You are hereGetting Daniel Past the Second Century BC: Daniel 2
Getting Daniel Past the Second Century BC: Daniel 2
by John Evans
This is my second article in a series devoted to a critical examination of what I term the middle of the road position on the Book of Daniel. In choosing this term, I have in mind those scholars in what I like to call mainstream biblical academia who believe that the prophecies of Daniel were written so as to call for fulfillment during the time of Jewish persecution by Antiochus IV in the second century BC but who also believe that they were appropriately reapplied to the time of Christ in the first century AD. Most of these scholars seem to believe that the prophecies of the “visions” half of Daniel (chapters 7-12) were written in the second century BC before the death of Antiochus (in late 164 or early 163), and some of them, no doubt, assume the late authorship of Daniel 2. In other words, among these scholars are evidently some who believe that even though at least some of Daniel’s “prophecies” are actually quasi-prophecies or even false prophecies in terms of their primary fulfillments, Jesus and His followers appropriately saw them as genuine prophecies that are messianicly Christian. This is my second article in a series devoted to a critical examination of what I term the middle of the road position on the Book of Daniel. In choosing this term, I have in mind those scholars in what I like to call mainstream biblical academia who believe that the prophecies of Daniel were written so as to call for fulfillment during the time of Jewish persecution by Antiochus IV in the second century BC but who also believe that they were appropriately reapplied to the time of Christ in the first century AD. Most of these scholars seem to believe that the prophecies of the “visions” half of Daniel (chapters 7-12) were written in the second century BC before the death of Antiochus (in late 164 or early 163), and some of them, no doubt, assume the late authorship of Daniel 2. In other words, among these scholars are evidently some who believe that even though at least some of Daniel’s “prophecies” are actually quasi-prophecies or even false prophecies in terms of their primary fulfillments, Jesus and His followers appropriately saw them as genuine prophecies that are messianicly Christian. While I am pleased that there are some biblical authorities in mainstream academia who entertain the idea that the Book of Daniel is a major prophetic work that has been appropriately adapted to reinforce Christian belief, I continue to be disturbed by the degree to which they have persisted in asserting that the end-time prophecies of Daniel 2, 7, 8, 9, and 11-12 all point to primary fulfillments that were supposed to occur in the Antiochene period. I agree with these authorities only with respect to Daniel 8. I shall be contending that in the other four cases, conflicts with the historical data tip the scales heavily in favor of looking to the first century AD for primary fulfillment.
Despite the fact that Daniel 2:45 states (NASB) that by giving Nebuchadnezzar the dream about the great statue, “God has made known to the king what will take place in the future,” mainstream scholars assure us that the statue’s imagery should not be subjected to a detailed comparison with the historical record. They recognize, however, that the statue’s head of gold symbolizes a kingdom that is the first in a sequence of four; but since verses 38-40 explicitly state that the head of gold symbolizes Nebuchadnezzar and that his kingdom is to be followed by three kingdoms that are symbolized, respectively, by silver, bronze, and iron, they can hardly avoid acknowledging that historical association must play some role in the interpretation of the statue. And since the rock that destroys the statue in verses 34 and 45 does so by striking the feet of mixed iron and clay, they must concede that the historical event symbolized by the rock’s arrival occurs relatively late in the period of historical time encompassed by the four kingdoms.
Including the clay in the feet and toes, the statue has five distinct sections. That the relative proportions assigned to each of the five should encourage us to look for matching historical eras of comparable length and significance is, however, an idea that is conspicuous by its absence in mainstream writings. Also conspicuous by its absence there is the idea that each of the four kingdoms symbolized by a metal may have had a particularly close association with that metal historically. Thus, although we are told that God intended that the statue’s imagery should provide clues about the future, mainstream scholars are certain that the imagery should not be taken too literally!
A succinct statement of the middle of the road position on Daniel 2 is provided by the New American Bible (NAB) in note 5 of its commentary on that chapter:
The four successive kingdoms in this apocalyptic perspective are the Babylonian (gold), the Median (silver), the Persian (bronze), and the Hellenistic (iron). The last, after Alexander’s death, was divided among his generals (Daniel 2:41-42). The two resulting kingdoms, which most affected the Jews, were the dynasty of the Ptolemies in Egypt and that of the Seleucids in Syria, who tried in vain, by war and through intermarriage, to restore the unity of Alexander’s empire (Daniel 2:43). The stone hewn from the mountain is the messianic kingdom awaited by the Jews (Daniel 2:44-45). Our Lord made this image personal to himself; cf Luke 20:17-18.
The sequence of kingdoms specified by the NAB illustrates what I like to call the “regular Greek sequence.” Some of the advocates for the middle of the road position, namely those whom I like to label as proponents of the “modified Greek sequence,” consider the kingdom symbolized by silver to be the united empire of Media and Persia. The kingdom of bronze then becomes the domain briefly held together by Alexander the Great, and the kingdom of iron becomes the collection of Hellenistic regimes that developed under his generals, the diadochi, Thomas Sachariassen, a frequent poster at this site in response to articles on Daniel and Revelation, is a modified Greek sequence advocate. In practice, the advocates of the modified Greek sequence tend to equate the kingdom of iron with Seleucid Syria, and so do the advocates of the regular Greek sequence once Alexander passes from the scene.
There are, it should be noted, a few mainstream authorities on Daniel who entertain the notion that the four kingdoms of Daniel 2 are not necessarily identical to those of
Daniel 7. Among them is the author of a full commentary on Daniel that I classify as middle of the road, namely John Goldingay. Although Goldingay offers numerous observations about Daniel that I consider to be keen insights with positive value, I regard his identification of the four kingdoms of Daniel 2 as eccentric and utterly implausible. Be that as it may, he suggests that rather than view the four kingdoms symbolized by the metals as four empires, as is usually done, “it is more natural to refer to the regins (sic) of four kings over a single empire, destroyed at a blow by the ‘rock’”; and he suggests that these four kings are those specifically mentioned in Daniel, namely Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius the Mede, and Cyrus the Persian.
After summarily dismissing the widely held view among mainstream scholars that the four metals mentioned in Daniel 2 were chosen because they were “the metals of idolatry,” Goldingay makes no attempt to match the metals with the four kings that he identifies. For him, the metals are simply indicators of power and strength and lack specific historical associations. In referring to them as “the metals of idolatry,” he implies the existence of a linkage to pagan tales in which the listing of the metals in the order gold, silver, bronze, and iron; i.e. in the order of declining value per unit of weight, was supposed to be symbolic of social decay. In fact, states Goldingay, “There is no implication of deterioration as we move from head to trunk to hips to legs.” This observation is correct, and Goldingay is on sound ground in dismissing the common assumption among mainstream scholars that the theme of social decay is invoked by the author or authors of Daniel. Unfortunately, however, in dismissing the prophetic relevance of the four metals, he throws out the exegetical baby with the bath water and completely ignores the fact that in recorded history, Babylonia had a peculiarly close association with gold, while Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome had peculiarly close associations with silver, bronze, and iron, respectively.
Goldingay eschews attempting to associate the striking of the statue by the rock with any specific historical event. For him, the rock is to be understood as indicating that God will ultimately replace earthly regimes with a kingdom of God on Earth that is to endure indefinitely, and the destruction of the statue by the rock could be applied to various situations in which God removes an evil regime. In his judgment, the text of Daniel 2 does not indicate that Daniel took the rock to symbolize the arrival of a personal messiah; but he nevertheless indicates that it is sound for Christians to equate the rock with Jesus, “the one who initiated the ultimate downfall of worldly empires and the establishment of God’s rule.” This does not mean, however, that the rock’s arrival must be identified solely with the Coming of the Christ in the first century AD.
