Chapter 7 Darius and Daniel (Dan 6)

In: Aramaic Daniel
Benjamin D. Suchard
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Dan 6 is the last chapter where OG and MT frequently disagree on significant points. Compared to Dan 4 and 5, these disagreements are less radical. The story of the conspiracy against Daniel and his adventure in the lions’ den follows the same outline in both versions. Interesting divergences appear in the opening and closing lines of the story, which embed it in the book’s larger historical framework; MT seems more original here.

1 Comparative Reconstruction

No fragments of 4QDana corresponding to Dan 6 survive. There are several fragments of 4QDanb corresponding to parts of this chapter, but where we find textual variants, MT seems to preserve the preferable reading every time. Most of the evidence thus once again comes from MT and OG, although Th also contains a remarkable number of preferable readings compared to MT in this chapter.

Segal discusses this chapter in two separate articles.1 He identifies two elements of the story where the relationship between MT and OG is complex. In both cases, OG mainly reflects the older readings, but has undergone some harmonization towards MT. These harmonizations can be recognized as secondary, however, as they occur in places where the elements in question are absent from MT. The first of these elements involves the characters responsible for the plot against Daniel. In MT, the one hundred and twenty satraps are included, but OG mainly preserves the more logical and presumably more original situation, where it is only Daniel’s two direct rivals.2 The few places where OG implicates the satraps are then secondary.

The other element where Segal identifies partial rewriting of OG involves ‘the law of Media and Persia, which does not pass away’.3 Based on the absence of this element from OG except in the plus found in v. 12a, Segal argues that this may be an assimilation in MT to the same motif in the book of Esther. The Alpha text of Esther also lacks this element, so there is a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem here.4 Upon closer inspection, the law of Media and Persia functions in two distinct ways in MT. In vv. 9,13, the prohibition meant to entrap Daniel is established as a law of Media and Persia, guaranteeing its immutable status. But in v. 16, a separate law of Media and Persia is cited, which itself states that royal decrees may not be changed. Daniel’s enemies remind the king of this law in an apparent ‘gotcha’ moment, which is strange if the laws of Media and Persia and their immutability have already been brought up twice before. I therefore suggest that this element was originally missing from MT vv. 9,13, where it has no counterpart in OG, but that it is original in v. 16. In OG, it was moved to v. 12a in rewritten form, a move reflecting the general reduction of dramatic tension in OG also seen in the narrator’s explanation of the plot against Daniel in vv. 5,8. The originality of ‘Media and Persia’ in v. 16 also provides a welcome starting point for the reinterpretation of this story, which originally “undoubtedly referred to Darius I of Persia”,5 as featuring a Median king (see below for the secondary origin of Darius ‘the Mede’).

MT v. 3b, which explains the function of the three ministers in more detail, is missing from OG. There is no discernable reason for this minus other than that it is an elaboration in MT.

In v. 4, OG’s (v. 3) description of Daniel shows harmonization with Dan 5. Against MT, Th and the Peshitta do not mention ‘the ministers and the satraps’ here but only say that Daniel was more excellent than ‘them’, which is easily reconciled with the original absence of the satraps from the plot.

The final clause of MT v. 5, which repeats that Daniel was not corrupt, is missing from Th as well as OG. Newsom suggests that this is a textual variant that was worked into the text of MT,6 which is a plausible explanation.

MT v. 7 contains the standard opening ‘King Darius, live forever!’, absent from corresponding OG v. 6. This may have been added at the same time when the beginning of MT v. 8 was edited to include the satraps and other officials.

The stipulation in MT vv. 8,13 that the new law also forbids requests made of human beings is absent from OG and convincingly identified as secondary by Segal.7 He notes a similar addition in the intervention of the angel in MT v. 23, who is not mentioned in OG.8 The addition of the angel to MT is easily explained as a theological correction making God less physically involved in the events, as well as an assimilation to Dan 3.

In OG v. 13, the speakers refer to Daniel as the king’s friend, whereas he is identified as one of the Judahite exiles in the corresponding MT v. 14. Following Segal, MT seems to have harmonized this verse with the introduction of Daniel in Dan 2,5.9

Segal identifies the phrase לא שם עליך מלכא טעם ‘has not paid heed to you, O king’ in MT v. 14 as a harmonization with Dan 3:12.10 It is not only missing from OG, but also from Th, and is thus probably rather late.

