2. And now will I shew thee the truth. Behold, there shall stand up yet Three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than they all: and by his strength through his riches he shall stir up all against the realm of Grecia.
2. Et nunc veritatem annuntio tibi: ecce adhuc tres reges stabunt in Perside, et quartus ditabitur opibus mignis, 1 prae omnibus et secundum fortitudinem suam, in, inquam, opibus suis,2 excitabit omnes contra regnum Graecorum.
We must now understand God's intention in thus informing his servant Daniel of future events. He was clearly unwilling to gratify a vain curiosity, and he enlarged upon events necessary to be known, thus enabling the Prophet not only privately to rely on God's grace, through this manifestation of his care for his Church, but also to exhort others to persevere in the faith. This chapter seems like a historical narrative under the form of an enigmatic description of events then future. The angel relates and places before his eyes occurrences yet to come to pass. We gather from this very clearly how God spoke through his prophets; and thus Daniel, in his prophetic character alone, is a clear proof to us of God's peculiar favor towards the Israelites. Here the angel discusses, not the general state of the world, but first the Persian kingdom, then the monarchy of Alexander, and afterwards the two kingdoms of Syria and Egypt. From this we cleverly perceive how the whole discourse was directed to the faithful. God did not regard the welfare of other nations, but wished to benefit his Church, and principally to sustain the faithful under their approaching troubles. It was to assure them of God's never becoming forgetful of his covenant, and of his so moderating the convulsions then taking place throughout the world, as to be ever protecting his people by his assistance. But we shall have to repeat this again, and even more than once, as we proceed.
First of all, the angel states, Three kings shall yet stand up in Persia. With respect to the clause, Behold! I announce to you the truth, I explained in yesterday's Lecture how frequently he confirmed his prophecy whenever he treated events of the greatest importance, which seemed almost incredible. I shall tell you the real truth; three kings shall stand up. The Jews are not only very ignorant of everything, but very stupid also- then they have no sense of shame, and are endued with a perverse audacity; for they think there were only three kings of Persia, and they neglect all history, and mingle and confound things perfectly clear and completely distinct. There were eight kings of Persia of whom no mention is made here. Why, then, does the angel say, three kings should stand up? This was the first year of Darius, as we saw before. Hence, in their number of kings, Cyrus, the first monarch, is included, together with his son Cambyses. When these two kings have been decided on, a new question will arise again; for some add Smerdis to Cambyses, though he was only an impostor; for the Magi falsely thrust him in as the son of Darius, for the purpose of acquiring the sovereignty to themselves. Thus he was acknowledged as king for seven months; but when the cheat was discovered he was slain by seven of the nobles, among whom was Darius the son of Hystaspes, and he, according to the common narrative, was created king by the consent of the others on the neighing of his horse. The variations of interpreters might hinder us from reading them, and so we must gather the truth from the event. For Smerdis, as I have stated, cannot be reckoned among the kings of Persia, as he was but an impostor. I therefore exclude him, following the prudence of others who have considered the point with attention.
We must now observe why Daniel mentions four kings, the fourth of whom, he states, should be very rich. Cambyses succeeded Cyrus, who was reigning when the prophecy was uttered. He was always moving about to distant places; he scarcely allowed himself rest for a single year; he was exceedingly desirous of glory, insatiable in his ambition, and ever stirring up new wars. Cambyses, his son, who had slain his brother, died in Egypt, and yet added this country to the Persian empire. Darius, the son of Hystaspes, succeeded, and Xerxes followed him. They are deceived who think Darius, the son of Hystaspes, is the fourth king; without doubt the Prophet meant Xerxes, who crossed the sea with a mighty army. he led with him 900,000 men; and, however incredible this may appear, all historians constantly affirm it. He was so puffed up with pride that he said he came to put fetters upon the Hellespont, while his army covered all the neighboring country. This is one point; the four kings were Cyrus, Cambyses, Darius the son of Hystaspes, and Xerxes, omitting Smerdis. We may now inquire why the angel limits the number to four, as the successor of Xerxes was Artaxerxes, or Darius Longimanus, the long-handed, and some others after him. This difficulty is solved by the following probable method, -- Xerxes destroyed the power of the Persian empire by his rashness; he escaped with the greatest disgrace, and was scarcely saved by the baseness of his flight. He brought away but few companions with him hastily in a small boat, and could not obtain a single transport, although the Hellespont had been previously covered with his ships. His whole army was almost cut to pieces, first at Thermopylee, then at Leuctra, and afterwards at other places. From that period the Persian empire declined, for when its warlike glory was annihilated, the people gave themselves up to sloth and idleness, according to the testimony of Xenophon. Some interpreters expound the phrase, three kings stood up, of the flourishing period of the Persian monarchy: they take the words "stood up" emphatically, since from that period the nation's power began to wane. For Xerxes on his return was hated by the whole people, first for his folly, then for his putting his brother to death, for his disgraceful conduct towards his sister, and for his other crimes; and as he was so loaded with infamy before his own people, he was slain by Artabanus, who reigned seven months. As the power of Persia was then almost entirely destroyed, or at least was beginning to decline, some interpreters state these three kings to stand up, and then add Xerxes as the fourth and the most opulent. But suppose we take the word "stood up" relatively, with respect to the Church? For the angel states that the Persian prince, Cambyses, stood before him, in an attitude of hostility and conflict. The angel seems rather to hint at the standing up of four kings of Persia, for the purpose of reminding the Jews of the serious evils and the grievous troubles which they must suffer under their sway. In this sense I interpret the verb "to stand," referring it to the contests by which God harassed the Church until the death of Xerxes. For at that period, when the power of the Persians declined, a longer period of rest and relaxation was afforded to the people of God. This is the reason why the angel omits and passes over in silence all the kings from Artabanus to Darius the son of Arsaces; for Arsaces was the last king but one, and although Ochus reigned before him, we know from profane historians how his posterity were reduced to the lowest rank under the last Darius, whom Alexander conquered, as we shall see by and bye. For this reason I think this to be the genuine sense of the passage, -- from Cyrus to Xerxes kings of Persia should stand up against the Israelites, and during the whole of that period the contests should be renewed, and the Jews would almost perish through despair under that continued series of evils. Some say, four kings should stand forth until all the Jews were led out; and we know this never to have been completed, for a small portion only returned. As to my own opinion, I am unwilling to contend with others, yet I hesitate not to enforce the angel's wish to exhort all the pious to endurance, for he announced the standing up of these four kings, who should bring upon them various tribulations. As to the fourth king, the statement of this passage suits Xerxes exactly. The fourth, he says, shall be enriched with wealth; for the noun is of similar meaning with the verb, as they both spring from the same root. Truly enough Darius the son of Hystaspes determined to carry on war with Greece; he made the attempt but without success, especially at the battle of Marathon. He was cut off by sudden death when his treasures were prepared and many forces were collected. He thus left the material of war for his son. Xerxes, in the flower of his age, saw every preparation for war made ready to his hands; he eagerly embraced the occasion, and gave no heed to sound advice. For, as we have already stated, he destroyed himself and the whole monarchy, not by a single slaughter only, but by four. And this power of raising an army of 900,000 men was no ordinary occurrence. If he had only carried with him across the sea 100,000 men, this would have been a large force. But his power of feeding such large forces while he passed through so many provinces, and then of passing them across the sea, exceeds the ordinary bounds of our belief. We are not surprised, then, at the angel's predicting the extreme wealth of this king.
He adds, In his fortitude and in his riches he shall stir them all up against the realm of the Greeks. This was not accomplished by Darius the son of Hystaspes. According to my former statement, he attacked certain Grecian cities, but without producing confusion throughout the whole East, as Xerxes his successor did. As to the phrase, the kingdom of Javan, I willingly subscribe to their opinion who think the word equivalent to the Greek word Ionia. For Javan went forth in that direction, and dwelt there with his posterity in the Grecian territory, whence almost the whole of Greece obtained its present name. The whole Grecian nation is often called "Chittim," and some see good reason for their being termed "Machetae," from Chittim the son of Jayan, and thus by the addition of a letter we arrive at the Macedonians. For the conjecture is probable that this people were first called Maketae, and afterwards Macedonians. Without doubt, in this passage and in many others, Javan. is put for the whole of Greece, since Ionia was the portion of the country most celebrated in Judea and throughout the East generally. Xerxes then stirred up against the realm of Javan -- meaning Greece -- all the people of the East; for it is very well known how his empire spread far and wide in every direction. It follows: --