One of the commonest tricks in all kinds of discussion is to assert that the view of your opponent is impossible (unmöglich), and that your own is self–evident (selbst verständlich). How frequently has the word impossible been used to silence the questionings and incredulity of the hearer? And yet, what is possible? Why even should it be thought a thing impossible with God that he should raise the dead? Are not all things possible with him, except to deny himself, to do something contrary to his nature? At least, is it not fair to demand, whenever anyone says that a thing is self–evident or impossible, why he thinks it is thus or so? A few years ago even scientists of note deemed airships impossible. To–day they exist. Let us then be no longer silenced by these imposing words, by whomsoever used. They mean no more, at most, than that to him who uses them a thing seems to be self–evident or impossible. In all such cases let us consider it proper to ask: Why is it deemed impossible? Why does it seem to be self–evident? For few truths are self–evident. No historical facts are ever self–evident. But every event that has been recorded as having transpired is evidenced by the document that records it. There may be but one documentary witness to testify that the
given event occurred, but this in itself does not necessarily make it improbable, and certainly not impossible of occurrence. Two witnesses would make the event more probable; three or four, more probable still. No number of witnesses would render an event so certain as to remove all doubt as to its having taken place; but in ordinary cases, “out of the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.”
Certain, also, is it that no event that has been recorded can be rejected as impossible, simply because there is but one witness to the fact of its occurrence. A thing may have happened even if there were no record of it. Countless things, indeed, have happened of which no record at all exists. Even the events of a novel like “She” may have transpired. The ingenuity with which the author keeps within the sphere of the possible, while transgressing the radius of the probable, is what carries the reader spellbound to the catastrophe at the bitter end. After these preliminary remarks on the unreasonableness of rejecting a recorded fact simply because it seems to someone to be impossible, it might be considered needless for us to discuss the assertion that it is impossible that the edicts of the kings recorded in Daniel were ever issued. But inasmuch as this accusation has been made by one of great influence and of great scholarship and high position, let us waive all preconceived opinion and proceed in the usual manner to the discussion.
No proof [says Professor Cornill] is needed to show the impossible character of the edicts ascribed in chapters 3 and 4 to Nebuchadnezzar and in chapter 6 to
Darius, and the absurdity of the wish attributed to Nebuchadnezzar in chapter 2.1
The reader will recall that the first of these edicts, that of the second chapter, was that the wise men of Babylon should be killed, inasmuch as they could not discern and interpret the dream which the king had concealed or forgotten. The decrees in the third chapter were that all who refused to bow down to the image which had been set up should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace, and that every people, nation, and language, “which speak anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed–nego, shall be cut in pieces,” etc. (5:29). The decree of the fourth chapter is a general decree covering the whole chapter and directing the nation to praise God because of the signs and wonders he had wrought. The decrees of Darius in the sixth chapter were the one in which anyone praying to any god but himself for thirty days should be cast into a den of lions, and the one wherein he exalts the God who had delivered Daniel from the den of lions (5:25–27). We have here six decrees, the three exalting God (3:29, 4, and 6:25–27), and the three concerning the den of lions.
The great assumption here is that no proof is needed to show that these edicts or decrees are impossible.
ANSWER TO ASSUMPTION
There are four kinds of impossibility which ought here to be considered: For these decrees might involve
1 See Introduction to the O. T., p. 385.
(1) a moral possibility based on what we know of the character or knowledge of kings and potentates in general or of these kings in particular; or (2), a legal impossibility derived from what is known of the laws of Babylon and Persia; or (3), a physical impossibility based on the difficulty of carrying out such decrees; or (4), an historical impossibility, arising from the fact that there is conclusive evidence that such decrees cannot have been made.
