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Daniel 5:4

4. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.

4. Biberunt vinum, et laudarunt deos aureos, et argenteos, aereos, ferreos, ligneos, et lapideos.

 

Here the Prophet shews more distinctly and clearly how the king insulted the true and only God, by ordering his vessels to be brought to him. For when they had been brought forth, they praised, says he, all their gods of gold and silver; meaning in defiance of the true God they celebrated the praises of their false deities, and thanked them, as we find in Habakkuk. (Habakkuk 1:16.) Although there is no doubt they sacrificed heartily the produce of their industry, as the Prophet there expresses it, yet they exalted their own gods, and thus obliterated the glory of the true God. And this is the reason why the Prophet now takes pains to state those vessels to have been brought from the temple of Gods house For he here strengthens the impiety of the king and his nobles for erecting their horns against the God of Israel. There is then a great contrast, between God who commanded his temple to be built at Jerusalem, and sacrifices to be offered to him and false gods. And this was the head and front of Belshazzar’s offending, because he thus purposely rose up against God, and not only tyrannically and miserably oppressed the Jews, but triumphed over their God — the Creator of heaven and earth. This madness accelerated his ultimate destruction, and it occurred for the purpose of hastening the time of their deliverance. Hence I have represented him to have been drawn by God’s great instinct to such madness that vengeance might be ripened.

They drank, says he, wine, and praised their gods. The Prophet does not ascribe the praise of their gods to drunkenness, but he obliquely shews their petulance to have been increased by drink. For if each had been sober at home, he would not have thus rashly risen up against God; but when impiety exists in the heart, intemperance becomes an additional stimulus. The Prophet seems to me to mean this, when he repeats, they were drinking; for he had said, the king and his nobles, his wife, and concubines, were drinking He now inculcates the same thing in similar words, but adds, they drank wine, — meaning their madness was the more inflamed by the excitement of the wine. Then they praised the gods of silver, etc. The Prophet here reproachfully mentions gods of gold, silver, brass, wood, and stone, since we know God to have nothing in common with either gold or silver. His true image cannot be expressed in corruptible materials; and this is, the reason why the Prophet calls all the gods which the Babylonians worshipped, golden, silver, brazen, wooden, and stone. Clearly enough the heathen never were so foolish as to suppose the essence of Deity to reside in gold, or silver, or stone; they only called them images of their deities; but because in their opinion the power and majesty of the deity was included within the material substance, the Prophet is right in so completely condemning their criminality, because we hear how carefully idolaters invent every kind of subtlety. In the present times, the Papacy is a glaring proof how men cling to gross superstitions when they desire to excuse their errors; hence the Prophet does not here admit those vain pretenses by which the Babylonians and other heathens disguise their baseness, but he says, their gods were of silver and gold And why so? for although they orally confessed that gods reign in heaven, (so great was the multitude and crowd of their deities that the supreme God was quite shrouded in darkness,) although therefore the Babylonians confessed their gods to have dwelt in heaven, yet they fled to statues and pictures. Hence the Prophet deservedly chides them for adoring gods of gold and silver. As to his saying, then the vessels were brought, it shews how the slaves of tyrants obey them in the worst actions, because no delay intervened in bringing the vessels from the treasury. Daniel therefore signifies how all the king’s servants were obedient to his nod, and desirous of pleasing a person brutish and drunken; at the same time he shews the shortness of that intemperate intoxication; for he says, —

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