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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Daniel 1

Verse 1

Dan 1:1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it.

The Book of Daniel

Written by himself (not by another of his name, in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes, as wicked Porphyry, a that professed enemy of Christianity, blaterateth), like as Xenophon and Julius Caesar wrote their own acts so wisely and impartially, as none have been so upright in writing the histories of others. This divine book is, for the matter of it, partly historic and partly prophetic. The historical part we have in the first six chapters, sc., a continuation of the history of the book of Kings during the whole time of the captivity and after it. Hence Jerome b calleth Daniel multiscum et totius mundi polyhistorem, a general historian. The prophetic part, beginning at the seventh chapter, foretelleth future things in the several monarchies but very obscurely, according to that of the angel, Dan 12:9-10 "Go thy way, Daniel; for the words are closed up, and sealed till the end of the time," &c; and according to that hieroglyphic of prophecy, which hangs, they say, among other pictures, in the Vatican Library at Rome, like a matron with the eyes covered, for the difficulty. Whence it was that Paulinus, Bishop of Nola, though able, would never be drawn to write commentaries; Cajetan and Calvin would set no notes upon the Revelation; and Piscator, c after he had commented upon the other prophets, when he came to Daniel, met with so many dark and difficult passages, ut parum obfuerit, saith he, quin in medio commentandi cursu subsisterem, et calamum e manu deponerem, that he was even ready to lay down his pen, and to lay aside the business. But this he did not, as considering that the best, while here, "know but in part, prophesy but in part," &c.; and that the promise is, though none of the wicked understand this prophecy, yet the wise shall. Dan 12:10 Jerome d well saith, that a prophecy is therefore obscure, because it is said at one time and seen at another. And one thing that causeth a cloud in Daniel is the transposing of the history here often used; as the prophecies contained in the seventh and eighth chapters, which were shown unto Daniel under the reign of Belshazzar, in order should be set before the sixth chapter, &c. He seemeth indeed to have been laid aside in the days of Belshazzar, that drunken sot, till the handwriting on the wall brought him more in request again. Dan 5:11-12 That cock on the dunghill knew not the worth of this peerless pearl, highly prized both by his predecessor and successor, to whom he was a secretis of their privy council. Famous he was grown, and worthily, for his extraordinary wisdom Eze 28:3 and holiness, Eze 14:14 so that the angel Gabriel styleth him "a man of desires," or a desirable man. Dan 9:23 Seneca calleth Cato virtutum vivam imaginem, a lively picture of virtues. Pliny e saith that the same Cato Censorius was an excellent orator, an excellent senator, an excellent commander, and a master of all good arts. Paterculus f saith, that he was a man as like virtue as ever he could look, et per omnia virtute diis quam hominibus propior. Livy saith, he was a man of rigid innocence and invincible integrity. Cornelius Nepos, g that being assayed and assaulted by many, he not only never lost any part of his reputation, but as long as he lived grew still in the praise of his virtues, as being in all things of singular prudence and industry. Lastly, Cicero saith of Cato Major, that whereas he underwent the enmities of many potent persons, and suffered no little hardship all his time, yet was he one of those few who lived and died with glory. How much more truly might all this be affirmed of Daniel the prophet than of Cato the censor! all whose virtues were but glistering sins, h and all whose praise worthy parts and practices were but "tinkling cymbals" in comparison. Daniel’s whole life was a kind of heaven, adorned with most radiant stars of divine virtues. And although we cannot say of him as Alexander of Hales did of his scholar Bonaventure in a hyperbolic strain, that Adam seemed to him not to have sinned in Bonaventure, such was his sanctity and knowledge, i yet, with more colour of truth, might the like be said of Daniel, the Jews’ jewel and the world’s darling. He wrote this book, part of it in Hebrew and part in Chaldee, all in a short but grave style, evident and elegant, being a divine polychronicon j to the world’s end, or, as one k calleth it, the Apocalypse of the Old Testament.

Ver. 1. In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim. ] That wicked king, who killed the prophet Uriah; Jer 26:23 cut Jeremiah’s prophecy with a knife, and cast it into the fire; Jer 36:23 was a gross idolater, 2Ch 36:8 and therefore justly suffered.

Came Nebuchadnezzar. ] Surnamed Magnus son to Nebuchadnezzar, surnamed Priscus. See 2 Kings 24:1-2 2 Chronicles 36:8 . See Trapp on " 2Ki 24:1 " See Trapp on " 2Ki 24:2 " See Trapp on " 2Ch 36:8 "

a Lib. xii., contra Christian.

b Jerome, Eph 103, ad Paulin.

c Piscat. Epist. Dedicat. Ante Com. in Dan.

d Quod alio tempore canitur, alio cernitur. - De Vir. Perfect.

e Lib. ii.

f Dec. 4, lib. ix.

g In Vita Catonis.

h Splendida peccata.

i Sixt. Senens. Bib. Sanct., lib. iv.

j A chronicle of many events or periods. ŒD

k Torshel.

Verse 2

Dan 1:2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.

Ver. 2. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim. ] Because the affliction by Pharaoh (being but a money matter) had not a kindly effect, 2Ki 23:35 a heavier is now sent; for as one cloud followeth at the heels of another, so doth one judgment of God upon another, till repentance, as the sun, do interpose, and cause it to clear up.

With part of the vessels. ] Not all as yet, by a sweet providence, and for an instance of God’s patience.

Which he carried into the land of Shinar. ] Or, Babylonia, Gen 11:2 a part of the garden of Eden, as most geographers think, but now "the seat of Satan." as Rev 2:13

To the house of his god. ] Jupiter Belus. See on Isaiah 46:1 .

Verse 3

Dan 1:3 And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring [certain] of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes;

Ver. 3. And the king spake unto Ashpenaz. ] Which signifieth in the Chaldee tongue the chief chider, or controller of the king’s house, as Ctesias useth Ashpamithres for chief priests. To this great officer the king commendeth the care of his school.

And of the king’s seed, and of the princes.] As having been better bred, and so more hopeful. Here Nebuchadnezzar, minding nothing but the glory of his court by these noble waiters, unwittingly maketh way for the Church’s comfort.

Verse 4

Dan 1:4 Children in whom [was] no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as [had] ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.

Ver. 4. Children in whom was no blemish. ] Such as were Joseph, David, Artaxerxes Longimus, Germanicus, and others, in whom beauty proved to be the "flower of virtue," as Chrysippus called it. Of Galba the emperor one said, that his good wit dwelt in an ill house, like an excellent instrument in a bad case; whereas Vatinius the Roman was not more misshapen in body than in mind. a The heathens also advise us to beware of those whom nature hath set a mark upon.

And skilful in all wisdom, ] i.e., Ingenious and industrious, apt and able to receive and improve instruction. Tacitus b telleth us that in the times of Vespasian and Domitian, the children of the British nobles were so witty and well bred that the Romans infinitely admired them for the debonnaireness of their natures, preferring the wits of the Britons before the study of the Gauls. And they are called Angli quasi Angeli, the English just as Angels, said Gregory the Great, concerning the English boys presented to him.

And such as had ability in them. ] Daniel and his three friends are thought by some to have been bred under the prophet Jeremiah, and to have begun to prophesy some years before Ezekiel.

To stand in the king’s palace,] i.e., To do him service. This is that which learned men should aim at in these studies, viz., to lay forth themselves for the public good. Paulum sepultae distat inertiae Celata virtus, c

And whom they might teach the learning. ] Heb., The book - that is, the art of grammar, say some. But why not other arts also learned by books, those mute masters? Yet not so well, the mathematics especially, without a teacher. Joseph Scaliger, who was αυτοδιδακτος , self-taught, and yet proved so great a scholar, is by one called daemonium hominis, et miraculum naturae, more than a man, even a very miracle.

And the tongue of the Chaldee. ] Which was not therefore the same with the Hebrew, but a different dialect, or daughter of it. The most ancient tongue was the Hebrew, preserved in Heber’s family. The Hebrews and Chaldees had one common ancestor, viz., Arphaxad; and Abraham, being born in Chaldea, could speak both languages; but so could not Daniel and his fellows till they were taught. Good letters and languages are to be taught in schools and universities, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, especially, the dignity and study whereof Christ would have to be ever kept a-foot in his Church, as appeareth by that inscription, not without a providence, set upon his cross in those three tongues. Joh 19:19-20

a Ingenium Galbae male habitat. Deformitas corporia cum turpitudine certavit ingenii. - Paterc.

b In Vit. Jul. Agrico.

c Horat.

Verse 5

Dan 1:5 And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.

