Thursday, September 24, 2009

Commentary on Daniel (chapter 1 - 3)

http://www.ccel.org/p/pearse/morefathers/jerome_daniel_02_text.htm

By Saint Jerome


Prologue
 
Porphyry wrote his twelfth book against the prophecy of Daniel,  denying that it was composed by the person to whom it is ascribed in its title, but rather by some individual living in Judaea at the time of the Antiochus who was surnamed Epiphanes. He furthermore alleged that "Daniel" did not foretell the future so much as he related the past, and lastly that whatever he spoke of up till the time of Antiochus contained authentic history, whereas anything he may have conjectured beyond that point was false, inasmuch as he would not have foreknown the future. Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, made a most able reply to these allegations in three volumes, that is, the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth. Appollinarius did likewise, in a single large book, namely his twenty-sixth.  Prior to these authors Methodius made a partial reply.


But inasmuch as it is not our purpose to make answer to the false accusations of an adversary, a task requiring lengthy discussion, but rather to treat of the actual content of the prophet's message for the benefit of us who are Christians, I wish to stress in my preface this fact, that none of the prophets has so clearly spoken concerning Christ as has this prophet Daniel. For not only did he assert that He would come, a prediction common to the other prophets as well, but also he set forth the very time at which He would come. Moreover he went through the various kings in order, stated the actual number of years involved, and announced beforehand the clearest signs of events to come. And because Porphyry saw that all these things had been fulfilled and could not deny that they had taken place, he overcame this evidence of historical accuracy by taking refuge in this evasion, contending that whatever is foretold concerning Antichrist at the end of the world was actually fulfilled in the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes, because of certain similarities to things which took place at his time. But this very attack testifies to Daniel's accuracy. For so striking was the reliability of what the prophet foretold, that he could not appear to unbelievers as a predicter of the future, but rather a narrator of things already past. And so wherever occasion arises in the course of explaining this volume, I shall attempt briefly to answer his malicious charge, and to controvert by simple explanation  the philosophical skill, or rather the worldly malice, by which he strives to subvert the truth and by specious legerdemain to remove that which is so apparent to our eyes.


I would therefore beseech you, Pammachius, as a foremost lover of learning, and Marcella, as an outstanding examplar of Roman virtue, men who are bound together by faith and blood, to lend aid to my efforts by your prayers, in order that our Lord and Savior might in His own cause and by His mind make answer through my mouth. For it is He who says to the prophet, "Open thy mouth and I will fill it" (Psalm 80:11). For if He admonishes us, when we have been hailed before judges and tribunals, not to ponder what answer we are to give to them (Luke 12), how much more is He able to carry on His own war against blaspheming adversaries and through His servants to vanquish them? For this reason a great number of the Psalms also contain that Hebrew expression, lamanasse1, rendered by the Septuagint as "To the end," but which rather is to be understood as "For victory!" For Aquila construed it as to nikopoio, that is, "To Him who grants the victory." Symmachus renders it as epinikion which properly signifies "Triumph and the palm of victory."


But among other things we should recognize that Porphyry makes this objection to us concerning the Book of Daniel, that it is clearly a forgery not to be considered as belonging to the Hebrew Scriptures but an invention composed in Greek. This he deduces from the fact that in the story of Susanna, where Daniel is speaking to the elders, we find the expressions, "To split from the mastic tree" (apo tou skhinou skhisai) and to saw from the evergreen oak (kai apo tou prinou prisai),2  a wordplay appropriate to Greek rather than to Hebrew. But both Eusebius and Apollinarius have answered him after the same tenor, that the stories of Susanna and of Bel and the Dragon are not contained in the Hebrew, but rather they constitute a part of the prophecy of Habakkuk, the son of Jesus of the tribe of Levi. Just as we find in the title of that same story of Bel, according to the Septuagint, "There was a certain priest named Daniel, the son of Abda, an intimate of the King of Babylon." And yet Holy Scripture testifies that Daniel and the three Hebrew children were of the tribe of Judah. For this same reason when I was translating Daniel many years ago, I noted these visions with a critical symbol, showing that they were not included in the Hebrew. And in this connection I am surprised to be told that certain fault-finders complain that I have on my own initiative truncated the book. After all, both Origen, Eusebius and Apollinarius, and other outstanding churchmen and teachers of Greece acknowledge that, as I have said, these visions are not found amongst the Hebrews, and that therefore they are not obliged to answer to Porphyry for these portions which exhibit no authority as Holy Scripture.


I also wish to emphasize to the reader the fact that it was not according to the Septuagint version but according to the version of Theodotion himself that the churches publicly read Daniel. And Theodotion, at any rate, was an unbeliever subsequent to the advent of Christ, although some assert that he was an Ebionite , which is another variety of Jew. But even Origen in his Vulgate edition (of the Greek Old Testament) placed asterisks around the work of Theodotion, indicating that the material added was missing (in the Septuagint), whereas on the other hand he prefixed obeli (i.e., diacritical marks) to some of the verses, distinguishing thereby whatever was additional material (not contained in the Hebrew). And since all the churches 3 of Christ, whether belonging to the Greek-speaking territory or the Latin, the Syrian or the Egyptian, publicly read this edition with its asterisks and obeli, let the hostile-minded not begrudge my labor, because I wanted our (Latin-speaking) people to have what the Greek-speaking peoples habitually read publicly in the regions of Aquila and Symmachus. And if the Greeks do not for all their wealth of learning despise the scholarly work of Jews, why should poverty-stricken Latins look down upon a man who is a Christian? And if my product seems unsatisfactory, at least my good intentions should be recognized.


But now it is time for us to unfold the words of the prophet himself, not following our usual custom of setting everything forth in detail with an accompanying detailed discussion (the procedure followed in our commentary on the Twelve Minor Prophets), but rather employing a certain brevity and inserting at intervals an explanation of only those things which are obscure. In this way we hope to avoid tiring the reader with an innumerable abundance of books. And yet to understand the final portions of Daniel a detailed investigation of Greek history is necessary, that is to say, such authorities as  Sutorius, Callinicus, Diodorus, Hieronymus, Polybius, Posidonius, Claudius, Theon, and Andronycus surnamed Alipius, historians whom Porphyry claims to have followed, Josephus also and those whom he cites, and especially our own historian, Livy, and Pompeius Trogus, and Justinus. All these men narrate the history involved in Daniel's final vision, carrying it beyond the time of Alexander to the days of Caesar Augustus in their description of the Syrian and Egyptian wars, i.e., those of Seleucus, Antiochus, and the Ptolemies. And if we are compelled from time to time to make mention of profane literature and speak of matters therein contained which we have formerly failed to mention, it is not by personal preference but by stark necessity, so to speak, in order to prove that those things which were foretold by the holy prophets many centuries before are actually contained in the written records of both the Greeks and Romans and of other peoples as well.

