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St Jerome’s Commentary on Daniel 7:1-14

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 23, 2013

Verse 1. “In the first year of Belshazzar, King [reading regis for regias] of Babylon, Daniel beheld a dream. And a vision of his head [came to him] upon his bed. And when he wrote the dream down, he comprehended it in a few words and gave a brief summary of it, saying. . ..” This section (663) which we now undertake to explain, and also the subsequent section which we are going to discuss, is historically prior to the two previous sections [i.e., chap. 5 and chap. 6]. For this present section and that which follows it are recorded to have taken place in the first and third years of the reign of King Belshazzar (Jer. 39). [Jerome’s citation of Jer. 39 seems quite pointless in this connection.] But the section which we read previously to the one just preceding this [i.e., chap. 5], is recorded to have taken place in the last year, indeed on the final day, of Belshaz-zar’s reign. And we meet this phenomenon not only in Daniel but also in Jeremiah [cf. Jer. 35 and Jer. 34] and Ezekiel (Ezek. 17), as we shall be able to show, if life spares us that long. But in the earlier portion of the book, the historical order has been followed, namely the events which occurred in the time of Nebuchadnezzar, and Belshazzar, and Darius or Cyrus. But in the passages now before us an account is given of various visions which were beheld on particular occasions and of which only the prophet himself was aware, and which therefore lacked any importance as signs or revelations so far as the barbarian nations were concerned. But they were written down only that a record of the things beheld might be preserved for posterity.

Verses 2, 3. “And during the night I saw in my vision, and behold, the four winds of heaven strove upon the great sea, and four great beasts were coming up out of the sea, differing from one another.” The four winds of heaven I suppose to have been angelic powers to whom the principalities have been (p. 528) committed, in accordance with what we read in |72 Deuteronomy: “When the Most High divided the nations and when He separated the children of Adam, He established the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the angels. [St Jerome here follows the Septuagint rendering of Deut 32:8. In the Vulgate he follows the Massoretic text which speaks of “the sons of Israel,” not “angels”] For the Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the line of His inheritance (B) (Deut. 32:8). But the sea signifies this world and the present age, overwhelmed with salty and bitter waves, in accordance with the Lord’s own interpretation of the dragnet cast into the sea (Matt. 13). Hence also the sovereign of all creatures that inhabit the waters is described as a dragon, and his heads, according to David, are smitten in the sea (Ps. 73). And in Amos we read: “If he descends to the very depth of the sea, there will I give him over to the dragon and he shall bite him” (Amos 9:3). But as for the four beasts who came up out of the sea and were differentiated from one another, we may identify them from the angel’s discourse. “These four great beasts,” he says, “are four kingdoms which shall rise up from the earth.” And as for the four winds which strove in the great sea, they are called winds of heaven because each one of the angels does for his realm the duty entrusted to him. This too should be noted, that the fierceness and (664) cruelty of the kingdoms concerned are indicated by the term “beasts.”

Verse 4. “The first beast was like a lioness and possessed the wings of an eagle. I beheld until her wings were torn away, and she was raised upright from the ground and stood on her feet like a human being, and she was given a human heart.” The kingdom of the Babylonians was not called a lion but a lioness, on account of its brutality and cruelty, or else because of its luxurious, lust-serving manner of life.  For writers upon the natural history of beasts assert that lionesses are fiercer than |73 lions, especially if they are nursing their cubs, and constantly are passionate in their desire for sexual relations. And as for the fact that she possessed eagle’s wings, this indicates the pride of the all-powerful kingdom, the ruler of which declares in Isaiah: “Above the stars of heaven will I place my throne, and I shall be like unto the Most High” (Isa. 14). Therefore he is told: “Though thou be borne on high like an eagle, thence will I drag thee down” (Obad.). Moreover, just as the lion occupies kingly rank among beasts, so also the eagle among the birds. But it should also be said that the eagle enjoys a long span of life, and that the kingdom of Assyrians had held sway for many generations. And as for the fact that the wings of the lioness or eagle were torn away, this signifies the other kingdoms over which it had ruled and soared about in the world. “And she was raised up,” he says, “from the ground”; which means, of course (C), that the Chaldean empire was overthrown. And as for what follows, “And she stood upon her feet like a human being, and she was given a human heart,” if we understand this as applying to Nebuchadnezzar, it is very evident that after he lost his kingdom and his power had been taken away from him, and after he was once more restored to his original state, he not only learned to be a man instead of a lioness but he also received back the heart which he had lost. But if on the other hand this is to be understood as applying in a general way to the kingdom of the Chaldeans, then it signifies that after Belshazzar was slain [reading interfecto for the impossible inperfecto of the text], and the Medes and Persians succeeded to imperial power, then the men of Babylon realized that theirs was a frail and lowly nature after all. Note the order followed here: the lioness is equivalent to the golden head of the image [in chap. 2] (p. 529).

Verse 5. “And behold another beast like a bear stood up on one side; and there were three rows in his mouth and in his teeth; and they said to him: ‘Arise up and devour flesh in abundance.’ ” The second beast resembling a bear is the same as that of which we read in the vision of the statue (2:32): “His chest and arms were of silver.” In the former case the comparison was based on the hardness of the metal, in this case on the ferocity of the bear. For the Persian kingdom followed a rigorous and frugal manner of life (665) after the manner of the Spartans, and |74 that too to such an extent that they used to use salt and nasturtium-cress in their relish. Let us consult the record of the childhood of Cyrus the Great (i.e., “The Education or Training” of Cyrus) [Jerome refers here to Xenophon’s “Cyropaideia”]. And as for the fact that the bear is said to have “stood up on one side,” the Hebrews interpret it by saying that the Persians never perpetrated any cruelty against Israel. Hence they are described in the Prophecy of Zechariah also as white horses (Zech. 1). But as for the three rows or ranks that were in his mouth and between his teeth, one authority has interpreted this to mean that allusion was made to the fact that the Persian kingdom was divided up among three princes, just as we read in the sections dealing with Belshazzar and with Darius that there were three princes who were in charge of the one hundred and twenty satraps. But other commentators affirm that these were three kings of the Persians who were subsequent to Cyrus, and yet they fail to mention them by name (A). But we know that after Cyrus’s reign of thirty years his son Cambyses ruled among the Persians, and his brothers the magi [the plural seems unwarranted, since there was but one brother involved, namely, Smerdis], and then Darius, in the second year of whose reign the rebuilding of the Temple was commenced at Jerusalem. The fifth king was Xerxes, the son of Darius; the sixth was Artabanus [actually only the assassin of Xerxes; he never became king]; the seventh, Artaxerxes who was surnamed Makrokheir, that is Longimanus (“Long-handed”); the eighth, (B) Xerxes; the ninth, Sogdianus [the reigns of the last two totaled no more than eight months]; the tenth, Darius surnamed Nothos (“Bastard”); the eleventh, the Artaxerxes called Mnemon, that is, “The Rememberer”; the twelfth, the other Artaxerxes, who himself received the surname of Ochus; the thirteenth, Arses, the son of Ochus; and the fourteenth, Darius the son of Arsamus, who was conquered by Alexander, the king of the Macedonians. How then can we say that these were three kings of the Persians? Of course we could select some who were especially cruel, but we cannot ascertain them on the basis of the historical accounts. Therefore the three rows in the mouth of the Persian kingdom and between its teeth we must take to be the three kingdoms of the Babylonians, the Medes, and the Persians, all of which were reduced to a single realm. And as for |75 the information, “And thus they spake to him: ‘Devour flesh in abundance,’ ” this refers to the time when in the reign of the Ahasuerus whom the Septuagint calls Artaxerxes, the order was given, at the suggestion of Haman the Agagite, that all the Jews be slaughtered on a single day (Esth. 3). And very properly, instead of saying, “He was devouring them” the account specifies, “Thus they spake unto him….” This shows that the matter was only attempted, and was by no means ever carried out.

Verse 6. “After this I beheld, and lo, there was another beast (C) like unto a leopard, and it had jour wings of a bird (666) all its own [?the per se here is obscure], and there were four heads to the beast, and power was given to it.” The third kingdom was that of the Macedonians, of which we read in connection with the image, “The belly and thighs were of bronze.” It is compared to a leopard because it is very swift and hormetikos [impetuous], and it charges headlong to shed blood, and with a single bound rushes (p. 530) to its death. “And it had four wings….” There was never, after all, any victory won more quickly than Alexander’s, for he traversed all the way from Illyricum and the Adriatic Sea to the Indian Ocean and the Ganges River, not merely fighting battles but winning decisive victories; and in six years he subjugated to his rule a portion of Europe and all of Asia. And by the four heads reference is made to his generals who subsequently rose up as successors to his royal power, namely Ptolemy, Seleucus, Philip [i.e., Philip Arrhidaeus, an illegitimate brother of Alexander, who was proclaimed king upon Alexander’s death, but never exercised genuine power, and died after seven years], and Antigonus [the precursor of Seleucus in the rule of the Asiatic portion of Alexander’s empire]. “And power was given to it” shows that the empire did not result from Alexander’s bravery but from the will of God.

