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And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, 2 Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was
The main object of the chapter is to shew—(1) how the heathen king is brought (v. 47) to acknowledge the supremacy of Daniel's God; (2) how the sequence of empires is in the hands of God; and (3) how á Divine kingdom is destined ultimately to be established upon earth. The representation of the magnificent but hollow splendour of earthly empire in the form of a 'huge, gleaming, terrible colossus, of many colours and different metals, brilliant at its summit, but gradually deteriorating, both in material and appearance, towards its base, and, when struck by the falling rock, instantly collapsing into atoms, is fine and striking.
The narrative seems to a certain extent to be modelled on that of Joseph in Gen. xli., there being parallels in both idea and expression. In both narratives a heathen monarch is troubled by a dream which he cannot understand ; in both he sends for his own wise men, who fail to remove his perplexity; in both a young Jewish captive, relying on the help of his God, is successful, and is rewarded by the king with high honours, and a life-long position of influence in his kingdom. For similarities of expression, see the notes on vv. 1, 2, 12, 28, 30.
1–6. Nebuchadnezzar, being troubled by a dream, summons the wise men of Babylon before him, and bids them both tell him what his dream had been, and also interpret it to him.
in the second year] There is not, perhaps, necessarily a contradiction here with the three years' of i. 5, 18. By Heb. usage, fractions of time were reckoned as full units: thus Samaria, which was besieged from the fourth to the sixth year of Hezekiah, is said to have been taken ‘at the end of three years (2 Ki. xvii. 9, 10); and in Jer. xxxiv. 14 'at the end of seven years' means evidently when the seventh year has arrived (see also Mark viii. 31, &c.). If, now, the author, following a custom which was certainly sometimes adopted by Jewish writers, and which was general in Assyria and Babylonia, 'post-dated' the regnal years of a king, i.e. counted as his first year not the year of his accession but the first full year afterwards?, and if further Nebuchadnezzar gave orders for the education of the Jewish youths in his accession-year, the end of the three years of i. 5, 18 might be reckoned as falling within the king's second year. Ewald, Kamphausen, and Prince, however, suppose that “ten' has fallen out of the text; and would read 'in the twelfth year.
dreamed dreams) In Assyria and Babylonia, as in Egypt?, and other countries of the ancient world,
dreams were regarded as significant, and as portending future events. The Assyrian inscriptions furnish several instances of deities appearing in dreams with words of encouragement or advice. Thus Asshur appears to Gugu (Gyges), king of Lydia, in a dream, and tells him that, if he grasps the feet (i.e. owns the sovereignty) of Asshurbanapal, he will overcome his foes (KB. ii.
See art. CHRONOLOGY, in Hastings' Dict. of the Bible, p. 400. ? See Hastings' Dict, of the Bible, ii. p. 772 b.
troubled, and his sleep brake from him. Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to shew the king his 173, 175). During Asshurbanapal's war with his 'false' brother, Shamash-shum-ukin, a professional dreamer saw written on the moon, 'Whoso plans evil against Asshurbanapal, an evil death will I prepare against him' (ib. p. 187). When the same king was warring against Ummanaldashi, king of Elam, Ishtar sent his army a dream, in which she said to them, 'I march before Asshurbanapal, the king whom my hands have made' (ib. p. 201); and in another war she appeared to a professional dreamer, standing before the king, armed, and assuring him that, wherever he went, she went likewise (ib. p. 251). Nabu-na'id, the last king of Babylon (B.C. 555-538), was commanded, or encouraged, to restore temples by deities appearing to him in dreams (ib. iii. 2, pp. 85, 97, 99). On another occasion, Nabu-na'id saw in a dream a great star in heaven, the significance of which Nebuchadnezzar (also in the dream) explained to him. These, however, are mostly cases of the apparitions of deities; for instances of symbolical dreams, such as the one of Nebuchadnezzar, we may compare rather, though they are much briefer, the dreams in Herodotus, i. 107, 108, 209, iii. 30, 124. vii. 19 (cited below, on iv. 10).
and his spirit was troubled] More exactly, was agitated, disturbed ; so v. 3. The expression is borrowed from Gen. xli. 8: cf. Ps. lxxvii. 5 'I am agitated and cannot speak.'
brake from him] More lit. was come to pass, -i.e. was completed or done with (something like the Latin actum est; cf. viii. 27),-upon him,-upon' being used idiomatically to emphasize the person who is the subject of an experience, or (more often) of an emotion, and who, as it were, is sensible of it as acting or operating upon himself. Cf. Ps. xlii. 4 'I will pour out my soul upon me,' 5 'why moanest thou upon me?' 6' my soul upon me is cast down,' cxlii. 3 'when my spirit fainteth upon me,' cxliii. 4, Jer. viii. 18 'my heart upon me is sick,' Job xxx. 16 (R.V. marg:), Lam. iii. 20 'my soul is bowed down upon me': within, in all these passages, does not express the idea of the Hebrew. Cf. the writer's Parallel Psalter, Glossary I, s. v. upon (p. 464); and see also Dan. v. 9.
