Daniel 2:38
And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold.
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2:31-45 This image represented the kingdoms of the earth, that should successively rule the nations, and influence the affairs of the Jewish church. 1. The head of gold signified the Chaldean empire, then in being. 2. The breast and arms of silver signified the empire of the Medes and Persians. 3. The belly and thighs of brass signified the Grecian empire, founded by Alexander. 4. The legs and feet of iron signified the Roman empire. The Roman empire branched into ten kingdoms, as the toes of these feet. Some were weak as clay, others strong as iron. Endeavours have often been used to unite them, for strengthening the empire, but in vain. The stone cut out without hands, represented the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, which should be set up in the kingdoms of the world, upon the ruins of Satan's kingdom in them. This was the Stone which the builders refused, because it was not cut out by their hands, but it is become the head stone of the corner. Of the increase of Christ's government and peace there shall be no end. The Lord shall reign, not only to the end of time, but when time and days shall be no more. As far as events have gone, the fulfilling this prophetic vision has been most exact and undeniable; future ages shall witness this Stone destroying the image, and filling the whole earth.And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field, and the fowls of the heavens, hath he given into thy hand - This is evidently general language, and is not to be pressed literally. It is designed to say that he ruled over the whole world; that is, the world as then known. This is common language applied in the Scriptures to the Babylonian, Persian, Grecian, and Roman kingdoms. Thus in Daniel 2:39, the third of these kingdoms, the Grecian, was to "bear rule over all the earth." Compare Daniel 8:5 : "And, as I was considering, behold, an he-goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth." So of the Roman empire, in Daniel 7:23 : "The fourth beast shall devour the whole earth." The declaration that his kingdom embraced the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air is a strong expression, meaning that he reigned over the whole world. A somewhat similar description of the extent of the empire of the king of Babylon occurs in Jeremiah 27:4-8 : "And command them to say unto their masters, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Thus shall ye say unto your masters; I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by my great power, and by my outstretched arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed meet unto me. And now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant; and the beasts of the field I have given him also to serve him. And all nations shall serve him, and his son, and his son's son, until the very time of his land come: and then many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of him. And it shall come to pass, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation will I punish, saith the Lord, with the sword, and with the famine, and with the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand."

At the time referred to by Daniel, the scepter of Nebuchadnezzar a extended over all these realms, and the world was, in fact, placed substantially under one head. "All the ancient Eastern histories," says Bishop Newton, "almost are lost; but there are some fragments even of pagan historians yet preserved, which speak of this mighty conqueror and his extended empire. Berosus, in Josephus (Contra Apion, c. i. Section 19), says that he held in subjection Egypt, Syria, Phoenicia, Arabia, and by his exploits surpassed all the Chaldeans and Babylonians who reigned before him. Strabo asserts that this king among the Chaldeans was more celebrated than Hercules; that he proceeded as far as to the pillars of Hercules, and led his army out of Spain into Thrace and Pontus. But his empire, though of great extent, was not of long duration, for it ended in his grandson Belshazzar, not seventy years after the delivery of this prophecy, nor above twenty-three years after the death of Nebuchadnezzar." - Newton on the "Prophecies," pp. 186, 187.

Thou art this head of gold - The head of gold seen in the image represents thee as the sovereign of a vast empire. Compared with the other monarchs who are to succeed thee, thou art like gold compared with silver, and brass, and iron; or, compared with thy kingdom, theirs shall be as silver, brass, and iron compared with gold. It was common, at an early period, to speak of different ages of the world as resembling different metals. Compare the notes at Daniel 2:31. In reference to the expression before us, "Thou art this head of gold," it should be observed, that it is not probably to be confined to the monarch himself, but is rather spoken of him as the head of the empire; as representing the state; as an impersonation of that dynasty. The meaning is, that the Babylonian empire, as it existed under him, in its relation to the kingdoms which should succeed, was like the head of gold seen in the image as compared with the inferior metals that made up the remaining portions of the image. Daniel, as an interpreter, did not state in what the resemblance consisted, nor in what respects his empire could be likened to gold as compared with those which should follow. In the scanty details which we now have of the life of that monarch, and of the events of his reign, it may not be possible to see as clearly as would be desirable in what that resemblance consisted, or the full propriety of the appellation given to him. So far as may now be seen, the resemblance appears to have been in the following things:

