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Sermon Podcast | Audio | Video : Christian Books : Lecture Forty-Third.

Commentary On Daniel Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Lecture Forty-Third.

After the angel had explained the Grecian monarchy, he records the future origin of a king who should be hard of face Without the slightest doubt, he implies the iniquity of Antiochus by this phrase. He was notoriously destitute of any nobleness of mind, and remarkable for low cunning, and to this disposition was added an impudence which faltered at nothing. This is the sense in which I take the words hard of face The following phrase asserts his cunning, when it says, he shall be skilled in enigmas This is equivalent to saying, he should excel in cunning, and should not be easily deceived. By these two epithets he does not compliment, but rather defames Antiochus Epiphanes, by representing him as hardened as the wicked usually are, without the slightest particle of either reason, or equity, or shame. He next blames his craftiness and deceit, by stating he should be skilled in enigmas He afterwards adds, his power shall be strengthened, and yet not by his own might Some are of opinion that Antiochus Epiphanes is here compared to Alexander, as the angel had previously stated the inferiority of the four kings to the first; for they were prefigured by four small horns. For the most powerful of them all did not reign over a fifth part of the dominions which Alexander had acquired for himself by violence and war. Others, again, explain this passage as if the power of Antiochus would be great, but still very unlike that of Alexander, and far inferior to it, according to the sense, not in his, i.e., Alexander's, strength,. Many, however, refer this to Antiochus, although they do not agree among themselves. Some, again, want a kind of correction, as if the angel implied that the power of Antiochus should be great, but not quite openly so. Hence his valor shall be strengthened, not meaning by |valor| that heroic spirit with which kings are usually endowed, nor any increase in magnanimity; nor yet that Antiochus should imitate such monarchs as these, but his strength should lie concealed. He should creep on by clandestine acts, and not contend in open battle according to the practice of those who excel in courage; he should secretly try many schemes, and thus stealthily extend his empire. This makes a tolerable sense. Others, again, think this ought to be referred to God, since the strength of Antiochus was not the result of his own industry or valor, but of the judgment of God, who armed him with it, because he wished to use him as a scourge to execute his punishments on the Jews. His fortitude, therefore, shall be strengthened, yet not by his own valor, as this entirely depended on the just designs and vengeance of God. Although this last sense is more profitable, and contains much useful instruction, yet I fear it is distorted. And thus the last clause is either a correction of the preceding words, meaning| because he should not increase with ingenuous earnestness,| or else, the angel is still comparing his strength with the power of Alexander. His power, therefore, shall be strengthened, and yet not bear comparison with Alexander's; or, his power shall be strengthened, but not by habits of war nor by open magnanimity, but he shall grow great by fraudulent and clandestine arts; because he was on the one hand most impious, and on the other, of a servile disposition, as we have formerly said.

It follows, He shall make wonderful havoc, and shall prosper, and shall proceed, that is, shall execute, and shall destroy the strong, and the people of the saints. By tsvmym, gnetzumim, I understand not only the Jews, but also other neighboring nations; as if the angel had said, Antiochus shall be conqueror wherever he shall extend his arms, until at length he shall subdue Judea, and miserably afflict the people of God. Wherefore, he shall strike or destroy the brave, and the people of the saints, that is, the holy people, as we saw before. And according to his understanding shall his craftiness prosper in his hand The conjunction |and may be here superfluous; in this sense the passage is usually received, thus reading it on in one context; according to his understanding he shall prosper, although there is the conjunction |and| in the way, but this is frequently superfluous in Hebrew. It means, deceit shall prosper in his hand Here the angel confirms the former assertion respecting the servile cunning of Antiochus, as he did not act with ingenuous manliness, but with his audacity and hardihood he united malicious arts and craftiness unworthy of a king. Craft, therefore, shall prosper in his hand, and that too, as far as he understands it. Some suppose the sharpness of Antiochus to be noticed here, as if the angel had said, Craftiness shall prosper in his hand, in consequence of his possessing superior ability and penetration. But the passage may be suitably explained in this way, -- Antiochus shall act prosperously according to his mental perception, and shall be so assisted by' his craftiness, as to obtain whatever he shall grasp at.

