When Nabuchodonosor, king of Babylon, marched against Jerusalem and laid siege to it, in Joakim's third year as king of Juda, the Lord gave him the mastery. Not only Joakim fell into his hands, but... some of the temple treasures, which he carried off to Sennaar as offerings to his own god, and there, in the treasure-house of his own god's temple, bestowed them. Meanwhile, he had a command for Asphenez, his head chamberlain. He was to take under his charge certain young Israelites, of royal or princely stock, in body well formed, handsome of mien, so well versed and grounded, so keen of wit, as they might be taught lore and language of the Chaldaeans, and have places at his court. For three years they should have daily allowance of the king's meat and wine; then he would send for them.
Among these were four tribesmen of Juda, called Daniel, Ananias, Misael and Azarias; the chamberlain had given them fresh names, to Daniel Baltassar, to Ananias Sidrach, to Misael Misach, and to Azarias Abdenago. Daniel had resolved, neither meat nor wine from the royal table should sully his lips; and for this abstinence he hoped to get leave from the head chamberlain; with such kindness and pity God had touched his heart. But this would not serve; Nay, said he, what of the charge my lord king gave me, that you should have food and drink? It were as much as my life is worth, if he saw you haggard-cheeked beside others of your own age. Hereupon Daniel went to Malasar, one of the other chamberlains, to whose care Asphenez had entrusted all four of them. Sir, said he, be pleased to put us on our trial. For ten days, give us nothing but pulse to eat, water to drink, then compare our looks with the looks of those others who have fed on the king's bounty; judge by what you see, and do with us what you will. The challenge was accepted, and the ten days trial began; when it was over, never a one of the king's pensioners shewed healthy and well nourished as they. After that, Malasar had their allowance of meat and wine, and they pulse.
Meanwhile, in all lore and learning, God made apt pupils of these four; and of visions and dreams especially Daniel was master. And now, the time of their probation over, Asphenez presented his pupils before Nabuchodonosor, who had speech with all of them; and no match was found for Daniel, Ananias, Misael and Azarias; all must have places at court. Never a question the king could propound, to make trial of their learning and their quick wits, but they could answer it ten times better than any diviner or sage in his kingdom. And still, up to the beginning of Cyrus reign, Daniel was ...
In the second year of his reign, Nabuchodonosor had a dream; and his mind, between sleep and waking, was all distraught. Diviner and sage, soothsayer and astrologer must be summoned without more ado, to pronounce on the royal dream; and when they were admitted to his presence, he said to them, I have had a dream, but my mind is so distraught, I cannot tell what it was. And the astrologers gave him answer.
Long life to the king's grace! Be pleased to tell us what the dream was, and it shall be interpreted. Why, said the king, I know no more than this; dream and interpretation both you must needs tell me, or else your lives must be forfeit, and your houses put to public use. Gifts and great honour shall be your reward, if you will but tell me both. Come now, what dreamt I, and what meant my dream?
Once again they demurred; would the king be pleased to recount his dream to them, interpreted it should be forthwith. Nay, said the king, I see how it is, you are trying shifts with me. You know well there is but one way to it; dream of mine or doom of yours it must be. Some lying story you have ready, that will suit your turn; how shall I know your interpretation is right, if you cannot tell me what dream I saw? Nay, said they, never a man on earth could do what the king's grace asks. Princes and great rulers there have been a many, but none of them yet, from diviner, sage or astrologer, expected so much! Here is riddle indeed you would have us read for you, lord king; where is counsellor can tell you the secret? Unless it were the gods only, and they walk not with men.
At this, the king was in such a taking of fury that he would have all the wise men of Babylon put to death; and, once the warrant was out for the extinction of them, there was hue and cry against Daniel and his fellows. Arioch it was, the captain of the king's guard, that was commissioned to rid Babylon of all its wise men, and from him Daniel would have the why and wherefore of it; here was cruel work committed to him; what moved the king's grace to be so absolute? And, when Arioch had made all clear to him, into the king's presence he went, asking for more time to answer the royal question. So, returning to his fellows, Ananias, Misael and Azarias, he made all known to them, and would have them cry out upon the God of heaven for better knowledge of his secret, without which both he and they should perish in the general massacre of the wise men.
Then, in a vision by night, the secret was revealed to Daniel, and he fell to praising the God of heaven, with such words as these: Blessed be the Lord's name from the beginning to the end of time; his are the wisdom and the power; change and chance of our mortal life he rules, crowns one man and discrowns another. Wisdom of the wise, skill of the skilful, what are they but his gift? The hidden depths he can lay bare, read the secrets of the dark; does not light dwell with him? God of our fathers, I give you thanks and praise for thus enabling, thus enlightening me; for prayer answered, doubt resolved, and the king's thought revealed.
With that, he betook himself to Arioch, that was to slay the wise men, and made suit to him, slay the wise men he should not. You have but to take me into the king's presence, said he, and the riddle shall be read. Without more ado, Arioch granted his request; here was an exile from Juda, he said, that would answer the royal question. Is this true? the king asked of Daniel. Can you, Baltassar, tell me the dream and its meaning both? And Daniel spoke out in the royal presence, Never wizard or sage, never diviner or prophet, that can give the king's grace an answer! But there is a God in heaven, king Nabuchodonosor, that makes hidden things plain; he it is that has sent you warning of what must befall long hence. Let me tell you what your dream was, what visions disturbed your sleep. As you were lying there abed, my lord king, your thoughts still turned on future times; and he that makes hidden things plain revealed to you what the pattern of those times should be. If the secret was disclosed to me also, it is not that I have wisdom beyond the wont of living men; I was but the instrument by which the meaning of it was to be made known, and a king's thoughts unravelled.
A vision you had of a great image; what splendour, how terrible an aspect it was that confronted you! Of fine gold the head, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze; of iron the legs, and of the feet, too, part was iron, part was but earthenware. And as you were watching it, from the mountain-side fell a stone no hands had quarried, dashed against the feet of yonder image, part iron, part clay, and shattered them. With that, down came iron and clay, down came bronze and silver and gold; chaff of the threshing-floor was never so scattered on the summer breeze. They were gone, none knew whither; and stone that had shattered image grew into a high mountain, filling the whole earth.
So much for the dream, and now we that know the secret of it will tell the king's grace what it means. You have kings for your vassals; royalty, power, dominion and great renown the God of heaven has bestowed on you; every haunt of man and wild beast and flying bird he has given over to you, all alike he has made subject to you; the head of gold, who else but you? Another and a lesser empire must follow yours, one of silver, then another of bronze, still wide as the world; then a fourth, of iron, breaking down and crushing all before it, as iron has power all-conquering, all-subduing. But feet and toes of the image were part iron, part clay; this fourth empire will be divided within itself. Foundation of iron there shall yet be, from which it springs; sure enough, in the feet you saw, earthenware was mixed with true steel. Yet was true steel mixed with base earthenware, token that this empire shall be in part firmly established, in part brittle. Iron and clay mingled; race of the conquerors shall be adulterated with common human stock; as well mix clay with iron!
And while those empires yet flourish, another empire the God of heaven will bring into being, never to be destroyed, never to be superseded; conqueror of all these others, itself unconquerable. This is that stone you saw none ever quarried, that fell from the mountain-side, bringing clay and iron and bronze and silver and gold to nothing; this was a revelation the king's grace had from the most high God himself of what must come about; true was your dream, and this, past doubt, the meaning of it.
