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William Blake
Color print finished in pen and watercolor
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A harsh and powerful Babylonian king named Nebuchadnezzar dreamed one night of a great tree in the midst of the earth. Abundant with leaves and fruit, the tree grew until its top reached heaven. A heavenly being appeared in Nebuchadnezzar's dream and ordered him to cut down the tree, leaving only its roots bound in iron and bronze among the field grasses. The same heavenly being then decreed that the king's mind be changed from a man's to a beast's.

Listen to Story of Nebuchadnezzar, 2:42 minute duration (591 KB AIFF)

Nebuchadnezzar did not understand his dream, so he called on the prophet Daniel to interpret it.1 Daniel said that Nebuchadnezzar was the strong tree in his dream. He said that the dream was a decree from God that the mighty king who ruled without care for anyone but himself would be driven to dwell with beasts so that he would recognize God's superior power. Nebuchadnezzar disregarded the dream's warning and continued to misuse his power. When he failed to show mercy to those he oppressed, the dream came true. Driven from human society, Nebuchadnezzar found himself eating grass as oxen do. He was drenched by the dew of heaven, and his hair grew into eagles' feathers and his nails turned into birds' talons.2

1 The interpretation of dreams was very important to Babylonian rulers. Using their great skills in astronomy, the Chaldeans (people of an area within the empire) used the movement and positions of the planets and stars in order to predict the plans of the gods, and thus the future. Return to Text
2 Daniel 4:1-37. Return to Text

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