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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

Daniel

- Daniel

by Charles John Ellicott

THE BOOK OF DANIEL.

Daniel.

BY
THE REV. H. DEANE, B.D.,

Fellow of St. John’s College, Oxford.

INTRODUCTION
TO
THE BOOK OF DANIEL.

I. Personal history of Daniel.—Of the personal history of this great seer nothing is known beyond what is recorded of him in the Book of Daniel. Being apparently of royal descent (Daniel 1:3), and when still a youth, he was taken to Babylon captive by Nebuchadnezzar in the fourth year of Jehoiakim. As history does not state that he ever revisited his native land, it is highly probable that he continued in the East from the year of his exile till the third year of Cyrus, which is the last date mentioned in the book. Here his position and his well-known character, no doubt, enabled him to render much aid to his fellow-countrymen, whether at home or in exile.

During this long period he had witnessed the marvellous and rapid growth of the Babylonian empire under Nebuchadnezzar. He then watched the gradual decay of this mighty empire after the decease of its founder; he saw the final collapse of it, and witnessed the first beginning of the Persian supremacy, under which, as well as during the short period that a Median viceroy presided over Babylonia, he probably maintained the high position which he had filled during his younger days. The date of his death, like that of his birth, is unknown, but his prophetic activity must have lasted over seventy years. The first of the exiles himself, he lived to see the return of the Jews under Zerubbabel, and to hear of the opposition offered by the Samaritans to the progress of the works at Jerusalem. His fame spread among the exiles who resided in remoter parts of the Babylonian empire, and one of these, the prophet Ezekiel, mentions his wisdom (Ezekiel 28:3), and hints at his intercession (Ezekiel 14:14) for the lives of certain persons. (See Daniel 2:24.)

II. Authorship of the Book of Daniel.—The Book of Daniel is anonymous. No title is prefixed to it such as appears in the case of the books of Isaiah or Jeremiah. It begins abruptly with the statement of a historical fact connected with the reign of Jehoiakim. It then proceeds to state certain incidents that occurred in the lives of Daniel and of his three friends; it then gives an account of various visions and revelations which God gave to the seer; and concludes with the solemn words, “Thou shalt rest and stand in thy lot at the end of days” (Daniel 12:13). In no place is it definitely stated that the author of the book was Daniel himself.

A closer inspection of the book, however, brings to light a remarkable feature in it. Throughout the first six chapters Daniel is invariably spoken of in the third person. Throughout the last six chapters, with three exceptions, Daniel invariably speaks of himself in the first person. Hence a conclusion might be drawn that we have traces of two authors, a biographer and an autobiographer, and that the book is a compilation taken from the two sources. But is such a conclusion justifiable?

Apparently not. For throughout the last six chapters Daniel claims to have seen certain visions, and to have received certain revelations; a vision of four beasts (Daniel 7:0), which represented four kingdoms, three of which the reader has to identify for himself; a vision of two beasts (Daniel 8:0), which, according to the words of the heavenly messenger, represented the Medo-Persian and the Greek empires; a revelation of a period of seventy weeks (Daniel 9:0), which were closely connected with the destiny of his people; and, finally, a revelation concerning certain events which were to occur after the dissolution of the Greek empire. Each of these visions and revelations is introduced to the reader respectively by the words, “I saw in my vision,” “a vision appeared unto me,” “I understood by books,” “I lifted up mine eyes and looked.” It is obvious, therefore, that the last six chapters claim to have been composed by Daniel.

But we notice a remarkable correspondence between the first six and the last six chapters. Each chapter of the former series is a prelude to the latter series. The whole of the first series is essential to render the latter series intelligible. Again, the writer of each series is equally familiar with Hebrew and Chaldee. The same peculiar phrases and forms of language, some of them being exceedingly rare, may be noticed in each series. It is highly improbable that a work which is written upon so definite a plan, which has, moreover, such complete uniformity of style, should be the work of more than one author. If then the author of the latter part was a man named Daniel, it is reasonable to suppose that the former part was written by the same Daniel. In fact, the change from the third to the first person no more disproves that Daniel was the author of the whole work, than a similar alteration of persons in Jeremiah 24:1; Jeremiah 25:1, proves that Jeremiah wrote the former but not the latter chapter. It may then be assumed that the whole book claims to have been written by Daniel.

III. Date of authorship of the Book of Daniel.—Let it be granted that there was only one author of the book, and this is now almost universally acknowledged, it remains to make an approximation to the period when it was composed. And first we must examine what the author states about himself. He claims to have “continued” (Daniel 1:21) from the time of Nebuchadnezzar to the first year of Cyrus, and also (Daniel 10:1) to have received a revelation from God in the third year of Cyrus. He thus gives the extreme limits within which his activity continued. He adds that he was appointed by Nebuchadnezzar “to be ruler over the whole province of Babylon” (Daniel 2:48). He was employed at court in the third year of Belshazzar (Daniel 8:27), and on the night when Belshazzar was slain became “third ruler in the kingdom” (Daniel 5:29). Some similar position he occupied during the obscure reign of Darius the Mede (Daniel 6:3). From what the author states of himself we gather that he lived chiefly under the Babylonian empire.

The internal evidence of the book bears this out. The author exhibits a very minute acquaintance with Babylon. He is aware of the three classes of magicians (Daniel 2:2), who are known from external sources to have existed in Babylon. He knows the magician’s phraseology “dissolving of doubts” (Daniel 5:12); their theology, which recognised “gods whose dwelling is not with flesh” (Daniel 2:11); and the sacred character of Babylonian numbers (Daniel 3:1; Daniel 3:19). Besides other smaller points, he is acquainted with Babylonian dress (Daniel 3:21), and Babylonian punishments (Daniel 2:5; Daniel 3:6). Minute particulars like these, recorded as they are casually and parenthetically, betray an author living in Babylon.

His knowledge of Persia is very slight. He does not even profess to have lived later than Cyrus, and consequently he only knew Persia, as it were, in her infancy. He was only aware of three Persian kings after Cyrus (Daniel 11:2), instead of a series of monarchs whose united reigns extended over nearly two hundred years. He was aware of the existence of Greece, and claims to have received a revelation that the power of Greece would overthrow the Persian empire, and that the Greek empire would only last during the reign of the first king. But he is uninformed of the important stages by which the Persian empire was dissolved and superseded by the Grecian.

