on Daniel 1 :17
As for these four children - Young men or youths. Our translation gives a false idea.
In all visions and dreams - That is, such as are Divine; for as to dreams in general, they have as much signification as they have connection, being the effects of the state of the body, of the mind, or of the circumstances of the dreamer. A dream may be considered supernatural, if it have nothing preposterous, nothing monstrous, and nothing irregular. If the whole order and consequences of the things be preserved in them, from beginning to end, then we may presume they are supernatural. In such dreams Daniel had understanding.
on Daniel 1 :17
As for these four children - On the word "children," see the notes at Daniel 1:4. Compare Daniel 1:6.
God gave them knowledge and skill - See the notes at Daniel 1:9. There is no reason to suppose that in the "knowledge and skill" here referred to, it is meant to be implied that there was anything miraculous, or that there was any direct inspiration. Inspiration was evidently confined to Daniel, and pertained to what is spoken of under the head of "visions and dreams." The fact that "all" this was to be attributed to God as his gift, is in accordance with the common method of speaking in the Scriptures; and it is also in accordance with "fact," that "all" knowledge is to be traced to God. See Exodus 31:2-3. God formed the intellect; he preserves the exercise of reason; he furnishes us instructors; he gives us clearness of perception; he enables us to take advantage of bright thoughts and happy suggestions which occur in our own minds, as much as he sends rain, and dew, and sunshine on the fields of the farmer, and endows him with skill. Compare Isaiah 28:26, "For his God doth instruct him." The knowledge and skill which we may acquire, therefore, should be as much attributed to God as the success of the farmer should. Compare Job 32:8, "For there is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding." In the case before us, there is no reason to doubt that the natural powers of these young men had been diligently applied during the three years of their trial Daniel 1:5, and under the advantages of a strict course of temperance; and that the knowledge here spoken of was the result of such an application to their studies. On the meaning of the words "knowledge" and "skill" here, see the notes at Daniel 1:4.
In all learning and wisdom - See also the notes at Daniel 1:4.
And Daniel had understanding - Showing that in that respect there was a special endowment in his case; a kind of knowledge imparted which could be communicated only by special inspiration. The margin is, "he made Daniel understand." The margin is in accordance with the Hebrew, but the sense is the same.
In all visions - On the word rendered "visions" - חזון châzôn - see the notes at Isaiah 1:1, and the introduction to Isaiah, Section 7. (4). It is a term frequently employed in reference to prophecy, and designates the usual method by which future events were made known. The prophet was permitted to see those events "as if" they were made to pass before the eye, and to describe them "as if" they were objects of sight. Here the word seems to be used to denote all supernatural appearances; all that God permitted him to see that in any way shadowed forth the future. It would seem that men who were not inspired were permitted occasionally to behold such supernatural appearances, though they were not able to interpret them. Thus their attention would be particularly called to them, and they would be prepared to admit the truth of what the interpreter communicated to them. Compare Daniel 4; Daniel 5:5-6; Genesis 40:5; Genesis 41:1-7. Daniel was so endowed that he could interpret the meaning of these mysterious appearances, and thus convey important messages to men. The same endowment had been conferred on Joseph when in Egypt. See the passages referred to in Genesis.
And dreams - One of the ways by which the will of God was anciently communicated to men. See Introduction to Isaiah, Section 7. (2), and the notes at Job 33:14-18. Daniel, like Joseph before him, was supernaturally endowed to explain these messages which God sent to men, or to unfold these preintimations of coming events. This was a kind of knowledge which the Chaldeans particularly sought, and on which they especially prided themselves; and it was important, in order to "stain the pride of all human glory," and to make "the wisdom of the wise" in Babylon to be seen to be comparative "folly," to endow one man from the land of the prophets in the most ample manner with this knowledge, as it was important to do the same thing at the court of Pharaoh by the superior endowments of Joseph Genesis 41:8.
on Daniel 1 :17