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Who is Ezekiel's Daniel?

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In Daniel 1:6 we are introduced to the author of this book: דניאל An increasing number of scholars have argued that the book of Daniel is pseudepigraphical, written during the Maccabean era (c. 165 BCE).  By late-dating Daniel they can speak of vaticinium ex eventu, or prophecy after the fact (i.e., history written as though it were prophecy).  This, of course, is in keeping with the old Chinese proverb:  “It is very difficult to prophesy, especially about the future.”  One of the arguments used has to do with the supposition that Daniel is not mentioned by name in any Jewish literature until 140 BCE (in the Sybilline Oracles {3:397-400}). 

As a sidenote, it is interesting to observe that the pseudepigraphical approach wants to have its cake and eat it too.  The reason for pseudepigraphy, it is claimed, is to employ some famous person’s name for the sake of one’s own views.  But if Daniel is not mentioned in any Jewish literature until 140 BCE, then how famous could he be? 

There is substantial evidence that Daniel is mentioned prior to this date, however.  In Ezekiel 14:14, 20; and 28:3 one “Danel” is found.  But the traditional date of Ezekiel is hardly disputed.  Could it be that this Danel is the same as Daniel in the book that bears his name?

Until the 1930s the standard view that the Danel of Ezekiel was an ancient mythical hero.1  But in the early 1930s the Ras Shamra (Ugaritic) texts were published which included, inter alia, a description of a certain Dnil.  Several scholars have since found that by a rather ingenious interpretation of the evidence they can claim enough parallels in the Ugaritic Dnil with Ezekiel’s Danel to make a positive identification of the latter with the former.  The argument has been persuasive enough that the NIV has a note on Ezek. 14:14, 20, and 28:3 to the effect that “the Hebrew spelling {of Daniel} may suggest a person other than the prophet Daniel.”

More recently, two articles have appeared in Vetus Testamentum, dealing with the identification of Ezekiel’s Danel.  The first article, written by Harold H. P. Dressler and published in 1979,2 argues against the identification of Ezekiel’s Daniel with the Ugaritic Daniel3 and at least leans in favor of an identification with Daniel’s Daniel.  The second article, written by John Day and published in 1980,4 is a rejoinder to Dressler’s article, arguing for the new “traditional” view, that of equating Ezekiel’s Daniel with the Dnil of the Ras Shamra texts.

Our goal in this paper is to survey Dressler’s and Day’s arguments and then to propose some solutions. 

Dressler’s Article

Harold Dressler is well qualified to discuss the Dnil of the Ras Shamra texts since he wrote his doctoral dissertation on that very topic.5  He outlines four arguments which “have been advanced for denying that the Daniel of Ezekiel xiv and xxviii is to be identified with the Biblical Daniel” (p. 155).

A. Linguistic Considerations

“Most commentators point out that the spelling of the name Daniel in Ezekiel (daniel) differs consistently from its occurrence in the book of Daniel (daniyyel).  Since the Ugaritic Aqht Text has the same spelling as in Ezekiel (dnil), scholars have argued for the probability of a connection.  However, it is noteworthy that, in the words of Albright, the ‘name Danilu, Danel is well attested (in different writings and perhaps with different meanings attributed to it) in Old Assyrian, Old Babylonian, Northwest Semitic . . .’ and that ‘Danil is the Babylonian pronunciation of non-Accadkian Semitic Danil, “Daniel” . . .’  Gibson suggests that ‘Ezekiel simply uses the traditional spelling of the name without the internal mater lectionis. . .’  No doubt, the Ugaritic dnil could correspond to either Hebrew vocalization” (pp. 155-56).

B. The Middle Position of the Name as an Argument for Antiquity

“ . . . it is generally agreed nowadays that the mention of Daniel between two figures from antiquity must imply that Daniel, too, cannot be a person contemporary with the prophet Ezekiel.  Older commentaries present a different point of view and postulate either a climactic order or an order of elevation.  However, it must be noted that the Book of Ezekiel does not attach much importance to exact patterns of enumeration. . . .  Hence we must assume that the position of the name does not allow any clear-cut deductions.” (p. 156).

