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Section I. - Authenticity of the Chapter
The objections to the authenticity and credibility of this chapter are not numerous or important.
I. The first that is alleged, by Bertholdt (Com. pp. 192, 193), is substantially this: “that if the account here is true, the records of ancient times could not exhibit a more finished tyrant than Nebuchadnezzar was, if he doomed so many persons to death, on so slight and foolish an occasion, Daniel 2:5. This cruelty, it is said, is wholly contrary to the general character of Nebuchadnezzar as it is reported to us, and wholly incredible. It is further said, that, though it was common in the East to trust in dreams, and though the office of interpreting them was an honorable office, yet no one was so unreasonable, or could be, as to require the interpreter to reveal the dream itself when it was forgotten. The proper office of the interpreter, it is said, was to interpret the dream, not to tell what the dream was.”
To this objection, which seems to have considerable plausibility, it may be replied:
(1) Much reliance was placed on “dreams” in ancient times, alike among the Hebrews and in the pagan world. The case of Pharaoh will at once occur to the mind; and it need not be said that men everywhere relied on dreams, and inquired earnestly respecting them, whether they “might” not be the appointed means of communication with the spiritual world, and of disclosing what was to occur in the future. There can be no objection, therefore, to the supposition that this pagan monarch, Nebuchadnezzar, felt all the solicitude which he is reported to have done respecting the dream which he had. It may be further added, that in the dream itself there is nothing improbable as a dream, for it has all the characteristics of those mysterious operations of the mind; and, if God ever communicated his will by a dream, or made known future events in this way, there is no absurdity in supposing that he would thus communicate what was to come, to him who was at that time at the head of the empires of the earth, and who was the king over the first of those kingdoms which were to embrace the world’s history for so many ages.
(2) There is no improbability in supposing that a dream would vanish from the distinct recollection, or that if it had vanished, the mind would be troubled by some vague recollection or impression in regard to it. This often occurs in our dreams now, as in the indistinct recollection that we have had a pleasant or a frightful dream, when we are wholly unable to recal the dream itself. This often occurs, too, when we would be “glad” to recover the dream if we could, but when no effort that we can make will recal its distinct features to our minds.
(3) There was, really, nothing that was unreasonable, absurd, or tyrannical in the demand which Nebuchadnezzar made on the astrologers, that they should recal the dream itself, and then interpret it. Doubtless he could recollect it if they would suggest it, or at least he could so far recollect it as to prevent their imposing on him: for something like this constantly occurs in the operation of our own minds. When we have forgotten a story, or a piece of history, though we could not ourselves recal it, yet when it is repeated to us, we can then distinctly recollect it, and can perceive that that is the same narrative, for it agrees with all our impressions in regard to it. Furthermore, though it was not understood to be a part of the office of an interpreter of dreams to “recal” the dream if it had vanished from the mind, yet Nebuchadnezzar reasoned correctly, that if they could “interpret” the dream they ought to be presumed to be able to tell what it was. The one required no more sagacity than the other: and if they were, as they pretended to be, under the inspiration of the gods in interpreting a dream, it was fair to presume that, under the same inspiration, they could tell what it was. Compare the notes at Daniel 2:5. No objection, then, can lie against the authenticity of this chapter from any supposed absurdity in the demand of Nebuchadnezzar. It was not only strictly in accordance with all the just principles of reasoning in the case, but was in accordance with what might be expected from an arbitrary monarch who was accustomed to exact obedience in all things.
(4) What is here said of the threatening of Nebuchadnezzar Daniel 2:5, accords with the general traits of his character as history has preserved them. He had in him the elements of cruelty and severity of the highest order, especially when his will was not immediately complied with. In proof of this, we need only refer to his cruel treatment of the king Zedekiah, when Jerusalem was taken: “So they took the king, and brought him to the king of Babylon to Riblah: and they gave judgment upon him. And they slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him with fetters of brass, and brought him to Babylon,” 2 Kings 25:6-7 : compare also, in 2 Kings 25:18-21, the account of his slaying the large number of persons that were taken by Nebuzar-adan, captain of the guard, and brought by him to the king in Babylon. These were slain in cold blood by order of Nebuchadnezzar himself. These facts make it every way probable that, in a fit of passion, he would not hesitate to threaten the astrologers with death if they did not comply at once with his will. Compare Jeremiah 39:5, following; Jeremiah 52:9-11. The truth was, that though Nebuchadnezzar had some good qualities, and was religious “in his way,” yet he had all the usual characteristics of an Oriental despot. He was a man of strong passions, and was a man who would never hesitate in carrying out the purposes of an arbitrary, a determined, and a stubborn will.
II. A second objection made by Bertholdt, which may demand a moment’s notice, is, substantially, that the account bears the mark of a later hand, for the purpose of conferring a higher honor on Daniel, and making what he did appear the more wonderful: pp. 62, 63, 193-196. The supposition of Bertholdt is, that the original account was merely that Nebuchadnezzar required of the interpreter to explain the sense of the dream, but that, in order to show the greatness of Daniel, the author of this book, long after the affair occurred, added the circumstance that Nebuchadnezzar required of them to make the “dream” known as well as the “interpretation,” and that the great superiority of Daniel was shown by his being able at once to do this.
As this objection, however, is not based on any historical grounds, and as it is throughout mere conjecture, it is not necessary to notice it further. Nothing is gained by the conjecture; no difficulty is relieved by it; nor is there any real difficulty “to be” relieved by any such supposition. The narrative, as we have it, has, as we have seen, no intrinsic improbability, nor is there anything in it which is contrary to the well-known character of Nebuchadnezzar.
III. A third objection to the authenticity of the chapter, which deserves to be noticed, is urged by Luderwald, p. 40, following, and Bleek, p. 280, that this whole narrative has a strong resemblance to the account of the dreams of Pharaoh, and the promotion of Joseph at the court of Egypt, and was apparently made up from that, or copied from it.
But to this we may reply,
(a) that, if either happened, there is no more improbability in supposing that it should happen to Daniel in Babylon than to Joseph in Egypt; and, taken as separate and independent histories, neither of them is improbable.
(b) There is so much diversity in the two cases as to show that the one is not copied from the other. They agree, indeed, in several circumstances: - in the fact that the king of Egypt and the king of Babylon had each a dream; in the fact that Joseph and Daniel were enabled to interpret the dream; in the fact that they both ascribed the ability to do this, not to themselves, but to God; and in the fact that they were both raised to honor, as a consequence of their being able to interpret the dream. But in nothing else do they agree. The dreams themselves; the occasion; the explanation; the result; the bearing on future events - in these, and in numerous other things, they differ entirely. It may be added also, that if the one had been copied from the other, it is probable that there would have been some undesigned allusion by which it could be known that the writer of the one had the other before him, and that he was framing his own narrative from that. But, as a matter of fact, there are no two records in history that have more the marks of being independent and original narratives of real transactions, than the account of Joseph in Egypt, and of Daniel in Babylon.
IV. A fourth objection to the account in this chapter arises from an alleged error in “chronology.” For a consideration of this, see the notes at Daniel 2:1.
Section II. - Analysis of the Chapter
The subjects of this chapter are the following:
I. The dream of Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel 2:1. In accordance with the common belief among the ancients, he regarded this as a Divine message. The dream, too, was of such a character as to make a deep impression on his mind, though its distinct features and details had gone from him.
II. The demand of Nebuchadnezzar that the Chaldeans should recal the dream to his recollection, and expound its meaning, Daniel 2:2-9. He ordered those whose business it was professedly to give such interpretations, to come into his presence, and to make known the dream and its meaning. But it would seem that their pretensions went no further than to explain a dream when it was known, and hence, they asked respectfully that the king would state the dream in order that they might explain it. The king, in angel threatened death, if they did not first recal the dream, and then make known the interpretation, promising at the same time ample rewards if they were able to do this. As all this, under Divine direction, was designed to communicate important information of future events, it was so ordered that the dream should be forgotten, thus entirely confounding the art of the Chaldeans, and giving an opportunity to Daniei to make the dream and its interpretation known, thus exalting a man from the land of the prophets, and showing that it was not by the skill of the pretended interpreters of dreams that future events could be made known, but that it was only by those who were inspired for that purpose by the true God.
III. The acknowledged failure of the power of the astrologers and Chaldeans, Daniel 2:10-11. They admitted that they could not do what was demanded of them. Whatever might be the consequence, they could not even “attempt” to recal a forgotten dream. And as, though we may be unable to recal such a dream distinctly ourselves, we could easily “recognize” it if it were stated to us; and as we could not be imposed on by something else that anyone should undertake to make us believe was the real dream, the magicians saw that it was hopeless to attempt to palm a story of their own invention on him, as if that were the real dream, and they therefore acknowledged their inability to comply with the demand of the king.
IV. The decree that they should die, Daniel 2:12-13. In this decree, Daniel and his three friends who had been trained with him at court Daniel 1:0 were involved, not because they had failed to comply with the demand of the king, for there is the fullest evidence that the subject had not been laid before them, but because they came under the general class of wise men, or counselors, to whom the monarch looked to explain the prognostics of coming events.
V. Daniel, when apprised of the decree, and the cause of it, went to the king and requested a respite in the execution of the sentence, Daniel 2:14-16. It would seem that he had the privilege of access to the king at pleasure. We may presume that he stated that the thing had not in fact been laid before him, though he had become involved in the general sentence, and it is no unreasonable supposition that the king was so much troubled with the dream, that he was so anxious to know its signification, and that he saw so clearly that if the decree was executed, involving Daniel and his friends, “all” hope of recalling and understanding it would be lost, that he was ready to grasp at “any” hope, however slender, of being made acquainted with the meaning of the vision. He was willing, therefore, that Daniel should be spared, and that the execution of the decree should be suspended.
VI. In these interesting and solemn circumstances, Daniel and his friends gave themselves to prayer, Daniel 2:17-18. Their lives were in danger, and the case was such that they could not be rescued but by a direct Divine inter position. There was no power which they had of ascertaining by any human means what was the dream of the monarch, and yet it was indispensable, in order to save their lives, that the dream should be made known. God only, they knew, could communicate it to them, and he only, therefore, could save them from death; and in these circumstances of perplexity they availed themselves of the privilege which all the friends of God have - of carrying their cause at once before his throne.
VII. The secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision, and he gave utterance to an appropriate song of praise, Daniel 2:19-23. The occasion was one which demanded such an expression of thanksgiving, and that which Daniel addressed to God was every way worthy of the occasion.
VIII. The way was now prepared for Daniel to make known to the king the dream and the interpretation. Accordingly he was brought before the king, and he distinctly disclaimed any power of himself to recal the dream, or to make known its signification, Daniel 2:24-30.
IX. The statement of the dream and the interpretation, Daniel 2:31-45.
X. The effect on Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel 2:46-49. He recognized the dream; acknowledged that it was only the true God who could have made it known; and promoted Daniel to distinguished honor. In his own honors, Daniel did not forget the virtuous companions of his youth Daniel 1:0, and sought for them, now that he was elevated, posts of honorable employment also, Daniel 2:49.
And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar - There is an apparent chronological difficulty in this statement which has given some perplexity to expositors. It arises mainly from two sources.
(1) That in Jeremiah 25:1, it is said that the first year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar corresponded with the fourth year of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and as the captivity was in the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim Daniel 1:1, the time here would be the “fourth” year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, instead of the second.
(2) That we learn from Daniel 1:5, Daniel 1:18, that Daniel and his three friends had been in Babylon already three years, under a process of training preparatory to their being presented at court, and as the whole narrative leads us to suppose that it was “after” this that Daniel was regarded as enrolled among the wise men (compare Daniel 2:13-14), on the supposition that the captivity occurred in the first year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, this would bring the time of the dream into the fourth year of his reign. This difficulty is somewhat increased from the fact that when Nebuchadnezzar went up to besiege Jerusalem he is called “king,” and it is evident that he did not go as a lieutenant of the reigning monarch; or as a general of the Chaldean forces under the direction of another. See 2 Kings 24:1, 2 Kings 24:11. Various solutions of this difficulty have been proposed, but the true one probably is, that Nebuchadnezzar reigned some time conjointly with his father, Nabopolassar, and, though the title “king” was given to him, yet the reckoning here is dated from the time when he began to reign alone, and that this was the year of his sole occupancy of the throne.
Berosus states that his father, Nabopolassar, was aged and infirm, and that he gave up a part of his army to his son Nebuchadnezzar, who defeated the Egyptian host at Carchemish (Circesium) on the Euphrates, and drove Necho out of Asia. The victorious prince then marched directly to Jerusalem, and Jehoiakim surrendered to him; and this was the beginning of the seventy years, captivity. See “Jahn’s History of the Hebrew Commonwealth,” p. 134. Nabopolassar probably died about two years after that, and Nebuchadnezzar succeeded to the throne. The period of their reigning together was two years, and of course the second year of his single reign would be the fourth of his entire reign; and a reckoning from either would be proper, and would not be misunderstood. Other modes of solution have been adopted, but as this meets the whole difficulty, and is founded on truth, it is unnecessary to refer to them. Compare Prof. Stuart, on Daniel, Excursus I. and Excursus II. (See Barnes’ Appendix I and Appendix II to Daniel)
Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams - The plural is here used, though there is but one dream mentioned, and probably but one is referred to, for Nebuchadnezzar, when speaking of it himself Daniel 2:3, says, “I have dreamed a dream.” In the Latin Vulgate, and in the Greek, it is also in the singular. It is probable that this is a popular use of words, as if one should say, “I had strange dreams last night,” though perhaps but a single dream was intended. - Prof. Bush. Among the methods by which God made known future events in ancient times, that by “dreams” was one of the most common. See the notes at Daniel 1:17; Introduction to Isaiah, Section 7. (2); compare Genesis 20:3, Genesis 20:6; Genesis 31:11; Genesis 37:5-6; Genesis 40:5; Genesis 41:7, Genesis 41:25; 1 Kings 3:5; Numbers 12:6; Joel 2:28; Job 33:14-16. The belief that the will of heaven was communicated to men by means of dreams, was prevalent throughout the world in ancient times. Hence, the striking expression in Homer, Iliad i. 63 - καὶ γάρ τ ̓ ὄναρ ἐκ Διός ἐστιν kai gar t' onar ek Dios estin, “the dream is of Jove.” So in the commencement of his second Iliad, he represents the will of Jupiter as conveyed to Agamemnon by Ὄνείρος Oneiros, or “the dream.”
So Diogenes Laertius makes mention of a dream of Socrates, by which he foretold his death as to happen in three days. This method of communicating the Divine will was adopted, not only in reference to the prophets, but also to those who were strangers to religion, and even to wicked men, as in the case of Pharaoh, Abimelech, Nebuchadnezzar, the butler and baker in Egypt, etc. In every such instance, however, it was necessary, as in the case before us, to call in the aid of a true prophet to interpret the dream; and it was only when thus interpreted that it took its place among the certain predictions of the future. One “object” of communicating the Divine will in this manner, seems to have been to fix the attention of the person who had the dream on the subject, and to prepare him to receive the communication which God had chosen to make to him. Thus it cannot be doubted that by the belief in dreams entertained by Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar, as disclosing future events, and by the anxiety of mind which they experienced m regard to the dreams, they were better prepared to receive the communications of Joseph and Daniel in reference to the future than they could have been by any other method of making known the Divine will.
They had no doubt that some important communication had been made to them respecting the future, and they were anxious to know what it was. They were prepared, therefore, to welcome any explanation which commended itself to them as true, and in this way the servants of the true God had a means of access to their hearts which they could have found in no other way. By what laws it was so regulated that a dream should be “known” to be a preintimation of coming events, we have now no means of ascertaining. That it is “possible” for God to have access to the mind in sleep, and to communicate his will in this manner, no one can doubt. That it was, so far as employed for that purpose, a safe and certain way, is demonstrated by the results of the predictions thus made in the case of Abimelech, Genesis 20:3, Genesis 20:6; of Joseph and his brethren, Genesis 37:5-6; of Pharaoh, Genesis 41:7, Genesis 41:25; and of the butler and baker, Genesis 40:5. It is not, however, to be inferred that the same reliance, or that any reliance, is now to be placed on dreams, for were there no other consideration against such reliance, it would be sufficient that there is no authorized interpreter of the wanderings of the mind in sleep. God now communicates his truth to the souls of men in other ways.
Wherewith his spirit was troubled - Alike by the unusual nature of the dream, and by the impression which he undoubtedly had that it referred to some important truths pertaining to his kingdom and to future times. See Daniel 2:31-36 The Hebrew word here rendered “troubled” (פעם pâ‛am) means, properly, to “strike, to beat, to pound;” then, in Niph., to be moved, or agitated; and also in Hithpa., to be agitated, or troubled. The proper signification of the word is that of striking as on an anvil, and then it refers to any severe stroke, or anything which produces agitation. The “verb” occurs only in the following places: Judges 13:25, where it is rendered “move;” and Psalms 67:4, (5); Genesis 41:8; Daniel 2:1, Daniel 2:3, where it is rendered “troubled.” The “noun” is of frequent occurrence. “And his sleep brake from him.” Hebrew עליו נהיתה שׁנתו shenâthô nı̂heyethâh ‛ālâyv.
Literally, “His sleep was upon him.” The Greek is, “his sleep was from him;” i. e., left him. The Vulgate, “his sleep fled (fugit) from him.” But it may be doubted whether the Hebrew will bear this construction. Probably the literal construction is the true one, by which the sense of the Hebrew - על ‛al “upon” - will be retained. The meaning then would be, that this remarkable representation occurred when he was “in” a profound sleep. It was a “dream,” and not “an open vision.” It was such a representation as passes before the mind when the senses are locked in repose, and not such as was made to pass before the minds of the prophets when they were permitted to see visions of the future, though awake. Compare Numbers 24:4, Numbers 24:16. There is nothing in the words which conveys the idea that there was anything preternatural in the sleep that had come upon Nebuchadnezzar, but the thought is, that all this occurred when he “was” sound asleep. Prof. Stuart, however, renders this, “his sleep failed him,” and so does also Gesenius. Winer renders it, “his sleep went away from him.” But it seems to me that the more natural idea is what occurs in the literal translation of the words, that this occurred as a dream, in a state of profound repose.
Then the king commanded - That is, when he awoke. The particle rendered “then,” does not imply that this occurred immediately. When he awoke, his mind was agitated; he was impressed with the belief that he had had an important Divine communication; but he could not even recal the dream distinctly, and he resolved to summon to his presence those whose business it was to interpret what were regarded as prognostics of the future.
The magicians, and the astrologers - These are the same words which occur in Daniel 1:20. See the note at that place.
And the sorcerers - Hebrew מכשׁפים mekashepı̂ym. Vulgate, malefici - sorcerers. Greek, φαρμακεύς pharmakeus Syriac, “magician.” The Hebrew word is derived from כשׁף kâshaph - meaning, in Piel, to practice magic; to use magic formulas, or incantations; to mutter; and it refers to the various arts by which those who were addicted to magic practiced their deceptions. The particular idea in this word would seem to be, that on such occasions some forms of prayers were used, for the word in Syriac means to offer prayers, or to worship. Probably the aid of idol gods was invoked by such persons when they practiced incantations. The word is found only in the following places: once as a “verb,” 2 Chronicles 33:6, and rendered “used witchcraft;” and as a “participle,” rendered “sorcerers,” in Exodus 7:11; Daniel 2:2; Malachi 3:5; and “witch,” in Exodus 22:18 (17); Deuteronomy 18:10. The noun (כשׁף kashâph and כשׁפים keshâpı̂ym) is used in the following places, always with reference to sorcery or witchcraft: Jeremiah 27:9; 2 Kings 9:22; Isaiah 47:9; Micah 5:12 (11); Nahum 3:4. It may not be easy to specify the exact sense in which this word is used as distinguished from the others which relate to the same general subject, but it would seem to be that some form of “prayer” or “invocation” was employed. The persons referred to did not profess to interpret the prognostics of future events by any original skill of their own, but by the aid of the gods.
And the Chaldeans - See the notes at Daniel 1:4. The Chaldeans appear to have been but one of the tribes or nations that made up the community at Babylon (compare the notes at Isaiah 23:13), and it would seem that at this time they were particularly devoted to the practice of occult arts, and secret sciences. It is not probable that the other persons referred to in this enumeration were Chaldeans. The Magians, if any of these were employed, were Medians (see the notes at Daniel 1:20), and it is not improbable that the other classes of diviners might have been from other nations. The purpose of Nebuchadnezzar was to assemble at his court whatever was remarkable throughout the world for skill and knowledge (see analysis of Daniel 1:0), and the wise men of the Chaldeans were employed in carrying out that design. The Chaldeans were so much devoted to these secret arts, and became so celebrated for them, that the name came, among the Greek and Roman writers, to be used to denote all those who laid claim to extraordinary powers in this department.
Diodorus Siculus (lib. ii.) says of the Chaldeans in Babylon, that “they sustain the same office there that the priests do in Egypt, for being devoted to the worship of God through their whole lives, they give themselves to philosophy, and seek from astrology their highest glory.” Cicero also remarks (De Divin., p. 3), that “the Chaldeans, so named, not from their art, but their nation, are supposed, by a prolonged observation of the stars, to have wrought out a science by which could be predicted what was to happen to every individual, and to what fate he was born.” Juvenal likewise (Sat. vi., verses 552-554), has this passage: “Chaldaeis sed major erit fiducia; quidquid dixerit astrologus, credent a fonte relatum Ammonis. - But their chief dependence is upon the Chaldeans; whatever an astrologer declares, they will receive as a response of (Jupiter) Ammon.” Horace refers to the “Babylonians” as distinguished in his time for the arts of magic, or divination:
tentaris numeros.” - Car. lib. i.; xi.
It is not probable that the whole nation of Chaldeans was devoted to these arts, but as a people they became so celebrated in this kind of knowledge that it was their best known characteristic abroad. (See also Barnes’ Appendix to Daniel)
For to show the king his dreams - To show him what the dream was, and to explain its import. Compare Genesis 41:24; Judges 14:12; 1 Kings 10:3. That it was common for kings to call in the aid of interpreters to explain the import of dreams, appears from Herodotus. When Astyages ascended the throne, he had a daughter whose name was Mandane. She had a dream which seemed to him so remarkable that he called in the “magi,” whose interpretation, Herodotus remarks, was of such a nature that it “terrified him exceedingly.” He was so much influenced by the dream and the interpretation, that it produced an entire change in his determination respecting the marriage of his daughter. - Book i., 107: So again, after the marriage of his daughter, Herodotus says (book i., cviii.): “Astyages had another vision. A vine appeared to spring from his daughter which overspread all Asia. On this occasion, also, he consulted his interpreters; the result was, that he sent for his daughter from Persia, when the time of her delivery approached. On her arrival, he kept a strict watch over her, intending to destroy her child. The magi had declared the vision to intimate that the child of his daughter should supplant him on the throne.” Astyages, to guard against this, as soon as Cyrus was born, sent for Harpagus, a person in whom he had confidence, and commanded him to take the child to his own house, and put him to death. These passages in Herodotus show that what is here related of the king of Babylon, demanding the aid of magicians and astrologers to interpret his dreams, was by no means an uncommon occurrence.
And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream - That is, clearly, to know all about it; to recollect distinctly what it was, and to understand what it meant. He was agitated by so remarkable a dream; he probably had, as Jerome remarks, a shadowy and floating impression of what the dream was - such as we often have of a dream that has agitated out minds, but of which we cannot recal the distinct and full image; and he desired to recal that distinctly, and to know exactly what it meant. See Daniel 2:1.
Then spake the Chaldeans to the king - The meaning is, either that the Chaldeans spoke in the name of the entire company of the soothsayers and magicians (see the notes, Daniel 1:20; Daniel 2:2), because they were the most prominent among them, or the name is used to denote the collective body of soothsayers, meaning that this request was made by the entire company.
In Syriac - In the original - ארמית 'ărâmı̂yt - in “Aramean.” Greek, Συριστὶ Suristi - “in Syriac.” So the Vulgate. The Syriac retains the original word. The word means Aramean, and the reference is to that language which is known as East Aramean - a general term embracing the Chaldee, the Syriac, and the languages which were spoken in Mesopotamia. See the notes at Daniel 1:4. This was the vernacular tongue of the king and of his subjects, and was that in which the Chaldeans would naturally address him. It is referred to here by the author of this book, perhaps to explain the reason why he himself makes use of this language in explaining the dream. The use of this, however, is not confined to the statement of what the magicians said, but is continued to the close of the seventh chapter. Compare the Intro. Section IV. III. The language used is what is commonly called Chaldee. It is written in the same character as the Hebrew, and differs from that as one dialect differs from another. It was, doubtless, well understood by the Jews in their captivity, and was probably spoken by them after their return to their own land.
O king, live for ever - This is a form of speech quite common in addressing monarchs. See 1 Samuel 10:24; 1 Kings 1:25 (margin); Daniel 3:9; Daniel 5:10. The expression is prevalent still, as in the phrases, “Long live the king,” “Vive l’ empereur,” “Vive le roi,” etc. It is founded on the idea that long life is to be regarded as a blessing, and that we can in no way express our good wishes for anyone better than to wish him length of days. In this place, it was merely the usual expression of respect and homage, showing their earnest wish for the welfare of the monarch. They were willing to do anything to promote his happiness, and the continuance of his life and reign. It was especially proper for them to use this language, as they wore about to make a rather unusual request, which “might” be construed as an act of disrespect, implying that the king had not given them all the means which it was equitable for them to have in explaining the matter, by requiring them to interpret the dream when he had not told them what it was.
Tell thy servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation - The claim which they set up in regard to the future was evidently only that of “explaining” what were regarded as the prognostics of future events. It was not that of being able to recal what is forgotten, or even to “originate” what might be regarded preintimations of what is to happen. This was substantially the claim which was asserted by all the astrologers, augurs, and soothsayers of ancient times. Dreams, the flight of birds, the aspect of the entrails of animals slain for sacrifice, the positions of the stars, meteors, and uncommon appearances in the heavens, were supposed to be intimations made by the gods of what was to occur in future times, and the business of those who claimed the power of divining the future was merely to interpret these things. When the king, therefore, required that they should recal the dream itself to his own mind, it was a claim to something which was not involved in their profession, and which they regarded as unjust. To that power they made no pretensions. If it be asked why, as they were mere jugglers and pretenders, they did not “invent” something and state “that” as his dream, since he had forgotten what his dream actually was, we may reply,
(1) that there is no certain evidence that they were not sincere in what they professed themselves able to do - for we are not to suppose that all who claimed to be soothsayers and astrologers were hypocrites and intentional deceivers. It was not at that period of the world certainly determined that nothing could be ascertained respecting the future by dreams, and by the positions of the stars, etc. Dreams “were” among the methods by which the future was made known; and whether the knowledge of what is to come could be obtained from the positions of the stars, etc., was a question which was at that time unsettled Even Lord Bacon maintained that the science of astrology was not to be “rejected,” but to be “reformed.”
