1
Introduction#sn The story of Bel and the Dragon is really two short stories linked together (or three if the account of Habakkuk’s mission to assist Daniel is treated separately). In the first narrative (vv. 3-22) Daniel is described as a courageous opponent of worship of the Babylonian deity named Bel. Presented with an opportunity to demonstrate the folly of worshipping Bel, Daniel exposes a previously undetected scheme whereby the priests of Bel had given the false impression that their idol was actually alive. Working like a skilled detective, Daniel demonstrates that this is not really the case. Instead, the priests and their families had been consuming the provisions left for the deity, entering the temple at night by means of a secret entrance. As a result of this exposé the king puts the priests of Bel to death, and Daniel destroys both the idol and its temple. In the second narrative (vv. 23-42) Daniel concocts a strange mixture that he feeds to a dragon (or snake) that was worshipped by the Babylonians. As a result of this meal the dragon is killed. When the Babylonians realize what has happened they become indignant over the loss of their god and call for Daniel’s immediate execution. But when Daniel is thrown into a lions’ den, he is vindicated by a miraculous deliverance from the lions. In retribution the king then has Daniel’s enemies thrown to the lions, and they are destroyed. Clearly these stories are polemical writings intended to show the inadequacy of Babylonian religion as compared to Israelite religion and to show the skill of Daniel as a wise servant of the king of Babylon. There is an almost paradoxical relationship between the two stories. In the former instance it is Bel’s inability to eat that demonstrates that he is not really a god, and in the second instance it is the dragon’s ability to eat that is used to demonstrate that he is not really a god. (On this point see C. A. Moore, The Additions, AB 44, 118, 135.)
1 When King Astyges died,#tn Grk “was gathered to his fathers.” The expression is a Hebraism. The numerous Semitisms (Hebrew and Aramaic) found throughout Bel and the Dragon seem to suggest that a Semitic Vorlage lies behind our present Greek text. Cyrus#sn The reference is to Cyrus the Great, who conquered Babylon in 539 B.C. Cyrus ruled over the vast Achaemenid empire from 550 to 530 B.C. and was remembered by the Persians in a much more favorable light than was true of his successors. He is mentioned by name in the biblical record (e.g., Dan 1:21; 6:29; 10:1; 2 Chr. 36:22, 23; Ezra 1:1, 2, 7, 8; 3:7; 4:3, 5; 6:3, 14; Isa 44:28; 45:1). According to Herodotus, “the Persians called Darius the huckster, Cambyses the master, and Cyrus the father; for Darius made petty profit out of everything, Cambyses was harsh and arrogant, Cyrus was merciful and ever wrought for their well-being” (Herodotus 3.89, translation from Loeb edition). the Persian became his successor.#tn Grk “received his kingdom.” The expression is an Aramaism. Cf. Dan 6:1; 7:18. 2 Now Daniel#sn The name Daniel means “God has judged.” It was probably a common name in biblical times. In addition to the main character of the Book of Daniel, the Old Testament also knows of a son of David by this name (1 Chr 3:1; cf. 2 Sam 3:3) and a priest of postexilic times (Ezra 8:2; Neh 10:6). was a confidant#tn Or “companion,” “partner.” In Greek literature this word was especially used in reference to the confidants of the Roman emperors. Here it describes Daniel as a trusted member of the king’s inner circle of advisors. See LSJ 1675. of the king and was held in greater esteem than all his#sn Two problems surface here. First, what is the antecedent of the pronoun “his”? Presumably it refers to Daniel, with the point being that Daniel was more esteemed by the king than all of Daniel’s friends who also were close to the king. This is the view adopted in the translation above. But it is possible that the antecedent of the pronoun is the king, with the point being that Daniel was esteemed by the king above all of the king’s other “friends.” Second, what is the meaning of the word “friends” here? Presumably it refers to Daniel’s personal friends. This is the view adopted in the translation above. However, some scholars have understood the word to refer to the friends not of Daniel but of the king. The Syriac translation, for example, renders the phrase as “the friends of the king” (cf. TEV, NAB, Knox, NJB), and in the NRSV the word friends is capitalized, suggesting a technical term (“his Friends”). In that case the word would presumably be a reference to an official council known by this name. friends.#tc The old Greek translation begins the story this way: “From the prophecy of Habakkuk the son of Joshua of the tribe of Levi. There was a certain man who was a priest. His name was Daniel the son of Abal, a companion of the king of Babylon.” Several observations are important in this regard. First, according to the old Greek translation this material was taken from a work that had something to do with the prophet Habakkuk. Presumably this claim is intended to refer to the biblical prophet by that name, although the details provided concerning the lineage of this Habakkuk are absent from the biblical material. Second, the introduction of Daniel at this point, as though readers could not be expected to know who Daniel was, seems to presuppose that this document originally circulated separately from the canonical material. Third, the suggestion that Daniel was a priest is at variance with the canonical account of Daniel’s life and ministry, where no such claim is made. All of this means that either the author of this document was unfamiliar with the canonical portions of Daniel or, what is more likely, that the Daniel of this document may have been an individual entirely separate from the biblical Daniel. In that case these stories were at a later time attached to the canonical Daniel as a further enhancement of the fame of the biblical Daniel.
The Story of Bel
3 Now the Babylonians had an idol whose name was Bel,#sn Bel (cf. Baal) was a name of the chief Babylonian deity otherwise known as Marduk. and every day they used to lavish#tn Or “spent,” “consumed,” “used up.” on it twelve bushels#sn Grk artabai. The artaba was a Persian measure, six of which equaled a Hebrew homer, or about 450 kg. See J. Lust et al., Lexicon of the Septuagint, 63. The English translations conflict in how they render the word here. Most prefer “twelve bushels” (e.g., TEV, RSV, NRSV, NJB), but other translations include “thirty-two bushels” (Knox), “six barrels” (NAB) and “twelve great measures” (KJV, Douay). of fine flour, forty#tc The old Greek translation has “four” in place of “forty.” sheep, and six measures#sn This “measure” (Greek, metretes) was approximately the same as the Hebrew bath. According to Moore it is the equivalent of about nine gallons, with the total amount of wine referred to in v. 3 equaling more than fifty gallons (C. A. Moore, The Additions, AB 44, 134). But this determination is by no means certain. The translation presented above (“six measures of wine”) is a literal translation of the Greek, and the modern equivalency of this amount is not known for sure. Presumably it was no small quantity, since the point of v. 3 is to describe how much Bel consumed on a daily basis. English translations vary in their rendering of this phrase: “six measures of wine” (NRSV, NAB), “six vessels of wine” (KJV); “sixty vessels of wine (Douay); “fifty gallons of wine” (TEV); “of wine thirty-six gallons” (Knox). of wine.#tc The old Greek translation has “oil” here. 4 The king revered this idol#tn Grk “it.” and used to go daily to worship it. But Daniel worshipped only#tn The word “only” is not in the Greek text but has been added in the translation for clarity. his God.
One day#tn The words “one day” are not in the Greek text but have been added in the translation for clarity. the king said to him, “Why don’t you worship#tn Or “bow down before.” Bel?” 5 He replied, “Because I don’t revere idols made by human hands, but only the living God who created heaven and earth and who is sovereign#tn Grk “having lordship over.” over all humanity.”#tn Grk “flesh.” 6 The king said to him, “Don’t you think that Bel is a living god? You see how much he eats and drinks every day, don’t you?” 7 Daniel laughed#sn A response of laughter at the king’s comment is a bit surprising given the risk and danger that were involved in a subordinate possibly upsetting an ancient oriental despot. In v. 19 Daniel not only laughs at the king’s praise of Bel but also physically restrains the king from entering the temple. Such physical contact with a monarch would have been unusual. Moore is probably correct in thinking that such actions on Daniel’s part assume a long and unusually close association with the king, at least in the view of the narrator. See C. A. Moore, The Additions, AB 44, 132. and said, “Don’t be deceived, O king. For this idol#tn The word “idol” is not in the Greek text but has been supplied in the translation for clarity. is nothing more than clay on the inside and bronze on the outside. It has never eaten or drunk anything whatsoever.” 8 Then the king became angry and summoned his priests and said to them, “Unless you admit#tn Grk “say.” to me who is eating these provisions, you will die! 9 But if you prove that Bel is eating them Daniel will die, for he has committed blasphemy against Bel.” Daniel said to the king, “So be it just as you have said!”#tn Grk “let it be according to your word.”
10 Now there were seventy priests of Bel, in addition to their wives and children. When the king went with Daniel to the temple#tn Grk “house.” of Bel, 11 the priests of Bel said, “Look! We’re going outside. You, O king, set out the food and mix#sn Although this may refer to mixing water with the wine so as to dilute it, Moore is probably correct in thinking that it refers to mixing spices with the wine in order to enhance its taste or smell. See C. A. Moore, The Additions, AB 44, 136. the wine and set it out too. Then close the door and seal it with your signet ring.#tn The expression is probably a Hebraism. 12#tc The old Greek translation lacks vv. 12-13. When you arrive in the morning, if you don’t find everything eaten by Bel we will die—or if things are otherwise#tn The words “if things are otherwise” are not present in the Greek text but have been added in the translation for clarity. Daniel, who is lying about us, will die.”#tn The words “will die” are not in the Greek text but have been added in the translation for clarity. 13 They were disdainful, for they had constructed a secret entrance under the table. Through it they used to enter on a regular basis and consume the provisions that had been set out.#tn Grk “them.”
14 So when those people#tc The Syriac text has “the priests of Bel.” had gone out, the king set out the provisions for Bel.#tc The Syriac text adds “and filled the altar, and he filled the vessels with wine, as was their custom.” Daniel instructed his attendants to bring ashes and scatter them throughout the entire temple#sn The ashes were strewn around the floor of the sanctuary proper (Greek, naos), not the entire temple precincts (Greek, hieron). in the presence of the king alone. Then they went out, closed the door, sealed it with the signet ring of the king, and departed. 15 The priests, along with their wives and children, came during the night, as was their custom, and ate and drank everything.
16 The king got up early in the morning, as did Daniel.#tn Grk “and Daniel with him.” 17 The king#tn Grk “he.” said, “Are the seals intact, Daniel?” And Daniel#tn Grk “he.” replied,#tn Grk “said.” “They are intact, O king.” 18 It so happened that#tn The expression “it so happened that”(Greek, kai egeneto) is a Hebraism (so also in vv. 14, 28). The words are absent in the old Greek translation of v. 18. when the doors were opened and the king looked on the table, he cried out in a loud#tn Grk “great.” voice, “You are great, O Bel! With you there is not the slightest deceit!”#tn Grk “and there is not with you deceit, not even one.” 19 But Daniel laughed and held back the king so that he could not go in. He said, “Take a look at the floor and notice whose footprints these are.” 20 The king said, “I see the footprints of men, women, and children!”
21 Then the king was enraged. He apprehended the priests, along with their wives and children. They showed him the secret doors through which they were entering and consuming whatever was on the table. 22 So the king had them killed. He handed Bel over to Daniel,#sn According to Herodotus the temple of Bel was plundered by Xerxes I (486-465 B.C.), who may have been responsible for its destruction as well. See Herodotus 1.183. Whether recollection of this event played a role in the formation of the deuterocanonical story, as Collins suggests, is not entirely clear. But see J. J. Collins, Daniel, Hermeneia, 413. who destroyed both it and its temple.#tc The Syriac text has a colophon that says “the end of the account about the idol Bel.”
The Story of the Dragon
23 Now there was#tc The old Greek translation has “in the same place,” referring to Babylon. a large dragon,#tn Grk drakon. In this story the word refers to a large, living snake. The term is somewhat interchangeable with ophis, the more familiar Greek term for snake (LSJ 448), although drakon can refer to certain other animals, whether real or mythological, as well. Traditionally in translations of this story the word dragon has been used (so, e.g., RSV, NRSV, TEV, NJB, KJV, Douay), as is the case in the present translation. However, this term is probably a bit misleading to those who are unfamiliar with the story. and the Babylonians used to revere it. 24 The king said to Daniel, “Surely you can’t claim that this is not a living god. So worship it!”#tc The Syriac text adds “because God is the one who lives.” 25#tc The old Greek translation lacks v. 25. But Daniel replied,#tn Grk “said.” “I will worship the Lord my God alone, for he is the living God. 26 But, O king, if you will grant me authority I will put the dragon to death using neither sword nor staff.”#sn This story of Daniel slaying the dragon was apparently the inspiration for the colorful medieval accounts of St. George’s slaying of the dragon. The king replied,#tn Grk “said.” “I grant you authority.”#tn The word “authority” is not in the Greek text but has been added in the translation for clarity.
