Daniel 1:21, i.e. Daniel's public life with Daniel's preparation, it may be well here to notice what his preparation had been.
1. At home, and the associations of Jerusalem.
2. Knowledge of previous revelations (see Daniel 9:2).
3. Moral victory at a crisis of history.
4. Experience of life at one of its great centres - Babylon - the court.
As indicating the difference between Ezekiel's standpoint and that of Daniel, note Ezekiel dates from the years of the Captivity - for him, in comparative obscurity, the years dragged on wearily - Daniel, by the reigns of kings in whose court he was. Daniel's experience grew with the years, and he became increasingly fit to receive political revelations - revelations as to the rise and fall of empires.
1. The discrepancy looks at first sight glaring enough; i.e. as to the dates. Still, with our idea of the sacred writings, we should be justified in believing:
2. That some explanation would be forthcoming, if we knew all the loots. Of the propriety of this assumption, we shall have a striking illustration in the recent clearing up of' the special critical difficulty of ch. 5.
3. One might fairly conclude that Daniel is quite as reliable an historian as any other author.
4. The seeming discrepancy is clear evidence that Daniel, and none other, is the writer; for these two dates would never have been admitted in a form apparently contradictory, coming so close to each other as to challenge attention, if the author had been an impostor. Daniel writes straightforwardly the truth, unconscious of the possible misconstruction of his words. This unguardedness of style is a sure sign of the credibility of a living witness, and of the genuineness of any book.
5. There are several explanations forthcoming, one specially credible (see Exposition).
6. Our feeling in relation to discrepancies real or apparent, will doped entirely on our moral attitude in relation to revelation. The believer will treat them lightly; the captious and unbelieving will make the very most of them (see Alford on receipt of one of Colenso's volumes, in 'Alford's Life').
II. THE PREPARATION. There were subjective conditions of the dream which argue a certain nobility in Nebuchadnezzar. Dreams grow out of waking thought; and, though this dream was supernatural, we may well believe it was naturally conditioned. The mood of the king created a certain receptivity for Divine revelation (ver. 29).
1. The cares of empire weighted his soul.
2. His mind projected itself into the far future. (Ver. 29.)
3. Thoughts of present responsibility and visions of the future were enter-rained. To all, such high thoughts come at some time or other; but not all entertain them. We may drown them in frivolity, or quench them by intoxication. When God comes to a soul with thoughts worthy of its nature, it is for the soul to open wide its portals and let the glory in. About this young conqueror there was a certain grasp and elevation of mind.
III. THE DREAM. Here, at present, we ignore its contents; we are supposed, indeed, not to know it: and consider only generally whether, and to what extent, the dream may become the article of Divine communications to man. In a complete, discussion, we should have to cite the following testimonies: Those of:
1. Psychology. The nature and origin of dreams should be elucidated, with the view to a just estimate of the testimonies which follow. Sufficient wilt be found for homiletic purposes in Dr. Smith's 'Bible Dict.,' art. "Dreams."
2. Scripture. These inductions seem valid:
(1) "That Scripture claims the dream, as it does every other action of the human mind, as a medium through which God may speak to man["
(2) "That it lays far greater stress on that Divine influence by which the understanding also is affected. In dream, the imagination is in the ascendant; the reason, dormant.
(3) That dream as a medium of Divine communication is inferior to prophecy.
(4) That dreams, therefore, were granted:
(a) To the heathen rather than to the covenant people of God.
(b) To the latter only during their earliest and most imperfect individual knowledge of him.
(c) Only in the earliest ages, and less frequently as the revelations of prophecy increase.
(d) Almost invariably require an interpreter. These last four points are all illustrated by the dreams in the Book of Daniel.
3. Experience. The reference here is to that modern experience, of which we may be either the subjects or the observers. Even in a Christian civilization like ours, the superstitious regard fur dreams is so common, that the following truths may well be insisted on:
(1) That dreams should never for us stand in the place of revelation.
