Monday, January 12, 2015

Apocrypha - Bel and the Dragon

Stephan Kessler's 17th century painting "Daniel, King Cyrus in Bel's Temple."
Bel and the Dragon is an odd little story that's part of the story of Daniel. It's pretty obvious why many would want it removed from the mainstream Bible.

Bel very closely resembles Baal, an idol god worshipped by many in that area at that time. In the story, Daniel condemns the idol Bel, but the priests argue that Bel is a real god, because they place food and drink in front of him every night, and in the morning, the food and drink are consumed.

The priests make a deal with King Cyrus and say if they can prove Bel is real and actually consumes the food, then Daniel should be slain. And if Daniel can prove it's a hoax, they agree to be slain. The king agrees.

Guards make sure no one can enter or leave the temple. Ah, but there's a trap door in Bel's temple, where the priests would sneak in with their wives and children, eat the food, and sneak back out. In the morning the food is gone, and the priests think they won, but before anyone can actually step into the temple, Daniel points out the new footprints on the ground. The king is angry, and he has the priests, their wives and their children killed. The temple of Bel is then torn down. The chapter then awkwardly shifts gears.
23 And in that same place there was a great dragon, which they of Babylon worshipped.
24 And the king said unto Daniel, Wilt thou also say that this is of brass? lo, he liveth, he eateth and drinketh; thou canst not say that he is no living god: therefore worship him.
25 Then said Daniel unto the king, I will worship the Lord my God: for he is the living God.
26 But give me leave, O king, and I shall slay this dragon without sword or staff. The king said, I give thee leave.
27 Then Daniel took pitch, and fat, and hair, and did seethe them together, and made lumps thereof: this he put in the dragon's mouth, and so the dragon burst in sunder: and Daniel said, Lo, these are the gods ye worship.
28 When they of Babylon heard that, they took great indignation, and conspired against the king, saying, The king is become a Jew, and he hath destroyed Bel, he hath slain the dragon, and put the priests to death.
So there's a dead dragon, and now the people of Babylon are really upset. The chapter goes on to say that this is why the priests threw Daniel into the lions' den, which contradicts the explanation in the Book of Daniel, and then we meet the prophet Habakkuk, who is told by an angel of the Lord to go visit Babylon and give Daniel some food while he is in the den. Habukkuk says he doesn't know where the den is, so the angel impatiently picks up Habukkuk by his hair and carries him to Babylon and drops him on the top of the den. How cool is that?

Habukkuk gives Daniel his supper, then the angel restores Habukkuk to where he'd been, and the next morning, when Cyrus visits Daniel, he sees Daniel is alive and fed, and so the king frees Daniel, and throws those people who wanted Daniel to die into the lions den, where they're attacked and killed immediately.

1 comment:

  1. See, I don't know why this isn't just as fantastical and supernatural as the original.