The name of
Equally striking is the further fact that the holy prophet through whom these divine decisions and fore-announcements were made was not only an illustrious sage and courtier in this Gate of God, but that his name (Dan –i –EL) means God’s Judge. Thus, by a group of coincidences which could hardly have been accidental, we have God’s judge in the Gate of God giving forth the pre-determinations and decrees of God with regard to the whole course of earthly political power.
These Voices of God from the Gate of God, through the Judge of God, it is the object of this book to describe. The intensity of their interest to our day and generation, when fairly and fully interpreted, cannot well be exaggerated. Daniel is peculiarly the prophet of the latter days. Augustine speaks the language of all Christian antiquity, as well as of all the prophetic foreshadowings, where he says: “As the world approaches its end errors will increase and impiety and infidelity will abound;” and Daniel is pre-eminently the man of God to instruct and stay the heart of faith in evil times. Such was his office to God’s erring people in his own day; such was the effect of his prophecies in the period of the Seleucid deceivers and oppressors; and such his Book is meant to be to us as the shadows of the coming judgment gather upon the world.
Nowhere (except in the Apocalypse) does the Spirit of prophecy and miracle stand out more illustriously in the eyes of men than here. Nowhere is there a more marvellous demonstration to mankind of the power, providence, and presence of God in human affairs. By astounding wonders, themselves luminous with celestial and moral teachings, the attention is drawn to the prophet’s utterances, and by the accurate fulfilment of his predictions, through the entire role of the ages since, those miracles are ever more confirmed. And it is hard to conceive what sort of divine manifestations could be better adapted to encourage and establish God’s people in these latter days, to fortify them against the materialistic and deceptive philosophers in vogue, to nurture that fullness of faith which alone can withstand the Anti-Christian storms whose tempestuous darkness is already thickening around us, or to enable suffering devotion to look beyond all present adversities and perturbations to that heavenly light and eternal calm which kept the spirit of the prophet, and which are at length to take possession of this afflicted and misruled earth.
Unfortunately, however, these Voices
Even when taken in hand by earnest believers, the treatment has mostly been either so superficial and partial as to belittle while attempting to expound and exalt, or so polemico-scholastic as to destroy all proper exegesis, or so very deferential to the shallow rationalism of the worshippers of human progress as to stifle the very soul of the prophet’s crowning presentations. What the world and the Church need with regard to this Book is, that it be released and emancipated from all such imposed clogs and fetters; that the great Daniel be made to speak for himself in the majesty of his own inspired words; that those sublime fore-showings vouchsafed to him by the God of heaven be recalled and restated as they were, and were meant and received at the beginning; and that the invincible demonstrations which forced their way to victory over the pagan soul of Nebuchadnezzar be let forth again in all their divine reality upon the proud, sceptical, and God-defying spirit of this evil age.
The treatment of these sacred Voices in the following Lectures is but little in the vein of most of the commentaries and treatises on the subject. Whilst the best and worst of modern criticism and exegesis on Daniel have been consulted, and much of real worth has thus been found and appropriated, the purpose has rather been to restate the contents of the Book in the direct import of its own terms, and thus to revive and vindicate the older and truer conceptions of the Church with regard to these magnificent prophecies.
There can be no question that all doctrines legitimately claiming the authority of Holy Scripture must ultimately rest on the grammar of the languages in which the sacred revelations are given. What is against the laws and usages of those languages as employed by the Holy Ghost can never be the true meaning. Grammatico-historical criticism cannot therefore be dispensed with in ascertaining the teachings of Biblical writers. All right interpretation of the divine Word is unavoidably bound to it. No mere theological or traditional arguments are competent to establish an article of faith, or to refute what claims to be one, without being able to ground itself clearly upon a “Thus saith the Lord” grammatically determined. Due attention has accordingly been given to this requirement, and a new critical translation of the Book of Daniel, embodying all known results of any worth in that department, is appended to these Lectures.
But something more, and of equally indispensable necessity in all right exposition of the sacred writings, is required. “No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” 2 Pet, 1: 20. As no such prophecy is from the individual will or wisdom of the writer, so neither is the composition in which it is given an isolated thing to be treated by itself alone. As the sacred writers were all moved by “the same Spirit,” their several productions are only so many parts of one organic whole. Though each has his own particular standpoint, surroundings, and objects, which must never be lost sight of, yet no individual presentations are disconnected from what others have written on the same subject. The utterances of one dare not be put over against the utterances of another, nor the one be exalted to the depreciation of the other; but all must be taken together, as equal in authority and dignity and as mutually explanatory.
There is also a correspondence, analogy, interior coherence and harmony of Scripture with Scripture as to the substance of every subject, which, if once truly reached at one place, evokes a common response and attestation from every other place, and thus begets a clearness of conviction beyond all that the most elaborate discussions can impart. Nor can any interpretation be the true mind of the Spirit which will not fairly construe with the analysis of all the passages relating to the same topic.
It is upon this basis and method of ascertaining the purport of God’s revelations, rather than on mere scaffoldings of individual textual criticism, or on any artificial system of theological architecture, that the main reliance is here placed.
The critically-revised translation* [* See the end of the exposition - Ed.] is principally the work of the author’s friend and co-labourer, the Rev. R. F. WEIDNER, A.M. whose special studies in ancient Oriental languages and Biblical criticism well qualify him for such work. That he has done good service in this case will be recognized and acknowledged by all competent to judge of such matters. The Index to the whole has likewise been chiefly prepared by him. Thus constructed and thus completed, this book is offered to the public, with the earnest prayer that it may be blest of God to the instruction and edification of many souls, and to the praise and glory of His own great and ever-adorable Name!
THE FORMING PROPHET: OR, DANIEL IN THE
What Bishops Wordsworth and
THE VISION OF EMPIRE; OR NEBUCHADNEZZAR’S DREAM.
Date of the Flood
2,800 B.C. - Nimrod. - The greatness of
THE SUCCESSION OF KINGDOMS; OR, THE FOUR GREAT SOVEREIGNTIES.
Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. - 1. Daniel regarded the dream as a communication from God; 2. And as very momentous; 3. It outlived the history and destiny of all earthly dominion; 4. Continuous deterioration of administration. [Pages 29 – 45].
THE FINAL DOMINION ; OR, THE KINGDOM OF THE STONE.
Nebuchadnezzar’s prophetic image
represents the four great empires of
THE GOLDEN MEMORIAL; OR, NEBUCHADNEZZAR’S GREAT IMAGE.
Nebuchadnezzar’s character. - Different views as to whom the image was meant to represent. - Opinions of Dr. Gill and the Jewish commentators as to the reasons for making it. - Dr. Seiss’s opinion. - Refusal of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to worship the golden image. - The king’s anger. - They are cast into the white-heated furnace. - Are untouched by the fire. - Answer to sceptical criticism concerning the Miracle. - The decree of Nebuchadnezzar. [Pages 68 – 78]
THE GREAT MAN HUMBLED; OR, THE KING'S INSANITY.
The king’s prophetic forewarning. - He sends for the wise men. – Daniel’s interpretation of the dream. - Nebuchadnezzar’s offence. - His punishment a species of insanity, and in direct contrast to his offence. - His recovery, and restoration. - Opinion of Dr. Browne as to the king’s ailment. - The judgment humbled Nebuchadnezzar’s pride. - His Imperial authority restored to him at the completion of the period. [Pages 79 – 96]
THE DOOM OF SACRILEGE; OR, BELSHAZZAR'S FEAST.
Character of Belshazzar. - The feast. - Opinions as to its nature. - Description of the holy vessels. - Effect of the appearance of the writing on the wall. - Failure of the astrologers to read the writing. - By the advice of the queen-mother Daniel is sent for. - His interpretation. - Belshazzar is slain in the night. [Pages 97–114]
THE MEDO-PERSIAN PRIME MINISTER; OR, THE FAITH OF DANIEL TESTED.
among the Chaldeans and Persians. - A change of government in
THIS WORLD’S GOVERNMENTS; OR, THE VISION OF THE FOUR BEASTS.
A new division of
the Book. –
Daniel’s dream of the four monsters from the agitated sea. – World-power viewed
from the prophet’s stand-point. -
THE WORLD-POWERS AND ISRAE; OR, THE RAM, HE-GOAT, AND LITTLE HORN.
vision. - The same
powers again. - Harmonzies. - Three
different aspects of contemplation. - The world-powers, with respect to the
Jewish people. - Change of the symbols. – Modo-Persia.
- Alexander and the Jews. - Division of his empire. - The Little Horn. -
Antiochus Epiphanes. - Duration of his afflictions of
The inner life of
the prophet. ‑
His devotions intensified by the study of unfulfilled prophecy. ‑ His
great prayer. ‑ God's acceptance of it. – Gabriel sent to make known the
truth. ‑ The prophecy of the seventy sevens. ‑ Relates exclusively
to the fortunes of
THE PICTURE FILLED IN; OR, THE VISION BY THE HIDDEKEL.
The Greek version of
this Book. -
Questions concerning portions of chapters 10., 11. - Attempts to expurgate the sacred Books. -
No vital points involved in omitting the disputed paragraphs in these chapters.
– Daniel’s great fast. - The vision which followed it. - The prophet’s
suffering from the vision. - The costs of divine revelations. - Offices and
doings of the angels. - Conflicts with spiritual Powers. - Succession of kings
THE REIGN OF THE ANTICHRIST; 0R, THE WILFUL KING.
An Antichrist yet to come. - Biblical descriptions of him. - The Christian Fathers on the subject. - “The king.” - The last bestial power on earth. - An individual person. - Opinions whence he shall come. - Wilfulness his great characteristic. - His self-exaltation above everything. - Patronizes a god. - His injustice and misrule. - His end. ‑ Signs pro-intimating his coming. - Spirit of the times. - “The Coming Man.” - Mistaken hopes. [Pages 202–220]
THE FINAL OUTCOME OR, THE GREAT CONSUMMATION.
False impressions touching the shutting up and scaling of these visions. - True meaning of the angel. - The time of the Antichrist a time of unprecedented trouble. - The Jews under him. - Duration of his reign. - The standing up of Michael. - What it includes. - Ending of “the times of the Gentiles.” - A time of blessed resurrections. - The reign of death. - Its destruction. - The eternal rewards. - The conditions on which they depend. [Pages 221–241]
A CRITICALLY-REVISED TRANSLATION. [Pages 213 – 280]
LIST OF AUTHORS. [Pages 281–285]
INDEX [Pages 286–292]
THE FORMING PROPHET; or, DANIEL IN THE
Daniel 1: 1-21.
What Bishops Wordsworth and
Quite a number of the brightest lights of our modern world, as distinguished for their erudition as thorough in their piety, have devoted some of their best efforts to the study of the Book of Daniel, and, given their united testimony to its excellence, its instructiveness and its value as a clew to the knowledge of God’s purposes and dispensations as they run through the whole course of time.
Though many critics have arisen who have brought all the apparatus of modern learning, and much “science falsely so called,” to the work of discrediting it as the production of the great man whom it claims as its author, the result has been to exhibit with augmented clearness, and to establish all the more firmly, not only the genuineness and authenticity of this Book, but the certainty of its inspiration, the importance of it in the canonical record, and the centralness of its place in the revelations of God to man. “Happily for the present age,” says Bishop Wordsworth “the shafts of a sceptical criticism, which a few years ago [Page 2] were discharged in a volley against the Book of Daniel, appear now to be almost spent. Its quiver seems to be empty. The attacks made upon this Book with much eagerness and activity have stirred up able champions of the faith, and thus, by God’s providence overruling evil for good, the assaults of unbelief have been made the occasions and means of strengthening our belief in the genuineness, authenticity, and inspiration of the Book of Daniel, and have secured to, the Church those spiritual blessings which may be derived from a careful study of it.”
A few passages may have crept into the text on which some doubt may be alleged to rest, but the limits of them can be clearly defined, and their elimination, if we must needs let them go, not only does not touch a single item of importance in the Book, but tends to set out in far more intelligibleness, consistency, conspicuity, and elegance the grand and noble presentations of the great prophet-statesman of Babylon whose name it bears.
When all that an inimical criticism and a perverted erudition have been able to accomplish, we may still take up the exclamation of Bishop Newton: “What an amazing prophecy is this, comprehending so many various events, and extending through so many successive ages, from the establishment of the Persian empire, upwards of five hundred years before Christ, to the general resurrection! What stronger and more convincing proofs can be given or required of a divine providence and a divine revelation, that there is a God who directs and orders the transactions of the world, and that Daniel was a prophet inspired by Him! No one could thus declare the times and the seasons but He who hath them in His power.”
And, as Sir Isaac Newton, “who explored the firmament with unwearied wing, and made an apocalypse of the stars, felt that he was sounding a greater depth and rising to a loftier height when he sat down, a patient student of this Book, to ascertain the mind and make plain to less gifted [Page 3] souls the meaning of the Spirit of God” which herein speaks, it surely cannot be beneath us, or a waste of time and energy, or anything less than a pleasant duty and a high privilege, to devote ourselves with some degree of specialness to what God has here caused to be written for our learning upon whom the ends of the world have come. May the God of Daniel guide and help us in the attempt!
It has been the pleasure of a certain class of minds to assume that we know almost nothing of Daniel, the Hebrew captive and exile, to whom this Book is ascribed. The evident reason has been, not that ample records are wanting, but that the admission of those records carries with it the infallible certainty of miracle, inspiration, and prophecy, of which many would like to be rid. The sceptical Gibbon enunciated a larger and deeper truth he was perhaps aware of, when, unable to see any escape from the contemporary evidence for a fact, or from a miraculousness if true, he said, “The stubborn mind of an infidel is guarded by a secret incurable suspicion.”
And it is this “suspicion,”
incurable save my the subduing influence of the Holy Ghost - this wilful
shutting of one’s self up against unwelcome truth - this foregone conclusion
against the possibility of miracles and inspired prophecy - this exaltation of
a supercilious rationalism against everything above it - which has been the
spring of all the adverse criticism on this Book, and the cause of the
difficulty in finding authentic information concerning “Daniel the prophet.” The
truth is, that we know more of him than we know of
Adam, Noah, or Job - as much as we know of Joseph, Isaiah, Ezekiel, or Herod
the Great - and nearly as much as we know of Moses, David,
There are three Daniels spoken of in the Scriptures - one, a son of David, born in Hebron of Abigail the Carmelitess, referred to in 1 Chron. 3: 1; another, a son of Ithamar, who ‑ went up with Ezra after the Babylonish captivity, and of whom we read in Ezra 8: 2 and Neh. 10: 6; and the [Page 4] third, the great Daniel, the prophet of God, who lived one of the most original and extraordinary of lives, and wrote one of the most important and remarkable books of the inspired Canon. It is this last alone with whom we have here to do.
This Daniel was descended from one of
the highest Jewish families in the last period of the Hebrew monarchy. He was
almost certainly of royal blood, born at
Of all the Jewish youths thus transported, he was the foremost in every quality both of body and mind. He was without blemish, comely in person, skilful in wisdom, cunning in knowledge, quick of understanding, and having ability in him. And as it was the custom of Oriental monarchs to select the most likely of their captives taken in war for their own particular service, Daniel’s royal blood, culture, and, excellent physical and mental recommendations soon pointed him out as one destined so to be employed. The better to fit him for the king’s service, he, together with three other Hebrew youths, was put under the charge of the Babylonian eunuchs to undergo a special training of three years.
It had been prophesied by Isaiah to Hezekiah: “Of thy sons which shall issue from thee, which thou shalt
beget, shall they take away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of
An attempt was likewise made to obliterate his Judaic
prepossessions and opinions by assigning to him a different name. It has been observed that while the king of
Hence other names were given to these youths. Daniel means God’s judge; so this
name was changed to Belleshazzar, which means Bel’s
prince, or be whom Bel, the chief god of
Babylonian worship, favours and exalts. Hananiah means
gift; so this name was changed into Shadrach, which means the king’s friend. Mishael means
incomparableness of God; so this
was changed to Meshach, which means the
gentle one, or the one
devoted to the goddess Shesach. Azariah means Jehovah our help; so
this was Changed to Abednego, which means the servant of the star, or
of the god Mercury. In other words,
all four of these names were completely heathenized by cutting out of them all
references to the God of Israel, and inserting corresponding references to the
idol gods of
There might seem to be but little in a name, but it is not a matter of total indifference. A fortunate or unfortunate name may have an important effect on the history of him who bears it. The very sound of the designation by which one is perpetually called will have its influence, and cannot be without some moral effect, either favourable or unfavourable. Whole histories and vast circles of ideas are often treasured up in a name; and names should never be given without consideration. If they can be made suggestive of noble principles, examples, or memories, so much the better. [page 6] Parents may be shaping the destinies of their children and affecting their whole life by the names they fix upon them.
In the vocabulary of heaven we have reason to believe that names are the significations of things. God wished His Son to be called Jesus, because He was to save His people from their sins. And, when the court of Babylon wished to blot out from these Hebrew youths the memory of their fathers and of the worship of the God of Israel, the very first thing was the changing of their names to correspond with the object desired.
But the expedient in this case did not succeed.
These youths had been brought up in the knowledge and worship of the true God, and had been taught His word and law: and their early teachings abode with them and remained proof against all the subtle seductions and expedients of a heathen court. They quietly took the new names assigned them, for they could not help themselves. Those names were indeed lies as applied to them, but they were obliged to submit, as the good and pious of every age have had to bear the ill names which the world has put upon them. It is not possible for God’s people to escape the reproaches of the wicked. Paul was called a madman, and Christ himself was called a glutton, a wine-bibber, and a devil. Both meekly endured it in the blessed consciousness of its utter falsity. [page 7]
And so these Hebrew youths took the base cognomens dictated by their heathen conquerors, but under those offensive names still lurked the holy teachings of their childhood. Tyrants might change their names, but their hearts remained loyal to the God of their fathers. Teach your children the fear of the Lord and the truths of revelation from their earliest infancy. Even if they cannot fully understand them, imbue their young natures with them; and in after years, when you are no longer present to direct, they will be like the lodestone to the mariner in un-navigating the trackless sea. It may seem like casting your seed upon the waters, but some of it will find a lodgement where it will grow to beautify and bless long after your voice has become silent in the grave.
It was not long before a test occurred to prove how firmly rooted in their hearts were the sacred teachings which had been early imprinted upon these youths. The more to draw and attach them to their royal conqueror, the king appointed them a daily provision of meat from the royal table and of the wine of which he himself drank. It was a mark of most particular favour and condescension - a regal generosity intended to win their hearts and excite their admiration, gratitude, and affection for their master.
One writer thinks it was as much as to say, “If you will become priests of our temple, we will give you
an endowment from the state.” It
was at least a token of gracious preferment to impress them with an idea of
their sovereign’s goodness, and to show them what they might expect by loyally
identifying themselves with
But, whilst duly sensible and appreciative of the royal favour, “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which lie drank.” To partake of these royal viands was, to him, contrary to his religion and his conscience. It was the common custom among the heathen, when they sat down to a meal, to offer or dedicate a portion of the provisions and drink to the gods. In the place of our asking a blessing, they had a ceremony of acknowledgment or dedication to their household deities. Paul refers to this, and, on the ground of Christian principle, forbids participation where eatables are thus devoted to idols. The Jewish law was still more rigid, and strictly prohibited certain classes of food altogether, and other classes also if not prepared in a prescribed way. There was no security, therefore, that, in every mouthful he might take of this meat and drink from the table of the king, Daniel would not be violating the laws of his God.
The question consequently was, whether he should consult his conscience or his appetite and comfort - whether or not he should let his religion go and accept common cause with idolaters - whether, he should relinquish fidelity to the throne of his Maker or risk his good standing with the king, who was disposed to favour him. Had he been one of those easy-going Christians of our day who are ready to make any worldly pleasure, gain, or convenience an ample excuse for setting aside any claims or duties of religion, we should never have heard of any scruple on the subject; but then we never should have had the illustrious Daniel. It takes sterner stuff to make saints, prophets, and holy princes than that which shuts its eyes and asks no questions, and is content to accommodate itself to almost any thing and any place.
Abraham’s conscience would not let him stay in
Our own history, as concerns the
Elevated from his early youth to the presidency over all the colleges of Babylon’s wise men, then to the judge’s bench, then to the headship of all the governors of an all-conquering empire, and holding his place amid all the intrigues indigenous to Oriental despotisms through three successive monarchies; honoured during all the forty years of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign; entrusted with the king’s business under the insolent and sensual Belshazzar; acknowledged by the conquering Medo-Persians; the stay and protector of his [page 10] people under every administration through all the dreary years of their long exile; dwelling with the great in the most dissolute as the most grand and powerful of all the old heathen cities: invulnerable to the jealousies and envies of plotting satraps, and maintaining himself unspotted to the end as a worshipper of Jehovah in a court and empire made tip of idolaters, - Daniel’s life presents an embodied epic of faith and greatness, and exhibits one of the rarest pictures ever shown in any mere man. And yet the whole of it had its root and beginning in his youthful resolve not to defile himself with the portion of the king’s viands!
Josephus resolves the whole matter into the wisdom of a vegetarian diet for success in study. But Josephus wished to avoid reflections upon the idolatry of the emperors and people whom he desired to propitiate and please. Had he possessed a spark of Daniel’s devotion and honesty, he never would have perpetrated such an absurdity. The question was not about what sort of diet is most conducive to learning, but about the requirements and commands of God with respect to things offered to idols and contrary to the Law. It was not a question about vegetable food or of total abstinence from villous drinks, but one of loyalty to his Maker, to his conscience, and to the ordinances of Heaven. It was not a question of dietetics, but one of high religious principle and duty.
Daniel might have kept himself to pulse and water all his days and never been more of a man than Josephus was; but he had learned the statutes of Jehovah, and kept himself devoutly to them. Hence the blessing of his humble fare, and of himself in the use of it, which turned deficiencies into successes, weaknesses into power, and adversities into glorious triumphs. It is not meat and drink that make men prosperous, wise, and great. It is not the eating of the king’s portion, nor abstinence from it, but solemn, self-sacrificing devotion to sacred principle, which develops Daniels, Hananiahs, and noble masters of wisdom and saints of God. [page 11]
But it was not in offensive self-assertion that these youths declined the king’s viands. An obtrusive piety is never of God. True religion is always courteous, modest, and anxious to avoid unnecessary collisions. With all its inflexibility it is always amiable and kind. There be some who seem to think they cannot be faithful without being rude, or true to God without harshness toward men. But here we have all the modesty and politeness of genuine refinement, and all the courtesy of an accomplished courtier, with all the steadfastness of the most devoted piety, evincing the genial sincerity, and heralding in its simplicity the future greatness of the man. Daniel showed no acerbed temper. He did not fly into an indignant passion about his religion and his God.
He did not feign himself insulted by the offers of his king because they did not harmonize with his views and feelings. There was no bravado, no insolence, no defiance. It would not have recommended him or his cause, and could only have made matters worse.
Therefore, with the modesty of a true man, with due regard to the situation, and with that humility of spirit which considers the rights and feelings of others while yet faithful to principle, he put the whole thing in the shape of mild and gentle request that he and his three friends might be permitted to live on pulse and water, if only by way of experiment for ten days. And such entire confidence had he in God’s favour to those who honour His statutes that he cheerfully stipulated to accept whatever should be judged right if at the end of that time he and his friends did not prove as fair and fat in flesh as any of his schoolfellows who had no scruples about the portion of the king’s meat.
In all these particulars we behold the sound and refined religious character of the man, and the putting forth of those shoots of moral stamina which made Daniel one of the noblest and most successful of men.
And what an illustrious example have we here for the imitation of all young men! You have been indulging [page 12] many a fond and anxious dream of success, honour, and greatness in the world. You would like to do something good and noble for yourself and for your race. You are often absorbed with thinking over plans, movements, and methods of operation by which to conciliate the favours of fortune, to reach distinguished positions of life, and to leave behind you some good record when your race is run. If it is not so, I would not give much for your prospects. And as you think, all the warmth and zeal of your young nature kindles at what you propose to accomplish and make of yourself. But at the same time I would have you think with all seriousness, make up your plan of life with earnest prayer to God in the name of his beloved Son, and then persue it unswervingly through thick and thin, never faltering and never surrendering. Your life will come to nothing without this. True and great men and great and honourable successes never come by accident.
And one all-conditioning thing in a successful life is deep-rooted and inflexible devotion to correct religious principle. This made the Daniels, the Pauls, the Luthers, and the Washingtons of history. He who leaves out of his plans and purposes an honest and devout regard for his soul, his God, and eternal judgment, leaves out the very seed-grain from which all true greatness and all real success grow. You may not like such sentiments. You may think it merely professional in me to state them as I do. You may consider it manly and independent to throw off restraints and shackles of this character, and despise them as only in your way. But let me tell you that all the proper success and glory of your life is wrapped up in them. You make a sad and deplorable miss-shot of your being, if you propose to realize your golden dreams without them.
There is no right life in merely caring for this dying body and pandering to its appetites, while the soul and its high being are wilted by starvation and neglect. It is not right life merely to till the earth, and cover its hills with cattle, [page 13] and make its fields glad with harvests, while all the sublime domain of the immortal spirit is left to waste and desolation. It is not right life merely to build houses, cities, and railways ‑ to unchain the imprisoned spirit of steam - to dig up metals and pound them into shapes - while the moral nature is abandoned to chance or stagnation, with all its nobler treasures neglected, overlaid, and lost. It is not right life merely to become rich, famous, or even learned, if the momentous things of God and immortality are disregarded or despised. What matters it to pass with sublimest brilliancy through the few years of stay on earth if it must end in an eternity of darkness and despair?
With tremendous urgency, and for ever, rings out that unsolved question of the Master of all wisdom. “What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Better fail a thousand times, and fail in everything else, than attempt to shape for yourself a life without God, without hope in Christ, and without an interest in heaven. No one can afford such an experiment. It will unmake you if you try it. It will turn your life into nothingness and your being into an ever-greatening curse. You may think it independent, dignified, and noble, but you can no more succeed in it than you can dwell with devouring fire.
What young men generally are mostly concerned about is capital. They think if they only had capital they would accomplish wonders. And so they can, if the word be taken in its right sense. They understand by it a full and heavy pocket, but, properly, capital does not mean balances in bank, bonds, and letters of credit. Its true meaning is a right head. If you have this, you are prepared for the business of life, and equipped to make the most of it, no matter about other things. If only the head is right, and the man is not awry or wrong in his upper departments, he has capital, and may be sure of triumphant successes. But a man who ignores God and disregards the statutes of Deity and moral right, is not in his right mind. He mutilates his [page 14] being; he damages his manhood; he mars the nobility of his nature; he throws out of gear his intellectual constitution; he puts from him that very capital out of which alone his life can become a success.
A man who has not learned to know, feel, and obey the Truth, who fails in a just recognition of his Creator and his Creator’s will, who lives only by veering impulse, without a settled faith and aim adjusted to the verities of his position in the universe, can by no possibility have reason and sanity on his side. He is more or less beside himself. His head is not right. He is in measure a weakling, an imbecile, a moral cripple, a spiritual dwarf, disabled from the noblest activities of a proper man; and he never can be great. What men need to make them men is a firm anchorage on God, a modest, sincere and unflinching adherence to the laws of righteousness, and such a devotion as would at any time rather live on pulse and water with a good conscience than to sit down at the table of the king with a debauched soul.
With such capital it matters not what seeming odds may be against a man. The laws of the universe are in his favour. No storms or revolutions can ever wreck his good fortune. The throne of Heaven stands pledged to keep him in safety. And beyond the hills which bound our present horizon - beyond the stars which look down so lovingly amid these anxious night-watches - beyond these competitions, doubts, struggles, aches, and ills, when this world’s bloom is gone, its pleasures past, its fortunes worthless, its chaplets withered, its joys and sorrows over - there still remains a realm of light, beauty, victory, and glory where they who have believed in Christ dwell with him for ever, and they who have sown to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
* * * * * * *
THE VISION OF EMPIRE;
DANIEL 2: 1-35.
Date of the Flood 2,800 B.C. - Nimrod - The Greatness of Babylon - Nebuchadnezzar’s Dominion - His Public Works - The Prophetic Image he saw - Babylonian Magicians and Astrologers - Their Inability to explain the King’s Dream - Their Failure shows the Emptiness of Human Learning - Wisdom is only found with God - Inspired Men like Daniel.
It is well worthy of notice that the three principal events in
the primeval history of man connect with the confluence of two rivers, a very
celebrated mountain which those rivers drain, and a very celebrated plain which
those rivers water. Where the Euphrates
and the Tigris join is where
The date of the Flood has been much debated and variously
represented. But if we take the mean of
the two reckonings given in the two principal versions of the ancient
Scriptures, or the best deductions from the historical and monumental remains
of the various original tribes and peoples, or the indications embodied in the
Great Pyramid of Gizeh, by each of these methods we
are brought to the concurrent date of two thousand eight hundred years before
Christ, or near about four thousand six hundred and seventy-eight years [page 16] ago.
It was in the sixth generation from Noah, about three hundred years
after the Flood, that the great dispersion of his
descendants occurred, for it was in the days of Peleg that “the earth was divided.” But in two generations earlier than Peleg we already read of the city and kingdom with which
the history of Daniel connects, and the culmination of which was represented by
Nebuchadnezzar. There is no older known
city - no older known kingdom - than
The name and fame of this Nimrod, under whose administration the building of the great tower was undertaken, still resound all over the Mesopotamian region and live in the traditions of the people whose forefathers deified and worshipped him as a god. Many of the remarkable mounds and ruins of that ancient country are named after him. The ancient Chaldean astronomers placed him in the heavens as the constellation of Orion. The present inhabitants of the regions over which he reigned never mention his name but with reverence and awe. And up to the time when the tenth chapter of Genesis was written there was no other model of greatness and dominion to which mankind were so accustomed to refer as “Nimrod, the mighty hunter before the Lord.”
The disaster of the confusion of tongues, while it caused the leaving off of the building of the city for a time, did not destroy the kingdom which this man founded. The names of not less than twenty-six Babylonian monarchs have been exhumed within the last quarter of a century, the earliest of them dating back very near to the time of the Dispersion itself. From these recently-recovered remains it now appears that a certain Jsmi-Dayon was on the Chaldean throne one [page 17] thousand eight hundred and sixty-one years before the birth of Christ, and that he was preceded by at least four monarchs, whose names have likewise been recovered. The oldest of these was Urukh, whose kingdom must have been very great and his reign long, for his name is upon the foundation-bricks of the greatest buildings in some three or four of the most distinguished of the ancient cities of that country. Even his own signet-cylinder has been found. His son reigned after him, and very many others whose names have been discovered, indicating the existence of a Babylonian empire extending, in one form or another, from Nimrod down to Nabopolassar, the father of the Nebuchadnezzar who figures so largely in this book of Daniel.
Nebuchadnezzar was not yet properly the king of
The greatness of
The enormous public works which he wrought sufficiently
corroborate these accounts of his victories, resources, and vast dominion. He adorned and exalted
Having made all these mighty conquests, become invested with
the sole authority over the great empire of
We are not informed whether there was anything in all this akin to the experience of King Richard III., of which Shakespeare makes him say -
“Methought the souls of all that I had murdered
Came to my tent; and every one did threat
To-morrow’s vengeance on the head of Richard.”
But it could hardly be much otherwise. We may be sure, at least, that these invading “thoughts” had reference to the security and destiny of himself and his throne, including all the mysterious implications besetting such an administration. Out of these “thoughts” God also framed for him a dream-picture of the whole matter, which disturbed him yet the more when the morrow came, even though he could not remember so as to describe it.
A bright and mighty image stood before him with the [Page 21] outlines and lineaments of a man. The form of it was lustrous and terrible. The head of it was glittering with gold. The breast and arms were shining silver. The chest and thighs were glowing brass. The legs were pillars of iron. And the feet and toes were mingled iron and clay. A mystic stone, self moved, rolled down from the mountain and struck the image on its feet, breaking them to pieces and grinding the whole image to dust, which the winds blew away, while the stone developed into a great mountain and filled the whole earth! It was the image of worldly empire, from its beginning, through all its varying fortunes, down to the end of time, and of the supernal power which is then to supplant it. The king could not describe the vision when he awoke. It went from him with his recovering consciousness, as it had framed itself to his thoughts when he uneasily sank into those slumbers. But the awfulness of it was upon his soul. It was such a strange and overpowering intermingling with his thinking, and seemed so evidently a supernatural answer to his questions, that it stirred him profoundly. If in the power of man to recall that vision, he determined that it should be recalled and its meaning ascertained. Nor was it mere curiosity, but sober seriousness, which moved his anxiety.
Nor can I but admire the earnestness of this man in this matter. It is just what ought to press most urgently upon the heart and conscience of every young man as he moves out into the cares and responsibilities of life. Especially if our efforts have brought us great successes, honours, greatness, and power, it should much occupy our thinking to know where we are, how it is likely to go with us, what rocks and quicksands may be encountered in our voyage, what precipices and dangers may be before us, how best to secure what is made dependent upon our will, and how to steer that things may have an honourable and happy outcome. It belongs to everyone’s proper manhood to exercise himself well in this very way and to [page 22] be earnestly anxious in this very line. Many are born into this world, and live through it, and die out of it, and even take prominent part in its affairs, who never seem to become conscious of themselves, or to think whence they came, what they are, or what is to come of them or the things on which they are spending their energies. And though God comes to them with many a brilliant vision, many an imposing dream, and many a word of useful information, they let it go as if it concerned them not. Eternal Wisdom condescends to put the sublimest teachings within their reach, but they care not to know what they are or what is to be in the future. Let this heathen king rebuke and shame their brutishness. Not all his honours, greatness, and power could divert him from solemn thought of what was to come. Upon his royal couch he seriously moralizes and thinks. He reasons and wonders and inquires about the end. And when sensible of some mysterious tokens from the Deity, he will not rest till he learns the import of the vouchsafed revelation. All the masters of sacred wisdom are summoned to help him to an understanding of the heavenly intimations. It was noble in him, and evinced the seriousness and dignity of a true man, who will rise up in the judgment and condemn those who never cast a thought upon the solemnities of a life or care to learn what God has vouchsafed for their guidance to a happy destiny. Very incompetent, however, were the helpers to whom the king betook himself for the recovery and explanation of his dream.
It was the custom of ancient monarchs
to gather around them the best representatives of science and learning that
could be found. It helped to dignify
All these scientists, priests, diviners, and representatives of wisdom and spiritual power the king summoned to the work of divining his dream and interpreting its meaning. And so earnest and resolved was he that he made it a matter of life or death to them. He demanded of them either to make known unto him what had been shown him, as also the interpretation thereof, or to be cut in pieces by the public executioner and have their houses destroyed. In vain did they remonstrate that he was asking too much, and tasking their science and power beyond reason. He was only angered and infuriated by their prevarication and delay, and gave forth the decree that they should all be slain.
Much blame has been lodged against Nebuchadnezzar for this, as having been quite too harsh, unreasonable, and despotic. That there was something of caprice and inhuman tyranny in his nature is not to be denied. That there was a decided tinge of cruelty even in this case is also to be admitted. But Oriental despots were always cruel, and the same features show themselves to this day among Persian, Indian, and Turkish rulers. I do not defend it, but neither [page 24] do I share the feeling that the king was so seriously at fault. It may be true that the demand was an uncommon one; that no king or dreamer had ever made such a requirement before; that no wise man, magician, or astrologer had ever performed such a task as he laid upon these loud pretenders; and that none but the gods could do what he required. Still, they professed to speak for the gods in other things. They claimed to be able to divine the mind, will, and purposes of the eternals. They held their places, honour, and living on the plea of being in communication with the spiritual powers. Even in this instance they alleged their ability to explain exactly what the vision meant if only the king would make it known to them. And if they were really in communication with the gods, and could infallibly tell what the dream meant, they could by the same means just as easily tell what the dream itself was. So the king reasoned, and with perfect right. If they could not, from communications with the gods, tell him what his dream was, he justly argued that neither could they tell him what it meant. In other words, they stood revealed to him as a set of impostors, whose pretension was all deceit and sham, and whose claims were nothing but a gigantic lie. In that case they merited his intensest resentment, and richly deserved the severest of punishments. Bloody and extreme as the sentence was, it was founded in justice. Sincere as some of these men may have been, their profession was a deception and an imposture so far as regarded the exercise of any power from God. I sympathize therefore with the king’s estimate of the matter. If he showed something of cruel harshness, he showed also his correct logic and sound sense. The matter for which he called them came fairly within their province. Not to be able to meet it was to forfeit all right to their proud place and influence. Whatever else they may have been, yet as exponents of the gods or as mediators of the sacred powers they were a failure; and, being a failure, they were a fraud; and, being a fraud, it was right that they should be punished [page 25] and swept away. And one day more would have made an end of them had it not been for the youthful Daniel, who came forward as God’s true prophet, answered the king’s demand, and saved the necks of these traders in imposition. If people cannot do what they profess to do, and what they have their living and their honour for doing, they ought to suffer; and that government is at fault which does not punish them.
But the thing has much deeper and farther-reaching implications. It furnishes demonstration of the incompetence of all mere human resources, learning, and power to ascertain the mind and will of God apart from His own revelations. Here was the full-grown heathenism of more than a thousand years. Here were the combined strength and wisdom of the noted schools in the highest acme of their glory. What ever ability existed in priest or savant, astrologer or necromancer, wise man or magician, apart from the appointed servants of the God of Israel, was here concentred and embodied. If these men failed, it was the laying prostrate of all the wisdom, power, and art of man. The case was legitimate. It was propounded by proper authority. It presented a fair test which they could not disregard, evade, or escape. Not only the honour of their profession; but their very lives and dwellings were put under forfeit. Every possible condition existed to bring out the utmost that could be done. And fault or failure in a trial so fair and so complete could only be because it is not in man, nor in all his occult arts, nor in all his command of oracles, incantations, and priestly devices, nor in all his calculations of the stars, his consultations of the living or dead, his rites of inquiry of devils or of gods, nor in anything that lies within his reach or control, to ascertain the mind, the will, and the purposes of Jehovah.