(2) Should be disregarded entirely, when contravening the truth as it is in Jesus"
(3) That God may see fit by dream to prepare the mind for the future.
(4) That there seems well-authenticated instances in which the coming event has been imaged in dream. Surely he who made the soul can have access to it by night or by day, directly or mediately, as he will In the application of these truths to our own life, the greatest spiritual wisdom will be necessary.
IV. THE SEARCH. We do not agree with Keil, that the king remembered the dream, and was intent on testing the value of the interpretation by making the interpreter tell also the dream itself; nor with the reasons he assigns for that interpretation. We believe that the dream was gone from memory, yet leaving behind such an impression that the king would recognize it on its being described, and also leaving behind an idea of its tremend us import, and a conviction that its origin was Divine. Here note:
1. The mission of oblivion. "God sometimes serves his own purposes by putting things out of men's minds, as well as by putting things into their minds." By the king's forgetfulness Daniel came to be honoured, and in him the God of Daniel.
2. The adaptation of Divine revelations. From Daniel 2:4 to Daniel 7:28 the language of the book is Chaldee; as though God would throw open the revelation through Daniel to the people of Babylonia as well as to the Jew. After ch. 8. the language reverts to Hebrew, for the communications are then chiefly for Israel. This adaptation one instance of what obtains universally.
3. The infirmities of even noble minds. There were many elements of greatness about Nebuchadnezzar; but all shaded by:
(1) Superstition. Seeking for light where no light could be found - from the magi of various grades.
(2) Unreason. Demanding both dream and interpretation. A certain sort of wisdom might interpret; but only the omniscience of God could recover the dream.
(3) Cruelly. Many instances besides that in this chapter.
V. THE FAILURE. (Ver. 11.) Observe:
1. The error into which exalted intellect may fall. "Gods" imply polytheism.
2. The truth which may shine through error. The magi were aware:
(1) Of the omniscience that is essential to Deity.
(2) Of the limitation that belongs to the creature. The flesh is a veil that hides from us much of the spirit-world.
VI. THE DOOM. Cruel as was the edict on the part of the king, there was, nevertheless, a sort of rough justice on the part of God's natural government of the world, in consigning to punishment the practicers of imposition and traders on the superstitious fear, of men. "They sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain suggests how oft the innocent are caught in the consequences of the sin of others. - R
Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands.
1. Its superhuman origin. The stone was "cut out" of the mountains without hands. There was no natural cause for its severance. So the foundation of Christ's kingdom was the result of no development of human character, but rather of the bringing of a new spiritual and heavenly power into the world.
2. The comparative feebleness of its beginning. The language of the vision indicates that the stone grew from a small size until it became a huge mountain. Frequently earthly kingdoms have had very insignificant beginnings. So with this Kingdom of Christ, which began with the meeting of a few Galilean peasants in an upper room.
3. The gradualness of its progress. Not all at once was this development made. It was a work of time. And so in the kingdom which it symbolises advancement was by degrees. Beginning at Jerusalem, its first preachers sought their earliest converts among their fellow-countrymen; but, as the seed sloughs off its outer shell when it begins to grows the Christian Church very soon put off its Jewish restrictiveness and found a root in Gentile cities.
4. Its universal extent. The mountains "filled the whole earth." "The knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth."
5. The perpetual duration of this kingdom. " It shall never be destroyed," and "it shall not be left to other people." This perpetuity is intimately associated with its character, and that again with its origin.
(W. M. Taylor, D.D.)
