Daniel 4:23-24

23. And whereas the king saw a watcher and an holy one coming down from heaven, and saying, Hew the tree down, and destroy it; yet leave the stump of the roots thereof in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven times pass over him;

23. Et quod vidit rex, vigilem, et sanctum descendere e coelis, qui dixit: 1 Suceidite arborem, et dispergite eam: tantummodo imum radicum ejus in terra relinquite: et sit in vinculo ferri et aeris in herba agri, et rore coelorum proluatur, et eum bestiis agri portio ejus, donec septem tempora transcant super cam.

24. This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the most High, which is come upon my lord the king.

24. Haec interpretatio, rex, et decretum excelsi est, quod spectat ad dominum meum regem.


Daniel follows up what he had begun with perseverance, shewing judgment to be overhanging the king of Babylon. He calls him lord, indeed, with cordiality; meanwhile he was the ambassador of the Supreme King, he did not hesitate to elevate his discourse above the king's command -- as all the prophets do who rise up against mountains and hills, as Jeremiah does in Jeremiah 1:10. Thus this sentence is worthy of notice, -- "I have appointed thee over kingdoms and peoples, to pluck them up and to plant them, to build and to destroy." God, therefore, wishes to assert so great a reverence for his Word, because there is nothing in the world so magnificent or splendid which does not yield to it. Daniel, then, as far as concerns human events and political order, confesses the king to be his master; but meanwhile he goes on with the embassy entrusted to him. The king then, says he, saw a watcher descend from heaven, he always speaks of an angel 2 We have stated why Scripture calls angels "watchers," since they are at hand to perform God's commands; and we know God executes his decrees by their agency: I said angels always discharge this duty, and keep watch over the faithful. But the name "watcher" is a general one, and implies the promptness with which angels are endued, to enable them to discharge with the utmost celerity whatever God enjoins upon them. Thou hast seen, then, one descend from heaven, who said, Cut down the tree, and scatter it abroad. He repeats what he had said before, namely, the time of his punishment was defined here, because God would destroy the king of Babylon and all remembrance of him. An exception is then added, -- Until seven times pass over. I have said nothing of those times, but their opinion is probable who take it for an indefinite number, meaning, until a long time shall pass away. Others think months denoted; others, years; but I willingly incline to this interpretation, since God wishes for no short time to punish King Nebuchadnezzar. It may not seem customary, indeed, but as he wished to put forth an example for all ages, he desired to prolong his punishment. This, therefore, seems the meaning of the seven years; for we know the number seven years to signify a long time in Scripture, since it denotes perfection.


Grant, Almighty God, since thou settest before us our sins, and at the same time announcest thyself as our judge, that we may not abuse thy forbearance and lay up for ourselves a treasure of greater wrath through our sloth and torpor. Grant, also, that we may fear thee reverently, and be anxiously cautious ourselves: may we be frightened by thy threats, and enticed by thy sweetness, and be willing and submissive to thee: may we never desire more than to consecrate ourselves entirely to obey thee, and to glorify thy name through Jesus Christ our Lord. -- Amen.

Lecture Twentieth

1 Verbally, "and he said," for the copula ought to be resolved into the relative pronoun. -- Calvin.

2 See Dissertation 14 at the end of this Volume.