Although Goldingay deviates from mainstream orthodoxy in his treatment of the four kingdoms of Daniel 2, his ready application of the tool of multiple fulfillment to prophecy so as to reconcile the supposed second-century BC dating of Daniel with messianic Christianity amply warrants his inclusion among those whom I associate with the middle of the road approach. So does his rejection of the idea that the imagery of Daniel 2 reveals a remarkably accurate forecast of historical details extending beyond the second century BC. “There is no hint of timing” in the revelation of Daniel 2, he insists; and while history can be divinely foreknown in some respects, we should not regard it as being divinely foreordained. Thus, while God provides direction to the course of history so that “human decision-making does not necessarily have the last word,” it is also the case that “human beings make real decisions that do shape history.” In his view, therefore, despite the fact that 2:45 proclaims that the dream of Daniel 2 was given to Nebuchadnezzar to reveal what would take place in the future, we should put out of our heads the notion that God foresees the course of history in great detail over a period of several centuries. Evidently, the entire statue of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream contains an unseen component that gives it the elasticity of a rubber band. Unfortunately for Goldingay, rubber is not one of the component materials of the statue.
Ernest Lucas is another author of a full commentary on Daniel whom I classify as middle of the road. I consider him to be somewhat closer to the biblical right than Goldingay because his commentary—written about fifteen years after Goldingay’s—seems somewhat more open to the evidence favoring an earlier writing for much of Daniel than the second century BC. Nevertheless, in his overall evaluation of the evidence, Lucas opts for the middle of the road position. While he concludes that “acceptance of both a late sixth-century BC date and a second-century date are consonant with a belief in the divine inspiration and authority of the book,” he also indicates a preference for the four-kingdom sequence of Babylonia, Media, Persia, and Macedonia over the alternative that has Rome as the fourth kingdom. The evidence that he presents as being persuasive on this point in Daniel 2 is that the mixture of iron and clay in 2:43 “fits with the marriage alliances of the Ptolemies and Seleucids mentioned in 11:6, 17.”
Lucas recognizes that the concept of four historical ages that could be symbolized by the metals mentioned in Daniel 2 circulated among pagan cultures in the ancient world, but he follows Goldingay in suggesting that the sequence of metals in Daniel 2 fails to demonstrate a clear pattern of degeneration. Moreover, he suggests that the iron mixed with clay appears to be “an independent and original touch to express a particular historical reality”; and he then offers this observation: “The stone that was ‘cut out, not by human hand’ and that ‘became a great mountain and filled the whole earth’ has no parallel in the non-biblical sources, and is another original addition by the author of Dan. 2.” Lucas clearly regards these original features of Daniel 2 as evidence of its divine inspiration.
In keeping with his middle of the road orientation, Lucas refrains from explicitly aligning himself with those who deny the existence of a sixth-century BC Daniel of Babylon while joining them in favoring the second-century BC as the historical period that corresponds to the statue’s feet of mixed iron and clay. And although he states that the rock that strikes the feet of the statue provides “no hint here of any ‘messianic’ expectation in the strict sense,” he also offers this observation: “The imagery of the growth of the stone into a mountain is paralleled, if not actually echoed, in some of Jesus’ parables about the growth of the kingdom of God, such as the parables of the yeast and the mustard seed.” For Lucas, that the historical event corresponding to the rock’s striking the feet of the statue supposedly found its primary fulfillment in the time of Antiochus IV should not be seen as a major obstacle to Christian belief. Like the annotators of the NAB, he seems not to be troubled by the idea that Christ took a prophecy that was not originally presented as being messianicly Christian and reapplied it to Himself.
Although advocates of the middle of the road position on Daniel such as Lucas may not be much troubled by the inherent ambiguity of their position, I confess that I am deeply troubled by it, and I suspect that many others on the conservative side of biblical controversy are as well. That the brief period of a little over three years during which Antiochus IV sought to suppress the practice of Judaism constituted a major crisis in the history of the Jewish people worthy of some mention in the Old Testament (OT) I do not question. That it was a period of such great historical significance as to be the focus of the end-time prophecies of such a magnificent work as the Book of Daniel I dismiss as nonsense. I admit that I am inclined to do so intuitively, but—more significantly—I do so as well on the basis of a careful consideration of the evidence.