But fail they did; and themselves
confessed the failure before the face of all the empire. “The Chaldeans,”
the most renowned and exalted of all the orders of
I look upon these venerable colleges of sages, savants, priests, mantologists, and philosophers. I consider how much they were above and beyond all the rest of the heathen world. I trace how Phoenicians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans copied their systems, adopted their sciences, and followed their arts and inculcations. I see in them the full-orbed sun, around which all the mythologies and theologies and philosophies and religions and wisdom treasures of the whole pagan world revolved and derived their light. And when I read these words, formally given out by their very chiefs in the name of them all, and sorrowfully pronounced in the audience of the imperial majesty of the earth as the utmost they could do to save themselves from summary destruction, I see a veil of darkness drawn over all the wisdom, strength, and science of man which makes me shudder as I gaze. It shows me, in one single sentence, that all the astrology, necromancy, oracles, dreams, and mantic revelations of the whole pagan world for six thousand years is nothing but imbecilities and lies. It proves to me, in one brief utterance, that all the religions, arts, sciences, philosophies, attainments, and powers of man, apart from God’s inspired prophets and all-glorious Christ, are but emptiness and vanity as regards any true and adequate knowledge of the purposes and will of Jehovah or of the destinies of man. It demonstrates to me, in a few words of sad despair, that all the learned the origins of this world’s would-be wise, from Babylon’s magicians down to the Hobbes, Herberts, and Voltaires of the last centuries and the materialistic sceptics and pantheists of our own day, are but rottenness, rubbish, and damning falsehood, in so far as they conflict with the revelations which the Almighty has given by His own anointed prophets. It is to the modest Daniels and to the humble Nazarenes, after all, that the proud world must come to learn the true [page 27] God and to find out His mind and purposes. It is upon these that the self-glorifying wisdom of man must, after all, lean to save itself from being cut to pieces and blotted from the earth. And without these there is an impenetrable eclipse upon all the illuminating powers of our world, and nothing remains but despair and death even for the wisest and the best.
I fear, my friends, that we do not half appreciate the unspeakable treasure which God has given us in the Holy Scriptures. I fear that even our most considerate, pious, and devoted believers do not begin to comprehend the desolation which would swathe the world if it were not for what God’s prophets and evangelists have testified and written for our learning. Have you ever thought what would be the result if these sacred testimonies were to be stricken out of being, with all that rests on them or has sprung from them? Have you ever considered what an utter obliteration of the highest intellectual and moral life of the race would attend such a calamity? Have you ever reflected how it would silence every preacher of righteousness and salvation, abolishing at once his office and his text, stop every work of mercy and philanthropy that would bind up the wounds of suffering humanity, and quench every fond hope of the recovery of our afflicted world, the restoration of our dead, or a home in heaven [after resurrection] when this poor life is over? Ah me! Extinguish the Bible and its teachings, and no star remains to cheer the tossed mariner on this troubled sea - no chart by which to direct his uncertain way - no known haven or blessed shores for which to steer! Extinguish the Bible and its teachings, and the last appeal of the down-trodden and oppressed, the last cheek to the aggressions of power, the last bonds of restraint upon man’s depravity, are gone, clean gone, giving carnival to every lust and freedom to every beastly passion, without corrective, without limit, and without end! Extinguish the Bible and its teachings, and light and comfort wilt away like Jonah’s smitten gourd, and leave [page 28] man to drag out a hopeless orphanage while years continue, and then to gather himself up to die and perish like the brute! Extinguish the Bible and its teachings, and despair and wretchedness must settle on all hearts as on the vanquished Chaldean sages under the decree of their inexorable king.
Ay, did men but understand it, there is no possession on earth like the deliverances which God has given us by His holy prophets. Treasure, then, the sacred record of them. The Bible is the Book of books.
“Within this ample volume lies
The mystery of mysteries.
Happiest they of human race
To whom their God has given grace
To read, to fear, to hope, to pray,
To lift the latch and force the way;
And better had they ne’er been born
That read to doubt, or read to scorn.”
#* * * * * * *
THE SUCCESSION OF KINGDOMS;
THE FOUR GREAT SOVEREIGNTIES.
Daniel 2: 36-46.
Daniel’s Interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream – 1. Daniel regarded the Dream as a Communication from God; 2. And as very Momentous; 3. It Outlived the History, and Destiny of all Earthly Dominion; 4. Continuous Deterioration of Administration.
We have seen that the great Nebuchadnezzar, king of
When notice of this bloody decree had come to Daniel, he wondered that the king should be so summary in his action without further inquiry. He and his friends, though involved in the sentence, had not been at all consulted, and why should they be put to death for the false professions and incompetency of others? Daniel had a considerable liking for Nebuchadnezzar, because he was a really great man, and because his thinking was in general correct and just; but here was a case of manifest wrong, at least so far as he and Hananiah and Mishael and Azariah were concerned. Hence his surprise. Hence also he went into the king - to whom he seems to have had ready access ‑ modestly expostulating against the premature execution of the decree, and pledging himself to make known to the king all that he desired.
It was a very bold thing for Daniel to do, for as yet he was
in total blankness as to what the king had dreamed or as to what was the
meaning of the vision. He himself seems
to have been no little shaken when he came to realize what he had taken upon
himself. It had about it the air of the
greatest presumption, which it would be very wrong, to imitate except under
corresponding circumstances. It reminds
us of young David going out to fight the great Goliath of Gath,
from whom all the mighty warriors in the army of Saul shrank away. But in both these instances we recognize a divine
impulse quite above the reasonings and courage of mere man. Daniel had
confidence in the power and presence of God and in the divine sufficiency. He had had some personal experience of God’s
prospering providence, and felt the pre-intimations of the high office for
which he was destined. The case also
presented indications that God was specially concerned
in the king’s vision, and hence would not fail to bring it all out. The superior honour of God and His
confessors, as over against the deities of
In order, therefore, that the divine help might not fail him in this emergency, Daniel concluded to lay the matter before the Lord, and urged his three friends to unite with him in supplications that God would be gracious to him, enable him to fulfil his pledge to the king, and thus save him and his fellows from the doom that impended. There is nothing like prayer. It is the ready resource of the saints in every time of need, and never fails to secure the most blessed results. The Christian poet did not overstate its worth and power when he said,
“Prayer moves the Hand that moves the world.”
Neither did it fail in this instance, for “then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision.” The dream which had been taken away from the king’s recollection, that the imbecilities and deceits of pagan priests and prophets might be detected and the servants of Jehovah exalted, proved to be this: There stood before him a great image in the likeness of a human being, whose “brightness was excellent,” but whose “form was terrible.” The head of it was gold, the breast and arms silver, the abdomen and thighs brass, the legs iron, and the feet and toes mingled iron and pottery. Gazing upon this image, he saw a mystic stone from the mountain supernaturally fall upon the feet of the figure, shattering them to atoms and grinding up the whole fabric, so that the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold became like the chaff of the summer’s threshing-floor, and the winds carried them away; but the stone became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
The king at once recognised the whole description, and was so thoroughly convinced of the true and real inspiration of Daniel that he bowed down before him and reverently [page 32] acknowledged him to be a prophet of the most high God. And it is the explanation of this dream that we are now to consider.
1. You will observe that Daniel regarded
the dream as a communication from God. It was common for the Almighty to
communicate with men in this way. “In a dream, in a
vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings
upon the bed; then He
openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their
instruction.” Job 33: 15-17. God said to ancient
Many believe that similar experience is constantly occurring. Nor would I undertake to deny it. There is a divine promise concerning the latter days, that God will pour out His Spirit upon all flesh, and the young men “shall see visions, and the old men shall dream dreams.” Acts 2: 17.
Most frequently “a dream cometh through the multitude of business” (Eccles. 5: 3), yet there are instances in which we have reason to believe that God does still interpose to instruct, warn, and admonish people through the agency of dreams. We are not to look for illumination in this way where we have the Holy Scriptures to guide us; neither are we to believe or follow our dreams in anything contrary to God’s written word. It is easy to become superstitious in such matters, and to do ourselves and others much mischief by observing signs, omens, and supposed revelations. But in this case the dream was from the Lord. Daniel says of it, “God in heaven maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall come to pass ‑ what shall be in the latter days.” [page 33] It was originally from God to the king, and when he failed in ability to recall it, it was God who made it known again to Daniel.
Nor is it to be thought strange that God should select a heathen king to be the organ of such a mighty revelation. He had in like manner employed Pharaoh to give warning of the famine that was about to come upon the world; and in both instances the proceeding contemplated the bringing forward of His own chosen messengers as the only interpreters. Besides, the possession of political power and dominion connects very closely with the Almighty. Great potentates, whatever may be their personal character, still are, in a sense, God’s agents, servants, and appointed administrators. “The powers that be are ordained of God.” Rom. 13: 1. And it is not incongruous that a universal monarch, in the highest glory of the world’s original kingdom, should be the seer of the course and end of all secular dominion, particularly when earnestly concerned about the matter, and when God’s own chosen prophet was to be the interpreter of it, to the great discomfiture of the necromancers and blind guides of heathenism.
2. You will notice also that Daniel regarded this dream as very momentous. When it was made known to him he broke into exultant adoration, not so much because he was the honoured servant to whom it was revealed as for what it signified. It showed such a majesty above all the majesty of earth, such a plan in the course of all human governments and dominion, and such a power to handle and order all the potencies of time, that his soul was ready to break away from him when the mighty showing flashed upon his understanding. It set every emotion and energy within him on fire. He thanked and praised the God of his fathers for having answered his prayers and given him such wisdom, but first, and above all, for the showings of the dream itself. Sublime is the song he uttered: “Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are [page 34] His: and He changeth the times and the seasons: He removeth kings, and setteth up kings! He giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: He revealeth the deep and secret things: He knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with Him.”
Such expressions could come only from an understanding of what the dream signified. They tell of new views of the glory and attributes of God and His administrations in the affairs of earth. They tell of a sweep and majesty in Jehovah’s plans, and of a satisfactoriness of outcome to them, which had not before been realized in Daniel’s previous thinking. They tell of a new world of ideas, exhibiting the intelligence, the efficiency, the calculation, the potent activity, and the just and beneficent purposes of Jehovah in a vastness of stretch, and yet particularity of detail, not before so clearly perceived. As Thomas, in the fulness of his conviction when he beheld the risen Christ, broke out in the recognition of depths and glories in the Saviour’s being which till then he had never half appreciated, so Daniel here exultingly broke forth in recognitions of the majesty of the living God, which he had never half comprehended till beheld in the prophetic picture of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Nor need we look farther than his own inspired interpretation of it to find ample justification for all this exultant adoration.
3. You will notice that it gives an outline of the history and destiny of all earthly dominion, from Nebuchadnezzar to the end of the present world, [age] and for ever. The several metals of which the great image was composed designated a succession of universal empires. For this we have the authority of the prophet himself.
The head was “fine gold;” and
Daniel said to Nebuchadnezzar, “Thou art this head
of gold.” There can therefore be no mistake in the
application of this part of the vision.
The breast, shoulders, and arms of this image were
silver. From the finest of metals the
descent is to a less valuable one. The
gold gives place to silver. The great
empire of Nebuchadnezzar is supplanted by another, less illustrious than
his. Nor can we be at a loss to
determine its identity. Daniel
interprets it as meaning “another kingdom,” and
one which should arise in immediate succession to that of
These were two nations, answering to the two shoulders and arms of the image, but bound together as one in Cyrus, the mighty conqueror, constituting what is known in history as the Medo-Persian empire, the second great universal empire on earth. The conquests of Cyrus, the representative of this power, were second only to those of Nebuchadnezzar himself. Herodotus writes that “wherever Cyrus marched [page 36] throughout the earth it was impossible for the nations to escape him.” Xenophon writes that “he ruled the Medes, subverted the Syrians, the Assyrians, the Arabians, the Cappadocians, the Phrygians, the Lydians, the Carians, the Babylonians, the Indians, the Phoenicians, the Greeks in Asia, the Cyprians, the Egyptians, and struck all with such dread and terror that none ventured to assail him. He subdued from his throne east, west, north, and south!”
Nebuchadnezzar’s dynasty ran on seventy years from the
beginning of his reign till, under his grandson, the sensual Belshazzar, Cyrus
gained possession of
The abdomen and thighs of the image were of brass, which according to the explanation denoted “a third kingdom,” which was likewise to “bear rule over all the earth.” In the somewhat parallel vision given in Daniel’s seventh chapter we learn what power is here denoted ‑ to wit, “the king of Grecia,” or the Graeco‑Macedonian empire of Alexander the Great. A double line of monarchs had been holding petty sway over the turbulent Greeks for more than eight hundred years before Philip of Macedon, against whom Demosthenes so eloquently harangued, subdued the various Grecian states to his dominion. Alexander was his son, in whom the genius and spirit of conquest reigned and wrought with amazing power. It was a little more than three hundred years before the birth of Christ that he set out on his great Eastern expeditions, conquered the Medo-Persians and took possession of Babylon, feeding the strength of his own supremacy with the wrecks and spoils of all the great dominions before him, and then sat down and wept because no more great nations remained to be conquered. The [page 37] kingdoms of the Seleucid and the Ptolemies were the principal continuation of the dominion acquired by Alexander, and answer to the two thighs of this image.
It is worthy to remark here that the period of the Persian and Macedonian empires is regarded as the most brilliant in the world’s history. Its lists of heroes, poets, painters, orators, statesmen, historians, and men of renown are the longest and most illustrious of any known to earthly fame. But while the annalists of this world view it as the golden age, and cannot get done lauding it as the brightest in the scroll of time, God pictures it as an age of brass - an age of glare and flare, with but little real merit - and assigns to it only the briefest place in His holy records. When Paul stood on Mar’s Hill he referred to this age of blaze and splendour, and called it “the times of this ignorance,” and the same estimate is put upon it, both positively and negatively, in all parts of the Divine Word. What this world holds for gold God knows to be but brass.
But the image had legs, and feet, and toes. These were of iron, except the toes, which were of mingled iron and clay. This, Daniel says, denoted “the fourth kingdom,” “strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise.” The particular name of this power is not given in the Old Testament, for the time of its rise was after the close of the ancient Canon, and its career belongs mostly to New Testament times. Hence we read in Luke 2., 3. of a dominion which claimed the sovereignty over the earth, of “a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed,” and of an emperor called “Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea.” And when we read further of the breaking and bruising wrought under the administration of the Caesars, the crushing of conquered nations, the crucifixion of the immaculate Son of God, the utter destruction of the Holy City, the slaying of all the apostles of our Lord, the ten [page 38] mighty persecutions which reddened the whole Roman empire with martyr blood, and the threshing, breaking, and stamping done everywhere and in all directions by the iron despotism of Rome, - there can be no reasonable question as to the identity of the Roman empire with the lower part of the great image.
Since the Roman there has been no universal empire, after the
style of the four great monarchies.
4. You will notice also that in this foreshowing of the succession of earthly administration there is a continuous deterioration from the beginning to the end. Political economists and statesmen claim that the world has been growing in wisdom and excellence through all these ages, and that the administrations of power particularly mark this progress. And in some respects there has been growth. The great image has gone on filling out as time proceeded. The experiences and observations of man have also vastly increased. His progress over the earth, his acquaintance with its character, relations, elements and adaptations, and his mastery of its natural susceptibilities and powers, have wonderfully advanced. But with all, in God’s estimate, there has been a never-ceasing downwardness, depreciation, and tendency towards the earth out of which man was taken. The beginning was gold; the next stage was silver; the third was brass; the fourth was iron; and then came iron mingled with clay, until we now have very much more mud than metal.
Nor is there a government now on earth which is not made up of this compounded pottery. The next stage, or fifth universal monarchy according to the vision, is to be the original, God-made mountain rock, out of which all these other metals and materials have been derived, - the Stone kingdom of the Originator of all things.
It is therefore the whole history of the [present] world that is comprehended in this vision. Note, then, how all the various actors, agencies, and activities that shape human history fulfil Jehovah’s counsels. Whatever the motives which actuate them, the passions that sway them, or the freedom and self-direction by which they proceed, they still only act out the programme which God long ago fore-announced. We behold the heroes, conquerors, statesmen and operators of the olden time going forward with their schemes of ambition, making conquests, carving names, building up thrones, monuments, fortunes, and glories for themselves, their associates, and their children, each busy on his own account, yet each only filling up, unknown to himself, what was projected in the mind of the Almighty for a thousand years before.
“We see Hannibal, who had never heard of God’s prophecies, begin his wars
History, as it appears to man, seems to be only an aggregation
of lucky occurrences. The most trifling
and ordinary things often determine the characteristics of ages. History takes shape from accidents. A stroke of lightning, killing a young man in
“Whose yes or no the wheel of ages turned;
The very existence of
Thus it follows that everything, and every actor in the world’s affairs, soldier and senator, poet and orator, priest and oracle, saint and sinner, has place in the mind and prescience of God, and performs the part required in the working out of plans matured and understood by Him from the beginning. “Oh the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!”
Note then, still further, the reality of inspiration and the absolute certainty of supernatural revelations from God to men. This is one of the things at which our modern world is full of stumbling. The old nations accepted it as not only possible, but in every respect so likely and desirable that they never thought of the gods except as willing and ready to make communications to mankind in all cases of importance. So satisfied and confident were they upon this point that they willingly took up with anything that had the remotest semblance of a claim to be considered divine. In the ages of gold and silver, and brass, and even iron, there was no trouble on this subject. The doctrine that it is absurd to believe in communications from God was reserved [page 43] for the period of earthiness and pottery. It has only come with that sublime development of human genius which gets everything, including itself, and even Deity, from slime and mud. Such consummate wisdom remained to be brought forth only when man bent down from his erect posture and heavenward look and contemplated material forces, adaptations, elements, and interests as his supreme world of thought and energy. It belongs to that high and superlative science which finds its inspirations in the manipulation, capacities, and evolutions of mud!
But all such wisdom is but vanity and emptiness. It may please the flesh, but it must starve
the soul. It claims to rest on
facts. Well, here are facts, and they
demonstrate a living God, and unmistakable communications from Him. Here are Daniel’s prophecies which no one has
dared to assign a later origin than the Maccabean
age, but which gives the whole political and social history of man for two
thousand years since that time. But it
is older than the time of the Maccabees. It was known and acknowledged as a sacred
book when Alexander lived and
This was more than a century and a half before Antiochus Epiphanes. Being at that time in the Canon, it must needs be referred to the period and authorship of him [page 44] whose name it bears. Ezekiel was the contemporary of Daniel’s later years, and Ezekiel mentions him twice with most distinguished honour as an eminent teacher, prophet, and servant of God. Ezek. 14: 13, 14; 28: 3. Christ himself quotes from the Book as the production of “Daniel the prophet,” and not the work of some unknown author in the time of the Maccabees. Matt. 24: 15. We have, then, ample reason to accept it, in all its essential parts at least, for just what it professes to be.
And when we find in this Book the whole political and social history of our world grandly and truly sketched, just as it has turned out from that time to this living present, how can we construe it except upon the doctrine alleged by the prophet, that it was revealed to him from the almighty and all-knowing One? Comparing so plain a prophecy with a range of historic facts so vast, so indisputable, and so impossible of anticipation by any sagacity of man, how can we rid ourselves of the conclusion that there is an omniscient God who does condescend to reveal hidden things? Could it just have happened so? How could a young man like Daniel, unacquainted as yet with the great problems of politics and government, stand up in the midst of Babylon at a time when its unrivalled dominion gave every token of abiding permanence, and assure the king whose sceptre swayed unquestioned over all the known world, that this empire would presently pass away, this glory disappear, this matchless dominion fall a prey to another power, which should in turn give place to a third, and that third to a fourth, and that fourth divide out into ten, and then, amid varied, uncertain, and ever-deteriorating changes, run to the final termination of all mere human rule; and all, as far as history has been enacted, turn out precisely as he said, if he was not miraculously helped and illumined by the inspiration of the Eternal? Such a thing would be a miracle more marvellous than inspiration. Yet here are the facts. They cannot be disputed. They stand invincible against both [page 45] sneers and arguments. You must blot out two thousand five hundred years of earth’s history in order to get rid of them. Man has no records besides them.
And here is the evidence, equally invincible, that Daniel foreknew and foretold them as accurately as the events have occurred or the historian recorded them. How did he get that information? How could he thus know and declare beforehand what was so improbable to all human likelihood, so impossible for mere human foresight to anticipate? He tells us that God, the living God, the God who rules all kingdoms and history, the God to whose omniscience all things are present, naked, and open, the Almighty, revealed these things to him; and the seal to his assertion is immutably stamped upon all the records of the succeeding ages.
What, then, are we to conclude - what else can we conclude - but that inspiration is a reality; that there is a foreknowing God in heaven, whose word has come out upon earth; that His holy prophets were not liars when they delivered and wrote down His messages to men; that there is such a thing as a divine revelation?
Men and brethren, let us not deceive ourselves. There is a God in history, and he hath prophets whom He hath sent to speak His word and will. These living oracles are verily from Him. And if any man have ears to hear, let him hear them.
* * * * * * *
THE FINAL DOMINION;
THE KINGDOM OF THE STONE
Daniel 2: 34, 35; 44-49.
Nebuchadnezzar’s Prophetic Image
represents the Four Great Empires of Babylon,
According to Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s great vision, it was meant to set forth the history of earthly dominion from the time of the vision down to the End. One image served for this purpose. The history and career of this world’s empire, truly considered, presents the appearance of one great man, with a head and neck of gold, breast and arms of silver, abdomen and thighs, of brass, legs and feet of iron, and toes of mingled iron and clay. The several metals mark its several great transitions, and its constant deterioration, but they all belong equally to one and the same image and history, which spans the whole period of the world, from the first great empire to the time when “man’s day” ceases, and the rule of corrupt mortals ends for ever. Beginning with Nebuchadnezzar, the golden head, all the other parts were consecutively the, Medo-Persian dominion, the Graeco‑Macedonian dominion, and the Roman dominion, the latter dividing out at last into numerous fragments and varying kingdoms, extending down to the present time.
In this fragmentary form, modified with the element of the sovereignty of the people “the miry clay” of government - this Roman dominion still continues. It may sound strangely to modern republican and democratic ears to [page 47] say so, but it is nevertheless historically true. Though it is now more than one thousand years since the old imperial form of Roman government broke up, yet “from the reign of Augustus Caesar down to the memorable year 1806, when the German Emperor renounced the title - more than eighteen centuries - the world has never been without an Emperor of the Romans.”
It is also a fact, which no one competent to speak on the
subject will deny, that all the kingdoms, governments, and civilized nations
now on the face of the earth are still constituted and ruled by the codes, pandects, and principles of laws laid down by that iron
empire. All the histories of laws prove
this. Whatever else the revolutions of
the fifth and sixth centuries did, they “did not blot
out the Roman law.” With all the
new order that broke over the world, the old Roman law still continued in force
as an actual jurisprudence. The Germanic
invaders did not destroy the Romans nor impose upon them new codes. Wherever Roman dominion had been fully
established, as in
The principles, doctrines, and rules of Roman law made up the
Besides, we have occasion to know that there is a pope of
But having reached these days of the mingled iron and clay, when the kingdom, partly strong and partly broken, is endeavouring to maintain and perpetuate itself by all manner of compromises and coalitions, which give way as fast as they are made, we stand upon the margin of events the most momentous in all the history of human dominion. It is in the days of these kingdoms that all earthly political successions are to come to a sudden termination, and be no more. Look again at the prophetic description: “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold, the great God hath made known to thee what shall come hereafter.” [page 49]
Here [we] have a unique and unparalleled power and dominion. To what does it refer? What does it mean? How shall we identify it?
The first point I make concerning it is, that it is truly a visible material Kingdom, an outward government, a tangible sovereignty and dominion over the [this] earth. All the connections and terms of the description show this. It is called a kingdom. It fulfils all the functions and performs all the offices of a great political sovereignty. It falls on other governments, crushes them out of existence and takes their place. As Tillinghast, an old Scotch divine, expresses it: “This is a kingdom, in respect of nature the same with the kingdoms represented by the great image: that is, it is outward, as they are outward, which appears -
“1. From the general scope and drift of the prophecy, which runs upon outward kingdoms. All the first four kingdoms or monarchies are outward, as none can deny; why, then, the Holy Ghost, in speaking of the fifth and last, should so far vary the scope as to glide from the outward kingdom to the inward ought (besides the bare say-so) to have some solid and substantial reason brought for it by those, whosoever they are, that either do or shall assert it.
“2. Because it is not proper to say that a bare spiritual kingdom, considered only as spiritual, should break in pieces, beat to very chaff, grind to powder, the great image that is, destroy the very being of earthly kingdoms ‑ which work is yet, notwithstanding, done by this stone. Christ’s spiritual kingdom may, indeed, by that light and life which it gives forth, much refine and reform outward kingdoms; but when the work comes to breaking, and breaking in pieces ‑ that is, subverting kingdoms, razing their very foundations and destroying their very being ‑ as the kings of this world here, unless we conceive God to do it by a miracle (which is not spiritual), must we also conceive some other hand besides a spiritual to be put to the work.
“3. Because the stone, to the end that there might not be a vacancy in the world, comes straightway in the place and room of the great image so soon as the same is totally broken. For as the great image, while standing, bears rule over all the earth, so, the same being broken, the stone becomes a mountain, and fills the whole earth; therefore must the kingdom of the stone be such a kingdom as was that of the great image - namely, outward; or otherwise the coming of that in the place of the other now taken away could not supply the absence of the other.”
Dr. Berg, from whom I quote this argument,
regards it “as conclusive that the nature of this
fifth power is outward, corresponding to its predecessors, and not merely
spiritual.” Nor can I see how we
can do justice to the prophet’s description without so taking it. And if there were no foregone theories
against which it strikes we never should have heard of
any other idea than that this kingdom of the stone is as really a kingdom as
Another point I make with regard to this stone kingdom is that, though truly an outward and visible kingdom and sovereignty, it is entirely supernatural. It is a kingdom which “the God of heaven” sets up. God was concerned in the setting up of the other kingdoms also, for nothing can come to pass without Him. But the language in those instances is different. Daniel said to Nebuchadnezzar, “The God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength and glory;” that is to say, God gave him the natural endowments, the providential surroundings, and the successes of battle and administration by which the dominion of the earth was for the time concentred in him. God gave it to him through the instrumentality of his birth, genius, and arms. But there is no such mediation of human activities, accidents, and conquests in this case. There is no intermediate agency whatever ‑ no giving to a secondary actor. Everything of this sort is entirely set aside, and “the God [page 51] of heaven” himself, directly and exclusively, is the setter-up of this kingdom. Barnes properly observes that “though the other kingdoms here referred to were under the divine control, and were designed to act an important part in preparing the world for this, yet they are not represented as deriving their origin directly from Heaven. They were founded in the usual manner of earthly monarchies; but this was to have a heavenly origin.”
It is specifically said to be “cut out
of the mountain without hands.” No human
agency was concerned in bringing it into being or into the action assigned to
it. It is brought forth by some
invisible, superhuman power. It moves
forward to its work without the help of any other potency than that inherent in
its mystic self, by which also it expanded into its vast proportions. Some suppose that the mountain from which it
comes is named for the sake of verisimilitude only, and is not to be regarded
as significant. But this misses one of
the sublimest ideas in the whole representation. I do not agree with Augustine that this
primal mountain is the Jewish nation, nor with others
that it means the hill-country of
It entirely ends and supersedes all human dominions. It suddenly sweeps them away and takes their place. A popular annotator takes its action on the kingdoms of the earth to be “not sudden violence, but a continued process of comminution” stretching through ages. The same is repeated in a [page 52] recent book of lectures on these prophecies. But this is another of those human glosses imposed on the divine word to save an untenable rationalistic theory. As Nebuchadnezzar saw the vision, the stone “smote the image” - smote it, as when a man strikes his two hands together or delivers a killing blow - smote it, so that the iron and clay upon which it fell “brake to pieces,” as a vessel of pottery is broken when struck by a rock - smote it, so that every part of the great image “brake to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing-floors; and the wind carried them away that no place was found for them.” If this is not “sudden violence” - the precipitation of summary destruction - the quick and utter demolition of the thing smitten - there is no power in human language to express it. The whole fabric, from toe to scalp, is summarily shattered to atoms, ground to powder, scattered to the winds, leaving not a vestige of it any more to be found. And as that fabric includes in it all mortal dominion, that kingdom which so shatters it, and takes its place, must needs be supernal, and is neither originated nor administered by mortal hands or conquest.
This kingdom is supernatural in its qualities. It is inalienable and eternal, which cannot be said of ordinary kingdoms. It fills the whole earth, which is not true of mere earthly empires, though called universal. Not one of them, nor all of them together, ever “filled the whole earth.”
It likewise abides perpetually with its possessors. Human dominion is ever passing from one potentate to another and from one nationality to another. Monarchs die as other men, and their dominion is left to their successors. The supremacy never remains with one people. They may hold it for a long period, but others are meanwhile developed, and they come and take it, and none can say them nay. But this stone kingdom “shall not be left to other people.” It cannot be alienated from those who possess it. The hands [page 53] that hold it from the first hold it perpetually. It must therefore be the possession of a people over whom death has no power; for if they were subject to death, it could not be said that the kingdom is never left to other people.
Firm as may be the grasp with which this world’s monarchs hold their sceptres, death breaks it, and the dominion passes; but this dominion is never to pass, and therefore must belong to immortals. Human kingdoms are limited in duration. Everything earthly has a termination. The longest-lived empires dwindle and fade away. There is no mortal rule that has not an end. But this stone kingdom is endless. The prophet says, “it shall stand for ever!” Whilst, therefore, it has the earth for its theatre, and is a true and visible government and kingdom, it must needs be supernatural. It is on and over the earth, for it fills the earth, and takes the place of what was nowhere but on earth; and yet it is not from the earth, or of the nature of earth, or liable to any of the accidents or changes of the earth, or of the fortunes of mortal man or mortal rule.
What, then, is to be understood by this fifth, or stone, kingdom? Alas that there should be any difficulty or diversity on this the chief and culminating portion of this imperial vision! But great and wide diversity there is, and hence also a vast amount of unsound and erroneous teaching among expositors.
Some say that this stone kingdom is the
More commonly is it held and taught
that this stone kingdom is Christianity.
This is in the line of the truth, but far short of it. The stone does not here come upon the scene
until the time of the clay and iron toes of the great image. When it strikes the colossus, it strikes those toes. It is in the days of these toe-kingdoms that
it comes and does the breaking. But
Christianity, in its greatest vigour, was set up full four hundred years before
Christianity is a religion, a system of truths and moral inculcations ‑ a worship; but it is not a state. To make a political establishment of it is to pervert it. Neither is it in its nature to smite and destroy earthly authority or to take the place of the civil government. It never struck and shattered secular sovereignties; it never broke any kingdom. All its professors are under bonds, as long as this present world lasts, to obey rulers, to submit themselves to kings and governors, and to pray for the maintenance of the civil authority. Taking the sword, they incur the pain of perishing by the sword. By their principles and spirit they may temper and modify governments, but to seek their destruction is treason to their Lord and their own salvation.
According to the vision, the appearance of the stone kingdom was followed at once by the complete dissolution of the whole image of temporal dominion; but Christianity has been in the world more than eighteen hundred years, and no damage has it ever done to any human sovereignty or state. The iron empire continued on for four hundred years in all its consolidated power. Its division into its clay and iron toes was not caused by Christianity. And it still lives on in its influences and modem forms, as little in danger of being smitten and annihilated by any power of the Gospel as ever it has been.
How, then, can Christianity be this stone kingdom which
destroys all other kingdoms? Nay,
Christianity is not an outward kingdom at all, and
never was intended to destroy or to supplant worldly kingdoms. And it could not if it would. Well, also, has it been asked by one of the
defenders of this defective theory, “If the reference
be to the first coming of Christ, how could Jesus be said to strike against a form
In vain has this man laboured to make answer to his own questions. Besides, there is not an appointment, commission, [page 56] or ordinance of Christianity, as we now have them, which has not an end assigned to it. By their own terms these are every one limited to this age, and expire at the coming again of the Lord Jesus. They are in no sense eternal. But this stone kingdom is without limit or end. It is to “stand for ever.” By no possibility, then, can it be Christianity as now in the world.
What, then, is this stone kingdom? It would be passing strange if, having been able to identify so clearly and conclusively the several stages of earthly dominion symbolized by this image, we should, after all, have to give up the great climacteric of the vision as beyond identification. But I do not see why any candid student of the Scriptures should be reduced to so sorry a predicament. The whole Bible, from the first chapters of Genesis to the closing words of the Apocalypse, is full of this stone kingdom. As there is not a road in all England which does not lead up to London, so there is scarce a passage in all the volume of inspiration which does not conduct us directly to this stone, and to the very things which are here so graphically signified concerning it.
Emanuel Laculiza in his day could say, “All interpreters of Scripture, so far as I have had it in my power to examine, tell us that the stone of which this prophecy speaks is evidently the Messiah, Jesus Christ himself, the Son of God and the son of the Virgin. This general proposition is certain and indubitable.” Our Lord speaks of himself as “THE STONE” – “the Stone which the builders rejected” - the Stone on which whosoever falls shall be broken and which grinds to powder him on whom it shall fall. Prophets and apostles speak of Him under the same designation; and we may consider ourselves on solid ground when we take Him as the head and front of this stone kingdom in Nebuchadnezzar’s vision.
As “The Stone,” Christ occupies three different relations to three different classes. [page 57]
To the nation of
To the Church, or the company of believers in His name, His relation is of another character. He is still “the Stone,” but serving in this case a very different purpose. Peter describes it where he speaks of believers coming to their Lord “as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious;” and tells them that on Him they, “as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood,” nay,” a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people.” 1 Pet. 2. Whilst carping Jews and unbelievers are dashed to pieces against this Stone, He is the “tried foundation” on which those who receive Him are built. Accepting, Him, believers are joined to Him and to One another into one homogeneous body, with one destiny. But neither the breaking by unbelief nor the building by faith and obedience is the thing which was shown to Nebuchadnezzar. That occurred at the first advent, and is going on through all these years until He returns again.
But this Stone has still another relation. Christ himself and all His inspired scribes tell of it. It is His falling upon and grinding to powder those [apostates and] rebellious powers who stand opposed to Him when He comes the second time. At His first coming, and during all the present dispensation, His whole bearing, so to speak, is passive. He is now the meek [page 58] Lamb, the gentle Saviour, the pitying Redeemer, weeping over the hard-heartedness of men, and not breaking even the bruised reed. Men in their unbelief dash upon Him and are broken, but He does not fall upon them to crush them. Every ingratitude, injury, insult, or persecution He patiently bears, and never once resents. But He has everywhere made known that there is a time coming when the measure of suffering, silence, and forbearance will be filled up when this Stone shall take on the activities of judgment when “the Lord shall go forth as a mighty man, and stir up jealousy like a man of war, and cry, yea, roar, and shall prevail against His enemies.”
It is of that period He says, “I have long time holden peace; I have been still and refrained myself; now will cry as a travailing woman; I will destroy and devour at once.” That is “the day that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch” (Mal. 4: 1). When this Stone came from heaven as the Virgin’s son, through the quietness and humility of Joseph’s home, no harm did it do to any one. If many afterward made shipwreck upon it, the blame is on themselves, “for the Son of man came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” But there is everywhere a time spoken of when He “shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel;” when He will tread “the great winepress of the wrath of God;” when he will “take to Him His great power and return;” when He will “grant to him that overcometh to sit with Him in His throne, even as He also overcame, and is set down with His Father in His throne.”
Nor can there be a reasonable doubt
that we here have the the fifth
So, in the case of the stone kingdom
also. The period for the gathering of the Church,
and the coming of the lively stones into oneness with the great Corner-stone,
answers exactly to the preliminary and formative periods of the four
empires. And as empires appear in the
vision only in the condition and activity of matured and organized kingdoms, so
we are to seek for this stone kingdom, not in the time of its formation, but in
the time of its maturity, which would be only after the number of the elect is
made up, and all are fully in place for what the kingdom as such is to do and
accomplish. Christ is the mystic Stone,
just as Nebuchadnezzar was that mystic head of gold, the king being put for the
kingdom. The power, the dominion, and
all the populations of
But the whole thing is only spiritual as yet. Christ was born to be a King, and for this purpose came He into the world; but for the present He is “as a man travelling into a far country to obtain for himself a kingdom, and to return.” He is gradually getting that kingdom, in fact. As fast as men are being “born of water and of the Spirit” they are being incorporated into a grand spiritual state. It is unseen as yet, as the Head of it was received up out of human sight; [page 60] but He is not withdrawn for ever. When the number of His elect is made up He is to come again, bringing his saints with Him. Veiled and hidden whilst His hosts are being gathered, He is then to be uncovered, revealed, seen, manifested in power and great glory. His people are also hidden now. No one surely knows them, and the great body of them is not in the world at all. But the sons of God are likewise to be “manifested.” When their royal Head shall come in His glory, and sit in the throne of His glory, then shall they also “appear with Him in glory.” And with regard to that stage of affairs the descriptions everywhere answer exactly to what is here seen and affirmed of this stone. It is the Church’s royalty and kinghood consummated and realized.
It is a true and proper kingdom. In it is concentred all authority and power for our world. It is to dethrone, break in pieces, and cast out of the earth all usurpers, spoilers, and resisters of its principles and authority. It is formed and consolidated into a holy and invincible commonwealth by no powers of man, but by the invisible [Holy] Spirit of God. It is made up of immortals. It is to claim and take and rule the earth as its own possession, redeemed and purchased with the blood of the illustrious Goel, who is its everlasting King.