Of historical events that occurred after the establishment of the Greek empire he knows still less. It is revealed to him that the Greek empire would finally be divided into four parts, and perhaps also that two of these should materially influence the fortunes of his people; but it is remarkable that there is an absence of anything like minute accuracy in the delineation of many of the most important events of this time. While certain events, such as the wars of Ptolemy Philopator and Antiochus the Great, or the persecutions in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, may perhaps be pointed out, yet other events of great importance are omitted, such as the Maccabee wars, and others are described in such a way as is not recorded in history, such as the death of Antiochus. (See Notes on Daniel 11:0)

It appears then that the internal evidence, slight though it is, favours the hypothesis that the author lived in the Babylonian period rather than later. Difficulties have to be encountered under any hypothesis as to the date of the authorship of the book, but those that are involved in the hypothesis of an early date are the least formidable. (See below, § 6.)
Another fact deserves notice. The author, though not claiming the title of prophet, and not anywhere styled as such in the Old Testament, yet claims to have received certain revelations from God. If therefore he was desirous that his book should be received by his contemporaries, he must have lived at a time when the gift of prediction, or the spirit of prophecy, was still extant. But this gift was extinct in the times of Ezra and Nehemiah. It is therefore necessary to place the author of the book of Daniel at an earlier period: it would certainly be inconsistent with the Maccabee times to suppose that so great a seer as Daniel could have then existed, for, according to the trustworthy historian of those times, the people then complained of the entire absence of prophets. (1Ma. 4:45-46; 1Ma. 9:27; 1Ma. 14:41.)

The external evidence bearing upon the date of the book of Daniel is very slight. We know that it existed in the first century of the Christian era, from the evident allusions to it in Matthew 24:15, John 5:28, Matthew 13:43. (Comp. Daniel 9:27; Daniel 12:2-3.) These references, and the words of our Saviour (Luke 21:27, where He refers to Daniel 7:13), are sufficient for those who believe in His divinity to establish the authority of the book.

To the testimony of the New Testament must be added that of Josephus. He cites largely from the Book of Daniel, and states that the author was favoured by God as one of the greatest of prophets, that his writings were then read, and that it might be inferred that Daniel had converse with God (Ant. x. 11, 7). Josephus states still further that Daniel not only foretold the future as other prophets had done, but that he defined the time when the events should occur. (See also Ant. x. 8, § 5.)

At least 150 years previous to Josephus, if not earlier, we find references to the book of Daniel as a work already in existence. In three passages of the work already referred to (1Ma. 1:54; 1Ma. 9:27; 1Ma. 9:40) there appears to be a verbal allusion to the Greek version of Daniel 9:27; Daniel 12:1; Daniel 11:27, while it is hard to read the speech of Mattathias (1Ma. 2:49) without seeing references to the language in which Daniel spoke of the coming tribulation; and not only is the example of Daniel mentioned (1Ma. 2:60), but also the story of the three holy children is alluded to as one that was well known. It is highly improbable that a book of recent origin should have acquired so great a notoriety. And on the other hand, as there is no other known source of the story of Daniel except the book of Daniel, it is highly probable that if the story was known B.C. 167, the book must have existed also.

Unfortunately we are unable to find any earlier traces of the book. There are hardly any fragments remaining of Hebrew literature which belong to the period intervening between the last book in the Old Testament canon and the book of Maccabees. We are therefore led back to the times of Daniel himself, and then we find a man named Daniel mentioned by Ezekiel, who corresponds (see § 1) with the Daniel who claims to be the author of this book.
It must be remembered that very little is known of Hebrew literature or of Jewish history from the time of Nehemiah down to the Maccabee period. It is therefore impossible to give a series of authorities who bear witness to the existence of the book of Daniel up to the earliest times, and so to give a rigid demonstration of the date of the book. The following facts. however, have been stated above. (1) The Book of Daniel claims to have been written by a man named Daniel. (2) This Daniel was intimately acquainted with Babylon and many customs of Babylon. (3) He was much less acquainted with Persia. (4) He betrays still less knowledge of the Greek empire and of the Seleucidæ. (5) He lived at a time when the spirit of prophecy was extant. (6) The Book of Daniel was known B.C. 167. (7) Previous to the year B.C. 167 there is a blank of nearly 250 years in Jewish literature, but one of the latest Jewish authors, Ezekiel, was acquainted with a man named Daniel, who corresponds with the person who claims to be the author of the Book of Daniel.

IV. Place of the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament Canon.—The Book of Daniel, though placed in the English Version after that of Ezekiel, and reckoned among “four prophets the greater” (Art. vi.), yet occupies a very different position in the Hebrew canon. It is there placed among the Hagiographa, or sacred writings, immediately before the Book of Ezra, and not in the collection of prophetical books. This is to be accounted for by the following reasons. (1) The Hebrew prophet had a special function to fulfil under the Theocracy. He was the authorised teacher of the people. This was his special task, and it was only incidentally that he predicted the future. The prophet was essentially the preacher of righteousness to the generation amidst which he lived, and it was God’s will that in every instance simple prediction should be a subordinate function. But the case of Daniel is just the reverse. He appears before us as one that reveals the hidden future, rather than as a preacher. This is apparent by a reference to Daniel 4:20-27; Daniel 5:17-28, where it will be noticed that while predicting the future he inculcates a moral lesson. This great difference between Daniel and a prophet strictly so-called will partly account for the position of the book in the Hebrew canon. But (2) not only is Daniel a prophet in an improper sense, but the style and matter of his predictions are totally different from those of other prophets. The reader of the Book of Daniel may be compared to a person looking down a long gallery hung transversely with curtains, on which are painted different scenes, and as curtain after curtain is drawn aside the scene behind it is unveiled to his view, till at last he sees the picture at the end. In this way the writings of Daniel are apocalyptic rather than predictive. He presents the future in a series of enigmatic pictures rather than in enigmatic language. But it is not only in style that his writings differ from those of the prophets—the subject matter which he reveals is of a different nature also. While the Holy Spirit limits for the most part the prediction of the prophets to the Captivity, and to the Messiah who is to come after the close of the Captivity, Daniel mentions the Captivity and the overthrow of Jerusalem only once, and taking this as his point of view, predicts that before the coming of the Messiah Israel has to undergo another period of tribulation. The first impression produced upon the reader by the words of the prophets is that after the return from the Exile a golden age will ensue. Daniel foretells the golden age, but places it in the remote future, and mentions a further probation of Israel, which must occur before the commencement of that epoch. It may be inferred that the great difference in matter and style between the Book of Daniel and the prophetical books, strictly so called, led the men of the Great Synagogue to “write Daniel” in a different collection from that in which they inserted the twelve prophets.

V. Object of the Book of Daniel.—The Book of Daniel has more than one aim. (1) In the first place it is essential to complete the continuity of revelation. At the time of the Exile the Israelite had before him the Law, the Prophets, and the Sacred Books so far as they had been received into the canon. These were sufficient to teach him the will of God, the certainty of the return from the Exile, and the coming of the Messiah. But, as was stated above, it might have been supposed that the Messianic days were to appear immediately after the return from the Exile. The book of Daniel corrects this impression, and prepares Israel for the period that is to intervene between the close of the Captivity and the advent of the Messiah. Those glorious days cannot come till a period has passed far darker than any that has been as yet known. In fact, just as the writings of Isaiah and Jeremiah led the Israelite to expect a captivity, so those of Daniel prompted him to look for a period of persecution after the return from the Exile; but at the same time they comforted him with the assurance that the duration of the persecution would be no greater than what the mercy of God would enable His servants to bear. The examples of the three holy children and of Daniel would encourage them, and the words of Daniel would comfort the Israelite in his martyrdom, as the persecuted Christian derived hope from the Saviour’s sentence, “Behold I have told you before” (Matthew 24:25). (2) But, secondly, the Book of Daniel had a very distinct object to fulfil amidst the generation in which it was written. Israel was in captivity. Her last hope at Jerusalem—the temple—was destroyed. Must it not have been a temptation to the sufferer to think that God’s promises had proved false? And even though Jeremiah had foretold a return from the Captivity at the end of seventy years: if God’s promises to King Solomon had failed, Israel might argue, why should not Jeremiah’s prophecy fail as well? Accordingly the Book of Daniel shows by what means the hopes of God’s people were sustained. The two great miracles recorded in the Book proved that God was as close to His people in Babylon as He had been at Jerusalem or in the temple. They are led to believe that He is still with them, and that He will deliver them from Babylon as He did of old from Egypt. In this way the object of the Book of Daniel was to support Israel in times of doubt and despair. (3) A further purpose of the Book may be noticed. It will be remembered that there was a considerable amount of missionary zeal among the Hebrew prophets. Not only were there instances when men like Jonah were specially sent to preach righteousness to the Gentiles, but occasionally, in the ordinary course of their ministry, the prophets addressed nations who were outside the covenant. The Book of Daniel exhibits this missionary character. We know that it was a general belief among eastern nations that when a neighbouring tribe was conquered, its gods were conquered as well. Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar both held this opinion. They thought that when Jerusalem fell Bel-Merodach had conquered Jehovah. If we may take an inference from some of the Psalms, it appears that the children of the Captivity were taunted about the weakness of their God; the enemy are described as “blaspheming God’s name,” and asking, in mocking triumph, “Where is now their God?” The Book of Daniel shows us how God made Himself known to the Babylonians, how He asserted His own power, and how in the end the king himself was brought to own the sovereign authority of Jehovah. It may therefore be said that the object of the Book of Daniel is (1) to supply a missing link in the chain of the continuity of revelation; (2) to support Israel amidst the doubts and fears occasioned by the Exile; (3) to reveal to a polytheistic nation the eternal power of the One true God.

VI. Objections to the authenticity of the Book of Daniel.—The objections to the early date of the Book of Daniel are weighty and numerous, and require more space for discussion than can here be given. They depend partly on the language, and partly on the history recorded in the book. It is asserted that (1) many names in the Book of Daniel are not of Babylonian origin, while some betray a very late date, showing that the writer must have lived as late as the Macedonian period. The proper names which are stated to be of non-Babylonian origin are Ashpenaz and Hamelsar; while neither Shadrach nor Meshach have as yet been found in Babylonian inscriptions. Nothing, however, as to the date of the Book can be inferred from these words. All that is proved by them amounts to nothing more than that certain exotic words were prevalent in Babylonia during Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, just as French and German words occasionally appear among us in an English garb. Further difficulty in identifying these names is caused by the difficulty of transliterating foreign words into Hebrew characters. Again (2) the derivation of the name Belteshazzar (ch. 4:8), has been stated to be erroneous. It must be remembered, however, that the authority for this statement is the king himself, who, perhaps, did not excel in philology so much as he did in military tactics. Another word, saknu, is stated to be used in a wrong sense. Whereas the word really denotes a high civil officer, it is used in ch. 2:48 to mean an arch magician. On this point, as well as on the presence of Greek words, we must defer our judgment till we have more evidence before us. The principal historical difficulties are with regard to Belshazzar and Darius the Mede. The latter is spoken of as son of Ahasuerus. Now if by Ahasuerus is meant Xerxes, and by Darius the Mede Darius Hystaspis, the author has fallen into a considerable chronological error; but as neither of the two kings has been as yet identified, the inconsistency is only assumed. We know from Esther 1:1 that there was more than one Ahasuerus, and Greek tradition knows of more than one Darius. It is possible that Darius, like Sargon, may some day be brought to light unexpectedly, and then the difficulty about the satraps (ch. vi. 1) may find a solution. The difficulty with regard to Belshazzar is not insuperable. (See Excursus C.) We know that Nabonidus had a son named Belshazzar, and that Maruduk-sarra-usur (probably Belshazzar) was the last king of Babylon. When the queen speaks of Nebuchadnezzar as being Belshazzar’s father, the words are not to be taken literally. That Daniel lived at a late date has also been inferred from the absence of his name in the list of worthies mentioned in Sir. 44:1. It is not plain upon what principles exactly the list was drawn up. It is certainly surprising that the names of Ezra, Mordecai, and Esther should be omitted. It appears as if the writer selected the names from the books of the Law and the Prophets, and then mentioned Nehemiah (Sir. 49:13) as the most noteworthy saint that is recorded in the Hagiographa. Of course Ezra or Daniel would seem more naturally mentioned instead of Nehemiah; but the writer had his own peculiar views, and omitted both names. But objections of this nature are of no value, compared to those which are to be drawn from the language and history contained in the Book of Daniel. In the course of time it is possible that further discoveries will be made, which will make us as well acquainted with the period of the Exile as with the reigns of Ahaz and Hezekiah. Till then, we must suspend a hasty judgment pronouncing this Book to be “obviously” of a later date.

CHRONOLOGICAL TABLES, ILLUSTRATIVE OF THE PROPHECIES OF DANIEL.

B.C.
605.

Deportation of Daniel.

604.

First Year of Nebuchadnezzar.

598.

Submission of Jehoiakim.

597.

Deportation of Jehoiachin. Reign of Zedekiah commences.

593.

Rebellion of Zedekiah. Date of Ezekiel 1-7

592.

Date of Ezekiel 8-19.

591.

Date of Ezekiel 20-23.

590.

War of Cyaxares with Alyattes.

389.

Nebuchadnezzar comes to Riblah. Date of Ezekiel 24-25.

588.

Date of Ezekiel 29:1-16.

587.

