These are not two different things, but the Prophet explains and confirms the same sentiments by a change of phrase, and says that the vessels which Nebuchadnezzar had brought into the land of Shinar were laid up in the house of the treasury. The Hebrews, as we know, generally use the word “house” for any place, as they call the temple God’s “house ” Of the land of Shinar, it must be remarked, that it was a plain adjacent to Babylon; and the famous temple of Belus, to which the Prophet very probably refers, was erected there.
Here Daniel marks the time in which he was led into captivity together with his companions, namely, in the third year of Jehoiakim A difficult question arises here, since Nebuchadnezzar began to reign in the fourth year of Jehoiakim. How then could he have besieged Jerusalem in the third year, and then led away the people captives according to his pleasure? Some interpreters solve this difficulty by what appears to me a frivolous conjecture, that the four years ought to refer to the beginning of his reign, and so the time may be brought within the third year. But in the second chapter we shall see Daniel brought before the king in the second year of his reign. They explain this difficulty also by another solution. They say — the years are not reckoned from the beginning of the reign, and, — this was the second year from the Conquest of the Jews and the taking of Jerusalem; but this is too harsh and forced. The most probable conjecture seems to me, that the Prophet is speaking of the first King Nebuchadnezzar, or at least uses the reign of the second, while his father was yet alive. We know there were two kings of the same name, father and son; and as the son did many noble and illustrious actions, he acquired the surname of Great. Whatever, therefore, we shall afterwards meet with concerning Nebuchadnezzar, cannot be understood except of the second, who is the son. But Josephus says the son was sent by his father against the Egyptians and the Jews and this was the cause of the war, since the Egyptians often urged the Jews to a change of affairs, and enticed them to throw off the yoke Nebuchadnezzar the younger was carrying on the war in Egypt at the death of his father, and speedily returned home, lest any one should supersede him. When, however, he found all things as he wished, Josephus thinks he put off that expedition, and went to Jerusalem. There is nothing strange, nay, it is very customary to call him King who shares the command with his father. Thus, therefore, I interpret it. In the third year or the reign of Jehoiakim, Nebuchadnezzar came, under the command and direction of his father, or if any one prefers it, the father himself came. For there is nothing out of place, whether we refer it to the father or to the son. Nebuchadnezzar, then, king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem, that is, by the hand of his son besieged Jerusalem. But if a different explanation is preferred, since he was there himself and carried on the war in person, that view not be taken still, the events happened in the third year of Jehoiakim’s reign. Interpreters make many mistakes in this matter. Josephus, indeed, says this was done in the eighth year, but he had never read the Book of Daniel. (68) He was an unlearned man, and by no means familiar with the Scriptures; nay, I think he had never read three verses of Daniel. It was a dreadful judgment of God for a priest to be so ignorant a man as Josephus. But in another passage on which I have commented, he seems to have followed Metasthenes and others whom he cites, when speaking of the destruction of that monarchy. And this seems to suit well enough, since in the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim the city was once taken, and some of the nobles of the royal race were led away in triumph, among whom were Daniel and his companions. When Jehoiakim afterwards rebelled, his treatment was far more severe, as Jeremiah had predicted. But while Jehoiakim possessed the kingdom by permission of King Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel was already a captive, so that Jeremiah’s prediction was fulfilled — the condition of the figs prematurely ripe was improved; for those who were led into exile last thought themselves better off than the rest. But the Prophet deprives them of their vain boast, and shows the former captives to have been better treated than the remnant of the people who as yet remained safe at. home. (Jeremiah 24:2.) I assume, then, that Daniel was among the first fruits of the captivity; and this is an instance of God’s judgments being so incomprehensible by us. For had there been any integrity in the whole people, surely Daniel was a remarkable example of it for Ezekiel includes him among the three just men by whom most probably God would be appeased. (Ezekiel 14:14.) Such, then, was the excellence of Daniel’s virtues, that he was like a celestial angel among mortals; and yet he was led into exile, and lived as the slave of the king of Babylon. Others, again, who had provoked God’s wrath in so many ways, remained quiet in their nests the Lord did not deprive them of their country and of that inheritance which was a sign and pledge of their adoption. (69)
Should any wish here to determine why Daniel was among the first to be led into captivity, will he not betray his folly? Hence, let us learn to admire God’s judgments, which surpass all our perceptions; and let us also remember the words of Christ,
“If these things are done in the green tree,
what will be done in the dry?” (Luke 23:31.)
As I have already said, there was an angelic holiness in Daniel, although so ignominiously exiled and brought up among the kings eunuchs. Then this happened to so holy a man, who from his childhood was entirely devoted to piety, how great is God’s indulgence in sparing us? What have we deserved? Which of us will dare to compare himself with Daniel? Nay, we are unworthy, according to the ancient proverb, to loosen the tie of his shoes. Without the slightest doubt Daniel, through the circumstances of the time, wished to manifest the singular and extraordinary gift of God, since this trial did not oppress his mind and could not turn him aside from the right course of piety. When, therefore, Daniel saw himself put forward as an example of integrity, he did not desist from the pure worship of God. As to his assertion that Jehoiakim was delivered into the hand of King Nebuchadnezzar by God’s command, this form of speech takes away any stumbling block which might occur to the minds of the pious. Had Nebuchadnezzar been altogether superior, God himself might seem to have ceased to exist, and so his glory would have been depressed. But Daniel clearly asserts that King Nebuchadnezzar did not possess Jerusalem, and was not the conqueror of the nation by his own valor, or counsel, or fortune, or good luck, but because God wished to humble his people. Therefore, Daniel here sets before us the providence and judgments of God, that we may not think Jerusalem to have been taken in violation of God’s promise to Abraham and his posterity. He also speaks by name of the vessels of the temple. Now, this might seem altogether out of place, and would shock the minds of the faithful. For what does it mean? That God’s temple was spoiled by a wicked and impious man. Had not God borne witness that his rest was there? This shall be my rest for ever, here will I dwell because I have chosen it. (Psalms 132:14.) If any place in the world were impregnable, here truly honor ought to remain entire and untainted in the temple of God. When, therefore, it was robbed and its sacred vessels profaned, and when an impious king had also transferred to the temple of his own god what had been dedicated to the living God, would not, as I have said, such a trial as this cast down the minds of the holy? No one was surely so stout-hearted whom that unexpected trial would not oppress. Where is God, if he does not defend his own temple? Although he does not dwell in this world, and is not enclosed in walls of either wood or stone, yet he chose this dwelling-place for himself, (Psalms 80:1, and Psalms 99:1, and Isaiah 37:16,)and often by means of his Prophets asserted his seat to between the Cherubim. What then is the meaning of this? As I have already said, Daniel recalls us to the judgment of God, and by a single word assures us that we ought not to be surprised at God inflicting such severe punishments upon impious and wicked apostates. For under the name of God, there is a silent antithesis; as the Lord did not deliver Jehoiakim into the hand of the Babylonians without just reason: God, therefore, exposed him as a prey that he might punish him for the revolt of his impious people. It now follows —