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"His loyalty he kept, his faith, his love."—Milton.

The first chapter of the Book of Daniel serves as a beautiful introduction to the whole, and strikes the keynote of faithfulness to the institutions of Judaism which of all others seemed most important to the mind of a pious Hebrew in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes. At a time when many were wavering, and many had lapsed into open apostasy, the writer wished to set before his countrymen in the most winning and vivid manner the nobleness and the reward of obeying God rather than man.

He had read in 2 Kings xxiv. 1, 2, that Jehoiakim had been a vassal of Nebuchadrezzar for three years, which were not, however, the first three years of his reign, and then had rebelled, and been subdued by "bands of the Chaldeans" and their allies. In 2 Chron. xxxvi. 6 he read that Nebuchadrezzar had "bound Jehoiakim in fetters to carry him to Babylon."224224   Comp. Jer. xxii. 18, 19, xxxvi. 30. Combining these two passages, he seems to have inferred, in the absence of more accurate historical indications, that the Chaldeans had besieged and captured Jerusalem in the third year of Jehoiakim. That the date is erroneous there can hardly be a question,124 for, as already stated,225225   See supra, p. 45. neither Jeremiah, the contemporary of Jehoiakim, nor the Book of Kings, nor any other authority, knows anything of any siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonian King in the third year of Jehoiakim. The Chronicler, a very late writer, seems to have heard some tradition that Jehoiakim had been taken captive, but he does not date this capture; and in Jehoiakim's third year the king was a vassal, not of Babylon, but of Egypt. Nabopolassar, not Nebuchadrezzar, was then King of Babylon. It was not till the following year (b.c. 605), when Nebuchadrezzar, acting as his father's general, had defeated Egypt at the Battle of Carchemish, that any siege of Jerusalem would have been possible. Nor did Nebuchadrezzar advance against the Holy City even after the Battle of Carchemish, but dashed home across the desert to secure the crown of Babylon on hearing the news of his father's death. The only two considerable Babylonian deportations of which we know were apparently in the eighth and nineteenth years of Nebuchadrezzar's reign. In the former Jehoiachin was carried captive with ten thousand citizens (2 Kings xxiv. 14-16; Jer. xxvii. 20); in the latter Zedekiah was slain, and eight hundred and thirty-two persons carried to Babylon (Jer. lii. 29; 2 Kings xxv. 11).226226   Jeremiah (lii. 28-30) mentions three deportations, in the seventh, eighteenth, and twenty-third year of Nebuchadrezzar; but there are great difficulties about the historic verification, and the paragraph (which is of doubtful genuineness) is omitted by the LXX.

There seems then to be, on the very threshold, every indication of an historic inaccuracy such as could not have been committed if the historic Daniel had been the true author of this Book; and we are able, with125 perfect clearness, to point to the passages by which the Maccabean writer was misled into a mistaken inference.227227   The manner in which the maintainers of the genuineness get over this difficulty is surely an instance of such special pleading as can convince no unbiassed inquirer. They conjecture (1) that Nebuchadrezzar had been associated with his father, and received the title of king before he really became king; (2) that by "came to Jerusalem and besieged it" is meant "set out towards Jerusalem, so that (ultimately) he besieged it"; (3) and that a vague and undated allusion in the Book of Chronicles, and a vague, unsupported, and evidently erroneous assertion in Berossus—quoted by Josephus, Antt., X. xi. 1; c. Ap., I. 19, who lived some two and a half centuries after these events, and who does not mention any siege of Jerusalem—can be so interpreted as to outweigh the fact that neither contemporary histories nor contemporary records know anything of this supposed deportation. Jeremiah (xxv. 1) says correctly that "the fourth year of Jehoiakim" was "the first year of Nebuchadrezzar"; and had Jerusalem been already captured and plundered, it is impossible that he should not have alluded to the fact in that chapter. An older subterfuge for "explaining" the error is that of Saadia the Gaon, Abn Ezra, Rashi, etc., who interpret "the third year of Jehoiakim" to mean "the third year after his rebellion from Nebuchadrezzar," which is not only impossible in itself, but also contradicts Dan. ii. 1. To him, however, as to all Jewish writers, a mere variation in a date would have been regarded as a matter of the utmost insignificance. It in no way concerned the high purpose which he had in view, or weakened the force of his moral fiction. Nor does it in the smallest degree diminish from the instructiveness of the lessons which he has to teach to all men for all time. A fiction which is true to human experience may be as rich in spiritual meaning as a literal history. Do we degrade the majesty of the Book of Daniel if we regard it as a Haggada any more than we degrade the story of the Prodigal Son when we describe it as a Parable?

The writer proceeds to tell us that, after the siege, Nebuchadrezzar—whom the historic Daniel could never126 have called by the erroneous name Nebuchadnezzar—took Jehoiakim (for this seems to be implied), with some of the sacred vessels of the Temple (comp. v. 2, 3), into the land of Shinar,228228   Shinar is an archaism, supposed by Schrader to be a corruption of Sumir, or Northern Chaldea (Keilinschr., p. 34); but see Hommel, Gesch. Bab. u. Assyr., 220; F. Delitzsch, Assyr. Gram., 115. The more common name in the exilic period was Babel (Jer. li. 9, etc.) or Eretz Kasdim (Ezek. xii. 13). "to the house of his god." This god, as we learn from Babylonian inscriptions, was Bel or Bel-merodach, in whose temple, built by Nebuchadrezzar, was also "the treasure-house of his kingdom."229229   On this god—Marduk or Maruduk (Jer. l. 2)—comp. 2 Chron. xxxvi. 7. See Schrader, K. A. T., pp. 273, 276; and Riehm, Handwörterb., ii. 982.

Among the captives were certain "of the king's seed, and of the princes" (Parthemîm).230230   This seems to be a Persian word, fratama, "first." It is only found in Esther. Josephus says that the four boys were connected with Zedekiah (Antt., X. x. 1). Comp. Jer. xli. 1. They were chosen from among such boys as were pre-eminent for their beauty and intelligence, and the intention was to train them as pages in the royal service, and also in such a knowledge of the Chaldean language and literature as should enable them to take their places in the learned caste of priestly diviners. Their home was in the vast palace of the Babylonian King, of which the ruins are now called Kasr. Here they may have seen the hapless Jehoiachin still languishing in his long captivity.

They are called "children," and the word, together with the context, seems to imply that they were boys of the age of from twelve to fourteen. The king personally handed them over to the care of Ashpenaz,231231   Dan. i. 3; LXX., Ἀβιεσδρί. The name is of quite uncertain derivation. Lenormant connects it with Abai-Istar, "astronomer of the goddess Istar" (La Divination, p. 182). Hitzig sees in this strange rendering Abiesdri the meaning "eunuch." A eunuch could have no son to help him, so that his father is his help ('ezer). Ephræm Syrus, in his Commentary, preserves both names (Schleusner, Thesaurus, s.v. Ἀβιέσερ). We find the name Ashkenaz in Gen. x. 3. Theodot. has Ἀσφανέζ. Among other guesses Lenormant makes Ashpenaz = Assa-ibni-zir. Dr. Joel (Notizen zum Buche Daniel, p. 17) says that since the Vulgate reads Abriesri, "ob nicht der Wort von rechts zu links gelesen müsste?" the127 Rabsaris, or "master of the eunuchs," who held the position of lord high chamberlain.232232   Called in i. 7-11 the Sar-hassarîsîm (comp. Jer. xxxix. 3; Gen. xxxvii. 36, marg.; 2 Kings xviii. 17; Esther ii. 3). This officer now bears the title of Gyzlar Agha. It is probably implied that the boys were themselves made eunuchs, for the incident seems to be based on the rebuke given by Isaiah to the vain ostentation of Hezekiah in showing the treasures of his temple and palace to Merodach-baladan: "Behold the days come, that all that is in thine house ... shall be carried to Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the Lord. And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the King of Babylon."233233   Isa. xxxix. 6, 7.

They were to be trained in the learning (lit. "the book") and language of Chaldea for three years; at the end of which period they were to be admitted into the king's presence, that he might see how they looked and what progress they had made. During those three years he provided them with a daily maintenance of food and wine from his table. Those who were thus maintained in Eastern courts were to be counted by hundreds, and even by thousands, and their position was often supremely wretched and degraded, as it still is in such Eastern courts. The wine was probably128 imported. The food consisted of meat, game, fish, joints, and wheaten bread. The word used for "provision" is interesting. It is path-bag, and seems to be a transliteration, or echo of a Persian word, patibaga (Greek ποτίβαζις), a name applied by the historian Deinon (b.c. 340) to barley bread and "mixed wine in a golden egg from which the king drinks."234234   Athen., Deipnos, xi. 583. See Bevan, p. 60; Max Müller in Pusey, p. 565. How Professor Fuller can urge the presence of these Persian words in proof of the genuineness of Daniel (Speaker's Commentary, p. 250) I cannot understand. For Daniel does not seem to have survived beyond the third year of the Persian dominion, and it is extremely difficult to suppose that all these Persian words, including titles of Nebuchadrezzar's officials, were already current among the Babylonians. On the other hand, Babylonian words seem to be rare, though Daniel is represented as living nearly the whole of a long life in Babylon. There is no validity in the argument that these words could not have been known in the days of the Maccabees, "for half of them are common in Syria, though the oldest extant Syriac writers are later by three centuries than the time of the Maccabees" (Bevan, p. 41).

But among these captives were four young Jews named Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.

Their very names were a witness not only to their nationality, but to their religion. Daniel means "God is my judge"; Hananiah, "Jehovah is gracious"; Mishael (perhaps), "who is equal to God?"235235   The name Daniel occurs among Ezra's contemporaries in Ezra viii. 2; Neh. x. 7, and the other names in Neh. viii. 4, x. 3, 24; 1 Esdras ix. 44. Azariah, "God is a helper."

It is hardly likely that the Chaldeans would have tolerated the use of such names among their young pupils, since every repetition of them would have sounded like a challenge to the supremacy of Bel, Merodach, and Nebo. It was a common thing to change names in heathen courts, as the name of Joseph129 had been changed by the Egyptians to Zaphnathpaaneah (Gen. xli. 45), and the Assyrians changed the name of Psammetichus II. into Nebo-serib-ani, "Nebo save me." They therefore made the names of the boys echo the names of the Babylonian deities. Instead of "God is my judge," Daniel was called Belteshazzar, "protect Thou his life."236236   Balatsu-utsur. The name in this form had nothing to do with Bel, as the writer of Daniel seems to have supposed (Dan. iv. 5), nor yet with Beltis, the wife of Bel. See supra, p. 47. Comp. the names Nabusarutsur, Sinsarutsur, Assursarutsur. Also comp. Inscr. Semit., ii. 38, etc. Pseudo-Epiphanius says that Nebuchadrezzar meant Daniel to be co-heir with his son Belshazzar. Perhaps the prayer shows the tender regard in which he was held by Ashpenaz. Hananiah was called Shadrach, perhaps Shudur-aku, "command of Aku," the moon-deity; Mishael was called Meshach, a name which we cannot interpret;237237   F. Delitzsch calls Meshach vox hybrida. Neither "Shadrach" nor "Meshach" occurs on the monuments. "That the imposition of names is a symbol of mastership over slaves is plain" (S. Chrys., Opp., iii. 21; Pusey, p. 16). Comp. 2 Kings xxiii. 34 (Egyptians); xxiv. 17 (Babylonians); Ezra v. 14, Esther ii. 7 (Persians). and Azariah, instead of "God is a help," was called Abed-nego, a mistaken form for Abed-nebo, or "servant of Nebo."238238   Comp. Obadiah, Abdiel, Abdallah, etc. Schrader says, p. 429: "The supposition that Nebo was altered to Nego, out of a contumelious desire (which Jews often displayed) to alter, avoid, and insult the names of idols, is out of place, since the other names are not altered." Even in this slight incident there may be an allusion to Maccabean days. It appears that in that epoch the apostate Hellenising Jews were fond of changing their names into Gentile names, which had a somewhat similar sound. Thus Joshua was called "Jason," and Onias "Menelaus."239239   Jos., Antt., XII. v. 1; Derenbourg, Palestine, p. 34; Ewald, Hist., v. 294 (E. Tr.); Munk, Palestine, p. 495, etc. This was done as130 part of the plan of Antiochus to force upon Palestine the Greek language. So far the writer may have thought the practice a harmless one, even though imposed by heathen potentates. Such certainly was the view of the later Jews, even of the strictest sect of the Pharisees. Not only did Saul freely adopt the name of Paul, but Silas felt no scruple in being called by the name Sylvanus, though that was the name of a heathen deity.

It was far otherwise with acquiescence in the eating of heathen meats, which, in the days of the Maccabees, was forced upon many of the Jews, and which, since the institution or reinstitution of Levitism after the return from the Exile, had come to be regarded as a deadly sin. It was during the Exile that such feelings had acquired fresh intensity. At first they do not seem to have prevailed. Jehoiachin was a hero among the Jews. They remembered him with intense love and pity, and it does not seem to have been regarded as any stain upon his memory that, for years together, he had, almost in the words of Dan. i. 5, received a daily allowance from the table of the King of Babylon.240240   See Ewald, Gesch. Isr., vi. 654. "They shall eat unclean things in Assyria" (Hosea ix. 3). "The children of Israel shall eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles" (Ezek. iv. 13, 14).

In the days of Antiochus Epiphanes the ordinary feeling on this subject was very different, for the religion and nationality of the Jews were at stake. Hence we read: "Howbeit many in Israel were fully resolved and confirmed in themselves not to eat any unclean thing. Wherefore they chose rather to die, that they might not be defiled with meats, that they might not profane the holy covenant: so then they died."241241   1 Macc. i. 62, 63.


And in the Second Book of Maccabees we are told that on the king's birthday Jews "were constrained by bitter constraint to eat of the sacrifices," and that Eleazar, one of the principal scribes, an aged and noble-looking man, preferred rather to be tortured to death, "leaving his death for an example of noble courage, and a memorial of value, not only unto young men, but unto all his nation."242242   2 Macc. vi. 18-31. Comp. the LXX. addition to Esther iv. 14, v. 4, where she is made to plead before God that she had not tasted of the table of Haman or of the king's banquet. So Judith takes "clean" bread with her into the camp of Holofernes (Judith x. 5), and Judas and his followers live on herbs in the desert (2 Macc. v. 27). The Mishnah even forbids to take the bread, oil, or milk of the heathen. In the following chapter is the celebrated story of the constancy and cruel death of seven brethren and their mother, when they preferred martyrdom to tasting swine's flesh. The brave Judas Maccabæus, with some nine companions, withdrew himself into the wilderness, and "lived in the mountains after the manner of beasts with his company, who fed on herbs continually, lest they should be partakers of the pollution." The tone and object of these narratives are precisely the same as the tone and object of the stories in the Book of Daniel; and we can well imagine how the heroism of resistance would be encouraged in every Jew who read those narratives or traditions of former days of persecution and difficulty. "This Book," says Ewald, "fell like a glowing spark from a clear heaven upon a surface which was already intensely heated far and wide, and waiting to burst into flames."243243   Prophets of the O. T., p. 184 (E. Tr.).

It may be doubtful whether such views as to ceremonial defilement were already developed at the beginning132 of the Babylonian Captivity.244244   Mr. Bevan says that the verb for "defile" (גאל), as a ritual term for the idea of ceremonial uncleanness, is post-exilic; the Pentateuch and Ezekiel used טמא (Comment., p. 61). The idea intended is that the three boys avoided meat which might have been killed with the blood and offered to idols, and therefore was not Kashar (Exod. xxxiv. 15). The Maccabean persecution left them ingrained in the habits of the people, and Josephus tells us a contemporary story which reminds us of that of Daniel and his companions. He says that certain priests, who were friends of his own, had been imprisoned in Rome, and that he endeavoured to procure their release, "especially because I was informed that they were not unmindful of piety towards God, but supported themselves with figs and nuts," because in such eating of dry food (ξηροφαγία, as it was called) there was no chance of heathen defilement.245245   Jos., Vit., iii. Comp. Isa. lii. 11. It need hardly be added that when the time came to break down the partition-wall which separated Jewish particularism from the universal brotherhood of mankind redeemed in Christ, the Apostles—especially St. Paul—had to show the meaningless nature of many distinctions to which the Jews attached consummate importance. The Talmud abounds in stories intended to glorify the resoluteness with which the Jews maintained their stereotyped Levitism; but Christ taught, to the astonishment of the Pharisees and even of the disciples, that it is not what entereth into a man which makes him unclean, but the unclean thoughts which come from within, from the heart.246246   Mark vii. 19 (according to the true reading and translation). And this He said, καθαρίζων πάντα τὰ βρώματα—i.e., abolishing thereby the Levitic Law, and "making all meats clean." Yet, even after this, it required nothing less than that Divine133 vision on the tanner's roof at Joppa to convince Peter that he was not to call "common" what God had cleansed,247247   Acts x. 14. and it required all the keen insight and fearless energy of St. Paul to prevent the Jews from keeping an intolerable yoke upon their own necks, and also laying it upon the necks of the Gentiles.248248   1 Cor. xi. 25. This rigorism was specially valued by the Essenes and Therapeutæ. See Derenbourg, Palestine, note, vi.

The four princely boys—they may have been from twelve to fourteen years old249249   Plato, Alcib., i. 37; Xen., Cyrop., i. 2. Youths entered the king's service at the age of seventeen.—determined not to share in the royal dainties, and begged the Sar-hassarîsîm to allow them to live on pulse and water, rather than on the luxuries in which—for them—lurked a heathen pollution. The eunuch not unnaturally demurred. The daily rations were provided from the royal table. He was responsible to the king for the beauty and health, as well as for the training, of his young scholars; and if Nebuchadrezzar saw them looking more meagre or haggard250250   Lit. "sadder." LXX., σκυθρωποί. than the rest of the captives and other pages, the chamberlain's head might pay the forfeit.251251   LXX., κινδυνεύσω τῷ ἰδίῳ τραχήλῳ. But Daniel, like Joseph in Egypt, had inspired affection among his captors; and since the prince of the eunuchs regarded him "with favour and tender love," he was the more willing to grant, or at least to connive at, the fulfilment of the boy's wish. So Daniel gained over the Melzar (or steward?),252252   Perhaps the Assyrian matstsara, "guardian" (Delitzsch). There are various other guesses (Behrmann, p. 5). who was in immediate charge of the boys, and begged him to try the experiment for ten days. If at the end of that time their134 health or beauty had suffered, the question might be reconsidered.

So for ten days the four faithful children were fed on water, and on the "seeds"—i.e., vegetables, dates, raisins, and other fruits, which are here generally called "pulse."253253   Heb., זֵרֹעִים; LXX., σπέρματα; Vulg., legumina. Abn Ezra took the word to mean "rice." Comp. Deut. xii. 15, 16; 1 Sam. xvii. 17, 18. Comp. Josephus (Vit., iii.), who tells us how the Jewish priests, prisoners in Rome, fed on σύκοις καὶ καρύοις. At the end of the ten days—a sort of mystic Persian week254254   Ewald, Antiquities, p. 131 f.—they were found to be fairer and fresher than all the other captives of the palace.255255   Pusey (p. 17) quotes from Chardin's notes in Harmer (Obs., lix.): "I have remarked that the countenance of the Kechicks (monks) are, in fact, more rosy and smooth than those of others, and that those who fast much are, notwithstanding, very beautiful, sparkling with health, with a clear and lively countenance." Thenceforth they were allowed without hindrance to keep the customs of their country.

Nor was this all. During the three probationary years they continued to flourish intellectually as well as physically. They attained to conspicuous excellence "in all kinds of books and wisdom," and Daniel also had understanding in all kinds of dreams and visions, to which the Chaldeans attached supreme importance.256256   The Chartummîm are like the Egyptian ἱερογραμματεῖς. It is difficult to conceive that there was less chance of pollution in being elaborately trained in heathen magic and dream-interpretation than in eating Babylonian food. But this was, so to speak, extra fabulam. It did not enter into the writer's scheme of moral edification. If, however, the story is meant to imply that these youths accepted the heathen training, though (as we know from tablets and inscriptions) the incantations, etc., in which it abounded were intimately connected with idolatry, and were entirely unharmed by it, this may indicate that the writer did not disapprove of the "Greek training" which Antiochus tried to introduce, so far as it merely involved an acquaintance with Greek learning and literature. This is the view of Grätz. If so, the writer belonged to the more liberal Jewish school which did not object to a study of the Chokmath Javanîth, or "Wisdom of Javan" (Derenbourg, Palestine, p. 361). The Jews exulted in these pictures of four youths of their own race who, though they were strangers in a strange land, excelled all their alien compeers in their own chosen fields of learning. There were already two135 such pictures in Jewish history,—that of the youthful Moses, learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and a great man and a prince among the magicians of Pharaoh; and that of Joseph, who, though there were so many Egyptian diviners, alone could interpret dreams, whether in the dungeon or at the foot of the throne. A third picture, that of Daniel at the court of Babylon, is now added to them, and in all three cases the glory is given directly, not to them, but to the God of heaven, the God of their fathers.

At the close of the three years the prince of the eunuchs brought all his young pages into the presence of the King Nebuchadrezzar. He tested them by familiar conversation,257257   LXX., ἐλάλησε μετ' αὐτῶν. Considering the normal degradation of pages at Oriental courts, of which Rycaut (referred to by Pusey, p. 18) "gives a horrible account," their escape from the corruption around them was a blessed reward of their faithfulness. They may now have been seventeen, the age for entering the king's service (Xen., Cyrop., I. ii. 8). On the ordinary curse of the rule of eunuchs at Eastern courts see an interesting note in Pusey, p. 21. and found the four Jewish lads superior to all the rest. They were therefore chosen "to stand before the king"—in other words, to become his personal attendants. As this gave free access to his presence, it involved a position not only of high honour, but of great influence. And their superiority stood the test of time. Whenever the king consulted136 them on matters which required "wisdom of understanding," he found them not only better, but "ten times better," than all the "magicians" and "astrologers" that were in all his realm.258258   On the names see Gesenius, Isaiah, ii. 355.

The last verse of the chapter, "And Daniel continued even unto the first year of King Cyrus," is perhaps a later gloss, for it appears from x. 1 that Daniel lived, at any rate, till the third year of Cyrus. Abn Ezra adds the words "continued in Babylon," and Ewald "at the king's court." Some interpret "continued" to mean "remained alive." The reason for mentioning "the first year of Cyrus" may be to show that Daniel survived the return from the Exile,259259   Alluded to in ix. 25. and also to mark the fact that he attained a great age. For if he were about fourteen at the beginning of the narrative, he would be eighty-five in the first year of Cyrus. Dr. Pusey remarks: "Simple words, but what a volume of tried faithfulness is unrolled by them! Amid all the intrigues indigenous at all times in dynasties of Oriental despotism, amid all the envy towards a foreign captive in high office as a king's councillor, amid all the trouble incidental to the insanity of the king and the murder of two of his successors, in that whole critical period for his people, Daniel continued."260260   Daniel, pp. 20, 21.

The domestic anecdote of this chapter, like the other more splendid narratives which succeed it, has a value far beyond the circumstances in which it may have originated. It is a beautiful moral illustration of the blessings which attend on faithfulness and on temperance, and whether it be an Haggada or an historic tradition, it equally enshrines the same noble lesson as137 that which was taught to all time by the early stories of the Books of Genesis and Exodus.261261   Comp. Gen. xxxix. 21; 1 Kings viii. 50; Neh. i. 1; Psalm cvi. 46.

