Daniel 2:40
And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise.
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(40) And the fourth.—It should be observed that the description of this kingdom is much fuller than those of the preceding empires. The same fact will be remarked in the later visions (Daniel 7:7-8; Daniel 7:19-20).

Breaketh all things.—Remembering that the comparison is between iron and the fourth empire, this portion of the vision implies that the Roman empire, which is here intended (see Exc. E), will crush out all traces that remain of preceding empires, just as iron is capable of breaking gold, silver, or copper. Of the second and third empires, each borrowed something from that which preceded it. The fourth empire introduces a new system, and a new civilisation.

Daniel 2:40-43. The fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron, &c. — This description agrees well with the Roman empire, and the event answered the prediction; for the Roman was vastly more strong and extensive than any of the preceding three. As iron breaketh and bruiseth all other metals, so this brake and subdued all the former kingdoms. The metal is here different, and consequently likewise the nation must be different from the preceding. For the four metals must signify four different nations; and as the gold signified the Babylonians, the silver the Persians, and the brass the Macedonians, so the iron must necessarily denote some other nation: and it may safely be said, that there is not, and has not been, a nation upon earth, to which this description is applicable, but the Romans. The Romans succeeded to the Macedonians, and therefore, in course, were next to be mentioned. And as the two arms of silver denoted the two kings of the Medes and Persians, so the two legs of iron seem equally to have signified the two Roman consuls. The iron was mixed with clay; and the Romans were defiled with a mixture of barbarous nations. The Roman empire was at length divided into ten lesser kingdoms, answering to the ten toes of the image. These kingdoms retained much of the old Roman strength; so that the kingdom was partly strong and partly broken — It subdued Syria, and made the kingdom of the Seleucidæ a Roman province, in the year sixty- five before Christ; it subdued Egypt, and made the kingdom of the Lagidæ a Roman province, in the year thirty before Christ; and, in the fourth century after Christ, it began to be torn in pieces by the incursions of the barbarous nations. Mr. Mede, who was as able and consummate a judge as any in these matters, observes, “That the Roman empire was the fourth kingdom of Daniel, was believed by the church of Israel, both before and in our Saviour’s time; received by the disciples of the apostles, and the whole Christian Church, for the first three hundred years, without any known contradiction. And, I confess, having so good a ground in Scripture, it is with me tantum non articulus fidei, little less than an article of faith:” see his Works, book 4. Ephesians 6, p. 735, and Bishop Newton.

Daniel seems to divide this kingdom into three periods. The first is its strongest and flourishing state, which seems to be denoted by the iron legs: the second is the same kingdom, weakened by civil wars and the divided state of the empire, denoted by the feet, which were part of potter’s clay, and part of iron; for which reason the prophet tells us the kingdom shall be divided, though there shall be in it something of the strength of iron, because the iron was mixed with the clay: the third is the same empire in a yet further state of declension, during which one part of it was to be absolutely destroyed, denoted by the toes, the extremity of the image, and of consequence the last period of this fourth empire. As the toes of the feet were part of iron and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly broken — That is, one part of this divided empire shall remain, and the other part be entirely destroyed. And as the last period of this kingdom is denoted by the toes, this evidently intimates that the remaining part, which was not broken, should be divided into ten distinct kingdoms or governments. And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men, &c. — The conjunction of the Romans with the conquered nations, and afterward with the Goths, Vandals, and other barbarians, who subverted the empire, seems to be here intended: in consequence of which these ten kingdoms became a medley of people, of different nations, laws, and customs. But they shall not cleave one to another — Although the kings of the several nations shall try to strengthen themselves by marriage alliances, yet reasons of state, the desire of empire, and the different interests which they pursue, will prove stronger than ties of blood, and often engage them in contentions and wars with each other, and thereby weaken the common strength. As Tacitus observes, “Dominandi cupido cunctis affectibus flagrantior erit:” The lust of ruling will be more powerful than all the affections. “It is especially observable,” says Wintle, “that in the declining state of the Roman empire, intermarriages with the barbarians were frequent and distinguished, as may be learned from the histories of the times; but yet the cement would not hold so as to form any great kingdom, or even to prevent the impending fate of the empire.” But some explain the verse of the commotions and clashings that took place between the secular and ecclesiastical powers, after the kingdom was divided into ten parts, answerable to the ten toes of the image.