27 So Daniel took pitch, fat, and hair and having brewed them together, he made cakes. Then he put#tn Grk “gave.” The expression is a Hebraism. them in the mouth of the dragon. When it ate them, the dragon burst asunder.#sn Why a concoction of pitch, fat, and hair would have this effect on the snake is unclear. Some writers have speculated that perhaps something like nails or other sharp instruments were hidden in the mixture, causing rupture of the intestines of the snake, although the text makes no mention of such things. Other writers have attempted to explain the problem as due to possible mistranslation of one or more words from a Semitic Vorlage that is supposed to underlie the Greek text. None of these suggestions seems to be entirely convincing. Perhaps the problem can be partially explained by the genre of the story itself. In a legendary narrative that is recounted for the enjoyment of a sympathetic audience not all the details have to be entirely believable or strictly accurate. Daniel#tn Grk “he.” said, “Look at what you worship!”
28 Now when the Babylonians heard about this, they were furious and conspired against the king,#tc The Syriac text adds “and they turned against him.” saying, “The king has become a Jew! He has destroyed#tn Grk “pulled apart.” Bel and killed the dragon and slaughtered the priests!”#sn Although it was Daniel who was directly responsible for these actions, he had acted with the complicity and permission of the king. The people therefore placed ultimate and final culpability on the king for what had happened. 29#tc The old Greek translation lacks v. 29. Approaching the king, they said, “Deliver Daniel over to us! If you don’t we will kill you and your family.”#tn Grk “house.” 30 When the king saw that they were pressing him relentlessly,#tn Grk “exceedingly.” under compulsion he delivered Daniel over to them.
Daniel in the Lions’ Den
31 Then they threw Daniel#tn Grk “him.” into the lions’ den,#sn Daniel is described as being thrown into a lions’ den on a separate occasion as well. Cf. Dan 6:16-24. where he remained for six days.#tc The Syriac translation adds “so that the lions would be hungry and eat him.” 32 Now there were seven lions in the den, and they used to be fed#tn Grk “there was being given to them.” two human#tn The word “human” is not in the Greek text but has been added in the translation for clarity. bodies and two sheep daily. But these were not given to the lions#tn Grk “them.” at this time,#tn The words “at this time” are not in the Greek text but have been added in the translation for clarity. so that they would devour Daniel.
33 Now the prophet Habakkuk#sn The biblical prophet Habakkuk was a seventh-century B.C. contemporary of Jeremiah who prophesied of the approaching Babylonian invasion of Judah. If this prophet were still living in the time of Cyrus he would have been quite advanced in years, as was Daniel. was in Judea.#sn The pericope in vv. 33-39 that describes Habakkuk’s miraculous transfer from Judea to Babylon in order to assist Daniel is viewed by most scholars as an interpolation added to an earlier form of this story that originally lacked this section. He had boiled some pottage and had crumbled some bread in a bowl, and he was in the field on his way to take it to the reapers. 34 But the angel of the Lord said to Habakkuk, “Take the meal that you have to Daniel who is in the lions’ den in Babylon.” 35 Habakkuk replied,#tn Grk “said.” “Lord, I have never even seen Babylon, and I know nothing about this den.” 36 But the angel of the Lord seized him by the top of his head and lifted him by the hair of his head.#sn The prophet Ezekiel is said to have had a similar experience of being miraculously transported. Cf. Ezek 3:12-14; 8:3. He deposited him in Babylon above the den with the speed of a rushing wind.#tn Or “spirit.” 37 Habakkuk cried out, “Daniel! Daniel! Take this meal that God has sent to you.” 38 Daniel replied,#tn Grk “said.” “You have remembered me, O God.#tc The Syriac text adds “and you have not removed your love from me. For I know that.” You do not abandon#tn Or “have not abandoned.” The translation above understands the aorist verb used here to be gnomic, or timeless, in nature. those who love you.” 39 Then Daniel got up and ate.#tn Grk “arose and ate.” The expression is a Hebraism. And the angel of God suddenly removed Habakkuk to his former#tn The word “former” is not in the Greek text but has been added in the translation for clarity. place.#tc The Syriac text adds “from which he had previously removed him.”