While MT v. 20 redundantly writes that the king got up ‘at daybreak, at dawn’, OG only has one expression for ‘early’. As noted by Hartman and Di Lella,11 בנגהא ‘at dawn’ is most probably a gloss of בשפרפרא ‘at daybreak’ that was accidentally incorporated in the text.

In MT v. 21, the king addresses Daniel as עבד אלהא חיא ‘servant of the Living God’. This is somewhat inappropriate, as at this point he still believes that Daniel has been eaten by lions. OG v. 20 has the more appropriate question εἰ ἄρα ζῇς ‘are you still alive?’ instead. Intriguingly, the most likely Aramaic Vorlage for this question, עוד אנתה חי*, is visually quite similar to MT’s עבד אלהא חיא. I suggest that MT has corrupted the original question under influence of the parallel statement by King Nebuchadnezzar in Dan 3:26 and the title ‘Living God’ in Dan 6:27. In the following verse, OG lacks MT’s standard opening of ‘O king, live forever!’ and instead has Daniel answering the question whether he is still alive. As recently shown by Andrew Daniel, however, OG’s ἔτι εἰμὶ ζῶν ‘I am still alive’ uses a construction that is typical of text that was composed in high-register Greek, not translated from a Semitic original.12 MT thus probably preserves a more original version of the answer.

Segal sees the remark that כל חבל לא השתכח בה ‘no harm was found on him’ in MT v. 24 as an assimilation to Dan 3:25,13 as it is missing from OG. The corresponding v. 23 in OG has been rewritten, however, in what is itself probably an assimilation to Dan 3 as well as one of the edits made to include the satraps. The phrase is more at home in Dan 6, where the root חבל occurs twice in the preceding verse, than in Dan 3:25, where the related phrase seems less integrated. Hence, I find it more likely that it occurs there due to influence from Dan 6 than vice versa.

The contents of Darius’ letter at the end of the chapter differs slightly between MT and OG. The latter makes the bigger claim that Darius himself became subject to Daniel’s god, which is more likely to be secondary. At the beginning of the letter, however, MT v. 26’s phrase ‘may your wellbeing be abundant’ is absent from OG. In MT, it can be explained as an assimilation to Dan 3:31.

2 Internal Reconstruction

Compared to the last few chapters, our reconstructed text contains only few tensions and inconsistencies:

  • a) ‘King Darius’ is מלכא דריוש in v. 10 but דריוש מלכא in v. 26.

  • b) The phrase וכוין פתיחן לה בעליתה נגד ירושלם in v. 11 is syntactically awkward.

  • c) ‘Pit’ is spelled גוב—with an exceptional plene spelling of a historically short vowel—in v. 13 vs. the expected defective spellings גב and גבא in vv. 8,17–18,20–21,24–25.

  • d) The mention of the king’s nobles in v. 18 is isolated.

  • e) The historically short vowel *i is spelled defectively in *mašēzib משיזב ‘saving (’ but plene in *šēzib שיזיב ‘he saved’, both in v. 28.

  • f) The end of the story in v. 29 identifies Cyrus as ‘the Persian’, but does not repeat the identification of Darius as ‘the Mede’ (contrast ‘King Belshazzar the Chaldaean’ at the end of Dan 5).

To start with some minor points, the inclusion of the signet rings of the king’s nobles (רברבנוהי; d) recalls their presence in Dan 5 and can thus be explained as an assimilation to that chapter. Excising this phrase does not impact the story at all. The isolated plene spelling of ‘pit’ in v. 13 (c) occurs in a back-and-forth dialogue that serves to explicitly repeat some information that is already known and now becomes relevant. This is reminiscent of the interchange between Nebuchadnezzar and his nobles in Dan 2:24b (compare the affirmation יציבא ‘certainly’ used there to יציבא מלתא ‘the matter is certain’ in Dan 6:13), which we have identified as secondary based on its absence from OG (see above). While MT v. 13 has a counterpart in OG v. 12, it could reflect the same kind of addition to their shared archetype.

The awkwardness of the phrase וכוין פתיחן לה בעליתה נגד ירושלם in v. 11 (b) is clear from the various competing attempts to translate it, the main ones being ‘and he opened windows in his upper room facing Jerusalem’, following OG, or ‘and he/it had open windows’, etc., following Th. As Li’s analysis shows,14 the latter must be the original intent, as past tense ‘they were opened (by him)’ would be expressed by the Perfect in Biblical Aramaic, i.e. פתיחו. But the difficulty many translators have found here shows that there is something strange about this phrase. Following the absence of the mention of the Judahite exile in OG, this mention of Jerusalem is the only thing explicitly marking Daniel as a Judahite in this story. Whether he was originally implicitly understood to belong to the exiles of Judah or not, it is plausible that this phrase was added to make this identification explicit, much like the later addition ‘who is of the exiles of Judah’ that occurred in MT, but not in OG.

