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7. Daniel's Dream of Four Beasts
In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters. 2Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. 3And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. 4The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it. 5And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh. 6After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it. 7After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. 8I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.
9I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. 10A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. 11I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame. 12As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time. 13I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
15I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me. 16I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things. 17These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth. 18But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever. 19Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet; 20And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows. 21I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; 22Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom. 23Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. 24And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. 25And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. 26But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. 27And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. 28Hitherto is the end of the matter. As for me Daniel, my cogitations much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart.
Hear. Daniel begins to offer instruction peculiar to the Church. For God had formerly appointed him an interpreter and instructor to, profane kings. But he now appoints him a teacher to the Church, that he may exercise his office within it, and instruct the sons of God in the bosom of the Church. We must notice this first of all, because thus far his predictions extended beyond the limits of the household of faith, but here Daniel’s duty is restricted to the Church. He says: This vision was bestowed upon him in the first year of King Belshazzar, before that change happened, which we have previously seen. First of all, we must try to understand the design of the Holy Spirit; that is, the end and use for which he opened up to Daniel the material of this chapter. All the prophets had held out to the elect people the hope of deliverance, after God had punished them for their ingratitude and obstinacy. When we read what other prophets announce concerning their future redemption, we should suppose the Church to have been promised a happy, quiet, and completely peaceful state, after the people had returned from captivity. But history testifies how very differently it turned out. For the faithful must have grown weary and have fallen away unless they had been admonished of the various disturbances which were at hand. This, then, is the first reason why God revealed to his Prophet what we shall soon see; namely, that three monarchies yet remained, each of which should succeed the former, and that during them all the faithful should endure permanently and constantly in reliance on the promises, although they should see the whole world shaken, and severe and distressing convulsions prevailing everywhere. For this reason, Daniel’s vision concerning the four empires is here set forth. Perhaps it will be better to defer the summary of it till the Prophet begins to treat of each beast separately. But with regard to the two first verses, we must observe the time of the dream.
Before the Medes and Persians transferred the Chaldean Empire to themselves, the Prophet was instructed in this subject, that the Jews might recognize the partial fulfillment of what God had so often promised themselves and their fathers. For if their enemies had possessed Babylon without any new prediction, the Jews perhaps would not have been so attentive to those prophecies which had been long ago uttered in their favor. Hence God wished to refresh their memories, and then, when they saw the fall of that empire which all thought to be impregnable, they would perceive the government of God’s secret counsels, and the partial, if not the complete fulfillment of what he had testified by their prophets. He says — he saw a dream When he previously spoke of the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar he mentioned a vision, but not for the same reason, because the unbelieving when seeing do not observe. They perceive something indeed, dimly and without distinctness, while their thoughts immediately fade away. The Prophet’s method was different; because he not only dreamed, but saw a distinct vision, and thus could profitably deliver to others what he had received. The Prophet then expresses something peculiar by this phrase, for we know how prophets usually attribute such visions to God, when they perceive the secrets of heaven, not with the eyes of flesh, but by the illumination and intelligence of the Spirit. He adds — visions of his head were on his bed; thus the dream would have more weight, and lest we should think any confusion existed in Daniel’s brain. Thus he expresses how he saw whatever the Lord wished him to know in a dream with a calm mind. He afterwards adds — Then he wrote the dream, and explained the meaning of the words. By this phrase he teaches us how his seeing the vision was not for his own sake personally, but for the common edification of the Church. Those who suppose Daniel to have leapt suddenly from his bed, lest he should forget the dream, offer a vain and frivolous comment. Daniel rather wished to bear ‘witness to this vision as not peculiar to himself, but common to God’s elect people; and hence not only to be celebrated orally, but to be delivered to posterity for a perpetual remembrance. We must bear in mind these two points; first, Daniel wrote this prophecy that the knowledge of it might ever be celebrated among the faithful; and then, he considered the interests of posterity, and so left the vision written. Both these points are worthy of notice to induce us to pay greater attention to the vision, since it was not delivered for a single individual; but God chose Daniel as his minister, and as the herald and witness of this oracle. Hence we see how it concerns us; it was not teaching for any single age, but it extends to us, and ought to flourish till the end of the world. He repeats the same thing by adding — he explained the sense of the words. For those who separate these two clauses, seem to stumble on plain ground. 22 The phrase in the Latin text is a proverb: nodum quaerere in scyrpo The French is correct in its interpretation: chercher de la difficulte ou il n’y en a point. Both Ennius and Terence use the proverb. — Ed Daniel then spoke and said — This has no reference to words, but to writing; as if the Prophet had said, I have discharged my duty; since he knew that what we shall afterwards see concerning the four monarchies was not divinely entrusted to him for the sake of suppressing anything made known, but he rather felt himself a chosen instrument of God, who was thus suggesting to the faithful material for trust and endurance. He spoke, therefore, and explained; that is, when he desired to promulgate this oracle, he bore witness to there being no difference between himself and God’s Church in this announcement; but as he had been an elect and ordained teacher, so he delivered what he had received, through his hands, Hence Daniel not only commends his own faith, but excites all the pious to anxiety and attention, lest they should despise what God had pronounced through his mouth.
He repeats again, He saw in his vision during the night. Again, I say, Daniel affirms that he brought forward nothing but what God had authoritatively delivered to him. For we know that in the Church all human traditions ought to be treated as worthless, since all men’s wisdom is vanity and lies. As God alone deserves to be listened to by the faithful, so Daniel here asserts that he offers nothing of his own by dreaming: in the ordinary way, but, that the vision is sure, and such as cannot deceive the pious.
He afterwards adds, Behold! the four winds of heaven fought in a great sea. I much prefer this rendering. Interpreters differ respecting the winds, but the genuine sense appears to be this; Daniel assumes a simile universally known, for on solid ground any such turbulent concussion is seldom heard of as at sea, when any mighty tempest arises. Without doubt, he here proposes the image of a raging sea to warn the faithful against dreadful commotion at hand, just as, if the sea were agitated with storms and raging with tempests on all sides. This is the meaning of the phrase. Hence he names four winds, to show the faithful how the motion which should shatter the globe should not be single and simple, but that various storms should arise together on all sides — exactly as it happens. We may’ sometimes see the earth moved just as if a tempest were, tossing about the sea in all directions, but the motion will yet be single. But God wished to show his Prophet not only a simple concussion, but many and different ones, just as if all the winds were to, meet in one general conflict. Philosophers, indeed, enumerate more winds than four when they desire to treat of the number with precision, but it is the common phrase to speak of four winds blowing from the four quarters or regions of the globe. The sense, however, is clear and by no means forced — the world being like a troubled sea, not agitated by a single storm or wind, but by different conflicting blast., as if the whole heavens conspired to stir up commotion’s. This vision at the first glance was very bitter to the faithful, because they counted the years prescribed to them by Jeremiah; the seventieth year was now at hand, and God had then promised them an end of their troubles. Now God announces that they must not indulge in the hope of rest and joy, but rather prepare themselves for sustaining the rush of the fiercest winds, as the world would be everywhere agitated by different storms. They might perhaps suspect God of not performing his promises, but this ought, to be sufficient for appeasing their minds and propping them up with the hope of redemption, when they saw nothing happen either rashly or by chance. Again God came to meet their temptations lest their courage should fail, by teaching them that the method of their redemption was not quite so easy as they had previously conceived from former predictions. God indeed had not changed his plans, for although a long period had elapsed since he spoke by Isaiah and the other prophets, yet he wished to prepare the Jews against delay, lest it should break down the courage which would be required to meet such great afflictions. But when redemption really approached, then God explained its method more fully and familiarly, and showed how great and severe were the remaining struggles. Hence the faithful, instructed by such prophecies, would contend strenuously and yet proceed constantly in their course of faith and patience. It now follows, —
After Daniel had beheld these great commotions which were shaking the earth in different parts, another vision was offered to him. What has already been said concerning the troubled sea and the conflict of the winds, is extended to the four monarchies, concerning which we shall now treat. A certain preparation is intended when God offers to the eyes of his Prophet a turbulent sea produced by the conflict of the winds. Just as if he should say — after these troubles others shall spring up; thus men will wait for peace and tranquillity in vain, for they must suffer under fresh agitation’s. Now, the kind of trouble is expressed, by the words, four beasts proceed out of the sea. Hence that concussion, those storms, and that confused disturbance of the whole world through one kingdom succeeding to another. It can scarcely happen that any kingdom can perish without involving others in its ruin. A single edifice can scarcely fall without the crash being heard far and wide, and the earth seeming to gape at its overthrow. Then, what must happen when the most powerful monarchies so suddenly perish? Hence in this verse Daniel shows how the world is like a troubled sea, since violent changes among its empires were then at hand. The comparison of empires to beasts is easily explained. We know how God’s glory and power are resplendent in all kingdoms, if they are rightly conducted after the law of equity. But since we often see the truth of what was said to Alexander, — The greatest kingdoms are the greatest robberies, and very few absorb the whole power in a great empire, and exercise a cruel and excessive tyranny. Here the Prophet compares empires to great and savage beasts, of which he will afterwards treat. Now we understand the meaning of the words: and we may learn this lesson from what usually happens in the empires of the world; in themselves, as I have said, they are most beautiful reflections of the divine wisdom, virtue, and justice, although those who obtain supreme sway very rarely acknowledge themselves divinely created for the discharge of their office. As, therefore, kings are mostly tyrants, full of cruelty and barbarity, and forgetful of humanity, the Prophet marks this vice as springing from themselves and not from the sacred ordinance of God. Let us proceed, —
It is clear that the four monarchies are here depicted. But it is not agreed upon among all writers which monarchy is the last, and which the third. With regard to the first, all agree in understanding’ the vision of the Chaldean Empire, which was joined with the Assyrian, as we saw before. For Nineveh was absorbed by the Chaldeans and Babylonians; but the Prophet discourses at length of the Assyrian and Chaldean Empire, which was then flourishing. No one, however, would have thought it so near its end; and on the very night on which Belshazzar was slain, we saw how securely and proudly he was immersed in his pleasures, and what great and listless security existed throughout the city. This monarchy then ought to be set before us in the first place. As in the second chapter that empire was called the golden head of the statue, so also it is now called a lion; that is, it is compared to a generous animal. It is comprehended under the image of a beast, and its fierceness and atrocity, as I have said, is hereby denoted; but with respect to the other kingdom, some superiority is granted to it, since the world is always growing worse and worse. And although Cyrus was a very prudent prince, yet he did not reach the temperance of former ages; for his ambition, avarice, and cruelty were insatiable. For Isaiah also, when he speaks of the Persians, says, They desire neither silver nor gold, but thirst after human blood. (Isaiah 13:17.)
We perceive then the reason why the Prophet says, The first beast offered to me was like a lion, because greater integrity flourished under the Chaldeans than when all the empires were mixed together, and the Persians subdued both the Chaldeans and the Medes. For it is evident from all histories that they were a barbarous and fierce nation. They were indeed showy in their praise of virtue, since they spent their lives in austerity, and despised all luxuries, and were exceedingly temperate in their living; but their ferocity and brutal cruelty rendered them detestable. The first beast then was like a lion, says he, and had eagle’s wings; that is, although it was a lion, yet it had wings. This refers to its swiftness, since we know in how short a time the Assyrians increased their monarchy, for they had previously subdued the Chaldeans, just like a lion for swiftness. For a lion has force, spirit, and cruelty for committing injuries. Besides, the prophet saw a winged lion, since they not only increased their empire by their own strength, but suddenly extended their wings in every direction. We see, then, how strength and power are denoted on the one hand, and the greatest speed on the other. He afterwards adds, Their wings were dragged or torn off. For when the Chaldeans desired to stretch beyond their bounds, the Lord restrained them within due limits, and checked their continual victories. Their wings were then torn off, when God restrained them by the check of a bridle, lest they should wander as freely as they had formerly done.
The Prophet then adds, This beast was raised from the earth, implying the cessation of the empire. For neither the Chaldeans nor the Assyrians were entirely destroyed; but their glory was completely taken away. The face of the beast no longer appeared, when God transferred that monarchy to the Medes and Persians. Hence the Prophet adds, It stood upon its feet, and the heart of a man was given to it By this form of expression, he means to imply the reduction of the Assyrians and Chaldeans to their ordinary condition, and that they were no longer like a lion, but like private men deprived of their power and strength. Hence the expression, a man’s heart was given to them, is not intended by way of praise, but by “a man” he intends any private person; as if he had said, the aspect of the Chaldeans and Assyrians was no longer terrible, since, while their sway prevailed, all men dreaded their power. Hence God removed from the world the face of that beast, and substituted that of a man, and made them stand upon their feet. Formerly they flew about in the air, and despised the earth as far beneath their feet, but God makes them stand upon their feet; that is, not conduct themselves after their customary and former manner, but simply on the common level, after God had deprived them of their empire. This, in my judgment, is the simple meaning of the Prophet. Should there be any necessity, we shall afterwards confirm the remarks which we now run through but cursorily. It follows: —
Here the Prophet proclaims how he was instructed by a dream concerning the second beast. If we will only judge by the event, this beast doubtless represented the kingdom of the Medes and Persians, although the Prophet specifies the Persians, as the Medes had long ago submitted to their yoke. Behold, says he, another beast like a bear. We know a bear to be a mean and foul animal, slothful and inert, as well as cruel. In comparing the bear with the lion, its appearance is foul and displeasing, while the lion is remarkable for beauty, although it is formidable. He compares the Persians to a bear, on account of their barbarity, since we have already pronounced that nation fierce and savage. Then, again, the Persians were not civilized like the Assyrians and Chaldeans, who dwelt in the most beautiful region in the whole world, and in a most lovely country like a most noble theater; but the Persians lay hid like wild beasts in their caves. They dwelt among their mountains, and lived like the brutes. Hence the Prophet compares them very appositely to a bear; nay, God showed this form to his Prophet. He afterwards adds, It stood on one side Some think this to have been added to express the more contracted dominion of the Medes and Persians, but this opinion is unsuitable. We know how extensive was the sway of the Medes before they came under the power of Cyrus and the Persians. By themselves the Medes were most powerful; then the Persians were added, and afterwards Cyrus seized upon the possessions of the Chaldean monarchy. He possessed even the keys of Egypt, reigned in Syria, held Judea, and extended beyond the sea, till at length he was conquered by the Scythians. When, therefore, it is said, he stood on one side, the obscure origin of his kingdom is intended, for the fame of the Persians was included within their mountains until Cyrus acquired for them a name by his exploits. For he was a brave warrior, and deservedly eclipsed the glory of all others. Hence, at first this beast stood on one side; that is, the Persians were without fame or reputation; they had no wealth, and never emerged from their lurking-places. We see how this particular is restricted to their origin in consequence of its obscurity.
The Prophet then adds: Three ribs were in the beast’s mouth between its teeth; and it was thus proclaimed, Arise, eat much flesh! Those who understand three definite kingdoms by the three ribs, seem to refine far too minutely. I think the number indefinite, because this beast had bitten by its mouth not one rib but more; because the Persians, as we have said, drew to themselves the power of the Medes, and afterwards subdued the Assyrians and Chaldeans, and Cyrus also subdued many nations, until all Asia Minor acknowledged his authority. When, therefore, the Prophet speaks of three ribs, it implies the insatiable nature of this beast, since it was not content with a single body, but devoured many men together. For, by “many ribs,” he meant much prey. This is the whole sense. I do not hesitate to explain the following words, it was said to the beast, of angels, or of God himself. Some prefer to understand this of the stimulus by which Cyrus was instigated to cruelty. But since God exhibits to his Prophet the image of his Providence, what I have lately suggested becomes very probable: namely, it was said to the beast, Arise, eat much flesh; not; because God was the author of cruelty, but since He governs by His secret counsel the events which men carry on without method, His authority is here deservedly placed be/ore our eyes; for Cyrus would not have penetrated so swiftly into different regions, and have drawn to himself so many empires, and subjugated so many powerful nations, had not God wished to punish the world, and had made Cyrus the instrument of slaughter. As therefore Cyrus executed God’s vengeance by shedding so much human blood, the Prophet declares it to have been said to him, Arise, and eat flesh. In one respect God was not pleased by the slaughter of so many nations by Cyrus, and by the increase of one man’s power and tyranny through so much human bloodshed; but in another respect God is said to have commanded the conduct of Cyrus, since he wished to punish the world for its ingratitude, to which the most desperate obstinacy and rebellion were added. There was no remedy for these vices; hence God entrusted Cyrus with the duty of executing His judgment,. I am compelled to stop here.
Daniel has already spoken of two empires, namely, the Chaldean and Persian. Interpreters agree in the necessity for referring this vision to the Macedonian Empire. He compares this kingdom to a leopard, or, as some translate, a panther, since Alexander obtained his great power through swiftness alone; and although it is not by any means a striking animal, yet it managed by its remarkable speed to subdue the whole east Others bring forward many points of likeness, in which the Grecian character is in accordance with the nature of the leopard. But I fear these minutiae have but little weight: it is sufficient for me that the Spirit treats here of the Third empire. It was not of any importance at first, and could neither terrify distant regions, nor acquire subjects by its own worthiness. It then became like some swift animal, if I may say so, since the swiftness of Alexander is notorious; but he did not excel in either prudence, or gravity, or judgment, or in any other virtues. Mere rashness seized upon him; and even if he had never tasted wine, his ambition would have intoxicated him. Hence Alexander’s whole life was drunken; there was neither moderation nor composure in him. We see, then, how suitably this answers to the character of Alexander, although this is also extended to his successors, all of whom partook largely of the nature of their prince. Daniel says, therefore, A beast appeared to him like a leopard
He also says, It had four wings on its back, and four heads Some persons, as I think perversely, distinguish between the wings and the heads. They suppose the kingdom to be depicted as winged because Alexander seized upon manly kingdoms in a short period; but the more simple sense is, this beast had four wings and four heads, because Alexander had scarcely completed his victories when he died, contrary to all expectation; and after his death, every one seized a portion of the prey for himself. This, however, is certain: after the chief generals of his army had contended for many years, all histories agree in stating that the supreme power centered in four. For Seleucus obtained Asia Major, and Antigonus Asia Minor, Cassander was king of Macedon, and was succeeded by Antipater, while Ptolemy the son of Lagus became the ruler of Egypt They had agreed indeed otherwise among themselves; for Alexander had a son by Roxana, first daughter of Darius; he had a brother, Aridaeus, who grew up to manhood, but was epileptic and of weak intellect. Then, since the generals of Alexander were cunning, they acted on this pretext, that all should swear allegiance to their young ward, and then to Aridaeus, in case their ward should die before he was of age. 88 The Latin text in the Geneva edition of 1617 has “populi“ where it ought to be “pupilli.” That of 1569 is correct in reading “pupilli“ — Ed. Then Lysimachus was set over the treasury, and another commanded the forces, and others obtained various provinces. Fifteen or twenty leaders divided among themselves both offices and power, while no one dared to assume the name of king. For Alexander’s son was the lawful king, and his successor was that Aridaeus of whom I have spoken. But they soon afterwards united; and that was an admirable specimen of God’s Providence, which alone is sufficient to prove that passage of Scripture He who sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed. (Genesis 9:6.) For none of Alexander’s generals escaped in safety except those four whom we have mentioned. His mother, at the age of eighty, suffered a violent death; his wife, Roxana, was strangled; his son perished miserably; Aridaeus, his brother, a man of no intellect, and almost on a level with the brutes, was slain with the rest — in truth, the whole family of Alexander suffered violent deaths. With respect to the generals, they perished in battles, some of them being betrayed by their soldiers, and others the victims of their own negligence; and yet, although they expected a sanguinary end, they did not escape it. But four only survived, and so the whole empire of Alexander was divided into four parts. For Seleucus, whose successor was Antiochus, obtained Upper Asia, that is, four eastern empire; Antigonus, Asia Minor, with a part of Cilicia, and Phrygia, and other neighboring regions; Ptolemy seized upon Egypt and a part of Africa; Cassander and then Antipater were kings of Macedon. By four wings and four heads, Daniel means that partition which was made immediately after the death of Alexander. Now, therefore, we understand what God showed to his Prophet under this vision, when he set before him the image of a leopard with four wings and heads.
He says, Power was given to the beast, because the success of Alexander the Great was incredible. For who would have thought, ‘when he was crossing the sea, that he would have conquered all Asia and the East? he led with him 50,000 men, and did not undertake the war on his own responsibility alone, but by various arts, he procured the nomination to the leadership of Greece from the Free States. Alexander was therefore, a kind of mercenary of the Greeks, and was unable to lead with him more than 30,000 men, as we have said he engaged in battle with 150,000, then with 400,000, and then with almost a myriad. For Darius in his last battle had collected above 800,000 men besides camp-followers, so that there were almost a million with him. Alexander had already drawn to himself some auxiliaries from the foreign nations whom he had conquered; but he could not trust them: hence his whole strength lay in these 30,000, and on the day on which he conquered Darius, he was so overcome by sleep that he could scarcely be aroused. The historians who extol his prudence, excuse this by recording his sleeplessness during the preceding night; besides, all agree in stating him to have been apparently dead, and when all his generals approached they could scarcely wake him up, and then they purposely raised a shout around his tent, though no one dared to enter. Alexander had scarcely wiped his eyes, when Darius fled; hence the Prophet’s statement is true — a beast’s power was given to him, since this happened beyond every natural expectation and every human opinion, as by his aspect although he could frighten all Greece, and lay prostrate so large an army. He states this of the Third Empire. I will not repeat here all that can be said and can be gathered from history; for many things must be put off till the eleventh chapter. I will therefore briefly compress whatever points seem necessary for the interpretation of the passage. It now follows, —
There is greater difficulty in this Fourth Monarchy. Those who are endued with moderate judgment, confess this vision to be fulfilled in the Roman Empire; but they afterwards disagree, since what is here said of the fourth beast many transfer to the Pope, when it is added a Little Horn sprang up; but others think the Turkish kingdom is comprehended under the Roman. The Jews for the most part incline this way, and they are necessarily compelled to do so, since Daniel will afterwards add — I saw the throne of the Son of Man; since it is clear, from this prediction, that Christ’s kingdom was erected by the overthrow of the Roman dominion, the Jews turn round, and, as I have said, join the Turkish monarchy with the Roman, since they do, not find their Christ according to their imagination. And there are some of our writers who think this image ought not to be restricted to the Roman Empire, but ought to include the Turkish. In nay view, there is nothing probable in that opinion; I have no doubt that in this vision the Prophet was shown the figure of the Roman Empire, and this will be more apparent as we go on.
He says a fourth beast appeared. He gives it no fixed name, because nothing ever existed like it in the world. The Prophet, by adding no similitude, signifies how horrible the monster was, for he formerly compared the Chaldean Empire to a lion, the Persian to a bear, and the Macedonian to a leopard. In these comparisons there was something natural; but when he descends to the fourth beast, he says, it was formidable in its aspect, and terrible, and very brave or strong, and without; any addition calls it “a beast.” We see then his wish to express something prodigious by this fourth beast, as there is no animal so fierce or cruel in the world which can in any way represent with sufficient strength the nature of this beast. Behold, therefore, the fourth beast which was formidable, and fearful, and very strong. We know of no such Monarchy before this. Although Alexander subdued the whole of the East, his victory, we are sure, was not stable. He was content with fame alone; he, granted liberty to all people; and as long as they flattered him, he sought nothing else. But we know the Romans to have been masters even as far as Babylon:; we know the following countries to have been subdued by them: Asia Minor, Syria, Cilicia, Greece, and Macedon, both the Spains, Gaul, Illyricum, and part of Germany. At length Britain was subjugated by Julius Caesar. No wonder this beast is called formidable and very strong! For before Julius Caesar became master of the Empire, the whole Mediterranean Sea was in all its parts under subjection to the Roman Empire. Its amazing extent is well known. Egypt had indeed its own kings, but they were tributary; whatever edicts the Romans decreed, they were executed immediately in Egypt. Mirror sovereigns existed in Asia Minor as a kind of spies, but this state of things we shall treat presently. It is also well known that they possessed supreme power throughout the Mediterranean Sea, and that by the conquest of Mithridates. Pompey reduced Pontus under his dominion. In the East affairs were all at peace. The Medes and Persians gave them some trouble, but they never moved unless they were provoked. The Spains were not yet accustomed to the yoke, but we know that there were always two praetors there. Julius Caesar was the first who entered Britain after subduing Gaul. Hence we see how far and wide the Romans extended their power, and with what immense cruelty. Hence Daniel calls this beast, formidable and very strong
He afterwards adds, It had large iron teeth. This ought to be referred to its audacity and insatiable greediness. We see how completely free their nation was from the fear of death, for they were so hardened that if any one deserted his rank for the sake of avoiding danger, he was afterwards branded with such marks of infamy, that he was compelled either to strangle himself or to incur a voluntary death! There was, then, a certain brutal cruelty in that nation, and we also know how insatiable they were. For this reason Daniel says they had large iron teeth. He adds, it consumed, and broke to pieces, and trod the remnant under foot. These things are spoken allegorically, not only because this vision was offered to the holy Prophet, but also because God wished to paint a kind of living image, in which he might show the peculiar characters of each government. For we know how many lands the Romans had consumed, and how they transferred to themselves the luxuries of the whole world, and whatever was valuable and precious in Asia Minor, and Greece, and Macedonia, as well as in all islands and in Asia Major — all was swept away — and even this was insufficient to satisfy them! This, then, is the ravenousness of which the Prophet now speaks, since they consumed, says he, and rubbed to pieces with their teeth. He adds, they trod the remnant under their feet — a metaphor worthy of notice, as we know they were accustomed to distribute the prey which they could not carry with them. They devoured and tore with their teeth the treasures and costly furniture and everything else; for their supplies were provided by tributes which produced large sums of money. If there was any portion of the Mediterranean which they could not defend without keeping a permanent garrison there, we know how they engaged the services of tributary kings. Thus the kingdom of Eumenes increased to a great extent till the time of his grandson Attalus, but they bestowed it partly on the Rhodians, and partly on the Cyprians and others. They never remunerated those Allies who almost exhausted their own possessions in aiding them, out of their own resources, but enriched them with the spoils of others; and they not only seized upon the property of one city and bestowed it on another, but they set up their lands for sale. Thus, the liberty of the Lacedaemonians was betrayed to the tyrant Nabis. They also enriched Masinissa with so much wealth, that they acquired Africa for themselves by his means. In fine, they so sported with kingdoms in seizing and giving them away, that they rendered provinces tranquil by the wealth and at the expense of others. This was remarkably conspicuous in the case of Judea, where they created out of nothing Ethnarchs and Tetrarchs and kings, who were nothing but their satellites — and that too but for a moment. For as soon as any change occurred, they retracted what they had given as easily as they bestowed it. Hence, this their cunning liberality is called treading under foot; for that remnant which they could not devour and consume with their teeth they trod under foot, as they kept all those whom they had either enriched or increased subject to themselves. Thus we see with what servility they were flattered by those who had obtained anything through their generosity. And how degrading was the slavery of Greece from the time the Romans entered the country! for as each state acquired any new territory, it erected a temple to the Romans. They also sent their ambassadors there to act as spies, who, under the pretense of punishing the neighboring people for ‘plotting against them, enriched themselves by plunder. Thus the Romans held under their feet whatever they had given to others. We see then how suitably and properly the Prophet speaks, when he says, the Romans trod down the remnant; for whatever they could not consume, and what their voraciousness could not devour, they trod under their feet.
He adds afterwards, And this beast different from all the former ones, and had ten horns. When he says, this beast was different from the rest, he confirms what we formerly said, namely, this was a horrible prodigy, and nothing could be compared to it in the nature of things. And surely if any one attentively and prudently considers the origin of the Romans, he would be astonished at their remarkable progress to such great power; for it was an unusual monster, and nothing like it had ever appeared. Interpreters treat in various ways what the Prophet subjoins respecting the ten horns. I follow simple and genuine opinion, namely, the Prophet means this Empire to belong to more persons them one For the angel will afterwards assert the ten horns to be kings; not that so many kings ruled at Rome, according to the foolish dream of the Jews, who are ignorant of all things; but the Prophet here distinguishes the Fourth Monarchy from the rest, as if he had said it should be a popular government, not presided over by one king, but divided into really heads. For they even divided provinces among themselves, and made treaties with each other, so that one was governor of Macedonia, another of Cilicia, and another of Syria. Thus we see how numerous the kingdoms were. And with regard to the number ten, we know this to be a frequent and usual form of speech in Scripture, where ten signifies many. When plurality is denoted, the number ten is used. Thus when the Prophet states the fourth beast to have ten horns, he means, there were many provinces so divided, that each ruler, whether proconsul or praetor, was like a king. For the supreme power was given to them, while the city and Italy were given up to the consuls. The consul could indeed write to the provinces and command whatever he pleased; then he could elevate to honor whom he pleased for the sake of favor and friendship; but each of the praetors and proconsuls when he obtained a province, became a kind of king, since he exercised the supreme power of life and death over all his subjects. We need not be too anxious about the number, as we have already explained it. Those who reckon the Roman provinces make great mistakes; they omit the principal one; they make only one of Spain, and yet we know there were two. They do not divide Gaul, yet there were always two proconsuls there, except under Julius Caesar, who obtained the control of both Gauls. So also they speak of Greece, and yet, neither a proconsul nor s praetor was ever sent into Greece. Finally, the prophet simply means that the Roman Empire was complex, being divided into many provinces, and these provinces were governed by leaders of great weight at Rome, whose authority and rank were superior to others. Proconsuls and proctors obtained the provinces by lot, but favor frequently prevailed, as the histories of those times sufficiently assure us. Let us proceed, —
Daniel proceeds with his description of the fourth beast. First, he says, he was attentive, with the intention of rousing us to serious meditation. For what is said of the fourth beast, was remarkably memorable and worthy of notice. This, then, is the reason why God struck the heart of his servant with wonder. For the Prophet would not have given his attention to the consideration of the fourth beast, unless he had been impelled to it by the secret instinct of God. The Prophet’s attention, then, sprang from a heavenly impulse. Wherefore it is our duty not to read carelessly what is here written, but to weigh seriously and with the greatest diligence what the Spirit intends by this vision. I was attentive, therefore, says he, to the horns, and behold one small one arose among them. Here interpreters begin to vary; some twist this to mean the Pope, and others the Turk; but neither opinion seems to me probable; they are both wrong, since they think the whole course of Christ’s kingdom is here described, while God wished only to declare to his Prophet what should happen up to the first advent of Christ. This, then, is the error of all those who wish to embrace under this vision the perpetual state of the Church up to the end of the world. But the Holy Spirit’s intention was completely different. We explained at the beginning why this vision appeared to the Prophet — because the minds of the pious would constantly fail them in the dreadful convulsions which were at hand, when they saw the supreme dominion pass over to the Persians. And then the Macedonians broke in upon them, and acquired authority throughout; the whole of the East, and afterwards those robbers who made war under Alexander suddenly became kings, partly by cruelty and partly by fraud and perfidy, which created more strife than outward hostility. And when the faithful saw all those monarchies perish, and the Roman Empire spring up like a new prodigy, they would lose their courage in such confused and turbulent changes. Thus this vision was presented to the Prophet, that all the children of God might understand what severe trials awaited them before the advent of Christ. Daniel, then, does not proceed beyond the promised redemption, and does not embrace, as I have said, the whole kingdom, of Christ, but is content to bring the faithful to that exhibition of grace which they hoped and longed for.
It is sufficiently clear, therefore, that this exhibition ought to be referred to the first advent of Christ. I have no doubt that the little horn relates to Julius Caesar and the other Caesars who succeeded him, namely, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, and others. Although, as we said before, the counsel of the Holy Spirit must be attended to, which leads the faithful forwards to the beginning of the reign of Christ, that is, to the preaching of the Gospel, which was commenced under Claudius, Nero, and their successors. He calls it a little horn, because Caesar did not assume the name of king; but when Pompey and the greater part of the senate were conquered, he could not enjoy his victory without assuming to himself supreme power. Hence he made himself tribune of the people and their dictator. Meanwhile, there were always Consuls; there was always some shadow of a Republic, while they daily consulted the senate and sat in his seat while the consuls were at the tribunals. Octavius followed the same practice, and afterwards Tiberius also. For none of the Caesars, unless he was consul, dared to ascend the tribunal; each had his own seat, although from that place he commanded all others. It is not surprising, then, if Daniel calls the monarchy of Julius and the other Caesars a little horn, its splendor and dignity were not great enough to eclipse the majesty of the senate; for while the senate retained the name and form of honor, it is sufficiently known that one man alone possessed the supreme power. He says, therefore, this little horn was raised among the ten others. I must defer the explanation of what follows, viz., three of these ten were taken away.
Daniel now relates how he saw another figure, namely, God sitting on his throne to exercise judgment. We shall see it afterwards concerning Christ, but Daniel now teaches only the appearance of God in his character of a judge. This was the reason why many persons extend this prophecy to the second Advent of Christ — an interpretation by no means correct, as I shall show more copiously in the proper place. But first it is worth while to consider here, why he says — the Ancient of days, meaning the eternal Deity himself, ascended the throne judgment. This scene seems unnecessary, because it is the peculiar office of God to govern the world; and as we know this cannot be done without upright judgment, it follows that God has been a perpetual judge from the creation of the world. Now, even a moderate acquaintance with the Scriptures shows how well this passage suits us by appealing to our senses; for unless God’s power is made conspicuous, we think it either abolished or interrupted. Hence those forms of expression which occur elsewhere; as, “How long art thou silent, O Lord; and how long wilt thou cease from us?” (Psalm 13:1; Psalm 9:7, and elsewhere,) and — God ascends his throne — for we should not acknowledge him as a judge, unless he really and experimentally proved himself such. This then is the reason why Daniel says God himself was seated in judgment.
But before we proceed further, we must observe the sense in which he says — thrones were either erected or east down — for the word רום, rum can be taken in either sense. Those who translate it, “Thrones were removed,” interpret it of the Four monarchies already mentioned. But; for my part, I rather incline to a different opinion. If any one prefers explaining’ it of these Monarchies, I do not contend with him, for that; sense is probable; and as far as the pith of the matter is concerned, there is not much difference. But I think the thrones or seats are here proceed to exhibit; the divine judgment, because the Prophet will immediately’ represent myriads of angels standing before God. We know’ how often angels are adorned with this title as if they were, assessors of Deity; and the form of speech which Daniel uses when he says, “The judgment was set,” will also agree with this. He speaks here of assessors with the judge, as if God did not sit alone, but had councilors joined with him. In my opinion the most suitable explanation is, — thrones were created for the Almighty to sit on with his councilors; not implying his need of any council, but of his own goodwill and mere favor he dignifies angels with this honor, as we shall see immediately. Daniel therefore describes, after our human fashion, the preparations for judgment; just as if any king should go publicly forth for the purpose of transacting any business of moment, and should ascend his tribunal. Councilors and nobles would sit around him on both sides, not partaking of his power, but rather increasing the splendor of his appearance. For if the king alone should occupy the whole place, the dignity would not be so magnificent as when his nobles, who depend upon him, are present on all sides, because they far surpass the ordinary multitude. Daniel, therefore, relates the vision presented to him in this form; first, ‘because he was a man dwelling in the flesh; and next, he did not see it for himself personally, but for the common benefit of the whole Church. Thus God wished to exhibit a representation which might infuse into the Prophet’s mind and into those of all the pious, a feeling of admiration, and yet might have something in common with human proceedings. Thrones, therefore, he says, were erected; afterwards, the Ancient of days was seated. I have already expounded how God then began to seat himself, as he had previously appeared to be passive, and not to exercise justice in the world. For when things are disturbed and mingled with much darkness, who can say, “God reigns?” God seems to be shut up in heaven, when things are discomposed and turbulent upon earth. On the other hand, he is said to ascend his tribunal when he assumes to himself the office of a judge, and openly demonstrates that he is neither asleep nor absent, although he lies hid from human perception.
This form of speech was very appropriate for denoting the coming of Christ. For God then chiefly displayed his supreme power, as Paul quotes a passage from the Psalms, (Psalm 68:8, in Ephesians 4:8,) “Thou hast ascended on high.” When the subject treated is the first coming of Christ, it ought not to be restricted to the thirty-three years of his sojourn in the world, but it embraces his ascension, and that preaching of the gospel which ushered in his kingdom;-this will be said again more clearly and copiously. Daniel appropriately relates how God was seated when the first advent of Christ is depicted, since the majesty of God shone in the person of Christ; for which reason he is called
“The invisible image of God and the character of his glory,” (Hebrews 1:3;)
that is, of the substance or person of the Father. God therefore, who had seemed for so many ages not to notice the world nor to care for his elect people, ascended his tribunal at the advent of Christ. To this subject the Psalms, from the 95th to the 100th, all relate — “God reigns, let the earth rejoice;” “God reigns, let the islands be afraid.” In truth, God had not dwelt in complete privacy before Christ’s advent; but. the empire which he had erected was hidden and unseen, until he showed forth his glory in the person of his only begotten Son. The Ancient of days, therefore, was seated
He now says, His raiment was white like snow the hair of his head was like pure wool. God here shows himself to his Prophet in the form of man. We know how impossible it is for us to behold God as he really exists, till we ourselves become like Him, as John says in his canonical epistle. (1 John 3:2.) As our capacity cannot endure the fullness of that surpassing glory which essentially belongs to God, whenever he appears to us, he must necessarily put on a form adapted to our comprehension. God, therefore, was never seen by the fathers in his own natural perfection; but as far as their capacities allowed, he afforded them a taste of his presence for the sure acknowledgment of his Deity; and yet they comprehended him as far as it was useful for them and they were able to bear it. This is the reason why God appeared with a white garment, which is characteristic of heaven; and with snowy hair, like white and clean wool. To the same purpose is the following: His throne was like sparks of fire, that is, like glowing fire; his wheels were like burning fire. God in reality neither occupies any throne, nor is carried on wheels; but, as I already said, we ought not to imagine God in his essence to be like any appearance, to his own Prophet and other holy fathers, but he put on various appearances, according to man’s comprehension, to whom he wished to give some signs of his presence. I need not dwell longer on these forms of speech, though subtle allegories are pleasing to many. I am satisfied with holding what is solid and sure. It now follows: —
Daniel proceeds with what he commenced in the former verse. He says a splendor or stream of fire; for נהר, neher, may be used in both senses, since נהר, neher, signifies both “to flow” and “to shine.” Yet, since he previously spoke of splendor, the word “stream” will suit the passage very well; for a fiery stream issued from the presence of God, which both inundated and burnt up the land. Without doubt God wished to inspire his Prophet with fear for the purpose of arousing him the better, as we never sufficiently comprehend his majesty unless when humbled; and we cannot experience this humility without fear. This is the reason why God always shows something terrible when he appears to his servants, not merely to create astonishment, but to excite their fear and reverence. Hence God seems to have considered this point in this vision, when the stream took its rise from his appearance, even a river of flame. Afterwards he adds, numberless attendants stood before him. Without the slightest doubt, the Prophet here speaks of angels. He says there were thousands of thousands, or ten times a hundred thousand; and again, ten thousand times ten thousand, that is, ten thousand myriads. Here the numbers are not reckoned, but God signifies his having at hand the greatest forces obedient to his will, and far surpassing any armies which the greatest; and most powerful princes collect. This passage teaches us that angels were created for the purpose of receiving and executing the commands of God, and of being the ministers of God, as it were his hands in heaven and in earth. As regards numbers, no wonder many myriads are enumerated by the Prophet. Christ said,
“Can I not ask the Father and he will send a legion?”