Verse 7. “After this, I beheld in the night-vision, and behold, there was a fourth beast, terrible and wonderful and exceedingly strong. He had large iron teeth, devouring and crushing, and everything that was left he stamped to pieces under his feet.” The fourth empire is the Roman Empire, which now occupies the entire world, and concerning which it was said in connection with the image, “Its lower legs were of iron, and part of its feet were of iron, and part of clay.” And yet from the iron |76 portion itself Daniel calls to mind that its teeth were iron, and solemnly avers that they were large in size. I find it strange that although he had set forth a lioness, a bear and a leopard in the case of the three previous kingdoms, he did not compare the Roman realm to any sort of beast. Perhaps it was in order to render the beast fearsome indeed that he gave it no name, intending thereby that we should understand the Romans to partake of all the more ferocious characteristics we might think of in connection with beasts. The Hebrews believe that the beast which is here not named is the one spoken of in the Psalms: “A boar from the forest laid her waste, and a strange wild animal consumed her” (Ps. 79:14). [This is the citation according to the Septuagint and Vulgate, whose translation of the Septuagint is here quoted; but the citation in the Hebrew text is Ps. 80:14, and in the English Version, 80:13.] Instead of this the Hebrew reads: “All the beasts of the field have torn her.” [A more accurate rendering of the Hebrew would be: “. . .and the moving creatures (or “swarms”) of the field do feed upon her.”] While they are all included in the one Empire of the Romans, we recognize at the same time those kingdoms which were previously separate. And as for the next statement, “. . .devouring and crushing, and pounding all the rest to pieces under his feet,” this signifies that all nations have either been slain by the Romans or else have been subjected to tribute and servitude.

“. . .But it did not resemble the other beasts which I had previously seen” (Vulgate: “…which I had seen before it”). In the earlier beasts he had seen various symbols of fright-fulness, but they were all concentrated in this one.

“. ..and it had ten horns.” Porphyry assigned the last two beasts, that of the Macedonians and that of the Romans, to the one realm of the Macedonians and divided them up as follows. He claimed that the leopard was Alexander himself, and that the beast which was dissimilar to the others represented the four successors of Alexander, and then he enumerates ten kings up to the time of Antiochus, surnamed Epiphanes, and who were very cruel. And he did not assign the kings themselves to separate kingdoms, for example Macedon, Syria, Asia, or Egypt, but rather he made out the various kingdoms a single realm consisting of a series. This he did of course in order that the words |77 which were written: “.. .a mouth uttering overweening boasts” [in the last part of verse 8] might be considered as spoken about Antiochus instead of about Antichrist.

Verse 8. “I was looking at the horns, and behold, another small horn rose up out of the midst of them, and three of the earlier horns were torn away before it. And behold, there were in that horn eyes like unto human eyes, and a mouth uttering overweening boasts.” Porphyry vainly surmises that the little (p. 531) horn which rose up after the ten horns is Antiochus Epiphanes, and that the three uprooted horns out of the ten are (A) Ptolemy VI (surnamed Philometer), Ptolemy VII (Euergetes), and Artaraxias, King of Armenia. The first two of these kings died long before Antiochus was born. Against Artarxias, to be sure, we know that Antiochus indeed waged war, but also we know that Artarxias remained in possession of his original kingly authority. We should therefore concur with the traditional interpretation of all the commentators of the Christian Church, that at the end of the world, when the Roman Empire is to be destroyed, there shall be ten kings who will partition the Roman world amongst themselves. Then an insignificant eleventh king will arise, who will overcome three of the ten kings, that is, the king of Egypt, the king of [North] Africa, and the king of Ethiopia, as we shall show more clearly in our later discussion. Then after they have been slain, the seven other kings also will bow their necks to the victor. “And behold,” he continues, “there were eyes like unto human eyes in that horn.” Let us not follow the opinion of some commentators and suppose him to be either the Devil or some demon, but rather, one of the human race, in whom Satan will wholly take up his residence in bodily form. “. . .and a mouth uttering overweening boasts…” (cf. II Thess. 2). For this is the man of sin, the son (668) of perdition, and that too to such a degree that he dares to sit in the temple of God, making himself out to be like God.

Verse 9. “I beheld until thrones were set up, and the Ancient of days took His seat. His garment was as white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was composed of fiery flames and its wheels were set on fire. From before His presence there issued forth a rushing, fiery stream.” We read something similar in John’s Apocalypse: (Rev. 4:2 ff.) |78 “After these things I was immediately in the Spirit, and lo, a throne was set up in heaven, and one was seated upon the throne; and He who sat upon it had the likeness of jasper and sardine stone, and there was a rainbow round about the throne like the appearance of emerald. Around the throne there were twenty-four other thrones, and upon the twenty-four thrones there sat twenty-four elders, clothed in shining garments; upon their heads was a golden crown (B), and lightning flashes issued from the throne, and voices and thunder. And in front of the throne there were seven torches of burning fire, which were the seven spirits of God. And in front of the throne lay a glassy sea like unto crystal.” And so the many thrones which Daniel saw seem to me to be what John called the twenty-four thrones. And the Ancient (C) of days is the One who, according to John (p. 532) sits alone upon His throne. Likewise the Son of man, who came unto the Ancient of days, is the same as He who, according to John, is called the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Rev. 5), the Root of David, and the titles of that sort. I imagine that these thrones are the ones of which the Apostle Paul says, “Whether thrones or dominions. . .” (Col. 1:16). And in the Gospel we read, “Ye yourselves shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 10:28). And God is called the One who sits and who is the Ancient of days, in order that His character as eternal Judge might be indicated. His garment is shining white like the snow, and the hair of His head is like pure wool. The Savior also, when He was transfigured on the mount and assumed the glory of His divine majesty, appeared in shining white garments (Matt. 17). And as for the fact that His hair is compared to perfectly pure wool, the even-handedness and uprightness of His judgment is shown forth, a judgment which shows no partiality in its exercise. Moreover He is described as an elderly man, in order that the ripeness of His judgment may be established. His throne consists of fiery flames, in order that sinners may tremble before the severity of the (669) torments [of hell], and also that the just may be saved, but so as by fire. The wheels of the throne are set aflame, or else it is the wheels of His chariot which are aflame. In Ezekiel also God is ushered on the scene seated in a four-horse chariot (Ez. 1), and everything pertaining to God is of a fiery consistency. In another place also a statement is made on this subject: “God |79 is a consuming fire” (Deut. 4:24), that we might know that wood, hay and stubble are going to burn up in the day of judgment. And in the Psalms we read: “Fire goeth before Him, and He shall set aflame all His enemies round about Him” (Ps. 96:3). A rushing, fiery stream proceeded from before Him in order that it might carry sinners to hell (Gehenna).

Verse 10. “There were millions ministering unto Him, and a billion stood by His side.” [The Aramaic original is more conservative: “A million were ministering unto Him, and a hundred million were standing (in His presence).”] This was not intended to be a specific number for the servants of God, but only indicates a multitude too great for human computation. These are the thousands and tens of thousands of which we read in the Psalms: “The chariot of God is attended by ten thousands; thousands of them that rejoice. The Lord is among them” (Ps. 67:18). And in another place: “He who maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flaming fire” (Ps. 103:4). [The Protestant reader should always add one to the Vulgate Psalm-number in order to arrive at the Psalm-number of the Hebrew Bible or the English Version.] Now the duty of angels is twofold: the duty of one group is to bestow rewards upon just men; the duty of the other is to have charge over individual calamities [i.e., calamities in the lives of individuals? The original is: qui singulis praesunt cruciatibus]. (D)

“. .. The court was in session, and the books were opened.” The consciences of men, and the deeds of individuals which partake of either character, whether good or bad, are disclosed to all. One of the books is the good book of which we (p. 533) often read, namely the book of the living. The other is the evil book which is held in the hand of the accuser, who is the fiend and avenger of whom we read in Revelation: “The accuser of our brethren” (Rev. 12:10). This is the earthly book of which the prophet says: “Let them be written on earth” (Jer. 17:13).

Verse 11. “I looked on because of the sound of the lofty words which that horn was uttering.” The judgment of God descends for the humbling of pride. Hence the Roman Empire also will be destroyed, because [it is] the horn [which] was uttering the lofty words.

“. . .And I saw that the beast was slain and its body |80 perished.” In the one empire of the Romans, all the kingdoms at once are to be destroyed, because of the blasphemy of the Antichrist. (670) And the [succeeding] empire shall not be an earthly empire at all, but it is simply the abode of the saints which is spoken of here, and the advent of the conquering Son of God.

Verses 13, 14. “And behold, there came One with the clouds of heaven like unto the Son of man.” He who was described in the dream of Nebuchadnezzar as a rock cut without hands, which also grew to be a large mountain, and which smashed the earthenware, the iron, the bronze, the silver, and the gold is now introduced as the very person of the Son of man, so as to indicate in the case of the Son of God how He took upon Himself human flesh; according to the statement which we read in the Acts of the Apostles: “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up towards heaven? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him going into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

“. . .And He arrived unto the Ancient of days, and they brought Him before His presence, and He gave unto Him authority and honor and royal power.” All that is said here concerning His being brought before Almighty God and receiving authority and honor and royal power is to be understood in the light of the Apostle’s statement: “Who, although He was in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and was found in His condition to be as a man: He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:6-8). And if the sect of the Arians were willing to give heed to all this Scripture with a reverent mind, they would never direct against the Son of God the calumny that He is not on an equality with God.

“.. .And He is the one whom all the peoples, tribes, and language-groups shall serve. His authority is an eternal authority which shall not be removed, and His kingdom shall be one that shall never be destroyed… .” Let Porphyry answer the query of whom out of all mankind this language might apply to, or who this person might be who was so powerful as to break and smash to pieces the little horn, whom he interprets to be Antiochus? If he replies that the princes of Antiochus were defeated |81 by Judas Maccabaeus, then he must explain how Judas could be said to come with the clouds of heaven like unto the Son of man, and to be brought unto the Ancient of days, and how it could be said that authority and royal power was bestowed upon him, and that all (671) peoples and tribes and language-groups served him, and that his power is eternal and not terminated by any conclusion (p. 534).

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St Jerome’s Commentary on Daniel 6:12-28

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 23, 2013

Verse 12. ” ‘Hast thou not ordained, O king, that any man who makes a request of any other person besides thee, whether god or man, shall be thrown into the lion-pit?’ The king answered them, saying. …” They do not mention Daniel’s name, so that when the king has made a general answer as to the order he gave, he may then be bound by his own word, and not deal with Daniel in any other fashion than he has stated.