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 the fourth kingdom - Represented in the image by the legs of iron, and the feet "part of iron, and part of clay," Daniel 2:33. The first question which arises here is, what kingdom is referred to by this? In regard to this, there have been two leading opinions: one, that it refers to the Roman empire; the other, that it refers to the kingdoms or dynasties that immediately succeeded the reign of Alexander the Great; embracing the kingdoms of the Seleucidae and Lagidae, Syria, and Egypt - in the language of Prof. Stuart, who adopts this opinion, "that the legs and feet were symbols of that intermingled and confused empire which sprung up under the Grecian chiefs who finally succeeded him," (Alexander the Great). - "Com. on Daniel," p. 173. For the reasoning by which this opinion is supported, see Prof. Stuart, pp. 173-193. The common opinion has been, that the reference is to the Roman empire, and in support of this opinion the following conditions may be suggested:

(1) The obvious design of the image was to symbolize the succession of great monarchies, which would precede the setting up of the kingdom of the Redeemer, and which would have an important agency in preparing the world for that. The Roman empire was in itself too important, and performed too important an agency in preparing the world for that, to be omitted in such an enumeration.

(2) The kingdom here referred to was to be in existence at the time symbolized by the cutting of the stone out of the mountain, for, during the continuance of that kingdom, or under it, "the God of heaven was to set up a kingdom which should never be destroyed," Daniel 2:44. But the kingdoms of the Seleucidae and the Lagidae - the "intermingled and confused empires that sprang up" after Alexander the Great - had ceased before that time, being superseded by the Roman.

(3) unless the Roman power be represented, the symmetry of the image is destroyed, for it would make what was, in fact, one kingdom represented by two different metals - brass and iron. We have seen above that the Babylonian empire was represented appropriately by gold; the Medo-Persian by silver; and the Macedonian by brass. We have seen also, that in fact the empire founded by Alexander, and continued through his successors in Syria and Egypt, was in fact one kingdom, so spoken of by the ancients, and being in fact a "Greek" dynasty. If the appellation of "brass" belonged to that kingdom as a Greek kingdom, there is an obvious incongruity, and a departure from the method of interpreting the other portions of the image, in applying the term "iron" to any portion of that kingdom.

(4) By the application of the term "iron," it is evidently implied that the kingdom thus referred to would be distinguished for "strength" - strength greater than its predecessors - as iron surpasses brass, and silver, and gold, in that quality. But this was not true of the confused reigns that immediately followed Alexander. They were unitedly weaker than the Babylonian and the Medo-Persian, and weaker than the empire of Alexander. out of which they arose. Compare Daniel 8:21-22. It was true, however, of the Roman power, that it was so much superior to all its predecessors in power, that it might well be represented by iron in comparison with brass, silver, and gold.

(5) The fourth monarchy represented in Nebuchadnezzars dream is evidently the same which is represented by the fourth beast in Daniel 7:7-8, Daniel 7:23, Daniel 7:25. But it will appear, from the exposition of that chapter, that the reference there is to the Roman empire. See the note at these passages. There can be no well-founded objection to this view on the ground that this kingdom was not properly a "succession" of the kingdom of Alexander, and did not occupy precisely the same territory. The same was true of each of the other kingdoms - the Medo-Persian and Macedonian. Yet while they were not, in the usual sense of the term, in the "successions," they did, in fact, follow one after the other; and with such accessions as were derived from conquest, and from the hereditary dominions of the conquerors, they did occupy the same territory. The design seems to have been to give a representation of a series of great monarchies, which would be, in an important sense, universal monarchies, and which should follow each other before the advent of the Saviour. The Roman, in addition to what it possessed in the West, actually occupied in the East substantially the same territory as the Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, and the Macedonian, and, like them, it had all the claims which any ancient sovereignty had to the title of a universal monarchy; indeed no kingdom has ever existed to which this title could with more justice be applied.

