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26I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people should tremble and fear before the God of Daniel:

For he is the living God,

enduring forever.

His kingdom shall never be destroyed,

and his dominion has no end.

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Here Daniel adds the king’s edict, which he wished to be promulgated. And by this edict he bore witness that he was so moved by the deliverance of Daniel, as to attribute the supreme glory to the God of Israel. Meanwhile, I do not think this a proof of the king’s real piety, as some interpreters here extol King Darius without moderation, as if he had really repented and embraced the pure worship prescribed by the law of Moses. Nothing of this kind can be collected from the words of the edict — and this circumstance shews it — for his empire was never purged from its superstitions. King Darius still allowed his subjects to worship idols; and he did not refrain from polluting himself with such defilement’s; but he wished to place the God of Israel on the highest elevation, thus attempting to mingle fire and water! We have previously discussed this point. For the profane think they discharge their duty to the true God, if they do not openly despise him, but assign him some place or other; and, especially, if they prefer him to all idols, they think they have satisfied God. But this is all futile; for unless they abolish all superstitions, God by no means obtains his right, since he allows of no equals. Hence this passage by no means proves any true and serious piety in King Darius; but it implies simply his being deeply moved by the miracle, and his celebrating through all the regions subject to him the name and glory of the God of Israel. Finally, as this was a special impulse on King Darius, so it did not proceed beyond a particular effect; he acknowledged God’s power and goodness on all sides; but he seized upon that specimen which was placed directly before his eyes. Hence he did not continue to acknowledge the God of Israel by devoting himself to true and sincere piety; but, as I have said, he wished him to be conspicuously superior to other gods, but not to be the only God. But God rejects this modified worship; and thus there is no reason for praising King Darius. Meanwhile his example will condemn all those who profess themselves to be catholic or Christian kings, or defenders of the faith, since they not only bury true piety, but, as far as they possibly can, weaken the whole worship of God, and would willingly extinguish his name from the world, and thus tyrannize over the pious, and establish impious superstitions by their own cruelty. Darius will be a fit judge for them, and the edict here recited by Daniel will be sufficient for the condemnation of them all.

He now says, The edict was written for all people, nations, and tongues, who dwell in the whole earth. We see how Darius wished to make known God’s power not only to the neighboring people, but studied to promulgate it far and wide. He wrote not only for Asia and Chaldea, but also for the Medes and Persians. He had never been the ruler of Persia, yet since his father-in-law had received him into alliance in the empire, his authority extended thither. This is the sense of the phrase, the whole earth This does not refer to the whole habitable world, but to that monarchy which extended through almost the entire East, since the Medes and Persians then held the sway from the sea as far as Egypt. When we consider the magnitude of this empire, Daniel may well say, the edict was promulgated through the whole earth. Peace be multiplied unto you! We know how kings in this way soothe their subjects, and use soft persuasions for more easily accomplishing their wishes, and thus obtain the implicit obedience of their subjects. And it is gratuitous on their part to implore peace on their subjects. Meanwhile, as I have already said, they court their favor by these enticements, and thus prepare their subjects to submit to the yoke. By the term “peace,” a state of prosperity is implied; meaning, may you be prosperous and happy. He afterwards adds, the decree is placed in their sight, that is, they display their command before all their subjects. This, then, is the force of the phrase, my edict has been placed; that is, if my authority and power prevail with you, you must thus far obey me; that all may fear, or, that all may be afraid and tremble before the God of Daniel! By fear and terror he means simply reverence, but he speaks as the profane are accustomed to do, who abhor God’s name. He seems desirous of expressing how conspicuous was the power of the God of Israel, which ought properly to impress every one, and induce all to worship with reverence, and fear, and trembling. And this method of speaking is derived from a correct principle; since lawful worship is never offered to God but when we are humbled before him. Hence God often calls himself terrible, not because he wishes his worshippers to approach him with fear, but, as we have said, because the souls of men will never be drawn forth to reverence unless they seriously comprehend his power, and thus become afraid of his judgment. But if fear alone flourishes in men’s minds, they cannot form themselves to piety, since we must consider that passage of the Psalm,

“With thee is propitiation that thou mayest be feared.”
(Psalm 130:4.)

