DANIEL 6Other translations - previous - next - Daniel - BM Home - Full Page
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in a former part of these commentaries, I have referred to the statement contained in the last verse of chapter v. (31) of the book of Daniel, which seems properly to belong to the beginning of the sixth chapter, as presenting some difficulty, when taken in connection with the history of Media and Babylonia. "And Darius, the Median, took the kingdom, being about three score and two years old." Now Cyrus was the conqueror of Babylon, and must have ruled over it in person or by a viceregent, as Babylonia had been ruled long before. I adopted the supposition that this Darius was some Median king or prince to whom the viceroyalty of Babylon was committed. The difficulty with several commentators has been to identify "Darius the Median," mentioned here, with any known character of history. The best supposition, it seems to me, is that supported by Mr. Westcott, that Darius was the personal name of Astyages, the last King of the Medes, who was the son of Cyaxares, the conqueror of Ninevah, the first Ahasuerus of Old-Testament history. In daniel 9:1, Ahasuerus is said to be the father of Darius, the Mede. Cyrus was the grandson of Astyages by his daughter Mandane. According to the old legends, Astyages intended to put Cyrus to death secretly, but his life was preserved by the man who was expected to end it, and subsequently he was brought back to the king's palace, and was educated there, in Ecbatana, the capital city of Media. This was the youth who afterwards became the founder of the Persian Empire and a great warrior. Singularly enough, Astyages himself became subject to Cyrus, the latter having joined in a revolt of a party of the Medes against him and taken him prisoner. It is now understood by those who adopt the above supposition that Cyrus set his grandfather upon the throne of Babylon. This is not at all difficult of belief. Whoever this Darius the Median may have been, however, he did not rule long in Babylon. He must not be confounded with Darius Hystaspes, the Persian monarch of a later day, who sent great expeditions against the States of Asia Minor and Greece.
While it is not necessary to dwell at much length upon the history of those times in studying the spiritual meaning of this book, yet it seems useful to present a few facts to relieve the mind of apparent difficulties. We may be sure that "Darius the Median" was a real personage and that he represents some principle that rules in the mind when the church is consummated. The literal statements must not hold our attention too strongly if we would, learn the spiritual ideas that are involved in them.
Let us turn to the narrative and consider the things that are recorded in this chapter. In the first three verses, as they are now placed in our Bibles, we read:
It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred and twenty princes which should be over the whole kingdom; and over these, three presidents, of whom Daniel was first, that the princes might give accounts to them and the king should have no damage. Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm.
In the Revised Version some slight changes have been made. The princes are called "satraps," a name applied to governors of provinces, who had great authority, but in all very important matters were wholly subject to the royal will and pleasure. Then they are said to be "throughout" the whole kingdom, and not "over" it. Again we read that Daniel was "one" of the presidents and not the "first." Now this arrangement or order of things under Darius, while it seems to relate only to civil affairs, represents the establishment of a government in spiritual affairs, or in the church, with a view to secure the obedience of human beings to the will of another, who is vested with absolute power, or to those under him, in order that he and they may receive adoration. It is the elevation of man to the throne of God. The worship of kings and emperors, which seems an incredible thing at this day, is not an unknown thing in history. Not a few have fancied themselves gods. Caesar was proclaimed to be one, and when men refused to pay him Divine homage, the cry was heard, "To the lions." There seems, however, to be a difference between Darius and Caesar. The former does not appear to have sought power or adoration. It was the presidents and satraps who sought occasion to accuse Daniel, although there was no fault in him, and to accomplish his destruction they prevailed upon Darius to sign the unalterable decree that no petition should be made to any god or man for thirty days, save to the king, and that whoever did so should be cast into the den of lions. There is a striking analogy here to the conduct of the high-priests who sought occasion to accuse the Lord of seeking to overthrow