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HAYDOCK CATHOLIC BIBLE COMMENTARY ON THE OLD TESTAMENT



DANIEL 4

 

CHAPTER IV.

 

Ver. 1.  Palace.  He continues the edict, having subdued all his enemies.  C. --- Daniel recites his words.  The king had the dream in the 34th year of his reign, which continued in all forty-three, including the seven of absence.  W.

 

Ver. 5.  Colleague.  Chal. also, "another, or afterwards, (H.) or at last."  C. --- My god.  He says this, because the name of Baltassar, or Belteshazzar, is derived from the name of Bel, the chief god of the Babylonians.  Ch. --- Gods.  He speaks conformably to his false opinion; (S. Jer.) or, being instructed by Daniel, he testifies that the Holy Spirit enlightens the prophet.  Theod.  Gr. has "god," which S. Jerom disapproves; though the plural is often used for the true God.  Reason evinces that only the Deity can disclose the secrets of futurity.  Gen. xli. 38.  C.

 

Ver. 6.  And the.  He is convinced that Daniel could do both, but condescends now to relate his dream.  H.

 

Ver. 7.  Tree often denotes princes; (Ezec. xxxi. 3.) and according to the false principles (C.) of those who pretend to explain dreams, always (H.)  implies some great personage.  Achmet. C. 200.  Grot. --- But nothing is more vain than these pretensions.  C.

 

Ver. 10.  A watcher.  A vigilant angel, perhaps the guardian of Israel.  Ch. --- Chal. hir; (H.) whence Iris the messenger of the gods, is derived.  S. Jer. --- Theodot. retains eir.  See S. Jer. in Ps. lxxvi. 4.  The Scholiast (Rom. ed.) says: "the Sept. renders it an angel, the rest a watcher."  These supernatural agents H. and saints are represented as judges.  v. 14.  C.

 

Ver. 11.  Branches, to shew that all (H.) the king's subjects should abandon him.

 

Ver. 12.  Let it, the tree, representing the king who was confined when he began to shew signs of madness: but he broke loose, and fled away.  C.

 

Ver. 13.  Changed, &c.  It does not appear, by Scripture, that Nabuchodonosor was changed from human shape, much less that he was changed into an ox, but only that he lost his reason, and became mad; and in this condition remained abroad in the company of beasts, eating grass like an ox, till his hair grew in such a manner as to resemble the feathers of an eagle, and his nails to be like birds' claws.  Ch. --- Origen represents the whole as an allegorical description of the fall of Lucifer.  See S. Jer.  But his arguments have made little impression: and it is universally believed that Nabuchodonosor was thus punished for his pride, after a whole year had been allowed him to see if he would repent.  The manner of this strange metamorphose has been variously explained.  But it seems that he was seized with the species of madness styled Lycanthropy, (C.) as Virgil (Ec. vi. 48.) relates of the daughters of Prœtus, who "with mimick'd mooings fill'd the fields."  H. --- Thus many fancy they are kings, or horses, (C.) and that they are continually mounting above the clouds, of which we have an instance in a woman still living at Whitby, who in other respects appears to be sufficiently sensible, (H.) as Tertullian and others think Nabuchodonosor was, that he might suffer more.  Yet it is commonly supposed he lost his senses for a while, till God was pleased to restore them at the time appointed; when his former humiliating state might make a deep impression upon his mind, as well as upon his subjects, and caution all future generations to guard against the fatal consequences of pride.  His son, Evilmerodac, probably ruled during his absence.  Most of the Chaldee writings have perished; so that we need not be surprised if they take no notice of this event, wheich was so disgraceful to the nation.  Yet Megasthenes, (in Eus. præp. ix. ultra) seems to hint at it, when he represents the king seized with a divine fury, and crying out: (C. Diss.) "I, the same Nabuchodonosor, foretell unto you, Babylonians, a fatal calamity, which neither my ancestor Belus, nor even the kingdom of Bel, (H. the gods) have power to avert.  For a Persian mule (Cyrus.  C.) shall come, assisted by your demons, and bring on slavery...Having uttered this oracle, he suddenly disappeared."  H. --- Beast's heart.  In his hypochondriac temper he imagined himself (C.) to be an ox, (H.) avoided the society of men, going naked and feeding on grass, upon his hands and feet, till (after seven years) God restored him to his senses and kingdom.  W. --- The food which he used would tend to purge him, and naturally abate the disorder.  Barthol. --- Yet none but God could tell precisely when the madness would seize or leave him. --- Times.  This usually denotes years, in Daniel; (vii. 25. and xii. 7.) and of course (C.) we must understand it here in this sense; (W.) though some have explained it of an indeterminate length of time, or of weeks, months, or seasons.  Only winter and summer were admitted, so that his period would thus suffice.  See Theod.  C.

 

Ver. 14.  Over it.  Kings are not always of the most noble dispositions.  H. --- "All honour comes from Jove."  Homer. Ili. 17. --- Let the greatest monarchs be humble, (H.) and cast their crowns at the feet of God.  C.

 

Ver. 16.  Hour.  Chal. shaha, (H.) implies "a little while;" (Grot.) yet of some duration, not precisely like one of the modern hours.  The prophet was silent, being troubled by the divine spirit, (C. x. 8.) at the view of impending misery; or unwilling to hurt the king's feelings, till he should urge him to speak.  C. --- He was sorry to denounce such calamities, yet must speak the truth.  W. --- Trouble.  Theodot. "make thee hurry."  He perceived the prophet's anxiety, and encouraged him.

 

Ver. 23.  Remain.  His son and the nobles should act in his name.  v. 13.

 

Ver. 24.  Alms.  Chal. "justice," is often taken in this sense.  Syr. &c.  2 Cor. ix. 9.  C. --- The prediction was conditional, and therefore Daniel exhorts the king to strive to obtain pardon by the powerful remedy of alms-deeds; as he did, after enduring some punishment.  W. --- Yet this is very doubtful.  v. 31.

 

Ver. 25.  Came.  Daniel informs us of this event, unless the king speak of himself in the third person, from v. 16 to 31, giving an account of what he had heard and experienced.  H. --- A year of trial was allowed him at first; (Theod.) or he obtained this reprieve by his alms, and lost his former merit by relapsing into pride.  S. Jer.

 

Ver. 27.  Answered his own vain thoughts.  H. --- He was admiring the city, (C.) which he had greatly enlarged and beautified.  Berosus &c.

 

Ver. 31.  Heaven:  God having looked on me with pity.  S. Aug. (ep. 111.  C.  or 122.  W.) seems to think that he was saved; and the author of the B. on Pred. & grace, (c. 15) attributes to him, remarks that his repentance was different from  that of Pharao.  Hence none must despair.   S. Jer. ep. vii. to Læta. --- See Theod.  A. Lap. &c. who maintain that same opinion: but S. Thomas expresses his doubts.  Isaias (xiv. 9.) seems to condign him to hell; and the king here manifests his adhesion to Bel, (v. 5.) and great inconstancy.  C. ii. 47. and iii. 15.  His conviction seems therefore to have been only in speculation, (C.) or momentary, like that of the philosophers, (Rom. i.) which would render them more criminal; and we must confess, (H.) that this conversion is very equivocal.  Sanctius.  v. 24 and 34.  H.

 

Ver. 32.  With, or "by the powers (angels.  v. 10.)...as by men."  Grot. --- The stars are also frequently thus described.  Mat. xxiv. 29.  The king probably believed that the God of the Jews was above his gods, the sun, fire, &c.  C.

 

Ver. 33.  Shape.  He had not assumed that of an ox, (H.) but had greatly neglected his person, (C.) so that he was covered with hair, &c.  v. 30.  H.

 

Ver. 34.  I, &c.  From this place some commentators infer, that this king became a true convert, and dying not long after, was probably saved.  Ch.  Jos. Ant. 10 --- This is the last act of his which is recorded.  If he had lived much longer, he would probably have restored the Jews.  W. --- But the time decreed by heaven for their liberation was not yet arrived.  H.

 

 








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