C. Non-Israelite Emphasis

“Not only the fact that Job was extra-Israelite and Noah pre-Israelite but also the mention of Daniel in Ez. xxviii 3 in connection with the Prince of Tyre, a Phoenician stronghold, suggested to scholars that a Syro-Phoenician ancient personage was in view. . . .  However, one needs no particularly fertile imagination to view an Israelite Daniel flanked by a pre-Israelite and a non-Israelite to arrive at an equally satisfying theological construction.” (pp. 156-57).

D. Chronological Difficulties

“It is generally considered that the identification of the Daniel mentioned by Ezekiel with the hero of the book of Daniel runs into chronological difficulties since Daniel would have been a youth whose reputation, if he had one at the time, was certainly of only a local nature.

“However, several arguments can be advanced for the opposite point of view  . . . .  {his fourth argument is as follows:} d)  If Ezekiel’s authorship and the unity of the book is maintained, it may be pointed out that, by the time the book was published (app. 570-567 BC according to Howie), approximately thirty-six years had elapsed, enough time to establish the fame of the Daniel of the Babylonian golah” (pp. 157-58).

After a brief discussion of other points ancillary to our discussion, Dressler summarizes his article:

With regard to the Daniel-figure in Ezekiel no compelling reason was found for rejecting the identification of the Daniel mentioned by Ezekiel with the Biblical Daniel. . . .  Perhaps most important has been the investigation into the meaning of sedaqah in Ez. xiv where this term is used as an antonym to “unfaithfulness” in the sense of idolatry, i.e. the worship of Baal.  Thus, it is especially inappropriate to suggest a Baal-devotee, the Ugaritic Dnil, as an exemplary “righteous” man.  (pp. 160-61)

Day’s Article

(N.B. For sake of ease of discussion, we will organize Day’s comments according to Dressler’s four main points, even though Day has them ordered differently.)

A. Linguistic Considerations

Even though the translators of the NIV cite the linguistic argument as the only evidence necessary to dissuade them from positively identifying Ezekiel’s Daniel with Daniel’s Daniel, Day agrees with Dressler that this argument is invalid.  “Dressler, pp. 155-6, however, is right in his observations that there are no linguistic objections to the equation of the Daniel of Ezekiel xiv 14, 20 and the hero of the book of Daniel.  Ezekiel simply spells the name without the vowel letter yodh” (p. 181, n. 18).

B. The Middle Position of the Name as an Argument for Antiquity

. . . it is only natural to assume that Daniel is likewise a figure of hoary antiquity.  This alone makes it improbable that Ezekiel was referring to a contemporary, the hero of the book of Daniel, but is fully consonant with the Daniel of the Aqhat epic, the extant text of which dates from the 14th century B. C.  Surprisingly, on this crucial point, Dressler (p. 156) has no argument at all.  Instead, he criticizes a different point, namely the view of some older commentators that the three names are listed in a climactic order or an order of elevation, but this is irrelevant to the point at issue.6

C. Non-Israelite Emphasis

. . . the two notables mentioned alongside Daniel, Noah and Job, are both non-Israelites, suggesting that Daniel too is a non-Israelite, and therefore not the hero of the book of Daniel. . . .  With disregard to the non-Israelite emphasis of Ezek. xiv 14, 20, Dressler states, “one needs no particularly fertile imagination to view an Israelite Daniel flanked by a pre-Israelite and a non-Israelite to arrive at an equally satisfying theological construction” (p. 157).  However, this ignores the fact that Noah is not only a pre-Israelite, but also a non-Israelite, so that this is most naturally the case also with Daniel . . . .7

D. Chronological Difficulties

Day really does not argue over this point, but simply asserts that if there were a biblical Daniel, he would be a contemporary of Ezekiel and would not fit the picture painted in Ezekiel 14:14.

Day also presents some positive evidence for the identification of the Ugaritic Dnil with Ezekiel’s Daniel which will be dealt with in the final section of this paper below.