With that, king Nabuchodonosor bowed down face to earth, and made Daniel reverence; ay, he would have sacrifice offered to him, and incense, and with these words greeted him: Doubt is none but this God of yours of all gods is God, of all kings the master; he it is brings hidden things to light, or how could you have read the secret? Thereupon, he raised Daniel to high rank, and showered riches on him; ruler he should be of all Babylon's provinces, and over all its wise men have the pre-eminence. But Daniel made suit to him, and it was Sidrach, Misach and Abdenago that had Babylon under their charge; Daniel himself was the king's courtier still.
It was this king Nabuchodonosor made a golden image, sixty cubits high and six cubits broad, which he set up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon; and word went round in king Nabuchodonosor's name, summoning all the governors, magistrates, judges, chieftains, rulers, prefects and leading men from every part of his dominions, to be present at the dedication of the image king Nabuchodonosor had set up. So they gathered there, governors, magistrates, judges, chieftains, rulers, noblemen in high office, and leading men from every part, for the dedication of king Nabuchodonosor's image. And, as they stood before the image he had set up, a herald cried lustily to men of all peoples, nations and languages: As soon as you hear the sound of horn, flute, harp, zither, dulcimer, pipe and other instruments of music, you are to fall down and worship the image of gold which king Nabuchodonosor has set up. Whoever does not fall down in worship will be thrown, there and then, into the heart of a raging furnace. No sooner, then, did the sound of horn, flute, harp, zither, dulcimer, pipe and the rest reach the assembly than all of them, whatever their tribe, people or language, fell down in worship of king Nabuchodonosor's image.
It was then that certain Chaldaeans came forward with malicious accusations against the Jews. They wished long life to king Nabuchodonosor, and said, Lord King, your command was that all men, at the sound of horn, flute, harp, zither, dulcimer, pipe and the rest, should fall down and worship the golden image, on pain of being thrown into a raging furnace. And here are certain Jews, entrusted by you with the affairs of Babylon province, to wit, Sidrach, Misach and Abdenago, who have set the royal command at defiance, and will not reverence your gods, or worship the golden image you have set up. Upon this, in a transport of rage, Nabuchodonosor sent for Sidrach, Misach and Abdenago; and when they were brought, without delay, into his presence, this was the threat king Nabuchodonosor uttered: So Sidrach, Misach and Abdenago will not reverence my gods, or worship this golden image of mine? Here is your choice, then; either you will fall down and worship this image of mine when the sound of horn, flute, harp, zither, dulcimer, pipe and the other music reaches you, or then and there you shall be thrown into a raging furnace. You are in my power; what God can deliver you?
Then Sidrach, Misach and Abdenago said to king Nabuchodonosor, There is no need for any answer of ours to that question; you will see for yourself whether the God we worship is able to rescue us from the raging fire, and from your royal power. But, whether he rescues us or no, be assured, sir king, here are men who do not reverence your gods, or worship any image of yours. At this, Nabuchodonosor fell into a rage; his features, as he glared at Sidrach, Misach and Abdenago, were distorted with fury. He would have the furnace heated seven times hotter than its wont; and into this raging furnace he bade the most stalwart of his fighting men throw Sidrach, Misach and Abdenago with their feet tied together. So they were bound just as they were, in breeches and turban, shoes and coat, and thrown into the heart of the raging furnace; the king's order admitted no delay. So fiercely was the furnace heated that those who threw them in were burned to death. Meanwhile these three, Sidrach, Misach and Abdenago, fell fast bound into the heart of the fires that raged in it.
And there, in the hottest of the flames, they walked to and fro, singing to God their praises, blessing the Lord. There, as he stood in the heart of the fire, Azarias found utterance, and thus made his prayer: Blessed are you, Lord God of our fathers, renowned and glorious is your name for ever! In all your dealings with us, you have right on your side; so true to your promises, so unswerving in your course, so just in your awards! No punishment you have inflicted upon us, or upon Jerusalem, holy city of our fathers, but was deserved; for sins of ours, faithfulness and justice that stroke laid on. Sinners we were, that had wronged and forsaken you, all was amiss with us; unheard your commandments, or else unheeded, your will neglected, and with it, our own well-being! Nothing we had not deserved, pillage of your contriving, plague of your sending, and at last the foul domination of godless foes, of a tyrant that has no equal on earth! Tongue-tied we stand, that have brought disgrace on the livery of your true worship.
For your own honour, we entreat you not to abandon us eternally. Do not annul your covenant, and deprive us of your mercy. Think of Abraham that was your friend, of your servant Isaac, of Jacob whom you did set apart for yourself; the men to whom you did promise that you would increase their posterity, till it was countless as the stars in heaven, or the sand by the sea-shore. Whereas now, Lord, we are of all nations the most insignificant; all the world over, men see us humbled for our sins. In these days we are without prince or leader or prophet, we have no burnt-sacrifice, no victim, no offering; for us no incense burns, no first-fruits can be brought into your presence and win your favour. But oh, accept us still, hearts that are crushed, spirits bowed down by adversity; look kindly on the sacrifice we offer you this day, as it had been burnt-sacrifice of rams and bullocks, thousands of fattened lambs; who ever trusted in you and was disappointed? With all our hearts, now, we choose your will, we reverence you, we long after your presence; for that clemency, that abundant mercy of yours must we hope in vain? By some wondrous deliverance vindicate your own renown; theirs be the vain hope, that would do your servants an injury. Fools, that would match themselves with omnipotence! Crush down their might; teach them that in all the world Lord there is none, God there is none, glorified as you.
Meanwhile, their tormentors were not idle; naphtha and tow, pitch and tinder must be heaped on the furnace, till the flame rose forty-nine cubits above the furnace itself, breaking out and burning such Chaldaeans as stood near it. But an angel of the Lord had gone down into the furnace with Azarias and his companions; and he drove the flames away from it, making a wind blow in the heart of the furnace, like the wind that brings the dew. So that these three were untouched, and the fire brought them neither pain nor discomfort. Whereupon all of them, as with one mouth, began to give praise and glory and blessing to God, there in the furnace, in these words that follow: Blessed are you, Lord God of our fathers, praised above all, renowned above all for ever; blessed is your holy and glorious name, praised above all, renowned above all for ever. Blessed are you, whose glory fills your holy temple, praised above all, renowned above all for ever; blessed are you, who reign on your kingly throne, praised above all, renowned above all for ever. Blessed are you, who are throned above the cherubim, and gaze down into the depths, praised above all, renowned above all for ever. Blessed are you, high in the vault of heaven, praised above all, renowned above all for ever.
Then they cried out upon all things the Lord had made, to bless him, and praise him, and extol his name for ever. Bless the Lord they should, the Lord's angels; bless him they should, the heavens, and the waters above the heavens; bless him they should, all the Lord's powers. Bless him they should, sun and moon, stars of heaven, each drop of rain and moisture, and all the winds of God. Bless him they should, fire and heat, winter cold and summer drought, dew and rime at morning, frost and the cold air. Bless him they should, ice and snow, day-time and night-time, light and darkness, lightnings and storm-clouds. And earth in its turn should bless the Lord, praise him, and extol his name for ever. Bless the Lord they should, mountains and hills, every growing thing that earth yields, flowing fountains, seas and rivers. Bless him they should, sea-monsters and all life that is bred in the waters, all the birds that fly in heaven, wild beasts and tame, and the sons of men. Bless him Israel should, priests of the Lord bless him, servants of the Lord bless him; bless him they should, spirits and souls of all faithful men; bless him they should, dedicated and humble hearts. And for Ananias, Azarias and Misael, well might they bless the Lord, praise him and extol his name for ever; here was the grave spoiled, death robbed of its prey, and ever they were kept safe from the furnace, let its flames rage as they would. Give thanks to the Lord, they cried, the Lord is gracious; his mercy is eternal! Bless the Lord, you that are his worshippers; he is God above all gods; praise him and give him thanks, whose mercy is eternal.
Sore amazed was king Nabuchodonosor, and started to his feet; Tell me, he said to his courtiers, did we not cast three men into yonder furnace, all closely bound? And when they answered, Sire, past doubt, he told them what he had seen; here were four men, that bonds wore none, walking to and fro in the heart of the fire, and never the worse. And such an aspect he wore, the fourth of them, as it had been a son of God. With that, close went Nabuchodonosor to the furnace door, and cried, Come forth, Sidrach, Misach and Abdenago! Servants of the most high God, come out to me! So out came Sidrach, Misach and Abdenago, from the fire's heart all of them; and with one accord governor and judge and courtier clustered round them to look. Plain it was, the heat had no power over them; never a hair singed, nor a coat shrivelled, nor any smell of burning marked its passage. And at that, Nabuchodonosor could contain himself no longer; Blessed be this God whom Sidrach, Misach and Abdenago worship! Here were servants of his that trusted in him, and defied a king's edict, ready to put their lives in peril, so they might be free men, worshipping no God but their own; and he has sent an angel to deliver them. Hereby, then, I enact that if anyone blasphemes against the God of Sidrach, Misach and Abdenago, come he of what people, what tribe, what race he may, he shall pay for it with his life, and his house be put to public use. God there is no other that can grant such deliverance as this! And be sure he promoted them to high rank in Babylon province.
King Nabuchodonosor to men of every race, tribe and tongue, dwell they where they will, all health! Here be wondrous portents the most high God has been manifesting, and in my person. And my will is to make them known, portents most weighty, wonders most compelling; such a reign as his lasts for ever, such power as his the ages cannot diminish.
All went well in my household; never was Nabuchodonosor's court more flourishing. And then I had a dream that put me in fear; nor waking thoughts gave my troubled wits repose. Thereupon I gave orders that all the wise men of Babylon should appear before me, to interpret my dream; diviner and sage, astrologer and soothsayer, all must assemble, and there in their presence I rehearsed what dream it was, but never one of them could tell me the meaning of it. At last came Daniel, one of their number, styled after my own god's name Baltassar, and endowed by all the holy gods with their spirit. To him I unfolded my dream thus: Diviner is none, Baltassar, such as you are; the spirit of all the holy gods is in you, and there is no mystery beyond your ken. Tell me, you, what vision came to me in sleep, what events it boded.
Would you know, what fantasies disturbed my rest, this was what I saw. Grew a tree from the heart of earth, beyond measure tall; a great tree and a thriving; top of it reached the heavens, and the ends of the earth had view of it. What fair leaves it had, what foison of fruit, enough to cater for a whole world! Beast was none but might take shelter under it, bird was none but might nest in its branches, and to all living creatures it gave food. But as I lay watching in my dream, came down from heaven one of the holy ones that mount guard there, and loud rang his message: Down with yonder tree, lop branch, strip leaves, spill fruit! Let beast its shade, bird its covert forsake! Yet leave the stock of it fast in earth.
Band of iron, chain of bronze! There on the soft meadow-grass heaven's dew wet him, pasture with the beasts find he; heart of man be changed in him, beast's heart given him, till seven seasons there have found him, and passed him by. Doom it is of the unsleeping ones, will and word of the holy ones; live men and learn that he, the most High, of human kingship is overlord, gives it to whom he will, and holds none too base for the having of it.
Thus dreamt I, the great king Nabuchodonosor. Make haste, Baltassar, and read me the riddle; wise man was none in my kingdom that could tell me the meaning of it, but you have the spirit of the holy gods in you; you can unravel it.
But Daniel, Baltassar if you will, made no answer. For a whole hour, in silence, he gave himself up to his thoughts, and right comfortless they were. Nay, Baltassar, the king said at last, never lose heart over a dream, and the interpretation of a dream! Lord king, said he, such dreams be for your enemies! To ill-wishers of yours bode they what they bode! A tree tall and sturdy, top reaching the heavens, in all the world's view, fair branches, fruit abounding, food for all, beasts sheltering, birds nesting there, what is it, lord king, but you? So great your power has grown, it reaches heaven; earth's bounds are the bounds of your dominion. He watches ever, that holy one you saw coming down from heaven; and his word was, Down with the tree, away with it, yet leave the stock of it rooted fast! Of iron band he spoke, and chain of bronze; of soft meadow-grass under the dews of heaven; of one that should have his pasture among the beasts, till seven seasons had found him there, and passed him by. Sentence from the most High this dream forbodes, and the king's grace the subject of it. Far from the haunts of men you shall be driven out, and among brute beasts you shall have your dwelling; eat grass, ox-fashion, and with heaven's dew be drenched, till seven seasons have passed you by; so learn you must, that of all human kingship the most High is overlord, and grants it where he will. If stock of tree is to be left rooted, be sure your throne shall be yours once again; but first you must learn your lesson, that all power is from above. Deign, my lord king, to be advised by me; with almsgiving, with mercy to the poor, for fault and wrong-doing of yours make amends; it may be he will condone your guilt.
All this king Nabuchodonosor underwent. A twelvemonth later, as he walked to and fro on the roof of his palace at Babylon, he said aloud: Babylon lies before me, the great city, the royal city I have built; sure proof of my power, fair monument of my renown! And before the words had died on his lips, came a voice from heaven: King Nabuchodonosor, here is your doom! Pass away from you it must, that royal power of yours; driven from the haunts of men, with beasts dwell you, grass like the cattle eat you, till seven seasons have passed you by, and learned you have that the most High is overlord of all human kingship, to grant it where he will. There and then fell the doom on Nabuchodonosor; thrust him out they did, to feed on grass, and ever the dew of heaven drenched him; thick as eagle's feathers his hair grew, and like birds talons his nails.
When the appointed time was over, I lifted up my eyes to heaven, I, Nabuchodonosor, and right reason came back to me. Blessed I then the most high God, to the eternal gave glory and praise; such a reign as his lasts for ever, such power as his the ages cannot diminish. Matched with him, the whole world of men counts for nothing; in the heavenly powers, as in our mortal lives, he accomplishes his will, and none may resist him, none may ask his meaning. And when reason came back to me, back came royal pomp and state, back came the beauty I once had; prince and senator waited on me, restored to my throne now in more magnificence than ever. What wonder if I, Nabuchodonosor, praise this King of heaven, extol and glorify him, so faithful to his promise, so just in his dealings? Proud minds none can abase as he.
Now turn we to king Baltassar, that made great cheer for courtiers of his a thousand, each man drinking wine as his rank entitled him. And he, in his cups, would have the spoils of the old temple at Jerusalem brought in, cups of gold, cups of silver that his father Nabuchodonosor had carried away; king and court, wife and concubine should drink from them. Brought in they were, all the spoils of Jerusalem; king and courtier, wife and concubine, drank from those vessels; drank, and to their own gods gave the praise, gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone.
Then, in that hour, an apparition came to them. They saw the fingers of a man's hand writing on the plaster of the palace wall, full in the lamp's light; joints of a hand that wrote there the king could not choose but see. All at once he changed colour, a prey to anxious thoughts; melted his heart within him, and his knees knocked together. With a loud cry, he bade them summon the wise men of Babylon, sage and astrologer and diviner; and to these he made proclamation: Who reads me yonder writing, and tells me the meaning of it, shall go clad in purple, a gold chain about his neck, and hold the third place in my kingdom. But when they came into the banqueting-hall, never a wise head among them could read the characters, nor tell the king what they meant; whereupon king Baltassar was in a great taking of fear, his cheeks paler yet, and his princes were no easier in mind than himself.
