Daniel 2:4
Then spake the Chaldeans to the king in Syriack, O king, live for ever: tell thy servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation.
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(4) In Syriack.—Probably a fresh title, indicating to the copyist that the Chaldee portion of the book begins here. It has been conjectured that this portion of the book (Daniel 2:4-7) is a Chaldee translation of an original Hebrew work, but there is no authority for the conjecture. God is about to reveal facts connected with the Gentile world, and therefore a Gentile language is used as the vehicle of the revelation. (See 1Timothy 2:3-4; Matthew 2:1-2).

Live for ever.—For this common form of salutation, comp. Daniel 3:9; Daniel 5:10, &c.

Daniel 2:4. Then spake the Chaldeans to the king in Syriac — The ancient Chaldee and the Syrian language were the same: see Genesis 31:47; 2 Kings 18:26; Ezra 4:7. This language is found in its greatest purity in the books of Daniel and Ezra. The following part of the chapter, from this verse, is written in Chaldee, and so on to the end of the seventh chapter: the reason of which seems to be, that what is said from hence to the end of that chapter, relates chiefly to the Chaldeans, or the inhabitants of Babylonia; whereas what follows, from the beginning of the eighth chapter, refers mostly to the Jewish people, and therefore is written in Hebrew.

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.Then spake the Chaldeans to the king - The meaning is, either that the Chaldeans spoke in the name of the entire company of the soothsayers and magicians (see the notes, Daniel 1:20; Daniel 2:2), because they were the most prominent among them, or the name is used to denote the collective body of soothsayers, meaning that this request was made by the entire company.

In Syriac - In the original - ארמית 'ărâmı̂yt - in "Aramean." Greek, Συριστὶ Suristi - "in Syriac." So the Vulgate. The Syriac retains the original word. The word means Aramean, and the reference is to that language which is known as East Aramean - a general term embracing the Chaldee, the Syriac, and the languages which were spoken in Mesopotamia. See the notes at Daniel 1:4. This was the vernacular tongue of the king and of his subjects, and was that in which the Chaldeans would naturally address him. It is referred to here by the author of this book, perhaps to explain the reason why he himself makes use of this language in explaining the dream. The use of this, however, is not confined to the statement of what the magicians said, but is continued to the close of the seventh chapter. Compare the Intro. Section IV. III. The language used is what is commonly called Chaldee. It is written in the same character as the Hebrew, and differs from that as one dialect differs from another. It was, doubtless, well understood by the Jews in their captivity, and was probably spoken by them after their return to their own land.

O king, live for ever - This is a form of speech quite common in addressing monarchs. See 1 Samuel 10:24; 1 Kings 1:25 (margin); Daniel 3:9; Daniel 5:10. The expression is prevalent still, as in the phrases, "Long live the king," "Vive l' empereur," "Vive le roi," etc. It is founded on the idea that long life is to be regarded as a blessing, and that we can in no way express our good wishes for anyone better than to wish him length of days. In this place, it was merely the usual expression of respect and homage, showing their earnest wish for the welfare of the monarch. They were willing to do anything to promote his happiness, and the continuance of his life and reign. It was especially proper for them to use this language, as they wore about to make a rather unusual request, which "might" be construed as an act of disrespect, implying that the king had not given them all the means which it was equitable for them to have in explaining the matter, by requiring them to interpret the dream when he had not told them what it was.

Tell thy servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation - The claim which they set up in regard to the future was evidently only that of "explaining" what were regarded as the prognostics of future events. It was not that of being able to recal what is forgotten, or even to "originate" what might be regarded preintimations of what is to happen. This was substantially the claim which was asserted by all the astrologers, augurs, and soothsayers of ancient times. Dreams, the flight of birds, the aspect of the entrails of animals slain for sacrifice, the positions of the stars, meteors, and uncommon appearances in the heavens, were supposed to be intimations made by the gods of what was to occur in future times, and the business of those who claimed the power of divining the future was merely to interpret these things. When the king, therefore, required that they should recal the dream itself to his own mind, it was a claim to something which was not involved in their profession, and which they regarded as unjust. To that power they made no pretensions. If it be asked why, as they were mere jugglers and pretenders, they did not "invent" something and state "that" as his dream, since he had forgotten what his dream actually was, we may reply,

(1) that there is no certain evidence that they were not sincere in what they professed themselves able to do - for we are not to suppose that all who claimed to be soothsayers and astrologers were hypocrites and intentional deceivers. It was not at that period of the world certainly determined that nothing could be ascertained respecting the future by dreams, and by the positions of the stars, etc. Dreams "were" among the methods by which the future was made known; and whether the knowledge of what is to come could be obtained from the positions of the stars, etc., was a question which was at that time unsettled Even Lord Bacon maintained that the science of astrology was not to be "rejected," but to be "reformed."

(2) If the astrologers had been disposed to attempt to deceive the king, there is no probability that they could have succeeded in palming an invention of their own on him as his own dream. We may not be able distinctly to recollect a dream, but we have a sufficient impression of it - of its outlines - or of some striking, though disconnected, things in it, to know what it is "not." We might instantly recognize it if stated to us; we should see at once, if anyone should attempt to deceive us by palming an invented dream on us, that "that" was not what we had dreamed.

4. Here begins the Chaldee portion of Daniel, which continues to the end of the seventh chapter. In it the course, character, and crisis of the Gentile power are treated; whereas, in the other parts, which are in Hebrew, the things treated apply more particularly to the Jews and Jerusalem.

Syriac—the Aramean Chaldee, the vernacular tongue of the king and his court; the prophet, by mentioning it here, hints at the reason of his own adoption of it from this point.

live for ever—a formula in addressing kings, like our "Long live the king!" Compare 1Ki 1:31.

In Syriac; that is, in the Chaldee tongue, for Syria or Aram is taken in a large sense sometimes, containing Assyria, Babylon, Mesopotamia, Phoenicia, Palestine, 2 Kings 18:26, and from hence to the 8th chapter all is written in the Chaldee language, and not Hebrew, because it most concerned that people, and from thence in Hebrew again.

O king, live for ever: this was a salutation to princes of old, 1 Samuel 10:24 1 Kings 1:25; their meaning was, Let him live a long happy life, for thus the word live is often taken, Psalm 34:12, and this is agreeable to the desires of all worldly men in their prosperity.

We will show the interpretation: it is observed of old to this day, that there is not any sort of men who are such flatterers as impostors. So confident and arrogant are these fortune-tellers, that they promise to interpret a dream which they never knew: this was boldly said of them, seeing the Egyptian magicians could not interpret Pharaoh’s dream though he told it them, Genesis 41:8.

Then spake the Chaldeans to the king in, Syriac,.... These spake, either because the interpretation of dreams particularly belonged to them; or else as being the chief of the wise men, and of greatest authority; or as chosen by the rest, and spake in their name; and indeed this appellation may include them all, being all of the same country, though they might differ in their profession: they spake in the Syriac or Babylonish language, the same with the Chaldee, being their mother tongue, and that of the king too; and therefore could more easily speak it themselves, and be more easily understood by him, than if they had spoke in another; See Gill on Daniel 1:4 and from hence, to the end of the "seventh" chapter, Daniel writes in Chaldee; the things he treats of chiefly relating to the Chaldeans:

O king, live for ever; which is a wish of long life, health, and prosperity; and does not intend an everlasting continuance in this world, or an eternal life in another, to the knowledge of which they might be strangers: this was an usual form of salutation of kings in these eastern nations; like to this is that of Sinaetus, a Persian, to Artaxerxes Mnemon (x).

"O King Artaxerxes, reign for ever;''

so said (y) Artabazus, a faithful friend of Darius, to Alexander the great, when he met him with the friends and relations of Darius,

"O king, may you flourish in perpetual happiness:''

tell thy servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation; this was not the thing that was asked of them, but the dream itself; and if that had been told them, they promise more than there is reason to believe they would have fulfilled, had that been done; it is more than the Egyptian magicians could do, even when Pharaoh had told them his dream: this they said partly to get time, and partly to make a show of their skill and knowledge; though in a very vain and arrogant manner.

(x) Aelian. Var. Hist. l. 1. c. 32. (y) Curtius, l. 6. c. 5.

Then spake the Chaldeans to the king in {f} Syriack, O king, live for ever: tell thy servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation.

(f) That is, in the Syrian language, which differed not much from the Chaldeans, except it seemed to be more eloquent, and therefore the learned used to speak it, as the Jewish writers do to this day.

4. in Syriack] in Aramaic, i.e. the language of the Aramaeans, an important branch of the Semitic stock, inhabiting chiefly Mesopotamia, Syria, and part of Arabia. There were numerous ‘Aramaic’ dialects—as the Aramaic spoken in Assyria, at Zinjirli (near Aleppo), in Palmyra, in Têma, by the Nabataeans at ’el‘Öla, that of the books of Daniel and Ezra, that of the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan, that of the Babylonian, that of the Palestinian Talmud—which, while similar in their general features, differed in details, somewhat in the manner in which the Greek dialects differed from one another: but the language which is now known distinctively as ‘Syriac,’—i.e. the language in which the ‘Peshiṭtâ’ version of the Bible (2nd cent. a.d.) was made, and in which an extensive Christian literature exists,—differs markedly from the Aramaic of Daniel and Ezra: and hence the rendering ‘Syriack’ suggests an entirely false idea of the language here meant. R.V., ‘in the Syrian language’ (cf. Isaiah 36:11) is some improvement; but the term which ought to be employed is ‘Aramaic.’

The Aramaic part of the book begins with the words O king; and if ‘(in) Aramaic’ forms an integral part of the sentence, the author, it seems, must mean to indicate that in his opinion Aramaic was used at the court for communications of an official nature. That, however, does not explain why the use of Aramaic continues to the end of ch. 7; and it is besides quite certain that Aramaic, such as that of the Book of Daniel, was not spoken in Babylon. Very probably Oppert, Lenormant, Nestle, and others are right in regarding ‘Aramaic’ as originally a marginal note, indicating that that language begins to be used here; in this case the word will in English be naturally enclosed in brackets, ‘And they spake to the king, [Aramaic] O king, &c’ The second ‘(in) Aramaic’ in Ezra 4:7 is probably to be explained similarly (‘was written in Aramaic, and interpreted. [Aramaic]’).

O king, live for ever] The standing formula, with which, in Dan., the king is addressed (Daniel 3:9, Daniel 5:10, Daniel 6:6; Daniel 6:21); elsewhere (in the 3rd person) only on somewhat exceptional occasions, 1 Kings 1:31; Nehemiah 2:3.

we will shew] declare.