2. the magicians, and the enchanters] See on i. 20. As in Egypt (Gen. xli. 8), the ‘magicians' and 'wise men' (v. 12) would be the natural persons for the king to consult on the interpretation of a dream.
and the sorcerers] This is a word which is well known in the earlier literature : e.g. Ex. vii. I1, xxii. 18 (in the fem.); Deut. xviii. 10; cf. the subst. sorceries Mic. V. II, and (in Babylon) Is. xlvii. 9, 12.
Chaldeans] Here, as in i. 4, used in the sense of the priestly or learned class (see p. 12 ff.). So vv. 4, 5, 10.
for to shew] for to tell (R.V.). To 'shew' is used often in A.V., and sometimes in R.V., not in the modern sense of pointing out, but in that of telling or declaring; and it stands here for the Heb. word
1 Messerschmidt, Die Inschrift der Stele Nabuna'ids, 1896, p. 30 f.
dreams. So they came and stood before the king. And 3 the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream. Then spake the Chaldeans to the king in Syriack, O king, live for ever : tell thy servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation. The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, The thing is usually rendered tell or declare. So Gen. xlvi. 31 (R. V. tell); Jud. xiii. 10; 1 Sam xi. 9 (R. V. told), xix. 7, xxv. 8 (R. V. told); 2 Ki. vi. II; Is. xli. 22, 26 (R. V. declare), &c.; cf. the Parallel Psalter, p. 481.
was disturbed] or is disturbed. It is not perfectly clear whether the intention of the writer is to represent the king as having really forgotten the dream and desiring to have it recalled to him; or as still remembering it, and merely making this demand for the purpose of testing the magicians' skill.
4. in Syriack] in Aramaic, i.e. the language of the Aramaeans, an important branch of the Semitic stock, inhabiting chiefly Mesopotamia, Syria, and part of Arabia. There were numerous · Aramaic' dialectsas the Aramaic spoken in Assyria, at Zinjirli (near Aleppo), in Palmyra, in Têma, by the Nabataeans at 'el'Öla, that of the books of Daniel and Ezra, that of the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan, that of the Babylonian, that of the Palestinian Talmud—which, while similar in their general features, differed in details, somewhat in the manner in which the Greek dialects differed from one another: but the language which is now known distinctively as “Syriac,'—i.e. the language in which the 'Peshittā' version of the Bible (2nd cent. A.D.) was made, and in which an extensive Christian literature exists, -differs markedly from the Aramaic of Daniel and Ezra : and hence the rendering ‘Syriack suggests an entirely false idea of the language here meant. R.V., 'in the Syrian language' (cf. Is. xxxvi. 11) is some improvement; but the term which ought to be employed is ' Aramaic.'
The Aramaic part of the book begins with the words O king; and if (in) Aramaic' forms an integral part of the sentence, the author, it seems, must mean to indicate that in his opinion Aramaic was used at the court for communications of an official nature. That, however, does not explain why the use of Aramaic continues to the end of ch. vii.; and it is besides quite certain that Aramaic, such as that of the Book of Daniel, was not spoken in Babylon. Very probably Oppert, Lenormant, Nestle, and others are right in regarding' Aramaic as originally a marginal note, indicating that that language begins to be used here; in this case the word will in English be naturally enclosed in brackets, And they spake to the king, (Aramaic) O king, &c.! The second (in) Aramaic' in Ezra iv. 7 is probably to be explained similarly ('was written in Aramaic, and interpreted. [Aramaic]”).
o king, live for ever). The standing formula, with which, in Dan., the king is addressed (iii. 9, v. 10, vi. 6, 21); elsewhere (in the 3rd person) only on somewhat exceptional occasions, i Ki. i. 31 ; Neh. ii. 3.
we will shew] declare. 5. The thing is gone from me] The thing (or word) on my part
gone from me: if ye will not make known unto me the dream, with the interpretation thereof, ye shall be cut in 6 pieces, and your houses shall be made a dunghill. But if ye shew the dream, and the interpretation thereof, ye shall receive of me gifts and rewards and great honour: therefore shew me the dream, and the interpretation thereof. They answered again and said, Let the king tell his servants the 8 dream, and we will shew the interpretation of it. The king answered and said, I know of certainty that ye would gain
(19 nearly as in iii. 29) is sure. The king means that the threat which follows is fully resolved upon by him. Azda is a Persian word, meaning sure, certain (see Schrader, KAT., p. 617); the rendering 'gone' is philologically indefensible. if ye will not make known] if ye make not known (R.V.).
• Will not,' in this sentence would (in modern English) mean are not willing 10,' which is not in the Aramaic at all.
cut in pieces] more exactly, dismembered; lit. made into (separate) limbs ; so iii. 29 (cf. 2 Macc. i. 16 MEAN TOLMO avtes). The word for ‘limb' (haddām, --common in Syriac, but in the O.T. found only here and iii. 29) is Persian (Zend hañdāma, Mod. Pers. andām). The violence and peremptoriness of the threatened punishment is in accordance with what might be expected at the hands of an Eastern despot : the Assyrians and Persians, especially, were notorious for the barbarity of their punishments.
be made a dunghill] Cf. iii. 29 and Ezra vi. 11 (where Darius decrees the same punishment for any one altering the terms of his edict).
6. shew (twice)] declare. So vv. 7, 9, 10, 11, 16, 24, 27, iv. 2, v. 7, 12, 15.
rewards] A rare word, probably of Persian origin (according to Andreas, in the Glossary in Marti's Gramm. der Bibl.- Aram. Sprache, properly, tribute, present), found otherwise only in v. 17, where it stands in a similar context.
7–12. The wise men profess their willingness to interpret the king's dream : but protest that his demand that they should tell him what his dream was is an extravagant one. Nebuchadnezzar, however, adheres to his original demand : and as they are unable to comply with it, commands them to be put to death.
7. again] the second time (R.V.).
8. of certainty] We should say now, ‘of a certainty.' Murray quotes from North's Plutarch (1580), 'It is of certainty that her proper name was Nicostrata.'
would gain time (R.V.)] lit. are buying the time. Their repeated request to the king to tell them his dream is proof to him that they have no power to reveal secrets, and that they could not therefore interpret his dream, even though he were to describe it to them : hence he charges them with buying the time, i.e. with endeavouring to defer But if ,
the time, because ye see the thing is gone from me. ye will not make known unto me the dream, there is but one decree for you: for ye have prepared lying and corrupt words to speak before me, till the time be changed: therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that ye can shew me the interpretation thereof. The Chaldeans answered be- zu fore the king, and said, There is not a man upon the earth that can shew the king's matter : therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean. And it is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is none other that can the fatal moment when the truth must appear, and when their inability to interpret his dream must be exposed.
because ye see that the thing on my part is sure, (9) That, if, &c.] Because you see that I am resolved to punish you, if you do not fulfil the conditions I lay down (v. 5).
9. That, if ye make not known unto me the dream, there is but one law for you] you can expect nothing else but punishment. Lit. your law (i.e. the law or sentence against you) is one, implying that it is unalterable and inevitable; cf. Est. iv. II. The word for 'law' (dath) is Persian, Zend dāta, Mod. Pers. dăd (see the Introduction, p. lvi).
and (also) lying and corrupt word's ye have agreed to speak before me] pretending falsely that you will be able to explain the dream, if it is only told you.
prepared] So the Kt. ; but the Qrê, ye have prepared yourselves, or agreed together '(cf. Am. iii. 3 Targ.), is more in accordance with usage (see Levy, Chald. W. B., s.v.).
before me] to speak “before,' rather than 'to,' a king, is the language of respect : so vv. 10, II, 27, 36, v. 17, vi. 12; Est. i. 16, vii. 9, viii. 3. Cp. on vi. 10.
till the time be changed] till circumstances take a favourable turn, and the king, for instance, has his attention diverted to something else.
therefore tell me, &c.] if they are able to tell him the dream, it will be a guarantee to him that their explanation will be trustworthy.
10. shew] declare. therefore, &c.] forasmuch as (R.V.) no great and powerful king (cf. R.V. marg.) hath asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. As no king has ever thought of making such a demand, it may be fairly concluded to be one which it is impossible to satisfy.
11. rare] difficult : properly heavy. The word has the same sense sometimes in Syriac, as Ex. xviii. 18, in the Peshittā.
requireth] asketh (as v. 10), which indeed is all that the translators of 1611 meant by their rendering: for require formerly did not express the idea now attaching to the word of demanding as a right. So elsewhere in A.V., as 2 Sam. xii. 20; Prov. xxx. 7 (R.V. asked); Ezr. viii. 22 (R. V. ask); and in P.B.V. of the Psalms, as Ps. xxvii. 4, xxxviii. 16, xl. 9, li. 6, cxxxvii. 3.