Page images
PDF
EPUB

started, and many subjects discussed, in connection with this book, which would otherwise have found a place in the Notes on the Book of Revelation, and that in the exposition of the latter, I have, in many places, to avoid needless repetition, done little more than refer to corresponding places in the Notes on Daniel. While I have endeavoured to make each work a complete exposition in itself, it is nevertheless true that the two volumes are designed, in some measure, to go together, and that the one is necessary to the full understanding of the other.

PAILADELPHIA, Dec. 26th, 1851.

INTRODUCTION

TO

THE BOOK OF DANIEL.

& 1. THE LIFE OF DANIEL.

Or Daniel little more is known, or can now be ascertained, than is recorded in this book. There are two other persons of this name mentioned in the Bible—a son of David, 1 Chron. iii. 1; and a Levite of the race of Ithamar, Ezra viïi. 2; Neh. x. 6. The latter has been sometimes confounded with the prophet, as he is in the Apocryphal Addenda to the Septuagint.

Daniel, supposed commonly to be the same person as the author of this book, is twice mentioned by Ezekiel, once as deserving to be ranked with Noah and Job, and once as eminent for wisdom. Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God.” Ezek. xiv. 14. "Behold, thou art wiser than Daniel, and there is no secret that they can hide from thee." Ezek. xxviii. 3. Whether this is the Daniel who is the author of this book, however, or whether this was some ancient patriarch whose name had been handed down by tradition, and whose name was assumed by the author of this book in later times, has been a question among recent critics, and will properly come up for examination under the next section in this Introduction.

Assuming now that the book is genuine, and that it was written by him whose name it bears, all that is known of Daniel is substantially as follows:

He was descended from one of the highest families in Judah, if not one of royal blood (Notes on ch. i. 3 ; Josephus' Ant. b. x. ch. x. & 1.). His birth-place was probably Jerusalem, (comp. ch. ix. 24,) though it is not absolutely certain that this passage would demonstrate this.

Of his first years nothing is recorded. At an early age we find him in Babylon, among the captive Hebrews whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away at the first deportation of the people of Judah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim. He is mentioned in connection with three other youths, apparently of the same rank, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, who,

age

with him, were selected for the purpose of being instructed in the lan. guage and literature of the Chaldeans, with a view to their being employed in the service of the court. Dan. i. 3, 4. His age at that time it is impossible to determine with accuracy, but it is not improbable that it was somewhere about twelve or fifteen years. In chi i. 4, he and his three friends are called “ children,” (1999;). “ This word properly denotes the period from the age of childhood up to manhood, and might be translated boys, lads, or youth.—Professor Stuart on Daniel, p. 373. Ignatius (Ep. ad Magn.), says that Daniel was twelve years of when he went into exile ; Chrysostome says that he was eighteen, (Opp. vi. p. 423 ;) Epiphanius says, érı výnos úv; Jerome calls him admodum puer. These are, of course, mere conjectures, or traditions, but they are probably not far from the truth. Such was the age at which persons would be most likely to be selected for the training here referred to. The design of this selection and training is not mentioned, but in the circumstances of the case it is perhaps not difficult to conjecture it. The Hebrews were a captive people. It was natural to suppose that they would be restless, and perhaps insubordinate, in their condition, and it was a matter of policy to do all that could be done to conciliate them. Nothing would better tend to this than to select some of their own number who were of their most distinguished families; to place them at court; to provide for them from the royal bounty; to give them the advantages of the best education that the capital afforded; to make an arrangement that contemplated their future employment in the service of the state, and to furnish them every opportunity of promotion. Besides, in the intercourse of the government with the captive Hebrews, of which, from the nature of the case, there would be frequent occasion, it would be an advantage to have native born Hebrews in the confidence of the government, who could be employed to conduct that intercourse.

In this situation, and with this view, Daniel received that thorough education which Oriental etiquette makes indispensable in a courtier, (Comp. Plato, Alcib. $ 37,) and was more especially instructed in the science of the Chaldeans, and in speaking and writing their language. He had before evidently been carefully trained in the Hebrew learning, and in the knowledge of the institutions of his country, and was thoroughly imbued with the principles of the religion of his fathers. An opportunity soon occurred of putting his principles to the test. Trained in strict religious principles, and in the sternest rules of temperance in eating and drinking, and fearing the effect of the luxurious living provided for him and his companions by the royal bounty, he resolved, with them, to avoid at once the danger of conforming to the habits of idolaters; of "polluting” himself by customs forbidden by his religion, and of jeoparding his own health and life by intemperato indulgence. He aimed, also, to secure the utmost vigor of body, and the utmost clearness of mind, by a course of strict and conscientious temperance. He obtained permission, therefore, to abstain from the food provided for him, and to make an experiment of the most temperate mode of living, ch. i. 8—14. “ Ilis prudent proceedings, wise bearing, and absolute refusal to comply with such customs, were crowned with tho divine blessing, and had the most splendid results.”

After the lapse of three years spent in this course of discipline, Daniel passed the examination which was necessary to admit him to the royal favor, and was received into connection with the government, to be employed in the purposes which had been contemplated in this preparatory training, ch. i. 18-20. One of his first acts was an interpretation of a dream of Nebuchadnezzar which none of the Chaldeans had been able to interpret, the result of which was that he was raised at once to that important office, the governorship of the province of Babylon, and the headinspectorship of the sacerdotal caste, ch. ii.

Considerably later in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, we find Daniel interpreting another dream of his, to the effect that, in consequence of his pride, he would be deprived for a time of his reason and his throne, and would be suffered to wander from the abodes of men, and to live among wild beasts, but that after a time he would be again restored. The record which we have of this, is found in a proclamation of the king himself, which is preserved by Daniel, ch. iv. In the interpretation of this remarkable dream, and in stating to the king—the most proud and absolute monarch of the earth at that time what would come upon him, Daniel displays the most touching anxiety, love, and loyalty, for the prince, and shows that he was led to this interpretation only by the conviction of the truth. In view of a calamity so great, he exhorted the monarch yet to humble himself and to repent of his sing, and to perform acts of charity, with the hope that God might be mere ciful and avert from him a doom so humiliating—so much to be dreaded, cb. iv. 19–27.

Under the immediate successor of Nebudchadnezzar-Evil-MerodachDaniel appears to have been forgotten, and his talents and his for mer services seem to have passed away from the recollection of those

His situation at court appears to have been confined to an inferior office (ch. viii. 27), and it would seem also that this led him occasionally, if not regularly, away from Babylon to some of the provinces to attend to business there. Comp. Notes in ch. viii. 2. This was not strange. On the death of a monarch, it was not unusual to discharge the officers who had been employed in the govern. ment, as, at the present time, on the death of a king, or a change of dynasty, the members of the cabinet are changed; or as the same thing happens in our own country when a change occurs in the Chief Magistracy of the nation.* Sir John Chardin in his MS. Notes on Persia says that, in his time, on the death of a Shah or king, all the soothsayers and physicians attached to the court were at once dismissed from office; the former because they did not predict his death, and the latter because they did not prevent it. It is to be remembered also, that Daniel was raised to power by the will of Nebuchadnezzar alone, and that the offices which he held were, in part, in consequence of the service which he had rendered that prince; and it is not strange, therefore, that on a change of the government, he, with perhaps the other favorites of the former sovereign, should be suffered to retire. We find consequently no mention made of Daniel during the reign of Evil-Merodach or in the short

in power.

* Since this was written, a remarkable illustration of what is here said has occurred in our own country, on the death of the late President, Gen. Zachary Taylor. It will be recollected that on the very night of his death, all the members of the cabinet tendered their resignation to his constitutional successor, and all of them in fact ceased to hold office and retired to pri

vate life.

reign of his successor; we lose sight of him until the reign of Belshazzar, the last king of Babylon, and then he is mentioned only in connection with the closing scene of his life, ch. v. In consequence of a remarkable vision which Belshazzar had of a hand-writing on the wall, and of the inability of any of the wise men of the Chaldeans to read and interpret it, Daniel, at the instance of the queen mother, who remembered his former services at court, was called in, and read the writing, and announced to the king the impending destiny of himself and his empire. For this service he was again restored to honor, and the purpose was formed to raise him to an exalted rank at court-a purpose which was, however, frustrated by the fact that Babylon was that very night taken, and that the government passed into the hands of the Medes and Persians. It was under this king, however, that Daniel had two of his most remarkable visions (ch. vii. viii.), respecting future events-visions which perhaps more definitely than any other in the Scriptures, disclose what is to occur in the ages to come.

After the conquest of Babylon by the united arms of the Medes and Persians, under the reign of Darius or Cyaxares, Daniel was raised again to an exalted station. The whole kingdom was divided into one hundred and twenty provinces, and over these three presidents or chief governors were appointed, and of these Daniel had the first rank, ch. vi. 1—3. The reasons of this appointment are not stated, but they were doubtless found in such circumstances as the following:—that it was desirable for Darius to employ some one who was familiar with the affairs of the Babylonian empire; that Daniel probably had knowledge on that subject equal or superior to any other one that could be found; that he had long been employed at court, and was familiar with the laws, usages and customs that prevailed there; that he knew better than any one else perhaps what would secure the tranquillity of that portion of the empire ; that, being himself a foreigner, it might be supposed better to employ him than it would be a native Chaldean, for it might be presumed that he would be less inimical to a foreign dominion. Under these circumstances he was again raised to a high rank among the officers of the government; but his elevation was not beheld without malice and envy. Those who might have expected this office for themselves, or who were dissatisfied that a foreigner should be thus exalted, resolved, if possible, to bring him into such a situation as would ruin him, ch. vi. 4. To do this, they determined to take advantage of a principle in the government of the Medes and Persians, that a law having once received the royal sanction could not be changed, and by securing the passage of such a law as they knew Daniel would not obey, they hoped to humble and ruin him. They, therefore, under plausible pretences, secured the passage of a law that no one in the realm should be allowed for a certain time to offer any petition to any God or man, except the king, on penalty of being thrown into a den of lions. Daniel, as they anticipated, was the first to disregard this law, by continuing his regular habit of worshipping God, praying, as he had been accustomed, three times a day, with his window open. The consequence was, that the king, there being no way to prevent the execution of the law, allowed it to be executed. Daniel was cast into the den of lions, but was miraculously preserved ; and this new proof of his integrity, and of the divine

« PreviousContinue »