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DANIEL

■M5TSS1TO THE WISE


F
OR centuries, even millennia, the book of Daniel has been a source of
courage and hope for believers. Even skeptics have been impressed by
how the prophecies in Daniel have been fulfilled with astonishing precisión.
Yet the powerful message of this book has often been obscured by biased
and
subjective approaches. Now you can explore the complete book of Daniel,
verse by verse.

Dr. Zdravko Stefanovic lets the Bible explain itself. This is the only way the
book of Daniel can be clearly understood. Its life-changing message will
leave you not just astonished but completely transformed by an awesome
God who speaks even today through the book of Daniel.

Here's what other Adventist theologians are saying about


Daniel: Wisdom to the Wise
A wonderfully rich resource for the study of the book of Daniel. The author is faithful to his Adventist heritage while entering into
gracious dialogue with interpreters who do not share his views. We owe him a real debt of gratitude for opening up fresh
perspectives while preserving the historie Adventist understanding of the book that gave birth to the Advent movement.
—Dr.Alden Thompson, professor of biblical studies, Walla Walla University

From his extensive knowledge of the Babylonian background of Daniel and his in-depth study of its original language, Professor
Stefanovic has selected the very best of the interpretations offered for its various historical and prophetic narratives. Any reader
can profit from the wealth of detail offered here. —Dr. William H. Shea, professor emeritus, Andrews University

Zdravko Stefanovic's commentary is in many ways the most ambitious treatment of Daniel by an Adventist author. It contains a
wealth of information and is must reading for those seeking a fuller understanding of this important biblical book.
—Dr. George R. Knight, professor emeritus, Andrews University
Stefanovic's study argües for a cleardistinction between biblical statements confirming"fulfillment"of prophecy and mere cases of
possible "applications" of prophecy as proposed by different interpreters. .. . It is a work charged with strong spiritual appeal,
certain to influence the intellectual and moral character of the next generation of students of one of the Bible's most riveting and
pertinent books of prophecy. —Dr. Lael Caesar, professor of religión, Andrews University

Dr. Zdravko Stefanovic teaches Oíd Testament languages (Hebrew and Aramaic)
and biblical studies at Walla Walla University. He also volunteers as an adjunct professor
in the Philippines and Europe. He has taught and held seminars on the book of Daniel in
Asia, Euro.pe, and North America. Zdravko is married to Bozana, who teaches mathematics
at Walla Walla University. They have two sons, Jonathan and David.

BIBLICAL STUDIES/PROPHECY ISBN 13: 978-0-8163-2212-1


US$34.99 ISBN 10:0-8163-2212-0
Commentary
on the book
of Daniel

ZDRAVKO STEFANOVIC


PACIFIC PRESS® PUBLISHING ASSOCIATION
NAMPA, IDAHO
OSHAWA, ONTARIO, CANADA
WWW.PACIFICPRESS.COM
Copyright 2007 by
Pacific Press® Publishing Association
Printed in the United States of America
All rights reserved

Cover design by Gerald Lee Monks


Background texture resources from Kwan Choi, Iowa State University
Daniel illustration by John Steel
Inside design by Steve Lanto

The author is responsible for the accuracy of the transliterations and translations from
Hebrew and Aramaic and of the quotations from and bibliographical data of the
modern authors.

Quotations from the book of Daniel that are the author's own translation are shown in
bold italic text. All other biblical quotations are from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW
INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International
Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Stefanovic, Zdravko.
Daniel: wisdom to the wise : commentary on the book of Daniel / Zdravko Stefanovic.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN 13: 978-0-8163-2212-1
ISBN 10: 0-8163-2212-0
1. Bible. O.T. Daniel—Commentaries. I. Title.

BS1555.53.S74 2007
224'. 5 077—dc 2007060077

Additional copies of this book may be obtained by calling toll-free 1-800-765-6955 or


by visiting http://www.adventistbookcenter.com.

07 08 09 10 1 1-54321
To Bozana, my faithful and loving spouse!
Then Daniel praised the God of heaven and said:

"Let the name of God be praised for ever and ever;


wisdom and power belong to him.
He changes times and seasons;
he sets up kings and removes them.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.
He reveals deep and hidden things; he
knows what lies in darkness, and
light dwells with him.
I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers:
You have given me wisdom and power,
you have made known to me what we asked of you,
you have made known to us the dream of the king."

Daniel 2:19-23, the author's translation


CONTENTS

Foreword........................................................................................................... 9
Preface ............................................................................................................. 11
Introduction.................................................................................................... 14
Daniel's Life and Career. ............................................................................................... 16
Daniel as a Biblical Prophet .......................................................................................... 19
Kingdoms of Babylon and Medo-Persia..................................................................... 22
Religion in Babylon ........................................................................................................ 25
Literary Features of Daniel's Book .............................................................................. 26
The Purpose and Message of the Book ...................................................................... 29
Approaches to Daniel's Book ....................................................................................... 31
Greek Additions to Daniel's Book............................................................................... 34
Daniel at Qumran ........................................................................................................... 35
Influence of Daniel on the New Testament .............................................................. 36

The Opening Chapter (1:1-21) ........................................................................ 43


Defeat (1:1, 2) .................................................................................................................. 45
Training (1:3-5) ............................................................................................................... 51
Resistance (1:6-16) .......................................................................................................... 55
Triumph (1:17-21) .......................................................................................................... 66
Summary of the Teaching. ............................................................................................ 71

General Overview of Daniel 2-6...................................................................... 76


Literary Type of the Stories .......................................................................................... 76
Historical Aspect of the Stories.................................................................................... 76
Setting and Purpose of the Stories ............................................................................... 77

5
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

King Nebuchadnezzar's First Dream (2:1-49)................................................ 80


The King's Anger (2:1-13) ............................................................................................. 81
Daniel's Requests (2:14-23) ........................................................................................... 89
Daniel Tells the Dream (2:24-35) ................................................................................. 95
Meaning of the Dream (2:36-45) ................................................................................ 102
The King's Gratitude (2:46-49)................................................................................... 109
Historical Application .................................................................................................. 113
Summary of the Teaching ........................................................................................... 115

The Golden Statue (3:1-30) ............................................................................ 119


The King's Pride (3:1-7)............................................................................................... 121
The FaithfUl Accused (3:8-12) ................................................................................... 128
The Faithful Tested (3:13-27) ..................................................................................... 131
The King's Praise (3:28-30) ......................................................................................... 141
Summary of the Teaching ........................................................................................... 144

Nebuchadnezzar’s Second Dream (4:1-37) ................................................... 148


The King's Praise (4:1-3) ............................................................................................. 150
The Dream (4:4-18) ...................................................................................................... 152
The Interpretation (4:19-27) ....................................................................................... 161
The Fulfillment of the Dream (4:28-33) ................................................................... 166
The King's Praise (4:34-37) ......................................................................................... 170
Summary of the Teaching ........................................................................................... 173

Belshazzar’s Banquet (5:1-31) ........................................................................ 177


The King's Feast (5:1-4)............................................................................................... 178
The Writing on the Wall and the Queen's Speech (5:5-12).................................... 184
Bel(te)shazzar Meets Belshazzar (5:13-17)................................................................ 189
Daniel's Speech and the Meaning of theWriting (5:18-28) .................................... 192
The King's Death (5:29-31) ......................................................................................... 199
Summary of the Teaching ........................................................................................... 203

Daniel in the Lions’ Den (6:1-28) ................................................................. 207


The Best Satrap and a Deadly Decree (6:1-9)...................................................... 208
Arrest and Sentence (6:10-18) ..................................................................................... 215

6
CONTENTS

Deliverance (6:19-22) ................................................................................................... 222


Release and Doom (6:23, 24) ...................................................................................... 225
A Saving Decree and the Best Satrap (6:25-28) ....................................................... 227
Summary of the Teaching ........................................................................................... 230

General Overview of Daniel 7-12 ..................................................................... 234


Definition and Types of Biblical Prophecy. ............................................................. 234
Prophecy and History. ................................................................................................. 236
Prediction, Fulfillment, and Applications ................................................................. 237
Applications of Daniel's Prophecies .......................................................................... 239
The Little Horn in History. ......................................................................................... 242
A Synopsis of Prophetic Symbols in Daniel............................................................. 243

Four Beasts and Two Heavenly Beings (7:1-28) ............................................. 245


Four Beasts and a Horn (7:1-8) .................................................................................. 247
God's Judgment (7:9-14) ............................................................................................. 260
Daniel's Reaction (7:15-22) ......................................................................................... 270
Interpretation (7:23-28)................................................................................................ 273
Applications ................................................................................................................... 278
Appendix A: Literalist and Intertestamental Applications of Daniel 7 ... 286

The Vision of a Ram and a Goat (8:1-27) ........................................................ 293


Clash Between East and West (8:1-8)........................................................................ 295
The Little Horn (8:9-12) .............................................................................................. 300
Audition (8:13, 14) ........................................................................................................ 308
Daniel's Reaction (8:15-18) ......................................................................................... 312
Interpretation (8:19-27)................................................................................................ 315
Applications ................................................................................................................... 320
Appendix B: Literalist and Intertestamental Applications of Daniel 8.... 327

Daniel’s Long Prayer Answered (9:1-27) ......................................................... 334


The Confession (9:1-14) .............................................................................................. 336
The Petition (9:15-19) .................................................................................................. 346
The Answer (9:20-23)................................................................................................... 350
The Revelation (9:24-27) ............................................................................................. 353

7
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

Applications ................................................................................................................... 363


Appendix C: The Chiastic Structure of Daniel 9:25-27.......................................... 368
Appendix D: Literalist and Intertestamental Applications of Daniel 9... 369

Daniel’s Vision by the River (10:1-11:1) _____________________________ 376


The Preparation (10:1-4) ............................................................................................. 378
The Vision of a Divine Being (10:5-9) ______________________________ 382
Daniel's Reaction to the Vision (10:10-19) ___________________________ 384
Summary of a Long Conflict (10:20-11:1) ................................................................ 390
Summary of the Teaching ........................................................................................... 393

The Revelation About a Long War (11:2-45) _________________________ 395


Conflicts Between East and West (11:2-4) ............................................................... 397
Conflicts Between North and South (11:5-20) ........................................................ 399
Political Activities of the Contemptible Person (11:21-30) ................................... 405
Religious Activities of the Contemptible Person (11:31-39) ................................. 408
Conflicts at the Time of the End (11:40-45) _________________________ 413
Applications ................................................................................................................... 416
Appendix E: Structural Parallels Between Daniel 8 and Daniel 11 ...................... 423
Appendix F: Literalist and Intertestamental Applications of Daniel 11 .............. 424

The Concluding Chapter (12:1-13) _________________________________ 433


The Rise of Michael (12:1-4)....................................................................................... 434
Waiting for the End (12:5-12) ____________________________________ 442
The Rise of Daniel (12:13) _______________________________________ 449
Applications _________________________________________________ 450
Appendix G: Literalist and Intertestamental Applications of Daniel 12.... 453

Bibliography and Index ................................................................................ 457


Selected Bibliography. .................................................................................................. 457
Index of Scripture References ____________________________________ 462

8
FOREWORD

restling with the meaning and interpretation of Daniel is a time- honored


Adventist tradition that is fading out in many parts of the church. This fresh new
commentary by Dr. Stefanovic has the distinct po- tential to help revive that great
tradition. The exposition demonstrates clear awareness of traditional
interpretations, but the author is not afraid to take a new look at where the text may
lead. The commentary is both broad and deep and will appeal to both the casual
reader and the serious student, the curious first-time examiner of Daniel and the
long-time prophecy scholar. It begs to be discussed, reflected on, and pondered.
There are at least two reasons this commentary is a must read. First, the author is
uniquely qualified for his task. As a preacher, college teacher, semi- nary professor,
and missionary, he has dealt effectively with a wide spec- trum of audiences. From
first-hand experience, I know he can captivate both college freshmen and older lay
people as well as those in between. His wide cross-cultural experience as a
missionary enables him to be sensitive to both a book set in an international context
as well as a global church. Stefanovic has published work on this apocalyptic book
in both popular maga- zines and scholarly journals as well.
Second, this volume takes a broader look at Daniel than any previous Adventist
commentary. Depending on how one counts, there are at least five ways each part
of the book is examined. First, the author deals with the broad meaning of the entire
book and its major sections. Second, he provides his own unique translation from
the original languages. Third, he provides textual notes that look specifically at
words and phrases and eluci- date the text. Fourth, he grapples with the meaning of
the various sections

9
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

for their original readers. Fifth, he attempts to apply the message to the
contemporary world. All this means that the reader will be led to see Daniel in a
broader context than just that of a repository of several major apocalyp- tic visions.
This multifaceted approach opens up new vistas for the careful reader.
You may not agree with everything that Stefanovic says. If you wish, you may
question and argue with what is taught. But don't ignore Daniel or this book. You
can be sure that what is written has been carefully pondered and prayed over. You
will know that the author loves God's Word and wants all to understand and be
moved by it. Following Dr. Stefanovic through the story will kindle a new
appreciation for the Bible and the book of Daniel. Be careful—you may even catch
a passion for discussing Daniel that is incurable!

Jon Dybdahl

10
PREFACE

hile reading the Bible as a child, brother Ranko's exhaustive study of the book
I was fascinated by the stories of Revelation, titled Revelation of Jesus Christ.1)
in Daniel's book as well as its graphic The approach taken in this book can be
visionary scenes. At that stage of life, described as biblical expository or exegetical,
prayer and imagination were the only while the method of study is both textual and
tools I had for interpretation. To these thematic. The com- mentary is organized in
were later added serious academic stud- the following way: A general introduction to
ies and the unique privilege of teaching the per- son and the book of Daniel is immedi-
this biblical book to both undergraduate ately followed by an introduction and
and graduate students in a dozen coun- exposition of Daniel 1, the chapter containing
tries on several continents over a period a summary of the whole book's message. Next,
of some twenty years. Academic study there is a general overview of Daniel 2-6 and
has not diminished my fascination with then intro- ductions to these chapters, each of
Daniel's life, witness, and book. On the which is followed by the author's trans- lation
contrary, my appreciation of God and from the original Hebrew and Aramaic in
of the messages from Daniel's writings consultation with the New International
has constantly been growing. Version of the Bible, the New American
Daniel: Wisdom to the Wise is a chapter- Standard Bible, and the Revised Standard
by-chapter and verse-by-verse commen- tary Version. (I have taken quotations from biblical
intended to be used by readers and students books other than Daniel from the New
of the Bible. I hope that it will prove useful Interna- tional Version.) Detailed notes
for personal study of Daniel's book. It can examine
also be used as a text- book in colleges and
seminaries. (It comprises a companion
volume to my

11
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

the linguistic, literary, and historical aspects of Daniel. But a systematic presentation of this
the original text, while the Exposition biblical topic goes beyond the scope of this
suggests what the text meant at the time it was study and can be found else- where.2 The
written based on what the author most likely present study aims at af- firming the primacy
intended to say. What the text means today is and authority of the biblical text while at the
briefly explored in the Summary of the same time offering fresh and constructive
Teaching presented at the end of each insights relating to the reading, interpretation,
chapter. and applications of Daniel's stories, vi- sions,
Another overview introduces Daniel and auditions.
7-12, followed by a chapter-by-chapter and The present commentary continues the
verse-by-verse study and interpreta- tion of tradition of the intense interest and study of
each of the visionary chapters. This section of the biblical books of Daniel and Revelation
the commentary differs from the preceding among Seventh-day Advent- ists. Adventist
portion in that at the end of the chapter, publishing houses have produced no less than
instead of the Summary of the Teaching, two six in-depth books and commentaries on
types of Applications of Daniel's prophecies Daniel: (1) Uriah Smith wrote a
are presented, one in the history of the chapter-by-chapter com- mentary titled The
Christian church and the other more of a Prophecies ofDaniel and the Revelation? (2) A part
devotional type of application to the reader's of volume four of the Seventh-day Adventist
personal life. Bible Commentary, written mostly by W. G. C.
Since the approach in this commentary is Murdoch in consultation with Siegfried. H.
biblical expository, it focuses on the text and Horn and edited by Francis D. Nichol, is a
themes from the book of Daniel and on the verse-by-verse commentary on Daniel's
points of teaching that are directly derived book.4 (3) Desmond Ford wrote a
from them. Be- cause of its focus on the commentary titled Daniel.5 (4) The first of the
biblical text, this commentary is not intended two volumes of God Cares by C. Mervyn
to be a resource tool providing a wealth of Maxwell presents "the message of Daniel for
material on apocalyptic literature nor any you and your family."6 (5) Jacques Doukhan's
other subject that is explored by other book titled Secrets ofDaniel presents a study of
disciplines such as dogmatic theology or Daniel's life and book.7 And (6) William
church history. To take one example, the Shea's commentary delves into the themes
topic of divine judgment is addressed in the from Daniel's book and their applications in
Exposition and Applications sec- tion on the the believer's life.8 Needless to say, these and
pertinent passages from many

12
PREFACE

other books and articles have enriched my members of the Faculty Development
own study of Daniel. Committee generously provided grants to
I am indebted to a number of indi- cover some of the expenses. For these favors,
viduals who have helped me grow in my I feel profound appreciation. I am indebted to
understanding of Daniel's book and in the Becky Masson for her careful proofreading of
writing of this commentary. In the first place, the manuscript. Last, but not least, I am
I thank my God, who, in Daniel's words, is thankful to Pacific Press® Publishing
generous in dispens- ing wisdom and strength Association and its president, Dale Galusha,
to human be- ings. As Daniel said, " 'He gives for the deci- sion to publish this commentary,
wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the dis- and I wish to extend special appreciation to
cerning' " (Dan. 2:21b). Without the insights David Jarnes for his work of the final editing
that came in answer to my prayers, this of the text.
commentary would have never been
completed. Next, I feel in- debted to my
parents, Milenko and Jozefina, who taught me
to love God's Word. I am grateful to my wife,
Bozana, and our sons, Jonathan and David, 1. Ranko Stefanovic, Revelation ofJesus Christ:
Commentary on the Book of Revelation (Berrien Springs, MI:
for their support and patience. Andrews University Press, 2002).
It would take much space to list the 2. LeRoy E. Froom, The Prophetic Faith of Our
names of the colleagues and of the stu- dents Fathers, 4 vols. (Washington, DC: Review and Her-
ald®, 1954); Gerhard F. Hasel, "Divine Judgment," in
from my classes far and near who have all Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology, Raoul Dederen,
provided an inspiration to my study and ed. (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald®, 2000),
815-856.
writing. A special word of thanks goes to my
3. Uriah Smith, The Prophecies ofDaniel and the
colleagues and friends who read the Revelation, rev. and ill. ed. (Nashville: Southern
manuscript and made valuable suggestions: Publishing Association, 1944).
4. Francis D. Nichol, ed., Seventh-day Adventist Bible
Tarsee Li, Gud- mundur Olafsson, William Commentary, vol. 4 (Washington, DC: Re- view and
Shea, Ranko Stefanovic, and David Thomas. Herald®, 1955), 743-881.
The ad- ministrators of Walla Walla College 5. Desmond Ford, Daniel (Nashville: Southern
Publishing Association, 1978).
and the School of Theology kindly voted my 6. C. Mervyn Maxwell, God Cares, vol. 1 (Nampa,
(first ever) sabbatical quarter, while the ID: Pacific Press®, 1981).
7. Jacques B. Doukhan, Secrets ofDaniel (Hag-
erstown, MD: Review and Herald®, 2000).
8. William H. Shea, Daniel: A Reader's Guide
(Nampa, ID: Pacific Press®, 2005).

13
INTRODUCTION

D aniel was "one of the greatest of


the prophets, insomuch, that
while he was still alive he had the esteem
and applause both of the kings and of
explicit statements found in the book itself
confirm its authorship.
In the context of the Bible, wisdom is
closely tied to the life and the teaching of the
the multitude; and now he is dead, he wise men and women, who were ex- pected to
retains a remembrance that will never demonstrate practical wisdom in everyday
fail, for the several books that he wrote life. In the same way, biblical prophecy is
and left behind him are still read by us inseparable from the office of a prophet, the
till this time; and from them we believe person who was a spiritual leader of the
that Daniel conversed with God."1 So people as well as the spokes- person for God.
wrote Flavius Josephus, a Jewish histo- For this reason, we best understand a divine
rian who lived in Rome in the first cen- revelation when we study it in the context of
tury A. D. His statement rests on the no- the person who initially received it. As the
tion that among the Hebrew people, the famous Jewish writer Abraham Joshua
sacred writings were customarily linked Heschel has aptly stated, "The significance of
with important personalities for the pur- Israel's proph- ets lies not only in what they
pose of enhancing their authority. Thus, said but also in what they were. We cannot
for example, Moses was traditionally as- fully un- derstand what they meant to say to
sociated with the Pentateuch, King Da- us unless we have some degree of awareness
vid with the Psalms, and his son Solo- ofwhat happened to them."3
mon with biblical wisdom literature.2 In On the other hand, it is possible to take a
the case of Daniel's book, its authorship very different approach to the study of the
is confirmed by a number of explicit Bible in general and the book of Daniel in
statements found in the book itself. In particular. Some commentaries
the case of Daniel's book, a number of

14
INTRODUCTION

on Daniel's book begin with the basic as- have not been lacking. Scholars who take the
sumption that "Daniel is a non-historical traditional approach have, in the past,
personage modeled by the author(s) of the produced works of technical as well as of
book"4 or supporting "the consensus of popular nature to show that Daniel's book fits
modern critical scholarship" that views "the in the context of Neo- Babylonia with a
stories about Daniel and his friends [to be] possibility of minor editing and scribal
legendary in character, and [that] the hero updating from a later time when the book was
himself most probably never ex- isted."5 To copied. Thus, the arguments presented in
approach the book of Daniel, its text and defense of the traditional dating have focused
message, with such or similar assumptions is on answering the historical, linguistic, sty-
certainly one but not the only way to study it. listic, and theological questions regard- ing the
This commentary follows the traditional view book's dating and authorship.6 Yet Joyce
of the author- ship and the dating of Daniel's Baldwin has shown that the strongest
book be- cause that approach is based on the evidence in favor of the au- thenticity of
claims of the Bible itself. Daniel's work can be found in the book itself.7
The traditional approach to the book of The reader will find several pieces of this type
Daniel holds that a person named Daniel of internal evi- dence presented in the Notes
wrote the book in the sixth cen- tury B.C. and and Exposi- tion in this commentary.
that it was completed to- ward the end of the Moreover, in this present study, Daniel's
Neo-Babylonian Empire or in the very life story and his faith in God are considered
beginning of the Medo-Persian Empire (cf. to be of prime importance for a clear
Notes and Ex- position on Dan. 1:21). Although understanding of the message of this ancient
the traditional approach is based on biblical book. The context of the traditional
statements found in the text, certain scholars Afro-Asian cultures, so akin to the world of
have challenged it on several grounds. These the Bible, supports the no- tion that in
include the historical validity of some religious and didactic types of literature,
statements from Daniel that pertain to teaching is done far more effec- tively when it
historical events and persons, the pres- ence of is illustrated through living examples rather
certain linguistic features that are considered than through theoretical concepts or abstract
by some to be much later than the traditional ideas. Certain ten- dencies in the world today
time of writing, and also the presence of point in the same direction. For these reasons,
alleged inconsistencies of stylistic and an over- view of Daniel's life story is necessary
theological nature. be- fore an introduction to Daniel's book and
Reactions to the denials of the traditional its messages is presented.
authorship and dating of the book

39
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

Da ni el 's Li f e a n d Ca r eer However, a tragedy struck the nation


The Bible is the main source of Infor- ofJudah just as Daniel entered his teen- age
mation regarding who Daniel was. His home years. King Josiah died in a battle after his
must have been in or around Jeru- salem, the unwise decision to confront the Egyptian king
capital city ofJudah, since he belonged to the Neco on the plain of Megiddo. The people
Israelite "royal family and the nobility" (Dan. ofJudah mourned Josiah's death, and the
1:3). He was likely born within a few years of prophet Jeremiah composed laments for the
the events of 622 B.C., the eighteenth year of occasion. This tragedy must have created a
the reign of King Josiah ofJudah. Josiah is deep spiri- tual crisis in the lives of many
described in 2 Chronicles chapters 34 and 35 Judeans, including Daniel and his family.
as a good king whose actions stood in stark Another tragedy struck Daniel's na- tion
contrast to those of his grandfather Manasseh only a few years later. In 605 B.C., the
and his father, Amon. "While he was still Babylonians came, besieged Jerusalem, and
young," says the chronicler, "he began to seek carried off to Babylon their booty and
the God of his father David" (2 Chron. 34:3). captives. Biblical records in- dicate that
The spiritual revival that followed his personal through their religious apos- tasy, the kings of
devotion to God is often re- ferred to as Judah had reversed Josiah's work of religious
Josiah's reforms. It consisted of purging reform and filled their land again with idol
Judah and Jerusalem of idols, pagan shrines, worship. This was true ofJosiah's sons
and altars. The apex of this religious reform Jehoahaz (2 Kings 23:31, 32) and Jehoiakim
was the discovery of the lost "book of the law (v. 34), as well as ofjehoiachin (2 Chron. 36:9)
of Moses" by the priests in the temple. This and Zedekiah (v. 11), ofwhom it is said that
exciting event prompted the king to renew they "did evil in the eyes of the TORD." Second
"the covenant in the presence of the T O R D " (2 Chronicles 36:15, 16 reads, "The LORD, the
Chron. 34:31) and to proclaim the celebration God of their fathers, sent word to them
of the feast of Passover. The chronicler notes through his messengers again and again,
that "the Passover had not been observed like because he had pity on his people and on his
this in Israel since the days of the prophet dwell- ing place. But they mocked God's
Samuel; and none of the kings of Israel had messengers, despised his words and scoffed at
ever cele- brated such a Passover as did his prophets until the wrath of the L O R D was
Josiah, with the priests, the Tevites and all aroused against his people and there was no
Judah and Israel who were there with the remedy."
people of Jerusalem" (2 Chron. 35:18). Daniel was one of the captives who were
led from Jerusalem to Babylon. He

16
INTRODUCTION
DANIELS LIFE AND CAREER

and his friends were most probably be- tween him. Yet it was the life and teaching of the
fifteen and eighteen years old when they were prophet Jeremiah, Daniel's contem- porary,
taken there. that affected his life more than any other part
These two tragedies must have affected of Scriptures.
Daniel's life and his faith in God in a most Jeremiah was older than Daniel, and he
profound way. Was the God of his ances- carried out his long ministry in Jeru- salem.
tors still in control or had he now become a He played a key role in Josiah's reforms and
captive of Babylon and of its patron god composed a lament for his funeral. Jeremiah
Marduk (Bel)? What course of action should was often placed un- der house arrest or
the faithful follow in the imperial capital? imprisoned, and he was even thrown into a
Would he find enough strength to encourage cistern. When the Babylonian army
his friends to remain faithful with him in that conquered Jerusa- lem, this prophet was
hostile environment? Was there still hope for mistakenly arrested and bound in chains with
the future of the Hebrews, who were God's the rest of the captives, only to be released
chosen people? And what about the people later (Jer. 40). Yet from the beginning of the
who lived in Babylon—were they worthy of na- tional crisis, his message was one of hope
learning the power and goodness of the true and of a future restoration of the faithful
God? Would God give them a chance to remnant (chaps. 30; 31).
repent and come to know Him? (Jer. 51:9; cf. Jeremiah's great influence on some of the
Exod. 7:5; Jon. 3:10.) Hebrew captives in Babylon as well as on
The book of Daniel tells us that nor- Daniel and his friends came from the famous
mally, it was Daniel's custom in Babylon to letter to the exiles recorded in chapter 29 of
pray "three times a day" (6:10). However, in his book. That letter urged the people to "
crises and times of greater spiritual needs, he 'build houses and settle down; plant gardens
studied the prophetic writings and then and eat what they produce. Marry and have
turned his "face to the Lord God and sons and daughters. . . . Increase in number
searched for him in prayer and petition, in there [in Babylon]; do not decrease. Also, seek
fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes" (9:3). At the peace and prosperity of the city to which I
times, he would prolong this type of austere have carried you into exile. Pray to the L O R D
life for weeks, during which he would be on a for it, because if it prospers, you too will
very simple diet (10:2, 3). Various pas- sages prosper' " (Jer. 29:5-7). In other words, during
from Daniel's book indicate that his diligent the seventy years of the exile, the captives
and prayerful study of the Pentateuch and the should live a normal life in Babylon and have
scroll of the prophet Isaiah exercised a a positive attitude toward that city.
positive influence on

17
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

This message was just the opposite of dence to open a brilliant career for him in
what Jeremiah's opponents, self- appointed order to be able to witness for his God and
prophets, one ofwhom was a certain about his faith everywhere, including the royal
Hananiah, were telling people. Their palace. In this endeavor, he had the support
predictions were that the exile would end of his three Hebrew friends, who prayed with
soon, perhaps in just a year or two (Jer. 28:11; him, especially in times of crises (Dan. 2:17,
29:8, 9). So, there was a risk that the reading 18).
ofJeremiah's message would make him sound While in Babylon, Daniel was ap- pointed
like a traitor, an accusation made against him to be a professional wise man. In the words of
on a number of occasions (Jer. 26:11; 32:3; a Babylonian queen mother, he had "insight
37:13; 38:4). Yet there was no doubt in the and intelligence and wisdom like that of the
minds of those who be- lieved in his prophetic gods" so that the king "appointed him chief of
calling that God would bring Babylon to an the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and
end at an ap- pointed time (Jer. 50; 51). Then a diviners" (Dan. 5:11). Because of his
rem- nant, liberated because of Babylon's fall, exceptional ability to "understand visions and
would return to Palestine (Jer. 30; 31). dreams of all kinds" (1:17), no "mystery was
Babylon was still under God's control. too difficult" for him (4:9). On no less than
Moreover, on more than one occasion, three separate oc- casions, Daniel solved the
Jeremiah called King Nebuchadnezzar the problems that no other wise man could
Tord's servant (Jer. 25:9; 27:6). This fact resolve. In ad- dition, as a high-ranking
explains why Daniel, when describ- ing statesman, he "distinguished himself above all
Babylon's capture ofJerusalem, says that "the the other administrators and satraps" by his
Lord delivered" the king and the people
ex- ceptional qualities (6:3). In Babylon,
ofJudah into Nebuchadnez- zar's hand (Dan.
Daniel was the emperor's close friend whose
1:2).
presence at the palace helped make the
There is little doubt that Jeremiah's
emperor "free from care and prosperous"
influence greatly helped shape Daniel's
(4:4) even in times of crisis. Lastly, Daniel was
positive attitude in Babylon. He chose not to
God's prophet who was called to minister to
spend all his time sitting down "by the waters
His people in exile. When the heavenly
of Babylon" and weeping over the tragedy
messenger came to him in a vision, the
that Zion had suffered (Ps. 137). Nor did he
messenger told Daniel that in God's eyes he
choose to follow the false prophets and their
was "greatly loved" (Dan. 9:23).
supporters in their prophetic speculations or
It is a well-known fact that the task of a
political activism. Instead, Daniel allowed
person whom God called to speak for
Provi-

18
INTRODUCTION
DANIEL /IS A BIBLICAL PROPHET

Him was not an easy one. That is why most of of comfort in those difficult moments must
the prophets were very reluctant to accept have been the study of sacred writ- ings such
that responsibility. It is impor- tant that we as Psalms and the prophets. His life ofprayer
understand this about Dan- iel's career in led him to understand that his success in
Babylon. Rather than pre- senting his success Babylon was more than just the result of his
at the Babylonian and Medo-Persian courts as hard work. Rather, it was a gift from the One
an uninterrupted growth in success and in whom he had placed his absolute trust and
influence, the book depicts Daniel's in whom he could find hope, espe- cially in
administrative and reli- gious career as a series moments of crisis and despair.
of ups and downs. From the low status of a When the Medo-Persian Empire came to
captive from Ju- dah, he graduates from power, Daniel probably moved his residence
Babylonian edu- cation with top grades and and office from the city of Babylon to the
assumes a po- sition at the imperial court. By Persian city of Susa (or Shushan), one of the
the end of the next story, the king promotes imperial centers that was located east of
him to the lofty position of the "ruler of the Babylon (Dan. 1:21). Extrabiblical traditions
entire province of Babylon." Some time later, and leg- ends tell us that Daniel died and was
the king has forgotten him, but in the end, he buried in this city, having passed the age of
promotes him to the rank of "third highest eighty years.8
ruler in the kingdom." Then, in his old age, the
prophet becomes a target of jealous satraps Da ni el as a Bi bl i cal P ro ph et
and is thrown into a den of lions—only, The positive influence that Daniel's life
shortly after- wards, to be reinstalled to the and ministry have exercised on the readers of
powerful position of being one of the three his book through centuries, even millennia, is
top administrators in the empire. remarkable. Even to- day, Jewish, Christian,
In spite of Daniel's brilliant career in and Muslim be- lievers hold the prophet in
Babylon, no less than three times, his high esteem.9 Yet we must remember that in
opponents and some who sought personal addition to being a prophet, Daniel was an ad-
gain from their contacts with him referred to ministrator and a wise man. As such, his
him as "one of the exiles from Judah" (Dan. influence as a witness for God extended from
2:25; 5:13; 6:13). So, it is clear that as "a the city of Babylon throughout the
servant of God," Daniel knew what it meant Neo-Babylonian Empire. While his ad-
to be rejected and even ignored and ministrative title "ruler over the entire
persecuted because of his faith in God and province of Babylon" (Dan. 2:48) had to do
because of his wit- ness and ministry to with politics and government, the
others. His source

19
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

other responsibility the emperor gave him, a rabbinical curse was pronounced on those
the supervision of "all its wise men," had who used the book to calculate the time of the
certain religious connotations.10 end.12
The Old Testament, also known as the In the story told in chapter 4, Daniel
Hebrew Bible or the TaNaK, is tra- ditionally interprets King Nebuchadnezzar's dream and
divided into three parts: Tom, "the then ends his speech in a fashion typical of
Pentateuch"; N‘bi'im, "the Proph- ets"; and biblical prophets whose pri- mary goal was to
K'tubim, "the Writings" (cf. Luke 24:44, where call people to repen- tance: " 'Therefore, O
the book of Psalms heads the Writings). In king, be pleased to accept my advice: Break
the present form of the Hebrew canon, away from your sins by doing what is right,
Daniel's book is placed in the third division; and from your wickedness by being merciful
that is, in the Writings. to the oppressed. It may be that then your
Why was the book of Daniel placed prosperity will continue' " (4:27). In like
among the Writings rather than among the manner, in chapter 5, where Daniel confronts
prophets in the Hebrew Bible?11 Al- though and rebukes King Belshazzar, he "sounds
we cannot give a final answer to this question, remarkably like a Hebrew prophet."13 His
we can list some possibili- ties. It is possible speech in this case matches well those of
that in some circles, Daniel was considered to biblical prophets who dared to confront the
be a wise man first and only secondarily a kings of Israel and Judah. Nathan re- buked
prophet. It has been pointed out that half the David (2 Sam. 12:7-12), Elijah did the same
book contains contemporary stories rather with Ahab (1 Kings 21:20-24), and Jeremiah
than prophecy. It is also true that part of the with Zedekiah (Jer. 38:20-23).14 Probably
book was written in the "unholy" Aramaic nowhere are the roles of a wise man and a
language, as was the book of Ezra. (Yet at prophet better contrasted than in the book of
least one verse in a genuine prophetic passage, Amos. It says that a wise man, when faced
Jeremiah 10:11, is also found in Aramaic.) with a calamity, "keeps quiet in such times, /
Moreover, one wonders if the reputation of for the times are evil" (5:13). But it also
the book of Daniel suffered due to a polemic reveals how a prophet is compelled to speak
against the early Christian believers, who were for God:
skillfully using passages from this book to
prove that Jesus of Nazareth was the The lion has roared— who
promised Messiah. Lastly, we may won- der will not fear?
whether the book was downgraded because, The Sovereign L O R D has spoken— who
as is mentioned in the Talmud, can but prophesy? (3:8).

20
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

other responsibility the emperor gave him, a rabbinical curse was pronounced on those
the supervision of "all its wise men," had who used the book to calculate the time of the
certain religious connotations.10 end.12
The Old Testament, also known as the In the story told in chapter 4, Daniel
Hebrew Bible or the TaNaK, is tra- ditionally interprets King Nebuchadnezzar's dream and
divided into three parts: Tord, "the then ends his speech in a fashion typical of
Pentateuch"; N'bi'im, "the Proph- ets"; and biblical prophets whose pri- mary goal was to
Ketubim, "the Writings" (cf. Luke 24:44, where call people to repen- tance: " 'Therefore, O
the book of Psalms heads the Writings). In king, be pleased to accept my advice: Break
the present form of the Hebrew canon, away from your sins by doing what is right,
Daniel's book is placed in the third division; and from your wickedness by being merciful
that is, in the Writings. to the oppressed. It may be that then your
Why was the book of Daniel placed prosperity will continue' " (4:27). In like
among the Writings rather than among the manner, in chapter 5, where Daniel confronts
prophets in the Hebrew Bible?11 Al- though and rebukes King Belshazzar, he "sounds
we cannot give a final answer to this question, remarkably like a Hebrew prophet."13 His
we can list some possibili- ties. It is possible speech in this case matches well those of
that in some circles, Daniel was considered to biblical prophets who dared to confront the
be a wise man first and only secondarily a kings of Israel and Judah. Nathan re- buked
prophet. It has been pointed out that half the David (2 Sam. 12:7-12), Elijah did the same
book contains contemporary stories rather with Ahab (1 Kings 21:20-24), and Jeremiah
than prophecy. It is also true that part of the with Zedekiah (Jer. 38:20-23).14 Probably
book was written in the "unholy" Aramaic nowhere are the roles of a wise man and a
language, as was the book of Ezra. (Yet at prophet better contrasted than in the book of
least one verse in a genuine prophetic passage, Amos. It says that a wise man, when faced
Jeremiah 10:11, is also found in Aramaic.) with a calamity, "keeps quiet in such times, /
Moreover, one wonders if the reputation of for the times are evil" (5:13). But it also
the book of Daniel suffered due to a polemic reveals how a prophet is compelled to speak
against the early Christian believers, who were for God:
skillfully using passages from this book to
prove that Jesus of Nazareth was the The lion has roared— who
promised Messiah. Lastly, we may won- der will not fear?
whether the book was downgraded because, The Sovereign L O R D has spoken— who
as is mentioned in the Talmud, can but prophesy? (3:8).

23
Plan of the city of Babylon17
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

(Matt. 24:15). So, it is safe to affirm Daniel's sickness for her Median homeland. Robert
position as prophet in the canon of the Bible. Koldewey's excavation of the site of this
Moreover, it is not safe to use the placement ancient city resulted in the dis- covery of the
of his book in the He- brew Bible as evidence throne room located near the famous Ishtar
against the tradi- tional date and authorship of Gate, from which started the Procession
the book. It is becoming increasingly clear Street with 120 lion statues placed along its
that the order of the individual books in the two sides. The Ishtar Gate was decorated
Bible is more theological and thematic in na- with or- naments of lions that symbolized the
ture than chronological.16 goddess Ishtar, bulls that represented the
storm god Hadad, and dragons that stood for
Ki n g do ms of Ba by l o n and the god Marduk (Bel).
M ed o - P ers i a The long history of Babylon is usually
The traditional approach to Daniel places divided into three periods: Old Babylon (c.
the events described in the book in the part of 1900-1600 B . C . ) , when the kingdom was ruled
the world known as Mesopota- mia, where by such powerful figures as King
the city of Babylon was located with the Hammurabi, the famous lawgiver who ruled
Euphrates River flowing through it. In the over all Mesopotamia. The period that
official Babylonian documents, the region followed was Babylon's Dark Age, when
around the city of Babylon was referred to as Assyria, its bitter enemy, and especially the
Akkad, while the territory located in the west, Kassites, invaded the city and the regions
the region of Syria and Lebanon, was known around it. For a limited time around 1100
as Hatti or Hattu. The name Babylon was B.C., King Nebu- chadrezzar I was able to
applied to both the city and the region in free Babylon from these hostile invaders and
which it was located. In the Akkadian restore the statue of the god Marduk in the
language, the meaning of the name Bab-el or city. Another king who ruled later in this pe-
Bab- ilu is "gate to the gods," indicating the riod was Merodach-Baladan, who is known to
presence of a strong religious flavor in the the student of the Bible from 2 Kings 20:12
city's life, politics, and economy. and Isaiah 39:1, which say that he sent envoys
To some people, Babylon was "the city of to congratulate King Hezekiah ofJudah on his
eternal abode" (al sub at darati). They recovery from an illness.
considered it to be the city of wis- dom, the The third period, that of the Neo-
center of the whole world. Surrounded by Babylonian kingdom, lasted for almost a
water, the city was fa- mous for the hanging century (626-539 B . C . ) . Babylon's lib- erator
gardens that King Nebuchadnezzar had from the hated Assyrians was Na-
planted for his wife Amytis, to help relieve
her home-

25
INTRODUCTION
KINGDOMS OF BABYLON AND MEDO-PERSIA

bopolassar (626-605). This king had made a best remembered for his act of kindness to
pact with the Medes that en- abled him to the old King Jehoiachin of Judah, whom he
break free from the As- syrian yoke. He was "released . . . from prison, . . . spoke kindly to
also the founder of the Chaldean dynasty, him and gave him a seat of honor" so that
which was named after a tribe from southern Jehoiachin "for the rest of his life ate regularly
Mesopota- mia to which both the king and the at the king's table" (2 Kings 25:27-30). Since
rul- ing class of Babylon belonged. Thus, two the document known as the Istanbul Prism
times in its history, Babylon achieved tells that a man called Ardi-Nabu was
considerable power and world hegemony Amel-Marduk's secretary (and tutor?), and
under foreign rulers—first under the since Ardi-Nabu could have been
Amorites from the west and then under the Abed-Nego, one wonders if this influ- ence
Chaldeans from the south. As for the could explain the kind gesture. Amel-Marduk
Babylonians, it is re- marked that they "were was killed by his brother- in-law Neriglissar
always more in- terested in making money (560-556 B . C . ) , an army general who seized
than war.”18 power and be- came a strong king, unlike his
Doubtless, the best known and the most son La- bashi Marduk, who succeeded him
influential king of Neo-Babylon is on the throne for three short months.
Nebuchadnezzar II (605-562 B . C . ) , who A distinguished army general named
established the Neo-Babylonian Empire. In Nabonidus killed Labashi Marduk and took
addition to his successful military campaigns, the throne of Babylon (556-539 B . C . ) . He
he was the famous empire builder and is also revived the cult of the moon god, Sin, much
remembered for his building achievements in to the displeasure of the priesthood and
the city of Baby- lon. His wife Amytis was a aristocracy in Babylon. Because of his health
granddaughter of Cyaxares from Media. problems, Nabonidus left Babylon, and his
Nebuchadnezzar fathered eight children, one eldest son, Belshazzar, occupied the throne
of whom was a daughter, Kassaya.19 When for the last ten years of the Neo-Babylonian
Nebu- chadnezzar died (at a very old age), he Empire (549-539 B . C . ) . As a crown prince, he
had ruled over Babylon for forty-three years. is considered to have been a coregent with his
This king figures more promi- nently than any father. King Nabonidus's long absence from
other in the stories about Daniel that took Babylon and the interrup- tion of the
place in Babylon. celebration of the New Year festival only
Nebuchadnezzar's son Amel-Marduk added to his unpopularity and directly
(562-560 B.C.) was an unpopular king who contributed to the fall of the Neo-Babylonian
reigned for a short time. In the Bi- ble, he is Empire.
called Evil-Merodach and is

39
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

The Persian Empire


Blssk $m
MACEDONIA

ARMENIA
LYDIA
CAPPAOOCiA
Sardis
■ PARTHIA
j, Ephest YRIA Ecb atana
MEDIA

mamrramanSm A £an4su #Sus


* Jerusalem a
MDAB YTONIA •
Memphis*I aioM Persepolis
! EGYPT I
PERSIA

The following table lists the rulers of the largest empire up to that time, stretching
Neo-Babylon: from Egypt to India (Esther 1:1). It was
divided into administrative provinces known
The Ki n gs of N e o - B a by l o n as satrapies that were ruled by satraps. The small
1. Nabopolassar (626-605) kingdom of Judah belonged to the fifth
2. Nebuchadnezzar II (605-562) satrapy. This empire is sometimes referred to
3. Amel-Marduk (562-560) simply as the Persian Empire, although in the
4. Neriglissar (560-556) Bible, the Medes and the Persians are often
5. Labashi Marduk (556) mentioned together.
6. Nabonidus (556-539; the last ten years Cyrus the Great, who was the empire
with Belshazzar) builder, is the best-known Medo-Persian
ruler. He became one of the most popular
In its heyday, the Medo-Persian Empire,
kings in the ancient world due to his
which followed Neo-Babylon, was

27
INTRODUCTION
RELIGION IN BABYLON

generous policies of support for the local created to serve the gods, they fashioned their
gods and respect for the laws of the con- gods in the image of human be- ings. Hence,
quered lands. Cyrus was born of dual deity was present in its im- age, be it a statue
parentage—his father was Persian, and his or a human person. Babylonian religion is
mother was Median. This helped him unite often described as "polydemonic" because it
these two lands and lead them into the attributed everything to magic and demons.
conquest of Babylon and of much of that area At the top of the divine ladder was a triad of
of the world. He built a monumental and gods: Anu, the sky-god; Enlil, the air- god;
most efficient imperial orga- nization, the and Adad, the weather-god. Sub- ordinate to
greatest up to that time and one that still these gods was a triad of astral deities: Sin, the
evokes admiration. Cyrus was succeeded by moon-god; his son Shamash, the sun god; and
his son Cambyses, whose decisions are his daughter, the planet Venus, whose names
known to have dif- fered from his father's were Ishtar and Inanna. She was often pic-
generous and wise policies even at the time tured as riding on a sacred lionlike beast. A
when he was still the crown prince. The table third triad consisted of Ea or Enki, the god of
below lists the Medo-Persian kings starting the underworld; Marduk, Ea's son; and
with Cyrus the Great and his son Cambyses: Marduk's son, Nabu or Nebo, the god of the
art ofwriting. Below these three groups of
The Ki n gs of Me do - P ers i a gods were hundreds of deities.
1. Cyrus the Great (550-530) The patron god of the city of Babylon was
2. Cambyses (530-522) Marduk, the god of wisdom, whose popular
3. Darius I (522-486) name was Bel ("lord"). He was often pictured
4. Xerxes I (486-465) carrying a spade and accompanied by his pet,
5. Artaxerxes I (465-424) Mus-hus- su. This mythical monster was
6. Xerxes II (423) pictured in the form of a hybrid dragon with
7. Darius II (423-404) scales covering its body, with double horns of
8. Artaxerxes II (404-358) a viper, with the legs of a cat and a bird, and a
9. Artaxerxes III (358-338) tail consisting of a scorpion sting.
10. Arses (338-336) The city boasted of no fewer than six-
11. Darius III (336-331) teen temples, including the structure called
Etemenanki, which is believed to be the
Rel i gi ó n i n B a by l o n oldest temple on earth, and Esagila,
Religious traditions in the city of Babylon
comprised a mixture of Sume- rian and
Semitic elements. While the Babylonians
believed that humans were

39
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

the temple dedicated to the city's patrón god, ing this ceremony, the new king was of-
Marduk. In addition, Babylon con- tained ficially recognized as the legitimate ruler in
forty-three cult centers and some nine Babylon, and his first year of reign was
hundred chapels. One of the streets located in reckoned from that time on. This ritual clearly
the proximity of Esagila was called "Which shows the power that the priests exercised in
god is like Marduk!" (Ak- kadian: Ayu ilu ki the name of the gods of Babylon and that
Marduk) testifying to the presence of strong often their authority exceeded that of the
religious feelings among the city's population king.
and its priests. Some of the Babylonian The oracles of the biblical prophets
temples were made in the shape of a mocked the Babylonian procession of the
Mesopota- mian step-pyramid (ziggurat), gods, whether along Procession Street or on
leading the worshipers' thoughts upward boats floating on the Eu- phrates River. The
through their "stairways to heaven." In some prophets said that in contrast to Israel's God,
temples, the altar where the sacrifices were Yahweh, who carried his people through the
regularly offered was located at the bot- tom wilder- ness "as a father carries his son"
of the stairway. In most cases, it stood on the (Deut. 1:31), the idols of Babylon "are borne
top floor. by beasts of burden" (Isa. 46:1). Since they
The most important day in Babylon's could not even walk, "ignorant are those who
religious and political calendar was the first carry about the idols of wood, who pray to
day of the first month (Nisanu) of the year. On gods that cannot save" (Isa. 45:20).
that day, new kings were in- augurated and the
famous procession of the gods took place, Li te rary Fea t ur es of D ani el 's
which was the high point in the ceremony Boo k
known as Akitu festival. The procession The book of Daniel has been called a
started from the Ishtar Gate and proceeded literary masterpiece. Its language is rich, filled
toward Esagila, into which, on the fifth day of with metaphors and imagery. Even a cursory
the ceremony, the high priest entered reading of the text in a modern translation
first—fol- lowed, when a new king was to be discloses a number of literary forms.
inaugurated, by the royal aspirant, who was Recognition of these genres is a key step in
not yet wearing his royal robe. The king the proper interpretation of the text, and,
bowed before the image of Marduk. Then he conversely, a lack of aware- ness of them
was beaten on his cheeks so that tears would often results in a very nar- row and
enhance his confessions be- fore the high stereotypical approach to the text and to the
priest and in the presence of the image of the book in general. The fol- lowing table
god of Babylon. Follow- presents a list of literary types that are found
in Daniel's book.

29
INTRODUCTION
LITERARY FEATURES OF DANIELS BOOK

The list is representative rather than ex- The dominant literary form in Daniel's
haustive: visions is apocalyptic, a term that comes from
the Greek word that means "revelation"
Li te ra ry G e nres i n t he Bo ok of (apokalupsis),22 Scholars apply this term to a
Da ni el particular worldview, a social phenomenon,
1. Story (chaps. 2; 3; 6; etc.) and a literary genre. "Apocalyptic literature
2. Dream/vision (chaps. 2; 4; etc.) desig- nates those ancient visionary writings
3. Interpretation of a dream/vision or parts of writings that, like the N[ew]
(chaps. 2; 7; 8; 9; etc.) T[estament] book from which the name is
4. Apocalyptic (chaps. 7; 8; etc.) derived, the book of Revelation, purport to
5. Audition (8:13, 14; 11:2-12:4; etc.) reveal the mystery of the end of the world
6. Riddle or cryptic writing (5:25-28) (age) and of the glories of the world (age) to
7. Prayer(6:16; 9:4-19) come."23 In search of the origin of biblical
8. Hymn of praise (2:20-23; 4:1-3, apocalyptic literature, scholars have studied
34, 35; 6:26, 27) documents from Egypt, Iran, and Greece as
9. Royal edict (3:29; 6:7-9, 26) well as biblical wisdom texts. The traditional
10. Royal proclamation (chap. 4) view is that biblical apocalyptic is primarily the
11. List (3:2-6; 5:4, 23) child of biblical prophecy. Some have viewed
12. Dialogue (4:9, 18-20; 10:12-20; 12:8-13) Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet whose
13. Oath (12:7) proclamation centered on the topic of God's
kingdom on earth.
Two literary types that are dominant in The main characteristics of the apoca-
the book are stories and visions. The stories lyptic genre are highly symbolic lan- guage,
in Daniel are well structured, characterized by dualism, determinism, the pres- ence of an
plot, setting, and charac- ters. At the same angel interpreter, symbolic use of numbers,
time, they are rich in employing various close interrelatedness between heaven and
literary devices. Moreover, Daniel's stories are earth, and God's control over world history.
pointedly God-centered.20 The visions are full The most notable canonical apocalypses
of symbols and imagery. At times, they are include Isa- iah 24-27; 34; 56-66; Ezekiel
combined with auditions, and they are often 37-39; Daniel 7-12; Joel 1-3; Zechariah 1-14;
accompanied by explanations pro- vided by Matthew 24; 25; Mark 13; Luke 21; 1
an angel interpreter. In line with what is Thessalonians 4; 5; 2 Thessalonians 2; I
found elsewhere in the He- brew Bible, Corinthians 15; and the book of Reve-
Daniel's visions deal with immediate,
eschatological, and apoca- lyptic types of
prophecy.21

39
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

lation. Some of the best-known apocry- phal Scholars have proposed several liter- ary
and pseudepigraphical apocalypses are the structures of Daniel's book. One ob- vious
Apocalypse of Abraham; the Apocalypse of division is based on the two domi- nant
Baruch; the Apocalypse of Esdras; 1; 2, and 3 literary genres:
Enoch; the Animal Apocalypse; Jubilees; and
the Ascension of Isaiah. Some of the Qumran Li te rary /S tyl i s ti c S t ru ct ur e
scrolls have been classified as apocalyptic: the A. Stories: chapters 1-6 (third-person report)
War Scroll, the Description of the New B. Visions: chapters 7-12 (first-person
Jerusalem, and the Thanksgiving Psalms. For report)
a comprehensive overview of apocalyptic
Sporadic exceptions are present in both
literature in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam,
parts: Chapter 2, for example, contains
the reader should consult The Encyclopedia
significant visionary material in its narra- tive,
ofApocalypticism.2A
while in chapter 7:1, Daniel is referred to in
In studying apocalyptic texts from
the third person singular. These exceptions
Daniel, the interpreter can see God's hand at
comprise interlocking elements that
work in the events ofworld his- tory. Often,
strengthen the unity of the book.
biblical symbols tell the reader far more about
A second proposed structure is based on
what God is going to do than about exactly
the use of the two original languages, Hebrew
how or when He will accomplish His ultimate
and Aramaic:
pur- poses for the human race. It is equally
useful to remember that for biblical prophets, Li n gui s ti c S tr uc t ur e
revealing future events was not an end in itself A. Hebrew: l: l - 2: 4 a
but a means to the end of both comforting B. Aramaic: 2:4b-7:27
and challenging the faithful. The prophets' A'. Hebrew 8:1-12:13
primary in- tention was "to turn the reader
toward God, not just toward future events. This form is also known as an A-B-A'
Therefore, the actual event prophesied was structure because the author wrote the first part
clouded in the mist of symbolism and the of the book in Hebrew, then he switched to
reader had to turn to the God who would Biblical Aramaic, and finally, he returned to
bring it to pass."25 More- over, a Christian Hebrew.
interpreter of Daniel's visions will see Jesus Chiastic (concentric) structures have also
Christ as "the central figure of prophecy."26 been proposed for the Aramaic and the
(Cf. Tuke 24:27, 44-47.) Hebrew sections of the book.27 Paral- lelism
comprises a basic feature of Hebrew literary
style, and chiasm is usually

31
INTRODUCTION
THE PURPOSE AND MESSAGE OF THE BOOK

defined as inverted parallelism.28 (The term isment, serves as a bridge that holds the two
derived from the Greek letter chi, which looks parts of the book together. In fact, this
like the letter X.) When the book of Daniel is chapter is the strongest interlocking element
viewed in terms of chiastic literary forms, in the whole book because it combines the
chapter 1 stands by itself as an introductory visionary material with text in Biblical
unit to the whole book and the rest of the Aramaic.
chapters are structured as follows: The three proposed structural plans that
are presented above are not mutu- ally
Chi as ti c exclusive. On the contrary, they all
S tr uc t ur e complement each other. Thus, they each
Cha p te rs 2 - 7 contribute to communicating the overall
A. Vision of world kingdoms (chap. 2) message of the book of Daniel. This
B. The faithful tested (chap. 3) commentary takes the literary/sty- listic plan
C. Judgment on a king (chap. 4) C'. as the primary structure be- cause it is based
Judgment on a king (chap. 5) B'. The on the two dominant literary forms in the
faithful tested (chap. 6) book: stories (chaps. 1-6) and visions with
A'. Vision ofworld kingdoms (chap. 7) auditions (chaps. 7-12).

