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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

- Daniel

by Editor - Joseph S. Exell

The Preacher’s Complete Homiletic



By the

Author of the Commentaries on Job and Song of Solomon

New York




THE writer having been asked by the projector of the Preacher’s Commentary on the Old Testament to undertake the Book of Daniel in addition to those of Job and the Song of Solomon, he felt it his duty to comply with the proposal. In prayerful dependence on divine aid, he has done his best upon this portion of Holy Scripture, which, however interesting, is also confessedly difficult. He trusts his labour has not been entirely in vain in endeavouring to provide a companion, however imperfect, to that remarkable book, which may aid those engaged in teaching divine truth, as well as Christian readers in general. He has adopted much the same plan of treatment as he had done with the two books already mentioned. He has, however, divided the present Commentary into Sections, and has placed the notes at the end of each, instead of at the end of the entire book. The aids of which he has especially availed himself, as the reader will observe, are, besides several minor treatises—Hengstenberg on the Genuineness and Authenticity of Daniel, Keil’s Commentary on Daniel, Auberlen on Daniel and the Revelation, Calvin’s Commentary on Daniel, Bishop Newton’s Dissertations on the Prophecies, Birks on the Two Earlier and Two Later Visions of Daniel, Dr. Pusey’s Lectures, Willet’s Hexaplar Commentary on the same book, and Pole’s Synopsis. The views of others are for the most part given in the Notes at the end of each section, while the writer’s own are found in the Homiletical portion of the Commentary. Deeply conscious of its many defects, he commits his work to the blessing of Him who has said, in reference to another book of Holy Writ, which is to the New Testament what that of Daniel is to the Old, “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein; for the time is at hand” (Revelation 1:3).


I. The excellence and importance of the book. Its excellence manifold. Exhibits examples of moral excellence, mainly conspicuous in Daniel himself, of the highest order and of the most attractive character. Affords illustrations of God’s care over His people, and His readiness to answer their prayers, that make the book a favourite even with children. The story of the three youths in the fiery furnace, Daniel in the lions’ den, and the handwriting on the wall of Belshazzar’s palace, have with children all the interest of nursery tales, along with the lifelong lessons of heavenly wisdom

(1). Above all, it contains predictions of events from Daniel’s own time to the end of the world, many of which have already received, and are now receiving, their fulfilment. Conspicuous among these is the prophecy regarding the advent, work, and death of the Messiah, with their blessed results for mankind; which, receiving as it did its exact fulfilment in Jesus of Nazareth, has afforded one of the most convincing proofs of His Messiahship. Hence Sir Isaac Newton’s remark, that Christianity itself might be said to be founded on the prophecies of Daniel. The excellence of the book is such that, according to Bishop Watson, “to read it with attention and intelligence, and with an unbiassed mind to follow the advice of our Saviour, ‘Let him that readeth understand,’ might be sufficient to convert an unbeliever from deism to Christianity.” Hengstenberg characterises the Book of Daniel as one of the most important books of the Old Testament. Another German writer observes that Daniel is the most important witness among all the prophets to the credibility of the prophets in general, and of divine revelation and the Christian religion in particular. J. D. Michaelis remarks that Daniel, on account of its minute and circumstantially fulfilled prophecies, is one of the strongest proofs of the divinity of revealed religion.

II. Its nature and character. Partly historical

(2); partly and mainly prophetical

(3). The historical part mainly in the first six chapters; the prophetical occupies the rest of the book, with a portion of the second chapter. The prophecies themselves partake of the historical character

(4). The book written partly in Hebrew and partly in Chaldaic. The Hebrew portion, chaps. 1, Daniel 2:1-3; Daniel 2:8-12; the Chaldaic the rest of the book. The reason found in the nature of the contents, and the people for whom each series was more especially intended

(5). The transition from the one language to the other a confirmation of the genuineness and authenticity of the book, as being natural and easy to one in the circumstances of Daniel. The Hebrew not the purest, being placed by scholars, as Gesenius, on a level with that of Esther, Ecclesiastes, Chronicles, and Jonah; thus corresponding with the period and place in which the book purports to have been written, the author’s situation and circumstances in Babylon obliging him to make almost constant use of the Chaldaic language; another evidence of the genuineness and authenticity of the book

(6). The style of the prophetic portions rather prosaic than poetic, as in most other prophecies of the Old Testament

(7). The prophecies given variously as the interpretation of dreams and visions, vouchsafed partly to Nebuchadnezzar, partly to Daniel himself; and as divine communications made to the prophet by an angel commissioned for the purpose. The histories selected, as Dr. Pusey remarks, with one object, namely, to show the way in which the true God was pleased to glorify Himself amid the captivity of His people in a heathen empire. The character of the book more a history of the future than anything else, and thus an evidence of its divine origin. This, too, only in keeping with God’s previous dealings with Israel and the world.

