Dn 4 The Great Tree


Thus were the visions of mine head, in my bed. I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth; and the height thereof was great. The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth. The leaves thereof were fair and the fruit thereof much; and in it was meat for all. The beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof; and all flesh was fed of it. . . .

And behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven. He cried aloud, and said thus, Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit: let the beasts get away from under it, and the fowls from his branches.

Nevertheless, leave the stump of his roots in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven; and let his portion be with the beasts, in the grass of the earth. Let his heart be changed from man’s, and let a beast’s heart be given unto him: and let seven times pass over him.

This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will; and setteth up over it the basest of men.

This dream, I, king Nebuchadnezzar, have seen. Now, then, O Belteshazzar, declare the interpretation thereof…. Then Daniel . . . answered and said, My lord, . . . the tree that thou sawest, … it is thou, O king: thou art grown and become strong; for thy greatness is grown, and reacheth unto heaven, and thy dominion to the end of the earth…. This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which is come upon my lord, the king: that they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field; and they shall make thee to eat grass, as oxen; and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will. And whereas they commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots, thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule. Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity. All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar.-DANIEL iv. 10-28.

THE Celestial Church began in a living and flourishing condition; but, as its members gradually fell into the love of their own wisdom, as their own; and as they forgot the Lord as the Source of all truth and life; they finally caused the destruction of the church. But some remains of goodness were preserved and nourished by the Lord, in the interiors of men’s hearts; until a new church could be formed and established. These statements apply historically, to the aggregate church; and also personally to the conditions of mind in men, individually.


Our text deals with the love of ruling over the minds of others; and it illustrates the inevitable effect of such a love, upon the minds of men, individually and collectively. There are two kinds of the love of rule, a good love and an evil love. The good love of rule is a love of administering the things of the Lord’s providence among men. This love may exist in a regenerate mind, because its purpose is to do good to others, from the Lord, and for their happiness. Such a desire to rule is merely the desire to carry out the Lord’s rule among men, in the name of the Lord, and according to His revealed laws for human life. But the evil love of ruling over others is a form of self-love, which seeks to subject others to its purposes, and for its gain. This evil love originates in the hells; and it enters into unregenerate men.

Literally, our text deals with Babylon and her great king. And Babylon represents the evil love of ruling over others. And her king represents the leading false principle which directs this evil love. The Babylon of the time of our text, was the degenerate remnant of a once celestial church. The city of Babylon was a very great city; and the worship in its temples was very elaborate ; while its external institutions were very flourishing, and apparently prosperous. And, in this sense, its external condition was represented by the great and flourishing tree, in our text.


And the history of this tree represents the spiritual history of the mental conditions represented by Babylon. A tree, growing in the earth, from a seed, represents a principle planted in the mind, and growing there, through various stages of progress. In this sense, our Lord, in His parable of the mustard seed, compared the growth of this small seed to the growth of His truth in men’s minds, The great height of the tree, in our text, and its growth and strength, represent the far-reaching intelligence of the mind, in which the Lord’s truth is growing and strengthening. That the tree reached up to heaven, means that the mind attained the understanding of heavenly things. That its sight reached to the end of the earth, means literally, that it could be seen from a very greed distance, because of its great height.

But, spiritually, it means that the mind’s intelligence in truth extends to the ultimates of the church; i.e., to all things of nature, as well as to all things of the spirit. The leaves of the tree were fair; i.e., the rational thoughts were true and abundant. The fruit was much : i.e., the good works were abundant, as the results of good principles. In the tree there was food for all; i.e., the growing truth affords. life and satisfaction for all parts of the man’s mind, The beasts found shelter there; i.e., the affections of the mind found a resting-place in the truths known. The birds dwelt there; i.e., the thoughts dwelt all long the truths known. Thus far, the tree represents a mind in a good condition, growing and flourishing, on all planes of life. It represents what the mind should be, in its regenerate states.


