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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

Daniel 2

Verses 1-19

HOMILETICS

SECT. V.—THE ANSWERED PRAYER (Chap. Daniel 2:1-19).

We come to the first of the visions given to Daniel. The occasion of it was a dream of Nebuchadnezzar, of which it was required to give both the description and the interpretation. The vision thus in harmony with Daniel’s situation in Babylon, where pretensions to such wisdom and ability prevailed; a confirmation of the genuineness of the book. One object of the vision to elevate Daniel still higher in the king’s esteem and in the State, and so still further to prepare the way for Israel’s liberation at the appointed time. Another and more direct object to comfort the people of God, then and in all future time, with the assurance that God rules in the kingdoms of men, and that when the great monarchies of the world have run their allotted course, the kingdom of Messiah shall overthrow them all and bless the earth with a lasting reign of righteousness and peace.
The vision was given in answer to prayer. The time of it was “the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar,” that is, as sole monarch, after having reigned two previous years conjointly with his father, Nabopolassar [28]. The king, having had his thoughts seriously exercised about the future (Daniel 2:29), [29] had a dream [30] which greatly disturbed him (Daniel 2:1); and as the wise men about him pretended to interpret dreams, he summoned the various classes of them [31],—magicians [32], astrologers, sorcerers [33], and Chaldeans [34], and required them to give both the dream and its meaning. Either in reality, as is generally supposed, the dream having left only a confused impression, or, as others perhaps more correctly think, in pretence, in order to put to the proof the pretended skill of his wise men, he declared that the dream had passed from his recollection [35], and they must give not only the interpretation, but the dream itself. In accordance with the character of Oriental despotism, the penalty of failure was to be death in most terrible and cruel form—to be “hewed in pieces” [36], with the utter demolition of their dwellings [37]. On the wise men disclaiming, in the Syriac or Chaldaic tongue [38], the entire inability of themselves or any mere man whatever, to gratify the king’s desire—a thing competent only to the gods, “whose dwelling is not with flesh”—Nebuchadnezzar, probably enraged at discovering, as he thought, the falsehood of their pretensions, but ostensibly at their wish only to gain time for the safety of their own persons [39], commanded the chief executioner [40] at once to inflict the penalty. Daniel and his three companions, being supposed to be included among the wise men, though apparently not among those who were summoned into the king’s presence, were sought out for execution with the rest. One refuge they knew, which the others had not. The God they worshipped was, as they had already experienced, a God that hears and answers prayer. At Daniel’s suggestion, they unite immediately in a concert of prayer for the preservation of their own lives and those of the wise men of Babylon, and, to that end, for ability from on high to describe and interpret the king’s dream. The prayer was graciously and speedily answered.

[28] “In the second year,” &c. The dream occurring at this early period in Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, observes Hengstenberg, agrees with the fame of Daniel’s wisdom and prevalency in prayer as indicated by Ezekiel. The first mention made of Daniel by that prophet was probably in the sixth year of the reign of Zedekiah (Ezekiel 8:1), consequently thirteen or fourteen years after the carrying away of Daniel into Babylon. The second mention of him five years later. The repeated mention of such a person quite natural in the circumstances. Yet this mention of Daniel by Ezekiel has been made the ground of an opinion, advanced by Ewald and espoused by Bunsen, that Daniel was led captive in the first Assyrian invasion, and that he lived and prophesied, not in Babylon, but in Nineveh! Kliefoth, quoted by Keil, observes that in Daniel 1:1 Daniel reckons Nebuchadnezzar’s years “according to the years of the Israelitish kings, and sees in him already the king; on the contrary, in chap, 2., he treats of the nations of the World-power, and reckons here accurately the year of Nebuchadnezzar, the bearer of the world-power, from the day in which, having actually obtained the possession of that power, he became king of Babylon.” Keil himself remarks: “If we observe that Nebuchadnezzar dreamed his dream in the second year of his reign, and that he entered on his reign some time after the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of Jehoiakim, then we can understand how the three years appointed for the education of Daniel and his companions came to an end in the second year of his reign; for if Nebuchadnezzar began to reign in the fifth year of Jehoiakim, then in the seventh year of that king three years had passed since the destruction of Jerusalem, which took place in the fourth year of his reign. A whole year or more of their period of education had passed before Nebuchadnezzar mounted the throne.” It is, however, perhaps scarcely correct to speak of what took place in Jehoiakim’s fourth year as the destruction of Jerusalem, which did not happen till some years afterwards.

[29] “What should come to pass hereafter.” Dr. Pusey notices it as “a striking picture of the young conqueror, that, not contented with the vista of future greatness before him, he was looking on beyond our little span of life, which in youth so fills the mind, to a future when his own earthly life should be closed.”

[30] “Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams.” Mr. Wood, in his Lectures on Daniel, observes, that “Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was an event in the Chaldean history which bore upon it the stamp and impress of divine interposition. It involved in its interpretation the future revolutions of the world, and had reference to that most important revolution, the introduction of the religion of Christ, which was to cover the earth.”

[31] “The king commanded to call the magicians,” &c. On all occasions in the book, says Hengstenberg, not particular wise men are consulted, but the whole body of them, probably, as here, in the persons of their representatives, or of a selection made from them. Such in accordance with the information of Diodorus, that the observations of the Babylonian wise men were always instituted in company and by a college. The division of the wise men here indicated is not to be conceived of as if every individual always confined himself to the cultivation of only one particular branch of Babylonian wisdom; the division only amounting to this, that by rule each should particulary excel in only some one department. The different branches, too, were so nearly identified, that it would be difficult previously to determine whether any one of them would not, in any given instance, come into operation.

[32] “Magicians.” See note under chap. Daniel 1:20. Dr. Rule observes that the Hebrew name is generally considered equivalent with the Greek ἱερογραμμαπεῖς or sacred scribes, not magicians. The Assyrians had a sacred writing, not like the pictorial hieroglyphic of Egypt, but a literal hieroglyphic or ideograph. The characters were arrow-headed or wedge-like (cuneiform), as in ordinary inscriptions on the Assyrian sculptures and Babylonian cylinders. The style was enigmatic, or at least obscure, by brevity or abruptness or abbreviation.

[33] “Sorcerers,” מְכַשְּׁפִים (mechash-shephim), from a Syriac root meaning to “supplicate” or “perform sacred rites;” enchanters, magicians, Exodus 7:11; Deuteronomy 18:10; Malachi 3:5.—Gesenius. Sept., φαρμακὸς, one who uses drugs or incantations. Vulg., “maleficus.” Aben Ezra, one who uses horoscopes. Gesenius understands a magician, or one who pretended to cause eclipses by incantations.

[34] “Chaldeans.” He rerepresented as a class of themselves. A thing in itself most probable. The priest-caste not likely first introduced into Babylonia by the Chaldeans. No civilised people of antiquity without an order of priests. Isaiah, in whose time the Chaldeans had not yet become masters of Babylon, describes that city as the prime seat of the arts of divination. These possessed a priest-caste before their invasion of Babylonia. The name of the people was at Babylon the name of the whole caste, and occurs as such in the oldest writers. The name given from this distinction between the Chaldean and Babylonian priesthoods. Curtius speaks of the Persian magi, the Chaldeans, and the Babylonians as so many different kinds of wise men in Babylon. The distinction here no small attestation to the trustworthiness, and so to the genuineness, of the book.—Hengstenberg. Dr. A. Clarke observes that the “Chaldeans” might be a college of learned men, where all arts and sciences were professed and taught; that they were the most ancient philosophers of the world; and that they might have been originally inhabitants of Babylon, and still have preserved to themselves exclusively the name of Chaldeans. Keil views them as the most distinguished class among the Babylonian wise men.

[35] “The thing it gone from me.” The passage otherwise rendered by Michaelis, Gesenius, and others—“the word, or decree, has gone forth from me;” or, according to Winer, Hengstenberg, and others, “the thing has been determined by me,” or “the word stands firm,” like chap. Daniel 6:12, “the thing is true.” Others translate, “let the word from me be known,” “be it known unto you.”

[36] “Cut in pieces.” This punishment, observes Keil, common among the Babylonians (chap. Daniel 3:30; Ezekiel 16:40). “A Chaldean death-punishment,” says Hengstenberg, “and in accordance with the cruel character of the people.” The king’s treatment of the magicians, he observes, was barbarous, but nothing more than, judging even by our sparing historical information, we might expect of him (2 Kings 25:7; 2 Kings 25:18; 2 Kings 25:21; Jeremiah 39:5, &c.; Jeremiah 52:9-11, Jeremiah 52:24-27). A mistake to expect an Oriental despot to use our standard in the estimate of human life. An example of the author’s acquaintance with the usages of the time and country, and so a confirmation of the genuineness of the book. The Persians had quite a different mode of inflicting capital punishment.

[37] “Your houses shall be made a dunghill.” The houses of Babylon were built of earth burnt or simply dried in the sun. When a building was totally demolished or converted into a confused heap of rubbish, the entire mass of earth, in rainy weather, gradually decomposed, and the place of such a house became like a dunghill. Bertholdt admits that the accurate acquaintance here shown with the mode of building practised in Babylon shows the piece to have been written in that country.—Hengstenberg.

[38] “In Syriack.” Therefore, in the opinion of Hengstenberg, not the language of the king and court. The language here meant is the Eastern Aramaic or common Chaldaic; that in which the following part of the book is written as far as the end of chap. 7. Originally the language of Abraham in his own country, but changed by his descendants in Palestine for that commonly called Hebrew, the language of Canaan (Isaiah 19:18), which was given to them for their possession. This language of Canaan naturally closely allied to the Phœnician, whose characters, resembling the Samaritan, continued to be used by the Hebrews till changed after the captivity for those of the Chaldaic. Dr. Rule observes that the language of Aram (or Syria), now less properly called Chaldee in one dialect and Syriac in another, while yet the two dialects hardly differ, is very different from the old Chaldee, or language of Akkad, the classic tongue of Assyria used by the race of Akkadians, who had inhabited Babylonia from the earliest times. These Chaldees would converse, he thinks, with each other in their ancient language; but that speech the soldier-king would not have understood, and therefore they are under the necessity of speaking to him in his mother tongue. A different view from that taken by Hengstenberg.

[39] “Ye would gain the time.” Either till the king could recollect the dream himself, or should become indifferent about the matter, or till they could invent something in the place of it, or get time to escape with life and property.—A. Clark

[40] Captain of the king’s guard.” Margin: “Chief of the executioners or slaughtermen.” “The chief of the royal bodyguard, who also executed the capital punishments. In Jeremiah 39:13 he bears a different name from that in this passage—an evidence of the genuineness of the book; as a spurious Daniel, if he had derived the corresponding statements from Jeremiah, would have surely transferred also the name, in order to give an appearance of trustworthiness.”—Hengstenberg. According to Keil, this man was regarded as the highest officer of the king (Jeremiah 39:9; Jeremiah 39:11; Jeremiah 11:1, &c.); his business being to see to the execution of the king’s commands (1 Kings 2:25; 2 Kings 6:8). Dr. Rule remarks that this was also the Egyptian title 1200 years before Nebuchadnezzar, and the repetition of both the office and the name may be noted as one of many affinities between Egypt and Babylon in customs, language, and tradition.

From the whole section observe—

1. Men’s minds capable of being acted upon by God. Dreams themselves often from God, as well as the apprehension of their meaning. The power of recollection, as well as the want of it, also from Him. By divine revelation, mediately or immediately given, Daniel is enabled not only to interpret the king’s dream, but to describe the dream itself, without the slightest clue to it. The office of the Spirit to “bring all things to remembrance,” as well as to “show things to come.” The faculties of our minds as well as the members of our bodies under the influence and control of Him who made both, and that both while asleep and awake. “I awoke, and my sleep was sweet unto me.” “Thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions.”

2. The misery of ungodly men. Nebuchadnezzar troubled and unhappy in the midst of all his power and grandeur. A dream by night or a thought by day, laying hold of the mind, able to poison all earthly enjoyments. The sword of Damocles suspended over the ungodly in the midst of their mirth. Armed guards around a king’s chamber unable to keep trouble from his spirit. Sleep, the gift of God to His beloved (Psalms 127:2), often far from the pillow of the ungodly. An evil conscience a sufficient tormentor. A vague terror the usual accompaniment of unpardoned sin. Apprehended anger on the part of God enough to rob a man of peace by day and sleep by night. The mere man of the world “generally impatient under suffering; apprehensive of danger at every change both of body and mind; alarmed at every circumstance which to him appears to portend either adversity or dissolution.”—Wood.

3. The evils of despotism and absolute power. Like Nebuchadnezzar, a despot usually unreasonable and arbitrary, cruel and oppressive, hasty and impetuous. Is easily irritated, while his wrath is “like the roaring of a lion.” The capricious disposer of his subjects’ lives and property. The will of an absolute monarch, who in his wrath rather resembles a madman or a wild beast, takes the place of law, justice, and reason. Sad condition of a people when the will of one man is law. Usually the character of Oriental monarchies. The beheaded Baptist and the slaughtered infants of Bethlehem melancholy examples. The tendency of absolute power to make good men bad and bad men much worse. Such power only safe in the hands of Him who is King of Righteousness and Prince of Peace. The happiness of a free and constitutional State, as well as the duty of gratitude to God for the privilege of living under such, best seen in contrast with the misery of being under a despotic one. Adam Clarke exclaims on the passage: “Happy England! Know and value thy excellent privileges!”

“Thee therefore still, blameworthy as thou art,
Thee I account still happy, and the chief
Among the nations, seeing thou art free,
My native nook of earth.”

Plutarch relates that when Dionysius the Second took his departure from Syracuse, the whole city went out to behold the joyful sight, and that their hearts were so full of the happy event that they were angry with those that were absent and could not witness with what joy the sun rose that day on Syracuse, now at last delivered from the chains of slavery.