+ + + 

CHAPTER ONE

Verse 1.  "In the third year of the reign of Joacim (Jehoiakim) king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it." Jehoiakim, son of the Josiah in whose thirteenth regnal year Jeremiah began to prophesy, and under whom the woman Hulda prophesied, was the same man as was called by the other name of Eliakim, and reigned over the tribes of Judah and Jerusalem eleven years. His son Jehoiachin [misprinted "Joachim" for "Joachin"; cf. IV Reg. 24:6 in the Vulgate] surnamed Jeconiah, followed him in the kingship, and on the tenth day of the third month of his reign he was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar's generals and brought to Babylon. In his place his paternal uncle Zedekiah, a son of Josiah, was appointed king, and in his eleventh year Jerusalem was captured and destroyed. Let no one therefore imagine that the Jehoiakim in the beginning of Daniel is the same person as the one who is spelled Jehoiachin [Lat. Joachin] in the commencement of Ezekiel. For the latter has "-chin" as its final syllable, whereas the former has "-kim." And it is for this reason that in the Gospel according to Matthew there seems to be a generation missing, because the second group of fourteen, extending to the time of Jehoiakim, ends with a son of Josiah, and the third group begins with Jehoiachin, son of Jehoiakim. Being ignorant of this factor, Porphyry formulated a slander against the Church which only revealed his own ignorance, as he tried to prove the evangelist Matthew guilty of error.

Verse 2. "And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand." The fact that Jehoiachim is recorded to have been given over shows that it was not a victory for the might of his enemies but rather it was of the will of the Lord. ".. .and some of the vessels of the house of God, and he brought them to the land of Shinar to the house of his god, and he conveyed them into the treasure house of his god" (Gen. 11). The land of Shinar is a region of Babylon in which the plain of Dura was located, and also the tower which those who had migrated from the East attempted to build up to heaven. From this circumstance and from the confusion of tongues the region received the name Babylon, which, translated into our language, means "confusion." At the same time it ought to be noted, by way of spiritual interpretation [anagogen], that the king of Babylon was not able to transport all of the vessels of God, and place them in the idol-house which he had built himself, but only a part of the vessels of God's house. By these vessels we are to understand the dogmas of truth. For if you go through all of the works of the philosophers, you will necessarily find in them some portion of the vessels of God. For example, you will find in Plato that God is the fashioner of the universe, in Zeno the chief of the Stoics, that there are inhabitants in the infernal regions and that souls are immortal, and that honor is the one (true) good. But because the philosophers combine truth with error and corrupt the good of nature with many evils, for that reason they are recorded to have captured only a portion of the vessels of God's house, and not all of them in their completeness and perfection. Verse 3. "And the king said to Ashpenaz the overseer of his eunuchs, that he should out of the number of the children of Israel and, of the royal seed and (the seed of) the rulers [tyrannorum, Jer.'s rendering of Heb. partemim, "nobles"] bring in some young lads who were free from all blemish." Instead of Ashpenaz ("Asphanez") I found Abriesdri written in the Vulgate [i.e., the LXX] edition. For the word phorlhommin which Theodotion uses, the Septuagint and Aquila translated "the chosen ones," whereas Symmachus rendered "Parthians," understanding it as the name of a nation instead of a common noun. This is in disagreement with the Hebrew edition as it is accurately read; I have translated it as "rulers," especially because it is preceded by the words "of the seed royal." From this passage the Hebrews think that Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were eunuchs, thus fulfilling that prophecy which is spoken by Isaiah regarding Hezekiah: "And they shall take of thy seed and make eunuchs of them in the house of the king of Babylon" (Isa. 37: 7). If however they were of the seed royal, there is no doubt but what they were of the line of David. But perhaps the following words are opposed to this interpretation: "... lads, or youths, who were free from all blemish, in order that he might teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans." Philo supposes that Chaldee is the same thing as the Hebrew language, because Abraham came from the Chaldeans. But if we accept this we must ask how the Hebrew lads could now be bidden to be taught a language which they already knew; unless, perchance, we should say, as some believe, that Abraham was acquainted with two languages.

Verse 7. "And the overseer of the eunuchs imposed names upon them, calling Daniel Belteshazzar (Balthasar), and Hananiah Shadrach, and Mishael Meshach, and Azariah Abednego." It was not only the overseer or master of the eunuchs (as others have rendered it, the "chief-eunuch") who changed the names of saints, but also Pharaoh called Joseph in Egypt (Gen. 41) Somtonphanec [Heb.: Zaphenath-paaneah], for neither of them wished them to have Jewish names in the land of captivity. Wherefore the prophet says in the Psalm: "How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" (Ps. 136:4). Furthermore the Lord Himself changes names benignly, and on the basis of events imposes names of special significance, so as to call Abram Abraham, and Sarai Sarah (Gen. 17). Also in the Gospel, the former Simon received the name of Peter (Mark 3), and the sons of Zebedee are called "sons of thunder"----which is not boanerges, as most people suppose, but is more correctly read benereem [a reading for which there is no manuscript support, but which would be the Hebrew for "sons of thunder"].

Verse 8. "Daniel, however, purposed in his heart that he would not be defiled by food from the king's table, nor by the wine which he drank, and he asked the chief of the eunuchs that he might not be polluted." He who would not eat or drink of the king's food or wine lest he be denied (especially if he should be aware that the wisdom and teaching of the Babylonians is mistaken), would never consent to utter what was wrong. On the contrary they [i.e., the Hebrew youths] speak it forth, not that they may follow it themselves, but in order to pass judgment upon it and refute it. Just as anyone would expose himself to ridicule if he being untrained in mathematics should desire to write in confutation of mathematicians, or, being ignorant of the teachings of philosophers should desire to write in opposition to philosophers. Hence they [i.e., the Hebrew youths] study the teaching of the Chaldeans with the same intention as Moses studied the wisdom (B) of the Egyptians.

Verse 9. "God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the prince of eunuchs. . . . " He who was taken into captivity on account of the sins of his forebears received an immediate recompense for the magnitude of his own virtues. For he had purposed in his heart that he would not be denied by food from the king's table, and preferred humble fare to royal delicacies; therefore by the bounteous bestowal of the Lord he received favor and compassion in the sight of the prince of the eunuchs. By this we may understand that if ever under pressing circumstances holy men are loved by unbelievers, it is a matter of the mercy of God, not of the goodness of perverted men.

