Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. second year of . . . Nebuchadnezzar--
shows that "three years" had elapsed since Nebuchadnezzar had taken
Jerusalem. The solution of this difficulty is: Nebuchadnezzar first
ruled as subordinate to his father Nabopolassar, to which time the
first chapter refers
whereas "the second year" in the second chapter is dated from his sole
sovereignty. The very difficulty is a proof of genuineness; all was
clear to the writer and the original readers from their
knowledge of the circumstances, and so he adds no explanation. A
forger would not introduce difficulties; the author did not
then see any difficulty in the case. Nebuchadnezzar is called
by anticipation. Before he left Judea, he became actual king by
the death of his father, and the Jews always called him "king," as
commander of the invading army.
dreams--It is significant that not to Daniel, but to the then world
ruler, Nebuchadnezzar, the dream is vouchsafed. It was from the first of
its representatives who had conquered the theocracy, that the world
power was to learn its doom, as about to be in its turn subdued, and for
ever by the kingdom of God. As this vision opens, so that in the seventh
chapter developing the same truth more fully, closes the first part.
Nebuchadnezzar, as vicegerent of God
Isa 44:28; 45:1;
is honored with the revelation in the form of a dream, the appropriate
form to one outside the kingdom of God. So in the cases of Abimelech,
(Ge 20:3; 41:1-7),
especially as the heathen attached such importance to dreams. Still it
is not he, but an Israelite, who interprets it. Heathendom is passive,
Israel active, in divine things, so that the glory redounds to "the God
2. Chaldeans--here, a certain order of priest-magicians, who wore a
peculiar dress, like that seen on the gods and deified men in the
Assyrian sculptures. Probably they belonged exclusively to the
Chaldeans, the original tribe of the Babylonian nation, just as the
Magians were properly Medes.
3. troubled to know the dream--He awoke in alarm, remembering that
something solemn had been presented to him in a dream, without being
able to recall the form in which it had clothed itself. His thoughts on
the unprecedented greatness to which his power had attained
made him anxious to know what the issue of all this should be. God
meets this wish in the way most calculated to impress him.
4. Here begins the Chaldee portion of Daniel, which continues to
the end of the seventh chapter. In it the course, character, and crisis
of the Gentile power are treated; whereas, in the other parts, which are
in Hebrew, the things treated apply more particularly to the Jews
Syriac--the Aramean Chaldee, the vernacular tongue of the king
and his court; the prophet, by mentioning it here, hints at the reason
of his own adoption of it from this point.
live for ever--a formula in addressing kings, like our "Long live
the king!" Compare
5. The thing--that is, The dream, "is gone from me."
translates, "The decree is gone forth from me," irrevocable (compare
namely, that you shall be executed, if you do not tell both the dream
and the interpretation. English Version is simpler, which
supposes the king himself to have forgotten the dream. Pretenders to
supernatural knowledge often bring on themselves their own punishment.
cut in pieces--
houses . . . dunghill--rather, "a morass heap." The Babylonian houses
were built of sun-dried bricks; when demolished, the rain dissolves the
whole into a mass of mire, in the wet land, near the river
to the consistency of this cruel threat with Nebuchadnezzar's character,
"basest of men";
Jer 39:5, 6; 52:9-11.
6. rewards--literally, "presents poured out in lavish profusion."
8. gain . . . time--literally, "buy." Compare
where the sense is somewhat different.
the thing is gone from me--(See on
9. one decree--There can be no second one reversing the first
till the time be changed--till a new state of things arrive, either
by my ceasing to trouble myself about the dream, or by a change of
government (which perhaps the agitation caused by the dream made
Nebuchadnezzar to forebode, and so to suspect the Chaldeans of
tell . . . dream, and I shall know . . . ye can show . . .
interpretation--If ye cannot tell the past, a dream actually presented
to me, how can ye know, and show, the future events prefigured in it?
10. There is not a man . . . that can show--God makes the heathen
out of their own mouth, condemn their impotent pretensions to
supernatural knowledge, in order to bring out in brighter contrast His
power to reveal secrets to His servants, though but "men upon the earth"
Da 2:22, 23).
therefore, &c.--that is, If such things could be done by men, other
absolute princes would have required them from their magicians; as they
have not, it is proof such things cannot be done and cannot be
reasonably asked from us.
11. gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh--answering to "no man
upon the earth"; for there were, in their belief, "men in heaven,"
namely, men deified; for example, Nimrod. The supreme gods are
referred to here, who alone, in the Chaldean view, could solve the
difficulty, but who do not communicate with men. The inferior gods,
intermediate between men and the supreme gods, are unable to solve it.
Contrast with this heathen idea of the utter severance of God from man,
"The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us"; Daniel was
in this case made His representative.
12, 13. Daniel and his companions do not seem to have been actually
numbered among the Magi or Chaldeans, and so were not summoned before
the king. Providence ordered it so that all mere human wisdom should be
shown vain before His divine power, through His servant, was put forth.
shows that the decree for slaying the wise men had not been actually
executed when Daniel interposed.
14. captain of the king's guard--commanding the executioners
15. Why is the decree so hasty--Why were not all of us consulted
before the decree for the execution of all was issued?
the thing--the agitation of the king as to his dream, and his
abortive consultation of the Chaldeans. It is plain from this that
Daniel was till now ignorant of the whole matter.
16. Daniel went in--perhaps not in person, but by the mediation of
some courtier who had access to the king. His first direct interview
seems to have been
time--The king granted "time" to Daniel, though he would not do so
to the Chaldeans because they betrayed their lying purpose by requiring
him to tell the dream, which Daniel did not. Providence doubtless
influenced his mind, already favorable
(Da 1:19, 20),
to show special favor to Daniel.
17. Here appears the reason why Daniel sought "time"
namely he wished to engage his friends to join him in prayer to God to
reveal the dream to him.
18. An illustration of the power of united prayer
The same instrumentality rescued Peter from his peril
19. revealed . . . in . . . night vision--
(Job 33:15, 16).
20. answered--responded to God's goodness by praises.
name of God--God in His revelation of Himself by acts of love,
"wisdom, and might"
21. changeth . . . times . . . seasons--"He
herein gives a general preparatory intimation, that the dream of
Nebuchadnezzar is concerning the changes and successions of kingdoms"
[JEROME]. The "times" are the phases and
periods of duration of empires (compare
1Ch 12:32; 29:30);
the "seasons" the fitting times for their culmination, decline,
The vicissitudes of states, with their times and seasons, are not
regulated by chance or fate, as the heathen thought, but by God.
Ps 75:6, 7;
1Sa 2:7, 8).
(Eph 1:17, 18).
knoweth what is in . . . darkness--
(Ps 139:11, 12;
light . . . him--
Apocalypse (or "revelation") signifies a divine, prophecy
a human, activity. Compare
where the two are distinguished. The prophet is connected with the
outer world, addressing to the congregation the words with which the
Spirit of God supplies him; he speaks in the Spirit, but the
apocalyptic seer is in the Spirit in his whole person
(Re 1:10; 4:2).
The form of the apocalyptic revelation (the very term meaning that the
veil that hides the invisible world is taken off) is
subjectively either the dream, or, higher, the vision.
The interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream was a preparatory
education to Daniel himself. By gradual steps, each revelation
preparing him for the succeeding one, God fitted him for disclosures
becoming more and more special. In the second and fourth chapters he is
but an interpreter of Nebuchadnezzar's dreams; then he has a dream
himself, but it is only a vision in a dream of the night
(Da 7:1, 2);
then follows a vision in a waking state
lastly, in the two final revelations
(Da 9:20; 10:4, 5)
the ecstatic state is no longer needed. The progression in the
form answers to the progression in the contents of his
prophecy; at first general outlines, and these afterwards filled
up with minute chronological and historical details, such as are
not found in the Revelation of John, though, as became the New
Testament, the form of revelation is the highest, namely, clear waking
23. thee . . . thee--He ascribes all the glory to God.
God of my fathers--Thou hast shown Thyself the same God of grace to
me, a captive exile, as Thou didst to Israel of old and this on account
of the covenant made with our "fathers"
(Lu 1:54, 55;
given me wisdom and might--Thou being the fountain of both; referring
Whatever wise ability I have to stay the execution of the king's
cruel decree, is Thy gift.
me . . . we . . . us--The revelation was
given to Daniel, as "me" implies; yet with just modesty he joins his
friends with him; because it was to their joint prayers, and not to his
individually, that he owed the revelation from God.
known . . . the king's matter--the very words in which
the Chaldeans had denied the possibility of any man on earth
telling the dream ("not a man upon the earth can show the king's
Impostors are compelled by the God of truth to eat up their own words.