4. The fearful effects of sin, Sin makes men, who were created in the image of God, to resemble demons. Degraded Nebuchadnezzar into the likeness of a beast long before he was driven into the fields to eat grass. “When passion is on the throne, reason is under foot.” Both God and the devil stamp their image on their respective servants. Men must resemble the being they worship. We must either be like the God who is love, or him who was “a murderer from the beginning.” Causeless and unholy anger is murder in the germ. Anger may enter for a moment into the breast of a wise man, but “resteth only in the bosom of fools.” The maxim of Periander, the wise man of Corinth, was—“Be master of thine anger.” The Holy Spirit says, “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” Anger, Dr. Cox observes, is—

(1) undignifying;
(2) unreasonable;
(3) destructive of that just and useful influence to which we should aspire, and for which every one is naturally capacitated by his position in society;
(4) usually makes a rapid progress;
(5) is productive of great unhappiness;
(6) is a most guilty passion. It is remarked by Robert Hall: “Vindictive passions surround the soul with a sort of turbulent atmosphere, than which nothing can be conceived more opposite to the calm and holy light in which the blessed Spirit loves to dwell.”
5. The helplessness of heathenism and of men without God. Babylon’s wise men, with all their learning and science, unable either to find direction in their difficulty or deliverance from their danger. Like the mariners in the storm, they are “at their wit’s end.” They believed the gods could tell the king his dream, but they had no access to them. Their “dwelling is not with flesh.” Their gods do not dwell with them, and they confess that they have no converse with them. Thus heathenism, by its own confession, is powerless. Sorry gods, indeed, that cannot approach men, nor be approached by them! Even the great Bel of Babylon unable to help his royal and devoted worshipper. Contrast with this the God of the Bible, “a very present help in trouble,” and “near to all who call upon Him in truth.” Blessed are the people who know the “mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh;” and that, having been “made flesh” Himself, He can and does dwell with men on the earth. Matthew Henry notices the righteousness of God in causing men who imposed on others by pretending to do what they could not, to be threatened with death for not doing what they did not even pretend to do.

6. The happy privilege of prayer. Access to the throne of grace both the comfort and deliverance of Daniel and his three friends. A noble sight for angels to look down upon, those four young men on their knees, asking believingly, as children of a father, the gracious interposition of the God of heaven on behalf of themselves and others. They knew that for the God of their fathers nothing was too dark to know, nothing too hard to do, nothing too great to grant to His praying children. Nothing really good excluded from the subjects of prayer. “In everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6). Even under the law, Moses could appeal to Israel, “What nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon Him for?” How much nearer under the Gospel! “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, I will do it.” “What soever things ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” “If we ask according to His will, we know that He heareth us; and if we know that He heareth us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions we desire of Him” (1 John 3:22; 1 John 5:14-15). The Spirit of God given to help us in prayer, and to teach us to pray for what is according to the divine will (Romans 8:26). Hence—

7. The happiness of the godly. Daniel, though exposed to the same danger as the wise men, is calm and collected. He knew in whom he believed. An example of the text, “He shall not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.” He knew the God of his fathers to be the God “that heareth prayer.” The glory of the gospel that it brings the apostolic exhortation into realised experience and actual practice: “Be careful (or anxious) for nothing: but in everything by prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known unto God; and the peace of God, that passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Such a religion needed by men in the battle of life; and the last-quoted words show how it is to be found,—“through Christ Jesus.” Daniel an example of it in the Old Testament; millions such in the New. Tried by men and things as others are, yet kept in a peace to which the world is a stranger,—a peace found in the knowledge and possession of Christ Jesus. “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”

8. The special importance of united prayer. Daniel invites his three friends to unite with himself in prayer for the divine interposition. “Two are better than one,” no less in prayer than in labour. “If two of you,” said the Master, “shall agree as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them” (Matthew 18:19). So Esther asked her Jewish maids to join their prayers with hers in a time of great emergency. The promised baptism of the Holy Ghost bestowed on the disciples when engaged, as they had been for ten days, in united prayer. Peter’s deliverance from prison in answer to the united prayer made by the Church for that object. Those the most valuable friends who are able to join us in our suit at a throne of grace. Dr. Cox remarks on the passage: “While the individual supplication of the ‘righteous man availeth much,’ union in prayer is adapted to increase its fervency, and, through grace, to promote its success; and while it is adapted to our social nature and suited to our circumstances of common necessity, it has the express assurance of a divine blessing.”

9. A praying man a national benefit. Here are four men, captives in a strange land and occupying the position of slaves, made the means, by their intercession with God, not only of saving the lives of a numerous class of citizens, and of bringing peace and comfort to the troubled mind of the sovereign, but of bringing that heathen king to confess the worthlessness of his idols, and for a time at least to favour the worship of the true God among his subjects. How many national blessings have been bestowed and national calamities averted by the believing prayers of godly men, eternity alone will disclose. A poet reminds us how much the world—

“Receives advantage from his noiseless hours,
Of which she little dreams. Perhaps she owes
Her sunshine and her rain, her blooming spring
And plenteous harvest, to the prayers he makes,
When, lsaac-like, the solitary saint
Walks forth to meditate at eventide,
And thinks on her who thinks not on herself.”

10. The special privilege of a godly ancestry. Daniel’s privilege that he could address his prayers to God as “the God of his fathers,” and then thank and praise Him as such, connecting with that relationship the gracious answer he had received. The title reminds us, as Dr. Cox observes, “that the recollections of piety are the most solemn and endearing that earth can afford. Some are privileged to look back upon an extended succession of holy ancestry, and to recount the names of those who are endeared by relationship as well as distinguished for their faith, who now form a part of the celestial society. Their sun is set, but their example continues to shed its holy twilight around the horizon of life, and cheer them on their pilgrimage.” The recollection of such an ancestry at once a stimulus to prayer and a help to faith.

DANIEL AN EXAMPLE OF THE EFFICACY OF PRAYER
Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision” (Daniel 2:19).

Daniel obtained what he asked of God. Important to inquire, How may we Reason and Scripture teach us that various things are necessary to efficacious prayer. Prayer, to be efficacious, must obviously possess the following conditions. It must be—

1. Offered in faith. This constantly required. “Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering: for he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord” (James 1:6-7). “He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). The ability to grant on the part of the Giver, as well as His faithfulness if He has promised, must be cordially believed. “Believe ye that I am able to do this?” (Matthew 9:28). We must be able to say, “Thine is the power;” and to believe “He is faithful that promised.” Daniel prayed in confidence that God was the “Hearer of prayer.” “The prayer of faith shall save the sick” (James 5:15). “As thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee.”

2. Earnest. Prayer offered without earnestness only begs a refusal. Daniel prayed as in a matter of life and death. It is the “fervent” prayer that availeth much. “Elijah prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and it rained not” (James 5:17). “I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me” (Genesis 32:26). “They constrained Him.”

3. Importunate and persevering. This the evidence at once of faith and earnestness. Answers to prayer not always, nor often, granted immediately. Prayer to be continued till the answer come. Thus prayed Daniel and his three friends. The disciples in the upper room “continued in prayer and supplication” till they received the promised baptism of fire. The Church prayed for Peter’s release till it was granted. To this end Christ spake a parable that “men ought always to pray and not to faint,” or give up because the answer is delayed. “Shall not God avenge His own elect who cry day and night unto Him continually, though He bear long with him?” Jesus Himself continued whole nights in prayer to God. Elijah returned to his knees “seven times” before the “little cloud” appeared.

4. From a right motive and for a right end. “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:3). God’s glory and the good of others as well as ourselves to be our true motive. “Thine is the glory.” “Hallowed be Thy name,” the first petition taught in the Lord’s Prayer. Daniel prayed that men’s lives might be saved and God’s name glorified. Prayer offered to gratify lust, pride, ambition, covetousness, either unanswered or answered without a blessing. “He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul” (Psalms 106:15).

5. Offered with uprightness of heart and life. “Whatever we ask we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments” (1 John 3:22). The fervent prayer of the “righteous man” that which availeth much. The language of the man born blind that both of Nature and Scripture: “God heareth not sinners; but if any man be a worshipper of God and doeth His will, him He hearth” (John 9:31). “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” “The prayer of the wicked is abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the righteous is His delight.” The sinner, however, also heard, if he come confessing himself such and feeling his sin a burden. “God be merciful to me a sinner,” a prayer when offered sincerely never returned unanswered. Paul’s prayers heard and answered as those of a sinner before they were so as those of a saint. The prayers of a sinner, groaning under his sin, and pleading for pardon and a clean heart, make sweet music in heaven. “Behold, he prayeth.”

6. With submission to God’s will and desire only for what is according to it. “Thy will be done,” the third petition in the Lord’s Prayer. The great Teacher Himself an example. “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not my will, but Thine be done.” Prayer without submission to God’s will, only the language of rebellion. Prayer for what is not according to God’s will better left unanswered. “If we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us” (1 John 5:14). The work of the Spirit to teach us to pray for what is according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27). Prayer thus offered never unanswered. Connected with this is—

7. With entire self-surrender. For the submission of the will to God the surrender of our whole self necessary; without such surrender our prayer still that of rebellion. The language of our heart either, “O Lord, I am Thy servant,” or, “Our lips are our own; who is lord over us?” Prayer only safely and profitably answered where there is entire self-surrender. Such surrender secures either the blessing asked or something better.

8. In the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ. Daniel, in a recorded prayer of his (chap. 9.), renounces all merit and righteousness of his own as a ground of acceptance, and pleads only to be heard “for the Lord’s, that is, Messiah or Christ’s, sake.” “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name” (on my account or for my sake), “I will do it.” David taught to use the same prevailing plea—“Look upon the face of Thine Anointed” (Psalms 84:9). God can refuse no blessing so asked, because He cannot refuse His Son. To plead the name and merits of Christ, however, implies a cordial acceptance of and trust in Him as a Saviour. The consequence of such acceptance and trust is a personal union with Him, and the consequent indwelling of the Spirit as a “Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” With that Spirit we not merely say, “Our Father,” but “My Father,” and “pray in the Holy Ghost.”

Verses 19-23

HOMILETICS

SECT. VI.—THE THANKSGIVING (Chap. Daniel 2:19-23)

The part of faith not only to pray but to look out for an answer. Daniel prayed in the firm expectation that, if for God’s glory, an answer would be granted. When the answer was given in the vision vouchsafed to him, he was in no doubt about its being such. The vision carried with it the proof of its divine origin. Revelations from God bear their evidence in their own bosom. No need for Daniel to wait till the king identifies his dream. Daniel therefore at once gives thanks and blesses the God of heaven. The text exhibits him at seventeen or eighteen years of age as a beautiful example of elevated piety and devotion, worthy of the mention made of him by the prophet Ezekiel some years afterwards.
In Daniel’s thanksgiving we have—

I. The Object of it. This is God, viewed under two aspects.

1. “The God of heaven” (Daniel 2:19). All blessings received to be traced immediately to God. The title indicates

(1.) His unity. The one God in contrast with the “gods many “of the heathen. The only God known in heaven, though mysteriously subsisting in a Trinity of persons.

(2.) His supremacy. Heavenly powers and heavenly bodies worshipped by the heathen. Israel’s God the God of them all. All in heaven as well as on earth subject to Him as His creatures. Daniel’s God not the sun nor the firmament, but He that made both.

(3.) His majesty. Heaven His throne, the earth His footstool. Nations and their sovereigns as nothing before Him. This not to be forgotten in our approaches to Him. Prayer to be addressed to Him as “Our Father, who art in heaven.”

(4.) His holiness. Heaven conceived of as the place of purity, untainted by sin. The abode only of pure and holy beings. That holy heaven the place of God’s throne and special residence.

(5.) The source and centre of happiness. Heaven the place of blessedness. It is God that makes it such. The “God of heaven” makes heaven what it is. A heaven without God no heaven to holy creatures: “Whom have I in heaven but Thee?”

2. “The God of his fathers” (Daniel 2:23). The God known, served, and trusted in by his fathers, from Abraham downwards. A special mercy when the “God of heaven” is also the God of our fathers. Daniel recognises the privilege of having godly, praying ancestors. Answers to prayer and blessings in general to be then viewed in connection with such ancestry. The prayers of godly parents often answered in the blessings bestowed upon their children after them. Children often blessed for the sake of godly forefathers. The prayers of the righteous their children’s best inheritance. A special reason as well as encouragement to pray to Him who has been the God of our fathers. “Our fathers trusted in Thee and were delivered,” a scriptural and powerful plea in prayer. The God of our fathers likely to be our God too. The promise that comforted Jacob’s sorrowful heart on his way to Padanaram (Genesis 28:13-15). What God was to our fathers He will be to us, if we take Him and trust Him as our God. “I am the Lord; I change not.” The text a powerful argument with parents to make God in Christ their God, so as to hand down the blessing to their children and children’s children after them.

II. The Subject of the thanksgiving. The special subject is the answer to prayer vouchsafed. “Who hast given me wisdom,” &c. (Daniel 2:23). The very thing that Daniel and his friends had asked had been granted—wisdom and power to interpret the king’s dream, and so to save the lives of others as well as themselves, as well as to relieve the king’s agitation. The thing granted in answer to prayer often the very thing asked. Examples, Eliezer, Hannah, Elijah, Nehemiah. Faith receives either the very thing asked or something better. With thanks for the special blessing vouchsafed, Daniel connects blessing and praise.

1. For what God is.

(1.) Wise. “Wisdom and might are His” (Daniel 2:20). Divine wisdom seen in the manner in which all things have been created and in which all things are governed; in the plan of the universe and the means for carrying that plan out. Especially seen in the redemption of fallen mankind by the incarnation and mediatorial work of His own Son. God the only wise. His wisdom contrasted with the pretended wisdom of the wise men of Babylon. That wisdom revealed in part in the king’s dream.

(2.) Mighty. “Might” as well as wisdom His. Has power to execute what His wisdom plans. Power as well as wisdom necessary to the government as well as the creation of the universe, and of every, even the smallest portion of it. One object of the king’s dream to exhibit the power of God, in opposition to the gods of the heathen and the rulers of the world. Constant reference to this contrast in the descriptions of Jehovah in this book. “It is He, not as the Chaldean kings in their pride fondly imagined, human power, that bestows kingdoms, sets up kings and casts them down, and that changes times.” The author of those great changes in the kingdoms of the world which Daniel announced in the interpretation of the king’s dream.

(3.) Omniscient. “Knoweth what is in darkness,” &c. (Daniel 2:22). Able to “reveal the deep and secret things,” which the wise men of Babylon, with all their pretension, were unable to do, or their gods to do for them. All things naked and open before Him. No darkness or shadow of death where men may hide themselves from His sight. Hell and the invisible world without a covering before Him. The future as the present within His ken. Sees the end from the beginning. “Known unto Him all His works from the beginning of the world.” All history, including the lives and doings of the humblest of His creatures, only the development of His plan formed before the foundation of the world. No mysteries with God. The web of the universe, with its endlessly varied pattern, all before His all-seeing and all-contriving mind from the beginning, and that without any prejudice to the free agency of His intelligent creatures.

DANIEL EXHIBITED IN THE TEXT AS AN EXAMPLE OF THANKSGIVING
Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven” (Daniel 2:19).

