The book of Daniel.
Counted among the writings.
None on site.
CCEL: Daniel (Hebrew only).
Swete LXX (Greek only).
Gateway (English only).
Humanities Text Initiative:
Prayer of Azariah and song of the three,
Bel (English only).
HTML Bible: Daniel (Hebrew and English).
Zhubert (Greek and English).
Kata Pi BHS: Daniel (Hebrew and English).
Kata Pi: Daniel (Theodotion, replacing the LXX) (Greek and English).
Kata Pi: Susanna (Theodotion) (Greek and English).
Kata Pi: Bel (Theodotion) (Greek and English).
Kata Pi LXX: Ode , prayer of Azariah (Greek and English).
Kata Pi LXX: Ode , song of the three (Greek and English).
Sacred Texts: Daniel (polyglot; note that there are two
Septuagint columns; the first is
the LXX proper, while the second is the Theodotion translation).
Sacred Texts: Prayer of Azariah (song of the three) (English only).
Sacred Texts: Susanna (polyglot).
Sacred Texts: Bel (polyglot).
Sacred Texts: Ode , prayer of Azariah (Greek only).
Sacred Texts: Ode , song of the three (Greek only).
Daniel at the OT Gateway.
the song of the three,
Bel in the Jewish Encyclopedia.
EJW (Peter Kirby).
the song of the three,
and Bel at Kata Pi (Oesterly and Robinson).
Daniel from the Plymouth Brethren.
Introduction to Daniel (David Malick).
Outline of Daniel (David Malick).
Outline of Daniel (Daniel Wallace).
The Period of Jewish Independence (Gerald A. Larue).
Daniel and Revelation (Bernard D. Muller).
The book of Daniel is counted as a prophetical book in our English
Bibles, but in the Jewish scriptures
it is among the writings.
The book was originally written in Hebrew (except Daniel 2.4-7.28,
which is in Aramaic), but the ancient Greek translations known as the
Septuagint (abbreviated LXX) and Theodotion
are also important witnesses to the text. These Greek versions, however,
also incorporate several apocryphal additions to the book. These are the
prayer of Azariah and the song of the three (comprising 3.24-90 in the
Greek text), the story of Susanna (an appendix of sorts),
and the story of Bel and the dragon (another appendix).
The LXX version proper was virtually replaced in Christian circles by the
later Theodotion version (circa 200). Jerome rhetorically asks in
his prologue to Joshua:
Quare Danihelem iuxta Theodotionis translationem
Why have the churches accepted Daniel according to
the translation of Theodotion?
Jerome further affirms in his preface to the book of Daniel that the LXX
translation is inferior to that of Theodotion (English translation modified
from that of Kevin Edgecomb):
Danielem prophetam, iuxta LXX interpretes,
domini salvatoris ecclesiae non legunt, utentes Theodotionis editione,
et hoc cur acciderit nescio. sive enim quia sermo Chaldaicus est et quibusdam
proprietatibus a nostro eloquio discrepat, noluerunt LXX interpretes
easdem linguae lineas in translatione servare, sive sub nomine eorum
ab alio nescio quo non satis Chaldaeam linguam sciente editus est
liber, sive aliud quid causae extiterit ignorans, hoc unum affirmare
possum, quod multum a veritate discordet et recto iudicio repudiatus
The churches of the Lord savior do not read the prophet
Daniel according to the seventy interpreters, using [instead] the edition of
Theodotion, and I do not know why this happened. For whether because the
speech is Chaldean and differs in certain properties from our expression, [or
whether] the seventy interpreters were not willing to preserve the same lines
of language in the translation, or whether the book was edited under their name
by some unknown other who did not sufficiently know the Chaldean language,
or whether I am ignorant of anything else which was the cause, I can affirm
this one thing, that it is much discordant from the truth and with proper
judgment is repudiated.
Peter Kirby (Early Jewish Writings).
Azariah and the song of the three.
Peter Kirby surveys scholars writing on the book of Daniel:
W. Sibley Towner writes: "Daniel is one of the few OT books that can be
given a fairly firm date. In the form in which we have it (perhaps without the
additions of 12:11, 12), the book must have been given its final form some time
in the years 167-164 B.C. This dating is based upon two assumptions: first,
that the authors lived at the later end of the historical surveys that characterize
Daniel 7-12; and second, that prophecy is accurate only when it is given after
the fact, whereas predictions about the future tend to run astray. Based upon
these assumptions, the references to the desecration of the Temple and the 'abomination
that makes desolate' in 8:9-12; 9:27; and 11:31 must refer to events known to
the author. The best candidates for the historical referents of these events
are the desecration of the Temple in Jerusalem and the erection in it of a pagan
altar in the autumn of 167 B.C. by Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The inaccurate description
of the end of Antiochus' reign and his death in 11:40-45, on the other hand,
suggests that the author did not know of those events, which occurred late in
164 or early in 163 B.C. The roots of the hagiographa (idealizing stories) about
Daniel and his friends in chaps. 1-6 may date to an earlier time, but the entire
work was given its final shape in 164 B.C." (Harper's Bible Commentary,
Louis F. Hartman writes: "Having lost sight of these ancient modes of
writing, until relatively recent years Jews and Christians have considered Dn
to be true history, containing genuine prophecy. Inasmuch as chs. 7-12 are written
in the first person, it was natural to assume that Daniel in chs. 1-6 was a
truly historical character and that he was the author of the whole book. There
would be few modern biblical scholars, however, who would now seriously defend
such an opinion. The arguments for a date shortly before the death of Antiochus
IV Epiphanes in 164 are overwhelming. An author living in the 6th cent. could
hardly have written the late Hebrew used in Dn, and its Aramaic is certainly
later than the Aramaic of the Elephantine papyri, which date from the end of
the 5th cent. The theological outlook of the author, with his interest in angelology,
his apocalyptic rather than prophetic vision, and especially his belief in the
resurrection of the dead, points unescapably to a period long after the Babylonian
Exile. His historical perspective, often hazy for events in the time of the
Babylonian and Persian kings but much clearer for the events during the Seleucid
Dynasty, indicates the Hellenistic age. Finally, his detailed description of
the profanation of the Temple of Jerusalem by Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 167
and the following persecution (9:27; 11:30-35) contrasted with his merely general
reference to the evil end that would surely come to such a wicked man (11:45),
indicates a composition date shortly before the death of this king in 164, therefore
probably in 165." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, p. 448)
J. Alberto Soggin writes: "The first difficulties in the historical classification
of the book begin with the deportation of Daniel and his companions. We do not
in fact know anything of a deportation which took place in the third year of
Jehoiakim, i.e. in 607 BC. If we allow its basic historicity, the event might
be connected with the conquest of Syria and Palestine by Nebuchadnezzar II a
little later, after the battle of Carchemish in 605-4 and the victory over Egypt;
it was on this occasion that Jehoiakim moved out of the sphere of Egyptian influence
and into that of Babylon (cf. II Chron. 36.5). Complex problems of foreign policy
followed, to which we alluded in our discussion of Jeremiah. Until recently
the note in Chronicles was considered spurious, since there was no point of
comparison, but discoveries during the 1950s of various unedited fragments of
the Babylonian Chronicle have unexpectedly made sense of both this passage and
II Kings 24.1ff. But even admitting the substantial historicity of the events
narrated, there remains the problem of chronology, which is evidently some years
out. Other elements are no less perplexing: in 5.11 Belshazzar is implicitly
called the son of Nebuchadnezzar and in 7.1 he appears as king of Babylon. However,
he was neither one nor the other, but the son of Nabonidus, one of Nebuchadnezzar's
successors who came to the throne as the result of a plot. (The only other possibility
is that 'son of . . .' is intended in a generic sense, as 'descendant of . .
.', a usage which is attested in Akkadian.) On the other hand, the statement
that Belshazzar was king may simply be imprecise wording: towards 553 he was
resident in Babylon as a kind of lieutenant-general for the king during his
numerous absences, and could therefore have been called king, at least by the
people. Again, in 5.31, as we have seen, a certain Darius the Mede appears,
who is considered to be king of Persia after the fall of Babylon. In 9.1 he
appears as son of Xerxes, whereas in 6.29 Cyrus succeeds a Darius. If we are
to be precise, the question arises what Daniel is doing at the court of the
Medes before the Babylonian empire has fallen, always assuming that we take
the term 'Mede' seriously. This question has never been answered. We must therefore
accept that Media is in reality Persia. But the genealogy of the kings of Persia
is well known: Cyrus, Cambyses, Darius I Hystaspes, Xerxes. If the Darius mentioned
here was Darius I from the last quarter of the sixth century, how old would
Daniel be? These are features which were already pointed out by the anti-Christian
polemicist Celsus at the end of the second century AD." (Introduction
to the Old Testament, p. 408)
James King West writes: "The same persecutions that provoked the Maccabean
uprising also stimulated the development within Jewish circles of a new literary
and theological form known as the apocalypse. The name itself (Greek apokalypsis)
means 'revelation' or 'unveiling,' in reference to the revealed truths which
such writings purport to convey. The book of Daniel, which comes from this period,
is the only true apocalypse in the old Testament, though some portions of other
books share close affinities with its style (Isa. 24-27; Ezek. 38-39; Zech.