24. Therefore--because of having received the divine communication.
bring me in before the king--implying that he had not previously
been in person before the king (see on
25. I have found a man--Like all courtiers, in announcing agreeable
tidings, he ascribes the merit of the discovery to himself
far from it being a discrepancy, that he says nothing of the previous
understanding between him and Daniel, or of Daniel's application to the
(Da 2:15, 16),
it is just what we should expect. Arioch would not dare to tell an
absolute despot that he had stayed the execution of his sanguinary
decree, on his own responsibility; but would, in the first instance,
secretly stay it until Daniel had got, by application from the king,
the time required, without Arioch seeming to know of Daniel's
application as the cause of the respite; then, when Daniel had received
the revelation, Arioch would in trembling haste bring him in, as if
then for the first time he had "found" him. The very difficulty when
cleared up is a proof of genuineness, as it never would be
introduced by a forger.
27. cannot--Daniel, being learned in all the lore of the Chaldeans
could authoritatively declare the impossibility of mere man
solving the king's difficulty.
soothsayers--from a root, "to cut off"; referring to their cutting the heavens into divisions, and so guessing at men's destinies from the
place of the stars at one's birth.
28. God--in contrast to "the wise men," &c.
(Am 3:7; 4:13).
Zaphnath-paaneah, "revealer of secrets," the title given to
the latter days--literally, "in the after days"
It refers to the whole future, including the Messianic days, which is
the final dispensation
visions of thy head--conceptions formed in the brain.
29. God met with a revelation Nebuchadnezzar, who had been
meditating on the future destiny of his vast empire.
30. not . . . for any wisdom that I have--not on
account of any previous wisdom which I may have manifested
(Da 1:17, 20).
The specially-favored servants of God in all ages disclaim merit in
themselves and ascribe all to the grace and power of God
The "as for me," disclaiming extraordinary merit, contrasts elegantly
with "as for thee," whereby Daniel courteously, but without flattery,
implies, that God honored Nebuchadnezzar, as His vicegerent over the
world kingdoms, with a revelation on the subject uppermost in his
thoughts, the ultimate destinies of those kingdoms.
for their sakes that shall make known, &c.--a Chaldee idiom for,
"to the intent that the interpretation may be made known to the king."
the thoughts of thy heart--thy subject of thought before falling
asleep. Or, perhaps the probation of Nebuchadnezzar's character through this revelation may be the meaning intended (compare
31. The world power in its totality appears as a colossal human form:
Babylon the head of gold, Medo-Persia the breast and two arms of
silver, Græco-Macedonia the belly and two thighs of brass, and
Rome, with its Germano-Slavonic offshoots, the legs of iron and feet of
iron and clay, the fourth still existing. Those kingdoms only are
mentioned which stand in some relation to the kingdom of God; of these
none is left out; the final establishment of that kingdom is the aim of
His moral government of the world. The colossus of metal stands on weak
feet, of clay. All man's glory is as ephemeral and worthless as chaff
But the kingdom of God, small and unheeded as a "stone" on the ground
is compact in its homogeneous unity; whereas the world power, in its
heterogeneous constituents successively supplanting one another,
contains the elements of decay. The relation of the stone to the
mountain is that of the kingdom of the cross
to the kingdom of glory, the latter beginning, and the former ending
when the kingdom of God breaks in pieces the kingdoms of the world
Christ's contrast between the two kingdoms refers to this passage.
a great image--literally, "one image that was great." Though the
kingdoms were different, it was essentially one and the same world
power under different phases, just as the image was one, though the
parts were of different metals.
32. On ancient coins states are often represented by human
figures. The head and higher parts signify the earlier times; the
lower, the later times. The metals become successively baser and baser,
implying the growing degeneracy from worse to worse.
