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them every where as superstitious and luxurious, as an unwarlike and unserviceable people, as a faithless and fallacious nation, always meaning one thing and pretending another, as lovers of wine and strong drink, as cruel in their anger, as thieves and tolerating all kinds of theft, as patient of tortures, and though put to the rack, yet choosing rather to die than to confess the truth. Modern authors paint them still in blacker colors. The famous Thevenot is very strong and severe: "The people of
Egypt (says he, generally speaking) are all swarthy, "exceeding wicked, great rogues, cowardly, lazy, hypo"crites, liars, robbers, treacherous, so very greedy of "money, that they will kill a man for a maiden or three "halfpence." Bishop Pocock's character of them is not much more favorable, though not so harsh and opprobrious: "The natives of Egypt (says he) are now a sloth"ful people, and delight in sitting still, hearing tales, "and indeed 'seem always to have been more fit for the quiet life, than for any active scenes. They are also "malicious and envious to a great degree, which keeps "them from uniting and setting up for themselves; and "though they are very ignorant, yet they have a natural 66 cunning and artifice as well as falsehood, and this "makes them always suspicious of travellers. The "love of money is so rooted in them, that nothing is to "be done without bribery. They think the greatest vil"lainies are expiated, when once they have washed their "hands and feet. Their words pass for nothing, either ❝in relations, promises, or professions of friendship, &c."
Such is the state of the Egyptians at the present period, and such has been the punishment inflicted on them for their manifold sins and transgressions, whereby that excellent political aphorism of the wisest of kings is fully verified, righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach and ruin to any people, Proverbs xiv. 34.
The Prophecies of DANIEL, and his Interpretation of the remarkable Dream of NEBUCHADNEZZAR king of BABYLON.
THE first prophecy of Daniel, and on which, indeed, all the succeeding ones were founded, was his interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream. This monarch, in the second year of his reign, having subdued all his enemies, and firmly established his throne, was thinking upon his bed what should come to pass hereafter; what should be the future success of his family and kingdom, and whether any, or what families and kingdoms, might arise after his own; and as our waking thoughts generally give some tincture to our dreams, he dreamed of something to the same purpose, which astonished him, but which he could not rightly understand. The dream greatly affected him at the time; but, awaking in confusion, he had but an imperfect remembrance of it. He therefore called for the magicians and astrologers, and as absurdly as imperiously demanded of them, upon pain of death and destruction, to make known unto him both the dream and the interpretation thereof. They answered with great reason that no king had ever required such a thing, that it transcended all the powers and faculties of man, and that God alone, or only beings like him could disclose it. There is not a man upon earth that can show the king's matter; therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at any magician, astrologer, or Chaldean: And it is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is none other that can show it before the king, except the God, whose dwelling is not of the flesh, Dan. ii. 10. 11.
But the pride of absolute power cannot listen to reason, or bear any control. Nebuchadnezzar was so incensed at this reply, that he ordered all the magicians and wise men of Babylon to be destroyed. For this cause the king was angry and very furious, and commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon, ver. 12. Daniel and his companions would have been involved in the same fate as the
rest; but by their joint and earnest prayers to God, the secret was revealed unto Daniel in a night vision; and Daniel blessed the God of heaven.
Daniel, having received these instructions, was desirous to save the lives of the wise men of Babylon, who were so unjustly condemned, as well as his own. He therefore went unto Arioch, the captain of the king's guard, whom the king had ordered to destroy the wise men of Babylon, and said thus unto him, Destroy not the wise men of Babylon; bring me in before the king, and I will show unto the king the interpretation, ver. 24, &c. The captain of the guard immediately introduced him to the king, saying, I have found a man of the captives of Judah that will make known unto the king the interpretation, ver. 25. Daniel was far from assuming any merit to himself; he modestly told Nebuchadnezzar that this secret, which the wise men, astrologers, magicians and soothsayers could not show unto the king, was not revealed to him for any wisdom that he had more than others; but (says he) there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days, Dan. ii. 27, &c. Having said this, Daniel not only told him what he saw in his dream, but also what he thought within himself before his dream. As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind, upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter; and he that revealeth secrets maketh known unto thee what shall come to pass.
Nebuchadnezzar's dream was of a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before him, and the form thereof was terrible. It appears, from ancient coins and medals, that cities and people were often represented by figures of men and women. A great terrible figure was therefore not an improper emblem of human power and dominion; and the various metals of which it was composed, not unfitly typify the various kingdoms which should arise. It consisted of four different metals, gold and silver, and brass and iron with clay; and these four metals, according to Daniel's own interpretation, mean so many kingdoms; and the order of their succession is clearly denoted by the order of the
parts, the head and higher parts signifying the earlier times, and the lower parts, the latter times. From hence, it is conjectured by Calvin, the poets drew their fables of the four ages of the world, namely, the golden, the silver, the brazen, and the iron age.
These different kingdoms will naturally constitute the different heads of our discourse on Daniel's prophecy and interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream; in the explanation of which we shall follow the best commentators on the subject, but at the same time shall not regard any commentator so much as the truth of history, the evidence of reason, and the analogy of scripture.
This image's head was of fine gold, Dan. ii. 32. which the prophet thus interprets, Thou art this head of gold, ver. 38. thou, and thy family, and thy representatives. The Babylonian, therefore, was the first of these kingdoms; and it was fitly represented by the head of fine gold, on account of its great riches; and Babylon, for the same reason, was called by Isaiah, the golden city, Is. xiv. 4.
Daniel addresseth Nebuchadnezzar as a very powerful king, Thou, O king, art a king of kings, ver. 37. Nebuchadnezzar might, perhaps, think, like some of his predecessors, that his conquests were owing to his own fortitude and prudence; but the prophet assures him his successes must be primarily imputed to the God of heaven, For the God of heaven (saith he) hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory.
Though almost all the ancient eastern histories are lost, yet there are some fragments preserved, which speak of this mighty conqueror and his extended empire; Berosus saith, that he held in subjection Egypt, Syria, Phœnicia, Arabia, and, by his exploits, surpassed all the Chaldeans and Babylonians who reigned before him. Josephus (who has quoted Berosus on this occasion) subjoins, that in the archives of the Phoenicians there are written things consonant to those which are said by Berosus concerning Nebuchadnezzar, namely, that he subdued Syria and all Phoenicia. Megasthenes, in the fourth book of his Indian history, endeavors to show throughout that Nebuchadnezzar exceeded Hercules in fortitude and greatness of exploits; and positively affirms that he
subdued the greatest part of Lybia and Spain. Strabo likewise asserts, that this king, among the Chaldeans, was more celebrated than Hercules, and led his army out of Spain into Thrace and Pontus. But his empire, though of great extent, was yet of no long duration; for it ended in his grand-son Belshazzar, not seventy years after the delivery of this prophecy; and this may be the reason of Daniel's speaking of him as the only king, thou art this head of gold, and after thee shall rise, &c. Dan. ii. 38, 39.
His breast and his arms of silver, which Daniel thus interprets, And after thee shall rise another kingdom, inferior to thee. It is very well known (from what has been already said in a former prophecy relative to Babylon) that the kingdom which arose after the Babylonian was the Medo-Persian. The two hands and the shoulders (saith Josephus) signify that the empire of the Babylonians should be dissolved by two kings. The two kings were, the kings of the Medes and Persians, whose powers were united under Cyrus, who besieged and took Babylon, put an end to that empire, and on its ruins erected the Medo-Persian, or the Persian (as it is more usually called) the Persians having soon gained the ascendancy over the Medes.
The Persian empire is said to be inferior, as being less than the Babylonian; and it is certain that neither Cyrus, or any of his successors, ever carried their arms into Africa or Spain, at least as far as Nebuchadnezzar is reported to have done. The Persian empire may likewise be called inferior as being worse than the former, for (as Dean Prideaux justly observes) the kings of Persia were certainly "the worst race of men that ever governed an empire." This empire, from its first establishment by Cyrus, to the death of the last king Darius Codomannus, lasted not much above two hundred years. And thus far it is agreed by all commentators, that the two first kingdoms represented in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, were the Babylonian and the Persian.
His belly and his thighs of brass, which is interpreted by Daniel, And another third kingdom of brass which shall bear rule over all the earth. It is well known that Alexander the great subverted the Persian empire. The