(2) If the astrologers had been disposed to attempt to deceive the king, there is no probability that they could have succeeded in palming an invention of their own on him as his own dream. We may not be able distinctly to recollect a dream, but we have a sufficient impression of it - of its outlines - or of some striking, though disconnected, things in it, to know what it is “not.” We might instantly recognize it if stated to us; we should see at once, if anyone should attempt to deceive us by palming an invented dream on us, that “that” was not what we had dreamed.
The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, The thing is gone from me - The Vulgate renders this, “Sermo recessit a me” - “The word is departed from me.” So the Greek, Ὁ λόγος ἀπ ̓ ἐμοῦ ἀπέστη Ho logos ap' emou apestē. Luther, “Es ist mir entfallen” - “It has fallen away from me,” or has departed from me. Coverdale, “It is gone from me.” The Chaldee word rendered “the thing” - מלתה mı̂llethâh - means, properly, “a word, saying, discourse” - something which is “spoken;” then, like דבר dâbâr and the Greek ῥῆμα rēma, a “thing.” The reference here is to the matter under consideration, to wit, the dream and its meaning. The fair interpretation is, that he had forgotten the dream, and that if he retained “any” recollection of it, it was only such an imperfect outline as to alarm him. The word rendered “is gone” - אזדא 'azeddâ' - which occurs only here and in Daniel 2:8, is supposed to be the same as אזל 'ăzal - “to go away, to depart.” Gesenius renders the whole phrase, “The word has gone out from me; i. e., what I have said is ratified, and cannot be recalled;” and Prof. Bush (in loc.) contends that this is the true interpretation, and this also is the interpretation preferred by John D. Michaelis, and Dathe. A construction somewhat similar is adopted by Aben Ezra, C. B. Michaelis, Winer, Hengstenberg, and Prof. Stuart, that it means, “My decree is firm, or steadfast;” to wit, that if they did not furnish an interpretation of the dream, they should be cut off. The question as to the true interpretation, then, is between two constructions: whether it means, as in our version, that the dream had departed from him - that is, that he had forgotten it - or, that a decree or command had gone from him, that if they could not interpret the dream they should be destroyed. That the former is the correct interpretation seems to me to be evident.
(1) It is the natural construction, and accords best with the meaning of the original words. Thus no one can doubt that the word מלה millâh, and the words דבר dâbâr and ῥῆμα rēma, are used in the sense of “thing,” and that the natural and proper meaning of the Chaldee verb אזד 'ăzad is, to “go away, depart.” Compare the Hebrew (אזל 'âzal) in Deuteronomy 32:36, “He seeth that their power is gone;” 1 Samuel 9:7, “The bread is spent in our vessels;” Job 14:11, “The waters fail from the sea;” and the Chaldee (אזל 'ăzal) in Ezra 4:23, “They went up in haste to Jerusalem;” Ezra 5:8, “We went into the province of Judea;” and Daniel 2:17, Daniel 2:24; Daniel 6:18 (19), 19(20).
(2) This interpretation is sustained by the Vulgate of Jerome, and by the Greek.
(3) It does not appear that any such command had at that time gone forth from the king, and it was only when they came before him that he promulgated such an order. Even though the word, as Gesenins and Zickler (Chaldaismus Dan. Proph.) maintain, is a feminine participle present, instead of a verb in the preterit, still it would then as well apply to the “dream” departing from him, as the command or edict. We may suppose the king to say, “The thing leaves me; I cannot recal it.”
(4) It was so understood by the magicians, and the king did not attempt to correct their apprehension of what he meant. Thus, in Daniel 2:7, they say, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation thereof.” This shows that they understood that the dream had gone from him, and that they could not be expected to interpret its meaning until they were apprised what it was.
(5) It is not necessary to suppose that the king retained the memory of the dream himself, and that he meant merely to try them; that is, that he told them a deliberate falsehood, in order to put their ability to the test. Nebuchadnezzar was a cruel and severe monarch, and such a thing would not have been entirely inconsistent with his character; but we should not needlessly charge cruelty and tyranny on any man, nor should we do it unless the evidence is so clear that we cannot avoid it. Besides, that such a test should be proposed is in the highest degree improbable. There was no need of it; and it was contrary to the established belief in such matters. These men were retained at court, among other reasons, for the very purpose of explaining the prognostics of the future. There was confidence in them; and they were retained “because” there was confidence in them. It does not appear that the Babylonian monarch had had any reason to distrust their ability as to what they professed; and why should he, therefore, on “this” occasion resolve to put them to so unusual, and obviously so unjust a trial?
For these reasons, it seems clear to me that our common version has given the correct sense of this passage, and that the meaning is, that the dream had actually so far departed from him that he could not repeat it, though he retained such an impression of its portentous nature, and of its appalling outline, as to fill his mind with alarm. As to the objection derived from this view of the passage by Bertholdt to the authenticity of this chapter, that it is wholly improbable that any man would be so unreasonable as to doom others to punishment because they could not recal his dream, since it entered not into their profession to be able to do it (Commentary i. p. 192), it may be remarked, that the character of Nebuchadnezzar was such as to make what is stated here by Daniel by no means improbable. Thus it is said respecting him 2 Kings 25:7, “And they slew the sons of Zedekiah ‘before his eyes,’ and put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him with fetters of brass, and carried him to Babylon.” Compare 2 Kings 25:18-21; Jeremiah 39:5, following; Jeremiah 52:9-11. See also Daniel 4:17, where he is called “the basest of men.” Compare Hengstenberg, “Die Authentie des Daniel,” pp. 79-81. On this objection, see Introduction to the chapter, Section I. I.
If ye will not make known, unto me the dream, with the interpretation thereof - Whatever may be thought as to the question whether he had actually forgotten the dream, there can be no doubt that he demanded that they should state what it was, and then explain it. This demand was probably as unusual as it was in one sense unreasonable, since it did not fall fairly within their profession. Yet it was not unreasonable in this sense, that if they really had communication with the gods, and were qualified to explain future events, it might be supposed that they would be enabled to recal this forgotten dream. If the gods gave them power to explain what was to “come,” they could as easily enable them to recal “the past.”
Ye shall be cut in pieces - Margin, “made.” The Chaldee is, “Ye shall be made into pieces; “referring to a mode of punishment that was common to many ancient nations. Compare 1 Samuel 15:33 : “And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal.” Thus Orpheus is said to have been torn in pieces by the Thracian women; and Bessus was cut in pieces by order of Alexander the Great.
And your houses shall be made a dunghill - Compare 2 Kings 10:27. This is an expression denoting that their houses, instead of being elegant or comfortable mansions, should be devoted to the vilest of uses, and subjected to all kinds of dishonor and defilement. The language here used is in accordance with what is commonly employed by Orientals. They imprecate all sorts of indignities and abominations on the objects of their dislike, and it is not uncommon for them to smear over with filth what is the object of their contempt or abhorrenee. Thus when the caliph Omar took Jerusalem, at the head of the Saracen army, after ravaging the greater part of the city, he caused dung to be spread over the site of the sanctuary, in token of the abhorrence of all Mussulmans, and of its being henceforth regarded as the refuse and offscouring of all things. - Prof. Bush. The Greek renders this, “And your houses shall be plundered;” the Vulgate, “And your houses shall be confiscated.” But these renderings are entirely arbitrary. This may seem to be a harsh punishment which was threatened, and some may, perhaps, be disposed to say that it is improbable that a monarch would allow himself to use such intemperate language, and to make use of so severe a threatening, especially when the magicians had as yet shown no inability to interpret the dream, and had given no reasons to apprehend that they would be unable to do it. But we are to remember
(1) the cruel and arbitrary character of the king (see the references above);
(2) the nature of an Oriental despotism, in which a monarch is acccustomed to require all his commands to be obeyed, and his wishes gratified promptly, on pain of death;
(3) the fact that his mind was greatly excited by the dream; and
(4) that he was certain that something portentous to his kingdom had been prefigured by the dream, and that this was a case in which all the force of threatening, and all the prospect of splendid reward, should be used, that they might be induced to tax their powers to the utmost, and allay the tumults of his mind.
But if ye show the dream - If you show what the dream was.
And the interpretation thereof - What it signifies. That is, they were so to state the dream that Nebuchadnezzar would recognize it; and they were to give such an explanation of it as would commend itself to his mind as the true one. On this last point he would doubtless rely much on their supposed wisdom in performing this duty, but it would seem clear, also, that it was necessary that the interpretation should be seen to be a “fair” interpretation, or such as would be “fairly” implied in the dream. Thus, when Daniel made known the interpretation, he saw at once that it met all the features of the dream, and he admitted it to be correct. So also when Daniel explained the handwriting on the wall to Belshazzar, he admitted the justness of it, and loaded him with honors, Daniel 5:29. So when Joseph explained the dreams of Pharaoh, he at once saw the appropriateness of the explanation, and admitted it to be correct Genesis 41:39-45; and so in the case above referred to (notes on Daniel 2:2), of Astyages respecting the dreams of his daughter (Herod. 1, cvii.; cviii.), he at once saw that the interpretation of the dreams proposed by the Magi accorded with the dreams, and took his measures accordingly.
Ye shall receive of me gifts, and rewards, and great honor - Intending to appeal to their highest hopes to induce them, if possible, to disclose the meaning of the dream. He specifics no particular rewards, but makes the promise general; and the evident meaning is, that, in such a case, he would bestow what it became a monarch like him to give. That the usual rewards in such a case were such as were adapted to stimulate to the most vigorous exertions of their powers, may be seen from the honor which he conferred on Daniel when he made known the dream Daniel 2:48, and from the rewards which Belshazzar conferred on Daniel for making known the interpretation of the writing on the wall Daniel 5:29 : “Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with scarlet, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.” Compare Esther 5:11; Esther 6:7-9.
They answered again, and said, Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation of it - Certainly not an unreasonable request, in any circumstances, and especially in theirs. They did not profess, evidently, to be able to recal a dream that was forgotten, but the extent of their profession on this subject appears to have been, that they were able to “explain” what was commonly regarded as a prognostic of a future event.
The king answered and said, I know of certainty that ye would gain the time - Margin, “buy.” The Chaldee word זבנין zâbenı̂yn (from זבן zeban) means, to get for oneself, buy, gain, procure. Greek, ἐξαγοράζετε exagorazete - “that ye redeem time;” and so the Vulgate - quod tempus redimitis. The idea is, that they saw that they could not comply with his requisition, and that their asking him Daniel 2:7 to state the dream was only a pretext for delay, in the hope that in the interval some device might be hit on by them to appease him, or to avert his threatened indignation. It would be natural to suppose that they might hope that on reflection he would become more calm, and that, although they “might” not be able to recal the dream and explain it, yet it would be seen to be unreasonable to expect or demand it. The king seems to have supposed that some such thoughts were passing through their minds, and he charges on them such a project. The argument of the king seems to have been something like this: “They who can explain a dream correctly can as well tell what it is as what its interpretation is, for the one is as much the result of Divine influence as the other; and if men can hope for Divine help in the one case, why not in the other? As you cannot, therefore, recal the dream, it is plain that you cannot interpret it; and your only object in demanding to know it is, that you may ward off as long as possible the execution of the threatened sentence, and, if practicable, escape it altogether.” It is not improbable that what they said was more than the simple request recorded in Daniel 2:7. They would naturally enlarge on it, by attempting to show how unreasonable was the demand of the king in the case, and their arguments would give a fair pretext for what he here charges on them.
Because ye see the thing is gone from me - According to the interpretation proposed in Daniel 2:5, the “dream.” The meaning is, “You see that I have forgotten it. I have made a positive statement on that point. There can be no hope, therefore, that it can be recalled, and it is clear that your only object must be to gain time. Nothing can be gained by delay, and the matter may therefore be determined at once, and your conduct be construed as a confession that you cannot perform what is required, and the sentence proceed without delay.” This makes better sense, it seems to me, than to suppose that he means that a sentence had gone forth from him that if they could not recal and interpret it they should be put to death.
But if ye will not make known unto me the dream, there is but one decree for you - That is, you shall share the same fate. You shall all be cut to pieces, and your houses reduced to ruin, Daniel 2:5. There shall be no favor shown to any class of you, or to any individual among you. It seems to have been supposed that the responsibility rested on them individually as well as collectively, and that it would be right to hold each and every one of them bound to explain the matter. As no difference of obligation was recognized, there would be no difference of criminality. It should be said, however, that there is a difference of interpretation here. Gesenius, and some others, render the word translated “decree” - דת dâth - “counsel, plan, purpose,” and suppose that it means, “this only is your counsel, or plan;” that is, to prepare lying words, and to gain time. So Prof. Stuart renders the verse, “If ye will not make known to me the dream, one thing is your purpose, both a false and deceitful word have ye agreed to utter before me, until the time shall have changed; therefore tell me the dream, and then I shall know that you can show me the interpretation thereof.” The original word, however, is most commonly used in the sense of law or decree. See Deuteronomy 33:2; Esther 1:8, Esther 1:13, Esther 1:15, Esther 1:19; Esther 2:8; Esther 3:8, Esther 3:14-15; Esther 4:3, Esther 4:8, Esther 4:11, Esther 4:16; Esther 8:13-14, Esther 8:17; Esther 9:1, Esther 9:13-14; and there seems to be no necessity for departing from the common translation. It contains a sense according to the truth in the case, and is in accordance with the Greek, Latin, and Syriac versions.
For ye have prepared lying and corrupt words to speak before me - That is, “You have done this in asking me to state the dream Daniel 2:4, Daniel 2:7, and in the demand that the dream should be made known to you, in order that you may interpret it. I shall know by your inability to recal the dream that you have been acting a false and deceitful part, and that your pretensions were all false. Your wish, therefore, to have me state the dream will be shown to be a mere pretence, an artifice for delay, that you might put off the execution of the sentence with the hope of escaping altogether.”
Till the time be changed - That is, until a new state of things shall occur; either until his purpose might change, and his anger should subside or until there should be a change of government: It was natural for such thoughts to pass through the mind of the king, since, as matters could be no “worse” for them if the subject was delayed, there was a possibility that they might be “better” - for any change would be likely to be an advantage. There does not appear to have been any great confidence or affection on either side. The king suspected that they were influenced by bad motives, and they certainly had no strong reasons for attachment to him. Compare the notes at Daniel 2:21, and Daniel 7:25.
The Chaldeans answered before the king, and said - Perhaps the “Chaldeans” answered because they were the highest in favor, and were those in whom most confidence was usually reposed in such matters. See the notes at Daniel 2:2. On such an occasion, those would be likely to be put forward to announce their inability to do this who would be supposed to be able to interpret the dream, if any could, and on whom most reliance was usually placed.
There is not a man upon the earth that can show the king’s matter - Chaldee, על־יבשׁתא ‛al-yabeshethâ' - “upon the dry ground.” Compare Genesis 1:10. The meaning is, that the thing was utterly beyond the power of man. It was what none who practiced the arts of divining laid claim to. They doubtless supposed that as great proficients in that art as the world could produce might be found among the wise men assembled at the court of Babylon, and if they failed, they inferred that all others would fail. This was, therefore, a decided confession of their inability in the matter; but they meant to break the force of that mortifying confession, and perhaps to appease the wrath of the king, by affirming that the thing was wholly beyond the human powers, and that no one could be expected to do what was demanded.
Therefore” there is “no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things - No one has ever made a similar demand. The matter is so clear, the incompetency of man to make such a disclosure is so manifest, that no potentate of any rank ever made such a request. They designed, undoubtedly, to convince the king that the request was so unreasonable that he would not insist on it. They were urgent, for their life depended on it, and they apprehended that they had justice on their side.
And it is a rare thing that the king requireth - Chaldee, יקירה yaqqı̂yrâh - meaning, “choice, valuable, costly;” then, “heavy, hard, difficult.” Greek, βαρύς barus. Vulgate, “gravis - heavy, weighty.” The idea is not so much that the thing demanded by the king was “uncommon” or “rarely made” - though that was true, as that it was so difficult as to be beyond the human powers. They would not have been likely on such an occasion to say that the requirement was absolutely unjust or unreasonable. The term which they used was respectful, and yet it implied that no man could have any hope of solving the question as it was proposed by him.
And there is none other that can show it before the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh - This was clearly true, that a matter of that kind could not be disclosed except by Divine assistance. It would seem from this that these persons did not claim to be inspired, or to have communication with the gods; or, at least, that they did not claim to be inspired by the Supreme God, but that they relied on their own natural sagacity, and their careful and long study of the meaning of those occurrences which prefigured future events, and perhaps on the mystic arts derived from their acquaintance with science as then understood. The word “gods” here - אלהין 'ĕlâhı̂yn, the same as the Hebrew אלהים 'ĕlohı̂ym - is in the plural number, but might be applied to the true God, as the Hebrew אלהים 'ĕlohı̂ym often is. It is by no means certain that they meant to use this in the plural, or to say that it was an admitted truth that the gods worshipped in Babylon did not dwell with people.
It was, undoubtedly, the common opinion that they did; that the temples were their abode; and that they frequently appeared among men, and took part in human affairs. But it was a very early opinion that the Supreme God was withdrawn from human affairs, and had committed the government of the world to intermediate beings - internuncii - demons, or aeons: beings of power far superior to that of men, who constantly mingled in human affairs. Their power, however, though great, was limited; and may not the Chaldeans here by the word אלהין 'ĕlâhı̂yn - have meant to refer to the Supreme God, and to say that this was a case which pertained to him alone; that no inferior divinity could be competent to do such a thing as he demanded; and that as the Supreme God did not dwell among men it was hopeless to attempt to explain the matter? Thus understood, the result will convey a higher truth, and will show more impressively the honor put on Daniel. The phrase, “whose dwelling is not with flesh,” means “with men - in human bodies.”
On the supposition that this refers to the Supreme God, this undoubtedty accords with the prevailing sentiment of those times, that however often the inferior divinities might appear to men, and assume human forms, yet the Supreme God was far removed, and never thus took up his abode on the earth. They could hope, therefore, for no communication from Him who alone would be competent to the solution, of such a secret as this. This may be regarded, therefore, as a frank confession of their entire failure in the matter under consideration. They acknowledged that “they” themselves were not competent to the solution of the question, and they expressed the opinion that the ability to do it could not be obtained from the help which the inferior gods rendered to men, and that it was hopeless to expect the Supreme God - far withdrawn from human affairs - to interpose. It was a public acknowledgment that their art failed on a most important trial, and thus the way was prepared to show that Daniel, under the teaching of the true God, was able to accomplish what was wholly beyond all human power.
The trial had been fairly made. The wisest men of the Chaldean realm had been applied to. They on whom reliance had been placed in such emergencies; they who professed to be able to explain the prognostics of future events; they who had been assembled at the most important and magnificent court of the world - the very center of Pagan power; they who had devoted their lives to investigations of this nature, and who might be supposed to be competent to such a work, if any on earth could, now openly acknowledged that their art failed them, and expressed the conviction that there was no resource in the case.
For this cause the king was angry - Because they failed in explaining the subject which had been referred to them. It is true that his anger was unjust, for their profession did not imply that they would undertake to explain what he demanded, but his wrath was not unnatural. His mind was alarmed, and he was troubled. He believed that what he had seen in his dream foreboded some important events, and, as an arbitrary sovereign, unaccustomed to restrain his anger or to inquire into the exact jusrice of matters which excited Iris indignation, it was not unnatural that he should resolve to wreak his vengeance on all who made any pretensions to the arts of divining.
And very furious - Wrought up to the highest degree of passion. Chaldee, “Much enraged.” It was not a calm and settled purpose to execute his threat, but a purpose attended with a high degree of excitement.
And commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon - That is, all who made pretensions to this kind of wisdom; all who came under the wellknown denomination of “wise men,” or “sages.” He had called that class before him Daniel 2:2; he had demanded of them an explanation of his dream; he had been assured by the leading men among them, the Chaldeans Daniel 2:10-11, that they could not recall his dream; and, as he supposed that all who could be relied on in such a case had failed, he resolved to cut them off as impostors.
Where Daniel was at this time is not known. It would seem, however, that from some reason he had not been summoned before the king with the others, probably because, although he had shown himself to be eminently endowed with wisdom Daniel 1:20, he had not yet made any pretensions to this kind of knowledge, and was not numbered with the Magi, or Chaldeans. When, however, the decree went forth that “all” the “wise men of Babylon” should be slain, the exhibition of wisdom and knowledge made by him Daniel 1:18-20 was recollected, and the executioners of the sentence supposed that tie and his companions were included in the general instructions. Whether the word “Babylon” here relates to the city of Babylon, or to the whole realm, there is no certain way of determining. Considering, however, the character of Oriental despotisms, and the cruelty to which absolute sovereigns have usually been transported in their passion, there would be no improbability in supposing that the command included the whole realm, though it is probable that most of this class would be found in the capital.
And the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain - The original here will bear a somewhat different translation, meaning, “the decree went forth, “and” the wise men were slain;” that is, the execution of the sentence was actually commenced. So the Vulgate: Et egressa sententia, sapientes interficiebantur. So also the Greek version: καὶ οἱ σοφοί ἀπεκτέννοντο kai hoi sophoi apektennonto - “and the wise men were slain.” This seems to me to be the more probable interpretation, and better to suit the connection. Then it would mean that they had actually begun to execute the decree, and that in the prosecution of their bloody work they sought out Daniel and his companions, and that by his influence with Arioch the execution of the sentence was arrested.
And they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain - His three companions Daniel 1:6, who probably had not been among those who were summoned to court to explain the matter. Had they been consulted at first, the issuing of the decree would have been prevented, but it seems to have been the design of Providence to give the fairest trial of the ability of these sages, and to allow matters to come to a crisis, in order to show that what was done was wholly beyond human power.
Then Daniel answered - Margin, “returned.” The original literally is, “returned counsel and wisdom,” meaning, that he returned an answer which was replete with wisdom. It would seem probable that Arioch had communicated to Daniel the decree of the king, and had stated to him that he was involved in that decree, and must prepare to die.
Counsel and wisdom - That is, “wise counsel.” He evinced great prudence and discretion in what he said. He made such a suggestion to Arioch as, if acted on, would stay the execution of the sentence against all the wise men, and would secure the object which the king had in view. What was the exact nature of this answer is not mentioned. It is probable, however, that it was that he might be enabled to disclose the dream, and that he made this so plausible to Arioch, that he was disposed to allow him to make the trial. It is evident that Arioch would not have consented to arrest the execution of the sentence, unless it had appeared to him to be in the highest degree probable that he would be able to relieve the anxiety of the king. Knowing that the “main” object of the king was to obtain the interpretation of his dream, and seeing that this object was not any the more likely to be secured by the execution of this stern decree, and knowing the high favor with which Daniel had been received at court Daniel 1:19-21, he seems to have been willing to assume some measure of responsibility, and to allow Daniel to make his own representation to the king.
To Arioch the captain of the king’s guard - Margin, “chief of the executioners, or slaughter-men, or chief marshal.” Greek, ἀρχιμαγείρῳ τοῦ βασιλέως archimageirō tou basileōs - chief cook of the king. The Vulgate renders this,” Then Daniel inquired respecting the law and the sentence of Arioch, the commander of the royal army.” The Chaldee word rendered “guard” is טבחיא ṭabâchayâ'. It is derived from טבח ṭâbach, to slaughter; to kill animals; and then to kill or slay men. The “noun,” then, means a slaughterer or slayer; a cook; an executioner, or one who kills men at the will of a sovereign, or by due sentence of law. There can be no doubt that the word here refers to Arioch, as sent out to execute this sentence; yet we are not to regard hint as a mere executioner, or as we would a hangman, for undoubtedly the king would entrust this sentence to one who was of respectable, if not of high rank. It is probable that one of the principal officers of his body-guard would be entrusted with the execution of such a sentence. In 1 Samuel 8:13, the word is rendered “cooks.” It does not elsewhere occur. That he was not a “mere” executioner is apparent from the title given him in the next verse, where he is called “the king’s captain.”
Which was gone forth to slay ... - He had gone to execute the decree, and its execution had already commenced.
He answered and said to Arioch the king’s captain - The word “captain” - a different word from what occurs in Daniel 2:14, שׁליטא shallı̂yṭa' - denotes one who has rule or dominion; one who is powerful or mighty; and it would be applied only to one who sustained a post of honor and responsibility. See the use of the word שׁלט shālaṭ, as meaning “to rule,” in Nehemiah 5:15; Ecclesiastes 2:19; Ecclesiastes 6:2; Ecclesiastes 8:9; Esther 9:1; Psalms 119:133. The word here used is the same which occurs in Daniel 2:10, where it is rendered “ruler.” It doubtless denotes here an officer of rank, and designates one of more honorable employment than would be denoted by the word “executioner.” It should be said on these verses Daniel 2:14-15, however, that the office of executioner in the East was by no means regarded as a dishonorable office. It was entrusted to those high in rank, and even nobles considered it an honor, and often boasted of it as such, that among their ancestors there were those who had in this way been entrusted with executing the commands of their sovereign. Hanway and AbdulKerim both say that this office conferred honor and rank. Tournefort says, that in Georgia “the executioners are very rich, and men of standing undertake this employment; far different from what occurs in other parts of the world, in that country this gives to a family a title of honor. They boast that among their ancestors there were many who were executioners; and this they base on the sentiment, that nothing is more desirable than justice, and that nothing can be more honorable than to be engaged in administering the laws.” See Rosenmuller, Morgenland, 1079.
Why is the decree so hasty from the king? - Implying that all the effort had not been made which it was possible to make to solve the mystery. The idea is, that a decree of such a nature, involving so many in ruin, ought not to have proceeded from the king without having taken all possible precautions, and having made all possible efforts to find those who might be able to disclose what the king desired. It was to Daniel a just matter of surprise that, after the favor and honor with which he had been received at court Daniel 1:19-20, and the confidence which had been reposed in him, a command like this should have been issued. so comprehensive as to embrace him and his friends, when they had done nothing to deserve the displeasure of the king.
Then Arioch made the thing known to Daniel - The statement respecting the dream; the trouble of the king; the consultation of the magicians; their inability to explain the dream, and the positive command to put all the pretenders to wisdom to death. It is clear that Daniel had not before been informed of these things.
Then Daniel went in ... - Either by himself, or through the medium of some friend. Perhaps all that is meant is not that he actually went into the presence of the monarch, but that he went into the palace, and through the interposition of some high officer of court who had access to the sovereign, desired of him that he would give him time, and that he would make it known. It would rather appear, from Daniel 2:24-25, that the first direct audience which he had with the king was after the thing was made known to him in a night vision, and it would scarcely accord with established Oriental usages that he should go immediately and unceremoniously into the royal presence. A petition, presented through some one who had access to the king, would meet all the circumstances of the case.
That he would give him time - He did not specify “why” he desired time, though the reason why he did it is plain enough. He wished to lay the matter before God, and to engage his friends in earnest prayer that the dream and the interpretation might be made known to him. This request was granted to him. It may seem remarkable, as no time was allowed to the Chaldeans that they might make inquiry Daniel 2:8, that such a favor should have been granted to Daniel, especially after the execution of the sentence had been commenced; but we are to remember
(1) that the king would recollect the favor which he had already shown Daniel on good grounds, and the fact that he regarded him as endowed with great wisdom, Daniel 1:19-20.