Some Possible Solutions:
A Surrejoinder to Day’s Article

In this final section, our goal is to discuss the four points raised by Dressler and challenged by Day and examine some of their other arguments briefly, suggesting additional considerations for the debate.

A. Consideration of the Four Arguments

1. Linguistic Considerations

Both Day and Dressler agree that the spelling of the name Daniel is insignificant in terms of denying an identification of Ezekiel’s Daniel with the biblical Daniel.  Part of the reason that the spelling is different might be that the yodh used in the name in the book of Daniel may indeed by a yodh compaginis, or a mere connective rather than the first person infix.  Or, if the yodh was intended by the author to be a personal infix as a constant reminder of his relation to YHWH, then one could easily understand why such would be missing in Ezekiel’s spelling of the name.  In other words, Daniel’s spelling reminds him of his own responsibility before God and of his own humility.  Ezekiel’s spelling leaves the yodh out, broadening the scope of God as judge.

2. The Middle Position of the Name as an Argument for Antiquity

Although Day asserts that Dressler did not answer this argument, suggesting that Dressler’s comments are entirely irrelevant, it should be pointed out that Day partially missed the point.  Dressler was simply being honest with the text of Ezekiel, pointing out that any arguments about lists fly in the face of Ezekiel’s tendencies.  In other words, when Ezekiel penned “Noah, Daniel, and Job” his intention was to list these three men, though the order of their names probably had to with the order of his recollection.  Dressler did, then, answer the charge--he just did not give the answer Day was expecting.  We might add further that it is quite possible that Ezekiel intended to write something of an inferential foreword to the book of Daniel by his threefold reference to his prophetic colleague.  There are many indications within the book of Daniel that suggest that he anticipated hesitation on the part of his audience to accept him as a true prophet of YHWH, in particular because of his status in the political machinery of a foreign regime.8  In other words, even back then, people had serious doubts about whether “honest” and “politician” could be juxtaposed!  Hence, a few casual but well-placed notations to Daniel’s wisdom and righteousness by Ezekiel could well function as a foreword to Daniel, defusing to some degree any possible opposition to the book.

3. Non-Israelite Emphasis

Day makes a good point that “Noah is not only a pre-Israelite, but also a non-Israelite. . .”9  However, two counter-points can be made.  First, if Ezekiel is simply thinking of three righteous men that the nation would know about either from the Scriptures or from their national history, is he necessarily trying to single out non-Israelites?  If he is singling out anything, it may well be that three men who did not live in the promised land nevertheless were faithful to YHWH--and Daniel, of course, fits well with this point (as well as with the focus of Ezekiel).  Second, in Day’s statement that Noah, too, was a non-Israelite, he is really making a linguistic-logical equation.  A simple relabeling of the categories changes everything.  If the categories are (a) pre-distinction man (Noah), (b) post-distinction Gentile (Job), and (c) post-distinction Jew, we can see how none of them could be interchanged with the others.  Furthermore, Noah is a pre-Israelite (as Dressler asserted), and not just a non-Israelite, for Abraham was a direct descendant of his.  The logical fallacy of Day is that of creating a label, then assuming that that label is the only one that fits.  Ezekiel’s language will not easily yield to such manipulation.

4. Chronological Difficulties

Day does not deal with Dressler’s arguments, as already noted.  Thus, we can allow Dressler’s arguments to stand.

B. Additional Considerations: A Critique of Day’s Positive Evidence

In dealing with the positive evidence of an identification of Ezekiel’s Daniel with the Dnil of the Ugaritic texts, Day has some rather incisive comments to make about Dressler’s views.  However, in spite of the positive evidence he has amassed, I believe that there are two Achilles’ heels in his arguments.  It is my view that his error in these two points is serious enough to invalidate the identification he is proposing.

1. Daniel’s Wisdom

First, in dealing with the last mention of Daniel in Ezekiel, Day says that the words of Ezek. xxviii 3, “no secret is hidden from you,” suggest that Daniel’s wisdom is of the type referred to by H. P. Müller as mantic or magical-mantic wisdon, a feature certainly prominent in the hero of the book of Daniel. . . .  Although a number of Müller’s attempts to discern magical-mantic wisdom in the Ugaritic Daniel are not particularly convincing, it does seem that certain elements of it are present . . . .”10

The texts which Day refers to all have to do with incantations.  Now again, Day has tied his logic too closely to his linguistic description.  In effect, what he is saying is that A (biblical Daniel’s wisdom) is a subset of B (mantic wisdom) and C (Ugaritic Dnil’s incantation wisdom) is also a subset of B; therefore, A = C!  The error of such a logical equation can be seen if we replace our letters other known quantities which also fit the description.  For example, if B = bodies of water, A = Winona Lake (a subset of B), and C = the Pacific Ocean (a subset of B), does this imply that A = C (Winona Lake = Pacific Ocean)?!  Day seems to recognize the fallacy of this view, for he adds that “It is possible that other Ugaritic or Canaanite texts may have spoken more explicitly of Daniel’s wisdom; alternatively, one might suppose that the tradition of Daniel’s wisdom was gradually extended over the centuries. . . .”11  In other words, he himself recognizes the weakness of his arguments and can only hope that an appeal to silence will salvage his point.  As one scholar noted, however, “an ounce of evidence is worth a pound of presumption.”  The silence in this case is deafening.

Now we might add two points to this discussion: (1) the specific type of wisdom Ezekiel speaks of in 28:3 is the same specific type referred to in Daniel, namely, the ability to expose secrets (cf. Dan 2:29-45, etc.), though this specific type of wisdom (if incantations can be called ‘wisdom’) is not mentioned with reference to Dnil in the Ras Shamra text; and (2) Day concedes that “It must be admitted that in the extant Aqhat epic Daniel is not explicitly referred to as a wise man.”12  His attempt on this point is most ingenious, though it seems to fall short of logical demonstration.

2. Daniel’s Righteousness

Second, Day’s least convincing point comes in his discussion of Dressler’s strongest point.  Dressler himself felt that perhaps the most important {argument} has been the investigation into the meaning of sedaqah in Ez. xiv where this term is used as an antonym to “unfaithfulness” in the sense of idolatry, i.e. the worship of Baal.  Thus, it is especially inappropriate to suggest a Baal-devotee, the Ugaritic Dnil, as an exemplary “righteous” man.13

One would expect, in light of this concluding statement, that Day would spend some time attempting to refute this point which Dressler considered so weighty.  Day does, indeed, log a bit of time on it, though, in my view, he paints himself in a corner in the process:

That the expression mt. rpi indicates him to have been the devotee of a particular deity is clear from personal names of the type mt. + divine name. . . .  Which particular deity is this?  Dressler assumes that Baal is intended. . . .  That Baal is denoted by rpu is, however, specifically excluded by R. S. 24.252, obverse, lines 1-3 where the two deities are clearly distinguished.14

In response to this, we might first point out that Dressler did not deny that rpu could be somewhat distinguished from Baal.  In a footnote, he points out that “The word rp has been identified . . . with Baal,  i.e. his chthonic counterpart” (italics added).  But Day goes on:

A careful study of the Aqhat text leads to the same conclusion, for there Daniel is specifically called El’s servant. . . .  Accordingly, it may be maintained that Daniel was a pious devotee of the god El.  This is significant, since the Old Testament idenitifies El with Yahweh, and did not have the scruples about so doing which it had with regard to Baal.15

But Day has made a logical fallacy here: he says that rpu and Baal cannot be the same god (even though Dressler uses the word “counterpart” to describe their relationship) because their names occur in the same text as separate entities, but the text he cites to demonstrate that rpu is El makes no such identification (“El took his servant, he blessed {Daniel?} man of Rp’u”--CT A 17.1.35-6).  In other words, the basis on which Day denies the identity of rpu with Baal is the same basis on which he affirms his identity with El.  Furthermore, according to his presuppositions, the Old Testament identifies El with YHWH, though he seems to consider them as two distinct gods.  Yet, the Old Testament never treats El and YHWH as different from one another.  Although it might be granted that rpu is not Baal (a point which even Dressler conceded, calling him his earthly counterpart), to suggest that he is El on the same basis is inconsistent at best.