It is to extend from sea to sea, and from the rivers to the ends of the land. Nothing opposed to it is ever to be tolerated within its glorious territory.
It is never to pass from its possessors - never to revert to
another people. Of its glory and peace
there is to be no end. It is the
It is of this kingdom that Isaiah prophesied when he so exultingly sang: “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.” Isa. 9: 6, 7.
It is precisely that which Gabriel announced when he said to Mary, “Hail, thou that are highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end.” Luke 2: 26-33.
It is precisely that which is celebrated in the thanks-givings of heaven by the great voices that finally cry their triumphant halleluias, saying, “The kingdom [sovereignty] of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever.” Rev. 11: 15.
And yet a modem doctor publishes to the world that this cannot be, because “then it will follow that in the vision given to Nebuchadnezzar there is positively no allusion to the most important fact in the annals of humanity ‑ the Incarnation”! Inveterate stupidity! As though the existence and sovereign administrations of a king did not imply that he was born! - as though the sublimest consummation and crown of our Saviour’s work does not carry with it every fact involved in the constitution of such a Lord and in such an accomplishment! As well might we set aside what the vision told of Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, and Alexander, because “there is positively no allusion” as to how or where or under what conditions these mighty conquerors came into existence! [page 62]
How, on such principles, can the vision refer to Caesar, since “there is positively no allusion” to the fact that Caesar came into the world in a way different from other men! I wonder and am amazed when I see on what slender and silly grounds the professed teachers of God’s word allow themselves to be turned away from its sublimest substance, and to be cajoled into the denial of many of its plainest and most pregnant texts.
But no such boggling can hinder the fulfilment of the vision to its utmost letter. Twenty-five hundred years have added their seal of demonstration to the truth and accuracy of the prediction as respects the transient empires of this world; and how can it fail in that greater, more important, and crowning portion respecting the immortal and eternal regency which is soon to take their place? No matter what reverend unbelief or blatant infidelity may say, let us remember the words of the prophet, that “the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.” Our cavilling, scepticism, and rationalizing will not alter or hinder the eternal decrees of Heaven. From the beginning of earthly empire Jehovah has made known the coming of a kingdom which shall break in pieces and consume all other kingdoms, and which shall stand for ever - a kingdom of which the God-man is to be the Head and King, the possessors of the authority of which are immortals, and the establishment of which in our world will be the consummation of that redemption to which all dispensations look and for which all the ages wait.
* * * * * * *
THE GOLDEN MEMORIAL,
NEBUCHADNEZZAR’S GREAT IMAGE.
Nebuchadnezzar’s Character. - Different Views as to whom the Image was meant to represent. - Opinions of Dr. Gill and the Jewish Commentators as to the Reasons for making it. Dr. Seiss’s Opinion. - Refusal of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to Worship the Golden Image. - The King’s Anger. - They are cast into the White-heated Furnace. - Are Untouched by the Fire. - Answer to Sceptical Criticism concerning the Miracle. The Decree of Nebuchadnezzar.
I take Nebuchadnezzar to have been a man of a deeper, broader, and nobler nature than Napoleon Bonaparte. He was as great warrior, and a much greater emperor. He was a man of larger intelligence, of less selfishness, and of a much more generous and earnest mind. He was impulsive and hasty betimes, and even harsh, but his impulses were not mere passions, and were generally founded upon correct reasonings. He was quick in forming conclusions, and very firm in carrying them into effect. He mostly did his own thinking, and spoke and acted officially according to his own convictions, no matter against whom or what they went.
He was a heathen potentate, absolute in his authority but he had a deep religious sense, and was greatly influenced by it, and came the nearest to being a true servant of God of all the heathen kings of whom we have any account. When he beheld evidences of the presence and power of God, he noted them, acknowledged them, and fashioned his actions accordingly. He had a conscience, and a strong perception [page 64] of honour, duty, and right. When he gave his word, he kept it to the full. When he beheld sham and falsehood, he was severe upon it. When he saw the Divine hand, he bowed before it, and used his royal place and prerogatives to give others the benefit of what he himself knew and felt. When convinced that messengers of the Most High were before him, he honoured them and gave glory to the God of heaven, and was not ashamed to make confession before all men of what his heart believed.
He sometimes forgot himself in the midst of his greatness and glory, and took to himself honours which evinced an overweening pride; but when punished for it, he frankly confessed it and proclaimed it to the whole empire, that men might know and fear the God of heaven. He never entirely let go the idolatry in which he was reared, but he never failed to hold and confess the infinite superiority of one God, even the God of heaven, over all the idol gods of his kingdom. He was not a saint, but he was nearer to being one than some who profess the true religion, and have greater opportunities and fewer hindrances than he possessed.
We cannot but admire his reverent ingenuousness and appreciation under the proofs of the majesty and mercy and help of God in the matter of his dream. Though the sublime head of the greatest of empires, no false dignity prevented him from prostrating himself before the young prophet in acknowledgment of the one Almighty God, and of young Daniel as His true messenger. Such holy services as his heathen education and ideas suggested he at once commanded to be rendered.
Our modern savants and legislators seem to think that the State has no use for the doctrines and counsels of those who make known the mind and will of God; that the teachings of inspiration had better be excluded from the public schools; and that the less the ministers of Bible Christianity have to say or do in matters of education, legislation, and jurisprudence, the safer for the community. To such, of course, [page 65] it was a great weakness in Nebuchadnezzar to think and believe that a man in communion with heaven and able to declare the rights and purposes of the Lord of kings, was a proper person for the government to exalt and honour, or suitable to be made a counsellor, judge, and administrator in affairs of state, or fit to be invested with the presidency over all the institutes of learning and schools of wisdom. That God pronounced him the golden head of a golden kingdom is nothing to the point; would weigh nothing with modern savants, since he did not live amid the wisdom of an age of “miry clay,” they would not admit him to be a right-reasoning philosopher?
And yet I take his side, and claim that it showed his good
sense as a logician, his sound policy as a king, and his just feeling as a man,
that he bowed adoringly before the Spirit of inspiration; that he acknowledged
and proclaimed the worshipfulness and majesty of the God whom it attested; and
that he at once constituted the man through whom it came “the ruler [sultan] over the
whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of.
The facts narrated in the chapter now before us are generally treated as an unmitigated blot upon the character of this monarch. Neither do I intend to defend the transaction; but it is abundantly capable of being construed with the character I have ascribed to him, and without the supposition of a relapse from his favourable persuasions concerning the one Almighty God, or the putting of him down as a wilful and bloody tyrant and persecutor.
That he caused some sort of gigantic figure to be erected on a certain plain adjoining the city of Babylon, that he bestowed vast care and expense upon it, that he regarded it with very particular reverence, and that he made its dedication a very grand state occasion are facts very distinctly affirmed. That he expected and commanded all the officials of his kingdom to manifest the reverence for it which he thought to be due, and threatened to punish those who, [page 66] should refuse to regard his wishes and appointments in the case, is equally plain. But when we come to inquire what the figure was, what it was meant to represent, what the king intended by its erection, and what was the precise point involved in the act of reverence demanded at its dedication, the ideas are nearly as numerous and diverse as the commentators, by whom a great deal of far-fetched guessing has been done.
Some think the figure was a likeness of his father, Nabopolassar; others that it was a likeness of himself; others that it was an image intended to represent Bel, the great Babylonian deity; others that it was a new deity of his own; whilst Professor Stuart considers it an obelisk, or plain shaft, with an orb at the summit representing the sun.
The reasons which moved the making of it are also variously surmised. Dr. Gill has pretty well exhausted the common conjectures where he says: “It might be out of pride and vanity, and to set forth the glory and stability of his monarchy, as if he was not only the head of gold, but as an image all of gold, and to contradict the interpretation of his dream, and avert the fate of his empire signified by it; or to purge himself from the jealousies his subjects had entertained of him of relinquishing the religion of his country and embracing the Jewish religion by his praise of the God of Israel, and the promotion of Jews to places of trust and honour; or by the advice of his nobles to establish uniformity of religion in his kingdom and prevent the growth of Judaism; or to lay a snare for Daniel and his companions.”
To all these notions the Jewish commentators have added still
another ‑ to wit, that the king meant hereby to revive what was attempted
in the matter of the Great Tower under Nimrod, which had been thwarted by the
miraculous confusion of tongues. Any one
of these suggestions is about as good as another, for there is not a syllable
in the record to prove either. [page 67] Searching through the
account for a fresh and independent understanding of the matter, it seems to me
that every explanation which identifies this golden figure with any of the
national gods of
This “golden image” business is also given in immediate connection with the preceding chapter, which is so ill suited to the stereotyped conceptions of sundry expositors that they have supposed an interval of perhaps sixteen years between the dream and it, in order to give the king time to forget his vision and to be drawn back again from his semi-Judaism into the full spirit and life of the Chaldean idolatry.
But as I read the narrative, this “image of gold” and the extraordinary manner of its dedication are vitally connected with the king’s vision, and related far more to the one Almighty God of Daniel than to any Chaldean deity.
It was Nebuchadnezzar’s own original thought, suggested by the revelation which was vouchsafed to him from Jehovah, and meant to be an official and national memorialization of that Lord of kings and Revealer of secrets who had thus shown him the character, succession, and fate of all earthly empire. So far from being the result of a change in his mind and feelings, or an obliteration of his convictions as described in the preceding chapter, this whole business was the direct fruit of those convictions, and the way his heathen mind took to express and materialize what impressed him so profoundly. [page 68]
God had shown him a great, bright, and terrible image, as related in Daniel’s second chapter. He had learned from God’s unmistakable prophet that it was a Divine symbol of God’s wisdom, power, and providence in the world, from his own empire to the end of time. It was so remarkable in itself, and so sublimely sacred in all its connections, relations, and impressiveness, that it was impossible that he should forget it, or that he should not think of making some memorial of it, particularly as it related, first of all, to himself and his own empire. He had felt it right and due that he should prostrate himself before that spirit of Almightiness which showed itself in his dream, and in the prophet who had recovered and expounded that dream; and why should not all the heads of his kingdom be summoned to do the same?
The thing was all mixed up with what we would expect in a vigorous
heathen mind under such experiences and convictions; but it was a most natural
outcome of a great, honest, and original thinker under the circumstances. It
was a new, sublimer, and more intelligent deity which he meant to honour than
And with the Jehovah-power thus memorialized after the fashion of its own showing to him in the dream, what more natural than that all his empire, through its constituted representatives, “the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces,” should be officially convened to witness the unveiling of the figure, and to go through the ceremony of falling down before it in lowly homage, as he [page 69] himself had bowed before the Spirit of that Jehovah-power in Daniel?
This view of the case fully explains every particular in the record, and serves to show, not a debased and oblivious apostasy on the part of the honest-minded king, but that the impression the revelation made upon him became a living power in his soul, which set his great and original genius to work to bring his whole empire into some sort of official accord with it. It was neither the work of a fanatical zealot of Bel-Merodach, nor of a tool of envious idolaters, nor of an arbitrary despot capriciously bent on changing the religion of his empire, nor of a tyrannical and self-deifying egotist, nor of a weakling in the hands of a set of grasping Chaldean priests.
On the contrary, it was the work of a great deep-thinking, honest-minded, self-poised, and noble-meaning, imperial man, who had had a true, sublime, and unmistakable revelation from the God of heaven, and who, under the devout and powerful impulses which it engendered, yet not entirely released from his heathen methods of thinking, laid hold upon his vast authority and riches to give what he regarded as a due and fitting national acknowledgment and memorial of the great Jehovah-power which had thus communicated with him. Hence resulted this gigantic image of gold set up in a plain quite apart from the Chaldean temples. Hence the special, peculiar, and intensely national character of its dedication. Hence the novel ceremonies of the occasion, and the imperial decree that at the appointed signal every office-bearer in the realm should fall down in lowly adoration before it. And hence, also, the very severe penalty fore-announced to come upon anyone who should refuse to acknowledge and adore that Jehovah-power under the symbol which that power had shown him in the vision.
In this view of the matter we are not only obliged to modify our judgment of the king’s character, so as to give him far higher credit than that which results from the [page 70] current representations, but the same goes a great way towards his justification in the severity he used in enforcing obedience to his decree.
Under the clear and full light of revelation and the Divine institutes, which Nebuchadnezzar did not have, it is very plain that he made a great mistake, which can by no means be justified or excused on Biblical grounds; but the mistake was in the methods and not in the motives. It was the mistake of defective education, not of intent. He meant it honestly to acknowledge and glorify that very God of heaven who had so remarkably communicated with him. He intended that his empire, through all its assembled representatives, should thus acknowledge that God in a tangible copy of the image given in the dream.
All the depths of his religious nature, experiences, and convictions would thus rise up to insist upon the duty and propriety of compliance with what he had so devoutly and honestly arranged and commanded. Was not the God over all gods and Lord over all kings, who had so fully demonstrated His living power and purposes, to be reverently confessed by all lords and rulers? Was not that image the very likeness of that in which Jehovah had symbolized His Divine power and providence? Had not the king had ample proof that this God is God of gods and Lord of kings? Was is not right, therefore, that every officer of the realm should be required to give this token of reverent acknowledgment to him?
Besides, taking this figure as the materialization of the great image of the king’s inspired dream, there was to him a very sacred identification of himself and his dominion with it. According to the prophet’s explanation of the vision, the image’s golden head represented Nebuchadnezzar and his Divinely-authenticated rule and authority. To refuse obedience to his commands concerning it, therefore, took on something of the element of treason and rebellion, not only to Nebuchadnezzar’s authority, but likewise to that very Divinity [page 71] which had so marvellously indorsed his sovereignty as given of God, who, by His own Divine presentations, had inseparably connected it with the image the king had thus materialized. Not to obey his solemn and devoutly-intended command would thus necessarily present itself to him as a very great wickedness - a stab at Divinely-authenticated sovereignty - a setting at naught of the very golden head of all Divinely-invested kings - a casting of contempt upon the most serious and sacredly-founded undertakings of his life, as well as a criminal light - making of all the sacred experiences, convictions, and devout intentions of His Imperial Highness.
Under such circumstances the man would not have been a man, or at all up to the requirements of the situation, or entitled to the ordinary credit of sincerity and sensibility as an administrator of the government, if he had applied no stern penalties to a disregard of his orders, or only connived at the transgression of them. If his foundation was wrong his reasoning was right. Even our own free government permits no man to take office under it without oath on the Holy Testaments of God or solemn affirmation and appeal to the Almighty Lord of all, and annexes very rigid penalties to the violation of the same. From Nebuchadnezzar’s standpoint it was but right, and no tyrannical harshness, that he should insist on punishing capitally whosoever should refuse the homage which he exacted. His fault was not in the exaction, but in the heathen error of undertaking to materialize Divine things.
On the part of the Chaldeans there could be no scruple against a ready compliance with the imperial edict. They believed in a multiplicity of gods, and were accustomed to worship them in statues, symbols, and graven devices. The falling down before this new image, even if it did connect with a new and supreme God, was a matter of no serious account to them, since it involved no abandonment of the old gods and worship of the empire. Even Nebuchadnezzar [page 72] himself seems to have taken in the God of heaven, not as exclusive of all other gods and worship, but rather as the Athenians set up an altar to the Unknown God alongside of many other altars.
Even if he did regard the prophet’s God as the one Almighty Jehovah, he had not come so far as to disallow national and tutelary gods beside Him. And thus there was nothing whatever to hinder his heathen officials from falling down before this image the same as before any other sacred statue, particularly when their lives depended on it.
But it was different with Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abednego. From their standpoint no other
gods were allowable, nor the worship of any likeness of anything in heaven or
earth. They would, therefore, have to go
against their religion and their consciences to fall down and worship the image
as the king commanded. Even though the
thing was honestly meant by Nebuchadnezzar as a great national acknowledgment
of the Jehovah-power, they still could not be true to their religions
principles and join in this prostration.
The Sinaitic law and all the institutes of
Moses forbade as well the worship of the true God in graven images as the
worship of idols. A pious and faithful Jew could no more bow
down to a likeness of God, no matter whence copied or derived, than bow down to
the idol gods of
Therefore, when the rest of the assembled nobles and officers, at the sound of the music, prostrated themselves adoringly before the image of gold, these men remained standing. They did not serve the false gods of their conquerors, and they would not now debauch themselves with a false worship even of their own God.
It was a very subtle temptation which thus came upon these young rulers, particularly if the king meant hereby to do national reverence to the Jehovah-power. Was it not, in some sense, an act of homage to the God whom they served? Was it not a wonderful concession of an idolatrous empire to [page 73] the God of heaven? Had not the image been copied from the vision which that God Himself had shown? Was not that gold the Divine symbol of the king and government which it became them as good subjects to obey? Had not the king been very good and generous toward them? They were envied strangers at best, and why should they be so singular in such a small particular, and run the risk of being accused to their master and burnt in the furnace? Living, they might be of great service to their captive brethren, but provoking the wrath of their sovereign, they would only be forfeiting their own lives and entailing greater hardships upon those with whom they most sympathized. Why, then, hazard such interests by disobedience to their gracious king? Might they not, at any rate, direct their thoughts to the true God in heaven even while bowing down to this image upon earth?
And over against such specious suggestions there was nothing
but the simple command, “Thou shall not bow
down thyself to them.” But it was the command of God, who is
above all kings, and no argument or earthly price or subtle glosses could
induce them to disregard it. Let their
enemies accuse them if they would; let the king upbraid them as ingrates,
traitors, rebels, or even as enemies of their own God; let him strip them of
their offices, disgrace them, imprison them, or roast them in his ovens - their
minds were made up; their resolution was inflexible; they would obey God rather than man, though they should be burnt to ashes
before the glass had run another hour.
Therefore they kept their feet unflinchingly, though all
Heroes were they, and models for all young men and all others when matters of conscience and faithfulness to God and truth are at stake. A true man in a case of clear duty will never sell himself for any price. He cannot be bought for good or place or favour. No bribes can allure him, no sophistries can impose on him, no fires or furnaces can turn [page 74] him. His soul is welded to unchanging Omnipotence, and nothing can break down his integrity. Had the religions character of these youths been made of the fragile stuff which so readily passes for piety in our day, we never should have read their names in this holy Book. But they had a faith which had substance in it, and it fashioned them into illustrious models for their day and for all after time.
Where Daniel was on this occasion we are not told. Perhaps he was sick, as he sometimes was, and could not be present. Perhaps he had duties assigned him in some other part of the empire from which he could not be spared. Perhaps his presidency of the learned orders excused him, as only the officers of State were summoned for this occasion. Had he been present, we may be sure that he would have taken his stand precisely as did his three noble friends. He could not consistently have done otherwise.
But the eyes of self-seeking and jealous-hearted men are apt to find other employment than that of devotion, even while in the act and attitude of professed worshippers. And it often happens that those who make the loudest pretensions are the most sinister and heartless. “Certain Chaldeans” - those very men who fain would be considered the most devoted - were watching these Hebrew youths, and under cloak of superior devotion pressed forward to make charges of irreverence and impiety against them. No honest-minded man is ever safe with these over-devoted people.
Nebuchadnezzar was particularly enraged when he learned that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had failed to obey his orders - not only because he had so highly favoured and exalted them, but because from them, least of all, had he expected a refusal to join in a ceremony meant to be in honour of their God. That any in the realm should dare to disregard his imperial decree so publicly and in his very presence was indignity unpardonable; but that it should come from such a quarter caused his royal fury to rise very high. He summoned them before him. He indicated his [page 75] displeasure. He laid his stern commands upon them with his own lips. He was about to repeat the ceremony for the special purpose of testing their obedience. He gave his imperial word that he would burn them up in a furnace of fire that very hour if they should dare to refuse the act of homage he enjoined, admonishing them that even God Himself should not be able to deliver them from his vengeance.
But their calm and unflinching answer was, “0 Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, 0 king. But if not, be it known unto thee, 0 king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”
The die was cast. The king's fury was full. The furnace was fired to its utmost heat, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were bound hand and foot and cast into it. So intense were the flames that the very officers who cast them in were scorched to death.
The inspired writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews tells of some in ancient times who, “through faith, quenched the violence of fire.” And here was an instance of it. The cords that bound these men were at once burnt off, but nothing else about them would burn. The king looked, and there they were, loose, and moving in the midst of the fire, with no hurt whatever upon them. Nay, more; only three were cast in, and, behold! a fourth was with them, and He so illustrious in form and mien that He appeared to the king like a son of the gods. The monarch’s rage instantly turned to amazement. He cried out with wonder. He could not believe his own eyes, but, rushing “to the mouth of the furnace,” he called to the men: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither.” And out of the midst of the fire they came.
Around them gathered “the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellors,” and they all looked and [page 76] wondered, and saw and were convinced that not a blister or scar of burning was on the bodies of these heroic men, “nor was a hair of their heads singed, neither were their coats changed, nor had the smell of fire passed upon them.”
A great and notable miracle of
Sceptical criticism has railed out against all this, as showing too much of the wonderful to be believed. But with the Almighty one thing is no harder than another. He can make a blazing sun in the heavens with as much ease as make a daisy in the meadow. Some have urged that it was unfitting the Deity to show such wonders here. But who can decide what is and what is not becoming to a Being whose thoughts no man can fathom? And when we consider that millions of His chosen people were then in servitude in that empire; that the great object of their being there was to purge them of their idolatries; that no ordinary ministries for this purpose existed; that here was a great and mighty people that knew not God destitute of any effectual means of being made acquainted with His superior majesty and power; and that here was an assembly of all their heads and chiefs, who would thus be made to see His signs and become the attestators and heralds of the miracle to all parts of the mighty realms - there certainly would seem to be reason enough that here and now, if anywhere or ever, the greatest wonders of the God of heaven should be enacted. Who can say that there was not ample occasion for just such a display of the eternal omnipotence?
And see also the effect. It so turned out that the white-heated fires, which would not act on the bodies of these men of God, served to send forth a glorious light into all the earth. The king lifted up his hands, and cried, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath [page 77] sent His angel, and delivered His servants that trusted in Him?” A decree went forth from the throne to “every people, nation, and language,” reciting the wonder, proclaiming the majesty of Jehovah, and forbidding, on pain of death, the speaking of “anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.” And these men were thenceforward promoted and honoured by the empire as the living witnesses of the living God.
Many are the lessons which this record teaches. On the whole front of it there flames in letters of blazing gold that there is an almighty, living, and independent God, unbound by Nature’s laws and unlimited to natural forces, whose word is written in His Book, whose eye is upon His confiding servants, and who will never leave nor forsake them that put their trust in Him!
From the inmost spirit of it there comes the proclamation ‑ that if any kings or dignitaries or commands of Church or State go against Jehovah’s laws, or demand obedience against His Word, or undertake to keep conscience for the human soul, no true man of God dare obey them, nor shall he be the loser for his fidelity, no matter what penalties he may incur.
Around it, and on all sides of it, there sounds the admonition to every right-meaning young man, however prosperous he may be, to prepare for fiery times. The world is under an erring rule - a rule which often makes the greatest blunders when it means best. Envious and malicious eyes are watching you, and eager to show their superior devotion by accusing you and bringing you into trouble. The way of faithfulness often lies through the fiery furnace, heated sevenfold to consume you. Therefore prepare for fiery times, and think it not strange when they come.
And in the whole make-up of it there stands memorialized for ever that the only true expediency is inflexible principle. It matters not for immediate consequences. God will make all right in the end to them that stand fast to truth and [page 78] duty, and are faithful to Christ. They are, after all, the true heroes, and shall not fail of their rewards.
The earth may drink their gore; their limbs
May sodden in the sun; their heads
Be hung on castle-walls and city gates;
But still their spirit walks abroad.
Their names are in the Book of God
Their honour is for ever!
* * * * * * *
THE GREAT MAN HUMBLED,
THE KING’S INSANITY.
Daniel 4: 1-37.
The King’s Prophetic Forewarning. - He sends for the Wise Men. - Daniel’s Interpretation of the Dream. - Nebuchadnezzar’s Offence. - His Punishment a Species of Insanity and in Direct Contrast to his Offence. - His recovery and Restoration. - Opinion of Dr. Browne as to the King’s Ailment. - The Judgment humbled Nebuchadnezzar’s Pride. - His Imperial Authority restored to him at the Completion of the Period.
We have seen that the God of heaven was pleased to select Nebuchadnezzar as the organ of a remarkable revelation touching the history and end of worldly empire. We need not wonder, therefore, that he should also be the writer of one of the chapters in the sacred volume.
The long passage which I have read from the fourth chapter of Daniel, and upon the consideration of which we now enter, is entirely from his pen. If he did not write it with his own hand, he dictated it and gave it forth a his writing and proclamation. It is also one of the most remarkable sections in this book. It is the only complete State paper which has come down to us from those early times. It gives an account of the experience of a very great king, the official confession of his offence in unduly exalting himself, a narration of the warning that was given him before it occurred, of the singular punishment and humiliation which came upon him for it, and of the manner of his recovery and restoration. It is the royal sermon of an illustrious monarch, given forth from his throne to teach his subjects the majesty and dominion of the Lord God Almighty, and His claims to the reverence, fear, worship, and obedience of all men. [page 80]
It was not the first decree of this remarkable sovereign touching the honour of Jehovah, but it is the most ample and the most significant. The time to which it relates was doubtless long subsequent to the occurrences narrated in the preceding chapter. Nebuchadnezzar reigned about forty three years, and the intimations of the record are that he was at this period well through with the many enormous public works which marked his administration, and the remains of which are still to be found (see verses 22, 30). The document itself seems to have been transcribed by Daniel from the archives of the empire, and from thence inserted bodily into this collection of sacred wonders. There are four leading particulars in it, to which I invite your attention:
1. The king’s prophetic forewarning
2. His offence;
3. His punishment;
4. His recovery and restoration;
And may God help us to contemplate the same to our profit and edification!
1. The king’s prophetic forewarning -
The ancients had a very intense respect for omens and tokens. The disposition to observe such things is one of the deepest feelings of human nature, and is one of the proofs that a strong religious vein is inserted in the very constitution of man. The most gigantic and inveterate superstitions have grown up upon it, and nothing has ever been able entirely to eradicate it. And whilst most of these systems are basely idolatrous, mischievous, and degrading, and are therefore to be held in abhorrence by every good man, the fact still remains that God does thus betimes interfere for the government and guidance of men, the withdrawing of them from danger and sin, and the direction of them in cases which are un-reached by other means. The Divine Word is the Christian’s great infallible guide. To this he must at all times look, and to this he must ever contentedly and obediently conform. It is [page 81] through this that God’s hand is lifted up to direct us in the way of right, safety, and peace. It also becomes a great sin and distrust of God to be on the lookout for any other light, or to commit ourselves to any other directory.
And yet the fact cannot be suppressed that special presentiments and foretokens are continually occurring in human experience, proving the existence of a special providence, and that there are occasions in which the hand of an ever gracious Jehovah does show itself in extraordinary methods. Especially in great danger or impending calamity there is often some mysterious foreshadowing of it to put people on their guard and to divert them from peril. So it was in Nebuchadnezzar’s case.
The king had another startling dream. It came this time quite independently of his own thoughts, and apart from any ascertainable earthly
cause or connections. His own account of
it is: “I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at rest in my house, and
flourishing in my palace.” He had
been successful in his wars, and in all his administrations. His enemies had
all been effectually subdued, and everything was quiet and prosperous in his
empire. He had succeeded in making
And while he was thus at rest in his house and flourishing in his palace this dream came to him. He “saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great. The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth: 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 fed of it.”
From among the mysterious heavenly agencies there appeared one who “cried aloud, and said, Hew down the [page 82] tree, and 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: 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: let his heart be changed from man’s, and let a beast’s heart be given unto him: and let seven times pass over him.”
And it was further added by the mysterious speaker that: this was “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.”
Though the king was utterly at a loss to understand the meaning of this dream, it is plain, from the very terms of it, that it was meant to give him a serious admonition and threat against pride and self-glorification, declaring all possessions, power, and greatness to be God’s gifts, distributed according to His will, and ever to be gratefully acknowledged as proceeding only from His sovereign goodness - indicating at the same time the speedy humiliation of those who give themselves the glory for what they have, achieve, or enjoy. So also was it interpreted by the prophet, who told the king that this vision related to him, that it was a Divine forewarning of calamities to come upon him, and that the only possible way of escaping them was to be admonished by it to humble himself before God, to break off his sins by righteousness, and his iniquities by showing mercy to the poor (see verse 27).
Some have wondered that he should send again for “the magicians, the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the
soothsayers,” after their miserable failure on a former similar
occasion. But it must be remembered that
Daniel was now for a long time the appointed head and master of these orders (2: 4; 4: 9; 5: 11), and that in summoning them the
king [page 83] necessarily included him, and most
likely had him specially in mind. You
will also notice that he came in this instance without any personal
summons. The reason of his coming was
the same decree which had brought the others.
But he sent them first, and himself remained in
the background until they had tried their skill and proved their
incompetency. The king says of all these
“wise men of
Having related the dream to him, the king says, “Daniel was astonished for one hour, and his thoughts troubled him;” neither did he say a word till encouragingly entreated by the king not to hesitate, but to tell out the whole interpretation without fear or alarm. Whereupon the faithful prophet answered, “My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies;” and then proceeded to expound the sore personal calamities which God had thus pre-intimated, exhorting the king to such duties as would most contribute to ward of the threatened disaster.
Nebuchadnezzar was thus fully forewarned. God, by means of the dream and the honest interpretation and comments of the prophet, had foreshown him what would be the result of indulging in too proud a spirit over his greatness, or of a failure to acknowledge and adore the Lord Almighty as the sublime Governor of the nations and the Source, Giver, and Sustainer of all that any man possesses.
2. His offence -
We would suppose that such a sacred and impressive forewarning and admonition could not fail of the most salutary effect. But there is nothing more treacherous and [page 84] deceitful than poor depraved human nature. Nebuchadnezzar doubtless intended to profit to the full from the counsel he had received. He had the utmost confidence in the wisdom and inspiration of the prophet. He had every reason to accept the whole presentation as a veritable message from God. Nor was it in the composition of this monarch’s character to make light of so evident a communication from the Deity, whose signs and wonders he had beheld.
But it is hard for rich and great men, in the midst of their glories, powers, flatteries, and cares, to be true and faithful to all that they know, feel, and confess of their duty and of what is right and proper. The Saviour and His apostles have remarked upon the great difficulty of such to enter the kingdom of heaven. And Nebuchadnezzar was not an exception. If ever man had reason to take honour to himself and to be proud of his achievements, it was this king, and if ever such a man was kept from this sin in such a case it could only be by the most marvellous power of Divine grace.
I have alluded to some of Nebuchadnezzar’s great
achievements. There never was a more
successful conqueror. There never was a
mightier earthly king. There never was a
more magnificent empire than that which he consolidated and established. There never was a more absolute human lord of
this world than he. Even to this day the whole
But this was only a fraction of his works. Explorers report the rains of
Another of these indefatigable antiquarians, the Rawlinsons, writes: “It is scarcely too much to say that but for Nebuchadnezzar the Babylonians would have had no place in history. At any rate, their actual place is owing almost entirely to this prince, who, to the military talents of an able general, added a grandeur of artistic conception and a skill in construction which place him on a par with the greatest builders of antiquity.”
Now, with all on his hands and engaging his thoughts and energies which this would imply, it is not remarkable that his attention should be drawn away from his dream and its moral monitions, or that his heart should be very greatly elated over his magnificent achievements. Where is the public man among us who could be entrusted with such glory without having his head completely turned and his self-consequence lifted higher than the stars?
Full a year had now passed since the king had the dream and
received the interpretation and admonition of the [page 86] prophet. He was walking upon the high places of his
palace, the enclosure of whose walls was six miles square, ornamented with
battlements and towers. All around and
beneath him lay the city with its grand avenues and one hundred mighty gates. He looked and admired, and said, “Is not this great
As men ordinarily reckon and speak, there would not seem to be
much out of the way in such a remark. It
was, above all men, his work.
And Nebuchadnezzar fell into the common offensive and criminal
mistake which so deeply inheres in all unsanctified humanity. Taking a survey of his magnificent honours and
achievements, he refers them exultingly
to himself - to his own genius,
strength, and wisdom - and leaves out that eternal
He knew better, as all men know better when they do such things, but when he looked on the glory of the city he had so exalted and adorned, his pride and vainglory got the mastery over all his better knowledge and the prophetic warnings, and his soul was lifted up in exultation over his own wisdom and might. The gracious God above, from whom, apart from any worth or deservings of his, he had all that distinguished him from any other member of the race, was completely thrown out of his reckoning.
And thus he lent his soul and speech to a miserable atheist pride, which seems to have been this man’s besetting sin - besetting sin of all human greatness and success - which reached its culmination as he thus walked and spoke amid the towers and battlements of his glorious palace.
3. His punishment –
But our God is a jealous God, and His glory will He not give to another. They that walk in pride He also is able to abase, as Nebuchadnezzar soon found out to his sorrow. The “watcher” had said, “Hew down the towering tree to its stump; let the heart of him whom it represents be unmanned, let the soul so brutish have his portion with the beasts, till seven times pass over him!”
Twelve months of trial and opportunity for reform were given. God is slow in the execution of His threatenings, and very long-suffering to usward. But when wickedness has come to the full His visitations are apt to be terrifically sudden. And so it is in this instance. “While the word” - the God-ignoring word - “was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven: 0 King Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. 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 [page 88] that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will. And the same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar.”
Precisely what this punishment was we may not be able to tell, but by consulting the records of medical science we may still come to some reasonably accurate idea of it. That it was a species of insanity would seem to be implied. With reference to his recovery the king says, “mine understanding returned unto me;” which cannot well mean anything else than that he had been in some sense and degree demented.
Mania and lunacy take on very many, and often very curious, forms. Among others is a certain melancholic alienation, in which the subjects fancy themselves animals, and set themselves to act and live as the particular creatures they imagine themselves to be. Cases are on record from very early times, and are still of common occurrence, in which persons take on the belief that they are wolves, dogs, lions, cats, cocks, and the like, reproducing in themselves the habits of these creatures. An alienation of this sort seems to be referred to by Virgil in his sixth Eclogue, in which persons are represented as lowing like cattle, looking for their horns, fearing to be yoked, and ranging the pathless woods as veritable bovine creatures.
The expressions with regard to Nebuchadnezzar - that his heart was made like the beast’s, that a beast’s heart was given him, that his dwelling was with the wild asses, that he did eat grass as oxen - would seem to identify his affliction with this form of mental disease. The rest of the description would also accord entirely with such an affection. And, although its occurrence is rare, we must not lose sight of the fact that it was brought upon the king by the foretold and special judgment of God, who was at no loss to fill out every particular in the account. With this fact given, it does not rest on us to show that the affection was wholly natural, or that in the ordinary course of things one suffering thus for seven years might still be curable. The affliction was meant [page 89] to be extraordinary, and the falling of it within a category of common affections, though with peculiar features of its own, serves the double purpose of showing that it was not at all unlikely on the one hand, and that it was not a mere natural disorder on the other.
The affliction likewise ran in direct contrast with the offence of which it was the punishment. The king's self-congratulation was in principle an ungodding of the Deity, and he was retributively visited with a dehumanizing of the man. He put himself and his own agency above the Lord of kings or into His place, and God put him in the brute’s place, and even into a sub-brutish humiliation. He had unduly glorified his own genius, and God turned that genius into the low instinct of an ox that eateth grass, as helpless and as base as if he had never been a man at all. And the description throughout exhibits one of the most melancholy and horrible afflictions that could well come upon a human being, to say nothing of so sublime a potentate as Nebuchadnezzar.
Think of that king, the sovereign of the earth, the grandest genius of his age, who had written his name in conquests and constructions the fame of which still echoes and resounds through all the world - think of him as he that day walked the ramparts of his palace, the most honoured and successful man that lived, the golden head of the golden empire in its golden age - think of him as he looked forth to the rising of the sun and to the setting thereof, and numbered all the nations on whom its rays fell as his own subjects and tributaries - and then come hither to these wild morasses.
Behold here among the cattle the figure of a man, who for seven long years has avoided all human habitations. See him feeding on the young grass with the oxen, herding with them, lowing like them, and esteeming himself one of them. Observe his nails coiled around his toes and fingers like eagles’ claws. Mark his nakedness, his matted hair and beard, the feathery and swine-like bristles that hang from his [page 90] body. Note his dull expression, his avoidance of the presence of man, his refusal to hear or answer anything that any human being may say to him. Look at his revolting beast-like mien and beast-like habits and mimicries of all beast-like ways. Contemplate the obstinacy with which he resists being housed, how thoroughly enchanted he is with his animal condition and associations, and how profound is his persuasion that he is a beast, and that everything human had better keep far from him.
Is this a man? Will you
call it a king? Does it look to you like
a mighty conqueror, before whom the nations stand in
awe? Would you suppose it the builder of
4. His recovery and restoration –
“Seven years” was this terrible humiliation of the vainglorious king to last. Whether such an affliction is ordinarily curable after so long a standing we need not inquire. It came as a special judgment of God, and its duration was determined in advance by the same power which brought it upon him. It is enough to know that the king recovered, returned to his throne, and lived to tell his subjects and to record for all time the facts in the case.
Whether the king retained his inner consciousness during this
great calamity we cannot fully determine.
The medical records refer to cases of corresponding affection, in which
neither consciousness nor memory was seriously impaired, though the patients
persisted in maintaining that now they were beasts, and wondered that any
should not so regard [page 91] them. Dr. Browne, the eminent commissioner of the Board Lunacy for
He says: “All the angels, devils, dukes, lords, kings, ‘gods many,’ that I have had under my care remained what they were before they became angels, dukes, etc., in a sense, and even nominally I have seen a man declaring himself to be the Saviour sign himself James Thomson, and attend worship regularly, as if the notion of Divinity had never entered into his head.” And in reference to the very case now before us, he says: “I think it probable that Nebuchadnezzar retained a perfect consciousness that he was Nebuchadnezzar during the whole course of his degradation.”