III. Its authorship. The book purports to be the work of a Jewish captive of princely birth, brought, among others, from Jerusalem to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, apparently in the reign of King Jehoiakim; elevated in the providence of God, through the remarkable illumination and grace bestowed upon him, to some of the highest offices in Babylon; and spared to see the restoration of his captive countrymen to liberty under Cyrus, king of Persia

(8). This authorship disputed by some. The first, and for seventeen centuries the only one, to dispute it, was Porphyry, a heathen philosopher in the third century, who grounded his objection on the exact correspondence of the prophecies with actual history down to the times of Antiochus Epiphanes, the rest remaining, in his view, unfulfilled. In modern times, the genuineness of the book has been denied by the German Rationalists, and in our own country by Collins in the last century, as well as by Dr. Davidson and some others, including writers in the “Essays and Reviews,” in the present one

(9). The genuineness of the latter chapters has also been doubted by Dr. Arnold, as not harmonising with his canon of interpretation, namely, that sacred prophecy is not an anticipation of history; and that while history deals with particular nations, times, places, and persons, prophecy only deals with general principles, good and evil, truth and falsehood, God and His enemy,—a rule that, along with Daniel, would set aside a large portion of the Bible. The book must either as a whole be genuine, and written by the person whom it purports to have been its author, or a forgery composed by some Jew in the time of the Maccabees, three or four hundred years later, who wished to pass off his book as the work of the illustrious captive of Babylon. In the words of Dr. Pusey, “It is either divine or an imposture. To write any book under the name of another, and to give it out to be his, is, in any case, a forgery, dishonourable in itself and destructive of all trustworthiness. But the case as to the Book of Daniel, if it were not his, would go far beyond even this. The writer, were he not Daniel, must have lied on a most frightful scale, ascribing to God words which were never uttered, and miracles which are assumed never to have been wrought. In a word, the whole book would be one lie in the name of God.” The genuineness of the book is ably defended by Dr. Pusey, as it had previously been by Hengstenberg

(10). According to Keil, the testimony given by the book itself regarding its origin and authorship is confirmed—

(1.) By the historic tradition of both Jews and Christians, who with one accord ascribe it to the ancient prophet whose name it bears


(2.) By the certain traces of the existence of the book before the times of the Maccabees


(3.) By the character of the language, corresponding as it does to the period of the Babylonish captivity


(4.) By the exact acquaintance with the historical relations, manners, and customs of Daniel’s time


(5.) By the peculiarity of its prophecies, agreeing, as it does, to the times of the Babylonian exile and Daniel’s own peculiar situation. The objections are easily refuted, those made by one objector being frequently given up by another as invalid. The divine authority of the book, and consequently its genuineness, decidedly maintained by our Lord when He quoted words from it as “spoken by Daniel the prophet;” this divine testimony alone settling the question of authorship. Similar testimony borne by the Apostles, as well as by the whole Jewish Synagogue and the whole orthodox Christian Church; the facts that seem to speak to the contrary, as Hengstenberg remarks, only appearing to do so.

IV. Unity of the book. That the book is the work of a single author a thing now universally conceded

(15). The historical tradition confirmed by the internal connection and interdependence of the parts, as well as by the same peculiarities of style being found in both the first and second parts, notwithstanding the difference of language. Formerly some ascribed the book to several authors; others, as Dr. Arnold, allowed the first part to Daniel but not the second; while some, as J. D. Michaelis, made Daniel the author of only the two first and the last six chapters. Others, as Spinoza and Sir Isaac Newton, ascribed only the last six to Daniel; the latter, however, observing that to reject Daniel’s prophecies would be to undermine the Christian religion, which is all but founded on his prophecies respecting Christ. Hengstenberg observes that Bleek deserved credit for exposing in detail the futility of Eichhorn’s and Bertholdt’s hypothesis of a plurality of authors, and showing the unity of the book. Auberlen remarks that the unity of the book is now acknowledged by all, even by those who impugn its canonicity; and Dr. Pusey observes that no one doubts now that the Book of Daniel is one whole; even De Wette regarding the uniformity of the language and style, both in the Chaldee and Hebrew portions of the book, among the strongest proofs of its unity, and admitting that the similarity of style binds together both portions, not only in themselves but with each other. Some, however, as Mr. Bosanquet (“Messiah the Prince”), think that certain passages seem to betray the hand of a compiler even as late as the time of the Maccabees