But now all this ado brought the queen-mother down into the banqueting-hall; Long life to the king's grace! cried she; here is no need for daunted hearts and pale looks! One man you have in your realm the holy gods inspire; in your father's time, good proof he gave of the wisdom and learning that were his. Did not your father, king Nabuchodonosor, put him at the head of his wise men one and all, sage nor wizard nor astrologer nor soothsayer to match him? In such renown your royal father held him, my lord king; no common spirit is his, no common prudence and discernment, dreams to interpret, hidden things to reveal, spells to unbind. For his name, it is Daniel; your father called him Baltassar. Let Daniel be summoned, and your riddle shall not long go unread.
So Daniel was brought into the king's presence, and the king asked him if Daniel he were, one of the Jewish exiles his father had brought to Babylon? Great things were told of him; that he had the spirit of the gods, gave proof of skill, discernment and wisdom above the common. And here was certain writing, that had baffled sage and diviner called in to read them; meaning of it they could not tell. If Daniel had skill indeed to reveal mysteries and unbind spells, let him read those characters and interpret them; robe of purple he should have, and a gold chain about his neck, and hold the third place in the kingdom.
But Daniel spoke out, there in the king's presence: Purple and gold keep for yourself; and for your honours, let him have them who will. But for the writing, I will read it willingly, and tell you the meaning of it. Sir king, your father was Nabuchodonosor; to him the most High gave royal state, and splendid renown; for that renown of his, every people and race and tribe must tremble in awe of him; slew he, smote he, exalted he, abased he, all he would. With that, his heart beat high; proud grew his will and obstinate; and the issue of it? From that throne he must come down, be shorn of that glory; cast out henceforth from the haunts of men. Heart of beast the heart of him; dwelling-place of wild ass should be his, food of the ox; and the dews of heaven should drench him, till he had learned that the most High is overlord of all human kingship, grants it to whom he will. All this, Baltassar, you knew, yet son no more than father would abate his pride; heaven's Ruler defying, you would bring out yonder cups, the spoil of his temple, to serve wine for you and your court, for wife and concubine. Gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, stone and wood, that cannot see or hear or feel, you would magnify; for the God that holds your life, your fortunes, in his keeping, never a word of praise. That is why the hand appeared to you, fingers that wrote what there stands written. This is the charactery of it: Mané, Thecel, Phares. Mané betokens numbering; so many years allotted to your empire, and now God has brought them to an end. And thecel, weighing; the equal of his benefits God demands, and has not found in you. And phares, rending; Persian and Mede shall be your successors in the kingdom that is torn from your grasp.
With that, at the royal bidding, they clothed Daniel in purple, and hung a chain of gold about his neck; proclamation, too, was made that he held the third place in the kingdom. But that same night Baltassar, the Chaldaean king, was slain and his crown passed to Darius, a Mede, then in the sixty-third year of his age.
This Darius saw fit to appoint a hundred and twenty lords lieutenant, who should govern the provinces of his empire; and over these, three viceroys, of whom Daniel was one; governor should be answerable to viceroy, and the king's grace should not be troubled with such matters. Yet governor was none or viceroy that could compare with Daniel, so richly God inspired him; and soon the king's thought was, to put the whole empire under his care. Right gladly would his rivals have found opportunity to discredit him in the king's eyes; but no, handle or pretext they could find none, so faithful was he, so far removed from all breath of suspicion. And at last they were fain to admit, if charge was to be found against Daniel at all, keeping of his God's law must be the ground of it. So they took the king by surprise; Long life, they said, to the king's grace! Here is a design upon which we are all agreed, viceroy and magistrate and governor and senator and judge; that an edict should go out under the royal seal forbidding your subjects to make any request of god or man these next thirty days, save only of yourself. And if any man disobeys, it shall be at his peril; he is for the lion-pit. May it please the king's grace to give this design of ours effect, and make the decree unalterable, under law of the Medes and Persians, the law there is no amending.
Draw up the edict he did, and signed it. As for Daniel, when he heard it was law, he took himself home; and now as ever, three times a day, he would open his chamber window towards Jerusalem eastwards, doing reverence on bended knee and praising his God. Be sure they surprised him at it, these enemies of his; found him a-praying to his God, and went off to remind the king of his edict. Had not a law been enacted, prayer there should be none to god or man those thirty days following, save to the king; and that on pain of the lions? Law it is, said he, and law of the Medes and Persians there is no amending. Why then, they asked the king, what of Daniel, Daniel the Jewish exile, that for law and edict cares nothing? Three times a day he offers his God prayer.
Pitiful hearing was this for the king's ear; to save Daniel was all his thought, and to that end he laboured till set of sun; but the trap they had devised was too crafty for him, and ever they put him in mind there was no help for it. By the law Medes and Persians use, let the king once make a decree, there is no amending it. At last the king gave orders Daniel should be sent for and shut up in the lion-pit; So faithful a servant, he told him, your God must needs deliver. And with that, a stone was brought and set down at the pit's entrance, which the king sealed and his nobles both; there should be no interfering with Daniel. Home went the king, and supperless to bed; he would have no food brought him, and sleep he could not.
With the first light of day, the king was up and stirring; to the lion-pit he hastened, and as he came up to it, he cried out most lamentably: Daniel, worshipper of the God that lives, you were ever his true servant; has power of his availed to rescue you from the lions? Long life to the king's grace, Daniel answered; angel of his did his errand, and stopped the lions mouths. What harm should they do me, one that my God sees guiltless? And for yourself, lord king, nought did I to earn your displeasure. Right glad the king was to learn of Daniel's safety; be sure he gave orders they should bring Daniel up out of the pit, and out of the pit they brought him, unscathed from head to foot; such reward they have that trust in God. Thereupon, at the king's bidding, they fetched his accusers, and thrust them into the lion-pit, their wives and children with them. But these never reached the floor of it, so quickly the lions fell upon them, and broke all the bones of them to nothing.
Then Darius sent out a proclamation to all the world, without distinction of nation, race or language, wishing them well, and enjoining this decree upon them, that all the subjects of his empire should hold the God of Daniel in awe and reverence. Here is a God that lives, he told them, a God that abides for ever; such a reign as his there is no overthrowing, such power as his the ages cannot diminish. His to deliver, his to save, his to shew wondrous portents in high heaven and on earth beneath, the God who saved Daniel from the lions.
Let Darius reign, or Cyrus the Persian, this same Daniel throve yet.
In the first year of the Babylonian king Baltassar, Daniel had a dream; sleep he might, but still his thoughts were busy. The substance of this dream he put on record, giving no more than the sum of it, in these words following. Night came, and brought with it a vision for my seeing. All the winds of heaven, I thought, did battle over the wide sea, and out of it came four great beasts, each of them different from the last. A lioness the first seemed, that yet had eagle's wings; but as I watched, these wings were plucked, and with that it rose up from the ground, standing on its feet like a man, and a man's heart was given to it. Then rose up another by its side, this one like a bear; three rows of teeth it had in its mouth, and a summons came to it, great part of mankind it should devour. What saw I next? A leopard it seemed, yet had a bird's wings, four of them, on its back, and four heads; this beast it was that now attained dominion. But still I dreamed on, and a fourth beast saw at last, fiercer, and stranger, and more powerful yet. It had great teeth of iron, ready to crush and to devour, and ever what these spared it would trample down with its feet; match it those others might not; and out of its head grew ten horns. Even as I watched them, a new horn grew up in the midst of the others, and three of them must be plucked away to make room for it; eyes it had, this new horn, like a man's eyes, and a mouth that talked very boastfully.
While I still watched, there were judgement-thrones a-setting; and one took his seat there crowned with age. White as snow his garments were, his hair could match unsullied wool for whiteness; his throne all of flame, the wheels under it glancing fire; and ever from his presence a stream of fire came rushing onward. A thousand thousand they were that waited on his bidding, and for every one of these, a thousand others were standing there before him. Assize should be held now, and the records lay open. And still I watched, to see what would become of the boasts yonder horn had made; and all at once I was aware the beast itself had been slain, and even the carcase of it had vanished, handed over to the flames; nor might those other beasts enjoy power any longer, though life they should enjoy for a while, until their turn came. Then I saw in my dream, how one came riding on the clouds of heaven, that was yet a son of man; came to where the Judge sat, crowned with age, and was ushered into his presence. With that, power was given him, and glory, and sovereignty; obey him all must, men of every race and tribe and tongue; such a reign as his lasts for ever, such power as his the ages cannot diminish.
By this, Daniel wrote, my heart was ill at ease; a dread sight it was, and as I dreamed, my thoughts bewildered me. So I drew closer to one that stood by, and asked to know the truth of all that had gone forward; he it was that read the riddle for me, and thus he unravelled it: It is but earthly kingdoms they betoken, these four great beasts you have seen; the servants of the most high God shall have dominion yet; theirs it shall be for ever and for evermore. But I was minded to know the truth more fully; what was the fourth beast, so different from all the rest, so dreadful; why must it have teeth and claws of iron, to crush and to devour, to trample on what was left? What of the ten horns on its head, and that other, before which three of them fell, the horn that had eyes, and a mouth to boast with, and grew greater than the rest? This horn it was I saw doing battle against the servants of the most High, and getting the better of them, until the Judge appeared, crowned with age, to give them redress, and their turn came to have dominion.
And his answer was, this fourth beast was the fourth of those earthly kingdoms, and the greatest of them all, to crush and devour and trample down a whole world. Ten kings be the ten horns of that kingdom, and after these another shall rise, more powerful yet, and three of them shall bite the dust. Boastfully he shall challenge the most High, and do his servants despite; calendar and ordinance he shall think to set aside; for a space of time, and for twice as long, and for half as long, he must needs have his way. Then assize shall be held on him, and all his power be taken away, crushed down and forgotten for ever. Then what royalty, what empire, what earth-embracing dominion shall be theirs, the people set apart for the most High! Sovereignty everlasting; no monarch but must bow to its yoke. So ended the revelation made to Daniel. Bewildered my thoughts were, and my cheek pale, but I kept the memory of it faithfully in my heart.
To me, to Daniel, another revelation came, besides that I had first seen. It was now the third year of king Baltassar, and I was at the town of Susa, in Aelam province, but it seemed, in my vision, it was by the gate of Ulai I stood. I looked at what lay before me, and what saw I, at the edge of the marsh, but a ram standing there, with one high-branching horn, and another that grew up after it, but grew higher yet. With those horns it tossed every enemy that came to meet it; west and north and south was never a beast could match it, or escape its attack; no wonder this ram carried all before it, and rose to greatness.
But now, as I looked, came a buck-goat from the west country, earth overshadowing, and spurning the ground beneath him; one horn this goat had between the eyes of him, a horn of noble aspect. Close he came to the ram, the great horned ram I had espied in yonder gateway, and bore down upon it with very furious onslaught. So madly he charged that he overcame the ram and broke either horn of it with one blow; what shift could it make now? Brought down it was and trampled under foot; there was no rescuing it. So now it was the goat's turn to enjoy dominion; yet no sooner had he reached his full strength, than the great horn was broken, and four other horns must grow up in place of it, fronting the four winds of heaven.
It was from one of these a single horn now sprang; a little horn that grew till it outrivalled south and east, aye, and the armies... For the armies of heaven itself it proved a match, bringing heavenly powers down to earth, stars down to earth, and trampling them under foot; a match even for the captain of those armies, that must lose the daily sacrifice offered to him, and look on at the destruction of his sanctuary. Alas for our guilt! That such an enemy, by armed force, should avail against the sacrifice, truth itself should dethrone, and should thrive yet, should prosper yet! This complaint I heard one of God's servants making to another, I know not who; and when that other asked how long a cessation of sacrifice the vision portended, how long the estranging guilt, and the defeat, and the profanation, Night first, said he, morning after; two thousand three hundred days it will be, ere the sanctuary is cleansed.
But for me, for Daniel, that saw the vision, understanding of it was none, till one appeared to me that had the semblance of a man, and a voice hailed him from between Ulai gates; For you it is, Gabriel, to make the vision clear. Came he close, then, to where I was standing; but I, at his coming, fell down in terror, face to earth. Heed you well, son of man, said he; what here you see, in the last days shall be accomplished. But he spoke to one that lay swooning on the ground; so he must put out his hand, and raise me to my feet. Then he went on: I mean to tell you how all shall fall out when the days of punishment are over; be sure the end of them is fixed. Horned ram of your vision rules over the Medes and Persians; buck-goat over the realm of Greece, and the great horn between his eyes is first of the Greek kings. Those four others that grew after its breaking are four kings that shall arise, fellow-countrymen of his, but not his peers. These reigning, the world shall go from bad to worse, till a new king comes to the throne, brazen-faced, a master of riddles. Great power shall he wield, though of that first king not the peer, making havoc beyond belief, thriving and prospering. Strength of arms nor holiness of life shall rescue peoples from his will; all shall go well with crafty scheming of his, till his heart grows proud, and he deals death all about him, when peril is none. And at last with the Prince of princes he shall try conclusions; no human hand it shall be that crushes him down at last. Night comes first, then morning; but the revelation made to you is a true one; seal it up, till those last days when it must have effect.
So much he told me; and for many days after I lay sick; when I was on my feet again, I had the king's business to do, but still I was all dazed by the vision, and there was no interpreting it.
Then Darius the Mede, son of Assuerus, was raised to the throne of Chaldaea; and in the year when his reign began who but I, Daniel, should discover, by the reading of old records, how to compute the seventy years of Jerusalem's widowhood? Such doom the Lord had foretold to the prophet Jeremias. And with that, I turned to the Lord my God; pray to him I would, and sue for mercy, fasting ever, sackcloth and ashes my only wear. Prayed I then to the Lord my God, and made confession of my sins, in these words following: Mercy, mercy, Lord God, the great, the terrible; to those who love you, so gracious, with those who keep your commandments, troth keeping still! Sinned we have, and wronged you, rebelled we have, and forsaken you, turned our backs on decree and award of yours, nor heeded your servants, the prophets, that spoke to us in your name, to king and prince and the common folk that gendered us. Fault with you is none; ours, Lord, to blush for the wrongdoing that has offended you, men of Juda, citizens of Jerusalem, Israel near at hand, Israel banished far away, in what plight you see! Blush we, king and prince of ours, fathers of ours that did the wrong; be it yours, Lord our God, to have mercy and to forgive. So far we have strayed from you, so deaf to the divine voice, when the prophets that served you bade us follow your law! A whole people that would transgress your command, turn a deaf ear to your calls! What wonder if it fell on us, drop by drop, the avenging curse God's servant Moses wrote of? Our sins had deserved it, and if yonder unexampled punishment befell Jerusalem, it was but a threat fulfilled; warning we had of it, we and the princes that governed us. No misfortune overtook us, but the law of Moses had foretold it; and yet, Lord our God, appease your anger we would not, nor leave our sinning, nor bethink ourselves, how well your word you keep; what wonder if bane, not blessing, the divine regard brought us? Be our punishment what it will, not ours to find fault with the God we have disobeyed.