The error of Day’s argument is seen in the following paragraph because he recognizes that even if it were asserted that Dnil of Ugarit were an El-devotee, he was still a polytheist and, therefore, not able to meet the requirements of Ezekiel’s “righteousness” which is ascribed to Daniel in 14:14.  So Day brings in an analogy which fails to hold water upon close scrutiny: “It is true that Baal and other deities also figure in the Aqhat text, but this is clearly no insuperable obstacle to Daniel’s having become venerated as a righteous man by the time of Ezekiel. . . .”16  On this point it should be noted that Day’s euphemistic “also figure in” really means “Dnil worshiped Baal and other deities.”  In other words, no matter how the text is sliced, this man from Ugarit was no monotheist.  But Day goes on: “That this is no special pleading is indicated by the example of Noah, mentioned alongside Daniel as a righteous man in Ezekiel xiv 14, 20, whose name, according to some experts, is that of a Mesopotamian deity”17 (italics added).  The fact that Day assumes the reader might see his case as special pleading at least points to the fact that he was aware of how weak his case appeared.  Then, to relate Ugaritic Dnil’s beliefs to the supposed etymology of Noah’s name, is, of course, a non sequitur.  Furthermore, the reason Lamech gives the name Noah to his son (Gen 5:29) has to do with the hope that Noah would somehow remove the curse brought into the world by Adam.  It is suggested that if we have to conjecture an etymology for Noah’s name, it should at least take into account the account of Lamech’s statement.

Finally, Day brings in his analogy: “Similarly, one might cite the example of Balaam, whom the dominant strand of Old Testament tradition regards as a true prophet (Num. xxii-xxiv), but who is revealed by a recently discovered Aramaic text from Deir Alla to have been a polytheist.”18  The fallacies of this analogy are several.  First, Day looks at a very thin slice of the Old Testament which deals with Balaam and calls this “the dominant strand of Old Testament tradition.”  Such an ambiguous statements seems to imply that, in Day’s opinion at least, Numbers 22-24 (the only text he cites with reference to Balaam) presents Balaam in a good light and that the rest of the Old Testament is errant or secondary in its description of Balaam.  In other words, the only part of the Old Testament we should trust with reference to Balaam is Numbers 22-24 and yet we find that such a portion of Scripture is wrong in light of recent findings on Balaam.  He is clearly setting up a straw man here.

Second, Balaam is notrevealed by a recently discovered Aramaic text . . . to have been a polytheist {italics added}” for he was already revealed to be such in the Old Testament.

Third, by calling Balaam a “true prophet” Day is attempting to make an implicit connection between this description and “righteous.”  But such will not work.  Balaam is a true prophet only in the sense that he could not resist the word which God put in his mouth.  When he attempted to curse Israel, he blessed israel.  He clearly recognized that irresistible grace working in his life (on behalf of the nation), though this hardly qualifies him as a true prophet.  Furthermore, he is not called a prophet by the author of Numbers, but rather one who seeks omens (Num 24:1), a method clearly condemned (cf. Deut 18:10) for “true prophets.”  Thus, even within this “dominant strand of Old Testament tradition” Balaam is not presented as a true prophet.  Again, we see that Balaam is other than a true prophet within this dominant strand, for in Numbers 23:10, after Balaam’s first oracle, he cries out, “Let my soul die the death of the upright, and let my end be like his!”  Now, this was a plea in the presence of Balak who was expecting a curse.  As J. J. Edwards so aptly put it, with reference to this verse, “Balaam could not curse--he could only envy!”19  Finally, we again read in Numbers that Balaam was anything by a righteous man.  In Numbers 31:8 the author makes a specific point of Balaam’s death when Israel attacked Midian.  And in 31:16, the author points further to Moses’ war policies, declaring that the Midianite women were to be killed because “these caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the Lord.”  Clearly, Balaam is not a true prophet, nor a righteous man a la the biblical Daniel.  Edwards’ opinion of the picture of Balaam of Numbers is certainly more accurate: “His teaching involved the most contemptible action ever conceived in an unregenerate heart.  Corrupt a people you cannot curse and God will have to chasten them.”20

In one respect, then, Day is right: there is an analogy between Balaam and the Ugaritic Dnil because both were idolaters and certainly neither was a righteous man!

To sum up, especially with reference to this second of Day’s Achilles’ heels, Dressler’s judgment still stands: “Is it conceivable that the same prophet {i.e., Ezekiel} would choose a Phoenician-Canaanite devotee of Baal as his outstanding example of righteousness?  Within the context of Ezekiel this seems to be a preposterous suggestion.”21


We have looked at four standard arguments used to support the identification of Ezekiel’s Daniel with the Ugaritic Dnil.  Of the four, John Day virtually conceded the linguistic consideration and the chronological difficulties.  His point about the non-Israelite emphasis was good at first glance, but upon closer scrutiny we saw that his logic was too closely tied to his linguistic formulations.  Ezekiel’s logic, however, was not so restricted.  Finally, although Day did not bring out the force of this point very forcefully, the middle position of the name as an argument for antiquity seemed to me to be the strongest line of reasoning for the Ugaritic equation.  However, not only are Ezekiel’s lists not so neat and tidy as we might have expected them to be, but the possibility that Ezekiel intentionally placed a contemporary righteous man in the middle of the list as a kind of foreword to the book of Daniel is intriguing to say the least.  It would certainly catch the reader’s eye as it has ours!  Finally, Day’s further evidence about the Ugaritic Dnil’s wisdom and righteousness as an attempt to fit him into Ezekiel’s picture seemed to be a brilliant stoke of eisegesis!  That such a connection has eluded most is instructive: they have missed it because the raw data do not naturally present such a connection; only an ingenius interpretation of the data can make the square peg of Dnil fit the round hole of Ezeiel’s wise and righteous Daniel!

We conclude, then, that Ezekiel’s Daniel is Daniel’s Daniel and that on this strand of evidence at least the sixth century date of Daniel still remains intact.

1 Cf., e.g., J. A. Montgomery, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Daniel, (in ICC) 2-3.

2 H. H. P. Dressler, “The Identification of the Ugaritic DNIL with the Daniel of Ezekiel,” VT 29 (1979) 152-61.

3 We are using “Daniel” rather loosely, so as to accommodate the various arguments and viewpoints without prejudice.

4 J. Day, “The Daniel of Ugarit and Ezekiel and the Hero of the Book of Daniel,” VT 30 (1980) 174-84.

5 “The Aqht-Text: A New Transcription, Translation, Commentary, and Introduction” (Cambridge, 1976).

6 Day, 175.

7 Ibid.

8 Just two of the indications within Daniel are: (1) the many parallels with Joseph (some of them on a conceptual level, others on even a verbal level), the son of Jacob the patriarch, in chapters 1 and 2, creating a positive, though largely sub-conscious deja vu experience in the minds of the readers, and (2) the interweaving of Daniel’s personal history with prophecy, emphasizing his own piety.  In large measure, such a view argues for a sixth century date of the book, for by the second century BCE such a connection would no longer need to be made (since the Jews by this time had accepted Daniel as a true prophet from God).

9 Day, 175.

10 Ibid., 181.

11 Ibid.

12 Ibid., 180.

13 Dressler, 161.

14 Day, 176-77.

15 Ibid., 177.

16 Ibid., 178.

17 Ibid.

18 Ibid.

19 J. J. Edwards, “Balaam,” ZPEB, 1:454.

20 Ibid.

21 Dressler, 159.

Related Topics: Character Study, Introductions, Arguments, Outlines

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