Mercies in general, and answers to prayer in particular, call for due acknowledgment. Favours demand returns. A thankless heart a graceless one. “Neither were they thankful,” among the marks of man’s apostasy from God. Of the ten cleansed lepers, only one “returned to give glory to God.” Not much prayer in the world, still less of thanksgiving. A gracious soul not only prays but praises, especially when prayer has been heard and answered. Thanksgiving for answers to prayer doubles the blessing. “More blessed to give than to receive.” Thanksgiving both God’s right and man’s happiness. The want of it a wrong both against God and ourselves. To give thanks not only right and “comely,” but “pleasant,”—pleasant both to God and man. The ungodly man prays at times in a way; the godly both prays and gives thanks. Prayer made in hell, though in vain; thanksgiving and praise the employment of heaven.
Daniel’s thanksgiving was—

(1.) Prompt. Followed immediately on the bestowment of the blessing. “Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.” Thanks delayed lose half their value. He gives twice who gives quickly. Christ gave thanks even before the answer to His prayer was actually given, though anticipated (John 11:41).

(2.) Hearty. Indicated by the language and enlargement on the subject. Heartless thanks not real ones. The thankful leper fell down on his face on giving thanks to Jesus, a thing more like a person asking for a favour than giving thanks for one. Daniel as hearty in his thanks as he had been in his prayers. “I thank thee, O God of my fathers.” So the Psalmist: “I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart; for great has been Thy mercy toward me” (Psalms 86:12-13).

(3.) Full. Daniel copious in his thanksgiving, as in his prayer (ch. 9.). Anxious to omit nothing in describing the blessing received. When God is not stinted in His gifts, we should not be stinted in our thanksgiving.

Verses 24-30

HOMILETICS

SECT. VII.—THE TESTIMONY (Chap. Daniel 2:24-30)

Daniel’s thanksgiving to God immediately followed by his testimony to men. Life being at stake, the business required haste. Daniel repairs, therefore, at once to the captain of the guard, informing him he was able to meet the king’s wish, and desiring to be admitted to his presence. In answering the king’s question, “Art thou able,” &c. (Daniel 2:26), Daniel verifies the words of the Psalmist, perhaps his own,—“I will speak of thy testimonies before kings, and I will not be ashamed” (Psalms 119:46). His testimony includes reference to—

1. The wise men and soothsayers [41] of Babylon, and, by implication, the gods they worshipped. Daniel declares what they had already confessed, their utter inability to show the king’s dream (Daniel 2:27). The gods they served were equally unable to help them. Were they worthy of the name of gods and of the worship of men, they must know the secret of the king’s dream, and both for the sake of the king, their priests, and themselves, be willing to communicate it to their servants, now in danger of their lives. The pretensions of these priests were vain. They were either deceived themselves or sought to deceive others, or rather both [42].

[41] “Soothsayers.” An old English word literally denoting “truth-tellers,” strangely applied to those who, as a matter of fact, were generally the reverse. Isaiah (Isaiah 44:25) and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 50:36) both refer to the same class under the express term “liars,” בַּדִּים (baddim). The term in the text, גָּזְרִין (gozrin), denotes, according to Hengstenberg, “definers of fate.” This name is supposed by some to be derived from גְּזַר (gezar) to “divide,” “cut off;” the knowledge of fate being supposed to be gained from the observation of the stars, which were for that purpose divided into certain fields. Dr. Rule gives a different derivation, and observes: “If the word may be explained according to its literal meaning, they delivered the conclusion in doubtful questions, arrived at after the usual methods of divination had been employed without result. They were the deciders.”

[42] Their fortune-telling, however, it appears, did sometimes happen to prove true. Plutarch relates of Otho, before he became emperor, that the Chaldeans and other diviners whom he had always about him, would not suffer him entirely to give up his hopes or abandon his design of assuming the purple. In particular, he relied on Ptolemy, because he had formerly predicted that he should not fall by the hand of Nero, but should survive him and ascend the imperial throne; for as the former part of the prophecy had proved true, he thought he had no reason to despair of the latter.

2. The true God. “But there is a God in heaven,” &c. (Daniel 2:28). Daniel neither ashamed nor afraid to confess God before kings. He declares not merely His superiority to all the gods of Babylon, but His exclusive claim to deity. The wise men spoke of “the gods whose dwelling is not with flesh;” Daniel declares there is but one. The “gods many” of the heathen he tacitly intimates were mere figments, shadows, and worthless dumb idols, neither able to help their worshippers nor themselves. He declares, further, the spirituality and invisibility of the true God, in opposition to those idols that stood in their temples. The God who is able to reveal the king’s dream is the God of heaven, the invisible Being whose throne and abode is in heaven, and who fills it with His presence. The proof of His sole and exclusive claim to Godhead about to be given, Elijah’s challenge: “The God that answereth by fire, he is the God.” Daniel’s,—The God that revealeth the king’s dream, he and he only is the God.

3. Daniel himself. “As for me,” &c. (Daniel 2:30). Daniel disclaims any superior wisdom or merit in himself as the ground of his ability to show the king’s dream. Ascribes the revelation entirely to God and His good pleasure. God wished to reveal to the king what should hereafter happen to His kingdom and to the world. True excellence always lowly. Apparent room and a strong temptation in the circumstances for Daniel to glory. Daniel’s lowliness of mind the very ground of the distinction given him. God “giveth grace to the lowly; the proud He knoweth afar off.” Daniel, though young, taught the lesson so difficult to fallen humanity. “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” No glory due to the best of creatures. “Who maketh thee to differ? Or what hast thou that thou hast not received?” Quite natural that Ezekiel should refer to Daniel as an example of piety as well as wisdom.

DANIEL A NOBLE EXAMPLE OF FAITHFUL WITNESS-BEARING

The high vocation of God’s servants and people to bear witness for Him in the world. “Ye are my witnesses” (Isaiah 43:10). This repeated by Christ to His disciples: “Ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem,” &c. (Acts 1:8). This witness to be borne before all classes as occasion may offer and require. “Ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony” (Mark 13:9). To bear testimony to and for Christ in the world often the cross given a disciple to carry. Sometimes hard enough to do so before friends and neighbours, in the workshop, the market, or the drawing-room. The sneer of the unbelieving its frequent consequence. Sometimes something more than a sneer. “Martyr” literally a “witness,” or a witness-bearer. A cruel death in days past the frequent result of faithful witness-bearing. Hence courage necessary to make a consistent Christian. Such courage the offspring of the faith that makes a believer. “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4). “Virtue” or courage to be added to “faith” (2 Peter 1:5). Hence faith’s noble roll of witness-bearers (Hebrews 11:0.) The “cloud of witnesses” not mere spectators but witness-bearers, who on earth bore faithful testimony for God and His truth. Christ Himself the great witness-bearer,—“who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession.” The world to be won to Christ and to God by faithful witness-bearing. The testimony to be borne as well by our life as our lips. Future glory the reward of faithful witness-bearing. “Whoso shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32).

Verses 31-35

HOMILETICS

SECT. VIII.—THE DREAM (Chap. Daniel 2:31-35)

With the confidence of a man inspired and commissioned by the Most High, Daniel proceeds to declare the king’s dream. The dream one of no ordinary character. Exhibited the fate, not only of the empire of Babylon, but of those which should succeed it. Foreshowed their destruction and the means by which it should be effected. A little mysterious stone, with which the history of the world was bound up, was to accomplish the whole. The dream further unfolded what should ensue after the destruction of those empires. That stone should itself become an empire, and as such should fill the whole earth. A fifth monarchy, totally unlike its predecessors, should take their place, and last for ever. Thus the history of the world to the end of time was summarily comprehended in that dream. It is accordingly receiving its fulfilment at the present moment. Most of it has already been accomplished. The image has long ago been smitten, though not entirely destroyed. A little while and the whole shall be fulfilled. The stone is enlarging and will soon fill the earth. The time not distant when the predicted cry shall be heard in heaven, “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ” (Revelation 11:15). A vague impression both of the import and importance of the dream made on the king’s mind in his sleep, probably the occasion of his perturbation when he awoke. The dream in itself fitted to alarm. A gigantic, dazzling, and terrible image stood before his eyes; then smitten on its feet by an insignificant-looking stone, mysteriously cut out of a mountain without hands; then broken in pieces till it disappeared “like the chaff of the summer threshing-floor.” The dream all the more likely to alarm in a country where dreams were believed to have frequently an important meaning, and to foreshow future events, the interpretation of which formed one considerable branch of Chaldee learning. Natural for the king to feel that his dream had a meaning and a mission—a feeling which it was part of the divine purpose to produce, and to which his previous thoughts about the future had doubtless contributed (Daniel 2:29). No wonder the king was deeply concerned to discover what that meaning was. The dream consisted of four parts—

I. The Image. Images of animal forms familiar to the heathen world, especially in Babylon at that time [43]. The figure here a human one. In a corresponding vision afforded to Daniel himself (chap. 7.), the figures those of wild beasts. The kingdoms of the world symbolised in both cases, but as naturally presenting different aspects to a worldly ruler and a servant of God [44]. The image in the king’s dream not unlikely the original idea of that which he afterwards erected on the plains of Dura (chap. 3.). An image the appropriate symbol of the world which men worship. The image in the king’s dream possessed of five leading features. It was—

[43] “A great image.” The predominance of symbolism characteristic of the Chaldeans, especially a preference for symbolising by means of animal forms. “If Daniel sees a vision (or the king has a dream) in which animal forms denote kingdoms, symbolic shapes of that kind must have been no strangers to the waking world; for we dream only of forms which we see when awake, and in our dreams give them new and various combinations.”—Herder, quoted by Hengstenberg.

[44] “Whose brightness was excellent.” “To Nebuchadnezzar, who aspired only after human power and glory, the various empires that were in their order to succeed his own and tyrannise over the world, were represented by a splendid image. But in the prophetic vision of the man of God, they appeared in other colours and assumed a very different form. And under the appropriate symbol of wild beasts, varying in fierceness and cruelty, and distinguished by monstrous peculiarities, the successive empires of Babylon, Persia, Macedon, and Rome, the future promoters of idolatry and oppressors of man, were aptly characterised.”—Kitto.

1. Gigantic in its dimensions. “A great image.” That afterwards erected by the king sixty cubits or about thirty yards in height, probably, however, including the pedestal. Figures of monstrous proportions familiar to the eye in Chaldea as in Egypt [45]. A gigantic human figure an appropriate symbol of the world, with its great and universal monarchies succeeding each other. Yet how little that world when compared with the value of a man’s own soul, or the grandeur of eternity! An image indeed, and “vain show.”

[45] “The form thereof teas terrible.” It was also characteristic of the Chaldeans to affect the gigantic and grotesque. This taste found throughout the book. “Great, high, and dreadful to behold is the figure which appears to Nebuchadnezzar; just as huge as the figure which he in reality set up.”—Hengstenberg, who also remarks that this mode of representation points to a Babylonian origin of the book, and is only to be explained on that supposition.

2. Various in its composition. The head of gold [46], the breast and arms of silver, the belly and thighs of brass, the legs of iron, terminating in feet and toes partly of iron and partly of clay. The great empires to have a diversity of character, distinguishing them from each other, while that character was uniform in each, except in the last, in which a diversity was to take place in the latter part of its existence. Some were to be conspicuous for splendour, riches, and show; others to be remarkable for strength, power, and destructiveness. The first the most splendid, the last the most powerful, though degenerating into a mixture of weakness and strength. The golden head contrasted with the feet of iron and clay.

[46] “This image’s head was of fine gold.” “Thou art that head of gold.” Dr. Rule observes: “Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon are addressed as one; the “oppressor” and “the golden city” are identified (Isaiah 14:4). “The epithet “golden” is descriptive, for it is historically certain that Babylon was מַדְהֵבָה (madhhebahh), “an exactress of gold,” as it is rendered in the margin of our Bibles, beyond any other ruling city in the world.” It is noticeable that Achan’s wedge of gold is coupled with the Babylonish garment (Joshua 7:21).

3. Terrible in its aspect. An object of terror notwithstanding its brilliancy. The form no further indicated than that it was that of a man. Dr. Rule observes that it would not be “sculptured in relief, but in the full round, and not connected with any other object. It was in form terrible and majestic, and we may also be almost certain that it was in a sitting posture, like the statues of Shalmanezer in the British Museum.”

4. Resplendent in its appearance. Its “brightness was excellent.” The metals composing it, for the most part, such as to dazzle the eyes of the beholder. So the tempter showed to the Saviour “all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them.” This world and its kingdoms something dazzling to the carnal eye. Its contents “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16). Hence its witchery and its worship.

5. Symbolical in its character. This the king’s own conviction. Hence his desire for the interpretation of his dream. Dreams in ancient times often partaking, or believed to partake, of this character. Hence the class of wise men in Babylon whose business it was to interpret them [47], The dreams interpreted by Joseph in Egypt of this class, as well as his own in his father’s house. Not uncommon also to represent kingdoms and countries under the figure of a human being [48]. The great object to decipher the symbols. So in the Book of Revelations, “Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man” (Revelation 13:18).

[47] Hengstenberg remarks that “the division of the wise men into distinct classes amounted merely to this, that by rule each should particularly excel in only some one department, as, according to chap. Daniel 1:17, Daniel excelled in interpreting dreams; and hence when anything belonging particularly to that department occurred, he was specially asked for or associated with the number destined for this branch.” It is distinctly mentioned, however, as God’s special gift to Daniel, that he “had understanding in all visions and dreams.” Daniel did not appear with those summoned by the king, the gift not having yet manifested itself in him, and indeed his three years’ course of study being barely completed.

[48] “The human figure,” observes Adam Clark, “has been used both by historians and geographers to represent the rise, progress, establishment, and decay of empires, as well as the situation and importance of the different parts of the government.” Floras, in the Proœmium to his Roman History, represents the Romans under the form of a human being in its different stages from infancy to old age. The representation by the ancient poets of the four ages of the world, as those of golden, silver, brass, and iron, is well known.

II. The Stone. Probably to Nebuchadnezzar the most remarkable object in his dream. To him the most alarming; to us the most comforting. That for which the whole dream was given. The stone that on which the happiness of the world and of the universe depends. Six features noticeable in the stone. It was—

1. Mysterious in its origin. “Cut out of a mountain” or rock “without hands.” No human power or instrument visible in its extraction. Its existence supernatural, and the result of an invisible superhuman agency. The very existence of Christianity a miracle.

2. Small in its beginning. Smites the image not on the head, nor on the body, but on the feet. From a small beginning it was to grow into a mountain. God’s great works generally small in their commencement. The grain of mustard-seed.

