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Book of Daniel

The Book of Daniel (דניאל), originally written in Hebrew and Aramaic, is a book in both the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) and the Christian Old Testament. The book is set during the Babylonian Captivity, a period when Jews were deported and exiled to Babylon following the Siege of Jerusalem of 597 BC. The book revolves around the figure of Daniel, an Israelite who becomes an adviser to Nebuchadnezzar, the ruler of Babylon from 605 BC - 562 BC.

The book has two distinct parts: a series of six narratives (chapters one to six) and four apocalyptic visions (chapters seven to twelve). The narratives take the form of court stories which focus on tests of religious fidelity involving Daniel and his friends (chapters one, three and six), and Daniel's interpretation of royal dreams and visions (chapters two, four and five). In the second part of the book, Daniel recounts his reception of dreams, visions and angelic interpretations in the first person.

The dating and authorship of Daniel has been a matter of great debate among Jews and Christians. The traditional view holds that the work was written by a prophet named Daniel who lived during the sixth century BC, whereas many modern Biblical scholars maintain that the book was written or redacted in the mid-second century BC and that most of the predictions of the book refer to events that had already occurred. A third viewpoint places the final editorial work in the fourth century BC.

Literary structure

William H. Shea Ph.D. (Archeology) suggests that the book of Daniel was composed as a double chiasm. Chiastic or concentric structure is a common feature of ancient Hebrew poetry and literature. A qualification, however, is appropriate: while the chiastic structure of chapters 2 - 7, originally identified by A. Lenglet in 1972, is widely accepted by scholars, Shea's proposal for a similar structure in chapters 8 - 12 is not.

Related themes have common label

Related sections have a common label. For instance those labeled A, A', A" and A"' are placed in parallel because they all have a similar theme: prophecies about successive kingdoms. God's people suffer trials in the parts labeled B, B', B" and B"', although the suggested parallels in chapters 9 and 10 seem to have little in common with 3 and 6. The decision of kings to choose Daniel's God or not are the themes in C, C', C" and C"', provided we can agree with Shea that two individual verses in chapter 9 are the structural counterparts of chapters 4 and 5. The trial faced by the Messiah is portrayed in the focal point of the book (D ) by Shea. (see also).

Language emphasizes structure

To emphasize the importance of the chiasmic structure, the first chiasm was written in Aramaic and the second in Hebrew. The literary structure explains why Aramaic continues to be used in chapter 7 rather than ending in chapter 6 at, seemingly, the end of the first half of the book.

Structure has precedence over chronology

The literary structure of the book takes precedence over chronology. The first 6 narrative chapters are fit into the structure rather than defining it. For instance, chapter 6 (B' ), which ought to follow chapter 7 (A' ) chronologically, is put in parallel with chapter 3 (B ) because they both deal with the persecution of Daniel and his friends. And chapter 5 (C' ) should follow chapters 7 and 8 (A" ). Instead, it is put in parallel with chapter 4 (C ). In both divine judgements are pronounced against arrogant Babylonian kings.

Grouping Emphasizes Prophecies

This chiasmic grouping of chapters having the same theme has important implications when it comes to the chapters containing prophecies (A, A', A", A'" ). Not only are they parallel because they contain prophecies, but the prophecies themselves are parallel to each other. This parallelism between the prophecies has been recognized for millennia. This does not mean, however, that Christian commentators have identified the same kingdoms in each chapter. While chapters 2 and 7 have generally - though not exclusively - been interpreted as extending to Roman times, chapter 8, for example, has traditionally been applied to the time of Antiochus Epiphanes.

Narratives in Daniel

The first part, the first six chapters, comprises a series of court tales, instructive narratives, or miracle tales. As illustrated above, the first story is in Hebrew; then Aramaic is used from ch. 2:4, beginning with the speech of the "Chaldeans" through chapter seven. Hebrew is then used from chapter eight through chapter twelve. Three additional sections are preserved only in the Septuagint, and are considered apocryphal by Protestant Christians and Jews, and deuterocanonical by Catholic and Orthodox Christians.

1. After being taken captive to Babylon, members of the Israelite nobility are taken into the king's service. Among these, Daniel and his three friends refuse to "defile" themselves with food and wine from the king's table. At the end of a short trial period they appear healthier than those who have accepted the royal rations and are allowed to continue with their abstemious diet. Finally, after a three year induction, they enter the king's service and in matters of wisdom, literature, and learning are judged "ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in the kingdom". Daniel, moreover, has a unique talent for interpreting dreams and visions. Despite apparent defeat and the ransacking of the Jerusalem temple, Israel's God is surprisingly active in this chapter: "deliver[ing]" the King of Israel into Nebuchadnezzar's hands, causing the chief official to treat Daniel and his friends favourably, and giving the four exceptional knowledge and understanding. Many of the book's key themes are introduced in this chapter.

2. Nebuchadnezzar dreams of an idol made of four metals and a mixture of iron and clay. The image is destroyed by a rock that then dominates the world. The idol's composition of metals is interpreted as a series of successive empires ending with "God's kingdom".

3. The story of the fiery furnace, in which Ananias (Hananiah/Shadrach), Azariah (Abednego), and Mishael (Meshach) refuse to bow to the emperor's golden statue and are thrown into a furnace. Their god is credited for preserving them from the flames.

4. Nebuchadnezzar recounts a dream of a huge tree which is suddenly cut down at the command of a heavenly messenger. Daniel is summoned and interprets the dream as referring to Nebuchadnezzar, who for seven years will lose his power and become like an animal. All of this comes to pass until, at the end of the seven years, Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges that "heaven rules" and his kingdom and sanity are restored. The recurring image of a tree representing a kingdom appears at least three times in the Bible.