But whether he retained it all the while or not, he did have it as he drew near the termination of his malady. His affliction struck him while a voice from heaven was speaking, and as his reason returned he found himself looking up. He says: “At the end of the days I, Nebachadnezzar, lifted up mine eyes unto heaven.” He knew then that he was a grievous sufferer, and looked imploringly for mercy and help whence alone they could come. It was a look of reverence to the God of heaven, and a look of prayer for pity. But it was an availing look. He says with joy and gratitude, “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 from generation to generation; who 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?”
He had endured a most signal judgment, but it had upon him the intended effect. It humbled his pride. It brought him to the most devout personal recognition of the true God. It set him to work to do all in his power to honour and [page 92] glorify Jehovah. It took away from his heart all shame or hesitation in confessing his sin, and the justice of the punishment he had suffered on account of it. It made him a penitent adorer and royal missionary of the true God. Not a great golden statue now, but his own imperial station, his recovered reason, his softened heart, his royal pen, himself and all his power and faculties as a king, were dedicated to that infinite One, whose majesty he had offended, whose judgment he had suffered, and whom all men should fear, worship, and obey.
He transmuted his throne into a pulpit, and his State papers into sermons, that his erring subjects might learn the wonders of Omnipotence, be led to honour the high God, and have peace multiplied unto them through His name. He had “learned that the heavens do rule” and now his royal desire was that all people, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth might learn the same, without coming to it through such sorrows as he had felt. He had through deep waters reached the better shore, and he now sung his psalm of royal praise to the “King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and His ways judgment.” He had come to a pious appreciation of “the signs and wonders that the high God had wrought toward him;” and, touched with that beneficent missionary-fire which always attends a true experience of grace, he would have all men reverence and adore that same Almighty Being who is able to humble all the children of pride.
Men have debated whether his was a full and genuine conversion or not. To me it seems as if everything that could be expected under the circumstances was actually wrought. There breathes through the whole document so quiet, candid, earnest, and beautiful a spirit, that I know not how to explain it without referring it to a thorough transformation of his entire character, which only the converting grace of God could work. The offensive pride of the heathen autocrat gave place to that penitent humility which frankly confesses its sin, and blesses the hand that chastised [page 93] it. The man of war now prays upon all men the blessings of peace. The hand which held the sword, and wielded it with such terrible effect, is now stretched forth in benediction. The lion, so fierce and ravenous, is tamed into a lamb. The harsh enactor of decrees to cut men to pieces and to burn them in furnaces of fire now exhorts and admonishes them as a very prophet of God.
If his language and speech are not yet completely purged of
their heathen accent, and do not in all respects conform to that of the
inspired teachers of
This chapter gives us the last that we hear of this illustrious monarch. After this grand proclamation the veil is drawn, and all is hidden till the great day of final reckoning. And I take it as not a little significant that the last view of him which the sacred record gives, exhibits him in the noble posture of official exhortation to all people to fear the high God, whose signs are so great and whose wonders are so mighty, exulting, praising, extolling, and honouring the King of heaven. It tells of a great soul won to God and salvation.
That after so deep, long, and total a disability he found his imperial authority still reserved to him must likewise be referred to the special providence and merciful goodness of God, the while foreseeing what a salutary change the sorrowful affliction would work. We may justly attribute it, in good part, to that generosity and sound statesmanship which led the king to put Daniel and the three other Hebrews at the head of things. Faithful to their God, they would not be unfaithful to their king, nor allow advantage to be taken of his melancholy sufferings to set up another in his place.
These men knew that the trouble was only for a definite time, and that then the king would be recovered to his right [page 94] mind in a still higher sense than it was ever before possessed. And, so far as their high authority and influence would go, they would reserve the kingdom for him, as the Chaldeans had done when his father died. Accordingly, he had this testimony to give, that when the days of his affliction were accomplished, his counsellors and lords sought unto him, and he was established in his kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto him. God’s discipline, acknowledged and accepted, is always God’s favour secured.
Let every one therefore behold, consider, and learn wisdom, from God’s word which alone can make us wise unto salvation. Who is it to whom no prophetic warnings from the God of heaven have come, admonishing of impending calamity, and of the need to break off sin by righteousness, and iniquity by showing mercy? Look, then, at Nebuchadnezzar, and be moved to immediate attention to these necessary duties. You may be at rest in your possessions and put far off the evil day, but the vision of approaching ill has shown itself and the word of the “watcher” has been spoken. Even while you are promising yourself obedience the hidden causes are at work to disappoint your hopes and blast all your fancied tranquillity.
Above all things, beware of a proud and self-glorifying spirit. You plead to enjoy yourself a little, but while you are surveying your comfortable estate and flattering yourself with your achievements, and blessing yourself for what your hands have wrought or genius won, the stroke is making ready in the sky, and the hour of fearful humiliation is at hand. It seems to you no serious wrong to be a little appreciative of your talents, your learning, your honours, your beauty, your accomplishments - to look admiringly upon the lands you have acquired, the houses you have built, the reputation you have made, the fortune you have won - to indulge a little self-complacency over what you have made of your life and opportunities; but while the feeling of self-laudation is forming in your secret [page 95] heart, who knows what judgments are ready to break forth and crush all your glorying into the dust? That beauty in which you pride yourself so much - that dignity, intelligence, reason, and power of self-direction - that mastery of the means of honour, fame, influence and enjoyment - those fond possessions which distinguish you so highly from the common masses - all may be wilted and gone before the completion of another hour! It is only by the unmerited favour of God that they are preserved unto you for a single day, and yet you would ignore and neglect Him to indulge your vanity!
Oh, why should mortal man be proud?
Let his attainments be what they may, he holds them by a tenure as frail as the spider's web, which may be broken any moment.
His brightest visions just appear,
Then vanish, and no more are found:
The stateliest pile his pride can rear
A breath may level with the ground.
One slight touch from the hand of God made all Nebuchadnezzar’s greatness as nothing to him, and imposed a degradation so melancholy and so deep that we can hardly think of it without tears of profoundest commiseration. Nor is there any guarantee for any one against the like calamity. There is no humiliation like that of insanity, and yet no vigour of intellect, no clearness of mind, no height of intelligence, no place in life, no birth, no blood, no virtue, no influence, even of religion itself, can secure a mortal an against it.
And if we even should by God’s goodness escape it, all the sublimities of mere earthly fortune and achievement must nevertheless soon be to us as if they never had been. We tarry here but a little while, and then death comes and consigns us to remediless woe unless we have come as lost sinners to Christ, who says, “Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.” [page 96]
Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?
Like a swift-fleeting meteor, a fast-flying cloud,
A flash of the lightning, a break of the wave,
He passeth from life to his rest in the grave!
The leaves of the oak and the willow shall fade,
Be scattered around and together be laid;
And the young and the old, and the low and the high
Shall moulder to dust, and together shall lie!
The hand of the king that the sceptre hath borne,
The brow of the priest that the mitre hath worn,
The eye of the sage, and the heart of the brave
Are hidden and lost in the depths of the grave!
And we are the same that our fathers have been;
We see the same sights our fathers have seen;
We drink the same stream, and view the same sun,
And run the same course our fathers have run.
They loved, but the story we cannot unfold;
They scorned, but the heart of the haughty is cold;
They grieved, but no wail from their slumber may come
They joyed, but the tongue of their gladness is dumb!
’tis the wink of an eye, ’tis the draught of a breath
From the blossom of health to the paleness of death,
From the gilded saloon to the bier and the shroud;
Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?
* * * * * * *
THE DOOM OF SACRILEGE,
Daniel 5: 1-31.
Character of Belshazzar. – The Feast - Opinions as to its Nature. Desecration of the Holy Vessels. - Effect of the Appearance of the Writing on the Wall. - Failure of the Astrologers to read the Writing. - By the Advice of the Queen-Mother Daniel is sent for. - His interpretation. - Belshazzar is slain in the night.
THIS chapter introduces us to a new personage in Babylonian affairs, though one almost unknown to history except in connection with the scenes which are here narrated. Nebuchadnezzar is referred to, as his “father,” but he was the son of Nebuchadnezzar only in the second generation, as Jesus was the “son of David” in a still remoter generation. There is no word in Hebrew or Chaldiac for grandfather or grandson.
From certain cylindrical records found in 1854 in the ruins of
Urn Ghier (the Ur of the Chaldees,
whence Abraham came), it appears that Belshazzar was the son and co-regent of Nabonnedus, who was the probable husband of one of
Nebuchadnezzar’s daughters, and who, through conspiracy, had succeeded in
becoming the King of Babylon. When
Nebuchadnezzar died, his only son, Evil-Merodach,
took the throne; but he reigned only two years, when he was murdered and
supplanted by his brother-in-law Neriglissar, who
reigned four years. After him his son, a
mere boy, was made king. He held his
place for only nine months, when he fell a victim to
the conspiracy of Nabonnedus, who, together with his
own son, Belshazzar, whom he made coregent with himself, were the last kings of
It was while this father and son were on the throne that the Medo-Persian invasion occurred. Nabonnedus, at the head of the army, went forth against Cyrus, but was worsted in an engagement with him. Taking refuge in the Borsippa temple, he was there surrounded by the Medo-Persian army, and held until he surrendered; whereupon he was honourably retired to Carmenia, where he died.
When the father thus went out with the army, Belshazzar the
son was left in charge of affairs in
This Belshazzar was a young, dissolute, and unworthy prince. A recent writer says of him that “he was addicted to the lowest vices of self-indulgence, and felt no restraint whatever in the gratification of his desires. With all this there was combined an arrogance of the haughtiest kind, which would brook no interference with his designs, and would submit to no expostulation in the interests of morality. The severe lesson read by Jehovah to his grandfather in that mysterious malady was entirely lost on him, and he went on to greater and greater excesses, as if to show that he had no regard whatever either for God or man.”
Daniel shows nothing of that sympathy or liking for him which he felt for Nebuchadnezzar. Even the heathen historian Xenophon pronounces him an “impious” man, and instances his passionate cruelty in slaying one of his nobles for anticipating him in striking down the game in a hunt, and in mutilating a courtier at a banquet because one of the women said he was handsome.
The attitude in which he appears in the matter now before us is quite in keeping with just such a character. With his father a captive, the armies scattered, and himself a prisoner within the besieged walls of Babylon, not knowing what hour he and his empire might fall, only the most infatuated and reckless of sovereigns would have thought of venturing upon such demonstrations as marked the last night of his life and [page 99] empire. A proud sensualist, however, is always impervious to serious reflection so long as opportunity remains for the gratification of his passions or the indulgence of his selfish gaiety.
We read that “Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords.” There has been much learned surmising as to the nature of this “feast.” Some think it was meant to be an expression of a vainglorious contempt for Cyrus and his besieging army. Some think it was the celebration of some repulse of the invaders. Others think it was an anniversary occasion, meant to commemorate the king’s birth or coronation, or some victory on which he prided himself, or the founding of the kingdom. Others think it was a stated religious festival in honour of the gods, perhaps of the kind of the Jewish Purim or the Roman Saturnalia.
I doubt if it was either of these. Belshazzar was hardly serious, devoted, or patriotic enough to warrant the supposition of anything historical, traditional, or commemorative in the business. The record says he made it. It was most likely the suggestion and out-birth of his own arbitrary, reckless, and vainglorious sensuality, looking only to that sort of display, enjoyment, revelling, and defiance of all care or fear in which his debased soul most delighted. Daniel says he made it “to his lords,” leaving us to infer that it was rather in royal compliment to them than to the honour of the gods. Drinking to the gods was the usual concomitant of heathen banquets. Cyrus was quite as likely to hear of it whether it was a religious or state festival, or a mere prank of the pleasure-loving king. Belshazzar certainly laid himself out to make “a great feast,” which would naturally be very loud in its preparations, as well as in its actual observance. At any rate, it was made an occasion of general license and carousing from the lordly court down through all classes.
in the camp of Cyrus, when the command for making the furtive assault was
given, said, “I should not [page 100] be surprised if the doors
of the palace are now open, for the whole city seems to-night to be given up
to revelry” (Xenophon). Cyrus had
received intelligence of a grand royal frolic to be held in
Such excesses at such a time betray the utmost recklessness
and infatuation. It can be explained
only on the old maxim, “Whom the gods mean to destroy,
they first make mad.” Such a king
deserved to be dethroned, and such folly well merited the calamities which it
invited and facilitated. The sin was not
so much in the festival, for festivals, holidays, and banquets are not
necessarily wicked, though apt to degenerate into all sorts of excesses. The grand banquet is here brought into the
foreground, not as the one lone and particular offence for which these sore
judgments came, but in illustration of the character and spirit of the
man. It was merely the crown or
topping-out time, of a vast pyramid of rottenness, which alone, at such a time
could have brought forth and sustained these proceedings. It was simply the last stone in the edifice
of Babylonian degeneracy - the last touch in the dark picture of
To say the least, it was a most ill-timed and inopportune festiveness. What if the walls of the city were great and high and its gates strong? What if it had provisions to last it for twenty years? With the army vanquished, the royal father a prisoner in the invader’s hands, and the whole army of the Medo-Persian conqueror investing the place on all sides with persistent determination to reduce it to subjection, this was no time to be showing of such pranks of royal voluptuousness. Such mighty thunderings surely called for something different from this proud glee and merrymaking. No man with a grain of proper sense or right feeling left would have thrown open the doors and led the way to such a carousal amid such a state of things. It shows every [page 101] becoming sensibility gone, a besottedness of mind and heart that leaves no place for the virtues of patriotism and rulership, and a licentious depravity and extravagance betokening the worst moral lunacy.
But the extraordinary excesses of the thing added tenfold to
its heartless offensiveness. It was idiotecy loading itself with intensest crimes. The “great feast”
turned out to be a scene of mere bacchanalian orgies, in which the king himself
led off. It was not the custom of kings
to eat and drink before their subjects; but here all restraints were thrown
aside. The dignity of the monarch was
all sunk in the loose hilarity of the occasion.
Drinking wine was a chief part of the performance, and Belshazzar
familiarly joined the thousand of his lordly guests to do royal justice to
it. He “drank
wine before the thousands,” and drank till he felt it, and continued to
drink till it became his counsellor and put all sorts of wild thoughts into his
head. “Whilst he
tasted of the wine” the treacherous spirit of it began to work, and he
bethought him to add still more to the glory of the occasion, himself, his
company, and his gods, and so made a decree which completed the abomination and
sealed the fate of
In the treasure-house of one of his gods were deposited the
holy vessels which once did service in the
It was of no use to remonstrate with, such a libertine, if any had been so disposed; therefore the golden vessels were brought, and he and his lords and his women “drank in them.” If any compunctions were felt on the subject, they had to be stifled and suppressed in the presence of His Imperial Majesty. So “they drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.” Not only their ill-timed merriment, their trampling on the customary proprieties, and their drunkenness, but even their foolhardy and blasphemous insult to the most high God is veiled over and cloaked up with a pretence of devotion!
This was as far as it was possible for human daring and infatuation to go. It was more than the powers of heaven could quietly endure. The Divine resentment broke forth on the spot. “In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace.” The moment of doom had been reached, and here was the miraculous writing of the sentence. There was no legerdemain, no deception, about it. “The king saw the part of the hand that wrote.” His own eyes followed it as it traced the mystic letters where no hand of mortal could reach to do it. He beheld the black characters it left frowning down upon him from the palace-wall. He saw the consternation of men and heard the shrieks of women. He could not read the letters nor decipher their meaning, but his conscience took alarm, and he could not treat it with indifference. All his courage, daring, and proud bravado quite broke down. “The king's countenance was changed and his thoughts troubled him, so [page 103] that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.”
Alas, alas, for the dignity and bravery of those who think it mean, little, and cowardly - to fear, God! They may think it manly to set at naught the scruples of a tender conscience and all dread of Jehovah’s judgments, but their superior stateliness is the first to give way when the trying moment comes. Nor is there a more craven cowardice or dastard-pusillanimity than that which underlies the noisy courage of men who defy God and glory in trampling moral restraints beneath their feet. Show me a man who thinks it great and heroic to despise the bonds of piety and the inculcations of religion, and I will show you a miserable poltroon at heart. The audacious and defiant King Belshazzar is horror-stricken and unmanned in the midst of all his gallant valour before a hand writing on the wall, not a single syllable of which he can read!
Off for “the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the seeth-sayers!” is now the cry of the cringing and horrified monarch. “Bring them quick, that they may read this writing for me, and show me the interpretation thereof. The highest honours of the kingdom to the man who will tell me what it means! He shall be clothed with royal purple. He shall wear a necklace of gold. He shall be the third ruler in the kingdom. He shall be next to me, as I am next to my father!” Poor dastard soul! Why did he not consult wisdom before casting himself so recklessly upon this moment of alarm? The cry of “Solon! Solon! Solon!” comes too late when once the judgments for setting him at naught have been kindled.
The astrologers appeared and gazed in mute astonishment, but the writing they could not read, “nor make known to the king the interpretation thereof.” The horror was only intensified by their presence and failure. “Then was King Belshazzar greatly troubled, and his countenance was changed in him, and his lords were astonied.” What was to be [page 104] done? An age of alarmed bewilderment was crowded into a single hour.
The queen-mother was in the palace. She had taken no part in the banquet. Her royal husband was a prisoner in Borsippa, and she was the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar. She had most likely advised against this whole demonstration. She knew what her father had experienced in his lifetime, and to what sort of doctrines he had seen converted before he died. She had respect for his memory, for the convictions he had so fully pronounced, for the God he had learned to fear and honour, and for the noble men whom he was pleased to favour for their holy services to him; and she could look with no favour upon this ill-timed and impious, behaviour of her licentious son.
I am the more led to this view from the fact that when troubles come upon the wicked they generally betake them-selves to those whose warnings and good counsels they have despised. The coarse blasphemer, when taken down in his impieties, is most likely to send for the very minister whom he most hated and cursed before. And so Belshazzar now betakes himself to that queen-mother whose kindly admonitions he had haughtily cast to the winds.
And though the man was now beyond the reach of redemption, this woman does by far the best for him of all his lords and counsellors and wise men. There is a trueness, a readiness, a self-command, and a fertility of resources in a right-minded woman, of which all kings and all men do well to avail themselves, whether in shadow or in sunshine. No, sooner did the queen-mother learn what had happened than her thoughts ran back to the days of her father, and to the holy prophet who had served him so well. Taking in at once the whole situation, her mind was made up as to the next thing to be done.
A splendid contrast did she present over against those astounded, pale, and nonplussed lords and that agitated and trembling king! With what a steady composure she stepped [page 105] into that banquet-hall, a little while ago resounding with the noisiest of gaieties, but now all subdued and silenced with terror and dread! Behold the queenly majesty with which she seeks to recover those blanched imbeciles to their senses! If woman is apt to be agitated with trifles, yet when some great crisis comes she has more calm magnanimity than a thousand lords - more sense and self-possession than they all. From her finer-strung nature she may feel it the more afterwards, and suffer the more severely under the rebound, but while the dread crisis is upon her, the other sex sinks greatly by comparison.
The first thing this queenly woman said was a word of expostulation with the king for being so unmanned by his terror and perplexity. She set herself with motherly speech to recompose his shattered dignity, and to bring him once more to himself. She knew of one who could read the writing for him, for in him was the light, understanding, and wisdom [and Spirit] of the holy gods. He had proved himself a matchless revealer of secrets, interpreter of dreams, and solver of doubts to her illustrious father, and she was sure, his prophetic power was adequate for this case also. Therefore she said: “Let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.”
This time the mother’s voice was heeded, and it was not many minutes until Daniel stood before the alarmed king, though hitherto manifestly treated with indifference, he did not forget his allegiance and duty to his sovereign - even Belshazzar. Though neglected himself, he still did not neglect the king's business (8: 27), and when he was, called he promptly answered. He could do the miserable sensualist no good, but he still might interpret for him the sentence of outraged Omnipotence, and why it was pronounced.
In broken sentences Belshazzar recounted what had happened, pointed to the frowning letters on the wall, and promised a glorious reward to the noble prophet if he would [page 106] read the writing and interpret what it meant. The grand fee Daniel at once declined, but agreed to read the writing, and to tell the whole meaning of it. And stranger was it than all fiction that such a banquet, conducted with such noisy defiance of Jehovah, should end up with a sermon to which all those lords, and even that presumptuous king, were the willing and eager listeners.
A splendid sermon also was it. With what grand and affecting reminiscences of Nebuchadnezzar did it begin! In what sharp contrast did it sketch the effeminacy and impiety of Belshazzar! With what directness did it point out the inexcusable and defiant wickedness of its chief hearer! With what solemn and unflinching faithfulness did it tell the sentence God had written, and make known the doom which it was too late to escape! It almost takes one’s breath to hear the massive utterances roll from that holy preacher’s lips. The solemnity of the scene almost overwhelms us.
Transfer yourself into that royal banquet-hall, and listen.
There stands the tall and reverend prophet. Nothing of the obsequious courtier is upon him now. He has not a word of sympathy for the king in his guilty alarm. His voice, his brow, his words, his composed manner and solemnity, are all in deep accord with the [Holy] Spirit which had traced those letters and with the awful sentence which was in them. He saw that the end of the impious contemner of the Almighty had come. He knew that he was about to utter the last words the royal sinner should ever hear in this world. And he spoke exactly as became the occasion. Fixing his eyes upon the pale and trembling criminal, now ripe for destruction, he measuredly said:
“0 thou king! The most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour: and for the majesty that He gave him, all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before him: whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he set up; and whom he would he put [page 107] down. But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened to deal proudly, he was made to come down from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him: and he was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses: they fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven; till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that He appointeth over it whomsoever He will.
“And thou his son, 0 Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; but hast lifted up, thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of His house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified: therefore was the end of this hand sent from Him, and this writing was written. And this is the writing that was written: Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin. This is the interpretation of the thing: Mene; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. Tekel; thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. Peres; thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.”
There was nothing more to be said. From such a sentence there was neither escape nor appeal. How the doomed king took it we are not informed, save that he commanded to have his promise to Daniel fulfilled. But “in that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.”
The shroud, his robe of state
His canopy, the stone.
The Mede was at his gate!
The Persian on his throne!
Friends and brethren: It is for our learning and admonition, [page 108] that these things have been written. They call up to us afresh the solemn truth, which none should ever forget, that there is a great invisible Power, high over all gods and kings, who carefully observes and justly weighs all the actions of men. An all-seeing Eye was on Nebuchadnezzar in his pride, and a great humiliation was sent upon him till he was made to know and confess that the Most High ruleth; and that same all-seeing Eye was on Belshazzar, who failed to profit by the awful judgment, but lifted himself up against the Lord, defied His providence, wilfully profaned the sacred vessels of His worship, praised the gods of silver, gold, brass, iron, wood, and stone, which can neither see, nor hear, nor know, and despised the Almighty Being from whom he had his life and breath. Such impiety and wickedness could not pass unpunished. Sin has a voice that is heard in heaven. It may be thought nothing of by men, but God notes it in His book, and takes account of every item of aggravation in it.
The Scriptures everywhere assure us that “the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed.” Solomon writes: “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirit.” He puts every Belshazzar and every other in His balances, weighs every soul, marks every folly, and records every good and every deficiency. Every opportunity disapproved, every admonition disregarded, every ungrateful feeling indulged, every impulse of pride entertained, every instance of power abused or talents squandered, every word and act of profanity, every neglect and slight of Jehovah’s messengers, every effort to get away from duty, every attempt to drown serious thoughts by sensual excesses, every sending away of God’s servants to wait for a more convenient season, every contempt for the Bible and for those who believe and follow it, every thought and passion, or idle word that men speak - all of them, singly and together, are surveyed and weighed, and written down in heaven against the day of final account, [page 109] and will draw down punishment on those who are guilty of them unless they are washed away in the blood of Jesus Christ, which “cleanses from all sin.”
And did the children of pleasure, pride, selfishness, and unbelief but see the reality, they would likewise behold a writing from a mystic hand frowning from the walls that witness their impieties, and containing a sentence of impending judgment. It is a startling thing to contemplate, but it is true; and the sooner our modern Belshazzars, sensualists, materialists, pantheists and atheists learn to know it, the better for them and all else.
Very clear and pointed also are the indications here given of what things weigh the heaviest against a man in these heavenly balances.
Belshazzar had miserably neglected and abused his office and place as a king. Political positions are not intended for the glory and gratification of those who occupy them, but for solemn and faithful service to the community which upholds them. God is strictest in His reckonings with those in power. An official personage is responsible beyond a common individual. People are apt to take it just the contrary, but in God’s account sin takes its intensity according to office and place. A parent is responsible beyond a child; a minister, beyond his hearers; a judge or ruler, beyond an ordinary subject. Wherever there is power there is increase of accountability according to that power. And the wickedness of Belshazzar was the wickeder and all the more severely punished because he was a king.
Office is a serious thing. It cannot be entered and handled as men please with impunity. Over its portals stands the inscription, “Let him who enters here beware, for a jealous God is within.” Sins of office are the blackest of all sins. Abuses of power and place are the most offensive of all abuses. And Jehovah’s most signal judgments are those with which He avenges himself upon unfaithful rulers and ungodly officeholders. [page 110]
Particularly offensive to God is sensuality, licentiousness, revelling, and drunkenness. It is the special defilement which He hates. It is a filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit which He most intensely abhors, and to which He has affixed His sorest penalties. This living for gaiety and pleasure - this everlasting pampering of the flesh and its lusts - this steeping of the soul in the slough of mere carnal enjoyment and debauchery - this deifying of our likes and passions, and making everything bend and contribute to their gratification - is just what marked the character of Belshazzar’s life, the result of which is before us.
Still another item of his guilt was his total disregard, of God’s providential warnings. This is particularly charged upon him by the prophet as the head and front of his offending. Jehovah had shown His resentment, of all vain glorious pride and exaltation of self over against Omnipotence in the tremendous humiliation He had sent upon Nebuchadnezzar. Belshazzar knew all this. It was fully written out in the archives of the empire, and published officially by the repentant king to every portion of the realm. It was too conspicuous, evident, and publicly emphasized not, to have come to Belshazzar’s notice, or not to have been to him an ample admonition against the sort of life he was leading. But he disregarded and despised it. Without Nebuchadnezzar’s sense or majesty, he was prouder and more defiant than his illustrious grandfather had ever been. With the example before him of the terrible heinousness and certain fearful punishment of such self-lifting up, he deliberately went into it regardless of consequences. He was adequately warned, but he profited not by it.
God means that we should learn from history and take to heart the lessons of His providence. His word and acts are written, that we may note them and direct our way by them. And when people shut their eyes to all that He has shown, set at naught His counsels, and refuse to take the instructions He gives, it is all reckoned up in His books as so much the [page 111] more against them. These sermons unheeded and these admonitions despised will prove to be bottle thunders, to increase the dismay in the day of judgment.
But the crowning guilt of this dissolute monarch was his wilful and besotted profanation of the vessels of God’s house. There was no need for them at the feast. There was no reason or excuse for invading their long and reverent retirement to bring them forth for any such use. It was nothing but a piece of base, defiant, and wilful sacrilege. Hence the special mention of it as the intensest element in Belshazzar’s guilt, and that which barbed the arrows of the summary judgment which befell him. And well would it be for men in our day if they had nothing of this sin to answer for.
In external form, of course, there is no chance now for just such a profanation, but Belshazzar’s sin is not confined to Belshazzar’s circumstances. When the precious things of God’s holy Church are seized and appropriated to gild and glorify a party or sect, or to satisfy the narrow whims of some modern Diotrephes, what is it but a desecration of holy things? When Baptism, a profession of religion, or the sacred Supper of our Lord is used as a passport to citizenship, a qualification for secular office, a means of gratifying friends, securing favours, or gaining credit and standing in society, what is it but a misappropriation of holy vessels to an unholy use? When the Christian pulpit and the honours and sanctifies of the holy office are laid hold of for mere personal display, the securement of notoriety, the building up of a reputation, or the putting forth of doctrines contrary to the Gospel, what is it else than a profanation of what is sacred to the Lord?
When people come to the sanctuary, bow before its altar, join in its holy services, mingle with those who worship there, and wear the livery and mien of Christians just to cloak their secret ill-doings, to pass for virtuous that they may the better accomplish their selfish ends, what is it but [page 112] a prostitution of the things of God to a base unholiness? When the facts and expressions of God’s Word, its pure and glorious truths, its sublime and awful doctrines are taken to point a pun, to edge a jest, to sharpen a sarcasm, to excite a laugh, to raise a sneer, what is it but Belshazzar over again profanely taking hold of the sacred vessels to add to the zest of an impious carousal?
It has also been remarked that something of the same is done when the sublime descriptions of the judgment to come, or the momentous history of our Saviour’s Passion, or the grand visions of the Apocalypse are taken for musical exhibitions, using the holiest of words to intensify artistic performances, add to the emotions, deepen the effect and please the hearers, to secure applause to mere musicians. And still more does this spirit of sacrilege exist where the heart that was made for God is turned into a throne of Mammon, lust, and greed; where the affections meant to cluster around Jehovah are all transferred and fastened on the things of earth; where the talents the Almighty has lent are all employed in the service of self and the devil; where these souls, which were fashioned to live and shine in the beautiful home of heaven, are made the filthy reservoirs of degrading passion and uncleanness. We fault Belshazzar for his profanations, but in these things his sin still lives.
Seeing, then, how it went with this man, is there not reason for us to be a little anxious about how we [Christians] stand in the celestial records? He was a heathen prince, and had not half our light and opportunities; we are the children of Christian lands and homes, reared under the sound of church-going bells, and familiar with all sacred knowledge from our infancy. He had but one great example to influence and direct him; we have thousands of them, and the ministries of many ages and divers dispensations. The vessels he profaned had been won in battle, and had become the property of the crown, which a heathen monarch might suppose himself [page 113] entitled to use as he saw fit; the sacred things we have we know to be the Lord’s, and we know too, how jealous He is of their rightful use and His rightful honour.
And if Belshazzar met a doom so sudden and awful for his profanity, what have many around and among us to expect? If he was so deficient when weighed in the just balances of God, how will it be with those who drive on with guilty pride and ungodliness over a preached Gospel, over a crucified Saviour, and in defiance of all the holy lessons, and warning admonitions with which their way is strewn? If the pagan in his pagan surroundings could not escape, how will it be with pagans who are such in spite of all the better light and hallowing influences of a complete revelation and a pure Christianity? If Mene, mene, tekel, Upharsin was written against the heathen Belshazzar, what, suppose ye, stands written to-day against those who so well know their duty, but do it not?
0 my friends, there is something peculiarly alarming in these inquiries. A world of ominous suggestion presents itself. I seem to be looking on scenes of judgment in which the wheels of God’s almightiness thunder and crash through throngs of shrieking souls, the nurslings of unnumbered mercies, for whom there is no more help or hope! Among them are many whom I know, whose fathers, mothers, and friends I know, to whom I have often preached and with whom I have often pleaded. I wonder, is this to be reality? Ah, dear hearers, that is for you to decide. As things now stand with many, it is on the way to become reality.
And when I see how light some make of it, how dull and dead many are to the whole subject [‘counsel of God’], with what haughty indifference one and another turns from it as the veriest trifle, I wonder still more how can it otherwise than become reality, perhaps with all the suddenness of Belshazzar’s end? God be thanked that it is not reality yet! Judgment still lingers. How much longer it will delay for the persevering [page 114] sinner God only knows. Now, therefore, while yet the sun of mercy shines, let no one who hears me turn a heedless ear or trifle any further with the precious interests of his endangered soul. Take refuge in the salvation of Jesus Christ who says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
* * * * * * *
THE MEDO-PERSIAN PRIME MINISTER;
THE FAITH OF DANIEL TESTED.
Daniel 6: 7-24.
Capital Punishment among the Chaldeans and Persians. ‑ A Change of Government in
The chapter upon which we now enter very clearly attests the
change in the government of
The same is indicated in the division of the kingdom into principalities, and the assignment of a particular head or prince to each, whilst over these, again, were three presidents, one of whom was the chief over the other two, and stood in relation to the throne as prime minister or grand vizier. We thus find ourselves in the presence of quite another government from that which was administered by the exalted Nebuchadnezzar, and which perished with his infamous grandson Belshazzar.
You will remember that it was said in the conclusion of the
preceding chapter that “Darius the Median took the
[page 116] kingdom,
being about threescore and two years old.” Critics, historians, and antiquarians are
much at sea in their attempts to identify this king. There are three different theories on the
subject, and it does not seem to be possible, in the present state of our
knowledge, to determine which is certainly the true one. Fortunately, it is not necessary to settle
this question in order to understand what is here meant to be taught us. All the facts and lessons remain precisely
the same whether we can tell who this Darius the Median was, or not. The strongest probabilities are that he was
the same who is known as Astyages, in whose court
Cyrus the conqueror was reared. He was,
at any rate, the embodiment and representative of the Medo-Persian dominion
Coming into power in Babylon upon the fall of Nabonnedus and Belshazzar, he would necessarily have his attention very particularly directed to Daniel, not only from his connection with the court for such a long succession of years, but chiefly on account of his interpretation of the mysterious, writing on the wall, his prediction of Belshazzar’s fall, and his remarkable wisdom in connection with the reign of the great Nebuchadnezzar. Very naturally, he would desire to avail himself of the services and talents of so wise, experienced, and faultless a man. Coming in contact with him, as he thus would, Darius could not be otherwise than impressed with the extraordinary character of his talents and his eminent fitness to be selected as his chief helper in the organization and administration of his newly enlarged kingdom.
Though Darius himself seems to have been a somewhat weak,
impulsive, and vacillating man, yet he had had a long experience in rulership,
and was not deficient in discernment and wisdom in selecting trustworthy and
competent men to whom to assign responsible trusts. Even
weak and bad men like to have good and faithful servants, and prefer those with
better principles than their own. It is
a homage which [page 117] they pay to virtue, even though
they do not follow it. No matter how
depraved people may be, they would always rather have servants whom they could
trust than such as are as base as themselves. And
whatever may have been the deficiencies of this Darius, he had the shrewdness
to find out the best and most competent man in
Such a man, in such a position, administering affairs with rigid exactness and impartiality, strictly honest himself and tolerating no dishonesties or falsities in others, and ever growing in the esteem of his king and in favour with the people, could not, in the nature of things, escape the envy and malice of those who suffered by comparison, and who found him in the way of their selfish ambitions. It is part of the disease that is upon depraved humanity to be dissatisfied and un-amiable toward the excellences and honours of others. It is loth to bear anything above itself. It is the nature of the devil to be the accuser of the good and of those who are favoured for their worth; and all his children have the same family trait. They are pained, mortified, chagrined, and full of spiteful resentment at the superior excellence or prosperity of those above them. It is their delight to humiliate those who happen to be more favoured than themselves. If compelled to give credit in one direction, they are exceedingly ingenious in finding some point at which to take it back. Admitting that Job is a just and upright man, they always have a “but” as to the motives in the case, by which to make it appear a mere sordidness after all.
Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow,
Thou shalt not escape calumny.
And this is particularly true in affairs of public office. It seems to inhere in politicians and aspirants to hate and [page 118] persecute every man in official place who honestly tries to do his duty and seeks to carry ethics into public administrations. Few men go into these arenas but with sinister and selfish aims, and if one in power will not share his plans for self-aggrandizement, flatter their pride, shut his eyes to their dishonesties and let his conscience go, he is sure to be assailed, to have charges trumped up against him, to have snares and traps set for him, and subtle plans laid to embarrass, disgrace, or displace him. The greatest personal enemies readily make common cause to get rid of a man who has the principle and nerve to stand firm against their self-seeking, their oppressions, their robberies, and their wicked ambitions. Though they may have been loudest in trying to put him into place, they will defame him if they are not made sharers in his successes or cannot use him for their ignoble ends.
And so it was in this case. Daniel was an honourable and true man. His record marked him as the proper person for the place assigned him. He did his business on the highest principles of justice and virtue. He was faultless as a man and as an officer of state. The king suffered no damage under his administration. His excellent spirit commended him more and more to his sovereign the more he knew of him. “And the king thought to set him over the whole realm.”
This was unendurable to these Medo-Persian officials. It did not suit their ideas. It was in the way of their low aims. It was an embargo on their bribery and
peculation, the particular vices in Oriental, if not also in Occidental,
administrators of authority, It augured a pure court and honest transactions,
which is never agreeable to underlings in power. Hence the conspiracy on the
part of these presidents and princes to displace and destroy Daniel. No matter for the method, the end was to get
him out of the way; and that end was deemed of sufficient importance to justify
the means. They had the advantage of
numbers. What one or two could not
accomplish a general combination might effect. [page 119]
And so they went to work with all their malignant ingenuity to break
down and destroy the noblest man and the purest officer that ever held
And never, perhaps, was a man on earth subjected to a scrutiny so intense, backed with such a pressure of determination for his overthrow, as that to which Daniel was put by these envious and unprincipled presidents and princes of the Medo-Persian government. Few, indeed, are the public men who could stand the test of such a crucible.
But see what the true fear
of God will do for a man. “As the mountains are round about
And so pure and exalted was he in his principles and administrations that even the black-hearted conspirators, in all their anxiety to humiliate him, “could find none occasion for fault, forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault in him.” Against their will they were obliged to admit and conclude, “We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.” And scarcely has there ever been an eulogium passed upon any public man so justly founded, so completely attested and so absolutely perfect as that which these unprincipled Medo-Persian presidents and princes thus pronounced. It was hate itself doing reverence to the object of its bitterest dislike. It puts the character of Daniel high above all question or reproach.