3. Humble in its appearance. A rough stone taken out of a quarry, mean and unattractive to look at. Striking contrast in its appearance with that of a dazzling image of gold, silver, brass, and iron. Things not to be judged according to outward appearance.

4. Wonderful in its growth. Stones not naturally things that grow. The peculiarity of this stone that it expanded in its dimensions till it became “a great mountain,” filling the whole earth. Progress and ultimate greatness its leading features.

5 Mighty in its effects. Small as at first it was, yet even then mighty enough to break, initially at least, the gigantic image in pieces. This amazing power of the stone doubtless the great disturbing element in the king’s dream. The stone given us to rest our hopes for eternity upon, powerful enough to grind the world to powder.

6. Lasting in its duration. No end is ascribed to the stone. That which it symbolised to “stand for ever” (Daniel 2:44). Contrasted with the image. That, notwithstanding its dazzling glory and apparent strength, is broken in pieces, carried away by the wind, and vanishes like the chaff of the summer threshing-floor. This, notwithstanding its small beginning and humble appearance, not only outlives the image, but lasts for ever.

III. The Action of the Stone upon the Image. The stone smote the image on its feet and “brake them to pieces” (Daniel 2:34). This probably to the king the most alarming part of his dream. Observe in it—

1. The part smitten. “Smote the image on its feet.” The blow to be given during the last of the empires symbolised by the image, and that in the period of its mixture and decay, the iron legs having been succeeded by feet of iron and clay. From the corresponding image of the four beasts, the stroke might appear to fall rather on the toes, into which the feet are divided (chap. Daniel 7:7-26).

2. The completeness of the destruction. The image was “broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing-floor; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them” (Daniel 2:35). The effect like that of the corner-stone on its rejecters, “It shall grind him to powder” (Matthew 21:44). The same effect indicated by the angel in the Revelation taking up a great stone like a millstone and casting it into the sea, saying, “Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all” (Revelation 18:21). So in the corresponding image of the four beasts, “The beast (the fourth one, corresponding with the legs and feet of the image) was slain, and his body destroyed and given to the burning flame” (chap. Daniel 7:11).

IV. The Growth of the Stone. “The stone that smote the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth” (Daniel 2:35). This perhaps the most conspicuous and wonderful part of the dream, with which it closes, leaving nothing to be seen by the king but the mysterious mountain-stone now filling all the earth. This the grand development of the dream, and that for which all the rest was intended. This glorious result the hope of the Church and the expectation of a groaning creation (Romans 8:21-22). The finishing of the mystery of providence and redemption. Observe—

1. The character of the growth. Growth either slow and gradual or sudden and rapid. Here not said which. Probably both. Slow and gradual for a time, and then towards the end sudden and rapid, when the stone assumes its mountain proportions. So in the vision of the beasts, it is after the destruction of the fourth beast that the Son of Man appears to be brought before the Ancient of Days, and to have given to Him “dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve Him” (chap. Daniel 7:13-14). The growth into a mountain apparently following upon the destruction of the image, though commencing with the first smiting of it. So in the Revelation with reference to the same event, when the seventh angel sounded, announcing the third and last woe, great voices were heard in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of the Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).

2. The completeness of the growth. “It became a mountain and filled the whole earth.” No stop to its growth till then. The growth from its commencement not however necessarily uniform. Its earlier period slow, interrupted, and uneven. Often greatly hindered by the image itself. One among the ten toes, or the Little Horn in the head of the fourth beast, its great antagonist. This and the beast itself, or the great image having been destroyed, the growth of the stone rapid and onward till it fills the earth. The growth of the stone as complete as the destruction of the image. “The earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (Habakkuk 2:14; Isaiah 40:5).

Verses 36-46

HOMILETICS

SECT. IX.—THE INTERPRETATION OF THE DREAM (Chap. Daniel 2:36-46)

In the interpretation of the king’s dream we come to the prophecies of Daniel. Some of these prophecies were communications from God to Daniel alone, without any other medium; others, like the present, through Daniel as the interpreter of what was already given to another in the shape of a dream. “This vision,” says E. Irving, “was revealed, not to the prophet, but to the king, in order to mark its secular and subsidiary nature, but interpreted by the prophet to show that it was, if not immediately, yet indirectly, connected with the Church.” The prophecies of Daniel have a character peculiar to themselves, as marked by order and distinctness, and as having in them notes of time at which the events predicted should take place. These prophecies especially, like those of St. John, are, as Mr. Birks observes, continuous, beginning with some chief event near to the date when they were given. They are, therefore, said, like those of the Revelation, to be of the historical kind, as distinguished from the discursive, the character of the other prophetical books in general [49]. They constitute an important portion of that “sure word of prophecy, whereto we do well to take heed, as to a light shining in a dark place” (2 Peter 1:19). Very specially given, that “through patience and comfort of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). A great part of the prophecies of Daniel have already been accomplished, and that with such remarkable exactness as to have given occasion to objectors to deny the genuineness of the book, as being, in their view, instead of prophecies, mere narrations of events already past. The past and present fulfilment of one large portion of them leaves no room for doubt as to the similar fulfilment of the rest. The prophecy before us we find repeated, with important additions, in a vision given to Daniel himself, and useful in assisting to understand the present one. That vision, given for the sake of the additions, is that of the four beasts, contained in chap. 7. In this and the other prophecies of Daniel, it is not the history of all nations that we find mapped out, but that of those only which have had to do with the people of God; that, namely, of the great universal empires of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, with the ten Gothic or German nations, into which the last of these came to be divided, comprehending what is called the prophetic earth, or the world as known by the ancients.

[49] “The prophecies of Scripture are of two kinds; the one, Prophecy properly so called, or the showing forth of the purposes of God respecting the world and the Church; the other, Prophetic History, or the same purposes digested in a narrative of coming events, drawn up with reference to time and place.” The latter kind, of which are the Books of Daniel and the Revelation, “are nothing else than histories of the future, expressed for the most part in a natural or emblematic, not an artificial language, that it might be more expressive and universally intelligible. In the Book of Daniel this is done as it were by four main streams, all commencing from the period at which the prophet lived, and running down to the time of the end. In the first of these, are used the emblems of the four metals combined into an image, to denote a fourfold succession of empires, which should arise one out of the other; until at length a fifth, described by a stone cut out without hands, should destroy them all and fill the earth, and endure for evermore. In the second, under the emblem of four beasts, are described the same four empires, not with a view of repeating the former vision, but to connect this new vision with the same points of time, in order to give date and place to the description of a certain blasphemous power, which was to do strange things against the Most High in the time and territory of the last of the four great empires described in the former vision. The third of these four chief streams of prophetic history connecteth itself with the former at the struggle of the third kingdom with the second, in order that it may trace, within the territory of the third, the rise of another blasphemous power, which was also to prevail against the saints of God till the time of the end. Now the fourth (for we purposely omit the prophecy of the seventy weeks) is not symbolical, being the history of men, not of things, and also connects itself with the time of Daniel by the mention of certain kings immediately thereafter; which end of connection having been secured, it makes large leaps in order to reach the description of a third blasphemous and ungodly power, which was to arise in the form of an individual man, not of an institution, close to the time of the end.”—E. Irving.

PART FIRST: THE IMAGE (Daniel 2:37-43).

Daniel interprets the four parts of the image, distinguished by the different materials of which they were composed, as representing the four great successive monarchies of the world, commencing with that of Babylon, of which Nebuchadnezzar was the head, and thus subsisting in the prophet’s own time. These monarchies are styled indiscriminately “kingdoms” and “kings,” or ruling dynasties [50]. These are readily and almost universally understood to be the empires of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome [51], all well known to have possessed, in a popular sense, the character of universality, and to have succeeded each other, the last of the four having also, according to the symbol, been divided in its later period into ten kingdoms. The first of these Daniel himself expressly declares to be that of which Nebuchadnezzar was the head (Daniel 2:38). According to Daniel’s interpretation of the writing on the wall of Belshazzar’s palace, the empire of Babylon was, at the death of that monarch, given to the Medes and Persians (chap. Daniel 5:26-31). The Persian, or, as it is sometimes called, the Medo-Persian, was thus the second of the four. In the subsequent vision of the ram and the lie-goat contending for the mastery, the latter, which gained the ascendancy, is said by Gabriel to be “the kings of Grecia,” and the former, which was cast down by the other to the ground, to be the “kings of Media and Persia” (chap. Daniel 8:3-21). The Greek empire was therefore the third. This, which was founded by Alexander the Great, king of Macedon, and therefore sometimes called the Macedonian empire, was, after being, at the death of its founder, divided among his four principal generals, Antigonus, Lysimachus, Seleucus and Ptolemy, terminated by the Romans, who incorporated the whole into their gigantic empire, which therefore formed the fourth, and which, in its divided form, continues to this day [52]. The different materials composing the image and representing the four successive empires, descending from gold to iron and clay, have been viewed as not inaptly exhibiting humanity in its various stages, from its highest excellence to its lowest decay; and as not obscurely indicating a downward course, entirely opposed to the theory of human progress and perfectibility [53]. We now view the constituent parts of the image.

[50] “After thee shall arise another kingdom” (Daniel 2:39). “The exposition of kings as ruling dynasties in the symbolic prophecies is confirmed alike by reason and Scripture usage.”—Birks. Gaussen remarks that in the image we may see a change of metal, indicating not properly a new empire, but a new people, a new language, a new dynasty, which rises up to rule over the world, and to hold under its sway the people of God; the time of the image being the “times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24), that is, the period during which the Gentiles are to rule over Jerusalem and to trample it underfoot, beginning with the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar and his successors, and continuing under the Persians, until finally the Latins take the place of the Greeks in governing the world and oppressing the people of God.

[51] Calvin says: “My assertion is perfectly correct, that interpreters of any judgment and candour all explain the passage of the Babylonian. Persian. Macedonian, and Roman monarchies.” “The rival interpretation which has prevailed the most is that of which Porphyry is the earliest known advocate, and which has been embraced since by Junius, Hayn, Lightfoot, Grotius, L’Empereur, Venema, and a few other writers down to our own day. Its main feature is to make the successors of Alexander, the fourth empire, distinct from that of Alexander himself, and thus to terminate the vision before the first Advent. This view has now scarcely an advocate. An opposite deviation from the general view has been adopted by a few writers in the last fifteen or twenty years. Their scheme, so far as it has any consistency, is the following. The empire of Persia is only the continuation of the first empire of Babylon; the second, of the Grecian; and the third is the Roman; the fourth is still future.”—Birks, written in 1845. Dr. Pusey says: “It is assumed in Rationalist interpretation that the fourth empire is no empire later than the Macedonian, to which Antiochus Epiphanes belonged. For else there would be prophecy: there is to be no allusion to the Roman empire; for in the time of Antiochus human foresight could not yet discern that it would become an empire of the world. But if the Grecian empire is to be the fourth, which are the other three?… Agreed as this school is as to the result, they have been nothing less than agreed as to the process whereby it is to be arrived at. Every possible combination has been tried.” All ancient authors speak of the kingdom of Alexander and his successors as one and the same kingdom. Josephus says: “Alexander being dead, the empire was divided among his successors.” “He doth not say,” observes Bishop Newton, “that so many new empires were erected. Even Grotius himself acknowledged that even now the Hebrews call those kingdoms by one name, the kingdom of the Grecians.”

[52] “The Roman empire to be the fourth kingdom of Daniel, was believed by the Church of Israel both before and in our Saviour’s time; received by the disciples of the apostles and the whole Christian Church for the first four hundred years, without any known contradiction. And I confess, having so good ground in Scripture, it is with me tantum non articulus fidei, little less than an article of faith. Ephraim Syrus, in the fourth century, interpreted the fourth kingdom of the Greek, dividing that of the Medo-Persian into two, those of the Medes and of the Persians as the second and third,—the only exception to Mede’s assertion. Jerome, in the beginning of the fifth century, speaks of it as what all ecclesiastical writers had “handed down,” that the ten kingdoms were to rise out of the division of the Roman empire. Cyril of Jerusalem, a century later, says “that this (the fourth kingdom) is that of the Romans has been the tradition of the Church’s interpreters.” Irenæus, in the second century, speaks of the division of the empire as a thing still future. HippoIytus, at the beginning of the third, says, “Who then are these but the Romans? which same is the iron, the kingdom which now standeth. For its legs, saith he, are of iron. After this, then, what remaineth, beloved, save the toes of the feet of the image, wherein part shall be of iron and part of clay, being mixed one with another?”—Newton.

[53] “The world,” says Calvin, “grows worse as it grows older; for the Persians and Medes, who seized upon the whole East under the auspices of Cyrus, were worse than the Assyrians and Chaldeans. So profane poets invented fables about the four ages, a golden, silver, brazen, and iron one.” Dr. Coxe observes that the human figure has been often introduced by historians and poets to represent cities, peoples, the progress or decline of empires, or the relative importance of different parts of a government.

1. The head, or the Babylonian Empire. This empire, from its riches, represented by gold. Babylon itself called the “golden city,” or, as the margin, the “exactress of gold” (Isaiah 14:4). The cruel oppressor of God’s ancient people (Psalms 137:8). The mother of idolatry (Jeremiah 51:7). Notorious for its practice of sorcery and divination. Doomed to destruction for its sins (Jeremiah 51:35; Psalms 137:8). Nebuchadnezzar exhibited in the history as an example of cruelty. Hence Babylon made a type of Rome, “drunk with the blood of the saints and of the martyrs of Jesus” (Revelation 17:5-6). The Babylonian empire, commencing with Nebuchadnezzar’s sole reign about 606–5 B.C., the year also of the commencement of Judah’s captivity, terminated with Belshazzar’s death, about sixty-eight years afterwards (chap. Daniel 5:30-31). The empire said to be universal (Daniel 2:37-38). The words, however, of prophetic Scripture not to be strained to their strictest and literal meaning. In point of fact, the kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar never extended to Europe, nor perhaps into Africa beyond the boundaries of Egypt. Virtually, however, it was universal. Raised up by God in His providence for His own purpose. “God hath given thee a kingdom” (Daniel 2:37) [54]. Hence Nebuchadnezzar spoken of by God as His “servant” (Jeremiah 27:6). The purpose designed to be served by Him the chastisement of Israel and other nations, and the glory of Jehovah’s own name. The termination of that empire as truly of God as its establishment. “God hath remembered thy kingdom and finished it” (chap. Daniel 5:26). Babylon destroyed as foretold by Isaiah two centuries before the event (Isaiah 45:1-3). Greek historians relate that Cyrus took Babylon by first drawing off the waters of the Euphrates, and then entering the city from the bed of the river through the brazen gates which opened upon it, but which on the night of a great festival had been left unshut [55].

