[b-hebrew] Four Beasts in Daniel

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Tue Sep 12 14:57:51 EDT 2006

On 9/12/06, Shoshanna Walker wrote:

> First of all, just because Rashi made a mistake, doesn't mean
> everything he wrote is automatically a mistake.

However, if he made a mistake in dating the length of the Persian
period too small and therefore found himself dating the end of the
last period (beast) to the fall of the Second Temple, and yet, the last
period so counted doesn't even reach the Roman period, then his
identification of the empires is probably wrong as well.

> Second, a great deal of what he wrote is drawn from earlier sources,
> he didn't necessarily MAKE IT UP.  As I said, this is in a Midrash,
> and he also derived some of it from Jeremiah, and he gave sources.

Of course he didn't necessarily make it up, but unless you speak in
terms of those earlier sources, it is hard to relate to them.  If we
identified a source such as Talmud Avoda Zara tractate for the 490
year period in Seder Olam, and conceivably also for Rashi, then we
can speak in terms of that source.  But otherwise, just naming
unknown earlier sources doesn't get us far because we know nothing
about them.  Practically all the Jewish sources we have extant are
from after the Roman conquest, which means that it is very hard to
see how Daniel was understood prior to the Roman conquest.
Significantly, during the Greek period, was the last period identified
as Greek, or as a later empire not yet known?  Claiming the Jewish
view is to see the last empire as Roman assumes that the "Jewish"
(or perhaps more accurately Judaean) view prior to Roman times also
viewed the last empire as Roman.  This is not necessarily true, and to
justify such a view for or against one has to bring evidence from pre-
Roman times.  This means that the book of Jeremiah is acceptable
evidence, the book of Daniel itself is acceptable evidence, Herodotus
is probably good evidence too as are historically known events, and
Dead Sea Scrolls may also be useful.

> Re Talmud, although I found at least 3 different English translations
> on line, I am not a Talmud scholar, and I don't know how to find
> what's in it, and where they discuss what, etc.
> Rashi wrote an explanation and commentary on the entire Babylonian
> Talmud - he knew its sources, too.

Like I said above, this doesn't really help if we can't identify the earlier
sources of the Talmud or the Talmudic sources that Rashi used.

Incidentally, did you read the two websites I gave?  Because one of them
gave quotes from Jewish sources, among other things, for the Roman view
(all, however, are from Roman times).

> At any rate, why in the world would two of these four empires be
> oriental and slavonic?  What did they have then to do with Israel's
> history?  And why would they be called beasts?  What did they do bad
> to Israel?  Daniel is clearly speaking about empires which took us
> and ruled over us in captivity/exile.

The word used for beast is from the root xy - life.  This implies a living
creature.  While their descriptions as a lion or bear may provide such
evidence, simply calling them beasts doesn't by itself suggest really they
are fearsome or evil or anything bad to Israel.  As for the Oriental/Slavonic
interpretation, unless Stephen feels willing to defend his interpretation
somehow, let's drop it.

Yitzhak Sapir

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