THE COLOSSUS AT DURA.
Many points of interest are connected with the narrative of this chapter.
1. The time of its erection. This is unknown; various conjectures have been offered, but not the slightest historical foundation proved for any of them. Theodoret and Chrysostom fix upon the eighteenth year of the king's reign.
2. The object of its erection. It was probably intended to entrap the Jews and all conscientious worshippers of Jehovah. Calvin's view is adopted by the best writers.
3. In whose honor was it erected? Willet agrees with Calvin in thinking it was consecrated to some deity, as Bel, the chief object of his worship.
4. The place of its erection was the plain called by Ptolemy, Deira, between Chaltopis and Cissia, in the region of Susan. The editor of the Chisian Codex derives it from the Persian word dooran, meaning an enclosure, thus strengthening the view of Jerome, that it was erected in an enclosure within the city.
A singular feature in the earliest commentators is the mystical application of such subjects. Chrysostom, for instance, takes it to denote covetousness; and Jerome, (in loc.,) false doctrine and heresy; and Irenaeus, the pomp and pride of the world, under the mastery of Satan.
The disproportion of its form has occasioned some difference among expositors. Bertholdt, as usual, is full of faultfinding. |How was it possible for it to stand of itself?| But there is no proof that the statue had throughout a human form. Columns with a human head on the top were often erected by the Asiatics in honor of their deities. Münter in his Religion of the Babylonians, treats it as similar to the Amyclaean Apollo, a simple column, to which a head and feet were added. Gesenius, too, has observed that the ruins of the tower of Belus are imposing only from their colossal size, and not from their proportions; the Babylonians preferred everything huge, irregular, and grotesque. Idol-pillars were commonly erected by the Assyrians in honor of their deities. If, however, we strictly limit the word tslm, tzelem, to a human figure complete in all its parts, we may still vindicate the truth of Daniel by allowing for a pedestal which would be necessary. The proportion of six to one is correct: for a human figure; hence with a pedestal, ten to one by no means violates the principles of art. Of the difficulty of raising it we are no judges. The able remarks of Heeren are exactly suited to the occasion, -- |The circle of our experience is too limited for us to assign at once the scale of what is possible in other lands, in a different clime, and under other circumstances. Do not the Egyptian pyramids, the Chinese wall, and the rock temple at Elephanta, stand, as it were, in mockery of our criticism, which presumes to define the limits of the united power of whole nations?|
The material of the Colossus is worthy of notice. It is scarcely possible that it could be all of gold. Some, have thought it to have been hollow like the Colossus of Rhodes, which exceeded it in height by ten cubits. (Pliny His. Nat., 34 Section 18.) Chrysostom thought it made of wood, and only covered with gold plating, and certainly we have authority for such a view from Exodus 39:38, where an altar made of acacia wood, and covered with gold, is termed golden; and that in Exodus 39:39, merely covered with brass, is termed brazen. The immense treasures heaped together at Babylon favor the possibility of sufficient gold being at hand to cover so large a statue; while the weight of the golden statue of Bel, with its steps and seat, as recorded both by Herodotus and Diodorus, is far from sufficient to allow of their being massive gold throughout. Thus profane history becomes exceedingly valuable in enabling us to interpret correctly the language of the Old Testament. Many minds are inclined at once to discredit the erection of any such colossus all of gold; the mechanical and artistic difficulties are far too great; but when we find such historians giving us accounts of similar erections made of plated wood, or consisting of a mere hollow case, plated over, the whole of the difficulties vanish, everything is reduced at once within the bounds of credibility, the historical accuracy of Daniel is vindicated, the captious insinuations of disbelievers are repelled, and the mind of the earnest inquirer is at rest on the firm rock which patient investigation has provided for it.
Hengstenberg's attention is occupied throughout this chapter with noticing the objections of his Neologian predecessors. De Wette, Bertholdt, and Bleek, have each attempted to discredit the historical veracity of Daniel. The period of the erection of the image -- if ever erected at all -- was that of Antiochus Ephphanes, say they, and his character is the supposed original of the fabulous Nebuchadnezzar, and the writer |merely invented these tales in order to inspire the Jews with fortitude under the religious persecutions of Antiochus.| Bertholdt also considers the address of the three Jews to the king as an instance of |revolting insolence and levity;| while Theodoret is quoted as |being amazed at the courage of these youths, their wisdom, their piety,| in language exactly in the spirit of Calvin himself. The preparation of the furnace has created some difficulty, especially when Chardin relates that a whole month has been taken up with feeding two ovens with fire, for the purpose of destroying criminals; but this objection is removed by the natural supposition that the king anticipated refusal, and had prepared beforehand to execute summary vengeance on all who disobeyed. |What result is gained by the miracle?| ask the disbelievers. |How disproportionate was the colossus,| he exclaims, |no such statue ever existed, no such miracle was ever performed.| But history puts to flight a whole host of conjectures, for Herodotus mentions a statue in the temple of Belus, and Diodorus Siculus confirms his account. Hengstenberg has collected a long list of authorities in proof of the erection of such statues by the ancient monarchs of the East, and we refer to his valuable labors for a reply to objections, which are happily unknown to the majority of our readers.