|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
2:14-23 Daniel humbly prayed that God would discover to him the king's dream, and the meaning of it. Praying friends are valuable friends; and it well becomes the greatest and best men to desire the prayers of others. Let us show that we value our friends, and their prayers. They were particular in prayer. And whatever we pray for, we can expect nothing but as the gift of God's mercies. God gives us leave in prayer to tell our wants and burdens. Their plea with God was, the peril they were in. The mercy Daniel and his fellows prayed for, was bestowed. The fervent prayers of righteous men avail much. Daniel was thankful to God for making known that to him, which saved the lives of himself and his fellows. How much more should we be thankful to God, for making known the great salvation of the soul to those who are not among the worldly wise and prudent!
Verse 18. - That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. The Septuagint has as close a connection between the preceding verse and that before us as has the Massoretie, only it is slightly different in its rendering, "And he told them to fast and pray [urged them to fasting and prayer], and to seek help from the Lord the Highest, concerning this mystery, in order that Daniel with his companions might not be given over to destruction with the wise men of Babylon." It is, certainly, possible that the Septuagint translator had a different reading here. The verb צוּם, "to fast," in the infinitive, might have begun the verse. Still there would be the difficulty of finding anything to correspond to παρήγγειλε. It, however, was probably added to bring the sentence into Greek regimen. The Septuagint translator read the words as nouns in the accusative, and of this case לְ was a frequent sign. Thus what they had was וּלְבָעוּ לְצומָא. The Hebrew word corresponding to the Aramaic word here translated "mercies," רַחֲמִין (rahamin), "bowels," "mercies," is common enough in Biblical language; but the phrase, "to desire mercies," is not found elsewhere in Scripture. It occurs in the later Targums, as Numbers 12:13, as a paraphrastic addition to the simple statement of Onkelos, that Moses prayed before the Lord; only in the case quoted, as generally, the order is not, as here, the object before the verb - a construction more frequent in Assyrian than in Aramaic, save in poetry. The phrase is elliptical; the ruling verb is omitted. One is tempted to wonder whether the word had not originally been לבעון, making it a case of the Babylonian or Eastern Aramaic, third person plural imperfect; then the preceding word would be לצומון, with the vav dropped as unnecessary, and the mere inserted to make the word a regular infinitive. Confirmatory of our view is Theodotion, whose rendering, ἐζήτουν, implies that he had a third person plural imperfect here. We do not maintain that it is necessary that he should have had such a reading, but there is at least a high probability that he had. The Peshitta reverses the order of the words, and omits the conjunction vav, and, inserting the relative ל, as sign of subordination, proceeds, "that they entreat mercies from before God." Here, also, the third person plural imperfect is used. From the greater freedom that Jerome allowed himself in his translation, and from the wide difference between the grammatical construction of a Latin and an Aramaic sentence, no stress can be laid on the fact that he too translates by the third plural imperfect - ut quaerrent misericordiam. The balance of probability is that here we have to do with one of those indications of the Eastern origin of the Aramaic of Daniel. There is an instance of doublet in the LXX. here in the case of the phrase, τιμωρίαν ζητῆσαι, "to seek succour." Tertullian, in his reference to this passage, to which we have referred above (ver. 16), adds to what we quoted above, cum sua fraternitate jejunat, and thus shows that, though differing somewhat from the Septuagint text as we have it, the African Latin Version agreed with it in inserting something about "fasting" here. The God of heaven. This is rendered by the Septuagint here, as generally, ὕψιστος The probability here is that we have to do with no difference of reading, but rather with an objection to applying to God a title used for heathen deities. The title has a peculiar significance in the lips of those who, as Daniel, were educated as astrologers, and taught by those who regarded the sun, the moon, and the various planets as deities. Daniel and his fellows might thus believe in astrology, but maintain that the God of heaven, their God, used heavenly bodies as messengers to proclaim to those who could read the writing, the things that were coming on the earth. They might thus even give a certain limited subordinate power to the deities of Babylon; these deities were the servants of the God of heaven, who was also the God of Israel. There may be a reference to Jeremiah 10:11. The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens. The God of Israel is called the