Notably absent from such treatments of Daniel 2 as those offered by the NAB, Goldingay, and Lucas is any serious attempt to relate the imagery of the great statue to recorded history. That the five component materials of the statue were selected in order to demonstrate that the genuineness of prophecy can be verified through the study of history is an idea that mainstream biblical scholars summarily—and implausibly—dismiss. Even less admissible in mainstream circles is the idea that the relative portions of the statue assigned to its five distinct sections correspond to the relative quantities of time applying to whatever it is that each of them represents. That mainstream treatments of Daniel 2 avoid the consideration of such associations reflects the simple reality that if such associations exist, the intellectual support for the contention that the fourth kingdom of Daniel 2 cannot be Rome collapses.
As I have demonstrated in my writings on Daniel—particularly in my latest book—a strong case can be made for believing both that the materials of which the statue is composed correspond to political/cultural entities that can be identified in history as specific kingdoms or nations and that the relative portions of the statue assigned to these materials correspond to distinct historical eras during the period running from around 605 BC, when Daniel was taken to Babylon, to around AD 30; i.e. the date of the Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ. In historical fact, Babylonia was peculiarly associated with gold, Medo-Persia with silver, Greece with bronze, and Rome with iron. As for the clay, the OT provides us with ample reason for associating it with the Jewish people; and that, I am confident, is how it should be understood. The distinct historical eras that can be discerned are as follows: (1) the period of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, (2) the period of the Achaemenid or Medo-Persian Empire, (3) the time during which the Hellenistic kingdoms of Alexander and his successors politically dominated the Holy Land and the adjacent area, (4) the period of unchallenged Roman dominance of this part of the world, and (5) the period, running from the incorporation of Judea into the Roman Empire to the ministry of Christ, during which the Jewish presence in the empire became an increasingly important factor contributing to its instability.
Assigning exact blocks of time to all five of these periods is difficult, but it is easy to identify the approximate periods that correspond to them. This correspondence is remarkably close, given the inherent limitations imposed by the imagery of the statue as described in the text of Daniel 2. For the Babylonian period, the most obvious starting year is 605 BC, when Daniel was taken to Babylon; and the ending date is 539 BC, when the city fell to the Medo-Persian forces of Cyrus the Great. A period of 66 years thus corresponds to the statue’s head of gold. The period allotted to Medo-Persia can be precisely pinned down as running from 539 to 332, the year in which Alexander the Great wrested control of Judea and the surrounding territory from the Persians. This yields a total of 207 years as corresponding to the statue’s chest and arms of silver. I suggest that the ratio of 207 to 66 provides a very acceptable approximation to the proportions of the statue if we concede that a “bonus” should be assigned to the silver portion because the arms would extend well below the chest when hanging downward.
Beginning with the bronze portion of the statue, the assignment of discrete dates becomes more difficult. While 332 BC is a suitable starting date for the beginning of the Hellenistic period, choosing the date for the displacement of the Greek bronze by the Roman iron is problematic. One could take a date as early as 192 BC, when the Romans defeated Antiochus III in a great battle at Magnesia in southwestern Asia Minor. But Rome did not incorporate Greece into what was then the Republic for several more decades. Specifically, it annexed Macedonia in 148 and mainland Greece in 146. Seleucid Syria and Ptolemaic Egypt continued to be independent states for some time afterward. The Maccabean Revolt against the rule of Antiochus IV probably began in 166, and it was not until December 164 that the rebels succeeded in driving the Greco-Syrian forces out of Jerusalem. Warfare between the Maccabean (or Hasmonean) leaders of Judea and the rulers of Seleucid Syria continued until 142. The Romans did not formally incorporate Judea into the empire until 63 BC, when Pompey took Jerusalem; and they did not establish firm control over Judea until around 37 BC, when Herod the Great was formally installed as King of Judea.