40 On the seventh day the king came in order to grieve over Daniel.#tc The Syriac text adds “for he was sad over Daniel.” When he came to the den and looked in, there sat Daniel!#tn Grk “and behold, Daniel, sitting.” 41 Crying out in a loud#tn Grk “great.” voice, the king#tn Grk “he.” said, “You are great, O Lord God of Daniel! There is none other than you!” 42 He hauled Daniel#tn Grk “him.” out and threw into the den those#tc The Syriac text adds “those enemies of Daniel who had eaten his pieces” (i.e., accused him). who had sought Daniel’s#tn Grk “his.” destruction. They were devoured immediately right before the king.#tc The Syriac text has a colophon that says “the end of the writing of the book of Daniel.”tn Grk “him.”
The Letter of Jeremiah
Superscription#sn In some Greek, Syriac, and Latin manuscripts this letter forms chapter six of the book of Baruch, rather than being presented as a separate composition. Many English translations follow that practice as well (e.g., KJV, Douay, NRSV, NAB, NJB, Knox). The present translation is based on the Göttingen edition of the Greek text and, like that edition, presents the letter as a separate document rather than as the final part of Baruch. Apart from convenience and the precedent of tradition there really is no good reason to regard this letter as a part of Baruch. The literary style of the letter is sometimes awkward and often repetitious. In arguing against idolatry the author winds up expressing the same basic thoughts repeatedly, though in different words and using different illustrations to get his point across. This repetition at times taxes the patience of even a sympathetic reader. Furthermore, the language of the text is not infrequently ambiguous. The author’s preference for pronouns where nouns would have been a better choice makes for some ambiguity in determining the antecedents of the pronouns if they are translated literally. In the interests of clarity many of these pronouns have therefore been replaced by nouns in the present translation.
A copy#tn Or perhaps “transcript,” in the sense of a certified copy of an official document. See LSJ 154. of the letter#tc Some manuscripts have “the letter of Jeremiah.”sn “Letter” is not an entirely satisfactory translation of the Greek word epistole, although it has been retained here due to its widespread acceptance as a designation of this text. However, as Adolf Deissmann has shown (Light from the Ancient East, trans. L. R. M. Strachan, rev. ed., 227-51, especially 228-30), a letter in the ancient world was a private communication written with only the addressee in mind, whereas an epistle was usually a more literary composition having a less restricted focus and intention. The text under consideration here is more of an epistle than a letter, if Deissmann’s distinctions are accepted. The KJV in fact titles this work The Epistle of Jeremy. that Jeremiah#sn Although this work claims to originate with Jeremiah (cf. Jer 29:1), this is almost certainly not the case. Rather, the identity of the author is unknown. He wrote for the purpose of exposing the folly of idol worship and warning people to avoid idolatry altogether. The work probably dates to sometime in the late fourth century B.C. and perhaps was written for a Jewish audience in Palestine. This date has been deduced by a number of scholars largely on the basis of a reference in v. 2 to seven generations (see the note found there). The author’s diatribe against the worship of idols may have been inspired by Jer 10:11: “The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens.” This verse is a stray Aramaic sentence found in a book that is otherwise written in Hebrew. That anomaly may in fact have influenced the writer of the letter to develop further the warning against idolatry presented in that lone Aramaic verse in Jeremiah. The writer expands on ideas that are also found in the canonical scriptures. The biblical passages to which the author is most indebted are the following: Jer 10:2-5, 8-11, 13b-15; Isa 44:9-20; 46:5-7; Ps 115:3-8; 135:6-7; 15-17; Deut 4:27-28 (so C. A. Moore, The Additions, AB 44, 319-23). Although this work is not extant in Hebrew or Aramaic, the presence of a number of Semitisms suggests that probably the letter was originally composed in one of those languages, most likely Hebrew. This letter may be referred to in 2 Macc 2:1-3, which alludes to Jeremiah’s warnings about idolatry. sent to those who were about to be#sn The future passive participle achthesomenous is used here to refer to an impending or imminent action. There were three deportations of Jews to Babylon that marked the beginnings of the exilic period: one in 605 B.C., one in 597 B.C., and one in 586 B.C. It is the second of these deportations that is referred to here (cf. 2 Kgs 24:10-17). The literary vantage point of the letter is thus the early sixth century, although the date of the composition of the letter was no earlier than late fourth century B.C. and perhaps a bit later. led away to Babylon as captives by the king of the Babylonians.#sn The normal biblical expression is “king of Babylon.” The purpose of this letter is#tn The words “the purpose of this letter is” are not in the Greek text but have been added in the translation for clarity. to convey#tn Or “announce.” to them exactly what God had instructed him.#tn Grk “just as it was commanded to him by God.”
Historical Background
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