Verse 4. - Then spake the Chaldeans to the king in Syriack, O king, live for ever: tell thy servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation. The versions do not imply any important difference Then... the Chaldeans. This does not mean merely that cue class of soothsayers - a class the existence of which is doubtful - nor that the whole baud of soothsayers bore the name "Chaldeans." The name is simply the name of the nation, but is here used of this small portion of it that were soothsayers, in the same way as in John 9:22 "Jews," the name of the nation, is used for the rulers: "For the Jews had agreed already that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue." Hence it is needless to speak of' the Chaldeans being the principal class, and therefore "for the sake of breviloquence" (Moses Stuart) "put for the whole." So also Kliefoth ('Kom.,' p. 79), "Because the Chaldeans were the first class, they alone are named." The Chaldeans were not the inhabitants of Babylonia, but belonged to several cantons south and east of Babylon. Spake. The word yedabberu is usually followed by the verb amar in the infinitive. In Ezekiel 40:4 we have the verb dibber used without arnar, to introduce the thing said. It is not improbable that in this instance Aramith, "in the Syriac tongue," helped to the omission of amar. In the Syriack (Aramith). All scholars know now that there are two leading dialects of the Aramaean or Aramaic - the Eastern or Syriac, and the Western or Chaldee. The terms are very confusing; as Syria was certainly to the west of Chaldea, it seems strange that the usage should ever have sprung up to call the Western variety Chaldee, and the Eastern variety Syriac. The usage having been established, it has a certain convenience to be able to name all the Western, or, as they may be called, Palestinian dialects of Aramaic Chaldee, and all the Eastern varieties Syriac. While the English version uses the term "Syriac," as the portion of Daniel which follows has come down to us, it is not written in Syriac, but in Chaldee. We shall, however, endeavour to show that this is due to changes introduced by transcribers. As to the word Aramith occurring here, there is great force in the view maintained by Lenormant, that it is to be regarded as a note to the reader, indicating that st this point the Hebrew ceases and the Aramaic begins. The reason of the change from one language to another has been already dealt with in considering the question of the structure of Daniel. In the mean time it is sufficient to say that our theory is that the Hebrew in the beginning of Daniel is due to the editor, who collected the scattered fly-leaves. In the first chapter and in the three opening verses of that before us, we have the results of translation and condensation. As the previous sacred books had been written in Hebrew - the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah, not to speak of other books - it was natural that the editor, especially if he were under the influence of Ezra, would desire to see a book that had so much of holy hope and aspiration about it, in the sacred language of the patriarchs and prophets. There would be probably a considerable mass of irregular material to be gone over before a connected account could be given of the early days of Daniel. These sources would be necessarily in the main Aramaic, and hence the translation and condensation. It was formerly one of the objections urged against Daniel that the author regarded Aramaic as the language spoken in Babylon. By this time the language engraved on the tablets had been discovered not to be any previously known toungue. It is now found that, although the inhabitants of Babylon used the cuneiform for inscriptions, the language of ordinary business and social intercourse was Aramaic. and had been for several centuries. Dr. Hugo Winckler says, in his 'History of Babylonia and Assyria,' p. 179, "Aramaic soon became the language of social intercourse (ungangsprache) in nearly the whole of Mesopotamia, and. expelled the Assyro-Babylonian, which continued only as a literary tongue (schriftsprache)." Bronze weights have been found dating back to the Sargo-nids, with the weight marked on the one side in Aramaic, while on the other the titles of the king are given in Assyrian, When Sennacherib sent Rabshakeh to Jerusalem, Eliakim and Shebna wished the conversation to be carried on in Aramaic, implying that by this time Aramaic had become the ordinary language of diplomacy. The single Aramaic verse in Jeremiah (Jeremiah 10:11) implies that the Jewish captives would be dwelling among a people who ordinarily spoke Aramaic. Some have deduced from the phrase, "then spake," etc., that Aramaic was not the ordinary language of the speakers - a deduction that would be plausible if it had not been that from this point till the end. of the seventh chapter the book is in Aramaic. Jephet-ibn-Ali thinks that Nebuchadnezzar had first addressed the wise men in some other language, and then betook him to Aramaic. O king, live for ever: tell thy servaats the dream, andl we will show the interpretation. The soothsayers address the king in terms of Oriental adulation. Similar phrases are found in despatches to Asshurbanipal. In the Septuagint Version the phrase is accommodated more to the Hellenic usage, and the king is addressed as κύριε βασιλεῦ. Their language implies that they expected to be told the dream, and then, having been told the dream, they would apply the rules of their art to it, and declare to the king the interpretation. Daniel 2:4The Chaldeans, as speaking for the whole company, understand the word of the king in the sense most favourable for themselves, and they ask the king to tell them the dream. וידבּרוּ for ויּאמרוּ, which as a rule stands before a quotation, is occasioned by the addition of ארמית, and the words which follow are zeugmatically joined to it. Aramaic, i.e., in the native language of Babylonia, where, according to Xenoph. (Cyrop. vii. 5), the Syriac, i.e., the Eastern Aramaic dialect, was spoken. From the statement here, that the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic, one must not certainly conclude that Nebuchadnezzar spoke the Aryan-Chaldaic language of his race. The remark refers to the circumstance that the following words are recorded in the Aramaic, as Ezra 4:7. Daniel wrote this and the following chapters in Aramaic, that he might give the prophecy regarding the world-power in the language of the world-power, which under the Chaldean dynasty was native in Babylon, the Eastern Aramaic. The formula, "O king, live for ever," was the usual salutation when the king was addressed, both at the Chaldean and the Persian court (cf. Daniel 3:9; Daniel 5:10; Daniel 6:7, Daniel 6:22 [6, 21]; Nehemiah 2:3). In regard to the Persian court, see Aelian, var. hist. i. 32. With the kings of Israel this form of salutation was but rarely used: 1 Samuel 10:24; 1 Kings 1:31. The Kethiv (text) לעבדיך, with Jod before the suffix, supposes an original form לעבדיך here, as at Daniel 2:26; Daniel 4:16, Daniel 4:22, but it is perhaps only the etymological mode of writing for the form with ā long, analogous to the Hebr. suffix form עיו for עו, since the Jod is often wanting; cf. Daniel 4:24; Daniel 5:10, etc. A form ־איא lies at the foundation of the form כשׂדּיא; the Keri (margin) substitutes the usual Chaldee form כשׂדּאי from כּשׂדּאא, with the insertion of the litera quiescib. י, homog. to the quies. ē, while in the Kethiv the original Jod of the sing. כּשׂדּי is retained instead of the substituted ,א thus כשׂדּיא. This reading is perfectly warranted (cf. Daniel 3:2, Daniel 3:8,Daniel 3:24; Ezra 4:12-13) by the analogous method of formation of the stat. emphat. plur. in existing nouns in ־י in biblical Chaldee.
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