BEL AND THE DRAGON, two stories appearing in different versions in the Apocrypha, the Septuagint, and Theodotion; they appear as a continuation of the Book of Daniel. In "Bel," Daniel challenged the divinity of the idol Bel, which was reputed to eat and drink. By scattering ashes on the temple floor, he revealed the footprints of the priests who secretly removed the sacrifices placed before the idol. As a result the Persian king, Cyrus, destroyed the idol and killed the priests. In "The Dragon," Daniel caused the death of a dragon worshiped by the Babylonians, by feeding it a mixture of pitch, fat, and hair. Thrown into the lion's den at the crowd's demand, Daniel was miraculously unharmed and survived for a week without food, after which he was fed by the prophet Habakkuk who was miraculously transported to Babylon (see prophecy of habakkuk ). The king thereupon praised God and had Daniel's accusers thrown to the lions who devoured them. The object of these stories is to portray the futility of idolatry. The suggestions that they are either a "Jewish version" of the Babylonian Marduk and Tiamat legend, or propaganda against Hellenistic idolatry, seem improbable. They appear to be popular works composed in Babylon when Bel was no longer worshiped, i.e., between the destruction of the temple of Babylon by Artaxerxes (485–465 B.C.E.) and its rebuilding by Alexander the Great (332 B.C.E.). Snakes (= dragons) were used in the Babylonian cult, and the stories were perhaps a midrashic elaboration of Jeremiah 51:34, 44. The two Greek versions seem to be translations from an Aramaic original. A version from the Midrash Bereshit Rabbati of R. Moses ha-Darshan (published by A. Neubauer, Book of Tobit (1878), Hebrew portion p. 39–40) as well as by Ch. Albeck (1940, p. 175) is found in the Pugio Fidei of raymond martini (p. 957). These two versions are almost identical with the Syriac Peshitta. An Aramaic version of Bel and the Dragon in the Chronicle of Jerahmeel is based on Theodotion. A Hebrew fragment is preserved in Genesis R. 68:20 and a Hebrew version is found in josippon (3). (Yehoshua M. Grintz)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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