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Dissertation 5


Daniel 1:7

This proper name is interpreted by Saadias to mean “the man of a sorrowful countenance;” but Rosenmuller assigns the meaning of the Syriac and Arabic corresponding words as more probable, viz., “helping” and “alert.” The Alexandrine Greek substitutes Abiezer for Aspenaz, being a Hebrew patronymic, signifying “father of help.” “The chief of the eunuchs” seems the correct definition of his office.סריס , saris, is equivalent to the Greek eunouchos, and the office is similar to that at present exercised at the courts of Turkey and Persia as the kislar agha, “high-chamberlain of the palace.” So much confidence was necessarily reposed in these domestic officers, that many affairs of the utmost importance and delicacy were intrusted to their care. Thus the children of the royal and noble families of Judea were committed to the care of Aspenaz. The word ספר, sepher, “book,” in which he was to instruct them, must be extended to all the literature of the Chaldees. Oecolampadius treats it as including rhetoric, eloquence, and all those elevating pursuits which cultivate the mind and refine the manners. He then proceeds to treat the narrative as an allegory; the “prince of Babel, or, of the world,” represents Satan; Daniel and his companions, the elect members of Christ. The family of David is supposed to imply this spiritual household of God, and the word פרתמים, pharth-mim, nobles, is pressed into this service by a preference for the rendering of Saadias, “perfect fruit.” The eunuch is said to typify those spiritual flatterers who entice the children of God by flatteries and allurements to sin, and by substituting worldly sophistry for true wisdom, draw souls from Christ. Although such reflections are very profitable, yet Calvin has shewn his matured judgment by excluding all fanciful allegory from his comments. Oecolampadius supposes the king to be liberal and benevolent in ordering the captives to be fed from his table, and prudent in proposing this indulgence as a reward for their diligence in study. Here also the king’s character is allegorized; he becomes a model of Satan enticing God’s elect, and offering them to partake of his own dainties, that he may win them more blandly to himself.

In commenting, too, on the change of names, Oecolampadius gives the usual meaning to the Hebrew words, but observes, how the name of God was omitted from them all, and the worthiness attributed to the creature. This, he thinks, to have been the eunuch’s intention, while he points to the change as an instance of the contrast between human and divine wisdom. The conduct of Daniel may be illustrated by the practice of the early Christians, against whom it was objected by Caecilius, that they abhorred meats offered to idols when commanded to partake of them. 342342     Apud Minuc. Fel., lib. 8 Arnob. Willet has discussed the questions — “Whether Daniel and the rest learned the curious arts of the Chaldeans?” and, “Whether it be lawful to use the arts and inventions of the heathen?” by collecting various opinions and summing them up with practical wisdom. 343343     Quaest. 38, 39, p. 28. Edit. Cam., 1610.


IT is the well-known custom of the East to change the names of persons on their admission to public office or to families of distinction. The change here recorded most probably arose from a desire to draw these young Jews away from all the associations of home, and to naturalize them as much as possible among their new associates. Hananiah is supposed to come from חנן, chanan, to be gracious, and יה, yah, Jehovah, meaning “favored of God.” Mishael from יש, ish, he is, and אל, el, God, meaning “the powerful one of God.” Azariah from עזר, gnezer, help, and יה, yah, Jehovah: “the help of Jehovah.” A variety of conjectures have been hazarded concerning the Chaldee equivalents. Shadrach is probably from שדא, sheda, to inspire, and רך, rak, king, being a Babylonian name for the sun; others connect it with an evil deity. Meshach retains a portion of its Hebrew form, and substitutes שך, shak, for אל, el, that is, the female deity Schaca, which answers to the Venus of the Greeks. עבד-נגו, gnebed-nego, is the Chaldaic phrase for “servant of Nebo,” one of their deities, or perhaps, servant of burning fire. The deity Nebo furnished names to many chiefs and sovereigns among the Assyrians and Chaldees, and modern researches and discoveries have enabled us to trace similar derivations with great accuracy. Compounds of Pul were used in a similar way: thus Tiglath-Pileser is Tiglath Pul-Asser; and Nabo-Pul-Asser is interpreted as Nabo, son of Pul, lord of Assyria.

The name of Daniel was also changed. The word is derived from דון, dun, to judge, and אל, el, God, meaning “a divine judge;” while his new name relates to the idol Bel, meaning “keeper of the treasures of Bel.”


Daniel 1:12

Calvin’s view of this verse is rather peculiar, and especially his comment on Deuteronomy 8:3; on Daniel 1:14. The word “pulse,” הזרעים, hazerognim, signifies the same as the Latin legumen, and may perhaps be extended to the cerealia as well. Vegetable diet generally is intended. The food provided from the royal table was probably too stimulating, and the habitual temperance of Daniel and his companions is here pointed out as conducing remarkably to their bodily health and appearance. Thus, while conscience refused to be “polluted,” obedience to the laws of our physical nature produces a corresponding physical benefit. Wintle very appositely quotes Virgil, Georg. 1:73, 74, to illustrate the kind of food intended.

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