views updated May 23 2018


DANIEL , or, in Hebrew, Daniyye'l; hero of the biblical book that bears his name. Daniel is presented as a Jew in the Babylonian exile who achieved notoriety in the royal court for his dream interpretations and cryptography and for his salvation from death in a lion's pit. He also appears in the last chapters of the book as the revealer of divine mysteries and of the timetables of Israel's restoration to national-religious autonomy. As a practitioner of oneiromancy in the court, described in Daniel 16 (written in the third person), Daniel performs his interpretations alone, while as a visionary-apocalyptist, in Daniel 712 (written in the first person), he is in need of an angel to help him decode his visions and mysteries of the future. It is likely that the name Daniel is pseudonymous, a deliberate allusion to a wise and righteous man known from Ugaritic legend and earlier biblical tradition (Ez. 14:4, 28:3).

The authorship of the book is complicated not only by the diverse narrative voices and content but by its language: Daniel 1:12:4a and 812 are written in Hebrew, whereas Daniel 2:4b7:28 is in Aramaic. The language division parallels the subject division (Daniel 16 concerns legends and dream interpretations; 712 concerns apocalyptic visions and interpretations of older prophecies). The overall chronological scheme as well as internal thematic balances (Daniel 27 is chiliastically related) suggest an attempt at redactional unity. After the prefatory tale emphasizing the life in court and the loyalty of Daniel and some youths to their ancestral religion, a chronological ordering is discernible: a sequence from King Nebuchadrezzar to Darius is reported (Dn. 26), followed by a second royal sequence beginning with Belshazzar and concluding with Cyrus II (Dn. 712). Much of this royal dating and even some of the tales are problematic: for example, Daniel 4 speaks of Nebuchadrezzar's transformation into a beast, a story that is reported in the Qumran scrolls of Nabonidus; Belshazzar is portrayed as the last king of Babylon, although he was never king; and Darius is called a Mede who conquered Babylon and is placed before Cyrus II of Persia, although no such Darius is known (the Medes followed the Persians, and Darius is the name of several Persian kings). Presumably the episodes of Daniel 26, depicting a series of monarchical reversals, episodes of ritual observances, and reports of miraculous deliverances were collected in the Seleucid period (late fourth to mid-second century bce) in order to reinvigorate waning Jewish hopes in divine providence and encourage steadfast faith.

The visions of Daniel 712, reporting events from the reign of Belshazzar to that of Cyrus II (but actually predicting the overthrow of Seleucid rule in Palestine), were collected and published during the reign of Antiochus IV prior to the Maccabean Revolt, for it was then (beginning in 168 bce) that the Jews were put to the test concerning their allegiance to Judaism and their ancestral traditions, and many refused to desecrate the statutes of Moses and endured a martyr's death for their resolute trust in divine dominion. All of the visions of Daniel dramatize this dominion in different ways: for example, via images of the enthronement of a God of judgment, with a "son of man" invested with rule (this figure was interpreted by Jews as Michael the archangel and by Christians as Christ), in chapter 7; via zodiacal images of cosmic beasts with bizarre manifestations, as in chapter 8; or via complex reinterpretations of ancient prophecies, especially those of Jeremiah 25:911, as found in Daniel 912.

The imagery of the four beasts in chapter 7 (paralleled by the image of four metals in chapter 2), representing four kingdoms to be overthrown by a fifth monarchy of divine origin, is one of the enduring images of the book: it survived as a prototype of Jewish and Christian historical and apocalyptic schemes to the end of the Middle Ages. The role and power of this imagery in the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century work of the exegete Isaac Abravanel, the scientist Isaac Newton, and the philosopher Jean Bodin and among the Fifth Monarchy Men of seventeenth-century England, for example, is abiding testimony to the use of this ancient topos in organizing the chiliastic imagination of diverse thinkers and groups. The schema is still used to this day by various groups predicting the apocalyptic advent.

The encouragement in the face of religious persecution that is found and propagandized in Daniel 1112 contains a remarkable reinterpretation of Isaiah 52:1353:12, regarding the suffering servant of God not as all Israel but as the select faithful. Neither the opening stories about Daniel and the youths nor the final martyrological allusions advocate violence or revolt; they rather advocate a stance of piety, civil disobedience, and trustful resignation. Victory for the faithful is in the hands of the archangel Michael, and the martyrs will be resurrected and granted astral immortality. Presumably the circles behind the book were not the same as the Maccabean fighters and may reflect some proto-Pharisaic group of asidim, or Pietists. The themes of resistance to oppression, freedom of worship, preservation of monotheistic integrity, the overthrow of historical dominions, and the acknowledgment of the God of heaven recur throughout the book and have served as a token of trust for the faithful in their darkest hour.