Fall of Jerusalem. Capture of Zedekiah. Date of Ezekiel 26-28, Ezekiel 30:20-26; Ezekiel 31:0.

586.

Siege of Tyre resumed. Ezekiel 32-34, 35 (?), 36-39 (?)

582.

Deportation of Jews, mentioned Jeremiah 52:20 (Nebuchadnezzar’s 23rd year).

B.C.
577.

Probable Capture of Tyre.

573.

Date of Ezekiel 40-48.

571.

Date of Ezekiel 29:17 to Ezekiel 30:20.

562.

Death of Nebuchadnezzar. Evil Merodach.

561.

Release of Jehoiachin, aged 55.

560.

Murder of Evil Merodach. Neriglissar or Nergal-Sharezer.

559.

Accession of Cyrus to the Median Empire.

556.

Laborosoarchod. Nabonidus.

541.

Probable date of Daniel 7:0 Belshazzar’s 1st year (?)

539.

Date of Daniel 8:0 (?) Fall of Babylon, Daniel 5:0. Dariuo the Mede. Date of Daniel 9:0.

538.

First year of Cyrus according to the Scripture reckoning. Return of the Jews under Zerubbabel.

537.

Foundation Stone of the Temple laid.

536.

Samaritan Opposition. Date of Daniel 10-12.

GENEALOGICAL TABLE OF THE PTOLEMIES AND SELEUCIDÆ, ILLUSTRATIVE OF THE LAST THREE CHAPTERS OF THE PROPHET DANIEL.

Click image for full-size version

*** It must be noticed that only the principal characters are inserted in the above genealogy, and also that the application of them to the passages in Daniel rests upon only one system of interpretation.

EXCURSUS ON NOTES TO DANIEL.
EXCURSUS A: THE BABYLONIAN FORM OF GOVERNMENT.

IN the Babylonian records hitherto deciphered very few government officials are mentioned. Of military officers we find generals spoken of, and of civil officers, judges. If we bear in mind that the object of the inscriptions was to magnify the king rather than to give an account of the internal social organisation of the country, we shall not find much difficulty in accounting for the silence with which state officials are treated. Enough, however, remains of an ancient inscription some centuries earlier than Daniel (see Trans. Soc. Bibl. Arch., vol. 1 p. 31) to show that the government of the country was carried on by “viceroys” and “rulers.” None of the names of the state officials mentioned by Daniel are etymologically connected with these, nor, strange to say, have any traces been found in the inscriptions of Nebuchadnezzar of the three state officers mentioned by Jeremiah—Rab-Mag, Rab-Saris, Sar-Sechim.

It remains for us, in the face of this silence, to trace out as far as possible from Daniel’s language what was the form of government at Babylon in his days. He mentions:—(1) Princes. This is apparently a Persian word, which in Greek takes the form of satrap. It occurs again in Daniel 6:1, &c.; Ezra 8:36; Esther 3:12. As the name implies, these persons were guardians of the subject kingdoms, and representatives of the monarch. They are called “kings” (Isaiah 10:8), and with respect to them the monarch is called “king of kings” (Ezekiel 26:7). (2) Governors, also of Persian derivation, meaning commanders. From the position of the word (Jeremiah 51:57), between “captains” and “mighty men,” it appears that they were military officers. (3) Captains, also a Persian word, though occurring as early as 1 Kings 10:15. The position of these officials at Babylon is known from Jeremiah 51:57, Ezekiel 23:6; Ezekiel 23:23. In Persian times the title is given to the rulers of Palestine (Nehemiah 5:14), or to the governors of Persian provinces (Esther 3:12). They were subordinate to the “princes,” their functions being civil rather than military. (4) Judges, apparently from a Semitic root, meaning “to decree.” The word does not occur elsewhere, but if the etymology is correct it must mean literally “a decider.” (5) Treasurers, a Persian word connected with the same root as the word “gaza.” (6) Counsellors, connected with a Persian word meaning “law,” which is found in the books of Daniel and Esther. (7) Sheriffs, a Semitic word, apparently formed from a root which signifies “to give just sentence.” (8) Rulers, a Semitic word, the root of which is frequently found in Hebrew, whence also the modern word “Sultan” is derived.

It appears that of the eight classes of officers mentioned by Daniel, seven may be arranged in three groups: (1) provincial rulers; (2) home ministers; (3) legal advisers. The last class, the “rulers,” may perhaps comprehend the three classes already mentioned, or else may denote the subordinate rulers in each province.

These groups may be arranged as follows:—(1) Provincial officers, consisting of princes, governors, and captains. It appears as if the officers are arranged in descending order of magnitude; and first is placed the superior officer who administered the affairs of the province. As was observed above, under the Assyrian rule he was called a king, and as Daniel applies to Nebuchadnezzar the title of king of kings (Daniel 2:37), it is probable that the same custom prevailed in Babylon. He seems, therefore, to correspond to the “viceroy” who is mentioned in the ancient inscription cited above. Although the name of this officer was applied in Persian times to the satrap, it appears that under the Babylonian empire the person thus designated held a higher position than the Persian satrap. After the prince comes the governor, who, being a military man, stands to the prince in the same position as the commander of an army does to the governor of a colony. His duties were entirely secular, the only evidence to the contrary being the use of the word “governor” in Daniel 2:48. The last in authority is the captain. He most closely resembles the Persian satrap, as his office appears to be of a civil rather than of a military character. Thus far it appears that the Babylonian government was carried on by viceroys, who were each responsible to the king alone; but each viceroy had civil and military officers subordinate and responsible to himself. (2) The home ministers appear in two classes only, the “judges” and the “treasurers.” As stated above, the first of these is only mentioned in this passage, so that apart from the etymology it is impossible to infer what his duties may have been. However, paying regard to this, he seems to have performed all those duties which now fall to the share of the vizier. In home as opposed to foreign affairs, there must always have been some persons with whom lay the final appeal in all civil causes. Such, in all probability, were these judges. The “treasurers,” who are associated with the judges, were connected with the fiscal department of the administration. They would be required to examine the correctness of the revenues paid into the treasury by the provincial collectors, and perhaps a later development of their office may be traced in the royal scribe who was sent every year from the capital to inquire into the state of the province, so as to secure the allegiance of the satrap. (3) The legal advisers consist of “counsellors” and “sheriffs.” The “counsellor” was evidently the man “learned in the law.” In such a case as the decree of Nebuchadnezzar his advice would be necessary to secure due formality in the decree. The “sheriff,” in accordance with the supposed derivation of the word, was the officer entrusted with the administration of justice and pronouncing of sentences. According to this view, these two classes of officers represent the theoretical and practical lawyer, the law-maker and the executer of the law, or perhaps the civil and the criminal judge.