Verse 12. "I beg thee, try us thy servants for ten days, and let pulse be given us to eat and water to drink." His faith was so incredibly great that he not only promised he would be in good flesh by eating the humbler food, but he even set a time-limit. Therefore it was not a matter of temerity but of faith, for the sake of which he despised the sumptuous fare of the king.

Verse 17. "But God gave these lads knowledge and learning in every book and branch of wisdom, and He gave to Daniel besides an understanding of all visions and dreams." Note that God is said to have given the holy lads knowledge and learning in secular literature, in every book and branch of wisdom. Symmachus rendered this by "grammatical art," implying that they understood everything they read, and by the Spirit of God could make a judgment concerning the lore of the Chaldeans. But Daniel had an outstanding gift over and above the three lads, in that he could astutely discern the significance of visions and dreams in which things to come are shown forth by means of certain symbols and mysteries. Therefore that which others saw only in a shadowy appearance he could perceive clearly with the eyes of his understanding.

Verse 18. "Therefore when the days had been completed at the end of which the king had bidden them to be presented to him, the chief of the eunuchs presented them in the presence of Nebuchadnezzar." By the "completed days" understand the period of three years which the king had appointed, so that after they had been nourished and trained for three years, they should then stand in the presence of the king.

Verse 20. "And every word of wisdom and understanding the king inquired of them, he found it in them ten times as great as all the soothsayers and magicians put together who were to be found in his entire realm." For "soothsayers" and "magicians" the Vulgate edition [i.e., of the Septuagint] translated "sophists" and "philosophers"----terms to be understood not in the sense of the philosophy and sophistic erudition which Greek learning holds forth, but rather in the sense of the lore of a barbarian people, which the Chaldeans pursue as philosophy even to this day.

"Daniel therefore continued unto the first year of Cyrus the king." In the later discussion we shall explain how it was that Daniel who is here described as having continued till the first year of king Cyrus afterwards held office in the third year of that same Cyrus and is even recorded to have lived in the first year of Darius.

CHAPTER TWO

Verse 1. "In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar saw a dream and his spirit was terrified, and his dream fled from him." If the three lads had entered before him at the end of three years, as he himself had commanded, how is it that he is now said to have seen the dream in the second year of his reign? The Hebrews solve the difficulty in this way, that the second year refers here to his reign over all the barbarian nations, not only Judah and the Chaldeans, but also the Assyrians and Egyptians, and the Moabites and the rest of the nations which by the permission of God he had conquered. For this reason Josephus also writes in the tenth book of the Antiquities: After the second year from the devastation of Egypt Nebuchadnezzar beheld a marvelous dream, and "his spirit was terrified and his dream fled from him." The impious king beheld a dream concerning things to come, in order that he might give glory to God after the holy man had interpreted what he had seen, and that great consolation might be afforded the captive (Jews) and those who still served God in their captive state. We read this same thing in the case of Pharaoh, not because Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar deserved to behold visions, but in order that Joseph and Daniel might appear as deserving of preference over all other men because of their gift of interpretation.

Verse 2. "Wherefore the king commanded that the soothsayers, the magi, the charmers, and the Chaldeans show the king his dream. And when they came, they stood in the presence of the king." Those whom we have translated as "soothsayers" (harioli) others have rendered as epaoidoi, that is, "enchanters." Well then, it seems to me that enchanters are people who perform a thing by means of words; magi are those who pursue individual lines of philosophic enquiry; charmers are those who employ blood and animal sacrifices and often have contact with corpses. Furthermore the term "astrologers" [or nativity-casters, genethlialogoi] among the Chaldeans signifies, I believe, what the common people call mathematicians. But common usage and ordinary conversation understands the term magi as wicked enchanters. Yet they were regarded differently among their own nation, inasmuch as they were the philosophers of the Chaldeans, and even the kings and princes of this same nation do all they can to acquire a knowledge of this science. Wherefore also it was they who first at the nativity of our Lord and Savior learned of his birth, and who came to holy Bethlehem and adored the child, under the guidance of the star which shone above them (Matt. 2).

Verse 3. "And the king said to them, 'I have seen a dream, and from the confusion of my mind I do not know what I have seen.' " There remained in the king's heart only a shadow, so to speak, or a mere echo or trace of the dream, with the result that if others should retell it to him, he would be able to recall what he had seen, and they would certainly not be deceiving him with lies.

Verse 4. "The Chaldeans replied to the king in Syriac." Up to this point what we have read has been recounted in Hebrew. From this point on until the vision of the third year of King Balthasar [Belshazzar] which Daniel saw in Susa, the account is written in Hebrew characters, to be sure, but in the Chaldee language, which he here calls Syriac.

Verse 5. "If you do not show me the vision and its interpretation, ye shall perish and your homes shall be confiscated . ..." He threatened punishment and offered rewards, in order that if they should be able to tell him the dream, he might therefore believe also that which was uncertain, namely the meaning of the dream. But if they should be unable to tell the king what he in his mental confusion could not recall, they would also lose claim to trustworthiness in the interpretation they might give. At last there follows the statement:

Verses 9, 10. "Therefore tell me the dream, that I may be certain that ye are giving me its true interpretation. The Chaldeans therefore made this reply in the king's presence: 'There is no man on earth who would be able to fulfil what thou hast spoken, O king!'" The magi confess, along with the soothsayers----and all secular learning concurs----that foreknowledge of the future lies not in man's province but in God's. By this test it is proved that the prophets who proclaimed things to come spoke by the Spirit of God.

Verses 12, 13. "And when he had heard this, the king in a furious rage gave orders that all the wise men of Babylon should be slam. And when the decree went forth, the wise men were being slaughtered. ..." The Hebrews raise the question of why Daniel and the three lads did not enter before the king along with the other wise men, and why they were ordered to be slain with the rest when the decree was issued. They have explained the difficulty in this way, by saying that at that time, when the king was promising rewards and gifts and great honor, they did not care to go before him, lest they should appear to be shamelessly grasping after the wealth and honor of the Chaldeans. Or else it was undoubtedly true that the Chaldeans themselves, being envious of the Jews' reputation and learning, entered alone before the king, as if to obtain the rewards by themselves. Afterwards they were perfectly willing to have those whom they had denied any hope of glory to share in a common peril.