I. THE GREAT IMAGE. The general meaning of this dream is perfectly clear. It represents the succession of great world-powers which should rise in the world, to whom God had given, directly or indirectly, the sovereignty of the earth, until Christ himself should come and completely overthrown them, once for all, and take possession of the whole earth, and reign upon it for ever with and by His saints (Daniel 7:18-27; Revelation 5:9, 10; Revelation 11:15-17; Revelation 19:6; Revelation 20:4-6; Revelation 22:5). In this image two things are particularly set forth: that the world-power tends to division, as seen in the legs, feet, and toes; and that it gradually deteriorates from the gold, down through silver, brass, and iron to potter's clay. It is only when the world-power becomes a mixture of iron and clay, which cannot become permanently united, though having in it an element of strength, that it is finally overthrown. The attempt of Napoleon to establish a fifth universal monarchy was defeated and brought to naught by his two great reverses at Moscow and Waterloo. There shall be no other universal kingdom, that is, of a merely world-power. Man has come to the end of his strength in the matter of conquest. Russia may attempt to succeed to universal dominion, but will fail even as Napoleon.
II. THE STONE CUT OUT OF THE MOUNTAIN. The prophet having described to the king the progress of the successive world-powers, through four universal kingdoms, now takes up the interpretation of that mysterious event which he saw in his dream: A stone cut out of the mountain without hands, which first smote the colossal image on its feet of clay and brake it in pieces, alike the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold, and then itself increased more and more until it filled the whole earth. This he declares to be the establishment of a universal kingdom upon the ruins of the great world-powers. This kingdom, however, is not a successor to the former in the sense in which the four kingdoms succeeded one another. This kingdom had no part in the image, but was different in its origin and in its method of power.
1. The stone cut out of the mountain without hands. The expression "cut out of the mountain without hands" clearly indicates the supernatural origin and character of this omnipotent power, which was to break in pieces all these world-kingdoms, take possession of all things, and establish a kingdom for itself.
2. The universal and everlasting kingdom. The world-powers were never absolutely universal; but the Kingdom of Christ shall include and fill the whole earth.
3. The suddenness of the advent of the stone. There is no preliminary movement ascribed to the stone. It seems suddenly to rise up and smite the image with one mighty blow that shatters it to pieces. It is not a gradual, but an immediate conquest. There is no struggle for supremacy; no long conflict ending in final victory by the gradual rise of power and increase of might. This, therefore, cannot refer to the slow conquest of the world by the Gospel. The stone first smote the world-powers in pieces and scattered them like chaff from a summer threshing floor; then it went on and grew and filled the whole earth, and there was found no power to oppose it. This must refer to the sudden coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of man, in the clouds of Heaven (Daniel 7:13; Revelation 1:7, 13; Revelation 14:14; compare with Matthew 24:30; Matthew 25:31; Matthew 26:64). When Jesus comes again in the clouds of Heaven he will destroy all the organized powers of this world. THE EFFECT OF DANIEL'S INTERPRETATION. When Daniel had finished his interpretation of his dream, the king was so profoundly moved by its majestic truth that he fell upon his face, and having worshipped Daniel, caused that oblations should be offered to him. We have no record of what Daniel did when this act of worship was paid to him, but no doubt he rejected it, or at least fully understood that the act of worship was not meant for him, as it certainly was not, since he had already disclaimed any power of his own to interpret the dream or unfold the secrets of God (v. 27, 28). Moreover, the words of the king clearly intimated that he meant the worship to be for the God of Daniel, and not Daniel himself. "Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings." This intimates a partial conversion of Nebuchadnezzar to the true God. The second result was that it brought to Daniel power and authority in the government of the kingdom, even as a similar revelation of secrets and interpretation of dreams brought to Joseph in Egypt great power, to be used in God's service. Thus do we see how God takes possession, even in their day of power, of the kingdoms of the earth; so far at least as is necessary to carry out His purposes. The third effect was to lift the three friends of Daniel also into places of great eminence and usefulness. What a lesson is this for the encouragement of those who have purposed in their hearts to be true to God in the world where they are placed for a testimony!
(G. F. Pentecost, D. D.)
Homilist.Here is a remarkable fact — a Pagan ruler made the organ of a Divine revelation. The great Father of Spirits has access to the souls of every type. The deepest Paganism cannot exclude Him from contact with the spirits of men. There are two circumstances connected with the Divine communication to this monarch which in all likelihood are ever associated with "communications" from Heaven to depraved spirits. It came to the king entirely irrespective both of his choice and effort. And it had a most distressing influence upon his mind. Many great souls move about heathendom under the pressure of strange and soul-disturbing visions from eternity.
I. THE GREAT ATAGONISTIC PRINCIPLES IN HUMAN HISTORY — GOOD AND EVIL. The huge image is the symbolization of evil, as existing everywhere in the kingdoms of men. The four great dynasties of the ancient world are here represented in one colossal human form in order to symbolize in its totality the moral evil that sways mankind at large. The image stands for evil, the stone stands for good.
II. THE VERY INTERESTING SCENE OF THE GOOD ENTIRELY DESTROYING THE EVIL. To this day the great portion of the world is under the dark reign of evil. It is enthroned on the heart of humanity. To see the good, therefore, rising, growing, battling with it everywhere, and finally overwhelming it in ruin, is a sight deeply interesting and refreshing, both on account of its novelty and soul-inspiring character. This is the glorious scene before us. The evil is entirely destroyed in the vision.
1. The entire destruction of evil is effected by a supernatural manifestation of the good. There are circumstances connected with this stone which undoubtedly indicate its supernaturalness. Its origin, its self-motion, its world-wide expansion.(1) Christianity is good in a supernatural form. Its founder had a supernatural history.(2) The good in this supernatural form is the good to effect the entire destruction of evil. Good in its natural forms would never master evil. It tried for ages. Tried in the devotions of religion, the beauties of poetry, the enactments of law, the teachings of philosophy, But the "world by wisdom knew not God." In its supernatural forms of Christianity good becomes "mighty through God to the pulling down of the strongholds of sin." In this form it is truth in its mightiest force — moral truth, a force to move the affections, the conscience, the entire soul.(3) The entire destruction of evil by the good is not what appearances would indicate. Evil, as a whole, stands before you as a vast Colossus. Every part of the figure is imperial. It stands from age to age on the vast field of human life the most commanding and the most splendid of objects. The supernatural form of good was to human eyes very mean. To the worldly there was nothing attractive or imposing about Jesus. Who would have thought that "the stone" would at the first touch shiver that huge figure? Yet it did so.(4) The entire destruction of evil by good involves a thorough change in the character of the world. Here is the removal from the world of its most conspicuous object. How complete the destruction! A large thing is removed from the world's horizon, but a larger takes its place. The image was great, but the mountain was greater. Great as evil is, good is greater. A human thing is removed from the world's horizon, but a Divine thing takes its place, Evil in this world is a human production. The good that is to fill the world will be Divine.This subject supplies:
1. A guide to a correct judgment. Judge not from appearances.
2. A test of moral character. In order to be a Christian indeed evil must not only be smitten, the Divine thing must fill up thy nature.
3. A warning to infidel opposition. All opposition is both useless and dangerous.
4. Encouragement to Christian labour. The stone has smitten evil. The stone will roll on — nothing can stop it. The kingdom will be an "everlasting kingdom."
I. The first point of contrast is the ENORMOUS BULK of the statue as compared with the SMALLNESS of the stone. Man estimates the importance of things by their size and appearance. Vast proportions produce a feeling of awe; and primitive races strove to minister to this feeling by building gigantic structures which would exalt the idea of human genius in contrast with man's personal insignificance. The idol which the Babylonish monarch saw in his dream was in harmony with the huge monoliths, temples, and human-headed bulls which formed the architectural ornaments of his capital. Its colossal size admirably represented the material power and extent of his kingdom. Mere bulk and physical massiveness were the characteristics of the great empires of antiquity. But God's thoughts are not as man's thoughts. In nature He accomplishes His mightiest operations by the most insignificant agencies. Large islands are created by the labours of tiny coral polyps. And as in nature, so in grace. The Kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, which is the least of all the seeds that be in the earth. What was Palestine but a very little country among the mighty continents of the earth? And what was Israel but an insignificant people in comparison with the great nations of antiquity? And was not Bethlehem where Jesus was born one of the least cities of the land, and the house of Joseph among the poorest and most obscure families in it?