It teaches the crown and blessing of faithfulness. It was the highest glory of Israel "to uplift among the nations the banner of righteousness." It matters not that, in this particular instance, the Jewish boys were contending for a mere ceremonial rule which in itself was immaterial, or at any rate of no eternal significance. Suffice it that this rule presented itself to them in the guise of a principle and of a sacred duty, exactly as it did to Eleazar the Scribe, and Judas the Maccabee, and the Mother and her seven strong sons in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes. They regarded it as a duty to their laws, to their country, to their God; and therefore upon them it was sacredly incumbent. And they were faithful to it. Among the pampered minions and menials of the vast Babylonian palace—undazzled by the glitter of earthly magnificence, untempted by the allurements of pomp, pleasure, and sensuous indulgence—

"Amid innumerable false, unmoved,

Unshaken, unseduced, unterrified,

Their loyalty they kept, their faith, their love."

And because God loves them for their constancy, because they remain pure and true, all the Babylonian varletry around them learns the lesson of simplicity, the beauty of holiness. Amid the outpourings of the Divine favour they flourish, and are advanced to the highest honours. This is one great lesson which dominates the historic section of this Book: "Them that honour Me I will honour, and they that despise138 Me shall be lightly esteemed." It is the lesson of Joseph's superiority to the glamour of temptation in the house of Potiphar; of the choice of Moses, preferring to suffer affliction with the people of God rather than all the treasures of Egypt and "to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter"; of Samuel's stainless innocence beside the corrupting example of Eli's sons; of David's strong, pure, ruddy boyhood as a shepherd-lad on Bethlehem's hills. It is the anticipated story of that yet holier childhood of Him who—subject to His parents in the sweet vale of Nazareth—blossomed "like the flower of roses in the spring of the year, and as lilies by the water-courses." The young human being who grows up in innocence and self-control grows up also in grace and beauty, in wisdom and "in favour with God and man." The Jews specially delighted in these pictures of boyish continence and piety, and they lay at the basis of all that was greatest in their national character.

But there also lay incidentally in the story a warning against corrupting luxury, the lesson of the need for, and the healthfulness of,

"The rule of not too much by temperance taught."

"The love of sumptuous food and delicious drinks is never good," says Ewald, "and with the use of the most temperate diet body and soul can flourish most admirably, as experience had at that time sufficiently taught."

To the value of this lesson the Nazarites among the Jews were a perpetual witness. Jeremiah seems to single them out for the special beauty which resulted from their youthful abstinence when he writes of Jerusalem, "Her Nazarites were purer than snow, they139 were whiter than milk, they were more ruddy in body than rubies, their polishing was of sapphires."262262   Lam. iv. 7.

It is the lesson which Milton reads in the story of Samson,—

"O madness! to think use of strongest wines

And strongest drinks our chief support of health,

When God, with these forbidden, made choice to rear

His mighty champion, strong above compare,

Whose drink was only from the liquid brook!"

It is the lesson which Shakespeare inculcates when he makes the old man say in As You Like It,—

"When I was young I never did apply

Hot and rebellious liquors in my blood,

Nor did not with unblushful forehead woo

The means of weakness and debility;

Therefore mine age is as a lusty winter,

Frosty, yet kindly."

The writer of this Book connects intellectual advance as well as physical strength with this abstinence, and here he is supported even by ancient and pagan experience. Something of this kind may perhaps lurk in the ἄριστον μὲν ὕδωρ of Pindar; and certainly Horace saw that gluttony and repletion are foes to insight when he wrote,—

"Nam corpus onustum

Hesternis vitiis animum quoque prægravat una,

Atque affigit humo divinæ particulam auræ."263263   Hor., Sat., II. ii. 77.

Pythagoras was not the only ancient philosopher who recommended and practised a vegetable diet, and even Epicurus, whom so many regard as

"The soft garden's rose-encircled child,"

placed over his garden door the inscription that those140 who came would only be regaled on barley-cakes and fresh water, to satisfy, but not to allure, the appetite.

But the grand lesson of the picture is meant to be that the fair Jewish boys were kept safe in the midst of every temptation to self-indulgence, because they lived as in God's sight: and "he that holds himself in reverence and due esteem for the dignity of God's image upon him, accounts himself both a fit person to do the noblest and godliest deeds, and much better worth than to deject and defile, with such debasement and pollution as Sin is, himself so highly ransomed and ennobled to a new friendship and filial relation with God."264264   Milton, Reason of Church Government.

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