EXCURSUS B: THE MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS MENTIONED IN Daniel 3:0.

THE Babylonians as a nation appear to have been remarkably fond of music. Isaiah (Isaiah 14:11) speaks of the noise of the viols of Babylon as forming part of her pomp, and it may be presumed that the desire of the Babylonians to hear some of the strains of Zion (Psalms 137:2-3) was not uttered in mockery, but from a genuine wish, such as all persons have who really care for music at all, to hear the melodies of foreign countries. Further evidence is afforded by sculptures, which represent various musical instruments and considerable bands of performers.

Whence the Babylonian music was originally derived is not known, though probably we must look to Egypt as the source; but it may be asserted that whatever was not indigenous to Babylonia itself must have come from the same sources whence articles of commerce were acquired. At the time of Daniel, Babylon held commerce in the west with Egypt and Tyre. By means of both these lines of commerce Babylon was brought into contact with Greece, the great mistress of art in the sixth century B.C. And as we find traces among the Greek instruments of the Semitic Nabla and Kinura, it seems, à priori, highly probable that some of the Greek instruments should have found their way to Tyre, and to Egypt, and then penetrated to Babylon.

For many years previous to Nebuchadnezzar there had been considerable communication between Greece and the East. We know that 300 years earlier Sargon made Javan or Greece tributary. The statue of this king found at Idalium proves that he conquered the Greek colony of Cyprus. His son Sennacherib, we know, was engaged in war with Greeks in Cilicia. His grandson, Esarhaddon, had Greeks fighting on his side during his Asian campaign. It would be very remarkable if, during the many years throughout which Greece and Assyria were brought into connection, the musical instruments of the one nation should not have become known to the other. And if Assyria acquired Greek musical instruments, what is more probable than that many years before Nebuchadnezzar’s time they were known in Babylon?
The connection between Greece and the East did not cease with the fall of the Assyrian empire. In the army of Nebuchadnezzar we find serving as soldier the brother of the poet Alcæus, and a few lines are extant in which this great lyric writer welcomes home his brother from the Babylonian campaign. The historical notices of these times are very scanty, so that it is not easy to demonstrate the extent of Greek commerce in the sixth century B.C., but the facts mentioned above give us strong grounds for supposing that at an early period there was an interchange of musical instruments between the East and the West, and with the instruments would pass their names, which in the course of time would become more or less corrupted as the people who adopted them found it hard or easy to pronounce and transliterate the words.
We should expect therefore, à priori, in any list of Babylonian instruments, to find some of the names of Semitic, some of Greek extraction, and some of very doubtful etymology. This is precisely what we find in the book of Daniel. Of the names of the six instruments mentioned, two are undoubtedly of Semitic origin, one if not two are Greek, one is uncertain, while the sixth is perhaps not an instrument at all, though the word is undoubtedly Greek.

The instruments that have Semitic names are the “cornet” and the “flute.” They are both of great antiquity. The former is frequently found in the reliefs which represent military scenes, and the mention of it in this chapter is probably to be accounted for by the fact that the army was present.
The instruments which appear to have been derived from Greece are the “harp” and the “psaltery.” The former is frequently represented in the reliefs, possessing strings in number from three upwards. The psaltery is of uncertain etymology, but looks like a Greek word. The context requires a word to denote “cymbals,” which occur very frequently in the sculptures, and do not readily find an equivalent among the instruments mentioned by David.
What the “sackbut” may have been must be left undecided. It is true that a word sambuca occurs in Greek, but it is of foreign extraction.

The “dulcimer,” sûmphonia in the Chaldee, is probably not the name of a musical instrument, but means a “concerted piece of music.” The passages upon which it has been inferred that the sûmphonia was an instrument are Polyb. xxvi. 10, § 5, Athen. x. 53 (near the end); neither passage, however, is conclusive.

EXCURSUS C: BELSHAZZAR (Daniel 5:0).

Before any opinion can be pronounced upon the identification of this king with other known kings, the following questions require an answer. In Daniel 5:11, Are the words to be taken literally, and explained to mean that Belshazzar was Nebuchadnezzar’s own son? In Ezekiel 48:13, Does Belshazzar claim Nebuchadnezzar to be his father? (Comp. Ezekiel 48:18; Ezekiel 48:22.) And lastly, Is it stated in Ezekiel 48:30 that the Chaldean Empire passed over into the hands of the Medes and Persians? or is it only implied that an insurrection occurred in the town where the events recorded in Daniel 5:0 occurred, and that after the murder of Belshazzar a Median prince, called Darius, was made king in his stead?

Scripture affords us very little assistance in answering any of the above questions. The only fact which we know from the Bible about Belshazzar is that he reigned at least three years. This appears from the headings of Daniel 7:8.

If we adhere to the literal sense of the words (Daniel 5:11), it follows that Belshazzar was the son and immediate successor of Nebuchadnezzar. But when we come to examine what is known from other sources about the posterity of Nebuchadnezzar, we find no such name as Belshazzar given to his immediate successor. Evil Merodach came to the throne upon the death of his father (Jeremiah 52:31); but the fact that he had a brother named Belshazzar rests on no other authority than the interpretation which Eusebius gave of the story in Daniel. Herodotus knows nothing of Belshazzar or of Nebuchadnezzar. He mentions only two Babylonian princes, both of whom were named Labynetus (probably Nabonidus). One of these was the husband of Nitocris, and erected some of the most stately buildings in Babylon; the other was a son of hers, in whose reign Cyrus took Babylon.

The fragments of Berosus and Abydenus, and the Canon of Ptolemy, confirm the Scriptural account, according to which Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded by Evil Merodach. They add that after a “lawless and lustful reign,” Evil Merodach was murdered in a con. spiracy led by Neriglissar. Neriglissar reigned four years, and was succeeded by his son Laborosoarchod, who was soon murdered. Then Nabonidus, one of the conspirators, usurped the throne, which he held for eighteen years, when, upon the assault of Babvlon by Cyrus, he was taken prisoner at Borsippa, where he had fled for safety. It seems impossible to identify Belshazzar with any of these. If he was the same as Evil Merodach, then Darius the Mede and Neriglissar must have been the same person, which is impossible. Similar difficulties prevent us from identifying him with Laborosoarchod, so that the ancient fragments do not help us to arrive at any conclusion.
Babylonian inscriptions, however, speak of a certain Bel-sar-usur as the son of Nabonidus. An inscription (Records of the Past, vol. v., p. 147) concludes with a prayer of Nabonidus, praying the moon to preserve “his eldest son, the offspring of his body, Bel-sar-usur.” Thus the existence of Belshazzar is unquestionable, though no inscription hitherto discovered speaks of him as king. However, the name of the last king of Babylon was Maruduk-sarra-usur, which is not unlike Belshazzar.

Still more recent discoveries have been made, and in the inscription of Cyrus we find that he mentions his taking Babylon without bloodshed, and states that Nabonidus was taken prisoner. He also mentions that the king’s son—probably Belshazzar—was at Accad, “with his great men and soldiers,” in the same year as the capture of Babylon, and that the men of Accad raised a revolt. Farther on in the inscription, which is much mutilated, a statement is made, “and the king died. From the seventh of the month Adar unto the third day of the month Nisan there was weeping in Accad.” Now, according to the last mention made of Nabonidus in this inscription, he was taken bound to Babylon. It is highly probable, therefore, that the king who died at Accad was the “king’s son” mentioned in an earlier part of the inscription. May it not be conjectured that this was Belshazzar, and that the scene described in Daniel 5:0 occurred at Accad, and not at Babylon? Further discoveries may throw light upon this point.

Ancient opinions about Belshazzar are various. Ephraim Syrus, the earliest writer on Daniel whose commentary has come down to us complete, states that he was son of Nebuchadnezzar, and wisely refrains from further attempts at identification. St. Jerome, a little later, identifies him with Laborosoarchod, cautioning the reader against supposing that he was son of Nebuchadnezzar. Theodoret, adhering to the literal sense of Daniel, supposes him to have been the younger brother of Evil Merodach. The opinion of St. Jerome is supported by Havernick, Hengstenberg, and Keil; Kranichfeld, Zöckler, and Zündel believe in the identity of Belshazzar and Evil Merodach; Dr. Pusey, Delitzsch, Schrader, and the two most recent of English commentators, identify him with his father, Nabonidus, or assume that he was appointed co-regent with his father.

EXCURSUS D: DARIUS THE MEDE (Daniel 5:31).

It appears from the account given by Daniel that Darius the Mede was the sovereign appointed to rule over Babylonia after the death of Belshazzar. Cyrus, after the capture of Babylon, appointed a man named Gubaru (Gobryas) as his governor at Babylon. Can he and Darius the Mede be the same person? It is impossible to identify Darius with any personage mentioned in profane history, and hitherto no traces of any such name have been found in Babylonian inscriptions belonging to this period. Till time or circumstances shall give further information, we must maintain that a book like Daniel’s, which is correct on many minor points, cannot fail to be accurate upon the subject of Darius.

Difficulties were experienced at a very early time in reference to this subject. The LXX., assuming that Ahasuerus (Daniel 9:1) was Xerxes, identified him with Artaxerxes. The opinion of Josephus is that Darius (Antt. x. 11, § 4) and his kinsman Cyrus destroyed the supremacy of Babylon; and at the fall of the capital, this Darius, son of Astyages, took Daniel with him to Media, and placed him in an exalted situation. St. Jerome agrees to this relationship between Cyrus and Darius. St. Ephraim is silent; but Theodoret goes further, and identifies Darius with Cyaxares, son of Astyages. In modern times the identity of Darius with Cyaxares II. has been strongly maintained, though without paying sufficient attention to the very slight evidence in favour of the existence of the latter. The identification of Darius with Astyages has an obvious refutation, for in B.C. 536 Astyages would have exceeded the age ascribed to Darius by Daniel (Daniel 5:31).

It is evident from history that Cyrus was the immediate conqueror of Babylon, and that no Median Empire came between the Babylonian and the Persian Empires. It is also clear that Daniel regards Darius as one who “received the kingdom” (Daniel 5:31), and who “was made king” (Daniel 9:1). If the word Darius means “a maintainor,” all that is mentioned in this chapter amounts to no more than the statement that a Median governor took the kingdom.” How. ever, the use of the word (Daniel 9:1) requires the name of a person rather than an office.

EXCURSUS E: THE FOUR KINGDOMS (Daniel 2:7).

In the notes upon the parallel, though supplementary, vision contained in Daniel 2:7 attention has been directed to each of the four empires which has hitherto governed the world. It has been explained in the notes that these four empires are the Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, the Græco-Macedonian, and the Roman. The fourth empire in each case is succeeded by the kingdom of the Messiah, which in Daniel 2:0 is symbolised by a stone, but in Daniel 7:27 is described more clearly as the “kingdom of the people of the saints of the Most High.” This view of the four kingdoms is found in the early part of the second century A.D. maintained by the author of the epistle of Barnabas, who speaks of the ten kingdoms (Barn., Ep. iv. 4, 5) foretold by Daniel as then existing, and of the fourth beast as then reigning. The fragments of St. Hippolytus show that the same opinion prevailed in the Church a century later. The longer ecclesiastical commentaries of St. Jerome and Theodoret maintain the same opinion, which has been followed in modern times, with some modifications, by a large number of commentators.

A second view, of great antiquity, is mentioned by Porphyry, who flourished in the third century. His opinion coincided with the interpretation just mentioned up to a certain point. He made the panther, or third beast, represent Alexander the Great; but the fourth beast, according to him, meant the four successors of Alexander. He then enumerated up to the time of Antiochus Epiphanes those kings whom he conceived to have been most remarkable for persecuting God’s people in the times of the Ptolemies and Seleucidæ, and ultimately identified the little horn with Antiochus Epiphanes, in whose time he believed the Book of Daniel to have been written. This view has not been without support in recent times.
A third view, which has antiquity to support it, is due in the first instance to St. Ephraim Syrus, according to whose teaching the four kingdoms are the Babylonian, the Median, the Persian, and the Greek. He is careful, however, to point out that the fulfilment which the prophecy received in the times of the Maccabees is only typical of a further fulfilment to be expected in the last days. It exceeds the limit of a note to trace the origin of this opinion in the Syrian Church, and the development of it in modern times. It is sufficient to observe that, like Porphyry’s interpretation, it limits the horizon of the prophet chiefly to the Greek period.

This view, which, more or less modified, finds many adherents in the present day, rests upon the identification of the little horn in Daniel 7:8, with the little horn in Daniel 8:9. If Antiochus is the horn of Daniel 8:0, why should he not be hinted at in Daniel 7:0? and if so, why should not the goat (Daniel 8:5), which is known (Daniel 8:21) to be the kingdom of Greece, be identical with the fourth beast of Daniel 7:0? It is then argued that the period of persecution hinted at in Daniel 7:25 coincides with that which is mentioned in Daniel 9:27, being half a week, or three days and a half, and that the same measure of time occurs in Daniel 12:7. Is it possible, it is asked, that these similar measures of time represent different events? Again, it is observed that there is no interval mentioned as occurring between the last times and the times of the persecutions mentioned in Daniel 7:8, Daniel 7:10-12, and also that the words in which Antiochus is predicted (Daniel 8:19) are spoken of as the “last end of indignation” and “the end.” This is stated to support the view that the predictions of Daniel are limited by the times of Antiochus.

