the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
Expositor's Dictionary of Texts Expositor's Dictionary
by Editor - William Robertson Nicoll
The Book of Daniel
The book of Daniel is the young man's guide-book. There were three stages in the courage of Daniel.
I. The Trial of the Flesh. The curtain rises in Babylon. We see Daniel moving already in the higher circles. He puts a rein upon himself. He avoids all excesses. It was not that he had to resist the temptation of physical appetite. It was that he had to resist the temptation of being a man up to date. What he required was not self-restraint. It was courage. Babylon, like Rome, put a social imprimatur upon her practices; to refuse conformity was to incur ostracism. The man who resists them will require the spirit of a hero.
II. The Trial of the Intellect Daniel is poring over a problem. Nebuchadnezzar has had a dream. He has summoned what would now be called the Fellows of the Royal Society to interpret that dream. But he has accompanied the invitation with a threat: all who fail are to be put to death. Daniel was one of this Royal Society, and was therefore under the threat of the king. One could save the society. Daniel sets himself to solve the problem and to save his brethren. Daniel alone succeeded. Why? That which turned the scale between Daniel and his colleagues was courage. In the sphere of practical judgment humanity errs less from want of intellect than from want of nerve. There have been more prizes lost through excitement than through deficiency. But Daniel had ceased to fear for his life, because he had begun to fear for something else the lives of others.
III. The Trial of the Spirit. A singular decree had been promulgated by the court of Babylon. Prompted by jealousy of the rising Jewish favourite a powerful faction persuaded the weak Darius to test his loyalty by threatening his religion. They procured the passing of a law which enjoined on every man abstinence from prayer during the entire space of thirty days, and, as the penalty of transgression, sentenced every delinquent to the den of lions. Will he have any chance in the struggle? Yes, and he has won. Daniel has conquered the lions, has made them shut their mouths. By the very consciousness of superiority the meek have inherited the earth. Whence this unexpected preeminence? Let Daniel answer. He says that before receiving the kingdom, the form in the likeness of man 'came to the Ancient of Days'. He means that the secret of his power was an influence outside the cave his religion. He was the only creature that made an approach to the Eternal.
G. Matheson, Representative Men of the Bible, p. 331.