The fact is evident that the key point of the vision is Jehovah God’s exercise of irresistible sovereignty in the “kingdom of mankind,” and this provides the guide to the full meaning of the vision. The tree is shown to have an application to Nebuchadnezzar, who at that point in history was the head of the dominant world power, Babylon. Yet, prior to Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Jerusalem, the typical kingdom of God ruling out of that city was the agency by which Jehovah expressed his rightful sovereignty toward earth. It thus constituted a divine block or impediment for Nebuchadnezzar in attaining his goal of world domination. By allowing that typical kingdom at Jerusalem to be overthrown, Jehovah permitted his own visible expression of sovereignty through the Davidic dynasty of kings to be cut down. The expression and exercise of world domination in “the kingdom of mankind,” unhindered by any representative kingdom of God, now passed into the hands of the Gentile nations. (Lam. 1:5; 2:2, 16, 17) In the light of these facts the “tree” is seen to represent, beyond and above its application to Nebuchadnezzar, world sovereignty or domination by God’s arrangement.
Renewal of world domination by divine right
God, however, here makes clear that he has not forever delivered up such world domination to the Gentile powers. The vision shows that God’s self-restraint (represented by the bands of iron and copper around the “stump” of the tree) would continue until “seven times pass over it.” (Dan. 4:16, 23, 25) Then, since “the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind,” God would give world domination “to the one whom he wants to.” (Dan. 4:17) The prophetic book of Daniel itself shows that one to be the “son of man” to whom are given “rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him.” (Dan. 7:13, 14) Jesus’ own prophecy, in which the reference to the “appointed times of the nations” occurs, points definitely toward Christ Jesus’ exercise of such world domination as God’s chosen king, the heir of the Davidic dynasty. (Matt. 24:30, 31; 25:31-34; Luke 21:27-31, 36) Thus, the symbolic “stump,” representing God’s retention of the sovereign right to exercise world domination in the “kingdom of mankind,” was due to sprout again in his Son’s kingdom.—Ps. 89:27, 35-37.
SEVEN SYMBOLIC TIMES
In Nebuchadnezzar’s personal experience of the vision’s fulfillment the “seven times” were evidently seven years, during which he admits that he became mad, with symptoms like those of lycanthropy, abandoning his throne to eat grass like a beast in the field. (Dan. 4:33-36) Notably, the Biblical description of the exercise of world domination by the Gentile powers is presented through the figure of beasts, in opposition to the holy people of God and their “Prince of princes.” (Compare Daniel 7:2-8, 12, 17-26; 8:3-12, 20-25; Rev. 11:7; 13:1-11; 17:7-14.) Concerning the word “times” (from Aramaic ʽid·danʹ), as used in Daniel’s prophecy, lexicographers show it here to mean “years.” (See Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libros by Koehler and Baumgartner, p. 1106; A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament by Brown, Driver and Briggs, p. 1105.) The duration of a year as so used is indicated to be 360 days, inasmuch as three and a half times are shown to equal “a thousand two hundred and sixty days” at Revelation 12:6, 14. (Compare also Revelation 11:2, 3.) “Seven times,” according to this count, would equal 2,520 days. That a specific number of days may be used in the Bible record to represent prophetically an equivalent number of years can be seen by reading the accounts at Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6. Only by applying the formula there expressed of “a day for a year” to the “seven times” of this prophecy can the vision of Daniel chapter four have significant fulfillment beyond the now extinct Nebuchadnezzar’s day, as the evidence thus far presented gives reason to expect. They therefore represent 2,520 years.
It is a historical fact worth noting that, on the basis of the points and evidence above presented, the year 1914 was identified as the time for the close of the “appointed times of the nations” (and the end of the lease of power granted the Gentile rulers) in the March 1880 edition of the Watch Tower magazine. This was some thirty-four years before the arrival of that year and the momentous events it initiated. In the August 30, 1914, edition of The World, a leading New York newspaper at that time, a feature article in the paper’s Sunday magazine section commented on this as follows: “The terrific war outbreak in Europe has fulfilled an extraordinary prophecy. For a quarter of a century past, through preachers and through press, the ‘International Bible Students’ . . . have been proclaiming to the world that the Day of Wrath prophesied in the Bible would dawn in 1914.”
The events that took place from and after the fall of the year 1914 C.E. are well-known history to all, beginning with the great war that erupted, the first world war in mankind’s history and the first to be fought over the issue, not of the domination of Europe alone, nor of Africa, nor of Asia, but of the domination of the world.—Luke 21:7-33; Rev. 11:15-18; see LAST DAYS; PRESENCE.
APPROACH TO GOD
In an ancient Oriental court any approach to the presence of the monarch by an individual could be made only in accord with established regulations and with the monarch’s permission. In most cases an intermediary acted for petitioners desiring an audience with the ruler, introducing them and vouching for the genuineness of their credentials. To enter the inner courtyard of Persian King Ahasuerus without being called meant death; but Queen Esther, when risking her life to gain access to the king’s presence, was favored with approval. (Esther 4:11, 16; 5:1-3) The actions and words of Joseph’s brothers illustrate the care employed to avoid causing offense before a king, for Judah said to Joseph: “It is the same with you as with Pharaoh.” (Gen. 42:6; 43:15-26; 44:14, 18) Thus, to gain access to the presence of an earthly ruler, though only an imperfect human, was often a very difficult matter and a rare privilege.
SANCTITY OF GOD’S PRESENCE
Although Paul stated in Athens that God “is not far off from each one of us” (Acts 17:27), and his accessibility is presented throughout his Word, the Bible, the one approaching Him must also meet definite requirements and have his divine permission or approval. Daniel’s vision of the majestic heavenly court of the “Ancient of Days” to whom the “son of man” “gained access” and was “brought . . . up close even before that One,” illustrates the dignity, respect and order associated with the presence of the Sovereign Ruler of the universe. (Dan. 7:9, 10, 13, 14; compare Jeremiah 30:21.) The record at Job 1:6 and 2:1 indicates that God’s angelic sons are also invited into his immediate presence at appointed times, and Satan’s appearance among them must reasonably have been only by Sovereign permission.
Man, having been made in his Creator’s image and likeness by being endowed with a measure of the divine attributes and having the responsibility of caring for the planet Earth and the animal creation on it, would need to be in communication with his God and Father. (Gen. 1:26, 27) Such communication is described at Genesis 1:28-30; 2:16, 17.
As perfect creatures, and hence with no guilt complex or consciousness of sin, Adam and Eve could originally approach God in conversation without feeling the need for an intercessor between them and their Creator, doing so as children to their Father.