Book of Daniel
DANIEL, BOOK OF, a book of the third division of the Hebrew Bible, the Hagiographa, named for a man Daniel whose fortunes and predictions are the subject of the book.
DIVISIONS AND CONTENTS
When the Book of Daniel is examined for content and literary character, it falls naturally into two roughly equal parts which may be designated Daniel A and Daniel B. Daniel A (chs. 1–6) comprises six stories, told in the third person, about the trials and triumphs of Daniel and his three companions; while Daniel B (chs. 7–12) consists of four accounts, cast in the first person, of as many apocalyptic revelations received by Daniel.
Summary of Daniel A (Dan. chs. 1–6)
Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, took back with him from Judah several boys of good family, handsome looks, and promising intellect, and charged his grand vizier with the task, to be completed in three years, of rearing and educating them "in booklore and in the Chaldean tongue" (1:4) in order to qualify them for the king's service. Four of these boys, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah – renamed Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego by the vizier – were so pious and so ingenious as to make an arrangement with the lower official to whom the vizier had assigned them whereby they exchanged with him the excellent rations they received from the king for raw vegetables. Finding, after a ten-day trial, that the four lads looked even healthier than the others, the official continued the arrangement indefinitely. At the end of their period of training, the king found them superior not only to their fellow students but to all the magicians and enchanters of his realm.
Daniel came to the king's notice even before the three years were over. The king had had a dream which greatly perturbed him. He burned with eagerness to know what it meant, but reasoned that he could be sure that an interpretation was correct only if the interpreter was able to narrate the dream itself without being told it. Since none of his masters of occult lore was able to do this, the king ordered his captain of the guard to execute all the savants of Babylon. The officer proceeded to do so, and since Daniel and his companions came under the definition of savants, they were also to be put to death. On asking the captain of the guard for the reason
As high-ranking administrators, the three companions were affected by the decree which Nebuchadnezzar issued to all the top functionaries (3:2–3) to bow down to the image which he set up, but they ignored it. Certain Chaldeans thereupon denounced them to the king. They were doubtless functionaries, subordinate – and naturally jealous – colleagues of the Jewish administrators-in-chief. Nebuchadnezzar ordered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego thrown into a blazing furnace; but not even their clothes were singed, and again he expressed his admiration for the God of the Jews and even further exalted the three Jewish top officials.
As for Daniel the sage, he interpreted a second dream of Nebuchadnezzar, the one that portended the king's seven years' lycanthropy, and a portent of a different nature – the famous writing on the wall – concerning Nebuchadnezzar's successor Belshazzar, who had not been aware of Daniel's extraordinary gifts until informed by the queen mother. Belshazzar thereupon bestowed upon Daniel, not an academic or advisory office, but the exalted administrative one of triumvir.
Daniel remained a triumvir (though with a different title) under Belshazzar's successor Darius the Mede, and so distinguished himself in this capacity that the king placed him in sole charge of the empire. Then it was Daniel's turn to become the butt of professional jealousy. His rivals, taking advantage of Daniel's uncompromising piety, maneuvered the king into a position in which he was compelled, to his dismay, to order Daniel thrown into a lion pit. (The plotters persuaded the king to promulgate a decree forbidding anyone to address a petition to any being but the king for 30 days: a Jewish misunderstanding of the Babylonian superstition that food offerings – and hence the accompanying prayers – offered to one's personal god in the month of Tevet were unlucky. Surely a Jew's conscience need not deter him, in such circumstances, from abstaining for 30 days from all prayer, let alone ostentatious prayer; but the plotters knew that Daniel would
under no circumstances dispense with praying on his knees three times daily at open windows – not in a New York penthouse but less than ten feet above the ground.) After expressing to Daniel the hope that the God he served so faithfully will save him, the king departs for a supperless evening and a sleepless night in his palace. At the crack of dawn, he hurries back to the edge of the pit and calls in a broken voice, "O Daniel, servant of the living God, has the God whom you constantly worship been able to save you from the lions?" And what is his joy to hear Daniel's voice and be reassured! He promptly orders Daniel pulled up and his accusers cast down, and these the beasts give short shrift. Darius issues a decree that Daniel's God must be treated with awe and reverence throughout his realm, and Daniel continues to serve with distinction as vizier to Darius the Mede and to Cyrus the Persian.