5. Belshazzar's Feast, where Belshazzar and his nobles blasphemously drink from sacred Jewish temple vessels, offering praise to inanimate gods, until a hand mysteriously appears to the king and writes upon the wall of the palace. The horrified king eventually summons Daniel who is able to read the writing and offer the following interpretation:

Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Upharsin: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.

"That very night", we are informed, Belshazzar was slain and "Darius the Mede" took over the kingdom.

6. Daniel is elevated to a preeminent position under "Darius" which excites the jealousy of other officials. Knowing of Daniel's devotion to his God, these officials trick the king into issuing an edict forbidding worship of any god or man for a 30 day period. Because Daniel continues to pray three times a day towards Jerusalem he is accused and reluctantly thrown by the king into a lions' den. The next morning the king finds him unharmed and casts his accusers and their families into the pit where they are instantly devoured.

7. Susanna and the elders (apocryphal to Jewish and Protestant canons)

8. Bel and the Dragon (apocryphal to Jewish and Protestant canons)

Protestant and Jewish editions omit the sections that do not exist in the Masoretic text: in addition to the two chapters containing accounts of Daniel and Susanna and of Bel and the Dragon, a lengthy passage inserted into the middle of Daniel 3; this addition contains the prayer of Azariah while the three youths were in the fiery furnace, a brief account of the angel who met them in the furnace, and the hymn of praise they sang when they realized they were delivered. The Prayer of Azariah and Song of the Three Holy Children are retained in the Septuagint and in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Roman Catholic canons; the "Song of the Three Holy Youths" is part of the Matins service in Orthodoxy, and of Lauds on Sundays and feast days in Catholicism.

The narratives are set in the period of the Babylonian captivity, first at the court of Nebuchadnezzar and later at the court of his successors Belshazzar and a 'King Darius' of unclear identity (see 'Historical Accuracy' and 'Date' below). Daniel is praised in Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897, as "the historian of the Captivity, the writer who alone furnishes any series of events for that dark and dismal period during which the harp of Israel hung on the trees that grew by the Euphrates. His narrative may be said in general to intervene between Kings and Chronicles on the one hand and Ezra on the other, or (more strictly) to fill out the sketch which the author of the Chronicles gives in a single verse in his last chapter: 'And them that had escaped from the sword carried he (i.e., Nebuchadnezzar) away to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia' (2 Chr. 36:20)." However, see the section on Dating and Content (below) for other views on the dating and historical accuracy of the court tales.

Daniel appears as an interpreter of dreams and visions in these early court tales. He is depicted later in the book as a "prophet" with his early experiences serving as the basis for his future ministry.

Apocalyptic visions in Daniel

The second part, the remaining six chapters, are visionary, an early example of apocalyptic literature, in which the author, now speaking in the first person, experiences visions entrusted to him alone. One feature of this section is Daniel's reliance on heavenly figures to interpret and explain his visions. The historical setting of the first chapters does not appear, except in the form of regnal dates. This section also consists of text from two languages, part (to 7:28) written in Aramaic, the rest (chapters 8-12) in Hebrew. The apocalyptic part of Daniel consists of three visions and one lengthened prophetic communication, mainly having to do with the destiny of Israel:

  1. The vision in the first year of Belshazzar the king of Babylon (7:1) concerning four great beasts (7:3) representing four future kings (7:17) or kingdoms (7:23), the fourth of which devours the whole earth, treading it down and crushing it (7:23); this fourth kingdom is represented by a beast with ten horns representing ten kings, an empire, the last person described arises out of the fourth kingdom and subdues three of the ten kings (7:24), speaks against the Most High and the saints of the Most High, and intends to change the times and the law (7:25); after a time and times and half a time (three and a half years), this person is judged and his dominion is taken away (7:26); then, the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven are given to the people of the saints of the Most High (7:27)
  2. The vision in the third year of Belshazzar concerning a ram and a male goat (8:1-27) which, we are informed, represent Medo-Persia and Greece. The vision focuses on a wicked king who arises to challenge the "army of the Lord" by removing the daily temple sacrifice and desecrating the sanctuary for a period of "twenty three hundred evening/mornings".
  3. The vision in first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus (9:1) concerning seventy weeks, or seventy "sevens", apportioned for the history of the Israelites and of Jerusalem (9:24) This consists of a meditation on the prediction in Jeremiah that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years, a lengthy prayer by Daniel in which he pleads for God to restore Jerusalem and its temple, and an angelic explanation which focuses on a longer time period - "seventy sevens" - and a future destruction of city and temple by a coming ruler.
  4. A lengthy vision (10:1 - 12:13) in the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, regarding conflicts between the "King of the North" and the "King of the South" (= Egypt, 11:8). Starting with references to Persia and Greece it, again, culminates in the description of an arrogant king who desecrates the temple, sets up a "desolating abomination", removes the daily sacrifice, and persecutes those who remain true to the "holy covenant".

The prophetic and eschatological visions of Daniel, with those of Ezekiel and Isaiah, are the scriptural inspiration for much of the apocalyptic ideology and symbolism of the Qumran community's Dead Sea scrolls and the early literature of Christianity. The purpose behind the latter revelations are related to the establishment of Daniel's prominence in later revelations. That is, a prophetic ministry does not occur in a vacuum; the early events in his life serve to establish his later role as a prophet. The latter prophecies serve the purpose of confirming in the near future the basis for the acceptance of his final prophecies. "Daniel's clear association with the Maccabean Uprising and those against Rome are a possible factor in the eventual downgrading of it, to include a redefinition of the role of prophet, keeping in mind that at roughly this time the Hebrew canon was being evaluated and adopted. (Eisenman 1997, p 19f).