And thus in the midst of a heathen people, at the head of a cabinet of dishonest, envious, and plotting officials, and surrounded with all the temptations which the indulgence of a confiding sovereign threw in his way, he went through the ordeal, as his three friends had gone through the fires of Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace, without the singeing of a hair or so much as the smell of burning on his clothes. Nor was the miracle much less in his case than in theirs. Yet such is [page 121] the protecting and exalting wisdom of honesty, and the glorious shield which a true and practical righteousness gives.
Having thus satisfied themselves of the impeccable integrity of Daniel, both as a man and as a competent officer, the eyes of these plotters should have been opened to their unreasonableness in wishing to overthrow him. Convinced of his fitness, worth, and purity, we would naturally look for some symptoms of shame and remorse for the injustice they had done, and some signs of relenting and reparation. Plato was of opinion that if perfect truth and virtue were to come from heaven and manifest their real glory among men, all would at once bow down and worship them. But he did not understand the depths of human depravity. Perfect truth and virtue did come from heaven in the person of Jesus Christ, and stood before the eyes of men for years and years in untainted beauty and glory; but the children of this world, rulers and mobs, cried, “Away with Him!” and crucified Him.
And when the devil of selfishness, envy, and malice takes possession of the heart, no charms of virtue, no beauties of goodness, no adornments of innocence, no excellences of merit are sufficient to cast him out or to break his dominion. The more invincible the arguments of Stephen became, and the more his face shone with the brightness of angelic purity, the more his wicked persecutors stopped their cars, rushed for his life, and hurried his martyrdom. And so it was in the instance before us. The more convinced these men were of Daniel’s unimpeachableness, the more desperate they became in their determination to destroy him.
There was one thing, however, upon which they were persuaded they might securely count. They saw how true and inflexible he was in his religious principles, and if they could only devise a scheme in which he would be compelled to relinquish his religious fidelity or die, they were perfectly satisfied that their desires would be accomplished. To this [page 122] they therefore set themselves with consummate eagerness, dissimulation, and hypocrisy. Glance for a moment at the cunning baseness of their proceeding.
It was necessary, in order to displace Daniel, that they should somehow enlist the authority of the king in the matter. They were convinced that any attempt to impeach the prime minister must fail and react upon themselves. They determined, therefore, to leave all mention of Daniel entirely outside of their proceedings, and to feign a worshipful devotion to the king, as if profoundly concerned for the majesty of his person and the exhibition of his divine greatness.
It was not uncommon for Oriental monarchs to receive the worship of their subjects as representatives of Deity, indwelt and possessed by the celestial powers. The monuments and the histories attest that it was regarded as one of the noblest of civil duties to honour and worship the king as a god. And the movement of these conspirators now was to prove how much they were devoted to the sublimest honour of their sovereign, and to induce him to unite with them in establishing some royal decree which should memorialize his divine dignity and bring to him the sacred reverence which belonged to his person. The holding of the laws of the Medes and Persians to be unalterable was founded on the assumption that the king is something of a deity, and can make no mistakes. And this divinity of their king these men professed to be most anxious to bring forward and to have impressed upon all the subjects of the realm.
Nor could they see a more reasonable and practical way for it
than for the king to sign and issue a decree “that
whosoever shall ask a petition of any god or man” - put up any prayer or
act of worship - “for thirty days,” save of
himself alone, should “be cast into the den of lions;”
that is, publicly executed. This was,
therefore, the flattering proposition which they laid before Darius. With many eloquent protestations of their own
devotion, and of the [page
123] sacred propriety of having every subject in the kingdom thus
to honour him on the pain of death, did they urge the matter. Nor need we wonder at the enormous wickedness
of it, when we remember that, even in
our own day, a general council of the highest officials in what claims to be
the one only Church of the living God, united in solemnly pronouncing a feeble
old man in
And if the Pope of Rome is pleased to accept and appropriate such absurd honours in the name of the sublimest truth given for human enlightenment, we need not be surprised that these proposals of Medo-Persia’s “presidents, princes, counsellors, and captains” proved acceptable to the vainglorious heathen monarch who then occupied the Medo-Persian throne. At all events, the sacred history tells us that these disguised murderers succeeded, and induced the flattered and easy king to establish the decree and sign the writing which they dictated, “that it might not be changed,” but stand firm as the divino-regal act, “which, by the laws of the Medes and Persians, altereth not.”
Such was the subtle scheme, and such was the success of
it. Ostensibly, it was for the honour
and alleged rightful glory of the king; in reality, it was for the murder of
the man who stood next to him, and who had in him more of the divine than all
the kings, presidents, and princes of Media and
But so it was, and to such depths will men descend when once they throw off allegiance to right and conscience. O ye triflers with conviction and better knowledge! be admonished of the gigantic wickedness that lies in yielding to your [page 124] dislikes and passions against the claims of righteousness and virtue. To sacrifice reason to envy and malice, to let go right for selfishness, to overstep the bounds of justice for one’s own gain, though it should be only for once and in small matters, is a most perilous experiment. No man can tell in what monstrous iniquity it may end, or what overwhelming confusion it may bring. Let us see, then, what came of this nefarious business.
Darius had the poor honour of being hypocritically flattered as a god. These envious and plotting presidents had the gratification of seeing the high authority of the throne now pledged for the success of their murderous wishes. And there appeared no more hope for the holy Daniel but to demit his duties to Jehovah, or die. What was to be done? He knew the feeling that was against him. He was not unaware of the proceedings which had been instituted. To complain against these men would be to indict nearly all the officials of the realm and to dash himself to destruction against the combination of numbers. To remonstrate with the king against the decree would seem like taking sides against a popular sentiment of the nation, present him in the attitude of a revolutionist trying to set aside one of the proudest traditions and most sacred political doctrines of the Medes and Persians, and make him seem to be a disloyal opposer of the king’s acknowledged honour and dignity. To abandon his position and flee the country would show a cowardly spirit, and had but little promise of success.
Indeed, he was so hedged up on all sides that nothing seemed
left for him, as a true servant of Jehovah, but to compose himself to his fate,
go on with his accustomed devotions, and meekly trust
the result to God. Therefore, “when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into
his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward
But he also knew in Whom he believed. If it was best that God should save him from such an end, he was sure that all the fierceness of bloody men or devouring lions could not harm him; and if God should deem it best that so his earthly life should terminate, why should he wish to have it otherwise? He knew that God was with him, and that in any event no loss could come to him from it. He could look back upon a life of untarnished devotion, and had always had with him the evidences of Jehovah’s favour, and why should he be alarmed or disconcerted now at what man might do unto him? And though the lions should presently crunch his bones, why should he disgrace the last remnant of his stay on earth by any cowardly abridgment of his pious habits or prayers?
Therefore, with a quiet self-possession which makes him even more illustrious in the face of death than in the duties of life, he does not demit a jot of what he did aforetime, nor take a single precaution to screen himself from the malignant observation of his watching foes. Great, indeed, is the power of living faith. It can make adversity as though it were not. It enabled the first Christians to despise bonds, stripes, imprisonments, and death. It lifted Paul so high above this world’s calamities that he even gloried in tribulations. It made Polycarp, look upon the flames that were to consume him, as a chariot of God to waft him to [both millennial and] eternal glory. It kept Daniel as serene as the stars of heaven, though another day should give his body to feed the wild beasts in their den. And of all things within human reach, there is nothing that can so bless, enrich, compose, and ennoble its possessor as the genuine fear of the Almighty.
Great was the king’s sorrow when he found who was struck by his insane decree. But vainly did he now reproach himself for his wicked folly. Fain would he have [page 126] recalled the document, but he had suffered himself to be cajoled into a commitment beyond his power to undo. He had played the fool. He had unwittingly put his signature to the death-warrant of the truest man and most valuable officer in his empire. He had become the abettor of plotting murderers. He had bound himself to become the executioner of the very individual whom he was thinking to set over the whole realm. He had permitted himself to be flattered into a measure which was about to put out of the world his most faithful friend.
And well might he be “sore displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him,” and labour in his remorseful distress to prevent the sad consequences of his indiscretion. But it was all of no avail. People who will not think and consider when they act must expect to suffer for their mistakes.
Under the Medo-Persian laws Daniel could not be delivered. The treacherous princes became clamorous for the execution of the decree. It was clear that their envied prime minister had prayed to his God contrary to the prohibition. It was clear what consequences were annexed to such disobedience. And the very men who a little while ago were so zealous for the king’s divinity, did not now hesitate to intimate disaster to him if he should fail to fulfil what he had signed. Sycophants and flatterers are always tyrants in their hearts. They will oppress when they get the power. And the poor king, out of a self-consistency which we find it hard to respect, gave the command, “and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions.” And, to make all sure, “a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den: and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel.”
This was supposed to be the end of the noble president - sad end of a man so great, so faithful, and so good! Those who hated him rejoiced over their murderous success, and [page 127] now considered their fortunes made. But “the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment.” God had not forsaken His servant, and a Higher than Darius had decreed that Daniel should not thus perish before his enemies. Jehovah holdeth in His hand the devices of men and the savageness of beasts. He can bring to nought the machinations of princes and shut the mouths of lions. And in this cue He did both.
* * * * * * *
THIS WORLD’S GOVERNMENTS;
THE VISION OF THE FOUR BEASTS.
Daniel 7: 1-28.
A New Division of the Book. - Daniel’s Dream of the
Four Monsters from the
The Book of Daniel is made up of two main sections - the historical part and the prophetical part. The first part, over which we have thus far travelled in these Lectures, consists of a succession of scenes relating to the more personal history of the prophet and those with whom he had to do; whilst the second part, which begins with the chapter now before us, consists of a collection of his own prophetic visions, beheld at different periods of his life and explained by the heavenly Powers. Prophetic visions are described in the preceding chapters also, but they were not Daniel’s visions, though he was called to interpret them. So there are also some personal particulars given in the chapters remaining, but only to indicate the time and circumstances under which the visions were given and explained. The topics from this onward are all prophetic.
In point of time the chapter on which we now enter takes us back again to the reign of Belshazzar, king of
What Daniel saw was “the sea,”
But while gazing upon these manifestations from the agitated sea, and contemplating the several careers of these monsters, another scene opened upon him. Whilst the last beast was operating in its eleventh horn, Daniel saw thrones set in the upper spaces, as if brought near to the earth, and amid these thrones the Eternal One seated in all the solemn majesty of His infinite Godhead. He had upon Him the long flowing robe of authority and empire, as white as the snow in purity and splendour; and the hair of His head was as fair as the unsullied fleece. He seemed to sit in a throne of fire, resting on wheels of living flame. The lightnings poured forth from before Him in incessant streams. Thousand thousands of heavenly ministrants were with Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand made up his awful suite. There was no mistaking the character of these presentations. It was the grand inquest of eternity now set for the awarding of doom and destiny upon these beasts, especially the last, blasphemous, eleventh horn. Daniel recognized it as the sitting of the judgment, and beheld the books opened. He therefore watched with intense interest to see what would be done with a power which had shown such consummate and defiant blasphemy. Nor was he kept long in suspense or doubt. The monster was slain and its body given to the devouring fire. As for the other beasts, their dominion was taken away, and only their reft existences lingered on to the time appointed.
But still another scene passed before the prophet as part of this same vision. He saw one like the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, and invested by the Eternal Father with dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all people, [page 131] nations, and languages should serve Him, and that he might reign for ever and ever.
Such is the description of what the prophet beheld. It was all so mysterious and awful that he was immensely affected by it, and troubled in spirit as to what it meant. In his dream he inquired of one of the celestial beings whom he saw about the throne, who also told in the vision what it signified - to wit, that the four beasts denoted four kings, dominions, or empires; that the fourth beast was to be “the fourth kingdom upon earth;” that out of it should arise ten contemporaneous kings; and that after these should come up still another, who would be the most defiant of them all, speak great words against the Most High, wear out the people of God, and seek to change the whole order of earthly things, wielding a power which nothing but the day of judgment would destroy, when the sovereignty should be given to the holy people of God in a new, abiding, and heavenly administration.
From this explanation of the angel it is clear that the Vision was intended to be a symbolic synopsis of political history and world-power from the first rise of empire among men to the day of judgment, and what is then to take its place. It accordingly compasses precisely the same ground covered by the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, given and explained in the second chapter. The four metals in the great image which Nebuchadnezzar saw denote the same powers as the four beasts which Daniel beheld, except that the one beheld them as a world-ruler, from without, and as would most naturally strike a politician, whilst the other beheld them as a spiritual prophet, from within, as they really are in the light of truth and holiness. What the king from his worldly stand-point beheld as a splendid colossal human figure, Daniel as a man of God beholds as a succession of beastly monsters, savage, cruel, despotic, and un-human. But in both instances the thing set forth is one and the same world-power, in its fourfold development and varied phenomena from the [page 132] commencement, of secular empire to its final termination, when the sublime and eternal rule of Heaven shall be set up in its place, to change no more.
There has been little or no question among interpreters that the first beast stands for the Babylonian empire, the sun of which was about to set when Daniel saw this vision. It here appears as the noblest of beasts, with the addition of the wings of the noblest of birds, just as it appeared to its most illustrious head as the noblest of metals shaped according to the noblest part of man. The Scriptures elsewhere liken Nebuchadnezzar to a lion and his armies to eagles (Jer. 4: 7, 13; Ezek. 17: 3, 12), and the characteristic marks of his empire were great savage strength, magnificence, and irresistible conquest. It was a lion with eagle’s wings. But its aggressions soon flagged, its eagle-wings were plucked, and its career of conquest stopped. By the lessons which God taught its most distinguished king it was lifted up from the crouching attitude of a beast of prey, and made to stand erect as a man, whilst the weaker and gentler heart of a man was given to it. By the experiences to which Nebuchadnezzar was subjected its wild and savage spirit became humanized. Thus every feature of the description answers to the facts recorded concerning this power.
Nor is there any difficulty in tracing the correspondence
between the second beast and the Medo-Persian dominion which conquered
The third beast was therefore the symbol of the next “great” power which succeeded the Medo-Persian, which was none other than the Macedonian empire as extended and established by the conquests of Alexander. The leopard is not one of the noblest or greatest of animals, but belongs more to the lion order than that of the bear. It is of a fierce and cruel nature, noted in the Scriptures for its fleetness, its insidious and watchful lying in wait for its prey, and its very sudden bounding upon the objects of its attacks. But this particular leopard had the further assistance of four wings, greatly intensifying the idea of celerity and quickness. All this is pre-eminently true of the conquests of Alexander. It is written of him that “he was impetuous and fierce in his warlike expeditions as a panther after his prey, and came on his enemies with that speed as if he flew with a double pair of wings.” He began his wars at the age of twenty years, and at thirty-two the world had been subdued to his authority. Nations were his playthings, thrones were his toys. And in a most emphatic and special sense dominion was given to him. With comparatively insignificant means [page 134] he reached the most momentous results. Read his history and you cannot but wonder that such mighty empire should have been acquired as he acquired it. But he did not live to enjoy it or to put it into fixed and settled shape. Nor did he have a regular successor to organize it. It fell to his four principal generals, who ruled and administered it from four different centres, whence this winged leopard is represented with four heads. It was the same dominion, but exercised from four points under four sovereigns ‑ Lysimachus for Thrace and Bithynia, Selencus for Syria and the East, Ptolemy Soter for Egypt, and Cassander for Macedonia - till all was ultimately swallowed up in the conquests of Rome. Though Alexander was not yet born, nor his father before him, when Daniel wrote, we here have an exact foreshowing of him and his dominion.
The fourth beast, however, is the one that most arrested the attention of the prophet, and whose career and end he was most concerned to understand. That it was meant to represent an empire, dominion, or rule in the world, the same as the three other beasts, we are assured by the angel who gave Daniel the interpretation, saying, “These great beasts, which are four, are four kings” - dynasties or empires - and “the fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth.” But though the descriptions in this case would seem to be the most extended, definite, and particular in the whole account, and already measurably determined by the preceding identifications, it is just here that the greatest diversity has arisen among expositors of these visions, and, as I take it, with the least reason for it.
Taking this beast, as explained by the angel, as a particular form of political world-power, several points present themselves which, to my mind, inevitably and certainly fix the identification. First, it is completely successive to the three preceding forms of the great political administrations upon earth. Second, it is a great universal dominion, and no mere section or fragment of coexistent governments. And third, [page 135] it continues, substantially, in one form or another, to the end of time - to the coming of the Son of man as the appointed King and Judge of the world. In other words, it is the only great world-power from the termination of the four-headed Macedonian empire to the end of all mere earthly political rule. Who, then, that but glances at the way the Macedonian dominion ended, and at the political history of mankind from that on to the present, can be at a loss to find the only great imperial dominion or rule answering to this prophetic outline? There is no history of man apart from it. There is no possibility of tracing the general current of human affairs from the fall of the Macedonian empire till now without having it before us as the mightiest, the most conspicuous, the most long-lived, and the most decisively marked of all political powers which ever controlled our world, and thus far exactly filling out the picture which was shown to Daniel more than two dozen centuries ago.
The fourth great dominion upon the earth, that which swallowed
up the empire which Alexander founded, and took its place, and which has
perpetuated its laws and method of rule in all the governments since that time,
is most manifestly and unquestionably the great Roman empire, which rose from
out the agitated sea of the world, and added territory after territory to its
iron sway till it became in reality the government of the whole earth. When we read of the fourth beast, that it was
“diverse from all the beasts that were before it,”
that it had teeth of iron and claws of brass, that it was “dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly,” that
it “devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the
residue with its feet,” - we have a complete summation of what all
history has recorded concerning the Roman dominion. Crushing power was its chief
characteristic. Permanent subjugation
and organization on common principles of law were its distinguishing
attributes, in which it was diverse from all preceding empires. Unlike the great powers before it, it
utilized and brought under every diversity of form for
[page 136] the building up of one eternal
authority and dominion. It did not sweep
over the world like a tornado, ravaging, extorting submission, and receiving
tribute, without moulding things to itself; but it relentlessly consolidated
all its materials into a settled and abiding, order of common law which still
holds its place in living force after the lapse of more than two thousand
years. All the governments on earth are
still essentially Roman, and in their laws and codes
As to the ten horns that grow out of this beast, they may
perhaps be somewhat identifiable in the past by making the peculiar and
blasphemous eleventh horn represent the papacy but the nature of the
presentations will not admit of being confined to what has already
transpired. This beast was not born with
its ten horns, any more than with its eleventh, which came up subsequent to the
ten. They were all developed as the beast fulfilled its historical career. Nor
can it be clearly shown that just so many divisions of the Roman dominion have
occurred, either contemporaneously or successively, in the past. Neither does the papacy with any fulness and
particularity answer to what is said of the eleventh horn. The general type may be the same, but the
details will not all apply, nor any of them in strict accuracy. The eleventh horn is atheistic; the papacy
never has been. The eleventh horn
persecutes and wears out the people of God, who are given into its power for a definite period terminating only with
the beast’s own existence at the great day of judgment; but not the half of
Christendom is within the reach of the pope, nor has the Eastern Church ever
been, whilst his temporal authority has ceased, and with it his power to
persecute; and still the day of judgment has not come. The papacy also came into being before, the disseverance of the
Literally taken, the
blasphemous and persecuting dominion of the last horn continues but three and a
half years; but the papacy has existed more than twelve hundred years, and more
than the twelve hundred and sixty years which some read into “a time, times, and half a time.” So, again, the tenfold partition of the Roman
beast, subsequent to which the blaspheming horn exercises his transient
dominion, is just before the destruction which sweeps away the whole animal for
ever - that is, just before the Lord
comes to judge the world; but the past divisions which men count for these
ten horns have long since disappeared, and no such ten kingdoms can now be
enumerated. Besides, those kingdoms all
belonged to the western half of the
From these and other equally cogent reasons I am compelled to refer this part of the vision to the future, and to take it as a prophecy of the political condition and rule of the world immediately preceding the day of judgment. The great Roman beast must yet somehow put itself forth in just ten kingdoms, covering the whole territory of the ancient empire, if not the whole world; and in the time of these horns there is to come up an eleventh horn, small at first, but growing in might and arrogance, which shall pluck up three of these ten kingdoms by the roots, and enact a scene of blasphemy, of defiance of everything divine, and of persecution and oppression to the people of God such as has never been from the beginning of the world till then. The Scriptures everywhere speak of this power, and also all the Church Fathers from the days of the apostle John onward. They were accustomed to call it the great Antichrist of the last days, who should pervert and lay waste everything in the world, and press his awful domination for three and a half years, [page 138] till suddenly overwhelmed by the revelation of Jesus Christ in the great day of judgment.
Such, then, is the outline of this world’s political history as here foreshown to the prophet while the first of all the great empires was yet standing. As far as time has unfolded the facts we see how true and accurate that foreshowing was, proving to us that it could have come only from Him who knows the end of all things from the beginning, and making it infallibly certain that what else of the vision yet remains will likewise be fulfilled to the very letter. And pre-eminent among these prophetic indications is the great Judgment which is to end man’s dominion and set up in its place the beneficent and everlasting rule of the Prince of Peace. One verse is assigned to each of the first three kingdoms, one verse contains the explanation of them, but all the rest of the vision and explanation is occupied with this great crisis. Very sublime and impressive also is the picture which the prophet beheld.
On earth is the list beastly horn of apostate man’s dominion, full of the intensest intellectual subtlety and acuteness, with the loudest and most arrogant of assumptions. It is a man energized with all the power of the devil, and with his confederate kings defiantly setting himself over against the Almighty, destroying the saints of the Most High and ordaining new worship and laws for the world, whilst everything for an allotted time is given into his hand.
Heaven, however, is not indifferent. The prophet sees the eternal Powers in action - the Throne of God, and the Ancient of Days upon His everlasting seat, surrounded by thousands of thousands of heavenly beings, who delight to do His pleasure and all ready to execute His will. He sees the judgment set, the books opened, the records of man’s deeds and misdeeds laid bare, the just and irrevocable sentence passed and the blasphemous monster given to the devouring fires. It is, the same scene to which Paul refers where he speaks of the fiery destruction of that Wicked One, “whose [page 139] coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness.” 2 Thess. 2: 8-10. It is the same scene which John describes in the account of the battle of the great day of God Almighty, when “the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, and were both cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.” Rev. 19. It is the same scene to which the Psalmist alludes, where he says, “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His Anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” But “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall He speak unto them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure ... He will break them with a rod of iron; He will dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Ps. 2.
For purposes which to us are at present inscrutable, God allows evil to live and operate in our world, and to go forward with its schemes of un-wisdom and infamy to the highest possible culmination of iniquity. But it is not because He is powerless against it, or because He is indifferent to the affairs of men, or because He does not hold evil-doers to the strictest accountability. From the beginning He made known how it would be, what savage monsters would oppress, desolate, and destroy the earth, and into what defiant, blasphemous, and bloody domination the boasted progress of this world should develop, that mankind may see and experience what must come from the throwing off of His beneficent rule, and what horrors are involved in the following of their supposed better wisdom and ideas of liberty. But, at the same time, He has foreshown what estimate he puts upon it, and what awful catastrophes await the enactors and abettors of such wickedness.
Men think to build up the world upon their own philosophies and atheistic fancies and conceits, but when all comes [page 140] to all, it is the instalment of Hell in the dominion of the earth, and the dashing of everything to utter destruction against the invincible sovereignty of indignant Heaven. God can afford to wait and let all be acted out to the full. He is patient because He is eternal. But He is not asleep neither has He abandoned His prerogatives, forgotten His threatenings, or lost His Omnipotence. The account of all is in His books, His abhorrence of the iniquitous trampling of His truth and honour is not abated because it is for the time restrained. His blasting thunders are ready for their work when the appointed time arrives to let them loose. Perdition’s fires are kindled, and the furnace of His consuming wrath is heating hotter and hotter every day against the nearing moment when its devouring flames shall seize the bloody, prey for which they have been clamouring with ever-increasing violence for all these ages. And the great and terrible day of the Lord surely cometh, when His fury shall be poured out like fire, and the wicked shall be as stubble, and the world and all that is therein shall be consumed before Him. (See 2 Pet. 3.)
But the foreshowing is not all disaster. The prophet at the same time saw One like the Son of man - like man, but not a mere man - man, but much more than man - coming in the clouds of heaven, and receiving from the Ancient of Days dominion, glory, and a kingdom, that all nations and languages should serve Him and share with Him in the blessedness of a divine and indestructible sovereignty over the whole earth. What Nebuchadnezzar saw as the Stone cut out of the mountain without hands is here identified to the prophet as the God-man, Christ Jesus, the King of glory and the Captain of salvation, supernally anointed and ordained as the only rightful Lord of the world which He hath ransomed with His blood.
You remember how constantly the Saviour spoke of himself as the Son of man in connection with every work looking to that completion of human redemption. It identifies Him [page 141] as the promised “Seed of the woman” which was to bruise the serpent’s head. It recognizes His human nature and the summing up of humanity in Him as its representative, fulness and completion. It singles Him out as the Head of the race for salvation, as Adam was the Head of the race as to nature and disaster. It presents Him in the character of the King Messiah.
Equally familiar are you with the
evangelic phrases, “kingdom of heaven,” “
The coming of this Son
of man here spoken of was not His coming when he first appeared as the Babe of
There is, then, to be a
future coming of the Son of man which can be nothing short of a literal and
personal apocalypse. Men may
question and cavil and explain, and shrug their shoulders, and spit out ugly
epithets, when we preach to them and forewarn them that this same Jesus who
died, on Calvary and ascended from
Nor is the kingdom here foreshown a mere spiritual and, invisible kingdom, with no outward and tangible reality, and which can as well coexist with the dominion of the beasts as not. According to this vision, it does not come, or [page 143] is only in process of coming, till the beast-kingdoms, to their very last, are utterly swept away and destroyed. It is distinctly presented as coming into their place, and as exercising the same dominion for peace and blessedness which had been for so long perverted to every savage brutality, devil-rule, and destruction. It is specifically said to be the dominion and kingdom over all peoples, nations, and languages – “the kingdom, and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom [or sovereignty] under the whole heaven” - the kingdom which “all dominion shall serve and obey” - the only [Divinely appointed] government which shall then be upon [this] earth.
It must therefore be a literal [millennial] kingdom as truly as those empires which it displaces and supersedes. John had a vision of its final realization, and he heard the great voices in heaven celebrating it as the very government and regency of the world that now is wrested from its perverters, and puts into the hands of our Lord and His Christ, to administer it as His empire for ever and ever. And whosoever conceives or teaches concerning it in any way so as to cut out of it the idea of a literal and real dominion of the [this] earth, such as we may suppose that Adam would now possess and exercise if he had never sinned nor died, as I read God’s word, browbeats some of the plainest texts of Holy Scripture, abridges the ordination and prerogatives of the Son of man, dwarfs and disables the Biblical idea of redemption, and stultifies a great element of the faith and hope of God’s people in all the ages of time and [amongst the angels] in heaven itself.
And in connection with that coming kingdom great and glorious things are also here foreshown as the portion of the saints. Though in humility, depression, disability, and more or less persecution and distress through all the long and weary ages of the beast-rule, “when the wicked are cut off they shall see it.” When the final and eternal kingdom or dominion of the Son of man is once set up they are also to share in all its prerogatives and blessedness; for what in the fourteenth verse is said to be given to the Son of man only, [page 144] in the twenty-seventh verse is said to be “given to the people of the saints of the Most High.”
Jesus is one with his people. They share with Him in all His virtues, works, and honours as their head, Saviour, and representative. They are sons of God through his Sonship, justified and upheld by His righteousness, and [through suffering for righteousness sake,] joint-heirs with Him to all that He inherits and receives as the Son of man. If He has an everlasting status of acceptance and honour with God, His people share it with Him. If He be invested with the rule of “the world [age] to come,” with dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages of the future eternal generations should serve Him, those who have borne the cross with Him, and held fast to the confession of His name amid the apostasies and infidelities of the world that now is, shall in like manner share the “kingdom and dominion and the greatness of the [millennial] kingdom under the whole heaven.”
Our calling is to be kings and co-regents with our glorious
Lord in the eternal principalities. “Do ye not know
that the saints shall judge the world? ... Know ye not that we shall judge angels?” 1
Hath not the Lord Himself declared, “Verily, ye
which have followed me, in the regeneration [the general regenesis of things] when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit
upon twelves thrones, judging the twelve tribes of
Oh, my brethren, the Church does not half understand the [page 145] exceeding great and precious [rewards and] promises which God has given and guaranteed to the true and faithful followers of Jesus though they shine out like purest diamonds in all the utterances and records of His holy prophets. We are not called to serve [and obey] God in vain. We are not asked to stem the tide and endure the hardships of this adverse world without an abundant compensation for all when once the battle is over. Not only eternal life is ours, but [millennial] thrones and crowns and kingdoms, of which all earthly empire [now] is but the poor and perishable shadow. Let us not, therefore, grow weary and faint under the burdens that are now upon us. They will soon be lifted off, and give place to a kingship supernal and without end.
* * * * * * *
THE WORLD‑POWERS AND
THE RAM, HE-GOAT, AND LITTLE HORN.
Daniel 8: 1-27.
Daniel’s Second Vision. - The same Powers Again. - Eannonies. - Three
Different Aspects of Contemplation. - The World-powers with Respect to the
Jewish People. - Change of the Symbols. - Medo-Persia. - Alexander and the Jews
- Division of his Empire. - The Little Horn. - Antiochus Epiphanes. - Duration
of his Afflictions of
WE here come to the consideration of Daniel’s second vision,
which occurred two years subsequent to the one described in the preceding
chapter. The armies of Cyrus were at the
A glance at the particulars in this vision is enough to satisfy us that we here have again to do with some of the same powers brought to view in the preceding chapter as well as in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. And if any should be disposed to think strange of this repeated travelling over the same ground, they need only recur to the existence of four Gospels, all devoted to the one subject of Christ’s earthly life, or turn to the number of times Isaiah describes the Assyrian invasion, or note how repetitive are the prophecies touching the destruction of Babylon, Tyre, Egypt, Moab, and other cities, nations, and powers. It is part of the plan upon which revelation is formed to give “line upon line and precept upon precept,” that everything may be fully brought out and the most deeply impressed. There is a wonderful force in repetition, and particularly in the effective inculcation of important truth. A thing needs to be held before the mind, and looked at again and again, and viewed from varied points of observation, and with regard to different qualities and relations, in order to be thoroughly seen, understood, and impressed upon the soul. We are so constituted, and usually so slow to take in, that one look will not suffice. We must gaze and gaze, and ever come back to look again; and even then we are prone to overlook, and fail to see.
But what, at first glance, we might be disposed to regard as mere repetitions are not such in reality. A return to the same subject, besides serving to emphasize that subject, nearly always develops some new circumstances, or puts it in some new light, attitude, or relation, or connects with it some special purpose, association, duty, threatening, or promise. And when the subject is a prophecy, there is always something connected with the repetition to adapt it to some altered position, end, or intent. For this reason I am always [page 148] suspicious of what are called harmonies, or attempts to combine in one single account what is given by the [Holy] Spirit in separate accounts. People think to strengthen the record by these harmonies, but for the most part they only weaken and mar it. It is like taking a number of photographs of a thing from various points and distances, and then trying to make one picture out of them all by fitting together the several parts of each. It is an absurdity. God never meant it so, and man can never succeed in it. What we need is each picture by itself, from its own standpoint, and with its own individuality. And though we have three several visions covering the same general objects, and each of them deals in part with precisely the same things, it still is impossible to understand them rightly or to get a full impression of them without viewing each by itself entire, and apart from the weaving in of one with the other, as I find attempted by some. Nor is there any difficulty in accounting for the differences of these several visions.
Nebuchadnezzar’s dream gives a general outline of the
political history of the world as viewed by a world-ruler and estimated from
external presentations. Hence the
splendid human figure, by the side of which the
In the two preceding visions we behold the pictures of the
powers of the world as a whole, without regard to any distinction between Jew
and Gentile. It is human dominion in its
broadest view, in the entirety of its history - first as outwardly considered,
and then as spiritually considered, and finally superseded by the
What Nebuchadnezzar saw as the silver breast and arms of the
great image, and what Daniel in the preceding vision beheld under the image of
a clumsy bear, here appears under the figure of a solitary ram, with two
horns. The change of the symbol lies in
the reference of the vision to the Jewish people. Medo-Persia, viewed in relation to
The solitariness of this ram denoted the unity of this
kingdom, while the two horns had reference to the two nations of which it was
made up, and in which its chief power resided.
Media was an independent kingdom long before
Daniel beheld this ram “pushing” - thrusting violently with its head - denoting
military aggressions. These are
specified as being toward the west, toward the north, and toward the south from
Shushan. The east is not mentioned, as
the Persians made no important or lasting conquests in that direction. To the westward, however, they conquered
So, again, what Nebuchadnezzar saw as the brazen abdomen and thighs of the great image, and Daniel beheld in his first vision as the four-winged and four-headed leopard, here appears in the form of a goat. There can be no question that this goat represents the Graeco-Macedonian empire, and its conspicuous horn Alexander the Great. The interpreting angel says, in so many words, “The rough goat is the king (or dominion) of Grecia, and the great horn between his eyes is the first king.” Even the escutcheon of this empire bore this figure. As a world-power in general it had all the savage qualities of a leopard, but in relation to the Jews it was a mild and fostering power rather than a beast of prey, and hence is here symbolized as a goat. Josephus relates that when Alexander was on his Eastern expeditions he came into Palestine with all the pride of a victorious conqueror, and was about to turn his armies loose upon Jerusalem, but that a remarkable dream on his part, and another on the part of the Jewish high priest, served to bring about a friendly conference, which resulted most favourably to the Jewish people.
When the great conqueror met the high
priest and saw upon his golden mitre the great name of Jehovah, he bowed down
before it, and gave the high priest his right hand. Having come into
Accepting the prophecy as referring to
himself - as it really did - he was so pleased and
assured with regard to his plans that he engaged to favour the Jews in anything
they might ask. They therefore prayed
him that they might be permitted to enjoy their own laws and institutes as
established by their fathers, and not be required to pay tribute in sabbatic years. This
he willingly granted, engaging that the same should [page 152] hold for all the Jewish people who
might be found remaining in
The prophet beheld this goat coming from the west, for it was
to the far west from
But in the midst of the greatest power and triumph of this
goat, its great horn was broken - not in battle, as the horns of the ram were
broken, but by the early and unexpected death of Alexander. Giving himself to unbridled excesses over his
victories, he was seized with fever, and died at
Out of one of these four sections of the Macedonian empire the prophet beheld the springing up of “a little horn” - a sprig of one of the four - which waxed great towards the south, the east, and the pleasant or holy land, even to the host of heaven - the hierarchy of the temple - some of whom it cast down and stamped upon, magnifying itself even to the Prince of the host (God himself), abolishing the daily sacrifice, [page 153] wasting the sacred dwelling-place, polluting the temple, setting up a multitude of its own over against the heavenly order, and enacting the most blasphemous and murderous scenes against Jehovah, His truth, and His people.
Expositors in general interpret this of the infamous Antiochus
Epiphanes. Jews and Christians for
nearly seventeen centuries have been taking it in this application, at least in
its germinant and precursive fulfilment. Nor have they done so without reason. Antiochus Epiphanes certainly answers more
fully to the prophetic delineation than any king or power that has yet existed
since Daniel wrote. He came up out of
one of the four divisions of the empire of Alexander, from the stock of Syrian
kings, and toward the latter time of that empire, when it already began to come
under the growing power of
Time would fail me here to present the merest sketch of those
infamous transactions. Suffice it to say
that this vile man conceived the idea of establishing throughout his kingdom,
The time which the angel gave as marking the duration of the treading down of the sanctuary by this horn likewise accords with the history touching Antiochus. The whole vision of the displacement of the daily sacrifice is called “the vision of the evening and the morning”; and when it was asked, “How long shall be the vision?” the answer came, specially confirmed as true, “Unto two thousand and three [page 155] hundred” ‑ not “days,” as our version says, but – “evening (and) morning; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” The allusion is not to the evening and morning making up the day, but to the sacrifice interrupted, which was offered each morning and each evening; and twenty-three hundred times of these offerings was to be the measure of the interruption, each evening being counted as one, and each morning as one. This would make the angel’s answer cover eleven hundred and fifty days, or three years and a portion of a year. And so, according to the records in the Book of Maceabees, it was just three years from the day that the first idolatrous sacrifice was made upon the altar of God under Antiochus until the first regular offerings were again restored; whilst the king’s letters forbidding the regular sacrifices were proclaimed in Jerusalem several months before the sacrifice to Jupiter on Jehovah’s altar. Or, if we take the twenty-three hundred “evening and morning” as so many “days” - that is, a little more than six years - we again have the length of the time from the first denudation of the temple by Antiochus to the righting of it again under the Maccabean heroes.
The miserable end of this proud and bloody blasphemer also
answers well to the end assigned to this little horn. The angel said, “He
shall be broken without hand,” indicating his destruction by some supernatural
power; and after this sort was the end of Antiochus Epiphanes. Marching into
But we are not therefore to conclude that the whole meaning, or even the chief emphasis, of this vision has been exhausted, and is now to be viewed as belonging only to the past. The profound remark of Lord Bacon ever comes up, that “there is a latitude which is agreeable and familiar to divine prophecies, being of the nature of their author, with whom a thousand years are as one day, and therefore they are not fulfilled punctually at once, but have springing germinant accomplishments throughout many ages, though the height or fulness of them may refer to some one age.” And so we may trace a general identification of this little horn in Antiochus Epiphanes, and perhaps also in some other Antichristian powers since his day, whilst “the height or fullness” of the matter may still await fulfilment. History is ever repeating itself, and especially those histories which are singled out for special description and fore announcement in the word of God. And there are accumulated items specifically given in this chapter seemingly on purpose to prevent the conclusion that the vision in its final fulfilment belongs to any period other than that immediately preceding the great day of judgment. [The angel] Gabriel was commissioned to tell Daniel, and to make him understand, that “at the time of the end shall be the vision.” He also distinguishes between a former part and a latter part in the fulfilment, and refers the latter part to the time appointed for the end. He says that the vision extends to a remote period, and is “for many days.” He says that the particular rising up of the king of fierce countenance is to occur “in the latter time” of the great [page 157] world-powers, which are contemplated as in some sort still in being up to the day of judgment. The time for the full realization of the vision is also said to be “when the transgressors are come to the full” - at the final consummation of all rebellion and wickedness - which is everywhere referred to the great judgment-period, when our God shall come and shall not keep silence. The character and doings of this horn likewise correspond with Paul’s man of sin, and with the great beast of the Apocalypse, which are unmistakably in being at the time of the revelation of Jesus Christ to judge the world. Hence, as Luther tells us, “these chapters of Daniel, as all expositors unanimously declare, refer to Antiochus and to the Antichrist of the last times, in which we are now living.” (Wakh, vol. vi. col. 1458.) Christ himself said of the Jews who rejected Him that another should come, not in the name of the Father, but in his own name, and that him they would receive. And it is pre-eminently this devilish pseudo-Saviour of the last evil days of this world, around whom the Christ-rejecting Jews will rally, and in whom all the abomination and devil-rule of the earth will finally head up, whom we are to see in this little horn which waxes so great. When that which now hinders shall be taken out of the way, when the true and waiting people of God have been caught up into the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, then shall be the apocalypse of that Wicked One whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders, with all deceivableness of unrighteousness, captivating all that have not the love of the truth. And nothing short of that last and mighty scourge of the world, whom the Lord will blast and destroy with the glory of His own epiphany, will satisfy the portraiture of this infamous horn as given in these visions. Even the Jews of Jerome’s time, as he tells us, still looked upon this prophecy as yet to have a further fulfilment in another king yet to arise and do after the style of Antiochus, in whom the wickedness of earth shall have its final consummation, [page 158] and whose end shall be in the great day of God Almighty. “This,” said Jerome, “is also our understanding concerning the Antichrist whose shadow has thus been projected before.”
In this view of the matter the instruction and warning which come to the Church of our day from the contents and past fulfilments of this chapter are exceedingly important. As Antiochus Epiphanes and his doings and successes met the prophetic description for that time, we may the better see and understand by his history how it will be in the last days. People sometimes wonder who the final Antichrist is, and how he shall come. Christian antiquity, with one voice, answers: “He is Antiochus Epiphanes reproduced, in larger proportions and intensified energy, immediately before the great day of God Almighty.” And by observing after what manner and for what reasons the calamitous inflictions of that Graeco-Syrian king fell upon the Jews of old, we may see and know how the final Antichrist will come.
Certainly, the miseries which
proceeded from Antiochus came not alone of his wickedness and power. The source and seat of all were in the
apostasies and sins of the Jewish people themselves, and particularly of their
priests and rulers. Too easily were they
beguiled and won over by the smooth flatteries and soft speeches of this
deceiver. Too readily were they moved by
his gracious professions and profuse liberality. And then they, in their turn, sought honour,
popularity, and preferment from him by base concessions, compromises, and
bribes. One of the main features of the evil case was their secularization of
To little purpose also do we read the Book of Daniel not to find in all this a most solemn warning to the Church of our times, and for all the days yet to come, to beware of the fascinating flatteries and secularizing expedients and compliances which, in the self-idolizing spirit of spurious charity, specious liberality and heartless scepticism, would tempt her to forget her divine origin and heavenly destiny. There is a spirit abroad which would have the Church rescind her sacred charter, cancel her authentic commission, and assimilate herself to a mere political or conventional institution. Men call it a liberalizing spirit, a spirit of improvement, which would change our Christian schools and colleges into mere secular gymnasiums and scientific museums or artistic studios and literary athenaeums; but it is a spirit which is prone to treat the Holy Scriptures as mere human lucubrations of worthy men before the ages of better light, rationalize away all the definite doctrines of the authorized creed into mere scholastic or philosophical theorems, dissolve the sacraments into picturesque symbolisms and visionary shadows without life or power, and dismantle the ministry and services of the Church as if they never had a solid right to be regarded as the appointment of very God for conveying and imparting to lost man the regenerating, sanctifying, and only restorative gifts of Jehovah’s grace. It is the spirit of Antichrist. And more and more will this spirit strengthen till it has effectually done its work. Paul specifically tells us that in the latter days men will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts shall heap to themselves teachers who will minister to these alienated fancies. Creed, catechisms, and all distinctive formularies of faith, as well as all proper claims of church [page 161] and sacraments, they will proscribe and trample under foot. Many whose sworn business it is to defend these things at all costs will be the leaders in betraying them. More and more will men throw off the restraints of true piety and religion, and become lovers of their own selves, boasters, proud, blasphemers, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. Jesus himself says, “When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?” And thus, by the sins, compromises, apostasies, and general heathenizing and secularizing of sacred things on the part of the guardians of the faith, the final and full-blown Antiochus shall come as the just judgment of the Lord Almighty upon those who thus paved his way and threw open the doors. (See Wordsworth's Preface to Daniel.)
Oh, my friends, many of the so-called churches and the leaders of the prevailing religious sentiment of our day are sowing for a harvest of miseries of which they but little dream. By the light of holy prophecy, and by the necessities that hold between causes and their effects, I see it coming on all sides like an overwhelming flood. By the emptiness of faith and life, which persist in covering themselves with the holy name of Christianity and religion, myriads who would be honest with themselves are stumbling and falling, and filling up the ranks of downright infidelity and atheism; and by the promises of peace and universal brotherhood on the lips of those who think they are leading the vanguard of the Lord’s host, myriads on myriads more are being deceived and betrayed to bitter disappointments and helpless miseries in this world, if not to eternal discomfiture in the world to come. In how many instances do we find the very high priests of God’s temple sacrificing its holiest treasures to win the favours of the treacherous and insatiable horn of the world’s power, selling themselves and their most sacred trusts for the emoluments of the great destroyer! In how many [page 162] instances do we find them cajoled into the taking of his side and the espousing of his cause over against the Miattathiases and Eleazars and Maccabaeuses who would recall the bewitched multitude to their proper senses and rally them around the old and everlasting standards! And how can it be otherwise but that the devil-inspired world which they have courted, and to which they thus give over the heritage of God, shall eventually assert and enforce its right to command, even to the seating of itself in the temple of God, the magnifying of itself over all gods, and the dictation of infamies for its own worship as the only God, under whom no true saints can live except as they remain secreted in the desolate mountains and wildernesses of the earth, till the Lord’s indignation is satisfied, iniquity is perfected, and the day of God Almighty breaks in with its riving thunders!
Daniel, you will observe, was greatly affected by these visions and the explanations made of them; as he well might be. He fainted, and was sick for days. Some take this as a sort of special visitation upon the prophet, that he might not be unduly exalted through the abundance of his revelations; but there is no ground whatever for such a thought. It was an unprecedented scene of calamity to his people, his country, and his religion that he thus beheld; and this it was that affected him. It was not God’s interference to keep him humble, but the exhibit of the terrible things to happen to what was dearest to his heart. It was his cogitations that troubled him, changed his countenance, and prostrated his energies. From this Bishop Newton draws what he considers “a conclusive argument that the calamities under Antiochus could not possibly be the main end and ultimate scope of this prophecy.” It likewise serves to show how wide is the difference between the way in which the holy men of old regarded sacred prophecy and the manner in which it is treated by the great mass of professed believers in our day. Nothing so interested the prophets as the foreshowing things to come. Peter tells us that they “enquired and [page 163] searched diligently, searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” Daniel’s whole soul was almost drawn out of him by the intensity of his interest, study, fasting, and prayers with regard to what was here foreshown. But what is the temper of our modern theologians on the subject? The common idea is that a man is a little beside himself, and departs from proper soberness, if he ventures to give any serious attention to unfulfilled prophecy. Though God has been at the pains to tell us much about what is yet to come, many would warn us away from it as dangerous ground, and tell us that we unwarrantably intrude into the secrets of the Almighty if we undertake to read it or entertain any definite expectations with regard to it. The popular doctrine is that prophecy is not meant to be understood until after it is fulfilled - that to found any faith upon it is fanaticism - that none but crazed brains ever bother themselves about it one way or another. According to these sober people, the prophets were the silliest of men to concern themselves about what they were commissioned to foretell, and Daniel was a particular fool to let his soul be troubled concerning these zoologic visions of things in the distant ages. But this is just the difference between the true and acknowledged servants of God and those who claim to be their brethren, successors, and representatives in our day. By the Fathers whatever the Holy Ghost made known concerning the future was treasured and studied as the most precious of communications, dwelt upon with the most special interest, and heeded as the guiding light of God amid this world’s abounding darkness. But with most of our modern teachers to ignore and avoid what is written about the future is the higher wisdom and the better piety. And if perchance they are pushed into the subject, the sum of their teaching is that it may perhaps mean this, or perhaps that, or perhaps nothing that we can at present decipher. And thus a vast and vitally interesting [page 164] part of God’s revelation is emasculated and practically turned into a useless encumbrance of the sacred pages. Jehovah says, “Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it,” even though it be a vision which is yet for an appointed time unknown to us. But men have become wiser than their Maker, and know better what becomes a sober theologian and a right preacher; and we must shut the Book and close our mouths about it, or consent to be accounted mad! Alas, alas for the reigning religion of our day!
Brethren, if we would be like the holy prophets, and prove ourselves their followers, we must have an eye, an ear, and a heart for their sacred word concerning what must shortly come to pass. Every utterance of the Lord is precious, and especially every word which tells what we are to look for and expect. - And as you value your safety in these ominous and perplexing times, and would be ready for what is about to come upon the earth, beware how you ignore or neglect what God has caused to be written for our learning, lest, being in darkness, the great day should overtake you as a thief!
* * * * * * *
THE SEVENTY WEEKS.
Daniel 9: 1-27.
The Inner Life of the Prophet. - His Devotions Intensified by the
Study of Unfulfilled Prophecy. - His Great Prayer. – God’s Acceptance of it. -
Gabriel sent to make known the Truth. - The Prophecy of the Seventy Sevens. -
Relates exclusively to the Fortunes of Israel. - What those Seventy, Sevens
were to Bring. - Messiah Prince. - Years from the word to Rebuild Jerusalem to
His presentation to
This chapter, more than any other in the Book of Daniel, lays open to us the inner life of the prophet. It shows that he who was so illustrious in his wisdom and public relations was no less noted for his deep spirituality and earnest private devotions, whilst it suggests that the former were largely the result of the latter. True faith and living piety help to make wise and great. Close personal communion with God and habitual leaning upon Him are the source of man’s greatest dignity and grandest successes. Nor could Daniel have been the man that he was, so honoured a premier, so wise a prophet, or so beloved a favourite of heaven, but for his having been so earnest a believer and so devout a suppliant. And if we would learn something of the manner and substance of those prayers which he offered three times a day at his window looking towards Jerusalem, we here have a specimen of them written and put in form by himself, just as it poured forth again and again from his saintly lips. Nor can I but think that if the government officials of our day would learn to indite and use such words as the daily [page 166] outpouring of their deepest hearts, they would learn a patriotism of which, unfortunately, they know too little, though they talk so much, and our political affairs would cease to be the shame and scandal of the country and the mortifying grief of all right-minded citizens which they now are. Certainly, better public servant than Daniel, as tested by three different administrations, and fully admitted even by those who hated him most, never filled an office of state. He was wise, faithful, and absolutely faultless. And the secret source of it was that no engagements of empire, no plots or accusations of men, no subtle attempts to draw him off, could ever serve to keep him from his prayers and duties to his God. And here in this chapter we are enabled to come near that open window and to listen to the very words of his intensest prayers. A writer on the subject has said, “I know not that there is in the Bible a sublimer litany than that which is contained in this chapter, or clauses more appropriate as channels of a Christian’s prayers than these earnest, beautiful, yet simple petitions.” Happy they who are kindled by the same spirit to a like unction!
It is worth observing, too, by what exercises and circumstances this particular intensity of devotion and pious earnestness was inflamed and fed. It appears from the first verses that Daniel was a student of prophecy, of unfulfilled prophecy, and especially of the numbers and dates contained in the sacred predictions. It seems that he was very anxious to find out about “the times and the seasons” to which the prophetic word had alluded, and wished to decipher all about the days and the years in which God’s foreshowings were to be accomplished. Many consider such studies and anxieties the most barren and dangerous to which we can give ourselves. It is a common idea that we are not only not called upon, but not even authorized, to pry into unfulfilled prophecies, and especially unfulfilled prophetic dates. The assertions are even put forth in the name of Christianity that it is damaging to true piety and destructive of all right Christian [page 167] activity and devotion to examine and talk about such things. But the holy Daniel was of a different mind and spirit. He studied the writings of the prophets. He searched into what was foretold to come to pass, and particularly “the number of the years whereof the word of the Lord” had spoken. But, so far from working harm to his piety, or of unfitting him for the practical duties of life, he here writes it down as the special source and spring of the intensest of all his devout activities - the very thing which aroused him to the sublimest exhibition of living soul-religion - which in no manner unfitted him for due attention to “the king's business.” There is indeed much reason to suspect that one of the real causes of the superficiality and leanness of modern piety is that the professed people of God no longer understand or believe what the prophets have written, and refuse to study or hear about things to come as God has revealed them for our learning. Let them study what Daniel studied, and learn the whole plan of the divine administrations as Jehovah has sketched it to us in His word, and we shall soon see and realize more of Daniel’s spirit, wisdom, and unction. He caught it largely from books of unfulfilled prophecies, and we must go to the same source, and in the same way, if we would be really toned up to that sublimity of earnestness and hold - taking on God which this chapter records. The more definite our apprehensions of what God has foretold, and the more sure we are of the certain fulfilment of the same, the more contrite, importunate, and confident will be our supplications that He may make haste and accomplish all His blessed purpose.
There is abundant material in this prayer of Daniel on which to dwell with interest and profit. The manner of it was deliberate, reverent, humble, and self-chastening. He did not rush into the matter as the unthinking horse into the battle. He set his face unto the Lord, pre-arranged the subject, substance and form of his supplications, and fasted in sackcloth and ashes, that he might fittingly come before that God under whose chastisements he and his countrymen [page 168] were then suffering for their sins. And thus we need to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God.
The character and attributes which this piece of devotion ascribes to Deity are also very impressive and sublime. The grandeur and awfulness of Eternal Majesty are blended with unsearchable goodness and faithfulness, presenting to our contemplation “the great and dreadful God, keeping covenant and mercy to them that love Him and keep His commandments,” whose almighty hand is in all the administrations on earth and in heaven, and all whose ways are righteousness and truth.
The same is vastly occupied with confession of sin as the
The great subject of this prayer was not simply that affliction might be removed, but that the house and ordinances of God might be restored and a true spiritual recovery wrought; for it avails but little to be released from particular punishments of sin if the inner cause of them be not healed.
So the plea upon which this prayer rests is the truest and only availing one - not any merit of man, not any right or claim on the sinner’s part, but alone and entirely the mercy of God and the honour of His great name.
And there is also a pathos and importunity the most intense running through and through it. What an outpouring [page 169] of all the feelings and energies of the prophet’s being are in that Kyrie Eleison with which he concludes! ‑
O Lord, hear!
O Lord, forgive!
O Lord, hearken and do!
Defer not, for Thine own sake, O my God;
“For Thy city and Thy people are called by Thy Name.” Such praying, confession, and supplication could not fail to reach the gracious ear of an ever-merciful Jehovah. And while the prophet was yet speaking the angel Gabriel was sent on quick commission to assure Daniel that his devotions were accepted, and at the same time to disclose to him a full outline of all that was to come to his people in all the ages of time. And it is to this prophecy, the fullest, the most precious and the most important in all this series, that I now invite your particular attention.
That it is difficult the history of opinions concerning it abundantly shows. That it is of the most momentous import, and intensest worth all agree. Nor can I help but think that most of the trouble in understanding it has originated not so much from the prophecy itself as from the inadequate, one-sided, or falsely-emphasized systems or pre-occupations which expositors have brought to it, and to which they have thought it must needs be made to conform. Volumes on volumes of the profoundest learning and minutest criticism have men devoted to it, and yet to this day the great body of the Christian world is still at sea with regard to a complete, straightforward, and exhaustive understanding of what Gabriel was so specially commissioned of God to make understood. Perhaps if we were particular to hear Gabriel more, and the cumbrous disquisitions and rationalizing opinions of men less, we might come to a better apprehension of what was thus made known to Daniel. What, then, is to be ascertained from the divine revelation touching the so-called “seventy weeks”?
1. The first remark I have to make is,
that they are not [page 170] weeks
at all, in the ordinary acceptation of that word. A “week,” as
we speak, is a period consisting of seven days, but Gabriel says nothing about days. What he speaks of is a period of seventy
sevens, without saying whether they are sevens of days or years or
thousands of years. But when we turn
back to the beginning of the chapter and note what Daniel had been
investigating, and observe to what this communication was to a degree the
divine answer, we see exactly to what these sevens refer. The prophet had been studying the
pre-intimations of the limit of the Babylonian captivity. From the sacred writings, as he tells us, he
had ascertained “the number of the years,” and that “the Lord would accomplish in the desolations of
2. These sevens of years are given in three distinct sections - the first a multiple of seven by seven; the second a multiple of seven by sixty-two; and the third a single seven, making a series consisting severally of forty-nine years, four hundred and thirty-four years, and seven years - in all ten times seven sevens of years, covering the entire period to which [page 171] the accomplishment of all that is contained in this prophecy, from first to last, is embraced. Whether these sections of time are immediately continuous in each instance, so that where one ends the other promptly begins, is not specifically determined, and remains to be ascertained by other elements of the prediction. The first and second sections, the forty-nine years and the four hundred and thirty-four years, appear to be unmistakably continuous, as they together are meant to mark one specific and most important date. But this does not seem to be the case with the third section, as things are spoken of as occurring “after” the expiration of the four hundred and eighty-three years, which, in their nature, cannot be embraced in the final seven, but introduce what would seem to be a long hiatus, or intercalary period, between the second and third sections, the measure of which is not given, for reasons quite explainable from the subject and nature of the revelation itself.
3. What is to be accomplished in these
seventy sevens of years, as thus parcelled out by the angel, relates
exclusively to the fortunes of
4. A general
summary of what these seventy sevens are to see accomplished is the first thing
explained by the angel, verse 24. If we ask for what these periods are thus
divided out, we here get the answer: (1)
finish it, bring it to its final stopping-point, after which there will be no
more of it. (2) “To make
an end of sins” seal them up, shut them
in prison, so as never to break fourth again.
(3) “To cover iniquity” - expiate it by adequate
satisfaction, blot it out, hide it for ever.
(4) “To bring in everlasting righteousness”
- put man in normal relations with God, set human life into thorough accord
with Jehovah’s will and law, induce a condition of moral rectitude, which
thenceforward shall never again be interrupted, but endure for all the
ages. (5) “To seal
vision and prophet”- authenticate and vindicate by fulfilment,
make good and finish out in fact and deed, all that God hath spoken by the mouth
of all His holy prophets since the world began.
(6) “To anoint” - consecrate, put into place and egectiveness
– “a holimss of holinesses,” which is the literal sense of the words
in this last clause. It has been
applied to the baptism or [page
173] christening of Jesus, to the rededication of the temple, and
to various other things, one as impossible as the other if the actual wording
and connection is adequately observed.
It can refer to nothing less than the completed outcome of the
redemptive administrations as a whole - the ultimate result and crown of grace
and providence, of which all the prophets speak. Zechariah sings of this “holiness
of holinesses” where he says, “In that day there shall be upon the bells
[or bridles] of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD; and the pots in the Lord's house shall be
like the bowls before the altar; yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judea shall
be holiness unto the Lord of hosts.” Zech.
14: 20, 21; also Isaiah 11: 4‑9. It is not the consecration of a person, an
altar, or a house, but the consecration of the whole nation and of everything
pertaining to them. Everything promised,
prophesied, or ever to be hoped for
5. Having given this sketch of final results, the angel proceeded to explain the particular periods and events as included and distributed in the various sections of these seventy sevens.
The great section, and that first announced, is the sixty-two sevens added on to seven sevens, or four hundred and eighty-three years, the reach of which was to be to Messiah Prince. As Christians, with the New Testament in our hands we can have no difficulty in determining who is to be understood by this Messiah Prince. It is here for the first time in the Bible that we find the word Messiah put thus absolutely. It was applied to Cyrus in Isaiah to designate him as a chosen instrument of God for the deliverance of His people from their long captivity, but only in so far as he was a type of that greater Deliverer promised from the beginning and looked for by believers of every age. At the [page 174] time Jesus appeared in our world the Israelitish people everywhere they were speaking of that coming Deliverer as Messias or Messiah, meaning He who should come as the anointed and sent of God to accomplish eternal redemption in Israel. (See John 4: 25, 41 ; Matt. 2: 4 ; Luke 2: 26; 3: 15; John 1: 20 ; 3: 28; 7: 26; 10: 24.) And to that promised and expected Redeemer the reference here must needs be. That the promised Messiah was to be a King, a Ruler, one administering with royal authority and in regal office, was also implied, if not expressed, in all the predictions concerning Him. After the establishment of the Hebrew monarchy He was continually referred to as the Prince of the house of David. Hence He is here designated as Messiah PRINCE, and hence the New Testament everywhere ascribes kingship to Jesus of Nazareth as belonging to His Messiah-ship. And to Jesus as Messiah King these four hundred and eighty-three years were to reach.
To what point in the life of Christ, then, does the angel
refer? Some say to His birth; but Jesus
was not then presented to the Jewish nation as their Prince or King, though
called “king of the Jews” by the Magi. Some say the reference is to His baptism or
His anointing by the Holy Ghost immediately after His baptism, or both; but not
a word was then said to the people about His being King, but only of His being
the Son and Prophet of God, to whom they should give audience. And for more than three years of His ministry,
in all His authoritative teaching and miraculous healing, He did not once make
the slightest pretensions to being a king. On the contrary, when the
people would willingly have crowned Him, and insisted on making Him their king,
He peremptorily refused to take any such place, honour, or title. But the time came when He did make profession
and claim to be the rightful King of the Jews, and so presented himself to the
Jewish nation at one of the greatest of their national festivals at
If, now, we can find the commencing-point equally answering to the angel’s description, we will have at once ample demonstration of the truth and inspiration of the Book of Daniel and of the Messiahship of Jesus of Nazareth. Let us see, then, whether we can identify such a point. [page 176]
The communicating angel is very distinct and definite. He tells of a command, commission, or edict “to restore and to build Jerusalerm,”
from the going forth of which on to Messiah Prince were to be four hundred and
eighty-three years. Legitimately taken,
this could be none other than a command or commission from some one or other of
the Medo-Persian kings under whom the Jews were restored. Three several such commissions with reference
to the return of the Jews also appear upon the sacred record - one from Cyrus,
to rebuild the temple (given in Ezra 1.);
one from Artaxerxes, in the seventh year of his reign, to Ezra, to reorganize
the Jewish economy and worship (given in Ezra 7.),
and one from the same Artaxerxes in the twentieth year of his reign, to
Nehemiah (given in Nehemiah 2.). Of these only the last-named was strictly for
rebuilding of the city. The first related to the temple only; the
second related to the temple polity only; but this last related particularly to
city, its streets, walls, and
defences, as a residence and hold for the Jewish people and state. Of the three, the last was politically by far
the most important. It is that which
gave the Jews a place and standing again of their own, and hence, above all others,
would be the natural date of
Now, as near as the ablest chronologists can come to
certainty, our Saviour was born somewhere about four years earlier than our
common era makes it. This places
Christ’s entry into
6. The angel then adds some further and
most vital particulars following the termination of these threescore and two
sevens, but without touching at all the final seven. Though Christ as Messiah Prince came to the
Jewish people, they disallowed His claims, rejected Him, condemned Him, and had
Him crucified. “He
came unto His own, but His own received Him not.” And so the angel said, “After the threescore and two sevens, Messiah shall be cut off” - not in the middle of the last seven,
as so many say, but simply “after” the
termination of the sixty-two sevens, with no allusion to the last seven. How long “after”
was not said, but all agree that the cutting off is contemplated as close upon
the completion of the four hundred and eighty-three years and Messiah’s
presentation of himself as the Prince.
It occurred, in fact, within the next six days succeeding. And this cutting off of Christ was of the
widest, deepest, and intensest description.
The elders of
There has been an endless amount of learned criticism to determine the grammatical construction of the little phrase added by the angel, which our English translators, as all agree, have improperly rendered, “but not for himself.” And [page 179] in that little phrase is really the turning-point in the angel’s prediction, from which its only right interpretation subsequent to the cutting off of Messiah flows. But whilst no two critics precisely agree as to the grammar of the terse [i.e., that which is expressed here in so few words] but very significant little words of the original, orthodox expositors are well enough at one on the general sense to be taken from them. True as the doctrine of Christ’s vicarious sufferings is, all hands concede that it is not to be maintained from this passage. The reference is not at all to the character of Messiah’s death, but to the result of His rejection and cutting off upon the relations and consequent fortunes of the Jewish nation. In whatever particular phraseology we translate, the inner meaning is that the cutting off of Messiah by those to whom He came as their King was the cutting themselves off from the preferments and guardianship which would have been theirs had they accepted Him as their King. As a nation they rejected their Messiah Prince, and in that they chose and accepted rejection by Him as His nation. Killing their King, they ceased to be that King’s people, and precipitated themselves to the same level with the Gentiles, burdened with the additional guilt and stain of having killed their own Messiah. Thus the angel said, “After the three score and two sevens Messiah shall be cut off, and it is not to Him” - the nation so cutting Him off being no longer the nation to Him in that sense in which He was and proposed to be their Messiah Prince. In other words, the angel here told Daniel that immediately after the end of a given term of years his people would reject their Messiah Prince, and cause Him to be slain, and that by consequence they would cease to be that Messiah’s people, and out themselves of from being a nation to Him whom, by their cutting of Him off, they had made Him to be no king to them. And we are all the more sure that this is the angel’s meaning from what he further adds concerning the spoliation and destruction to befall the Jewish nation as the consequence of their cutting off of their proper Prince. As God’s chosen people they thus forfeited [page 180] all their superior privileges; and so the angel said that their city and temple should be destroyed, that dreadful invasion and desolation should overflow and overwhelm them, that their punishment should last till within seven years of “the consummation,” or great day of judgment, and that even then the latter half of those final seven years should bring a re-enactment upon them of the scenes which their fathers experienced under Titus and Vespasian.
How accurately all this has been fulfilled up to this present
7. But with all
this following the termination of the threescore and two sevens and the cutting
off of Messiah, there, still remains a final section of the seventy to which
nothing thus far has been referred. The
angel therefore proceeds (verse 27) to tell
us concerning that last seven. You will
notice that he makes it terminate at “the consummation,” when the great Desolater receives his
doom. This cannot be anything short of
the final close of this present world [evil age], the great day of judgment, which issues in “the restitution of all things.” These last seven years must therefore be
counted backward from that notable time, as the others are counted, forward
from the going forth of the command to rebuild
It is thus included in the very texture of this foreshowing of
the angel that the Jewish people will be
largely re-gathered again from their present dispersion to their ancient land,
with their temple rebuilt and their worship restored. It is said of this prince of the destroyers
that “in the midst of the seven he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease,”
that for the remaining half he will perpetrate the most infamous profanities
and blasphemies, and set up “the abomination of
desolation,” which the Saviour speaks of in Matt.
24., as “in the holy place.” All this presupposes some re-gathering of
Such, in brief, are the contents of this most important
chapter. About the last of the seventy
years of the Babylonian servitude Daniel was engaged in the study of the sacred
prophecies concerning events to come.
Through these investigations he was brought to the conclusion that the
After this sore experience, indefinitely lengthened out, another count of a single and isolated seven is named as [page 180] apportioned in the divine counsels upon the prophet’s people and their city, the termination of which is specifically located at “the consummation” and the great judgment upon the prince of the destroyers. For the first half of these last seven years the prophet’s people are to be under the protectorate of “the prince that shall come,” the final Antichrist, who will deceive and betray them, turn into a cruel oppressor, interdict the worship he had helped them to re-establish and covenanted to protect, set up an idol of his own in the temple of Jehovah, and bring about a series of abominations, hardships, and desolating impieties, as if hell itself had been let loose upon the world.
But his career of wickedness will be short. Three and a half years is the limit of it. And then is “the consummation,” when all that has been fore-determined shall be executed on the terrible Desolater. And with his destruction is the accomplishment of the seventy sevens, when transgression shall be ended, sin finally shut up, all former iniquity buried, an everlasting righteousness brought in, all sacred vision and prophecy vindicated and fulfilled, and a holiness of holinesses installed.
Great, awful, transcendent revelation! What a light it throws over all the ages of time. How true to the minutest particular in what of the period spanned has already passed. How sublime and overwhelming the demonstration it gives of the reality of inspiration, of the goodness and severity of God, of the Messiahship of Jesus, of the guilt of rejecting Him, and of the infallible certainty of Jehovah’s word!
And why, then, will men persist in disbelieving the truth and divinity of books that come to us with such manifest authentications?
And why, again, will men continue to disown and reject Jesus
Christ, in whom the sacred prophecies have been so astoundingly fulfilled, and
the sad consequences of rejecting whom confront us every day in every Jew we
meet and in every glance we cast upon Judea and
And why will men be so blinded and slow to believe all that is written as to persevere in discrediting the things foretold of the future, though they stand written with equal plainness in the very same records and revelations so much of which has already been realized to the very letter?
* * * * * * *
THE PICTURE FILLED IN;
THE VISION BY THE HIDDEKEL.
Daniel 10: 1-21; 11: 1-35.
The Greek Version of this Book. - Questions concerning portions of
Chapters 10. - Attempts to Expurgate the Sacred Books. - No Vital Points
Involved in omitting the Disputed Paragraphs in these Chapters. – Daniel’s
Great Fast. - The Vision which Followed it. - The Prophet’s Suffering
from the Vision. - The Costs of Divine Revelations. - Offices and Doings of the
Angels. - Conflicts with Spiritual Powers. - Succession of Rings in
The part of the Book of Daniel on which we now enter embraces what rationalists and sceptics have most objected to, as arguing its non-genuineness. But if we were even to allow that certain portions of these two chapters have marks of a more recent origin than the time of Daniel, it does not therefore follow that the great body of the Book is not what it professes to be.
It is generally known that this Book, in the Greek version, once contained much which has long since been set aside by critics and the Church as not all a part of it. The beginning once contained the Apocryphal History of Susannah and the Elders; the third chapter once contained the Apocryphal Song of the Three Hebrew Children in the fiery furnace; and at the end once stood the Apocryphal story of Bel and the Dragon. On very good grounds these things have been thrown out, as not belonging to the genuine ancient Book of [page 186] Daniel. And it may be, as some orthodox and believing critics think, that even the present Hebrew text, particularly in the chapters now before us, embraces some things which possibly were not written by Daniel.
The questions have been asked - Why is it that the Book is so
profuse, detailed, and repetitions in its descriptions of the times of the
Greek empire in
The particular passages falling under this suspicion are chapter 10: 1, 15-21, and chapter 11: 1, 5-35. By omitting these passages it is claimed that we have the pure, original Book of Daniel, not only freed from many objections raised by infidelity against its genuineness, but in clear, connected, and thoroughly self-consistent form. And as there is really nothing of doctrinal importance in these particular paragraphs, and their omission in no wise maims the clearness, sublimity, and worth of these prophecies in general, as received by the Church, it is held that there is no occasion for any one to be the least disturbed in case these particular items should be shown to have come from some other hand than that of the illustrious sage and courtier of Babylon and Medo-Persia. [page 187]
verse of chapter 10. certainly bears
the appearances of being the remark of some commentator. It cannot be denied that the matter, style,
and form of it answer to those of a man writing down his own opinion of
Daniel’s vision. It reads precisely like
the uninspired headings to the chapters in our English Bibles, whilst what
follows reads quite differently. It is
not according to the way in which Daniel elsewhere expresses himself, and seems
to be at variance with other statements of the Book. It extends Daniel’s life to “the third year of Cyrus,” whereas the conclusion of
the first chapter speaks of him as continuing only “unto
the first year.” It says that
Daniel “understood the thing, and had understanding of
the vision,” whereas Daniel himself, at the end of it (chapter 12: 8), remarks, “I
heard, but I understood not.” It says, “the
thing was true,” seemingly meaning that events had turned out as
foretold, just as the later Jews would say in remarking upon the prophecy,
inasmuch as they believed it fulfilled in the times and doings of Antiochus
Epiphanes; but Daniel could not so speak of his predictions, since he did not
live to see them fulfilled; and he does not elsewhere use such language, though
the angel repeatedly said that he came to show him the truth. By locating this vision in the reign of
Cyrus, it also introduces some question in identifying the four succeeding
So, again, the section from verse 15 to the end of the chapter, inclusive of verse 1 of chap. 11. is thought to be a continuation of this alleged comment. The prophetic manner is adopted, but that was common with the later Jews when they wished to give weight and sacredness to their discourse, whilst the statements furnish a series of particulars singularly flat in character as well as somewhat peculiar in contents. Whether from Daniel, or not, it is largely a paraphrastic repetition of what was said elsewhere. It also introduces a style of colloquy found only here.
The section contained in verses 5-35 of chap. 11. has been, from the time of Porphyry, the great stumbling-block with regard to this wonderful Book. It has about it the marks of an inferior style of composition not in harmony with the rest of this magnificent production. In despite of its minuteness, it is also very barren of prophetic matter not otherwise and more consistently embraced in chapters 7. and 8., along with chapter 12. It is sadly jejune and unedifying in comparison with the undisputed Danielic prophecies, in that it deals with the affairs and doings of a few petty kings, queens, and insurrections, which for the most part have very little connection with the grand current either of history or prophecy. That it refers to the Ptolemies and the Seleucidae, particularly to the Seleucid despot, Antiochus Epiphanes, there can be no doubt; but the appearances are as if written by some one applying the prophecies after the events, and as, if meant to be nothing more than a paraphrastico-prophetic application of the true Danielic predictions. Such is a fair statement of the facts and arguments in the case. [page 189]
For my own part, I have very little sympathy with that spirit which is for ever at work to revise, correct, and expurgate the text of what the Church has for so many, many ages received and treated as part of her most sacred Books. I believe that much that is done in this line is presumptuous, uncalled-for, and in the highest degree irreverent. In most instances it is in the interest of some false doctrine, the sceptical pride and selfishness of the human heart seeking to make God’s word square with the philosophies and notions of depraved human thinking. Biblical criticism has its place, and needs to be diligently cultivated. It may also now and then serve to set the Church right on some particulars evidently different from what many may have rested in as settled. Nor should we ever fail to be concerned to have a pure text in those Books which we hold so sacred and correct readings of that text. We cannot be safe in matters of our faith without it. But the danger is rather not to receive too much, but to receive too little, and to quibble and tinker where there is no real occasion for it. This super-exaltation of what men call “the critical sense” ‑ the claim of a sort of intuitive perception of what is Bible and what is not which would rule out or rule in at its own sovereign pleasure, as if it could not be mistaken - is not what we need for these days of unfaith. It is only properly dealt with when rebuked and resisted as impious and absurd.
A few years ago there was a short poem found on a blank leaf
of an early copy of the works of John
Milton in the
In the case before us but little difference would be made in the actual contents of these wonderful revelations whether we accept or omit the particular sections to which reference has been made. The only questions really dependent on the [page 191] decision one way or the other are: (1) Whether Daniel lived to the third year of Cyrus, or only to the first year; (2) whether this vision by the Hiddekel was at the termination of the season of penitential devotion referred to in chapter 9: 3, 4, or at the termination of another such a period about four years later; (3) whether the Magian seven-months’ usurper, the pseudo-Smerdis, is to be rated in the prophetic list of Persian kings or not; and (4) whether all the minute details touching the period of the Maceabees, or only the main outlines, were included in the original Danielic predictions. But for the possibility of letting go what, after all, may be a genuine part of the Book of “Daniel the Prophet,” and for the ill use that might be made of such a precedent, it would not involve much either way to allow that there has here been some taking into the text of what was not in it as it came from Daniel’s pen. Whether we omit or retain the sections designated, the sublimer contents and entire substance of this Book remain untouched.
The prophet here tells of a long and devout season of fasting and prayer to which he had given himself. He informs us that it lasted “three full weeks;” that “in those days” he ate no pleasant bread, neither did flesh or wine come into his mouth, nor did he at all anoint himself as at other times; and that at the end of these three weeks, in the twenty-fourth day of the first month, he was by the side of the great river Hiddekel, now known as the Tigris. Whether he had removed his residence from the court to this place, or whether he had selected it only as a quiet retreat for these special devotions, cannot be fully determined from the record. The probabilities are that he came hither for the great penitential observances of which he speaks. At least, he was by the side of the great river, far away from the scenes of court-life, when the three weeks of his devout fastings terminated.
Lifting up his eyes, he was greeted with an overpowering [page 192] vision. Before him stood a being in man’s form, clothed in linen and girded with gold. His body was like the beryl - like the bluish-green, prismatic light. His face was as the appearance of lightning, insufferably bright. His eyes were as burning flame. His arms and feet were like burnished brass, and the voice of his words had the volume and majesty of the shoutings of a multitude. The description answers so fully to the appearance of the Saviour to John in the first vision of the Apocalypse that many think it was the Son of God himself who here manifested himself to the prophet. It also resembles the apparition of Christ to Saul of Tarsus, in that only Daniel saw the vision, while others about him did not see it, though filled with dread and terror on account of it, so that they fled and hid themselves, leaving the prophet entirely alone. Weak as he was from his long fast, and anticipating nothing of the sort, Daniel was completely overwhelmed by the suddenness and transcendent glory of the vision. There remained no more strength in him. All the excellences of his personal appearance collapsed, and he sank into a state next thing to death.
