the Messiah." For the kingdom of Babylon shall not ❝continue, nor exercise dominion over Israel; the kings "of Media shall be slain, and the strong men of Greece "shall not prosper; the Romans shall be blotted out, nor "collect tribute from Jerusalem. Therefore because of "the sign and redemption which thou shalt accomplish "for thy Christ and for the remnant of thy people, they "who remain shall praise thee," &c.

Josephus, in speaking of this kingdom, says, "The "kingdom of the stone shall bruise the Jews that stum"bled at Christ's first coming; but the kingdom of the "mountain, when manifested, shall beat the feet of the "monarchical statue to dust, and leave no remains of the "fourth monarchy in its last and degenerate state."

The same opinion was prevalent among the ancient Christians, as well as among the Jews. St. Jerome, and all the fathers, who have occasion to comment upon this passage, give the same interpretation; but it will be sufficient here to preserve the testimony of that elegant historian Sulpicius Severus, who, after having given an account of Nebuchadnezzar's dream, and all the particulars relating to it, subjoins an exposition of it agreeable to Daniel's interpretation. "The image (says he) is an em"blem of the world. The golden head is the empire of "the Chaldeans; forasmuch as that was the first and "most wealthy. The breast and arms of silver signify "the second kingdom, which was that of the Persian un"der Cyrus. In the brazen belly the third kingdom is "declared to be portended; and that we see fulfilled: "Forasmuch as the empire taken from the Persians was "given by Alexander to Macedonia. The irons legs are "the fourth kingdom; and that is the Roman, the strong"est of all the kingdoms before it. But the feet, part of "iron and part of clay, prefigure the Roman empire to "be so divided as that it should never unite again; which " is equally fulfilled. Forasmuch as the Roman territory "is occupied by foreign nations or rebels;-and we see "(saith he, and he lived at the beginning of the fifth "century) barbarous nations mixed with our armies, "cities, and provinces.-But in the stone cut out without "hands, which brake in pieces the gold, the silver, the

"brass, the iron and the clay, we have a figure of Christ: "for he shall reduce this world, in which are the king"doms of the earth, to nothing, and shall establish a "kingdom that will last forever."

Thus did it please God to reveal unto Daniel, and by Daniel unto Nebuchadnezzar, the great and most signal events of this world, as Daniel said unto Nebuchadnezzar at the time he interpreted his dream, The great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter; and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof is sure, Dan. ii. 45. The king, hearing his dream related with such exactness, might be better assured of the truth of the interpretation, and of the great events which should follow. And from hence we are enabled, in some measure, to account for Nebuchadnezzar's prophesying a little before he died. Abydenus wrote the history of the Assyrians. It is not well known in what age he lived, and his history is lost; but there is a fragment of it preserved by Eusebius, wherein it is asserted that Nebuchadnezzar, just before his death, was inspired, and that he prophesied in this manner: "I Nebuchadnezzar fore"tel unto you, O Babylonians, an imminent calamity, "which neither Belus my progenitor, nor queen Beltis "can persuade the fates to avert: A Persian mule shall "come assisted by your demons, and impose servitude 66 upon you; whose coadjutor shall be a Mede, the boast "of the Assyrians."

This prophecy of Nebuchadnezzar was afterwards thus interpreted: Cyrus was the mule; he was born of parents of different nations, the mother the better, and the father the meaner; for she was a Mede, and a daughter of the king of the Medes, but he was a Persian, and subject to the Medes. If, therefore, any such prophecy was uttered by Nebuchadnezzar a little before his death, if any such oracle was received and believed of Cyrus and the Persians subduing Asia, it may very justly be supposed to have been derived originally from the prophecy of Daniel, which being solemnly delivered to a great king, and published in Chaldee, might come to be generally known in the east; and the truth of it was soon evinced by the event that followed.

It was likewise from this prophecy of Daniel that the distinction first arose of the four great empires of the world, which hath been followed by most historians and chronologers in their distribution of times. As these four empires are the subject of this prophecy, so likewise have they been the subject of the most celebrated writers both in former and in later ages. The histories of these empires are the best written, and the most read, of any; they are the study of the learned, and the amusement of the polite; they are of use both in schools, and in senates: from hence examples, instructions, laws and politics are derived for all ages; and very little in comparison is known of other times, or of other nations.

It may be observed by some that there have been empires as great as these, such as those of the Tartars, the Saracens and the Turks; and it may, perhaps, be thought that they are as well deserving of a place in this succession of kingdoms, and were equally worthy to be made the objects of prophecy, being as eminent for the wisdom of their constitutions, the extent of their dominions, and the length of their duration. But these four empires had a particular relation to the church and people of God, who were subject to each of them in their turns. The fate of them was therefore particularly predicted; and we have in them, without the intermixture of others, a line of prophecy (as it may be justly called) from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar to the full and complete establishment of the kingdom of the Messiah.

The great arbiter of kingdoms, and governor of the universe, can reveal as much of their future revolutions as he pleaseth; and he hath revealed enough to manifest his Providence, and to confirm the truth of religion. What Daniel, therefore, said on the first discovery of these things, may be very justly applied after the completion of so many particulars: Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever; for wisdom and might are his. And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding. He revealeth the deep and secret things: he know

VOL. iii. N N

eth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him, Dan. ii. 20, &c.


Of DANIEL'S Vision concerning the four great Empires.

IN the first year of the reign of Belshazzar, (the last sovereign of the Babylonish empire) the same things were revealed unto Daniel concerning the four great empires of the world, as had been revealed unto Nebuchadnezzar in the second year of his reign, which was a space of about forty-eight years. All the difference between these revelations is, that what was revealed to Nebuchadnezzar in the form of a great image, was represented to Daniel in the shape of great wild beasts; which difference is accounted for by Mr Lowth, who says, "this image appeared with a glorious lustre in the "imagination of Nebuchadnezzar, whose mind was "wholly taken up with admiration of worldly pomp and

splendor; whereas the same monarchies were represent"ed to Daniel under the shape of fierce and wild beasts, "as being the great supporters of idolatry and tyranny "in the world."

In Daniel's vision the first kingdom is represented by a beast, that was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: and I beheld till the wings thereof were pluckt, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made to stand upon the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it, Dan. vii. 4. This is the kingdom of the Babylonians; and the king of Babylon is, in like manner, compared to a lion by the prophet Jeremiah, the lion is come up from his thicket, and the destroyer of the Gentiles is on his way, Jer. iv. 7. and he is said to fly as an eagle, Behold, he shall fly as an eagle, and shall spread his wings over Moab, xlviii. 40. And he is also compared to an eagle by the prophet Ezekiel, Thus saith the Lord God, A great eagle with great wings, &c. Ezek. xvii. 3.


The lion is the king of beasts, and the eagle the king of birds; and therefore the kingdom of Babylon, which is described as the first and noblest kingdom, and was the kingdom then in being, is said to partake of the nature of both. The eagle's wings denote its swiftness and rapidity; and the conquests of Babylon were very rapid, that empire being advanced to its height within a few years by a single person, namely, by the conduct and arms of Nebuchadnezzar. It is farther said that the wings thereof were pluckt. Its wings were beginning to be pluckt when Daniel's prophecy was first delivered, for at that time the Medes and Persians were encroaching upon it: Belshazzar, the then reigning king, was the last of his race; and in the seventeenth year of his reign Babylon was taken, and the kingdom was transferred to the Medes and Persians.

And it was made to stand upon the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it. The meaning of this passage is supposed to be an allusion to the case of Nebuchadnezzar, when, in his madness, a beast's heart was given unto him, and, after he was restored to his senses, a man's heart was given to him again. It evidently appears, that after the Babylonian empire was subverted, the people became more humane and gentle; their minds were humbled with their ill fortune; and those who vaunted as if they had been more than men, now found themselves to be but men. They were, in short, brought to such a sense as the psalmist wishes such persons to have, Put them in fear, O Lord; that the nations may know themselves to be but men, Psl. ix. 20.

The second kingdom is represented by another beast like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it; and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh, Dan. vii. 5. This is the kingdom of the Medes and Persians; and for their cruelty and greediness after blood they are compared to a bear, which is a savage and voracious animal. The learned Bochart recounts several particulars wherein the Persians resembled bears; but the chief likeness consisted in what has been already mentioned; and this like. ness was principally intended by the prophet, as evident.

« VorigeDoorgaan »