Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Year, from the death of his father, Nabopolassar; for he had reigned before as partner with his father, in the empire. (Challoner) — In that quality he conquered Syria, (in the year of the world 3397) took Daniel, &c. in the year 3399. He succeeded his father. (Usher) (Calmet) — After he had enlarged his empire by the conquest of Egypt, &c. he had this dream. (A. R. 25.[in the 25th year of his reign?]) (Worthington) — Mind. Septuagint, “his sleep departed from him.” (Haydock) — He was restless, recollecting enough to fill him with trouble. When the dream was repeated over, he knew that it was the same. (Calmet)
Ver. 2. The Chaldeans. That is, the astrologers, that pretended to divine by stars. (Challoner) — They dwelt on the banks of the Euphrates, and were highly esteemed. (Diod. Sic. i.) — They were the most ancient philosophers. (Civ. Div. i.)
Ver. 3. I know. Hebrew also, “to know or understand what,” &c.
Ver. 4. Syriac. It was originally the same as the Chaldean. Daniel understood this language, as well as Hebrew and writes in it what concerned the Chaldeans, to Chap. viii. This shews his accuracy, as he makes his speakers use their own tongue. Spinosa ignorantly asserts, that all the seven first chapters are in Chaldean and taken from the records of that nation by Judas Maccabeus. How then did Matthathias become acquainted with the contents?
Ver. 5. Put. Chaldean, “torn to pieces, and your house become infamous places;” (Calmet) Protestant, “a dunghill” (Haydock) — Such cruel punishments were not uncommon. (1 Esdras vi. 11.) (Calmet) — Bessus was torn in pieces by the relations of Darius; (Diod. xvii.) and the Persians generally cut off some member of criminals. (Brisson ii.)
Ver. 8. Gain. Literally, “redeem” (Haydock) — St. Paul uses a similar expression, exhorting us to save our souls even at the expense of our temporal interest. (Calmet) — The diviners wished to give the king’s fury time to abate, (Haydock) and to save their lives; (Calmet) or delay punishment, at least, as much as possible. (Haydock)
Ver. 9. Thereof. It is indeed more easy to discover what dream a person has had, than to explain it; since the devil might disclose the former, but he can only guess at what will happen, and herein his agents are often deceived. (See Genesis xl.) (Worthington) — It is not even certain that the devil can know the dreams which we have not divulged, as it is the privilege of God to discern the secrets of the heart. (Haydock)
Ver. 11. Men. They acknowledged greater and less gods. (Stanley, p. 13. Chap. i.) — They pretend not to have any communication with the superior ones, (Calmet) and by their answer unguardedly bear testimony to the excellence of the God whom Daniel served. (St. Jerome)
Ver. 13. Slain. Literally, “were slaughtering;” interficiebantur. (Haydock) — Many think that some had already suffered. (Geier.; Menochius) — They had been perhaps jealous of Daniel, and had not informed him of the matter. (St. Jerome)
Ver. 14. General. He occupied the same office as Putiphar, in Egypt. (Genesis xxxix. 1.) It was no disgrace for such a one to execute himself the king’s order, as Banaias slew the brother of Solomon. (3 Kings ii.)
Ver. 15. Cruel. Chaldean also, “precipitate.” (Calmet)
Ver. 16. Declare the dream. (Haydock) — The Chaldeans had promised only to explain it, and the king knew the superior merit of Daniel. (Chap. i. 19.) (Calmet)
Ver. 18. Secret. Literally, “sacrament.” Greek, “mystery,” which seems to be derived from (Calmet) mosthor, “a secret.” (Haydock)
Ver. 19. Night, while he was probably asleep, (Calmet) or praying with his companions. (Villet.)
Ver. 20. His. He grants them to whom he pleases, and disposes of kingdoms (Calmet) without control. (ver. 21.)
Ver. 27. Soothsayers. Chaldean Gazerin, (Haydock) who inspect entrails, (Ezechiel xxi. 21. St. Jerome) or tell fortunes by sticks. (Chap. iii. 3.)
