Chapter 18

Studies In The Book Of Daniel: A Discussion of the Historical Questions by Robert Dick Wilson




  When Paul was at Philippi, he was accused of teaching customs which it was not lawful for the Philippians to observe, being Romans. Without a trial and uncondemned, he was beaten and imprisoned and put in the stocks. This illustrates the manner in which the critics accuse Daniel of becoming a Babylonian wise man, of observing the customs which it was not lawful for him to observe, “being a strict Jew.” they do not prove that the customs of the wise men were not lawful for a strict Jew to observe. To do this they should first show what a strict Jew might legally have been; and secondly, what there was in the customs and beliefs of a wise man of Babylon that made it impossible for Daniel to have been at the same time a strict Jew and a Babylonian wise man.  They simply assert it, just as the Philippians asserted that Paul troubled their city by teaching unlawful customs.

  Again, we shall see, they have failed to show how it would have been impossible for a Jewish writer of the second century B.C., —the time of the Maccabees and of the Assideans, —to have written a work whose hero would have been represented as being both a strict Jew and a Babylonian wise man, if there had been an in–

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consistency in a man’s being at the same time both of them. They have failed even to consider how a strict Jew, writing a book of fiction for the consolation of strict Jews, to be accepted by strict Jews as a genuine history, could have said a strict Jew was a Babylonian wise man, if there was anything unlawful or improper in a strict Jew’s being a Babylonian wise man. Certainly a strict Jew of the middle of the second century B.C. was as strict as one of the middle of the sixth. Certainly, also, a Chaldean wise man of the second century B.C., was as bad as one of the sixth. Certainly, also, as we shall see, a wise man was at both times and at all times the subject of unstinted, unqualified, and invariable praise on the part of Jew and Babylonian and Greek. Certainly, last of all, if the critics were right in placing the completion of the law in post–exilic times, a strict Jew of the second century B.C. would be much stricter than he would have been in the sixth century B.C., before the law had been completed. For surely a strict Jew of the sixth century B.C. cannot be blamed by the critics for not observing a law that according to these same critics was not promulgated till the fifth or fourth century B.C. A writer living in Palestine in the second century B.C., composing a book with the intent of encouraging the Assidean party and the observance of the law, would scarcely make his hero live a life inconsistent with this very law which it was his purpose to magnify; whereas a Jew living at Babylon in the sixth century B.C., where the law could not be strictly observed, might have been excused even if he had transgressed the injunctions which it was impossible for him to observe. This is an ad hominem argument which is gladly left to the consideration of those who affirm that a strict Jew of the

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sixth century B.C., could not have been a Babylonian wise man, while one of the second might have been!

  When Jesus was brought up before the High Priest two witnesses testified that he had said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The evangelist admits that he had used these words but says that he had meant by them his own body and not the temple at Jerusalem. The witnesses, therefore, were false, not because they did not report correctly the words that had been said, but because they gave to them a sense different from that which had been intended and understood. So, as I shall proceed to show, the author of Daniel represents the prophet as having been a wise man indeed; but his wise man was one whose manner of life was in entire harmony with the teachings of the law and of the prophets, whereas the wise men of the critics is the baseless fabric of their own imagination. But let us to the proof.


  A writer who makes a pious Jew and one true to the law to have been admitted into the society of the Chaldean Magicians can only have possessed very confused notions of the latter.1

  Other indications adduced to show that the Book is not the work of a contemporary, are such as the following: —The improbability that Daniel, a strict Jew, should have suffered himself to be initiated into the class of Chaldean “wise men,” or should have been admitted by the wise men themselves.2

  How explain the assertion that Daniel, a strict Jew, was

1 Cornill, p. 338.    2 Driver, p. 500, h.

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made chief of the heathen sages of Babylon? (2:48, 4:6).1


  There are several assumptions in these objections.

  1. That a strict, or pious Jew, and one true to the law, could not have been the chief of the “wise men” of Babylon without besmirching his reputation and injuring his character.

  2. That a Jewish writer at the time of Maccabees could have been capable of making the pious hero of a fiction to have been a member of the heathen society of magicians, or Chaldeans; but that it is improbable that a real Daniel of the sixth century B.C. can have been a member of such a class.

  3. That an author thus writing can only have had very confused notions of what such magicians were.

  4. That Daniel must have been initiated into the mysteries of such a society.

  5. That the chief of such a society must himself have been guilty of practicing the black art.

  6. That the wise men themselves admitted him into the class of Chaldeans.


  Before proceeding to the discussion of these assumptions, let us quote in full the statements of the Book of Daniel with reference to Daniel’s relation to the wise men.

  1. Nebuchadnezzar had him trained in the learning and tongue of the Chaldeans (Dan. 1:3–5) so that he might be able to stand before the king, and the king approved of his education (1:18–20).

1 Bevan, The Book of Daniel, p. 21.

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  2. God gave him grace and mercy before the prince of the eunuchs (1:9) and knowledge and discernment in all literature (book–learning) and wisdom (1:17).

  3. The king of Babylon found him ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters which were in all his kingdom in all matters of wisdom and understanding (1:20).

  4. When the king called the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans to tell the king his dream, Daniel was not among them (2:4–9). It was only when the king commanded to kill all the wise men of Babylon that they sought Daniel and his companions to slay them (2:13).

  5. the king made Daniel great and chief of the sagans over the wise men of Babylon (2:46–49).

  6. In 4:9, he is called rab hartumaya or chief of the magicians, or sacred scribes.

  7. In 5:11, the queen says that he had been made master of the scribes, exorcists, astrologers (mathematicians), and fortune tellers.

  8. He interpreted dreams and omens by the power of God given in answer to prayer (2:17–23).

  We find in these passages the following points regarding Daniel:

  1. He was taught all the book–learning and the languages of the Chaldeans, so that Nebuchadnezzar found him to be ten times better that the sacred scribes and enchanters (the hartummim and ashshafim) that were in all his kingdom.

  2. God gave him knowledge an discernment in all book–learning and wisdom and ability through prayer to interpret dreams and omens.

  3. He was among the wise men (hakkimin) of Babylon, but is not said to have been among the sacred

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scribes, the priestly enchanters or exorcists, the sorcerers, or wizards, nor among the Chaldeans, astrologers, or mathematicians.

  4. He was chief of the sagans over the wise men (hakkamin) of Babylon; and, also, chief of the sacred scribes, priestly enchanters, Chaldeans, or astrologers.

  The six assumptions with regard to Daniel’s relation to the “wise men” as so inextricably interwoven that we shall make a general discussion of the whole subject, aiming to show that they are all false. And first, it may be asked, if the objectors really think that it was wrong for a pious Jew to be taught the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans. If so, then Moses was wrong to be instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and Paul to have studied in the heathen university at Tarsus. Besides, the book says (1:17) that “God gave him [i.e., Daniel] knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom.”

  Or, can it have been wrong for him “to have understanding in all visions and dreams” (1:17)? Then it must have been wrong for Joseph, also, to have interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh and his officers; and yet both Joseph himself and Pharaoh and Stephen attribute his ability to God. Besides, in the book of Daniel, both Daniel himself and the wise men and Nebuchadnezzar ascribe Daniel’s power of interpreting dreams and visions to the direct intervention of God.

  Or, did “the law” to which he is said to have been true, prohibit interpretations of dreams and visions?

  As to dreams, one of the characteristics of the Elohist (E), as opposed to the Jehovist, is said to be his mentioning dreams so often. But this is always done without any blame being attached to the belief in them, or to an attempted interpretation of them. According

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to Dillman, Numbers 22:6, belongs to the Jehovist. It reads as follows: “If there be a prophet among you, I Jehovah will speak unto him in a dream.” Certainly there is no disapprobation here. In Deuteronomy, the only reference to dreams is in the thirteenth chapter, where a prophet or a dreamer of dreams who should tempt the people to serve other gods is condemned to death; the dreamer being put in the same class as the prophet.

  As to visions, the Jehovist in Genesis 15:1, represents God as speaking to Abraham in a vision, and nearly all the great early prophets assert that God spake to them in visions; so that it is obvious that a belief neither in dreams nor visions, nor in the interpretation of them, can have been wrong, in the opinion of the prophets. That Daniel, also, is said to have seen visions, is in harmony with the strictest orthodoxy and the most devoted piety of those that were true to the law from the earliest times down to the time when in the New Testament the young men saw visions and the old men dreamed dreams.

  If Daniel, then, did anything unbecoming a strict Jew, it must have consisted in the fact that he allowed himself to be found in bad company, that there was something in the dogmas, or practices, of the “wise men,” that was inconsistent with a man of piety becoming a master of their wisdom, even though he may not have accepted their dogmas, nor taken part in their practices.