Verse 15. "And he inquired of him who had received authority from the king as to why so cruel a decree had gone forth from the presence of the king." Knowing that Daniel and the three youths possessed a knowledge and intelligence tenfold as great as that of all the soothsayers of Chaldea put together, the Chaldeans concealed from them the king's inquiry, lest they should receive preference over them in the matter of interpreting the dream. On this account Daniel inquired concerning the cruelty of the decree, being ignorant of the cause of his own peril.

Verses 16, 17. "Therefore when Arioch had explained the matter to Daniel, Daniel entered in and asked the king to grant him some time for the disclosure of the solution to the king. And he entered his home and disclosed the affair to his comrades, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah...." Daniel requested time, not that he might investigate secret things by the clever application of his intellect, but that he might beseech the Lord of Secrets. And for that reason he engaged Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah to join with him in supplication, to avoid the appearance of presuming upon his own merit alone, and to the end that those involved in a common danger might engage in common prayer.

Verse 19. "And Daniel blessed the God of heaven, and spoke, saying,. . .." In contrast to those who occupy themselves with this world and delude the earthly minded with demonic arts and illusions, Daniel blessed the God of heaven. For the gods who did not create heaven and earth will pass away.

Verse 21. "And it is He who changes times and seasons, who transfers kingdoms and establishes kingdoms." Let us not marvel, therefore, whenever we see kings and empires succeed one another, for it is by the will of God that they are governed, altered, and terminated. And the cases of individuals are well known to Him who founded all things. He often permits wicked kings to arise in order that they may in their wickedness punish the wicked. At the same time by indirect suggestion and general discussion he prepares the reader for the fact that the dream Nebuchadnezzar saw was concerned with the change and succession of empires. "He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who acquire learning." This accords with the scripture: "The wise man will hear and increase his wisdom" (Prov. 1:5). "For he who has, to him it shall be given" (Matt. 25:29). A soul which cherishes an ardent love of wisdom is freely infilled by the Spirit of God. But wisdom will never penetrate a perverse soul (Wisdom 3).

Verse 22. "It is He who reveals deep and hidden things, and He knows what is placed in the darkness, and with Him is the light." A man to whom God makes profound revelations and who can say, "O the depth of the riches of the knowledge and wisdom of God!" (Rom. 11:33), he it is who by the indwelling Spirit probes even into the deep things of God, and digs the deepest of wells in the depths of his soul. He is a man who has stirred up the whole earth, which is wont to conceal the deep waters, and he observes the command of God, saying: "Drink water from thy vessels and from the spring of thy wells" (Prov. 5:15). As for the words which follow, "He knows what is placed in the darkness, and with Him is the light," the darkness signifies ignorance, and the light signifies knowledge and learning. Therefore as wrong cannot hide God away, so right encompasses and surrounds Him. Or else we should interpret the words to mean all the dark mysteries and deep things (concerning God), according to what we read in Proverbs: "He understands also the parable and the dark saying." This in turn is equivalent to what we read in the Psalms: "Dark waters in the clouds of the sky" (Ps. 17:12). For one who ascends to the heights and forsakes the things of earth, and like the birds themselves seeks after the most rarified atmosphere and everything ethereal, he becomes like a cloud to which the truth of God penetrates and which habitually showers rain upon the saints. Replete with a plenitude of knowledge, he contains in his breast many dark waters enveloped with deep darkness, a darkness which only Moses can penetrate (Ex. 23) and speak with God face to face, of Whom the Scripture says: "He hath made darkness His hiding-place" (Ps. 17:12).

Verse 23. "I confess Thee, O god of my fathers, and I praise Thee because Thou hast granted me wisdom and strength." Lest it should seem to be an achievement of his own deserving, Daniel assigns it to the righteousness of his forefathers and to the faithfulness of God, Who takes pity upon their posterity even in exile.

"And now Thou hast shown me that for which we petitioned Thee. ..." That which the four of them had asked for is disclosed to the one, for the twofold purpose that he might escape any temptation to pride, on the ground of having obtained the request by himself, and also that he might render thanksgiving because he alone heard the secret of the dream.

Verse 24. "Destroy not the wise men of Babylon. Take me in before the king and I will set forth the explanation to the king. ..." He follows the example of the clemency of God, who intercedes in behalf of his persecutors, and is unwilling that those men should perish on whose account he himself had been threatened with death.

Verse 25. "I have found a man who belongs to the children of the captivity of Judah and who will set forth the explanation to the king." He credits his own diligence with what God's grace has bestowed, and he claims that he himself has done the finding, when actually Daniel had applied to him of his own volition that he might be presented to the king. This instance manifests the habitual reaction of messengers, for when they have good news to report, they wish it to appear their own doing. But the man who undertakes the explanation of the dream is certainly going to relate the dream beforehand. And note that Daniel is said to be of the children of Judah, rather than being a priest as the latter part of the story of Bel relates.

Verse 26. "Dost thou truly believe that thou canst show me the dream I have seen...." In framing his inquiry he adheres to logical sequence, so that he first asks for the dream, of which the magi had replied they were ignorant, and afterwards he asks for the interpretation of the dream. The implication is that after he has heard the dream, then he would believe also in the correctness of what was susceptible of varying interpretations.

Verse 27. "As for the secret for which the king is asking, neither the wise men nor the magi nor the soothsayers nor the diviners are able to declare it to the king." In place of diviners (haruspices), as we have rendered it, the Hebrew [sic!] text has Gazareni [actually the Aramaic word is gazerin], which only Symmachus has rendered as sacrificers [thutai], a. class of people whom the Greeks usually call liver-diviners (epatoskopoi), and who inspect the inwards in order to make predictions from them concerning the future. By terming a mystery the category of a revealed dream, Daniel shows that whatever is hidden and unknown by men can still be called a "mystery." Moreover he obviates any evil suspicion on the king's part, lest he should imagine that human cleverness can discover something which is reserved to the knowledge of God alone.

Verse 28. "But there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries." Therefore it is only in vain that thou inquirest (other MSS have: "that he inquire") of men as to something which is known only to God in heaven. Also, by indirectly drawing Nebuchadnezzar away from the worship of many gods, Daniel directs him to the knowledge of the one (true) God.

"Who hath shown thee, King Nebuchadnezzar, what is going to take place (the Vulg. reads: "the things which are going to take place") in the last times." Avoiding the blemish of adulation but cleaving to the truth, he courteously suggests that it is to the king [God has shown these things], for it was to him that God had revealed secrets concerning what was to occur in the last times. Now either these "last days" are to be reckoned from the time when the dream was revealed to Daniel until the end of the world, or else at least this inference is to be drawn, that the over-all interpretation of the dream applies to that final end when the image and statue beheld [in the dream] is to be ground to powder.

