Along with other members of the Israelite royal family and nobility, Daniel was deported (605 B.C.) to Babylon during the reign of the Chaldean king Nebuchadnezzar. He was given a Babylonian name and was educated for service in the Babylonian court. God gave Daniel ability to understand and interpret dreams. His abilities so impressed Nebuchadnezzar that the king made Daniel ruler over the entire province of Babylon and chief officer over the wise men.
Nebuchadnezzar had a dream about a mighty tree that reached the heavens and was visible to the ends of the earth. The tree provided shade and food for all manner of animals and birds. Heavenly beings decreed that the tree be chopped down, its branches and leaves stripped, and its fruit scattered. The tree’s stump remained with the beast of the grass. Nebuchadnezzar asked Daniel to interpret the dream.
Daniel told King Nebuchadnezzar that he was the tree that would be chopped down. Nebuchadezzar would lose his sanity and kingdom. He would dwell with beasts in the field and eat grass like oxen. Only when Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged that God gave him the Chaldean kingdom, would Nebuchadnezzar recover his mind. Daniel implored the king to break off his sins and show mercy to the oppressed.
Despite Daniel’s warning, King Nebuchadnezzar did not change his behavior. After 12 months, the king walked on the palace roof admiring his power and majesty. While he was speaking words of self-praise, a voice from heaven told Nebuchadnezzar that God’s time of judgment was now. Nebuchadnezzar lost his sanity. He went to the fields and ate grass. His body became wet from the dew of heaven. Nebuchadnezzar’s hair grew long as eagle’s feathers and his nails were like bird’s claws.
At the end of seven years, Nebuchadnezzar lifted up his eyes and acknowledged the God of heaven. His reason returned to him and his kinship was restored. Nebuchadnezzar blessed the Most High and credited God with returning his kingdom to him. The Bible story ends by Nebuchadnezzar saying, “those who walk in pride he (God) is able to humble” (Daniel 4:37, NIV-SB, 2002).
In the story of Nebuchadnezzar, grass referred to a grazing or forage crop for oxen. Probably Nebuchadnezzar ate more than one type of grass because animal forage is seasonal. Ancient Babylon produced barley, chick peas, the sesame, and a marshland edible root (gongai). In ancient Babylon and in modern day Iraq where Babylon was located, chickpeas are consumed by both humans and animals. The Iraq chickpea is the Cicer arietinum L. Chickpea plants were cultivated as early as 5000 years B.C. in Syria and Turkey. In 2012, chickpeas were not listed as a plant that currently grows in Israel. Chick peas have a high biological value. Starch, amino acids (building blocks of proteins), and minerals are present in seeds. Humans eat seeds raw, cooked, fresh, or dried. Often seeds are described as tasting like a sweet chestnut. Livestock (particularly cows and pigs) eat broken seeds and seed pods; plant straw is used as animal fodder. In developing countries, dried stems and roots are used as a cooking fuel.
Symbolism: Forage, Grazing
In the story of Nebuchadnezzar eating grass like an animal, the chickpea symbolized forage and grazing. As a noun forage means food for animals to eat; sometimes animal forage is called hay, feed, or silage. As an action (verb), forage means that the animal is searching, hunting, or rummaging for food. Grazing includes the process of foraging, but also means that the grazer eats small portions of food throughout the day. Some days, e.g., after church or on Saturday afternoon during football season, my husband and I do not cook meals; rather we forage or graze on food all afternoon and evening. He’s a chips, cashews, and chicken wings guy, while I am happy with my biscotti, chocolate, and peanut butter. Like Nebuchadnezzar grazing for fodder eating a little bite here and there, Bruce and I make multiple trips to the refrigerator and pantry.
Many people are foraging or hunting for answers to today’s problems and challenges. In the process they take a small bite of this or that philosophy or religion. They may watch an evangelist for a short time, or pick up a Bible for a brief read. When they do not get immediate answers or the answers they want, they turn to another book, person, or ism. Their actions are like my eating biscotti, chocolate, and peanut butter – maybe at times tasty, but not nutritionally adequate or fulfilling.
We are not going to know God by grazing lightly through the Bible, or attending church on a hit or miss basis. People who take this approach will need to hear the elementary truths of God’s word over and over again. They will drink milk rather than eat the solid foods of teachings on righteousness (Hebrews 5:11-14). God wants methodical people who will search the scriptures daily, learn from them, and apply them to their lives. He wants followers who attend church and Bible study with a teachable heart.
Nebuchadnezzar got God’s message. After returning to his senses, Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged that God is supreme and does according to his will in heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth (Daniel 4:38, NIV-SB, 2002). Likely Nebuchadnezzar would tell men and women who graze or nibble in the Christian faith that God’s signs are great and his wonders mighty (Daniel 4:3, NIV-SB, 2002). God’s kingdom is everlasting and endures from generation to generation.
Reflection. Are you a grazer – taking small bites of Christianity here and there – or are you a disciple, a convicted adherent to Christianity. Have you taken a big bit of God or are you still nibbling around?
I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/
Copyright November 4, 2012; carolyn a. roth