1. In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared unto me, even unto me Daniel, after that which appeared unto me at the first.
1. Anno tertio regni Beltsazar Regnis, visio visa fuit, visio apparuit, mihi, mihi inquam Danieli postquam apparuerat mihi in principio. 1
Here Daniel relates another vision, differing from the former as a part from the whole. For God wished to show him first what various changes should happen before Christ's advent. The second redemption was the beginning of a new life, since God then not only restored afresh his own Church, but as it were created a new people; and hence the departure from Babylon and the return to their country are called the second birth of the Church. But as God at that time afforded then only a taste of true and solid redemption, whenever the prophets treat of that deliverance, they extended their thoughts and their prophecies as far as the coming of Christ. God therefore, with great propriety, shows the Four Monarchies to His Prophet, lest the faithful should grow weary in beholding the world so often convulsed, and all but changing its figure and nature. Thus they would be subject to the most distressing cares, become a laughing stock to their enemies, and ever remain contemptible and mean, without the power to help themselves, under these constant innovations. The faithful, then, were forewarned concerning these Four Monarchies, lest they should suppose themselves rejected by God and deprived altogether of his care. But now God wished to show only one part to his Prophet. As the destruction of the Babylonian empire was at hand, and the second kingdom was approaching, this dominion also should speedily come to its close, and then God's people should be reduced to the utmost extremity. And the chief object of this vision is to prepare the faithful to bear patiently the horrible tyranny of Antiochus, of which the Prophet treats in this chapter. now, therefore, we understand the meaning of this prophet, where God speaks of only two Monarchies, for the kingdom of the Chaldees was soon to be abolished: he treats first of the Persian kingdom; and next, adds that of Macedon, but omits all others, and descends directly to Antiochus, king of Syria. He then declares the prevalence of the most wretched confusion in the Church; for the sanctuary should be deprived of its dignity, and the elect people everywhere slain, without sparing even innocent blood. We shall see also why the faithful were informed beforehand of these grievous and oppressive calamities, to induce them to look up to God when oppressed by such extreme darkness. And at this day this prophecy is useful to us, lest our courage should fail us in the extreme calamity of the Church, because a perpetual representation of the Church is depicted for us under that calamitous and mournful state. Although God often spares our infirmities, yet the Church is never free from many distresses, and unless we are prepared to undergo all contests, we shall never stand firm in the faith. This is the scope and explanation of the prophecy. I will defer the rest.
Grant, Almighty God, since thou formerly didst permit thy servants to maintain their courage in the midst of so many and such heavy commotion, that we may reap the same edification from these prophecies: are since we have fallen upon the fullness of times, may we profit by the examples of the ancient Church, and by the pious and holy admonitions which thou hast set before us. Thus may we stand firm and unconquered against all the attacks of Satan, and the world, and the impious, and so may our faith remain impregnable, until at length we enjoy the fruit of its victory in thy heavenly kingdom, through Christ our Lord. -- Amen.
I have written a short preface to this vision, which is here described for us in this eighth chapter, to enable you to comprehend its contents, and to perceive the object for which it was offered to the Prophet. As to the time, we must remember that the Prophet was informed of the victory of Cyrus and Darius while the Babylonian monarchy was still standing., and flourishing. Although Cyrus had already made great progress, and begun to lay waste the Chaldean territories, yet Belshazzar, as we have already seen, was carelessly enjoying his festivities. No one ever thought Cyrus would become the conqueror of so great a monarchy, for Belshazzar would not collect a great army to defend the boundaries of his kingdom. He thought he should repel all the endeavors of Cyrus as easily as possible; and the greater his violence the more King Belshazzar hoped to overthrow him. Now God wished to show his servant these future events. First of all, the immediate change is revealed; and next the calamity to follow ultimately is made known -- -the calamity, I mean, of the Church under King Antiochus and his successors. The Prophet therefore says: --
1 That is, in addition to the vision which was offered me before. -- Calvin.