Cha p te rs 7 - 12 The P u r pos e a n d M e s s ag e of th e


A. Coming of the One "like a son of man" Boo k
(chap. 7) The first story found in the book of
B. Clash of east and west (chap. 8) Daniel, in chapter 1, conveys the pur- pose of
C. Revelation about the the book. This chapter begins with the report
"Anointed One" (chap. 9) of a defeat of the people ofJudah and the
C'. Vision of a Celestial triumph of their ene- mies, the Babylonians.
(Divine) Being (chap. 10) As the reader learns that the captives and the
B'. Clash of north and south sacred temple vessels were carried off to
(chap. 11) Baby- lon, the question emerges: Could the
A'. The rise of Michael (chap. 12) God of Israel be led as captive to a for- eign
land? The author answers that question in the
The structure of a text is a vehicle to its very beginning of the book, assuring readers
meaning. Knowing that Daniel intended the that it was the Lord who delivered His people
chiastic structure--------------------- if indeed and city into the hand of a foreign king.
he did—can be of great help to those seeking Although God can never be made
to find the message of the book. captive, He did not abandon His people
Scholars have also claimed that chapter 7,
with its central concept of judg

39
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

in Babylon but instead was with them there. man being, that person has to decide to take a
His presence and their faithful- ness to Him stand either for or against God. The examples
resulted in a triumph over the power of from the lives of two Baby- lonian kings
Babylon's gods. In the triumph of the faithful illustrate well this principle. One king
in Babylon, the reader can foresee God's responded positively to God's call to
ultimate tri- umph over the hostile powers in repentance, and his life was pre- served and
the world. Thus, an important reason for the his power was restored to him. The other king
writing of the book of Daniel was to disprove remained unrepen- tant and paid the highest
the possible misconception about God's price for it. Daniel's book teaches that when it
power by affirming em- phatically that the comes to making decisions about God and
Lord can never be- come a captive of a pagan one's eternal destiny, neutrality is simply not an
god. option.
The book of Daniel was also written to The Hebrew section of the book was
show how God deals with human be- ings. intended for the people who were ex- iled to
Both the structure of the book and the stories Babylon. These were people God had chosen,
it contains consistently show that His plan is and they had endured tri- als and
not to destroy but to save human beings persecutions. The visions of Daniel contain a
(Ezek. 33:11; John 3:17)—though, ultimately, message of divine judgment that was the
the unre- pentant will be destroyed. In source of hope for those who were oppressed
harmony with this point, we understand why for God's sake. The verdict on the oppressor
the author wrote the book in two languages: is pronounced during the judgment, and in
He intended to convey the message of the the end, the saints are vindicated, not
book to two different audiences.29 In condemned. Chapters 9 and 10 introduce the
Babylon, Aramaic was the language of Person who protects the faithful and who will
international business and diplomacy, so the visibly come to their rescue at the end. The
author used this language to com- municate revelation recorded in Daniel 9:25-27 calls
the message of the book to all the inhabitants him "Messiah, the ruler." Moreover, in the
of the empire. end, God's sanctuary is restored to its rightful
Chapters 4 and 5, which are found in the state. The themes of vindica- tion and
heart of the Aramaic section of the book, condemnation permeate the whole book.
disclose its intended message. That message We can summarize the message that the
was that no people on earth, including book bears to people today in the following
emperors, can remain neutral toward the God way: In the most difficult and
of heaven. In other words, when God
confronts a hu

33
INTRODUCTION
APPROACHES TO DANIELS BOOK

dangerous times of earth's history or of one's been advanced by some scholars have to do
personal life, children of God can be with the prophetic, historical, and linguistic
confident that He is in charge. He cares about aspects of Daniel's text. The objections raised
people. Despite appearances that seem to concerning the pro- phetic character of the
point to the contrary, He is present and revelations given to Daniel are part of higher
actively saving His op- pressed and faithful criticism, a negative approach to the claims
people while con- demning the forces of evil. made by the authors of the prophetic books
His judg- ment in heaven affects the course of of the Bible. Higher criticism neglects and
events down on earth. Most frequently, even denies the predictive aspect of bib- lical
Daniel communicated this message through prophecy because it views the Bible as a
the hymns of praise that are scattered product of purely human thought. The
throughout the book. The first such praise evidence from the text challenge s the claims
comes from the mouth of Daniel himself of this approach because each of Daniel's
(2:20-23). The rest of the hymns, which come visions are clearly dated to the sixth century
from the mouths of the pagan kings B.C. (Dan. 7:1; 8:1; 9:1; 10:1). Every reader of
Nebuchadnezzar (4:1-3, 34, 35) and Darius the Bible in general and of Daniel in particular
(6:25-28), echo the first hymn. has the privilege of choosing either to take
seriously or to dismiss the statements of the
Approaches to Daniel's Book
biblical books. This choice will determine the
In modern times, the study of Daniel's
result of the reader's inter- action with the
book has largely involved endless debates on
text.
the historical value of the facts reported in the
In a similar way, some scholars have
text—on matters such as authorship, the
questioned certain statements in Daniel that
unity of the book, and the validity of
are of a historical character. These include the
prophetic ut- terances. These issues have
dates of particular events (Dan. 1:1; 2:1), the
their value; however, the attention given them
identities of Belshaz- zar and Darius the
has far outweighed that given to the book's
Mede, and the mirac- ulous events through
theological insights.30 And, in the case of
which God saved the faithful from death
some scholars, it has resulted in a purely
(chaps. 3 and 6). Lastly, the presence and
humanistic and antisupernatural- ist approach
characteristics of diverse languages in the
that is diametrically op- posed to the claims of
book have also served as grounds for
the book itself.
questioning the book's traditional dating and
Objections to the traditional dating and
authorship. Several scholars have responded
authorship of the book that have
to these objections, some in a very systematic

39
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

way.31 While it is true that some of the religion and the legitimizing of the new cult
questions posed by higher criticism are still was confined to Jerusalem and Judea and
awaiting definitive answers, this pres- ent didn't take place in Jewish commu- nities
study assumes the validity of state- ments elsewhere.32 For these reasons, the original
from the biblical text and takes the traditional setting of Daniel's book fits bet- ter the time
view on the dating and au- thorship of of the exile to Babylon rather than the
Daniel's book. oppression under Antiochus IV Epiphanes.33
Based on the objections mentioned As for the hero of the book, he is described in
above, a number of scholars consider that the the text as the chief of all Babylonian wise
final form of Daniel's book cannot go back to men (2:48), a title that more likely came from
the sixth but rather comes from the second a foreign country and not from the group of
century B.C. It is also claimed that the book free- dom fighters in Judea.
did not originate in Baby- lon but in Judea and On the opposite side of the spectrum,
that it was written not by a single author but there are interpreters who take a rigid
by a number of different people. They believe approach to the book, claiming to have all the
the book of Daniel was meant to encourage answers to the questions that the text poses.
the faith- ful Jews in their resistance to the Much like higher criticism, this side too is not
persecu- tion of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. flexible enough to put aside its preconceived
This king became notorious in Jewish history notions and let Daniel speak for himself (cf.
for his desecration of the temple; his pro- Dan. 5:12). There is a real temptation for the
hibition of keeping the law, including the student of Daniel's book to engage solely in a
Sabbath and the rite of circumcision; and his study of its numbers, its historical details, or
merciless attempts to suppress the op- the differing interpretative nuances at the
position raised by pious Jews. expense of the rich mes- sage of the book. It
Several studies, however, have argued in a is preferable to let the overall message of the
persuasive way that the attempts to fit book come first and foremost in any study of
Antiochus IV Epiphanes into Daniel's biblical text. This is especially important in
descriptions of the little horn are not dealing with certain difficult texts in the book
satisfactory for several reasons: For one, about the meaning ofwhich scholars have not
Antiochus's persecution did not begin with a reached consensus. "Like a telescope it [the
religious cause but rather "in order to subdue Bible] summons us to look through, not at, it
a rebellious people." Second, the information and see the starry heavens. The most crucial
about the per- secution by this king as question to ask is, Have you seen the stars?
provided by the books of Maccabees is mostly not,
legendary. And third, the outlawing of the
Jewish

35
INTRODUCTION
APPROACHES TO DANIELS BOOK

What do you think of the lens?"34 In the rious close (eschatological). No student of
process of interpreting a passage from the Daniel would dispute the claim that God is
Bible, one should constantly keep in mind the first and foremost Hero in the book,
that the passage is only a part of the biblical while at the human level, the hero of the book
canon. If the passage is ob- scure, the bigger is Daniel. In addition, Daniel's friends and the
picture provided by the rest of the Bible may kings that he mentioned by name all play
be of help. important roles in the stories and the
In surveying the ways in which past and introductions to the visions of the book.
present interpreters have approached Daniel's As has already been pointed out, the
book, one notes the presence of not one but a present study of Daniel's book gives pri-
variety of approaches, such as macy to Daniel's life and work, since the two
philosophical/rationalistic, historical/ provide the key that can unlock the message
geographical, archaeological/anthropolog- of its stories and visions. Thus, special
ical, literary/linguistic, expository/exe- attention is given to the people who are
getical, didactic/theological, and social/ mentioned in the text, because the book
cultural. Each of these approaches has made a primarily talks about God's dealing with the
valuable contribution to the study of Daniel, people of the past, while the messages are
and this present study is indebted to all who also addressed to the people who read the
have skillfully used tools, ancient and modern, book today. This approach makes a unique
in an attempt to arrive at the meaning of the contribution to the study of Daniel's book
text and its application in our time. An and message because of the trends in our time
approach, however, that has been neglected in to place people at the forefront in society,
the study of Daniel is the type of exegetical politics, economy, religion, literature, and so
study that places the people in the book at the forth.
forefront—one that places the book's main Since Daniel's book belongs to the canon
characters at the center of the events and the of the Bible, its message extends beyond what
themes that are found scattered throughout it. the original author was saying to the people
This present study attempts to combine an of his day. It is rele- vant for every reader's
in-depth exegetical study with what could be time and place. First Peter 1:10-12 says:
called a people-oriented approach.
The first half of the book of Daniel Concerning this salvation, the
presents stories that are centered in God prophets, who spoke of the grace that
(theocentric), while the visions and au- ditions was to come to you, searched intently
from the second half point to God's leading in and with the greatest care, trying to
history toward its glo-

2—D. W. T. T. W. 33
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

find out the time and circumstances to tant Christians classify these passages as part
which the Spirit of Christ in them was of the Apocrypha, which Roman Catholics
pointing when he predicted the call "deuterocanonical docu- ments." These
sufferings of Christ and the glories that three additions to Daniel's book are believed
would follow. It was revealed to them to have been composed in Hebrew in the first
that they were not serving themselves century B.C. One of them is inserted in
but you, when they spoke of the things Daniel 3, and the other two are attached to
that have now been told you by those the book as chapters 13 and 14.
who have preached the gospel to you by 1. The Prayer ofAyariah and the Song of the
the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even Three Young Men. This addition is inserted
angels long to look into these things. between verses 23 and 24 of chapter 3. The
introduction consists of two verses. It is
A sound hermeneutic will embrace both followed by a twenty- verse prayer for
of these basic exegetical steps in an attempt deliverance supposedly spoken by Azariah,
to penetrate into the rich mean- ing of the the companion of Daniel who was known in
text. The most complete defini- tion of Babylon as Abednego. Hie prayer asks God to
hermeneutics states that it is the science and save the three Hebrew worthies from the fi-
art of interpreting a text. The artistic aspect ery furnace based on God's promises to the
of biblical interpretation has been neglected. patriarchs, the sufferings of His peo- ple, and
Concepts such as the beauty and balance that their true repentance. The ap- peal for
characterize a lit- erary unit were often left deliverance is followed by a re- quest for the
out. Yet the text of Daniel should not be punishment of the enemies of Israel and a
portrayed only as reliable and trustworthy; it worldwide manifestation of God's glory.
should be seen also as attractive and In the second part of this passage, in
applicable in everyday life. This present study response to Azariah's prayer, the angel of the
tries to give justice to both the historical and Lord intervenes on behalf of the three
lit- erary aspects of Daniel's text. Hebrews (w. 23-27). Then they join in a song
of praise for deliverance from the heat of the
Greek Additions to Daniel's Book burning furnace (w. 28-68), and they call upon
The Greek translation of the Bible every- thing—animate and inanimate—to
known as the Septuagint and the Latin give glory and praise to God.
translation known as the Vulgate con- tain In contrast to the Hebrew canon of the
three chapter-length passages that are absent Bible, where King Nebuchadnezzar
from the version of Daniel in the Hebrew
canon of Scripture. Protes-

37
INTRODUCTION
DANIEL AT QUMRAN

is usually portrayed in a positive light (the ashes on the floor. The footprints seen the
Book of Jeremiah calls him "the L O R D ' S next morning revealed the priests' se- cret and
servant"), this document por- trays him as "a thus proved to all that the image of Bel was
wicked king, the vilest in all the world" (v. only a dead idol. Angered by the priests'
9).35 deception, the king ordered them executed
2. Daniel and Susanna. This story is and the image destroyed.
attached to the book of Daniel as chap- ter In the second story, the Babylonians
13. It is a religious romance about a beautiful worshiped a live serpent known as a great
and pious Jewish woman named Susanna dragon. Daniel refused to bow down to the
who lived in Babylon. Two Jewish elders, idol and instead fed him with a strange
who were appointed as judges, made lustful mixture of boiled pitch, fat, and hair. When
approaches to her that she firmly resisted. To the dragon burst and died, Daniel was cast
cover up their inappropriate behavior, they into the den of lions for seven days. During
ac- cused her of adultery and arranged for her that time, he was mi- raculously fed by the
conviction and death sentence. In the prophet Habakkuk, whom an angel
denouement of the plot, young Daniel transported from Judea to Babylon for that
cross-examines the two accusers separately, purpose.
and their contradictory testi- mony convicts Since the apocryphal additions to the
all that the fault is with them and not with Hebrew Bible cannot claim canonicity, they
Susanna. Conse- quently, the elders are cast are not included in this present study. This is
into a ravine and destroyed by fire from not to deny their value to the student of the
heaven. Bible. In the words of Martin Luther, "They
3. Bel and the Dragón. This addition to are not held equal to the Holy Scriptures, yet
Daniel's book (as chap. 14) consists of two are profitable and good to read."36 They are
stories. In the first, Daniel acts as a detective particu- larly useful for a better appreciation
who is able to unveil the false- hood that was of the events and religious developments
practiced by the seventy priests of the god Bel during the intertestamental times.
(Marduk). These priests were deceiving Bel's
worshipers by claiming that Bel was Daniel at Qumran
consuming the food that the worshipers were The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in
placing in the temple. In reality, however, the 1947 and subsequent discoveries in the years
priests and their families were entering the that followed revolutionized the studies of
temple through a secret door during the night the text, canon, and theology of the books of
and feasting on the food. Daniel sneaked into the Bible. Fragments and quotations from
the temple after hours and sprinkled Daniel's book have come from caves one,
four, and six. These

39
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

fragments attest the presence of all twelve (4QFlor); 11:33-36, 38 (pap6Q-


canonical chapters in the library at Qum- ran. Dan)
In fact, the material evidence indi- cates the 12. Daniel 12:10 (4QFlor)
presence of no less than eight copies of
Daniel's book there. The importance of the fragments of
The text portions from Daniel found in Daniel's text from Qumran is twofold: (1)
the Qumran caves are listed below, followedTextual-, The text from Qumran is older by
by the names of the manu- scripts in which about one thousand years than the Masoretic
they are found:37 text that is the standard Hebrew text of the
Old Testament used today. Also, the changes
1. Daniel 1:10-17 (lQDan3); 1:16-20 from Hebrew to Aramaic and from Aramaic
(4QDana) back to Hebrew are both attested by the
2. Daniel 2:2-6 (lQDan); 2:9-11 (4QDan); fragments. (2) Canonical-, The number of the
2:19-49 (4QDan) copies of Daniel's book, eight in total, shows
3. Daniel 3:1, 2 (4QDan); 3:22-30 its importance in the first cen- turies B.C. and
(lQDanb) A.D. The people of Qumran held the book in
4. Daniel 4:29, 30 (4QDan ) s high esteem, and they considered Daniel to be
5. Daniel 5:5-7 (4QDan); 5:10-12 a biblical prophet. While no Greek addition to
(4QDan ); 5:12-14 (4QDan); 5:14-16
b Daniel has been attested at Qumran, a
(4QDanb); 5:16-19 (4QDan); 5:19-22 document titled the "Prayer of Naboni- dus"
(4QDan ) b was discovered there that ascribes a
6. Daniel 6:8-22 (4QDanb); 6:27-29 temporary mental disorder to King Na-
(4QDan ) b bonidus of Babylon rather than to King
7. Daniel 7:1-6 (4QDanb); 7:5-7 Nebuchadnezzar.
(4QDana); 7:25-28 (4QDan);
7:26-28 (4QDanb) Influence of Daniel on the New
8. Daniel 8:1-5 (4QDan); 8:1-8 (4QDan ); Testament
b

8:13-16 (4QDanb); While the inhabitants of Qumran ac-


8:16, 17Q), 20, 21 (pap6QDan) corded great importance to Daniel's book, its
9. Daniel 9 ? (4QDan ) e influence on Jesus Christ and the writers of
10. Daniel 10:5-9 (4QDan); 10:8-16 New Testament books cannot be
(pap6QDan); 10:11-16 (4QDan ); c overestimated. Daniel was one ofJesus'
10:16-20 (4QDanc); 10:21 (4QDan) favorite books, perhaps the favorite one. This
11. Daniel 11:1,2 (4QDan); 11:13-16 may be because "Jesus presented himself and
(4QDana); 11:13-17 (4QDanc); his work in apoc- alyptic terms" and because
11:25-29 (4QDan ); 11:32
c "he under-

39
INTRODUCTION
INFLUENCE OF DANIEL ON THENEWTESTAMENT

stood the book of Daniel to refer to his own 2:35), so, according to Revelation 12:8, "no
time and to the near future."38 Ac- cording to place was found" for Satan and his angels in
the Gospel writers, Jesus' fa- vorite title was heaven. Moreover, "there was no place for"
"the Son of Man"—a ti- tle that pointed to the first earth and sky when the One seated
His divine authority (Mark 2:10, 28) as well as on the throne sits down to begin the end-time
to His destiny (Matt. 26:64). As for His judgment (Rev. 20:11).
audience, it is "likely that they were aware of Daniel assured the king that "the God of
the mes- sianic interpretation of that manlike heaven will set up a kingdom that will never
figure [from Dan. 7: 13]. "39 be destroyed" (v. 44), and both John the
New Testament allusions to the ex- Baptist and Jesus be- gan their ministries by
pressions, concepts, and themes from proclaiming that the same " 'kingdom of
Daniel's book can be sketched as fol- lows: heaven is near' " (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; cf. Mark
Daniel 2. In his speech before King 1:15).
Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel claims that only Daniel 3. The theme of compulsory
God in heaven reveals mysteries about worship and a death decree dominates the
kingdoms (2:27, 28). In Mark 4:11, Jesus tells story of Daniel 3. The last book of the Bible
His disciples that " 'the secret of the kingdom contains the same theme (Rev. 13:11-18). And
of God' " has been given to them. the faith of Daniel's friends, says the author of
Daniel's words, "what will happen in days Hebrews, "quenched the fury of the flames"
to come," from verses 28, 29 are echoed in a (11:34) because God "sent his angel and
number of New Testament passages, such as rescued his servants" (Dan. 3:28). Cen- turies
Matthew 26:54; Mark 13:7; Revelation 1:1, 19; later, He did the same thing for His servant
4:1; and 22:6. Peter (Acts 12:11).
Jesus applied the picture of the de- Daniel 4. King Nebuchadnezzar dreamed
structive stone that represented God's of a tree in the branches of which the birds of
kingdom in Daniel 2:34, 35 and 44, 45 to His the air found shelter (4:12). Jesus used similar
life and ministry, and He con- cluded His words to describe the remarkable growth of
speech with the following statement: " the mustard seed, which " 'becomes a tree, so
'Everyone who falls on that stone will be that the birds of the air come and perch in its
broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will branches' " (Matt. 13:32; cf. Mark 4:32; Luke
be crushed' " (Luke 20:18). 13:19).
Just as the kingdoms of this world vanish Daniel 6. Having been rescued from the
"without leaving a trace" (Dan. lions, Daniel tells the king, "God sent his
angel, and he shut the mouths

39
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

of the lions" (6:22). The author of He- brews ing words: " 'Look, he is coming with the
commends this act of faith in God (11:33). clouds, / and every eye will see him.' " Both
Daniel 7. According to this chapter, four verses use the word "look" to introduce the
beasts rise out of the great sea (7:3). The first coming of this super- natural being. Jesus
beast of Revelation 13:1 does the same. The predicted that one day, people " 'will see the
total number of heads on Daniels four beasts Son of Man coming in clouds with great
is seven (7:4-7), and the beast from the sea power and glory' " (Mark 13:26). And His
has seven heads (Rev. 13:1). The ten horns on state- ment that the Son of Man is the only
Revelation's sea beast match the number of One who came to earth from heaven is
horns on the fourth beast in Daniel 7. The sea frequently found in the Gospels (John 3:13,
beast resembles a leopard, a bear, and a lion 14; 6:61, 62).
(Rev. 13:2), all three ofwhich are mentioned According to Mark 8:38, the Son of Man
in Daniel 7:2-8. And just as the little horn had will come " 'in his Father's glory with the holy
a mouth that spoke boastfully (7:8, 11, 20; cf. angels.' " .After that, the Son " 'will sit on his
8:25) and also spoke words against the Most throne in heavenly glory' " (Matt. 25:31)—an
High (7:25), the sea beast "was given a mouth act that sym- bolizes His authority (Mark
to utter proud words and blasphemies" (Rev. 2:10). Daniel 7:14 tells us that this authority
13:5). was given to Him and therefore "all rulers will
Daniel says multitudes of angels sur- worship and obey him" (7:27). That authority
round God's throne, and he pictures the court also implies His right to judge (John 5:22, 27).
proceedings beginning with the opening of In fact, God's judgment and the role of the
books (7:10). Revelation 5:11 also talks about Son of Man are closely linked in Daniel 7:9-14
God's angels that "encircled the throne," and also in Matthew 16:27, which says, " "Ihe
while the open- ing of books is tied to the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's
execution of God's judgment (20:11). glory with his angels, and then he will reward
The clothing of the Ancient of Days is "as each person according to what he has done.' "
white as snow" (Dan. 7:9), and Matthew 28:3 (Cf. Luke 12:8, 9; 21:36; Rev. 14:14.)
says that the angel of the Lord who came to The faithful saints are persecuted on earth
Christ's tomb wore clothes "white as snow." and even defeated by the forces of evil (Dan.
According to Daniel 7:13, "one like a 7:21, 25). Jesus adds to this statement the fact
human being [was] coming with the clouds of that the reason for this hostility is the world's
the sky." Revelation 1:7 describes Christ's attitude to- ward Him (Luke 6:22). The
coming with the follow- oppressor is

41
INTRODUCTION INFLUENCE OF DANIEL ON
THE NEWTESTAMENT

the beast that "was given power to make war ginning of Luke's Gospel pictures the same
against the saints and to conquer them" (Rev. angel appearing to Zechariah at the time of
13:7), just as the beast from the Abyss attacks the sacrificial offering to tell him of the future
the two witnesses and overpowers and kills birth of the one who " 'will be a joy and
them (11:7). delight' " to many (Luke 1:8-14). And later, in
The power given to the beast lasts for "a the same chapter, Gabriel appears to Mary
time, times and half a time"—an ex- pression and greets her with the words " 'you ... are
found in Daniel 7:25 and 12:7 and in highly favored!' " (v. 28).
Revelation 12:14, along with the parallel The expression "abomination that causes
expressions of forty-two months and 1,260 destruction" that is found in verse 27 and in
days (Rev. 11:2, 3). The good news, though, is two more places in Daniel (11:31; 12:11) is
that the Son of Man has a kingdom (Dan. mentioned in Jesus' Olivet Discourse in
7:27; Matt. 13:41; 19:28) and His is a universal Matthew 24:15 (cf. Mark 13:14) and applied to
rule (Rev. 3:21). a time in the future from Christ's point of
Daniel 8. Daniel saw in his vision a ram view.
with two horns (8:3), while John the revelator Daniel 10. The epiphany of a human- like
says that the beast that came out of the earth being described in Daniel 10:5, 6 has several
"had two horns like a lamb" (Rev. 13:11). The elements in common with the one given to
little horn from Daniel 8 attacks the Prince of John in Revelation 1:12-16. Daniel met this
princes (v. 25), the host of heaven, and the supernatural Being face to face toward the
sanctuary and throws some of the starry host end of his life and career, while John reports
down to the earth (w. 10, 11). Likewise, the on his vision in the beginning of his book.
sea beast slanders God's name, His dwelling John's audition about the messages to the
place, and those who live in heaven (Rev. seven churches may be compared structurally
13:6),40 while the dragon's tail "swept a third with Daniel's long audition about the great
of the stars out of the sky and flung them to war (Dan. 11:2-45).
the earth" (Rev. 12:4). Daniel 11. "The man of lawlessness"
Daniel9. Christ's prayer on behalf of His whose coming will precede Christ's coming is
followers (John 17) can be compared with described in 2 Thessalonians in words very
Daniel's long intercessory prayer on behalf of similar to those that describe the
his people. And while in Daniel 9:21-23, contemptible person from Daniel 11:36, 37.
Gabriel comes to announce the seventy-week The text from 2 Thessalonians 2:4 says, "He
period to the man who is "greatly loved," the will oppose and will exalt himself over
be- everything that is called God or is worshiped,
so that he

39
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

sets himself up in God's temple, pro- claiming sus' speech about the end time (Matt. 24:13;
himself to be God." Mark 13:13), endurance is stressed as the
Daniel 12. At the time of the end, the faithful wait for the end.
Mediator Michael stands up in order to defend
his people (v. 1). In a similar way, Jesus
pointed to the mediating role of the Son of 1. Josephus Flavius The Antiquities of the Jews 10.11.7.
2. Brevard S. Childs, Introduction to the Old
Man (John 1:51). Moreover, Revelation 3:5 Testament as Scripture (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979),
quotes him as saying: " 'He who overcomes 133.
will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never 3. Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets (Peabody,
MA: Prince Press, 2001), vii, xiii.
blot out his name from the book of life, but 4. W. Sibley Towner, Daniel, Interpretation (Atlanta:
will ac- knowledge his name before my Father Westminster John Knox Press, 1984), 5.
and his angels.' " 5. John J. Collins, Frank Moore Cross, Adela
Yarbro Collins, Daniel: A Commentary on the Book ofDaniel,
Michael's rise will be in the midst of an Hermeneia (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), 1.
unparalleled crisis to which Jesus re- ferred in 6. Donald J. Wiseman et al., Notes on Some Problems in
the Book ofDaniel (London: Tyndale, 1965); Gerhard F.
Matthew 24:21 (cf. Mark 13:19) and which the Hasel, "The Book of Daniel: Evidences Relating to
angel described to John as " 'the great Persons and Chronology," Andrews University Seminary
tribulation' " (Rev. 7:14). Only those whose Studies 19, no. 1
(1981): 37-49; Zdravko Stefanovic, TheAramaic of Daniel
names are writ- ten in the book shall be in the Light of Old Aramaic, Journal for the Study of the Old
delivered (Dan. 12:1). Revelation speaks of Testament Supplement, vol. 129 (Sheffield: Sheffield
Academic Press, 1992); Arthur J. Ferch, Daniel on Solid
"the book of life" (3:5; 20:12, 15) and "the Ground (Washington, DC: Review and Herald9, 1988).
Lamb's book of life" (21:27). 7. Joyce G. Baldwin, Daniel: An Introduction
In Daniel's text, those who sleep in the and Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Com- mentary
(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity,
dust of the earth will awake (Dan. 12:2). Jesus 1978), 17-46. In Daniel, Old Testament Guides
used the same language when He described (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1985), 9, P. R.
Davies described Baldwin's work as the best defense of
Lazarus's death and His in- tentions to the conservative interpretation of Daniel.
resurrect him (John 11:11; cf. Rev. 20:13). The 8. Louis Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews, 2 vols.
dualism that will char- acterize the people on (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2003), 1117;
Doukhan, Secrets, 7.
earth in the time of the end (Dan. 12:10) is 9. Doukhan, Secrets, 1.
echoed in Jesus' words from the Gospels 10. The two concepts were usually inseparable in
much of the ancient world. See the titles given to Joseph
(Matt. 25:46) as well as from Revelation (Rev. in Genesis 41:41-45.
22:11). In both Daniel and Revelation, the 11. For an extensive discussion on this topic, see
sealing of the scroll is related to the end of Klaus Koch, "Is Daniel Also Among the Prophets?"
Interpretation 39 (1985): 117-130.
times (Dan. 12:9, 10; Rev. 22:10). And in both 12. The Babylonian Talmud Sanh. 97b.
Daniel's revelations (12:12, 13) and Je

43
INTRODUCTION
INFLUENCE OF DANIELON THE NEWTESTAMENT

13. Ernest C. Lucas, Daniel, Apollos Old Testa- ment iel, Old Testament Guides (Sheffield: Sheffield Aca-
Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: Inter- Varsity demic Press, 1985), 35.
Press, 2002), 139. 30. Brevard S. Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament
14. Ibid., 132. as Scripture (Philadelphia, Fortress, 1993), 613.
15. Josephus Antiquities 10.11.7. For the Dead Sea 31. Wiseman, et al., Notes on Some Problems. Baldwin,
Scrolls, see 4QFlorilegium. Fragments of no less than 19-46; Shea, Daniel, 21-31; Hasel, "The Book of Daniel
eight copies of Daniel’s book have been found at and Matters of Language: Evidences Pertaining to
Qumran, providing a highly positive textual, linguistic, Names, Words and the Aramaic Lan- guage," Andrews
and canonical evidence for the tra- ditional view of the University Seminary Studies 19 (1981): 211-225; Z.
book. Stefanovic, Aramaic ofDaniel, 13-27.
16. H. Shanks, "An Interview with David Noel 32. Helmut Koester, History, Culture, and Reli- gion of
Freedman: How the Hebrew Bible and the Chris- tian the HellenisticAge, vol. 1 (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1982),
Old Testament Differ," Bible Review (Decem- ber 1993): 212-213. See also Avigdor Tcherik- over, Hellenistic
37-38. Civili%ation and the Jews, trans. S. Applebaum (New York:
17. Map of the city of Babylon c. 600 BC Atheneum, 1979); chap- ter 5 is titled "Antiochus
18. Joanne Oates, Babylon (London: Thames and Persecution ofJudaism."
Hudson, 1986), 198. 33. For a list of arguments against this thesis, see
19. D. J. Wiseman, Nebuchadre^yar and Babylon (1986; Arthur J. Ferch, "The Book of Daniel and the ’Mac-
repr., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 9-11. cabean Thesis,’ " Andrews University Seminary Stud- ies 21
20. More information about the stories in Daniel can no. 2 (1983): 129-141.
be found in the general introduction to chap- ters 2-6. 34. Clark H. Pinnock, The
21. More Information on Daniel’s visions is given in Scripture Principle (New York: Harper & Row, 1984), 17.
the general introduction to chapters 7-12. 35. Another view is that this was a reference to
22. For the meaning of the word apocalypse in the Antiochus Epiphanes. Cf. W. H. Bennet, "The Prayer of
context of the book of Revelation, see Ranko Stefa- Azariah and the Song of the Three Chil- dren" in The
novic, Revelation, 53. Apociypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English,
23. Richard N. Soulen and R. Kendal Soulen, ed. R. H. Charles (Oxford: Clarendon, 1913), 1:633.
Handbook of Biblical Criticism, 3rd ed. (Louisville, KY: 36. This statement serves as a preface to the apoc-
Westminster John Knox Press: 2001), 8. ryphal books placed at the end of the Old Testament in
24. J. J. Collins, et al., eds., The Encyclopedia of Martin Luther’s German translation of the Bible.
Apocalypticism, 3 vols. (New York: Continuum, 37. Eugene C. Ulrich, "Daniel Manuscripts from
1998). Qumran. Part 1: A Preliminary Edition of
25. Grant R. Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral: 4QDana," Bulletin of the American School ofOrien- tal Research
A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpreta- tion, 268 (1987): 17-37; "Daniel Manu
(Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity Press, scripts from Qumran. Part 2: Preliminary Editions of
1991), 231. 4QDanb and 4QDanc," Bulletin of the American School of
26. Beatrice Neall, "Jesus at the Center: How to Oriental Research 21A (1989): 3-26.
Interpret Prophecy," Adventist Review, October 21, 1993, 38. Collins, 93.
6. 39. Ibid., 96.
27. A. Lenglet, "La structure litteraire de Daniel 2-7," 40. In a private conversation, Gudmundur Olafs-
Bíblica 53 (1972): 169-190; William H. Shea, "Further son called my attention to the fact that in the Greek text
Literary Structures in Daniel 2-7: An Anal- ysis of Daniel of this verse there is no conjunction between "his
4," Andrews University Seminary Stud- ies 23 no. 2 (1985): dwelling place" and "those who live in heaven." He also
193-202; cf. Andrews University Seminary Studies 23 no. 3 observed that the Greek verb translated here as "live" is
(1985): 277-295. not used in Revelation of humans but only of God and
28. Soulen, Handbook, 32-33. His angels.
29. That two books were combined into one is "an
ancient view" according to P. R. Davies, Dan

44
THE OPENING CHAPTER
(1:1-21)

/ hapter 1 of Daniel serves as a pro- w logue some scholars, who consider the opening
that "records the historical setting for the verses "a telescoping of various events that
entire book."1 Some scholars believe that the led up to the eventual dispersion of the
original lan- guage of this chapter was Israelites in the sixth century."5 This year is
Aramaic and that its purpose was to remembered in history because of the battle
introduce chap- ters 2-7.2 It is better, for the control of an Egyptian military
however, to view this chapter as the outpost at Carchemish, near the Euphrates
introduction to the whole book of Daniel. Its River. A few years earlier, these forces had
powerful story sets the stage for everything fought each other at Haran. In the battle at
that follows, while at the same time it Carchemish, the armies of Egypt and
functions as a summary of the whole book's Babylon (in alliance with the Medes) clashed
message.3 It has been suggested that one can in their contest for control of Syria-Palestine.
find in this chapter the seeds of all that the In the end, the Egyptians were defeated and
rest of the book features: "All the major pushed southward (Jer. 46:2) by the army
themes to be developed later by narra- tive called in Ezekiel "the most ruthless of all na-
and visions are present in this intro- ductory tions" (Ezek. 32:12; cf. 30:11; 31:12). The
passage."4 The most prominent themes that official Babylonian chroniclers pro- vide
permeate this chapter in- clude a test of some valuable insights into these events:
faithfulness and the vic- tory that results in
the exaltation of the faithful. In the twenty-first year the king of
The event reported at the beginning of Akkad [Nabopolassar] stayed in his own
chapter 1 dates to the year 605 B.C. This view land, Nebuchadrezzar his eldest son, the
is preferred to the one held by crown prince, mustered (the

43
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

Babylonian army) and took com- mand you go up three times each year to ap- pear
of his troops; he marched to Carchemish before the Lord your God' " (Exod. 34:24).
which is on the bank of the Euphrates, This promise, however, was given on
and crossed the river (to go) against the condition that the people would wor- ship
Egyptian army which lay in Carchemish. Yahweh only and keep His covenant
. . . fought with each other and the stipulations, including their faithfulness in
Egyptian army withdrew before him. He observing the Sabbath rest (Jer. 17:20- 27).
ac- complished their defeat and to non- Proverbs 16:7 says, "When a per- son's ways
existence [beat?] them. . . . are pleasing to the L O R D , / he makes even his
At that time Nebuchadrezzar con- enemies live at peace with him." In several
quered the whole area of the Hatti- places in the Old Testament, one can read that
country [Hamath].6 For twenty-one years the two
Nabopolassar had been king of Babylon. exiles that the people of Israel suffered -----
On the 8th of the month of Ab [August] to Assyria and to Babylon—were the
he died (lit. 'the fates'); in the month of consequences of their breaking of the
Elul [September] Nebu- chadrezzar covenant—their practice of idolatry and
returned to Babylon and on the first day oppression of their fellow human be- ings.
of the month of Elul he sat on the royal Says the chronicler, "The L O R D , the God of
throne in Babylon.7 their fathers, sent word to them through his
messengers again and again, because he had
Thus, in that same year there was a pity on his people and on his dwelling place.
change of kings in Babylon. Nebuchad- But they mocked God's messengers, despised
nezzar, the crown prince who com- manded his words and scoffed at his prophets until the
the Babylonian army, left the captives in the wrath of the L O R D was aroused against his
hands of his generals and hurried back to people and there was no rem- edy" (2 Chron.
Babylon, taking the shortcut across the 36:15, 16).
desert. "This haste was doubtless due to a In a famous message delivered in the
desire to prevent any usurper from taking the Jerusalem temple, the prophet Jeremiah had
throne."8 About a year after this battle, all the warned the people of his time that they should
kings of Syria-Palestine came before him, and reform their ways and not "trust in deceptive
he received their tribute.9 words and say, 'This is the temple of the
L O R D , the temple of the L O R D , the temple of
According to a passage from the Pen-
tateuch, God had promised to protect Israel's the L O R D ! ' " (Jer. 7:4). The cherished promise
land in a supernatural way so that " 'no one that "God is within her [Jerusalem], she will
will covet your land when not fall; / God will help her at break of

44
THE OPENING CHAPTER (1:1-21)
DEFEAT(1:1, 2)

day" (Ps. 46:5) was not a blank check. God's portant reminder that God was in complete
people had exhausted the mea- sure of His control of this tragic event in Ju- dah's
abundant mercy and "there was no [other] history.
remedy" but exile. Then, when the people
1
were exiled from the land God had given 1n the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king

them, the law was no longer violated, and of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to

consequently, "the land enjoyed its sabbath Jerusalem and besieged it.2And the Lord gave

rests" (2 Chron. 36:21). Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with

Daniel 1 opens with a brief report of a some of the articles from the temple of God. These he

Babylonian invasion ofJerusalem, and it ends carried off to the land ofShinar, to the temple of his

with the triumph of the faithful at the palace god(s), and put in the trea- sure house of his god(s).

in Babylon. Thus the struc- ture of the story


recorded in this chapter is concentric, and it is Notes
first word that
1:1 "In the third year." The
clearly built on a reversal from defeat to
is used in the Hebrew text of this verse
triumph:
is bisnat; it means "in the year of."
1. Defeat (1:1, 2) Because it is the opening word of the
2. Training (1:3-5) whole book, it reminds the reader of the
3. Resistance (1:6-16, the longest part) first word in Genesis, bere'sh, which
4. Triumph (1:17-21) literally means "in the beginning (of)."
Both words are combinations of the
The longest part of the story in the preposition b, "in," with a feminine noun
chapter deals with the resistance of the young in the construct state. Although this is
men to the influence of the culture and most likely a coincidence, it is worth
religion that was prevalent in Babylon. Two notic- ing.
chronological markers, one found in the first The text links King Jehoiakim's third
verse of the chapter and the other in the last, year of reign with Nebuchadnezzar's
bracket the main story and thus form an first bout with Jerusalem, in 605 BC It is
inclusio that iden- tifies the span of Daniel's clear from this statement that the
career and the length of the exile to Babylon. author is using the accession-year
method of counting the years of a
Defeat (1:1,2) king's reign, in agree- ment with a
The book of Daniel opens with a re- port practice that was common in Baby- lon.
on the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonian According to this chronological method,
army, followed by an im- the first official year of a king's reign
began with the celebration of the first
New Year festival (Akitu) after his
accession to the throne. Thus, the event
45 referred to in this verse took place in
Nebuchad- nezzar's accession year,
rather than in the first official year of
his reign. In contrast, the prophet
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

Jeremiah, who lived in Jerusalem, used the ancient Near East for almost a
the non- accession-year system and century. In this verse, as in Jeremiah
accordingly dated the first year of King 46:2, he is referred to as me- lek, "king,"
Nebuchadnezzar to "the fourth year of through anachronism (prolepsis). During
Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Ju- dah" the battle of Carchemish he was only the
(Jer. 25:1; cf. 46:2). The two methods of crown prince. Anachronism is found
reckoning the years of King Jehoiakim's elsewhere in the Bible, for example, in
reign given in the two passages can be the place names Bethel (Gen. 12:8), Dan
presented as follows: (Gen. 14:14), and possibly Rameses
(Exod. 1:11).
Daniel 1:1 (Babylon): The spelling "Nebuchadnezzar" is
[Accession year [ 1styear | 2nd year | consistent in all thirty-two occurrences
3rdyear |
in the first five chap- ters of Daniel's
Jeremiah 25:1 (Jerusalem): j book. The spelling "Nebuchadrez- zar,"
1styear | 2ndyear| 3rdyear] 4thyear [ on the other hand, is found in the book
of Ezekiel and is closer to its original
"Jehoiakim king of Judah." Jehoiakim's fa- Babylonian form, Nabu-kudurri-u§ur, which
ther, King Josiah, was killed at Megiddo literally means "0 Nabu, guard the
in the battle of Haran in 609 BC (2 Kings offspring [the eldest son]!" or "0 Nabu,
23:34). Jehoia- kim's brother Jehoahaz protect the boundary stone!" The book
became king in place of Josiah but was of Jeremiah uses the two spellings
later dethroned by the Egyptian Pharaoh interchange- ably. Some scholars have
Neco, who then appointed Jehoiakim suggested that the spelling
king over Judah. This king's original "Nebuchadnezzar" may be the result of
name was Eliakim, but according to 2 a deliberate corruption of this king's
Chronicles 36:2-4, Neco changed his name by an opposition group in
name to Jehoiakim (cp. 2 Kings 23:34). Babylon.11 The place name "Babylon"
Although in the year 605 BC King Nebu- may refer to either the capital city of the
chadnezzar had Jehoiakim bound in empire or to the main province of the
bronze shackles "to take him to empire, also known as Babylonia.
Babylon" (2 Chron. 36:5-8), there is no "BesiegediCNeither this verse nor any
evidence that he was actually taken other biblical or extrabiblical text
there. In fact, 2 Kings 24:6 says that reports a battle for Jerusalem in the year
Jehoiakim died in the land of Judah. His 605 BC. Hence, it is most likely that
son, Jehoiachin, was exiled to Babylon in Jehoiakim surrendered to the Babylo-
the year 597 BC A pub- lished cuneiform nians without a fight, which may explain
text from Babylon speaks in detail of why he was not exiled to Babylon.
daily provisions of food given to Jehoi- 1:2 "And the Lord gave.'The word "’donay,
achin, king of Judah, and his sons. 10 46 "Lord," is used in this context rather
"Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon." Nebu- than God's covenantal name YHWH, "the
chadnezzar II (605-562 BC) was the IORD" or the general title 'eldhim, "God."
second ruler of the Neo-Babylonian Most likely, the author used this name
Empire, which controlled of God to show that God was in charge
of the events that were taking place. The
Lord is greater than a mere local deity.
In addi-
THE OPENING CHAPTER (1:1-21)
DEFEAT (1:1,2)

tion to being the patrón God of Israel, lon at this time. The rest were carried
he ¡s the Lord of all the earth. This away in subsequent invasions. And
statement also contains the first of the Jeremiah 27:16-22 says that
three occurrences of the verb natan, "he "Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon did
gave" in this chapter. The other two not take away" a considerable portion
occurrences are in verses 9 and 17. Its of the temple treasure. The articles that
use in this verse shows that the Lord was were taken from the temple in
in full control when the leaders of Jerusalem were the only surviving ma-
Jerusalem surrendered to terial link between the first and the
the
Babylonian army. second temple (Ezra 1). The narratives
of the books of Daniel and Ezra imply
"Jehoiakim king of Judah." See the Notes on
Daniel 1:1. that King Nebuchadnezzar treated the
"Into his hand." In the Bible, the word sacred vessels with respect.
yad, "hand," is often used figuratively to "The land of Shinar."The Greek translation
describe a person's power known as the Septuagint renders this
and
authority. When combined with the expression as "Babylon." The word in
passive form of the verb natan, "to give," the original Hebrew is sin'ar, "Shinar,"
it means a defeat in a military conflict one of the traditional names of the city
(Dan. 11:11). (and the province) of Babylon. The
"Some of the articles from the temple of name is found in a few other places in
God."After a battle, the winning army the Old Testa- ment (Gen. 10:10; 11:2;
would carry the booty back to their 14:1, 9; Isa. 11:11; and Zech. 6:10). In
land. The trophies included some sacred the past, some scholars attempted to
temple objects such as containers made relate Shinar to the land of Sumer,
of precious material and used in tradition- ally known as the cradle of
sacrificial rituals, it was not unusual to the first civilization. It is best, however,
see idols carried into exile. The victors to consider this term as describ- ing the
did this to show the superiority of their land of Babylonia.
gods over those of the de- feated nation In the context of this chapter, the
(1 Sam. 5:2; 21:9; Dan. 11:7,8; Joel 3:5). word Shinar aWudes to the story of the
So, for example, the prophet Jeremiah building of the city and the Tower of
de- clared, "Chemosh [a Moabite god] Babel. According to Genesis 11, this
will go into exile, / together with his project ended in confusion. The author
priests and officials" (Jer. 48:7), and he is us- ing here an "intentional archaism"
said the same would happen to Molech, to remind the reader that God called
an Ammonite god (Jer. 49:3). Abraham, the father of the nation, to
According to 2 Chronicles 4:16, the leave this place of confusion and goto
sacred articles taken included "the pots, the Promised Land (Gen. 12:1-3). In
shovels, meat forks and all related47 Daniel 1, Abraham's descendants, the
articles." Daniel 5:2 adds "the gold and Israelite captives, are pictured as
silver goblets." Ezra 1:11 puts the total reversing their ancestor's experi- ence.
number of articles taken by the As they traveled together with the
Babylonians at fifty-four hundred. temple articles to Babylon, they were
Daniel 1:2 specifies that only "some" of actually backtrack- ing Abraham's
the sacred vessels were taken to Baby- journey of faith.
The regular trade route to Babylon
taken by the captives went north of
Jerusalem toward the
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

cities of Riblah and Hamath. It then the exile is not due to the inability of Judah's
followed the river Euphrates God to defend Jerusalem, but rather is
southeastward, a trip totaling more than brought about by a deliberate act of her
one thousand kilometers. God."12
"The temple ofhis god(s).lhe original He- The Israelites considered Jerusalem
brew says bet ’eldhaw, "the house of his "beautiful in its loftiness, / the joy of the
god(s)," and it contrasts with the whole earth" (Ps. 48:2), while the Baby-
previously given ex- pression "the lonians prized Babylon as "the jewel of
temple of God." The articles were kingdoms, / the glory of the Babylonians'
deposited in Esagila, the temple in pride" (Isa. 13:19). The prophet Habak- kuk
Babylon built in honor of the city's had written (Hab. 1; 2) that God would use
patron god, Marduk, whose popular the Chaldeans from Babylon as an instrument
name was Bel, "lord" (Isa. 46:1) Since to judge his covenant people. Now, in the third
King Nebuchadnezzar worshiped this year of Jehoiakim, one such judgment had oc-
god (Dan. 4:8), he named his eldest son, curred, when this king ofJudah surren- dered
the crown prince, Amel-Marduk, after to the Babylonians. Prior to this time, the king
him (Evil-Merodach in 2 Kings 25:27; Jer. was a vassal of the Egyp- tian Pharaoh Neco,
52:31). Ezra 1:7 and 5:14 specify that the who had appointed him to rule over Judah.
vessels were "placed in the temple of his The very men- tion of King Jehoiakim's name
[the king's] god(s)" and remained there in this verse reminds the reader of someone
during the whole period of the exile. It is who dared to cut into pieces and throw into a
significant that the expression "his god" fire a scroll that contained God's message to
is given twice in this verse, most likely Israel through the prophet Jeremiah (Jer.
for emphasis.
36:22-24). As for Nebuchadnezzar, he is by
prolepsis called king of Babylon in this verse,
Exposition (1:1. Z> although in reality he was still only the crown
1:1 As stated previously, the first two prince.
verses introduce not only this chapter but also Babylon obtained control ofJerusa- lem,
the entire book of Daniel. They present the the capital of the kingdom ofJudah, more than
reader with some of the most dramatic events a century after Assyria's deportation of the
in Judah's history. The exile to Babylon that citizens of the north- ern kingdom of Israel
began in the thírd year of the reign of Jehoiakim (722 B . C . ) . Be- fore Babylon's defeat of Egypt
signaled the end of the political independence at Carchemish, the kingdom ofJudah was in
of God's chosen people and their nation's alliance with Egypt. The Babylonian
Davidic dynasty. The opening words in the
chapter give the historical, geographi- cal, and
theological setting of the whole book.
"Historically, they set the stories in the time of
the Babylonian exile. Geographically, they48
locate them in Babylon. Theologically, they
assert that
THE OPENING CHAPTER (1:1-21)
DEFEAT (1:1, 2)

army laid siege to Jerusalem on three sepárate 1:2 The author says that the Lord- gave the
occasions, though only the last two invasions king of Judah along with the temple articles
feature in extrabiblical history. During the into the hands of the Babylonians. To the
first expedition, which followed the defeat of faithful, this bold statement of trust says that
the Egyp- tian army (Jer. 46:1-12), King God was still in control and was a source of
Jehoia- kim surrendered to the Babylonians. strength and courage. After all, had not God,
At that time, Daniel and other members through the prophet Jeremiah, called King
ofJudah's nobility were led to exile in Nebuchadnezzar "my servant" (Jer. 27:6)?
Babylon. During the second expedition, Had he not put a time limit to the period of
when Jehoiachin was king in Jerusalem, the the exile in Babylon (Jer. 29:10)? That same
Babylonians came and led the king, the Lord gave Ju- dah's king, the captives, and the
priests, and the princes into captivity. Daniel's holy objects into the enemy's hand. Because
contemporary Ezekiel was in this group of King Jehoiakim had surrendered to the
exiles. Some ten years later, King Zedekiah Babylonians, he was not taken to Baby- lon
and most of the remaining people were taken but eventually died in the land of Judah (2
to Babylon. Only the poorest of the poor, Kings 24:6). The destiny of the captives and
referred to as 'am ha ares, "the people of the the temple vessels was very different, since
land," were left to care for Palestine. they were carried offto Babylonia.
The three major Babylonian invasions As the neighboring nations saw Jeru-
can be summarized as follows: salem's defeat and the temple vessels taken to
Mesopotamia, they must have concluded that
1. 605 B.C. Members of the royal family Yahweh, the God whose dwelling was in that
and nobility, including Daniel and his city, was defeated by the god Marduk (Bel)
friends, were led to Babylon (2 Kings and was now led captive to Babylonia. "Wars
24:1,2; 2 Chron. 36:5-7). were fought in a god's name and plunder thus
2. 597 B.C. King Jehoiachin, princes, and be- longed to him. The temple articles are his
priests, including the prophet Ezekiel, booty,"13 symbolizing the captivity of
were taken to Babylon (2 Kings conquered gods as well as people. Since the
24:10-14; 2 Chron. 36:10). Jews did not have an image of their God, the
3. 586 B.C. King Zedekiah and all the Babylonians carried off their temple vessels
remaining people other than the poor instead.14 "To all appear- ances, the God
were exiled to Babylon (2 Kings ofJerusalem has been defeated by the gods of
25:1-21; 2 Chron. 36:17-20). Babylon."15

49
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
| COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

In part, the book of Daniel was writ- ten lion and confusion to go to a land that he
to disprove this misconception. It promised to give to Abram's descen- dants so
emphatically affirms that the Lord could that "all peoples on earth will be blessed
never become a captive of Marduk, the patron through you" (Gen. 12:3). Abram's journey of
god of Babylon. Had not the previous faith started in Haran (Gen. 12:4) and
attempts to hold the God of Israel captive to continued as far as Bethel (Gen. 12:8), until
the pagan gods failed (cf. 1 Sam. 5)? King he reached the Negev, or the south (Gen.
Nebuchadnezzar defeated Jerusalem and its 13:3).
people, but he was able to do so only because Years later, Abraham's grandson Jacob
the Lord allowed it to happen. Through the backtracked his grandfather's journey of faith
prophet Isaiah, he had predicted long before, after he deceived his brother and was forced
in the time of King Hezekiah, that these holy to flee his father's home, Jacob left Beersheba
vessels would some day be carried to Babylon (Gen. 28:10), the main town in the Negev,
(Isa. 39:6). This same God was still in control traveled to Bethel (Gen. 28:19), and finally
of the events in the world. In fact, he had set reached his destination, the city of Haran, lo-
the limits to the power of the Neo- cated in Mesopotamia (Gen. 29:4). In a
Babylonian Empire. similar way, Abraham's descendants, by
Mention of the temple articles in the leaving the Promised Land and going into
beginning of Daniel's book also prepares the exile to the land of Shinar, were reversing their
reader for the story of Belshazzar's feast forefather's journey of faith. "Now with the
(chap. 5), which is placed in the context of covenant broken by the descendants of
Babylon's fall. Abraham, there was—by means of a
The intentional use of the archaic name captivity—a move- ment back to Shinar."17
Shinar for Babylon takes the reader back to the The use of the term "Israelites," or literally
story recorded in Genesis 11 in which the "the sons of Israel [Jacob]," in verse 3 is
human race tries to defy God's plan by probably in- tentionah. reminding the reader
building an imposing city-tower intended to that these captives were actually the descen-
be the capital of the world. Told "not without dants of Jacob. As they were on their way to
humor,"16 the story reports that the project Mesopotamia, they were in real- ity following
was in the end aborted, resulting in a new— in the footsteps of their an- cestor Jacob, who
taunting—name given to the place: Babel, or was the first family member to reverse
"confusion." In the following chapter of Abraham's journey of faith to the Promised
Genesis (chap. 12), God called Abram to Land,
leave this place of rebel- In the eyes of biblical prophets, the land
of Babylonia was a center of idola-

50
try. Hie prophet Zechariah was told in a wine from the king's table. They were to be edu- cated
visión that the ¡and of Shinar was the for three years, and at the end of that time they were
"dwelling of iniquity and wickedness" (Zech. to enter the king's service.
5:5-11). Daniel and his people went into
captivity mainly because of the breaking of TVoTes
God's covenant. Later, the Jewish rabbis told 1:3 "Ashpenaz." Although it has been
a story that at- tempted to answer the sug- gested that this is an Old Persian
question of why Israel went into exile in term that means "innkeeper," most
Babylon rather than in all other lands. They ancient and modern transla- tions have
said it was "because the home of Abraham taken it as a personal name. The name is
was there. They parable [tell] a parable. Unto attested outside of the Bible,
what is the matter like? It is like a woman who "Chief of his court officials." The word saris,

disgraces her husband so that he sends her "a court official," is translated by some
away. He sends her away to the home of her as "eunuch" because originally, it
father." 18 Some com- mentators take note of designated a castrated male person (Isa.
the fact that after the Babylonian captivity, 56:3). The Hebrew title rab sans, "chief
"idolatry never again became a major eunuch," designated the person in
temptation to Is- rael." 19 charge of the king's harem (women's
quarters).20 Later, the semantic range of
Training (1:3-5) this term was broadened to include any
After a brief reference to Nebuchad- trusted official of the king (2 Kings 18:17;
nezzar's siege of Jerusalem, the text fo- cuses Jer. 39:3, 13). Joseph's master Potiphar,
on some of the captives who were selected for example, is called sans in Genesis 39:1.
and brought to Babylon for spe- cial training. As "chief palace servant,"21 Ashpenaz
was the person in charge of the edu-
cation of the royal youth. He was directly
re- sponsible to the king himself for their
success- ful training (v. 18). As for the
3 four young Hebrews, it cannot be
Then the king commandedAshpenaz, chiefof his court
demonstrated that they were made
officials, to bring in someof the Israelites
literal eunuchs in Babylon because the
from the royal family and the nobility—"young men
physical perfection mentioned in verse 4
without any defect, good-looking, skillful in all
could not be applied to eunuchs.
branches of wisdom, having knowledge, quick to
"Some of the Israelites." Literally, the text
understand, and competent to serve in
says mibbeneyisra'el, "some of the sons of
the king's palace. He was to teach them the Ian- guage
Israel." The plural noun bene, "sons of,"
and literature of the Chaldeans. 3 * 5The king assigned
functions here as a noun of relation and
them a daily amount of choice food and
thus expresses the concept of
51membership in a group. Therefore, it is
best translated idiomatically rather than
literally22—hence the rendering of the
whole phrase mibtfneyisra'el as "some of
the Israelites."
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

The name Israel reminds the reader of the sanctuary (Lev. 21:17-23) as well as the
pa- triarch Jacob, who spent part of his sacrifices that were offered there (Lev.
life in the land of Mesopotamia. Thus 22:18-25). The term mum, "defect," is
the use of this term "is presumably also used in nonreligious con- texts.
theological."23 In the book of Daniel, the Absalom was described as a person who
name Israel appears only here and in had "no blemish in him" (2 Sam. 14:25),
chapter 9. See the Notes on Daniel 1:2. just as was the beloved in Song of Songs
"The royal family and the nobility." It is not 4:7 and Job in Job 31:7.
very clear whether these two terms "Skillful in all branches ofwisdom."Jhe He-
express a single concept, something like brew noun maskilim, "skillful, wise," that
"the royal family, that is, the nobility," is used here describes persons who are
with the conjunction func- tioning here prudent and have insight. Both this
as explicative, or if the two have noun (Dan. 12:3) and its root (9:22)
separate meanings, as is reflected in this figure prominently in the visionary part
transla- tion. The title happarfmim, of the book that teaches the divine
"nobility," comes from Persian and is origin of wisdom and skill. "Importantly,
used only here and in Esther 1:3 and 6:9. these youngsters are also described as
This detail gives additional informa- tion maskilim (NRSV 'versed'), a term that is
about the family backgrounds of Daniel used later in the book for those who are
and his friends. They may have been 'wise' enough to bring understanding to
members of ei- ther the royal family of many, even at the price of their own
Davidic descent or of the noble families suffering and death (Dan. 11:33,35;
from Judah. Ancient traditions relate the 12:3,10)."26
four young men to either King Zedekiah "Having knowledge." This original
(Josephus) or King Hezekiah (Jerome). 24
wording, w yd<f'i da'at, literally means
e

In either case, they would already have "and those who know knowledge." This
had some kind of diplomatic training combining of two forms of the same
back in their homeland. verbal root is a common phenome- non
1:4 "Young men." The expression fladim, in Biblical Hebrew; it is called cognate accu-
"young men," means that the youth sative (paronomasia). Its purpose is to
were in their adolescent years (Gen. place em- phasis on certain people,
37:30). It has been sug- gested that the events, or actions.
four Hebrews were between fif- teen "Competent to serve." The literal meaning
and eighteen years old when they were of the original phrase, wa'"s'er koah bahem,
taken to Babylon. A scholar has called is "and those who have strength in them
this "a teachable age."25 Joseph was to stand [in the palace of the king]."
around eighteen when sold into slavery "He was to teach them."The subject of this
(Gen. 37:2). The same plural part of the verse is Ashpenaz.
noun/ldd/m, "young men," is used in 152 "The language and literature of the Chal-
Kings 12:8 to describe the friends of deans.'The original text uses the name
King Rehoboam who grew up with him kasdim, "Chaldeans," for the Babylonians.
and were his counselors. The two geo- graphical names, "the land
"Without any defect." The expression 'en- of the Chaldeans" and "Babylonia," are
bahem kol-mum, "without any blemish," is interchangeable in the Bible
used to describe Israelite priests who
served in the
THE OPENING CHAPTER (1:1-21)
TRAINING (1:3-5)

(Jer. 24:5; 25:12; Ezek. 1:3). Today, most 1:10. Ancient texts have been
of schol- ars hold that the language of discovered from the reign of
the Chaldeans was Akkadian,27 while an Nebuchadnezzar that specifically
older view was that they were mention the food rations given to
"originally an Aramaic-speaking Jehoiachin, the imprisoned king of
people." The cities of Sippar, Uruk, and Judah and his family. They confirm the
28

Babylon were the three centers of historicity of the statements found in


Chaldean learning. Jeremiah 52:34 and 2 Kings 25:30. See
The language component of the the Notes on Daniel 1:10.
curriculum most likely included "Educated for three years."The verbal root
Akkadian, which was a Se- mitic gdl, "to train" or "to educate," is used in
language. Akkadian was written in the simple active stem meaning "to
wedge- shaped characters on clay become great." In the intensive stem,
tablets that were ei- ther dried in the this Hebrew word is used of raising
sun or baked in a kiln to harden them. children in Isaiah 1:2.31 This word figures
The curriculum also included Sumerian, prominently in the visionary part of the
the traditional language of religion in book, where it is often associated with
Babylon. And most importantly, the pride (Dan. 8:8-11). Scholars argue,
Hebrews would learn Aramaic, the based on some extrabib- lical evidence,
international language of com- merce that a three-year education was the
and diplomacy. standard practice in Persia and possibly
The wisdom component of the in Neo-Babylon.32 Verses 18 and 19 add
curriculum consisted of mathematics, more infor- mation on the training,
astrology, and the in- terpretation of stating that at the end of this period,
dreams. Divination and omen in- the young men were to be examined
terpretaron were two types of expertise and that the final test included an
that "required extensive education in interview with the king himself.
the vast Baby- lonian omen literature."29 "To enter the king's service." Literally, the
Royal servicemen in- cluded "scribes, Hebrew says ya'amdu lipne hammelek, "they
advisors, sages, diplomats, provincial were to stand before the king." This was
governors or attendants to members of a techni- cal term for royal service
the royal household."30 commonly used in the Bible (cf. 1 Kings
1:5 "Choice food."The Hebrew word pat- 10:8; 12:8). It is also used in a re- ligious
bag means "rich food" or "choice food." sense in Deuteronomy 10:8 and 2
It comes from the Old Persian word Chron- icles 29:11.
patibaga and originally meant either "an
offering" or a portion of the special Exposition (1:3-5)
food served at the royal palace. This 1:3 Choice captives were selected for
term is consistently followed by the53 special training so they could serve at the
noun ham- melek, "the king"—underlining court. Then, if they ever returned to their
the fact that this rich food was provided homeland, they would function as vital links
at the king's expense, and he, therefore, between the palace and the provinces in the
was its provider. The word pat- bag occurs empire. Scholars differ
in the Bible only here and in Daniel
11:26. The general words for "food and
drink" commonly used in the Bible are
given in Daniel
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

on the issue of whether this selection was same language to describe the priests and the
made in Jerusalem or in Babylon. sacrifices in the sanctuary (Lev. 21:17-23;
Undoubtedly, other youth in addition to the 22:18-25) but also young people like Absalom
four young men who are intro- duced in verse (2 Sam. 14:25) and the beloved (Song 4:7).
6 were selected from Ju- dah as well as from "Babylonian di- viners were also expected to
the rest of the coun- tries of Syria and be 'without blemish in body and limbs' when
Palestine, the region conquered by they approached the gods."34
Nebuchadnezzar. Yet the focus of the story is The Chaldeans were the master race in
on these four. Neo-Babylon, and by profession, they were
Ashpenaz, the king's chief official, was in the priests of the god Marduk (cf. Isa. 46:1).
charge of the selection and edu- cation of the Moreover, they were the guardians of
young captives. Since he is called literally "the Babylon's sacred traditions. Ethnically, they
chief eunuch" in this verse, some have belonged to the Semitic family of peoples.
concluded that all the young men that are Prior to gaining control over Babylonia, they
mentioned here, in- cluding Daniel and his had dwelt in territories south of the city of
friends, were also made "eunuchs" in the Babylon. In biblical passages, the names
literal sense of the word. While it is true that "Chaldeans" and "Babylonians" are often
the He- brew title in a narrow sense can used interchangeably.
describe a castrated person ("I am only a dry Before the four Hebrews were exiled, the
tree," Isa. 56:3), in its broader semantic scope, revealed word of God was the center of their
it can stand for any trusted official of the king. life and learning. But in Babylon, their studies
Potiphar, for example, is called a saris in were to focus on Meso- potamian literature
Genesis 39:1, even though he was married. and sciences. Some of the disciplines
Thus, one can say that "it is not necessary to practiced in Babylon posed a serious problem
draw the conclusion that the [Hebrew] youths to these young men. Practice of magic, for
were made eunuchs" in Babylon.33 example, was clearly prohibited by Mosaic
1:4 The young men were between fif- teen legisla- tion (Deut. 18:9-14) as well as by the
and eighteen years old, an ideal teachable age. biblical prophets (Isa. 8:19, 20). It has been
The text discloses several criteria for their rightly observed that it was not necessarily the
selection: family back- ground, physical knowledge but the practice of magic that
appearance, intellectu- al capabilities these texts con- demned.35
combined with readiness to learn quickly, and 1:5 In accordance with the ancient
palace manners (etiquette). Physically, they customs, the king himself provided
had to be without any defect. The Bible uses the

54
THE OPENING CHAPTER (1:1-21)
RESISTANCE (1:6-16)

choice food and wine for those who re- sided or be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be
served at the palace (1 Kings 4:7). Doing so left, says the L O R D . And some of your
ensured that he would be given credit for their descendants, your own flesh and blood who
success. The text repeatedly states that the will be born to you, will be taken away, and
food and drink came from the kíng's table. Yet, they will become eunuchs in the palace of the
the young Hebrews must have clearly under- king of Babylon' " (Isa. 39:5-7). Daniel and his
stood that their God, the Creator of friends must have read these words more
everything, rather than the king or his god, than once, which would have helped them
was the ultimate Provider of all things, under- stand the place of God's providence in
whether food and drink or life and wisdom. their lives and also in Judah's history. Their
The Babylonians planned the educa- trust in God's leading "did not prevent them
tional process to last three years, after which the from being taken into exile, but it did give
young men's progress would be evaluated them the opportunity to witness for their
through a final test, a part of which was an faith during that exile."36
interview with King Nebuchadnezzar (Dan.
Resistance (1:6-16)
1:18, 19). Upon successfully passing that
The young men's resistance to the ac-
examination, the young men would be
culturation in Babylon began with their
qualified to "stand before the king," a term for
attitude toward the new names given them
royal service that had both secular (1 Kings
and their decision not to partake of the rich
10:8; 12:8) and religious (2 Chron.
food and drink that the king generously
29:11) connotations.
provided for them.
Since there is sufficient evidence in the
book to show that Daniel studied the scroll of 6
Among these were some from Judah: Daniel,
the prophet Isaiah while in Babylon, one can
Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. 7The chief offi- cial
conclude that the four Hebrews were well
gave them (new) names: to Daniel, the name
aware of a statement made by Isaiah that put
Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael,
the exile in the perspective of God's plan for
Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.
their lives. After a Babylonian delegation 8
But Daniel resolved not to de file himself with
visited Je- rusalem, Isaiah told King Hezekiah,
the royal choice food and wine, and he asked the chief
" 'Hear the word of the L O R D Almighty: The
official for permission not to defile himself this way.
time will surely come when every- thing in 9
Now God had given Daniel favor and compassion in
your palace, and all that your fathers have 10
the sight of the chief official, but the chief official
stored up until this day, will
told Daniel, "I am afraid of my lord the king, who has
assigned your food and

55
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the Judean captives (Ezra 8:2; Neh. 10:6),
other young men your age? So you would en- and a per- son spoken of in Ezekiel
dangermylife with the king." 14:14, 20 and 28:3. Scholars are divided
11
Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief as to whether this latter per- son is the
oficial had appointed over Daniel, Hana- niah, Daniel who wrote the prophetic book.
Mishael, and Azariah, u"Please test your servants for Some argue that this is the case,37 while
ten days: Let us be given only vegetables to eat and others relate the name to a
water to drink. Then compare our appearance with fifteenth-century BC "righ- teous ruler"
13

that of the young men who eat the royal food, and called dantl from the ancient city of
deal with your servants in accordance with Ugarit (Phoenicia).38 Since Daniel was
whatyousee."14So he agreed to this and tested them Ezekiel's contemporary and was famous
for ten days. for his wisdom even during his lifetime
15
At the end of the ten days it was obvious that (Dan. 5:11,12), it is pos- sible to identify
they were healthier and better nourished than all of him with the person mentioned in
6
the young men who ate the royal choice food. So the Ezekiel's book.
guard took away their choice food and the wine they "Hananiah."This name, which also
were to drink and gave them vegetables instead. appears elsewhere in the Bible, means
"Yahweh is gra- cious/merciful."
Notes "Mishael." Although the meaning of
1:6 "Among these."See the Notes on Daniel this Hebrew name is not very clear, it is
1:3. attested else- where in the Bible. It
"Some from Judah." Literally, the text probably means something like "Who is
reads mibb'ne fhuda, "from the sons of what God is!"
Judah." The Hebrew word for "sons" "Azariah." This name is based on the
that is used here func- tions as a noun of com- mon Hebrew verb 'azar, "to help,"
relation. See the Notes on Daniel 1:3. which occurs frequently in the Bible. It
"Daniel."All four Hebrew names listed means "Yahweh has helped." It is also
here are theophoric—i.e., they contain a found in the name Ebenezer, "the stone of
form of a divine name in them. Daniel's help."
name, daniye'l, means "God is my judge!" 1:7 "Chief."The Hebrew noun sar,
The word "judge" is frequently used in "prince," is used here instead of rab,
the Bible in a positive way, with a "chief," as in verse 3. The two terms are
meaning of "deliverer" or "savior" (cf. used synonymously, both de- scribing
Judges 2:16, 18; 3:9,15; 6:14). Three the position that Ashpenaz held.
other pas- sages in the Bible mention "Belteshazzar." In interpreting the
people who bore the same name: a son meaning of this name, one is faced with
of King David (1 Chron. 3:1), a man two possibilities:
whose name is in the lists of returned (1) Belteshazzar is a corruption of a
56 common Babylonian name Bel-sharra-usur,
which ex- pressed a prayer to the god
Bel (Marduk) to pro- tect the king.39 A
second possibility is that the name
contains the title for Bel's consort, Belet
(or Belit), with the meaning "May [the
goddess] Belet protect the king!" The
first possibility is pre-
THE OPENING CHAPTER (1:1-21)
RESISTANCE (1:6-16)

ferred here because it is supported by mon in Babylon were names based on


Daniel 4:8, which says that Daniel was the name of the god Nebo (or Nabu). In
given his Babylonian name after the that case, the meaning of the name
name of Nebuchadnezzar's god. Abednego would have been "the servant
Moreover, the Greek text of Daniel has of Nebo." This is another case of the
this name spelled Baltasar, the same way intentional distortion of a name with
King Belshazzar's name is spelled in the purpose of giving an early
Daniel 5. indication that the young men in
Scholars have suggested that all the Babylon tried to resist the sur- rounding
Babylonian names in the Hebrew idolatrous influence.42
Masoretic Text "may be deliberately 1:8 "Reso/vec/."The Hebrew verb
corrupted forms of names extol- ling sim means "to place" or "to appoint." It
pagan gods."40 (On the name is used here in the same form as in verse
Nebuchadnez- zar, see the Notes on 7. Thus, there is a wordplay on this verb
Daniel 1:1.) This suggestion has been in the two verses. Verse 7 begins by
made because no reconstruction of the stating that the chief official
four Babylonian names "is completely yasem—'"set" or "determined"—the new
convinc- ing."41 The question is then names for the young men. Beginning
raised regarding the possible reason for with the same verb, verse 8 says that
the corruption of these new names. Daniel yasem—'"set" or "determined"—in
Rather than being accidental, the his mind not to defile himself.
change must have been intentional—the The original text has here the
author of the book corrupting the additional words 'al-libbo, "upon his
names to express his dis- agreement heart." In the Hebrew culture, the heart
with the religious teaching behind was the seat of the will and in-
them. His point, then, would be that telligence of a person, meaning much
neither Bel nor his consort Belet (or the same as the word mind in our
Belit) nor his son Nebo (or Nabu) could culture.
protect the life of the king. Only "Defile himself." In the Bible, the
Yahweh, the God of Israel, could do Hebrew root g'l, "to defile," is associated
that. It is in- teresting to notice that in with blood de- filement (Isa. 59:3; 63:3;
writing his book, Daniel used his Lam. 4:14). Used mostly by biblical
Hebrew name far more frequently than prophets, the word speaks of an act of
his Babylonian name, Belteshazzar. becoming impure. In this verse, it is
"Shadrach,... Meshach."These two names used twice— once in the beginning and
are also theophoric; they are related to once at the very end.
the name of the moon-god Aku. As to why the young men decided to
Scholars are still debating their abstain from the rich royal food,
meaning. 57 scholars have put for- ward three
"Abednego." The Babylonian form of proposals: dietary, political, and reli-
this name, which is frequently attested gious. The dietary reason had to do with
in the texts, is Ardi-Nabu. The first the Mo- saic prohibition against eating
element of this name as given in Daniel unclean animals and eating clean
corresponds to a common Semitic word, animals whose blood was not drained
’ebed, "a servant." The second element is when slaughtered. The political reason
more problematic. It can be translated had to do with the culture of the Bible:
as "shiny one," but this is somewhat Eating with a person meant making an
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

covenant with that person. The religious the Old Testament it is one of the key
reason may have been belief of the four words in the covenant between God and
Hebrews that no earthly king but only Israel. Interest- ingly, this word is also
the God in heaven should be given used in the story of Joseph to show that
credit for one's success in life. According he enjoyed the "grace" of the prison
to the teaching of the biblical wisdom guard because God was with him (Gen.
books, knowledge and wisdom are gifts 39:21). It is also used of God's leading of
that the Creator God has given to the the people of Israel from Egypt to
people who love him and obey his Canaan (Exod. 15:13). The sec- ond
instructions. It has already been word, rah°mim, "compassion," is related
observed (see the Notes on Dan. 1:5) that to the Hebrew word for "womb,"
the term choice food is consistently considered in Bi- ble times to be the
followed by the words "the king" to seat of a person's deep emo- tion.
stress the fact that the king provided for Hence some render it as "tender love."
the young men's needs while they were "The chiefoffic/o/,"The original Hebrew
in training. In other words, the young says sar hassarisim, "the chief official." See
men were made "the king's the Notes on Daniel 1:3 and 1:7.
pensioners."43 1:10 "The chief official." See the Notes on
"The royal choice food and wine." See the Daniel 1:9.
Notes on Daniel 1:5. "I am afraid.'The verbal root yr', "to fear,
"The chief offícial."See the Notes on Daniel to respect," is used here as a participle.
1:3 and 1:7. The Hebrew term It is com- mon in the Bible. It does not
sarhassarísim, "the chief official," that is express an action but a state of being,
used in this verse is the same as in 1:7. belonging to the group of stative verbs.
1:9 "God has given." In the original, this "My lord." The title '"donay, "my lord," is
verse begins with the verb wayyitten, "and based on the same root and is very
he [God] gave." See the Notes on Daniel similar in form to the word "the Lord" in
1:2. This is the second of the three 1:2. The subject in this verse, however, is
occurrences of the verb natan, "he gave," clearly the king.
in this chapter, informing the reader "Food and drink." In contrast to the
that God was in full control of the previ- ous terms for "choice food" and
events in Daniel's life. Thus, the Hebrew "wine" (Dan. 1:5, 8), the two words used
text says that God gave Daniel favor and here were general words commonly
sympathy in the sight of the royal used in Bible times for food and drink.
official, making him the object of mercy "Why should he see?" It has been
and grace before Ashpenaz. suggested that this phrase in Hebrew
"Favor and compassion." The combination has the force of an emphatic denial,
of these two words that also mean saying something like "he must not
"grace and compassion" is common in58 indeed see" (cf. Gen. 47:15,19; 2 Chron.
biblical prophets (Jer. 16:5; Hos. 2:19; 32:4; Ezra 7:23).44
Zech. 7:9). The first word, hesed, "grace," "Looking worse." Literally, the original
is difficult to translate by a single says "your face looking sad," culturally
English term because it is so rich in assuming that
meaning. Often ren- dered as "loving
kindness" or "steadfast love," in
THE OPENING CHAPTER (1:1-21)
RESISTANCE (1:6-16)

a person's face betrays the innermost "Vegetables... water."A more precise


feelings. mean- ing of the Hebrew term for
"Youngmen."See the Notes on Daniel 1:4. hazzerd'im, "the vegetables," is "seeds,"
1:11 "Theguard.''The young Daniel or better, "grains" or "cereals." It
enjoyed the confidence of a possibly includes seed-bearing plants or
lower-ranking official, whose title was the plant food that grows from seeds.
hammelsar, "the keeper" or "the guard." Its mention here with plain water takes
Just as Ashpenaz, the chief official, had the reader back to the Genesis Creation
been "ap- pointed" by the king (Dan. story, in which God pre- scribed the
1:10), this man was "appointed" by the ideal human diet before the Fall: fruit,
chief official and was his sub- ordinate. seeds, and water (Gen. 1:29). This
He agreed to take a risk in order to do reveals an old type of wisdom that
the young men a favor. Some have considers a "close con- nection between
suggested that in the process, this man plain living and high think- ing."46 In the
may have profited from the situation. Bible, meat and wine were foods of
"With the connivance of the chief festivity (Isa. 22:13) and a symbol of the
eunuch he evidently substituted his own power of the wealthy. Although some
meals for the royal delicacies and scholars have in the past attributed the
benefited from the exchange, a point young men's choice of food to
which ensured the secret would be asceticism, this is improbable because
kept."45 Daniel 10:3 implies that at least in
"Over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Aza- Daniel's case, "the diet of vegetables
riah."The young men's Hebrew names are was a temporary regimen."47
pre- ferred over the Babylonian names 1:13 "The young men." See the Notes on
because the context here speaks of their Daniel 1:4.
attempts to resist the influences that "The royal food." See the Notes on Daniel
went against their principles. 1:5. For the use of a more general term
1:12 "Yourservants'Th\s expression, for food, see the Notes on Daniel 1:10.
based on the root ’bd, "to serve," was a "Your servants." See the Notes on Daniel
standard form of a person's act of 1:12.
willing submission to a superior human 1:14 "Ten days." See the Notes on
(Gen. 32:4; 50:18) or a divine being (Ezra Daniel 1:12.
5:11; Luke 1:38). It is commonly attested 1:15 "Better nourished." Literally, the
in the Bible and contrasted with the original text says "fatter in flesh." This
word "’ddnay, "my lord/master." See the expression was an idiom in Bible times
Notes on Daniel 1:10. that pictured a healthy and
"Ten days.'The word "ten" is used good-looking person as stout and
here as a rounded-off number for the plump. At this point of the story, there
duration of a short test. It should be59 may be a note of irony based on a
taken as a literal not a symbolic number possible wordplay. Even though, during
because of the narrative genre in the the period of testing, the young men
story. For a similar use of "ten days of were on a plain diet, at the end of this
testing," see Revelation 2:10. Also, for period, their basar, "flesh," turned out to
the use of the number ten as a standard be "fatter" than that of the rest of the
round number, see Genesis 24:55; 31:7; youth, who ate the rich
Numbers 14:22; Nehemiah 4:12; Job
19:3; Daniel 7:7; and Zechariah 8:23.
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

royal food based on basar, "animal flesh" true to God; they had godly homes in their
(cf. Dan. 10:3). earlier years."50 Yet, the fact that all four
1:16 "The guard." See the Notes on Daniel
names are also attested in the book of
1:11. Nehemiah (8:4; 10:2, 6, 23) shows that these
"Choice food."See the Notes on Daniel 1:5.
names were common among the Jews around
"Vegetables."See the Notes on Daniel 1:12.
the time of the exile. Daniel's name means
Exposition (1:6-16)
"God is my judge," and it is given first in the
1:6 In the Bible, a person's name of- ten text because he was the leader of the group.
commemorated an important event that took The name Hananiah means "the L O R D is
place either at birth or at a turning point in the merci- ful," while A.%ariah means "the L O R D
person's life. At the same time, a name might has helped." In contrast to these three, the
have sim- ply expressed a wish or a condensed meaning of the name Mishael is not very clear
prayer to God from the child's parents. The unless it is understood as a variation of
Hebrew names given to the four young men Michael ("Who is like God!"). Mention of
at their births all contain divine names: El, Daniel's friends at this early point in the book
"God," in the case of Daniel and Mishael, and prepares the reader for the story of the fiery
Yah[weh\, "the LORD," in the names of furnace in chapter 3.
Hananiah and Azariah. For this reason, they 1:7 From the structure of this chap- ter
are called theophoric. suggested above, one can see that the testing
No information is given about the of the young men's faith and their resistance
families from which the four Hebrew youth to a pagan culture forms the longest part of
came. As scholars have observed, "Of our the chapter. Their resistance begins with the
protagonist Daniel no ancestry is noted,"48 giving of the Babylonian names. Some
and "contrary to the usual Hebrew custom, no scholars have suggested that these new names
patronymics are given."49 In the story of were given in addition to, not in lieu of, the
Moses' birth, this great leader of God's people Hebrew names. Others have argued that "the
is in- troduced in a similar way in order not to renaming of the foreigners was a matter of
distract attention from God, the true Savior of convenience rather than of ideology."51 This
his people (Exod. 2). is to say that "the Bab- ylonians simply
It has been suggested that the Hebrew wanted to give these captives names which
names "connote devout parents. This perhaps would be easy to recognize by the
explains why these, in con- trast to the other Babylonians with whom they would be
young men, are found working."52 This is possible in the case of
Esther, whose He-

60
THE OPENING CHAPTER (1:1-21)
RESISTANCE (1:6-16)

brew name was Hadassah (Hebrew for Babylon's pagan gods. The giving of these new
"Myrtle," Esther 2:7), and of Mordecai (cf. names implied a new alle- giance, and that was
Marduk?).53 Joseph in Egypt was given a new what the young men tried to resist. This was
name (Gen. 41:45). Yet, in that same story, most prob- ably the main reason why "the
the mention ofJoseph's Egyptian name serves foreign names of the four youths sound
as a good illustra- tion of the pressure to utterly nonsensical in Hebrew."56 A number
acculturate in a foreign country. of scholars believe that the young men's
In the context of biblical culture, the act Babylonian names were intentionally
of naming a person or changing the person's corrupted. In fact, one scholar argues that "all
name, is, when imposed by a master, meant the Babylonian names in MT [the Hebrew
"to assert one's authority over him."54 Masoretic Text] may be deliberately
Mention of a person's name change evokes corrupted forms of names extolling pagan
the experience of the pa- triarch Jacob (Gen. gods,"57 and this may apply even to the
32:28), whose name Israel is mentioned in spelling of the name of King
Daniel 1:3. In fact, name changing was "a Nebuchadnezzar. The author is most likely
prominent sign of dependent status, thus showing how in the names of the young men,
Abram to Abraham in covenant with God "the Babylonian gods lose their own identity.
(Gen 17:5); Jehoiakim [originally called Elia- Through such a linguistic sleight of hand the
kim] is renamed by Pharaoh (2 Kings 23:34); author of the book of Daniel, as well as the
and Zedekiah [originally called Mattaniah] is bearers of the names themselves, express
renamed by Nebuchadnez- zar (2 Kings resis- tance to what was happening."58
24:17)."55 And the accep- tance of a foreign Daniel's new name as given by Ash-
name may have im- plied the recipient's penaz was most likely Belshazzar—the same
readiness to serve foreign masters and gods name as the later king, and a name that was
rather than the God of Israel. Elsewhere in
common in Babylon (chap. 5). In the case of
the Bible, two Judeans who lived at the time
Daniel, however, this new name was
of the return from exile bore Babylonian
intentionally altered to Belte- shazzar, because
names: Zerubbabel and Sheshbazzar
the name Belshazzar was a prayer to the god
(Ezra 2:2; 5:16).
Bel to protect the king's life. Needless to say,
It is important to note that the Baby-
Daniel and his friends believed it was Yahweh
lonian names given to the young men are also
and not the god Bel who could protect the life
theophoric. Unlike the Hebrew names, which
of the king. In a similar way, the name
spoke of the true God, the Babylonian names
Abednego makes no (religious) sense because
contain names of
of its faulty spelling. The

61
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

original name as given by Ashpenaz was other rather than mutually exclusive be- cause
probably Abednebo meaning "the ser- vant of the Hebrew concept of life and spirituality
the god Nebo (or Nabu)," but most likely it was wholistic rather than analytical. We may
was purposely altered to Abednego because group the suggested reasons in the following
Azariah was still the servant of the God of three catego- ries:
Israel. These are some of the examples of 1. Dietary: Certain types of meat
"deliberate cor- ruption [in order] to heighten proscribed by the Bible, such as pork (Lev.
the gross paganism of foreign theophoric 11; Deut. 14), were served to the officials in
names which replaced the Israelite theophoric Babylon. Babylonian soldiers regularly ate
ones."59 The corrupted forms of the new pork and horse meat while in service for the
Babylonian names are all "grotesque, silly king.61 And the original Hebrew word that is
names, which make fun of the gods whom translated in this verse as defile is associated
they are supposed to honor."60 with blood defilement in the Bible (Isa. 59:3;
1:8 The young men carry their resis- tance 63:3; Lam. 4:14). The eating of any kind of
to the influence of Babylonian re- ligion and animal, clean or unclean, that hadn't been
culture even further through their decision not slaughtered in such a way as to drain its blood
to eat the choice food served to royalty and to the would defile a Hebrew person (Lev.
others who ate at the king's table. A wordplay is 17:10-14). The prohibi- tion, "You must not
found in verses 7 and 8, both of which begin eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it" (Gen.
with the same word in Hebrew. Just as 9:4), is very old and categorically echoed
Ashpenaz, the chief official of the king, many times in the Pentateuch. In Babylon,
"determined" the new names for the young the blood was not drained when an animal
men, so, in the same way, Daniel was slaughtered for consumption, so defile-
"determined" in his heart not to defile himself by ment by blood was virtually unavoid- able.
the royal choice food. The command to eat the The presence on the menu of pork together
food from the royal table was a test of faith with meat defiled by blood posed a serious
similar to Joseph's test of character in problem for the Hebrew young men.
Potiphar's house (Gen. 39). As for the wine that is mentioned in this
Commentators have advanced several verse, in Bible times, only the Nazirites
suggestions as to why Daniel and his three practiced total abstinence from grape juice,
Hebrew friends considered eating the royal both fermented and nonfer- mented (Num.
food served in the palace in Babylon defiling. 6:3). There are several passages, found mostly
These suggestions may be considered in the wisdom
complementary to each

62
THE OPENING CHAPTER (1:1-21)
RESISTANCE (1:6-16)

books, that speak of drinking in very negative Moses then took the blood, sprin-
terms: For example, "wine is a mocker and kled it on the people and said, "This is
beer a brawler; / whoever is led astray by the blood of the covenant that the L O R D
them is not wise" (Prov. 20:1). The story of has made with you in accor- dance with
the Recabites from Jeremiah 35 may also shed all these words."
some light on Daniel's refusal to drink the Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu,
wine from the king's table. and the seventy elders of Israel went up
2. Political: In the ancient world, eat- and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet
ing at the same table with someone meant was something like a pavement made of
establishing a strong bond with that per- son. sapphire, clear as the sky itself. But God
A number of biblical examples illus- trate the did not raise his hand against these lead-
widely held concept that to share table ers of the Israelites; they saw God, and
fellowship with a person meant one's they ate and drank. (Exod. 24:7- 11;
readiness to make a covenant with that emphasis supplied).
person or a pledge of such complete loyalty as
to become one with that person (Exod. 34:15; At least two prophetic passages, Eze- kiel
Dan. 11:26; Matt. 26:26- 28; Luke 15:1, 2; 1 4:13 and Hosea 9:3, 4, suggest that all the
Cor. 8:7; 10:14-22; Rev. 3:20). The two food eaten in Assyria and Baby- lon was
passages quoted be- low illustrate this point: viewed as "defiled" and there- fore
"unclean," e.g.,
Laban answered Jacob, ". . .Come
now, let's make a covenant, you and I, and Threshing floors and winepresses will
let it serve as a witness between us." So not feed the people; the new wine will
Jacob took a stone and set it up as a fail them.
pillar. He said to his relatives, "Gather They will not remain in the Lord's land;
some stones." So they took stones and Ephraim will return to Egypt and
piled them in a heap, and they ate there eat unclean food in Assyria (Hosea
by the heap (Gen. 31:43-46; emphasis 9:2-4).
supplied).
The following words from Amos 7:17
Then he [Moses] took the Book of imply that even living in a pagan country was
the Covenant and read it to the people. defiling: "Your land will be measured and
They responded, "We will do everything divided up, / and you yourself will die in an
the L O R D has said; we will obey." unclean country" (margin).

63
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

3. Religious: In many places in the your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy,
ancient world, food and drink were sac- because I am holy. Do not make yourselves
rificed to the gods before the meal. A secular unclean by any creature that moves about on
slaughtering of animals for con- sumption was the ground." Daniel 1 "does not, in fact, give
rare.62 Meat was usually served from animals any explicit rea- son for Daniel's rejection of
offered in a sacrifice to a god. In the Bible, the the delica- cies. What the narrative does say
very act of eating had strong religious clearly and repeatedly, though, is that the deli-
connota- tions—something well illustrated by cacies and wine are from the king (w. 5, 8, 13,
the fact that every meal was preceded by a 15, 16)."63 In this case, to eat from the king's
thanksgiving prayer. The following verse table meant "a pledge of loy- alty to the king
contains an invitation from Jesus Christ to instead of remaining loyal to and dependent
become one with him through the act of on God."64
partaking together in common meal: "Here I The young Hebrews regarded the
am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone supreme God as the source ofwisdom. Their
hears my voice and opens the door, I will concept of life as well as their success in life
come in and eat with him, and he with me" depended on God the Creator and the Giver
(Rev. 3:20; emphasis supplied). of all things. "If they prosper, then to whom
Since the ancient city of Babylon was an should they attribute their development and
important religious center, the food and drink success?"65 For that reason, they chose to rely
available there would have come from the on him rather than on either the king's
temple, where we may assume that some kind generosity or on the ability of a pagan idol to
of pagan sacrificial ritual was carried out impart wisdom. Their choice of a diet
before and even after each meal. This concept consisting of vegetables—literally,
is also implied in the Hebrew word used in "seeds"—and water (Gen. 1:29) showed their
this chapter to describe the choice food served at pledge of loyalty to the Creator and Sustainer,
the king's table. the One who, in the case of their suc- cessful
Although some students of Daniel would training, should receive full credit and praise.
say that the problem of eating foods sacrificed Several passages from biblical wisdom books
to idols is a New Testa- ment issue, a careful claim that the Creator God is the source of
reading of the bib- lical prophets shows that it true wis- dom (Ps. 104:24; Prov. 8:22-27; Jer.
was a concern in Old Testament times as well. 10:10-12).66
Leviticus 11:44 shows a strong link be- tween The example of the young men is "a
food and holiness: "I am the L O R D symbolic denial of the king's implicit

64
THE OPENING CHAPTER (1:1-21)
RESISTANCE (1:6-16)

claim to be sole provider."67 At the end of the trust and favor of his superior, much as did
story, "the king could take pride in the Joseph in Egypt (Gen. 39:4, 21) and Ezra
products of his largess. Only the Judean (Ezra 7:28) and Nehemiah (Neh. 2:8) in
youths knew the truth."68 Thus, at this point Persia. While he did not adopt a
in the story, the stage is set for the God of the confrontational approach, neither was he
Hebrews to triumph over the Babylonian ready to assimilate the new culture and
pantheon. The young men triumphed thanks religion. He demonstrated a defi- nite sense
to God's providence and not to the king's. In of direction in life but was ex- tremely
fact, as the last verse of the chapter shows, prudent. When Ashpenaz ex- pressed his
Daniel himself outlasted Nebuchadnez- zar feelings of fear, Daniel did not exert any
and his Babylonian successors. pressure on him. He be- lieved that his Lord
It is important to note that the young was more powerful than the lord of the chief
men's attitude toward the royal choice food may official.
have been exceptional among the Judean Yet, the narrator makes clear that Daniel's
captives. Second Kings 25:29 says that "for circumspect behavior was not what gained
the rest of his life," King Jehoiachin "ate him the favors of his supe- riors. Rather, it
regularly at the king's table." In contrast with was God who granted him favor and compassion
him and other members of Judah's nobility, in the sight of the king's chief official. In his prayer at
Daniel and his friends considered this issue to the dedication of the temple in Jeru- salem,
be a test of their faith. Daniel's stay in King Solomon asked God for forgiveness of
Babylon was characterized by a consis- tent Israel's future sins and also to "cause their
prayer life. The four Hebrews took seriously conquerors to show them mercy" (1 Kings
the word from Deuteronomy 8:3 that says, 8:50). That is what God did in this case
"Man does not live on bread alone but on because "He caused them [Israel] to be pitied
every word that comes from the mouth of the by all who held them captive" (Ps. 106:46).
L O R D ." 6 9 Although the food was fit for a king, "The God of judgment is paradoxically, also
"in Daniel's judgment it was not fit for a the God of grace."71
servant of the King of kings."70 1:11-14 Daniel now turns to a lower
1:9, 10 According to the stories in his ranking official, one who is called the guard,
book, Daniel's attitude in Babylon was who had been appointed by Ashpenaz. He
consistently positive and circum- spect. His simply suggests, "Please testyour servantsfor ten
life was characterized by active involvement days" (1:12). It is amazing to see again in the
combined with dis- tinctiveness. First of all, text the absence of any sort of pressure in
he enjoyed the Daniel's dealing with the royal officer. The

3 - D . W. T. T. W. 65
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

ten-day period of testing Daniel pro- posed triumph in Babylon is given: They are
was short enough not to arouse suspicion yet described as healthier and better nour- ished than all
long enough to reveal the effects of the new of the young men who ate the royalfood (Dan. 1:15).
diet. Daniel contin- ued, "Then compare our
appear- ance ... and deal with your servants in Triumph (1:17-21)
accordance with what you see" (Dan. 1:13). He Daniel's God turned the defeat of his
could say this because he considered his God people into a triumph of the faithful remnant
to be in full control of the events in his life. in Babylon. Thus he demon- strated that he is
The diet Daniel requested consisted of the only true source of wisdom and power.
plant food that grows from seeds. Fruits,
17
cereals, and water form the ideal diet given by To these four young men Cod gave knowl- edge

the Creator God: "Then God said, 'I give you and understanding of all kinds ofliterature and

every seed-bearing plant on the face of the learning. And Daniel could understand vi- sions and

whole earth and every tree that has fruit with dreams of all kinds.
18
seed in it. They will be yours for food' " (Gen. At the end of the time set by the king to bring

1:29). This simple diet on which Daniel and them in, the chief official presented them to
19
his friends sub- sisted "during their entire Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and

course of train- ing"72 was a form of half-fast. none was found equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael,

We do know that as far as Daniel is and Azariah; so they entered the king's service20In

concerned, "the diet of vegetables was a every matter of wisdom and under- standing about

temporary regimen."73 After the three years of which the king consulted them, he found them ten

train- ing, during which time the food was not times superior to all the magi- cians and enchanters in

served from the king's table, he reverted back his whole kingdom.
21
to regular food—except for periods during And Daniel remained (there) until the first year

which, he says, " 'I ate no choice food; no of King Cyrus.

meat or wine entered my mouth' " (Dan.


Notes
10:3).
1:17 "Young men." See the Notes on Daniel
1:15, 16 Instead of deteriorating, the
1:4.
young men's physical and intellectual
"Godgave.'This is the third and the
condition improved. They turned out to be
last oc- currence of this form of the verb
"fatter in flesh"—that is, healthier and better
natan, "he gave," in this chapter. (It is also
looking—than the rest of the young men at
used in vv. 2 and
the palace. In this section, a foretaste of the
9. ) Here, again, it points to God's
young men's complete
full control over the events described in
the story, and it stands in contrast to the
official's act of natan,

66
THE OPENING CHAPTER (1:1-21)
TRIUMPH (1:17-21)

"giving," the food and drink to the 1:19 "The king talked with them.'The king
young men (vv. 12 and 16). himself presided over the final
"Knowledge, understanding... and learn- examination of the young trainees. In
ing."Three different Hebrew words for this way he could person- ally witness
knowledge and wisdom are used here the extraordinary wisdom demon-
synonymously. strated by the four Hebrews. This
"Literature.'The Hebrew word seper, observation prepares the way for the
"scroll" or "a writing," is also used in story in chapter 2, in which the king
verse 4 of this chap- ter. That verse says personally addresses his wise men,
that the young men were to learn "the demanding that they answer his
language and literature of the Babylo- question.
nians." "None was found."The original Hebrew
"Visions and dreams.'The word hazon, "vi- says vfb' nimsa' mikkullam, "and none was
sion," occurs more than thirty times in found among them all," informing the
Daniel's book. Sometimes it is reader that this contest involved
distinguished from the word Iflom, numerous participants who came from
"dream," since during a vision the various lands conquered by the Baby-
receptor is fully awake, unlike in a lonians that were now part of the
dream, during which he is in a state of empire (v. 20). See the Notes on Daniel
sleep. In this case, how- ever, the two 1:3 and 1:6.
terms are used interchangeably. While "Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah."
the first noun is given in the singular in Once again (as in v. 11), the young
this verse, the second is in the plural. men's Hebrew names are preferred over
In the ancient world, dreams were the Babylonian. This is to teach that
believed to be a customary way in which God, whose name was exalted by the
the divine world communicated with young men's names, should be given
humans. In Babylon particu- larly, where full credit for their outstanding success.
wisdom was highly valued, dreams and "They entered the king's service." See the
their interpretations were considered to Notes on Daniel 1:5. This statement
be a main source of knowledge, and harmonizes with the king's plan
they were there- fore highly prized. The outlined in verse 5 of this chapter: "They
statement that Daniel could understand were to be educated for three years, and
visions and dreams of all kinds foreshadows his at the end of that time they were to
active role in the story of King enter the king's service."
Nebuchadnezzar's dream found in 1:20 "Wisdom and understanding." The two
chapter 2. nouns are found in a construct relation-
1:18 "At the end of the f/'me."The ship in the original Hebrew; hence the
original Hebrew says ulemiqsat hayyamim, expres- sion hokmat bma can be rendered
"and at the end of the days," a67 as "wisdom of discernment."
statement that is very similar to the one "The king consulted them." See the Notes on
that opens verse 15 ("at the end of the Daniel 1:19.
ten days"), even though a different time "Ten times." The Hebrew word yadot,
period is meant here—the three years of "times," is in the plural. It literally
training of verse 5. means "hands." It is also used in Genesis
"The chief official." See the Notes on Daniel 43:34, which says, "Ben-
1:3 and 1:7.
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

jamin's portion [on the table] was five other hand, it is possible that this
times ["five hands"] as much as anyone dateline was added during the early
else's." This rounding off of the number days of the Medo-Persian Empire.
has possible hyperbolic over- tones,
meaning "infinitely better" (Gen. 31:41; Exposítion <1:17-21)

Num. 14:22; Neh. 4:12). From the 1:17 The last part of the chapter pres-
literary point of view, the use of the ents the results of the young men's three- year
number ten here balances its previous study in Babylon and of their trust in God.
mention in the story. In verse 12, the This verse says that God gave them
same number designated the number of outstanding success. The same God who had
days during which the impact of the "given" Jerusalem and its king into the hands
young men's plain diet was tested. The of Nebuchadnezzar
(v 2) and the same God

statement here cer- tainly "evokes who had previously "given" favor and
wonder"74 on behalf of the Baby- sympathy to Daniel before the king's official
lonians. (v. 9) is the One who gave knowledge and
"Magicians.'The word hahartummim, "ma- understand- ing to the young Hebrews. This
gicians," is used in the Bible to describe shows how "even in the land of Shinar, the in-
the ma- gicians in Egypt (Gen. 41:8, 24; famous place of wickedness, God is at work
Exod. 7:11). The four young men whose and even providing." Among the
77

source of wisdom was God are Babylonians, wisdom was the ultimate goal to
contrasted with the rest of the Babylo- achieve, whether in one's life or in one's
nian wisdom elite, who relied on the academic career. Marduk, or Bel, the patron
practices of magic and enchanting to god of the city of Babylon, was the god of
acquire knowledge. wisdom. But the Hebrew young men believed
1:21 "The first year of King Cyrus." The that only the Creator God could dispense
name Cyrus (Hebrew kores, Elamite kuras, wisdom. The One who is the source of
Old Persian kurus, Greek Kyros) may have virtues such as wisdom is of prime
been a throne name or a dynastic royal importance, not the virtues themselves. In the
title. King Cyrus II, or Cyrus the Great, same way, learning is not an end in itself; it
was the founder of the Medo-Persian increases a person's knowledge of God and
Empire. Following a rather com- plicated his work. Here one recalls a famous line by
situation surrounding the fall of the the Jewish writer Abraham Joshua Heschel:
Babylonian Empire, Cyrus's official title "The Greeks learned in order to understand,
in Baby- lon was "Ruler of the Lands." In the Hebrews learned in order to revere!"
this text, the first year of Cyrus means
539 B.C., the year during which Babylon
fell into the hands of the Medo-
Persians. That same year marked the end
of the Babylonian exile (2 Chron. 36:22,68
23; Ezra 1:1-4). It is probable that after
the fall of Babylon, Daniel moved his
residence to the Persian city of Susa and
eventually died and was buried there.75
Ac- cording to an old thesis, chapter 1 of
Daniel was not written until the first
year of Cyrus.76 On the
THE OPENING CHAPTER (1:1-21)
TRIUMPH (1:17-21)

Among the four Hebrews, Daniel ex- 1:18-20 The high point of the final
celled because God gave him the ability to examination, following the three years of
interpret visions and dreams of all kinds. If training, was an interview with the king
wisdom was a highly priced virtue in Babylon, himself, whose questions included riddles and
the ability to explain dreams was supreme difficult problems. The mon- arch was
there. In fact, the topic of visions and dreams personally present to witness the
was the fa- vorite field of study among the extraordinary knowledge of the young men.
Babylo- nians. In the Bible, on the other Their Hebrew names are given here rather
hand, God speaks through dreams (Gen. than their Babylonian names in order to
28:10-22; 1 Kings 3:5) but not through the highlight the triumph of their God. Azariah's
other forms of divination that the name is men- tioned last, reminding the reader
Babylonians practiced. "Dream inter- that "Yahweh has helped" all four of them to
pretation is one mode of divine revela- tion accomplish this outstanding success. They
understood by Babylonians and ac- cepted by had excelled in fields of knowledge that were
pious Israelites."78 Divine wisdom meets characteristically Gentile, not Jewish.
people where they are.79 It was not a mere Through a somewhat hyperbolic ex-
coincidence that "of all the various divinatory pression, ten times superior, the au-
'techniques' used in the ANE [Ancient Near thor draws a sharp line between those who
East], only dreams and dream interpretations trusted Yahweh and his teaching and the
find an acceptable place within ortho- dox others whose success in Baby- lon was
Hebrew religion."80 credited to helpless idols. In fact, "Daniel and
The statement about Daniel given here his associates are compared not only with the
prepares the reader for the rest of the stories other young men who received the same
in the book, in which Daniel exhibits this training as they did (verse 19) but also with
ability to interpret dreams on more than one professional advisors to the king who were
occasion. It is best to credit his ability to already at work in Babylo- nia."82 The
interpret dreams to his life of prayer and to successful passing of the ex- amination gave
the revelations given to him by God. This the young men the privilege of serving in the
prepared him for the role that he assumed royal palace and becoming members of the
later as de- scribed in the story in chapter 2. It group of Babylonian wise men. TheAtext is
has been correctly observed that "with the not explicit on whether the four Hebrews
possible exceptions of Moses (Acts 7:22) and openly talked about their God during the
Solomon, Daniel was the most learned man questioning. But the insistence of
in the Old Testament."81

69
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

the book's author on Yahweh's power- ful least edited in the early period of the
presence in the lives of these young men as Medo-Persian Empire.
well as their presence at the pal- ace all pave In addition to this fact, a number of
the way for their future witnessing in Babylon scholars have seen, and rightly so, a deeper
and the confron- tations that this activity meaning in this statement—one that sets the
unavoidably entails. perspective for all that fol- lows in the book.
1:21 The closing verse in this chapter says This verse implies that the exile to Babylon
that Daniel remaíned in the royal palace in cannot go on for- ever. Daniel lives on to see
Babylon untíl the first year of King Cyrus. Two Babylon's fall. In fact, he outlasts his
fragmentary texts may throw light on Daniel's conquerors. The triumph of the Hebrews at
high position in Babylon subsequent to King the be- ginning of the exile was an important
Nebuchad- nezzar's reign. One tablet bearing sign to remind their people of the pro- phetic
a cu- neiform text dates to the second year of announcements that said Babylon's end would
Amel-Marduk, while the other one dates to usher in the time of their return home. For the
the accession year of Neriglissar. Both of faithful rem- nant, this would be a new
these tablets mention a certain Belshazzar exodus. Just as God's triumph over the gods
who occupied the position of the chief officer of Egypt centuries earlier was a sure sign that
of the king in Babylon. It is possible that this Isra- el's slavery had come to an end (Exod.
person was none other than Daniel.83 12:12), so his triumph in the case of the four
It is almost certain that after the faithful youths indicated that his people's exile
Medo-Persian conquest of Babylon, Daniel, in Babylon would some- day end too.
whose age at this time was be- tween So, this chapter opens with the men- tion
eighty-five and ninety, moved eastward and of a defeat of a Judean ruler by a triumphant
settled in a Persian city, in all likelihood Susa Babylonian king, and closes with an allusion to
(or Shushan). Jose- phus says that Daniel the future triumph of someone who was
finished his career in Susa,84 and ancient "anointed" by God to be his shepherd and to
traditions claim that the prophet died and was say to Babylon's "watery deep, 'Be dry!' " and
buried in this city. That is why the text "of Jerusalem, 'Let it be rebuilt,' and of the
specifies that he stayed in the palace in temple, 'Let its foundation be laid' " (Isa.
Babylon untíl the first year of King Cyrus. The 44:26-28). In this way, the end of chapter 1
presence of many Persian loanwords in the anticipates the fulfillment of the words spoken
book leads to the conclusion that Daniel's through Moses that describe a future time
book was either written or at when "the L O R D

70
THE OPENING CHAPTER (1:1-21)
SUMMARY OF THE TEACHING

your God will restore your fortunes and have "a key perspective in the book of Daniel."86
compassion on you and gather you again At this point in the book, "Daniel offers no
from all the nations where he scat- tered you. answer to the question 'Why are we here in
Even if you have been ban- ished to the most exile?' "87 He does that later, in chapter 9.
distant land under the heavens, from there the Instead of providing here an intellectual
L O R D your God will gather you and bring you answer to this ques- tion, he focuses on the
back. He will bring you to the land that practical aspect of the life in exile. In spite of
belonged to your fathers, and you will take the appear- ances that may point to the
posses- sion of it. He will make you more contrary, Yahweh is in full control over the
pros- perous and numerous than your events in history and over the day-to-day ac-
fathers" (Deut. 30:3-5). tivities of the faithful believers. "Only the eye
of faith could perceive God at work here."88
Summary of the Teaching But the truth that God is in full control does
1. God is in control. From the begin- ning to not leave human be- ings in a passive
the end of this chapter, the reader can clearly role—in a sort of iron- firm deterministic or
see that God is in charge of the events in fatalistic position. "Divine aid (v 9) does not
life—even when pagan Babylon conquered mean there is no need for the exercise of
the holy land ofJu- dah. It has already been human re- sponsibility and initiative (v 11):
observed that three times in the story, in the rather it opens the way to it."89 "Great favors
begin- ning, in the middle, and at the end, the presuppose great faithfulness."90
key expression "God gave" is found in the Living in a cross-cultural setting, Daniel
original text: and his friends learned what it means to be
torn apart by the tension between the
1. The Lord gave Jehoiakim and the holy
attitudes of assimilation and separatism, of
articles to Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 1:2).
being in the world but not of it (John 17:11
2. God gave favor and sympathy to Daniel
-16). In spite of all they faced, they were brave
before the chief official (Dan. 1:9).
enough to stand for their principles. It has
3. God gave knowledge and under-
been observed that "the relationship between
standing to the four young men (Dan.
faith and culture is a question which runs
1:17).
through the 0[ld] T[estament]."91 In this story,
The expression "God gave" has been we see Daniel actively involved and working
called "the gospel of this chapter"85 and with God in the context of the divine plan.
He risked his own head when he decided not
to eat

71
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

from the king's table. Fidelity comes be- fore


defile himself was due to his regular and
survival.92 "For Joseph in Egypt, resistance to
devout reading of the "Shema," which says,
the temptation of his mas- ter's wife was a
"Hear, O Israel: The L O R D our God the L O R D is
matter of principle, a 'statement' of who he
one" (Deut. 6:4).95 "An exiled Jew can be a
was. For Daniel, the resistance to the winner because the God of Israel is a
temptation of the king's pleasurable delicacies
winner!"96
and wine was a 'statement' ofwho he was."93 According to the story in Daniel 1, God
Both men "serve as models for godly does not just workfor his people; rather, he
behavior to God's people who live in a works with them. He acts like the true
foreign culture."94 Immanuel, "God with us" (Matt. 1:23).
The following list shows a number of "Daniel and his compan- ions represent the
parallels between the lives, tests, and tri-
godly remnant of Israel which preserved the
umphs ofJoseph in Egypt and Daniel in testimony of God even in dark hours of
Babylon: apostasy and divine judgment."97 A precious
lesson that they learned—also demonstrated
• Both were led to foreign lands (Egypt,
later in Christ's temptation—was that the
Babylon).
cross comes before the crown. As the ancient
• Both were handsome (Gen. 39:6; Dan.
Romans liked to say: "Per aspera
1:4).
adastra"—"through suffering to glory!"
• The faith of both was tested (Gen.
(Literally, "through thorns to the stars.") The
39:7-12; Dan. 1:14-16).
four Hebrews were able to "gain wisdom and
• God showed favor to both before their
prestige without losing ho- liness."98 They
overseers (Gen. 39:21; Dan. 1:9).
were destined "to be a covenant for the
• Both were given foreign names
people / and a light for the Gentiles" (Isa.
(Gen. 41:45; Dan. 1:7). '
42:6).
• Both could interpret dreams (Gen.
2. Wisdom comes from God. In the Bible,
41:15; Dan. 1:17).
wisdom is a spiritual and ethical virtue, not
• Both outperformed all the wise men
just a natural outcome of one's hard work. It
(Gen. 41:38; Dan. 1:20).
is a gift from God. As such, wisdom, along
• Both were promoted to serve as a king's
with all the other virtues, is not self-serving
"ruler" (Gen. 41:41-44; Dan. 2:48).
but points to its divine source. True wisdom is
Saadya, a famous Jewish interpreter, not blended with mere intellectual curiosity
argued that Daniel's resolution not to but with deep trust in God's leading. "Society
often judges the person of faith as
intellectually weak, and science does

72
THE OPENING CHAPTER (1:1-21)
SUMMARY OF THE TEACHING

not easily accommodate itself with sim- plistic of the book of Daniel.102 Rather than being
biblical explanations."99 Yet, both faith and defeated by a foreign god, Yah- weh, the God
wisdom are divine gifts. Re- spect for God, of Israel, has triumphed through his faithful
who holds the first place in a believer's life, is servants on Mar- duk's own ground, which
the beginning of wisdom. Job 28:28 says, was wisdom. The Hebrew young men
"The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, / and demonstrated a kind ofwisdom that was
to shun evil is understanding." Biblical much superior to that of all the Babylonian
wisdom books, such as Psalms and Proverbs, and non- Babylonian wise men.
call a righteous person "wise," while the The success of Daniel and his friends in
wicked is considered a "fool." Babylon was nothing short of a mira- cle.
Jesus Christ did not separate faith from They attained positions of leader- ship in
wisdom. According to him, it is "a wise man Babylon not through military or political
who built his house on the rock" (Matt. 7:24), means but through God-given wisdom.
and it was the wise bridesmaids who were Based on the triumph of the faithful remnant
ready for the coming of the bridegroom in Babylon, the reader can already anticipate
(Matt. 25:10). The concept of "spiritual wis- all the future vic- tories of God in the world.
dom" is one of the key themes in Dan- iel's Daniel's ex- perience in Babylon is primarily a
book. There are strong links in the second story of providence, not just of success.103
half of the book between wisdom and the What is success, if not a gift from God? This
apocalyptic visions that portray spiritual is the good news that becomes the source of
warfare. Tastly, the book of Daniel, just like hope to the oppressed people of God in all
the rest of the Bible, teaches that at its times and places:
foundation, wisdom is not a lesson to be
learned as much as it is a relationship to be But as for me, I watch in hope for
enjoyed (Prov. 8:17).100 the LORD,

3. The book's message in a nutshell. The I wait for God my Savior;


story in this chapter is built on a clear reversal my God will hear me.
or an adverse change of fortune101 because it Do not gloat over me, my enemy!
begins with the king of Babylon and ends Though I have fallen, I will rise.
with the king of Medo-Persia. The king who Though I sit in darkness,
is the great liberator takes the place of the the LORD will be my light
king invader. This chapter, in fact, "contains a (Micah 7:7, 8).
condensation of all the basic messages"
Success is not a destination, it is a journey.
The story of Daniel and his

73
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

friends "has continued for generations to 18. Harvey IK McArthur and Robert M. John- ston,
They Also Taught in Parables (Grand Rapids, MI:
edify people, not only about the pos- sibility Zondervan, 1990), 23.
of living faithfully amid the messiness of 19. Walvoord, 30.
human history, but espe- cially about the 20. Deuteronomy 23:1 says that no castrated per-
son "may enter the assembly of the Lord." It is widely
mysterious and quiet working out of the held that Nehemiah was a eunuch.
sovereign God's will in that history."104 21. Louis F. Hartman and Alexander A. DiLella,
TloeBook of Daniel, The Anchor Bible (Garden City, NY:
Doubleday, 1978), 129.
1. John F. Walvoord, Daniel: The Key to Pro- 22. See Zdravko Stefanovic, "The Use of the Ara-
phetic Revelation (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), maic Word bar ('son') as a Noun of Relation in the Book
29. of Daniel," Asia Adventist Seminary Studies 6 (2003):
2. Collins, 129. 77-81.
3. Towner, 21. 23. Lucas, 52.
4. Ford, 75. 24. Doukhan, Secrets, 16.
5. C. L. Seow, Daniel (Louisville, KY: Westmin- ster 25. J ames A. Montgomery, A Critical andExeget- ical
John Knox Press, 2003), 21. Commentary on the Book of Daniel, The International
6. Wiseman corrected his initial reading of this Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1927),
name to Hamath, or northern Syria (see Nebu- chadrezpar 120.
and Babylon, 17, note 113). 26. Seow, 24.
7. Donald J. Wiseman, ed., Chronicles of Chal- dean 27. Collins, 138.
Kings (London: The British Museum, 1956), 28. Hartman and DiLella, 129; Shea, Daniel, 58;
69. Tremper Longman III, Daniel, NIV Application
8. Nichol, 4:756. Josephus (Antiquities 10.11.1) says Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan,
that when Nebuchadnezzar returned to Babylon, "he 1999), 49.
found that the public affairs had been man- aged by the 29. Collins, 138.
Chaldeans, and that the principal per- sons among them 30. John H. Walton, Victor H. Matthews, and Mark
had preserved the kingdom for him." W. Chavalas, The IVP Bible Background Com- mentary: Old
9. Wiseman, Nebuchadreppar, 23. Testament (Downers Grove, IL: Inter- Varsity, 2000),
10. James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts 730.
Relating to the Old Testament (ANET), 3rd edition with 31. Stephen R. Miller, Daniel, New American
supplement (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, Commentary (Broadman & Holman, 1994), 63.
1969), 308. See also Biblical Ar- cheologist 5 (1942): 49-55. 32. Hartman and DiLella, 130.
11. Lucas, 46. 33. Montgomery, 119.
12. Ibid., 52. 34. Collins, 137.
13. John E. Goldingay, Daniel, Word Biblical 35. Judah J. Slotki, Daniel-Epra-Nehemiah (New
Commentary (Dallas: Word Books, 1989), 15. York: Soncino Press, 1999), 20.
14. Daniel L. Smith-Christopher, "The Book of 36. Shea, Daniel, 36.
Daniel," The New Interprete^s Bible (Nashville: Abingdon, 37. John Day, "The Daniel of Ugarit and Ezekiel
1996), 7:38. and the Hero of the Book of Daniel," Vetus Testa-
15. Goldingay, 21. mentum 30 (1980): 361-365. Day's conclusions are
16. Doukhan, Secrets, 13. supported by Collins (p. 1) and contradict the the- sis of
17. Zdravko Stefanovic, "Daniel: A Book of Sig- H. H. P. Dressier, "The Identification of the Ugaritic
nificant Reversals," Andrews University Seminary Studies 30 Dnil with the Daniel of Ezekiel," Vetus Testamentum 29
(1992): 140. (1979): 152-161.
38. This ruler is described as someone who "judg- es
the cause of the widow, tries the case of the or- phan"
(Pritchard, 149-155).
39. Shea, "Bel(te)shazzar Meets Belshazzar," An-

74
THE OPENING CHAPTER (1:1-21)
SUMMARY OF THE TEACHING

drews University Seminary Studies 26 (1988): 67-82. 67. Davies, Daniel, 91.
Walvoord (p. 36) claims that Daniel's Babylonian name 68. Lucas, 53.
Belteshaz^ar was identical with Belshaz^ar. 69. Keil, 80.
40. Lucas, 53. 70. Towner, 28.
41. Seow, 24. 71. Seow, 21.
42. Montgomery, 130. 72. Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings (Moun- tain
43. Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel: Its Life and View, CA: Pacific Press9, 1943, 484.
Institutions (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997), 122. 73. Longman, 53.
44. C. P. Keil, Biblical Commentary on the Book of Daniel, 74. Collins, 145.
trans. William Whiston (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 75. Montgomery, 138.
1991), 81. 76. Nichol, 4:764.
45. Joyce G. Baldwin, Daniel: An Introduction and 77. Seow, 27.
Commentary, Tyndale OT Commentary (Downers 78. Longman, 77.
Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1978), 84. 79. Nichol, 4:767.
46. Ford, 81. "A fat belly does not make a fine 80. Lucas, 70.
mind" (Montgomery, 132.) 81. Walvoord, 29.
47. Longman, 53. 82. Peter-Contesse and Ellington, 27.
48. Daniel Berrigan, Daniel: Under the Siege of the Divine 83. Shea, "Bel(te)shazzar," 67-82.
(Farmington, PA: The Plough, 1998), 5. 84. Josephus Antiquities 10.11.7. This is in con-
49. Collins, 140; also Montgomery, 123. trast to some Jewish legends, which say that Daniel
50. Walvoord, 36. returned to Judea and became a governor there. See
51. Baldwin, 81. Ginzberg, 1118, note 20.
52. Shea, Daniel, 39. 85. Goldingay, 27, quoting Liithi.
53. Seow, 24. 86. Lucas, 56.
54. de Vaux, 46. 87. Goldingay, 28.
55. Smith-Christopher, 39. 88. Lucas, 57.
56. Seow, 24. 89. Goldingay, 26, quoting Joubert.
57. Lucas, 53. 90. Maxwell, 19.
58. Doukhan, Secrets, 19. 91. Goldingay, 23.
59. Goldingay, 5. 92. Berrigan, 11.
60. Ibid., 24. 93. Seow, 26.
61. H. W. F. Saggs, The Greatness That Was Baby- ion 94. Longman, 74.
(New York: Hawthorn, 1962), 176. 95. Slotki, 4.
62. Rene Peter-Contesse and John Ellington, A 96. Towner, 27.
Handbook on the Book of Daniel (New York: United Bible 97. Walvoord, 43.
Societies, 1993), 18. 98. Goldingay, 3.
63. Seow, 26. 99. Doukhan, Secrets, 21.
64. Peter-Contesse and Ellington, 18. 100. Longman, 87.
65. Longman, 53. 101. Z. Stefanovic, "Daniel," 139.
66. James L. Kugel, The Bible As It Was (Cambridge, 102. Maxwell, 15.
MA; Harvard University Press, 1997), 53-58. 103. Berrigan, 12.
104. Seow, 30.

75
GENERAL OVERVIEW OF DANIEL 2-6

D aniel 2-6 presents five stories about


the four Hebrews in exile. Al-
though chapter 1 also contains a story
about Daniel and his friends, in this study
God is shown to be present and actively
involved in everyday events, providen- tially
intervening in times of crisis.
The stories in chapters 2-6 are clearly
it is separated from the rest of the stories. bracketed, thus indicating the presence of an
This has been done for practical reasons: inclusión Both the beginning (Dan. 1:21) and
Chapter 1 's message serves as a summary the end (6:28) of this literary unit mention
of the teaching of the whole book. Daniel's position in the kingdom of
This overview focuses mainly on the Medo-Persia. Each of the five chapters
literary and historical character of the stories combines prose and poetry. And each of
from chapters 2-6. It will also cover the them, with the exception of chapter 5,
purpose of the stories and their function in contains a hymn of praise that was composed
the book. in response to God's supernatural
intervention. While Daniel composed the
Literary Type of the Stories
first hymn, the others are found in the
All six chapters in the first section of mouths of powerful mon- archs and can be
Daniel (chaps. 1-6) may be identified as considered echoes of Daniel's hymn. Thus,
"court narratives." As such, they inform the more than one literary type is present in these
reader of the events that took place following chapters— all providing the reader with a text
the arrival of the four young Hebrews to the that is rich from the literary point ofview.
city of Babylon. Each of the stories contains a
plot that is directly or indirectly related to the Historical Aspect of the Stories
royal palace and the services that the four In contrast to chapters 7-12, which are all
men pro- vided for the king. In each narrative, dated with precision, chapters 3-6

76
GENERAL OVERVIEW OF DANIEL 2-6
SETTING AND PURPOSE OF THE STORIES

do not make any explicit chronological of the book intended to put together, side by
reference. However, the introductory chapter side, historical facts and the spir- itual truths
and the five that follow are all presented in that lay behind them.
historical sequence. This order is changed in The particular purpose of the biblical
the transition from stories to visions with the authors means that it is more correct to refer
placement of chapter 7 after chapter 6, to the type of history in a biblical book such
although chapter 7 is dated chronologically as Daniel as "sacred history" or "interpreted
before chapter 6. Interestingly enough, in the history." This is clear from a number of
history of the interpretation of Daniel's book, passages scattered in the book. Right at the
the dating of the visionary chap- ters has been start, for example, the author says that
questioned far more often than has the dating Babylon succeeded in defeating Jerusalem
of the chapters that contain stories. because the Tord allowed it to happen (Dan.
What kind of history characterizes the 1:2). In chapter 5, not only does the author re-
stories in Daniel? Can we refer to them as port that Belshazzar was killed at the time
"historical," or should we perhaps view them Babylon fell into the hands of the
as simply didactic and thereby pos- sibly Medo-Persians, but he tells the story in such a
fictional—or, as some scholars have way as to provide an explanation regarding
suggested, a product of human fantasy? It is why that particular event took place. This style
important to state here that the parts ot the ofwriting enhances the didactic aspect of
Bible that contain historical narra- tive were biblical narratives in which history teaches
seldom intended to provide readers with solid divine lessons. The author recorded past
facts that could be used for the study of events "as warnings for us, on whom the
history in a scientific sense. The Bible need fulfill- ment of ages has come" (1 Cor. 10:11).
not and cannot replace our contemporary
textbooks on history. The reason for this is Setting and Purpose of the Stories
not that the text of the Bible is historically The evidence derived from the text of
unreliable. On the contrary, various scholars Daniel's book places the stories in the context
have pointed to its trustworthiness, and in of the Babylonian exile in the sixth century
this study, biblical texts are considered to be B.C. The fact that most of these stories are
reliable. Yet, the primary objective of the not explicitly dated suggests that they hold an
author of Daniel was not simply to provide an underlying timeless value that engages readers
"objective history" ofJu- dah, Babylon, or in a decision-making process in regard to
Medo-Persia. Instead, through divine their attitude toward God and their eternal
inspiration, the author destiny.

77
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

The stories are all centered on the person power that will cause great destruction and in
of God, and they demonstrate his acts of the end be destroyed through God's
salvation toward the faithful. They portray intervention.
God as the Creator and the sole Provider of The story in chapter 6 is set during the
life, health, and wis- dom. He knows the reign of the first Medo-Persian ruler, who in
future and commu- nicates it to his servants. this chapter is referred to as me- ¿ek, "king."
He can save his servants from danger when Darius the Mede has been identified in history
they are in the midst of it. He can humble the as either Cyrus the Great or a ruler placed
proud and grant new blessings to those who immediately sub- ject to Cyrus's authority.
turn to him. His care extends even to those This study pre- fers to view him as Cyrus
who are not members of his chosen people. himself (see the Notes and Exposition on Dan.
This is very clear from his dealings with the 5:31). The king in chapter 6 is portrayed as
pagan kings who are mentioned in the book. very favorable toward Daniel, just as
God dealt with them individually, saving the Nebuchadnezzar was in the second phase of
peni- tent and condemning the arrogant. his reign. He prays and fasts for Daniel; he
Chapters 2-4 present three stories in openly confesses that only God could save his
which King Nebuchadnezzar comes into faithful servant; and in the end, he writes an
direct contact with the true God through his edict calling on all his subjects to "reverence
interactions with Daniel and his Judean the God of Daniel" (Dan. 6:26).
friends. Since the story in chap- ter 4 In conclusion, it can be stated that in the
concludes with Nebuchadnezzar becoming "a stories from Daniel's book, "three monarchs
captive of the God of his captives," chapters are shown with their different responses to
2-4 unfold the step- by-step process through the living God."1 King Nebuchadnezzar
which this king was converted. typifies those in Babylon who are penitent in
According to chapter 5, in contrast to the end and submit to God's rule. In contrast,
Nebuchadnezzar's surrender to God, Belshazzar represents the people who are
Belshazzar's final encounter with the Lord defiant and thus go to their own destruction.
resulted in his loss of power and his death. He King Cyrus is the ruler who cooperates with
simply ignored the most precious lesson he God in the work of delivering God's people
might have learned from the life of King from their oppressors. Cyrus, in fact, is
Nebuchadnezzar, whom he called "my presented as a type of Messiah in at least one
father." For this reason, Belshazzar appears to prophetic pas- sage of the Bible (Isa. 45:1-3).
serve as the author's type of the future Psalm 47:6-9 invites the whole earth to ac-
anti-God

78
GENERAL OVERVIEW OF DANIEL 2-6
SETTING AND PURPOSE OF THE STORIES

knowledge God as the Supreme King who is only that, they also provide the histori- cal
worthy of universal praise be- cause all "kings and literary setting for the visions and
of the earth belong" to him: auditions that follow. Unfortunately, the role
of the stories in Daniel has often been
Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing underestimated; many studies have
praises to our King, sing praises. one-sidedly focused on the visions while
almost completely ignoring the crucial role
For God is the King of all the earth; sing that the stories play in the book. Yet the
to him a psalm of praise. visions make sense only in the light of the
God reigns over the nations; stories. When applied in this case, the famous
God is seated on his holy throne. slogan that "faith is built on history" means
The nobles of the nations assemble as the that Daniel's visions should never be studied
people of the God of Abraham, in isolation from the life experiences of the
for the kings of the earth belong to God; four He- brews in Babylon. The readers of
he is greatly exalted. the vi- sions are ready to put their trust in
God in regard to their future because God
The importance of the stories in the book has already demonstrated his supernatu- ral
of Daniel cannot be exaggerated. Their power by protecting the faithful from
presence is crucial to a proper un- destructive fire and by shutting the mouths
derstanding of the book's message. Not of hungry lions.

