Damien F. Mackey
In scriptural commentaries and Bibles the name “Daniel” has been replaced by “Danel”. And some commentators or translators have no intention of indicating the prophet Daniel by their use of this name, “Danel”.
Speaking as God’s mouthpiece, the prophet Ezekiel says in relation to the kingdom of Judah (14:14):
… When a land sins against Me by acting faithlessly, and I stretch out My hand against it, and break its staff of bread and send famine upon it, and cut off from it man and beast, even if these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, says the Lord God ….
Six verses further on, Ezekiel reiterates this point with a slight variation (14:20):
… Or if I send pestilence into that land, and pour out My wrath upon it with blood, to cut off from it man and beast; even if Noah, Daniel and Job were in it, as I live, says the Lord God, they would deliver neither son nor daughter; they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness.
Ezekiel refers again to “Daniel” in chapter 28, when he scorns the proud King of Tyre by unfavourably comparing his purported wisdom with that of “Daniel” (vv. 1-3):
The word of the lord came to me: ‘Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, Thus says the Lord God: Because your heart is proud, and you have said, ‘I am a god, I sit in the seat of the gods …’, yet you are but a man and no god, though you consider yourself as wise as a god – you are indeed wiser than Daniel; no secret is hidden from you; …’.
This being a reference to the young Daniel’s not only having interpreted Nebuchednezzar’s Dream, but actually having revealed its contents as well. Daniel 2.
Traditionally, commentators – including the Church Fathers – have identified Ezekiel’s “Daniel” with the prophet Daniel (after whom a book of the Bible is named); the young Jewish noble whom the Babylonian king, Nebuchednezzar [II], carried off into captivity in the 3rd year of King Jehoiakim of Judah (c. 605 B.C, conventional dating). Fr. Leo Haydock, for instance, in his conservative commentary on Ezekiel 14 accompanying the Douay-Rheims Bible, clearly had the prophet Daniel in mind when he wrote: “Noe [Noah] could not avert the deluge, nor Job the death of his children, neither could Daniel rescue his people from captivity”.
And again, in regard to Ezekiel 28:3 concerning the King of Tyre, Fr. Haydock commented:
Ver. 3 [Wiser than] Daniel; viz., in thy own conceit. The wisdom of Daniel was so much celebrated in his days, that it became a proverb among the Chaldeans, when anyone would express an extraordinary wisdom, to say that he was as wise as Daniel. … – He [i.e. Daniel] was now at court, and had explained the dream of Nabuchodonosor [Nebuchednezzar]. Dan ii. 27.
So far, no problems. The prophet Ezekiel obviously had in mind the famous prophet Daniel, who had become a high official in king Nebuchednezzar’s court.
The Fathers of the Church accepted this interpretation.
And so has the general run of Scriptural scholars ever since – that is, until the modern era. For today we find that the traditional identification of the “Daniel” in the Book of Ezekiel is no longer unanimously accepted amongst commentators. Not only do we discover that in some scriptural commentaries and Bibles the name “Daniel” has been replaced by “Danel” (admittedly not necessarily a cause for panic linguistically speaking, since – loosely transliterated – “Danel” may be accepted as another way of writing “Daniel); but more seriously, that some commentators or translators have no intention of indicating the prophet Daniel by their use of this name, “Danel”. Instead, they intend an entirely different character of ancient history or mythology; namely, a pagan king-hero of Phoenicio-Canaanite mythology (known from texts discovered at Ugarit, which is modern Ras Shamra).
In this article the reader will come to understand why this instrusive “Danel” cannot have been the person intended by the prophet Ezekiel; that the traditional view, that Ezekiel was intending the prophet “Daniel”, is the correct one, and that no other version ought to be admitted.
Some Modern Versions of Ezekiel
(i) The Jerusalem Bible (TJB)
The TJB translators of the Book o Ezekiel have opted for the name, “Danel”, instead of “Daniel”. Thus we read: “… and if in that country there were these three men, Noah Danel and Job, these men would have their lives spared …” (14:14).
And again: “… if Noah and Danel and Job were in the country …” (14:20).
And finally: “… You [the King of Tyre] are wiser now than Danel; there is no sage as wise as you …” (28:3).
Then TJB departs radically from tradition when, in a footnote to Ezekiel 14, it identifies this “Danel” with the pagan king of that name the hero of the Canaanite epic. Thus we are informed: “14a. Danel, famous for his goodness and wisdom, is known to us from the Ras Shamra texts”. By inference, we can assume that the translators of TJB also meant to equate the “Danel” of Ezekiel 38:3 with the same pagan king-hero from the Ras Shamra epic pertaining to this “Danel”.
(ii) The Jerome Biblical Commentary (TJBC)
Whereas, according to TJB the presumed “Danel” in Ezekiel is the same as the hero of the Ras Shamra epic, the TJBC is a little more restrained about its identification, using the word “Probably …”. Unfortunately, nevertheless the TJBC also appears to dismiss the possibility that this “Danel” could have been the same as the Jewish prophet:
Inasmuch as Daniel (Hebr consonants d-n-‘-l, Danel, as in Ugaritic) is placed beside Noah and Job, he is probably a figure from antiquity known through popular tradition and not to be identified with the biblical Daniel. Probably, although not necessarily, the reference is to Danel of ancient Ugarit, known for the effectiveness of his intercession with the gods, for attention to their desires, and as a righteous judge (ANET 150)”.
(iii) Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)
Although the English version of the CCC uses the phrase “Noah, Daniel, and Job” in relation to Ezekiel 14:14 (#58, p. 21), the French version – which is the original one – has: “Noe, Danel et Job”. According to the relevant part of the English text: “The Bible venerates several great figures amongst the Gentiles: Abel the just, the king-priest Melchizedek – a figure of Christ – and the upright “Noah, Daniel, and Job”.
The phrase “amongst the Gentiles”, in relation to this “Daniel”, could give the impression that Daniel was a Gentile, and not a Jew. This impression would be reinforced by the French version, viz., “des nations”; especially after considering that it has been coupled with the spelling, “Danel”, rather than “Daniel”. We believe that the French version of the CCC here strongly creates the impression that Ezekiel was intending reference to some non-Israelite figure of antiquity. If so, that could not be the prophet Daniel, who was unquestionably of the kingdom of Judah. (Cf. Daniel 1:3 and 2:25).
The ‘Danel’ of Ras Shamra
The rich epigraphic harvest of the French excavations of 1930-31 at the site of ancient Ugarit (Ras Shamra), a Phoenician coastal town included a fragment belonging to an epic about a youth whose name is spelled ‘a-q-h-t and conventionally vocalised ‘Aqhat. This text was first called the epic of Daniel, or Danel, for ‘Aqhat’s father, but on the one tablet of which the first line (containing the title of the composition to which the tablet belongs) is preserved, it reads “Pertaining to ‘Aqhat”, and closer study reveals that the text really tells about Daniel only what concerns ‘Aqhat. As a gift from the gods, Danel and his wife receive a son, ‘Aqhat. Later the gods give Danel a bow, which he in turn gives to ‘Aqhat, but the war-goddess Anath wants the bow and gets it by slaying ‘Aqhat. The latter’s sister learns how her brother was slain.
Although the rest of the story is lost (at least so far), it may well terminate in keeping with the Tammuz-Adonis agricultural theme, i.e., ‘Aqhat would be restored to life for half of each year (cf. ANET 149-155).
Now here are some of the extracts pertaining to the character, Daniel, or Danel, from the “Tale of ‘Aqhat” (ibid.). The reader will quickly realise that this Ugaritic hero is no sober prophet of Israel, nor any sort of monotheistic God-fearer, but a polytheist and a worshipper of Baal:
… Straightaway Daniel the Raph]a-man, … Gives oblation to the gods to eat, Gives oblation to drink to the holy ones. … But lo, on the seventh day, Baal approaches with his plea: ‘Unhappy is Daniel the Rapha-man, … Who hath no son like his brethren, …. Wilt thou not bless him, O Bull El, my father, Beatify him, O Creator of Creatures? So shall there be a son in his house, A scion in the midst of his palace: Who sets up the stelae of his ancestral spirits, In the holy place the protectors of his clan … Who takes him by the hand when he’s drunk, Carries him when he’s sated with wine’, Consumes his funerary offering in Baal’s house, (Even) his potion in El’s house?’
After ‘Aqhat’s death, the story goes on to recount that: “Daniel goes to his house …. He weeps for Aqhat the Youth, … But after seven years, [Daniel] the Rapha-[man] speaks up, …He] lifts up his voice and cries: … He ta[kes] sacrifice for the gods, Offers up a clan-offering to heaven, the clan-offering of Harnamiyy to the stars!”
And so it goes on. Hardly the kind of fare on which the biblical writers fed!
The whole story is also a far cry from the behaviour demonstrated by the sober and God-fearing prophet Daniel (or any other Old Testament exemplars). Daniel preferred to risk his life rather than to defile himself by eating and drinking “the daily portion of the rich food which the king ate” (Daniel 1:5), and who would rather endure being thrown into the lions’ den (cf. 6:16 and 14:31) than to cease worshipping his God in preference to worshipping the pagan gods of Babylon and Persia.
Why This New Identification of “Daniel”?
There are various reasons, I believe, as to why the prophet Daniel is now rejected by many as being the person whom the prophet Ezekiel intended. Here I shall mention only a few of these, after which I shall comment briefly on them:
– One is the almost obsessive tendency of modern biblical scholars to demythologise the Scriptures, by insisting that the sacred writers had received their information from prevailing tales of pagan mythology. It seems that if a myth can possibly be found to provide a so-called basis for ‘interpreting’ a Scriptural passage, then it will thus be seized upon.
– Two is that, because Daniel is grouped by Ezekiel with Noah and Job – both of whom are thought to have lived many centuries before the prophet Daniel – then Ezekiel must certainly have been intending someone other than the prophet Daniel.
– Three is that commentators consider the prophet Daniel (who was a contemporary of Ezekiel’s) to have been rather too young at the time of Ezekiel’s writing of his chapter 28 against the King of Tyre to have be able to have achieved the kind of world-wide fame that the “Daniel” in this chapter so obviously had achieved.
Regarding One, on the supposed precedence of mythology over the inspired texts, I have now shown in various articles that the conventional arrangement of ancient history is sorely in need of a revision. The faulty chronology that conventional scholars of antiquity and biblical history have inherited leads them into arriving at all sorts of anomalous conclusions. Thus we find that, for example, the account of Noah’s Flood is supposed to have been borrowed from the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh (also about a hero saved from a flood – every nation seems to have such a folklore in fact); that the story of the child Moses’s being placed in the river in a basket was borrowed from a similar tale about King Sargon of Akkad; and that likewise the Law (Torah) of Mount Sinai was inspired by the Law Code of Hammurabi, king of Babylon.
Regarding Two, Ezekiel may not necessarily have had in mind a common era as his point of departure for grouping together Noah, Daniel and Job. Rather, the common denominator distinguishing these three heroes for him was their righteousness amongst their contemporaries who had all apostatised. One may obtain a clue to Ezekiel’s choice of grouping in this case by comparing it with a similar grouping provided by the prophet Jeremiah, who said: “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Though Moses and Samuel stood before Me, yet My heart would not turn toward this people…’” (15:1).
No common era here! Almost 500 years separated the prophet Samuel from his predecessor, Moses! Yet this fact apparently did not perturb Jeremiah whose common denominator was, not era but the fact that both Moses and Samuel were Levites/priests, who had extraordinary powers of intercession before God.
What I am getting at here is that both Jeremiah and Ezekiel had carefully chosen the named, famous characters in their respective groupings. These were not just random selections.
Now, returning to Ezekiel 14, can we find any further commonality amongst Noah, Daniel and Job? It appears that we can. Ezekiel, we recall, was in captivity in a foreign land because of his compatriots’ wickedness. He – like Daniel – had been forced to leave Judah and to live amongst the Gentiles. Noah too, because of the iniquity of the pre-Flood (antediluvian) world, had been forced to flee that world, overrun by water, and to start afresh in a new world (postdiluvian). Job is a most obscure figure, both as to his nationality and to his era. However, I have identified Job him with Tobit’s son, Tobias, in the latter’s old age:
Job’s Life and Times
There are many significant likenesses, as I have shown, between the two. And, most suitably, we find that Tobias also had to leave his homeland of northern Israel (actually Bashan, east of the Jordan), because of its iniquity, and dwell in Assyria. Thus we find a common thread in the life of these three Old Testament characters, Noah, Daniel and Job.
As to Three, the point about Daniel’s being far too young at the time of Ezekiel’s prophesying to have earned a world-wide reputation as being a man of extraordinary wisdom, such a claim would seemingly indicate an ignorance of Scripture. Daniel, when merely a boy or youth, had already made a name for himself amongst his own exiled people, and internationally (i.e., throughout the world-wide Babylonian Empire), owing to two famous incidents:
(a) The Case of Susanna
The incident in Daniel 13 in which Susanna, sentenced to death after having been falsely accused of adultery, was saved by the judicious intervention of young Daniel, is traditionally considered to have been the first great prophetic act by which Daniel acquired his fame, with Daniel being supposedly only about 12 years old at the time. That the incident had made Daniel famous is attested by Daniel 13:6 “… Daniel became great in the sight of the people from that day [when he saved Susanna], and thence forward”.
(b) Nebuchednezzar’s Dream
When Daniel was yet still a youth, having been given by God “learning and skill in all letters and wisdom” (Daniel 1:17), he not only interpreted King Nebuchednezzar’s Dream, but first of all had to recall it for the king. Afterwards, Nebuchednezzar was so amazed with Daniel’s powers that he “… fell upon his face, and did homage to Daniel …. Then the king gave Daniel high honours and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon” (2:46, 48).
We need only to recall in addition that this Nebuchednezzar ‘the Great’ was one of the most famous and potent kings of all antiquity.
The young Daniel is a far more interesting flesh-and-blood prospect than is the mythological ‘Danel’ of the Ugaritic myths.
Thus there appears to be no serious problem whatsoever about the prophet Ezekiel, himself an exile in Babylon, knowing early about Daniel’s fame. Nor should we wonder about his expecting the King of Tyre also to have been aware of Daniel’s wisdom; for Tyre was part of the Babylonian Empire, and Ezekiel’s prophecy against Tyre occurred about sixteen years after Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchednezzar’s Dream.
There are absolutely no obstacles against the traditional view that Ezekiel had intended the prophet Daniel of the Book of Daniel in Ezekiel 14:14, 29 and 28:3.
It would be inconceivable that Ezekiel might have intended to hold up to his contemporaries, as a model of righteousness, an obscure pagan king-hero of the Phoenicio-Canaanites.