Why at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews.…
These last words, "O king, live for ever," were designed by those who uttered them as the expression of the most gross and servile adulation, and they were doubtless regarded by the monarch to whom they were addressed as the spontaneous effusion of a reverential and devoted loyally.
I. First, then, THE WORDS OF THIS SALUTATION, "O king, live for ever," were, in the mouth of the Chaldeans, manifestly uttered with a twofold purpose; to dissemble the malignity of the courtiers, and to flatter the conceit, if not to impose on the credulity of the king. Now, we do not take upon ourselves to determine whether these Chaldeans had any notion at all of a state of existence after death, or if so, what those notions were; but we can hardly conceive that those who believed the Godhead to be of the substance of silver and of gold could have any reasonable conception of the spiritual essence, the immaterial, intellectual part of man. Judging from this, they could have hoped for nothing more, and could have looked for nothing better after death, than to be resolved into their primal element of dust, and become even as the brutes that perish. Their salutation, therefore, must have been the climax of absurdity, because it bare on the face of it what was to them a perfect impossibility — the violation of a fundamental and universal law of our being. They knew that the king could not, in the course of nature, "live for ever"; they knew, that as the ancient monarchs of the nations lay down every one in his own house, so Nebuchadnezzar's ample territory must ere long contract itself to the narrow coffin. But they flattered the proud, in order to betray the innocent; they deified a blood-stained and capricious tyrant, that they might doom to death three unoffending strangers and captives, whom they hated. Now, this is a true portraiture of the world in every age. It exalts the oppressor, and tramples on the innocent. We may look upon Nebuchadnezzar, then, in this stage of his career, as a consummate specimen of the favourite of this world, the courted, the envied, the admired, the adored. The universe lay prostrate at his feet. This, then, is a specimen and a sample of the world's lie. It promises the ungodly what it never can bestow, and threatens the servants of the Lord with the loss of that which it cannot take away; so that while it deludes Nebuchadnezzar into the infatuation of believing that he, because he was a monarch over men, might become a manufacturer of gods, it binds the servants of the one true and living God hand and foot, and casts them into the devouring flame, because they fear not those who can only kill the body, but rather fear Him who is the arbiter of life and death, and who, after He hath killed, hath power to cast into hell.
II. And now let us turn from the humbled king of Babylon, TO TRACE THE PRACTICAL BEARING OF THE SUBJECT UPON OURSELVES. True it is, that in our own age and country persecution for religion's sake hath ceased, and with it the miracles that of old wrought strange deliverance, and the spiritual consolations and supports that suspended the laws of nature, and sustained the confessor beneath the scourge and the martyr amidst the flames: but there is no change in the enmity of the flesh against the Spirit, or in the barrel of the world to God. True it is, that the oppressor hath no longer at command the burning fiery furnace, nor the lions' fearful den; but the evil one still does what he can, though he can no longer do what he would. If the weapon of the world is no longer cruelty, it is contumely; if it is no longer torture, it is ridicule. "Live for ever," these words are a memorial of our own immortality, and they should call upon every one to consider, on the principles laid down in Holy Writ, whether he who is born for eternity is also living for it. Now we, like these intrepid and devoted children of the faithful Abraham, cannot at one and the same time bow down before the golden idol and adore the living God; we must be equally decided in our service with them. "Examine yourselves," then, "whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves."
(T. Dale, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews.