11. And it is a rare thing that the king requireth; and there is none other that can shew it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.
They add, that the object of the king's inquiry surpassed the power of human ingenuity. There is no doubt that they were slow to confess this, because, as we said before, they had acquired the fame of such great wisdom, that the common people thought nothing unknown to them or concealed from them. And most willingly would they have escaped the dire necessity of confessing their ignorance in this respect, but in their extremity they were compelled to resort to this subterfuge. There may be a question why they thought the matter about which the king inquired was precious; for as they were ignorant of the king's dream, how could they ascertain its value? But it is not surprising that men, under the influence of extreme anxiety and fear, should utter anything without judgment. They say, therefore, --
We may, then, suitably understand these words that the Chaldeans thought angels the only interpreters; not because they imagined angels as the Scriptures speak of them clearly and sincerely, but the Platonic doctrine flourished among them, and also the superstition about the genii who dwell in heaven, and hold familiar intercourse with the supreme God. Since men are clothed in flesh, they cannot so raise themselves towards heaven as to perceive all secrets. Whence it follows, that the king acted unjustly in requiring them to discharge a duty either angelic or divine. This excuse was indeed probable, but the king's ears were deaf because he was carried away by his passions, and God also spurred him on by furies, which allowed him no rest. Hence this savage conduct which Daniel records.
1 Or, rare. -- Calvin.
2 Many words are superfluous, through the nature of the language. -- Calvin.
3 A most interesting and singular allegory on this subject occurs in Plato's Phoedrus, edit. Bekker, § 51; edit. Priestley, (Lond., 182c,) p.71, et seq.; see also Cic. Tusc. Quoest. 1:16; Aristot. Metaph. 1:5; and De amima, i:2; Diog. Laert., 8:83.
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