” ‘What you have said is true, according to the decree of the Medes and Persians, which it is not lawful to violate.’ ” We repeatedly take note of every passage which speaks of the kingdom of the Medes and Persians, so that we may dispose of the knotty problem of why Daniel speaks of the kingdom in one place as being under Darius, and in another as being under Cyrus.

Verse 13. “Then they answered before the king and said, ‘Daniel, who is of the captivity of Judah, has paid no heed to thy law….'” In order to magnify (A) the dishonor involved in this contempt, they speak of the man who showed this contempt for the king’s commands as a mere captive.

Verse 14. “And when the king heard this |67 statement, he became quite grieved and applied himself on Daniel’s behalf that he might deliver him.” He realized that he had been tripped up by his own reply to their question, and also that envy was the motive of their plot. And so to avoid the appearance of acting against his own law, he wanted to deliver Daniel from danger by ingenuity and strategy rather than by exerting his royal authority. And so earnestly did he labor and strive that he would not accept any food, absolute monarch though he was, even until sunset. And as for the plotters, so firmly did they persist in their evil purpose that no consideration of the king’s personal desire or of the damage he would sustain had any effect upon them.

Verse 15. “But those men, understanding the king’s intent, said to him: ‘Be it known to thee, O king, that no law of the Medes and Persians, nor any decree which the king has enacted, is capable of alteration.’ ” Just as the king understood that the princes were making their accusation out of motives of envy, so also they for their part understood what the king’s purpose was, namely that he wished to rescue Daniel from imminent death. And so they allege that according to the law of the Medes and Persians, the commands of a king cannot be nullified.

Verse 16. “Then the king gave order, and they brought Daniel and cast him into the pit of lions. And the king said to Daniel: ‘Thy God whom thou dost ever serve will Himself deliver thee.'” He gives way to the crowd and dares not to withhold from his plotting adversaries the death of his friend, and he commits to the power of God the purpose which he himself was unable to attain. Nor does he use the language of doubt, so as to say, “If He be able to deliver thee”; but rather he speaks with boldness and confidence and says, “The God whom thou dost ever serve shall Himself deliver thee.” He had heard, of course, that three youths who were of a lower rank than Daniel himself had triumphed over the flames of Babylon. He had heard that many secrets had been revealed to Daniel, and therefore regarded him highly, (p. 526) and held him, captive though he was, in the greatest honor.

Verse 17. “A single stone was brought and placed over the opening of the pit, and the king sealed it with his ring… .” He sealed with his ring the rock by which the |68 opening of the pit was shut up, so that the enemies of Daniel might not make any attempt to harm him. For he had entrusted him to the power of God, and although not worried about lions, he was fearful of men. He also sealed it with the ring of his nobles, in order to avoid all ground for suspicion so far as they were concerned.

Verse 18. “And the king departed to his own house, and went to bed without partaking of supper. …” How sincere was the king’s good will, when he would not touch food night or day or grant his eyelids sleep, but as long as the prophet was in danger he himself remained in a state of sympathetic suspense. But if a king who knew not God did such a thing for another man whose deliverance he desired, how much more ought we to implore God’s mercy for our own sins with fastings and watchings.

Verse 19. “Then the king arose at the break of dawn and proceeded with haste to the pit of lions.” The term “pit” (lacus) implies a really deep depression, or dry cistern, in which the lions were fed. And so he proceeded hastily to the pit at the break of dawn, believing that Daniel was alive. But in Latin the word lacus is applied to a body of fresh water, such as Lake Benacus [the modern Garda] and Lake Larius [now Lake Como], and the rest of them. The Greeks call it limne, that is, “a body of standing water” (stagnum).

Verse 20. “And approaching the pit, he called out to Daniel with a tear-choked voice and addressed him.” By his tears he showed his inner emotion, and forgetting his royal dignity, the conqueror ran to his captive, the master to his servant.

Verse 20b. ” ‘O Daniel, servant of the living God….'” He calls Him the living God in order to distinguish Him from the gods of the Gentiles, who are but effigies of the dead.

‘Dost thou deem that thy God, whom thou ever servest, has been able to deliver thee from the lions?’ ” It was not that he had any doubts about the power of the God of whom he had previously affirmed, “Thy God, whom thou ever servest, will Himself deliver thee.” But he phrased the sentence doubtfully in order that when Daniel [reading “Daniel” instead of the |69 meaningless ablative “Daniele”] made his appearance unharmed, the king’s anger at the princes might seem the more justified, in proportion to the incredibility of the event.

Verse 21. “‘O king, live forever!'” Daniel honors the one who accords honor to him, and prays for him eternal life.

Verse 22. (662) ” ‘My God sent His angel and shut up the lions’ mouths, and they did me no harm.. . .'” The fierceness of the lions was not altered, but their gaping jaws were closed by the angel, and also their voracious hunger, and that too for the reason that the prophet’s good works had gone before him. And so his deliverance was not so much a matter of grace as of reward for his unrightness. And these words might be uttered by every saint, for he has been snatched from the mouths of lions unseen and from the infernal pit, because he has trusted in his God.

Verses 25-27. “Then king Darius wrote unto all the peoples, tribes and language-groups who dwelt in all (p. 527) the earth, saying: (A) ‘Your peace be multiplied! I have enacted a decree that in all my empire and kingdom men are to dread and tremble before the God of Daniel. For it is He who is the living God and the One who abides forever, and His rule shall not be overthown, and His power shall eternally endure. It is He who is the Deliverer and Savior, who performs signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, and who has delivered Daniel from the pit of lions.'” Just as in the case of Nebuchadnezzar’s writing unto the language-groups and nations one authority has interpreted them to signify hostile powers, so also this same man interprets the action of Darius, on the ground that he summons them all to repentance. And he poses the question as to whether this will take place in this world or in the other world, or even after other worlds have intervened. We deem these speculations to be absurd and account them as empty fables, and make this single observation: that the reason why signs are performed amid barbarian peoples through the agency of God’s servants is that the worship and religion of the only God may be proclaimed.

Verse 28. “Thereafter Daniel lived on until the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.” And so the statement which we read above at the end of the first vision, “And Daniel lived until the first year of King Cyrus,” is not to be |70 understood as defining the span of his life. In view of the fact that we read in the last vision: “In the third year of Cyrus, King of the Persians, a word was revealed to Daniel, whose surname was Belteshazzar”; this is what is meant, that up to the first year of King Cyrus, who destroyed the empire of the Chaldeans, Daniel continued in power in Chaldea, but was afterwards transferred to Media by Darius.  |71

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St Jerome’s Commentary on Daniel 5

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 23, 2013

Verse 1. “Belshazzar the king made a great feast for his one thousand nobles; and each one drank in the order of his age.” It should be known that this man was not the son of Nebuchadnezzar, as readers commonly imagine; but according to (C) Berosus, who wrote the history of the Chaldeans, and also Josephus, who follows Berosus, after Nebuchadnezzar’s reign of forty-three years, a son named Evilmerodach succeeded to his throne. It was concerning this king that Jeremiah wrote that in the first year of his reign he raised the head of Jehoiachin, king of Judah, and took him out of his prison (Jer. 52). Josephus likewise reports that after the death of Evilmerodach, his son [actually his brother-in-law] Neriglissar succeeded to his father’s throne; after whom in turn came his son (D) Labosordach, [the cuneiform spelling is Labashi-Marduk]. Upon the latter’s death, his son, Belshazzar [note that Jerome is not aware of Belshazzar’s father, Nabonidus], obtained the kingdom, and it is of him that the Scripture now makes mention. After he had been killed by Darius, King of the Medes, who was the maternal uncle of Cyrus, King of the Persians, the empire of the Chaldeans was destroyed by Cyrus the Persian. It was these two kingdoms [the Median and the Persian] which Isaiah in chap. 21 addresses as a charioteer of a vehicle drawn by a camel and an ass. Indeed Xenophon also writes the same thing in connection with the childhood of Cyrus the Great; likewise Pompeius Trogus and many others who have written up the history of the barbarians. Some authorities think that this Darius was the Astyages mentioned in the Greek writings, while others think it was Astyages’ son, and that he was called by the other name among the barbarians. “And each one of the princes who had been invited drank in the order of his own age.” Or else, as other translators have rendered it: “The king himself was drinking in the presence of all the princes whom he had invited.” [The latter rendering seems to be the only one justified by the Aramaic original.] |56

Verse 2. “Being now drunken, he therefore gave order that (p. 519) the golden and silver vessels be brought in which his father, Nebuchadnezzar, had taken away from the temple which was in Jerusalem, in order that the king might drink from them. …” The Hebrews hand down some such story as this: that up until the seventieth year, on which Jeremiah had said that the captivity of the Jewish people would be released (652) (a matter of which Zechariah also speaks in the first part o£ his book), Belshazzar had esteemed God’s promise to be of none effect; therefore he turned the failure of the promise into an occasion of joy and arranged a great banquet, scoffing somewhat at the expectation of the Jews and at the vessels of the Temple of God. Punishment, however, immediately ensued. And as to the fact that the author calls Nebuchadnezzar the father of Belshazzar, he does not make any mistake in the eyes of those who are acquainted with the Holy Scripture’s manner of speaking, for in the Scripture all progenitors and ancestors are called fathers. This factor also should be borne in mind, that he was not sober when he did these things, but rather when he was intoxicated and forgetful of the punishment which had come upon his progenitor, Nebuchadnezzar.

Verse 4. “They were drinking wine and praising their gods of gold, of silver, of bronze, of iron, of wood, and of stone.” How great was their folly! As they drank from golden vessels, they were praising gods of wood and of stone. As long as the vessels had been in the idol-temple of Babylon, God was not moved to wrath, for they had evidently consecrated the property of God to divine worship, even though they did so in accordance with their own depraved views of religion. But after they defiled holy things for the use of men, their punishment followed upon the heels of their sacrilege. Moreover they were praising their own gods and scoffing at the God of the Jews, on the ground that they were drinking from His vessels because of the victory their own gods had bestowed upon them. Applying this figuratively, we should have to say that it applies to all the heretics or to any doctrine which is contrary to truth but which appropriates the words of the Biblical prophets and misuses the testimony of Scripture to suit its own inclination. It furnishes liquor to those whom it deceives and with whom it has committed fornication. |57 It carries off the vessels of God’s Temple and waxes drunken by quaffing them; and it does not give the praise to the God whose vessels they are, but to gods of gold and silver, of bronze, of iron, of wood, and of stone. I think that the golden ones (A) are those which consist of earthly reason. The silver gods are those which possess the charm of eloquence and are fashioned by rhetoric. But those which bring in the fables of the poets and employ ancient traditions containing marked divergences from one another in respect to good taste or folly, (653) such are described as bronze and iron. And those who set forth sheer absurdities are called wooden or stone. The Book of Deuteronomy divides these all into two classes, saying: “Cursed is the man who fashions a graven image and a molten image, the work of the hands of an artificer, and sets it up in a secret place” (Deut. 32:15). For all heretics operate secretly and disguise their fallacious teachings, in order that they may from concealment shoot their arrows against those who are upright in heart.

Verse 5. “At that same hour some fingers appeared as if they were of a human hand, writing something over against the lampstand upon the surface of the wall of the king’s palace. And the king watched the joints of the hand as it wrote.” He puts it nicely when he says, “At that same hour,” just as we earlier read concerning Nebuchadnezzar, “While the saying was yet in the king’s mouth.” This was in order that the offender might recognize that his punishment was not inflicted upon him for any other reason but his blasphemy.

(p. 520) But as for the circumstance that the fingers seemed to be writing on the wall over against the lampstand, this was to avoid having the hand and the written matter appear at too great a distance from the light (to be clearly visible). And the fingers wrote upon the wall of the royal palace in order that the king might understand that the inscription concerned himself.

Verse 6. “Then the king’s expression was altered. …” Here too it is to be observed concerning those Psalms entitled: “For those who will suffer alterations (or vicissitudes),” that the alteration of fortune is not only the lot of the saint but also of the sinner. [“For those who will suffer alteration” is a remarkable interpretation of the Hebrew (al-shoshannim)—-“according to lilies” (RSV)—-rendered in the Authorized Version as |58 “upon Shoshannim.” The Vulgate rendering, following that of the Septuagint, is based upon a very implausible vowel pointing: ‘al-sheshonim.’] For we read in this connection: “King Belshazzar was considerably disturbed and his countenance was altered.”

Verse 7. The king therefore cried out vehemently that the magicians should be brought in, and the Chaldeans and the soothsayers….” Forgetting about the experiences of Nebuchadnezzar, he was following after the ancient and ingrained error of his family, so that instead of summoning a prophet of God he summons the magicians and Chaldeans and soothsayers.

“. . .he shall be clothed in purple and he shall have a golden necklace about his neck.” It is, of course, ridiculous of me to argue about matters of gender in a commentary on the prophets; but inasmuch as an ignorant but ostentatious critic has rebuked me for changing “necklace” (torquis) from feminine to masculine, I will make the brief observation that while Cicero (B) and Vergil use “necklace” in the feminine, Livy uses it in the masculine.

“…and he shall be the third man in my kingdom. …” That means either that he is to be third in rank after the king, or else one of the three princes of the realm—-for we elsewhere read of the tristatai. [A tristates is one who stands next in rank to the king and queen, i.e., a vizier.]

Verse 10. “Now the queen, by reason of what had happened to the king and his nobles, entered into the banquet-hall. …” Josephus says she was Belshazzar’s grandmother, whereas Origen says she was his mother. She therefore knew about previous events of which the king was ignorant. So much for Porphyry’s far-fetched objection [lit.: “Therefore let Porphyry stay awake nights”—-evigilet], who fancies that she was the king’s wife, and makes fun of the fact that she knows more than her husband does.

Verse 10 (=11). “‘There is a man in thy kingdom who possesses within him the spirit of the holy gods.'” All the authorities except Symmachus, who adheres to the Chaldee original, render: “the spirit of God.”

“‘. .. and in the days of thy father, wisdom, and knowledge were found in him.. . .’ ” She calls Nebuchadnezzar his father, according to the custom of the Scriptures, even though, |59 as we remarked before, he was actually his great-grandfather. But Daniel’s godly manner of life even amongst the barbarians is worthy of our imitation, for the very grandmother or mother of the king extolled him with such words of praise because of the greatness of his virtues.

Verse 11 (sic!) (=17). “To this Daniel made answer before the king, saying: ‘Thy gifts be unto thyself, and bestow the presents of thy house upon someone else. .. .'” We should follow the example of a man like Daniel, who despised the honor and gifts of a king, and who without any reward even in that early day followed the Gospel injunction: “Freely have ye received, freely give.” And besides, when one is announcing sad tidings, it is unbecoming for him willingly to accept gifts.

Verse 19. “‘He slew whomever he would and smote to death whomever he wished to; those whom he wished he set on high, and brought low whomever he would.’ ” Thus he sets forth the example of the king’s great-grandfather (p. 521), in order to teach him the justice of God and make it clear that his great-grandson too was to suffer similar treatment because of his pride. Now if Nebuchadnezzar slew whomever he would and smote to death whomever he wished to; if he set on high those whom he would and brought low whomever he wished to, there is certainly no Divine providence or Scriptural injunction behind these honors and slayings, these acts of promotion and humiliation. But rather, such things ensue from the will [reading voluntate for the erroneous voluntas of the text] of the men themselves who do the slaying and promoting to honor, and all the rest. If this be the case, the question arises as to how we are to understand the Scripture: “The heart of a king reposes in the hand of God; He will incline it in whatever direction He wishes” (Prov. 21:1). Perhaps we might say that every saint is a king (655), for sin does not reign in his mortal body, and his heart therefore is kept safe, for he is in God’s hand (Rom. 6). And whatever has once come into the hand of God the Father, according to the Gospel, no man is able to take it away. And whoever is taken away, it is understood that he never was in God’s hand at all.

Verses 22, 23. ” ‘Thou too, his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, even though thou knewest all these things, but hast lifted thyself up against the ruler of heaven….'” |60 Because thy great-grandfather, she says, lifted up his heart and hardened his spirit in pride, he therefore was put down from his royal throne and his glory was taken away, and so on (Jer. 4). Therefore in thy case also, because thou knewest these things about thy relative and didst understand that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble, thou shouldest not have lifted up thy heart against the ruler of heaven and scoffed at His majesty and perpetrated the deeds which thou hast. Some authorities apply this passage to Antichrist, on the ground that he has imitated the pride of his father, the Devil, and has raised himself up against God. But they must deal with the question of whom Daniel represents, and who is to be understood as interpreting the inscription of God, and who these Medes and Persians are who put Antichrist to death and succeed to his royal power. For there is no doubt but what it is the saints who are to rule after the Antichrist.

Verses 25-28. “This is the inscription which has been set up: MANE, THECEL, PHARES. And this is the interpretation of the sentence: ‘MANE’ means that God has numbered thy kingdom and brought it to an end. ‘THECEL’ means it has been weighed in the scales and has been found deficient (Vulg.: thou hast been weighed and hast been found. .. .). ‘PHARES’ means that thy kingdom has been removed and given to the Medes and Persians.” The inscription (A) of these three words on the wall simply meant: “Mane, Thecel, Phares”; the first of which sounds forth the idea of “number,” and the second “a weighing out,” and the third “removal.” And so there was a need not only for reading the inscription but also for interpreting what had been read, in order that it might be understood what these words were announcing. That is to say, that God had numbered his kingdom and brought it to an end, and that He had seized hold upon him to weigh him in His judgment-scales, and the sword would slay him before he should meet a natural death; and that his empire would be divided among the Medes and Persians. For Cyrus, the king of the Persians, as we have already mentioned, overthrew the Chaldean Empire in alliance with Darius, his maternal uncle.

Verse 29. (p. 522) (656) “Then at the kings order Daniel was clothed with purple and a golden chain was placed |61 around his neck, and he was proclaimed to have authority as third ruler in the kingdom.” Or else, it might be construed as having authority over a third part of the kingdom. At any rate he received the royal insignia of necklace and purple, with the result that he appeared more notable to Darius, who was to be the successor in the royal power, and all the more honorable because of his notability. Nor was it strange that Belshazzar should have paid the promised reward upon hearing sad tidings. For either he supposed that his predictions would take place in the distant future, or else he hoped he would obtain mercy by honoring the prophet of God. And if he did not obtain this boon, it was because his sacrilege toward God outweighed the honor he accorded to man.

