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
The thing is gone from me.millethath means "word," yet, like the Greek rema (and even sometimes logos) it may also mean a thing or subject of which there is speech, as it seems to do in verses 15 and 17 of this chapter. The other interpretation, however ("the word is gone forth from me"), which is given in the margin of the Revised Version, appears to have most probability. The reasons are these:
1. The king would scarcely call his dream a "thing." He would have said, "the dream is gone from me" if he had meant that. "Thing" would have referred not to the dream, but to the whole matter connected with the dream, and that had not gone from him.
2. The sequences in both the fifth and eighth verses are not relevant with reference to "dream," but are relevant with reference to "word" or "decree." In the fifth verse there is no nexus between a the dream is gone from me "and "if ye will not make known unto me the dream," etc. We should have expected a "therefore." In the eighth verse the seeking to gain time would be a natural result of the terrible decree, but not a result of the dream being gone from the monarch.
3. The similar expression in Daniel 9:23 and in Isaiah 14:23 (yatza dkabhar "the commandment came forth," "the word is gone out") is a strong support for the meaning here, "the word or decree is gone forth from me." Some have supposed (with this rendering) that Nebuchadnezzar well knew his own dream, but wished to test his wise men, and so insisted on their telling him what the dream was as well as its interpretation. It would certainly not be unlike an Oriental despot to do such a thing on pain of death if they failed. But there is one thing that forbids this theory. It is the terrible distress of soul which the monarch experienced regarding the dream. Such distress (ver. 1) would not permit him to indulge in a grim play with his wise men. He would be quick enough to tell them the dream in order that his soul might have relief from the interpretation. He would be careful to tell them every feature of the dream which he could remember, and so help them every way to the result — the interpretation. He most certainly had forgotten every detail of the dream, and only remembered that it had impressed his spirit with care and perplexity, which is a common experience in dreams. There may have been beside this a spiritual intimation that the dream was of God, but Daniel's marvellous telling of the dream (apart from his interpretation of it) and recalling every feature to his mind mus have been the conclusive proof to him that the dream was no ordinary and unmeaning one, but a divine revelation.
(Howard Crosby, D.D.)
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