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Commentary On Daniel Volume 1 by Jean Calvin

Lecture Fifth.

We yesterday saw the Magi sent for by the king's edict, not only in order to explain his dream to him, but also to narrate the dream itself which had slipt from his memory. But since four kinds of Magi are used here, or at least three, and their description is added in the fourth place, I shall briefly touch upon what seems to me their meaning. hrtmym Hartummim, is usually explained by |soothsayers,| and afterwards 'sphym, Assaphim, they think, means |physicians.| I am unwilling to contend against the first interpretation; but I see no reason for the second. They interpret it as |physicians,| because they judge of men's health by feeling the pulse, but having no better reason than this, I adopt the opinion that it refers to astrologers. In the third place, mksphym, Mecasphim, is used, meaning |sorcerers,| though some change the signification, and say it; means |star-gazers,| who indicate future events and predict unknown ones from the position of the stars. I have nothing to bring forward more probable than this, except the uncertainty of what the Hebrews meant by the word for since the matter itself is so buried in oblivion, who can distinguish between words which belong to the profession of an unknown art? ksdym, Casdim, is doubtless put for a race, for it is the name of a nation, yet on account of its excellence, the Magi appropriated it to themselves, as. if the nobility and excellence of the whole nation was in their power; and this name is known to be in common use in Greece and Italy. All who professed their ability to predict future or hidden events from the stars or other conjectures, were called Chaldees. With respect to the three other words, I do not doubt their honorable meaning, and for this red, son they called themselves Mathematicians, as if there were no science in the world except with them. Besides, although their principles were good, they were certainly stuffed with many superstitions, for they were soothsayers and diviners, and we know them to have given especial attention to augury. Although they were highly esteemed by their fellow-countymen, yet they are condemned by God's law, for all their pretense to science was complete imposture. They are generally called Magi, and also Chaldeans, as shortly afterwards, when Daniel will repeat what they have spoken before the king, he will not enumerate those three species, but will simply call them Chaldees. It is surprising that Daniel and his companions were not called among them, for he ought to have been called among the first, since the king, as we have, said, found these four to be ten times better than all the Magi and Diviners throughout his kingdom! Since their dexterity was not unknown to the king, why does he pass them completely by, while the other Magi are at hand and are called in to a case so arduous? Very probably the king omitted them because he trusted more in the natives; or suspected the captives, and was unwilling to entrust them with his secrets, as he had not yet sufficiently tried their fidelity and constancy. This might have been the reason, but it is better for us to consider the intention of the Almighty, for I have no doubt that this forgetfulness on the part of the king occurred by God's providence, as he was unwilling from the first to mingle his servant Daniel and the rest with the Magi and Soothsayers. This accounts for Daniel not being sent for with the rest; whence, as we shall see, his divination would afterwards become more illustrious. It now follows --
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