17. As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.
17. Et pueris illis quatuor, dedit, inquam, illis Deus cognitionem et scientiam in omni literatura et sapientia et Daniel intellexit in omni visione et somniis.
The Prophet here shows what we have already touched upon, how his authority was acquired for exercising the prophetic office with greater advantage. He ought to be distinguished by fixed marks, that the Jews first, and foreigners afterwards, might acknowledge him to be endued with the prophetic spirit. But a portion of this favor was shared with his three companions; yet he excelled them all, because God fitted him specially for his office. Here the end is to be noticed, because it would be incorrect to say that their reward was bestowed by God, because they lived both frugally and heavenly, and spontaneously abstained from the delicacies of the palace; for God had quite a different intention. For he wished, as I have already said, to extol Daniel, to enable him to shew with advantage that Israel's God is the only God; and as he wished his companions to excel hereafter in political government, he presented them also with some portion of his Spirit. But it is worthwhile to set Daniel before our eyes; because, as I have said, before God appointed him his Prophet, he wished to adorn him with his own insignia, to procure confidence in his teaching. He says, therefore, to those four boys, or youths, knowledge and science were given in all literature and wisdom Daniel was endued with a very singular gift -- he was to be an interpreter of dreams, and an explainer of visions. Since Daniel here speaks of literature, without doubt he simply means the liberal arts, and does not comprehend the magical arts which flourished then and afterwards in Chaldea. We know that nothing was sincere among unbelievers; and, on the other hand, I have previously admonished you, that Daniel was not imbued with the superstitions in those days highly esteemed in that nation. Through discontent with genuine science, they corrupted the study of the stars; but Daniel and his associates were so brought up among the Chaldeans, that they were not tinctured with those mixtures and corruptions which ought always to be separated from true science. It would be absurd, then, to attribute to God the approval of magical arts, which it is well known were severely prohibited and condemned by the law itself. (Deuteronomy 18:10.) Although God abominates those magical superstitions as the works of the devil, this does not prevent Daniel and his companions from being divinely adorned with this gift, and being very well versed in all the literature of the Chaldees. Hence this ought to be restricted to true and natural science. As it respects Daniel, he says, he understood even, visions and dreams and we know how by these two methods the Prophets were instructed in the will of God. (Numbers 12:6.) For while God there blames Aaron and Miriam, he affirms this to be his usual method; as often as he wishes to manifest his designs to the Prophets, he addresses them by visions and dreams. But Moses is treated out of the common order of men, because he is addressed face to face, and mouth to mouth. God, therefore, whenever he wished to make use of his Prophets, by either visions or dreams, made known to them what he wished to be proclaimed to the people. When, therefore, it is here said, -- Daniel understood dreams and visions, it has the sense of being endued with the prophetic spirit. While his companions were superior masters and teachers in all kinds of literature, he alone was a Prophet of God.
We now understand the object of this distinction, when an acquaintance with visions and dreams was ascribed peculiarly to Daniel. And here our previous assertion is fully confirmed, namely, that Daniel was adorned with the fullest proofs of his mission, to enable him afterwards to undertake the prophetic office with greater confidence, and acquire greater attention to his teaching. God could, indeed, prepare the in a single moment, and by striking terror and reverence into the minds of all, induce them to embrace his teaching; but he wished to raise his servant by degrees, and to bring him forth at the fitting time, and not too suddenly so that all might know by marks impressed for many years how to distinguish him from the common order of men. It afterwards follows: