THE GOLDEN IMAGE, AND THE FIERY FURNACE.
Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was three score cubits, and the breadth thereof air cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. The Septuagint Version is full of redundance and interpolation, "In the eighteenth year King Nebuchadnezzar, who ruled cities and countries, and all those dwelling (in them)over the earth from India even to Ethiopia, made a golden image; the height of it was sixty cubits, and the breadth of it six cubits, and set it up in a plain within the boundary of the province of Babylon." The reason for translating Dura "boundary, is natural enough, for the word. means something approximate to this. Theodotion begins in the same way, giving the date "the eighteenth year;" the place is ἐν πεδίῳ δεειρᾷ, As for the rest, it is in agreement with the text of the Massoretes. The Peshitta follows a text that must have been identical with the Massoretic, as also does the Vulgate. The date inserted into the Greek Version is improbable. At that time, if we take the chronology of 2 Kings 25:8, Nebuchadnezzar was engaged in the siege of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was taken in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar, after a two years' siege. In Jeremiah 52:29 we are told, however, that Nebuchadnezzar took eight hundred and thirty-two captives in his eighteenth year, and the difference between Babylonian and Jewish chronology suggests that the eighteenth year of Jeremiah 52:1-34. may be the nineteenth of 2 Kings 25:1-30 £ Against this is the fact that the month of the year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar is given (2 Kings 25:8), and this implies the adoption of the Babylonian chronology. It is certainly not to be expected that Nebuchadnezzar would traverse the long distance that separated him from his capital merely to erect a statue or obelisk. At the same time, we are told (Jeremiah 52:29), as we have mentioned above, that in the eighteenth year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar took eight hundred and thirty-two persons captive. This may be that he sent these prisoners by a convoy, for it is clear that a larger number of captives were taken when Jerusalem was captured than eight Hundred and thirty-two. They may have been taken during the progress of the siege, in sallies, etc. The number of prisoners taken in the seventh year of Nebuchadnezzar does not suggest the great numbers that are implied in Ezekiel to be dwelling on the Chebar, otherwise we might be inclined to regard these differences from the received chronology as due to a different mode of reckoning. Even though the date given in Jeremiah 52:29 were the date of the capture of Jerusalem, it is not at all likely that the capture of an obscure city in the hill country of Judaea was an event on account of which a special thanksgiving would be given. The description of the empire of Nebuchadnezzar in the Septuagint is borrowed from Esther 1:1. In regard to this image, the statement that it is "golden" does not mean that it was solid gold, any more than the golden altar (Numbers 4:11) was entirely of gold (Exodus 30:1-3; Exodus 37:25, Exodus 37:26); that it was an "image" (tzelem) does not necessarily imply that it was a statue in the form of a human being. In Ezekiel 16:17 there are references to tzalmee zakar, which seem naturally to be phallus images. Hegel's opinion ('AEsthetik') was that the obelisk was really a modified phallus image. If that is so, then the proportions of this tzele are not extravagant for an obelisk. Moreover, these numbers, "sixty" and "six," are evidently round numbers, their mnemonic character maintaining their place. The real numbers might be anything near the number given; instead of "sixty," the real number might be not much over "fifty" cubits, and the "six" cubits the number given as the breadth, might be, without intentional deception, seven or eight cubits. The proportion, at all events, in the extreme case of fifty and eight cubits, would not be extraordinary, even for a statue. It might be a gilded statue on a lofty column. One other note may be added: 6 and 60, multiplied together, give 360, the number of the days in the Babylonian year. The division of the circle into 360 degrees is probably due to this Babylonian division of the year. In the plain of Dura. There are several places in Babylonia which may be identified with this. While it may be outside the wall of the city, this Dura may also have been within it; the Septuagint rendering favours thistly— ἐν πεδίῳ περιβόλου, It is remarked by Professor Fuller that districts within the city of Babylon have at times "Dun" as part of the name. Thus, "in Esarhaddon's inscriptions, Duru-suanna-ki is that part of Babylon which is elsewhere called Imgur-Bel, or wall of Babylon." This would confirm the view—Quatremere's—that Duru was within the city wall. Archdeacon Rose ('Speaker's Commentary,' ad loc.) refers to Oppert as having found near a spot named Duair the pedestal of a colossal statue, but gives no reference. On the fiat plains of Mesopotamia, this obelisk of a hundred feet high would be seen for nearly thirteen miles in every direction, and the gleam from its gilded top would be visible even further. What was the occasion of this image being set up? We have no means of even conjecturing. Certainly it was not merely to seduce the Jews again into idolatry. From the way Marduk (Merodach) is glorified in the inscriptions of Nebuchadnezzar, the probability is that it was erected in his honour. Bishop Wordsworth ('Com. Daniel') thinks the statue was of Nebuchadnezzar himself, and quotes Lenormant ('Manuel d'Histoire Ancienne,' 1:237, trans, 1:486). Lenormaut, in the passage referred to, quotes an ins,,ription in which Nebuchadnezzar calls himself "the begotten of Marduk" From this Lenormant comes to the conclusion that, like Caligula in later times, Nebuchadnezzar demanded worship to be given to himself as a god. But when we turn back in this same book, we find a number of statements of a similar kind which invalidate the emphasis which Lenormant would give to this. He calls Bilit Larpanit, "the mother who bore me;" Sin, "who inspires me with judgment;" Shamash, "who inspires my body with the sentiment of justice:" and so on. In saying he was begotten of Marduk, it is not as claiming the personal possession of the characteristics of divinity that Nebuchadnezzar made this statement, but as regarding himself to be the special instrument and favourite of the gods—a posture of mind quite compatible with the deepest and most real humility. Hippolytus and Jerome maintain the same view as Lenormant on a priori evidence. There is no contradiction between Nebuchadnezzar's ascription of praise to Jehovah as a God of gods and a Revealer of secrets, in Daniel 2:47, and his erection of this image to Merodaeh That Jehovah was a God of gods did not prevent Merodach being that also, and even greater.
Daniel 3:2, Daniel 3:3
Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. The Septuagint is greatly interpolated, "And Nebuchadnezzar, king of kings and ruler ( κυριεύων) of the whole inhabited earth ( τῆς οἰκουμένης ὅλης), sent to gather together all nations, peoples, and tongues, governors and generals, rulers and overseers, executors and those in authority, according to their provinces, and all in the whole inhabited earth, to come to the dedication of the golden image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up" The word denoting the "inhabited world" is one used first of the Greek world (Funeral Oration of Demosthenes, τῆς οἰκομενῆς τὸ πλεῖστον μέρος, then of the Roman world as distinct from the barbarian (Polybius, 1.4. 6, τὸ τῆς ὅλης οἰκουμένης σχῆμα); in this latter sense it is used in Luke 2:1. The phrase, "nations. peoples, and tongues," is one that occurs with great frequency in Revelation, and also the above phrase, τῆς ὅλης οἰκουμένης. This is an indication of the use made by the Apostle John of this version of Daniel as distinct from the Massoretic text It may also be observed that the phrase, "all in the whole inhabited earth," is placed as equal to "all the rulers of the provinces," which makes it at least possible that a misreading of the original text has occasioned the exaggeration in this particular clause. In the third verse the order is different, and to some extent the names of the officials are different also; σατράπαι is left out, and τύραννοι appears in its stead, though not in the same place. Further, there are persons mentioned "great in authority." This variation may be due to an uncertainty in the mind of the translator as to the exact equivalent in Greek for the Aramaic terms. It is to be noted that "the inhabitants of the whole earth" disappear from this repetition. The last editor of the Greek text may have had two renderings before him, and drew from the one the second verse, and from the other the third. Theodotion's rendering, while in closer agreement with the Massoretic text, yet differs from it to some extent, appearing to make the latter half of verse 2 explanatory of the former, which contains the more technical designations. In verse 3 there is a change in the order of the terms, as to some extent a change in the terms. In the Peshitta there are evident traces that the translator had not understood the technical meaning of the terms here used. The list given is "great men of might—lords, rulers, Agardaei, Garabdaei, Tarabdaei, Tabathaei, and all the rulers of the province." These mysterious names, that seem those of tribes, have no existence elsewhere. It is singular that these words, if they are in their original shape—which they seem certainly, to be—and to appearance of Persian origin, were unintelligible to one writing on the Persian frontier at most three centuries after the critical date of Daniel. The Parthian Empire retained much of the Persian character. How was it that words of Persian meaning had disappeared there, and still remained in use, or at least still continued to be intelligible, in Palastine? The probability is that the names have undergone so great change in course of transcription that their original form can no longer be recognized. The Vulgate does not call for remark. The names of these different grades of officials are (as we now have them) some indubitably Persian, as ahashdarpan; others unmistakably Assyrian, sagan pehah; and there are some that have no recognized etymology, as tiphtaye: but there are none that are even plausibly derived from Greek. Yet this class of words is precisely the class where the influence of the language of the military governing nation would be manifest. The fact that while the Massoretic text has eight classes of rulers who are summoned, the Septuagint has only six, throws a suspicion on the whole list. The LXX; however, adds, "all those in the whole earth ( πάντας τοὺς κατὰ τὴν οἰκουμένην)," which may be the result of misreading of kol shiltoni medeenatha, or it may be a rendering of it, referring back to the classes already enumerated ( ἄρχοντας being understood, omitting the ray). In Theodotion and Jerome there are seven classes. Only in the Peshitta are there the same number of classes as in the Massoretic. The Peshitta has as this first class rabai ḥeela', used in the New Testament, e.g. Luke 22:4, of "chief captains." It is possible that rabuti, or some derivative from it, was in the original text here, and this was changed into the better known satrap. Sagan does not call for remark; as said above (Daniel 2:48), it is derived from shakun (Assyrian); the Hebrew equivalent appears in Jeremiah 51:23 and Ezekiel 23:6, and elsewhere. Peḥah is also Assyrian in origin, also elsewhere used in Scripture. Adargazrayya seems a compound from adar and gazar, "to divide." Furst would make this word mean" astrologers of the god Adar." Professor Bevan would derive it from endarzgar, a Persian word meaning "counsellor"—"a word which was still in use under the Sassanians." That the word had any connection with this is disproved by the fact that in the Peshitta it is rendered Agardaei. If the word in question had survived from the Achaemenids to the Sassanids, its meaning would necessarily be known to the Peshitta translator, whose date held between the periods of these two Persian dynasties. A Persian word of the date of the Achsemenids to have survived to the age of the Sassanids, must have been known in the intervening Parthian period. A similar difficulty occurs in regard to the next word, gedabrayya—the Syrian translator has simply transferred it. The simplest interpretation is that it is a variation on gizbarayya (Ezra 7:21), and means "treasurers," which is still in use in the Syriac of the Peshitta, e.g. 2 Kings 10:22. The question is complicated by the fact that the word which occupies the same place in the similar list in 2 Kings 10:27 is haddabrā When we turn to the Peshitta for that verse, there is another word, raurbona. The Septuagint, by rendering φίλοις, shows that their reading was ḥabereen. All this proves how utterly futile it is to build anything on the presence of late words in Daniel. The presence of early words from the nature of the case, is more significant. Old and unintelligible words would never be inserted in place of new and intelligible, though the reverse process might readily take place: דְּתָבְּרַיּא (dethaberayyā) is rendered usually "judges," and is generally derived from the Pehlevi; but if דַת (dath) means a "firman," a "command," or "decree," in Aramaic, then the addition bar in Persian is rendered less certain. Here, again, the Peshitta translator was unaware of the meaning of the word, and renders by the mysterious word tarabdaei. The last class mentioned is the Tiphtaē. This term seems to be omitted in the three Western versions at least there are only six names of ranks of rulers given in these versions, and this is a seventh. Of course, it may be that some name earlier in the list is explanatory and added later than the time when these versions were made. The Peshitta has the word Tabathaei, which has all the appearance of a national name. The word Tiphtaē assumes in the K'thib a Syriac form, which, as we before remarked, is an indication of the original dialect of the book. Notwithstanding what Professor Bevan has asserted, something may be said for the conjecture that it is connected with aftā, "to advise." But in the extreme doubt in which we are in regard to what the text precisely is, it is something like waste of time to do more than chronicle opinions. This feeling of uncertainty is increased by the fact that, as above mentioned, the two lists in the two verses before us do not agree in the three Western versions. The list in verse 27 purports to be the same as that given here, and differs from it greatly. All that we may assume is that there were assembled different classes of the officials of the Babylonian Empire. The reading should not be medeenatha, "of the provinces;" but medeenta "of the province;" the officials that were assembled were those merely of the province of Babylon. We would maintain this, although the versions are against it, because there would be no difference in the original unpointed text.
Daniel 3:4, Daniel 3:5
Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up. The Septuagint rendering is, "And the herald proclaimed to the multitudes, To you it is announced, peoples and countries, nations and tongues, when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, the pipe, the harp, the sackbut, and psaltery, of chorus, and of all kinds of music, that ye fall down and worship the golden image which King Nebuchadnezzar set up." It is clear that the Septuagint translator rendered חיל as "host," and translated בְ as if it were לְ. The balanced cadence of the next clause seems more natural, if due to the Aramaic source than to the Greek translator. The musical instruments are also arranged in the same cadenced fashion, broken to some extent by συμφωνία. Theodotion is, as usual, in closer agreement with the Massoretic text, but omits συμφωνία. The Peshitta in the fourth verse agrees not only word for word, but we might almost say syllable for syllable, with the Massoretic text. In the fifth verse it omits pesanterin; instead of sabka, it has kinora, which is usually regarded as the Hebrew equivalent of κιθάρα; instead of συμφωνία, it has tziphonia, which suggests a different etymology. It is true Strack ('Neu Hebraische Sprache') points out that סhas a tendency to become צbefore syllables with the דsound or at the end of words, but this is neither of these; the syllable with צis the first, not the last, and there is no d or t sound in the word. Jerome is in strict verbal agreement with the Massoretic text. We shall have to devote a short excursus to the names of the musical instruments which occur here. In eagerness to find proofs of the late origin of the Book of Daniel—of its origin in the times of the Hellenic domination, karoza was derived from κήρυξ, that etymology is universally abandoned now. O people, nations, and languages. It ought rather to be peoples. Bishop Wordsworth remarks on the resemblance which this phrase bears to tsar used of the mystical Babylon in Revelation (Revelation 13:7; Revelation 17:15), and adds that she also "commands them to fall down and worship the image which she has set up." In regard to the following verse, the sculptures of Nineveh prove the prominence given to music in all important occasions, as the celebration of a triumph or the dedication of a temple. The names of the musical instruments are not so generally preserved. It was most likely when the rays of the morning sun smote the golden tip of the obelisk, that there came the burst of music which was to serve as a signal for all the multitudes to fall down and worship. The image was looked upon as the sign of the god it represented; it received the worship meant for him.
And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. The only difference between the Septuagint and the Massoretic text is that instead of rendering, "shall be cast," it is put in the plural active, "they shall cast him." There may have been a difference of reading— יִרְמונֵה instead of יִתְרְמֵא. It is, perhaps, more probable that it is simply that the translator preferred this construction to the one which would have resulted from a more literal translation. Theodotion,the Peshitta, and Vulgate agree with the Massoretic. In that very hour. It has been suggested by Professor Fuller that the way the shadow fell would enable them to fix the hour. This, however, is giving an exact astronomical meaning to what had only a rhetorical significance. The word sha‛a is very vague; it means "time" in general, it means "any short interval of time," from some days to a moment. Shall be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. The word אַתּוּן is of uncertain derivation; it is found in both dialects of Aramaic. It occurs in the Targum of pseudo-Jonathan, in the story of the death of Haran and the preservation of Abraham, which seems distinctly imitated from the events related here. In Smith's 'Life of Asshurbanipal,' we find this punishment more than once resorted to, e.g. pp. 163, 164. Professor Bevan maintains, in answer to Lenormant's appeal to this as a proof of the author's accurate knowledge of Babylonian methods of punishment, that this is derived from Jeremiah 29:22, Zedekiah and Ahab, "whom the King of Babylon roasted in the fire." Only the action implied by the verb קָלָה (qalah) is not complete burning, as that implied in the punishment before us, but rather the more cruel torture of slowly burning The word is used of "parched corn" (Le Jeremiah 2:14; 5:11); it is used also of the heat of fever (Psalms 38:8). There is no verbal indication that the author of Daniel was at all influenced by this passage.
Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of music, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. The Septuagint renders, "And at that time, when all the nations (Gentiles) heard the sound of the trumpet, the pipe and harp, sackbut and psaltery, and every sound of music, then all the nations (Gentiles), tribes, and tongues, fell down and worshipped the golden image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up." The last words, κατέναντυ τουτοῦ evidently belong to the beginning of the next verse. It is possible ἤχου is due to another reading, but may also have been the result of a desire for variation. Theodotion does not differ from the Massoretic text The two Greek versions agree with the Massoretic in omitting συμφωνία. The rendering of the Peshitta is, "In the hour when the nations heard the voice of the horn, and flute, and lyre, (qithra), and harp (kinnor), and pipe (tziphonia), and all kinds of music, all these peoples, nations, and tongues, fell down and worshipped the golden image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up" It is to be noted that kinnor, its Shemitic equivalent, here again follows qithra, and that pesanterin is again omitted. Jerome, in opposition to the Massoretic and the Greek versions, inserts symphonia. In regard to the Massoretic text here, as in the fifth verse, we have qathros instead of the qithros of the K'thib; in this, the K'thib agrees, as generally, with the Eastern instead of the Western form the word assumes. Professor Bevan compares the use of כְּדִי here with that in the Palmyrene inscriptions (Vogue 15). Zemara is said by Keil to refer only to song; but Furst, Gesenius, and Wirier apply the word to instrumental music. It may, as a matter of fact, be either; if it be a chorus of voices, it is then equivalent to συμφωνία. This verse simply chronicles the obedience that was at once and unquestioningly rendered to the command of Nebuchadnezzar. The obedience of these Gentiles served to bring out into clearer relief the steadfastness of these Jews, or, what appears to the king and his courtiers, their obstinacy. Not impossibly, their resistance to the king was emphasized by their remaining standing amid the crowd of those prostrate officials.
Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews. The Septuagint is in this verse closer to the Massoretic than is Theodotion. The latter has nothing to represent the כָל־קֱבֵל דְנָה (kol-qobayl d'nah) of the original, which appears in our versions as "wherefore." The Septuagint renders κατέναντι τούτου. The Peshitta also has omitted "wherefore;" in the next clause it is slavishly accurate, giving the peculiar turn of the phrase in the original, 'achalu qartzchūn, "to devour pieces of them." It occurs in the Syriac of Luke 16:1; it is in the Targum of Psalms 15:3. The Vulgate presents no points worthy of notice. It is evident that "Chaldean" is here used in its ethnic sense of the nation, not in its professional sense as of the alleged class. We must remember that "Chaldean" is not equivalent to "Babylonian." As we have seen, the Chaldeans were intruders in Babylon, and to them Nebuchadnezzar belonged. It was but natural that native-born Chaldeans, who reckoned themselves to be of the same kin as the king, objected to have their rights postponed to a set of Jews. The fact that the three friends are not named, or in any way designated, but the whole Jewish race is referred to, shows that the purpose of these Chaldeans involved the whole Jewish people, and that they singled out Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego simply as test cases. Their elevation to positions Of such trust might well have caused jealousy of them.
They spake and said to the King Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever. Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image: and whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee; they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. The differences here between the Septuagint and the Massoretic are slight. Only, it may be observed, that in the repetition of the decree to the king, συμφωνία does not occur. Instead of saying, "they serve not thy gods," it renders, "thine idol they do not serve." Further, the word עְבִדַת (‛abeedath), translated "business," is omitted, probably implying the omission in the original text of יתָהוֹן. Theodotion's Version is considerably briefer in regard to the ninth verse, as it omits "answered and said," and "Nebuchadnezzar;" otherwise it is in closer agreement with the Massoretic text, only it too omits συμφωνία. In the Peshitta we find a variation in the ninth verse; its rendering begins, "And they said to Nebuchadnezzar the king." As before mentioned, in the list of instruments pesanterin is omitted, and kinnor appears; otherwise the agreement is close with the Massoretic text. The Vulgate agrees with the Peshitta in its rendering of the ninth verse, but, unlike the Greek Version, inserts symphonia, and unlike the Peshitta, inserts psalterium. As to the Aramaic text, the most noticeable thing is the fact that in the K'thib, instead of סוּמְּפֹנְיָא (sumphonia) there appears סִיפֹנְיָא (siphonia). The twelfth verse has this peculiarity in it, that it is the only case where ־יַת, the sign of the accusative, so frequent in the Targums, occurs in Biblical Aramaic. In the inscription on the Hadad Statue at Sindschirli, line 28, we have ותה (v-th-h) as the sign of the acensative; as in the case before us, it serves for the oblique case of a pronoun. The adulatory address with which these Chaldeans begin is quite in accordance with Eastern usage. The point of the accusation against these three officials was that, being officials, they did not confirm by obedience the solemn decree of the monarch. Further, if this statue or obelisk were erected to Marduk (Merodach), whom Nebuchadnezzar specially worshipped, and whom he regarded as his special protector, the element of treason against the state might be implied in this refusal to give due obeisance to the tutelary god of the Babylonian Empire and its sovereign. The politics and warfare of that period proceeded on the assumption that the gods directly interfered in the affairs of the nations. Any slight done to the national god would—as it was believed—be avenged on the nation who had suffered it to pass unpunished. They summoned deities to leave cities they were besieging, and tried to persuade the inhabitants that even their god was on the side of the besieger. Thus Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:22) asserts that Jehovah must be offended with Hezekiah. and Pharaoh-Necho claimed to Josiah that he went at God's command to fight against Assyria (2 Chronicles 35:21). According to heathen notions generally, Chaldean and Babylonian included, some very slight inadvertence might vitiate a sacrifice, and change it from being a propitiation to the gods to an offence to them. If an inadvertence might thus be maleficent, much more direct disrespect such as that shown by these Jewish officials. But the accusers lay stress on another side of the matter. Nebuchadnezzar had set them over the affairs of the province of Babylon; but he had set up the golden image. There was thus an element of personal disrespect hinted at, made all the more heinous that the element of ingratitude was also present. But how is it that Daniel is not introduced into this narrative? Why was it that he was not attacked rather than his friends? It may be argued that this is another tradition, and that the union of Daniel with the three friends is due to that dovetailing of which so many traces are found—or alleged to be found—in the Pentateuch. But the editor who did the dovetailing in the present instance, did more than dovetail—they are introduced at various points in the narrative of the preceding chapter. Why did he not complete his work, and explain why Daniel was absent? If it is a work of imagination, it is necessary to account for the absence of Daniel; even if it is the result of editorial labour, still the absence of Daniel has to be accounted for or explained away. This would press heavily on one writing in the days of the Maccabees. On one chronicling events as they occurred, this might easily be passed over, because at the time every one in Babylon would be perfectly aware why Daniel was not there. The absence of all reference to Daniel in this chapter is an indirect proof of the antiquity and genuineness of the book of which it forms part. The reasons for Daniel's absence may easily be imagined. He might have been sent on official duty to a distant province of the empire, or, though this is not so likely, his presence at this festival might not be required A prosaic but possible solution of Daniel's absence might be illness. If he were known to be incapacitated by sickness from taking part in any public function, the Chaldeans would not damage their case by referring to him.
Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Ahed-nego. Then they brought these men before the king. The Septuagint differs from the Massoretic in translating חְמָא (ḥama') as a verb, and therefore rendering, θυμωθεὶς ὀργῇ, "infuriated with rage." Theodotion is in close agreement with the Massoretic, as also the Pe-shitta, with this difference, that the Syriac repeats the preposition, in which it is followed by Jerome. The word translated. "brought" presents some grammatical difficulty: the word is הֵיתַיוּ (haythayoo). The form seems active, but the meaning is passive. Professor Bevan suggests a difference of vocalization. The accusation of those who desired to devour these Jewish councillors was successful in its immediate aim. Nebuchadnezzar is filled with rage and fury against those who, having been the creatures of his favour, had yet dared to do despite to his authority. It might even be that their unheard-of want of courtesy to the monarch would also be regarded as discourtesy still more flagrant to the god to whose honour the statue or pillar had been erected, and this dedicative feast instituted. He commands the criminals to be brought to him. Fierce and furious as Nebuchadnezzar is, fanatic as he is for the religion of his fathers, he is yet just. These officials, however disrespectfully they have acted, have yet a right to be heard in their own defence. They are sent for by the monarch, and in due course they come. It is not impossible that Nebuchadnezzar, with all his rage and fury, was yet shrewd enough to see envy behind the accusation; it is because these men are Jews, and have been highly advanced, that the Chaldeans are ready to bring accusations of impiety against them.
Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? The Septuagint rendering here is, "Whom when he saw, Nebuchadnezzar the king said to them, Wherefore, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do ye not worship my gods, nod before the golden image which I have set up do ye not prostrate yourselves?" There seems to have been a difference of reading here. The first words must have been read as בהון עליהון (behon ‛aleehon), and the mysterious word הַצְדָּא (hatzeda) had occupied a position before, not after אמר. The word צְדָא in the aphel in Syriac means "to look steadily." This interpretation of the word shows that the translator had before him a document in which Syriac meanings might be expected. Theodotion renders the last clause, "If truly ( εἰ ἀληθῶς) Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, my gods ye do not worship, and before the golden image which I have set up ye do not prostrate yourselves?"—a construction that shows a slavish following of the Aramaic. The sense here is really the same as that of the Authorized Version. The Peshitta renders the opening word of this latter portion of the verse, "in truth"—a rendering with which Jerome agrees. Professor Bevan suggests another reading, הַאַזְדָּא, followed by Behrmann. Unfortunately, the meaning of אַזְדָּא is very doubtful. The common rendering is "of set purpose." So Furst, Gesenius, Winer, among lexicographers, and Bertholdt, Ewald, Aben Ezra, Wordsworth, among commentators; Keil, Kliefoth, Kra-nichfeld, hold it to mean "with evil intent." It is suggested also that it may mean "in mockery." The reading suggested by Professor Bevan and supported by Behrmann is not to be thought of; they appeal to Theodotion, but when this word occurs in the previous chapter (verse 5), Theodotion translates ἀπέστη, which makes it evident that אזדא (azda) did not mean "truth" to him. More may be said for the Peshitta, only that, though azda does seem to mean "truth," the translation is not the same in Daniel 2:5 and the present verse. If there is to be a change of reading, that indicated by the Septuagint translation is preferable. The Septuagint translator has had צדא before him, and there is no evidence that Theodotion had not. The change in the arrangement of the words is a simpler variation than any other, and it retains the word in its Syriac meaning; otherwise we should be inclined to follow the lexicographers, and translate "of set purpose." If we take the view of this word indicated above, then we may imagine Nebuchadnezzar looking steadfastly on those youths who had dared to oppose him, hoping, it may be, to see them shrink from his gaze, as he had seen so many of the kings he had conquered do. If this is correct, it gives a point to what the youths begin their answer with in Daniel 2:16. If we take the more common rendering, we see the generosity of the king. Full of rage and fury as he is, he will give them an opening to say that it was of inadvertence that they failed to obey his decree. This is fully borne out by the next verse. If Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury at the crime against the gods, he yet was careful that the envy of the Chaldeans should not hinder him from giving the Jews who had been accused to him a chance to defend themselves. This mental fairness it was which, despite his outbursts of capricious rage, drew the affection of those about him to Nebuchadnezzar.
Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be east the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? The differences between the Septuagint and the Massoretic text are not great. The last clause is rendered," but if not, know." It inserts the epithet "golden" after "image." The insertion of "know ye" makes the sentence run more easily, but it is not to be accepted. Here, as before, "midst" is omitted. Theodotion is very close to the Massoretic, but agrees with the Septuagint in its omission of "midst" and its insertion of "golden." The Peshitta is in yet closer agreement with the Massoretic text, save in regard to the musical instruments—pesanterin, as in the other cases, being omitted. It seems clear from this that the festival of the dedication of this new idol of the Babylonian king occupied several days. Nebuchadnezzar, willing to save those Jews, is ready to condone their first failure to obey his command if, probably at the sunrise of the following day, they were willing when they heard the sound of the musical instruments to fall down and worship this golden image which he had set up to the honour of his god. The latter clause does not seem in perfect harmony with the tone of the earlier part of the verse. There has been no reference in the conversation as reported to any other god to explain Nebuchadnezzar's demand, "Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?" Moreover, there is in the beginning a desire apparent to give these Jewish officials a way of escape, but in the last clause there is contempt as well as anger expressed. The fact is that while the simple structure of Shemitic lends itself to direct narration, the reader is not to suppose that, though speeches are reported in the oratio recta, they any more record or claim to record the ipsissima verba than if the speeches had been recorded in the oratio obliqua of more Western tongues. The presumption is that merely the main heads of the conversation are recorded. These very jolts and leaps are in themselves indirect evidences of the truth of the document with which we have to do. It would have been easy to insert a question and answer to bridge over the hiatus. Only one recording facts would be regardless of this. The attitude of mind expressed by these last words of Nebuchadnezzar are natural to a heathen, and especially to monarchs of the Assyrian type. Sennacherib's words of defiance (2 Kings 18:33) are quite in the same line, "Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the King of Assyria?" The capture of Jerusalem by his arms was regarded by Nebuchadnezzar as a demonstration that the God of Israel was inferior to the gods of Babylonia. To Nebuchadnezzar this belief would not in the slightest degree contradict his previous declaration (Daniel 2:47), that this same God was "a God of gods, and a Lord of kings." He might be great as a Revealer of secrets, but not in might to deliver—in that he was clearly inferior to the gods of Babylon, as the events of recent campaigns had abundantly proved. It is this declaration, with the idea behind it of the ]imitation of Jehovah, that gives the event narrated in this chapter its importance.
Excursus on the Musical Instruments in this Chapter.
The names of the musical instruments which occur in the fifth, seventh, tenth, and fifteenth verses of this chapter are supposed to afford a demonstrative proof of the late date of Daniel. Thus Canon Driver, by no means an extreme critic, declares that, while "the Hebrew and Aramaic permit" a late date, these Greek words "demand" that the date of Daniel be placed as late as the period of the Syrian power. The words in question are—qathros, pesanterin, sumphonya. The first of these, קַתְרוֹס (qath'ros), appears to be transferred from the Greek κίθαρις ( κιθὰρα), from its resemblance to the older form, κίθαρις, which occurs in Homer: we may deduce that the word, if borrowed from the Greek, was borrowed at an early period. Canon Driver would not, in view of the intercourse between Greece and Babylon, press this word as proof of the recent date of Daniel. The intercourse between Babylon and Greece was sufficiently great to have rendered the conveyance of this name at least not impossible. It has been shown, moreover, by Professor Whitehouse, that the word is probably derived from the East; indeed, he fixes on Phoenicia as its source. It must be observed that he maintains that, while originally Phoenician, the form it assumes in Daniel proves it to have come to the author of Daniel from Greek £
The word may have been modified from its more ancient to its more recent form, for the sake of readers. One of the suggestions of those who oppose the antiquity of the Book of Daniel is that כִּנֹּר (kinnor) is the word that would have been used by a genuine Aramaic writer of Daniel's period, as kinnor and qitharos (or qathros) represent one and the same instrument; but, unfortunately for this, in the Peshitta we have both terms, the one after the other.
The other words, סוּמפוֹנְיָא, συμφωνία, and פְסַנְתֵּרִים (pesanterin), supposed to be equivalent to ψαλτηρίον, are on a different footing.
In the first place, any one who has studied the apocalyptic writings, must see how peculiarly liable they are to interpolation. There is hardly one that is not largely and obviously interpolated. No one can deny that this has taken place with. Daniel. The apocryphal additions are too well known for any one to maintain the opposite opinion. When, moreover, one begins to compare the Massoretic text with the more ancient versions, the Septuagint, the Peshitta, and that of Theodotion, we at once see that the changes which the text has undergone have not been confined to large interpolations, but all through there are words and phrases where the versions differ from the Massoretic text and from each other. The text especially from which the Septuagint translation has been made, must have presented many and important verbal differences from that adopted by the Massoretes. Even Theodotion, though his version agrees more closely with the Massoretic text than does the Septuagint, differs from it in ways and in a degree than can at times be explained only on the supposition that the text before him was not identical with that adopted by the Massoretes. The supposition that Theodotion has been altered from the Septuagint has been hazarded, and in a few cases it may have some semblance of probability, but in other cases it is destitute of every shadow of likelihood. The Peshitta is another source of various readings. Its variations are independent of either of the other two versions. In some chapters these variations are more marked than in others, but in every case they are numerous enough to make any stress on individual words highly hazardous. While these variations are known and chronicled, there is no security that no variations occurred even before the types of the text separated from each other. In such a case as this, although it would be unscientific, on the ground of this uncertainty, to proceed to change the text to what seems to make better sense, it is equally unscientific to lay any evidential weight on single words.
