THE VISION OF THE FOUR BEASTS
Our preceding volume having closed the historical portion of Daniel's Prophecies, our second volume is occupied with Calvin's comments upon those Prophetic Visions, which have ever excited the deepest interest in the minds of thoughtful Christians. The interval of time from the first verse of this chapter to the beginning of Daniel 10 is about twenty-two years. The vision of this chapter is the only one written in Chaldee, and its similarity to that of 2 may account for the same language being used in both.
The most appropriate method of illustrating these Lectures, is that of quoting the views of various eminent Reformers and later divines who have ably discussed the Prophet's language, and then comparing them with the solutions proposed by our Lecturer.
Daniel 7:4. -- The lion with eagle's wings is supposed to bear some likeness to the vulture-headed Nisroch, with which the late Assyrian discoveries have rendered us familiar. Vaux, in his |Nineveh and Persepolis,| page 32, quotes the inquiry of Beyer in his notes to Selden's work De Diis Syriis, as to a connection between this far-famed Assyrian deity and the representation recorded in this verse. Rosenmuller explains the plucking of the wings as a deprivation of any ornament, or faculty, or innate vigor, and quotes Cicero, Ep. ad Att., lib.4, ep.2, in reference to this deplumatio. The last clause, |a man's head was given to it,| is well explained by Jerome of Nebuchadnezzar's return to his kingdom after his banishment, and his receiving the heart which he had lost. The frontispiece on the title-page of Bonomi's |Nineveh and its Palaces,| is a most accurate representation of this verse. The work contains many excellent engravings, explanatory of the symbolic language of this Prophet.
Daniel 7:5 -- The raising of the bear on one side is interpreted by Theodoret and Jerome of the invasion of the Chaldean empire by the Persian. The protrusions from its mouth are thought by Wintle to be |tusks,| but Rosenmuller objects to this supposition. Wintle's notes are on the whole so very judicious, that we do not hesitate again to recommend the reader to peruse them, as in most instances they confirm the interpretations adopted in these Lectures. Hippolytus, as quoted by Oecolampadius in loc., explains the three |ribs| of the three people, Assyrians, Medes, and Babylonians. The opinion of our Reformer, volume 2, page 16, is sound and satisfactory.
Daniel 7:6. -- |Four wings on its back.| This symbolical representation occurs in the Nineveh sculptures. See Bonomi, page 257, and elsewhere.
Daniel 7:7. -- The Fourth Beast of this verse has so usually been treated as the Roman Empire, that it simply becomes necessary to cite the exceptions to this opinion. Rosenmuller records an attempt to refute this interpretation by J. C. Becman, in a dissertation on the Fourth Monarchy, published in 1671, at Frankfort-on-the-Oder, and gives a slight sketch of his argument. Dr. Todd, in his able |Lectures on Antichrist,| has made use of every possible argument against applying this to the Roman Empire, and his theory has been fairly stated and ably opposed by Birks in his |First Elements of Sacred Prophecy.| London, 1843. With reference to this fourth beast, Dr. Todd believes it to be still future; and hence his expositions are classed with those of the Futurists. Our readers will remember, that as an expositor of prophecy, Calvin is a Praeterist, and that his general system of interpretation is as remote from the year-day theory of Birks, Faber, and others, as from the futurist speculations of Maitland, Tyso, and Todd. Notwithstanding the disagreement between these Lectures and the writings of Birks, we strongly recommend their perusal by every student who would become thoroughly proficient in the prophecies of Daniel. The first step towards progress, is to surrender all our preconceived notions, and to prepare for the possibility of their vanishing away before the force of sanctified reason and all-pervading truth.
The Jewish commentators are specially careful to deny the application of this fourth empire to the Romans. Rabbis Aben Ezra and Saadiah interpret it of the Turkish sway, and extend it to times stilt present and yet future. The Son of man they hold to be Messiah, who in their opinion has not yet arrived. A different interpretation has been suggested by Lacunza in La Venda del Messias en Gloria, y Magestad, translated by the Revelation E. Irving.2 vols.8vo. London, 1827. Parte 2 Fenemeno 1. The opinion that the fourth empire is Alexander and his successors, is contained in Venema's Dissert. ad Vaticin. Daniel emblem.4to. Leovard, 1745.
Rabbi Sal. Jarchi understands the three ribs of Daniel 7:5, to be those things of Persia, Cyrus, Ahasuerus, and Darius who destroyed the Temple. The ten kings he thinks to be the emperors of Rome from Julius Caesar to Vespasian. The mouth speaking proud things of Daniel 7:8, he refers to Titus, thus adopting the supposition that the fourth empire is heathen Rome.
Maldonatus expounds the passage of heathen Rome, and feels his wrath stirred up against those |Heretics and Lutherans| who bring it down to Papal times, and rejoices in the opportunity of quoting Calvin, |their master,| against |the absurdity| of his disciples. See Comment. in Dan., page 673. But the learned Jesuit ought to have known that the celebrated Abbot Joachim, the founder of the Florentine order at the close of the 12th century, interpreted this empire of the mystic Babylon and the Papal Antichrist. He did not hesitate to apply the dates of this prophecy to the definite period of three years and a half, from A.D.1256 to 1260. He was a bold forerunner of those modern expounders, who take exactly the same view of the Papacy as himself. See British Mag., volume 16, pages 370 and following; also pages 494 and following; and Liber de Flore Telesforus Cusentinus. Fol.29, a. apud Todd, page 460.