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Here Daniel relates another vision, differing from the former as a part from the whole. For God wished to show him first what various changes should happen before Christ’s advent. The second redemption was the beginning of a new life, since God then not only restored afresh his own Church, but as it were created a new people; and hence the departure from Babylon and the return to their country are called the second birth of the Church. But as God at that time afforded then only a taste of true and solid redemption, whenever the prophets treat of that deliverance, they extended their thoughts and their prophecies as far as the coming of Christ. God therefore, with great propriety, shows the Four Monarchies to His Prophet, lest the faithful should grow weary in beholding the world so often convulsed, and all but changing its figure and nature. Thus they would be subject to the most distressing cares, become a laughing stock to their enemies, and ever remain contemptible and mean, without the power to help themselves, under these constant innovations. The faithful, then, were forewarned concerning these Four Monarchies, lest they should suppose themselves rejected by God and deprived altogether of his care. But now God wished to show only one part to his Prophet. As the destruction of the Babylonian empire was at hand, and the second kingdom was approaching, this dominion also should speedily come to its close, and then God’s people should be reduced to the utmost extremity. And the chief object of this vision is to prepare the faithful to bear patiently the horrible tyranny of Antiochus, of which the Prophet treats in this chapter. Now, therefore, we understand the meaning of this prophet, where God speaks of only two Monarchies, for the kingdom of the Chaldees was soon to be abolished: he treats first of the Persian kingdom; and next, adds that of Macedon, but omits all others, and descends directly to Antiochus, king of Syria. He then declares the prevalence of the most wretched confusion in the Church; for the sanctuary should be deprived of its dignity, and the elect people everywhere slain, without sparing even innocent blood. We shall see also why the faithful were informed beforehand of these grievous and oppressive calamities, to induce them to look up to God when oppressed by such extreme darkness. And at this day this prophecy is useful to us, lest our courage should fail us in the extreme calamity of the Church, because a perpetual representation of the Church is depicted for us under that calamitous and mournful state. Although God often spares our infirmities, yet the Church is never free from many distresses, and unless we are prepared to undergo all contests, we shall never stand firm in the faith. This is the scope and explanation of the prophecy. I will defer the rest.
Without any doubt, the Prophet here recognized a new empire as about to arise, which could not happen without Babylon being reduced to slavery. Hence it would tend in. no slight degree to alleviate the cares of the pious, and to mitigate their sorrows, when they saw what they had previously thought incredible, namely, the approaching destruction of that horrible tyranny under which they had been so, cruelly oppressed. And if the liberty of returning to their country was not immediately granted to the people, it would be no small consolation to behold God’s judgment against the Chaldeans as foretold by the prophets. We must now examine the Prophet’s language. I have seen in a vision, says he. This word חזון, chezon, a “vision,” is added to show us that the ram of which mention is made was not seen by the eyes of the body. Hence this was a heavenly oracle, and ought to have raised the beholder above all human sensations, to enable him to discern from lofty watch-tower what was hidden from the rest of mankind. He did not see then what ordinary men might behold, but God showed in a vision things which no mortal senses could apprehend. He next adds, The vision was shewn to me, Daniel, and I happened, says he, when I saw it, to be in Shushan Some think Daniel to be then dwelling in Persia, bug this view is by no means probable; for who could persuade the holy Prophet of God, who had been led captive with the rest and was attached to the king of Babylon, to depart as if he had been entirely his own master, and to go into Persia when the Persians were then open enemies? This is not at all likely; and I wonder what can induce men to adopt this comment, so contrary to all reason. For we need not dispute about a matter by no means obscure if we weigh the Prophet’s words, as he removes all doubt by saying he was in Shushan when he saw, that is, when he was caught up by the prophetic spirit beyond himself and above the world. The Prophet does not say he dwelt in Shushan, or in the neighborhood, but he was there in the vision only. The next verse, too, sufficiently shews him to have then been in Chaldean in the third year, he says, of the reign of King Belshazzar. By naming the king, he clearly expresses that he then dwelt under his power and dominion. It is clearly to be gathered from these words, without the slightest doubt, that the Prophet then dwelt in Chaldea. And perhaps Babylon had been already besieged, as we saw before. He says he was in the palace at Shushan I know not how I ought to translate this word, הבירה, hebireh, as I see no reason for preferring the meaning “palace” to that of” citadel.” We are sure of the nobility and celebrity of the citadel which was afterwards the head of the East, for all nations and tribes received from thence their laws, rights, and judgments. At the same time, I think this citadel was not then built, for its empire over the Persian territory was not firmly established till the successors of Cyrus. We may perhaps distinguish Shushan from Persia at large, yet as it is usually treated as a part of that kingdom, I will not urge the distinction. The country is, however, far milder and more fertile than Persia, as it receives its name from being flowery and abounding in roses. Thus the Prophet says he was there in a vision.
He afterwards repeats this I saw in a vision, and behold I was near the river Ulai The Latin writers mention a river Eulaeus, and as there is a great similitude between the words, I have no hesitation in understanding Daniel’s language of the Eulaeus. The repetition is not superfluous. It adds certainty to the prophecy, because Daniel affirms it; not to have been any vanishing specter, as a vision might be suspected to be, but clearly and certainly a divine revelation, as he will afterwards relate. He says, too, he raised his eyes upwards This attentive attitude has the same meaning, as experience informs us how often men are deceived by wandering in erroneous imaginations. But Daniel here bears witness to his raising his eyes upwards, because he, knew himself to be, divinely called upon to discern future events.
He next subjoins, And behold a ram, stood at the bank of the river, and it had horns He now compares the empire of Persia and Media to a ram. It ought not to seem absurd that God proposed to his servant various similitude’s, because his duty was to teach a rude people in various ways; and[ we know this vision to have been presented before the Prophet, not for his private instruction only, but for the common advantage of the whole people. I do not think we need scrupulously inquire why the Persian kings are called rams. I know of no valid reason, unless perhaps to institute a comparison between them and Alexander of Macedon and his successors. If so, when God, under the image of a ram, exhibits to his Prophet the Persian Empire, he does not illustrate its nature absolutely, but only by comparison with that of Alexander. ‘We are well aware of the opposition between these two empires. The Persian monarchy is called “a ram,” with reference to the Macedonian, which, as we shall afterwards see, bears the name of “he-goat” with respect to its antagonism. And we may gather the best reason for this comparison in the humble origin of the kings of Persia. With great propriety, then, Cyrus, the first ruler of this empire, is here depicted for us under the form or image of a ram. His “horn” produced a concussion through the whole earth, when no one expected anything to spring from a region by no means abounding in anything noble. And as to Alexander, he is called a “he-goat,” with respect to the “ram,” as being far more nimble, and yet more obscure in his origin. For what was Macedon but a mere corner of Greece? But I do not propose to run the parallel between these points; it is sufficient that God wishes to show to his Prophet and to the whole Church, how among the Persians, unknown as they were, and despised by their neighbors, a king should arise to consume the Median power, as we shall soon see, and also to overthrow the Babylonian monarchy. Behold, therefore, says he, a ram stood before the river, or at the bank of the river, since Cyrus subdued both the Medes and his grandfather, as historians inform us. Cyrus then rushed forth from his own mountains and stood at the bank of the river He also says, He had two horns. Here the Prophet puts two horns for two empires, and not by any means for two persons. For although Cyrus married the daughter of Cyaxares his uncle, yet we know the Persian empire to have lasted a long time, and to have supplied historians with a long catalogue of kings. As Cyrus had so many successors, by the two horns God doubtless showed his Prophet those two empires of the Medes and Persians united under one sovereignty. Therefore, when the ram appeared to the Prophet, it represented both kingdoms under one emblem.
The context confirms this by saying, The two horns were lofty, one higher than the other, and this was raised backwards The two horns were lofty; for, though the Persian territory was not rich, and the people rustic and living in woods, spending an austere life and despising all luxuries, yet the nation was always warlike. Wherefore the Prophet says this horn was higher than the other, meaning, than the empire of the Medes. Now Cyrus surpassed his father-in-law Darius in fame, authority, and rank, and still he always permitted Darius to enjoy the royal majesty to the end of his life. As he was an old man, Cyrus might easily concede to him the highest one without any loss to himself. With respect then to the following period, Cyrus was clearly pre-eminent, as he was certainly superior to Darius, whom Xenophon calls Cyaxares. For this reason, then, this horn was higher. But meanwhile the Prophet shews how gradually Cyrus was raised on high. The horn rose backwards; that is, “afterwards” — meaning, although the horn of the Median kingdom was more illustrious and conspicuous, yet the horn which rose afterwards obscured the brightness and glory of the former one. This agrees with the narratives of profane history: for every reader of those narratives will find nothing recorded by Daniel which was not fulfilled by the event. Let us go on: —
The Prophet, now shortly sketches the great success which should attend this double kingdom. He says, The ram struck all the nations towards the west, and north, and south. The Persian and Median territory lay to the east of Babylon and Egypt, Syria, Asia Minor, and Greece. This, without doubt, is extended to all the successors of Cyrus, who are recorded as having convulsed the whole world. Cyrus himself was shortly afterwards cruelly and basely slain, according to many historians, although Xenophon affirms that he died in his bed. But I have before warned you not to put your trust in that writer, although most excellent, since, under the image of that king, he wished to set before us an example of perfect manliness; and hence he brings him forward as discoursing on his deathbed, and exhorting his sons to kingly virtues. Whichever is the true account, Cyrus was clearly overtaken in the midst of his career. In this way God wished to chastise his insatiable cupidity, a vice in which he resembled Alexander. As to his successors, they excited such commotion in the whole world as to stir up heaven and earth. Xerxes alone said he could bind the sea with fetters! and we know the greatness of the army which he commanded; and this passage treats not only of one king, but of all those of Persia. As they obtained a dominion so far and wide, their ambition and pride always inflamed them, and there was no end to their warfare till they had subdued the distant boundaries of the world. We are acquainted too with their numerous attempts to destroy the liberty of Greece. All this the Prophet embraces in but few words. God also wished to give his Prophet a short glance into futurity, as far as such knowledge could be useful. I saw, then, says he, a ram, namely, a beast which possessed a double horn, representing the Medes and Persians united in the same sovereignty.
