Daniel 5:19
And for the majesty that he gave him, all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before him: whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he set up; and whom he would he put down.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
5:18-31 Daniel reads Belshazzar's doom. He had not taken warning by the judgments upon Nebuchadnezzar. And he had insulted God. Sinners are pleased with gods that neither see, nor hear, nor know; but they will be judged by One to whom all things are open. Daniel reads the sentence written on the wall. All this may well be applied to the doom of every sinner. At death, the sinner's days are numbered and finished; after death is the judgment, when he will be weighed in the balance, and found wanting; and after judgment the sinner will be cut asunder, and given as a prey to the devil and his angels. While these things were passing in the palace, it is considered that the army of Cyrus entered the city; and when Belshazzar was slain, a general submission followed. Soon will every impenitent sinner find the writing of God's word brought to pass upon him, whether he is weighed in the balance of the law as a self-righteous Pharisee, or in that of the gospel as a painted hypocrite.And, for the majesty that he gave him - That is, on account of his greatness, referring to the talents which God had conferred on him, and the power which he had put in his hands. It was so great that all people and nations trembled before him.

All people, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him - Stood in awe of him. On the extent of his empire, see the note at Daniel 3:4; Daniel 4:1, Daniel 4:22.

Whom he would he slew ... - That is, he was an arbitrary - an absolute sovereign. This is exactly descriptive of the power which Oriental despotic monarchs have.

Whom he would he kept alive - Whether they had, or had not, been guilty of crime. He had the absolute power of life and death over them There was no such instrument as we call a "constitution" to control the sovereign as well as the people; there was no tribunal to which he was responsible, and no law by which he was bound; there were no judges to determine on the question of life and death in regard to those who were accused of crime, whom he did not appoint, and whom he might not remove, and whose judgments he might not set aside if he pleased; there were no "juries" of "peers" to determine on the question of fact whether an accused man was guilty or not. There were none of those safeguards which have been originated to protect the accused in modern times, and which enter so essentially into the notions of liberty now. In an absolute despotism all power is in the hands of one man, and this was in fact the case in Babylon.

Whom he would he set up - That is, in places of trust, of office, of rank, etc.

And whom he would he put down - No matter what their rank or office.

19. A purely absolute monarchy (Jer 27:7). He ruled arbitrarily, and had power of life and death, he did what he would, his will was a law. And this lifted up his heart in pride, and hardened it as Pharaoh’s, for which, being incorrigible,

he was deposed from his kingly throne, as in the next verse. And for the majesty that he gave him,.... The greatness of his power, the largeness of his dominions, and the vast armies he had at his command:

all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before him; not only those that were subject to him, but those that had only heard of him: who dreaded his approach unto them, and their falling into his victorious hands, and being made vassals to him:

whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive; he ruled in an arbitrary and despotic manner, and kept the power of life and death in his own hands; whom he would he put to death, though ever so innocent; and whom he would he preserved from death, though ever so deserving of it; he had no regard to justice, but acted according to his own will and pleasure. Jacchiades renders the last clause, "whom he would he smote": but both the punctuation of the word, and the antithesis in the text, require the sense our version gives, and which is confirmed by Aben Ezra and Saadiah:

and whom he would he set up: and whom he would he put down; according to his pleasure, he raised persons from a low estate to great dignity, and put them into high posts of honour and profit, as he did Daniel: and others he as much debased, turned them out of their places, and reduced them to the lowest degree of disgrace and poverty; and all according to his absolute and irresistible will, without giving any reason for what he did.

And for the majesty that he gave him, all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before him: whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he set up; and whom he would he put down.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
19. and because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages, &c.] Cf. Daniel 3:4.

trembled and feared before him] dreading what he might do next.

whom he would he slew, &c.] he acted as though he possessed the attributes of Deity, and was accountable to no superior. Similar expressions are used elsewhere of the action of God: e.g. Deuteronomy 32:39; 1 Samuel 2:6-7; Psalm 75:7.

set up] lifted up (or exalted): the word used in Psalm 75:7; Psalm 89:19; Psalm 113:7, &c.The command of the king, that the young men should be fed with the food and wine from the king's table, was to Daniel and his friends a test of their fidelity to the Lord and to His law, like that to which Joseph was subjected in Egypt, corresponding to the circumstances in which he was placed, of his fidelity to God (Genesis 39:7.). The partaking of the food brought to them from the king's table was to them contaminating, because forbidden by law; not so much because the food was not prepared according to the Levitical ordinance, or perhaps consisted of the flesh of animals which to the Israelites were unclean, for in this case the youths were not under the necessity of refraining from the wine, but the reason of their rejection of it was, that the heathen at their feasts offered up in sacrifice to their gods a part of the food and the drink, and thus consecrated their meals by a religious rite; whereby not only he who participated in such a meal participated in the worship of idols, but the meat and the wine as a whole were the meat and the wine of an idol sacrifice, partaking of which, according to the saying of the apostle (1 Corinthians 10:20.), is the same as sacrificing to devils. Their abstaining from such food and drink betrayed no rigorism going beyond the Mosaic law, a tendency which first showed itself in the time of the Maccabees. What, in this respect, the pious Jews did in those times, however (1 Macc. 1:62f.; 2 Macc. 5:27), stands on the ground of the law; and the aversion to eat anything that was unclean, or to defile themselves at all in heathen lands, did not for the first time spring up in the time of the Maccabees, nor yet in the time of the exile, but is found already existing in these threatenings in Hosea 9:3., Amos 7:17. Daniel's resolution to refrain from such unclean food flowed therefore from fidelity to the law, and from stedfastness to the faith that "man lives not by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 8:3), and from the assurance that God would bless the humbler provision which he asks for himself, and would by means of it make him and his friends as strong and vigorous as the other youths who did eat the costly provision from the king's table. Firm in this conviction, he requested the chief chamberlain to free him and his three friends from the use of the food and drink brought from the royal table. And the Lord was favourable to him, so that his request was granted.
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