Pr 16:18 ¶ Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
That pride cometh before a fall is a phrase that is so well known that it is almost a part of folklore. In the story of Nebuchadnezzar we see that pride, mingled with jealousy and a proud spirit can produce a potent cocktail able to reduce even the greatest of kings to a bestial demeanor.
A brief survey of the dictionaries in the power Bible reveal a singular lack of interest in the definitions of these words, the topical text books have entries and examples but none really distinguish these words with precision. It is thus interesting to note that these emotions are such a part of our culture that secular dictionaries have definitions that define the words beautifully.
Jealousy is the simplest, it can be used of something you don't have - it is then similar to envy, it can be suspicion about a potential rival, a possessive watchfulness or a demand of exclusive loyalty. With each idea is the notion that you have, or would like to have, something and you want it totally, all for yourself without anyone else getting a piece.
Pride is a word used to indicate that you feel superior to others in some form, or feel able to overcome them.
Proud indicates satisfaction regarding a set of achievements or the attainment of a position.
Pride differs from proud in that pride is typically future tense; it indicates our satisfaction with what we feel we can do. Proud is typically past tense and indicates our pleasure with what we have done.
Of course these three emotions can be related and we find this to be absolutely the case with Nebuchadnezzar.
First we find him to be jealous, he had a kingdom and had been told in Da 2:39 that the kingdom would be taken from him and given to another. He didn't want his kingdom to end so his response to this was to build a statue declaring that his kingdom would continue forever. We see his jealousy in a different form in Da 3:17-19 when the three Hebrews inform him that they follow God and not him, he flies into a complete rage. In these two instances we see jealousy as a cold, calculated determination to win and also as a hot-blooded emotional outburst. They both show how deeply the emotion was set in him.
Being motivated by jealousy people will fall into one of two camps, those that seethe, and those that have the pride (today we would describe it as self-confidence!) to attempt to get what they want.
Nebuchadnezzar had pride oozing from every pore. We first see it in Dan 2:10-11, the astrologers pleaded that no other king had asked for this, this didn't effect Nebuchadnezzar, he wasn't like other people, even other kings. We see a subtler form in Dan 2:29, he was wondering about what the world would be like without him, he expected to leave a mark and he was concerned that it should be a major one.
Undoubtedly his biggest undoing though was to show pride against God. Again from Dan 3:1 we don't just see the jealousy, we see pride. He didn't just want the dream of four metals not to be true; he was prepared to declare in a statue 90ft high that it wasn't going to be true. One may wonder if he knew he was defying God, the answer comes in verse 15 "and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?"
Jealousy is a strong motivator, when it combines with pride you will get a totally motivated high achiever. Nebuchadnezzar got a lot done. He had already defied God and was undoubtedly going to suffer eventually but he sealed the speed of his fate when he also became proud. He had combined pride with complacency. So in chapter 4v4 we find him 'at rest in mine house and flourishing in my palace'. At this point he received the dream, we may imagine that the dream would have bothered him for a while. Yet 12 months later we find him declaring "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?"
Retaliation was swift; within the hour the great king had become a beast of the field. In some ways Nebuchadnezzar was fortunate, he was not destroyed, he was later restored. We will not all get such a clear warning; we are expected to heed the examples given to us in scripture. In fact Belshazzar is later condemned for not having learnt from this lesson. So I guess the question is: Have we?