Some Daniels are longer than others.
Several Greek and Latin manuscripts of the Book of Daniel are longer than their Hebrew counterparts in the Masoretic Text. These extra-portions are known as the Additions to Daniel, and they contain three sections: the Prayer of Azariah, Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon.
Here to help explain the first section is our guest Azariah.
Thanks Bibledudes. Perhaps the readers have heard of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? Those are the Babylonian names for three nice Jewish boys living in exile, and their stories are recorded in the Book of Daniel in the Hebrew Bible. I'm Abednego, and my Hebrew name is Azariah. That we each had Babylonian and Hebrew names shows how assimilation in the Diaspora was a real danger.
In any event, this megalomaniacal king Nebuchadnezzar set up a golden idol and ordered us to worship it. We refused, as we only worship Yahweh, and Nebuchadnezzar lost his temper and threw us in a fiery furnace.
The prayer that I said in the furnace is the topic of this Apocryphal book, and it is inserted between Daniel 3:23-24. My prayer basically praises God's greatness, and I use the word "bless" about a bajillion times.
Darlings, our next guest is the lovely and charming Susanna. Her tale is so dramatic it has been called one of the finest short stories in all of literature.
My life was fairly ordinary at the beginning, I was a nice Jewish girl in exile living in Babylon, I married a nice Jewish man, and used to take nice walks in our nice garden.
Then one day these two wicked old perverts snuck into the garden while I was alone taking my bath. They tried to blackmail me, saying that if I refused to have sex with them they would invent a story that I was intimate with a young man other than my beloved husband. I of course refused, and the two wicked men made up charges and convinced the jury to condemn me to death for adultery. I started crying.
don't you cry for me.
Cause I come from Wadi Hamor
with a rababa on my knee.
Yeah, thanks talking donkey. Anyway, I prayed, and God inspired Daniel to defend me. Daniel separated the two wicked men and brilliantly asked each under what type of tree I had supposedly been with this "alleged" man. When they each said a different tree, the jury acquitted me, and put the two wicked men to death.
Wow! And all this 2000 years before the Columbo Perry Mason dudes. And Daniel doesn't stop there. In Bel and the Dragon, Daniel keeps on keeping on with the detective thing. Isn't that right, Daniel?
Yes it is. Again the point of these stories is that life in the Diaspora was hard, but by keeping faith and God's laws we could save ourselves from assimilation. That's sort of what happened when my friend Cyrus, the King of Persia, fell for one of the oldest tricks in the books.
I feel so stupid about it now. The thing was that after I conquered Babylon in 539 BCE, they had this idol of the Babylonian god Marduk called Bel (Bel means Lord). Every evening 70 priests gave it 12 bushels of flour, 40 sheep and 50 gallons of wine, and in the morning, the food was gone. I was convinced this was a living god, and I got pretty mad at you Daniel for thinking otherwise. I set up a contest. If the idol ate the food, then Daniel would die, but if not, the 70 priests would die. Well the priests left the temple, and I myself brought in the food. Daniel scattered some ashes on the floor, and we left the temple locked. In the morning, the food was gone, but because of the ashes, we could see footprints of the priests and their families on the floor. I discovered a secret door under the sacrificial table that the priests had used to enter the temple and eat the food. I ordered the priests dead for their trickery.
And I got permission to destroy the false idol as well as its temple. And while you might think Cyrus might have grown a bit more skeptical about the Babylonians and their religion, he soon thereafter got duped again.
I'll never forget that day. My stomach still smarts. I was minding my own business, and sure, being a dragon, the Babylonians worshipped me as a living god, but did I deserve to die? Good old Daniel wouldn't worship me, even though King Cyrus told him to do so. Well, Daniel bet he could kill me without sword or club, and sure enough he did. He took pitch, fat, and hair, and made them into cakes. I ate them like an idiot and my stomach blew up.
Yeah, there were dragon bits everywhere, and boy were the Babylonians mad. They said I had sold them out, and demanded you, Daniel, be put in the lion's den. Well, I'm sort of spineless at times, and I put you in there for six days.
Yeah, but I survived. God kept the lions from eating me, and He sent the prophet Habakkuk, who flew with an angel to Babylon and gave me food. When Cyrus showed up again on the seventh day, he was of course impressed with my God and let me go, throwing the Babylonians who accused me into the lion's den. The lions sure ate well that day.
Why didn't you pitch-fat-hair cakes? I still don't think I deserved to die. I mean lions are just as ferocious as dragons, and I've heard that some people worship lions, and besides...
Would you please stop talking?
In the next section, we'll learn that even evil kings can learn how to apologize.