[B-Greek] Question about Daniel 4

George F Somsel gfsomsel at yahoo.com
Sat May 17 15:35:01 EDT 2008

This is not strictly a b-greek question.  In fact, it distinctly is not such.
It would appear that there is mention of Nabonidus in in some cunieform documents, but that Qumran documents provide even more information.  J. J. Collins writes in the Hermeneia commentary on Daniel
There is general agreement that diverse traditions have been woven together in Daniel 4. The most thorough attempts to disentangle these traditions into distinct sources have been made by Haag and Wills. Haag distinguishes two basic stories: (1) the king’s dream and its interpretation by Daniel, narrated in the first person; and (2) Nebuchadnezzar’s loss of the kingship (Dan 4:25–30*, with some omissions). According to this distinction, the transformation of the king to a beastlike state was original in the second story and only secondarily imported into the dream and its interpretation. Wills distinguishes three sources rather than two: (1) the dream and its interpretation; (2) the source of 4:25–30*; and (3) the confession of Nebuchadnezzar in OG4:30a–34*, which is taken to be the original source of the beast motif. Wills’s analysis is more broadly and soundly basedthan that of Haag, insofar as Wills takes account of
 the OGand attempts to correlate his proposed sources with nonbiblical traditions.
Scholars have long suspected that traditions about Nabonidus, rather than Nebuchadnezzar, underlie Daniel 4. The relevance of Nabonidus for the Daniel tradition became apparent in 1854 with the discovery of an inscription at Ur that referred to Nabonidus as king of Babylon and to Bēl-šarra-uṣuras the king’s son. It was immediately apparent that the latter was the biblical Belshazzar, supposedly the son of Nebuchadnezzar according to Daniel 5. Further cuneiform discoveries showed that Nabonidus had been absent from Babylon for several years, sojourning at Teima in the Arabian desert. Around the beginning of the twentieth century, a number of scholars suggested that Daniel 4contained a distorted recollection of this absence. Confirmation of the sojourn in Teima was provided by the polemical Verse Account of Nabonidus, published by Sidney Smith in 1924, and a synthetic treatment of the relevance of the cuneiform documents
 for Daniel was provided by von Soden in 1935. Further information on Nabonidus at Teima was provided by the Harran inscriptions, published in 1958.
By far the most important discovery in this connection, however, was the so-called Prayer of Nabonidusfrom Qumran. This document purports to give “the words of the prayer which Nabonidus, king of Babylon, the great king, prayed when he was stricken with an evil disease by the decree of God in Teman.” The fragments that have survived do not include the words of a prayer but contain a first-person account of the experience. Nabonidus was smitten for seven years, while he prayed to idols. His sin was forgiven, and a Jewish diviner told him to recount these things to give honor to the name of God. Another fragment refers to a disturbing dream of the king.
The relevance of this document to Daniel 4is obvious. In both, a Babylonian king is afflicted for a period of seven years (literally, “times,” in Daniel). In both, a Jew interprets his situation. Apparently 4QPrNab, like Daniel, included a dream that the king saw. Both documents have the king speak in the first person. Although the extant fragments do not include Nabonidus’s confession of the Most High God, there can be no doubt that this is the focus of the composition, as in Daniel 4.Some reconstructions enhance the relationship between the two documents by filling lacunae in the scroll on the basis of Daniel. Milik suggested that fragment 4 be reconstructed to read “how you are like [Daniel],” taking the addressee as an angel. Rudolf Meyerthinks 4QPrNabincluded an earlier form of the vision of the great tree and its interpretation. Neither of these suggestions has any real basis in the text. Cross reconstructs line 3:
 “for seven years, and from [that] (time) I was like [unto a beast and I prayed to the Most High].” Cross’s suggestion has the support of a parallel in Dan 5:21* (עם חיותא שׁוי, “he was made like a beast”), but even here it is important to distinguish between what is reconstructed and what is actually attested.
The differences between Daniel 4and the Qumran text are notable too. The king’s name is different, as is the nature of the affliction. The Jewish diviner in 4QPrNabis not named. The content of the dream in the prayer is not extant. Nonetheless, there is general consensus that 4QPrNabestablishes the view that Daniel 4is ultimately based on traditions about Nabonidus. 4QPrNabretains the more primitive features in the name of the king and his location in Teima. It is not, of course, historically accurate. It is a Jewish story that narrates a fictitious conversion of a Babylonian king.
While 4QPrNabconfirms the likelihood that Daniel 4drew on sources, it underlines the difficulty of reconstructing these sources with any confidence. Wills has argued for a close relationship between 4QPrNaband OG4:30a–34*. A crucial element in this supposed source is the likening of the king to a beast. This comparison finds a place in Cross’s reconstruction of 4QPrNab, but it is not actually attested in the extant fragments. The fragmentary state of the document does not permit us to claim a direct literary relationship. The stories may be different developments of a common tradition.
Collins, J. J., Cross, F. M., & Collins, A. Y. (1993). Daniel : A commentary on the book of Daniel. Hermeneia--a critical and historical commentary on the Bible (216). Minneapolis: Fortress Press.


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learn truth, love truth, speak the truth, hold the truth, 
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----- Original Message ----
From: "Revdougpickrel at aol.com" <Revdougpickrel at aol.com>
To: b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org
Sent: Saturday, May 17, 2008 2:25:14 PM
Subject: [B-Greek] Question about Daniel 4

I've been preparing lessons from Daniel 4 and read in a commentary that  this 
Chapter was originally found in the state papers of the Babylonian  archives.

Does anyone have some information about this?

Rev. Doug  Pickrel, Litt.D.
Tejas Valley
San Antonio,  Texas

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