This shows how merciful it is in God to veil over the spiritual world from our fleshly sight. Were He to lift that veil, it would be impossible for flesh and blood to sustain itself under the “weight of glory.” The presence of this apparition threw Daniel into the condition almost that of one dead. He heard the words of the glorious Being before him, but he was in a swoon, “in a deep sleep,” lying with his face to the ground. Nor could he rise till touched by the strengthening hand of the heavenly visitor and told to stand upright. And even when he regained his feet, he shook with dread and “stood trembling.” We sometimes wish that we could have some of the experiences of the prophets in seeing the visions they saw and recorded, but it is because we fail to note through what sufferings of soul and body these revelations have come out through them. We think of the glory of what they saw and heard and felt, but [page 193] overlook the terrific jarrings of all the framework of their earthly nature which were the price of these revelations. It is a mercy that we may profit by them without the dreadful experiences which attended the giving of them. Think how Moses did “fear and quake;” how Jacob at Bethel was thrilled and terrified at the realization of what had occurred to him there; how Isaiah was unmanned and made to cry out as one about to sink into annihilation at the glory he describes; how Paul was blinded, sickened, and disabled by Christ’s appearance unto him; how John fell down as dead at the voice and apparition which greeted him at the beginning of the Apocalypse; and through what dreadful horrors and disturbances of body, soul, and spirit these wonders and revelations were vouchsafed through these sublimely-favoured men! Daniel would perhaps have ceased to live to tell us of this vision had not a heavenly hand revived and strengthened him against the overwhelming terribleness of what he beheld. And rather than envy these singularly favoured men, we should be moved to thank God that he has given us the full benefit of these marvellous disclosures without having to experience the awfulness which, the giving of them wrought in those through whom they came.
The object of this vision was to reveal to Daniel a still fuller account of the fortunes of his people “in the latter days;” that is, in the mysterious future, extending down to the end of this present world [evil age]. And to this revelation the whole remaining part of this Book is devoted.
If it was “in the third year of Cyrus,” as stated in the superscription to this tenth chapter, that Daniel had this vision, two years had already passed since the decree permitting the Jews to return to rebuild their temple. In answer to the question why Daniel did not go up with his fellow-countrymen, it is usually replied that he was then very old; that the return yet involved much to be done in order to final success, for which his presence in Persia was more necessary than his presence in Jerusalem; and that he, [page 194] was in place and high consideration as an officer and councillor of state, and could be of much more service in watching and directing the affairs of the government under whose protection his brethren were returning than by leaving his place to accompany them. He was, at all events, most profoundly and devoutly concerned about the future of his people, and it was in answer to these anxieties that this glorious apparition came.
In explaining to Daniel the object of his coming this heavenly messenger proceeds to make those remarkable statements in regard to the offices and doings of the angels. Whether we omit or retain what is given of the conflicts among these spiritual orders in the latter part of the chapter, the same view of things is nevertheless implied in what this angel tells of his detention in coming to Daniel, verse 13. It is ever true that the histories of this world always have a background of spiritual agencies. The Scriptures everywhere represent the angels as largely participating in the divine government of the world and in the whole ongoing of earthly affairs. There are such things as guardian angels, who are more concerned in what comes to pass than any of us suspect. And among these active unseen potencies there are both good and bad, often in conflict with each other. We are here shown individual angels standing at the head of individual kingdoms, and in opposition to them, at the head of the Israelitish theocracy, Michael, one of the first or highest princes. In alliance with him, and opposed to the spirits of the world, there is another angel, whom a certain writer designates as the good spirit of the Gentile world, whose object is to promote the realization of God’s plan of salvation among the Gentiles. It was natural that this angel should be sent to reveal to Daniel the fate which the powers of the world were preparing for the people of God; and he here lets the prophet catch a glimpse of the invisible struggles between the angelic princes as to who should exert the determining influence on the worldly monarch - whether the [page 195] God-opposed spirit of this world, or the good spirit whose aim it is to further the interests of God’s kingdom.
We are wont to speak in a spiritualizing way of a struggle
between the good and evil principles in man, but Holy Scripture teaches us to
regard the matter as a substantial reality. (See 1
Sam. 16: 13-15; 1 Kings 22: 22.)
The Satanic influences, of which we have more particular knowledge
through the language of Jesus and His apostles, are not essentially different
from what here is told. The glorious
angel who appears to Daniel had a struggle of three weeks with the evil angel
at the head of the Persian monarchy, and only by Michael’s help overcame him
and gained superior influence over the Persian king. He also had on hand a further struggle of the
same kind with the same prince-angel of
The angel then proceeds (in chapter
11: 2-4) to state the course of things in its outward manifestations. From the time Daniel had this vision four
kings were yet to hold dominion in
But a fourth is referred to and specially singled out from the
rest as pre-eminently rich, and as he who should make a most noted attempt at
the subjugation of
Xerxes, who was the husband of Queen Esther, was by far the
richest of all the Persian kings. Justin says of him that when his armies
were swelled in numbers sufficient to drink rivers dry his wealth still
remained un-exhausted. In this respect
he, and only he, fits to the prophecy.
And when it is farther said of this fourth king, “By his strength through his riches he shall stir up all
against the realm of Grecia,” we look in vain for any other Persian
emperor to whom it will apply, whilst in Xerxes all was fulfilled to the
letter. His father, Darius Hystaspes, had proudly styled himself “King of the Continent,” but the more ambitious son
aspired to be King of the World. In a
council of his government it was resolved “to march
In so far, then, the words of the angel were most accurately fulfilled, the climax of Persian dominion reached, and a decadence of it commenced, beyond which the prophecy does not specially follow it.
Leaving off the Persian history with Xerxes, the angel at the
same time spoke of the rising of another king, who “should
rule with great dominion, and do according to his will.” It is not said where he would rise or whence
he should come; only that he was to be some other than a Persian king. But as he had just spoken of a great Persian
Having thus, by a few masterly strokes, brought down the
thread of history to the times of the divided form of the Macedonian empire,
the narrative drops off into those minute particularizations respecting “the king of the south” and “the
king of the north,” their intrigues, wars, and abominations, at which so
many Biblical critics have taken offence, and out of which expositors have been
able to make so little. These references
denote the successive sovereigns of the two monarchies north and south of the
Holy Land - that is,
“The king of the south” (verse 5) is Ptolemy Lagus
But with all the tribulations thus to come upon the prophet’s people in those evil times, God was to be at the helm, neither suffering them to be overwhelmed nor allowing their afflictions to be without profit. For their sins, apostasies, and infidelities the hand of judgment was to be lifted against them. Oppressors were to rule over them; flatterers were to beguile and deceive them; plunderers were to rob them; and the godless were to cast down their priests, profane their temple, stop their sacrifices, carry away their children into slavery, and spoil them in every violent manner. Many of themselves were to prove traitors to their holy covenant, sell holy things for a price, and join with the hosts of the adversary against their own flesh and blood. And multitudes were to be mowed down with the sword, burned with fire or driven to the wilds in untold wretchedness. But still God’s eye was to be over them, and all was to be overruled for good. The wickednesses of the many were to make others the better. The fires were to purge and brighten the faithful and true, as well as to torture and consume the transgressors. Some were still to know their God, and be made strong and do exploits. The abounding faithlessness was to call forth better instruction, that the truth might not utterly die out. Through all the dark night of their tribulations there were promises and hope of a better morning. When God lets the wicked have their way, it is that He may destroy them utterly; but when He chastises His people, it is to purify and redeem them.
Nor are God’s chosen ones alone in their conflicts with the
ills and trials of time. The Eternal
Father maketh angels His ministers to the heirs of salvation. In loving
sympathy and untiring patience celestial princes stand at the seats of [page 200] earthly power, and watch and guard,
and exert their mysterious agencies to moderate and shape the counsels of the
mighty and to hinder and thwart the ill thoughts of oppressors, that Jehovah’s
faithful ones may profit by their endeavours.
With the evil principalities they struggle, and press their way to bring messages of comfort, assurance,
and hope to penitent suppliants, to show the superior greatness and glory of
our God, to throw light upon the scene of gloom, and to herald a blessed
outcome to the dutiful and true. The
chariots of the Lord are thousands of thousands, even thousands of angels, and
as the mountains are round about
And how transient, at best, are the riches, power, and glory
of the wicked! All the wealth and
greatness, pomp and grandeur, with which Xerxes went forth against
“Pilgrim of earth, who art journeying to heaven!
Heir of eternal life! child of the clay!
Cared for, watched over, beloved and forgiven!
Art thou discouraged because of the way?
Weary and thirsty, no water-brook near thee,
Press onward, nor faint at the length of the way
The God of thy life will assuredly hear thee,
He will provide thee thy strength for the day.
Break through the brambles and briers that obstruct thee,
Dread not the gloom and the blackness of night;
Lean on the hand that will safely conduct thee,
Trust to his eye to whom darkness is light.
Be trustful, be steadfast, whatever betide thee,
Only one thing do thou ask of the Lord
Grace to go forward wherever He guide thee,
Simply believing the truth of His word.”
* * * * * * *
THE REIGN OF THE ANTICHRIST;
THE WILFUL KING.
Daniel 11 36‑45.
An Antichrist yet to Come. - Biblical Descriptions of him. - The
Christian Fathers on the Subject. - “The
King.” - The Last Bestial Power on Earth. - An Individual Person.
- Opinions whence he shall come. - Wilfulness his great Characteristic. - His
Self-exaltation above Everything. - Patronizes a god. - His Injustice and
Misrule. - His End. - Signs pre-intimating his Coming. - Spirit of the Times. -
An able living writer on this Book of Daniel says: We
Christians look for an Antichrist yet to come.
Our Lord forewarned of him and his deceivableness.
Hence wrote the venerable apostle John: “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. ... Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come[ing]* in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already it is in the world. For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.” 1 John 2: 18, 22; 4: 3; 2 John 7.
[* Note: The Revised Version. – (1881 translation) reads: “For many deceivers are gone fourth into the world, even they that confess not that Jesus Christ COMETH in the flesh.” Lit. Greek translates: “coming in flesh…”– Ed.]
Hence also Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day [of
Christ] shall not come,
except there come a
falling away first, [i.e., an apostasy amongst the people
of God. – Ed.] and that man of sin be revealed,
the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is
called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the
A still more circumstantial account of this final monster is given in the Apocalypse, where John, speaking of the last things to take place in this world, says; “I saw a beast rise [page 204] up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the dragon [that old serpent, called the Devil] gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him? And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, and His tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given to him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If any man have an ear, let him hear.” With this beast there is also a prophet, “who doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast, saying to them that dwell on the earth that they should make an image to the beast. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he caused all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” Rev. 13.
And what is thus minutely pictured in
the New Testament was also very fully foreshadowed in the Old. Wherever we look we find some image and
fore-intimation of this great evil power running parallel with the predictions
and promises concerning the Seed of the woman and the Messiah of the chosen people. In every murderous oppressor or son of [page 205] Belial that came, or was to come, upon
the field of history in opposition to the children of God, from Cain to Nimrod,
Pharaoh, Amalek, Midiau,
Goliath, and the kings of Babylon and Assyria, the sacred prophets ever saw
another and final consummation of them all, just as they saw in Moses, Joshua,
Gideon, David, Solomon, Cyrus or others of their class the pre-intimations and
types of that great, final, consummate, and eternal Saviour, Redeemer, and Conqueror
of hell and death set before us in the person and administrations of the
anointed and enthroned Jesus of Nazareth.
We accordingly find the whole diction of their prophecies always taking
on the imagery and colouring of the final outcome, no matter who or what may be
the immediate subject of the foreground.
Thus, the filthy dreamers of the last times, who despise dominion and
speak evil of dignities, and bring on the terrible scenes of the final
judgment, are only Cain and Balaam the more fully developed in their followers,
and constitute the ultimate body of those sons of perdition included already in
the prophecies of Enoch on the other side of the Flood. (See Epistle of Jude.)
That proud and oppressive Lucifer of Isa. 14.
which did weaken the nations and made the world to
tremble, but goes to the pit without burial, and that “Assyrian”
of Isa. 30. on whom falls the
lighting down of the devouring fire of God’s wrath, even “the king” for whom Tophet is
ordained of old, are more emphatically; and truly the final Antichrist than any
of those types of him found in the ancient oppressors of
Hence the firm belief of all the Christian Fathers was that there is yet to come
a development and impersonation of Anti-christianism
more dreadful than any that has ever yet been seen on earth, and which shall be
destroyed only in the great day of God Almighty. Hence Barnabas
wrote concerning “the season of the Wicked One,”
whom the Son of God shall “abolish”
when He shall come to judge the ungodly. (Epist., 15) Hence
gave it as part of the Christian faith that “Antichrist,
who, being endued with all the power of the devil, shall come, not as a
righteous nor as a legitimate king subject to God, but an impious, unjust, and
lawless one ‑ as an apostate,
iniquitous and murderous - as a robber, concentrating in himself the Satanic
apostasy, setting aside idols to persuade that he himself is God, raising up
himself as the only idol, embodying the varied falsities of the other idols
that those who worship the devil by means of other abominations may serve
himself by this one idol, lifting himself above all that is called God, and
tyrannously setting himself forth as God in the temple at Jerusalem, and shall
be destroyed by the coming of our Lord.” (Contra Her., 5, cap. 25, 26) So
also Origen (Contra Cels., 6, 45), and Lactantius (Inst. Epit., 71) and the Fathers in general. The great Augustine says: “He who reads, though
being half asleep, cannot fail to see that the
And this Antichrist it is who is described to us in the passage now before us. As early as three hundred and fifty years after the apostles Jerome wrote of it, and said: “Our people” ‑ the Christians of his day – “consider all these things to be spoken of Antichrist, who is to come in the last [page 207] time.” Luther writes: “This prophecy applies entirely, as all expositors unanimously agree, to the Antichrist, whose spirit is the pope, but whose body is another, who corporeally oppresses, destroys, and persecutes the congregation of the Lord.” Many modern interpreters understand it as referring to Antiochus Epiphanes, and to him only; but as Kliefoth has rightly observed, “What is here said of the king far transcends, in all its dimensions, the measure of Antiochus.” That this Seleucid tyrant and despoiler of the Jews is embraced in the description may be readily admitted; but the relation of Antiochus to “the king,” upon whom the emphasis here falls, is no more than that of Cyrus to Christ, or that of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans to the end of the world [or age.] The one is simply the typical forerunner of the other. Identity or the confinement of the portrait to Antiochus is never once to be thought of unless we can arrange to transfer him down to the still pending period of the resurrection of the dead, to which the time of this monster is so specifically assigned.
Whoever this king may be, or from whatever quarter he may come, he is the last representative of the bestial world-power that ever bears rule upon earth. The terms of the angel’s description, particularly as continued in the succeeding chapter, establish this beyond mistake. He is to “prosper till the indignation be accomplished” - till God’s angry visitations on the Jews for their sins are finally and for ever exhausted and ended - which is manifestly not yet the fact. In the ninth chapter the angel had said that “desolations are determined” - desolations which “make desolate even until the consummation,” and he here says that this king shall prosper for the doing of “that that is determined.” His prosperity must therefore run to the consummation. And so in the next chapter the time of his doings is specifically noted as contemporaneous with the period of the great tribulation - the period when the woes of the prophet’s people are to reach a perpetual end - the period [page 208] when every one written in the Book shall be delivered - the period when the many who sleep in the dust of the earth shall be raised to life again - the period when the scroll of prophecy shall be exhausted by fulfilment - “the time of the end” - “the end of days,” when Daniel shall stand in his lot.* The character assigned to this king, and the manner in which the angel introduces him as “the king,” identifies him with the little horn which comes up after the ten kings in the first vision (chapter 7: 23‑26), and with the “king of the fierce countenance and understanding dark sentences” in the second vision (chapter 8: 21‑25), and with “the prince that shall come,” who makes a covenant with many for seven years, and in the midst of the seven breaks it and desecrates the temple with abominations, as stated in the third vision (chapter 9: 26, 27). But the power spoken of in each of those instances extends to the termination of all mere human rule on earth - to the sitting of the judgment - to the time when transgressors are come to the full - “even until the consummation.” He must therefore be the very last [king] of this world’s [evil] powers.
[* That is, his ‘inheritance’. Compare Greek of Acts 26: 18 with the A.V. translation. ]
And so again, whoever this king may be, and from whatever quarter he may come, he is an individual person, the same as Cyrus, Cambyses, Darius Hystaspes, Xerxes, or Alexander; for he is designated in precisely the same way, by the same angel, in the same continuous narrative. Also, in the previous visions he is spoken of with reference to personal features and qualities which must pertain to an individual man, and cannot be fairly interpreted of a continuous succession of monarchs or operators. He is specially styled “the prince that is to come,” in distinction from the kingdom or people whom he is eventually to command and represent. Nor can anyone read the account of him given in the text, or in other passages descriptive of the same potency, without receiving the impression that he is some one remarkable individual personage. And the terms in which the duration of his power is expressed, which no solid exegesis [page 209] can extend over seven years, make it quite certain that it is one man - not a long succession of men - who is the subject of this prophecy.
Antichrist indeed exists in all time, but only as a working spirit which has not yet come to its final development and concentrated embodiment. Hence John said that in his day already there were “many antichrists” and hence Paul said that when he wrote “the mystery of iniquity” did already work. And so it has been working in all ages in false doctrines and in the varied oppositions to Jehovah’s rule, kingdom, people, and word. In this sense the oppressive and destructive pagan governments of old time were antichrists, and Popery and Mohammedanism are antichrists, and all heresies, infidelities, philosophies, systems, or governments antagonistic to God’s truth and to Jesus Christ as the only Lord and Saviour of man are antichrists. But they are not the Antichrist, except in spirit, in type, in modified and not [in a] fully-matured form; just as Christ was in the institutes, hope, and spirit of God’s believing people in the ages before He was born, and as He is still in and with His Church prior to His awaited revelation in the fulness and majesty of His glory and power. But as Christ is to come in person, to be revealed with His saints, to appear, to be manifested in a visible and open display of Himself to all eyes, so Paul tells us that the Man of Sin, the Son of Perdition, is to be revealed, to show himself, to be manifested in a corresponding apocalypse. And when antagonism to God, His Christ, His truth, His people, and His kingdom stands thus finally revealed, it is in the person of one individual man, who is the embodiment of the devil and all sin, to offset and supersede the incarnation of God and all good in Jesus Christ, our King. So all the Fathers of the early Church unanimously understood the matter, and so the Jewish interpreters of the Old Testament explained about the anti-Messiah. There are many germinant and precursory antichrists, but the Antichrist is one individual person. [page 210]
Whence this king is to come cannot perhaps be definitely decided in the present state of Biblical interpretation. Some think that he will be a Jew of the tribe of Dan, for the reason that Dan is described as “a serpent by the way,” and as none of the one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed ones referred to in the Apocalypse (chapter 7.) are taken from Dan. Others are quite confident that he will at least be an Oriental in general character, and will take his rise from one or the other of the four divisions of the dominion of Alexander. Many are very sure that he will in some way succeed to the Roman emperorship, as he is said (in Rev. 17.) to be the eighth, and of the seventh head of the last beast, which last beast is Rome, and these heads are kings or forms of government. Rev. 17: 7-11. Others think that he is some one of the great deceased representatives of iniquity, by Satan’s power resurrected from the dead, as he is said to “ascend out of the bottomless pit,” out of the Hadean abyss, and to have received a deadly wound, from which he had ceased to be, and yet is entirely recovered. Rev. 13: 3, 12; 17: 8. It is impossible to decide between these opinions. It may turn out that all of them are founded in truth. But it is quite certain that he is no ordinary personage - that he is, to a great extent, a supernatural being, energized with all the subtlety and power of Satan, and accompanied with the power of working miracles. Paul says expressly that he will manifest himself by “the working of Satan with all power, and signs and lying wonders” (2 Thess. 2: 9); and John foresaw him attended with the doing of “great wonders,” even to the making of fire drop from heaven, and the giving of life and speech to a metallic image. Rev. 13: 13-15. His power, his seat, his great authority, it is specifically stated, are given him by the dragon (Rev. 12: 9; 13: 2), just as the angel said to Daniel, “his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power.” Chapter 8: 24. Thus Satan proposed to give to Christ “all the kingdoms of the world, and all the glory of them.” Jesus declines the tempting proposal, [page 211] but the devil eventually finds one to accept it on the prescribed terms, and thus comes the Antichrist, for the chastisement of the guilty world and the hopeless perdition of every one who espouses his cause.
Let us turn now to the more particular delineation of this monster and his career as given in the passage immediately before us.
The angel abruptly introduces him as “the king.” With the same abruptness and in the same words Isaiah, in two different places (Isa. 30: 33; 57: 9), introduces him. The implication is not only that he is to bear rule as an earthly monarch, but that he is so peculiarly and pre-eminently the wielder of all earthly dominion as to be the one consummate sovereign of all time, whose distinction from all other kings is so great and marked that there is no danger of confounding him with them. He is the king who stands as the main figure of all earthly potencies, and fills out to its final fulness the entire prophetic picture of this world’s sovereignty.
“And the king shall do according to his will.”
This is a statement of profoundest import. Wilfulness is the essence and soul of sin. Wilfulness was its characteristic from the beginning. Wilfulness was the sin of fallen angels, and it was the sin of Adam. Nor can the fullest development and maturity of sin exceed this doing according to one’s own will. It is here given as the fundamental thing in the character of the Man of Sin. And let the lesson not he lost upon us. All people are full of wilfulness. They show it from earliest childhood till they die. Many even admire it as manliness and virtue. But there is nothing more antichristian - no, sum or enormity of crime that can go beyond it. The very impersonation of all sin only does according to his own will. The devil himself does no more. And if people will be free-thinkers and free-doers, acknowledging no law but their own natural choice and pleasure, they should remember that they are doing exactly what makes the Antichrist Antichrist, and thus mark themselves as belonging to his foul herd. The [page 212] Christian’s law is not his own will, but God’s will – God’s will alone, always and in everything, bringing every thought into captivity to Christ. If it be not so with us, we are not of Christ, but of Antichrist; for all the piled-up guilt of that Wicked One is nothing more than doing according to his own will. At present God does not allow men fully to act out their will. By His providence He throws restraint about them and hinders them from going beyond certain limits. If it were not for this, society would soon go to utter rain. But the time is coming when that which hindereth shall be taken out of the way, and the haters of the truth be given over to act out their own perverseness to the full. Satan’s cheats being preferred to Jehovah’s pure and righteous rule, God will permit him to bring about all his plans, that he may delude them to the utmost. And when it comes to the supreme enthronement of man’s own hell-inspired will, it is the Antichrist complete.
The results are naturally to be anticipated. The king will exalt himself. The doctrine of man’s native dignity, and the pratings about the sublime capabilities and powers of unregenerate human nature, will yet destroy the world. The [millennial] kingdom is for the poor in spirit. The inheritance of the earth is for the meek. The royal road to exaltation is humility. Whatever differs from this is Antichrist; and Antichrist means certain damnation. Whosoever is proud and self-exalting, thereby takes part and position with Antichrist, endorses him, enacts him. And when selfish pride is once seated in the heart, there are no bounds to which it will not go if left unhindered.
The angel says of this king, “he shall magnify himself,” not only above everyman, but “above every god.” Even “the God of gods,” the great Jehovah himself, is singled out for special blasphemy and defiance. Some have pronounced the Antichrist an atheist, but he is not so much the denier of God’s existence as the setter-up of himself to be the greater god, the true god of Nature’s powers, the rival of Omnipotence, [page 213] the superior of the Great Eternal. The mere thought of such pretensions makes one tremble. And yet to these heights of guilty presumption and untruth does the proud self-will of man lead. Not the God of his fathers, not that Holy One of whom every pious woman for four thousand years desired to be the mother, nor any god or divine thing, can command the least respect or consideration from this wilful man, “for he shall magnify himself above all.” O ye people of unbelief and irreligion, who despise worship, and hate sacred things, and disdain to honour the Lord God of your fathers, and care nothing for the eternal Powers! behold with whom you identify yourselves, whose cause it is that you abet, and to what your impiety is the initiation!
But, with all his irreligion, this king is still a patron of worship. Man cannot do without some deity. In the estate or place of God he shall honour the god of Mauzzim - the spirit-forces which energize the doings of the wicked, and animate all wars and tyrannies - a deity which his fathers never knew, or any other worshippers - a power of which he claims, perhaps, to be the embodiment and representative, as he really is. Strange fact! even the most impious have their pieties. Those who look upon all established religion as superstition, and therefore will have none of it, are yet the most basely superstitious. Denying the God who made them, and the Son of God who died for them, and putting themselves above all that is called God, they yet pay devotion to gods which they themselves invent. Trampling beneath his feet the worship of the Father and the Son, and vainly supposing himself the superior of both, Antichrist still has a god, a god of his own creation, whom he puts into Jehovah’s place, and honours with gold, silver, precious stones, and pleasant things - a god whose temples are military munitions, and whose apostles are sheriffs and centurions, with sword and branding-iron to burn their master’s name into the flesh of men, and to cut off the heads, of those who decline such an obedience. Thus shall he do with his strange god. The [page 214] professed abolisher of superstition becomes the patron of devil-worship, and employs the wealth and sword of empire to enforce the foulest abominations that ever disgrace or afflict our world. And such god-makers and devil-worshippers are all they who count it superstition to reverence and adore Him who made and sustains all things. They abolish Jehovah as a myth, and set up shrines in adoration of the incarnations of hell!
And along with the impieties and blasphemies of this man, the angel also speaks of injustice, misrule, persecution, and a devilish generosity. Honouring his infernal god with gold and silver and precious stones and pleasant things, he shall do his will with the strongholds, helped by the power of Satan, and give glory, riches, and dominion to those who acknowledge and confess his deity. No one shall be of account in his day but those who worship the devil-power. The lands shall be seized and divided to them, and they shall have the rule, the honour, and the offices as the rewards of their horrible devotions. Thus will the idol shepherd eat the fat of the flock which he had covenanted to protect, driving peace and order from the earth, and rendering it impossible to live in his dominions without accepting and abetting his awful abominations.
People are slow to believe it, but when right religion is trampled and despised every violence and disorder comes. If men will put the rule of Heaven out, they necessarily put the confusion of Hell in. Apostasy - [by the people of God, the only ones who can effectively, and in the scriptural sense of the word, do such a thing,] - brings the Antichrist, and the reign of the Antichrist is the overturning of all the foundations on which the social economy of the world rests, entailing a condition of trouble the greatest that has ever been or ever will be thereafter. Wars, outrages, and bloody confusion shall mark the days as they pass. From the south and from the north nation shall be dashed against nation, and power fight with power, and country after country sink beneath the overwhelming flood of violence and desolation. Because men reject the only saying truth, strong delusion [page 215] shall sway them to a damnation begun already while yet living and acting in this world. The spirits of devils take the place of the Spirit of God, and “go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty,” when the winepress of the Divine Wrath shall be trodden till the blood flows in depth to the horses’ bridles for two hundred miles! Rev. 14: 19, 20; 17: 14; 19: 11-21.
Alas! Alas! how little do men dream of the horrors they are preparing for the world by their apostasies from God, His word, His Son, His ordinances, and His service, and by the Satanic philosophies which they persist in putting in the place of His holy revelations! When it is too late to undo the dreadful mischief they will see their folly. Fain would we pray and preach and entreat that mankind may not be so deluded; but the masses have already sold themselves to the devil, broken away from all sacred influences, ruptured the ties of heavenly obligation, and no hope remains save for the few who perchance may be snatched as brands from the burning pile.
But it is not possible that such a
monstrosity of arrogance and iniquity should long continue. Though he plant the
tabernacles of his palaces between the seas in the glorious holy mountain, and
sit in the
Are there, then, any signs or symptoms from which we may legitimately infer the near coming of any such a state of things in our world? I believe that there are, and that they are both many and evident. Though multitudes believe and preach that the age in which we live is the most glorious and hopeful that was ever known, and consider that we are now on the very threshold of a grand jubilee of universal intelligence, brotherhood and liberty for all men, in which the golden dreams of so many ages are about to be fulfilled in the onward flow of human improvement and progress, it is in the very principles and foundations on which all this is hoped and prognosticated that I see the coming of the Antichrist. If men would only sift it to the real elements of which it is made up, they could not fail to detect in it the very spirit out of which the divinely-predicted Man of Sin must come.
If men will look at what is most lauded and gloried in as the intellectual greatness of our times, they will find it summed up in a vaunting materialism, which finds its life and crown in inspections and manipulations of the lower elements, till it has come to be concluded in leading circles that everything is derivable from slime, without a personal God, or need of revelations from Him. This is the spirit of the prevailing philosophies - of the popular theories of education, politics, and legislation - of the noisy reforms which propose to do away with human ills without the word and ordinances of Jehovah - and of many of the most favoured religious activities, which boast of having outgrown the ancient creeds, and are eating away the vital substance of [page 217] all sound doctrine. We have only to dig down into the inner kernel of modern thought and feeling in order to find lodged there, in one form or another, and more or less swaying the whole spirit of the age, a doctrine which enthrones, adores, and worships progress as the great hope of the world, holds man to be an ever-improving growth, and practically accepts evolution as the bringer of a glorious reign of wisdom, peace, and blessedness yet to come in this present world, without need of any kingdom to be brought to us, from the heavens, or any changes by the miraculous power of God. This is the sum of the teachings of scientists, of the theories of government and law, and of the popular theologies. Even the faith held by most professed Christians is but the aggregate of changeable and growing sentimens, ever throwing off the old and putting on the new, rather than the fixed literal revelations of God, which are the same for all ages alike. In other words, the heart, pulse, and ruling ideas of our times exhibit all the indications of that very apostasy, or “falling away,” which Paul fore-announced as the forerunner, beginning, spirit, and cause of the Man of Sin and his disastrous revelation. The seed is planted and growing, and meets in our age a congenial season for rapid development and speedy maturity.
Accordingly, also, we everywhere, and
in all circles and teachings, hear about the Coming
Yes, brethren, God is about to deal with the earth as He never before has dealt with it, and everything is maturing for the day of trial. Men are busy with their plans, and think to work out sublime results by their endeavours and agencies. They are fondly hoping soon to see the world set right, all social and religious questions gloriously adjudicated, by the growing intelligence of the world. They are joyously expecting ere long to behold all disabilities removed, and all the hardships which oppress the many done away, through the ever-improving machinery of education, evangelization, benevolence, freedom, and popular legislation. They mean it well, and often throw into it an amount of zeal and devotion which proves that they are sincere. But their hopes are falsely grounded. They reason from a mistaken philosophy. The only regeneration of the world the Scriptures tell of is of a different order, and comes in quite another way. This humanitarian rationalizing, which so tortures the divine word to bring it into accord with human wishes, and all this building on the reforms, efforts, and agencies of men, will fail. It is in a line which makes a Saviour for the world who is not the Christ but the Antichrist. People embrace it for good, and devote themselves to it as the very spirit of the Gospel as distinguished from the rejected letter; but it is the evil genius of our times, by which Satan would deceive, if possible, the very elect. So far from bringing the expected triumph of good and blessedness, it will eventually embody itself in one great head, whom it will take for its champion, who supplants the Christ, and introduces all the anarchy and misrule of hell. It is the spirit of self-redemption, baptizing itself with the Saviour’s name, and usurping the Saviour’s prerogatives, whilst it really rejects Him and His glorious coming from its scheme, and with songs of a near paradise, beguiles to a hopeless perdition. It is the great snare of Satan by which he is captivating the world, [page 220] and will effectually captivate it to its destruction. It is the last great temptation of God’s people, by which myriads on myriads shall be drifted to eternal shipwreck. And this is that Antichrist whereof ye have heard that he shall come. May the Lord save us from his subtleties!
* * * * * * *
THE FINAL OUTCOME;
THE GREAT CONSUMMATION.
Daniel 12: 1-13
False Impressions touching the Shutting-up and Sealing of these Visions. - True Meaning of the Angel. - The Time of the Antichrist a Time Of unprecedented Trouble. - The Jews under him. - Duration of his Reign. - The Standing up of Michael. - that it includes. - Ending of “the Times of the Gentiles.” - A Time of Blessed Resurrections. - The Reign of Death. - Its Destruction. - The Rewards. ‑ The Conditions on which they Depend.
We now approach the conclusion of this Book of wonders. A grand panorama of empires, revolutions, oppressions, deliverances, crimes, punishments, and special interferences from Heaven and from Hell - a sketch of all the great mysteries of Jehovah’s providence in all time has been passing in review before us, and we now come to the last scenes, to the final outcome, to the great consummation of the whole. Brief glimpses of the end have been greeting us at each great crisis in the prophetic narration, for in God’s doings the beginnings always include the end, as the end presupposes all that goes before it, but our attention is now to be occupied entirely with that consummation itself.
It is a little unfortunate that this chapter has been severed from what immediately precedes it, since it is really not only the continuation of the address of the same speaker, but the accompaniment and sequel of the same subject. This dividing of the Bible into chapters and verses is, for the most part, the work of modem printers, not of the inspired authors; and bad work has often been made of it. The separation, if any, should be at the end of the third verse, and not here. The very first [page 222] words in this last chapter refer what follows them to exactly the same period of that which was foretold in the latter part of the chapter before it. We there had an account of the still future Antichrist, and all that is here given also belongs to his time.
Some are of opinion that it is not for man to understand these predictions. In the eighth chapter (26) the angel directed the prophet to “shut up the vision,” seeing it was for a period in the far future; so also in the fourth verse of this last chapter, having completed his account of things to come, the angel said, “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end;” and again, in verse 9, he said, “the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.” This has been taken to mean that the prophet was to conceal what was said, and to hide it from all human understanding, until the time of its fulfilment. But whilst a perfect understanding of these predictions may not be reached until their fulfilment makes them plain, the meaning of these expressions is the very reverse of what some thus attach to them. If the command was that these things should be made incomprehensible, it is impossible to see why the revelation was given at all. Besides, there is an object assigned for this shutting up and sealing, which, so far from preventing the prophecy from being understood, was so to protect it that men might come to it and increase their knowledge and understanding of it; for this is the real sense of the words rendered “many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” If the shutting up and sealing of the prophecy was the excluding of it from man’s understanding, this growth of knowledge concerning it would be an impossibility. We must therefore look for some other meaning of this shutting and sealing which shall better accord with other features of the record. Fortunately, we find similar language used in Isaiah (8: 6), where the sense is the very reverse of hiding or obscuring. God there says, “Bind [or shut] up the testimony, seal the law among [page 223] my disciples;” but the succeeding verses show that this shutting and sealing had reference to the authentication of the testimony and law of God as the proper and only rule to which the people were to come for wisdom and direction, as it is added, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” The shutting up and sealing of law and testimony was not the rendering of it unintelligible, but the securement to it of its true office, place, and authority as the established test of righteousness and correct information. And of this sort was the shutting up and sealing of what the angel made known to Daniel. Because it was true and from God, therefore the command was to secure it well, give it authentically, and arrange for its perpetual preservation as an authoritative word from Heaven, that people in after times might consult and study it, and thereby increase in the knowledge of the divine plans and purposes. The idea of the angel was that the whole matter was now complete, certified, and true beyond all addition or change, and was so to be treated. Just as valuable official documents intended to direct and inform successive generations are carefully engrossed and secured, and held inviolable against all tampering, that they may be preserved entire, and transmitted uncorrupted to all whom they concern, so and in this sense and spirit was Daniel to shut up and seal the words of this Book. It was not that no one should understand them, but that we might have them in all their authoritative certainty, be sure of their divine contents, and find in them a right knowledge of God’s revelations. He was to close up and seal the Book, that no additions or curtailments might be made in it, that it might not be in anywise changed, but that it might be kept sacred and secure for all time, as a veritable communication from God, that men may search it through and through, and thus learn ever more and more of the Almighty’s purposes. “Secret things belong unto the Lord,” and with those we may not presume to meddle, “but those things [page 224] which are revealed belong unto us and our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” Deut. 29: 29. Let no one, therefore, suffer himself to be deluded into the belief that what we have been deducing with so much directness from these sacred predictions is but the empty speculation of man, and not the veritable revelation of the Lord. The interests we all have at stake are too many and too momentous for us to turn a deaf ear to what the Almighty in His goodness has thus given us for our learning. Nor is the world so rich in lights and guides, that we can afford to do without what comes to us with so evident a seal of the Almighty.
1. Proceeding, then, to the matter now immediately before us, we may note, in the first place, that the time of the Antichrist will be a time of unexampled distress. The text says, “It shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time!” Jeremiah says of it, “Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is, even the time of Jacob’s trouble.” The Saviour speaks of it where He says, “Then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.”
This trouble will be more or less upon all people then living on the earth, but the description here
relates more especially to the prophet's people, the seed of Abraham, whose
fortunes the angel said (10: 14) he had come
to make known. Hence Jeremiah calls it
pre-eminently “the time of Jacob's trouble.” The principal scene of it is “the
But this necessarily implies that the Jewish people will [page
225] then have been largely
restored, with their temple rebuilt, and their old ritual again established. This
is a point upon which many doubt, but upon which sacred prophecy is as clear
and full as upon any other subject.