HESIOD, two hundred years before Daniel, had
compared the four ages to the four metals in the same order; the idea
is sanctioned here by Holy Writ. It was perhaps one of those fragments
of revelation among the heathen derived from the tradition as to the
fall of man. The metals lessen in specific gravity, as they
downwards; silver is not so heavy as gold, brass not so heavy as
silver, and iron not so heavy as brass, the weight thus being
arranged in the reverse of stability [TREGELLES].
Nebuchadnezzar derived his authority from God, not from man, nor as
responsible to man. But the Persian king was so far dependent on others
that he could not deliver Daniel from the princes
(Da 6:14, 15);
Da 5:18, 19,
as to Nebuchadnezzar's power from God, "whom he would he slew, and whom
he would he kept alive" (compare
Græco-Macedonia betrays its deterioration in its divisions, not
united as Babylon and Persia. Iron is stronger than brass, but inferior
in other respects; so Rome hardy and strong to tread down the nations,
but less kingly and showing its chief deterioration in its last state.
Each successive kingdom incorporates its predecessor (compare
Power that in Nebuchadnezzar's hands was a God-derived
(Da 2:37, 38)
autocracy, in the Persian king's was a rule resting on his nobility of
person and birth, the nobles being his equals in rank, but not in
office; in Greece, an aristocracy not of birth, but individual
influence, in Rome, lowest of all, dependent entirely on popular
choice, the emperor being appointed by popular military election.
33. As the two arms of silver denote the kings of the Medes and
Persians [JOSEPHUS]; and the two thighs of brass
the Seleucidæ of Syria and Lagidæ of Egypt, the two leading
sections into which Græco-Macedonia parted, so the two legs of
iron signify the two Roman consuls [NEWTON]. The
"miry clay," means "earthenware," hard but brittle (compare
where the same image is used of the same event); the feet are stable
while bearing only direct pressure, but easily broken to pieces by a
the iron intermixed not retarding, but hastening, such a result.
34. stone--Messiah and His kingdom
In its relations to Israel, it is a "stone of stumbling"
1Pe 2:7, 8)
on which both houses of Israel are broken, not destroyed
In its relation to the Church, the same stone which destroys the image
is the foundation of the Church
In its relation to the Gentile world power, the stone is its destroyer
(Da 2:35, 44;
Isa 8:14, 15),
"Whosoever shall fall on this stone (that is, stumble, and be offended,
at Him, as the Jews were, from whom, therefore, He says, 'The
kingdom shall be taken') shall be broken; but (referring to
Da 2:34, 35)
on whomsoever it shall fall (referring to the world power which
had been the instrument of breaking the Jews), it will (not
merely break, but) grind him to powder"
The falling of the stone of the feet of the image cannot refer to
Christ at His first advent, for the fourth kingdom was not then as yet
divided--no toes were in existence (see on
cut out--namely, from "the mountain"
namely, Mount Zion
and antitypically, the heavenly mount of the Father's glory, from whom
without hands--explained in
"The God of heaven shall set up a kingdom," as contrasted with
the image which was made with hands of man. Messiah not created
by human agency, but conceived by the Holy Ghost
Heb 9:11, 24).
So "not made with hands," that is, heavenly,
The world kingdoms were reared by human ambition: but this is
the "kingdom of heaven"; "not of this world"
As the fourth kingdom, or Rome, was represented in a twofold state,
first strong, with legs of iron, then weak, with toes part of iron,
part of clay; so this fifth kingdom, that of Christ, is seen
conversely, first insignificant as a "stone," then as a "mountain"
filling the whole earth. The ten toes are the ten lesser kingdoms into
which the Roman kingdom was finally to be divided; this tenfold
division here hinted at is not specified in detail till the seventh
chapter. The fourth empire originally was bounded in Europe pretty
nearly by the line of the Rhine and Danube; in Asia by the Euphrates.