Shall be strong as iron - It is scarcely necessary to observe that this description is applicable to the Roman power. In nothing was it more remarkable than its "strength;" for that irresistible power before which all other nations were perfectly weak. This characteristic of the Roman power is thus noticed by Mr. Gibbon: "The arms of the Republic, sometimes vanquished in battle, always victorious in war, advanced with rapid steps to the Euphrates, the Danube, the Rhine, and the ocean; and the images of gold, or silver, or brass, that might serve to represent the nations and their kings, were successively broken by the "iron" monarchy of Rome." - "Dec. and Fall," p. 642, Lond. ed. 1830, as quoted by Prof. Bush.

Forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things - Iron is the metal which is used, and always has been used, for the purpose here suggested. In the form of hammers, sledges, and cannon-balls, and, in general, in reference to the accomplishment of any purpose, by beating or battering, this has been found to be the most valuable of the metals. It is heavy, is capable of being easily wrought into desired shapes; is abundant; is susceptible of being made hard so as not to be itself bruised, and has therefore, all the properties which could be desired for purposes like this.

And as iron that breaketh all these - That is, all these things; to wit, everything. Nothing is able to stand before it; there is nothing which it cannot reduce to powder. There is some repetition here, but it is for the sake of emphasis.

Shall it break in pieces and bruise - Nothing could better characterize the Roman power than this. Everything was crushed before it. The nations which they conquered ceased to be kingdoms, and were reduced to provinces, and as kingdoms they were blotted out from the list of nations. This has been well described by Mr. Irving: "The Roman empire did beat down the constitution and establishment of all other kingdoms; abolishing their independence, and bringing them into the most entire subjection; humbling the pride, subjecting the will, using the property, and trampling upon the power and dignity of all other states. For by this was the Roman dominion distinguished from all the rest, that it was the work of almost as many centuries as those were of years; the fruit of a thousand battles in which million of men were slain. It made room for itself, as doth a battering-ram, by continual successive blows; and it ceased not to beat and bruise all nations, so long as they continued to offer any resistance." - "Discourse on Daniel's Visions," p. 180.

40. iron—This vision sets forth the character of the Roman power, rather than its territorial extent [Tregelles].

breaketh in pieces—So, in righteous retribution, itself will at last be broken in pieces (Da 2:44) by the kingdom of God (Re 13:10).

The fourth kingdom is the kingdom of the Romans; and was to last not only to Christ’s first coming, but under antichrist to his second coming, but still going down as to pagan worship, and at last to antichristian and papal power; for in Daniel 2:28 Daniel tells the king that God made known to him that should be in the latter days; therefore he intended a general history to the end of the world, Daniel 2:44 Da 7, latter end; and Da 11, Da 12.

It shall break in pieces and bruise: this did break in pieces all other kingdoms, being too strong for them, and was never in subjection to any, but brought all in subjection to it, till the stone fell upon it, of which afterward.

And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron,.... This is not the kingdom of the Lagidae and Seleucidae, the successors of Alexander, as some have thought; for these are designed by the thighs in the third kingdom; and, besides, the kingdom of Christ was to arise in the time of this fourth kingdom, which it did not in that; nor the kingdom of Gog, or the empire of the Turks, as Saadiah, Aben Ezra, and Jarchi; but the Roman empire, which is compared to iron for its strength, firmness, and duration in itself; and for its power over other nations; and also for its cruelty to the Jews above all others, in utterly destroying their city, temple, and nation:

forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things; so this kingdom has subdued and conquered all others; not the Jews only, but the Persians, Egyptians, Syrians, Africans, French, Germans, yea, all the world:

and as iron that breaketh, or "even as iron breaketh all these",

shall it break in pieces, and bruise; all nations and kingdoms; hence Rome has been called the mistress of the world, and its empire in Scripture is called the whole world, Luke 2:1.