But, in our text, this tree represents a mind which degenerates, which falls from these high and flourishing conditions, and meets almost total destruction. And the cause of this great destruction, is that the man indulges and cultivates a love of self, and a love of ruling over others, for his own purposes. And this evil principle induces the destruction of the great and flourishing tree of truth, in the mind.

It is said that the tree was hewn down, at the command of a watcher and a holy one, who came down from heaven; thus representing the Divine Providence, and the Divine Power, operating in the mind of man, to bring to an end such conditions as are dangerous to the man’s spiritual life; and leading him through various experiences, until he can be restored to good conditions, on a permanent basis. For, in certain conditions, when the mind has run its full course, and completed one stage of its retrogression, the Lord brings about, or permits, a judgment to come upon the existing conditions, to bring them to an end, in order that a new beginning may be made, on a different level of mental life.

But all the knowledge and intelligence which the Lord’s truth formerly built up in the growing mind, will fall down, and come to nothing, when they are perverted and abused by the man’s growing love of self, and his love of ruling over the minds of other men. For a good or true principle can retain its vitality and growth, and its fruitfulness, so long, only, and in so far, only, as it is received and used as the Lord’s good, or truth, and for the Lord’s revealed purposes in the life of men. Goodness and truth, perverted to evil purposes, become evil and falsity in the mind which corrupts them. In such a mind, all the good beasts and birds are warned to “get away” from the tree, because it is soon to fall. Good affections and true thoughts depart from the mind in which the selfish love of rule grows into control of the life.


But the Lord, in His infinite mercy, leaves the stump and roots remaining, to provide for future restoration and growth. For, if there is sufficient vitality in the roots, they may produce a new tree, under suitable conditions. The deep roots of the mind are the affections of the will. From these fundamental principles, new life may grow and bear fruit, in new conditions.

When a man allows his mind to destroy itself, in corrupting the principles which he knows, he is reduced to a state which is almost dead, spiritually. But, if there are any remains of goodness still left in his heart, from the Lord, the Lord will preserve these remnants : and, from them, by means of providential leadings and instruction, the Lord will draw out the latent spiritual life of the man, and lead it to a new growth. He will protect the man from falling into permanent spiritual death. And He will do this by surrounding the man with such circumstances and conditions as will hold him in the knowledge of natural goodness and natural truth. He will keep the man’s mind in the light of the letter of the Divine Word, so that he can form his conduct according to the Lord’s commandments. These Divine commandments will protect a man from falling into actual evils of life, and from fixing himself in such evils, and thus falling into spiritual death.

These things are represented by the band of iron and brass, which was put around the stump of the tree, as stated in our text. Literally, men preserve a stump of a tree, by placing around it a strong band, or hoop, to prevent the rain and the wind and frost from splitting the stump, and inducing decay. This band, or ring, represents the protection given to the mind of a man, in times of trial. A band of iron, represents natural truth, literal truth; and a band of brass represents natural good. And if a man, who has fallen into evils, can be kept under the binding influence of the letter of the Divine Word, so that he will keep the Lord’s commandments in his daily life, then whatever latent good is in his heart can be preserved, as the basis of a new spiritual growth.

And these things will be left ” in the tender grass of the field;” i.e., amid the practical knowledges of natural things, in daily life, where a man’s character is formed These things are meant, also, by his eating grass like the ox. And the stump will be wet with the dew; i.e., the truth’s of the Divine Ward will come to the mind, as they apply to the little details of daily life.


But, in degenerating, the man has fallen below “the measure of a man,” and has become as a beast, following his natural impulses. The quality of his affection is no longer spiritual, but only sensuous. To some extent, he has profaned known truths. His mind no longer enjoys the human characteristic of spiritual rationality, which is the capacity to see spiritual truth in its own light. The man thus falls back into what he is, of himself, without the recognized help of the Lord. And this condition brings him into mental association with evil spirits, who are here meant by beasts, among whom he will live.