II. Another point of contrast is the HETEROGENEOUS CHARACTER of the statue as compared with the HOMOGENEOUS NATURE of the stone. The statue was composed of gold and silver, iron and clay; and these substances were moulded and held together in a human shape, not by a vital organisation, nor by chemical affinity, but by mere mechanical force. And in this respect the statue graphically represented the outward symmetry of the great world-kingdoms of antiquity, which was the result, not of a natural spontaneous association, but, of a forced union of discordant elements by human power. The might of the autocrats of Egypt, Assyria, and Rome blended together races and creeds that had no natural affinity or sympathy with each other into one form of government, one mode of political life, and one mould of religious profession. This hard mechanical uniformity was secured by crushing the instincts of human nature and the liberties of the individual. And hence there was a constant tendency in this compulsory unity towards disintegration. The kingdom of Satan is a kingdom divided against itself, and, therefore, cannot stand. Men who hate each other, and have nothing otherwise in common, will combine for some wicked purpose. But the unhallowed alliance has in it a principle of schism. But widely different was the stone, which symbolized the Kingdom of Heaven. It was a homogeneous substance. All its particles were of the same nature, and they were held together by the law of mutual cohesion and chemical affinity. The same force that united these particles into this compact form, changing the mud at the bottom of the ocean, or the sand on its shores, by pressure under massive rocks, or by the induration of volcanic outbursts into stone, still held these particles together because of their similarity, and resisted the processes of weathering to which they were exposed. The stone of the vision was no conglomerate or breccia in which pebbles or fragments of different minerals were held together by mechanical force, but in all likelihood, judging from the geological formation of the region where the vision occurred, a mass of limestone or marble, whose substance was homogeneous — composed of the same calcareous sediment, which fire and pressure had metamorphosed into this solid and enduring form. And how strikingly in this respect did it symbolize the City of God, which is compactly built together — the Kingdom of God, which is composed of those who are all one in Christ Jesus. Believers have a strong family resemblance. Notwithstanding their individual peculiarities, and their varieties of character, culture, and circumstance, they are all essentially one, after the image of God's unity, and consequently of His eternity. Their unity is not legal, but spiritual; not of dull uniformity, but of bright unanimity.
III. Another point of contrast is the LIMITATION of the statue as compared with the ILLIMITABLE DEVELOPMENT of the stone. The statue was of gigantic size, but its human shape circumscribed its boundaries. Its outlines were rigidly determined. And this was the characteristic of the vast empires of antiquity, which, almost as soon as they were formed, became stereotyped and incapable of progress. Unassisted human nature had reached in the Egyptian, Assyrian, and Roman empires its utmost limits, and disclosed its fullest capacities; and we see how incapable it was of bringing anything to perfection — how stunted and stereotyped all its mightiest efforts were. China has lived for two thousand years upon the work of five centuries; it has never got beyond the doctrines of Confucius as explained and unfolded by Menucius. In striking contrast with the fixed limits and definite proportions of these human civilizations is the indefinite size and shape of the Kingdom of God. The stone is an appropriate symbol of it, the rough stone taken out of the quarry — the amorphous boulder lying on the moor, not the stone crystallized into the mathematical facets of the gem. The statue, moulded by human art, shares in the limitations of man's own nature. Made by God, the stone shares in His infinitude. The mystic stone in the vision grew and expanded until it became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. The landscape consisted of itself and its shadow. It presented a different aspect from each new point of view. The uniform monotonous despotisms of antiquity were created by man for his own aggrandisement; they had, therefore, fixed bounds of space and duration beyond which they could not pass. But