Daniel Chapter Two,  Daniel, the Prophet,  Expository Articles

Answering an Aramaic Enigma: Part Four


Is the Bible merely a collection of ancient documents or a divinely inspired, carefully arranged book? Liberal theologians have argued the former and denied the latter. However, disregarding the divine source of the Scriptures prevents them from understanding even its human features, and this fact is demonstrated in their continued confusion regarding the Book of Daniel.

Researchers still can’t understand why Daniel was composed in two languages, but their predicament actually arises from their unwillingness to treat Scripture as Scripture. An Aramaic composition of Daniel 2–7 makes perfect sense if we are willing to take biblical accounts at face value. More than that, a deeper look reveals that divine genius was well at work through the entire process.

A Word to the Nations

Thus shall you say to them:

“The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth,

shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens.”

Jeremiah 10:11

In my last post, I argued that Jeremiah’s Aramaic declaration is directly linked to the Aramaic section of Daniel. In fact, this verse and its corresponding chapters in Daniel are exactly what one would expect in light of Israel’s history with Aramaic as well as its role within the writings of the prophets. Take a good look at Jeremiah 10:11 and consider the following points:

  • The Aramaic section of Daniel opens with the wise men of Babylon in a position of helplessness:

Then the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. And the king said to them, “I had a dream, and my spirit is troubled to know the dream.” Then the Chaldeans said to the king in Aramaic, “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation.”

Daniel 2:4

The kings’ magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and Chaldeans were religious officials responsible for providing insight to the king through various forms of divination. Masters of divination and wisdom were well known and sought after by rulers (Nu. 22:5; Gen. 41:14, 1 Kin.4:31), and Babylon’s college of religious wisdom was an elite assemblage of spiritual experts from throughout the known world. No other place could furnish a better representation of the gods of the nations. Daniel’s Aramaic arrives at the scene when these nations and their gods are found to be totally inadequate (Daniel 2:10–12).

  • The Aramaic of Daniel begins with a vision that predicted the overthrow of man’s kingdoms and the establishment of a divine kingdom. Notably, the vision is depicted in the complete destruction of a man-made idol by a naturally made stone. The stone’s relation to the statue is foreign, cataclysmic, and final:
Letoon Trilingual Stele
Above: The Letoon Trilingual Stele features an inscription given in Lycian, Greek, and Aramaic. The inscription records a Persian decree authorizing the establishment of a cult site in ancient Lycia (southwest Turkey). 

And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold.

Daniel 2:44–45a

  • Each Aramaic chapter of Daniel demonstrates God’s total superiority over every earthly king and kingdom (Dan. 2:47; 3:28–29; 4:37; 5:23; 6:26–27; 7:11–12, 14). The complete superiority and sovereignty of God over every human authority is the guiding theme that connects these chapters.

  • The closing Aramaic chapter of Daniel (7) parallels and expands upon the first Aramaic chapter (2), displaying and elaborating on the divine judgment of man’s kingdoms and the establishment of a kingdom of the heavens.

And the kingdom and the dominion ​​​​​​​and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven ​​​​​​​shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; ​​​​​​​their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, ​​​​​​​and all dominions shall serve and obey them.

Daniel 7:27
  • All of these chapters were written in Aramaic, the official language of Babylon and Persia and the lingua franca of the Near East until the Muslim conquests (636 AD). In other words, the visions detailing the succession of empires—Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome—were actually composed in the dominant language during the periods when those empires were ruling. For nearly a millennium the nations of the world were provided with God’s commentary on the events that were happening around them. God was live streaming His mind on geopolitical events over the broadband of imperial Aramaic.

  • Jeremiah 10:11, the only Aramaic verse to appear before Daniel’s ministry, was a declaration to the nations. Remarkably, that declaration expresses the core theme of Daniel 2–7:

“The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth

shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens.”

Objections?

But is any of this truly scientific? Liberal scholarship could assert that I am confusing a head with a tail, something along the line of, “The correspondence between Jeremiah 10:11 merely shows that the author(s) of Daniel 2–7 were influenced by Jeremiah’s ministry and his powerful use of Aramaic. Brian, you’re merely using religious faith to fill in what you cannot know through research.”

Well, let’s examine this objection. Next week we will conclude our study of this topic with an assessment of traditional interpretation according to the principles and demands of the scientific process.  We will also conclude our study of Daniel’s Aramaic with a summary of its role and significance within Old Testament Scripture.

Have a question or comment? We’d love to hear from you. Submit your response in the box below.

Photos by Panegyrics of Granovetter are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Brian Warren

Brian Warren is a regular teacher at Grace and Truth Gathering in Portland, Oregon where he has been faithfully attending since 2014. He has served as a full-time preacher and teacher of the Scriptures since 2009, frequently speaking at camps, conferences, and Christian gatherings throughout the United States and Canada. Brian and his wife Jennifer have been married fourteen years and enjoy an active life with their six children.

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