on Daniel 2 :43
on Daniel 2 :43
And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men - Various explanations have been given of this verse, and it certainly is not of easy interpretation. The phrase "seed of men," would properly denote something different from the original stock that was represented by iron; some foreign admixture that would be so unlike that, and that would so little amalgamate with it, as to be properly represented by clay as compared with iron. Prof. Stuart interprets this of matrimonial alliances, and supposes that the idea expressed is, that, "while the object of such alliances was union, or at least a design to bring about a peaceable state of things, that object was, in a peculiar manner, defeated." The word rendered "men" (אנשׁא 'ănâshâ') is employed in Hebrew and in Chaldee to denote men of an inferior class - the lower orders, the common herd - in contradistinction from the more elevated and noble classes, represented by the word אישׁ 'ı̂ysh. See Isaiah 2:9; Isaiah 5:15; Proverbs 8:4.
The word here used also (from אנשׁ 'ânash) - to be sick, ill at ease, incurable), would properly denote feebleness or inferiority, and would be aptly represented by clay as contrasted with iron. The expression "seed of men," as here used, would therefore denote some intermingling of an inferior race with the original stock; some union or alliance under the one sovereignty, which would greatly weaken it as a whole, though the original strength still was great. The language would represent a race of mighty and powerful men, constituting the stamina - the bone and the sinew of the empire - mixed up with another race or other races, with whom, though they were associated in the government, they could never be blended; could never assimilate. This foreign admixture in the empire would be a constant source of weakness, and would constantly tend to division and faction, for such elements could never harmonize.
It is further to be remarked, that this would exist to a degree which would not be found in either of the three previous kingdoms. In fact, in these kingdoms there was no such intermingling with foreign nations as to destroy the homogeneousness of the empire. They were, in the main, Orientals; with the language, the manners, the customs, the habits of Orientals; and in respect to energy and power - the point here under consideration - there was no marked distinction between the subjected provinces and the original materials of the monarchy. By the act of subjection, they became substantially one people, and readily blended together. This remark will certainly apply to the two first of these monarchies - the Babylonian and the Medo-Persian; and though with less force to the Macedonian, yet it was not true of that, that it became so intermingled with foreign people as to constitute heterogeneous elements as it was of the Roman. In that monarchy, the element of "strength" was "infused" by Alexander and his Greeks; all the elements of weakness were in the original materials of the empire.
In the Roman, the element of strength - "the iron" - was in the original material of the empire; the weak, the heterogeneous element - "the clay" - was what was introduced from the foreign nations. This consideration may perhaps do something to show that the opinion of Grotius, Prof. Stuart, and others, that this fourth monarchy was what immediately succeeded Alexander is not well founded. The only question then is, whether, in the constitution of the Roman empire, at the time when it became the successor of the other three as a universal monarchy, there was such an intermingling of a foreign element, as to be properly represented by clay as contrasted with the original and stronger material "iron." I say, "at the time when it became the successor of the other three as a universal monarchy," because the only point of view in which Daniel contemplated it was that. He looked at this, as he did at the others, as already such a universal dominion, and not at what it was before, or at the steps by which it rose to power.
Now, on looking at the Roman empire at that period, and during the time when it occupied the position of the universal monarchy, and during which the "stone cut out of the mountain" grew and filled the world, there is no difficulty in finding such an intermingling with other nations - "the seed of men" - as to be properly described by "iron and clay" in the same image that could never be blended, The allusion is, probably, to that intermingling with other nations which so remarkably characterized the Roman empire, and which arose partly from its conquests, and partly from the inroads of other people in the latter days of the empire, and in reference to both of which there was no proper amalgamation, leaving the original vigour of the empire substantially in its strength, but introducing other elements which never amalgamated with it, and which were like clay intermingled with iron.
(1) from their conquests. Tacitus says, "Dominandi cupido cunctis affectibus flagrantior est" - the lust of ruling is more ardent than all other desires; and this was eminently true of the Romans. They aspired at the dominion of the world; and, in their strides at universal conquest, they brought nations under their subjection, and admitted them to the rights of citizenship, which had no affinity with the original material which composed the Roman power, and which never really amalgamated with it, anymore than clay does with iron.
(2) This was true, also, in respect to the hordes that poured into the empire from other countries, and particularly from the Scandinavian regions, in the latter periods of the empire, and with which the Romans were compelled to form alliances, while, at the same time, they could not amalgamate with them. "In the reign of the emperor Caracalla," says Mr. Gibbon, "an innumerable swarm of Suevi appeared on the banks of the Mein, and in the neighborhood of the Roman provinces, in quest of food, or plunder, or glory. The hasty army of volunteers gradually coalesced into a great and permanent nation, and as it was composed of so many different tribes, assumed the name of Allemanni, or "allmen," to denote their various lineage, and their common bravery." No reader of the Roman history can be ignorant of the invasions of the Goths, the Huns, and the Vandals, or of the effects of these invasions on the empire.
No one can be ignorant of the manner in which they became intermingled with the ancient Roman people, or of the attempts to form alliances with them, by intermarriages and otherwish, which were always like attempts to unite iron and clay. "Placidia, daughter of Theodosius the Great, was given in marriage to Adolphus, king of the Goths; the two daughters of Stilicho, the Vandal, were successively married to Honorius; and Genseric, another Vandal, gave Eudocia, a captive imperial princess, to his son to wife." The effects of the intermingling of foreign people on the character and destiny of the empire cannot be stated perhaps in a more graphic manner than is done by Mr. Gibbon, in the summary review of the Roman History, with which he concludes his seventh chapter, and at the same time there could scarcely be a more clear or cxpressive commentary on this prophecy of Daniel. "During the four first ages," says he, "the Romans, in the laborious school of poverty, had acquired the virtues of war and government: by the vigorous exertion of those virtues, and by the assistance of fortune, they had obtained, in the course of the three succeeding centuries, an absolute empire over many countries of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The last three hundred years had been consumed in apparent prosperity and internal decline. The nation of soldiers, magistrates, and legislators, who composed the thirty-five tribes of the Roman people, was dissolved into the common mass of mankind, and confounded with the million of servile provincials who had received the name without adopting the spirit of Romans. A mercenary army, levied among the subjects and barbarians of the frontier, was the only order of men who preserved and abused their independence.
By their tumultuary election, a Syrian, a Goth, or an Arab was exalted to the throne of Rome, and invested with despotic power over the conquests and over the country of the Scipios. The limits of the Roman empire still extended from the Western Ocean to the Tigris, and from Mount Atlas to the Rhine and the Danube. To the undiscerning eye of the common, Philip appeared a monarch no less powerful than Hadrian or Augustus had formerly been. The form was still the same, but the animating health and rigor were fled. The industry of the people was discouraged and exhausted by a long series of oppression. The discipline of the legions, which alone, after the extinction of every other virtue, had propped the greatness of the state, was corrupted by the ambition, or relaxed by the weakness of the emperors. The strength of the frontiers, which had always consisted in arms rather than in fortifications, was insensibly undermined, and the fairest provinces were left exposed to the rapaciousness or ambition of the barbarians, who soon discovered the decline of the Roman empire." - Vol. i. pp. 110, 111; Harper's Edit. (N. Y.) 1829.
Compare the notes at Revelation 6:1-8. The agency of the Roman empire was so important in preparing the world for the advent of the Son of God, and in reference to the establishment of his kingdom, that there was an obvious proriety that it should be made a distinct subject of prophecy. We have seen that each of the other three kingdoms had an important influence in preparing the world for the introduction of Christianity, and was designed to accomplish an important part in the "History of Redemption." The agency of the Roman empire was more direct and important than any one or all of these, for
(a) that was the empire which had the supremacy when the Son of God appeared;
(b) that kingdom had performed a more direct and important work in preparing the world for his coming;
(c) it was under authority derived from that sovereignty that the Son of God was put to death; and
(d) it was by that, that the ancient dispensation was brought to an end; and
on Daniel 2 :43
2:43 Mingle themselves - By marriage, but they shall never knit well together, because ambition is stronger than affinity.