The events of Daniel 4 have puzzled many. This story is both a concrete event as well as a prophecy. 

When Daniel interpreted the dream in verse 24, he told Nebuchadnezzar that the Lord had decreed that he would be driven away and live with wild animals for seven times (or seven years). Nebuchadnezzar would continue to live like an animal until he acknowledged the Most High God was sovereign over all the kingdoms of the earth.

In verse 27, Daniel advised the King that if he renounced his sins and wickedness, his prosperity might continue.  A year later, when the prideful King surveyed Babylon and boasted it was built with his own power, and for his glory – Daniel’s prediction came to pass. If Nebuchadnezzar had humbled himself, the experience may not have been so severe. The scriptures say that this was indeed fulfilled.

Theories abound as to the actual sequence of events. If you read the scriptures carefully, they don’t say that he actually became a beast or animal. The voice from heaven told Nebuchadnezzar that his authority had been removed; and he would be driven away from people and live with wild animals. Because of his extreme pride, he was to live like an animal to understand a greater lesson.  He was reduced to the existence of an ox; he lost his reason or suffered a lapse of sanity for those appointed seven years. Even today, there is a form of mental illness (boanthropy/insania zoanthropica) in which people think of themselves as animals and imitate them. Theories include the likelihood of hallucinations, hypochondria, delusions or neurological disease process. The secular historical record is silent on Babylonian events that occurred between 582 BC and 575 BC.

At the end of the seven times his sanity returned, and he glorified the Lord as he had been previously cautioned to do.  He was restored to his eminent position mindful that (verse 37) what God does is right and just. God is the author of everything and able to humble those who walk in pride. Nebuchadnezzar finally understood that he had no power that God did not allow him to have.

From a prophetic viewpoint, we can see that God has allowed the “kings” of this world to exercise their influence, but when the appointed time has been completed their authority will be removed and all the nations of the world will reverence the Lord of the universe. (Acts 3:19-21; Jeremiah 31:34)