|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
2:1-13 The greatest men are most open to cares and troubles of mind, which disturb their repose in the night, while the sleep of the labouring man is sweet and sound. We know not the uneasiness of many who live in great pomp, and, as others vainly think, in pleasure also. The king said that his learned men must tell him the dream itself, or they should all be put to death as deceivers. Men are more eager to ask as to future events, than to learn the way of salvation or the path of duty; yet foreknowledge of future events increases anxiety and trouble. Those who deceived, by pretending to do what they could not do, were sentenced to death, for not being able to do what they did not pretend to.
Verses 1-49. - DANIEL FIRST BECOMES DISTINGUISHED. Verse 1. - And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him. The versions only differ verbally from the Massoretic text as represented by the above. The Septuagint renders "And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, he chanced to fall into dreams and visions, and to be troubled with his vision, and his sleep went from him." The differences here that may evidence a difference of text are slight. Theodotion and the Peshitta are very close to the Massoretic. The Vulgate renders, "In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar saw a vision, and his spirit was troubled, and his vision (somnium) fled from him." If this is the true text of the Vulgate - and it is pre-Clementine - the variation seems too great for paraphrase, and yet it is an unlikely lectional variation. It is easier to imagine the change taking place in the Latin, somnus becoming somnium, especially if the final m was represented, as so often in Latin manuscripts, by a line over the preceding vowel. And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. This forms one of the chronological difficulties in the interpretation of Daniel. There seems to be a contradiction between the statement in this verse and the chronological data afforded us by the preceding chapter. If Nebuchadnezzar was already king when he placed Daniel and his three companions in the hands of "Ashpeuaz" and assigned them three years of study, then as the three years are by implication ended when the examination took place (Daniel 1:18, 19), the events narrated in this chapter must be dated not earlier than the third year of Nebuchadnezzar. Most commentators recognize this as a difficulty, the explaining of which is incumbent on them, whatever their views as to the date or authenticity of the book as a whole may be. A really great writer - and that title cannot be denied to the author of "Daniel," if the book be a fiction - could never fall into such a glaring self-contradiction. We do not deny that even very great writers have been guilty of chronological self-contradictions; but these contradictions were such as were not obvious. The only commentator who does not feel it incumbent on him, having noticed the difficulty, to give some hint of a possible solution, is Professor Bevan. From the obviousness of the discrepancy, we must assume that it was known to the writer, and from this we must further assume that the discrepancy was regarded by him as a merely apparent one, the explanation of which was so obvious at the time he wrote that it was needless to state it. In making this statement, we refer to the original documents from which our present Daniel was compiled. Another hypothesis certainly is possible - that there is a false reading here. Ewald has suggested the twelfth year, which implies that the word עְֶשרֵה (esreh) has been omitted. The main difficulty is that there is no sign that there is any difference of reading. If we are to correct the reading, we must go behind the present book to those documents from which it has been formed. If this portion of Daniel is a translation and a condensation of an Aramaic text, then תַרְתִין (tar'teen) is "two," but "three" would be תְלָת (t'lath). When the ל loses from any cause its upper part, it becomes little distinguishable from n; this renders it not impossible that in the original Aramaic narrative the events in this chapter were dated "the third year of Nebuchadnezzar," not "the second." This explanation does not apply to the older form of script as seen in Sindschirli or in Egypt. There have been various other ways of getting over the difficulty. One device, that of Josephus ('Antiq.,' 10:10. 3), maintained also by Jephet-ibn-Ali, is to date the reign from the conquest of Egypt, when Daniel is supposed to reckon that Nebuchadnezzar began to reign over the world. The conquest of Egypt, by means of certain recondite interpretations of Scripture, Jephet dates in the thirtieth year of Nebuchadnezzar; the date of this chapter, then, according to him, is the thirty-second year of Nebuchadnezzar. Rashi explains this date by referring it to the destruction of the temple. There is, however, nothing to indicate that any of these dates was ever reckoned of importance in Babylonian chronology. And, however important the destruction of the temple was to the Jews, few of them, even at the latest date criticism assigns to Daniel, would have the hardihood to date a monarch's reign from this. Another solution is that the second year is reckoned from the time when these Jewish captives stood before the king. This would have implied a different reading, but, as we have said, so far as this clause is concerned, there is no variation. Another suggestion may be made, viz. that this appearance of Daniel before the king is the same as that mentioned in the previous chapter (Daniel 1:18-20). This is Wieseler's hypothesis. As a reign was not reckoned from the date of accession, but from the beginning of the year following, Nebuchadnezzar's second year might well be the third year of the training of those Hebrew captives. The occasion of their appearance before the king may not have been that he took thought on the matter - a view which, though that of the Massoretic text, is not supported by the LXX. - but may have been caused by this disquieting dream. On the supposition which we have suggested, that in ch. 1. we have a condensed version from an Aramaic original, this solution is plausible. The main