Daniel (the prophet)

(creator: unknown)


Susanna and the Elders
Daniel was said to have been carried off from Judah in 605 BC, along with three other noble youths, as a prisoner to Babylon where he was trained in the service of the court. He became famous for interpreting dreams, but his companions were thrown into a fiery furnace for refusing to worship the Babylonian King, Nebukanezar, but were then miraculously saved.

Daniel himself was eventually cast into a den of lions for continuing to practise his faith. But he also was miraculously delivered, after which King Cyrus issued a decree enjoining reverence for "the God of Daniel" (Daniel 6:26). He probably later greatly influenced Cyrus in issuing the decree which put an end to the Jewish Captivity (536 BC), and he rose to become one of the most important figures in the court and lived well into the reign of the Persian conquerors.

Christians and Jews both regard Daniel as one of their major prophets.

Susanna and the Elders describes how the virtuous and beautiful Hebrew wife Susanna is bathing in her garden, when she is spied on by two lustful elders (judges). They stop her on her way back to her house, and tell her that they saw her with a young man and threaten to reveal all unless she will have sex with them. She rejects their blackmail attempt and ends up in court. She is about to be put to death for promiscuity (for it is just her word against that of the two elders) when the proceedings are interrupted by the boy Daniel. At his suggestion, the elders are separated and he then asks each about the sort of tree under which they saw the lovers. The two elders give different answers. So, thanks to Daniel, Susanna is released. That is why he was claimed by Dorothy L Sayers to be the very first clerical detective. The elders, by the way, were then put to death.

Daniel and Bel
is set years later, when Daniel was the close friend of King Cyrus, the Persian. Cyrus worshipped the god Bel, the great Babylonian god who was supplied daily with much food and wine. Daniel laughed at this, and told the king that the idol "is but clay within, and brass without, and did never eat or drink anything." King Cyrus threatened the priests of Bel with death if they could not explain where all the food went to, but declared that Daniel should die if they could show that Bel had really consumed it. The priests asked that the food should be set out as usual on the god's table, saying that if it were not all consumed by Bel by the next morning they would be prepared to die, but if it was all consumed, then Daniel must die. They thought they would be safe enough, for they had a trap-door under the table through which they entered the temple and carried off the food and drink.

But that night Daniel had the floor of the temple strewn with ashes before the door was sealed. The next morning the king and Daniel found the seal intact, but the food gone. Then Daniel laughed and showed Cyrus the floor: "Behold now the pavement, and mark well whose footsteps are these." Cyrus compelled the priests to show him how they had entered the temple. As a result they were put to death, and Daniel destroyed both idol and temple.

The stories, probably based on old folk tales, were relegated to the Apocrypha by Protestants, but still appear in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Bibles.


There are various references to Daniel on the web, including an informative article on Wikipedia. The Biblical text, with paintings, can be found at a State University of New York site.

I have seen it argued that there was an even earlier Biblical detective: God. In Genesis 3, God questions Adam and Eve (who had disobeyed His command not to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge) about why they had covered their nakedness with fig leaves. Adam tells him, "I heard my voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself." This gives away that he had eaten from the Tree of Knowledge, for, as God goes on to ask him, "Who told thee that thou wast naked?".

And it has been said that God later solved the first murder when Cain, Adam and Eve's older son, slew his brother Abel (Genesis 4): "The LORD said unto Cain, "Where is Abel thy brother?"
And he said, "I know not: am I my brother's keeper?"
And he said, "
What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother's blood cries out to me from the ground."

Copies of the Apocrypha and Catholic Bible can easily be found.



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Susanna and the Elders as imagined by Alessandro Allori (1535-1607). It was, understandably enough, a favorite subject of painters at this time.
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