In Daniel are the first references to a "kingdom of God", and the most overt reference to the resurrection of the dead in the Tanakh.

Historical accuracy

Some modern historians of Babylonia or Achaemenid Persia do not adduce the narratives of Daniel as source materials, as they consider some statements in Daniel to be in conflict with other historical accounts. However, a major critic of Daniel, H. H. Rowley considered chapter 11 as "a first-class historical source for that period

A scholar ranks the fifth chapter of Daniel just below the cuneiform literature, for accuracy as far as outstanding events are concerned, for non-Babylonian records on the close of the Neo-Babylonian Empire.

The six objections given below represent, in order of significance, the major instances of error historians generally find in Daniel.

Identity of "Darius the Mede"

Historians criticize the notion of a separate Mede rule by pointing out that the Persians at that point in history had control over the Medes, and that the contemporary cuneiform documents, such as the Cyrus Cylinder and the Babylonian Chronicle, leave no room for any Mede occupation of Babylon before the Persians under Cyrus conquered it. It has been suggested that the author's apparent confusion on this issue could be due to his reliance on Jeremiah (see Daniel 9:2): and Jeremiah prophesied (in Jeremiah 51:11), at the height of the Median empire's power, that Babylon would fall to the Medes. An author writing centuries later, and under the impression that Jeremiah was a true prophet, might simply assume that a Mede must have taken Babylon.

The personage whom Daniel describes as taking control of Babylon after Belshazzar is deposed is named as Darius the Mede, who rules over Babylon in chapters 6 and 9. Daniel reports that Darius was 'about 62 years old' when he was 'made king over Babylon.' Darius the Mede, while mentioned in the book of Daniel, the works of Flavius Josephus, and Jewish Midrash material, is not known from any primary historical sources. Neither the Babylonian nor the Persian histories record such a person. Herodotus, who wrote his history about 440 BCE, records that Babylon fell to the Persian army, under the control of King Cyrus. Darius the Mede is never mentioned. In fact, the Median Empire was conquered and assimilated by the Persian Empire as early as 550 BCE, when Cyrus defeated Astyages, king of Media.

As Darius the Mede is unknown to any other source, many historians view his presence in Daniel as simply a mistake of a much later author, who has perhaps inadvertently placed the Persian King Darius I at an earlier date than he actually reigned. Three key pieces of information seem to support this. Firstly, Darius I, like Cyrus, also conquered Babylon and personally commanded the Persian army that took the city in 522 BC to put down a rebellion. Secondly, Daniel's reference to Darius organising the empire by appointing satraps and administrators fits Darius I perfectly: he is known to history as the Persian king par excellence who professionalised the empire's bureaucracy and organised it into satrapies and tax districts. Thirdly, Darius I was an important figure in Jewish history, remembered as a king associated with Cyrus who permitted the returned exiles to rebuild the temple (see Ezra chs 1-6).

In Daniel 9:1, Darius is said to be the son of Ahasuerus, commonly acknowledged to be a variant spelling of Artaxerxes (Esther 1:1). The problem, of course, is that Artaxerxes was a persian. Artaxerxes was the father of a Persian king named Darius, but this was Darius II, who reigned from 425 to 405 BCE. Had Daniel been alive in the first year of this Darius, he would have been at least 160 years old, assuming that he was infant when he was carried to Babylon. Darius I was the father of a king called Xerxes, and this may be the person that Daniel confusedly imagined to be the father of Darius the Mede. A further point of evidence that Darius the Mede was in fact Darius I comes from Daniel 6:1. Here, Darius is said to have set up 120 "princes" (better translated as Satraps) over the kingdom. In fact, as Herodotus points out, it was Darius Hystaspes who instituted the satrapy system.

Among writers maintaining an early date for the Book of Daniel, there are several interpretations of the identity of Darius the Mede. On the difficulty of ascertaining the correct view, H.H. Rowley in Darius the Mede and the Four World Empires in the Book of Daniel states: "[T]he references to Darius the Mede in the book of Daniel have long been recognized as providing the most serious historical problems in the book." His view concludes that Darius is just another name for Cyrus the Great, who captured Babylon on October 15, 539 BCE. Another view, promoted by John Whitcomb (though first proposed by E. Babelon in 1883) in his 1959 book, Darius the Mede says that Darius is another name for the historical figure of Gubaru (sometimes spelled as Ugbaru). The third view (also that of Syncellus) sees Darius as another name for Astyages, the last Mede king who was ultimately deposed by Cyrus. Josephus makes Darius the son of Astyages, and uncle of Cyrus. Several scholars in the past (including Calvin, Ussher and John Gill) as well as in more recent times (e.g. Keil and Delitzsch Vol. 6, p.546-548) have thus attempted to identify 'Darius the Mede' with a certain Cyaxares II, who is mentioned as having the same relationships by Xenophon According to Xenophon, however, Cyaxares has nothing to do with the capture of Babylon.

"Darius the Mede" as Cyrus the Great: Unlike Gubaru or Astyages, Cyrus the Great of Persia was the king who took over the Babylonian Empire. Cyrus was also married to a Mede, and himself had Medean blood. An analysis of variant early texts, particularly the Septuagint, reveals that the names "Darius" (דריוש DRYWS in Hebrew) and "Cyrus" (כורש KWRS) are reversed in 11:1, and may have been miscopied elsewhere. The appellation "Mede" (Heb. מדי MDY) may have been used as an ethnic term to apply to Persians as well, who were of the same race. In addition, Dan. 6:28, "So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian," could also be translated, "So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius, that is, the reign of Cyrus the Persian."

