Dissertation 1



A Correct idea of the scope and interpretation of these prophecies cannot be obtained without a due attention to the chronology of the events recorded. Hence, throughout these Dissertations it will be necessary to discuss some apparently unimportant points, and to combat some seemingly harmless opinions. We are thus compelled to enter into details which some may pronounce devoid of interest, but which will prove worth the labor bestowed upon them.

The necessity for comment on this first verse arises from the difficulty of reconciling its statement with the twenty-fifth chapter of Jeremiah. The relation of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar must be harmonized with those of the three last kings of Judah, to enable us to reconcile Daniel and Jeremiah. We must first ascertain the historical events which concern Jehoiakim, and fix their dates by comparing the Books of Kings and Chronicles, and the various allusions to him in Ezekiel and other prophets. Next, we must accurately define the events of Nebuchadnezzar's reign; and afterwards so compare them as to draw a correct inference from the whole, notwithstanding much apparent discrepancy. This has been done by some commentators, the results of whose labors will here, be placed before the reader. Willet's remark on Calvin is worthy of notice: "Calvin thinketh to dissolve this knot by the distinction of Nebuchadnezzar the father, and Nebuchadnezzar the son; that in one place the one is spoken of, and the other in the other, but the question is not concerning the year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, but the year of Jehoiakim's reign wherein Jerusalem should be besieged; so that the doubt remaineth still." 1 He also answers Calvin's solution, by referring Nebuchadnezzar's second year not to the period of his reign, but "rather to the time of Daniel's ministry and employment with the king, that in the second year of his service he expounded the king's dream." Many learned Jews are of opinion that the last year of Jehoiakim's reign is intended, meaning the last of his independent sovereignty, since they treat him in former years as simply a tributary king to either the Egyptians or Babylonians. Josephus in his Antiq., (Book 10:6,) is supposed to favor this theory; for he places Nebuchadnezzar's attack in the eighth year of Jehoiakim's reign, and does not allude to any previous one. Wintle, however, does not consider that the words of Josephus justify this inference, 2 and suggests that the difference in the methods used by the Jews and Babylonians in computing their years, may tend to obviate the inconsistency. Wintle suggests some reasons for dating the commencement of the seventy years' captivity from the completion of the siege in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, when Daniel and his associates were among the first captives. Prideaux supposes this event to have occurred six hundred and six years A.C., or the one hundred and forty-second year of Nabonassar's era; Vignoles and Blair fix the year following. Wintle agrees with the latter date, supposing the captivity not to continue during seventy solar years, and fixing their termination about 536 A.C.

Another commentator, who has paid great attention to chronology, deserves special notice, since he advocates a new theory respecting Cyrus and Nebuchadnezzar, which is worthy of remark, though it has been severely criticized. The Duke Of Manchester has an elaborate chapter on this date, from which we shall extract the conclusions at which he has arrived. He understands "Daniel to speak of Jehoiakim's independent reign, reckoning from the time that he rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar." 3 Jehoiakim was taken captive in the seventh of Nebuchadnezzar.

The oldest expositors felt the difficulty of the passage. Rabbi Solomon Jarchi asks, "How can this be said?" and then replies as follows: -- This was the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar and the third of Jehoiakim's rebellion against him.

Hengstenberg has not been forgetful to defend our Prophet from the charge of historical inaccuracy, to which this verse has given rise. He treats the assumption, that Nebuchadnezzar took Jerusalem before his accession to the throne, as inadmissible. "The assertion of his being associated by his father in the co-regency at that time is not adequately sustained." 4 Ch. B. Michaelis and Bertholdt have made various attempts to reconcile the discrepancy. "The assumption," says Hengstenberg, "that Nebuchadnezzar undertook his first expedition in the eighth year of Jehoiakim, is an hypothesis grounded merely on one passage." Still, this passage, far from containing an error, affords a striking proof of the writer's historical knowledge. Berosus, as quoted by Josephus, (Arch. 10:11, 1,)narrates the victory of Nebuchadnezzar at Carchemish, which occurred about the close of Jehoiakim's third year. Carchemish was a city on the banks of the Euphrates, taken by Pharaoh-Necho about three years previously. Immediately after this victory, the conqueror marched against Jerusalem and took it. The process by which Hengstenberg arrives at this result, the various authors whom he quotes, and the complete refutation which he supplies of all the conjectures of his Neologian opponents, will be found amply detailed in the valuable work already quoted. Rosenmuller also discusses the point, but leans too much to those writers whom Hengstenberg refutes.

1 Willet's "Hexapla in Dan." Edit. 1610, p. 13.

2 See his "Daniel." Edit. Tegg, 1836, p. 2.

3 "The Times of Daniel," p. 29, chapter iii., where other dates of interest are clearly exhibited.

4 Dissertations on the Genuineness of Daniel. Edinburgh, 1848, p. 43.