the Kingdom of god is the creation of Divine love and grace, and, therefore, it unfolds with the need of man, and develops new capacities of blessing him, and endures for ever. The image of the stone does not suitably convey this idea. Every stone, however rough, has a limit as fixed as the statue. But the idea of fixed shape is not so inherent in the stone as in the statue, A stone may be of any shape — may be weathered by the elements, or roughened by violent contact with other stones into the most varied forms; but a human statue must preserve the human shape and observe the fixed proportions of the human form. So, in like manner, the idea of development is not inherent in a stone. It is of a fixed size; it cannot become larger. But Scripture imparts the power of growth to it, and secures, by a combination of images, what one alone cannot effect. We see this in the union of ideas borrowed from the mineral and vegetable kingdoms — from architecture and plant life — in some of the images employed to designate the Christian Church and the Christian life. "In whom all the building framed together, groweth into an holy temple in the Lord"; "Rooted and grounded in love." The grandeur of the Bible gives the grandeur of its own conceptions to every comparison it uses, expands its powers, and imparts to it qualities which it does not inherently possess, and thus makes it more elastic to represent the expansive force of the Kingdom of God. There is nothing fixed or stereotyped in this kingdom. It has a wonderful power of adjustment and assimilation. It expands its horizon as humanity progresses. It grows with human growth. The idea of growth is inherent in the Christian religion. It has created for itself a literature and an art in which progress is essential. The horizontalism and exact regularity of Greek and Assyrian architecture expressed the permanence and immutability of the religious system associated with it; while the verticalism and endless variety of the Gothic architecture embodied in a physical form the ideas of advancement, elevation, and progress contained in the Christian religion, which has chosen that style of art for its own. The religious of the heathen keep man as he is — confined to the earth, limited and bounded on every side by the restrictions and incapacities of his faith; the religion of Jesus raises man from the ground, lifts up his nature to another world, arouses his intellect and lightens his cares, bursts the fetters of his flesh, sublimes his affections, fills the whole sphere of his vision with grand and aspiring spectacles, and embodies itself in structures which exhibit a similar analogy. The religion that will satisfy the soul is a religion that makes provision for its growth and expansion, that shares in the infinitude and indefinite progressiveness of man. The stone must destroy the statue.
IV. Another point of contrast is the BRILLIANT APPEARANCE of the statue, and the VALUE of the materials of which it is composed, as compared with the MEANNESS and commonness of the stone, and the WORTHTLESSNESS of its substance. With the exception of the clay, out of which its extremities were partly moulded, all the other materials used in the composition of the statue were exceedingly valuable according to the human standard. These materials are the highest forms which the mineral kingdom assumes — the sublimation of the substance of the earth, and therefore they fitly represent all the pomp and circumstance of the proud kingdoms of the world — all that is strongest, most precious, and enduring in human sovereignty. On the other hand, the stone which smote the magnificent statue had no value or splendour. It was a rude aggregation and consolidation of the common sand or mud or dust of the earth. It was made up of the materials which are trodden under foot or employed only m the humblest uses. Who values a rough stone by the wayside? And in this respect it is a fit symbol of the Founder of the Heavenly Kingdom, who, while on earth, had no form or comeliness, and was despised and rejected of men. Christ in His life and death presents no attraction to the natural eye. His Church was the filth and offscouring of all things to the world. The subjects of His kingdom were the weak, the foolish, the ignorant, and the poor. The dream of the night has become the grandest fact of history; the vision of a heathen monarch has become the reality of Christendom; and every age will give the vision and the dream a grander and yet grander interpretation.
(H. Macmillan, D.D.)