"Darius the Mede" as Gubaru/Ugbaru: Gubaru is the historical general known to have actually led the army that captured Babylon (see Pierre Briant below), according to Nabonidus. It is possible that Cyrus would have rewarded Gubaru with a regional governorship for capturing the capital of the Babylonian Empire and virtually ending the war. Furthermore, under the first translation of Dan. 6:28, Darius ruled during the reign of Cyrus, and Dan. 5:31 states that Darius the Mede "received the kingdom" of the Chaldeans. Complicating this view is the question of whether or not Gubaru and Ugbaru are two different people, or simply a clerical mistake of the same name.

Also, verse 1 of "Bel and the Dragon" (chapter 14 in Greek Daniel) references Astyages the Mede, who was indeed the last king before Cyrus; but nearly the same verse is added in the Greek LXX after the end of chapter 6, only reading "Darius" in place of "Astyages". (LXX Dan. 14:1 and Dan 6:29)

"Darius the Mede" as king of the Medes: Talmudic and midrashic sources describe Darius the Mede as the uncle and father-in-law of Cyrus the Great, to whom Cyrus owed fealty. After Darius's death, Cyrus took the throne. According to Yossipon, the Ahasuerus in the book of Esther was the son of Darius the Mede. The Midrash Tanchuma describes the fall of Babylon as described in Daniel and adds to the narrative Darius taking Vashti, the daughter of Belshazzar, as a wife for his son Ahasuerus.


For many years Belshazzar (Akk. bêl-šar-usur), was an enigma for historians. The book of Daniel states that he was “king” (Ar. מֶלֶך) the night that Babylon fell (chap. 5) and says that his “father” (Ar. אַב) was Nebuchadnezzar (5:2, 11, 13, 18). Prior to 1854, archeologists and historians knew nothing of Belshazzar outside the book of Daniel. Indeed, while the deuterocanonical Book of Baruch (Baruch 1:11, 12) and the writings of Josephus (Antiquities 10.11.2-4 §231-247) do mention Belshazzar, the references to Belshazzar in these works are ultimately dependent on the book of Daniel (Collins, p. 32). Both Xenophon (Cyropaedia, 7.5.28-30) and Herodotus (The Histories, 1.191) recount the fall of Babylon to Cyrus the Great, yet neither of these writers give the name of the king of Babylon. Additionally, both Berossus’ and Ptolemy’s king lists have Nabonidus (Akk. Nabû-nā'id) as the last king of Babylon with no mention of Belshazzar.

From that time new evidence from Babylon has verified the existence of Belshazzar as well as his co-regency during the absence of his father, Nabonidus, in Temâ. For example, In the Nabonidus Cylinder, Nabonidus petitions the god Sin as follows: “And as for Belshazzar my firstborn son, my own child, let the fear of your great divinity be in his heart, and may he commit no sin; may he enjoy happiness in life". In addition, The Verse Account of Nabonidus (British Museum tablet 38299) states, “[Nabonidus] entrusted the army (?) to his oldest son, his first born, the troops in the country he ordered under his command. He let everything go, entrusted the kingship (Akk. šarrûtu) to him, and, himself, he started out for a long journey. The military forces of Akkad marching with him, he turned to Temâ deep in the west” (Col. II, lines 18 - 29. 18). In line with the statement that Nabonidus "entrusted the kingship" to Belshazzar in his absence, there is evidence that Belshazzar's name was used with his father's in oath formulas, that he was able to pass edicts, lease farmlands, and receive the "royal privilege" to eat the food offered to the gods.

The available information concerning Belshazzar's regency goes silent after Nabonidus' fourteenth year. According to the Nabonidus Chronicle, Nabonidus was back from Temâ by his seventeenth year and celebrated the New Year’s Festival (Akk. Akitu). Whether or not Belshazzar continued his regency under his father's authority after his return cannot be demonstrated from the available documents. Some scholars have argued that the non-observance of the Akitu during Nabonidus' absence demonstrates that Belshazzar was not the "king" since it shows that he could not officiate over the festival. However, The Verse Account of Nabonidus says, "Nabonidus said: 'I shall build a temple for him (the Moon god Sin)...till I have achieved this, till I have obtained what is my desire, I shall omit all festivals, I shall order even the New Year's festival to cease!'" Thus, the halting of the Akitu may have been done by the king's command rather an inability on the part of Belshazzar. This stated, the fact that Belshazzar did not disobey his father's command is evidence that Nabonidus remained the official (and actual) king of Babylon.

There is no evidence that Belshazzar ever officially held the title of "king" as he is never called such in the Nabonidus Cylinder. Furthermore, the Aramaic term מלך (mlk, king) applied in Daniel could be used to translate titles of various levels of high ranking officials. (This can be seen in the case of a 9th century BC Akkadian/Aramaic bilinguagal inscription found at Tel Fekheriyeh in 1979 which reads "king" for the Akkadian "governor".) A contract tablet dating to the third year of his regency (550 B.C.E) includes the designation "son of the king." This, of course, is not proof that he possessed any status as the official king of Babylon. The bottom line is that Nabonidus was still alive when Cyrus conquered Babylon, and had not been replaced as the official king of Babylon by Belshazzar. No known extrabiblical text indicates a blood relation between Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar. Historians have objected to this aspect of the record in Daniel. There were several rulers over Babylon between the death of Nebuchadnezzar and the rulership of Nabonidus and Belshazzar. Many scholars have attributed the lack of mention of these rulers as indicating the author mistakenly thought that the two rulerships were consecutive. The Jewish Encyclopedia, holding to a later date of the book (see 'Date'), supposed that "during the long period of oral tradition the unimportant kings of Babylon might easily have been forgotten, and the last king, who was vanquished by Cyrus, would have been taken as the successor of the well-known Nebuchadnezzar." Based on this reasoning, historians have considered the reference to Belshazzar's relationship to Nebuchadnezzar simply an error based on the above misconception.