Bickerman, Elias J. Four Strange Books of the Bible: Jonah, Daniel, Koheleth, Esther. New York, 1967. See pages 53138.

Braverman, Jay. Jerome's Commentary on Daniel. Washington, D.C., 1978.

Hartman, Louis F., and Alexander A. Di Lella. Book of Daniel. Anchor Bible, vol. 23. Garden City, N.Y., 1978.

New Sources

Collins, John J., and Peter W. Flint, eds. The Book of Daniel: Composition and Reception. Boston; Leiden, 2002.

Van der Woude, A. S., ed. The Book of Daniel in the Light of New Findings. Leuven, 1993.

Wills, Lawrence Mitchell. The Jew in the Court of the Foreign King: Ancient Jewish Court Legends. Minneapolis, 1990.

Michael Fishbane (1987)

Revised Bibliography


views updated May 29 2018


DANIEL (Heb. דָּנִאֵל ,דָּנִיֵאל, "God has judged, or vindicated").

(1) An evidently pre-Mosaic saint (Ezek. 14:14, 20) and sage (28:3) and, as such, of a type conceivable in any land (14:3ff.) and assumed by Ezekiel to have been heard of by the pagan prince of Tyre (28:1–3). The publication of the Ugaritic epic of Aqhat in 1936 showed the probability that the Phoenicians had a tradition about a man Daniel who was famed for both piety and wisdom. Aqhat's father, Dnil, is a devout worshiper of the gods and has their ear (especially that of Baal); he is also one who, either as an elder or king, "judges the case of the fatherless, adjudicates the cause of the widow." As Cassuto pointed out, this requires not only goodness but also wisdom (cf. i Kings 3:5ff.). It is perhaps no accident that in the great majority of Ezekiel manuscripts the name of this Daniel is written without yod (cf. the Ugaritic dnil, whereas the name of all the other biblical Daniels is written דניאל). It may be assumed that in the tradition known to Ezekiel this Daniel figured as a monotheist.

(2) The name of David's second son according to i Chronicles 3:1 (according to ii Sam. 3:3, Chileab).

(3) The hero of the Book of Daniel; see the Book of *Daniel.

(4) A priest of post-Exilic times (Ezra 8:2; Neh. 10:7).

[Harold Louis Ginsberg]

In the Aggadah

Daniel (no. 3 above) was a scion of the House of David. He and his three companions, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, were eunuchs at the royal palace and were thus able to exonerate themselves of the charges of immorality brought against them (Sanh. 93b; pdre 52). Although the Mekhilta de-R. Ishmael (Pisḥa, 1) and Josephus (Ant., 10:266ff.) count Daniel among the prophets as do Christian sources (e.g., Matt. 24:15), the Talmud denies that he was a prophet. However, he was possessed of such great wisdom that he outweighed all wise men of the world (Yoma 77a). He was an expert in the interpretation of dreams and *Nebuchadnezzar trusted him at once (Tanḥ. B., Gen. 191). Despite the many dangers and difficulties at the royal court, Daniel conducted himself with the utmost piety. He refused to partake of wine or oil of the gentiles (Av. Zar. 36a). He was prepared to sacrifice his life rather than omit reciting the statutory prayers thrice daily, and he was cast into the lion's den as a punishment when the nobles surprised him reciting the Minḥah prayer. The mouth of the den was sealed with a huge stone which had rolled from Palestine to Babylon. Upon this stone sat an angel in the shape of a lion to protect Daniel against harassment by his enemies. When the following morning the king went to see Daniel's fate, he found him reciting the Shema (Mid. Ps. to 66). On another occasion Nebuchadnezzar tried to induce Daniel to worship an idol into whose mouth he placed the diadem (ẓiẓ) of the high priest bearing God's ineffable name, as a result of which the idol uttered the words "I am thy Lord." Daniel, however, did not yield. He conjured the idol not to desecrate God's name, whereupon the ẓiẓ passed to Daniel's mouth and the idol crumbled to pieces (Song. R. 7:9).

