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A theory on Daniel 1:1

Discussion in 'Scriptural Debates' started by Harel13, Aug 3, 2021.

  1. Harel13

    Harel13 Am Yisrael Chai
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    A little over a month ago I thought of a theory to explain a seeming historical discrepancy with Daniel 1:1. I first posted the theory on the Judaism Stackexchange here, but as the answer just seemed too simple, I've been wondering since whether it was just too good to be true. Hence I'm going to re-post the theory here, in hopes of someone being able to critique it. Any thoughts on the matter will be appreciated.

    Note: I believe Daniel was compiled by the Men of the Great Assembly (see Bava Batra 15a), so claims about Daniel having been written in Greek times (or later) are irrelevant to this thread.

    The theory is as follows:

    In Daniel 1:1 it says: "In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and laid siege to it."

    However, as Wikipedia puts it:

    "This, incidentally, is the first of a string of historical errors in the Book of Daniel which have led scholars to see its hero as a fictional character, since the meticulous Babylonian chronicles make no mention of an attack on Jerusalem before 598 BCE."
    It was only about a month ago that I learned of this particular discrepancy, and just a few days prior I had happened to borrow from the library a Hebrew translation of certain bible-related Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian texts, compiled by Mordechai Cogan. I flicked through it to the relevant sections of the Babylonian chronicles and was surprised to discover what I thought was a discrepancy in the chronicles, which I think can explain the verse in Daniel. It is as follows:

    The Babylonian chroniclers were Babylonian priests not allied to any of the kings. We know this because they weren't afraid to write anything about any king, good or bad (unlike royal scribes). Furthermore, for some reason, they preferred using archaic terms. Thus we find that they referred to the king of Babylon as "the king of Akkad", and to the land of Israel as "Hatti-land". Cogan translated this last term as "the land of Khet" (ארץ חת), which, evidently, is a connected to the Hittites that the Bible states once settled in the land. In fact, the land of Canaan is even referred to as such on one occasion:

    "Your territory shall extend from the wilderness and the Lebanon to the Great River, the River Euphrates [on the east]—the whole Hittite country—and up to the Mediterranean Sea on the west." (Yehoshua 1:4)
    We know the term refers to Israel - or at least a territory that includes Israel - because of entries such as the following (Nebuchadnezzar's 7th year):

    "In the month of Kislev, the king of Akkad recruited his army and went to the Land of Khet. He laid siege upon the city of Judah. In the month of Adar, the second day, he conquered the city and captured its king. He appointed a king who was to his liking. He accepted their rich tribute and passed it on to Babylon."
    Knowing this, we may now go back to Nebuchadnezzar's first year of reign (605 BCE), where we find the entry:

    "In the year of his crowning, Nevuchadnetzar returned to the Land of Chet, and still during the month of Shevat he paraded around as a ruler, etc"​

    Just to be on the safe side, I checked another translation:

    "In the accession year Nebuchadnezzar went back again to the Hatti-land and until the month of Šabatu."​

    Then I went back to all of the chronicles in the time of Nebuchadnezzar and his father before him, and couldn't find any earlier mentions of "Hatti-land" (Israel). So what did his "return" to a land he never visited in the first place mean?

    To me it seems that the answer lies in Daniel 1:1: Nebuchadnezzar, in fact, had already come to Hatti-land beforehand. That was when he first laid siege upon Jerusalem, and then took with him Judean youths, including Daniel and his friends. We find that this entry in the Babylonian chronicles hints to an event that for some reason wasn't entered into the chronicles, or perhaps was entered and then removed.

    As to why the verse refers to him as "king" when he wasn't yet king at the time, that's another issue. I offered a theory on that as well on Judaism.SE, so if you're interested, you can check the first link.

    So, like I said, thoughts on this idea are welcome. If you have any evidence to disprove the theory, I'd be very happy to see it. if you have evidence to strengthen the theory, I'd be happy to see that as well.
     
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  2. epronovost

    epronovost Well-Known Member

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    There is one giant whole in your hypothesis. If Nebuchadnezzar visited Jerusalem before his crowing it wasn't necessarily to invade the city. He could have went there in embassy or as an honored guest from a foreign power. Why would the Babylonian records omit or destroy the evidence of a military victory of importance? Forgetting to note your own victories isn't something chroniclers are prone to do.
     
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  3. Harel13

    Harel13 Am Yisrael Chai
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    Doubtful. It is evident that most of the Judeans (though not all) were not interested in sucking up to the Babylonians.
    This is an important note, and is really the big question here: Why would something like this be omitted?
    Right now, the only idea I have is that this was done to somehow hurt Daniel's image. How exactly, I can't really say right now. According to the Book of Daniel, other important people in Babylon did not like him.

    Of course, this suggestion may be wrong, but we still have the discrepancy in the Babylonian chronicles, so even if my suggestion is wrong, it doesn't necessarily disprove the main theory.
     
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  4. epronovost

    epronovost Well-Known Member

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    There is what you want to do and then there is what you need to do. Judeans were also uninterested in mass slavery of their own person for the Babylonian, but it did happen. Receiving visitors from rival nations is common practice. The Judean stood no chance in armed conflict against the Babylonians. It would have been foolish of them to deny entry to an embassy.
     
  5. Harel13

    Harel13 Am Yisrael Chai
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    That's true.
    I'm pretty sure all accounts testify they were exiled, not that they were all enslaved.
    Recall that at this time, Judea was a vassal state of Egypt. The Egyptians had just lost at Carcemish, and so it seems that Nebuchadnezzar moved south to show the Judeans - and, presumably, other ethnicities in the region - who's boss. But the Judeans hoped they could hold out against them. So another possible reason why this wasn't explicitly included was that the chroniclers might have just dumped this event within the defeat of the Egyptians.
     
  6. epronovost

    epronovost Well-Known Member

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    Being exiled and enslaved aren't mutually exclusive. They were forced into exile, because they were enslaved (or taken as hostages in the case of the royal family). They were not exiled and then given land within Mesopotamia to live in peace as free subject. They were deported to serve as labor force.

    That doesn't preclude a diplomatic visit around the same time in Jerusalem. In fact it makes it more likely. What better time after you defeated an enemy to try and convince their vassals to turn coat or at least make a show of force and prestige to let them know that the winds are changing. We don't have archeological evidence of two separate attacks on Jerusalem in a short timespan. Furthermore, the passages you have used to interpolate an improbable attack is further damaged by another problem: the battle of Carchemish itself. Carchemish was a city situated in what was once the Hatti land. He came back to the "Hatti-land" to destroy Jerusalem because he already went to the Hatti land to defeat the Egyptians. The Hittite Empire was large and occupied pretty much all of Turkey, most of Syria and had holdings in what is now Lebanon and Palestine.
     
    #6 epronovost, Aug 4, 2021
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2021
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  7. 1213

    1213 Well-Known Member

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    Interesting theory. I think you are probably correct.
     
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  8. Harel13

    Harel13 Am Yisrael Chai
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    I hope I am.
     
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  9. Harel13

    Harel13 Am Yisrael Chai
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    Okay, I think you got me on this one. Your other points are still irrelevant in my opinion, but that doesn't really matter now. Thanks, your assistance is appreciated.
     
  10. Redemptionsong

    Redemptionsong Well-Known Member

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    This article may be of interest.
    The Case for a Sixth Century Dating of Daniel. Appendix 3 of Daniel: Faithful Discipleship in a Foreign Land
     
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