Dan 7:2 עִם לֵילְיָא ‘by night’?

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A punctiliar value of the Aramaic preposition עִם ‘immediately following in time’ is more likely at Dan 7:2 than the conventional ‘during, in’.


A punctiliar value of the Aramaic preposition עִם ‘immediately following in time’ is more likely at Dan 7:2 than the conventional ‘during, in’.

The preposition עִם in חָזֵה הֲוֵית בְּחֶזְוִי עִם־לֵילְיָא Dan 7:2 has been interpreted in diverse ways.1 The question is whether it indicates a period of time, duration or a point in a period of time. Koehler-Baumgartner’s dictionary offers “in the night.”2 Vogt paraphrases with “in visione mea nocturna,” referring to בחזווא די ליליא ‪1Q20 21:8.3 The prepositional phrase in our Daniel passage, however, is hardly an adnominal adjunct, but an adverbal one.‬

Koehler-Baumgartner mention as illustrating temporal value of the preposition מַלְכוּתֵהּ מַלְכוּת עָלַם וְשָׁלְטָנֵהּ עִם־דָּר וְדָר Dan 3:33 and, with a slight variation, שָׁלְטָנֵהּ שָׁלְטָן עָלַם וּמַלְכוּתֵהּ עִם־דָּר וְדָר ib. 4:31. The niv reads “from generation to generation” at both places, a considerable departure from the Aramaic phrase. Its Hebrew replica occurs in מִדּוֹר לָדוֹר תֶּחֱרָב ‘it shall remain parched from generation to generation’ Isa 34:10 with an idiomatic phrase repeating the key word, and preceded and followed by synonymous phrases—לְעוֹלָם … לְנֵצַח נְצָחִים. Whilst the Targum Jonathan translates the middle phrase mechanically with מִדָּר לְדָר, Peshitta reads l-da:rda:ri:n, with which compare the Peshitta reading ḥna:neh l-da:re for τὸ ἔλεος αὐτοῦ εἰς γενεὰς καὶ γενεάς Lk 1:50 and the Vetus Syra version ḥna:neh ‘ad da:re. We thus note a certain disinclination to use the sequence min-l on the part of Aramaic translators. Note also Peshitta at Ps 10:6 l-da:rda:ri:n for לְדֹר וָדֹר, with which compare lxx ἀπὸ γενεᾶς εἰς γενεάν, likewise ib. 77:9, 85:6.

Koehler-Baumgartner further refer to a section (3) in their Hebrew dictionary under עִם. Among the four references mentioned there with a gloss “simultaneously with” the only one with some temporal signification is יִירָאוּךָ עִם־שָׁמֶשׁ וְלִפְנֵי יָרֵחַ דּוֹר דּוֹרִים Ps 72:5, glossed “as as long as the sun shines”.4 This, however, is distinct from our Daniel passage, where a period of time is denoted by the noun in question, whereas שֶׁמֶשׁ does not denote daytime. What the psalmist means to say is probably that godly people will live unashamedly in the broad daylight or moonlight, having nothing to conceal, cf. כִּי אַתָּה עָשִׂיתָ בַסָּתֶר וַאֲנִי אֶעֱשֶׂה אֶת־הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה נֶגֶד כָּל־יִשְׂרָאֵל וְנֶגֶד הַשָּׁמֶשׁ ‪2 Sam 12:12.‬ Note the affinity between נגד השמש here and לפני הירח in the above-quoted psalm.

Coming back to Dan 3:33 and 4:31 the key word דָּר can mean not only a length of time called generation, but also a population and residents living during the king’s reign, thus his subjects of every generation and age as in דּוֹר לְדוֹר יְשַׁבַּח מַעֲשֶׂיךָ Ps 145:4.

Collins renders the phrase in question at Dan 7:2 “in my vision during the night,” comparing עם דר ודר mentioned above and also עם סופה in an Aramaic Enoch fragment, 1En 91:13, glossed by him “at the end”.5 The clause reads עם סופה יקנון נכסין בקשוט ‘when its (= of the eighth week) end arrives they will acquire possessions in righteousness’ 4Q Eng 1 iv 17. The temporal signification of עם here is in no doubt. Collins mentions another Aramaic example of our preposition, namely יליד בירחא קמ]אה בח[ד לירחא עם מדנח שמש]א ‘he was born in the fir[st] month [on the fir]st day of the month with the sunrise” Test. Levi 11:7.6 Although the difference is subtle, we believe that the two temporal values of the preposition should be kept apart: a period and duration of time, “during”, and advent of a point in time, punctiliar value. Whilst the delivery of the baby Kohath may have taken a while, the sunrise is a momentary event; the phrase in the Testament of Levi would hardly mean ‘during the whole length of the early hours of the day’.

We submit that עם at Dan 7:2 has a punctiliar temporal value, thus not ‘during the night,’ but rather ‘when the night fell’.7 In addition to the above-mentioned problematic example of the preposition in Ps 72 we find in Biblical Hebrew one instance of עִם with temporal signification8 : הַכֹּל הֶעֱלָה שֵׁשְׁבַּצַּר עִם הֵעָלוֹת הַגּוֹלָה מִבָּבֶל לִירוּשָׁלִָם Ezr 1:11. Though the journey from Persia must have taken quite a while, we do not believe that there is any emphasis here on the duration of the journey, but simply ‘when the exiles set out on their journey home’.

Interesting is that the Greek particle ἅµα has, in addition to an associative value of ‘together with,’ a temporal one, ‘at the same time with, immediately following in time’. This is the case not only in the Septuagint as in ἅµα τῇ ἡµέρᾳ ‘the moment it was day’ Mic 2:2 and ἅµα τῷ ἀνατεῖλαι τὸν ἥλιον ‘immediately with the sunrise’ Jon 4:8,9 but also in Classical Greek as in ἅµα δ᾽ ἠελίῳ καταδύντι ‘when the sun set’ Iliad 18.210.10 bdb also mention a post-biblical example in עם שאתו כפים יגילו Sir 40:14, which the lxx reads ἐν τῷ ἀνοίξαι αὐτὸν χεῖρας εὐφρανθήσεται. Targum for the above-quoted Ps 72.5 reads in part עם מיסק שמשא ‘with the rising of the sun’.11 Ben-Yehuda’s dictionary shows that this usage of the preposition is abundantly attested in post-biblical Hebrew literature.12 To quote just one example, אין מעמצין את המת בשבת, ולא בחול עם יציאת נפש ‘one is not to close the eyes of the deceased on the Sabbath, nor on a weekday, when he breathes his last’ mShab 23:5. Ben Yehuda justly notes, however, that an affiliated compound conjunction -עם שׁ indicates a duration, ‘while,’ as in עם שהוא מפרש בים הגדול שקעה ספינתו בים‎ ‘while he was sailing in the ocean, his boat sank in the sea’ Pesiqta d-R. Kahana, par. 18.5.


The Greek Theodotionic version lacks this phrase altogether, and the Old Greek considerably differs ἐπὶ τῆς κοίτης µου ἐθεώρουν καθ᾽ ὕπνον νυκτός. However, a Qumran fragment, 4Q113 dated to ca. 20-50 ce, has preserved ב[חזוי ע]ם.


L. Koehler—W. Baumgartner, tr. and ed. M.E.J. Richardson, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, v (Leiden • Boston • Köln, 2000), p. 1950b; the German original reads “bei Nacht.”


E. Vogt, Lexicon linguae aramaicae veteris testamenti documentis antiquis illustratum (Roma, 1971), p. 133a. Peshitta reads the same, b-ḥezwa: d-le:lya:, probably trying to smooth over the unusual phrase in the original. Charles opines that the reading shared between Pesh. and LXXlxx, recurring in vss. 7 and 13, must be original, an argument which could be turned on its head to render support to an argument for harmonisation, see R.H. Charles, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Daniel (Oxford, 1929), p. 175.


This gloss reminds one of a line in Ovid’s Amores mentioned by older commentators, so J.A. Montgomery, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Daniel (Edinburgh, 1927), p. 224; Montgomery could have mentioned that F. Brown, S.R. Driver and Ch.A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford, 1907), s.v. עִם1 g‏ does so. The line i 16 reads: Cum sole et luna semper Aratus erit, i.e. 24 hours, whether the sun is up in the sky or the moon.


J.J. Collins, A Commentary on the Book of Daniel (Minneapolis, 1993), p. 294, where סופא is a typing mistake for סופה.


For the text partly reconstructed from a Cambridge Genizah fragment, see J.C. Greenfield, M.E. Stone and E. Eshel, The Aramaic Levi Document (Leiden • Boston, 2004), p. 94. Collins, Commentary, p. 294, n. 145, refers to an entry of this example in K. Beyer, Die aramäischen Texte vom Toten Meer etc. (Göttingen, 1984); in the glossary (p. 659) Beyer’s gloss reads “während,” whereas in his edition of the text (p. 203) he translates “bei Sonnenaufgang”.


The first alternative analysis is possibly influenced by the phrase בְּחֶזְוֵי לֵילְיָא, which occurs later, introducing two more nocturnal visions seen by Daniel: vss. 7 and 13.

We would note, however, that ‘am in Syriac indicates a duration.


bdb, s.v. 1 g, clearly labelled “Of time” divided into as long as with Ps 72:5 as the sole reference and at the time of(?) with two references, 2 Chr 21:19 and Ezr 1:11, the first of which is textually suspect.


For more examples, see T. Muraoka, A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint (Leuven, 2002), s.v. ii 2.


More examples may be found in H.G. Liddell, R. Scott, and H.S. Jones, A Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford, 1940), s.v. B 1. The dictionary mentions, however, a durative value, ‘during the time of’ as well.


In the interest of parallelism Targum equally expands the following phrase—קדם מנהר סיהרא ‘before the moon (starts) shining’.


E. Ben Yehuda, A Complete Dictionary of Ancient and Modern Hebrew (Jerusalem, 1908-59), vol. 5, pp. 4540b-4541a, ח.

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