"Thy dream and the visions of thy head upon thy bed were as follows." He does not say, "The visions of thine eyes," lest we should think it was something physical, but rather: "of thy head." "For the eyes of a wise man are in his head" (Eccl. 2:14), that is to say in the princely organ of the heart, just as we read in the Gospel: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they are ones who shall see God" (Matt. 5:8). Again: "What (E) are ye meditating in your hearts?" (Matt. 9:4). To be sure, other authorities in treating of this chapter [i.e., Matt. 9], conjecture that the authoritative part of the soul (to hegemonikon) lies not in the heart but, as Plato says, in the brain.

Verse 29. "Thou, O king, didst begin to meditate upon thy bed as to what should come to pass hereafter." Instead of the true reading the Septuagint alone inserts the translation "in the last days" after the "hereafter." But if it be read thus, we must inquire quite carefully as to where "last days" have been written; and we would refute those who think the world will never be destroyed. For never would any days be called "the last days" if the world were everlasting. And as for the statement, "Thou, O king, didst begin to meditate," this would indicate the [psychological] motives behind the dream; for it was for this reason that God revealed to him the secrets of the future, because the king himself wished to know what was going to happen. Also, in order that Nebuchadnezzar might marvel at the gracious gift of divine inspiration, he sets forth not only what the king had beheld in the dream, but also what he had thought to himself (beforehand).

"...and He who reveals secrets has shown thee what is to come to pass." The statement which we read in the Gospel, "Who maketh His sun to rise upon the wicked and the good" (Matt. 5:45), we realize to have been fulfilled in the case of Nebuchadnezzar also. For so great was God's mercy that He even revealed to Nebuchadnezzar secrets as to His own mode of government whereby he rules the world. Let us ask those who assert that men's characters belong to one extreme or the other, which character do they understand Nebuchadnezzar to have possessed, the good or the evil? If the good, why is he called an impious man? If the evil (which was certainly the case), why did God show forth His holy secrets to one who was evil and earthly, that is to say, earthen?

Verse 30. "Moreover this holy secret has not been revealed to me in virtue of any wisdom which inheres in me more than in all living men, but rather that the interpretation might be manifested to the king, and that thou mayest know the thoughts of thine own mind." The king had imagined that cleverness of the human intellect could embrace a knowledge of the future, and for that reason he had ordered the wise men of Babylon to be slain. Daniel therefore makes excuse for those who were unable to speak, and himself avoids the envy of others, lest any should imagine that he had said any of the things he was going to say by virtue of his personal wisdom. But the cause of the prophetic revelation was the earnest desire of the king, who wished to know the future. Consequently he does honor to the king, because he states that it was for the sake of the king's knowledge that the secrets have been revealed by God. And this fact should be pondered, that dreams in which any coming events are signified and in which truth is shown forth, as it were, through a cloud, are not manifest to the conjectures or dominion of the human mind but to the knowledge of God alone.

Verse 31. "Thou sawest, O king, and behold there was, as it were, a large statue." Instead of "statue," that is a sculptured effigy, the only rendering used by Symmachus, others have translated it as "image," intending by this term to indicate a resemblance to future events. Let us go through the prophetic interpretation, and as we translate Daniel's words, let us explain at some length the matters which he briefly states.

"Now thou art the head of gold." "The head of gold," he says "is thou, O king." By this statement it is clear that the first empire, the Babylonian, is compared to the most precious metal, gold.

Verse 39. "And after thee there shall arise another empire inferior to thee, made of silver." (The Vulgate LXX does not include "made of silver.") That is to say, the empire of the Medes and Persians, which bears a resemblance to silver, being inferior to the preceding empire, and superior to that which is to follow.
"And a third empire of bronze (the Vulgate LXX has "made of copper"), which shall rule over the entire earth." This signifies the Alexandrian empire, and that of the Macedonians, and of Alexander's successors. Now this is properly termed brazen, for among all the metals bronze possesses an outstanding resonance and a clear ring, and the blast of a brazen trumpet is heard far and wide, so that it signifies not only the fame and power of the empire but also the eloquence of the Greek language.

Verse 40. "And there shall be a fourth empire like unto iron. Just as iron breaks to pieces and overcomes all else, so it shall break to pieces and shatter all these preceding empires . ..." Now the fourth empire, which clearly refers to the Romans, is the iron empire which breaks in pieces and overcomes all others. But its feet and toes are partly of iron and partly of earthenware, a fact most clearly demonstrated at the present time. For just as there was at the first nothing stronger or hardier than the Roman realm, so also in these last days there is nothing more feeble, since we require the assistance of barbarian tribes both in our civil wars and against foreign nations. However, at the final period of all these empires of gold and silver and bronze and iron, a rock (namely, the Lord and Savior) was cut off without hands, that is, without copulation or human seed and by birth from a virgin's womb; and after all the empires had been crushed, He became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. This last the Jews and the impious Porphyry apply to the people of Israel, who they insist will be the strongest power at the end of the ages, and will crush all realms and will rule forever.

Verse 45. "The great God has shown to the king the events which shall hereafter come to pass, and the dream is true and its interpretation is reliable." Daniel again asserts that the revelation of the dream is not a matter of personal merit, but has been granted for the purpose of making the interpretation manifest to the king and of teaching the king that God alone is to be worshipped.

Verse 47. "Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and worshipped Daniel, and ordered sacrifices and incense to be offered up to him. Therefore the king spoke and said to Daniel." Porphyry falsely impugns this passage on the ground that a very proud king would never worship a mere captive, as if, forsooth, the Lycaonians had not been willing to offer blood sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas on account of the mighty miracles they had wrought. And so there is no need to impute to the Scripture the error of the Gentiles who deem everything above themselves [i.e., superhuman] to be gods, for the Scripture simply is narrating everything as it actually happened. However we can make this further assertion, that the king himself set forth the reasons for his worship and offering of blood-sacrifices when he said to Daniel:

"Truly thy God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since thou hast been able to disclose this holy secret." And so it was not so much that he was worshipping Daniel as that he was through Daniel worshipping the God who had revealed the holy secrets. This is the same thing that we read Alexander the Great, King of the Macedonians, did in the high priesthood of Joaida [i.e., Jaddua]. Or, if this explanation seem unsatisfactory, we shall have to say that Nebuchadnezzar, overwhelmed by the amazing greatness of the miracles, did not realize what he was doing, but coming to know the true God and Lord of kings he both worshipped His servant and offered him incense.