On these grounds the persecution mentioned in Daniel 7:25 is supposed to be that of Antiochus. The Greek Empire is represented by the fourth beast, while the second and third beasts represent the Median and the Persian Empires respectively. But here the question arises, Are there any grounds for believing that Daniel intended to speak of a distinct Median Empire? The passages alleged in support are Daniel 5:28; Daniel 5:31; Daniel 6:8; Daniel 6:12; Daniel 6:15. Daniel states of Darius expressly that he was a Mede and of Median descent (Daniel 5:31; Daniel 9:1; Daniel 11:1), and, on the contrary, that Cyrus was a Persian (Daniel 6:28; Daniel 10:1). Also in Daniel 6:28 the writer appears to be contrasting Darius the Mede with Cyrus the Persian, as if each belonged to a different empire. And though the kings of Media and Persia are distinctly mentioned in Daniel 8:20, it is maintained that the unity of the Medo-Persian Empire is not established thereby, because the two horns, and not the body, of the goat are assumed to be the key of the vision. If the brief duration and slight importance of the so-called Median Empire is objected, it is replied that the importance of it to Israel was very great, for in the first year of it the exile terminated, and at that very time Darius was under the special protection of the Angel of the Lord (Daniel 11:1).

Upon this hypothesis the visions in Daniel 2:7 are explained in the following manner:—The materials of which the feet of the image were formed corresponds to the two divisions of the Greek Empire noticed in Daniel 11:0, the iron representing the Ptolemies, the clay the Seleucidæ. The mixture of the iron and clay points to such attempts as are mentioned in Daniel 11:8; Daniel 11:17 to unite certain heterogeneous elements in the political world. The silver breasts and arms are the Median Empire, which was inferior to the Babylonian (Daniel 2:39). which, it is asserted, does not hold true of the Persian Empire. Then comes the Persian Empire, which, as Daniel interpreted the vision (Daniel 2:39), “bare rule over all.” Similarly, in Daniel 7:0, those who maintain the interpretation find no difficulty about the first beast; but the second beast is Darius the Mede; the three ribs are the three satrapies mentioned in Daniel 6:2 (St. Ephraim explains them of the Medes, the Babylonians, and the Persians). The command, “Arise, and devour much flesh,” means that the empire of Darius had a great future prospect, which he would not realise. Then the panther is Cyrus; the four wings are the Persians, Medes, Babylonians, and Egyptians; the four heads are four Persian kings, Cambyses, Smerdis, Darius Hystaspes, and the last, who is either Xerxes or Darius Codemannus. It remains that the fourth beast is the Greek Empire, the first which was of a totally distinct character from the Asiatic empires which had preceded it. The little horn is Antiochus Epiphanes, and the other ten horns are ten kings, who are not supposed to be reigning simultaneously; three of them, however, were contemporaneous with the little horn. The ten kings are assumed to be—(1) Seleucus Nicator, (2) Antiochus Soter, (3) Antiochus Theos, (4) Seleucus Callinicus, (5) Seleucus Ceraunus, (6) Antiochus the Great, (7) Seleucus Philopator, (8) Heliodorus, (9) Demetrius, (10) Ptolemy Philometor. The last three were deposed by Antiochus Epiphanes, the allusion being to Demetrius (Daniel 11:21) and to Ptolemy Philometor (Daniel 11:22-28). It is then alleged that all the events which are explicitly mentioned in Daniel 11:0 are figuratively expressed by the ten toes of the image and by the ten horns of the fourth beast.

In this interpretation there is much that appears plausible at first sight. It seems to make the whole plan of the book more distinct, and to introduce a symmetry and coherence among the several parts which is wanting to the interpretation given above. But though the truth is simple, everything simple is not true. Grave difficulties will be found, upon closer inspection, to underlie this hypothesis respecting the four kingdoms.

(1) What reason is there for identifying the little horn in Daniel 7:8 with the little horn in Daniel 8:9? In one case it grows up amongst ten, in the other out of four. In one case it destroys three of the other horns, in the other none. Or, to take Daniel’s own interpretation, the “kink of a fierce countenance” (Daniel 8:23) arises while the four horns are still in existence, though “in the latter time of their kingdom.” Bearing in mind that the ten toes of the image correspond to the ten horns of the fourth beast, there appears to be strong primâ facie evidence for supposing that the horizon of Daniel 8:0 is different from that of Daniel 2:7, , Daniel 2:11.

(2) Further consideration shows that Antiochus Epiphanes does not correspond with the little horn (Daniel 7:0), or with the king mentioned (Daniel 11:21, &c.). Antiochus is foretold (Daniel 8:9-12; Daniel 8:23-25) as “becoming great toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land, and waxing great even to the host of heaven,” &c.; but the person foretold in Daniel 7:8; Daniel 7:20; Daniel 7:25, “has a mouth speaking proud things,” &c. In no point do these two awful personages agree, except in blaspheming God and in making war against His people. They differ in many important respects.

(3) The measures of time, again, are different in each vision. Antiochus Epiphanes carries on his destructive work for 2,300 (or 1,150) days, but the Antichrist mentioned in Daniel 7:25 has the saints in his power for a “time, times, and the dividing of time.” By no possible calculation can these two measures of time be made identical. Nor can the same measure of time which occurs in Daniel 12:7 be identified either with the 1,290 days, or with the 1,335 days mentioned in Daniel 12:11-12.

(4) Further, in Daniel 8:9 “the last end of indignation” does not mean the end of all things, any more than it means the end of the captivity. It points to the persecution of Antiochus, when, for the last time in Jewish history, the innocent suffered for the guilt of the apostates. This was a persecution of which the adherence of the Jews to their religion was the cause. Politics provoked later persecutions, but in this they were involved in only a secondary manner. The plain question was, would the Jews suffer their religion to be Hellenised, or would they not? This, again, is alien to the thoughts contained in Daniel 7:21; Daniel 7:25.

(5) Nor is it clear that Daniel knew of a Median as distinct from a Persian Empire. If Darius “received the kingdom,” some superior power must have given it to him. If he was “made king,” some higher authority must have invested him with the sovereignty. Nor does history give us any reasons for supposing that there was at this time any broad national distinction between the Medes and Persians.

(6) Lastly, the empire of Alexander the Great does not correspond to the fourth empire, which is described in Daniel 2:7. None of the elements of iron appear in it. The leading characteristic of it was not “breaking in pieces and bruising” other empires, but rather assimilation. The policy of it was to Hellenise them, to clothe their ideas in Greek forms, to unite widely separated nations which it had subdued, by treating them courteously, adopting their national customs, and by polishing the whole external with Greek culture.

Great and undoubted though the difficulties are which are contained in the interpretation given above in the Notes, they are not so great as those which are involved by the so-called “modern” interpretation just mentioned.

EXCURSUS F: DANIEL’S PRAYER (Daniel 9:0).

The resemblance between Daniel’s prayer and those recorded in the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Baruch will appear more distinctly from the following table:—

Daniel 9:0.

Ezra 9:0.

Nehemiah 9:0.

Baruch.

Daniel 9:4

Nehemiah 9:32

Daniel 9:5

Ezra 9:7

Nehemiah 9:33-34

Bar. 1:11.

Daniel 9:6

Ezra 9:7

Nehemiah 9:32-33

Daniel 9:7

Ezra 9:6-7

Nehemiah 9:32-33

Bar. 1:15-17

Daniel 9:8

Ezra 9:6-7

Nehemiah 9:33

Daniel 9:9

Nehemiah 9:17

Daniel 9:13

Bar. 2:7.

Daniel 9:14

Ezra 9:15

Nehemiah 9:33

Daniel 9:15

Nehemiah 9:10

Bar. 2:11.

Daniel 9:18

Bar. 2:19.

Daniel 9:19

Bar. 2:15.

The resemblance is due to the fact that most of the corresponding thoughts are taken from earlier works, such as the Law of Moses, or prophetical writings. It will be observed that this similarity can be traced chiefly in Ezekiel 48:4-9; Ezekiel 48:13-19. The language, however, is very general, and can be traced for the most part to earlier sources. A short analysis of the prayers of Ezra and Nehemiah shows that the similarity of the prayers is less striking than appears at first sight. Ezra confesses the sins of the congregation from the early period of Israel’s history down to his own time; he blesses God for allowing a remnant to escape, he then confesses the special sin of which the nation was guilty at that time, and acknowledges that neither he nor his people are able to stand before God. Not once in the course of his prayer does he ask for forgiveness. Nehemiah, after thanking God for His mercies, using the language of Psalmists, proceeds to bless God for the mercies which He has showered upon his people in spite of their frequent relapses into sin. He frequently contrasts the righteousness of God with the guiltiness of the nation, and, like Ezra, does not pray for forgiveness or to be delivered from bondage. But Daniel’s prayer is just the reverse. Not only does he pray for the pardon and deliverance of his people, but he concludes with a petition that he himself may be heard (Ezekiel 48:17-18). It is therefore unreasonable to suppose that Daniel’s prayer should have been founded upon the model of the prayers of Ezra and Nehemiah. Still more improbable is the hypothesis that it was curtailed from the prayer of Baruch. The date of the book of Baruch is almost universally acknowledged to be late, and the prayer contained in it depends as much upon the book of Nehemiah as it does upon Daniel.

EXCURSUS G: THE SEVENTY WEEKS (Daniel 9:24).

It may be questioned in what way this prophecy presents any meaning to those who follow the punctuation of the Hebrew text, and put the principal stop in Ezekiel 48:25 after “seven weeks,” instead of after “three score and two weeks.” The translation would be as follows, “From the going out . . . until Messiah the prince shall be seven weeks; and during sixty-two weeks the city shall be rebuilt . . . and after sixty-two weeks shall Messiah be cut off” . . . This can only be explained upon the hypothesis that the word “week” is used in an indefinite sense to mean a period. The sense is then as follows:—The period from the command of Cyrus or of Artaxerxes to rebuild Jerusalem, down to the time of Messiah, consisted of seven such weeks; during the sixty-two weeks that followed the kingdom of Messiah is to be established amidst much persecution. During the last week the persecution will be so intense that Messiah may be said to be annihilated by it, His kingdom on earth being destroyed. At the end of the last week the Antichristian prince who organises the persecution is himself exterminated, and destroyed in the final judgment.

According to this view the seventy weeks occupy the whole period that intervenes between the times of Cyrus or Artaxerxes and the last judgment. The principal objection to it is that it gives no explanation of the numbers “seven” and “sixty-two,” which seem to have been chosen for some particular purpose. Nor does it furnish any reason for the choice of the word “weeks” instead of “times” or “seasons,” either of which words would have equally served the same indefinite purpose.
The traditional interpretation follows the punctuation of Theodotion, which St. Jerome also adopted, and reckons the seventy weeks from B.C. 458, the twentieth year of Artaxerxes. From this date, measuring seven weeks of years—that is, forty-nine years—we are brought to the date B.C. 409. It is predicted that during this period the walls of Jerusalem and the city itself should be rebuilt, though in troublous times. It must be remembered that very little is known of Jewish history during the times after Ezra and Nehemiah. The latest date given in Nehemiah is the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes, or B.C. 446. It is highly probable that the city was not completely restored till nearly forty years later. Reckoning from B.C. 409 sixty-two weeks or 434 years, we are brought to A.D. 25, the year when our Saviour began His ministry. After three and a half years, or in the “midst of a week,” he was cut off. The seventy weeks end in A.D. 32, which is said to be the end of the second probation of Israel after rejecting the Messiah. The agreement between the dates furnished by history and prediction is very striking, and the general expectation that there prevailed about the appearance of a Messiah at the time of our Saviour’s first advent points to the antiquity as well as to the accuracy of the interpretation. However, the explanation of the latter half of the seven weeks is not satisfactory. We have no chronological account of events which occurred shortly after the Ascension, and there are no facts stated in the New Testament that lead us to suppose that Israel should have three and a half years’ probation after the rejection of the Messiah.
The modern explanation adheres in part to the Masoretic text, and regards the sixty-two year-weeks as beginning in B.C. 604. Reckoning onwards 434 years, we are brought to the year B.C. 170, in which Antiochus plundered the Temple and massacred 40,000 Jews. Onias III., the anointed prince, was murdered B.C. 176, just before the close of this period; and from the attack upon the Temple to the death of Antiochus, B.C. 164. was seven years, or one week, in the midst of which, B.C. 167, the offering was abolished, and the idolatrous altar erected in the Temple. The seven weeks are then calculated onwards from B.C. 166, and are stated to mean an indefinite period expressed by a round number, during which Jerusalem was rebuilt after its defilement by Antiochus. This explanation is highly unsatisfactory. It not only inverts the order of the weeks, but arbitrarily uses the word week in a double sense, in a definite and in an indefinite sense at once. There is still a graver objection to assuming that the starting point of the seventy weeks is the year B.C. 604. No command to rebuild Jerusalem had then gone forth.