1sn The story of Bel and the Dragon is really two short stories linked together (or three if the account of Habakkuk’s mission to assist Daniel is treated separately). In the first narrative (vv. 3-22) Daniel is described as a courageous opponent of worship of the Babylonian deity named Bel. Presented with an opportunity to demonstrate the folly of worshipping Bel, Daniel exposes a previously undetected scheme whereby the priests of Bel had given the false impression that their idol was actually alive. Working like a skilled detective, Daniel demonstrates that this is not really the case. Instead, the priests and their families had been consuming the provisions left for the deity, entering the temple at night by means of a secret entrance. As a result of this exposÚ the king puts the priests of Bel to death, and Daniel destroys both the idol and its temple. In the second narrative (vv. 23-42) Daniel concocts a strange mixture that he feeds to a dragon (or snake) that was worshipped by the Babylonians. As a result of this meal the dragon is killed. When the Babylonians realize what has happened they become indignant over the loss of their god and call for Daniel’s immediate execution. But when Daniel is thrown into a lions’ den, he is vindicated by a miraculous deliverance from the lions. In retribution the king then has Daniel’s enemies thrown to the lions, and they are destroyed. Clearly these stories are polemical writings intended to show the inadequacy of Babylonian religion as compared to Israelite religion and to show the skill of Daniel as a wise servant of the king of Babylon. There is an almost paradoxical relationship between the two stories. In the former instance it is Bel’s inability to eat that demonstrates that he is not really a god, and in the second instance it is the dragon’s ability to eat that is used to demonstrate that he is not really a god. (On this point see C. A. Moore, The Additions, AB 44, 118, 135.)

2tn Grk “was gathered to his fathers.” The expression is a Hebraism. The numerous Semitisms (Hebrew and Aramaic) found throughout Bel and the Dragon seem to suggest that a Semitic Vorlage lies behind our present Greek text.

3sn The reference is to Cyrus the Great, who conquered Babylon in 539 B.C. Cyrus ruled over the vast Achaemenid empire from 550 to 530 B.C. and was remembered by the Persians in a much more favorable light than was true of his successors. He is mentioned by name in the biblical record (e.g., Dan 1:21; 6:29; 10:1; 2 Chr. 36:22, 23; Ezra 1:1, 2, 7, 8; 3:7; 4:3, 5; 6:3, 14; Isa 44:28; 45:1). According to Herodotus, “the Persians called Darius the huckster, Cambyses the master, and Cyrus the father; for Darius made petty profit out of everything, Cambyses was harsh and arrogant, Cyrus was merciful and ever wrought for their well-being” (Herodotus 3.89, translation from Loeb edition).

4tn Grk “received his kingdom.” The expression is an Aramaism. Cf. Dan 6:1; 7:18.

5sn The name Daniel means “God has judged.” It was probably a common name in biblical times. In addition to the main character of the Book of Daniel, the Old Testament also knows of a son of David by this name (1 Chr 3:1; cf. 2 Sam 3:3) and a priest of postexilic times (Ezra 8:2; Neh 10:6).

6tn Or “companion,” “partner.” In Greek literature this word was especially used in reference to the confidants of the Roman emperors. Here it describes Daniel as a trusted member of the king’s inner circle of advisors. See LSJ 1675.

7sn Two problems surface here. First, what is the antecedent of the pronoun “his”? Presumably it refers to Daniel, with the point being that Daniel was more esteemed by the king than all of Daniel’s friends who also were close to the king. This is the view adopted in the translation above. But it is possible that the antecedent of the pronoun is the king, with the point being that Daniel was esteemed by the king above all of the king’s other “friends.” Second, what is the meaning of the word “friends” here? Presumably it refers to Daniel’s personal friends. This is the view adopted in the translation above. However, some scholars have understood the word to refer to the friends not of Daniel but of the king. The Syriac translation, for example, renders the phrase as “the friends of the king” (cf. TEV, NAB, Knox, NJB), and in the NRSV the word friends is capitalized, suggesting a technical term (“his Friends”). In that case the word would presumably be a reference to an official council known by this name.