In Africa it possessed Egypt and the north coasts; South Britain and
Dacia were afterwards added but were ultimately resigned. The ten
kingdoms do not arise until a deterioration (by mixing clay with the
iron) has taken place; they are in existence when Christ comes in
glory, and then are broken in pieces. The ten have been sought for in
the invading hosts of the fifth and sixth century. But though many
provinces were then severed from Rome as independent kingdoms, the
dignity of emperor still continued, and the imperial power was
exercised over Rome itself for two centuries. So the tenfold divisions
cannot be looked for before A.D. 731. But the East
is not to be excluded, five toes being on each foot. Thus no point of
time before the overthrow of the empire at the taking of Constantinople
by the Turks (A.D. 1453) can be assigned for the
division. It seems, therefore, that the definite ten will be the
ultimate development of the Roman empire just before the rise of
Antichrist, who shall overthrow three of the kings, and, after three
and a half years, he himself be overthrown by Christ in person. Some
of the ten kingdoms will, doubtless, be the same as some past and
present divisions of the old Roman empire, which accounts for the
continuity of the connection between the toes and legs, a gap of
centuries not being interposed, as is objected by opponents of the
futurist theory. The lists of the ten made by the latter differ from
one another; and they are set aside by the fact that they include
countries which were never Roman, and exclude one whole section of the
empire, namely, the East [TREGELLES].
upon his feet--the last state of the Roman empire. Not "upon his
legs." Compare "in the days of these kings"
35. broken . . . together--excluding a contemporaneous existence of
the kingdom of the world and the kingdom of God (in its manifested, as distinguished from its spiritual, phase). The latter is not
gradually to wear away the former, but to destroy it at once, and
(2Th 1:7-10; 2:8).
However, the Hebrew may be translated, "in one discriminate
chaff--image of the ungodly, as they shall be dealt with in the
(Ps 1:4, 5;
summer threshing-floors--Grain was winnowed in the East on an
elevated space in the open air, by throwing the grain into the air with
a shovel, so that the wind might clear away the chaff.
no place . . . found for them--
Ps 37:10, 36; 103:16).
became . . . mountain--cut out of the mountain
originally, it ends in becoming a mountain. So the kingdom of God,
coming from heaven originally, ends in heaven being established on earth
filled . . . earth--
It is to do so in connection with Jerusalem as the mother Church
Isa 2:2, 3).
36. we--Daniel and his three friends.
37. Thou . . . art a king of kings--The committal of
power in fullest plenitude belongs to Nebuchadnezzar personally, as
having made Babylon the mighty empire it was. In twenty-three years
after him the empire was ended: with him its greatness is identified
his successors having done nothing notable. Not that he actually ruled
every part of the globe, but that God granted him illimitable dominion
in whatever direction his ambition led him, Egypt, Nineveh,
Arabia, Syria, Tyre, and its Phœnician colonies
Compare as to Cyrus,
38. men . . . beasts . . . fowls--the
dominion originally designed for man
(Ge 1:28; 2:19, 20),
forfeited by sin; temporarily delegated to Nebuchadnezzar and the world
powers; but, as they abuse the trust for self, instead of for God, to
be taken from them by the Son of man, who will exercise it for God,
restoring in His person to man the lost inheritance
Thou art . . . head of gold--alluding to the riches of Babylon, hence
called "the golden city"
39. That Medo-Persia is the second kingdom appears from
and Da 8:20.
inferior--"The kings of Persia were the worst race of men that ever
governed an empire" [PRIDEAUX]. Politically (which is the main point of
view here) the power of the central government in which the nobles
shared with the king, being weakened by the growing independence of the
provinces, was inferior to that of Nebuchadnezzar, whose sole word was
law throughout his empire.
brass--The Greeks (the third empire,
Da 8:21; 10:20; 11:2-4)
were celebrated for the brazen armor of their warriors. JEROME fancifully thinks that the brass, as being a
clear-sounding metal, refers to the eloquence for which
Greece was famed. The "belly," in
may refer to the drunkenness of Alexander and the luxury of the
over all the earth--Alexander commanded that he should be called
"king of all the world" [JUSTIN, 12. sec. 16.9;
Campaigns of Alexander, 7. sec. 15]. The four successors
(diadochi) who divided Alexander's dominions at his death, of whom
the Seleucidæ in Syria and the Lagidæ in Egypt were chief, held the
40. iron--This vision sets forth the character of the Roman
power, rather than its territorial extent [TREGELLES].
breaketh in pieces--So, in righteous retribution, itself will at
last be broken in pieces
by the kingdom of God
41-43. feet . . . toes . . . part
. . . clay . . . iron--explained presently,
"the kingdom shall be partly strong, partly broken" (rather, "brittle,"
as earthenware); and
"they shall mingle . . . with the seed of men," that is,
there will be power (in its deteriorated form, iron) mixed up
with that which is wholly of man, and therefore brittle; power in the
hands of the people having no internal stability, though something is
left of the strength of the iron [TREGELLES].