He struck the west, and the north, and the south, so that no beasts could stand before him. As the Persian kingdom is here depicted under the, image of a ram, all kings and people are called “beasts.” Thus, no beast stood before him, and no one could deliver out of his hand It is well known, indeed, how Xerxes and others failed in their attacks, and how many wars the Monarchs of Persia attempted in which they were conquered by the Greeks; but still their conquerors were in no better condition, as they were compelled to seek peace like suppliants. So great became the power of the Persians, that they inspired all nations with fear. For this reason the Prophet says, he did according to his pleasure, not implying the complete success of these Monarchs according to their utmost wishes, for their desires were often frustrated, as we have already narrated on the testimony of historical evidence. Still they were always formidable, not only to their neighbors who submitted to their yoke, but to the most distant nations, as they crossed the sea and descended from Asia upon Greece. In the last word, he expresses this fact, — the ram became mighty. For the Persian king became the greatest of all Monarchs in the world, and it is sufficiently notorious that no one could add to his dignity and strength. It follows: —
Here another change is shown to the Prophet, namely, Alexander’s coming to the east and acquiring. for himself the mighty sway of the Persians, as afterwards happened. With the view, then, of procuring confidence for his prediction, he says, he was attentive He doubtless dwells upon the reverence with which he received the vision to exhort us to the pursuit of piety, and also to modesty and attention. The Prophet, therefore, was not carried away in imagination by a dream which could be called in question; he knew this vision to have been set before him by God, and acknowledged his duty to receive it with modesty and humility. Wherefore, I was attentive, and behold a he-goat came forth from the west, says he. The situation of Macedon with respect to Persia must be noticed. As the Greeks were situated to the west, of Persia, the Prophet says, the he-goat came from the west, and went over the surface of the whole earth These words signify the very extensive dominion of Alexander, aid. the terror of surrounding nations. His arrival in Asia with a very insignificant army is well known. He thought 30,000 men sufficient, after he had been created their general by the States of Greece. Hence, the passage is to be understood not of numbers, but of the terror inspired on all sides; for, although he advanced with but a moderate force, yet he terrified the whole earth.
But he did not touch the ground, says he. This refers to his swiftness, for he rather flew than traveled either on foot or by sea, so incredible was his speed in this expedition. For if any one had galloped through regions completely at peace, he could not have passed through Asia more speedily. Hence a he-goat was shewn to the Prophet who did not touch the ground, that is, who was borne along with a rapid impulse, like that of lightning itself. And the goat had a horn, says he, between its eyes — a remarkable horn. We know how much glory Alexander acquired for himself in a short time, and yet he did not undertake the war in his own name, or on his own responsibility, but he used every artifice to obtain from the Grecian States the office of general-in-chief against the Persians, as perpetual enemies. We are well acquainted with the hostility of the Persians to the Greeks, who, though often compelled to retreat with great disgrace, and infamy, and loss of troops, still kept renewing the war, as they had abundance of men and of pecuniary resources. When Alexander was created general of the whole of Greece, he had a remarkable horn between his eyes; that is, he took care to have his title of general made known to increase his personal superiority. Besides, it was sufficiently prominent to constitute him alone general of the whole army, while all things were carried on according to his will, as he had undertaken the war. This, then, is the reason why the Prophet says, the horn was visible between the eyes of the goat It follows, It came to the ram, which had two horns; that is, it came against the king of the Medes and Persians. Cyrus also had seized on Babylon, and had subdued many kings, but two horns are assigned to the ram, since the Persian kings had united the Medes in alliance to themselves. Hence one he-goat with his horn, came against the ram which had two horns, and ran against it in the ardor of its bravery Thus the perseverance of Alexander is denoted, as he hastened so as to surpass all expectation by the speed of his arrival. For Darius continued in security, although he had collected a large army, but Alexander rushed forwards in the boldness of his strength, and surrounded the enemy by his celerity. It follows: —
Here God shews to his Prophet the victory of Alexander, by which he subdued almost the whole east. Although he encountered many nations in battle, and especially the Indians, yet the name of the Persian empire was so celebrated in the world, that the dignity of others never approached it. Alexander, therefore, by conquering Darius, acquired nearly the whole east. God showed his Prophet the easiness of his victory under this figure. I looked, says he, when he approached the land Darius was fortified by both the distance of his stations and the strength of his fortifications; for many of his cities were impregnable, according to the common opinion of mankind. It was incredible, then, that the he-goat should approach the ram, surrounded as he was on all sides by such strong and such powerful garrisons. But the Prophet says he; approached the ram, and then, he exasperated himself against him This applies to Alexander’s furious assaults. We are well acquainted with the keenness of his talents and the superiority of his valor; yet, such was his unbridled audacity, that his promptness approached rather to rashness than to regal bravery. For he often threw himself with a blind impulse against his foes, and it was not his fault if the Macedonian name was not destroyed ten times over. As, then, he rushed on with such violent fury, we are not surprised when the Prophet says he was exasperated of his own accord. And he struck the ram, says he. He conquered Darius in two battles, when the power of the Persian sway throughout Asia Minor was completely ruined. We are all familiar with the results of these hazardous battles, shewing the whole stress of the war to have rested on that engagement in which Darius was first conquered; for when he says, The ram had no strength to stand; and although he had collected an immense multitude, yet that preparation was available for nothing but: empty pomp. For Darius was resplendent with gold, and silver, and gems, and he rather made a show of these, luxuries in warfare, than displayed manly and vigorous strength. The ram, then, had no power to stand before the he goat. Hence, he threw him prostrate on the earth, and trod him down; and no one was able to deliver out of his hand. Darius, indeed, was slain by his attendants, but Alexander trod down all his glory, and the dignity of the Persian Empire, under which all the people of the east trembled. We are aware also of the pride with which he abused his victory, until under the influence of harlots and debauchees, as some report, he tumultuously set fire to that most celebrated citadel of Susa in the drunken fit. As he so indignantly trampled under foot the glory of the Persian monarchy, we see how aptly the events fulfilled the prophecy, in the manner recorded by all profane historians.
This prophecy relates to the death of Alexander. We have explained how, under the image of a he-goat, the Macedonian empire is set before us, having its beginning in the person of Alexander, but by no means ending there, as the monarchy was divided into four parts. The angel said, or at least Daniel records his words, — that he-goat increased to an immense magnitude, because he wandered as it were in sport through almost the whole east, and at the same time subdued it; but when it was in its strength, says he, its great horn was broken By the great horn, he means the monarchy which was solely m Alexander’s power during his life, as he, was the first and last monarch of his race. And in consequence of his generals, who had obtained dominion in the four quarters of the world, becoming kings, as we shall soon see, the word “he-goat” is not restricted to his person, but is extended to his successors. He Himself is called “the great horn.” Hence, when the he-goat was in his strength, the great horn was broken For Alexander had arrived at the height of prosperity when he died. Whether he perished by disease or by poison is unknown, since historians report; a great suspicion of foul-play. The angel does not notice his age, which was thirty-three years at his death, while he seemed to have been born for subduing the whole world, although he was so suddenly snatched away. But the angel regards those continued successes, since Alexander almost by a look subdued the whole land, as we have stated before, and hurried on rashly from place to place. Hence he perpetually gained fresh victories, though at the constant hazard of his life, as he had far more audacity than skill. When he was in his strength, says he; meaning, after having subjugated the whole east. He had returned from India, and had determined to re-cross the sea, and to reduce Greece under his power; for the States had rebelled against him, and the Athenians had already collected a great army; but all the eastern States of Asia had been rendered subservient to Alexander when he died. The angel refers to this by the breaking of the great horn.
He afterwards adds, In his place four conspicuous horns sprang up For he uses the noun חזות chezeveth, notable,” as in yesterday’s Lecture. (51) There were, therefore, four kingdoms which excelled, and each of them was celebrated and placed aloft. Nor is this superfluous, since we know how many became kings, who had enlisted in the service of Alexander with reputation and dignity. Perdiccas was the first, and all thought him to have been favored with special honor by Alexander When asked whom he wished for a successor, he replied, according to the greatness or pride of his spirit, “The person whom he considered most worthy of empire.” He had a son by Roxana the daughter of Darius, as well as another son; then Aridmus his brother approached; yet he deemed no one worthy of the honor of being his successor, as if the world contained no equal to himself. His answer, then, was a proof of his pride. But when he was unable to speak, he took a ring from his hand and gave it to Perdieeas. Hence all conjectured that he had the preference in Alexander’s judgment, and he obtained the supreme authority. After this, Eumenes was slain, who had served under him. Although he was an ally, he was judged as an enemy, and betrayed by his men; Lysimachus being slain on the other side. Fifteen generals were put to death. And as so many succeeded to the place of Alexander and exercised the royal authority, the angel correctly expresses how four conspicuous horns sprang up in the place of one great one For after various conflicts and many fluctuations for fifteen years or thereabouts, Alexander’s monarchy was at length divided into four parts. Cassander, the son of Antipater, obtained the kingdom of Macedon, after slaying Olympias, the mother of Alexander, his sister, his sons, and his wife Rexaria. This was a horrible slaughter, and if ever God offered a visible spectacle to the world, whereby he openly denounced the shedding of human blood, surely a memorable proof of this existed in the whole of Alexander’s race! Not a single one survived for twenty years after his death. Though his mother had grown old, she was not permitted to descend naturally to the grave, but was murdered. His wife, and son, and brother, and all his relations, shared her fate. And that slaughter was even yet more cruel, as no single leader spared the life of his companions, but each either openly attacked or craftily assailed his friend and confederate! But omitting details, four kingdoms were at last left after such remarkable devastation’s. For Cassander, the son of Antipater, obtained Macedon and some part of Thrace, together with the cities of Greece. Seleucus became master in Syria; Antigonus in Asia Minor, joining Phrygia, Paphlagonia, and all other Asiatic regions, after five or six generals were slain. Ptolemy became prefect of Egypt. This makes four horns, which the angel calls “conspicuous,” for on the testimony of history, all the other principalities vanished away. Alexander’s generals had divided among themselves many large and fertile provinces, but at length they were summed up in these four heads. He says, by the four winds of heaven, that is, of the atmosphere. Now the kingdom of Macedon was very far distant from Syria; Asia was in the midst, and Egypt lay to the south. Thus, the he-goat, as we saw before, reigned throughout the four quarters of the globe; since Egypt, as we have said, was situated towards the south; but the kingdom of Persia, which was possessed by Seleucus, was towards the east and united with Syria; the kingdom of Asia was to the north, and that of Macedon to the west, as we formerly saw the he-goat setting out from the west. It now follows, —
(51) This noun is connected with חזון chezeven, “vision,” and is translated in our version variously. In Isaiah 28:18, it is rendered by “agreement,” and in Daniel 8:5, by “notable,” and in the margin correctly by “of sight.” Calvin’s Latin “ illustre,” is very suitable. — Ed.
Now God shews his Prophet what peculiarly concerned the welfare of his Church. For it was of very great importance to warn the Jews of the calamities which were about to oppress them. There is nothing which more torments the minds of men than their becoming bewildered in false imaginations, and thinking the world the sport of chance, while they never ponder over the providence of God nor reflect upon his judgments. Hence, with this design, God wished to teach the Prophet and all the pious the nature of their future afflictions, since they would thus understand how events never happened by chance, but all these scourges proceeded from God; for the same God both determines and executes his decrees, as he also predicts future events. For if nothing had been predicted, the pious would have glided gently downwards to despair in consequence of their heavy afflictions. We know also how magnificently the prophets extol the grace of God when they promise return and deliverance. Isaiah, too, has elsewhere spoken to this effect: Not in haste nor in tumult shall ye go forth, but with a standard displayed. Again, The wealth of all the nations shall flow towards you; kings shall come, and submit, and bow the knee to thee. (Isaiah 52:10; Isaiah 55:12; Isaiah 55:6.) The Jews were permitted to return to their own land; but we know how cruelly they were harassed by all their neighbors, so that they did not dwell in that corner of the world without the greatest difficulties. The building of both the city and the Temple was hindered by many enemies, till at length they became tributary to the kings of Syria. Antiochus, indeed, who is here alluded to, advanced with cruel tyranny against the people of God. If this had not been predicted, they would have thought themselves deceived by the splendid promises concerning their return. But when they perceived everything occurring according as they had been opportunely forewarned, this became no slight solace in the midst of their woes; they could then determine at once how completely it was in the power of God to relieve them from so many and such oppressive evils. With what intention, then, had God predicted all these things to his Prophet Daniel? clearly that the Jews might look forward to a happy result, and not give way to despair under events so full of anxiety and confusion. This, then, was the utility of the prophecy, with reference to that particular period.
When the Prophet says, Out of one of those four horns a little horn arose, Antiochus Epiphanes is most distinctly pointed out. The title Epiphanes entails “illustrious,” as, after the capture of his father, he was detained as a hostage at Rome, and then escaped from custody. Historians inform us of his possessing a servile disposition, and being much addicted to gross flattery. As he had nothing royal or heroic in his feelings, but was simply remarkable for cunning, the Prophet is justified in calling him the little horn He was far more powerful than his neighbors; but the horn is called little, not in comparison with the kingdoms of either Egypt, or Asia, or Macedon, but because no one supposed he would ever be king and succeed his father. He was the eldest of many brothers, and singularly servile and cunning, without a single trait worthy of future royalty. Thus he was the little horn who escaped secretly and fraudulently from custody, as, we have already mentioned, and returned. to his native country, which he afterwards governed.
He now adds, This horn was very mighty towards the south, and the east, and “the desire ”’ for unless he had been checked by the Romans, he would have obtained possession of Egypt. There is a remarkable and celebrated story of Pompilius, who, was sent to him to command him to abstain from Egypt at the, bidding of the senate. After he had delivered his message, Antiochus demanded time for deliberation, but Pompilius drew a circle with the staff which he held in his hand, and forbade him to move his foot until he gave him an answer. Though he claimed Egypt as his own by right of conquest, yet he dared not openly to deny the Romans their request; at first he pretended to be merely the guardian of his nephew, but he certainly seized upon the kingdom in his own name. However, he dared not oppose the Romans, but by changing his ground wished to dismiss Pompilius. They had been mutual acquaintances, and a great familiarity had arisen between them while he was a hostage at Rome; hence he offered to salute Pompilius at the interview, but he rejected him disdainfully, and, as I have said, drew a line around him, saying, “Before you go out of this circle answer me; do not delude me by asking time to consult with your councilors; answer at once, otherwise I know how to treat thee.” He was compelled to relinquish Egypt, although he had formerly refused to do so. The language of the Prophet, then, was not in vain, The small horn became mighty towards the south, that is, towards Egypt, and the east; for he extended his kingdom as far as Ptolemais. In the third place, he uses the word glory; that is, Judea, the sanctuary of God, which he had chosen as his dwelling, and desired his name to be invoked. Thus this small horn extended itself to the glory, or the land of glory or desire. There is nothing doubtful in the sense, though the interpretation scarcely agrees with the words. It afterwards follows: —
Here Daniel continues the vision which he had received. We have already shewn he object of the Almighty to be the preparation of the faithful to bear serious calamities, because nothing new or unexpected should happen to them. Now, Daniel’s dwelling upon this point is not surprising, for it becomes his duty to inform the faithful of the heavy calamities which were at hand, and thus to mould them to patience and equity. Thus he says, The horn became magnificent, even to the army of the heavens. Without the slightest doubt this figure marks the elect people of God. Although the Church often lies prostrate in the world, and is trodden under foot and buried, yet it is always precious before God. Hence the Prophet adorns the Church with this remarkable praise, not to obtain for it any honor before men, but because God has separated it from the world, and provided a sure inheritance in heaven. Although the sons of God are pilgrims on earth, and have scarcely any dwelling-place here, becoming like castaways before men, yet they are nevertheless citizens of heaven. The usefulness of this teaching to us is apparent, by its inducing us to bear it patiently whenever we are often thrown prostrate on the ground, and whenever tyrants and the despiser’s of God look down upon us with scorn. Meanwhile our seat is laid up in heaven, and God numbers us among the stars, although, as Paul says, we are as dung and the offscouring of all things. (1 Corinthians 4:13.) In fine, God here shews his Prophet, as in a mirror, the estimation in which he holds his Church, however contemptible it is on earth. That horn, then, was magnified before the army of the heavens, and cast down some of that army upon the earth, and trod them out of the stars Exactly as if he proclaimed the loosening of the reins from the tyrant, permitting him to treat the Church with contempt, to tread it under foot;, and to draw down the stars from heaven, just as if God never appeared for its protection. For when God permits us to be safe and secure in his hand, and pronounces it impossible to prevail against his help, while tyrants harass and oppress us by their lust, it is like drawing down stars from heaven. God therefore, while he takes us under his guardianship, does not offer us. any succor, but dissembles as if he wished to betray us to our enemies. Nothing therefore is superfluous in these expressions of the Prophet — The stars were trodden down and the heavenly army thrown down to earth He now adds —
Daniel announces something still more atrocious here, namely, the exaltation of the little horn against God. Some take “the prince of the army” for the high priest, as princes are sometimes called כוהנים, kuhnim, as well as שרים, serim; but that is too forced. The true sense of the passage imputes such arrogance and folly to Antiochus as to urge him to declare war with the stars of heaven, implying not only his opposition to God’s Church, which is separate from the world, but also his daring defiance of God himself and his resistance to his power. He not only exercised his cruelty against the faithful, but profaned the temple itself, and endeavored to extinguish all piety, and to abolish the worship of God throughout Judea, as we shall explain more fully in other passages. As, therefore, Antiochus not only raged against men, but used his utmost endeavors to overthrow religion, Daniel relates how that horn was raised up even against the prince of the army God is deservedly entitled to this appellation, because he defends his Church, and cherishes it under his wings. This expression ought to be explained not only of God’s glory and empire, but also of his paternal favor towards us, as he deigns to manifest his care for us as if he were our Prince.
From him, says he, was the perpetual sacrifice utterly snatched away, and the place of his sanctuary cast down These words are horrible in their import; God was thus spoiled of his rights, since he had chosen but a single corner in the world for his special worship. What heathen, then, would not despise this forbearance of God, in permitting himself to be deprived of his legitimate honor by that sordid tyrant? As we have already stated, Antiochus had neither greatness of mind nor warlike courage, being skillful only in cunning and in the basest acts of flattery. Besides, granting him to have comprised a hundred Alexanders in his own person, what can be the Almighty’s design in allowing his temple to be polluted, and all true sacrifices to cease throughout the world? One corner alone, as we have lately mentioned, was left where God wished to be worshipped, and now Antiochus seizes upon the temple, and profanes and defiles it with the utmost possible indignity, thus leaving no single place sacred to the Almighty. For this reason I have asserted the prophecy to appear very harsh. The Prophet now increases the indignity when he speaks of the perpetual sacrifice For God had often borne witness to his temple being his perpetual “rest,” or “station,” or “seat;” yet he is now ejected from this spot, as if exiled from the earth entirely. The temple could not exist without sacrifices, for the whole worship under the law was a kind of appendage to the temple. As God had promised the sacrifice should be perpetual and eternal, who would not assert, when Antiochus destroyed it, either all the promises to have been deceptive, or all authority to have departed from God, who failed to defend his right against that impious tyrant. Surely this must have been a distressing calamity, overwhelming all the faithful! And when even at this moment we read the prophecy, all our senses are horrified by its perusal. No wonder, then, that God forewarned his servant of such sorrowful events, and such incredible evils, to admonish his whole Church in due season, and to arm them against the severest temptations, which might otherwise strike down even the most courageous. The sacrifice, then, says he, was snatched away from God himself, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down or dissipated. It afterwards follows: —
The Prophet mitigates the asperity which he now records. It seems absurd for God to allow such license to Antiochus, that his temple should be spoiled and all sacrifices and all worship exterminated. It is difficult to reconcile this, for the opinion will naturally creep in, — possibly God is constrained and deprived of power to subdue his foes. The, Prophet therefore clearly states here how the license for vexing and oppressing’ the Church would never have been granted to Antiochus without God’s permission. Time, therefore, shall be given him, says he. By the words, time shall be given. he refers to the will of God, meaning, the pious shall have no cause for desponding while they see all things disturbed and confused in every direction, as God will rule all these perplexities by his secret judgment. Time, then, shall be given, implying, Antiochus can do nothing by his unbridled and furious audacity, unless divinely permitted and previously limited. צבא tzeba, signifies both “army” and “time,” but the latter meaning is the most suitable here; for when it is translated “an army shall be given him,” the sense appears forced. I more willingly embrace the sense of time being allowed; that is, God will try the patience of his Church for a certain definite time, and will then bring their troubles to an end. We, know it to be impossible to sustain the spirits of the faithful, otherwise that by their expectation of a favorable termination, and by the hope of their emerging from the abyss of sorrow. This, then, is the reason why God shews his Prophet by a vision the temporary duration of the sway of Antiochus. A period, then, shall be appointed to him over the perpetual sacrifice; meaning, whatever he may intend, he shall not abolish the worship of God. For, however he may exert himself, God will not permit the sacrifices to perish utterly and forever; he will restore them in his own time, as we shall afterwards see, and when we come to the close, we shall find the context flowing on in accordance with this meaning — a time shall be given him over the continual sacrifice.
He afterwards adds בפשע, beph-sheng, “in wickedness,” or “in sin.” I prefer the simple translation “in sin” to “by sin,” although different senses are elicited according to the different views of interpreters. It is better to leave it to every one’s free choice, and thus simply to translate “in wickedness” or “sin.” Some refer it to Antiochus, because he wickedly polluted God’s temple, and abolished the sacrifices. This sense is probable, but I will add others, and then say which of them I like best. Some understand “in sin” of the priests, because, through the perfidy of Jason, Antiochus entered the city, spoiled the temple, and introduced those abominations which exterminated all piety and divine worship. (Genesis 4:7.) As Jason desired to snatch the priesthood from his brother Onias, he opened the gates to Antiochus; then a great slaughter followed, in which all the adherents of Onias were cruelly slain. Afterwards Menelaus expelled Jason again by similar perfidy. Some translate “by means of wickedness,” as these priests induced Antiochus to exercise cruelty in the holy city, and to violate the temple itself. Others approach nearer the real sense, by supposing the sacrifices to have ceased through wickedness, because they were adulterated by the priests. But this appears to me too restricted. In my judgment, I rather hold towards the view of those who take “wickedness” as a cause arid origin, thereby teaching the Jews how justly they were punished for their sins. I have already explained how properly the vision was limited as to time, and controlled by God’s permission and secret counsel. The cause is here expressed; for it might still be objected, “How happens it that God submits himself and his sacred name to the ridicule of the impious, and even deserts his own people? What does he intend by this?” The Prophet, therefore, assigns this cause — the Jews must feel the profanation of the temple, the sad devastation. of the whole city and their horrible slaughter, to be the reward due to their sins. A time, therefore, shall be assigned over the perpetual sacrifice in sin; that is, on account of sin. We here see how God on the one hand moderates the weight of the evils which pressed upon the Jews, and shews them some kindness, lest sorrow, anxiety, and despair should consume the wretched people; on the other hand, he humbles them and admonishes them to confess their sins, and then he urges them to apply their minds to repentance, by stating their own sins to be the cause of their afflictions. He thus shews how the source of all their evils was in the Jews themselves, while God’s anger was provoked by their vices. It is necessary to stop here till tomorrow.
Here he expresses more clearly, what I formerly said, unfolding God’s intention of consoling and soothing the sorrows of the pious lest they should sink under the severity of their trials, at the sight of an impious tyrant domineering in the sanctuary of God. Besides, the spot which God had promised should be his perpetual dwelling-place, was exposed to impious superstitions, for the idol of Jupiter Olympius was erected there, the history of the Maccabees informs us. (Genesis 1:57; Genesis 6:2.) God therefore wished to uphold his servants, lest too severe a temptation should overwhelm them, and lest trial in so many forms should cause them to yield and become deficient in piety through want of courage. But while Daniel is stupefied through astonishment, God provides for his infirmity by means of an angel. Daniel himself, without doubt, inquired concerning the vision as we shall see he did afterwards; but here God desired to meet him, as he saw the holy man so overcome by fear as scarcely to dare to make any inquiry. God, therefore, here affords no common proof of his paternal goodness and indulgence, in interposing and sending his angel to make inquiries in the Prophet’s name. He says, then, he heard a holy one, meaning an angel. For, although God deigns to call the faithful while dwelling in the world by this honorable title, yet the superior purity of angels is familiar to us, as they are altogether free from the lusts of the flesh. But we, alas! are detained in this prison-house, we are bound down in slavery to sin, and are polluted by much corruption. The holiness of angels, however, is far greater than that of mortals, and thus this attribute of “holiness” is properly applied to them. When Daniel was caught up by the prophetic spirit, he was separated from the society of men, and was admitted to that of angels.
An angel then, said to the wonderful one The Hebrews often use this expression when they mean “whoever it may be” — ploni almoni and apply it to places as well as persons. They use it also of any place unknown to them or concealed from them. They treat the noun as compounded of two words, and many interpret it of any one unknown, but I think the word to be more emphatic than this. (62) Daniel here brings forward an angel speaking, and adds dignity to his description by calling him “holy.” Without doubt, then, the person of whom the angel asked the question was his superior; it is not likely that he would be called “a certain one,” while the angel is termed a holy one. Reason, then, requires the expression to be applied to some angel whose glory was incomprehensible, or at least far superior to ordinary ones; for, as Daniel calls one angel “holy,” so he would have called the rest, as we shall afterwards see. When treating, however, of a distinct being, he uses the word פלמוני, palmoni, and its etymology guides us to its sense, as meaning something mysterious and incomprehensible. Then, who does not see that Christ is denoted, who is the chief of angels and far superior to them all? In the ninth chapter of Isaiah, (Isaiah 9:6,) he is called פלא pela, “wonderful.” The word in the text is a compound one, as we have said, but as פלא pela, signifies “hidden” in Hebrew, as Christ is so called, and as in Jude 3:1, God claims this name as peculiarly his own, all these points agree well together. The sense then is, an angel comes to Christ for the sake of Daniel and of the whole Church, and seeks from him as from the supreme teacher and master, the meaning of the declarations which we have just heard. We need not feel surprise at angels inquiring into eternity, as if it were unknown to them. It is the property of Deity alone to know all things, while the knowledge of angels is necessarily limited. Paul teaches us to wonder at the Church being collected out of profane and strange people; this was a mystery hidden from angels themselves, before God really showed himself the father of the whole world. (Ephesians 3:10.) Hence, there is no absurdity in supposing angels to inquire into mysteries, as ignorance is not necessarily deserving of blame, and as God has not raised his creatures for his own level. It is his peculiar province to know all things, and to have everything under his eye. The angel desires to understand this mystery, not so much for his own sake as on account of the whole Church; for we know them to be our ministers, according to the clear testimony of the Apostle. (Hebrews 1:14.) As they keep watch over us so carefully, it does not surprise us to find the angel inquiring so anxiously concerning this vision, and thus benefiting the whole Church by the hand of Daniel.
Meanwhile, we must notice, how Christ is the chief of angels and also their instructor, because he is the eternal Wisdom of God. Angels, therefore, must draw all the light of their intelligence from that single fountain. Thus angels draw us to Christ by their example, and induce us to devote ourselves to him through the persuasion that this is the supreme and only wisdom. If we are his disciples, being obedient, humble, and teachable, we shall desire to know only what he will make manifest to us. But the angel asks. What is the meaning of the vision of the perpetual sacrifice, and of the sin? that is, what, is the object of the vision concerning the abrogation of the perpetual sacrifice, and concerning the sin which lays waste? As to the second point, we explained yesterday the various opinions of interpreters, some twisting it to Antiochus, who impiously dared to violate God’s temple, and others to the priests. But we said the people were intended, lest many, as they are accustomed, should blame the Almighty for so heavily afflicting the Church. But God wished to bear witness to the origin of this devastation from the sins of the people. It is just as if the angel had said, How long will the sacrifices cease? How long will this vengeance, by which God will chastise the wickedness of his people, endure? For the sin is called devastating, through being the cause of that calamity. It is afterwards added, how long will the sanctuary and the army be trodden, down? that is, how long will the worship of God, and true piety, and the people itself, be trodden down under this cruel tyranny of Antiochus? But this question has far more efficacy, than if the Prophet had said, as we saw yesterday, that the punishment should be uniform and temporal. It was now necessary to explain what had already been stated more clearly. Thus this question was interposed with the view of rendering Daniel more attentive, and of stirring up the people by this narrative to the pursuit of learning. For it is no common event when angels approach Christ for our sakes, and inquire into the events which concern the state and safety of the Church. As, therefore, angels discharge this duty, we must be worse than stony, if we are not urged to eagerness and carefulness in the pursuit of divine knowledge. We see, then, why this passage concerning the angel is interposed.
(62) Calvin means to imply that the Jews used these words to express the idea of the Latin phrase, “ omne ignotum pro magnifico ” — Ed.
The phrase, And he said to me, now follows. This ought to be referred not to the angel inquiring, but to the Wonderful One. Whence we, rather gather the great anxiety of the angel concerning the interpretation of the prophecy, not for his own sake, but for the common benefit of the pious. Respecting this Wonderful One, though I am persuaded he was the Son of God, yet whoever he was, he certainly does not reject the angel’s request. Why then does he address Daniel rather than the angel? Because the angel was not seeking his own benefit, but took up the cause of the whole Church, as we have Shawn how angels are occupied in our salvation. Thus also we see how the angel notices the Prophet’s astonishment, when he was almost dead, and had not thought of inquiring for himself, or at least did not dare to break forth at once; for he afterwards recovered himself, and was raised up by the angel’s hand, as we shall soon perceive. The Wonderful One said to me — that is, the incomprehensible or the mysterious one said to me — for two thousand three hundred evenings and mornings, then the sanctuary shall be justified Here the Hebrews are mutually at variance whether they ought to understand the number of years or of months; but it is surprising to perceive how grossly they are deluded in so plain a matter. The expression, to evening and morning, is not doubtful, since Christ, clearly means two thousand three hundred days; for what else can the phrase, morning and evening, signify? It cannot be used of either years or months. Evidently we ought to understand natural days here, consisting of twenty-four hours each. Those who receive it of years and months are wretchedly mistaken, and even ridiculous in their calculations. For some begin to calculate the, time from Samuel, they next descend to the reign of Saul, and next to that of David; and thus they foolishly trifle, through not understanding the intention of Christ, who wished his Church to be forewarned of the coming empires and slaughters, with the view of rendering the faithful invincible, however sorely they may be oppressed on all sides. Christ therefore wished to hold up a light to direct all the elect through the approaching darkness under the tyranny of Antiochus, and to assure them that in the very depths of it they would not be deserted by the favor of God. Hope would thus elevate their minds and all their senses unto the promised termination. To what purpose, then, do those interpreters speak of the reigns of Saul and David? We see this to be altogether foreign and adverse to the mind of Christ, and to the use of this prophecy. No less absurd is the guess of those who prate about months. Their refutation would occupy three or four hours, and would be a waste of time, utterly profitless. It is sufficient to gather this simple meaning from the words — Christ does not speak here of years or months, but of days. We must now seek the true interpretation of the passage from the whole context. We have shewn how impossible it is to explain this prophecy otherwise than by Antiochus: the event itself proves this to be its meaning. Blind indeed must be those who do not hold this principle — the small horn sprang from one of those remarkable and illustrious persons who came forth in place of one very large horn. Boys even know this by reading the accredited history of those times. As Christ here alluded to the tyranny of Antiochus, we must observe how his words accord with the facts. Christ numbers 2300 days for the pollution of the sanctuary, and this period comprehends six years and about four months. We know the Jews to have used lunar years as well as months. They afterwards used interealary periods, since twelve lunar months did not correspond with the sun’s course. The same custom prevailed among both Greeks and Romans. Julius Caesar first arranged for us the solar year, and supplied the defect by intercalary days, so that the months might accord with the sun’s course. But however that was, these days, as I have said, fill up six years and three months and a half. Now, if we compare the testimony of history, and especially of the book of Maccabees, with this prophecy, we shall find that miserable race oppressed for six years under the tyranny of Antiochus. The idol of Olympian Jove did not remain in the temple for six continuous years, but the commencement of the pollution occurred at the first attack, as if he would insult the very face of God. No wonder then if Daniel understood this vision of six years and about a third, because Antiochus then insulted the worship of God and the Law; and when he poured forth innocent blood promiscuously, no one dared openly to resist him. As, therefore, religion was then laid prostrate on the ground, until the cleansing of the temple, we see how very clearly the prophecy and the history agree, as far as this narrative is concerned. Again, it is clear the purifying of the temple could not have been at the end of the sixth current year, but in the month כסלו, keslu, answering to October or November, as leaned men prudently decide, it was profaned. For this month among the Jews begins sometimes in the middle of October, and sometimes at the end, according to the course of the moon; for we said the months and years were lunar. In the month Keslu the temple was polluted; in the month אדר Ader, about three months afterwards, near its close, the Maccabees purged it. (Genesis 4:36.) Thus the history confirms in every way what Daniel had predicted many ages previously — nay, nearly three hundred years before it came to pass. For this occurred a hundred and fifty years after the death of Alexander. Some time also had already elapsed, as there were eight or ten kings of Persia between the deaths of Cyrus and Darius. I do not remember any but the chief events just now, and it ought it to be sufficient for us to perceive how Daniel’s predictions were fulfilled in their own season, as historians clearly narrate. Without the slightest doubt, Christ predicted the profanation of the temple, and this would depress the spirits of the pious as if God had betrayed them, had abandoned all care of his temple, and had given up his election and his covenant entirely. Christ therefore wished to support the spirit of the faithful by this prediction, thereby informing them how fully they deserved these future evils, in consequence of their provoking God’s wrath; and yet their punishment should be temporary, because the very God who announced its approach promised at the same time a prosperous issue.
Respecting the phrase, the sanctuary shall be justified, some translate it — “Then the sanctuary shall be expiated;” but I prefer retaining the proper sense of the word. We know how usually the Hebrews use the word “justify” when they speak of rights. When their own rights are restored to those who have been deprived of them — when a slave has been blessed with his liberty — when he who has been unjustly oppressed obtains his cause, the Hebrews use this word “justified.” As God’s sanctuary was subject to infamy by’ the image of Olympian Jove being exhibited there, all respect for it had passed away; for we know how the glory of the temple sprang from the worship of God. As the temple had been defiled by so great disgrace, it was then justified, when God established his own sacrifices again, and restored his pure worship as prescribed by the Law. The sanctuary, therefore, shall be justified; that is, vindicated from that disgrace to which for a time it had been subject. It follows: —
Daniel again confirms his original statement. But before he descends to the interpretation, he makes a preface concerning the faithfulness and certainty of the oracle, lest the Church should hesitate to embrace his utterance as really proceeding from God. In doing this, he uses no artifice as rhetoricians do; but God wished to stir up both him and all the pious to meditate upon this prophecy, the knowledge of which was then so peculiarly necessary and useful. He says, therefore, when he sought the understanding of this vision, there appeared to him a form like that of a man Now God had anticipated this desire of the Prophet, by the answer which the angel received from Christ, who in reply had partly explained the sense of this vision. Now Daniel, finding himself anticipated by God who did not wait for his inquiry, gathers courage, and trusting in God’s readiness to furnish an answer, he wishes to learn the matter more clearly; not that he was altogether ignorant of the subject, but he did not yet perceive with sufficient clearness what was useful to himself and the whole Church. We see then, how the answer of Christ only afforded him a taste of the vision, and only urged him forwards towards the full comprehension of it. Many are immediately satisfied with but moderate information, and as soon as they understand a portion of any subject, they reject every addition, and many too often settle down at the first elements, and their obstinacy prevents that complete knowledge which is necessary. Daniel therefore shews himself to be far distant from such fastidiousness, as he was rendered more attentive by hearing from Christ’ lips the rea1 object of the vision. When I was attentive 1 sought to understand it, says he, behold! there stood before my face (or near it) like the aspect of a man We ought probably to interpret this passage of Christ, who is now called like a man, as formerly. (Daniel 7:13.) For he had not yet put on our flesh, so as to be properly entitled to the name of a man; but he was here like a man, because he wished to allow the holy fathers a taste from which they might understand his future coming as Mediator, when he should put on human nature as God manifest in flesh:. (1 Timothy 3:16.) Thus Daniel speaks suitably as before when he says, Christ appeared to him under the aspect of a man But this adds to the same purpose, —
He does not use the particle implying fitness, but says he heard the voice of a man, because he treats no longer of either a man or a figure, but of a voice. It is sufficient to say at once, he was like a man, not really so, but only under the image and appearance of one. Christ therefore appeared as a man, and is called one, since Scripture often records how angels often appeared under the form of men, and are called indiscriminately, either angels or men. (Jude 8:3, etc.) So in this place Daniel relates the appearance of a. man, or the aspect of one, improperly indeed, but without any danger of mistake; for he afterwards admonishes the faithful, how this person was not clothed with the substance of flesh, but had only a human form and aspect. I heard then a human voice in the midst of the river We gather from this that the same person is here intended of whom mention was lately made, because he commands the angel; whence this can be referred to Christ alone.
Gabriel, says he, teach him. We observe the speaker from the midst of the river here commanding Gabriel, as if superior to him. For Gabriel as the name of an angel, is sufficiently known from other passages of Scripture; (Luke 1:19;) and its etymology, “The strength of God,” is very suitable to this meaning. Without ally doubt, the angel here receives his commands from Christ. Thus, we see the supreme power and authority represented under the form and aspect of a man, as well as obedience portrayed in Gabriel, who discharges the duty enjoined upon him. From this Christ’s divinity is inferred, as he could not issue orders to angels, without either having special authority, or being God himself. But when the phrase “like a man” is used, we are taught his manifest superiority to man. And what does this imply? not angelic nature but divine. Christ by thus presenting himself under a human form, shews, by a kind of foreshadowing, how he would become a man, when the fullness of time arrived. Then he would really manifest himself as the head of the Church, and the guardian of the salvation of the pious. For he proves himself to have power over all angels, when he orders Gabriel to discharge the office of the Prophet’s instructor. We will put off the remainder.
I will not repeat what I have already explained. I will proceed with what I had commenced, namely, the Prophet’s need of instruction, because he could not understand the vision without an interpreter; wherefore the angel was ordered to explain his revelation of God more fully. But, before he narrates this, he says, he was frightened at the approach of the angel. Without doubt, this reverence was always present to his mind. Whenever he perceived himself called or taught by God, he was doubtless struck with fear; but here some special feeling is expressed, as God desired to influence his mind to set us an example, and to render us more attentive. Here Daniel explains his own mind to us, commending the magnitude and importance of the vision, lest we should read with carelessness what he will afterwards relate, and not treat the occasion with sufficient seriousness. For God used the angel as his servant to explain his intention to the Prophet; at the same time he inwardly touched his mind by his Spirit to show us the way, and thus he would not only train us to docility, but also to fear. He says, then, he was frightened and fell down This, as I have said, was usual with the Prophet, as it ought to be with all the pious. Paul also, in celebrating the effect and power of prophecy, says, if any unbelievers should enter into the assembly and hear a prophet speaking in God’s name, he would prostrate himself, says he, upon his face. (1 Corinthians 14:25.) If this happened to unbelievers, how great will be our troubles, unless we receive most reverently and humbly, what we know to have been uttered by the mouth of God? Meanwhile, we should remember what I have lately touched upon, — the importance of the present oracle as here commended to us by the Prophet; for he fell upon his face through his fright, as he will repeat in the next verse.
