one, and sets up another, as he pleases; see ( Daniel 2:21 ) : and setteth up over it the basest of men;
or, "the lowest of men" F16; men of the meanest and lowest rank and condition of life, as David was taken from the sheepfold, and made king of Israel; perhaps respect is had to Nebuchadnezzar himself; not to his person, as Saadiah, who says he was short, and low of stature; but to his llater state and condition, when he was taken from among the beasts of the field, and restored to his throne and kingdom.


F15 (atlav) "petitio", Pagninus, Montanus; "postulatio", Munster; "hoc postulatum", Junius & Tremellius; "petitio haec", Piscator.
F16 (Myvna lpv) "humliem hominum". Montanus, Grotius; "humilem inter homines", Pagninus; "humilem virorum", Michaelis; "humillimum hominum", Cocceius.

Daniel 4:17 In-Context

15 But leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, amid the tender grass of the field. Let him be wet with the dew of heaven. Let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth.
16 Let his mind be changed from a man's, and let a beast's mind be given to him; and let seven periods of time pass over him.
17 The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.'
18 This dream I, King Nebuchadnezzar, saw. And you, O Belteshazzar, tell me the interpretation, because all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation, but you are able, for the spirit of the holy gods is in you."
19 Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was dismayed for a while, and his thoughts alarmed him. The king answered and said, "Belteshazzar, let not the dream or the interpretation alarm you." Belteshazzar answered and said, "My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies!

Cross References 5

  • 1. [See ver. 13 above]
  • 2. [See ver. 13 above]
  • 3. ver. 25, 32; Daniel 5:21
  • 4. Jeremiah 27:5
  • 5. See 1 Samuel 2:8