  Now, let us waive for the present the question as to whether Daniel did actually become a member of the society of the Chaldean wise men, and consider simply what were the practices of these so–called “wise men.” At the outset, let it be said, that there is

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much danger here of darkening words without knowledge, just because it is impossible for us with our present means of information to form a clear and correct conception of what the Babylonian wise men were. This difficulty is partly one of language, partly one of literature. As to literature, there is nothing from the Babylonians themselves bearing directly on the subject. As to language, it must be remembered that the terms in Daniel are either in a peculiar Aramaic dialect, or in Hebrew, and that it is impossible with our present knowledge to determine what Babylonian words are equivalent in meaning to the Aramaic and Hebrew expressions.

  Taking up, first, the most general term used in Daniel, that which is translated by “wise men,” we find that the Aramaic of Daniel expresses this idea by the word hakkim. This word and its congeners are employed in a good sense in every Aramaic dialect. So on the Panammu Inscription of about 725 B.C., from northern Syria, the king speaks of his wisdom and righteousness. So, also, in the Targum of Onkelos in Deut., 1:13, and after; where it regularly renders the Hebrew hakam “wise.” So, also, the Samaritan Targum commonly translates the Hebrew word hakam by hakkim; an exception being Gen. 41:8, where the Samaritan has the word קםם sorcerer. So, also, in the Syriac Aramaic, both in the Peshitto version of the Scriptures and elsewhere, the word is used in a good sense. This is true, likewise, in Arabic, both in the translation of the Scriptures and elsewhere. Lane, in his great Arabic dictionary, gives none but good senses for the root and derivatives in general. Hakim is “a sage, a philosopher, a physician”; while hikma is “a knowledge of the true nature of things and acting according to the

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requirements thereof.” In Hebrew, moreover, the word “wise” is never used in a bad sense.1 The only “wise men” who are condemned are those who are wise in their own eyes and not in reality (Is. 5:21). In later Hebrew, too, the wise are commended, as in Ecclesiasticus 6:32, and in the Zadokite Fragments 2:3 and 6:3.

  In Babylonian, the noun from this root has not been found, but the verb, which has been found several times, is used always in a good sense. The Assyrio–Babylonian language, however, has a number of words, which may be rendered by “wise men”; but not one of these is employed specifically or by itself to denote any class of sorcerers or astrologers; much less were these sorcerers the only wise men.2

  In Ethiopic, also, according to Dillman’s dictionary hakim and tabib, the latter the ordinary word for wise man, are used only in a good sense.3

1 Pharaoh, Gen. 41:8, and Ex. 7:11; the king of Babylon, Jer. 50:35,  and 51:57; the king of Gebal, Ezek. 27:9; the king of Tyre, Ezek.27:8; king Solomon and his son Rehoboam, 2 Ch. 2:13; Ahasuerus, Es. 6:13; and Moses and the children of Israel, Deut. 1:13, Ex. 28:3; —all have their wise men. “Wise men” are commended in Prov. 12:18, 13:20, 24:3.

2 The most common of these words is probably mudu from the root idu, “to know,” a root common to Ass. Bab. with Aramaic and Hebrew. This word is used of the gods, Nebo and Shamash, of the kings like Sargon, Sennacherib, and Nebuchadnezzar; and of other men, but always in a good sense.

  Another word is imku (or emku) from a root also found in Hebrew meaning “to be deep.” The inscriptions speak of the wise heart of Ea; of the wise princes Nabunaid and Nabu–balatsu–ikbi; of Nebuchadnezzar the wise one (often); of the wise master–builders, etc.

  Ershu (or irshu) from a root meaning “to decide” is used as an appellation for the gods Sin and Ea and for kings like Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar. Itpishu, alos, is used of the gods Damkina, Nebo, and Ninib, and of the kings Sargon, Sennacherib, and Nebuchadnezzar.

3 Ma’mer from the verb ’amara “to show, to know,” is used often in the Ethiopic version of the Old Testament in the sense of “wizard” to translate the Greek verb γνωστής, Heb. yidde‘oni and the Greek στοχαστης, Heb. kosem. It renders, also, the Greek χαλδαίοι in Dan. 2:2, and γαζαρηνοι in Dan. 4:3, 5:15. In most of these cases the Arabic versions use ’arraf, “wizard,” from the verb ’arafa, “to know.”

