Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 8 >> Dance Of Death to Dean >> Daniel

Daniel

king, nebuchadnezzar, darius, god, mede, belshazzar and period

DANIEL (Heb. "God is my judge"). The hero and putative author of the book of Daniel. According to this book, he was carried away from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in the third year of Jehoiakim, i.e., 606 a.c. Although at the time a youth, he was old enough to be f ul in all wisdom, cunning in knowledge, and understanding science? For three years he was taught the literature and language of the Chaldmans, and at the end of this period excelled in wisdom all the magicians and en chanters of the realm. In the second year of Nebuchadnezzar (604-03 a.c.) he was able, not only to interpret a dream of the king, but to tell him what the dream had been (ii). Later he explained the meaning of another dream which referred to a coming period of insanity in the king's life, with the result that after the humiliating experience Nebuchadnezzar was led to worship Daniel's God (iv). On the night when King Belshazzar, son of Nebuchadnezzar, was overthrown by Darius the Mede, son of Xerxes, Daniel read the handwriting on the wall and announced to him its solemn signif icance, whereupon he was clothed with purple and proclaimed one of the three highest rulers under the king (v). This position he re tained under Darius the Mede, who even con templated making him grand vizier with au thority over all others. When his rivals forced this monarch to cast him into the lions' den for breaking a royal decree in regard to religion, he was found uninjured in the morning, they were punished, and the worship of his God was enjoined upon all men in the kingdom (vi). Daniel not only interpreted the dreams of others but also had dreams and visions of his own, in the first year of Belshazzar (vii), the third year of this king (viii), the first year of Darius the Mede (ix), the first year of Cyrus, accord ing to the Greek, or third, according to the Hebrew (x), and again in the same first year, according to the Greek and Theodotion (xi). The historical character of this Jewish sage, master of magicians and statesman, holding high positions at the court of Chaldwan, Median and Persian kings in the course of 70 years, is made doubtful by certain peculiarities of statement that cannot altogether be due to errors of transcription but seem to reveal a serious want of familiarity on the part of the author or authors with the period in which the hero's career is laid. Thus there is no evidence

that Jerusalem was captured by Nebuchadnezzar in 606 B.C., and he was not then king. No son of his by the name of Belshazzar sat upon the throne of Babylon. Bil-shar-uzur, the son of Nabunaid, the last king of Babylon, seems to have been mistakenly supposed to be a king and a son of Nebuchadnezzar. History knows no Darius the Mede, son of Xerxes, and im mediate successor of the last Babylonian king. Darius Hystaspis seems to have been meant, but he was the father of Xerxes, and not his son, and the successor of Gaumata, not of Belshazzar.

In Ezekiel xiv, 14, 20, Noah, Daniel and Job are quoted as examples of righteousness; but it is declared that even they could only save selves if they were in a country that had sinned and against which destruction by famine, wild beasts, sword or pestilence had been decreed. In Ezekiel xxviii, 1ff, the prince of Tyre is charged with claiming that he is a god; his divinity is denied, but it is admitted that he is wiser than Daniel, and that there is no secret that can be hidden from him. If these sages were written by Ezekiel in 592 and 586 }Lc., it would be difficult to avoid the conclusion that Daniel was already at that time a figure belonging to antiquity like Noah and Job. But some scholars consider them either as polations or as parts of a late work showing acquaintance with the book of Daniel in its earliest form. The version of the Achikar story discovered in the Elephantine papyri cates that already in the century following the downfall of the Assyrian empire narratives began to circulate concerning grand viziers of kings like Sennacherib and Esarhaddon, and the part that Achikar plays in the Tobit story shows how easily a popular figure of this kind could be appropriated. On the other hand, the career of a Nehemiah suggests the possibility of a nucleus of historic fact even where the tant documents are not of such a nature as to warrant a marked degree of confidence. It is perhaps significant that the name Daniel occurs in Ezra viii, 2, and Neh. x, 6, in lists which also contain the names of Mtshael, Azariah and Hananiah. For literature see DANIEL, Boox OF. NATHANIEL SCH MIDT.