AUTHOR, PLACE AND DATE OF WRITING
The book of Daniel gives the Bible interpreter two clear alternatives: Either it was recounted by Daniel himself or by a person close to him and is historically trustworthy, or it was written by a religious zealot during the Maccabean revolt and is pure fiction.
The question of authorship is essentially dependent upon the issue of when the book was written. The supposition that it was recorded by Daniel or an associate from Babylon and later Persia implies a date of approximately 530 B.C. The suggestion that it was instead composed during the Maccabean wars places the date of writing at approximately 165 B.C. The arguments for either side are complex, but there is good reason for considering Daniel to be historically trustworthy and written early in the Persian period.
Based upon the assumption of an early date of composition (530 B.C.), Daniel wrote to his fellow Jewish exiles in Babylon to remind them of God's sovereign control over world history and to encourage them with God's promises of restoration.
CULTURAL FACTS AND HIGHLIGHTS
Advocates of a late date of composition (c. 165 B.C.) argue that the book was intended essentially to encourage Jews locked at that time in conflict with the ruthless Seleucid king Antiochus IV. From the perspective of scholars holding to this view, Daniel was meant to persuade the struggling Jews of that much later time that there were historical examples of godly Jews having overcome pagan kings and their persecutions of God's people (Da 3-6). In addition, these researchers argue, the prophecies of chapters 2, 7, 8 and 11 were intended to encourage the people that all of the troubles they were enduring under Antiochus had been foreseen and that the fullness of the kingdom of God would come immediately after Antiochus's downfall. Intrinsic to this interpretation is the presupposition that all of these historical examples and prophecies were in fact aspects of a pious fraud.
Against this, and apart from the fact that the inclusion of a "pious fraud" in the Bible would be, to say the least, theologically troublesome, it may be helpful to note that the pagan kings in Daniel are at times portrayed in positive terms (4:1-3,36-37; 6:19-28). If the historical context of Daniel were the much later Jewish war against Antiochus IV, a man who set up an image to Zeus and sacrificed pigs (ritually unclean animals) at the Jerusalem temple—a man who in fact tried to eradicate Judaism—this positive portrayal of pagan kings by a zealous Jewish combatant would be inexplicable.
But what is the purpose of Daniel if it is understood to be a historical document from 530 e.c.? Evidently the book was intended to encourage Jews of the exile and Diaspora to remain faithful in the face of a prolonged period during which Israel would remain at best an obscure, subservient nation under the rule of a series of Gentile world powers. Some Gentile rulers would be harsh and oppressive, while others would be tolerant and even supportive of the Jews. Yet through it all, generations of Daniel's readers could take heart in the fact that God had foreseen their trouble and would go on to see them through it.
AS YOU READ
The riveting narratives in chapters 1- 6 will easily hold the reader's attention. Look for examples of uncompromising faith in the face of the worst possible odds—that is, without God's sovereignty taken into account.
As you tackle the apocalyptic literature found in the rest of the book, you might find an in-depth Bible commentary a welcome companion. A well-researched commentary will no doubt point out and discuss similarities between this highly symbolic portion of Daniel and ,tie book of Revelation at the end of the New Testament.
DID YOU KNOW?
Daniel's themes include:
1. God's sovereignty. The narratives in Daniel emphasize God's faithfulness and absolute autonomy over world history (2:47; 3:17-18; 4:28-37; 5:18-31). Despite appearances, God is in control over global events, kingdoms and governments (5:21).
2. Faithfulness to God. God rewards those who are sincerely devoted to him and acknowledge him (cf. 1:8 with 1:15-20; 2:17-18 with 2:19; 2:27-28 with 2:48-49; 3:12,16-18 with 3:26-30; 5:16-18 with 5:29; 6:7-12 with 6;19-24). The book reveals that it is possible for God's oppressed people to survive and even thrive in a culture hostile to their faith.
3. Prophecies of future events. Daniel's four visions contain predictions of future periods of persecution, as well as of the return of the triumphant Christ (7:11,26-27; 8:25; 9:27; 11:45; 12:13). Daniel's visions encourage God's faithful people who are living under oppression and persecution by offering a divine perspective upon reality that differs from the purely visible: God will ultimately win the victory, so believers of any era can live their lives in the expectation of final triumph (2:44; 7:27; Rev 11:15).