I. as to any one of the decrees presenting a moral impossibility, it certainly cannot be asserted that such decrees are not paralleled by many similar cases in the history of mankind. It does not prove that a decree is impossible to assert, or even to prove, that it is absurd or senseless (unsinnig) as Von Lengerke declares the edict of Nebuchadnezzar with regard to the wise men to be. Tyrants have always suffered from the disease which has been fitly named megalomania. Foude and other have put forth the view that almost all of the so–called Cæsars after Augustus were afflicted with this form of insanity. Monarchs and autocrats are most likely to suffer from attacks of this complaint, whether from fear of losing their power or their lives, or from the supposed necessity of upholding their authority or dignity. It must be admitted, also, that persecutions have arisen from the conscientious belief that the opinions of a world–ruler, whose right is claimed to be divine, must and ought to be imposed upon the governed. The roman emperors from Nero to Galerius persecuted their Christian subjects with edicts and punishments akin in purpose, cruelty, and severity, to those of Nebuchadnezzar and Darius recorded in Daniel 3, 4, and 5. Indeed, the edicts are so similar that one might well believe that the emperors
had copied and emulated the prototypes of Daniel. The decrees of the emperors demanded that all their subjects should burn incense before the statues of the Cæsars. Refusal to do so was followed by confiscation of property and death of the obstreperous.1 Under Marcus Aurelius, the best of the heathen emperors, the aged bishop Polycarp “was burned at the stake because he would not consent to curse that Lord whom for 86 years he had served”; Blandina, a delicate female slave, was scourged in the most dreadful manner, roasted on a red–hot iron chair, thrown to the wild beasts, and then executed”; “the dead bodies of the Christians lay in heaps on the streets.” Under Septimius Severus, Perpetua was condemned to be gored by a wild cow. Under Decius, one of the ablest of the Roman Cæsars, “every conceivable means—confiscation, banishment, exquisite torture, and death—was employed to induce Christians to apostatize.” Now, we can only explain the fact that such noble and great men, as many of these emperors certainly were, resorted to such terrible and terrifying measures to secure the extinction of Christianity and the unity of worship which was involved in the burning of incense to the statues of the Caesars, on the supposition that they really believed that the safety of the state for whose welfare they were responsible was endangered by what to them appeared to be a godless and abominable sect. It is not fair to call these persecutions of the early Christians senseless (unsinning) from the point of view of the emperors, with their idea of what the state was,
1 Galerius proposed that everyone refusing to offer sacrifice should be burnt alive. Diocletian denounced punishment of death against all holding secret assemblies for religious worship. See Gibbon’s Decline an Fall of the Roman Empire, ii, 63, 64.
and of how it was imperiled by the followers of the despised Jew of Nazareth.
Another parallel to the persecution of the Christians by the Roman emperors may be found in the intolerance of heresy by the Roman hierarchy. It is well for those who protest against the claims of the pope of Rome to be the vicar of Christ to remember that he has made himself responsible for all of the cruel acts of the Inquisition; and that the policy and deeds of the Inquisition, the persecution of the Waldenses, the suppression of the Albigenes, the massacre of St. Bartholomew, the destruction of Jews, Moriscoes, and heretics in Spain, and all similar methods of punishing unbelievers, are still upheld by the Roman hierarchy as justifiable on the ground of their divine right and obligation to suppress heresy in every form. Prof. Marianus de Luca, of the Society of Jesus, has recently published a work entitled Institutions of Public Ecclesiastical Law.1 The work was highly commended by Leo XIII in a letter addressed to Professor de Luca and published on the covers of the volumes. In this work, the author maintains that it is still a Catholic tenet “that the church may justly inflict on heretics the penalty of death,” and he endeavors to justify this tenet by an appeal to the Scriptures, to the Fathers, to the councils, to the idea and practice of the church, and to reason itself.2
In view, then, of these two great outstanding examples of religious intolerance based upon fundamental principles of political, or ecclesiastical, government, we are convinced that the decrees of Nebuchadnezzar and
1 Institutiones Juris Ecclesiastici Publici, Neo–Eborici, 1901.
2 See for a discussion of this work, Prof. C. H. H. Wright’s Daniel and the Critics, Appendix III.
Darius (Daniel 3, 4, and 6) were neither senseless nor irrational from their point of view, nor from that of most of their subjects. Cannot anyone see in Nebuchadnezzar, when he forbids on penalty of death that anyone shall worship any other god than the image which he has set up, a prototype of Henry VIII of England, or Philip II of Spain,1 or Louis XIV of France?2 No one can read the history of Babylonia and Assyria without seeing how intimately the rise and fall of nations were bond up with the rise and fall of the gods which the people worshipped. “Where,” says Sennacherib, “are the gods of Hena and Ivah?” “and shall the god in whom thou trustest deliver thee?” The prayers and records of all the Assyrian and Babylonian and Persian kings shows clearly their belief that their power and prosperity were due to the favor of the gods they worshipped. Let one read, for example, the inscriptions of Ashurbanipal, Nebuchadnezzar, and Darius Hystaspis, and he will be convinced that they one and all attributed their elevation, their success, the continuance of their life and reign, and the failure or endurance of their prosperity and kingdom, to the favor or disfavor of their gods. When, then, a man flouted at the image of their god, or refused to worship as the king decreed, it was rebellion against the constituted authority in church and state; and the rebellion must be suppressed instantly, and in such a manner as to inspire terror in all other possible offenders. Granted the views of autocracy and of the relation of the gods
1 According to the decree of Philip II, any Morisco found within ten miles of Granada, if above seventeen years of age, was to incur the penalty of death (Prescott: Philip the Second, iii, 265).
