صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

improbable that the re-dedication of the Temple had yet taken place (Bevan, p. 129; Kamphausen in the Encycl. Bibl. col. 1013): from the Maccabees being alluded to as a 'little help' (xi. 34), it is probable further (Kuenen, Einl. §§ 88. 12; 89. 20) that it was written before Judas' defeat of Lysias in 1651 (1 Macc. iv. 28-35), perhaps (Kuen.) in 166, during the time described in 1 Macc. iii. 1-iv. 27. Cf. Ewald, Hist. v. 303, Proph. iii. 301, 308 [E.T. v. 155 f., 163], ‘B.c. 168—167'; Wellh. Isr. u. Jüd. Gesch. p. 252 (ed. 3, p. 246), ‘before B.C. 165.'

The author thus utters genuine predictions2: at a moment when the national peril was great, and the very existence of Israel as a nation was threatened (1 Macc. iii. 35, 36), he comes forward with words of consolation and hope, assuring his faithful compatriots that the future, like the past and the present, is part of God's predetermined plan, and that within less than 3 years of the time at which he speaks, their persecutor will be no more, and the period of their trial will be past. This prediction is exactly on a footing with those of the earlier prophets of Isaiah, for instance, who says (viii. 4) that

a child just born can cry Father, and Mother, Damascus will be taken by the king of Assyria; who declares (xvi. 14, xxi. 16) that within three years the glory of Moab, and within one year the glory of Kedar, will both be humbled; and who announces (xxix. 1-5) Jerusalem's deliverance, within a year, from the siege and distress, which he sees impending; or of the great prophet of the Exile, who, as Cyrus is advancing on his career of conquest (Is. xli. 2, 3, 25), bids his people not be in alarm (xli. 8—11, &c.), the successes of Cyrus are part of God's providential plan (xli. 2, 4, 25), and will issue in the deliverance of Israel from exile (xliv. 28, xlv. 4, 13)3.

The historical features of the Book are also explained consistently by means of the same supposition. In some respects

1 N.B. Kuenen's dates for this period are consistently lower by a unit than those commonly adopted; so that by B.C. 164, for instance, he means the same year which is commonly called B.C. 165.


Comp. especially viii. 25 end with the event.

3 On the manner in which the Book of Daniel, like the earlier prophets, represents the kingdom of God as beginning immediately after the coming deliverance, see below, p. lxxxix.

it preserves the memory of genuine historical facts: in other respects, it exhibits confused and inaccurate traditions, such as might easily be current in an age later than that of Daniel himself. Nebuchadnezzar was actually the builder of Babylon, and the words placed in his mouth in iv. 30 are, as Prince observes, in entire accordance with historical fact; Belshazzar was a real person, whose lifetime is correctly placed at the close of the Babylonian empire1; there was in all probability an actual plain of Dura; and the learned men of Babylon were actually versed in the interpretation of dreams. But there were no 'satraps' (iii. 2) under Nebuchadnezzar; the learned men of Babylon were not then known distinctively as 'Chaldeans'; Belshazzar was not either 'son' of Nebuchadnezzar, or 'king' of Babylon; Darius the Mede, son of Aḥashwerosh, and 'king' over the realm of the Chaldeans (ix. 1), is a figure for whom history has no room: in other representations of the Book,—as, for example, the attitude assumed by the different heathen kings towards the God of Daniel, and the madness of Nebuchadnezzar,—there are also in all probability elements of exaggeration or distortion. This double character of the narrative is exactly what would be expected, supposing the Book to be what critics hold it to be, a work not of Daniel's own age, but written some four centuries subsequently.

It by no means follows, however, from this view of the Book that the narrative is throughout a pure work of the imagination. That is not probable. Delitzsch, Meinhold, and others—most recently Behrmann-insist rightly that the Book rests upon a traditional basis. How much of its contents is, in our sense of the word, historical, it is, indeed, impossible to say: but it is probable that Daniel was one of the Jewish exiles in Babylon, who, with his three companions, was noted for his staunch adherence to the principles of his religion, who attained a

1 As Josephus (Ant. x. xi. 2) identifies Belshazzar with Nabonidus, it is probable that Berosus (whom Jos. quotes for this period of the history) did not mention him; and hence it may perhaps be inferred that his name was preserved by Jewish tradition, and handed down by it in conjunction with that of Daniel.

position of influence at the court, and who perhaps also foretold something of the future fate of the Chaldaean and Persian empires. The traditions relating to him were combined with those which reached the author respecting the public events of Daniel's time, and developed by him into the existing narratives, with a special view to the circumstances of his own age. The motive underlying chs. i.—vi. is manifest. The primary aim of these chapters is not historical, but didactic: the incidents of Daniel's life are not narrated for their own sakes, but for the sake of inculcating certain lessons, to magnify the God of Daniel, and to shew how He, by His providence, frustrates the purposes of the proudest of earthly monarchs, while He defends and rewards His servants, who in time of danger or temptation cleave to Him faithfully. The narratives in chs. i.—vi. are thus adapted to supply motives for the encouragement, and models for the imitation, of the loyal Israelites, at the time when Antiochus was making his assaults upon their religion,—when (1 Macc. i. 62, 63) the question of eating meat was made a test of faith (cf. Dan. i.), when (1 Macc. i. 41–50) the worship of foreign deities was commanded and that of Jehovah proscribed, under pain of death (cf. Dan. iii., vi.), and when men might well need to be reminded that it was not God's purpose to allow the powers of heathenism to prevail against Him (cf. Dan. ii., iv., v.). The general aim of the visions attributed to Daniel in chs. vii.— xii. is to shew, with increasing detail and distinctness, that as the course of history, so far as it has hitherto gone, has been in accordance with God's predetermined plan, so it is not less part of His plan that the trial of the saints should not continue indefinitely, but that within three years and a half of the time when the persecuting measures of Antiochus first began it should reach its appointed term. God, in other words, was guiding the whole course of history towards the salvation of His people. And the standpoint from which the survey of the future is represented as being made is an appropriate one: from the very centre and stronghold of heathendom, and in the age in which Israel first becomes permanently dependent upon foreign rulers, Daniel views the centuries, and in weird, im

pressive imagery portrays the growing deterioration and final impotence of the one, and the ultimate triumph of the other.

It is sometimes objected that this view of the Book of Daniel not only destroys its religious value, but makes it into a forgery: the Book, it has been said, is either Divine or an imposture; if the writer be not Daniel himself, describing events which actually occurred, he must be an impostor, manufacturing falsehoods deliberately in the name of God. In estimating this argument it is necessary in the first place to consider carefully whether the dilemma suggested is a real one. There are circumstances under which no doubt this would be the case: the dilemma would, for instance, be a real one, if we were assured that the object for which the Book was written was to prove the reality of the supernatural by an appeal to miracles, or fulfilled predictions; a writer who alleged unreal miracles or predictions, for such a purpose, would unquestionably be guilty of gross and unpardonable imposture. The assumption, however, that this was the purpose for which the Book of Daniel was written is a gratuitous one: there is nothing in the Book either stating or suggesting it; and if the Book was written for another purpose, this may have been one for which the use of imaginative narratives would be perfectly innocent and harmless all depends upon the motive actuating the writer, and the purpose with which he wrote. According to critics, the purpose for which the Book of Daniel was written was the consolation and encouragement of the afflicted Jews in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. For this purpose imaginative narratives might be employed with perfect propriety, and without the smallest intention to deceive. Fiction, even fiction without any foundation of fact whatever, has played an important part in the education of humanity; and religious fiction, written with a didactic purpose, has in both ancient and modern times, been valued by teachers as a powerful instrument of edification, and has won a remarkable amount of popular appreciation. The Old Testament abounds with instances in which poetry and oratory have been employed by the Spirit of God for the purpose of giving expression to moral and religious truth, and

of stirring the moral and religious emotions of those who either listened in the first instance to the words of the poet or the prophet, or who have since read them; and if the imagination be a faculty granted by God to man, and capable of being employed in instruction and edification, there is no intelligible reason why, where no fact conditioning a theological verity is concerned, it may not have been made subservient to religious ends. The idea that the Bible can contain nothing but matterof-fact descriptions of actual occurrences is supported by nothing said in the Bible itself, and is in reality a survival of an extreme Puritanical conception of its contents. The opening words of the Epistle to the Hebrews authorize us to expect diversity in the literary forms in which 'God spake unto the fathers' in the Old Testament1. The Jews are moreover a nation highly gifted with powers of imagination: many passages of the prophets owe the magic of their charm to a chastened use of the imagination; and in post-Biblical times, imaginative narratives, or anecdotes, with a didactic purpose ('haggādāhs,' or 'midrāshīm')2, have formed a large and important part of their religious literature. There is thus the less reason, especially when examples of this kind of literature appear among the earliest of the non-canonical books (for instance, in Tobit and Judith), that it should be unrepresented in the Old Testament.

But it may be said, 'If we have no assurance that God really helped and delivered His servants in the manner described in the Book, what value could the narratives have had for the encouragement and consolation of the Jews persecuted by Antiochus? To encourage them by the narrative of deliver

1 πоλνμeρŵs кal πоλνтрóжwя. Cf. the writer's Sermons on the O.T., p. 143 ff., esp. p. 155 f. Jonah is another book of the same character.

2 I.e. edifying religious narratives, longer or shorter as the case might be, and sometimes developed out of a text, or even a word, of Scripture, sometimes constructed independently. See further, on these two terms, the author's Literature of the Old Testament, p. 497 (ed. 6 or 7, pp. 484, 487, 529). The term 'midrash' occurs twice in the O. T., of two of the sources used by the Chronicler, 2 Ch. xiii. 22, xxiv. 27 [A.V. story]; and many of the narratives peculiar to the Chronicles have a 'midrashic' character.

« السابقةمتابعة »