Daniel 2





And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar

Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled,

and his sleep brake from him.” The versions only differ verbally from the

Massoretic text as represented by the above. The Septuagint renders “And

in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, he chanced to fall into

dreams and visions, and to be troubled with his vision, and his sleep went

from him.” The differences here that may evidence a difference of text are

slight. Theodotion and the Peshitta are very close to the Massoretic. The

Vulgate renders, “In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar

Nebuchadnezzar saw a vision, and his spirit was troubled, and his vision

(somnium) fled from him.” If this is the true text of the Vulgate — and it is

pre-Clementine — the variation seems too great for paraphrase, and yet it

is an unlikely lectional variation. It is easier to imagine the change taking

place in the Latin, somnus becoming somnium, especially if the final m was

represented, as so often in Latin manuscripts, by a line over the preceding

vowel. And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. This forms

one of the chronological difficulties in the interpretation of Daniel. There

seems to be a contradiction between the statement in this verse and the

chronological data afforded us by the preceding chapter. If

Nebuchadnezzar was already king when he placed Daniel and his three

companions in the hands of “Ashpeuaz” and assigned them three years of

study, then as the three years are by implication ended when the

examination took place (ch.1:18-19), the events narrated in this

chapter must be dated not earlier than the third year of Nebuchadnezzar.

Most commentators recognize this as a difficulty, the explaining of which is

incumbent on them, whatever their views as to the date or authenticity of

the book as a whole may be. A really great writer — and that title cannot

be denied to the author of “Daniel,” if the book be a fiction — could never

fall into such a glaring self-contradiction. We do not deny that even very

great writers have been guilty of chronological self-contradictions; but

these contradictions were such as were not obvious. The only commentator

who does not feel it incumbent on him, having noticed the difficulty, to

give some hint of a possible solution, is Professor Bevan. From the

obviousness of the discrepancy, we must assume that it was known to the

writer, and from this we must further assume that the discrepancy was

regarded by him as a merely apparent one, the explanation of which was so

obvious at the time he wrote that it was needless to state it. In making this

statement, we refer to the original documents from which our present

Daniel was compiled. Another hypothesis certainly is possible — that there

is a false reading here. Ewald has suggested the twelfth year, which implies

that the word עְֶשרֵה, (esreh) has been omitted. The main difficulty is that

there is no sign that there is any difference of reading. If we are to correct

the reading, we must go behind the present book to those documents from

which it has been formed. If this portion of Daniel is a translation and a

condensation of an Aramaic text, then תַרְתִין  (tarteen) is “two,” but

three” would be תְלָת  (tlath). When the ל loses from any cause.its upper

part, it becomes little distinguishable from n; this renders it not impossible

that in the original Aramaic narrative the events in this chapter were dated

the third year of Nebuchadnezzar,” not “the second.” This explanation

does not apply to the older form of script as seen in Sindschirli or in Egypt.

There have been various other ways of getting over the difficulty. One

device, that of Josephus (‘Antiq.,’ 10:10. 3), maintained also by Jephet-ibn-

Ali, is to date the reign from the conquest of Egypt, when Daniel is

supposed to reckon that Nebuchadnezzar began to reign over the world.

The conquest of Egypt, by means of certain recondite interpretations of

Scripture, Jephet dates in the thirtieth year of Nebuchadnezzar; the date of

this chapter, then, according to him, is the thirty-second year of

Nebuchadnezzar. Rashi explains this date by referring it to the destruction

of the temple. There is, however, nothing to indicate that any of these dates

was ever reckoned of importance in Babylonian chronology. And, however

important the destruction of the temple was to the Jews, few of them, even

at the latest date criticism assigns to Daniel, would have the hardihood to

date a monarch’s reign from this. Another solution is that the second year

is reckoned from the time when these Jewish captives stood before the

king. This would have implied a different reading, but, as we have said, so

far as this clause is concerned, there is no variation. Another suggestion

may be made, viz. that this appearance of Daniel before the king is the

same as that mentioned in the previous chapter (1:18-20). This

is Wieseler’s hypothesis. As a reign was not reckoned from the date of

accession, but from the beginning of the year following, Nebuchadnezzar’s

second year might well be the third year of the training of those Hebrew

captives. The occasion of their appearance before the king may not have

been that he took thought on the matter — a view which, though that of

the Massoretic text, is not supported by the Septuagint — but may have been

caused by this disquieting dream. On the supposition which we have

suggested, that in ch. 1 we have a condensed version from an Aramaic

original, this solution is plausible. The main difficulty, that the quiet

communing implied in the nineteenth verse does not suit the fury of the

king and the threatened death of the wise men, cannot be pressed, as the

communing might follow the interpretation. It may seem to some better to

maintain that the incidents of this chapter occurred some little time after

Daniel and his three companions were admitted to the royal council. The

band of captives and hostages, with the mass of the Babylonian army,

arrived at Babylon, according to Berosus, some time after Nebuchadnezzar

himself, who had hurried across the desert; still, a month would probably

be the utmost of the difference. There might, therefore, be many months to

run before the first year of Nebuchadnezzar actually began, when these

captives were placed under the charge of the Melzar; so that if our

suggestion of a various reading of “third” instead of “second” be accepted,

the years would be over while the “third” year of Nebuchadnezzar was still

proceeding. However, although many prisoners and hostages may have

been sent along with the main army, after Nebuchadnezzar ]earned of the

death of his father, many may have been sent earlier, and among these

Daniel. The main difficulty is to imagine the orders of Nebuchadnezzar,

while merely crown prince, being carried out with such exactness, or that

he should be spoken of as “my lord the king” (ch.1:10). But their

training must have begun during the lifetime of Nabopolassar, if the three

years were completed while the second year of Nebuchadnezzar was still

to finish. If we reject both these solutions, we are shut up to the idea that

there is something amiss with the reading — always a thing to be

deprecated — and the simplest emendation is to imagine that the “third”

has been misread “second.” This, as we have shown, would be easy in

Aramaic. On the assumption that the text before us is a translation and

condensation of an Aramaic text, it is easy to understand how all derivative

texts followed its initial mistake. There is a certain importance here due to

the copula “and:” “And in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar.” When any

one attempts to read this verse in connection with the last verse of the first

chapter, it at once becomes clear that the twenty-first verse of ch. 1. is an

interpolation. It is probable that the condensation, which was likely to be

considerable in the first chapter, becomes less so now, before passing from

the one portion to the other; hence either the translator or some other

added the note which is contained in ch.1:21. Nebuchadnezzar

dreamed dreams. The Greek versions and the Syriac of Paulus Tellensis

omit the name “Nebuchadnezzar,” either as nominative or as genitive. The

Peshitta follows the order of the Massoretic text. The omission does not

alter the sense; possibly the proper names thus came in close juxtaposition

in the Massoretic in consequence of an endeavor to condense by omission,

without making any further change. It would seem that the Septuagint

had read נִקְרָא (niqra) instead of חלם (halam). The rendering is, “It

happened (συνέβη – sunebae - ) that the king fell into dreams and visions.”

This  awkward sentence seems to be the result of a difficulty and consequent

slavish following of the text before the translator; it is difficult to imagine

what the reading could be which could be translated as it is in the

Septuagint, and yet was not totally unlike the Massoretic text. “Dreams

and visions” is the evident result of a coalescence of two renderings of

חֲלמות (halomoth). It is to be observed that it is “dreams” that

Nebuchadnezzar had, and yet only one “dream” is spoken of. Kliefeth

thinks this refers merely to the class, so that “dreamed dreams’ is

equivalent to “was dreaming.” Agreeing with this is Havernick. Jephet-ibn-

Ali take the plurality to refer to the contents of the dream — that it refers

to the four world kingdoms and that of Israel (so Kranichfe;d and Keil); for

a similar use of plural for singular, he refers to Genesis 37:8. Moses

Stuart thinks that it is implied that the dream was repeated. It seems to be

somewhat of a mannerism of Daniel to use plural for singular, as the

“visions of the head” of ch. 4. Wherewith his spirit was troubled. The same

phrase occurs in regard to Pharaoh (Genesis 41:8), when he had

dreamed of the seven kine and seven ears of corn. The similarity of the

thing to be stated might easily lead to a similarity of statement, without

there being any necessary copying. If, as we believe, this portion of Daniel

had an Aramaic original, the resemblance in language to Genesis proves

very little. In this case also the reading of the Septuagint is different.

Instead of רוּחו  (ruho), “his spirit,” the translators must have had בָחֲלום ;

ἐν τῷ ἐνυπνίῳ – en to enupnio - dreamed; also instead of the feminine

תִּתְפַיִם (tithpaem), the  reading must have been יִתְפַעֶם (yithpaem). Though

yod and tan are not readily confused, nun and tan in the older script are, and in

Eastern Aramaic nun is the preformative of the third person imperfect, and a

change may have been made in translating from the Aramaic. Professor

Fuller, following Saadia, makes too much of the fact that, while in the

present case the conjugation used is the hithpael, in Genesis it is niphal,

since the niphal conjugation occurs in ver. 3. Kranichfeld holds that the

“hithpael heightens the idea lying in the niphal.” In Biblical Aramaic

hithpael takes the place of the Hebrew niphal. And his sleep brake from

him. While the meaning here is plain, the words are used in an unusual

sense; the word here translated “brake from” is the passive of the verb “to

be,” in this precise sense only used here. The fact that the substantive verb

in Eastern Aramaic has this significance (Nestle, ‘Gram. Syr.,’ 100)

indicates that this is a case where the Syriac original shines through the

translation. This is all the more obvious when we remember that in Eastern

Aramaic n (nun) was in the pre-formative. Analogous to this is the Latin

use of the perfect of the substantive verb, e.g. funimus Troes; compare

Romans 6:17, “God be thanked that ye were (η΅τε – aete – ye were) the servants

of sin.”  As we have said, the meaning of this verse is perfectly clear, and

although  there are differences of reading, there are none that affect the sense.

“In the second (or third) year of his reign, Nebuchaduezzar had a dream.” To

us in the West, living in the 21st century after Christ, it seems puerile

to date so carefully a dream, of all things; but in the East, six hundred years

before Christ, dreams had a very different importance from what they have

now. In the history of Asshur-baui-pal dreams play a great part. Gyges

submits to him in consequence of a dream In consequence of a dream

Urdamane (Nut-mi-ammon) invades Egypt. Again and again is Asshurbald-

pal encouraged by dreams which appear to seers. It is ignorance of

this that makes Hitzig declare, “The character of the king as here

represented to us has no verisimilitude.” Although Heredotus does make

dreams prominent in his history, we could not imagine any of the diadochi

recording and dating his dreams as does Asshur-bani-pal.



A King Troubled with Bad Dreams (v. 1)


In accordance with the wide cosmopolitan interests with which the Book

of Daniel is concerned, we are introduced thus early to the troubles of the

Babylonian court. The most striking feature of the book — its apocalyptic

character — is first shown in the dreams of a heathen king. Let us notice.



TROUBLED WITH BAD DREAMS. In the previous chapter we saw the

king triumphing over the Jews. He is now only in the second year of

undivided supremacy. Yet the first glimpse we have of his court reveals the

king in trouble.


Ø      No prosperity of external circumstances can secure the peace of mind

which is essential to true happiness. Success in battle cannot ward off the

invasion of bad dreams. Wealth and power cannot command the luxury of



Ø      High rank is especially subject to restless anxiety. Scripture more than

once refers to the sleeplessness of great men (Esther 6:1;

Ecclesiastes 5:12;  ch. 4:18). On the other hand, sleep is regarded as a

boon (John 11:12), and a gift of God to “His beloved” (Psalm 127:2).




Nebuchadnezzar is the victorious enemy of “the people of God,” who has

sacked the city of Jerusalem, robbed the temple of its sacred treasure,

carried the flower of the nation captive, and entirely broken its ancient

independence; and now he reigns over his vast domains as a cruel tyrant

(v. 5). With this man God opens up mysterious communications.


Ø      Thus revelation is not confined to prophets, nor to Jews, nor to good

men. God has not deserted the heathen world. He has not deserted

bad men (Genesis 6:3).


Ø      Nevertheless, this revelation is imperfect. It is in a dream — the lowest

form of revelation (Joel 2:28). The dream is so shadowy that it is

forgotten on the king’s awaking. The interpretation is beyond the power

of the dreamer. This lowest form of revelation vouchsafed to a bad man is

dim, vague, perplexing, and troubling; and the dreamer experiences it as a

passive subject. It needs the higher revelation enjoyed by a true prophet

a good man in living active communion with God — to make it

intelligible and profitable. Thus there are scintillations of Divine light in

the darkness of heathendom; but these do little more than make the

darkness visible and increase the terrors of its superstition. They call

for the interpretation of the fuller scriptural revelation (Acts 17:28).




GREATER TROUBLE. It is plain that the king regarded this as a dream of

more than ordinary import (v. 2), and therefore it caused him sleepless

anxiety. His trouble would arise from various sources; viz.:


Ø      The sense of mystery. The dream was gone. When present it was

unintelligible. Thus a partial revelation may often bring only trouble.

Perhaps if we knew more of the unseen world we should only be able to

discern enough to fill us with dismay.


Ø      The apprehension of future calamity. Possibly the king saw enough to

recognize a portend of future woe. It must be too often the case that a

revelation of the future will bring only distress. We desire to pierce the

veil of futurity. It is by God’s mercy that it is impervious to our sight

(Matthew 6:34).


Ø      The timidity of an evil conscience. An evil conscience peoples the

unseen world with terrors. The Divine and the future are to it both

clouded with apprehension.


2 “Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the

astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to show the

king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king.”  The

Septuagint renders, “And the king commended that the magicians,

astrologers, and sorcerers of the Chaldeans be brought in to tell the king

his dream. And they came and stood before the king.” The difference is

slight verbally, but very important. Theodotion and the Peshitta agree

closely with the Massoretic. The Vulgate renders mecashe-pheem,

“sorcerers,” malefici, “evil workers.” Then the king commanded to call the

magicians. The scene seems to stand out before us — the king, excited and

sleepless, calling out to his attendants to summon to his presence all the

wise men in the capital of his empire. The first that are named are the

hartummeem. The name is derived by Gesenius from חֶרֶט  (heret), “a

stylus,” and he supposes them to be sacred scribes. We find the word in

Genesis 41:24. Although the order may have existed among the

Egyptians, the name given to them here and in Exodus may quite well have

a Semitic origin. The Tel-el-Amarna tablets show us how well the language

of Assyria was known in Egypt. Hitzig is quite sure that Nebuchadnezzar

“est Abbild des Pharao und zugleich Vorbild des Antiochus Epiphanes.” It

is a way critics have; they are always quite sure. It may be observed that

both the Greek versions have for this word ἐπαοιδούς,– epasadous  - those

who use  incantations. The Peshitta has harasha, primarily “one who is silent,”

then “one who mutters,” then “one who sings an incantation.” Paulus Tellensis

has lehasha, “to whisper,” and then “to reheat a charm” or “incautation.”

Jerome renders arioli,” foretellers.” While the Peshitta interprets

hartummeem in Genesis by the same word as that used here, in the

Septuagint the word in Genesis is ἐξηγητής  exaegaetaes – declarers;

tellers -  instead of ἐπαοίδος, – epaoidos – magicians - and Jerome uses

conjectores instead of, as we have  seen, arioli In Exodus 7:11 harturameem

is translated in the Septuagint ἐπαοιδοί  – epaoidoi - magicians. Jerome

renders ipsi, as if the word had not been in his text. if, then, the word

hartummeem stood in the text of Daniel when the Greek versions were

made, there was an uncertainty as to the meaning to be assigned to it in

Egypt. The distinction between the two meanings drawn from the

etymology of the word hartummeem, and that derived from the Greek

equivalent, is not great. The religion of the Chaldeans was largely a system

of incantations that were preserved primarily in the Accadian — a tongue

known only to the sacred scribes. Many of the formulae are translated into

Assyrian — a language, by the time of Nebuchadnezzar, practically as

much restricted to the scribes and learned class as the Accadian. Hence

only a scribe could know the proper words to use in an incantation, only he

could perpetuate and preserve them. It is difficult to know on what ground

the translators of the Authorized Version selected the word “magicians.”

The Geneva Bible rendered it “enchanters,” which is adopted by the

Revisers. Luther is further afield in tendering sternsehers. The name is

Assyrian, and apparently derived from harutu, “a staff” (Norris, ‘Assyr.

Dict.’). This staff was possibly used, as the staff of the Roman augur, to

mark off the regions of the heavens, or, it may be, to ward off demons.

And the astrologers. The Hebrew word used here is ashshapheem. “In

Assyrian the word asep or asipu is used in the sense of diviner. The word

was actually borrowed by the Aramaic of Daniel under the form of

ashshaph” (Sayce, ‘Hibbert Lecture,’ p. 51). It is supposed to mean “one

who uses enchantments.” It is not Hebrew, but really Syriac or Eastern

Aramaic. In both Greek versions the equivalent is μάγοι – magoi – sorcerer;

magician , which Jerome follows. The Peshitta reserves magoeha for the next

term. The assertion that this word was really the Greek σοφοί  sophoi – wiseman -  

is now abandoned. The Greek σ  s – sigma never rendered by שׁ – n – nu, which

represented a sound not present in Greek at all.  The fact that this non-Hellenic

sound is doubled makes it utterly impossible that this word could be brought over

from the Greek. It is impossible to assign to this word the precise shade of meaning

which belongs to it. There is nothing to suggest “astrologers” in the root of the word.

And the sorcerers. The Hebrew here is mekash,hepheem. Dr. Robertson Smith, as

quoted in Professor Bevan, suggests that the word is derived from כשפ,

to shred or cut to pieces,” hence “to prepare magical drugs.” This is in

agreement with the Greek versions, which render φαρμακοί – pharmakoi

sorcerer; a user of drugs. The verb,  however, is a Syrian one, and means

to worship”.  (Acts 4:31; Philippians 1:4)  It occurs in the Hebrew of Exodus

7:11 along with hartummeem; in Deuteronomy 18:10, in a verse forbidding to the

Israelites the use of magical arts; in II Chronicles 33:6, in an account of

how Manasseh traversed that law. It may be noted that in this last verse the

Peshitta renders Chaldea “Chaldeans.” Again we have to repeat the remark

that we do not know the distinctions involved in these different names. And

the Chaldeans. The Hebrew word here is כַשְׂדִים (Kasdeern); both the

form Kassatu and Kaldu occur in inseriptions. The meaning of this word

has caused great discussion, and its use in this chapter for a class of

magicians has been held as a strong proof that the writer of the book

before us lived long after the time in which he places the events he

narrates. The use of “Chaldean” for “magician,” “astrologer,” or

“soothsayer” in classic times is well known. The difficulty here is that the

name “Chaldean” is used for a particular and limited class in the nation, and

at the same time for that nation as a whole. This is not necessarily

impossible. In Scotland, although the inhabitants are all called Scots, there

is also the clan whose surname is Scott, or, as it was earlier spelt, “Scot.”

It would not show confusion or ignorance did a writer of the fifteenth

century speak in one page of the Kers, the Hepburns, and the Scots

(Scotts) as forming one army, and then in the next page proceed to speak

of the whole army as the army of the Scots. His use of the name in the one

case for the nation and the other for the clan, so far from showing an

insufficient acquaintance with the constitution of Scotland, or the history of

its affairs, really evidences the accuracy of the writer’s knowledge. We

cannot conclude that the author therefore made a mistake in speaking — if

he does so — of a class of the Babylonian magicians being called Chaldeans

because the nation bore the same name. We certainly have as yet found no

trace of such a usage, but the argumentum e silentio is of strikingly little

value in regard to Babylon — her annals are so very incomplete. We must

bear in mind that the text of Daniel is in a very bad state: it has been

subjected to various interpolations and alterations. It is, therefore,

hazardous to rest any stress on single words. It is clear the writer knew

perfectly well that the nation were called Chaldeans. According to the

Massoretic text, ch. 5:30 asserts, “In that night was Belshazzar

King of the Chaldeans slain;” according to the Septuagint version of the same

verse it is, “And the kingdom was taken from the Chaldeans and given to

the Medea and Persians.” If we are sure the writer did make the Chaldeans

also a class of magicians, the probability is that he knew what he was talking

about, and made no explanation because, as a contemporary, he took for

granted everybody knew how this was. But is it absolutely certain that the

writer of Daniel does make this assertion? It is true that in the Massoretic

text the Kasdeem are represented as a class of magians coordinate with the

hartummeem, ashshapheem, and mekashepheem, but in the Septuagint we

find the word χαλδαίων  - Chaldaion in the genitive. Consequently, the

sentence reads,  “the magicians and the astrologers and the sorcerers of the

Chaldeans.” If at the time the Massoretic recension was made the name

“Chaldean” had gained its later significance of “soothsayer,” one can easily

understand how natural it would be to insert the copulative before the preposition.

The construction of the sentence in the text before the translator of the Septuagint

Version is certainly irregular, but not unexampled. It is not so easy to

imagine the Septuagint translator changing the nominative plural into a

genitive, especially when, by the time the translation was made, the usage

we have spoken of above was in full force. We may assume, then, that in

the original text of Daniel the “Kasdeem” were not spoken of, in this verse

at all events, as a class of magicians. As the clause appears in the Septuagint

Nebuchadnezzar assembled all the magicians of his nationality, the

Chaldeans as distinguished from the Babylonians. Perhaps he had more

confidence in them. While the change we have suggested would make only

the mekashshepheem connected with the Chaldeans, the grammatical

structure of the verse has the aspect of a freer rendering than that in

Theodotion’ hence it might quite well have been that the original Hebrew

had the meaning represented by the Greek of the Septuagint. Lenormant

sees in the four classes here an exact representation of the four classes of

Babylonian soothsayers. We do not feel obliged to maintain that all the

different classes should be called in on the occasion of this dream. We do

not know precisely the characteristics that separated one class from the

other, but it seems little likely that they all devoted themselves to the

interpretation of dreams. There were other omens and portents that had to

be explained. For to show the king his dreams. The natural sense is that

represented by the Greek versions, “to tell the king his dream.” The usual

reason for these officials being called was to declare to the king the

interpretation of the dream; but here it was to declare the dream itself. Yet

if they could foretell the future, could they not much more easily tell what

had happened? They professed to know what was coming; they could —

so Nebuchadnezzar might argue — readily enough reason back from the

future they knew to the sign of the future, the dream which had been given

to him. So they came and stood before the king. We can imagine the long

ranks of the principal classes of Chaldean soothsayers in Babylon hastening

into the royal presence. All the soothsayers, we see, were not summoned,

for Daniel and his friends were not, and they were not singular, else the

writer would have given some reason for this omission. The writer assumes

that his readers know so much about the habits of Babylonian wise men

and their schools, as to be aware that certain individuals might nominally

be summoned to the court; and yet it might be some time before they were

summoned on any critical occasion. The absence of the four Hebrews

might be explained in two ways: either only the Chaldean magicians were

in this case summoned, and, as Daniel and his friends were not Chaldeans,

they were omitted; or they were not summoned because their training was

not yet complete.


3 “And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and

my spirit was troubled to know the dream. The Revised Version

improves the English of the verse by putting the verb in the present, “My

Spirit is troubled to know the dream.” The Septuagint Version has the

appearance of a paraphrase, “And the king said to them, I have seen a

dream, and my spirit is troubled, and I desire to understand the dream.” It

is an unusual combination “to see a dream;” from its unusualness the

reading of the Septuagint is to be preferred. In old Hebrew ל (l) and ז (z)

are not unlike each other, nor are מ (m) and י (y). Yet these two, letters

are the only differences between halamti, “I have dreamed.” and hazithi. “I

have seen.” The Peshitta has haloma hazith, which gives the same

combination, and would indicate that here too the Aramaic original is

shining through It is however, difficult to see how such a word as ahpatz.

“I wish,” could drop out of the Massoretic. The must natural solution is

that the translator added θέλω -– thelo – wish; desire -  to complete the sense.

Certainly a link is wanting as it stands in the ordinary interpretation of this verse.

Theodotion agrees with the Massoretic, while the Vulgate paraphrases the

last clause, “And the king said to them. I have seen a dream, and confused

in mind I have forgot what I saw.” The king has been perturbed by the

dream, and his perturbation leads him to wish to know the dream — not

necessarily what the dream actually had been, but what it meant. Thus in

ch. 1:17 Daniel had understanding “in all visions and dreams;” this

meant that he knew the meaning of dreams and visions.  The other versions

give us no assistance to explain this. Archdeacon Rose says, “The king

here plainly intimates that, though the dream had troubled and perplexed

him. he could not remember what it was.” It does not appear to us quite so

plain It is certainly not impossible to imagine that, while the king had been

strongly affected by the dream, he might not remember distinctly what it

was. If, however, he had no remembrance of the dream, and only the

feeling of perturbation, any grandiose vision might have been brought

before him, and he would not have been able to check it, or say that was

not the dream he had had. If, again, he had some fragmentary

remembrance, he naturally would have told what he remembered, in order

that they might reconstruct his dream for him. Nebuchadnezzar’s great

purpose is not merely to see again his dream, but really to test these

soothsayers that promised so much. If they could with such certainty as

they professed tell what was about to happen, surely it was no great

demand that they should know this dream of his. The king seems merely to

have made the general statement, and left the soothsayers to tell at once

the dream and interpretation. There sits the king with troubled brow, and

there stand before him the principal adepts at interpretation of dreams.

Some have found it a difficulty that God should reveal the future to a

heathen monarch. But in the parallel case of Pharaoh this occurred;

certainly the future revealed to him was the immediate future of the, land

he ruled, whereas the dream of Nebuchadnezzar extended in its revelation

to the very end of time. Archdeacon Rose refers to Pilate’s wife and her

mysterious dream at the trial of our Lord. The revelation as given to

Nebuchadnezzar served a double purpose — it gave emphasis to it when,

not an obscure Hebrew scholar got the vision, but the great conqueror;

further, it gave an occasion for bringing Daniel into prominence, and gave

thus to him and to his companions an opportunity of showing their fidelity

to God. This gave an occasion for miracles, the effect of which was to

strengthen the Jews in their faith.


4 “Then spake the Chaldeans to the king in Syriack, O king,

live for ever: tell thy servants the dream, and we will show the

interpretation.” The versions do not imply any important difference Then...

the Chaldeans. This does not mean merely that one class of soothsayers —

a class the existence of which is doubtful — nor that the whole band of

soothsayers bore the name “Chaldeans.” The name is simply the name of

the nation, but is here used of this small portion of it that were soothsayers,

in the same way as in John 9:22 “Jews,” the name of the nation, is used

for the rulers: “For the Jews had agreed already that if any man did confess

that He was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.” Hence it is

needless to speak of’ the Chaldeans being the principal class, and therefore

for the sake of breviloquence” (brevity) put for the whole.  So

also Kliefoth (‘Kom.,’ p. 79), “Because the Chaldeans were the first class,

they alone are named.” The Chaldeans were not the inhabitants of

Babylonia, but belonged to several cantons south and east of Babylon.

Spake. The word yedabberu is usually followed by the verb amar in the

infinitive. In Ezekiel 40:4 we have the verb dibber used without arnar,

to introduce the thing said. It is not improbable that in this instance

Aramith, “in the Syriac tongue,” helped to the omission of amar. In the

Syriack (Aramith). All scholars know now that there are two leading

dialects of the Aramaean or Aramaic — the Eastern or Syriac, and the

Western or Chaldee. The terms are very confusing; as Syria was certainly

to the west of Chaldea, it seems strange that the usage should ever have

sprung up to call the Western variety Chaldee, and the Eastern variety

Syriac. The usage having been established, it has a certain convenience to

be able to name all the Western, or, as they may be called, Palestinian

dialects of Aramaic Chaldee, and all the Eastern varieties Syriac. While the

English version uses the term “Syriac,” as the portion of Daniel which

follows has come down to us, it is not written in Syriac, but in Chaldee.

We shall, however, endeavor to show that this is due to changes

introduced by transcribers. As to the word Aramith occurring here, there is

great force in the view maintained by Lenormant, that it is to be regarded

as a note to the reader, indicating that at this point the Hebrew ceases and

the Aramaic begins. The reason of the change from one language to

another has been already dealt with in considering the question of the

structure of Daniel. In the mean time it is sufficient to say that our theory is

that the Hebrew in the beginning of Daniel is due to the editor, who

collected the scattered fly-leaves. In the first chapter and in the three

opening verses of that before us, we have the results of translation and

condensation. As the previous sacred books had been written in Hebrew —

the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah, not to speak of other books — it

was natural that the editor, especially if he were under the influence of

Ezra, would desire to see a book that had so much of holy hope and

aspiration about it, in the sacred language of the patriarchs and prophets.

There would be probably a considerable mass of irregular material to be

gone over before a connected account could be given of the early days of

Daniel. These sources would be necessarily in the main Aramaic, and hence

the translation and condensation. It was formerly one of the objections

urged against Daniel that the author regarded Aramaic as the language

spoken in Babylon. By this time the language engraved on the tablets had

been discovered not to be any previously known tongue. It is now found

that, although the inhabitants of Babylon used the cuneiform for

inscriptions, the language of ordinary business and social intercourse was

Aramaic. and had been for several centuries. Dr. Hugo Winckler says, in

his ‘History of Babylonia and Assyria,’ p. 179, “Aramaic soon became the

language of social intercourse (ungangsprache) in nearly the whole of

Mesopotamia, and expelled the Assyro-Babylonian, which continued only

as a literary tongue (schriftsprache).” Bronze weights have been found

dating back to the Sargo-nids, with the weight marked on the one side in

Aramaic, while on the other the titles of the king are given in Assyrian,

When Sennacherib sent Rabshakeh to Jerusalem, Eliakim and Shebna

wished the conversation to be carried on in Aramaic, implying that by this

time Aramaic had become the ordinary language of diplomacy. The single

Aramaic verse in Jeremiah (Jeremiah 10:11) implies that the Jewish

captives would be dwelling among a people who ordinarily spoke Aramaic.

Some have deduced from the phrase, “then spake,” etc., that Aramaic was

not the ordinary language of the speakers — a deduction that would be

plausible if it had not been that from this point till the end of the seventh

chapter the book is in Aramaic. Jephet-ibn-Ali thinks that Nebuchadnezzar

had first addressed the wise men in some other language, and then betook

him to Aramaic. O king, live for ever: tell thy servants the dream, and we

will show the interpretation. The soothsayers address the king in terms of

Oriental adulation. Similar phrases are found in dispatches to

Asshurbanipal. In the Septuagint Version the phrase is accommodated

more to the Hellenic usage, and the king is addressed as κύριε βασιλεῦ -

kurie basileu – lord king.  Their language implies that they expected to be told

the dream, and then, having been told the dream, they would apply the rules

of their art to it, and declare to the king the interpretation.


5 “The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, The thing is

gone from me if ye will not make known unto me the dream, with the

interpretation thereof, ye shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall

be made a dunghill.” The Septuagint has slight but important differences from

the Massoretic text. It is as follows “And the king answered and said to the

Chaldeans, The thing is gone from me: if therefore ye do not tell me the dream

truly and show me the interpretation thereof, ye shall be made an example of,

and your goods shall be escheat to the royal treasury.” Theodotion renders the

last portion of the verse, “ye shall be destroyed, and your houses shall be

plundered.” The Peshitta is closer to the Massoretic, but, like Theodotion,

softens the last clause into “plundered.” The Vulgate retains the fierceness

of the Massoretic, softened merely in phrase, not in meaning. The king

answered and said to the Chaldeans, The thing is gone

from me. The first thing to be noticed is the difference of the Q’ri and the

K’thib in the word “Chaldean;” it is written כשׂדיא, according to the

Syriac usage, not כשׂדאי according to the Chaldee. As the Book of Daniel

was copied and recopied many times, probably at least scores of’ times

before, on the latest assignable critical date of Daniel, the Massoretic text

was fixed, and copied mainly by those whose language was Western not

Eastern Aramaic. the occurrence of Syriac forms is more likely to be

survivals from a Syriac original than insertions, either accidental or

intentional. When the differences are so slight as those between Eastern

and Western Aramaic, the tendency is to remove them rather than to

accentuate them. The older interpretation of mill tha, “thing” or “word,”

was to take it as referring to the dream — that it was the matter that had

gone from him. This, however, depends to a large degree on the meaning

to be attached to ozda. Is it to be regarded as equivalent to azla, as if it

were derived from lz"a}, “to go;” or is azda to be regarded as Persian azdu,

“sure,” “diligent”? Delitzsch suggests azanda. “known.” The two Greek

versions render, ὁ λόγος ἀπ ἐμοῦ ἀπέστη – ho logos ap emou apestae -

,a phrase which may either be “the word has gone from me,” or “the matter has

departed from me,” the latter being the more natural, from the meaning of

ἀφίστημι – aphistaemi – depart; withdraw; remove.  . The Peshitta

rendering is, “Sure is the word I have spoken.” The older commentators

have mainly taken this sentence as asserting that Nebuchadnezzar had

forgotten the dream; Calvin. however, does so only because he feels

himself compelled to take v. 8 as meaning this; while Jephet-ibn-Ali and

others assume this to be the meaning of the phrase. Aben Ezra takes azda

as meaning “firm” or sure. Berthohlt, among moderns, maintains that

millitha is “the dream.” Most others assert the sentence to mean, “The

word which has gone forth from me is sure;” this is also Professor Bevan’s

interpretation. Hitzig’s view here is peculiar: he would translate, “For the

matter is important to me.” This view does not suit v. 8. The lexicons

differ in this. Winer first gives elapsus est, abiit, then adds, “unless rather it

be derived from the Arabic <ARAMAIC> (atzad), ‘strong,’ or from the

Rabbinic אָזַד, robustus. Buxtorf does give the alleged Rabbinic use of the

verb, but gives reference only to occurrence in the passage before us and

v. 8, and renders abire. Gesenius renders, “to depart,” and quotes in

support of this the Rabbinic formula, אזדא לטצמים, “to go to one’s own

opinion,” spoken of a rabbi who holds a view not shared by any other. At

the same time, Gesenius gives a meaning to the clause as a whole which

accords with that of most commentators, “The word has gone out from

me.” Furst takes the word as meaning “firm,” “sure,” “unalterable.” He too

quotes the Rabbinic formula, as if it confirmed his view, which really it

does not. Castell gives <ARAMAIC> as robur, but appends no reference.

Brockelmann does not give it at all, nor does Levy. Had Castell given any

reference, it might have been argued to be a survival of a Syriac word

through transcription; but we must remain in doubt in this, all the more so

that the Peshitta does not transfer the word, which it would naturally have

done had the word been extant in Syriac in A.D. 100. This would make it

probable that it is an old word. The fact that it is used in Talmudic only in a

formula, and then in a sense unsuitable to the present passage, confirms the

idea of its age. It had probably a technical meaning, denoting that a certain

matter was irrevocable. The Persian derivation of the word is by no means

certain, though supported by Schrader and Noehleke. It may have a

Shemitic root. אזז  (azoz) Assyrian (Schrader, 526), “to be firm,” may be

the Assyrian form of the word, which becomes זָהַב in Syriac, and אזדא in

status emphatieus. In Aramaic ז of Hebrew becomes ד, as זָהַב (zabab) and דְהַב 

 (dehab), “gold.” The Assyrian use of sibilants is more akin to

Hebrew than to Aramaic. Sa, “this,” is equivalent to זֶה, (zeh), Schrader,

‘Keiln.,’ 586. If אזז  were transferred from Assyrian and put in the status

emphaticus, אַזְדָא  is not an unlikely form for it to assume. Even grant the

word to be Persian, it is far from proving, or even rendering it probable,

that Daniel was composed in the days of the Maccabees. There is no trace

of Persian producing much effect on the language of the numerous peoples

that were subject to the Persian empire. There is no sign that the word was

known in Palestine during the time when the Targums were becoming

fixed. In Alexandria, where the Septuagint version of Daniel was made, the

meaning of the word was not known, and was thought to be equivalent to

אזל (azal). In Asia Minor, where Theodotion made his version, it was

unknown. Jerome, who made his version, if not in Palestine, yet under

Pales-tinian guidance, translates it also as equivalent to azal. The natural

conclusion is that this book must have been composed not later than the

Persian period, and not far from the centre of government. As we have

already said, our interpretation agrees with that of Professor Bevan; we

would render the phrase, “The word which has gone forth from me,” i.e.,

“is fixed.” The reason of the king’s refusal to tell the wise men his dream is

that he cannot do it, not because he has forgotten it, but because he has

already announced that he wishes these soothsayers to prove their ability to

give the interpretation of the dream by telling him what the dream was

which he had had. He has committed himself to that course; he is a king,

and he may not change, If ye will not make known to me the dream, with

the interpretation thereof, ye shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall

be made a dunghill. The king, unaccustomed to be opposed or refused

anything, at once determines that it is not inability to tell him what he

wishes to know that hinders the soothsayers, but unwillingness. Of course,

the abruptness of the action, immediate sentence pronounced on their

hesitating to satisfy his demand, seems improbable. We must, however,

remember that we have the account given us in the utmost brevity. We

have the substance of the dialogue between the king and his astrologers. It

is put in dialogue form simply because the Shemitic tongues naturally lend

themselves to this mode of presentation. The sentence, “ye shall be cut in

pieces,” suggests some of the punishments inflicted by Asshurbanipal on

those who rebelled against him. In the Aramaic the meaning literally is, “Ye

shall be made pieces of.” This is considerably softened in both the Greek

versions. In the Septuagint, the rendering is, Παρὰ δειγματισθήσεσθε

Para deigmatisthaesesthe -  ye shall be made an example of. Theodotion renders,

Αἰς ἀπώλειαν ἔσεσθε - Ais apoleian esesthe -Ye shall be for destruction.

The Peshitta is stronger, if anything, from the succession of words, “Piece piece

ye shall be cut.” The punishment certainly was horrible, but not more so than the

punishment David inflicted on the murderers of Ishbosheth. Indeed, in European

countries a century and a half ago punishments yet more revolting were

frequent. The punishment for treason in our own country was as horrible as

anything well could be. The sentence, however, went further than merely

the individuals. And your houses shall be made a dunghill. In the ‘Records

of the Past,’ 1:27, 43, are references to something like this. “houses

reduced to heaps of rubbish.” That the houses thus made heaps of rubbish

should therefore be made dunghills, is in perfect accordance with the

manners at present holding in the East. The rendering of the Septuagint is

very peculiar here, (καὶ ὀναληφθήσεται ὑμῶν τὰ ὑπάρχοντα εἰς τὸ βασιλίκον

kai onalaephthaesetai humon ta huparchonta eis to basilikon

and your goods shall be escheat to tire royal treasury). This cannot be due to

any desire to soften the meaning, for in the first place, in ch. 3:29, where the

same phrase occurs in the Aramaic, it is paraphrased, but not really changed;

it is rendered δημευθήσεται – daemeuthaesetai. But further, the meaning

here is perfectly different from that in the Aramaic of the Masse,retie recension.

Theodotion’s rendering is a softening of the Massoretic, “Your houses shall be

(διαρπαγήσονται – diarpagaesontai -) torn down;” but the Septuagint quite

changes the meaning. If the translator had a slightly blurred copy before him,

he might read נזלו  instead of נולי; that is to say, instead of “a dunghill,”

he read it as the third person plural pael of the verb אֲזַלַ (azal), “to go.” When

written in Samaritan characters, or in old Phoenican characters, the last word would

not be unlike למלך, “to the king.” This is the only explanation of this variation that

seems feasible, and it implies that the manuscript before the Septuagint translator

was written in Eastern, not Western Aramaic. The preformative n, used as the sign

of the third person, is the peculiarity of Eastern Aramaic. The translator must

have had this generally before him in his manuscript, or he never could

have made this mistake. This is another indication that the Aramaic of

Daniel was originally not Chaldee, but Syriac. We can imagine the striking

scene: on the one side the haughty young conqueror, blazing in

indignation at the obstinate refusal, as he counts it, of his soothsayers and

augurs to tell him his dream and the meaning of it; on the other, the

crouching crowd of magicians, astrologers, and oneiromantists, dispirited

and nonplussed. Brought up in an absolute faith in astrology and augury,

the king never doubted their ability to tell him his dream; it could only be a

treasonable desire to hinder him from taking the suitable steps to avoid

whatever danger might be threatened by it, or to gain whatever advantage

might be promised. They would not tell him the dream, because by their

rules the interpretation would be fixed, and from that they could not

escape. The king will not and cannot reverse his word, and they cannot tell

him what he desires, and so they stand facing each other.


6 “But if ye show the dream, and the interpretation thereof, ye

shall receive of me gifts and rewards and great honor: therefore

show me the dream, and the interpretation thereof.” The Septuagint

Version is “If ye will show me the dream, and tell me its interpretation, ye

shall receive every sort (παντοῖα - pantoia) of gifts, and be honored by me:

show  me the dream, and judge.” There are indications of differences in the text,

which are considered below. Theodotion agrees with the Massoretic in its

rendering of this verse. The Peshitta also manifests no serious difference.

All these older versions render it doubtful whether nebizba was part of the

original text. But if ye show the dream, and the interpretation thereof, ye

shall receive of me gifts and rewards and great honour. Ewald would

conjoin with this verse the latter part of the verse preceding, with

considerable justification. Like the latter part of the previous verse, it is to

be taken as the summation of a long argument, in which threats and

promises would bear a large part, probably both heightening as they failed

to produce the effect required of making the soothsayers reproduce to

Nebuchadnezzar his dream. Now the acme is reached — on the one hand,

a death of torture and infamy is threatened; on the other hand, in the verse

before us, “gifts, rewards, and great honor.” The king is eager to have his

dream interpreted, but he has taken his stand — before he will listen to the

interpretation, they must afford him evidence that they can interpret

correctly this dream, by reproducing it to him. One of the words here has

been used by Berthohlt as evidence that the Book of Daniel originated in

the days of the Maccabees, when Greek was largely spoken. The word

translated “reward” in our version is nebizba; this, it was argued by

Bertholdt, is νόμισμα – nomisma, m becoming b — a not infrequent

commutation. In support of this, if we take νόμισμα as meaning

coined money, this would make a distinction between this word and matnan,

the more ordinary word for “a gift.” Jephet-ibn-Ali translates in accordance with

this meaning: “I will give you raiment and dinars,” he makes Nebuchadnezzar

say. Yet this view is now abandoned by all critics, and however many

alleged Greek words are found in Daniel, this is never now brought

forward as one of them. Lexicographers are practically unanimous in

rejecting this derivation. There are two other derivations, one making it a

palpel form of the בְוז with a נ  pre-formative which was Gesenius’s view in

his ‘Thesaurus.’ He later abandoned this view, and maintained that it was

connected with some Persian root. Winer maintains the former of these

views, and Furst the latter. As a Persian word, it is supposed to prove the

late date of Daniel. It does seem somewhat strange logic to argue, from the

presence of Persian words in a document, that therefore it was written late

in the Greek period. The prior question presents itself — Is the word

Persian, Greek, or Aramaic, really a part of the original text of Daniel? In

regard to this the Septuagint Version is of importance. Its rendering of this

clause is, as we have seen, “But if ye shall show me the dream, and tell me

the interpretation thereof, ye shall receive all manner of gifts, and shall be

honored by me.” This interpretation implies a different text — the word

nebizba disappears from the text altogether, for no one would translate it

παντοῖα; evidently the translator had before him some combination of col,

all.” The combination matnan nebizba occurs in the Targum in

Jeremiah 40:5, therefore, had it been present, the translator would have

been aware of its meaning. Theodotion renders it δωρεάς – doreas - gift.

If the phrase occurred elsewhere, there would easily be a motive to introduce

the word nebizba, but there seems none to substitute for it another word altogether;

certainly כ and נ are not unfrequently confounded, and a defective ל might be read

as a ב. It would not be difficult to reproduce a Hebrew sentence,

the rendering of which would require παντοῖα. This much is clear

nebizba was not before the Septuagint translator. It is further to be

observed that the Septuagint translator has had before him, not the noun

yeqar, “honor,” but the verb in the passive or ethpael. These, however,

are not all the points where the Septuagintal text must have differed from

the text we have received from the Massoretes. The adjective sagi,” great,”

occurs in the Authorized Version, but is not represented in the Septuagint.

The order of the Greek words suggests a different order in the original

Aramaic. Other things being equal, the shorter a reading, the more likely it

is to be the original reading. It is clear that this advantage is with the

Septuagint reading. If there were any likelihood of certain words being

omitted from any probable cause as homoioteleuton (like ending), it would be

different.  On the other hand, the addition of a kind which is frequently seen,

the more recent word nebizba is put alongside its more ancient equivalents. In

the other case, the adjective sagi, “great,” is inserted, as frequently

happens, with a view of heightening the effect. Another explanation may be

suggested. We know the Aramaic docquets on the back of the contract

tablets are written in a script resembling Phoenician characters. If the

original manuscripts were written at the date assigned by tradition, then it

would be written in this style of letter. In it we find that ש and מ  were

liable to be mistaken, as also; and ג; we should then have נ (minni), “from

me,” as a possible reading which had been misread by some Palestinian

scribe into שׂגי  (sagi), “great,” and the א added to complete the word. The

case is only a familiar case of doublets. When we have further מִן־קָדָמָי,

“from me,” the change of the preceding is thus in a sense necessitated. This

may be regarded as an indication of age, as the square character had begun

at least a century before Christ (Driver,’ Samuel,’ p. 21.).   This leaves but

little time for modifications and blunders of penmanship between this and

the critical date of Daniel. The latter clause of this verse shows us another

variation between the Massoretic text and that lying behind the Septuagint.

The Massoretic recension is well represented in the Authorized Version.

Therefore show me the dream, and the interpretation thereof. The version

of the Septuagint indicates a different reading, and has a different point,

“Declare to me the dream, and judge.” According to the Massoretic

reading, the king merely repeats his demands, the only reference to the

preceding promises and threatenings being in the conjunction ˆhel; (lahen),

“therefore.” Whereas the main reference of the clause, according to the

Septuagint, is to the immediately preceding promises, “Show me the

dream, and judge if I will do as I have said.” Another supposition possible

is that there has been a transposition. In the very next verse חְוָה (hevah) is

represented by κρίνω – krino -  in that case it may mean “interpret,” the

rendering then would be, “Show me the dream and interpret,” and

represent some part of the verb פשר, only there is the awkwardness of

using the same word as equivalent to two different Aramaic words in

contiguous verses. The difference is not of great importance; the king is

eager to get the magicians to tell him his dream and its interpretation, but,

having commenced the experiment as to their powers, he will not allow

himself to be driven from it. Before leaving this verse, we must note the

presence of certain signs of old date in the Aramaic of the passage. First,

the word hen, “if,” is not used in the Targums; it is not in Levy’s

Dictionary; neither Gesenius nor Furst gives any non-Biblical reference for

the use of the word In the same way, its derivative לָהֵן; (lahen),

“therefore,” is equally peculiar to Biblical Aramaic. Particles are good

notes of age, as they are less liable to change than nouns substantive.


7 “They answered again and said, Let the king tell his servants

the dream, and we will show the interpretation of it.” The Septuagint

Version here is, “And they answered the second time, saying, O king, tell

the dream, and thy servants will judge of these things.” Theodotion, the

Peshitta, and the Vulgate agree with the Massoretic. The wise men are

unable to satisfy the king’s demands. Ewald comments on the fact that

none of them had the inventiveness to make up a dream, and tell the king

that had been his dream. He admits himself that there might have been risk

of the king discovering the deception, if no flash of reviving memory in his

mind answered to their invention. On our hypothesis that the king had not

forgotten his dream, but was testing their powers, it was not only in the

highest degree hazardous, but it was certain of failure. They must have

known the case to be as we imagine it, or, when they were sentenced to

death, they would have run the hazard, on the plea, “If we perish, we

perish.” There was a chance, though a faint one, of success in the attempt

to palm off upon the king their own imaginings for his dream; there was a

certainty of death if they did nothing. All they can do, however, is simply

to repeat what they before said, “Tell us the dream, and we will find the

interpretation of it.” Nebuchadnezzar has often been denounced as

specially foolish and tyrannical on account of this demand which he made

of the wise men; but tyrannical though he was, and foolish though he seems

at times, looked at from our elevation, this demand of his is not an example

either of his folly or his tyranny. These soothsayers enjoyed great honor

and great revenues, on the assumption that they possessed certain powers

of foreseeing the future. He demands of them, instead of an enigmatical

statement of what was coming on the earth, that they tell him what he had

dreamed. They professed to be able to discover thefts, and where stolen

property was; they professed to point out men who were devising evil

against another. If their claims were true, they could surely tell the king his

dream. They were thus employed and honored in order that they should

foretell to the king any fortune, good or bad, impending himself or the

nation. His dream presumably foretold the future; they affirmed that they

knew the future; they surely might tell the king what prophecy was made to

him in his dream. Believing in the reality of their powers with all the faith

of a fanatic, their refusal could only mean to him treason. They did not tell

him his dream, not because they could not, but because they would not, in

order that the disaster — for such he would be sure the dream portended

— might not be averted by timely sacrifices. If the elaborate treatises on

magic and divination which have come to us, so far as has been discovered,

only in fragments, were complete, it is not impossible that we might be able

to tell what interpretation these wise men would have put on the dream,

had they been told it. It would be a curious exercise, for certainly Daniel’s

interpretation would not be the result. We must return to the versions for a

little, in one respect the Septuagint is closer to the Massoretic than

Theodotion, by having λέγοντες – legontes – said  - the participle, instead

of εϊπαν – eipan – said.   We  direct attention to this, with a view to the

phenomenon we find in the succeeding clause. The Septuagint rendering is

given above. The most noticeable thing which the reader will find about this

rendering is the change of person in the last clause. As it stands in the Massoretic

text, it is certainly the first person plural Imperfect pael of חוה but in Syriac the

preformative נ was the sign of the third person in the imperfect, as well as

of the first person plural; hence, if there were a little uncertainty as to the

end of the word, it was an easy mistake to one who was reading from a

manuscript in Eastern Aramaic, but an impossible one for a scribe

translating from a manuscript written in Chaldee, or Western Aramaic. It

cannot be urged plausibly that the change might simply result from a free

translation, for the slavish accuracy of the rest of the verse precludes that

escape. As the reading of the Greek is confirmed by the version of Paulus

Tel-lensis, the probability is slight of a various reading. This is another

evidence that Daniel was originally written in Eastern, not Western

Aramaic. It may be observed that while in the Massoretic text the verb

“tell” (yemar) is put in the imperfect, in the Septuagint it is translated as

if it were. imperative. The difference between the third person imperfect

and the second person imperative is the presence, in the case of the former,

of the preformative y (י), which is absent in the other. That is a thing that

might easily happen, that, (yodh) might be dropped or inserted mistakenly;

consequently, this affords no evidence that the Septuagint translator took

liberties with his text. The question may be put, how far these soothsayers

knew they were impostors. Most likely they were unconscious of anything

approaching imposition. We know the elaborate rules by which they

determined the exact meaning of every sign and portent. We know how

prone men are to supplement such rules by a native faculty for foreseeing

what is likely to happen, and how, further, explanations may be devised to

save the credit of these canons of interpretation, even when most

hopelessly proved to be false by events. Archdeacon Rose appeals to

modern spiritualists as examples in point, regarding both the Chaldean

soothsayers and modern spiritualists as equally impostors. We feel inclined

to regard them as so far alike in this — that most of both classes imposed

most on themselves. The presence of these false prophets is an evidence of

the existence of the true prophets at some time, at all events; there would

be no counterfeit coin were there no genuine money.


8 “The king answered and said, I know of certainty that ye

would gain the time, because ye see the thing is gone from me.” The

versions here do not differ in any essential point. The king now becomes

certain of the treasonable purpose of the soothsayers. The word zeban

means not so much “gain” as “purchase,” “barter.” To the king the

meaning of their obstinate refusal to submit to his requirements is that they

know that some great advantage may be gained by the king, or some great

disaster forefended (prevent from happening), if he only knows the meaning of

this dream, and that if the king does not submit to them and yield up his decree,

and, putting his pride under his feet, tell them the dream, the time when its

revelation may be taken advantage of may be passed. In these matters everything

was supposed to depend on the thing to be done being done precisely at the

right conjunction of the planets. His last utterance seems almost to rise to

agony, “Because ye see the thing is fixed away from me!” We have the

same word (azda) translated here, as in the fifth verse, “gone.” As we saw

above, its real meaning is rather “fixed,” “settled,” “determined.” His

decree had gone out, and he would not — nay, so strongly had he willed at

that it was as if he could not — alter his decision. It has been regarded as

bearing on this passage that Paul (Ephesians 5:16) uses the same

word as that by which the Greek versions translate zeban, “redeeming the

time, because the days are evil.” The meaning of the apostle is to some

extent in contrast to that here. Believers are, as it were, to purchase the

time from the evil days. Nebuchadnezzar thought the astrologers were, as

it were, meaning by their delays to buy the auspicious moment for the

kingdom from under his feet. It is a mistaken idea that he thought they

merely wished to gain time. It would I seem, from what we read further of

his treatment of Daniel’s request for time, that, had they merely asked for

time, Nebuchadnezzar would have granted their request. He had staked his

faith in their ability to unfold any mystery on this one test, and they seemed

to him obstinately to refuse to submit to it. To believe them unable to

reveal the truth that he wished, would be to overturn all the fabric of his

faith in the religion of his fathers; therefore, with all the strength of a

strong man and all the blind faith of a fanatic, he will not acknowledge the

inability of the soothsayers to tell him his dream; it must be obstinacy, he

thinks, that prevents the soothsayers telling him, and that obstinacy must

have a sinister purpose. There is a clause in the Septuagint completing this

verse, but it is not parallel with any clause in the Massoretic text: “Then

just as I have ordered, thus shall it be.” This probably is an alternative

rendering. Azda is taken in what is now regarded as its meaning — “that

which is fixed,” or “decreed,” in which case this final clause might be

rendered, “What is fixed from me is a decree;” and of this the above

mentioned clause is a somewhat free rendering. This interpretation of the

clause confirms our view of the situation.


9 “But if ye will not make known unto me the dream, there is but one decree

for you:  for ye have prepared lying and corrupt words to speak before me,

till the time be changed:  therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that

ye can shew me the interpretation thereof.”  The words translated (di hen)

“but it’  have caused some difference, most translating as if the first word were

not present. This is the rendering of the Septuagint. Theodotion and Jerome

render the first word, which is really the relative, as “therefore,” ergo,

οϋν – oun - then. The Peshitta has den, the corresponding Syriac phrase, which

has a similar sense to that assumed here. The rendering of the next clause,

both in the Septuagint and in the version of Theodotion, differs

considerably from the Massoretic text. The rendering of the Septuagint is

as follows: “If ye do not truly tell me the dream, and show me the

interpretation, ye shall die.” The version of Theodotion is shorter, “It, then,

ye will not tell me the dream.” Theodotion thus omits the clause translated,

“there is but one decree for you;” the only word that may be the remains of

it is οϊδα – oida - ידעת, or simply the participle, The Syriac is, “If ye will not

declare the dream to me, one is your plan and your word.” The text of the

Septuagint in this case indicates that we have here additions from previous

verses. The phrase, “and declare to me the interpretation,” is evidently

supplied from v. 5, whereas “ye shall die.” literally, “ye shall chance to

(fall into) death,” has a different origin. This phrase has all the appearance

of a translation. It would seem applicable on the idea that in the text before

the Septuagint translator, instead of ˆ דתכון (datheon), “your decree,” there

stood מתכון (motheon), “your death,” the ו (vav) being omitted, and

possibly the preposition בְ  (be), and milch being read into some part of

nephal, “to fall,” probably תִּפּלוּן  (tippelun). The omission of this clause,

as above mentioned, from Theodotion renders it a little doubtful, as it

indicates that in the text used by the Jews of Asia Minor this phrase was

wanting. Most commentators take dath in the sense more common in

Eastern than in Western Aramaic, of “pica” rather than “decree” Ewald and

Professor Bevan oppose this view, as also Keil, the last with great

positiveness. The facts that so many commentators give this meaning, and

that certain Rabbinic authorities referred to but not named by Jephet-ibn-

Ali prove it to be no impossible translation. Hitzig, Von Lengerke, Maurer,

Michaelis, and Moses Stuart are not quite despicable. The main reason

against this view is that in Western Aramaic dath means “decree,” in

Eastern Aramaic it means, according to Castell, scopus, meta, finis,

voluntas. The only difficulty is that he gives no reference, and Brockelmann

gives only lex, which in this case it cannot be, though this is the only

reference beside Hoffmann’s ‘Glossary.’ It might be an individual “decree,”

but a “law” it cannot be. On the received renderings the succession is

somewhat violent. “If ye will not tell me the dream, one is your decree,”

can only be made consecutive by a violent jerk away back to the fifth verse.

It seems more natural to take it as meaning, “Ye have agreed together to

say one thing to me.” The accusation of conspiracy naturally followed from

the king’s firm conviction that the soothsayers could tell, if they only

would, what he required of them. If there began to dawn upon him any

idea that their silence was due to inability to answer, it might well move

him to redoubled anger that they had been guilty of imposture in claiming

such lofty powers and being so highly paid and honored for their exercise.

The king’s mind had not yet abandoned the faith of his fathers in magic and

divination. For ye have prepared lying and corrupt words to speak before

me. If the Septuagint is to be taken as our guide, the word shheethah is a

doubtful addition to the Massoretic text It is, however, in the other later

versions. According to the rendering of both the Greek versions, the

meaning here is stronger than that which is expressed in the Authorized

Version; hizdaminton really means “to conspire.” He will not admit the

plea of inability to satisfy his demands — the vague suspicion may be

floating before his mind — as, if he were to admit their inability to satisfy

what he wished to learn, then, according to his logic, all their claims were

false. Hence the accusation of “lying and corrupt words” would still stand,

and have all the greater emphasis. Waiving the question of the authenticity

of “corrupt,” the distinction between the two words “lying” and “corrupt”

seems to be in this: the first refers to the person addressed — to

Nebuchadnezzar, — the words are untrue, they are lies — as coming from

the soothsayers they are “corrupt,” because they are symptomatic of a

corrupt disposition, probably traitorous. Till the time be changed.

Theodotion renders here. “till the time be passed.” The Septuagint follows

a similar reading to that in the Massoretic text. The Peshitta rendering is

akin to that of Theodotion. While in all forms of magic and soothsaying,

time was an element not to be neglected, it was doubly important in regard

to astrology, and an hour or two changed the position of the moon in

relation to the constellations. If something required to be done in

consequence of this dream, then most likely it would require to be done in

a certain relation of the heavenly bodies to each other. Therefore tell me

the dream, and I shall know that ye can show me the interpretation thereof.

The Septuagint rendering is paraphrastic, “Now then, if ye tell me the thing

which I saw in the night, I shall know that ye can also show the

interpretation.” While we have called it a paraphrase as regards the

Massoretic text, the rendering in the Septuagint may represent the

Egyptian recension of the text of Daniel. The use of ῤῆμα – hraema – word -

or “thing” suggests translation, and assumes millah or milltha, which has the

same double suggestion of “word spoken” and“thing spoken about.” If the

Septuagint text were assumed here, we should have confirmation of our

view that Nebuchadnezzar remembered his vision, but was determined to

experiment on the soothsayers of his court. This view is certainly implied in

the following clause. The first word of this clause is peculiar

grammatically: אִנְדַּע (‘inda) instead of אידע (‘iyda) or אִדַּע  (‘idda).

This form of compensating for a dropped consonant by inserting נ (nun)

instead of doubling occurs elsewhere in Biblical Aramaic (see v. 30). This

is rare in Syriac, and in the Targums found only in those later, especially

those of the Megilloth, which have affinities with the form of Aramaic seen

in the Babylonian Talmud. This peculiarity is common in the Maudaitic

dialect. It is thus a distinctively Eastern form of Aramaic that is indicated

here. When we pass beyond the grammatical elements, we find that

Nebuchadnezzar would take correct information as to what he had

dreamed a guarantee of the correctness of the interpretation of the dream

which the soothsayers might afterwards give him. His attitude was purely

and truly scientific, as it is stated. In his own mind he was warped and

confused by his overmastering belief in omens and auguries, in gods and

demons, in magicians and astrologers. With this faith in his heart, his only

explanation of the silence of these soothsayers was treason.


10 “The Chaldeans answered before the king, and said, There

is not a man upon the earth that can show the king’s matter:

therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at

any magician, astrologer, or Chaldean.” It is to be noted, in the first

place, that we have the same Syriac form of כַּשְׂדָיֵא. This seems to us a

survival from an earlier condition of the text, when the Syriac forms were

predominant, if not universal, in it. Scribes accustomed to speak and write

in Chaldee would naturally harmonize the text to the language they were

accustomed to use. The word “saying” (“and said,” Authorized Version) is

omitted from the. Septuagint, but it is found in all other versions: its

omission in the Septuagint may have been due to error — the Aramaic is

not complete without it. לָא־אִתַי ; (la-itha), “there is not.” The ordinary

Targumic and Talmudic usage is לַיִת (layith), “is not.” one word. This full

way of writing this negative form is an undeniable proof of antiquity.

Neither Levy nor Castell gives any example of the full writing which is the

regular practice in Biblical Aramaic. Merx, ‘Chrestomath. Targ.,’ 168, 225,

also gives only לית.  As a rule, the fuller a form is, the older it is. Earth;

literally, dry groined- the same word as is used in the Targum of Genesis 1:9,

“Let the dry land appear,” but not the usual word for “the world.”

Theodotion, in accordance, translates ξηρᾶς - xaerus – dry land -  the Septuagint

renders merely, ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς – epi taes gaes – on the earth - The Peshitta has

<ARAMAIC> (ara). The kings matter   (mil-lath malea); literally, the kings word,

which, consequently, Theodotion translates ῤῆμα (reveal).  The Septuagint renders

“to tell the king that which he has seen.” It is evident that he read milbdh, as if

derived from melal, “to speak,” as lemallala. The rendering, “that which he has seen,”

is due to reading ל (l) into ד  (d); the verb heva was read heza, and then the change

in meaning becomes intelligible. Therefore there is no king, lord, nor

ruler. The mote natural interpretation of the Aramaic is, “There is no king

great and powerful.” Some have regarded ral, ushlat as a title of the King

of Babylon, but this does not seem to be borne out by inscriptions. The

sense is rather that of the marginal rendering, “There is no king be he

never so great and powerful.” Theodotion has this reading. The

Septuagint renders, “no king and no ruler (πᾶς βασιλεὺς καὶ πᾶς δυνάστης...οὐκ

 pas basileus kai pas dunastaes…ouk – no king or ruler),” reading כול (eol) for

רב (rab). The Peshitta follows  the Massoretic closely here. In this connection,

it may be observed, שליט (shaleet) is not frequent in the Targums, but it occurs in

the Peshitta. That asked such things. Kidnah, “like this.” This form of the

demonstration, ending with ה (h), instead of א, is regarded as older than the Targumic

form. Theodotion inserts ῤῆμα  (reveal) here. At any magician, or astrologer, or

Chaldean. The first thing that strikes the reader of the Aramaic, and for

that matter the other versions, is the omission of one of the classes of

soothsayers — that called “sorcerers” in our Authorized Version. We saw

that, according to the Septuagint, the” Chaldeans” were not a separate

college of augurs or soothsayers. When we look attentively at the Aramaic,

the reason of the presence of “Chaldeans” here, and the absence of

“sorcerers” becomes probable. In the first place, כשדיא is written without

the א, as singular. When so written, its resemblance to מְכַשֵׁפ (mekashshaph)

suggests the question whether there might not be,

occupying this place, an Aramaic noun equivalent to ashshaph, which we

see is really Assyrian, and, interpreting it we find mekashshaph put thus

after ashshaph elsewhere, but omitted here. The solution of’ the omission

of mekashshaph is the likeness the latter part of the word bears to Kusdt,

especially in the script of Egypt, in which k and a were very like each

other. These assembled wise men protest against the test to which the king

would put them as essentially unfair. They had been trained to divine the

future from dreams, but never to find out dreams by what they had learned

from their arts the future would be; and in proof of this they urge that no

king, however great, had made such a demand of any astrologer or

soothsayer. Nay, they go further, and say that no man upon the earth is

able to tell the king what he wishes. They endeavor to make the king see

that what he asks is an impossibility.


11 “And it is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there  is none other

that can shew it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not

with flesh.”  And it is a rare thing that the king requireth.   The

Septuagint Version of this passage is, “The thing which thou requirest, O

king, is hard and strange.” The last two words are most likely a case of

doublet — two different renderings of the same Aramaic wind, yakkirah.

The primary meaning of this word is “heavy,” and by transference it

becomes “difficult,” and then, “strange” or “rare.” There may have been a

slight difference of reading to account for the sentence taking the vocative

term it does. It may be due to reading הדר instead of אחר  in the following

clause. Theodotion agrees with the Massoretic text. and translates yakkirah,

βαρύς – barus – grievous; heavy. The Peshitta does not differ

here from the Massoretic text. The soothsayers still pursue their line of defense,

which they had adopted in the preceding verse. The king cannot get the answer he

demands — his demand is so difficult and strange. And there is none other

that can show it before the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not

with flesh. The Septuagint rendering (differs somewhat, though slightly,

from the Massoretic text: “And there is no one who will show these things

to the king, unless some (τις – tis - some) angel, whose dwelling is not at all with

flesh.” The omission of ahoran, “other,” gives some slight confirmation of

the suggestion that ἐπίδοξος – epidoxos - strange; peculiar -  represents it. It is

very characteristic of the time when the Septuagint translation was made,

and of the opinions then current, that the, word  אלחין (elohin), “gods,”

should be rendered ἄγγελος – aggelos - angels; messengers.  By this time there

was an avoidance of the use of the Divine name, and anything that suggested it;

further, there was an avoidance of the names of heathen deities. The same feeling

that makes the historian of the Book of Samuel represent (I Samuel 29:6)

Achish swearing by Jehovah rather than by his own gods, as would

certainly be the case, makes the translator here represent the soothsayers

referring to “angels.” The idea of angels of the nations, which we find later

in this book, was generally adopted by the Jews in Egypt (as e.g.

Deuteronomy 32:8,  Septuagint). A question has been raised here as to

whether the statement, “whose dwelling is not with flesh,” is to be

regarded as distinguishing all gods from human beings, or as distinguishing

certain of the higher gods from the others. There is one thing certain — that the

soothsayers and interpreters of dreams and auguries believed, or, at all

events, pretended they believed, themselves each under the guidance of a

special genius or subordinate god. Such a god had his dwelling with flesh

— that is to say, with humanity; but there were in their pantheon higher

gods, whose dwelling was not with flesh. In some of the incantations and

magical formulas which Lenormant has collected in his ‘La Magie,’ we find

(p. 21) Selek-Moulou-ki coming to Ea his father for information as to the

causes of disease, etc. Marduk is the Babylonian name for Selek-Moulouki,

and Marduk was the great revealer; but by this his dwelling was with

flesh. As we see, however, there were gods whose dwelling was not with

flesh, who knew secrets hid even from Marduk. This excuse of the wise

men is a preparation for Daniel’s claim to reveal the secret of the king by

the power of a higher God than any that communicated with the

Babylonian soothsayers. We regard it as the providential intervention of God

Himself, that these heathen soothsayers should shelter themselves under an

excuse that forced into clearer light the supremacy of Jehovah. It indicates a

special knowledge of Babylonian worship thus to lay stress on this distinction

between higher and lower gods.


12 “For this cause the king was angry and very furious, and

commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon.”  The Septuagint

rendering differs little in sense from the above, but in words it does

considerably, “Then the king, becoming gloomy and very grieved,

commanded that they lead out all the wise men of Babylonia.” The main

thing to be observed is the softening of the meaning in the hands of the

Septuagint translator. This is so great as to suggest that he read לָהוזָלה;

instead of לְהובָדָה. The aphel of אזל is not used in Chaldee, but is used

in Syriac. Theodotion’s rendering is, “Then the king in anger and wrath

commanded to destroy all the wise meal of Babylon.” The Syriac has a

shade of difference, “Then was the king vehemently enraged, and in great

fury commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon.” It is evident that

Theodotion read בְנַס  (benas), “was angry,” as if it were the preposition ב

and the Syriac noun נַס (has), “anger.” He also must have inserted the

preposition before קְצַפ (qetzaph), “wrath;” in this he is followed by the

Peshitta. The Septuagint is freer in its rendering in this verse, and one

cannot argue anything from it. The probability seems to be that נַס; (nas) is

used as a noun, and that the Targamic verb was formed from the mistake

of a scribe dropping the preposition before קְצַפ (qetzaph). If we are

correct in this, we have an additional evidence that the original language

of Daniel was not Chaldee, but Syriac, or, at all events, Eastern Aramaic.

As a grammatical note, we direct attention to the form לְהובָדָה, where

the א of the root has totally disappeared before the ה of the haphel, the

equivalent in Biblical Aramaic of the Chaldee and Syriac aphel with its

preformative a. Professor Bevan says that this distinction is only a matter

of orthography. Are we to deduce that Professor Bevan has a cockney

disregard for h’s? The writer now drops reference to special classes of wise

men, and names them generally hakeemin. The king is unconvinced of the

truth of these wise men (hakeemin), or rather he is convinced that they are

traitors and deceivers. They are either concealing from him the knowledge

they have, and are, therefore, traitors to him; or the gods have withdrawn

from them, and therefore they must have been untrue to the gods. On both

these grounds Nebuchadnezzar thinks them worthy of death. He at once

issues the decree that all the wise men in the city of Babylon should be

slain. If the Septuagint  reading of v.2 be correct, he had only

summoned the Chaldean wise men. If all the wise men of Babylon were

ordered to be slain, the punishment is extended beyond the offence.

Possibly he argued, “If even my fellow-countrymen, the Chaldeans, are

traitors, much more will the Babylonians be so.” So far as words go, it is

doubtful whether this decree applies to the province of Babylonia, as the

Septuagint translator thinks, or merely to those in the city. But cruel and

furious as was the young conqueror, he was scarcely likely to order the

wholesale massacre of those who, in Sippara and Borsippa, had neither

refused to do what he wished, nor by implication called him an

unreasonable tyrant, as had the wise men in Babylon.


13 “And the decree went forth that the wise men should be

slain; and they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain.” As the Aramaic

stands, it might be translated “And the decree went forth, and the wise men

were being slain;” the ו of co-ordination maybe regarded as here used of

Subordination. Further, the use of the participle for the preterite is not by any

means uncommon in Daniel, certainly mainly in the principal clause, as in v. 5

of the present chapter. Noldeke, in his ‘Syriac Grammar,’ 278a, gives examples

of the passive participle being used as here in the subordinate clause. The

Septuagint is very condensed, but possibly drawn from a similar text, only

such extreme condensation is unlike the translator elsewhere. It is possible

that some part of the פְּקַד (peqad), “to decree,” was used, perhaps the

participle hithpael. It is possible that the verb qetal was in the infinitive.

Theodotion renders, “And the decree went forth, and the wise men were

slain.” This, though a possible translation, does not fit what we find

represented to be the circumstances, as v. 24 seems to assume that the

wise men were not yet destroyed. On the other hand, it would be hardly

possible to imagine the king allowing these wise men who had refused to

answer his question, to go out of his presence in safety and unbound. It

would seem more natural to imagine that they were carried off to prison,

and that all the soothsaying class were intended to be gathered together in

prison, in order that the vengeance of the king might be more appallingly

manifest. The sentence looks at first sight to us as too savage to be true,

but just as savage proofs of vengeance were given by Asshurbanipal. And

they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain. The Septuagint

translation of this clause is somewhat paraphrastic, “And Daniel was

sought for and all those with him in order to be put to death.” The want of

an antecedent to fix the nominative of the verb probably led to the sentence

assuming its present mold; but “all” seems to have no word to occasion it.

Theodotion follows the Massoretic text closely; so also does the Peshitta.