II. The Destinies of the Nations (2-7)
III. Israel's Destiny (8-12)
DANIEL 1 The dating of Daniel is controversial (see also the book introduction). Traditional scholarship holds that the book Was composed in the sixth century B.C., concurrent with the historical information it provides. But common arguments for dating Daniel in the second century B.c. are as follows:
Nebuchadnezzar's madness was a rare but authentic clinical condition called boanthropy. "Made-up" miracles stories
contain outrageous elements with no clinical analogy (e.g., in Tb 2:9-10, another Apocryphal book, Tobit goes blind
because of sparrow droppings in his eyes).
vocabulary came into use early. What would be surprising is how little Greek appears in Daniel, if the book had been
written in the second century B.C., when the world was thoroughly Hellenized.
The Persian words in Daniel are of an older, pre-Hellenistic Persian.
DANIEL 2 Daniel 2 and 7 together present a prophetic look at four kingdoms that would dominate the world. They are represented both by an image of four metals (ch. 2) and by a vision of four beasts (ch. 7). One interpretation holds that these kingdoms are Babylon, Media, Persia and Greece, respectively. However, Media never attained the status of a world power. Its independent period was contemporary with that of Babylon, but it was ruled as part of Persia after Babylon's fall in 539 B.c.In approximately 550 B.c.Cyrus, the king of Persia, defeated the last king of Media, Astyages, and merged the two kingdoms.' In fact, the book of Daniel treats Media and Persia as a single power (cf. 5:28; 6:8,12,15; 8:20).
A more plausible interpretation holds that these kingdoms are Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece and Rome, according well with the symbolism and factual history of the kingdoms mentioned.The first kingdom is identified as Babylon (2:38),2 the head of gold (v. 32) and winged lion (7:4). The lion was a recognized symbol of Babylonian royalty, as demonstrated by statues and reliefs of lions excavated from Babylon's ruins. The plucking of wings and subsequent trans-formation into a man perhaps represents Nebuchadnezzar's illness and restoration.
The second, bear-like beast, "raised up on one of its sides" (7:5), corresponds to the Persian domination in the Medo-Persian Empire after the defeat of Astyages by Cyrus II (the fact that the bear is raised on one side symbolizes the ascendancy of the Persians over the Medes).4 Similarly, the ram of Daniel 8 is described as having two horns, one longer than the other, identified as the kings of Media and Persia (8:20). Under Cyrus and his son Cambyses three kingdoms were"chewed up," as represented by the three ribs in the bear's mouth (7:5). These kingdoms were Lydia (546 B.c.), the Chaldean Empire (539 B.c.) and Egypt (525 B.c.).
The third beast, a four-winged, four-headed leopard (7:6), represents the Greek Empire., The swiftness and agility of the leopard (cf. Hab 1:8 on Babylonia) symbolizes the speed of Alexander the Great, who con-quered all the known world between 334 and 323 B.c.After his untimely death the kingdom was divided among four of his generals, as symbolized by the four heads of the leopard: (1) Cassander over Greece and Macedonia; (2) Lysimachus over Thrace and Asia Minor; (3) Seleucus over Syria and the Middle East, and (4) Ptolemy over Egypt! At the same time, the number four should probably not be pressed here; the Greek kingdoms after the death of Alexander were for some time quite unstable, and various dynasties rose and fell (Lysimachus, e.g., was slain in battle in 281 B.c.,and no dynasty followed him). The number four is probably just representative of the several Greek kingdoms that at various times controlled parts of the Near East and, in particular, the Holy Land.
The final kingdom,"different from all the former beasts" (7:7), denotes Rome.8 The two iron legs of the image (2:33) may reflect that the empire could generally be characterized as having two major parts, one in the east (where Greek was the principal language) and the other in the west (where Latin dominated). The ten horns may represent the various rulers and dynasties who governed the Roman Empire (again, "ten"here represents a plurality and should not be pressed for ten specific historical counterparts). Throughout its his. tory the empire was ruled by the republic,by various generals who seized power during the late republic (examples include Marius, Sulla and Julius Caesar) and by various dynasties that ruled after Augustus had consolidated power under himself. Vying for power through intrigue, assassination and outright civil war was a regular feature of Roman history, and this seems to be reflected in the diversity of the image (iron mixed with clay).