In light of this historical background, I suggest that a reasonable time slot for the bronze portion of the statue; i.e. the belly and the thighs, is the period from 332 to 146 BC, a total of 184 years. For the solid iron portion running from just above the knees to the ankles, I suggest the period 146 to 37 BC, a total of 109 years. This leaves the period 37 BC to AD 30, a span of 66 years (no year zero), to correspond to the feet of mixed iron and clay. During this last period, there was a pronounced Jewish migration into the lands adjacent to Judea and the more distant parts of the empire. Although the total population of the Roman Empire seems to have stabilized or even declined during this period, its Jewish residents expanded both their numbers and their influence. Given the distinctiveness of the Jews and their widespread conviction—grounded in the books of the OT—that they were destined to dominate the world, the empire’s brittleness increased correspondingly. And thus the stage was set for the world-shaking events of the first century AD, a time of far greater significance for humanity than the era of Antiochus IV. Those events are symbolized by the imagery of the rock that strikes the statue on its feet and toes of mixed iron and clay and begins the process of growing into a mountain that is destined to cover all of Earth.
For those who deny that the fourth kingdom of Daniel 2 can be Rome, the finding that the statue of Daniel 2 serves as a remarkably accurate timeline applicable to Holy Land area for the long period running from 605 BC to around AD 30 must be dismissed as being without significance. Therefore, mainstream biblical scholars have essentially ruled it out of bounds to take such a possibility seriously and to recognize its implications. I cannot claim to have exhaustively searched their writings on this particular matter, but I have made a considerable effort to comprehend their views and have yet to encounter any serious effort to rebut the type of analysis that I have offered here. If any reader of this article can offer a well reasoned rebuttal or point me to where one exists, I would like to hear from him or her. Failing that, I shall continue to enthusiastically persist in the teaching of “error.”
Why mainstream biblical academia avoids the type of analysis that I have offered here is easily grasped when you attempt to match historical time periods with a sequence of four kingdoms that leaves Rome out of the picture. Consider, for example, the sequence of Babylonia (gold), Media (silver), Persia (bronze), and Greece (iron) that I believe to be favored by the majority of mainstream scholars. If you take the position that the Book of Daniel portrays Media as the conqueror of Babylonia because it indicates that Darius the Mede ruled in Babylon for a year or two, this means that the chest and arms of the statue correspond to a historical period of that length. Obviously, therefore, if you are determined to make Media the second kingdom of the statue, you must reject the notion that the relative portions allocated to its different parts of the statue have counterparts in historical time. Adding to the necessity for rejecting the matching of the statue’s imagery with history is the fact that Media, Persia, and Greece exhibited no particularly close historical identification with, respectively, silver, bronze, and iron.
Alternatively, consider the modified Greek sequence of Babylonia (gold), Medo-Persia (silver), the Alexandrian Empire (bronze), and the Hellenistic kingdoms—more accurately Seleucid Syria—that succeeded Alexander (iron). Alexander’s rule over the Holy Land and the adjacent territory began in 332 and ended with his death in 323. Within a few years, his empire broke up into several parts that were ruled over by his generals. Even if you are willing to concede as long a period as twenty years to the historical equivalent of the bronze, this does not match up very well against the historical record of the entire period running from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar to the death of Antiochus IV. Moreover, the idea of identifying a second-rate power like Seleucid Syria as the kingdom of iron rings so hollow that those who insist on doing so are wise to avoid relying upon the imagery of the statue to make their case.
