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August 1, 2016

BEL AND THE DRAGON

by Leslie John

BEL AND THE DRAGON

“3 Now the Babylons had an idol, called Bel, and there were spent upon him every day twelve great measures of fine flour, and forty sheep, and six vessels of wine. 4 And the king worshipped it and went daily to adore it: but Daniel worshipped his own God. And the king said unto him, Why dost not thou worship Bel? 5 Who answered and said, Because I may not worship idols made with hands, but the living God, who hath created the heaven and the earth, and hath sovereignty over all flesh. 6 Then said the king unto him, Thinkest thou not that Bel is a living God? seest thou not how much he eateth and drinketh every day? 7 Then Daniel smiled, and said, O king, be not deceived: for this is but clay within, and brass without, and did never eat or drink any thing. 8 So the king was wroth, and called for his priests, and said unto them, If ye tell me not who this is that devoureth these expences, ye shall die. 9 But if ye can certify me that Bel devoureth them, then Daniel shall die: for he hath spoken blasphemy against Bel. And Daniel said unto the king, Let it be according to thy word. Bel and the Dragon Chapter 1:3-9[1]

“27 Then Daniel took pitch, and fat, and hair, and did seethe them together, and made lumps thereof: this he put in the dragon’s mouth, and so the dragon burst in sunder: and Daniel said, Lo, these are the gods ye worship. 28 When they of Babylon heard that, they took great indignation, and conspired against the king, saying, The king is become a Jew, and he hath destroyed Bel, he hath slain the dragon, and put the priests to death” Bel and the Dragon Chapter 1:27-28[2]

Two stories that were not in the original Hebrew text were included in the Septuagint Greek version in about 150-100 BC of the book of Daniel. In the canonical Old Testament Bible which is based on the text from original Hebrew text Daniel’s refusal to worship the idol set up by Persian King Darius does not say that he challenged their gods “Bel” and the “Dragon” by refusing to worship them or offer any sacrifice to them, but it only says Daniel prayed to God three times a day opening the window of his chamber facing east toward Jerusalem. He refused to obey the ordinance signed by the king that anyone who “shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days”, except the king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. Daniel was triumphant in coming out of the den of lions because God closed the mouths of lions.

Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever.  All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions.  Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not.  Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree”. (Daniel 6:6-9)[3]

The story of Daniel throwing gauntlets at the king was in the Septuagint but not in the original Hebrew Text. The story of “Bel” narrates that Daniel refused give an offering to the idol saying that idol does not have mouth to eat. The priests, who were commanded by the king to show how the idols ate the offering, go into the temple subtly through a secret door and eat the offering only to be caught red-handed by Daniel, who had spread ashes on the floor that caught the foot prints of the priests.  The second story of the “Dragon” is of Daniel refusing to worship the dragon and challenging to kill it. He does it by feeding it a concoction of fat, hair and pitch. The dragon eats and dies. Daniel enemies, however, throw him into the den of lions, where lions were already fed their belly full by the prophet Habakkuk, who is brought there with enough food by the angels. Daniel is thrown into the den of lions and escapes the death. This was a fictional story included much later after the Persian rule.

[1] King James Bible “Authorized Version”, Cambridge Edition

[2] King James Bible “Authorized Version”, Cambridge Edition

[3] The Holy Bible KJV

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