8tc The old Greek translation begins the story this way: “From the prophecy of Habakkuk the son of Joshua of the tribe of Levi. There was a certain man who was a priest. His name was Daniel the son of Abal, a companion of the king of Babylon.” Several observations are important in this regard. First, according to the old Greek translation this material was taken from a work that had something to do with the prophet Habakkuk. Presumably this claim is intended to refer to the biblical prophet by that name, although the details provided concerning the lineage of this Habakkuk are absent from the biblical material. Second, the introduction of Daniel at this point, as though readers could not be expected to know who Daniel was, seems to presuppose that this document originally circulated separately from the canonical material. Third, the suggestion that Daniel was a priest is at variance with the canonical account of Daniel’s life and ministry, where no such claim is made. All of this means that either the author of this document was unfamiliar with the canonical portions of Daniel or, what is more likely, that the Daniel of this document may have been an individual entirely separate from the biblical Daniel. In that case these stories were at a later time attached to the canonical Daniel as a further enhancement of the fame of the biblical Daniel.

9sn Bel (cf. Baal) was a name of the chief Babylonian deity otherwise known as Marduk.

10tn Or “spent,” “consumed,” “used up.”

11sn Grk artabai. The artaba was a Persian measure, six of which equaled a Hebrew homer, or about 450 kg. See J. Lust et al., Lexicon of the Septuagint, 63. The English translations conflict in how they render the word here. Most prefer “twelve bushels” (e.g., TEV, RSV, NRSV, NJB), but other translations include “thirty-two bushels” (Knox), “six barrels” (NAB) and “twelve great measures” (KJV, Douay).

12tc The old Greek translation has “four” in place of “forty.”

13sn This “measure” (Greek, metretes) was approximately the same as the Hebrew bath. According to Moore it is the equivalent of about nine gallons, with the total amount of wine referred to in v. 3 equaling more than fifty gallons (C. A. Moore, The Additions, AB 44, 134). But this determination is by no means certain. The translation presented above (“six measures of wine”) is a literal translation of the Greek, and the modern equivalency of this amount is not known for sure. Presumably it was no small quantity, since the point of v. 3 is to describe how much Bel consumed on a daily basis. English translations vary in their rendering of this phrase: “six measures of wine” (NRSV, NAB), “six vessels of wine” (KJV); “sixty vessels of wine (Douay); “fifty gallons of wine” (TEV); “of wine thirty-six gallons” (Knox).

14tc The old Greek translation has “oil” here.

15tn Grk “it.”

16tn The word “only” is not in the Greek text but has been added in the translation for clarity.

17tn The words “one day” are not in the Greek text but have been added in the translation for clarity.

18tn Or “bow down before.”

19tn Grk “having lordship over.”

20tn Grk “flesh.”

21sn A response of laughter at the king’s comment is a bit surprising given the risk and danger that were involved in a subordinate possibly upsetting an ancient oriental despot. In v. 19 Daniel not only laughs at the king’s praise of Bel but also physically restrains the king from entering the temple. Such physical contact with a monarch would have been unusual. Moore is probably correct in thinking that such actions on Daniel’s part assume a long and unusually close association with the king, at least in the view of the narrator. See C. A. Moore, The Additions, AB 44, 132.

22tn The word “idol” is not in the Greek text but has been supplied in the translation for clarity.

23tn Grk “say.”

24tn Grk “let it be according to your word.”

25tn Grk “house.”

26sn Although this may refer to mixing water with the wine so as to dilute it, Moore is probably correct in thinking that it refers to mixing spices with the wine in order to enhance its taste or smell. See C. A. Moore, The Additions, AB 44, 136.

27tn The expression is probably a Hebraism.

28tc The old Greek translation lacks vv. 12-13.

29tn The words “if things are otherwise” are not present in the Greek text but have been added in the translation for clarity.

30tn The words “will die” are not in the Greek text but have been added in the translation for clarity.

31tn Grk “them.”

32tc The Syriac text has “the priests of Bel.”

33tc The Syriac text adds “and filled the altar, and he filled the vessels with wine, as was their custom.”

34sn The ashes were strewn around the floor of the sanctuary proper (Greek, naos), not the entire temple precincts (Greek, hieron).

35tn Grk “and Daniel with him.”

36tn Grk “he.”

37tn Grk “he.”

38tn Grk “said.”

39tn The expression “it so happened that”(Greek, kai egeneto) is a Hebraism (so also in vv. 14, 28). The words are absent in the old Greek translation of v. 18.

40tn Grk “great.”

41tn Grk “and there is not with you deceit, not even one.”