An interesting motif of the four kingdoms is that they become increasingly large, diverse, violent and unstable. Babylon is portrayed as highly unified, while Persia is in two parts (one dominant over the other). Greece has four heads and Rome has a multiplicity of divisions.
DANIEL 4 Nebuchadnezzar reigned from 605-562 B.C. over Babylon at the peak of its power) Inscriptions reveal his great pride over his achievements in building temples and greatly fortifying the city of Babylon.The book of Daniel records that God struck Nebuchadnezzar with a strange affliction in order to humble him. Extrabiblical records deal with his infirmity only obliquely. The ancient Jewish historian Josephus cited a report by the Babylonian priest Berossus that Nebuchadnezzar died following a period of weakness.' The Christian writer Eusebius preserved a tradition from the Greek historian Megasthenes (c. 300 B.c.) that Nebuchadnezzar, having ascended to the roof of his palace, became inspired by some god. (In antiquity insanity was looked upon as possession by a deity.)
The illness described in Daniel 4:22-34 appears to have been a delusional disorder. The typical onset for this kind of malady occurs in later life; it frequently lasts from months to years and remits spontaneously, often without subsequent relapse. Lycanthropy, in which patients imagine themselves to be wolves, is one such disorder. Nebuchadnezzar's condition has been described as boanthropy, or cow-like behavior. However, the imagery implied by his behavior may be related to a figure of the Gilgamesh Epic.This myth, known from the library of Ashurbanipal (668-626 B.c.), tells of Enkidu, a savage, animal-like creature who was hairy, unclothed and ate grass until becoming civilized—the antithesis of what would be expected of a cultured, self-sufficient builder of cities like Nebuchadnezzar.
Little is known of Nebuchadnezzar's final years in power.The seven "times," or periods (4:16,23,32), of the illness could represent years, months or various other units of time. If his illness lasted seven years,then its onset must have been toward the end of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, after the completion of his numerous building projects.
DANIEL 5 Belshazzar (meaning "Bel protect the king") was the son of the Babylonian king Nabonidus (r. 556-539 B.c.) and the principal monarch from approximately 550 to 540 B.c. Although Nabonidus claimed to be a rightful heir to Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom, it is clear that he was not originally in line to become king. An inscription found in Harran indicates that Nabonidus's mother, Adadguppi, was responsible for his rise to power. Some suggest that she was a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar; hence Nebuchadnezzar would have been Belshazzar's "(grand)father" or "(fore)father" (Da 5:2). Others propose that Belshazzar may have played an active role in advancing his father to the throne—by murdering a man named Labasi-Marduk who had a better claim to succession.
A Babylonian text, the Verse Account of Nabonidus, relates that Nabonidus placed the military troops under Belshazzar's command and entrusted the kingship to him before departing to the west. During the approximate ten-year reign of Belshazzar, Nabonidus remained on campaign in Tema (Arabia). Nabonidus also was apparently devoted to the god Sin; he had no interest in the worship of Marduk (the chief Babylonian god) and even ceased to observe the traditional New Year festival. He was thus despised as a heretical and negligent monarch. Curiously, Nabonidus seems to have been one of history's first archaeologists, having carried out excavations at Agade, Uruk and Ur.
Though always referred to as "son of the king" in Assyrian sources, Belshazzar exercised all the functions of kingship, including receiving tribute, granting leases and attending to the upkeep of the temples, as attested in several business letters and contracts contemporary to his reign. He was apparently as impious as his father (seen in his lack of regard for the God of Israel),and ruthless as well. As"second" ruler, he promised Daniel the position of "third" ruler (v.16). Little is known of Belshazzar's final years in power. Babylon was well fortified when the Persians attacked in 539 B.C., but Cyrus is said to have diverted the waters of the Euphrates and opened an access into the city. Herodotus and Xenophon relate that Cyrus found the city in celebration and took it with relative ease. Nabonidus returned to Babylon in 539 B.C. but was captured at Borsippa and exiled to Carmania in the east.
DANIEL 6 Daniel 6 informs us that after the Persian conquest of Babylon,' the city was ruled by a king called "Darius the Mede." This statement poses a problem: There is no record of such an individual outside of the Bible—a fact that has brought the historicity and authorship of Daniel into question. Many believe that an unknown author wrote Daniel hundreds of years after the fall of Babylon and that the figure Darius the Mede, like most of Daniel, is pure fiction.2 But is it appropriate to patently dismiss Darius the Mede on the assumption that he never existed?
