Imágenes de páginas

church, and which was to be accomplished at the end of 70 weeks, that were to elapse from the time the order should be given for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, that is, after the space of 490 years. For, taking each day for a year, according to the language sometimes used in Holy Scripture, those 70 weeks of years made up exactly 490 years.

a Cyrus, upon his return to Babylon, had given orders for all his forces to join him there. On the general review made of them, he found they consisted of 120,000 horse, of 2,000 chariots armed with scythes, and 600,000 foot. When he had furnished the garrisons with so many of them as were necessary for the defence of the several parts of the empire, he marched with the remainder into Syria, wherc he regulated the affairs of that province, and then subdued all those countries, as far as the Red Sea, and the confines of Ethiopia.

It was probably in this interval of time, that Daniel was cast into the den of lions, and miraculously delivered from them, as we have just now related.

Perhaps in the same interval also were those famous pieces of gold coined, which are called Darics, from the name of Darius the Mede, which for their fineness and beauty were for several ages preferred to all other money throughout the whole East.


The Beginning of the united Empire of the Persians and Medes. The famous Edict of Cyrus. Daniel's Prophecies.

Here properly speaking, begins the empire of the Persians and Medes, united under one and the same authority. This empire, from Cyrus, the first king and founder of it, to Darius Codomannus, who was vanquished by Alexander the Great, lasted for the space of 206 years, namely, from the year of the world 3468 to the year 3674. But in this volume I propose to speak only of the first three kings; and little remains to be said of the founder of this new empire.

CYRUS. Cyaxares dying at the end of two years, and Cambyses likewise ending his days in Persia, Cyrus returned to Babylon, and took upon him the government of the empire.


The years of Cyrus's reign are computed differently. Some make it 30 years, beginning from his first setting out from Persia, at the head of an army to succour his uncle

a Cyrop. 1. viii, p. 233.

b A. M. 3468. Ant. J. C. 536.

c Cic. i. de Div. n. 45.

Cyaxares: others make the duration of it to be but seven years, because they date it only from the time, when, by the death of Cyaxares and Cambyses, he became sole monarch of the whole empire.

In the first of these seven years precisely expired the 70th year of the Babylonish captivity, when Cyrus published the famous edict, whereby the Jews were permitted to return to Jerusalem. There is no question but this edict was obtained by the care and solicitations of Daniel, who was in great credit and authority at court. That he might the more effectually induce the king to grant him this request, he showed him undoubtedly the prophecies of Isaiah, wherein, above 200 years before his birth, he was marked out by name, as a prince appointed by God, to be a great conqueror, and to reduce a multitude of nations under his dominion; and at the same time to be the deliverer of the captive Jews, by ordering their temple to be rebuilt, and Jerusalem and Judea to be repossessed by their ancient inhabitants. I think it may not be improper in this place to insert that edict at length, which is certainly the most glorious circumstance in the life of Cyrus, and for which it may be presumed God had endowed him with so many heroic virtues, and blessed hint with such an uninterrupted series of victories and success.

"In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, that the word "of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, "the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, king of Persia, that " he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and "put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus, king of "Persia, the Lord God of heaven hath given me all the "kingdoms of the earth, and he hath charged me to build "him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there " among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let "him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the "house of the Lord God of Israel, (he is the God) which is "in Jerusalem. And whosoever remaineth in any place "where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with "silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, be"side the freewill offering for the house of God that is in "Jerusalem "

Cyrus restored at the same time to the Jews all the vessels of the temple of the Lord, which Nabuchodonosor had brought from Jerusalem, and placed in the temple of his god. Shortly after the Jews departed, under the conduct of Zorobabel, to return into their own country.


The Samaritans, who had long been the declared enemies of the Jews, did all they possibly could to hinder the

a Isa. xliv. xlv.

6 Ezra. i. 1-4.

c Ezra. iv. 1-5:

building of the temple; and though they could not alter Cyrus's decree, yet they so far prevailed by bribes and underhand dealings with the ministers and other officers concerned therein, as to obstruct the execution of it; so that for several years the building went on very slowly.

"It seems to have been through grief at seeing the execution of this decree so long retarded, that in the third year of Cyrus, in the first month of that year, Daniel gave himself up to mourning and fasting for three weeks together. He was then near the river Tigris in Persia. When this time of fasting was ended, he saw the vision concerning the succession of the kings of Persia, the empire of the Macedonians, and the conquests of the Romans. This revelation is related in the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth chapters of the prophecies of Daniel, of which I shall soon speak.

By what we find in the conclusion of the last chapter, we have reason to conjecture, that he died soon after; and indeed his great age makes it unlikely that he could live much longer; for at this time he must have been at least 85 years of age, if we suppose him to have been twelve when he was carried to Babylon with the other captives; and some suppose him to have been eighteen years of age at that time: from that early age he had given proofs of wisdom more than human, in the judgment of Susannah. He was ever afterwards very much esteemed by all the princes who reigned at Babylon, and was always employed by them with distinction in the administration of their affairs.

Daniel's wisdom did not only reach to things divine and political, but also to arts and sciences, and particularly to that of architecture. Josephus speaks of a famous edifice built by him at Susa 4, in the manner of a castle, which he says still subsisted in his time, and finished with such wonderful art, that it then seemed as fresh and beautiful, as if it had been but newly built. Within this palace, the Persian and Parthian kings were usually buried; and for the sake of the founder, the keeping of it was committed to one of the Jewish nation, even to the time of Josephus. It was a common tradition in those parts for many ages, that Daniel died in that city, and there they show his monument even to this day. It is certain, that he used to go thither from time to time, and he himself tells us, that "he did the king's business there," that is, was governor for the king of Babylon.


a A. M. 3470. Ant. J. C. 534. Dan. x. 1-3.

But go thou thy way till the end be; for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days. Dan. xii. 13.

c Antiq 1. x. cap 2

So it ought to be read, according to St. Jerom, who relates the same fact; Com. in Dan. viii. 2, and not Ecbatana, as it is now read in the text of Josephus. e Now called Tuster. f Dan viii. 27.


I have hitherto deferred making any reflections upon the prophecies of Daniel, which certainly to any reasonable mind are a very convincing proof of the truth of our religion. "I shall not dwell upon that which personally related to Nebuchadnezzar, and foretold in what manner, for the punishment of his pride, he should be reduced to the condition of the beasts of the field, and after a certain number of years, restored again to his understanding and to his throne. It is well known, the thing happened exactly according to Daniel's prediction: the king himself relates it in a declaration, addressed to all the people and nations of his empire. Was it possible for Daniel to ascribe such a manifesto or proclamation to Nebuchadnezzar, if it had not been genuine; to speak of it, as having been sent into all the provinces, if nobody had seen it; and in the midst of Babylon, that was full of both Jews and Gentiles, to publish an attestation of so important a matter, and so injurious to the king, the falsehood of which must have been notorious to all the world?

I shall content myself with representing very briefly, and under one and the same point of view, the prophecies, of Daniel, which designate the succession of the four great empires, and which for that reason have an essential and necessary relation to the subject-matter of this work, which is no other than the history of those very empires.

The first of these prohecies was occasioned by the dream Nebuchadnezzar had, of an image composed of different metals, gold, silver, brass, and iron; which image was broken in pieces, and beaten as small as dust, by a little stone from the mountain, which afterwards became itself a mountain of extraordinary height and magnitude. This dream I have already recited at large.

About 50 years after, the same Daniel saw another vision, very like that which I have just been speaking of: this was the vision of the four large beasts, which came out of the sea. The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings; the second was like a bear; the third was like a leopard, which had four heads; the fourth and last, still more strong and terrible than the other, had great iron teeth; it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet. From the midst of the ten horns, which this beast had, there came up a little one, which had eyes like those of a man, and a mouth speaking great things, and this horn became greater than the

a Dan. iv

b Id ii.

c Vol. ii, book iii. ch. ii.

d This was the first year of Belshazzar, king of Babylon, Dan. vii.

other: the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them, until the Ancient of Days, that is, the everlasting God, came, and sitting upon his throne, surrounded with a thousand millions of angels, pronounced an irreversible judgment upon the four beasts, whose time and duration he had determined, and gave the Son of man power over all the nations, and all the tribes, an everlasting power and dominion which shall not pass away and a kingdom which shall not be destroyed.

It is generally agreed, that these two visions, the one of the image composed of different metals, the other of the four beasts that came out of the sea, signified so many different monarchies, which were to succeed one another, were to be successively destroyed by each other, and were all to give place to the eternal empire of Jesus Christ, for whom alone they had subsisted. It is also agreed, that these four monarchies were those of the Babylonians, of the Persians and Medes united, of the Macedonians, and the a Romans. This is plainly demonstrated by the very order of their succession. But where did Daniel see this succession and this order? Who could reveal the changes of empires to him, but He only who is the Master of times and monarchies, who has determined every thing by his own decrees, and who by a supernatural revelation imparts the knowledge of them to whom he pleases?

In the following chapter this prophet still speaks with greater clearness and precision; for after having represented the Persian and Macedonian monarchies under the figure of two beasts, he thus expounds his meaning in the plainest manner: the ram, which hath two unequal horns, represents the king of the Medes and Persians; the goat, which overthrows and tramples him under his feet, is the king of the Grecians; and the great horn, which that animal has between his eyes, represents the first king and founder of that monarchy. How did Daniel see that the Persian empire should be composed of two different nations, Medes and Persians; and that this empire should be destroyed by the power of the Grecians? How did he foresee the rapidity of Alexander's conquests, which he so aptly describes, by saying, that "he touched not the ground? How did he learn, that Alexander should not have any successor equal to himself, and that the first monarch of the Grecian empire should be

a Some interpreters, instead of the Romans, put the kings of Syria and Egypt, Alexanders's successors.

5 He changeth the times and the seasons; he removeth and setteth up kings. He revealeth the deep and secret things; and the light dwelleth with him. Dan. ii. 21, 22. c Dan. viii,

« AnteriorContinuar »