Additions to Daniel
In most English Bibles the book of Daniel is presented as found in the text of the Hebrew Bible (the Masoretic Text, or MT). The Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible often called the Septuagint (or LXX) contained the whole of the book of Daniel as seen in Hebrew but also preserved a prayer (The Prayer of Azariah), a song (The Song of the Three Young Men), and two additional stories not found in the Hebrew edition (Susanna, Bel and the Dragon); this extra material is often called the additions to Daniel. Even though many fragments of Daniel have been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, these additions were not part of them; to this day we have no evidence of their existence in Hebrew or Aramaic. The additions most likely date from the late Persian through the Hellenistic period of Jewish history (ca. 400-167 BCE).
The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men (also called the Song of the Three Jews, or the Song of the Holy Youth) was inserted between Daniel 3:23-24. The Prayer of Azariah represents a prayer confessing the transgression of the people and a request for mercy and deliverance (Daniel 3:25-45 LXX). Despite the furious feeding and stoking of the fire by the Chaldeans, the angel of the Lord comes and drives the flame out of the furnace; the young men were not harmed by the fire (Daniel 3:46-50 LXX). In grateful response Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah sing the Song of the Three Young Men, pronouncing blessings upon the Lord and exhorting all creatures and people to bless the Lord in the form of a call and response (Daniel 3:51-91 LXX).
Susanna (also called Susanna and the Elders) was added at the end of Daniel as Daniel 13:1-64. The story concerns one Susanna daughter of Hilkiah and wife of Joakim, a beautiful and virtuous woman (Daniel 13:1-4 LXX). Two wicked Jewish elders begin to lust for her, hid in the garden where she bathed, and attempted to blackmail her into engaging into adultery with them (Daniel 13:5-21 LXX). Susanna refused but the elders bring accusations that she was committing adultery with a young man (Daniel 13:22-41 LXX). The assembly believed them and condemned Susanna to death; Susanna cried out to God, and God sent Daniel to exonerate her (Daniel 13:42-46 LXX). Daniel cross-examined the two elders separately, and each identified a different type of tree as the one under which they claimed to have seen the adultery (Daniel 13:47-59 LXX). The two elders were put to death, Susanna’s integrity was upheld, and Daniel’s reputation was secured among the people (Daniel 13:60-64 LXX).
Bel and the Dragon represents three stories brought together and added at the end of Daniel as Daniel 14:1-42. The first story is about Bel (Daniel 14:1-22 LXX). Cyrus king of Persia believes in Bel; Daniel does not. Cyrus believes Bel has been eating the food and drink offered before him; Daniel does not. Cyrus challenges the priests of Bel about who has been eating the food; they suggest that he set the food and drink in the Temple of Bel and to shut the door and seal it, and he does so (Daniel 14:1-12 LXX). The priests have a secret door they enter and come and eat the food; the king sees the food eaten despite the seal being intact, but Daniel points out the footprints on the floor (Daniel 14:13-20 LXX). They showed the secret door they had been using, and Cyrus has them executed (Daniel 14:21-22 LXX).
The second story is about a dragon revered by the Babylonians (Daniel 14:23-30 LXX). Cyrus wants Daniel to prostrate before the dragon as a living god, but Daniel refuses; Daniel kills the dragon by feeding it cakes of pitch, fat, and hair; he proves his point but the Babylonians are enraged (Daniel 14:23-30 LXX).
The third story describes the Babylonians’ punishment of Daniel by throwing him into a lion’s den (Daniel 14:31-42 LXX). Daniel is cast into a lion’s den for six days (Daniel 14:31-32 LXX). Habakkuk the prophet, living in Judah, had made stew; an angel tells him to take it to Daniel in Babylon and carries him there so he can do so (Daniel 14:33-39 LXX). Cyrus saw Daniel in the den on the seventh day, rescued him, and cast Daniel’s accusers into the den (Daniel 14:40-42 LXX).
The additions to Daniel are not inspired but are apocryphal and deuterocanonical; “Azariah” declares that no prophet is in the land (Daniel 3:38 LXX) even though Daniel, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel were contemporaries of the actual Azariah. Once exiled Daniel was separated out and spent his time in the royal household (Daniel 1:3-6); the situation of the story of Susanna is thus rather suspect. Bel and the Dragon is rather fanciful and dependent on the existing Daniel narrative (e.g. Daniel 6:1-28). Yet, as representatives of Jewish literature of the Second Temple period, the additions to Daniel tell us about the stories they told and the prayers and songs they offered to God. The additions tell us what they thought of Daniel, Habakkuk, and the three young men, the importance of justice, and the folly of idolatry. Even if not inspired the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men have proven edifying to many in their devotions to God to this day. In the end, the additions to Daniel help reinforce the integrity, legitimacy, and inspiration of the original text of Daniel; how could a text written so late have so many later accretions and be so well represented in the Dead Sea Scrolls without those additions? We do well to recognize the additions to Daniel for the apocryphal stories they are and affirm the importance of the book of Daniel as preserved in its original Hebrew and Aramaic!
Ethan R. Longhenry