The Coming Prince
CHAPTER II: DANIEL AND HIS TIMES
"DANIEL the prophet." None can have a higher title
to the name, for it was thus Messiah spoke of him. And yet the great Prince
of the Captivity would himself doubtless have disclaimed it. Isaiah, Jeremiah,
Ezekiel, and the rest, "spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost;" (2
Peter 1:21) but Daniel uttered no such "God-breathed" words. Like the
"beloved disciple" in Messianic times, he beheld visions, and recorded
what he saw. The great prediction of the seventy weeks was a message delivered
to him by an angel, who spoke to him as man speaks with man. A stranger
to prophet's fare and prophet's garb, he lived in the midst of all
the luxury and pomp of an Eastern court. Next to the king, he was the
foremost man in the greatest empire of antiquity; and it was not till
the close of a long life spent in statecraft that he received the visions
recorded in the latter chapters of his book.
1. My belief in the Divine character of the
Book of Daniel will, I trust, appear plainly in these pages. The distinction
I desire to mark here is between prophecies which men were inspired to
utter, and prophecies like those of Daniel and St. John, who were merely
the recipients of the revelation. With these, inspiration began in the
recording what they had received.
To understand these prophecies aright, it is essential that
the leading events of the political history of the times should be kept
2.To quote Daniel 1:12 in opposition to this involves an obvious anachronism.
The word "pulse," moreover, in the Hebrew points generally to vegetable
food, and would include a dish as savory as that for which Esau sold his
birthright (comp, Genesis 25:34). To eat animal food from the table of
Gentiles would have involved a violation of the law; therefore Daniel
and his companions became "vegetarians."
The summer of Israel's national glory had proved as brief as it was brilliant.
The people never acquiesced in heart in the Divine decree which, in distributing
the tribal dignities, entrusted the scepter to the house of Judah, while
it adjudged the birthright to the favored family of Joseph; and their
mutual jealousies and feuds, though kept in check by the personal influence
of David, and the surpassing splendor of the reign of Solomon, produced
a national disruption upon the accession of Rehoboam. In revolting from
Judah, the Israelites also apostatized from God; and forsaking the worship
of Jehovah, they lapsed into open and flagrant idolatry. After two centuries
and a half unillumined by a single bright passage in their history, they
passed into captivity to Assyria; and on the birth of Daniel a century
had elapsed since the date of their national extinction.
Judah still retained a nominal independence, though, in fact,
the nation had already fallen into a state of utter vassalage. The geographical
position of its territory marked it out for such a fate. Lying half-way
between the Nile and the Euphrates, suzerainty in Judea became inevitably
a test by which their old enemy beyond their southern frontier, and the
empire which the genius of Nabopolassar was then rearing in the north, would
test their rival claims to supremacy. The prophet's birth fell about the
very year which was reckoned the epoch of the second Babylonian Empire.
He was still a boy at the date of Pharaoh Necho's unsuccessful invasion
of Chaldea. In that struggle his kinsman and sovereign, the good king Josiah,
took sides with Babylon, and not only lost his life, but compromised still
further the fortunes of his house and the freedom of his country. (2 Kings
23:29; 2 Chronicles 35:20)
3. "Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him
came the chief ruler; but the birthright was Joseph's" (1 Chronicles
4.The disruption was in B. C. 975, the captivity to Assyria about B.
The public mourning for Josiah had scarcely ended when Pharaoh,
on his homeward march, appeared before Jerusalem to assert his suzerainty
by claiming a heavy tribute from the land and settling the succession to
the throne. Jehoahaz, a younger son of Josiah, had obtained the crown on
his father's death, but was deposed by Pharaoh in favor of Eliakim, who
doubtless recommended himself to the king of Egypt by the very qualities
which perhaps had induced his father to disinherit him. Pharaoh changed
his name to Jehoiakim, and established him in the kingdom as a vassal of
Egypt (2 Kings 23:33-35; 2 Chronicles 36:3, 4).
5. B. C. 625.
In the third year after these events, Nebuchadnezzar, Prince Royal of Babylon,
set out upon an expedition of conquest, in command of his father's armies;
and entering Judea he demanded the submission of the king of Judah. After
a siege of which history gives no particulars, he captured the city and
seized the king as a prisoner of war. But Jehoiakim regained his liberty
and his throne by pledging his allegiance to Babylon; and Nebuchadnezzar
withdrew with no spoil except a part of the holy vessels of the temple,
which he carried to the house of his god, and no captives save a few youths
of the seed royal of Judah, Daniel being of the number, whom he selected
to adorn his court as vassal princes. (2 Kings 24:1; 2 Chronicles 36:6,
7; Daniel 1:1, 2) Three years later Jehoiakim revolted; but, although during
the rest of his reign his territory was frequently overrun by "bands of
the Chaldees," five years elapsed before the armies of Babylon returned
to enforce the conquest of Judea.
Jehoiachin, a youth of eighteen years, who had just succeeded
to the throne, at once surrendered with his family and retinue, (2 Kings
24:12) and once more Jerusalem lay at the mercy of Nebuchadnezzar. On his
first invasion he had proved magnanimous and lenient, but he had now not
merely to assert supremacy but to punish rebellion. Accordingly he ransacked
the city for everything of value, and "carried away all Jerusalem," leaving
none behind "save the poorest sort of the people of the land." (2 Kings
6. Berosus avers that this expedition was in Nabopolassar's
lifetime (Jos., Apion, 1. 19), and the chronology proves it.