It is clear from this that Daniel and his companions had not been

summoned into the royal presence when the question concerning the dream

was put to the wise men. This would seem to contradict the statement of

ch.1:19, “Therefore stood they” — to wit these Hebrew youths

“before the king.” Their position was probably like those who had passed

the examination for the Indian Civil Service — they are accepted, but they

have still a season of study, and then, after they go out to India, they

occupy only subordinate situations at first. While permitted to enter the

ranks of the soothsayers and astrologers to the court, they were placed at

first only in the lower grades, and would have to rise by degrees, and in

ordinary circumstances a long time would elapse before they would be

summoned into the immediate presence of the sovereign. On the reading of

the Septuagint, Daniel and his friends would not, because they were Jews, and

not Chaldeans. One has only to turn to the Talumdic tales to see how

unlike this reasonable position is to the ordinary Jewish fictitious narrative.

The Book of Daniel is not nearly prodigal enough in wonders to be a

representative of the Jewish Midrash. It is further clear that the decree of

the king went beyond those who had actually been in his council-chamber

on that memorable day. The idea of the king probably was that the treason

which he had found in the heads of the various classes of Chaldean

soothsayers would have permeated all the members. Babylonian and

foreign, as well; therefore he orders them all to suffer a common fate.

Wieseler’s hypothesis, that this event took place close to the end of the

three years of study which had been assigned to these youths, would suit

the statement of events which we find here; although it is not necessary, yet

on this assumption, the succession of events as narrated in this chapter

becomes perfectly natural.




                                    The Revelation Lost (vs. 1-13)


“My spirit was troubled to know the dream” (v. 3). Since the word “and,” at the

beginning of this chapter, links it with ch. 1:21, i.e. Daniel’s public life with Daniel’s

preparation, it may be well here to notice what his preparation had been.


1. At home, and the associations of Jerusalem.

2. Knowledge of previous revelations (see ch. 9:2).

3. Moral victory at a crisis of history.

4. Experience of life at one of its great centers — Babylon — the



As indicating the difference between Ezekiel’s standpoint and that of

Daniel, note Ezekiel dates from the years of the Captivity — for him, in

comparative obscurity, the years dragged on wearily — Daniel, by the

reigns of kings in whose court he was. Daniel’s experience grew with the

years, and he became increasingly fit to receive political revelations —

revelations as to the rise and fall of empires.


·         THE DISCREPANCY. Between ch.1:5 and ch. 2:1.

Occasion might well be taken from this to insist upon one or two

wholesome truths in reference to Biblical interpretation.


1. The discrepancy looks at first sight glaring enough; i.e. as to the dates.

Still, with our idea of the sacred writings, we should be justified in



2. That some explanation would be forthcoming, if we knew all the facts.

Of the propriety of this assumption, we shall have a striking illustration in

the recent clearing up of’ the special critical difficulty of ch. 5.


3. One might fairly conclude that Daniel is quite as reliable an historian

as any other author.


4. The seeming discrepancy is clear evidence that Daniel, and none other,

is the writer; for these two dates would never have been admitted in a form

apparently contradictory, coming so close to each other as to challenge

attention, if the author had been an impostor. Daniel writes

straightforwardly the truth, unconscious of the possible misconstruction of

his words. This unguardedness of style is a sure sign of the credibility of a

living witness, and of the genuineness of any book.


5. There are several explanations forthcoming, one specially credible (see



6. Our feeling in relation to discrepancies real or apparent, will doped

entirely on our moral attitude in relation to revelation. The believer will

treat them lightly; the captious and unbelieving will make the very most of

.them (see Alford on receipt of one of Colenso’s volumes, in ‘Alford’s



·         THE PREPARATION. There were subjective conditions of the dream

which argue a certain nobility in Nebuchadnezzar. Dreams grow out of

waking thought; and, though this dream was supernatural, we may well

believe it was naturally conditioned. The mood of the king created a certain

receptivity for Divine revelation (v. 29).


1. The cares of empire weighted his soul.

2. His mind projected itself into the far future. (v. 29.)

3. Thoughts of present responsibility and visions of the future were entertained.

To all, such high thoughts come at some time or other; but not all

entertain them. We may drown them in frivolity, or quench them by

intoxication. When God comes to a soul with thoughts worthy of its

nature, it is for the soul to open wide its portals and let the glory in. About

this young conqueror there was a certain grasp and elevation of mind.


·         THE DREAM. Here, at present, we ignore its contents; we are

supposed, indeed, not to know it: and consider only generally whether, and

to what extent, the dream may become the article of Divine

communications to man. In a complete, discussion, we should have to cite

the following testimonies: Those of:


1. Psychology. The nature and origin of dreams should be elucidated, with

the view to a just estimate of the testimonies which follow. Sufficient wilt

be found for homiletic purposes in Dr. Smith’s ‘Bible Dict.,’ art. “Dreams.”


2. Scripture. These inductions seem valid:


(1) “That Scripture claims the dream, as it does every other action of the

human mind, as a medium through which God may speak to man!

(2) “That it lays far greater stress on that Divine influence by which the

understanding also is affected.” In dream, the imagination is in the

ascendant; the reason, dormant.

(3) That dream as a medium of Divine communication is inferior to


(4) That dreams, therefore, were granted:

(a) To the heathen rather than to the covenant people of God.

(b) To the latter only during their earliest and most imperfect individual

knowledge of Him.

(c) Only in the earliest ages, and less frequently as the revelations of

prophecy increase.

(d) Almost invariably require an interpreter. These last four points are all

illustrated by the dreams in the Book of Daniel.


3. Experience. The reference here is to that modern experience, of which

we may be either the subjects or the observers. Even in a Christian

civilization like ours, the superstitious regard fur dreams is so common,

that the following truths may well be insisted on:


(1) That dreams should never for us stand in the place of revelation.

(2) Should be disregarded entirely, when contravening the truth “as it is in


(3) That God may see fit by dream to prepare the mind for the future.

(4) That there seems well-authenticated instances in which the coming

event has been imaged in dream. Surely he who made the soul can have

access to it by night or by day, directly or mediately, as He will in the

application of these truths to our own life, the greatest spiritual wisdom

will be necessary.


·         THE SEARCH. We do not agree with Keil, that the king remembered

the dream, and was intent on testing the value of the interpretation by

making the interpreter tell also the dream itself; nor with the reasons he

assigns for that interpretation. We believe that the dream was gone from

memory, yet leaving behind such an impression that the king would

recognize it on its being described, and also leaving behind an idea of its

tremendous import, and a conviction that its origin was Divine. Here note:


1. The mission of oblivion. “God sometimes serves His own purposes by

putting things out of men’s minds, as well as by putting things into their

minds.” By the king’s forgetfulness Daniel came to be honored, and in

him the God of Daniel.


2. The adaptation of Divine revelations. From ch.2:4 to 8:28 the

language of the book is Chaldee; as though God would throw open the

revelation through Daniel to the people of Babylonia as well as to the Jew.

After ch. 8. the language reverts to Hebrew, for the communications are

then chiefly for Israel. This adaptation one instance of what obtains



3. The infirmities of even noble minds. There were many elements of

greatness about Nebuchadnezzar; but all shaded by:


(1) Superstition. Seeking for light where no light could be found — from

the magi of various grades.

(2) Unreason. Demanding both dream and interpretation. A certain sort of

wisdom might interpret; but only the omniscience of God could recover the


(3) Cruelly. Many instances besides that in this chapter.


·         THE FAILURE. (v. 11.) Observe:


1. The error into which exalted intellect may fall. “Gods” imply



2. The truth which may shine through error. The magi were aware:


(1) Of the omniscience that is essential to Deity.

(2) Of the limitation that belongs to the creature. The flesh is a veil that

hides from us much of the spirit-world.


·         THE DOOM. Cruel as was the edict on the part of the king, there

was, nevertheless, a sort of rough justice on the part of God’s natural

government of the world, in consigning to punishment the practicers of

imposition and traders on the superstitious fear, of men. “They sought

Daniel and his fellows to be slainsuggests how oft the innocent are

caught in the consequences of the sin of others.




                        The Failure and Discomfiture of Falsehood (vs. 1-13)


As every drop of water on the surface of the hills has a tendency to flow

towards the ocean, as every step of the racer moves towards the goal, so

every event in every kingdom points toward the establishment of Messiah’s

empire. The exile of the Jews, though apparently a retrograde movement in

the spiritual machinery; the special education of Daniel and his

companions; the heathen monarch’s dream; the discomfiture of the

magicians; — all these, and like events in Babylon, were so many lines of

influence leading on to the advent of Messiah. God is no respecter of

persons, no respecter of places, and if there be a more pliant disposition in

the King of Babylon than in the King of Israel, the God of heaven will

reveal His will to Nebuchadnezzar, and use him in molding public events.

Consciously or unconsciously, all conquerors and all captives are working

out the purposes of the universal Lord.




Ø      For even kings are not exempt from trouble, Yea, their very elevation

exposes them to winds of adversity, from which those escape who dwell

in the sequestered vales of private station. As in nature, so in human life,

there is a marvelous system of compensation. We look at the external

palaces of princes, and are too ready to envy their privileged estate; but

could we look within their breasts, we should be prone chiefly to pity

them. “The sleep of a laboring man is sweet,” but the pillow of royalty

is thickly sown with prickly cares.


Ø      Most probably, outward circumstance combined with inward fear to

produce this ominous dream. By admitting a natural element in human

events, we do not exclude the supernatural. Both elements are under

Divine direction. Everywhere God engrafts the spiritual upon the natural.

The laws and processes of nature and of human life God uses so far as

they serve his particular purpose, and when they fall short of fitness He

introduces the higher element of miracle. If Nebuchadnezzar already

saw the development of military strength in other royal courts, it was

impossible but this knowledge would make a corresponding impression

upon his mind, and it would be wanton blindness on our part to exclude

this from our investigation of the truth. It is equally certain that an

influence from God moved upon the monarch’s mind — arranging (it

may be) the materials of the imagery, impressing his imagination with

the portentous meaning of the vision, and partly effacing the

recollection from his memory.


Ø      With stupendous condescension, God accommodates Himself to the

infancy of the race. He who tempers the wind for the shorn lamb,

simplifies His lessons to the weakness of our understanding. To the

inquiry, “Why should God make known His will to men through dreams?”

it is a sufficient reply that He found this method the most suitable to the

capacity of man in the childhood of his intelligence. During the hours

of sleep, the soul is more free from the disturbance of outward events;

the will does not play so dominant a part over the movements of thought;

the predilections and propensities of the inner man are unveiled. Men

have an intense longing to know the future. We cannot doubt that

the same God who has given us a faculty for acquiring all the past

could have given us a faculty for foreseeing the future. Some potent

reason has prevailed with Him to hang an impenetrable veil over our

untraversed life. Yet some of the grand outlines of the future have

gradually been revealed. Our character forecasts our future fortunes.

Practical obedience to the will of God is the best telescope through

which we may discern our distant weal. Our real destiny

is not wrapped in night. But Nebuchadnezzar was mainly concerned

about his dominion and his dynasty; hence his inward distress produced

by the midnight vision.




Ø      It must be granted that these Babylonian magicians had attained to

knowledge and craft beyond the ordinary attainments of men; but (as is

frequently the case) their knowledge fed their vanity; they imposed on

themselves the belief that this knowledge gave them access to the secrets

of the unseen world, and they sought to impose on others the conviction

that they could foretell coming events. Knowledge does not always ripen

into wisdom — does not always bear the fruits of humility and

truthfulness.  These men were deceivers and self-deceived. They made

a market out of the ambition and fear of kings.


Ø      Inflated conceit. They imagined that their skill was the measure of

universal attainment. Failing themselves to decipher the problem, they

plead, “There’s not a man upon the earth that can show the king’s

matter.”  The usual plea of weakness: “What I cannot do, no one

else can do: let us yield to the inevitable.” This is the sophistry of

modern skeptics, who prefer to style themselves agnostics. Because

they fail to unravel difficulties in nature and in the universe, they rush

to the conclusion that the matter itself is inexplicable. “A little child

shall lead them.”  (Isaiah 11:6)


Ø      A crucial test. The monarch, unreasonable and unscrupulous as he may

seem, brings their boasted knowledge to a real test. Whether these

magicians did or did not accurately interpret dreams or forecast the

future, the king had never known. He had been compelled to take their

pretensions wholly upon trust. The oracular deliverances had been

delightfully ambiguous — were capable of wide significance. No

guarantee had ever been furnished by these magicians of their honesty.

Now a favorable opportunity occurred for testing the skill of these

boasted diviners. If their scientific calculations allowed them to descry

the future, much more should it enable them to read a page of the recent

past, If their popular deities gave them skill to interpret the meaning of

a dream, much easier was it for these deities to give their servants power

to revive in a man’s memory the loss of a dream. If they could not

accomplish the lesser task, it was vain to pretend they could perform

the greater. It was therefore only just that the king should sharply rebuke

them in the words, “Ye have prepared lying and corrupt words to

speak before me.”




Ø      See the violence of carnal passion. Haste and impatience are always

conspicuous signs of weakness. His expectation of escape from mental

disquietude had been awakened by the pretentious arts of these magicians,

and, this expectation having collapsed, disappointment added another

ingredient to his cup of trouble. If he had only given himself time to

recover from this mental disturbance, time to reflect upon his

responsibility as arbiter of human life, time to perceive his own folly

in pandering aforetime to the pretensions of these men, he would

have gained a reputation for wisdom, and have rendered the world

a service by exposing the hypocrisy of sorcerers.


Ø      His verdict was excessively severe. The penalty of death was the

severest he could inflict upon his subjects, and if this penalty was

enforced on every occasion, even when no public injury was done

to the state, he confounded all degrees of crime, and encouraged men,

who had transgressed in lesser matters, to become desperate inflictors

of mischief.  When men know that their offence is trivial compared

with other forms of guilt, and yet have to endure the heaviest sentence

of doom, they will often lend themselves to some desperate project

of vengeance.


Ø      His verdict was indiscriminate, and involved both the righteous and

the wicked. Not content with inflicting capital punishment on the

offenders, he decrees that their “houses shall be made a dunghill.”

By such a vindictive deed, innocent women and young children

would have been plunged into suffering and disgrace for no fault,

and without any advantage to the state. Moreover, the arbitrary decree

required “that all the wise men should be slain.” This included Daniel

and his comrades — yea, all men of intelligence and wisdom, though

they had made no pretence to magical art. By a blind act of ungovernable

passion, the king would have stripped his court of every ornament, and

his government of its best supports. A passionate man usually maims

his own face. Nebuchadnezzar would have defeated his own purpose —

cut off his only chance of having his dream interpreted — if his

vindictive and unscrupulous command had been executed. What vile

deeds have royal hands frequently performed! How does the cry of

innocent blood from a myriad battle-field rise to heaven against them!


14 “Then Daniel answered with counsel and wisdom to Arioch

the captain of the king’s guard, which was gone forth to slay the wise

men of Babylon.” The text here does not seem to have differed much from

the Egyptian recension, the translation of which we have in the Septuagint

Version. “Then Daniel spake with the counsel and knowledge which were

his to Arioch the chief executioner [ἀρχὶ μαγείρῳ – archi mageiro - chief

executioner - chief butcher -  used  by Plutarch for ‘chief cook’] of the king, to

whom it was appointed to lead out the wise men (σοφιστὰς - sophistos) of

Babylonia.” The text before the Septuagint translators seems to have had דילֵה

(deeleh), “which to him,” equivalent to “which he had.” The Septuagint text had

פקד instead of נפק Something may be said for this reading, as the ל of the

succeeding word may have occasioned the disappearance of the ד which might

be regarded as a ל defectively written. Theodotion agrees perfectly with the

Massoretic text. The Peshitta is somewhat of a paraphrase in regard to the first

clause, “Then Daniel pacified and consulted, and said to Arioch the chief of the

king’s guard, who had gone out to slay the wise men of Babylon.” It would

seem as if there had been some confusion of the words here, though the

meaning is not far from that of the other version. The Vulgate Version

differs, “Then Daniel asked about the law and sentence (sentientia) at

Arioch, who had gone forth to slay the wise men of Babylon.” The slate of

matters implied here reveals to us the fact that several links of the story are

wanting. There seems to have been absolute secrecy as to what had taken

place in the royal council-chamber, and how absolute had been the failure

of the Chaldean wise men to satisfy the demands of the king. We could

imagine the strange turmoil that this would have caused in the college of

young cadets of the various guilds of soothsayers and augurs, had it been

announced that these great heads of their various orders had failed. News

may have come of the wrath of the king, and close behind the angry

sentence of extirpation, passed not only on those who had been the

immediate occasions of the king’s wrath, but on all the guilds of wise men

in Babylon. This must have filled those who belonged to the various guilds

implicated, not only with terror, but with amazement. It was next brought

to them that they, though only in the lower stages of these famous guilds,

were doomed to a common destruction with the past masters of the craft.

That this was allowed to reach these subalterns proves that popular opinion

had not gone with the fiery edict of the king. Above all, Arioch, captain “of

the guard” — “of the cut-throats,” as the Spanish translators have rendered

it; “chief butcher,” as both Theodotion and the Septuagint render his title

— acts as if he is not in favor of it. he is compelled to do the king’s

bidding; but he is evidently bent on going about the matter in such a

leisurely fashion that the great body of the condemned may escape. We

may stay to notice that the name Arioch is a genuine Babylonian name, Eri

Aku, “Servant of the moon-god.” Professor Bevan declares it is borrowed

from Genesis 14:1, as his title is from Ibid. ch. 37:36. It is singular

that when the author’s acquaintance with the earlier Scriptures was so full

and accurate, he should drop into the blunders he is accused of. In Genesis

the executioner does not execute anybody; in Daniel he is represented as

engaged in organizing the massacre. Daniel seems not to have waited till

the terrible band of guardsmen-executioners arrived at the college where he

and his friends were living, he goes direct to the chief of the band. The fact

that he is not cut down immediately on his approach seems to argue that

even the common guardsmen shrank from the duty imposed on them. Their

horror and shrinking were perfectly natural. Let us suppose a company in a

regiment of Irish Roman Catholics ordered to shoot down their own

priests, and we may have some idea of the feelings of these soldiers. These

augurs and soothsayers, these astrologers and magicians, had been their

counselors; they had been their intercessors with their deities. If they were

all slaughtered, would not the sheer blank in their own lives be immense?

There would be no one now to tell them, however falsely, of the future: no

one to tell them what to do to propitiate the gods. But more, the gods

might well be supposed to be enraged by the slaughter of so many of their

special servants, and might be expected to pour down vengeance on the

whole nation as well as on the king who had commanded it, but most of all

on those who, under whatever compulsion, raised their sacrilegious hands

against the priests of the holy gods. It is even not improbable that, once the

immediate paroxysm of his fury had passed, Nebuchadnezzar would be

appalled at what he had himself ordered, and would connive at delay, in the

hope that, though late, these wise men might come to reason and tell him

what he wished. Daniel seems to find no difficulty in gaining access to the

presence of Arioch. There are men who have a magnetic power over their

fellows, and bend every one to their way, and still gain their affection. And

Daniel seems pre-eminently to have been a man of this type. Personal good

looks and suave manners had their own share, but something more was

needed to carry a condemned man through the ranks of guards right into

the presence of their chief. This is made all the more striking when we bear

in mind that preparations were being made for the great massacre.


15 “He answered and said to Arioch the king’s captain, Why is

the decree so hasty from the king? Then Arioch made the thing

known to Daniel.” The opening clause in this verse is doubtful. In the

Septuagint the verse is rendered, “And he asked him saying, Ruler, why is

it decreed so bitterly by the king? And he showed him the warrant.”

Theodotion is yet briefer, “Ruler of the king, why has so harsh a sentence

come forth from the king? And he declared (ἐγνώρισεegnorise ) to him

his orders.”  But briefest of all is the Peshitta. It begins at once without any

address, “Why is this harsh decree from the king? And Arioch showed the

matter (miltha) to Daniel.” As a rule, the shorter a reading is the better it is.

Therefore we are inclined to prefer the Peshitta rendering. “Answered and

said” is a formula that might easily be stuck in where anything of the kind

seemed needed. Here it is not suitable, as Daniel is already said to have

“answered Arioch with counsel and prudence.” The addition of the

Septuagint is more reasonable, “He asked him saying, Ruler.” Theodotion

feels some title is necessary, so he calls Arioch “ruler of the king.” It

appears to us that the brief Peshitta represents the best text. Hasty

repesents to some extent, though not fully, the element of blame implied in

the word mehahetzpah in greater degree than our English word would

indicate. It means” rough,” “raging,” “shameless;” it might be too strong to

say that “scandalous” represents Daniel’s meaning. Some commentators

cannot imagine a man thus criticizing a royal decree to one of the court

officials. Much, however, is permitted to a man speaking about a decree

which has condemned him to death without his having an opportunity to

defend himself It is possible that he might be able to use all the more

freedom by seeing that Arioch had no favor for the business to which he

was ordered. The Greek versions represent that Arioch showed the

warrant, the king’s order for the execution. As that would not be

considered an answer to Daniel’s question, on the one hand, so on the

other, it would not be an occasion for the step Daniel immediately

thereafter took. We think, on the whole, that the Massoretic reading

amended here by the Peshitta is the better. As leader of the royal

bodyguard, the place of Arioch would be beside Nebuchadnezzar, even in

the council-chamber. He would thus be quite cognizant of everything that

took place the demands of the king, the arguments of the wise men. All this

scene he could portray for the information of Daniel. The mere exhibition

of a warrant would tell nothing more than the fact that the action of Arioch

was in obedience to orders.


16 “Then Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he

would give him time, and that he would show the king the

interpretation.”  The version of Theodotion omits all mention of Daniel’s

going into the palace, “And Daniel petitioned the king that he should give

him time, and he would tell his interpretation to the king.” The rendering of

the Peshitta agrees with this, “And Daniel petitioned the king for time, and

he would show the interpretation to the king.” The version of the

Septuagint is longer, “And Daniel went in quickly to the king, and

petitioned that time should be given him from the king, and he would show

all things to the king.” Jerome gives a rendering of the Massoretic text in

Latin condensation. The question of reading here is of some importance in

the light of the apparent contradiction implied in the twenty-fifth verse.

There Arioch declares that he “had found a man of the captives of Judah,

that will make known unto the king the interpretation” as if

Nebuchadnezzar had never seen him before, whereas, if the Massoretic

recension is correct, Nebuchadnezzar had seen Daniel but a little while

before. According to the reading of Theodotion and the Peshitta, Daniel

petitioned the king for time, but that petition does not imply necessarily

that he was admitted into the king’s presence; the petition would pass

through court officials, and reach the king in due course. We may note the

ease with which he granted this request, and look upon it as confirmatory

of our notion that the king, now that his rage had gone down, repented of

his harsh decree, and was hoping against hope that the catastrophe would

be averted. The only other explanation that would save the authenticity of

both passages is that Daniel’s entrance into the palace and his petition to

the king happened without Arioch being aware. The most natural

explanation of Arioch’s conduct in postponing the execution of the royal

decree is that the postponement was during the interval the petition for

time was being presented, but still not decided on. This seems not unlikely.

Of course, it is always open to us to declare the verses from this to the

twenty-fourth inclusive an interpolation; Daniel has suffered so much from

this, that an additional case has no prima facie probability against it.

Moreover, the prayer or hymn has strong resemblance to the prayer of

Azarias, which is acknowledged to be an interpolation. Still, one ought to

be slow to cut a knot in this way, unless there is some clear ground of

suspicion. It may be observed also that the Massoretic text does not

necessarily assert entrance into the palace or into the king’s presence.

Certainly עֲלַל: (‘alal) means “entered,” and in the connection this would

suggest the palace as the place entered, but it may have been the house of

Arioch, though this is not likely. We have no means of knowing whether

any others of those implicated in the sentence of the king petitioned also

for time. Not impossibly they did. The king, who was so suspicious that the

wise men wished to delay till the auspicious time was passed, is willing to

grant time when it is asked. This is explicable on the idea that

Nebuchadnezzar was anxious to be delivered from the horrible slaughter

which his decree involved. Another thing to be observed is that in the

Massoretic text, Theodotion, and the Peshitta, there is no word of the

dream being told. Of course, this interpretation implied a knowledge of the

dream also, but it would appear to be another evidence that the king was

relenting, when a petition that omitted the crucial point of the question

between him and the wise men should be granted without difficulty. We are

not told the amount of time requested, the word used, ˆ זְמָן (zeman), is, “a

fixed time,” from זְמַן “to determine.” It occurs again frequently in Daniel,

as in v. 21. It is generally of a fixed point of time, but sometimes, as

ch.7:12, their lives were prolonged for a season (ˆזְמָן). There being

only one instance among the other passages where this word occurs, in

which it means a space of time, we are inclined to think that here Daniel

petitioned that a time be appointed him when he too should have an

audience of the king in regard to the matter of the dream, as the other wise

men had. There certainly is implied a space of time in this request. The

space must have involved at least twenty-four hours, as the matter is

revealed to Daniel in “a night vision.” It is unlikely it would be much

longer, for fear the planetary collocation would change — certainly not

more than a week. Tertullian (‘Adv. Psychicos,’ 7) says, “Daniel Deo

fidens… spatium tridui poslulat.  We learn from what follows that Daniel

acted tamely from his general faith in God, and was confident that God

would not suffer his saints to be destroyed causelessly, it is noted by Calvin

that Daniel does not tell the king the reasons of his confidence. A falsarius

would have taken the opportunity of making Daniel declare his confidence

in the God of heaven from the very first. The real Daniel acts as any wise

saint would do, confident that God would do justly, hopeful that he would

reveal to him the secret, yet too careful of the honor of Jehovah to put it

in pledge; he knew God could and would defend His own honor, and His

plan might not involve the saving of their lives.


17 “Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known

to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions.”  There is nothing

in the versions that calls for remark here, save that the Septuagint seems to

have had כֹל “all,” or some such word, instead of milltha. After having

got his petition granted, to all appearance easily, Daniel now proceeds to

his own house. As during the period of their education the four friends had

formed one “mess” in the hall of Nebuchadnezzar, and it is probable had

one table set apart to them, so when in college — if we may use the phrase

— they occupied one apartment or set of apartments. Their life in the

matter of food was simple and abstemious, and it is little likely that they

would require extensive accommodation. Having got the reprieve he had

petitioned for, Daniel now informs his friends of it. We have assumed that

the news of the royal decree had reached the college where, among other

students and soothsayers of as yet lesser grade, Daniel and his friends

abode; in that case, he would merely have to inform them how he had spoke

with Arioch. and how he had further presented a petition to the king for a

time to be set when he should answer the king’s request, and how he got

what he desired. It may, however, have been that Daniel had alone heard

the dreadful news, and then acted so that his companions heard only of the

threatened disaster when they heard of the mode of escape. It is to be

observed, in passing, that the names of the friends are given in the Hebrew,

not in the Babylonian form. Alone with each other, we may imagine they

used the old Hebrew names of their childhood. Now especially would the

sacred tongue be present to their lips and their thoughts when the cloud of

a great danger hung over them. It was as Jews, members of the holy people,

that they could appeal for help and deliverance to Jehovah the God of Israel.


18 “That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven

concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish

with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.” The Septuagint has as close a

connection between the preceding verse and that before us as has the

Massoretie, only it is slightly different in its rendering, “And he told them

to fast and pray [urged them to fasting and prayer], and to seek help from

the Lord the Highest, concerning this mystery, in order that Daniel with his

companions might not be given over to destruction with the wise men of

Babylon.” It is, certainly, possible that the Septuagint translator had a

different reading here. The verb צוּם, “to fast,” in the infinitive, might have

begun the verse. Still there would be the difficulty of finding anything to

correspond to παρήγγειλε – paraeggeile – they would ask. It, however,

was probably added to bring the  sentence into Greek regimen. The Septuagint

translator read the words as nouns in the accusative, and of this case לְ was a

frequent sign. Thus what they had was וּלְבָעוּ לְצומָא. The Hebrew word

corresponding to the Aramaic word here translated “mercies,” ˆ רַחֲמִין (rahamin),

“bowels,” “mercies,” is common enough in Biblical language; but the phrase, “to

desire mercies,” is not found elsewhere in Scripture. It occurs in the later

Targums, as Numbers 12:13, as a paraphrastic addition to the simple

statement of Onkelos, that Moses prayed before the Lord; only in the case

quoted, as generally, the order is not, as here, the object before the verb —

a construction more frequent in Assyrian than in Aramaic, save in poetry.

The phrase is elliptical; the ruling verb is omitted. One is tempted to

wonder whether the word had not originally been לבעון, making it a case

of the Babylonian or Eastern Aramaic, third person plural imperfect; then

the preceding word would be לצומון,, with the vav dropped as

unnecessary, and the mere inserted to make the word a regular infinitive.

Confirmatory of our view is Theodotion, whose rendering, ἐζήτουν – ezaetoun

would ask -  implies that he had a third person plural imperfect here. We do not

maintain that it is necessary that he should have had such a reading, but

there is at least a high probability that he had. The Peshitta reverses the

order of the words, and omits the conjunction vav, and, inserting the

relative l, as sign of subordination, proceeds, “that they entreat mercies

from before God.” Here, also, the third person plural imperfect is used.

From the greater freedom that Jerome allowed himself in his translation,

and from the wide difference between the grammatical construction of a

Latin and an Aramaic sentence, no stress can be laid on the fact that he too

translates by the third plural imperfect — ut quaerrent misericordiam. The

balance of probability is that here we have to do with one of those

indications of the Eastern origin of the Aramaic of Daniel. There is an

instance of doublet in the Septuagint here in the case of the phrase,

τιμωρίαν ζητῆσαι  – timorian zaetsai - to seek succour. Tertullian, in his

reference to this  passage, to which we have referred above (v. 16), adds to

what we quoted above, cum sua fraternitate jejunat, and thus shows that,

though differing somewhat from the Septuagint text as we have it, the

African Latin Version agreed with it in inserting something about “fasting”

here. The God of heaven. This is rendered by the Septuagint here, as generally,

ὕψιστος  - huphistos  - highest; Supreme .  The probability here is that we

have to do with no difference of reading, but rather with an objection to

applying to God a title used for heathen deities. The title has a peculiar

significance in the lips of those who, as Daniel, were educated as astrologers,

and taught by those who regarded the sun, the moon, and the various planets as

deities. Daniel and his fellows might thus believe in astrology, but maintain that

the God of heaven, their God, used heavenly bodies as messengers to proclaim

to those who could read the writing, the things that were coming on the earth.

They might thus even give a certain limited subordinate power to the

deities of Babylon; these deities were the servants of the God of heaven,

who was also the God of Israel. There may be a reference to Jeremiah 10:11.

The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they

shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens. The God of

Israel is called the God of heaven because He has made the heavens. This

title is used before — in Genesis 24:7, where Abraham uses it. It is

characteristic of Biblical Aramaic, that the covenant title of God,

“Jehovah,” is never used.  Before we leave this, we would observe that the

Peshitta inserts ל -  d, the sign of the genitive, before shemayyaa, whereas

the text before us uses the older form of construct state in the word for

“God.” Concerning this secret. A parallel passage illustrative of this is

Amos 3:7, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but He revealeth His

secret unto His servants the prophets;” also Deuteronomy 29:29,

the secret things belong unto the Lord our God.” Whatever was about to

happen, Daniel and his friends knew it could only happen according to the

purpose and plan of God. He, as He was the real actor, knew what He was

about to do, and whatever revelation of that future had been given to

Nebuchadnezzar in his dream, it must have come from the God of heaven;

therefore to Him do Daniel and his friends make their entreaty. Professor

Bevan declares רַז (raz) to be a Persian word. Neither Winer, Furst, nor

Gesenius recognizes it to be such. Granted that it is Persian, is it not a

possible supposition that it is derived from the Aramaic; not that the

Aramaic word is derived from the Persian? Even on the supposition that

this word was derived from the Persian, this is not extraordinary, when we

learn the intimate relationship between the Median court and the

Babylonian. That Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of

the wise men of Babylon. Does this mean that certain of the wise men had

already perished? It seems almost necessary to maintain this from the

meaning of שְׁאָר (shear), “remnant.” It seems at first scarcely natural to

take this word as meaning merely “the other,” yet the usage in Ezra is in

accordance with this:  Ezra 4:9, “Rehum the chancellor and Shimshai

the scribe, and the rest (וְּשאָר) of their companions.” A further question

may be raised — Does this prayer mean that the desire of Daniel and his

friends was that, when the wise men of Babylon, under whose

superintendence they had been taught, were slain, they should escape? Or

does it mean that they prayed that “they with the wise men of Babylon

should not be destroyed”? This wholly depends on the meaning to be

attached to the word עִם (‘im), “with.” As in English, this word admits of

both meanings. As the word is common to Hebrew and Aramaic, we shall

take our examples from Hebrew. Thus Genesis 18:25, “That be far

from thee, Lord, to slay the righteous with the wicked.” As example of the

other use of the word, Genesis 32:6, “Esau and four hundred men with

him.” Usage thus permits us to regard this prayer as intercessory, that these

Hebrew youths prayed not only to be preserved themselves, but also that

all the other wise men who shared their condemnation should also be

preserved. This is the first record of concerted prayer. Of course, in

heathen worship there was the caricature of this concert of prayer in the

united shouting of the priests, say, of Baal. This is the earliest instance of

that practice that has received such a gracious promise from our Lord

(Matthew 18:19), “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching

anything they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in

heaven.” We would not maintain, even in appearance, that multitude adds

to efficacy with God. But when two or three are gathered together, there is

an infection of earnestness, a community of enthusiasm generated, that

makes each individual fitter to receive the answer. Yet, again, the more

that join in a petition, the more it must be raised out of the groveling

region of selfishness. A man who has a purely selfish desire rising in his

heart cannot ask his fellows to join him in supplicating God to grant his








Character Revealed by Trial (vs. 2-18)


Critical moments are tests of character, In this incident the leading features

of three distinct classes of character are clearly revealed.





Ø      It is selfish. Though the charge of a vast empire is entrusted to him, the

king exercises, his irresponsible power of life and death simply for his

own convenience.


Ø      It is unreasonable. Nebuchadnezzar not only asks for the interpretation,

he demands the recovery of his forgotten dream. Whenever great

authority is not balanced by an equivalent intelligence, the result must

be some such issue of most unreasonable commands.


Ø      It is cruel. For failing to meet the king’s preposterous demand, the

Chaldeans are to be hewn in pieces. Even those junior members, such as

Daniel and his three companions, who were not consulted, are to suffer the

same fate. Thus the isolation of supreme rank and irresponsible power

tends to destroy that sympathy which is dependent on the feeling of



Ø      It is suicidal, in the madness of his disappointment, the king is about to

kill the man who subsequently proves to be his best friend. Selfishness is

often blind to its highest interest. Cruelty reverts on the head of its author.




had been given, these men would have offered an interpretation, though

probably one of Delphic ambiguity. But when the demand is for the

exercise and test of a distinctly supernatural faculty, they fail. We may

note, in reference to the pretensions to second sight of such men and their

modern successors, that:


Ø      They fail before the crucial test which plainly requires supernatural

powers. They are too vague for this.


Ø      They are of no practical interest. Trivial secrets may appear to be

revealed, but mysteries of serious importance remain unsolved.


Ø      Instead of increasing religious faith, they discourage it. The Chaldeans

say that what the king requires can be done only by “the gods, whose

dwelling is not with flesh,” thus implying that these gods make no

revelation to men, and have no contact with them. Contrast their godless

divination with Daniel’s higher power of divination, which he attributes

solely to the revealing grace of his God.





Ø      It has immediate recourse to prayer. Daniel does not pretend to solve

the mystery by the force of his own wisdom. He at once invokes the help

of God. In the method and object of his prayer his action is a medal of

devout wisdom. Thus:


o       he associates his three companions with him in his prayer, and

shows his faith in the efficacy of united prayer (see Acts 2:1;

12:5; Jeremiah 5:14);


o       his prayer is to the point, asking for special help in special need;


o       it is reasonable, — Daniel asks for deliverance from threatened

death, but only by receiving power to fulfill the king’s condition;

he does not look for a miraculous escape, but for light in the matter

of the king’s dream.


Ø      Devout wisdom finds its greatest strength in the greatest trial. If it had

not been for the king’s savage threat, Daniel might have been long in

developing his gifts and realizing his mission. The danger brings him

out of obscurity, and compels him to exercise the Divine faculties which

are entrusted to him. If we have the right spirit in us to appreciate the

opportunities they afford, we shall often find that the extremities and

emergencies of life are, under the providence of God, the very means by

which his best gifts and graces are made to fructify. Their greatest

excellency is in their capacity to shine brightest under the hardest trials.


19 “Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision.

Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.”  The Septuagint adds that the

secret was revealed (ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ νυκτι – en autae tae nukti - that very

night).  This may be held to be implied in the Aramaic, but it is here explicitly

stated. Further, the Septuagint speaks of the secret as “the, mystery of the king.”

At the end of the clause the Septuagint adds the word εὐσήμως - eusaemos

Evidently; easy to be understood..  All these alterations imply additions to the text

made by the translator.  Theodotion, the Peshitta, and Jerome agree with the

Massoretic text.  There has been considerable discussion as to whether this

revelation was made to Daniel by a dream. Hitzig assumes that the night-vision to

Daniel was a repetition of that which had appeared to Nebuchadnezzar, and then

proceeds to brand this as a psychological impossibility. Keil, Kliefoth, Kraniehfeld,

and Zockler all declare against the identification of a night-vision with a dream.

Keil and Kliefoth say in the same words, “A vision of the night is simply a

vision which any one receives during the night whilst he is awake.” And

Kranichfeld says, “Of a dream of Daniel, in our present case there is not

one word.” Zockler says, “Not a dream-vision, but an appearance

(Gesicht) vision, which appeared during the night.” They maintain that,

though all “dreams” may be called “night-visions,” all “night-visions” are

not “dreams.” It would be difficult to prove that this is the usage of

Scripture. It is quite true that the distinction between a dream and a vision

is that in the former the subject is asleep, while in the latter he is awake. It

may, however, be doubted whether this distinction is always maintained by

the Hebrew and Aramaic writers, even in regard to “visions” and “dreams”

generally; and it seems to us impossible to prove it in regard to “visions of

the night” and “dreams.” In v. 28 of the chapter before us, there seems

no doubt that Daniel uses these words as equivalent to each other; Thy

dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these.” While we

agree with Hitzig that the revelation was to Daniel in a dream, we do not

admit the psychological impossibility, save only in the pedantic sense in

which it is said that no two people, however close they may stand to each

other, see the same rainbow.  Dreams are very generally the product of what

the subject has experienced during his waking hours. Surely Hitzig never

meant to assert that it was a psychological impossibility for two individuals

to witness the same event. Certainly the improbability is very great that the

sight of the same physical event should meet the eyes of two people in

similar states of body, and produce on them precisely the some sort and

degree of impression. That, however, is akin to the Hegelian pedantic

statement, which asserts that we cannot go twice down the same street.

Though it might even be admitted to be an impossibility in the only sense in

which it can at all be admitted, yet still it is not self-contradictory. The self-

contradictory is the only impossibility we can assert in the presence of the

miraculous. Hitzig’s objection to this is really that it was a miracle, and all

the parade of giving the statement a new face by calling it, not a miracle,

but a psychological impossibility, is only throwing dust in the eyes of

others, perhaps of himself. Ewald does not see any psychological

impossibility, and declares that the author meant to represent this at all

events. Up, then, before the mind of Daniel rose the gigantic statue of the

monarch’s vision, and with the vision came also the divinely given certainty

that this was what the king had seen. He needs, however, more than the

vision: the interpretation of the vision is vouchsafed to him also. Then

Daniel blessed the God of heaven. The Septuagint rendering here joins the first

clause of v. 20 to this, “Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven, and

having cried aloud, said.” Theodotion, the Peshitta, and Jerome agree with

the Massoretic text. As we have said above, Daniel returned thanks to God

for His great goodness to him and his friends. Our blessing God does not

increase Divine felicity, but it expresses our sense of this felicity, and we

recognize it all the more readily when, as in the case of these Jews, it is

exhibited in making us partakers of it. Hence blessing God and giving God

thanks become in such cases one and the same thing.


20 “And Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the Name of

God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are His.” The Septuagint,

having practically given the beginning of this verse as the end of v 19.

omits it now: hence it renders, “Blessed be the Name of the great Lord for

ever, because the wisdom and the greatness are His.” The fact that

מִן־עָלְמָא  (minalma), “from eternity,” is not rendered in this version, and

that the adjective “great” is added in its place, indicates a difference of

reading. Probably there was a transposition of מברך and מן־עלמא  and

the מן omitted. Then עלמא  would be regarded as status em-phaticus of

the adjective עלּים (allim) This is not likely to be a correct reading, as

allim means “robust,” — possessing the vigor of youth.” Theodotion

differs somewhat more from the Massoretic text than is his custom, “And

he said, Be the Name of God blessed from eternity to eternity, for (the)

wisdom and (the) understanding are his.” This is shorter; the omission of

the pleonastic formula, “answered and said,” has an appearance of

genuineness that is impressive. It would seem as if Theodotion had בינְתָא

(beenetha), “understanding,” instead of גְבוּרָה (geboorah), “might.” The

Peshitta and the Vulgate do not differ from the Massoretic text. The first,

word of the Hebrew text of this song of thanksgiving has an interest for us,

as throwing light on the question of the original language, לְהֶוֵא  has the

appearance of an infinitive, but it is the third person plural of the imperfect;

ל is here the preformative of the third person singular and plural as in

Eastern Aramaic as distinct from Western. This preformative is found

occasionally in the Aramaic of the Babylonian Talmud, along with n, the

preformative we find regularly in Syriac. In Biblical Aramaic this preformative

is found only with the substantive verb.  Suffice it that we regard this as an

evidence that Daniel was originally written in Eastern Aramaic. Professor Bevan’s

explanation, that the phenomenon is due to the likeness these parts of this verb

have to the Divine Name, is of force to afford a reason why, in the midst of the

general process of Occidentalizing the Aramaic, they shrank from applying it to

this verb. That they had no scruple in writing it first hand, we find in the

Targums; thus Onkelos, Genesis 18:18, יֶהֲוֵי. We might refer to other

examples in the later Aramaic of the Talmud and other Rabbinic works.

The Name of God. Later Judaism, to avoid using the sacred covenant name

of God, was accustomed to use the “Name,” in this sense. This may be

noted that throughout this whole book, “Jehovah” occurs only in ch. 9.

This may be due to something of that reverence which has led the Jews for

centuries to avoid pronouncing the sacred name, and to use instead,

Adonai, “Lord.” It is to be observed that all through Daniel the Septuagint

has ΚύριοςKurios – Lord - the Greek equivalent for Jehovah, while

Theodotion follows the Massoretic in having Θεός. Theos – God..

For ever and ever. This is not an accurate  translation, although it appears

not only in the Authorized, but also in the Revised Version. The sound of the

phrase impresses us with a sense of grandeur, perhaps due to the music with

which it has been associated.  When we think of the meaning we really give to

the phrase, or of its actual grammatical sense, it only conveys to us the idea of

unending future duration; it does not at all imply unbeginning duration. More

correct is Luther’s “veto Ewigkeit zu Ewigkeit.” The Greek of Theodotion

conveys this also, ἀπό τοῦ αἰῶνος καὶ ἕως τοῦ αἰῶνος – apo tou

 aionos kai hoes tou ainonos – forever and ever. Jerome renders, “a

saeculo et usque in saeculum.” The true rendering is, “from eternity to

eternity.” It is quite true that the עָלְמָא; means primarily “an age,” as does

also αἰών– aion – age; (from where we get our word eon) and saculum:

it is also quite true that it is improbable that in ancient days man had definite

ideas of eternity; even at the present time, when men strive after definiteness,

they have no real conception of unending existence (I remember as an

adolescent, trying to fathom eternity and I would get swimmy headed!

CY – 2014), still less of existence unbeginning. Still, it was used as

having that meaning so far as men were able to apprehend it. As αἰών,, it is

used for “world.” For wisdom and might are his. Wisdom is the Divine

quality of which they have had proof now, but “might” is united with it as

really one in thought. The fact that the usual combination is “wisdom and

understanding (see Exodus 31:3; Isaiah 11:2; Ezekiel 28:4) has

led the scribe, whose text Theodotion used, to replace “might” by

“understanding.” He might feel himself confirmed in his emendation by the

fact that, while God’s wisdom and, it might be said, his understanding were

exhibited in thus revealing to Daniel the royal dream, there was no place

for “might.” What was in the mind of Daniel and his friends was that they

were in the hands of a great Monarch, who was omnipotent.  They now make

known their recognition of the glorious truth that not only

does the wisdom of the wise belong to God, but also the might of the

strong. Further, there is another thought here which is present in all

Scripture — that wisdom and might are really two sides of one and the

same thing; hence a truth is proved by a miracle, a work of power.


21 “And He changeth the times and the seasons: He removeth

kings, and setteth up kings: He giveth wisdom unto the wise, and

knowledge to them that know understanding. In regard to this verse,

Theodotion and the Septuagint only differ in this from the Massoretic text,

that they omit the repetition of the word “kings.” The Peshitta has a

different sense in the middle clause. “He maketh (Peshitta, mabed) kings

and confirmeth (Peshitta, maqeem) kings” The Syriac translators have

evidently read מְחֲעְדֵה (meh deh), “to remove,” as מְהַעְבֵד (mehabed),

to make” The utter want of contrast in this reading condemns it. In regard

to the Aramaic of this passage, the carrying on of the preformative ה, the

sign of the haphel conjugation, is a proof of the early date of the Aramaic.

In later Aramaic, ה gives place to א, and א  disappears after the other

preformative as יַקְטֵל, not יִאֲקְטֵל. Changeth times and seasons.

Nebuchadnezzar was anxious lest the time in which he might make

advantageous use of the information conveyed by the dream should pass

away, and a new “time” be established. Not improbably Nebuchadnezzar,

like most heathens, imagined that his gods were limited by some unseen

power like the Greek Fate, and, however wishful they might be to be

propitious to their worshippers only in certain collocations of the heavenly

bodies could they carry out their wish. God, the God of heaven, the God of

the despised Hebrews, He it was who arranged the times and the seasons,

He made the sun to rise, He makes summer and winter, He leads out the host

of the stars, alike the star of Nebo and the star of Marduk. The two words

“time” and “season” are nearly synonymous. Perhaps the first is more

indefinite than the other. Our own opinion is that the first has more the idea

of space of time, and the latter more of point of time; but really they are

almost synonymous. He removeth kings, and setteth up kings. In this there

seems to be a special reference to the contents of the vision, which showed

that in the time to come, not only kings but dynasties were to be set up and

overthrown. The former clause regarded God as the God of nature. This

looks upon Him as the God of providence, by whom “kings reign, and

princes decree justice.”  (Proverbs 8:15).  He giveth wisdom unto the wise,

and knowledge to them that know understanding. This address to God goes

further. Daniel sees in the faculties and mental acquirements of men the

manifestation of God. It is the inspiration of the Almighty that giveth

understanding. All the power man has of acquiring knowledge, all the faculty

he has for using that knowledge aright, ALL COME FROM GOD!


22 “He revealeth the deep and secret things; He knoweth what

is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with Him.”  The rendering of the

Septuagint as it stands differs somewhat from the Massoretic text,

“Revealing deep things and dark, and knowing the things which are in the

darkness and the things which are in the light, and with him is a dwelling

place (kata>lusiv – katalusis - dwells ).” There is doubt as to the exact force of

this last word; the last element in it suggests “solution.” This meaning seems to

have been  given to it generally; for Paulus Tellensis renders it shari, which means

a “solution,” but as it is derived from shera, which means “to dwell,” he

retains the double meaningf3 The reading of Kreysig is decidedly to be

preferred, omitting τὰ  – ta - the things which - before “in the light,” and καὶ

kai - and - after. The rendering then would be, “in light is with Him the

dwelling-place.” This rendering harmonizes the Septuagint completely with the

Massoretic. The other versions call for no remark. There is difference hero

between the Q’rl and K’thib. The Q’ri reads nehora, “light,” a Chaldee or

Western Aramaic form; the K’thib again is, neheera, the Eastern Aramaic

form. God is not only the God of nature, of providence, and of man, but

ALSO OF REVELATION!  He can make known to man what otherwise man

could never know. He is the very Source of all light and enlightenment. We may

compare this statement with that of Paul in I Timothy 6:16; he speaks

of God as “whom only hath immortality dwelling in light which no man can

approach unto.” It seems to us the words of the Old Testament song convey a

loftier idea of God than does the Pauline statement — perhaps it is even loftier

than the cognate phrase of the Apostle John (I John 1:5), “God is light, and in

Him is no darkness at all.” We may compare, in regard to this whole verse,

Psalm 139:12, “The darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the

day: the darkness and the tight are both alike to thee,” where neheera is

used as in the passage before us. Daniel ascribes to Jehovah all the powers

of all the gods of Babylon.