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  From the uses of the words for wise men in the various Semitic languages, it is clear, therefore, that there can have been nothing wrong in belonging to the class of wise men as such. Nor does the Bible, nor Nebuchadnezzar, even intimate that there was. The wise men of the book of Daniel were to be slain because a tyrant in his wrath at a portion of them who claimed to do more than they were able to perform, or of whom at least the king demanded more than it was possible for them to know, had failed to meet his expectations. The decree to kill all was not justified by the offense of a portion merely of the so–called wise men. But even if it had been impossible for any of the wise men to meet the demand of the king, it would not prove that it was wrong for a pious Jew to be a wise man. What wise man of to–day would be able to tell a man a dream that he had forgotten? Such ignorance has nothing to do with piety. It is simply a limitation common to humanity. For as Daniel says, “The secret which the king was asking no wise men were able to make known, but there is a God in heaven who revealeth secrets.” The wise men are not blamed for not knowing what God alone could know.

  As to the word ’ashshaph (magician) in the Hebrew of Daniel 1:20, 2:27, 4:4, 5:7, 11, 15, it may be said, first, that neither derivative, nor root, occurs anywhere else in the Old Testament. Both the verb and several nouns occur in Syriac in the sense of “enchant, enchanter”; but not apparently in any other Aramaic

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dialect, nor in Arabic , nor Ethiopic. In Babylonian, however, the root is met with in various forms; and the two forms corresponding exactly to ’ashshaph and ’asheph are found also.1

  What, then, is the meaning of the root and of the forms as we find them in Babylonian?2

  From the authorities that we possess and the texts cited by them, it is evident, that in the estimation of the Babylonians the office and functions of the ’ashipu and of the ’ashshapu were beneficent to the community. They  removed bans and exorcised evil spirits and disease and caused good visions and dreams. A common verb to denote their method of activity is pasharu, “to loose”; the same verb that is employed in Daniel to denote what they were expected by Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar to do. It was part of their business to see that “bad depressing dreams” (shunati nashdati) did not appear, caused by demon who “seized the side of one’s bed and worried and attacked one.”3

  Another term found in Daniel4 is hartom or har

1 A most remarkable fact in its bearing upon the correctness of the sources and transmission of the text of Daniel, when we consider that these words are not found outside of Assyrio–Babylonian except in the book of Daniel. In the Peshitto version of Daniel, ’ashuph is used to  translate both ’asheph and ’ashshaph. ’Ashshaph is found in New Hebrew nowhere but in the commentaries on Daniel. See Jastrow’s Dict. in loc.

2 The best sources of our information are, Tallquist: The Assyrian Incantation–series Maklu; Zimmern in his chapter on the ritual table for the ’ashipu found on pages 122–175 of his work entitled: Contributions to the Knowledge of the Babylonian Religion (Beiträge zur Kenntniss, etc.); the work of Dr. Walther Schrank: Babylonian Rites of Purifications, especially in their relation to Priests and Exorcists (Babylonische Sühnriten besonders mit Rücksicht auf Priester und Büsser); and King: Babylonian Magic.

3 Frank, Bab. Beschwörungsreliefs, pp. 88, 90.

4 In 1:20, and 2:2, in Hebrew, and in 2:10, 27, 4:4, 6, and 5:111 in Aramaic.

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tum. This word is found, also, in the Hebrew of Gen. 41:8, 24, and in Ex. 7:11, 22, 8:3, 14, 15, 9:11 (bis). Since this word occurs in no other Aramaic dialect except that of Daniel, no light upon its meaning in Daniel can be derived from these sources.1 When we remember the part which the name bears in Egyptian sorcery, we can well believe, however, that their chief sorcerers received their designation from the fact that they had power in calling names,2 and that the Arameans and Hebrews adopted the name to denote those who bound or freed by the power of names.

1 In the Aramaic of the Targum of Onkelos, of the Samaritan Targum, and of the Syriac Peshitto, hartom is always rendered by harrash, except in the Peshitto of Daniel 5:11, where it is rendered “wise men.” The Arabic of Saadya’s translation of the Pentateuch renders it by ulema, “wise men,” except in Ex. 7:11, 22, where it has sahana, “enchanter.” The Arabic of Daniel always gives rakka, “charmer.” The usual translation in the LXX and Theodotion is ’epaoidos, “enchanter”; though it is rendered by “wise men” in the LXX of Daniel 1:20, and 2:10. The derivation and primary meaning of the word are so uncertain that it is impossible to dogmatize about them. Probably the majority of scholars who have discussed the subject derive the word from heret, “stylus,” by affixing an m. The meaning then would be scribe, or engraver; and the word would correspond in sense to the Egyptian sacred scribe spoken of by the Greek writers.