[54] “God hath given thee a kingdom” (Daniel 2:37). Dr. Rule observes that “this great king could not have forgotten that his father was only a satrap at first, a successful rebel, who perfidiously allied himself with his master’s enemies, and by that means overthrew Nineveh and set up as king at Babylon. By a suddenly acquired sovereignty over all the servant-kings, he became king of kings; and thus Nebuchadnezzar, as son of Nabopolassar, was the first Babylonian king of kings by inheritance.” Gaussen says: “Nebuchadnezzar was the successor of the kings of Assyria, the most ancient and the noblest of monarchies. Since Nebuchadnezzar’s father it had become the empire of Babylon; the Chaldeans formed but one kingdom with the Assyrians. The young King Nebuchadnezzar had met with the most extraordinary successes from the very commencement of his reign; everything had given way to him. He had been led from his victories and his brilliant achievements to regard himself as the creator of his own magnificent fortune, and to look upon himself as a kind of demigod.”

[55] Herodotus relates that Cyrus, wearied with the length of the siege, devised the plan of diverting the course of the river; and that when this was done, those who had been assigned to that post entered by the bed of the river, which had ebbed to the height only of the thighs, and came upon the Babylonians unexpectedly while celebrating a feast with dancing and revelry; those living in the middle of the city not knowing when it was taken on account of its great extent.

2. The breast and arms, or the Medo-Persian Empire. In the night in which Belshazzar was slain, “Darius, the Mede, took the kingdom” (chap. Daniel 5:30-31). The capture of Babylon, however, rather the work of the Persians. Media at first the stronger power, but under Cyrus, who took the city, became the inferior part of the combined monarchy. Both Medes and Persians, however, as indicated by the two horns of the ram in another vision, shared in the sovereign power till united under Cyrus, who was related to both, and from whom the empire has been generally called the Persian [56]. Represented by silver, as inferior to the first empire [57]. The conquests of Cyrus neither so extensive nor so numerous as those of Nebuchadnezzar. The grandeur of the latter and of his great metropolis never equalled by that of the Persian kings and their new capital, Susa or Shushan. The Persian monarchy more extensive in size, as indicated by the symbol, but inferior in imperial majesty. The two arms of the image symbolical of the two powers that first constituted the empire [58]. The monarchy, from its first establishment by Cyrus to the death of the last king, Darius Codomannus, lasted little more than two hundred years [59]. The two years assigned to Darius the Mede, generally supposed to be the same with Cyaxares, completed the seventy years of Israel’s captivity in Babylon. It was under this second empire, on the accession of Cyrus, who succeeded his uncle Darius, that the Jews obtained permission to return to their own land, Judæa, however, still remaining tributary to the empire. Under the same empire lived Ezra and Nehemiah, Mordecai and Esther, as well as the prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi; while under it Daniel himself spent the last years of his life. It was under the reign of Artaxerxes I., surnamed Longimanus, in the year B.C. 458, that the commission was given to Ezra to repair to Jerusalem and restore the Temple-worship, about eighty years after the edict of Cyrus.

[56] Cyrus was the son of Cambyses, the brother of Darius, who was the son of Astyages and the uncle of Cyrus, and believed to be the second Cyaxares of the Greek historians. Cyrus at first fought under his uncle; and on the taking of Babylon he desired him to take the kingdom. On the death of his father and of his uncle, in the year 536 b.c., he became sovereign of the Medes and Persians.
[57] “Inferior to thee.” Castalio renders the words, “worse than those.” The inferiority might have a probable reference also to the character of the monarchs, the Persian kings being, according to Prideaux, the worst race of men that ever governed an empire. Calvin says, “Cyrus was, it is true, a prudent prince, but yet sanguinary. Ambition and avarice carried him fiercely forwards, and he wandered in every direction like a wild beast, forgetful of all humanity.”

[58] Josephus says that the two hands and shoulders of the image signify that the empire of the Babylonians should be dissolved by two kings.
[59] According to the Canon of Ptolemy, the successors of Darius the Mede were: Cyrus, Cambyses, Darius (Hystaspis), Xerxes, Artaxerxes, Darius II., Artaxerxes II., Ochus, Arostes, Darius III.

3. The belly and thighs, or the Grecian Empire. The Persians were, after many encounters, ultimately subdued by the Greeks under Alexander the Great, king of Macedon, who thus established the Grecian, or, as it is from him sometimes called, the Macedonian empire. The symbolical metal of this, the third great monarchy, was brass, corresponding to the Homeric title, the “brazen-mailed Greeks” [60]. Brass also a frequent symbol of eloquence, for which the Greeks were distinguished. This third empire said, according to Scripture usage, to “bear rule over all the earth.” In the vision of the four beasts it is represented by a leopard with four wings and four heads, while “dominion” is said to be “given to it.” Alexander, after his extensive conquests, commanded that he should be called “king of all the world,” and is said to have wept because there were no more worlds to conquer. After colonising Asia with Grecian cities [61], he died in Babylon at the age of thirty-two, in consequence of a debauch [62]. The Greek or Macedonian empire was continued under his successors, who, however, were not the members of his own family, but his favourite generals. These, as already remarked, were four, being represented in the corresponding vision by the four heads of the leopard, and in another by the four “notable horns” of the he-goat (chap. Daniel 7:6; Daniel 8:8). In the fourfold division of the empire after the battle of Ipsus, the two principal portions, those of Syria and Egypt, fell to Seleucus and Ptolemy Lagus, hence called respectively the Seleucidæ and the Lagidæ, and probably represented by the two thighs of the image, it being with these alone that the Jewish Church and nation had to do [63]. The third empire was the period of the Jews’ greatest suffering, and at the same time their greatest national renown. It included the persecutions of Antiochus Epiphanes, one of the kings of Syria, and the heroic struggles of the Maccabees.

[60] “Another third kingdom of brass.” Josephus explains the symbol by saying that another, coming from the west, completely covered with brass, should destroy the empire of the Medes and Persians.

[61] “Which shall bear rule over all the earth.” Plutarch says that Alexander founded above seventy cities among the barbarous people, and sowed Asia with Greek troops. Dr. Pusey remarks that, apart from garrisons, towards seventy cities founded by him or by his generals at his command, have been traced in Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Media, Hyrcania, Parthia, Bactria, Sogdiana, India on the Hydaspes, the Acesines, and the Indus, and in other countries; in modern terms, in the whole of Turkey in Asia, Egypt, all habitable Persia, north, east, and south beyond it, in Beloochistan, the Deccan, Cabool, Afghanistan, the Punjab; and yet northward in Khorassan and Khondooz, to Bokhara and Turkestan. In all this Alexander was imitated by his generals who succeeded him.

[62] “Death,” says Gaussen, “in a moment silences that commanding voice which made the earth to tremble; and he for whom, the evening before, the world seemed too small, is enclosed in a tomb of porphyry, lately found in Egypt, and now in the British Museum.”
[63] “Five years after Alexander’s death, his wife, his brothers, his sisters, and his children, had all perished; and his generals, plunged in blood, were now disputing for his vast empire. At length, after thirty years of war, they ‘divided it toward the four winds of heaven,’ into four kingdoms, two of which (the only ones that had to do with the people of God) soon became more powerful than the others. These were, north of Jerusalem, the Grecian kingdom of the Seleucidæ in Syria; and south of Jerusalem, the Grecian kingdom of the Ptolemies in Egypt. Seleucus and Ptolemy were two of Alexander’s generals; and their descendants, who in Daniel are called the kings of the North and the kings of the South, reigned until the arrival of the Romans, and ruled in turn over the people of God.”—Gaussen.

4. The legs and feet, or the Roman Empire. The Greeks in their turn were subdued by the Romans, who established the fourth and last of the world’s universal monarchies [64]. The legs were of iron, while, in the feet, the iron was mingled with clay. The fourth empire represented as stronger than any of its predecessors, and as breaking them in pieces, “as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things” (Daniel 2:40). In the corresponding vision, it is represented by a beast without a name, “dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly,” having great iron teeth, “devouring and breaking in pieces, and stamping the residue with its feet” (chap. Daniel 7:7). The Romans subdued and broke in pieces the empire of Alexander and his successors, as it did the whole known world. They made Syria a Roman province in the year 65 B.C., as they did Egypt thirty years later. “The arms of the republic,” says the infidel historian of the Roman empire, “sometimes vanquished in battle, always victorious in war, advanced with rapid steps to the Euphrates, the Danube, the Rhine, and the ocean; and the images of gold, or silver, or brass, that might serve to represent the nations and their kings, were successively broken by the iron monarchy of Rome.” The Roman empire fitly represented by iron as well from its immense strength as from the sternness, hardness, and valour of its people, and the vigour, perseverance, and oppressive consequences of its military achievements. It was an iron crown which was worn by its emperor, and an iron yoke to which it subjected the nations. The Romans pre-eminently “men of the sword.” With the god of war for their legendary parent, their national fierceness was represented by the she-wolf that nourished their founder. The iron feet, however, mixed with clay, aptly indicated that, in the later period of its existence, the empire should degenerate and be weakened by an admixture of foreign nations. The kingdom was to be “divided,—partly strong and partly broken” or brittle. The people were to “mingle themselves with the seed of men,” or with inferior races; but not so as to “cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay” (Daniel 2:40-43). It is well known that the Roman empire, in its later period, was weakened by the irruptions of barbarous nations from the North, who gradually became mingled with the native inhabitants [65]. Their mingling themselves with “the seed of men” without cleaving to each other, is believed to point to the marriage alliances formed by the Romans with the barbarians, which were yet followed by no cordial union [66]; “reasons of state,” as Bishop Newton observes, being “stronger than the ties of blood, and interest generally availing more than affinity.” This fourth empire had the farther marked peculiarity that in its later period of weakness and decay, and in connection with this very admixture of foreign elements represented by the clay, it was to be divided into ten separate kingdoms, indicated by the ten toes of the image. The same remarkable circumstance symbolised, in Daniel’s corresponding vision, by the ten horns of the fourth beast, expressly said to be ten kings or kingdoms (Daniel 7:24). And it is a singular confirmation of the correctness of the application, that the number of inferior kingdoms formed out of the weakened and dismembered Roman empire, in consequence of the irruptions from the North, has been generally regarded as, with more or less exactness, ten [67]. The number of these Gothic or German kingdoms appears to have been exactly ten at the earliest period of their formation, but to have afterwards varied, in consequence of the frequent though temporary alliances predicted in the prophecy; the number, however, never departing far from the original ten. The tenfold character of the kingdoms, it has been observed, “dominant through the whole period of their existence, probably to appear at the beginning and close of their history, though not always strictly maintained throughout” [68]. The two legs of the image may be regarded as foreshadowing the division of the empire into that of the East and West, previous to the formation of the ten kingdoms. To the fourth or Roman empire also were the Jews made subject. It was soon after the battle of Pydna that they first came in contact with that power which, in the providence of God, was to be the instrument of a sorer chastisement and a longer captivity than that by Nebuchadnezzar. Their subjugation itself the consequence of trust in an arm of flesh. Leaning on Rome as they had done on Egypt, they were pierced by the broken reed. The league with Rome, sued for and obtained by Judas and Jason, the Maccabean leaders, against their Grecian masters, proved the step to their subjection to the new world-power. It was after Judaea had become a province of the Roman empire that the Redeemer of the world was born. The predicted manner of His vicarious death and crucifixion the consequence of that subjugation, exhibiting, as it did, Christ “made a curse for us” (Matthew 27:26; Galatians 3:13). It was the representative of this empire in Judaea that wrote the title over the cross, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS (Matthew 27:37). That same “King of the Jews” to be the Founder of a divine monarchy that shall “fill the whole earth.”

[64] “His legs of iron” (Daniel 2:33). “The fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron” (Daniel 2:40). Josephus says that the two legs might denote the two Roman consuls. “After the battle of Pydna, the Roman conqueror divided Macedon into four parts, and soon after reduced it into the form of a province; and not long after the fall of Macedon, Carthage was finally destroyed.”—Birks. Gaussen observes that we may date the destruction of the thighs of brass and the commencement of the legs of iron from the year 65 b.c., when Pompey overthrew the kingdom of Syria, and so broke the first thigh; or from the year 30 b.c., when Augustus Cæsar destroyed the second thigh, the Grecian kingdom of Ptolemy in Egypt, and became the first emperor of Rome, with his authority fully established in Jerusalem.

[65] “His feet part of iron and part of clay” (Daniel 2:33). “The kingdom shall be divided, partly strong and partly broken (marg. brittle)” (Daniel 2:41-42). Jerome, who lived to see the incursions of the Northern barbarians, says in his Commentary: “The fourth kingdom, which plainly belongs to the Romans, is the iron which ‘breaketh and subdueth all things;’ but ‘his feet and toes are part of iron and part of clay,’ which is most manifestly proved at this time. For as in the beginning nothing was stronger and harder than the Roman empire, so in the end of things nothing is weaker; since both in civil wars and against divers nations we need the assistance of other barbarous nations.” “From the reign of Valens,” says Gibbon, “may justly be dated the disastrous period of the fall of the Roman empire. Especially from that time began the infusion of the foreign element, tending to weaken the strength and cohesion of the empire; the mixture being partly in barbarian levies, foreign mercenaries, and conquests made by the Northern invaders. In 412, the Visigoths had Aquitaine given them by the Emperor to retire to. The Burgundians had a region on the Rhine, which they had invaded, granted them for an inheritance. Pharamond, the prince of the Salian Franks in Germany, had seats granted to his people in the empire near the same river.” “And now,” says Sir Isaac Newton, “the barbarians were all quieted and settled in several kingdoms within the empire, not only by conquest, but by the grants of the Emperor Honorius.”—Quoted by Birks. “About four hundred years after Christ,” says M. Gaussen, “almost at the same moment, ten Gothic nations, speaking the same language (a kind of German), warlike and cruel, and countless as the sand, were seen pouring from the remote regions of the North towards the frontiers of the fourth kingdom: they crossed the Danube and the Rhine, seized upon the Roman empire, and established themselves in its capital, a.d. 476. But soon they too adopted the customs, the religion, the worship, the very language of the Romans; so that they continued the fourth empire under another form. Their Church was called the Latin Church, their religion the Romish religion, their empire the Latin empire, their sacred language the Latin language, and their history for ages the history of the Latin Church and empire.”