2 At the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, the pastors were hanged or burned (Guizot: History of France, iv, 338).
to that autocracy which prevailed al through the ancient world, there was nothing else for Nebuchadnezzar nor for Darius the Mede to do, but to proceed to execute summarily the penalty affixed to the transgression of their decrees. as to their decrees, they were perfectly in harmony with the views of the gods and of government which existed among men at the times in which they lived.
As to the character of Nebuchadnezzar, we know from 2 Kings 25:7, that he slew the sons of the captive Zedekiah, king of Judah, before his eyes and then put out the eyes of Zedekiah himself and bound him with fetters of brass and carried him to Babylon; and that afterwards he slew Seraiah the chief priest and Zephaniah the second priest, and about seventy other important persons at Riblah in the land of Hamath. Jeremiah adds (chapter lii) that he kept Zedekiah in prison to the day of hid death and that he slew all the princes of Judah. Besides, he kept Jehoiachin in prison for thirty–seven years, he being freed only after Nebuchadnezzar’s death by his successor Evil–Merodach.
The building inscriptions of Nebuchadnezzar throw much light on his character. Those who wish to read the whole of these we refer to Mr. Stephen Langdon’s work entitled The Building Inscriptions of the Neo–Babylonian Empire. They will find there that he was a most devoted worshiper of the heathen gods, especially of Marduk and Nebo. He expended a large part of the wealth of the subject nations upon the restoration of the great temples of Babylonia and especially of Babylon.1
1 On pages 172 and 174 of Langdon’s work Nebuchadnezzar speaks of “an image of his royal person,” which, possibly he had set up “before Marduk the king.” On page 149 he says that he undertook to raise the top of the temple called E-temen-an-ki toward Heaven and to strengthen it, and for this purpose, says he, “the far dwelling peoples over whom Marduk my lord had appointed me and whose care was given unto me by Shamash the hero, all lands and the totality of all men from the upper to the lower seas, distant lands, the men of wide-spread habitations, the kings of distant mountains and remote regions who are between the upper and the lower sea with whose strength Marduk my lord had filled my hands that they might bear his yoke, I summoned together with the worshippers (ummanat) of Shamash and Marduk to make E-temen-an-ki.” On pages 68, 69, he prays to “Ninkarraka, majestic mistress, to command before Marduk, lord of heaven and earth, the destruction of his foes and the ruin of the land of his enemies” (i, 38-49); and in 2 Col. iii, 30-47, that “Lugal-Marada, his god, may smite the evil-minded, break their weapons, devastate all the land of my enemies and slay all of them. Before Marduk, lord of heaven and earth, make my deeds appear acceptable, speak for my favor.” On page 97 we read, “Nebuchadnezzar, who has learned to fear the gods, who causes to exist in the mouths of men the fear of the great gods, who keeps in order the temples of the gods.” On page 98 he says, “I consulted all the hidden advice of Shamash, Ramman, and Marduk”; on page 151, “All men of wide-spread habitations I compelled to do service for the building of E-temen-an-ki.” And further, on the same page: “Oh Marduk, at thy command the city of the gods has been builded, by thy mighty order that changes not may it prosper; may the work of my hands endure.” On page 89, he speaks of “the numerous peoples which Marduk gave into his hands, of gathering all men under his shadow in peace, and of receiving in Babylon the tribute of the kings of all regions and nations.” On page 93, he says that Marduk sent him to care for his work, that Nebo caused him to seize a sceptor of justice; on page 101, he says that “his ears are attentive to the wisdom of Ninib, the hero, and that he is regardful of the sacred places of Ninib and Ishtar”; and on page 103, he says that “he adorned with gold the shrine of Sarpanit, Nebo, and Marduk, and rebuilt the temples of Nin-mah, Nebo Ramman, Shamash, Sin, and Ninlilanna,” and on page 107, “the temple of Shar-zarbi, Anu, Lugal-marada, and Ishtar.” See also the prayers on pages 121, 69, 97, and 89, and for his superstition, pages 93, 99, 109, 121, 123.
He undertook noting, however, but at the command of the gods. His authority was derived from them. His works were executed through their help. His conquests were made by their help. His rule was established and his reign secured by them. The fear of his
gods was in his heart and in the heart of all the peoples subject to him, so that they obeyed his will and did his works. He prayed to them and they revealed to him their will. His offerings to them were more numerous that those of any who had preceded him and their favors to him excelled those that they had granted to any others. Through their favor, he slew all his enemies and subdued all his foes.1
With reference to the belief of Nebuchadnezzar in dreams and visions, which really lies at the foundation of his strenuous insistence upon their correct interpretation, it may be said and emphasized that no one can get a right view of ancient history without fully realizing that the heroes of those times were the born and bred children of superstition, that the greatest kings
1 As to the demand of the wise men, that they should discover the dream before they attempted to interpret it, Dr. Behrmann, in his commentary on Daniel, has called attention to a parallel case mentioned in Ibn Hisham’s Life of Muhammed. For the benefit of those of our readers who have not access to this work, either in its Arabic original or in Wüstenfeld’s German translation, we subjoin a translation of this passage: “Rabia son of Nassr, was one of the weakest of the Toba kings of Yemen. He saw a frightful vision and was exceedingly troubled by it. So he called the prophets, enchanters, soothsayers, and astrologers of all his kingdom and said to them: I have seen a frightful vision and am exceedingly troubled by it. Tell me it, therefore, and its meaning. and they said: Relate it unto us and we will tell its meaning. And he said to them: If I tell you about it, I cannot be certain about your telling its meaning. Behold, he cannot know its meaning who knows not it before I tell it to him.”
To this parallel, we would add another from the Arabian Nights taken from the story of Seifelmolouk, which illustrates the rage of an eastern potentate when his wise men have failed him. When King Asim heard that his son was ill, he summoned the ages and astrologers and they looked at him and prescribed for him; but he remained in the same state for a period of three months. So King Asim was enraged and said to his sages: “Woe to you, O dogs! Are ye all unable to cure my son? Now, if ye cure him not immediately, I will slay you all!” (Lane’s Arabian Nights, ii, 290.)
and generals believed in dreams and visions and followed the advice of dream interpreters and soothsayers of all sorts.
For example, Ashurbanipal, the last great king of Assyria, says in his Annal inscription,1 that Ashur revealed Ashurbanipal’s name to Gyges, king of Lydia, in a dream, saying: “Embrace the feet of Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria, and thou shalt conquer in his name thine enemies.” “On the same day on which he saw the dream, he sent his horsemen to greet me and sent this dream which he had seen through his ambassador and told it to me. From that day on, from the time that he embraced my feet, he conquered the Cimmerians.” On Col. iii, 118, he says that
On the same night in which his brother Šamaššumukin rebelled against him, a seer of dreams lay down at night upon the earth and saw a dream, as follows: Upon the face of the moon stood written: “Whoever plans evil against Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria, and undertakes a battle against him, to him will I cause as evil death to come; through the lightning-like sword, firebrand, hunger, and the rage of Gira, will I put an end to his life.” This I heard, and I trusted on the word of Sin, my Lord.
On Col. v, 97–109, he says that in his campaign against Ummanaldis, king of Elam, his troops feared to pass the rushing flood of the river Ididi; but Ishtar that very night caused the troops to see a dream and in it said to them, “I am going before Ashurbanipal, the king, whom my hands have formed.” Trusting in this dream the troops crossed the Ididi in good spirits (shalmish). Finally, Col. x, 51–120, he speaks of rebuilding the Bit-riduti, or palace, “in which upon his bed the gods
1 Col. ii, 95–104.
had given him favorable dreams by night and good thoughts by day.”
According to Herodotus, the war of Xerxes against Greece was instigated by some most singular dreams which came to him and his uncle, Artabanus; and without he influence of these dreams, Herodotus says that the war would not have been undertaken (Bk. VII, 12–18). Alexander, also, is represented by his biographers, as having been guided in his undertakings by dreams, visions, and omens; and as having a prophet (mantis) always with him.1 So, Nebuchadnezzar speaks of Ninkarrak, his beloved mistress, who gives him good visions;2 prays to Shamash to answer him honestly by dreams and visions;3 says that his father had cleaned the foundations of the zikkurat of Babylon by oracular commission4 and that he restores the temple of Shamash who in visions announces the truthful reply;5 and uses many other similar phrases, showing his belief in and obedience to the will of the gods as revealed in visions and responses.