God revealed to Daniel the destiny of Israel and the date of the Last Judgment, which was not even revealed to Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi (Dan. 10:7). Daniel, however, forgot the keẓ ("end") revealed to him (Gen. R. 98:2). Despite the fact that Daniel is lauded for his virtues of piety and charity (arn1 4, 11), it is also stated that he was not rescued from the lion's den because of his own merits but through the merits of Abraham (Ber. 7b). Moreover, some regard him as a sinner who was punished because he gave good counsel to Nebuchadnezzar (bb 4a). Daniel is variously identified with the eunuch Hathach (Esth. 4:5, 6; Meg. 15a; bb 4a), Memucan (Esth. 1:16; Targ. Sheni), or Sheshbazzar (pr 6:23, et al.). According to *Josippon it was owing to Daniel's merit that Darius issued the orders that Jews should return to Palestine and rebuild the Temple (ch. 24). Daniel asked the king to appoint *Zerubbabel in his place. Opinions differ as to whether Daniel accompanied the returned exiles to Palestine. Some state that he returned after the proclamation of *Cyrus (Song. R. 5:5) while later sources (e.g., Josippon 9d–10a) state that he retired to *Shushan where he lived a pious life until his death and was buried there. The Talmud mentions "a synagogue of Daniel" situated three miles from the city of Barnish (Er. 21a).

In Islam

Muslim legend is acquainted with both biblical Daniels; the wise man mentioned in Ezekiel 14:14 and 28:3, and the hero of the Book of Daniel. Among the commentators of the Koran, some interpret the verses of Sura 85:4–5, "The fellows of the pit were slain," and "The fire with its kindling," as referring to Daniel (Dāniyāl) and his colleagues in the fiery furnace; nevertheless, this is only one of the many explanations to these obscure verses.

[Haïm Z'ew Hirschberg]

In the Arts

The hero of the Book of Daniel early attracted the attention of writers. One of the first examples of Anglo-Saxon poetry is a seventh-century paraphrase of the Book of Daniel, and he also appears later in the English miracle play, Ordo Prophetarum. In the 17th century the German tragicomedy Der siegende Hofmann Daniel (1671) dealt with the theme. After the English writer Hannah More, whose Sacred Dramas (1782) included a play about Daniel, literary treatments of the story became rare. Two 20th-century reinterpretations were Daniel (1907) by the Polish dramatist Stanislaw Wyspiański, and "The Daniel Jazz" (1920), the title poem in a collection by the U.S. writer Vachel Lindsay which imitates the dramatic sermons characteristic of the Afro-American churches.

In art, Daniel was a far more familiar figure, both because of the dramatic, visual quality of the biblical episodes in which he figures and because of his adaptability to Christian typology. Daniel in the lion's den was thought to prefigure Jesus in his sepulcher and was also seen as representing the saved soul, or man under God's protection. Daniel is usually portrayed as a young, beardless, and often naked youth, sometimes wearing the Phrygian bonnet. He is seen flanked by his lions, and occasionally accompanied by the ram of his apocalyptic vision. He is often associated with other figures from the Book of Daniel (and its apocryphal addition) in a narrative cycle: giving judgment in the case of *Susannah and the Elders; preceded in the ordeal by the Three Hebrews; and twice cast into the den of lions, under both Darius and Cyrus. The cycle of Nebuchadnezzar's dreams interpreted by Daniel shows the prophet more by implication than by presence, as does the apocalyptic cycle. A vast number of works of art depict the Daniel narrative in full, in part, or in isolated episodes. Daniel appears on fourth-century sarcophagi, fifth and sixth-century church doors, woven cloths, and belt-buckles in Spain, Germany, and Italy. In the seventh century, he is seen in the Cosmas Indicopleustès (Vatican Library) and, from the ninth century onward, on capitals and portals throughout the Romanesque world. Examples in miniature painting are to be found in the 11th-century Apocalypse of Saint-Sever (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale) and Spanish Beatus manuscripts, and later in 14th- and 15th-century Bibles. After the 13th century the theme was less popular. There is a Tintoretto Daniel in the Scuola di San Rocco, Venice, and Rubens painted Daniel and the lions (1618). Bernini's sculptures of Daniel and Habakkuk (1656) are to be seen in the Chigi chapel in S. Maria del Popolo, Rome. Delacroix painted Daniel and the lions in 1849. The Nebuchadnezzar dream cycle is illustrated by Guido Reni's 17th-century painting in Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome, and the apocalyptic cycle is referred to by Rembrandt in his "Vision of Daniel" (1650, Berlin). Some other portrayals are Michelangelo's fresco in the Sistine Chapel of the Vatican, and an 18th-century statue by Aleijadinho (Francisco Antônio Lisbôa) at Congonhas do Campo, Brazil. The subject of the Three Hebrews in the fiery furnace occurs in frescoes in Roman catacombs of the third and fourth centuries c.e. In the Middle Ages this theme is found in sculpture, mosaics, and manuscripts as well as frescoes. The three men were taken to represent the elect protected from all perils, including the flames of Hell. In early representations they are often nude, despite the fact that the Bible states that they were thrown into the flames fully clothed. They are also often depicted as children, their hands raised in an attitude of prayer.