V. Its canonicity. Daniel formed part of canonical Scripture in the time of Christ, and from the time of the completion of the Old Testament canon. Its place in the Jewish Scriptures was in the third or last division, called the Hagiographa or Sacred Writings, as distinguished from the Law and the Prophets, the other two. This has been thought to depreciate Daniel’s character as a prophet and the canonical value of his book. Hengstenberg, however, accounts for the place assigned to the book by remarking that while Daniel actually possessed the highest prophetical gift, and is accordingly called a prophet both by our Lord and Josephus, his writings stand in the third class, rather than in the second among the prophets, from the latter being exclusively destined for those penned by persons who were prophets according to office, and laboured as such among their people, which was not the case with Daniel. Keil observes that the place of the book among the Hagiographa corresponds to the place Daniel occupied in the kingdom of God under the Old Testament. In the Hagiographa its place was before the older Book of Ezra. While the earlier Talmudists or scribes place the book with the Psalms and the Proverbs, the later ones range it with Zechariah and Haggai among the prophets; and when Aquila and Theodotion translated their versions, Daniel was admitted to the prophetic rank. Origen in the third century placed him among the prophets and before Ezekiel, following the example of Josephus in his first book against Apion


VI. Objects and uses of the book. These, in regard to the first or historical part, are—to show the watchful care of God over His people, and so to strengthen their faith in Him in all circumstances and situations; to exhibit God as the hearer and answerer of prayer, and the privilege as well as duty of abounding in that exercise; to show the reality, excellence, and value of true religion, and to encourage its faithful practice; to display the power of Jehovah, as well as His providence in determining the destinies of the kingdoms of the world; to teach the folly and effects of pride, and to encourage humility and dependence upon God; to show that the persecutors and oppressors of God’s people will not go unpunished, while those who serve and trust in Him will in one way or another be certainly delivered. In regard to the second or prophetical portion, the objects and uses are,—to vindicate Jehovah’s honour as the omniscient and therefore omnipotent God; to sustain the Church in periods of depression and suffering with the prospect of better times to come; to comfort believers with the assurance that God rules in the world, and will conduct all to a happy and joyful issue; to encourage fidelity to God and His truth, as well as diligence in seeking the conversion of others; to keep alive the expectation of the promised Saviour, and to enable believers to recognise Him when He appeared; to confirm our faith in Christ and in the Word of God by the manifest fulfilment of the predictions recorded. “The main purpose of the book,” says Hengstenberg, “is to point out how God’s providence reigns over His Church; how, although He may for a time give them up to be deservedly chastised by their enemies, yet, when the suffering has attained its purpose, He delivers all the more gloriously; how all worldly power perishes when it enters into an unequal encounter with the Almighty God of Israel; how at length, after the destruction of the great kingdoms of the world, the everlasting kingdom of God and Christ shall spread over the whole earth.” Powerful incitements contained in the main doctrine of the book, to a faithful devotedness to God, a willing pursuit of His commands, and to steadfastness in sufferings and persecutions. Such incitements found as well in the historical examples of fidelity to God set forth in the first part of the book, as in the positive announcements made towards its conclusion, especially that regarding the resurrection. How much the prophecies of Daniel had this effect among the Jews during the severe persecutions under Antiochus Epiphanes, appears from the affecting narrative related in the first Book of Maccabees, regarding the mother and her seven sons, who, from the assured hope of the resurrection to eternal life, here for the first time plainly and expressly taught in the Old Testament, willingly endured one after another a most cruel death rather than commit an idolatrous act. The deliverance of Daniel and his three companions, on their proving steadfast in their obedience to God, was, according to the same undisputed authority, used by Mattathias as an argument to confirm his five sons, the Maccabees, in their faithful adherence to the service of Jehovah, whatever it might cost them


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