on Daniel 2 :41
I shall now consider this most important vision more at large, and connect it with a portion of the previous history of the Jewish people.
The kingdoms of Israel and Judah after a series of the most unparalleled ingratitude and rebellion, against displays of mercy and benevolence, only equaled by their rebellions, were at last, according to repeated threatenings, given over into the hands of their enemies. The inhabitants of the former country were subdued and carried away captives by the Assyrians; and those of the latter, by the Chaldeans.
The people of Israel never recovered their ancient territories; and were so disposed of by their conquerors, that they either became amalgamated with the heathen nations, so as to be utterly undistinguishable; or they were transported to some foreign and recluse place of settlement, that the land of their residence, though repeatedly sought for and guessed at, has for more than two thousand years been totally unknown.
Judah, after having been harassed by the Chaldeans, Egyptians, and others, was at last invaded by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon; Jerusalem besieged and taken; and Jehoiachin the king, who had before become tributary to the Babylonians, with his mother, wives, officers of state, and chief military commanders, princes, and mighty men of valor, to the amount of ten thousand; and all the artificers, smiths, etc., to the number of one thousand, with all that were fit for war, he carried captives to Babylon; leaving only the poorest of the people behind, under the government of Mattaniah, son of the late king Josiah, and uncle to Jehoiachin; and, having changed his name to Zedekiah, gave him a nominal authority as king over the wretched remains of the people. Zedekiah, after having reigned nine years, rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, who, coming against Jerusalem with all his forces, besieged it; and having reduced it to the last extremity by famine, and made a breach in the walls, took the city, pillaged and destroyed the temple by fire, slew the sons of Zedekiah before his face, then put out his eyes, and carried him bound in brazen fetters to Babylon, 2 Kings, chap. 24 and 25. Thus, the temple of God, the most glorious building ever laid on the face of the earth, was profaned, pillaged, and burnt, with the king's palace, and all the houses of the Jewish nobility, in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, - the nineteenth of Nebuchadnezzar, - the first of the forty-eight Olympiad, - the one hundred and sixtieth current year of the era of Nabonassar, - four hundred and twenty-four years, three months, and eight days from the time in which Solomon laid its foundation stone!
In the same month in which the city was taken, and the temple burnt, Nebuzar-adan, commander in chief of the Babylonish forces, carried off the spoils of the temple, with the Jewish treasures, and the principal part of the residue of the people; and brought them also to Babylon. And thus Judah was carried away out of her own land, four hundred and sixty-eight years after David began to reign over it; from the division under Rehoboam, three hundred and eighty-eight years; from the destruction of the kingdom of Israel, one hundred and thirty-four years; in the year of the world, three thousand four hundred and sixteen; and before the nativity of our Lord, five hundred and eighty-eight.
In the fourth year of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, A.M. 3397, b.c. 607, Nebuchadnezzar, having besieged Jerusalem, and made its king tributary, carried away a number of captives; and among them was the Prophet Daniel, then in his youth, who became, for his wisdom, and knowledge of future events, very eminent at Babylon; and, with some other Jewish captives, great favorites of Nebuchadnezzar the king; who made Daniel president of all the wise men of his city. It was in the second year of the reign of this king, that a circumstance occurred which, though at first it threatened the destruction of the prophet, finally issued in the increase of his reputation and celebrity.
As prophecy is one of the strongest proofs of the authenticity of what professes to be a Divine revelation, God endued this man with a large portion of his Spirit, so that he clearly predicted some of the most astonishing political occurrences and changes which have ever taken place on the earth; no less than the rise, distinguishing characteristics, and termination of the Four great monarchies or empires, which have been so celebrated in all the histories of the world. And as the Babylonian, under which he then lived, was one of these monarchies, and was shortly to be absorbed by the Medo-Persian, which was to succeed it, he made Nebuchadnezzar, the then reigning monarch, by means of a most singular dream, the particulars of which he had forgotten, the instrument that appeared to give birth to a prediction, in which the ruin of his own empire was foretold; as well as other mighty changes which should take place in the political state of the world, for at least the term of one thousand years next ensuing. Nor did the prophetic Spirit in this eminent man limit his predictions to these; but showed at the same time the origin and nature of that Fifth monarchy, which, under the great King of kings, should be administered and prevail to the end of time.
The dream itself, with its interpretation, and the exact and impressive manner in which the predictions relative to the four great monarchies have been fulfilled, and those which regard the fifth monarchy are in the course of being accomplished, are the subjects to which I wish to call the reader's most serious and deliberate attention.
This image, so circumstantially described from the thirty-eighth to the forty-fourth verse, was, as we learn from the prophet's general solution, intended to point out the rise and fall of four different empires and states; and the final prevalence and establishment of a fifth empire, that shall never have an end, and which shall commence in the last days, Daniel 2:28; a phrase commonly used in the prophets to signify the times of the Messiah, and in the New Testament, his advent to judge the world.
Before we proceed to particular parts, we may remark in general, that the whole account strongly indicates: -
1. The especial providence of God in behalf of the Jews at that time. For, although suffering grievously because of their sins, being deprived of both their political and personal liberty, God shows them that he has not abandoned them; and the existence of a prophet among them is a proof of his fatherly care and unremitted attention to their eternal welfare.
2. The particular interference of God to manifest the superiority of his truth, to wean an idolatrous nation from their vanity and superstition, and lead them to that God who is the fountain of truth, the revealer of secrets, and the governor of all things. And,
3. The direct inspiration of God immediately teaching his servant things which could be known only to God himself, and thus showing the Babylonians that his prophets had spoken by an unerring Spirit; that the Jews were the depositaries of the true religion; that He was the only true God; and as he was omniscient, so he was omnipotent; and the things which his wisdom had predicted, his power could and would accomplish.
The sum of the account given in this chapter is the following: -
on Daniel 2 :41
And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters' clay and part of iron - Daniel 2:33. The Chaldee is, "of them clay of the potter, and of them iron;" that is, part was composed of one material and part of the other. The sense is, not that the feet were composed entirely of one, and the toes of the other, but that they were intermingled. There was no homogeneousness of material; nothing in one that would coalesce with the other, or that could be permanently united to it, as two metals might be fused or welded together and form one solid compound. Iron and clay cannot be welded; and the idea here clearly is, that in the empire here referred to there would be two main elements which could never be made to blend.
The kingdom shall be divided - That is, divided as the iron and clay were in the image. It does not necessarily mean that there would be an open rupture - an actual separation into two parts; but that there would be "such a diversity in the internal constitution" that, while there would be the element of great power, there would be also an element of weakness; there would be something which could never be blended with the element of strength, so as to produce one harmonious and homogeneous whole.
But there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay - The principal idea in this part of the description is, that there would be great "power;" that whatever elements of weakness there might be, yet the "power" of the empire would be apparent. No one can fail to perceive how this applies to the Roman empire; a mighty power which, through all its long history, was distinguished for the vigour with which it carried forward its plans, and pressed on to universal dominion. As to the element of "weakness" symbolized too by the clay, it may not be possible to determine, with absolute certainty, what is referred to. Any internal source of weakness; anything in the constitution of the state, whether originally existing and constituting heterogeneous material, or whether springing up in the empire itself, or whether arising from the intermingling of foreign elements that never amalgamated themselves with the state, any one of these suppositions would meet all that is fairly implied in this language.
From Daniel 2:43, "they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men," it would seem, however, that the reference is to some "foreign" admixture - like the intermingling of nations of other languages, laws, and customs, which were never truly amalgamated with the original materials, and which constantly tended to weaken and divide the kingdom. It is to be remarked, in the exposition of the passage, that in the previous three kingdoms there was comparative homogeneousness. In the fourth kingdom, there was to be something of a peculiar character in this respect by which it should be distinguished from the others. As a matter of fact, the other three kingdoms were comparatively homogeneous in their character. The predominant feature was "Oriental;" and though there were different nations and people intermingled in the Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, and the Macedonian kingdoms, yet there was the same general prevailing character in each; there was not such an intermingling of foreign nations as to produce disturbing elements, or to mar the symmetry and strength of the whole. It was not thus with Rome. In that empire there was the intermingling of all nations and tongues, and though the essential element of the empire remained always - "the Roman" - yet there was an intermingling of other influences under the same general government, which could be appropriately compared with clay united with iron, and which ultimately contributed to its fall (see the notes at Daniel 2:43).
on Daniel 2 :41