Verse 48. "Then the king elevated Daniel to a high position, and gave him many great gifts (A) and set him up as governor over all the provinces of Babylon. .. ." In this matter also the slanderous critic of the Church has ventured to castigate the prophet because he did not reject the gifts and because he willingly accepted honor of the Babylonians. He fails to consider the fact that it was for this very purpose that the king had beheld the dream and that the secrets of its interpretation were revealed by a mere lad, that Daniel might increase in importance and that in the place of captivity he might become ruler over all the Chaldeans, to the end that the omnipotence of God might be made known. We read that this same thing happened in the case of Joseph at the court of Pharaoh and in Egypt (Gen. 41), and also in the case of Mordecai at the court of Ahasuerus (Esth. 8). The purpose was that the Jews, as captives and sojourners in each of these nations, might receive encouragement as they beheld men of their own nation constituted as governors over the Egyptians or the Chaldeans, as the case might be.

Verse 49. "Moreover Daniel made request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the public works of the province of Babylon. But Daniel himself was in the king's gate." Daniel does not forget those men with whom he had made intercession to the Lord, and who had shared his peril with him. And so he makes them judges over the province, while he himself does not leave (a variant reading is: "did not leave") the king's side.

CHAPTER THREE
Verse 1. "Nebuchadnezzar the king made a golden statue seventy cubits in height and six cubits in breadth." How soon he forgot the truth, when he had just been worshipping a servant of God as if he had been God Himself, but now commanded a statue to be made for himself in order that he personally might be worshipped in the statuel Now if this statue was of gold, and was of incalculable weight, it was intended to arouse amazement in the beholders and to be worshipped as God even though a mere inanimate object, whilst everyone would be consecrating his own avarice to it. On the other hand an opportunity of salvation was afforded to the barbarian nations through the opportune presence of the captive Jews (Col. iii), with the result that after they had first come to know the power of the one true God through Daniel's revelation of the dream, they might then learn from the brave example of the three youths to despise death [variant: might learn that death ought to be despised], and to eschew the worship of idols.

"And he set it up in the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon." Instead of "Dura" Theodotion has "Deira," and Symmachus has "Durau," whereas the Septuagint renders it as the common noun peribolon, a word which we might render as "game-preserve" or "enclosure."

Verse 2. "Nebuchadnezzar sent therefore to the satraps, magistrates and judges, the dukes and potentates, and the prefects and all the princes of the various districts that they should gather themselves together." It is the higher ranks which stand in the greater peril, and those who occupy the loftier position are the more sudden in their fall. The princes are assembled to worship the statue in order that through their princes the nations also might be attracted into error, For those who possess riches and power are all the more easily overthrown because of their apprehension of being bereft of them. But after the magistrates are led astray, the subject populace perish through the evil example of their superiors.

Verses 4, 5. "And a herald proclaimed with mighty voice: 'To us the order is given, both peoples and tribes and languages, at what hour ye hear the sound of the trumpet. . ..'" Not that the entire population of all the nations could have gathered on the plain of Dura and adored the golden statue, but rather, in the person of their leaders, all the tribes and peoples were supposed to have performed the act of worship. Now as I mentally run through all the Holy Scripture, I nowhere find (unless my memory fails me) a passage stating that any of the saints worshipped God Himself by falling prostrate [actually there are many instances; cf. Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon, 1005]; but only someone worshipping idols or demons or forbidden objects is said to have worshipped by falling prostrate. So also in this present instance that kind of worship is performed not once but several times as well. Moreover in the Gospel the devil says to the Lord, "All these things will I give Thee, if Thou fallest down and worshippest me" (Matt. 4:9). But this comment should also be made, that all heretics who devise a false doctrine with the brilliance of worldly eloquence, fashion thereby a golden statue, and to the best of their ability constrain men by their persuasiveness to fall down and adore the idol of deceit.

Verse 7. "After these things the people, therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the trumpet and pipe...." We are to take this statement in the same sense as above, so that we understand that all the peoples were represented by their leaders. For of course it was impossible for all the nations to attend at one time.

Verse 8. "And straightway at that time there came certain Chaldeans and accused the Jews...." They were envious of these Jews because they had been in charge of the king's business in Babylon, and also they were offended by their foreign religion and aversion towards idols. They therefore find a pretext for accusing them to the king. The final consequence ensues.

Verse 12. "Now then, there are certain Jews whom thou hast appointed over the affairs of the district of Babylon, namely Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who have despised thy decree" (the Vulgate reads: "those men of thine have despised the decree, O king"). To a certain extent their statement amounts to this: "Those captives and slaves whom thou hast preferred before us and hast made to be governors have lifted themselves up in pride and despise thine orders, not serving thy gods, and not worshipping the golden statue thou hast set up." The assertion we made at the commencement of the commentary on the vision is more abundantly proved in this passage, namely that the gods of Nebuchadnezzar were not to be identified with the golden statue which he had ordered to be erected for the worship of himself, for in what follows the king himself says:

Verse 14. "Do ye not serve my gods, and do you not worship the golden statue which I have set up?. . ." Other authorities assert that it is the custom of Holy Scripture to speak of the one and same idol in the plural, just like the verse in Exodus concerning the calf: "These are thy gods, O Israel, who have brought thee out of the land of Egypt" (Ex. 22:4). Also in the Book of Kings, where Jeroboam is establishing the golden calf in Bethel, he is said to have fashioned idols (I Kings 12). On the other hand a plurality of demons are addressed in the singular number, as in Isaiah: "He bows himself down and worships it, and as he makes his vow he says, 'Thou art my God!'" (Isa. 44:17).

Verse 15. "Prostrate yourselves and worship the statue I have made." Although he had up to this point given the youths his orders in angry fashion, yet he gives them room for a change of heart, so that their previous guilt might be pardoned if only they should fall down and worship. But if they should not deign to offer worship, the punishment of the fiery furnace lay at hand.

"And what God is there who shall rescue you from my hand?..." Why naturally, that same God whose servant thou didst just recently worship and Whom thou didst assert to be truly God of gods and Lord of kings.

Verse 16. "King Nebuchadnezzar, we ought not to render thee answer concerning this matter." In the Hebrew [i.e., Chaldee] original there is no vocative "King" as there is in the Septuagint, lest they should seem to address the ungodly man with servile flattery or to term him a king who was trying to force them to wickedness. But if it be contended that the reading, "O king!" should be included, then we may say that the youths were not impudently challenging the king to shed their blood but rendering him due honor so as to avoid injury to the true religion of God. But as for their statement. "We ought not to render thee answer concerning this matter," the meaning is: "Thou hast no need to hear words from men whose bravery and firmness thou wilt presently test by actual deeds."

Verse 17. "For behold, our God whom we serve is able to rescue us from the furnace of burning fire and to free us from thy hands, O king!" Where he had imagined he was frightening mere youths, he perceives in them a nature of manly courage. Nor do they speak of deliverance as delayed to the distant future, but rather they promise themselves immediate succor, asserting, "For behold, our God whom we serve is the One who is able to free us both from the fearsome flames thou threatenest and from thy hands."

Verse 18. "But if He does not will to do so"----a phrasing which admirably avoids the idea, "If He is not able," which would be inconsistent with what they had just asserted, "He is able to deliver us" ---- but rather they say, "If He does not will to do so." Thereby they indicate that it will not be a matter of God's inability but rather of His sovereign will if they do perish.

"Be it known to thee, O king, that we do not serve thy gods and do not worship the golden statue which thou hast set up." Whether we wish to read "statue" as Symmachus does, or "golden image" as the other authorities have rendered it, those who reverence God are not to worship it. Therefore let judges and princes who worship the statues of emperors or idols realize that they are doing precisely the thing which the three youths refused to do and thereby pleased God. And we should observe the proper significance of the issue involved: they assert that worshipping the mere image is equivalent to serving the false gods themselves, neither of which things is befitting to the servants of God.

Verse 19 "Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with rage, and the aspect of his countenance was wholly altered." In certain Psalms the titles contain the notation; "On behalf of those who are to be wholly altered." [This is a literal rendering of the Septuagint's erroneous translation of the Hebrew title 'al shoshanni'm, which occurs in Psalm 45 and Psalm 69, and signifies: "Upon anemonies."] And so the expression "wholly altered" is ambiguous, comprising both the idea of change for the worse or change for the better. Now of course the alteration of Nebuchadnezzar's visage cannot be reconciled with a favorable sense. And after all there are some authorities who refer even the Psalm-titles to a change for the worse, on the ground that those who by nature have known God have been changed by the vexation and fury of their mind to a position of hostility towards Christ and His saints.

Verse 20. "And he gave orders that the furnace be fired to sevenfold intensity beyond its usual temperature, and he commanded the strongest men in his army to bind the legs of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and cast them into the furnace of flaming fire." Just as if the usual fire without multiplied intensity could not have consumed the youths' bodies! But a fury and rage which borders on madness can observe no bounds. Also he wished by the threat of intensified punishment to terrify those who seemed prepared for death.

Verse 21. "And straightway those men, bound up in their trousers and turbans and footgear and garments, were cast into the midst of the furnace of flaming fire. ..." Instead of sarbal, "trousers" [actually this word probably meant "mantle" in the Aramaic] interpreted by Symmachus as anaxy-rides ("trousers"), Aquila and Theodotion read simply saraballa rather than the corrupt reading sarabara. Now the shanks and shin-bones are called saraballa in the language of the Chaldeans [apparently erroneous information; the lexicons give only "trousers" or, preferably, "mantle"], and by extension of the same word it is applied to those articles of clothing which cover the shanks and shins, as if they were to be called "shankies" and "shinnies" (crurales et tibiales). "Turban," however, is a Greek word, tiara [actually the Aramaic is karbela, "cap"] which has by usage become a Latin word also, and Virgil says of it (Aeneid, VII):
"Both scepter and sacred tiara."

[Since tiara does not appear in the Aramaic original at all, the comment upon it seems quite misleading to a public not having access to the original. Two other comments ought to be made about Jerome's treatment of this verse: a) he puts "turbans" before "footgear" (pattish) instead of after it as the original does; b) he has nevertheless consulted the original carefully, since he avoids the variant reading of the LXX, which latter substitutes "upon their heads" for the word "footgear."] It was, however, a kind of skull-cap used by the Persian and Chaldean races.

Verse 22. "Then those same men who had cast Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were slain by the fiery flame." Of course this meant the same men of whom it was said above, "And he commanded the strongest men in his army to bind the legs of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and cast them into the burning furnace of fire (another reading: into the furnace of flaming fire)." And so they were not any chance servants of his whom Nebuchadnezzar destroyed, but men who of all his army were strong and most ready for war. Not only was it intended that the miracle should strike terror but also that his own army might experience injury.

Verse 23. "But these three men, (here the Vulgate inserts: "that is,") Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell fettered into the midst of the furnace of flaming fire. And they were walking about in the midst of the flames praising God and blessing the Lord. And Azariah stood and prayed after this fashion, opening his mouth in the midst of the fire and saying. . .." It was a great miracle for men to be cast into a furnace bound and to fall headlong into the midst of the fire, only to have the bonds burn up by which they were bound, the bodies of the fettered withal remaining untouched by the timid flames. The Hebrew text goes only up to this point and the intervening passage which now follows as far as the end of the Song of the Three Youths is not contained in the Hebrew [i.e. the Aramaic]. Lest we seem to pass over it altogether, we must make a few observations.

Verse 26. "Blessed art Thou, O Lord God of our fathers, and Thy name is to be praised and glorified forever, for Thou art just in all that Thou hast done to us" (the Vulgate adds: "in our case"). Whenever we are oppressed by various anxieties, let us lovingly speak forth this sentiment with our whole heart, and whatever may have befallen us, let us confess that it is only right for us to endure it, that the scripture may be fulfilled in us: "The daughters of Judah have exulted and rejoiced in all Thy judgments, O Lord" (Ps. 96:8).

Verse 29. "For we have sinned and acted wickedly in departing from Thee, and we have forsaken Thee in all things." Now of course the three youths had not sinned, nor were they old enough when brought to Babylon to warrant being punished for their own faults. Consequently they were speaking as representatives of their people, in the same manner as the Apostle had to state: "For what I wish to do, that I do not; but what I do not want, that I carry into effect" (Rom 7:19), and so on with the rest of that same passage.

Verse 37. "Forasmuch, O Lord, as we have been diminished more than all the other races and abased in all the world this day because of our sins, and have at the present time neither prince nor prophet nor leader. . ." . These verses are to be used whenever the churches suffer want (because of the sins of the people) of holy men, and of magistrates who are most learned in the law of God, and also whenever in times of persecution no sacrifice or oblation is offered up. Some authorities relate this passage to the heavenly Jerusalem, on the ground that the souls have been plunged to the earthly plane and find themselves in a place of tears and utter distress, and bewail the sins of by-gone years and the other things included in the prophetic discourse. But the Church of God has not accepted this view.