(I) In respect to the empire itself of which he was the sovereign, as standing at the head of the others - the first in the line. This was not indeed the first kingdom, but the design here was not to give an account of all the empires on earth, but to take the world "as it was then," and to trace the successive changes which would occur preparatory to the establishment of the kingdom which should finally spread over the earth. Viewed in reference to this design, it was undoubtedly proper to designate the empire of Babylon "as the head." It not only stood before them in the order of time, but in such a relation that the others might be regarded as in some sort its successors; that is, "they would succeed it in swaying a general scepter over the world." In this respect they would resemble also the Babylonian. At the time here referred to, the dominion over which Nebuchadnezzar swayed his scepter was at the head of the nations; was the central power of the Pagan world; was the only empire that could claim to be universal. For a long period the kingdom of Babylon had been dependent on that of Assyria; and while Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian empire, Babylon was the head of a kingdom, in general subordinate to that of Assyria, until Nabopolassar, the immediate predecessor of Nebuchadnezzar, rendered the kingdom of Babylon independent of the Assyrians, and transferred the seat of empire to Babylon. This was about the year 626 before the Christian era. See "Universal History," vol. iii. pp. 412-415. Nebuchadnezzar, receiving this mighty kingdom, had carried his own arms to distant lands; had conquered India, Tyre, and Egypt; and, as would appear, all Northern Africa, as far as the pillars of Hercules, and, with quite unimportant exceptions, all the known world was subject to him.

(II) The appellation "head of gold" may have been given him on account of the splendor of his capital, and the magnificence of his court. In Isaiah 14:4, Babylon is called "the golden city." See the note at that place. In Isaiah 13:19, it is called "the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency." In Isaiah 47:5, it is called "the lady of kingdoms." In Jeremiah 51:13, it is spoken of as "abundant in treasures," and in Jeremiah 51:41, as "the praise of the whole earth." So in profane writers, Babylon has similar appellations. Thus, in Aesch. Per. 51, mention is made of Βαβυλὼν η ̓ πολύχρυσος Babulōn hē poluchrusos - "Babylon abounding in gold." The conquests of Nebuchadnezzar enabled him to bring to his capital the spoils of nations, and to enrich his capital above any other city on the earth. Accordingly, he gave himself to the work of adorning a city that should be worthy to be the head of universal empire, and succeeded in making it so splendid as to be regarded as one of the wonders of the world. His great work in adorning and strengthening his capital consisted, first, of the building of the immense walls of the city; second, of the tower of Belus; and third, of the hanging gardens. For a full description of these, see Prideaux's "Connections," vol. i. p. 232, following.

(III) The appellation may have been given him by comparison with the kingdoms which were to succeed him. In some respects - in extent and power - some one or more of them, as the Roman, might surpass his; but the appellation which was appropriate to them was not gold, but they would be best denoted by the inferior metals. Thus the Medo-Persian kingdom was less splendid than that of Babylon, and would be better represented by silver; the Macedonian, though more distinguished by its conquests, was less magnificent, and would be better represented by brass; and the Roman, though ultimately still more extensive in its conquests, and still more mighty in power, was less remarkable for splendor than strength, and would be better represented by iron. In magnificence, if not in power, the Babylonian surpassed them all; and hence, the propriety of the appellation, "head of gold."

(IV) It is possible that in this appellation there then may have been some reference to the character of the monarch himself. In Jeremiah 27:6, he is spoken of as the "servant of God," and it is clear that it was designed that a splendid mission was to be accomplished by him as under the Divine control, and in the preparation of the world for the coming of the Messiah. Though he was proud and haughty as a monarch, yet his own personal character would compare favorably with that of many who succeeded him in these advancing kingdoms. Though his conquests were numerous, yet his career as a conqueror was not marked with cruelty, like that of many other warriors. He was not a mere conqueror. He loved also the arts of peace. He sought to embellish his capital, and to make it in outward magnificence and in the talent which he concentrated there, truly the capital of the world. Even Jerusalem he did not utterly destroy; but having secured a conquest over it, and removed from it what he desired should embellish his own capital, he still intended that it should be the subordinate head of an important province of his dominions, and placed on the throne one who was closely allied to the king who reigned there when he took the city.