42sn According to Herodotus the temple of Bel was plundered by Xerxes I (486-465 B.C.), who may have been responsible for its destruction as well. See Herodotus 1.183. Whether recollection of this event played a role in the formation of the deuterocanonical story, as Collins suggests, is not entirely clear. But see J. J. Collins, Daniel, Hermeneia, 413.

43tc The Syriac text has a colophon that says “the end of the account about the idol Bel.”

44tc The old Greek translation has “in the same place,” referring to Babylon.

45tn Grk drakon. In this story the word refers to a large, living snake. The term is somewhat interchangeable with ophis, the more familiar Greek term for snake (LSJ 448), although drakon can refer to certain other animals, whether real or mythological, as well. Traditionally in translations of this story the word dragon has been used (so, e.g., RSV, NRSV, TEV, NJB, KJV, Douay), as is the case in the present translation. However, this term is probably a bit misleading to those who are unfamiliar with the story.

46tc The Syriac text adds “because God is the one who lives.”

47tc The old Greek translation lacks v. 25.

48tn Grk “said.”

49sn This story of Daniel slaying the dragon was apparently the inspiration for the colorful medieval accounts of St. George’s slaying of the dragon.

50tn Grk “said.”

51tn The word “authority” is not in the Greek text but has been added in the translation for clarity.

52tn Grk “gave.” The expression is a Hebraism.

53sn Why a concoction of pitch, fat, and hair would have this effect on the snake is unclear. Some writers have speculated that perhaps something like nails or other sharp instruments were hidden in the mixture, causing rupture of the intestines of the snake, although the text makes no mention of such things. Other writers have attempted to explain the problem as due to possible mistranslation of one or more words from a Semitic Vorlage that is supposed to underlie the Greek text. None of these suggestions seems to be entirely convincing. Perhaps the problem can be partially explained by the genre of the story itself. In a legendary narrative that is recounted for the enjoyment of a sympathetic audience not all the details have to be entirely believable or strictly accurate.

54tn Grk “he.”

55tc The Syriac text adds “and they turned against him.”

56tn Grk “pulled apart.”

57sn Although it was Daniel who was directly responsible for these actions, he had acted with the complicity and permission of the king. The people therefore placed ultimate and final culpability on the king for what had happened.

58tc The old Greek translation lacks v. 29.

59tn Grk “house.”

60tn Grk “exceedingly.”

61tn Grk “him.”

62sn Daniel is described as being thrown into a lions’ den on a separate occasion as well. Cf. Dan 6:16-24.

63tc The Syriac translation adds “so that the lions would be hungry and eat him.”

64tn Grk “there was being given to them.”

65tn The word “human” is not in the Greek text but has been added in the translation for clarity.

66tn Grk “them.”

67tn The words “at this time” are not in the Greek text but have been added in the translation for clarity.

68sn The biblical prophet Habakkuk was a seventh-century B.C. contemporary of Jeremiah who prophesied of the approaching Babylonian invasion of Judah. If this prophet were still living in the time of Cyrus he would have been quite advanced in years, as was Daniel.

69sn The pericope in vv. 33-39 that describes Habakkuk’s miraculous transfer from Judea to Babylon in order to assist Daniel is viewed by most scholars as an interpolation added to an earlier form of this story that originally lacked this section.

70tn Grk “said.”

71sn The prophet Ezekiel is said to have had a similar experience of being miraculously transported. Cf. Ezek 3:12-14; 8:3.

72tn Or “spirit.”

73tn Grk “said.”

74tc The Syriac text adds “and you have not removed your love from me. For I know that.”

75tn Or “have not abandoned.” The translation above understands the aorist verb used here to be gnomic, or timeless, in nature.

76tn Grk “arose and ate.” The expression is a Hebraism.

77tn The word “former” is not in the Greek text but has been added in the translation for clarity.

78tc The Syriac text adds “from which he had previously removed him.”

79tc The Syriac text adds “for he was sad over Daniel.”

80tn Grk “and behold, Daniel, sitting.”

81tn Grk “great.”

82tn Grk “he.”

83tn Grk “him.”

84tc The Syriac text adds “those enemies of Daniel who had eaten his pieces” (i.e., accused him).

85tn Grk “his.”

86tc The Syriac text has a colophon that says “the end of the writing of the book of Daniel.”

tn Grk “him.”