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Commentary On Daniel Volume 1 by Jean Calvin

Lecture Eighteenth.

9. O Belteshazzar, master of the Magi, since I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in thee, and no secret can escape thee -- or overcome thee, as I shall soon explain the word -- relate the visions of my sleep which I saw, and their interpretation We yesterday shewed King Nebuchadnezzar to be a suppliant to Daniel, when reduced to extremity. He did not seek him at first, but consulted his Magicians, and he is now compelled to venerate the person whom he had despised. He calls him Belteshazzar, and doubtless the name severely wounded the Prophet's mind; for another name had been imposed upon him by his parents from his earliest infancy; whence he could recognize himself as a Jew, and could draw his origin from a holy and elect nation. For his change of name was doubtless made by the tyrant's cunning, as we have previously said, as to cause him to forget his own family. King Nebuchadnezzar wished, by changing his name, to render this holy servant of God degenerate. Hence, as often as he was called by this name, he was clearly offended in no slight degree. But this evil could not be remedied, since he was a captive, and knew he had to deal with a people victorious, proud, and cruel. Thus, in the last verse, Nebuchadnezzar had used this name according to the name of his god. Since then Daniel had a name of his own, which his parents had given him by God's appointment, Nebuchadnezzar wished to blot out that sacred name, and so called him as a mark of respect Belteshazzar, which we may believe to have been deduced from the name of an idol. Hence this doubled the Prophet's grief, when he was stained with that base spot in bearing an idol's mark on his name; but it was his duty to endure this scourge of God among his other trials. Thus God exercised his servant in every way by enduring a cross.

He now calls him Prince of the Magi, and this doubtless wounded the holy Prophet's feelings. He wished nothing better than separation from the Magi, who deceived the world by their impostures and soothsaying. For although they were skilled in the science of astrology, and knew some principles worthy of praise, yet we are sure they corrupted all the sciences. Hence Daniel did not willingly hear himself included among them; but he could not free himself from this infamy. Thus we see his patience to have been divinely proved in various ways. Now, Nebuchadnezzar adds, because I know the spirit of the holy gods to be in thee. Many understand this of angels; and this interpretation is not objectionable, as I have hinted elsewhere. For the existence of a supreme God was known to all the nations, but they fancied angels to be inferior deities. Whatever be the true meaning, Nebuchadnezzar here betrays his own ignorance, since he had made no real progress in the knowledge of the true God; because he was entangled in his former errors, and retained many gods, as from the beginning he had been imbued with that superstition. This passage might have been translated in the singular number, as some do, but it would be too forced, and the reason for such a translation is too weak; for they think Nebuchadnezzar to have been truly converted; but the vanity of this is proved by the whole context; and being occupied by this opinion, they wish to relieve him from all fault. But since it is clear that in this edict of Nebuchadnezzar many proofs of his old ignorance are comprehended, there is no reason why we should depart from the simple sense of the words. Hence he attributes a divine spirit to Daniel, but meanwhile imagines many gods. Since, therefore, the spirit of the holy gods is in thee, he says, and no secret overcomes thee Some translate 'ns, anes, to be troublesome; it properly signifies to compel, or to force; for those who translate |there is no secret which can surpass thee,| depart from the correct sense. Others translate it, |to be troublesome.| This would be a more tolerable translation, but they would do better by translating, |no secret renders thee anxious or perplexed.| If the rules of grammar would allow the ' aleph, to be a servile letter, the sense would be more suitable. For nsh, neseh, signifies to try, or prove, and also to elevate. We may translate it, |No secret is loftier than thy understanding;| or, |No secret proves thee;| if he had said, -- Daniel was endued with a divine spirit; -- he does not examine any proposition, and has no need to make an experiment in any science, since his answer is easy and at hand. But. it is necessary to remember what I said, -- No secret renders thee anxious, or confounds thee. Nebuchadnezzar knew this. Then why did he not directly call him to himself in his perplexity? As Daniel could free him from all perplexity, the king's ingratitude is proved, because he admitted the Magi to his counsels, and neglected Daniel. We see then how he always endeavored to avoid God, till he was drawn along by a violent hand, and thereby displayed the absence of conversion. For repentance is voluntary, and those only are said to repent, who willingly return by a change of mind to the God from whom they had revolted; and this cannot be done without faith and the love of God. He then asks him to relate his dream and its interpretation But the dream was not unknown, and he relates it to Daniel. There is, therefore, something superfluous in these words, but no doubt about the sense -- as Nebuchadnezzar only asks for the explanation of his dream. It follows: --

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