Daniel 2:2

2. Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to shew the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king.

2. Etedixit rex ut vocarentur 1 astrologi, et conjectores, et divini, et Chaldei, annuntiarent regi somnia sua 2 et venerunt et steterunt in conspectu regis.


This verse more clearly proves what I have already said that the dream caused the king to feel God to be its author. Though this was not his first dream, yet the terror which God impressed on his mind, compelled him to summon all the Magi, since he could not rest even by returning to sleep. He felt as. it were a sing in his mind, since God did not suffer him to rest, but wished him to be troubled until he received an interpretation of the dream. Even profane writers very correctly consider dreams connected with divine agency. They express various opinions, because they could not know anything with perfect certainty; yet the persuasion was fixed in their minds relative to some divine agency in dreams. It would be foolish and puerile to extend this to all dreams; as we see some persons never passing by a single one without a conjecture, and thus making themselves ridiculous. We know dreams to arise from different causes; as, for instance, from our daily thoughts. If I have meditated on anything during the daytime, something occurs to me at night in a dream; because the mind is not completely buried in slumber, but retains some seed of intelligence, although it be suffocated. Experience also sufficiently teaches us how our daily thoughts recur during sleep, and hence the various affections of the mind and body produce, many dreams. If any one retires to bed in sorrow from either the death of a friend, or any loss, or through suffering any injury or adversity, his dreams will partake of the previous preparation of his mind. The body itself causes dreams, as we see in the case of those who suffer from fever; when thirst prevails they imagine fountains, burnings, and similar fancies. We perceive also how intemperance disturbs men in their sleep; for drunken men start and dream in their sleep, as if in a state of frenzy. As there are many natural causes for dreams, it would be quite out of character to be seeking for divine agency or fixed reason in them all; and on the other hand, it is sufficiently evident that some dreams are under divine regulation. I omit events which have been related in ancient histories; but surely the dream of Calphurnia, the wife of Julius Caesar, could not be fictitious; because, before he was slain it was commonly reported, "Caesar has been killed," just as she dreamt it. The same may be said of the physician of Augustus, who had ordered him to leave his tent the day of the battle of Pharsalia, and yet there was no reason why the physician should order him to be carried out of the tent on a litter, unless he had dreamt it to be necessary. What was the nature of that necessity? why, such as could not be conjectured by human skill, for the camp of Augustus was taken at that very moment. I doubt not there are many fabulous accounts, but here I may choose what I shall believe, and I do not yet touch on dreams which are mentioned in God's word, for I am merely speaking of what profane men were compelled to think on this subject. Although Aristotle freely rejected all sense of divination, through being prejudiced in the matter, and desiring to reduce the nature of Deity within the scope of human ingenuity, and to comprehend all things by his acuteness; yet he expresses this confession, that all dreams do not happen rashly but that manti>kh, that is "divination," is the source of some of them. He disputes, indeed, whether they belong to the intellectual or sensitive portion of the mind, and concludes they belong to the latter, as far as it is imaginative. Afterwards, when inquiring whether they are causes or anything of that kind, he is disposed to view them only as symptoms or accidents fortuitously contingent. Meanwhile, he will not admit dreams to be sent from heaven; and adds as his reason, that many stupid men dream, and manifest the same reason in them as the wisest. He notices next the brute creation, some of which, as elephants, dream. As the brutes dream, and wise men more seldom than the rudest idiots, Aristotle does not think it probable that dreams are divinely inspired. He denies, therefore, that they are sent from God, or divine, but asserts that they spring from the Daimones; 3 that is, he fancies them to be something between the natures of the Deity and the Daimones. We know the sense in which philosophers use that word, which, in Scripture, has usually a bad sense. He says that dreams were occasioned by those aerial inspirations, but are not from God.; because, he says, man's nature is not divine, but inferior; and yet more than earthly, since it, is angelic. Cicero discourses on this subject at great, length, in his first book on Divination; although he refutes in the second all he had said, while he was a disciple of the Academy. 4 For among other arguments in proof of the existence of deities, he adds dreams; -- if there is any divination in dreams, it follows that there is a. Deity in heaven, for the mind of man cannot conceive of any dream without divine inspiration. Cicero's reasoning is valid; if there is divination in dreams, then is there also a Deity. The distinction made by Macrobius is worthy of notice; although he ignorantly confounds species and genera, through being a person of imperfect judgment, who strung together in rhapsodies whatever he read, without either discrimination or arrangement. This, then, should remain fixed, -- the opinion concerning the existence of some kind of divine agency in dreams was not rashly implanted in the hearts of all men. Hence that expression of Homer's, a dream is from Jupiter. 5 He does not mean this generally and promiscuously of all dreams; but he takes notice of it, when bringing the characters of his heroes before us, since they were divinely admonished in their sleep.

I now come to Nebuchadnezzar's Dream. In this, two points are worthy of remark. First, all remembrance of its subject was entirely obliterated; and secondly, no interpretation was; found for it. Sometimes the remembrance of a dream was not; lost while its interpretation was unknown. But here Nebuchadnezzar was not only perplexed at the interpretation of the dream, but even the vision itself had vanished, and thus his perplexity and anxiety was doubled. As to the next point, there is no novelty in Daniel making known the interpretation; for it sometimes, but rarely, happens that a person dreams without a figure or enigma, and with great plainness, without any need of conjurers -- a name given to interpreters of dreams. This indeed happens but seldom, since the usual plan of dreams is for God to speak by them allegorically and obscurely. And this occurs in the case of the profane as well as of the servants of God. When Joseph dreamt that he was adored by the sun and moon, (Genesis 37:9,) he was ignorant of its meaning; when he dreamt of his sheaf being adored by his brothers sheaves, he understood not its meaning, but related it simply to his brothers. Hence God often speaks in enigmas by dreams, until the interpretation is added. And such was Nebuchadnezzar's dream.

We perceive, then, that God reveals his will even to unbelievers, but not clearly; because seeing they do not see, just as if they were gazing at a closed book or sealed letter; as Isaiah says, -- God speaks to unbelievers in broken accents and with a stammering tongue. (Isaiah 28:11 and Isaiah 29:11.) God's will was so revealed to Nebuchadnezzar that he still remained perplexed and lay completely astonished. His dream would have been of no use to him, unless, as we shall see, Daniel had been presented to him as its interpreter. For God not only wished to hold the king in suspense, but he thus blotted out the remembrance of the dream from his mind, to increase the power of his sting. As mankind are accustomed to neglect the dreams which they do not remember, God inwardly fastened such a sting in the mind of this unbeliever, as I have already said, that he could not rest, but was always wakeful in the midst of his dreaming, because God was drawing him to himself by secret chains. This is the true reason why God denied him the immediate explanation of his dream, and blotted out the remembrance of it from his mind, until he. should receive both from Daniel. We will leave the rest till tomorrow.


Grant, Almighty God, since every perfect gift comes from thee, and since some excel others in intelligence and talents, yet as no one has anything of his own, but as thou deignest to distribute to man a measure of thy gracious liberality, -- Grant that whatever intelligence thou dost confer upon us, we may apply it to the glory of thy name. Grant also, that we may acknowledge in humility and modesty what thou hast committed to our care to be thine own; and may we study to be restrained by sobriety, to desire nothing superfluous, never to corrupt true and genuine knowledge, and to remain in that simplicity to which thou callest us. Finally, may we not rest in these earthly things, but learn rather to raise our minds to true wisdom, to acknowledge thee to be the true God, and to devote ourselves to the obedience of thy righteousness; and may it be our sole object to devote and consecrate ourselves entirely to the glory of thy name throughout our lives, through Jesus Christ our Lord. -- Amen.

Lecture Fifth.

We yesterday saw the Magi sent for by the king's edict, not only in order to explain his dream to him, but also to narrate the dream itself which had slipt from his memory. But since four kinds of Magi are used here, or at least three, and their description is added in the fourth place, I shall briefly touch upon what seems to me their meaning. Mymjrh Hartummim, is usually explained by "soothsayers," and afterwards Mypsa, Assaphim, they think, means "physicians." I am unwilling to contend against the first interpretation; but I see no reason for the second. They interpret it as "physicians," because they judge of men's health by feeling the pulse, but having no better reason than this, I adopt the opinion that it refers to astrologers. In the third place, Mypskm, Mecasphim, is used, meaning "sorcerers," though some change the signification, and say it; means "star-gazers," who indicate future events and predict unknown ones from the position of the stars. I have nothing to bring forward more probable than this, except the uncertainty of what the Hebrews meant by the word for since the matter itself is so buried in oblivion, who can distinguish between words which belong to the profession of an unknown art? Mydsk, Casdim, is doubtless put for a race, for it is the name of a nation, yet on account of its excellence, the Magi appropriated it to themselves, as. if the nobility and excellence of the whole nation was in their power; and this name is known to be in common use in Greece and Italy. All who professed their ability to predict future or hidden events from the stars or other conjectures, were called Chaldees. With respect to the three other words, I do not doubt their honorable meaning, and for this red, son they called themselves Mathematicians, as if there were no science in the world except with them. Besides, although their principles were good, they were certainly stuffed with many superstitions, for they were soothsayers and diviners, and we know them to have given especial attention to augury. Although they were highly esteemed by their fellow-countymen, yet they are condemned by God's law, for all their pretense to science was complete imposture. They are generally called Magi, and also Chaldeans, as shortly afterwards, when Daniel will repeat what they have spoken before the king, he will not enumerate those three species, but will simply call them Chaldees. It is surprising that Daniel and his companions were not called among them, for he ought to have been called among the first, since the king, as we have, said, found these four to be ten times better than all the Magi and Diviners throughout his kingdom! Since their dexterity was not unknown to the king, why does he pass them completely by, while the other Magi are at hand and are called in to a case so arduous? Very probably the king omitted them because he trusted more in the natives; or suspected the captives, and was unwilling to entrust them with his secrets, as he had not yet sufficiently tried their fidelity and constancy. This might have been the reason, but it is better for us to consider the intention of the Almighty, for I have no doubt that this forgetfulness on the part of the king occurred by God's providence, as he was unwilling from the first to mingle his servant Daniel and the rest with the Magi and Soothsayers. This accounts for Daniel not being sent for with the rest; whence, as we shall see, his divination would afterwards become more illustrious. It now follows --

1 I hardly know by what equivalent expressions to render these Hebrew words. I will speak, therefore, of the thing itself -- Calvin.

2 That is, to expound his dreams to the king. -- Calvin.

3 Calvin uses the Greek words qeo>pempta, qei~a, and daimo>nia. The Greek Daimones corresponded with our idea of angels, and were said to be the origin of human souls. See most interesting passages in the Dialogues of Plato, also the Dissertation on this verse at the close of the Volume.

4 De Divin., lib. 1 21-23; and lib. 2:58, et seq.

5 Iliad, book 1:v. 63.