Verse 39. "But in a contrite heart and humble spirit let us be accepted, like as in the burnt offerings of rams and bullocks...." (cf. Ps. 51:19). On the basis of the passage before us and also on the basis of what follows: "Bless the Lord, ye spirits and souls of the righteous," and also in view of the passage in Psalms: "The sacrifice for God is an anguished spirit, a contrite and abased heart God does not despise," certain authorities would have it that there resides in man a spirit, distinct from the Holy Spirit and different from the soul itself. But they will have to work out the difficulty of how there can be said to be two substances and two inner selves in one and the same man,entirely apart from the body and from the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Verse 46. "And the king's servants who had cast them in did not cease to make the furnace hot with naphtha and pitch." Sallust in his histories writes that naphtha is a kind of tinder in use among the Persians which furnishes the utmost encouragement to fires. Others are of the opinion that naphtha is the name applied to olive-pits which are thrown away when the dregs of the oil have dried up. In the same way, they assert, the Greek term pyrine is derived from its property of nourishing pyr, that is, "fire".

Verse 49. "But the angel of the Lord came down into the furnace with Azariah and his companions, and he smote the flame of the fire out of the furnace. ..." When the soul is oppressed with tribulation and taken up with various vexations, having lost hope of human aid and turned with its whole heart to God, an angel of the Lord descends to it. That is to say, the supernatural being descends to the aid of the servant and dashes aside the fierce heat of the violent flames, that the fiery shafts of the enemy utterly fail to pierce the inner citadel of our heart and we escape being shut up in his fiery furnace.

Verses 57, 58. "All ye works of the Lord, bless the Lord; laud Him and highly exalt Him forever. Praise Him, ye angels of the Lord; laud Him and highly exalt Him. ..." Having prefaced with general terms of praise, to the effect that every creature ought to praise the Lord, he addresses his exhortation in what follows to the various individual orders of creation: to the angels, the heavens, the waters and nature-forces, the sun and the moon, the rain-cloud and the dew, the wind, the fire and the billow, the cold and the heat, and all the rest too lengthy to include, so that he summons springs also and the seas, the sea-monsters and the birds, the beasts and flocks, to the praise of the Lord. He summons also the sons of men, and after the human race in general he specifies the race of Israel in particular, and of the Israelites themselves the priests and servants of the Lord, and the spirits and souls of the righteous, and those who are holy and of humble heart. And at the very last he specifies Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael, who are summoned to praise the Lord for His present kindness. But all creation praises God not in word but in deed, inasmuch as the Creator is logically apprehended on the basis of His creatures, and in the various works and affections [unless affectibus be a misprint for effectibus: "operations"] the grandeur of God is made manifest.

Verse 87. "Bless Him, ye saints and humble of heart...." We are taught to have humbleness of heart both by this present verse and also by the statement in the Gospel: "Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest for your souls" (Matt. 11:29). But this humbleness of heart is the same thing as is elsewhere called poverty in spirit, so that we are not to be lifted up in pride or seek after glory by a pretended humility, but rather that we abase ourselves with our whole heart. Up to this point we have mentioned but briefly a few things from Theodotion's edition, since the confession and the praises of the three youths are passages not contained in the Hebrew. But from this point on we shall follow the authentic Hebrew itself.

Verses 91, 92 (=24, 25). "Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and hastily arose and said to his nobles: 'Did we not cast three men in shackles into the midst of the fire?'" [When figures are given in parentheses they indicate the versification in the KJV.] After the princes have been punished, the king is rebuked, in order that he may glorify God while still alive. But he questions his nobles, by whose accusation and plot he had cast the three youths into the fiery furnace, so that when they reply that they had cast three youths into the furnace, he might announce and show forth to them (what had happened) .

"And they said to the king in reply, 'Truly, O king!' The king answered (the Vulgate omits "the king"): 'Behold, I see four men unbound and walking about in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt, and the appearance of the fourth man is the likeness of a son of God.' " Let me say again, how wise was the fire and how indescribable the power of God! Their bodies had been bound with chains; those chains were burnt up, whereas the bodies themselves were not burnt. As for the appearance of the fourth man, which he asserts to be like that of a son of God, either we must take him to be an angel, as the Septuagint has rendered it, or indeed, as the majority think, the Lord our Savior. Yet I do not know how an ungodly king could have merited a vision of the Son of God. On that reasoning one should follow Symmachus, who has thus interpreted it: "But the appearance of the fourth is like unto the sons," not unto the sons of God but unto gods themselves. We are to think of angels here, who after all are very frequently called gods as well as sons of God. So much for the story itself. But as for its typical significance, this angel or son of God foreshadows our Lord Jesus Christ, who descended into the furnace of hell, in which the souls of both sinners and of the righteous were imprisoned, in order that He might without suffering any scorching by fire or injury to His person deliver those who were held imprisoned by chains of death.

Verse 93 (=26). "Then Nebuchadnezzar approached unto the mouth of the burning fiery furnace and said: 'Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come forth and draw near!' And straightway Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came forth from the midst of the fire." Being terrified with fear, the king does not address his request to the youths through any messengers, but himself calls upon them by name, addressing them as servants of the Most High God, and begging these very men to come forth whom he himself had cast bound into the furnace.

Verse 95 (=28). " 'Blessed be God (the Vulgate has "their God, namely") of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Who hath sent His angel and rescued His servants who believed in Him. . ..' " The person whom he had previously called a son of God he here calls an angel, even though he had in the preceding passage described him as similar to a son of God rather than to God Himself. A second time, therefore, Nebuchadnezzar resumes a confession of faith in God, and as he condemns idols he praises the three youths who refused to serve or worship any god but their own God. Moreover he marvels that the fire was unable to affect the saints of God, for he says:

Verse 96 (=29). "'I have therefore determined upon this decree (the Vulgate says: "have appointed this decree"): that any people, tribe or tongue which utters blasphemy against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego shall utterly perish and his house shall be laid waste. For there is no other God who can save after such a fashion.' " Some authorities very wrongly apply this to the devil himself, asserting that in the consummation at the end of the world even the devil himself will receive a knowledge of God and will exhort all men to repent. These persons would have it that this is the king of Nineveh who finally descends from his proud throne and attains to the rewards of humility.

Verse 97 (=30). "Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to honor in the province of Babylon." Those commentators who say that the three youths were previously not judges set over the provinces but mere overseers of individual government agencies in Babylon, would have it that they were now appointed as judges over the provinces.


St. Jerome, Commentary on Daniel (1958).
[Translated by Gleason L. Archer]

Share/Save/Bookmark