Nabunaid says in the great inscription from Ur, Col. ii, 45–51, that Ishtar of Agani, his mistress, sent him a dream through which to discover the foundations of Iulbar. In the inscription from Abu–Habba, Col. i, 16–33, he says that
in the beginning of his kingdom, the gods caused him to see a dream (ushabru’ inni shutti). Marduk, the great god, and Sin, the light of haven and earth, stood on either side, and Marduk spoke to me: “Nabunaid, king of Babylon, with the horse of thy wagon bring bricks and build Íhulhul
1 See Arrian’s Expedition of Alexander, passim. 2 Langdon, Nk., i; Col. iii, 5–8. 3 Id., xii; Col. iii, 20–22.
4 Id., xvii; Col. i, 45–50. 5 Id., xix; Col. vii, 62–66.
and cause Sin the good lord to occupy his dwelling place therein.” Reverently spake I to the lord of the gods: “That temple which thou hast commanded to build, the Scythian surrounds it, and extensive are his troops.” But Marduk said to me: “The Scythian whom thou hast mentioned—he, his land, and the kings, his helpers, are no more.” In the third year, they caused him to go to war, and Cyrus, the king of Anzan his little vassal, scattered with his few troops the far–extended Scythians. Astyages the king of the Scythians he captured and brought as a prisoner to his own land.
On Col. ii, 59–61, he says that “Shamash, the great god of Íbara, showed to him the dwelling place of his heart’s joy, in Tashrit, on the favorable month, on the lucky day, which Shamash and Ramman had made known to him in a dream.”
Astyages, the contemporary of Nabunaid, and the grand father of Cyrus, saw two dreams which the dream–interpreters explained as prefiguring the conquest of all Asia by his grandson, Cyrus.1
We may truly say that the men of the time, even the greatest of them, lived and moved in a world of dreams. The greater the man, the more important his dreams, both in consequence to himself and to those about him. Hence, we can in a measure imagine the wrath and uncontrollable indignation of Nebuchadnezzar when he finds that he cannot trust the ability of his wise men to explain the dream that troubles him. One great part of his system of kingcraft seemed to have collapsed. How could he, henceforth, find out the will of those gods on whom he depended and whose commands and wishes he followed, if this great means of revealing through visions and dreams was
1 Herodotus, I, 107.
rendered nugatory through the ignorance or incapacity of the interpreters of dreams? No wonder he was beside himself with rage with what was to him, perhaps, the first consciousness of utter helplessness he had ever felt! This will account, also, for his extravagant out burst of praise in honor of Daniel and his God. From the above statements as to the beliefs and declarations and acts of Nebuchadnezzar gathered from his own and contemporary documents, it is evident that there is no moral possibility of his having issued the edicts recorded in the book of Daniel as having been issued by him.
As to Darius the Mede, inasmuch as no one knows anything about his character except what is to be derived from the book of Daniel, we are content to leave to the judgment of our readers the answer to the question as to whether the man whose life is portrayed for us in the sixth chapter could have been induced to issue the decree about the prayers to himself and about the punishment of being thrown into the den of lions for disobedience to the same, or the decree ordering all nations to fear the God of Daniel. We believe that the question can be answered as well by the ordinary reader as by the most learned professor. For it is not a question demanding scholarship for its answer, but simply common sense.
The only other question with reference to the moral possibility of such decrees that might be reasonably raised would arise from the doubt as to whether a king of Media or Persia would probably make a decree forbidding anyone to pray to, or make request of, any god or man save of himself, or a decree commanding the nations to fear the God of Daniel. Those who deny the possibility of such decrees, assume that enough is known
of the religious ideas of kings of Media and Persia to enable us to assert tat such decrees would have been utterly repugnant to their beliefs. It is assumed that their belief was an unadulterated Zoroastrianism, and that the Zoroastrianism of that time as well as of later times forbade the worship of any god save Auramazda, the only and supreme god. But whatever the general belief may have been, it can scarcely be claimed that Cyrus, Cambyses, Smerdis the Magian, Astyages, and the Achæmenian kings of the family of Darius Hystaspis, or any of the kings of Persia, recognized no other god but one. For example, Cyrus in the Cylinder Inscription says that it was Marduk, the god of Babylon, who in his anger at Nabunaid troubled himself to call Cyrus, king of the city of Anshan, to the domination of all the world (10–12). Marduk, also, enabled him to subdue the land of Kuti and the Scythians, commanded him to make his expedition to Babylon and as a friend and helper at his side, caused him to enter Babylon without a battle, delivered Nabunaid into his hands, and showed himself gracious unto him (13–21). Bel and Nebo, also, are said to love his rule and to have desired with joyful heart his dominion (22). Cyrus concludes the inscription with the prayer that all the gods may daily make known before Bel and Nebo the length of his days, may speak the word of his grace, and say to Merodach, his lord, a prayer for Cyrus the king, who honors them, and for Cambyses his son. In the Cyrus Chronicle, no mention of the religious views of Cyrus occurs; but his breadth of view as to polytheism is implied on the statement on the Reverse, line 21, that as soon as he becomes king of Babylon, the gods of Accad, which Nabunaid had caused to be carried to Babylon, were brought back to their own cities.
Nothing further is known from the Persian and Babylonian monuments as to the religious views of Cyrus and Cambyses.
The Egyptian records, however, tell us that Cambyses came to Egypt, “willing to conform to the local worships that he found.”1
He worshipped before the holiness of Neit with much devotion, as all the great kings have done; he made great offerings of all good things to Neit, the great, the divine mother, and to al gods who dwell in Sais, as all the pious kings had done.2
Darius Hystaspis is said on the same inscription to have continued the policy of Cambyses.
His majesty, the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Darius, ordered me [i.e., Uza. hor. res. neit] to go to Egypt while his Majesty was in Aram [Syria] in order to reëstablish the school of sacred scribes. His Majesty did this because he knew the virtue of this work of restoring all that he found wrecked, and to restore the names of all the gods, their temples, their endowments, and the management of their feasts forever.3
Nothing what ever is known from the monuments as to the views of Smerdis the Magian, and Darius Hystaspis, except what Darius tell us in his Behistun and other inscriptions. That Darius was a polytheist appears in the Persepolis Inscription H, where he prays: “Let Auramazda and the clan–gods help me, ” “that an enemy may not come to this country, nor an army, nor a dearth nor a rebellion; for his favor I beseech Aura–
1 Petrie: History of Egypt, iii, 361.
2 Id., 361, 362. Translated by Petrie from the inscription on the statue of Uza. hor. res. neit.
3 Id., 362.
mazda and the clan–gods; may Auramazda and the clan–gods grant me this.” So Xerxes, in inscriptions E, A, C, and K of Spiegel, prays that “Auramazda and the gods may protect him and his kingdom.” Artaxerxes Longimanus, who ruled immediately after Xerxes, from 465 to 425 B.C., prays in the only inscription of his that we have that Auramazda, Anahita, and Mithra may protect him. Artaxerxes Ochus prays that Auramazda and Mithra may protect him and his land.
Let us remember, too, that it was not an unheard–of thing for kings to be looked upon as gods. The kings of Egypt were worshiped as such from immemorial times. The idea of Divus Cæsar is closely connected with the divine right of kings. Both gods and kings were lords. Both were absolute monarchs and autocrats. The difference between the power of a god and that of a king might easily be looked upon as one of degree and not kind. That kings could be called gods is witnessed by Pharaohs, Ptolemies, Seleucids, Herods, and Cæsars. It is , therefore, neither unnatural, grotesque, nor improbable, that the courtiers of this Median king should have flattered him with the same ascriptions of godlike power.
Finally, whatever may have been the belief of the Persians, or of the Medes, as to one or more gods, the decrees of Darius the Mede were meant to apply not merely to the Persians and Medes among his subjects, but to the Babylonians, Assyrians, Jews, and all other nations as well. Many of these nations had many gods. The first edict of Darius forbids anyone of any nation from making request of any god or man, save of himself. This may, or may not, imply that the king himself, or any of his subjects, considered Darius to be a god.
It certainly prohibits one and all from praying to anyone for, or asking from anyone, anything, except from the king, leaving aside the question as to the belief of the person praying.1
From whatever side considered, therefore, there is nothing in what we know of the character of either Nebuchadnezzar or Darius the Mede, to make it impossible to believe that such decrees as those recorded in Daniel were actually made. A moral impossibility against such decrees is a figment of the objector’s imagination.
II. As to the legal impossibility against the issue of such decrees, one need only say that the evidence shows that the doctrine of the divine origin and authority of their kingship was always claimed as the ground of the rights of the kings of both Babylon and Persia to rule.
All that we know of the kings of ancient Babylon shows us that the laws of the land were formulated by the kings, without any control except what was exercised by the gods, doubtless through the medium of the priests. For example, Hammurabi speaks of the judgments of the land which he had pronounced and the decisions of the land which he had rendered;2 and he expresses the hope that future kings may pronounce judgments for the black–headed people and render their decisions.3 So, also, Nebuchadnezzar refers again and again to the fact that he had been appointed by
1 The decree of Darius the Mede, commanding his subjects to tremble before the God of Daniel, is paralleled in the Scriptures by the decree of Cyrus recorded in 2 Ch. 36:23, and Ezra 1:2–4, by the decree of Darius recorded in Ezra 6:8, acknowledging the God of heaven and by the decrees of Artaxerxes found in Ezra 7:12–26, and Neh. 11:23, and 2:7,8.
2 Harper: Code, Epilogue, 68–71. 3 Id., 85–90.
Marduk to rule over all peoples; and he prays to Shamash, “who makes successful faithful decisions,” to grant him “a scepter of righteousness, a good rule, and a just sway.”1 So, also, the Persian kings in the formulation and promulgation of their laws admitted no other control than that of Auramazda. Thus Darius says: “These are the lands which submitted to me; what was commanded them by me was carried out. Through the grace of Auramazda have their lands been constituted according to my law: as it was commanded them by me, so it was done.”2
The fact, also, that the kings never acknowledge any laws of men as binding upon them, but appeal always for their right to make decrees and for their authority to execute them to the revealed will of the god whom they served, sows that they recognized no such human laws as binding upon them. Appeal is made, it is true, in Daniel 6, to the laws of the Medes and Persians; but in the same chapter it is shown how a king could decree a law which annulled in its practice all the laws and customs as to the worship of Auramazda, Marduk, and all the other gods, which had prevailed up to that time. In Esther, too, we are shown how laws once made could be circumscribed and circumvented by new laws which rendered their execution practically impossible. The case of Cambyses, recorded by Herodotus (Bk. III, 31), when “he summoned the royal judges and asked them if there was any law permitting one who wished to marry his sister,” is not against the theory that the king was autocratic; for the judges, while saying, “they could find no law permitting a brother to marry his sister,” said also, that “they had discovered another law which permitted the
1 Langdon, op cit., p. 99. 2 Beh. Ins. i, 7, 8.
king of Persia to do whatever he pleased.” In the inscriptions of both Nebuchadnezzar and Darius Hystaspis the view of “L’état c’est moi” (I am the state) is observable everywhere. As was said to be true of a recent writer, the fonts of type would scarcely have enough capital I’s to enable the printer to set up the translation of the inscriptions of Nebuchadnezzar; and as for Darius, he begins every sentence with a “thus saith Darius the king.” The history of Herodotus, also, shows that the kings of Persia were absolutely autocratic, monarchs beyond control, except through their superstitions and their fears.
III. As to the carrying out of these decrees having been physically impossible, a few words only need be said; and we shall say these words under three heads corresponding to the three principal decrees.
1. As to the decree of Nebuchadnezzar n chapter two that all the wise men of Babylon should be killed, it is perfectly certain that it was practically possible of accomplishment. The wise men were probably distinguished by a peculiar dress. At any rate, they would belong to guilds, or classes, whose members would be known by name as well as by vocation. we may compare with this edict for their destruction the similar edict of Saul to destroy the witches, and the massacre of the Magians by Darius, and the annihilation by the new régime of Egyptian kings of the followers of the new cult of the sun disk established by Amenhotep IV.