1:7-6:8; Joel 2:1-11; 4:1-21). Between the second century B.C. and the end of
the first century A.D., other books of this genre, both Jewish and Christian,
became popular; the Revelation of John in the New Testament is one of its best-known
representatives. The characteristic theology of the apocalypse is an eschatological
dualism which depicts the present age of world history as about to give way
to God's final agea climactic intervention by God himself for judgment
and deliverance. This message is couched in a literary form marked by visions,
bizarre imagery, cryptic numbers, and angelic interpreters. Authorship is generally
pseudonymous, the works being consigned to some authoritative figure of the
distant past, such as Enoch, Moses, Daniel, or Ezra." (Introduction
to the Old Testament, pp. 417-418)
Jay G. Williams writes: "When the author of Daniel himself attempted to
predict the future specifically, he, on the whole, proved to be incorrect. Antiochus
did not die as he said nor did his kingdom come to a sudden end. The world still
awaits the full manifestation of God's righteous rule upon earth. Still, he
was right about one thing. Antiochus did not destroy Israel. On the contrary,
the Maccabees (the 'little help' mentioned in 11:34) even led the people to
a few moments of glory before the Roman armies put an end to their semi-independent
nation. Perhaps our author was wrong in attempting to predict so precisely what
was to occur, for the course of history is never easily determined in advance,
even by a visionary prophet. He knew, however, that what his people needed was
not general platitudes but a specific hope to which to cling. This he provided
even at the risk of being wrong. Furthermore, his central, motivating thesis
is one which faithful men can hardly reject. Essentially the book of Daniel
is an affirmation of the faith that the God of Israel has dominion over the
world and that in the end he will save his people. Daniel teaches that the faithful
man must live expectantly, with the hope that the Kingdom of God is indeed at
hand." (Understanding the Old Testament, p. 316)
Peter Kirby also surveys scholars writing on the prayer of Azariah
and the song of the three:
Louis F. Hartman writes of Daniel 3:24-90 (LXX): "This part of the chapter,
embracing the Prayer of Azariah (26-45) and the Hymn of the Three Men (52-90a),
with the prose introduction (24-25), interlude (46-51), and conclusion (90b),
is preserved only in the Gk version and the ancient translations made from it.
The original was in either Hebrew or Aramaic. Although not present in the MT,
this so-called 'deuterocanonical fragment' has always been regarded as part
of the canonical, inspired Scriptures. However, it is not part of the original
story, but rather an addition made by an inspired author who took existing liturgical
prayers, adapted them slightly, and inserted them here, with a few sentences
of his own to make a smoother nexus." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary,
vol. 1, p. 452)
Robert Doran writes: "In both versions [LXX and Theodotian] this passage
lies between MT Dan. 3:23 and 3:24 and consists of three unequal parts: first,
the Prayer of Azariah, the Hebrew name of Abednego (vv. 1-22); second, a short
prose account of the fate of the three Jews in the furnace (vv. 23-27); third,
a hymn sung by the three youths while in the furnace (vv. 28-68). The relationship
between MT Dan 3:23 and 3:24 is highly dramatic. The three Jewish youths are
thrown into an incredibly hot furnace and presumably destroyed, when suddenly
Nebuchadnezzar is perturbed and in astonishment claims to see four men in the
fire, the fourth looking like a divine being. Nebuchadnezzar reacts to the miracle
by praising the God of the Jews. The author of the Addition must have found
the transition too sudden and provided the details of the miracle. As in Exodus
15, 1 Samuel 2, and elsewhere, the narrative is supplemented by poetic material.
Deliverance comes in response to prayer, and deliverance demands a hymn of praise.