[66] “Shall mingle themselves with the seed of men, but they shall not cleave one to another” (Daniel 2:43). Dr. Keith observes: “The sovereigns of the different kingdoms into which the Roman empire was divided after being broken down have been perpetually contracting matrimonial alliances with each other; but notwithstanding this seeming bond of union, they have not united or adhered together.” Mr. Birks, in his book on the “First Two Visions of Daniel,” adduces a great number of instances in which this was the case. M. Gaussen, however, regards the mixture of the iron and the clay as rather pointing to the union between the Church and the State, occasioned by the establishment of Christianity as the religion of the empire, as well as that of the ten Gothic kingdoms. He remarks that at the time of the conversion of Constantine to Christianity, a great change was introduced into the government and internal constitution of the empire. Constantine exempted the ministers of the Christian religion from the payment of taxes, loaded them with riches and honours, and gave them palaces in the principal cities of his states. He established among them an ecclesiastical government, recognised in the empire and sanctioned by the laws, with its superior and inferior heads. After Constantine, almost all the emperors continued or added to his work. The clergy became a power that soon equalled that of the prince. The pastors of the cities governed those of the country. The priests of the large towns aspired to rule over those of the smaller ones. After some time they even aimed at being independent of the princes who had recognised them; and subsequently pushing their haughty pretensions still further, they set themselves above kings, and claimed the right of creating or deposing them at pleasure. The Bishop of Rome proclaimed himself the bishop of bishops, took the title of Pontifex Maximus, a title completely pagan, and which the Roman emperors had hitherto borne for the celebration of idolatrous rites. The mixture was to be an internal, not an external division like that of the toes, but taking place in the very essence of the constitution, and existing both in the feet and in the toes, exactly as we see in all the states of the Western empire—Italy, Austria, France, Spain, &c.; this change taking place eighty years after the arrival of the Gothic nations. Dr. Rule also suggests whether the weakening mixture spoken of as the “seed of men,” or, according to the Vulgate and Jerome, the “seed of man,” was not the uniting of a degenerate Christianity, a Christianity in name rather than in substance,—a system human in origin, in spirit, and in administration,—with all the governments of Europe until three or four centuries ago, and still with some of them, though continually in conflict with one or another. According to Keil, the figure is derived from the sowing of a field with mixed seed, and denotes all the means employed by the rulers to combine the different nationalities, among which marriage is only spoken of as the most important. Dr. Cox remarks that the Roman and Northern nations were so dissimilar in their habits and character that they never could form one uniform people. Hoffmann, quoted by Pusey, says in reference to the marriage alliances: “This was characteristic from the relation of the immigrating nations to Rome; they did not found a new kingdom, but continued the Roman. And so it continues until the end of all earthly power, until its final ramification into ten kingdoms.”

[67] “The toes and the feet were part of iron and part of clay.” Machiavelli, a Roman historian, specifies by name the ten Gothic kingdoms into which, like the ten toes of the feet, the Roman empire was divided: the Herulo-Thuringi, the Ostrogoths, the Lombards, the Franks, the Burgundians, the Visigoths, the Sueves and Alans, the Vandals, the Huns, and the Saxons. Jerome, speaking of his own day, in the beginning of the fifth century, says: “Innumerable and most savage nations have taken possession of the whole of Gaul. The Quadians, the Vandals, the Sarmatians, the Alani, the Gepidæ, the Heruli, the Saxons, the Burgundians, the Alemanni, and the Pannonians, have ravaged the whole country between the Alps and the Pyrenees, the ocean, and the Rhine;” thus, as Archdeacon Harrison remarks, enumerating exactly ten nations. “The most usual list, however,” observes Mr. Birks in 1845, “of living commentators, is that which omits the Huns and introduces the Alans as a distinct power.” Gaussen omits both Huns and Saxons; the former, as not settling in the Roman empire, though they devastated it under Alaric, and were neither of the same language nor of the same race as the other kingdoms; the latter, because England did not form a part of the prophetic earth; neither that country, nor Holland, nor Lower Germany having made a part of the Roman State at the accession of Augustus Cæsar. Keil, Dr. Todd, and some others, think that the ten kingdoms belong to the future. On the other hand, Professor Lee thinks that the feet must necessarily symbolise heathen Rome in its last times, and that the kings represented by the toes may be supposed, in a mystical sense, as the digit ten, a round number, and signifying a whole series.

[68] “Asia had been for ages the seat of power, the mightiest and most populous region of the globe. Europe was buried in darkness, and its western tribes were like outcasts from the family of nations. Greece itself had scarce risen into notice, and presented only a confused multitude of feeble and jarring tribes. That an empire was thus born among the barbarians of Latium which would extend its power over Judæa, Syria, and Babylon itself, was an event which no human wisdom could possibly divine. That this empire, like iron, should be endued with a political firmness beyond the mightiest monarchies of the East, was a prediction no less surprising, and would nowhere seem less credible than amidst the proud courtiers of Babylon. Two centuries later, in his various accounts of every region of the earth and of innumerable towns and rivers, Herodotus never once mentions the Tiber or the city of Rome. Yet here, amidst the splendour of Babylon, the prophet announces the rise and dominion of this fourth and greater empire.”—Birks. Speaking of the same unlikelihood in regard to Rome, Dr. Pusey remarks that we have two Jewish documents, the one probably a little after the death of Antiochus Epiphanes, the other not later than the death of John Hyrcanus, b.c. 105, which show two very different aspects of the Jewish mind towards the Roman commonwealth, the one in Alexandria, the other in Palestine; yet in neither is there the slightest apprehension of Roman greatness. The third Sibylline book is now generally held to be the work of a Jew in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. It threatens unhesitatingly that all the evils which had been done by the Romans to Asia should be requited with usury upon them. The first Book of Maccabees, on the other hand, relates the simple unsuspecting trust which Judas Maccabæus had in the Romans, as if they were wholly unambitious, and conquering only when assailed. “The secret springs of Roman greatness,” observes Mr. Birks, “had all been marked and defined in God’s everlasting counsels. While the empires of the East were sinking into unsuspected decay, this mighty power was nursing into strength amidst the gloomy shades of the West, which was soon to eclipse their greatness by a wider extent of dominion and a more enduring sway.… The foundations of the republic were laid in weakness, while Darius and Xerxes marshalled all Asia under their haughty banners, and precipitated their countless hosts on the States of Greece. While Miltiades, Themistocles, Cimon, and Pericles broke the strength of Persia, and with a band of poets and sages carried the glory of Athens to its height, Rome was convulsed with the factions of the senate and people, gasping under the tyranny of the Decemvirs, struggling for existence with the Æqui, Volsci, and Veientians, and scarcely heard of beyond their narrow sphere of barbarian hostility.”

From this part of the interpretation of the dream we may notice—

1. The foreknowledge and omniscience of God. Here is a prophetic outline of the history of the civilised world for upwards of a thousand years; the four great world-monarchies, commencing with Nebuchadnezzar who had recently ascended the throne; their respective characters; the decay of the fourth from foreign mixture, with its division into ten separate kingdoms. History shows the prophecy to have been fulfilled as truly since the death of Antiochus Epiphanes as before it. “Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world.” It is natural that He who created the world should have had a plan, not only for its creation but its future history. All history but the fulfilment of that plan. Why should He not be able to communicate to His servants portions of that plan for His own glory and the comfort and guidance of His people? “The great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter” (Daniel 2:45). These future events, with all their connections, however unlikely to human foresight to occur [69], all open from the beginning to His omniscient eye, as simply His “works” of providence.

[69] M. Gaussen calls attention to the fact that Sir Isaac Newton, while pursuing the study of the prophecies, saw, in counting back the years with the greatest exactness, that the epochs fixed by Daniel for the several events, proved perfectly correct. He saw also that the heathen astronomer Ptolemy, who lived 140 years after Christ, had, in order to mark the years of his eclipses, divided the ages of antiquity exactly in the same manner as the prophet had done 745 years before him; seeing the four great monarchies in the past, as Daniel had seen them in the distant future. He saw also that Ptolemy considered these four monarchies as a succession of reigns, as Daniel views them under the figure of a single statue, and as forming, in a manner, only one kingdom. So that the Babylonian was the commencement of the Roman, while the Roman was merely Babylon in its development and its plenitude. The same author observes that Le Sage or Las Casas, the friend and companion of Napoleon Buonaparte at St. Helena, drew out a chart of the history of the world, in which, unconsciously, he exactly followed Daniel—dividing the history into four parts, and employing four colours to designate the empires of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome; dividing, further, the Greek or Macedonian empire into four kingdoms, noticing two of these as much more powerful than the others, viz., the Syrian and the Egyptian; and lastly, dividing the Roman empire in reference to the Northern invasions, as is usually done, including both Huns and Anglo-Saxons.

2. The overruling providence of God. History the execution by divine power of a plan which divine wisdom devised. Such execution is providence. Daniel, in his thanksgiving, extolled Jehovah as the God of “wisdom and might,” who “changeth the times, and who removeth kings and setteth up kings.” He accordingly reminds Nebuchadnezzar that it was He who gave the nations into his hand. He did the same thing with his successors. Plutarch wrote a book about the Fortune of Alexander; but that fortune was only the providence of God regarding that monarch, employing him as His free and responsible instrument, as He had done Cyrus and Nebuchadnezzar before him. “The Lord of hosts mustereth the hosts of the battle,” and giveth the victory to whomsoever He will. The providence of God, rather than the boatman, that which carried Cæsar and all his fortunes. That same providence carries the humblest believer and all that concerns him.

3. The evidence of the truth of revelation. Prophecy no mere guess or clever calculation, whether sage or scientific. As a simple declaration of future events, impenetrable to human foresight, it necessarily partakes of the nature of miracle. Its fulfilment, therefore, the credential of a divine message. Supernatural predictions must either be from above or from beneath. With holiness as their character and their object, they cannot be the latter. Necessarily therefore from above, and as such the testimonial of a messenger sent from God. Appealed to as such by Jesus Himself. “These things have I spoken unto you before they come to pass, that when they are come to pass ye may believe that I am He.” The character of the Book of Daniel as inspired Scripture, only attempted to be set aside by the assertion that its prophecies were merely narratives of the past. But these prophecies extended not only up to the times of the Maccabees, but far beyond them, and are receiving their fulfilment at the present day. The simple prediction of four, and only four, universal monarchies, is such, and in itself the evidence of a divinely inspired author.

4. The transient nature of human greatness and glory. These reached their height in the empires of Babylon and Persia, Greece and Rome. Yet the three first and much of the fourth have passed away, leaving only vestiges behind, sufficient to testify their existence. The earth-mounds of Babylon, the petty town of Athens with its fragment-strewn Acropolis, and the wretched remains of the palace of the Cæsars, all echo the cry of the prophet in our ears, “All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, and the flower fadeth, because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass” (Isaiah 40:6-7). The contrast that follows is striking: “but the Word of our God shall stand for ever.” History and science, observation and experience, constantly verify the declaration. Happy those who, relying on the truths and promises of that Word, secure to themselves, in the possession of that Saviour whom it reveals, a greatness and a glory that shall not pass away.

HOMILETICS

SECT. X.—THE INTERPRETATION OF THE DREAM—Continued

PART SECOND: THE STONE (Daniel 2:44-45)

The stone no less remarkable than the image. The most glorious part of the vision, and to Christians the most interesting. May be considered under three heads: the Stone itself, its Action on the Image, and its Growth and ultimate Greatness.

I. The Stone itself. While totally unlike all the parts of the image betokening empire, the stone itself was to become a kingdom, or rather the kingdom that was to take the place of all the rest. To be viewed as symbolising both Christ and His kingdom [70]. The two in a sense identified. Nebuchadnezzar thus viewed as one with his empire: “Thou art this head of gold.” The kingdom is Christ reigning by His power and grace. Yet Christ and the kingdom to be viewed separately. The kingdom said to be something given to Him (chap. Daniel 7:14).

[70] “A stone cut out without hands,” “The God of heaven shall set up a kingdom” (Daniel 2:34; Daniel 2:44). “The Fathers generally apply the prophecy to Christ Himself, who was miraculously born of a virgin without the concurrence of human means. But it should rather be understood of the kingdom of Christ, which was formed out of the Roman empire; not by number of hands or strength of armies, but without means and the virtue of second causes: first set up while the Roman empire was in its full strength, with legs of iron.”—Bishop Newton. Mr. Birks regards the stone as being also the Church. “Our Lord Himself, by His miraculous conception and His resurrection from the grave, was ‘cut out without hands,’ with a direct and wonderful triumph of divine power. His people, in like manner, are ‘born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, that liveth and abideth for ever.’ In the day of the resurrection their separation will be complete; and being then united to their Lord, they will form one mystical body, and will along with Him execute the predicted judgments.” Dr. A. Clarke remarks: “This stone refers chiefly to the Church, which is represented as a foundation-stone;” and adds: “As the stone represents Christ and His governing influence, it is here said to be a ‘kingdom,’ i.e., a state of prevailing rule and government.” Mede distinguishes between the “kingdom of the stone” and the “kingdom of the mountain;” the first, when it was cut out without hands; the second, when it became itself a mountain. The Jews acknowledge the stone to be the Messiah. “The ninth king is King Messiah, who reigns from the one end of the world to the other; as it is said, ‘And the stone became a great mountain.’ ”—Pirke R. Eliezer. Willet regards the prophecy as referring, in the first instance, to Christ’s first advent, but, by way of analogy, to His second coming, when He shall make a perfect conquest of all earthly kingdoms and powers. Calvin applies the prophecy both to Christ and His kingdom arriving at the close of the fourth monarchy; the stone indicating the humble and abject beginning of Christ, yet divinely sent, and His kingdom separated from all earthly ones, being divine and heavenly. Gaussen understands it of some “feeble and insignificant portion of the Christian Church,” which shall become the occasion of the overthrow of the image, and of the enemy of the Redeemer’s kingdom, without the will of men being directly employed in it, or having any ground of glorying therein, all being obliged to acknowledge in it the finger of God and the power of His grace alone.

