By Sir Robert Anderson
THE "HISTORICAL ERRORS" OF DANIEL
"THE historical errors" of the Book of Daniel are the first ground of the critic's attack. Of these he enumerates the following :-
(1.) "There was no deportation in the third year of Jehoiakim."
(2.) "There was no King Belshazzar."
(3.) "There was no Darius the Mede."
(4) "It is not true that there were only two Babylonian kings - there were five."
(5.) "Nor were there only four Persian kings-there were twelve."
(6.) Xerxes seems to be confounded with the last king of Persia.
(7.) And "All correct accounts of the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes seem to end about B.C. 164."
Such is the indictment under this head.
Two other points are included, but these have nothing to do with history; first, that the decrees of Nebuchadnezzar are extraordinary - which may at once be conceded; and secondly, that "the notion that a faithful Jew could become president of the Chaldean magi is impossible "-a statement which only exemplifies the thoughtless dogmatism of the writer, for, according to his own scheme, it was a "holy and gifted Jew," brought up under the severe ritual of post-exilic days, who assigned this position to Daniel. A like remark applies to his criticism upon Dan. ii. 46 - with this addition, that that criticism betokens either carelessness or malice on the part of the critics, for the passage in no way justifies the assertion that the prophet accepted either the worship or the sacrifice offered him.
So far as the other points are concerned, we may at once dismiss (4.), (5), and (6), for the errors here ascribed to Daniel will be sought for in vain. They are "read into" the book by the perverseness or ignorance of the rationalists. And as for (7), where was the account of the reign of Antiochus to end, if not in the year of his death! The statement is one of numerous instances of slipshod carelessness in this extraordinary addition to our theological literature. The Bible states that there was a deportation in the reign of Jehoiakim the critic asserts there was none; and the Christian must decide between them.
Nothing can be clearer than the language of Chronicles ; and, even regarding the book as a purely secular record, it is simply preposterous to reject without a shadow of reason the chronicler's statement on a matter of such immense interest and importance in the national history. But, it is objected, Kings and Jeremiah are silent upon the subject. If this were true, which it is not, it would be an additional reason for turning to Chronicles to supply the omission. But Kings gives clear corrobcration of Chronicles. Speaking of Jehoiakim, it says: "In his days Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant three years; then he turned and rebelled against him." Daniels tells us this was in his third year, and that Jerusalem was besieged upon the occasion. This difficulty again springs from the habit of "reading into" Scripture more than it says. There is not a word about a taking by storm. The king was a mere puppet, and presumably he made his submission as soon as the city was invested. Nebuchadnezzar took him prisoner, but afterwards relented, and left him in Jerusalem as his vassal, a position he had till then held under the King of Egypt.
But Dr. Farrar's statements here are worthy of fuller notice, so thoroughly typical are they of his style and methods. For three years Jehoiakim was Nebuchadnezzar's vassal. This is admitted, and Scripture accounts for it by recording a Babylonian invasion in his third year. But, says the critic :- "It was not till the following year, when Nebuchadrezzar, acting as his father's general, had defeated Egypt at the battle of Carchemish, that any siege of Jerusalem would have been possible. Nor did Nebuchadrezzar advance against the Holy City even after the battle of Carchemish, but dashed home across the desert to secure the crown of Babylon on hearing the news of his father's death."
The idea of dashing across the desert from Carchemish to Babylon is worthy of a board-school essay! The critic is here adopting the record of the Babylonian historian Berosus, in complete unconsciousness of the significance of his testimony. We learn from Berosus that it was as Prince-royal of Babylon, at the head of his father's army, that Nebuchadnezzar invaded Palestine. And, after recording how in the course of that expedition Nebuchadnezzar heard of his father's death, the historian goes on to relate that he "committed the captives he had taken from the Jews" to the charge of others, "while he went in haste over the desert to Babylon." Could corroboration of Scripture be more complete and emphatic? The fact that he had Jewish captives is evidence that he had invaded Judea. Proof of it is afforded by the further fact that the desert lay between him and Babylon. Carchemish was in the far north by the Euphrates, and the road thence to the Chaldean capital lay clear of the desert altogether. Moreover, the battle of Carchemish was fought in Jehoiakim's fourth year, and therefore after Nebuchadnezzar's accession, whereas the invasion of Judea was during Nabopolassar's lifetime, and therefore in Jehoiakim's third year, precisely as the Book of Daniel avers.
It only remains to add that Scripture nowhere speaks of a general "deportation" in the third year of Jehoiakim. Here, as elsewhere, the critic attributes his own errors to the Bible, and then proceeds to refute them. The narrative is explicit that on this occasion Nebuchadnezzar returned with no captives save a few cadets of the royal house and of the noble families. But Dr. Farrar writes: "Among the captives were certain of the king's seed and of the princes." Nor is this all: he goes on to say, "They are called 'children,' and the word, together with the context, seems to imply that they were boys of the age of from twelve to fourteen." What Daniel says is that these, the only captives, were "skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science." What prodigies those Jewish boys must have been! The word translated "children" in the A.V. is more correctly rendered "youths" in the R.V. Its scope may be inferred from the use of it in i Kings xii. 8, which tells us that Rehoboam "forsook the counsel of the old men, and took counsel with the young men that were grown up with him." This last point is material mainly as showing the animus of the critic.'
But the Scripture speaks of King Nebuchadnezzar in the third year of Jehoiakim, whereas it was not till his fourth year that Nabopolassar died. No doubt. And a writer of Maccabean days, with the history of Berosus before him, would probably have noticed the point. But the so-called in. accuracy is precisely one of the incidental proofs that the Book of Daniel was the work of a contemporary of Nebuchadnezzar. The historian of the future will never assert that Queen Victoria lived at one time in Kensington Palace, though the statement will be found in the newspapers which recorded the unveiling of her statue in Kensington Gardens.
The references to Jeremiah raise the question whether the book records the utterances of an inspired prophet, or whether, as Dr. Farrar's criticisms assume, the author of the book wrote merely as a religious teacher. This question, however, is too large to treat of here; and the discussion of it is wholly unnecessary, for the careful student will find in Jeremiah the clearest proof that Scripture is right and the critics wrong. The objection depends on confounding the seventy years of the "Servitude to Babylon" with the seventy years of "the Desolations of Jerusalem "- another of the numerous blunders which discredit the work under review.' "The Captivity," which is confounded with both, was not an era of seventy years at all.
The prophecy of the twenty-fifth chapter of Jeremiah was a warning addressed to the people who remained in the land after the servitude had begun, that if they continued impenitent and rebellious, God would bring upon them a further judgment - the terrible scourge of "the Desolations." The prophecy of the twenty-ninth chapter was a message of hope to the Jews of the Captivity. And what was that message? That "after seventy years be accomplished for Babylon, I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place." And that promise was faithfully fulfilled. The Servitude began in the third year of Jehoiakim, B.C. 606.1 It ended in B.C. 536, when Cyrus issued his decree for the return of the exiles. By the test of chronology, therefore - the severest test which can be applied to historical statements - the absolute accuracy of these Scriptures is established.
Owing to the importance of this Jehoiakim "error" I have added an excursus upon the subject. See Appendix I.