God of heaven because he has made the heavens. This title is used before - in Genesis 24:7, where Abraham uses it. It is characteristic of Biblical Aramaic, that the covenant title of God, "Jehovah," is never used, Before we leave this, we would observe that the Peshitta inserts ל, d, the sign of the genitive, before shemayyaa, whereas the text before us uses the older form of construct state in the word for "God." Concerning this secret. A parallel passage illustrative of this is Amos 3:7, "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets; "also Deuteronomy 29:29, "Secret things belong unto the Lord our God." Whatever was about to happen, Daniel and his friends knew it could only happen according to the purpose and plan of God. He, as he was the real actor, knew what he was about to do, and whatever revelation of that future had been given to Nebuchadnezzar in his dream, it must have come from the God of heaven; therefore to him do Daniel and his friends make their entreaty. Professor Bevan declares רַז (raz) to be a Persian word. Neither Winer, Furst, nor Gesenius recognizes it to be such. Granted that it is Persian, is it not a possible supposition that it is derived from the Aramaic; not that the Aramaic word is derived from the Persian? Even on the supposition that this word was derived from the Persian, this is not extraordinary, when we learn the intimate relationship between the Median court and the Babylonian. That Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. Does this mean that certain of the wise men had already perished? It seems almost necessary to maintain this from the meaning of שְׁאָר (shear), "remnant." It seems at first scarcely natural to take this word as meaning merely "the other," yet the usage in Ezra is in accordance with this: Ezra 4:9, "Rehum the chancellor and Shimshai the scribe, and the rest (וְּשאָר) of their companions." A further question may be raised - Does this prayer mean that the desire of Daniel and his friends was that, when the wise men of Babylon, under whose superintendence they had been taught, were slain, they should escape? Or does it mean that they prayed that "they with the wise men of Babylon should not be destroyed"? This wholly depends on the meaning to be attached to the word עִם ('im), "with." As in English, this word admits of both meanings. As the word is common to Hebrew and Aramaic, we shall take our examples from Hebrew. Thus Genesis 18:24, "That be far from thee, Lord, to slay the righteous with the wicked." As example of the other use of the word, Genesis 32:6, "Esau and four hundred men with him." Usage thus permits us to regard this prayer as intercessory, that these Hebrew youths prayed not only to be preserved themselves, but also that all the other wise men who shared their condemnation should also be preserved. This is the first record of concerted prayer. Of course, in heathen worship there was the caricature of this concert of prayer in the united shouting of the priests, say, of Baal. This is the earliest instance of that practice that has received such a gracious promise from our Lord (Matthew 18:19), "If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven." We would not maintain, even in appearance, that multitude adds to efficacy with God. But when two or three are gathered together, there is an infection of earnestness, a community of enthusiasm generated, that makes each individual fitter to receive the answer. Yet, again, the more that join in a petition, the more it must be raised out of the grovelling region of selfishness. A man who has a purely selfish desire rising in his heart cannot ask his fellows to join him in supplicating God to grant his request.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret,.... His view in sending for them, and informing them of this whole affair, was to engage them in prayer to God with him; even to that God that made the heaven, and dwells there, and is above all, and sees and knows what is done in earth, and rules both in heaven and in earth according to his will; to entreat his mercy, whose mercies are manifold, and not plead any merits of their own; and that he would, in compassion to them, and the lives of others that were in danger, make known this secret of the king's dream, and the interpretation of it; which could never be found out by the sagacity of men, or by any art they are masters of: this Daniel requested of them, as knowing that it was their duty and interest, as well as his, to unite in prayer unto God on this account, and that the joint and fervent prayer of righteous men avails much with him:
that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon; which they were in danger of: this was the mercy they were to implore, being in distress, and this the interest they had in this affair; a strong argument to induce them to it.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
18. An illustration of the power of united prayer (Mt 18:19). The same instrumentality rescued Peter from his peril (Ac 12:5-12).
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