1. Christ Himself. The “stone of Israel” one of the Old Testament names of the Messiah. The stone laid for a foundation for sinners to build their hopes upon (Isaiah 28:16). The corner-stone of the spiritual temple (Psalms 118:22; Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:4; 1 Peter 2:7). A crushing stone of stumbling to those who reject Him, but a sure and precious foundation to all who accept and trust in Him (Matthew 21:42; Matthew 21:44). Like the stone “cut out of the mountains without hands” (Daniel 2:45), Christ’s birth supernatural. Born of a virgin and conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost. Humble in circumstances and mean in outward appearance. A “root out of a dry ground, without form or comeliness” (Isaiah 53:2). His resurrection, or official birth as the Messiah, equally of God (Psalms 2:7; Acts 13:33). As a stone, he, as God’s appointed King of Zion, breaks opposing nations as a potter’s vessel (Psalms 2:9). In the corresponding vision of the Four Beasts, he who takes the kingdom is “one like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven” (chap. Daniel 7:13). Applied by Jesus to Himself at the judgment seat of Caiaphas (Matthew 26:64). Christ, however, to be viewed as including His people. Christ and believers one (John 15:5; Ephesians 5:30). The head and the members one Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12; Revelation 11:15). Like the head, the members made such by a supernatural and divine birth (John 1:12-13). Believers associated with Christ in His government and judgment of the world (1 Corinthians 6:2; Revelation 5:10; Revelation 20:6; Revelation 22:5; Revelation 19:14; Revelation 15:0). Employed as His instruments both of mercy and judgment (2 Corinthians 10:4-5; Psalms 149:6-9; Jeremiah 51:20-24).

2. The kingdom of Christ. Under this aspect the stone ultimately expanded into “a great mountain, filling the whole earth” (Daniel 2:35). This kingdom identified with the visible Church of the New Testament. Called the kingdom of “heaven,” from its origin and character; the kingdom of “God,” from its Author and end; and the kingdom of “Christ,” from its Ruler and King. Announced by John the Baptist and by Christ Himself as then nigh at hand (Matthew 3:2; Matthew 4:17) [71]. The subject of much of Christ’s teaching both before and after His resurrection (Matthew 4:23; Acts 1:3). Preached by the apostles as in a sense already come (Acts 28:31; 1 Corinthians 4:21; Revelation 1:9). The kingdom, however, then as still, hidden or in mystery (Colossians 3:3-4; 1 John 3:2; 1 Peter 1:13; Romans 8:18-25). The kingdom connected with the “patience” or “patient waiting for” of Christ (Revelation 1:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:5). Now the kingdom of grace, hereafter the kingdom of glory; now the kingdom of the cross, hereafter the kingdom of the crown. The “kingdom” of Christ, in its manifestation, connected with His second “appearing” (2 Timothy 4:1). A kingdom, though heavenly in its nature, yet, like the preceding ones, to be set up on earth, and to be everlasting, having no successor (Daniel 2:44). Was to be set up in “the days of those kings” or kingdoms, namely, in the fourth or last of them (Daniel 2:44). Jesus born under Augustus, the first Roman emperor; and the foundation of the kingdom laid on the day of Pentecost under Tiberius, his successor.

[71] “The ‘kingdom of God’ is a phrase which is constantly employed in Scripture to denote that state of things which is placed under the avowed administration of the Messiah, and which consequently could not precede His personal appearance. But during His residence on earth, until His resurrection, this kingdom is uniformly represented as future, though near at hand.”—Robert Hall.

II. The Action of the Stone upon the Image. It “smote the image upon his feet, and brake them in pieces” (Daniel 2:34). “It shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms” (Daniel 2:44). “Upon his feet;” therefore in the time of the fourth or Roman empire, and in the latter part of that empire, when it had already degenerated, and the iron had already or was soon to become mixed with clay, though prior to its tenfold division. It was in the reign of the first empire, when Rome, having reached its highest pitch of glory, began to enter on its gradual decline, that Jesus was born, the stone “cut out of the mountain;” and it was in that of His immediate successors that the smiting commenced [72]. Morally and secretly, that smiting might be said to commence when the idolatry and polytheism of the Roman empire was undermined by the preaching of Christ’s gospel and the new religion which it introduced into the world [73]. In the days of Nero, the fifth Roman emperor, the Apostle of the Gentiles could write, “Thanks be unto God, who always causeth us to triumph in Christ.” “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 10:4-5). The Roman empire may be said to have been shaken by the gospel in the first three centuries, and the great image smitten by it to its future destruction. “These that have turned the world upside down.” That destruction, however, was still distant. The judicial smiting of the stone was not to take place till long after. “This gospel of the kingdom must first be preached among all nations for a witness, and then shall the end come.” This judicial destruction prominent in the vision. In the corresponding vision of the prophet himself, after judgment is given upon the “little horn” of the fourth beast, that beast is slain, and its “body destroyed and given to the burning flame” (chap. Daniel 7:11). The judicial smiting probably in various stages, according to the three forms which that fourth beast or Roman empire should assume as Pagan, Papal, and Infidel [74]; the final stage being symbolically exhibited in the Apocalypse by the great battle of Armageddon, in connection with the pouring out of the seventh and last “vial of the wrath of God” (Revelation 16:13-16; Revelation 19:11-21) [75].

[72] “In the days of these kings.” Augustus, the first Roman emperor, in whose reign Jesus Christ was born, had completed the thirty-fourth year of his age when he returned to Rome after the overthrow of Antony. “From that period to the end of a lengthened life he remained in the possession of the greatest power, and at the head of the most extensive territory that had yet fallen to the lot of man.” Its now incipient weakness and decay may be marked in the following farther quotations from Roman history:—“The military operations in which Augustus himself took part were not important. The Arabian campaign was disastrous. The war of the Danube and the Rhine, from a struggle in defence of the frontier, became an aggressive movement against the tribes beyond those rivers, but no permanent impression was made upon them. While Tiberius effected the reduction of Pannonia, the district between the Danube and the great tributaries the Drave and the Save, establishing a line of forts along the river to guard against the future incursions of the Northmen, Drusus conducted an extensive plan of aggression against the Germanic nations in general. He led his troops to the Weser; but the difficulties of the country, want of provisions, and more than all, the firm opposition of the natives, compelled him to return to the Rhine, leaving two forts with garrisons on the east bank as a show of conquest. Tiberius took the command on the Rhine upon the death of his brother (Drusus), and constituted the country from thence to the Weser a Roman province, in a.d. 5; but was eventually succeeded by Publius Quintilius Varus, who lost all the advantages gained, in the autumn of a.d. 9. The army, consisting of above 24,000 men, after an attack of three days, was cut to pieces. The general fell upon his sword, and all the forts and posts on the right bank of the Rhine were taken. Rome was filled with consternation at the news of this defeat. Augustus, then an old man, was cowed by the stroke, and for a time could only exclaim, ‘Varus, Varus, give me back my legions.’ Tiberius was forwarded with reinforcements, but did not deem it advisable to re-occupy the country beyond the Rhine, which reverted to the Germans.” Tiberius, the successor of Augustus, “was favourably known for military capacity; but the dark features of his character were gradually developed by the possession of power, which allowed him to riot in sensual indulgences without restraint or disguise. Two formidable insurrections of the troops greeted his accession. Three legions, stationed on the frontier towards the Danube, revolted. The insubordination of the grand Roman army stationed on the Rhine presented more serious difficulties. The soldiers demanded to have their time of military service shortened. The reign of Tiberius, extending over an interval of twenty-three years, is barren of political events of importance in a general history, excepting the brief career of Germanicus beyond the Rhine. But just when Germany between the Rhine and the Elbe was on the verge of subjection, Germanicus was recalled by the Emperor, who was jealous of his fame, and the country reverted to the native tribes.” The reign of Caligula, who succeeded Tiberius, and whom despotic power so bereft of his senses that he raised his horse to the consulship, and built him a marble stable and an ivory manger, may be passed without notice. Claudius, his successor, now upwards of fifty years of age, was naturally an imbecile. “His society had been chiefly that of women and slaves. Female influence of the worst possible description predominated through his reign. One of the few extensions of territory under the emperors was made in the reign of Claudius, a departure from the policy exemplified by Augustus and bequeathed as a legacy to his successors,—that of restricting the empire to the limits provided by Nature. South Britain was now constituted a Roman province, but the Silures (in Wales) kept the field with unbroken spirit.” It was during the reign of Claudius, who died in a.d. 54, that Christianity was extensively planted in Lesser Asia and in Greece by the labours of Paul, as related in the Acts of the Apostles; eventually abolishing the polytheism of the civilised world, and thus tending to break the great image in pieces.

[73] “Smote the image upon his feet.” The smiting, says Mr. Birks, is “referred by some early writers to the triumphs of the gospel after the first Advent. But Theodoret and others, with more justice, have referred it to His second coming. They saw that the stone was to smite the image on the toes of iron and clay, and that the event must therefore follow the division of the Roman empire. This opinion has, from the same reason, been received by the best expositors in modern times.” But the stone is not said to smite the image on its toes, but on its feet, and therefore, it may be supposed, before the division of the empire. Dr. Coxe remarks: “That the prediction of the stone does not refer exclusively to the uttermost periods of the world, appears evident from the distinctiveness of the intimation that it will strike the image upon its feet, not upon the toes: the latter are mentioned after the former, as, according to the general construction of the statue, subsequent in time. Consequently the empire of Rome was to be smitten when in its strength, or before the division into several kingdoms. This interpretation is verified by the fact that Christ was born in the reign of Augustus, and the apostolic labours extended to the period of the commencing decline of Roman power.” “The fallen empire of Rome was forcibly struck when the Apostles fulfilled their Lord’s commission in going forth to preach the gospel to every creature, and fell to pieces when Constantine, in a.d. 331, issued an edict commanding the destruction of all heathen temples.” “We may hear,” says Gibbon, “without suspicion or scandal, that the introduction, or at least the abuse, of Christianity, had some influence on the decline and fall of the Roman empire.” “Christianity,” he says again, “erected the triumphant banner of the cross on the ruins of the Capitol. Nor was the influence of Christianity confined to the period or the limits of the Roman empire. After a revolution of thirteen or fourteen centuries, that religion is still professed by the nations of Europe, the most distinguished portion of human kind in arts and learning, as well as in arms. By the industry and zeal of the Europeans it has been widely diffused to the most distant shores of Asia and Africa; and by means of their colonies has been firmly established from Canada to Chili, in a world unknown to the ancients.” Keil observes: “The stone which breaks the image becomes, from the first time after it has struck the image, ‘a great mountain which fills the whole earth’(Daniel 2:35); and the kingdom of God is erected by the God of heaven, according to Daniel 2:44, not for the first time after the destruction of all the world-kingdoms, but in the days of the fourth world-monarchy, and thus during its continuance.” “Daniel indicates its beginning in a simple form, although he does not at large represent its gradual development in the war against the world-power.… The last judgment forms only the final completion of the judgment commencing at the first coming of Christ to the earth, which continues from that time onward through the centuries of the spread of the kingdom of heaven upon earth in the form of the Christian Church, till the visible return of Christ in His glory in the clouds of heaven to the final judgment of the living and the dead.” Auberlen, however, thinks that “the chief point which it is necessary to recognise distinctly and express simply is, that the commencement of the kingdom, spoken of in the second and seventh chapters of Daniel, is nothing else but the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” With this he connects “the re-establishment of the kingdom of Israel.” Calvin says the sense here is proper and literal. According to Grotius, Christ was to put an end to all earthly empires. Bishop Chandler says: “The kingdom of this ‘stone’ shall bruise the Jews that stumbled at Christ’s first coming; but the kingdom of the ‘mountain,’ when manifested, shall bruise the feet of the monarchical statue to dust, and leave no remains of the fourth monarchy in its last and degenerate state.”

[74] “Broken to pieces together” (Daniel 2:35; Daniel 2:44). “In this destruction of the image,” says M. Gaussen, “there shall be nothing but dust, nothing but the most frightful anarchy. This complete and universal breaking up of all existing governments shall begin in the toes and extend to the rest of the image. Disorder, terror, ruin shall overspread the whole earth; unheard-of anarchy, indescribable distress, shall seize upon all nations, which shall seem as in the agonies of dissolution.”

[75] “We have,” says E. Irving, “in the first four seals (in the Book of the Revelation), the four successive emperors in whose times and by whose chief instrumentality Paganism, the first enemy of the Church, was brought to its end, and Rome, its seat, laid low, as heretofore were Babylon and Jerusalem.” The emperors referred to were Constantine the Great, Theodosius the Great, Honorius, and Justinian; the last of whom was likened by Procopiusa contemporary, to “a demon sent by God to destroy men.” “The fifteenth and sixteenth chapters,” adds Mr. Irving, “may be considered as belonging to the book with the seven seals, being the seventh seal thereof; or, in general, as the act of judgment upon the nations; or as the period of Christ’s iron reign; or as the period of the stone’s smiting the image to powder—the sevenfold act of judgment upon the Papal nations, beginning from the year 1792, at which the Papal period closed.”

III. Its Growth and ultimate Greatness. The stone, after smiting the image, “became a great mountain and filled the whole earth” (Daniel 2:35). The interpretation: “The God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever” (Daniel 2:44). In the corresponding vision it is said that to the Son of Man was given “dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve Him” (chap. Daniel 7:13-14). This growth and greatness of the stone the glorious part of the king’s dream; that to which all the previous works of the Almighty, both in creation and providence, pointed; the end, as it is the reward, of the mediatorial undertaking of the Son of God (Philippians 2:6-11; Isaiah 53:11); the hope, comfort, and joy of the Church; the deliverance and blessedness of creation; the joyous burden of all the prophets, who testified beforehand “the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow” (1 Peter 1:11). In the full enlargement, universal prevalence, and glorious manifestation of that kingdom, which is “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost,” we see Satan’s head bruised, and paradise restored to a sin-blighted and curse-stricken world; men blessed in Christ and all nations calling Him blessed; earth filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord; a pure language turned upon the people, “so that they shall call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one consent;” Israel saved, and the receiving back of Israel life from the dead to the world at large; the Father’s house filled with the sound of music and dancing at the return of the long-lost prodigal son; the whole creation “delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:21-22). The prospect of this blessed consummation and glorious triumph of the kingdom of Christ in the earth, that which has gladdened, animated, and sustained the servants of God while battling with the power of evil in the world, and, as Christ’s witnesses, seeking to carry His gospel to the ends of the earth.

“The time of rest, the promised Sabbath, comes,
Six thousand years of sorrow have well nigh
Fulfilled their tardy and disastrous course
Over a sinful world; and what remains
Of this tempestuous state of human things,
Is merely as the working of the sea
Before a calm, that rocks itself to rest.
For He whose ear the winds are, and the clouds
The dust that waits upon His sultry march,
When sin hath moved Him and His wrath is hot,
Shall visit earth in mercy; shall descend
Propitious in His chariot, paved with love;
And what His storms have blasted and defaced
For man’s revolt, shall with a smile repair.”