(2) Daniel did not ask, as the Chaldeans did, that the king should tell the dream before he undertook to explain it, but he proposed evidently to unfold the whole matter.
(3) It could not but occur to the king that Daniel had not yet been consulted, and that it was but reasonable that he should have a fair trial now, since it appeared that he was involved in the general sentence.
(4) The anxiety of the king to understand the dream was so great that he was willing to grasp at “any” hope in order that his perplexities might be relieved; and
(5) It is not improper to suppose that there may have been a Divine influence on the mind of this monarch, making’ him willing to do so simple an act of justice as this, in order that it might be seen and acknowledged that the hand of God was in the whole matter.
Then Daniel went to his house - It is quite evident that he had obtained the object of his request, though this is not expressly mentioned. The king was undoubtedly, for the reasons above stated, willing that he should have a fair opportunity to try his skill in disclosing the mysterious secret.
And made the thing known to Hananiah ... - Made the whole matter known - the perplexity respecting the dream; the failure of the Chaldeans to interpret it; the decree; and his own petition to the king. They had a common interest in knowing it, as their lives were all endangered.
That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret - That they would implore of God that he would show his mercy to them in revealing this secret, that their lives might be spared. In the margin, as in the Chaldee, this is “from before the God of heaven.” All depended now on God. It was clear that human skill was exhausted, and that no reliance could be placed on any ability which man possessed. The art of the Chaldeans had failed, and Daniel, as well by this failure as by the promptings of his own feelings, must now have perceived that the only hope was in God, and that his favor in the case was to be obtained only by prayer. As his three friends were equally interested in the issue, and as it was an early principle of religion, and one found in all dispensations (compare Matthew 18:19), that “united” prayer has special power with God, it was natural and proper to call on his friends to join with him in asking this favor from Him who alone could grant it. It was the natural and the last resource of piety, furnishing an example of what all may do, and should do, in times of perplexity and danger.
That Daniel and his fellows should not perish - Margin, “or, they should not destroy Daniel.” The leading in the margin is most in accordance with the Chaldee, though the sense is substantially the same. The word “fellows” is the same which is before rendered “companions.”
With the rest of the wise men of Babylon - It seems to have been certain that the decree would be executed on the Chaldeans, soothsayers, etc. And, indeed, there was no reason “why” the decree should not be executed. They had confessed their inability to comply with the king’s command, and whatever Daniel could now do could not be construed in their favor as furnishing any reason why the decree should not be executed on them. It was presumed, therefore, that the law, severe as it seemed to be, would be carried into effect on them, and we may suppose that this was probably done. The only hope of their escaping from the common lot was in the belief that the God whom they served would now interpose in their behalf.
Then was the secret revealed ... - To wit, the dream and the interpretation. The thing which had been “hidden” was disclosed. We may suppose that this occurred after a suitable time had been given to prayer.
In a night vision - A representation made to him at night, but whether when he was asleep or awake does not appear. Compare the notes at Daniel 1:17; Isaiah 1:1; Job 4:13; Job 33:15.
Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven - Nothing would be more natural than that he should burst forth in a song of grateful praise for disclosing a secret by means of which his life, and the lives of his companions, would be preserved, and by which such signal honor would redound to God himself, as alone able to reveal coming events.
Daniel answered and said - The word “answer,” in the Scriptures, often occurs substantially in the sense of “speak” or “say.” It does not always denote a reply to something that has been said by another, as it does with us, but is often used when a speech is commenced, as if one were replying to something that “might” be said in the case, or as meaning that the circumstances in the case gave rise to the remark. Here the meaning is, that Daniel responded, as it were, to the goodness which God had manifested, and gave utterance to his feelings in appropriate expressions of praise.
Blessed be the name of God forever and ever - That is, blessed be God - the “name,” in the Scriptures, being often used to denote the person himself. It is common in the Bible to utter ascriptions of praise to God in view of important revelations, or in view of great mercies. Compare the song of Moses after the passage of the Red Sea, Exodus 15:0; the song of Deborah after the overthrow of Sisera, Judges 5:0; Isaiah 12:1-6.
For wisdom, and might are his - Both these were manifested in a remarkable manner in the circumstances of this case, and therefore these were the beginnings of the song of praise: “wisdom,” as now imparted to Daniel, enabling him to disclose this secret, when all human skill had failed; and “might,” as about to be evinced in the changes of empire indicated by the dream and the interpretation. Compare Jeremiah 32:19, “Great in counsel, and mighty in work.”
And he changeth the times and the seasons - The object of this is to assert the general control of God in reference to all changes which occur. The assertion is made, undoubtedly, in view of the revolutions in empire which Daniel now saw, from the signification of the dream, were to take place under the Divine hand. Foreseeing now these vast changes denoted by different parts of the image Daniel 2:36-45, stretching into far-distant times, Daniel was led to ascribe to God the control over “all” the revolutions which occur on earth. There is no essential difference between the words “times” and “seasons.” The words in Chaldee denote stated or appointed seasons; and the idea of times “appointed, set, determined,” enters into both. Times and seasons are not under the control of chance, but are bounded by established laws; and yet God, who appointed these laws, has power to change them, and all the changes which occur under those laws are produced by his agency. Thus the changes which occur in regard to day and night, spring and summer, autumn and winter, clouds and sunshine, health and sickness, childhood and youth, manhood and age, are under his control. Such changes, being in accordance with certain laws, may be regarded as “appointed,” or “set,” and yet the laws and the revolutions consequent on them are all under his control. So in regard to the revolutions of empire. By the arrangements of his providence he secures such revolutions as he shall see it to be best should occur, and in all of them his high hand should be regarded. The words “seasons” and “times” are of frequent occurrence in Daniel, and are sometimes used in a peculiar sense (see the notes at Daniel 7:12, Daniel 7:25), but they seem here to be employed in their usual and general signification, to denote that “all” the revolutions which occur on earth are under his control.
He removeth kings, and setteth up kings - He has absolute control over all the sovereigns of the earth, to place on the throne whom he will, and to remove them when he pleases. This was doubtless suggested to Daniel, and was made the foundation of this portion of his hymn of praise, from what he was permitted to see in the disclosures made to him in the interpretation of the dream. He then saw (compare Daniel 2:37-45) that there would be most important revolutions of kingdoms under the hand of God, and being deeply impressed with these great prospective changes, he makes this general statement, that it was the prerogative of God to do this at pleasure. Nebuchadnezzar was brought to feel this, and to recognize it, when he said Daniel 4:17, “The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will;” “he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?”
Daniel 4:32, Daniel 4:35. This claim is often asserted for God in the Scriptures as a proof of his supremacy and greatness. “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south: but God is the judge; he putteth down one, and setteth up another,” Psalms 75:6-7. Compare 1 Samuel 2:7-8. Thus he claimed absolute control over Sennacherib to employ him at his pleasure in executing his purposes of punishment on the Hebrew nation Isaiah 10:5-7, and thus over Cyrus to execute his purposes on Babylon, and to restore his people to their land, Isaiah 45:1, following See also Isaiah 46:10-11. In this manner, all the kings of the earth may be regarded as under his control; and if the Divine plan were fully understood it would be found that each one has received his appointment under the Divine direction, to accomplish some important part in carrying forward the Divine plans to their fulfillment. A history of human affairs, showing the exact purpose of God in regard to each ruler who has occupied a throne, and the exact object which God designed to accomplish by placing “him” on the throne at the time when he did, would be a far more important and valuable history than any which has been written. Of many such rulers, like Cyrus, Sennacherib, Pilate, Henry VIII, Edward VI, and the Elector of Saxony, we can see the reason why they lived and reigned when they did; and doubtless God has had some important end to accomplish in the development of his great plans in the case of every one who has ever occupied a throne.
He giveth wisdom unto the wise ... - He is the source of all true wisdom and knowledge. This is often claimed for God in the Scriptures. Compare Proverbs 2:6-7 :
“For the Lord giveth wisdom;
Out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.
He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous;
He is a buckler to them that walk uprightly.”
See also 1 Kings 3:9-12; Exodus 31:3. God claims to be the source of all wisdom and knowledge. He originally formed each human intellect, and made it what it is; he opens before it the paths of knowledge; he gives to it clearness of perception; he preserves its powers so that they do not become deranged; he has power to make suggestions, to direct the laws of association, to fix the mind on important thoughts, and to open before it new and interesting views of truth. And as it would be found, if the history could be written, that God has placed each monarch on the throne with a distinct reference to some important purpose in the development of his great plans, so probably it would be seen that each important work of genius which has been written; each invention in the arts; and each discovery in science has been, for a similar purpose, under his control. He has created the great intellect just at the time when it was needful that such a discovery or invention should be made, and having prepared the world for it by the course of events, the discovery or invention has occurred just at the time when, on the whole, it was most desirable that it should.
He revealeth the deep and secret things - Things which are too profound for man to fathom by his own power, and which are concealed or hidden until he makes them known. What is said here is an advance on what was affirmed in the previous verse, and relates to another kind of knowledge. “That” related to such knowledge as was not properly beyond the grasp of the human intellect when unaided in any supernatural manner, and affirmed that even then all discoveries and inventions are to be traced to God; “this” refers to a species of knowledge which lies beyond any natural compass of the human powers, and in which a supernatural influence is needed - such things as the Chaldeans and astrologers claimed the power of disclosing. The assertion here is, that when the highest human wisdom showed itself insufficient for the exigency, God was able to disclose those deep truths which it was desirable for man to understand. Applied generally, this refers to the truths made known by revelation - truths which man could never have discovered by his unaided powers.
He knoweth what is in the darkness - What appears to man to be involved in darkness, and on which no light seems to shine. This may refer not only to what is concealed from man in the literal darkness of night, but to all that is mysterious; all that lies beyond the range of human inquiry; all that pertains to unseen worlds. An immensely large portion of the universe lies wholly beyond the range of human investigation at present, and is, of course, dark to man.
And the light dwelleth with him - The word rendered “dwelleth” (שׁרא sherēl) means, properly, to loose, to unbind, to solve, as e. g., hard questions, Daniel 5:16; and is then applied to travelers who unbind the loads of their beasts to put up for the night, and then it comes to mean to put up for the night, to lodge, to dwell. Hence, the meaning is, that the light abides with God; it is there as in its appropriate dwelling-place; he is in the midst of it: all is light about him; light when it is sent out goes from him; when it is gathered together, its appropriate place is with him. Compare Job 38:19-20 :
“Where is the way where light dwelleth?
And as for darkness, where is the place thereof?
That thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof,
And that thou shouldest know the paths to the house thereof?”
See the note at that passage. Compare also 1 Timothy 6:16 : “Dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto.” 1 John 1:5 : “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”
I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers - By his “fathers” here, Daniel refers doubtless to the Jewish people in general, and not to his own particular ancestors. The meaning of the phrase “God of my fathers” is, that he had been their protector; had regarded them as his people; had conferred on them great favors. The particular ground of thanksgiving here is, that the same God who had so often revealed himself to the Hebrew people by the prophets in their own land, had now condescended to do the same thing to one of their nation, though a captive in a strange country. The favor thus bestowed had an increased value, from the fact that it showed that the Hebrew people were not forgotten, though far from the land of their birth, and that, though in captivity, they might still hope for the benign interposition of God.
Who hast given me wisdom and might - The word “wisdom” here undoubtedly refers to the ability which had now been given him to declare the nature and purport of the dream, imparting to him a degree of wisdom far superior to those pretenders to whom the matter had been at first submitted. The word “might” (Chaldee, strength - גבוּרתא gebûrethâ') does not probably differ materially from “wisdom.” It means “ability” to interpret the dream - implying that it was a task beyond natural human ability.
For thou hast now made known unto us the king’s matter - That is, it had been made known to him and his friends. He joins himself with them, for, although it was particularly made known to him, yet, as they had united with him in prayer that the secret might be disclosed, and as they shared common dangers, he regarded it as in fact made known to them all.
Therefore Daniel went in, unto Arioch - In view of the fact that the matter was now disclosed to him, he proposed to lay it before the king. This of course, he did not do directly, but through Arioch, who was entrusted with the execution of the decree to slay the wise men of Babylon. That officer would naturally have access to the king, and it was proper that a proposal to arrest the execution of the sentence should be made through his instrumentality. The Chaldee דנה כל־קבל kôl-qebēl denâh is, properly, “on this whole account “ - or, “on this whole account because” - in accordance with the usually full and pleonastic mode of writing particles, Similar to the German “alldieweil,” or the compound English “forasmuch as.” The meaning is, that in view of the whole matter, he sought to lay the case before the king.
Destroy not the wise men of Babylon - That is, “Stay the execution of the sentence on them. Though they have failed to furnish the interpretation demanded, yet, as it can now be given, there is no occasion for the exercise of this severity.” The ground of the sentence was that they could not interpret the dream. As the execution of the sentence involved Daniel and his friends, and as the reason why it was passed at all would now cease by his being able to furnish the required explanation, Daniel felt that it was a matter of mere justice that the execution of the sentence should cease altogether.
Bring me in before the king - It would seem from this that Daniel did not regard himself as having free access to the king, and he would not unceremoniously intrude himself into his presence. This verse confirms the interpretation given of Daniel 2:16, and makes it in the highest degree probable that this was the first occasion on which he was personally before the king in reference to this matter.
Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste - The Chaldee word used here implies “in tumultuous haste,” as of one who was violently excited, or in a state of trepidation, from בהל bâhal - “to tremble, to be in trepidation.” The trepidation in this case may have arisen from one or both of two causes:
(1) exultation, or joy, that the great secret was discovered; or
(2) joy that the effusion of blood might be stayed, and that there might be now no necessity to continue the execution of the sentence against the wise men.
I have found a man - Margin, as in Chaldee, “That I have found a man It is not to be supposed that Arioch had known anything of the application which Daniel had made to the king to delay the execution of the sentence Daniel 2:16, and, for anything that appears, he had suspended that execution on his own responsibility. Ignorant as he was, therefore, of any such arrangement, and viewing only his own agency in the matter, it was natural for him to go in and announce this as something entirely new to the king, and without suggesting that the execution of the sentence had been at all delayed. It was a most remarkable circumstance, and one which looks like a Divine interposition, that he should have been disposed to delay the execution of the sentence at all, so that Daniel could have an opportunity of showing whether he could not divulge the secret. All the circumstances of the case seem to imply that Arioch was not a man of a cruel disposition, but was disposed, as far as possible, to prevent the effusion of blood.
Of the captives of Judah - Margin, as in Chaldee, “of the children of the captivity.” The word “Judah” here probably refers to the “country” rather than to the “people,” and means that he was among those who had been brought from the land of Judah.
That will make known unto the king the interpretation - It is clear, from the whole narrative, that Arioch had great confidence in Daniel. All the “evidence” which he could halve that he would be able to make this known, must have been from the fact that Daniel “professed” to be able to do it; but such was his confidence in him that he had no doubt that he would be able to do it.
The king answered, and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar - See the notes at Daniel 1:7. The “king” may have addressed him by this name, and probably did during this interview. This was the name, it would seem, by which he was known in Babylon - a name which implied honor and respectability, as being conferred on one whom it was supposed the principal Babylonian divinity favored.
Art thou able to make known unto me the dream? - One of the first points in the difficulty was to recal “the dream itself,” and hence, this was the first inquiry which the king presented. If he could not recal that, of course the matter was at an end, and the law would be suffered to take its course.
Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded, cannot the wise men ... show unto the king - Daniel regarded it as a settled and indisputable point that the solution could not be hoped for from the Chaldean sages. The highest talent which the realm could furnish had been applied to, and had failed. It was clear, therefore, that there was no hope that the difficulty would be removed by human skill. Besides this, Daniel would seem also to intimate that the thing, from the necessity of the case, was beyond the compass of the human powers. Alike in reference to the question whether a forgotten dream could be recalled, and to the actual “signification” of a dream so remarkable as this, the whole matter was beyond the ability of man.
The wise men, the astrologers ... - On these words, see the notes at Daniel 1:20. All these words occur in that verse, except גזרין gâzerı̂yn - rendered “soothsayers.” This is derived from גזר gezar - “to cut, to cut off;” and then “to decide, to determine;” and it is thus applied to those who decide or determine the fates or destiny of men; that is, those who “by casting nativities from the place of the stars at one’s birth, and by various arts of computing and divining, foretold the fortunes and destinies of individuals.” See Gesenius, “Com. z. Isa.” 2:349-356, Section 4, Von den Chaldern und deren Astrologie. On p. 555, he has given a figure, showing how the heavens were “cut up,” or “divided,” by astrologers in the practice of their art. Compare the phrase numeri Babylonii, in Hor. “Carm.” I. xi. 2. The Greek is γαζαρηνῶν gazarēnōn - the Chaldee word in Greek letters. This is one of the words - not very few in number - which the authors of the Greek version did not attempt to translate. Such words, however, are not useless, as they serve to throw light on the question how the Hebrew and Chaldee were pronounced before the vowel points were affixed to those languages.
But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets - One of the principal objects contemplated in all that occurred respecting this dream and its interpretation was, to direct the mind of the monarch to the true God, and to secure the acknowledgment of his supremacy. Hence, it was so ordered that those who were most eminent for wisdom, and who were regarded as the favorites of heaven, were constrained to confess their entire inability to explain the mystery. The way was thus prepared to show that he who “could” do this must be the true God, and must be worthy of adoration and praise. Thus prepared, the mind of the monarch was now directed by this pious Hebrew youth, though a captive, to a truth so momentous and important. His whole training, his modesty and his piety, all were combined to lead him to attribute whatever skill he might evince in so difficult a matter to the true God alone: and we can scarcely conceive of a more sublime object of contemplation than this young man, in the most magnificent court of the world, directing the thoughts of the most mighty monarch that then occupied a throne, to the existence and the perfections of the true God.
And maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar - Margin, “hath made.” The translation in the text is more correct, for it was not true that he had as yet actually made these things known to the king. He had furnished intimations of what was to occur, but he had not yet been permitted to understand their signification.
What shall be in the latter days - Greek ἐπ ̓ ἐσχάτων τῶν ἡμερῶν ep' eschatōn tōn hēmerōn - “in the last days.” Vulgate, in novissimis temporibus - “in the last times.” Chaldee, יומיא באחרית be'achărı̂yth yômayâ' - “in the after days;” or, as Faber expresses it, “in the afterhood of days.” The phrase means what we should express by saying, “hereafter - in future times - in time to come.” This phrase often has special reference to the times of the Messiah, as the last dispensation of things on the earth, or as that under which the affairs of the world will be wound up. Compare the notes at Isaiah 2:2. It does not appear, however, to be used in that sense here, but it denotes merely “future” times. The phrase “the latter days,” therefore, does not exactly convey the sense of the original. It is “future” days rather than “latter” days.
Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed - The phrase “visions of thy head” means conceptions or notions formed by the brain. It would seem from this, that, even in the time of Daniel, the brain was regarded as, in some sense, the organ of thinking, or that “thought” had its seat in the head. We are not to suppose that by the use of these different expressions Daniel meant to describe two things, or to intimate that Nebuchadnezzar had had visions which were distinct. What he saw might be described as a dream or a vision; it, in fact, had the nature of both.
Are these - “These which I now proceed to describe.”
As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed - Margin, “up;” that is, thy thoughts ascended. The Chaldee is, “thy thoughts ascended” - סלקוּ selı̂qû. So the Greek: “Thy thoughts ascended (ἀνέβησαν anebēsan) upon thy couch.” There is, evidently, some allusion to the thoughts “ascending,” or “going up;” and perhaps the idea is, that they were employed on important subjects - an idea which we now express by saying that one’s thoughts are “elevated,” as contrasted with those which are “low” and “grovelling.”
What should come to pass hereafter - It would seem most probable from this, that the thoughts of Nebuchadnezzar were occupied with this subject in his waking moments on his bed, and that the dream was grafted on this train of thought when he fell asleep. Nothing is more probable than that his thoughts might be thus occupied. The question respecting his successor; the changes which might occur; the possibility of revolutions in other kingdoms, or in the provinces of his own vast empire, all were topics on which his mind would probably be employed. As God designed, too, to fix his thoughts particularly on that general subjects the changes which were to occur in his empire - such an occasion, when his attention was greatly engrossed with the subject, would be very suitable to impart the knowledge which he did by this vision. Daniel refers to this, probably, because it would do much to confirm the monarch in the belief of his inspiration, if he referred to the train of thought which had preceded the dream; as it is not improbable that the king would remember his “waking” thoughts on the subject, though his “dream” was forgotten.
But as for me - So far as I am concerned in this matter, or whatever skill or wisdom I may evince in the interpretation, it is not to be traced to myself. The previous verse commences with the expression “as for thee;” and in this verse, by the phrase “as for me,” Daniel puts himself in strong contrast with the king. The way in which this was done was not such as to flatter the vanity of the king, and cannot be regarded as the art of the courtier, and yet it was such as would be universally adopted to conciliate his favor, and to give him an elevated idea of the modesty and piety of the youthful Daniel. In the previous verse he says, that, as to what pertained to the king, God had greatly honored him by giving him important intimations of what was yet to occur. Occupying the position which he did, it might be supposed that it would not be wholly unnatural that he should be thus favored, and Daniel does not say, as in his own case, that it was not on account of anything in the character and rank of the king that this had been communicated to him. But when he comes to speak of himself - a youth; a captive; a stranger in Babylon; a native of another land - nothing was more natural or proper than that he should state distinctly that it was not on account of anything in him that this was done.
This secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living - That is, “it is not “by” any wisdom which I have above others, nor is it “on account of” any previous wisdom which I have possessed or manifested.” There is an absolute and total disclaimer of the idea that it was in any sense, or in any way, on account of his own superiority in wisdom. All the knowledge which he had in the case was to be traced entirely to God.
But for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king - Margin, “or, the intent that the interpretation may be made known.” The margin is the more correct rendering, and should have been admitted into the text. The literal translation is, “but (להן lâhēn) on account of the thing that they might make known the interpretation to the king.” The word rendered “make known” is indeed in the plural, but it is evidently used in an impersonal sense, meaning that the interpretation would be made known. “It was to the intent that they might make it known;” that is, that somebody might do it, or that it might be done. Would not modesty and delicacy lead to the choice of such an expression here, inclining Daniel to avoid, as far as possible, all mention of himself? The main thought is, that the grand object to be secured was not to glorify Daniel, or any other human being, but to communicate to this pagan monarch important truths respecting coming events, and through him to the world.
And that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart - In reference to this matter; that is, that he might be able to recal the thoughts which passed through his mind in the dream. This Daniel 2:27-30 is the introduction to the important disclosure which Daniel was about to make to the king. This entire disclaimer of the honor of having originated the interpretation by his own wisdom, and the ascribing of it to God, are worthy here of special attention. It is probable that the magicians were accustomed to ascribe to their own skill and sagacity the ability to interpret dreams and the other prognostics of the future, and to claim special honor on that account. In opposition to this, Daniel utterly disclaims any such wisdom himself, and attributes the skill which he has entirely to God. This is a beautiful illustration of the nature of modesty and piety. It places before us a young man, having now the prospect of being elevated to great honors; under every temptation to arrogate the possession of extraordinary wisdom to himself; suddenly exalted above all the sages of the most splendid court on earth, disclaiming all merit, and declaring in the most solemn manner that whatever profound wisdom there might be in the communication which he was about to make, it was not in the slightest degree to be traced to himself. See the remarks at the end of the chapter, (6.)
Thou, O king, sawest - Margin, “wast seeing.” The margin is in accordance with the Chaldee. The language is properly what denotes a prolonged or attentive observation. He was in an attitude favorable to vision, or was looking with intensity, and there appeared before him this remarkable image. Compare Daniel 7:1-2, Daniel 7:4, Daniel 7:6. It was not a thing which appeared for a moment, and then vanished, but which remained so long that he could contemplate it with accuracy.
And, behold, a great image - Chaldee, “one image that was grand” - שׂגיא חד צלם tselēm chad s'agı̂y'. So the Vulgate - statua una grandis. So the Greek - εἰκὼν μία eikōn mia. The object seems to be to fix the attention on the fact that there was but “one” image, though composed of so different materials, and of materials that seemed to be so little fitted to be worked together into the same statue. The idea, by its being represented as “one,” is, that it was, in some respects, “the same kingdom” that he saw symbolized: that is, that it would extend over the same countries, and could be, in some sense, regarded as a prolongation of the same empire. There was so much of “identity,” though different in many respects, that it could be represented as “one.” The word rendered “image” (צלם tselem) denotes properly “a shade,” or “shadow,” and then anything that “shadows forth,” or that represents anything.
It is applied to man Genesis 1:27 as shadowing forth, or representing God; that is, there was something in man when he was created which had so far a resemblance to God that he might be regarded as an “image” of him. The word is often used to denote idols - as supposed to be a “representation” of the gods, either in their forms, or as shadowing forth their character as majestic, stern, mild, severe, merciful, etc. Numbers 33:52; 1 Samuel 6:5; 2 Kings 11:18; 2 Chronicles 23:17; Ezekiel 7:20; Ezekiel 16:17; Ezekiel 23:14; Amos 5:26. This image is not represented as an idol to be worshipped, nor in the use of the word is it to be supposed that there is an allusion, as Prof. Bush supposes, to the fact that these kingdoms would be idolatrous, but the word is used in its proper and primitive sense, to denote something which would “represent,” or “shadow forth,” the kingdoms which would exist. The exact “size” of the image is not mentioned. It is only suggested that it was great - a proper characteristic to represent the “greatness” of the kingdoms to which it referred.
This great image - The word here rendered “great” (רב rab) is different from that used in the previous clause, though it is not easy to determine the exact difference between the words. Both denote that the image was of gigantic dimensions. It is well remarked by Prof. Bush, that “the monuments of antiquity sufficiently evince that the humor prevailed throughout the East, and still more in Egypt, of constructing enormous statues, which were usually dedicated to some of their deities, and connected with their worship. The object, therefore, now presented in the monarch’s dream was not, probably, entirely new to his thoughts.”
Whose brightness was excellent - “Whose brightness “excelled,” or was unusual and remarkable.” The word rendered brightness (זיו zı̂yv) is found only in Daniel. It is rendered “brightness” in Daniel 2:31; Daniel 4:36, and in the margin in Daniel 5:6, Daniel 5:9; and “countenance” in Daniel 5:6 (text), and in Daniel 2:9-10; Daniel 7:28. From the places where it is found, particularly Daniel 4:36, it is clear that it is used to denote a certain beauty, or majesty, shining forth in the countenance, which was fitted to impress the beholder with awe. The term here is to be understood not merely of the face of the image, but of its entire aspect, as having something in it signally splendid and imposing. We have only to conceive of a colossal statue whose head was burnished gold, and a large part of whose frame was polished silver, to see the force of this language.
Stood before thee - It stood over against him in full view. He had an opportunity of surveying it clearly and distinctly.