Ver. 5. And the king appointed them a daily provision. ] A competent and comfortable subsistence and maintenance, such as whereof, in time past, those abbey lubbers had too much, and now universities and schools of learning have too little, but far less should have, might some brain-sick sectaries be heard, such as was that Weigelius, who said that in no university in the world was Christ to be found, and that Christ would not have his gospel to be preached by devils, and therefore not by academics, with a great deal more of such paltry stuff, vented by that illiterate widgeon. a

So nourishing them three years. ] Those that stay overly long in the universities, standing there till they are sour again, and preaching only now and then, to air their great learning, shall have the rust and canker of their abilities to be a swift witness against them at that great day.

a Dr Arrowsmith, Orat. Anti-Weigel. ad Calc. Tact. Sacr.

Verse 6

Dan 1:6 Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah:

Ver. 6. Now among these were, of the children of Judah, Daniel. ] Who had not his name for nought, as we say, but by a providence. It signifieth, God is my judge; and so, indeed, he was throughout his whole life, but especially when they cast him into the lions’ den. Dan 6:16 David had also a son of the same name, and that by Abigail, 2Sa 3:3 1Ch 3:1 in remembrance haply of the right that God had done him upon the churl Nabal. 1Sa 25:39

Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. ] Good names all, and good men all, yet wrapt up with the rest in a common calamity, but for excellent ends, as it afterwards appeared. Meanwhile, God much sweetened the affliction to these four by their mutual society.

Verse 7

Dan 1:7 Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel [the name] of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.

Ver. 7. Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names. ] Not without the command of the king, Dan 5:12 as desirous to naturalise them, and by changing their right names, which had the names of God in them, El and Jah, to make them forget their religion; but that was better rooted than to be so easily razed out, though these new names were shrewd temptations to apostasy and idolatry, as being compounded by the names of the Babylonish gods, and means to make them honourable among the Chaldeans.

Verse 8

Dan 1:8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.

Ver. 8. But Daniel purposed in his heart. ] The change of his name, though he utterly disliked, yet he could not help; but to show that he was still of the same religion, though he were but a child of twelve years old, or thereabouts, yet he purposeth first, and then performeth it, to keep himself pure and free from heathenish defilements. What if the vessels of the temple - by being brought into the treasure house of Nebuchadnezzar’s god Dan 1:2 - were defiled, yet these elect vessels would not. So the primitive Christians chose rather to be thrown to lions without than left to lusts within. a Yea, I had rather be cast pure and innocent into hell, saith an ancient, b than go to heaven being polluted with the filth of sin. Daniel’s greatest care is, ne contra legem Dei et conscientiam impuretur, he may not polute his conscience nor violate law of God, the lest he should be defiled in the least. Fall back, fall edge, as they say; he is fully resolved against that. So the Prince of Condi when, at the Parisian massacre, he was put to his choice by the French king, whether to go to mass, to suffer death, or to endure perpetual imprisonment, answered, As for the first, by the grace of God, I will never do it; and for the two last, I humbly submit to his majesty. Let him do with me what he pleaseth.

That he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat.] That which Scaliger saith of Matthew Beroaldus, Vir doctus, et, quod familiam ducit, pius, that he was a learned man; but that which was his chief commendation, he was also a godly man, may be better said of the prophet Daniel. Godly he was early, and as a child, so was also his master Jeremiah, in whose works he was well read; Dan 9:2 Samuel; Timothy; Athanasius; Beza, who, among many other things, blessed God chiefly for this in his last will and testament, that at the age of sixteen years he had called him to the knowledge of the truth. Daniel had this happiness at twelve or thirteen. Neither was he like early fruit, that are soon rotten - Hermogenes was old in his childhood, and a child in his old age - but although he lived one hundred and ten years, as Isidor c reckoneth, some say one hundred and thirty, yet he was best at last, and may very well pass for a martyr, though he came again safe out of the lions’ den, like as John the evangelist also did out of the cauldron of scalding oil, wherein he was cast by the command of Domitian, in contempt of Christianity. Daniel’s piety appeareth in this, that he maketh conscience of smaller evils also, such as most men in his case would never have boggled at. He would not "defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat." He scrupled the eating of it; and why? (1.) Because it was often such as was forbidden by the law of God. Leviticus 11:13 ; Leviticus 11:29 Deu 14:3-8 (2.) Because it was so used as would defile him and his fellows against the word of God; for the heathens, to the shame of many Christians, had their grace before a meal, as it were, consecrating their dishes to their idols before they tasted of them d Daniel 5:4 1Co 8:10 (3.) They could not do it without offence to their weaker brethren, with whom they chose rather to sympathise in their adversity than to live in excess and fulness. Amo 6:6 (4.) They well perceived that the king’s love and provisions were not single and sincere, but that he meant his own profit, to assure himself the better of the land of Judah, and that they might forget their religion. Lastly, They knew that intemperance was the mother of many mischiefs, as in Adam, Esau, the rich glutton, &c. That is a memorable story that is recorded by William Schiekard e concerning eleven Jewish doctors, whom the heathen king of Pirgandy having in his power, put them to this hard choice, either to eat swines’ flesh, or to drink wine that had been consecrated to idols, or to lie with certain harlots. They chose rather to drink the wine than to do either of the other two. But when they had drunk wine liberally, they were easily drawn to do the other two things also. Any one of these five reasons had been of force enough to prevail with Daniel, and the other three to forbear. They knew well that the least hair casteth its shadow. A barley corn laid on the sight of the eye will keep out the light of the sun, as well as a mountain. The eye of the soul that will "see God" must be kept very clear. Mat 5:8-12