And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in {u} pieces and bruise.

(u) That is, the Roman empire will subdue all these others, which after Alexander were divided into the Macedonians, Grecians, Syrians, and Egyptians.

40. The fourth kingdom, the formidable crushing power of which is compared to iron. The allusion is to the Macedonian empire, founded by Alexander the Great.

subdueth] or beateth down: in Syr. the word used means to forge a metal.

breaketh all these … and bruise] crusheth all theseand crush (R.V.).

Verse 40. - And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise. The version of the LXX. differs considerably here, "The fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron, as iron which subdueth all things, even as iron cutteth down every tree." It is evident that the translator has read אִילָן ('illan), "a tree," instead of אִלֵּין ('illeen), "these." The last clause is due to וְתֵּרֹעַ (vetayroa') being written with the א: ותארע; however, ו (vav) is not unlike, in ancient Aramaic script, to כּ (kaph), although ל (lamed) is not like ת (tau), yet the phrase כָלאּאֲרַע would carry the reader over every obstacle. Theodotion differs less from the Massoretic," The fourth kingdom is that which shall be as strong as iron, just as (ὅν τρόπον) iron beateth small and subdueth all things, thus shall it beat small and subdue all things." It may be observed that the clause, "and as iron breaketh all these," is omitted from the text. It certainly appears to be an addition, indeed, has the look of a "doublet." This view is confirmed by the fact that the Peshitta also omits this clause. The Peshitta rendering is," The fourth kingdom shall be strong like iron, and even as iron crushes and bruises all, thus even it shall beat small and subdue all." The Vulgate rendering also omits a clause, "And the fourth kingdom shall be like iron, as iron beats small and subdues all things, it shall beat small (comminuet) all these." For these grounds we feel inclined to regard the clause in question as an explanatory note, which has slipped into the text. Before we leave the consideration of the text, we must observe that the word for "fourth" assumes the Syriac, or Eastern Aramaic form, not the form in Chaldee, or Western Aramaic. That empire which was represented by the basest of the four metals, and occupied the lowest position in the figure, is that which is the most powerful. When we go back we find brass is the next in point of hardness and strength; it is the third, and of it, at all events, if not also of that which preceded it, it is said that "it shall bear rule over all the earth." The inferiority indicated by the metals and by the position occupied in the image, did not indicate inferiority in power or in extent of dominion. An interesting theory has been formed by Dr. Bonnar ('Great Interregnum'), that this degeneration was one of type. The monarchy as exhibited in Babylon, especially when the monarch was a man of genius, as was Nebuchadnezzar, was likest to the rule of the Almighty over the world: his authority was without limit, direct and absolute over every one subject to his sceptre The Medo-Persian monarchy had much of the Babylonian absoluteness, but there were, if Herodotus is to be trusted, the peers of the crown, and, above all, there were the satraps, with their almost independent position in respect to the central power. The third, in our author's opinion, the Hellenic, had the monarchy limited, not only by numerous compeers, as the king in Antioch was balanced by the kings in Alexandria and Pergamus, not to speak of the monarchs of Parthia, but also by the autonomous cities with the semblance of freedom. The fourth, the Roman, was yet further removed from the old Divine-right monarchy of the Babylonian type. At their first intercourse with the Jews the Romans were Republicans. Their first conquest of Judaea was made by Pompey, the general of the Republic. To the last the emperor, whatever his power, was still theoretically the first magistrate of a republic. The feet and toes of mingled clay and iron, he held, were modern constitutional monarchies - monarchies built upon democracy and the will of the people. All this is doomed to be overthrown by the coming of the Messianic kingdom. Daniel 2:40The interpretation of the fourth component part of the image, the legs and feet, which represent a fourth world-kingdom, is more extended. That kingdom, corresponding to the legs of iron, shall be hard, firm like iron. Because iron breaks all things in pieces, so shall this kingdom, which is like to iron, break in pieces and destroy all these kingdoms.

Daniel 2:40-41

Instead of רביציא, which is formed after the analogy of the Syriac language, the Keri has the usual Chaldee form רביעאה, which shall correspond to the preceding תליתאה, Daniel 2:39. See the same Keri Daniel 3:25; Daniel 7:7, Daniel 7:23. דּי כּל־קבל does not mean just as (Ges., v. Leng., Maur., Hitz.), but because, and the passage introduced by this particle contains the ground on which this kingdom is designated as hard like iron. חשׁל, breaks in pieces, in Syriac to forge, i.e., to break by the hammer, cf. חוּשׁלא, bruised grain, and thus separated from the husks. כּל־אלּין is referred by Kran., in conformity with the accents, to the relative clause, "because by its union with the following verbal idea a blending of the image with the thing indicated must first be assumed; also nowhere else, neither here nor in Daniel 7, does the non-natural meaning appear, e.g., that by the fourth kingdom only the first and second kingdoms shall be destroyed; and finally, in the similar expression, Daniel 7:7, Daniel 7:19, the הדּק stands likewise without an object." But all the three reasons do not prove much. A mixing of the figure with the thing signified does not lie in the passage: "the fourth (kingdom) shall, like crushing iron, crush to pieces all these" (kingdoms). But the "non-natural meaning," that by the fourth kingdom not only the third, but also the second and the first, would be destroyed, is not set aside by our referring כּל־אלּין to the before-named metals, because the metals indeed characterize and represent kingdoms. Finally, the expressions in Daniel 7:7, Daniel 7:19 are not analogous to those before us. The words in question cannot indeed be so understood as if the fourth kingdom would find the three previous kingdoms existing together, and would dash them one against another; for, according to the text, the first kingdom is destroyed by the second, and the second by the third; but the materials of the first two kingdoms were comprehended in the third. "The elements out of which the Babylonian world-kingdom was constituted, the countries, people, and civilisation comprehended in it, as its external form, would be destroyed by the Medo-Persia kingdom, and carried forward with it, so as to be constituted into a new external form. Such, too, was the relation between the Medo-Persian and the Macedonian world-kingdom, that the latter assumed the elements and component parts not only of the Medo-Persian, but also therewith at the same time of the Babylonian kingdom" (Klief.). In such a way shall the fourth world-kingdom crush "all these" past kingdoms as iron, i.e., will not assume the nations and civilisations comprehended in the earlier world-kingdoms as organized formations, but will destroy and break them to atoms with iron strength. Yet will this world-kingdom not throughout possess and manifest the iron hardness. Only the legs of the image are of iron (Daniel 2:41), but the feet and toes which grow out of the legs are partly of clay and partly of iron.

Regarding מנהון, see under Daniel 2:33. חסף means clay, a piece of clay, then an earthly vessel, 2 Samuel 5:20. פּחר in the Targums means potter, also potter's earth, potsherds. The פּחר דּי serves to strengthen the חסף, as in the following the addition of טינא, clay, in order the more to heighten the idea of brittleness. This twofold material denotes that it will be a divided or severed kingdom, not because it separates into several (two to ten) kingdoms, for this is denoted by the duality of the feet and by the number of the toes of the feet, but inwardly divided; for פּלג always in Hebr., and often in Chald., signifies the unnatural or violent division arising from inner disharmony or discord; cf. Genesis 10:25; Psalm 55:10; Job 38:25; and Levy, chald. Worterb. s. v. Notwithstanding this inner division, there will yet be in it the firmness of iron. נצבּא, firmness, related to יצב, Pa. to make fast, but in Chald. generally plantatio, properly a slip, a plant.

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