Summary of Daniel B (Dan. chs. 7–12)
The story of Daniel here reverts to the Chaldean period, the first year of King Belshazzar. The experience of Daniel related in this chapter has nothing to do with his character and career as a savant who interprets dreams and portents for kings or as a minister of state who is the victim of his rivals' intrigues. Instead, Daniel's role is that of an apocalyptist. Here, Daniel himself has a disturbing dream, and while the fact is stated in 7:1 in the third person, it is also stated there that Daniel himself wrote an account of the dream, and 7:2ff. (apart from the introductory phrase at the beginning of verse 2) is simply the text of Daniel's first person narrative.
Daniel relates that in the third year of the reign of Belshazzar he had a vision (rather than a dream). Again the features are symbolic, and their symbolism is explained to Daniel by an angel. Again the explanation involves a succession of monarchies, and this time they are identified by name: symbolized by a ram with two tall horns that sprout successively, the later one taller than the first, are the two Iranian monarchies, the Median and the Persian respectively. Symbolized by a he-goat with first one great horn which is broken and then four great horns that sprout in its stead, are respectively the united Greek world-kingdom (i.e., that of Alexander the Great) and its successor kingdoms; and symbolized by a smaller horn which branches off from one of the four successor horns is a particular king of one of the successor kingdoms (i.e., the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes). This branch horn is represented as performing certain antics culminating in the banishing of the tamid ("the constant," i.e., the daily burnt offerings) from the "stand" (i.e., altar) of "the Commander of the Host [of Heaven]" (i.e., God) and the setting up of an "offense" on that stand (11–12).
The apocalypse, dated in the first year of Darius the Mede, is neither a symbolic dream nor a symbolic vision. The angel Gabriel visits Daniel and communicates a "word" to him (9:21–24). As it happens, the designation angelus interpres would not be a misnomer if applied to Gabriel in this case, for if he does not interpret symbols, he does interpret Scripture. The occasion of his coming is Daniel's prayer for enlightenment on the meaning of Jeremiah's prediction (Jer. 25:11–12; 29:10) that "the ruins of Jerusalem" (Dan. 9:2) would endure 70 years. The interpretation is as follows: a period of 70 weeks of years was decreed for the expiation of the national guilt. At the end of the seventh week, an "anointed prince" (probably a high priest) will function again; at the end of another 62 weeks, an "anointed one" will be cut off. The remaining week will be one of religious persecution, and for the duration of its second half, sacrifice and oblation will be abolished and "an abomination of desolation" (called "offense" in 8:12) will occupy their "stand" (reading kannam for kenaf in 9:27).
As in chapter 7, Daniel is introduced briefly in the third person and then proceeds in the first person. The date of this apocalypse is given as the third year of the reign of King Cyrus of Persia, and like chapter 9 it consists entirely of a "word" (10:1 – three times) communicated to Daniel by an angel. It is vouchsafed him in response to prayer, but to judge by the content of the "word," the prayer was not for an exposition of scripture but simply for information on what was going to happen from the present (i.e., the third year of Cyrus) to the redemption of Israel, though occasionally, to be sure, the phrasing indicates that some old prophetic verse is being expounded. The angel then informs Daniel (11:2bff.) that Cyrus will be followed by three more Persian kings, but that after that the ascendancy will pass on to the Greeks. There will first be one mighty Greek king (obviously Alexander the Great), but his empire will split into a separate kingdom for each of the four points of the compass. First the king of the southern succession state (Ptolemy I) will be the most powerful, but then one of his officers, the king of the north (Seleucus I), will become stronger than he. There follows (verses 6–30) a remarkably accurate account of the wars and marriages between the dynasty of the north (the Seleucids) and that of the south (the Lagids) down to the Seleucid Antiochus IV and the joint Lagid kings Ptolemy VI and VII, with the Roman intervention which compelled Antiochus to withdraw from Egypt in the year 168 B.C.E., clearly hinted at at the beginning of verse 30. Then, Antiochus' measures against Judaism from the years 168 to 166 or 165 are described from verse 31 through verse 39 inclusive. The rest of the book is concerned with what is expected to happen after that.
DATES OF COMPOSITION AND CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PARTS
Both the rabbis of the Talmudic Age and the Christian Church Fathers accepted the book's own statements that the four apocalypses of Daniel B were written by a man named Daniel in the last years of the Babylonian Age and in the first ones of the Persian Age, i.e., approximately in the decade 545–535 B.C.E., and they did not question the historicity of any part of Daniel A.
