The Stories of Daniel: Are They Midrashim?

Some scholars have characterized the genre of Daniel 1-6 as a kind of midrash because the stories in Daniel are very similar to that of the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. Hartman and DiLella, for example, say that the “wise courtier” is a “specific type of midrash” (Hartman and DiLella, 55). If so, we need to ask the question: What does midrash mean? The wikipedia defines Midrash as follows:

The term midrash can also refer to a compilation of homiletic teachings (commentaries) on the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), in the form of legal and ritual (Halakha) and legendary, moralizing, folkloristic, and anecdotal (Aggadah) parts.”

This definition indicates that midrash can be understood as an interpretation of older scripture. The book of Jubilees would be regarded as an exegetical midrash. John J. Collins states that the reference of the Seventy Weeks (Dan 9:24-27) can be only considered as a midrash on the Jeremiah’s prophecy (Jer 25:11-12) in the book of Daniel, and argues that the stories of Daniel 1-6 are not midrash (Collins, 40). Thus, the question is this: Do the stories in Daniel 1-6 reinterpret or retell the Joseph story? 

Collins argues that the stories of Daniel are neither an interpretation nor a retelling of the Joseph story. He concludes that “the influence of Genesis is only one factor among many in the shaping of the tales” (Collins, 40). I agree with Collins’ conclusion that the stories in Daniel 1-6 are NOT an interpretation of the Joseph story, BUT they represent an influence of the Joseph story. This is not same as we can see in the case from the book of Jubilees. It is noteworthy, therefore, to notice the similarities between the two stories with the verbal correspondences which indicate that the author of Daniel was influenced from the story of Joseph. The affinities between the Joseph story and the stories of Daniel can be seen as follows:

  • Both Joseph and Daniel are taken into captivity
  • Both are courtiers of foreign kings
  • Both are good-looking (Gen 39:6; Dan 1:4)
  • Both are siad to have a divine spirit (Gen 41:38; Dan 5:11)
  • The interpretation of dreams rests with God (Gen 40:8; Dan 2:28) 8)
  • God makes known what will come to pass (Gen 41:25; Dan 2:28) 8)
  • Both are decorated with a chain around their neck (Gen 41:42; Dan 5:29)

Reference

Collins, John J. Daniel. Hermeneia.  Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993.

Hartman, Louis F. and Alexander A. DiLella, The Book of Daniel AB. 23; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1978.

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One Response

  1. Great blog post.Really looking forward to read more.

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