Nor is the following exhortation superfluous; understated, says he, O son of Adam It would be of little use to us to be moved and excited for a time, unless our minds were afterwards composed for hearing. For many are touched by fear when God appears to them; that is, when he compels them to feel the force and power of his sway; but they continue in their stupidity, and thus their fright is rendered profitless. But Daniel here makes a difference between himself and the profane, who are only astonished and by no means prepared for obedience. At the same time, he relates how his own excitement was effected by the assistance of the angel. The fear, then, of which we have lately made mention, was preparation for docility; but; this terror would have been useless by itself, unless it had been added, that he might understand We ought to understand how piety does not consist merely in acknowledging the fear of God, but obedience is also required, preparing us to receive with tranquil and composed feelings whatever we shall be taught. We ought diligently to observe this order.
It now follows: Because there shall be an end of the vision at a fixed time. Some join לעת קף legneth-ketz, making the sense “at the end of the time,” קף ketz, in this sense being in the genitive case by way of an epithet, as the Hebrews commonly use it. They elicit this sense — the vision shall be for a prefixed time. But others prefer — the end of the vision shall be for a time. I think this latter sense is better, as the former seems to me forced. On the whole, it is not of much consequence, yet as that form of expression is the easier, namely, the end or fulfillment of the vision should be at a definite time, I had rather follow that interpretation. The angel asserts, then, that this was no vain speculation, but a cause joined with its effect, which should have its completion at a stated period. There shall be an end, then, of the vision in its time; meaning, what you now behold shall neither vanish away nor be destroyed, but its end shall happen when the time shall arrive which God has determined. קף , ketz, is often taken in this sense. Hence there shall be an end of the vision,; that is, the vision shall be completed when the fitting time shall arrive. We ought to bear in mind this exhortation of the angel, because unless we are certainly persuaded of the fixedness of anything when God speaks, we shall not be ready to receive whatever he pronounces. But when we are convinced of this saying, God never separates his hand from his mouth — meaning, he is never unlike himself, but his power follows up his word, and thus he fulfills whatever he declares; this becomes a sure and firm foundation for our faith. This admonition of the angel ought to be extended generally to the whole of Scripture, since God does not throw words into the air, according to the common phrase. For nothing happens rashly, but as soon as he speaks, his truth, the matter itself and its necessary effect, are all consistent. It follows: —
The Prophet repeats what he had said, namely, how he had been frightened by the magnitude of this vision; meanwhile, he was raised up by the angel, lest he should remain in that state of stupor. Yet these two clauses must be noticed: Daniel was astonished at the outset, for he could not otherwise be sufficiently composed to listen to the angel’s voice; but at the same time another clause is added, stating, the angel set him upright in his place. Whenever God addresses us, we must necessarily be subject to fear and dread, to produce humility, and to render us docile and obedient. Fears the true preparation for obedience; but, as we formerly said, another feeling ought to follow; namely, as God has previously prostrated and cast us down, he will also raise us up, thereby preparing us for listening; and this disposition cannot arise except our minds are sedate and composed. The Prophet then expresses both these states of mind here. This, as I have said, is common to all the pious; but a peculiarity is noticed here, lest the readers of the vision should become torpid, and receive it carelessly; for they ought to collect all their senses, conscious of their inability to understand it, unless the fear of God should precede, and thus form the mind for obedience. While he was speaking with me, therefore, I fell into a swoon with my face upon the ground; that is, I lay astonished, and he touched me. I have already stated the opinion of others, that the angel approached him, but it is only tolerable. He now adds: —
Those who read the noun קף ketz, “ end, ” in the genitive case in Daniel 8:17, understand in this place the word “vision” again, as if the Prophet had said, “At the time of the end there shall be a vision.” But as מועד, meveged, or moed, signifies a “time fixed and settled beforehand,” there is nothing superfluous in that method of speech; then ketz, as I have said, is properly taken for the effect itself, and it would be harsh and far-fetched to say “at the time of the end there shall be a vision,” in the, sense of the filling up of the vision. For this word expresses all which such interpreters wish it to imply. Besides, all are agreed as to the matter itself, since the angel bears witness to his being the interpreter chosen by God, who explains futurity to the Prophet. Behold, therefore, says he, I will explain to thee He here acquires confidence for himself from his office, as he had accepted the commands divinely laid upon him. And we should remark this also, since our faith will never rest or become firm unless the authority on which it is founded be fixed. As then the angel declares himself to be executing an office divinely enjoined upon him, ought we to put confidence in men who conduct themselves with rashness, and, though they assume authority in God’s name, yet have no certain and lawful calling? We may learn, then, how neither angels nor men ought to be held in such honor as to induce us to receive whatever they bring forward, unless the Almighty has appointed them to be his ministers and interpreters.
He then says, I will announce to thee what shall happen even at the end of the wrath. Without doubt, the angel asserts by this phrase the suddenness of God’s wrath. We are aware how instantaneously on the return of the people their enemies attacked them in Judea, and never ceased to inflict upon them numberless troubles. Wherefore, as soon as the Jews had returned from exile, God began to exercise them in various ways, and not without sufficient reason. Every one privately studied his own interests, but without any regard for the temple and any desire for the worship of God, and thus they were given up to avarice and caprice. They also defrauded God himself in tithes and offerings, as is evident from the prophets Malachi and Haggai. (Haggai 1:12; Malachi 3:8.) From that period God began to punish them, but deferred his vengeance till the time of Antiochus. The angel, therefore, calls the end of the vengeance that severer punishment which God inflicted after the people had abused his forbearance. Therefore I will teach thee, or lay before time, what shall happen at the close of the vengeance, because, says he, it shall be the time of the end. He here repeats what he had said concerning the effect of the prophecy, meaning, the fulfillment should take place at its own appointed season. We must; now notice the noun moed, because it is here opposed to our fervor and intemperance. Haste in desiring anything leads, as they say, to delay; for as soon as God bears witness to anything, we wish it to be fulfilled at the very first moment, and if he suspend its execution only a very few days, we not only wonder but cry out with vexation. God, therefore, here admonishes us by his angel that he has a settled time, and thus we are to learn to put a bridle on ourselves, and not to be rash and unseasonably hasty, according to our usual habit. We ought, then, to remember the explanation given, and perceive how the effect of the vision is shewn here, and thus it will obtain from us its just reverence. It follows: —
We have previously given a brief explanation of all these subjects. But here the angel removes all doubt, lest we should still anxiously inquire the meaning of the ram which Daniel saw, and of the he-goat which followed and prostrated the ram. The angel, therefore, here pronounces the ram to represent two kingdoms, which coalesced in one. Cyrus, as we have said, granted it for a time to his father-in-law Cyaxares, but yet; drew the whole power to himself, and the Persians began to extend their sway over all the realms of the East. But God in this vision had respect to the beginning of that monarchy. When, however, the Persians and Medes, were united, then the ram bore two horns; then the he-goat succeeded, and he threw down the ram, as we have already seen. In that he-goat there was first one great horn and then four small ones. The angel then answers concerning the he-goat representing the kingdom of the Greeks. There is not the slightest doubt here, since Alexander seized upon the whole East, and thus the Persian monarchy was utterly destroyed. In the he-goat, therefore, the kingdom of Greece or Macedon was displayed, but the horns will mark something special.
That great, horn, says Daniel, was the first king, namely, Alexander; afterwards four smaller horns arose in his place. We have already explained these. For when much blood had been shed, and the greater part of the leaders had been slain, and after the followers of Alexander had mutually attacked and. destroyed each other, those who remained divided his dominions among themselves. Cassander the son of Antipater obtained Macedon; Seleueus, Syria; Ptolemy, Egypt; and Antigonus his own fourth share. In this way the smaller horns succeeded Alexander, according to the clear testimony of profane history. From the frequency with which God sets this prophecy before us, we gather his intention of giving us a conspicuous sign of his majesty. For how could Daniel conjecture future events for so long a period before they happened? He does not pronounce mere enigmas, but; narrates things exactly as if they were already fulfilled. At the present time Epicureans despise the Scriptures and laugh at our simplicity, as if we were too ridiculous. But they rather display their own prodigious madness, and blindness, by not acknowledging the prediction of Daniel to be divine. Nay, from this prophecy alone we may prove with certainty the unity of God. If any one was inclined to deny that first principle, and utterly reject the doctrine of his divinity, he might be convinced by this single prophecy. Not only is this subject treated here, but Daniel points with his finger to the God of Israel as the only one in whose hand and will are all things, and from whom nothing either escapes or is concealed. From this prophecy alone the authority of Scripture is established by proofs perfectly sure and undoubted, as the Prophet treats with perfect clearness events at the time unknown, and which no mortal could ever have divined.
First of all he says, The ram which, thou sawest, having two horns, means the kings of the Medes and Persians This had not then occurred, for that ram had not yet risen and seized upon Babylon, as we have stated already. Thus Daniel was raised up as it were to heaven, and observed from that watch-tower things hidden from the minds of men. He afterwards adds, The he-goat is the king of Greece. Philip, the father of Alexander, although a strenuous and a most skillful warrior, who surpassed all the kings of Macedon for cleverness, yet, superior as he was, never dared to cross over the sea. It, was sufficient for him if he could strengthen his power in Greece, and render himself formidable against his neighbors in Asia Minor. But he never dared to attack the power of Persia, or even to harass them, and much less to overcome the whole East. Alexander, inflamed rather by rashness and pride than by good judgment, thought nothing would prove difficult to him. But when Daniel saw this vision, who ever would have thought of any king of Greece invading that most powerful monarchy, and not only seizing upon the whole of Asia, but obtaining sway in Egypt, Syria, and other regions? Although Asia Minor was an extensive region, and well known to be divided into many rich and fertile provinces, yet it was but a small addition to his immense empire. Nay, when Nineveh was conquered by Babylon, and the Chaldeans became masters of Assyria, this also was an addition to the Persian monarchy. We are familiar with the amazing riches of the Medes, and yet they were entirely absorbed. Darius drew with him 800,000 men, and quite buried the earth under his army. Alexander met him at the head of 30,000. What comparison was there between them! When Xerxes (73) came to Greece he brought with him 800,000 men, and threatened to put fetters upon the sea; yet Daniel speaks of his incredible event just as if it had already taken place, and were matter of history. These points must be diligently noticed that the Scriptures may inspire us with the confidence which they deserve.