Ver. 28. Times. In the Old Testament, this commonly signifies when Christ shall appear; but in the New, it refers to the end of the world. (Calmet)
Ver. 29. Begin. By thus telling what thoughts the king had entertained before his dream, he would be heard with greater confidence. (Worthington)
Ver. 31. Terrible, or unusual. (Calmet) — The statue denoted the four great empires of the Chaldeans, Persians, Greeks and Romans. The metals did not mean that the empire of gold was greater than the rest, as that signified by the iron was far more powerful; but only that the empire of the Chaldeans was then the greatest, and that the Persians would acquire still more power and be surpassed by the Greeks, as they were by the Romans, till the kingdom of Christ should be spread over all the earth. (Worthington)
Ver. 37. Of kings. This title was used by the Persians. Nabuchodonosor was at that time the most potent monarch on earth. He conquered many nations, and greatly embellished the city of Babylon, surrounding it with three walls in fifteen days, and building hanging gardens, which were the wonder of the world. See Eusebius, pręp. ix. 41. and x. 42. &c. (Calmet)
Ver. 39. Another kingdom; viz. that of the Medes and Persians. (Challoner) — Inferior; later, of less duration and extent. (Calmet) — Third, &c. That of Alexander the Great. (Challoner) — World. Alexander received ambassadors at Babylon, from the most distant nations, testifying their submission. He conquered beyond the river Indus, &c. (Diod. A. 1. Olym. 14.[year 1 of the 14th Olympiad.?]) (Calmet)
Ver. 40. The fourth kingdom, &c. Some understand this of the successors of Alexander, the kings of Syria and Egypt: others, of the Roman empire and its civil wars. (Challoner) — The former supposition seems best, though the latter is almost universally received, and will be explained hereafter. (Calmet) — The Roman empire did not immediately rise out of Alexander’s, and had no relation to the Jews, &c. (Grotius, L’Empereus.) — But it surely swallowed up all that he had left to his generals, and proved the greatest scourge to the Jewish nation; which has been ever since scattered, while the kingdom of Christ gains ground, and will flourish till that of Rome shall be no more. Antichrist will then appear to cast a cloud over, but not destroy it for three years and a half. It is the opinion of many Fathers, &c. that the Roman empire will subsist till that event take place; (see 2 Thessalonians ii. 3, 7.) and thus it may be said, that the fourth empire shall not be given to another people. For antichrist will not strive to exalt a particular nation, but to rule over all. Yet his dominion will be short, and will end in the general dissolution of nature; so that the Roman empire may be deemed to last for a long time, or even for ever. (ver. 44.) Those who adopt the former system, allow (Haydock) that the stone designates both the Roman empire and that of Christ; so that some parts of the prediction may refer to one and some to the other. The origin and progress of the Roman empire, might be a figure of the spiritual power of the Church. It is certain that the successors of Alexander owed their dominion to their valour, and established it by the slaughter of many great generals. The kings who followed Seleucus and Ptolemy were remarkable for a mixture of good and bad qualities. Their efforts to preserve their power by intermarriages, proved abortive. The prophet seems also to have had them in view, chap. vii. 7., and viii. 22. (Calmet)
Ver. 41. Clay. The iron was in a rude state, mixed with earth. The Roman power was at last partly exercised by consuls and partly by emperors. (Menochius) — Florus (1.) compares it to the four states of a man, infancy, childhood, youth, and old age. Its youth may be dated from the conquest of all Italy to Tiberius; afterwards it fell to decay, while the eternal kingdom of Christ was forming, ver. 44.