But, further, no words are, in one respect, less evidential than musical terms. They are changed and modified with a freedom applied to few other things. Thus we have "cornet-a-piston" figuring also as "cornopean," two words like each other in sound, of the same meaning, but of widely different derivation. They pass from country to country with greater freedom than most other terms. To infer, then, that the writer of Daniel wrote under Greek domination, because certain Greek musical terms occur in the present Massoretic text, is rash in the extreme, and would, it seems to us, be universally regarded so, were there not an object to be gained by assuming that evidence drawn from them was liable to no doubt. New Testament critics have taught us to suspect what are called tendenz documents, i.e. documents that have an overweening bias towards one side of a controversy: there is such a thing as a tendenz judgment. The judgment of the critics in regard to the evidential value of these musical terms is a tendenz judgment, which we should say is even more to be suspected than the contents of a tendenz document.
The history of the argument from the alleged presence of Greek terms in Daniel is also instructive. The number of Greek terms that Hitzig and some earlier critics saw was large. Gradually they had to abandon all but those coming in the list of musical instruments here. Of these only four could be claimed as really Greek. However, one of these had soon to go, שַׂבְכָא; it was maintained to be derived from the σαμβύκη. It was found that this Greek word was really derived from an Eastern, probably an Assyrian, source. Next, it has been acknowledged by Canon Driver, as above stated, that much stress cannot be laid on קַתְדֹס ( κιθὰρα), seeing it is an instrument of such ancient date in Greece, that it might easily have drifted eastward, name and thing, to Babylon. The matter is further complicated by the fact that the word, in all probability, is not Greek, to begin with, but Eastern, probably Phoenician. In regard to the remaining words—sumphonya and pesanterin—it is argued that they are of Greek origin, and that, while Babylonian intercourse with Greece is not denied, the origin of these words is maintained to be late, at all events, in the sense in which they appear in this passage. Thus, pesanterin is declared to be the Greek ψαλτηρίον, and it is further said that ψαλτηρίον is not a term applied to musical instruments till late, Aristotle and Theophrastus being the earliest authors that use the word. That this word pesanterin is derived from ψαλτηρίον is supposed to be proved by an argument which shows that the Greek letter ψ is resolved, in passing into Aramaic, into פand ; ס second, that לmay be changed into, נ and that - ιον becomes not infrequently ־ין Even though all these points be admitted, it does not follow that pesanterin is derived from psalterion; as fair a case might be made out for deriving "mystery" from "mist" While ־ין sometimes represents - ιον, it much more frequently is simply the sign of the plural; and while פְ may be at times the first half of ψ resolved, it also does represent at times the Coptic article πε. While it is not impossible that santer may represent the remaining letters of the name of the Greek instrument, σαπτωρε has a meaning in Coptic also; it may mean a chorus—"those singing to an instrument." This, then, would show that pesanterin might mean those singing in accompaniment to the previously named instruments. Confirmatory of this is the fact that in Lower Egypt, at the present day, there is a musical instrument called the santeer. When one remembers the great intercourse that existed between Assyria and Egypt when Esarhaddon and Asshur-bani-pal held possession of Egypt—the former of whom frequently held his court in Babylon—that Egyptian words should come into Babylon would not be extraordinary. We admit readily that possibility is not proof of actuality, yet it weakens the force of the other argument, which also is merely from possibility.
A prior question has to be settled before we deduce anything from the origin of this word pesanteria. Is it really part of the original text? There are in this third chapter of Daniel four distinct lists of what purport to be musical instruments. And these are arranged in such a way that the reader expects them to be identical. Each of these may thus be regarded as separate manuscripts. We have further three old versions, as already mentioned, as well as the Massoretic text: the Septuagint dated about b.c. 200; Theodotion and the Peshitta, dated about a.d. 150; the Massoretic text, being fixed somewhere about a.d. 600, and represented by manuscripts, the earliest of which is of the tenth century—the Qri and K'thib represent two forms of reading. Of these authorities the latest is the Massoretic text.
To begin with the Massoretic text, the first thing that meets us is that, while in the fifth, tenth, and fifteenth verses, the word is פסנתרין, in the seventh verse it is פסנמרין. This is not so insignificant as at first sight seems, for תand טdo not appear to have been pronounced in the same way originally, any more than the Greek θ and τ. But further, it is an acknowledged canon of criticism that when a passage has many variations of reading in different manuscripts, that itself raises a suspicion that it has come from the margin into the text. This variation of טand תin a word is an instance similar to that of varying words in the case of a passage; a varying letter is, in the case of a word, a note conveying suspicion.
When we turn to the versions, we find that while the Greek—the Septuagint and Theodotion—have it, the word is quite omitted from the Syriac Peshitta. If it had dropped into the text from the margin, it would be most likely to do so in the Greek versions first, and then find its way into the Massoretic text afterwards. Hence the positive value of the evidence of the Greek versions is comparatively small, although their negative value is considerable. On the other hand, the word is not present at all in the Peshitta, which originated beyond the sphere of Greek domination. That being the state of the matter, we venture to maintain that the word pesanterin does not belong to the genuine text of Daniel.
The case against סומפניא is yet stronger. In regard to this word there is a divergence between the Q'ri and the K'thib. Hence we may regard this as a case in which we have twenty manuscripts. If we now examine the evidence supplied by these, we shall find that the evidence for the presence of סומפביא in the original text is very weak. In the K'thib, which represents in general the better text, we have sumphonya only in two cases, in one case we have siphonya, in the fourth case nothing at all. In the Q'ri we have three cases of sumphonya. When we turn to the Greek texts, we find that symphonia occurs in the Septuagint in two cases, in Theodotion only in one case. When we turn to the Peshitta, we have no case of sumphonia, but we have in all cases tziphonia, a form akin to what we find in the tenth verse in the Massoretic text. If, then, we take these various cases together, and sum them up, we lind eight cases of symphonia, five cases of siphonia, and seven cases of nothing at all. As the word as we have it now is distinctly Greek, the evidence of the Greek versions, while strong negatively, is weak positively. We mean by this that a Greek word put on the margin might easily slip into the text of the Septuagint, and thence into the Palestinian recension—the Massoretic. Moreover, the case against sumphonya is strengthened when we compare the instances in which it occurs with those in which it does not occur. If we looked at the matter apriori, the cases where a word would most likely be dropped is in a conversational repetition of such a list of instruments. But the best supported case of the occurrence of this word is in the offer made by Nebuchadnezzar, that if even yet they would yield, they would be forgiven. The word in question occurs here in the two texts represented by the Massoretic in the Septuagint and Theodotion. It does not appear in the Peshitta—its place being represented by tziphonia, as we said above. On the other hand, the place where we might most readily find a marginal note like sumphonia is precisely the last occurrence of a frequently recurring list. But, again, the place where we should most certainly expect to find every word of such a list given with scrupulous exaetness, is what purports to be the record of a proclamation. But in Theodotion the word in question is not present in his record of the proclamation. In the seventh verse, where the proclamation is repeated to show the obedience it received, the word sumphonya is absent in the Massoretic text and the versions. Further, next to the record of a proclamation in likelihood for an accurate repetition of all the words of such a list, is, where a case is being founded on this proclamation. This, again, is a case in which sumphonya does not occur save in the Q'ri. When those who are about to accuse to Nebuchadnezzar the three Hebrews, repeat to him his proclamation, according to the Greek versions they leave out the word before us altogether, according to the K'thib and Peshitta they insert another word altogether. To us the argument seems conclusive that the word in question was not part of the original text of Daniel.
We cannot leave this question without adverting to some other aspects of it. The intercourse between the Hellenic peoples and Assyria seems to have been considerable We know from Strabo, 13.2. 3, under the title of Lesbos, that Antimenidas, the brother of the poet Alcaeus, was in the Babylonian army at the time when Nebuchadnezzar was king. Strabo quotes Alcaeus, ἀντιμενιδαν ὅν φησίν ̓αλκαῖος βαβυλωνὶοις συμμαχοῖντα—"fought along with the Babylonians as their ally." The Assyrians possessed Cyprus—another source of Hellenic influence. The later Sargonids, Esarhaddon and Asshur-bani-pal, those who had the closest relationship with Babylon, had also the supremacy in Egypt, and now we know from Flinders Petrie and others, in the accounts they have given us of their explorations at Dapine, that there was, before the time of the Babylonian power, a Greek colony of old standing. To meet this contention it is urged that the words in question are much later than the time of Nebuchadnezzar. Certainly we shall admit that the earliest instance of ψαλτηρίον is in Aristotle, but the date of the word is not to be limited by its occurrence in Aristotle (Arist; 'Problem.,' 19.23. 2). It occurs in a definition of a trigon as a triangular psaltery—a mode of speech which implies that "psaltery" was already relatively a common designation. We could not define a "trichord" as a piano in which each note was produced by three wires of the same length stretched to the same degree of tension—unless pianos were comparatvely common. That it does not occur earlier is.probably due to the word beginning possibly as a localism, and then becoming common in literature. Thus many of the phrases denounced as recent Americanisms are proved by more careful investigation to be old provincialisms that have attained literary rank, or at all events semi-literary rank, in a new country. Hence, even though it were proved that psanterin is of Greek origin, and that it belongs to the original text of Daniel, which is more than doubtful, it would yet be no great strain to imagine the name and the instrument had passed over to Babylon before the traditional date of Daniel.
The case for sumphonya is even weaker. Even should it be granted to be in the text of Daniel, and further that it is a Greek word, it is not an instrument until at all events a much later date than any one pretends Daniel to have been written. Yet Canon Driver lays the main stress of his argument on the fact that in the passage before us it means an instrument, and in this view he is supported by Mr. Bevan. The whole stress of this statement really depends on a passage in Polybius (Polyb; 26:10), in which it is alleged the word in question means a musical instrument of some sort. The view that the word before us in the passage means a musical instrument can only be maintained on reading the word preceding συμφωνία as κεράτιον, not κεράμιον, and on the further assumption that κεράνιον means a musical instrument, of which there is no proof. It is true that κέρας means not only the horn of an animal, but also a musical horn; it is also true that κεράτιον is the diminutive from κέρας; but it is not to be assumed that all the senses of the original word are retained by the diminutive. A "lance" is the name given both to a medical instrument and to a weapon used by cavalry: it does not follow from this that since "a lancet" is a medical instrument, it is also a military weapon. There is certainly no instance to support the assertion t,,at there ever was such a usage. As naturally it might be used of a drinking-horn. If the reading κεραμίον is adopted, the meaning assigned to συμφωνία loses even the limited plausibility it had. This view was presented years ago by Dr. Pusey, yet Canon Driver and Professor Bevan have repeated their exploded statements without the faintest attempt at answering the counter-arguments. Were any defender of Daniel to be guilty of anything similar, his ignorance would be sneered at, and his arguments hustled out of court.
But there is a further question—Is siphonia the same word as συμφωνία? That the m ( μ) might disappear and the upsilon of the Greek might be represented by yod in Aramaic, is not impossible, but the fact that, on the one side, there is the Greek word σίφων, on the other there is the Eastern Aramaic word tziphonia, throws grave doubt on this. With regard to, צ Strack declares that it is interchanged צwith סbefore t sounds, and at the end of words; from this we deduce that tziphonia cannot be derived etymologie-ally from sumphonya. On the other hand, siphonya may readily be the product of tziphonia, through the intervention of the Greek σίφων, and perhaps the Hebrew סוּף (suph), "a reed." Changes otherwise impossible are rendered possible when they lead to a word with an intelligible sound. There is a verb סוּף, both Chaldee and Hebrew, which, however, does not seem to have any close connection with סוּף, "a reed," or to have any musical meaning. It is used in Biblical Chaldee for the fulfilment of a prophecy (Daniel 4:30), in Targumic Chaldee "to have an end," "to cease" (Onkelos, Le 26:20). The same verb with the same meaning occurs in Syriac (Luke 9:54). This is an additional evidence that tziphonia is the original form of the word. In transferring the word to Chaldee, they gave it a form intelligible to those who used that tongue. If Syriac were the language in which Daniel was written, then the meaning of the word in that language is important. Castelli—on what authority we know not—gives the meaning of tzephonya, a word all but identical with that before us, as tibia, tuba.
Altogether, not only is the genuineness of the word extremely doubtful, but even were it granted that there was a word there, it is not at all certain that it was a word connected with the Greek συμφωνία. As the assailants of the authenticity of Daniel have laid the great stress of their argument on these words, and, as we have seen, these words afford but dubious evidence, we may consider ourselves to have a right to demand from them to abandon their opposition, or show reason why they do not.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. The Septuagint Version differs in several slight points from the Massoretic. "And Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the King Nebuchadnezzar, O king, we have no need to answer thee in regard to this command, for our God in the heavens is one Lord, whom we fear, who is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and will deliver us out of thy hands, and then it shall be manifest to thee that we neither serve thy gods, nor the golden image which thou hast set up do we worship." In this version we see the sixteenth verse agrees with the Massoretic: in the next verses there are considerable differences. The Septuagint translator seems to have read some part of דתל (deḥal) instead of פלחין (paleḥeen). We cannot be certain that κύριος represents יהוה, here, from the fact that the mannerism of the translator expresses itself in a preference for rendering אלהים by κύριος. The Septuagint has τῶν χειρῶν instead of τῆς χειρός. Not improbably the original was dual, but the dual had practically disappeared from Hellenistic Greek. There seems a reference to the creed of the Jew (Deuteronomy 6:4) and to Psalms 115:3; speaking of God as "God of heaven" occurs in the previous chapter, Psalms 115:18, and in verse 28 Daniel speaks of his God as "in the heaven." However suitable, the first portion is yet to be put aside as an addition. The second portion of this differing clause occurs in Theodotion, and of it we shall shortly speak. There are several other less important differences over which we need not delay. Theodotion has, like the Septuagint, ἐν οὐρανοῖς, and like the Septuagint has the enclitic connection γὰρ, instead of the somewhat abrupt connection of the Massoretic, although the phrase, "in the heavens," has thus the support of the two. The Peshitta Version has to some extent resulted from the abrupt beginning to the seventeenth verse as it appears in the Massoretic. The Peshitta renders the opening clause, "our Lord is merciful." As in the Septuagint, so in the Peshitta, the word פִתְגַם (pith'gam) is taken as meaning "decree;" but miltha precedes it, which must be rendered, "matter of the decree." Otherwise there is nothing worthy of notice in the Peshitta Version of these verses. Jerome begins the seventeenth verse with "ecce entre," which is not so much a difference of reading from the Massoretic as a difference of rendering from the Authorized. It is clear that the Massoretic punctuation implies something awanting. הֵן in Biblical Aramaic means "if," and איתי "it is," that is, "if it be." One feels inclined to think that, suppressed, there was some statement equivalent to "if it be his good pleasure," thus manifesting a readiness to submit to God's will. According to the Massoretic, what follows asserts merely the ability of Jehovah, "our God whom we worship," to deliver his servants from the burning fiery furnace, and even from the hand of the great king himself; but there is no assertion that he will deliver them. The Septuagint Version presents a different aspect, as also Theodotion and the Peshitta. The mental attitude of the Massoretic is very different from the mood of later times. The versions, save Jerome, declare that God wilt deliver them out of the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. If they had received this assurance from God, there was in a sense less of witness-bearing to God than if they had not. The text of the Massoretic is here to be preferred. It is implied also in the meaning of the following verse. Even if God did not deliver them, still their determination is fixed—they will not worship the gods of the king, nor will they worship the golden image he has set up. It sometimes seems as if, even in our own day, we should be the better for the advent of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. There is still a demand that the people of God worship the golden image in the shape of wealth. The ministers of God are, we are told, not to denounce the wrongs of the world, lest the rich be offended. Wealth is not the only form of the golden image which men may be called upon to worship; the breath of popular applause may call them to denounce employers of labour unjustly on penalty of being dismissed or held up to reprobation. It is not the side that is important, but the motive; the cause of the poor may be pleaded as unjustly as that of the rich.
Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated. The text of the LXX. is practically the same as the Massoretic, with only this exception, that "one" is omitted as unsuited to the Greek idiom. Theodotion differs more from the Massoretic—"the furnace" was to be heated "sevenfold, till it was perfectly heated ( ἕως οὐ εἰς τέλος ἐκκαῆ)." The Peshitta, retaining the "one," translates, "one in seven times"—a rendering which seems to have little sense, as the Syriac idiom is the same as that before us. The change of countenance, from that of gratification at seeing a favourite, to that of rage, is a perfectly natural phenomenon, but one possibly even more marked among these races then dominant over the East than among ourselves. It was certainly not unnatural that, heathen as he was, filled with the belief in the mysterious power for good or ill that might be exercised over the empire were any of the gods offended, Nebuchadnezzar should be enraged. The result is that the calmness with which he had previously spoken with the three deserts him, and the form of his face changes, his visage becomes distorted with rage. It may be noted, in passing, that the word here used, ish'tanni ( אִשְׁתַּנִּי), is the only case where the ethpael occurs in Daniel; in all other cases the form is hithpael, with the הinstead of the . א Since this is so, one is inclined to credit the peculiarity to scribal change. There is a difference here between the Q'ri and K'thib, the latter reading ishtannu, which agrees by attraction with anapolu, "face," which, as in Hebrew, is plural. In order to express his wrath, he orders that the furnace be heated sevenfold hotter than ever before. The word here translated "wont to be" is really part of the verb חְזָה (ḥezuh), "to see." Behrmann renders it, "Siebenmal so stark zu heizen als man ihn heizen gesehen hatte"—"commanded it to be heated seven times as hot as ever one had seen it heated." We cannot suppose the Babylonians halt any means of measuring heat of that amount; it is simply a round number, Hitzig remarks on the recurrence of "seven," as if it helped to raise a presumption against the authenticity of the book. The fact that the Babylonians recognized seven planets, and seven gods of the planets, one for each, might as readily be taken as a proof of its authenticity. The probability is that vaguely many times more fuel was placed in the furnace than had ever been done before.
And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. The first clause might more correctly be rendered, "He commanded warriors, warriors of might, in his army." The Greek versions assume that the repetition of gubereen is equivalent to the superlative; hence the LXX. renders it ἄνδρας ἰσχυροτάτους; and Theodotion, ἄνδρας ἰσχυρούς ἰσχύΐ. The Peshitta omits the first gubereen. On the other hand, Theodotiun omits the clause, "that were in his army." The action of Nebuchadnezzar in this reveals one of the contradictions so often manifested by polytheism. He might be ready to admit that no accumulation of human power could equal Divine power, yet it is obvious that these men of might were chosen for this purpose, in order that, despite Divine power, the royal sentence might be carried out. Such self-contradiction is not peculiar to Nebuchadnezzar nor to Babylon. Many men, professing to be Christians and acknowledging that God sees and knows all things, and that the wrath of God is an infinitely more serious mattter than the contempt or "ill will" of men, yet commit sin secretly—to hide it from God. Hitzig indicates that he thinks these not to have been the ordinary body-guard of the king, but really the best troops in the province where the festival was taking place. It is evident that the troops referred to are not those ṭabbāḥeen of whom Arioch was the commander, otherwise we might have expected them to be mentioned. We know that there were different classes of soldiers in the Assyrian army, with differing kinds of arms and armour. In all probability something similar prevailed in the Babylonian army. It is not impossible that one corps might be specialized as the men of greatest physical strength. These men are employed to bind these three Jews to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.
Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. The LXX. omits the complexity of garments, and translates, "Thus these men were bound, having their sandals, and their hats upon their heads, with their other garments, and were cast into the burning fiery furnace." It would seem that karbelatheōn was either not in the text before the translator or was omitted by him. The latter hypothesis seems a hazardous one to adopt without good ground. We have no reason to accuse the Septuagint translator of this practice. Theodotion also presents signs of omission. סַרְבָלִין is not translated, but simply transliterated, σαραβάροις. Under this word Schleusner says, "Vestis Medica sou Babylonica ad genus pertingens." Aquila, it may be noted, also transliterates, σαράβαλλα. Theodotion's rendering is, "Then those men were bound in their coats (?), and hats, and hosen, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace." The Peshitta does as Theodotion, anti transliterates with the change of a shin for a samech, in regard to the first word, and instead of leboosheen, "garments," has qoobe‛een, which is rendered by Castelli pileus, or galea, a "military cap," or a "helmet." He wrongly says that qoob‛o is used to translate karbelathelōn; the word used for that is niḥtho. We need not go into a discussion of the various garments named here. It is to be observed that, by the time of the Septuagint and the original of the version edited and revised by Theodotion, the moaning of the terms was lost—a thing hardly possible on the critical supposition that the date of Daniel is b.c. 168, if, as seems necessary to suppose from the Greek prologue to Ecclesiasticus, it was already translated into Greek by, at latest, b.c. 130. The point brought out by these garments being mentioned is in order to show the power of God manifested on them. They were all of an inflammable material, therefore emphasis was given to the miracle by this. But, further, it shows they were taken as they were, without opportunity of putting on any specially medicated robes, if such could be imagined.
Daniel 3:22, Daniel 3:23
Therefore because the king's commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. The rendering of the Greek versions seems to have suffered from the interpolation of the Song of the Three Holy Children—the verses before us have been altered to prepare for the introduction of the song. The LXX. translates as follows: "Since the king's command was urgent, and the furnace heated sevenfold more than it had previously been, the men who had been appointed, when they had bound them and brought them forward to the furnace, cast them in. Then the flame which blazed in the furnace came forth and slew the men who had bound those about Azarias, but they themselves were preserved." Theodotion renders, "Since the word of the king was urgent, and the furnace was excessively heated, and these three men fell down bound into the burning fiery furnace, and they fell into the midst of the furnace. and walked about, singing praises to God, blessing the Lord." There is nothing here, it may be noted, about those that bound the three friends being slain; there is also to be noted the addition, "walking about and singing praises to God and blessing the Lord." The Peshitta also suffers, though to a less degree. The rendering with it is, "Therefore the king's commandment was urgent, and the furnace blazed exceedingly, and slew the men who accused Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the midst of the furnace of great fire." Here a marvel is added, not those that threw the Hebrews into the fire were burnt, but their accusers. We must discuss separately the Song of the Three Holy Children. The furnace implied is one filled from above, but having a doorway at the side. The witnesses for the truth of monotheism and of the supreme Godhead of Jehovah were carried to the top of this furnace, and cast in amongst the fuel. We have nothing to do with how the miracle of their preservation was accomplished, we have only to do with the narrative as given. The fact that those who carried them and threw them in were killed gives proof positive of the fierceness of the heat. The fact stated in the twenty-third verse, that they fell into the midst of the furnace, excludes any supposition that they escaped by being sheltered from the fierceness of the heat. Separating the two portions of the apocryphal addition to this chapter, the song of Azarias from the united song of the three, we have a statement that "the angel of the Lord came down into the oven together with Azarias and his fellows, and smote the flame of the fire out of the oven, and made the midst as it had been a moist whistling wind; so that the fire touched them not at all, neither hurt nor troubled them."£ This abundance of detail as to the -method by which the miracle was wrought is evidence of a later time. We shall, however, leave the discussion of the date of this addition till later.
Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. The Greek versions suffer in this verse also from the interpolation of the song. The LXX. renders thus: "And it was when the king heard them singing praises, and stood and saw them living, then was Nebuchadnezzar the king astonished and rose up hastily and said to his friends, Did we not cast three men into the fire bound? and thev said to the king, Truly, O king." Theodotion does not seriously differ from this, "And Nebuchadnezzar heard them singing praises, and marvelled, and rose up in haste, and said to his lords, Did we not cast three men into the midst of the fire bound? and they answered, Truly, O king." The Peshitta rendering is, "Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up trembling, and answered and said to his princes, Were there not three men which we cast into the midst of the furnace of fierce fire and bound? and they answered the king, It is true, O king." As will be seen, the Peshitta varies less from the Massoretic than do the Greek versions. The Vulgar does not merit remark. The action of the king is introduced abruptly in the Massoretic text. This abruptness was probably the occasion of the interpolations made at this point. It may be observed that the interpolations—not-withstanding the efforts of redactors to soften the transition—all add to the difficulty. Theodotion has them immediately walking and praising God. The Septuagint translator, though he omits the walking, implies the praising. We are to understand the circumstances as of the nature of an auto-da-fe which Nebuchadnezzar was gracing with his presence, much as Philip II. attended the burning of the heretics in Madrid. The refusal of worship to the god to whom he had erected the golden image was an act not only of heresy, but also of treason of the blackest kind. The word haddabereen, translated "councillors," is derived by some from the Persian hamdaver (Behrmann and V. Bohlen). Gesenius would derive it from דבר, "to do," hence "leaders;" he explains the first syllable of the Hebrew article. The first interpretation is impossible, as is well shown by Bevan (in loco). The supposition of Gesenius is difficult to maintain, as it involves a passage from one language to another. Moses Stuart regards the noun as derived from the aphel, הappearing instead of . א This is not without parallel examples, e.g. אמלד. Fuller's parallel of apalu used along with pal for "son" in Assyrian, shows a habit of introducing initial syllables to help pronunciation. The Septuagint translator probably read habereen; hence the rendering φίλοι. In the uncertainty as to the meaning of the word. the reading of the LXX. may be regarded as at least a possible way out of the difficulty. Some further discoveries, either in Babylon or elsewhere, may enable us to decide. The presence along with the king, at this execution, of the high officials of the empire, was fitted to give it all the solemnity of an "act of faith," hut at the same time, their presence gave a signal meaning to the miracle.
He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. The Greek versions do not present much worthy of note, only both insert malka, "king," instead of the pronoun, and omit "answered." From the fact that Daniel 3:24 ends with malka, it may have been dropped out of the Massoretic text. The insertion of ענה (‛ana), "answered," may be due to the frequent recurrence of this phrase. The Peshitta omits "four," otherwise agreeing with the Massoretic. The phrase," the Son of God," is clearly wrong; the correct translation is, "The appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods." Along with the three victims of his superstition was seen a fourth figure, like one of the figures portrayed on his palace walls as belonging to the demi-gods. This is the culmination of the king's astonishment. It was astonishing to see those men loose that had been east into the furnace bound; still more so to see them walking, and none showing signs of having received any hurt; but most awe-inspiring of all is the vision of the fourth figure, like a son of the gods. We must not interpret this on Hebrew lines, as does Mr. Bevan, and comp. Genesis 6:2. He knows the usage in the Tar-gums is to retain the Hebrew plural in ־ים when "God" is meant, as in the Peshitta Version of the passage he refers to. As in most heathen mythologies, there were not only gods, but demi-gods, of several different classes. The god Nebuchadnezzar specially worshipped, Silik-Moulou-ki (Marduk), was regarded as the son of Hea. There was a god of fire also, who was associated with these. The suggestion of Dr. Fuller, that here in bar we have not the word for "son," but rather a truncated form of this god of fire, Iz-bar, is worthy of consideration. It is impossible to say whether Ibis vision of a divine being was vouchsafed to those standing about Nebuchadnezzar as well as to himself. While we ought to guard against ascribing to the Babylonian monarch the idea that this appearance was that of the Second Person of the Christian Trinity, we are ourselves at liberty to maintain this, or to hold that it was an angel who strengthened these servants of God in the furnace. The Septuagint renders bar-eloheen by ἄγγελος. Theodotion has υἱῷ θεοῦ.
Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, ye servants of the Most High God, come forth and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, came forth of the midst of the fire. The variations of the Septuagint Version here arc inconsiderable. Instead of "spake and said," it renders, "called them by name," and omits the second repetition of the names, and the pleonastic "come hither;" instead of "Most High God," it has"God of gods Most High." Theodotion is in closer agreement with the Massoretic text; the only differnce is that "spake" is omitted. The Peshitta and Vulgate are in exact accordance with the Massoretic. The distinction between נְפַק and אֲתָה is "go out" and "come." It is well rendered in our Authorized Version. only there was no need of "hither" being put in italics. As above mentioned, this shows the form of the furnace to be not unlike our own—open at the top, but having a door at the side. It was to this side door that the king approached. The fact that Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges Jehovah to be "Most High God" does not imply any recognition of his supreme Divinity, any more than a king of France acknowledged the supremacy of the head of the Holy Roman Empire. when in the credentials of his ambassador the emperor was called Dominus urbis et orbis. It was simply a matter of what we may call religious etiquette to address gods of the higher class as "god of gods." and "god most high." In Daniel 2:47 Nebuchadnezzar had already declared the God of Daniel to be "God of gods" It is not impossible that to the Babylonians ‛illa‛a might have the appearance of a proper name.
And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king's counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them. The versions present no variation of importance. We can, however, at this point compare the list of officials with that which we find in the beginning of this chapter, in Daniel 3:2 and Daniel 3:3. We find that the word haddabereen occupies the same place in the list as gedabreen, translated "treasurer," from which one might be inclined to think that הhad taken the place of, ג not an impossible change. The probability rather is that the word is to be regarded as collective, equivalent to "officials of the court," to save the repetition of the remaining classes Whether or not these officials had seen the companion the three witnesses for the truth had with them in the furnace, they, at all events, were now able to bear testimony to the fact that the three friends had escaped, and "had quenched the violence of the fire" (Hebrews 11:34). This event was all the more important to the Babylonians as to them fire was a god high in the pantheon. The God of Israel was thus manifested as so much greater than Iz-bar, that he could deliver his servants even when in the very element in which Iz-bar had his power. The fact that even their "coats"—whatever these garments were—were not burned, and not even a hair singed, while the cords that had been used to bind them were consumed, emphasizes their deliverance, and shows it to be the work of a higher power, who could discriminate and limit the deliverance. The cords were consumed, but the garments of his servants were preserved even from the smell of fire. The Babylonians had conquered the city of Jehovah, had burned his temple, and had done this through the power of Marduk, so they thought; but here Bel-Marduk had been openly defied by three worshippers of Jehovah. They had been hurled into the very element of Iz-bar, the servant and ally of Marduk, yet fire had been unable to harm them or vindicate the honour of Bel-Marduk. What emphasized this was that the fire that spared the servants of Jehovah slew the votaries of Bel-Marduk, who were eager to show their reverence for Marduk by carrying these Jehovah-worshippers to the furnace. Such a miracle, so wrought before all the high dignitaries of the Babylonian Empire, would go far to take the edge off any taunting reference to the weakness of Jehovah's Godhead as demonstrated by the ruins of Jerusalem. Jehovah had shown himself as the supreme Revealer of secrets when he enabled Daniel to tell Nebuchadnezzar his dream. He now manifested himself as Master of the most powerful of elements—fire. The Jews could thus maintain their faith unchallenged.
Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. The Septuagint and Peshitta, instead of "changed the king's word," have "despised the king's word," reading, שׁוּט, "to despise," instead of שְׁנָא, "to change." Theodotion agrees with the Massoretic, as otherwise do the other two versions. We may regard this as the beginning of the royal decree revoking practically that previously promulgated, omitting only the statement of the titles of the monarch. The wording is somewhat peculiar, "Blessed be their God—of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego." It may indicate that some words in the immediate context have been omitted; in other words, that the editor, in quoting the decree, has endeavoured, as far as possible, to condense without changing the words of the document. Bertholdt is mistaken in maintaining that this declaration is that the God of the three Hebrews is worthy of being blessed. All that Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges in this verse is that Jehovah really exists—that he is powerful, and the Hebrews did right to continue in the worship of their national God. We find that the bar-eloheen of verse 25 is now regarded by Nebuchadnezzar as an angel, or, as we ought rather to translate it, "messenger." We have no need to import Hebrew ideas into the declaration of the Babylonian monarch. It was quite in accordance with his mythological notions that a great God like the God of the Hebrews might have a messenger, who was his instrument in the deliverance of his servants. The reading of the Massoretes, "changed," is to be preferred to "despised." To one like Nebuchadnezzar, stiff to obstinacy in his opinions, for anything to compel him to change not only his opinions, but more, to alter a decree, was a strange thing, and a thing that he would think worthy of chronicling. At the same time, he might feel it needed a justification. On the other hand, such a one as Nebuchadnezzar would not advertise the fact that any one had "despised" his "word." It is to be observed that Nebuchadnezzar recognizes not only the deliverance as an evidence of the truth of Jehovah's Divinity, but also the willingness with which his servants were ready to offer their bodies to be burnt. The evidence that compelled Nebuchadnezzar to acknowledge the might of Jehovah was the same in essence as that which converted the Roman Empire. Still, we must again repeat Nebuchadnezzar recognized in Jehovah only the God of the Jews, and in the fatthfulness of the three Hebrews only a species of religious patriotism, which he could at once understand and respect without having the slightest belief in monotheism, or even comprehension of such a 'notion.
Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort. The versions agree with the Massoretic text here, only that all put the crime, "speaking anything amiss," more strongly than we find it in the Massoretic recension, שׁלה is amended by the Massoretes to שׁלוּ, "erroneous," whereas the Septuagint renders, ὅς ἄν βλασφημήσῃ. Theodotion, ἥ (agreeing with γλῶσσα) ἐάν εἴπη βλασφημίαν. The Peshitta renders (see Peshitta word) "to blaspheme." Hitzig has suggested that the K'thib here is to be preferred to the Q'ri, maintaining that שׁלה means "word," while שׁלוּ really means "inadvertence." Certainly, if we were sure that the meaning he gives to שׁלה is correct, and the versions all support it, we would give the preference to it. It has, however, to be borne in mind that, in the notions of heathenism, intentional disrespect was not taken into consideration in regard to the gods. The intention of the worshipper was of very little moment in such a matter; he might even desire to be specially respectful to the deity he worshipped; but if, by inadvertence, he omitted something, or did something which was not according to rule, all the good will and respect in his mind was nothing—the wrath of the insulted deity was poured out in full measure, unless some other deity regarded the action in question as specially honouring to him. It was the external action—the mere form of words—that was the important matter with the polytheist. Idolatry is by its very nature a mental and moral disease; it is as absurd to expect logically concatenated actions from an idol-worshipper in regard to his deities, as to expect the same from a madman in regard to his craze. We must guard against imagining that the decree was against blasphemy as a crime against Jehovah. Primarily it was against words that, by exciting the wrath of Jehovah, might bring down damage on the empire. Nebuchadnezzar was not jealous for the honour of Jehovah, but for the safety of the Babylonian supremacy. The punishment threatened, it may be observed, is the same as that decreed against the wise men because of their failure to tell the dream and its interpretation. In regard to this, in Daniel 2:5 the Septuagint renders the phrase, "Ye shall be made an example of, and your goods shall be escheat to the king's treasury." This change, as we maintained, was due to a difference of reading, not to any objection to the harshness of the phrase. The object of the punishment here was to remove utterly from the earth the wrong-doer and every remembrance of him, so that the offended deity might have no excuse for visiting the kingdom of Babylon with judgments. The reason, "because there is no other god that can deliver after this sort," is not to be stretched too far. All that is asserted is that no other god has been able to deliver his worshippers out of the very realm of the god of fire, and therefore it is to be argued that his power of offence is as great; hence all are to avoid enraging him; but there is no worship enjoined. The Lagid princes, when Jerusalem was in their hands, ordered sacrifices to be offered on their behalf daffy. Nebuchadnezzar does nothing of this sort; his decree is simply negative
Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, in the province of Babylon. The Septuagint renders here, "Thus, then, the king gave authority to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, and appointed them to be rulers over the whole province." There seems to have been a slight difference of reading, probably hashlayṭ instead of hatzlaḥ, and le'nol medeemah instead of la'mdeenath Babel. It seems difficult to decide which of these two readings is the preferable; perhaps, on the whole, the Massoretic is the simpler. The version of Theodotion is considerably interpolated, "Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon, and made them great, and reckoned them worthy to have authority over all the Jews in his kingdom." The first portion agrees with the Massoretic text and with the LXX. in sense; but the last clause is a much later addition. The Peshitta agrees with the Massoretic. The exact meaning of halzlaḥ is "to make glad," "to give rewards to," and therefore is in no conflict with the Massoretic recension of the concluding verse of the preceding chapter, "And Daniel requested of the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, over the affairs of the province of Babylon." It is to be observed that in the deutero-Isaiah (Isaiah 43:2) there seems to be a reference to this event, "When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." The deliverance from Egypt, and the passage of the Red Sea, and the entrance into Canaan, and the passage of the Jordan, are referred to in the first part of this verse, "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee." It certainly is but natural to suppose that the deliverance of the three Hebrews from the furnace of Nebuchadnezzar is the historical reference of the latter.
Excursus on the Song of the Three Holy Children.
When the student of the apocryphal addition to the Book of Daniel passes from the consideration of Susanna and the Elders, and Bel and the Dragon, with their manifold absurdities and manifest tokens of' a Greek origin, to that of the Song of the Three Holy Children, he feels he has come into a different atmosphere. He has not done more than casually perused the whole of the composition called "The Song of the Three Holy Children," when he discovers it is in two distinct portions. The whole structure of the two songs indicates a Hebrew origin. The character of the two divisions is quite different. The first is intercessory, and it proceeds from one person; the second is liturgic, and purports to be the joint expression of the feelings of all three. In both there are manifold echoes of earlier psalms. In some cases the phrases are imitated, in other cases adopted with some slight modifications. At the same time, there are in neither portion any obvious tokens of Greek origin, such as may be found in the Story of Susanna, with its play on words which hold only in Greek, or in its Greek views of history as seen in the Story of Bel and the Dragon. When the examples of translation from Hebrew were so numerous as they were by the time that Ben Sira came down to Egypt, and when the translators had by common consent adopted a special style, it cannot be denied that not only could a cento of phrases from the Greek version of the Hebrew Psalter have been formed, but also the style might be imitated, even when the words and sentiments were original. Still, as the aim and ambition of the Jews in Egypt were rather to show the close resemblance there was between the works of the fathers of their race and the sages of Greece, the imitative activity of the Jewish literary falsarii was directed more to that than to suggest merely a Hebrew original of what they had composed. We have no indubitable instance of psalms being composed in Greek in imitation of the translation of the Psalms of the original Psalter. We have certainly the psalms which go to form the Psalter of Solomon; but these are generally admitted to have been composed in Hebrew, and translated from that into Greek. However, there would still be a dubiety. The only way is to examine this song, or rather these songs, to see whether they contain any traces of being translations from Hebrew originals.
As a basis of investigation, we have the two Greek and the Peshitta versions. In a subordinate position we have the Vulgate and the version of Paulus Tellensis. The first thing that one observes, on a casual comparison of the two Greek versions, is that they are much more nearly related, and resemble each other much more closely in regard to these songs, than they do in regard to the rest of the book. The resemblance of the Peshitta to beth is also close, but yet there are points of difference.
If we take the introductory sentence, we see considerable variation, greater than occurs elsewhere. The Septuagint begins thus: "Then Azarias stood and prayed thus, and having opened his mouth, confessed to the Lord with his companions in the midst of the fire, made by the Chaldeans to burn exceedingly, and said." Theodotion is simpler—we give the ordinary rendering, "Then Azarias stood up and prayed on this manner, and opening his mouth in the midst of the fire, said." The Peshitta is, "And Azariah arose and opened his mouth to bless in the midst of the fire, and he opened his mouth and prayed, and said thus." All these versions have the appearance of being a union of two versions of the same tiring. In the Syriac this is most obvious In the Greek versions the evidence of reduplication is afforded by οὕτως occurring in the middle of the sentence, instead of naturally at the end, to introduce the speech referred to In the Syriac, which avoids this, it is evidenced even more by the repetition of the verb pethah, "to open." But this reduplication of versions implies an original of which there were already two readings.
A similar phenomenon is presented by the opening verse of the Song of Azariah. As rendered by the LXX. it is, "Blessed art thou, O Lord God of our fathers, and thy Name is worthy to be praised and glorified for evermore." Theodotion, in the reading preferred by Tischendorf, has αἰνετός agreeing with θεός. The Peshitta has changed the order, "to be exalted and praised is thy Name for everse" The "and" present in the two Greek versions is awanting. In the next verse the Septuagint renders, "Thou art righteous in all that thou hast done to us, and all thy works are true, and thy ways right, and all thy judgments are true." Theodotion omits "to us" in the first clause, and has in the last "truth" instead of "true." When we turn to the Peshitta, we find a reason for the resemblance of the second member of the second and fourth clauses. "Righteous art thou in all that thou hast done to us, and all thy works are in truth (beqooshtha), and thy ways right, and all thy judgments are faithful (meheemnin)." In Hebrew, as in Syriac, this contrast could be maintained, but it was more difficult to the Hellenist, who had, perhaps, few words at his command. The following verse in the LXX. runs as follows: "Thou didst judgments of truth in regard to all that thou hast brought upon us, and upon thy holy city, the city of our fathers, because in truth and judgment didst thou all these things because of our sins." The only difference between Theodotion and this is the omission of σου, "thy." The Peshitta rendering does not evidence much difference from that of the Greek versions, "Because in judgment of truth was what thou didst to us, and in all that thou hast brought upon us and upon the holy city of our fathers, upon Jerusalem, because in righteousness (b'c'anootha) didst thou bring upon us all these things." We shall only take the next verse, and shall conclude the verse-by-verse examination of the Song of Azariah. The rendering of the Seventy bears traces of being translated from a Shemitic dialect by one who had not a large vocabulary in Greek. "Because we sinned in all things and transgressed to turn aside from thee, and we sinned in all things, and the commandments of thy Law we obeyed not, neither observed, nor did we according as thou didst command us, in order that it should be well with us." Theodotion is exactly the same. The Peshitta is different, "Because we are debtors of sin (hoobin deḥiṭin), and wicked before thee, and have removed far from thee, and have done against thy words, and have sinned against thee in all things, and to thy precepts have not hearkened, and did not keep them, and have not done anything which thou commandedst, to be well to us." The sense here is evidently the same, but there has been a difference, if not of text, at least of apprehension of one and the same text. The Syriac could not have been made from the Greek, nor the Greek from the Syriac; they must have had a common source. It would be impossible to say with absolute certainty that this source must have been Hebrew; but the probability is in that direction. Aramaic does not so naturally lend itself to poetry as does Hebrew. Whatever poetry we have by Jewish authors in pre-Christian times which is not in Greek, has been in Hebrew.
That being settled, at all events conditionally, the next point is to examine the songs, and see whether they give any evidence in their contents of the background. In the first place, in regard to the Song of Azariah, if we take for granted that it was written in Hebrew, it follows almost necessarily from this that it was composed in Palestine. The next question that requires to be considered is the object of the composition. Was it intended to be placed here? was it written up to this, situation? or was it written for some other purpose, and placed here simply because some one thought it suited? The first thing bearing on this question which we observe is the names which these three Hebrews bear. In the Aramaic part which belongs to the Massoretic Daniel, they are called by their Babylonian names; in this portion their old Hebrew names are revived from the first chapter. That of itself is an indication that this portion has not been written for the place into which it has been put. Further, if this first psalmic fragment had been written for this place, it would have been put in the mouth of Hananiah. The arrangement of the names in Hebrew may have been merely according to the Hebrew alphabet, but instinctively one gives the first-named a certain precedence. Hence in the Peshitta this is called, "]'he prayer of Hananiah and his companions." For the choice of Azariah instead, there must have been a reason. The simplest reason would seem to be that already there was a sacred hymn extant written by a certain Azariah, and some later editor, seeing this, and knowing that there was an Azariah here, he gave him the credit of it, and as this event was the crisis of his history, declared it to have been composed in reference to this event. Azariah was rather a common name among the Jews; there are eighteen instances of it chronicled in Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible.' It is certainly not so common after the Captivity, yet there was a captain in the Maccabean army called by this name, as above mentioned.
When we direct our attention to the song itself, we find what confirms us in our conclusions—that it was not written for this place, but was written as the natural expression of feelings produced by circumstances widely different from those narrated in the chapter before us. If we compare this with the prayer of Daniel, which we find in Daniel 9:1-27; we see the difference emphasized between circumstances of captives in Babylon and those presupposed by the Song of Azariah. If we turn to the thirteenth and fourteenth verses of the song (verses 37, 38), "For we, O Lord, are become less than any nation, and be kept under this day in all the world because of our sins. Neither is there at this time prince, or prophet, or leader, or burnt offering, or sacrifice, or oblation, or incense, or place to sacrifice before thee, and to find mercy," It will be noticed that the diminishing of the numbers of the nation, or the restriction of its territory, and the humiliating position it was placed in, is the point of Azariah's complaint. Daniel's sorrow is that they are driven to other countries: אְשֵׁר הִדַּחְתָם שָׁם בָכָל־הָאֲרָצוֹת, "in all the countries whither thou hast driven them." In the first case, we have a nation humiliated in their own land; in the second, a nation sent into certain definite countries, and there re-preached with having no country or capital. Again, it is said in the hymn before us, "There is neither prince, nor prophet, nor leader." It is to be noted that the word here is "prince," not "king" (nasi', not melek). In the original Hebrew there was probably a play on the words, lo-nasi' velo-nabi', "neither prince nor prophet." As a matter of fact, in the period of Daniel, prophecy had not ceased, and all through the times of Jewish history it was known that there had been prophets during the time of the Exile. There was, at all events, Ezekiel by the river Chebar, and even if we take the date of the Septuagint for the inauguration of this golden image, anti say that it was the eighteenth year of Nebuchaduezzar, Jeremiah was still living and prophesying. As for "princes," they were still in Jerusalem, if we reckon the eighteenth year strictly, but if we regard it as counted according to the Babylonian reckoning, and therefore that Jerusalem had already fallen, there were still "princes," although captives. Moreover, Coniah was still living, the former king, as also was Zedekiah. if we turn to Daniel, he declares the reason of the fall of Jerusalem and of the captivity of the people—because kings and princes and people had refused to hearken to the word of the Lord as spoken by the prophets. Daniel implies the existence of prophets, princes, and kings. if not absolutely necessarily in the actual present, yet in the immediate past, which, historically genuine or not, fits the setting. In the Song of Azariah there is no reference to a king; there is reference to "a prince" (nasi', not sar, which is usually "one of many"). In confirmation of this, there is not only the play on the words, if it is nasi', but also the fact that the word used in both Greek versions is ἄρχων, which is the most common representation of nasi' in the Septuagint£ This was the title of the head of the Sanhedrin, and borne usually by the high priest, it may also be noted that, while "sacrifices" and "offerings" are mentioned as having ceased, there is no mention of "priests." if this song was written at a time when the "prince" was the head of the priests, this omission would be explicable. Taking this as our guide, we should fix the date of the composition of the Song of Azariah at a time when the high priesthood was in abeyance, that is, during the Maccabean struggle, from the time when Epiphanes definitely desecrated the temple till its reconsecration by Judas Maccabaeus. When we look at the state of the temple as implied in this Song of Azariah as compared with the prayer of Daniel, Daniel speaks of the sanctuary being a desolation, and by connection it is implied Jerusalem was a desolation also; but in the song before us there is no place for sacrifice or offering. The Jews are excluded from the temple, there is no place allowed them there, but the place itself is not a desolation.
If, again, we turn to the eighth verse of the Song of Azariah, we find still further evidences of the external circumstances in which it was composed. "And thou didst deliver us into the hands of lawless enemies, most hateful forsakers of God, and to an unjust king, and the most wicked in all the world." The two Greek versions are here in absolute agreement; the Syriac here, as elsewhere, presents signs of its independent origin, "And thou hast delivered us into the hands of lords of enmity, evil men who are far from thee, and the habitation of a wicked kingdom, the most miserable in all the earth." The structure of the latter half of this indicates, as it seems to us, that something has been misunderstood in the original document. Some word meaning "unto the power of" has been interpreted as being "dwelling-place," that necessitated the change of "king" to "kingdom" If we then assume the Greek versions to be correct, we find a state of things exactly fitting the period we have suggested above. The mode of speaking of their oppressor—"an unjust king, the most wicked in all the earth"—is quite unlike anything in the Old Testament. When Hezekiah prays to God to be delivered from the power of Sennacherib, although he had reproached the living God, he does not declare that he is wicked. Sennacherib is denounced as proud and cruel, but not as wicked. That would imply a certain amount of godlessness, of which none of the Assyrian monarchs could be accused, and least of all could Nebuchadnezzar. Such a statement is in complete antagonism to the character given to Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel. It was by no means an unnatural description of Ephiphanes. He seems to have had no belief in deities of any kind. His persecution of the Jews had in all likelihood a motive either of policy or of vengeance. Nebuchadnezzar had never attempted to persecute religion in the ordinary sense of the word. The officials of his court he might and did expect to follow him in worship.
Another thing to be observed is those that have turned away from God— ἀποσταστῶν—reḥeeqeen in the Peshitta. There were certainly many "apostates" at the time of the conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, but they were not apostates to the deities of Babylon. The "other gods" the Israelites were prone to worship were those of the nations around them. This apostasy was not connected with any treasonable submission to the Babylonian princes. So far as we can deduce the politics of the period from the prophecies of Jeremiah, the idolatrous party were patriotic so far as their resistance to Babylon was concerned, though they were always prone to coquet with Egypt. In the case before us, the enemies into whose hands the saints came were "apostates." If, however, we turn to the First Book of Maccabees 1:43, we find that "many also of the Israelites consented to his (Epiphanes') religion, and sacrificed unto idols, and profaned the sabbath." When we turn to 2 Maccabees, if we may trust it, we find that Jason, having purchased the high priesthood, encouraged Hellenic customs, and even sent money to Tyre for a sacrifice to Melkarth. These gave entrance to Epiphanes, and supported him in his cruelties. We can readily understand how a zealous Jew of the Maccabean time would regard these "apostates" as greater enemies than the heathen followers of Epiphanes.
So far as we know, right down from shortly after the return from the Exile on to the period of the domination of the Seleucids, the high priest was nasi' and head of the people. After the Maccabean period until the Herodian period, the head of the people was the high priest. At the death of Herod the Great, the former relationship was resumed. Even during the reign of Herod there was a prince, in the shape of the king. The mention of a prince, without any mention of a king, excludes all after John Hyrcanus. The assertion that there was no longer a prince, shuts off all the period after Judas Maccabaeus had assumed the high priesthood. We are thus led by another line to fix the date of this Song of Azariah as being the heart of the Maccabean period.
The following verse bears its own testimony to the date we have seen reason to fix on above. The Greek versions are at one here, and give the verse, "And now we cannot open our mouths, we are become a shame and a reproach to thy servants, and to them that worship thee." The Syriac has a slight difference in the first clause, "It is not for us to open our mouth before thee." This, however, does not affect the main reference of the verse. The meaning of the verse is that the widespread apostasy of the people made them a reproach and a shame to those who served the Lord and feared him elsewhere. The only time coincident with great persecution and consequent apostasy, when there were large communities fearing the Lord who might be scandalized by the apostasy of the Palcstinian Jews, was the Maccabean period, when there was the huge Jewish community of Babylonia, and the equally huge community of Egypt and Cyrene, not to speak of lesser and only lesser communities in Asia Minor. We venture, then, from all these grounds, to assume that this composition is to be dated as belonging to the Maccabean struggle.
The liturgical song put in the mouths of all three has noticing to fix its date by. Close examination seems to show that it may have been written for the occasion. A Jew of later times might easily occupy his mind in imagining what would be a likely form a song of praise would take in the mouths of men so situated. Looked at in this light, it on the whole deserves some commendation. If these martyrs did sing, of which there is not a single word in the genuine text of Daniel, it would naturally be a psalm. If they did not take the hundred and thirty-sixth, with its liturgic refrain, then something modelled on it would certainly be their song. Diffuse as this song is, there is a sense of ecstasy in it which suits the mood of martyrs raised by Divine indwelling above pain or fear of death. This seems to have been the original addition, because the twenty-second verse of this portion suits the state of matters mentioned in verse 21 of the chapter. In fact, it seems an amplified and exaggerated version of the twenty-second verse. The Song of Azariah, therefore, is probably an insertion of later date than the interpolation of the joint song. Although its insertion is of later date, it not improbably had been composed for some time before its insertion.
Those connecting verses—the forty-sixth to the fiftieth, according to the Vulgate—have come to us in three different versions. The version of the LXX. is the longest, "The guards of the king who threw them into the fiery furnace, ceased not causing the furnace to burn ( καίοντες τὴν κάμινον), and when they threw the three once for all into the furnace, and the furnace was very fiery on account of the sevenfold heat: and when they cast them in, those who cast them in were above them; but those from beneath them fed the furnace with naphtha, tow, pitch, and small wood. And the flames of the furnace went up forty-nine cubits, and it passed through and burnt up those of the Chaldeans whom it found about the furnace. And an angel of the Lord descended into the furnace along with Azariah and his companions, and smote the flame of fire out of the furnace, and caused in the midst of the furnace as it were a moist whistling wind; and the fire did not at all touch them, or grieve or trouble them." The version of Theodotion is shorter by this—that it does not give the relative situation of those who threw the three Hebrews into the furnace, and those who fed it with fuel. The Syriac Version is on the whole in
2. Jews, who worshipped a holy God, were invited to bow before the image of an unholy god. The character of the Babylonian divinities was immoral. To worship one of them was to do honour to immorality. Where there are morally degrading features of any religion—such as the use of indulgences and the confessional in the Church of Rome—association with that religion must endanger our moral character.
3. Men who had no faith in a false god were required to worship him. This would involve deceit. The guilt of an ignorant, believing idolater would he as nothing beside that of one who bowed before the idol knowing it was a false god. No lies are worse than lies in religion. The first religious duty is—"be sincere."
4. Jews, believing in the jealousy of their God, were required to honour a rival deity. A heathen could worship a strange god, because he could find room in his pantheon for any number of divinities. To the Jew, the Eternal is the only God. God demands the sole worship of our hearts. We cannot give him divided allegiance (Joshua 24:15; 1 Kings 18:21; Matthew 6:24).
II. THE ATTEMPT TO ENFORCE RELIGIOUS UNIFORMITY BY VIOLENCE IS BOTH FOOLISH AND CRUEL.
1. It is foolish. Persecution can neither convince the intellect nor secure the allegiance of the affections. At most it can only secure external obedience and hypocritical devotion. Moreover, the attempt to determine the religious worship of men by authority, even if it could succeed, would only be justified on the assumption of infallibility on the part of the ruler. But political authorities have no monopoly of truth; therefore, as the persecutor is as likely to be in error as the persecuted, and as persecution never tends to secure real conviction, the resort to it is a proof of twofold folly.
2. It is also cruel. Nebuchadnezzar's fury was excited by the opposition of the three Jews, and he issued a most ferocious order for their destruction. Their conduct was regarded as doubly offensive—a rebellion against the king and an insult to his god. Thus religious motives are used to justify the grossest cruelty.
III. FIDELITY TO GOD IS REQUIRED OF US IRRESPECTIVE OF CONSEQUENCES. The three Jews did not need to avail themselves of Nebuchadnezzar's offer of a time for reflection. It is dangerous to parley with temptation, No allowance for circumstances, no excuses of casuistry, should confuse our conviction of the duty of fidelity to God. This is simple and certain. Faith in Providence, however, will strengthen us in the performance of the duty. The three Jews believed that God could deliver them (Daniel 3:17), and therefore they trusted themselves to his care. God may require the absolute sacrifice of all we have; yet, in yielding him unconditional devotion, we may be assured that he will not forget us, nor allow us to suffer more than is necessary for the accomplishment of his will of love.
IV. GOD SOMETIMES BRINGS DELIVERANCE AT THE LAST EXTREMITY.
1. When he does not save us from falling into trouble he can prevent the trouble from really hurting us. God did not intervene to binder the execution of the royal decree, but he delivered the three Jews from all harmful consequences,if it. God does not save us from toil and sorrow and death, but his grace can take the sting and curse out of them. While leaving us in the world, he can protect us from the evil of it, and though, unlike the three Jews, we may suffer pain in the furnace of affliction, this may do us no harm, hut rather work our highest good.
2. By delivering us in trouble rather than saving us from trouble, God is most honored and. we are most blessed. The issue of this incident was the declaration of the glory of God (Daniel 3:28, Daniel 3:29), and the promotion of his faithful servants (Daniel 3:30). It is better to be first tried and then saved than never to be in danger or trouble.
The three Jews set an example of unhesitating decision and fearless promptness, which may afford a wholesome lesson to us who live in the midst of the quibbling cauistry and timid expediency of a less simple age.
I. TO A HEALTHY CONSCIENCE THE DUTY OF FIDELITY TO GOD IS CLEAR AND UNQUESTIONABLE. The three Jews had no question as to their duty, nor any wish to reconsider their decision. It was clear and final.
1. Doubt and mystery are more concerned with the problems of merely intellectual interest. As we come to the region of morality, we find clearer light and firmer ground. God has given us a revelation which is plain as regards our duty, though it may be obscure on speculative points (Psalms 119:105).
2. The most important duties are the most clear. Sophistry may find some excuse for its perplexity among the intricacies of minor morality; but the nearer we approach the fundamental duties, the less room is there for uncertainty. The duty of fidelity to God is the greatest of all duties, and it is the duty about which there can be least question.
3. When doubt invades the vital centres of morality, this may generally be taken as a sign that the conscience is not in a healthy state. Such doubt is like colour-blindness or inability to discriminate between the most elementary musical sounds. It argues a defective organ, because it is contrary to the general testimony of healthy experience. Therefore, while intellectual doubt may be blameless, moral doubt on questions of fundamental duty is a sign of mural depravity.
II. WHEN DUTY IS CLEAR, ACTION SHOULD BE PROMPT. Knowing their duty, the three Jews had no wish to delay the execution of it.
1. There is nothing which tends to obscure the simple conviction of duty so much as hesitation in putting it into practice. Such hesitation affords an opportunity for a false casuistry; it allows time for questions to arise which should never be thought of; it reacts on the conscience, and through the feeling of uncertainty in action tempts the mind to uncertainty in thought.
2. Every moment of delay in executing the decision of conscience weakens the force of that decision. The impulse of conscience is never so strong as when it is first clearly recognized. A neglected duty seems to admit of indefinite postponement, and thus the vigour of conscience is demoralized and dissipated.
3. When once we know our duty, it is wrong to delay the execution of it, even if we are sure we shall ultimately perform it. Tardy obedience is a sign of indifference. Earnest fidelity implies prompt action.
III. THERE IS NO NEED TO FEAR THE CONSEQUENCES WHEN WE ARE ON THE PATH OF DUTY. The three Jews were uncertain of the issue of their momentous decision. But the danger and mystery of the future did not daunt them. They had good grounds of assurance.
1. God will deliver his faithful servants from the greatest danger if it is consistent with right and the highest ends of goodness to do so.
2. Though his faithful servants may suffer for a time, God will assuredly see that in the end they suffer no real harm (Psalms 34:19; Matthew 19:29; Romans 8:28).
3. At the worst it is better to do right and suffer than to do wrong and be at ease. Righteousness is better than happiness.
IV. THERE ARE TIMES WHEN IT IS BEST TO DO OUR DUTY WITHOUT ATTEMPTING To EXPLAIN OR DEFEND IT. The three Jews thought it useless or needless to enter upon any defence of their conduct. They confessed their duty without hesitation, but they felt no need to prepare an answer to their enemies' accusation. There are times when a defence of our conduct is useless:
1. Because it would not be understood; because our motives of conduct may be unintelligible to those in whose power we are.
2. Because an adverse decision is clearly decided on, and will not be affected by any contrary reasons. These two considerations, no doubt, prompted our Lord to silence at his trial (Matthew 27:14).
3. It sometimes injures our cause to defend it. An apology often suggests questions that were not previously thought of. It is often wisest simply to live down calumny by quiet persistence in what we believe to be right, Our first duty is to please God, not men.
The Divine presence.
I. GOD IS WITH HIS PEOPLE IN THEIR TRIALS.
1. He does not prevent them from falling into distress, but he helps them when in, which is better for the disciplinary ends of trouble.
2. God does not simply send help in trouble. He comes himself. Moses was not satisfied with the promise of the guidance of an angel (Exodus 33:2). He sought and obtained the assurance that God's presence would go with Israel (Exodus 33:14). Jesus Christ promises his abiding presence (Matthew 28:20). This is more than the natural universal presence of God. It is a nearness of sympathy, an active intercourse, a special manifestation of his Spirit (John 14:23).
3. God's presence in trouble implies his endurance with us by sympathy. He is afflicted in our afflictions (Isaiah 63:9). Jesus bore our griefs (Isaiah 53:4; Matthew 8:17). When we take Christ's yoke we are yoked to him, and he bears with us (Matthew 11:29).
II. GOD'S PRESENCE IN TROUBLE IS AN ASSURANCE OF PRESENT SECURITY AND ULTIMATE DELIVERANCE. The secret of the safety of the three Jews in the furnace is seen in the fourth presence, like "a Son of God."
1. God's presence secures present safety. By his sympathy he helps us to bear trouble. By his spiritual strength in us he increases our strength. Apply this
2. God's presence secures ultimate deliverance. God does not only help us to bear the trouble. He finds a way of escape so that, though we pass through it, we shall not remain in it.
III. GOD'S PRESENCE IN TROUBLE IS AN AMPLE COMPENSATION FOR THE ENDURANCE OF IT. Storms clear the air and reveal the distant prospect. Trouble brings the eternal near and unveils the unseen. This nearness of God is the source of our holiest life and deepest gladness. It is worth entering a fiery furnace to meet Christ there. Heaven is the presence of God. The furnace of affliction becomes a paradise when he manifests his presence in it.
TWO PRACTICAL LESSONS.
1. Be faithful. The three Jews were faithful to God. Therefore God manifested himself to them. God is not present in every furnace of trial. He comes when we are true and trustful. If we are living without God in prosperity, we cannot expect him to visit us in adversity (Jeremiah 11:14).
2. Be fearless. If we are following Christ, we need fear no trouble. The assurance of the Divine presence should nerve us to meet the hardest trial (Psalms 23:4). Christian courage is a duty which depends on faith in the presence and help of God (John 14:1, John 14:18). This faith is the secret of the great difference between the fortitude of the Stoic, which often ended in despair and suicide, and. the courage of the Christian) which issues in patient hopeful submission.
HOMILIES BY H.T. ROBJOHNS
The ceaseless creation of gods.
"Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image." "He set it up in the plain of Dura" (Daniel 3:1). Questions respecting the image will be discussed in the Expository section. For homiletical purposes we distinguish here between three separate entities, all real enough in their own realm.
1. The image, built up and appearing in due time amid the phenomena of this material world.
2. The idea for which it stands, existing really enough in the mind of the king and those who thought with him. The image most likely stood for "Bel," the "world-power" that had (as the king imagined) given him all his greatness. The idea may have been, was, false, but it had nevertheless a real and influential subjective existence.
3. The author of first the idea, and then of the image, viz. the prince referred to in John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11; Ephesians 2:2, and elsewhere. All this we shall find very suggestive; for to this hour men have never ceased to set up images for the homage of their fellow-men.
I. THE IDOL EVER NEW. Following the suggestion of the lines already laid down, note:
1. The creator. The prince of darkness. It is now the theological fashion to deny, at least to doubt, his existence. But such scepticism seems to us narrow. Surely all good and evil are not confined to earth; and as certainly these may have their influence in the world of men. The Bible implies right through that they have had and continue to have.
2. The intellectual creation. Erroneous thought. A false idea. An evil public opinion. Think of the enormous power exerted over life and speech and deed of man; e.g. What woman in China dares not to bandage and cripple her daughter's feet? At what terrible cost is caste broken in India? It required a William Loyd Garrison in the early anti-slavery days to protest against the wicked public opinion of the South, with which there was complicity in the North, and then literally at the peril of his life. The sway of anti-theistic, anti-Christian, anti-philanthropic opinion is nothing short of despotic; e.g. recent treatment of Virchow by the evolutionists of Germany.
3. The sensible form. Forms of speech, of action, habit of life, modes of work, forced by false public opinion on men, against which only a faithful few are sometimes found to rebel. These idols are set up to rule everywhere; e.g. in the realm of domestic administration, of social life, in the various Churches, in the life of the nation, and even to domineer over the international relations of men.
II. THE NIMBUS OF THE IDOL. In the old mythologies a cloud of light was often seen, or supposed to be seen, around the persons of the deities. So was it with this image which Nebuchadnezzar set up. One cannot read these opening verses without being struck with the halo of splendour thrown around the idol. Majesty of size, brilliance of material, commanding conspicuousness, marked the image itself. With endless iteration—like the refrain of a song—we are told it was "the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up." Royalty sanctioned it. The aristocracy was on its rode. Education and literature bowed before it (Ephesians 2:8). The people endorsed the worship. All that the world could do, by calling together mighty concourses of people, by pomp of ceremonial, by elaborate musical performance, was done, to give eclat to the idolatry. So is it with all the forms of nineteenth-century idolatry. Kings, princes, peoples, the literary and educated classes, as by one consent, in many ways, after many fashions, join to glorify the image that public opinion, alienated from God, uninspired by his Spirit, too often sets up. Peoples can make images as readily as kings.
III. THE IMMINENT PENALTY. Enumerate the burning fiery furnaces which modern devotees of the image kindle for them who will not bow down; e.g. losses in business, social exclusion, denial of political rights, persecutions petty and malignant in many forum.
IV. THE GENERAL PROSTRATION.
V. THE FAITHFUL FEW.
1. Be no party to the setting up.
2. Be you one not to bend the knee.—R.
Principle illuminated by fire.
"O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful," etc. (Daniel 3:16-18). Sketch the leading features of this intensely interesting martyr-history; and then—
I. RELIGIOUS PRINCIPLE. And here, that we may not move in mist, let us open out, step by step, what needs to be said.
1. Principle. What is it .9 A principle is literally a first thing; a beginning; a cause. The spring on the mountain-side, whence the mighty river. The root of the tree. Newton's 'Principia.' The principle of the universe, the First, is God.
2. Religious principle. The essential idea in the word. "religion" is that of binding. (See the etymology.) Religion distinguishes that which binds man to God: it names the link that binds earth to heaven. Principle in religion is that at the root of man's being; that beginning of things in the soul which determines the outer life—word, deed, demeanour, habit, conduct.
3. The two kinds. Strictly speaking, the beginnings of religion may be in two entirely different spheres. They may be objective or subjective. There are beginnings with God, and beginnings in man.
(a) Truth in the mind. Fashion to decry the importance of truth; but it cannot be legitimately denied, it is vital.
