The hero and traditional author of the book which bears his name.
This name (Hebrew dnyal or dnal; Septuagint Daniél), which is also that of two other persons in the Old Testament [cf. I Paral., iii, 1; I Esd., viii, 2, and II Esd. (Nehem.), x, 6], means “God is my judge”, and is thus a fitting appellation for the writer of the Book of Daniel, wherein God’s judgments are repeatedly pronounced upon the Gentile powers.
Nearly all that is known concerning the Prophet Daniel is derived from the book ascribed to him. He belonged to the tribe of Juda (i, 6), and was of noble, or perhaps of royal, descent (i, 3; cf. Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Bk. X, ch. x, § 1). When still a youth, probably about fourteen years of age, he was carried captive to Babylon by Nabuchodonosor in the fourth year of the reign of Joakim (605 B.C.). There, with three other youths of equal rank named Ananias, Misael and Azarias, he was entrusted to the care of Asphenez, the master of the king’s eunuchs, and was educated in the language and learning of the “Chaldeans”, whereby are meant the professors of divination, magic, and astrology in Babylon (i, 3, 4). From this passage Jewish tradition has inferred that Daniel and his companions were made eunuchs; but this does not necessarily follow; the master of the eunuchs simply trained these Jewish youths, among others, with a view to their entering the king’s service (i, 5). Daniel now received the new name of Baltassar (Babyl. Balâtsu-usur, “Bel protect his life”), and, in agreement with Ananias, Misael, and Azarias, who received similarly the new names of Sidrach, Misach, and Abdenago, respectively, asked and obtained permission not to use the special food from the royal table provided for those under training, and to be limited to vegetable diet. At the end of three years Daniel and his three companions appeared before the king, who found that they excelled all the others who had been educated with them, and thereupon promoted them to a place in his court. Henceforth, whenever the prince tested them, they proved superior to “all the diviners, and wise men, that were in all his kingdom” (i, 7-20). Soon afterwards—either in the second or in the twelfth year of Nabuchodonosor’s reign—Daniel gave a signal proof of his marvellous wisdom. On the failure of all the other wise men, he repeated and interpreted, to the monarch’s satisfaction, the king’s dream of a colossal statue which was made up of various materials, and which, on being struck by a stone, was broken into pieces, while the stone grew into a mountain and filled the whole earth. On this account, Daniel in Babylon, as Joseph of old in Egypt, rose into high favour with the prince, who not only bestowed on him numerous gifts, but also made him ruler of “the whole province of Babylon” and chief governor of “all the wise men”. At Daniel’s request, too, his three friends received important promotions (ii). The next opportunity afforded Daniel to give proof of his wisdom was another dream of Nabuchodonosor which, once more, he alone was able to interpret. The dream was of a mighty tree concerning which the king heard the command given that it should be cut down, and that “seven times” should “pass over” its stump, which had been left standing. This, explained Daniel, portended that in punishment of his pride the monarch would for a while lose his throne, be bereft of his reason, imagining himself an ox, and live in the open fields, but be again restored to his power, finally convinced of the supreme might and goodness of the Most High. With holy freedom, although in vain, the Prophet exhorted the king to forestall such punishment by atoning for his sins by deeds of mercy; and Daniel’s prediction was fulfilled to the letter (iv). For a parallel to this, see Abydenus’ account (second century B.C.) quoted in Eusebius (Præp. Evang. IX, xl). Continue reading