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ISSN 0045-0308

BOOK REVIEW  Published in Volume 65, 2017

MICHAEL SEGAL, Dreams, Riddles, and Visions: Textual, Contextual, and Intertextual Approaches to the Book of Daniel (BZAW 455; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2016). Pp. xii + 250. Hardback. US$126.00.

Michael Segal is one of the most innovative and interesting scholars currently working on the book of Daniel. I was therefore looking forward to reading this volume and was not disappointed. A few of the chapters have appeared in earlier versions, but most are first published here.

Each chapter proposes a new interpretation of some issue in a different chapter in Daniel, covering Daniel Chapters 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, and the story of Susanna from the larger edition of Daniel found in the Greek versions. Segal’s subtitle indicates the particular approaches that allow him to advance new understandings of these chapters. “Textual” refers to the rich textual evidence for Daniel including the different literary editions exemplified in the Masoretic Text (MT) and the two Greek editions identified by the names Old Greek (OG) and Theodotion. “Contextual” refers to taking seriously Daniel’s place in Second Temple period Jewish literature, especially apocalyptic literature. “Intertextual” refers to an appreciation of the great extent to which Daniel is an interpretation of earlier biblical books (given this focus it is strange that the publications of Anne Gardner are not referenced at all.)

Major issues discussed in each chapter include the following. The first chapter analyses tensions in MT Daniel Chapter 1 as clues to suggest that the chapter was composed by adding a narrative frame about the training of the Jews in the Babylonian court—presented as a contest with non-Jewish trainees—to an already existing story about eating pure food. The second chapter, previously published, argues, based on internal contradictions, the variant pattern of divine names in the OG, and (lack of) parallels with the Joseph story, that verses 13b, 15–23 of Daniel Chapter 2 are a later addition to the chapter, with verse 24a as a resumptive repetition of verse 14. Segal speculates, based on links between the description of God as the one who “changes seasons and times, removes kings and sets up kings” and the activities of Antiochus IV in Dan 7:24–25, that the addition in Chapter 2 was made at the same time as the composition of the passage in Daniel 7. The third chapter, partly published before, argues that the reason why nobody except Daniel, under divine inspiration, could read and interpret the writing on the wall in MT Daniel Chapter 5, was because it was only visible to the king, Belshazzar; analyses the meaning of the writing, suggesting an additional level of interpretation; and argues in detail for the influence of Isaiah 21:1–9 on the creation of the narrative. Interestingly, I noted that some of the links with Isaiah are with the MT form of the story, not the OG. The fourth chapter identifies many secondary elements in both MT and OG Daniel 4, but argues that the MT is closer to their common ancestor, which had a clear three-part structure. It also finds additional evidence of the Semitic Vorlage of the OG through it being echoed in the Qumran Genesis Apocryphon. The fifth chapter presents a strikingly different understanding of the “one like a man” in Daniel Chapter 7 as originally denoting the God of Israel, translating the phrase קרישי צליןנין as “the Most High Holy One” (not e.g., “the saints of the Most High”), with the whole scene evoking Deut 32:8–9 and Ps 82, where the God of Israel is granted sovereignty by another divinity. The sixth chapter, previously published, argues that the 70 weeks of Dan 9:24–27 begin after the end of the fulfilment of Jeremiah’s prophecy that the exile will last 70 years and that, according to the understanding of chronology held by the author, the anointed prince at the end of the first seven weeks is Nehemiah. The seventh chapter, previously published, argues that a paraphrase of Isa 2:3 is the source of the quote at the beginning of the OG version of Susanna (“For lawlessness came forth from Babylonia”) and that the story is a criticism of the leadership of the Jewish community in Babylonia. The final, concluding chapter summarises the book’s findings about the exegetical techniques used in the instances of biblical interpretation in Daniel, and discusses the evidence for the literary growth of the book.

Segal is well aware that, with such innovative work, not everyone will be convinced of all aspects of the argument in each chapter. For example, I consider it easier to explain the divergence between the OG and the MT of Daniel 5, where the OG consistently only has the single task of interpreting the writing on the wall, whereas the MT has the additional task of being able to even read it, as being yet another case where the MT displays a development intended to integrate the chapters of the Book of Daniel more closely with each other, rather than a simplification by the OG, as Segal suggests. As Segal demonstrates, the MT’s double task of both reading and interpretation is one of the key links to chapter 2, where the wise men are asked not only to interpret the king’s dream, but also to tell what it was. Of course, even when I did not fully agree with him, I found Segal’s work highly stimulating to my own thinking.

The discussions throughout the book are very rich, and I learned a great deal from this book. Apart from the main topics of each chapter, the discussions of related issues in the text or in the footnotes are rewarding reading and engage deeply with a diverse array of issues in Daniel studies. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the Book of Daniel.

Review by
The University of Sydney