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Bible Commentaries

Clarke's CommentaryClarke Commentary

- Daniel

by Adam Clarke

Introduction to the Book of the Prophet Daniel

Daniel is said to have descended from the royal family of David; and he appears to have been carried into Babylon when very young, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim king of Judah, A.M. 3398, b.c. 602, or 606 before the vulgar era. He and his three fellow-captives, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, being likely youths, were chosen to be about the king's court, and were appointed to have an education suitable to the employments for which they were destined. As they had been carefully bred up in the Mosaic institutions, they regulated their conduct by them, even in the court of a heathen king, where they were in the capacity of slaves; hence, though ordered to be fed from the royal table, they would not touch that food, because the Chaldeans ate of meat forbidden by the Mosaic law, and probably even that which might be dominated clean became defiled by having been sacrificed to idols before it was prepared for common use. At their earnest request, the officer under whose care they were placed permitted them to use vegetables only; and finding that they grew healthy and strong by this aliment, did not oblige them to use the portion sent from the king's table.

Daniel appears to have been instructed in all the wisdom of the Chaldeans, which was at that time greatly superior to the learning of the ancient Egyptians; and he was soon distinguished in the Babylonish court, as well for his wisdom and strong understanding as for his deep and steady piety.

His interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the variously compounded metallic image raised his credit so high at the court that he was established governor of the province of Babylon, and made chief of all the Magians, or wise men in that country. The chief facts and incidents of his history are so particularly woven throughout the book bearing his name, and undoubtedly written by himself, that they need not be detailed here.

The reputation of Daniel was so great, even in his lifetime, that it became a proverb. "Thou art wiser than Daniel," said Ezekiel ironically to the king of Tyre, Ezekiel 28:3; and by the same prophet God ranks him among the most holy and exemplary of men, when he declares, speaking relative to Jerusalem, which had been condemned to destruction, "Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own lives by their righteousness," Ezekiel 14:14, Ezekiel 14:20.

Josephus, Ant. lib. x., c. 12, says that God bestowed many favors on him: that he was advanced to the rank of the most considerable prophets; that he enjoyed the favor of princes, and the affection of the people during his life; and that after his death his memory became immortal. He observes also that, in the complexion of his predictions, he differs widely from all other prophets; they foretold scarcely any thing but disastrous events; on the contrary, he predicts the most joyous events, and fixes the times of accomplishment with more circumstantial precision than they did. And this is so true, that we cannot help thinking that God had given this eminent man a greater degree of light to fix the times when his predictions should issue, than he had given in general to all his predecessors, who simply declared the mind of God in relation to things future, without attempting to indicate the distance of time in which they should be fulfilled. There are but very few exceptions to this either in Isaiah or Jeremiah. And in this respect the prophecy of the seventy weeks of Daniel exceeds all that have gone before, as the incidents and transactions relative to its fulfillment were so various, and yet so fixed and declared six hundred years before the time, that when the time came in which they were predicted to take place, they were expected, and occurred exactly according to the prediction, and the expectations founded upon it. This prophet therefore, far from occupying a lower place among divinely inspired men, deserves to be placed in the front rank with all those who have been most distinguished among the men who have partaken most largely of the prophetic gift.

The rabbins have endeavored to degrade Daniel, and have placed his prophecies among the hagiographa, books which they consider to possess a minor degree of inspiration; and it is probable that he meets with this treatment from them because his prophecies are proofs too evident that Jesus Christ is the true Messiah, and that he came at the very time that Daniel said the Prince Messiah should come. But the testimony and sayings of such men are infinitely overpowered by the testimony of Ezekiel, which has been produced above; and the testimony of our Lord, who gives him the title of prophet, Matthew 24:15, without the slightest intimation that he was to wear this title with abatement.

It is very probable that Daniel did not return at the general restoration from the Babylonish captivity. At that time, if alive, he must have been an old man; and it is most likely that he finished his days in Babylon, though some Asiatic authors hold that he returned to Judea with Ezra, came back afterward to Persia, and died in the city of Susa.

Josephus speaks of his skill in architecture, Antiq. lib. x., c. 12, and that he built a famous tower at Ecbatane or Susa, which remained to his time, and was so exquisitely finished that it always appeared as if newly built. In this tower or palace the kings of Persia were interred; and in consideration of its founder, the guard of it was always chosen from the Jews.

Daniel is famous among the orientalists. The author of the Tareekh Muntekheb says that Daniel flourished in the time of Lohorasp, king of Persia; and consequently in that of Ceresh, of Cyrus, who gave him the government of Syria; that he taught these two princes the knowledge of the true God; that he preached the true faith through the whole of the Babylonian Irak; and was, on the death of Nebuchadnezzar, sent by Bahman, (Artaxerxes Longimanus), son of Asfendiar, who then reigned in Persia, into Judea; and that, having returned, he died at Shouster, or Susa, the capital of Persia, where he lies interred.

Some have supposed that the Zoraster or Zeradusht of the Persians is a confused picture of the Prophet Daniel. The account given by Abul Pharaje, in his fifth dynasty, may be considered favorable to this opinion. He says, "Zeradusht, author of the Magiouseiah Magism, or sect of the worshippers of fire, flourished in the reign of Cambasous, (Cambyses); that he was a native of the province of Adherbigian, or Media, or, according to others, of Assyria; that he foretold to his disciples the coming of the Messiah, who should be pointed out by a star which should appear in the day time at his birth; that they should have the first information of his advent; that he should be born of a virgin; and that they should present him with gifts; because he is the Word that made the heavens." See Pococke's Abul Pharajius, p. 83 of the Arabic, and 54 of the Latin.

D'Herbelot, on this account, makes the following remark: "We may see by these words of the historian, that the prophesy of Balaam was pretty generally known throughout the east, and that the Magi, who came to worship our Lord, were the true Magians of Persia, and not Arab kings."

The account given by Abul Pharaje makes Daniel and Zeradusht contemporary, and thus far is favorable to the opinion that the history of former may be dismissed under that of the latter. There have been several Zoroasters, of whom many fables are told; and no wonder, when the persons themselves are generally fabulous.

The Asiatics make him the inventor of remel, or geomancy; and among them he passes for the author of a work entitled Assoul ol Tabeer, "The Principles of the Interpretation of Dreams." I have in my own library a very ancient work which pretends to be drawn from this, and is entitled Somnia Daniel; it was printed in the infancy of printing, but without date; small 4to. There is an Arabic work in the French king's library, No. 410, entitled Odhmet al Mancoul, an Danial an Nabi, "The Traditionary Predictions of Daniel the Prophet;" which is said to contain many falsities, built on the foundation of Daniel's prophecies; but it has never been given to the public, and I have no other notice of it than the above from D'Herbelot. But although all these are curious from their antiquity, yet they are doubtless impostures.

Abul Pharaje, in his history of the dynasties, says, that the seventy weeks of Daniel are to be dated from the twentieth year of Ardsheer Dirazdest, the Artaxerxes Longimanus of the Greeks, (called Bahman above), and the same to whom Nehemiah was sakee, or cup-bearer. Other orientalists are of the same opinion. This shall be considered more at large when we come to the prophecy itself.

Artaxerxes had the name of Longimanus, or Long-handed, from the great extent of his dominions.

Daniel cannot be ranked among the Hebrew poets: his book is all in prose; and it is written partly in Hebrew, and partly in Chaldee. The Chaldee, or Syro-Chaldaic part, begins with מלכא לעלמין חיי malka lealmin chei, "O king, live for ever!" and continues to the end of the seventh chapter.

In the interpretation of his prophecies I have endeavored to follow the best critics and chronologists; and, without an extended comment, to give in as short a space as possible the meaning of every place. On the metallic images and seventy weeks I have been obliged to be more prolix, as these are of too much importance to be slightly handled. It is not my province to enter into the controversy about the date when the seventy weeks commence; even they who disagree so much from each other on this point come so near to the general issue that the difference is immaterial.

The chronology of the several events mentioned in this book Calmet endeavors to fix as follows: -

A.M. Event
3398 Daniel led captive to Babylon, Daniel 1:1-7.
3399 Death of Nabopolassar, father of Nebuchadnezzar.
3401 Jehoiakim revolts against Nebuchadnezzar, 2 Kings 24:1.
3402 Dream of the compound statue, Daniel 2:1, etc. Daniel and his companions promoted to honor at court. Birth of Cyrus, son of Cambyses and Mandane.
3405 Jehoiakim is taken and put to death by the Chaldeans. Jeconiah is raised to his throne, but reigns only three months and ten days. Zedekiah, last king of Judah, succeeds; and reigns eleven years.
3416 Taking of Jerusalem, and destruction of the temple, 2 Chronicles 36:0.
3434 Return of Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon after his great conquests in Phoenicia, Judea, Egypt, etc. His dream of the great tree, 2 Chronicles 4:7, etc.
3435 He becomes insane, which lasts for seven years, 4:32, 33.
3442 He becomes sane, and re-ascends the throne. The golden image set up. The three Hebrews cast into the fiery furnace, Daniel 3:13, c. Death of Nebuchadnezzar after a reign of forty-three years, according to Berosus. Evil-Merodach succeeds him, and reigns two years. - Berosus. He sets Jeconiah at liberty, Jeremiah 52:31.
3444 Belshazzar his son succeeds, Daniel 7:1. Daniel's vision of the four beasts, representing the four great empires, Daniel 7:2-3, Daniel 7:17, c.
3447 Vision of the ram and he-goat, Daniel 8:2, Daniel 8:5, c. The death of Belshazzar, Daniel 5:30.
3449 Darius the Mede, called Cyaxares by Xenophon, and Astyages in the Apocrypha, son of Astyages, king of the Medes, and maternal great uncle to Belshazzar, succeeds him in the government of Chaldea, Daniel 5:30-31; Daniel 5:30-31. See Isaiah 13:1, c. The visions of Daniel related, Daniel 9:0, Daniel 10:0, Daniel 11:0, Daniel 12:0. Cyrus attacks the Medes in the first or second year of Darius the Mede, Daniel 10:1.
3455 Daniel is cast into the den of lions, Daniel 6:7, Daniel 6:17, c.
3456 Death of Darius. Cyrus succeeds him.
3457 End of the Babylonish captivity declared by Cyrus, in the first year of his reign, 2 Chronicles 36:22, and Ezra 1:1; but afterward interrupted. See below.
3485 Termination of Jeremiah's seventy years under Darius Hystaspes, who gives orders to continue the rebuilding of the temple.
3550 Commencement of the seventy weeks, Daniel 9:24. Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem, Nehemiah 2:1-6.

In this chronology Calmet differs from Usher.

As a writer, this prophet is simple, yet pure and correct: and he is so conscientious that he relates the very words of those persons whom he introduces as speaking. He writes Hebrew where what he delivers is a bare narrative; but he relates in Chaldee the conversations which he had with the wise men and the kings; and in the same language he relates Nebuchadnezzar's edict, which he made after Daniel had interpreted his dream concerning the great metalline image. This is a proof of his great and conscientious accuracy; and exhibits this prophet in a most advantageous point of view. Daniel writes both Hebrew and Chaldee with great purity.

This book divides itself into two parts.

Part 1 is historical, and is contained in the six former chapters.

Part 2: is prophetical, and occupies the other six.

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