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Book of Daniel
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Book of Daniel

Books of Ketuvim
Song of Solomon
[ [ edit] ]
The book of Daniel, revolving around the Jewish prophet Daniel, is a book of the Tanakh, in the section known as the Ketuvim (Hagiographa), the Christian Old Testament. Though Christians consider Daniel a prophet, his book is not included by the Jews in the section of the prophets, the Nebiim. The book has arisen from two separate sources, edited in the 3rd century B.C. and augmented in the 2nd century B.C. (see "Date" below), and now consists of two distinct parts, a series of narratives and three apocalyptic prophecies.

Table of contents
1 Narratives in Daniel
2 Apocalyptic prophecy in Daniel
3 Date
4 External links
5 Reference

Narratives in Daniel

The first part, consisting of the first six chapters, comprises a series of lightly connected instructive narratives, or miracle tales, which would be parables save for their miraculous content. The first narrative is written in Hebrew, ch. 2:4 and the remainder, beginning with the speech of the "Chaldeans," is all in Aramaic:
  1. Daniel refuses to eat meat at court
  2. Nebuchadnezzar dreams of an idol of four metals with feet of clay, which Daniel interprets as the four great monarchies (compare Fifth Monarchy
  3. Ananias, Azariah, and Mishael refuse to bow to the golden idol and are thrown into the Fiery Furnace; God prevents their death
  4. Nebuchadnezzar dreams of a tall tree
  5. Belshazzar's Feast, where Daniel interprets the writing mene mene tekel upharsin
  6. Daniel in the lions' den
  7. Susanna and the elders (apocryphal to Protestants)
  8. Bel and the Dragon (apocryphal to Protestants)

Protestant editions, as well as omitting the two chapters that contain an account of Daniel and Susanna and of Bel and the Dragon, omit as well a lengthy addition to Daniel 3, which 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, as well as the hymn of praise they sang when they realized they were delivered. These sections are retained in the Septuagint and in the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic canon; the "Song of the Three Holy Youths" is part of the Matins service in Orthodoxy.

The narratives are set in the period of the Captivity, first at the court of Nebuchadnezzar and later at the court of his successor Darius. 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)."

Daniel appears as an interpreter of dreams in these narratives, though not as a prophet.

Modern secular historians of Babylonia or Achaemenid Persia do not adduce the narratives of Daniel as source materials. As the editors of the Jewish Encyclopedia (1901-1906) put it, "they contain many details that can not be harmonized with the data furnished in other historical sources." and 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." However, the historicity of the texts of Daniel have never been disputed within the traditionalist Christian tradition. For these narratives as literal history, its supporters claim the following:

  1. We have the testimony of Jesus Christ (Matt. 24:15; 25:31; 26:64) and his apostles (1 Cor. 6:2; 2 Thess. 2:3) for its authority; and
  2. the testimony of Ezekiel (14:14, 20; 28:3).
  3. The character and records of the book are also entirely in harmony with the times and circumstances in which the author lived.
  4. The linguistic character of the book is, moreover, quite similar to what might be expected.
  5. Certain portions (Dan. 2:4; 7) are written in the Chaldee language; and the portions written in Hebrew are in a style and form having a close affinity with the later books of the Old Testament, especially with that of Ezra. The writer is familiar both with the Hebrew and the Chaldee, passing from the one to the other just as his subject required. This is in strict accordance with the position of the author and of the people for whom his book was written. That Daniel is the writer of this book is also testified to in the book itself (7:1, 28; 8:2; 9:2; 10:1, 2; 12:4, 5).

Apocalyptic prophecy in Daniel

The second part, the remaining six chapters, is prophetical, an early example of
apocalyptic literature, in which the author, now speaking in the first person, reveals a vision vouchsafed to him alone. The historical setting of the first chapters does not appear. It too consists of text from two sources, part (to vii. 28) written in Hebrew, part in Aramaic. The prophetical part of Daniel consists of three visions and one lengthened prophetical 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 produces ten kings, and then a special, eleventh person arises out of the fourth kingdom that 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); Daniel interprets the goat as the "kingdom of Yawan" that is, the Hellenistic kingdom (8:21)
  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)
  4. A lengthy vision in the third year of Cyrus king of Persia (10:1 - 12:13)


Dating of the edited version of Daniel that we have is based on elements within the text, rather than on the historical dates of the royal personages that figure in the narratives. The later version of the royal name, which is "Nebuchadrezzar" in Jeremiah and Ezekiel, has its later form, "Nebuchadnezzar." His music is played on instruments with Greek, not Hebrew names (and give the first instance of
symphonia by the way).

Most interpreters find that references in the Book of Daniel reflect the persecutions of Israel by the Seleucid king Antiochus Epiphanes (175 - 164 BC)

This entry incorporates text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897, with some modernization.

External links


E. J. Bickerman, Four Strange Books of the Bible, 1967 A standard analysis.