Daniel 4

 

 

              THE MADNESS OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR (vs. 1-37)

 

We follow here the division of chapters which we find in our English

Version, and as, indeed, in all modern versions. The Aramaic concludes the

third chapter with the three verses which are placed in our version at the

beginning of the fourth chapter. The arrangement of the Aramaic is

followed by the Septuagint, by Theodotion, and by Jerome. The Peshitta

and Paulus Tellensis follow the more logical division. Luther divides the

chapters logically enough, but carries on the numbering of the verses from

the preceding chapter. It is difficult to see anything that can even seem to

be a reason for this division. It may indicate a suspicion of these verses at

the time the chapters were divided.

 

1 “Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations, and languages, that

dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you.” The Septuagint has a

different reading here, “The beginning of the letter of Nebuchadnezzar the king

to all peoples and tongues dwelling in the whole earth: Peace to you be multiplied.”

In this reading, the first clause is the heading of all that follows, and the document

itself begins with, “Peace to you be multiplied.” The absence of the

opening words from the Syriac Version of the Septuagint by Paulus

Tellensis is against its authenticity. It may have been a scribal note which

has slipped into the text. Theodotion is an exact rendering of the

Massoretic text. The Peshitta Version appears to have followed a recension

between that on which the Septuagint Version is founded and the

Massoretic text, “Nebuchadnezzar the king wrote to all nations, peoples,

and tongues, joy be increased to you.” The most natural explanation of this

uncertainty in the text is that this chapter is a condensation of a longer

document. Were the document in question a proclamation of

Nebuchadnezzar, his titles would necessarily have followed. These,

however, are omitted, and only malka, “king,” is retained. The baldness of

this seems to have suggested the variations which we find in the Septuagint

and the Peshitta. The recension before us gives the beginning of the letter

according to the attesting note of the Septuagint. In the middle of the document

condensation by the simple omission of clauses was seen to be awkward

and perhaps impossible, so instead a summary is given in the third person.

That we have not found the proclamation itself is not extraordinary from

the very fragmentary condition in which the annals of Nebuchadnezzar

have come down to us.

 

2 “I thought it good to show the signs and wonders that the

high God hath wrought toward me.  3 How great are His signs! and how

mighty are His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and

His dominion is from generation to generation.” The Greek versions for

these two verses are in absolute agreement, hence one is not surprised to

find that in the Syriac of Paulus Tellensis, these verses, with that preceding,

are marked with an asterisk, which proclaims them not to have been

regarded by their translator as a genuine part of the Septuagint, but to have

been added from Theodotion. They are in close agreement with the

Massoretic text. In these two verses the Peshitta is also at one with the

Massoretic text. It is possible that this may have been the actual beginning

of the document; on the other hand, it may have been simply the suggestion

of some later scribe of how such a proclamation might have begun. The

latter is, perhaps, the more probable. At the same time, it vindicates its

position by being a not unnatural expression of feelings such as

Nebuchadnezzar might well be supposed to have had after such an

experience as he had passed through. It may even be that the signs and

wonders to which Nebuchadnezzar refers are not merely those of his dream

and its fulfillment, but all the signs that had been manifested in his reign.

 

 

The Testimony of Experience (vs. 1-3)

 

It is interesting to observe that the account of Nebuchadnezzar’s great

humiliation comes from the lips of the king himself, without a word of

comment by his servant Daniel. While the conduct of the prophet teaches

us to regard the chastisement of other people with a similar courtesy of

reserve, that of the king should remind us of the duty and utility of frankly

confessing the lessons of our own experience.

 

  • THE DESIRE TO GLORIFY GOD AT THE EXPENSE OF OUR

OWN HUMILIATION IS ONE OF THE FAIREST FRUITS OF

GENUINE REPENTANCE.

 

Ø      Nebuchadnezzar had been a haughty despot. The confession of deep

humiliation by such a man is evidence of a great change of spirit. The

moral value of humility must be measured:

 

o       by the strength of the natural disposition to pride, as this varies

greatly in different temperaments; and

o       by the temptations of a man’s station in society. To some self-

abasement is familiar and natural. To others it brings keen agony.

In the latter case it is a wonderful result of repentance.

 

Ø      Nebuchadnezzar had defied the God of the Jews. (ch. 3:15.) To

recognize Him as the true God, who held the king’s destiny in His

hand, was another proof of a great change. It would have been

much if Nebuchadnezzar had privately trusted in the true God.

But his repentance is confirmed by this public confession.

 

Ø      Nebuchadnezzar had been a selfish tyrant. He now sinks his self-

interest in concern for the glory of God. We never truly and

perfectly repent until we renounce self, and give ourselves up to

a pure desire to glorify God.

 

  • THE TESTIMONY OF EXPERIENCE IS AN EVIDENCE OF

SPIRITUAL TRUTHS WHICH WE SHOULD CAREFULLY

OBSERVE FOR OURSELVES AND GRATEFULLY OFFER

TO OTHERS. The recognition of Divine truths in the passage before us is

specially valuable, because it is not based on abstract grounds, but is derived

from personal experience. It does not come from an inspired Hebrew prophet,

but from a heathen king, and it derives a special force from this circumstance,

because the spiritual teaching of Scripture thus finds an echo in a most unlikely

quarter.

 

Ø      Ignorance of Divine truths on speculative ground gave force to the

testimony. There can be no self-deceit in such cases.

 

Ø      Prejudice against these truths, after it was overcome, increased the force

of the testimony. The king was not accustomed to bow before any

providential power. His recognition of this is the more significant. It

disposes of any suspicion of hypocrisy.

 

Ø      The depth of the experience gave intensity to the testimony. Much

religious language sounds hollow because it is not verified by experience.

As we realize truth in our lives, we see and feel it with a new power, and

then we have at once the clear light of personal knowledge and the strong

earnestness of personal feeling to enable us to declare it to others

(I John 1:1).

 

  • A SOUND INTERPRETATION OF EXPERIENCE WILL TEACH

US TO SEE THE POWER, WISDOM, TRUTH, AND

RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IN ALL HIS WAYS WITH US.

(See vs. 3 and 37.)

 

Ø      The power of God is seen in His successful performance of His will

when the greatest force is set against it, and the greatest difficulties

lie in its way, as in the overthrow of the might of Nebuchadnezzar,

and the more wonderful restoration of him from his insanity (vs. 29-36).

 

Ø      The wisdom of God is seen when mysteries of providence are

interpreted by later experience, as when the king saw the purpose

 and meaning of God’s strange dealings with him (v. 36).

 

Ø      The truth of God is seen in His keeping His word. The dream-

prophecy was fulfilled (v. 28).

 

Ø      The righteousness of God is seen in the ultimate justice of His

chastisements and their good results, as in the deserved punishment

of Nebuchadnezzar, and the final good this wrought in him (v. 25).

 

  • A RIGHT UNDERSTANDING OF THE MUTABILITY OF

EARTHLY THINGS WILL HELP US TO RISE TO FAITH IN THE

ETERNITY OF THINGS DIVINE. Nebuchadnezzar now sees that

“God’s kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from

generation to generation. Before this the king had been warned not to

trust in the perpetuity of earthly monarchies, but to see that these must give

way before an everlasting kingdom (ch.2:44). God sends us

changes and disappointments that we may not rest in the temporal and

transitory (Hebrews 12:27); and He sometimes reveals, through these

changes, principles and purposes which run up into the eternal.

 

4“I Nebuchadnezzar was at rest in mine house, and flourishing in my palace:

I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts upon my bed and the

visions of my head troubled me.” In the Aramaic text there is what may be

regarded either as a play on words of the nature of rhyme, or the traces of a

doublet. The Septuagint begins the chapter with this verse, as does the Massoretic

text, but further appends a date, “In the eighteenth year of his reign,

Nebuchadnezzar said, I was at peace in my house, and established upon my throne:

I saw a vision, and I was awestruck, and fear fell upon me.” Theodotion differs

from this and also from the Massoretic text, and renders, “I Nebuchadnezzar was

flourishing (eujqhnw~n -euthaelon) in my house, and was prospering (eujqalw~n

- euthalon -).” The similarity in sound between eujqhnw~n and eujqalw~n may

have had to do with the rendering. It will be noted that this is further from the

Massoreticrecension than the Septuagint. The Peshitta repeats the idea of rest, “I

Nebuchadnezzar was at peace (shala) in my house, and was resting (reeh)

in my palace.” The Massoretic is supported by the Septuagint, and,

therefore, strong. The date in the Septuagint, however, may be questioned.

The eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar was that preceding the capture of

Jerusalem, which, according to Jeremiah 52:12, happened in the

nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. In the twenty-ninth verse of the same

chapter we have an account of the carrying away of prisoners by

Nebuchadnezzar in his eighteenth year, in a passage omitted from the

Septuagint, in a way that makes it probable that, if this passage be genuine, the

one is according to the Jewish, the other according to the Babylonian mode

of reckoning. If that is so, the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar would

mean the year of the capture of Jerusalem. If this date had, however, been

correct, something about the coincidence would have been mentioned. Had

this book been written to encourage the Jews in their conflict against

Epiphanes, it would have been mentioned that Nebuchadnezzar’s madness

occurred after he had captured Jerusalem. At the same time, a later scribe

would have a tendency to insert such a date, even if no date had been

there, or at all events to modify any other date into this. Thus we find in

the Septuagint v. 15 (Massoretic 19, Authorized Version 24) a reference

to the capture of Jerusalem. Another cause would tend to make

“eighteenth year” liable to occur at this point, it is that the previous chapter

in the Septuagint begins with assigning the same date. The change must

have been made before the exemplar from which the Septuagint translator

made his translation had been transcribed, as it appears in Paulus Tellensis.

The Septuagint Version does not give the beginning of this narrative the form

of a proclamation. The attitude of the king is that of rest after the toils of long

wars — an attitude that could not be attributed to him when he had not reached

the middle of his reign. The conquest of Egypt followed the capture of Jerusalem.

The difference between “ten” and “twenty” in Aramaic, as in Hebrew, is

Comparatively little. rc"[} (‘asar) is “ten,” ˆyric][](‘asareen) is “twenty.” As the

“ten” is the final word in the numerical statement, it would be modified

asaratha, whereas the word “twenty” is frequently in similar circumstances

unmodified; we should then have ‘asoreen. It may have been even later, but

if the real year had been “thirty-eighth,” the modification of the words

would require to be greater.. The king had received tokens of

Divine power in his past history, and had in a sort acknowledged God but

still he had not surrendered his pride.  \

 

6 “Therefore made I a decree to bring in all the wise men of

Babylon before me, that they might make known unto me the

interpretation of the dream.  7 Then came in the magicians, the

astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers: and I told the dream

before them; but they did not make known unto me the interpretation

thereof.”  These verses do not occur in the Septuagint. Theodotion is a

somewhat slavish translation of the Massoretic text, “From me there was set up

a decree to summon before me all the wise men of Babylon,” etc.

The Peshitta is somewhat freer, but as close to the Massoretic text. Still,

the want of the verses in the Septuagint would throw a doubt on their

authenticity, even if there were nothing in the verses themselves to make

them liable to suspicion.

 

8 “But at the last Daniel came in before me, whose name was

Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god, and in whom is the

spirit of the holy gods: and before him I told the dream, saying.”  This

verse is also omitted in the Septuagint. Instead of this verse and those

preceding, this verse occurs after the account of the dream, “And when I

arose from my couch in the morning, I called Daniel, the ruler of the wise

men, and the chief of the interpreters of dreams, and I related to him the

dream, and he showed me all the interpretation of it.” Theodotion and the

Peshitta agree with the Massoretic text. The Septuagint arranges

differently: instead of deferring the account of the dream till

Nebuchadnezzar tells it to Daniel, the account of the dream follows

immediately upon the statement of the fact that it had occurred and had

troubled the king. In it, as we have seen, there is nothing of the summoning

of all the wise men of Babylon in all their various classes. This summoning

of the whole college of wise men, astrologers, soothsayers, and Chaldeans,

is in obvious contradiction, not only to ch.2:48, but also to v.9 here. There was

no need of summoning the college of augurs until the king had consulted their

head. The explanation of these verses and the occasion of their interpolation is

not unlike the fact narrated in ch.2:2, where Nebuchadnezzar, on account of his

first dream, calls together the wise men — that when he had a dream that

troubled him it was natural that Nebuchadnezzar should do as the

Septuagint declares he did, summon “Daniel, the ruler of the wise men, and

the chief of the interpreters of dreams.” One result of which follows, if we

discard these verses, i.e. that we get rid, in this passage, of the class of

“Chaldeans,” and further, of the etymology of “Belteshazzar,” both of

which have been made objections to the authenticity of Daniel.

 

9 “O Belteshazzar, master of the magicians, because I know

that the spirit of the holy gods is in thee, and no secret troubleth thee,

tell me the visions of my dream that I have seen, and the interpretation

thereof.”  This verse is also omitted in the Septuagint.  Theodotion and the

Peshitta both have this passage, but with slight variations from the Massoretic

text. Instead of “No secret troubleth [snea;, anays, ‘compel,’ Esther 1:8] thee,”

Thedotion renders, “No secret (musth>rion – mustaerion - mystery) baffles

(ajdunatei~ - adunatei - impossible) thee.”  The Peshitta renders. “And no

secret is hid (ethcasee) from thee,” reading, instead of snea;, probably

ysik]t]hi. Behrmann, who translates the word by verborgen, thinks the

choice of the word occasioned by Ezekiel 28:3, “No secret is hid from

thee” (ÚWmm;[]), this last word, he thinks, occasioning the use of sna; but

μm"[}: is used in Aramaic (see Leviticus 13:6, “dark” of the spot of

leprosy). It seems more probable that there is some mistake in the reading.

The Massoretic reading of the last clause seems modeled on the situation

in the second chapter, where Nebuchadnezzar demands of the magicians

that they not only give the interpretation of the dream, but tell the dream

itself. The versions here do not agree with the Massoretic. Theodotion

renders, “Hear the vision (o[rasin - horasin) of the dream which I saw,

and tell me   its interpretation.” The Peshitta has, “In the vision of my dream I

was seeing visions of my head, and tell me the interpretation.” The Massoretic

reading contradicts the situation, and the variety of reading in the two

versions confirms the suspicion of this verse induced by its absence from

the Septuagint. “Master of the magicians” (rob-hartum-maya). There is

nothing in ch. 2:48 about the promotion of Daniel over the “magiclans,”

but only over the “governors (signeen) of the wise men

(hakaymeen) of Babylon” This is not to be in itself regarded as a proof of

antagonism between these verses and the earlier portion of the, book, as

Daniel might have been promoted in the interval. The Peshitta calls Daniel

rab-hahmeen, “chief of the wise men;” Theodotion, a]rcwn tw~n

ejpaoidw~n –archon ton epaoidon. It is also to be observed that the writer

of these verses does  not make Daniel rab-mag, which so generally was

anciently understood to mean “master of the magicians.” Avoiding an alluring

blunder is often as clear a proof of knowledge as a directly correct statement.

Spirit of the holy gods; not “the Spirit,” but “a spirit.” The Authorized Version

is here correct in translating “gods,” not “God,” as the adjective is plural; not as

Theodotion, who renders, “a holy spirit of God,” reading, hv;wOdq] hla

j"Wr.

 

 

 

True and False Prophets (vs. 4-9)

 

It is amazing how some men are addicted to folly. It seems ingrained into

the very nature of some men. Nebuchadnezzar had proved aforetime the

vain pretensions of his magicians and soothsayers, and had proved, too, the

incomparable superiority of Daniel; nevertheless, he neglects Daniel again

on this occasion, and sends for the pretentious astrologers. Such men must

be pounded in a mortar before the folly can be expurgated.

 

  • THE PROPHET HAS ALWAYS A PLACE IN THE WORLD. There

has always been, and always will be, a need for him. Scientific discovery,

however rapid its advancements, will never push the prophet from his

niche. A vision was granted to Nebuchadnezzar by God, yet even the

vision does not suffice. It only perplexes, saddens, alarms. The carnal mind

cannot understand it. It is a terrific enigma — confusion worse

confounded. There is need of a prophet to unfold the signification. As long

as man requires authoritative interpretations of Divine truth, so long he

requires the prophet.

 

  • THE PROPHET CANNOT BE MADE BY THE ART OR SKILL OF

MAN. The Babylonian king may make decrees from morning till night, but

no number of royal decrees can manufacture a prophet. He may call a

certain number of recluses “wise men;” but he can never make them so.

Both kings and meaner men allow themselves to be easily deceived by the

mere show and pretence of authority. Let kings learn that there are some

things which even they cannot do. In their extremity king-made prophets

fail.

 

  • THE TRUE PROPHET IS CREATED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD.

God reveals His mind and will to whomsoever He pleases. As every power

of mind is His creation, so this gift of prophetic insight is a direct donation

from God. The capacity is Gods, though man can improve and develop it

by wise use. Prophecy is not so much a faculty of mind as the production

of a peculiar temper of soul. It is strongest in the man who walks most

closely with God; in other words, who is most conformed to God’s

character and image. “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him.”

(Psalm 25:14)  To the same end, Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, “I thank

thee, Father,… because thou hast hid these things from the wise and

prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.”  (Matthew 11:25

 

  • THE TRUE PROPHET MAY BE KNOWN BY HIS HUMILITY

AND LOVE. Daniel did not push his way into the presence of the king,

with the rest of the wise men. He calmly waited in obscurity until his

presence was sought. Real merit is neither forward nor froward. Nor, when

Daniel perceived the purport of the dream, was he in haste to make known

the coming disaster. Astonishment and sorrow sealed his lips for the space

of an hour. Then, required by the king to unburden his soul, the prophet

expresses profoundest sympathy with the king’s doom: “My lord, the

dream be to them that hate thee.” The true prophet will not only bring

God’s message, but will bring it in God’s spirit. He “speaks the truth in

love.”  (Ephesians 4:15)

 

10 “Thus were the visions of mine head in my bed; I saw, and

behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was

great.”  The Septuagint is different here, “I was sleeping [on my couch], and

behold a lofty tree springing out of the earth, and its appearance was great,

and there was not another like to it.” The words, “on my couch,” are

marked with an asterisk, denoting that they have been added, probably

from Theodotion. There are indications here of a text slightly different

from the Massoretic, even in the latter portion of the verse, where the

Septuagint and the Massoretic text come closest. Instead of bega,’ (awOgb]), “in

the midst of,” the Septuagint reading has been saggeee (ayGic), “great.” The last

clause is most widely different from the Massoretic text; instead of “and

the height thereof was great,” we have, “and there was no other like it.” It

is not easy to imagine how the one reading grew from the other, roomeh

(hmeWd), “height,” might easily be mistaken for hm;d] (demah), if roomeh

were written defectively; but the rest of the clause cannot easily be

explained The Massoretic text has a certain redundancy of meaning, which

is suspicious. In this verse we are told the tree was “great;” the opening

clause of the following says the tree grew; whereas the Septuagint, while

asserting its loftiness, asserts also that it was “growing” (fno>menon

phuomenon). On  the whole, we prefer the Septuagint, as it does not proceed

to assert further that the tree “grew great.” Theodotion, while in the latter

portion of the verse agreeing with the Massoretic text, omits the introductory

clause.  The Pe-shitta is a briefer recension of the Massoretic text, “The vision in

my couch was — a tree in the midst of the earth, the height great.” The

reference here may be, to the sacred tree of the Assyrians, the symbol of

life, which is so perpetually introduced into the sculptures of Nineveh, and

seen also in some Babylonian cylinders, especially in connection with royal

acts of worship, in Lenormant (‘La Magie,’ p. 27) we find that a sacred

tree — a conifer of some sort as seen by the sculptures — was supposed to

have the quality of breaking the power of the seven Maskim. Whatever the

origin of this belief, it seems to have passed into the faith of Assyria and

Babylon, and to have so permeated them that Ezekiel 31 describes

Assyria as a mighty cedar. To pass from the empire to its ruler was a

specially easy step in regard to an Oriental monarchy, in which the state

was the monarch, in the midst of the earth. This refers to the notion each

nation had that their own was the middle point, or omphalos, of the world.

Though wg" (gav) meant originally really “back,” not “middle,” yet it is used

of the furnace of fire in the preceding chapter, and the primitive meaning is

entirely lost in the Targums.

 

11 “The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof

reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth.”

This verse is transposed in the Septuagint with the following verse, and is

rendered, “And its appearance (o[rasiv – horasis) was great, and its top

approached to the heavens, and its breadth (ku>tov – kutos - equivalent to

branches) filled (plhrou~n - plaeroun) to the clouds all things beneath the

heaven and the sun and the moon were, and dwelt in it, and enlightened

all the earth.” The addition in the last clause is a singular and picturesque

one to one standing beneath a spreading tree; sun and moon might pierce

with their rays through some thin points in the foliage, but they would seem

never to get beyond the widespread branches of the tree, and therefore it

would be but a poetical mode of statement to say, “the sun and moon dwelt

amid the branches.” At the same time, it is not impossible that there was some

astronomical legend of the sun and moon and the tree of life. If this proclamation

was originally written in cuneiform, there might easily be some difficulty at times

in deciphering and fixing in which of a dozen possible senses a given word

must be taken. The variation is beyond the region of mere ordinary

blundering in Aramaic. On the other hand, it seems too picturesque for the

work of a commonplace interpolator. Theodotion in the main agrees with

the Massoretic, but instead of “sight thereof,” he has “breadth (ko>tov)

thereof,” reading some such word as path-ootheh instead of hazotheh. The

Peshitta is in close agreement with the received text. To those who, like the

Babylonian, believed the earth to be a vast plain, it was not inconceivable

that a tree should be so high as to be seen over the whole earth. It is a very

suitable symbol of a great world-empire. At the same time, we must

remember that the great variation in this verse in the Septuagint makes its

authenticity somewhat doubtful.

 

12 “The leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much,

and in it was meat for all: the beasts of the field had shadow under it,

and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh

was fed of it.” The Septuagint Version here is widely different: “Its

branches were thirty furlongs in extent, and underneath its shadow all

beasts of the earth took shelter, and in it the birds of heaven made their

nests, and its fruit was much and good, and it supplied all living creatures.”

As already mentioned, this verse occurs before the one we have just been

considering. It differs, like it, more than can be explained by a mistake in

reading the Massoretic Aramaic; if it were translated from a cuneiform

document, it is easily imaginable in what form the statement might be

made. The reading, however, is not an unlikely one in the description of a

dream, if we could have imagined the Indian banyan tree to have been

known to the authors of this version, we might have understood the tree of

the dream to have been like it. Theodotion is at one with the Massoretic

text, as also the Peshitta. Whether we take the symbol of a tree used for

the Babylonian empire, as drawn from the Babylonian tree of life, or merely

devised by the poetic fancy of the monarch, inspired for the time, it must be

recognized as very apt. From the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean, it

stretched from the cataracts of the Nile in all probability into Asia Minor.

Over all this empire the monarch maintained the attitude of an earthly

providence. It was because government was strong that peaceable men

could live. It is useless to carry the similitude into the minutiae of Jephet-ibn-

Ali, who maintains that the wild beasts are the nomads of the deserts,

and the birds the strangers that came to Nebuchadnezzar from far. In the

Aramaic here there are traces of the antiquity in the language: the use of

inbbaya, “fruit,” instead of ibbaya, is one instance. Saggeee (with sin) is a

proof that the distinction between c and s was still understood, and

probably heard. It is remarked by Keil that this word does not really mean

“much,” but rather “great,” “strong.” Although it is undeniable that he is

correct as to the primitive meaning of the word, it can scarcely mean

anything else than “much” in the present connection. Mazon, “food,” is

rare as a Biblical word, but occurs in Genesis as well as Chronicles.

 

13 “I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, behold,

a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven.” The Septuagint

Version is shorter here, and therefore, other things being equal, is to be

preferred, “And I saw in my dream, and an angel was sent in power from

heaven.” Theodotion is as usual in closer accord with the text of the

Massoretic than is the Septuagint; yet he omits “of my head.” The Peshitta,

yet closer to the Massoretic text, only omits “behold.” There is now a

change in the vision. The monarch sees “a watcher and a holy one

descend.” This is rendered rightly by the Septuagint, “an angel.” Jephetibn-

Ali maintains that there are two, and that the watcher is the higher. The

word ry[i (‘eer), “watcher,” occurs only in this chapter in the Bible. In the

Book of Enoch the name occurs almost a score of times, and is used to

designate the archangels. In the present case the word vyDiq;, (qaddeesh),

“a holy one,” is in all likelihood an explanatory addition, the word being

unknown before — probably an adaptation of some Assyrian name. On the

other hand, in the Book of Enoch every one is supposed to be as well

acquainted with the μyriy[i of Daniel as with the cherubim and ophanim of

Ezekiel and the seraphim of Isaiah. Does not this imply that, at the time the

Book of Enoch was written, the Book of Daniel was equally well known

with those of the two other prophets? The latest conceivable date for

Enoch is B.C. 130, and so late a date never would have been thought of had

there not been a necessity to place its date after that at which critics in their

wisdom had placed Daniel. The date above mentioned implies that Judas

Maccabaeus is unmentioned in a struggle of which he was the crowning

hero. Even grant that later date, it is inconceivable that a single generation

could have given Daniel such a place of honor as to be regarded as the

equal with Isaiah and Ezekiel. In this connection it is to be noticed that,

though the ophunim, “wheels,” of Ezekiel are made use of, the soosim,

“horses,” of Zechariah do not appear in the later books. Yet they are

declared to be spirits. If Daniel were a contemporary of Ezekiel, and his

writings had thus had time to sink into the mind of the Jewish people, this

phenomenon can be understood.

 

14 “He cried aloud, and said thus, Hew down the tree, cut off

his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit: let the beasts

get away from under it, and the fowls from his branches.” The

Septuagint Version is, “And one called and said to him, Cut it down, and

destroy it; for it is decreed by the Highest to root it out and destroy it.” It

is possible that aujtw~| - auto -  in the Greek was due to ˆke (kayn) being

read as wOl (lo’). The phrase as it stands in the Greek is not unlike Revelation

14:18, “And another cried with a loud voice to him that had the sharp

sickle.” It is, therefore, equally possible that wOl (lo) has been changed into

ˆke (kayn). The latter part of the verse is more condensed, and therefore, by

that, more probable; only the rooting out commanded seems to contradict

the fact that it is also commanded to leave “one root of it.” Theodotion is

in much closer agreement with the Massoretic, save that the beasts, instead

of being warned to depart from beneath the shadow of the tree, are to be

(saleuqhi~wsan – saleuthaeiosan - shaken) from beneath it, as are all the

birds from its  branches. The Peshitta is an accurate translation of the text of the

Massoretes. A peculiarity to be observed in the Aramaic is that the verbs

are in the plural, which is retained in Theodotion and the Peshitta. It seems

difficult to understand this. Stuart’s explanation ¯ which is practically that

of Havernick and Hitzig — that the command is addressed by the ry[i

(‘eer) to his retinue, seems highly forced, as there has been no word of a

retinue. Keil’s and Kliefoth’s view, that the plural is the impersonal, does

not suit the circumstances. We have a suspicion that the plural is due to a

mistake — thinking the watcher and the holy one were separate persons.

The Septuagint, however, has the plural, which is all the more

extraordinary that aujtw~| is singular. The function assigned here to the

angels must be observed. Here, as in the parables of our Lord, the angels

are the instruments by whom the decrees of providence are executed. In

our days angels are not believed in. It is possible that materialism has much

of its advantage over us, in that we do not recognize the existence and

activity of angelic forces among the agencies of nature and providence.

 

15 “Nevertheless leave the stump of his roots in the earth, even

with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let

it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts

in the grass of the earth.” Again the Septuagint differs considerably from

the received text, “And thus he said, Leave one root of it in the earth, in

order that it may with the beasts of the earth browse in the mountains on

grass like an ox.” As the reading is the briefer, it is on the whole to be

preferred, the more so that the belt of iron and brass is got rid of. The

Septuagint assumes that the work of demolishing the tree had gone on to

some extent, and then the watcher intervenes to bring forward this

limitation to the completeness of the destruction at first enjoined.

Theodotion is in agreement with the Massoretic text, as also the Peshitta.

Moses Stuart thinks the belt of iron and brass is represented as being put

round the stump of the tree in order to prevent it cracking, and so rotting,

in this following von Langerke. Keil, with more justice, thinks that this is a

transition from the symbol to the person symbolized; in this view he agrees

with Hengstenberg, Kliefoth, Zockler, Behrmann, Hitzig, Ewald,

Kranichfeld, and others. There is a further division of opinion as to

whether it symbolizes the mental darkness Nebuchadnezzar will be under,

or the limitation of his kingdom, or the fact that, as a maniac, he will be

bound with fetters. The fact that, while commentators have devoted so

much time to this, there is no reference to it in the interpretation, confirms

us in our suspicion of the whole clause. The transition to the person, if

barely doubtful in regard to the belt of iron and brass, is obvious in the

remaining clauses in this verse. Every tree is wet with the dew of heaven

— that would indicate neither degradation nor hardship; and the browsing

with the beasts is impossible to a tree. The transition from thing to person

is in perfect accordance with what every one has experienced in dreams.

 

16 “Let his heart be changed from man’s, and let a beast’s

heart be given unto him; and let seven times pass ever him.” The

Septuagint rendering seems to be taken from the previous verse, “And let

his body be changed by the dew of heaven, and let him be pastured with

them seven years.” It seems difficult to imagine, either, on the one hand,

Hbeb]li (libebayh) changed into Hr;g]pi(pigerah), the word by which Paulus

Tellensis translates sw~ma – soma – body - though it suggests “carcass,” or into

hned]ni (nidnayh), the word used in ch. 7:15; or, on the other, that either of

these should be read lebab. At the same time, l and n are not unlike in old

inscriptions, nor b unlike d; any indistinctness in the third letter might

easily lead to a mistake. It is not impossible that some of the words in the

latter part of the previous verse have been modified from some word

meaning “body.” It is equally difficult to guess what word has been read by

the Septuagint translator instead of ˆWpl]j]y" (yah-lephoon), “let them pass

over.” The greater brevity of the Septuagint is in its favor. Theodotion is,

as usual, in closer agreement with the Massoretic; he renders min-anaosha

or anosha’ for ajpo< tw~n ajnqrw>pwn – apo ton anthropon - from men

a possible translation, and one favored by some recent commentators. The

Peshitta agrees quite with the received text. According to the received text, the

main change was mental — the human heart is removed, and the heart of a

beast given. On the other hand, in the twenty-third verse, in which we have

the fulfilment of the dream, the change is mainly physical, and it is to be

observed that the change is produced by “the dew of heaven.” Seven times.

The word ‘iddanun, “times,” is a matter of some difficulty; it means really

“seasons” or “points” of time, as in Ecclesiastes 3:2, Targum, and

Genesis 38:1, Targum Onkelos, “It came to pass at this time.” It is

purely arbitrary to fix the meaning here as “years,” as is done by the

Septuagint and by many commentators. Theodotiom keeps the

indefiniteness of the original by rendering the word here kairoi> – kairoi –

time; season. The  Peshitta transfers the word. It may be” months” as suggested

by Lenormant; it maybe “seasons,” in our usual sense of the word. Rendel

Harris’s ‘Biblical Monuments,’ p. 73, says, “Summer and winter are the

only seasons counted in Babylonia;” if so, seven ‘iddaneen would be nearly

four years. From the fact that exposure to weather is the point of

importance, Mr. Harris’s view is not impossible; but pathological reasons

suggest “months”. Seven, with the Babylonians, as with most other Semites,

is a round number of sacred import, and therefore may not be pressed.

 

17 “This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the

demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may

know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it

to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.”  In this

verse the difference between the Septuagint text — we mean the text

behind that version — and that of the Massoretes is great. It is as follows:

“Until he know the Lord of heaven to have power over all things which are

in heaven and on the earth, and such things as He willeth to do, He doeth.”

This, as may be observed, is very much briefer than the Massoretic, and

hence, to a certain extent, to be preferred. It is, however, difficult to

imagine the genesis of the one from the other, as they have only two words

in common in a similar connection, fYLiv" (shaleet) and ˆW[D]n]y

(yinedeoon)’ If we start with the supposition that the Massoretic text is the

primary, we have a difficulty in seeing what reason induced this peculiar

form of condensation. Had it been to get rid of the decree of the watchers,

and the demand of the holy ones, that clause might have been simply

omitted, and the sense would have given no sign of anything having been

omitted. If, again, we start with the Septuagint text as our basis, it is

difficult to understand what led to the insertion of “the decree of the

watchers” and “the demand of the holy ones.” Of course, the period of the

Persian domination and that of the early Greek supremacy was one in

which the angelic hierarchy was enormously increased and made vastly

more complex than it had been before. Further, it is to be noted that “the

watchers,” ˆyry[ (‘ereen), are here distinguished absolutely from “the holy

ones,” ˆyviydiq" (gad-deesbeen), whereas in v. 13 “the watchers” and

“the holy ones” are identified. This distinction is made in later Jewish

commentators, and therefore its presence here, in contradistinction to v.13,

is proof of a relatively late origin for this clause. Zockler would avoid

this by asserting a parallelism of members in this sentence; but, in the first

place, this is not verse, but prose, and therefore parallelism need not be

expected. Further, tdezeg](gezayrath) is “a decree” given by a person in

authority, and XXX (shalayth) is “a petition” presented to one in

authority. So far from the two being identified in the verse before us, the

watchers and the holy ones are as absolutely contrasted as they can be.

Bevan simply appeals to v. 13 to prove their identity — sense has no

influence with him. When we turn to Theodotion, we find that, in his

practical identity with the Massoretic text, he has preserved the contrast

between “decree” and “petition,” the former word being represented by

su>gkrima – sugkrima, and the second by ejperw>thma – eperotaema.

These two words represent fairly well the distinction between trexeg]

(gezayrath), and tlea"v] (sh’alayth). It is probable that su>gkrima is used

instead of kri>ma – krima – judgment -  in order  to show that ei]r - eir  -

is to be regarded as genitive plural. The Peshitta follows

the Massoretic, but less closely. It has ry[, “watcher,” in the singular. This

clause in the Syriac should be rendered, “according to the decrees of the

watcher is this order, and according to the word of the holy one is the

request;” it retains the distinction in question much as it is in the received

text, but with a distinct difference of meaning in regard to the other words

of the clause. So, too, Jerome in the Vulgate translates, “In sententia

vigilum decretum eat et sermo sanctorum et petitio,” thus maintaining, in

all the confusion there is in this rendering, the distinction we have referred

to. In the final clause, the Vulgate is further astray from the Massoretic.

translating, super eum. The theology of this passage is singular, so singular

that, were it not for the omission of the passage from the Septuagint. and

its contradiction of v. 13, we might be inclined to think it must be

genuine. (For a similar statement, see Galatians 3:19, “The Law… was

ordained by angels;” Hebrews 2:2, “If the word spoken by angels was

steadfast.) The view seems to be that the Almighty had a council of

angels, and before them was every question discussed ere it was decreed.

In short, that there was a heavenly Sanhedrin, corresponding to that on

earth — an idea which was developed by the Talmudists. It appears in

Enoch, not yet fully developed. In Enoch 12. certain of the watchers are

denounced as having defiled themselves with women; in ch. 20. we have

the name of the holy angels who watch, and in this chapter we have the

different provinces assigned to each of them. Six are enumerated. They

have thus no collective function. In the portion of Enoch preserved in

Syncellus, men are represented as calling to the heavens, and addressing

them; and the four angels, Michael, Uriel, Raphael, and Gabriel, give

answer by looking down upon the earth, and they see the blood that is

being shed by violence. Then follows the statement, “And the four

archangels came before the Lord, and said.” They may be here said to act

in a collective capacity, but they have no deliberative function, still less

have they any power to decree. The interpolated verse before us thus

represents an angelology more developed than that of the date of the

Book of Enoch. And setteth up over it the basest of men. This phrase

suggests the “vile person,” hz,B]ni (nibezeh), of ch. 11:21, who is

probably Epiphanes — the reference in this interpolated verse is not

unlikely the same. The Syriac form of hyl[ in the K’thib has to be

observed. One peculiarity which points to interpolation is the Hebrew

plural here used, μyvin;a, (anasheem). Were it not that our suspicions of

this verse are deepened by examination of it, we should be inclined to see a

reference to that usurpation of Nebuchadnezzar’s throne, which Lenormant

thinks is implied in the title Neriglissar gives to his father. There seems to

be a reference to something like this in v. 24 of this chapter, according to

the version of the Septuagint.

 

18 “This dream I King Nebuchadnezzar have seen. Now thou,

O Belteshazzar, declare the interpretation thereof, forasmuch as all

the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known unto me the

interpretation; but thou art able; for the spirit of the holy gods is in

thee.” This verse is wholly omitted in the Septuagint. On the other hand, the

verse in the Septuagint which occupies this place is totally different from

anything in the Massoretic text: “Before me was it cut down in one day,

and its destruction was in one hour of the day, and its branches were given

to every wind, and it was driven out and dragged forth, and it ate the grass

of the earth, and it was delivered to a guard, and in brazen fetters and

shackles was it bound with them. I marveled exceedingly at these things,

and the sleep departed from mine eyes.” The first thing that strikes one

with this is the fact that it is a translation from Aramaic. The clause, “in

brazen fetters and shackles was it bound with them,” seems nearly

demonstrative of this. jEn pe>daiv kai< ejn ceirope>daiv calkai~v ejde>qh

uJp aujtw~n - en pedais kai en cheiropedais chalkais edethae hup auton - is not

a sentence which any one would naturally write in Greek,

but the sentence is natural if the translator followed his Aramaic original

slavishly. If, then, this is correct, the hypothesis of a falsarius is reduced to

that of an Aramaic falsarius, who intruded this verse into the Aramaic

original which was conveyed down to Egypt. On the other hand, the verse

in the Septuagint completes the narrative which the Massoretic text leaves

unfinished. This may be used. as an argument against the authenticity of

this version, as the need of completion may have suggested the mode in

which the need was to be supplied. But it is also to be noted that there is

present the same mixture of sign and thing signified, which, natural in a

dream, is so unnatural in ordinary narration, that the falsarius who had

observed the incompleteness of the Massoretic text, and had the necessary

skill to supply the want, would not have increased the confusion, already

manifest enough. When we turn to Theodotion, we see symptoms of

trouble, “This is the vision which I Nebuchadnezzar the king had, and thou,

Beltasar, tell the interpretation, because none of the wise men of my

kingdom were able to show me its interpretation; but thou, Daniel, art able,

because a holy spirit of God is in thee.” The introduction of the Jewish

name Daniel in the midst of a speech in which he is always elsewhere

addressed by his Bahylonian name, is suspicious. The repetition, in this as

in the Masoretic, of the original incongruity that Daniel, the head of the

court magicians, is only summoned after the other magicians have proved

unable to solve the mystery of this dream, is to be noted. The Peshitta here

partly follows the same text as that followed by Theodotion, and partly that

of the Massoretes. Like Theodotion, “Daniel” is inserted, but, following

the basis of the Massoretic text in opposition to Theodotion, it has “a spirit

of the holy gods.” There seems no possibility of imagining the Septuagint

reading to have developed from the Massoretic, or vice versa. If there

were any proof of Dr. C. H. H. Wright’s hypothesis, that our present

Daniel was a condensation of a larger work, it might be supposed that the

Massoretic represented one condensation, and the Septuagint another. The

Septuagint at this point inserts, “And having risen early in the morning,. I

summoned Daniel, the ruler of the wise men and chief of the interpreters,

and related to him the dream, and he showed all the interpretation of it.” In

Genesis 41. we have two accounts of Pharaoh’s dream, first in connection

with his actual dreaming, and next in his narrating to Joseph his experience.

If the original tract — from the union of several of which we imagine our

book has been compiled — from which this chapter is condensed

contained, like Genesis 41., two accounts of Nebuchadnezzar’s vision, and

the Egyptian recension followed one condensation of this tract, and the

Palestinian another, the phenomena are explicable without the idea of a

vague gratuitous variation, such as that of which, on the traditional view,

the writer of the Septuagint has been guilty. On the ground that the

Massoretic text may represent also a true text of Daniel, another fragment

of the original document, we may examine it a little more closely. The king

declares the dream to Daniel in a way that indicates a certain attestation of

the accuracy of the report of what he had seen. “This is the dream which I

Nebuchadnezzar the king saw.” Then follows the command to declare the

interpretation, “You are master of magicians. I have duly brought before

you an accredited dream which I have had, fulfill now your office, interpret

to me my dream.” This much is natural. What follows is an obvious

interpolation. It contradicts what has preceded, which, by implication,

asserts Daniel’s duty to interpret, and therefore the probability that not last,

but first, would Daniel have been appealed to. It contradicts also what

follows, which is a commendation of Daniel’s powers, which, as known to

the king, ought to have led him at once to summon him, as the Septuagint

says Nebuchadnezzar did. The commendation of Daniel appears an

addition to get over the difficulty, but, like many other attempts of the

same kind, it fails, and really adds to the confusion.

 

 

A Vision of Self-Ruin (vs. 10-18)

 

It must always be regarded as a mark of God’s kindness, when He

forewarns men of His impending judgments. If vindictive retribution only

was intended, there would be no premonition. The old adage current

among the heathen, “The gods have feet of wool,” has no place in God’s

kingdom. “The axe is laid at the root of the tree”  (Matthew 3:10) —

a proof that kindness is not extinct in God’s bosom.

 

  • WE HAVE A PICTURE OF BRILLIANT PROSPERITY. It was a

common method in olden time to represent a prosperous man under the

image of a flourishing tree. “The righteous shall prosper as a palm tree: he

shall grow as a cedar in Lebanon.”  (Psalm 92:121)  The greatness and

splendor of Nebuchadnezzar resembled such a tree. He reigned in Babylon

well-nigh the center of the then known world. His power among earthly kings

was supreme. Neighboring monarchs were his vassals. In all his wars he

had been successful. Israel and Syria, Egypt and Arabia, lay at his feet. His

throne was strong, and his fame reached, as it seemed, to heaven. Nor did

his rule appear, on the whole, injurious. The peoples found protection

under his scepter. He encouraged the growth of art and science. But this

military glory fed and pampered his pride. He deemed himself something

more than man. He imagined himself a demi-god. The prosperity was

outward, material, plausible. It did not touch and transform his inner

nature. His body was nursed in luxury, but he was starving his soul. The

flower opened in unrivalled beauty, but there was a worm at the root. Ah!

deceitful sunshine.

 

  • A PICTURE OF AWFUL REVERSE. It is no uncommon thing for

prosperous men to suffer a sudden and complete reverse. “Riches make for

themselves wings, and fly away.” (Proverbs 23:5)  The props of a throne are

soon snapped. The arm of military power is soon broken. Kings have ended

life in a dungeon or on a scaffold. Not more complete is the contrast between

a fruit tree in spring and the same tree in the frosty days of winter, than the

conditions of some men — in the morning prosperous, in the evening

stripped and naked. Can Fortune’s best gifts be worth much, which give no

warrant of continuance? The calamity which was preparing for

Nebuchadnezzar was certainly the most severe that could befall a man.

Worse than disease! Worse than leprosy Worse than death! He who had

“set his heart as the heart of God,” who had aspired to a place among the

stars, was to fall below the level of a man — was to have the heart of a

beast, abject weakness instead of imperial might, imbecility in place of

boasted wisdom. This disaster is said to be proclaimed by a holy watcher.

This language was an accommodation to prevalent beliefs. The unfallen

angels, being unburdened with a corporeal nature, and having, therefore,

no need of sleep, are ever wakeful to execute the commissions of Jehovah.

These watch our course, grieve over our declensions, and correct us for

our follies. So did an angel scatter the hosts of Sennacherib (II Kings 19).

So did an angel smite Herod with a fatal disease (Acts 12:23). “Are they

not all ministering spirits?” (Hebrews 1:14)  “Excelling in strength, they

do His commands, hearkening to the voice of His word.”  (Psalm 103:20)

 

  • TWIN RAYS OF HOPE. The Divine sentence proceeds with a

succession of melancholy chastisements, until the word “nevertheless” is

reached; then the deepening darkness is relieved by a gleam of hope. The

stump of the root was to be preserved. This, of course, implied that the

overthrow was not absolute and final. Room was yet left for repentance

and restoration. Special means were chosen to preserve the stump from rot

and injury. So all God’s judgments, in this life, are corrective and are

designed to be remedial. Judgment and mercy are blended in human

discipline. The affliction, though severe, was not to be permanent and

eternal. There was a limit in respect to duration: “Till seven times are

passed over him.” A sad apprenticeship in the dark prison of insanity, for

seven years, was to be endured. And then, what? This was the momentous

question. Was the issue, then, to be death? Or repentance, amendment,

life? Tremendous issues hung upon the man’s use of God’s judgment.

Every man is upon his trial. We are here “prisoners of hope.” A ray of

mercy gilds our path, which ray may broaden and brighten INTO

ETERNAL NOON or may be quenched in BLACKEST NIGHT!

 

  • A MERCIFUL DESIGN. There is no room for caprice or chance in

the government of our world, nor in any of the affairs of men. Does

insanity fall upon a man? It is by a heaven]y design. “The purpose of

Jehovah, that shall stand.”  (Proverbs 19:21)  Mark, that God’s intention

was not simply the good of one individual man, but THE GOOD OF

ALL LIVING!   God uses one to teach many — disciplines one, that he may

be a blessing to multitudes. “No man liveth unto himself.”  (Romans 14:7)

We receive good and evil mediately from the human race. We transmit

blessing or bane to the future ages. God’s high design is to teach men

religious truth — “that the living may know that God ruleth”  (v. 17).

To know God, as the living, reigning God, — this is among

the highest blessings we can obtain. If we know God, we shall long to be

reconciled to Him, to enjoy His friendship. Acquaintance with God will

quicken the aspiration to be like Him. To know Him is the way to virtue,

wisdom, eminence, peace. It is comparatively easy to instruct the beggar, it

is very difficult to instruct the monarch, in this lore. How hardly shall they

that have riches confess themselves poor!  (Matthew 19:23)  How hardly

shall they that have dominion acknowledge their dependence! The poorest

in this way may become the richest; the commonest  among men may

become the mightiest in the kingdom of heaven.

 

19 “Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astonied

for one hour, and his thoughts troubled him.”  Thus far the two main

recensions are agreed. The Septuagint renders practically to the same effect

as our version, only that uJpo>noia kate>speuden aujto>n – huponoia

katespeuden auton means rather - suspicions disturbed him -which is the

rendering of Paulus Tellensis. There are traces in it of doublet; the rendering

of the Septuagint is, “And Daniel greatly marveled, and suspicions disturbed

him, and he was terrified, trembling having taken hold of him, and his visage

was changed, having moved (kinh>sav – kinaesas - disturbance) his head,

having been amazed one hour, he answered me in a meek voice.” Theodotion

and the Peshitta are at one with the Massoretic text here. It is to be noted here

that the word shaa, translated “hour,” has no such definite meaning; Gesenius

gives, “a moment of time,” in which he is followed by Bevan, Keil, and Stuart.

Ewald translates, eine Stunde, and with him agree Hitzig, Kranichfeld, Zockler.

Both the Greek versions have w[ran – horan – time; (limited), but we must

bear in mind that w[ra – hora – limited time - had not the definite meaning

which we attach to “hour.” Jerome renders hera. The Septuagint adds, as we

have seen, somewhat grotesquely, “having moved (kinh>sav) his head, he was

astonished for one hour.” This seems a case of “doublet,” that phenomenon so

frequent in the Septuagint. The Septuagint rendering, (de< – de - and) Daniel

was greatly astonished, and suspicions troubled him, and, trembling having

seized him, he was afraid,” suggests that it is not impossible that ygc, “greatly,”

had been read instead of h[v, “an hour;” but the rest is not so easily explicable.

There is one case of Syriasm here in the vocalization of μm"wOTv]a, instead of

yyvai. “The king spake, and said, Belteshazzar, let not the dream, or the

interpretation thereof, trouble thee.” This clause is absent from both the

Greek versions, though present in the Peshitta and Vulgate. As it stands, on

the one hand, it is a departure from the epistolary style, or perhaps rather the

 proclamative style of the earlier portion of the chapter. On the other hand, if

we think this clause an interpolation, we cannot fail to note that the kindly

courtesy and consideration ascribed by the interpolator to Nebuchadnezzar is

utterly unlike the character of Epiphanes as manifested to the Jews.

Nebuchadnezzar saw that Daniel was filled with sorrow and apprehension

at the meaning he saw in the vision, and endeavors to reassure and

encourage him. If the conduct of Nebuchadnezzar is unlike that which a

Jew of B.C. 170 would have ascribed to him were it his intention to present

in him Epiphanes under a disguise, still more unlike is the conduct of

Daniel to that which certainly would have been ascribed to him had the

author intended to represent him as a model of the pious Jew in a heathen

court — in the court of Epi-phanes. Would Mattathias have remained

astonished and speechless in the presence of Epiphanes, had it been

revealed to him that Epiphanes was to be driven out to the wilds a

madman? If, then, it is an interpolation, it is an early one — earlier than the

Maccabean struggle. But if the interpolation be early, the book interpolated

must be yet earlier. “Belteshazzar answered and said, My lord, the

dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to

thine enemies.”   The Septuagint maintains the epistolary character of this

narrative here, “And Baltasar answered me with a meek voice, This dream

be to those that hate thee, and let the interpretation thereof come upon

thine enemies.” Theodotion, the Peshitta, and the Vulgate are at one with

the ordinary text. The feelings of Daniel towards Nebuchadnezzar seem to

have been those of the highest personal loyalty, and thus in the widest

contrast from the feelings that any Jew of the time of the Maccabees would

have towards Epiphanes. He, Daniel, in his love for the grand impulsive

despot, would have the enemies and haters of his monarch swept forth to

wander as maniacs, rather than that he should so suffer.

 

20 “The tree that thou sawest, which grew, and was

strong, whose height reached unto the heaven, an the sight thereof to

all the earth;  21 Whose leaves were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and

in it was meat for all; under which the beasts of the field dwelt, and

upon whose branches the fowls of the heaven had their habitation:

22 It is thou, O king, that art grown and become strong: for thy greatness

is grown, and reacheth unto heaven, and thy dominion to the end of

the earth.”  The Septuagint Version here differs very considerably in

wording from the above, but not in sense, “Thou, O king, art this tree

planted in the earth, the appearance of which was great, and all the birds of

the heaven made their nests in it: the strength of the earth and of the

nations, and of all tongues to the ends of the earth, and all the

(cw~rai – chorai - provinces) serve thee. And that tree was exalted and

neared the heaven, and its breadth (ku~tov - kutos) touched the clouds.

Thou, O king, wast exalted above all men that are upon the face of the whole

earth, and thine heart has been [literally, ‘was’] lifted up with pride and strength

over those things which pertain to the Holy One and His angels, and thy works

are manifest, because thou hast laid waste the house of the living God on account

of the sins of the consecrated people.” The latter portion of this contains plain

evidence of interpolation. Had there been anything of that sort in the

original Daniel, it would not have disappeared from the Massoretic text.

This addition reveals the mental attitude of the Jews of the Maccabean

period to foreign oppressors. The fact that the whole atmosphere of the

primitive Daniel differs so much from this is an indirect evidence of its

genuineness. If one looks at the Septuagint rendering of these three verses,

there seem evidences of an early origin. The first verse is clearly an

instance in which the text behind the Septuagint is superior to that of the

Massoretic; the latter is obviously filled out from v. 11. The statement of

Nebuchadnezzar’s greatness in v. 22 (14 Septuagint, 18 Massoretic) may

be somewhat the result of paraphrase. The fifteenth verse, according to the

Septuagint, which is paralleled by Tischeudorf with v. 19 of the Massoretic, is

really another version of the preceding verses, probably slightly modified to

give the resulting text the appearance of being continuous. Theodotion

bears a very close resemblance to the Massoretic text, only he has ku>tov,

“breadth,” instead of o[rasiv (vision; appearance). The Peshitta differs but little,

though still a little, from the Massoretic text. Instead of rendering, “meat for all,”

it has,“for all flesh.” According to both recensions of the text, Daniel repeats,

either in substance or with verbal exactness, the description

Nebuchadnezzar had himself given of the tree of his vision, but applies it to

the monarch. To us the terms of the description of Nebuchadnezzar’s

power are exaggerated; but we must bear in mind that the manners of an

Oriental court are different from those of Western nations. It is not unlike

the boastful language of Nebuchadnezzar in the Standard Inscription. The

monarch’s dominion was vast, but it had been given him, and that he did

not recognize, and hence the judgment that came upon him.

 

23 “And whereas the king saw a watcher and an holy one

coming down from heaven, and saying, Hew the tree down, and

destroy it; yet leave the stump of the roots thereof in the earth, even

with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let

it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts

of the field, till seven times pass over him.”  This in the beginning agrees

with the text behind the Septuagint Version of v. 14 (7 Septuagint., 11

Massoretic). In that verse, instead of the elaborate process of cutting off

branches and shaking off leaves, the Septuagint had simply,

katafqei>rate aujto> – kataphtheirate auto.   This confirms us in

our preference of the Septuagint there. In the present instance, the Septuagint

is briefer than the Massoretic text; it varies in some points, which may indicate

the hand of a redactor,  “And the vision which thou sawest, that an angel was

sent in strength, and commanded to root the tree up and to cut it down, the

judgment of God shall come upon thee.” Here, again, there is nothing of

“the watcher and the holy one,” nothing of the belt of “iron and brass,”

nor of the “tree having its portion with the beasts of the field,” nor that it

was to be “wet with the dew of heaven.” Some of these features are mentioned

in the account of the vision, but are not repeated now. Theodotion agrees with

the Massoretic text. The Peshitta carries the repetition yet further, and

inserts, “And his heart shall be changed from the heart of a man, and the

heart of a beast shall be given him.” In this the process already begun in the

text of the Massoretes is carried a little further. The Vulgate agrees with

the received text. Daniel rapidly notifies the principal features in the king’s

dream, before he proceeds to explain it.

 

24 “This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of

the Most High, which is come upon my lord the king.”  The passage in

the Seventy which is parallel with this is partly in the last clause of the

previous verse and partly in the verse that occupies a similar place to this in

the Septuagint text, “The judgments of the great God shall come upon

thee, and the Most High and his angels assail thee (katatre>cousin ejpi<

se< – katatrechousin epi se – are pursuing you).” The change of tense here

indicates that the second clause is an alternative rendering, brought into the

text from the margin. In this marginal note meta has been taken as “assail,”

and malka’, “O king,” has been, by transposition of the two final letters, read

melak, “angel.”  Theodotion and the Peshitta agree with the Massoretic text.

The respectful tone in which Daniel addresses Nebuchadnezzar in the received

text is to be observed; it is utterly alien to the boastful tone Judaism was

afterwards accustomed to impute to its old saints. That there is no reference to

the watchers or to their decree in this is imputed to Daniel’s recognition of its

true source; but in the Septuagint there is nothing equivalent to the

statement in v. 17. The fact that it is omitted here confirms the suspicion

against it which we expressed in regard to the earlier verse.

 

25 “That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling

shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat

grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and

seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the Most High

ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will.”

The Septuagint Version is here much briefer, and in that better, “And they

shall put thee in guard, and send thee into a desert place.” The Massoretic

text, although it agrees with that from which Theodotion’s Version, the

Peshitta, and the Vulgate have been translated, is pleonastic. The Vulgate

drops the causative element, and simply says, “Thou shalt eat grass like the

ox, and thou shalt be wet with the dew of heaven.” The Peshitta, while

translating μ["f] by the aphel of acal — that is to say, making the meaning

causative — renders [b"x] by the passive, titztaba; similarly Theodotion

renders it. If we are to take the words of Daniel strictly, even in the

Massoretic, much more if we take the Septuagint, text, he seems to have

understood the dream to point, not to lycanthropy, but to an overthrow at

the hands of his enemies, when they would compel him to eat grass in his

distress, and, by depriving him of every shelter, force him to be wet with

the dew of heaven. There is nothing to indicate that the compulsion should

work within, and that by these inner scourges the messengers of the Most

High would drive Nebuchadnezzar forth to the fields.

 

26 “And whereas they commanded to leave the stump of the

tree roots; thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt

have known that the heavens do rule.” The Septuagint Version here is

different, and not so good as the received text, “And (as for) the root of

the tree which was left and not rooted out, the place of thy throne shall be

preserved to thee to a season and an hour; behold, for thee they are

prepared, and they shall bring judgment upon thee. The Lord liveth in

heaven, and His power is in all the earth.” The last clause here is plainly a

paraphrase of “the heavens do rule.” “A season and an hour” is a doublet,

and since it is to be observed that the phrase, “after that thou shalt have

known,” is omitted, we may deduce that thindda’, “thou shalt know,” is,

by transposition of letters, read liddan. Theodotion, who is usually slavish

in his following of the Aramaic construction, renders here, “And because

they said, Suffer the stump (fuh<n – phuaen) of the roots of the tree.” This

suggests that in the text before Theodotion mere is omitted from qbçml

(lmishbaq), and it was read wqbçl (leishbaqoo), meaning, according to

the Mandaitic form of the verb, “they shall leave” — a form in accordance

with the previous construction, then further altered to the second person

plural. The end of the verse is also slightly different, “Until thou shalt know

the heavenly power,” reading here shooltan dee shemya’ instead of shaltan

shemya. The Peshitta renders, “till thou shalt know that power is from the

heaven (min shemya).” Mr. Bevan remarks on this usage of “heavens” for

“God,” which he compares with the Mishna and with the New Testament.

He does not observe that the difficulty all the translators have with the

phrase is a proof that, when the versions were made, it was even then not a

common usage; hence that its introduction here was not due to the

influence of the Mishnaic Hebrew stretching back, but was owing rather to

the peculiar circumstances of Daniel. Professor Bevan’s reference to the

New Testament is mistaken. In no case in the New Testament is ou]ranoi

ourunoi – heavens - used for “God.” Even in the Greek Apocrypha is no

usage precisely equivalent. Daniel, by using the phrase he did, put himself on

the same level as the heathen king — pride against the gods (u[briv – hubris –

 harm; hurt, injury), and of this, by implication, is Nebuchadnezzar here accused.

Certainly the words of his inscriptions do not indicate anything of this sort. In

fact, many of the phrases in the prayer to Marduk in the India House Inscription

indicate reverent humility almost Christian. Still, these phrases might be due, to

some extent, to political custom. The relation of a polytheist to his gods is

a psychological enigma to a civilized monotheist. On the one hand, he

recognizes his dependence on the god; on the other, he considers the god

honored by his worship, and therefore owing him certain duties in return.

 

27 “Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee,

and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by

showing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy

tranquility.”  The Septuagint Version differs in this case somewhat

considerably. It connects itself with the preceding verse, “Entreat Him on

account of thy sins, and to purify’ all thine unrighteousness in almsgiving,

in order that He may give thee humility, and many days on the throne of thy

kingdom, and that thou be not destroyed.” This version is paraphrastic and

inferior as a whole to the text of the Massoretes, but at the same time,

there must have been a different text to make such a rendering possible.

Theodotion is more in accordance with the Massoretic text, but also has

resemblances to the Septuagint here, “Therefore, O king, let my counsel be

acceptable to thee, and atone for thy sins by almsgiving, and for thine

unrighteousness by mercies to the (penh>twn – penaeton – poor; indigent),

perchance (i[swv – isos – like; similar) God will be long-suffering to thy

transgression.” The last clause may be due to reading ‘elaha’ (ajla) for ‘archu

(akra), in which case the last clause would read, “God may be for thy tranquillity.”

In this case Theodotion’s rendering is a natural paraphrase. The Peshitta is in

agreement with the received text, save that malka, “king,” is left out, possibly

from its resemblance to milki, “my counsel.” The Vulgate rendering is,

“Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be pleasing unto thee, redeem thy sins by

almsgiving, and thine iniquities by mercies to the poor; perchance He will

forgive (ignoscat) thy sins.” This follows Theodotion so far in the last

clause, but not wholly, It is to be noticed that all the versions translate

hq;d]xi (tzidqah) “almsgiving” — a late meaning, and one not present in

the Massoretic here. It can only be forced upon,this passage by giving qr"p]

(peraq) a meaning it never has, as Professor Bevan and Keil show it to

mean “to break,” and as breaking a yoke meant “setting free,” it thus meant

redeeming a person; but in the sense of paying a ransom for sins, it never is

used, even in the Targums. There is, therefore, a wide difference between

the moral standpoint of the writer of Daniel and that of his translators —

so wide that the writer of Daniel does not see the possibility of his words

being twisted to this meaning. In Ecclesiasticus almsgiving is made

equivalent to righteousness. The writer of Daniel is on a different moral

plane from Ben Sira. But more, Daniel must have been translated into

Greek before Ecclesiasticus, as the whole canon was translated when the

grandson of Ben Sira had come down to Egypt, and this at the latest was

B.C. 135; on the critical hypothesis, not a score of years separate the text of

Daniel from the translation. The courteous beginning of Daniel’s speech is

to be observed; he is anxious to win the king to repentance. Compare the

stern, unrelenting demeanor of Elijah to Ahab, and of Elisha to Jehoram.

If we compare this with the way the Jews of Talmudic times regard the

memory of Titus, the Roman captor of Jerusalem, we see we are in a

totally different atmosphere from that in which the Jewish folsarius of any

period of Jewish history could have lived. A grand impulsive character like

Nebuchadnezzar could not but at once allure and awe the young Jew, but a

zealous Jew would have regarded it as derogatory to imagine this of a

prophet of the Lord, and so we see the Septuagint translator drops the

courteous words with which Daniel introduces his advice. Daniel looked

upon the fact that the warning had been given as an evidence that there

might be a place for repentance.

 

28 “All this came upon the King Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of twelve

months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon.”   The Septuagint

here has the look of a paraphrase. In continuation of the preceding verse, “Attend

(ajga>phson - agapaeson) to these words, for my word is certain, and thy time is

full. And at the end of this word, Nebuchadnezzar, when he heard the interpretation

of the vision, kept these words in his heart” (compare with this the phrase in

Luke 2:19). “And after twelve months the king walked upon the walls of the city,

and went about its towers, and answered and said.” The variations appear to be due

to a desire to expand and explain. It seemed to the translator more natural

that, after a survey of the walls and towers of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar

should speak his boastful words, hence he makes the suitable changes in

the verse before us; so, too, with the effect of Daniel’s words on the king.

The rendering of Theodotion coincides nearly with the text of the

Massorites, save that hoychal is translated “temple” rather than “palace”

a translation which usage quite permits. The Peshitta retains the double

meaning. One, of the great buildings erected by an Assyrian or Babylonian

monarch was his palace, which had also the character of a temple. In the

case of the Ninevite monarchs, the walls of the palace were adorned with

sculptures, portraying the principal events of the monarch’s reign. This not

impossibly might be the case with the palace of Nebuchadnezzar. Babylon

as a city seems to have been practically rebuilt by him — his bricks are the

most numerous of any found in Babylonia.

 

30 “The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I

have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power,

and for the honour of my majesty?” The meaning of the Septuagint

rendering is the same as the above, “This is Babylon the great, which I

built, and the house of my kingdom is it called, in the might of my power,

to the honor of my glory.” Theodotion and the Peshitta in the main agree

with the received text. It is one of the characteristics of the earlier

Chaldean monarchs who reigned over the small Chaldean cantons in

Mesopotamia, that they named their capital city from themselves, as Bit-

Dakuri and Bit-Adini; the capital of Merodach-Baladan was called after his

father, Bit-Jakin. We need scarcely explain that bit represents beth,

“house.” In all ages an imperial power has expressed its greatness in the

splendor of its capital, but in the case of the Babylonian Empire,

Nebuchadnezzar was the empire, therefore the splendor of the city was a

testimony to his glory.

 

31 “While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a

voice from heaven, saying, O King Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is

spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee.   32 And they shall drive thee

from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they

shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over

thee, until thou know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of

men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will.”   The Septuagint rendering has

many points of interest, “While the word was yet in the mouth of the king

— at the end of his speech — he heard a voice out of heaven, To thee it is

said, O King Nebuchadnezzar, the kingdom of Babylon has been taken

from thee, and is being given to another — a man set at naught in thy

house: behold, I set him in thy kingdom, and thy power and thy glory and

thy delicacy he takes possession of; that thou mayest know that the God of

heaven hath dominion over the kingdoms of men, and to whomsoever He

willeth he shall give it. To the rising of the sun another king shall rejoice in

thy house and shall possess thy glory and thy might and thy dominion.” The

differences between the Massoretic and Theodotion are inconsiderable.

The Peshitta adds the clause, “wet with the dew of heaven,” to the

description of the humiliation of Nebuchadnezzar; and to the account of

the supremacy of the God of heaven adds, “and raises to it the humble

man.” This latter clause seems like a faint echo of the more precise

statement of the Septuagint.  The Vulgate differs here only as in the former case,

omitting the causative. The reference in the Septuagint to a special person in the

house of Nebuchadnezzar, exalted upon his throne, appears to support an

idea thrown out by Lenormant. Neri-glissar, the son-in-law of

Nebuchadnezzar and the successor of Evil-Merodach, claims to be the son

of Bel-zikir-iskun, King of Babylon (Lenormant, ‘La Divination,’ 204), but

in the list of Ptolemy there is no such name; hence Lenormant imagines that

this Belzikir-iskun usurped the throne for a short while, too short to be in

the canon of Ptolemy. There is no trace of such a usurpation in the contract

tables. Rawlinson’s hypothesis is difficult to believe. It is that this Belzikiriskun

was king in Babylon before the fall of the Assyrian Empire, before

Nabepolassar. But from the accession of Nabopolassar to the death of Evil-

Merodach is sixty-five or sixty-six years. A man of the age implied was

little likely to take part in a revolution or leave behind him an infant son. It

is difficult to decide, but it must be admitted that Lenormant’s position is at

all events a possible solution of the question.

 

33 “The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was

driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the

dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails

like birds’ claws.”   The verse that is placed as parallel with this in the Septuagint

differs very considerably. There this verse is still part of the proclamation of the

angel, “Early shall all these things be completed upon thee,

Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, and nothing shall be awanting of all

these things.” This verse is properly without a correspondent in the

Massoretic text. The next verse resumes the proclamation, “I

Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon was bound seven years, and they fed me

with grass as an ox. I ate from herbs of the earth.” Then after a verse which

Tischendoff marks as an interpolation, but which really is a misplaced

doublet, we have a continuation of v. 30 (33 Authorized Version), “And

my hairs became like feathers of an eagle, and my nails like those of the

lion, and my flesh and my heart were changed, and I walked naked with the

beasts of the earth.” The fact that this is longer than the Massoretic text is

decidedly against it. It seems to be a paraphrastic rendering of a text

somewhat similar to the Massoretic. On the other hand, the fact that it

retains the first person makes it at least possible that the condensation of

the middle portion of this chapter, according to the received text, is not

resorted to in this recension. It is to be noted that only a very few words in

the Septuagint necessitate any idea of condensation: only in the beginning

of v. 27 Septuagint (28 Aramaic, 31 Authorized Version) is there a

change of persons. This verse is rendered by Theodotion in a way much

like the Massoretic text. The first portion of the verse is an exact

translation of the Aramaic, but at the end the’ rendering is, “till his hairs

grew like those of lions, and his nails as those of birds.” The Peshitta

agrees exactly with the Massoretic. One cannot help being suspicious of

this assertion of the hair being like eagles’ feathers, partly because the

eagle is a bird, and “birds” are spoken of in the next clause of the verse,

and further there appears to be a pun on the last portion of the king’s name

in the word used for “eagle” (nesher). The Jewish scribes were prone to

have such plays on names. Early in history it occurs, as when Abigail

makes use of it to David in regard to her husband (I Samuel 25:25),

“Nabal is his name, and folly is with him.” This possibly is the reason for

the Hebrew variation in the name given to the Babylonian Nabu-kudurutzur.

Theodotion’s version shows the result of reasoning — it is a scribe’s

emendation. That matted hair should have an appearance which suggested

the feathers of birds, is natural enough, and the utter inattention to matters

of personal cleanliness is an exceedingly common symptom in cases of

insanity. This personal neglect would naturally result also in the growth of

the nails, and their incurring would give them vaguely the appearance of

lions’ claws. We can picture the Babylonian monarch that had, like his

Ninevite predecessors, been finical about his curled locks and trimmed and

jeweled fingers, walking in wild nakedness so far as his shackles permitted

him, with hair-matted locks, and his nails misshapen and long.

 

 

The King’s Madness (vs. 28-33)

 

  • INSANITY IS SOMETIMES THE DIRECT RESULT AND

NATURAL PENALTY OF WRONG CONDUCT. Although the physician

may rightly detect here the symptoms of brain-disease, the religious teacher

may go further, and see in this brain-disease the fruits of moral faults.

Insanity often shows itself as much in moral as in intellectual aberration —

especially in its earlier stages. In many cases it can be traced back to the

indulgence of animal instincts, passions, and self-will, to the neglect of

higher restraining influences.

 

Ø      Irregular self-will tends to insanity. Nebuchadnezzar was a tyrant

whose  merest caprice became a law for his vast empire. If such a

man has no moral principles to guide him, the inordinate indulgence

of his wild will must be so contrary to the natural course of life that

his mind will be in danger of losing its balance. Lunacy is often only

the full development of the vice that throws off all restraints. He

who would keep his mind in perfect sanity should learn to yield his

will to A HIGHER WILL!

 

Ø      Inordinate self-conceit tends to insanity. The king’s madness came upon

him when he was elated with vanity (v. 30). Insane people are commonly

inclined to dwelt on their grievances or their imagined greatness, and this

absurd habit may often be traced back to an over-sensitiveness or an undue

elation with regard to their own worthiness. It is never healthy to think

much about ourselves. (“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory;

but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”

(Philippians 2:3)  Mental soundness is best secured by self-forgetting

activity and concern for the interests of the large world around us. The

habit of introspection and the indulgence in a too subjective religious

experience are causes of religious insanity. They who incline in this

direction should remember our Lord’s caution “He that findeth his

life shall lose it:  and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”

(Matthew 10:39).

 

  • WHEN BRUTAL PASSIONS HAVE BEEN THE RULING POWERS

IN LIFE, THE HUMILIATION OF THE BRUTE MAY BE A

REASONABLE RETRIBUTION. Nebuchadnezzar had shown himself to

be governed by passions which can only be described as brutal, and yet he

had been honored with little less than Divine worship. Here was the

greatest inconsistency between desert and experience. Frequently this

inconsistency is preserved all through a man’s life, because judgment is

deferred. (“Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to

judgment; and some men they follow after.  Likewise also the good

works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise

cannot be hid.”  (I Timothy 5:24-25) But whenever judgment is given,

it must be expected that, while the man of spiritual character will be

exalted to a state of fitting honor, the man of brutal passion will be put

down to one of brutal degradation; for it is just that there should be harmony

between the outer and the inner life. Perhaps this is implied in Paul’s teaching

about “the spiritual body” (I Corinthians 15:44), which may be just the most

exact expression and closest-fitting vesture of the soul. The principle of justice

which underlies the fantastic Oriental doctrine of the transmigration of souls

may thus be exemplified in the various ranks and orders of bodily life in the

future world. He who would claim to rank as superior to the brute creation

must justify his claim by a corresponding elevation of conduct.

 

  • THERE IS A SPIRITUAL INSANITY IN WHICH MEN

RENOUNCE THE PRIVILEGES AND DUTIES OF THEIR HIGHER

NATURE, AND LIVE AS IF THEY HAD NOTHING ABOVE THE

ANIMAL IN THEM. The degradation of Nebuchadnezzar ends its

spiritual counterpart in the voluntary behavior of multitudes. They have

human souls, yet they live as though they should perish like mere animals.

They are made in the image of God, yet they act after the manner of brutes.

They have spiritual faculties which they blind and deaden with animal

passions. If we were not so familiar with such people, and did not all of us,

more or less, share their faults, it would be difficult not to regard them as

the worst of madmen. (“And such were some of you:  but ye are washed,

but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus,

and by the Spirit of our God.”  I Corinthians 6:11)  While we shudder at

the calamity of Nebuchadnezzar, should we not be far more appalled at the

awful depravity of so large a part of the human world which calmly accepts

a fate in all moral respects its equivalent?

 

34 “And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up

mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me,

and I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honoured Him that

liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His

kingdom is from generation to generation.”   If the translator of the

Septuagint had the Massoretic text before him, he has gone utterly away

from it, and gives us a mere paraphrase, “And after seven years I gave my

soul to prayer, and besought concerning my sins at the presence of the

Lord, the God of heaven, and prayed concerning mine ignorances to the

great God of gods.” There is another version of this verse, for this which

we have given has been misplaced. The verse which appears in the proper

place, though also very different from the Massoretic, is as different from

that we have just given, “And at the end of seven years the time of my

redemption came, and my sins and mine ignorances were fulfilled before

the God of heaven, and I besought concerning my ignorances the God of

gods, and behold an angel out of heaven called to me, saying,

Nebuchadnezzar, serve the holy God of heaven, and give glory to the

Highest; the kingdom of thy nation has been restored to thee.” The latter

clause has the look of leading into the following verse. One cannot but feel

that there is in both the work of the paraphrasist, but at the same time, he

seems, in both cases, to have been working with a different text from that

of the Massoretes. Theodotion and the Peshitta agree accurately with the

Massoretic. The sudden gleam of intelligence that broke the spell of

madness is a perfectly natural termination to an attack like that under

which Nebuchadnezzar suffered. The tranquillizing effect of prayer is well

known. The ascription of praise in the liturgic formula here given is not

unlike what we find in the Ninevite remains.

 

35 And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as

nothing: and He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and

among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand, or

say unto Him, What doest thou?”  The rendering of the Septuagint here is

very difficult to follow, from the state of confusion in which the text is. The

verse that comes next in order is very short,” At that time my kingdom was

set up, and my glory was restored to me.” This is a condensed statement of

what is recorded in the following verse (v. 36; 33 Massoretic), and we

shall consider it in that connection. The verse which succeeds suits more

the conclusion of such a letter or proclamation as is here represented, so

far as form goes, though the matter shows traces of exaggeration and

amplification natural to the Jew. At the same time, it bears a resemblance

to the last verse of this chapter, according to the Massoretes, only greatly

amplified. It may thus be best to regard this verse as not present in the

Septuagint text. Theodotion and the Peshitta agree with the Massoretic

text. The statement here is true, but Jewish, not Babylonian, in color.

This, along with its absence from the Septuagint, leads us to believe it to be

the insertion of a Jewish scribe. On the other hand, it looks like a statement

in brief of what we find expanded in Isaiah 40. and elsewhere. If brevity is

to be regarded as an evidence of antiquity, this passage might be taken as

the more ancient. It is, however, too bald and prosaic to be the original of

such an impassioned passage as that in Isaiah 40.

 

36 “At the same time my reason returned unto me; and for the

glory of my kingdom, mine honor and brightness returned unto me;

and my counselors and my lords sought unto me; and I was

established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me.”

As we have already mentioned, the verse in the Septuagint text which

agrees to this is very brief, “At that time my kingdom was set up and my

glory restored to me.” It may be a condensation of some independent

scribe, carried to a greater degree in the one case than the other. Only from

the genesis of our Daniel, as we have imagined it, it would seem more

probable that the briefer forms are the more primitive, and the longer the

result of the expansion to be credited to imaginative copyists. In proof of

this it is to be observed that neither Theodotion nor the Peshitta exactly

represents the Massoretic text. Theodotion renders, “At that time (aiJ fre>nev

mou – hoi phrenes mou – my intellect) was restored to me, and came to the

glory of my kingdom, and my beauty (hJ morfh> mou – hae morphae mou –

form) returned to me, and my rulers and nobles sought me, and I was confirmed

upon my kingdom, and more abundant greatness was added unto me.” The

Peshitta differs somewhat from this, “And when my intellect returned to me,

my nobles and my great army sought me, and to my kingdom was I restored,

and its great inheritance was increased to me.” The differences between these

two and the Massoretic text are slight compared with those that separate any

one of those from the Septuagint; yet starting with the Septuagint text, the

others are easily reached by slightly varying additions. The Peshitta

certainly more clearly portrays what seems likely to have taken place —

first, a revolution during the king’s madness, and a counter-revolution to

restore him when his reason returned. If, however, Nebuchadnezzar was

simply confined in a portion of the palace, then his nobles, on the news of

his restoration, might seek unto him. None of the texts presents quite a

self-consistent representation. If we could perfectly unravel the confusion

of the texts which form our present Septuagint text, we should probably

find one of them nearly self-consistent.

 

37 “Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the

King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and His ways judgment;

and those that walk in pride He is able to abase.” The Septuagint Version

has all the appearance of an original composition by a scribe, not

impossibly in imitation of the Song of the Three Holy Children, taking as

its theme the subject of the verse before us, “I confess and praise the

Highest, who created the heaven and the earth and the sea. He is God of

gods, and Lord of lords, and King of kings, because He doeth signs and

wonders, and changeth seasons and times, taking away the kingdoms of

kings and setting up others instead of them. Now from this time I shall

worship Him, and from fear of Him trembling hath taken hold of me, and all

the holy ones I praise, for the gods of the nations have not power in

themselves to turn away the kingdom of a king to another king, and to kill

and to make alive, and to do signs and marvels great and fearful; and to

change very great matters according as the God of heaven did to me, and

charged to me great things. I will offer sacrifices to the Highest every day

of my reign for my life, for a savor of sweet smell before the Lord, and

what is pleasing before Him I shall do, and the people and my nation and

the countries which are in my dominion. And as many as shall speak

against the God of heaven, and as many as shall be taken saying anything,

these shall I condemn to death.” Several of the phrases in this short hymn

— for that it rather is than a version of an Aramaic original — are derived

from other portions of Scripture; e.g. “for a savor of a sweet smell before

the Lord.” There are traces also of the familiar phenomenon of “doublets.”

Theodotion and the Peshitta agree with the Massoretic text. So far as the

Massoretic text represents the original Daniel, there is no evidence that

Nebuchadnezzar had ceased to be a worshipper of Bel-Marduk and Nebo

and Nergal. Certainly he recognizes that Jehovah is to be worshipped also.

Further, it is to be admitted that Nebuchadnezzar carries his adoration very

near the point of true and exclusive worship. In what he came short it may

be that he yielded to the political necessities of his situation — as Naaman

bowing in the temple of Rimmon (II Kings 5:18). Even an autocrat like

Nebuchadnezzar would be conditioned by those who served him, and after

his madness he would be specially under the power of those officials who

had restored him to his place.

 

During this trial of Nebuchadnezzar, his extreme form of mania didn’t interfere

with the consciousness of personal identity, of the soul’s relation to God, and

did not abate the his power to pray.  Rather, perhaps, is it to be believed that in

many cases the deepest and truest nature of man, his religious nature, is brought

into high and brilliant relief. 

 

  • God was recognized. “Lifted up mine eyes unto heaven. This is the

recognition of God. The enthronement of God. The returning conscious

recognition of God marks the advent of moral sanity.

 

  • Reason returns to the throne with God.  All that makes life worth living —

conviction of the existence of God; of the everlastingness of His blessed

rule; of the comparative insignificance of any man; of the universality of His

empire; of the resistlessness of His might — that “everything which God

does is well done” (v. 37); that “those that walk in pride he is able to

abase;” — add to these convictions that there came back, with reason,

brightness of outer life and the joy of fellowship with men. Note:

Afflictions last till they have done their work — and then no longer.

 

The object of the humiliation of pride is not vengeance, but salvation.  All God’s

purposes are at the root, love. He humbles the proud man because He loves him,

and for his good.

 

  • This humiliation is beneficial in making a man feel the folly and sin of

pride.

 

  • It is helpful in making him feel his own insufficiency and the need of

higher grounds of confidence than are to be found in his own merits and

resources. Nebuchadnezzar was led to recognize the true God, and humble

himself before Him with faith and worship, and thus his salvation was

accomplished through his humiliation. So the salvation of mankind is

effected by the humiliation of its representative Christ, and through the

self-humiliation of each individual when he takes up his cross and follows

Christ in the narrow path of self-denial.

 

 

Light at Eventide (vs. 34-37)

 

It is a perilous thing to abuse any of God’s gifts. Thereby we interfere with

the order of His government, and justly provoke His anger. The darkening

of intellect with prejudice is no mean offence. Bribing reason with sensual

delights not to recognize Godthis is a serious injury to one’s self, and

daring rebellion against God. Such was the aggravated sin of

Nebuchadnezzar; yet the judgment of God was tempered with mercy. The

abuse of reason resulted in its loss, yet the loss was temporary. The

deplorable darkness was designed as a prelude to clearer light.

 

  • PRESENT CHASTISEMENTS ARE NOT FINAL. This is a gracious

alleviation of the severity. The darkest element in the Divine judgment is

absent. There is scope for:

 

Ø      amendment,

Ø      repentance,

Ø      return.

 

A ray of hope lights up the darkness of the scene. Yea, more; the chastisement,

however severe, may be transfigured into supremest blessing. “It was good for

me to be afflicted.” (Psalm 119:71)  “Out of the eater may come forth meat.

(Judges 14:14)  A rough and prickly shell may enclose the sweetest kernel.

The fire which consumes the dross may only beautify the go]d. Loss may

be only an unrecognized form of gain. Through faith in God’s faithful

love we can “glory in tribulation also.” (Romans 5:3)At the end of the days”

the king’s insanity ceased.  (v. 34)

 

  • LOSS OF REASON DESTROYS MAN’S SENSE OF SELF-

SUFFICIENCY.  God had taken pains, on previous occasions, to convince

Nebuchadnezzar that the invisible Jehovah was the true God of the

universe, but the king had hardened his heart against the conviction. His

inveterate pride prevented his belief. Fain would he be his own god. “Our

wills are our own: who is Lord over us?” Such was his favorite doctrine.

It was pleasant to be self-contained. It was a sweet morsel for the carnal

appetite, this flattering unction that his own skill and strength had gained

him this success. And so ingrained into his nature had this habit of self-trust

become, that only the severest discipline from God could dislodge it. But

when his understanding became dark, and memory failed, and Reason

abdicated, and manhood became a wreck, he learned in the school of

personal experience what he refused to learn before, viz. how frail and

dependent is manHOW ABSOLUTE A SOVEREIGN IS GOD! 

At last self-sufficiency is rooted out, and a spirit of meek humility takes its

place. Be it ours to learn the lesson without so severe a discipline!

 

  • RECOVERED REASON TEACHES US GOD’S ETERNAL

SOVEREIGNTY. The native tendency of man’s mind is to circumscribe its

thought about itself. It makes self a center round which all its thoughts and

plans revolve. It vaguely imagines that when personal self fails, the world

will collapse. It thinks little about the past, and what has led up to our

present privileged position; it cares little about the remote future. But when

foolish man “comes to himself”  (Luke 15:17), after his aberrations and follies,

he learns that for untold ages One has ruled on the throne of the universe, and

is MAKING ALL EVENTS TO WORK OUT HIS DESIGNS!   He was King

long before we appeared upon the earthly scene; and He will remain Master of

the situation long after we have passed away. His authority none can dispute.

Yet, for His honor and for our consolation, it shall be said that His will is right

and just and good. “His will is our sanctification.” (I Thessalonians 4:3) 

“It is the Lord: let Him do what seemeth Him good.”  (I Samuel 3:18)

 

  • THE RIGHT USE OF REASON IS TO GLORIFY GOD. It is the

primary and pressing duty of every man to learn the proper use of his

faculties. When we have reached years of discretion we should often ask

ourselves, “What is God’s intention in giving me this understanding, this

conscience, this reason?” Our plainest duty is to ascertain, if possible, His

intention, and to follow that intention closely. To be self-consistent, we

must either deny that He is our Master, and repudiate His every claim, or

else we must acknowledge His authority over every part of our nature, and

over every moment of our lives. A partial obedience is no obedience at all.

This would be a setting up of self to be the judge when obedience should

be rendered, and would be a virtual dethronement of God. Here hesitation

or debate is excluded. If my reason be an endowment from God, I am

bound, by every tie of obligation, to use it for HIS HONOR,  and to magnify

Him therewith. Therefore the first principle of genuine religion is this:

“Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever.”

(Westminister Shorter Catechism)

 

 

Excursus on Nebuchadnezzars Madness.

 

In the first place, lycanthropy has a distinct and definite meaning in mental

pathology. Those suffering from it “abandon their homes and make for the

forests, that they may consort with those they imagine to be their kind; they

allow their hair and nails to grow; they carry their imitation so far as to

become ferocious, and mutilate and even to kill and devour children.” Here

we must observe that the neglect of the person, with the result of hair and

nails growing, is not peculiar to that form of madness, but is really

common to many varieties of mental disease. The two other characteristics

are more special — the endeavor to consort with animals of the species to

which the patient imagines himself to belong, and the destructive ferocity

that in the form of wolf-madness, lycanthropy, properly so called, led to

cannibalism. Of neither of these symptoms have we any indubitable

evidence in the narrative. In regard to the first, of Nebuchadnezzar it is

certainly said (vs. 15, 23) that “his portion” should “be with the beasts of

the field;” v. 25, “Thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field;” but

here there is nothing to indicate that Nebuchadnezzar did this out of a mad

overmastering longing. Rather, the very opposite is implied by the

statement (vs. 25, 32), “They shall drive thee from men, and thy

dwelling,” etc. So in v. 33 it is said, “And he was driven from men.” The

question may be said to turn on the force of the word “they.” It certainly

may mean that the angels of God, as avenging spirits, might drive

Nebuchadnezzar from men, and that his longing to consort with animals

may have been the scourge that drove him, but that is not said or implied.

It may have been the members of his own household that so drove him

forth directly, or it may have been the indirect result of the cruel treatment

intended to be curative. It may be urged that the statement, “Let a beast’s

heart be given him,” implies this longing to consort with animals. In the

first place, “heart,” bb"l] (lebab), among the Shemites does not, as among

Occidentals, mean the longing appetitive part of our nature, but really the

spirit. In the next place, the reading in the Septuagint is quite different; it is

not the “heart,” bb"l](lebab), but the sw~ma – soma – body - reading rc"b]

(besar) instead of ==-bb"l]. (lebab).  Indeed, when we turn to the Septuagint,

we find a total want of all this appearance of abandoning house and home.

In the statement of the dream (v. 11, Septuagint), “And it [the tree] was dragged

and torn out, and in brazen fetters and shackles was it bound with them.”

Again, in the interpretation (v. 18, Septuagint), “And they shall put thee in guard,

and send thee to a desert place.” When we turn to the fulfillment of the dream

(v. 25 - Septuagint), we find, “And the angels of heaven shall drive thee

(diw>xontai> se – dioxontai se) seven years, and thou shalt not be seen nor

speak with any man; and  thou shalt eat grass as an ox, and thy pasture shall be

from the herb of the field.” Again (vs. 27, 28 - Septuagint), “I was bound for

seven years, and they fed me with grass as an ox, and my hairs became like

eagles’ feathers, and my nails like lions’ claws, and my flesh and my heart

were changed, and I walked naked among the beasts of the earth.”

 

The more I studied this, the less I was satisfied with the all-but universal

decision that Nebuchadnezzar suffered under lycanthropy. Having a friend

a specialist in mental disease, I submitted the case to him, giving him, in

addition to what he found in his English Bible, the version or’ the

Septuagint. He is eminently qualified to judge all questions of mental

disease. David Yellowlees, Esq., M.D., is head of one of the largest lunatic

asylums in Scotland, Gartnavel, near Glasgow. He has been President of

the Medico-Psychological Association of Great Britain; is Lecturer on

Insanity in the University of Glasgow; and has had over thirty years’

experience in the treatment of mental disease. He kindly wrote me the

following, which he has permitted me to publish: —

 

“Nebuchadnezzar’s illness was not lycanthropy; it was an attack of acute

mania, which recovered, as such attacks usually do if uncomplicated, in

seven months.

 

“Acute mania, in its extreme forms, exhibits all kinds of degraded habits,

such as stripping off and tearing of clothes, eating filth and garbage of all

sorts, wild and violent gesticulations, dangerous assaults, howling noises,

and utter disregard of personal decency. The patient often is liker a wild

animal than a human being. These symptoms merely show the

completeness of the aberration, and do not at all indicate a hopeless

condition. On the contrary, they are seen most frequently in the cases

which recover.

 

“The king was apparently treated as kindly as the enlightenment of the

times permitted — bound when injuring himself or others, taken to a desert

place away from other men, and allowed a mad freedom, in which his

attacks found relief and eventual recovery.”

 

In another communication, Dr. Yellowlees says, “The ‘seven times’

certainly did not mean seven years for recovery from that form of insanity;

that is, acute mania would be most unlikely after so long a time. Seven

months is a far more likely period.”

 

2. This leads us to consider the second question — the length of time

during which Nebuchadnezzar was under this malady. The phrase which

states the duration occurs four times — vs. 16 (13), 23 (20), 25 (22), 32

(29) — and is always the same, “till seven times pass over him (thee).”

yhiwOl[} ˆWpl]j]y" ˆyniD;[" h[;b]vi(sheebeah iddaneen yahelephoon alohee).

The question turns on the sense to be given to ‘iddan. This word is found

thirteen times in this book — nine times besides the four times in this

chapter. We find it three times in the second chapter, where it means the

time during which certain planetary and stellar influences were at work.

This naturally suggests the signs of the Zodiac and the phases of the moon,

and therefore a month, though the probability is that the period in the

king’s mind was much shorter. The ruling phases of the moon would make

a fourfold or threefold division not improbable, while the positions of the

planets in the various astrological houses make it more likely that a day

rather than even a month is meant. We find the word next in the following

chapter (vs. 5 and 15), “At what time (‘iddan) ye hear,” etc. Here it

means a point of time, and in the other verse (7), where the phrase occurs

we have an;m]zi (zimena’), which usually means a set, fixed point of time.

We find it again in the seventh chapter (vs. 12 and 25). In the twelfth

verse, after the destruction of the fourth beast, the other beasts continue

for “a season and time,” ˆD;[iw] ˆm"z](zman veiddan); it here means a space

of time totally indefinite. In the twenty-fifth verse the word in question

occurs three times in the phrase, “a time, times, and a dividing of time.”

Here it has been assumed to mean “a year,” and this is certainly not

improbable for this particular case; but nothing can be drawn from this as

to the sense of the word elsewhere. So far as the usage of this book is

concerned, we can say the word ‘iddan means a space of time, the length

of which is determined by the context. When we pass into the Targums, we

find the same, or, if possible, even greater freedom of use. It is used for the

time of old age in Psalm 71:9; in Ecclesiastes 3. for “the times.” There

is a phrase, ‘iddan beiddan (“time in times”), which is commonly

understood to mean a year. This would render it probable that the word

was originally some period much shorter than a year, probably a month;

thus Genesis 24:55, where we render, according to the Massoretic, “a

few days, at least ten.” Onkelos renders, ‘iddan beiddan o asrah

yarheen (“time in time, or ten months”), where the word certainly means

“months.” The usage of the Peshitta is much the same. Gaon Saadia would

assign to ‘iddan here the sense of “month;” in this he is followed by

Lenormant. Notwithstanding the objections of critics and lexicographers,

we venture to follow these two authorities the more readily that the critics

have assigned no reason why we should not do so.

 

3. Is there any trace in the inscriptions surviving to us to throw light on this

mysterious event? At one time it was supposed that in the Standard

Inscription of Nebuchadnezzar we had a distinct reference to this period of

madness. As at first translated, Nebuchadnezzar declared that for four

years he did not occupy himself in building. A series of further negative

sentences followed. More careful study and more accurate rendering have

removed that misconception. From the nature of the Standard Inscription,

it was a priori unlikely that anything of the kind supposed should have

been found in it. It is a record of the various buildings, etc., he had

constructed for the honor of the gods and the beauty of his capital. The

dates of the erection of these edifices or the construction of these canals is

not given; so the fact of years in which nothing was done is not necessarily

noticeable. Lenormant (‘La Divination,’ 204) makes another suggestion.

When he ascends the throne, after the murder of his brother-in-law, Evil-

Merodach, we find Neriglissar (Nergalsharezer) claiming that his father,

Bil-zikir-iskun, had been King of Babylon. Lenormant’s theory is that Bilzikir-

iskun reigned’ while Nebuchadnezzar was thus incapacitated by

madness. Certainly, between the accession of Nabo-polassar in B.C. 625, to

the death of Evil-Merodach in B.C. 559, there is no sovereign but the three

members of the one dynasty. Rawlinson (‘Five Great Monarchies’) places

him immediately before Nabopolassar, and reads his name Nebu-sumiskun.

But as deposition meant death, this would imply that his son —

Neriglissar — even if only an infant, at the death of his father, would be at

least sixty-five years of age at the death of Evil-Merodach. This is not an

age when men engage in conspiracies. But more, he leaves behind him an

infant son. While not impossible, this is an unlikely solution. If, then, he did

not reign before Nabo-polassar, there must have been some interval in

which he held the throne while the legitimate occupant was incapacitated

by disease or distance from the capital It was not during the interval

between the death of Nabopolassar and the accession of Nebuchadnezzar,

because Berosus tells us of the rapid march Nebuchadnezzar made through

the desert from Syria to reach Babylon before any usurpation took place. It

did not take place between the death of Nebuchadnezzar and the accession

of Evil-Merodach, for, from the contract tables, there seems to have been

no interval of uncertainty. Bel-zikir-iskun may have, so M. Lenormant

thinks, usurped the throne during the illness of Nebuchadnezzar. If the

interval were less than a year, Ptolemy might not insert the name in his

chronicle. Against this theory is the fact that throughout the whole of

Nebuchadnezzar’s reign there never is seven months without a contract

preserved to us, dated by the years of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. This is

not absolutely conclusive, because some of the contract tables, after the

conquest of Babylon by Cyrus, are still dated by the reign of Nabunahid.

We are compelled to abandon the position that we have any trace of this

madness. We have an analogous case in the history of Nabunahid; for a

long period, not less than five years, he was unable to take part in the

business of the empire. Meantime, there is no indication in the contract

tables that anything is wrong. The annals of Nabunahid reveal to us the fact

that the king’s son was acting monarch; but had these not come down to

us, we should never have known of any incapacity befalling this monarch.

Bel-zikir-iskun may have acted as monarch during Nebuchadnezzar’s

illness, and this may have been the fact that enabled Neri-glissar to assert

his father to have been King of Babylon.  It is not impossible that

Nebuchadnezzar’s decree may yet turn up from the rubbish of ages.

 

 

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