44. And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
44. Et in diebus illis regum illorum suscitabit Deus coelorum regnum, quod in seculum non dissipabitur, 1 et regnum hoe populo alieno non derelinquetur confringet et conteret omnia illa regna, et ipsum stabit perpetuo.
45. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter, and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.
45. Propterea vidisti, nempe e monte excisum lapidem et absque manu, qui confregit 2 ferrum, aes, testam, argentum et aurum, Deus magnus patefecit regi quid futurum esset postero tempore, et verum est somnium, et fidelis interpretatio ejus.
The Jews agree with us in thinking this passage cannot be otherwise understood than of the perpetual reign of Christ, and willingly and eagerly ascribe to the glory of their own nation whatever is written everywhere throughout the Scriptures; nay, they often cry down many testimonies of Scripture for the purpose of boasting in their own privileges. They do not therefore deny the dream to have been sent to King Nebuchadnezzar concerning Christ's kingdom; but they differ from us, in expecting a Christ of their own. Hence they are, compelled in many ways to corrupt this prophecy; because, if they grant that the fourth empire or monarchy was accomplished in the Romans, they must necessarily acquiesce in the Gospel, which testifies of the arrival of that Messiah who was promised in the Law. For Daniel here openly affirms that Messiah's kingdom should arrive at the close of the fourth monarchy. Hence they fly to the miserable refuge that by the fourth monarchy should be understood the Turkish empire, which they call that of the Ishmaelites; and thus they confound the Roman with the Macedonian empire. But what pretense have they for making only one empire out of two such different ones? They say the Romans sprang from the Greeks; and if we grant this, whence did the Greeks spring? Did they not arise from the Caspian Mountains and Higher Asia? The Romans referred their origin to Troy, and at the time when the prophecy ought to be fulfilled, this had become utterly obscure -- but what is this to the purpose when they had no reputation for a thousand years afterwards? But the Turks a long time afterwards, namely 600 years, suddenly burst forth like a deluge. In such a variety of circumstances, and at such a distance of time, how can they form one single kingdom? Then they shew no difference between themselves and the rest of the nations. For they recall us to the beginning of the world, and in this way make one kingdom out of two, and this mixture is altogether without reason, or any pretension to it. There is no doubt then, that Daniel intended the Romans by the fourth empire, since we yesterday saw, how in a manner contrary to nature, that empire ultimately perished by intestine discord. No single monarch reigned there, but only a democracy. All thought themselves to be equally kings, for they were all related. This; union ought to have been the firmest bond of perpetuity. But Daniel here witnesses beforehand, how, even if they were intimately related, that kingdom would not be social, but would perish by its own dissension's. Finally, it is now sufficiently apparent that the Prophet's words cannot be otherwise explained than of the Roman empire, nor can they be drawn aside, except by violence, to the Turkish empire.
I shall now relate what our brother Anthony has suggested to me, from a certain Rabbi Barbinel, 3 who seems to excel others in acuteness. He endeavors to shew by six principal arguments, that the fifth kingdom cannot relate to our Christ -- Jesus, the son of Mary. He first assumes this principle, since the four kingdoms were earthly, the fifth cannot be compared with them, except its nature is the same. The comparison would be, he says, both inappropriate and absurd. As if Scripture does not always compare the celestial kingdom of God with those of earth! for it is neither necessary nor important for all points of a comparison to be precisely similar. Although God shewed to the king of Babylon the four earthly monarchies, it does not follow that the nature of the fifth was the same, since it might be very different. Nay, if we weigh all things rightly, it is necessary to mark some difference between those four and this. last one. The reasoning, therefore, of that rabbi is frivolous, when he infers that Christ's kingdom ought to be visible, since it could not otherwise correspond with the other kingdoms. The second reason, by which he opposes us, is this, -- if religion makes the difference between kingdoms, it follows that the Babylonian, and Persian, and Macedonian are all the same; for we know that all those nations worshipped idols, and were devoted to superstition! The answer to so weak an argument is easy enough, namely, these four kingdoms did not differ simply in religion, but God deprived the Babylonians of their power, and transfer-red the monarchy to the Medes and Persians; and by the same providence of God the Macedonians succeeded them; and then, when all these kingdoms were abolished, the Romans possessed the sway over the whole East. We have already explained the Prophet's meaning. He wished simply to teach the Jews this, -- they were not to despair through beholding the various agitation's of the world, and its surprising and dreadful confusion; although those ages were subject to many changes, the promised king should at length arrive. Hence the Prophet wished to exhort the Jews to patience, and to hold them in suspense by the expectation of the Messiah. He does not distinguish these four monarchies through diversity of religion, but because God was turning the, world round like a wheel while one nation was expelling another, so that the Jews might apply all their minds and attention to that hope of redemption which had been promised through Messiah's advent.
The third argument which that rabbi brings forward may be refitted without the slightest trouble. He gathers from the words of the Prophet that the kingdom of our Christ, the son of Mary, cannot be the kingdom of which Daniel! speaks, since it is here clearly expressed that there should be no passing away or change of this kingdom,
A fourth argument follows: -- It seems very absurd that Christ, who was born under Octavius or Augustus Caesar, should be the king of whom Daniel prophesied. For, says he, the beginning of the fourth and fifth monarchy was the same, which is absurd; for the fourth monarchy ought to endure for some time, and then the fifth should succeed it. But here he not only betrays his ignorance, but his utter stupidity, since God so blinded the whole people that they were like restive dogs. I have had much conversation with many Jews- I have never seen either a drop of piety or a grain of truth or ingenuousness -- nay, I have never found common sense in any Jew. But this fellow, who seems so sharp and ingenious, displays his own impudence to his great disgrace. For he thought the Roman monarchy began with Julius Caesar! as if the Macedonian empire was not abolished when the Romans took possession of Macedon and reduced it to a province, when also Antiochus was reduced into order by them -- nay, when the third monarchy, namely, the Macedonian, began to decline, then the fourth, which is the Roman, succeeded it. Reason itself dictates to us to reckon hi this way, since unless we confess the fourth monarchy to have succeeded directly on the passing away of the third, how could the rest follow on? We must observe, also, that the Prophet does not look to the Caesars when he treats of these monarchies; nay, as we saw concerning the mingling of races, this cannot in any way suit the Caesars; for we shewed yesterday how those who restrict this passage to Pompey and Caesar are only trifling, and are utterly without judgment in this respect. For the Prophet speaks generally and continuously of a popular state, since they were, all mutually related, and yet the empire was not stable, through their consuming themselves internally by intestine warfare. Since this is the case, we conclude this rabbi to be very foolish and palpably absurd in asserting the Christ not to be the son of Mary who was born under Augustus, although I do not argue for the kingdom of Christ commencing at his nativity.
His fifth argument is this: -- Constantine and other Caesars professed the faith of Christ. If we receive, says he, Jesus the son of Mary as the fifth king, how will this suit? as the Roman Empire was still in existence under this king. For where rite religion of Christ flourishes, where he is worshipped and acknowledged as the only King, that kingdom ought not to be separated from his. When therefore Christ, under Constantine and his successors, obtained both glory and power among the Romans, his monarchy cannot be separated from theirs. But the solution of this is easy, as the Prophet here puts an end to the Roman Empire when it began to be torn in pieces. As to the time when Christ's reign began, I have just said it ought not to be referred to the time of his birth, but to the preaching of the Gospel. From the time when the Gospel began to be promulgated, we know the Roman monarchy to have been dissipated and at length to vanish away. Hence the empire did not endure through Constantine or other emperors, since their state was different; and we know that neither Constantine nor the other Caesars were Romans. From the time of Trojan the empire began to be transferred to strangers, and foreigners reigned at Rome. We also know by what monsters God destroyed the ancient glory 4 of the Roman people! -- for nothing could be more abandoned or disgraceful than the conduct of many of the emperors. If any one will but run through their histories, he will discover immediately that no other people ever had such monsters for rulers as the Romans under Heliogabalus and others like him, -- I omit Nero and Caligula, and speak only of foreigners. The Roman Empire was therefore abolished after the Gospel began to be promulgated and Christ became generally known throughout the world. Thus we observe the same ignorance in this argument of the rabbi as in the others.
The last assertion is, -- The Roman empire as yet partially survives, hence what is here said of the fifth monarchy cannot belong to the son of Mary; it is necessary for the fourth empire to be at an end, if the fifth king began to reign when Christ rose from the dead and was preached in the world. I reply, as I have said already, the Roman empire ceased, and was abolished when God transferred their whole power with shame and reproach to foreigners, who were not only barbarians, but horrible monsters! It would have been better for the Romans to suffer the utter blotting out of their name, rather than submit to such disgrace. We perceive how this sixth and last reason vanishes away. I wished to collect them together, to shew you how foolishly those Jewish reasoners make war with God, and furiously oppose the clear light of the Gospel.
I now return to Daniel's words. He says
Meanwhile, we must consider what I have added in the second place, that the humble and abject origin of Christ is denoted, since it was like a rough and unpolished stone. With regard to the word "mountain", I have no doubt Daniel here, wished to shew Christ's reign to be sublime, and above the whole world. Hence the figure of the mountain means, in my opinion, -- Christ should not spring out of the earth, but should come in the glory of his heavenly Father, as it is said in the Prophet. And thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, art the least among the divisions of Judah; yet out of thee shall a leader in Israel arise for me, and his reign shall be from the days of eternity. (Micah 5:2.) Daniel, then, here condescends to those gross imaginations to which our minds are subjected. Because, at the beginning, Christ's dignity did not, appear so great as we discern it in the kings of the world, and to this day it seems to some obscured by the shame of the cross, many, alas! despise him, and do not acknowledge any dignity in him. Daniel, therefore, now raises aloft our eyes and senses, when he says
1 Or, shall not be destroyed. -- Calvin.
2 Verbally," and broke," but the copula ought to be rendered as the relative. -- Calvin.
3 The Rabbi Barbinel, to whose opinion Calvin's attention was drawn, was the celebrated Jewish statesman and commentator, Isaac Abarbanel. He claimed descent from the family of King David, being born in Lisbon 1437, and died at Venice 1508. From Dr. M'Caul's preface to Tegg's Prideaux, (1845,) we learn that his "Commentary to Daniel" was entitled Mayene ha-yeshuah, and published after his death in 1551, 4to, and also at Amsterdam, 1647. The younger Buxtory translated it into Latin, and it was refuted at length by Carpzov, Hulsius, and Varenius. Several of his works are still unprinted. He was a strong opponent of the Christian interpretation ox Daniel, and an equally determined combatant of the rationalistic views of Moses the Egyptian, the son of Maimon.
4 This word is omitted in the edition published at Geneva A.D. 1667, but is correctly inserted in that of Bart. Vincentius, A.D. 1571. -- Tr.