Two inconsistencies point to the chapter’s redaction history. The letter in vv. 26–28 clearly shares much with the letter from Nebuchadnezzar in Dan 3:31–33. It seems likely that these letters were added at the beginning and end of Dan 4–6 when these texts were edited into a coherent work. That the letter belongs to an editor explains the difference in how ‘King Darius’ is expressed (a).15 As expected, ‘King’ follows the name in the letter in Dan 6 just as in the letter at the end of Dan 3. Within the letter, the spelling of the verbal stem *šēzib is inconsistent (e). If we remove the phrase containing the unexpected plene spelling, די שיזיב לדניאל מן יד אריותא ‘who saved Daniel from the lions’, Darius’ letter more closely resembles the opening of Nebuchadnezzar’s in Dan 3:31–33. The plene spelling of short vowels also occurs in v. 13, both in *gubb גוב ‘pit’ and in קריבו *qaríbū ‘they approached’. Additionally, vv. 13 and 28b share the same explanatory purpose. It is likely that they were added by the same scribe.

As noted at the outset of this chapter, OG and MT differ in the opening and closing lines of this story. MT Dan 6:1 forms a continuation of MT Dan 5:30, narrating the death of Belshazzar the Chaldaean. We have identified 5:30 as a redactional addition based on two linguistic differences from the body of Dan 5. Hence, Dan 6:1 should be attributed to the same redactor, which explains why Darius is only referred to as ‘the Mede’ here.16 In Dan 6:29, Cyrus—who plays no role in the story—is referred to as ‘the Persian’, but Darius’ ethnicity is not mentioned (f). This suggests that v. 29a formed the original conclusion of the story, with v. 29b being added by the same redactor responsible for ‘King Belshazzar the Chaldaean’ and ‘Darius the Mede’. Paraphrases of these verses were then added to OG at a later time than the original translation of Dan 4–6, much like the references to the satraps and the laws of Media and Persia. Xerxes was included in OG to further harmonize the text with Dan 9:1. This brings us to the following reconstructed text.

3 Conclusion

Out of Dan 4–6, Chapter 6 seems to have had the least complicated prehistory before splitting up into the textual traditions reflected in MT and OG. Like the other stories, it started out as an independent tale. It was originally set at the court of Darius I of the Achaemenid Empire. This story was incorporated into a triptych together with a story on Nebuchadnezzar (originally probably Nabonidus, cf. the similar story in 4QPrNab)17 and one on Belshazzar. This collection was then bookended with royal letters.

In the tradition leading up to OG, the text of this chapter was relatively stable. In the one leading up to MT, some elements of the story were changed, most notably the expansion of the plot against Daniel to include the satraps. At some point, the story was reframed as taking place under a fictitious Darius the Mede. These changes partially made their way into OG, but without completely obscuring the older state of affairs.


Segal, “OG and MT of Daniel 6”; Segal, “Harmonization and Rewriting of Daniel 6.”


Segal, “OG and MT of Daniel 6,” 423–28.


Segal, “Harmonization and Rewriting of Daniel 6,” 269–74.


Duly noted by Segal, 273n15.


Collins, Daniel, 264. A seminal work that should be mentioned in this regard is H. H. Rowley, Darius the Mede and the Four World Empires in the Book of Daniel: A Historical Study of Contemporary Theories (Cardiff: University of Wales, 1935).


Newsom, Daniel, 188.


Segal, “OG and MT of Daniel 6,” 418–19.


Segal, 419–22.


Segal, 416–18.


Segal, “Harmonization and Rewriting of Daniel 6,” 268.


Hartman and Di Lella, Daniel, 196.


Daniel, “The Translator’s Tell”, 735–6.


Segal, “Harmonization and Rewriting of Daniel 6,” 268.


Tarsee Li, The Verbal System of the Aramaic of Daniel: An Explanation in the Context of Grammaticalization (Leiden: Brill, 2009), 32–33, 64.


See also Chapter 3, Note 10.


Cf. Haag, Errettung Daniels, 34; Haag, “Menschensohn,” 138.


See also Amanda M. Davis Bledsoe, “The Identity of the ‘Mad King’ of Daniel 4 in Light of Ancient Near Eastern Sources,” CNR 33 (2012): 743–58.

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