Notes on Additions to the Book of Daniel

In addition to the Story of Susanna, the Book of Daniel has two other chief additions, or perhaps latter revisions: The Song of the Three Children, and Bel and the Dragon. Neither are considered canonical according to Hebrew or Protestant traditions, however certain Eastern, Orthodox, and Catholic traditions accept these short additions as Biblical. The texts also appear in the Greek Septuagint. They are also found variously in the English Book of Common Prayer.

First, The Song of the Three Children, sometimes called the “Three Holy Children” is a short extension of Chapter 3 of Daniel. Three Jews have been cast into the fiery furnace by the tyrant, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. The first, and main section of the text includes an extended prayer by Azariah, called “Abednego” in Babylonian, Daniel’s friend. It is a prayer of thanks and penitence, as well as an apology for the three friends and their unfaithfulness. In the prayer, the fourth figure (sometimes translated as an “angel” from God or even as a “son of God”) is described in the prayer -he was not burned by the fire. Observing this, the king removes the three from the fire and places them in high offices. The three are: Radshak, Meshak, and Abednego in Babylonian (Hanania, Mishael, and Azaria in Hebrew). Recall, they were the three who refused to bow before a golden idol commanded by Nebuchadnezzar. The prayer ends with exaltation, repeating the phrase: “Praise and exalt Him above all forever…” as the three friends realize they have been spared, the king was persuaded thanks to a miracle. It is a beautiful song of hope and thanksgiving.

The song is absent from the Hebrew or Aramaic versions of the Hebrew Bible, but is included in Greek versions.

The story of Bel and the Dragon is an extension of Chapter 14 of Daniel. It is a fabricated collection of vignettes in which Daniel sits at the court of Cyrus in Persia. In the first, he persuades Cyrus that his priests are wrong -Bel (perhaps Baal?) the idol in the temple is not consuming the food he leaves out. So they test it, Daniel leaves ashes on the floor of the temple. If he is wrong, Daniel will be put to death, if he is right, his priests will be put to death. Sure enough, the following day they find footprints on the floor of the temple, through the ashes, as the priests had entered the temple through a secret door. So Cyrus condemns his priests to death.

The second vignette is an expansion on the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. There is a great Dragon (sometimes written as “Draco”) that the Babylonians feared. In order to defeat it, Daniel feeds the dragon food that bursts the insides of the dragon open when he consumes it. Thus Daniel is handed over from the Persians to the Babylonians and he is cast into the lion’s den. Then an “Angel of the Lord” appears to Habbakuk, a prophet, and he leads him with food to the lion’s den to feed Daniel. Thus Daniel survives and is praised by Babylon, while his enemies are cast into the lion’s den and devoured instantly right in front of his face.

These latter stories reaffirm the praise of Daniel for his guile, rather than his strength of arms. Bel and the Dragon only lasts about a chapter’s length.

For this reading I used an internet-based Project Gutenberg translation.

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