Ver. 43. Man. Pompey and Cęsar, Anthony and Augustus, married each other’s relations; but they soon quarrelled, and the race of the Cęsars was extinct in Nero. But this is better understood of the kings of Syria and of Egypt. (Calmet)
Ver. 44. Kingdom of Christ, in the Catholic Church, which cannot be destroyed. (Challoner) — This alone cannot be destroyed. (Worthington) — All other empires change. The Catholic Church has stood for seventeen centuries in the midst of persecutions, which gives us an assurance that she will continue for ever. (Calmet) — “Then,” says Munster, “was the kingdom of Christ set up, not by arms,…but by the divine power.” This interpretation arises from the improper version, without hands; whereas the sequel shews that the empire here spoken of, is attended with the like violence as the four others, which it destroys. The Roman empire was in no degree connected with others by marriage. In the following verse, Munster improperly turns to the second coming of our Saviour. Grotius here asserts that the stone alludes to the Roman armies, prefiguring the Son of man, whose gospel is indicated by the progress of the Roman empire, as both sprung from small beginnings. But who informed him that there were such figures in that empire as in the Old Testament? All empires begin in that manner, and types should have some greater resemblance with the reality. The Church meddles not with the temporal powers. It is therefore plain that the prophet speaks of empires which shall succeed each other. (Houbigant. perf. Prop. 340.) — Kingdoms. That of Rome comprised all the former. The persecuting emperors are forced to yield, and the colossal power of infidelity and vice falls before the gospel. Christ’s dominion is spiritual, exercised against wickedness; (Calmet) is heavenly and eternal. (Haydock) — The blood of martyrs was more efficacious in the establishing of Christianity, than fire and sword had been in forming other empires. (Menochius)
Ver. 45. Hands. Protestant marg.: “mountain, which was not in hand.” (Haydock) — Christ was born of a virgin; and his kingdom was not established by ambition, like others. Yet it presently became a mountain, and filled the earth. (St. Justin, dial.; St. Augustine, tr. 9. in Jo.) — God himself sets up this kingdom. (Calmet)
Ver. 46. Daniel, taking him for a little god, under the great one, ver. 17. (Worthington) — Victims. Chaldean mincha, (Haydock) of flour, &c. But the prophet had already declared his sentiments on this head, (ver. 28.) and abhorred such honours, like St. Paul, (Acts xiv. 10.; Calmet) though this is not here recorded. (Menochius)
Ver. 47. Of gods, above all those of the country for explaining hidden things: yet he did not acknowledge him to be the only true God. (Calmet) — He afterwards erected an idol to represent his own greatness. (Worthington)
Ver. 48. Provinces, or that of Babylonia, which was the first. — Wise men. This would not engage him in any idolatrous practices.
Ver. 49. Works of agriculture, (Calmet) which the ancient kings of Persia encouraged with great attention, appointing officers to reward or punish according as their land was cultivated. (Xenophon, Cyr. 8. & Œcon.) — St. Jerome thinks they were appointed judges, (Calmet) or assistants of Daniel. (Grotius) — Palace. Literally, “gates,” (Haydock) as receiver of the taxes, particularly at Susa. (Chap. viii. 2.) (Marsham Egypt. sęc. 18.)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Daniel, by divine revelation, declares the dream of Nabuchodonosor, and the interpretation of it. He is highly honoured by the king.
1 In *the second year of the reign of Nabuchodonosor, Nabuchodonosor had a dream, and his spirit was terrified, and his dream went out of his mind.
2 Then the king commanded to call together the diviners and the wise men, and the magicians, and the Chaldeans: to declare to the king his dreams: so they came and stood before the king.
3 And the king said to them: I saw a dream: and being troubled in mind I know not what I saw.
4 And the Chaldeans answered the king in Syriac: O king, live for ever: tell to thy servants thy dream, and we will declare the interpretation thereof.
5 And the king, answering, said to the Chaldeans: The thing is gone out of my mind: unless you tell me the dream, and the meaning thereof, you shall be put to death, and your houses shall be confiscated.
6 But if you tell the dream, and the meaning of it, you shall receive of me rewards, and gifts, and great honour: therefore, tell me the dream, and the interpretation thereof.
7 They answered again and said: Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will declare the interpretation of it.
8 The king answered and said: I know for certain that you seek to gain time, since you know that the thing is gone from me.
9 If, therefore, you tell me not the dream, there is one sentence concerning you, that you have also framed a lying interpretation, and full of deceit, to speak before me till the time pass away. Tell me, therefore, the dream, that I may know that you also give a true interpretation thereof.
10 Then the Chaldeans answered before the king, and said: There is no man upon earth, that can accomplish thy word, O king; neither doth any king, though great and mighty, ask such a thing of any diviner, or wise man, or Chaldean.
11 For the thing that thou askest, O king, is difficult: nor can any one be found that can shew it before the king, except the gods, whose conversation is not with men.
12 Upon hearing this, the king in fury, and in great wrath, commanded that all the wise men of Babylon should be put to death.
13 And the decree being gone forth, the wise men were slain: and Daniel and his companions were sought for, to be put to death.
14 Then Daniel inquired concerning the law and the sentence, of Arioch, the general of the king’s army, who was gone forth to kill the wise men of Babylon.
15 And he asked him that had received the orders of the king, why so cruel a sentence was gone forth from the face of the king. And when Arioch had told the matter to Daniel,
16 Daniel went in, and desired of the king, that he would give him time to resolve the question and declare it to the king.
17 And he went into his house, and told the matter to Ananias, and Misael, and Azarias, his companions:
18 To the end that they should ask mercy at the face of the God of heaven, concerning this secret, and that Daniel and his companions might not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.