“And let seven times pass over him,” or, literally, it seven times shall change upon him.” Literally, it is supposed that Nebuchadnezzar was insane for seven years. But, spiritually, the reference is not to times, but to mental conditions. As a symbolic number, seven has two meanings, completeness and holiness. And these two meanings harmonize in the fact that holiness is a state of completeness in the observance of the Divine laws. These “seven times” represent the complete succession of mental changes of state, which the fallen man must undergo, before the latent good that remains in him, from the Lord, can be developed, for his restoration to true human life. The old states of mind which he corrupted, must be allowed to work themselves out to a fulness, or completion, before the inward life of holiness can be developed. And then the man can be taught that “the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men ;” i.e., that the Divine principles must govern men’s minds and lives.

It is said in our text, that the Lord “giveth the kingdom to whomsoever He will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.” The Hebrew word here rendered “basest,” does not refer to character, but to social position: it means humble, in a humble position, in a low station, socially. And the literal idea is that the Lord sometimes raises up very obscure men, and makes them to be kings. “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, … that He may set him with princes.” (Psalm cxiii. 7.) “He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.” (Luke i, 52.) And our Lord does these things in our minds, and in our character, when He disciplines us, until we put down our own self-exaltation, and exalt the interior and higher qualities of regenerate love, which, at first, we despised.


Some of the persons named in the Scriptures are merely representative, and not intended to indicate actual individuals. But Nebuchadnezzar was an actual individual, and a very famous king of Babylon, who lived about six hundred years before Christ; and who reared many stupendous engineering and architectural works. But his excessive personal ambition finally drove him insane, probably into that peculiar form of insanity known as lycanthropy (wolf-manhood), in which the man imagines himself to be a beast, and falls into the habits of beasts. These notions are easily forced upon an unsettled mind, by the evil spirits who are mentally associated with the insane clan.

But, spiritually, these things represent the low fallacies and falsities into which men fall, when they exalt themselves, and forget the Lord. The human element in the mind is then dethroned, and the animal part of the man asserts its influence; and the man then lives “with the beasts ;” i.e., he lives an animal life, rather than a rational human life.


But, if the infinite love and mercy of the Lord can develop any new good in the man, he will be restored to rational manhood, and his spiritual kingdom will be sure, for him, As a means of preparing the mind for its restoration to true humanity, Daniel, when he interpreted the dream, advised the king, “break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity.” And this is always the means of improvement, to cease evil and falsity, and to obey the Lord, by giving life to our spiritual nature, which we have kept in poverty and distress, while we were exalting our self-love and our self-derived intelligence.


The text declares, “all this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar.” But, while there was, in this case, a literal fulfilment of prophecy, yet this was merely the external side of the case, which symbolizes the spiritual side. The case of Nebuchadnezzar presents a good example of Solomon’s saying, ” Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a, fall.” Nebuchadnezzar represents human nature under the deadening influence of the selfish love of ruling over others, and especially the lust of dominating the souls of men. This infernal spirit exists in individuals, and in churches, both in this world, and in the spiritual world.

Human history on our earth affords many examples of excessive ambition, sometimes seeking to control the world mentally, and sometimes physically. Xerxes, Caesar, Napoleon, and many others, have streamed brilliantly across the horizon of human history, but have sunk into miserable ends.

But to each of us, in our own little way, the same spirit of self-exaltation comes along, in the course of our experience; and seeks to control us. But happy are we, if, early in our career, we discover the infernal nature of this malignant evil; and when we resist and reject it, and look to our Lord for light and guidance. Sometimes it occurs to us to ask why our Lord does not prosper us in just such ways as we would wish. But, if we are not now prospering spiritually, as we should do, it must be because, in our minds and lives, there is not yet a sufficient foundation on which to build the best life of which we are capable. And our Lord is permitting our tree to be cut down, and the seven changes to come over us, until we see, and seek, His laws of life, to govern all our personal experience : until we have no self-will opposed to His will, which is full of love and goodness for us, when we are ready to receive His gifts. And then, “the Spirit of the Lord shall come upon thee, and thou . . . shalt be turned into another man.” (I. Samuel x. 6.)

Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1903