Therefore he requested. ] Modestly and prudently be propounded it, non convitiando, sed supplicando, and petitioneth for liberty of conscience, confessing his religion.

a Ad leonem potius quam lenonem. To a lion is more prefereable than to a brothel. - Tertul.

b Anselm.

c De Vita et Obitu Sanct.

d Ante cibum sua habebant prothymata, et laudabant deos suos. - Jun.

e Schickard, Jus. Reg. Hebr., cap. 5, p. 149.

Verse 9

Dan 1:9 Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.

Ver. 9. Now God had brought Daniel into favour. ] God is never wanting to the truly conscientious. Let them choose rather to offend all the world than to do things sinful, and they shall be sure of good success. The prince of the eunuchs dared not yield to Daniel’s request, but he connived at the steward’s yieldance.

Verse 10

Dan 1:10 And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which [are] of your sort? then shall ye make [me] endanger my head to the king.

Ver. 10. I fear my lord the king. ] This made him stand off as he did, in pretence at least. Tertullian taxeth the heathens for this, quod maiore formidine Caesarem observarent quam ipsum de Olympo Iovem, that they feared Caesar more than they did their greatest god Jupiter. But he who truly feareth God, needeth not fear any else. Act 4:19

Verse 11

Dan 1:11 Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,

Ver. 11. Then said Daniel to Melzar. ] Or, To the steward, alimentator, the purveyor for the pages of honour. The prince of the eunuchs might haply give him a hint to go to this Melzar, who might do it with less danger.

Verse 12

Dan 1:12 Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink.

Ver. 12. Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days. ] All good means must be used for the keeping of a good conscience, and then God must be trusted for the issue. But did not Daniel herein tempt God? No; for besides that he had a word, (1.) Of precept; Deu 14:3 and (2.) Of promise, Exo 23:25 ex arcana revelatione certior factus est, it might be revealed unto him that no inconvenience should follow upon this course.

And let them give pulse to eat, and water to drink. ] Poor fare for noblemen’s sons, but such as they were well paid for. Nature is contented with a little, grace with less. The sobriety of Democritus and Demosthenes is much celebrated among the heathen. But what saith Augustine? a Omnis vita infidelium peccatum est, et nihil bonum sine summo bone. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin, &c. Daniel’s sobriety was of another nature, of a better alloy. Papists crack much of their abstinence from certain meats and drinks at certain times; but Daniel’s and Papists’ fasts agree as harp and harrow. See my "Common Place of Abstinence."

a De Ver. lnnoc., cap. 56.

Verse 13

Dan 1:13 Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants.

Ver. 13. Then let our countenances be looked upon. ] See Trapp on " Dan 1:12 "

And as thou seest, deal with thy servants. ] Thus humbly they bespeak the butler, or purveyor, though themselves were nobly descended. God had made them captives, and they now carry their sails accordingly.

Verse 14

Dan 1:14 So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days.

Ver. 14. So he consented to them in this matter. ] This had been well done, if done for God’s sake; but it was nothing less. He had a hawk’s eye herein to his own profit; he favoured them because he meant to finger something from them. These four made a mess.

Verse 15

Dan 1:15 And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat.

Ver. 15. Their countenances appeared fairer. ] They had both better health (for Tenuis mensa sanitatis mater, saith Chrysostom, Spare diet is very healthful), a and their good conscience or merry heart was a continual feast to them. They had also God’s blessing upon their coarser fare, and this was the main matter that made the difference.

a Gustato spiritu desipit omnis caro. - Bern.

Verse 16

Dan 1:16 Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.

Ver. 16. Thus Melzar took away. ] See on Daniel 1:14 .

And gave them pulse. ] This slender diet was some help to their studies; for leaden bellies make leaden wits, a saith the Greek Senary; and pinguis venter macra mens, saith Jerome, A fat belly maketh a lean mind. A body farced with delicious meats and drinks unfitteth a man for divine contemplation.

a γαστηρ παχεια λεπτον ου τικτει νοον .

Verse 17

Dan 1:17 As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.

Ver. 17. As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning. ] Both natural and supernatural. In the art of grammar, saith Symmachus; in every book, saith the Latin interpreter. There was potus ex fonte, fletus in prece, somnns in codice, as Ambrose speaketh: they drank Adam’s ale, prayed with tears, slept with a book in their hands. Whether they read the curious books of the magicians (fitter to be burnt, Act 19:19 ) is another question. Osiander thinketh that their Chaldean tutors would have obtruded upon them such kind of learning also; but as they abstained from the king’s meat, so they did, likely, from such corrupt and unlawful arts. Other commendable learning they looked into, as did also Moses, Solomon, Paul, &c. But what meant Pope Paul II to condemn all learned artists for heretics, and to tell his Romans that it was learning enough for a man to be able to read and write? a Nebuchadnezzar was of another mind, and Daniel and his fellows went further than so. Learning hath no enemy but ignorance.

In all visions and dreams, ] i.e., In all kind of prophecy. See Numbers 12:6 .

a Jac. Rev. De Vit. Pont., 244.

Verse 18

Dan 1:18 Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar.

Ver. 18. Now at the end of the days, ] i.e., After three years’ time of studying. See on Daniel 1:5 . Account is to be exacted of time and profiting. Pliny a said to his nephew, when he saw him walk out some hours without studying, Poteras has horas non perdere, You might have spent these hours better. Ignatius, when he heard a clock strike, would say, Here is one hour more now past that I have to answer for. Archbishop Ussher, b on his death bed, begged hard of God to pardon his omissions, who yet was never known to omit an hour, but ever employed in his Master’s business, reading, writing, preaching, resolving doubts, &c.

a Plin. Epist.

b His Life by Dr Bernard.

Verse 19

Dan 1:19 And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king.

Ver. 19. And the king communed with them. ] It seems he was himself a learned king, able to pose them, and put them to it. So was Alexander the Great, Ptolemy Philadelph, Julius Caesar, Constantine the Great, Charles the Great, Alphonsus of Arragon, our Henry I, surnamed Beauclerc, and King James, who was able to confer learnedly with any man in his faculty. Alphonsus was wont to say that an unlearned king was but a crowned ass, and that he would not be without that little learning he had for all that he was worth besides.

And among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. ] That which Patricius saith of the son of Juba, king of Numidia, taken captive by Julius Caesar, may fitly be applied to these four noble captives: Quicquid nobilitatis fortuna eripuerat, id longe accumulatius ei restituerat bonarum artium disciplina, What lustre soever they had lost by their captivity, was abundantly made up and restored by their excellent learning.

Therefore stood they before the king. ] Who had no sooner proved them, but he highly approved them. O Hortensi admodum adolescentis ingenium, ut Phidiae signum simul aspectum et probatum est. a So Daniel’s and the rest: neither need we wonder, since, beside all other helps, they were "taught of God."

a Cicero.

Verse 20

Dan 1:20 And in all matters of wisdom [and] understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians [and] astrologers that [were] in all his realm.

Ver. 20. And in all matters of wisdom. ] God will honour them that honour him: his gifts and graces he giveth to pure souls, and according to their study of purity, as to Daniel chiefly.

He found them ten times better. ] Masters of knowledge, skilled usque ad apices literarum, right up to the very peak of learning, a and therefore highly favoured by the king, who was himself a great philosopher. Daniel was a leviathan of learning, both divine and human, as one saith of Archbishop Ussher; Unicum istius cetatis miraculum et musarum delicium, as Erasmus saith of Alciat, the miracle of his age, and the muse’s darling - one that better deserved, for his learning, to be called Magnus Great than ever Albertus did. The perfection even of human arts is to be found in the Church. See my Common Place of "Arts."

a Mr Fuller.

Verse 21

Dan 1:21 And Daniel continued [even] unto the first year of king Cyrus.

Ver. 21. And Daniel continued, &c. ] And afterwards also, though shrewdly lifted at under Darius; Dan 6:4 and in the third year of Cyrus he was overborne by the counsellors hired to hinder the building of the temple, whom he could not withstand, and therefore kept an extraordinary fast. Ezr 4:5 Dan 10:3-4

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Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Daniel 1". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.