In Music

The dramatic episodes of the "Daniel cycle," including and often combining the canonical and apocryphal parts, have always been favored by composers. While the music of the 12th-century Daniel play by Hilary of Poitiers has not survived, the contemporary Ludus Danielis from Beauvais Abbey is completely "scored" in the manuscript (British Museum, Ms. Egerton 2615, fols. 95r–108r) with a combination of composed songs and traditional church melodies. This has become known through a recording directed by Noah *Greenberg. Notable settings of the Daniel cycle are Caldara's opera and Hasse's oratorio (both presented at the Viennese court in 1731); Darius *Milhaud's Les Miracles de la foi (1951), a cantata for tenor, chorus, and orchestra based on passages from the Book of Daniel; and Benjamin Britten's modern "parable for church performance," The Burning Fiery Furnace (1966), with text by William Plomer. Vachel Lindsay's "The Daniel Jazz" was set to music in the jazz idiom by Louis *Gruenberg, for tenor and eight instruments (1923); and by Herbert Chappell (1963), for unison voices and piano. The Song of the Three Children (Canticum trium Puerorum, Vulg. Dan. 3:52–90), included in the Catholic liturgy, has inspired many fine musical settings. There is a notable setting by Josquin des Prés (15th century); a polychoral structure by Heinrich Schuetz and Michael Praetorius (17th century); and Karlheinz Stockhausen's Gesang der drei Juenglinge (1956) which dissolves and reconstitutes the human utterance by electronic manipulation. On the popular level is Shadrack, Meshack, Abednego, a composed spiritual by Robert MacGinney (often thought to be authentic), which was made famous by the jazz trumpeter and singer Louis Armstrong.


Cassuto, in: em, 2 (1954), 683–5; Ginsberg, in: Pritchard, Texts, 149–55 (English translation of the Aqhat epic); G.R. Driver, Canaanite Myths and Legends (1955), 48–60. in the aggadah: Ginzberg, Legends, index. in islam: Tabarī, Tafsīr, 30 (1329 a.h.), 85 (in the name of Ibn ʿAbbās); Thaʿlabī, Qisas (1356 a.h.), 370 (in the name of Muqātil) A. Geiger, Was hat Mohammed aus dem Judenthume aufgenommen (1833), 189–90; J. Horovitz, Koranische Untersuchungen (1926), 92; G. Vajda, in: El2s.v.Dāniyāl. in the arts: L. Réau, Iconographie de l'art chrétien, 2 pt. 1 (1956), 390–410; E. Kirschbaum (ed.), Lexikon der christlichen Ikonographie, 1 (1968), 469–73, includes bibliography; T. Ehrenstein, Das Alte Testament im Bilde (1923), 797–813; The Bible in Art: The Old Testament (1956), 232–3.