So, in this passage, Daniel says there were numberless angels under God’s hand, and there was no need of collecting armies after the manner of princes, since they are always present and intent on obedience. Thus they immediately fulfill all his commands, as angels run swiftly throughout heaven and earth. We also perceive the supreme power of the Almighty denoted here, as if the Prophet had said — God is not like a king or a judge merely by title, but he possesses the greatest and most unlimited power; he has myriads of satellites ever at hand for the purpose of fulfilling and executing his supreme will. And in this sense he says, they stood before him. He uses the word for ministry or service, and afterwards, adds, to stand. For ministers cannot always render their service as quickly as their rulers desire. But the angelic method is different. Not only were they prepared to obey, but in a moment they understand what God wishes and commands without needing time for compliance. We see even the greatest princes cannot immediately carry out their decrees, because their ministers are not always at hand. But there is no necessity for dwelling longer upon angels. Daniel adds, The judgment was fixed, and the books were opened. Although God alone is eminent and conspicuous above the angels, and the height of their glory and dignity does not obscure the supreme empire of the Almighty, yet, as we have formerly said, he deems them worthy of the honor of being placed as councilors on each side of him, and that for the sake of illustrating his own majesty. For we have stated that nobles do not sit at the side of monarchs to diminish his majesty or to attract it to themselves, but rather to reflect the magnitude and power of the monarch more fully. This is the reason why the Prophet joins angels with God, not as allies, but simply as his councilors.
I refer the phrase, the books were opened, to the preaching of the gospel. Although God was recognized in Judea, as it is said in the 76th Psalm, (Psalm 76:2,) yet this acknowledgment was but slight and involved in many figures. God was revealed through enigmas until Christ’s coming; but then he manifested himself truly, just like opening books previously shut. There is therefore a contrast to be observed here between that obscure season which preceded the coming of Christ, and the clearness which now shines under the gospel. Because, therefore, God was plainly made known after the Sun of righteousness arose, according to the Prophet Malachi, (Malachi 4:2,) this is the reason why the books are now said to have been opened at that season. Meanwhile, we confess that God was not altogether hidden, nor did he speak from astonishment, but this is said comparatively by the Prophet, as the books were opened whenever God openly appeared as the Judge, Father, and Preserver of the world, in the person of his only begotten Son. It afterwards follows: —
Since the presumptuous speaking of the little horn terrified the Prophet, he now says he was attentive in considering this portion. He next says, The beast was slain, and his body was consumed by the burning of fire. This ought clearly to be referred to the end of the Roman empire. For, from the time when foreigners obtained the mastery, the fourth beast ceased to flourish. The name was always retained, yet with great mockery of that ancient monarchy. I now omit all mention of Caligula, Nero, Domitian, and similar monsters. But when Spaniards and Africans acquired the absolute sway, can we call Rome any longer the mistress of the world? Surely this would be foolish indeed! To this very day the Germans also say they possess the Roman empire; but while the title of empire has passed to the Germans, clearly enough Rome is at this very day in slavery. For as to the Pope having erected his own throne there, this empire is unworthy of the name of monarchy; but whatever be our view of this point, for about 1500 years the Romans have been in bondage as slaves to foreign princes. For, after the death of Nero:, Trajan was his successor, and from that time scarcely a single Roman obtained the empire; and God branded it with the, most disgraceful marks of ignominy, when a swine-herd was created emperor, and that too by the lust of the soldiery! The senate retained its name till then; But if it pleased the soldiers to create any one a Caesar, the senate was immediately compelled to submit to their dictation. Thus, the Prophet with great propriety says, The beast was slain shortly after the promulgation of the gospel. Then the presumptuous speaking of the little horn was at an end, and the fourth beast was extinct about the same time. For then no Roman became an Emperor who claimed for himself any share of power; but Rome itself fell into disgraceful slavery, and not only foreigners reigned there most shamefully, but even barbarians, swine-herds, and cow-herds! All this occurred in fulfillment of what God had shown to his Prophet, namely, after the coming of Christ and the opening of the books, that is — after the knowledge which shone upon the world through the preaching of the gospel — the destruction of that fourth beast and of the Roman empire was close at hand.
Without doubt the Prophet refers to what ought to come first in order, as the empires of which he is speaking were extinct before the Roman. Hence these verbs ought to be taken in the pluperfect tense, because the power had been already removed from the other three beasts. For the Hebrews were, accustomed to repeat afterwards anything which had been omitted, and they do not always observe the order of time in their narratives. Thus, after he had said the fourth beast was slain and consumed by burning, he now adds what he had omitted concerning the remaining three, namely, their dominion had been take, from them. He adds also what is worthy of notice, Length, or continuance, in life was granted to them even for a time and a time. There are two different words used here, but they signify one and the same thing, namely, a convenient time. Here the Prophet understands how nothing happens accidentally, but all things are carried on in the world in their own time, as God has decreed them in heaven. Perhaps when the subject-matter of the discourse is length of life, it signifies the protracted period of these afflictions, as they should not pass away suddenly like clouds. Not only severe but lengthened trials are said to await the faithful, which must afflict their minds with weariness, unless the hope of a better issue propped them up. Thus, the Holy Spirit predicts how God would at length deliver his Church when he had exercised its patience for a length of time. From the rest of the beasts power was taken away. The copula in the word ארכה, ve-arkeh, “and length,” may be resolved in this way — “because length in life;” as if he had said, The trials by which the sons of God were to be oppressed should not be perpetual, because God had prescribed and defined a fixed period. A continuance, therefore, in life was granted to them, namely, for a time and a time. The copula may be treated as “an adversative particle” as if he had said, “although a continuance,” that is, although the people should not immediately escape from those sorrowful cares which oppressed them, yet God’s opportunity would at length arrive, that is, the time at which it pleased God to redeem his own Church. But the former exposition seems more genuine and more consistent, because length of time has its own limits and boundaries. There is also a contrast between, the words ארכה, arkeh, “length,” and זמן, zemen, “time,” and עדן, gneden, “time,” because length or “prolonging” has reference to our perceptions; for when we are suffering pain, the greatest speed seems delay. Thus, any one in anxiety for an improved state of things counts every moment, and is so flagrant in his desires as to call the Almighty in question for any delay. As, then, the impatience of men is so great, when they are expecting with anxiety this freedom from adversity, the Prophet says, in the ordinary acceptation of the phrase, length of time was granted to the beasts; but he opposes a fit time; as if he had said — They act preposterously who thus indulge their own passions. Since God has fixed his own time, they require patience, and need not reckon the years; but this one thing must be concluded, when the Lord pleases he will not delay his help. This, therefore, is the full sense of the verse. It follows: —
After Daniel has narrated how he saw God on the throne of judgment, openly exercising his power and laying open to the world what was formerly hidden from it, namely, his supreme authority in its government, he now adds the second part of the vision, As it were the Son of man appeared in the clouds. Without doubt this is to be understood of Christ, and the Jews, perverse as they are, are ashamed to deny it, although they differ afterwards about Christ. But the object of the vision was to enable the faithful certainly to expect the promised Redeemer in his own time. He had been endued with heavenly power, and was seated at his Father’s right hand. Hence Daniel says, He was intent on these nightly visions. And this repetition is by no means superfluous, as it informs us of the Prophet’s alertness when God shews himself present. Daniel expresses this fully in his own words, for he roused himself when he perceived important, and rare, and singular matters set before him. This attentive disposition of the Prophet ought to stir us up to read his prophecy without listlessness, and with awakened minds earnestly to derive from heaven true and sincere intelligence. I was, then, says he, attentive in visions of the night, and beheld as it were the Son of man. I have already said this passage cannot be otherwise taken than concerning Christ. We must now see why he uses the word “like” the Son of man; that is, why he uses the letter כ, ke, the mark for likeness. This might be twisted in favor of the folly of the Manichees, who thought Christ’s body to be only imaginary. For, as they wrest the words of Paul, and pervert their sense, that Christ was in likeness as a man, (Philippians 2:7.) so also they may abuse the Prophet’s testimony, when Christ is not said to be a man but only like one. With respect to Paul’s words, he is not speaking of the essence of his human nature, but only of his state; for he is speaking of Christ being made man, of his condition being humble and abject, and even servile. But in the passage before us the reason is different. For the Prophet says, He appeared to him as the Son of man, as Christ had not yet taken upon him our flesh. And we must remark that saying of Paul’s: When the fullness of time was come, God sent his Son, made of a woman. (Galatians 4:4.) Christ then began to be a man when he appeared on earth as Mediator, for he had not assumed the seed of Abraham before he was joined with us in brotherly union. This is the reason why the Prophet does not pronounce Christ to have been man at this period, but only like man; for otherwise he had not been that Messiah formerly promised under the Law as the son of Abraham and David. For if from the beginning he had put on human flesh, he would not have been born of these progenitors. It follows, then, that Christ was not a man from the beginning, but only appeared so in a figure. As also Irenaeus 1818 The Latin translation of Irenaeus is “proeludium.” The French here has “une approche et entree.” and then adds, “He uses a word which we cannot translate into French.” It means a preface or introduction. — Ed. says: This was a “prelude,” he uses that word. Tertullian also says: “Then the Son of God put on a specimen of humanity.” 1919 Tertullian’s words are, “Tunc praeluxit Filius Dei humanitate sua.” — Ed. This was a symbol, therefore, of Christ’s future flesh, although that flesh did not yet exist. We now see how suitably this figure agrees with the thing signified, wherein Christ was set forth as the Son of man, although he was then the eternal Word of God.
It afterwards follows, He came to the Ancient of days This, in my judgment, ought to be explained of Christ’s ascension; for he then commenced his reign, as we see in numberless passages of Scripture. Nor is this passage contrary to what the Prophet had previously said — he saw the Son of man in the clouds. For by this expression he simply wishes to teach how Christ, although like a man, yet differed from the whole human race, and was not of the common order of men; but excelled the whole world in dignity. He expresses much more when he says, in the second clause, He came even unto the Ancient of days For although the Divine Majesty lay hid in Christ, yet he discharged the duty of a slave, and emptied himself, as Paul says, (Philippians 2:7.) So also we read in the first chapter of John, (John 1:14,) Glory appeared in him as of the only begotten Son of God; that is, which belongs to the only begotten Son of God. Christ, therefore, thus put off his glory for the time, and yet by His miracles and many other proofs afforded a clear and evident; specimen of his celestial glory. He really appeared to Daniel in the clouds, but when he ascended to heaven, he then put off this mortal body, and put on a new life. Thus Paul also, in the sixth chapter to the Romans, says, he lives the life of God, (Romans 6:10;) and other phrases often used by our Lord himself agree very well with this, especially in the Evangelist John, “I go to the Father.” “It is expedient for me to go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I,” (John 16:7; John 14:28;) that is, it is expedient for me to ascend to that royal tribunal which the Father has erected for me by his eternal counsel, and thus the whole world will feel the supreme power to have been entrusted to me. Now, therefore, we understand the full meaning of the Prophet’s words.
But as there are many fanatics who wrest what has been said of the person of the Mediator, as if Christ were not the true God, but had a beginning from the Father at some definite period of time, we must observe how the Prophet’s expression are neither the human nor the divine nature of Christ properly speaking, but a Mediator is here set before us who is God manifest in flesh. For if we hold this principle that Christ is described to us, not as either the word of God, or the seed of Abraham, but as Mediator, that is, eternal God who was willing to become man, to become subject to God the Father, to be made like us, and to be our advocate, then no difficulty will remain. Thus he appeared to Daniel like the Son of man, who became afterwards truly and really so. He was in the clouds, that is, separated from the common lot of mankind, as he always carried with him some marks of deity, even in his humility. He now arrives as the Ancient of days, that is, when he ascends to heaven, because his divine majesty was then revealed. And hence he says, It is expedient for you, for me to go to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. (John 14:28.) Christ here detracts nothing from his deity, but as his nature was not known in the world, while his divine majesty lay hid in the form of a servant, he calls the Father simply God; as if he had said, If I remain with you upon earth, what would the presence of my flesh profit you? But when I ascend to heaven, then that oneness which I have with the Father will become conspicuous. When, therefore, the world shall understand that I am one with the Father, and that the Deity is one, the hope of all the pious will become more firm and unconquered against all temptations; for they will know themselves to be equally under the protection of both God and man. If, therefore, Christ were always dwelling upon earth, and had borne witness a thousand times to his being given to us by his Father as the guardian of our salvation, yet there always would have been some hesitation and anxiety. But when we know him to be seated at his Father’s right hand, we then understand him to be truly God, because all knees would not be bent before him, unless he had been the eternal God. We must hold that passage of Isaiah, (Isaiah 42:8,) As I live, saith the Lord, my glory I will not give to another. As, therefore, God’s glory can never be transferred to either man or any other creature, the true unity and nature of God necessarily shines forth in the human nature of Christ, for every knee is bent before him. Now, therefore, we understand the sense in which the Prophet says, Christ came as the Son of man, that is, like a man, even to the Ancient of days For after Christ had passed through the period of his self-abasement, according’ to Paul, (Philippians 2:7,) he ascended into heaven, and a dominion was bestowed upon him, as the Prophet says in the next verse. This passage, then, without the slightest doubt, ought to be received of Christ’s ascension, after he had ceased being mortal man. He says, He was represented before God, namely, because he sits at his right hand. It follows, —
The Prophet; confirms and explains more clearly in this verse what he had said in the former one. For we may collect from it how the personage previously mentioned arrived at the Ancient of days, who is God, namely, because power was given to him. For although Christ truly ascended into heaven, (Matthew 28:18,) yet we ought clearly to weigh the purpose of his doing so. It was to acquire the supreme power in heaven and in earth, as he himself says. And Paul also mentions this purpose in the first and second chapters of the Ephesians. (Ephesians 1:21; Ephesians 2:7.) Christ left the world and ascended to the Father; first, to subdue all powers to himself, and to render angels obedient; next, to restrain the devil, and to protect and preserve the Church by his help, as well as all the elect of God the Father. So, therefore, Daniel now proceeds with what he formerly said concerning the approach of Christ to God. Thus the madness of those who argue against Christ; being true and eternal God, because he is said to have come to the Ancient of days, is refuted. First of all, as we have said, this is understood of the person of the Mediator; next, all doubt is taken away when the Prophet adds, Power was given unto him. Behold, therefore, a certain explanation. We will not say it was bestowed with relation to his being, and being called God. It was given to him as Mediator, as God manifest in flesh, and with respect to his human nature. We observe how well all these things agree, when the Prophet here says, The chief power was given to Christ We must hold therefore its reference to that manifestation, because Christ was from the beginning the life of men, the world was created by him, and his energy always sustained it, (John 1:4;) but power was given to him to inform us how God reigned by means of his hand. If we were required to seek God without a Mediator, his distance would be far too great, but when a Mediator meets us, and offers himself to us in our human nature, such is the nearness between God and us, that our faith easily passes beyond the world and penetrates the very heavens. For this reason therefore, All power, honor, and kingdom was given to Christ. He adds also, All nations shall serve him, that is, they may serve him; for the copula ought to be translated thus, — That all nations, people, and tongues should serve him. We have shewn how this ought properly to be understood of the commencement of the reign of Christ, and ought not to be connected with its final close, as many interpreters force and strain the passage. Meanwhile we must add, that the events which the Prophet here narrates are not yet complete; but this ought to be familiar to all the pious, for whenever the kingdom of Christ is treated of, his glory magnificently extolled, as if it were now absolutely complete in all its parts. It is not surprising, if according to the frequent and perpetual usage of Scripture, the Prophet should say power was given to Christ, to subdue all people, nations, and languages to himself, as it is said in Psalm 110:1, — Jehovah said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thy enemies the footstool of thy feet. We see, then, how Christ was raised to his own empire to govern his Church in the name and with the power of his Father, while at the same time many enemies rise up against him. Still the obstinacy of the devil and of all impious men continues, although Christ governs heaven and earth, and is the supreme king before whom every knee is bent. We also know how marked the difference is between the beginning of his kingdom and its final completion. Whatever the meaning, this vision suits very well with many assertions of Christ, where he bears witness to the power given him by the Father. (Matthew 28:18, and elsewhere) He does not here speak of the last judgment, but is only teaching us, the object of his ascension to heaven.
This view the Prophet confirms by saying, his dominion is the dominion of an age, which is mot taken away, and his kingdom can never be corrupted or abolished. For by these words he teaches familiarly and openly, why Christ is the Supreme King, namely, for the perpetual government of his Church in this world. We ought to look up to heaven in very deed whenever the state of the Church is under consideration, since its happiness is neither earthly, nor perishable, nor temporary, though nothing sublunary is either firm or perpetual. But when the Prophet says Christ’s dominion is eternal, he doubtless signifies the constant endurance of his monarchy, even to the end of the world, when he shall gather his people together to a happy life and an eternal inheritance. Although, therefore, celestial immortality is comprehended under these words, yet in a former passage the Prophet pointed out the perpetual existence of the Church in this world, because Christ will defend it, although daily subject to numberless causes of destruction. And who would not assert the almost daily perishing of the Church, if God did not wonderfully preserve it by the hand of his only begotten Son? Hence it is correct to understand the phrase, His kingdom shall be the kingdom of an age. And thus we receive no common consolation, when we see the Church tossed about amidst various fluctuations, and almost buried and devoured by continual shipwrecks, yet Christ is ever stretching forth his hand to preserve it, and to save it from every sorrowful and horrible species of destruction. It now follows, —
Daniel says, his spirit was either cut off or vanished, as if he suffered some mental deficiency. In this way God wished to communicate to his servant the magnitude of the vision. And he inspires us also with reverence for this vision, lest we should treat it coldly and commonly. But we ought to understand how God opens up to Daniel, his servant, and to us by his assistance and ministry, these mysteries which meaning; be otherwise comprehended by our human senses. For if Daniel, whom we know to have been a remarkable Prophet, felt his spirit to be so deficient and nearly vanishing away, surely we who as yet know so little of God’s mysteries, nay, who have scarcely tasted their first rudiments, never can attain so great a height, unless we overcome the world and shake off all human sensations. For these things cannot be perceived by us unless our minds are clear and completely purified.
He says, therefore, in the first place, his spirit was cut off, or vanished, in the midst of his body; as if he had said he was almost lifeless and nearly dead. And he added, as reason, the visions of his head had frightened him No one can faint away — an event which sometimes happens — with-out a cause. When that terror called a panic seizes upon some persons, we observe how they become deprived of self-possession, and lie almost lifeless. But Daniel, to shew himself separate from such persons, says he was frightened or disturbed by visions of his head; as if he had said, he was not disturbed without occasion, but it was caused by the mystery of which the vision had been offered to him. He came to one of those standing by. He had said a short time before, ten thousand times ten thousand were at the right hand of the tribunal of God. Without the slightest doubt, the Prophet asked one of these angels. And here we must notice his modesty and docility in flying to some instructor, because he was conscious of his own ignorance and found no other remedy. At the same time, we are taught by the Prophet’s example not to reject all visions, but to seek their interpretation from God himself. Although God in these days does not address us by visions, yet he wishes us to be content with his Law and Gospel, while angels do not appear to us, and do not openly and conspicuously descend from heaven; but, since Scripture is obscure to us, through the darkness in which we are involved, let us learn not to reject whatever surpasses our capacity, even when some dark veil envelops it, but let us fly to the remedy which Daniel used, not to seek the understanding of God’s word from angels, who do not appear to us, but from Christ himself, who in these days teaches us familiarly by means of pastors and ministers of the gospel. Now, as a supreme and only Master has been given us from the Father, so also he exercises the office of teacher by his own ministers whom he set over us. (Matthew 23:8, 10.) Therefore, as Daniel approached the angel who was near him, so we are daily commanded to approach those who have been entrusted with the gift of interpretation and who can faithfully explain to us things otherwise obscure. Our confidence, too, ought to be increased by what follows directly: The angel spoke, and opened the interpretation of the words. Daniel here shews his modesty and humility not to have been in vain, as God commanded the angel to explain all obscurities. So, without doubt, Christ will at this time satisfy our prayers, if we are truly his disciples; that is, if, after those mysteries which surpass and absorb all our senses have terrified us, we fly to that order which he has prescribed for us, and seen from faithful ministers and teachers the interpretation of those things which are difficult and obscure, and entirely concealed from us.
Here the angel answers Daniel concerning the four beasts which had been shewn him in the vision. He says, therefore, Four kingdoms arose, and by the name kingdom he means monarchy; for we know that the Persians had many kings until Alexander transferred to himself the empire of the East. Although Cyrus had seven or eight successors, yet the Persian empire continued through them all. And as we saw before, although whatever Alexander had acquired by his arms was divided among his four successors, yet it still remained the Macedonian kingdom. The same thing must be said concerning the fourth kingdom. Although we know consuls to have been created yearly at Rome, yet that government lasted till Julius Caesar destroyed it, and consumed the strength of the empire, so as to surpass by his power the splendid altitude which had been long and widely conspicuous in the world. Hence the angel replied, By the four beasts four kingdoms are denoted: he says, shall arise; and yet the Chaldean had long ago arisen, and was now verging under Belshazzar to its fall. But it was proposed by the angel to teach the Prophet and all the people that there was no reason why revolutions should disturb them too much. The Israelites then saw themselves lying as if dead, yea, actually buried and concealed under the earth. For exile was to them equivalent to the tomb. For this reason, then, the angel announces the springing up of four kingdoms, while the first was then flourishing; but, as I have already said., this suits very well within the scope and object of the prophecy. He had formerly said from the sea, but the word “sea” is used metaphorically, since the condition of the earth was turbulent through many ages. As, therefore, nothing was stable, God appropriately set forth the whole world under the figure of the sea. He afterwards adds, They will obtain the kingdom of the holy lofty ones Here interpreters vary considerably, because, as I have before explained it, some take this prophecy to relate to the kingdom of Turkey, others to the tyranny of the Pope of Rome, and extend what the Prophet here says to the final judgment. There is nothing surprising, then, in this diversity of opinion shewing itself more fully in the various details. By sacred holy ones some understand angels; but there is still much controversy about the words, for the noun of saints is “in regimen,” as if the Prophet, had said saints of lofty ones, properly speaking. 2323 The Latin here refers to the Hebrew construction. The French translation has expressed Calvin’s meaning without keeping close to the words. Les saincts des souverains is the French reading of the Hebrew regimen. See Dissertations at the end of this volume. — Ed. Similar passages justify those who take it “in the absolute state.” But if we follow the grammatical construction, we cannot explain it otherwise; but the former noun may be put in a state of regimen, as we have said. And I embrace this opinion. Some refer it to the one God, but. I think this a profane way of expression. I have no doubt about the Prophet meaning sons of God by sacred lofty ones, because, though they are pilgrims in the world: yet they raise their minds upwards, and know themselves to be citizens of the heavenly kingdom. Hence by the word עליונין, gnelionin, “lofty ones,” I have no doubt; the Prophet means heavenly powers; that is, whatever we can conceive of divinity, and whatever is exalted above the world. I will1 now give my reasons shortly why I like this sense the best.
If we call the holy lofty ones God himself, what sense can we elicit from the passage? Did the Chaldeans and the rest of the monarchies usurp and transfer to themselves the power of God? There, is some truth in this, because all who domineer without submitting to the one God despoil him of his peculiar honor, and are rather robbers than kings. But the Prophet, in my opinion, understood something else from the angel, namely, that the Church should lose all form and dignity in the world during the flourishing of these four monarchies. We know the sons of God to be heirs of the world; and Paul, when speaking of the promise given to Abraham, says, he was chosen by God as heir of the world. (Romans 4:13; Hebrews 1:2) And this doctrine is sufficiently known — the world was created for the sake of the human race. When Adam fell from his lawful rights, all his posterity became aliens. God deprived them of the inheritance which he had designed for them. Now, therefore, our inheritance must be restored through Christ, for which reason he is called the only heir of the world. Thus it is not surprising if the angel says that tyrants, when they exercise supreme dominion, assume and arrogate to themselves the peculiar property of the sacred lofty ones, meaning the people of God. And this suits very well with the assertions of the present passage concerning the Church being deprived of its dignity, eminence, and visibility in the world. For then God’s people were like a putrid carcass, the limbs of which were separated and dispersed on all sides, without any hope of restoration. Lastly, although by the permission of Darius, and the edict and liberality of Cyrus, some portion of them returned to their country, yet what was that nominal return? They had but a precarious dwelling in the inheritance divinely promised them; they were pressed on all sides by their enemies, and were subject to the lust and injustice of them all. For the Church had no empire under the Persians. After the third change we know how miserably they were afflicted, especially under Antiochus. That nation was always opposed to them, but then they were almost reduced to extremities, when Antiochus endeavored furiously to abolish the whole law and worship of God. Under the Macedonian kingdom the Jews were in constant slavery; but when the Roman army penetrated those regions, they felt the horrible tyranny of the fourth beast, as we have already seen. Lastly, it is sufficiently evident from the continual history of those times, that the sons of God were always under the yoke, and were not only cruelly but ignominiously treated.
Thus this prophecy was fulfilled, namely, The four beasts took upon themselves the empire which properly belonged to the sacred lofty ones; that is, to God’s elect sons, who, though dwellers on earth, are dependent on heaven. In this interpretation I see nothing forced, and whoever prudently weighs the matter will, as I hope, recognize what I have said as the meaning of the Prophet. The latter clause now follows. They shall obtain the kingdom, says he, for ever, and even for ever and ever A difficult question arises here, because by these words Daniel, or the angel addressing him, seems to express a perpetual condition under these four monarchies;. Belshazzar was the last king of the Babylonian dynasty, and at the perform of this vision the overthrow of that monarchy was at hand. With regard to the Persian kings, there were only eight of them besides Cyrus. And concerning Alexander we know a sudden change happened; the terror of him spread abroad like a storm, but it vanished away after it had affected all the people of the East. The Macedonian kingdom also suffered a concussion, when those leaders began to disagree among themselves who had obtained from Alexander authority and rank; and at length the kingdom became fourfold, as we have already stated, and shall mention again. Now if we count the years, the length of those monarchies was not so great as to justify the epithet “perpetual.” I reply, this must be referred to the sensations of the pious, to whom that delay seemed specially tedious, so that they would have pined away in their miseries, had not this prophecy in some way relieved them. We see at the present moment how great is the for your of desire when reference is made to the help of God; and when our minds have been heated with desire, they immediately decline to impatience. It thus happens that the promises of God do not suffice to sustain us, because nothing is more difficult than to bear long delay. For if the Church in our time had been oppressed for a hundred years, what constancy would have been discerned ht us? If a whirlwind arises, we are astonished, and cry out, “What next? what next?” Three or four months will not have elapsed before all men enter upon a strife with God and expostulate with him, because he does not hasten at once to bring assistance to his Church. We are not surprised, then, at the angel here assigning one age, or even an “age of ages,” to tyrants under whom the Church should be oppressed. Although I do not doubt the reference to the fullness of times, as we: know Christ to have been the end of the Law, and as his advent drew nearer, so God admonished the faithful to carry forward their own expectations to the advent of their Redeemer. When, therefore, the angel uses the phrase one age and an age of ages, I have no doubt that he defined the time for the elect, to strengthen them in patiently bearing trouble of all kinds, as this had been divinely decreed; for the four beasts were to reign not only for a few years, but for continual ages; that is, until the time of renovation had arrived for the world, when God completely restored his Church. Let us proceed: —
Here the Prophet interrogates the angel concerning the Fourth Beast more attentively and carefully; as we formerly saw him touched with greater admiration on beholding the beast which was formidable beyond the other three, so that neither a name nor representation could be found for it. As, therefore, God displayed something great under the image of the fourth beast, he caused his Prophet to wake up to understand the mystery of it. For this reason he now interrogates the angel; for he says he wished for the truth concerning the fourth beast, and he also repeats what we saw before, namely, its being different from the others And surely the subjugation of so many kings by the Romans was a difference worthy of notice. Let us think upon the origin of that nation; — a few robbers seizing upon a desert spot, growing great by brutal audacity and force, until they reduced all their neighbors under their power. Then they crossed the sea, and added first one province, and then another to their sway. And when the kingdom of Macedon came within their power, this was indeed portentous. At length they became masters throughout the whole circuit of the Mediterranean, and there was no corner which did not receive their yoke; and this could never have been imagined by human apprehension.
It is said then, this beast was different from the others, and very terrible. In the same sense its teeth are called iron, and its claws brazen. No mention had hitherto been made of his claw; the Prophet had spoken only of iron teeth, but he now adds brazen claws, as if he had said, This beast shall be endued with such savage madness, as not only to attack all things by its unusual violence, but to tear, lacerate, and devour all things; as he repeats again what he had said, eating and destroying and treading under foot the remainder As. I have already explained all these points, I am unwilling to consume your time in vain and to confuse you with useless repetitions. I asked also, said he, concerning the ten horns, which, were upon its head And this is the reason why I must cut the subject off shortly here, as the angel’s reply will follow directly. The Prophet, therefore, is now, without doubt, placed under a celestial impulse, because God was unwilling to teach him only as a private person; he was to be a witness and herald of so great a mystery; and we may at this day learn from his writings, which are of the utmost use to us when we become fully acquainted with them.
He says, therefore, He also inquired about the ten horns which were on the head of the beast, and of the other horn which had arisen, meaning the small one, and concerning the three horns falling from the face of the beast. We have shewn how provinces were denoted by the tell horns, and how the difference between the Roman Empire and other monarchies was pointed out, because there never was one supreme ruler at Rome, except when Syria and Marius exercised their usurped authority — but each for only a short time. Here then the continual state of the Roman Empire is under review, for it was not simply a single animal, as it had ten horns. A finite number is put for an indefinite one. With regard to the little horn, I said it referred to the Caesars, who attracted the whole government of the state to themselves, after depriving the people of their liberty and the senate of their power, while even under their sway some dignity was continued to the senate and some majesty retained by the people. We have explained also how the three horns were broken; that is, how craftily the Caesars infringed upon and diminished the strength of both people and senate. Lastly, we have accounted for this little horn being displayed with human eyes, since the Caesars exercised their dominion with cunning, when they pretended to be only tribunes of the people, and allowed the ensigns of empire to remain in the hands of the consuls; for when they came into the senate, they sat in a lowly situation in curule scats prepared for the tribunes. As, therefore, they tyrannized with such cleverness and cunning, instead of by open violence, they are said to be endowed with the eyes of a man. Then as to the tongue, the sense is the same; for although they always professed the consular power to be supreme in the state, yet they could not restrain themselves, but vomited forth many reproachful speeches. On the one side, we see them remarkable for eyes, and on the other, for the tongue. And its aspect was terrible beyond its companions This seems not to belong peculiarly to the little horn which had arisen among the ten, but rather to the fourth beast. But if any one wishes to understand it of the little horn, I will not contest the point, as it will thus make tolerable sense. But I rather embrace my former opinion, for it is not surprising to find the Prophet after his discourse on the little horn, returning to the beast himself.
The Prophet now adds what he had omitted. The angel does not yet answer him, but as he had not sufficiently expressed how the little horn waged war with the sons of God, he now supplies the omission. He says, therefore, he saw — this ought to be received by way of correction; I saw, says he, meaning it was shewn me in a vision, how the little horn made war with the saints so as to prevail against them. Clearly enough other tyrants assailed the elect people of God with tier greater injury. Hence many refer this to Antiochus Epiphanes, who was hostile to the Jews beyond all others, and was utterly determined to blot out the name of the God of Israel. And we know how often he raised powerful armaments to extinguish both the people and the worship of God. As, therefore, the cruelty of Antiochus was so severe against the Israelites, many think his image to have been exhibited to the Prophet as the little horn, and what we shall afterwards see about “the time,” and “times’ and “half-a-time,” they explain of the three years and a half during which the Temple was in ruins, and the people thereby prevented from offering sacrifices. As, therefore, their religion was then interrupted, they think that tyranny was denoted, by which the people were prohibited from testifying their piety. But although this opinion is plausible, and at first sight bears upon the face of it the appearance of truth, yet if we weigh all things in order, we may easily judge how unsuitable it is to Antiochus. Why, therefore, does the Prophet say — the little horn waged war with the saint? Antiochus certainly made war against the Church, and so did many others; the Egyptians, we know, often broke in and spoiled the Temple and the Romans too, before the monarchy of the Caesars. I reply, this is spoken comparatively, because no war was ever carried on so continuously and professedly against the Church, as those which occurred after the Caesars arose, and after Christ was made manifest to the world; for the devil was then more enraged, and God also relaxed the reins to prove the patience of his people. Lastly, it was natural for the bitterest conflicts to occur when the redemption of the world was carried out; and the event clearly showed this. We know first of all, by horrid examples, how Judea was laid waste, for never was such cruelty practiced against any other people. Nor was the calamity of short duration; we are well acquainted with their extreme obstinacy, which compelled their enemies to forget clemency altogether. For the Romans desired to spare them as far as possible, but so great was their obstinacy and the madness of their rage, that they provoked their enemies as if devoting themselves to destruction, until that dreadful slaughter happened, of which history has sufficiently informed us. When Titus, under the auspices of his father Vespasian, tools: and destroyed the city, the Jews were stabbed and slaughtered like cattle throughout the whole extent of Asia. Thus far, then, it concerns the Jews.
When God had inserted the body of the Gentiles into his Church, the cruelty of the Caesars embraced all Christians; thus the little horn waged war with the saints in a manner different from that of the former beasts, because the occasion was different, and the wrath of Satan was excited against all God’s children on account of the manifestation of Christ. This, then, is the best explanation of the little horn, waging war against the saints. Thus he says, It must prevail. For the Caesars and all who governed the provinces of the empire raged with such extreme violence against the Church, that it almost disappeared from the face of the earth. And thus it happened, that the little horn prevailed in appearance and in general opinion, as, for a short time, the safety of the Church was almost despaired of.
It now follows, Until the Ancient of days came, judgment was given to the saints of the lofty ones No doubt the Prophet says God came in the same sense as before; namely, when he erected his tribunal and openly appeared as the judge of the world in the person of Christ. He does not here set before us the Son of man, as he did before, but yet a fuller explanation of this passage is to be sought in the former one. God then is said to have come, when he put forth his power in supplying the needs of the Church, as by common figure he is said to be at a distance from us, and to sleep or to be reposing, when he does not show himself openly as our deliverer. So, on the other hand, he is said to come to us, when he openly proves his constant care of us. Under this figure Daniel now says he beheld the appearance of God Himself. The Ancient of days then came. If we ask when, we have the reply at hand; it was immediately after the promulgation of the gospel. Then God stretched forth his hand for his Church, and lifted it out of the abyss. For since the Jewish name had been for a long’ time hated, and all people desired to exterminate the Jews from the world, Christ’s advent increased this hatred and cruelty; and the license to injure them was added, as they thought Christ’s disciples were plotting a change of government, and wished to overthrow the existing state of things; as in these days all the pious suffer grievously under this false imputation. God, therefore, is said to have come, where the doctrine of the gospel was more and more promulgated, and some rest granted to the Church. Thus, by this repose, the saints received the kingdom which had been taken from them; that is, the kingdom of God and of the saints obtained some fame and celebrity in the world, through the general diffusion of the doctrine of piety, in every direction. Now, therefore, we understand what Daniel wished to convey by the phrase, The Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the lofty ones The remainder tomorrow.
This reply of the angel is subject to the same obscurity as the vision itself, but it ought to be sufficient to calm the minds of the faithful to know that various changes should arise and shake the whole earth; for as many troubles were, prepared for the saints, so also they were braced up to fortitude and endurance. For God was not willing fully to explain what he had shown to his Prophet; he only wished to set before him this conclusion — a kingdom shall arise completely different from all others. Thus the angel says, The Fourth Beast signifies a fourth kingdom, which shall differ from all the kingdoms Previously to that period, no state was so extensive in its sway. For although the Spartans and Athenians performed illustrious and memorable exploits, yet we know them to have been included within narrow boundaries; and the ambition and wordy vanity of the Greeks caused them to celebrate those wars which were scarcely of any consequence, as we learn even from their own histories. Whichever way we take this, Sparta obtained with difficulty the second rank in Greece, as Athens did the first. As far as concerns the Roman Empire, we know it to have been more extensive and powerful than the other monarchies. When all Italy came under their sway, this was sufficient for any noble monarchy; but Spain, Sicily, part, of Greece, arm Illyrieum were added, and afterwards all Greece and Macedon, Asia Minor, Africa., and all the islands; for by one word they expelled the king of Cyprus, and sold his goods by public auction. When the dregs of the people were collected, Claudius made a law for the banishment of the king of Cyprus, and this he accomplished by his single voice, without the use of force at all. No wonder then that God foretold how different this kingdom, should be from all the others; it had no single head; the senate had the chief authority, though all power was centered in the people. There was therefore a kind of mingled confusion, since the government of Rome was never settled. And if we weigh all things prudently, it was neither a republic nor a kingdom, but a confused compound, in which the people exercised great power in a tumultuous way, and the senate oppressed the people as much as it could. There were three ranks — the senatorian, the equestrian, and the plebeian, and that mixture made the kingdom like a monster. The angel, therefore, announces the fourth kingdom as different from, the others
He afterwards confirms what we said before; it will fall, says he, and break to pieces, and tread down the whole earth This was fulfilled after Gaul and Britain were subdued, Germany partially subjugated, and Illyrieum, Greece, and Macedon, reduced to submission. At length they penetrated to Asia, and Antiochus was banished beyond the Taurus; his kingdom afterwards became their prey, then they obtained possession of Syria. The kings of Egypt were their allies, and yet became dependent upon their nod; the sovereign dared not appoint an heir, without consulting their pleasure. As, therefore, they ruled supremely so long and so widely, they fulfilled this prophecy by devouring the whole earth. For such lust for dominion never existed before; wars were heaped upon wars, they were alike greedy of the blood of others, and by no means sparing of their own. The whirlpool was insatiable, while it absorbed the whole world, and their pride crushed it and trampled it under foot,. Cruelty was added to pride, for all looked up to the Romans, and conciliated the favor of Rome by flattery, for the purpose of raging savagely against; their own people. By these arts almost the whole of Greece perished. For they knew how many innocent persons everywhere perished in every city, a kind of diversion which delighted them; they were fully aware how easy it was to attract all the power of the whole world to themselves, when it was able to put forth neither strength, nor skill, nor power against them. For their nobles were constantly at variance; sometimes one faction and sometimes another was supreme, and thus the splendor of every city easily, and gradually diminished. Thus all Greece was spoiled, and the Romans exercised their dominion there without difficulty, as over brute beasts. We may say the same of Asia also. We are not surprised then at the angel saying, the earth would be trodden down and trampled on by this fourth beast.
He afterwards adds, The ten horns are the ten kings which should arise These Ten Kings are clearly comprehended under one empire, and there is no question here of separate persons. In the Persian kingdom, we observed many kings, and yet the image of the second beast was single, while it embraced all those kings until the change occurred. So also no when treating of the Romans, the Prophet does not assert that ten kings should succeed each other in regular order, but rather the multiform nature of the kingdom, under more heads than one. For the royal office belonged to the senators or leading citizens, whose authority prevailed very extensively both with the senate and the people. And with reference to the number, we said the plural number only was denoted, without any limitation to the number ten. The conclusion is as follows, — this kingdom should be like a single terrible animal bearing many horns, since no single king held the chief sway there, as was customary by constant usage in other lands, but there should be a mixture, like many kings in place of one holding the pre-eminence. The fulfillment of this is sufficiently known from the history of Rome; as if it had been said, there should not be any single kingdom, as of Persia and other nations, but many kings at the same time, alluding to the mixture and confusion in which the supreme authority was involved.
The Little Horn follows: A king shall arise, says he, different from those, other ones, and shall afflict three kings We showed how unintelligible this becomes, unless we refer it to the Caesars to whom the monarchy passed; for after long and continued and intensive strife, the whole power passed over to the Triumvirate. A conspiracy was entered into by Lepidus, Mark Antony, and Octavius. Octavius was then all but a boy, having scarcely arrived at manhood, but all the veteran soldiers were in his favor, in consequence of the name of Julius Caesar and his adoption by him. Hence he was received by the other two into that alliance, of which Lepidus was the first, and Antony the second. At length discords arose among them, and Lepidus was deprived of his place in the triumvirate, and lived, as if half-dead, while his life was only spared to him because he was raised to the office of chief priest
Reverence for the priesthood restrained Antony from putting him to death, so long as he was content to live in privacy and retirement. Octavius at, length became supreme, but by what artifice? We said Julius Caesar took no more upon himself than the office of dictator, while consuls were annually elected as usual. He did not strain the power of the dictatorship beyond moderation, but he so restrained himself, that some popular rights might seem still to flourish. Octavius also followed the cunning of his uncle and adopted father. The same conduct will be found in the other Caesars, though there were many differences between them. As the shadow of a republic yet remained, while the senate was held in some degree of reverence, it is not surprising, if the angel predicts that the beast should survive, when another small horn should arise different from the others
He adds, And shall afflict the three kings I have explained this point by the slight change which the Caesars effected in the provinces, for if any of the provinces were warlike, strong armies and veteran soldiers were usually sent there. The Caesars took these to themselves, while some executive management was left to the senate with regard to the other provinces. Lastly, by this form of speech, the angel portrays the coming dominion of the little horn, and its diminishing the strength of the former ones’ and yet the beast should remain apparently entire; thus, the effigy of the republic was preserved, as the people were always designated — in the forum, by the high-sounding name, Romans, and in battle, as fellow-soldiers. Meanwhile, although the name of the Roman empire was so celebrated, and its majesty was in every one’s mouth, the supreme authority was in the possession of one little horn which lay concealed, and dared not openly raise its head. This, then, is the pith of the interpretation of what the angel here sets before us. It; follows, —
The angel now explains a little more clearly what the Prophet had formerly touched upon but briefly, namely, this last king should be a manifest and professed enemy to the Church. We yesterday showed how miserably and cruelly the Church had been harassed by many tyrants. And if we compare these tyrants with each other, we shall find the Church to have been much more heavily afflicted after Christ’s advent, and to have been opposed by the Caesars in open warfare. The occasion arose in this way. The doctrine of the Gospel had been dispersed through almost all the provinces of the empire. The Jewish name was hateful; and the novelty of the teaching added greatly to that unpopularity. Men thought the Jews had invented a new deity for themselves — even Christ;, as their language seemed to imply the worship of a new divinity. As, therefore, some material for rage against the pure worship of God was afforded them, the Caesars became more and more stirred up to carry on war against the elect, and to oppress the Church. It was not their fault if they did nor; extinguish the whole light of the celestial doctrine, abolish true religion, and banish: the knowledge of God from the world. This agrees very well with what Daniel relates of this king becoming so headstrong, as to utter words against the most High God. Some translate it, on the part of the most High, but I know no reason for their doing so. לצד, letzed, signifies on the side or the region. The equivalent phrase is this; so great should be the pride of this new king, who did not exercise his power openly but by hidden deceit, that he should sit as it were on the side of God and in opposition to him. This means he should be manifestly God’s enemy. Those who understand this of Antichrist, think their opinion confirmed by the conduct of other tyrants who carried on their warfare against God with arms and violence, but not by words. But the Prophet does not speak so subtlety here. For by words he does not here mean doctrine, but that verbal boasting by which the Caesars dared to promulgate their edicts throughout the whole world, urging all the proconsuls to punish the Christians, and not to permit that impious and cursed sect to flourish; and thus terrors flew about throughout the whole world. What Daniel now relates was then fulfilled, namely, the utterance of words of defiance against God; for those tyrants thought their own edicts, without the armament of soldiers, would be sufficient to extinguish the memory of Christ. Thus, also, true piety was disgracefully traduced, and the very name of Christ lacerated by horrible reproaches, as historians have amply informed us.
This explanation, therefore, is most suitable to the little horn speaking or uttering words against the most High. He shall afflict, says he, the saints of the lofty ones We have already briefly explained the meaning of this expression, according to its grammatical construction. By saints he doubtless means sons of God, or his elect people, or the Church. He calls these “saints of lofty ones,” because as elect they depend upon heaven; and although they are pilgrims in the world, yet their life is in heaven, where the eternal inheritance remains for them which was obtained by Christ. As, therefore, their treasure is now heaven, they deservedly boast of being citizens of heaven, and allies and brethren of angels. Thus they are properly called “saints of lofty ones;” they are separated from the world, and know themselves to live here day by day until they arrive at firm and enduring repose. We know this to have been fulfilled, because overwhelming terror fell upon all the pious, and the Church almost perished, while multitudes who were suspected of being Christians were subjected to cruel tortures. The prevalence of this universal license for persecuting all the pious explains how the saints were then afflicted by the small horn.
The Prophet or rather the angel next says, He will think, or meditate, to change time and law, and they shall be delivered into his hand. As to the time here spoken of, many refer it to holy days. But we may understand it generally of the small horn overthrowing whatever was formerly customary in the world; and thus also I interpret the word רת, reth, not the Law of God or the Gospel, but any rites, customs, and institutions. While interpreters are contending about this word, some referring it to the Decalogue, and others to the preaching of the Gospel, I think the simple sense of the Prophet to be this: the Caesars perverted all laws, both human and divine. We have seen how they attempted this, and how far they accomplished it. It is not surprising then if the Prophet; assigns this unbridled audacity to this last king, who thought to change whatever had been formerly ordained in the world. And for this reason it had been formerly said this horn should be furnished with human eyes; and next, should speak mightily, thundering horribly, and inspiring all men with fear through its voice alone. We know this to have been represented as in a glass, if we consider how far the Caesars proceeded in their arrogance. First, as to Octavius, while he restrained himself within due bounds politically, he suffered himself to be adored as a god, and altars to be erected to him; he wished the public to be persuaded of his deity, and celebrated a banquet in which he sat among the superior deities. Tiberius neglected religious ceremonies entirely, and yet we see how he despised all men. Although he was of an obtuse disposition, in his daring he was extreme, and was all the while craftily deceiving the senate. Next, as to Caligula, he threatened Jupiter in this way, — “What! thou art an exile here and I a native: I will banish thee into Greece thy native place.” He often inflicted blows upon the statue of Jupiter, and not content with the name of a god, he ordered the chief sacrifices to be offered to himself. This diabolic fury increased in Domitian. And considering the Caesars as men, what was their character? One of them said, “I wish the Roman people had but one need.” He enjoyed the slaughter of the senate as a sport, and wished to make his horse a consul. How disgraceful was such conduct! We see, then, how this prediction was not uttered without a cause; namely, so great should be the arrogance of the small horn that it would dare to change and turn into a new almost all “law,” meaning all order of every kind, and “times,” meaning the very series and nature of all things. The Prophet then says he thought He does not express the result, but simply signifies the arrival of the small horn at such a degree of madness as to suppose it could draw down the sun from heaven, turn light: into darkness, and leave nothing entire, nothing in order, throughout, the world. Those occurrences really happened in accordance with this prophecy. I cannot enter into details here. I should have to detain you many days or even months while citing history; I can only touch shortly upon what: is necessary for explaining the Prophet’s words and the meaning of his prediction.
They shall be delivered into his hands means, — however the small horn should leap forward in desperate fury, yet: God should always rule over him, and nothing should happen without his permission,. It was God then who delivered into the hands of that identifying the saints, the political government, and the institutions of piety, allowing him to pour out promiscuously human blood, to violate every national right, and to ruin as far as possible all religion. It brings us then no little comfort to know when God’s permission is given to tyrants to harass the Church and interfere with His lawful worship; for if we were left to the mercy of their lusts, how distressing would be the universal confusion! But he succors us, as the angel says, when tyrants assail us and disturb all order by their horrible licentiousness and cruel rage against the miserable and the innocent: he succors us, I say, so that they are unable to move to finger against us without God’s permission. We are not permitted to know why God relaxes the rein in favor of the enemies of his Church; perhaps it is to prove and try the patience of his people. It is sufficient for us, if, when tyrants scheme and plot in every way, they are unable to do anything without the divine permission.
But a greater consolation is added in the last clause, even for a time and times, and the division of a time, or half, as some translate it; it is properly a division. Interpreters differ widely about these words, and I will not bring forward all their opinions, otherwise it would be necessary to refute them. I should have no little trouble in refuting all their views, but I will follow my own custom of shortly expressing the genuine sense of the Prophet, and thus all difficulty will be removed. Those who consider a “time” to mean a “year,” are in my opinion wrong. They cite the forty-two months of the Apocalypse, (Revelation 13:5,) which make three years and a half; but that argument is not conclusive, since in that case a year will not consist of 365 days, but the year itself must be taken figuratively for any indeterminate time. It is better then to keep close to the Prophet’s words. A “time,” then, is not put for a certain number of months or days, nor yet for a single year, but for any period whose termination is in the secret counsel of God. They shall be given, then, for a time, says he, and afterwards adds times; that is, for a continuance of times; and again, even to a section or division of a time; meaning, these calamities should come to an end whenever God, in mercy to his Church, should restrain those tyrants by his wrath against them. As long, therefore, as the cruelty of the Caesars oppressed God’s Church, it was committed into their hands. We have already seen how many Caesars were enemies of the true Church. First, of all, Nero raged most cruelly, for he burnt some thousands of Christians at Rome, to extinguish the infamy which raged against himself. The people could not endure his barbarity; for, while the fourth part of the city was destroyed by Nero, he was enjoying his pleasure and rejoicing so mournful a spectacle! As he feared the popular tumult against himself, he laid hold of many Christians, and offered them to the people as a kind of expiation. Those who followed him, did not cease to pour forth innocent blood, and those who seemed to be endued with some degree of clemency and humanity were all at length seized with a diabolic fury. Trajan was esteemed a very excellent prince, and yet we know how he commanded the Christians everywhere to be slain, since he thought them obstinate in their error. And others were more savage still. No wonder, therefore, the angel predicts, even for a time, and times, and the division of a time, that license would be given to the tyrants and enemies of the Church to pervert all things, to despise God, and set aside all justice, and to execute a cruel and barbarous slaughter. This ought to be predicted for two reasons: first, lest through length of time the faithful should fall away, because when “the time” — a space of about ten years — had passed, they would come to the times, consisting of about fifty or a hundred years.
This, then, was one reason why God admonished the faithful concerning the time and times. But he wished also to mitigate their sorrow by adding half a time, thus promising some moderation and ending to such great calamities. The language of our Lord to his Apostles concerning the various commotion of the earth, corresponds very well with this view. “There shall arise wars and rumors of wars, and no end as yet,” says he. He announces them as the preludes to greater evils, when the whole of Judea should be devastated with wars and other slaughters. He afterwards adds, “Unless those days had been shortened.” (Matthew 24:6; Mark 13:7; Luke 21:9.) This shortening of the days is here noticed as if the Lord cut short; a continued succession of them. For when the possession of the tyranny appeared fierce, then suddenly and beyond the expectation of all, God at length snatched away his Church, and then the evangelical doctrine emerged, and was celebrated everywhere. God, therefore, then shortened the days on account of his own elect, and this is understood by the last clause, a division of a time. I will defer the rest till to-morrow.
The, angel now answers Daniel concerning the death of the fourth beast. For we said when the Caesars had transferred the empire to themselves, the strength of the senate and of the people was enervated; but because the name still remained, the fourth beast is not said to have been slain until foreigners disgracefully became masters of Rome. For if the Romans had been conquered a hundred times over by professed enemies, they would not have suffered such disgrace as when obscure and low-born men exercise a cruel and barbarous tyranny; for then neither the senate nor the people enjoy any authority. The angel thus marks the time correctly at which the fourth beast was to fall, when the Spaniards, the Africans, and other barbarians, who were even always unknown in their own country, were raised to the highest honors beyond the expectation of mankind. For their lust oppressed the whole state; they beheaded the most noble senators, and appointed in their stead the meanest of men, in token of their spirit of ignoniny. Then the fourth beast, was slain; and this is the explanation of this portion of the angel’s reply. He says also, Judgment shall then sit; that is, God shall again restore to order all this confusion, and the world shall feel his Providence ruling over the earth and the human race. For when all things are allowed to proceed without punishment, and neither justice nor honesty are held in any account, God is then supposed to be enjoying his ease in heaven, and to be forgetful of the human race. Hence, in opposition to this, he is said to ascend a tribunal as often as we really and experimentally feel his care over us. Thus the restoration is here called a sitting in judgment, when the Roman Empire was blotted out, and God executed the penalty of such great and such unbridled ferocity as that already recorded. As this phrase is very common and of frequent use in Scripture, I will not continue the explanation.
The judgment, then, shall be set; that is, after all things have been long involved in darkness, new light shall burst forth, and men shall readily acknowledge the sway of the Almighty. And power, says he, shall they take away from the beast for dissipating and destroying even to the end Here the angel announces the final overthrow of the fourth beast. Respecting the plural number of the verb, we have already mentioned the opinion of some who refer it to more angels than one, but it is better to understand it more simply, as an absolute and indefinite form of expression. And yet; I do not object, as I before stated, to the view of those who take it of angels, yet I fear this is too refined; I prefer the simpler view as being free from all controversy. The sense, then, is this: When the beast; shall have raged cruelly for a length of time, and especially the little horn, God shall discharge the duty of a judge, and the beast, with this small horn, shall be removed out of the way. The angel adds next, There shall be no hope of any new life similar to that of many kingdoms which often fall at one period and rise again at another; but he here announces the final slaughter, as if he had said, the wound is incurable and deadly. It now follows: —
This verse assures us how these predictions concerning the destruction of the beast regard the Church’s safety. Thus the faithful might know themselves noticed by God, and how the changes which successively happened tended to the same end, the acknowledgment on the part of the pious of their continuance under the care and guardianship of God. For any discussion of the four monarchies would have been cold and useless: unless there had been added God’s peculiar care of his own Church., and his conducting the affairs of the world for the safety of his people. As we have said in other places, God’s elect people are of more consequence than all the kingdoms which are conspicuous in the world. (Isaiah 43:3.) This, then, is the sense of the words. If we separate this verse from its context, the prophecy will still have its use. We may elicit from it how all things which seem stable in the world are yet perishable, and nothing is so firm as not to be subject every moment to constant variation. But the chief intention of this prediction is, as I have said, to show the relation of all events to the safety of the pious. When, therefore, all things seem carried away by the blind impulse of chance, we ought always to contemplate God as watching for his Church, and tempering all storms and all commotion to the service and safety of the pious, who rest upon his Providence. These two things, then, are mutually in accordance, namely, the slaying of the fourth beast, and the giving of the kingdom and authority to the people of the saints This does not seem to have been accomplished yet; and hence many, nay, almost all, except the Jews, have treated this prophecy as relating to the final day of Christ’s advent. All Christian interpreters agree in this; but, as I have shewn before, they pervert the Prophet’s intention. As to the Jews, theirs is no explanation at all, for they are not only foolish and stupid, but even crazy 3535 Calvin’s expression is here proverbial; the French translates ils n’en approachent ne pres ne loin; the Latin being, neque coelum neque terram attingunt. — Ed. And since their object is the adulteration of sound doctrine, God also blinds them till they become utterly in the dark, and both trifling and childish; and if I were to stop to refute their crudities, I should never come to an end.
This prophecy does not seem to be accomplished at the destruction of the beast; but this is easily explained. We know how magnificently the prophets speak of Christ’s kingdom, and adore his dignity and glory with splendid eulogies; and although these are not exaggerated, yet if judged of by human perceptions, you would surely think them exceedingly extravagant, and find neither solidity nor firmness in their words. And no wonder: for Christ’s kingdom and his dignity cannot be perceived by carnal eyes, nor even comprehended by the human intellect. Let those who appear the most sagacious of men combine together all their clear-sightedness, yet they can never ascend to the height of Christ’s kingdom, which surpasses the very heavens. Nothing is more contrary to our natural judgment than to seek life in death, riches in poverty and want, glory in shame and disgrace — to be wanderers in this world, and at the same time its heirs! Our minds cannot naturally comprehend these things. No wonder, then, if mortals judge erroneously of Christ’s kingdom, and are blind in the midst of light. Still there is no defect in the Prophet’s expressions, for they depict for us the visible image of Christ’s kingdom, and accommodate themselves to our dullness. They enable us to perceive the analogy between things earthly and visible, and that spiritual blessedness which Christ has afforded to us, and which we now possess through hope in him. For while we only hope, our happiness is concealed from us; it is not perceptible by our eyes or by any of our senses.
Let us now return to the passage. Daniel first of all says, A kingdom, and power, and extensive dominion, shall be given to the people of the holy ones. This was partially fulfilled when the Gospel emerged from persecution: then the name of Christ was everywhere celebrated and held in honor and esteem, while previously it had been the subject of the greatest envy and hatred. For nothing had been more hated and detested for many years than the name of Christ. God, therefore, then gave the kingdom to his people, when he was acknowledged as the Redeemer of the world throughout its many changes, after having been formerly despised and utterly rejected. I may here remark again, and impress upon the memory what I have frequently touched upon, namely, the custom of the Prophets, in treating of Christ’s kingdom, to extend their meaning further than its first beginnings; and they do this while they dwell upon its commencement. Thus Daniel or the angel does not predict here occurrences connected with the advent of Christ as Judge of the world, but with the first preaching and promulgation of the Gospel, and the celebration of the name of Christ. But this does not prevent him from drawing a magnificent picture of Christ’s reign, and embracing its final completion. It is sufficient for us to perceive how God begins to give the kingdom to his elect people, when, by the power of his Spirit, the doctrine of the holy Gospel was everywhere received in the world. The sudden change which it occasioned was incredible, but this is a customary result; for, when anything is predicted, we think it a fable and a dream, and when God performs what we never would have thought of, the evil, appears to us trifling, and we treat it as of no moment. For example, when the preaching of the Gospel commenced, no one would have thought its success could have been so great and so prosperous; nay, two hundred years before Christ was manifest, when religion was almost blotted out, and the Jews were execrated by the whole world, who would have thought the Law would spring from Zion? Yet God erected his scepter there. The dignity of the kingdom had vanished: the offspring of David was extinct. For the family of Jesse was but a trunk, after the simile used by the prophet Isaiah. (Isaiah 11:1.) If any one had asked all the Jews one after another, no one would have believed the possibility of those events which accompanied the preaching of the Gospel; but, at length the, dignity and virtue of the kingdom of David shone forth in Christ. Yet it vanishes before our eyes, and we seek new miracles, as if God had not sufficiently proved himself to have spoken by his prophets! Thus we observe how the Prophet keeps within bounds when he says, A kingdom, and a power, and a magnitude of empire was given to the people of the saints.
He adds, one empire under the whole heavens Here the Rabbi Abarbinel, who thinks himself superior to all others, rejects our idea of the spiritual reign of Christ as a foolish imagination. For the kingdom of God, he says, is established under the whole heavens, and is given to the people of the saints. If it is established under heaven, says he, it is earthly, and if earthly, therefore not spiritual. This seems in truth a very subtle argument, as if God could not reign in the world except as extraordinary mortal. As often as Scripture says “God reigns,” according to this argument God must be transfigured into human nature, otherwise there will be no kingdom of God except it is earthly, and if earthly it is temporal, and therefore perishable. Hence we must infer that God changes his nature. His kingdom, then, will consist in opulence, and military power and parade, and the common luxuries of life, so that God will become unlike himself. We perceive the puerile trifling of those Rabbis who pretend to glory in their ingenuity, to the total destruction of the whole teaching of piety. They intend nothing else than to adulterate the purity of Scripture by their foul and senseless comments. But we know the reign of God and of Christ, although existing in the world, not to be of it, (John 18:36;) the meaning of the two expressions is exactly the opposite. God, therefore, still exercises his heavenly reign in the world, because he dwells in the hearts of his people by his Spirit. While God held his seat at Jerusalem, was his kingdom merely an earthly and corruptible one? By no means, for by the possession of an earthly habitation he did not cease to be in heaven also. Thus the angel instructed the Prophet concerning the saints who are pilgrims in the world, and yet shall enjoy the kingdom and possess the greatest power under heaven. Hence also we correctly conclude, that this vision ought not to be explained of the final advent of Christ, but of the intermediate state of the Church. The saints began to reign under heaven, when Christ ushered in his kingdom by the promulgation of his Gospel.
Another point must be noticed, — what belongs to the head is transferred to the body. There is nothing new in this, as the supreme power is constantly promised by the Prophets to the Church, especially by Isaiah, who often predicts its complete supremacy. The Papists seize upon such testimonies to clothe themselves in the spoils of God, as if God had resigned his right to them! But they are immersed in the same error with the Jews, who swell with pride whenever such dignity is promised to the elect people, as if they could remain separate from God and yet obtain the right of treading the whole world under foot. The Papists also do exactly the same. We, however, must be guided by a very different rule, namely, in consequence of the intimate union between Christ and his Church, the peculiar a tribute of Christ himself is often transferred to his body. Not that the Church reigns by itself; but Christ, as its only supreme head, obtains dominion therein, and not for his own private advantage — for what need has he of this dominion? but for the common safety of all its members. Wherefore Christ is our King, and he designs to erect his throne in the midst; of us; he uses nothing for his own advantage, but communicates all things to us, and renders them useful to us; hence, we are deservedly called kings, because he reigns, and as I have already said, language which is exclusively appropriate to him, is transferred to us in consequence of the intimate communion existing between the head and the members.
This is also the sense of the phrase here added by the Prophet, All powers shall serve and obey it I have no doubt the angel here confirmed Isaiah’s prophecy, as the Holy Spirit, the better to confirm and strengthen the faith of the pious, often reconciles one Prophet with another, and thus their mutual agreement becomes the seal of their truth. It is said in Isaiah, The kingdom and the land which will not serve thee, shall be destroyed: kings shall come and adore thee, the people shall offer thee gifts. (Isaiah 60:12.) In the Psalms, it is said,
“Kings shall assemble together, to serve God.”
And Isaiah treats very fully on the empire of the Church. The angel now repeats the same thing, to add, as I have said, greater confidence and authority to the prophecy of Isaiah. Meanwhile, we observe how completely all the Prophets agree, and at the same time we interpret these words of the kingdom of Christ, from the period at which the teaching of the gospel was rendered remarkably conspicuous; for then God’s royal scepter went forth from Jerusalem, and shone far and wide, while the Lord was extending his hand and his authority over all the regions of the world. As all these important events tended to the common salvation of the Church, it is said, The kingdom shall belong to the holy people. As to the phrase, The saints of the high ones, I have already explained why the Prophet applies this phrase to the faithful, and why the angel also does the same; namely, because God separated them from the world, and they were always looking upwards and drawing all their hopes from above. Then, as to the Rabbi whom I cited, he twists this passage, and tries to show that the Prophet did not speak of Christ, when he says he saw the figure of the Son of man. But this is complete trifling, for he asserts the Son of man to mean “the people of the saints,” and thus the phrase would have no reference to Christ, but to the whole offspring of Abraham. We must not be surprised at the shameful ignorance of these Rabbis, and at their blundering at the very rudiments, since they do not acknowledge the necessity for a Mediator, through whom alone the Church can obtain any favor before God. They boast in what we also allow — in the sons of Abraham being the elect, and in this title as availing to render them a holy people, and heirs of God, and a kingdom of priests. This is true, but on what was their covenant of adoption founded but on Christ? Hence their separating the Church from the Mediator, is like leaving a mutilated body apart from its disjoined head. Besides, from what the Prophet stated before about the Son of man, his subject is evidently changed in this verse. He stated there, power was given to the Son of man after he had arrived at the Ancient of days, and the Son of man, or at least his likeness, appeared in the clouds. First of all, we must notice this likeness, as it were the Son of man, as we have already explained the vision. Surely Abraham’s posterity were really men, but the vision offered to the Prophet was but a similitude; as Christ had not yet put on our flesh, this was only a prelude to his future manifestation in the flesh. Here he speaks openly and without a figure of the people of the saints, and this prophecy depends upon the former one. For unless Christ were seated at His Father’s right hand, and had obtained supreme dominion, causing every knee to bend before him, the Church could never exercise its power. Thus we observe how all things mutually agree among each other.
As, however, it is certain that many have perseveringly rebelled against; God and the teaching of his gospel, it may seem absurd for the angel to pronounce all the powers of the world obedient and submissive. But it is worth while to study the customary methods of scriptural expression. For instance, by the phrase “all people,” the Spirit does not mean every single person, but simply some out of every nation who should submit to Christ’s yoke, acknowledge him to be king, and obediently obey his Church. How often do these sentiments occur in the prophets? All nations shall come — all kings; shall serve. At that time no king existed who was not professedly an enemy of true piety, and who did not desire the abolition of the very name of his law. The prophets enlarge thus magnificently on the future restoration of this kingdom, as we have stated before, in consequence of the event being so utterly incredible. So, also, in this place all powers, says he, shall serve and obey him; that is:, no power shall so boast in its loftiness, as not willingly to become subject to the Church, although at present all so fully despise it: nay, while they rage with all their might, against the most wretched Church, and while they tread it most ignominiously under foot, even then they shall be subject to it. This we know to have been amply fulfilled. Some persons foolishly press beyond their meaning words of universal import, as when Paul says, God wishes all to be saved. Hence, they say, no one is predetermined for destruction, but all are elect, that is, God is not God. (1 Timothy 2:4.) But we are not surprised at such madness as this, corrupting the impious and profane, who desire by their cavils to promote disbelief in all the oracles of the Spirit. Let us clearly comprehend the frequency of this figure of speech; when the Holy Spirit names “all,” he means some out of all nations, and not every one universally.
In this verse Daniel first says the vision was concluded, and thus the faithful might rest satisfied in looking for nothing beyond it. For we know how restless are the fancies of mankind, and how insane a disease is a vain curiosity. God is aware of what is useful for our information, and so he adopts his method of teaching to our capacity and profit,. Yet we are volatile and insatiable, saying, Why is not this added? Why does God stop here? why does he not proceed further? As, therefore, human ingenuity is so inflamed and intemperate, Daniel here deservedly says, an end was put to the vision, to cause all the elect to acquiesce in it and be contented with this partial knowledge. He afterwards adds, he was disturbed in his thoughts, and his countenance was changed; for he was afraid lest the pious should think this vision a mere vanished specter. It was of the greatest importance to distinguish this vision from any frivolous imagination. Daniel, therefore, to show how the scene proposed to his notice was a divine revelation, expresses clearly how he was terrified in his thoughts This occurred, because God wished to stamp upon his heart the certainty of the prophecy. To the same purpose is, the change of countenance He adds, he laid up the discourse in his heart, to assure us of his being a faithful interpreter; for if we suspected him of negligence, we should not receive, with reverence the message he delivered in these words, as really proceeding from God. But when Daniel affirms that he discharged the duty of a faithful servant, who kept the whole discourse in his heart, additional authority is added to his teaching. In conclusion, we must remember two points; first, the celestial revelation made known to the Prophet to prove him a servant and messenger of God to us; and secondly, the faithful discharge of his duties, as he laid up in his heart what he had received, and thus delivered it through his own hands to the Church at large. Another vision follows: —