Question from a reader in Romania: Jehovah’s Witnesses base their 1914 doctrine on the prophecy found in Daniel 4:10-17.  Could you please give me the correct meaning of this prophecy according to your understanding?

ANSWER: The prophecy centers on King Nebuchadnezzar. In fact, he was the one whom God caused to have the dream, which Daniel was inspired to interpret and record for us.

The dream involved an gigantic tree that Nebuchadnezzar described thusly: “Now the visions of my head upon my bed I happened to be beholding, and, look! a tree in the midst of the earth, the height of which was immense. The tree grew up and became strong, and its very height finally reached the heavens, and it was visible to the extremity of the whole earth. Its foliage was fair, and its fruit was abundant, and there was food for all on it. Under it the beast of the field would seek shade, and on its boughs the birds of the heavens would dwell, and from it all flesh would feed itself.”

At the time the Nebuchadnezzar had the dream he was presiding over the kingdom of Babylonia, which was the largest empire that had ever existed up until then. It had conquered many lands, including Assyria, Judah, Moab and Edom, Tyre and even Egypt. When the Persians took over the kingdom there were 120 satraps. A satrap was a governor of a province, like a viceroy of the modern British imperial system. So, Babylon ruled over 120 jurisdictional districts called satrapies.

As Daniel indicated Nebuchadnezzar’s rulership extended to the extremities of the earth. The king was represented by the immense tree and as the account goes on to show the king of Babylon was forced from his throne for seven times, which in his case turned out to be seven literal years and then his sanity and kingdom were restored to him. 

Since its inception the Watchtower Society has taught that the immense tree actually represented the kingdom of Judah, which Nebuchadnezzar had cut down. And the seven times are interpreted to be 2,520 years. But there is no justification in connecting the “seven times” to the “appointed times” allotted to the nations to trample upon “Jerusalem.” Jesus was referring to a future desolation, not what had already occurred. (See article: The Gentile Times.)

And is it reasonable that the kingdom of Judah ought to be likened to an immense tree that was “visible to the extremity of the earth”? In what way was the tiny and relatively insignificant kingdom of Judah a haven for the “beast of the field”?

And how did all flesh feed itself by means of Judah? How did Judah extend its rule over the extremity of the earth?

True, during the glory days of Solomon the Queen of Sheba is said to have come from the ends of the earth to marvel at Solomon’s wisdom and the glory of his kingdom, but the kingdom did not last. The 10 tribes were ripped away from Jerusalem and had already been conquered by Assyria before the remaining Judean kingdom was felled by the Chaldeans. So, it is unreasonable that the diminished kingdom of Judah ought to be described in such grandiose terms as applied to Babylon.

But what is meant by the fact that the Most High set up over the world the lowliest one of mankind? Although Nebuchadnezzar was lifted up from his lowly state, surely it applies also to the one who is envisioned in the 7th chapter of Daniel as “someone like a son of man.” After all, every prophecy of Daniel concludes with the coming of the messiah and kingdom.

But here is the problem with the Watchtower’s interpretation: The purpose of God in removing the haughty and giving the kingdom to the lowly is so that people may know that the Most High is Ruler over mankind. Nebuchadnezzar certainly came to that realization. But were any of the political rulers of mankind forced to recognize the supremacy of the Most High back in 1914? Obviously not.

So, does the lesson imposed upon Nebuchadnezzar back then have any prophetic value as regards the coming of the kingdom? Yes, it does.

As Jehovah’s Witnesses ought to know, prophecy interprets prophecy. That being so, the prophet Ezekiel, who was a contemporary of Daniel and also an exile in Babylon, received a similar vision from God regarding a massive tree with its top in the heavens under whose shade all the populous nations dwelt. Like the tree in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream God commanded that the tree be cut down. Its felling is said to rock the world and is described as occurring in the “day belonging to Jehovah.”

But the tree Ezekiel wrote about is Egypt, not Babylon. But both Egypt and Babylon have prophetic significance. That is evident from the fact that the subjugation of “Egypt” appears in Daniel’s prophecy of the king of the north and south as something that will take place in “the time of the end.” And, of course, both Egypt and Babylon are part of the composite beast of Revelation. So, both Egypt and Babylon are interchangeably used to symbolize the last kingdom of Satan’s beastly system that will come under God’s judgment when the kingdom is given to Christ.

The coming of Christ in kingdom power is no ordinary event. It initiates the day of Jehovah – judgment day. The ouster of Satan from heaven will have the knock-on effect of striking a withering blow to the ruling earthly kingdom under the Devil’s dominion. The fall of the symbolic Egyptian cedar foreshadows the coming crash of America. The entire global system will shudder. But the beast will arise like the fabled phoenix for a time, just as the maddened king was briefly restored to his throne. (See article: Downfall of America)

The seventh chapter of Daniel harmonizes with the extension given to the beasts after the time the kingdom is given to Christ. Daniel 7:12 states: “But as for the rest of the beasts, their rulerships were taken away, and there was a lengthening in life given to them for a time and a season.”

So, the seven times may apply to the period of judgment that will commence in the aftermath of the fall of the leading nation of the world. It may be that the seven times are a literal seven years or simply a symbolic period. Time will tell. (No pun intended.)

But, we may be certain that during that period all people will be forced to know that the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind. 


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