However, there is another explanation. Belshazzar is never called an independent king in the book of Daniel. In fact, in Daniel 5:7, 16, 29 Belshazzar implies that he is the second ruler in the kingdom, not the sole ruler; and yet, he has sufficient power to make someone the third ruler in the kingdom. Secondly, we should note that co-regencies were not that uncommon in the Ancient Near East. Third, we should also note that, Wilson, in the previous reference, showed that the very word "king" was used in a variety of ways other than that which we use today. The same also applies to the use of the word "son"--it doesn't necessarily mean a biological relationship. (In this case, though, it is a stretch to say that Belshazzar was a "son" of Nebuchadnezzar, since neither he nor his actual father Nabonidus were immediate successors to Nebuchadnezzar.) Finally, we should be aware that Daniel is not writing an official state document for Babylon such as one would expect from the court scribes, although the lack of accurate specificity in the references also tends to be inconsistent with the claim of an early date for Daniel.

Madness of Nebuchadnezzar

A third significant objection by historians is the account of the insanity suffered by Nebuchadnezzar found in the fourth chapter of Daniel. In the Dead Sea Scrolls a fragment known as The Prayer of Nabonidus (4QPrNab, sometimes given as 4QOrNab) discusses a disease suffered by Nabonidus, and there are obvious parallels between the two accounts (1).

There are a number of superficial differences between The Prayer of Nabonidus and the account of Nebuchanezzar's madness:

  1. Nebuchadnezzar's "affliction" was of the mind whereas Nabonidus' was an "evil ulcer."
  2. Nebuchadnezzar's was a punishment from Daniel's God for sin, there is no indication that such was the case for Nabonidus -- his was supposedly for idolatry. (It could be argued, however, that Nebuchadnezzar's "sin" was also a form of idolatry, involving self-idolization, rendering this difference quite superficial.)
  3. In the case of Nabonidus the "exorcist pardoned my sin" whereas in the case of Nebuchadnezzar he "lifted up my eyes unto heaven and mine understanding returned unto me." (KJV)--i.e., when he recognized (accepted) the sovereignty of Daniel's god.
  4. Nabonidus' condition was cured by an unnamed Jewish exorcist whereas Nebuchadnezzar's recovery is not attributed to a human agent.
  5. Nebuchadnezzar's illness came while he was in Babylon; while that of Nabonidus was in Tema, although it does state in Daniel 4:33 that Nebuchadnezzar was "driven away from mankind." (NASB)
  6. Finally, some of the words and phrases of the prayer have to be inferred from the context because they are missing in the original fragment. [Archer, Gleason L. "Daniel," Expositor's. Vol. 7 (Zondervan, 1985): 15; he cites Harrison, R. K. Introduction to the Old Testament. (Tyndale, 1969): 1118-9]

Date of Nebuchadnezzar's first siege of Jerusalem

The Book of Daniel begins by stating:

In the third year of the reign of Jehoi'akim king of Judah came Nebuchadnez'zar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoi'akim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god. (King James Version)

This appears to be a description of the first siege of Jerusalem in 597 BC, which occurred in the twelfth year of Jehoiakim and into the reign of his son Jehoiachin. (see (), and ()). The third year of Jehoiakim (606 BC), saw Nebuchadnezzar not yet King of Babylon, and the Egyptians still dominant in the region. In Jeremiah 36:9, we find Jehoiakim in Jerusalem in his fifth year, two years after the time that Daniel claims he was carried away to Babylon. The Babylonian records indicate that Nebuchadnezzar made Judah a vassal state in about 603 BCE, when Jehioakim was still king, but do not record a capture of Jerusalem at that time.

Advocates of an early date of Daniel generally explain this by positing an additional, otherwise unmentioned, siege of Jerusalem in 605 BC, shortly after securing the throne in Babylon with the death of his father, Nabonidus. Nebuchadnezzar first defeated the Egyptians under Pharaoh Necho in Battle of Carchemish, then traveled south, where King Jehoiakim surrendered. This resulted in the first exile of Israelites to Babylon in 605 B.C., which included Daniel. Judah continued as Babylon's subordinate while Nebuchadnezzar attacked Egypt itself. In 601 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar returned home, and Jehoiakim changed his allegiance to Egypt, resulting in the second (and bigger) exile in 598 B.C. when Nebuchadnezzar sent an army to conquer Judah once and for all.

Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah

Dan. 1:6-7 records that Daniel was accompanied in the courts by three other Jews: Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. The chief officials gave them new Babylonian names: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, respectively. In Dan. 3:8-23, these same three persons refuse to perform an act of worship before an image of Nebuchadnezzar, which results in their subjection to the death penalty by burning. However, according to Dan. 3:24-30, God delivers them from the fiery furnace.