NEWTON, who understands the Roman empire to be
parted into the ten kingdoms already (whereas TREGELLES makes them future), explains the "clay"
mixture as the blending of barbarous nations with Rome by
intermarriages and alliances, in which there was no stable
amalgamation, though the ten kingdoms retained much of Rome's strength.
The "mingling with the seed of men"
seems to refer to
where the marriages of the seed of godly Seth with the daughters of
ungodly Cain are described in similar words. The reference, therefore,
seems to be to the blending of the Christianized Roman empire with the
pagan nations, a deterioration being the result. Efforts have been often
made to reunite the parts into one great empire, as by Charlemagne and
Napoleon, but in vain. Christ alone shall effect that.
44. in the days of these kings--in the days of these kingdoms, that
is, of the last of the four. So Christianity was set up when Rome had
become mistress of Judea and the world
&c.) [NEWTON]. Rather, "in the days of these
kings," answers to "upon his feet"
that is, the ten toes
or ten kings, the final state of the Roman empire. For "these kings"
cannot mean the four successional monarchies, as they do not
coexist as the holders of power; if the fourth had been meant,
the singular, not the plural, would be used. The falling
of the stone on the image must mean, destroying judgment on the
fourth Gentile power, not gradual evangelization of it by grace; and
the destroying judgment cannot be dealt by Christians, for they are
taught to submit to the powers that be, so that it must be dealt by
Christ Himself at His coming again. We live under the divisions of the
Roman empire which began fourteen hundred years ago, and which at the
time of His coming shall be definitely ten. All that had failed
in the hand of man shall then pass away, and that which is kept in His
own hand shall be introduced. Thus the second chapter is the alphabet
of the subsequent prophetic statements in Daniel [TREGELLES].
God of heaven . . . kingdom--hence the phrase, "the kingdom of heaven"
not . . . left to other people--as the Chaldees had been forced to
leave their kingdom to the Medo-Persians, and these to the Greeks, and
these to the Romans
Lu 1:32, 33).
break . . . all--
45. without hands--(See on
The connection of the "forasmuch," &c. is, "as thou sawest that the
stone," &c., this is an indication that "the great God," &c., that is,
the fact of thy seeing the dreams as I have recalled it to thy
recollection, is a proof that it is no airy phantom, but a real
representation to these from God of the future. A similar proof of the
"certainty" of the event was given to Pharaoh by the doubling of his
46. fell upon . . . face, and worshipped
Daniel--worshipping God in the person of Daniel. Symbolical of the
future prostration of the world power before Messiah and His kingdom
As other servants of God refused such honors
(Ac 10:25, 26; 14:13-15;
Re 22:8, 9),
would not taste defiled food, nor give up prayer to God at the cost of
(Da 6:7, 10),
it seems likely that Daniel rejected the proffered divine honors. The
implies that Daniel had objected to these honors; and in compliance
with his objection, "the king answered, Of a truth, your God is
a God of gods." Daniel had disclaimed all personal merit in
giving GOD all the glory (compare
commanded . . . sweet odours--divine honors
It is not said his command was executed.
47. Lord of kings--The world power shall at last have to acknowledge
(Re 17:14; 19:16);
even as Nebuchadnezzar, who had been the God-appointed "king of kings"
but who had abused the trust, is constrained by God's servant to
acknowledge that God is the true "Lord of kings."
48. One reason for Nebuchadnezzar having been vouchsafed such a dream
is here seen; namely, that Daniel might be promoted, and the captive
people of God be comforted: the independent state of the captives during
the exile and the alleviation of its hardships, were much due to Daniel.
49. Daniel requested--Contrast this honorable remembrance of his humble
friends in his elevation with the spirit of the children of the world in
the chief butler's case
Ec 9:15, 16;
in the gate--the place of holding courts of justice and levees in the
So "the Sublime Porte," or "Gate," denotes the sultan's
government, his counsels being formerly held in the entrance of his
palace. Daniel was a chief counsellor of the king, and president over
the governors of the different orders into which the Magi were