If prediction of events in detail of the far future is theoretically possible, it is, on the other hand, unexampled in the Torah and the Prophets, and events so far in the future would be of no discoverable relevance to the lives of his audience or readers. This is what struck the neoplationist pagan philosopher Porphyry (3rd century C.E.). His pertinent work has been lost, but the Latin Church Father
THE FOUR AUTHORS OF DANIEL B.
Daniel B is in its entirety a product of the reign of Antiochus IV, but it is not all from a single hand. It is the work of four apocalyptists, who have been designated as Apoc I, Apoc II, Apoc III, and Apoc IV. Apoc I comprises all of chapter 7 minus the verses and clauses which speak of an eleventh horn and an eleventh king (namely 8, 11a [minus בֵּאדַיִן plus חָזֵה הֲוֵית עַד דִּי], 11b, 20 [from וְאָחֳרִי on], 22, 24b–25). This apocalypse represents an updating of the dream and interpretation in chapter 2. For it, the fourth kingdom is not (as in ch. 2) the Greek kingdom (it is too far removed from the time when there was a single Greek kingdom either in fact or in theory), but the Seleucid kingdom. For it says of the fourth kingdom (24a), "And the ten horns – ten kings will arise from that kingdom." The Seleucids regarded themselves as the legitimate successors of Alexander the Great, and Berosus, a subject of Antiochus I, notes that the latter is the third king after Alexander. For him to be the third, one of the joint kings who was recognized by the generals after Alexander's death – his half brother Philip and his posthumous son Alexander – must be disregarded; probably it was Philip, who died some years before Seleucus returned to Babylon, unlike Alexander, who lived to about that date, so that Seleucus could be regarded as his successor. The first ten kings of Asia, were then, according to the Seleucid canon: (1) Alexander I; (2) Alexander II; (3) Seleucus I; (4) Antiochus I; (5) Antiochus II; (6) Seleucus II; (7) Seleucus III; (8) Antiochus III; (9) Seleucus IV; and (10) Antiochus IV. There is now available a Seleucid king list from Babylonia, which apparently counts no king at all from Alexander's death to the accession of Alexander II in 317 (see Pritchard, Texts3, 567). The essential message of Apoc I is therefore this: The days of the wicked Seleucid kingdom are numbered; its present sovereign shall be its last. Yet Apoc I does not enlarge upon the wickedness of this particular king or hint at what his wickedness consisted of. This would hardly be conceivable after the paganization of the Temple and the outlawing of Judaism, which threatened it with early extinction. It would be conceivable, however, at any time from the beginning of Antiochus IV's reign, when he began to sell the high priesthood to the highest bidder and to encourage Hellenization, through the year 169 when he plundered the Temple down to the year 168 when he crushed a Jewish rebellion and abolished the temple state of Jerusalem, and established a pagan polis on the Akra and gave it control of the Temple. In fact its terminus ante quem is the paganization of the Temple and the proscription of Judaism at the very end of the year 167. After the latter developments, on the other hand, the absence of a specific allusion to them would be incomprehensible. That is why the author of the secondary matter (see above) in the chapter – who probably did not know the Seleucid king list – could not imagine that Antiochus IV was included among the ten kings of the original text and so added an eleventh. It is the author of Apoc IV who made all these additions (except perhaps verses 21–22, which may be from a still later hand), which we therefore designate by the siglum I–4. (For further characteristics of Apoc I, see above, the first paragraph under the heading "Daniel B.") Apoc II comprises the original matter in chapter 8, the secondary verses being 13–14, 16, 18–19, 26a, 27b. Verses 18–19 are from the author of Apoc III and are designated by the siglum II–3; the remaining interpolations are by the author of Apoc IV and are designated by the siglum II–4. Apoc II was written after the appalling developments of December 167, which it clearly reflects and the end of whose author it predicts. It adopts the form of a vision instead of a dream because the Hebrew word for "vision" (ḥazon) is the one used in the sense of "prediction" in Habakkuk 2:3, and the author wishes to stress that his ḥazon is, like Habakkuk's, for a future date (8:17). To Habakkuk, this circumstance is offered as a reason for the divine command to write down the ḥazon; in Apoc II it is further stressed that the future date in question is distant, and this, i.e., the fact that the ḥazon has no message for Daniel's contemporaries, is the reason which is given to Daniel (8:26) for the angel's instruction to "conceal" (to be discovered and opened in due course). Apoc III is the original part of chapters 10–12. Within this Apoc IV has transposed the two half verses 10:21b and 10:21a, and added 11:1–2a, 12:5–9, and 11–12 (unless, as is probable, verse 12 is still later). It is Apoc III who is the first to dispense with symbolic dreams or visions and to substitute a simple narration of future history by an angel who draws from memory upon "that which is inscribed in the Book of Truth" (10:21). Apoc III, like Apoc II, utilizes Habakkuk 2:3, but he departs further from its original sense. What he stresses is that more ḥazon (by which he means scheduled events) has yet to elapse until the final redemption
