Daniel 5:13-16

13. Then was Daniel brought in before the king. And the king spake, and said unto Daniel, Art thou that Daniel, which art of the children of the captivity of Judah, whom the king my father brought out of Jewry?

13. Tunc Daniel adductus est coram rege: loquutus est rex, et dixit Danieli, Tu me est 1 the Daniel, qui, ex filiis caprivitatis Jehudah, quem abduxit rex pater mens e Jehudah.

14. I have even heard of thee, that the spirit of the gods is in thee, and that light, and understanding, and excellent wisdom, is found in thee.

14. Et audivi de to, quod spiritus deorum in to, et intelligentia, et cognitio, et sapientia excellens, inventa sit in re.

15. And now the wise men, the astrologers, have been brought in before me, that they should read this writing, and make known unto me the interpretation thereof: but they could not shew the interpretation of the thing:

15. Et nunc producti sunt coram me sapientes, arioli, 2 qui scripturam hanc legerent, et interpretationem ejus patefacerent mihi: et non potuerunt interpretationem sermonis indicate.

16. And I have heard of thee, that thou canst make interpretations, and dissolve doubts: now, if thou canst read the writing, and make known to me the interpretation thereof, thou shalt be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about thy neck, and shalt be the third ruler in the kingdom.

16. Et ego audivi de to, quod possis nodos solvere, et arcana explicare: nunc si poteris scripturam legere et interpretationem ejus patefacere mihi, purpura vestieris, et torques ex auro super collum tuum, et tertius in regno dominaberis.


Here the king does not acknowledge his own folly, but without any modesty he interrogates Daniel, and that, too, as a captive, -- Art thou, that Daniel, of the captives of Judah, whom my father led away? He seems to speak contemptuously here, to keep Daniel in servile obedience; although we may read this sentence as if Belshazzar inquired, Are you that Daniel? In truth, I have heard of thee! He had heard before, and had said nothing; but now, when extreme necessity urges him, he pays the greatest respect to Daniel. I have heard, therefore, that the spirit of the gods is in thee, since thou canst unravel intricacies and reveal secrets. With regard to the spirit of the gods, we have already mentioned how King Belshazzar, by the common custom of all nations, promiscuously mingled angels with God; because those miserable ones could not extol God as they ought, and treat angels as entirely under his feet. But this sentence shews men never were so brutal as not to ascribe all excellence to God, as we see in profane writers; whatever promotes human advantage, and is remarkable for superiority and dignity, they treat as benefits derived from the gods. Thus the Chaldeans called the gift of intelligence a spirit of the gods, being a rare and singular power of penetration; since men acknowledge they do not acquire and attain to the prophetic office by their own industry, but it is a heavenly gift. Hence men are compelled by God to assign to him his due praise; but because the true God was unknown to them, they speak implicitly, and, as I have said, they called angels gods, since in the darkness of their ignorance they could not discern which was the true God. Whatever be the meaning, Belshazzar here shews in what estimation he holds Daniel, saying, he depends on the reports received from others, and thus displaying his own slothfulness. He ought to have known the Prophet by personal experience; but from his being content with simple rumor, he proudly neglected the teacher offered to him, and neither reflected upon nor wished to confess his own disgrace. But thus God. often extracts a confession from the impious, by which they condemn themselves, even if they wish exceedingly to escape censure.

The following phrase has the same meaning: -- All the wise men were brought before me, and the soothsayers or diviners, to read this writing to me, and to reveal its interpretation; and they could not do it, said he; for God punished him by shewing how profitless were all the Chaldeans and soothsayers, in whom he trusted at the moment of his extremity. While he was thus disappointed in his hopes, he acknowledges himself to have been deceived; and when he preferred the magi and soothsayers, he thought himself fortified by their counsel, as long as they were on his side. Meanwhile his rejection of the holy Prophet was deservedly

intolerable to God. Belshazzar confesses this without intending to do so; hence I said his confession was not ingenuous or voluntary, but violently extorted by the secret instinct of God. He also promises Daniel what he had previously promised the magi, -- Thou shalt be clothed in purple if thou canst read this writing, and wear a golden chain round thy neck, and thou shalt reign as the third person in the kingdom. But the end of his reign was now close at hand, and yet in security he offers this dignity to Daniel. This shews how rapidly the terror which God had occasioned him had vanished away. He is agitated by the greatest uneasiness, just like madmen, for they having no certainty exult amidst their terror, and wish to leap or fly towards heaven itself. Thus also this tyrant though he trembles at God's judgment, yet retains a hidden obstinacy in his heart, and imagines his kingdom will permanently continue, while he promises wealth and honors to others. It now follows, --

1 If we read it interrogatively; or, "Thou art Daniel?" -- Calvin.

2 Or, conjurers. I do not dwell on this as I said before. -- Calvin.


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