19 Then was the mystery revealed to Daniel by a vision in the night: and Daniel blessed the God of heaven,
20 And speaking, he said: Blessed be the name of the Lord from eternity and for evermore: for wisdom and fortitude are his.
21 And he changeth times and ages: taketh away kingdoms, and establisheth them: giveth wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to them that have understanding:
22 He revealeth deep and hidden things, and knoweth what is in darkness: and light is with him.*
23 To thee, O God of our fathers, I give thanks, and I praise thee: because thou hast given me wisdom and strength: and now thou hast shewn me what we desired of thee, for thou hast made known to us the king’s discourse.
24 After this Daniel went in to Arioch, to whom the king had given orders to destroy the wise men of Babylon, and he spoke thus to him: Destroy not the wise men of Babylon: bring me in before the king, and I will tell the solution to the king.
25 Then Arioch in haste brought in Daniel to the king, and said to him: I have found a man of the children of the captivity of Juda, that will resolve the question to the king.
26 The king answered, and said to Daniel, whose name was Baltassar: Thinkest thou indeed that thou canst tell me the dream that I saw, and the interpretation thereof?
27 And Daniel made answer before the king, and said: The secret that the king desireth to know, none of the wise men, or the philosophers, or the diviners, or the soothsayers, can declare to the king.
28 But there is a God in heaven that revealeth mysteries, who hath shewn to thee, O king Nabuchodonosor, what is to come to pass in the latter times. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these:
29 Thou, O king, didst begin to think in thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter: and he that revealeth mysteries shewed thee what shall come to pass.
30 To me also this secret is revealed, not by any wisdom that I have more than all men alive: but that the interpretation might be made manifest to the king, and thou mightest know the thoughts of thy mind.
31 Thou, O king, sawest, and behold there was as it were a great statue: this statue, which was great and high, tall of stature, stood before thee, and the look thereof was terrible.
32 The head of this statue was of fine gold, but the breast and the arms of silver, and the belly and the thighs of brass.
33 And the legs of iron, the feet part of iron and part of clay.
34 Thus thou sawest, till a stone was cut out of a mountain without hands: and it struck the statue upon the feet thereof that were of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces.
35 Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of a summer’s thrashing-floor, and they were carried away by the wind: and there was no place found for them: but the stone that struck the statue, became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.
36 This is the dream: we will also tell the interpretation thereof before thee, O king.
37 Thou art a king of kings: and the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, and strength, and power, and glory:
38 And all places wherein the children of men, and the beasts of the field do dwell: he hath also given the birds of the air into thy hand, and hath put all things under thy power: thou, therefore, art the head of gold.
39 And after thee shall rise up another kingdom, inferior to thee, of silver: and another third kingdom of brass, which shall rule over all the world.
40 And the fourth kingdom shall be as iron. As iron breaketh into pieces, and subdueth all things, so shall that break, and destroy all these.
41 And whereas thou sawest the feet, and the toes, part of potter’s clay, and part of iron: the kingdom shall be divided, but yet it shall take its origin from the iron, according as thou sawest the iron mixed with the miry clay.
42 And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay: the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken.
43 And whereas thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay, they shall be mingled indeed together with the seed of man, but they shall not stick fast one to another, as iron cannot be mixed with clay.
44 But in the days of those kingdoms, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, and his kingdom shall not be delivered up to another people: and it shall break in pieces, and shall consume all these kingdoms: and itself shall stand for ever.
45 According as thou sawest, that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and broke in pieces, the clay and the iron, and the brass, and the silver, and the gold, the great God hath shewn the king what shall come to pass hereafter, and the dream is true, and the interpretation thereof is faithful.
46 Then king Nabuchodonosor fell on his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer in sacrifice to him victims and incense.
47 And the king spoke to Daniel, and said: Verily, your God is the God of gods, and Lord of kings, and a revealer of hidden things: seeing thou couldst discover this secret.
48 Then the king advanced Daniel to a high station, and gave him many and great gifts: and he made him governor over all the provinces of Babylon: and chief of the magistrates over all the wise men of Babylon.
49 And Daniel requested of the king, and he appointed Sidrach, Misach, and Abdenago, over the works of the province of Babylon: but Daniel himself was in the king’s palace.
1: Year of the World 3401, Year before Christ 603.
22: 1 Corinthians iv. 5.; 1 John i. 6.; John i. 9. and viii. 12.