the Roman government, and in Pilate we find a very striking resemblance to Darius. Indeed, in interpreting this portion of the book of Daniel, we should regard Darius as a representative of the civil power rather than of the spiritual, of the natural love of dominion as manifested in civil affairs, and the satraps and presidents as representing the priesthood who endeavor to gain power for themselves and who seek to obtain a decree or law which shall prevent the worship of the true God. Daniel, on the other hand, represents all those who acknowledge the Divine Truth and worship the Lord alone, and in the highest sense he represents the Lord who is the Divine Truth. The hatred and opposition of the high-priests and rulers in the Jewish Church to the Lord, and their desire to destroy Him, denotes the hatred of all who are in self-love and the evils which spring from it, towards the Divine Truth itself. The same natural feeling of pity which Pilate seems to have had for the Lord, making him unwilling to crucify him, seems to have influenced Darius. He placed Daniel in a high position, and "thought to set him over the whole realm." These rulers hated Daniel on this account. When they told the king of Daniel's praying to his God, "he was sore displeased and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him; and he labored until the going down of the sun to rescue him." But he could not reverse his own decree. When at last he allowed Daniel to be cast into the lions' den, he said to Daniel, "Your God whom you serve continually, He will deliver you," as if he believed in the power of God. To this may be added that he fasted all night and had no sleep after he had consented to the wicked deed. It is not an uncommon thing for men to act in this way. They are persuaded to do wrong against their better feelings and convictions, by designing men who flatter their pride and love of being exalted to power, and make them believe that human decrees are higher than the Divine Truth itself. The whole teaching of this chapter in its spiritual meaning points directly to the Roman Catholic Church, at the period of the Inquisition, when the Pope and his minions gained control over the civil power, and used it as a means to accomplish their own diabolical purposes.
Swedenborg plainly refers to the Inquisition as foretold in this chapter. "The punishment of the Inquisition," he says, "is the den of lions into which Daniel was cast." (See Summary Exposition of the Internal Sense of the Prophecies and Psalms.) The den of lions was not a natural den of wild beasts, but an artificial one in the king's forests where the beasts were kept to be hunted. It seems a horrible and cruel death to inflict upon human beings, to cast them to the lions to be devoured. This death was suffered by the Christians at Rome. Even more horrible were the punishments of the Inquisition in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, which are matters of history well known and authenticated. Death by the slow torture of the rack and the burning fagots was even more to be dreaded than the destruction by beasts.
All this evil passion and hatred springs from the infernal love of ruling over others. What a poor satisfaction it seems to us, in this age, to exact from our fellow-men a confession of our belief or to compel them to worship as we do! What a change has taken place in the Christian world! Although there may be men, even at this day, who entertain intense hatred against those who differ from them in their religious faith and form of worship, yet the civil power can no longer be used to gratify this hatred. The Inquisition is no longer possible.
The fact that Daniel escaped unhurt may be regarded as miraculous, but it is not difficult to see that the spiritual sphere of a human being, strong in his own faith, and guarded and protected by angels, would be felt by the beasts, who would quail under its influence. Daniel said: "My God has sent his angel, and has shut the lions' mouths, and they have not hurt me; for as much as before Him innocence was found in me; and also, before you, O king, I have done no hurt."
The sequel proves the law of spiritual life that the evil which men would do to others returns upon themselves. The king commanded Daniel's enemies to be cast into the den of lions, and not only them but their wives and children; "and the lions had the mastery of them, and break all their bones in pieces, or ever they came at the bottom of the den."
The conduct of Darius in issuing the final decree that all men in his kingdom should tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, bears some resemblance to that of the civil rulers in the time of the Reformation who no longer favored the Church of Rome. This command can hardly be regarded as the expression of true spiritual worship, which springs from love and not from fear or compulsion.
Passing from the historical spiritual sense to a still higher meaning, let us consider this history somewhat with reference to the Lord's life. I have already pointed out the representation which Daniel holds throughout the whole narrative, how like he was to Joseph, who was held captive in a strange land, and yet became the saviour of his people by the power which God gave him to interpret dreams and to show forth his wisdom. His enemies were compelled to acknowledge this power even against themselves. From all that is written about Daniel, it is not difficult to see that he represents the Lord, and that all the sufferings he endured are typical of the temptations endured by the Saviour for the sake of redeeming man from the evil power. When the Lord was in the wilderness, it is said He was with the beasts. These beasts were the evil spirits of hell that sought His destruction. In the fifty-seventh psalm we read : "My soul is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men whose teeth are spears and arrows and their tongue a sharp sword." (Ver. 4.) These words signify spiritual temptations. Man's soul is among lions when he is tempted by evil spirits to deny the Lord and to disobey His commandments. Lions are destructive beasts. They are strong and powerful. In the language of the Word they sometimes denote the destructive power of falsity derived from evil, and sometimes the saving and redeeming power of truth derived from love. The psalmist, speaking of his spiritual enemies, says: "They gaped upon me with their mouths as a ravening and a roaring lion." (Ps. 22:13.) But the Lord Himself is called the "Lion of the tribe of Judah," by which is signified the omnipotence of the Divine Truth proceeding from the Divine Love. The Lord made the truth powerful in Himself to overcome all evil. Before this work was accomplished, however, He was tempted by evil spirits; His "soul was among lions," and unless He had been sustained by the power of Infinite Divine Love, hell would have gained the victory. Like Daniel He prayed not to any human power, but to the Divine power within Him. In the garden of Gethsemane He fell on His face and prayed three times, saying the same words: "O my Father, if this cup may not pass from me except I drink it, Your will be done." (matt. 26:39-44.) Daniel seems to have had the words of the fifty-fifth psalm in his mind when he prayed three times a day from his windows with his face towards Jerusalem: "Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud; and He shall hear my voice." (Ver. 17.)
When we speak of the lions' den as denoting hell, and the beasts as denoting the evil spirits of hell, we must think of a state of mind when man is assailed by those who would destroy his trust in the power of the Lord. The Lord's perfect innocence is simply represented by the innocence of Daniel, which must have been imperfect compared with the Divine Innocence itself. In the law of representation the spiritual quality of the one who represents is not to be reflected upon. We see the Divine only in faint images in the lives of those who exhibit heavenly virtue and angelic goodness.
Let us now briefly consider this narrative in relation to man's regeneration. Daniel not only represents the Lord as Divine Truth, he also represents the truth as it is received by man, or the spiritual principle seen with reference to his spiritual life. Darius, on the other hand, as the king or ruler in Babylon, represents the truth seen with reference to natural life, and as it may be made conducive to our natural welfare. Natural truth should be held subordinate to spiritual and Divine Truth; if not, man perverts and profanes holy things and is subject to Babylon. When man's affections are turned to evil and he is under the influence of self-love, he wishes to make all things subservient to himself. He thus sets himself against the Lord and is filled with hatred and enmity towards his neighbour. The truth loses its influence over his mind and he falls a prey to the influence of evil spirits. His spiritual life is in danger of destruction, because for a time he loses his freedom and rationality. But if there be remains of good in him and a remaining faith in the Lord, he will become conscious of the evil within him and around him, and will pray to the Lord for deliverance. He will set his face towards Jerusalem and pray at evening, morning, and at noon. The effect of spiritual temptation is to induce a fear of punishment and the loss of life. But the Lord is very near to man in temptation and is ever ready to save him, and if he constantly turns to the Lord for help, He will send His angel and shut the lions' mouths.
"No manner of hurt was found upon Daniel because he believed in his God." There is power in faith derived from love and united with it. And it is wonderful what an effect this power and the example of a good life have upon those who are in natural states of thought and have not yet acknowledged any spiritual law. This is shown in the speech and actions of Darius. The world is moved out of its indifference and unbelief by the results of good living and successful resistance to evil. And the natural man, looking to his own security and protection, may be willing to have the whole world acknowledge and worship the God of Daniel, when he sees that faith in Him gives men such power to overcome danger and evil, when it makes them masters over themselves and guides and teachers to others.
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