views updated May 18 2018


Legendary protagonist of the Book of Daniel. He is known only from this book. According to the story told in it, he, with three other Jewish youths who had been taken as captives from Jerusalem to Babylon in 605 b.c., was given special training in the palace school at Babylon, where he remained faithful to the Jewish dietary laws (Daniel ch. 1). According to the deuterocanonical ch. 13, even as a young boy in Babylonia he had saved the life of the chaste susanna by his wise judgment. In the 2d year of nebuchadnezzar he interpreted a dream that had disturbed the king and was therefore promoted to power in Babylon (ch. 2). He later interpreted another dream for Nebuchadnezzar (ch. 4) and read the writing on the wall for Belshazzar, the last Babylonian king (ch.5). King Darius "the Mede" wished to place Daniel over his entire kingdom, but a plot, born of envy, resulted in Daniel's being thrown into a den of lions, from which God rescued him (ch. 6). A similar story of Daniel's rescue from the lions' den is told in the deuterocanonical ch. 14, where, however, the reason for Daniel's being thrown to the lions was his destroying the statue of the god Bel and his killing the dragon that the Babylonians worshiped. He was favored with apocalyptic visions in the 1st and 3d years of Belshazzar (7.1; 8.1), in the 1st year of Darius (9.1), and in the 3d year of Cyrus (10.1536 b.c.). His rescue from the lions' den is referred to in 1 Mc2.60; otherwise he is not mentioned in the Bible. On the historicity of his story, see daniel, book of.

The name Daniel (Heb. dāniyyēl, for dānî-'el, "my judge is God") was borne also by a postexilic priest of Jerusalem (Ezr 8.2; Neh 10.6). However, the Daniel of Ez 14.14, 20; 28.3 is an entirely different man; even his name is different in the Hebrew consonantal text: dān'el (God judges). This man is mentioned with Noah and Job as a figure of hoary antiquity, not as an exilic Prophet. He is probably to be connected with the wise judge Dan-el of the Ugaritic Tale of Aqhat (see Pritchard ANET 149155). The Akkadian name Dan-ilu (God judges) is attested from c. 2000 b.c. [see J. de Fraine, Verbum Domini 25 (Rome 1947) 127]. The Babylonian name given to Daniel (Dn 1.7), Belteshazzar (Heb. bēl eša'ar ), represents the Akkadian balašu-uur (protect his life!); by Hebrew folk etymology the name of the Babylonian god Bel was read into it (5.4).

In Christian iconography scenes from the Book of Daniel fall into three main types: (1) the story of Susanna and the eldersa favorite of painters from the Renaissance on because of the bathing scene; (2) the story of the three youths in the furnace; and (3) the story of Daniel in the lions' den. The last is by far the oldest, going back perhaps to Jewish models. Daniel as an orans between two or more lions is sculptured on several sarcophagi from the 4th century as a symbol of the salvation of the departed soul from the terrors of the realm of death. The same scene is shown on catacomb frescoes, terra cotta lamps, and other early objects of art. The rescue of the three youths from the furnace was depicted likewise for its symbolic reference to the resurrection of the dead.

Bibliography: Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, tr. and adap. by l. hartman (New York 1963) from a. van den born, Bijbels Woordenboek, 483484. p. joÜon, Biblica 19 (1938) 283285. m. noth, "Noah, Daniel, und Hiob in Ezechiel XIV," Vestus Testamentum 1 (Leiden 1951) 251260. b. mariani, Danel "il partriarca sapiente" nella Bibbia, nella tradizione, nella leggenda (Rome 1945). Iconography. l. rÉau, Iconographie de l'art chrétien (Paris 195559) 2.1:391410. v. h. elbern, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 195765) 3:153.

[m. mcnamara]


views updated May 21 2018

Daniel Legendary Jewish hero and visionary of the 6th century bc, who was at the court of the kings of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar. The Old Testament Book of Daniel, probably written c.165 bc, relates events in Daniel's life during the Babylonian Captivity. The book also gives an account of Belshazzar's Feast. The last six of its 12 chapters consist of visions and prophesies.


views updated Jun 27 2018

Daniel a Hebrew prophet (6th century bc), who spent his life as a captive at the court of Babylon. In the Bible he interpreted the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar and was delivered by God from the lions' den into which he had been thrown as the result of a trick.

In the apocryphal Book of Susanna he is portrayed as a wise judge.


views updated Jun 08 2018

Daniel ★★½ 1983 (R)

The children of a couple who were executed for espionage (patterned after the Rosenbergs) struggle with their past in the dissident 1960s. So-so adaptation of E.L. Docto-row's “The Book of Daniel.” 130m/C VHS . Timothy Hutton, Amanda Plummer, Mandy Patin-kin, Lindsay Crouse, Ed Asner, Ellen Barkin; D: Sidney Lumet; C: Andrzej Bartkowiak.