God, therefore, cannot be properly worshipped and feared, unless we are persuaded that he may be entreated; nay, are quite sure that he is propitious to us. Yet it is necessary for fear and dread to precede the humiliation of the pride of the flesh.

This, then, is the meaning of the phrase, that all should fear or be afraid of the God of Daniel The king calls him so, not because Daniel had fabricated a God for himself, but because he was his only worshipper. We very properly speak of Jupiter as the god of the Greeks, since he was deified by their folly, and hence obtained a name and a celebrity throughout the rest of the world. Meanwhile, Jupiter, and Minerva, and the crowd of false deities received their names from the same origin. There is another reason why King Darius calls the God whom Daniel worshipped Daniels God, as he is called the God of Abraham, not through deriving any precarious authority from Abraham, but through his manifesting himself to Abraham. To explain this more clearly — Why is he called the God of Daniel rather than of the Babylonians? because Daniel had learnt from the law of Moses the pure worship of God, and the covenant which he had made with Abraham and the holy fathers, and the adoption of Israel as his peculiar people. He complied with the worship prescribed in the Law, and that worship depended on the covenant. Hence this name is not given as if Daniel had been free to fashion or imagine any god for himself; but because he had worshipped that God who had revealed himself by his word. Lastly, this phrase ought to be so understood as to induce all to fear that God who had made a covenant with Abraham and his posterity, and had chosen for himself a peculiar people. He taught the method of true and lawful worship, and unfolded it in his law, so that Daniel worshipped him. We now understand the meaning of the clause. Thus we may learn to distinguish the true God from all the idols and fictions of men, if we desire to worship him acceptably. For many think they worship God when they wander through whatever errors they please, and never remain attached to one true God. But this is perverse, nay, it is nothing but a profanation of true piety to worship God so confusedly. Hence, we must contemplate the distinction which I have pointed out, that our minds may be always included within the bounds of the word, and not wander from the true God, if indeed we desire to retain him and to follow the religion which pleases him. We must continue, I say, within the limits of the word, and not turn away on either one side or the other; since numberless fallacies of the devil will meet us immediately, unless the word holds us in strict obedience. As far as concerns Darius, he acknowledged the one true God, but as we have already said, he did not reject that fictitious and perverse worship in which he was brought up; — such a mixture is intolerable before God!

He adds, Because he is alive, and remains for ever! This seems to reduce all false gods to nothing; but it has been previously said, and the circumstances prove it true, that when the profane turn their attention to the supreme God, they begin to wander directly. If they constantly acknowledged the true God, they would instantly exclude all fictitious ones; but they think it sufficient if God obtains the first rank; meanwhile they add minor deities, so that he lies hid in a crowd, although he enjoys a slight pre-eminence. Such, then, was the reasoning and the plan of Darius, because he held nothing clearly or sincerely concerning the essence of the one true God; but he thought the supreme power resident in the God of Israel, just as other nations worship their own deities! We see, then, that he did not depart from the superstitions which he had imbibed in his boyhood; and hence, we have no reason for praising his piety, unless in this particular case. But, meanwhile, God extorted a confession from him, in which he describes his nature to us. He calls him “the living God,” not only because he has life in himself, but out of himself, and is also the origin and fountain of life. This epithet ought to be taken actively, for God not only lives but has life in himself; and he is also the source of life, since there is no life independent of him. He afterwards adds, He remains for ever, and thus distinguishes him from all creatures, in which there is no firmness nor stability. We know also how everything in heaven, as well as heaven itself, is subject to various changes. In this, therefore, God differs from everything created, since he is unchangeable and invariable. He adds, His kingdom is not corrupted, and his dominion remains for ever. Here he clearly expresses what he had formerly stated respecting the firmness of God’s estate, since he not only remains essentially the same, but exercises his power throughout the whole world, and governs the world by his own virtue, and sustains all things. For if he had only said, “God remains for ever,” we are so perverse and narrow-minded as to interpret it merely as follows: — God, indeed, is not changeable in his own essence, but our minds could not comprehend his power as universally diffused. This explanation, then, is worthy of notice, since Darius clearly expresses that God’s kingdom is incorruptible and his dominion everlasting.