See App. I.
as to the dates of these events and the chronology of the period.
7. 2 Kings 24:1, 2. According to Josephus (Ant., 10. 6, Ch. 3)
Nebuchadnezzar on his second invasion found Jehoiakim still on the throne,
and he it was who put him to death and made Jehoiachin king. He goes
on to say that the king of Babylon soon afterwards became suspicious
of Jehoiachin's fidelity, and again returned to dethrone him, and placed
Zedekiah on the throne. These statements, though not absolutely inconsistent
with 2 Kings 24, are rendered somewhat improbable by comparison with
it. They are adopted by Canon Rawlinson in the Five Great Monarchies
(vol. 3, p. 491), but Dr. Pusey adheres to the Scripture narrative
(Daniel, p. 403).
Jehoiachin's uncle Zedekiah was left as king or governor of the despoiled
and depopulated city, having sworn by Jehovah to pay allegiance to his Suzerain.
This was "King Jehoiachin's captivity," according to the era of the prophet
Ezekiel, who was himself among the captives. (Ezekiel 1:2)
The servitude to Babylon had been predicted as early as the days of Hezekiah;
(2 Kings 20:17) and after the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy respecting
it, Jeremiah was charged with a Divine message of hope to the captivity,
that after seventy years were accomplished they would be restored to their
land. (Jeremiah 29:10) But while the exiles were thus cheered with promises
of good, King Zedekiah and "the residue of Jerusalem that remained in the
land" were warned that resistance to the Divine decree which subjected them
to the yoke of Babylon would bring on them judgments far more terrible than
any they had known. Nebuchadnezzar would return to "destroy them utterly,"
and make their whole land "a desolation and an astonishment." (Jeremiah
24:8-10; 25:9; 27:3-8) False prophets rose up, however, to feed the national
vanity by predicting the speedy restoration of their independence, (Jeremiah
28:1-4) and in spite of the solemn and repeated warnings and entreaties
of Jeremiah, the weak and wicked king was deceived by their testimony, and
having obtained a promise of armed support from Egypt, (Ezekiel 17:15) he
Thereupon the Chaldean armies once more surrounded Jerusalem. Events seemed
at first to justify Zedekiah's conduct, for the Egyptian forces hastened
to his assistance, and the Babylonians were compelled to raise the siege
and withdraw from Judea. (Jeremiah 37:1, 5, 11) But this temporary success
of the Jews served only to exasperate the King of Babylon, and to make their
fate more terrible when at last it overtook them. Nebuchadnezzar determined
to inflict a signal chastisement on the rebellious city and people; and
placing himself at the head of all the forces of his empire, (2 Kings 25:1;
Jeremiah 34:1) he once more invaded Judea and laid siege to the Holy City.
The Jews resisted with the blind fanaticism which a false hope inspires;
and it is a signal proof of the natural strength of ancient Jerusalem, that
for eighteen months (2 Kings 25:1-3) they kept their enemy at bay, and yielded
at last to famine and not to force. The place was then given up to fire
and sword. Nebuchadnezzar "slew their young men with the sword in the house
of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old
man, or him that stooped for age; he gave them all into his hand. And all
the vessels of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the
house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king and of his princes, all
these he brought to Babylon. And they burnt the house of God, and brake
down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire,
and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof. And them that had escaped
from the sword carried he away to Babylon, where they were servants to him
and his sons, until the reign of the kingdom of Persia: to fulfill the word
of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah." (2 Chronicles 36:17-21)
As He had borne with their fathers for forty years in the wilderness, so
for forty years this last judgment lingered, "because He had compassion
on His people and on His dwelling place." (2 Chronicles 36:15) For forty
years the prophet's voice had not been silent in Jerusalem; "but they mocked
the messengers of God, and despised His words, and misused His prophets,
until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no
Such is the sacred chronicler's description of the first
destruction of Jerusalem, rivaled in later times by the horrors of that
event under the effects of which it still lies prostrate, and destined to
be surpassed in days still to come, when the predictions of Judah's supreme
catastrophe shall be fulfilled.
8. 2 Chronicles 5:16. This period is no doubt the forty
years of Judah's sin, specified in Ezekiel 4:6. Jeremiah prophesied
from the thirteenth year of Josiah (B. C. 627) until the fall of Jerusalem
in the eleventh year of Zedekiah (B. C. 587). See Jeremiah 1:3, and
25:3. The 390 years of Israel's sin, according to Ezekiel 4:5, appear
to have been reckoned from the date of the covenant of blessing to the
ten tribes, made by the prophet Ahijah with Jeroboam, presumably in
the second year before the disruption, i. e., B. C. 977 (1 Kings
9. The horrors of the siege and capture of Jerusalem
by Titus surpass everything which history records of similar events.
Josephus, who was himself a witness of them, narrates them in all their
awful details. His estimate of the number of Jews who perished in Jerusalem
is 1, 100, 000. "The blood runs cold, and the heart sickens, at these
unexampled horrors; and we take refuge in a kind of desperate hope that
they have been exaggerated by the historian." "Jerusalem might almost
seem to be a place under a peculiar curse; it has probably witnessed
a far greater portion of human misery than any other spot upon the earth."
--MILMAN, Hist. Jews.