Was Daniel an Eyewitness of 6th-Century B. C. Events

Part Two by Everette Hatcher III

2001 / March-April


5 Did the Book of Daniel err when it presented Belshazzar as the King of Babylon (Dan. 5)?

William Sierichs, Jr., asserted that Belshazzar “was never the king” (TSR, Vol. 9.6, p.2), and Dave Matson made this same point twice (TSR, Vol. 9.6, p. 12, Vol. 10.1, p. 15). Moreover, Sierichs and Matson are not the only ones who hold this view (E.W. Heaton, The Book of Daniel, Torch Bible Commentaries, London: SCM, 1956, p. 63; Brodrick D. Shepherd, Beasts, Horns, and the Anti-Christ, Grassy Creek, NC: Cliffside Publishing House, 1994, p. 23; Russell, p. 83). Earlier I quoted the critic Philip Davies concerning this. Davies noted, “This is still sometimes repeated as a charge against the historicity of Daniel, and resisted by conservative scholars. But it has been clear since 1924 (J. A. Montgomery, Daniel, International Critical Commentary, Edinburgh: T and T Clark, New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1927, pp. 66-67) that although Nabonidus was the last king of the Neo-Babylonian dynasty, Belshazzar was effectively ruling Babylon. In this respect, then, Daniel is correct” (Davies, pp. 30-31; TSR, Vol. 9.2, p. 4). Evidently, that didn’t convince Dave Matson and William Sierichs, Jr. Therefore, let us look at the two points of evidence that convinced the critic James A. Montgomery. First, a cuneiform inscription revealed that royal dignity was conferred on Belshazzar (Montgomery, pp. 66-67). The text records: “He entrusted a camp to his eldest, his firstborn son; the troops of the land he sent with him. He freed his hand; he entrusted the kingship (sarrutam) to him” (Sidney Smith, Babylonian Historical Texts, [1924], p. 84ff). Second, Belshazzar’s name was coupled with his father’s in prayers and also in an oath. The late R .P. Dougherty of Yale commented, “There is no other instance in available documents of an oath being sworn in the name of the son of the king…. It appears that he was invested with a degree of royal authority, not only at the close of the reign of his father, but throughout a large part, if not the whole, of the reign of Nabonidus” (Montgomery, p. 67; Pinches, Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology [1882], pp. 167ff; Dougherty, Records from Erech, Time of Nabonidus [Yale Or. Series], 1920, No. 134; Clay, Miscellaneous Inscriptions in the Yale Babylonian Collection, 1915, No. 39). Daniel recognized Belshazzar as king, and I have a hard time understanding why some critics still have a problem with that. Obviously, the evidence from archaeology seems to confirm the view that Belshazzar was functioning as king.

6. Did the writer of Daniel err when he called the Babylonian king “Nebuchadnezzar” instead of Nebuchadrezzar?

William Sierichs, Jr., said that Daniel used the “biblical, not scholars spelling” (TSR, Vol. 9.6, p. 2, Column 2), and Stephen Van Eck called the “Nebuchadnezzar” spelling “erroneous” (TSR, Vol. 9.6, p. 11). Many critical scholars would agree with these observations (John J. Collins, Daniel, Hermeneia, Minneapolis, Fortress, 1994, p. 133; Samuel Driver, The Book of Daniel: Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges: University Press, 1900, p. 3; Heaton, p. 122; Jeffery, p. 362; Montgomery, p. 118; Owens, p. 381). The conservative scholar Dr. Stephen Miller of Mid-America Seminary has noted that “Nebuchadrezzar” is closer to the Babylonian “Nabu-kndurri-usur” (“O Nabu [the god], protect my offspring/boundary”). However, the change of r in Akkadian and Aramaic to n in Hebrew was not erroneous but an accepted philological practice (Daniel, The New American Commentary, Nashville, TN: Broadman, 1994, p. 45 n. 2; Gleason Archer, Jr., Daniel, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985, p. 32; D. J. Wiseman, Nebuchadrezzar and Babylon [Oxford: University Press, 1985], pp. 2-3). I don’t know why the critics have chosen this argument in their attempt to late date Daniel, because some other Old Testament books also use “Nebuchadnezzar” (2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther). This argument is weak indeed.

7. Did King Nebuchadnezzar make a solid gold image 60 cubits tall and six cubits broad?

Till correctly noted that an image that size would have contained 270 cubic yards of gold and it would have surely impoverished the supply of gold in the royal treasury (TSR, Vol. 9.6, p. 1, Column 1). However, critical scholars agree that the Bible suggests the statute was gold-plated only (Montgomery, pp. 195-197; Louis F. Hartman and Alexander A. DiLella, The Book of Daniel, Anchor Bible, Garden City: Doubleday, 1978, pp. 160-161; Jeffery, p. 395). J. J. Collins asserts, “Compare Isaiah 40:19 (‘The idol, a workman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold’); Jeremiah 10:3-4 and Epistle of Jeremiah 8, 55, 57, which refer to gods of wood, overlaid with silver or gold; Bel and the Serpent 7 (‘This is but clay inside and brass outside’). Compare also the altar overlaid with gold in Exodus 30:3, which can still be referred to as ‘the golden altar’(Driver, p. 35; cf. Also Herodotus 2.129; 182)” (Collins, p. 181). Therefore, Till’s criticism is so weak that it is not shared by any other critical scholar that I have come across, and the biblical evidence clearly contradicts his assertion.

8. If Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon (Daniel 2:49), then why haven’t their names been found in the Babylonian archives?

Till asks this question (TSR, Vol. 9.6, p.1, Column 2), and the answer can be found on a 5-sided clay prism found in Babylon, now on display at the Istanbul Museum. Dr. William Shea has identified these three Jews in this list of more than fifty government officials (W.H. Shea, “Daniel 3: Extra-Biblical Texts and the Convocation on the Plain of Dura,” Andrews University Seminary Studies, Vol. 20 [1982]: pp. 37-50; A. L. Oppenheim’s English Translation of the Babylonian text may be found in Ancient Near Eastern Texts, J. B. Pritchard, ed, pp. 307-308). Hananiah is Hanunu (“chief of the royal merchants”); Abednego is Aridi-Nabu (“secretary of the crown prince [i.e., Amel- Marduk]”); and Mishael is Mushallim-Marduk (one of the “overseers of the slave girls”). Two other government officials mentioned both in this list and the Bible are Nabuzeriddinam=Nabuzaradan (2 Kings 25:8, 11; Jer. 39:9-11, 13; 40:01, etc.) and Nergalsharusur (Neriglissar)=Nergal-Sharezer (Jer. 39:3, 13). In Daniel 1:3, we are introduced to Ashpenaz who was an important official in the court of Nebuchadnezzar around 600 B.C. Did this person actually exist in history? The critic Arthur Jeffery asserted: “No satisfactory explanation of the name has been suggested” (p. 364). However, Peter Coxon has noted, “Almost the same consonants (spnz) are found in an Aram incantation bowl from Nippur dated ca. 600 B.C.” (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, 1992, Vol. 1, pp. 491). Till scoffs at the view “that absence of evidence does not constitute evidence of absence” (TSR, Vol. 11.2, p. 2), but as time goes by, the archaeologist continues to unearth evidence that supports the accuracy of the Bible. Nevertheless, when it comes to the Book of Daniel, Till finds the argument from silence very attractive. He states: “If Darius the Mede was a real person, then why didn’t the records of that period mention a ruler of such prominence? We don’t have to wonder if Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Cyrus, Evil-Merodach, Artaxerxes, Sennacherib, Tiglath-Pileser, and other gentile kings mentioned in the Bible were actual historical persons, because extrabiblical records confirm that they were real, but we are supposed to believe that a king who conquered Babylon, issued edicts, and made extensive administrative reforms during his reign (Dan. 6) went completely unmentioned in the contemporary records of both Babylon and Persia” (TSR, Vol. 11.1, p. 5).

Dr. Wayne A. Brindle of Liberty University e-mailed me on January 14, 2000, concerning these comments of Till. Brindle noted: “Till is arguing out of both sides of his critical mouth. Two hundred years ago, critics commonly said that since most such names in the Bible weren’t found in secular literature/inscriptions, those people never existed. Then when they began to be found ­one at a time­ by slow, deliberate archaeological searching, critics were surprised, and some, like Albright, saw the discoveries almost as providing proof of Biblical accuracy and eyewitness testimony. Now Till says that since so many have already been found, the ones that haven’t yet been found never existed. He obviously hasn’t learned much from the past 200 years.”

In addition, not “all” of the Gentile kings have been found in secular histories/inscriptions. The farther back you go, and the farther from Greek and Roman culture you go, the fewer have been found. For example, as far as I know, none of the kings mentioned in Genesis 14 have been positively identified. The finding of the Gallio inscription (Acts 18) in Delphi was a fluke. A number of the kings of Syria and Philistia mentioned in Samuel/Kings/Chronicles have no secular parallel identifications. The reasons for this lack of information are simply that the sources are scarce and archaeologists have barely touched the surface of what might be available throughout the Near East. Many sites, even in Palestine, have not even been touched. In other words, we are not looking for a missing person, but just a missing nickname. However Till’s argument from silence concerning the names Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego has been completely put to flight, and that is why I ranked it as the weakest of the eight arguments presented by critics in The Skeptical Review, (Vol. 9.2 through Vol. 11.3).

II. Six Pieces of Archaeological Evidence that Support the 6th Century View: Since Daniel was an eyewitness to 6th-century events, he could accurately record historical details. The conservative scholar Dr. Stephen R. Miller notes: “In fact, the author of Daniel exhibited a more extensive knowledge of Sixth Century events than would seem possible for a second-century writer.” R. H. Pfeiffer (who argued that the work contains errors) acknowledged that Daniel reports some amazing historical details: “We shall presumably never know how our author learned that the new Babylon was the creation of Nebuchadnezzar (4:30 [Heb. 4:27]), as the excavations have proved… and that Belshazzar, mentioned only in Babylonian records, in Daniel and Bar. 1:11, which is based on Daniel, was functioning as king when Cyrus took Babylon in 538 [Chap. 5]” (Pfeiffer, “Introduction,” pp. 758-759). Harrison comments that the author “was quite accurate in recording the change from punishment by fire under the Babylonians (Dan. 3:11) to punishment by being thrown to lions under the Persian regime (Dan. 6:7), since fire was sacred to the Zoroastrians of Persia” [R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979, pp. 1120- 1121; cf. A. T. Olmstead, History of the Persian Empire, Chicago: University of Chicago press, 1948, pp. 473-474] (Miller, p. 26).

It is true that there are “some amazing historical details” to be found in Daniel, but also there are some small details throughout the book that support the view that its author lived early in the Persian period. For instance, concerning Daniel 6:8, 12, 15, the conservative Dr. John Whitcomb notes, “the mention of Medes before Persians in the phrase, ‘the law of the Medes and Persians,’ is an evidence of the early date of the book; for in later years, the Persians were usually mentioned before the Medes [Esther 1:3, 14, 18, 19, though not 10:2; cf. I Macc. 6:56] (characteristically, the critics find an anachronism in the fact that Darius the Mede is under the law of the Medes and Persians. Cf. Arthur Jeffery, p. 442)” (John Whitcomb, Darius the Mede, [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1959], p. 55).

Nevertheless, the critic John Joseph Owens still claims this is a sign of later authorship. Owens asserts, “Esther 1:19 gives the proper evolution of the rank in ‘Persians and Medes’ instead of the later view as in Daniel” (p. 415). Conservative scholars point out that the evidence contradicts this assertion (Miller, p. 181, n.54; E. J. Young, The Prophecy of Daniel, [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1949], p. 127).

Daniel 6:8, 12, 15 also states that the laws made by the king could not be altered. The critic Carey Moore disputed this in his commentary on Esther (Anchor Bible, Garden city: Doubleday, 1971, pp. 10-11), but many critics will concede that Daniel was correct about this too (Hartman, p. 199; Driver, p. 7; Collins, pp. 267-268). The critic Lacocque observes: “Diodorus of Sicily (XVII, 30) in fact, reports the case of a man put to death under Darius III (336-330) even though he was known to be perfectly innocent. (Darius III) immediately repented and blamed himself for having committed such a great error, but it was impossible to have undone what had been done by royal authority” (Andre Lacocque, The Book of Daniel, Atlanta: John Knox, 1979, p. 113).

Again, Daniel was correct when he placed Susa in the province of Elam (Dan. 8:2). Dr. Gleason Archer, Jr., notes: “From the Greek and Roman historians, we learn that from Persian times Susa, or Sushan, was the capital of the province of Susiana; and Elam was restricted to the territory east of the Eulaeus River. Nevertheless, we know from cuneiform records that Sushan was part of the territory of Elam back in Chaldean times and before. It is very striking that Daniel 8:2 refers to ‘Susa in the province of Elam’­ an item of information scarcely accessible to a second-century B.C. author” (Archer, p. 19).

Daniel 4:30 quotes Nebuchadnezzar: “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” Did Nebuchadnezzar actually say these words? Archaeology seems to indicate that he did make a very similar statement: “The fortifications of Esagila and Babylon I strengthened and established the name of my reign forever” (George A. Barton, Archaeology and the Bible, Philadelphia: American Sunday School Union, 1916, p. 479). Nebuchadnezzar evidently did have a habit of boasting, which indicated that he was very prideful.

How would a Maccabean author know these details? [1] Belshazzar was ruling during the last few years of the Babylonian Empire. [2] The Babylonians executed individuals by casting them into fire, but the Persians threw the condemned to the lions. [3] The practice in the 6th Century was to mention first the Medes, then the Persians. [4] Laws made by Persian kings could not be revoked. [5] In the sixth century B.C., Susa was in the province of Elam (Dan. 8:2). [6] Nebuchadnezzar had a pride problem (Dan. 4:30) and often boasted about his great building projects.

William Sierichs, Jr., dismisses this kind of evidence, and he boldly asserts that archeology has “trashed all claims to historical accuracy for Daniel” (TSR, Vol. 9.6, p. 2, Column 1). In fact, Sierichs claims that the Persian Verse Account is destructive to the biblical view, even though it was this particular piece of evidence that told us Nabonidus entrusted “kingship” to Belshazzar. Earlier critics considered Belshazzar “a figment of the Jewish writer’s imagination” (Ferdinard Hitzig, Das Buch Daniel, Leipzig: Weidman, 1850, p. 75), but archaeology has forced the critics to abandon that position (Alan Millard, “Daniel and Belshazzar in History,” Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 1985, pp. 74-75). Even a staunch critic like J. J. Collins has admitted: “The fact that Daniel 5 preserved the name of Belshazzar suggests that the underlying tradition had its origin close to the end of the Babylonian era” (p. 33). Nevertheless, Till believes all of Daniel originated during the Maccabean period (TSR, Vol. 9.5, p. 1). However, the evidence from archaeology supports the view that the author came from early in the Persian period.

(Everette Hatcher III, P. O. Box 23416, Little Rock, AR 72221; )

_____________

Is the Bible historically accurate? Here are some of the posts I have done in the past on the subject:

1. The Babylonian Chronicle of Nebuchadnezzars Siege of Jerusalem

This clay tablet is a Babylonian chronicle recording events from 605-594BC. It was first translated in 1956 and is now in the British Museum. The cuneiform text on this clay tablet tells, among other things, 3 main events: 1. The Battle of Carchemish (famous battle for world supremacy where Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon defeated Pharoah Necho of Egypt, 605 BC.), 2. The accession to the throne of Nebuchadnezzar II, the Chaldean, and 3. The capture of Jerusalem on the 16th of March, 598 BC.

2. Hezekiah’s Siloam Tunnel Inscription.

King Hezekiah of Judah ruled from 721 to 686 BC. Fearing a siege by the Assyrian king, Sennacherib, Hezekiah preserved Jerusalem’s water supply by cutting a tunnel through 1,750 feet of solid rock from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam inside the city walls (2 Kings 20; 2 Chron. 32). At the Siloam end of the tunnel, an inscription, presently in the archaeological museum at Istanbul, Turkey, celebrates this remarkable accomplishment.

3. Taylor Prism (Sennacherib Hexagonal Prism)

It contains the victories of Sennacherib himself, the Assyrian king who had besieged Jerusalem in 701 BC during the reign of king Hezekiah, it never mentions any defeats. On the prism Sennacherib boasts that he shut up “Hezekiah the Judahite” within Jerusalem his own royal city “like a caged bird.” This prism is among the three accounts discovered so far which have been left by the Assyrian king Sennacherib of his campaign against Israel and Judah.

4. Biblical Cities Attested Archaeologically.

In addition to Jericho, places such as Haran, Hazor, Dan, Megiddo, Shechem, Samaria, Shiloh, Gezer, Gibeah, Beth Shemesh, Beth Shean, Beersheba, Lachish, and many other urban sites have been excavated, quite apart from such larger and obvious locations as Jerusalem or Babylon. Such geographical markers are extremely significant in demonstrating that fact, not fantasy, is intended in the Old Testament historical narratives;

5. The Discovery of the Hittites

Most doubting scholars back then said that the Hittites were just a “mythical people that are only mentioned in the Bible.” Some skeptics pointed to the fact that the Bible pictures the Hittites as a very big nation that was worthy of being coalition partners with Egypt (II Kings 7:6), and these bible critics would assert that surely we would have found records of this great nation of Hittites.  The ironic thing is that when the Hittite nation was discovered, a vast amount of Hittite documents were found. Among those documents was the treaty between Ramesses II and the Hittite King.

6.Shishak Smiting His Captives

The Bible mentions that Shishak marched his troops into the land of Judah and plundered a host of cities including Jerusalem,  this has been confirmed by archaeologists. Shishak’s own record of his campaign is inscribed on the south wall of the Great Temple of Amon at Karnak in Egypt. In his campaign he presents 156 cities of Judea to his god Amon.

7. Moabite Stone

The Moabite Stone also known as the Mesha Stele is an interesting story. The Bible says in 2 Kings 3:5 that Mesha the king of Moab stopped paying tribute to Israel and rebelled and fought against Israel and later he recorded this event. This record from Mesha has been discovered.

8. Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III

The tribute of Jehu, son of Omri, silver, gold, bowls of gold, chalices of gold, cups of gold, vases of gold, lead, a sceptre for the king, and spear-shafts, I have received.”

View from the dome of the Capitol!9A Verification of places in Gospel of John and Book of Acts.

Sir William Ramsay, famed archaeologist, began a study of Asia Minor with little regard for the book of Acts. He later wrote:

I found myself brought into contact with the Book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth.

9B Discovery of Ebla Tablets. When I think of discoveries like the Ebla Tablets that verify  names like Adam, Eve, Ishmael, David and Saul were in common usage when the Bible said they were, it makes me think of what amazing confirmation that is of the historical accuracy of the Bible.

10. Cyrus Cylinder

There is a well preserved cylinder seal in the Yale University Library from Cyrus which contains his commands to resettle the captive nations.

11. Puru “The lot of Yahali” 9th Century B.C.E.

This cube is inscribed with the name and titles of Yahali and a prayer: “In his year assigned to him by lot (puru) may the harvest of the land of Assyria prosper and thrive, in front of the gods Assur and Adad may his lot (puru) fall.”  It provides a prototype (the only one ever recovered) for the lots (purim) cast by Haman to fix a date for the destruction of the Jews of the Persian Empire, ostensibly in the fifth century B.C.E. (Esther 3:7; cf. 9:26).

12. The Uzziah Tablet Inscription

The Bible mentions Uzziah or Azariah as the king of the southern kingdom of Judah in 2 Kings 15. The Uzziah Tablet Inscription is a stone tablet (35 cm high x 34 cm wide x 6 cm deep) with letters inscribed in ancient Hebrew text with an Aramaic style of writing, which dates to around 30-70 AD. The text reveals the burial site of Uzziah of Judah, who died in 747 BC.

13. The Pilate Inscription

The Pilate Inscription is the only known occurrence of the name Pontius Pilate in any ancient inscription. Visitors to the Caesarea theater today see a replica, the original is in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. There have been a few bronze coins found that were struck form 29-32 AD by Pontius Pilate

14. Caiaphas Ossuary

This beautifully decorated ossuary found in the ruins of Jerusalem, contained the bones of Caiaphas, the first century AD. high priest during the time of Jesus.

14 B Pontius Pilate Part 2     

In June 1961 Italian archaeologists led by Dr. Frova were excavating an ancient Roman amphitheatre near Caesarea-on-the-Sea (Maritima) and uncovered this interesting limestone block. On the face is a monumental inscription which is part of a larger dedication to Tiberius Caesar which clearly says that it was from “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea.”

14c. Three greatest American Archaeologists moved to accept Bible’s accuracy through archaeology.

Despite their liberal training, it was archaeological research that bolstered their confidence in the biblical text:Albright said of himself, “I must admit that I tried to be rational and empirical in my approach [but] we all have presuppositions of a philosophical order.” The same statement could be applied as easily to Gleuck and Wright, for all three were deeply imbued with the theological perceptions which infused their work.

….

Taken from: http://thedailyhatch.org/2013/03/07/was-daniel-an-eyewitness-of-6th-century-b-c-events-part-2/

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