You are the Lord our God, whose constraining power rescued your people from the land of Egypt, who have won yourself glory, too, in this our day; we, Lord, have been sinners, we have shewn ourselves unworthy of all your faithful dealings with us. But will you let your indignant anger fall on Jerusalem, on that holy mountain of yours? Too long, for our sins and the sins of our fathers before us, all our neighbours have held Jerusalem, and us your people, in contempt. God of our race, give audience at last to the prayer, the plea your servant brings before you; for your own honour, restore the sanctuary, that now lies forlorn, to the smile of your favour. My God, give ear and listen to us; open your eyes, and see how desolate is this city of ours, that claims to be your own. No merits of ours, nothing but your great love emboldens us to lay our prayers at your feet. Your hearing, Lord, and your pardon; your heed, Lord, and your aid! For your own honour, my God, deny yourself no longer to the city, the people that is called your own!
Thus prayed I, thus did I confess my own sins, and the sins of my fellow Israelites, pouring out supplication, there in the presence of my God, for that holy mountain which is his dwelling-place. And I was still at my prayer, when the human figure of Gabriel, as I had seen it at the beginning of my vision, flew swiftly to my side; it was the hour of the evening sacrifice when he reached me. And with these words he enlightened me: Daniel, my errand is to instruct you and give you discernment. Even as your prayer began, a secret was disclosed, and I am here to make it known to you, so well heaven loves you. Mark well, then, the message, and read the revelation aright. It is ordained that this people of yours, that holy city of yours, should wait seventy weeks before guilt is done away, sin ended, wrong righted; before God's everlasting favour is restored, and the visions and the prophecies come true, and he who is all holiness receives his anointing. Be assured of this, and mark it well; a period of seven weeks must go by, and another period of sixty-two weeks, between the order to rebuild Jerusalem and the coming of the Christ to be your leader. Street and wall will be built again, though in a time of distress; and then sixty-two weeks must pass before the Christ is done to death; the people will disown him and have none of him. Then the army of an invading leader will destroy both city and sanctuary, so that his taking away will mean utter destruction; only a ruin is to be left when that war is ended. High covenant he shall make, before another week is done, and with folks a many; but when that week has run half its course, offering and burnt-sacrifice shall be none; in the temple all shall be defilement and desolation, and until all is over, all is fulfilled, that desolation shall continue.
Then, in the third year of Cyrus' reign, that was king of Persia, a fresh revelation was made to Daniel, who is also called Baltassar. Here is truth indubitable, and a great host... And right well he understood its meaning; little avails vision where understanding is none.
For three weeks together I, Daniel, that saw it, had been making sad cheer; for three weeks together dry bread was my diet, nor ever did meat or wine cross my lips, nor oil anoint me. Came now the twenty-fourth day of the new year, and I stood by the banks of the great river, where it is called Tigris. I looked up, and saw a man standing there clad all in linen, and his girdle of fine gold. Clear as topaz his body was, like the play of lightning shone his face, and like burning cressets his eyes; arms and legs of him had the sheen of bronze, and when he spoke, it was like the murmur of a throng. The vision was for me, for Daniel, alone; my companions never saw it; such fear overcame them, they were fain to hide themselves, and I was left alone with this high vision for my company. No wonder if my spirits were cowed; pale grew my cheek, and all the strength in me ebbed away. He spoke, and as I listened to that voice, I swooned where I stood, and lay there, face to earth, till a hand touched me, giving fresh impulse to knee and wrist.
Daniel, he said to me, Daniel, so well beloved, up with you, and heed you well; I have an errand to you. Yet for all he spoke thus to me, I stood there trembling, and still he must allay my fears. Take heart, Daniel, said he; your prayers did not go unheard. Prayer of yours it was beckoned me to your side, from the very moment when you did set about your search for knowledge, by fasting in the presence of your God; but these twenty-one days he who guards the realm of Persia has delayed my coming. At last Michael, one of the high lords, brought me aid, and there, at Persia's court, I was left master of the field. Now I am here to tell you what shall befall your people in the last days; long days must pass ere the revelation is accomplished.
Ever, as he spoke, I stood there dumb, and with eyes downcast, till all at once a touch fell on my lips, like the touch of human hand. Now found I speech, to give yonder visitant his answer. Bethink you, my lord, I said, that sight of you unknits my frame; strength in me is none. How should slave bandy words with master? Not strength alone fails me; the very breath will not come. Once again a hand seemed to touch me, and words came to hearten me; Nay, fears are not for you, so well beloved; never harm befall you! Take courage, and play a man's part! With that, I found my strength again; Speak on, my Lord, said I; you have put new heart into me. And he answered, have you read, by this, the secret of my coming to you? I am even now on my way back to fight against the lord of Persia; when I left him, what saw I but the lord of the Greeks already on the march? Only I must shew you first what is written in the book of doom.
Much is to do, and save for Michael, that is guardian of your race, I have none to aid me.
Him to strengthen and uphold has been my task, ever since Darius the Mede began reigning. And now, doom to foreshew you, a king shall rise in Persia, the fourth from this, rich in great revenue beyond all the others; in the power such wealth gives him, he will set the whole world in motion against the realm of Greece...
And a warrior king shall arise, winning such empire that there is no resisting his will. Divided that empire shall be, as soon as it is established, between the four quarters of heaven; not sons of his they shall be that rule it, nor peers of his; besides these, foreign lords shall part his dominions between them. The southern kingdom a strong ruler shall have, but of his vassals one shall be mightier than he, and in dominion excel him; wide, wide his domain; until at last these two make terms between them, and, to seal their amity, daughter of Egyptian king to Syrian king must pass. Yet thrive she may not, nor dynasty of hers endure; herself in due time, with retinue of hers, faction of hers, must be a victim. Not unavenged; scion of her own father's stock shall march on Syria, and do battle, and prevail; shall carry off to Egypt the images of Syria's gods, its treasures of silver and gold. Then, his rival mastered, with that inroad he shall be content, and to his own kingdom return.
To Syria's heirs the quarrel is left; and now there are great hosts a-mustering, under a new king that must ever be hurrying on, like river in flood, returning with spirit to the charge, throwing all his forces into the assault. See with what fury the Egyptian king takes the field against him, rallies a great host of his own, and over Syria's host gains the mastery! Captives a many, dead warriors a many, to gladden his heart, but all to no purpose; back Syria comes, in greater force than ever, ranks filled, and treasures swollen, with the years. All the world will be for picking a quarrel with Egypt then; hot-heads there will be among your own people who think to fulfil the old prophecies thus, but to their cost. On marches he, yonder Syrian king, raises mound, and makes fortified cities his own; Egypt's vigour is all spent, never a halt, though its best warriors engage him; irresistible he comes, to impose terms on his enemy, sets foot in a noble land and crushes it under his heel. How to gain secure possession of the whole kingdom? A bargain must be struck; gift of a royal bride shall be the land's undoing! But no, that will not serve, never shall it be his. To the sea-coast he turns his thoughts instead, and conquers lands a many; puts to silence the author of his own disgrace, and covers him with disgrace in his turn. But at last, to his own province turning back, he totters to his fall, and the fame of him is heard no more.