2. The decree of Nebuchadnezzar in chapter iii, according to which those who refuse to obey his commands were to be burned in a fiery furnace, was easy to carry out and was apparently in agreement with Assyrio–Babylonian custom. For we are told that Shamashshumukin the brother of Ashurbanipal threw
himself into a furnace of fire.1 Ashurbanipal, also, speaks frequently of the burning of people in a fire.2
3. The decree of Darius the Mede with regard to the den of lions was easy of execution, inasmuch as at that time lions were common in all that part of the world. The Assyrian kings were wont to hunt lions as a pastime. Thus Tiglath–Pileser I says that he killed 920 lions in one hunting expedition;3 and Ashurnas)irpal says that he killed at one time 120 lions and that at another time he captured 50 young lions and shut them up in Calah and in the palaces of his land in cages and let them produce their young.4 At another time he killed 370 strong lions.5 In his menagerie, he says, also, that he had herds of wild oxen, elephants, lions, birds, wild asses, gazelles, dogs, panthers,6 and all animals of the mountains and of the plains, to show to his people.7 Moreover, the Hebrew poets and prophets were familiar with lions; the people, also, made proverbs concerning them; and their heroes, such as Samson and David, are said to have slain them. So, also, the oldest story in the Aramaic language (that of Achikar from the fifth century B.C.) treats the lion as a well known animal.8 Herodotus says that lions interfered with the march of Xerxes army to Greece.9 Surely, if we can believe that the Romans imported lions from Africa and threw the Christians to them in the Coliseum, we can readily believe that a Median king of Babylon may have had a den of lions into which to throw those who had
1 KB. ii, 190. 2 E.g., KB. i, 71, 75, 77, 81, 91. 3 KB. i, 39. 4 Id.
5 Id. 6 This word nimru may denote also leopard or tiger. 7 Id.
8 See Sachau: Aram. Pap., p. 181. 9 Bk. VII.
disobeyed his laws. Certainly, at least, there was no physical impossibility in the matter.
IV. As to its being historically impossible that the edicts recorded in Daniel should have been issued, it need only be asked what evidence there is against them. Not one edict of Nebuchadnezzar or of any other New Babylonian king ,is recorded in any contemporaneous document that has come down to us. Several commands, or orders of the day, of Nebuchadnezzar are found in the Scriptures. Thus, at his command, Zedekiah and Ahab were roasted in the fire;1 the children of Zedekiah king of Judah were slain before the eyes of their father, whose eyes were then put out;2 and Jehoiachin was carried to Babylon in chains and kept in prison for thirty–seven years.3
In Nebuchadnezzar’s own inscriptions, there are the following orders, but no formal decrees. He summoned (ik)bi) the peoples that he ruled to build one of his temples and compelled them to do service,4 and he regulated (manu) the offerings to the god Marduk.5 So, also, Nabunaid orders the workmen (ummanati) of Shamash and Marduk to build Ebarra;6 and commands the wise men of Babylon to seek the old foundation of Ebarra in Sippar. Cyrus, moreover, proclaimed peace in Babylon just after he entered it as conqueror.7 Darius I issued a grant for the rebuilding of the college of physicians at Sais.8 Xerxes commanded that the inscription of Van should be made.9
It will thus be seen that not merely have no decrees
1 Jer. 29:22. 2 Id., 52:11. 3 2 Kings 25:27. 4 Langdon, 148–151.
5 Id., 159. 6 Id., 241. 7 KB. iii, 2, 135. 8 Zeitschrift für Ägyptische Sprache, 37:72–74.
9 Spiegel: Altpers. Keilinschrift., p. 66.
strictly so–called of the kings of Babylon and Persia come down to us; but that few even of their commands have preserved to us, except such as are given in the Greek historians. There must have been thousands of decrees made by these kings. What these decrees were we cannot know. To deny that the decrees recorded in Daniel were made would involve a knowledge of all decrees that these kings made. Such a knowledge will never be ours. It is futile, therefore, to say that it was impossible that Darius made a decree about the lions, or Nebuchadnezzar about the image, or Belshazzar about the promotion of Daniel. On can at best merely deny that there is outside of Daniel any evidence that these decrees were made. This, indeed, is admitted. It is maintained, however, that lack of evidence for is not evidence against. Unless Daniel’s positive and explicit statements can be disproved, their veracity stands unimpeached.
It is evident, then, that the edicts of kings as recorded in Daniel are not merely not impossible, but that they are very probable. They certainly may have been enacted. Daniel says they were. It has not been shown that it is not impossible for them to be genuine. It has been shown, further, that they very probably are genuine, inasmuch as they harmonize with what we would expect from such kings as Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius the Mede. and from the conditions under which they lived and reigned.
Studies In The Book Of Daniel: A Discussion Of The Historical Questions by Robert Dick Wilson. New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, The Knickerbocker Press, 1917.
E-Text transcribed from the 1917 edition.
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