That “race of the weary foot,” which has
been scattered and tossed among the nations for these eighteen hundred years,
yet as distinct still as when Aaron was their priest or David their king, and
never taking root in any land, is everywhere spoken of in the Scriptures as
reserved for Palestine, and Palestine as reserved for it. And it is especially under the first three
and a half years of the reign of the Antichrist that this return and
re-establishment of the Jews and their ancient services will occur. Seven years is the Antichrist to reign, even
the last seven of those seventy sevens divided out upon Daniel’s people and the
But the idol shepherd of these deluded people will soon prove himself the monster Desolater, from whom they shall come into the severest tribulations ever experienced by their race in any period of its existence. Accepted as Messiah, he shall claim to be God, abolish the Jehovah-services which he assisted to restore, seize the temple for the worship of his own image, escheat the lands, to be given as rewards to his miscreant adherents for acknowledging his god of Mauzzini, and allow no one to bear rule, own property, buy or sell, except such as accept the branding of hand or forehead with his mark and the mark of his infernal deity. Those who were deceived into the acceptance of him as their Saviour, at the end of the first three and a half years will find themselves in covenant with hell and death, utterly helpless in the hands of the most monstrous tyrant that ever lived, compelled to become undisguised and openly-branded worshippers of the devil, or lose every foot of ground they own, every office of authority they hold, every means of livelihood, every protection in all that is dear in life, every possession on which the hand of wilful power can be laid, and life itself, except as it shall be secreted in the desolate places of the mountains and wilderness, not daring to let itself be seen by any of the minions of the devilish power which then shall reign.
Nor shall this state of things be only for a few days, weeks, or months, but for full three and a half years. In not less than six different places, and in almost as many different ways, is this declared in the prophecies, including both Testaments. It is for “a time and times and the dividing of time” (Dan. 7: 25) - “It shall be for a time, times and a half” (7: 7) - “the holy city shall they tread under foot [page 227] forty and two months” (Rev. 11: 2) - “the woman fled into the wilderness, a thousand two hundred and threescore days” - for “a time, and times, and half a time” (12:. 6, 14) - “and power was given him to continue forty and two mouths” (13: 5). All these passages refer to one and the same period of oppression and trouble under the Antichrist, and in each instance the measure is three and a half years, dating from the breaking of the league and the suspension of the daily offering to the destruction of the monster by the revelation of Jesus Christ. Our Lord ministered on earth three and a half years, and the Antichrist shall enact his Satanic ministry for the same length of time.
The effect of all this bitter experience is likewise stated by the angel. It is the old story over again. Human nature is the same whatever may be the times or administrations. People think if things were so or so, the truth would take hold on all hearts, and leave none so bad as to resist it; but they only dream. “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe, though one rose from the dead.” In all ages and under all dispensations some get their eyes open and turn their hearts unto the Lord, but the multitude is ever blind and unconvertible. And so it will be even under the extraordinary scenes of the great tribulation. Many shall be purified and made white, and proved to be genuine people of God. Afflictions are sent to test and bring out our faith. Gold is refined and purified by taking it through the furnace. But the mass of men are made no better from their afflictions. Our own times illustrate how such things work. Everybody is bemoaning the sorrowful state of business and of affairs in general. The wails of distress and lamentation meet us continually on all hands. Ills of all sorts are said to be multiplying. But are the people improved? Do not they live on as they always have done? Are not the masses much the worse for it? Look at the play-houses, and shows, and places of amusement, and see if they are not more thronged than ever. Observe our avenues and pleasure-resorts [page 228] on Sundays, and note the expenditures and profanations of the Lord’s Day by all ranks of society. Even professed Christians, who cannot spare a dollar for the cause of Christ, have plenty to spend on their lusts and vanities, and are only the more lavish and unscrupulous in ministering to their own whims and pleasure as times become more pressing. The many are only hardened in crime instead of being humbled to penitence. And so it will be even when the great woes of God’s judgments come. “The wicked shall do wickedly,” and be only the more wicked and reckless, and shut their eyes and ears and hearts all the tighter against the truth. They “shall not understand,” because they love themselves and their own perverse ways too well to admit better instruction, preferring to risk everlasting [age-lasting] damnation to the letting go of a jot of their sins, till the great horrors of the Almighty’s wrath engulf them for ever! So much, then, for this time of sorrows.
2. Note now, in the second place, that the time of the Antichrist is the time when Michael, the great prince over the children of the prophet’s people, shall stand up in their behalf. Some think this the Lord Jesus himself. If so, then the glorious one who appeared to the prophet in chapter 10. cannot be the Son of God. But these are questions that need not be discussed. Michael is one of those mighty spiritual princes connected with the administrations of God in our world. He is one of the first or highest of these holy Powers. Jude calls him “the archangel.” John beheld him in command of angels in the great conflict with the dragon. He is manifestly one of the most exalted, if not the very highest, of all celestial Powers, next to Eternal Godhead. And to him particularly is assigned the direction of the affairs relating to the Jewish people from the beginning to the end. Hence the account of his disputation with the devil about the body of Moses, whilst he here appears, in the very closing years of time, as the great prince who stands for the children of the prophet’s people, especially for such [page 229] of them as have the prophet’s faith and spirit, and thus prove themselves Israel, and not only of Israel.
This standing up of Michael includes a variety of administrations not here specified. They are elsewhere described, especially in the Apocalypse. Among the transactions of that time of wonders we read of a peculiar ministry in the hands of an angel from the sun-rising, having the seal of the living God, with which he seals one hundred and forty-four thousand servants of God from among the Israelitish peoples. Rev. 7. These were thenceforward secured against many of the plagues with which the rebellious children of men are then to be visited. Rev. 9: 4. So we read again of special heavenly ministrations, the giving of testimony, and the measuring of the temple, the altar, and the worshippers therein. Rev. 10: 11, 12: 1, 2. To the same list of these extraordinary manifestations belong the prophetic career and doings of the two Witnesses, who prophesy for three and a half years, whom I have elsewhere shown to be two celestial personages, even Elijah and Enoch [or possibly, as some believe today, to be Elijah and Moses – Ed.], as understood by the early Church, and who alone, of all then upon earth, are able to cope with the infamous Antichrist. (See Rev. 11: 3‑13, and my Lectures on the Apoc., in loc.) So, for those who are compelled to fly to the wilderness because they cannot consent to worship the beast or to receive his mark, there is also a marked divine manifestation. There is a place prepared of God, and a miraculous feeding of them in their seclusion till the Desolater comes to his end. Along with the rest is the sanctification of those dreadful sorrows to the purifying and making white of many to whom these trials were needful; also the war with Satan, which succeeds in casting him down from the aerial spaces (Rev. 12: 7-13) but, above all, the fulfilment of what was shown the prophet in the first vision (chapter 7: 9-12) - to wit, the sitting of the judgment, the opening of the books, and the giving of the beast to the burning flames. All this, and perhaps more, is included in this standing up of Michael for the children of [page 230] the prophet’s people, or is directly connected with that standing up. The word of the angel is that at that time every one found written in the book shall be delivered. And this is simply the summation of the completed result, in the accomplishment of which all these particulars have their part and place.
It stands out, therefore, as a most thoroughly authenticated
Scriptural truth that God is not yet done with the Jewish people as such. While this present dispensation lasts they
are in a state of disinheritance. We are
now living in “the times of the Gentiles.” The Jew at present has no privileges beyond
or above those of other men. If he will repent of his sins, lay aside
his conceit and self-righteousness, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as the
only Saviour of men, he can have salvation the same as any other mortal but he
has no other rights and no higher privileges than the Gentile, on whom he looks
with so much scorn and contempt. But
when “the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled,”
and the dispensation that now is comes to its close, for the fathers’ sakes he
shall again come to the front. Michael
the archangel shall stand up for him.
And for those of his blood and lineage who shall be found written in
Jehovah’s book shall come a deliverance from all
disabilities, of which there shall be no more forfeiture for ever. For “Thus saith the
Lord God; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, whither
they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land and I will make
them one nation in the land upon the
mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all and they shall
be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any
more at all: neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols,
nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I
will save them out of all their dwelling-places, wherein they have sinned, and
will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God. And
David my servant [page
231] shall be
king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them. And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your
fathers have dwelt; and they shall
dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children's children for
ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever. Moreover, I will make a covenant of peace
with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place
them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for
evermore. My tabernacle also shall be
with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And the
nations shall know that I do sanctify
A mighty sea of ills and judgments,
tears and recompenses for sin, still lies between Israel and that continent of
peace and glory. God hath an account of
indignation against that people for their impieties, which must first expend itself upon them and be paid off to the last. “
3. Note now, in the third place, that
the time of the Antichrist is also a time of blessed resurrections. It is [page 232] sometimes supposed that the ancient people of God knew
little or nothing about the resurrection of the body, but this is a great
mistake. Paul says that the Jews of his time allowed that there should be a
resurrection of the dead, both of the just and of the unjust. He declared before Agrippa that it was the
great hope in all the incessant services of the twelve tribes of
Great and awful has been the reign of death! Who can tell the associations of grief and pain, of dismay and agony, of streaming tears and broken hearts, of blasted hopes and ruined plans, of speechless misery and shattered reason, of desolate homes and bleeding affections, of darkness, misery, and gloom, which throng around that chilling word death?
Everywhere and in everything is death - resistless, gloomy, all-levelling death. Its subjects mingle with the soil of every clime, and crowd the hidden depths of every sea. Nearly two hundred generations, with all their power, have gone down under its dark dominion, without a single representative left. And every tick of the clock, through all the hours and days and nights and weeks and months and years, without cessation, is the death-knell of scores of mortals, swept from friends and homes to the silent world of them that sleep in the dust of the earth.
But those sleeping myriads shall not sleep for ever. There yet shall come a trumpet-voice before which even death shall cower, and all his bands dissolve. Rocky vaults and sepulchres, though sealed for ages and to the living lost, and all the deep incisions in “God’s Acre,” and all the hidden places whither the dead have been borne or laid away by loving [page 234] hands, shall open to set their tenants free. All the dingy doors of the grave shall be lifted from their hinges, and all within be called to bid farewell for ever to all the mould and dampness of that sombre realm. For thus saith the holy apostle “I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. ... For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” 1 Thess. 4: 13-18.
Yea, and even before the Antichrist shall enact the wickednesses which bring the miseries of the great tribulation, this grand awakening and translation of the [living] saints shall begin. Many, by reason of their unwatchfulness and unreadiness, will be obliged to linger in the world with the wicked and the unbelieving, and feel something of the woes of that time of trouble, till they have healed their deficiencies, washed their flesh-stained robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Rev. 7: 9-17. But there are some to whom the Saviour’s promise is, “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from that hour of trial, which shall come upon all the world.” Rev. 3: 10. When He was yet on earth He left command with promise: “Watch, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” Luke 21: 36. That which hinders the revelation of the Antichrist is the presence of Christ’s true [obedient (Acts 5: 32)] Church, in whom is the power of the Holy Ghost, and for whose sake and in answer to those prayers Jehovah’s providence is so ordered as to restrain the violence of Satan [page 235] and the wrath of the wicked. It is only when this Hinderer is taken away that “that Wicked [One] shall be revealed.” 2 Thess. 2: 7, 8. And if we ask in what manner that taking away is to be effected, the answer is given by the Saviour himself: “In that night there shall be two in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.” And when the listening disciples asked whither these should be taken the answer was: “Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together;” that is, to Christ, on whose slain body the saints are nourished, and who will then be in the heavenly spaces where Paul says His people are to meet Him. Luke 17: 34-37.
4. Note also, in the fourth place, that then shall men receive their eternal rewards. The word of the angel is, “They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever.” We are now in the mere vestibule of our being. There is another and an eternal life to which it leads. That life is not a mere spirit‑life, but a resurrection life ‑ a life which succeeds the sleep in the dust of the earth. The bringing up again of our fallen bodies, or a mighty change equivalent to it, must first occur, before the sons of God enter upon their glories. Daniel was to go his way in the ordinary course of earthly duty and experience, and peacefully rest in his grave till “the end” should come, and only “at the end of the days” was he to stand in his lot, or be raised up to enjoy his portion [of the inheritance]. So Paul, at the end of his race, wrote to his son Timothy: “I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day.” 2 Tim. 4: 6-8. It is a mistake to [page 236] suppose that Christians, when they die, enter at once upon their final places and rewards. Those rewards and places are not yet ready for them, nor will they be till Christ comes again in the glory of His manifested [millennial] kingdom; neither are they yet ready for those rewards. The souls of departed saints whilst in the disembodied state, though at rest in paradise and in conscious blessedness, are not in the exercise of the full functions of life, for which the presence of the body is necessary. Hence the supreme importance of the doctrine of the resurrection of the body in all proper presentations of the Christian system. Everything waits for and depends on “the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:23), which does not occur till Christ is ready to take to himself His great power and reign. Hence Peter writes to the suffering saints: “When the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” 1 Pet. 5: 4. If there were to he any crowning of the saints prior to that time, he would have said so. But when Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory. And great shall be the portion of the true and faithful.
Very little is said of the final destiny of the wicked. It is not important that we should know much on that subject. And blessed will those be who never find out what it will be. A few words tell the story with sufficient ampleness. They also are to be brought up again from their sleep in the dust, of the earth, but their resurrection will be a disgrace, not a glorification, and all the eternity of their being will be an abhorrence and contempt. On the other hand, how bright and cheering is the imagery which sets forth the destiny of the good and faithful [servants]!
Contemplate the pure blue sky which arches over us, and has bent its fair circle round our world ever since man was made. How beautiful in the rosy dawn of morning, lit up with the joys of incoming day, and spreading out its arms of welcome to the rising king of light! How sublime at high [page 237] noon, flooded with brightness from horizon to horizon, and lifted up like some great celestial dome whose arches seem to spring from eternity to eternity to make a tabernacle for the sun! How serenely sweet at sunset, spread out like an inverted sea of liquid glass and gold, tinging all the earth with the mellow radiance of its glory! How unspeakably charming and solemn in the silent midnight, looking like the apparition of some vast supernal city with its myriad lamps lit and twinkling with immortal fires! Could anything be more excellent, more beautiful, more cheering, more perfect? Six thousand years has it thus stood. Clouds have many a time overspread its face, but they have not dimmed it. The fumes and smoke and dust of earth’s cities, battles, and commotions again and again have risen against it, but it is still untarnished. Ages on ages have snowed their years upon it, but not a wrinkle, not a mark of decay, have they there produced. Storms on storms have driven over it with their fury and thunder, but they have not rent it. Changes on changes have worked their way into everything else, but no alterations have they wrought in this. It bends over us at this hour as beautiful, benignant, and blessed as when God looked upon it at the first and said it was “very good.” And such and so glorious is to be the portion of the wise. “They shall shine as the brightness of the firmament.” Like it, their home shall be on high. Like it, they shall be incorruptible, peaceful, beautiful, perfect, as if they had always been sons of the sky. Like it, their cheering, enlightening, and benignant glory shall envelop the earth with blessedness from age to age for ever. Every faithful man of God is a child of light. Jesus pronounces His people “the light of the world.” In this life their light is often dim. Shadows, clouds, crags, and hills frequently intercept its radiance, and sometimes the flame burns low, as if ready to expire. But this dull twilight is the herald of a coming noon, when all obstructions shall be surmounted, and all obstructions left far beneath, whilst the ethereal glow of heavenly brightness [page 238] pours out its flood of peaceful splendours in an everlasting flow
Contemplate, again, those sparkling lights which shine like polished gems in the canopy above us. How beautiful their light, and the sublimity and variety of their glow! How they attract our eyes, and seem to kindle corresponding fires in our hearts! How we are drawn and charmed by them as the crown jewels of the universe. And thus have they been blazing in the smiles of God for all these many, many ages. The flowers wither, the rainbow fades, but these never lose their immortal beauty, and abide as fresh and glorious as when they sang together the great birth-hymn of the world. They change their places, but they never cease their shining nor ever lay aside their glory. No convulsions can ever disturb the eternal calm of their beauty. Even when “the powers of the heavens shall be shaken,” their serene magnificence will abide unharmed, their brightness un-diminished, their splendour sempiternal. And so they, that turn many to righteousness shall shine, even “as the stars for ever and ever.” The men and women who have been God’s light-bearers in a world of darkness shall be His lights eternally. The fame and glory of apostles and prophets, evangelists and martyrs, reformers and confessors, and the honour of those who have stood, laboured, and suffered for the truth of God in every age, shall never wane, never pass away. All the mysterious changes of the day of judgment will only increase their exaltation, and make their names the more illustrious. Every minister, missionary, teacher, and instrument of the enlightenment and salvation of the benighted and the lost, if faithful on earth, is to have eternal place in heaven, luminous as the stars, and for ever beyond all the vicissitudes, defilements, disasters, or accidents of time. Oh, the glory, the sublimity, the untold dignities and honours to be inherited by the humble and self-denying teachers of salvation! To be set by God’s own hand in God’s own heavens! to shine as everlasting stars! to sparkle as illustrious [page 239] gems in the firmament of Jehovah’s power! to be the glory bearers of His eternal excellency! to shine His radiance through celestial spaces! to be God’s imperishable lights for heaven itself, His stars for ever and ever! What a portion to be put within the reach of poor feeble children of the earth! How the objects of this world’s ambition dwindle and shrink in comparison! What toils, what sufferings, what sacrifices of self is it not worth! What is all the joy, comfort, honour, wealth, and glory that can possibly be crowded into this brief earthly life which it would not be a blessed privilege to lay down for such a destiny! To be but a fragment, a jot, a particle of the firmament of God is a glory fit to be purchased at any price; but to be its eternal stars, the very jewels of the realm of light, the objects of undying interest and admiration in supernal worlds - here is a wealth of magnificence by the side of which all other greatness is as nothing!
Nor are the conditions hard on which these sublimities of human destiny depend. True, a genuine wisdom is required. It is “the wise,” only the wise, who are thus to shine. There is much that passes for wisdom which is not such in reality. Men call those wise who are skilled in physical science, worldly philosophy, politics, law, finances, trade, and human erudition; but if this be all, even the wisest need to become “fools,” that they may be wise. Knowledge is not wisdom, especially if it be mere secular knowledge. Knowledge is only one of the tools of wisdom, and all thinking or enlightenment which concerns itself only with earthly interests, gains, progress, and comfort, fails of true wisdom. People may know much, and make themselves very familiar even with God’s works and attributes, and still be in utter soul-ignorance. Wisdom is the heart’s knowledge of God himself “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom: and to depart from evil is understanding.” To be “wise” we must give up sin and self, and learn to fear, love, and trust in God above all things. No man is wise who settles his confidence on what must perish. No man is wise who has made no provision for eternity. No man is wise who puts the Lord his Maker out of his calculations, or fails to award Him His rightful place and authority in the universe. True wisdom and eternal life is this: to know God, and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent. And to this wisdom only is eternal glory linked. This wisdom God also wills that we should have, and has arranged every facility for us to acquire. He hath spoken that we may learn of Him, drink in His light, and by fellowship with His Spirit become like Moses on the mount, like Stephen in his dying moments, yea, like Christ in His transfiguration, illuminated with celestial radiance, and brightened with the glory that shall never fade. He desires that all men should turn with all their heart to Him and His saving truth in Christ Jesus, and, having turned, to exert themselves to turn others also. He expects all whom He has called and redeemed to take active part in bringing the erring and lost to the same light and salvation. And where this wisdom and devotion are, there the glories of which the angel speaks will surely follow.
Ah, yes, dear friends, as we live and labour in this world, so shall be our eternal future. The life to come will be good and glorious or evil and disgraceful just as our present lives are fashioned to the truth or turned away from it. As we now direct ourselves, we determine the complexion of our eternity. By the deeds we here perform we lay the outlines and draw the features of that body which we shall for ever wear. Just as we shape our behaviour on earth we prepare germs for our graves which the resurrection will develop into the brightness of the firmament and into the glory of the everlasting stars, or into that which shall be to us and all beings an unmitigated and unending abhorrence. 0h, mighty and momentous thought! How should it search and awaken our souls! Take it with you, and as you value immortal blessedness, never suffer it to be forgotten. And may that God who hath revealed these stupendous wonders [page 241] make it a living truth in every heart, to shape and guide us in all the activities of this life, that, with the holy Daniel, we may each stand in our lot at the end of the days!
And now, “unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
* * *
A CRITICALLY REVISED TRANSLATION
OF THE BOOK OF DANIEL.
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, king of
(Verse 3) And the king, commanded Ashpenaz, the chief of his eunuchs, 3 that he should bring of the sons of Israel, both of the royal seed and of the nobles, (4) lads, in whom was no blemish, and of good appearance, and apt in all wisdom, and quick in knowledge, and ready of understanding, and who have ability in them to stand 4 in the palace of the king; and that he should teach them the learning and the language of the Chaldeans. (5) And the king allotted to them a daily portion of the dainties of the king, and of the wine of his drinking, that he might nourish them three years, and that at the end thereof they might stand before the king. (6) Now among them were of the sons of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. (7) And the prince of the eunuchs gave names to them; and he gave to Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego. 5
(8) And Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the dainties of the king, and with wine of his drinking; and he entreated of the prince of the eunuchs, that he might not defile himself. (9) And God gave Daniel favour and tender regard in the sight of the prince of the eunuchs. (10) And the prince of the eunuchs said to Daniel, I fear my lord, the king who hath appointed your food and your drink: for why should he see your faces more sad than those of the lads who are of your age, and why would ye endanger my head to the king? (11) And Daniel said to the Melzar, 6 whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, (12) Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us of the vegetables 7 that we may eat, and water that we may drink. (13) And let our countenance be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the lads that eat the dainties of the king; and as thou shalt see, deal with thy servants. (14) And he hearkened to them in this matter, and proved them ten days. (15) And at the end of ten days, their countenance appeared fairer and fatter in flesh, than all the lads that did eat the dainties of the king. (16) And the Melzar took away their dainties and the wine of their drinking, and gave them vegetables. (17) And as for these four lads, God gave to them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. (18) And at the end of the days, when the king had said he should bring them in, the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. (19) And the king conversed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; and they stood before the king. (20) And in every matter of wise understanding concerning which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the scribes and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. (21) And Daniel continued unto the first year of Cyrus the king.
1 Came, - so Havernick, Ewald, Stuart, Hitzig and Hofmann; marched, - Kranichfeld, Keil and Bengstenbery.
2 Them - i.e. the vessels, - Keil, Stuart; including Jehoiakim, Hitzig, Kranichfeld.
3 or courtiers.
4 to serve.
5 Abed-nebo, - Hitzig, Keil, Lenormant, Fuller.
6 Overseer or steward.
7 Seeds, such as peas, beans, and the like.
And in the second
year 1 of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar dreamed
dreams, and his spirit was troubled, and his sleep failed him. (2) And the king
commanded to summon the scribes and the enchanters, and the sorcerers and the Chaldeans, that they might show the king his dreams; and they
came and stood before the king. (3) And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my
spirit is troubled to know the dream. (4) And the Chaldeans said to the king in Aramaean, 2 0 king,
live for ever, tell thy servants the dream, and we will declare the
interpretation. (5) The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, The decree is made known 3 by me; if
ye will not make known unto me the dream and the interpretation thereof, ye
shall be cut to pieces and your houses shall be made a dunghill. (6) But if ye declare
the dream and the interpretation thereof, ye shall receive from me gifts,
riches, and great honour; therefore, declare the dream and the interpretation
thereof. (7) They answered a second
time and said, Let the king tell his servants the
dream, and we will declare the interpretation.
(8) The king answered and said, I know
of a truth that ye would gain time, wholly because ye see the decree is made
known by me. (9) Which dream, if ye will not make known unto me, one decree 4 is for
you; for ye have prepared lying and corrupt words to speak before me, till the
time be changed; therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that ye can
declare the interpretation thereof. (10) The Chaldeans answered before the king, and said, There is
not a man upon the earth, who is able to declare the matter of the king; because 5 no great
and powerful king has asked a thing like this of any scribe, enchanter, or
Chaldean. (11) And the thing which the
king asks is weighty, 6 and there is none other who can declare it before the king,
except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh. (12) Because of this the king
was angry and exceedingly wroth; and commanded to destroy all the wise men of
(17) Then Daniel went to his
house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his
companions; (18) even, that they might seek compassion of the God of heaven concerning this
secret; that they might not destroy Daniel and his companions with the rest of
the wise men of
(23) Thee, 0 God of my fathers, do I thank and praise For thou hast given me wisdom and might, And now thou hast made known unto me That which we sought of thee; For thou hast made known unto us the matter of the king.
(24) Therefore Daniel went to
Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of
(31) Thou, 0 king, sawest, and behold, a great image stood before thee; this image was great, and its brightness excellent, and its appearance terrible. (32) This image - its head was of pure gold, its breasts and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of brass, (33) its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. (34) Thou sawest until a stone was cut out without hands, and it smote the image upon its feet of iron and clay, and crushed them. (35) Then was crushed at once the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, and they became like the chaff of the summer threshing-floors; and the wind carried them away, and no place was found for them; and the stone which smote the image became a great mountain and filled all the earth. (36) This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king.
(37) Thou, 0 king, king of kings, to whom the God of heaven hath given the kingdom, the power, and the strength and the glory; (38) and wherever the sons of men dwell, the beast of the field and the fowl of the heavens hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee to rule over them all - thou art the head of gold. (39) And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another, a third kingdom of brass, which shall rule over all the earth. (40) And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron; as iron breaks in pieces and crushes everything, even as iron which dashes in pieces, all these will it crush and bruise. (41) And since thou sawest the feet and the toes, part of potter’s clay and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided, and there shall be in it of the firmness of iron, because thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay. (42) And since the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. (43) Since thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men; but they shall not cleave one to another, behold, even as iron doth not mingle itself with clay. (44) And in the days of these kings the God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to another people; it shall crush and bring to an end all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. (45) Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it crushed the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold, the great God hath made known to the king, what shall be hereafter; and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof faithful.
(46) Then the king,
Nebuchadnezzar, fell on his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that
they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him. (47) The king answered Daniel and
said, of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings,
and a revealer of secrets because thou hast been able to reveal this
secret. (48) Then the king promoted
Daniel, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over all the
1 Second year, but also the fourth. See Exposition, pp. 29, 30.
2 The language here changes from Hebrew to Aramaean, which continues to the end of chapter 7.
3 Made known, published, - Kranichfeld, Zuckler, Kliefoth, Keil; The word has gone out, - Gesenius, Havernick, Lengerke, De Wette, Stuart; The matter is gone from me, - Theodotion, Vulgate, Luther, Bertholdt; The word from me stands firm, - Peshito, Aben Ezra, Saadiah, Winer, Henqstenberg.
4 Decree, sentence, - Vulgate, Luther, Zockler, Keil, Gesenius; one thing is your purpose,- Theodotion, Lengerke, Hitzig, Stuart, Maurer.
5 Because, - so Zockler, Keil, Stuart, Driver; wherefore, - Gesenius, Lengerke.
6 Weighty, hard, - Cheyne, Driver.
7 Harsh, - Cheyne, Driver.
NEBUCHADNEZZAR the king made an image of
gold; its height was threescore cubits, its breadth, six cubits; he set it up
in the plain of Dura, in the
(8) Wherefore, at the time, men who were Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews. (9) They spoke and said to Nebuchadnezzar the king, 0 king, live for ever. (10) Thou, 0 king, hast established a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and bagpipe, and all kinds of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image; (11) and whoever shall not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a furnace of burning fire. (12) There are men, who are Jews, whom thou hast appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, 0 king, have not regarded thee; they serve not thy gods, and the golden image which thou hast set up they do not worship.
(13) Then Nebuchadnezzar in rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; then these men were brought before the king. (14) Nebuchadnezzar spoke and said to them, Is it of design, 0 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that ye do not serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?
(15) Now if ye be ready, that at the time when ye shall hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and bagpipe, and all kinds of music, ye will fall down and worship the image which I have made, it is well; but if ye will not worship, at the same moment shall ye be cast into the midst of the furnace of burning fire; and who is that god that shall deliver you out of my hand?
(16) Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, 0 Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer thee in this matter. (17) If it be, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of burning fire, and from thy hand, 0 king, he will deliver. (18) And if not, be it known unto thee, 0 king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
(19) Then was Nebuchadnezzar fall of fury, and the form of his countenance was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; he spake and commanded that they should heat the furnace seven times above what it was wont to be heated. (20) And he commanded men, the most mighty of his army, to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in order to cast them into the furnace of burning fire. (21) Then these men were bound in their lower garments, their tunics, and their mantles, and all their clothing, and were cast into the midst of the furnace of burning fire. (22) Therefore, because the command of the king was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, them the flame of the fire slew. (23) And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the furnace of burning fire.
(24) Then Nebuchadnezzar the
king was astonished, and rose up in haste; he spoke and said to his
counsellors, Did not we cast three men into the midst
of the fire, bound? They answered and
said to the king, True, 0 king. (25) He answered and said, Lo, I
see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and there is no hurt to
them; and the appearance of the fourth is like to a son of the gods. 3 (26) Then Nebuchadnezzar came
near to the door of the furnace of burning fire; he spake and said, Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come
out. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abednego came forth from the midst of the fire.
(27) And the satraps, the governors, and the pashas, and the counsellors being
assembled, they saw these men, on whose bodies the fire had no power, and the hair of their heads was not singed, neither were their lower
garments changed, nor had the smell of fire passed on them. (28) Nebuchadnezzar spake and
said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who hath sent his
angel, and delivered his servants who trusted in him, and transgressed the word
of the king, and yielded their bodies that they might not serve nor worship any
god except their God. (29) And by me a decree is made, that every nation, tribe, and language which
shall speak blasphemy against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall
be cut to pieces, and his house be made a dunghill because there is no other
God who is thus able to deliver. (30) Then the king
promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the
1 Lawyers, - so Gesenius, Davies, Keil, Pusey, Zockler.
2 Symphony, a kind of bagpipe, - Gesenius, Davies, Hitzig, Ewald, Zockler, Keiel.
3 A son of the gods, - so Hengstenberg, Zuckler, Keil, Fuller; a son of God, - Hitzig, Ewald.
NEBUCHADNEZZAR the king to all nations, tribes, and languages that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied unto you. (2) The signs and wonders which the most high, God has wrought with me it has seemed good for me to declare. (3) His signs, how great! His wonders, how mighty! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation. (4) I Nebuchadnezzar was at rest in my house, and flourishing in my palace; (5) I saw a dream, and it made me afraid, and the thoughts upon my bed and the visions of my head terrified me.
(6) And by me a decree
was made to bring before me all the wise men of
(19) Then Daniel, whose name is Belteshazzar, was astonished for a moment, 2 and his thoughts troubled him. The king spoke and said, Belteshazzar, let not the dream or the interpretation thereof trouble thee. Belteshazzar answered and said, My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies. (20) The tree which thou sawest, which became great and waxed strong, and whose height reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to all the earth, (21) and whose foliage was fair, and the fruit thereof much, and on which was food for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt, and on the branches thereof the fowls of the heaven abode; (22) it is thou, 0 king, that hast become great and waxed strong, and thy greatness hath increased and reached unto heaven, and thy dominion to the end of the earth. (23) And whereas the king saw a Watcher, even a Holy One, coming down from heaven, and saying, Hew down the tree, and destroy it; yet leave the stump of its roots in the earth, and with a band of iron and brass in the tender grass of the field; and let him be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, until seven times pass over him; (24) this is the interpretation, 0 king, and it is the decree of the Most High, which is come upon my lord the king. (25) And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall cause thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew from heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou shalt know that the Most High is ruler over the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. (26) And that they commanded to leave the stump of the roots of the tree, - thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, as soon as thou shalt know that the Heavens do rule. (27) Wherefore, 0 king, let my counsel be pleasing unto thee, and break off 3 thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by mercy to the poor, if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity.
(28) The whole came
upon Nebuchadnezzar the king. (29) At the end of twelve months he was walking upon the royal
(34) And at the end of days, I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the Most High, and Him who liveth for ever I praised and honoured, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion; and his kingdom is from generation to generation. (35) And all the inhabitants of the earth are counted as nothing; and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, and there is none who can stay his hand or say to him, What doest thou? (36) At the same time, my understanding returned to me; and for the honour of my kingdom, my glory and splendour returned to me, and my counsellors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me. (37) Therefore I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and honour the King of heaven, for all his works are truth, and his ways judgment and those who walk in pride he is able to abase.
1 Presses, - i e. is too difficult for.
2 A moment, - so Keil, Stuart, Gesenius, Fuerst, Davies; one hour, - Zuckler, Michaelis, Hitzig, Kranichfeld.
3 Break off, - so Rashi, Geier, Starke, Hdvernick, Lengerke, Kranichfeld, Keil, Stuart, Melancthon in Apol Conf., Art. III, 140, ed. Mu. p. 132; redeem, ‑ Vulgate, Saadiah, Aben Ezra, Bertholdt, De Wette, Hitzig, Zockler, Gesenius, Roman Catholic Commentators.
4 See verse 19.
Belshazzar the king made a great feast to his
thousand lords, and drank wine before the thousand. (2) Belshazzar, while tasting 1 the wine,
commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father
Nebuchadnezzar had brought from the temple which was in
(5) At that very moment came forth fingers of a man’s hand and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaster of the wall of the palace of the king; and the king saw the end of the hand which wrote. (6) Then the king changed his colour, and his thoughts troubled him, and the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against the other. (7) The king cried aloud to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. The king spake and said to the wise men of Babylon, Whoever shall read this writing and declare to me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed in purple, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall rule as the third in the kingdom. (8) Then came in all the wise men of the king; but they were not able to read the writing, nor make known to the king the interpretation, thereof. (9) Then was King Belshazzar greatly troubled, and his colour was changed upon him, and his nobles were astonished. (10) The queen, on account of the words of the king and his nobles, came into the banquet-house; the queen spoke and said, 0 king, live for ever; let not thy thoughts trouble thee, nor thy colour be changed. (11) There is a man in thy kingdom in whom is the spirit [Spirit] of the holy gods, and in the days of thy father 2 light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; and king Nebuchadnezzar, thy father - thy father, 0 king - appointed him master of the scribes, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, the astrologers, - (12) inasmuch as an excellent spirit and knowledge and understanding to interpret dreams, show mysteries, and dissolve knots 3 was found in the same Daniel, whom the king called Belteshazzar; now let Daniel be called, and he will declare the interpretation.
(13) Then was Daniel brought
before the king. The king spoke and
said, Art thou that Daniel, who art of the sons of the captivity of Judah, whom
the king, my father, brought out of
(17) Then Daniel answered and said before the king, Let thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another; yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation. (18) 0 thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar, thy father, the kingdom and the majesty and the glory and the honour; (19) and for the majesty that he gave him all nations, tribes, and languages trembled and feared before him; whom he would he slew, and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he set up, and whom he would he put down. (20) And when his heart was lifted up, and his spirit hardened in pride, he was deposed from the throne of his kingdom, and they took his glory from him; (21) and he was driven from the sons of men, and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses; they caused him to eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven; till he knew that the most high God ruled over the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will. (22) And thou his son, 0 Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, notwithstanding thou didst know all this; (23) but thou hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and the vessels of his house have been brought before thee, and thou and thy nobles, thy wives and thy concubines, have drunk wine out of them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver and of gold, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor know; and the God, in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified. (24) Then was the end of the hand sent from before him; and this writing was written. (25) And this is the writing that was written, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin. (26) This is the interpretation of the word; Mene, God bath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it; (27) Tekel, thou art weighed in the balances and art found wanting; (28) Peres, thy kingdom is divided, and is given to the Medes and Persians.
(29) Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel in purple, and put a chain of gold on his neck and made proclamation concerning him, that he should rule as the third in the kingdom.
(30) In that night was Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, slain. (31) And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old.
1 Tasting, enjoying, drinking so as to feel its effects.
2 Father - i.e. grandfather. See Exposition, pp. 97, 104.
3 Dissolve knots - i.e. explain difficult subjects.
It seemed good to Darins to set over the kingdom one hundred and twenty satraps, who should be over the whole kingdom (2) and over them three presidents, of whom Daniel was one; that these satraps might render an account unto them, and the king have no loss.
(3) Then this Daniel outshone the presidents and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him, and the king thought to set him over the whole kingdom.
(4) Then the presidents and satraps thought to find occasion against Daniel on the part of the kingdom, but they were not able to find any occasion or corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and not any fault or corruption was found in him. (5) Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God. (6) Then these presidents and satraps ran together with tumult to the king, and said thus unto him, 0 king Darius, live for ever. (7) All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors and satraps, the counsellors and pashas, have given counsel that the king should establish a statute and make a firm decree, that whoever shall ask a petition of any god or man for thirty days, except of thee, 0 king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. (8) Now, 0 king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. (9) Because of this, King Darius signed the writing and the decree.
(10) And Daniel, when he knew
that the writing was signed, went to his house; and his windows were open in
his chamber toward
(18)Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting neither were concubines 2 brought before him; and his sleep fled from him. (19) Then the king arose at early dawn, when it was light, and went in haste to the den of lions. (20) And when he drew near to the den, he cried with a distressed voice unto Daniel; the king spoke and said to Daniel, 0 Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? (21) Then Daniel spoke with the king: 0 king, live for ever. (22) My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the mouth of the lions, and they have not hurt me; inasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, 0 king, have I done no harm. (23) Then the king was exceeding glad within himself, 3 and he commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. And Daniel was taken up out of the den, and not any hurt was found on him, because he trusted in his God. (24) And the king commanded, and they brought those men who had accused Daniel, and they cast into the den of lions, them, their children, and their wives; and they had not come to the bottom of the den before that the lions had the mastery of them, and had broken their bones to pieces.
(25) Then Darius, the king, wrote to all the nations, tribes, and languages who dwelt in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. (26) By me a decree is made, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel; for he is the living God, and eudureth for ever, and his kingdom shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be unto the end. (27) It is he that delivereth and rescueth, and doeth signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.
(28) And this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
1 Matter, - so Zockl