I first encountered King Nebuchadnezzar in our Old Testament class in college. We were studying the book of Daniel. Our professor suggested that we might find Nebuchadnezzar in Heaven. After class, I sought a further explanation from him. He explained his position and offered some additional resources. This information proved helpful a couple of weeks ago. One of my theology students was preparing for an online forum on the book of Daniel. Among the questions was whether Nebuchadnezzar was saved. Like my professor, I explained my position and offered him additional resources. I bet you’re also wondering, did King Nebuchadnezzar go to Heaven?
Probably. Daniel 4:34-37 records the King praising God following seven years of humiliation. Many see this proclamation as a mark of salvation and conclude that Nebuchadnezzar went to Heaven. I agree with this position. However, the Bible doesn’t record Nebuchadnezzar’s life after his proclamation. As such, we cannot see the fruit of his confession. Therefore, we cannot tell whether he is in Heaven.
In this article, I’ll explore why God made Nebuchadnezzar eat grass, how the King died, and scholarly opinions on his destination after death.
Why did God make King Nebuchadnezzar eat grass for 7 years?
God made Nebuchadnezzar eat grass for seven years to humble him. Daniel records the events for us. King Nebuchadnezzar was a proud man who exalted himself above God. One day, he had a vision. He saw a huge tree that reached the heavens. Then an angel commanded that the tree be cut down and its stump chained. Daniel interpreted this dream as a warning to the King – God was displeased with his unrighteousness and had decreed judgment.
Nebuchadnezzar didn’t heed the warning, and 12 months later, his pride got the better of him. God struck him with madness. He lived in the wild, his appearance changed, and he ate grass like an ox for seven years until he acknowledged the greatness and power of God.
Was King Nebuchadnezzar saved after 7 years of madness?
Probably. We cannot say if Nebuchadnezzar was saved after seven years since we don’t have a record of his life after this event. However, the trajectory of his story, as recorded in Daniel, suggests that Nebuchadnezzar was saved.
God was clearly at work in Nebuchadnezzar’s life. He brought four young and devout Jews into his court and them to reveal Himself to Nebuchadnezzar. We see this in the first chapter of Daniel, where the young Jews chose not to eat the King’s food and ended up healthier and better than their companions. Next, Daniel interpreted the first dream then God saved Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego from the fiery furnace.
In each instance, we see King Nebuchadnezzar proclaim God’s greatness. However, we don’t see a change in attitude or habit. Finally, God struck Nebuchadnezzar with madness. The King recounts this event in a letter recorded in Daniel 4. Here, he again proclaims the greatness of God. Later, in Daniel 5:20-21, Daniel confirms that Nebuchadnezzar was a changed man after this event, suggesting the possibility that Nebuchadnezzar was saved.
How did King Nebuchadnezzar die?
Scholars agree that he died of old age in 397 BCE after ruling for 43 years. Evil Merodach, his son, succeeded him. Interestingly after his death, Nebuchadnezzar’s enemies exhumed his body and pierced it with swords. Their actions fulfilled Isaiah’s prophesy, recorded in Isaiah 14:19.
Was King Nebuchadnezzar saved before he died?
Probably. As mentioned, it’s not possible to give a dogmatic answer. However, the events recorded in Daniel show Nebuchadnezzar’s attitude towards God changes over time. He started as a worshipper of Marduk, the Babylonian deity, but ultimately praised the Jewish God. Some argue that his proclamation represented a shift from paganism to henotheism (the worship of one deity while acknowledging the existence of others). They could be right. But without an account of his life, we cannot ascertain if Nebuchadnezzar was saved before he died.
Does the Bible mention the eternal destination of King Nebuchadnezzar?
No. The Bible doesn’t mention Nebuchadnezzar’s final destination. It doesn’t even tell us about his death. Nebuchadnezzar’s final words are a proclamation of the majesty and power of God after seven years of madness. Christians remain divided over where Nebuchadnezzar ended up. Some point out that his proclamation was evidence of salvation; others believe that despite the change in attitude, Nebuchadnezzar was a henotheist.
What do religious scholars believe about the destination of King Nebuchadnezzar?
Scholars are split over Nebuchadnezzar’s final destination. The split occurs based on what they think about the events of Daniel 4. Some believe the King wasn’t struck with insanity; others believe he was but argue about the outcome.
The King didn’t eat grass
Proponents of this theory believe that the events of Daniel 4 aren’t historically accurate. They believe the main character in that story was Nabonidus, father to Belshazzar and the last King of Babylon. Nabonidus was an eccentric ruler whose decisions played a part in the fall of Babylon. His most notorious act was appointing his son Belshazzar as co-regent, then leaving Babylon to settle in the wilderness of Arabia for a decade. While there, he set up a shadow capital in Tayma. Scholars believe that the author of Daniel took this story and changed some details to fit their idea. Those holding this position don’t comment on Nebuchadnezzar’s final destination.
Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t saved
The second group believes Nebuchadnezzar’s proclamation didn’t signify conversion. Joyce Baldwin is an example of a commentator supporting this position. She argues that referring to God as the “King of Heaven” acknowledges God’s power but lacks repentance and faith. We can infer from this position that Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t saved and therefore isn’t in Heaven.
Nebuchadnezzar was saved
Finally, some argue that Nebuchadnezzar was saved. E. J. Young is one such scholar. He contends that Nebuchadnezzar’s experiences led him to faith in God. Young argues this on four premises:
- Daniel gives us the progression in Nebuchadnezzar’s knowledge of God. Young compares previous proclamations in Daniel 2:47, 3:28, and 4:32-35.
- Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges God’s sovereignty in light of his condition (Daniel 4:37).
- Nebuchadnezzar’s proclamation contains accurate statements about God’s power and majesty (Dan 4:34-35).
- Nebuchadnezzar worships God (Dan 4:37).
We can infer from this reasoning that Young believes Nebuchadnezzar is in Heaven.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.