(b) Feeling answering to the truth.
(c) Direction from the conscience according to truth and responding to emotion.
(d) Volition obedient to the royal authority of conscience.
4. The present form. Religious principle with us will take on evangelical forms. Our position is different from that of the three. They in twilight; we in blaze of midday. Truth came from God—for them through Moses and the prophets; for us, by Jesus Christ. They started from Sinai, we from Calvary. We begin with trust in a personal Christ—that is our first subjective principle—then follow truth, emotion, the moral imperative, obedience.
5. Moment of principle. Impossible to exaggerate its importance. What a man is in principle, that the man is all through.
II. ADHESION TO IT. A sublime example. Illustration and illumination of religious principle.
1. The temptation to abandon principle. Note what they were required to do. To bend the knee to an image of the world-power, perhaps of Bel, possibly of the king himself. All Sinai protested against it. But see temptations. Read their force in the light of our own nature.
2. The decision.
3. The act. The moral majesty of the three among millions. Alone. Yet not alone. Daniel. Sympathizers. Angels. God. All there with them I
4. Their dependence. These saints militant entrenched themselves behind two lines.
(b) Their own God: "Our God."
(c) The object of their service. Eternal
(d) Able righteousness to deliver.
(e) Certainly, would. But if all this were not so, then:
(a) If there be a God, it cannot be right to bend down to a thing.
(b) If there be not, man is man, and still may not bow to a thing like this. Amid all life's temptations, bear in mind there is a God; and even if (for the sake of argument) there be not, there is still a soul; and in the soul a concept of absolute, unconditioned, eternal righteousness.
5. The result of the decision.
(a) Freedom from anxiety. "We are not careful."
(b) Silence. No noise. No apology. No elaborate defence.
(c) Salvation. In the fire, yet out of the fire; for the Saviour there.
(a) On the Jews. Obedient to Sinai, but in more obscure positions than that of the three.
(b) On the heathen.
(c) On the universal Church, whenever and wherever the history of this heroism is told.—R.
The Saviour in the fire.
"The form of the fourth" (Daniel 3:3). A sketch of the further developments of the history will well introduce the following topics.
I. THE SAVIOUR OF THE KING'S IMAGINATION. "Like unto a son of the gods." The king was certainly not acquainted with the Hebrew doctrine of the Messiah, and even if he were, the appellation, "Son of God," would not be familiar to him. The deliverer to him was perhaps an angel, but surely a visitant from the unseen.
II. THE REAL DELIVERER. "The Angel of Jehovah," the Angel-God of the Old Testament, the Lord Jesus, in those temporary and special epiphanies which preceded the great Epiphany of the Incarnation. This "coming down to deliver" does not stand alone. Therefore the other emergences out of eternity into time of the Lord should throw light on this; e.g. two appearances to Hagar (Genesis 16:1-16.; Genesis 21:19-21). Two in the life of Abraham (Genesis 17:1-27; Genesis 19:1-38; Genesis 22:1-24.). Several instances in the history of Jacob (Genesis 28:10-22; Genesis 31:11-13; Genesis 32:24-32; Genesis 48:15, Genesis 48:16). At the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-22. ; set. also Exodus 23:20-25; Exodus 13:20-22; Exodus 14:19, Exodus 14:20; Exodus 40:33-35; 1 Kings 8:10, 1 Kings 8:11; 2 Chronicles 7:1-3). The same august Personage was at Sinai (comp. Exodus 24:1-18. and Exodus 33:11-20 with Galatians 3:19). Several manifestations, too, in the desert-life of Israel (Exodus 16:10; Numbers 12:5; Numbers 14:1-21; Numbers 16:19,Numbers 16:42; Numbers 20:6; Exodus 33:3). So in the life of Joshua (Joshua 5:13; Joshua 6:5). See further epiphanies in 2:1-5; 6:11-24; 13:1-25.; 1 Kings 8:9-11, Isaiah 63:8, Isaiah 63:9. "The Angel of Jehovah" is none other than Jehovah himself manifested in the Person of the Lord Jesus. The doctrine of the Trinity the only adequate explanation. What Robert Hall said of the Divine Being is sirikingly true of the doctrine of the Trinity: "Inexplicable itself, it explains all besides; it casts a clearness upon every question, accounts for every phenomenon, solves every problem, illumines every depth, and renders the whole mystery of evidence as perfectly simple as it is otherwise perfectly unintelligible, whilst itself remains an impenetrable obscurity." The following are reasons for believing that the Lord Jesus was present in this fire:
1. It was antecedently probable that he would be. Taking into account antecedent appearances, observe the time of the Captivity was a critical epoch in the history of the kingdom of God; the place—Babylonia grand theatre for the manifestation of the Divine. Evil clashed with conscience. The faithful there were helpless. It was for Christ to deliver.
2. It would fulfil a promise a thousand years old (Le Isaiah 26:14 -44).
3. The moral effect of the epiphany would be great—on Jews, heathens; all to the end of time.
III. THE SAME SAVIOUR NOW.
1. The Lord Jesus can be present with us in the fire of our trouble. This depends on whether we give him welcome or not. He waits to come in unto us in our sorrows. Different is the intensity el the fire with different saints, with the same at various times.
2. His presence is relief.
3. Will be ultimate deliverance and perfected salvation.—R.
Salvations demonstrate the Saviour.
"There is no other God that can deliver after this sort" (Daniel 3:29). Explain the king's real state of mind. He did not own Jehovah as the only God, nor command him to be worshipped. He only declared him to be able to save his servants as none other could, and commanded that there should be no reviling of his Name. Curious commingling of tolerance and intolerance. So slowly do men learn the principles of religions and ecclesiastical freedom. (Matthew Henry is full and good on this section.) But the text may be used as the starting-point for a good missionary sermon. Illustrations will be abundant in proportion to our acquaintance with the best missionary literature—not merely that which appears in so fragmentary a form in magazines but with full and exhaustive treatises, of which there are now many. The following outline is merely suggestive. and would have to be taken up selectively; for the whole would be far too much for one discourse.
I. EVILS FROM WHICH MAN CRIES FOR DELIVERANCE.
(a) Limitation. Nearly all forms of pain fall under this head; e.g. the feebleness of youth, weakness, sickness, deprivations, bereavements, discouragements, debility of age, etc.
(b) Strain. Battle of life. Work of life.
(c) Impending death.
(d) Imperfection of character; i.e. of the external manifestation of the good within.
II. DELIVERERS PROVED INCOMPETENT. All religions which have declined from the purity of the primaeval revelation, and in proportion to the extent of their departure. It may be necessary here to contrast the easy and flippant assumption that each religion is an evolution from the genius of each race, and con.genial with it, and conducive to its moral elevation. E.g. the contrast between the comparatively pure idea, which the New Guinea people have, of a Great Spirit and the horrors of their cannibal life. Surely these may not be left to such religion as they have evolved. In showing incompetence to deliver from evil, the religious of the world must be classified, and then the incompetence of each demonstrated in relation to evils enumerated above. The following classification is suggested:
1. Indifferentism; i.e. any negative system that ignores the religious nature of man.
4. Mere theism; e.g. the Brahmo-Samaj movement in India. Its failure to meet the sin and sorrows of men is abundantly proved (see its own literary organs in India).
5. Atheism in all its modern forms; e.g. agnosticism, positivism.
6. Impure forms of Christianity. Note that even in Russia so deep is the void left by the Greek Church, that there are fifteen millions of Dissenters, whom Imperialism tries to crush. It would not be difficult to show that the Roman perversion of Christianity has proved incompetent, and just in proportion to its decline from primitive truth.
III. THE SAVIOUR ALMIGHTY. The whole history of Christ's kingdom, the facts of modern missions, our own experience, demonstrate the competence of Christ to fill the void of man's necessity, and to lift the burden from his surcharged heart; e.g. to enlighten the mind; to direct, purify, and elevate the emotions; to rouse and then soothe the conscience; to justify the will. And so with the other forms of evil marshalled above. Exhibit all this in detail, and demonstrate that "there is no other God that can deliver after this sort."—R.
HOMILIES BY J.D. DAVIES
Man has a religious nature.
It is a valid argument for the existence of God, that every race of men demands some object of worship. Everywhere there is a felt dependence—a conscious need of protection and support. As soon as men are released from the pressing and exhausting care for daily food, their minds "feel after God, if haply they may find him." A sense of orphanage afflicts humanity till it finds God.
I. THE NATURAL MAN HAS AN INSTINCT FOR WORSHIP. It is true that while man remains in barbarous ignorance, he is prone to worship fancied evil agents, whose wrath he deprecates. But even this act is a confession that there is somewhere, outside him, a power superior to himself, who is able to work him real mischief. This confession is sufficient to establish the doctrine of Divine supremacy. And as men exercise their minds upon the variety of events that transpire about them, they discover that their fortunes and destinies are controlled by some Being mightier than themselves. Notwithstanding his power and his imperial rule, Nebuchadnezzar felt convinced that there was one Deity, or more, who had permitted to him this success in war—this magnificence of royal state. The natural instinct of .his soul yearned for something to worship. Does any man living feel satisfied with his stature of moral excellence? Is it not a common confession that we are not as good as we might be? Do we not stretch forth our aspiration towards some ideal yet beyond this? And if there be ideal perfection somewhere, which our souls strain their energies to reach, can that perfection be impersonal, self-existent? Does it not rather reside in an unseen perfect Being, in whose image degenerate man once was made? This unknown Being men instinctively long to know and to worship.
II. THE NATURAL MAN CRAVES AFTER A VISIBLE MANIFESTATION OF GOD, Although Moses had heard God's voice, and had received from him the tables of stone engraven with his own hand, yet he ardently craves a vision of the Most High: "I beseech thee, show me thy glory." Moved by a similar desire to have nearer intercourse with God—a desire to be rid of all doubt and perplexity, Philip asked, "Show us the Father, and it sufficeth us." If left to himself, man invents aids to his devotion, which become positive hindrances. Hence among all nations there has appeared the demand for some visible object, which might serve as a representation of God; and, because of its injurious effect upon men, the prohibition was given to the Jews, "Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, nor the likeness of anything on earth." If the mind of man be so greatly superior to matter; if it possesses attributes which find no analogy in material forms; if nothing in visible nature can represent thought, feeling, aspiration, will; so nothing in the physical universe can represent the Creator of all things. We are driven to the other pole of existence when we read," God is a Spirit."
III. THE NATURAL MAN ASCRIBES TO HIS DEITY GREATNESS AND EXCELLENCE, Nebuchadnezzar had learnt (perhaps from the Jewish Scriptures) that the human form was the nearest approach to the Divine; yet he felt that God possessed a superhuman greatness and a superhuman goodness. The former idea he endeavoured to express by giving to his statue colossal magnitude; the latter idea he sought to embody in the gold which was lavished on the structure. Whether it was literally made of gold, or only overlaid with gold, the same feeling was intended to be projected, viz. that the most precious of the metals was required to express the superlative excellence of Deity. "Who is like unto the Lord. our God, who dwelleth in the heavens?"
IV. THE NATURAL MAN WILL ALLOW TO DEITY THE MOST AMPLE SCOPE FOR ACTIVITY. Nebuchadnezzar erected no temple for this gigantic figure. He had erected temples in Babylon for other idol-deities; but now he gives larger play to his thoughts, and sets up this colossal image on the open plain. No building reared by human hands can contain the true God. The sapphire vault of heaven is the ceiling of his temple. The emerald greensward, enamelled with fragrant flowers, is the most fitting floor in his abode. The everlasting hills, with their snow-clad peaks, form the pillars in his house. "Heaven is his throne: the earth is a footstool for his feet." The myriad stars are the lamps of his majestic sanctuary. All things that live and breathe unite to celebrate his praise. "His kingdom ruleth over all."—D.
Attempted coercion in religion a failure.
If, with his slender knowledge of God, Nebuchadnezzar supposed that the erection of this colossal statue would be pleasing to God, as a visible expression of the monarch's allegiance, or would serve to remind men of their religious obligation, so far the deed. would be in itself praiseworthy. But when he proceeded further to compel a rigid conformity to his mode of offering worship, he trenched upon the rights of Deity—he invaded the sacred territory of conscience.
I. COERCION IN RELIGION PROCEEDS FROM LUST OF POWER, It may, in a few cases, arise from a mistaken idea of personal duty; but if the motive be searched to its source, it will be found to spring from this corrupt fount—the lust of power. Nebuchadnezzar, like an Oriental despot, had complete control over the persons, the property, and the lives of his subjects; but this lust for power grew by what it fed on. Like the horseleech, it was ever crying, "Give, give!" He craved to have control over the thoughts, beliefs, and religious acts of his people. He would carry his sceptre, if he might, into the inner realm of conscience, and sway the nations as he pleased. Hence he commanded the attendance and the religious homage of all who held any authority under him, to the end that these might, in their turn, exact a similar obedience from the people. The sovereignty of love is always a boon; the sovereignty of personal will is more or less a bane.
"… man, proud man!
Drest in a little brief authority …
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven,
As make the angels weep."
II. COERCION IN RELIGION IS A USURPATION OF DIVINE RIGHTS. "The powers that exist are ordained of God," yet only for limited and well-defined ends. Monarchs and judges stand in God's stead to preserve society from anarchy and injury; but over the interior life—over thought and affection and worship—they can have no dominion whatever. To bind and to loose men's beliefs by authority is an impossibility. There is another sceptre before which heart and conscience are constrained to bow. There is another tribunal before which kings and subjects must alike appear. No verdict of acquittal which a human monarch can give will serve as a passport to the favour of the Most High! Every one of the human race must give account "of himself unto God." "To our own Master we stand or fall."
III. COERCION IN RELIGION DEGRADES THE TRUE DIGNITY OF RELIGION. True religion is nothing less than the purest love of the human heart pouring itself out, in service or in speech, unto the living God; and if love must ever be spontaneous and free, in order to be love at all, so must be the piety of the human soul. Spontaneity is a necessity in religion. If compulsion be employed, its essence evaporates, its spirit disappears. It degenerates into formality. In the hands of an ambitious monarch, religion becomes a piece of state machinery; it is draggled in the mire of kingcraft. The pomp of state ceremonial—scenic splendour, displays of music—only degrade Religion, under pretence of doing her homage. The atmosphere in which she most flourishes is not the heated atmosphere of royal palaces, but the atmosphere of tranquil liberty. You may cast
can only be propagated by the lash and the sword, it is not worth propagating at all. If the treat God cannot maintain his own authority and rule without the aid of human violence, surely it is best to believe that there is no God! Such is the argument of many whom coercion has hardened and embittered. And on a third class of society the effect of coercion is martyrdom. Men and women who prize truth more than present convenience, who honour God more than they honour men,—these firmly decline the mandates of human authority in the sphere of religion. Come what may, they must be obedient to conviction and to conscience. They are bound by a prior obligation to follow the Spirit of truth whithersoever it leads. A voice speaks to them direct from heaven; and, let kings rave and storm as they please, they yield their first deference to the heavenly command. After all, a human king is but a fellow-worm, and it is an ignoble thing to steer our life-course according to the changing whims of pompous princes. And the result of honest resistance to religious tyranny has always been suffering—the rack, the flame, the prison, the gibbet.—D.
The working of base and bitter envy.
The men of Chaldea, who plumed themselves with great titles, but possessed little souls, were not content with rendering servile homage to the king's golden image; they must needs turn informers against those who had the courage of religious conviction. While true religion ennobles a man every way, superstition dwarfs intellect and soul—emasculates a man. A gnat may sting to madness a mettled war-horse, and some men who are impotent to do good are busy with venting malicious spite on nobler natures than their own.
I. ENVY IS THE NATURAL CHILD OF SELFISHNESS—the base progeny of a base parentage. Under pretence of solicitude for the king, they were chiefly anxious to berid themselves of formidable rivals. These accused persons were foreigners, captives, and had been raised to eminent offices by virtue of their personal merits. But the little-minded native aristocrats could not endure this competition for royal honours, and were willing enough to degrade and injure good men, if only they could promote their own worldly interest. That is a despicable vice which has selfishness for its root. The envious man is ashamed to own his real object.
II. ENVY STOOPS TO USE THE MEANEST ARTS. These Chaldeans invented a new name, a name of opprobrium, by which to designate these hated rivals. As the foes of Christ invented the name of "Christian" as a byword and a reproach, so these Chaldean informers used the word "Jew" as a stigma of disgrace. Further, they sought to flatter the king with all the arts of sycophancy. They flattered his greatness, his love of power, his bigotry, his religious zeal, his autocratic will. The best friends of a monarch are those who speak in his ear at proper times most unpalatable truths, and seek wisely to abate the growth of imperious tyranny. But these men, with ingenious skill, sought only to inflame the baser passions of the king. They reminded him that his royal authority was outraged; that his gods were dishonoured; that his honour, as a truthful monarch, was a; stake. No stone was left unturned by which to gain their nefarious end. Theirs was a busy zeal, worthy of a nobler object.