In the analysis that I have presented here, the rock that destroys the statue clearly emerges as messianicly Christian symbolism. This finding stands in sharp contrast to the positions adopted by mainstream biblical scholars. But the middle of the roaders who insist on linking the symbolism of the rock to God’s overthrow of the tyrant Antiochus IV have nothing better to offer than to claim, as the NAB does, that “The stone hewn from the mountain is the messianic kingdom awaited by the Jews.” A logical question that then follows is: what happened to that kingdom? Evidently, the best that the middle of the roaders can do is to say that the Jews were wrong about its nature and that it arrived about two centuries later in the person of Christ. In that case, however, one is left wondering why the prophecy of the rock was given in a form that seems to point to the wrong time for its fulfillment. I suggest that a more logical approach is to suggest that the prophecies of Daniel 2 were designed to be messianicly Christian with first century AD fulfillment and that some Jews in the second century BC mistakenly applied the prophecy of the rock to their own time.
That many Jews living in the two centuries before the Coming of Christ sought to apply the end-time prophecies of Daniel to the time of Antiochus IV seems clear. The best evidence on this point comes from 2 Esdras (also known as 4 Ezra), a work that is generally believed to have been written late in the first century AD. In 2 Esdras 11 and 12, the author, apparently an unknown Jew, receives a dream in which an eagle that symbolizes Rome appears to him; and in 12:11-12, he receives the following message in this dream (RSV): “The eagle which you saw coming up from the sea is the fourth kingdom, which appeared in a vision to your brother Daniel. But it was not explained to him as I now explain or have explained it to you.”
The account in 2 Esdras suggests that there must have been Jews in the first century and earlier who indeed looked for the fulfillment of the end-time prophecies, including the prophecy of the rock in Daniel 2, in the time of Antiochus IV. That they did so does not prove, however, that they understood these prophecies correctly. Indeed, I suggest that in the decades following the death of Antiochus, it became increasingly obvious to the scriptural authorities that the end-time prophecies of Daniel 2, 7, 9, and 10-12 had not been fulfilled, with the result that it came to be widely believed that the fourth kingdom of Daniel was Rome. Josephus, incidentally, credited Daniel with having portrayed Rome as the fourth kingdom. Also to be noted is that since Daniel is told in 12:4 that he is to seal his words until the time of the end and that in the interim, “many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase,” it is reasonable to infer that the prophet foresaw that the proper understanding of his prophecies would not come about for some considerable time after he received them.
We cannot know just how widespread was the belief that Rome is the fourth kingdom of Daniel 2 among the Jews of the first century AD, but we do know that their messianic expectations greatly heightened at that time. How great a role the Book of Daniel played in bringing this phenomenon about is somewhat uncertain, but because it is clear that it was considered to be a very important part of Scripture, we can reasonably surmise that it played a major role. Unfortunately for the Jews who rejected the claim of Christ to be the Messiah, knowledge had not increased sufficiently by the time of His ministry and that of His disciples to avoid the tragedies that befell them in the Jewish War of 66-70.
Additional evidence of Jewish misunderstanding of Daniel’s prophecies between the time of Antiochus IV and the Coming of Christ was provided eighty-five years ago by Charles Boutflower in his comments on the Septuagint’s version of Daniel. As historical background, it should be kept in mind that Jerome (ca. 347-420) indicated that this Greek language translation from the Hebrew original had been rejected in favor of Theodotion’s version by the early church fathers because it was considered to be faulty. As a result, the Septuagint’s version virtually disappeared; and only one complete copy of it seems to have survived from the early centuries of Christianity, the Codex Chisianus, which is in the Vatican.
Boutflower’s analysis sheds considerable light upon what probably brought about the decision to replace the Septuagint’s translation of Daniel with that of Theodotion. Its highlight is the claim that the Septuagint’s translator became a commentator and altered the text of the prophecy of the seventy “weeks” of Daniel 9 so as to force its apparent fulfillment to coincide with the time of Antiochus IV. Specifically, wrote Boutflower, what the translator did was to rework the text so as to indicate that the chief feature of the seventy weeks prophecy was to point to “the rebuilding of the Holy City, after its destruction by Apollonius the general of Antiochus in 168 B.C.”
Boutflower provided a closely reasoned analysis of how he perceived that the translator of Daniel 9 for the Septuagint had substantially mangled the apparent original Hebrew text so as to force the fulfillment that he desired. But since mainstream scholars tend generally to prefer the version of Daniel 9 presented in the Masoretic Text (MT) and that version arguably seems suggestive of an Antiochene fulfillment date for the prophecy of the seventy weeks, the question arises as to why they prefer the MT to the Septuagint. In large part, the answer is that since the MT is a Hebrew text, it arguably has a better claim to accuracy than the Septuagint. It also appears to be true, as Boutflower suggested, that the Septuagint’s version of Daniel 9 exhibits evidence of tampering with the original text.
The reader may be wondering why I have inserted this digression on Daniel 9 in an article supposedly devoted to Daniel 2. The explanation is twofold. First, I have wanted to stress the point that, in my estimation, there were some Jews in the second century BC and later who mistakenly sought to find the fulfillments of the end time prophecies of chapters 2, 7, 9, and 11-12 in the era of Antiochus IV. Second, by emphasizing Boutflower’s analysis of textual tampering in the case of the Septuagint’s version of Daniel 9, I have set the stage for refuting the idea that the dynastic intermarriage passages of Daniel 11:6 and 17 “prove” that the clay in the feet of the statue of Daniel 2 symbolizes the ruling family of Ptolemaic Egypt.
Although there are, I suppose, some critical scholars who assume that the entire Book of Daniel is a product of the second century BC, I am confident that most mainstream authorities concede that some of it, particularly much of the material of the tales (chapters 1-6) and, perhaps, even part of chapter 7, has a longer, though unclear, history. I believe that a collection of Danielic tales and visions circulated on individual scrolls during the long period between the Medo-Persian conquest of Babylonia and the reign of Antiochus IV and that the most important of these works were collected and consolidated into book form and edited in the second century BC so as to form a harmonious whole. Recalling that the oldest Danielic manuscripts for chapters 1 and 8-12 are in Hebrew and that those for chapters 2-7 (with the exception of the first few verses of chapter 2) are in Aramaic, I am inclined to believe that the Aramaic chapters had a wider geographic circulation than those in Hebrew. Following Boutflower (who followed C. H. H. Wright), I am also inclined to believe that much of the text of Daniel 11 as we have it today consists of targumic additions to the original.
Targums are ancient Aramaic translations of or commentaries on the books of the OT. Boutflower believed that the fragment of the Book of Daniel that included chapter 11 was originally written in Aramaic and was subjected to interpolations that were retained when the book was translated into Hebrew. The purpose of these interpolations, he indicated, like that of the Septuagint’s alteration of the text of Daniel 9, was to show that Daniel’s time of the end was to be associated with the reign of Antiochus IV. If his analysis is correct—and I certainly believe that it is—it sheds much light on how it happened that the prophecies of Daniel came to be misinterpreted during the Antiochene era and for some time afterward.
The material in Daniel 11 from verse 5 through 32 provides a rather detailed account of the Seleucid rulers and their relations with the Ptolemies up to the time of Antiochus IV. Daniel 11:6 refers to the marriage (ca. 250) of the Seleucid king Antiochus II (261-246) to Berenice, the daughter of Ptolemy II, while 11:17 refers to the marriage (ca. 193) of a daughter of Antiochus III (223-187) named Cleopatra to Ptolemy V. This Cleopatra subsequently ruled Egypt as its regent following the death of Ptolemy V in 181/180 until her own death ca. 176. Subsequently, Antiochus IV attempted to incorporate Egypt into his realm but was ultimately thwarted by the Romans in 168.
In mainstream exegesis, it is generally the practice to relate the interdynastic marriages recorded in Daniel 11 to Daniel 2:43, which refers to the clay in the feet of the great statue. Here is that verse in Daniel 2, along with the two verses that immediately precede it (NASB):
41“In that you saw the feet and the toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it will be a divided kingdom; but it will have the toughness of iron, inasmuch as you saw the iron mixed with common clay. 42As the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of pottery, so some of the kingdom will be strong and part of it will be brittle. 43And in that you saw the iron mixed with common clay, they will combine with each other in the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, even as iron does not combine with pottery.”
