Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Blogging the Book of Daniel #2

Here's the next entry in Blogging the Book of Daniel, a series I am attempting as I work through Daniel with Alter's "Strong As Death Is Love" at my side.

In the opening chapters of Daniel, Kasdim appear twice. The first time, they are listed among the palace magicians and other practitioners of occult arts.

ויאמר המלך לקרא לחרטמים ולאשפים ולמכשפים ולכשדים להגיד למלך חלמתיו ויבאו ויעמדו לפני המלך׃

According to Alter, these are not people who were ethnically Kasdim. What's happened is the word Kasdim has shifted semantically. Because Kasdim was once a place where magic and astrology were widely practiced, the word "Kasdim" itself came to identify anyone who practiced those arts. 

Later in the book, (after the language has shifted to Aramaic) the Kasdim are the villains who enforce King Neb's pro-idolatry laws and get Daniel's three friends, Chananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, tossed into a furnace for refusing to bow down to a large idol.

כל־קבל דנה בה־זמנא קרבו גברין כשדאין ואכלו קרציהון די יהודיא׃
at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews.

Who else do you know who was tossed into a furnace for refusing to worship an idol? Why father Abraham, of course. And where did this happen? In Ur Kasdim, of course.

In a famous post, dating to 2011, I gathered from an entry in TPJ (echoed in PDrE) that the legend of Abraham in the blazing furnace was originally derived from a misreading (or perhaps a hyper-literal reading) of Genesis 15:7, which can be construed as:

"I am the LORD, who brought you out of the Fire [=א֣וּר] of the Chaldeans"

The passages in Daniel shed some additional light on the subject, suggesting that Abraham's furnace story was inspired by the story of Chananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. 

To someone with knowledge of the Daniel story, Genesis 15:7 seems to clearly say that Abraham, too, was rescued from a furnace prepared by the Kasdim for those who refused to worship idols.

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