And the form thereof was terrible - Vast, imposing, grand, fearful. The sudden appearance of such an object as this could not but fill the mind with terror. The design for which this representation was made to Nebuchadnezzar is clearly unfolded in the explanation which Daniel gives. It may be remarked here, in general, that such an appearance of a gigantic image was well adapted to represent successive kingdoms, and that the representation was in accordance with the spirit of ancient times. “In ancient coins and medals,” says the editor of the “Pictorial Bible,” “nothing is more common than to see cities and nations represented by human figures, male or female. According to the ideas which suggested such symbols, a vast image in the human figure was, therefore, a very fit emblem of sovereign power and dominion; while the materials of which it was composed did most significantly typify the character of the various empires, the succession of which was foreshown by this vision. This last idea, of expressing the condition of things by metallic symbols, was prevalent before the time of Daniel. Hesiod, who lived about two centuries before Daniel, characterizes the succession of ages (four) by the very same metals - gold, silver, brass, and iron.”
This image’s head was of fine gold - Chaldee, “good gold” - טב דהב dehab ṭâb - that is, fine, pure, unalloyed. The whole head of the figure, colossal as it was, appeared to be composed wholly of this. Had the “whole” image been made of gold, it would not have been so striking - for it was not uncommon to construct vast statues of this metal. Compare Daniel 3:1. But the remarkable peculiarity of this image was, that it was composed of different materials, some of which were seldom or never used in such a structure, and all of which had a peculiar significancy. On the significancy of this part of the figure, and the resemblance between this head of gold and Nebuchadnezzar himself, see the notes at Daniel 2:37-38.
His breast and his arms of silver - The word rendered “breast” (חדין chădı̂y) is in the plural number, in accordance with common usage in the Hebrew, by which several members of the human body are often expressed in the plural; as פנים pânı̂ym - “faces,” etc. There is a foundation for such a usage in nature, in the two-fold form of many of the portions of the human body. The portion of the body which is here represented is obviously the upper portion of the front part - what is prominently visible when we look at the human frame. Next to the head it is the most important part, as it embraces most of the vital organs. Some degree of inferiority, as well as the idea of succession, would be naturally represented by this. “The inferior value of silver as compared with gold will naturally suggest some degree of decline or degeneracy in the character of the subject represented by the metal; and so in other members, as we proceed downward, as the material becomes continually baser, we naturally infer that the subject deteriorates, in some sense, in the like manner.” - Professor Bush, in loc. On the kingdom represented by this, and the propriety of this representation, see the notes at Daniel 2:39.
His belly and his thighs of brass - Margin, “sides.” It is not necessary to enter minutely into an examination of the words here used. The word “belly” denotes, unquestionably, the regions of the abdomen as externally visible. The word rendered “thighs” in the text is rendered “sides” in the margin. It is, like the word “breast” in the previous verse, in the plural number and for the same reason. The Hebrew word (ירך yârêk) is commonly rendered “thigh” in the Scriptures (Genesis 24:2, Genesis 24:9; Genesis 32:25 (26), 31, 32(32, 33), et al.), though it is also frequently rendered “side,” Exodus 32:27; Exodus 40:22, Exodus 40:24; Leviticus 1:11; Numbers 3:29, et al. According to Gesenius, it denotes “the thick and double fleshy member which commences at the bottom of the spine, and extends to the lower legs.” It is that part on which the sword was formerly worn, Exodus 32:27; Judges 3:16, Judges 3:21; Psalms 45:3 (4). It is also that part which was smitten, as an expression of mourning or of indignation, Jeremiah 31:19; Ezekiel 21:12 (17). Compare Hom. Iliad xii. 162, xv. 397; Odyssey xiii. 198; Cic. 150: “Orat.” 80; “Quinc.” xi. 3. It is not improperly here rendered “thighs,” and the portion of the figure that was of brass was that between the breast and the lower legs, or extended from the breast to the knees. The word is elsewhere employed to denote the shaft or main trunk of the golden candlestick of the tabernacle, Exodus 25:31; Exodus 37:17; Numbers 8:4.
Of brass - An inferior metal, and denoting a kingdom of inferior power or excellence. On the kingdom represented by this, see the notes at Daniel 2:39.
His legs of iron - The portion of the lower limbs from the knees to the ankles. This is undoubtedly the usual meaning of the English word “legs,” and it as clearly appears to be the sense of the original word here. Iron was regarded as inferior to either of the other metals specified, and yet was well adapted to denote a kingdom of a particular kind - less noble in some respects, and yet hardy, powerful, and adapted to tread down the world by conquest. On the application of this, see the notes at Daniel 2:40.
His feet part of iron and part of clay - As to his feet; or in respect to his feet, they were partly of iron and partly of clay - a mixture denoting great strength, united with what is fragile and weak. The word rendered “clay” in this place (חסף chăsaph) is found nowhere else except in this chapter, and is always rendered “clay,” Daniel 2:33-35, Daniel 2:41 (twice), 42, 43 (twice), 45. In some instances Daniel 2:41, Daniel 2:43, the epithet “miry” is applied to it. This would seem to imply that it was not “burnt or baked clay,” or “earthenware,” as Professor Bush supposes, but clay in its natural state. The idea would seem to be, that the framework, so to speak, was iron, with clay worked in, or filling up the interstices, so as to furnish an image of strength combined with what is weak. That it would be well adapted represent a kingdom that had many elements of permanency in it, yet that was combined with things that made it weak - a mixture of what was powerful with what was liable to be crushed; capable of putting forth great efforts, and of sustaining great shocks, and yet having such elements of feebleness and decay as to make it liable to be overthrown. For the application of this, see the notes at Daniel 2:41-43.
Thou sawest - Chaldee, “Thou wast seeing;” that is, thou didst continue to behold, implying that the vision was of somewhat long continuance. It did not appear and then suddenly vanish, but it remained so long that he had an opportunity of careful observation.
Till that a stone was cut out without hands - That is, from a mountain or hill, Daniel 2:45. This idea is expressed in the Latin and the Greek version. The vision appears to have been that of a colossal image “standing on a plain” in the vicinity of a mountain, standing firm, until, by some unseen agency, and in an unaccountable manner, a stone became detached from the mountain, and was made to impinge against it. The margin here is, “which was not in his hands.” The more correct rendering of the Chaldee, however, is that in the text, literally, “a stone was cut out which was not by hands” - בידין bı̂ydayı̂n: or perhaps still more accurately, “a stone was cut out which was not in hands,” so that the fact that it was not in or by “hands” refers rather to its not being projected by hands than to the manner of its being detached from the mountain. The essential idea is, that the agency of hands did not appear at all in the case. The stone seemed to be self-moved. It became detached from the mountain, and, as if instinct with life, struck the image and demolished it. The word rendered “stone” ( אבן 'eben) determines nothing as to the “size” of the stone, but the whole statement would seem to imply that it was not of large dimensions. It struck upon “the feet” of the image, and it “became” itself a great mountain Daniel 2:35 - all which would seem to imply that it was at first not large. What increased the astonishment of the monarch was, that a stone of such dimensions should have been adequate to overthrow so gigantic a statue, and to grind it to powder. The points on which it was clearly intended to fix the attention of the monarch, and which made the vision so significant and remarkable, were these:
(a) the colossal size and firmness of the image;
(b) the fact that a stone, not of large size, should be seen to be selfdetached from the mountain, and to move against the image;
(c) the fact that it should completely demolish and pulverize the colossal figure; and
(d) the fact that then this stone of inconsiderable size should be itself mysteriously augmented until it filled the world.
It should be added, that the vision appears not to have been that of a stone detached from the side of a hill, and rolling down the mountain by the force of gravitation, but that of a stone detached, and then moving off toward the image as if it had been thrown from a hand, though the hand was unseen. This would very strikingly and appropriately express the idea of something, apparently small in its origin, that was impelled by a cause that was unseen, and that bore with mighty force upon an object of colossal magnitude, by an agency that could not be explained by the causes that usually operate. For the application and pertinency of this, see the notes at Daniel 2:44-45.
Which smote the image upon his feet - The word here used (מחא mechâ') means, to “strike,” to “smite,” without reference to the question whether it is a single blow, or whether the blow is often repeated. The Hebrew word (מחא mâchâ') is uniformly used as refering to “the clapping of the hands;” that is, smiting them together, Psalms 98:8; Isaiah 55:12; Ezekiel 25:6. The Chaldee word is used only here and in Daniel 2:35, referring to the smiting of the image, and in Daniel 4:35 (32), where it is rendered “stay” - “none can stay his hand.” The connection here, and the whole statement, would seem to demand the sense of a continued or prolonged smiting, or of repeated blows, rather than a single concussion. The great image was not only thrown down, but there was a subsequent process of “comminution,” independent of what would have been produced by the fall. A fall would only have broken it into large blocks or fragments; but this continued smiting reduced it to powder. This would imply, therefore, not only a single shock, or violent blow, but some cause continuing to operate until what had been overthrown was effectually destroyed, like a vast image reduced to impalpable powder. The “first concussion” on the feet made it certain that the colossal frame would fall; but there was a longer process necessary before the whole effect should be accomplished. Compare the notes at Daniel 2:44-45.
And brake them to pieces - In Daniel 2:35, the idea is, “they became like the chaff of the summer threshing-floors.” The meaning is not that the image was broken to “fragments,” but that it was “beaten fine” - reduced to powder - so that it might be scattered by the wind. This is the sense of the Chaldee word (דקק deqaq), and of the Hebrew word also (דקק dâqaq). See Exodus 32:20 : “And he took the calf which they had made, and burned it in the fire, and ground it to powder.” Deuteronomy 9:21 : “and I took your sin, the calf which ye had made, and burnt it with fire, and stamped it, and ground it very small, even until it was as small as dust.” Isaiah 41:15 : “thou shalt thresh the mountains and “beat them small,” and shalt make the hills as chaff.” 2 Kings 23:15 : “he burnt the high place, and “stamped” it “small” to powder.” 2 Chronicles 34:4 : “and they brake down the altars, etc., and “made dust” of them, and strewed it upon the graves of them that had sacrificed unto them.” Compare Exodus 30:36; 2 Chronicles 34:7; 2 Kings 23:6. From these passages it is clear that the general meaning of the word is that of reducing anything to fine dust or powder, so that it may be easily blown about by the wind.
Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing-floor - The word rendered “together” (כצרה kachădâh) our translators would seem to have understood as referring to “time;” to its being done simultaneously. The more literal interpretation, however, is, “as one;” that is, “they were beaten small as one,” referring to identity of condition. They were all reduced to one indiscriminate mass; to such a mass that the original materials could no longer be distinguished, and would all be blown away together. The literal meaning of the word (חד chad used and חדה chădâh) is, “one,” or “first.” Ezra 4:8, “wrote a letter;” Ezra 5:13, “in the first year of Cyrus;” Ezra 6:2, “a roll;” Daniel 2:9; “there is but one decree for you;” Daniel 3:19, “heat the furnace one seven times hotter,” etc. United with the preposition (כ k) it means “as one,” like the Hebrew כאחד ke'echâd) - Ecclesiastes 11:6; 2 Chronicles 5:13; Ezra 2:64; Ezra 3:9; Isaiah 65:25. The phrase “chaff of the summer threshing-floors” refers to the mode of winnowing grain in the East. This was done in the open air, usually on an elevated place, by throwing the grain, when thrashed, into the air with a shovel, and the wind thus drove away the chaff. Such chaff, therefore, naturally became an emblem of anything that was light, and that would be easily dissipated. See the notes at Isaiah 30:24; Matthew 3:12.
And the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them - They were entirely dissipated like chaff. As that seems to have no longer any place, but is carried we know not where, so the figure here would denote an entire annihilation of the power to which it refers.
And the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth - The vision which was before the mind of the king as here represented was, that the stone which was cut out of the mountain was at first small, and that while he contemplated it, it swelled to larger dimensions, until it became an immense mountain - a mountain that filled the whole land. It was this which, perhaps more than anything else, excited his wonder, that a stone, at first of so small dimensions, should of itself so increase as to surpass the size of the mountain from which it was cut, until it occupied every place in view. Everything about it was so remarkable and unusual, that it was no wonder that he could not explain it. We have now gone over a description of the literal vision as it appeared to the mind of the monarch. Had it been left here, it is clear that it would have been of difficult interpretation, and possibly the true explanation might never have been suggested. We have, however, an exposition by Daniel, which leaves no doubt as to its design, and which was intended to carry the mind forward into some of the most important and remarkable events of history. A portion of his statement has been fulfilled; a part remains still unaccomplished, and a careful exposition of his account of the meaning of the vision will lead our thoughts to some of the most important historical events which have occurred in introducing the Christian dispensation, and to events still more important in the statement of what is yet to come.
This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king - Daniel here speaks in his own name, and in the name of his companions. Hence, he says, “we will tell the interpretation.” It was in answer to their united supplications Daniel 2:18, that this meaning of the vision had been made known to him; and it would not only have been a violation of the rules of modesty, but an unjust assumption, if Daniel had claimed the whole credit of the revelation to himself. Though he was the only one who addressed the king, yet he seems to have desired that it might be understood that he was not alone in the honor which God had conferred, and that he wished that his companions should be had in just remembrance. Compare Daniel 2:49.
Thou, O King, art a king of kings - The phrase “king of kings” is a Hebraism, to denote a supreme monarch, or one who has other kings under him as tributary, Ezra 7:12; Ezekiel 26:7. As such it is applied by way of eminence to the Son of God, in Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:16. As here used, it means that Nebuchadnezzar ruled over tributary kings and princes, or that he was the most eminent of the kings of the earth. The scepter which he swayed was, in fact, extended over many nations that were once independent kingdoms, and the title here conferred on him was not one that was designed to flatter the monarch, but was a simple statement of what was an undoubted truth. Daniel would not withhold any title that was in accordance with reality, as he did not withhold any communication in accordance with reality that was adapted to humble the monarch.
For the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom ... - At the same time that Daniel gave him a title which might in itself have ministered to the pride of the monarch, he is careful to remind him that he held this title in virtue of no wisdom or power of his own. It was the true God who had conferred on him the sovereignty of these extensive realms, and it was one of the designs of this vision to show him that he held his power at his will, and that at his pleasure he could cause it to pass away. It was the forgetfulness of this, and the pride resulting from that forgetfulness, which led to the melancholy calamity which befel this haughty monarch, as recorded in Daniel 4:0.
And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field, and the fowls of the heavens, hath he given into thy hand - This is evidently general language, and is not to be pressed literally. It is designed to say that he ruled over the whole world; that is, the world as then known. This is common language applied in the Scriptures to the Babylonian, Persian, Grecian, and Roman kingdoms. Thus in Daniel 2:39, the third of these kingdoms, the Grecian, was to “bear rule over all the earth.” Compare Daniel 8:5 : “And, as I was considering, behold, an he-goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth.” So of the Roman empire, in Daniel 7:23 : “The fourth beast shall devour the whole earth.” The declaration that his kingdom embraced the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air is a strong expression, meaning that he reigned over the whole world. A somewhat similar description of the extent of the empire of the king of Babylon occurs in Jeremiah 27:4-8 : “And command them to say unto their masters, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Thus shall ye say unto your masters; I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by my great power, and by my outstretched arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed meet unto me. And now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant; and the beasts of the field I have given him also to serve him. And all nations shall serve him, and his son, and his son’s son, until the very time of his land come: and then many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of him. And it shall come to pass, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation will I punish, saith the Lord, with the sword, and with the famine, and with the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand.”
At the time referred to by Daniel, the scepter of Nebuchadnezzar a extended over all these realms, and the world was, in fact, placed substantially under one head. “All the ancient Eastern histories,” says Bishop Newton, “almost are lost; but there are some fragments even of pagan historians yet preserved, which speak of this mighty conqueror and his extended empire. Berosus, in Josephus (Contra Apion, c. i. Section 19), says that he held in subjection Egypt, Syria, Phoenicia, Arabia, and by his exploits surpassed all the Chaldeans and Babylonians who reigned before him. Strabo asserts that this king among the Chaldeans was more celebrated than Hercules; that he proceeded as far as to the pillars of Hercules, and led his army out of Spain into Thrace and Pontus. But his empire, though of great extent, was not of long duration, for it ended in his grandson Belshazzar, not seventy years after the delivery of this prophecy, nor above twenty-three years after the death of Nebuchadnezzar.” - Newton on the “Prophecies,” pp. 186, 187.
Thou art this head of gold - The head of gold seen in the image represents thee as the sovereign of a vast empire. Compared with the other monarchs who are to succeed thee, thou art like gold compared with silver, and brass, and iron; or, compared with thy kingdom, theirs shall be as silver, brass, and iron compared with gold. It was common, at an early period, to speak of different ages of the world as resembling different metals. Compare the notes at Daniel 2:31. In reference to the expression before us, “Thou art this head of gold,” it should be observed, that it is not probably to be confined to the monarch himself, but is rather spoken of him as the head of the empire; as representing the state; as an impersonation of that dynasty. The meaning is, that the Babylonian empire, as it existed under him, in its relation to the kingdoms which should succeed, was like the head of gold seen in the image as compared with the inferior metals that made up the remaining portions of the image. Daniel, as an interpreter, did not state in what the resemblance consisted, nor in what respects his empire could be likened to gold as compared with those which should follow. In the scanty details which we now have of the life of that monarch, and of the events of his reign, it may not be possible to see as clearly as would be desirable in what that resemblance consisted, or the full propriety of the appellation given to him. So far as may now be seen, the resemblance appears to have been in the following things:
(I) In respect to the empire itself of which he was the sovereign, as standing at the head of the others - the first in the line. This was not indeed the first kingdom, but the design here was not to give an account of all the empires on earth, but to take the world “as it was then,” and to trace the successive changes which would occur preparatory to the establishment of the kingdom which should finally spread over the earth. Viewed in reference to this design, it was undoubtedly proper to designate the empire of Babylon “as the head.” It not only stood before them in the order of time, but in such a relation that the others might be regarded as in some sort its successors; that is, “they would succeed it in swaying a general scepter over the world.” In this respect they would resemble also the Babylonian. At the time here referred to, the dominion over which Nebuchadnezzar swayed his scepter was at the head of the nations; was the central power of the Pagan world; was the only empire that could claim to be universal. For a long period the kingdom of Babylon had been dependent on that of Assyria; and while Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian empire, Babylon was the head of a kingdom, in general subordinate to that of Assyria, until Nabopolassar, the immediate predecessor of Nebuchadnezzar, rendered the kingdom of Babylon independent of the Assyrians, and transferred the seat of empire to Babylon. This was about the year 626 before the Christian era. See “Universal History,” vol. iii. pp. 412-415. Nebuchadnezzar, receiving this mighty kingdom, had carried his own arms to distant lands; had conquered India, Tyre, and Egypt; and, as would appear, all Northern Africa, as far as the pillars of Hercules, and, with quite unimportant exceptions, all the known world was subject to him.
(II) The appellation “head of gold” may have been given him on account of the splendor of his capital, and the magnificence of his court. In Isaiah 14:4, Babylon is called “the golden city.” See the note at that place. In Isaiah 13:19, it is called “the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency.” In Isaiah 47:5, it is called “the lady of kingdoms.” In Jeremiah 51:13, it is spoken of as “abundant in treasures,” and in Jeremiah 51:41, as “the praise of the whole earth.” So in profane writers, Babylon has similar appellations. Thus, in Aesch. Per. 51, mention is made of Βαβυλὼν η ̓ πολύχρυσος Babulōn hē poluchrusos - “Babylon abounding in gold.” The conquests of Nebuchadnezzar enabled him to bring to his capital the spoils of nations, and to enrich his capital above any other city on the earth. Accordingly, he gave himself to the work of adorning a city that should be worthy to be the head of universal empire, and succeeded in making it so splendid as to be regarded as one of the wonders of the world. His great work in adorning and strengthening his capital consisted, first, of the building of the immense walls of the city; second, of the tower of Belus; and third, of the hanging gardens. For a full description of these, see Prideaux’s “Connections,” vol. i. p. 232, following.
(III) The appellation may have been given him by comparison with the kingdoms which were to succeed him. In some respects - in extent and power - some one or more of them, as the Roman, might surpass his; but the appellation which was appropriate to them was not gold, but they would be best denoted by the inferior metals. Thus the Medo-Persian kingdom was less splendid than that of Babylon, and would be better represented by silver; the Macedonian, though more distinguished by its conquests, was less magnificent, and would be better represented by brass; and the Roman, though ultimately still more extensive in its conquests, and still more mighty in power, was less remarkable for splendor than strength, and would be better represented by iron. In magnificence, if not in power, the Babylonian surpassed them all; and hence, the propriety of the appellation, “head of gold.”
(IV) It is possible that in this appellation there then may have been some reference to the character of the monarch himself. In Jeremiah 27:6, he is spoken of as the “servant of God,” and it is clear that it was designed that a splendid mission was to be accomplished by him as under the Divine control, and in the preparation of the world for the coming of the Messiah. Though he was proud and haughty as a monarch, yet his own personal character would compare favorably with that of many who succeeded him in these advancing kingdoms. Though his conquests were numerous, yet his career as a conqueror was not marked with cruelty, like that of many other warriors. He was not a mere conqueror. He loved also the arts of peace. He sought to embellish his capital, and to make it in outward magnificence and in the talent which he concentrated there, truly the capital of the world. Even Jerusalem he did not utterly destroy; but having secured a conquest over it, and removed from it what he desired should embellish his own capital, he still intended that it should be the subordinate head of an important province of his dominions, and placed on the throne one who was closely allied to the king who reigned there when he took the city.
But the appellation here, and the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, are to be contemplated chiefly, like the kingdoms that succeeded, in their relation to redemption. It is in this aspect that the study of history becomes most interesting to a mind that regards all events as embraced in the eternal counsels of God, and it is undoubtedly with reference to this that the history of these kingdoms becomes in any way introduced into the inspired writings. All history may be contemplated under two aspects: in its secular bearing; and in its relation to the redemption of the world. In the former aspect, it has great and important uses. As furnishing lessons to statesmen; as showing the progress of society; as illustrating the effects of vice and immorality, and the evils of anarchy, ambition, and war; as recording and preserving the inventions in the arts, and as showing what are the best methods of civil government, and what conduces most to the happiness of a people, its value cannot well be overestimated.
But it is in its relations to the work of redeeming man that it acquires its chief value, and hence, the sacred volume is so much occupied with the histories of early nations. The rise and fall of every nation; the conquests and defeats which have occurred in past times, may all have had, and perhaps may yet be seen to have had, an important connection with the redemption of man - as being designed to put the world in a proper position for the coming of the Prince of Peace, or in some way to prepare the way for the final triumph of the gospel. This view gives a new and important aspect to history. It becomes an object in which all on earth who love the race and desire its redemption, and all in heaven, feel a deep concern. Every monarch; every warrior; every statesman; every man who, by his eloquence, bravery, or virtue, has contributed anything to the progress of the race, or who has in any way played an important part in the progress of the world’s affairs, becomes a being on whom we can look with intense emotion; and in reference to every man of this character, it would be an interesting inquiry what he has done that has contributed to prepare the way for the introduction of the Mediatorial scheme, or to facilitate its progress through the world. In reference to this point, the monarch whose character is now before us seems to have been raised up, under an overruling Providence, to accomplish the following things:
(1) To inflict “punishment” on the revolted people of God for their numerous idolatries. See the book of Jeremiah, “passim.” Hence, he led his armies to the land of Palestine; he swept away the people, and bore them into captivity; he burned the temple, destroyed the capital, and laid the land waste.
(2) He was the instrument, in the hand of God, of effectually purifying the Jewish nation from the sin of idolatry. It was for that sin eminently that they were carried away; and never in this world have the ends of punishment been better secured than in this instance. The chastisement was effectual. The Jewish nation has never since sunk into idolatry. If there have been individuals of that nation - of which, however, there is no certain evidence - who have become idolaters, yet as a people they have been preserved from it. More than two thousand five hundred years have since passed away; they have been wanderers and exiles in all lands; they have been persecuted, ridiculed, and oppressed on account of their religion; they have been placed under every possible inducement to conform to the religion around them, and yet, as professed worshippers of Jehovah, the God of their fathers, they have maintained their integrity, and neither promises nor threatenings, neither hopes nor fears, neither life nor death, have been sufficient to constrain the Hebrew people to bow the knee to an idol god.
(3) Another object that seems to have been designed to be accomplished by Nebuchadnezzar in relation to Redemption was to gather the nations under one head preparatory to the coming of the Messiah. It will be seen in the remarks which will be made on the relation of the Roman empire to this work (see the notes at Daniel 2:40-43), that there were important reasons why this should be done. Preparatory to that, a succession of such kingdoms each swayed the scepter over the whole world, and when the Messiah came, the way was prepared for the easy and rapid propagation of the new religion to the remotest parts of the earth.
And after thee - This must mean “subsequently” to the reign, but it does not mean that the kingdom here referred to would “immediately” succeed his own reign, for that would not be true. The Medo-Persian empire did not come into the ascendency until many years after the death of Nebuchadnezzar. This occurred during the reign of Belshazzar, a grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, between whose reign and that of his grandfather there had intervened the reigns of Evil-merodach and Neriglissar; besides, as the remainder of the prophecy relating to the image refers to “kingdoms,” and not to individual monarchs, it is clear that this also relates not primarily to Nebuchadnezzar as an individual, but as the head of a kingdom. The meaning is, that a kingdom would succeed that over which he reigned, so far inferior that it might be represented by silver as compared with gold.
Shall arise another kingdom - Chaldee, “shall stand up (תקוּם teqûm) another kingdom.” This is language which would denote something different from a succession in the same dynasty, for that would be a mere “continuance of the same kingdom.” The reference is evidently to a change of empire; and the language implies that there would be some revolution or conquest by which the existing kingdom would pass away, and another would succeed. Still there would be so much of sameness in respect to its occupying essentially the same territory, that it would be symbolized in the same image that appeared to Nebuchadnezzar. The kingdom here referred to was undoubtedly the Medo-Persian, established by Cyrus in the conquest of Babylon, which continued through the reigns of his successors until it was conquered by Alexander the Great. This kingdom succeeded that of Assyria or Babylon, 538 years b.c., to the overthrow of Darius Codomanus, 333 years b.c. It extended, of course, through the reigns of the Persian kings, who acted so important a part in the invasion of Greece, and whose defeats have given immortality to the names of Leonidas, Aristides, Miltiades, and Themistocles, and made the names of Salamis, Thermopylae, Marathon, and Leuctra so celebrated. For a general account of Cyrus, and the founding of the Medo-Persian empire, the reader is referred to the notes at Isaiah 41:2.
Inferior to thee - And therefore represented by silver as compared with gold. In what respects it would be inferior, Daniel does not specify, and this can only be learned from “the facts” which occurred in relation to that kingdom. All that is necessary to confirm the truth of the prophetic description is, that it was to be so far inferior as to make the appellation “silver” applicable to it in comparison with the kingdom of Babylon, represented by “gold.” The expression would denote that there was a general decline or degeneracy in the character of the monarchs, and the general condition of the empire. There have been different opinions as to the inferiority of this kingdom to the Babylonian. Calvin supposes that it refers to degeneracy. Geir supposes that it relates to the duration of the kingdom - this continuing not more than two hundred and forty years; while the other, including the Assyrian, embraced a period of one thousand five hundred years. Polanus supposes that the meaning is, that the Babylonian had more rest and tranquility; while Junius, Willett, and others understand it of a milder and more humane treatment of the Jews by the Babylonians than the Persians. Perhaps, however, none of these opinions meet the circumstances of the case, for they de not furnish as full an account of the reasons of this inferiority as is desirable. In regard to this, it may be observed,
(a) that it is not to be supposed that this kingdom was to be in “all respects” inferior to the Babylonian, but only that it would have certain characteristics which would make it more appropriate to describe it as “silver” than as “gold.” In certain other respects it might be far superior, as the Roman, though in the same general line of succession, was in extent and power superior to either, though there was still a reason why that should be represented by “iron,” rather than by gold, by silver, or by brass.
(b) The inferiority did not relate to the power, the riches, or the territorial extent of the Medo-Persian empire, for it embraced, so far as appears, all that was comprehended in the Babylonian empire, and all in addition which was added by the conquests of Cyrus. In his proclamation to rebuild the temple Ezra 1:2, Cyrus speaks of the extent of his empire in language strongly resembling what is applied to the kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar. “Thus saith Cyrus, king of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth.” Thus also it is said of AhaAhasuerus or Astyages, king of Media - a kingdom that constituted a part of the Medo-Persian empire under Cyrus and his successors, that he “reigned from India even unto Ethiopia, over an hundred and twenty and seven provinces.” To the kingdom of Babylon, as he found it when he conquered it, Cyrus of course added the kingdoms of Media and Persia, to the crowns of which he was the heir (see the notes at Isaiah 41:2), and also the various provinces which he had conquered before he came to the throne; that is, Cappadocia, the kingdom of Lydia, and almost the whole of Asia Minor.
(c) Nor can it be supposed that the kingdom was inferior in regard to “wealth,” for, in addition to all the wealth that Cyrus found in Babylon, he brought the spoils of his victories; the treasures in the possession of the crowns of Persia and Media, and all the wealth of Croesus, the rich king of Lydia, of which he had become possessor by conquest. In considering the “inferiority” of this kingdom, which made it proper that it should be represented by silver rather than by gold, it is to be borne in mind that the representation should embrace “the whole kingdom” in all the successive reigns, and not merely the kingdom as it was under the administration of Cyrus. Thus regarded, it will comprehend the succession of Persian monarchs until the time of the invasion and conquest of the East by Alexander the Great. The reign of Cyrus was indeed splendid; and if “he” alone, or if the kingdom during his administration, were contemplated, it would be difficult to assign a reason why an appellation should have been given to it implying any inferiority to that of Nebuchadnezzar. The “inferiority” of the kingdom, or what made it proper to represent it by silver rather than by gold, as compared with the kingdom of Babylon, may have consisted in the following particulars:
(1) In reference to the succession of kings who occupied the Persian throne. It is true that the character of Cyrus is worthy of the highest commendation, and that he was distinguished not only as a brave and successful conqueror, but as a mild, able, and upright civil ruler. Xenophon, who wished to draw the character of a model prince, made choice of Cyrus as the example; and though he has not improbably embellished his character by ascribing to him virtues drawn from his own fancy in some degree, yet there can be no doubt that in the main his description was drawn from the life. “The true reason,” says Prideaux (“Connections,” vol. i. p. 252, Ed. Charlestown, 1815), “why he chose the life of Cyrus before all others for the purpose above mentioned” (that of giving a description of what a worthy and just prince ought to be) “seemeth to be no other but that he found the true history of that excellent and gallant prince to be, above all others, the fittest for those maxims of right policy and true princely virtue to correspond with, which he grafted upon it.” But he was succeeded by a madman, Cambyses, and by a race of kings eminent among princes for folly and crime. “The kings of Persia,” says Prideaux, “were the worst race of men that ever governed an empire.”
(2) The kingdom was inferior in reference to the remarkable “defeats” in the military campaigns which were undertaken. The Assyrian or Babylonian empire was distinguished for the victories by which it carried its arms around the then known world. The Medo-Persian empire, after the reign of Cyrus, was almost as remarkable for the succession of defeats which have made the period of the world during which the empire continued, so well known in history. It is probable that no kingdom ever undertook so many foolish projects in reference to the conquests of other nations - projects so unwisely planned, and that resulted in so signal failures. The successor of Cyrus, Cambyses, invaded Egypt, and his conduct there in carrying on the war was such as to make him be regarded as a madman. Enraged against the Ethiopians for an answer which they gave him when, under pretence of friendship, he sent spies to examine their country, he resolved to invade their territory.
Having come to Thebes, in Upper Egypt, he detached from his army fifty thousand men to go against the Hammonians, with orders to destroy their country, and to burn the temple of Jupiter Hammon that stood in it. After marching a few days in the desert, they were overwhelmed in the sands by a strong south wind, and all perished. Meantime Cambyses marched with the rest of his army against the Ethiopians, though he wanted all the means of subsistence for his army, until, having devoured all their beasts of burden, they were constrained to designate every tenth man of the army to be killed and eaten. In these deplorable circumstances, Cambyses returned to Thebes, having lost a great part of his army in this wild expedition. - Prideaux’s “Con.” i. 328. It was also during the continuance of this kingdom, that the ill-starred expeditions to Greece occurred, when Mardonius and Xerxes poured the million of Asia on the countries of Greece, and met such signal overthrows at Platea, Marathon, and Salamis. Such a series of disasters never before had occurred to invading armies, or made those who repelled invasion so illustrious. In this respect there was an evident propriety in speaking of this as an inferior or degenerate kingdom.
(3) It was inferior in respect to the growing degeneracy and effeminacy of character and morals. From the time of Xerxes (479 b.c.) “symptoms of decay and corruption were manifest in the empire; the national character gradually degenerated; the citizens were corrupted and enfeebled by luxury; and confided more in mercenary troops than in native valor and fidelity. The kings submitted to the control of their wives, or the creatures whom they raised to posts of distinction; and the satraps, from being civil functionaries, began to usurp military authority.” - Lyman, “Hist. Chart.”
(4) The kingdom was inferior by the gradual weakening of its power from internal causes. It was not only defeated in its attempts to invade others, and weakened by the degeneracy of the court and people, but, as a natural consequence, by the gradual lessening of the power of the central government, and the growing independence of the provinces. From the time of Darius Nothus (423 b.c.) - a weak, effeminate, and indolent prince - “the satraps of the distant provinces paid only a nominal obedience to the king. Many of them were, in fact, sovereigns over the countries over which they presided, and carried on wars against each other.” - Lyman. It was from causes such as these that the power of the kingdom became gradually weakened, and that the way was prepared for the easy conquests of Alexander the Great. Their successive defeats, and this gradual degeneracy and weakening of the kingdom, show the propriety of the description given of the kingdom in the vision and the interpretation - that it would be an “inferior kingdom,” a kingdom which, in comparison with that of Babylon, might be compared with silver as compared with gold.
Still it sustained an important relation to the progress of events in regard to the history of religion in the world, and had an important bearing on the redemption of man. As this is the most important bearing of history, and as it was doubtless with reference to this that the mention of it is introduced into the sacred Scriptures, and as it is, in fact, often alluded to by Isaiah, and in the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, and some of the minor prophets, it may be proper, in the most summary way, to alude to some of those things which pertain to the bearing of this kingdom on the great events connected with redemption, or to what was done during the continuance of this kingdom for the promotion of the true religion. A full account may be found in Prideaux’s “Connections,” part 1, books iii-vii. Compare Edwards’ “History of Redemption,” Period I, part vi. The particular things which occurred in connection with this kingdom bearing on the progress of religion, and favorable to its advancement, were these:
(a) The overthrow of Babylon, so long the formidable enemy of the ancient people of God.
(b) The restoration of the exiles to their own land under the auspices of Cyrus, Ezra 1:1.
(c) The rebuilding of the temple under the same auspices, and with the favor of the successors of Cyrus.
(d) The preparation of the world for the coming of the Messiah, in the agitations that took place during the continuance of the Persian monarchy; the invasion of Greece; the defeats there; the preparation by these defeats for the coming of Him who was so long promised as the “desire of all nations.”
Compare Haggai 2:7 : “And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come; and I will fill this house” (the temple erected under the auspices of Cyrus and his successors) “with glory, saith the Lord of hosts.” There was a propriety, therefore, that this kingdom should receive a distinct notice in the sacred Scriptures, for some of the most important events connected with the history of true religion in the world occurred under the auspices of Cyrus and his successors, and perhaps at no period has there been more occasion to recognize the hand of God than in the influences exerted on the minds of those pagan princes, disposing them to be favorable to the long-oppressed children of God.
And another third kingdom of brass - See the notes at Daniel 2:32. The parts of the image which were of brass were the belly and thighs, denoting inferiority not only to the head, but to the part which immediately preceded it - the breast and the arms of silver. It is not, indeed, specified, as in the former case, that this kingdom would be inferior to the former, and it is only from the position assigned to it in the image, and the inferior quality of the metal by which it is represented, that it is implied that there would be any inferiority. There can be no reasonable doubt that by this third kingdom is denoted the empire founded by Alexander the Great - the Macedonian empire. It is known to all that he overthrew the Persian empire, and established a kingdom in the East, embracng substantially the same territory which had been occupied by the Medo-Persian and the Babylonian empire. While there can be no doubt that that kingdom is referred to, there can be as little that the reference is not merely to the empire during the reign of Alexander himself, but that it embraced the whole empire as founded and arranged by him, until it was succeeded by another universal empire - here denominated the fourth kingdom. The reasons for supposing that the Macedonian empire is referred to here are almost too obvious to require that they should be specified. They are such as these:
(1) This kingdom actually succeeded that of Mede-Persia, covering the same territory, and, like that, was then understood to be a universal monarchy.
(2) The empire of Alexander is elsewhere more than once referred to by Daniel in the same order, and in such a manner that the sense cannot be mistaken. Thus, in Daniel 8:21 : “And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king. Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power.” Daniel 10:20 : “and now,” said the man that appeared in vision to Daniel Daniel 2:5, “will I retram to fight with the prince of Persia: and when I am gone forth, lo, the prince of Grecia shall come.” Daniel 11:2-4 : “and now will I show thee the truth. Behold there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than they all, and by his strength through his riches he shall stir up all against the realm of Grecia. And a mighty king shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will. And when he shall stand up, his kingdom shall be broken, and shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven; and not to his posterity, nor according to the kingdom that he ruled: for his kingdom shall be plucked up, even for others beside those.” Since this kingdom is thus referred to elsewhere by Daniel in the same order, and as destined to act an important part in the affairs of the world, it is reasonable to suppose that there is a reference to it here.
(3) It is a circumstance of some importance that the emblem here by which this kingdom is represented, “brass,” is one that is peculiarly appropriate to the Greeks, and one that could not be applied to any other naion with equal propriety. The Greeks were distinguished for their “brazen armor,” and the appellation, the “brazen-coated Greeks” - χαλκοχιτώνες Ἀχαιοὶ chalkochitōnes Achaioi - is that by which they were designated most commonly by the ancients. - Iliad i. 371; ii. 47; Odyssey i. 286. In accordance with this, Josephus says (“Ant.” b. x. c. 10, Section 4), τὴν δὲ ἐκεὶνων ἕτερος τις ἀπὸ δύσεως καθαιρήσει χαλκὸν ἠμφιεσμένος tēn de ekeinōn heteros tis apo duseōs kathairēsei chalkon ēmphiesmenos, - “their empire another shall come from the West, clothed with brass, shall destroy.” These considerations leave no doubt that the kingdom here referred to was that Grecian or Macedonian, which, under Alexander, obtained dominion over all the East.
Which shall bear rule over all the earth - In a sense similar to that of the Assyrian, the Babylonian, and the Medo-Persian empire. This is the common description of the empire of Alexander. He himself commanded that he should be called “the king of all the world.” “Accepto deinde imperio, regem se terrarum omnium ac mundi appellari jussit” (Justin. l. 12, c. 16, Section 9) - “Having received the empire, he ordered himself to be called the king of all lands and of the world.” Diodorus Siculus says that he received ambassadors from all countries; κατὰ δὲ τοῦτον τὸν χρόνον ἐξ ἀπάσης σχεδόν τῆς οἰκουμένης ἦκον πρέσβεις, κ.τ.λ. kata de touton ton chronon ex apasē; schedon tēs oikoumenēs ēkon presbeis, etc. - “At which time, legates came to him from almost the whole habitable world.” - L. 17, c. 113. So Arrian (Expedi. Alex. l. 7, c. 15) remarks, that “Alexander then appeared to himself, and to those around him, “to be lord of all the earth and of the sea” - γῆς τε ἁπάσης καὶ θαλάσσης κύριον gēs te hapasēs kai thalassēs kurion.
The author of the book of Maccabees gives a similar account of the extent of this kingdom: “And it came to pass, after that Alexander, the son of Philip the Macedonian, who first reigned in Greece, had overthrown Darius, the king of the Persian and Medes, he fought many battles, and took the strongholds of all, and slew the kings of the earth; and he went through even to the ends of the earth; and took the spoil of many nations; and the earth was quiet before him,” 1 Macc. 1:1-3. The propriety of saying that this “kingdom bore rule over all the earth” is, therefore, apparent. It embraced, of course, all that was anciently included in the Assyrian and Babylonian empires; all that had been added to that empire by the conquests of Cyrus, and also all that Alexander had added to it by his hereditary dominions, and by his conquests in other places. Nearly or quite all the known world, except what was then subject to the Romans, then just a rising power, was under the sway of Alexander. A question has been started whether this refers merely to the kingdom of Alexander during his own life, or whether it embraced also the succession of dynasties until the conquests of the Romans. That the latter is the correct opinion seems clear from the following considerations:
(1) It was true, as we have seen, of the two previous kingdoms specified the Babylonian and the Medo-Persian - that they embraced, not merely the kingdom under any one reigning monarch, but during its entire continuance until it was overthrown by one that had also pretensions to a universal empire - the former by the Medo-Persian, and the latter by the Macedonian. It is to be presumed that the same principles of interpretation are to be applied also to the Macedonian kingdom itself - especially as that was also actually succeeded by one that in a still higher sense laid claim to universal empire.
(2) This was, in fact, one kingdom. It is true that, on the death of Alexander, the empire which he founded was divided among four of his generals, and also that from that sprung the two reigns, the Seleucidae in Syria, and of the Lagidae who reigned in Egypt; but, as Newton has remarked, “their kingdom was no more a different kingdom from that of Alexander, than the parts differ from the whole. It was the same government still continued. Those who governed were still Macedonians. All ancient authors spoke of the kingdom of Alexander and of his successors as one and the same kingdom The thing is implied in the very name by which they are usually called, the “successors of Alexander.” ‘Alexander being dead,’ says Josephus (Ant. b. xi. ch. 8, Section 7), ‘the empire was divided among his successors.’ ‘After the death of Alexander,’ says Justin (lib. xli. c. 4, Section 1), ‘the kingdoms of the East were divided among his successors;’ and he still denominates them Macedonians, and their empire the Macedonian.” - Newton “on the Prophecies,” pp. 189, 190.
In regard to the point before adverted to in reference to the kingdoms of Babylon and of Medo-Persia - the relation which they sustained to religion, or the methods in which they were made to contribute to its progress in the world, making it proper that they should be noticed in the volume of inspiration, it may be remarked that the Macedonian kingdom was also designed, undoubtedly, under an overruling Providence, to contribute to the progress of the great work of human redemption, and to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah. A full statement of what was done under this reign in respect to religion - the most interesting aspect of history - may be seen in Edwards’ “History of Redemption,” pp. 271-275, and in Prideaux’s “Connections,” vol. ii. p. 279, “seq.” The kingdom here referred to - the Macedonian, represented here by the portion of the image that was of brass, and in the vision of the four beasts Daniel 7:0 by a leopard that had on its back the wings of a fowl, and in Daniel 8:21, by the rough goat - continued from the overthrow of Darius Codomanus by Alexander (333 b.c.), to the conquest of Syria, and the East, by the Romans under Pompey, about sixty-six years before the birth of the Saviour. The principal events during this period affecting the interests of religion, and preparing the way for the coming of the Messiah, were the following:
I. The extensive diffusion of the knowledge of the Greek language. The army of Alexander was mainly composed of Greeks. The Greek language was, of course, what was spoken by the court, and in the cities which he founded; the despatches were in Greek; that language would be extensively cultivated to gratify those in power; and the successors of Alexander were those who used the Greek tongue. The consequence was, that the Greek language was extensively spread over the countries which were subdued by Alexander, and which were governed by his successors. That language became the popular tongue; a sort of universal language understood by the great mass of the people, in a manner not unlike the French in Europe at the present day. The effect of this, in preparing for the introduction of the gospel, was seen in two respects:
(a) In facilitating the “preaching” of the gospel. It is true that the apostles had the gift of tongues, and that there was, notwithstanding the prevalence of the Greek language, occasion for this. But there is no evidence that this was conferred on “all” the early preachers of the gospel, nor is it certain that those on whom it “was” conferred were able to make use of it on all occasions. It is not improbable that, in their ordinary labors, the apostles and others were left to rely on their natural endowments, and to use the language to which they had been most accustomed. As there was, therefore, a common language in most of the countries in which the gospel would be proclaimed, it is evident that the propagation of religion would be greatly facilitated by this, and there can be no doubt that it was “one” of the designs of Providence in permitting the Macedonian conquest thus to prepare the way for the more easy and rapid diffusion of the new religion.
(b) In like manner, this conquest prepared the way “for the permanent record” of the history of the Saviour’s life, and the doctrines of religion in the writings of the New Testament. It was evidently desirable, on many accounts, that the records should be made in one language rather than in many, and of all the languages then spoken on the earth, the “Greek” was the best adapted to such a purpose. It was not only the most polished and cultivated, but it was the most copious; and it was the best fitted to express abstract ideas, and accurate distinctions. Probably with all the improvements since made in the copious Arabic language, and in the languages of modern times, there never has been one that was so well fitted for the purposes of a Divine revelation as the Greek. It may have been one design of Providence, in the extensive and accurate cultivation of that language in Greece itself, as well as in its diffusion over the world, that there should be at the time of the introduction of the Christian revelation a medium of permanent record that should be as free from imperfection as language could be; a medium also in which there should be so much permanent and valuable literature that, even after it should cease to be a spoken language, it would be cultivated by the whole literary world, thus furnishing the means of an accurate knowledge of the meaning of the sacred writings.
II. The translation of the Old Testament into the same language was another important event, which took place during the continuance of this kingdom, which greatly facilitated the introduction and spread of Christianity. The Hebrew language was understood by comparatively few. It ceased to be spoken in its purity after the time of the captivity. In that language the Scriptures of the Old Testament would have been but little diffused in the world. By their being translated, however, into Greek, they became extensively known, and furnished a ready and an intelligible ground of appeal to the preachers of the new religion when they referred to the prophecies of the Old Testament, and the recorded predictions of the Messiah. For a full account of the history of this version, the reader may consult Prideaux’s “Connections,” vol. iii. p. 53, following. It was made according to Archbishop Usher, about 277 b.c. The probability is, that it was made at different periods, and by different hands, as it is executed with very various degrees of ability. See Introduction to Isaiah, Section viii. I. (1), for a more extended account of this version and its value. There can be no doubt that it contributed much to the diffusion of the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, and was an important instrument in preparing the world for the reception of the revelation that should be made by the Messiah.
III. Events of great importance occurred dating the continuance of this kingdom in preserving the Jewish people in times of persecution, and saving their city and temple from ruin. and their nation from extinction.
(a) The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple was threatened by Alexander himself. After the siege and capture of Tyre, he became enraged at the Jews for refusing to furnish supplies for his army during the siege, under the plea that they were bound to show allegiance to Darius, and he marched to Jerusalem with an intention to take and destroy it. In order to appease him, it is said that Jaddua, the high priest, went out to meet him in his pontifical robes, at the head of a procession of priests, and accompanied by the people in white garments. Alexander was so impressed with the scene that, to the surprise of all, he spared the city and temple; and on being asked by Parmenio the reason of this clemency, said that he had seen this person in vision, who had directed him to lay aside all anxiety about his contemplated expedition to Asia, and that he had promised that God would give him the empire of the Persians. According to the story, Jaddua showed him the prophecies of Daniel, and confirmed him by those prophecies in the confident expectation of conquering the East; and in view of this, Alexander offered sacrifices in the temple, and granted to the Hebrews the freedom of their country, and the exercise of their laws and religion. See Prideaux, vol. ii. p. 302, following; Josephus, “Ant.” b. xi. ch. 8. Whatever of fable there may be in this account, it is certain that this city and temple were not destroyed by Alexander, but that in his ravages in the East, he was led, by some cause, to deal with the capital of the Hebrew nation in a masher different from what he did with others.
(b) A remarkable preservation of the Jewish people, of a somewhat similar character, and evincing the protection of God, occurred during the great persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes, one of the successors of Alexander, in the time of the Maccabees. See Prideaux, vol. iii. p. 230, and 2 Macc. 5:11-27. In the times of that celebrated persecution, multitudes of the Jews were slain by Antiochus himself; the city was taken, and the temple defiled. Three years after it was taken by Antiochus (168 b.c.), Apollonius was directed by him to march against the city to vent his wrath on the Jews; and when the people were assembled in their synagogues for worship, he let loose his forces on them, with a command to slay all the men, and to take all the women and children captives to be sold as slaves. After this, he plundered the city, demolished the houses, and pulled down the walls, and then with the ruins of the demolished city built a strong fortress on the top of an eminence in the city of David, in a place which overlooked the temple, and placed a strong garrison within. From this place attacks were made on all who went up to the temple to worship; and the temple was defiled with all manner of pollutions, until it was deserted, and the daily sacrifices ceased. From these calamities and persecutions, the city and the Jewish nation were delivered by the valor of Judas Maccabeus, in the manner detailed in the first book of Maccabees.
And the fourth kingdom - Represented in the image by the legs of iron, and the feet “part of iron, and part of clay,” Daniel 2:33. The first question which arises here is, what kingdom is referred to by this? In regard to this, there have been two leading opinions: one, that it refers to the Roman empire; the other, that it refers to the kingdoms or dynasties that immediately succeeded the reign of Alexander the Great; embracing the kingdoms of the Seleucidae and Lagidae, Syria, and Egypt - in the language of Prof. Stuart, who adopts this opinion, “that the legs and feet were symbols of that intermingled and confused empire which sprung up under the Grecian chiefs who finally succeeded him,” (Alexander the Great). - “Com. on Daniel,” p. 173. For the reasoning by which this opinion is supported, see Prof. Stuart, pp. 173-193. The common opinion has been, that the reference is to the Roman empire, and in support of this opinion the following conditions may be suggested:
(1) The obvious design of the image was to symbolize the succession of great monarchies, which would precede the setting up of the kingdom of the Redeemer, and which would have an important agency in preparing the world for that. The Roman empire was in itself too important, and performed too important an agency in preparing the world for that, to be omitted in such an enumeration.
(2) The kingdom here referred to was to be in existence at the time symbolized by the cutting of the stone out of the mountain, for, during the continuance of that kingdom, or under it, “the God of heaven was to set up a kingdom which should never be destroyed,” Daniel 2:44. But the kingdoms of the Seleucidae and the Lagidae - the “intermingled and confused empires that sprang up” after Alexander the Great - had ceased before that time, being superseded by the Roman.
(3) Unless the Roman power be represented, the symmetry of the image is destroyed, for it would make what was, in fact, one kingdom represented by two different metals - brass and iron. We have seen above that the Babylonian empire was represented appropriately by gold; the Medo-Persian by silver; and the Macedonian by brass. We have seen also, that in fact the empire founded by Alexander, and continued through his successors in Syria and Egypt, was in fact one kingdom, so spoken of by the ancients, and being in fact a “Greek” dynasty. If the appellation of “brass” belonged to that kingdom as a Greek kingdom, there is an obvious incongruity, and a departure from the method of interpreting the other portions of the image, in applying the term “iron” to any portion of that kingdom.
(4) By the application of the term “iron,” it is evidently implied that the kingdom thus referred to would be distinguished for “strength” - strength greater than its predecessors - as iron surpasses brass, and silver, and gold, in that quality. But this was not true of the confused reigns that immediately followed Alexander. They were unitedly weaker than the Babylonian and the Medo-Persian, and weaker than the empire of Alexander. out of which they arose. Compare Daniel 8:21-22. It was true, however, of the Roman power, that it was so much superior to all its predecessors in power, that it might well be represented by iron in comparison with brass, silver, and gold.
(5) The fourth monarchy represented in Nebuchadnezzars dream is evidently the same which is represented by the fourth beast in Daniel 7:7-8, Daniel 7:23, Daniel 7:25. But it will appear, from the exposition of that chapter, that the reference there is to the Roman empire. See the note at these passages. There can be no well-founded objection to this view on the ground that this kingdom was not properly a “succession” of the kingdom of Alexander, and did not occupy precisely the same territory. The same was true of each of the other kingdoms - the Medo-Persian and Macedonian. Yet while they were not, in the usual sense of the term, in the “successions,” they did, in fact, follow one after the other; and with such accessions as were derived from conquest, and from the hereditary dominions of the conquerors, they did occupy the same territory. The design seems to have been to give a representation of a series of great monarchies, which would be, in an important sense, universal monarchies, and which should follow each other before the advent of the Saviour. The Roman, in addition to what it possessed in the West, actually occupied in the East substantially the same territory as the Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, and the Macedonian, and, like them, it had all the claims which any ancient sovereignty had to the title of a universal monarchy; indeed no kingdom has ever existed to which this title could with more justice be applied.
Shall be strong as iron - It is scarcely necessary to observe that this description is applicable to the Roman power. In nothing was it more remarkable than its “strength;” for that irresistible power before which all other nations were perfectly weak. This characteristic of the Roman power is thus noticed by Mr. Gibbon: “The arms of the Republic, sometimes vanquished in battle, always victorious in war, advanced with rapid steps to the Euphrates, the Danube, the Rhine, and the ocean; and the images of gold, or silver, or brass, that might serve to represent the nations and their kings, were successively broken by the “iron” monarchy of Rome.” - “Dec. and Fall,” p. 642, Lond. ed. 1830, as quoted by Prof. Bush.
Forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things - Iron is the metal which is used, and always has been used, for the purpose here suggested. In the form of hammers, sledges, and cannon-balls, and, in general, in reference to the accomplishment of any purpose, by beating or battering, this has been found to be the most valuable of the metals. It is heavy, is capable of being easily wrought into desired shapes; is abundant; is susceptible of being made hard so as not to be itself bruised, and has therefore, all the properties which could be desired for purposes like this.
And as iron that breaketh all these - That is, all these things; to wit, everything. Nothing is able to stand before it; there is nothing which it cannot reduce to powder. There is some repetition here, but it is for the sake of emphasis.