  Hoffman compares it to an Arabic word with the same four radicals meaning “nose,” and would make the original sense to have been one who sang through the nose, hence “chanter,” “having the nose in the air.” Lane defines the word as having the meaning “chief,” “foremost in affairs and in the military forces.” Nearly everyone quotes the opinions of Jablonsky and Rossi that it may be an Egyptian word denoting “thaumaturgus” or “guardian of secret things; but these are both so far–fetched as to be most unlikely. It would, according to the rules of transliteration from Egyptian to Hebrew, be capable of derivation from hr, “chief,” and dm, “to name,” and would then mean “chief of the spellbinders.” [See Wilkinson, Ancient Egyptians, i, 168; and Griffith’s Stories of the High Priests of Memphis.]

2 Compare the significance attributed to the name of Solomon in the Arabian Nights.

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  This power of the name played a prominent part in Babylonian religion also. In the treatment of disease, the name of the demon or disease to be exorcised had to be mentioned, and also, the name of the god by whose power the exorcism was accomplished. In order to gain the help of the god without which the devil or demon could not be expelled, the priests would recite his praises and chant their prayers and supplications; and from this essential factor of the art of exorcism arose perhaps the hymns of praise which are so often found among the incantations of the Babylonians.1

  As to the meaning of gazer, the last term employed in Daniel to denote classes of wise men, very little can be said positively. The root does not occur in Assyrio–Babylonian; nor is a word from the root having a satisfactory meaning to be found in any other Aramaic dialects, nor in Arabic, Hebrew, or Ethiopic.2

1 See Shrank: Babylonische Sühnriten, pp.20–27; Thompson: The Devils and Evil Spirits in Babylonia and Assyria, passim; Jastrow: Die Religion Babyloniens und Assyriens; and Rogers: The Religion of Babylonian and Assyria, p. 146. Compare also the numerous cases of this kind of magic in the Arabian Nights.

2 In Hebrew, the verb gazar is found in the meaning “decide, decree,” in Job 22:28, where Eliphaz says to Job: “Thou shalt also decree a thing and it shall be established unto thee”; and in Esther 2:1, where it is said the Ahasuerus remembered Vashti and what had been done against her. The Targum of Onkelos uses it in Ex. 15:25, to translate the verb “to establish” in the phrase “to establish a statute,” as the equivalent of the Hebrew sim, to establish. This passage may afford us the missing link with which to connect the Aramaic gazer with the Babylonian, shamu = Heb. sim. The mushim shimtu is “the decreer of decrees, or oracles.” We may compare the synonym of shimtu, i.e., paristu, “oracle,” which is from a root meaning “to cut, decide,” just as gezira, “decree,” in Aramaic is from the root gezar, “to cut, decide.” Gazer, then, would be the translation of the Babylonian mushim, or paris, and could mean a man who made out, or conveyed to men the decrees of the gods. He would be the earthly representative of the

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  The Hebrew word mekashshefim is never used of the wise men. In Daniel 2:2, the only place in which it occurs in the book, the English version renders it by sorcerers. Neither the root of this word nor any derivation of the root was used in this sense in any Aramaic dialect.1

  The Hebrew employs the noun kashp always in the bad sense of an “evil enchantment,” and the nomen agentis of this is equivalent in meaning to the English “wizard, witch, or sorcerer.” The word for “witchery or witchcraft” is found six times in the Hebrew Bible, to wit: in Is. 47:9, 12; Mi. 5:11; Na, 3:4 bis, and in 2 Ki. 9:22. The word mekashsheph, “wizard or sorcerer,” is found in Deut. 18:10, Ex. 7:11; Mal. 3:5, and Dan. 2:2, while its feminine occurs in Ex. 22:17. The verb kishsheph is found only in 2 Ch. 33:6. All of these except the participial form are found in Babylonian and were probably borrowed from it; or possibly go back to a time when Babylonian and Hebrew were one. The Sumerian sign uh denotes the Babylonian words for “poison, spittle, blood, and kishpu.” Perhaps the best illustration of the relation of witchcraft to the dream of Nebuchadnezzar is to be found in the prayer addressed to Marduk by a sick man through his priest (mashmashu). As King translates this portion of the prayer in his Babylonian Magic, p. 62, it reads:


heavenly “mushim” of Ea, or of Bel, and the other great gods who establish the fates. Obelisk of Shalmaneser III, obv. 5, 14.

  His place of abode, and activity, may well have been the “Dul–Azag,” “place of fates,” “chamber of fates,” of which Nebuchadnezzar speaks (Langdon, xv, Col. 2:54, and Col. 5:12–14) and which Delitzsch thinks to have been “the earthly image of the heavenly Upshukkinnaku.”

1 In the Syriac the verb is used in a good sense for “to pray.”

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  O my God, by the command of thy mouth may there never approach any evil, the magic of the sorcerer and of the sorceress (upish kashshapi u kashshapi); may there never approach me the poisons of the evil men; may there never approach the evil of charms of powers and portents of heaven and earth.

  In number 50, 22, of the same book Ashurbanipal prays that his god may free him from evil bewitchment (pushir kishpiya), using the same verb which we find so often in Daniel for “interpret.” To practice sorcery was punishable with death by drowning, according to the law of Hammurabi.1 This was the law also, among the Hebrews: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” (Ex. 22:17). The question might be asked, then, why Nebuchadnezzar summoned the sorcerers to interpret his dream. The text given in Behrens2 would explain this, if we accept the reading which permits the translation: “from before the wind may the king be bewitched.”3 According to this, a man might be bewitched for his good against some evil. This, then, may have been the reason why Nebuchadnezzar summoned the wizards. They sent bad dreams; therefore, they should explain them, and tell what they had sent.4

1 Harper, The Code of Hammurabi, sec. 2.

2 Ass. Bab. Briefe Cultischen Inhalts, p.17.

3 Ishtu pan zigi sharru likashshaph. See also Harper, vii, 660, and i, 18, 11, and 25; Behrens, p. 16.

4 It must be remembered, too, that the Piel stem in Hebrew may express “the taking away of the object denoted by the noun,” e.g., chitte’, “to take away sin”; dishen, “to take away the ashes”; sheresh, “to root out.” (See Cowley’s Gesenius, §52h.) This usage is found, also, in Arabic, Aramaic, and New Hebrew (see Wright’s Arab. Gram., vol. i, §41 and Siegfried & Strack’s N. H. Gram). If we take the intensive in this sense in likashshaph, it would mean “may [the king] be freed from witchcraft.” This privative sense may possibly occur in the phrase

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  The results of this investigation of the names of the classes of wise men mentioned in the book of Daniel might be summed up by saying that the ’ashephs and ’ashshaphs were certainly exorcists who used chants and purifications (?) to drive out disease and to avert calamity; that the mekashshephs were wizards, who bound their victims by means of philters, spittle, etc., and had the power to send bad dreams and evil spirits among them, as well as to release them from the witcheries which they had caused; that the gazers and kaldus were astrologers and augurs, who told fortunes, foretold plagues, interpreted omens and dreams, forecasted horoscopes or nativities, etc.; that the hartums were sacred scribes who wrote prescriptions and formulas for the use of the sick and those who attempted to cure them, and “spellbinders” who bound and loosed by the power of names of potency; and that the hakims, or wise men, embraced all these and others who were not included in these classes. Daniel was found by Nebuchadnezzar to be ten times better than all the ’ashshaphs and hartums of Babylon. He was made chief, or master, of the king’s wise men (2:48), and of his hartums (5:11), and of all the classes mentioned, except apparently the wizards, —as to whom it is not said, at least, that he ever had anything to do with them. It will be noted that nowhere in the Bible is connection with ’ashephs, ’ashshaphs, hartums, gazers, kaldus, or hakkims, expressly forbidden. Only the hakkims, hartums, and mekashshephs are ever mentioned outside of Daniel. The first of these are always spoken of with praise; the second without praise or blame; and the last only


ramankunu ina pan ili la tuhattaa of K. 84, 24, i.e., “Before God ye shall not free yourselves from sin”; and also in dannati, “distress,” i.e., “deprived of strength.” (See King, Magic, p. 94.)

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with condemnation. “A pious Jew,” therefore, “and one true to the law,” may certainly have studied, at least, the sciences and arts practiced by these uncondemned classes, without laying himself open to the charge of breaking the letter of the law. We see no reason, either, why he may not have studied all about the practices of the wizards without himself being a sorcerer.

  Besides, we think it may rightly be doubted that a pious Jew, that is, one deemed pious according to the estimation of the Jews of the time of the author of Daniel,—whenever he lived and wrote,—cannot have been an astrologer and an exorcist and a dream interpreter. Josephus cites, apparently with approval, a statement of Berosus, to the effect that “Abram was a man righteous and great among the Chaldeans and skillful in the celestial science.1 He says, also, that one of the Egyptian

sacred scribes (hierogrammaticoi), who were very sagacious in foretelling future events truly, told the king about this time there would be a child born of the Israelites, who, if he were reared, would bring the Egyptian dominion law and would raise the Israelites: that he would excel all men in virtue, and obtain a glory that would be remembered through all ages.2

This same scribe attempted to kill Moses at a later time, when as a child and having been adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter, he cast to the ground and trod upon the crown of Pharaoh which the latter had placed upon his head; thus attesting, said the priest, his prediction that this child would bring dominion of

1 Antiq., I, vii, 2.    2 Antiq., I, vii, 2.

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Egypt low.1 “Because of this prophecy the Egyptians abstained from killing him and later made Moses general of their army against the Ethiopians in response to their own oracles and presages.”2

  As to Solomon, moreover, God granted him to learn the science of demonology for the profit and service of men, and he composed episodes3 by which diseases are assuaged; and he left behind him methods of treatment for exorcists by which those who are bound drive out the demons so that they never return, and this method of practice prevails with us even now; for I have seen in a certain one of my own country whose name was Eleazar, in the presence of Vespasian and his sons and his chiliarchs and the multitude of his soldiers, releasing people who had been seized by these demons, the skill and wisdom of Solomon being thus clearly established.4

  Josephus, moreover, professes that not merely he himself had prophetic dreams, but that he had a certain power in interpreting them.5

  According to the Targum of Jonathon ben Uzziel, the king of Egypt in Moses’ times had a dream in which he saw all the land of Egypt put in one scale of a balance and in the other a lamb which was heavier than all the land of Egypt; upon which he sent and called all the enchanters (harrash) of Egypt and told them his dream; whereupon Jannes and Jambres, the chiefs of the enchanters, opened their mouths and said to Pharaoh: “A boy is about to be born in the congregation of Israel,

1 Antiq., II, ix. 7.    2 Id.   

3 That is, chants, such as were used by the enchanters of Babylon and Egypt and by the Magi. Herodotus, I, 132.

4 Antiq., VIII, ii. 5.    5 See Wars of the Jews., III, 3, 9.

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through whose hand all the land of Egypt is to be destroyed.”1

  In the book of Tobit, an evil spirit is said to have been exorcised by means of the liver of a fish.2

  In the Acts of the Apostles,3 Simon Magus practiced his arts of magic by using the power of names to drive out evil spirits.

  The Lord, also, refers to such practices among the Jews of his time, when he says: “If I by Beelzebub cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out?”4

  We have thus shown that according to the views of the Scriptures and of the ancient Jews at all times, there was nothing wrong either in dreams or in the interpretation of them; and that Jewish opinion as preserved in Josephus, the book of Tobit, the Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel, and elsewhere, did not condemn the use of incantations and the practice of exorcism and other similar arts.

  Finally, we come to consider the question as to whether Daniel is said to have been a member of any of these classes of dream–interpreters which are mentioned in his book. It will be noted that he is never called a hartum nor an ’ashshaph, but is said to have been ten times better than all of them in knowledge and wisdom. It is not said either that he was an ’asheph nor a mekashsheph nor a gazer, nor a kaldu. That he was a hakim is rightly inferred from the fact that he was sought to be killed, when the decree went forth that all the wise men should be killed; but elsewhere he is always called chief (rab) of the wise men, or of the hartums, or of three or four classes together. He is, in fact, called chief of all classes, except of the mekash–

1 See T. J. ben Uzziel to Ex. i, 15.    2 See chapters vi and viii.

3 See chapter viii.    4 Matt. xii, 27.

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shephs, the only class which is directly condemned by law. Once he is called chief of the sagans over all the wise men of Babylon. This phrase we shall discuss below. At present, let us look at the meaning of the word rab, “chief,” in its relation to the objects, or persons, over which the rab was set. The only point we need to discuss in this connection, is whether the rab was necessarily of the same class and practicer of the same arts and crafts as those who were set under him. It might seem to most to be sufficient merely to state as an obvious fact not needing proof that he might have been chief of the hartums and others without himself being one. But as some have controverted it, and seem to think that Daniel must have been an individual of the same kind as those over whom he was set as chief, it may be well to pause and discuss the term rab, as it is used.

  In Arabic rab is the most ordinary title of God, occurring in the Koran as a designation of the deity only less  frequently than the word Allah itself. He is the lord of all creatures, not because he is like them or of them, but as their maker and preserver and ruler and owner of the slaves, dominus. In Hebrew, rab meant captain, or master, or chief. Thus, Nebuzaradan was captain of the guard (Jer. 41:10); Ashpenaz was master of the eunuchs (Dan. 1:3); Ahasuerus had officers of his house (Est. 1:8); Jonah’s ship had its master of the ropes (Jon. 1:6). In Assyrio–Babylonian the word was of much more general use than in Arabic or Hebrew. There were rabs set over the gardens of the king, over the watering machines, over the treasury, over the stables, the courts, the flocks, the house, the temple, the cities, the prisoners; over the governors, the cap–

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tains, the bowmen, and the divisions of the army; over the merchants, the builders (?), the seers, enchanters, and exorcists; there was a captain of the king, a chief of the captains, or princes, of the king, and a rab of the sons of the king, and a chief of the house of Belshazzar the son of the king.

 It will be noted that the ’ashiph, the mashmash, the bari (or seers), and the zimmeri, or enchanters, all have a chief. One should remark, further, that a rab does not necessarily perform the duties of the ones over whom he is set. The soldiers were directed by their rab and led by him; but doubtless did many menial duties from which he would be exempt. The rab of the sons of the king may have been beneath them in birth, but would be their teacher. No one would hold the rab responsible for all of the acts of beliefs of the scholar, any more than he would hold Seneca responsible for Nero, or Bossuet for Louis XV. The chief of chiefs of the king would probably be the highest chief, or lord, next to the king, according to the common Semitic idiom for expressing the superlative by putting a noun in the singular before the same noun in the plural, as in the phrase “king of kings and lord of lords.” From these examples, it is evident that a rab may or may not have been of the same knowledge, class, dignity, or practice, as those over whom he was placed. We have has secretaries of the navy who were not trained at Annapolis. England has had ministers of war who were not distinguished generals. France has had in her cabinet ministers of religion who were not ecclesiastics. So the fact that Daniel was made rab of the wise men, or of the hartums, and others, does not prove that he was one of them, or that he did what they did. The book of Daniel says he knew ten times more of real

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knowledge and wisdom than all the ’ashephs and hartums of Babylon; and that he got his knowledge as dream–interpreter from God through prayer, and not by divination or sorcery. It never calls him a hartum, and ’ashshaph, an ’asheph, a mekashsheph, a kaldu, or a gazer; but a man who was made wise through study, abstinence, and the favor of God. He may have known all the mysteries of the Babylonian seers, priests, and enchanters; but there is no evidence in the book of Daniel, nor anywhere else, to show that Daniel practiced the black art, nor the heathen methods of divination in any form, nor to show that he became a member of any of these orders. It is simply said that he was the superior of these in knowledge and wisdom and power of interpretation of dreams and omens. The means he used were proper according to the precepts and examples of the Scriptures.

  as to his being rab of the Babylonian sorcerers of whatever class, this was an appointment of the king. What duties or functions were involved in the office we know not. It may have been simply an honorary title, or the grant of a position of precedency in court functions and ceremonies. That it did not imply a permanent position with onerous duties and continuous service, would seem to follow from the fact that the queen mother had to recall to Belshazzar that Nebuchadnezzar had ever made the appointment. So that, in conclusion, we can fairly claim that the case against the author of Daniel, on the ground tat he makes his hero, though a pious Jew, to have been a member of a class of Chaldean wise men contrary to the Jewish law, has not been made out. The charge has not been proven. On the contrary, the account of Daniel has been shown to be entirely consistent with itself and with the prerequi–


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site historical surroundings, supposing it to be a record of events which took place at Babylon in the sixth century B.C.


  In the above discussion we have shown that the six assumptions mentioned on page 370 are all false and that the objection to the historicity of the book of Daniel on the ground that a strict Jew cannot have been made chief of the heathen sages of Babylon, nor initiated into their class, is unsupported by the evidence drawn from the Jews themselves, as well as from the monuments, as to what the character of the wise men really was. We have shown, further, that the objection, if valid, would militate as much against the ideas of the pious Jews in the second century B.C., as against those held by them in the sixth century B.C.; inasmuch as the literary conception of such a character and reception of a work based on such a conception would be as much against their ideas as the historical existence of such a man would be. Moreover, we have shown that “the confused notions” about Daniel in his relations to the wise men of Babylon, as well as about these wise men, are true not so much of the author of Daniel as of those who criticize he statements of the book in reference to them. And finally, we have shown that there is no reason for believing that Daniel may not have been and done all that the book of Daniel says that he was and did, without any infringement of the law or the prophets, or contravention of the religious ideas of the Jews at any time of their history.

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Up Bibliography

Studies In The Book Of Daniel: A Discussion Of The Historical Questions by Robert Dick Wilson. New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, The Knickerbocker Press, 1917.

E-Text transcribed from the 1917 edition.