To a vile creature his throne must pass, of a throne unworthy; soon shall his end come, and yet no blow struck in anger, or in battle. And after him a man little thought of; royal investiture he has none, yet see how stealthy his approach, what shifts he uses to win a throne! Down go strong armies, crushed before him, down goes covenanted chief; treaty first, and then treachery; of armed following he needs but little. So he makes his way into rich cities that suspect no harm, outdoes father and grandsire both in havoc, so much wealth to plunder and to squander; into strong cities, too, by crafty devices, while fortune serves. Power of his and policy of his he shall match at last against Egypt, with a great army at his back; alas, Egypt, what avails that great muster of warriors? Craft wins the day; men that feed on your royal bounty are your own undoing, and with great slaughter that army of yours is overborne. See where the two kings plot mischief at one table, liars both! But nothing they shall achieve; not yet the appointed hour has come. Back goes the king of Syria, enriched with spoil, wreaking his spite on God's covenant as he journeys home; then, when the time is ripe, marches once again southwards. Yet speed he shall not as once he sped; here are Roman galleys overtaking him, and he must return discomfited.
And now, as he returns, he shall vent his spleen against the holy covenant in good earnest. The forsakers of that covenant have not escaped his eye, and there are willing hands a many to help him profane the inviolable sanctuary, daily sacrifice annulling, spreading defilement and desolation there. Fawning knaves, and traitors to the covenant! But those others, that their God acknowledge, shall go all the more boldly to work, counsellors a few that give right counsel to many. Crippled they shall be for a while, by sword and flame, by prison and plunder; then, even as they are falling, it will need but a little support, and the fickle multitude will rally to their side. What if some of them should fall, those wise counsellors? Assayed let them be for a little, sifted, purged for a little; there shall be happier times yet.
As for the king, he shall have all his own way; in his pride, he will think himself a match for any god, even of that God boast himself the rival, who is above all gods, And still he shall thrive; vengeance is not yet ready to overtake him; doom shall come when doom must. What are his fathers' gods to him? Women's dalliance is all his concern; of gods he recks little, that will set himself up over all. When his turn comes, it is the god of Maozim he will worship; for such a god, that never his fathers knew, the gold, and the silver, and the precious jewels; with this new-found god to aid him, he will make Maozim his stronghold, shower honours and dignities upon its folk, make a present of lands to them.
Then comes the hour of destiny. Egypt shall declare war, and he, the Syrian king, shall sweep down upon it with horse and chariot and a great fleet. Which lands will he invade and conquer, which pass by, ere he reach the noblest of them all? Ruined a many shall be, but Edom shall escape his onslaught, and Moab, and the princedom of Ammon. A country here he will attempt, a country there, and be sure Egypt shall not go unscathed; gold and silver of Egypt, and all its precious treasures shall come into his power. Then, as through Libya and Ethiopia he makes his way, tidings shall come from east and north, to bring him back with all his host, ready for havoc, ready for carnage. See where he sets up his royal pavilion betwixt sea and sea on yonder noble hill, yonder sacred hill; reaches its very summit, and none brings aid!
Time, then, that Michael should be up and doing; Michael, that high lord who is guardian of your race. Distress shall then be, such as never was since the world began; and in that hour of distress your fellow-countrymen shall win deliverance, all whose names are found written when the record lies open. Many shall wake, that now lie sleeping in the dust of earth, some to enjoy life everlasting, some to be confronted for ever with their disgrace. Bright shall be the glory of wise counsellors, as the radiance of the sky above; starry-bright for ever their glory, who have taught many the right way.
For yourself, Daniel, keep this revelation locked away; sealed up the record of it must be until the hour appointed. Leave others to hasten to and fro, in search of knowledge.
Thus he spoke; and now, looking up, I saw two others that stood there, one on either bank of the stream. But he, the man clad in linen, stood there yet over the river itself; and when I asked how long these wondrous doings should last, it was from him I had my answer. Both hands raised to heaven, he swore by the God who lives for ever that there should be an end to it; it should last for a space of time, and for twice as long, and for half as long, no more. Strength of God's holy people must be broken utterly; when that is over, all is over and done. So I had my answer, but still could not tell the meaning of it; Ay, my Lord, I said, but what shall be the end of it all? Nay, Daniel, said he, no more of this; needs must that this revelation be shut away and sealed up, till the appointed hour comes; and still there shall be chosen so souls a many, that are purged by the fire's assaying, and still there are sinners that will not leave their sinning. The riddle, for these others, a riddle must remain, but wise counsellors there be that will find the clue to it. Of this be sure; after the time when the daily sacrifice is abrogated, and all becomes defilement and desolation, twelve hundred and ninety days must pass. Blessed shall his lot be that waits patiently till twelve hundred and thirty five days are over. And for yourself, Daniel, go your way... till the end; till the end of the days rest you shall, and rise to fulfil your appointed destiny.
There was a man called Joakim living in Babylon married to one Susanna, daughter of Helcias. This was a woman of great beauty, and one that feared God, so well had her parents, religious folk, schooled their daughter in the law of Moses. A rich man was Joakim, and had a fruit-garden close to his house; and he was much visited by the Jews, among whom there was none more honoured than he. There came a year in which those two elders of the people were appointed judges, of whom the Lord said, Wickedness has sprung up in Babylon, and the roots of it are those elders and judges who claim to rule the people? These two were often at Joakim's house, and all those who had disputes to settle appeared before them there. At noon, when the common folk had returned home, Susanna would walk about in her husband's garden, and these two elders, who saw her go in and walk there day after day, fell to lusting after her. Reason they dethroned, and turned away their eyes from the sight of heaven; its just awards they would fain have forgotten. The love that tortured both, neither to it other would disclose; confess it for very shame they might not, this hankering after a woman's favours; yet day after day they seized the opportunity to have sight of her. A day came at last when one said to the other, Home go we, it is dinner-time; and go they did, taking their several ways; yet both returned hot-foot to their watching-place, and there met one another. So there was questioning on both sides, and out came the story of their lust; and now they made common cause; at a suitable time they would waylay her together, when she was alone.
They watched, then, for their opportunity; and she as her custom was, went out one day with two of her maids, and had a mind to bathe, there in the garden, for it was summer weather, and none was by except the two elders; and they were in hiding, watching her. So she bade her servants go and bring her oil and soap, and shut the garden door while she was a-bathing. Her whim was obeyed; shut the door of the garden they did, and went out by a back entrance to bring her what she had asked for; they knew nothing of the elders that were hiding there within. And these two, as soon as the servants were gone, rose from their hiding-place and ran to her side. See, they told her, the garden door is shut, and there is no witness by. We are both smitten with a desire for your favours; come, then, let us enjoy you. Refuse, and we will bear witness that you had a gallant here, and this was the reason you would rid yourself of your hand-maidens company.
Whereupon Susanna groaned deeply; There is no escape for me, she said, either way. It is death if I consent, and if I refuse, I shall be at your mercy. Let me rather fall into your power through no act of mine, than commit sin in the Lord's sight. With that, Susanna cried aloud, and the elders, too, began crying shame on her; meanwhile, one of them ran to the garden door and opened it. And now the servants of the house, hearing such outcry in the garden, came running in through the back entrance to know what was afoot; and they were greatly abashed when the elders told their story; never before had Susanna been defamed thus.
When the morrow came, there was a throng of people in Joakim's house, and the two elders were there, intent upon their malicious design against Susanna's life. They asked publicly that Susanna, daughter of Helcias and wife to Joakim, should be sent for; sent for she was, and came out with her parents and her children and all her kindred. So dainty she was, and so fair, these two knaves would have her let down her veil, the better to enjoy the sight of her charms. All her friends, all her acquaintances, were in tears. Then the two elders rose amidst the throng, and laid their hands upon Susanna's head, while she, weeping, looked up to heaven, in token that her heart had not lost confidence in the Lord. We were walking in the garden apart, said the elders, when this woman came out with two hand-maidens. She had the garden door shut close, and sent the maidens away; whereupon a young man, who had been in hiding till then, came out and had his will with her. We, from a nook in the garden, saw what foul deed was being done, and ran up close, so that we had full view of their dalliance; but lay hold of the man we could not; he was too strong for us, opening the garden door and springing out. The woman we caught, and asked her who her gallant was, but she would not tell us. To all this, we bear witness.
They were elders, they were judges of the people, and they persuaded the assembly, without more ado, to pass the death sentence. Whereupon Susanna cried aloud, Eternal God, no secret is hidden from you, nothing comes to pass without your foreknowledge. You know that these men have borne false witness against ne; will you let me die, a woman innocent of all the charges their malice has invented? And the Lord listened to her plea; even as she was being led off to her death, all at once he roused to utterance the holy spirit that dwelt in a young boy there, called Daniel. This Daniel raised his voice and cried out, I will be no party to the death of this woman; and when all the people turned upon him, asking what he meant, he stood there in their midst, and said, Are you such fools, men of Israel, as to condemn an Israelite woman without trial, without investigation of the truth? Go back to the place of judgement; the witness they have borne against her is false witness.
Eagerly enough the people went back, and the elders would have Daniel sit with them, such credit God had given him beyond his years. He bade them part the two men, at a distance from each other, while he questioned them. So parted they were, and when the first was summoned, thus Daniel greeted him: Grown so old in years, and years ill spent! Now, that past sinning of yours has found you out, a man that perverts justice, persecutes innocence, and lets the guilty go free. Has not the Lord said, Never shalt you put the innocent man, the upright man, to death? You found her; good; they met under a tree; tell us what kind of tree. And he answered, Under a mastic-tree I surprised them. The right word! cried Daniel; prized asunder yourself shall be, when God bids his angel requite you for this calumny. Then he had this one removed, and bade the other come near. Brood of Chanaan, said he, and no true son of Juda, so beauty ensnared you? So lust drove your heart astray? Such approaches you have made, long since to women of the other tribes, and they, from very fear, admitted your suit; but you could not bring a woman of Juda to fall in with your wicked design. And now tell me, under what tree it was you did find them talking together? Under a holm-oak, said he, I saw them. The right word again! cried Daniel. Saw you asunder the angel of the Lord will, with the sharp blade he carries yonder; you are both dead men.
And with that, the whole multitude cried aloud, blessing God that is the deliverer of those who trust in him. And they turned on the two elders, by Daniel's questioning self-convicted of false witness; served they must be as they would have served others, and the law of Moses obeyed; so they put them to death. That day, an innocent life was saved. Good cause had Helcias and his wife to praise God for their daughter Susanna, good cause had Joakim and all his friends; no breath of suspicion assailed her now. And as for Daniel, he was in high favour with all the people from that day forward.
When king Astyages became part of his line, it was Cyrus, the Persian, succeeded him.
Of this king, Daniel was the courtier, and valued above all his other friends. A great idol there was, that the men of Babylon worshipped; Bel was the name of it, and day by day it must be fed with thirty-two bushels of fine flour, and forty sheep, and of wine thirty-six gallons. The king himself honoured it with the rest, and no day passed but he went to pay it reverence. A time came when he asked Daniel, that worshipped no God but his own, why Bel he would not worship; and this answer Daniel made him, that for idols made by men's hands worship he had none, only for that living God that made heaven and earth, and of all mankind held the sovereignty. What, cried the king, will you have it Bel is not a living god? Have you no eyes for the great trencherman he is, day in, day out, of food and drink both? Nay, my lord king, Daniel answered with a smile, give no heed to false tales. Clay he is within, and bronze without; I warrant you, eat he cannot. Whereupon the king, in high displeasure, summoned Bel's priests. You shall give account, said he, of yonder revenues, and that on pain of your lives. Who is it has the eating of them? Prove to me it is Bel himself, and Daniel shall die instead, that blasphemed him. As it pleases the king's grace, said Daniel.
Seventy of these priests there were, that had wives and children to fend for besides. And when the king reached their temple, with Daniel in attendance, this challenge they offered: Withdraw we, as you see; for you it is, lord king, to set food, pour out wine, lock and seal door with your own hand. To-morrow, come you and find aught left over from Bel's banqueting, we die for it; or else Daniel dies, that so traduced us. Lightly enough the challenge was made; had they not provided a hidden entrance-way, close under the god's table, by which they came in and ate what eat they would? So out they went, and the king set on Bel's viands with his own hand; and what did Daniel? He would have his servants bring ashes, and scatter them all over the temple floor, there in the king's presence. Which done, all withdrew, leaving the door locked, and the royal seal upon it. And that night in they came as came they ever, priest and priest's wife and priest's children, and left neither bite nor sup between them.
Next day, the king was early abroad, and Daniel with him. What of the seals, Daniel? the king asked. Are they unbroken? Ay, my lord king, unbroken yet. What a cry was that the king gave, when he opened the door and caught sight of the table within! A great god you are, Bel, said he, and no deceiver! But Daniel smiled, and would not have the king go in yet; Look about you, he said, and ask yourself who it was left their prints on yonder floor. Why, cried the king, these be footprints of living men, and women and children besides! With that, he fell into a rage; priest and priest's wife and priest's children must be taken into custody. And when these had shewed him the door by which they came and swept the table bare of its offerings, he put the whole company of them to death. And as for Bel, he left him to Daniel's mercy, who threw down image and temple both.
There was a great serpent, too, in those parts that was worshipped by the folk of Babylon; and of this the king said to Daniel, here at least was a god that lived; gainsay that he could not, and therefore he needs must worship. Nay, said Daniel, my own God I worship still; living God is none but he. Here is no living God; let me but have the royal warrant, and I will make an end of it, and neither sword nor club to help me. So the king gave his warrant, and what did Daniel? Pitch and fat and hairs he boiled all together, and with lumps of this fed the serpent, which thereupon burst all to pieces; and, Here, said Daniel, is your god.
Angry men were the folk of Babylon when they heard of these doings, and they made their way into the royal presence, crying out, Here is the king himself turned Jew! Here is Bel overthrown, and the dragon slain, and our priests massacred! And when they found audience, Give up Daniel to us, they said, or we will make an end of you, and your household with you. The king, finding their onslaught so determined, gave up Daniel to them against his will; and they threw him into a pit in which lions were kept, where he spent six whole days. Seven lions there were in the pit, and each day two human bodies were given them as food, and two sheep; but now they were kept unfed, so that Daniel might be their prey.
Far away, in Judaea, the prophet Habacuc had been making broth, and crumbling bread in a great bowl, and was even now carrying it to the reapers on the farm; when suddenly the angel of the Lord said to him, Take the dinner you have with you to Babylon, and give it to Daniel; he is in the lion-pit. Lord, said Habacuc, I was never yet in Babylon, and know nothing of any lion-pit there. Upon which the angel of the Lord caught at his head and lifted him by the hair of it; then by the force of his impulse, set him down in Babylon, close to the pit. So Habacuc cried out, Daniel! Servant of God! The Lord has sent you your dinner; come and take it. And Daniel said, you would not forget me, God, would not forsake such as love you. So he rose and ate, while the angel of the Lord brought Habacuc, all at once, back to his home.
When the seventh day came, the king went out to mourn for Daniel; and now, reaching the pit and looking in, he saw Daniel seated there among the lions. And at that, the king cried aloud, How great you are, Lord, you who are Daniel's God! And he took him out of the lion-pit, and shut up there instead the men who had conspired to ruin him; and in a moment, as he watched, the lions devoured them. Whereupon the king said, Well may the whole world stand in awe of Daniel's God. What deliverance he effects, what signal proofs of his power, here on earth, the God who has rescued Daniel out of a den of lions!