Professor William Shea (1982) refers to a clay prism that was found in Babylon with five columns of text listing various officials of the government. Three of the officials are listed as "Mushallim-Marduk, [one of] the overseers (lit.:heads) of the slave-girls", "Ardi-Nabu, the sipiru-official of the crown prince", and "Hanunu - chief of the royal merchants," and Dan. 2:49 states, "Moreover, at Daniel's request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court." Some conservative Christian writers have therefore connected Hanunu with Hananiah, Mushallim-Marduk with Meshach, and Ardi-Nabu with Abednego; however, it is unclear why Hananiah would be referenced by his Hebrew name (Oppenheim (see citation) posits that "Hanunu" is "Phoenician" rather than Hebrew) and not his Babylonian one, Shadrach. There is no other evidence to connect these figures with the ones mentioned in the Book of Daniel.

Four Persian Kings

In Daniel 11:2-4, the angel Gabriel informs the prophet that there will be four Persian kings before the coming of Alexander the Great.
And now will I shew thee the truth. Behold, there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than they all: and by his strength through his riches he shall stir up all against the realm of Grecia. And a mighty king(Alexander the Great) shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will. And when he shall stand up, his kingdom shall be broken, and shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven.

Since the author of Daniel supposedly wrote during the reign of Cyrus (Daniel 10:1), this would then make him the first Persian king of Daniel 11:2. Cyrus defeated Babylon in 536 BCE. Alexander took the kingdom from the last Persian king in 333 BCE. This gives us 203 years for the Persian reign. Split among four kings, we get an average of about 51 years each, which is somewhat excessive.

The truth of the matter is that there were nine Persian kings from Cyrus to Alexander. They are:

The author of Daniel may have been misled by the fact that the Old Testament only mentions four of the nine Persian kings - Cyrus (Ezra 1:1), Darius I (Ezra 4:5), Xerxes I (Ahasuerus - Ezra 4:6) and Artaxerxes I (Ezra 4:7).

Dating and content

Traditionally, the Book of Daniel was believed to have been written by its namesake during and shortly after the Babylonian captivity in the sixth century BC. Although this view continues to be held by traditionalist Christians and conservative Jews, it has been rejected by the bulk of the scholarly community since the end of the nineteenth century. While a small number of conservative commentators continue to cling to a sixth century date, "for mainline scholarship... these issues were decided at least a century ago". Even leading evangelical scholars have recently adopted this position, while in the Roman Catholic community it has been the norm since World War II. Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated and looted the Jerusalem Temple around 167 BC, outlawed the Jewish religion, massacred observant Jews and precipitated a national crisis that is commemorated to this day in the Feast of Hanukkah (which recalls the rededication of the temple). The Book of Daniel (in its final form) was written, according to the scholarly view, in response to that crisis. Even when the fourth kingdom of chapters two and seven began to be reapplied to Rome in pre-Christian and early Christian times the memory of Antiochus was still vivid. This is evidenced by the fact that leading Jewish and patristic commentators such as Josephus, Hippolytus, and Jerome continued to apply sections of Daniel (especially chapter 8) to the activities of Antiochus.

Traditionalists, attempting to establish an earlier date for the Book of Daniel, occasionally make reference to Josephus, who states that upon Alexander the Great's approach, a small party met him outside of Jerusalem, telling him that his presence was ordained by scripture. However, Josephus wrote about 400 years after the event in question, and cannot be justifiably considered as a reliable source in this matter. Additionally, some point to the Dead Sea scrolls found at Qumran dating from the 2nd century BC. These scrolls include several manuscript fragments and three substantial manuscripts of Daniel dating from the late 2nd-cent BC to the first century AD. The premise is that there must have been much time between the original writing and the copying of the manuscripts found at Qumran, since it would have taken time for the book to have gained acceptance and be made available for copying. However, the relatively large number of copies at Qumran can be explained as due to the current (at the time) popularity of this recently "published" book. Finally, and of considerable significance, is the fact that the Book of Daniel was never grouped with the Hebrew Nevi'im (the Prophets) but has always belonged to the Ketuvim (the writings). If the author had been accepted to be a sixth century Jew of the Exile his work would have pre-dated Ezra and Nehemiah and would certainly have been considered authoritative enough to group it with the other prophets.

Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Critical scholars have asserted that the prophecies in the Book of Daniel reflect the persecutions of the Jews by Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175–164 BC), and his desecration of the altar in the temple at Jerusalem, and consequently they date its composition to that period. In particular, the vision in Chapter 11, which focuses on a series of wars between the "King of the North" and the "King of the South," is generally interpreted as a record of Levantine history from the time of Alexander the Great down to the era of Antiochus IV, with the "Kings of the North" being the Seleucid kings of Syria and the "Kings of the South" being the Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt.

This conclusion regarding the date of composition was first drawn by the philosopher Porphyry of Tyros, a third century pagan and Neoplatonist, whose fifteen-volume work Against the Christians is only known to us through Jerome's reply. The identification of Antiochus Epiphanes in Daniel, however, is a much olderinterpretation which seems to be reflected, for example, in 1 Maccabees 1:54 (c100 BC), where an idol set up upon the altar of burnt offering under Antiochus is referred to as an "abomination of desolation" (cf Daniel 9:27, 11:31). This identification is made explicit in Josephus' exposition of Daniel chapter eight (Antiquities 10:11, c94 AD) where he almost certainly cites a common Jewish interpretative tradition by identifying the "little horn" as Antiochus. According to British historian Bryan Rennie, the conclusion that the Book of Daniel was written at the time of the profanation of the Temple by Antiochus IV would explain why the author is not very precise about sixth century events, why he is so precise about the time of Antiochus, and why he was never counted among the prophets.

Four Kingdoms

Many biblical scholars have concluded that the four kingdoms beginning with Nebuchadnezzar, mentioned in the "statue vision" of chapter 2, are identical to the four "end-time" kingdoms of the vision in chapter 7, and usually consider them to represent (1) Babylonia, (2) Media, (3) Persia, and (4) Macedonia. Some conservative Christians (eg. Young) believe that they should be identified as (1) the Neo-Babylonian empire, (2) the Medo-Persian empire (3) the Macedonian empire of Alexander and his successors, and (4) the Roman empire. Others (eg. Stuart, Lagrange) have advocated the following schema: (1) the Neo-Babylonian, (2) the Medo-Persian, (3) the short-lived rule of Alexander, and (4) the rival Diadochi, viz. Egypt and Syria.

There are serious difficulties in assigning Media and Persia to different world empires. Daniel, in his first reference to the empire that succeeds Babyon, calls it the "Medes and the Persians" (Daniel 5:28: "Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians." Daniel also quotes the king and the subordinate rulers calling their own kingdom the "Medes and Persians" (Daniel 6:8, 12, 15, see also Daniel 8:20), while Cyrus was married to a Mede and himself had Mede blood, making the Medes and Persians merged kingdoms by marriage at the time of the conquest of Babylon. As noted previously, however, a late author's apparent reliance on Jeremiah may explain this(Dan 9:2, Jer 51:11).


Scholars have speculated about the bilingual literary structure of Daniel - Chapters 2 through 7 in Aramaic, the rest in Hebrew. One of the most frequent speculations is that the entire book (excepting 9:4-20) was originally written in Aramaic, with portions translated into Hebrew, possibly to increase acceptance - many Aramaisms in the Hebrew text find proposed explanation by the hypothesis of an inexact initial translation into Hebrew.

According to John Collins in his 1993 commentary, Daniel, Hermeneia Commentary, the Aramaic in Daniel is of a later form than that used in the Samaria correspondence, but slightly earlier than the form used in the Dead Sea Scrolls, meaning that the Aramaic chapters 2-6 may have been written earlier in the Hellenistic period than the rest of the book, with the vision in chapter 7 being the only Aramaic portion dating to the time of Antiochus. The Hebrew portion is, for all intents and purposes, identical to that found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, suggesting a second century BC date for the Hebrew chapters 1 and 8-12.

Contrary to the above, the Expositor's Bible Commentary (Zondervan, 1990) claims that the language of Daniel, in comparison with the Hebrew and Aramaic texts of the Hellenistic period, "prove quite conclusively to any scholar that the second-century date and Palestinian provenance of the Book of Daniel cannot be upheld any longer without violence being done to the science of linguistics". It adds that the serious mistakes of the Septuagint to render many Persian and Accadian terms, as the offices mentioned in Daniel 3:3, proves ignorance of words of the old past, already forgotten in the Hellenistic period, indicating that the Book of Daniel was written in the late 6th century B.C.E.

E.C.Lucas, Daniel, Apollos OT Commentary (Apollos, 2002) pp 307f is more cautious in his assessment of linguistic arguments as well. Evaluating Collin’s approach he considers "the wide geographical spread from which the material comes and the implicit assumption that linguistic developments would have occurred uniformly throughout this area" a weakness and concludes, "The character of the Hebrew and Aramaic could support a date in the fifth or fourth century for the extant written form of the book, but does not demand a second-century date." He agrees with Collins that there are "clear differences" between Qumran Hebrew and the Hebrew of Daniel (p. 307).

Loan words

Three Greek words used within the text have long been considered evidence for a late dating of Daniel. All three are terms for musical instruments. The existence of the Greek word symphonia was cited by Rowlings as having its earliest use in second century BC, but it has subsequently been shown that Pythagoras used the term to denote an instrument, while its use to refer to a group performing together is found in the 'Hymni Homerica, ad Mercurium 51'; both instances date from the sixth century BC, the supposed setting of Daniel.

It is known that "Greek mercenaries and slaves served in the Babylonian and Assyrian periods, some of whom were undoubtedly versed in Greek music and musical instruments." It has been speculated that this would explain the existence of the three Greek musical terms in Daniel's book. On the other hand, it has been claimed that the non-existence of other Greek words is a strong witness against the theory of the writing of the book in the Hellenistic period, since "it is inconceivable that Greek terms for government and administration would not have been adopted into Aramaic by the second century B.C.

There are also nineteen Persian loan-words in the book, most of them having to do with governmental positions.

Use of the word 'Chaldeans'

The book of Daniel uses the term "Chaldean" to refer both to an ethnic group, and to astrologers in general. According to Montgomery and Hammer, Daniel's use of the word 'Chaldean' to refer to astrologers in general is an anachronism, as during the Neo-Babylonian and early Persian periods (when Daniel is said to have lived), it referred only to an ethnicity. (Compare the later Chaldean Oracles).

Unity of Daniel

Whereas many scholars conclude a second century dating of the book in its final form, scholarship varies greatly regarding the unity of Daniel. Many scholars, finding portions of the book dealing with themes they do not believe fit with the time of Antiochus, conclude separate authors for different portions of the book. Included in this group are Barton, L. Berthold, Collins, and H. L. Ginsberg. Some historians who support that the book was a unified whole include J.A. Montgomery, S.R. Driver, R. H. Pfeiffer, and H.H. Rowley in the latter's aptly titled essay "The Unity of the Book of Daniel" (1952). Those who hold to a unified Daniel claim that their opponents fail to find any consensus in their various theories of where divisions exist. Montgomery is particularly harsh to his colleagues, stating that the proliferation of theories without agreement showed a "bankruptcy of criticism." They also charge that composite theories fail to account for the consistent thematic portrayal of Daniel's life throughout the book of Daniel.

Christian uses of Daniel

As mentioned above, the prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Children from the deuterocanonical parts of Daniel are widely used in Orthodox and Catholic prayer.

The various episodes in the first half of the book are used by Christians as moral stories, and are often believed to foreshadow events in the gospels.

The apocalyptic section is important to Christians for the image of the "Son of Man" (Dan. 7:13). According to the gospels, Jesus used this title as his preferred name for himself. The connection with Daniel's vision (as opposed to the usage in the Book of Ezekiel) is made explicit in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark (Matt 26:64; Mk 14:62). Christians see this as a direct claim by Jesus that he is the Messiah.

Traditional Christians have embraced the prophecies of Daniel, as they believe they were clearly advised by their Messiah, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, to be watchful for their fulfillment in the "End Times" of this world. In the Olivet discourse Jesus himself is quoted as applying Daniel's prophecy of a desolating sacrilege set up in the temple (Dan.9:27,11:31) to a future event — the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem . This would involve the levelling of the temple, flight from Judea, and would happen in Jesus' own generation (Mark 13: 2-4,14,30). Many Christians today re-apply this prediction to a final tribulation immediately preceding Judgement Day. Some consider the Prophecy of Seventy Weeks to be particularly compelling due to what they interpret to be prophetic accuracy.

According to some modern-day scholars, Daniel 12:2 is the earliest clear reference in the Old Testament to the resurrection of the dead (Hartman and Di Lella, 1990, p. 419), with many of "your countrymen" awakening from death, some to eternal life and some to eternal disgrace. The notion of resurrection was to be elaborated in the New Testament and Christian doctrine.

The importance of Daniel's visions

Daniel's alleged presence in the royal court would have exposed him to the running of an empire. His knowledge, as in the case of other prophets served as the basis for his revelations. Daniel's importance is that of introducing the age of the gentiles, the framework for events from then to the last days. Due to its apocalyptic character and its place in both the Jewish and Christian canons, the book of Daniel has had great influence in Jewish and Christian history.

Daniel was considered a prophet at Qumran (4Q174 [4QFlorilegium]) and later by Josephus (Antiquity of the Jews 10.11.7 §266) and the author (the "Pseudo-Philo") of Liber antiquitatum biblicarum (L.A.B. ["Book of Biblical antiquities"] 4.6, 8), and was grouped among the prophets in the Septuagint, the Jewish Greek Old Testament, and by Christians, who place the book among the prophets. However, Daniel was never grouped with the prophets, the Nevi'im, in the Hebrew Bible(or Tanakh), but has always belonged to the section known as the Ketuvim (Hagiographa, or the "Writings").

The Jewish exegete Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon, sometimes called simply RaMBaM and later called Maimonides, was so concerned that the "untutored populace would be led astray" if they attempted to calculate the timing of the Messiah that it was decreed that "Cursed be those who predict the end times." This curse can be both found in his letter Igeret Teiman and in his booklet The Statutes and Wars of the Messiah-King.

Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel lamented that the times for the fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel "were over long ago" (Sanhedrin 98b, 97a).

Many Orthodox Jews believe that the prophecy refers to the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 AD. Secular scholars and some Evangelical scholars however, believe that the prophecy better fits the reign of Antiochus, and that it is an example of vaticinium ex eventu (prophecy after the fact).

Medieval study of angels was also affected by this book, as it is the only Old Testament source for the names of any of the angels, Gabriel and Michael (Dan 9:21; 12:1). The only other angel given a name is Raphael, mentioned in the deuterocanonical Book of Tobit.

Traditional tomb sites of Daniel

A tomb said to be the last resting place of the prophet Daniel is located in the Kirkuk Citadel in the city of Kirkuk in Iraq. There is a mosque built on the tomb, the mosque has arches and pillars and two domes on a decorated base and beside it there are three minarets belonging to the end of the Mongolian reign. The mosque is about 400 square meters, it has four illusions tombs of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. Another tomb in Shush, Iran, is also claimed to be that of Daniel and is venerated by local Shi'as and Persian Jews alike. Yet a third site in Uzbekistan is claimed to be Daniel's resting place. Ironically, Daniel is not listed as one of the prophets in the Quran- Islam's holy book. There is no general recognition among Muslims that indeed Daniel was a prophet at all, although the possibility exists.

See also



  • Ernest C. Lucas, Daniel, 2002. ISBN 0-85111-780-5.
  • John J. Collins, Daniel: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel, 1993. ISBN 0-8006-6040-4.
  • E. J. Bickerman, Four Strange Books of the Bible, 1967. ISBN 0-8052-0774-0.
  • Robert Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus, 1997. ISBN 0-14-025773-X.
  • Pierre Briant, From Cyrus to Alexander. Librairie Artheme Fayard (Paris), 1996. (Translation by Peter Daniels, 2002) p. 42.
  • Louis F. Hartman and Alexander A. Di Lella, "Daniel," in Raymond E. Brown et al., ed., The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, 1990, pp. 406-20.
  • W. Sibley Towner, "Daniel," in The Oxford Companion to the Bible, 1993, pp. 149-52.
  • John F. Walvoord, Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation, 1989. ISBN 0-8024-1753-1.
  • D.J. Wiseman, T.C. Mitchell & R. Joyce, W.J. Martin & K.A. Kitchen, Notes on Some Problems in the Book of Daniel. London: The Tyndale Press, 1965.
  • Easton's Bible dictionary

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