1. Baldwin, 119.

79
KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S FIRST DREAM
(2:1-49)

/ hapters 2 and 11 are the longest w chapters ruler of Neo-Babylon. This king's long reign
in Daniel's book. Two main literary forms, or is usually divided in two parts. During the first
genres, dominate chapter 2: dramatic story part he may be called "Nebuchadnezzar the
and dream. Several scholars agree that this Destroyer," while in the second part
chapter "functions as a miracle story,"1 "Nebuchadnezzar the Builder" would fit him
because its main point teaches that only God well. (See the introduction to chap. 5 in this
gives the kind of wisdom that can reveal the study.) Indeed, the first years of Nebu-
mysteries of life.2 Another important point chadnezzar's reign were characterized by
that matches a theme found in several extensive military campaigns, in- cluding
chapters in Daniel is that earthly kingdoms those to the Hatti (Hittite?) land that
are transitory. Though the coming of the eventually became a part of the Babylonian
kingdom of God is not portrayed as Empire. All this success did not come without
imminent in the story, it is portrayed as its toll. Heavy taxes as well as other forms of
assured. subjuga- tion were causing rebellions
In spite of the fact that the dream in throughout the empire. In spite of the great
Daniel 2 "should be regarded as an important success, everyone's future—even that of the
prototype of the apocalyptic vi- sion,"3 those em- peror himself—looked rather uncertain.
reading the chapter should not focus so In response to this uncertainty, God gave the
completely upon its escha- tology that they king a dream about the future of the world.
overlook the impor- tance of the immediate The dramatic story in Daniel 2 cli- maxes
context of the story. The event described in in the king's praise to God and also in the
this chapter is dated to the second year of promotion of Daniel and his
King Nebuchadnezzar II, the best-known

80
KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S FIRST DREAM (2:1-49)
THE KING'S ANGER (2:1-13)

friends to high positions of authority. This 1. The king's anger (2:1-13)


chapter speaks of God's triumph over 2. Daniel's requests (2:14-23)
Babylon. Its concept of God's sov- ereignty is 3. Daniel tells the dream (2:24-35)
strikingly similar to that of Isaiah's 4. Daniel explains the dream (2:36-45)
prophecies.4 Consequently, it is appropriate 5. The king's gratitude (2:46-49)
at this point to recall a pas- sage from Isaiah
that must have been particularly meaningful Daniel's speech is found in the mid- dle
to Daniel and his friends as they were going of the chapter, and it occupies most of its
through the experience in Babylon that this text. The chapter is bilingual, con- taining
chapter describes: Biblical Hebrew (2:1-4a) and Aramaic
(2:4b-49).
This is what the Sovereign L O R D says:

"See, I will beckon to the Gentiles, The King's Anger (2:1-13)


I will lift up my banner to the Although this chapter contains a vi- sion,
peoples; its most profound message comes through a
they will bring your sons in their arms and story. After establishing the date and giving a
carry your daughters on their shoulders. brief introduction, the narrator takes us
Kings will be your foster fathers, and straight into the plot, with King
their queens your nursing mothers. Nebuchadnezzar as the pro- tagonist.
They will bow down beforeyou with theirfaces to
the ground; they will lick the dust at your In the second year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, he
feet. had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not
Then you will know that I am the sleep. 2
So the king summoned the magicians,
LORD; enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers to tell him what
those who hope in me will not be he had dreamed. So they came in and stood before the
disappointed" king.3He said to them, "I have had a dream that
(Isa. 49:22,23; emphasis supplied). troubles my mind, and I want to understand the
dream."
Much like the structure of the previ- ous 4
Then the astrologers answered the king in
chapter, that of this one is also built on a Aramaic, "0 king, live forever! Tell your servants the
reversal—this time from the king's anger to dream, and we willinterpret it."
his gratitude. Here is the sug- gested structure 5
The king replied to the astrologers, 'This is what
of this chapter: I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my
dream was and interpret it, I will have you torn limb
from limb and your houses turned

81
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

into piles of rubble.6But if you tell me the dream and the training of the young men was to
show its meaning, you will receive from me gifts and last for three years, so the question is
rewards and great honor. So tell me the dream and raised how the dating of this chapter
interpret it for me." relates to that statement. Various
7
A second time they replied, "Let the king tell his suggestions have been made regarding
servants the dream, and we will show its meaning." the expression "the second year." (1)
8
Then the king answered, "I am certain that you One is that the date refers to the
are bargaining for time, because you see that this is "second year" following the destruction
what I have firmly decided: 9!fyou do not tell me the of the temple in Jerusalem in 587
dream, there is just one sentence for you. You have B. C.6That would mean that the
conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things event in the chap- ter took place not in
until the situation is changed. So then, tell me the the second year of the reign of King
dream, and I will know that you can interpret it Nebuchadnezzar, but two years after the
forme." destruction of the temple. (2) Another
10
The astrologers answered the king, 'Ihere is no sugges- tion is that "the second year"
person on earth who can do what the king demands! means two years after the Babylonians
Because no king, however great and mighty, has ever defeated Egypt.7 (3) A manuscript from
asked such a thing of any magi- cian or enchanter or the Old Greek version of Daniel (MS
astrologer. 11 What the king asks is too difficult. 967) dates this chapter not to the
Moreover, no one can reveal it to the king except the second but to the twelfth year of
gods, but they do not live among mortals." Nebuchadnezzar.
u
This made the king so enraged and furious that Two facts may be of help here: First,
he commanded the execution of all the wise men of accord- ing to the Babylonian reckoning,
Babylon.13So the decree was issued to put the wise the training of the young men began
men to death, and men were sent to look for Daniel during Nebuchadnezzar's accession year
and his friends to put them to death. (or the year "0" of his reign) and prior to
the New Year festival (Akitu) when he was
Notes officially installed as king in Babylon.
2:1 "The secondyear." In contrast to the vi- Thus, the second year of the reign of
sions in the book, which are all dated, King Nebuchadnezzar corresponds to
only the first two chapters in the the third year of the young men's
historical section begin with a date. The training. Second, the inclusive way of
date in this chapter has been described reckoning time was widespread in the
by a scholar as a "perplexing chrono- ancient world (cf. 2 Kings 18:9, 10). This
logical note that defies modern attempts simply means that parts of time units
to treat it seriously."5 The previous were counted as whole units, as in the
chapter stated that famous saying that Jesus was in the
tomb for "three days and three nights."
82 Thus we may conclude that when
measured by our modern calculations,
the three years of training of Daniel and
his companions lasted less than two full
calendar years. When understood this
way, the story in chapter 2 can
chronologi- cally follow the events
found in the previous chapter. It has also
been observed that this ex-
KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S FIRST DREAM (2:1-49)
THE KING'S ANGER (2:1-13)

pression is paralleled with a detail from tamia has been confirmed by


Joseph's story, which says that Pharaoh extrabiblical sources, some of which
had a dream "when two full years had speak of magicians as prisoners of
passed" (Gen. 41:1). war.12 This fact gives a cosmopolitan
"He had dreams." The Hebrew text emphasis to the events in the story.
literally reads hdlam haldmdt, "he dreamed "Astrologers." The original Hebrew
dreams"— the verb and the noun word here is kasdim, "Chaldeans"—the
having the same root. The root word same word used in Daniel 1:4, where it
h’ldm, "a dream," is an abstract noun of is translated "Babylo- nians." The name
feminine gender. It often appears in its describes the people who were the
plural form, as do the other abstract ruling class in Neo-Babylon. Some
nouns in Hebrew. The plural form of scholars have argued that Daniel used
this noun is usually explained as this term in both the ethnic and the
meaning either that the king had more professional sense. Since the word here
than one dream that night or that he is preceded by three other terms that all
saw the same dream more than once8 or describe professional groups at the
that he spent the entire night in a state palace, the conjunction that comes
of dreaming. Hence some :ranslators before it may be considered explicative,
render this phrase by saying that the as saying "the magicians, enchanters,
<ing had "a series of dreams"9 or dream sorcerers, that is, the Chaldeans." In the
experi- ences or a number of images. narrative that follows, all the wise men
However, though the noun here is in the are referred to by this single term,
plural, its usage may be diomatic and its "Chaldeans," "summing up the other
meaning singular and referring to one synonyms."13 While the rest of the
dream (cf. Dan. 4:2; 7:1). The king's terms found in this verse have differ-
overall experience explains the anxiety ent shades of meaning, they are used
he felt when he .voke up. inter- changeably in the story to
"His mind was troubled."The same expres- describe an impres- sive group of
sion describes Pharaoh's mood after his international experts who were
dream in Genesis 41:8. "masters of esoteric knowledge."14
"He could not sleep." The meaning of this 2:3 "I have had a dream that troubles my
-ebrew phrase is not clear because the mind/The original text says, "I have
difficult •vord nihfta, "was upon him," dreamed a dream and my spirit is
can be explained as either "sleep passed troubled." The form of the clause "to
over him, left him," or 'but his sleep dream a dream" is common in Semitic
came back over him,"10 which means languages. This type of construction is
"he fell asleep again."11 The phrase called a cognate accusative
stands n parallelism with the words that (paronomasia).
precede it. 83 "To understand the dream." Literally, the
2:2 "The magicians."The term hartummim, Hebrew text says lada'at 'et-hah"l6m, "to
'magicians," is a loanword from know the dream," but this sentence
Egyptian. It fig- jres prominently in the implies that Nebu- chadnezzar wanted
story of Joseph (Gen. 41) and the to understand the meaning of the
narrative of the ten plagues (Exod. dream.
7-10). The presence of Egyptian 2:4 "Astrologers." In this verse, as in
magicians in Mesopo- verse 10, the Chaldeans are the actual
spokesmen for
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

the entire group of wise men. See the which says milleta'minni'azda', "the matter is
Notes on Daniel 2:2. de- cided by me," does not support the
"Aramaic." From as early as the eighth view held by some that the king forgot
cen- tury B.C., Aramaic was the lingua the dream because the word milleta',
franca of the ancient Near East. This "matter," refers not to the dream but to
language belongs to the group of the king's decision. Daniel 2:15 says that
northwest Semitic languages, and it has Arioch "explained" to Daniel milleta', "the
had a number of dialects. The Aramaic matter," which cannot be the dream but
of Daniel and Ezra belongs to the dialect must be the king's problem and the
called Bib- lical Aramaic (referred to by reason behind it.
some as Imperial Aramaic). The word "Torn limb from //mb."The text literally
"Aramaic" in this verse marks the says haddamm tit'abdun, "you shall be torn
beginning of the section of Daniel limb from limb," and describes here a
written in Biblical Aramaic, which form of public torture practiced in
stretches to the end of chapter 7 and ancient times (Dan. 3:29). The prophet
constitutes the longest portion of the Ezekiel also says that the Chaldeans cut
Bible written in Aramaic. their victims to pieces in public: "They
"0 king, live forever!"lhe customary greet- will bring a mob against you, who will
ing malka' le'alemin Ifyi, "0 king, live stone you and hack you to pieces with
forever!" was a common way of their swords" (Ezek. 16:40; cf. 23:47).
addressing royalty in Israel and among "Piles of rubble." The word newali, "ruins,"
the neighboring nations (cf. 1 Kings can also mean "dunghill" (cf. 2 Kings
1:31; Neh. 2:3). In the story here, this 10:27). Ezra 6:11 contains a similar
type of greeting is "a particularly clever threat of public punish- ment and
irony, given the fact that the dream will destruction.
soon reveal that Ne- buchadnezzar will 2:6 "Gifts and rewards." The two Aramaic
certainly not live forever, and neither words matfnan unebizba, "gifts and
will his regime."15 rewards," may be "expressing a
2:5 "The astrologers."See the Notes on Dan- superlative idea in Aramaic."17 They are
iel 2:4. used side by side, and together they
"Firmly decided." The Aramaic word express a single concept (hendiadys).
'azda', "firmly decided," is a noun that "Great honor." The Aramaic word fqar,
means "verdict" or "firm decision." it is "honor," is also used in 2:37, where
also found in Old Persian and Egyptian Daniel in- forms the king that,
Aramaic and describes something that is ultimately, honor is a gift from God, not
publicly known, fixed, or determined. As from the king.
such, it functions in this sentence (also 2:7 "A second time." The word tinyanut,
in v. 8) as an adverb' expressing the "second time," marks the beginning of
6

king's determination not to change his84 the sec- ond round of the dialogue.
mind and reveal the contents of the 2:8 "Certain."The word yassJb, "certain,"
dream to the wise men. In other words, is also found in 2:45, where Daniel tells
Nebuchadnezzar was saying, "What I the king that the "dream is true and the
say, I really mean!" interpretation is trustworthy."
The translation of the whole
statement,
KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S FIRST DREAM (2:1-49)
THE KING'S ANGER (2:1-13)

"Bargaining for time. "The text literally "Great and mighty." The king of Assyria is
says ’iddana' 'antun zab nin, "you are buying described as "the great king" (2 Kings
e

time," meaning that they were looking 18:28), possibly implying an emperor.
for a way to escape or at least to delay 2:11 "Except the gods." By saying lahen
the punishment. 'elahJn, "except gods," the wise men
"Firmly decided." See the Notes on Daniel admit their inability to communicate
2:5. with the divine world. "It is remarkable
2:9 "Sentence." The original text uses here that the Chaldeans do not turn to
the word dot, "law," which in this the gods for help, either by prayer or by
context means "penalty" or "sentence." ritual."20 In contrast to the other wise
The clause "there is just one sentence men, Daniel lays his problem before God
for you" is almost identical with the one (v. 18). Biblical apocalyptic literature
found in Esther 4:11, which says, "The considers heaven and earth to be closely
king has but one law: that he be put to connected, with the distance between
death." the two almost negligible.
"Conspired... misleading... wicked." These "Among mortals." Literally, the text says
three negative words are usually 7m- bisra', "with flesh." In Numbers
understood as referring to a false 27:16, the corre- sponding Hebrew word
interpretation of the dream. It is is translated "human- kind." This word
probable that their serious character is used in the Bible as a symbol of
betrays the king's suspicion that the human weakness and frailty (Ps. 56:4;
wise men might be involved in a plot Isa. 31:3).
against his reign.18 In that case, they 2:12 "Enraged and furious." The words
could invent an interpretation in order benas uqesap saggT, "enraged and furious,"
to escape punishment (cf. 1 Kings 22). form another case in the narrative of
On the other hand, their successful hendiadys, which is common in Daniel.
"declaration of the content of the The motif of the king's rage is also
dream will serve as a proof of their found in Daniel 3:13,19 and Esther 1:12;
claim to interpret it."19 7:7.
"The situation is changed."Scholars explain "Babylon.'lhe meaning here is that all
this statement as saying that in time the wise men in the city of Babylon were
there will be a change—the king's anger ordered to be executed, not all those in
will subside. Yet, the words that follow the province or the empire.
confirm the fact that the king's fear of 2:13 "Daniel and his friends." Since
losing the throne may have been behind accord- ing to the previous story, the
this whole drama. "Change" was not a four Hebrews had successfully passed
favorite concept of despots and the examination, they now belonged to
dictators. the broad category of Babylon's wise
2:10 This verse begins the third85 men for better or for worse. They were,
round of dialogue between the king and however, not present during the
the Chaldeans. dialogue be- tween the Chaldeans and
"Person.'lhe Aramaic noun '"rids means the king.
"a human being" and is used in the
famous title "son of man" in Daniel
7:13. Together with the word that
follows, it forms an expression that says
"there is no human being on earth."
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

Exposítion (2.-J-13) plural, some have suggested that the king may
2:1-3 The story is dated to the begin- have had more than one dream and that they
ning of Nebuchadnezzar's reign: in the were related to one another (cf. Gen. 41).
secondyear of the king. He had "stood in the Others think that he had just one dream that
background in chap. 1; his figure now comes was repeated several times. However, the
into sharper focus."21 In that year, the king context of the story leads to the conclusion
had a dream that disturbed him a lot. In the that the king had only one dream.
ancient world, dreams were viewed either as Because the dream was very disturb- ing
ordinary human experiences or as customary and made Nebuchadnezzar afraid, he
ways in which the divine world communicated summoned his royal experts for a
with human beings.22 Jacob, on his way to consultation early the morning after he
Mesopotamia, received a dream from God dreamed. The function of the wise men's
(Gen. 28), and Solomon conversed with God rituals at the palace was both explana- tory
in a dream (1 Kings 3). Of all the and therapeutic.24 In Babylon, dream books
Neo-Babylonian kings, Belshazzar's father were commonly used to explain and treat
Nabonidus was most interested in dreams, dream-related prob- lems. The experts were
many of which related to his work of repairing supposed to con- sult the books, explain the
the temples. symbols and the meaning of the dream, and
Scholars have pointed to a number of also con- duct appropriate rituals to do away
similarities between this chapter and the story with the evil powers that were behind the
ofJoseph (Gen. 41-47). In both stories there is dream.25
a king who is troubled by a dream, the 2:4-6 The spokesmen for the group were
professional diviners fail to dispel the ruler's the Chaldeans, members of the ruling class in
anxiety, a young He- brew captive Neo-Babylon. Their cus- tomary greeting, O
accomplishes what the es- tablished experts king, live forever! contains a tone of irony here
could not do, the faith- ful captive attributes because the story's conclusion is that only
his success to God, and the captive is God lives forever. Following the established
promoted to a posi- tion of enormous pro- cedure, the wise men politely ask the king
influence in the king- dom. Thus, like young to tell them his dream so that they can
Joseph who ex- plained the pharaoh's dreams interpret it. But the king meets their request
"when two full years had passed" (Gen. 41:1), with threats. In a normal situa- tion, the king
"Daniel in the second year of his exile would would tell his dream, and the wise men would
enlighten his mighty captor and save others explain what it meant and attempt to remove
from certain death."23 the evil
Because the word "dreams" is in the

86
KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S FIRST DREAM (2:1-49)
THE KING'S ANGER (2:1-13)

consequences of an unpleasant dream. This since he alone holds the key to the dream."31
time, however, the very nature of the dream Careful consideration of cer- tain details of
suggested to Nebuchadnezzar that it did not the story leads to the con- clusion that
convey good news, espe- cially since "although the king's mind was deeply
something terrible happened to the statue, impressed, he found it im- possible, when he
which he may well have assumed represented awoke, to recall the particulars"32 of the
him. "The dream was unsettling in the dream.
extreme."26 In order to convince the wise men to
In order to make sure that the wise men's cooperate with him, the king uses both sticks
interpretation was correct, Nebu- chadnezzar and carrots, threats and promises. On the one
resorted to asking them to tell him both the hand, he threatens them with mass execution
dream and its meaning. The question may be and total destruc- tion of their property. On
asked here whether the king had forgotten the the other, he promises sumptuous gifts and
dream and that is why he asked the wise men rewards. The combination of promises and
to re- mind him of it.27 In the ancient world, it threats, reminders of blessings and curses,
was believed that if a person forgot his formed an integral part of ancient covenant
dreams, that meant that his god was an- gry treaties.
with him.28 It is clear from the story that the Nebuchadnezzar accused the wise men of
wise men did not think the king had forgotten deceit, of taking part in a "conspiracy,"33 and
the dream because they continued to plead of dragging their feet in the hope that the
with him to tell it to them. To say that the present order of things might soon change.
king had completely forgotten his dream Herodotus tells a story of a wise man who
would "make v. 9 a bluff. The story of the test tried to usurp the throne of Darius I, and
of the Chal- deans requires that the king when the attempted coup failed, the king
remembered at least enough of the dream to slaughtered all the magi. In the Bible, King
be able to be sure that when they told it to Saul almost extermi- nated the priests in Israel
him he would recognize it."29 because he sus- pected that they had sided
The fact that Nebuchadnezzar "de- with David (1 Sam. 22:13-19).
mands his soothsayers to tell him the dream Nebuchadnezzar's own "hall of infamy"
itself should not be taken to mean that he had included his harsh treatments of King
forgotten it; rather, he uses this as a test in Zedekiah (2 Kings 25:7), two Jewish rebels
order to have assurance that they can give him (Jer. 29:22), and Daniel's three friends (Dan.
a reliable interpretaron of it (vs. 9)."30 He 3).
alone "is in a position to judge their 2:7-11 The conversation between the
confabulations, king and his trusted wise men takes three
rounds and is presented as a series

87
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

of mutual misunderstandings. It has been ruptcy of its astrological system. Aston-


observed that "the lengthy dialogue between ishingly, Daniel's book exposed this
the king and the wise men builds the tension bankruptcy on two more occasions in the
of the story, culmi- nating with the threat of history of Neo-Babylon (Dan. 4 and 5).
death."34 The more the wise men go out of These events cleared the stage for Daniel
their way in trying to please him and keep him to make his entrance and introduce the God
calm, the more agitated he becomes be- cause who is the only Source of knowledge and
he finds their answers to be seduc- tive but wisdom. Isaiah 44:25 describes God as the
also evasive. In the end, he ac- cuses them of a One "who foils the signs of false prophets /
lack of loyalty and even conspiracy. He will and makes fools of diviners." Indeed, the
believe that their in- terpretation is correct failure of the wise men to reveal the dream
only if they can tell him the dream. was a sure sign of the impotence of their god
In their despair, the wise men admit their Mar- duk (Bel), who, according to Babylo-
impotence. They declare that this situation is nian beliefs, was, along with his father Ea
unparalleled in the history of the world and (Enki) and his son Nabu (Nebo), a dispenser
that the king's demand is simply of wisdom. With the death sentence
unreasonable. The solution to the king's pronounced on all the wise men of Babylon by a
puzzle certainly lies with the gods, yet the wise king who was a devout worshiper of
men are only human beings, and they Babylon's patron god, Marduk's house was
consider communica- tion with the higher divided against itself and was doomed to fall
world impossible. (cf. Luke 11:17). The astrologers who relied
2:12, 13 This part of the story ends with on Babylon's idols were helpless because they
the peaking of the king's anger. The theme of had not "stood in the council of the L O R D / to
a king's anger is frequently found in biblical see or to hear his word" (Jer. 23:18). The
wisdom texts (Prov. 16:14; 19:12; 20:2) and in prophet Isaiah mocked Babylon's power in
stories from the exile (Dan. 3:13, 19; Esther the following way:
1:12; 7:7). Nebuchadnezzar makes no effort
to hide his rage, and he pronounces the most Let your astrologers come forward,
severe verdict: All the wise men in the city of those stargazers who make predictions
Babylon must die. It is because "the king is month by month, let them save you from
afraid that he threatens to kill."35 Scholars what is coming upon you (Isa. 47:13).
have rightly called this moment the lowest
point in Babylon's history in that it The plot in the story becomes further
demonstrated the bank- complicated when the reader learns that

88
KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S FIRST DREAM (2:1-49)
DANIELS REQUESTS (2:14-23)

the young Hebrews who worshiped Yah- the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a
veh were threatened by the same death vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven 20
and
decree. Even though Daniel and his rriends said:
were generally considered as be- 3nging to
the Babylonian wise men Dan. 1:19), they "LetthenameofGodbepraisedforeverandever;

had not been present at die meeting that took wisdom and power belong to him.

place in the palace. It is possible that jealousy 21


He changes times and seasons;
prevented the Chaldeans from inviting the he sets up kings and removes them.
young Hebrews to come to the meeting (cf. He gives wisdom to the wise
Dan. 6:6, 7). Later, in his speech before and knowledge to the discerning.
Nebu- chadnezzar, Daniel refers to the wise 22
He reveals deep and hidden things; he
men's inability to help the king, but in doing knows what lies in darkness, and
so he does not specifically mention the term light dwells with him.
"Chaldean" (Dan. 2:27). 23
1 thank and praise you, 0 God of my fathers: You
have given me wisdom and power,
Daniel's Requests (2:14-23) You have made known to me what we asked of
At this point, the focus of the narra- tive you,
shifts to Daniel and his friends, and the You have made known to us the dream of
reader is led to wonder if this will result in the the king."
eventual denouement in the story.
Notes
2:14 "Arioch."JU\s was the name of the
king of Ellasar, an ally of Kedorlaomer,
king of Elam (Gen. 14:1). Some have
14
When Arioch, the commander of the king's guard,
related this name to the Sumerian city
had gone out to put to death the wise men
of Uruk (Warka). In Babylonian, Eri- Aku
of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with tactful wis-
means "servant of the moon-god," but
dom. 14 15He asked Arioch, the king's officer, "Why did
it is possible that the origin of the name
the king issue such a harsh decree?"Arioch then ex-
is Persian.
plained the matter to Daniel. 6 17Atthis, Daniel went and
"The commander of the king's guard." The
asked the king to appoint him a time so that he might
title rab-tabbahayya' means "the chief
interpret the dream for him.
execu- tioner." Arioch was the person
17
Then Daniel went to his house and informed his
entrusted to carry out the execution of
friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah about
the wise men and thus pro- tect the life
the matter. 18He urged them to plead for mercy from
of the king in the face of a threat. His
the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that
position was comparable to that of
Daniel and his friends might not be executed
Nebuzaradan, who bore the same title
with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.19During
and was in the service of the same king
89
(2 Kings 25:8; Jer. 39:9; 52:12).
"Hadgone out to put to death."A good n u
ru- ber of commentators believe that
the execution
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

of the wise men had not yet started pointment with the king regarding this
(Dan. 2:24). Thus, at this point in the matter. This fact adds even more
story, Arioch is still on his way to begin urgency and serious- ness to the
the executions. situation faced by the four Hebrews.
"With tactful wisdom." The noun fern, 2:17 "His house/The word tbayteh, "to
"tact," is translated in Proverbs 26:16 as his house," points to the place where
the ad- verb "discreetly." Although the the four young Hebrews resided in the
two nouns are different, they express city of Babylon.
one idea (another case of hendiadys), 2:18 "To plead." The same verb, be'a, "to
and they can be translated as "tact- ful ask," that is used in 2:16, where Daniel
wisdom." asks the king for time, is used here.
2:15 "The king's officer." Arioch's title "Mercy." The Aramaic noun rahamm,
here differs from the one given in the "mer- cies," is also used (with a slightly
previous verse. This title is more general different spell- ing) in Daniel 1:9, which
in character. says that God granted mercy to Daniel
"A harsh decree.'The word mehahsepa, before the royal official. This time
"se- vere," can also mean "urgent" or Daniel needs the same mercy from the
"rash." In the light of the statement same God. The Greek translation
from 2:16 (cf. mehahsepa "urgent" Dan. expands the Aramaic text by adding the
3:22), the decree was not just harsh but words "he urged fasting and
also hasty. supplication." A scholar has ob- served
38

"The matter."See the Notes on Daniel 2:5. that in this verse, "Daniel is mustering
2:16 "Daniel went [in]." Based on Esther spiritual power for warfare" much as
4:11, it becomes clear that Daniel's Ezra will do later (Ezra 8:21,22; cf. Dan.
direct and brave action as recorded here 10:2,3).39
could have cost him his life, yet this "From." Literally, the Aramaic says min-
"life-risking action would preserve q°dam, "from before," which, during and
lives"36 (Dan. 2:18). The normal protocol after the time of the exile, was a
in approaching the king is given in reverential way of re- ferring to God.
Daniel 2:24. Some ancient versions The expression is very common in the
emend the Hebrew text here, making Targums, Aramaic paraphrases of the
Arioch act "as the intermediary be- books of the Old Testament.
tween Daniel and the king."37 Based on "The God of heaven."The title 'elah semayya',
this, some scholars argue that this text "the God of heaven," was not a typical
does not clearly say that Daniel saw the Jewish way of referring to God, but it
king because in that case the Aramaic became common around the time of the
expression q°dam malka', "before the king" exile due to the influence of Babylon
(cf. Dan. 2:24,25), would be used. and Persia. It is found eight times in
"Asked the king to appoint him a time." Since90 Daniel's book—four times in this
the Aramaic word fman means chapter (Dan. 2:18, 19, 37, 44) and once
"appointed time" and it is used here in as "God in heaven" (Dan. 2:28). It is
combination with the verbal root ntn "to frequently found in the book of Ezra
appoint," the original text suggests the (1:2; 7:12). It may be compared with two
idea that Daniel did not ask for an similar titles in Daniel, namely, "King of
indefinite period of time but rather for heaven" (Dan. 4:37) and "Lord of
an ap- heaven" (Dan. 5:23). The
KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S FIRST DREAM (2:1-49)
DANIELS REQUESTS (2:14-23)

title "God of/in heaven" in the book of words one's appreciation, gratitude,
Daniel 'emphasizes God's involvement honor, rec- ognition."42 Psalm 63:4 says,
in history (Dan. 2:27-30,44,45; 4:36; "I will praise you as long as I live, / and
5:23,24)."40 in your name I will lift up my hands."
"This mystery."The Aramaic word raz, When the word is used of God's blessing
"se- cret," is a loanword from Old of a human being, it means "to do
Persian. It is found eight times in this good" or "to grant a favor" to that
chapter and once in Daniel 4:9. It person.
became an important word in the "The God of heaven." See the Notes on
interpre- tation of prophecies among Daniel 2:18.
the sectarians at Qumran. 2:20 "Let... be praised." See the Notes on
"With the rest of the wise men." The word Daniel 2:19.
se'ar, "rest," is the Aramaic equivalent of "The name of God." In certain biblical
a He- brew word used for "remnant." pas- sages, semeh di-'eldha', "God's name,"
The reader may think that Daniel and is a rever- ential way of addressing
his friends prayed that only their lives Yahweh, the God of Israel (Pss. 113:2, 3;
would be spared. But from verse 24 we 135:1; Neh. 9:5). More di- rectly, one
earn that they were also concerned for may simply say "God." While God, as
the lives of all the Babylonian wise men. personal being, transcends the highest
2:19 "The night ...in a visión."God sent the heav- ens, his name represents his
answer to Daniel's prayer kehezwa'di-lelya', presence among human beings (Deut.
"in a vision of the night" or "in a night 12:5, 21; 2 Sam. 7:13; 1 Kings 8:16-29).
vision" (Job 4:13; 33:15), just like the "For ever and ever.'The idea of eternity
revelation recorded in chapter 7. The was an abstract concept for the Semitic
words "vision" and "dream" are used mind; there- fore, ’ad-'alema', "for ever,"
interchangeably in Daniel (4:5,9,10; 7:1). meant "for a long, long time" without
"The mystery.'See the Notes on Daniel an end in view (cf. Pss. 41:13; 90:2;
2:18. 103:17; 106:48). An alternative and
"Was revealed." Daniel's God-given strictly literal meaning of this
ability that helped him resolve the expression is '"from the world to the
mystery was "a super- naturaliy given world' explained by Jewish com-
insight obtained by direct revelation."41 mentators as denoting the earthly and
This is because God "reveals mysteries" heavenly spheres."43
2:28); he is called "the revealer of "Wisdom andpower." In the context of
mysteries" 2:29). Other biblical the book of Daniel, hPkma, "wisdom," is
prophets also claimed this <ind of not simply knowledge of theoretical
insight (1 Kings 22:19-23; Jer. 23:18; facts. Rather, it is super- natural insight
Amos 3:7), which was often given in given by God. The two divine quali-
response to prayer (Hab. 2:1-3). 91 ties—wisdom and g'burd, "strength" or
"Praised."The use of the root brk, "to "power"— were important especially in
bless" or "to praise," was customary at the context of Babylon's culture and
the beginning of a Hebrew prayer religion.The Neo-Babylonian Empire
addressed to God. It implied honor and was powerful in Daniel's time, and the
praise to God's name. In Bible times, to city of Babylon was considered to be the
bless someone was "to express in center of all
solemn
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

wisdom ultimately dispensed by its in this chapter is not on virtues


patrón god Marduk, the god of wisdom. themselves but on God who is the
Daniel's words here, along with the Source of those virtues.
teaching of the whole book, di- rectly 2:22 "Reveals." See the Notes on Daniel
opposed this claim. Daniel believed that 2:19.
his God was the sole dispenser of "Deep and hidden things." The words
wisdom and power. In 2:23, Daniel 'ammiqata' umesatfrdta', "deep and
praised the God who gave him wis- dom mysterious things," are used here
and power. figuratively, and they rein- force each
2:21 "Times andseasons."The two other's meaning (hendiadys). Job 12:9,
Aramaic words that are used here 22 speaks of God in similar terms: "He
express two different, yet re- veals the deep things of darkness /
complementary, aspects of the concept and brings deep shadows into the light."
of time. The first noun,'iddanayya', "the "Darkness, andlight Jhe literary device in
times," denotes periods of time (cf. which two or more opposite concepts
2:16). Thus, the stress is on duration. are joined together with the purpose of
The second noun, zimnayya', "sea- sons," expressing totality is called merism(us). In
expresses points in time, or appointed this case, the author places the two
times and seasons. The two terms are contrasting concepts of darkness and
inverted in Daniel 7:12. In opposition to light side by side. Hence, the hymn
God, the little horn tries "to change the teaches that God knows all things,
set times regulated by the law" (7:25). whether they are done in darkness or in
The idea that God changes times and daylight. Darkness sometimes stands for
seasons must have been an open that which is unknown, while light is a
"challenge to the fatalism of the metaphor for God-given wisdom. In
Babylonian astral religion."44 Isaiah 45:7, God describes himself as
"Sets up kings and removes them." The same someone who forms the light and
concept is found in Hannah's song in 1 creates darkness.
Samuel 2 and Mary's song in Luke 2:23 "You." While in verses 20-22
1:46-55. This statement summarizes the Daniel re- fers to God in the third person
explanation of the king's dream that singular as "he," in this verse he
Daniel will soon reveal in his speech switches to the second-person pro-
before Nebuchadnezzar. noun "you," addressing God directly. For
"Gives wisdom to the wise. "The a paral- lel, see Psalm 23.
expression yaheb h°kmetd'lehakkimin, "giving "God of my fathers."The Semitic word 'ab,
wisdom to the wise," is a bold claim that "father," is often used to mean an
it is God who makes a person wise and "ancestor." Bi- ble writers frequently
deserves credit for that. "Wisdom to the wise referred to God in this way (Deut. 1:21;
(21) means, not that only [that] the wise92 6:3; 12:1; 1 Chron. 5:25; 12:17; 2 Chron.
ones receive the gift of extra wisdom, 33:12). The title "God of heaven" (Dan.
but that wherever there is wisdom it has 2:19) is applied to the God of Israel's
been received as a gift from the only ancestors (v. 23).46 Daniel's expression
God who is its source."45 In other words, "God of my fathers" has been described
wisdom is a gift from God. That is why as "a defining term that is relevant
at Gibeon, King Solomon asked God for outside the homeland."47 Despite the
wisdom (1 Kings 3:9,12; 4:29). The focus
KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S FIRST DREAM (2:1-49)
DANIELS REQUESTS (2:14-23)

i- - e, the covenant God was still Through a laconic description, we learn


the center of laniel's praise and worship. of Daniel's courageous interven- tion that led
"Wisdom andpower."See the Notes on him into the presence of the king, a move that
Dan- ei 1:20. could have cost him his life (Esther 4:11).
"Given me."See the Notes on Daniel 1:20. Surprisingly, the king was willing to grant him
That God is the Giver of all things is a a delay of the execution of the wise
dominant concept jnd three times in the men—some- thing that he was unwilling to
story in chapter 1. do for the Chaldeans. Moreover, he allowed
"What we asked." See the Notes on Daniel Daniel to confer with his friends without
2:16 and 18. The switch in pronouns charging them with conspiracy. Why? The
from the nrst-person singular ("me") to answer to this question must be sought in the
the first-person - iural ("we") stresses ending of the story in the previous chapter,
the fact that both Daniel nd his friends where the king him- self witnessed the
were praying. While God gave the 'e. extraordinary wisdom of the young men and
elation only to Daniel, he communicated especially of Daniel, who "could understand
the -essage to Daniel's friends through visions and dreams of all kinds" (Dan. 1:17).
him. 2:17-19 Upon returning to his house,
"The dream." The Aramaic word milla Daniel shares the news with his friends. "In
can ~ean either "word" or "matter." In relation to the Babylonian authorities, Daniel
this context it -leans more than just the stands alone. In relation to the people of God,
king's dream; it in- : udes also the however, he stands in fellowship with his
problem that surrounds it and its three friends."50 Faced with the harshness of a
-terpretation. See the Notes on Daniel 2:5. death decree, they decide to pray about the
matter and entrust it into the hands of the
Exposition (2:14-23) God of heaven.51 Since they share in the
2:14-16 If the problem the young danger, they can share also in the prayer.52
Hebrews faced in chapter 1 was difficult, me While the other wise men re- lied on their
one in this chapter is certainly impos- .;_ble, wisdom, Daniel and his friends relied on
humanly speaking. No wonder Towner called prayer to God, the true Source of wisdom.
the book ofDaniel "theol- : gv for hard They are facing an imminent death, and their
times."48 Although shocked bv the news from prayer is more than "a simple exercise of piety
the palace, Daniel is willing to take initiative that somehow meets a person's psycho-
in the face of the verdict, and he does so with logical and other basic needs."53 Their
tactful wis- dom. We can commend highly his
"abil- -7v to keep calm under severe shock
and pressure, to think quickly and exercise
raith in a moment of crisis."49 He is calm md
acts right away with confidence. But ne can
overcome his problem only with divine93
assistance.
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
I COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

prayer is rather a cry of supplication that their own contribution to the praise of
expects an answer. God."55 It begins as a typical Hebrew prayer
This act of faith was firmly grounded in by praising God and ascribing wisdom and
their recent experience. After all, this was not power to him. "Wisdom, which the experts
the first time during their stay in Babylon that summoned by Nebu- chadnezzar are
lives were being threat- ened. In Daniel 1:10, supposed to have, and power, which is
the king's official says, "I am afraid ofmy lord presumed to belong to the king, are, in fact,
the king. . . . So you would endanger my life God's to give."56
with the king." Thus, to the same God who After the introductory verse, there is a
"had caused the official" to show "mercy" to practical application of the two divine qualities
Daniel (Dan. 1:9), all four young men now given in a reversed order in 2:21. God's power,
turn to plead for "mercy" so that their lives which now comes first, is made manifest by
may be spared (2:17), and not only theirs, but his ability to change times and seasons,
also the lives of the rest of the wise men (2:18). something that others can only attempt to do
Supernatural problems need super- (Dan. 7:25). When the faithful are persecuted,
natural solutions. The king's mystery could it is not enough for them to be aware that God
not "be ascertained through rea- son or knows the situation they are in. "It is also
conventional wisdom, but only through important to know that God is ultimately in
divine revelation. God and God alone is the control of things."57 The psalmist said, "My
revealer of such mysteries: Daniel affirms this times are in your hands" (Ps. 31:15). God rules
(2:28) and so does Nebuchadnezzar (2:47)."54 over the kings of the earth, giving them power
The answer to the young men's prayer came and taking it away from them.
to Daniel through a night vision. Here is a In regard to wisdom, God not only
good example showing that biblical revelation possesses it but he also gives it to hu- mans
is a result of divine initiative, not of human (Gen. 40:8; 41:16; 1 Kings 4:29). This includes
initiation or manipulation. his knowledge of deep and hidden things. Divine
2:20-23 Before going to see the king, knowledge is here enhanced by the metaphor
Daniel prays again, yet this time he pres- ents of light that represents the true knowledge
not a petition but a praise to God. This hymn that leads to light. God "wraps himself in light
of praise is the first and lon- gest of the four as with a garment" (Ps. 104:2), and he "lives in
songs of thanksgiving found in the book. It unapproachable light" (1 Tim. 6:16).
has been called "a model of thanksgiving" Moreover, he claims to be the Creator of all
because "the symmetry and beauty of the things, including light and darkness (Isa. 45:7).
poetry make

94
KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S FIRST DREAM (2:1-49)
DANIEL TELLS THE DREAM (2:24-35)

The last part of the hymn switches trom 24


So Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had
the indirect to the direct form of „ Aeech in appointed to execute the wise men of Baby- lon, and
which Daniel addresses God : you. He can do thus he said to him, "Do not execute the wise men of
this because his God _> Someone worshiped Babylon. Take me to the king, and I will interpret the
by his ancestors, -srith whom God had made dream for him."
a covenant. 7ne God ofAbraham, Jacob, and 25
Then Arioch took Daniel to the king at once and
Moses the God who has given . . . wisdom said, "I have found a man among the exiles from
ndpower to Daniel. He is a personal God with Judah who can tell the king what his dream means."
whom Daniel has an intimate relationship. 26
The king asked Daniel, whose name was also
Moreover, in the story :: chapter 2, Daniel is Belteshazzar, "Are you able to tell me what I saw in
portrayed as a model of wisdom (Dan. 2:14), my dream and interpret it?"
prayer 1:18), praise (w. 19-23), and witness 27
Daniel replied before the king, "No wise man,
27, 28).58 enchanter, magician, or diviner can explain to the
Daniel's display of faith is remarkable, r - king the mystery he has asked about,28but there is a
en before he goes to see the king, he i>sumes God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has made
that the revelation about the iream is perfectly known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in
accurate, and he praises God for that.59 The days to come. Your dream and the visions that passed
terms wisdom and 'ower are found in the through your mind as you lay on your bed are these:
beginning and at :he end of the hymn, thus 29
"As you were lying in your bed, 0 king, your
forming brack- ets around it (inclusio). In the mind turned to things to come, and the revealer of
last two __nes, Daniel includes his friends as mysteries made known to you what is going to
re- cipients of these two divine gifts. The happen.30As for me, this mystery has been re- vealed
object of the revelation that Daniel re- ceived to me, not because I have greater wisdom than other
is the dream of the king. Daniel's r.ymn of praise living beings, but so that you, 0 king, may know the
is "a true prayer, for it has "o personal aim but interpretation and that you may understand what
is offered in service in God, to humanity, and went through your mind.
to history."60 31
"You looked, 0 king, and there before you stood
a large statue—an enormous, exceed- ingly bright
Daniel Tells the Dream (2:24-35) statue, awesome in appearance. 32
The head of the
Following the hymn of praise, which, statue was made of pure gold, its breast and arms of
most likely, was the central part of the oung silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33
its legs of iron,
men's thanksgiving worship, the "irrative its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. 34While
reverts back to Daniel, who row goes into you were watching, a stone was cut out, but not by
action. human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron
and

95
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

clay and crushed them.35Then the iron, the clay, the of this verse, 'aneh malka vf'amar, which
bronze, the silver, and the gold all together were literally mean "the king answered and
broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing said to...," are identical with the words
floor in the summer. The wind carried them away previously used in the dialogue between
without leaving a trace. But the stone that struck the the king and the wise men (2:5, 8). The
statue became a great mountain and filled the whole writer probably chose these words
earth." intentionally.
"Belteshazzar/lhis was Daniel's new
Notes
name in Babylon; see the Notes on Daniel
2:24 "Arioch."See the Notes on Daniel
1:7.
2:14.
2:27 "Daniel replied before the king." Liter-
"The wise men of Babylon." See the Notes on
ally, the text says 'aneh daniye'l q°dam malka
Daniel 2:12.
vf'dmar, "Daniel answered before the king
"Take me." Literally, the text says ha'elni,
and said..." Just as in the previous verse,
"bring me in." This detail in the
the choice of words here may be
narrative shows that Daniel followed the
deliberately similar to the words the
established protocol at the palace, in
wise men spoke in their dialogue with
contrast to his previous visit to the king
the king (2:10). The word q°dam, "in the
when he approached the monarch
presence of," is commonly used in the
directly (2:16).
Targums in refer- ence to important
2:25 "At once." Literally, behitbehala
persons such as God.
means "in haste."
"No wise man." Notice that Daniel omits
"I have found." Almost all commentators
the terms Chaldean and astrologerfrom the
notice that Arioch takes credit for his
list here. The Chaldeans were the
"discovery" of Daniel even though the
spokesmen for the whole group of wise
text makes it clear that it was Daniel,
men (2:5,10).
who, after having found a so- lution to
"The mystery."See the Notes on Daniel
the king's problem, went to Arioch to
2:18.
inform him of it (2:34). Arioch acted as
2:28 "A God in heaven." The title elah
if the king had not known Daniel before
bismayya', "God in heaven," is very close
(cf. Dan. 2:16).
to "God of heaven." See the Notes on
"Among the exiles from Judah." Literally, the
Daniel 2:18.
text says min-bene galuta' dffhCid, "among
"Reveals mysteries."See the Notes on Daniel
the sons of exile from Judah," but since
2:19.
the Ara- maic noun bar, "a son," (bene is
"He has made known." Daniel uses here
the plural con- struct) functions in this
the verb in the past tense (an
case as a noun of relation, it is best
accomplished action) in order to stress
translated "one of" or "a member of."
the certainty of what God will do in the
While Arioch speaks highly of his96
future. The use of the prophetic perfect
accomplish- ments before the king, he
in the Bible underlines the notion of the
refers to Daniel in a rather degrading
certainty of God's promises. When God
way, as "an exile" (cf. 5:13).
speaks of the fu- ture, his statements
2:26 "The king asked."The opening
are as good as done.
words
"In days to come." Literally, the phrase
says be'aharitydmayya', "in the end of the
days" or "in the end of time." The
phrase is considered to be
KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S FIRST DREAM (2:1-49)
DANIEL TELLS THE DREAM (2:24-35)

"the eschatological element" in the "Your mind." The Aramaic text says
chapter. In re Bible, it is primarily found libbak, "your heart," since among the
61

in the Pentateuch Gen. 49:1; Num. 24:14; Semitic people, the heart was
Deut. 4:30; 31:29) and in tne prophets considered to be the source of people's
(Isa. 2:2; Ezek. 38:16; Hos. 3:5; Mic. -.1), thoughts and not just of their emo-
always pointing to a time in the future, tions.
near or far, depending on the context. At 2:31 "You looked, ...and there." This is a
times, the expression may be considered standard formula that in the prophetic
an idiom for "the future," while at other part of the book introduces scenes of
times it is eschatological n the broadest dreams. It is at- tested elsewhere in the
sense of the word, pointing to re period prophetic writings (Zech. 1:18). The
that began with Christ's death on the Hebrew equivalent verb haza, "to look"
cross. "In each case, the context has to or "to perceive," is used in the
decide v nat the meaning of 'the latter prophetic books to designate prophetic
days' is."62 Three times in this and the vision (Isa. 1:1; 2:1; Amos 1:1; Mic. 1:1;
next verse it is stressed that the dream etc.).
concerns a time in the future: "in days to "A large statue." In the translation of the
come" (2:28), "things to come" (2:29), word selem, "statue" is preferred here to
and ' -vhat is going to happen" (2:29), "image" (the Hebrew word is used also in
(cf. 2:45, "what take place in the future"). 2 Kings 11:18;
"Your dream and the visions." In his speech, 2 Chron. 23:17; Amos 5:26). Literally,
Daniel switches from the third to the the text says "one large statue." It has
second per- son. When he addresses the been suggested that the emphasis on
king indirectly in the rird person, he the number one here means that the
does so out of politeness. The : vo four empires represented by the statue
words, "dream" and "vision," refer to constitute a unity.63
the same revelation (hendiadys). Scholars disagree regarding
2:29,30 "Asyou... As forme."The form of re whether this statue should be
two introductory phrases (casus pendens) understood as an idol. In 1979, a basalt
found in the beginning of the verses statue was accidentally discovered in
serves as a oridge between the king's northeastern Syria. Since that time it
experience and that zf Daniel. It has become known as the Tell
resembles the language used in cove- Fakhriyeh Statue. A bilingual text was
~ant making. Both the king and Daniel engraved on this statue, so it is very
received -evelations that were closely pre- cious to linguists.64 The original
interrelated. This retorical device serves inscriptions led scholars to conclude
to stress the common element of two that this statue dates as far back as the
communicating persons. ninth century B.C.® The statue was
— D .2:29 T . W .revealer of mysteries." This title 97 made "in the likeness of Hadad-yis'i," the
W . T . "The

undoubtedly refers to God. See the Notes king who at that time controlled the
on Daniel 2:19. whole region of east- ern Syria, and it
2:30 "This mystery has been revealed." See was placed before the god Hadad, "who
re Notes on Daniel 2:19. dwells in Sikan." Even though the texts
in- scribed on this statue say that its
purpose was to remind the god Hadad
to bless this king and his posterity, the
main reason behind its erection
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

must have been to serve as a visible symbol, the baked clay stands for
reminder of who was in control of that weakness and transience (Job 4:19;
región. This statue and the one in Daniel 13:12). Its presence posed a threat to the
2 share a common Mesopota- mian whole statue and reminds the reader of
background, and the purpose of both the story in Genesis 11. Clay is to
was to represent the authority of the weakness as iron is to strength.67
kingdoms. 2:34 "You were watching." While the first
"Awesome in appearance." Literally, the occurrence of this phrase introduced the
text says vfreweh dehil, "its appearance was statue (Dan. 2:31), its occurrence here
frightening." The appearance of the introduces the statue's destruction68
fourth beast in chapter 7 is also said to "A stone."The Semitic word ’eben can be
have been "dreadful and terrifying" (7:7, translated either as "a stone" or "a
19). While the statue's appearance was rock." In the Bible, rock represents God's
magnificent, it was also terrifying; that is strength (Deut. 32:18; Pss. 18:2; 31:2,3)
why its sudden disappearance made the and kingdom (Ps. 118:22; Isa. 28:16;
king very afraid. Zech. 3:9), but it also stands for the
2:32 "Pure gold... silver." The gold men- material of which important religious
tioned in Genesis 2:12 is described as objects were made, such as the altar
"good." In the ancient world, gold and (Exod. 20:25), the tablets with the
silver were two ma- terials that commandments (Exod. 24:12); the
symbolically stood for something that is covenant stipulations (Deut. 27:4); and
precious and majestic. Pagan idols were the temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 6:7).
made of gold and silver (Isa. 31:7; The ancient Greek and Latin versions
40:19). Accord- ing to 2 Kings 25:13-15, insert here the words "from a mountain"
the articles that Nebu- chadnezzar took to harmonize this verse with verse 45,
from the temple were made of gold, which ties the origin of this stone to "a
silver, and bronze. Some have tried to mountain." The passage from Isaiah
tie the silver to the concept of money in 2:1-5 speaks of an imposing mountain
an attempt to find here an allusion to that in the future will dominate the
the elaborate taxation system of the whole world (cf. Isa. 11:9). "The stone
Medo-Persian Empire. Silver was does not have the same value placed on
apparently the standard monetary value precious metals by humans. A stone
among the Persians. cannot be used to pay taxes or to make
2:32,33 "Bronze... iron."These two mate- idols glisten in the sunlight. But this
rials were symbols of that which is stone is in the hand of God, and its
strong and hard. They are both destruction of the human pretense to
mentioned in chapter 7, where the power is total."69
fourth beast is said to have "large iron "Not by human hands." Since in the Bible,
teeth" (7:7) and "bronze claws" (7:19).98 yad, "a hand," stands for power, the
Ezekiel 27:13 links trade in bronze with meaning here is "not by human [but by
Greece. Bronze was to the Greeks as iron God's] interven- tion" (cf. Job 34:16-20).
was to the Romans.66 For a parallel Hebrew ex- pression, see
2:33 "Baked clay."The word hasap, "clay," Daniel 8:25, where the little horn is
indicates a sort of ceramic material. destroyed by divine agency. The idea is
Some ver- sions translate it as "tile" or that this
"terra cotta." As a
KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S FIRST DREAM (2:1-49)
DANIEL TELLS THE DREAM (2:24-35)

stone is not to be associated with any temples and ziggurats (step pyramids),
human or earthly achievement. One which supposedly were imitations of
characteristic of prophetic sacred moun- tains.71 On the use of the
visions—particularly those that are word rab, "great" or "huge," see the Notes
apocalyptic—is God's direct on Daniel 2:48. "The coinci- dence
involvement in the matter of world between the origin and the outcome [of
powers. the stone] implicitly testifies to the
"On its feet/The feet of iron mixed kingdom's divine nature."72 This
with ciay were the statue's weakest movement from mountain to mountain
point. Ford called them "a rather muddy reminds one of the words about Je- sus,
base!"70 who "had come from God and was
2:35 "Then the iron.. ."The order of the returning to God" (John 13:3).
ma- terials is reversed compared to the "Filled the whole earth." Isaiah 11:9 speaks
previous list- ing—this time the narrator of a future time when "the earth will be
moves from bottom to top. He does this full of the knowledge of the LORD / as the
to picture dramatically how the statue waters cover the sea."
was destroyed.
"All together." Although composite in Exposition (2:24-35)
na- ture, the statue is considered as a 2:24-26 This part of the story proves
unit. See the Notes on Daniel 2:31. Daniel's genuine concern for Babylon's wise
"Like chaff." Psalm 1:4, 5 also uses the men. He does not want to see them executed.
picture of chaff blown by the wind as a For that reason he arranges for a second visit
result of God's judgment. to the king. This time he follows the
"A threshing floor in the summer." Many established protocol at the palace and lets
people of Bible times were Aríoch, the commander of the king's guard
agriculturalists, and for them the appointed by the king to put to death the wise men
harvest time with all its activities was a of Babylon (Dan. 2:14), introduce him. The two
fitting metaphor for God's judgment men come into contact through Daniel's
(Ps. 1:4; isa. 41:15,16; Jer. 8:20). initiative—Daniel went to Arioch (Dan. 2:24).
"The wind."in Semitic languages, the Yet, in the king's presence, Arioch claims full
word ruah, "wind," can also mean "air" credit for "discovering" Daniel. At the same
or "spirit." time, he downplays the young Hebrew's cre-
"A trace." For a similar idea, see Psalm dentials—he introduces Daniel not by his
103:15, 16, where transience of human official Babylonian title but as a cap- tive from
life is described in the following way: Judah. Later in the book, Daniel is addressed
in the same way by King Belshazzar (Dan.
As for man, his days are like grass, 5:13) and by the jealous
he flourishes like a flower of the
field;
the wind blows over it and it is 99
gone, and its place remembers
it no more.

"A greatmountain."In
the past, some
schol- ars have related this symbol to
the Babylonian
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

satraps (Dan. 6:13), all ofwhom proved to be detail reminds Bible readers ofJoseph's
hostile to the Hebrew God and his servant. appearance before the Egyptian Pha-
Through Daniel's humble words before the raoh—Joseph began and ended his speech by
king, Arioch's attitude is con- trasted with directing attention to God (Gen. 41:16, 25).
Daniel's: This mystery has been revealed to me, not In like manner, Daniel humbly refuses to take
because Ihave greater wisdom than other líving be- ings. credit for his ability to tell the dream and
.. (Dan. 2:30). The king does not say a word to explain it. He readily admits that only God
Arioch but goes straight to his concern, knows the future and can reveal it.
asking Daniel about his abil- ity to solve the Daniel is "a prophet in all but name."75 As
mystery. a prophet, he was allowed to take part in the
2:27-30 Daniel begins his speech with a council of the Lord (cf. Jer. 23:18, 22; Amos
disclaimer through which he dis- sociates 3:7). He places the king's dream in its original
himself from the wisdom of this world. He context, explaining the circumstances in
says that no wise man, in- cluding himself, is which the dream was given. Ecclesiastes 5:3a
able to solve the king's problem. He then says that "a dream comes when there are
turns the king's attention to the Hebrew God, many cares," and a rabbinic saying notes that
who is the only One capable of doing things "a man is only shown in a dream what
that are humanly impossible (cf. Dan. 4:8, 9; emanates from the thoughts of his heart."76
5:11, 12, 14, 18-24). In contrast to the rest of Daniel says that Nebuchadnez- zar's dream
the wise men, who confi- dently relied on came as God's answer to the king's desire to
their own wisdom when they said, "We will know what will happen in the future. In his
interpret it," Daniel pointed to God—the speech, Daniel builds a bridge between his
only Source of wisdom—whose messenger
God and Nebuchadnezzar, both of whom he
he was. There is a GWwho lives among people,
re- spects and serves. If Daniel's role here is
and he is none other than Daniel's God!73
viewed as prophetic, we can see that bib- lical
Montgomery has called the state- ment there is
prophecy does not target exclusively the
a God in heaven "the su- preme theme of the
future but also the present in which the future
book" and "the cardinal principle of the
events are firmly grounded.
Bible."74
2:31- 35 Daniel's dream narrative before
It is important to notice that Daniel
the king can be divided into two parts, the
begins and ends his speech before Ne-
first of which begins with the words you looked
buchadnezzar by referring to his God. These
and the second with you were watching. The first
two references form another set of brackets
part, verses 31-33, describes the four materials
(inclusio) in this narrative. This
of

100
KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S FIRST DREAM (2:1-49)
DANIEL TELLS THE DREAM (2:24-35)

the statue, and the second part, verses 34-36, are now considered as pots of clay, the
talks of the stone and the effects of its work of a potter's hands!
destruction of the statue.77 The contents of
the king's dream consisted, first of all, in a With the exception of the baked clay,
composite statue that Daniel describes however, there is an increase in strength and
briefly. In a general way, one can say that inhardness, preparing the way for the last
the ancient Near East, a statue often material mentioned, that of a stone, which is
represented the presence of someone with cut from a mountain, smashes the statue, and
authority— either a god or a king. To be grinds it to powder. There is an implied
more spe- cific, when a powerful people contrast between the materials valued and
conquered a foreign land, they would set up prized by human beings and the despised,
impos- ing monuments, often in the form of unworked stone (cf. Isa. 60:17).78 While the
statues, to signal their presence in the stone be- comes a great mountain that fills the
subdued land. The intimidating size of these whole world, the statue that turns to "chaff"
monuments, sometimes combined with is swept away by the wind with- out leaving a
splendor, served as effective imperial trace (2:35).
propaganda in the conquered lands. Some of The feet of the image were its most
the erected statues were of a re- ligious curious part. Like the legs, they were made of
nature. iron—though not completely. The iron was
The profound impression that the statue mixed with clay (Dan. 2:33). In the Bible, clay
made on King Nebuchadnezzar was due to is consistently the last on the scale of
the fact that the statue was magnificent and materials (Lam. 4:2; Zech. 11:13; 2 Tim.
terrifying at the same time. Most of its 2:20). This was "obviously a poor choice of
brilliance should be credited to the presence material for attempting to hold the iron
pieces in place."79 There is an element of
and effect of the head. . . of pure gold (2:32). This
"caricature in the suggestion that the weakest
statue was a composite; its list of materi- als
proceeds from gold to silver, bronze, iron, substance was used in the feet, where it
and baked clay. The elements are olaced in would have to bear the weight of the
the order of declining mone- tary value. metals."80 Thus, it comes as no surprise that a
Lamentations 4:2 speaks in similar terms of single rock, without a human ac- tion, is
the decline of God's people: sufficient to exploit a fatal weak- ness
inherent, not in the head of the statue, but in
The precious sons of Zion, its feet.81
once worth their weight in gold, It is not too hard to imagine the kind of
impression this dream made on

101
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

Nebuchadnezzar. From the very begin- ning, will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron

he must have identified with the dazzling breaks and crushes everything—and as iron breaks

statue.82 Though statues of gi- gantic things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the

proportion representing kings and gods were others.41 Just as you saw that the feet and toes were

placed throughout the ancient Near East to partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be

symbolize the pow- er of the ruling empires, a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the

in this dream, only the head of the statue was made strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with

of pure gold, while the materials that fol- lowed baked clay.42As the toes were partly iron and partly

were of declining value. What must have clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly

made the king even more afraid was the fact brittle.43Andjust as you saw iron mixed with baked

that something terrible happened to the clay, so the people will mix with one another in

statue. From this he must have concluded that marriage but will not remain united, anymore than

someone would try to kill him and grab his iron mixes with clay.
44
throne. This suspicion explains his great fear, "ln the time of those kings, the God of heaven

which resulted in the irrational threat against will setup a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor

his most trusted officials. will its sovereignty be left to another people. It will
crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end,
Meaning of the Dream (2:36-45) but it will itself endure forever. 45
This is the meaning
Daniel's interpretation is much lon- ger of the vision you saw of the stone cut out of the
than his report of the dream. This time he mountain but not by human hands—a stone that
proceeds with his talk by mak- ing a reference broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the
to both the king and God. gold to pieces.
"A great God has made known to the king what
will take place in the future. The dream is certain and
the interpretation is trustworthy."

36 Notes
"This was the dream, and now we will inter- pret it
2:36 "We will interpret."The use of the
before the king.36 37You, 0 king, are the king
first person plural pronoun "we" can be
of kings. The God of heaven has given you king-
explained in no fewer than four
dom and power and might and glory; 38 39in your hands
different ways:83 (1) plural of majesty;
he has placed humankind and the beasts of the field
(2) plural of modesty; (3) Daniel and his
and the birds of the air. Wherever they live, he has
friends; (4) Daniel and his God. The third
made you ruler over them all. You are the head of
option is supported by verse 47, where
gold.
39
the king uses the word "your" in the
"After you, another kingdom will rise, infe
plural, apparently to include Daniel's
rior to yours. Then, a third kingdom, one of bronze,
three friends.
will rule over the whole earth. 40Finally, there
"Before the king." See the Notes on Daniel

1022:16.
KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S FIRST DREAM (2:1-49)
MEANING OF THE DREAM (2:36-45)

2:37 "The king ofkings." Babylonian Babylon; I will make even the wild
kings Dorethe title in Akkadian of animals sub-
sarsarrani, "king of •jngs." The Aramaic ject to him. . Daniel 2:38 speaks of a
construction melek lalkayya', "king of universal
kings," is usually explained as 3 dominion of the king over all creation,
superlative, meaning "the greatest of all classified here in three categories:
kings" c, Hebrew sir hassirtm, "Song of human beings, animal world, and birds.
Songs," qddes fdasim, "the Holy of The Greek text adds "and the fish of the
Holies"). Without negating mis sea." King Nebuchadnezzar's dominion
explanation, we can suggest another echoes Adam's, being described in the
possi- Dility here, which is that the term lan- guage of Creation (Gen. 1:26).
may also have meant "the emperor," "You are the head.'The Hebrew word
because in Nebuchadnez- zar's time, he rd's, "head," is often used in the Bible
was the king of the kings (Ezek. 26:7). with a sense of primacy and superior
The Persian king Artaxerxes was also quality. The root of the first word in the
ad- dressed as "king of kings" (Ezra Bible, bere'sit, "in the beginning," is rd's,
7:12). Nebuchad- -ezzar's dominion, "head." Amos 6:1, 6, 7 contain
however, was derived from a et greater wordplays based on this word.
king. In Revelation 19:16, the Rider on Nebuchadnezzar's reign here represents
re white horse (Jesus Christ) is called the whole Neo-Babylonian Empire
"KING OF • NGS AND LORD OF LORDS." because he ruled over it for forty-three
"The Godofheaven."See the Notes on Dan- of the sixty-six years of its existence.
e 2:18. The lesson taught here is that "Gold." In Jeremiah 51:7, Babylon is
the "God of heaven" has given described as '"a gold cup in the LORD'S
dominion to "the king of longs." hand.'" Similarly, the statue of gold in
"Has given you kingdom and power and light Daniel 3 repre- sents the king's dreams
and glory." The literal meaning of the "rst of what the Babylonian Empire should
noun, malkuta', is "the kingdom."This be. Gold was the most popular metal in
state- ment is a leitmotif in the book, Babylon.
affirming the "ect that kingship and 2:39 "Inferior." When viewed from top
dominion come from God. "Compare to bottom, the materials that made up
the claims of Nabonidus and Cyrus, each the statue were of decreasing value but
claiming that Marduk had made - m increasing strength. The Medo-Persian
king, and of Darius that Ahura Mazda Empire occupied a larger ter- ritory than
had : . en him the kingdom."84 First did Neo-Babylon.
Chronicles 29:11 ascribes to God all the "The whole earth." The statement bekol-
qualities mentioned in : :s verse.
_
’ar'a', "over the whole earth," may be
2:38 "Hands."See the Notes on Daniel taken as an exaggeration. Most of the
1:2. 103world empires boasted of being
"Over them all." These words are a universal.
fulfill- "tent of the prophecy in 2:40 "Breaks andcrushes. "The author
Jeremiah 27:6 (cf. Jer. combines these two verbs in order to
15:14), which says, I will hand all your express the destructive nature of this
coun- kingdom. The two verbs describe similar
ts over to my servant Nebuchadnezzar actions. Jeremiah graphi- cally described
king of Babylon as "the hammer of the
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

whole earth" (Jer. 50:23), which he said late it as "they will mingle in marriage"
would be broken and shattered in the (cf. Ezra 9:2)—in Daniel, referring to
end. attempts at political alliances by
"All the others."Literally, the text says intermarriages. However, the text says
kol-'il- len, "all these." This expression may that these alliances will not remain
refer either to "everything" or to the stable. Although a number of modern
previously mentioned elements of the interpreters, looking also at Daniel
statue. 11:6,17, see here in chap- ter 2 a
2:41 "Toes."The toes have not been reference to the interdynastic marriages
mentioned previously in the story. Their during the time of the Ptolemies and
number is not specified, but some Seleu- cides,86 other scholars have
commentators assume that there were argued for a more general concept of
ten. Yet, "the writer does not mention intermingling of diverse races (cf. Gen.
the number ten, nor seem to attach any 6:1-4; Exod. 12:38).87The latter view is
special importance to it, any more than also found among the famous Jewish
he men- tions the division of the body interpreters, such as Rashi and Ibn Ezra.
into two legs."85 It is also noteworthy that the same
"Partly. "lhe word minnehen actually verbal root 'rb, "to mix," used in this text
means "some of them." is also found in Jeremiah's description
"Bakedclay."See the Notes on Daniel 2:33. of the Babylonian army made up of
"A divided kingdom." The concept ex- "foreigners" (Jer. 50:37). Some scholars
pressed through the word peliga, have called attention to Leviticus 19:19,
"divided" (cf. Peleg in Gen. 10:25; 1 which prohibits "mixed" plant- ing of
Chron. 1:19), is the basic characteristic two kinds of seed in the field.
(differentia specifica) that distin- guishes the 2:44 "Those kings." The kings referred
fourth kingdom from the previous to here are those representing the
three. Some scholars translate this word fourth, divided kingdom rather than the
as "com- posite." The division is not into rulers of the first three kingdoms. This
different parts; the intrinsic weakness of verse is the climax of Daniel's speech
this part of the statue is due to internal before the king. In the light of chapter
tensions. 7, where ten horns are related to the
2:43 "Iron mixed with baked clay." While fourth beast, some commentators have
the iron is described as strong, the clay suggested that the ten toes here parallel
pottery is brittle, resulting in this the end-time confederacy often kings
kingdom's lack of cohe- sion. These two from Revelation 17:12.
types of material are incompatible. In "The Godofheaven."See the Notes on Daniel
fact, in the Bible, iron is used to break 2:18. The same God who gave dominion
ce- ramic: "You will rule them with an to Nebuchadnezzar (2:37) will in the end
iron scepter; / you will dash them to104set up an eternal kingdom.
pieces like pottery" (Ps. 2:9). "A kingdom." The traditional Jewish
"The people will mix with one another in inter- pretation is that this is the
marriage." The Aramaic text literally says Messianic kingdom, related to the
mit'arebin lehewon bizra' 'anasa', "they will mix symbol of stone from Zechariah 3:9;
themselves with the seed of men." Some 4:7.88
trans "Forever."See the Notes on Daniel 2:20.
KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S FIRST DREAM (2:1-49)
MEANING OF THE DREAM (2:36-45)

2:45 "The stone."See the Notes on Daniel "The dream is certain and the interpretation is
2:34. Isaiah 51:1 applies the symbol of trustworthy." The fact that Daniel was able
the rockto God, while Jeremiah 51:25 to tell the dream gave absolute certainty
calls Babylon a "de- stroying to his interpretation. It is possible that
mountain." Jerome claimed that the the conjunc- tion here is "a conjunction
Messianic interpretation of this of consequence," in- dicating that "the
prophecy could oe found in rabbinic dream is true, therefore, the interpretation
writings, and he concluded that the is trustworthy."91 The king himself was
rock represents Jesus Christ.89 This able to confirm this fact. Similar
interpretation is in line with numerous affirmations about God's revelations are
New Testa- ment texts (e.g., Luke found elsewhere in the book (Dan. 8:26;
20:18). In the Psalms (18:2; 42:9; 71:3), 11:2; 12:7), and also in the book of
rock is a common metaphor for God Revelation (19:9; 21:5; 22:6).
and the protection that can be found in
him. Exposition (2:36-45)

"Cut out of the mountain." In the original, 2:36-38 Daniel's interpretation of the
tne word turn', "mountain," is preceded dream begins with the "reiteration of where
by the Definite article, suggesting that the source of true power is to be located."
92

the reader knows •vhich mountain is in He speaks to the king in the first-person
view. Rocky mountains ••.ere not a plural, pointing to the fact that his
common physical feature in Babylon. interpretation derives from his God or
The origin of the rock is supernatural in possibly that in his interces- sion he was
this case, since it is cut out of a joined by his friends. (In verse 47, the king
mountain, but not by a human hand. praises "your God," with the word "your" in
The prophet Isaiah urged the Israel- is the plural, probably referring to Daniel and
to "look to the rock from which you his friends.)
were cut and to the quarry from which The interpretation is clearly divided into
you were hewn" sa. 51:1). Martin Luther two parts, both of which speak of the God of
proposed that the mountain here heaven in the beginning: (1) Verses 37-43
symbolizes either the Virgin Mary or the describe the four world kingdoms, and (2)
Jewish people from whom Jesus Christ verses 44, 45 talk of God's kingdom. Thus the
came.90 focus is on the first and the last elements in
"The iron." The order of materials in the statue.
this .erse is both reversed and random. As Daniel begins his interpretation, he
See the Votes on Daniel 2:35. The iron addresses the king directly and links his
that "breaks and smashes everything" power and his right to rule with God's
(v. 40) is the first element to be broken sovereignty. He uses several superlatives
to pieces (v. 45) and ground to powder
(v. 35). 105
"A great God."The title elah rab, "a great
God," refers to the same person as do
the titles 'the God of heaven" (2:18) or
"God in heaven" 2:28). Daniel began his
speech with a reference to God, and he
ends it in the same way (inclu- sib).
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
| COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

to describe Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom, one the wild animals subject to him" (Jer. 27:6; cf.
of which is the title the king of kings, which 28:14).
elsewhere in the Bible is applied to God Daniel identifies the whole Neo-
himself. The prophet Ezekiel, who was Babylonian Empire with Nebuchadnez- zar
Daniel's contempo- rary, also refers to King because he ruled over Neo-Babylon longer
Nebuchadnez- zar as "king of kings" (Ezek. than any other king and even longer than the
26:7). In both of these references, the most reigns of all who fol- lowed him combined.
probable meaning is "world's emperor." The To Daniel's words you are the head ofgold,
emphasis here is not on Nebuchadnez- zar's Nebuchadnez- zar must have responded
power but on God who gave that power to the inwardly with a resounding "Yes!"
king. That is why some have rightly said that 2:39,40 As Daniel proceeds with the
the theology of history explicated in Daniel's interpretation of the dream, he rushes over
interpreta- tion of the dream cannot be the next two kingdoms. They re- ceive more
adequately understood apart from his wisdom attention in a later vision, where their
that came in response to prayers.93 historical application is clearly stated (Dan. 8).
The text in our passage portrays the It is useful to no- tice that only the first and
emperor as someone who rules over other last kingdoms, the gold and the stone, are
kings and also over all creation. This in- cludes identified in this chapter. In the end, the four
not only human beings but also all the beasts of earthly kingdoms are replaced by a fifth,
the field and the bírds of the air (the Greek version which is of a completely different order. The
adds "and the fish of the sea"), making his rule famous eighth-century Greek poet and
universal. According to the Creation story philosopher Hesiod, in his Works and Days,
(Gen. 1:28), God initially gave this re- divided the history of the world into five
sponsibility toward his creation to Adam and different "generations of men and spirits,"
Eve. While the idea present here is that four of which were repre- sented by gold,
Nebuchadnezzar is a new Adam, the Creator silver, bronze, and iron. In Hesiod's case, the
God is the only true Source of authority and fifth generation, in which he lived, was
wisdom. The prophet Jeremiah, who was represented by iron. In Daniel, that metal
another contempo- rary of Daniel, spoke of stands for the fourth kingdom and is placed
the extent of King Nebuchadnezzar's in a con- siderably distant future. Scholars
dominion in the following terms: "I will hand have pointed out several other differences be-
all your countries over to my servant tween these two texts.94
Nebuchad- nezzar king of Babylon; I will Daniel describes in detail the fourth
make even kingdom, especially in its second phase.