Verses 30, 31. “On that same night Belshazzar, King of the Chaldeans, was slain, and Darius the Mede succeeded to his kingdom at the age of sixty-two.” Josephus writes in his tenth book of the Jewish Antiquities that when Babylon had been laid under siege by the Medes and Persians, that is, by Darius and Cyrus, Belshazzar, King of Babylon, fell into such forgetfulness of his own situation as to put on his celebrated banquet and drink from the vessels of the Temple, and even while he was besieged he found leisure for banqueting. From this circumstance the historical account could arise, that he was captured and slaughtered on the same night, while everyone was either terrified by fear of the vision and its interpretation, or else taken up with festivity and drunken banqueting. As for the fact that while Cyrus, King of the Persians, was the victor, and Darius was only King of the Medes, it was Darius who was recorded to have succeeded to the throne of Babylon, this was an arrangement occasioned by factors of age, family relationship, and the territory ruled over. By this I mean that Darius was sixty-two years old, and that, according to what we read, the kingdom of the Medes was more sizable than that of the Persians, and being Cyrus’s uncle, he naturally had a prior claim, and ought to have been accounted as successor to the rule of Babylon. Therefore also in a vision of Isaiah which was recited against Babylon, after many other matters too lengthy to mention, an account is given of these things which are to take place: “Behold I Myself will rouse up against them the Medes, a people who do not seek after silver nor desire gold, but who |62 slay the very children with their arrows and have no compassion upon women who suckle their young” (B) (Isa. 13:7). And Jeremiah says: “Sanctify nations against her, even the kings of Media, and the governors thereof and all the magistrates thereof and all the land under the power thereof” (Jer. 51:28). Then follow the words: “The daughter of Babylon is like a threshing-floor during the time of its treading; yet a little while, and the time of its harvesting will come” (Jer. 51:33). And in testimony of the fact that Babylon was captured (657) during a banquet, Isaiah clearly exhorts her to battle when he writes: “Babylon, my beloved, has become a strange spectacle unto me [this rendering differs from the Hebrew original and the Septuagint, and seems altogether unjustified]: set thou the table and behold in the mirrors [the Hebrew says: “set the watch”] those who eat and drink; rise up, ye princes, and snatch up your shields!” (Isa. 21:4, 5). |63 (source)

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St Jerome on Daniel 1:1-6, 8-20

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 23, 2013

Verse 1. (p. 495) (623) “In the third year of the reign of Joacim (Jehoiakim) king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.” Jehoiakim, son of the Josiah in whose thirteenth regnal year Jeremiah began to prophesy, and under whom the woman Hulda prophesied, was the same man as was called by the other name of Eliakim, and reigned over the tribes of Judah and Jerusalem eleven years. His son Jehoiachin [misprinted “Joachim” for “Joachin”; cf. IV Reg. 24:6 in the Vulgate] surnamed Jeconiah, followed him in the kingship, and on the tenth day of the third month of his reign he was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar’s generals and brought to Babylon. In his place his paternal uncle Zedekiah, a son of Josiah, was appointed king, and in his eleventh year Jerusalem was captured and destroyed. Let no one therefore imagine that the Jehoiakim in the beginning of Daniel is the same person as the one who is spelled Jehoiachin [Lat. Joachin] in the commencement of Ezekiel. For the latter has “-chin” as its final syllable, whereas the former has “-kim.” And it is for this reason that in the Gospel according to Matthew there seems to be a generation missing, because the second group of fourteen, (A) extending to the time of Jehoiakim, ends with a son of Josiah, and the third group begins with Jehoiachin, son of Jehoiakim. Being ignorant of this factor, Porphyry formulated a slander against the Church which only revealed his own ignorance, as he tried to prove the evangelist Matthew guilty of error.

Verse 2. “And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand.” (B) The fact that Jehoiachim is recorded to have been given over shows that it was not a victory for the might of his enemies but rather it was of the will of the Lord. “.. .and some of the vessels of the house of God, and he brought them to the land of Shinar (C) to the house of his god, and he conveyed them into the treasure house of his god” (Gen. 11). The land of Shinar is a region of Babylon in which the plain of Dura |20 was located, and also the tower which those who had migrated from the East attempted to build up to heaven. From this circumstance and from the confusion of tongues the region received the name Babylon, which, translated into our language, means “confusion.” At the same time it ought to be noted, by way of spiritual interpretation [anagogen], that the king of Babylon was not able to transport all of the vessels of God, and place them in the idol-house which he had built himself, but only a part of the vessels (624) of God’s house. By these vessels we are to understand the dogmas of truth. For if you go through all of the works of the philosophers, you will necessarily find in them some portion of the vessels of God. For example, you will find in Plato that God is the fashioner of the universe, in Zeno the chief of the Stoics, that there are (p. 496) inhabitants in the infernal regions and that souls are immortal, and that honor is the one (true) good. But because the philosophers combine truth with error and corrupt the good of nature with many evils, for that reason they are recorded to have captured only a portion of the vessels of God’s house, and not all of them in their completeness and perfection. Verse 3. “And the king said to Ashpenaz the overseer of his eunuchs, (D) that he should out of the number of the children of Israel and, of the royal seed and (the seed of) the rulers [tyrannorum, Jer.’s rendering of Heb. partemim, “nobles”] bring in some young lads who were free from all blemish.” Instead of Ashpenaz (“Asphanez”) I found Abriesdri written in the Vulgate [i.e., the LXX] edition. For the word phorlhommin which Theodotion uses, the Septuagint and Aquila translated “the chosen ones,” whereas Symmachus rendered “Parthians,” understanding it as the name of a nation instead of a common noun. This is in disagreement with the Hebrew edition as it is accurately read; I have translated it as “rulers,” especially because it is preceded by the words “of the seed royal.” From this passage the Hebrews think that Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were eunuchs, thus fulfilling that prophecy which is spoken by Isaiah regarding Hezekiah: “And they shall take of thy seed and make eunuchs of them in the house of the king (E) of Babylon” (Isa. 37: 7). If however they were of the seed royal, there is no doubt but what they were of the line of David. But perhaps the following words are opposed to this interpretation: “… lads, or youths, who |21 were free from all blemish, in order that he might teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.” Philo supposes that Chaldee is the same thing as the Hebrew language, because Abraham came from the Chaldeans. But if we accept this we must ask how the Hebrew lads could now be bidden to be taught a language which they already knew; unless, perchance, we should say, as some believe, that Abraham was acquainted with two languages.

Verse 7. “And the overseer of the eunuchs imposed names upon them, calling Daniel Belteshazzar (Balthasar), and Hananiah Shadrach, and Mishael Meshach, and Azariah (625) Abednego.” It was not only the overseer or master of the eunuchs (as others have rendered it, the “chief-eunuch”) who changed the names of saints, but also Pharaoh called Joseph in Egypt (Gen. 41) (F) Somtonphanec [Heb.: Zaphenath-paaneah], for neither of them wished them to have Jewish names in the land of captivity. Wherefore the prophet says in the Psalm: “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” (Ps. 136:4). Furthermore the Lord Himself changes names benignly, and on the basis of events imposes names of special significance, so as to (p. 497) call Abram Abraham, and Sarai Sarah (Gen. 17). Also in the Gospel, the former Simon received the name of Peter (Mark 3), (A) and the sons of Zebedee are called “sons of thunder”—-which is not boanerges, as most people suppose, but is more correctly read benereem [a reading for which there is no manuscript support, but which would be the Hebrew for “sons of thunder”].

Verse 8. “Daniel, however, purposed in his heart that he would not be defiled by food from the king’s table, nor by the wine which he drank, and he asked the chief of the eunuchs that he might not be polluted.” He who would not eat or drink of the king’s food or wine lest he be denied (especially if he should be aware that the wisdom and teaching of the Babylonians is mistaken), would never consent to utter what was wrong. On the contrary they [i.e., the Hebrew youths] speak it forth, not that they may follow it themselves, but in order to pass judgment upon it and refute it. Just as anyone would expose himself to ridicule if he being untrained in mathematics should desire to write in confutation of mathematicians, or, being ignorant of the teachings of philosophers should desire to write in opposition to |22 philosophers. Hence they [i.e., the Hebrew youths] study the teaching of the Chaldeans with the same intention as Moses studied the wisdom (B) of the Egyptians.

Verse 9. “God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the prince of eunuchs. . . . He who was taken into captivity on account of the sins of his forebears received an immediate recompense for the magnitude of his own virtues. For he had purposed in his heart that he would not be denied by food from the king’s table, and preferred humble fare to royal delicacies; therefore by the bounteous bestowal of the Lord he received favor and compassion in the sight of the prince of the eunuchs. By this we may understand that if ever under pressing circumstances holy men are loved by unbelievers, it is a matter of the mercy of God, not of the goodness of perverted men.

Verse 12. “I beg thee, try us thy servants for ten days, (C) and let pulse be given us to eat and water to drink.” His faith was so incredibly great that he not only promised he would be in good flesh by eating the humbler food, but he even set a time-limit. Therefore it was not a matter of temerity but of faith, for the sake of which he despised the sumptuous fare of the king.

Verse 17. “But God gave these lads knowledge and learning in every book and branch of wisdom, and He gave to Daniel besides an understanding of all visions and dreams.” Note that God is said to have given the holy lads knowledge and learning in secular literature, in every book and branch of wisdom. Symmachus rendered this by “grammatical art,” implying that they understood everything they read, and by the Spirit of God could make a judgment concerning the lore of the Chaldeans. But Daniel had an outstanding gift over and above the three lads, in that he could astutely discern the significance of visions and dreams in which things to come are shown forth by means of certain symbols and mysteries. Therefore that which others saw only in a shadowy appearance he could perceive clearly with the eyes of his understanding.

Verse 18. “Therefore when the days had been completed at the end of which the king had bidden them to be presented to him, the chief of the eunuchs presented them in the presence of Nebuchadnezzar.” By the “completed days” |23 understand the period of three years which the king had appointed (p. 498), so that after they had been nourished and trained for three years, they should then stand in the presence of the king.

Verse 20. “And every word of wisdom and understanding the king inquired of them, he found it in them ten times as great as all the soothsayers and magicians put together who were to be found in his entire realm.” For “soothsayers” and “magicians” the Vulgate edition [i.e., of the Septuagint] translated “sophists” and “philosophers”—-terms to be understood not in the sense of the philosophy and sophistic erudition which Greek learning holds forth, but rather in the sense of the lore of a barbarian people, which the Chaldeans pursue as philosophy even to this day.

“Daniel therefore continued unto the first year of Cyrus the king.” In the later discussion we shall explain how it was that Daniel who is here described as having continued till the first year of king Cyrus afterwards held office in the third year of that same Cyrus and is even recorded to have lived in the first year of Darius. |24


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St Jerome’s Commentary on Daniel 3:14-20 91-92, 95

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 16, 2013

Verse 14. “Do ye not serve my gods, and do you not worship the golden statue which I have set up?. . .” Other authorities assert that it is the custom of Holy Scripture to speak of the one and same idol in the plural, just like the verse in Exodus concerning the calf: “These are thy gods, O Israel, who have brought thee out of the land of Egypt” (Ex. 22:4). Also in the Book of Kings, where Jeroboam is establishing the golden (p. 507) calf in Bethel, he is said to have fashioned idols (I Kings 12). On the other hand a plurality of demons are addressed in the singular number, as in Isaiah: “He bows himself down and worships it, and as he makes his vow he says, ‘Thou art my God!'” (Isa. 44:17).

Verse 15. “Prostrate yourselves and worship the statue I have made.” Although he had up to this point given the youths his orders in angry fashion, yet he gives them room for a change of heart, so that their previous guilt might be pardoned if only they should fall down and worship. But if they should not deign to offer worship, the punishment of the fiery furnace lay at hand.

“And what God is there who shall rescue you from my hand?…” Why naturally, that same God whose servant thou didst just recently worship and Whom thou didst assert to be truly God of gods and Lord of kings.

Verse 16 (638). “King Nebuchadnezzar, we ought not to render thee answer concerning this matter.” In the Hebrew [i.e., Chaldee] original there is no vocative “King” (A) as there is in the Septuagint, lest they should seem to address the ungodly man with servile flattery or to term him a king who was |38 trying to force them to wickedness. But if it be contended that the reading, “O king!” should be included, then we may say that the youths were not impudently challenging the king to shed their blood but rendering him due honor so as to avoid injury to the true religion of God. But as for their statement. “We ought not to render thee answer concerning this matter,” the meaning is: “Thou hast no need to hear words from men whose bravery and firmness thou wilt presently test by actual deeds.”

Verse 17. “For behold, our God whom we serve is able to rescue us from the furnace of burning fire and to free us from thy hands, O king!” Where he had imagined he was frightening mere youths, he perceives in them a nature of manly courage. Nor do they speak of deliverance as delayed to the distant future, but rather they promise themselves immediate succor, asserting, “For behold, our God whom we serve is the One who is able to free us both from the fearsome flames thou threatenest and from thy hands.”

Verse 18. “But if He does not will to do so”—-a phrasing which admirably avoids the idea, “If He is not able,” which would be inconsistent with what they had just asserted, “He is able to deliver us” —- but rather they say, “If He does not will to do so.” Thereby they indicate that it will not be a matter of God’s inability but rather of His sovereign will if they do perish.

“Be it known to thee, O king, that we do not serve thy gods and do not worship the golden statue which thou hast set up.” Whether we wish to read “statue” as Symmachus does, or “golden image” as the other authorities have rendered it, those who reverence God are not to worship it. Therefore let judges and princes who worship the statues of emperors or idols realize that they are doing precisely the thing which the three youths refused to do and thereby pleased God. And we should observe the proper significance of the issue involved: they assert that worshipping the mere image is equivalent to serving the false gods themselves, neither of which things is befitting to the servants of God.

Verse 19 (p. 508). “Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with rage, and (B) the aspect of his countenance was wholly altered.” In certain Psalms the titles contain the notation; “On |39 behalf of those who are to be wholly altered.” [This is a literal rendering of the Septuagint’s erroneous translation of the Hebrew title ‘al shoshanni’m, which occurs in Psalm 45 and Psalm 69, and signifies: “Upon anemonies.”] And so the expression “wholly altered” is ambiguous, comprising both the idea of change for the worse or change for the better. Now of course the alteration of Nebuchadnezzar’s visage cannot be reconciled with a favorable sense. And after all there are some authorities who refer even the Psalm-titles to a change for the worse, on the ground that those who by nature have known God have been changed by the vexation and fury of their mind to a position of hostility towards Christ and His saints.

Verse 20. “And he gave orders that the furnace be fired to sevenfold intensity beyond its usual temperature, (C) and he commanded the strongest men in his army to bind the legs of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and cast them into the furnace of flaming fire.” Just as if the usual fire without multiplied intensity could not have consumed the youths’ bodies! But a fury and rage which borders on madness can observe no bounds. Also he wished by the threat of intensified punishment to terrify those who seemed prepared for death.

Verses 91, 92. “Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and hastily arose and said to his nobles: ‘Did we not cast three men in shackles into the midst of the fire?'” [When figures are given in parentheses they indicate the versification in the KJV.] After the princes have been punished, the king is rebuked, in order that he may glorify God while still alive. But he questions his nobles, by whose accusation and plot he had cast the three youths into the fiery furnace, so that when they reply that they had cast three youths into the furnace, he might announce and show forth to them (what had happened).

“And they said to the king in reply, ‘Truly, O king!’ The king answered (the Vulgate omits “the king”): ‘Behold, I see four men unbound and walking about in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt, and the appearance of the fourth man (B) is the likeness of a son of God.’ ” Let me say again, how wise was the fire and how indescribable the power of God! Their bodies had been bound with chains; those chains were burnt up, whereas the bodies themselves were not burnt. As for the appearance of the fourth man, which he asserts to be like that of a son of God, either we must take him to be an angel, as the Septuagint has rendered it, or indeed, as the majority think, the Lord our Savior. Yet I do not know how an ungodly king could have merited a vision of the Son of God. On that |44 reasoning one should follow Symmachus, who has thus interpreted it: “But the appearance of the fourth is like unto the sons,” not unto the sons of God but unto gods themselves. We are to think of angels here, who after all are very frequently called gods as well as sons of God. So much for the story itself. But as for its typical significance, this angel or son of God foreshadows our Lord Jesus (p. 512) Christ, who descended into the furnace of hell, in which the souls of both sinners and of the righteous were imprisoned, in order that He might without suffering any scorching by fire or injury to His person deliver those who were held imprisoned by chains of death.

Verse 95. ” ‘Blessed be God (the Vulgate has “their God, namely”) of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Who hath sent His angel and rescued His servants who believed in Him. . ..’ ” The person whom he had previously called a son of God he here calls an angel, even though he had in the preceding passage described him as similar to a son of God rather than to God Himself. A second time, therefore, Nebuchadnezzar resumes a confession of faith in God, and as he condemns idols he praises the three youths who refused to serve or worship any god but their own God. Moreover he marvels that the fire was unable to affect the saints of God, for he says:

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St Jerome’s Commentary on Daniel 13

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 16, 2013

Verses 1, 2. “Now there was a man that dwelt in Babylon whose name was Joakim; and he took a wife whose name was Susanna, the daughter of Helcias, a very beautiful woman and one who feared the Lord” (Vulgate: God). Having expounded to the best of my ability the contents of the book of Daniel according to the Hebrew, I shall briefly set forth the comments of Origen concerning the stories of Susanna and of Bel contained (731) in the Tenth Book of his Stromata. These remarks are from him (D) and one may observe them in the appropriate sections (i.e., of Origen’s work).

Verse 3. “And being righteous folk, her parents had educated their daughter in conformity with the law of Moses (Vulgate: because they were righteous, they had instructed….” This verse should be used as a testimony in order to urge parents to teach their daughters in accordance with God’s law and holy Word, as well as their sons.

Verse 5. “And there were (E) two of the elders of the people (the Vulgate omits: of the people) who were appointed judges that year.” There was a Jew who used to allege that these men were Ahab and Zedekiah (variant: Alchias and Zedekiah), of whom Jeremiah wrote: “The Lord do to thee as Ahab and Zedekiah, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire because of the iniquity they had wrought in Israel and because they had committed adultery (variant: were committing adultery) with the wives of their citizens” (Jer. 29). [In Jer. 21:23; 29:21 they are mentioned as Ahab, the son of Koliah, and Zedekiah, the son of Maaseiah, two false prophets who were denounced by Jeremiah.]

“It was concerning them that the Lord said that iniquity came forth from Babylon on the part of the ancient judges who appeared to govern the people. They used to frequent the house of Joakim….” Very appropriately it is not said of these sinful elders, “They governed the people,” but rather, “They |153 appeared to govern.” For those who furnish good leadership to the people are the ones who govern them, but those who merely have the title of judge and lead the people unjustly only appear to govern the people rather than actually doing so.

Verse 8. “And they were inflamed with lust (F) for her, and they perverted their own mind and turned their eyes away that they might not look toward heaven nor remember just judgments.” What the Greeks call pathos we render more correctly by “emotion” than by “passion.” And so it was this emotion, this lustful desire, which (p. 581) aroused or even smote the hearts of the elders. But in order that they might lay some basis for it in their hearts and might plan how to satisfy their desires, they perverted their own minds. And as their minds were subverted, they turned away their eyes that they might not regard heavenly things or remember righteous judgments, or God, or honor, or character, the factors for good which are inherent in all men. “And behold, Susanna was taking a walk according to her custom.” [This is Verse 13 according to the Septuagint, not according to Theodotion, who does not include the verse at all.] It has been stated already that Susanna was actually in the habit of taking walks in the mornings. For the sake of pleasing those people who seek out Scriptural precedent for everything we do, it would not be inappropriate to seize upon this passage about taking walks, and say that it is a good thing for a person to take walks for the invigorating of his body. Origen says that he has taken this particular passage from the Septuagint; by this statement he shows that he has not discussed the rest of the chapter on the basis of the Septuagint translation.

Verse 19. [Vulgate: XIII:22] “Susanna sighed and said: ‘I am straitened on every side.'” Anyone who has attained to the acme of perfect virtue never says that she is faced with a crisis of decision, when she is unable to escape the hands of adulterers who say, “Consent to us and have intercourse with us; for otherwise, if thou art unwilling, we will witness against thee that a young man was with thee and thou sentest away thy maidens from thee for this purpose.” It is of course a characteristic of human frailty to fear a death which is inflicted upon one because of his uprightness. To be sure we might interpret her distress as arising not from the prospect of death but from the contumely |154 and disgrace which would be heaped upon her by those accusers who would claim: “A young man was with her, and she sent away her maidens for that reason.”

Verse 22. ” ‘For if I do this, it is death to me; but if I do not. .. .” She speaks of sin as death. For just as in the case of one who commits adultery, the adultery means death, so also every sin which results in death is to be equated with death. And we believe we die as often as we sin unto death. And therefore on the other hand we rise again and are made alive just as often as we perform deeds which are worthy of life.

Verse 23. ” ‘But it is better for me to fall into your hands without doing the deed than to sin in the sight of the Lord.'” In the Greek the word is not hairetoteron, or “better” [actually: more preferable], but haireton, which we may render by “good” [more accurately: “preferable”]. And so she chose her words well when she avoided saying, “It is better for me to fall into the hands of my enemies, the elders, than to sin in the sight of the Lord”; for thus she avoided calling something better in comparison with sin, which was not a good thing at all. But, she remarks, it is good for me not to do the wicked thing, and to fall into your clutches without sinning in God’s sight. (733) Therefore one should not use the comparative and say, “It is better for me to fall into your (p. 582) clutches than to sin in God’s sight,” but rather the positive, “It is good for me not to do the wicked thing and fall into your clutches, rather than to commit sin in God’s sight.”

Verse 24. “And Susanna cried out with a great voice. …” Her voice was great, not because of the intense vibrations it sent through the air nor because of the outcry that came from her lips, but because of the greatness of the chastity with which she called out to the Lord. And so for this reason the Scripture did not attribute a great voice to the outcry of the elders, for the following statement is merely: “The elders also cried out against her.”

Verse 42. “But Susanna cried out with a great voice.…” Her voice was rendered the clearer because of the emotion of her heart, the honest sincerity of her avowal, and the uprightness of her conscience. And so, although men would not listen to it, her outcry to God was great. |155

Verse 45. “And as she was being led away to die, the Lord raised up the holy spirit of a young boy.” By this language it is shown that the Holy Spirit did not then enter into Daniel, but rather that He was already within him, and only because of the tenderness of his years He had remained inactive. Nor could He show forth His works until an occasion arose and the Lord stirred him up on behalf of the holy woman.

Verse 46. “And he cried out with a great voice: ‘I am innocent of the blood of this woman. .. .'” Because the Holy Spirit was roused up within him and dictated to the boy what he should say, his voice was great. And if there is any place in Holy Scripture where the voice of a sinner is called great, it has (yet) to be noted. (734)

Verses 54 ff. ” ‘Tell me under which tree thou sawest them conversing with each other.’ And he answered, ‘Under the mastic tree.’ And Daniel said to him, ‘Well hast thou lied against thine own head; for behold, the angel of God, having received His sentence from Him, shall cleave thee in twain.’ And a little while later the other elder said, ‘Under the holm tree.’ And Daniel said to him, ‘Well hast thou lied against thine own head; but the angel of the Lord waiteth with a sword to sever thee in twain.'” Since the Hebrews reject the story of Susanna, asserting that it is not contained in the Book of Daniel, we ought to investigate carefully the names of the trees, the skhinos and the prinos, which the Latins interpret as “holm-oak” and “mastic-tree,” and see whether they exist among the Hebrews and what their derivation is —- for example, as “cleavage” [Latin (scissio) is derived from “mastic” [Greek skhinos], and “cutting” or “sawing” [Latin sectio, serratio] is derived from “holm tree” [Greek prinos, which resembles the Greek word for “to saw”: prio] in the language of the Greeks. But if no such derivation can be found, then we too are of necessity forced to agree with the verdict of those who claim that this chapter [Greek pericope] was originally composed in Greek, because it contains Greek etymology not found in Hebrew. [That is, because Daniel twice makes a sinister wordplay based upon the Greek names of these two trees, and a similar pun could not be made out from the Hebrew names, if any, of these trees, the story itself could never have been composed in Hebrew.] But if anyone can show (A) that the derivation |156 of the ideas of cleaving and severing from the names of the two trees in question is valid in Hebrew, then we may accept this scripture also as canonical.

Verse 60. “And the whole congregration (Vulgate: assembly) cried out with a great voice and blessed God, who (p. 583) saveth those who trust in Him. …” If the whole congregation put them to death, the view which we mentioned earlier is apparently refuted (A), namely that these were the elders Ahab and Zedekiah, in conformity with Jeremiah’s statement (chap. 29). The only other possibility is that instead of taking the statement, “They killed them,” literally, we interpret it as meaning that they gave them over to the king of Babylon to be put to death. (735) That would be just like when we say that the Jews put the Savior to death; not that they smote Him themselves, but they gave Him over to be slain and cried out, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” (John 19:15).

Verse 63. “But Helcias and his wife praised God for their daughter Susanna. …” Like true saints they praise God after a worthy fashion, not simply on the ground of Susanna’s deliverance from the clutches of the elders —- for that would hardly be sufficient (p. 584) matter for praise or of any decisive importance, even if she had not been so delivered —- but rather on the ground that no immorality was found in her. |157 (source)

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St Jerome’s Notes on Daniel 7:13-14

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 20, 2012

Verses 13, 14. “And behold, there came One with the clouds of heaven like unto the Son of man.” He who was described in the dream of Nebuchadnezzar as a rock cut without hands, which also grew to be a large mountain, and which smashed the earthenware, the iron, the bronze, the silver, and the gold is now introduced as the very person of the Son of man, so as to indicate in the case of the Son of God how He took upon Himself human flesh; according to the statement which we read in the Acts of the Apostles: “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up towards heaven? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him going into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

“. . .And He arrived unto the Ancient of days, and they brought Him before His presence, and He gave unto Him authority and honor and royal power.” All that is said here concerning His being brought before Almighty God and receiving authority and honor and royal power is to be understood in the light of the Apostle’s statement: “Who, although He was in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and was found in His condition to be as a man: He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:6-8). And if the sect of the Arians were willing to give heed to all this Scripture with a reverent mind, they would never direct against the Son of God the calumny that He is not on an equality with God.

“.. .And He is the one whom all the peoples, tribes, and language-groups shall serve. His authority is an eternal authority which shall not be removed, and His kingdom shall be one that shall never be destroyed… .” Let Porphyry answer the query of whom out of all mankind this language might apply to, or who this person might be who was so powerful as to break and smash to pieces the little horn, whom he interprets to be Antiochus? If he replies that the princes of Antiochus were defeated |81 by Judas Maccabaeus, then he must explain how Judas could be said to come with the clouds of heaven like unto the Son of man, and to be brought unto the Ancient of days, and how it could be said that authority and royal power was bestowed upon him, and that all (671) peoples and tribes and language-groups served him, and that his power is eternal and not terminated by any conclusion (source)

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St Jerome on Daniel 12:1-3

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 11, 2012

Daniel 12:1-3 is the first reading for the Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.

Verses 1-3. “But at that time shall Michael rise up, the great prince, who stands for the children of thy people, and a time shall come such as never occurred from the time that nations began to exist even unto that time. And at that time shall thy people be saved, even everyone who shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some unto life everlasting, and others unto reproach, that they may behold it always. But those who are instructed shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that instruct many as to righteousness, as the stars for all eternity.”

Up until this point Porphyry somehow managed to maintain his position and impose upon the credulity of the naive [reading imperitis for imperitus] among our adherents as well as the poorly educated among his own. But what can he say of this chapter, in which is described the resurrection of the dead, with one group being revived for eternal life and the other group for eternal disgrace? He cannot even specify who the people were under Antiochus who shone like the brightness of the firmament, and those others who shone like the stars for all eternity. But what will pigheadedness not resort to? Like some bruised serpent, he lifts up his head as he is about to die, and pours forth his venom upon those who are themselves at the point of death. This too, he declares, was written with reference to Antiochus, for after he had invaded Persia, he left his army with Lysias, who was in charge of Antioch and Phoenicia, for the purpose of warring against the Jews and destroying their city of Jerusalem. All these details are related by Josephus, the author of the history of the Hebrews. Porphyry contends that the tribulation was such as had never previously occurred, and that a time came along such as had never been from the time that races began to exist even unto that time. But when victory was bestowed upon them, and the generals of Antiochus had been slain, and Antiochus himself had died in Persia, the people of Israel |146 experienced salvation, (p. 576) even all who had been written down in the book of God, that is, those who defended the law with great bravery. Contrasted with them were those who proved to be transgressors of the Law and sided with the party of Antiochus. Then it was, he asserts, that these guardians of the Law, who had been, as it were, slumbering in the dust of the earth and were cumbered with a load of afflictions, and even hidden away, as it were, in the tombs of wretchedness, rose up once more from the dust of the earth to a victory unhoped for, and lifted up their heads, rising up to everlasting life, even as the transgressors rose up to everlasting disgrace. But those masters and teachers who possessed a knowledge of the Law shall shine like the heaven, and those who have exhorted the more backward peoples to observe the rites of God shall blaze forth after the fashion of the stars for all eternity. He also adduces the historical account concerning the Maccabees, in which it is said that many Jews under the leadership of Mattathias and Judas Maccabaeus fled to the desert and hid in caves and holes in the rocks, and came forth again after the victory (I Macc. 2.) These things, then, were foretold in metaphorical language (726) as if it concerned a resurrection of the dead. But the more reasonable understanding of the matter is that in the time of the Antichrist there shall occur a tribulation such as there has never been since nations began to exist. For assume that Lysias won the victory instead of being defeated, and that he completely crushed the Jews instead of their conquering; certainly such tribulation would not have been comparable to that of the time when Jerusalem was captured by the Babylonians, the Temple was destroyed, and all the people were led off into captivity. And so after the Antichrist is crushed and destroyed by the breath of the Savior’s mouth, the people written in God’s book shall be saved; and in accordance with the merits of each, some shall rise up unto eternal life and others unto eternal shame. But the teachers shall resemble the very heavens, and those who have instructed others shall be compared to the brightness of the stars. For it is not enough to know wisdom unless one also instructs others; and the tongue of instruction which remains silent and edifies no one else can receive no reward for labor accomplished. This passage is expressed by Theodo-tion and the Vulgate edition [of the Septuagint] in the following |147 fashion: “And those who understand shall shine forth like the radiance of the firmament, and many of the righteous like the stars forever and ever.” Many people often ask whether a learned saint and an ordinary saint shall both enjoy the same reward and one and the same dwelling-place in heaven. Well then, the statement is made here, according to Theodotion’s rendering, that the learned will resemble the very heavens, whereas the righteous who are without learning are only compared to the brightness of the stars. And so the difference between learned godliness and mere godly rusticity shall be the difference between heaven and the stars. (source).

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St Augustine On Daniel 12:1-3

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 11, 2012

The following comes from St Augustine’s CITY OF GOD, book 20, chapter 23: What Daniel Predicted Concerning the Persecution of the Antichrist, the Judgement of God, and the Kingdom of the Saints. Daniel 12:1-3 is the first reading for next Sunday’s Mass, (33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B).

Daniel prophesies of the last judgment in such a way as to indicate that Antichrist shall first come, and to carry on his description to the eternal reign of the saints. For when in prophetic vision he had seen four beasts, signifying four kingdoms, and the fourth conquered by a certain king, who is recognized as Antichrist, and after this the eternal kingdom of the Son of man, that is to say, of Christ, he says, “My spirit was terrified, I Daniel in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me,” etc (see Dan 7:15-28). Some have interpreted these four kingdoms as signifying those of the Assyrians, Persians, Macedonians, and Romans. They who desire to understand the fitness of this interpretation may read Jerome’s book on Daniel, which is written with a sufficiency of care and erudition. But he who reads this passage, even half asleep, cannot fail to see that the kingdom of Antichrist shall fiercely, though for a short time, assail the Church before the last judgment of God shall introduce the eternal reign of the saints. For it is patent from the context that the time, times, and half a time, means a year, and two years, and half a year, that is to say, three years and a half. Sometimes in Scripture the same thing is indicated by months. For though the word times seems to be used here in the Latin indefinitely, that is only because the Latins have no dual, as the Greeks have, and as the Hebrews also are said to have. Times, therefore, is used for two times. As for the ten kings, whom, as it seems, Antichrist is to find in the person of ten individuals when he comes, I own I am afraid we may be deceived in this, and that he may come unexpectedly while there are not ten kings living in the Roman world. For what if this number ten signifies the whole number of kings who are to precede his coming, as totality is frequently symbolized by a thousand, or a hundred, or seven, or other numbers, which it is not necessary to recount?

In another place the same Daniel says, “And there shall be a time of trouble, such as was not since there was born a nation upon earth until that time: and in that time all Thy people which shall be found written in the book shall be delivered. And many of them that sleep in the mound of earth shall arise, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting confusion. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and many of the just as the stars for ever” (Dan 12:1-3). This passage is very similar to the one we have quoted from the Gospel (John 5:28), at least so far as regards the resurrection of dead bodies. For those who are there said to be “in the graves” are here spoken of as “sleeping in the mound of earth,” or, as others translate, “in the dust of earth,” There it is said, “They shall come forth;” so here, “They shall arise.” There, “They that have done good, to the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment;” here, “Some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting confusion.” Neither is it to be supposed a difference, though in place of the expression in the Gospel, “All who are in their graves,” the prophet does not say “all,” but “many of them that sleep in the mound of earth.” For many is sometimes used in Scripture for all. Thus it was said to Abraham, “I have set thee as the father of many nations,”though in another place it was said to him, “In thy seed shall all nations be blessed” (Gen 17:5, Gen 22:18).  Of such a resurrection it is said a little afterwards to the prophet himself, “And come thou and rest: for there is yet a day till the completion of the consummation; and thou shall rest, and rise in thy lot in the end of the days” (Dan 12:13)

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My Notes on Daniel 9:4b-10

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 3, 2012

Dan 9:4  And I prayed to the Lord, my God, and I made my confession, and said: I beseech thee, O Lord God, great and terrible, who keepest the covenant, and mercy to them that love thee, and keep thy commandments.

Daniel has been pondering the meaning of the prophecies of Jeremiah that seventy years should be accomplished of the desolation of Jerusalem (verse 2. See also Jer 25:11, Jer 29:10). As he does so, or, perhaps as a consequence of his pondering, he set his face to the Lord,…to pray and make supplication with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes (verse 3). Although it is often said that Daniel in his prayer was seeking enlightenment regarding the prophecy, there is, in fact, nothing in the text to suggest this. Rather, having engaged in the penitential practices of fasting and putting on sackcloth and ashes, he undertakes to acknowledge the guilt of his people.

Daniel’s prayer opens in a fashion similar to that found in Nehemiah 1:5.

O Lord God, great and terrible. Terrible (והנורא), used of a person who (or thing which) should be reverenced, respected, etc., because of position, authority, holiness, etc., used of parents (lev 19:3); Joshua as leader of the people (Josh 4:14); the Sanctuary(Lev 19:30); a solemn oath (1 Sam 14:26). Used often of the Holy God who has the power and authority to avenge and punish wrong (Exodus 1:17; Lev 19:4; Lev 19:32). St Jerome: “That is, Thou art terrible towards those who despise Thine injunctions” (Commentary on Daniel).

who keepest the covenant, and mercy to them that love thee, &c. The foundation upon which we pray is God’s faithfulness. He not only is the one who keepest the covenant-accomplishing both the promised blessings for fidelity and the promised curses for transgression (Deut 28)-but, he is also one who shows mercy towards those who seek to reconcile with him, for this too was a part of his covenant.  To such who seek him he enables them to love him again (Deut 30:1-6).

Daniel’s prayer, like that of Nehemiah’s, is one of repentance on behalf of the people. Thus Daniel prays in verse 9~To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him. And he finishes his prayer with these words: O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name (verses 18-19).

Dan 9:5  We have sinned, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly, and have revolted: and we have gone aside from thy commandments, and thy judgments.

We have sinned. Hebrew,  חטאנו, “missed the target.” The term originally referred to an errant arrow, something both useless and dangerous. Like a faulty, bent arrow (see note on “iniquity”) they have gone astray from the point at which they had been aimed by God.

We have committed iniquity.  ועוינו, to bend, twist, distort.

We have done wickedly. והרשׁענו. The word originally referred to the making of loud, disturbing noises and is-so it appears to me at least-often associated with restlessness and lack of contentment (“we’ve acted like drunken, boorish men whom the bartender has just cut off”).  Perhaps underlying this basic meaning of the word are the thoughts expressed later in the prayer: for we have not hearkened to his voice….we have sinned, we have committed wickedness רשׁענו׃ (Dan 9:14-15). Their cacophony of wickedness has drowned out the voice of the Lord.

And have revolted.  ומרדנו, rebelled. The word appears again in verse 9. The rebellion in question here is probably either false worship of God or outright idolatry (see Josh 22:16-20), or hardness of heart in general (Ezekiel 2:3-8).

And we have gone aside. וסור, “We have turned off from thy commands,” &c. The word often has the sense of turning (or not turning) aside from worship (1 Sam 12:20; 2 Kings 10:29; Ezekiel 6:9). Here, obviously, the people have turned aside from God’s commandments and judgements in general, embracing idolatry, false worship, and many other things besides.

Dan 9:6  We have not hearkened to thy servants, the prophets, that have spoken in thy name to our kings, to our princes, to our fathers, and to all the people of the land.

Ultimately, failure to heed the prophets was what led to the downfall and exile of the people, for prophets are usually the last God-given line of defense (2 Chron 36:15-21; Jer 7:25-29; Baruch 1:19-22).

Dan 9:7  To thee, O Lord, justice: but to us confusion of face, as at this day to the men of Juda, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, to them that are near, and to them that are far off, in all the countries whither thou hast driven them, for their iniquities, by which they have sinned against thee.
Dan 9:8  O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our princes, and to our fathers, that have sinned.

To thee, O Lord, Justice.St Jerome: “It is of course just that we suffer what we deserve” (Commentary on Daniel).

God’s dealings with His people, including his punishment by exile, have been acts of justice. In contrast the people are suffering confusion of face (ולנו  בשׁת הפנים), i.e., a look of shame is upon their faces brought about by guilt (Jer 7:19; Ps 44:16) . This shame incorporates all, from the few left behind in Juda and Jerusalem at the time of the exile, to all Israel exiled far and near.

Dan 9:9  But to thee, the Lord our God, mercy and forgiveness, for we have departed from thee:

But to thee, the Lord our God, (belongeth) mercy and forgiveness. Obviously connects with the previous two verses. The prayer began in verse 4 with a reference to God’s mercy and forgiveness, and the focus was on confession and acknowledgement of sin. But beginning in verse 11 the prayer is going to turn and focus more upon the divine punishment the sin has merited, and so it is fitting that as the first part concludes and the second part begins, the author would turn once again to the mercy and forgiveness of God.

Dan 9:10  And we have not hearkened to the voice of the Lord, our God, to walk in his law, which he set before us by his servants, the prophets.

See above on verse 6. In what follows there is going to be an emphasis on God’s voice and speech as it manifested itself in the law (verses 11 and 13) and the prophets (verse 12, calling to mind verse 6)


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