Divine Omniscience (v. 22)


God knows what is darkness to us, because in Him dwells the eternal light

which penetrates all darkness. This supreme knowledge is essential to His

perfection. Without it infinite power and perfect goodness could only issue

in fearful disasters to the universe; and therefore the order and progress of

all things bear witness TO ITS EXISTENCE!   Consider:





Ø      The knowledge of God comprehends all things. None are too great for

its grasp, none too small for its notice. The regions of the telescope and

of the microscope come equally under its notice (Job 28:24; Luke 12:6-7).

(See Fantastic Trip on You Tube – CY – 2014)


Ø      It penetrates the deepest mysteries. Our most secret thoughts are known

to God, and He knows us better than we know ourselves (Psalm 139:1-2;

Hebrews 4:13).


Ø      It reaches forward to the whole future. God’s knowledge of the future

can be to some extent explained on two grounds.


o       His perfect knowledge of the present must carry with it the

Knowledge of the future as far as the present contains the

germs of the future (Acts 15:18).


o       His eternal nature is not limited by our conditions of time,

so that He sees all things, not in succession, but in one

immediate view (Exodus 3:14; II Peter 3:8).





Ø      It should lead to sincerity. The hypocrisy which may seem to help us in

our relations with men, is useless before God. The really important

question is, not — What does the world think of us? but — What is

our character in the sight of God? because our life and all its destinies

depend on Him (Ecclesiastes 12:14)


Ø      It should strengthen our faith in the providential care of God. He must

know better than we know; therefore it is foolish to fear and wrong to

complain. We must even expect that, with His supreme knowledge,

He will not act just as we should act with our very imperfect

knowledge (Job 34:33).


Ø      It should encourage our hope in the ultimate well-being of the universe.

No one would commence a work if he knew it would end in failure. No

benevolent pessimist would create a universe. Before He made the world,

God foresaw the fall of man (Christ stood as a lamb slain before the

Foundation of the earth.  Revelation 5:6; 13:8); before He sent His Son,

He saw how sadly He would be rejected. If He so acted, knowing

all the future, it must have been because He knew that, after all the

sin and sorrow, righteousness and peace would finally triumph, so

that the ultimate blessedness of existence should

amply compensate for all its earlier misery (Isaiah 53:11).

(Paul said “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment,

worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”

II Corinthians 4:17; “For I reckon that the sufferings of this

present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory

which shall be revealed in us.”  Romans 8:18 – CY – 2014)


Ø      It should lead us to seek our highest knowledge in Him. All true

discovery comes by revelation. “He revealeth the deep and secret things.”

In His mind are the archetypal ideas of all things. The knowledge of

God is the highest knowledge.


23 “I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers,

who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me

now what we desired of thee; for thou hast now made known unto us

the king’s matter.”   The Septuagint renders, “Thee, O Lord of my fathers, i

thank and praise, because thou gavest wisdom and knowledge to me, and

now thou hast revealed to me what I entreated, in order to show the king

concerning these things.” There seems a slight difference of reading implied

here. Theodotion and the Peshitta are practically at one with the

Massoretic. Theodotion translates the relative דִי  as if it were “and,” not,

as in our version, “for;” and the Peshitta repeats the first personal pronoun.

Daniel now particularizes his reasons for praise and thanksgiving. He

addresses God as the God of his fathers. He appeals to Him as the covenant

God of Israel, who had led their fathers through the wilderness. God

revealed Himself to Jacob at Bethel as “the God of Abraham and the God

of Isaac.” So to Moses at the burning bush He declared Himself “the God of

Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God. of Jacob.” On the other hand,

when Jacob approached God in prayer, he addressed Him as “the God of

my father Abraham, and the God of my father Isaac.” God had shown

kindness to his fathers: would He not also show kindness to their seed after

them? Who hast given me wisdom and might. As Jacob in his prayer at

Mahanaim (Genesis 32:9) not only pleads with God as the God of his

fathers, but also as the God who had blessed him with His guidance before,

so Daniel now further addresses God who had bestowed upon him

“wisdom and might.” When God has bestowed upon any one special

faculties, he must presumably have a special work for him, it is

therefore reasonable to plead with God to give an opportunity for the

exercise of these special powers. Here it forms an occasion of

thanksgiving. We are apt to forget that our powers, mental and physical,

our possessions and acquirements, are gifts of God’s grace for which we

owe thanks. The special reason for gratitude, however, follows — God has

answered the prayer of His servants. Hast made known unto me now what

we desired of thee. It is to be noted that Daniel attributes the answer not

merely to his own prayer, but to the united prayer of his three friends as

well. Their earnest desire had gone along with his own in calling down the

Divine answer. Daniel, while giving thanks for the knowledge vouchsafed

to him, recognizes the help his friends had afforded. For thou hast made

known unto us the kings matter. Daniel assigns the reason here for his

thanksgiving yet more definitely. God had made known to him what the

king had required.


Special blessing demands special praise!  The state of mind which generates

fervent prayer generates also joyous praise. Success in prayer is a fitting occasion

for exuberant delight: “I thank and praise thee.”  Inward insensibility of feeling

and forgetfulness of past favors are deadly enemies to praise. When gratitude

opens the inner fountains of feeling, the crystal waters of praise freely flow.

Thankfulness is the parent of song.


God is the proper Object of praise. God, in His own nature and excellence,

is deserving of the best music of the heart. The unchangeableness and

faithful love of God are fitting materials for praise. The covenant mercies

of God should be celebrated in praise. “God of my fathers.”


Answers to prayer should be occasions of hearty praise. The pathway to

the Divine favor has been found. New revelations of God’s will should

start afresh our powers of music. “OH, PRAISE THE LORD!”




A Specific Remedy for Human Distress (vs. 14-23)


The immoderate anger of the king had only aggravated his trouble without

bringing a remedy. Uncontrollable temper is suicidal, it robbed

Nebuchadnezzar of his kingly dignity, of the use of reason, of the power of

memory. For the time being he had forgotten that, in all matters of

practical wisdom, he had found Daniel to surpass all other state

councilors. Now he was on the point of staining his conscience and his

throne with wanton cruelty, with the waste of life, with the most precious

blood that Babylon held.


  • IT WAS A CASE OF REAL EMERGENCY. The terror of the king,

caused by his midnight scare, had only an imaginary foundation. Natural

cheerfulness was enough to drive that spectre of evil out of the royal

chamber. He might have laughed it out of existence. But now a real

distress impended over Daniel and all the wise men of Babylon. It was not

merely a fear of future disaster; reputation, property, life, were in imminent

peril. The royal edict had gone forth for their summary destruction. The

executioner was already preparing the murderous weapons. Before another

dawn the die might be cast — the deed be beyond recall. Daniel’s anxiety

was awakened as much for others as himself. With his devout trust in God,

death was not to him draped in sable gloom. There were worse evils, in his

regard, than violent death. To die in defense of truth; to die in vindication

of God’s cause, was a noble deed. But others, not so prepared for the

tremendous change, were included in the peril. Eternal shame would cover

the king. The foundations of the throne might be sapped. The fortunes of

God’s people might sink into a yet deeper night. Israel’s prospects might

suffer a blacker eclipse. The mind of Daniel would be impressed with the

folly of putting trust in man. The king had, not long before, shown him

special favor — had expressed both regard and friendship; yet now,

Daniel is condemned to death unheard, unjudged. More fickle than the

vernal sunshine is the ephemeral smile of royalty. “Put not your trust in

princes.”  (Psalm 146:3)


  • THE TRUE ORACLE SOUGHT. Whether the magicians and

sorcerers adopted any measures to avert the approaching calamity, we are

not told. Possibly they were paralyzed with fear, and could only hide their

heads in cowardly shame. Now the worth and power of true piety emerge

into the light. In the darkest hours of trouble, religion shines in brightest

colors. There was:


Ø      An exercise of preventive prudence. However imperative be the duty of

prayer, there are other duties which must not be neglected. The want of

practical prudence often robs prayer of its efficacious issues, The wise

general will dispose his forces well on the battle-field before he makes an

onset. Daniel’s first step was to stay the hasty execution of the edict. He

calls into exercise his well-disciplined wisdom. He uses his acquired

standing in the realm to secure delay. He overlooks no point of precaution.

He employs his just influence with the king to gain a temporary respite.

He does not attempt to reason with the monarch in his angry mood —

that would be a foolish enterprise. He moderates his demand so as to

bring it within the compass of a possible success. Prudence is a step

towards greater acquisitions.


Ø      There was united supplication. Daniel’s heart was not excited with

selfish ambition to secure the honor of a triumph for himself. He

solicited the aid of his companions in this holy task, and addresses

them by their proper Jewish names, which names reminded them that

theirs was an accessible Deity. “Union is strength” in prayer, as much

as in toil. The lack of humility, or earnestness, or perseverance, in one

may be supplied or may be promoted by another Combined fervor has

special promises of success. “If two of you shall agree touching any

 matter in my kingdom, it shall be granted unto you.” (Matthew 18:19)


Ø      There was strong confidence in God. In a spirit of calm and

unquestioning confidence, Daniel assured the king “that he would show

the king the interpretation.” Already Daniel knew that in some way the

response would come. Unbelief might have whispered into his ear that

Jehovah had never yet answered such a request as this. Where, in the

range of Jewish history, had it been recorded that the God of heaven had

disclosed to one a dream which had lapsed from the memory of another?

But faith would reply, “That objection is not to the point. There must be a

first occasion, on which God will reveal His will to men on any matter.

Let this be the first instance of its kind. The request I make is not in itself

wrong or improper. It is not hostile to the purity of God’s nature. It does

not spring from a selfish or carnal motive. Success will bring honor

and homage to the true God. My petition must succeed. Has not Jehovah

said, by the mouth of David, our model king, ‘Call upon me in the day

of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me’?”  (Psalm 50:15)


Ø      There was becoming humility in the posture of their souls. “They

desired mercies of the God of heaven.” Daniel and his fellow-suppliants

presented no claim. They abandoned themselves to the abounding mercy

of their God. In a word, they confessed personal unworthiness, and

approached the heavenly throne as culprits suing for mercy. This is men’s

only chance of success. For, wanting all personal merit, they have no

opportunity of feigning a false merit in Jehovah’s presence. With a glance

of His eye He strips the veil of pretence from every suppliant, that while

He rewards the contrite, He may dismay the proud and the hypocrite.

“He requireth truth in the inward parts.”  (Psalm 51:6)  The poor in

spirit, He enriches; the boastful rich, He empties.


  • THE ORACULAR RESPONSE OBTAINED. “Then was the secret

revealed unto Daniel in a night vision.” In what particular way this desired

knowledge was imparted is not said. This is not important. Possibly the

dream or vision of the king was reproduced before the imagination of

Daniel, with the further disclosure of its signification. But whatever was

the modus operandi, it was done. Ascertained fact overrides all pre-assumed

difficulties. The same God who permits us to have dreams at all

can surely repeat the shadowy spectacle; and if He is the sovereign Lord of

men, He can certainly make known to intelligent minds His purposes

respecting the future. “With God nothing is impossible.”  (Luke 1:37)


Ø      The mode of deliverance resembled, in form, the cause of distress.

A dream was the occasion of Nebuchadnezzar’s alarm — the

occasion of the wise men’s peril; a night vision was also the method

of relief. Jacob’s carnal struggle with Esau was his sin, and also his

ground of anxiety;  Jacob’s midnight struggle with the heavenly

stranger was the source of his triumph. Serpents had bitten with

death the Hebrews; by gazing on a brazen serpent, they are healed.

(I highly recommend Spurgeon Sermon – Number 1500, or The

Lifting Up of the Brazen Serpent - # 6 – this website – CY – 2014)

The fruit of the forbidden tree was the occasion of sin; the fruit

“of the tree of life is for the healing of the nations”  (Revelation

22:2).  “By man came death; by man came also the resurrection

from the dead.”  (I Corinthians 15:21)


Ø      The outcome was gratitude and gladness. “Then,” without any lapse

of time — “then,” while the sense of benefit was fresh, “Daniel blessed

the God of heaven.” His faith was furnished with an additional proof

that Israel’s GOD WAS A REAL AND LIVING GOD;  that He was

accessible to the prayers of men; and that HE WAS A REFUGE

 in every hour of need. It is a blessed necessity that drives us to the

throne of grace.  (“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of

grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time

of need.”  - Hebrews 4:16).  As the frosts of winter prepare the soil

for a more prolific harvest, so trouble, if rightly used is pregnant

with blessing. Now it would be known all through Chaldea, that

while the heathen oracles are dumb, the heavenly oracle is

ever vocal. The false systems of human invention are covered with

shame; the system of God’s truth receives new honor. In that hour

of anguish, Daniel learned new lessons in heavenly wisdom —

obtained fresh discoveries of the Divine goodness — discovered

new methods in the Divine procedure. Now he learns that “God

giveth wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to them that know

understanding.” They that use their capacities shall enlarge them.

The man who trades with his ten talents shall gain ten more. He

who sows in prayer shall reap in praise.



Divine Might and Divine Wisdom (vs. 19-23)


We have here a model of the highest form of worship — a prayer which is

wholly adoration and thanksgiving. The importance of this is emphasized

by the circumstances. Daniel’s life is threatened; he has just received the

Divine assistance by which he can give the king his dream and secure his

own escape; yet he stays to utter a full expression of praise for the

greatness and goodness of God, with the sentence of death still hanging

over him. For the most part, if people find scant time for prayer, they have

still less for praise (Philippians 4:6). It is well to rise from the receipt of

Divine mercies to the worship of the Divine excellences out of which they

flow. Thus Daniel, having received a special Divine inspiration, at once

contemplates and adores the might and wisdom of God which it reveals.

Consider the manifestation of these two Divine attributes in the present



  • MIGHT. The earliest Semitic name for God was “the Strong One,” and

the idea of the might of God lies at the root of the scriptural conception of

His nature. He is not only revealed as glorious in being and wonderful in

thought, but He is always seen to be active, working, exercising power. He

is not a Platonic supreme idea, nor an epicurean Divinity, far off and

unconcerned about us, but a living energizing Presence. Here we see:


Ø      Divine might is manifested in human affairs. He changeth the times

and the seasons: He removeth kings, and setteth up kings” (v. 21). God

is spoken of in the present tense. He created the world in the past (Psalm

102:25); but His power is still manifested in maintaining THE LIFE

OF THE WORLD!  (John 5:17). His hand is seen in the fields of nature

(Psalm 104.); it is equally present in HUMAN LIFE!   God is the greatest

factor in history.


Ø      Divine might is most apparent in times of change. He changeth the

times and the seasons.” It is present at all times, but it is evident in the

crises of history. The volume of water in the stream is the same while it

flows quietly as when it breaks into a torrent; but the roar and flash of

the torrent appeal to our senses with a vehemence of their own.


Ø      Divine might is strikingly evident in overruling the greatest human

powers. “He removeth kings, and setteth up kings.” The old pagan tyrants

thought to set their will up as a god, but they were made to feel at times

that there was a “King of kings” above them. The greater the powers that

are made to bow before God, the more stubborn their self-will or the more

blind their ignorance, the more fully is the power of God revealed in

overruling them.


Ø      Divine might is especially revealed in overthrowing the evil to stablish

the good. Creating power is greater than destructive power. If certain kings

are removed, other and better kings are to be set up. Destruction is not the

end of the exercise of God’s might; it only prepares the way for fruitful

creative energies.  (II Peter 3:11-13)




Ø      This is seen in the Divine actions — first in the process, by the

arrangement that makes “all things work together”  (Romans 8:28);

and then in the result which is aimed at, because it is seen to be the

wisest end. Power without wisdom would be brutal, (this is the

problem that Satan has – CY – 2014) and therefore wisdom is needed,

not to make up for the deficiency of power by its adaptations and

contrivances, but to direct power to its best exercise.


Ø      This wisdom is seen in the Divine bestowal of it upon men. Daniel traces

human wisdom up to the Divine: “He giveth wisdom unto the wise”

(Exodus 28:3; Ephesians 1:17). In direct opposition to the godless magic

of the Chaldeans (vs. 10-11), he tells Nebuchadnezzar that “there is a

God in heaven that revealeth secrets” (v. 28). We may learn from this

that revelation is the result of inspiration; i.e. it is received through the

gift of Divine wisdom; it is not flashed upon us apart from spiritual

experience.  It is the opening of the eyes to see truths which were in

existence before, but which were unrecognized for want of a Divine

wisdom to discern them.


24 “Therefore Daniel went in unto Arioch. whom the king had

ordained to destroy the wise men of Babylon: he went and said thus

unto him; Destroy not the wise men of Babylon: bring me in before

the king, and I will show unto the king the interpretation.”  The

differences in the versions from this are slight. The Septuagint has ἔκαστα 

 ekasta  - reveal - instead of σύγκρισιν – sugkrisin – compare, as if reading

כֹל instead of פִשְׂרָא,, an emendation due to the fact that the king had

demanded from the wise men, not merely  the interpretation, which, given the

dream, they were willing enough to give, but the dream itself; only the more

natural emendation would have been to have interpolated הֶלְמָא, (helma), “

dream,” before “interpretation.” Both the Septuagint and Theodotion omit the

word representing the second “went.” It is to be observed that “went in” and

“went” are different words in the original, as in the Peshitta Version. The

verbs עֲלַל (alal) and אזל (azal) have different ideas connected with them.

The first means “to enter,” of a place with a preposition; the latter has the

notion of simple going. If we can imagine the body-guard of the king

quartered in some part of the huge palace, then Daniel “went in” first to the

quarters of the guard, and then, having got a mission, “went” up to Arioch,

who was probably endeavoring to occupy as much time as possible to

delay the horrible execution, or perhaps escape the necessity altogether. It

would seem as if Arioch had heard nothing of the petition which Daniel

had presented to the king, and only knew that his delay had not been found

fault with. It might seem by the introductory word “therefore” (kol-qebedenah)

that the hymn has been an interpolation. It is quite true that it

would most naturally immediately follow v. 19. Yet we must bear in

mind that the consecution of one part to another, which we have in our

Western languages, is not so carefully observed in Eastern tongues. It may

be doubted, more over, whether כָּל־קְבֵל־דְנָה; (kol-qebel-denah) has so

much a logical , as a local or temporal significance. “‘Thereupon” would,

perhaps, more correctly render this connective here. After he had finished

offering up his praise and thanks to God, Daniel went to Arioch. As we

have already said, it would seem that Arioch had a reluctance to set about

the fulfillment of this horrible order, not that mere slaughter was a thing

specially repugnant to him — he had taken part in too many campaigns for

that to impress him much; but this was a massacre of the priests. All the

reverence of his nature that during his lifetime had associated itself with

those who had solemnly sacrificed before each campaign, and taken the

auguries, protested against this sudden and wholesale massacre. He has

determined to fritter away time, in order to give his master opportunity to

bethink himself The mere political ill will that would be roused by such an

attempt was formidable. We know that the Babylonian monarch Nabunahid

really rather fell before the intrigues of the priests and augurs than before

the arms of Cyrus. To him, thus waiting and procrastinating, comes Daniel.

Although there is nothing said of it in the narrative, Daniel may have given

him to understand that he hoped to be able to satisfy the demands of the

king. The power Daniel had of gaining the favor and confidence of those

with whom he came in contact led to his being buoyed up by a certain

hope in his procrastination, which would be strengthened by the fact that

the fiery young king made no inquiry whether his order was being fulfilled.

Still, it must have been with joy he saw Daniel appearing, and heard him

say, “Destroy not the wise men of Babylon,” especially when followed by

the request to be brought into the presence of the king; thus he knew that

Daniel could answer the king’s question and tell him his dream, as well as

the promised interpretation. If we take the Septuagint rendering as

representing the original text, Daniel promised to tell the king





              A Good Man Becomes Both King and Savior (v. 24)


The actual king in the empire is not always the man who wears a diadem

and occupies a stately seat. An astute statesman is often the real monarch.

The poor man who, by his sagacity, delivered the city, was the veritable

conqueror. The true servant of God becomes a king among men. See, for

example, Joseph in Egypt, Moses in the desert, Samuel in Israel, Daniel in

Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar was, at this moment, a captive, bound fast in the

fetters of fear. Daniel was a real sovereign, directing the act of state

officers, and molding the destinies of the nation.


·         HERE ARE MARKS OF A TRUE PROPHET. “I will show unto the

king the interpretation.” To prophesy is not merely to foretell remote

events: to prophesy is to disclose the unknown — to unveil mysteries.

False prophets are a curse; a true prophet is an immeasurable blessing.

Guesses at truth are untrustworthy, deceptive, perilous. Real revelation is a

safe anchorage for the soul. Science soon reaches the end of her tether; she

enjoys a very limited range. Revelation has to do with the infinite and the

absolute with all the secrets in the universe. To unfold the mysteries of

human life, one by one, is the mission of God’s prophets. “I will show the



·         HERE ARE SIGNS OF KINGLY RULE. Nebuchadnezzar “was angry

and very furious;” he had lost command over himself. Daniel had learned the

art of self-conquest. Nebuchadnezzar had commanded his officer to slay

the wise men. Daniel, though one of the doomed, countermands the order.

The magicians supposed that their lives were at the disposal of the

monarch. They really were, by God’s ordination, at the disposal of Daniel.

Nebuchadnezzar was a captive to dreadful apprehensions; feared a

conspiracy; immured himself in the palace. Daniel walked abroad; breathed

the sweet air of liberty; and wielded a power more mysterious than any

enchanter’s wand. Nebuchadnezzar had said, “Let there be war!” Daniel

said, “Peace, be still!” The king had said to Arioch, “Unsheath thy sword,

and slay!” Daniel countersaid, “Put up thy sword into its sheath, and

spare!” The king had said to the wise men, “Die!” Daniel said instead,

“Live!” And the voice of Daniel prevailed.


·         Here we have, in type and emblem, A REAL SAVIOUR. It is easy

enough to destroy; it is difficult to save. A child may set a city on fire; ten

thousand men may be impotent to save it. A madman has destroyed in five

minutes what human genius had taken years to create. The fiat from

Nebuchadnezzar’s lips had been, “Destroy destroy all the wise men of

Babylon!” But Daniel had issued another mandate, “Destroy not!” and

Daniel’s word prevailed. A strange foreshadowing this of another event.

Five hundred years later Herod commanded the massacre of all the infants

in Bethlehem; yet One of the innocent babes was spared to become the

Saviour of the world and Herod’s Judge. So mercy “rejoices against



25 “Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste,

and said thus unto him, I have found a man of the captives of Judah,

that will make known unto the king the interpretation.”   Save that the

Septuagint has again ἕκαστα instead of σύγκρισιν or σύγκριμα – sugkrima –

make known -  and Paulus Tellensis adds the adjective “wise” as a description of

the man who  had thus professed to satisfy the king, the versions agree with the

Massoretic text. In regard to the Aramaic here, the use of the Eastern form

of the haphel is to be noted — hanel instead of hael. These are to be

looked upon as archaisms or Orientalisms, that have survived modernizing

efforts of the pre-Massoretic scribes. We have already remarked on this as

an Eastern peculiarity which survives in the Mandaitic and in the

Babylonian Talmud. The careful way in which the Septuagint renders the

particular דִי, ὅτι - hoti – that - omitted in the other old versions save the

Peshitta, ought to be noted as a sign of the extreme carefulness of the

Septuagint translator, and a reason why we should regard divergences from the

Massoretic as generally evidences of a different text. It has been remarked

by Archdeacon Rose that Arioch claims too much when he asserts that he

had “found Daniel.” This is not exactly met by Professor Fuller’s assertion

that it was a mode of the court to ignore all “these captives,” with

something of the contempt with which the European in India regards those

whom he without qualification denotes as “niggers.” This, however, does

not meet the case if the ordinary interpretation of the circumstances is

right; then Nebuchadnezzar had not only seen Daniel in connection with

this matter, but further, Arioch knew of it. The case of Abner and David

before Saul, in I Samuel 17:35 should not be brought in in comparison

with Ibid. ch. 16:21, as the latter does not occur in the Septuagint.

Unless there has been interpolation, the explanation seems to be that

Arioch was not aware that Daniel had petitioned. It may be that Arioch

wishes to disarm the king’s wrath by not saying anything of Daniel being

one of “the wise men” against whom the king’s sentence had gone out; but

it may also be regarded as a proof that Daniel and his companions had not

yet passed out of the class of pupils into that of wise men. He says he is “of

the sons of the captivity of Judah.” The haste with which Arioch brings

Daniel into the king’s presence may be due to his own delight at having

escaped a piece of employment he had no heart for. There may have been

an element of anxiety — he had procrastinated, and the young king had

made no inquiries; but it was not the custom of the conqueror to give

orders and not to see that they were carried out, and disobedience to the

orders of Nebuchadnezzar would mean instant death, possibly with torture.

Every moment was fraught with danger, so Arioch’s hastening of Daniel

may have been due to his own sense of relief at escape from an impending

danger. But more, this haste would give the appearance of eager diligence,

if not in slaughtering the wise men of Babylon, at least in searching for one

who could make good to the king their lack of service toward him. His

haste might be intended to give the look at once of eagerness and diligence.

All the motives may have combined.


26 “The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was

Belteshazzar, Art thou able to make known unto me the dream which

I have seen, and the interpretation thereof?”  The variations in the

versions are here unimportant, save that the Septuagint interpolates “in the

Chaldee tongue” before the Babylonian name of Daniel. It is also to be

noted that here, as throughout, the Babylonian name of Daniel, in both the

Greek versions, appears as Βαλτάσαρ - Baltasar, the same form in which they

give  Belshazzar. When Daniel is brought in before the king, Nebuchadnezzar

demands if he can fulfill his promise, and tell the dream as well as the

interpretation. There is no indication that Nebuchadnezzar remembered

anything of the youth who had done well in the examination held in his

presence some months before. This certainly is confirmatory of Wieseler’s

hypothesis. That the king should have forgotten, however, is nothing

extraordinary, for the occasions of this kind would be many.

Nebuchadnezzar, in the case of the young Hebrew, does not question his

willingness to tell him what he wishes, but only his ability. With regard to

the wise men, he believed, or professed to believe, in their ability to do

what he wished, and reckoned their refusal to answer him as due to

obstinacy or treason. It may be that he has moderated somewhat the

rancor of his ire, and is willing to recognize their ignorance as to dreams

and such light furniture of the mind as not militating against their claim to

knowledge in other directions, only for his oath’s sake he must demand

that the dream be told him by at least some one. It may be that there was a

certain emphasis on the pronoun when Nebuchadnezzar demanded of

Daniel, “Is there to thee the power to declare to me the dream which I

have seen, and its interpretation?” Is there to thee, mere student of the

sacred mysteries as thou art, alien as thou art, a hostage from a city whose

king I overthrew easily? It certainly must have been strange to

Nebuchadnezzar that what the soothsayers, astrologers, and magicians of

the court, the highest, and reputed to be the most skilful of their respective

guilds, could not do, this young Hebrew proclaimed himself able to

perform. It may be observed that while in the narrative the author calls the

prophet by his sacred name Daniel, “the Divine judge,” here in the presence

of Nebuchadnezzar, the court name he had received is introduced. To his

friends, to his fellow-countrymen, he is Daniel; but as a court official he is

Belteshazzar, or perhaps Belshazzar. It may be that there is intended to be

conveyed to us that not only was he introduced into the royal presence as

Belshazzar, but that the king addressed him,” Belteshazzar (Belshazzar),

art thou able?”


27 “Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The

secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the

astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, show unto the king.”  The

differences between this and the Septuagint are but slight and unimportant.

To render it literally, the Septuagint is, “Daniel, having spoken out in the

presence of the king, said, The mystery which the king saw is not the

showing of the wise men, the astrologers, the sorcerers, the magicians.”

There seems to have been a confusion between עֲנָה (‘anah), “to answer,”

and צְנָה (tzenah), “to cry out;” the latter word is unsuitable in the present

connection. The change from שׁאל to חזה  is unlikely to have been the

result of any mistake in the writing of the original. It may have been the

Greek scribe who misread ἠρώτησεν – aerotaesen -  into ἑώρακεν

heoraken- has demanded. Theodotion and the  Peshitta present no peculiarities

worthy of notice.  Jerome translates asbshaphim by magi, as usual, following

the Peshitta. It is to be observed that here again we have a list of the different

classes of soothsayers, and the class of Chaldeans is omitted, as also those

marked as mecashphim in v. 2; instead, occupying the same place in the catalogue,

is gazrin. This may have been the original word, as evidently the real meaning

was not known either in Egypt or Asia Minor, as both the Septuagint and

Theodotion transfer the word. The Peshitta translates this word by asuphe, in

reality the corresponding one to the second word in the Chaldee. This would

seem to show that the word had disappeared from Eastern as well as Western

Aramaic. It is derived from gezar, “to eat.” Behrmann (‘Das Buch Daniel’)

derives it thus, and says that it refers to the fact that those who studied

nativities divided the heavens into sectiones or segmenta. This was

precisely what the “Chaldeans” of classic times did; hence it is quite a

possible thing that Chaldeans was inserted in some Greek translations, and

got into the Aramaic from the Greek. The word does not seem to be used

for “astrologers” in the Talmud. The occasion of Daniel’s narrating the

impotence of the other wise men in presence of the task set them by the

king is that probably he recognized the accent of surprise in the king’s

tone. As if he said, “Yes, it is perfectly true, what none of these wise men

could do, I, a mere youth, undertake to do.” There is nothing of contempt

for them in this, as is seen in the following verse. There may be a shade of

rebuke implied to the king, who had demanded from men what they could

not do. They had declared that only the gods could reveal this to the king.

And what Daniel says is not in opposition to this, but confirmatory of it.


28 “But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and

maketh known to the King Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter

days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these.”

All the versions are at one with the Massoretic text to the beginning of the

last clause, which begins a new sentence. This last clause is omitted in the

Septuagint. The clause is pleonastic; therefore, seeing it is omitted by the

Septuagint, we may consider it not genuine, but due to a case of doublet in

the Aramaic copies. Some copies have the present clause here, without the

opening clause of the next, and others without this, but having the opening

clause of v. 29. Then came a copyist, who, unable to settle which was the

better reading, inserted both. There is a God in heaven. No nation in

ancient times was so addicted to the study of the stars of heaven and to the

future as were the Chaldeans. Here Daniel announces that the God of

heaven, Jehovah, the God of oppressed Judah and conquered Jerusalem,

was the God who ruled all the stars from which the Chaldeans derived the

knowledge of the future they thought they had, and arranged for his own

purposes all things that were coming upon the earth, and he could tell what

no one on earth could do. And the reason of this he also makes plain —

God had expressly sent the dream to Nebuchadnezzar in order that he

might know what was to “be in the latter days.” He, Nebuchadnezzar, was

the first of the great imperial powers who ruled after ISRAEL CEASED

TO BE A NATION OF FAITH!   After the Babylonian Captivity Judaism

became a Church over against A HEATHEN STATE!   Hence to him with

whom this  new state of things began was this message given. It has exercised

many why this revelation of the future was made to this heathen monarch. Yet

we must remember that, though made directly to him, through his obstinacy, it

arrived at the Prophet Daniel, for whom it was meant. Yet again, no one

can read the inscriptions of Nebuchadnezzar and fail to observe how deep

and unfeigned was his piety according to his light. He worshipped

Merodach, and if, in his ascriptions of praise, we were to place “Jehovah”

instead of “Merodach,” these prayers and thanksgivings would appear

almost as if borrowed from the Hebrew Psalter. God, who readeth the

hearts of men, might well have seen such a heart in this conqueror that he

might be honored with a revelation. The phrase, “latter days,” had a

special reference in Jewish prophetic language to the times of the Messiah

(Isaiah 2:2); hence we may assume that this vision would stretch in its

revelations on to the times of the kingdom which the Lord would set up. It

is unscientific to press this as meaning the absolute last time, as does

Hitzig. It is not the future generally, as Havernick. We must be led by the

usage of prophetic literature. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon

thy bed are these. This clause, as we have indicated, is probably one of two

parallel readings. There is probably no distinction intended between

“dream” and “visions of the head upon the bed.” This is really to be

regarded as a case of parallelism, in which one portion of the verse was

balanced by the other. What shade of difference there is, is between the

dream as a totality and the portions of it as seen.


29 “As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy

bed, what should come to pass hereafter: and He that revealeth secrets

maketh known to thee what shall come to pass.”  This verse is of somewhat

suspicious authenticity, the renderings of the different versions show such a

diversity of text. The Septuagint rendering is very brief, being merely a

version of the last clause, “He that revealeth secrets (μυστήρια – mustaeria –

mysteries) showed that which behoveth to be.” This has the appearance as if the

translators here rendered the last word as an infinitive, taking l as not the

preformatvre of the third person future, but as the sign of the infinitive. It is

not necessarily so, because it may be that δει’ is regarded as included in – dei –

must; ought - לֶךהוֵא, (lehave’). Theodotion is in closer agreement with the

Massoretic, “O king, thy thoughts upon thy bed raised up what behoved to be

after these things; and He that revealeth secrets hath made known to thee

what behoveth to be.” The Peshitta renders slightly differently, Thou, O king,

thy thoughts arose in thy heart on account of what should be in the latter

days, and He that revealeth secrets made known to thee what shall be.”

Even Jerome, who is usually pretty close to the Massoretic text, differs a

little here. “Thou, O king, didst begin to think upon thy couch what would

be after these things; and He who revealeth mysteries showeth thee what

shall be.” Paulus Tellensis has broken away from the Septuagint, supplying

the clause omitted, not improbably from Theodotion, “Thou, O king,

when. thou layest upon thy couch, sawest all things which behoved to

happen in the last days; and He who revealeth secrets hath showed to thee

what behoved to be.” Altogether, with the exception of the last clause,

which is evidenced by all the versions, we doubt the authenticity of this

verse. However, the interpolation, if we have a case of it here, must have

been of old date, as is indicated by the archaic form אַנְתָה (antah), which

becomes in the Q’ri אַנְת (ant). Whether an interpolation or part of the

original text, the picture suggested is very natural. The young conqueror,

who had already secured the whole of southwestern Asia to the river of

Egypt, was occupying his thoughts in speculating what should come after

him. He falls asleep, and the subject of his waking thoughts becomes the

subject of his dreams.


30“But as for me, this secret was not revealed to me for any

wisdom that I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall

make known the interpretation to the king, and that thou mightest

know the thoughts of thy heart. The Septuagint Version is simpler, “But

as for me, not on account of any wisdom in me above all men is this

mystery revealed, but in order that it should be shown to the king it is

revealed to me what thou thoughtest in thy heart in knowledge.” The

translator has read the preformative ת to ב. There is no reference to

“those who shall show the interpretation.” The text before him may have

omitted the plural termination; consequently, the huphal was supplied.

Theodotion, the Peshitta, and Jerome all agree pretty closely with the

Massoretic text, but all make the verb translated “shows” singular, not

plural, as does the Massoretic. Of course, it may be that this was due to

rendering the sense, not the words, of the original; but Theodotion

especially is more prone in any difficulty to slavish adherence to his

original. His rendering is, “But as for me, not for wisdom which is in me

beyond all living is the mystery revealed, but that the interpretation be

made known to the king in order that thou mightest know the thoughts of

thy heart.” The position Daniel takes up is one which does not separate him from

the other hakmeen of the court. He in effect says, “I am no wiser than the other

sages who have been condemned to death, only the God of heaven can

reveal what the king demands, and he has revealed it to me. The purpose

of the revelation, “that thou mightest know the interpretation,” is fitted to

soothe his pride. The humility of Daniel has been remarked in reference to

this verse. He puts himself behind the impersonal form, “in order that

people may show the king the interpretation.” The reason why the

interpretation was shown to Nebuchadnezzar might be really to humble

him, to show him that his empire, splendid as it was, was only one in a

succession, and that the whole system of world-empires would be

overthrown before a kingdom set up by the God of the Jews.





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                                    The Dream Found (vs. 14-30)


“Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision.” In this section

Daniel is the principal actor; and as he moves through the successive

scenes of this part of the sacred drama, his character shines like the light,

and may illumine for us the path of life. We shall, therefore, keep him

prominent throughout. Observe Daniel —


·         IN THE SHADE.


1. The position. Although Daniel had been trained for distinguished

services, pronounced by the king to excel all the magi (ch. 1:20), he

was forgotten by the king, ignored by his fellows of the magian college

through jealousy, only discovered to share a common ruin. This was a

picture of the trials of his whole career. Daniel the eminent had to contend

with the jealousy of the mean. This spirit begot the attempt to cast his

companions into the burning fiery furnace. Years after it throws him to the

lions. So now the captain of the king’s guard “sought Daniel and his

fellows to be slain.


2. The moral attitude. Daniel was ever animated by a sense of duty, and

more by a readiness to serve those who either neglected or opposed him.


3. The providential call. At the critical moment God, in wisdom and love,

supervened and intervened; broke the meshes of the confining net; and

called the saint out into that ministry for which he was intellectually and

spiritually fit, and also morally ready.


·         AT THE KING’S GATE.


1. The calm spirit of Daniel. There was much to exasperate in the whole

situation. Cruel death was impending. But Daniel lived high above events

in a serene heaven of the soul, and was, therefore, prepared to come down

into the incidents of life, and act with the best effect.


His use of means. To act well in great emergencies requires the coolness

of spiritual wisdom. Daniel:


(1) Had conference with Arioch.

(2) Sent a respectful message to the king. (We understand that Daniel did

not go himself, till later, actually into the presence of the king, but sent in

the request by the proper officer.)

3. His success. This may be attributed especially to three causes, note

specially the last:


(1) The king’s remembrance of Daniel.

(2) The awakening of a great hope in the king’s breast.

(3) The hearts of men are in the keeping of God.




1. The prayer. Here observe:


(1) Daniel did not delay. He lost no time. He did not go to consult

with the magi, whether there was anything in their art, in their

books, that might be of use in the matter. With some men prayer is

the last resort instead of the first.

(2) Resolved to make the difficulty a matter of prayer.

(3) Fell back into the soul fellowship to which he belonged. (v. 17).

(4) Seemed the power of united supplication.

In the prayer itself the following specialities are suggestive:


(1) It kept prominent the exalted supremacy of God.

(2) It appealed to His “mercies.”

(3) It went upon the principle of committing all that troubles us to


(4) It concerned a great public interest. But

(5) one in which the private safety of the petitioners was involved.


2. The prevalence. The all-important fact is that the prayer was answered.

The answer was revealed either in a dream, or more probably in a waking

vision of the night; and the vision was no doubt accompanied by a clear

attestation of the truth of it. Can any one doubt the possibility of such

revelation, who has realized to himself the nearness of the Eternal to the

human mind?


3. The praise. This was:


(1) Instantaneous. Daniel did not wait till he had verified the dream by

audience with the king. As soon as ever he received the mercy, he was

ready to praise.

(2) Full. Matthew Henry puts it well.


(a) Daniel gives to God the glory of what He is in himself.

(b) Of what He is to the world of mankind.

(c) Of this particular discovery.


(3) Sympathetic. Friends were associated in the praise, as in the prayer.


·         IN THE KING’S CLOSET. Here we have Daniel, the living

representative of what a true prophet should be. He is not only a type of

him whom technically we call a prophet, but of every one who is for God

the mouthpiece of vital truth to man. Before the king:

1. He sinks himself. (v. 30.)

2. He forgives personal adversaries. (v. 24.)

3. He is forward to put down all that exalts itself against God.

(v. 27.)

4. He has a sense of the moment of his message. (vs. 8, 29.)

5. He glorifies God. (v. 28.)




Needful Preparations to Receive Divine Revelation (vs. 25-30)


Subjective conditions of mind are requisite for objective truth to enter.

Common light cannot penetrate walls of stone or iron shutters. The electric

force will only circulate along proper conductors. And if material forces

demand suitable conditions in which to perform their active mission, so

much more does the spiritual force of truth require that the hand of the

recipient shall be sensitive, candid, impressible. Such was the gross,

unspiritual state of some populations in Palestine, that even Jesus could not

do his mighty works among them. (“He did not many mighty works

there because of their unbelief!”  Matthew 13:58).  Daniel proceeds to

prepare the soil for the seed.


  • PREJUDICE MUST BE DISARMED. The anger of the king had been

so greatly excited by the impotence and the imposture of his wise men, that

Daniel perceived it best to forego his privilege of entering the monarch’s

presence at will. It was better to take the circuitous route of a formal

introduction, as if he were a stranger. Hence the marshal of the court

precedes the Hebrew prophet, secures the monarch’s attention, and

introduces Daniel, not as one of the royal college of sages, but simply as a

Jewish captive. The former credulity of the king had given place to utter

skepticism. So men’s minds oscillate between the points of easy,

groundless belief and obstinate prejudice. No vice so frequently assumes

the air of respectable propriety as this vice of prejudice. It serves as a thick

fog to shut out from the mind the clear light of heavenly truth. “There’s

none so blind as those who will not see.”  (Matthew Henry)


  • INQUIRY MUST BE AWAKENED. “Art thou able to make known

the dream?” Inquiry is the natural state of the human mind. It is its sense of

hunger — the putting forth of its prehensile organs to obtain food. To the

spiritually inert nothing will be revealed. Sincere desire for wisdom will

impel us to interrogate every possible teacher, and to say, “Art thou able to

add to my stock of knowledge?” The true philosopher or prophet will often

appear in very modest garb, as did Daniel; but the spirit of the learner is a

spirit of humility — ‘tis the spirit of a child. Remote as the antipodes is the

temper that asks, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46)

“Every one that seeketh findeth.”  (Matthew 7:8)  We may often find through

a dependent — through a despised slave — what we cannot find ourselves.

Nebuchadnezzar, with all his royal gifts, could not find an interpreter. Arioch,

the captain of his guard, greets him with the news, “I have found him!” A

little captive maid in Naaman’s kitchen could direct her master where to find

a cure for his leprosy.  (II Kings 5)



BE DESTROYED. Side by side with the growth of true faith must proceed

the destruction of a false faith. The pompous monarch had rested his faith

in the magicians and soothsayers, without sufficient reason. He had very

likely prided himself on the superhuman wisdom of his counselors. Yet

what guarantee had he that they had ever spoken truth? Had he ever

examined their credentials? ever put to the test their real capacity? If not,

he was simply the victim of self-imposed credulity. The institution of

sorcery was ancient and time-honored, but none the less was it false and

corrupt. If the king would not take the pains to examine the pretensions of

these magicians, he deserved to be deceived. A Heaven-sent teacher is an

incalculable treasure; a false prophet is a poisoned cup — a wolf in sheep’s

clothing “Try the spirits, whether they be of God”  (I John 4:1).  No human

authority is self-originative; we must know the source whence it sprang.

“Cease from man, whose breath is in his nostrils.”  (Isaiah 2:22)




becoming in men, especially in times of perplexity!  “There is a God in heaven.” 

Nor is that heaven far removed. “In Him we  live and move and exist.”

 (Acts 17:28).  Even the magicians had confessed that there were invisible

deities: “The gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.” (v. 11)  If we believe in

God, we shall recognize Him, honor Him, and use Him in seasons of need.

The true God does not love to see us grope in darkness; He longs to give us light.

Our mental capacities preach to us this truth. He “revealeth  secrets.”

“The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him.”  (Psalm 25:14)

The secrets of nature He reveals to the patient investigator; and if we will

inquire at the portals of the heavenly kingdom (“knock and it shall be

opened unto you” Matthew 7:7), we shall know, by gradual disclosures,

the secrets of the invisible world. Even our inner selves we do not

accurately know, until God unveils to us the mystery. Daniel was sent

to the king, that he might know the workings of his own heart.



secret,” said Daniel, “is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have.”

Natural endowments of intellect often puff men up with vain conceit of

themselves; but the enlightening grace of God’s Spirit develops their

humility. “The meek will He teach His way.”  (Psalm 25:9)  Having

revealed to suppliants their own nothingness, their absolute dependence

on the heavenly source, He unveils to them all truth that ministers to

happiness and purity. The mysteries of His kingdom He hides from the

boastful wise and prudent, but reveals them unto babes (Matthew 11:25).

The messenger of Divine truth will divert the attention of men from himself

to his Master. Like John the Baptist, he accounts himself only as a “voice,” and

announces that One mightier and worthier cometh — the true Light and Life

of men. John 1:23, 15, 27, 9)  “He must increase but I must decrease!” 

(Ibid. ch.3:30).  Humility is a prerequisite for Divine employment.



is noteworthy that Daniel disclosed the reason why God vouchsafed this

revelation to the king. It was not done for the sake of the king, nor for the

sake of the magicians, nor for the sake of the empire, but for the sake of

the Jewish suppliants. It would be galling to our pride sometimes if we

knew to what human mediation we were indebted for Divine blessing. The

prayer of some bed-ridden saint has brought down the treasures of

heavenly rain upon the Church. For the sake of Paul the prisoner, the lives

of all on board the imperiled ship were saved. For Joseph and his

brethren’s sake, famine was averted from the Egyptians. Yet these are but

faint and imperfect types of that GRAND SCHEME OF MEDIATION


WORLD and:


Ø      for Jesus’ sake, mercy flows in a full stream to men;

Ø      for Jesus’ sake, heaven is opened to all believers;

Ø      for Jesus’ sake, prayer is heard and the Holy Ghost is given.


We, too, can be mediators for others; and it may yet be said that for our

sakes, and in response to our intercessions:


Ø      dark minds are enlightened, and

Ø      a world is blessed.


Christ the High Priest puts a censer into our hands, and asks us to

fill it with the fragrant incense of spiritual prayer.


31 “Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This

great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and

the form thereof was terrible.”  The Greek versions do not require notice,

as they do not imply any difference in reading from the Massoretic text.

The Peshitta is shorter, “Thou, O king, wert seeing, and, lo! a great image

of beauty exceeding excellent, and it stood before thee.” The opening

clause of the next verse may be regarded as taking up the last clause of the

verse before us. As to the Aramaic of the passage, it is to be observed that

the same long form of the second person is used in v. 29. The numeral

חַד (had) is used in this verse very much in the sense of the English

indefinite article which is used to translate it in the English versions. It is

represented in the Greek Version by μία – mia – one; first. The particle אְלַוּ 

(‘ulu),” behold,” does not occur in the Targums; a cognate form occurs in

Samaritan, hala. In Talmudic it occurs in a form like the Samaritan. This

word occurs in ch. 7., varied by אֲרוּ  (‘aru), which is regarded as a

phonetic variation. It may, however, be due to defective penmanship,

having the top of the l too faintly written. Its etymology is doubtful. No

Assyrian root has been found from which it may be derived. The word for

image,” צֶלֶם, (tzelem), occurs in the Palmyrene inscriptions, as the regular

term for a memorial statue. Hence, unless reason can be shown to the

contrary, we could assume, even though there had been no more, that the

figure was like a statue of a man. The word for this, צֶלֶם (diccen), occurs

only in Daniel; the corresponding word in Ezra is דֵך (dec). The n sound is

one that so readily slips away, that its presence as a final letter is a sign that

the form of a word possessing it is in an older stage than that without it;

hence we would argue that as דֵך (dec) is older than דָא; (da) of the

Targums, so דִכֵּן (diccen) of Daniel is older than דֵך  (dec). The word that

is most interesting is זִיוֵהּ  (ziveh); it is rendered “brightness” in our

version. It is recognized by Professor Bevan, on the authority of Delitzsch,

as an Assyrio-Babylonian word, therefore affording an additional evidence

of the Eastern origin of Daniel. Noldeke would derive it from the Persian

zeb (quoted by Behrmann, but there is some mistake in his reference). This

tendency to derive everything from the Persian is to be suspected. The long

political connection between Babylon and the Aryan nations north and east

of it might easily introduce words of such an origin into the writings of a

Babylonian diplomat. Another derivation is from זָחָה (zahah), but seems

doubtful, as, although in Hebrew, there is no trace of such a verb in

Aramaic. The only other word that merits note is רֵוֵה (reve),

“appearance.” Professor Bevan says it is the only appearance in Aramaic of

a corresponding root to the Hebrew רָאָה (raah), “to see.” Daniel, it will

be seen, lays stress on the emotions which each feature excited, in order to

recall, not only the dream, but something of the feelings with which

Nebuchadnezzar had beheld it. With this dream of Nebuchadnezzar we

might compare the dream of the seer of Asshurbanipal, given by

Lenormant (‘La Divination,’ p. 137), “The seer (voyant) narrated to

Asshurbanipal how the goddess Istar had stood before him seated in her

chariot, surrounded by flame, with a bow in her hand” (see also Smith’s

‘Assurbanipal,’ pp. 123. 124). It is unlikely that the colossal image was

identified by Nebuchadnezzar with any one of the Babylonian gods;

perhaps this was one of the elements of the terror excited by the vision,

that he could not identify him. If he did make any identification, Daniel

does not do anything to justify him in any such identification.


32 “This image’s head was of fine gold, his breasts and his arms of silver,

his belly and his thighs of brass,  33 his legs of iron, his feet

part of iron and part of clay.”  The versions present no occasion of

remark, save that Theodotion has a doublet, αἱ χεῖρες– ai cheires -, translating,

the hands, the breast, and the arms. The word rendered “fine” is really “good”

(טָב, tab). Naturally, there have not been preserved to us any composite

images of this kind; gold and silver would certainly soon have found their

way to the melting-pot after the fall of the Babylonian empire, had such a

statue been erected in Babylon. Brass and iron were too precious not to

follow in the same road. Among the Greeks, as we know, there were what

were called “chryselephantine” statues, partly gold and partly ivory. In the

description given of the Temple of Belus, we see a succession something

akin to that in the statue, but it may be doubted whether we may deduce

any connection between the two on that account. In the Book of Enoch the

apocalyptist sees mountains of different kinds of metal — of gold, silver,

brass, iron, tin, and mercury, the first four coinciding with the metals in

Daniel’s vision. Ewald refers in a note to the possibility that this idea might

be borrowed from Hesiod, but rightly dismisses it as improbable. As to the

metals used, gold and silver were well known in ancient times, as also iron,

though, from the difficulty of working it, later. What is here translated

“brass” ought to be rendered “copper;” “bronze” certainly was known very

early, but the whole use of the word, נְחָשׁ  (Aramaic), or נְחשֶׁת  (Hebrew),

implies that it is a simple metal; thus Deuteronomy 8:9, “Out of whose

hills thou mayest dig brass” (Hebrew, נְחשֶׁת Onkelos, נְחָשָׁא). In this

statue the progressive degradation of the material and situation is to be

observed. The head, the highest part, gold; the shoulders, lower, silver; the

belly and thighs, lower still, brass; the legs, lower yet, iron; and the feet and

toes, lowest of all, a mixture of iron and clay. It is observed by Kliefoth

that there is further a growing division. The head is one, without any

appearance of division; the portion consisting of the breast and arms is

divided, though slightly, for the chest is more important and bulky than the

arms; the belly and thighs form a portion which from the plural form given

to the word translated “belly,” מעוהי  (mohi), suggests more of

division than does that above. The lowest portion, that forming the legs

and toes, has the greatest amount of division. Kliefoth also refers to

another point — that while there is a progressive degradation of the metal,

there is also progression in degrees of hardness, silver being harder than

gold, copper harder than silver, and iron hardest of all; then suddenly the

iron is mingled with clay. There is not a new, softer material added to form

a new fifth part; but there is a mingling of “clay” — clay suitable for the

potter, or rather that has already been baked in the kiln, and therefore in

the last degree brittle. In fact, there is a progress in frangibility — gold the

most ductile of metals, and iron the least so, then clay, when baked, more

brittle still. There are many other successions that might be followed,

which are at least ingenious. The idea suggested by the phrase, “part of

iron and part of clay,” is that there was not a complete mingling, but that

portions were seen that were clearly clay, and other portions as clearly still

iron; there was therefore the superadded notion of the imperfect union of

the parts with the necessary additional weakness which follows.


34 “Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands,

which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and

brake them to pieces.” Practically, the versions are at one with the

Massoretic text in regard to this verse, save that the two Greek versions

add, ἐξ ὅρους – ex horous - out of the mountain - Concerning the Chaldee

text, we  would remark that in the dual form בִּידַיִן (biydayin), the dual has

disappeared in the Aramaic of the Targums. Thou sawest till implies some

time of contemplation and wonder. The king saw this gigantic statue, not

possessing the attributes of any of his national gods, and he looks on in his

dream in wonder and awe. Till a stone cut out without hands. The Greek

versions make an addition which seems necessary to the sense — “out of

the mountain.” This addition may certainly have been made from the later

verse (v. 45). The logical necessity, however, may have prompted this

addition. On the other hand, the evidence of both the Greek versions

agreeing in one addition has very considerable weight. It is not impossible

that the word מִטּוּרה  (mitturah), “from the mountain,” had dropped from

the manuscripts used by the Massoretes. In favor of the Massoretic text is

the fact that the Peshitta omits the word. On the other band, Jerome adds

de monte. It may be noted, as at least a curiosity, that the Peshitta, instead

of the אבן  (aben),” a stone,” gives kepha, from which Cephas, the name

of the Apostle Peter, is derived. As the monarch gazes at the huge image,

he sees behind the image a mountain towering above the image, huge as it

is. From this mountain he sees a boulder detach itself, as if it were being

cut with chisel and wedge, but no hands are risible. Once set loose from the

mountain’s side, it came by bounds and leaps down the declivity, and

smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay.Every bound

that the stone makes down the mountain is larger, and raises it higher and

makes it strike the earth with more of force, till with a bound greater than

any it had made before, it strikes the feet of the image, “which were of iron

and clay” mingled, yet separate — and at once they are broken in pieces:

utterly crushed” is the meaning of the word דוּק  (duq). The Septuagint

tendering is κατήλεσεν – kataelesen - ground - it occurs in Exodus 32:20,

of Moses grinding the golden calf to powder. Theodotion’s word is not a

correct rendering of the word; it is ἐλέπτυνεν – eleptunen - beat into thin

scales - compare Matthew 21:42-44 - “the stone which the builders rejected

…..on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” It is to be observed

that this cutting of the stone out of the mountain took place after the fourth

portion of the image was clearly visible. In the dream the catastrophe took

place after the stone had been cut from the mountain and had bounded

down its side. A similar chronological succession may be expected in the

events foreshadowed.


35 “Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to

pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing-floors;

and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the

stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. 

Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to

pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing-floors.

The versions arc closer to the Massoretic than our Authorized Version, as they all

give more prominence to כַחֲדָה  (kahadah), “at once.” It is rendered “together.”

The Septuagint renders ἅμαhama -  together.  Theodotion, εἰσάπαξ – eisapax –

the Peshitta repeats the word; and Jerome renders  pariter. Theedotion changes the

order somewhat, for the sake of making it more symmetrical. The rendering of the

Septuagint is in some respects different from the natural sense of the Massoretic text,

but not so much so as to require us to presume a radically different text: “Then the

iron, and the clay, etc., became fragments, and they were smaller than the chaff of

the threshing-floor.” We have this verse also in the Itala, preserved to us in

Tertullian, but it does not differ from Jerome seriously. It would follow

naturally enough if the mighty image were so smitten on its weak and

fragile feet, that it would come crashing to the earth; but more happened

than this. As the monarch looked, in falling, the various parts of the image,

as they fell in a heap, became broken, nay, triturated — they became as the

dust or chaff of the summer threshing-floor. Summer is the dead time in the

East; harvest is over by the end of June, and the threshing of corn then

commences. All this huge statue was reduced to particles as small and light

as the chaff that is beaten off the grain by the threshing instruments of

those days — feet of oxen or wheel of cart. Chaff is a favorite symbol for

lightness and worthlessness. In the first psalm the wicked are compared to

chaff. In Hosea, where he speaks (Hosea 13:3) of Israel’s sins, he says,

“Ephraim shall be like the chaff of the threshingfloor.” Isaiah (Isaiah 41:15-16)

speaks of Jacob getting new threshing instruments to thresh the mountains, and

make them small as chaff. It may be noted that the word here translated “chaff”

only occurs here. The word does not appear in the Targums, instead of which is

used מוצ  (motz), the Hebrew word. In Syriac, again, in the Peshitta, it occurs

frequently, as Psalm 1:4 and Isaiah 40:15 — another sign, slight in itself, of the

Eastern origin of the Book of Daniel. The fact that the word occurred in

Daniel would have a tendency to preserve it if in use when Daniel was

published, or introduce it if it were not. Yet, as we have said, it does not

appear in the Targums. It does appear in Syriac, the language of a people

who, as not Jews, would presumably not be familiar with Daniel. The word

for “threshing-floor,” אִדְּרֵי (iddrei), is also one that does not appear in the

Targums, but it does appear in the Peshitta. Jensen suggests an Assyrian

etymology, but Brockelmann marks this doubtful; Lagarde suggests a

Persian etymology, also marked doubtful. Whichever etymology holds

bears out the Eastern origin of the book. The Targums represent the older

Aramaic of Palestine. If Daniel were a book originating in Palestine, the

Persian words appearing in it might also be expected to appear in the

Targums. And the wind carried them away, that no place was found

for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great

mountain, and filled the whole earth. The Septuagint rendering is, “And the

wind carried them away, so that there was nothing left of them, and the

stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and smote the whole

earth.” The first portion of this is a fairly correct rendering of our present

Massoretic text. On the other hand, the latter clause implies that the

translator had before him, or imagined he had, not מלאת,, but מחת; not

impossibly מלאת might be written without the silent a; thus, מלת, as in

the Peshitta. In that case the mistake might easily be made. Behrmann

remarks on the vocalization of מלאת in this passage being the same as

מחת, but does not remark that it is written defectively in Syriac. The sense

in the Massoretic text is much better than that implied in this reading.

Theodotion’s rendering differs in the first clause of this portion of the

present verse, “And the abundance (πλῆθος – plaethos) of wind carried

it away, and place was not found for them: and the stone, when it had smitten

(πατάξας - pataxas - smitten) the image, became a great mountain, and

filled the whole earth.” The rendering “multitude” (πλῆθος) is due to reading

ˆ הָמון instead of הִמון.. This form of the plural of the demonstrative

pronoun is the commoner in Biblical Aramaic, but does not appear in the

Targums nor the Peshitta. It is akin to the Mandaitic הינון. Neither the

Peshitta nor the Vulgate presents any peculiarities of rendering. All this mass

that had formed the image, though it had been gold, silver, brass, and iron,

yet was so ground down — had become reduced to particles so small, that the

wind carried them away. So scattered were they that they collected in no

special place, so that one could say, “This is the image.” The figure is still

that of the threshing-floor; the wind, blowing on the grain that is lifted up

before it, carries away the chaff, but, search as one may, the chaff, once

blown away, cannot be found. A more remarkable thing now takes place

— the stone that, bounding down the mountainside, had smitten the image

on the feet, so that it fell and became as dust, now grows apace,

overtopping the utmost height the image had attained, overtopping the

mountain from which it had been cut. Not only did it grow in height, but,

as it increased in height, its base broadened till the whole earth was filled

with it. There seems to be a reference here to Isaiah 2:2, “The mountain

of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and

shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. As the

monarch gazes in his dream, the change is completed, the huge image, with

its glittering head and gleaming breast, its polished thighs and legs of iron,

its unseemly feet that inspired terror by its very appearance, had utterly

disappeared, and its place was occupied by a mountain, huge but peaceful,

on which the flocks might browse and trees might grow. It may be noted,

though not as of importance, that the material of the mountain is most akin

with that of the weak clay of which the feet of the image were largely

composed. Such, then, is the dream which Nebuchadnezzar had seen, and

which the prophet now presented once more before him. We must, however,

glance at the picture presented by the reading of the Septuagint. To the

translator the picture evidently present was that of a stone descending from

the mountain, and increasing in momentum as it descends; but this stone

further increases in size, till before its tremendous strokes and rebounds the

very solid earth quakes.


36 “This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the

king.”  The various versions agree closely with the Massoretic text. It is scarcely a

variation when the Septuagint has ἐπὶ – epi- to - instead of ἐνώπιον,  enopion –

before -  that is to say, לְ instead of קְדָם (qedam). Jerome must have read קָדָמָך,

(qadamak), “before thee,” as he renders coram te, rex; but that also is unimportant.

Having finished telling  Nebuchadnezzar his dream, Daniel now announces his

intention of giving the interpretation. Commentators have noticed the fact that

Daniel does not say, “I will give,” but “we.” The opinion of Professor Fuller is

that Daniel here includes with himself his three companions; of Keil,

Kranichfeld, Zockler, and Behrmann, that he identifies himself with all

worshippers of Jehovah; Aben Ezra makes the plurality by making him

refer to himself and the Divine wisdom; Jephet-ibn-Ali makes its force lie in

contrast; Hitzig makes it really the pluralis excellintiae, and quotes in

defense Genesis 1:26 and 11:7, where it is God Himself that speaks.

Had Daniel introduced the phrase, “thus saith the Lord,” this opinion might

have been defended. It may be that Daniel fell back on the methods and

ordinary mode of address for an astrologer before the King of Babylon (see

v. 7). He does not wait for the king to acknowledge that this is the dream

he had. Daniel at once proceeds with the interpretation.


37 “Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven

hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory.” The

Septuagint renders the latter clause, “To thee the Lord of heaven gave the

dominion, and the kingdom, and the might, and the honor, and the glory in

all the earth.” (ἐν πάσῃ τῇ οἰκουμένῃ – en pasae tae oikoumenae –

wherever the children dwell – beginning of next verse). There appears here to

 be two cases of doublet; ἀρχὴ – archae – power - and βασιλεία  – basileia –

kingdom - are probably originally alternative renderings of malcutha, and τιμὴ 

 timaehonor -  and δόξα doxa – glory - double renderings of yiqara.

On this hypothesis there is only one Greek word for two Aramaic. We shall

consider this later. Paulus Tellensis, in his translation of the Septuagint

Version, draws the beginning of the next verse into connection with the

final words of this verse as given here. The words, “in the whole earth,” is

a transference from the next verse. The rendering of Theodotion is, “Thou,

O king, art a king of kings, to whom the God of heaven gave a strong and

mighty and honorable kingdom,” making thus hisna, toqpa, and yiqara

adjectives of malcut a. But malcutha is feminine, and, if adjectives. hisna,

etc., are masculine. The Peshitta differs from the Massoretic in leaving out

one of the terms, “Thou, O king, art a king of kings; God most high

(merima) a strong kingdom and glory has given to thee.” Of course, the

same objection holds to some extent against this version as against that of

Theodotion, but it is to be noted that there are not two words conveying

the same idea of strength. As there was only one in the Septuagint, we are

inclined to think that toqpi must have been an addition. Jerome’s rendering

is, “Thou art a king of kings, and the God of heaven has given to thee the

kingdom, and might, and dominion, and glory.” There seems to be a

transposition here. The general scope of this verse and the next is given in

Jeremiah 27:5-6. There is certainly high honor given to Nebuchadnezzar in this

address, but, at the same time, he is warned that all his glory is bestowed upon

him BY THE GOD OF HEAVEN.   It is possible that Nebuchadnezzar

interpreted the words as referring to Merodach, the god whom he

specially worshipped, or regarded the God of heaven as only

another of the gods many and lords many which, as a polytheist, he

acknowledged. The title of the Babylonian king was shar-sharani,” king of

kings,” and sharru-rabbu, “great king.” Thus in this address the technical

title is given him. The Babylonian monarchs assumed this from their

Assyrian predecessors, as e.g. Asshurbanipal (Smith, ‘History,’ pp. 26, 73,

196). From the Babylonians it was passed on to the Persian monarchs. In

Ezekiel 26:7 the prophet gives Nebuchadnezzar this title. As we find by

the succeeding verse, the kingdom here is not mere royalty or kingship, but

the special royalty of practically universal empire; that is to say, universal

so far as the knowledge of the times went. Our rendering in the Authorized

Version fails in accuracy, in not inserting the definite article, which is really

implied in the sign of the status emphaticus. Luther makes the same

mistake. Happily the Revisers have altered matters, and inserted “the,” as

does Behrmann. The Greek Version and Peshitta are accurate in this. The

word translated “power,” חִסְנָא  (hisna), is consonantly present in both

dialects of more recent Aramaic.


38 “And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of

the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand,

and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold.”

The Septuagint, if we take along with this verse the final clause of the

preceding verse, has even more of that look of exaggeration which we can

scarcely fail to be conscious of in the Massoretic, “In all the earth

inhabited by men, and wild beasts, and birds of the heaven, and fish of the

sea, be delivered (all things) into thy hand to rule over all.” The addition to

the realm of Nebuchadnezzar of the dwelling-place of the fish of the sea is

readily observed. Theodotion has the same addition, “In every place where

the sons of men dwell, he gave into thy hand beasts of the earth, birds of

the air, fishes of the sea, and appointed thee lord of all.” One cannot but

observe not only the presence of “the fishes,” but also the fact that only the

lower animals are given into his power. It may be that here, as in the Septuagint

the object is to render with slavish exactness the original — unobservant of

the fact that the construction was irregular. Behrmann thinks the author

had before his mind השׁלטך (hashaltak), “has made thee ruler,” and then

changed the construction. Something might be said for Moses Stuart’s

view that כָּל־דִידָארִין; should be translated “wherever,” if there were

any similar construction to be found. The rendering of the Peshitta agrees

with the sense of Moses Stuart, “Every place where the sons of men dwell,

the bird of heaven, or the beast of the field, he hath given into thy hand,

and caused thee to rule over all of them.” The change of order is to be

noted. The Vulgate agrees with the Massoretic. The word for “dwelling” is

an older form ˆ דארין (dareen), instead of the more recent form, which is

that read דירין (dayreen). This copious insertion of the a is an Eastern

peculiarity. This assertion of Daniel must seem exaggerated to us, but we

must remember the courtly form of address that was usual in Oriental

courts, and that Nebuchadnezzar in all likelihood claimed this breadth of

empire; so Daniel, in order to make way for the assertion he had already

made of the king’s dependence on One higher, gives him everything he

claims. The addition of the sea to his dominion, although in it Theodotion

supports the Septuagint, is due to a mistaken idea of the point of Daniel’s

statements. He adds, Thou art this head of gold. This is not, as Hitzig

asserts, Nebuchadnezzar personally, but to him as the type of the

Babylonian monarch. This was but natural, as of the duration of this

monarchy his independent reign extended to the half. Before his advent as

“king’s son,” the Babylonian Empire had to endure the assault of Egypt,

and had to struggle for existence against it. With his advent began its

glory, with his disappearance began at once its decadence. Only under

Nebuchadnezzar was Babylon really imperial. The short reigns of his

successors are proofs of an insufficient hand upon the reins. With all the

tyrannical moods to which be was subject, and all the wild whirlwinds of

passion which were liable to carry him away, Nebuchadnezzar, as

presented to us here, was a splendid man — utterly unlike Epiphanes, we

may remark in passing, with his low tastes and his cringing submission to

Rome. His brilliance was that of Alcibiades; he had nothing of the dignity

implied in the head of gold. Nebuchadnezzar had secured the love of this

captive, as we see by the sorrow with which Daniel communicated to him

his approaching madness. There is thus a reasonableness in making him, in

especial, the head of gold.


39 “And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to

thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over

all the earth.” None of the versions presents any difficulties, or gives

occasion for any remark, save the Vulgate, which inserts argenteum, as if

reading כספ. The word used, “kingdom,” not “king,” shows, without

possibility of reasonable dispute, that in identifying Nebuchadnezzar with

the head of gold, the reference is not to him personally, but to him as

representing his dynasty. The next dynasty is said to be inferior, that is to

say, nearer the ground אָרְעָא (ara), which is certainly true of the

shoulders in relation to the head. Not only does the inferior metal imply

inferiority, but the inferior position dues so also. The metal is omitted here,

but stated in the next clause, Another third kingdom of brass, which shall

bear rule over all the earth. The metal is here referred to, but not the

position; there is no need to say it is inferior — that is implied when it is

said to be a kingdom of brass. We need only refer to what we have said

above, as to the fact that “brass” here really means “copper.” As the

inferiority stated in the first clause is omitted in the second, so the

statement made at the end, which grammatically applies only to the third

kingdom, applies also to the second. It is only as, in a sense, bearing rule

over the whole earth, that any monarchy comes into this statue at all. When

we look at these two, we find certainly the two arms suggesting and

rendering emphatic a two-foldness of some sort in this power. The fact that,

in the description of the statue, the word translated “belly” (מעוהי) is

plural, suggests, along with the two thighs, the idea of four-foldness.

Faintly is this suggestion made, but the exigencies of the figure must be



40 “And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron:

forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as

iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise.”  The

Septuagint differs considerably here, “The fourth kingdom shall

be strong as iron, as iron which subdueth all things, even as iron cutteth

down every tree.” It is evident that the translator has read ˆ אִילָן (‘illan), “a

tree,” instead of אִלֵּין (‘illeen), “these.” The last clause is due to וְתֵּרֹעַ

(vetayroa’) being written with the א: ותארע; however, ו (vav) is not

unlike, in ancient Aramaic script, to כּ (kaph), although ל (lamed) is not

like ת (tau), yet the phrase כָלאּאֲרַע would carry the reader over every

obstacle. Theodotion differs less from the Massoretic,” The fourth

kingdom is that which shall be as strong as iron, just as (ὅν τρόπον

– on tropon – like; in the manner of) iron beateth small and subdueth all

things, thus shall it beat small and subdue all things.” It may be observed

that the clause, “and as iron breaketh all these,” is omitted from the text.

It certainly appears to be an addition, indeed, has the look of a “doublet.

This view is confirmed by the fact that the Peshitta also omits this clause.

The Peshitta rendering is, “The fourth kingdom shall be strong like iron,

and even as iron crushes and bruises all, thus even it shall beat small and

subdue all.” The Vulgate rendering also omits a clause, “And the fourth

kingdom shall be like iron, as iron beats small and subdues all things, it

shall beat small (comminuet) all these.” For these grounds we feel inclined

to regard the clause in question as an explanatory note, which has slipped

into the text. Before we leave the consideration of the text, we must observe

that the word for “fourth” assumes the Syriac, or Eastern Aramaic form, not

the form in Chaldee, or Western Aramaic. That empire which was represented

by the basest of the four metals, and occupied the lowest position in the figure,

 is that which is the most powerful. When we go back we find brass is the next

in point of hardness and strength; it is the third, and of it, at all events, if not

also of that which preceded it, it is said that “it shall bear rule over all the earth.”

The inferiority indicated by the metals and by the position occupied in the

image, did not indicate inferiority in power or in extent of dominion. An

interesting theory has been formed by Dr. Bonnar (‘Great Interregnum’),

that this degeneration was one of type. The monarchy as exhibited in

Babylon, especially when the monarch was a man of genius, as was

Nebuchadnezzar, was likest to the rule of the Almighty over the world: his

authority was without limit, direct and absolute over every one subject to

his sceptre The Medo-Persian monarchy had much of the Babylonian

absoluteness, but there were, if Herodotus is to be trusted, the peers of the

crown, and, above all, there were the satraps, with their almost

independent position in respect to the central power. The third, in our

author’s opinion, the Hellenic, had the monarchy limited, not only by

numerous compeers, as the king in Antioch was balanced by the kings in

Alexandria and Pergamus, not to speak of the monarchs of Parthia, but

also by the autonomous cities with the semblance of freedom. The fourth,

the Roman, was yet further removed from the old Divine-right monarchy

of the Babylonian type. At their first intercourse with the Jews the Romans

were Republicans. Their first conquest of Judaea was made by Pompey, the

general of the Republic. To the last the emperor, whatever his power, was

still theoretically the first magistrate of a republic. The feet and toes of

mingled clay and iron, he held, were modern constitutional monarchies —

monarchies built upon democracy and the will of the people. All this is

doomed to be overthrown by the coming of the Messianic kingdom.


41 “And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of

potter’s clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided: but there

shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the

iron mixed with miry clay.   42 And as the toes of the feet were part of

iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall he partly strong, and

partly broken.  43 And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay,