The book of Daniel.

Counted among the writings.

Attributed author(s).

Text(s) available.
None on site.
CCEL: Daniel (Hebrew only).
Swete LXX (Greek only).
Bible Gateway (English only).
Humanities Text Initiative: Prayer of Azariah and song of the three, Susanna, and Bel (English only).
HTML Bible: Daniel 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 (Hebrew and English).
Zhubert (Greek and English).
Kata Pi BHS: Daniel 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 (Hebrew and English).
Kata Pi: Daniel (Theodotion, replacing the LXX) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 (Greek and English).
Kata Pi: Susanna (Theodotion) 1 (Greek and English).
Kata Pi: Bel (Theodotion) 1 (Greek and English).
Kata Pi LXX: Ode 9, prayer of Azariah (Greek and English).
Kata Pi LXX: Ode 10, song of the three (Greek and English).
Sacred Texts: Daniel 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 (polyglot; note that there are two Septuagint columns; the first is the LXX proper, while the second is the Theodotion translation).
Sacred Texts: Prayer of Azariah (song of the three) 1 (English only).
Sacred Texts: Susanna 1 (polyglot).
Sacred Texts: Bel 1 (polyglot).
Sacred Texts: Ode 7, prayer of Azariah (Greek only).
Sacred Texts: Ode 8, song of the three (Greek only).

Useful links.
Daniel at the OT Gateway.
Daniel, the song of the three, Susanna, and Bel in the Jewish Encyclopedia.
EJW (Peter Kirby).
Daniel, the song of the three, Susanna, and Bel at Kata Pi (Oesterly and Robinson).
Daniel from the Plymouth Brethren.
Introduction to Daniel (David Malick).
Outline of Daniel (David Malick).
Outline of Daniel (Daniel Wallace).
The Period of Jewish Independence (Gerald A. Larue).
Daniel and Revelation (Bernard D. Muller).

The book of Daniel is counted as a prophetical book in our English Bibles, but in the Jewish scriptures it is among the writings.

The book was originally written in Hebrew (except Daniel 2.4-7.28, which is in Aramaic), but the ancient Greek translations known as the Septuagint (abbreviated LXX) and Theodotion are also important witnesses to the text. These Greek versions, however, also incorporate several apocryphal additions to the book. These are the prayer of Azariah and the song of the three (comprising 3.24-90 in the Greek text), the story of Susanna (an appendix of sorts), and the story of Bel and the dragon (another appendix).

The LXX version proper was virtually replaced in Christian circles by the later Theodotion version (circa 200). Jerome rhetorically asks in his prologue to Joshua:

Quare Danihelem iuxta Theodotionis translationem ecclesiae susceperunt?

Why have the churches accepted Daniel according to the translation of Theodotion?

Jerome further affirms in his preface to the book of Daniel that the LXX translation is inferior to that of Theodotion (English translation modified from that of Kevin Edgecomb):

Danielem prophetam, iuxta LXX interpretes, domini salvatoris ecclesiae non legunt, utentes Theodotionis editione, et hoc cur acciderit nescio. sive enim quia sermo Chaldaicus est et quibusdam proprietatibus a nostro eloquio discrepat, noluerunt LXX interpretes easdem linguae lineas in translatione servare, sive sub nomine eorum ab alio nescio quo non satis Chaldaeam linguam sciente editus est liber, sive aliud quid causae extiterit ignorans, hoc unum affirmare possum, quod multum a veritate discordet et recto iudicio repudiatus sit.

The churches of the Lord savior do not read the prophet Daniel according to the seventy interpreters, using [instead] the edition of Theodotion, and I do not know why this happened. For whether because the speech is Chaldean and differs in certain properties from our expression, [or whether] the seventy interpreters were not willing to preserve the same lines of language in the translation, or whether the book was edited under their name by some unknown other who did not sufficiently know the Chaldean language, or whether I am ignorant of anything else which was the cause, I can affirm this one thing, that it is much discordant from the truth and with proper judgment is repudiated.

Peter Kirby (Early Jewish Writings).

Azariah and the song of the three.

Peter Kirby surveys scholars writing on the book of Daniel:

W. Sibley Towner writes: "Daniel is one of the few OT books that can be given a fairly firm date. In the form in which we have it (perhaps without the additions of 12:11, 12), the book must have been given its final form some time in the years 167-164 B.C. This dating is based upon two assumptions: first, that the authors lived at the later end of the historical surveys that characterize Daniel 7-12; and second, that prophecy is accurate only when it is given after the fact, whereas predictions about the future tend to run astray. Based upon these assumptions, the references to the desecration of the Temple and the 'abomination that makes desolate' in 8:9-12; 9:27; and 11:31 must refer to events known to the author. The best candidates for the historical referents of these events are the desecration of the Temple in Jerusalem and the erection in it of a pagan altar in the autumn of 167 B.C. by Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The inaccurate description of the end of Antiochus' reign and his death in 11:40-45, on the other hand, suggests that the author did not know of those events, which occurred late in 164 or early in 163 B.C. The roots of the hagiographa (idealizing stories) about Daniel and his friends in chaps. 1-6 may date to an earlier time, but the entire work was given its final shape in 164 B.C." (Harper's Bible Commentary, p. 696)

Louis F. Hartman writes: "Having lost sight of these ancient modes of writing, until relatively recent years Jews and Christians have considered Dn to be true history, containing genuine prophecy. Inasmuch as chs. 7-12 are written in the first person, it was natural to assume that Daniel in chs. 1-6 was a truly historical character and that he was the author of the whole book. There would be few modern biblical scholars, however, who would now seriously defend such an opinion. The arguments for a date shortly before the death of Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 164 are overwhelming. An author living in the 6th cent. could hardly have written the late Hebrew used in Dn, and its Aramaic is certainly later than the Aramaic of the Elephantine papyri, which date from the end of the 5th cent. The theological outlook of the author, with his interest in angelology, his apocalyptic rather than prophetic vision, and especially his belief in the resurrection of the dead, points unescapably to a period long after the Babylonian Exile. His historical perspective, often hazy for events in the time of the Babylonian and Persian kings but much clearer for the events during the Seleucid Dynasty, indicates the Hellenistic age. Finally, his detailed description of the profanation of the Temple of Jerusalem by Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 167 and the following persecution (9:27; 11:30-35) contrasted with his merely general reference to the evil end that would surely come to such a wicked man (11:45), indicates a composition date shortly before the death of this king in 164, therefore probably in 165." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, p. 448)

J. Alberto Soggin writes: "The first difficulties in the historical classification of the book begin with the deportation of Daniel and his companions. We do not in fact know anything of a deportation which took place in the third year of Jehoiakim, i.e. in 607 BC. If we allow its basic historicity, the event might be connected with the conquest of Syria and Palestine by Nebuchadnezzar II a little later, after the battle of Carchemish in 605-4 and the victory over Egypt; it was on this occasion that Jehoiakim moved out of the sphere of Egyptian influence and into that of Babylon (cf. II Chron. 36.5). Complex problems of foreign policy followed, to which we alluded in our discussion of Jeremiah. Until recently the note in Chronicles was considered spurious, since there was no point of comparison, but discoveries during the 1950s of various unedited fragments of the Babylonian Chronicle have unexpectedly made sense of both this passage and II Kings 24.1ff. But even admitting the substantial historicity of the events narrated, there remains the problem of chronology, which is evidently some years out. Other elements are no less perplexing: in 5.11 Belshazzar is implicitly called the son of Nebuchadnezzar and in 7.1 he appears as king of Babylon. However, he was neither one nor the other, but the son of Nabonidus, one of Nebuchadnezzar's successors who came to the throne as the result of a plot. (The only other possibility is that 'son of . . .' is intended in a generic sense, as 'descendant of . . .', a usage which is attested in Akkadian.) On the other hand, the statement that Belshazzar was king may simply be imprecise wording: towards 553 he was resident in Babylon as a kind of lieutenant-general for the king during his numerous absences, and could therefore have been called king, at least by the people. Again, in 5.31, as we have seen, a certain Darius the Mede appears, who is considered to be king of Persia after the fall of Babylon. In 9.1 he appears as son of Xerxes, whereas in 6.29 Cyrus succeeds a Darius. If we are to be precise, the question arises what Daniel is doing at the court of the Medes before the Babylonian empire has fallen, always assuming that we take the term 'Mede' seriously. This question has never been answered. We must therefore accept that Media is in reality Persia. But the genealogy of the kings of Persia is well known: Cyrus, Cambyses, Darius I Hystaspes, Xerxes. If the Darius mentioned here was Darius I from the last quarter of the sixth century, how old would Daniel be? These are features which were already pointed out by the anti-Christian polemicist Celsus at the end of the second century AD." (Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 408)

James King West writes: "The same persecutions that provoked the Maccabean uprising also stimulated the development within Jewish circles of a new literary and theological form known as the apocalypse. The name itself (Greek apokalypsis) means 'revelation' or 'unveiling,' in reference to the revealed truths which such writings purport to convey. The book of Daniel, which comes from this period, is the only true apocalypse in the old Testament, though some portions of other books share close affinities with its style (Isa. 24-27; Ezek. 38-39; Zech. 1:7-6:8; Joel 2:1-11; 4:1-21). Between the second century B.C. and the end of the first century A.D., other books of this genre, both Jewish and Christian, became popular; the Revelation of John in the New Testament is one of its best-known representatives. The characteristic theology of the apocalypse is an eschatological dualism which depicts the present age of world history as about to give way to God's final age—a climactic intervention by God himself for judgment and deliverance. This message is couched in a literary form marked by visions, bizarre imagery, cryptic numbers, and angelic interpreters. Authorship is generally pseudonymous, the works being consigned to some authoritative figure of the distant past, such as Enoch, Moses, Daniel, or Ezra." (Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 417-418)

Jay G. Williams writes: "When the author of Daniel himself attempted to predict the future specifically, he, on the whole, proved to be incorrect. Antiochus did not die as he said nor did his kingdom come to a sudden end. The world still awaits the full manifestation of God's righteous rule upon earth. Still, he was right about one thing. Antiochus did not destroy Israel. On the contrary, the Maccabees (the 'little help' mentioned in 11:34) even led the people to a few moments of glory before the Roman armies put an end to their semi-independent nation. Perhaps our author was wrong in attempting to predict so precisely what was to occur, for the course of history is never easily determined in advance, even by a visionary prophet. He knew, however, that what his people needed was not general platitudes but a specific hope to which to cling. This he provided even at the risk of being wrong. Furthermore, his central, motivating thesis is one which faithful men can hardly reject. Essentially the book of Daniel is an affirmation of the faith that the God of Israel has dominion over the world and that in the end he will save his people. Daniel teaches that the faithful man must live expectantly, with the hope that the Kingdom of God is indeed at hand." (Understanding the Old Testament, p. 316)

Peter Kirby also surveys scholars writing on the prayer of Azariah and the song of the three:

Louis F. Hartman writes of Daniel 3:24-90 (LXX): "This part of the chapter, embracing the Prayer of Azariah (26-45) and the Hymn of the Three Men (52-90a), with the prose introduction (24-25), interlude (46-51), and conclusion (90b), is preserved only in the Gk version and the ancient translations made from it. The original was in either Hebrew or Aramaic. Although not present in the MT, this so-called 'deuterocanonical fragment' has always been regarded as part of the canonical, inspired Scriptures. However, it is not part of the original story, but rather an addition made by an inspired author who took existing liturgical prayers, adapted them slightly, and inserted them here, with a few sentences of his own to make a smoother nexus." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, p. 452)

Robert Doran writes: "In both versions [LXX and Theodotian] this passage lies between MT Dan. 3:23 and 3:24 and consists of three unequal parts: first, the Prayer of Azariah, the Hebrew name of Abednego (vv. 1-22); second, a short prose account of the fate of the three Jews in the furnace (vv. 23-27); third, a hymn sung by the three youths while in the furnace (vv. 28-68). The relationship between MT Dan 3:23 and 3:24 is highly dramatic. The three Jewish youths are thrown into an incredibly hot furnace and presumably destroyed, when suddenly Nebuchadnezzar is perturbed and in astonishment claims to see four men in the fire, the fourth looking like a divine being. Nebuchadnezzar reacts to the miracle by praising the God of the Jews. The author of the Addition must have found the transition too sudden and provided the details of the miracle. As in Exodus 15, 1 Samuel 2, and elsewhere, the narrative is supplemented by poetic material. Deliverance comes in response to prayer, and deliverance demands a hymn of praise. The Addition thus emphasizes the reciprocal covenantal faithfulness of God and the three young men." (Harper's Bible Commentary, p. 863)

James King West writes: "As the angel appears to dispel the deadly flames the three young men burst into song with what are, as the change in the form of address and responsory indicates, actually two canticles. Verses 52-56, Benedictus es, Domine, are addressed as a blessing directly to God; verses 57-90, Benedicite, omnia opera, call upon all the works of nature to bless the Lord. That these canticles, except for verse 88 which was undoubtedly added to adapt the canticle to its present use, are general hymns of praise and have no more connection with their context in Daniel than does the Prayer of Azariah, suggests that they, along with the Prayer, came from an otherwise unknown collection of psalms. From ancient times these canticles have been a part of the psalmnody of the Church. In the Roman Breviary the Benedictus es, Domine, with the addition of the first verse (vs. 57) of the second canticle, is used as the fourth psalm in the Sunday Office, Lauds II (for Lent); and in Lauds I (for the remaining Sundays of the year) the fourth psalm consists of a condensed form of the Benedicite, omnia opera, substituting a blessing of the Trinity and the last verse (vs. 56) of the first canticle for verses 88b-90, and omitting most of the responsories. The Benedicite also occurs as the celebrant's private thanksgiving after Mass in the Roman Rite (cf. the Book of Common Prayer, pp. 11-13). It is very similar in structure to Psalm 136 and in theme and content to Psalm 148 (cf. Ps. 150). R. H. Pfeiffer suggests that these hymns involving the works of creation may have been inspired by Ecclesiasticus 43 (cf. Ps. 19; Job 38; Ps. 104; Gen. 1:1-2:4). This theme reappears in St. Francis' well-known Laudes creaturarum." (Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 457)

Marjorie L. Kimbrough writes: "Many of us are familiar with the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, three Hebrew boys who refused to worship the golden statue even under threat of being thrown into the fiery furnace. Their story is found in Daniel 3, and the original Hebrew names given to them were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; the more familiar names were assigned by the Babylonian palace master (Dan. 1:7). Thus, the prayer of Azariah is the prayer of Abednego, and it begins after the three have been thrown into a fire whose flames are so intense that they killed the men who threw them in (v. 25; see Dan. 3:22). But Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah sing hymns to God, and Azariah prays aloud, 'Blessed are you, O Lord, God of our ancestors, and worthy of praise; and glorious is your name forever!' (v. 3)." (Stories Between the Testaments, pp. 65-66)

Daniel J. Harrington writes: "The language of Azariah's prayer is thoroughly biblical, and it was probably composed in Hebrew and translated into Greek. Its present narrative setting in the Greek version of Daniel 3 is Babylon in the sixth century during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. However, the references in verse 9 to 'lawless and hateful rebels' and to 'an unjust king, the most wicked in all the world' may reflect the coalition between 'progressive' Jews and Antiochus IV Epiphanes that appears in 1 Maccabees 1. Thus the prayer may have addressed the crisis in Judea in 167-165 B.C.E. that is reflected in most of the book of Daniel." (Invitation to the Apocrypha, p. 110)

David A. deSilva writes: "The anonymous author or authors clearly were quite sensitive to and familiar with the liturgical traditions of intertestamental penitential prayers, as well as the more celebratory hymns among the psalms. The probability of a Hebrew original for the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men, if not the connecting narrative (Pr. Azar. 23-27), points to a Palestinian provenance. Dating prayers and hymns is notoriously difficult, but there may be a reflection of the Hellenization crisis in Pr. Azar. 9, which speaks of the pious being handed over to apostates and a supremely wicked king (Harrington 1999: 10; Metzger 1957: 103; Moore 1992d: 19). The use of the terms anomon and apostaton in Pr. Azar. 9 makes this suggestion somewhat more plausible. The former may be used of Gentiles, but the latter speaks of those who formerly kept the Torah but 'turned away' at some point. The conjunction of lapsed Jews and a foreign king who together act as 'enemies' toward the Torah-observant naturally conjures up the period of 175-164 B.C.E. The Song of the Three Young Men, on the other hand, provides no such reminiscences and could be considerably older than the rest of Daniel. As with the other additions, a terminus ad quem of 100 B.C.E., the approximate time of translation into Greek (the Septuagint edition), is appropriate (Moore 1977: 29)." (Introducing the Apocrypha, p. 227)

Peter Kirby also surveys scholars writing on the Susanna addition:

James King West writes: "This story is a literary masterpiece. Although the two recensions in the LXX and Theodotian differ in some details, the essence of the story in both versions concerns Susanna, the young wife of Joakim, whose remarkable beauty incites the lustful passion of two elders appointed as judges for the Jewish community in Babylon. Having accidentally disclosed to each other their common passion, they plot to seduce Susanna. When they surprise her alone in her garden she refuses to yield to them, whereupon, in a development similar to the story of Potiphar's wife in Genesis 39:6b-20, they accuse her of committing adultery with a young man who has escaped unrecognized. Being the judges, they condemn her to death on their own testimony. As Susanna is being led to execution, however, Daniel is inspired to intervene. Insisting that they have not learned the facts, he asks each of the judges under what kind of tree he had been standing when he saw the alleged affair; since their stories do not agree they are exposed and executed, Susanna's life and honor are spared, and Daniel earns 'a great reputation among the people' (13:64)." (Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 458)

Robert Doran writes: "In the LXX version of the story the leaders of the people are contrasted with the youth to whom a spirit of insight has been given (v. 45). While Theodotion speaks of God rousing the Holy Spirit already in the youth, the LXX has an angel injecting the Spirit into the youth. The leaders of the people are viewed with suspicion. As the statement in v. 51b (found only in the LXX) indicates, one should not believe the elders simply because they are elders. Insight belongs not by right to those in authority; it is given. The conclusion, formulated to draw the moral of the story, states that the education of the youths is to be carefully guarded—they will live reverently and a spirit of insight will be in them. Such a conclusion seems an attempt to assert control over the youths, for the thrust of the story itself leads in the opposite direction, to a critique of institutional authority and a distinction between institutional office and the spirit of insight." (Harper's Bible Commentary, p. 865)

Louis F. Hartman writes: "The Theodotion form of this story, on which the CCD is based, is told in a more dramatic form than in the shorter LXX version. Although the latter seems to be, in general, an abridged recension, it has perhaps preserved a few passages that seem closer to the original than the corresponding passages in the other form. One of these is Daniel's question to the false witnesses, which, according to the LXX, reads: 'Under what tree and in what part of the garden did you see them together?' It seems to imply that the original Semitic story involved a question, not about trees, but about the locality, in some other sense, of the supposed crime. The Gk pun on the names of the trees (see comments on vv. 55, 59) could then by considered a new element added in the Gk form of the story and thus no argument against the presumed Semitic language of the original." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, p. 459)

J. Alberto Soggin writes: "The story of Susanna, which R. H. Pfeiffer somewhat irreverently but aptly compared with a detective story, in all probability echoes the content of a popular tale, adapted by Israel to its beliefs and used to celebrate divine omniscience and conjugal virtue. Julius Africanus (Migne, PG 11, 44f.) already expressed his doubts on the Hebrew origin of the story in a letter to Origen, since it is full of word-plays which are only possible in Greek. However, the question has yet to be resolved. Of course it is futile to discuss its historicity, given the novelistic character of the narratives and the liturgical character of the poetical compositions, or to consider its relationship with the proto-canonical book of Daniel." (Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 442-443)

Daniel J. Harrington writes: "The great turning point in the story comes with God's response to Susanna's protestation of innocence: 'The Lord heard her cry' (v. 44). And Daniel emerges as the human instrument by which Susanna's innocence is proven and she is delivered from death and restored to her family. The message of the Susanna story is that God will vindicate the innocent sufferer. The episode illustrates the power of trust in God and of prayer in the midst of suffering, as well as God's use of the human wisdom displayed by Daniel." (Invitation to the Apocrypha, p. 116)

Louis F. Hartman writes: "Superficially, at least, the primary purpose of the story is to show that virtue (here in the form of conjugal chastity) triumphs, with God's help, over vice (here in the form of lust and deceit). Inasmuch as this story belongs to the 'Daniel Cycle,' it also offers another example of this hero's God-given wisdom. Exegetes, however, have sought deeper meanings in the tale. For some exegetes it is a sort of parable. The two wicked elders ('offspring of Canaan,' i.e., idolators) would symbolize the pagans and the apostate Jews, especially at the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who tried to make the Jews, here symbolized by Susanna, fall into the sin of apostasy from Yahweh—the sin that the prophets often called fornication and adultery. The 'daughters of Israel'—i.e., the Samaritans—might indeed by seduced by the alluring pagan Hellenism, but not the 'daughter of Judah' (v. 57)—i.e., the good Jews. Susanna's heroic statement, 'It is better for me to fall into your power without guilt than to sin before the Lord' (v. 23), would then be a fine expression of the sentiments of the Maccabean martyrs when offered the choice between apostasy and death. Still other exegetes would see in this story an indictment by some writer of the Pharisees against the worldly minded Sadducees who acted as 'elders' or leaders of the people. In this case the story would be a midrash on the pseudo-biblical quotation of v. 5 (cf. R. A. F. MacKenzie, 'The Meaning of the Susanne Story,' CanJT 3 [1957] 211-18)." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, p. 459)

David A. deSilva writes: "It is difficult to determine the date of this story. While Daniel's name may only have come to be included later, the story itself resonates well with the condition of Jews throughout most of the Persian and Hellenistic periods. The Jewish community envisioned in the story has a high level of self-governance within Gentile domination, which was true of several Diaspora communities as well as Judea during much of the intertestamental period. The probability of a Semitic original would also suggest a provenance in Palestine or the eastern Diaspora. The hint of the superiority of a daughter of Judah, who bravely resisted the elders' constraint, to the daughters of Israel (i.e., the northern tribes), who yielded to the elders in the past, suggests that the author would have regarded himself as a Judahite (Collins 1993: 438)." (Introducing the Apocrypha, p. 233)

Peter Kirby also surveys scholars writing on the Bel addition:

James King West writes of Daniel 14:1-22: "The second story is a satire on pagan divinities in the vein of Isaiah 44:9-20 and the Letter of Jeremiah (Baruch 6). In a discussion with King Cyrus of Babylon as to why he does not worship Cyrus' idol called Bel, Daniel denies the king's claim that Bel eats the food offered to him daily. When Bel's priests are challenged to prove it, they allow the king to place the food in the temple and seal the door. In the meantime Daniel has ashes sifted over the floor. The next day Daniel and the king find the food gone but the floor is covered with footprints. Discovering the secret doors by which he had been deceived, Cyrus is enraged and orders the execution of the priests and their families, while Daniel is permitted to destroy the temple and the idol." (Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 458)

Louis F. Hartman writes of Daniel 14:1-22: "This little 'detective story' is another folk tale of the 'Daniel Cycle.' It is a Jewish satire on the crudities of idolatry, although actually it is a caricature of pagan worship. The offering of food and drink in sacrifice to pagan gods did not differ substantially from similar offerings made to Yahweh in the Temple. In both cases, a certain amount of the sacrificial offerings went quite legitimately to the priests and their families. However, the Jews of the last pre-Christian centuries were so convinced of the folly of idolatry (cf. Wis 13:1-15:17) that this unfair ridicule of pagan worship is understandable." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, p. 460)

James King West writes of Daniel 14:23-42: "In the companion story the same motive of lampooning pagan deities is apparent. The issue is approached, however, from the opposite angle. Whereas Bel is nothing more than a man-made statue, a fact which is easily demonstrated by its inability to eat, the dragon is manifestly a living creature and does eat. To prove that the dragon also is no god, therefore, Daniel must somehow show that merely being alive and able to eat is not sufficient evidence to establish divinity. This he does by offering to perform the apparently impossible feat of slaying the dragon 'without sword or club' (14:26). The king's acceptance of Daniel's challenge is a tacit admission of the premise that if Daniel succeeds the dragon is no god. Having concocted some cakes of pitch, fat, and hair, he feeds them to the witless beast which promptly explodes." (Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 458-459)

Louis F. Hartman writes of Daniel 14:23-42: "Another short story of the 'Daniel Cycle,' it is basically a variant of the story told in Dn 6 (Daniel in the lions' den). Here is included another satire on pagan worship—Daniel's blowing up of the Babylonians' divine serpent. Although once an independent story, in its present form it is edited to follow the preceding tale (cf. v. 28); in all the Gk manuscripts, the two stories are together, and the LXX even prefixes to the former the note, 'From the prophecy of Habakkuk, son of Jesus, of the tribe of Levi.'" (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, p. 460)

Daniel J. Harrington writes of Daniel 14:23-42: "This addition is a combination of three episodes: Daniel and the dragon (vv. 23-28), Daniel in the lions' den (vv. 29-32, 40-42), and Habakkuk's magical journey (vv. 33-39). The three episodes are loosely joined in a plot that vindicates Daniel and the God whom he worships, and are linked to the Story of Bel by verse 28 ('he has destroyed Bel, and killed the dragon')." (Invitation to the Apocrypha, p. 118)

David A. deSilva writes (Introducing the Apocrypha, pp. 239-240):

While the author remains anonymous, some scholars have ventured to posit a very specific time and circumstance of composition. Davies (1913: 656), for example, suggests composition in a time of serious religious persecution, as under Antiochus VII Sidetes. The assertion that 'the general character of this tract' suggests authorship during a time of bitter persecution is without foundation, arising no doubt from the unwarranted reading of the actions against Daniel in the second part of the story as a reflection of the author's own time. Moreover, the picture of Antiochus VII painted by Josephus (Jewish Antiquities 13.236-248) does not support the claim that he was an enemy of the Jewish religion per se. Although he retaliated against Simon's anti-Seleucid actions by invading Judea and even besieging Jerusalem, and although he pressed the seige so hard that many died of famine, he showed himself quite favorably disposed toward Jewish piety, allowing a truce for the week of the Pentecost celebration at John Hyrcanus's request and even providing bulls for sacrifices, winning himself the epithet 'Antiochus the Pious.' This display of reverence toward Jewish piety led to a resolution of the dispute shortly thereafter.

The composition of Bel and the Dragon was inspired not by persecution but by the perennial problem of living as a minority, monolatrous culture in an idol-worshipping world. The attack on both idolatry and zoolatry makes Egypt the place where the stories would be most on target with regard to the religious alternatives encountered by God-fearing Jews (see the Egyptian Jewish texts Wis. 11:15-16; 15:18-19; Letter of Aristeas 138) (Roth 1975: 43), who could profit from some reinforcement of the unique truth of their own religious heritage despite the lavish expenditures and apparent devotion of their neighbors toward their gods. The main obstacle to this provenance is the fact that no known Egyptian Jewish text was composed in Aramaic or Hebrew (Collins 1993: 419). Thus, while this provenance is not impossible, since not all Egyptian Jews need to be supposed to have forgotten their ancestral language, it is more likely that the story originates in Palestine and that idolatry and zoolatry simply are attacked as two well-known forms of Gentile impiety.

Robert Doran writes: "The narrative has been nicely welded together into a single plot. The LXX and Theodotion use different connectives, but in both versions the narrative coheres. The major actors remain the same throughout—Daniel, the king, and the Babylonians. Both Bel and the snake are characterized as objects that the Babylonians worship (vv. 3, 23). After the snake is destroyed, all those from the region (LXX v. 23; Theodotion: 'the Babylonians') came against Daniel to complain that the king had become a Jew, had overthrown Bel, and had killed the snake. The story of the threat to Daniel's life is thus strongly connected with the preceding narrative. The king's first confession of Bel's greatness (v. 18) and his final confession of Daniel's God (v. 41) use almost exactly the same formulas, even though LXX and Theodotion offer minor differences. This repitition is highly significant and helps unite the narrative. The LXX further connects the two episodes by the phrase 'in that place' in v. 23, but also by developing the motif of eating. This motif dominates the Bel episode (vv. 7, 8, 9, 11, 15, 17, 21). In the snake episode the king claims, 'You cannot say he is bronze. Look, he lives and eats and drinks.' Daniel then destroys the snake by offering it fatal food (v. 23). In the Theodotionic version the connection is made through the notion of life: Daniel worships the living God (v. 5), while Bel is not a living God (v. 6); the king asserts that Daniel cannot say that the snake is not a living God (v. 24), but Daniel insists that it is his God who lives (v. 25). The links between all the episodes in both versions are so pervasive that the narrative must be seen to be a whole. Such stories, of course, could theoretically have existed independently, but there is no evidence that they did." (Harper's Bible Commentary, p. 868)