DANIEL 7 Daniel 7:6 describes a vision in which a kingdom is represented by a leopard with four wings and four heads. The wings represent great speed, but the heads signify 124113. that the kingdom was split into several do-f1.7 mains.The leopard symbolizes the Greek kingdom of Alexander the Great, a kingdom that was established with lightning speed but that broke into several parts, ruled by various Greek dynasties, after his death.
The Ptolemies were a dynasty of Greek irDa419 kings who ruled Egypt from just after the death of Alexander the Great to the time of the annexation of Egypt by Rome. Their history is closely connected to that of the region later known as Palestine in the third century B.C. (the Ptolemies ruled Palestine and thus also Jerusalem from 323-200 B.c.).2 Important Ptolemaic rulers were as follows:
DANIEL 8 Nabonidus was the father of King Belshazzar of Babylon, with whom he ruled as coregent for at least several years.' A Qumran scroll dating between 75 and 50 B.C., commonly called The Prayer of Nabonidus, or 4QprNab, is an Apocryphal account of a healing of Nabonidus that is probably based on Daniel 4. This text tells us that King Nabonidus was inflicted with a physical ailment for seven years, until a Jewish exorcist pardoned his sins. This Jewish man then encouraged Nabonidus to document the event and to give praise to God, who pardoned him. In the final section of the scroll Nabonidus declared that his prior supplica-tions to the gods of the world concerning his ailment had gone unanswered.
The scroll suggests that Nabonidus jour-neyed to Tema, Arabia, and remained there for a number of years.This detail is accurate. In fact, it was during his stay in Tema that Belshazzar reigned in Babylon.Therefore, 8:1 refers to Belshazzar as king, for the Babylonians saw him as their ruling authority. Apart from that, however, there is little reason to regard The Prayer of Nabonidus as historical. It appears that the story is based on the Biblical account of the healing of Nebuchad-nezzar.2 Other Apocryphal books, such as Bel and the Dragon, are also popular legends that grew out of the canonical book of Daniel.3 As such, The Prayer of Nabonidus can neither confirm nor refute the historical reliability of the story of Daniel 4.
DANIEL 9 The Chaldeans were a seminomadic ethnic group first mentioned in ancient sources from the ninth century B.C. as a people from the land of Kaldu. Living in the southern frontier of Babylon, they were organized into tribal "houses," each of which was headed by a tribal leader. As these tribes assimilated into the predominant culture and subsequently inherited the empire of Babylonia, the terms "Chaldean" and "Babylonian"became synonymous (Isa 47:1; Da 9:1). The first notable Chaldean recorded in Scripture was Merodach-Baladan, king of Babylon, who sent envoys to Hezekiah of Judah for the purpose of forming an anti-Assyrian coalition (2Ki 20:12-19; Isa 39:1). Merodach-Baladan united the Chaldean tribes and, with Elamite assistance, managed to overthrow Assyrian dominance in the region and to rule for a decade before being driven out (c. 722-710 B.c.).1 By 626 B.C., as Assyrian power declined, Chaldean power in Babylon experienced a resurgence during the reigns of Nabopolassar and his son Nebuchadnezzar. This last dynasty of Babylon is thus known as the Chaldean, or Neo-Babylonian Empire.
The reign of the Chaldeans brought the greatest flowering and fame of the Babylonian Empire. Nebuchadnezzar, under whose rule the kingdom of Judah was conquered and exiled (Jer 52),2 in addition to his military achievements is credited with the grandest rebuilding of Babylon's cultural and religious life.3 The city came to be regarded as one of the wonders of the ancient world and was, in the prophet's words, "Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms, the glory of the Babylonians' pride" (Isa 13:19).
Because Babylon was famed as a city of learning, the term "Chaldean" came to stand for priests, astrologers and the educated class (Da 2:10; 4:7; 5:7). This Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian period marked the beginning of accurate historical, economic and astronomical record keeping, as well as the rise of Aramaic as the lingua franca (common, commercial language) of the Near East (2:4).4 Ultimately the Neo-Babylonian Empire fell to Cyrus of Persia,5 and the glory of Mesopo-tamia faded into history.