difficulty, that the quiet communing implied in the nineteenth verse does not suit the fury of the king and the threatened death of the wise men, cannot be pressed, as the communing might follow the interpretation. It may seem to some better to maintain that the incidents of this chapter occurred some little time after Daniel and his three companions were admitted to the royal council. The band of captives and hostages, with the mass of the Babylonian army, arrived at Babylon, according to Berosus, some time after Nebuchadnezzar himself, who had hurried across the desert; still, a month would probably be the utmost of the difference. There might, therefore, be many months to run before the first year of Nebuchadnezzar actually began, when these captives were placed under the charge of the Melzar; so that if our suggestion of a various reading of "third" instead of "second" be accepted, the years would be over while the "third" year of Nebuchadnezzar was still proceeding. However, although many prisoners and hostages may have been sent along with the main army, after Nebuchadnezzar ]earned of the death of his father, many may have been sent earlier, and among these Daniel. The main difficulty is to imagine the orders of Nebuchadnezzar, while merely crown prince, being carried out with such exactness, or that he should be spoken of as "my lord the king" (Daniel 1:10). But their training must have begun during the lifetime of Nabopolassar, if the three years were completed while the see(rod year of Nebuchadnezzar was still to finish. If we reject both these solutions, we are shut up to the idea that there is something amiss with the reading - always a thing to be deprecated - and the simplest emendation is to imagine that the "third" has been misread "second." This, as we have shown, would be easy in Aramaic. On the assumption that the text before us is a translation and condensation of an Aramaic text, it is easy to understand how all derivative texts followed its initial mistake. There is a certain importance here due to the copula "and:" "And in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar." When any cue attempts to read this verse in connection with the last verse of the first chapter, it at once becomes clear that the twenty-first verse of ch. 1. is an interpolation. It is probable that the condensation, which was likely to be considerable in the first chapter, becomes less so now, before passing from the one portion to the other; hence either the translator or some other added the note which is contained in Daniel 1:21. Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams. The Greek versions and the Syriac of Paulus Tellensis omit the name "Nebuchadnezzar," either as nominative or as genitive. The Peshitta follows the order of the Massoretic text. The omission does not alter the sense; possibly the proper names thus came in close juxtaposition in the Massoretic in consequence of an endeavour to condense by omission, without making any further change. It would seem that the LXX. had read נִקְרָא (niq'ra) instead of חלם (halam). The rendering is, "It happened (συνέβη) that the king fell into dreams and visions." This awkward sentence seems to be the result of a difficulty and consequent slavish following of the text before the translator; it is difficult to imagine what the reading could be which could be translated as it is in the Septuagint, and vet was not totally unlike the Massoretic text. "Dreams and visions" is the evident result of a coalescence of two renderings of חֲלמות (halomoth). It is to be observed that it is "dreams" that Nebuchadnezzar had, and yet only one "dream" is spoken cf. Kliefeth thinks this refers merely to the class, so that "dreamed dreams' is equivalent to "was dreaming." Agreeing with this is Havernick. Jephet-ibn-Ali take the plurality to refer to the contents of the dream - that it refers to the four world kingdoms and that of Israel (so Kranichfe;d and Keil); for a similar use of plural for singular, he refers to Genesis 37:8. Moses Stuart thinks that it is implied that the dream was repeated. It seems to be somewhat of a mannerism of Daniel to use plural for singular, as the "visions of the head" of ch. 4. Wherewith his spirit was troubled. The same phrase occurs in regard to Pharaoh (Genesis 41:8), when he had dreamed of the seven kine and seven ears of corn. The similarity of the thing to be stated might easily lead to a similarity of statement, without there being any necessary copying. If, as we believe, this portion of Daniel had an Aramaic original, the resemblance in language to Genesis proves very little. In this case also the reading of the Septuagint is different. Instead of רוּחו (ruho), "his spirit," the translators must have had בָחֲלום ἐν τῷ ἐνυπνίῳ; also instead of the feminine תִּתְפַיִם (tith'pa'em), the reading must have been יִתְפַעֶם (yith'pa'em). Though yod and tan are not readily confused, nun and tan in the older script are, and in Eastern Aramaic nun is the preformative of the third person imperfect, and a change may have been made in translating from the Aramaic. Professor Fuller, following Saadia, makes too much of the fact that, while in the present case the conjugation used is the hithpael, in Genesis it is niphal, since the niphal conjugation occurs in ver. 3. Kranichfeld holds that the "hithpael heightens the idea lying in the niphal." In Biblical Aramaic hithpael takes the place of the Hebrew niphal. And his sleep brake from him. While the meaning here is plain, the words are used in an unusual sense; the word here translated "brake from" is the passive of the verb "to be," in this precise sense only used here. The fact that the substantive verb in Eastern Aramaic has this significance (Nestle, 'Gram. Syr.,' 100) indicates that this is a case where the Syriac original shines through the translation. This is all the more obvious when we remember that in Eastern Aramaic נ (nun) was in the pre-formative. Analogous to this is the Latin use of the perfect of the substantive verb, e.g. funimus Troes; comp. Romans 6:17," God be thanked that ye were (η΅τε) the servants of sin." As we have said, the meaning of this verse is perfectly clear, and although there are differences of reading, there are none theft affect the sense. "In the second (or third) year of his reign, Nebuchaduezzar had a dream." To us in the West, living in the nineteenth century after Christ, it seems puerile to date so carefully a dream, of all things; but in the East, six hundred years before Christ, dreams had a very different importance from what they have now. In the history of Asshur-baui-pal dreams play a great part. Gyges submits to him in consequence of a dream In consequence of a dream Urdamane (Nut-mi-ammon) invades Egypt. Again and again is Asshur-bald-pal encouraged by dreams which appear to seers. It is ignorance of this that makes Hitzig declare, "The character of the king as here represented to us has no verisimilitude." Although Heredotus does make dreams prominent in his history, we could not imagine any of the diadochi recording and dating his dreams as does Asshur-bani-pal.