The Addition thus emphasizes the reciprocal covenantal faithfulness of God and
the three young men." (Harper's Bible Commentary, p. 863)
James King West writes: "As the angel appears to dispel the deadly flames
the three young men burst into song with what are, as the change in the form
of address and responsory indicates, actually two canticles. Verses 52-56, Benedictus
es, Domine, are addressed as a blessing directly to God; verses 57-90, Benedicite,
omnia opera, call upon all the works of nature to bless the Lord. That these
canticles, except for verse 88 which was undoubtedly added to adapt the canticle
to its present use, are general hymns of praise and have no more connection
with their context in Daniel than does the Prayer of Azariah, suggests that
they, along with the Prayer, came from an otherwise unknown collection of psalms.
From ancient times these canticles have been a part of the psalmnody of the
Church. In the Roman Breviary the Benedictus es, Domine, with the addition
of the first verse (vs. 57) of the second canticle, is used as the fourth psalm
in the Sunday Office, Lauds II (for Lent); and in Lauds I (for the remaining
Sundays of the year) the fourth psalm consists of a condensed form of the Benedicite,
omnia opera, substituting a blessing of the Trinity and the last verse (vs.
56) of the first canticle for verses 88b-90, and omitting most of the responsories.
The Benedicite also occurs as the celebrant's private thanksgiving after
Mass in the Roman Rite (cf. the Book of Common Prayer, pp. 11-13). It
is very similar in structure to Psalm 136 and in theme and content to Psalm
148 (cf. Ps. 150). R. H. Pfeiffer suggests that these hymns involving the works
of creation may have been inspired by Ecclesiasticus 43 (cf. Ps. 19; Job 38;
Ps. 104; Gen. 1:1-2:4). This theme reappears in St. Francis' well-known Laudes
creaturarum." (Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 457)
Marjorie L. Kimbrough writes: "Many of us are familiar with the story
of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, three Hebrew boys who refused to worship
the golden statue even under threat of being thrown into the fiery furnace.
Their story is found in Daniel 3, and the original Hebrew names given to them
were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; the more familiar names were assigned by
the Babylonian palace master (Dan. 1:7). Thus, the prayer of Azariah is the
prayer of Abednego, and it begins after the three have been thrown into a fire
whose flames are so intense that they killed the men who threw them in (v. 25;
see Dan. 3:22). But Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah sing hymns to God, and Azariah
prays aloud, 'Blessed are you, O Lord, God of our ancestors, and worthy of praise;
and glorious is your name forever!' (v. 3)." (Stories Between the Testaments,
Daniel J. Harrington writes: "The language of Azariah's prayer is thoroughly
biblical, and it was probably composed in Hebrew and translated into Greek.
Its present narrative setting in the Greek version of Daniel 3 is Babylon in
the sixth century during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. However, the references
in verse 9 to 'lawless and hateful rebels' and to 'an unjust king, the most
wicked in all the world' may reflect the coalition between 'progressive' Jews
and Antiochus IV Epiphanes that appears in 1 Maccabees 1. Thus the prayer may
have addressed the crisis in Judea in 167-165 B.C.E. that is reflected in most
of the book of Daniel." (Invitation to the Apocrypha, p. 110)
David A. deSilva writes: "The anonymous author or authors clearly were
quite sensitive to and familiar with the liturgical traditions of intertestamental
penitential prayers, as well as the more celebratory hymns among the psalms.