DANIEL 10 Persepolis (meaning "Persian city") was a capital city of the Achaemenid kings. Its remains, known as Takht-i Jamshid, are located northeast of Shiraz, Iran, 140 miles (226 km) inland from the Persian Gulf. Trilingual inscriptions on the site report the building activities of several generations of Persian monarchs.' Darius I (521-486 B.c.)2 began construction of the city after having created a platform of 33 acres, 40 feet (12.2 m) above the plain. He erected fortifications, a monumental stairway to the platform, a palace, an audience hall and other buildings. The audience hall, or Apadana, employed 72 stone columns, each 65 feet (20 m) in height, of which 13 still stand. Its eastern stairway was decorated with images of delegations of Persians, Medes, Egyptians, Assyrians, Greeks and others bearing tribute and in their customary dress.
Xerxes I (r.486-465 B.c.) added a larger palace, harem and treasury. He began the "throne-hall of 100 columns" and built the "Gate of All Nations," ornamented with colossal winged and human-headed bulls. Thousands of Elamite tablets from the reigns
of Darius, Xerxes and Artaxerxes 13 were recovered from the treasury, among which are featured a number of Jewish names, including Baruch, Zechariah, Abijah and Hezeki(ah). Artaxerxes I (465-425 B.c.) completed the throne-hall, and Artaxerxes Ill (359 —338 B.c.) added a staircase to Darius's palace. Alexander the Great destroyed the city in 330 B.C. as retribution for Xerxes' destruction of Athens in 480 B.C. Tombs of the Achaemenid kings, cut into cliffs at Naqsh-i Rustam, are located 3.5 miles (5.7 km) north of the city.
DANIEL 11 Antiochus IV Epiphanes ruled the Seleucid (Syrian) kingdom from 175 to 164 B.c.' Epiphanes means "manifest," and the name indicates that he claimed to be the earthly manifestation of Zeus., Antiochus attempted to unify his empire by imposing Hellenistic culture upon all its inhabitants. This policy brought him into sharp conflict with the Jews of the region later known as Palestine. Most Biblical scholars believe Antiochus IV to have been the "small" horn in Daniel 8:9 and the "contemptible person" of 11:21. His relations with the Jews are recorded in 1 and 2 Maccabees (Apocryphal books) and are prophetically depicted in Daniel 8:9 —12,23 — 25 and 11:21-34. He was infamous for establishing pagan worship in the Jerusalem temple.
In about 174 B.C. Jason, the leader of a pro-Greek faction in the Jerusalem priesthood, bribed Antiochus to install him as high priest, after which Jason set about turning Jerusalem into a Greek city (2Mc 4:7-22). In 171 B.C., however, another man, Menelaus, in turn bought the priesthood from Antiochus. Jason, believing that Antiochus had died, seized Jerusalem by force. But Antiochus returned in 169 and carried out a massacre of the city. He then moved upon Egypt but was humiliated by the Roman legate C. Popilius Laenas and forced to make an undignified withdrawal to the north. There-after, this tyrant vigorously sought to Hellenize Jerusalem.
In 167 B.C. Antioch us dispatched his tax collector Apollonius against Jerusalem with 22,000 men.They attacked on the Sabbath, killing most of the male population and enslaving the women and children. Jerusalem's walls were demolished and a Seleucid military garrison stationed immediately south of the temple. All Jewish rites were outlawed, resulting in the cessation of the daily sacrifice. An altar to Zeus was erected over the Jewish altar of burnt offerings, and worship of Zeus was instituted in the temple. On December 25,167 B.c., a pig was sacrificed on the Zeus altar; this was the "abomination that causes desolation" in Daniel 9:27,11:31 and 12:11.
Enraged, the Jews rebelled against their Greek overlords and, under Judas Maccabeus, defeated the armies that Antiochus had sent against them. After a three-year struggle Jewish forces gained major concessions from the Greeks, and the Maccabees became the de facto rulers of Judea. Most notably, they purified the temple and reinstated the daily sacrifice, an event commemorated in the feast of Hanukkah. Antiochus himself, who had moved off to the east to campaign in Elam, died in Persia in 164 B.C.
DANIEL 12 After the death of Alexander the Great, his massive empire was divided among his generals, who vied for power.One of the major victors was Seleucus I (born c. 358 B.c.), who seized control of a domain centered in Syria. His dynasty, the Seleucids, governed there from 321 to 64 B.C.: