Daniel 1:17 MEANING

Daniel 1:17
(17) Learning and wisdom.--These appear to be contrasted in this verse. The former refers to literature, and implies the knowledge of secular subjects; the latter implies philosophy and theology, and perhaps, also, an acquaintance with the meaning of portents. Abundant instances of the latter may be found in the Records of the Past (see vol. v., p. 167).

Verse 17. - As for these four children, God gave them knewledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. Or, as the words might be more accurately rendered, "these lads, the four of them" (Ezekiel 1:8-10). This indicates that somehow they were separated off into a quaternion. In Ezekiel, where a similar phrase cecum, the four cherubim form a quaternion in a very special way. As we have already seen, the Assyrians in a feast arranged the guests in messes of four. Those thus seated together would most likely be associated in some other way. In the case of these youths, who were permanent guests at the table of the King of Babylon, they would most likely be associated in their studies from the first. The Septuagint Version omits the numeral, but is pleonastic in a way that suggests a coalescing of different readings. The rendering is, "And to the youths the Lord gave understanding and knowledge and wisdom in the art of learning (the grammatic art - grammar), and to Daniel he gave understanding of every kind (in every word), and in visions, and in dreams, and in every kind of wisdom." The omission of the word "four," and the insertion of two words, "understanding" and "knowledge," suggest that the one has somehow taken the place of the other; it may be that the word עָרְמָה was read instead of ארבעת. The Massoretic original of the phrase, "skill in all learning," may be rendered literally, "skill in every kind of books." This has a special meaning in regard to the Babylonian and Assyrian books, which were clay tablets incised when wet, and burnt into permanence. Rolls of parchment were, as we see from Jeremiah, the common material for books among the Jews. Among the Egyptians, papyrus largely took the place of parchment, so the knowledge "of every kind of books" meant "every language." It is certain that three languages were to a certain extent in use in Babylon - Aramaic, the ordinary language of business and diplomacy; Assyrian, the court language, the language in which histories and dedications were written; Accadian, the old sacred tongue, in which all the formulae of worship and the forms of incantation had been originally written. From the fact that Rabshakeh could talk Hebrew when conversing with Eliakim and Shebna, it would seem that the accomplish-merit required from a diplomat implied the knowledge of the languages of the various nations subject to the Babylonian Empire or eonterminous with it. "Knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom" would seem to mean the complete eurriculum fitted to make these youths able diplomatists and wise councillors. And Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. All the nations of antiquity laid stress on dreams as means by which the future was revealed to men; but in no nation was there so elaborate a system of interpretation as among the Babyhmians. Lenormant ('La Divination') gives a long account, with many passages translated from their books, of their mode of interpreting dreams. "Visions" may be regarded as appearances of the nature of the alleged second sight among the Scottish Highlanders. It may, however, refer to appearances which are regarded as omens of good or evil fortune. We see in all the elaborate distinctions of omens preserved to us in Lenormant only the folly of superstition; but we may not assume that Daniel and his friends did not believe in them. It has been objected that if Daniel and his friends were so scrupulous in regard to the dainties and. the wines of the Babylonian monarch, because these were connected with idol-worship, they ought logically to have refused to learn these superstitious formulae. But men are never completely logical; life is wider than logic, and hence there are always elements that are left out in our calculations. The possession even of Divine inspiration would not suffer men to annul the two millennia and a half that separate us from the days of Daniel. They - Daniel and his friends - did not see in this so-called science of oneiromancy mere superstition. Still less did they recognize it as having a necessary connection with the idolatries of Babylon. In the following chapter we see the theory Daniel himself had of the matter, namely, that God used dreams as means to make known the future to men. No one can say he was mistaken in this. When Luther described heaven to his child, he filled it with what would be most happy for the little boy; he takes the child at the stage at which he is, and tells him the truth, but in limitations suited to his knowledge. May we not reasonably argue that the great Father deals so with his children? When they are in the state of knowledge that makes them expect to have his will revealed to them in dreams and omens, then he will make known his will by dreams. Daniel knew all that Chaldean science could tell him, but he saw that it was limited, that behind all the canons of interpretation there was the Eternal Mind, the Great Thinker, whose thoughts are things. In other words, he did not recognize the so-called science of Babylon, its astrology, its incantations, its omens, its interpretations of dreams as false so much as limited. It has been placed by Jerome as a parallel, that Moses was learned in all the learning of the Egyptians. Jerome assumes "they learned not that they might follow, but that they might judge and convict (convincant)." We do not see the need of any such supposition. In their own land they in all likelihood believed in the interpretation of dreams, not unlikely in omens too in some degree. When they came to Babylon they came among a people who halt reduced all this to a form that had a delusive appearance of scientific accuracy. They could not fail to believe in all these things. Long after the latest critical date of Daniel, the Jews believed in omens and dreams. Josephus tells us of his own skill in these matters, and is still more explicit in respect to the wisdom of the Essenes in regard to the future. Students of the Talmud will not require to be told of the bath-qol and other means by which a knowledge of the future was derived. We must, we fear, assume that Daniel was not so far ahead of his contemporaries as not to believe in the science of Babylon, and therefore to expect him to protest against it and refuge to acquire it is absurd in the last degree. This fact of these four Hebrew youths not objecting to heathen learning is n indirect proof of the early date of Daniel. It this book had been written in the days of the Maccabees, then the learning of the Chaldeans would be a synonym for the learning of the Greeks. We know that, so far from the Hasideem - the party from whom, by hypothesis, "Daniel" emanated - looking favourably on Greek learning, they hated and abhorred it. We see in the Second Book of Maccabees (4:14) the feelings with which they regarded those who favoured Greek manners; how even the innocent game of discus was full of horror for them, because it was Greek (1:14); and in the first book with what horror the pious looked on the erection of a gymnasium in Jerusalem. This hatred of everything Greek was very natural, and certainly was very much in evidence in their history. For business purposes they had to know the Greek language; but the learning, the philosophy, and literature of Greece would have been to those engaged in the Maccabean struggle abomination. Is it, then, to be imagined that a writer of the Maccabean period, describing an ancient hero from whose example his contemporaries were to draw encouragement and guidance, would represent him as zealously addicting himself to the pursuit of Gentile learning, and making such progress in it that he excelled all competitors? The attitude ascribed to him would have been more like that of the Rabbi Akiba, who declared that "Greek learning could be studied in an hour that was neither day nor night;" or like that other rabbi, who declared that "the translation of the Scripture into Greek was a disaster to Judaism equal in horror to the fall of Jerusalem." We hear a great deal of the historic imagination and the necessity of applying it to questions of Biblical criticism. Surely the minds must be strangely deficient in the power of imaginative reconstruction who cannot feel the thrill of abhorrence of everything foreign that must have filled the Jews during the Maccabean struggle. If the critics had only realized this, they would have seen how utterly impossible it is to conceive that a religious novel, written at that time, intended to nerve the Jews for fiercer resistance to their oppressors, should represent the hero complacently acquiring Gentile learning, and acting the submissive courtier in the tyrant's palace.

1:17-21 Daniel and his fellows kept to their religion; and God rewarded them with eminence in learning. Pious young persons should endeavour to do better than their fellows in useful things; not for the praise of man, but for the honour of the gospel, and that they may be qualified for usefulness. And it is well for a country, and for the honour of a prince, when he is able to judge who are best fitted to serve him, and prefers them on that account. Let young men steadily attend to this chapter; and let all remember that God will honour those who honour him, but those who despise him shall be lightly esteemed.As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom,.... As they prospered in their bodies, they succeeded in their studies, and improved in their minds, and became great proficients in all kind of lawful and useful knowledge; not owing so much to their own sagacity and diligence, and the goodness and ability of their teachers, as to the blessing of God on their instructions and studies; for, as all natural, so all acquired parts are to be ascribed to God; and which these were favoured with by him in a very great manner, to answer some purposes of his. This is to be understood, not of magic art, vain philosophy, judicial astrology, to which the Chaldeans were addicted; but of learning and wisdom, laudable and useful, both in things natural and political; for these men, who scrupled eating and drinking what came from the king's table, would never indulge themselves in the study of vain, curious, and unlawful knowledge; much less would God have blessed the study of such things, and still less be said to give them knowledge and skill therein:

and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams; besides knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom, in languages and sciences, in common with the other young men; he had the honour of seeing very remarkable visions of future things, and of interpreting dreams; and this not by rules of art, such as the Oneirocritics use, but by the gift of God; of which many singular instances follow in this book.

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