I. We see in the dream of Nebuchadnezzar THE GREAT FACT THAT THE KINGDOM OF GOD, THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST, THE KINGDOM OF TRUTH, IS AT LENGTH TO BE SUPREME OVER ALL OTHER KINGDOMS. Other kingdoms have always hitherto represented ideas and forces of evil. From the beginning, even down to the present moment, there has not yet been one kingdom which has aimed supremely at the well-being of the world. All of them, without exception, have been selfish and aggressive, aiming at the accession of territory and the augmentation of power and wealth. There have been men who have aimed at blessing others without dreaming of any blessing for themselves. But there has never been any nation which has been inspired with such noble aspirations. There is not one now. England, as one of the great dynasties of the world, is not contemplating any such purpose. She is seeking trade, wealth, territory, dominion, as other powers have done before her. Nations look at each other with jealousy and distrust and passion, as if they had only to fear danger from each other. But they do not take account of that invisible kingdom which is working behind and through them all, and which, by its secret and Divine power, can undermine their foundations. The image which Nebuchadnezzar saw did not fall of its own accord. It was not destroyed by a band of enemies. It did not crumble to pieces by natural decay. It was not upheaved by earthquake or consumed by fire. It was destroyed by miracle, by a stone cut out of the mountain without hands. The same Divine power formed it that made the world, and it rolled along under the same invisible impulse which wheels the planets in their courses. The gospel is always represented as an exotic — a plant brought from Heaven to earth. It is not the offspring of human genius, of human culture, or of human virtue. The grapes of the Gospel could not grow on the thorns of human nature. How little man could do in the way of elaborating a saving system of truth may be seen by what man did actually do in the most enlightened nation of the world. In his wisdom he knew not God. For thousands of years the problem of human redemption through the power of unaided human genius and virtue had a fair trial. But how did it succeed? Men became warriors, statesmen, scholars, philosophers, poets — but redeemers, never. Here and there sprang up in a few hearts the conviction that man was, somehow, far beneath what he should be, but no help came — no help could come unless it came from above. And it came in the incarnation of our Lord. He was the stone cut out of the mountain without hands. Men have striven to account for Him without the acceptance of His Divine nature and mission. It is vain. They cannot account for Him. No man can rise above the essential conditions of the race to which be belongs. Christ was far above them — He was a stone cut out of the mountain without hands. All other men have been born in the ordinary way of succession. Christ was conceived of the Virgin Mary. He was a stone cut out of the mountain without hands. Of all the unnumbered millions that have trodden the earth there has not been one who, in virtue of his own power, could escape the stroke of death; but Christ possessed the prerogative of defying the assault of the universal foe, exclaiming, "No man taketh away My life from Me: I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." He was the stone out out of the mountain without hands. We do not despise the stones which have been cut out of the mountain with hands; in other words, we despise no true thing, no human work which is beautiful, no human deed which is right, no human word which is noble, no human improvements which ameliorate the condition of the world. All hail inventions, laws, education, which enable the race to rise even by a single step out of its ignorance and degradation and misery; but the great image of evil will stand against them all, firm as the rocky headlands against wind and waves, and will fall only before the majestic movement, and the Divine force of the "stone which has been cut out of the mountain without hands." Such is the origin of the stone. It is supernatural, and it is from Heaven.
II. We notice THE APPARENT CONTRAST BETWEEN THE AGENT WHICH DESTROYS EVIL AND THE EVIL WHICH IS TO BE DESTROYED. A stupendous image — that is the evil; a stone, quite small at first, cut out of the mountain without hands — that is the good. That which is to destroy evil is at first little and despised; and men laugh at it, and treat it with mockery, even as David was treated when he stood forth as the foe of, the Philistine giant. What was Christ to all appearance, that He should assume the part of the destroyer of evil? He was as a root out of a dry ground. He had no form nor comeliness. He was but a rod out of the stem of Jesse. His cradle was a manger at His birth, and He had no settled home when He had entered on His ministry. Look at Him — this Galilean peasant — with few friends, with no favour from the great, with the hostility of kings and priests and rulers of the people, with a face of sorrow and a heart of woe. He it is who claims to be the light of the world, and who, knowing that He would die on the accursed wood, said, "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me." Is that the man who is destined to universal empire — an empire not won by force, but by love; not by wounding, but by healing; not by destruction, but by salvation? Ah! that stone cut out of the mountains without hands, does it not seem small, too small to smite anything, still less the kingdoms of this world? Look at Him when "He hangs lifeless on the cross, when He lies lifeless in the grave, dead as the stony sepulchre in which He is entombed! That stone seems harmless now against all evil, hemmed in by rock and seal and soldiery. From that day the stone has rolled on and on, and is rolling still. On the day that our Saviour rose from the dead there was not one man, perchance, in England who had ever heard of His name. Our fathers were then but savages, dwelling in trackless forests; now we are baptized in His name. This day is called after Him — the Lord's day. Our monarchs are consecrated in His name. The symbol of that Cross on which He hung is seen surmounting our churches, and glittering on every side as an ornament of person and of home. The nations that believe in Him are rising, the nations that reject Him are sinking; for the kingdoms and the nations that will not serve Him shall perish. But why shall they perish? They shall perish because they have no life in them; because they lack that spiritual leaven which alone can preserve nations from their doom. But this is as true of men as of nations. Sadly should we fail to realise the full import of this dream if ere did not bring it home to our own hearts.
(E. Mellor, D.D.)
(Frank W. Bristol, D.D.)
(John N Norton.)
1. Time past is a progressive revelation of God and right and duty. Divine truth comes in ever widening circles, In the earlier Scripture it is the physical attributes of God and the temporal blessings of obedience which are the more prominently presented, but, as the generations pass, this gradually passes, until in the time of Christ it is the spiritual attributes and the eternal rewards which occupy a larger place in Jewish thoughts. Here is advance. The Bible itself is a progressive development of Christian truth. Nor was the advance movement restricted to one nation. History, in the large view, is a record of the enlightening and bettering of men. The progress is along three lines: the unfolding of religious truth, the comprehension and reception of it, and the order and movement of events.
2. The cost of this progress. Every leader in a good cause has to suffer at the hands of those who have not accepted his advance ground. Heretics they are of yesterday, and canonized saints of to-day. But martyrdom means progress.
(Martin Post.)I. Daniel regarded the dream as a communication from God. It" was common for the Almighty to communicate with men in this way (Job 33:15-17; Numbers 12:6). Most frequently "a dream cometh through the multitude of business" (Ecclesiastes 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. In the case of Nebuchadnezzar the dream was special, and from the Lord. And it is not incongruous that a universal monarch, in the highest glory of the world's original kingdom, should be the veer of the course and end of all secular dominion, particularly when earnestly concerned about the matter.
2. 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 dominions, 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.
3. The dream gives an outline of the history and destiny of all earthly dominion, from Nebuchadnezzar to the end of the present world, and for ever. The several metals of which the great image was composed designated a succession of universal empires. The head was "fine gold," and Nebuchadnezzar was this head of gold. Babylon was the first and greatest of kingdoms. The breast and shoulders and arms of this image were of silver. This represents the comparatively inferior empire of the Medes and Persians, which stood for about two hundred years. It is chiefly interesting for the personality of Cyrus, its founder. The abdomen and thighs of the image were of brass; this represented the Graeco-Macedonian empire of Alexander the Great. The image had legs, feet, and toes. These were of iron, except the toes. This represents the Roman power. Since the Roman there has been no universal empire.
4. 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 the ages. And in some respects there has been growth. But with all, in God's estimate, there has been a never-ceasing downwardness, depreciation, and tendency toward the earth out of which man was taken. It is the whole history of the world that is comprehended in this vision. 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. Daniel tells us that God, the living God, the God who rules all kingdoms and all 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 inimitably stamped upon all the records of the succeeding ages. 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.
(Joseph A. Seiss, D.D.)
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