From the prophecy of the Stone we may observe—

1. The glorious future opened up for the world. A kingdom to be established and to fill the earth, that exceeds all preceding it in excellence, purity, and happiness, as well as in duration and extent. With heaven for its origin and the Son of God for its King, it will combine in it all the elements of true grandeur in its constitution, while it embraces in its influence unnumbered nations and countless myriads of souls. “To be a subject of this kingdom,” observes Dr. Cox, “to share in its blessings, to be eternally associated with its people and their King, must be to be elevated to the height of all glory, to the very summit of our intelligent, sanctified, and immortal nature.” But this kingdom is to fill the earth and to embrace in it all nations, thus restoring it to its original paradisaical condition [76].

[76] “From this magnificent, most particular, and diversified symbol of the battle of Armageddon,—whereof every part hath an allusion to some previous prophecy of the Apocalypse or of the other Scriptures, so that it is, as it were, the end and accomplishment of a hundred predictions,—we have these certainties: that therein shall the spirit of Papal superstition perish, with all those superstitions and tyrannical forms of civil power and government which grew out of it; that therein shall perish the spirit of infidelity and the forms of destructiveness which are implied thereby; that therein also shall other forms of darkness and cruelty which inspired the heathen world likewise perish; that is, their strength and power shall perish therein, and the whole earth which they possessed and overruled shall become the reward and trophy of ‘Him that sitteth upon the horse’ and His holy army.”—Irving.

2. The certainty of the Word of God and the truth of Christianity. The prediction regarding the stone as well as of the four great monarchies already in great part fulfilled. A King and a kingdom corresponding to the description in the vision have already appeared. Nearly eighteen centuries ago that divine but apparently humble stone-kingdom smote the glorious world-image. Idolatry and polytheism disappeared from the Roman empire, and the world was “turned upside down.” Christianity, with its humble and despised beginning, has, contrary to all human likelihood and expectation, already spread itself, in one form or other, in a greater or less degree, over most of the known world. Islands and groups of islands unknown to the ancients have accepted its blessings and adopted its name. Within the first thirty years after the death of its Founder, one of its chief promoters could testify that the gospel was preached, and brought forth fruit “in all the world” (Colossians 1:6); and within the last eighty years, that same gospel of the kingdom has been published in at least 226 languages and dialects, in the form of translations of the Bible, or the more important parts of it, in scarcely fifty of which it had been printed before; every such translation representing, in a greater or less degree, the subjects of the heavenly kingdom. The “King of the Jews” is acknowledged already as King in almost all the nations, tribes, and languages of the earth [77]. The past and present fulfilment of the prophecy a proof of its divine origin, and a pledge of the future accomplishment of the rest. “Heaven and earth may pass away, but my word shall not pass away.” The stone has already broken the image in pieces and grown into a mountain, filling at least a considerable portion of the earth, and in the way of soon filling the whole. “Therefore let all the house of Israel,” and all the nations of the world, with their rulers and statesmen and philosophers, “know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus who was crucified both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

[77] Even a heathen poet, probably kindling his torch at the fire of inspired prophecy, through the medium of one of the Sibylline books, could sing in his most elevated strains the happy period awaiting the world in connection with Messiah’s kingdom. Virgil’s Eclogue to Pollio is well known: “Jam redit et virgo,” &c. “Heathen legend,” it has been said, “often seems a vague reflex of Holy Writ, and thus the golden age itself, ere justice left mankind, suggests the state before the Fall; and some broken and clouded rays of a truth once whole and pure, may perhaps be gleaned from this Eclogue as a witness to ‘the desire of all nations.’ ” The author of one, at least, of the Sibylline books, however, is believed to have been a Jew. Pope, in the advertisement to his imitation of the Eclogue to Pollio, says: “In reading several passages of the prophet Isaiah which foretell the coming of Christ and the felicities attending it, I could not but observe a remarkable parity between many of the thoughts and those in the Pollio of Virgil. This will not seem surprising when we reflect that the Eclogue was taken from a Sibylline prophecy on the same subject.”

3. The characteristics of Christ’s kingdom.

(1.) Divine in its origin—a “stone cut out of the mountain without hand” (Isaiah 7:14; John 1:12-13).

(2.) Humble in its beginning—a “stone,” small, rough, mean, insignificant in its appearance (Isaiah 53:2; Philippians 2:8).

(3.) Victorious over all opposition—“breaking to pieces” the opposing kingdoms of the world and “subduing” all to itself (2 Corinthians 10:4-5; Acts 5:39).

(4.) Onward in its progress—growing from a little stone into a “great mountain” (Acts 6:7; Acts 12:24; Acts 19:20; Isaiah 9:7).

(5.) Universal in its ultimate extent—destined to “fill the whole earth” (Psalms 2:8; Psalms 72:11; Psalms 72:17; Philippians 2:9-10).

(6.) Everlasting in its duration—never to be “destroyed,” or to be “left to another people,” or succeeded by another kingdom, but to “stand for ever” (Psalms 72:17; Revelation 11:15; Isaiah 9:7).

4. The encouragement given to seek the extension of Christ’s cause and kingdom in the world, and the duty of doing so. That kingdom and cause, however humble, weak, and small in any particular place, destined to be victorious over all opposition. The little one to become a thousand, and the small one a strong nation. The stone to become a mountain filling all the earth, whatever may oppose its progress. This consummation not only purposed and predicted, but provided for. The result guaranteed by Omnipotence. “Not by might nor by power (of man), but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.” All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth; go ye therefore and teach all nations, &c; and lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world.” Means to be employed by human instruments, but these means and instruments to be made effectual by a divine power accompanying them. “Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem,” &c. “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God.” At the presence of the Ark, though accompanied only with the sound of rams’ horns and the human voice, the walls of Jericho fell. “Who art thou, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain.” In submission to and personal interest in that kingdom is the only safety and happiness of sinful men. Christ and His kingdom the true Noah’s ark. Inside, peace and safety; outside, a deluge of wrath. The door still open and the invitation issued, “Come thou and all thy house into the ark.” The day of our death or of the Lord’s appearing shuts us either in or out. Either of these may be at hand. It is for us to enter ourselves, and not to cease earnestly to persuade others to enter along with us. The time is short. Jesus waits. Tarry not. Enter now! [78]

[78] “It is owned,” says Dr. Pusey, “by those who set these prophecies at the very latest, that nearly two centuries before our Lord’s ministry began, it wag foreseen that the kingdom of God should be established without human aid, to replace all other kingdoms, and to be replaced by none; to stand for ever, and to fill the earth. Above eighteen centuries have verified the prediction of the permanency of that kingdom, founded as it was by no human means, endowed with inextinguishable life, ever conquering and to conquer in the four quarters of the world; a kingdom one and alone since the world has been; embracing all times and climes, and still expanding; unharmed by that destroyer of all things human, Time; strong amid the decay of empires; the freshness and elasticity of youth written on the brow which has outlived eighteen centuries.”

Verses 46-49

HOMILETICS

SECT. XI.—DANIEL’S ELEVATION (Chap. Daniel 2:46-49)

The king was convinced that Daniel had given a true description and interpretation of his dream. The truth also which the youthful prophet declared concerning the true God, approved itself to his understanding and conscience, and for a time at least was powerfully felt. Under the power of his convictions he confesses himself a believer in Daniel’s God (Daniel 2:47) [79]. This all the more remarkable as the interpretation of his dream seemed opposed to all his worldly projects and ambitious aims. Daniel’s faithfulness in confessing God and His truth before the king is rewarded by his hearing the same confession from the king himself. The result as important to Daniel’s future position and influence, as it was to the interest of God’s truth, honour, and kingdom in Babylon and in the world. The more immediate results were—

[79] “Your God is a God of gods” (Daniel 2:47). “God must, by great revelations, lay open His omnipotence and omniscience, and show He is infinitely exalted above the gods and wise men of this world, and above all the world-powers. The wise men of the Chaldean world-power, that is, the so-called magi, maintained that they were the possessors of great wisdom, and such they were indeed celebrated to be, and that they obtained their wisdom from their gods. The Lord must, through great revelations of His omniscience, show that He alone, of all the possessors of knowledge, is the Omniscient, while their knowledge and the knowledge of their gods is nothing. He must lay open to the world-power the whole future, that He may show to it that He knows it all, even to the very minutest events, that all lies like a map before His eyes, and that to Him it is history. For He who fully knows the whole future must also be the same who forms the whole development of the world. Omnipotence cannot be separated from omniscience.”—Caspari, quoted by Keil.

I. Daniel received the highest honour (Daniel 2:46). The prostration of the king and oblation presented to Daniel according to Oriental custom. Uncertain whether civil or religious obeisance intended—probably only the former; indicates, however, the proneness of fallen man to idolatry. Nebuchadnezzar ready to worship Daniel as a god, probably from seeing so much of God in him [80]. So the Lycaonians and Melitians in regard to Paul (Acts 14:11; Acts 14:15; Acts 28:6). Nothing said as to what Daniel did on the occasion. Perhaps he did what Peter did in regard to Cornelius in similar circumstances—“Stand up, for I also am a man” (Acts 10:25-26); or what the angel did in regard to John when offering similar obeisance—“See thou do it not; for I am of thy brethren the prophets: worship God” (Revelation 22:8-9). Those who cordially accept God’s message not slow to honour the messenger. Daniel had honoured God by his faithful testimony before the king; God now honours Daniel by the king’s grateful tribute to himself: “Them that honour me I will honour.”

[80] “Fell upon his face and worshipped Daniel” (Daniel 2:46). Dr. Rule thinks that the king believed some god or genius to be present with the interpreter of his dream; and in its honour, or in honour of the God of heaven Himself, without intending to worship His servant, he might have caused the “sweet odours” to be poured out before him.

II. Daniel elevated to a lofty position in the State (Daniel 2:48). Made governor of the province of Babylon, and president of the Magian College [81]. The king made Daniel “a great man;” but not so great as God had already made him, both by His grace and gifts. This official elevation of Daniel a wonderful movement in providence on behalf of the Jewish exiles. In accordance with God’s gracious promise regarding them: “I will be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come” (Ezekiel 11:16). An important step to their ultimate deliverance. An enlargement also of Daniel’s sphere of usefulness. Found faithful in that which is least, he is now to be entrusted with much. “To him that hath, more shall be given.” His position as president of the “wise men” a precious opportunity for communicating to them a purer doctrine than their own. The light thus graciously made to shine in the darkness, whether or not the darkness comprehended it. Daniel’s place in the king’s gate [82], perhaps as one of his councillors, such as to give him ready access to the king’s person and influence in the king’s councils. Like Joseph, taken as a slave from prison to the right hand of Pharaoh as ruler of Egypt, Daniel is on a similar account taken as a captive exile, and placed next to Nebuchadnezzar over the province of Babylon. “He that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” The elevation of Daniel as well as Joseph the foreshadowing of a still more important one (Philippians 2:7-10).

[81] “Chief of the governors over all the wise men” (Daniel 2:49). “Wise men” (חַכִּימִין, khakkimin), here the general name of the members of the Babylonian or Chaldean priest-caste. So in Isaiah 44:25; Jeremiah 50:35. The presidents of the particular classes called here סִגְנִין (signin), and the grand president of the entire establishment, רַב סִגְנִין (rab signin). So Daniel is called here. He appears as at the same time invested with important secular power. So Diodorus Siculus speaks of Belesys, who wrested Babylon from the Assyrians, as at once chief president of the priest-caste and governor of Babylon. And according to Jeremiah 39:3; Jeremiah 39:13, the same chief president, called there רַב מָג (rab mag), or chief magus, belonged to the magnates of the kingdom, and was a member of the Council of State, and as such even took the field.—Hengstenberg. According to Kiel, סִגְנִין (signin) is the pural of an Aryan word incorporated into the Hebrew, and denoting “vicegerent “or “prefect.” Hengstenberg remarks that the writer’s exact acquaintance with the Babylonian customs and institutions, as shown in this and other instances, affords no small confirmation of the genuineness of the book. A Jew living in the time of the Maccabees not likely to possess such knowledge.

[82] “Daniel sat in the gate of the king” (Daniel 2:49). Gates and gateways of Eastern cities anciently held an important place. Among other purposes, they served as places of public deliberation, administration of justice, and royal audiences (Deuteronomy 16:18; Deuteronomy 21:19; Deuteronomy 25:7; Joshua 20:4; Judges 9:35; Ruth 4:1-11; 1 Kings 22:10). The gate of a royal residence seems to have been used for similar purposes. Thus Mordecai, like Daniel, sat in the king’s gate as one of the king’s councillors. An existing trace of this use remains in the name given to the Turkish court, the “Porte,” simply signifying the gate, that part of the palace where the court was originally held. Keil on the passage says, “Near the gate,” that is, at the court of the king, the gate or door named for the building (Esther 2:19; Esther 2:21). According to Gesenius, Daniel was made prefect of the palace. Junius and others think that his place was in the king’s gate, as having the power committed to him of admitting people into the king’s presence.

III. Daniel’s Elevation shared in by his Three Friends (Daniel 2:49). At his request they are invested with a charge over the affairs of the province of which he himself was made ruler. Sharers in his prayers, they are made sharers in his promotion. Unlike the chief butler in Egypt, Daniel in his elevation forgat not former friends. So Jesus associates His faithful followers with Himself in His future kingdom. “Ye are they that have continued with me in my temptations, and I appoint unto you a kingdom, even as my Father hath appointed unto me” (Luke 22:29). “Thou hast made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign upon the earth.” “They lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Revelation 5:10; Revelation 20:4; Revelation 20:6). We may notice from the passage—

1. Prayer often the path to promotion. The elevation of Daniel and his three friends the result of their united prayer for divine illumination. Earnest and believing prayer sooner or later turned into thankful praise. “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.” “Promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south; but God is the judge: He putteth down one and setteth, up another” (Psalms 75:6-7). That God also the hearer of prayer (Psalms 65:2).

2. Believers’ trials only temporary. Daniel and his three friends involved in the trouble and dangers of the wise men in Babylon. Their sorrow soon turned into joy. “To the upright there ariseth light in the darkness” (Psalms 30:5; Psalms 112:4). “Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,” &c.

3. The troubles of God’s people overruled for good to themselves and others. “Daniel’s captivity and the trouble in which the king’s dream involved him, overruled to his being made ruler over Babylon, and a blessing to his people. Joseph a similar example.” “Ye thought evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). The comfort of God’s people in affliction and trouble, that “all things work together for good to them that love God, that are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). The loss of earthly things, as in the case of Saul and his father’s asses, often the gaining of a kingdom.

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Daniel 2". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/daniel-2.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.