(73) The edit. Gen., 1617 read Merces incorrectly: that of Vincent, 1571, and the French of Perrin, 1569, are correct, as in the text. — Ed
By the word “Javan” the Hebrews designate not only the Greeks but the: Macedonians, and the whole of that tract which is divided by the Hellespont, from Asia Minor as far as Illyricmn. Therefore the meaning is — the king of Greece.
The great horn, says he, which was between his eyes was the first king, and when it was broken, four others sprang up. Alexander, as we have mentioned, perished in the flower of his age, and was scarcely’ thirty years old when he died, through the influence of either poison or disease. Which of the two is uncertain, although great suspicion of fraud attaches to the manner of his death; and whichever way it happened, that horn was broken. In his place there arose four horns, which sprang up, say’s he, from that nation. Here we must notice this, since I very much wonder what has come into some persons’ minds, to cause them to translate it “from the nations” and yet these are persons skilled in the Hebrew language. First, they show great ignorance by changing the number, and next, they do not comprehend the intention of the angel. For he confirms what he formerly said concerning the unity of the kingdom and its division into four parts, and he assigns the reason here. They shall spring, says he, from a nation, meaning the Greeks, and all from a single origin. For by what right did Polemy obtain the empire? solely by being one of Alexander’s generals. At the beginning, he dared not use the royal name, nor wear the diadem, but only after a lapse of time. The same is true of Selcucus, and Antigonus, and Cassander. We see, then, how correctly the kingdom of the Greeks is represented to us under the figure of a single beast, although it was immediately dispersed and torn into four parts. The kingdoms, then, which sprang from the nation meaning; Greece, shall stand, but not in full strength The copula is here taken in the sense of “but; ” the four kingdom shall stand, but not by his strength, for Alexander had touched upon the Indian sea, and enjoyed the tranquil possession of his empire throughout the whole east, having filled all men with the fear of his industry, valor, and speed. Hence, the;angel states the four horns to be so small, that not one of them should be equal to the first king.
And at the end of their reign, when the wicked shall be at their height, one king shall stand By saying at the end of their kingdom, he does not mean to imply the destruction of the four kingdoms had ceased. The successors of Antiochus were not directly cast down from their sway, and Syria was not reduced into a province till about eighty or a hundred years after Antiochus the Great had been completely conquered. He again left heirs, who, without doubt, succeeded to the throne, as we shall see more clearly in the eleventh chapter. But this point is certain — Perseus was the last king of Macedon, and the Ptolemies continued to the times of Julius Caesar and Augustus, and we are well aware how completely Cleopatra was conquered and ruined by Antony. As women succeeded to the throne, we could not place the destruction of the Macedonian empire under Antiochus Epiphanes. But the angel means, at the end of their kingdom, when they had really come to the close of their reigns, and their final ruin was at hand. For when Antiochus Epiphanes returned to his country, he seemed to have re-established his power though it very soon afterwards began to die away. Similar circumstances also happened to Egypt and to Macedon, for the reign of all their kings was precarious, and although not directly overthrown, yet they depended on the Romans, and thus their royal majesty was but fleeting. At the end, therefore, of their kingdom, that is, when they arrived at the height, and their fall led them on to ruin, then, says he, when the wicked were consummated or perfected. Some apply this to the professed and outward enemies of the Church, but I rather approve of another opinion, which supposes the angel to be speaking of the impious, who provoked God’s wrath, till it became necessary for grievous and severe penalties to be inflicted on the people, to whom God had so magnificently promised a happy and a tranquil state. This, however, was no common temptation, after the prophets had treated so fully of the happy and prosperous state of the people after their return from captivity, to behold the horrible dispersion, and to witness these tyrants making their assault not only upon men, but upon the temple of God itself. Wherefore the angel, as before, fortifies the Prophet and all the rest of the pious against this kind of trial, and shews how God had not changed his counsels in afflicting his Church, to which he had promised tranquillity, but had been grievously provoked by the sins of the people. He then shews the urgent necessity which had compelled God to exercise this severity. When, therefore, the impious had come to their height, that is, when they had arrived at the highest pitch, and their intolerable obstinacy had become desperate. We perceive how the angel here meets the trial, and instructs the pious beforehand, unfolding to them the inviolability of God’s word, while the people’s impiety compelled him to treat, them severely, although he had determined to display liberality in every way. Then, he says, a king shall stand with a fierce countenance But the rest tomorrow.
After the angel had explained the Grecian monarchy, he records the future origin of a king who should be hard of face Without the slightest doubt, he implies the iniquity of Antiochus by this phrase. He was notoriously destitute of any nobleness of mind, and remarkable for low cunning, and to this disposition was added an impudence which faltered at nothing. This is the sense in which I take the words hard of face The following phrase asserts his cunning, when it says, he shall be skilled in enigmas This is equivalent to saying, he should excel in cunning, and should not be easily deceived. By these two epithets he does not compliment, but rather defames Antiochus Epiphanes, by representing him as hardened as the wicked usually are, without the slightest particle of either reason, or equity, or shame. He next blames his craftiness and deceit, by stating he should be skilled in enigmas He afterwards adds, his power shall be strengthened, and yet not by his own might Some are of opinion that Antiochus Epiphanes is here compared to Alexander, as the angel had previously stated the inferiority of the four kings to the first; for they were prefigured by four small horns. For the most powerful of them all did not reign over a fifth part of the dominions which Alexander had acquired for himself by violence and war. Others, again, explain this passage as if the power of Antiochus would be great, but still very unlike that of Alexander, and far inferior to it, according to the sense, not in his, i.e., Alexander’s, strength,. Many, however, refer this to Antiochus, although they do not agree among themselves. Some, again, want a kind of correction, as if the angel implied that the power of Antiochus should be great, but not quite openly so. Hence his valor shall be strengthened, not meaning by “valor” that heroic spirit with which kings are usually endowed, nor any increase in magnanimity; nor yet that Antiochus should imitate such monarchs as these, but his strength should lie concealed. He should creep on by clandestine acts, and not contend in open battle according to the practice of those who excel in courage; he should secretly try many schemes, and thus stealthily extend his empire. This makes a tolerable sense. Others, again, think this ought to be referred to God, since the strength of Antiochus was not the result of his own industry or valor, but of the judgment of God, who armed him with it, because he wished to use him as a scourge to execute his punishments on the Jews. His fortitude, therefore, shall be strengthened, yet not by his own valor, as this entirely depended on the just designs and vengeance of God. Although this last sense is more profitable, and contains much useful instruction, yet I fear it is distorted. And thus the last clause is either a correction of the preceding words, meaning” because he should not increase with ingenuous earnestness,” or else, the angel is still comparing his strength with the power of Alexander. His power, therefore, shall be strengthened, and yet not bear comparison with Alexander’s; or, his power shall be strengthened, but not by habits of war nor by open magnanimity, but he shall grow great by fraudulent and clandestine arts; because he was on the one hand most impious, and on the other, of a servile disposition, as we have formerly said.
It follows, He shall make wonderful havoc, and shall prosper, and shall proceed, that is, shall execute, and shall destroy the strong, and the people of the saints. By עצומים , gnetzumim, I understand not only the Jews, but also other neighboring nations; as if the angel had said, Antiochus shall be conqueror wherever he shall extend his arms, until at length he shall subdue Judea, and miserably afflict the people of God. Wherefore, he shall strike or destroy the brave, and the people of the saints, that is, the holy people, as we saw before. And according to his understanding shall his craftiness prosper in his hand The conjunction “and may be here superfluous; in this sense the passage is usually received, thus reading it on in one context; according to his understanding he shall prosper, although there is the conjunction “and” in the way, but this is frequently superfluous in Hebrew. It means, deceit shall prosper in his hand Here the angel confirms the former assertion respecting the servile cunning of Antiochus, as he did not act with ingenuous manliness, but with his audacity and hardihood he united malicious arts and craftiness unworthy of a king. Craft, therefore, shall prosper in his hand, and that too, as far as he understands it. Some suppose the sharpness of Antiochus to be noticed here, as if the angel had said, Craftiness shall prosper in his hand, in consequence of his possessing superior ability and penetration. But the passage may be suitably explained in this way, — Antiochus shall act prosperously according to his mental perception, and shall be so assisted by’ his craftiness, as to obtain whatever he shall grasp at.
It follows next; He shall magnify himself in his heart, or he shall raise himself, and bear himself magnificently; although this expression implies boasting and pride, and is taken in a disadvantageous sense. He shall be insolent, therefore, in his heart. The angel seems to distinguish here between the scheming and penetration of Antiochus, and his pride of heart; for, although he should obtain great: victories, and should subdue many nations according to his desires, yet he would oppress the Jews, and then, should be magnified in heart; that is, should be puffed up with greater pride than before, on account of those continuous successes. And in peace he shall destroy many, or the brave; for the word רבים rabbim, signifies either. Some translate, on account of his prosperity, because the Lord wished to relax the reins, so that no one should hinder the course of his victories. On account, then, of that success, he shall destroy many. Profane men, indeed, who understand nothing of God’s providence, have said that folly and chance prevail more in war than skill or arms; but the success of generals does not spring from either chance or fortune, but as God pleases to conduct the affairs of the world in various ways, so in some eases the evil and unskillful warriors succeed, while others make many fruitless efforts and trials, although they are superior in counsel, and are provided with the very best ornaments. But I rather incline to another sense which interpreters do not mention; namely, Antiochus should destroy and lay waste many nations without any trouble, with the greatest ease, and as it were in sport. Wherefore the Prophet signifies, or the angel who addresses the Prophet., that Antiochus should be the conqueror of many nations, not only because he should be endowed with great cunning, and should carry on the war more by treachery than by open violence, but as it is reported of Timotheus the Athenian general: He will take cities and lands, and subject them to himself, through fortune spreading her net for him while he is indulging in sleep. The angel, therefore, seems to point out this listlessness, by predicting much devastation by the hand of Antiochus in apparent ease and calmness. Others expound it thus, — nations shall be laid waste by that robber which have given him no occasion for attack, because they have never stirred up any hostility against him; but when they attempt to cultivate peace, he wearies them without the slightest pretext. But this interpretation seems to be forced.
He afterwards adds, And against the Prince Of Princes he shall stand, or rise up, and he shall be destroyed without hand, or shall be ruined. The ו, vau, is put adversatively; yet he shall be destroyed without hand. This was far more galling to the Prophet, and to the whole people, for the angel to predict the contests of Antiochus, not only with mortals, but with God himself. Some understand שר שרים, sar-sarim, of the high priest, but this is too confined and spiritless. I have not the least doubt that God is here meant by the Prince of Princes Wherefore the complete sense is, — Antiochus should be not only bold, and cruel, and proud towards men, but this madness and full should proceed so far as to lead him to attack and resist God. This is the full sense. But a consolation is soon added, when the angel says, he should be destroyed without hand It would, indeed, have been almost intolerable for the Jews to hear only of the insolence of Antiochus in contending against God, unless this correction had been added — the end of the contest must be the self-destruction of Antiochus by his own impiety. He shall be destroyed then. But how? without hand, says he. For after subduing so many nations, and after obtaining whatever he wished, what more could be hoped for as far as man is concerned? Who would dare to rise up against him? Clearly enough, if the kings of Syria had been content with their own boundaries, they need not have feared any one, for no enemy would have molested them; but they provoked the Romans to attack them, and when they wished to invade Egypt, they did not prosper in their attempts. Whichever be the meaning, the angel here announces the sufficiency of the divine power without any human aid, for the destruction and overthrow of Antiochus. Some think this prophet refers to Antichrist, thus they pass by Antiochus altogether, and describe to us the appearance of Antichrist, as if the angel had shewn to Daniel what should happen after the second renovation of the Church. The first restoration took place when liberty was restored to the people, and they returned from exile to their native land, and the second occurred at the advent of Christ. These interpreters suppose this passage to unfold that devastation of the Church which should take place after the coming of Christ, and the promulgation of the gospel. But as we have previously seen, this is not a suitable meaning, and I am surprised that men versed in the Scriptures should so pour forth clouds upon clear light. For, as we said yesterday, nothing can be clearer, or more perspicuous, or even more familiar, than this prophecy. And what is the tendency of ascribing so violently to Antichrist what even mere children clearly see to be spoken of Antiochus, except to deprive Scripture of all its authority? Others speak more modestly and more considerately, when they suppose the angel to treat of Antiochus for the purpose of depicting in his person the figure of Antichrist. But I do not think this reasoning sufficiently sound. I desire the sacred oracles to be treated so reverently, that no one may introduce any variety according to the will of man, but simply hold what is positively certain. It would please me better to see any one wishing to adapt this prophecy to the present use of the Church, and to apply to Antichrist by analogy what is said of Antiochus. We know that whatever happened to the Church of old, belongs also to us, because we have fallen upon the fullness of times.
No doubt the Holy Spirit wished to teach us how to bear our cross by making use of this example, but as I have already said, it seems to me far too frivolous to search for allegories. We should be content with true simplicity, and transfer to ourselves whatever occurred to the ancient people. (1 Corinthians 10:11.) With how much reason does the Apostle say there should be false teachers in the kingdom of Christ, as there were formerly false prophets! (2 Peter 2:1.) So we must determine, that the devil, who was a murderer from the beginning, will always find those whom he will stir up and impel to persecute the Church. The devil contends at this very day, not only by fallacious doctrines, and impious errors, and impostures, but also by cruel tyranny, as he inflames many impious men to madness, and thus harasses the sons of God. As the Jews ought not to quail under the calamities which oppressed them, through Daniel’s predictions concerning Antiochus, so the same doctrine ought in these days to fortify us, lest the novelty of our calamities should appall us, when the Church is oppressed by heavy burdens, and tyrants rage and storm, with fire and sword. (Romans 8:28 :) For the fathers experienced similar trials, to whom Christ had not then pointed out the way of life, and who did not comprehend so clearly as we do our duty to be conformed to the only-begotten Son of God, because he is the first-born in the Church; he is our head and we are his members. This. was not so fully unfolded to those holy men, who still endured under so many afflictions, when they might suppose the Church completely buried, as it is certainly surprising that they did not yield a hundred times over to so many and such dreadful calamities. Therefore this doctrine will be best accommodated to our instruction, if we are convinced of the justice of our condition not being better than that of the fathers. What, therefore, happened to them? These wicked ones should be destroyed, namely, the Jews:, who professed themselves to be the elect people of God, and the holy family of Abraham, and in numberless ways had obstinately provoked God’s wrath; thus the Church was miserably harassed. Antiochus, especially, like a sweeping tempest, reduced all things to ruin, till the people felt themselves utterly undone, and to all human appearance were without the slightest hope. As God punished so severely the wickedness of his ancient people, it does not surprise us when we feel his present chastisements, as in these days the land is full of sinfulness, and we do not cease perpetually and purposely to provoke God’s wrath. (1 Thessalonians 3:3.) Lastly, to avoid the penalty due to our sins, let us consider the end of our calling, the subjection of our whole life to the cross. This is the warfare to which our heavenly Father destines us. As this is our lot, we ought to look into this mirror, and there behold the perpetual condition of the
Church. It is therefore no matter of surprise, if, instead of one Antiochus, God should raise up many who are hardened and invincible in their obstinacy, and in their cruelty make many attempts with clandestine arts, and plot for the destruction of the Church. If the fathers experienced this, it does not surprise us, if we in these days undergo similar sufferings. This, I say, is a useful analogy, and does not distort the simple sense of Scripture. Now, let us go on, —
The angel again confirms the assertion that no part of this vision was shewn to the Prophet in vain, because not even the slightest portion of it should fail of its effect. The necessity of this method of confirming our faith is notorious, because, although the events may be well known to us, yet we cannot acquiesce in God’s word, unless he should testify so repeatedly to the truth of his assertions, and sanction by such repetition whatever appears to us ambiguous. When it becomes perfectly obvious that the angel discourses upon obscure events, and such as were utterly incredible at the time, it does not surprise us when he announces again, that the Prophet had seen nothing which God would not accomplish. This vision, therefore, says he, is truth. He calls it “the vision of the evening and morning,” because while the angel was treating of the six years and almost a half, he used this form of speech. And we said this was purposely expressed, lest any one should extend it to years or months, as some did; as if the angel had said, — Behold! by calculating single days up to six years and about a half, the completion of this prophecy when the Temple shall be cleansed, shall be accurately discovered. Again it is asserted, that the vision is certain, because God had computed day by day the time of the profanation of the Temple until the period of its cleansing. Do thou, therefore, says he, seal or close the vision, because it is for many days It may surprise us why God should wish what he had explained to his servant to remain concealed. For Daniel was not instructed in futurity for his own private advantage, but for the common usefulness of the whole people. It seems, therefore, contrary to his office to be commanded to close up the vision, and to keep it. in complete obscurity. But the angel means, if the greater part of the people should reject this prophecy, this formed no reason why Daniel should hesitate. Be thou, therefore, the guardian of this prophecy, as if God had deposited a treasure in the hands of his servant, and had said, “Pay no regard to any who despise this prophecy; many may deride thee, and others think thou art narrating fables, and very few will have confidence in thee but do not relax on this account, but faithfully guard this treasure,” since it is for many days; that is, although its effect is not immediately apparent, because God will suspend for some time the punishments of which entreats, and will not restore the Temple all at once, nor wrest His people immediately out of the hand of the tyrant. In consequence, then, of his deferring his judgments as well as his pity for many days, do thou close up this visions, that is, keep it to thyself, as if thou art alone. Thus God does not simply command his Prophet to be silent, or to conceal what he had learnt, but rather confirms him in his consistency, lest he should estimate this prophecy according to the ordinary opinions of his countrymen. And at the same time he shews, that though the Jews did not pay attention to what Daniel announced to them, yet nothing whatever should be in vain. It follows, —
Again, Daniel shews himself to have been so touched with the secret instinct of God, that he knew for certain this vision to have been divinely presented to him. For God wished so to affect his servant, that he might embrace with greater reverence what he both heard and saw. I have already referred to our want; of attention in listening to God’s word as it deserves, unless some kind of fear precedes it which may rouse our minds by some means from their torpor; but this prophecy had a special intention. In an ordinary case, God did not humble his servant; but by the disease which is here mentioned, he wishes to show how this prediction related to some event of serious magnitude. Daniel, therefore, states himself to have been astonished, as if suffering under some defect, and afflicted by disease This disease did not happen to the Prophet naturally, but it fell upon him in consequence, of his being suddenly terrified. And he afterwards shews this, by saying, no one understood the prediction. Here, then, he admonishes all the pious, neither to hear nor read this, narrative with carelessness, but to summon up their utmost attention, and to perceive that God here shews them things of the greatest importance, and which vitally concern their salvation. This forms a reason why Daniel ought to suffer dejection and to be afflicted by disease. He next says, he returned to the king’s business, meaning his ordinary occupation. We infer from this expression, the grievous error of those who think him to have been in Persia at this period, because he could not return to his duties, unless to were present in the king’s palace. But why is this added? To assure us that the Prophet was not drawn off from the duties which the king had assigned to him, although God had chosen him to perform the peculiar office of Prophet and teacher of his Church. This is a rare instance, and ought not to be drawn into a precedent, according to the usual phrase. Which of us, for instance, would be sufficient for those duties of political government assigned to Daniel, and also for those incumbent upon a pastor and teacher? But God made use of his servant Daniel in an extraordinary way, because he had many reasons for wishing him occupied in the king’s palace. We have previously seen how God’s glory was illustrated by his position, for Daniel admonished Belshazzar of his approaching death, when his enemies had already partially captured the city. And the utility of this was proved by Cyrus and Darius sparing the Jews. As long as the Chaldeans held the supreme power, Daniel was of no slight benefit to those miserable exiles; for even if he lived under cruel tyrants, yet he had some authority remaining, and this enabled him to alleviate many of the sufferings of his nation. God, therefore, was consulting the advantage of the whole people, when he desired Daniel to proceed in the course of his usual duties. Besides this, he wished to confer upon him the extraordinary gift of prophecy, an endowment, as I have said, peculiar to Daniel. It now follows, —
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Daniel 8". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30