III. ENVY MAGNIFIES THE SUPPOSED FAULTS OF OTHERS. From what appears in the narrative, there was no occasion for these Chaldean magnates to make any accusation against the Hebrews. It was no part of their office to become public prosecutors. The idolatry of that age was extremely tolerant. Every nation and people were allowed to worship their own gods. If these Chaldean satraps had cherished a spark of generosity in their breasts, they would have argued thus: "These Hebrews have a religious faith of their own. Let them worship what and how they please." But it is very probable that these officious governors had themselves instigated the king to make this cruel decree, and had narrowly watched its effect upon the conduct of the Hebrew youths. Now they think they have caught them in a deadly snare. Now they will exaggerate their offence before the king. Now they will accuse them, not only of withholding homage from the new idol, but with dishonour to all Chaldea's gods—with utter contempt of the king himself.
IV. ENVY IS BLIND IN FORECASTING RESULTS. These envious men proceeded upon the principle that they foresaw and foreordered the course of events. Clearly it seemed to them, the series of events was as certain as the links in a chain. The king would be incensed. These Hebrew youths would be destroyed. Themselves would be promoted to honour. But though the first step was successful, and their whole plan seemed about to bear its expected fruit, lo! miscarriage and disappointment I If they could succeed in circumventing and slaughtering these innocent men, they would have proceeded To accuse Daniel also. But the executors of the royal mandate were the only persons slain. The Hebrew youths enjoyed in the furnace the presence of a heavenly Companion and Guest. The God of the Hebrews received royal homage and public regard. The envious satraps were put to silence and to shame.
V. ENVY IS UNSCRUPULOUS AS TO OTHERS' SUFFERING. If only it can gain its paltry end, it cares not how much suffering of body and of mind it inflicts on others. They knew that the penalty decreed for non-compliance with the idolatrous practice was arbitrary and cruel; but what cared they? They might have foreseen that if these three Hebrew notables should suffer death, it would be the beginning of fiery persecution against the whole nation of Israel; but what cared they? Their pride and ambition were wounded by the elevation to office of these young Hebrews, and if they could only bring about their rivals' downfall, they were unscrupulous what amount of suffering would befall the Hebrews. Envy has ever been a deadly foe to brotherly love.—D.
A critical alternative.
The alternative which these young men were called to face was idolatry or death. The claimants for their loyalty were Nebuchadnezzar on the one hand, God on the other. The former appealed to all the selfish principles of their nature; the latter, to the moral sense alone. Herein lies the crucial trial of human life. Shall God's voice be supreme? his authority be dominant over every part of my nature, over every act of my life? Or, on the other hand, shall some other master prevail? On our answer to this question hangs our heaven and hell.
I. AN ALTERNATIVE OF CONDUCT. Much might have been said by a wily advocate to induce compliance with the demand of the king. He had not demanded that his subjects should abjure their loyalty to another god; they might, therefore, make a compromise by rendering this outward act of idolatry, while they reserved the true love and homage of their hearts for God. Were they not the subjects—yea, the captives—of this earthly prince? and did he not rule by Divine right? Had he not been their benefactor in raising them to honour? and would it not seem base ingratitude to resist? Was it not desirable to maintain a general uniformity, and not seem to countenance rebellion and irreligion? Would it not preserve the public peace, advance their own interests, and protect the fortunes of their co-exiles, if they would comply? It was but a solitary act; God would readily condone it; it need not be repeated! Was it worth while to disturb the empire on so trivial a matter? Thus a thousand voices would whisper. But—
II. IT WAS AN ALTERNATIVE OF PRINCIPLE. Unless these Hebrews should act a falsehood, this deed of idolatry would be the visible expression of their belief. Outward acts are the proper fruits of inward conviction. A God-fearing man cannot bring forth the fruits of idolatry; neither can an idolatrous man bear the fruits of godliness. Seeming compliance here would be sheer hypocrisy; and are these young Hebrews going to stamp themselves hypocrites? This was a judgment-day: these young men were on trial before God. Say what men will about mutual concessions, forbearance, peace,—this was a conspicuous occasion for the test of principle. If these young men played the coward now, they would be cowards for ever—the sport of every capricious wind of circumstance. If the ship's cable will not hold in a storm, of what use is it? True principle of character is of the nature of steel: you cannot permanently bend it. Leave it to its own action, and it flies back to its proper line.
III. IT WAS AS ALTERNATIVE OF DESTINY. Compliance brought present life; resistance was to issue in violent death. Hence it is evident that this act of idolatry was no trivial or even ordinary act. The king himself raised it into a public test. Yet this pompous king quite overshot the mark. Did he talk about the result and issue of this supposed contumacy? He was as a man who reckons without his host. The issues of events lie in another hand than his. Royal threats are often like the chaff which the wind driveth away. While this Babylonian king spake, a mightier King than he revoked the human mandate and inverted the predicted destiny. Nebuchadnezzar said in substance to these godly youths, "Die!" God uttered with the same breath his fiat, "Live!" "The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought." Instead of disgrace, there came honour. Instead of death, immortality!—D.
The Church's triumvirate
Nothing was further from these youths' thoughts than public notoriety, much less world-wide renown. They did but perform what seemed plain duty; and they asked no more than to be allowed to serve their God in quiet obscurity. When temptation spake through royal lips, they calmly said "No;" because loyalty to the King of kings had a previous and paramount claim.
I. LOYALTY TO GOD RESISTS THE ENCROACHMENTS OF HUMAN AUTHORITY. "In this matter," they affirmed, it did not concern them to answer the king. They had no answer that would be palatable to imperious arrogance. In all other matters they were prepared to render honest obedience and dutiful service. But "in this matter," touching the love and worship due to God, no other course was open than to obey God rather than man. Plainly had Jehovah said, "Thou shalt not make any graven image, nor bow down to it;" and they had responded, "All that the Lord hath commanded us will we do." It was an abuse of human authority, an encroachment on the prerogatives of Deity, to set up forms of belief or objects of worship. This is tyranny, offensive both to God and to men. Only a spirit of mean subserviency will silently submit to such arrogance. Manly courage will follow the simple rule of Jesus Christ, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's."
II. LOYALTY TO GOD IS CONFIDENT OF DIVINE SUCCESS. In true service of God we learn to know him, and increased knowledge leads to stronger faith. Obedience is the main portal to the temple of Divine truth. The closer we come to God, the clearer vision of his power and greatness we obtain, and the stronger grows our assurance that we have an interest in his friendship. We do not know who God is if we are not confident that he is well able to protect us in every emergency. But the faith of these men was stronger yet. They believed that God was sustaining them in this decisive resolve, and would, in some way, appear so as to vindicate their honest fidelity. How they should be delivered, they did not know; but they were well assured that ten thousand modes of relief were open to God, and they could leave the plan of campaign with their Commander-in-chief.
III. LOYALTY TO GOD IS ENTIRELY AN UNSELFISH PRINCIPLE. Assured, though these Hebrews were, that deliverance would come; yet, even if it had been otherwise, they would not have altered their line of conduct. Whether heaven be the outcome of pious loyalty to truth, or whether it be not, renewed men can act no other than they do. Let philosophers argue as plausibly as they please, they cannot persuade the conscience that moral obligation is a phase of self-interest. A good man does not pursue virtue for the sake of what he can get, however remote the expectation be. Nevertheless, the kindness of God has decreed that virtue, faith, holiness, shall bear sooner or later the fruits of abundant joy. And so these champions of Divine truth boldly avowed to the king that, come what might—fire or freedom, grief or gladness—they would have no complicity with idols. They would buy the truth at any price; they would sell it at none. They could die, but they dare not sin.—D.
The brief reign of violence.
It is only consistent with the sketches of Nebuchadnezzar's character furnished us, to believe that he was not naturally a cruel man; nor was he so rigid an idolater as to oppose the worship of Jehovah. He was self-willed, excitable, easily inflamed; and was too easily led away by the base designs of others. For the moment he yielded to the excitement of passion. His autocratic pride had been wounded, and he would tolerate no resistance.
I. WE SEE VIOLENCE SUMMONING INTO THE FIELD ALL ITS FORCES, The king is "full of fury." His inward composure is disturbed. His very skin changes its hue. The blood rises and recedes with strange rapidity. Every muscle and nerve are stretched to highest tension. A very madness has seized the man. Reason is overborne as by a sudden tempest. Wisdom, sagacity, judgment, dignity, are drowned in a flood of uncontrollable feeling. Poor man! what an object of pity! He is verily possessed by a demon—"set on fire of hell."
II. WE SEE VIOLENCE OVERREACHING ITS OWN END. The king commanded that the furnace should be heated sevenfold, because of the independent boldness of the slandered Hebrews. This was a suggestion of wanton cruelty. But it would really benefit the innocent victims, inasmuch as it would shorten their sufferings. Yet reason had forsaken the king, and had fled into humbler bosoms. His unrestrained violence was weakness itself. Physical force is destined to fail.
III. WE SEE VIOLENCE INJURING ITS OWN FRIENDS. As the Midianites, when pursued by Gideon in the night, slew unwittingly their own comrades, so the weapons which Nebuchadnezzar's violence was sharpening were injuring those who handled them. The command to execute the Hebrew heroes was assigned to Chaldea's mightiest veterans. Very likely they had egged the king on in this shameless course, and were only too glad to do thoroughly the cruel deed. There is always weakness in haste. Justice is ever calm, for time is on her side. She waits her conquests with sweet composure. But now this cruel eagerness to destroy, lest forsooth the king should relent—this eagerness, is fatal to the proud captains. Endeavouring to slay others, their sword turns into their own breast. The material flame is alive with judicial discernment—has learnt from its Creator whom to slay and whom to save. "Verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth!"
IV. WE SEE VIOLENCE APPARENTLY TRIUMPHANT. God has not yet appeared on behalf of his injured advocates. Lo! they are bound, and no angelic hands present! Lo! they are cast into the fiery oven; they fall down into the very midst of the glowing coals! Has not justice abandoned our earth? Now may Violence wag her head and shake her tongue! How she is loud-voiced and jubilant indeed! How eloquent are her taunts[ "Where is now their boasted God? What profit now in all their prayers? These paragons of piety—where are they now? Did we not predict their discomfiture? Ah I so would we have it!"—D.
The unexpected fruits of persecution.
As soon as the fierce tempest in Nebuchadnezzar's mind had expended its little force, there succeeded the calm of exhaustion. The tyrant is transformed into a servant, and appears like a docile child. Something has produced a strange impression on him—perhaps the sudden burning of his own officers, perhaps the unbending fortitude of the three Hebrews, perhaps the natural reaction from high-wrought excitement. Abandoning royal pomp, he visits himself the fiery furnace, that he may discern the wreck of human life wrought by foolish violence. An unexpected sight awaits him.
I. PERSECUTION IS HARMLESS TO THE SAINTS. Their experience is not always uniform. God seldom follows precisely the same course twice. The bodily life of the oppressed is not always preserved. Yet, in every case, it is true that no real harm is done to them. Often—
"Persecution has dragged them into fame,
And chased them up to heaven."
On this occasion the material flame, though heated sevenfold, was not nearly so vindictive and deadly as the fiery rage of the king. He had summoned into his service one of the most destructive elements of nature, but it would not obey him. The flame did them no harm: it did them good. It consumed their bends; it did not singe their clothes. It gave them liberty. It brought them new experience. It put a new sceptre into their hands, and made them kings of nature. They were mightier men than ever. It admitted them into new society, and brought an angel into their circle. God himself gave them new evidence of his presence, his tender concern for them, and his all-sufficient power, Now it is evident that fire has no consuming property of its own. It is a property given and maintained by God. All the forces of nature are like the manuals of an organ touched by a Divine hand. By faith in God these men "quenched the violence of fire."
II. PERSECUTION OF THE SAINTS GIVES OCCASION FOR THE MIRACULOUS INTERPOSITION OF GOD. All opposition raised against God only brings out the greater resources of his omnipotence. Satan's oppression of our race gave scope for the redemptive miracle. Creation is miracle, for the like was not before. Providence, which is but a continuous act of creation, is a miracle. Granting that there is a God, there is nothing unreasonable in miracle. Whenever God is pleased to work, if ordinary methods fail, extraordinary methods are forthwith introduced. No occasion is more fitting for the introduction of miracle than persecution. God has identified himself with his people, and injury done to them is resented as injury done to him. Nor are we to think only of the miracle wrought on the material flame or on the living bodies of these men. That is a narrow view of miracle. There was miraculous agency also displayed in the mind, the temper, and the conduct of these oppressed Hebrews. It was not natural that they should submit to human injustice without a word. It was not natural, but supernatural, that they showed no vindictive spirit nor indulged in any language of personal triumph. Their modesty and self-forgetfulness were as miraculous as their faith. With the ending of the persecution came the ending of the angel's visit.
III. PERSECUTION PATIENTLY ENDURED PRODUCES CONVICTION IN THE UNGODLY. The king himself was overcome by astonishment. He could not believe the evidence of his eyes. He could scarcely trust his memory. Hence he summoned his princes and counsellors to his assistance. He appeals to their recollections. He requires them to see, to investigate, and to understand these strange facts for themselves. In their presence the king himself (not a deputy) entreats these injured Hebrews to come out of the mystic flame. He prays to them whom just now he cruelly condemned. The king styles them, not fanatics, miscreants, traitors—he styles them "servants of the most high God." Yes, of that God whom he had awhile despised. The proof of Divine succour and of supernatural protection is complete, undeniable, overwhelming. And, with candour of mind, Nebuchadnezzar yields himself to the evidence.—D.
Total reversal of Fortune's wheel.
During this momentous crisis, no change had passed over the convictions, resolves, or characters of these godly men—except such advancement in strength and courage as was always in progress. But upon their outward condition a great change was impending. A quiet revolution was proceeding outside them.
I. A CHANGE IN THE PLACE ACCORDED TO GOD. This was the central aim of the young Hebrews' resistance, that Jehovah might be recognized as supreme. This quiet endurance for God had completely annulled the effect of the gigantic idol, its imposing ritual, and its pompous music. Truth is advanced in more quiet ways. This royal endowment of idolatry had been public contumacy of Jehovah; but three modest youths, sustained by Divine grace, were more than a match for all the stately ceremonial appointed by the king. At the head of the nation, Nebuchadnezzar publicly recants his religious belief. Awhile his language was, "Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?" Now his language is, "Blessed be the God of the Hebrews, who hath.; delivered his servants that trusted in him!"
II. A CHANGE IN THE MARTYRS' REPUTATION. Nebuchadnezzar had treated as weak and worthless the men who were accused of contumacy. He had regarded their convictions as contemptible scruples. Now his opinions have suddenly undergone a complete change. He appreciates their nobleness; he applauds their loyal constancy to God. He perceives a glorious beauty in their character, to which he was blind before. He confesses that their quiet firmness was more mighty, and more majestic, than his tyrannic rage. Their patient fortitude has captivated him. He places them upon the pedestal of royal regard, and does homage to their superior virtue. Well saith the proverb, "Them that honour me, I will honour." The martyrs are canonized and worshipped as saints.
III. A CHANGE IS THE ROYAL EDICT. But just now the royal decree had been, "Let the worshippers of Jehovah be degraded—be cast out as dogs!" Now a new edict issues, "That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of the Jews shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill." The tone and language of the king had undergone a complete change. This amounted almost to a miracle. To repeal the king's decree was deemed an impossibility. The kings of the East prided themselves on the observance of their word, let the cost be what it might. But there is a conspicuous abatement of pride in Nebuchadnezzar, and this new law will be a protection for all the Jews against the blasphemies of their foreign masters.
IV. A CHANGE IN THE OUTWARD CONDITION OF THE SUFFERERS. Their attainder is removed. They are not only restored to their former place, but are promoted to higher office yet. Just as a swelling wave, rolling on the sea-beach, recedes for a moment, but only to gather fresh force, and then rises higher on the shore than any point it has yet reached; so this transient degradation was but the mystic step to higher honour From the fiery jaws of death they suddenly rose to the dignity of princely life. The pathway to immortal renown is through the vale of suffering. "It is through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom." The cross was the Saviour's road to his mediatorial throne; and if we suffer with him, "we shall also be glorified together." The fire of suffering does not destroy the Christian; it refines and purifies. He comes forth from the furnace as gold well burnished, Real merit, sooner or later, finds its true level.—D.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Daniel 3". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany