The Book of Daniel (5/20)

Daniel: The History

The largest number of criticisms aimed at Daniel are allegations that the book contains numerous historical inaccuracies. It is worth noting that archaeological evidence over the last 130 years or so has disproved a number of these allegations, but they are frequently repeated by atheists and skeptics without reference to evidence which contradicts them.

In this section the historical issues in Daniel will be addressed chapter by chapter.

Historical Issues In Daniel One

  • The spelling of Nebuchadnezzar’s name (Daniel 1:1 and throughout)
  • The identification of Nebuchadnezzar as ‘king’ during the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim (Daniel 1:1)
  • The seige of Jerusalem (Daniel 1:1-2)
  • The names of Daniel and his friends (Daniel 1:6-7)

Nebuchadnezzar’s Name

Critics have claimed that Nebuchadnezzar’s name is spelled incorrectly in Daniel:

‘It has been claimed (by Taylor (citing Dummelow in Taylor [2], Sierichs, and others) that the book of Daniel can’t even spell the name of Nebuchadnezzar correctly because it uses an n rather than an r. [Porteus, 26; Dummelow, 530; Farrar, 20]’

David Conklin, ‘Evidences Relating to the Date of the Book of Daniel’, 2000

There is plenty of evidence to demonstrate this objection to be spurious:

‘However, Millard points out that a study done in 1975 demonstrates “that the writing with n is not improper for Hebrew“. [Millard (1977): 73; the 1975 study was by P. R. Berger in the Zeitschrift fur Assyriologie, vol 64, pages 224-34; Goldingay, 4 note 1–the “Heb. spelling can be explained philologically.”] See also the article on Nebuchadnezzar by LaSor in the ISBE.

He notes that the LXX supports the use of the n [Nabuchodonosor] and that Jeremiah uses both spellings in chapters 27-29. [LaSor, 506] Wiseman simply refers to the Biblical spelling as a “variant.” [Wiseman, 552]

BTW, the Greeks spelt it “both” ways: Nabochodonosor and Nabokodrosoros. [Baldwin (1978a): 78] In Aramaic it is Nebukadnessar–note the use of n in both the Aramaic and Greek.’

David Conklin, ‘Evidences Relating to the Date of the Book of Daniel’, 2000

Nebuchadnezzar the King

The objection has been raised that Nebuchadnezzar was not king of Babylon in the third year of Jehoiakim, as Daniel 1:1 states:

‘Prof. Bertholdt makes the following objection to the possibility of Nebuchadnezzar’s having been called king as early as the third year of Jehoiakim, that is, a year before the death of his father Nabopolassar:

Jeremiah 25:1 says, that Nebuchadnezzar ascended the throne in Babylon in the fourth year of Jehoiakim. How then is it possible, that according to the composer of this biographical sketch of Daniel, the King Nebuchadnezzar could already in the third year of Jehoiakim have besieged and taken Jerusalem?1

1 Bertholdt’s Daniel, p. 169.’

Robert D Wilson, ‘Studies in the Book of Daniel: A Discussion of the Historical Questions’, 1917

The simple explanation is that Nebuchadnezzar may be called king proleptically:

‘… Nebuchadnezzar may have been called king before he actually ascended the throne, either proleptically, or for distinction or honor, or in some sense different from that in which he was king after the decease of his father.


Writing seventy years after the expedition recorded in Daniel 1:1, and twenty-five years after the death of the general in command of the expedition, the author would naturally suppose that his readers would know whom he meant when he calls him Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon.

Just as, to quote Sir Robert Anderson, [1] the newspapers at the time of the unveiling of the statue of Queen Victoria at Kensington Gardens, spoke of the Queen’s having once lived in Kensington Palace; whereas she lived there only before she became Queen. So we have lives of the Emperor Augustus, or of the Empress Catherine of Russia, or of President Grant, beginning in each case with an account of what they were and of what they did before they attained the highest titles by which they are now known.

[1] Daniel in the Critics Den, p. 20.’

Robert D Wilson, ‘Studies in the Book of Daniel: A Discussion of the Historical Questions’, pages 87-89, 1917

‘(2) It is assumed, that the phrase “king of X” can be used only of a man who was de facto king, when some deed said to have been done by him or to him was accomplished.

But who can see any impropriety in the phrase “Jesse begat David the king” in Matthew 1:6? Everyone knows it means “David who afterwards became king.” Or who would pronounce it a mistake in 2 Kings 25:27, when it is said that Evil-Merodach “did lift up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah”? Obviously, it means “Jehoiachin who thirty-seven years before had been king of Judah.”

So, if the writer of the book of Daniel composed his book about 535 B.C., he may very well have called Nebuchadnezzar “king of Babylon” when referring to a time before he had become king, meaning “that Nebuchadnezzar who some time after became king of Babylon,” or “whom you, my readers, know as having been king of Babylon.”‘

Robert D Wilson, ‘Studies in the Book of Daniel: A Discussion of the Historical Questions’, 1917

Nebuchadnezzar’s Siege

The dating of the siege referred to in Daniel 1:1 is claimed by critics to be inaccurate, and yet the historical evidence reveals that the two different dating systems used by Jeremiah and Daniel are the real reason for the apparent inaccuracy:

‘It is still claimed in some circles that Dan 1:1 and Jer 46:2 are in conflict and yet recent discoveries have shown that each is using different dating techniques. [contra Rowley (1950): 156; Porteus, 25-6; Farrar, 45-6; Davies (1988): 29-30; Larue, 405); Lacocque (1979): 7; Collins (1984): 51, (1992): 29; McNamara (1970): 132; Montgomery, 72-3; Taylor; Heuvel, 4-5]

As Richards points out “[n]o Jew writing the Book of Daniel in the second century B.C. would have gone against Jeremiah 46:2 and dated the invasion using a Babylonian system [that was] three centuries out of date.” He notes that this is “a most compelling argument for fifth-century authorship.” [page 210; see also Hasel (Spr. 1981): 48-9; (1986): 118-21] “Had the author of Daniel been an unknown Jew of the second century B.C. as critical scholars have been wont to insist, it is unlikely that he would have followed the obsolete Babylonian chronological system of computation in preference to his own Palestinian method, which had the sanction of so important a personage as the prophet Jeremiah.” [Harrison (1969): 1112-3; Emery, 21 notes that these “too-obvious blunders” could have been removed “by any later copyist or editor”; see also page 113.]

On this issue Waltke writes, “But how can one square the statement in Daniel 1:1 that Nebuchadnezzar in his first year as king besieged Jerusalem in the third year of Jehoiakim with the statement in Jeremiah 25:1, 9; 46:1 that Nebuchadnezzar defeated Pharaoh Necho in the fourth year of Jehoiakim?

Edwin Thiele harmonizes this conflicting date by proposing that Daniel is using the Babylonian system of dating the king’s reign whereas Jeremiah is using the Palestinian system of dating [The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, 163, 165].

In Babylonia the year in which the king ascended the throne was designated specifically as ‘the year of accession to the kingdom,’ and this was followed by the first, second, and subsequent years of rule. In Palestine, on the other hand, there was no accession year as such, so that the length of rule was computed differently, with the year of accession being regarded as the first year of the king’s reign.’

David Conklin, ‘Evidences Relating to the Date of the Book of Daniel’, 2000

The apparent contradiction between the third year of Jehoiakim (Dan. 1:1) and the fourth year of Jehoiakim (Jer. 46:2) for the date of Nebuchadnezzar’s initial attack can be readily explained by the use of different calendars (Nisan and Tishri), and of different regnal systems.5 Though Hartman and Di Lella list in their bibliography,6 the monograph by Wiseman and others which addresses this problem,7 their commentary still asserts: “Whatever the case, Nebuchadnezzar did not besiege Jerusalem in 606 B.C., as Dan 1:1 would have us believe, for ƒ he did not become king of Babylon till the following year.”8 Millard points out the possible solution:

However, on the accession year system and with an autumnal New Year, his [Jehoiakim’s] first year would run from September 608 to September 607, his second 607–6, his third September 606—October 605. This last would just accommodate the statement of Daniel 1:1 in chronological terms.9

5 5. Edwin R. Thiele, A Chronology of the Hebrew Kings (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1977), p. 68, n. 3.

6 6. L. F. Hartman and A. Di Lella, The Book of Daniel, The Anchor Bible (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1978), p. 123.

7 7. Wiseman et al., Notes on Some Problems in the Book of Daniel, pp. 16–18.

8 8. Hartman and Di Lella, The Book of Daniel, p. 48.

9 9. A. R. Millard, “Daniel 1–6 and History,” Evangelical Quarterly 49 (1977):69; Joyce G. Baldwin, Daniel: An Introduction and Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1978), pp. 19–21.



Edwin M. Yamauchi1, ‘The Archaeological Background of Daniel’, Bibliotheca Sacra, volume 137, issue 545, 1980


It is further objected that the seige did not even take place:



‘Canon Driver says:

That Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem and carried away captive some of the sacred vessels in the third year of Jehoiakim (Dan. 1:1f.) though it cannot, strictly speaking, be disproved, is highly improbable, because, Jeremiah in the following year (c. 25 & c.; see v. 1) speaks of the Chaldeans in a manner which appears distinctly to imply that their arms had not yet been seen in Judah. [1]Prof. Cornill says:

Daniel’s fixing the carrying away into captivity in the third year of Jehoiakim (Dan. 1:1) contradicts all contemporaneous accounts and can only be explained as due to a combination of 2Chron. 36:6, 7, with an erroneous interpretation of 2 Kings 24:1. [2]

Prof. Bevan says:

It was not till after the defeat of the Egyptian army at Carchemish on the Euphrates in the fourth year of Jehoiakim (Jer. 46:2) that there could be any question of Nebuchadnezzar’s invading Palestine, where for some years the Egyptians had enjoyed undisputed supremacy. [3]

[1] LOT p. 408.
[2] Introduction to the Canonical Books of the Old Testament, p. 384.
[3] The book of Daniel, p. 16.’

Robert D Wilson, ‘Studies in the Book of Daniel: A Discussion of the Historical Questions’, pages 62-3 1917


A summary of the available historical evidence, however, demonstrates that the Biblical account is perfectly consistent with what is known:


‘1. That Kings, Chronicles, Berosus, Josephus, and Daniel all affirm that Nebuchadnezzar did come up against Jerusalm in the days of Jehoiakim.

2. That Chronicles, Daniel, Berosus, and Josephus unite in saying that Nebuchadnezzar carried many captives from Judea to Babylon in the reign of Jehoiakim.

3. That Berosus supports the statement of Daniel with regard to the carrying away of some of the vessels of the house of the Lord by saying that Nebuchadnezzar brought spoils from Judea which were put in the temple of Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon.

4. That Berosus supports Daniel in declaring an expedition against Jerusalem to have occurred before the death of Nabopolassar.

5. That since Nabopolassar died while Nebuchadnezzar was in the midst of his expedition against Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar may have been king de jure before he came up against Jerusalem; for it would take the news of the death of Nabopolassar several weeks to reach Jerusalem, and in those weeks there would have been abundance of time for Nebuchadnezzar to have captured Jerusalem, especially if Jehoiakim surrendered at this time without fighting or after a brief siege, as Josephus says that he did in his eleventh year. [1]

6. That the book of Jeremiah is silent with regard to all of these events. It does not say that Nebuchadnezzar did not come up to Jerusalem in the reign of Jehoiakim. It simply says nothing about it. Why it says nothing about it we do not know. The expedition or expeditions may have been mentioned in ‘the many like words’ recorded by Baruch (Jer. xxxvi, 32), which have not been preserved for us.

7. That finally, the statement of Daniel 1:1-3, that Nebuchadnezzar came up against Jerusalem in the third year of Jehoiakim and carried captive to Babylon certain of the nobility, and some of the vessels of the house of the Lord, stands absolutely unimpugned by any testimony to be produced from any reliable source of information.

[1] 1 Jos., Ant. X, vi, 3. Josephus says that Jehoiakim received Nebuchadnezzar into the city out of fear of a prediction of Jeremiah “supposing that he should suffer nothing that was terrible, because he neither shut the gate, nor fought against him.”’

Robert D Wilson, ‘Studies in the Book of Daniel: A Discussion of the Historical Questions’, pages 58-9, 1917


‘As to the further question of whether there was indeed a Babylonian campaign against Jerusalem, McNamara asserts: “The siege of Jerusalem mentioned in 1,1 for the third year of his reign (i.e. 603 B.C.) is, however, an anachronism; the first siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar known to history was in 597 B.C. (but compare 2 Kings 24:10–16 with 2 Chron. 36:6–10).”10



In rebuttal Wiseman points out that the Chaldean Chronicles which he published in 1956 indicate that Nebuchadnezzar claims to have conquered “all Haiti land,” that is, Palestine, in 605.11


In a recent work Wiseman has written: “In the following years (604–603 B.C.), the Babylonians marched unopposed through Palestine (‘Hatti-land’). Heavy tribute was brought to them by all the kings and with it many prisoners (including Daniel) were sent back to Babylon.”12



Elsewhere Wiseman has suggested still another possible date for Daniel’s deportation. In referring to a passage in the Babylonian Chronicle (BM 21946, rev. 4) he writes, “If this passage does refer to numerous persons it could well be that in this year 602 B.C., rather than in 605 B.C. (as CCK [Chronicles of Chaldaean Kings] 26), captives, possibly including Daniel and other Judeans, were taken to Babylon.”13


It should be noted that the biblical text in Daniel 1:1 does not explicitly state that Daniel and his companions were deported in the very first attack against Palestine, though many writers (including this writer) have assumed this conclusion.’


Edwin M. Yamauchi1, ‘The Archaeological Background of Daniel’, Bibliotheca Sacra, volume 137, issue 545, 1980





  1. Bless you for your work.

    I attend a PC(USA)church that affirms the authority of Scripture but accepts Higher Criticism. I am writing a paper on Daniel as a test case as to why we should be so eager to accept modernist methods.
    I find the tension to be corrosive to my faith. Thank you for your work. Any suggestions on how to approach our leadership on this matter appreciated.

    Paul Ernst
    Boulder, CO

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