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Daniel 2:1-13

Context
Nebuchadnezzar Has a Disturbing Dream

2:1 In the second year of his 1  reign Nebuchadnezzar had many dreams. 2  His mind 3  was disturbed and he suffered from insomnia. 4  2:2 The king issued an order 5  to summon the magicians, astrologers, sorcerers, and wise men 6  in order to explain his dreams to him. 7  So they came and awaited the king’s instructions. 8 

2:3 The king told them, “I have had a dream, 9  and I 10  am anxious to understand the dream.” 2:4 The wise men replied to the king: [What follows is in Aramaic 11 ] “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will disclose its 12  interpretation.” 2:5 The king replied 13  to the wise men, “My decision is firm. 14  If you do not inform me of both the dream and its interpretation, you will be dismembered 15  and your homes reduced to rubble! 2:6 But if you can disclose the dream and its interpretation, you will receive from me gifts, a reward, and considerable honor. So disclose to me the dream and its interpretation!” 2:7 They again replied, “Let the king inform us 16  of the dream; then we will disclose its 17  interpretation.” 2:8 The king replied, “I know for sure that you are attempting to gain time, because you see that my decision is firm. 2:9 If you don’t inform me of the dream, there is only one thing that is going to happen to you. 18  For you have agreed among yourselves to report to me something false and deceitful 19  until such time as things might change. So tell me the dream, and I will have confidence 20  that you can disclose its interpretation.”

2:10 The wise men replied to the king, “There is no man on earth who is able to disclose the king’s secret, 21  for no king, regardless of his position and power, has ever requested such a thing from any magician, astrologer, or wise man. 2:11 What the king is asking is too difficult, and no one exists who can disclose it to the king, except for the gods – but they don’t live among mortals!” 22 

2:12 Because of this the king got furiously angry 23  and gave orders to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. 2:13 So a decree went out, and the wise men were about 24  to be executed. They also sought 25  Daniel and his friends so that they could be executed.

1 tn Heb “Nebuchadnezzar’s.” The possessive pronoun is substituted in the translation for stylistic reasons.

2 tn Heb “dreamed dreams.” The plural is used here and in v. 2, but the singular in v. 3. The plural “dreams” has been variously explained. Some interpreters take the plural as denoting an indefinite singular (so GKC 400 §124.o). But it may be that it is describing a stream of related dreams, or a dream state. In the latter case, one might translate: “Nebuchadnezzar was in a trance.” See further, J. A. Montgomery, Daniel (ICC), 142.

3 tn Heb “his spirit.”

4 tn Heb “his sleep left (?) him.” The use of the verb הָיָה (hayah, “to be”) here is unusual. The context suggests a meaning such as “to be finished” or “gone.” Cf. Dan 8:27. Some scholars emend the verb to read נָדְדָה (nadÿdah, “fled”); cf. Dan 6:19. See further, DCH 2:540 s.v. היה I Ni.3; HALOT 244 s.v. היה nif; BDB 227-28 s.v. הָיָה Niph.2.

5 tn Heb “said.” So also in v. 12.

6 tn Heb “Chaldeans.” The term Chaldeans (Hebrew כַּשְׂדִּים, kasdim) is used in the book of Daniel both in an ethnic sense and, as here, to refer to a caste of Babylonian wise men and astrologers.

7 tn Heb “to explain to the king his dreams.”

8 tn Heb “stood before the king.”

9 tn Heb “I have dreamed a dream” (so KJV, ASV).

10 tn Heb “my spirit.”

11 sn Contrary to common belief, the point here is not that the wise men (Chaldeans) replied to the king in the Aramaic language, or that this language was uniquely the language of the Chaldeans. It was this view that led in the past to Aramaic being referred to as “Chaldee.” Aramaic was used as a lingua franca during this period; its origins and usage were not restricted to the Babylonians. Rather, this phrase is better understood as an editorial note (cf. NAB) marking the fact that from 2:4b through 7:28 the language of the book shifts from Hebrew to Aramaic. In 8:1, and for the remainder of the book, the language returns to Hebrew. Various views have been advanced to account for this change of language, most of which are unconvincing. Most likely the change in language is a reflection of stages in the transmission history of the book of Daniel.

12 tn Or “the.”

13 tn Aram “answered and said,” a common idiom to indicate a reply, but redundant in contemporary English.

14 tn It seems clear from what follows that Nebuchadnezzar clearly recalls the content of the dream, although obviously he does not know what to make of it. By not divulging the dream itself to the would-be interpreters, he intends to find out whether they are simply leading him on. If they can tell him the dream’s content, which he is able to verify, he then can have confidence in their interpretation, which is what eludes him. The translation “the matter is gone from me” (cf. KJV, ASV), suggesting that the king had simply forgotten the dream, is incorrect. The Aramaic word used here (אַזְדָּא, ’azda’) is probably of Persian origin; it occurs in the OT only here and in v. 8. There are two main possibilities for the meaning of the word: “the matter is promulgated by me” (see KBL 1048 s.v.) and therefore “publicly known” (cf. NRSV; F. Rosenthal, Grammar, 62-63, §189), or “the matter is irrevocable” (cf. NAB, NIV, TEV, CEV, NLT; HALOT 1808 s.v. אזד; cf. also BDB 1079 s.v.). The present translation reflects this latter option. See further E. Vogt, Lexicon linguae aramaicae, 3.

15 tn Aram “made limbs.” Cf. 3:29.

16 tn Aram “his servants.”

17 tn Or “the.”

18 tn Aram “one is your law,” i.e., only one thing is applicable to you.

19 tn Aram “a lying and corrupt word.”

20 tn Aram “I will know.”

21 tn Aram “matter, thing.”

22 tn Aram “whose dwelling is not with flesh.”

23 tn Aram “was angry and very furious.” The expression is a hendiadys (two words or phrases expressing a single idea).

24 tn The Aramaic participle is used here to express the imminent future.

25 tn The impersonal active plural (“they sought”) of the Aramaic verb could also be translated as an English passive: “Daniel and his friends were sought” (cf. NAB).



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