Daniel 2:11

11. And it is a rare thing that the king requireth; and there is none other that can shew it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.

11. Et sermo de quo rex inquirit pretiosus est; 1 et nullus est qui possit exponere coram rege, nisi dii, quorum habitatio cum carne non est ipsis. 2


They add, that the object of the king's inquiry surpassed the power of human ingenuity. There is no doubt that they were slow to confess this, because, as we said before, they had acquired the fame of such great wisdom, that the common people thought nothing unknown to them or concealed from them. And most willingly would they have escaped the dire necessity of confessing their ignorance in this respect, but in their extremity they were compelled to resort to this subterfuge. There may be a question why they thought the matter about which the king inquired was precious; for as they were ignorant of the king's dream, how could they ascertain its value? But it is not surprising that men, under the influence of extreme anxiety and fear, should utter anything without judgment. They say, therefore, -- this matter is precious; thus they mingle flattery with their excuses to mitigate the king's anger, hoping to escape the unjust death which was at hand. The matter of which the king inquires is precious; and yet it would probably be said, since the, matter was uncommon, that the dream was divinely sent to the king, and was afterwards suddenly buried in oblivion. There certainly was some mystery here, and hence the Chaldeans very reasonably considered the whole subject to surpass in magnitude the common measure of human ability; therefore they add, -- there cannot be any other interpreters than gods or angels. Some refer this to angels, but we know the Magi to have worshipped a multitude of gods. Hence it is more simple to explain this of the crowd of deities which they imagined. They had, indeed, lesser gods; for among all nations a persuasion has existed concerning a supreme God who reigns alone. Afterwards they imagined inferior deities, and each fabricated a god for himself according to his taste. hence they are called "gods," according to common opinion and usage, although they ought rather to be denoted genie or demons of the air. For we know that all unbelievers were imbued with this opinion concerning the existence of intermediate deities. The Apostles contended strongly against this ancient error, and we know the books of Plato 3 to be full of the doctrine that demons or genii act as mediators between man and the Heavenly Deity.

We may, then, suitably understand these words that the Chaldeans thought angels the only interpreters; not because they imagined angels as the Scriptures speak of them clearly and sincerely, but the Platonic doctrine flourished among them, and also the superstition about the genii who dwell in heaven, and hold familiar intercourse with the supreme God. Since men are clothed in flesh, they cannot so raise themselves towards heaven as to perceive all secrets. Whence it follows, that the king acted unjustly in requiring them to discharge a duty either angelic or divine. This excuse was indeed probable, but the king's ears were deaf because he was carried away by his passions, and God also spurred him on by furies, which allowed him no rest. Hence this savage conduct which Daniel records.

1 Or, rare. -- Calvin.

2 Many words are superfluous, through the nature of the language. -- Calvin.

3 A most interesting and singular allegory on this subject occurs in Plato's Phoedrus, edit. Bekker, § 51; edit. Priestley, (Lond., 182c,) p.71, et seq.; see also Cic. Tusc. Quoest. 1:16; Aristot. Metaph. 1:5; and De amima, i:2; Diog. Laert., 8:83.