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar,.... It was in the first year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign that Daniel was carried captive, Jeremiah 25:1, three years Daniel had been under tutors; at the end of which he was presented to the king, as is related in the preceding chapter; and yet the following dream was in the second of his reign: this creates a difficulty, which is solved by some thus: in the second year after the destruction of the temple, so the Jewish chronicle (o), with which Jarchi agrees; others, as Aben Ezra, in the second year of his monarchy, after he had subdued all the nations round about; and so Josephus says (p), it was in the second year after the destruction of the Egyptians. R. Moses the priest, in Aben Ezra, would have it to be the second year to his reign, to the end of it, when there were only two years wanting to it; a very unusual way of reckoning indeed! and therefore justly rejected by Aben Ezra: but all these dates are too late, since Daniel long before these times was well known, and in great fame for his wisdom; whereas, at this time, it does not appear that he was much known, or in great request: it is better either to render it, "in the second year", that is, after Daniel and his companions had been presented to the king, and promoted;
even in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, as opposed to the reign of Darius or Cyrus, in which he flourished also: or rather this was the second year of Nebuchadnezzar's reigning alone; for he had been taken into partnership in the throne with his father before his death, as Berosus (q) observes, which is said to be two years; so that this second year was the fourth year of his reign, reckoning from the time he reigned conjunctly with his father, though the second of his reigning alone: yet it seems best of all to render the words, with Noldius (r), but in the second year, in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar; that is, in the second year of Daniel's ministry in or under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar; who continued at court under different reigns, till the first of Cyrus: this was, according to Bishop Usher (s), and Mr. Whiston (t), in the year of the world 3401 A.M., and before Christ 603. Mr. Bedford (u) places it in 604:
Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams; which, though but one, yet, relating to various things, the several parts of the human body, and the different metals the form he saw was made of, as well as the four monarchies it signified, is called "dreams". Jacchiades says, he first dreamed the dream, and then the interpretation of it; which is the reason of the plural number: wherewith his spirit was troubled; it gave his mind a great deal of trouble while he was dreaming it; and when he awaked, though he could not recover it, yet he had some confused broken ideas of it; it had left some impressions upon him, which gave him great uneasiness, and the more as he could not recollect any part of it; his mind was agitated, and tossed to and fro, and under the greatest perplexity:
and his sleep brake from him; went away from him, through the strangeness of the dream, and the effect it had upon him.
(o) Seder Olam Rabba, c. 28. p. 80. (p) Antiqu. l. 10. c. 10. sect. 3.((q) Apud Joseph. contr. Apion. l. 1. c. 19. (r) Concord. Ebr. Part. p. 452. No. 1405. (s) Annales Vet. Test. A. M. 3401. (t) Chronological Tables, cent. 9. (u) Scripture Chronology, p. 677.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Da 2:1-49. Nebuchadnezzar's Dream: Daniel's Interpretation of It, and Advancement.
1. second year of … Nebuchadnezzar—Da 1:5 shows that "three years" had elapsed since Nebuchadnezzar had taken Jerusalem. The solution of this difficulty is: Nebuchadnezzar first ruled as subordinate to his father Nabopolassar, to which time the first chapter refers (Da 1:1); whereas "the second year" in the second chapter is dated from his sole sovereignty. The very difficulty is a proof of genuineness; all was clear to the writer and the original readers from their knowledge of the circumstances, and so he adds no explanation. A forger would not introduce difficulties; the author did not then see any difficulty in the case. Nebuchadnezzar is called "king" (Da 1:1), by anticipation. Before he left Judea, he became actual king by the death of his father, and the Jews always called him "king," as commander of the invading army.
dreams—It is significant that not to Daniel, but to the then world ruler, Nebuchadnezzar, the dream is vouchsafed. It was from the first of its representatives who had conquered the theocracy, that the world power was to learn its doom, as about to be in its turn subdued, and for ever by the kingdom of God. As this vision opens, so that in the seventh chapter developing the same truth more fully, closes the first part. Nebuchadnezzar, as vicegerent of God (Da 2:37; compare Jer 25:9; Eze 28:12-15; Isa 44:28; 45:1; Ro 13:1), is honored with the revelation in the form of a dream, the appropriate form to one outside the kingdom of God. So in the cases of Abimelech, Pharaoh, &c. (Ge 20:3; 41:1-7), especially as the heathen attached such importance to dreams. Still it is not he, but an Israelite, who interprets it. Heathendom is passive, Israel active, in divine things, so that the glory redounds to "the God of heaven."
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