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Daniel 5:21

21. And he was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses: they fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven; till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will.

21. Eta filiis hominum exterminatus fuit: et cor ejus cum bestils positum est: et cum onagris habitatio ejus: herba sicut tauros ciba-verunt eum: et tore coeli corpus ejus irrigatum fuit, donec cognos-ceret quod dominetur Deus excelsus in regno hominum, et quem velit imponat in illo.

 

First, with respect to the text; verbally, it is “he put,” and thus some translate, “he placed his own heart among the brutes,” which makes a tolerable sense; but others rather refer this to God, who placed his heart among beasts, and we know how often the noun substantive is defective in Hebrew and Chaldee; hence we may translate it verbally, Nebuchadnezzar himself placed his own heart, that is, assimilated his own senses to the brutes, so as to differ in no respect from them. It may also mean, God placed his heart among the brutes, that is, infatuated him so, as to render him like them. Others take the word שוי, shevi, absolutely; but it ought rather to be explained actively. Again, some translate the next clause, “Made him taste the grass, like a brute;” and others, that the grass supported him. The number is changed, but there is no doubt about the sense; for if we read, “The herb of the field supported him,” the expression will be indefinite, similar to many others previously noticed; but if any one prefers using the plural number, the sense will be equally suitable; for “the herbs of the field gave him nourishment.”

This verse does not need any long explanation, since Daniel only repeats what he had formerly written: His grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar, although not changed into a wild beast, was driven from the common society of men, and his whole body was deformed, whilst he abhorred the habits of men and preferred to dwell with the brutes. This was a horrible prodigy, especially in so great a monarch; and it was an example worthy of being handed down by posterity even to a thousand generations, had the monarchy endured so long. But his grandson quickly forgot this event, and thus he is deservedly convicted of the basest slothfulness. This is the reason why Daniel repeats the history again, He was driven, says he, from the children of men; his heart was placed among the beasts, meaning he was deprived of reason and judgment. We know this to be the principal difference between men and brutes — men understand and reason, but brutes are carried away by their senses. God, therefore, set forth a memorable example in despoiling this king of his reason and intelligence, His dwelling, says he, was with the wild asses; formerly he had dwelt in a palace, conspicuous throughout the world at large, from whom all the people of the East sought their laws. Since he was habitually worshipped as a god, this was a horrible judgment, since he afterwards dwelt among wild beasts, and like a bull received his sustenance from the grass of the field, when he had previously reveled in every delicacy, and was accustomed to luxurious habits, and to the whole wealth of a kingdom; especially, when we know how luxuriously the Orientals indulged themselves. Babylon was the mother of all indulgences, and when the king’s condition was thus changed, no one could be ignorant of its cause — not mere chance or accident:, but the rare and singular judgment of God!

He afterwards adds what he had formerly said, His body was moistened by the dews of heaven, until he acknowledged God to reign supreme in the kingdom of men Here again the end of the punishment is expressed — that Nebuchadnezzar might feel himself to have been created king by divine power, and to shew how earthly kings could not stand unless God propped them up by his hand and influence. They think themselves placed beyond the changes of fortune, and although they verbally boast of reigning by the grace of God, yet they despise every deity and transfer the glory of the divinity to themselves! We gather from these words that this is the folly of all kings. For if Nebuchadnezzar had been persuaded of God’s appointment of kings, of their dependence upon his will, and of their fall or stability according to his decree, he had not needed this punishment, as these words clearly imply, tie excluded God, then, from the government of the world; but this is common with all earthly kings, as I have lately stated. All indeed will profess something, but the Holy Spirit does not regard those false protestations, as they are called. Hence in the character of King Nebuchadnezzar we have set before us, as in a glass, the drunken confidence of all kings, in supposing themselves to stand by their own power, and to free themselves from the authority of God, as if he were not seated as a judge in heaven, Nebuchadnezzar, therefore, ought to be humbled, until he acknowledged God’s reign upon earth, since the common opinion fixed him up in heaven, as if contented with his own ease, and careless of the affairs of the human race. At length it is added, and whom he wills, he exalts, or sets up. What has been said obscurely is better expressed, since Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged, by being severely punished and subdued, the reign of God on the earth. For when earthly kings see themselves surrounded by guards, powerful in riches, and able to collect mighty armies by their nod; when they see they inspire universal terror, they think God deprived of his rights, and are unable to conceive any change; as it is said in the Psalms of all the proud, (Psalm 10:4,) and as Isaiah says to the same purport, Even should a blast pass by, or a deluge overwhelm the whole earth, yet evil shall not touch us. (Isaiah 28:15.) As if they had said, although God should thunder from heaven, yet we shall be safe from all disaster and disturbance. Kings persuade themselves of this. Hence they begin to acknowledge God as king of the earth, when they feel themselves in his hand and at his disposal, to east down those whom he has raised up, and to exalt the lowly and abject, as we have already seen. This clause of the verse, then, is an explanation of the former sentence. It now follows:

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