LITERARY GENRES AND MOTIFS
The genre to which Daniel B belongs is clearly apocalyptic. This type of literature arose in the Hellenistic period. The oldest parallel was pointed out by Eduard Meyer. It is a Demotic papyrus containing interpretations of obscure oracles. The author of these interpretations attributes them to the reign of the Pharaoh Tachos (360–359), to this king and to earlier ones who rebelled against the Persians. But he also alludes, in his interpretations, to persons and events from Tachos to his own time, which is the end of the third century B.C.E., and promises that the Greeks will be driven out of Egypt by a prince who will reign at Heracleopolis – a prediction which did not come true. The genre of Daniel A, on the other hand, is the courtier tale. There is in the Bible the story of the courtier Joseph, who was both an inspired interpreter of dreams and an admirable administrator: Daniel is the former in chapters 2 and 4 and the closely related interpreter of portents in chapter 5, and he is the latter in chapter 6. His three companions are also government officials in chapter 3. With the wise heathen courtier *Ahikar and the Jewish courtier *Mordecai, these Jewish ones have in common the trait of being plotted against by rivals who, however, are hoist with their own petard. Chapter 2 contains, so to speak, an apocalypse within a courtier tale, and the former is interesting for its utilization of borrowed motifs. The motif of four empires followed by a fifth is of Iranian origin. In the Iranian version, first the Assyrian kings ruled the world, then the Median, then the Persian, then the Greek (i.e., the Seleucid kings), but this fourth monarchy was destined to be supplanted by a fifth. No doubt the Iranians expected the fifth to be again a Persian kingdom, but the tradition reached Rome before 171 B.C.E. in a form which interprets Rome as the fifth empire. Daniel 2 merely says that the fifth kingdom will be set up by God, but no doubt it expects the Jewish people to occupy a position of honor in it. In addition, Daniel 2 substitutes Babylon or Chaldea for Assyria, which results in bad history, since the Median empire did not follow the Chaldean but coexisted with it, and, in fact, came to an end a decade before the other. The series gold, copper, silver, iron originally (as early as Hesiod, 8th century B.C.E.) symbolized the four ages of a progressively deteriorating world. The four monarchies which these metals symbolize in chapter 2, on the other hand, do not constitute a consistently descending series – the second is inferior to the first, but after that it is a rising series. Other probable and possible borrowed motifs are pointed out in recent commentaries.
THE LANGUAGE PROBLEM
In the book as it is now known, 1:1–2:4a and chapters 8–12 are Hebrew, the rest *Aramaic. Originally, it was entirely Aramaic. The popular story book Daniel A was composed in Aramaic because by the third century B.C.E. it was the language of the majority of Jews; and Daniel B, being a continuation of Daniel A, was written in the same language. That the Hebrew portions have a strong Aramaic tinge would not suffice by itself to prove that it was translated from Aramaic, but the occurrence of passages which can only be understood as translations of misread Aramaic does constitute such proof. A simple example is 12:8: "I heard but I did not understand, so I said: 'My Lord, what is the אַחֲרִית of all these things?'" The Hebrew word means "end," but "end" is pointless here. What Daniel wanted was the explanation of what he had heard. A glance at 5:12 suggests that behind אַחֲרִית is an Aramaic אַחֲוָיַת, "the explanation of," which had become corrupted to אַחֲרִית, or which the translator misread as אַחֲרִית (for further examples, see Ginsberg, in JBL, 68 (1949), 402–7).
O. Eissfeldt, The Old Testament, an Introduction (1965), 512–3 (comprehensive listing of literature); idem, in: ZAW, 72 (1960), 134–48; idem, Kleine Schriften, 3 (1966), 513–25; J.A. Montgomery, The Book of Daniel (ICC, 1927); H.H. Rowley, Darius the Mede and the Four World Empires in the Book of Daniel (1935, 19592);
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.