The probability of a Hebrew original for the Prayer of Azariah and the Song
of the Three Young Men, if not the connecting narrative (Pr. Azar. 23-27), points
to a Palestinian provenance. Dating prayers and hymns is notoriously difficult,
but there may be a reflection of the Hellenization crisis in Pr. Azar. 9, which
speaks of the pious being handed over to apostates and a supremely wicked king
(Harrington 1999: 10; Metzger 1957: 103; Moore 1992d: 19). The use of the terms
anomon and apostaton in Pr. Azar. 9 makes this suggestion somewhat
more plausible. The former may be used of Gentiles, but the latter speaks of
those who formerly kept the Torah but 'turned away' at some point. The conjunction
of lapsed Jews and a foreign king who together act as 'enemies' toward the Torah-observant
naturally conjures up the period of 175-164 B.C.E. The Song of the Three Young
Men, on the other hand, provides no such reminiscences and could be considerably
older than the rest of Daniel. As with the other additions, a terminus ad
quem of 100 B.C.E., the approximate time of translation into Greek (the
Septuagint edition), is appropriate (Moore 1977: 29)." (Introducing
the Apocrypha, p. 227)
Peter Kirby also surveys scholars writing on the Susanna addition:
James King West writes: "This story is a literary masterpiece. Although
the two recensions in the LXX and Theodotian differ in some details, the essence
of the story in both versions concerns Susanna, the young wife of Joakim, whose
remarkable beauty incites the lustful passion of two elders appointed as judges
for the Jewish community in Babylon. Having accidentally disclosed to each other
their common passion, they plot to seduce Susanna. When they surprise her alone
in her garden she refuses to yield to them, whereupon, in a development similar
to the story of Potiphar's wife in Genesis 39:6b-20, they accuse her of committing
adultery with a young man who has escaped unrecognized. Being the judges, they
condemn her to death on their own testimony. As Susanna is being led to execution,
however, Daniel is inspired to intervene. Insisting that they have not learned
the facts, he asks each of the judges under what kind of tree he had been standing
when he saw the alleged affair; since their stories do not agree they are exposed
and executed, Susanna's life and honor are spared, and Daniel earns 'a great
reputation among the people' (13:64)." (Introduction to the Old Testament,
Robert Doran writes: "In the LXX version of the story the leaders of the
people are contrasted with the youth to whom a spirit of insight has been given
(v. 45). While Theodotion speaks of God rousing the Holy Spirit already in the
youth, the LXX has an angel injecting the Spirit into the youth. The leaders
of the people are viewed with suspicion. As the statement in v. 51b (found only
in the LXX) indicates, one should not believe the elders simply because they
are elders. Insight belongs not by right to those in authority; it is given.
The conclusion, formulated to draw the moral of the story, states that the education
of the youths is to be carefully guardedthey will live reverently and
a spirit of insight will be in them. Such a conclusion seems an attempt to assert
control over the youths, for the thrust of the story itself leads in the opposite
direction, to a critique of institutional authority and a distinction between
institutional office and the spirit of insight." (Harper's Bible Commentary,
Louis F. Hartman writes: "The Theodotion form of this story, on which
the CCD is based, is told in a more dramatic form than in the shorter LXX version.
Although the latter seems to be, in general, an abridged recension, it has perhaps
preserved a few passages that seem closer to the original than the corresponding
passages in the other form. One of these is Daniel's question to the false witnesses,
which, according to the LXX, reads: 'Under what tree and in what part of the
garden did you see them together?' It seems to imply that the original Semitic
story involved a question, not about trees, but about the locality, in some
other sense, of the supposed crime. The Gk pun on the names of the trees (see
comments on vv. 55, 59) could then by considered a new element added in the
Gk form of the story and thus no argument against the presumed Semitic language
of the original." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, p. 459)
J. Alberto Soggin writes: "The story of Susanna, which R. H. Pfeiffer
somewhat irreverently but aptly compared with a detective story, in all probability
echoes the content of a popular tale, adapted by Israel to its beliefs and used
to celebrate divine omniscience and conjugal virtue. Julius Africanus (Migne,
PG 11, 44f.) already expressed his doubts on the Hebrew origin of the story
in a letter to Origen, since it is full of word-plays which are only possible
in Greek. However, the question has yet to be resolved. Of course it is futile
to discuss its historicity, given the novelistic character of the narratives
and the liturgical character of the poetical compositions, or to consider its
relationship with the proto-canonical book of Daniel." (Introduction
to the Old Testament, pp. 442-443)
Daniel J. Harrington writes: "The great turning point in the story comes
with God's response to Susanna's protestation of innocence: 'The Lord heard
her cry' (v. 44). And Daniel emerges as the human instrument by which Susanna's
innocence is proven and she is delivered from death and restored to her family.
The message of the Susanna story is that God will vindicate the innocent sufferer.
The episode illustrates the power of trust in God and of prayer in the midst
of suffering, as well as God's use of the human wisdom displayed by Daniel."
(Invitation to the Apocrypha, p. 116)
Louis F. Hartman writes: "Superficially, at least, the primary purpose
of the story is to show that virtue (here in the form of conjugal chastity)
triumphs, with God's help, over vice (here in the form of lust and deceit).
Inasmuch as this story belongs to the 'Daniel Cycle,' it also offers another
example of this hero's God-given wisdom. Exegetes, however, have sought deeper
meanings in the tale. For some exegetes it is a sort of parable. The two wicked
elders ('offspring of Canaan,' i.e., idolators) would symbolize the pagans and
the apostate Jews, especially at the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who tried
to make the Jews, here symbolized by Susanna, fall into the sin of apostasy
from Yahwehthe sin that the prophets often called fornication and adultery.
The 'daughters of Israel'i.e., the Samaritansmight indeed by seduced
by the alluring pagan Hellenism, but not the 'daughter of Judah' (v. 57)i.e.,
the good Jews. Susanna's heroic statement, 'It is better for me to fall into
your power without guilt than to sin before the Lord' (v. 23), would then be
a fine expression of the sentiments of the Maccabean martyrs when offered the
choice between apostasy and death. Still other exegetes would see in this story
an indictment by some writer of the Pharisees against the worldly minded Sadducees
who acted as 'elders' or leaders of the people. In this case the story would
be a midrash on the pseudo-biblical quotation of v. 5 (cf. R. A. F. MacKenzie,
'The Meaning of the Susanne Story,' CanJT 3  211-18)." (The
Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, p. 459)
David A. deSilva writes: "It is difficult to determine the date of this
story. While Daniel's name may only have come to be included later, the story
itself resonates well with the condition of Jews throughout most of the Persian
and Hellenistic periods. The Jewish community envisioned in the story has a
high level of self-governance within Gentile domination, which was true of several
Diaspora communities as well as Judea during much of the intertestamental period.
The probability of a Semitic original would also suggest a provenance in Palestine
or the eastern Diaspora. The hint of the superiority of a daughter of Judah,
who bravely resisted the elders' constraint, to the daughters of Israel (i.e.,
the northern tribes), who yielded to the elders in the past, suggests that the
author would have regarded himself as a Judahite (Collins 1993: 438)."
(Introducing the Apocrypha, p. 233)
Peter Kirby also surveys scholars writing on the Bel addition:
James King West writes of Daniel 14:1-22: "The second story is a satire
on pagan divinities in the vein of Isaiah 44:9-20 and the Letter of Jeremiah
(Baruch 6). In a discussion with King Cyrus of Babylon as to why he does not
worship Cyrus' idol called Bel, Daniel denies the king's claim that Bel eats
the food offered to him daily. When Bel's priests are challenged to prove it,
they allow the king to place the food in the temple and seal the door. In the
meantime Daniel has ashes sifted over the floor. The next day Daniel and the
king find the food gone but the floor is covered with footprints. Discovering
the secret doors by which he had been deceived, Cyrus is enraged and orders
the execution of the priests and their families, while Daniel is permitted to
destroy the temple and the idol." (Introduction to the Old Testament,
Louis F. Hartman writes of Daniel 14:1-22: "This little 'detective story'
is another folk tale of the 'Daniel Cycle.' It is a Jewish satire on the crudities
of idolatry, although actually it is a caricature of pagan worship. The offering
of food and drink in sacrifice to pagan gods did not differ substantially from
similar offerings made to Yahweh in the Temple. In both cases, a certain amount
of the sacrificial offerings went quite legitimately to the priests and their
families. However, the Jews of the last pre-Christian centuries were so convinced
of the folly of idolatry (cf. Wis 13:1-15:17) that this unfair ridicule of pagan
worship is understandable." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol.
1, p. 460)
James King West writes of Daniel 14:23-42: "In the companion story the
same motive of lampooning pagan deities is apparent. The issue is approached,
however, from the opposite angle. Whereas Bel is nothing more than a man-made
statue, a fact which is easily demonstrated by its inability to eat, the dragon
is manifestly a living creature and does eat. To prove that the dragon also
is no god, therefore, Daniel must somehow show that merely being alive and able
to eat is not sufficient evidence to establish divinity. This he does by offering
to perform the apparently impossible feat of slaying the dragon 'without sword
or club' (14:26). The king's acceptance of Daniel's challenge is a tacit admission
of the premise that if Daniel succeeds the dragon is no god. Having concocted
some cakes of pitch, fat, and hair, he feeds them to the witless beast which
promptly explodes." (Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 458-459)
Louis F. Hartman writes of Daniel 14:23-42: "Another short story of the
'Daniel Cycle,' it is basically a variant of the story told in Dn 6 (Daniel
in the lions' den). Here is included another satire on pagan worshipDaniel's
blowing up of the Babylonians' divine serpent. Although once an independent
story, in its present form it is edited to follow the preceding tale (cf. v.
28); in all the Gk manuscripts, the two stories are together, and the LXX even
prefixes to the former the note, 'From the prophecy of Habakkuk, son of Jesus,
of the tribe of Levi.'" (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1,
Daniel J. Harrington writes of Daniel 14:23-42: "This addition is a combination
of three episodes: Daniel and the dragon (vv. 23-28), Daniel in the lions' den
(vv. 29-32, 40-42), and Habakkuk's magical journey (vv. 33-39). The three episodes
are loosely joined in a plot that vindicates Daniel and the God whom he worships,
and are linked to the Story of Bel by verse 28 ('he has destroyed Bel, and killed
the dragon')." (Invitation to the Apocrypha, p. 118)
David A. deSilva writes (Introducing the Apocrypha, pp. 239-240):
While the author remains anonymous, some scholars have ventured to posit
a very specific time and circumstance of composition. Davies (1913: 656),
for example, suggests composition in a time of serious religious persecution,
as under Antiochus VII Sidetes. The assertion that 'the general character
of this tract' suggests authorship during a time of bitter persecution is
without foundation, arising no doubt from the unwarranted reading of the actions
against Daniel in the second part of the story as a reflection of the author's
own time. Moreover, the picture of Antiochus VII painted by Josephus (Jewish
Antiquities 13.236-248) does not support the claim that he was an enemy
of the Jewish religion per se. Although he retaliated against Simon's anti-Seleucid
actions by invading Judea and even besieging Jerusalem, and although he pressed
the seige so hard that many died of famine, he showed himself quite favorably
disposed toward Jewish piety, allowing a truce for the week of the Pentecost
celebration at John Hyrcanus's request and even providing bulls for sacrifices,
winning himself the epithet 'Antiochus the Pious.' This display of reverence
toward Jewish piety led to a resolution of the dispute shortly thereafter.
The composition of Bel and the Dragon was inspired not by persecution but
by the perennial problem of living as a minority, monolatrous culture in an
idol-worshipping world. The attack on both idolatry and zoolatry makes Egypt
the place where the stories would be most on target with regard to the religious
alternatives encountered by God-fearing Jews (see the Egyptian Jewish texts
Wis. 11:15-16; 15:18-19; Letter of Aristeas 138) (Roth 1975: 43), who
could profit from some reinforcement of the unique truth of their own religious
heritage despite the lavish expenditures and apparent devotion of their neighbors
toward their gods. The main obstacle to this provenance is the fact that no
known Egyptian Jewish text was composed in Aramaic or Hebrew (Collins 1993:
419). Thus, while this provenance is not impossible, since not all Egyptian
Jews need to be supposed to have forgotten their ancestral language, it is
more likely that the story originates in Palestine and that idolatry and zoolatry
simply are attacked as two well-known forms of Gentile impiety.
Robert Doran writes: "The narrative has been nicely welded together into
a single plot. The LXX and Theodotion use different connectives, but in both
versions the narrative coheres. The major actors remain the same throughoutDaniel,
the king, and the Babylonians. Both Bel and the snake are characterized as objects
that the Babylonians worship (vv. 3, 23). After the snake is destroyed, all
those from the region (LXX v. 23; Theodotion: 'the Babylonians') came against
Daniel to complain that the king had become a Jew, had overthrown Bel, and had
killed the snake. The story of the threat to Daniel's life is thus strongly
connected with the preceding narrative. The king's first confession of Bel's
greatness (v. 18) and his final confession of Daniel's God (v. 41) use almost
exactly the same formulas, even though LXX and Theodotion offer minor differences.
This repitition is highly significant and helps unite the narrative. The LXX
further connects the two episodes by the phrase 'in that place' in v. 23, but
also by developing the motif of eating. This motif dominates the Bel episode
(vv. 7, 8, 9, 11, 15, 17, 21). In the snake episode the king claims, 'You cannot
say he is bronze. Look, he lives and eats and drinks.' Daniel then destroys
the snake by offering it fatal food (v. 23). In the Theodotionic version the
connection is made through the notion of life: Daniel worships the living God
(v. 5), while Bel is not a living God (v. 6); the king asserts that Daniel cannot
say that the snake is not a living God (v. 24), but Daniel insists that it is
his God who lives (v. 25). The links between all the episodes in both versions
are so pervasive that the narrative must be seen to be a whole. Such stories,
of course, could theoretically have existed independently, but there is no evidence
that they did." (Harper's Bible Commentary, p. 868)