It follows next; He shall magnify himself in his heart, or he shall raise himself, and bear himself magnificently; although this expression implies boasting and pride, and is taken in a disadvantageous sense. He shall be insolent, therefore, in his heart. The angel seems to distinguish here between the scheming and penetration of Antiochus, and his pride of heart; for, although he should obtain great: victories, and should subdue many nations according to his desires, yet he would oppress the Jews, and then, should be magnified in heart; that is, should be puffed up with greater pride than before, on account of those continuous successes. And in peace he shall destroy many, or the brave; for the word rvym rabbim, signifies either. Some translate, on account of his prosperity, because the Lord wished to relax the reins, so that no one should hinder the course of his victories. On account, then, of that success, he shall destroy many. Profane men, indeed, who understand nothing of God's providence, have said that folly and chance prevail more in war than skill or arms; but the success of generals does not spring from either chance or fortune, but as God pleases to conduct the affairs of the world in various ways, so in some eases the evil and unskillful warriors succeed, while others make many fruitless efforts and trials, although they are superior in counsel, and are provided with the very best ornaments. But I rather incline to another sense which interpreters do not mention; namely, Antiochus should destroy and lay waste many nations without any trouble, with the greatest ease, and as it were in sport. Wherefore the Prophet signifies, or the angel who addresses the Prophet., that Antiochus should be the conqueror of many nations, not only because he should be endowed with great cunning, and should carry on the war more by treachery than by open violence, but as it is reported of Timotheus the Athenian general: He will take cities and lands, and subject them to himself, through fortune spreading her net for him while he is indulging in sleep. The angel, therefore, seems to point out this listlessness, by predicting much devastation by the hand of Antiochus in apparent ease and calmness. Others expound it thus, -- nations shall be laid waste by that robber which have given him no occasion for attack, because they have never stirred up any hostility against him; but when they attempt to cultivate peace, he wearies them without the slightest pretext. But this interpretation seems to be forced.

He afterwards adds, And against the Prince Of Princes he shall stand, or rise up, and he shall be destroyed without hand, or shall be ruined. The v, vau, is put adversatively; yet he shall be destroyed without hand. This was far more galling to the Prophet, and to the whole people, for the angel to predict the contests of Antiochus, not only with mortals, but with God himself. Some understand sr-srym, sar-sarim, of the high priest, but this is too confined and spiritless. I have not the least doubt that God is here meant by the Prince of Princes Wherefore the complete sense is, -- Antiochus should be not only bold, and cruel, and proud towards men, but this madness and full should proceed so far as to lead him to attack and resist God. This is the full sense. But a consolation is soon added, when the angel says, he should be destroyed without hand It would, indeed, have been almost intolerable for the Jews to hear only of the insolence of Antiochus in contending against God, unless this correction had been added -- the end of the contest must be the self-destruction of Antiochus by his own impiety. He shall be destroyed then. But how? without hand, says he. For after subduing so many nations, and after obtaining whatever he wished, what more could be hoped for as far as man is concerned? Who would dare to rise up against him? Clearly enough, if the kings of Syria had been content with their own boundaries, they need not have feared any one, for no enemy would have molested them; but they provoked the Romans to attack them, and when they wished to invade Egypt, they did not prosper in their attempts. Whichever be the meaning, the angel here announces the sufficiency of the divine power without any human aid, for the destruction and overthrow of Antiochus. Some think this prophet refers to Antichrist, thus they pass by Antiochus altogether, and describe to us the appearance of Antichrist, as if the angel had shewn to Daniel what should happen after the second renovation of the Church. The first restoration took place when liberty was restored to the people, and they returned from exile to their native land, and the second occurred at the advent of Christ. These interpreters suppose this passage to unfold that devastation of the Church which should take place after the coming of Christ, and the promulgation of the gospel. But as we have previously seen, this is not a suitable meaning, and I am surprised that men versed in the Scriptures should so pour forth clouds upon clear light. For, as we said yesterday, nothing can be clearer, or more perspicuous, or even more familiar, than this prophecy. And what is the tendency of ascribing so violently to Antichrist what even mere children clearly see to be spoken of Antiochus, except to deprive Scripture of all its authority? Others speak more modestly and more considerately, when they suppose the angel to treat of Antiochus for the purpose of depicting in his person the figure of Antichrist. But I do not think this reasoning sufficiently sound. I desire the sacred oracles to be treated so reverently, that no one may introduce any variety according to the will of man, but simply hold what is positively certain. It would please me better to see any one wishing to adapt this prophecy to the present use of the Church, and to apply to Antichrist by analogy what is said of Antiochus. We know that whatever happened to the Church of old, belongs also to us, because we have fallen upon the fullness of times.

No doubt the Holy Spirit wished to teach us how to bear our cross by making use of this example, but as I have already said, it seems to me far too frivolous to search for allegories. We should be content with true simplicity, and transfer to ourselves whatever occurred to the ancient people. (1 Corinthians 10:11.) With how much reason does the Apostle say there should be false teachers in the kingdom of Christ, as there were formerly false prophets! (2 Peter 2:1.) So we must determine, that the devil, who was a murderer from the beginning, will always find those whom he will stir up and impel to persecute the Church. The devil contends at this very day, not only by fallacious doctrines, and impious errors, and impostures, but also by cruel tyranny, as he inflames many impious men to madness, and thus harasses the sons of God. As the Jews ought not to quail under the calamities which oppressed them, through Daniel's predictions concerning Antiochus, so the same doctrine ought in these days to fortify us, lest the novelty of our calamities should appall us, when the Church is oppressed by heavy burdens, and tyrants rage and storm, with fire and sword. (Romans 8:28:) For the fathers experienced similar trials, to whom Christ had not then pointed out the way of life, and who did not comprehend so clearly as we do our duty to be conformed to the only-begotten Son of God, because he is the first-born in the Church; he is our head and we are his members. This was not so fully unfolded to those holy men, who still endured under so many afflictions, when they might suppose the Church completely buried, as it is certainly surprising that they did not yield a hundred times over to so many and such dreadful calamities. Therefore this doctrine will be best accommodated to our instruction, if we are convinced of the justice of our condition not being better than that of the fathers. What, therefore, happened to them? These wicked ones should be destroyed, namely, the Jews:, who professed themselves to be the elect people of God, and the holy family of Abraham, and in numberless ways had obstinately provoked God's wrath; thus the Church was miserably harassed. Antiochus, especially, like a sweeping tempest, reduced all things to ruin, till the people felt themselves utterly undone, and to all human appearance were without the slightest hope. As God punished so severely the wickedness of his ancient people, it does not surprise us when we feel his present chastisements, as in these days the land is full of sinfulness, and we do not cease perpetually and purposely to provoke God's wrath. (1 Thessalonians 3:3.) Lastly, to avoid the penalty due to our sins, let us consider the end of our calling, the subjection of our whole life to the cross. This is the warfare to which our heavenly Father destines us. As this is our lot, we ought to look into this mirror, and there behold the perpetual condition of the

Church. It is therefore no matter of surprise, if, instead of one Antiochus, God should raise up many who are hardened and invincible in their obstinacy, and in their cruelty make many attempts with clandestine arts, and plot for the destruction of the Church. If the fathers experienced this, it does not surprise us, if we in these days undergo similar sufferings. This, I say, is a useful analogy, and does not distort the simple sense of Scripture. Now, let us go on, --

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