Shall it break in pieces and bruise - Nothing could better characterize the Roman power than this. Everything was crushed before it. The nations which they conquered ceased to be kingdoms, and were reduced to provinces, and as kingdoms they were blotted out from the list of nations. This has been well described by Mr. Irving: “The Roman empire did beat down the constitution and establishment of all other kingdoms; abolishing their independence, and bringing them into the most entire subjection; humbling the pride, subjecting the will, using the property, and trampling upon the power and dignity of all other states. For by this was the Roman dominion distinguished from all the rest, that it was the work of almost as many centuries as those were of years; the fruit of a thousand battles in which million of men were slain. It made room for itself, as doth a battering-ram, by continual successive blows; and it ceased not to beat and bruise all nations, so long as they continued to offer any resistance.” - “Discourse on Daniel’s Visions,” p. 180.
And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay and part of iron - Daniel 2:33. The Chaldee is, “of them clay of the potter, and of them iron;” that is, part was composed of one material and part of the other. The sense is, not that the feet were composed entirely of one, and the toes of the other, but that they were intermingled. There was no homogeneousness of material; nothing in one that would coalesce with the other, or that could be permanently united to it, as two metals might be fused or welded together and form one solid compound. Iron and clay cannot be welded; and the idea here clearly is, that in the empire here referred to there would be two main elements which could never be made to blend.
The kingdom shall be divided - That is, divided as the iron and clay were in the image. It does not necessarily mean that there would be an open rupture - an actual separation into two parts; but that there would be “such a diversity in the internal constitution” that, while there would be the element of great power, there would be also an element of weakness; there would be something which could never be blended with the element of strength, so as to produce one harmonious and homogeneous whole.
But there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay - The principal idea in this part of the description is, that there would be great “power;” that whatever elements of weakness there might be, yet the “power” of the empire would be apparent. No one can fail to perceive how this applies to the Roman empire; a mighty power which, through all its long history, was distinguished for the vigour with which it carried forward its plans, and pressed on to universal dominion. As to the element of “weakness” symbolized too by the clay, it may not be possible to determine, with absolute certainty, what is referred to. Any internal source of weakness; anything in the constitution of the state, whether originally existing and constituting heterogeneous material, or whether springing up in the empire itself, or whether arising from the intermingling of foreign elements that never amalgamated themselves with the state, any one of these suppositions would meet all that is fairly implied in this language.
From Daniel 2:43, “they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men,” it would seem, however, that the reference is to some “foreign” admixture - like the intermingling of nations of other languages, laws, and customs, which were never truly amalgamated with the original materials, and which constantly tended to weaken and divide the kingdom. It is to be remarked, in the exposition of the passage, that in the previous three kingdoms there was comparative homogeneousness. In the fourth kingdom, there was to be something of a peculiar character in this respect by which it should be distinguished from the others. As a matter of fact, the other three kingdoms were comparatively homogeneous in their character. The predominant feature was “Oriental;” and though there were different nations and people intermingled in the Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, and the Macedonian kingdoms, yet there was the same general prevailing character in each; there was not such an intermingling of foreign nations as to produce disturbing elements, or to mar the symmetry and strength of the whole. It was not thus with Rome. In that empire there was the intermingling of all nations and tongues, and though the essential element of the empire remained always - “the Roman” - yet there was an intermingling of other influences under the same general government, which could be appropriately compared with clay united with iron, and which ultimately contributed to its fall (see the notes at Daniel 2:43).
And as the toes of the feet were part of iron and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken - Margin, “brittle.” The margin is the more correct rendering of the Chaldee word (תבירה tebı̂yrâh). It means “frail, fragile” - easily broken, but not necessarily that it was actually broken. That did not occur until the stone cut out of the mountain impinged on it. It has been commonly supposed (comp. Newton “on the Prophecies”), that the ten toes on the feet refer to the ten kingdoms into which the Roman empire was ultimately broken up, corresponding with the ten horns seen in the vision of Daniel, in Daniel 7:7. In regard to the fact that the Roman empire was ultimately broken up into ten such kingdoms, see the extended notes at Daniel 7:24. The thing which struck the monarch in the vision, and Daniel in the interpretation, as remarkable, was that the feet and toes “were composed partly of iron and partly of clay.”
In the upper portion of the image there had been uniformity in the different parts, and had been no intermingling of metals. Here a new feature was seen - not only that a new metal was employed, but that there was intermingled with that, in the same portion of the image, a different substance, and one that had no affinity with the iron, and that could never be made to blend with it. In the latter part of this verse, the original word for “partly” is not the same in each clause. In the former it is מן־קצת min-qetsâth - properly “from the end,” sc., of the kingdom. Compare Daniel 12:13, “At the end of the days;” Daniel 1:15, “At the end of ten days;” and Daniel 2:5, Daniel 2:18. The word “might” be employed to denote the “end” or “extremity” of anything, e. g., in respect to “time,” and some have supposed that there is a reference here to the later periods of the Roman empire. See Poole’s “Synopsis.”
But the word is also used to denote “the sum,” or “the whole number;” and then the phrase is equivalent to “a part - as” e. g., in the phrase האלהים בית כלי מקצת miqetsât kelēy bēyth hâ'elohı̂ym - from the sum of the vessels of the house of God” Daniel 1:2; that is, a portion of the whole number, or a part. Compare Nehemiah 7:70, “from the sum of the heads of the fathers;” that is, a part of them. In the latter part of the clause it is מנת mı̂nnâh - “from it;” that is, a part of it; partly. The entire phrase means that one part of the whole would be strong, and one part would be fragile. The reference is not to the “time” when this would occur, but to the “fact” that it would be so. The idea in this verse does not vary materially from that in the former, except that in that, the prominent thought is, that there would be “strength” in the kingdom: in this, the idea is, that while there would be strength in the kingdom, there would be also the elements of weakness.
And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men - Various explanations have been given of this verse, and it certainly is not of easy interpretation. The phrase “seed of men,” would properly denote something different from the original stock that was represented by iron; some foreign admixture that would be so unlike that, and that would so little amalgamate with it, as to be properly represented by clay as compared with iron. Prof. Stuart interprets this of matrimonial alliances, and supposes that the idea expressed is, that, “while the object of such alliances was union, or at least a design to bring about a peaceable state of things, that object was, in a peculiar manner, defeated.” The word rendered “men” (אנשׁא 'ănâshâ') is employed in Hebrew and in Chaldee to denote men of an inferior class - the lower orders, the common herd - in contradistinction from the more elevated and noble classes, represented by the word אישׁ 'ı̂ysh. See Isaiah 2:9; Isaiah 5:15; Proverbs 8:4.
The word here used also (from אנשׁ 'ânash) - to be sick, ill at ease, incurable), would properly denote feebleness or inferiority, and would be aptly represented by clay as contrasted with iron. The expression “seed of men,” as here used, would therefore denote some intermingling of an inferior race with the original stock; some union or alliance under the one sovereignty, which would greatly weaken it as a whole, though the original strength still was great. The language would represent a race of mighty and powerful men, constituting the stamina - the bone and the sinew of the empire - mixed up with another race or other races, with whom, though they were associated in the government, they could never be blended; could never assimilate. This foreign admixture in the empire would be a constant source of weakness, and would constantly tend to division and faction, for such elements could never harmonize.
It is further to be remarked, that this would exist to a degree which would not be found in either of the three previous kingdoms. In fact, in these kingdoms there was no such intermingling with foreign nations as to destroy the homogeneousness of the empire. They were, in the main, Orientals; with the language, the manners, the customs, the habits of Orientals; and in respect to energy and power - the point here under consideration - there was no marked distinction between the subjected provinces and the original materials of the monarchy. By the act of subjection, they became substantially one people, and readily blended together. This remark will certainly apply to the two first of these monarchies - the Babylonian and the Medo-Persian; and though with less force to the Macedonian, yet it was not true of that, that it became so intermingled with foreign people as to constitute heterogeneous elements as it was of the Roman. In that monarchy, the element of “strength” was “infused” by Alexander and his Greeks; all the elements of weakness were in the original materials of the empire.
In the Roman, the element of strength - “the iron” - was in the original material of the empire; the weak, the heterogeneous element - “the clay” - was what was introduced from the foreign nations. This consideration may perhaps do something to show that the opinion of Grotius, Prof. Stuart, and others, that this fourth monarchy was what immediately succeeded Alexander is not well founded. The only question then is, whether, in the constitution of the Roman empire, at the time when it became the successor of the other three as a universal monarchy, there was such an intermingling of a foreign element, as to be properly represented by clay as contrasted with the original and stronger material “iron.” I say, “at the time when it became the successor of the other three as a universal monarchy,” because the only point of view in which Daniel contemplated it was that. He looked at this, as he did at the others, as already such a universal dominion, and not at what it was before, or at the steps by which it rose to power.
Now, on looking at the Roman empire at that period, and during the time when it occupied the position of the universal monarchy, and during which the “stone cut out of the mountain” grew and filled the world, there is no difficulty in finding such an intermingling with other nations - “the seed of men” - as to be properly described by “iron and clay” in the same image that could never be blended, The allusion is, probably, to that intermingling with other nations which so remarkably characterized the Roman empire, and which arose partly from its conquests, and partly from the inroads of other people in the latter days of the empire, and in reference to both of which there was no proper amalgamation, leaving the original vigour of the empire substantially in its strength, but introducing other elements which never amalgamated with it, and which were like clay intermingled with iron.
(1) From their conquests. Tacitus says, “Dominandi cupido cunctis affectibus flagrantior est” - the lust of ruling is more ardent than all other desires; and this was eminently true of the Romans. They aspired at the dominion of the world; and, in their strides at universal conquest, they brought nations under their subjection, and admitted them to the rights of citizenship, which had no affinity with the original material which composed the Roman power, and which never really amalgamated with it, anymore than clay does with iron.
(2) This was true, also, in respect to the hordes that poured into the empire from other countries, and particularly from the Scandinavian regions, in the latter periods of the empire, and with which the Romans were compelled to form alliances, while, at the same time, they could not amalgamate with them. “In the reign of the emperor Caracalla,” says Mr. Gibbon, “an innumerable swarm of Suevi appeared on the banks of the Mein, and in the neighborhood of the Roman provinces, in quest of food, or plunder, or glory. The hasty army of volunteers gradually coalesced into a great and permanent nation, and as it was composed of so many different tribes, assumed the name of Allemanni, or “allmen,” to denote their various lineage, and their common bravery.” No reader of the Roman history can be ignorant of the invasions of the Goths, the Huns, and the Vandals, or of the effects of these invasions on the empire.
No one can be ignorant of the manner in which they became intermingled with the ancient Roman people, or of the attempts to form alliances with them, by intermarriages and otherwish, which were always like attempts to unite iron and clay. “Placidia, daughter of Theodosius the Great, was given in marriage to Adolphus, king of the Goths; the two daughters of Stilicho, the Vandal, were successively married to Honorius; and Genseric, another Vandal, gave Eudocia, a captive imperial princess, to his son to wife.” The effects of the intermingling of foreign people on the character and destiny of the empire cannot be stated perhaps in a more graphic manner than is done by Mr. Gibbon, in the summary review of the Roman History, with which he concludes his seventh chapter, and at the same time there could scarcely be a more clear or cxpressive commentary on this prophecy of Daniel. “During the four first ages,” says he, “the Romans, in the laborious school of poverty, had acquired the virtues of war and government: by the vigorous exertion of those virtues, and by the assistance of fortune, they had obtained, in the course of the three succeeding centuries, an absolute empire over many countries of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The last three hundred years had been consumed in apparent prosperity and internal decline. The nation of soldiers, magistrates, and legislators, who composed the thirty-five tribes of the Roman people, was dissolved into the common mass of mankind, and confounded with the million of servile provincials who had received the name without adopting the spirit of Romans. A mercenary army, levied among the subjects and barbarians of the frontier, was the only order of men who preserved and abused their independence.
By their tumultuary election, a Syrian, a Goth, or an Arab was exalted to the throne of Rome, and invested with despotic power over the conquests and over the country of the Scipios. The limits of the Roman empire still extended from the Western Ocean to the Tigris, and from Mount Atlas to the Rhine and the Danube. To the undiscerning eye of the common, Philip appeared a monarch no less powerful than Hadrian or Augustus had formerly been. The form was still the same, but the animating health and rigor were fled. The industry of the people was discouraged and exhausted by a long series of oppression. The discipline of the legions, which alone, after the extinction of every other virtue, had propped the greatness of the state, was corrupted by the ambition, or relaxed by the weakness of the emperors. The strength of the frontiers, which had always consisted in arms rather than in fortifications, was insensibly undermined, and the fairest provinces were left exposed to the rapaciousness or ambition of the barbarians, who soon discovered the decline of the Roman empire.” - Vol. i. pp. 110, 111; Harper’s Edit. (N. Y.) 1829.
Compare the notes at Revelation 6:1-8. The agency of the Roman empire was so important in preparing the world for the advent of the Son of God, and in reference to the establishment of his kingdom, that there was an obvious proriety that it should be made a distinct subject of prophecy. We have seen that each of the other three kingdoms had an important influence in preparing the world for the introduction of Christianity, and was designed to accomplish an important part in the “History of Redemption.” The agency of the Roman empire was more direct and important than any one or all of these, for
(a) that was the empire which had the supremacy when the Son of God appeared;
(b) that kingdom had performed a more direct and important work in preparing the world for his coming;
(c) it was under authority derived from that sovereignty that the Son of God was put to death; and
(d) it was by that, that the ancient dispensation was brought to an end; and
(e) it was under that, that the new religion was spread through the world. It may be of use, therefore, in an exposition of this prophecy, to refer, with some particularity, to the things that were accomplished by this “fourth kingdom” in furthering the work of redemption, or in introducing and establishing the kingdom that was to be “set up, and which was never to be destroyed.” That agency related to the following points:
(1) The establishment of a universal dominion; the fact that the world was brought under one scepter greatly favorcd the propagation of the Christian religion. We have seen, under the previous dynasties - the Babylonian, Persian, and macedonian - that such an universal empire was important in earlier ages to “prepare” the world for the advent of the Messiah. This was still more important when he was about actually to appear, and his religion was to be spread over the world. It greatly favored the diffusion of the new system that there was one empire; that the means of communication from one part of the world to another had been so extended by the Romans; and that one who was entitled to the privileges of citizenship could claim protection in nearly every part of the world.
(2) The prevalence of universal peace. The world had become subject to the Roman power, and conquest was at an end. The world at last, after so long agitations and strifes, was at peace. The distant provinces quietly submitted to the Roman control; the civil dissensions which had reigned so long at the capital were hushed; Augustus, having triumphed over all his rivals, quietly occupied the imperial throne, and, as a symbol of the universal peace, the temple of Janus was closed. Rarely in their history had that temple been closed before; and yet there was an obvious propriety that when the “Prince of Peace” should come, the world should be at rest, and that the clangor of arms should cease. It was a beautiful emblem of the nature of his reign. A world that had been always in conflict before rested on its arms; the tumult of battle had died away; the banners of war were furled; the legions of Rome paused in their career of conquest, and the world tranquilly waited for the coming of the Son of God.
(3) The Roman power accomplished an important agency in the great transaction which the Son of God came to perform in his making an atonement for the sins of the world. It was so arranged, in the Divine counsels, that he should be put to death, not by the hands of his own kindred and countrymen, but by the hands of foreigners, and under their authority. The necessity and the certainty of this was early predicted by the Saviour Matthew 20:19; Mark 10:33; Luke 18:32, and it is clear that there were important reasons why it should be thus done; and doubtless one design of bringing Judea and the rest of the world under the Roman yoke was, that it might be accomplished in this way. Among the “reasons” for this may be suggested such as the following:
(a) The pagan world, as well as the Jewish community, thus had a part in the great transaction. He died for the whole world - Jews and Gentiles - and it was important that, that fact should be referred to in the manner of his death, and that the two great divisions of the human family should be united in the great transaction. It thus became not a “Jewish” affair only; not an event in which Judea alone was interested, but an affair of the world; a transaction in which the representatives of the world took their part.
(b) It was thus made a matter of publicity. The account of the death of the Saviour would thus, of course, be transmitted to the capital, and would demand the attention of those who were in power. When the gospel was preached at Rome, it would be proper to allege that it was a thing in which Rome itself had had an important agency, from the fact that under the Roman authority the Messiah had been put to death.
(c) The agency of the Romans, therefore, established the certainty of the death of Jesus, and consequently the certainty of his having risen from the dead. In order to demonstrate the latter, it was indispensable that the former should be made certain, and that all questions in regard to the reality of Iris death should be placed beyond a doubt. This was done by the agency of Pilate, a Roman governor. His death was certified to him, and he was satisfied of it. It became a matter of record; a point about which there could be no dispute. Accordingly, in all the questions that came up in reference to the religion of Christ, it was never made a matter of doubt that he had been really put to death under Pilate, the Roman governor, whatever question may have arisen about the fact of his resurrection.
(d) Equally important was the agency of the Romans in establishing establishing the “innocence” of the Saviour. After patient and repeated trials before himself, Pilate was constrained to say that he was innocent of the charges alleged against him, and that no fault could be found in him. In proclaiming the gospel, it was of immense importance to be able to affirm this throughout the world. It could never be alleged against the gospel that its Author had violated the laws; that he deserved to be put to death as a malefactor, for the records of the Roman governor himself showed the contrary. The agency of the Romans, therefore, in the great work of the atonement, though undesigned on their part, was of inestimable importance in the establishment of the Christian religion; and it may be presumed that it was for this, in part at least, that the world was placed under their control, and that it was so ordered that the Messiah suffered under authority derived from them.
(4) There was another important agency of the Romans in reference to the religion that was to fill the earth. It was in destroying the city of Jerusalem, and bringing to a final end the whole system of Hebrew rites and ceremonies. The ancient sacrifices lost their efficacy really when the atonement was made on the cross. Then there was no need of the temple, and the altar, and the ancient priesthood. It was necessary that the ancient rites should cease, and that, having now lost their efficacy, there should be no possibility of perpetuating them. Accordingly, within the space of about thirty years after the death of the Saviour, when there had been time to perceive the bearing of the atonement on their temple rites; when it was plain that they were no longer efficacious, significant, or necessary, the Romans were suffered to destroy the city, the altar, and the temple, and to bring the whole system to a perpetual end. The place where the ancient worship had been celebrated was tiaade a heap of ruins; the altar was overturned, never to be built again; and the pomp and splendor of the ancient ritual passed away forever. It was the design of God that that system should come to a perpetual end; and hence, by his providence, it was so arranged, that ruin should spread over the city where the Lord was crucified, and that the Jewish people should never build an altar or a temple there again. To this day it has never been in their power to kindle the fire of sacrifice there, or to cause the smoke of incense to ascend in a temple consecrated to the worship of the God of their fathers. The agency of this fourth kingdom, therefore, was exceedingly important in the introduction and establishment of that kingdom which was to be perpetual, and which was to fill the earth, and hence, the reference to it here, and the more extended reference in Daniel 7:0.
And in the days of these kings - Margin, “their.” The reading in the text “these kings” - is the more correct. The Vulgate renders this, “in the days of these kingdoms.” The natural and obvious sense of the passage is, that during the continuance of the kingdoms above-mentioned, or before they should finally pass away, that is, before the last one should become extinct, another kingdom would be established on the earth which would be perpetual. Before the succession of universal monarchies should have passed away, the new kingdom would be set up that would never be destroyed. Such language is not uncommon. “Thus, if we were to speak of anything taking place in the days of British kings, we should not of course understand it as running through all their reigns, but merely as occurring in some one of them.” - Prof. Bush. So it is said in Ruth 1:1 : “It came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land;” that is, the famine occurred sometime under that general administration, or before it had passed away, evidently not meaning that there was a famine in the reign of each one. So it is said of Jephthah, that he was buried “in the cities of Gilead;” that is, some one of them. Josiah was buried in, “the sepulchres of his fathers;” that is, in some one of them.
Shall the God of heaven - The God, who rules in heaven; the true God. This is designed to show the Divine origin of this kingdom, and to distinguish it from all others. Though the others here referred to were under the Divine control, and were designed to act an important part in preparing the world for this, yet they are not represented as deriving their origin directly from heaven. They were founded in the usual manner of earthly monarchies, but this was to have a heavenly origin. In accordance with this, the kingdom which the Messiah came to establish is often called, in the New Testament, “the kingdom of heaven,” “the kingdom of God,” etc. Compare Micah 4:7; Luke 1:32-33.
Set up a kingdom - “Shall cause to arise or stand up” - יקים yeqı̂ym. It shall not owe its origin to the usual causes by which empires are constituted on the earth by conquests; by human policy; by powerful alliances; by transmitted hereditary possession - but shall exist because God shall “appoint” and “constitute” it. There can be no reasonable doubt as to what kingdom is here intended, and nearly all expositors have supposed that it refers to the kingdom of the Messiah. Grotius, indeed, who made the fourth kingdom refer to the Seleucidse and Lagidse, was constrained by consistency to make this refer to the Roman power; but in this interpretation he stands almost, if not entirely, alone. Yet even he supposes it to refer not to “pagan” Rome only, but to Rome as the perpetual seat of power - the permanent kingdom - the seat of the church: “Imperium Romanum perpetuo mansurum, quod sedes erit ecclesice.” And although he maintains that he refers to Rome primarily, yet he is constrained to acknowledge that what is here said is true in a higher sense of the kingdom of Christ: Sensus sublimior, Christum finem impositurum omnibus. imperiis terrestribus. But there can be no real doubt as to what kingdom is intended. Its distinctly declared Divine origin; the declaration that it shall never be destroyed; the assurance that it would absorb all other kingdoms, and that it would stand forever; and the entire accordance of these declarations with the account of the kingdom of the Messiah in the New Testament, show beyond a doubt that the kingdom of the Redeemer is intended.
Which shall never be destroyed - The others would pass away. The Babylonian would be succeeded by the Medo-Persian, that by the Macedonian, that by the Roman, and that in its turn by the one which the God of heaven would set up. This would be perpetual. Nothing would have power to overthrow it. It would live in the revolutions of all other kingdoms, and would survive them all. Compare the notes at Daniel 7:14; and the summary of the doctrines taught here at the close of the notes at Daniel 2:45.
And the kingdom shall not be left to other people - Margin, “thereof. Literally, “Its kingdom shall not be left to other people;” that is, the ruling power appropriate to this kingdom or dominion shall never pass away from its rightful possessor, and be transferred to other hands. In respect to other kingdoms, it often happens that their sovereigns are deposed, and that their power passes into the hands of usurpers. But this can never occur in this kingdom. The government will never change hands. The administration will be perpetual. No foreign power shall sway the scepter of this kingdom. There “may be” an allusion here to the fact that, in respect to each of the other kingdoms mentioned, the power over the same territory “did” pass into the hands of other people. Thus, on the same territory, the dominion passed from the hands of the Babylonian princes to the hands of Cyrus the Persian, and then to the hands of Alexander the Macedonian, and then to the hands of the Romans. But this would never occur in regard to the kingdom which the God of heaven would set up. In the region of empire appropriate to it, it would never change hands; and this promise of perpetuity made this kingdom wholly unlike all its predecessors.
But it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms - As represented by the stone cut out of the mountains without hands, impinging on the image. See the notes at Daniel 2:34-35.
Two inquiries at once meet us here, of somewhat difficult solution. The first is, How, if this is designed to apply to the kingdom of the Messiah, can the description be true? The language here would seem to imply some violent action; some positive crushing force; something like what occurs in conquests when nations are subdued. Would it not appear from this that the kingdom here represented was to make its way by conquests in the same manner as the other kingdoms, rather than by a silent and peaceful influence? Is this language, in fact, applicable to the method in which the kingdom of Christ is to supplant all others? In reply to these questions, it may be remarked,
(1) That the leading idea, as apparent in the prophecy, is not so much that of “violence” as that the kingdoms referred to would be “uttterly brought to an end;” that there would be, under this new kingdom, ultimately an entire cessation of the others; or that they would be removed or supplanted by this. This is represented Daniel 2:35 by the fact that the materials composing the other kingdoms are represented before this as becoming like “the chaff of the summer threshing-floors;” and as “being carried away, so that no place was found for them.” The stone cut out of the mountain, small at first, was mysteriously enlarged, so that it occupied the place which they did, and ultimately filled the earth. A process of gradual demolition, acting on them by constant attrition, removing portions of them, and occupying their place until they should disappear, and until there should be a complete substitution of the new kingdom in their place, would seem to correspond with all that is essential in the prophetic description, See the notes at Daniel 2:34, on the expression, “which smote the image upon his feet.” But
(2) This language is in accordance with what is commonly used in the predictions respecting the kingdom of the Messiah - language which is descriptive of the existence of “power” in subduing the nations, and bringing the opposing kingdoms of the world to an end. Thus in Psalms 2:9, “Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron: thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Isaiah 9:12, “for the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.” So 1 Corinthians 15:24-25, “When he shall have put down all rule, and all authority and power. For he must reign until he hath put all enemies under his feet.” These expressions denote that there will be an entire subjection of other kingdoms to that of the Messiah, called in the New Testament “the kingdom of God.” They undoubtedly imply that there will be some kind of “force” employed - for this great work cannot be accomplished without the existence of “power;” but it may be remarked
(a) That it does not necessarily mean that there will be “physical” force, or power like that by which kingdoms have been usually overturned. The kingdom of the Redeemer is a kingdom of “principles,” and those principles will subdue the nations, and bring them into subjection.
(b) It does not necessarily mean that the effect here described will be accomplished “at once.” It may be by a gradual process, like a continual beating on the image, reducing it ultimately to powder.
The other question which arises here is, How can it be said that the new kingdom which was to be set up would “break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms?” How could the destruction of the image in the Roman period be in fact the destruction of the “three” previous kingdoms, represented by gold, and silver, and brass? Would they not in fact have passed away before the Roman power came into existence? And yet, is not the representation in Daniel 2:35, that the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold were broken in pieces together, and were all scattered like the chaff of the summer threshing-floor? Is it supposed that these kingdoms would be all in existence at the same time, and that the action of the symbolic “stone” was to be alike on all of them? To these questions, we may answer,
(1) That the meaning is, undoubtedly, that three of these kingdoms would have passed away at the time of the action of the “stone” referred to. They were to be a “succession” of kingdoms, occupying, to a great extent, the same territory, and not contemporary monarchies occupying distinct territories.
(2) The action of the “stone” was in fact, in a most important sense, to be on them all; that is, it was to be on what “constituted” these successive kingdoms of gold, silver, brass, and iron. Each was in its turn an universal monarchy. The same territory was substantially occupied by them all. The Medo-Persian scepter extended over the region under the Babylonian; the Macedonian over that; the Roman over that. There were indeed “accessions” in each successive monarchy, but still anything which affected the Roman empire affected what had “in fact” been the Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, and the Macedonian. A demolition of the image in the time of the Roman empire would be, therefore, in fact, a demolition of the whole.
(3) This interpretation is necessary from the nature of the symbolic representation. The eye of the monarch in the dream was directed to the image as “a splendid whole.” It was necessary to the object in view that he should see it “all at a time,” that he might have a distinct conception of it. This purpose made it impossible to exhibit the kingdoms “in succession,” but they all stood up before him at once. No one can doubt that there “might” have been a different representation, and that the kingdoms might have been made to pass before him in their order, but the representation would have been less grand and imposing. But this design made it necessary that the image should be kept “entire” before the mind until its demolition. It would have been unseemly to have represented the head as removed, and then the shoulders and breast, and then the belly and thighs, until nothing remained but the feet and toes. It was necessary to keep up the representation of “the image of colossal majesty and strength,” until a new power should arise which “would demolish it all.” Nebuchadnezzar is not represented as seeing the parts of the image successively appear or disappear. He does not at first see the golden head rising above the earth, and then the other parts in succession; nor the golden head disappearing, and then the other parts, until nothing was left but the feet and the toes. Such a representation would have destroyed the decorum and beauty of the whole figure; and as it cannot be argued that because Nebuchadnezzar saw the whole image at the outset standing in its complete form, that therefore, all these kingdoms must have been simultaneously in existence, so it cannot be argued because he saw the whole image standing when the stone smote upon it, that therefore, all these kingdoms must have had an existence then.
(4) It may be added, that the destruction of the last was in fact the destruction of all the three predecessors. The whole power had become embodied in that, and the demolition affected the whole series.
Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone ... - On the meaning of the language employed here, see the notes at Daniel 2:34-35. The word “forasmuch” may be taken either in connection with what precedes, or with what follows. In the former method, there should be a period at the word “gold” in this verse; and then the sense is, “In those days shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, etc., “forasmuch,” or “because” thou sawest a stone,” etc., that is, that was a certain indication of it. According to the other method, the meaning is, “Forasmuch as thou sawest the stone cut out and demolish the image, the great God has made known the certainty of it;” that is, that is a certain indication that it will be done. The Vulgate is, “According to what thou sawest, that the stone was cut out without hands, and reduced the clay, etc., the great God has shown to the king what will be hereafter.” The difference in the interpretation is not very material.
Cut out of the mountain - This is not inserted in the statement in Daniel 2:34. It seems, however, to be implied there, as there is mention of the stone as “cut out.” The representation is evidently that of a stone disengaged from its native bed, the side of a mountain, without any human agency, and then rolling down the side of it and impinging on the image.
The great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter - Margin, the same as the Chaldee, “after this.” The meaning is simply, in time to come; in some future period. Daniel claims none of the merit of this discovery to himself. but ascribes it all to God.
And the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure - That is, it is no vain and airy phantom; no mere working of the imagination. The dream was all that the monarch had supposed it to be - a representation of coming events, and his solicitude in regard to it was well-founded. Daniel speaks with the utmost assurance also as to its fulfillment. He knew that he had been led to this interpretation by no skill of his own; and his representation of it was such as to satisfy the monarch of its correctness. Two circumstances probably made it appear certain to the monarch, as we learn from the next verse it did: one, that Daniel had recalled the dream to his own recollection, showing that he was under a Divine guidance; and the other, the plausibility - the verisimilitude - the evident truthfulness of the representation. It was such a manifest “explanation” of the dream that Nebuchadnezzar, in the same manner as Pharaoh had done before him when his dreams were explained by Joseph, at once admitted the correctness of the representation.
Having now gone through with the “exposition” of this important passage respecting the stone cut from the mountain, it seems proper to make a few remarks in regard to the nature of the kingdom that would be set up, as represented by the stone which demolished the image, and which so marvelously increased as to fill the earth. That there is reference to the kingdom of the Messiah cannot be reasonably doubted. The points which are established in respect to that kingdom by the passage now under consideration are the following:
I. Its superhuman origin. This is indicated in the representation of the stone cut out of the mountain “without hands;” that is, clearly not by human agency, or in the ordinary course of events. There was to be a superhuman power exerted in detaching it from the mountain, as well as in its future growth. What appeared so marvelous was, that it was cut from its orginal resting place by some invisible power, and moved forward to the consummation of its work without any human agency. That this was designed to be significant of something there can be no reasonable doubt, for the result is made to turn on this. I do not see that any special significancy is to be attached to the idea of its being cut from “a mountain,” nor that it is required of us to attempt to refine on that expression, and to ascertain whether the mountain means the Roman kingdom, out of which the gospel church was taken, as many suppose; or the Jewish nation, as Augustine supposed; or that “the origin of Christ was sublime and superior to the whole world,” as Calvin supposes; or to the mountainous country of Judea in which the Messiah was born, as many others have maintained; or to the tomb of Joseph, as a rock from which the Messiah sprang to life and victory, as others have imagined.
All this belongs to a system of interpretatation that is trifling in the extreme. The representation of the mountain here is merely for the sake of verisimilitude, like the circumstances in a parable. If a stone was “cut out without hands,” it would be natural to speak of it as cut from the mountain or parent-rock to which it was attached. The eye is not here directed to the “mountain” as having anything significant or marvelous about it, but to the “stone” that so mysteriously left its bed, and rolled onward toward the image. The point of interest and of marvel, the mysterious thing that attracted the eye, was that there was no human agency employed; that no hands were seen at work; that none of the ordinary instrumentalities were seen by which great effects are accomplished among men. Now this would properly represent the idea that the kingdom of the Messiah would have a supernatural origin. Its beginnings would be unlike what is usually seen among men. How appropriately this applies to the kingdom of the Messiah, as having its origin not in human power, need not here be stated. Nothing is more apparent; nothing is more frequently dwelt on in the New Testament, than that it had a heavenly origin. It did not owe its beginning to human plans, counsels, or power.
II. Its feebleness in its beginning, compared with its ultimate growth and power. At first it was a stone comparatively small, and that seemed utterly inadequate to the work of demolishing and pulverizing a colossal statue of gold, silver, brass, and iron. Ultimately it grew to be itself of mountain-size, and to fill the land. Now this representation would undoubtedly convey the fair impression that this new power, represented by the stone, would at first be comparatively small and feeble; that there would be comparative weakness in its origin as contrasted with what it would ultimately attain to; and that it would seem to be utterly inadequate to the performance of what it finally accomplished. It is hardly necessary to say that this corresponds entirely with the origin of the Messiah’s kingdom. Everywhere it is represented as of feeble beginnings, and, as a system, to human view, entirely inadequate to so great a work as that of bringing other kingdoms to an end, and subduing it to itself. The complete fulfillment of the prophetic statement would be found in such circumstances as the following:
(1) The humble origin of the head of this new power hlmself - the Messiah - the King of Sion. He was, in fact, of a decayed and dilapidated family; was ranked among the poor; was without powerful friends or political connections; possessed no uncommon advantages of learning, and was regarded with contempt and scorn by the great mass of his countrymen. No one would have supposed that the religion originated by one of so humble an origin would have power to change the destiny of the kingdoms of the earth.
(2) The feebleness of the beginning of his kingdom. His few followers - the little band of fishermen; the slow progress at first made; these were circumstances strikingly in accordance with the representation in Daniel.
(3) The absence in that band of all that seemed requisite to accomplish so great a work. They had no arms, no wealth, no political power. They had nothing of what has commonly been employed to overthrow kingdoms, and the band of fishermen sent forth to this work seemed as little adequate to the undertaking as the stone cut from the mountain did to demolish the colossal image.
(4) All this feebleness in the beginning was wonderfully contrasted with the ultimate results, like the stone, when cut from the mountain, contrasted with its magnitude when it filled the earth. The Saviour himself often referred to the contrast between the feeble origin of his religion, and what it would grow to be. At first it was like a grain of mustard-seed, smallest among seeds; then it grew to be a tree so large that the fowls of the air lodged in the branches. At first it was like leaven, hidden in meal; ultimately it would diffuse itself through the mass, so that the whole would be leavened, Matthew 13:31-33.
III. It would supplant all other kingdoms. This was clearly indicated by the fact that the “stone” demolished the image, reducing it to powder, and filled the place which that occupied, and all the land. This has been explained (see the notes at Daniel 2:34-35), as meaning that it would not be by sudden violence, but by a continued process of comminution. There would be such an action on the kingdoms of the earth represented by gold, and silver, and brass, and iron, that they would disappear, and the new power represented by the “stone” would finally take their place. As this new power was to be humble in its origin, and feeble to human view; as it had nothing which, to outward appearance, would seem adequate to the result, the reference would seem to be to the “principles” which would characterize it, and which, as elements of power, would gradually but ultimately secure the changes represented by the demolition of the colossal statue.
The only question then would be, whether the principles in the kingdom of the Messiah had such originality and power as would gradually but certainly change the modes of government that existed in the world, and substitute another kind of reign; or, what is the influence which it will exert on the nations, causing new methods of government, in accordance with its principles, to prevail on the earth. Though apparently feeble, without arms, or wealth, or civil alliances, it has elements of “power” about it which will ultimately subdue all other principles of government, ard take their place. Its work was indeed to be a gradual work, and it is by no means accomplished, yet its effect has been mighty already on the principles that rule among the nations and will still be more mighty until “the laws of the kingdom of the Messiah shall prevail in all the earth.” This seems to be the idea which it is designed to express by this prophetic image. If one were asked “in what respects” it is to be anticipated that these changes will be wrought, and “in what respects” we can discern the evidences of such changes already, we might say in such points as the following:
(1) In regard to the methods in which governments are founded. Governments were formerly mostly the result of civil or foreign wars. Nearly all the governments of antiquity were originally founded in the “power” of some military leader, and then held by power. Christianity originated new views about wars and conquests; views that will ultimately prevail. In nothing are the opinions of mankind destined more entirely to be reversed than in regard to “war;” to its glory, its achievements, and the fame of those who have been most celebrated for bloody triumphs.
(2) In regard to the rights of the people. A mighty principle was originated by Christianity in respect to the “rights” of men; the right of conscience; the right to the avails of their own labor; the right to life and liberty.
(3) In regard to oppression. The history of the world has been, to a great extent, a history of oppression. But all this is to be changed by the principles of the true religion; and when the period shall arrive that there shall be no more occasion to use the word “oppression,” as descriptive of anything that shall have an actual existenee on earth, this will be a different world. Then the time will have come, appropriately designated by the demolition of the colossal statue - symbolic of all governments of oppression, and the substitution in its place of what was at first insignificant, but which had vital energy to supplant all that went before it.
IV. This kingdom will be perpetual. This is asserted in the unequivocal statements that it “shall never be destroyed,” and that “it shall not be left to other people;” that is, shall never pass into other hands. There could not be a more positive declaration that the kingdom here referred to will continue through all coming time. Other kingdoms pass away, but this will not; and amidst all the revolutions of other empires this will remain. The lapse of eighteen hundred years since this kingdom was set up, has done not a little to confirm the truth of this prediction. Many other kingdoms during that time have disappeared from the earth, but this remains in its full vigour, and with extending power. It has, at this day, an extent of dominion which it never had before, and there are clearer indications that it will spread over all the earth than ever existed at any previous time. That this kingdom “will” be perpetual may be argued from the following considerations:
(1) From the promises of God. These are absolute; and they are attested by Him who has all power, and who can, with infinite ease, accomplish all that he has spoken. So in Daniel 7:14, “His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” Luke 1:33, “and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever: and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” Psalms 45:6 (compare the notes at Hebrews 1:8), “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever.” In Hebrews 1:8, it is, “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever.” Isaiah 9:7, “of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth, even forever.”
(2) It may be argued, from the fact that the efforts which have been made to destroy it have shown that this cannot be done by any human power. Eighteen hundred years have now passed away - a period sufficiently long to test the question whether it can be destroyed by force and violence; by argument and ridicule. The experiment has been fairly made, and if it were possible that it should be destroyed by external force, it would have been done. It cannot be imagined that more favorable circumstances for such a purpose will ever occur. The church of Christ has met every form of opposition that we can conceive could be made against it, and has survived them all. Particularly it has survived the trial which has been made in the following respects:
(a) The Roman power, the whole might of the Roman arms, that had subdued and crushed the world, was brought to bear upon the kingdom of Christ to crush and destroy it, but wholly failed. It cannot be supposed that a new power will ever arise that will be more formidable to Christianity than the Roman was.
(b) The power of persecution. That has been tried in every way, and has failed. The most ingenious forms of torture have been devised to extinguish this religion, and have all failed. It has always been found that persecution has only contributed ultimately to the triumph of the cause which it was hoped to crush.
(c) The power of philosophy. The ancient philosophers opposed it, and attempted to destroy it by argument. This was early done by Celsus and Porphyry; but it soon became apparent that the ancient philosophy had nothing that could extinguish the rising religion, and not a few of the prominent philosophers themselves were converted, and became the advocates of the faith.
(d) The power of science. Christianity had its origin in an age when science had made comparatively little progress, and in a country where it was almost unknown. The sciences since have made vast advances; and each one in its turn has been appealed to by the enemies of religion, to furnish an argument against Christianity. Astronomy, history, the discoveries in Egypt, the asserted antiquity of the Hindoos, and geology, have all been employed to overthrow the claims of the Christian religion, and have all been compelled to abandon the field. See this admirably demonstrated in Dr. Wiseman’s “Lectures on the Connection between Science and Revealed Religion.”
(e) The power of ridicule. At one time it was held that “ridicule is the test of truth,” and this has been applied unsparingly to the Christian religion. But the religion still lives, and it cannot be supposed that there will be men endued with the power of sarcasm and wit superior to those who, with these weapons, have made war on Christianity, or that infidelity has any hope from that quarter. It may be inferred, therefore, that there is no “external” source of corruption and decay which will prevent its being perpetual. Other kingdoms usually have; and after a few centuries at most the internal corruption - the defect of the organization - developes itself, and the kingdom falls. But nothing of this kind occurs in the kingdom of Christ. It has lived now through eighteen hundred years, through periods of the world in which there have been constant changes in the arts, in the sciences, in manners, in philosophy, in forms of government. During that time many a system of philosophy has been superseded, and many a kingdom has fallen, but Christianity is as fresh and vigorous, as it meets each coming generation, as it ever was; and the past has demonstrated that the enemies of the gospel have no reason to hope that it will become weak by age, and will fall by its own decrepitude.
V. A fifth characteristic of this kingdom is, that it will universally prevail. This was symbolized by the stone that “became a great mountain, and that filled the whole earth,” Daniel 2:35. It is also implied, in the statement in Daniel 2:44, that it “shall break in pieces, and consume all these kingdoms.” They will cease, and this will occupy their places. The “principles” of the kingdom of the Messiah, whatever may be the external forms of government that shall exist on the earth, will everywhere prevail. That this will occur may be argued from the following considerations:
(1) The promises recorded in the Bible. Tlle passage before us is one. Of the same nature are the following: Psalms 2:8, “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the pagan for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” Malachi 1:11, “for from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same, my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered to my name, and a pure offering.” Isaiah 11:9, “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” Compare Habakkuk 2:14; Isaiah 45:22, and Isaiah 60:0.
(2) The world in its progress “loses” nothing that is of value. Truth is eternal, and when once discovered, society will not let it go. It seizes upon great elements in human nature, and the world will not let it die. Thus it is with discoveries in science, inventions in the arts, and principles in morals. There is no evidence that anything that was known to the ancients which was of permanent value to mankind has been lost; and the few things that “were” lost have been succeeded by that which is better. All that was truly valuable in their science, their philosophy, their arts, their jurisprudence, their literature, we possess still, and the world will always retMn it. And what can ever obliterate from the memory oi man the printing-press, the steamengine, the cotton-gin, the telescope, the blow-pipe, the magnetic telegraph? Society accumulates from age to age all that is truly valuable in inventions, morals, and the arts, and travels with them down to the period when the world shall have reached the highest point of perfectability. This remark is true also of Christianity - the kingdom of Christ. There are “principles” in regard to the happiness and rights of man in that system which cannot be “detached” from society, but which go into its permanent structure, and which “the world will not let die.”
(3) Society is thus making constant “advances.” A position gained in human progress is never ultimately lost. “The principles thus accumulated and incorporated into society become permanent. Each age adds something in this respect to the treasures accumulated by all preceding ages, and each one is, in some respects, an advance on its predecessors, and makes the final triumph of the principles of truth, and liberty, and pure religion more sure.”
(4) Christianity, or the kingdom of Christ, is “aggressive.” It makes a steady war on the evil customs, habits, and laws of the world. It is in accordance with its nature to diffuse itself. Nothing can prevent its propagation; and, according to the laws of society, nothing is so certain philosophically in regard to the future, as the final prevalence of the religion of the Redeemer. It may meet with temporary and formidable obstructions. It may be retarded, or extinguished, in certain places. But its general course is onward - like the current of the mighty river toward the ocean. The only thing certain in the future is, that the Christian religion will yet spread all over the world; and there is enough in this to gratify the highest wishes of philanthropy, and enough to stimulate to the highest effort to secure so desirable an end.
Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face - This was the common method of signifying profound respect among the Orientals. Compare Genesis 17:3; Genesis 50:18; Leviticus 9:24; Numbers 14:5; Joshua 5:14; Judges 13:20; Revelation 11:16.
And worshipped Daniel - The word rendered “worshipped” here (סגד segid), in the Chaldee portions of the Bible is uniformly rendered “worship,” Daniel 2:26; Daniel 3:5-7, Daniel 3:10-12, Daniel 3:14-15, Daniel 3:18, Daniel 3:28. It occurs nowhere else, and in every instance, except in the one before us, is employed with reference to the homage paid to an idol, all the other cases occurring in the third chapter respecting the image that was set up by Nebuchadnezzar. The corresponding Hebrew word (סגד sâgad) occurs only in Isaiah 44:15, Isaiah 44:17, Isaiah 44:19; Isaiah 46:6; and is, in every instance, rendered “fall down,” also with reference to idols. The proper idea, therefore, of the word here is, that the monarch meant to render “religious” homage to Daniel, or such adoration as was usually paid to idols. This is confirmed by witat is immediately added, that he commanded that an oblation should be made to him. It is not, however, necessary to suppose that Daniel “received” or “approved” this religious homage of the king, or that he left the impression on his mind that he was “willing” to be honored as a god. The prostration of the king before him, of course, he could not prevent. The views and feelings which the monarch had in doing it he could not prevent. The command to present an “oblation and sweet odors to him” he could not prevent. But it is not a fair inference that Daniel approved this, or that he did anything to countenance it, or even that he did not, in a proper manner, rebuke it: for
(1) We are not to suppose that all that was said was recorded, and no one can prove that Daniel did not express his disapprobation of this religious honor shown to him.
(2) Daniel had in fact, expressed his views, in the clearest manner, on this very point before the monarch. He had, again and again, disclaimed all power to be able to reveal such secrets. He had directed his mind to the true God, as he who alone could disclose coming events, Daniel 2:28, Daniel 2:30, Daniel 2:45. He had taken all possible precaution to prevent any such result, by declaring, in the most emphatic terms Daniel 2:30, that this secret was not revealed to him “on account of any wisdom which he had more than any living.” If now, after all this precaution, and these disclaimers, the king should prostrate himself before him, and, for the moment, feel that he was in the presence of a God, Daniel was not responsible for it, and it should not be inferred that he encouraged or approved it.
(3) It would seem, from the narrative itself, more than probable that Daniel did refuse the homage, and direct the thoughts of the monarch to the true God. In the very next verse it is said, “The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets.” “Answered” what? Perhaps something that was said by Daniel. At all events, it is clear from this that whatever were the momentary expressions of wonder, gratitude, and adoration, on the part of the king, his thoughts soon passed to the proper object of worship - the true God. “And commanded, etc.” The fact that this was “commanded” does not prove that it was done. The command was probably given under the excitement of his admiration and wonder. But it does not follow that Daniel received it, or that the command was not recalled on reflection, or that the oblation and odors may not have been presented to the true God.
That they should offer an oblation - That is, his attendants, or perhaps the priests to whom pertained the duty of making offerings to the gods. The word rendered “oblation” (מנחה minchāh) does not refer to a, “bloody” sacrifice, but means a gift or present of any kind. It is applied in the Scriptures to denote
(1) “a gift,” or “present,” Genesis 32:13, Genesis 32:18, Genesis 32:20 (Genesis 32:14, Genesis 32:19, Genesis 32:21); Genesis 43:11, Genesis 43:15, Genesis 43:25-26;
(2) “a tribute,” such as was exacted from a subject nation, under the notion of a present, 2 Samuel 8:2, 2 Samuel 8:6; 1 Kings 4:21 1 Kings 5:1,
(3) “an offering” or sacrifice to God, especially a bloodless offering, in opposition to (זבח zebach) - a bloody sacrifice, Leviticus 2:1, Leviticus 2:4-6; Leviticus 6:14 (7); Leviticus 7:9; Psalms 40:6 (7); Jeremiah 17:26.
See the word fully explained in the notes at Isaiah 1:13. There can be no doubt that Nebuchadnezzar meant that such an offering should be presented as was usually made in idol worship.
And sweet odors - incense was commonly used in worship (see the notes at Isaiah 1:13), and it is not improbable that in the worship of the gods it was accompanied with other fragrant odors. Sweet odors, or “savors,” expressed by the same word which is used here, were a part of the prescribed worship in the Hebrew ritual, Leviticus 1:9, Leviticus 1:13, Leviticus 1:17; Leviticus 2:2, Leviticus 2:9; Leviticus 3:5; Leviticus 6:21 (14); Numbers 15:7.
The king answered unto Daniel - Answered either what he had said in the interpretation of the dream, or “possibly” something that he had said in regard to the impropriety of offering this homage to him. Compare the notes at Daniel 2:46. It is certain that, for some cause. whatever might have been the homage which he was disposed to render to Daniel, his thoughts were soon turned from him to the true God, and to an acknowledgment of him as superior to all other beings. He seems, at least, instantly to have reflected on what Daniel had himself said Daniel 2:30, and to have remembered that religious homage was due, not to Daniel, but to the God who had communicated the secret to him.
Of a truth it is - It is truly so. This had been shown by the manner in which this secret was disclosed.
That your God is a God of gods - Is superior to all other gods; is supreme over all. Compare Revelation 17:14; 1 Timothy 6:15. The idea is, that whatever subordinate beings there may be, He is supreme.
And a Lord of kings - Supreme over kings. They are all inferior to him, and subject to his control.
And a revealer of secrets - One of the attributes of divinity. See the notes at Daniel 2:28.
Seeing thou couldest reveal this secret - A secret which the wisest men of the realm had sought in vain to disclose. The fact that a professed servant of God had been able to do this showed that God was himself supreme, and worthy of adoration. We have here, then, an instance in which a proud and haughty pagan monarch was brought to an acknowledgment of the true God, and was constrained to render him homage. This was a result which it was evidently intended to reach in the whole transaction; in the dream itself; in the fact that the wise men of Babylon could not interpret it; and in the fact that an acknowledged servant of the Most High had been enabled to make the disclosure. The instance is instructive, as showing to what extent a mind clearly not under the influence of any genuine piety - for subsequent events showed that no “permanent” effects were produced on him, and that he was still an idolater Daniel 3:0, and a most proud and haughty man Daniel 4:0 - may be brought to acknowledge God. See the remarks at the end of the Daniel 7:0.
There the king made Daniel a great man - That is, he gave him an honorable appointment; he so honored him that he was regarded as a great man. He was really made great by the grace of God, and the extraordinary favor which God had bestowed upon him, but the estimate which the king had of his greatness was shown by the tokens of the royal favor. “And gave him many great gifts.” This is a common way of showing esteem in the East. The estimate in which one holds another is evinced by the variety and richness of the presents conferred on him. Hence, all persons of distinction expect gifts of those who approach them as expressive of their regard for them, and of the esteem in which they are held. Compare Daniel 2:6.
And made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon - Chaldee, השׁלטה hasheleṭēh - caused him to preside over, or to rule over, from the verb שׁלט shelaṭ, “to rule,” and commonly applied to one who rules as a prince, or in an elevated office. From this word the terms “sultan” and “sultana” are derived.
And chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon - This would seem to be an appointment which did not pertain to him as governor of the province of Babylon, or as presiding in the capital, but was a separate appointment, and, therefore, an additional mark of favor. The phrase “chief of the governors” would seem to imply that the magi of Babylon were disposed in certain orders or classes, each of which had its appropriate head, like the head of a college or university. Daniel was placed over the whole as the president, principal, or chancellor. It had been the policy of Nebuchadnezzar to assemble at the capital the principal talent and learning of the realm. Compare the notes at Daniel 1:18-20; Daniel 2:2. Daniel thus, in both these stations of honor at an early period of life, though recently an unknown stranger, and a captive; was exalted to the highest honors which could be conferred on a subject, and raised to posts of distinction which would usually be regarded as the highest rewards which could be obtained by a long life of devotedness to the welfare of the country.
Then Daniel requested of the king ... - In his own remarkable prosperity, and in the extraordinary honors conferred on him, he did not forget the companions of his humbler days. They were his countrymen; they had been captives with him; they had been selected with a view to stand with him before the king Daniel 1:3-4; they had shared with him in his rules of abstinence Daniel 1:11-17; they had all passed an honorable examination before the king Daniel 1:18-19; they had united with him in supplication to God that he would disclose the meaning of the vision Daniel 2:17-18; and now it was proper that they should be remembered by him who had been so signally honored.
Over the affairs of the province of Babylon - In what particular departments of business they were employed is not mentioned; but it would seem that all that especially pertained to this province was entrusted to them. Daniel had the general superintendence, but the subordinate duties growing out of the office were entrusted to them. The fact that the king granted the request shows the influence that Daniel had at the court. The reasons which influenced the king in granting the request may have been, not only the favor with which he regarded Daniel, but the fact that the duties of the office conferred on him now were such as to require assistance, and the remembrance of the virtues ot these youths when they stood before him.
But Daniel sat in the gate of the king - The post of chief honor and dignity as a counselor of the king. The “gate” of a city in the East, being a chief place of concourse, was the place where courts were held, and public business was usually transacted. See the notes at Job 29:7. To say, therefore, that he “sat in the gate of the king,” is merely to say that he occupied a place with the chief counselors and dignitaries of the realm. The phrase “Sublime Porte,” that is, “the Sublime Gate,” is still employed at Constantinople to denote the government of the sultan, for, in the earlier days of Ottoman rule, the reigning sovereign, as is still the case in some parts of the East, held courts of justice and levees at the entrance of his residence. See “Harper’s Magazine,” vol. iv. p. 333. The office of Daniel was, perhaps, not far different from that of the grand vizier of the Turkish government. See Murray’s “Ency. Geog.” vol. ii. p. 202.
Among the lessons of practical value suggested by this chapter, we may notice the following:
(1) We have an instance Daniel 2:1-3 of the methods which were resorted to in early periods of the world to ascertain what the future would be. This great monarch relied on a dream which greatly disturbed him, and on the power which he supposed was entrusted to men to interpret dreams. In common with the prevailing spirit of his times, and of all ancient times (notes, Daniel 2:1), he believed that dreams might be regarded as prognostics of future events; that they were under Divine direction; and that all that was necessary to make them safe guides in reference to what is to occur, was that they should be properly interpreted. In common, too, with all the people of ancient times, and with most of modern times, the king here referred to had an earnest desire to look into the future. There has been no desire in the human bosom stronger than this. We are so made that we wish to lift the mysterious veil which shrouds the future; to penetrate the deep darkness which rests on the unseen world.
Our great interests are there. The past is fixed, and cannot now affect us, except by the consequences of what we have done, and by teaching us lessons of value derived from our own observation, and that of others. But the future is not yet fixed. Man, so anxious to know what this is to be, finds himself in respect to it peculiarly unendowed. In relation to the past, he is endowed with the faculty of “memory,” but with nothing corresponding to this pertaining to “the future.” He can treasure up what has occurred, but he cannot in like manner make the future pass before his mind, that he may become wise by knowing what will take place in far distant times. There can be no doubt that God could have endowed the mind with one faculty as well as the other - for he has it himself - but there were obvious reasons why it should not be done. Destitute, then, as man was of this power, one great object of human inquiry has been to see whether the deficiency could be supplied, and whether something might not be found which would be to the future substantially what the memory is to the past. The efforts and results on this subject - one of which we have in the chapter before us - constitute one of the most instructive chapters of the history of our race, and show how effectually God has bounded the limits of human investigation in this respect. Among those methods of attempting to penetrate the future, and of laying open its deep mysteries, may be noticed the following:
(a) Astrology. It was supposed that the stars might exert an influence over the fates of men, and that by observing their positions, conjunctions, and oppositions, it might be ascertained what would be the destiny of individuals and nations. The belief of this has manifested itself more or less in every age; and in such instances as in the word “lunacy,” and in the common apprehensions about the influence of the moon on health and on vegetation, may be still seen traces of that belief. Even Lord Bacon held that “astrology was a science not to be “rejected,” but reformed;” and in the early periods of the world it was a “fair” subject of investigation whether the heavenly bodies actually exerted such an influence, and whether, if it were so, it was possible to ascertain the laws by which this was done. This was the so-called science of astrology.
(b) Necromancy. The belief of this also prevailed in nearly all ancient nations, and we find frequent reference to it in the Scriptures. This consisted in the belief that the dead must be acquainted with the world where they now dwell, so dark to the living, and that it might be possible to make a covenant or compact with them, by which they would be induced to disclose what they knew. It was extensively, if not universally, believed that they re-appeared to men, and that it was not an uncommon occurrence for them to leave their abodes, and to visit the earth again. It was, therefore, not an unnatural and not an unfair subject of inquiry, whether they would not disclose to the more favored among mortals what they knew of the secrets of the invisible world, and what they knew of events which were to come. Compare the notes at Isaiah 8:19.
(c) The arts of divination. These were founded mainly on the investigations of science. It was at first a fair question whether, amidst the wonders which science was unfolding to the view, it might not contribute to lift the veil from the future, and reveal what was yet to come. It took long to ascertain what were the legitimate aims of science, and what might be hoped for from it. Hence, it was directed to the inquiry whether some substance might not be found which would transmute all things to gold; whether some elixir might not be discovered which would arrest all disease, and give immortality to man; and whether science would not disclose some means by which the future could be penetrated, and the mysteries of the invisible world be laid open to the view. It required centuries of investigation, a thousand failures, and the results of long and patient thought, to ascertain what were the true objects of science, and to convince the world that it was not its legitimate purpose to reveal the future to man.
(d) Pagan oracles. It was an early inquiry whether God would not, in some way, lift the veil from the future and disclose its secrets to man. The belief that this would be done seems to be natural to the mind of man; and in all ages, and in all countries, he has supposed that; the future would be thus disclosed. Hence, among the pagan, certain persons claimed to be divinely inspired; hence, such shrines as that at Delphi became celebrated; hence, ambiguous responses were uttered, so expressed as to support the credit of the oracle, whatever might be the result; hence, men were appointed to observe the flights of birds, to inspect the entrails of animals offered in sacrifice, to interpret any unusual phenomena in the clouds, to mark the direction of meteors, and, in general, to examine any unusual appearances in the heavens or the earth, which would seem to furnish any clew by which the future might be known. Much of all this undoubtedly became mere imposture, and justified the remark of Cicero, that he wondered that one augur could meet another without laughing; but there can be no doubt that by many these inquiries were honestly pursued, and that at first all this seemed to be a legitimate subject of inquiry. What forbade man to pursue it? And who could tell but that in some such ways the secrets of the mysterious future could be found out? It demanded long and patient inquiry and observation to show that this could not be so, and that whatever might be indicated by any of these things, it was never designed that they should be the means by which man could be made acquainted with the mysteries of the invisible world.
(e) Dreams. We have seen (notes, Daniel 2:1) that it was an early article of belief that through the medium of dreams the Divine will might be made known, and the secrets of the future disclosed. The “theory” on this subject seems to have been, that during sleep the ordinary laws of the mind are suspended; that the soul is abstracted from the visible world; that the thoughts which it has then must be originated by higher beings; and that in this state it has converse with an invisible world, and may be permitted to see much of what is yet to occur. Compare Intro. to Isaiah, Section VII. (2).
(f) Visions. Men supposed that there might be representations made to certain favored persons respecting the future, their senses being closed to surrounding objects, and that while in an ecstasy, or trance, the mind might have a view of future events. Such were the visions of Balaam; such, in a remarkable manner, were the visions of the true prophets; and so deeply was the conviction that this “might” occur engrafted in the human mind, that the belief of it seems to have had a place among the pagan nations. Compare Introduction to Isaiah, Section 7. (4).
Such were some of the ways by which it was supposed that the future might be penetrated by man, and its secrets disclosed. By allowing man to make trial of these methods, and to pursue them through a period of several thousand years, until he himself saw that they were fruitless, God was preparing the race to feel the necessity of direct communications from himself, and to welcome the true reve lations which he would make respecting things to come.
(2) We have in the chapter before us Daniel 2:4-11 an instance of “the acknowledged failure” of a class of the wisest of men, whose lives were devoted to this employment, in their attempts to disclose the future. This is a fair illustration of all the attempts of the pagan, and it was doubtless permitted in order that it might be seen that all such attempts must fail. The magicians, astrologers, and Chaldeans were foiled in a case which fairly came within the province of their art, and when pretenders to this kind of knowledge ought to have been able to solve the difficulties of the monarch. Regarding this as a fair illustration of all the attempts of the pagan to penetrate the future, and to discover the great truths which it is desirable for man to know, there are three observations which may be made in regard to it:
I. The trial has been a fair one.
(a) There was “time” enough allowed for it. It was about four thousand years from the creation of man to the time when the canon of Scripture was completed, and promulgated to the whole world, and it could not be said that man required a longer time to test the question whether he needed a revelation.
(b) The trial was a fair one, because it was one which men were at liberty to pursue to any extent, and which was conducted under the best advantages. It was confined to no country or favored class of men. In all lands, and with every advantage of climate, government, and laws, man has been engaged in the great inquiry; and if it be remembered what immense “numbers” of minds have been employed in these investigations, it cannot be pretended that the utmost desirable freedom has not been allowed to man to test the question whether “by searching he can find out God,” and disclose the future.
(c) The same thing is true in respect to the “talent” which has been employed in this investigation. It is not too much to say, that the “highest” talent that the world has produced has been engaged in these inquiries, and that the rejecters of revelation cannot hope that higher powers can be brought to bear on it, or that the unaided human intellect can hope to accomplish more in this respect than has been done. The profoundest minds in Egypt and Chaldea were engaged in inquiries of this sort. The very highest talent which Greece produced in its best days was employed on questions of religion; in attempts to find out God, to ascertain the relations of man to him, and to determine what man was to be hereafter. What was true, also, of the ancient pagan, and of the modern pagan, that the best talent has been employed on these questions, is true also of the rejecters of revelation in Christian lands. Men of high powers of intellect have refused to acknowledge the Bible as a revelation, and have chosen to fall back on the unaided resources of their own minds. Aided with all that science and learning can do, they have inquired after a system of religion that would commend itself to man as true, and as adapted to his wants; and it cannot be pretended that man in this respect has not had a fair opportunity to show what the human powers can do.
(d) The trial has been a fair one in regard to the field of investigation. Astrology, necromancy, abstruse natural science, oracles, dreams, visions, the observation of the course of events - all these have been open before man, and in one and all of them he has been allowed to pursue his investigations at pleasure.
II. There has been an entire “failure” in the attempt. The Chaldeans failed in Babylon, as the magicians had done in Egypt, to explain what was regarded as a prognostic of the future, and in both cases it was necessary to call in the aid of one who had a direct communication from heaven. The same has been the case in “all” attempts to explain the future, and to disclose what man was so desirous of knowing about the invisible world.
(a) All reliance on astrology, necromancy, oracles, dreams, and the revelations of the abstruser sciences, has failed. Astrology has ceased to be a science, and the stars are studied for other purposes than to disclose future events; necromancy has ceased to be a science - for no one now hopes to be able to make a compact with the dead, in virtue of which they will disclose the secrets of the invisible world; no one now would consult a pagan oracle with the hope of receiving a response to his inquiries that might be relied on: the abstruser sciences are pursued for other purposes; and no one would repose on dreams to furnish a system of truth which would meet the wants of man.
(b) The same thing has been true in regard to the various “systems of religion” on which men have relied. “It is true of the systems of the pagan.” They have been tried in the most ample manner, and have shown that they do not meet the wants of man. The experiment has been fairly made, and the system is becoming worse and worse. It is not adapted to elevate man in the scale of being in regard to the present life; it does not remove the evils which press now upon the race; it does not disclose a certain way by which a sinner may be prepared for the life to come. “It is true in regard to an atonement for sin.” The attempt has been made now for nearly six thousand years, to find some way in which an efficacious sacrifice may be made for sin. Blood has been poured on thousands of altars; animals have been offered, and thousands of human beings have been devoted to the gods, but still there has been no evidence that these bloody offerings have been accepted, or that they have availed to expiate transgression. The experiment has failed. There is no new sacrifice that can be offered now, and it is hopeless for man to attempt to make expiation for his own sins. “The same thing is true of the systems of religion, proposed by infidelity.” They are all failures. One system after another is abandoned, and no one is such as the race needs. The best talent that infidelity can hope to produce has been exhausted in this undertaking, for how can it hope to produce men better fitted to propose a system of religion to mankind than Shaftesbury, or Hobbes, or Tindal, or Herbert, or Voltaire, or Hume? Yet, after all that has been done by infidelity in modern times, an intelligent man would prefer trusting his eternal interests to such a system as Socrates would propose, to one proposed by Hume; he would feel safer under the guidance of Cicero or Seneca than under the direction of Voltaire or Gibbon.
III. The “reasons why God has permitted this trial to be made, in such a manner, and with such results, are obvious. In the cases which occurred in the time of Pharaoh in Egypt, and of Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon, the reason evidently was, that when there was an acknowledged failure of the power of the magicians, God might himself, through Joseph and Daniel, get honor to his own name. So the reasons why he has permitted this trial to be made on a large scale, and has suffered it everywhere to fail, are probably these two:
(1) to show to man, in such a way as to admit of no doubt, his need of revelation; and
(2) to induce him to prize the volume of revealed truth.
We should value it the more, and adhere to it the more firmly, in view of the experiment which has been made in all lands. If that revelation be rejected, man has no resource; he is wholly unable to penetrate the future; he can devise no way of making atonement for sin; he can originate no system that shall alleviate the sorrows under which we groan, or disclose the prospect of happiness beyond the tomb. For if the Bible is taken away, on what shall we fall back to guide us? - on astrology; on necromancy; on pagan oracles and sacrifices; on dreams; on the ravings of priestesses at pagan shrines, or the speculations of infidelity in Christian lands? All these have been tried in vain. The Bible is the only guide on which man can rely to conduct him to heaven: if that fails, all fails, and man is in the midst of impenetrable night.
(3) We may learn from this chapter Daniel 2:12-19, that in the perplexities and trials which arise in life, a good man may appeal to God for guidance and help. So Daniel felt, when all human power had failed in complying with the demands of a stern and arbitrary monarch. and when he and his friends, though innocent, were about to be involved in the sweeping sentence which had been issued against the wise men of Babylon. Then it was clear that nothing could save them but Divine interposition; nothing could avert the stroke but such a heavenly influence as would disclose the secret, and thus avert the wrath of the king. In this emergency Daniel felt that he “might” call upon God, and to this service he summoned also his three friends, who were equally interested with him in the issue. In view of this we may observe:
I. That “all” good men are liable to meet with similar perplexities and embarrassments; to be placed in circumstances where nothing but the interposition of God can help them. This is true in such respects as the following:
(a) In reference to the knowledge of the truth. The mind is often perplexed on the subject of religion: reason fails to disclose those truths which it is desirable to know; darkness and obscurity seem to envelope the whole subject; the soul, oppressed with a sense of conscious guilt, seeks to find some way of peace; the heart, entangled in the meshes of unbelief, struggles and pants to be free, and there is no human help - nothing this side the eternal throne on which reliance can be placed to impart the light which is needed.
(b) In reference to duty. The mind is often perplexed to know what should be done. Though desirous of doing what is right, yet there may be so many conflicting views; there may be such doubt as to what is best and right, that none but God can direct in such an emergency.
(c) In cases of peril. Daniel and his friends were in danger; and men are often now in such danger that they feel that none but God can save them. On a bed of pain, in a stranded vessel, in a burning house, men often feel that human help is powerless, and that aid can be found in none but God. Thus the church, in the dark days of persecution, has often been so encompassed with dangers, that it could not but feel that none but God could avert the impending destruction.
(d) In times when religion declines, and when iniquity abounds. Then the church often is led to feel that there is need of the aid of God, and that none but he can rouse it from its deathlike slumbers, and put back the swelling waves of iniquity.
II. In such circumstances it is the privilege of a good man to appeal to God, with the hope that he will interpose.
(1) This was felt by Daniel, and it is an undoubted truth, as revealed in the Bible, that in such circumstances, if we will look to God, we may hope for his guidance and help. Compare 2 Kings 19:14-15; Job 16:19-21; Psalms 25:9; Psalms 46:1, following; Psalms 55:22; James 1:5-6. But
(2) what kind of interposition and direction may “we” hope for in such perplexities? I answer:
(a) We may expect the Divine direction by a careful study of the principles laid down in the Scriptures. The Bible indeed does not, for it could not, mention the names of individuals, or specify every case which would occur in which Divine direction would be needed, but it lays down great principles of truth, applicable to all the circumstances which will ever arise. In this respect there is a wonderful richness and fulness in the Word of God. There is many a rich vein of truth which seems never to have been worked until we are placed in some new and untried situation. When one is thrown into perplexing circumstances; when he is called to pass through trials; when he meets some powerful form of temptation, he is surprised to find how much there is in the Bible adapted to such circumstances that he never saw there before. It seems to be a new book, written to meet just such cases; nor in such circumstances does he ever consult its pages in vain.
(b) We may expect direction by his providence. The sparrow falls not to the ground without his direction, and all events are under his control, and as these events occur they may be regarded as so many indications of his will. One of the most interesting and profitable employments in a man’s life is to study the indications of Providence in regard to himself, and to endeavor to learn, from what is daily occurring to him, what is the will of God in regard to him. A careful and prayerful observer of the intimations of the Divine will is not in serious danger of error.
(c) God guides those who are in perplexity by his Spirit. There is a secret and silent influence on the mind of him who is desirous of being led in the way of duty, suggesting what is true, delivering the mind from prejudice, overcoming opposition to the truth, disposing the heart to charity, peace, and love, prompting to the performance of duty, and gradually elevating the soul to God. If a man would pray when he feels an inward prompting to pray; would read the Bible when some inward voice seems to call him to do it; would do good when the inward monitor urges him to do it; would fix the eye and the heart on heaven when something within seems to lead him toward the skies, he would not be in much danger of error. Such are “spring-times of piety in the soul” - times when the soul may make rapid progress in the knowledge of the truth, and it is not enthusiasm to say that such states of mind are produced by an influence from above.
(4) In view of this chapter Daniel 2:17-18, we may observe that it is a privilege to have praying friends - friends on whom we can call to unite with us in prayer in the time of trouble. So Daniel found it when he called on his friends to pray; so Esther found it when her whole people were in danger, and when all depended on her successful application to the sovereign Esther 4:16, and so the friends of God have found it in all ages. If prayer is heard at all, there are special reasons why it should prevail when many are united in the request. Compare Matthew 18:19. Hence, the propriety of worship in the family; hence, the fitness of prayermeetings; and hence, the appropriateness of prayer offered in the great congregation.
(5) God should be praised and acknowledged as having supremacy over all things, Daniel 2:20-23. Particularly he should be acknowledged
(a) in the changes that occur on earth; in the changes from childhood to youth, and from youth to manhood, and to old age; in the beautiful changes of the seasons, and in all the variety which the seasons bring with them; in the changes from sickness to health, from poverty to affluence, from oppression and slavery to freedom, from an humble to an exalted condition; in all the revolutions of empire, and the changes of dynasties.
(b) He should be acknowledged in his supremacy over the kings and rulers of the earth. Every monarch reigns by his permission, and every one is designed to accomplish some great purpose in the development of his plans. If a full and correct history of the world could be written, it would be found that God had some object to accomplish by the instrumentality of everyone whom he has called to a throne, and that as we can now see a distinct design to be accomplished by the reign of Pharaoh, Sennacherib, Cyrus, and Augustus, so we could find some distinct design in reference to every one who has ever reigned.
(c) He should be recognized as the source of all knowledge. Particularly
(1) he originally endowed every mind, and gave it the capacity which it has for acquiring knowledge;
(2) he preserves the faculties of the mind, and gives them their just balance;
(3) he makes the intellect clear and bright, and when it applies itself to the investigation of truth he only can preserve it unclouded;
(4) he makes, under the operation of the regular laws of intellect, important suggestions to the mind - those pregnant hints containing so much “the seeds of things” on which all true progress in knowledge depends - those bright thoughts, those happy conceptions, which come into the soul, and which result in such happy inventions, and such advances in science, art, literature, and law; and
(5) he should be regarded as the original source of those “inventions” which contribute so much to the progress of the race. At the proper time, and the best time, when some new and wonderful discovery is to burst upon the world, he raises up the individual who is to make it, and the discovery takes its place as one of the fixed points of progress, and society, with that as a treasure never to be lost, moves forward on a higher elevation, with greatly accelerated progress. So it was with the invention of alphabetical writing; the art of printing; the application of steam to purposes of manufacture and navigation; the telescope, and the telegraph; and, in general, in respect to all those great inventions which have contributed to the progress of society. If the whole truth were known, it would be seen that the hand of God was in these things as really as in the “revelation of the deep and secret things to Daniel.”
(6) We may learn from this chapter, as was remarked in the notes at Daniel 2:30, that for all our attainments in knowledge and wisdom we should ascribe the praise to God alone. In illustration of this we may remark:
I. That there is a strong native tendency in man to ascribe the honor of such attainments to himself. It is one of the most difficult of all things to induce man to attribute the praise of whatever excellence he may have. or whatever attainments he may make, to his Creator. This exists universally in regard to talent, rank, and scientific attainments; and it is even hard for a heart that is endowed with true religion to free itself altogether from self-glorying, as if it were all to be traced to ourselves.
II. Yet in our case, as in the case of Daniel, all the honor should be ascribed to God. For
(1) it is to him we owe all our original endowments of mind and of body, whatever they may be. In this respect we are as he chose to make us. We have no natural endowment - whether of beauty, strength, genius, aptness for learning, or advantages for distinction in science which he did not confer on us, and which he could not as easily have withheld from us as he did from those less favored. And why should we be proud of these things? Shall the oak of Bashan be proud of its far-spreading arms, or its strength? Shall the cedar of Lebanon be proud of its height, and its vastness, and its beauty? Shall the rose be proud of its beauty or its sweetness, or shall the magnolia boast of its fragrance?
(2) God has conferred on us all the means of education which we have enjoyed, and all to which the development ot our natural powers can be traced. He has preserved our reason; he has furnished us instructors; he has provided the books which we have read; he has continued to us the possession of the health which we have enjoyed. At any moment he could have driven reason from the throne; he could have deprived us of health; he could have summoned us away.
(3) It is equally owing to him that we have been favored with any success in the prosecution of our calling in life. Let the merchant who has accumulated great property, apparently by his own industry, suppose that all Divine agency and influence in his case had been withheld, and whatever labor he may have expended, or with whatever skill he may be endowed, he could have met with no such success. Let him reflect how much he owes to favoring gales on the ocean; to the seasons producing abundant harvests, and to what seems almost to be “chance” or “fortune,” and he will see at once that whatever success he may have been favored with is to be traced, in an eminent sense, to God. The same thing is true of all the other successful departments of human effort.
(4) This is equally true of all the knowledge which we have of the way of salvation, and all our hopes of eternal life. It is a great principle of religion that we have nothing which we have not received, and that if we have received it, we should not glory as if we had not received it, for it is God who makes us to differ (see 1 Corinthians 4:7). It is God who originally gave us the volume of revealed truth - making us differ from the whole pagan world. It is God who awakened us to see our guilt and danger, making us to differ from the gay and careless world around us. It is God alone who has pardoned our sins, making us to differ from the multitude who are unpardoned in the world. It is God who has given us every hope that we cherish that is well-founded, and all the peace and joy which we have had in com munion with himself. For these things, therefore, we should give all the praise to God; and in our case, as in that of Daniel, it is one of the evidences of our piety when we are disposed to do so.
(7) We have in this chapter Daniel 2:46-47 an instructive instance of the extent to which an irreligious man may go in showing respect for God. It can. not be supposed that Nebuchadnezzar was a truly pious man. His characteristics and actions, both before and after this, were those of a pagan, and there is no evidence that he was truly converted to God. Yet he evinced the highest respect for one who was a servant and prophet of the Most High Daniel 2:46, and even for God himself Daniel 2:47. This was evinced in a still more remarkable manner at a subsequent period Daniel 4:0 In this he showed how far it is possible for one to go who has no real piety, and as such cases are not uncommon, it may not be improper to consider them for a moment.
I. This respect for God extends to the following things:
(1) An admiration of him, as great, and wise, and powerful. The evidences of his power and wisdom are traced in his works. The mind may be impressed with what is wise, or overpowered with what is vast, without there being any real religion, and all this admiration may terminate on God, and be expressed in language of respect for him, or for his ministers.
(2) This admiration of God may be extended to whatever is “beautiful” in religion. The beauty’of the works of nature, of the sky, of a landscape, of the ocean, of the setting sun, of the changing clouds, of the flowers of the field, may lead the thoughts up to God, and produce a certain admiration of a Being who has clothed the world with so much loveliness. There is a religion of sentiment as well as of principle; a religion that terminates on the “beautiful” as well as a religion that terminates on the “holy.” The Greeks, natural admirers of beauty, carried this kind of religion to the highest possible degree, for their religion was, in all its forms, characterized by the love of the beautiful. So also there is much that is beautiful in Christianity, as well as in the works of God, and it is possible to be charmed with that without ever having felt any compunction for sin. or any love for pure religion itself. It is possible for one who has a natural admiration for what is lovely in character, to see a high degree of moral beauty in the character of the Redeemer, for one whose heart is easily moved by sympathy to be affected in view of the sufferings of the injured Saviour. The same eyes that would weep over a welltold tale, or over a tragic representation on the stage, or over a scene of real distress, might weep over the wrongs and woes of Him who was crucified, and yet there might be nothing more than the religion of sentiment - the religion springing from mere natural feeling.
(3) There is much “poetic” religion in the world. It is possible for the imagination to form such a view of the Divine character that it shall seem to be lovely, while perhaps there may be scarcely a feature of that character that shall be correct. Not a little of the religion of the world is of this description - where such a God is conceived of as the mind chooses, and the affections are fixed on that imaginary being, while there is not a particle of love to the true God in the soul. So there is a poetic view of man, of his character, of his destiny, while the real character of the heart has never been seen. So there is a poetic view of heaven - strongly resembling the views which the ancients had of the Elysian fields. But heaven as a place of holiness has never been thought of, and would not be loved. Men look forward to a place where the refined and the intelligent; the amiable and the lovely; the accomplished and the upright; where poets, orators, warriors, and philosophers will be assembled together. This is the kind of religion which is often manifested in eulogies, and epitaphs, and in conversation, where those who never had any better religion, and never pretended to any serious piety, are represented as having gone to heaven when they die. There are few who, under the influence of such a religion, are not looking forward to some kind of a heaven; and few persons die, whatever may be their character, unless they are openly and grossly abandoned, for whom the hope is not expressed that they have gone safe to a better world. If we may credit epitaphs, and obituary notices, and funeral eulogiums, and biographies, there are few poets, warriors, statesmen, or philosophers, about whose happiness in the future world we should have any apprehension.
II. But in all this there may be no real religion. There is no evidence that there was any in the case of Nebuchadnezzar, and as little is there in the instances now referred to. Such persons may have a kind of reverence for God as great, and powerful, and wise; they may have even a kind of pleasure in looking on the evidence of his existence and perfections in his works; they may have a glow of pleasurable emotion in the mere “poetry” of religion; they may be restrained from doing many things by their consciences; they may erect temples, and build altars, and contribute to the support of religion, and even be zealous for religion. as they understand it, and still have no just views of God, and no true piety whatever.
(1) The mind that is truly religious is not insensible to all this, and may have as exalted notions of God as a great and glorious being, and be as much impressed with the beauty evinced in his works as in the cases supposed. True religion does not destroy the sense of the sublime and beautiful, but rather cultivates this in a higher degree. But
(2) There is much besides this that enters into true religion, and without which all these things are vain.
(a) True religion always arises from just views of God as he is; not from him as an imaginary being.
(b) True religion must regard God as having “moral” attributes; as benevolent, and just, and true, and holy, and not merely as powerful and great.
(c) In all these things referred to, there is not. necessarily any moral excellence on the part of those who thus admire God and his works. The mere admiration of power implies in us no moral excellence. The admiration of the wisdom which made the worlds and keeps them in their place; of the beauties of poetry, or of a flower, or landscape, though made by God, implies no moral excellence in us, and, therefore, no true religion. There is no more religion in admiring “God” as an architect or painter, than there is in admiring Sir Christopher Wren, or Michael Angelo; and the mere admiration of the works of God as such, implies no more moral excellence in us than it does to admire Paul’s or Peter’s. In religion, the heart does not merely admire the beautiful and the grand; it loves what is pure, and just, and good, and holy. It delights in God as a holy being rather than as a powerful being; it finds pleasure in his moral character, and not merely in his greatness.
(8) We may learn from this chapter Daniel 2:49, that when we are favored with prosperity and honor we should not neglect, or be ashamed of, the companions of our earlier days, and the partakers of our fortune when we were poor and unknown. Joseph, when exalted to the premiership of Egypt, was not ashamed of his aged father, but, though he had been an humble shepherd, presented him, with the deepest feelings of respect toward an aged parent, to Pharaoh; nor was he ashamed of his brethren, though they had done him so much wrong. Daniel, when in a similar manner advanced to the most honorable post which one could reach, in the most magnificent monarchy of the world, was not ashamed of the youthful friends with whom he had shared the humble and severe lot of bondage. So we, if we are made rich; if we are raised to honor; if we become distinguished for learning or talent; if our names are known abroad, or we are entrusted with a high and honorable office, should not forget the friends and companions of our earlier years.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Daniel 2". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26