106
KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S FIRST DREAM (2:1-49)
MEANING OF THE DREAM (2:36-45)

That kingdom will be very strong and " ill be In the word of God ... is shown that
characterized by great destructive activity the strength of nations, as of in-
through which it will put an end to the dividuals, is not found in the oppor-
preceding kingdoms. Yet, unlike the previous tunities or facilities that appear to make
world empires, this one will have a major them invincible; it is not found in their
weakness. It will be a di- vided kingdom. While a boasted greatness. It is mea- sured by the
historical ap- plication of the four kingdoms fidelity with which they fulfill God's
is pre- ented below, the number of the earthly purpose.97
kingdoms in the dream can also be viewed as
symbolic. In certain prophetic passages of 2:41- 43 The divisions within the fourth
the Bible, the number four is associated with kingdom clearly stem from the differing
the totality of the earth cf. Isa. 11:12; Dan. qualities of the two materials that comprise
7:2, 17; Zech. 6:1-7; Matt. 24:31; Rev. 7:1). In this kingdom. In everyday life, an iron tool
a symbolic sense, the four kingdoms could be used for break- ing pottery into
represent all the earthly kingdoms and pieces: "You will rule them with an iron
empires that have ruled the world throughout scepter; / you will dash them to pieces like
history.95 Thus, the story of King pottery" (Ps. 2:9). The union of these two
Nebuchadnez- zar's dream and the elements can create only tension, never a
interpretation of it that God gave to Daniel harmo- nious coexistence. The divisions
teaches the di- me philosophy of history: repre- sented here are deep, for even the
individual toes were partly iron and partly
Every nation that has come upon the
clay. Although the fourth kingdom seeks to
stage of action has been permitted to
repair its fragility, it is unable to "do so in a
occupy its place on the earth, that it lasting way."98 As for the number of toes,
might be seen whether it would ful- fil whether there were ten or twelve, (cf. 2 Sam.
the purpose of "the Watcher and the 21:20) that detail did not seem to be a great
Holy One" [Dan. 4:13]. Prophecy has concern to Daniel.
traced the rise and the fall of the world's Behind the tension between iron and
great empires—Babylon, Medo-Persia, baked clay is the bipolar character of the
Greece, and Rome. With each of these, kingdom. While on one hand, this kingdom is
as with nations of less power, history the strongest of the four, on the other, it is
repeated itself. Each had its period of very brittle. The people who make up this
test, each failed, its glory faded, its power kingdom attempt to main- tain its fragile unity
departed, and its place was occupied by in order to make it as strong as iron in its
another.96 entirety, just as it was in the past. They carry
out this plan

107
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
J" COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

through what the text literally describes as on the other hand, together with their
"the mixing of human seed,” a strat- egy not idolatrous practices are viewed here as a unit,
new to the reader of the Bible (Gen. 6:1-4; destroyed together by the stone. A new future
34:20-23; Num. 25:1-3; etc.). These attempts, is coming, and it "is not merely an extension
however, are doomed to failure in the way in of the present. It is of supernatural origin. But
which a similar project carried out in the plain it is located on earth, not in heaven."103 World
of Shinar had failed (Gen. 11). The clear his- tory is moving toward this goal.
lesson taught in this text is that all at- tempts In the Bible, stone or rock stands for God
to unite humanity outside of God are and his reign on earth. Numerous biblical
illusionary. Even "a hectic end- time rush to passages, especially of poetic genre, speak of
conclude alliances"99 will not result in a lasting God being as reliable as rock. For example,
unity. The only kingdom that will endure the prophet Isaiah said, "Trust in the L O R D
forever is of heavenly origin. "Finality belongs forever, / for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock
to God."100 eternal" (Isa. 26:4). The same prophet saw in
2:44, 45 The coming of God's kingdom a vision that at the time of the end, the
is set in the context of the multiple divisions nations of the world will stream to worship
of the last kingdom, which all suddenly come God on the mountain of the Lord's temple
to an end. Verse 44 has been called "the crux (Isa. 2:1-5). Ancient Jew- ish interpreters
of the interpretaron of the entire symbolic regarded the kingdom represented by the
vision."101 The eternal kingdom is fittingly stone as that of King Messiah.104 In the New
repre- sented by a stone or a rock that Testament, Je- sus Christ is identified with
becomes a mountain and fills the whole earth that stone (Tuke 20:17, 18; 1 Pet. 2:4).
(Isa. 2:1-5), a metaphor that to our pres- ent Some writers apply the coming of the
knowledge is not attested outside of the Bible. stone kingdom to God's intervention in
In the culture of the time, mountains with history at Christ's first coming, while the
their solid bedrock were often tied with majority of interpreters apply it/to the
longevity and endur- ance. Second Coming. Here we mtist point to the
The scene that is described here must be phenomenon called "the telescoping of
interpreted as an intervention from God biblical prophecy." Old Testament prophets,
because the rock was cut from the mountain and this includes Daniel, could not clearly
not by human hands. God's kingdom "is wholly distinguish be- tween the events tied to the
other, the result of divine intervention."102 two com- ings of Christ. Jesus, in his Olivet
Gentile powers, Dis- course (Matt. 24; Mark 13), described

108
KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S FIRST DREAM (2:1-49)
THE KING'S GRATITUDE (2:46-49)

the fall ofJerusalem and his second com- ing the future empires serve only as land- marks
as a single event in history. It is in the light of that lead to the last, eternal king- dom of the
the New Testament that Christians have God of heaven. As men- tioned earlier, the
learned that Christ "was sacrificed once to two references to God, one in the beginning
take away the sins of many people; and he will and the other at the end of Daniel's speech
appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to form an in- clusio. Thus, it is safe to conclude
bring salvation to those who are waiting for that the story of Daniel 2 "illustrates the sov-
him" (Heb. 9:28). ereignty of God, who humbles the mighty
Some New Testament writers refer to and exalts the lowly."105
Christ and his work of salvation as ":he living
Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God" In the annals of human history, the
(1 Pet. 2:4; cf. Acts 4:11; Rom. 9:32). In a growth of nations, the rise and fall of
similar way, Jesús Christ in his parables talked empires, appear as if dependent on the
about the miraculous growth of his kingdom. will and prowess of man; the shap- ing of
Moreover, he applied some Old Testa- ment events seems, to a great degree, to be
prophecies that mention stone to himself and determined by his power, ambi- tion, or
also to the effects of his ministry in behalf of caprice. But in the word of God the
the humanity. He asked, " 'What is the curtain is drawn aside, and we behold,
meaning of that which is written: "The stone above, behind, and through all the play
the builders rejected / has become the and counterplay of human interest and
capstone"?' " To this he added enigmatic power and pas- sions, the agencies of the
words that s:rongly allude to Daniel 2 as they All-merciful One, silently, patiently
point to the contrasting results that his two working out the counsels of His own
comings will produce: " 'Everyone who falls will.106
on that stone will be broken to pieces, but he
on whom it falls will be crushed' " (Luke The King's Gratitude (2:46-49)
20:17, 18). Impressed by Daniel's ability to tell and
Daniel closes his interpretation of the explain the dream, the king, in a rather
dream by referring once again to God's unusual way, pays profound re-
control over history and his willingness to spect to God, who was the Source ............ of
make his plans known to King Nebu- Daniel's wisdom.
chadnezzar. In this way, Daniel is able to
46
Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate be-
reassure the king. There is no imminent
fore Daniel and paid him honor and commanded that
danger to his throne. His kingdom and
an offering and incense be presented to him.
47
The king said to Daniel, "Surely your God is the God

109
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mys- of both Daniel and his friends. In
teries, foryou were able to reveal this mystery." contrast, the pronoun "you" in the
48
Then the king promoted Daniel to a high words that follow, "you were able," is in
position and gave him many great gifts. He made him the singular, referring only to Daniel. In
ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed 2:36, Daniel speaks in the first-person
him in charge of all its wise men.49More- over, Daniel plural when he says "now we will
made request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, interpret it be- fore the king."
Meshach, and Abednego to be administrators over the "God of gods and the Lord of kings." The
province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at first title here is a superlative meaning
the royal court. "the su- preme God" (cf. 2:37); it points
to God's suprem- acy in heaven. The
Notes
second title describes him as the
2:46 "Fellprostrate... andpaid him honor."
Supreme Ruler over all earthly kings.
The original says nepal ’al-'anpdhi QManiye'l
Deuter- onomy 10:17 clearly applies
segid, "fell upon his face and worshiped
both of these titles to God. See the Notes
Daniel," expressing a deliberate act of
on Daniel 2:37.
reverence and even submission. The
"Revealer of mysteries." See the Notes on
same two verbs are used in parallelism in
Daniel 2:29.
the story that follows, in which all the
"This mystery."See the Notes on Daniel
royal dignitaries were ordered to "fall
2:18 and 2:19.
down and worship the statue of gold"
2:48 "High position." Literally, the text
(Dan. 3:5). "Nebuchadnezzar pays no
says that the king rabbi, "made [Daniel]
attention to the con- tent of Daniel's
great." This chapter contains a play on
interpretation, even though it implies the
the word rab, "great." Verse 35 says that
demise of the Babylonian Empire."'07
the stone that struck the statue became
"An offering and incense." The word minha,
a "great mountain." Verse 45 says that
"offering," describes a cereal type of
the "great" God has shown the king
offering (Lev. 2:1; Ezra 7:17). The king's
what will take place in the future. Verse
intention was to make an offering, but
48 uses this word three times: The king
Jewish legends portray Daniel as refusing
made Daniel "great," gave him many
to accept these honors.
"great" gifts, and made him the "great
"Presented to him."The Aramaic verbal root
one"—or ruler—over the province of
nsk means "to pour out" something like a
Babylon.'10
drink offering, but it can also mean "to
"Ruler... in charge." Daniel's position was
present" a gift.'08 It is possible that the
twofold: He became sallit, "ruler," of the
king here simply "provides Daniel with
most im- portant imperial province,
materials with which Daniel can make an
which included the capital city. The
appropriate offering to his God'"09 (cf.
second title, rab-signin, "chief prefect,"
Ezra 6:9,10). 110over the wise men may have involved
2:47 "Your God."The original has the
certain religious prerogatives.
pos- sessive "your" in the plural,
2:49 "Made request." See the Notes on
referring to the God
Daniel 2:16and 2:18.
"Administrators." Daniel's position was
superior to the positions of his friends,
an impor-
KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S FIRST DREAM (2:1-49)
THE KING'S GRATITUDE (2:46-49)

3 r t detail to keep in mind while reading (Isa. 39:8). So, in his reverent but still
the -ext story. half-pagan excitement, Nebuchadnezzar
1he royal court." Literally, the text says commanded that an offering and incense be presented
bi- to Daniel, a living representative of the God
"in the gate of the king."
malka', of heaven.112
"Gate" was a :emi for governmental The fact that the king fell prostrate before
office in the ancient Near East (cf. Gen. Daniel and immediately ordered that offerings
19:1; Ruth 4:1-12; Esther 2:19, 21). ~->e be presented to hím is a disturbing element in the
expression here suggests cabinet rank. story. While the king's overreaction is
understand- able, at first sight, Daniel's
Exposítion (2:46-49)
attitude to- ward the king's worship does not
2:46, 47 The chapter began with the
reflect the teaching of the Bible on this
King's fear that became great anger. It -nds
subject (Rev. 19:10; 22:8, 9). Yet, a closer look
with a report of the immediate effect :: the
into the text is very helpful as one at- tempts
revelation upon the king, a highly rositive
to solve this problem. First, the king was
impact that resulted in great ap- rreciation.
clearly overreacting. Who would not react
Nebuchadnezzar has just wit- nessed a
similarly in the face of such an irrational fear?
veritable miracle, so he bows in Daniel's
Second, in the king's presence, Daniel had
presence. The world's most pow- erful ruler
concluded the interpretation by ascribing
falls prostrate before an exiled : -ib:ea. What a
every- thing to God. "Throughout this
sight! Indeed, "the world -jiers are under
encoun- ter with the king, he had repeatedly
God's control, and when r.c chooses he can
given the glory and the credit for his
make them acknowl- edge it."111 The king's
knowledge to God."113
problem was now resolved, and here at the
Josephus Flavius tells how Alexander the
end of the story, ~e is reassured through the
Great explained his act of lying on the ground
message of the iream that the worst will not
before the high priest ofJe- rusalem by saying,
happen. God has appointed his rule, and only
"I did not adore him, but that God who hath
God take it away.
honored him with that high priesthood."114 In
The king's reaction to Daniel's inter-
like manner, Nebuchadnezzar, in his speech,
relation is curiously positive, given the net
first and foremost praised, not Daniel, but
that Daniel had clearly stated that ru?
rather Daniel's God, who had helped Daniel
kingdom will not last forever. Nebu-
resolve the king's problem. Third,
ziiadnezzar's reaction reminds the reader ::
Nebuchadnezzar commanded that offerings
King Hezekiah's reaction to the words : r the
be presented—but we are
prophet Isaiah: " 'The word of the LORD
you have spoken is good,' Heze- •;iah replied.
For he thought, "There will be peace and
security in my lifetime' "
111
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

not told whether the order was carried out. In province and possibly next in rank to King
fact, Jewish tradition has gener- ally denied Nebuchadnezzar. The second posi- tion was
that Daniel accepted the king's offering.115 If intellectual and possibly reli- gious in nature.
Daniel did not try to prevent this, that would Since the wise men, the group that the king
mean that he himself understood that the trusted most, had miserably failed him, Daniel
king's wor- ship centered on God and that he is now ap- pointed to be their leader. Daniel's
was only God's mouthpiece. political and religious power may be com-
The captive Daniel represented God's pared to those ofJoseph in Egypt, who was
reign on earth. He was only God's am- put "in charge of the whole land of Egypt"
bassador, and his words are echoed in the and was given "Asenath daughter of
words of the monarch, who now places God Potiphera, priest of On, to be his wife" (Gen.
above himself, calling him the God of gods and 41:43-45).
the Lord of kings and a re- vealer of mysteries. In the midst of his success, Daniel does
Montgomery has recognized the king's not forget the friends who prayed with him
confession as "the real climax of the story."116 during the time of danger. "They had shared
Nebuchadnez- zar's act of bowing down in the prayer (v. 18); they shared also in the
fulfilled pro- phetic passages such as Isaiah reward."118 At Daniel's request, the king
45:14; 49:23; 60:14. The story of chapter 2 promotes them as well. While in some
and its vision are strongly linked. "The pre- cultures this would be viewed in a negative
diction of the collapse of the mighty statue of way, as a sort of nepotism, in the culture of
kingship by a mere stone is foreshad- owed, Daniel's time and place, there was nothing
and even set in motion, in this event [the unusual in his intervention on behalf of those
king's worship], for the 'head of gold' is now who were members ofhis support group.
in fact on the ground."117 They assumed high administrative positions
2:48,49 Having honored the Hebrew of authority that were normally reserved for
God, the king now rewards Daniel, too. He the Chaldeans, but their positions were not as
gives him the gifts that accord with the high as Daniel's. These two details found at
promises he made in the beginning of the the end of the story—namely, that the
story, but he also promotes Daniel. The Hebrews were now in positions of power
prophet's promotion is twofold: The first coveted by the Chaldeans and that Daniel's
position given to him is political and position was higher than the positions of his
administrative in nature—he is made ruler of friends—when put together with the idea of a
the capital province in the empire. That statue, all set the stage for the story that
means he became a very pow- erful person, follows in the next chapter.
the ruler of Babylon's main

112
KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S FIRST DREAM (2:1-49)
HISTORICAL APPLICATION

Historical Application The second and third of these appli-


The succession of the kingdoms that is cations (chart) are not really based on the
mentioned in the story in Daniel 2 has a interpretation found in the book. According
literal application in world history. Tra- to Daniel's own interpretation of the dream,
ditionally, the gold stands for the Babylo- the first kingdom stands for the reign of King
nian Empire (605-539 B.C.), silver for Nebuchad- nezzar and by extension the rest
Medo-Persia (539-331 B.C.), bronze for of the Neo-Babylonian Empire. Daniel de-
Greece-Macedonia (331-146 B.C.), and iron scribes the end of this empire (chap. 5), and in
for the Roman Empire (146 B.C- AD. 476). three places he says "the Medes and Persians"
Some scholars, however, in a very replaced it (Dan. 5:28; 6:28; 8:20). The book
untraditional way, have linked the three of Esther also considers the two nations as a
kingdoms with the reign of Nebu- single empire (Esther 1:3). The interpretation
chadnezzar and his three successors based on of the vision in chapter 8 identifies the suc-
the words ofJeremiah that "All na- tions will cessor of the Medo-Persians as "the king of
serve him and his son and his grandson" (Jer. Greece" (Dan. 8:20-22; cf. 10:20). Famous
27:7). In that case, the stone that smashed the interpreters of the past, such as Josephus and
statue represented Cyrus, whose coming Jerome, saw in the duality of hands in the
triggered Babylon's rill and the end ofJudah's statue the dual composi- tion of the
exile. Another, much more widespread Medo-Persian Empire. Ford proposed that
application ties the symbol of gold to "as the shoulders and the body are larger than
Babylon, silver to Media, bronze to Persia, the head, so the realms of Medo-Persia and
and iron to Greece. The following chart Greece extended their borders beyond that
pictures the traditional application in history occu- pied by Babylon."119
and two applications that are espoused by
some s cholars of today:

Applications of the Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Iron

Gold Silver Bronce Iron


1. Traditional: Babylon Medo-Persia Greece-Macedonia Rome

2. Modern: Babylon Media Persia Greece

3. Individual: Nebuchadnezzar Belshazzar Darius Cyrus

113
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

The only kingdom that is not identi- fied stage of the image has not been fulfilled in
in the book of Daniel is the fourth— the history and is still prophetic."122
ironlike kingdom. While for a num- ber of In saying that the fourth kingdom in the
modern scholars, the fourth kingdom must be dream corresponds to the Roman Empire in
the Hellenistic Empire, for most interpreters world's history, we are not suggesting that
in antiquity and still for many today, the one should go into un- necessary details—by
fourth kingdom ap- plies to the Roman saying, for exam- ple, that the two legs of iron
Empire. One histori- cal problem with the stand for the division of the Roman Empire
modern application is that Media never into eastern and western parts. This is espe-
existed as a separate empire after the fall of cially important because the application of
Babylon. The world emperor after Babylon's the second phase of this kingdom raises some
fall was Cyrus the Persian (2 Chron. 36:22, 23; interesting questions. It has been said that
Ezra 1:1-4), who had conquered Media before "the feet and toes repre- sent the nations of
his capture of Babylon. Cyrus was born of "a modern Europe- some strong, some
hybrid parentage"120—his father was Persian weak—that dwell in the territory of the
and his mother was Median. Thus, it is safe to western Roman Empire. These are the
conclude that the tradi- tional application of nations that will never be politically
the "iron kingdom" to the Roman Empire united."123
finds support in Daniel's text and has a However, it can be argued that the ap-
"longstanding tra- dition" among biblical plication of the feet and toes in history should
interpreters that goes back to Josephus.121 be universal rather than geographi- cally
Like its predecessors, the Roman Empire restricted.124 Two types of argument may be
is described as universal (Dan. 2:36- 40). But used in support of such an application: (1)
unlike the first three, this kingdom in its The theohgical argument: If the second phase
second phase is said to be divided. The of the fourth kingdom applies to the world
prophecy said that to over- come this order that immedi- ately precedes the coming
division, certain extraordinary efforts would of God's king- dom, then we are talking of the
be made to unite this king- dom and keep it end of times and the type of prophecy that is
together. How should these divisions be present here is end-time or eschatological
viewed in terms of his- tory? Should the prophecy. It is commonly agreed that the best
application be restricted in time with a scope way to apply the end-time prophe- cies in the
limited to only one world continent? To Bible is to consider them to be universal,
which time or times in history do the feet and without any geographical re- striction. In this
toes apply? The standard futurist view is that case, we conclude that the feet and toes in
"the ten-toe their bipolar divisions

114
115
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

The pagan gods are impotent to shape events said to Arioch, " 'Do not execute the wise
in history (Isa. 46:6, 7),126 and if they existed at men of Babylon' " (v. 24). Thus, Daniel,
all, would not communi- cate with human whose life has been saved by the revelation
beings about this topic. Unlike them, "the about the future, now becomes God's
Sovereign LORD," to borrow words from the instrument for the salvation of others.
prophet Amos, "does nothing / without 2. God and Babylon. The most pro-
revealing his plan / to his servants the voking concept found in this chapter is that
prophets" (Amos 3:7). The key assertion of God loved King Nebuchadnezzar and had a
this story and of the book of Daniel is not that role for him to play in the fab- ric ofworld
there is a God in heaven. At the time the book history. John Calvin argued that the wise men
was writ- ten, everyone believed as much. The of Babylon "deserved to be exterminated
key assertion "is that, contrary to the despair- from the world, and the pest must be
ing assumption of the sages (v. 11), this God removed if it could pos- sibly be
reveals secrets. The sages were right that a accomplished."129 In saying that, Calvin
divine revelation would be needed to provide reflected a type of negative feeling toward the
what the king asked for, wrong to assume that Babylonians commonly found among the
this was impossible."127 Three times in this Judeans of Daniel's time (Jer. 25:12-14; 50;
chapter Daniel asserts that God reveals 51; Ps. 137). But in several places, the Bible
mysteries (w. 20,23; 27, 28; 29b, 30). In each mandates love for one's enemies (Exod. 23:4,
case, he openly con- fesses who is the Source 5; Prov. 24:17; 25:21; Luke 6:27). Thus, the
of his wisdom.128 God of the Bible is the God of all human
God's omniscience in regard to the beings. He reaches out to all in order to save.
otherwise unknown future and his readi- ness The new world order that God has decreed
to share it with the humans does not serve and which he brings to pass involves
merely to establish his superiority over us. His changing the lordship of this world, not
knowledge of the future is one means through abandoning this world.130 According to this
which he intervenes on our behalf. In this prophecy, in days to come, "even the most
story, one can see that God protected his unlikely foreigners" will come to know and
faithful remnant in Babylon in accordance worship the God of Israel.131 The redemptive
with the nu- merous promises found in aspect of divine power stands in stark
particular in biblical prophecies. Yet, God's contrast to what the rest of the visions will
love story did not end with his grace toward portray as power in the hands of the human
those who know and serve him. God cared beings who are op- pressive and destructive.
about the wise men of Babylon; he did not It has been suggested that the overall
want to see them executed. Daniel theme of the book of Daniel is that "in

116
KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S FIRST DREAM (2:1-49)
SUMMARY OF THE TEACHING

spite of present appearances, God is in 23. Seow, 34.


24. Collins, 156.
control."132 Indeed, one can say with Daniel 25. Oppenheim, 219.
that there is a God in heaven 26. Berrigan, 55.
• ho knows all human beings and cares 27. Josephus Antiquities 10.10.3.
28. Oppenheim, 237.
ibout their lives and destinies. "He numbers 29. Lucas, 70.
even the hair of our heads. Our rimes are in 30. Hartman and DiLella, 144.
His hand, and He controls revolutions great 31. Berrigan, 24.
32. White, Prophets, 491. Jerome's conclusion was
and small which affect even the least of his that the king had only a vague recollection of the dream
children."133 (Collins, 156). Baldwin (p. 87) argued that the king "had
forgotten the details of the dreams that had been
haunting him."
33. Collins, 153.
1. Towner, 29. I cannot agree that this chapter 34. Ibid.
: a work of fiction, a fact that according to Towner : 35. Doukhan, Secrets, 26.
:mes as good news which sets us free from having : n 36. Seow, 40.
deal with historical problems of the chapter. 37. Norman W. Porteous, Daniel: A Commen- tary,
2. Longman, 73. Lucas (p. 77) classifies this :Opter Old Testament Library (Philadelphia: West- minster,
as "a story of court conflicts." Elsewhere, Lucas (p. 66) 1965), 41.
agrees with Goldingay's classification :: this chapter as 38. Collins, 149.
"dream report." 39. Smith-Christopher, 52.
3. Collins, 173. 40. Doukhan, Secrets, 27.
4. Seow, 35. 41. Lucas, 72.
5. Smith-Christopher, 496. 42. Goldingay, 47.
6. Slotki, 7. 43. Slotki, 12.
Josephus Antiquities 10.10.3. 44. Ibid., 13.
8. Doukhan, Secrets, 25. According to Genesis -1 45. Baldwin, 90.
Pharaoh had two dreams in one night. 46. Seow, 42.
9. Peter-Contesse and Ellington, 30. 47. Smith-Christopher, 53.
10. Goldingay, 30. 48. Towner, 41.
11. Montgomery, 142. 49. Baldwin, 89.
12. A. L. Oppenheim, The Interpretation of Dreams in 50. Goldingay, 55.
the Ancient Near East (Philadelphia: --rnerican 51. On the prayers in Daniel's book, see Paul B.
Philosophical Society, 1956), 238. Petersen, "The Theology and the Function of Prayers in
13. Hartman and DiLella, 13. the Book of Daniel" (Ph.D. dissertation, Andrews
14. Walton, Matthews, and Chavalas, 732. University, 1988).
15. Smith-Christopher, 51. 52. Walvoord, 54.
16. Franz Rosenthal, A Grammar of Biblical Ara- bic 53. Doukhan, Secrets, 26.
(Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1995), 45, 63. See 54. Towner, 32.
J. Hoftijzer and K. Jongeling, Dictionary of the 55. Baldwin, 91.
orth-West Semitic Jnscriptions, 2 vols. (Leiden: Brill, 56. Seow, 41.
1995), 25. 57. Lucas, 79.
17. Peter-Contesse and Ellington, 35. 58. Goldingay, 36.
18. Miller, 82. 59. Gleason L. Archer Jr. et al, Daniel and the Minor
19. Slotki, 9-10. Prophets, The Expositor's Bible Commen- tary, Frank E.
20. Collins, 157. Gaebelein, ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1985),
21. Goldingay, 52. 7:43.
22. Ibid., 45. 60. Doukhan, Secrets, 28.

117
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
J" COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

61. Collins, 154. that base. . . . Thus the four empires are those which had
62. Gerhard Pfandl, The Time of the End in the Book of a special relation to the people of God and to the
Daniel (Berrien Springs, MI: Adventist "Theological history of redemption" (Ford, 95).
Society, 1992), 315-317. 96. Ellen G. White, Education (Boise, ID: Pacific
63. Ford, 95. Press8, 1952), 176-177.
64. See for example Zdravko Stefanovic, The Ara- 97. Ibid., 175.
maic of Daniel in the Light of Old Aramaic, JSOT 129 98. Goldingay, 50.
(Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992). 99. Doukhan, Secrets, 36.
65. Ali Abou-Assaf, Pierre Bordreuil, and Alan R. 100. Berrigan, 40.
Millard, La Statue de Tell Fekherye et son inscription bilingue 101. Walvoord, 74.
assyro-arameenne (Paris: 1982), 97. 102. Lucas, 79.
66. Doukhan, Secrets, 32. 103. Goldingay, 59.
67. Ibid., 34. 104. Doukhan, Secrets, 39.
68. Ibid., 28. 105. Seow, 35.
69. Smith-Christopher, 57. 106. White, Prophets, 499-500.
70. Ford, 94. 107. Collins, 169.
71. Ibid., 85. 108. Hoftijzer and Jongeling, 735.
72. Doukhan, Secrets, 38. 109. Walton, Matthews, and Chavalas, 734.
73. Longman, 78. 110. Seow, 49.
74. Montgomery, 162. 111. Goldingay, 62.
75. Goldingay, 55. 112. Maxwell, 32.
76. The Babylonian Talmud, Ber. 55b. 113. Miller, 103.
77. Doukhan, Secrets, 42. 114. Josephus Antiquities 11.8.2.
78. Ford, 96. 115. Lucas, 77.
79. Shea, Daniel, 99. 116. Montgomery, 181.
80. Codins, 165. 117. Seow, 49.
81. Goldingay, 57. 118. Nichol, 4:777.
82. Baldwin (p. 92) says that "the statue stood for the 119. Ford, 97.
king." 120. Edwin M. Yamauchi, Persia and the Bible (Grand
83. Peter-Contesse and Ellington, 59. Rapids, MI: Baker, 1996), 79.
84. Collins, 170. 121. Collins, 166.
85. Baldwin, 94. Cf. similar statements in Long- 122. Wolvoord, 72.
man, 82, and Nichol, 4:775. 123. Maxwell, 37.
86. Collins, 170. 124. Zdravko Stefanovic, "Europe in Prophecy,"
87. Montgomery, 190. Adventist Review, October 21, 1993. Also, "God's World
88. Slotki, 19. Order," South Pacific Division Record, April 5, 1997.
89. Collins, 171. 125. See for example "Map of the Roman Empire in
90. Ibid., note 178. the Fourth Century A.D." in RandMcNally Atlas of World
91. Doukhan, Secrets, 39. History, R. I. Moore, ed. (Chicago: Ham- lyn Publishing
92. Smith-Christopher, 54. Group, 1987).
93. Seow, 41. 126. Longman, 75.
94. G. F. Hasel, "The Four World Empires of Daniel 127. Goldingay, 57.
2 Against Its Near Eastern Environment," Journal 128. Lucas, 78.
for the Study of the Old Testament 12 (1979): 17-30. 129. John Calvin, A Commentary on Daniel, Ge- neva
95. Scholars who do not see this number as sym- Commentaries Series (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth,
bolic argue that "this map of the future is concerned with 1995), 1:135.
the people of God and the revelation made by God 130. Goldingay, 60.
initially to the theocratic race whose home was Palestine. 131. Towner, 43.
. . . To Palestine the Messiah would come, and the gospel 132. Longman, 73.
would initially be proclaimed from 133. Ford, 100.

118
THEGOLDEN STATUE
(3:1-30)

/ ike the preceding chapters, Daniel 3 in this chapter.3 The first piece of evidence
contains a story of conflict—this ame between comes from the official Babylonian records:
King Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel's three
companions. The netting of this story follows In the tenth year the king of Akkad (was)
upon the conclusion of the preceding in his own land;
chapter.1 --though the events of this chapter from the month of Kislev to the month
are not dated in the Aramaic text, the Greek ofTebet
text of the Septuagint version claims that they there was rebellion in Akkad . . .
occurred in Nebuchadnezzar's eighteenth . . . with arms he slew many of his own
year of reign—supposedly the same year army.
when the Babylonian army destroyed the His own hand captured his enemy.4
temple in Jerusalem (cf. jer. 52:29).2
However, it is very likely that the events This text supports the thesis that
described in this chapter took place in the Nebuchadnezzar's suspicion of his wise men
first half of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, when he in connection with his dream of the statue
might well be called Nebuchadnezzar the (Dan. 2) was not unfounded. Rebellions and
Destroyer." A date that has been suggested is attempted coups were not uncommon during
the tenth • ear of his reign, falling in 594 B.C. the first part of his reign, and these plots
This suggestion has been made because of sometimes involved people who belonged to
two pieces of historical evidence that may the ranks of "his own army." The mutiny that
shed light on the main event that took place is described here must have been a serious
that year relating to the topic one because the text suggests that the leader
of the rebellion entered the very

119
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

throne room and engaged the emperor in king, upon his return to Jerusalem, hosted an
hand-to-hand combat. anti-Babylon conference for the leaders of
Following this serious threat to his reign, the countries in Syro- Palestine that were
Nebuchadnezzar decided to do something Nebuchadnezzar's vassals (Jer. 27).
that would make a lasting impression on his There was, therefore, a good histori- cal
officials and thus hopefully prevent any future and political reason behind King
uprising against him. So, he had an imposing Nebuchadnezzar's bold project to erect this
statue erected that visibly represented his statue and make it a symbol of his powerful
long-lasting claim to reign. At its in- and lasting reign. Undoubt- edly, the stories
auguration, all the high-ranking adminis- found in this chapter and the previous one
trators of the empire—with the excep- tion of are closely related. There are several points of
the Chaldeans, the ruling class in similarity between the two, the main one
Babylon—were to solemnly pledge their being the statue that represented kingdom(s).
loyalty to the emperor. The king may not have been the only one in
In this context, a second piece of favor of erecting this statue. It has been
evidence, this time from the Bible, be- comes suggested that "the wise men of his realm. . .
equally valuable. It comes from Jeremiah proposed that he make an image similar to
51:59-61 and dates to 594 B.C. It reads as the one seen in his dream, and set it up where
follows: "This is the message Jeremiah gave to all might behold the head of gold, which had
the staff officer Seraiah son of Neriah, the son been interpreted as representing his
of Mahseiah, when he went to Babylon with kingdom."6
Zedekiah king ofJudah in the fourth year of Regarding the organization of this
his reign. Jeremiah had written on a scroll chapter, a four-part chiastic structure may be
about all the disasters that would come upon proposed. This structure is built on a clear
Babylon—all that had been re- corded reversal from the king's pride, related in the
concerning Babylon. He said to Seraiah, beginning of the story, to his confession and
'When you get to Babylon, see that you read praise, found at the end:
all these words aloud.' "
1. The king's pride (3:1-7)
As far as we know, Zedekiah was the only
2. The faithful accused (3:8-12)
king ofJudah who traveled to Baby- lon and
3. The faithful tested (3:13-27;
returned to Judea. It is possible then that
the longest part)
Zedekiah was present on the plain of Dura for
4. The king's praise (3:28-30)
the occasion described in Daniel 3.5 Jeremiah
says that this

120
THE GOLDEN STATUE (3:1-30)
THE KING'S PRIDE (3:1-7)

The longest part in the proposed mucture and all the provincial officials to come to the dedi-
concerns the test of the faith- a feature that is cation of the statue which King Nebuchadnezzar had
also found in the :: ry of chapter 1. The only set up. 3So the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers,
words spo- ken by the three young Hebrews treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the provincial
are :: und in that part, in verses 16-18. They officials assembled for the dedica- tion of the statue
ire considered to be "a key point in the that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and they stood
before it.
rtorv. 4
Then the herald loudly proclaimed, 'Ihis is what
The length of this chapter in the Greek you are commanded to do, 0 peoples, na- tions, and
translations differs from that of me Hebrew men of every language:5As soon as you hear the sound
Bible. The Greek versions ~ave two of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipes, and all
passages, an additional sixty- x verses, which kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the
are inserted between erses 23 and 24. These statue of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.
passages are usu- Tly referred to as "The 6
Whoever does not fall down and worship will
Prayer ofAzariah" and "The Song of the immediately be thrown into the midst of a blazing
Three Young Men." Moreover, the English furnace."
and He- ::ew Bibles differ as to the division 7
Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the
be- -veen chapters 3 and 4. While in mod- em horn, flute, lyre, trigon, harp, and all kinds of music,
translations, chapter 3 ends with erse 30, in all the peoples, nations, and men of every language
the Hebrew Bible, it contin- _es through fell down and worshiped the statue of gold that King
chapter 4:3. Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
The King's Pride (3:1-7)
The person of King Nebuchadnezzar Notes
clearly dominates the story in this chapter. 3:1 "King Nebuchadnezzar." In the original
Without giving any detailed back- ground Aramaic, this verse and the following
information that would hint at the rationale one both begin with the words
for the events that follow, die author goes n'bukadnessar malka, "Nebuchadnezzar the
straight into the story as : unfolds. king." In a normal Hebrew sentence, the
predicate comes before the sub- ject.
' King Nebuchadnezzar made a statue of gold s
The reason for the inverted word order
Jrty cubits high and six cubits wide and set it up : n
in this text may be the change of subject
the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. He then
from the end of the preceding chapter.
summoned the satraps, prefects, gover- -ors, advisers,
The focus here is on the king who
treasurers, judges, magistrates,
figures so prominently in the chapter.
"A statue of gold." In its Hebrew form,
the word selem, "statue, image," is also
used in the Creation story (Gen. 1:26,27;
cf. 5:1-3). This im- age is one of the key
121links to the previous
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

chapter (Dan. 2:31). The text does not "Sixty cubits high and six cubits wide."The
say whether the statue was a statue was of gigantic proportions, and
representation of the god Marduk (Dan. its ap- pearance was more like an
3:12,14,18,28)8 or of the king himself.9 obelisk due to its massive foundation.
In either case, the image represented Its height, about ninety feet, or thirty
Nebuchadnezzar's authority and was an meters, was ten times greater than its
object of worship. The view that the width. The dimensions given in the
statue was in the form of the god original text are sixty cubits times six
Marduk (Bel) is preferred here for cubits. That conforms with the
several reasons. First, if the king was sexagesimal system handed down by
physi- cally present on the plain, why the Sumerians and widely used in
would he de- mand his subjects to Babylon. In this system, the numbers six
worship his statue and not him in and sixty comprise the base figure (cf.
person?10 Second, the concept of the 60 seconds, 60 minutes, 360 degrees,
worship of a king is not found in the etc). The number sixty was associated
stories in the book of Daniel. Third, with Anu, the chief god of the
while the Egyptian pharaohs were Babylonian trinity. The sexagesimal
considered to be divine, in Meso- system of counting has "certain
potamia, except in a few cases, the kings advantages over the decimal system. For
were considered the shepherds of their exam- ple, 60 is divisible evenly by 12
people in the service of the gods. factors, whereas 100 is divisible evenly
Ancient texts tell of huge statues by only 9 factors."13 Since the
placed all over the ancient world, from proportions 1:10 are not typical in the
Babylon and Persia in the east as far to con- struction of statues, it is possible
the west as Greece. A famous example is that the dimen- sions sixty and six that
the stone statue of Rameses II from are given here are not just literal but
Egypt. Also, in the temple of Marduk in have a symbolic meaning as well.
Babylon there were at one time no "Setit up.'The verbal root qum, which
fewer than three stat- ues of gold in the causative form means "to set up,"
representing gods. One of them was in is found no fewer than seven times in
the form of the god Marduk seated on a this portion of the story (vv. 1,2,3
golden throne. [twice], 5,7) and ten times in the first
The statue was most likely made of a eighteen verses. Thus, it functions as a
less costly material, such as baked brick, re- frain in the first half of the chapter.
and coated in gold, a practice common The subject of this verb is King
in the making of idols (cf. Isa. 40:19; Nebuchadnezzar, who is placed here in
41:7; Jer. 10:3-9).11 Some com- opposition to God because of his
mentators think that the statue was attempt to control the fate of his empire
made of wood or stone and overlaid122and of the world. According to the
with gold, much like the golden altar in climactic statement of the previous
the Tent of Meeting (Exod. 37:25,26; chapter, God is the only Person of
39:38; 40:5).12 In the previous chapter, authority capable of setting up an
gold symbolized Nebuchadnezzar's everlasting kingdom (Dan. 2:44).
reign. This is clear from Daniel's words "The plain of Dura." The word biq'at, "a
to the king:" 'You are the head of gold'" plain," may be describing something
(Dan. 2:38). like "a val- ley"; it is used in Genesis 11:2
to describe the
THE GOLDEN STATUE (3:1-30)
THE KING'S PRIDE (3:1-7)

: 2in of Shinar. The place name Dura' was wide as possible. The Aramaic original
com- -©niy used in Mesopotamia. It is text lists seven classes of officials, while
generally de:- oed as being "in the the old Greek ver- sion and the Latin
province of Babylon," i -Aough the exact Vulgate have only six. Yet, none "of the
identification of this plain still ?.=des order of 'wise men' mentioned in the
scholars. Dur is the Babylonian word for previous chapters seem to have been in-
a .vail." The meaning of the complete vited."17 The list of officials includes two
expres- 5 on "the plain of Dura" then Semitic (Akkadian) titles such as
would be "the plain y the wall." It may prefects and governors, while the
have referred to the large : sen space remaining five are Persian titles.18
located between the inner and outer : 7. The precise meaning of each of the
walls.14 It is difficult to prove that there seven dif- ferent ranks that were part of
are ::-nections between the plain of the Babylonian hi- erarchy is not clear. It
Shinar from 1-enesis 11:2 and the plain has been suggested that they are given
of Dura.15 in descending order of seniority,
3:2 "He.'The original text repeats the beginning with the satraps, who were
words -: n the preceding verse, provincial rulers (Esther 3:12), and
nebukadnessar malka, '.ebuchadnezzar the ending with a generally inclusive sort of
king." In fact, this verse : Dens and summary expression: "all the provincial
closes with the words "Nebuchadnez- zz' officials." The conjunction "and" that
the king," thus forming an inclusio. precedes this phrase probably functions
"Summoned." The original wording, s lah as an explicative, meaning "that is." The
e

- knas, means "he sent to assemble." best known of the titles listed in this
Most <ely, Nebuchadnezzar erected and text is "satrap," a governor of the major
dedicated ~~e statue to strengthen the provincial division in the empire.
unity of his empire oy coercing all his Some have suggested that the
administrators to swear an :ath of anachronistic use (prolepsis) of Persian
loyalty. This event may have been titles in Daniel's book supports the view
prompted by some act of that the book was not written in one
insubordination. Not :- the inhabitants sitting. The author may have done some
of Babylon were assembled in "editing of his words toward the end of
plain, "but only the various officials a long life in order to bring them up to
as repre- entatives of 'every nation, date. Daniel not only lived through the
tribe, and tongue' of •Ae empire."16 Persian reorganization of the empire
Compare 1 Kings 8:1, which says, ng but was prominent in the new gov-
Solomon summoned into his presence ernment."19
at . e' jsalem the elders of Israel, all the "Dedication." The word h"nukka, "dedica-
heads of the res and the chiefs of the tion," has a religious meaning here. It is
Israelite families, to br ng up the ark of 123also used of the rededication of the
the LORD'S covenant from Z>on, the City sanctuary altar (Num. 7:10,11; 2 Chron.
of David." 7:9) and of the Jerusalem temple (1
"The satraps..." This chapter betrays the Kings 8:63; introductory note to Ps. 30).
ijthor's love for lists (cf. Dan. 2:2; 4:7; For that reason, the word "dedication"
5:7; 6:7). "hese lists function primarily to fits this con- text better than does
reveal that the rarticipation in the "inauguration" (cf. Neh. 12:27).
mandated worship was as
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

3:3 "So the satraps.. ."The complete list was made of an animal horn shaped into
of officials from the previous verse is a trumpetlike object held to the mouth
repeated here. and blown to create a sound (Josh. 6:5).
"Thestatue."See the Notes on Daniel 3:1. The second instru- ment, called by some
"Setup/This verb occurs twice in this a pipe, was also blown. The term is built
verse. It is the key to a proper on the Hebrew root srq, which means "to
understanding of the story (cf. Dan. whistle" (Isa. 5:26). The horn or pipe was
2:44). See the Notes on Daniel 3:1. a simple instrument played by peasants
3:4 "The herald."The Aramaic word (Judg. 5:16).22 It has been observed that
karoza', "herald," is preferred in this none of the musical instruments
context because it is stronger and more mentioned here were used in Israelite
precise than the word "mes- senger." worship. The fact that three of the
"Loudly proclaimed." The word instruments have Greek names attests to
behayil,
"aloud," literally means "with force." the presence of the Greeks in Babylon.
The root of the verb qr', "proclaimed," is Several stud- ies of the names of the
the basis of the Ara- bic word Qur'an, musical instruments listed in this
meaning "that which is read aloud." chapter have concluded that their pres-
"Peoples, nations, and men of every lan- ence does not necessarily point to a late
guage."lh\s list is shorter than the others date of Daniel's book.
23

found in the chapter (the officers and "Lyre, trigon, harp." All three are stringed

the instruments) and is in conformity instruments. Often, they are


with the literary device known as differentiated by the number of strings
"three" that in this context reinforces involved and the presence of a
the concept of universality (cf. Gen. resonating device.
11:1). Here, the reference is to "the "Bagpipes.'This last word is the most

ethnic, political and lin- guistic prob- lematic term in the list for
components of the empire."20 In the translators. The Ara- maic sumpdneya,
docu- ment known as the Cyrus "bagpipe," is viewed by some as a
Cylinder, King Cyrus claims to be "king coordinating term used for the grouping
of the four rims of the earth."2' of all the instruments that were
3:5 "Thesound"The word qa/literally previously men- tioned ("a harmony of
means "voice," but in this context it is sounds" or "an ensemble"; cf. Luke
better to render it as "sound." 15:25). Our modern word "symphony" is
"Horn, flute" A total of six musical related to it. Other scholars have
instruments are listed: two wind (horn proposed that a sort of drum is in view
and flute), three stringed (lyre, trigon, here.
harp), while the identity of the last "Falldown and worship.''The context makes

(bagpipes) is difficult to establish with it clear that both verbs tippelun vHisg'dun,
certainty. It is possible that the list here124"you will fall down and worship," should
is only partial of all the instruments that be viewed as describing a religious act.
were played on the plain. The first To fall prostrate was a standard posture
instrument that is mentioned for prayer and worship in Bible times
(cf. Deut. 4:19; 8:19). Forms of the
verbal root sgd, "to worship," combined
with npl, "to fall," are frequently found in
this chapter. More-
THE GOLDEN STATUE (3:1-30)
THE KING'S PRIDE (3:1-7)

c .er, sgd is used in parallel with the verb this way the furnace would
plh, "to serve, worship," in verses 12 and conveniently serve two purposes: first,
14 below. the construction of the statue, and
Worshiping this statue was not a second, punishment. Some have
problem for re non-Jewish suggested that this furnace was a
administrators because they •.ere lime-kiln fueled either by charcoal or
polytheists and could worship any god. crude oil. Typically, a furnace had two
'.'oreover, the king's religious act served openings, one on the top and the other
a clear oolitical goal. "Obeisance to the on a side (v. 26).
idol at the king's command would, no Fire is sometimes used in the Bible
doubt, imply an affirmation of loyalty to as a meta- phor for refining and
the king."24 Yet for the Hebrews, e. en if purification. All three divi- sions of the
the statue was made in Old Testament mention the concept of
Nebuchadnezzar's the execution of the death penalty by
•eness, to fall prostrate before it fire: the Pentateuch (Gen. 38:24; Lev. 20:14; 21:9),
meant the worship of the king or his god Marduk the prophets (Jer. 29:22), and the writings (Joshua
(cf. Dan. 2*6). The union between worship and state 7:15,25). A Jewish legend says Abraham
poli' 'j was a widespread practice among refused to bow down to an idol and was
ancient reoples. threatened with death by burning in fire.
"The statue of gold." See the Notes on 3:7 "Therefore." The phrase kol-q°bel dena,
Dan- <13:1. which literally means "because of all of
"Set up."See the Notes on Daniel 3:1. this," gives a logical outcome of the
3:6 "Fall down and worship." See the Notes pressure exercised by the king's
Daniel 3:5. command coupled with the threat of a
"Immediately." The literal meaning of the most severe punishment—the officials
ioression bah-sa'"ta' is "in that very obeyed through "thoughtless reflex."25
moment." ~<so concepts, one of the The response was complete and
death penalty and the : r e r of immediate; disobedience was un-
instantaneous punishment, remind the thinkable in this case. Bowing down to
eader of the story in chapter 2. The the statue was an act of perfect
reaction of •-e administrators had to be formality, devoid of any meaning. This
automatic and me- nanical, and their scene conveys the impact of a large
worship characterized by : .'2 formalism. group that acts together under
"A blazing furnace.'The original says "in pressure. This verse is characterized by
the —dst of the furnace burning with the presence of two lists: The longer
fire." The pres- ence of 'attun, "a one repeats the six types of musical
furnace," and its association •Th the instruments, and the shorter one
idea of punishment by burning in fire reiterates the three parts of the
iTOuld not come as a surprise. First of125audience that represented the
all, mud- : • ck making and baking was population of the entire empire.
common in Meso- rotamia (Gen. 11:3) "As soon as." The text literally says
due to a lack of stone. It is #ery beh- zimna', "in the time." Three Aramaic
probable that, given its size, the statue words, 'iddan, "season" (3:5), sa'a,
was -ade of baked brick and then "moment" (3:6), and zeman, "fixed time,"
coated in gold. In are used synonymously in this passage.
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

"The sound o f / T h e last instrument resembles the one reported in Genesis 11,
from the list in verse 5, "the bagpipe," is when human beings organized themselves on
omitted in this verse. the plain of Shinar in or- der to challenge
"Peoples, nations, and men of every lan- God's plan. Both stories took place on "a
guage."See the Notes on Daniel 3:4. plain," and both ended in a fiasco.
In the ancient Near East, various kings,
Exposítion (3:1-7) especially the rulers from Assyria, were
3:1 Even a casual reader of the stories in known for their practice of erect- ing colossal
Daniel's book will notice that the concept of a statues in the form of human beings or gods.
statue is a strong link be- tween this and the In this story, the author did not consider the
previous chapter. However, the fact that this shape of the statue important enough to tell
is obvious does not negate the presence of us what it was. Some writers have proposed
several basic differences. The statue in this that the statue was made in the likeness of the
chapter was in its entirety coated in gold, king himself. Some details in the story,
while in the previous story only the stat- ue's however, lead us to the conclusion that it was
head was of gold. Moreover, there are no feet shaped in the form of a god. This is evident
of clay present in this statue. Instead of feet of from the parallelism, found no less than three
clay, there is a solid pedestal, evident from the times in this text, between serving
dimensions of the statue. And the persons Nebuchadnezzar's gods and worshiping the
who set up the enduring kingdom differ. While image of gold that he had set up (cf. Dan.
in the previous chapter, Daniel said, " 'The 3:12, 14, 18). Moreover, in Daniel 3:28, the
God of heaven will set up a king- dom that king praises the courage of the three Hebrews
will never be destroyed,' " (2:44), this chapter who were willing to give up their Uves rather than
repeatedly states that King Nebuchadnezzar serve or worshíp any god except their own God. Since
set up the statue. In fact, the person of the king King Nebu- chadnezzar served Babylon's
dominates this whole story. patron god Marduk (Dan. 4:8), also known as
It is possible that Nebuchadnezzar Bel, this image was most likely made in the
"willfully tried to reshape the vision [of likeness of that deity.
chapter 2] to his own liking."26 Thus, this The statue is said to have been made of
story tells of an attempt on his part to gold. But the size of the statue and the
improve on the image he had seen in a dream, presence of the furnace strongly sug- gest that
or to forestall the inevitable ad- vent of God's it was made of baked bricks and then coated
eternal kingdom. Nebu- chadnezzar's defiant in gold. Several scholars
project curiously

126
THE GOLDEN STATUE (3:1-30)
THE KING'S PRIDE (3:1-7)

_~a\e come to this same conclusión: not devoid of a figurative meaning as well. In
Nebuchadnezzar's statue was not nec- the Bible, the number seven ex- presses the
essarily of solid gold; it may have simply reen concept of perfection that is associated with
overlaid."27 This was a common rractice in God (Gen. 1:1-2:3; Dan. 5:4, 23; cf. "seventy
making idols—Isaiah 40:19 says, sevens" in Dan. 9:24), while the number six
falls short of perfection.29 In Daniel 5:4, 23,
As for an idol, a craftsman casts it, and a the prophet puts in sharp contrast the six
goldsmith overlays it with gold idols praised by Belshazzar's party with the
and fashions silver chains for it. seventh—" 'God who holds in his hand your
life and all your ways.' "
In the apocryphal story "Bel and the
At this point, the question may be raised
Dragon," Daniel, looking at the idol, .aughs
as to whether this object was an idol. The
and says, " 'Do not be deceived, D king, for it
answer to this question is posi- tive for several
is only clay inside and bronze outside, and
reasons: First, the statue was made—or
never ate or drank anything' " (v. 7). Thus,
better, coated—in a valu- able material; in this
the furnace that -S mentioned in this text
case, gold (Isa. 40:19). Second, the statue was
served a dual rurpose: It was used for brick
making Gen. 11:3) as well as for punishing an object of worship. The Aramaic verb plh,
:nose who dared disobey the king's com- "to serve, worship," used several times in this
mand (Jer. 29:22). chapter (3:12, 18, 28), is also used in Daniel
The size of the statue was unusual: It _s 7:27, where it is said that all the rulers worship
said to have been sixty cubits times six cubits. and obey the humanlike being. Third, as
Since the height was ten times greater than mentioned above, it is very probable that the
the width, the object, in- duding its base, form of the statue represented the god
looked more like an : belisk than an ordinary Marduk (Bel) whom King Nebuchadnezzar
statue. "As a modern comparison, it is worshiped. Thus, it is reasonable to conclude
interesting to note that the figure of the that the statue in the story was an idol and
Statue of Lib- em', excluding the pedestal, that to bow down to it would have meant the
stands twenty feet higher than did trans- gression of the first two
Nebuchadnezzar's image."28 In the commandments of the Decalogue (Exod.
Babylonian sexagesimal system, sixty and six 20:2-6). In this story, religious idolatry is
were die base numbers. While these dimen- enforced through political power.
.;;ons should be taken as literal, they are 3:2-7 All the provincial administra- tors
were summoned to the plain of Dura to publicly
show their support for

127
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

the unity of the empire under King Nebu- veys the concept of universality (cf. Dan. 4:1;
chadnezzar. Some type of insubordinaron, as 5:19; 6:26; 7:14). The book of Reve- lation
described in the introduction to this chapter, uses similar language to portray this same
must have prompted the royal order requiring concept closely tied to wor- ship (Rev. 5:13;
their act of obedi- ence. Yet, more than 7:9; 10:11; 13:7; 14:6; 17:15). The assembled
political submis- sion is at stake here. The officials repre- sented the population of the
statue is more than inaugurated, it is also whole empire. With the help of the music, the
dedicated. The word hanukkah is used in the officials obey the command mechanically, as
Bible of the dedication of the sanctuary altar automatons. Faced with a death threat, they
(Num. 7:10, 11; 2 Chron. 7:9) and of the do not dare to challenge the order and suffer
temple built under King Solomon (1 Kings the severe punishment. Whatever the officials
8:63; introduction to Ps. 30). It is clear that in are doing, they are doing out of fear. Human
this story, "god, king and nation are closely beings have been slow to learn that the
interwoven and support each other."30 highest values can never be legislated.31
The story is full of lists, of officers,
musical instruments, and even clothes. Some The Faithful Accused (3:8-12)
of the lists appear more than once in the When everything seemed to be in place
chapter. The complete list of the royal officials and the pressure from the king ap- peared to
is found in verses 2 and 3 (v. 27 contains a have accomplished its pur- pose, the story
partial list): satraps, prefects, governors, takes a sudden shift.
advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and
8
Just at that time some astrologers came for-
provincial officials. The musical instruments
9
figure in four different places (w. 5, 7, 10, 15) ward and accused the Jews. They said to King
m
with only one minor variation: horn, flute, Nebuchadnezzar, "0 king, live forever! You have

lyre, trigon, harp, and bagpipes. issued a command, 0 king, that everyone who hears

The presence and the repetition of the the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, harp,
bagpipes, and all kinds of music must fall down and
lists heighten the story's dramatic character,
worship the statue of gold11and that whoever does not
communicating the king's at- tempt to impress
fall down and worship will be thrown into the midst of
his subjects and move them to total obedience
a blazing furnace."But there are some Jews whom you
to his com- mand. The order is to be obeyed
have placed over the affairs of the province
to the letter. The oft-repeated expression peo-
ofBabylon—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—who
pies, nations, and men of every ian- guage found in
pay no attention to you, 0 king. They neither serve
verses 4, 7, and 29 con-
your gods nor worship the statue of gold you have set
up."

128
THE GOLDEN STATUE (3:1-30)
THE FAITHFUL ACCUSED (3:8-12)

Notes "0 king, live forever!"On this customary


3:8 "Justat that time.'lhe first five words greeting at the palace, see the Notes on
of this verse, kol-q°bel dena beh-zimnd', Daniel 2:4.
"therefore, at that time," are identical to 3:10 "The sound of..." In this verse, all six
the opening words of the previous musical instruments are listed just as in
verse. The author may have in- verse 5, while in verse 7, the last
tentionally used the same words to instrument is missing.
convey the message that the Chaldean "Fall down and worship." See the Notes on
slander took place at tne very time the Daniel 3:5.
officials were bowing down to :ne 3:11 Except for the addition of the
statue. expression "immediately," verse 6 is
"Some astrologers."The original text says identical with this verse.
gu- orin kasda'tn, "men, Chaldeans." On the 3:12 "Some Jews." See the Notes on
meaning of the term "astrologers," see Daniel 3:8.
the Notes on Daniel "You have placed over the affairs." These
2- 2. According to chapter 2, the words are a strong allusion to the end of
Chaldeans were among the Babylonian the previous story, where
wise men whose lives • ere saved by Nebuchadnezzar promotes the young
Daniel's intervention. Here they serve as Hebrews—an act that apparently re-
the king's informers. Apparently, sheer sulted in the Chaldeans giving way to
envy prompted their accusation of the professional jealousy. The words
Hebrews. di-manwtd ydfhdn, "whom you have placed,"
"Accused." The original words used contain "a veiled an- tagonism to the
here •'or the act of slandering are very g king himself," who had promoted the
raphic—the diomatic expression wa'"kalu young Hebrews to the highest positions
qarsehon literally means "and they ate in the government (Dan. 2:49).32
their pieces of." The con- cept here is "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego."
that the talebearer eats his victim's Throughout this chapter, the young
"~esh—a sort of verbal cannibalism. In men's Baby- lonian names are given to
the story of Daniel's rescue from the remind the reader of their high
lions, the same ex- Dression is administrative positions in the king-
translated as "falsely accused" (Dan. dom (cf. Dan. 2:49). The foreign names
6:24). here con- trast with the term "Jews,"
"The Jews."The gentilic form fhudaye', which the Chaldeans use.
"the Jews," is not very common in the "Pay no attention to you." Elsewhere in the
book of Daniel. When coupled with book, the expression sim fem means to
verse 12, which says," 'Some Jews "issue a command, decree" (Dan.
whom you have placed over the affairs 3:10,29; 4:6; 6:26). Here, just as in Daniel
of
5 - D .the
W . T . province
T. W. of Babylon... ,"' the1296:14, it conveys the concept of respect
Chaldeans' use of this term and compliance with a command. The
demonstrates that dislike of for- eigners Chaldeans charge the Hebrews with
compounded their professional envy (cf. lacking this respect and compliance.
Esther 3:8-11).
3:9 "They said." The phrase '"no vfam'rin,
"they answered and said," is common in
Aramaic whenever dialogue is being
reported.
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

"Neither serve your gods."Since this state- their accusation, they repeat Nebuchad-
ment is in parallelism with the nezzar's order word for word. And to make
statement that follows, "nor worship the their slander stronger, they exag- gerate the
statue of gold you have set up," we can matter by saying that Shadrach, Meshach, and
conclude that the statue was of the god Abednego do not pay attention to the king
Marduk (Bel) whom Nebuchadnezzar nor to his religious beliefs. The previous story
calls "my god" in Daniel 4:8. Similarly, in clearly shows that Daniel and his friends
the book of Esther, Haman presents the worked for the welfare of the palace.
accusation that the Jews "do not obey Therefore, to say that the Hebrews were not
the king's laws" (Esther 3:8). paying attention to the king was a false
"The statue of gold you have set up." See
accusation. This accusation reminds the
the Notes on Daniel 3:1. reader of Haman's slander of the Jews to
King Xerxes: " 'There is a certain people
Exposition (3:8-12)
dispersed and scattered among the peoples in
3:8 The presence of the Chaldeans or the
all the provinces of your kingdom whose
astrologers in the story is another link with
customs are different from those of all other
the previous chapter. When the Chaldeans
people and who do not obey the king's laws; it
were in life-threatening dan- ger, the God of
is not in the king's best interest to tolerate
the three Hebrews gra- ciously saved them
them' " (Esther 3:8).
from an angry king through Daniel's
The true character of the accusers,
intervention. In this story, since the
however, is betrayed when they remind the
Chaldeans have already passed the test of
king that he is the one who placed the three
loyalty, they serve as policemen, making sure
Hebrews in high positions. Clearly, in saying
that everybody present complies with the
this, the Chaldeans are making a veiled attack
royal order. In this capacity, they denounce
on Nebu- chadnezzar's judgment. Through
the "foreign upstarts." Daniel uses a very
these important details the author may be
strong Ara- maic term for their act of
suggesting that the same people whose lives
slandering. Idiomatically, the text says that
have been spared by the interven- tion of the
they "ate the pieces of the Hebrews,"
God of the Hebrews are now denouncing his
expressing a sort of verbal cannibalism.
worshipers and thus di- rectly attempting to
3:9-12 Externally, the Chaldeans sound
obtain their capital punishment. Needless to
polite; they greet the emperor in the
say, pure pro- fessional jealousy must have
customary way: O king, Uve forever! The
motivated this malicious act of the Chaldeans.
accusation they present against the Hebrews
is fourfold: They accuse the three men of
ingratitude, disloyalty, dis- respect, and
disobedience.33 To enhance

130
THE GOLDEN STATUE (3:1-30)
THE FAITHFUL TESTED (3:13-27)

The Faithful Tested (3:13-27) men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans, and other
In the description of the testing of :ne clothes, were bound and thrown into the midst of the
young Hebrews, the person of the •dng once blazing furnace.22Because the king's command was so
again dominates the narrative, giving the urgent and the furnace so hot, the flames of the fire
impression that he is fully in charge. killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach,
23
and Abednego,
and these three men, Shadrach,
3
Then, furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar Meshach, and Abednego, firmly tied, fell into the
:jmmoned Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. midst of the blazing furnace.
. 3 these men were brought before the king, and 24
Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in
Nebuchadnezzar said to them, "Is it true, amazement and asked his advisers, "Weren't

'.-jdrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you dthere three men that we tied up and threw into -ot serve my
gods or worship the statue of gold the midst of the fire?"
1 15
we set up? Now when you hear the sound of ’ie Theyreplied, "Certainly, 0king."
horn, flute, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipes, and :ll kinds of "He said, "Look! I see four men walking around
music, ifyou are ready to fall down and worship the in the midst of the fire, unbound and un- harmed,
statue I made, very good. But i you do not worship it, and the appearance of the fourth looks like one of the
you will be thrown im- mediately into the midst of a gods."
blazing furnace. 26
Nebuchadnezzar then approached the open-
'h en what god will be able to rescue you from my ing of the blazing furnace and said, "Shadrach, Hands?"
Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most
16
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied High God, come out! Come here!" to the king, "0
Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego • 3 give you an answer concerning this
matter.17If came out of the midst of the fire,27and the - e are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God satraps,
prefects, governors, and royal advis-
ers gathered around them. They saw that the fire had
»e serve is able to save us from it, and he will •sscue us
18 not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads
from your hand, 0 king. But even if he : yes not, we
wantyou to know, 0 king, that we singed; their robes were
mill not serve your gods or worship the statue of not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on gold you have
set up." them.
19
Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury with '.ladrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and his f Notes dal
expression changed. He ordered the furnace 3:13 "Furious with rage.'The two nouns in
- satedseven timeshotterthan usual 20
andcom- the original Aramaic expression, birgaz
wahama,
-1 andedsome of the strongest soldiers in his army"in rage and in fury," are placed together to
ex- to tie up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and press a single reaction with great intensity
(hen- :irow them into the blazing furnace.21 So these diadys), a type of hysterical rage that
may be
131
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

rendered as "extreme anger, fury" (cf. ments are listed. See the Notes on Daniel
Dan. 2:12; 3:19). 3:5. The orchestra will play one more
"Before the king." The Aramaic time just for the He- brews.
expression q°dam malka', "before the "A blazing furnace."See the Notes on Daniel
king," is a strong allu- sion to the 3:6.
Hebrew equivalent expression lipne "What god will be able."These words are
hammelek, "before the king," in Daniel an addition by the angry king. They
2:2, where the Chaldeans face an angry demon- strate his arrogance and loss of
Nebuchadnezzar. control of his temper. The king of
3:14 "Said."The original says, Assyria insulted God's power with
"Answering, Nebuchadnezzar said to similar words of arrogance and
them." See the Notes on Daniel 3:9. blasphemy (2 Kings 18:33-35; 19:12, 13;
"Is it true?" The word hasda', "what pur- Isa. 36:19,20; 37:11,12).
pose?" used by the king in the "To rescue."The verb sezib, "to rescue,"
beginning of his question is not attested is also found in verses 17 and 28. It is
anywhere else in the Bi- ble one of the key terms in this chapter,
(hapaxlegomenon). It is understood to be a frequently attested in chapter 6 (also vv.
combination of the interrogative 14,16,20,27), thus serving as one of the
particle with an adverb, and as such, it is strong links between the two chap- ters.
to be translated as "re- ally?" or "My hands." In the original, the noun
"truly?" The root of this adverb, how- /day, "my hands," is in the plural. On the
34

ever, is attested outside of the Bible in meaning of "hand," see the Notes on
Official Aramaic texts.35 Daniel 1:2. The same King
"Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego." See Nebuchadnezzar into whose hand God
the Notes on Daniel 3:12. had delivered the king of Judah is now
"My gods.'The noun le'lahay, "my challenging God's ability to save his
gods," is in the plural in the original servants from Nebu- chadnezzar's hand.
Aramaic and may be explained as 3:16 "0 Nebuchadnezzar." Scholars have
referring to the king's practice of explained the absence of the title malka',
polytheism (cf. Dan. 1:2). If, however, "king," in various ways. It is possible
this refer- ence is to the golden statue, that this act of dis- courtesy,
then this could be a plural of majesty. unparalleled in the rest of the book, is
"Serve... worship." These two verbs are to remind the reader that the glorious
used in parallel inverse 12. King Nebuchadnezzar was a mere
3:15 "Now... ifyou are ready."The first half mortal in God's eyes. The word "king" is
of this verse in the original text is an found in the next verse, which continues
incomplete sentence. One way to the young men's speech. In Daniel 4:18,
understand it is to translate it as a the king speaks of himself, saying, "I,
question: "Are you now ready?" This132King Nebuchadnezzar."
verse repeats the king's decree word for "We do not need to give you an answer."
word, revealing his attempt to use the The original says, "Concerning this
art of persua- sion. matter we
"The sound of..." Again six musical
instru-
THE GOLDEN STATUE (3:1-30)
THE FAITHFUL TESTED (3:13-27)

30 not need to answer you." The word Readers should not take these words
dena, 'this matter," most likely refers to as re- ferring to the possible failure of
the king's challenge in the previous God's saving power. Rather, they should
verse. The young He- crews do not feel be viewed as a reversal of the king's
compelled to answer a chal- enge question as explained in the note on the
directed at their God. These words previous verse. In verse 15, the king did
should oe explained in the light of what not question the existence of God but
the king has earned about the true God rather his ability to intervene in this
from the events de- scribed in the situation.38
previous story. Neither the king's Some scholars have proposed an
:nreatening words nor the heat of the alternative view here, saying that in
furnace is sjfficient reason for the young their answer, the young men left some
men to recon- s der the power of their room for uncertainty regarding the
God and their decision :o remain faithful outcome of their test. In that case, their
to him. state- ment "adds a touch of realism to
3:17 "If we are thrown." The word order the story,"39 teaching that God does not
found in the answer of the three young choose to deliver his faithful every time
men is oasically the same as that of the they face dangers.
king's question. 'Corresponding to the "Serve... or worship." See the Notes on
king's if-ifnot scenario in . erse 15, they Daniel 3:12.
offer another point of view, an al- 3:19 "Full of fury."The original words
:ernative if-ifnot scenario of their own in mean hitmelih ema', "filled with fury."
verses 17-18."36 Thus we can say that When compared with verse 13, they
syntactically, the . sung men modeled show a progression of the king's anger.
their answer on the king's Question, but The reader is reminded of Nebu-
only in order to say the oppo- 5 :e—to chadnezzar's fury in dealing with his
reverse the king's words. This type of wise men in Daniel 2:12.
'answer heightens the literary tension of "His facial expression changed."Jhe mean-
the story."37 ing of the original text is that selem~"the
"God." Literally, the text says "our im- age"—of the king's "face was
God." The -ramaic words here, disfigured with rage." The play on the
'itaye'lahand', "there is (our) God," are word "image," which is one of the key
strikingly similar to Daniel's in the pre- . words in this chapter, may be in-
ous chapter, ltaye'lah, "there is a God" tentional. Another way to put it is to say
(Dan. 228). that his "countenance" changed.
3:18 "But even if he does not."The original "Seven times."lhe Aramaic expression
s mply says wfhen Id'/dia'leh'we'-ldk, "but if had- sib'a literally means "one seven." In
not, may it be known to you." The this context, it means "seven times." The
Septuagint transla- tion ignores the133furnace is heated be- yond what was
conditional nature of the an- swer, customary and necessary. The number
turning the answer into a strong seven should be taken here as function-
affirma- tion. In the context of making ing proverbially rather than literally (cf.
an oath, the cor- •esponding Hebrew Prov. 24:16; 26:16), saying that the
construction, 'im Id', "if not," can also furnace was as hot as it could be. In one
function as a strong affirmation. more place in Daniel (4:16)
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
J COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

and in the Bible in general, seven is midst of the fiery furnace. This detail is
related to the concept of God's consis- tently repeated in the narrative.
judgment (Lev. 26:18, 21, 24, 28). The See the Notes on Daniel 3:6.
furnace is now heated to maximum in- 3:22 "Urgentílhe word mahs'pa, "strict,"
tensity, between 900 and 1,100 degrees is based on the same root as the word
centi- grade, with the impact of deadly mehahsepa, "severe," that is found in
flames felt even outside of the furnace. Daniel 2:15 in the con- text of
It has been rightly ob- served that in Nebuchadnezzar's rage at his trusted
order to increase the miscreants' pain, of- ficials. There it is translated as
the king should have decreased the "harsh."
tem- perature of the furnace. "The fire killed the soldiers." The Syriac
3:20 "The strongest soldiers." The term translation of the Bible says that the fire
gibbare hayil, "men of (physical) strength," killed the people who slandered the
and its Hebrew equivalents are young Hebrews. In chapter 6, the
sometimes used in the Bible for trained hungry lions eat Daniel's ene- mies
soldiers. This detail is an- other proof (6:24), while in the book of Esther,
that in his rage, the king was over- Haman is hanged on the gallows that he
reacting. "The choice of military men of had prepared for Mordecai (Esther
out- standing strength was probably to 7:10). Similarly, Psalm 115:8 says that
forestall the possibility of intervention those who make idols and trust in them
on the part of the gods."40 will themselves become like dead idols.
3:21 "Wearing their robes."The expression "Took up."Since the Aramaic root slq, "to
I'busehon, "and their robes," together with go up," with the causative meaning "to
the terms that precede it comprise take up," denotes an upward
another list in the chapter. The precise movement, the young men were most
meaning of each piece of clothing is likely thrown into the furnace through
uncertain, but scholars agree that in the opening on the top (cf. v. 23).
general the text speaks of both inner 3:23 "Three men.'The number three is
and outer garments with a headdress, used intentionally to prepare the reader
all indicating a formal dress fit for the for the unex- pected appearance of a
occasion. In other words, the Hebrews fourth person in the fiery furnace.
were punished wearing their formal at- "Firmly tied.'The word mekappetin,
tire, a probable reversal of their "bound," is mentioned again to prepare
appointment to their positions of the reader for the miraculous scorching
influence in Babylon (Dan. 2:49). of the ropes with which the young men
'Trousers."The Aramaic word sarbal, were firmly tied.
"trou- sers," is related to the Persian "Fell into." This detail confirms that the
word shalvar, which has the same young men were thrown into the
meaning. 134furnace through its top opening. See
"Turbans."The word karbela means "a the Notes on Daniel 3:22.
cap, a headdress." In the Greek versions of Daniel,
"Into the midst of the blazing furnace."The sixty-six verses that are not found in the
original specifies that they were thrown Aramaic text of the Hebrew Bible are
into the inserted here. The absence
THE GOLDEN STATUE (3:1-30)
THE FAITHFUL TESTED (3:13-27)

of these verses from the original "Unharmed."This statement stands in


Aramaic text "as been confirmed by the contrast to the fact that this same fire
fragments of Daniel -ound in the caves killed the king's strong men.
from Qumran (the Dead Sea Scrolls). "Like one of the gods." Because the word
These additional verses comprise two bar, "a son," functions here as a noun of
:assages referred to as "The Prayer of relation, it is best not to translate it
Azariah" 3 id The Song of the Three literally as "son" but as "a member of (a
Young Men." group)." The second noun, 'elahin, is
"The blazing furnace." See the Notes on usually interpreted as "gods." Some
Daniel 3:6. Several passages in the Bible translators have related it to its Hebrew
compare srael's slavery in Egypt to an counter- part, Elohim, which is also in the
"iron-smelting fur- - ace" (Deut. 4:20; 1 plural and often refers to the true God
Kings 8:51; Jer. 11:4). More- :ver, of the Bible. In this text that meaning is
Judah's exile to Babylon is called the possible but not probable be- cause for
"fur- -ace of affliction" (isa. 48:10). all we know, Nebuchadnezzar's poly-
3:24 "Asked."See the Notes on Daniel 3:9. theistic background would still be
"Advisers."The Aramaic term haddabar, reflected in his language at this time. In
"a :: .jnselor," is of Persian origin. It verse 28, he further describes this
denotes a close ccmpanion or a personal person as mal'ak, "messenger" or "angel."
adviser of the king. It is •oond only in In a similar way, the Greek version
the book of Daniel (3:27; 4:36; 6:7). translates the expression "one of the
"Threemen."See the Notes on Daniel 3:23. gods" as "angel of God." The Talmud,
"Tiedup."See the Notes on Daniel 3:23. out of strong monotheistic concern,
3:25 "Four men."The number four identifies this person with the angel Ga-
stands _ere in opposition to the number briel.41 The equivalent plural expression
three explicitly mentioned in verses 23 "sons of God" is attested in several
and 24. places in the Bible (Gen. 6:1-4; Deut.
"Walking around."The furnace was 32:8, margin; Job 1:6, margin; 2:1,
appar- ently large enough to allow four margin; 38:7, margin).
persons to move a-ound. The text does not state how the
"In the midst of the fire." The original says appear- ance of the fourth person
--at the four men were walking in the differed from that of the other three,
midst of nor does it clearly identify this being. He
fire in the furnace. See the Notes on is described only as a supernatural
Daniel : 5. Fire, or a pillar of fire, is often being. "Christian tradition typically
associated in ne Bible with the identified the 'son of God' here as
manifestation of God's pres- ence Christ."42 In some passages of the Bible,
(Exod. 3:2,4; 19:18; 20:18,21). God the expression "the angel of the
spoke to "-•e children of Israel from the135Lord/God" designates God himself (Gen.
midst of a fire Deut. 4:11, 12). This verse 16:10-13; 21:17; 22:15, 16; Exod. 3:1-7;
shows that God's : :.ver transcends Hos. 12:4). See the Notes on Daniel 3:28.
death. It is possible that the fourth person was
"Unbound.'The term serayin, "loose," is either an angel sent by God or God
used -•are in contrast to the words himself. In the visionary part of the
"firmly tied" in verses 21-24. book, the archangel Michael is
presented
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
j COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

as the protector of the Hebrew people text says mitkannestn, "gathered together,"
and also as the chief commander of using the same verb root as in the word
God's armies (Dan. 12:1; cf. 10:13). lemiknas, "to summon" in 3:2.
Revelation 12:7 identifies Mi- chael as "They saw."The idea that is stressed
Jesus Christ. Since Daniel's book gives here is that this distinguished group of
Michael the role of defender of God's dignitaries that represented a universal
people, he would have been the ideal audience all acted as eyewitnesses to the
person "to have protected and triple miracle that had taken place.
defended the three Hebrews in the "A hair... their robes." These two items
fire."43 would be the first things burned by the
3:26 "The opening." Literally, the text fire. So, in this story, the fire was
says fra', "gate." The side door of the selective.
furnace is most likely in view here "No smell of fire."This statement is
because through it the king could see almost hyperbolic. It stands in clear
the young men walking inside the fur- contrast to what happened to the king's
nace. The other opening was on the top; strong men in Daniel 3:22.
the young men were thrown through it
into the furnace (see the Notes on Daniel Exposition (3:13-27)
3:22). 3:13-15 The Chaldean slander made the
"Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego." See the king very angry. This fact reminds the reader
Notes on Daniel 3:12. of the previous story in the book where
"Servants of." For a similar creedal Nebuchadnezzar was very angry at Babylon's
state- ment, see Ezra 5:11, where the wise men (2:12). In this case the Chaldeans
Jews answer, " 'We are the servants of have managed "to turn the anger of the king
the God of heaven and earth.'" against the Jews."44 But the king's
"The MostHigh God.'The divine title uncontrolled fury betrays his insecurity.
' laha' 'illaya', "God Most High," is an There is no doubt that he is furious, yet, at the
e

ancient title ap- plied to the supreme same time, he seems reluctant to proceed
God. In the Bible, it is used mostly by with the punishment due to the privileged
non-Hebrews to refer to the true God positions held by the three Hebrews (Dan.
(Melchizedek in Gen. 14:19; Balaam in 2:49), who were close friends of Daniel, his
Num. 24:16; the king of Babylon in Isa. most trusted officer (Dan. 4:8, 9). For these
14:14). In this verse, this title is used to reasons he is ready to give them one more
show the superiority of God to the chance. "His pri- mary concern is with their
elements of nature. In the eyes of Nebu- public con- duct, rather than with their
chadnezzar, who was a polytheist, God private be- liefs."
45

was "the chief of all gods."


3:27 "And the satraps..." The last list
found in the chapter forms an inclusio136
with the list of officers found in verse 2.
The term "royal advisers" is an addition;
it is also used in verse 24.
"Gathered around." Literally, the Hebrew
THE GOLDEN STATUE (3:1-30)
THE FAITHFUL TESTED (3:13-27)

Nebuchadnezzar's unusually long their God is not unknown to this ruler from
ruestion was intended to persuade the his dealings with the king, and for that reason
Hebrews to obey his orders. After a short they do not feel compelled to present a
introduction, he asks them if it is true mat defense of their case. The Hebrews were well
they are unwilling to bow down be- rore his aware of the fact that the first and the second
statue. He also tells them that rirher they commandments in the Mosaic Decalogue
should be ready to falldown snd worshíp the statue, prohibit wor- ship of any person or object
or, in the case :: the contrary, they wíll be other than God. Exodus 20:2-6 (cf. Deut.
thrown into the fiery furnace. The king repeats 5:7-9) says,
•je list of musical instruments in order : 3
make his order more formal. He uses _Lh "I am the LORD your God, who
words as now and immediately, r utting brought you out of Egypt, out of the
emphasis on the immediate sit- uation. land of slavery.
In the conclusion of Nebuchadnez- rAr's "You shall have no other gods before
speech to the Hebrews, he goes so rir as to me.
challenge the God of the three men, claiming "You shall not make for yourself an idol
to be stronger than God .'•lost High. "We see in the form of anything in heaven
here the worldly rower absolutely confident above or on the earth be- neath or in
that there is no limit to its authority."46 the waters below. You shall not bow
Lacking tem- rer control, the king turns the down to them or worship them; for I,
conflict with his officers into a duel with the the LORD your God, am a jealous
liv- ing God. He proudly asks, Then what god God, pun- ishing the children for the
will be able to rescue you from my •ands? The king's sin of the fathers to the third and
words in this verse rresent the key question in fourth generation of those who hate
Daniel 1 through 6: What God is able to me, but showing love to a thousand
rescue his servants from the powerful mon- generations of those who love me
irchs? The stories found in this section of the and keep my commandments."
book each in turn present the an- r-vers to
that crucial question. The contest here is between the king and
3:16-18 To remind Nebuchadnezzar rhat the God of heaven. "Nebuchadnez- zar had
he is an ordinary mortal before God, the converted his confrontation with men into a
three men omit the title "king" in their contest with the Lord God Almighty."47
opening address. The power of Moreover, since the first commandment is
introduced by a state- ment of God's saving
act, obedience to

137
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

that command is a result, not a precon- dition their sentence syntax so that it is strik- ingly
to it. "Faithfulness to that com- mandment is, similar to that of the king's ques- tion. Verses
therefore, a response to grace already 16-18 contain one of the great dramatic
experienced; divine deliv- erance can never be scenes of biblical writ- ings, and the climax of
a condition to faith- ful conduct. Accordingly, this chapter. While the king's question puts
one is to wor- ship God alone and no other, pres- sure on the young men by asking them
regardless of how that God will or will not to be ready to fall down, they, in their turn, point
act."48 Only one biblical text related to a non- to the power of their God, who, they say, is
Israelite seems to be an exception to the rule able to save them. They continue by saying that
and worship of only one God. Sec- ond Kings if he does not save them, the king should
5:18, 19 says, " 'May the L O R D forgive your know that they will not worship his statue
servant for this one thing: When my master anyway.
enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down The ultimate issue was not God's ex-
and he is leaning on my arm and I bow there istence but his presence and power. We
also—when I bow down in the temple of should not take the words if. . . not to mean
Rimmon, may the L O R D forgive your servant that the three men doubted God's saving
for this.' power. On the contrary, they be- lieved that
" 'Go in peace,' Elisha said." God would save them. They used the words
In Deuteronomy 4:27, 28, Moses had "if not" because the king has already used
foretold the idolatrous context of the future these words in his question, and the Hebrews
exile: " "The L O R D will scatter you among the are simply re- peating them to turn the king's
peoples, and only a few of you will survive words completely upside down and thus
among the nations to which the L O R D will make their position as clear as possible.
drive you. There you will worship man-made The three men's loyalty to God does not
gods of wood and stone, which cannot see or depend on the certainty of deliver- ance nor
hear or eat or smell.' " on God's response to the dan- ger. They
The young men prefer death to apostasy. based their bold answer on principle
Their unwavering faith, not the rescue from regardless of the consequences. A scholar has
the fiery furnace, is the greatest miracle in this observed that the three Hebrews "do not
story. Speaking with one voice, the Hebrews make a deal with God in the way that people
dare to reverse the king's words, challenging sometimes do."49 Their decision is to remain
his command. Following a brief intro- faithful regardless of what may come. "This is
duction to their answer, they construe the character of truly ethical action. It is

138
THE GOLDEN STATUE (3:1-30)
THE FAITHFUL TESTED (3:13-27)

motivated by the intrinsic merit of the iction, Ironically, through another rever- sal,53
not by its positive or negative pay-off."50 The the king's strong men die in the process of
Hebrews' answer will -ever be forgotten. Its carrying out his orders. The Syrian Bible states
monumental sig- -.ncance is that "human that the persons who perish in the flame are
potentates are lefeated whether their victims those who have slandered the three young
escape the flames (as they will here) or men. Al- though this is a logical idea, it finds
whether thev do not."51 no support in the original text. On the
3:19-23 Nebuchadnezzar is now ex- contrary, the slanderers' lives are pre- served
ceedingly angry and issues orders of vio- so that they can witness the power of the God
_ence in an attempt to show who is in charge whose worshipers they have attempted to see
of the situation (cf. Dan. 2:12). His fury has executed. The Greek translation of the Bible
disfigured the "image" of his face because the pic- tures the Hebrews praying and singing in
three men are refus- ing to bow down to his the midst of the fire. In the Aramaic text,
"image" of gold. Troverbs 16:14 captures his however, they are freely walking around in the
mood well: A king's wrath is a messenger of fiery furnace. "The human spirit,
death." Ao, "in a fit of temper," he issues unconquerable through re- liance on God, has
com- mands that the furnace be heated to men been able to defy the worst that the earthly
times its normal heat and that ome of the power can do."54
strongestsoldiers. . . tie up die three men and throw 3:24, 25 Through the side door of the
them into the dre. These commands confirm furnace, the king witnesses a triple miracle:
the fact that Nebuchadnezzar was not quite The young men are not burned but intact,
as c onfident of his power as he professed to they are not bound but let loose, and they are
re. Why make the furnace as hot as pos- sible no longer three in number but four. Again,
when burning in slow fire hurts even more? not being cer- tain about what is taking place,
And why did the king com- mand his the king relies on the assistance of his
strongest soldiers to carry out his order? Was
counselors, whom he asks: Weren'tthere three
the king afraid that some rowerful god might
men that we tied up and threw into the. . . fírei The
attempt to interene and provide a
answer coming from his un- questionably
supernatural rescue : peration in behalf of the
obedient advisers is pre- dictable: Certaínly, O
faithful? The executioners are not even
king. Nebuchadnezzar is apparently the only
allowed time
person who sees that the three Hebrews are
strip the prisoners, a detail "which
joined by someone whom he describes as one
eventually heightens the miracle (v. 27) "52

139
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

of the gods, which is to say "a member of the stroyed the Assyrian army (2 Kings 19:35; Isa.
divine family," and later as God's messenger (v. 37:36). Because in this text he is portrayed as
28). The term is used else- where in the Bible the being who rescues the faithful, he can be
for angels and even for God himself. identified as Michael, Israel's guardian, who,
Accompanied by a heavenly being, the in Ga- briel's words to Daniel, stands over
faithful are delivered not from the fire, but in yourpeople (Qui. 12:1).55
the midst of it. Victory comes to them by way In the Bible, the semantic range of the
of the test, not away from it. One of the word "messenger" is wider than the range of
psalms says, "For you, O God, tested us; / the English word "angel." In some biblical
you refined us like silver. . . . We went through passages, "the messenger of the TORD" turns
fire and water, / but you brought us to a place out to be the divine Person—that is, the Lord
of abundance" (Ps. 66:10, 12). Although fire is himself (see the Notes on Dan. 3:28). In the
destructive, it figures in many bib- lical texts book of Revelation, Michael is the Com-
as a symbol of God's presence and protection. mander of God's armies, implying that He is
Official Jewish interpretations have Jesus Christ (Rev. 12:7). In the history of
identified this fourth person as an an- gel, Christian interpretation, many have rightly
someone like Gabriel, who is men- tioned by identified this fourth Person in the furnace
name in certain visionary chapters in the with Jesus Christ. Jesus' name Immanuel means
book. In the Bible, God's presence in life's that through him, "God is with his people in
trials may mat- ter more to the believer than a the time of their deepest need and effects
miracu- lous deliverance. Throughout biblical salvation for them from the dir- est threat to
passages, "the angel of the Lord" is de- their existence"56 (cf. Isa. 7:14).
scribed as someone who guided and 3:26, 27 In verbs of action that coun- ter
protected Israel (Exod. 14:19; 23:20) and led his previous commands, Nebuchad- nezzar
them to the Promised Land ac- cording to addresses the three Hebrew men by their
God's promise to Moses that "my angel will official names and tells them to come out of the
go before you" (Exod. 32:34). This angel gave furnace. He has to ad- mit that they have not
them victory over their enemies (Exod. 33:2), just survived the most severe test, but they
and at Jericho, Joshua showed readi- ness to have also en- countered the Divine Presence
obey his orders (Josh. 5:13-15). Moreover, in the midst of their trial. It has been aptly said
this angel helped the prophet Elijah (1 Kings that "by delivering us in trouble rather than
19:7) and later de- saving us from trouble, God is

140
THE GOLDEN STATUE (3:1-30)
THE KING'S PRAISE (3:28-30)

most honored and his people most r.essed."57 the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be torn
As the faithful step out of the door of me limb from limb and their houses be turned into piles
furnace, the whole group of digni- ties, of rubble, for no other god can save in this way."
beginning with the king's close associates and S0
Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach,
advisers, gather closely iround the three men and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
and witness that :here was no smellof fíre on them.
They : ee with their own eyes that the God of Notes
ne Hebrews can save his servants from me 3:28 "Nebuchadnezzar." Regarding the
power of fire. omission of the title "king," see the Notes
on Daniel 3:2 and 16.
"When you walk through the fire, you will "Said."See the Notes on Daniel 3:9.
not be burned; the flames will not set you "Praise be to the God."Even though the
ablaze" (Isa. 43:2; cf. Ps. 66:12). root of the original word, berík, can mean
"to bless," it is better to translate this
In later Jewish and Christian works, mis word as "praise" when referring to God.
story and the story of Daniel's res- :-e from Since this was a typical way to begin a
the lions were both read as metaphors of the prayer in Bible times, this hymn of
future resurrection of me righteous. praise functions in this context as a
prayer of thanksgiv- ing.
The King's Praise (3:28-30)
"His messenger." It is preferable to
The story in this chapter ends with a
translate the word mal'ak as "a
nvmn of praise uttered by the king to me God
messenger" rather than "an angel." In
who had saved the three faith- rd Hebrews.
the context of the passage, this be- ing
ls
Then Nebuchadnezzar said, "Praise be to me God of
is understood as "a heavenly
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his
messenger" or even "a divine
messenger and rescued his ser- :nts! They trusted in
messenger." In some biblical pas- sages,
him and defied the king's : imand and were willing to
this title is used interchangeably with
give up their lives •itfier than serve or worship any
the divine titles "God" and "Yahweh."
god except their : wn God.29Therefore I decree that the
For that rea- son, it is difficult to
people of any nation or language who say anything
separate "the angel of the Lord" from
against
the Lord himself (Gen. 16:7-13;
21:17-19; 22:11; 31:11-13; Exod. 3:1 -7;
Judg. 2:1 -5). See the Notes on Daniel
3:25.
"Rescued."See the Notes on Daniel 3:15.
"Servants."See the Notes on Daniel 3:26.
"Their lives." Literally, the Aramaic text
says gesmehon, "their bodies." The same
141Aramaic word is used in verse 27.
"Serve... worship."See the Notes on Daniel
3:12.
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

"Anygod."Jh\s is another detail Exposition (3:28-30>


supporting the view that the statue was 3:28 In this part of the narrative the title
a representation of Babylon's god "king" is omitted once again—in contrast to
Marduk. its frequent occurrence in the earlier parts of
3:29 "I decree. ”The words uminnisim the chapter (cf. v. 2). In this context, the
fern, "I issue a decree," introduce the king's greatness gives place to God's
king's public proclamation of highest supremacy. Nebuchad- nezzar now bursts
order. This proclama- tion prepares the into yet another hymn of praise to the Most
way for the longer first-person edict High God, in whom Shadrach, Meshach, and
that is found in the following chapter. Abed- nego have put all their trust. The king
For a similar proclamation, see Ezra is now fully convinced that "the angel of the
6:6-12. LORD encamps around those who fear him, /
"The people of any nation or language." The and he delivers them" (Ps.34:7).
same three words in the singular are This hymn is an echo of Daniel's hymn to
found at the beginning of the chapter God, which was recorded in chapter 2. The
(v. 4); thus they form another set of king's opening words, Praise be, could also be
brackets (inclusio) in the story. In both translated as "Blessed be." They are typical of
cases, the idea of universality is the beginning of a prayer in the Bible.
dominant. Through his messenger, God was able to deliver
"Who say anything against." The concept the three young men. Deliverance was "an act
conveyed by the original word saluh, of faithfulness on God's part which is
"anything," is one of negligence, a lack paralleled to but not triggered by the
of respect demon- strated by "saying faithfulness on the part of the three young
something carelessly." men."58
"Torn limb from limb... turned into piles of God's greatest promise to humans as
the Notes on Daniel 2:5.
rubble."See recorded in the Bible is summed up in these
"No other god can save."This statement simple words: "I will be with you!" The three
is a flat contradiction of the king's men claimed that promise. In the end, the
boasting," 'Then what god will be able king does not condemn but rather praises the
to rescue you from my hands?'" (v. 15). young men's determi- nation not to serve
3:30 "The king promoted." Literally, the gods other than their own, including the
original text says hoslah, "caused to king's own god Marduk. "The king who set
prosper." out to exalt his own name and kingdom ends
"Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego." See the by vindi-
Notes on Daniel 3:12.
"The province of Babylon." The ending in
this story resembles that of the previous
chapter (Dan. 2:48,49).
As mentioned in the introduction to142
this chapter, in the English Bible,
chapter 3 ends with this verse, while in
the Hebrew, it continues through
chapter 4:3. This commentary follows
the chapter and verse divisions in the
English Bible.
THE GOLDEN STATUE (3:1-30)
THE KING'S PRAISE (3:28-30)

rating the name and kingdom of the God of I put to death and I bring to life,
heaven."59 The God who is so powerful as to I have wounded and I will heal, and
be capable of saving from ieath itself is no one can deliver out of my hand."
worthy of praise and honor rrom every single
mortal. At the end of the story recorded in this
3:29 The theme of changing the chapter the statue is forgotten. It was most
iupposedly unchangeable royal decree .5 likely stripped of its golden layer and left to
found throughout Daniel (Dan. 1:8; 2:9; 3:19; decay in the elements. The at- tention now
5:5, 6, 9; 6:18; 7:7, ll).60 Here, through a royal shifts from a dead idol to the living God in
proclamation that reverses the first one, the heaven. The king becomes the protector of
king at- tempts to force all the people he has the God whom he had previously challenged.
subjected from all nations and languages t: The Hebrew reli- gion attains the status of a
reverence the God of the three He- brews. legitimately recognized religion in the empire.
All who do not comply with this order are to 3:30 The jealousy of the Chaldeans
face a severe punishment that includes the toward the Hebrews only resulted in an even
destruction of their entire household (cf. greater prosperity. "The 'happy ending'
Dan. 2:5). Once rgain the king ignores the consists of promotion of the Jews in the
basic princi- ples of religious liberties. Yet, it pagan administration."62 Their heroic faith
is vrong "ever to consider religious vio- ence has "quenched the fury of the flames" (Heb.
as an expression of a profound conviction."61 11:34). The three men became role models
It has been rightly said that the con- whose example will inspire believers down
version of this pagan king came neither easily through time (cf. 1 Macc. 2:59). Where- as
nor quickly. Only moments be*: re, the king before they were simply administra- tors over
in his pride had challenged the God of the the province of Babylon (Dan. 2:49), now
Hebrews by saying, Then what god will he able to they prosper in it.
rescue you -rom my hands? Now he says that God The document known as the Istanbul
can save as no othergod can save. Thus, ;n the Prism lists the names of some fifty offi- cials
end, the king answers his own r _estion. of King Nebuchadnezzar.63 Schol- ars have
Deuteronomy 32:39 quotes God as saying, attempted to relate some of the names listed
in this document to those the Bible places
"See now that I myself am He! among Nebuchadnez- zar's officials. No
There is no god besides me. fewer than five such names have been
identified as possibili- ties. They are as
follows:

143
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

Name Position Biblical Reference

1. Hanunu "chief of the royal merchants" Hananiah (Dan. 1:6, 7, 19; 2:17)

2. Mushallim-Marduk "overseer of the slave girls" Mishael (Dan. 1:6,7, 19; 2:17)

3. Ardi-Nabu "secretary of the crown Abednegp (Dan. 1:7; 2:49; 3:12-30)


prince"
4. Nabuzeriddinam "royal guard commander" Nebuzaradan (Jer. 40:1)

5. Nergglsharusur "a high official" Nergal-Sharezer (Jer. 39:3)

It is interesting to note the possible ing in this story is not the end of the learning
influence of Abednego on the crown prince process Nebuchadnezzar expe- rienced.
Amel-Marduk, who, as soon as he became Although according to this story the king saw
king, released King Jehoi- achin, who had the laws of nature change, his own nature
been imprisoned in Babylon, and "spoke remained unchanged. To be completely
kindly to him and gave him a seat of honor transformed by God, he needs at least
higher than those of the other kings who another—and this time a direct—encounter
were with him in Babylon. So Jehoiachin put with the God of the Hebrews. That
aside his prison clothes and for the rest of his experience is the topic of the chapter that
life ate regularly at the king's table" (Jer. follows in the book of Daniel. A hymn of
52:32, 33). praise links this and the following stories.
As for this chapter, in it the king speaks of
Summary of the Teaching
God as the God of the three Hebrews (not
1. God is patient. In the encounter with
necessarily his God) who rescued his servants
Nebuchadnezzar described in chapter 2, God
because they wor- ship their God (v. 28).65
taught him the most im- portant lesson, one
Thus, although the king recognizes that the
that every ruler should learn: that the Lord,
Most High God is a personal being, he claims
rather than any human being, is sovereign
no relationship of his own with that God.
over the world, over the rise and fall of kings
2. Worship and idolatry. Worship is a
and empires. In the story in chapter 3, the
dominant concept in this story, as is true of
king witnessed one of God's greatest saving
the entire Bible. God called Israel out of
acts in behalf of human beings. "The God of
Egypt so that they could worship him (Exod.
the Bible is primarily the deity who saves."64
4:23) in the Lord's dwelling place, located on
Yet, the happy end-
a mountain and estab-

144
THE GOLDEN STATUE (3:1-30)
SUMMARY OF THE TEACHING

iihed by his hands (Exod. 15:17). In the that through his remnant, God will tri- umph
biblical narrative, history begins Gen. 4:1-8) over the evil forces (Rev. 12:11; 14:1-5;
and ends (Rev. 13:4, 14, 15) nth a religious 15:1-4). Thus, based on the overall teaching
conflict between human :cings centered on of the books of Daniel and Revelation, it is
the issue ofworship. The first two safe to conclude that the miraculous
commandments speak di- rectly on this deliverance of the three Hebrews prefigures
topic. The message of the ;rory of the fiery the ultimate triumph and enthronement of
furnace "is a powerful roiemic against the saints (Dan. 7:27).
idolatry."66 A good refinition of idolatry is 3. Miracles in the Bible. A key term in this
that it means "rutting secondary things (even chapter is the word that may be translated as
good mings and desires) in the place of the "rescue," "delive r," or "save." It is found in
rrsolute commitment that only God snould three places: first, in the king's challenge to
be given. . . . Wealth, power, ecurity, good God to "rescue" the three Hebrew youth
health, religion, secular neologies, and many from his hand (3:15); second, in the Hebrews'
other things have rccome such idols for declaration that their God will "rescue" them
individuals or -nole societies."67 (3:17); and third, toward the end of the story,
The story in Daniel 3 has an eschato- : in the king's praises of God's angel, who
deal dimension and an end-time ap- r.ication. "rescued" his servants (3:28). The king is
Revelation 13 builds on it, r ing that an event forced to admit that "no other god can save
similar to the one nt took place on the plain in this way" (3:29). The God of the Bible has
of Dura will rap pen at the end of this world's power over death. Hosea 13:14 says,
history, according to the passage in
Revelation, - Deastlike controlling power will "I will ransom them from the power of
erect rr image that the whole world will be the grave;
nrced to worship. All those who refuse : 3 I will redeem them from death.
comply will face a death threat. And me Where, O death, are your plagues?
numbers sixty and six are related to mat beast Where, O grave, is your
power. The leitmotif of Reve- nrion 13 is destruction?"
"Worship the beast or per- ;h! The end-time
faithful stand firm : n the principles laid God sometimes chooses to perform
down in the words :r the persecuted apostles: supernatural miracles to save the lives of the
" 'We must : be)" God rather than men' " faithful and make his power mani- fest to all.
(Acts ? 29). The context of Revelation 13 Yet we know that he does not always choose
says to deliver from suffering

145
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
| COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

and death. For that reason it is essential to not mutually exclusive. It is also worth
stress that according to the teaching of the remembering that according to the story
Bible, miracles do not produce nor create recorded in chapter 6, Daniel was not spared
faith. Faith comes as a gift of God's Spirit. a similar test of his loyalty to his God.
Miracles can only confirm or strengthen faith In spite of Daniel's absence, his faith- ful
that already exists. Matthew 11:20-24 friends were not abandoned in the fiery
mentions three cities in Galilee in which Jesus furnace. The narrative shows how a divine
performed "most of his miracles," yet, being came to substitute for Daniel, the
according to this text, "they did not repent." absent ruler of Babylon's main province. At
The central message of Daniel 3 is the this time, he is beyond the grasp of the
unwavering faith of the three He- brews. envious Chaldeans.
While their miraculous deliver- ance is
important, it is not as relevant to the life of the
1. Towner, 46.
believer as the Hebrews' faith is. Only a 2. Collins, 176. Second Kings 25:8-10 states that
believing heart can ac- cept miracles as the temple was destroyed not in Nebuchadnez- zar's
eighteenth year but in his nineteenth year. This may be
supernatural acts of God. Therefore, faith is
due to the different ways in which the years of reign
essential to the process of recognizing and were reckoned in the ancient world (see the Notes on
accepting supernatural miracles. Dan. 1:1).
3. William. H. Shea, "Daniel 3: Extra-Biblical
4. Where was Danie? Why is Daniel absent Texts and the Convocation on the Plain of Dura,"
from this story and from the whole chapter? Andrews University Seminary Studies 20 no. 1 (1982): 29-52.
We simply do not know the answer to this 4. Wiseman, Chronicles, 73
5. Maxwell, 58.
question because in this chapter, Daniel did 6. White, Prophets, 504.
not tell us any- thing about where he was. One 7. Lucas, 86.
possibil- ity is that he presided over the palace 8. Wiseman, Nebuchadrezgar, 109.
9. Towner, 47.
when all the other officials were on the plain 10. Longman, 103.
of Dura (cf. Dan. 2:48). Or he might have 11. Montgomery, 197, note 1.
12. Ford (p. 104) argues that the statue was made of
been sick (cf. Dan. 8:27). Still another wood because Israel's golden altar was made of acacia
possibility is that since he was the chief of all wood and overlaid with gold (Exod. 39:38; 40:5). See
the wise men, who, according to the previous also Walvoord, 80. Lucas (p. 88) men- tions stone as
one possible material.
story have al- ready passed the loyalty test in 13. Nichol, 4:780.
Babylon, thus he would have been exempted 14. See Edward M. Cook, "In the Plain of the Wall
from this solemn pledge of loyalty to King (Dan 3:1)," Journal of Biblical Lterature 108 (1989):
115-116.
Nebuchadnezzar. These speculations are 15. A suggestion found in Doukhan, Secrets, 45.
16. Hartman and DiLella, 160.
17. Slotki, 22.
THE GOLDEN STATUE (3:1-30)
SUMMARY OF THE TEACHING

s A alton, Matthews, Chavalas, 735. 37. Longman, 101.


" Ford, 105; cf. Walvoord, 82. Archer (p. 51) mat 38. Peter Coxon, "Daniel 3:17: A Linguistic and
Daniel finished his book around the time • - the new Theological Problem, Vetus Testamentum26" (1976):
Persian titles would have been cur- •' in the metropolis 400-405.
of Babylon." 39. Collins, 188.
I! Seow, 54. 40. Nichol, 4:784.
Pritchard, 307. 41. The Babylonian Talmud Pes. 118a, b.
II Smith-Christopher, 63. 42. Collins, 190.
1; Edwin Yamauchi, "Daniel and Contacts Be: the 43. Shea, Daniel, 82.
Aegean and Near East Before Alexander," 44. Seow, 55.
-•:'.ical Quarterly 53 (1981): 37-47; T. C. 45. Lucas, 95.
i :j __ -el and R. Joyce, "The Musical Instruments in 46. Porteous, 59.
S: : _chadnezzar's Orchestra," in Notes on Some - rJms in 47. Archer, 54.
the Book of Daniel, ed. D. J. Wiseman, i. London: 48. Seow, 58.
Tyndale, 1965), 19-27. 49. Ibid., 57.
24. Collins, 183. 50. Lucas, 95.
25. Seow, 54. 51. Goldingay, 74.
26 Ibid., 52. 52. Ibid., 71.
2". Collins, 181. 53. Z. Stefanovic, "Daniel," 139-150.
15 Shea, Daniel, 72. 54. Porteous, 60.
1 Kenneth R. Wade, "Stuck on 6," Ministry I tcember 55. Lewis O. Anderson, "The Michael Figure in the
1988), 22. Book of Daniel" (Ph.D. dissertation, Andrews
! Goldingay, 70. Montgomery (p. 73) quotes a University, 1995).
--iTiment by Herr Baldur von Schirach made in ::: 56. Towner, 56.
"One cannot be a good German and at the e time deny 57. Ford, 109.
God. .. . If we act as true Germans -at act according to 58. Towner, 58.
the laws of God. Whoever :r-~es Adolf Hitler, the 59. Ford, 109.
Fiihrer, serves Germany, 1 whoever serves Germany 60. Smith-Christopher, 65.
serves God." 61. Doukhan, Secrets, 57.
31. Ford, 106. 62. Collins, 193.
32. Ibid. 63. Pritchard, 307-308.
33. Lucas, 94. 64. Doukhan, Secrets, 54.
34. Rosenthal, 44. 65. Ibid., 55.
35. Hoftijzer and Jongeling, 960. 66. Slotki, 21.
36. Seow, 56; italics added. 67. Lucas, 94.

147
NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S SECOND DREAM
(4:1-37)

/ hapter 4 of Daniel is an epistle w from King Several events that are of interest to the
Nebuchadnezzar writ- ten predominantly in student of the Bible took place in the interim
the first-person singular. It contains a story between this and the previous chapter.
that relates another contest between two During the second Babylonian invasion of
sovereigns, the king in Babylon and God in Syria-Palestine in 597 B.C., Jerusalem was
heaven. The chapter was intended to be an again besieged. The official Babylonian
open letter that was to be read publicly records speak of this event in the following
throughout the Neo-Babylonian Empire. It way, referring specifically to the land ofJudah:
includes a long confession stem- ming from "In the seventh year, the month of Kislev, the
the king's personal experi- ence, enhanced by king of Akkad [Nebuchadnezzar, king of
praises to God crafted in the style of the Babylon] mus- tered his troops, marched to
praise hymns seen pre- viously in the book. the Hatti- land, and encamped against (i.e.,
The main event in the chapter is left be- sieged) the city of Judah and on the
undated, yet the context of the story, second day of the month of Adar he seized
described in the king's own words, be- trays the city and captured the king. He appointed
the era of "Nebuchadnezzar the there a king of his own choice (lit. heart),
Builder"—the second phase of this king's received its heavy tribute and sent (them) to
reign, which was characterized by great Babylon."2
building projects, mostly in the city of During the third Babylonian military
Babylon. Most commentators agree that the campaign, the city ofJerusalem and its temple
chapter should be dated to the closing years were destroyed by fire. In Judea, these events
of Nebuchadnezzar's long reign.1 were seen as a great tragedy. They were
commemorated in the book of Lamentations:

148
NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S SECOND DREAM (4:1-37)

How deserted lies the city, once so calls the words found in the biblical prophets,
full of people! who spoke of Babylon as "the jewel of
How like a widow is she, kingdoms, / the glory of the Babylonians'
who once was great among the pride" (Isa. 13:19).
nations! Other than the evidence gathered from
She who was queen among the provinces these sources, very little is known about the
has now become a slave. . . . last thirty years of King Nebu- chadnezzar's
life. The story in chapter 4 says that at the end
The roads to Zion mourn, for no of this experience, Nebuchadnezzar praised
one comes to her appointed feasts. Daniel's God and became a protector of the
All her gateways are desolate, her priests Divine Person whom he had previously chal-
groan, lenged. It is useful to remember at this point
her maidens grieve, that the prophet Jeremiah, on more than one
and she is in bitter anguish. . . . occasion, called this king the "Lord's
servant": "Now I will hand all your countries
-All who pass your way over to my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of
clap their hands at you; Babylon; I will make even the wild animals
they scoff and shake their heads at the sub- ject to him" (Jer. 27:6; cf. 25:9; 43:10).
Daughter ofJerusalem: In this chapter, two praise hymns bracket
"Is this the city that was called the the king's story—one at the be- ginning and
perfection of beauty, the joy of the the other at the end, form- ing an inclusio. The
whole earth?"
story and the hymns combine both
(Lam. 1:1, 4; 2:15).
first-person and third- person reports. The
suggested structure4 below is based on the
While Jerusalem and its temple lay in
text of the English Bible because, as noted
r.iins, the city of Babylon was brought :o
above, the He- brew Bible makes the content
architectural perfection. Its builder, King
of Daniel 4:1-3 the conclusion of chapter 3.
Nebuchadnezzar, was very proud of the fact
that his name was impressed Dn thousands
1. The king's praise (4:1-3)
of bricks that were used in the city's building
2. The dream [first-person report] (4:4-18)
projects. In his boast- ful words, the king
3. The interpretation [third-person report]
describes his "palace is the seat of my royalty,
(4:19-27)
a building for me admiration of my people, a
place of nion for the land."3 This statement
re-

149
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

4. The fulfillment of the dream [third- name and title are mentioned first.5
person report] (4:28-33) "All the peoples, nations, and men of every

5. The king's praise [first-person re- port] language." See the Notes on Daniel 3:4. This
(4:34-37) list is one of the links between this and
the previous chapters, with the
Daniel's explanation of the dream and his emphasis on the concept of universality.
plea that the king exchange his pride for The addressees included the whole
works of mercy toward those who are known world at the time of
oppressed constitutes the heart of this Nebuchadnezzar. The same concept is
chapter. In the Hebrew Bible, verses 10b-17 reinforced by the parallel line that
are set off as poetry. follows below. This type of "allusion to
all ethnic, political, and linguistic
The King's Praise (4:1-3) constituencies is not new in Daniel" (cf.
The chapter opens with a hymn of praise 3:4,7,29).6
intended to be proclaimed every- where so "In all the world." Literally, the text says
that all people living on earth would revere bekol-'ar'a', "in all the earth." In this
the Most High God. context, it means "in the whole empire."
Similar ideas of universality can be
'King Nebuchadnezzar,
found in the biblical expres- sions "the
To all the peoples, nations, and men of every
ends of the earth" (Pss. 2:8; 72:8) and
language who live in all the world:
"there shall be no end" (Isa. 9:7). Of the
May your prosperity increase!
eight oc- currences of the word "earth"
2
It is my pleasure to declare to you the won-
in the chapter, four relate to
derful miracles that the Most High God has per-
Nebuchadnezzar's dominion (4:10,11,
formed for me.
20, 22), standing in opposition to the
3
word "heaven" that describes God's
How great are his signs,
dominion. The fact that this letter was
how mighty his wonders!
written in Aramaic, the language of
His kingdom is an eternal kingdom;
international business and diplo- macy,
his dominion lasts from one generation to
contributes to its universal character.
another.
"May your prosperity increase!" The exp res-
sion selamekon yisge', "may your prosperity
Notes
4:1 "King Nebuchadnezzar." See the Notes increase!" was a type of formal greeting
on Daniel 1:1, where Nebuchadnezzar is in royal proclamations in the ancient
called "king of Babylon." According to Near East. It is also found in Daniel 6:25.
"the accepted style of ancient letter The first word in the original text is the
writing," the author's Aramaic word selam (Hebrew salom), a
commonly used Semitic word that has a
150wider meaning than the word "peace"
because it also includes good health and
material and spiritual prosperity. The
same word is mentioned in the
introduction to King Artaxerxes' letter
to Ezra quoted in Ezra 7:12.
4:2 "Wonderful miracles." The words
NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S SECOND DREAM (4:1-37)
THE KING'S PRAISE (4:1-3)

rayya' wetimhayya',"signs and wonders," Exposition (4:1-3)


are also used in Daniel 6:27. When 4:1 Written in the first-person singular,
found together, "iey may be expressing the story found in this chapter is a personal
a single concept (hendi- ajys) translated testimony proclaimed in a powerful way by
as "wonderful miracles." The the king who in the previous chapter had
combination of the corresponding dared to challenge God by saying to the three
Hebrew '•'Ords is found in several Hebrews, "Then what god will be able to
places in the Bible, re- •"ening mostly to rescue you from my hands?" (3:15). Nebu-
God's act of bringing Israel out of Egypt chadnezzar, who in the previous stories gave
(Exod. 7:3; Deut. 4:34; 7:19; 13:2; Ps. orders, now testifies about what God has
'35:9; Isa. 8:18). done for him. The fearful and enraged ruler
"MostHigh God." See the Notes on Daniel who on occasions mis- trusted his closest
3- 26. officials "has become a poet, breaking into
"For me." Literally, the original text song about the Most High. . . . Reading the
reads vmi, "with me." passage, the Talmudic rabbis exclaimed: "The
4:3 This verse is built on parallelism, king has stolen all the songs and praises from
and it is :ood poetry. The words that are David.' "7
parallel are as "J ows: great and mighty; The hymn of praise that opens this
signs and wonders; • ngdom and dominion; eternal chapter is an echo of Daniel's hymn in
and from genera: on to generation. Literally, thechapter 2:20-23. The hymn is built on strong
verse reads, "His 5 gns, how great are parallelism and is filled with terms, such as
they! His wonders, how -nighty are "every" and "all," that convey the idea of
they!" universality. This aspect of univer- sality is
"Mighty.,rThe root tqp, "to be(come) reinforced in the chapter by the presence of
strong, •nighty," is applied here to the Aramaic language, which served as the
God's work. Its other -'our occurrences imperial language of inter- national diplomacy
in this chapter (vv. 11, 20, 22, and business. Al- though this type of
: I are applied to King Nebuchadnezzar self-perception was a characteristic of the
and his accomplishments. Babylonian Empire, the concept of diversity
"An eternal kingdom." See the Notes on was closely tied to it, and it is here expressed
Daniel 2:44. The statement that God's through the words peoples, nations, and men of ev-
kingdom a eternal is the truth that ery language (cf. 3:4, 7, 29).
according to the previ: JS story While some writers consider the ex-
Nebuchadnezzar resisted admitting. pression all the world hyperbolic, it was
"Dominion." The noun soltan,
"dominion" r. sultan, "ruler"), denotes
"authority to rule." It rands in parallel
with the noun malku, "king- corn." The
term is very important in this chapter151
and is also the key word in the vision in
chapter " The words "dominion" and
"kingdom" are also •"cund at the end of
the story (v. 34), thus forming
an/nc/us/o in this chapter.
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

the world that the people of that time and ings about the Most High's works by which he
place knew. In his prayer to God, King is overwhelmed. At last, he has been led to the
Solomon asked that he would rule "from sea conclusion that only God's kingdom and
to sea / and from the River to the ends of the dominion endure forever—a crucial lesson
earth" (Ps. 72:8). that he had failed to learn in the previous
Nebuchadnezzar concludes his intro- stories. The parallelism between God's eternal
ductory address with a formal greeting, May kingdom and dominion is also found in Psalm
your prosperity increasel This greeting contains 145:13, which says, "Your kingdom is an
the well-known and multi-faceted word seldm, everlasting kingdom, / and your domin- ion
"peace." Here, it is inclusively rendered as endures through all generations."
prosperity (cf. Ezra 7:12).
4:2,3 Nebuchadnezzar speaks of God as The Dream (4:4-18)
Someone who performs wonderful miracles The king now proceeds to tell his story in
because that was the way in which this king the first-person singular, begin- ning with the
experienced God. Israel's exodus from Egypt account of an enigmatic dream and his
was accompanied by similar divine confidence that Daniel could interpret it.
intervention. Deuteronomy 6:22 says, "Before
4
I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home in my pal- ace,
our eyes the Tord sent miraculous signs and
free from care and prosperous.51 had a dream that
wonders—great and terrible—upon Egypt
made me afraid. As I was lying in my bed, the images
and Pharaoh and his whole household." The
and visions that passed through my mind alarmed me.
king's combination of fear, power, and pride
6
So I commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be
was adequately met by someone who cared
brought before me to explain the dream to me.7 Then
enough to turn those reactions into praise,
the magicians, enchanters, astrologers, and diviners
joy, and blessing.
came, and I told them the dream, but they could not
The key expression in the passage is for me.
explain it to me. "Finally, Daniel came into my
It contrasts the king's past experi- ences with
presence and I told him the dream. (He is called
God to this present one. Whereas before he
Belteshazzar, afterthenameof my god, and the spirit of
had only heard about God from Daniel and
the holy gods is in him.)
seen God's miraculous intervention in the
9
1 said, "Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I
lives of others, this time his encounter with
knowthatthespiritoftheholygodsisinyouandno mystery
God is di- rect and personal. This type of
istoodifficultforyou.Hereismydream;ex- plain it to me.1
close con- tact with the Divine Power has left
"These are the visions I saw while lying in my bed: I
him in awe and praise. One wonders little that
looked, and there before me stood a tree in the middle
he uses the word Howto express the feel-
of the earth. Its height was great.

152
NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S SECOND DREAM (4:1-37)
THE DREAM (4:4-18)

The tree grew large and strong and its top touched two words found in the beginning and
7K sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth. lts eaves end of the king's speech form an inclusio.
u

were beautiful, its fruit abundant, and on - was food for In addition, this and the following verse
all. Under it the beasts of the field ~:und shelter, and contain a few cases of parallelism, with
the birds of the sky lived in its : • Jn ches; from it every words such as home and pal- ace, images and
creature was fed. visions, etc.
3
"In my visions I saw while lying in my bed, ocked, "Free from care.'The word seleh means
and there before me was a holy mes- senger, coming "re- laxed" and free from care (Pss.
down from heaven. He called n a loud voice: 'Cut down 73:12; 122:6; Jer. 49:31). The same word
u

the tree and trim off its : 'inches; strip off its leaves and is used in the sense of negligence in
scatter its fruit. Let ~e animals flee from under itand Daniel 6:4 (cf. Ezra 4:22; 6:9).
15
the birds from its : dnches. But let the stump and its "Prosperous." The term ra'nan,
roots, bound with iron and bronze, remain in the "sprouting, prospering," is often used of
ground, in the : 'ass of the field. Let him be drenched green trees (Deut. 12:2; 1 Kings 14:23;
with the dew r heaven, and let him live with the Isa. 57:5; Jer. 11:16; Hos. 14:8) and of
animals among ne plants of the earth.16Let his mind be people who thrive like plants (Pss.
changed from that of a human and let him be given the 37:35; 52:8). This verse combines the
mind : > an animal till seven times pass by for him. term with the word house just as Psalm
17
"7he decision is announced by holy mes- 92:12-14 does:
angers, who declare the verdict, so that the living nay
know that the Most High is sovereign over the The righteous will flourish like a
Kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he palm tree, they will grow like a
wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men.' cedar of Lebanon;
18
7his is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnez- planted in the house of the Lord,
zar, had. Now you, Belteshazzar, tell me what it they will flourish in the courts of our
veans, for none of the wise men in my kingdom can God.
explain it to me. But you can, because the spirit of They will still bear fruit in
the holy gods is in you." old age, they will stay
fresh and green.
Notes
4:4 "I, Nebuchadnezzar." The use of the The use of this term in the narrative
-rst-person pronoun 'ana, "I," in this antici- pates the dream dominated by a
chapter ends authenticity to the story. tree.
It also shows Nebu- chadnezzar's 4:5 "Afraid.'The king describes his
self-centered language. It is inter- reaction to the dream before he reveals
esting that the king ends his speech in its contents, building the reader's
the same 'ay, adding only the word suspense. Just as in the first dream, in
"King" to it. Thus, the which Nebuchadnezzar's fear arose
153because of the sudden destruction of
the statue, here the felling of the tree
alarmed the king.
4:6 "Wise men."See the Notes on Daniel
2:2. A number of elements found in
these verses remind the reader of the
story of Nebuchadnezzar's first dream.
When the list of wise men from this and
the following verse is compared with
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

common to both passages, including the as stated in this verse is "mistaken."10


Egyp- tian term hartumayya', "magicians." Yet, the in- terpreter should let the text
"Be brought" For the use of the same inform him rather than force his or her
verb, see Daniel 2:24,25. own views on it.
4:7 "Astrologers."The original text has "The spirit of the holy gods." In no less than
the word kasdaye', "Chaldeans." See the three places in the chapter, the king
Notes on Daniel 2:2. The Chaldeans were recognizes that Daniel is privileged to
the ruling class in Neo-Babylon, and have in him ruah-'elahin qaddisin, "the spirit
according to Daniel 2:48, Daniel was of holy gods" (4:8, 9,18). This expression
their leader. Some interpreters claim reflects a current idiom that described
that even if the wise men knew the someone who was very spiritual (cf.
meaning of the dream, they were afraid Dan. 5:11,14). The Hebrew equivalent
to voice it because of the dream's expression of the last two words, 'elahin
contents. qaddisin, "holy gods," is used in Joshua
4:8 "Finally. 'The words we'ad 'oh°ren 24:19 to describe God's holiness.
literally mean "at last." Some scholars Some interpreters read this phrase
suggest that the king intentionally tried as "the Holy Spirit of God" because the
to bypass Daniel. "Cor- nered, plural of the Ara- maic noun 'elahin,
Nebuchadnezzar now had no choice but "gods," corresponds to the Hebrew
to hear the Hebrew prophet's name Elohim. However, since in this case
interpretation _____________________________ the words came from "the mouth of the
Once again, an unexpected truth hits non- Jewish monarch, the plural is
him, a dis- turbing truth like any of probably better."11 As disturbing as the
divine origin."8 presence of some of the pagan terms
"Daniel." See the Notes on Daniel 1:6. may be to the reader of the Bible, it
Here the king mentions both of Daniel's gives authenticity to the stories and
names—his Hebrew name and his supports the idea that the original
Babylonian one. This may be an context from which the stories came to
emphatic way of saying that Daniel was us must have been a place like Babylon
in a class apart from the rest of the wise or Medo-Persia.
men. Daniel's reputation in Babylon was
"Belteshazzar." See the Notes on Daniel the same as Joseph's in Egypt. The latter
1:7. It is logical to assume that was known as "one in whom is the spirit
throughout the time of the of God" (Gen. 41:38).
Neo-Babylonian Empire, Daniel was 4:9 "Chief of the magicians." This title rab
known by his Babylonian name rather hartumayya', "chief of the magicians," that
than his Hebrew name. describes Daniel's position of authority
"My god." It has been proposed that by is similar to but not identical with the
slip- ping in this phrase, "the king154one used in Daniel 2:48. The title used
attributes Daniel's powerto his by the king in this verse may be an
Babylonian god."9 Nebuchadnezzar, like abbreviated form of the longer and
his father, Nabopolassar, worshiped the more formal one in chapter 2. The
god Marduk, whose popular name was presence of this and similar "pagan"
Bel (Isa. 46:1; Jer. 50:2; 51:44). Some terms lends authenticity to an original
scholars consider that the etymological Babylonian setting of the stories from
link between Daniel's Babylonian name Daniel.
Belteshazzar and the name of the god
NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S SECOND DREAM (4:1-37)
THE DREAM (4:4-18)

"The spirit of the holy gods." See the something that is confirmed by the
Notes :n
Daniel 4:8. tree's height: It reached to the sky (v.
"Mystery."See the Notes on Daniel 2:18. 11).
Too difficult for you." Compare the 4:11 "Grewlarge andstrong." See the Notes
words on Daniel 4:3. The two adjectives, rab,
Ezekiel 28:3: Are you wiser than "great," and taqqip, "strong, mighty,"
Daniel? describe God's ac- tivities in verse 3. The
i io secret hidden from you? Aramaic word rab that is translated here
"Here is my dream." These words stand in as "large" described the statue in Daniel
:ontrast with the story in chapter 2, 2:31.
where the < ng asked the wise men to "Its top touched the sfcy/The Aramaic
tell him his dream. word rum, "top," is the same word that
4:10 In the Hebrew Bible (Biblia in the previous verse is rendered
Hebraica ::.ttgartensia), verses 10b-17 are set "height." The tree symbolically linked
off as po- etry. heaven and earth. Its height assumed
"I looked, and there before me..." This is ~ie cosmic proportions, language that was
standard formula with which the seer typical of Babylonian megalomania.
intro: jces his visions in the second half This text reminds the reader of the Bible
of the book '•2 6, 7, etc.). In of an ambitious project under- taken by
Nebuchadnezzar's first dream, ~e the builders in the plain of Shinar.They
looked... and there before" him "stood had wanted to construct "a city, with a
a a-ge statue" (2:31). tower that reaches to the heavens"
"A free."The noun Van, "a tree," is (Gen, 11:4; cf. Isa. 14:13,14; Ezek. 31:3).
indefinite, r the Bible, a tree is a symbol The little horn of chapters 7 and 8 is
of either a righ- " eous person (Ps. 1:3) characterized by the same ambition,
or a very proud person (Isa. and so is the contemptible king of
1 * 2,13; 10:34). A tall tree, for example, Daniel 11:36.
is often a : -bol of human pride (Ps. "The ends of the earth." Jh\s expression
37:34,35; Isa. 2:12-19; -4-20; Ezek. 17:3, may be a figure of speech expressing
4; 31:3-9; Zech. 11:2). Jesus, :<n the the idea of uni- versality that is further
other hand, compared the progress of elaborated in the follow- ing verse. In
Sod's kingdom in the world to the Daniel's book, it is often linked with the
growth of a -ee (Luke 13:19). extent of Babylonian dominion.
"In the middle of the earth." This detailed 4:12 "Found shelter." The inscription of
inscription of the location of the tree Nebuchadnezzar found in Wadi Brisa
recalls the "ee of life that was located contains similar words: '"Under its
"in the middle of the ::- den" of Eden everlasting shadow I have gathered all
(Gen. 2:9). The ancient Babylo- • ans the peoples in peace.' "12
believed that Babylon was the center of155 "Every creature."This translation is
-«= whole world. In a similar way, later preferred to the literal rendering "all
in history, flesh." It refers to every kind of living
:
:me was thought of as such a center. creature, both human and animal. The
"Great."The word saggt, "great, tall," is text speaks of the tree's
also .sed in the description of the statue all-encompassing influence and power.
in chapter 2. "The tree is described as visible to 'all
s tree was not an ordinary but a the earth' (NRSV '"the whole earth'"); it
cosmic tree, provided 'food for all' and 'from it all
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

living beings were fed' (vv. 11,12). The 121:4; cf. Pss. 7:6, 7; 44:23; 59:4; Isa.
intent of the heavenly verdict is that ’all 51:9). More- over, his eyes "range
who live' may know who really is in throughout the earth" (Zech. 4:10).
charge (v. 17)."13 "Coming down from heaven." Often in the
'Was fed.'The text states twice that Bible these or similar words describe
the tree provided food for all creatures. God's com- ing to earth in judgment. A
Some scholars have proposed that this familiar example is found in Genesis:
characteristic of the tree indicates its "The Lord came down to see the city
association with the tree of life from the and the tower that the men were build-
Garden of Eden (cf. Gen. 2:9). ing" (Gen. 11:5).
4:13 "In my visions Isaw." in the 4:14 "Called in a loud voice." Literally, the
prophetic section of the book, these or herald qare'behayil, "shouted with might."
similar words usu- ally introduce a new These words remind the reader of the
development in the vision (cf. 7:2,7,13). herald in Daniel 3:4, who qare' behayil,
"I looked, and there before me." See the "loudly proclaimed," the royal
Notes on Daniel 4:10. command. A New Testament parallel is
"A holy messenger." The two words 'ir found in Revelation 14:7, where the
weqaddis, "a watcher and a holy one," second angel proclaims a message "in a
describe a single being from heaven, not loud voice."
two; the two words form a hendiadys "Cut down the tree."The commands
and together mean "a holy messenger." found in this verse are given in the
The first term comes from the root 'Or, plural. Some inter- preters understand
"to be awake." It is not found in the them as being given at the direction of
Bible outside of this chapter (vv. the divine council (cf. Isa. 40:1; 1 Kings
13,17,23), but it is widely attested in 22:19-22). For a similar use of the first-
later Jewish writings. Some scholars person plural form of speech by God,
have re- lated this word to the office see Genesis 11:7: "Come, let us go
known in the ancient Near East as the down..."
"King's Eye." The second term describes "Scatterits fruit/'lhe enemies of the
an angel in Daniel (8:13) and elsewhere prophet Jeremiah once plotted against
in the Bible (Job 5:1; 15:15; Zech. 14:5). him, saying," 'Let us destroy the tree
This being is a member of God's council [the prophet] and its fruit [divine
(Ps. 89:6,7). Because of his proximity to oracles]'" (Jer. 11:19).
God, he also is holy. He never sleeps but 4:15 "But."The word beram, "but," is a
is always watchful. strong adversative term in Aramaic.
Commentators consider this person "Its roots." Although many translators
to be a member of a special order of use the word "stump" to translate the
angels comparable to those seen by the original word ’iqqar, "root," the meaning
prophets Ezekiel (1:17,18) and Zechariah156of the complete ex- pression 'iqqar saresohf
(1:10; 4:10). Biblical teaching con- trasts is that the taproot or rootstock should
the pagan gods who, when they sleep, be left in the ground. In the Bi- ble, the
need to be awakened by a loud noise (1 act of leaving the root in the ground
Kings 18:27) with the true God, "who communicates hope of restoration (cf.
watches over Israel [and] will neither Job 14:7; Isa. 6:13; 11:1).
slumber nor sleep" (Ps.
NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S SECOND DREAM (4:1-37)
THE DREAM (4:4-18)

"Bound with iron and bronze." It has beenbook, see 7:4, where the lionlike beast
suggested that bands of these two has wings of an eagle and the heart of a
strong materi- ; s were used to encircle man. Similarly, in Psalm 23, two
the stump in order to reserve it against different metaphors are used to
further growth or destruction 2 Chron. represent the Lord. He is described first
24:12). Since fetters and harnesses were as the psalmist's Shepherd and then as
-ade of iron and bronze (Judg. 16:21), it his Host.
is better :: 'elate the verb here to the "His mind.'The text literally says
binding of animals cf. 2 Kings 7:10) or libbeh, "his heart." The heart was
even war captives (cf. Ps. 49:8). The considered to be the seat of
Aramaic term 'esur suggests a tree that s intelligence. Later, in his interpretation,
imprisoned," while the context presents Daniel says that the king will undergo a
the very unusual metamorphosis.
• ng "in an animal state."14The words in "A human... an animal." The two nouns,
this verse re often understood as riasa', "human being," and hewa, "beast,"
signaling a shift in the -etaphor from a stand in opposition to each other.
tall tree to a wild animal. For a 5 nilar "Seven times." In the book of Daniel,
"shift from tree to human imagery,"15 the numbers seven and seventy are used
see Ezekiel 31:18. Notice that Daniel's in the context of testing or judgment.
interpretation ooes not provide a See, for example, Daniel 3:19, where the
symbolic meaning of the two ~etals king orders that the fur- nace be heated
that are mentioned here (cf. 4:26). seven times, and Daniel 9:2, which says
"Let him." Several verbs that are in the that the exile will last for seventy years
im- perfect are translated as (cf.Jer. 25:11).
exhortations, "let..." understood as The Aramaic word ’iddan, "a season,
jussive), in order to express the aestiny period," may express any period of time
of the object of this verdict. (cf. Dan. 2:8; 3:5). This same word has
"Dew ofheaven." It is worth noticing the meaning of a "year" in Daniel 7:25
that all provisions listed in this verse and 12:7, and, in the context of this
come from -eaven.16 verse, most translators render it as
"Lethim Uve."Literally, the text says "year." This is an ancient view found in
h°laqeh, the Septuagint and confirmed by
• et his lot be!" Josephus. The famous Jewish in-
"With the animals." These words come in terpreter Rashi argued that
contrast to two biblical passages (Jer. Nebuchadnezzar was punished for a
27:5, 6; Dan. 2:37, 38) in which period of "seven years" be- cause he
Nebuchadnezzar is de- scribed as a destroyed the Jerusalem temple, which
human being who was given domin- on took seven years to build.18
over the beasts of the field. "The157 4:17 "Holy messengers." See the Notes on
present pas- sage involves an ironic Daniel 4:13, where the two nouns are
reversal of the king's status." 17
used to- gether in the plural. Rashi
4:16 At this point in the narrative, maintained that the decision on the
there is a clear shift in metaphors. The verdict in this case came as a result of
tree becomes a human being with the God's consultation with "His Heavenly
mind of an animal. For an- other Court."19 The plural form of the nouns
example of the mixing of images in also intrigued the
Daniel's
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

Talmudic sages, who, based on this ity and authenticity to the story. It gives to the
verse, con- cluded that "the Holy One chapter "the force of a confession of faith."22
does nothing without first consulting Several elements in this story remind the
the family above."20 Elsewhere in the reader of Nebuchadnezzar's dream in chapter
Bible, the term "holy ones" is used of 2. These points of similarity are as follows:
the members of the heavenly host (Ps.
89:7; Zech. 14:5). Some have concluded 1. The king's dream makes a nega- tive
that the watchers are the beings that impression on him (Dan. 2:1; 4:5).
constitute the divine council (Job 1; 2; 2. The wise men cannot help the king
Jer. 23:18). Daniel 4:24 clarifies that
21 (2:10, 11; 4:6, 7).
none other than God himself issued the 3. Daniel/Belteshazzar appears be- fore
verdict in this chapter. the king (2:25; 4:8).
"The Most High." In the Bible, the divine 4. The king addresses Daniel (2:26; 4:9).
title '¡¡laya', "the Most High," is often 5. Daniel makes a disclaimer (2:27, 30;
accompanied by the word "God," 4:19).
indicating to whom it always refers. It 6. The king's dream involves a "great"
occurs especially in the book of Psalms object (2:31; 4:11).
(91:1,9) and also in Luke's Gospel 7. The first scenario is optimistic
(1:32,35,76). (2:31-33; 4:10-12).
"The lowliest." Although the word s pal,e 8. The second scenario is pessimistic
"lowly," is used in Daniel's book to (2:34, 35; 4:13-17).
convey an act of "humiliation" (4:37), in 9. The application begins "You, O king
this context, a positive type of humility are . . ." (2:36-38; 4:22).
may be in mind, akin to the con- cept of 10. The king is humbled at the end (2:46;
"meekness." There is an obvious 4:31-33).
contrast between "the Most High" and 11. The king praises Daniel's God (2:47;
"the lowliest of men," whom he exalts. 4:37).
This type of reversal of fortunes is found
in several biblical passages (1 Sam. 2:8; There are also several points of differ-
Job 5:11). In the song sung by Mary, the ence between the two chapters, the most
mother of Jesus, she praised God who notable being the king's relaxed and care- free
"has brought down rulers from their mood at the beginning of this story, which
thrones / but has lifted up the humble" stands in sharp contrast to the anger
(Luke 1:52).
4:18 "I, King Nebuchadnezzar." See the
Notes on Daniel 4:4.
"Belteshazzar."See the Notes on Daniel
1:7.
"The spirit of the holy gods." See the Notes
158
on Daniel 4:8.

Exposition <4:4-18)
4:4, 5 The use of direct speech in the
first-person singular betrays the king's
self-centeredness but also lends credibil-
NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S SECOND DREAM (4:1-37)
THE DREAM (4:4-18)

directed at the wise men at the begin- rmg name, Belteshazzar. Indeed, in the be-
of chapter 2. Yet this time the king r-enly ginning of this story, "Nebuchadnezzar
admits that the dream has made -_m afraid. appears to lack understanding about where
Chapter 2 implies that his creat fear caused the source of Daniel's great wis- dom is to be
his irrational behavior. found."24
4:6-9 For the second time in the book, me 4:10-12 Just as in his first dream, the king
wise men are summoned to help the saw a big object, but this time it was a tall tree
emperor. "Probably the wise men of Baby- :n that attracted his attention and admiration.
were an important institution that :ould not The tree was located at the center of the earth
be bypassed without insult."23 r ut once more, and was visible to all. Hence, some have called
Nebuchadnezzar person- s-witnesses the it "a world tree" that linked heaven and earth.
inability of his wise men :: interpret his Others have compared this tree to the tree of
dream. This time, how- ever, the king, life lo- cated in the middle of the Garden of
although frightened by the iream, is calm, Eden (Gen. 2:9). The fact that the tree's top
because he knows that I iniel is around—a touched the sky brings to mind the story of the
wise man in whom the spirit of the holy gods. This building of the city and the Tower of Babel,
was the way in which a non-Hebrew where the builders planned to construct an
monarch re- "rrred to someone who was in object "that reaches to the heavens" (Gen.
touch with God. The suspense of the story is 11:4). Moreover, the tree provided shelter and
built on me fact that the Hebrew wise man food for all the liv- ing creatures. This implies
ap- rears at the end of the king's query. Did that in one sense the tree was God's
me emperor intentionally try to bypass representative on earth. Psalm 145:15, 16
Daniel just as King Ahab ignored the rrophet speaks of God's care for all his creatures:
Micaiah "because he never rrophesies
anything good about me, but uways bad" (1 The eyes of all look to you,
Kings 22:8)? and you give them their food at the
The role of Daniel, known as Belte- proper time.
.azzar, chief of the magícians in Baby- _on, is now You open your hand
well established, and the <ting is confident and satisfy the desires of every living
that Daniel can resolve me mystery. thing.
Nebuchadnezzar recognizes that Daniel's
insight is the result of his z.ose relationship 4:13-16 The positive scenario changes to
with his God. Yet, at me same time, he is negative in the second half of this dream just
doing his best not :o offend his own god as had happened in the king's first dream; an
Marduk (Bel), whom he relates to Daniel's unexpected force comes
Babylonian

159
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

from outside of the earth and strikes the base and its new shoots will not fail. Its
of the imposing object. The verdict that roots may grow old in the ground and its
decrees destruction is announced by a person stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of
who is called a holy messen- ger or "a holy water it will bud and put forth shoots like
watcher." In the context of the Bible, this a plant" (Job 14:7-9).
term may refer either to a member of a special
class of guard- ian angels or to God himself, In verse 15, the narrator passes "al- most
"who watches over Israel" and "will neither imperceptibly from a symbolic vi- sion of the
slumber nor sleep" (Ps. 121:4). In Job 7:20, fate of the tree (representing the king) to a
Job called God "watcher of men." more realistic description of the fate of
The text specifies that this being came Nebuchadnezzar himself. In Aramaic, the
down from heaven. In the Bible, these words noun translated 'tree' is masculine, so the
constitute a technical expression for God's transition from 'it' and 'its' to 'him' and 'his' is
descent to earth to execute his judg- ment: not evi- dent."25 The transition is found in the
"Then the Tord said, 'The outcry against description of the bands of iron and bronze that
Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their were used for binding ani- mals and war
sin so grievous that I will go down and see if captives. Psalm 149:8, 9 says that the holy
what they have done is as bad as the outcry warriors will
that has reached me. If not, I will know'"
(Gen. 18:20, 21). Moreover, verse 24 in bind their [Gentile] kings with fetters,
Daniel 4 confirms that God himself their nobles with shackles of iron, to
originated the verdict pronounced by the holy carry out the sentence written against
messenger. them.
The tree is to be cut down and stripped of
The tree/person with the mind of an
its branches, leaves, and fruit. Determinism is
animal would live among the flora and fauna
a characteristic of bibli- cal apocalyptic
of the wild field for seven times or
prophecies. A major dif- ference, however, is
seasons—probably seven years.
that in this dream, the destruction is not total,
4:17, 18 The purpose of this dream,
because the tree's roots are spared—a detail
stated in no fewer than three places in the
that sends a signal of hope for a future resto-
chapter, was to show that God is sovereign over
ration. Said Job:
the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he
"At least there is hope for a tree: wishes (4:17, 25, 32). These words constitute
If it is cut down, it will sprout again, what has been called "one of the immor-

160
NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S SECOND DREAM (4:1-37)
THE INTERPRETA TION (4:19-27)

ui sentences of the Hebrew Scrip- -rues."26 The Interpretation (4:19-27)


They remind the reader of the ords that Daniel repeats the king's dream in a
Daniel spoke to the king ear- er: " 'The God of summary fashion and then proceeds to tell its
heaven has given ou kingdom and power and míght -nd meaning, concluding it with a strong warning.
glory' " (2:37). It has been aptly :ild that the
19
theme of God's absolute : vereignty is "a Then Daniel (also called Belteshazzar) was

scarlet thread which -_ms through all the perplexed for a while, and his thoughts alarmed him.
stories of Daniel 1 -6 and ties them with the So the king said, "Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or
same theme •••hich is put forward in the its meaning alarm you." Belteshazzar answered, "My
strongest rossible form in the apocalyptic lord, may the dream apply to your enemies and its
20
narra: ves of Daniel 7-12."27 A similar state- meaning to your adversarles! The tree you saw,
ment could be made about the presence :: the which grew large and strong, with its top touching the
21
theme of divine judgment, which rermeates sky, visible to the whole earth, with beautiful leaves
the whole book. and abundant fruit, provid- ing food for all, giving

God's choices often surprise humans. In shelter to the beasts of the field, and having nesting
22
Mary's words, he "has brought down -Aiers places in its branches for the birds of the sky— you, 0
from their thrones but has lifted _p the king, are that tree! You have become great and strong;

humble" (Luke 1:52). Her words ere based on your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky, and
the statement from Psalm 113:7, 8: your domin- ion extends to the ends of the earth.
""You, 0 king, saw a holy messenger coming down
He raises the poor from the dust from heaven and saying, 'Cut down the tree and
and lifts the needy from the ash destroy it, but leave the stump, bound with iron and

heap; bronze, in the grass of the field, while its roots remain

he seats them with princes, in the ground. Let him be drenched with the dew of

with the princes of their people. heaven; let him live like the wild animals until seven
times pass by for him.'
King Nebuchadnezzar has already ren the 24
7his is the meaning, 0 king, and this is the
fulfillment of these words in Daniel's life and decree the Most High has issued against my lord the
his prosperous career in ribylon. That is why king: "You will be driven away from people and will live
in the beginning md at the end of his speech with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle
in this chap- :tr he says with confidence that and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times
Daniel .5 rilled with the divine spirit and will pass by for you until you recognize that the Most
there- mre is capable of explaining his dream. High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives
them to anyone he wishes.26The command to leave the
stump of

z-D.W. T. T. W. 161
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will text of this verse, it is implied. The
be restored to you when you recognize that Heaven prophet Eze- kiel, who was Daniel's
rules.27Therefore; 0 king, be pleased to accept my contemporary, compared both the
advice: Break away from your sins by doing what is nation of Israel (Ezek. 17:22-24) and the
right, and from your wickedness by being merciful to Egyptian ruler (Ezek. 31:1 -18) to a tree.
the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will "Great and strong." See the Notes on
continue." Daniel 4:3. The root rab, "great," is used
in this verse no less than three
Notes
times—twice as a verb and once as a
4:19 "Belteshazzar." See the Notes on
noun.
Daniel 1:7.
4:23 "A holy messenger." See the Notes on
"Perplexed." The word 'estdmam, "dis-
Daniel 4:13.
mayed," is also used, in its Hebrew form,
"Bound with iron and bronze."See the Notes
to describe Daniel's feelings at the end
on Daniel 4:15.
of his vision in 8:27. There it is rendered
"Seven times."See the Notes on Daniel
"appalled."
4:16.
"For a while." It is impossible to
4:24 "The decree the Most High has
determine the length of this pause in a
issued." According to Daniel's
precise way because the original word,
interpretation, the decree proclaimed by
sa'a, may mean a moment of time or an
the holy messengers (vv. 13,17) derives
hour. The former meaning is supported
ultimately from God.
by verse 33 of this chapter, where the
"My lord the king." Daniel has already re-
word is translated as "immediately."
ferred to the king with the word man,
"Enemies... adversaries." The two words
"my lord." In Daniel 2:47,
come in two lines with a strong parallel
Nebuchadnezzar called God "the Lord of
relation- ship. These words resemble
kings." In spite of the severe words of
those used by Assyr- ian and Babylonian
judgment that the divine decree spelled
dream interpreters when they
out against the king, Daniel's attitude
performed their sacred rituals to dispel
toward Nebu- chadnezzar is very
the evil effects of dreams. The context
positive.
here, how- ever, portrays Daniel more
4:25 "Eat grass like cattle." The scene of
like a biblical prophet who proposes
grazing animals is sometimes used in
ethical means—such as moral
the Bible to portray a peaceful pastoral
conversion—of averting divine
setting. Here, though, it portrays the
judgments. "In this regard Daniel
king's degradation. The delusion that
functions more like a Hebrew prophet
one is an ox is called boanthropy, and that
than like a Babylonian exorcist."28
of being a wolf is lycanthropy. History
4:20 Tree." See the Notes on Daniel
furnishes many illustrations that show
4:10. 162that "the king or commoner who thinks
"Large and strong." See the Notes on
to become super- man becomes instead
Daniel 4:3 and 4:11.
a beast."29
4:22 "You, 0 king, are that tree!" Although
"You recognize.'The original verb fda', "to
the word '//an, "tree," is not found in
know," that is used here is very
the Aramaic
important in the context of the Bible
because it is one of the key terms that
regulate the covenant relationship
NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S SECOND DREAM (4:1-37)
THE INTERPRETA TION (4:19-27)

:e?.veen God and his people. It is used, practicing righteousness is explained as


for ex- ;-ple, in the Exodus narrative to show- ing mercy and kindness to the
show that God's ultimate purpose was poor and the oppressed.
not to punish the rc .ptians nor to "Right." The original word is sidqa,
destroy their land but to lead --em to "righ- teousness, justice." Proverbs
the knowledge of him who is the only 16:12 says that "a throne is established
-~je God who rules the world (Exod. through righteousness." In postbiblical
7:5,17; 8:10; : 19; etc.). times, this word was tied to the idea of
4:26 "Heaven.'This word is probably an almsgiving, charity. Biblical prophets
ab- : reviation of the longer title ’elah urged the people to reject evil ways and
semayya', "the 2od of heaven" or "God in do what is right.
heaven," used in Dan- a and other "Oppressed." The Hebrew equivalent
biblical exilic and post-exilic texts. 'ani, "poor, needy," is frequently found
- ile this word has the physical in the Bible— especially in the books of
meaning of "the :«;..' it "occurs as a Psalms and the proph- ets. It describes
catch-word in this chapter erses someone who is oppressed ei- ther
13,20,26,34,37)."30 Commentators con: socially or physically (cf. Isa. 29:19; 32:7;
ser it to be a periphrastic reference to Amos 2:7; 8:4).
God—a .iage that is found only in this "It may be. "This expression, hen,
text in the Old "estament (cf. v. 34, "perhaps," makes Daniel's statement
where the king raised his e.es "toward conditional—an ele- ment that is also
heaven"). The expression is com- found in the messages of the biblical
— only used in this sense in the New prophets (Joel 2:14; Amos 5:15; Zeph.
Testa- ment—for example in Luke 2:3). The text does not indicate how the
15:18,21, where the lost son confesses king re- acted to Daniel's interpretation
to the father that he has of his dream and his call to repentance.
: "ned against heaven and against you." "Prosperity."lhe word s°lewa,
4:27 "Therefore."Jh\s word marks the "tranquility," is similar to the word s°leh,
conclu- 5 an of Daniel's speech before "contented," in verse 4.
Nebuchadnezzar.
"Be pleased."The verb separ, "to be Exposition <4:19-27)
good, 4:19 In this chapter more frequently than
: easing," is also used in verse 2, where in any other in the book, Daniel is referred to
the king says "it is my pleasure to tell by his Babylonian name, Belteshazzar. Perhaps
you ..." this is so because the story was intended to
"Breakaway from your sins." in Biblical He- be proclaimed throughout the Babylonian
crew, the equivalent verb paraq conveys Empire and the use of Daniel's international
the cea of "breaking off" an object like name gives the story more authenticity.
a yoke (Gen. 27:40) or of "putting a163There may also be some irony present in this
definite stop" to an action.31 story. While the wise men who served
- Exodus 32:2, for example, Aaron
tells the peo: e. "Take off the gold
earrings that your wives, . cur sons and
your daughters are wearing, and or ng
them to me.'" The most frequently
attested -eaning of this word in Aramaic
is "to cut off."32 "he whole verse is built
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

the god Marduk (Bel) were unable to help the and whose leaf does not wither.
king who worshiped that god, Daniel, who in Whatever he does prospers (Ps. 1:3; cf.
Babylon was named af- ter that god, was able Ps. 92:12-15).
to help the king— all the while giving credit to
his God in heaven and not to any other god However, elsewhere, especially in the
such as Marduk (Bel). prophets, a tall tree stands for pride:
The content of the dream makes Daniel
perplexed and even afraid. In the ancient world, The Lord Almighty has a day in store for
the role of being the bearer of bad news was a all the proud and lofty, for all that is
dangerous one. "Messengers who bring bad exalted (and they will be humbled),
news some- times pay for it as if they were for all the cedars of Lebanon, tall and
responsi- ble for it, and the king reassures lofty,
Daniel that he is not to fear for his own fate. and all the oaks of Bashan
Daniel's fear, however, is for Nebuchad- (Isa. 2:12, 13).
nezzar."33 The king addresses Daniel in the
The prophet Ezekiel compared another
friendliest manner and assures him that he is
proud Mesopotamian empire to a tall tree:
safe in the palace. All this dem- onstrates that
a rather warm relationship existed between " 'Consider Assyria, once a cedar in
the two men. Daniel re- sponds to the king by Lebanon . . .
saying that he wishes the dream applied to the So it towered higher
king's enemies. Rather than considering than all the trees of the field' "
Daniel's words as part of the established (Ezek. 31:3, 5).
Babylonian ritual to dispel the evil ef- fects of
unpleasant dreams, we should view them as 4:22-25 In direct speech unusual for a
part of typical oriental courtesy. Daniel was royal palace, Daniel declares, You, O king, are
saying something like "May what this dream that tree! There is a strong parallel in this verse
portends never happen to you." with Daniel's words to the same king in 2:37.
4:20, 21 In the Bible, trees are often used " 'You, O king, are the king of kings,' " and in
as symbols of a righteous person: 2:38, " 'You are the head of gold.' " A similar
expression of prophetic confrontation is
He is like a tree planted by streams of found in the words of the prophet Na- than
water, to King David: " 'You are the man!' " (2 Sam.
which yields its fruit in season 12:7). As the story sug-

164
NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S SECOND DREAM (4:1-37)
THE INTERPRETATION (4:19-27)

rested all along, "the tree-man is Nebu- he does that, he will be restored to his normal
chadnezzar himself."34 position. During the annual Akitu festival in
The interpretation that follows is simi- the temple of Esagila, a Babylonian priest
-irlv direct, pointing to the decree the Most High would slap the em- peror in the face to remind
has issued agaínst my lord dye king. So, Daniel says him that he was only the representative of the
the decree origi- "ited with God himself (cf. ruling god Marduk (Bel). However, in Daniel's
v. 13, where i holy messenger proclaims the interpretation of the dream, he points to the
decree). The fortunes of the king, who had true God who is the sole Sovereign on earth.
God- c.-"en dominion over the animals of Centuries later, Jesus told the Roman
the earth (Jer. 27:5, 6; Dan. 2:37, 38), will oe governor Pilate, " 'You would have no power
reversed—God will humble him and sh e over me if it were not given to you from
him the mind of an animal, and in nis above' " (John 19:11). "It is significant that the
delusion, he will eat plants like they co. This kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar will be returned
state will last for seven periods, the length of only when he realizes that he does not really
which the original Aramaic cext does not have a kingdom; his reign is only by per- mit
specify. Based on the con- text found in the from the One who truly reigns over all living
rest of the book, the length of the king's beings on the earth."35
illness is understood co be seven years. 4:27 Daniel closes his speech with advice
One can find other examples in the Bible that the king should break away from his proud
where the numbers seven and sev- enty are habits of oppression and exploitation and
used in the context of judg- ment. In Daniel replace them with kindness to those who are
oppressed. Nebuchadnezzar should become a
3:19, the king com- mands that the furnace
just and compassionate king in deeds, not
be "heated seven times hotter than usual,"
merely in words. Daniel's exhortation here is
and in 9:2, Daniel studies Jeremiah's
similar to many of those given by the biblical
prophecy ibout the seventy years of exile.
prophets (Amos 5:15). A good example of
The same numbers can be found in the Bible
this type of call to re- pentance is found in
in the context of a flood (Gen. 7:2, 4, etc.), a
Isaiah 1:16-18:
famine (Gen. 41:2-7), covenantal curses (Lev.
26), a destruction by war Tosh. 6; Isa. 23:15), Take your evil deeds
and exile (Jer. 25:11). out of my sight!
4:26 This humbling experience is not Stop doing wrong,
meant to destroy the king but to help him learn to do right!
recognize God's sovereignty. Once Seek justice,

165
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

encourage the oppressed. God. The reader of the Bible may compare
Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead these words to those of Amos 5:15- which
the case of the widow. says,

The chapter clearly teaches that "God is a Hate evil, love good;
God of mercy, even to the merci- less,"36 to maintain justice in the courts.
whom he offers an opportu- nity to repent Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will
rather than die. The proc- lamations of both have mercy
John the Baptist and Jesus began with the on the remnant ofJoseph.
word "Repent!" (Matt. 3:2; 4:17).
In the construction of the city of In a similar way, Zephaniah 2:3 says,
Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar used thou- sands
of "slave laborers captured in vari- ous military Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land,
campaigns. The extension of you who do what he commands.
Nebuchadnezzar's empire exacted a high cost Seek righteousness, seek humility;
in human lives—both of the defeated and of perhaps you will be sheltered on
his own soldiers who died in battle."37 The the day of the Lord's anger.
impressiveness of the king's achievements
cannot be ques- tioned, but they came with a The Fulfillment of the Dream (4:28-33)
price tag that was too high. The fulfillment of the dream is char-
Daniel did not tell the king that his good acterized by a reversal of the king's fortunes.
deeds would automatically earn him favor It is presented by a narrator in the third
person, and its description extends down to
with God and avert the com- ing judgment.
Although the ultimate purpose of biblical verse 36.
prophecy is the sal- vation of human beings, 2S
All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar.
God's grace and mercy are rooted in his 29
Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the
absolute sovereignty, and they are never to be BO
roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, "Is not
taken for granted. Hence, Daniel con- cludes,
this the great Babylon I have built as the royal
it may be that then yourpros- perity will continué.
residence by my mighty power and for the glory of my
These words re- mind us of the other biblical
majesty?"
prophets, who, while calling people to 31
While the words were still on the king's lips, a
repentance, said that forgiveness is not
voice came from heaven, saying, 'Ihis is what is
something they can earn; rather, it is a gift
decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal
from
authority has been removed from you. "You will be
driven away from people and will live with the

166
NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S SECOND DREAM (4:1-37)
THE FULFILLMENT OF THE DREAM (4:28-33)

frequently used in the book of


• Id animals; you will eat grass like cattle. Seven : ies
will pass by for you until you recognize that re Most Revelation (14:8; 16:19; 18:2).
High is sovereign over the kingdoms of -|en and gives "Ihave buiit."Commentators and
them to anyone he wishes." historians agree that King
33
Immediately these words about Nebuchad- Nebuchadnezzar was the builder of the
-ezzar were fulfilled. He was driven away from reople capital city of Neo-Babylon. The
and ate grass like cattle. His body was : -inched with imprints of his name on thousands of
the dew of heaven until his hair yew like the feathers bricks in the city wall illustrate well this
of an eagle and his nails <e the claws of a bird. historical fact.
"I... my... my." In the book of Daniel,
Notes Nebuchadnezzar's speeches are
4:29 "Twelve months later." Literally, the presented as self-centered. They may be
:ext says liqsat yarhin tere-"'sar, "at the end compared with the boasting of the
of r.-.elve months." Pharaoh in Exodus 15:9, 10 as well as
"Walking on the roof of the royal palace." with the boastful words of the king of
original only says 'al-hekal, "on the Babylon in Isaiah 14:13,14.
palace," ••.Tthout using the word for "My mightypower."See the Notes on Daniel
roof. Since most -ouse-type structures in 4:3, where the king praises God's power
the lands of the Bible n,e flat roofs, the and might.
translators insert the word •oof to 4:31 "While the words were still on the king's
clarify that this was normal behavior lips.'These words express the immediacy
*3ther than to give the impression that of divine judgment. If Nebuchadnezzar's
the king - as already lost his mind. King punish- ment and banishment are
David also sinned "lie he was walking on comparable to Adam and Eve's from the
the roof of his palace 2 Sam. 11:2-5). Garden of Eden, then these words match
4:30 "Is not this... ?"This is the beginning the statement" 'on the day you eat of it
a rhetorical question asked by the you will surely die.'"38
king. "A voice came from heaven."In Hebrew
"The great Babylon." In other Semitic lan- tradi- tion, the voice from heaven is
guages, the equivalents of this known as bat-qol— literally, "daughter of
expression, :ibel rabbeta\ "the great a voice." It reveals God's will.
Babylon," sometimes :escribe the capital "King Nebuchadnezzar." The king is ad-
city of a country. For ex- r ~ Die, Ammon dressed here by name. The use of the
Rabba designated the capital of title melek, "king," contrasts with the way
land of the ancient Ammonites in which the three Hebrews addressed
(today's -rman, the capital of the the proud monarch on the plain of Dura
kingdom of Jordan), n other words, (3:16).
Nebuchadnezzar was referring :c his city "Has been removed." The use of the verbal
as "Babylon, the capital [of the empire/ 167forms in the perfect tense is typical of
••.orld]." The expression "Babylon the prophetic announcements in the Bible.
Great" is This phenomenon is known as the
"prophetic perfect"—a future event is
spoken of as an accomplished action in
order to emphasize its certainty.
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

4:32 This verse repeats the Bathsheba taking a bath and desired her (2
information al- ready given in verse 25. Sam. 11:2-5). Nebuchadnezzar's sin,
"Seven times." See the Notes on however, was one of pride.
Daniel 4:16. The city of Babylon tripled in size during
4:33 "Immediately." Literally, the text this king's reign, and his build- ing projects
says bah-sa'ata', "at that very moment." included the famed "hang- ing gardens" that
See the Notes on Daniel 4:19. The same reminded his wife Amytis of the countryside
expression is used in Daniel 3:6, where of her native Media. Nebuchadnezzar's
the administrators were fore- warned palaces were built mostly of the famous cedar
that whoever does not obey the order " trees from Tyre combined with layers of
'will immediately be thrown into a brick. The news of the death of the proud
blazing fur- nace.'" king of Babylon is announced in Isaiah's book
"Like cattle." The comparative particle by the singing of a choir composed of the
t, "like," is important here just as it is in pine trees and cedars of Lebanon: " 'Now that
the vision in chapter 7. The king's you have been laid low, / no woodsman
appearance did not change as much as comes to cut us down' " (Isa. 14:8).
his behavior did. The text here is not condemnatory of
"Hair... nails." These two details are Nebuchadnezzar's admiration of the city.
new elements in the story. The Rather, it is his pride that is con- demned.
comparisons that are used here focus on Psalm 48:12, 13 exhorts the temple
the length of the hair and nails. The hair worshipers to
on the king's head and body was
unkempt and became "matted and walk about Zion, go around her, count
coarse."39 As such, his hair looked like her towers,
the feathers of an eagle, and since the consider well her ramparts, view her
nails were not cut, they looked like a citadels.
bird's claws.
In a similar way, Solomon boasted about
Exposition (4:28-33) God's temple, saying, " 'I have in- deed built a
4:28-30 The fulfillment of the dream is magnificent temple for you, a place for you to
told in the third person because ani- mals dwell forever'" (1 Kings 8:13).
cannot speak the language of the humans. A In the king's short speech, first-person
year after he had the dream, the king boasted pronouns and boastful adjectives abound.
of the greatness of the imperial capital city This type of proud speech reminds the
and claimed its ab- solute ownership. In the
experience re- lated in the previous chapter,
he had learned that the world is in God's
hands, but he thought he could claim at least
the capital city as his own. The king sinned168
while walking on the roofofhis palace, much as
David had when he saw
NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S SECOND DREAM (4:1-37)
THE FULFILLMENT OF THE DREAM (4:28-33)

reader of the Song at the Sea, in which me nosis of King Nebuchadnezzar's mental
proud Pharaoh threatened to de- stroy the illness is known as lycanthropy (the
Israelites (Exod. 15:9, 10), md also of the wolf-man syndrome). This type of mental
Morning Star (Hebrew •elál ben-sahar) whose disorder takes place when a person delusively
ambitions are ^escribed in the following way thinks of himself and behaves like one of the
in Isaiah 14:13, 14: wild animals. Kings "of recent centuries who
have suffered from this are George III of
You said in your heart, Great Britain and Otto of Bavaria."42
"I will ascend to heaven; There are a few pieces of historical
I will raise my throne background that shed light on King Nebu-
above the stars of God; chadnezzar's experience as told in this chapter.
I will sit enthroned on the mount of One comes from a very frag- mentary
assembly, cuneiform text published by A. K. Grayson in
on the utmost heights of the sacred 1975.43 This fragment recorded strange
mountain. behavior by King Nebuchadnezzar. The text
I will ascend above the tops of the says that the king's life appeared of no value to
clouds; him, that he showed neither love toward his
I will make myself like the Most children nor care for the temples. Even though
High." this text is fragmentary, it may be related to
what Daniel 4 tells about the king's mental
Human greatness very often threat- ens disorder. Another ex- trabiblical story found in
"to rival the greatness of God him- self."40 Eusebius describes Nebuchadnezzar at the end
According to Daniel 7:8, the lit- tle horn has a of his reign "in a fit of madness" warning his
mouth that speaks great or boastful words. subjects from the roof of his palace that a
Pride leads people to forget their dependence Persian mule will take over Baby- lon with a "son of
on the Creator Goá. Humility, on the other haná, the Medes" being re- sponsible for it. The king
leaás Zo happiness and fulfillment. tries to dispel the omen by wishing that person
4:31-33 The response to the king's r ride would join the wild beasts and leave Babylon
came from heaven, and it was swift md alone. Lastly, a document found at Qumran
decisive. "The king suffers the fate "hich Cave IV, titled "The Prayer of Nabonidus,"
humans fear the most, exclusion rrom the says that King Nabonidus was smitten by
human family, abandonment, menation, and mental disorder and be- haved like an animal.
becomes a veritable - -ere-wo If, This story has
long-haired, and with talons, rut
herbivorous like an ox."41 The diag

169
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

some similarities as well as some differ- ences 34


At the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnez- zar,
with the story from Daniel 4. raised my eyes toward heaven, and my san- ity was
It is possible to trace the successive stages restored. Then I blessed the Most High; I praised and
of Nebuchadnezzar's illness: (1) The king honored him who lives forever.
simply lives with the animals (4:15); (2) he His dominion is an eternal dominion;
goes through a psycho- logical change, having his kingdom lasts from one generation to
now the mind of an animal (4:16); (3) his another.
physical change can be seen in his hair and 35
All the peoples of the earth are regarded as
fingernails and toenails (4:33). The king's nothing.
fingernails and hair grow very long, and the He does as he pleases
details of what he looked like and how he felt with the powers of heaven and the peoples
about himself are blended together in the of the earth.
text's description of his appear- ance. No one can hold back his hand
In this story, the king lost his mind orsay to him, "Whathaveyoudone?"
because of his pride and the wrong atti- tude
36
he held toward his wealth. "Para- doxically, in At the same time that my sanity was re- stored,

seeking to surpass other humans, he has fallen my honor and splendor were returned to me for the

below humanity."44 Instead of partaking in a glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought
higher, super- human nature, the king is me out, and I was restored to my throne and became
37
brought down to the level of a lower nature. even greater than before. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar,
The beast imagery of the human powers praise and exalt and honor the King of heaven,
becomes an important motif in Daniel's because everything he does is right and all his ways
visions, especially in chapter 7. In a parable are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to
Jesus told, a rich fool was warned that he humble.
could lose more than his mind—his very life
depended on his readiness to repent (Luke Notes
4:34 "Thatperiod."The period in view
12:15-21).
here is that of the "seven times"
The King's Praise (4:34-37) mentioned in verses 16 and 23. The
Due to its chiastic structure, the chapter original text says ydmayya, "the days," but
ends the way it started, with a hymn of praise in the Bible, the word yom, "a day," is not
to God. The presence of the two hymns specific as to its length unless there are
forms an inclusio in the chapter. other indicators that qualify it more
precisely. It has been pointed out that
between 582 B.C. and 575 B.C., a period
totaling seven years, Nebuchadnezzar's
army undertook no major military
operation.
"I, Nebuchadnezzar." See the Notes on
170
NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S SECOND DREAM (4:1-37)
THE KING'S PRAISE (4:34-37)

Daniel 4:4; 4:30. The story now returns "An eternal dominion." See the Notes on
to the --st-person account. Daniel 4:3. The words dominion and
"Raised my eyes."The expression is kingdom are also found in verse 3; they
figura" .e, here meaning that the king form an inclusio in the chapter.
sought God's -elp (cf. Pss. 25:15; 121:1, 4:35 "Regarded as nothing." Isaiah 40:17
2; 123:1, 2; 141:8) and nat he also says,
recognized God's sovereignty (Isa.
4026). Before him all the nations are as
"Heaven."See the Notes on Daniel 4:26. nothing; they are regarded by
It is , ery likely that "the God of heaven" him as worthless and less than
is meant in •-is context. The king's nothing.
behavior shows a definite :nange in
"The powers of heaven." More than any
attitude.
other prophetic book, the book of Isaiah
"My sanity." The Aramaic word marida1,
teaches that God has complete control
•cnowledge," is usually rendered as
over the "starry host" (isa. 24:21; 34:4).
"understand- ig'' or "knowledge." It
Isaiah 40:26 talks of God as the One
speaks here of the king's •eturn to
sanity. Return to reason is based on a
who brings out the starry host one
rrevious act of faith. "Sanity begins with
by one, and calls them each by
a realis- : c self-appraisal."45
name.
"Restored." Along with its Hebrew
Because of his great power and
equiva- <ent sub, the verb tub, "to
mighty strength,
return," is used in the Bible for the act
not one of them is missing.
of repentance as well as for res-
toration. Thus, to repent in the Bible "Heaven ...the earth."These two words are
primarily means to turn away from often used in the Bible in opposition to
one's way of life and :oward God and each other. Two opposite concepts used
his teaching. together in order to express totality
"Blessed." The original uses here the
constitute the literary figure known as
verb root brk, "to bless," just as in 3:28, merism{us).
where the king praised the God of "Hand."See the Notes on Daniel 1:2.
Daniel's three friends. "Whathaveyou done?"The words found at
"The Most High." See the Notes on Daniel
the close of the king's hymn are
4:17. considered by some to be "the punch
"Who lives forever." A similar statement
line of the story."46 For a similar
about God is found in Daniel 12:7. description of God's absolute power on
Moreover, King Darius declared that earth, see Job 9:12; Ecclesiastes 8:4; and
Daniel's God "is the liv- ing God" (Dan. Isaiah 14:26,27; 45:9.
6:26). In the story of Abraham, the Lord171 4:36 "At the same time." The word fman,
is called 'el ’dlam, "the Eternal God" (Gen. "time," usually indicates a precise point
21:33). and is therefore rendered as "an
"His dominion.. ."This word and those
appointed time."
that follow are poetic; they begin
another hymn of praise that echoes
Daniel's praise in chapter 2.
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
| COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

The words here ruler is finally to be an agent of divine


"My sanity was restored."
are identical with those in verse 34 will. A ve- hicle through which the
above. greatness and sover- eignty of God are
"My advisers and nobles." The words that universally made known."
47

are used here refer to two important


ranks in the royal court. The first term is Exposition (4:34-37)

also used in Daniel 3:24. 4:34, 35 The narrative now resumes as a


"Soughtme out."The verb be'a, "to seek," first-person report. At the end of the period
is commonly used in chapter 2. In this given in the dream, the king turns his eyes
verse, the meaning of this verb is similar toward God in heaven. Said the psalmist,
to its meaning in 2:16, which pictures
Daniel going to the royal pal- ace to ask But my eyes are fixed on you,
for an appointment for an audience O Sovereign Tord;
with the king. A parallel to this text is in you I take refuge—do not give
the end of the story of Job, which says
me over to death (Ps. 141:8).
that Job's relatives and friends "came
This act of faith resulted in the resto-
and ate with him in his house" (Job
ration of Nebuchadnezzar's mental health,
42:11).
which, in turn, resulted in a hymn of praise to
"Even greater than before." The previous
God from the king's mouth. The king's hymn
sto- ries ended with the Hebrew exiles
claims that God's sovereignty is eternal (v.
being rewarded and promoted. The end
34b), universal (v. 35a), and unquestionable
of this story features Nebuchadnezzar's
(v. 35b), and he contrasts it with human
restoration and exaltation.
beings, who are regarded as nothíng (cf.Pss.
4:37 "Now, /."The first-person
115:3; 135:6; Isa. 40:17). God's
singular pro- noun that is used here
unquestionable supremacy in the world is
forms an inclusio with verse 4, where
also described in Isaiah 14:26, 27:
the king begins telling his story.
"Praise and exalt and honor." The three
This is the plan determined for the whole
words that are used here are world;
synonymous. They are used together this is the hand stretched out over
here to produce a cumulative effect on all nations.
the reader. For the Lord Almighty has purposed, and
"The King ofheaven."This divine title, who can thwart him?
melek semayya', is not attested elsewhere in His hand is stretched out, and who
the Bible. It may be compared to "the can turn it back?
God of heaven" (Dan. 2:18), "God in
heaven" (Dan. 2:28), and "Lord of
heaven" (Dan. 5:23).
"Walkin pride." Walking is a common172
meta- phor in the Bible for living or
acting; it has to do with a person's
behavior.
"He is able to humble. "Jhese are
Nebuchadnezzar's last words in the
book. The subject of this sentence is
God. The king summarizes his own
experience in this single line. 'The
NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S SECOND DREAM (4:1-37)
SUMMARY OF THE TEACHING

"As he emerges from insanity, Nebu- The question is sometimes asked why no
chadnezzar sees nothing but God. He is one took the throne from Nebuchad- nezzar
suddenly aware that he owes Him every- during the period of his mental illness. In the
thing. Without God he is nothing."48 The ancient world, there was a widespread belief
oft-repeated slogan from biblical visdom that if a person was possessed by an evil spirit,
books is that "the fear of the Lord is the that spirit could possess anyone who would
beginning of knowledge" Prov. 1:7 Job 28:28; will- fully try to harm the afflicted person. It is
Ps. 111:10). That is why the kingdom of God also useful to remember that Daniel's position
belongs to "the poor in spirit" (Matt. 5:3). in Neo-Babylon placed him close to the
4:36,37 Moreover, the king's throne is emperor himself; thus he could have
restored to him. His officers went to search performed all the royal du- ties during the
for him at the end of the said period, and when king's absence from the palace. Jewish
they found him, thev placed him back on his tradition, on the other hand, claims that
throne. He became even greater than he had been Nebuchadnezzar's son Amel-Marduk, the
before. "Since the king has ac- cepted that God crown prince, was the acting king during that
rules over him, it is cow possible for God to period.
rule through him, and so he is restored to his
king- dom and greatness."49 The words Summary of the Teaching
Sebuchadnezzar, with which the 1. God and Nebuchadnezzar. The stories
•zing began his speech are also found nere at from the book of Daniel show that the God
its end, forming an inclusio in the story. The of Israel is the supreme Ruler of the whole
king concludes that God is able to humble world. He controls the fate of kingdoms, but
those who walk :n pide; these words contain the he also cares about individual kings.
moral of the whole story. They are round Moreover, he had a plan for King
elsewhere in biblical wisdom books (Prov. Nebuchadnezzar. The fact that the Hebrew
11:2; 29:23) and in the crophets (Isa. 2:11, 17; Bible "never reproaches Nebuchadnezzar for
13:11; Ezek. 16:49, 56). While Proverbs the de- struction of the temple is remarkable,
16:18 especially, since Belshazzar is con- demned in
says, "Pride goes before destruction, / c chap. 5 for desecrating the temple vessels."50
haughty spirit before a fall," Proverbs 15:33 At the end of chapter 3, the king was only
says, "The fear of the Lord reaches a man "half converted." At the beginning of chapter
wisdom, / and humility comes before 4, he failed to remember the Lord God who
honor." gave him "ability to produce wealth" (Deut.
8:18). Yet at the

173
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

end of the story from that same chapter, a dream and disciplines him in order to save
Nebuchadnezzar is a changed person. "This him:
time he had not only witnessed the power of
God, he had felt it in his own person."51 The "For God does speak—now one way,
king "no longer relies on the power of now another—
physical force, but on the power of personal though man may not perceive it. In
testimony."52 The story from this chapter, in a dream, in a vision of the night, when
fact, "ends with the repentance and virtual deep sleep falls on men as they slumber
conversion" of Nebuchadnezzar.53 The king in their beds, he may speak in their ears
died in the year 562 B.C. at a ripe old age. 54 and terrify them with warnings, to
The king's capitulation to the God of his turn man from wrongdoing and keep him
captives and his subsequent conversion did from pride, to preserve his soul from the
not happen all at once but in steps, climaxing pit, his life from perishing by the sword. .
in a personal experience with God, whose ..
objective was not to de- stroy the king but
rather to lead him to know God himself. The "Yet if there is an angel on his side as a
king's dream served the purpose ofwarning mediator, one out of a thousand,
him against pride while simultaneously to tell a man what is right for him, to
offering the possibility of repentance and be gracious to him and say,
hope. "Nebu- chadnezzar is promised that he 'Spare him from going down to the
can be king from the point he acknowledges pit;
that actually he is not, because God is."55 Was I have found a ransom for him'—
this God's ultimate plan for all the earthly then his flesh is renewed like a child's; it is
monarchs throughout history? According to restored as in the days of his youth.
the Bible, some kings chose to ignore this He prays to God and finds favor with
plan to their own peril (Exod. 14:5-9; Isa. him,
10:12-19; 14:12-20; Ezek. 28:1-10; Dan. he sees God's face and shouts for
5:22-28). joy;
The longest biblical passage that paral- he is restored by God to his
lels the story of King Nebuchadnezzar's righteous state.
conversion thematically is found in Job Then he comes to men and says,
33:14-30. In the speech ofJob's friend Elihu, 'I sinned, and perverted what was
he explains the way in which God reveals right,
himself to a human being through

174
NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S SECOND DREAM (4:1-37)
SUMMARY OF THE TEACHING

but I did not get what I deserved. step lower; partaking of a lower, animal- like
He redeemed my soul from going down nature; or even worse, facing death. Thus,
to the pit, and I will live to enjoy the light.' "when we reject our creaturely status and seek
to become God we are in danger of becoming
"God does all these things to a man— sub-human."'6
twice, even three times— While to the faithful, the concept of
to turn back his soul from the pit, that the God's sovereign power is welcome news and
light of life may shine on him." the only source of hope, to the proud this
same concept comes as a threat. Jesus saw this
2. Babylon's pride! The God of the Bible
type of pride in the town he had made his
presents himself as the God of mercy and
base, and he warned his audience about its
justice. When revealing himself to Moses, he
consequences: " 'You, Caper- naum, will you
described himself as "the Lord, the Lord, the
be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down
compassionate and gracious God, slow to
to the depths' (Matt. 11:23). It is possible
anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,
thatJesus was making a play on words,
maintaining love to thousands, and for-
because the name Caper-Na(h)um can mean
giving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Vet, he
"the town of (the prophet) Nahum." The Old
does not leave the guilty unpun- -?hed"
Testament book of the prophet Nahum is
(Exod. 34:6, 7).
filled with stern warnings to the city of
But in the texts of the Bible that are
Nineveh regarding its pride and cruelty.
colored by the Babel motif, God is por-
To avoid tumbling into the pitfall of
trayed as someone who does not use the
Babylon's pride, the reader of the Bible is
.anguage of love and justice but uses one of
summoned to heed the following warning
irony and sarcasm. This way of speech igainst
from Jesus Christ: " 'Everyone who exalts
Babylon and anyone else whose 3abylonlike
himself will be humbled, and he who humbles
pride leads away from God is attested in the
himselfwill be exalted' " (Luke 14:11). At the
Bible as early as in Gen- esis 11. It is repeated
close of this chap- ter, the words from
in Isaiah 14 and continues all the way through
Jeremiah 9:23, 24 seem very much fitting:
the book : f Revelation. Any created being
whose ambition is to become superhuman by This is what the Lord says:
his own efforts or to climb one step higher
than the rest of the human race md thus "play "Let not the wise man boast of his
god" ends up falling a wisdom
or the strong man boast of his
strength

175
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

or the rich man boast of his riches, the Bible and the Mishnah (Philadelphia: Fortres; 1981), 22.
23. Ford, 116.
but let him who boasts boast about this: 24. Smith-Christopher, 73.
that he understands and knows me, 25. Peter-Contesse and Ellington, 110.
that I am the Lord, who exercises 26. Montgomery, 236.
27. Towner, 65.
kindness, 28. Collins, 229.
justice and righteousness on earth, 29. Towner, 65.
for in these I delight," 30. Baldwin, 116.
declares the Lord. 31. This fact was completely overlooked in Ernes-
tus Vogt’s Lexicón LinguaeAramaicae Veteris Test.:- menti,
2nd ed. (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute. 1994), 140.
32. Hoftijzer and Jongeling, 943-944.
33. Goldingay, 94.
34. Towner, 62.
35. Smith-Christopher, 75.
1. Maxwell (p. 59) dates this chapter in the year 36. Berrigan, 69.
569 bx. but gives no reason for doing so. Archer (p. 60) 37. Shea, Daniel, 52.
dates it to the year 583 b.C., with the seven years of 38. Goldingay, 96.
Nebuchadnezzar's mental illness dated from 582 to 575 39. Archer, 66; Nichol, 4:793.
b.C. 40. Goldingay, 95.
2. Wiseman, Chronicles, 73. 41. Towner, 64.
3. Wiseman, Nebuchadrezgar, 55. 42. Lucas, 111.
4. Towner, 60. 43. BM 34113. See Wiseman, Nebuchadreggar,
5. Baldwin, 110. 102-103, and G. F. Hasel, "The Book of Daniel:
6. Seow, 65. Evidences Relating to Persons and Chronology,"
7. Doukhan, Secrets, 60-61. Andrews University Seminary Studies 19, no. 1 (1981): 37-49.
8. Ibid., 63. 44. Doukhan, Secrets, 69.
9. Ibid. 45. Baldwin, 116.
10. Porteous, 67; Collins, 222. Lucas (p. 109) 46. Towner, 60.
considers this to be a case of popular etymology. 47. Seow, 73.
11. Peter-Contesse and Ellington, 105. 48. Doukhan, Secrets, 73.
12. Quoted by Collins, 224. 49. Lucas, 118.
13. Seow, 69. 50. Collins, 229.
14. Doukhan, Secrets, 65. 51. Porteous, 73.
15. Lucas, 111. 52. Lucas, 114.
16. Seow, 68. 53. Collins, 234.
17. Collins, 227. 54. Doukhan, Secrets, 77.
18. Slotki, 35-36. 55. Goldingay, 94.
19. Ibid., 34. 56. Lucas, 116.
20. The Babylonian Talmud, Sanh. 38b.
21. Nichol, 4:790.
22. G. W. E. Nickelsburg, Jewish Literature Between

176
BELSHAZZAR'S BANQUET
(5:1-31)

/ ike the chapters that precede it, chapter 5 in of the dream in chapter 2 finds its fulfill-
Daniel's book contains a court story, this one ment and confirmation in the historical event
directly related to the fall of the of the fall of the Neo-Babylonian Empire.
Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C., some It has already been observed that the
twenty-three years af- ter the death of scroll of Isaiah exercised a strong influ- ence
Nebuchadnezzar. As in the previous chapter, on Daniel. For that reason it is use- ful to
the theme is one of God's judgment on refer at this point to at least one passage from
human pride medi- ated through Daniel's role Isaiah's book that speaks of Babylon's fall:
as prophet. The two chapters are seen as the
core of the Aramaic section of the book, "Sit in silence, go into darkness, Daughter
which comprises chapters 2-7. In chapter 4, of the Babylonians;
me prophet was favorably disposed to- ward a no more will you be called
king who was willing to learn from his queen of kingdoms. . . .
mistakes. But Belshazzar dif- fered greatly
"IKeep on, then, with your magic spells
from Nebuchadnezzar, pri- marily in his
and with your many sorceries, which you
response to the God of neaven. The end of
have labored at since childhood.
chapter 5 forms the climax of the Aramaic
Perhaps you will succeed,
section of the book. It is the only place in the
perhaps you will cause terror.
entire Bible where the fall of Babylon is pre-
All the counsel you have received has
sented from a historical perspective. This
only worn you out!
chapter is also important from the point of
Let your astrologers come forward,
view of biblical prophecy, be- cause the
interpretation of the first part

177
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

those stargazers who make predictions 3. Bel(te)shazzar meets Belshazzar (5:13-17)


month by month, let them save you from 4. Daniel's speech and the meaning of the
what is coming upon you. writing (5:18-28)
Surely they are like stubble; 5. The king's death (5:29-31)
the fire will burn them up.
They cannot even save themselves from The chapter opens with Belshazzar's
the power of the flame. Here are no coals feast and closes with his death. The speech by
to warm anyone; here is no fire to sit by" the queen mother is matched by Daniel's
(Isa. 47:5, 12-14). rebuke and the interpreta- tion of the cryptic
writing on the wall. At the center of the
This passage from Isaiah describes the chapter is a face-to- face encounter between
helpless state of Babylon and its idols, which two men who most likely bore the same
were not capable of saving themselves, much Babylonian name. The middle part of the
less the city that pa- tronized them. The text chapter is dominated by Daniel's rebuke,
of Daniel 5 also links the fall of Babylon with which is intended to give the main reason for
its idols, which at the moment of dire need Babylon's fall.
proved to be helpless. Belshazzar's fa- ther,
Nabonidus, for example, wor- shiped the The King's Feast (5:1-4)
moon god called Sin. "On the night of the The chapter begins abruptly. With- out
fifteenth of a lunar month such as Tishri, a any formal introduction, either chronological
full moon would be shining. Thus Babylon or epistolary, the reader is led into the
fell when Sin, the moon god, was at his fullest banqueting hall where Belshazzar and his
and most powerful."1 noblemen are feast- ing.
This chapter has a chiastic structure,
'King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a
showing the reversal of Belshazzar's fortunes
thousand of his nobles, and he was drinking wine in
from his feast to his death. The king's death 2
front of them. Under the influence of wine,
directly affected Babylon's destiny. The
Belshazzar commanded to bring in the gold and silver
five-part structure is as fol- lows:
vessels that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken
from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his
nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from
them. 3So they brought in the gold vessels that had
been taken from the temple of God in Jerusalem, and
the

1. The king's feast (5:1-4)


2. The writing on the wall and the
queen's speech (5:5-12)

178
BELSHAZZAR'S BANQUET (5:1-31)
THE KING'S FEAST (5:1-4)

< -g and his nobles, his wives and his concubines :rank ally means "food" and by extension
from them. As they drank the wine, they yaised the "eating" or "a
4

gods of gold and silver, of bronze, •:n, wood, and stone. feast" (Eccles. 10:19). For most
agricultural peo-
' • jtes ple in the ancient Near East, the staple
5:1 "King Belshazzar." The Aramaic form of "6 food was
name belsa'ssar is based on the original bread, while for pastoral people it was
Ak- <a:ian form Bel-sharra-usur, which meat.5 A
means "0 Bel, irotect the king!" The more common word for banquet is miste',
Greek translations spell Daniel's which
Babylonian name exactly the same way comes from the root sth, "to drink" (cf.
this king's name, Baltasar. Prior to the Notes on
year '561, Belshazzar's name was known Dan. 1:10). It is used of King Solomon's
only from -- s biblical story. Today, no feast in
fewer than thirty- , en known texts attest 1 Kings 3:15.
to Belshazzar's historicity.2 ~iese Since the text does not specify what
extrabiblical documents, such as the type of
\3bonidus Chronicle, Verse Account of Nobonidus, state banquet is in question, several

e::., confirm the claim that Belshazzar festival theses have(Akitu), which, according to the
was King '.abonidus's oldest son, the Nabonidus been advanced
Chronicle, attempting
was observed to in
explain it:
the year
crown prince. (1) ThisCyrus's army took the city. (5)
when
During the last ten years of According banquet could have marked
to a midrashic the tenth
interpretation,
Nabonidus's 'eign, which he spent in "Belshazzar anniver- had miscalculated
Teima, Arabia, his son E-elshazzar acted [Jeremiah's sary of Belshazzar's
seventy reign
years in ofBabylon. (2)
exile], and
as vice-regent in Babylon. Somethought that the time was already
had
shazzar is called "king" no fewer than past: commentators have suggested
it was in contempt that
for Jeremiah's
seven- :een times in this chapter. It is not words Belshazzar's
that he decided to desecrate the
clear if he was :-erceived in Babylon to be Temple coronation ceremony
vessels is in 6view here. (3)
that night."
a full-fledged king or _jst the coregent Others "A thousand.'lhe word "’lap is found twice
with his father. However, the Babylonian in have proposed
this verse. that at this"a
It means ceremony, the
thousand,"
royal
word saknu, "ruler, governor" was which may be a rounded-off number
:-anslated into Aramaic as melek, "king," simply palace maymeant have
to been
indi- consecrated. (4) It
cate that a great
on the bilingual Tell Fakhriyeh Statue. is also 3 number of royal officials were in
(See the Notes on Daniel 2:31.)
'-•zyerofNabonidus, NabonidusIt is clear
Dream Cylipdesible
attendance. that
Itsthe feast was
Hebrew a part of can
counterpart the
that Nabonidus New Year con- •'erred "kingship" also mean "a military unit." Oriental
on Belshazzar prior to his de- parture for monarchs, espe- cially in Persia, were
Arabia. At the fall of Babylon, Belshaz- known as lavish entertainers (cf. Esther
zar was almost fifty years of age.4 1). Nehemiah, who was the cupbearer to
"A great banquet." The expression lehem 179the Persian king, was able to provide
'jb, "great banquet," can also be food for 150 officials (Neh. 5:17).
translated as 'state banquet." The Curiously enough, nei- ther Daniel nor
Aramaic word lehem liter- the queen mother was present at
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

this banquet until later, when they came In Jewish traditions, "Belshazzar's death
to help solve the king's problem. was viewed as a direct consequence of
"Nobles." The word rabfbanin, "lords, no- profaning the [temple] vessels."9 One
bles," looks like the reduplicated plural biblical text ties the re- turn from
form of the word rab, "great," that Babylon with the sacred nature of these
qualifies the word "banquet." So, the vessels that were the only material link
root of the word rab occurs at least three be- tween the past and the future
times in this verse. temples:
"He was drinking wine."The same expres-
sion is found at the end of verse 4, thus Depart, depart, go out from there!
forming an inclusio around the passage Touch no unclean thing!
that opens this chapter. Come out of it and be pure,
"In front of them." Although some you who carry the vessels of
transla- tions say "with them," the the LORD (Isa. 52:11).
expression loq°bel lit- erally means "in
"His father." Six times in this chapter
front of them." For a parallel, see
Jeremiah 52:33, which says that King Nebu- chadnezzar is referred to as
Jehoiachin ate bread "before" Belshazzar's father. It is an established
(KJV)—that is, in the presence of—King historical fact that Belshazzar's
Evil-Merodach. biological father was Nabonidus, not
5:2 "Under the influence of wine, Belshaz- zar Nebuchad- nezzar. Nabonidus did not
commanded." Since the word fern can mean
belong to the royal line but came to the
"order" (cf. Dan. 3:10), the original throne after a successful coup. It is very
Aramaic text says that Belshazzar ™mar likely that the Aramaic word 'ab,
bifem hamra', "spoke on the order of wine,"
"father"—when applied to
implying that the king was acting under Nebuchadnezzar in this chapter—should
the influence of the wine when he be taken in a nonliteral sense. In the
ordered that the gold and silver goblets Bible, the common noun 'ab, "father,"
be brought in. may be used for "a grandfather" or "a
"The gold and silver vessels." For more in-
remote ancestor" (Gen. 4:20,21; 28:13).
formation on the articles taken from the Scholars who argue that the term
Jerusa- lem temple, see the Notes on "father" in this chapter should be
Daniel 1:2. The word "vessel" denotes understood as meaning grandfather or
here a type of sacred container used in at least step-grandfather refer to
sanctuary worship. The presence of Jeremiah 27:7, which says, All
these temple articles in Babylon served nations will
"as a symbol of the subordinate status serve him [Nebuchadnezzar] and his son
of the Jews throughout their exile."7 In and his grandson""" (emphasis supplied). It
trying to desecrate them, Belshazzar's180is possible that Belshazzar was King
"deliberate purpose must have been to Nebuchadnezzar's grandson through his
display his contempt of Israel's God." 8 mother but not his father; however,
He also intended to remind his subjects there is no material proof for this asser-
of the god Marduk's apparent victory tion.
over Yahweh. In some biblical texts, a predecessor
in office is called father (2 Kings 2:12),
and in others,
BELSHAZZAR'S BANQUET (5:1-31)
THE KING'S FEAST (5:1-4)

TWO people whose characters are alike 5:4 "Drankthe wine." On the presence of
are an inclusio here, see the Notes on Daniel
ed father and son (1 Sam. 2:12; John 5:1. The combination of this phrase with
8:44).10 • is probable that the word the one that fol- lows has led some
"father" is used •onically in this chapter scholars to conclude that liba- tions
primarily because of ">e aspirations of were poured during the banquet.
Belshazzar's father, Nabonidus, end "Theypraisedthegods." A scholar has
other Neo-Babylonian kings to be rightly remarked: "As if to add to the
consid- e-ed legitimate executors of shame of the event, the revelry also
Nebuchadnezzar's wilL17 includes idolatry and the offer- ing of
"From the temple in Jerusalem." In several : libations to the gods."
12

aces in his book, Ezra refers to King "Gold and silver." The number of
Nebuchad- -ezzar's act of removing the materials of which the idols were made
holy vessels from :~e temple in is six. This number may be related to the
Jerusalem (Ezra 1:7; 6:5; cf. 2 Kings sexagesimal counting sys- tem
25:13-17). commonly used in Babylon (cf. Notes on
"His wives and his concubines.'The singular Dan. 3:1). With the exception of wood
•Dim of the first word, seglateh, "his (cf. Isa. 40:20; 44:16-20), the list of the
wives," is _;ed in Nehemiah 2:6 to refer elements in this verse reminds the
to King Artaxerxes' -Leen. The second reader of the composite statue in
word, lehenateh, is usually translated as chapter 2, where the materials are listed
"his concubines," with a nuance of in the order of decreasing value. The
-feriority compared with the first term. materials listed here are very similar to
However, scholars are not certain as to those collected by King David for the
the exact meaning of this word (cf. 1 building of the Jerusalem temple (1
Kings 11:3; Song 6:8). The Greek Chron. 22:14; 29:2).
Translation of this text omits the
mention of the ••omen. Exposition (5:1-4)
5:3 "The gold vessels." See the Notes on 5:1 The author ended the previous
Daniel 5:2. This is most likely an chapter's story of King Nebuchadnezzar's
abbreviation of the longer expression encounter with God by quoting the king's
"the gold and silver gob- ets" words "those who walk in pride he is able to
mentioned in the previous verse. The humble" (4:37b). In the opening of this
Greek .ersion of Theodotion adds the chapter, he turns the reader's attention to the
word "silver" in this verse. Ezra 1:11 last day of life of the last ruler of Babylon.
says fifty-four hundred holy .essels were This was also the last day of Babylon's
taken to Babylon from the temple n supremacy over the world. The author does
Jerusalem. not even mention the intervening reigns of no
"The temple of God."Whereas in the181less than four Neo-Babylonian kings. The
previ- ous verse only the word "temple" focus is solely on Belshazzar, whom he does
is used, here it is specified that the not formally introduce
temple was di-bet 'elaha', 'the house of
God."
'Wives and his concubines." See the Notes
on Daniel 5:2.
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

to the reader. As Longman has ob- served, There have been many attempts to
"He is not introduced; he springs into identify what event this banquet was meant to
action."13 In line with the Hebrew style of celebrate. Was the banquet supposed to mark
writing, the author is far more concerned the tenth anniversarv of Belshazzar's reign in
with Belshazzar's actions than with his Babylon? Not being able to match
identity. Although for long centuries Nebuchadnezzar's power and thus boast of
Belshazzar's name was not attested outside ofhis achieve- ments, "Belshazzar has to make a
the Bible, today no fewer than thirty-seven
feast at which he is the centre of attention."'"
known texts attest to his historicity. Based on
Or, was it held in honor of Belshazzar's
the evidence from Daniel, classical writers
coronation, occasioned when his father
describe Belshazzar as an indul- gent,
Nabonidus fled in the face of the ap-
merciless, and godless young man.
proaching Medo-Persian army? With the
Ancient sources support the tradi- tion
surrounding cities already captured by the
that a great banquet was held in Babylon on the
Medo-Persian army and with only Babylon
night the city fell to the Persian forces.
remaining intact, the banquet may have been
Prophetic texts in the Bible also link the fall
a last-ditch at- tempt to unite the empire.
of Babylon with a feast. One such text is
According to an interpretation found in the
found in Isaiah 21:5:
Mi- drash (the Jewish exposition of biblical
They set the tables, books), Belshazzar had miscalculated the end
they spread the rugs, they eat, they of the seventy years of exile, and, thinking
drink! that the time was already past, he decided to
Get up you officers, desecrate the temple vessels in contempt of
oil the shields! (cf. Isa. 51:7, 8) the prophet Jeremiah's prediction in 25:11-14.
Whatever the occasion, Belshazzar held this
Likewise, Jeremiah 51:39 (cf. 51:57) banquet in order to display his greatness. To
quotes God as saying, heighten this notion, the word thousandis, used
twice in the original text of this verse (see,
"But while they are aroused, e.g., KJV), as is the term great.
I will set out a feast for them and 5:2-4 In the course of Belshazzar's
make them drunk, feasting and drinking, he commands that the
so that they shout with laughter— then holy vessels.. .from the temple in Jerusalem be
sleep forever and not awake," declares brought in so that the king and his nobles, his wives
the LORD. and his

182
BELSHAZZAR'S BANQUET (5:1-31)
THE KING'S FEAST (5:1-4)

soncubines might drink from them. attested in subsequent biblical texts. The first
According to Ezra 1:11, fifty-four hun- dred one is a disregard for the ancient oriental
"articles of gold and silver" were -:ept in custom of men and women eat- ing and
Babylon. These vessels would become the drinking in two formally sepa- rated locations
only physical link between the old temple and (Esther 1:3, 9). At this banquet, the king and his
the new temple to be built to God's name in nobles, his wives and his concubines were all feast-
Jerusalem. The :ext specifies that the king ing together in one place. The presence of
issued this trange order under the iníluence of women at this banquet ran contrary to the
•Mine.Biblical wisdom passages contain customs of the time and culture. It may be
"arnings regarding the use of wine: considered an act of debauch- ery that
breached the bonds of morality. In a
Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it traditional oriental culture, women would
sparkles in the cup, when it goes hold a separate party for them- selves, thus
down smoothly! staying away from the com- pany of men
In the end it bites like a snake and poisons (Esther 1:9-12).
like a viper. The second element is the praise to
Your eyes will see strange sights Babylon's idols. The materials of the idols
and your mind imagine confusing listed in this text total six, the num- ber
things (Prov. 23:31-33). typical of Babylon. Also, the order in which
the materials are listed strongly alludes to the
Esther 1:10, 11 says that when "King metals previously seen in the story of
Xerxes was in high spirits from wine, he Nebuchadnezzar's dream in chapter 2. One
commanded" his eunuchs "to bring be- fore difference here is that wood is substituted for
him Queen Vashti." And Jeremiah 51:7 the clay of chapter 2. Belshazzar served the
speaks of Babylon as moon god Sin, just as his father Nabonidus
did. During this banquet, the idols were
a gold cup in the LORD'S hand; she made the
praised while the God of the Hebrews was
whole earth drunk.
humiliated by the use of the holy vessels from
The nations drank her wine;
his temple. Faced with the steady approach of
therefore they have now gone mad.
the Medo-Persian army, it is very likely that
In addition to the arrogance demon- Babylon's of- ficials were "hoping that their
strated during this banquet, two more gods will bring victory for them as they had in
elements emerge that became the hall- marks the
days of Nebuchadnezzar's great con- "IS
of Babylon's character frequently quests.

183
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

The Writing on the Wall and the dles, and solve difficult problems. Call for Daniel, and
Queen's Speech (5:5-12) he will tell what the writing means."
The state banquet suddenly comes to a
standstill as mysterious writing appears on the Notes
wall of the palace. 5:5 "Suddenly." Daniel 3:6,15; and 4:34
con- tain the same expression, bah-sa"'ta,
Suddenly, the fingers of a human hand ap- "at that mo- ment." Isaiah 47:11
peared and wrote on the plaster of the wall oppo- site describes Babylon's sudden fall in
the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched similar terms.
the hand as it wrote. 6His face turned pale, and he was "The fingers." In biblical texts, God's
so frightened that his knees knocked together and his finger often represented his
legs gave way. supernatural power, whether in his work
7
The king called aloud to bring in the enchant- of creating the heavens (Ps. 8:3) or
ers, astrologers, and diviners, and he said to these sending plagues on Egypt (Exod. 8:19)
wise men of Babylon, "Whoeverreads this writing and or writing the commandments on
tells me what it means will be clothed in purple and tablets of stone (Exod. 31:18; Deut.
have a gold chain around his neck, and he will be 9:10) or even driving out de- mons
made the thirdhighestrulerin thekingdom." (Luke 11:20).
8
Then all the king's wise men came in, but they "On the plaster." The Aramaic word gird',
could not read the writing or tell the king its meaning. "plaster," occurs only here in the whole
9
So King Belshazzar became even more terrified, and Bible (ha- pax legomenon), but a related
his face grew pale. His nobles were perplexed. Hebrew word is usually translated
10
The queen, hearing the voices of the king and "lime," which was used in mak- ing
his nobles, came into the banquet hall and said, "0 plaster. The writing probably took place
king, live forever! Don't be alarmed! Don't look so on the part of the wall not covered with
pale!11 There is a man in your kingdom who has the blue enam- eled brick.
spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your "Opposite the lampstand." This detail is
father he was found to have in- sight and intelligence mentioned to show that the writing
and wisdom like that of the gods. King appeared on the part of the wall that
Nebuchadnezzar your father—your father the king, I was well illuminated so that all,
say—appointed him chief of the magicians, especially the king, could see it. Some
enchanters, astrologers, and di- viners. 12This man have speculated that this lampstand
Daniel, whom the king called Belteshazzar, was found may have been looted from the temple
to have an excellent spirit and knowledge and in Jerusalem (cf. 1 Kings 7:49).
understanding, and also the ability to interpret "The royal palace." Although the word
dreams, explain rid- helfla', "palace," may also stand for a
temple, in this context it likely means
"king's palace."
184 "The king watched." Just as
Nebuchadnezzar was probably the only
person who saw the fourth person in the
fiery furnace (Dan. 3:24,25), so here,
Belshazzar appears to be the only one
who sees the hand that was writing on
the wall.
BELSHAZZAR'S BANQUET (5:1-31)
THE WRITING ON THE WALL AND THE QUEENS SPEECH (5:5-12)

"The hand." In the original text, two For the presence of a wordplay on
differ- f-: ,vords for "hand"—pas and the term "loosed" here and in verse 12,
fda—are placed -•re side by side. The see the Notes on Daniel 5:12.
Aramaic word pas, "the za m," means the 5:7 "Called aloud." The same words, qare'
hand from the wrist down- •ard. The malka', "shouted with strength," are used
word yad, "hand," figures prominently in Daniel 3:4, where the herald "loudly
- Daniel's book. It often represents proclaimed" the king's order.
God's direct "To bring in."See the Notes on Daniel 2:24.
- retention (cf. Isa. 41:20; Job 12:9,10). "What it means." The Aramaic word pesar,
5:6 "His face turned pale." The Aramaic "interpretation," is a very important
ords ziwohl sendhi, "his color changed," word that is found frequently in the
were book of Daniel (e.g., 2:4) and, later, in
the Qumran scrolls.
finally ziwdhisanayin'al6hi,"hls color changed :o
him," as in verse 9. The details "Clothed in purple." Purple clothing was
mentioned in very expensive. Often, it was imported
- s verse describe and worn by the wealthiest people of
Belshazzar's
physiological re- r —ions and point to high status, such as those belonging to
the fear and even terror that he felt. royalty (Esther 8:15).
"He was so frightened." Identical words "A gold chain."This word could have
de- ::-be Daniel's reaction also meant "a collar." Pharaoh gave
to
Nebuchadnezzar's : 'earn reported in Joseph the same gift (Gen. 41:42).
Daniel 4:19. "The third highest ruler."lh\s phrase, which
"His legs gave way." Literally, the text literally reads wetalti bemalkuta' yislat, "and
the third he will rule in the kingdom,"
says 'zitre harseh mistarayin, "the joints of
his loin r-e loosened," which meant may be under- stood in two ways: If
that Belshazzar Belshazzar did not mean it literally, he
physical strength (cf. Isa. 21:3). was saying that the person would be
Isaiah 13:8 : escribes the impact of the given a high title at the court (Exod.
siege of Babylon on -j officers and 14:7; 2 Kings 7:2,17,19), becoming a
soldiers in the following way: triumvir (cf. Dan. 6:2; Gen 41:40-44).
Understood literally, he was saying that
Terror will seize them, the person would be third in rank, after
pain and anguish will grip them; Na- bonidus and himself. The mention
they will writhe like a woman in of purple clothing, which denotes royal
labor. authority, may suggest coregency.
"hey will look aghast at each 5:8 "All the king's wise men." The word
other, their faces hakktm, "a wise man," is a more general
aflame. term inclusive of various types of royal
185advisers, some of which were listed in
In a similar way, the prophet Nahum verse 7. In contrast to the statement
de- soibes Nineveh's terror at its fail: from the previous verse, here "all the
king's wise men" appear before the
She is pillaged, plundered, stripped!
king.
Hearts melt, knees give way,
bodies tremble, every face
grows pale (Nah. 2:10).16
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

"They could not read," For a third time in "Into the banquethall.Jhe original says bet
Daniel's book, Babylon's wise men misfya', "the house of drinking."
cannot help the king in a critical "Oking, live forever!" See the Notes on Dan-
moment (cf. chaps. 2 and 4). There is a iel 2:4.
progression of thought in this chapter in "Dont be alarmed." Literally, the text says
comparison with the previous ones. This 'al-fbah"luk ra'ydnak, "let not your thoughts
time the wise men cannot even read the alarm you!"
writing on the wall. 5:11 "There is a man.lhe queen mother's
5:9 "Terrified.'Other biblical prophetic words remind the reader of Arioch's
pas- sages also contain descriptions of introduc- tion of Daniel as gebar, "a man"
terror caused by visions of (2:25). Much as in the previous stories,
judgment—cf, Isaiah 21:3; Ezekiel 21:7; Daniel comes to the front only after the
Daniel 10:8; and Nahum 2:10. other wise men have failed. The motif of
"Nobles."lh\s group is the same one the forgotten wise man is found
men- tioned in verse 1. It differs from elsewhere in the Bible (cf. Joseph in Gen.
the wise men who were brought into the 41: 14-16).
hall later in the story. "In your kingdom." In a twist of irony, it
5:10 "The queen/This verse begins is "from within his own court that a
with the emphatic use of the word witness to the God of the exiles comes
mallfta', "the queen," that introduces a to Belshazzar."17
new subject in the story. All "The spirit of the holy gods." See the Notes
commentators, ancient and modern, on Daniel 4:8. The queen mother uses
agree that this woman's memory of the language that reminds the reader of
past and her au- thority at the palace Nebuchadnezzar's way of describing
indicate that she was the queen mother, Daniel (4:8,9,18).
not the consort. That she was a person "Your father." See the Notes on Daniel
of authority is clear from the fact that 5:2. This phrase occurs three times in
she was allowed to approach the king this verse. Its use may have been
without a prior request (cf. Esther 4:11). intended to be an irony, pointing to the
The Greek translators tried to soften the contrast between the two kings.
reading of this verse by insert- ing a "Chief of the magicians." See the Notes on
detail saying that the king called the Daniel 2:48 and 4:9.
queen to come. Ancient traditions claim 5:12 "Daniel... Belteshazzar." The queen
that her name was Nitocris and that she mother uses both the Hebrew and the
was King Nebuchadnez- zar's wife and Babylo- nian names. If Nebuchadnezzar
either Belshazzar's mother or originally named Daniel Belshazzar, then
grandmother. It is obvious that she was we have here another case of irony,
not origi- nally a member of the because the godly prophet and the
banqueting party. Several biblical186godless king were namesakes.18 See the
passages mention the influence exer- Notes on Daniel 1:7.
cised by queen mothers (1 Kings 15:13; "An excellent spirit." The original text uses
2 Kings 10:13; 11:1-3; 24:12; Jer. 13:18). the expression ruahyattira, "extraordinary
"Hearing the voices." For an equivalent spirit,"
He- brew expression, see Jeremiah
26:10.
BELSHAZZAR'S BANQUET (5:1-31)
THE WRITING ON THE WALL AND THE QUEEN'S SPEECH (5:5-12)

m- ch most likely parallels the "this was no 'human hand', but the hand of
expressions that ~ ow it. The phrases God."19
that follow explain Daniel's a: ity in Generally speaking, a disembodied hand
more specific ways. would represent a defeated enemy. The effect
"Interpretdreams."See the Notes on Daniel of this eerie scene might be similar if "the
head of a decapitated vic- tim began to
Literally, the origi-
"Solve difficult problems." speak."20 Belshazzar's vision of a detached
•:- text says umesare'qitrin, "and to untie hand writing on the wall before him "remains
knots." one of the most haunting images in
- -as been suggested that this is a literature."21 The prophet Ezekiel once saw a
wordplay on : ie almost identical phrase detached hand connected with writing. The
in verse 6, which says occa- sion was a vision about judgment:
- at the joints of Belshazzar's hips were "Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched
loosened r ;ear. out to me. In it was a scroll, which he [the
"Belteshazzar."See the Notes on Daniel 1:7 LORD] unrolled before me. On both sides of it
aid 4:8. were written words of lament and mourning
and woe" (Ezek. 2:9, 10).
Exposítion (5:5-12)
The description of Belshazzar's fear is
5:5, 6 Divine displeasure manifested zself
detailed and graphic. It contrasts with the
without delay through an act of •writing by
preceding verses' description of his pride and
what looked like a human and on the part of
arrogance. His face turned pale. "The noble
the palace wall that "Ms near the lampstand
silhouette of the king crumbles to a heap of
where everyone ;: uld see it. Since the
bones rubbing against each other in fear."22
narrative focuses : n Belshazzar, the text says
The proph- ecy of Isaiah describes Babylon's
that he him- watched the handwrite on the wall.
sudden fall in the following way:
1: is implied that his guests could not see me
hand doing the writing but only the "•vords it Disaster will come upon you,
wrote. and you will not know how to
There should be no doubt that the ringer conjure it away.
of Yahweh, the same God whom Belshazzar A calamity will fall upon you
has been mocking, wrote on the wall. Was that you cannot ward off with a
this the same divine finger that centuries ransom;
before wrote on stone the commandment a catastrophe you cannot foresee will
against idolatry? John 5:6 says that on one suddenly come upon you (Isa. 47:11).
occasion, Jesus Dent down and started to
write on the cround with his finger" words
that likely described the secret sins of his
oppo- nents. Thus it is safe to propose that
187
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

Contrast this scene with Psalm 119:73a, scribed the impact of this vision in the
where the psalmist sings praise to God's following way:
powerful hands, saying, "Your hands made
me and formed me." At this my body is racked with pain,
5:7-9 For the third time in Daniel's book, pangs seize me, like those of a woman in
a Babylonian king faces a serious crisis with labor;
wise men who cannot help and thus I am staggered by what I hear,
contribute directly to the bank- ruptcy of I am bewildered by what I see.
Babylonian astrology. This is in spite of My heart falters,
Belshazzar's promises to lav- ish gifts on the fear makes me tremble;
person who can read and explain the The twilight I longed for
mysterious writing on the wall. has become horror to me
The promised gifts consisted of the type (Isa. 21:3, 4).
of clothing worn by a royalty (like Mordecai
in Esther 8:15), a gold chain or a gold collar (like Ezekiel, on the other hand, uses similar
Joseph in Gen. 41:42), and the position of language to convey the impact of a vision
either core- gent or triumvir in the empire about Babylon's capture ofJeru- salem and its
(Dan. 6:2). The term the third highest ruler in the temple: " 'Therefore groan, son of man!
kingdom may have referred to ei- ther a high Groan before them with broken heart and
title at the court, or, if taken literally, bitter grief. And when they ask you, "Why are
promotion to third in imperial rank, after you groaning?' you shall say, "Because of the
Belshazzar and King Naboni- dus. Belshazzar news that is coming. Every heart will melt
operated on the princi- ple that wealth can and ev- ery hand go limp; every spirit will
buy anything.23 However, the promise of become faint and every knee become as weak
these gifts does not help the wise men in their as water." It is coming! It will surely take
difficult task, and their impotence makes both place, declares the Sovereign L O R D ' " (Ezek.
the king and the nobles even more ter- rifíed. 21:6, 7).
Texts from two biblical prophets 5:10-12 In the face of the inability of the
graphically describe the kind of terror caused wise men to solve the fatal puzzle, the queen
by the visions of God's judg- ment. Of one mother, whose name may have been Nitocris,
such night vision that pic- tured Babylon's steps into the place literally called the "house
fall, Isaiah said, "A dire vision has been of drinking" with the intention of intro-
shown to me." He de- ducing Daniel. Neither she nor the aged
prophet has been present at the banquet from
its beginning. Her pres-

188
BELSHAZZAR'S BANQUET (5:1-31)
BEL(TE)SHAZZAR MEETS BELSHAZZAR (5:13-17)

tnce and intervention at this point in e story, "Then Daniel was brought in before the king,
characterized by both wisdom i authority, and the king said to him, "Are you Daniel, one of the
must have been the first -r minder of the time exiles my father the king brought from Judah? 14
l
when Babylon as strong and invincible under have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you and
its fa- ED XIS founder, King that you have insight, intelligence, and extraordinary
Nebuchadnezzar. wisdom.15The wise men and enchanters were brought
: eeing her, Belshazzar finds himself rrrced before me to read this writing and tell me what it
to remember what he had tried : hard to means, but they could not explain it.161 have heard
forget."24 While using a series of superlatives that you are able to give interpretations and to solve
to lescribe Daniel, the queen mother nghdy difficult prob- lems. Now if you can read this writing
connects his high position with :oth the spirit of and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in
the holy gods and with ne grandeur of the purple and have a gold chain placed around your
famous empire rudder King neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in
Nebuchadnezzar, whose : wn words she has the kingdom."
borrowed to describe Daniel's greatness 17
Then Daniel answered before the king, 7ou may
(Dan. 4:8, 9, 18). In ne course of her speech, keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to
she refers to Daniel's Babylonian name, someone else. Nevertheless, I will read the writing for
which may -rave coincided with Belshazzar's. the king and tell him what it means."
The confidence that she has in Daniel is as-
funding, because she says, Call for Daniel, and Notes
he will tell what the writ- ingmeans (5:12). Faced 5:13 "Brought in before the king." For a
with such clear ;onviction, Belshazzar "has no similar statement, see the Notes on Daniel
choice rut to summon Daniel."25 His bypass- 2:24.
ing Daniel previously may have been "Are you Daniel?" The original text
deliberate (cf. 1 Kings 22:5-18), since ne couldquotes Belshazzar as saying ’ant-hu'
predict the kind of message he •ATiuld get dantye'l, "You are that Daniel!"
from him.26 "One of the exiles." Literally, min-bene
galuta' di/hud means "from the sons of the
3el(te)shazzar Meets Belshazzar
exiles from Judah." Since the noun bene,
(5:13-17)
"sons," functions here as a noun of
This section is the climax in the chap- ter relation, it is best not to translate it
where the two men, possibly bearing die same literally but in the sense of "one of" or
name, meet each other. Ironi- cally, their "a member of a group of people"—in
common name, Belshazzar, means "O Bel, this case, the exiles from Judah. In two
protect the king!" other places in the book, Daniel is
referred to as "one of the exiles" (2:25;
6:13). Here, Belshazzar reminds Daniel
that he came to Babylon as a prisoner of
189war, a captive.
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

Note that the queen mother did not Daniel 5:7. This promise is somewhat
describe Daniel's position in Babylon in ironical in light of Daniel's high position
this way. Rather, she spoke of him as the at the Babylonian court during the reign
chief of Babylon's wise men. of Nebuchadnezzar.
"My father the king." Having placed 5:17 "You may keep your gifts." The ab-
Daniel at the level of a captive, sence in Daniel's address of the
Belshazzar now proceeds to boast of his customary greet- ing "0 king, live
close relation with the famous forever!" is noteworthy, disclos- ing his
Nebuchadnezzar. antagonistic attitude. His words here
"From Judah."The word /hud, "Judah," contrast with the way he related to the
oc- curs twice in Belshazzar's question other kings that are mentioned in this
to Daniel as recorded in this verse (see, book. In addi- tion, from the beginning
e.g., KJV). of his speech before Belshazzar, Daniel
5:14 "Ihave heard."See the Notes on makes it clear that the promise of a rich
Daniel 5:16. reward will not have any impact o~
"The spirit of the gods." See the Notes on what he is about to say. For a similar
Daniel 4:8. In contrast to King refusal to receive gifts, see Genesis
Nebuchadnezzar's words, Belshazzar 14:21-24, where Abram tells the king of
omits the adjective "holy" when he Sodom, '"I will accept nothing
refers to Daniel's supernatural knowl- belonging to you, not even a thread or
edge in connection with "the gods." the thong of a sandal, so that you will
"Extraordinary wisdom." The original never be able to say, "I made Abram rich
Ara- maic says hokma yattira, "an ............................... (cf. Gen. 33:9).
exceptional wisdom." On the meaning
ofruahyattira, "an excel- lent spirit," see the Exposition <5:13-17)
Notes on Daniel 5:12. 5:13 Daniel was an old man, proba- bly
5:16 "I have heard." In contrast to in his eighties. In stark contrast to the queen
Nebu- chadnezzar, who had told Daniel mother's words about Daniel, Belshazzar,
that he knew "that the spirit of the holy right from the beginning of his address, puts
gods is in you" (4:9), Belshazzar states Daniel down by re- minding him that he was
twice in his speech that he has only one of the ex- iles .. .fromfudah. Moreover, in order
heard of Daniel. If this were true, then to show his superior position over the
how would he know about Daniel's prophet, he proudly states that his father
country of origin? Later in his speech, Nebuchadnezzar brought Daniel as captive
Daniel reminds Belshazzar that he "knew from fudah. According to the original Aramaic
all this" (5:22). text, in a single sen- tence, Belshazzar refers
"To give interpretations."The original says twice to Judah. Daniel's homeland.
pisrin lemipsar, "to interpret the Although the king and the prophet
interpretation," a construction known as190probably bore the same name, they pos-
cognate accusative in which the verb and the sessed opposite traits of character. Based
noun come from the same root. The
reading of the writing on the wall and
its interpretation are interdependent.27
"The third highest ruler." See the Notes on
BELSHAZZAR'S BANQUET (5:1-31)
BEL(TE)SHAZZAR MEETS BELSHAZZAR (5:13-17)

~ the information found in this book, me Daniel—yet, while quoting these words from
two men may be contrasted as fol- .ows: Nebuchadnezzar and the queen mother,
Belshazzar omits the key word "holy." Then
Daniel was named Bel(te)shazzar 1:7). he offers to the prophet the same gifts that he
Hie king's name was Belshaz- zar (5:1). had promised to his wise men.
1 Daniel learned the language (1:4) and read Some have taken Belshazzar's words at
the writing on the wall 5:18-28). Belshazzar their face value, reaching the conclu- sion
could not read the writing (5:5-7). that he did not know Daniel nor had he heard
5 In the presence of an official, Daniel of him from others prior to this moment. Yet
refused to drink wine (1:8). Belshazzar Daniel's words from verse 22 do not support
drank wine in the presence of his this view: "But you his son, O Belshazzar,
officials (5:1). have not humbled yourself, though you knew
- Daniel was quick to understand 1:4) and to all this." What Belshazzar said when he began
make up his mind 1:8). Belshazzar lost his to speak to Daniel contains some details that
under- standing and could not control his the queen mother did not mention in her
mind (5:2). speech. Belshazzar already knew those
; Daniel refused to defile himself 1:8).
details, thus they demon- strate that the aged
Belshazzar defiled the holy vessels (5:22-24). prophet was no stranger to him. Moreover,
Daniel was given a high position the state- ment from Daniel 8:27 says that
(2:48). Belshazzar lost his high po- Daniel performed the regular "king's
sition (5:30, 31). business" during the third year of
Daniel's countenance changed for the Belshazzar's reign. It is therefore safe to
better (1:13, 15). Belshazzar's conclude that Belshazzar "deliberately
countenance changed for the worse ignored Daniel."29 He had tried hard "to bury
5:6).28
the past and with it the God of Israel. Deep
down, he knows and has always known the
5:14-16 On two occasions during truth. And because it dis- turbs him, he seeks
Belshazzar's speech, he claims that other to destroy it, to for- get it."30
r-eople have told him about Daniel's ex- 5:17 The absence of Daniel's cus-
ceptional wisdom and insight. He can- rot tomary greeting "O King live forever!" in the
help but relate these questions to the : text contrasts with the way he ad- dressed
resence of the spírit of the gods in King Nebuchadnezzar in the previous
chapter (4:19, 27) and clearly

191
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

shows that he dissociated himself from death; those he wanted to spare, he spared; those he
Belshazzar's idolatrous and blasphemous wanted to promote, he promoted; and those he
banquet. The prophet did not let the promise wanted to humble, he humbled. 18 * 20
But when his
of gifts soften his rebuke of the king. After all, heart became arrogant and his spirit hardened with
in view of the imminent fall of Babylon, pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and
Belshazzar had very little to give. Or, to put it stripped of his glory.21 * * He was driven away from
differently, any promise of reward seemed people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with
"pointless in view of Belshazzar's imminent the wild donkeys and ate grass like cattle and his
death."31 body was drenched with the dew of heaven until he
In the speech that follows, Daniel uses recognize that the Most High God rules over the
the strong language of judgment, not pay- ing kingdom of men and sets over them anyone he wishes.
any attention to the price (cf. Gen. 14:21-24; 22
"But you his son, 0 Belshazzar, have not
Num. 22:18; 2 King? 5:16, 17). Refusal of humbled yourself, though you knew all this. "In-
gifts characterized true prophets (Num. stead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of
22:18; Amos 7:14; Mic. 3:5, 11). The prophet heaven. You had the vessels from his temple brought
Amos, for example, considered it a sacred to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your
duty to reveal God's message to the people of concubines drank wine from them. You praised the
his time: gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and
stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But
"The lion has roared— who you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your
will not fear? life-breath and all your ways.24Therefore he sent the
The Sovereign TORD has spoken— hand that wrote the inscription.
who can but prophesy?" 25
7his is the inscription that was written:
(Amos 3:8). MENE,MENE, TEKEL andPARSIN.
26
7,his is what these words mean: Mene: God has
Daniel's Speech and the Meaning of numbered the days of your kingdom and put an end to
the Writing (5:18-28) it.
After a brief introduction, Daniel's 27
7ekel: You have been weighed on the scales and
speech focuses on the way God dealt with found deficient.
King Nebuchadnezzar. 28
"Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given over
to the Medes and the Persians."
18
"0 king, the Most High God gave your father
Nebuchadnezzar kingship and greatness and glo-
Notes
5:18 "0 king."See the Notes on Daniel
ry andsplendor.9Becauseofthegreatnessthat he
5:22. In the original text, this verse
gave him, all the peoples and nations and men of
begins with the
every language feared and trembled before him.
Those the king wanted to put to death, he put to

192
BELSHAZZAR'S BANQUET (5:1-31)
DANIELS SPEECH AND THE MEANING OF THE WRITING (5:18-28)

* :rds ’antmalka', "You, 0 King!" From the pricious nature of the head of a Near
point : • . ew of syntax, these two words Eastern empire could be more telling."32
addressed to In fact, the preroga- tives described in
snazzar are not directly related to verse 19 express absolute power that
the con- -ents of the verse (casus pendens), belongs only to God (Job 5:11-16; Ps.
which speaks y Nebuchadnezzar's life 75:7; 1 Sam. 2:6,7).
and reign. 5:20 "Became arrogant." Literally, the
The MostHigh Cod." See the Notes on Dan- text says rím libbeh, "his heart became
e 5:26. The presence of this divine exalted" (cf. Deut. 8:14; 17:20; Ezek.
appellative is : nong link between the 31:10). In this way, Nebu- chadnezzar's
narrative in this chap- "e- and the one in power became his weakness.
chapter 4, where it was used -equently. "His spirit hardened with pride." Literally,
"Gave." God's generous gift of the Aramaic says ruheh tiqpat lah"zada, "his
dominion to Veouchadnezzar is also spirit became strong." This phrase
described in Jeremiah 275-7. reminds the reader of the hardening of
"Your father."See the Notes on Daniel 5:2. Pharaoh's heart (Exod. 7-14).
"Kingship and greatness and glory and :: endor." 5:21 "From people.'The original says umin-
First Chronicles 29:11a claims that "'ese b ne 'andsd', "and from the sons of men." It
e

qualities belong to God: is yet another example where the noun


bar, "son," functions as a noun of
"Yours, o LORD, is the greatness and the relation. Here, the expres- sion conveys
power and the glory and the majesty the idea of human society in general.
and the splendor, "The mind of an animal."The author uses
for everything in heaven and the word lebab, "heart," to show the
earth is yours." reversal of Nebuchadnezzar's fortunes
when his "exalted heart" (v. 20) was
5:19 "The greatness.'The Aramaic text brought down to the level of beasts.
says 'buta', "the greatness," a noun built "With the wild donkeys." Daniel 4:23 uses
on the root •; "great," used frequently in a more general term, hewat bara', "the wild
this chapter. See :ie Notes on Daniel 5:1. ani- mals," while here it specifically
"All the peoples and nations and men ofe v- ery
refers to "wild asses." In both texts, the
language.'These words convey the concept
emphasis is on the con- cept expressed
of universality. See the Notes on Daniel here through the adjective "wild" (cf.
3:4. Job 39:5).
"Those the king wanted.. "The presence of
5:22 "But you." Daniel's speech before
e meter in the four lines in this verse Belshazzar can be divided into two
betrays its ooetic nature. The parts, both marked by the use of the
arrangement of the lines is dearly opening word 'ant, "you." The first part
chiastic: toW.put to death (A), to spare (B),193 comes after a brief introduc- tion of
D. W. T. T.
to promote (B') and to humble (A'). It verse 17 and covers verses 18-21, and it
has been -ghtly observed that "no gives a summary of King
description of the ca- Nebuchadnezzar's life.
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
| COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

The second part begins with verse 22. mortals and especially Nebuchadnezzar
Here the prophet addresses Belshazzar are called to "acknowledge that the
directly. Most High is sovereign over the
"His son."See the Notes on Daniel 5:2. kingdoms of men and gives them to
This verse is the only place in the book anyone he wishes" (Dan. 4:32b).
where Belshazzar is referred to as 5:23 "Set yourself up." Tine arrogance
Nebuchadnezzar's son. The Semitic por- trayed here is also found in the
words ben (Hebrew) and bar (Aramaic), description of the activities of the little
"son," can mean a successor on the horn in Daniel 8:11,25 and of the
throne. In extrabiblical cuneiform texts, contemptible ruler in 11:36. Com-
Israel's King Jehu is called "the son of mentators have compared Daniel's
Omri." Jehu was not Omri's literal son; indictment speech to those of Hebrew
he was a usurper who killed Omri's de- prophets who con- fronted the kings of
scendants in order to seize the throne. Israel and Judah, such as Nathan before
It is clear from the stories in the David (2 Sam. 12), Elijah before Ahab(1
book that Nebuchadnezzar and Kings 21), and Jeremiah before
Belshazzar had some similarities of Zedekiah (Jer. 38).
character. One important differ- ence "The Lord of heaven."See the Notes on Dan-
though, was that when confronted by iel 2:37,47; 4:26.
God, Nebuchadnezzar repented and "The vessels from his temple."See the Note; on
acknowl- edged God's sovereignty, Daniel 5:2.
while Belshazzar re- mained arrogant to "Brought toyou."The Aramaic text says
the end. hay- ttw qaddmak, "brought before you,"
"Have not humbled yourself." Literally, the implying that Belshazzar had the articles
text says la' haspelt libbak, "you have not brought before him to show his
hum- bled your heart." The word lebab, superiority over the God cf heaven.
"heart," is one of the key words in the Because the holy vessels symbolizec
description Daniel gives in verses 20,21 Nebuchadnezzar's success, in drinking
of Nebuchadnezzar's attitude to- ward frorr them, "Belshazzar may have been
God (cf. Dan. 7:4). Ancient rabbis deliberatel> 'going one better' than his
attempted to balance divine sovereignty 'father.' "34
and human re- sponsibility through the "Your wives and your concubines." See the
following dictum: "All is foreseen, but Notes on Daniel 5:2.
freedom of choice is given."33 "The gods of silver and gold."The first two
"You knew all this." Some scholars types of idol material are joined
conclude from Belshazzar's question in together in the original Aramaic text of
verse 13, "Are you Daniel?" that he did this verse. Moreover, the author may
not know Daniel. It is not clear, have intentionally inverted the se-
however, that the opening statement in194quence gold-silver in order to signal the
Belshazzar's speech is to be understood soon- coming shift of world empires,
as a question. Moreover, verse 22 does since in Danie. gold stands for the
make clear that Belshazzar knew Daniel, Babylonian Empire (2:38 while silver
suggesting that if he claimed not to represents the Medo-Persian Empire
know him, that claim was a pretence. (5:28).
The verb /da', "to know," is one of the
key verbs in the story of chapter 4—in
BELSHAZZAR'S BANQUET (5:1-31)
DANIELS SPEECH AND THE MEANING OF THE WRITING (5:18-28)

Which cannot see or hear or understand." 5:25 It is important to keep in mind


- -e with the established polemic that the writing of these four words was
against idois : _~d in the biblical purely conso- nantal and possibly
prophets, Daniel describes :: 5 as dead without word divisions. Scholars have
objects that show no sign of life in debated the question of the ar-
(Deut. 4:28; Pss. 115:4-8; 135:16, 17; Isa. rangement of the words. Were they
- "-20; 46:1-7; Jer. 10:5). written ver- tically or horizontally? Also,
-You didnothonor'The verb hdr, "to should they be inter- preted as verbs or
honor," ; _sed here in parallelism with as nouns? Daniel read them as nouns,
the word sbh, "to : r se." Both verbs were but in his interpretation, he treated
similarly used to express •: them as passive participles.
Nebuchadnezzar's praise to the God As nouns, the four words are best
Most Her 4:34). under- stood as naming monetary
'In his hand.'ln the Bible, the word yad weights: the mina, the shekel, and a
(He- :rev, yad), "a hand," is often used as a fraction of a mina. Some com-
symbol of :: ver. See the Notes on Daniel mentators have suggested these
1:2. monetary or weight terms are listed in a
Your life-breath." The text literally says sequence of declin- ing value to allude
• :~'tak, "your breath." In the second half to a kind of liquidation-of- stocksale.
of . m o r e than in any other "MEHi." The word mene', "a coin," is
prophetic book :' "~e Bible, God is men- tioned in Ezekiel 45:12 and Ezra
portrayed as the living God 2:69 (cf. 1 Kings 10:17; Neh. 7:71,72). A
• •: s the Creator and the Sustainer of mina is equivalent to sixty shekels. It is
all liv-: : i i ngs. Compare this statement used in the Bible primarily as a mea-
with the :r-e n Daniel 6:26, which says, sure of weight for gold and silver.
"He is the living "TEKEL/'The word fqel is derived
from the root tql, "weight." It is "the
'Your ways." In the Bible, the word
weight" par excel- lence.
"way" -: .-atively stands for "life" or "PARSIN/'The Aramaic word peres
"destiny." means "a division." Its plural (or dual) is
5:24 "He sent the hand." Literally, the Ara- c c parsin, meaning "divisions."
says min-q°damohi seliah passa' di-fda', ~: ~ his 5:26 Although Daniel has read the
presence the palm of the hand was xr::' words as nouns, in his interpretation he
a reverential way of referring to God's treats them as verbs—given here in the
ac- Several passages in Daniel show perfect tense. The use of the prophetic
God's perfect suggests finality.
- :nty hand as very active in history "Mean."On the use of the word pesar,
(2:45; 8:25), r::-ecially during the exodus "interpretation," see the Notes on Daniel
from Egypt (9:15). 1955:7.
s -and "no one can hold back" or say "Mene." According to this verse, in the
to God -at have you done?'" (4:35b). writing on the wall, the verb mena, "to
Wrote the inscription." The fact that the
number" or "to count," is emphatically
-fssage was written adds to its veracity repeated, and God is the Numberer, the
(Dan. Counter. The repetition may
: Rev. 21:5) and finality (Dan. 6:8;
Rev.
22:10,11).
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

compénsate for the omission of the claimed to be his "father" (5:13). Much of
talent, which was the largest measure in Daniel's speech consists of relating God's
the conventional System of the day. dealings with proud King Nebu- chadnezzar,
"Put an end to it."The verbal root used who truly was a "living parable." This king's
in the passive voice here is the reign was character- ized by wide dominion.
well-known s/m, "to be complete," Jeremiah 27:5, 6 quotes God as saying, " '
known to the reader from the common "With my great power and outstretched arm I
Hebrew word "shalom." made the earth and its people and the animals
5:27 "Tekel."The verb teqal, "to weigh," that are on it, and I give it to any- one I please.
is tied to the concept of balances. In Now I will hand all your countries over to my
Bible times, it was a familiar metaphor servant Nebuchad- nezzar king of Babylon; I
of divine evaluation and judgment (Lev. will make even the wild animals subject to
26:26; 1 Sam. 2:3; Job 31:6; Ps. 62:9; him." ' " In the rest of Daniel's speech, he
Ezek. 4:16; Rev. 6:5). "opens old wounds—he speaks of pride, the
5:28 "Peres." There is a wordplay here king's ancestral sin."35
in- volving the Aramaic verb peras, "to Instead of recognizing God's hand in his
divide," and the word paras, which means privileged life and prosperity, Nebu-
"Persia" or "the Persians." Thus Daniel chadnezzar became very proud, and his pride
explains that Belshazzar's kingdom is led to his fall. He dared to claim for himself
given to the Medes and the Persians. divine prerogatives, such as that of preserving
Daniel read the four words as or ending people's lives. According to the
numbered, num- bered, weighed, and Bible, the prerogatives described in verse 19
divided. express absolute power that belongs only to
"The Medes and the Persians." Several texts God. Deuteronomy 32:39 says,
in Daniel's book confirm the close
association of these two names; for "See now that I myself am He!
example, Daniel 8:20: "The two-horned There is no god besides me.
ram that you saw represents the kings I put to death and I bring to life,
of Media and Persia." This sequence of I have wounded and I will heal, and
the two names is consistently found in no one can deliver out of my hand."
Daniel's book (6:8, 12,15), while in
A king of Israel described God in a
Esther the sequence is the Persians and
similar way when he asked, " 'Am I
the Medes (1:19). Verse 31 introduces
Darius the Mede as the next ruler over
Babylon.

Exposition <5:18-Z8)
5:18-21 In the original Aramaic, Daniel's
words "You, O king." mark the opening of his196
speech before Belshazzar (w. 18-21). The
prophet then introduces the Most High God,
followed by a list of the blessings God gave to
Nebuchad- nezzar, the person whom
Belshazzar has
BELSHAZZAR'S BANQUET (5:1-31)
DANIELS SPEECH AND THE MEANING OF THE WRITING (5:18-28)

_rod? Can I kill and bring back to life?' " 2 were praising the dead idols—forgetting the
Kings 5:7). Yet, in the end, when uod God whose hands held their very lives. In
humbled Nebuchadnezzar, the ex- rerience listing the materials of the idols, Daniel may
produced genuine repentance md a radical have purposely reversed the order of the first
change in attitude toward me God of heaven. two, thus indicating the divine verdict that
That in its turn led :: his complete restoration. henceforth silver (Medo-Persia) would come
5:22-24 Daniel's words of rebuke before gold (Babylon). In the context of the
addressed to Belshazzar are much in line «-ith book, silver stands for the world power that
the function of biblical prophets, •"ho replaced Babylon (2:39). And in contrast to
exhibited extraordinary courage "hen they the idols listed in this verse, God holds in his
delivered indictment speeches :: Israelite or hand people's lives and ways. Job 12:10 (cf.
foreign kings (1 Kings 11:20-24). Typically, 34:14, 15) says,
such messages ere composed of a historical " 'In his [the L O R D ' S ] hand is the life of every
overview md then a list of charges and creature / and the breath of all mankind.' "
accusa- :.ons followed by the verdict. The in- Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar had a
aictment in Daniel 5 has been described is number of things in common, beginning with
both "dramatic and devastating."36 » erse 22 is pride, but the son had failed to learn lessons of
considered to be the punch -me in Daniel's humility before God from the "father's" life
speech:37 The son had :: learned the most story. Thus these two kings are portrayed in
important lesson :rom his "father." "The stark contrast in chapters 1, 4, and 5, as shown
father-son lan- guage serves to link the two by the following list:
kings: the : ne who took the vessels from the
1. Nebuchadnezzar brought to Babylon
tem- : le in Jerusalem with the one who de-
victories and prosperity (1:2; 4:30).
acralized them; the one who ruled at me
Belshazzar brought to Babylon defeat
beginning of Judah's exile under me
and subjection (5:23, 24, 30).
Chaldeans with the one who ruled a: the end
2. Nebuchadnezzar was the greatest
of that period. The trouble ith Belshazzar, as
legitimate king of Babylon (1:1; 2:37,
this passage has it, is mat he ought to have
38). Belshazzar, the last king, held only
learned the lesson :rom his 'father'
second place in Babylon (5:7, 29).
Nebuchadnezzar (as :cid in chapter 4), but he
3. Nebuchadnezzar was the son of the
has not (w. 12-23)."38
founder of the dynasty. Belshazzar
While the holy vessels were being aesecrated,
Belshazzar and his guests

197
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

claimed to be the successor of word MENE is repeated. This word is


Nebuchadnezzar (5:11). followed by a word related to weight—
4. God gave the temple articles into TEKEL, and finally by a fraction of a
Nebuchadnezzar's hand (1:2). measure—PARS IN (in the singular
Belshazzar took them into his own PERES). Daniel read the words as nouns, but
hands and desecrated them (5:2).39 he explained them as pas- sive verbs:
Numbered, numbered,
In his book, Daniel consistently as- cribes weighed, and divided. The concept ot
his ability to do what the rest of the wise men certainty is expressed through the use of the
could not to his connec- tion with God, who past tense, which normally describes actions
in this case sent the hand that wrote the inscription that have already been completed. In other
(v. 24). The king is guilty of excessive pride words, "what God has decreed and
and of blasphemy and idolatry. Daniel's announced through the handwriting on the
enunciation is followed by annuncia- tion.40 wall is as good as done."41
5:25-28 Daniel now turns to the reading To each of the four words, the prophet
of the words and their meaning. In adds a four-word interpreta- tion.42 Indeed,
accordance with the established cus- tom of this cryptic writing pres- ents an example of
writing Semitic languages, the words were the Oriental love for wordplay. God has
written only as consonants and possibly with numbered the days of Belshazzar's reign andput
no divisions between them. This means that an end to it. The same verbal root "to number"
Daniel could read and explain these four is found in Psalm 90:12, which says. "Teach
words and what they meant to the king in
us to number our days aright, that we may
more than one way. Bible scholars agree that
gain a heart of wisdom. The deterministic
the words written on the wall were not
character of this apocalyptic prophecy is
foreign to Belshazzar or to those who were
reinforced through the presence of the
present at the banquet. In fact, for Babylon's
element of numbering, suggesting "a destiny
wise men, the challenge was not that of giving
which cannot be changed."43
the dictionary defini- tion of these four words
The subject of the second word is no:
but of disclos- ing what significance they had
God but Belshazzar, who has been weighed on
for the king.
the scales andfound defi- cient. In the Bible, the
Daniel read the four words as a list of
weighing-scale metaphor conveys the idea of
weight measures that lacked the larg- est
judgment. In a prayer, Hannah warned her
measure, the talent. In its place, the
ene- mies,

198
BELSHAZZAR'S BANQUET (5:1-31)
THE KING'S DEATH (5:29~3 V

"Do not keep talking so proudly or let It is interesting to note that the total
your mouth speak such arrogance, numerical value of the three words writ- ten
for the LORD is a God who knows, and on the wall is three full measures and a
by him deeds are weighed" (1 Sam. 2:3). fraction of a measure, matching the numerical
value of the materials in the vision of the
The same metaphor for judgment :ould composite statue in chapter 2. That statue was
be found among the countries surrounding made up of three full elements followed by a
Israel. The papyrus of Hu- nefer from Egypt, fourth one that was divided. The same sum of
for example, contains i vignette in which the measures is found in the expression "[one]
god Anubis leads the deceased toward the time, [two] times and half a time" (Dan. 7:25;
judgment balance, where the heart of the 12:7). This division of the Babylonian Empire
deceased is weighed against the standard was the sure sign of its end. From heaven's
called Maat. While the results of the judgment perspective, the strength and importance of a
are recorded, the devourer, in the form of a world kingdom is measured by its readiness to
composite beast, stands under the balance.4'1 fulfill God's plans for humanity.
Finally, the subject of the third word is
Belshazzar's kingdom, which is now dividedand The King's Death (5:29-31)
transferred to the next world In a rather brief way, the author describes
empire—identified in the book as be- longing Belshazzar's gifts to Daniel and Belshazzar's
to both the Medes and the Per- sians. The act of subsequent death that fate- ful night.
dividing up a land in the context of a
29Then at Belshazzar's command, Daniel was
judgment, accompanied by the loss of
political independence, is aptly idustrated in clothed in purple, a gold chain was placed around his
Amos's words of rebuke to Amaziah, the neck, and he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in
priest of Bethel: the kingdom.
30That same night Belshazzar, king of the

" 'Your land will be measured and divided Babylonians, was slain, 31and Darius the Mede
up, received the kingdom at the age of sixty-two.
and you yourself will die in an
unclean country. TVotes
.And Israel will certainly go into exile, 5:29 "Belshazzar's commandThis verse
away from their native land' " implies that Belshazzar did not want to
(7:17b). lose face and thus insisted that Daniel
accept the gifts that he had previously
refused to take (v. 17). Daniel's

199
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

words from verse 17 should not be state of 'Peace' [sulmu] was imposed
understood as a direct refusal of the upon the city. Cyrus sent greetings to all
rewards but as a post- ponement until Babylon. Gobryas his governor, installed
Belshazzar hears the verdict and decides [sub-]governors in Bab;. - Ion."46
whether to reward the interpreter or (2) Biblical evidence, on the other
not. hand, leacs to the conclusion that the
"The third highest ruler." See the Notes on name Darius may have been Cyrus's
Daniel 5:7. Median title or his throne name
5:30 "That same night." This expression, meaning "The Royal One." At least one
beh belelya', may mean "in the course of historica
the night that followed," but in this source refers to Cyrus as "King of the
context it sug- gests abrupt finality. Medes..........................................................
Ancient sources confirm the fact that The biblical prophets Isaiah (13:17) and
Babylon was captured following a Jeremia- (51:11, 28) had claimed that
surprise attack at night. For a similar Babylon would be conquered by the
case of in- stantaneous punishment, see Medes, not the Persians. In aa- dition,
4:31, "The words were still on his lips scholars have suggested that the con-
when a voice came from heaven." junction in Daniel 6:28 may be taken as
"The Babylonians." The Aramaic text says explica- tive, so that the whole verse
kasdaya', "the Chaldeans," since during should be read as "So Daniel prospered
the Neo- Babylonian dynasty, the during the reign of Darius which is the
Chaldean race ruled the empire. reign of Cyrus the Persian."48 The B - ble
'Was slain."The word qetil is in the contains a few examples of kings who
passive voice. It means "killed, slain." In hac more than one throne name:
the Bible, "the use of the passive voice is Tiglath-pileser III is also called Pul (2
often a way of ascrib- ing an action to Kings 15:19, 29); Azariah was also
God."45 known as Uzziah (2 Kings 15:1; 2 Chror
5:31 In the original Aramaic text, 26:1); Solomon was given the name
this verse is placed as the opening verse Jedidiah at his birth (2 Sam. 12:25); and
of chapter 6. Jeremiah calls Kinc Jehoiachin "Coniah"
"Darius the Mede." Up until now, no in Jeremiah 22:24 and "Jec- oniah" in
satis- factory answer has been given to 24:1.
the question of who Darius the Mede "Received the kingdom." The original tex:
was. Among several pro- posals, the says that Darius qabbel malkuta', "received
most attractive are the following two: the kingdom," which may be explained
(1) Extrabiblical sources reveal that a in three ways: (1) Gobryas received the
high rank- ing officer was in charge of kingdom frorr the hand of Cyrus, who
Babylon right after its fall at the hands was still the emperor, or
of the Medo-Persian army. The name of 200 (2) Babylon's priests and nobility
this person is variously given as Gauba- welcomec Cyrus and proclaimed him as
ruwa (Gubaru), Gobryas or Ugbaru. The their new king, o:-
Naboni- dus Chronicle claims, "Cyrus entered (3) God delivered Babylon into the
Babylon, green twigs were spread in hands of Cyrus (cf. Dan. 1:2).
front of him—the "At the age of sixty-two." Scholars who
identify Darius the Mede with Cyrus see
this as an important detail that confirms
their thesis
BELSHAZZAR'S BANQUET (5:1-31)
THE KING'S DEATH (5:29-3 V

recause Cyrus was "in his early sixties at successor on Babylon's throne, is killed.
the time of the conquest of Babylon." 49 "When the storm has swept by, the wicked
He died in 530 B.C. are gone, / but the righteous stand firm
forever" (Prov. 10:25). Had it depended on
Exposition (5:29-31) Belshazzar alone, Dan- iel's promotion would
5:29 The reader is surprised ro learn diat not have lasted long, because the text says
in Belshazzar's response to Daniel's speech, that during that same night Belshazzar was slain.
there was neither regret nor confession of sin. Yet the story in this chapter does not end
In contrast to Nebu- chadnezzar's words of with the mention of Daniel's exalta- tion. It
praise to Daniel's God, found in more than rather "comes to a climax with the fulfillment
one place in the book, Belshazzar had nothing of prophecy"53 given by Daniel's God. This
good to say about the greatness and power of detail is important in the context of the book
the One who was the source of Daniel's because it describes the immediate fulfillment
wisdom. This attitude also contrasts with the of the message about Belshazzar written on
praise to God rendered in the book by Darius the wall and also of the previously made
the Mede. "In all the other cases, the king is prediction about the fall of Babylon to
presented in a better light than here; either he "another kingdom" (Dan. 2:39).
is en- tirely sympathetic (ch. 6), or neutral chs. It is also worth noticing that one of the
1 and 2), or finally repentant and even last official acts of the Babylonian Empire
converted (chs. 3 and 4)."50 In spite of the was to honor Daniel, the servant of the God
rebuke, likely out of pride, Belshazzar of heaven. This detail prepares the reader for
proceeds to reward the prophet, but he never an even greater reversal of fortunes that took
says anything positive about God. Daniel place at the fall of Babylon, which opened the
apparently consented to accept the gifts, door for the exiles to return home. There is a
possibly because of Belshazzar's insistence. good probability that verses 30 and 31 of this
5:30 While God's punishment of chapter were cast with the state- ment in
Nebuchadnezzar in the previous chapter was Daniel 1:21 in mind—the statement that
disciplinary in nature, his punish- ment of Daniel remained in the royal service in
Belshazzar was fatal.51 "That very night the Babylon "until the first year of King Cyrus."
God 'who removes kings' 2:21) brings At the end of this chapter, Belshazzar died,
Belshazzar's kingdom to an end (5:26)."52 The and through his foolishness and arrogance, he
chapter ends with a reversal of fortunes. brought the whole empire to an end. But
Daniel, the cap- tive from Judea, is promoted; accord- ing to the closing words of chapter 1,
Belshazzar, who claimed to be the legitimate

201
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

Daniel was able not only to survive the without damaging its walls. The words in
change of empires but also to retain a position Isaiah's book that credit God's hand with the
of influence. opening of "doors before him [Cyrus] so that
The question is often discussed as to how gates will not be shut (Isa. 45:1) seem to add
the Medo-Persian army took the seemingly weight to this view of the fall of Babylon.54
impregnable city of Babylon, which was The famous Cyrus Cylinder claims that the
protected by sets of double walls. An old Persians, aided by Babylon's patron god
view, based on the reports from Herodotus Marduk. took control of the city without
and Xenophon, is that the river Euphrates battle and thus spared it from destruction.
was diverted so that the soldiers who had laid Furthermore, Cyrus declared, "When I
siege to the city could go in by the dry entered Babylon as a friend, I set up the seat
riverbed. This view is fostered by certain of government in the royal palace amidst
biblical pas- sages that talk about the drying jubilation and rejoicing."55 The legitimate king
up of the river Euphrates (Isa. 44:27; Rev. of Babylon, Nabonidus. had been captured
16:12). A fact that is often overlooked is that and sent into exile. Robert Koldewey's
the prophetic passages that talk about the excavations of the site of the ancient city of
exile and return from Babylon are of Babylon have unearthed the royal palace in
figurative character and are couched in the which the ominous banquet took place
language of the narrative about Israel's together with a number of other objects that
exodus from Egypt. Thus, biblical prophecies il- lustrate the power and architecture of this
talk about the drying up of the Euphrates (Jer. city.
50:38; 51:36), but they also mention the 5:31 The transition of power in Babylon
drying up of the river of Egypt (Isa. 11:15; took place rather smoothly and without great
19:5), a clear allusion to God's act of salvation casualties. This must have been due to the
at the Red Sea. Since the fall of Babylon can impact of Daniel's speech made before
be dated with precision to the 16th of Tishri, Belshazzar. Thus, for the second time in the
when the Euphrates River is normally at its book, a large- scale onslaught in Babylon was
lowest, the question may be asked if there was avoided thanks to God's intervention through
a need to divert the river in order to use its Daniel (cf. Dan. 2:24). Even the life of
bed to enter the city. Belshazzar's father Nabonidus was spared,
It is equally possible that the city of and he was exiled to Carmania, where he died.
Babylon fell because soldiers who were Daniel's book calls the king who took
sympathetic to Cyrus opened its gates so that control of Babylon Darius the Mede.
the Medo-Persian army could enter

202
BELSHAZZAR'S BANQUET (5:1-31)
SUMMARY OF THE TEACHING

This statement is meant to show that •»ith the age (Dan. 6:28). This commentary takes
coming of a Median ruler, pre- dictions made seriously the view that applies the title
by biblical prophets have :ome to pass: "Darius the Mede" to the person of Cyrus the
Great.
See, I will stir up against them [the One reason why the author of Daniel
Babylonians] the Medes, who do not care introduces the new ruler as a Median king
for silver and have no delight in gold may have been the pact that had been made
(Isa. 13:17; cf. 21:2). years before by the founder of the
"Sharpen the arrows, take up the Neo-Babylonian Empire, Nabo- polassar,
shields! and the Median king Cyax- ares, following the
defeat of Babylon's worst enemy, Assyria.
The LORD has stirred up the kings of the
This pact made the Medes and the
Medes,
Babylonians friends. Moreover, Tobit 14:15
because his purpose is to destroy
claims that Nebuchadnezzar and Ahasuerus
Babylon.
together captured and destroyed Nineveh.
The TORD will take vengeance,
Egypt was another enemy of both Media and
vengeance for his temple"
Babylon. In other words, at the end of this
(Jer. 51:11; cf. 51:28).
chapter, the author is saying that the new ruler
Note that Babylon fell to the Medo- of Babylon was not a stranger who belonged
to an enemy na- tion, but rather a historic ally
Persian army in the month of Tishri, some
who de- served to be welcomed to the city of
five days after the Day of Atone- ment, a
Babylon.
Hebrew festival closely tied to the temple in
Jerusalem.
Summary of the Teaching
The historical person behind the name 1. A type of the enemy. When God's people,
Darius the Mede is still unknown today. Some who are faithful in the same way that Daniel
pieces of extrabiblical evi- dence lead to the was, become successful be- cause God has
conclusion that he might have been Gobryas, blessed them, they often become the target of
the general who led the Medo-Persian army jealousy. The suc- cess of faithful people
in their conquest of the city of Babylon. Most often engenders false accusations by their
of the indicators from the Bible, on the other enemies, who are also enemies of God
hand, point to Cyrus the Great, •vho may himself. For this reason God's people may
have been known by two titles due to his dual suffer for a while as they are subjected to tests
(Medo-Persian) parent- of faith, but sooner or later, signs of God's

203
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

ultímate approval become visible even in this help him" (Dan. 11:45). The parallels
life. between Belshazzar and the little horn are as
In the encounter between Daniel and follows:
Belshazzar, the reader can discern more than
just a mere conflict between two men. It is 1. Both appeared toward the end of their
useful to remember that Daniel occupied a world empires (5:31; 7:8; 8:23).
high position in Babylon throughout the 2. Both claimed royal power and pre-
Neo-Babylonian period and in the beginning rogatives (5:1; 8:23, 24).
of the Medo- Persian rule with just one 3. Transgression on the part of both
exception: the latter part of the reign of resulted in desecration of the temple
Belshazzar, when Daniel was out of service (5:3, 4; 8:11, 12).
and al- most forgotten. Belshazzar's 4. Both came to their end in rebellion
antagonism toward Daniel was motivated against God (5:22, 23; 7:26).
primarily by his attitude toward the God of 5. Both came to a sudden end brought
heaven. As for Daniel, he entrusted the judg- about by God (5:26-28; 7:26; 8:25)
ment on Belshazzar and his godless reign to 6. Both spoke and acted blasphe- mously
God, the only just Arbiter of this earth's (5:23; 7:25; 8:11).
affairs. 7. Both became strong by means of
Since the two key visions about the little someone else's power (5:16, 23; 8:22).
horn's activities were given to Daniel during
the reign of Belshazzar (Dan. 7:1; 8:1), we can 2. Reasons for Babylon's fall. Several
see in this king a type of the anti-God power prophetic passages in the Bible speak of the
that is introduced in the visionary chapters of fall of Babylon, but Daniel 5 is the only
the book. In this chapter, Belshazzar is historical narrative that mentions this
presented in stark contrast to important event. The author of the book of
Daniel presents the event that immediately
Nebuchadnezzar and Darius. His attitude
precedes the fall of Baby- lon as an encounter
foreshadows the little horn's hostile activities
between two per- sons, one who represented
toward God, his temple, and his faithful
God and the other who represented human
people. Much like Belshazzar's behavior on
pride and arrogance. Thus the message to
that fateful night when Babylon came to an
which the chapter points is the importance of
end, so this power too will exalt idols over the
obedience to the Word of the God who holds
true God, desecrate the sanctu- ary and its
in his hand the life of every hu
services, and show itself an- tagonistic to
God's servants. Yet he too "will come to his
end, and no one will

204
BELSHAZZAR'S BANQUET (5:1-31)
SUMMARY OF THE TEACHING

man being, including world emperors. Ignorant are those who carry about idols
The key elements in this story— pride, of wood,
blasphemy, inappropriate drink- ing of wine who pray to gods that cannot save.
in the presence of women, praise to idols—all Declare what is to be, present it— let
become standard metaphors in subsequent them take counsel together.
biblical texts that talk about Babylon's true Who foretold this long ago,
character and its activities that stood in who declared it from the distant
opposi- tion to God. This is especially past?
evident in the passages in Revelation that talk Was it not I, the LORD?

about Babylon's fall. A good case in point is And there is no God apart from me,
Revelation 14:8, which speaks of Babylon's a righteous God and a Savior; there is
fall in prophetic terms: "A second angel none but me"
followed and said, 'Fallen! Fallen is Babylon (Isa. 45:20, 21).
the Great, which made all the nations drink
the maddening wine of her adulteries.' " Similar affirmations are found at al- most
3. God's Word can be trusted. The events every step in the historical part of Daniel's
described in this chapter serve as a good book, and they all serve a defi- nite purpose.
illustration of the fact that God's prophetic The lesson to learn here is that God and his
words are fulfilled. Proverbs 21:30 says, Word can be trusted. In this manner, the way
"There is no wisdom, no in- sight, no plan / is paved for the central message of the visions
that can succeed against the LORD." The that are found in the second half of Daniel's
details of the story in this chapter provide book. Since these visions point to the future,
important internal witness to that fact. One they can be accepted only by faith—the kind
such detail clearly stated in chapter 2 is that of faith that is based on God's past and
Baby- lon was not to rule the world forever. present dealings with human beings.
The following words from Isaiah's book of
consolation stress that the most im- portant
difference between the true God and dead 1. Shea, Daniel, 60.
2. P. A. Beaulieu, The Reign of Nabonidus, King
idols is the fact that God's words come to ofBabylon 556-539 B.C. (New Haven, CT: Yale University
pass: Press, 1989), 90.
3. See Alan R. Millard, "Daniel and Belshazzar in
History," Biblical Archeology Review 11 (May/ June 1985):
"Gather together and come; 73-78.
assemble, you fugitives from the 4. Miller, 194.
nations. 5. Hartman and DiLella, 183.

205
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
| COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

6.Michael Hilton, "Babel Reversed—Daniel 30. Doukhan, Secrets, 81.


Chapter 5," Journal for the Study of the Old Testa- ment 66 31. Maxwell, 77. Maxwell said this of Daniel's
(1995): 100. omission of the customary greeting of royalty, but it fits
7. Smith-Christopher, 81. also his disregard of the promise of rewards for
8. Slotki, 39. interpreting the words.
9. Collins, 245. 32. Smith-Christopher, 83.
10. The extrabiblical example that is often men- 33. Mishnah, Abot3.16.
tioned in this discussion is the text on Shalmaneser's 34. Lucas, 138.
obelisk that speaks ofJehu as "the son of Omri." 35. Berrigan, 82.
11. Zdravko Stefanovic, "Like Father, Like Son: 36. Towner, 74.
Belshazzar's Relationship to King Nebuchadnez- zar," 37. Ford, 128.
Asia Adventist Seminary Studies 1 (1998): 38. Seow, 77.
27-31. 39. Stefanovic, "Thematic," 124-125.
12. Saikh-Ghrisoaphec, SL fferrigzn, 82.
13. Longman, 136. 41. Towner, 75.
14. Lucas, 138. 42. Doukhan, Secrets, 84.
15. Walton, Matthews, Chavalas, 737. 43. Towner, 76.
16. See D. R. Hillers, "A Convention in Hebrew 44. James B. Pritchard, ed., The Ancient Near East in
Literature: The Reaction to Bad News," Zeitschrift Pictures (ANEP) (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Uni- versity
fur die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 7 (1965): Press, 1969), 639.
86-89. 45. Redditt, 99.
17. Goldingay, 114. 46. Pritchard, ANET, 306.
18. Doukhan, Secrets, 80. 47. Doukhan, Secrets, 30-31.
19. Paul L. Redditt, Daniel, New Century Bible 48. This reading was first proposed by Wiseman.
Commentary (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, Shea ("Darius the Mede in his Persian-Babylonian
1999), 91. Setting," Andrews University Seminary Studies 29- no. 3
20. Walton, Matthews, Chavalas, 738. [1991]: 235-257) supports Wiseman's thesis by saying
21. Collins, 246. that even if the conjunction in Daniel 6:28 is not
22. Doukhan, Secrets, 79. explicative, the two titles describe Cyrus's consecutive
23. Baldwin, 121. stages of reign over Babylon.
24. Doukhan, Secrets, 80. 49. Collins, 253.
25. Seow, 81. 50. Davies, 49.
26. Goldingay, 110. 51. Collins, 254.
27. Lucas, 129. 52. Nickelsburg, 22.
28. Zdravko Stefanovic, "Thematic Links Be- tween 53. Goldingay, 117.
the Historical and Prophetic Sections of Daniel," Andrews 54. For an Old Testament parallel, see Nahum 2:6;
University Seminary Studies 27 (1989): 124. 3:13, which speak of the fall of ancient Nineveh.
29. Lucas, 131. 55. Pritchard, ANET, 315.

206
DANIEL IN THE LIONSADEN
(6:1-28)

/I /j ahatma Gandhi once stated y ¥ V then vindicated by God. Daniel's expe- rience
that he "found much conso- lation in reading is much like that ofJoseph, Es- ther, and the
the book of the prophet Daniel in the Bible." three Hebrews in chapter 3. However, the
He said that what he had learned about Dan- main point of these stories is not that God
iel, especially from chapter 6, made him always delivers his faith- ful followers in
believe that Daniel was "one of the greatest times of trials. Rather, it is that after a testing
passive resisters that ever lived."1 The story of period character- ized by divine silence, God
conflict recorded in this chapter of Daniel is a at times chooses to manifest his saving
deliberate counterpart to the story in chapter presence in behalf of the suffering faithful.
3, with which it has many parallels on the level But whether or not he saves them super-
of structure, vocabulary,2 and theme. This naturally, he always assures them of his
chapter is also classified as the "story of a abiding presence in the midst of their trials.
contest between [two] immutable laws: 'the The main event in this chapter is not
law of the Medes and the Persians, which explicitly dated, but it must have hap- pened
cannot be re- voked' (v. 8), and the law of shortly after the fall of Babylon, or around
Daniel's God."3 538 B .C . — at about the same time as the
The story of Daniel in the lions' den plays events of the previous chapter and also of
an important role in his book be- cause in chapter 9. In its heyday, the Medo-Persian
chapter 3, only Daniel's friends were tested; kingdom that took control of the world was
he himselfwas mysteriously absent. Now, in the largest empire up to that time, stretching
chapter 6, the faithful Daniel is first from Egypt to India (Esther 1:1).4 The small
victimized by rivals and kingdom ofJudah belonged to its fifth

207
DANIEL: WISDOM TO THE WISE
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL

satrapy. The builder of this empire, Cyrus the You are my witnesses," declares the
Great, was known through- out the world as a Lord, "that I am God.
tolerant emperor whose generous policies Yes, and from ancient days I am he.
supported the local laws and temples. No one can deliver out of my hand.
This chapter is another in a series of When I act, who can reverse it?
records about the triumph of Daniel's God (Isa. 43:11-13).
over earthly powers. All of the pre- vious
triumphs took place in or around the city of As is the case with the previous chap-
Babylon, while the place where this story ters, this one too has a chiastic structure.
happened is not identi- fied. Most scholars Thus, certain elements are reversed, such as a
assume that it was Babylon, even though it fatal decree that gives way to a saving decree.
could have been Susa (Shushan) in Persia The five-part proposed structure is as
(which later became the capital city of the follows: 5
Medo- Persian Empire—see Esther 2:8). The
place of the event was not nearly as im- 1. The best satrap and a deadly decree
portant to the author of the book as was (6:1-9)
God's mighty act of delivering his faith- ful 2. Arrest and sentence (6:10-18)
servant. 3. Deliverance (6:19-22)
Daniel was around eighty-five years old at 4. Release and doom (6:23, 24)
the time of this story. The experi- ence that he 5. A saving decree and the best satrap
had to go through recalls John the revelator's (6:25-28)
exile to Patmos as an old man (Rev. 1:9). The
following pro- phetic promise from the scroll