17. Then Daniel answered and said before the king, Let thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another; yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation.
17. Tunc respondit Daniel, et dixit coram rege, Dona tua tibi sint, et munera tua alteri da: tamen scripturam legam regi, et interpretationem ejus patefaciam ei.
First of all, Daniel here rejects the proffered gifts. We do not read of his doing so before; he rather seemed to delight in the honors conferred by King Nebuchadnezzar. We may inquire into the reason for this difference. It is not probable that the intention, feeling, or sentiments of the Prophet were different. What then could be his intention in allowing himself to be previously ennobled by Nebuchadnezzar, and by now rejecting the offered dignity? Another question also arises. At the end of this chapter we shall see how he was clothed in purple, and a herald promulgated an edict, by which he became third in the kingdom. The Prophet seems either to have forgotten himself in receiving the purple which he had so magnanimously rejected, or we may ask the reason why he says so, when he did not refuse to be adorned in the royal apparel. With respect to the first question, I have no doubt of his desire to treat the impious and desperate Belshazzar with greater asperity, because in the case of King Nebuchadnezzar there still remained some feelings of honor, and hence he hoped well of him and treated him more mildly. But with regard to King Belshazzar, it was necessary to treat him more harshly, because he had now arrived at his last extremity. This, I have no doubt, was the cause of the difference, since the Prophet proceeded straight forward in his course, but his duty demanded of him to distinguish between different persons, and as there was greater pertinacity and obstinacy in King Belshazzar, he shews how much less he deferred to him than to his grandfather. Besides, the time of his subjection was soon to be finished, and with this end in view he had formerly honored the Chaldean empire.
As to the contrast apparent between his reply and his actions, which we shall hereafter see, this ought not to seem absurd, if the Prophet had from the beginning borne his testimony against the king's gifts, and that he utterly re-jeered them. Yet he does not strive very vehemently, lest he should be thought to be acting cunningly, for the purpose of escaping danger. In each case he wished to display unconquered greatness of mind; at the beginning he asserted the king's gifts to be valueless to him, for he knew the end of the kingdom to be at hand, and afterwards he received the purple with other apparel. If he had entirely refused them, it would have been treated as a fault and as a sign of timidity, and would have incurred the suspicion of treason. The Prophet therefore shews how magnificently he despised all the dignities offered him by King Belshazzar, who was already half dead. At the same time he shews himself intrepid against all dangers; for the king's death was at hand and the city was taken in a few hours -- nay, in the very same hour! Daniel therefore did not reject this purple, she wing his resolution not to avoid death if necessary. He would have been safer in his obscurity, had he dwelt among the citizens at large, instead of in the palace; and if he had resided among the captives, he might have been free from all danger. As he did not hesitate to receive the purple, he displays his perfect freedom from all fear. Meanwhile he, doubtless, wished to lay prostrate the king's foolish arrogance, by which he was puffed up, when he says, Let thy gifts remain with thee, and give thy presents to another! I care not for them. Because he so nobly despises the king's liberality, there is no doubt of his desire to correct the pride by which he was puffed up, or at least to wound and arouse his mind to feel God's judgment, of which Daniel will soon become both the herald and the witness. It now follows, --