In mainstream exegesis, the iron symbolizes the Seleucids and the clay symbolizes the Ptolemies. The mixing “in the seed of men” thus refers to interdynastic marriage. It is assumed, of course, that 11:6 and 17 help explain the meaning of 2:43. I must note, however, that some mainstream scholars have suggested that at least part of the wording in 2:43 may be a gloss that was inserted to complement 11:6 and 17. I have yet to encounter in the work of mainstream scholars any suggestion of the possibility that the potter’s clay could refer to the Jews, but I concede that I have not spent a great deal of time trying to discover if this idea has ever occurred to a mainstream scholar.
Because this article is now longer than I had hoped it would be, I shall refrain from giving the interdynastic marriage interpretation (IMI) of Daniel 2:43 the full adversarial treatment that I believe it richly deserves. What I shall offer is a list of problems without providing much elaboration.
1. The IMI assumes that Seleucid rulers are symbolized by iron and the Ptolemies are symbolized by clay. As symbols, these materials bear no relation to historical reality.
2. The OT’s references to the Jews as potter’s clay in Isaiah 64 and Jeremiah 18-19 are ignored (See also Rom. 9:21).
3. Mixing “in the seed of men” does not necessarily have to refer to marriage. It could well refer to the mixing of peoples of very different cultures. This would indeed help explain the brittleness. 4. Even if mixing “in the seed of men” includes marriage, it need not refer to marriage between royal families. Indeed, it would seem to strain credulity to equate the Ptolemies to “common clay.” 5. While the four metals symbolize kingdoms, they also symbolize nations. And since the iron is supposed to symbolize “Greece” (or the collection of Hellenistic kingdoms that succeeded Alexander), how can the clay symbolize a kingdom that was originally included with the iron?
6. The fact that the clay shows up in the feet of the statue and is absent from the pure iron portion running from the top of the knees to the ankles suggests that whatever it is that the clay represents shows up late in the time period allotted to the fourth kingdom. In
the early history of the Hellenistic period, however, the Ptolemies controlled the Holy Land. Moreover, the marriage referred to in 11:6 did not occur in the latter part of the period supposedly allotted to the fourth kingdom.
7. The brittleness of the statue’s feet seems suggestive of why the statue collapses when it is hit on its feet by the rock. To claim that it was intermarriage between the Seleucid and Ptolemaic dynasties that led to the collapse of the Seleucid regime does violence to the historical record.
So much for the claim that we should exclude Rome from being the fourth kingdom of Daniel 2 because Daniel 2:43 “fits with the marriage alliances of the Ptolemies and Seleucids mentioned in 11:6, 17.”
I shall close by suggesting that the prophecy of the seventy weeks of Daniel 9:24-27 reinforces the view the statue of Daniel 2 should be regarded as a timeline because it seems to suggest a time period of 490 years during which certain things are to occur. Since mainstream scholars reject the idea that the statue is a timeline, consistency should push them in the direction of denying that the 490 years should be taken literally. I shall elaborate on this point in due course. First, however, I shall be looking at Daniel 7.
John E. Goldingay, Daniel, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 30 (Milton Keynes, England: Word Publishing, 1987).
Ibid., 49, 51.
See, in particular, John S. Evans, The Prophecies of Daniel 2 (Xulon Press, 2008), chapter 3.
Goldingay, Daniel, 52, 59-60.
Ernest C. Lucas, Daniel, Apollos Old Testament Commentary, vol. 20 (Leicester, England, 2002).
Ibid., 76, 191.
Ibid., 76, 80.
Evans. Daniel 2.
See, in particular, Isaiah 64:8 and Jeremiah 18-19.
Flavius Josephus, The New Complete Works of Josephus, trans. by William Whiston (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1999), 10.11.7 (277), 357.
Charles Boutflower, In and Around the Book of Daniel (London: Macmillan, 1923; reprint, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1977).
Lucas, Daniel, 76.