But the appellation here, and the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, are to be contemplated chiefly, like the kingdoms that succeeded, in their relation to redemption. It is in this aspect that the study of history becomes most interesting to a mind that regards all events as embraced in the eternal counsels of God, and it is undoubtedly with reference to this that the history of these kingdoms becomes in any way introduced into the inspired writings. All history may be contemplated under two aspects: in its secular bearing; and in its relation to the redemption of the world. In the former aspect, it has great and important uses. As furnishing lessons to statesmen; as showing the progress of society; as illustrating the effects of vice and immorality, and the evils of anarchy, ambition, and war; as recording and preserving the inventions in the arts, and as showing what are the best methods of civil government, and what conduces most to the happiness of a people, its value cannot well be overestimated.

But it is in its relations to the work of redeeming man that it acquires its chief value, and hence, the sacred volume is so much occupied with the histories of early nations. The rise and fall of every nation; the conquests and defeats which have occurred in past times, may all have had, and perhaps may yet be seen to have had, an important connection with the redemption of man - as being designed to put the world in a proper position for the coming of the Prince of Peace, or in some way to prepare the way for the final triumph of the gospel. This view gives a new and important aspect to history. It becomes an object in which all on earth who love the race and desire its redemption, and all in heaven, feel a deep concern. Every monarch; every warrior; every statesman; every man who, by his eloquence, bravery, or virtue, has contributed anything to the progress of the race, or who has in any way played an important part in the progress of the world's affairs, becomes a being on whom we can look with intense emotion; and in reference to every man of this character, it would be an interesting inquiry what he has done that has contributed to prepare the way for the introduction of the Mediatorial scheme, or to facilitate its progress through the world. In reference to this point, the monarch whose character is now before us seems to have been raised up, under an overruling Providence, to accomplish the following things:

(1) To inflict "punishment" on the revolted people of God for their numerous idolatries. See the book of Jeremiah, "passim." Hence, he led his armies to the land of Palestine; he swept away the people, and bore them into captivity; he burned the temple, destroyed the capital, and laid the land waste.

(2) He was the instrument, in the hand of God, of effectually purifying the Jewish nation from the sin of idolatry. It was for that sin eminently that they were carried away; and never in this world have the ends of punishment been better secured than in this instance. The chastisement was effectual. The Jewish nation has never since sunk into idolatry. If there have been individuals of that nation - of which, however, there is no certain evidence - who have become idolaters, yet as a people they have been preserved from it. More than two thousand five hundred years have since passed away; they have been wanderers and exiles in all lands; they have been persecuted, ridiculed, and oppressed on account of their religion; they have been placed under every possible inducement to conform to the religion around them, and yet, as professed worshippers of Jehovah, the God of their fathers, they have maintained their integrity, and neither promises nor threatenings, neither hopes nor fears, neither life nor death, have been sufficient to constrain the Hebrew people to bow the knee to an idol god.

(3) another object that seems to have been designed to be accomplished by Nebuchadnezzar in relation to Redemption was to gather the nations under one head preparatory to the coming of the Messiah. It will be seen in the remarks which will be made on the relation of the Roman empire to this work (see the notes at Daniel 2:40-43), that there were important reasons why this should be done. Preparatory to that, a succession of such kingdoms each swayed the scepter over the whole world, and when the Messiah came, the way was prepared for the easy and rapid propagation of the new religion to the remotest parts of the earth.

38. men … beasts … fowls—the dominion originally designed for man (Ge 1:28; 2:19, 20), forfeited by sin; temporarily delegated to Nebuchadnezzar and the world powers; but, as they abuse the trust for self, instead of for God, to be taken from them by the Son of man, who will exercise it for God, restoring in His person to man the lost inheritance (Ps 8:4-6).

Thou art … head of gold—alluding to the riches of Babylon, hence called "the golden city" (Isa 14:4; Jer 51:7; Re 18:16).

Hath made thee ruler over them all, i.e. hath given thee absolute dominion of all creatures, men and beasts, within the bounds of thy vast kingdom, to hunt, catch, or kill far thy use and pleasure. God as Lord paramount allows thee, his vassal and tenant at will, all this. This was not universal over all the world, but only within his large territories, which yet were bounded.

Thou art this head of gold.

1. Why head? Because he was first in order, as the head is before the other parts, and the vision began in him, and descended downwards to the other three monarchies.

2. Why head of gold? Because of the vast riches wherein it abounded, and which the Chaldeans most coveted, and scraped from the spoils and tributes of all countries, Isaiah 10:13,14 Jer 51:41,44. Also this is called the golden head, because it stood longest, five hundred years, and was fortunate and flourishing to the last.

And wheresoever the children of men dwell,.... Not in every part of the habitable world, but in every part of his large dominion inhabited by men:

the beasts of the field, and the fowls of the heaven, hath he given into thine hand; all parks, chases, and forests (so that none might hunt or hawk without his permission), as well as the persons and habitations of men, were at his dispose; showing the despotic power and sovereign sway he had over his subjects:

and hath made thee ruler over all: men, beasts, and fowl: he not only conquered the Egyptians, Tyrians, and Jews, and other nations about them; but, according to Megasthenes (l) he exceeded Hercules in strength, and conquered Lybia and Iberia, and carried colonies of them into Pontus; and, as Strabo (m) says, carried his arms as far as the pillars of Hercules:

thou art this head of gold; or who was represented by the golden head of the image he had seen in his dream; not he personally only, but his successors Evilmerodach and Belshazzar, and the Babylonish monarchy, as possessed by them; for this refers not back to the Assyrian monarchy, from the time of Nimrod, but to its more flourishing condition in Nebuchadnezzar and his sons; called a "head", because the first of the monarchies; and golden, in comparison of other kingdoms then in being, and because of the riches of it, which the Babylonians were covetous of; hence Babylon is called the golden city, Isaiah 14:4 and it may be, because not so wicked and cruel to the Jews as the later monarchies were: from hence the poets have been thought by some to have taken their notion of the golden, silver, and iron ages, as growing worse and worse; but this distinction is observed by Hesiod, who lived many years before this vision was seen.

(l) Apud Euseb. Prepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 41. p. 456. (m) Geograp. I. 15. p. 472.

And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art {r} this head of gold.

(r) Daniel leaves out the kingdom of the Assyrians, which was before the Babylonian, both because it was not a monarchy and general empire, and also because he would declare the things that were to come, until the coming of Christ, for the comfort of the elect among these wonderful alterations. And he calls the Babylonian kingdom the golden head, because in respect of the other three, it was the best, and yet it was of itself wicked and cruel.

38. the beasts of the field] i.e. wild animals (cf. in Heb. e.g. Exodus 23:11; Exodus 23:29). These and the birds are mentioned in order to represent Nebuchadnezzar’s rule as being as absolute as possible; the former are borrowed, no doubt, from Jeremiah 27:6; Jeremiah 28:14.

art this] art the. The pronoun in the Aramaic has here no demonstrative force; see Kautzsch, Gramm. des Bibl. Aram., § 87. 3. The four parts of the image symbolize four kingdoms; but Nebuchadnezzar, both in reality and in the memory of posterity, so eclipsed all other rulers of the first monarchy, that he is identified with it as a whole.

Verse 38. - And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and bath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold. The Septuagint, if we take along with this verse the final clause of the preceding verse, has even more of that look of exaggeration which we can scarcely fail to be conscious of in the Massoretic, "In all the earth inhabited by men, and wild beasts, and birds of the heaven, and fish of the sea, be delivered (all things) into thy hand to rule over all" The addition to the realm of Nebuchadnezzar of the dwelling-place of the fish of the sea is readily observed. Theodotion has the same addition, "In every place where the sons of men dwell, he gave into thy hand beasts of the earth, birds of the air, fishes of the sea, and appointed thee lord of all." One cannot but observe not only the presence of "the fishes," but also the fact that only the lower animals are given into his power. It may be that here, as in the LXX., the object is to render with slavish exactness the original - unobservant of the fact that the construction was irregular. Behrmann thinks the author had before his mind השׁלטך (hashaltak), "has made thee ruler," and then changed the construction. Something might be said for Moses Stuart's view that כָּל־דִידָארִין should be translated" wherever," it' there were any similar construction to be found. The rendering of the Peshitta agrees with the sense of Moses Stuart, "Every place where the sons of men dwell, the bird of heaven, or the beast of the field, he hath given into thy band, and caused thee to rule over all of them." The change of order is to be noted. The Vulgate agrees with the Massoretic. The word for "dwelling" is an older form דארין (dareen), instead of the more recent form, which is that read דירין (dayreen). This copious insertion of the א is an Eastern peculiarity. This assertion of Daniel must seem exaggerated to us, but we must remember the courtly form of address that was usual in Oriental courts, and that Nebuchadnezzar in all likelihood claimed this breadth of empire; so Daniel, in order to make way for the assertion he had already made of the king's dependence on One higher, gives him everything he claims. The addition of the sea to his dominion, although in it Theodotion supports the LXX., is due to a mistaken idea of the point of Daniel's statements. He adds, Thou art this head of gold. This is not, as Hitzig asserts, Nebuchadnezzar personally, but to him as the type of the Babylonianmonarch. This was but natural, as of the duration of this monarchy his independent reign extended to the half. Before his advent as "king's son," the Babylonian Empire had to endure the assault of Egypt, and had to struggle for existence against it. With his ado, at began its glory, with his disappearance began at once its decadence. Only under Nebuchadnezzar was Babylon really imperial. The short reigns of his successors are proofs of an insufficient hand upon the reins. With all the tyrannical moods to which be was subject, and all the wild whirlwinds of passion which were liable to carry him away, Nebuchadnezzar, as presented to us here, was a splendid man - utterly unlike Epiphanes, we may remark in passing, with his low tastes and his cringing submission to Rome. His brilliance was that of Alcibiades; he had nothing of the dignity implied in the head of gold. Nebuchadnezzar had secured the love of this captive, as we see by the sorrow with which Daniel communicated to him his approaching madness. There is thus a reasonableness in making him, in especial, the head of gold. Daniel 2:38The interpretation begins with the golden head. מלכיּא מלך, the usual title of the monarchs of the Oriental world-kingdoms (vid., Ezekiel 26:7), is not the predicate to אנתּה, but stands in apposition to מלכּא. The following relative passages, Daniel 2:37 and Daniel 2:38, are only further explications of the address King of Kings, in which אנתּה is again taken up to bring back the predicate. בּכל־דּי, wherever, everywhere. As to the form דּארין, see the remarks under קאמין at Daniel 3:3. The description of Nebuchadnezzar's dominion over men, beasts, and birds, is formed after the words of Jeremiah 27:6 and Jeremiah 28:14; the mention of the breasts serves only for the strengthening of the thought that his dominion was that of a world-kingdom, and that God had subjected all things to him. Nebuchadnezzar' dominion did not, it is true, extend over the whole earth, but perhaps over the whole civilised world of Asia, over all the historical nations of his time; and in this sense it was a world-kingdom, and as such, "the prototype and pattern, the beginning and primary representative of all world-powers" (Klief.). ראשׁה, stat. emphat. for ראשׁא; the reading ראשׁהּ defended by Hitz. is senseless. If Daniel called him (Nebuchadnezzar) the golden head, the designation cannot refer to his person, but to the world-kingdom founded by him and represented in his person, having all things placed under his sway by God. Hitzig's idea, that Nebuchadnezzar is the golden head as distinguished from his successors in the Babylonian kingdom, is opposed by Daniel 2:39, where it is said that after him (not another king, but) "another kingdom" would arise. That "Daniel, in the words, 'Thou art the golden head,' speaks of the Babylonian kingdom as of Nebuchadnezzar personally, while on the contrary he speaks of the other world-kingdoms impersonally only as of kingdoms, has its foundation in this, that the Babylonian kingdom personified in Nebuchadnezzar stood before him, and therefore could be addressed by the word thou, while the other kingdoms could not" (Klief.).
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