Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

Jewish Identity under Foreign Rule: Daniel 2 as a Reconfiguration of Genesis 41

Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

Jewish Identity under Foreign Rule: Daniel 2 as a Reconfiguration of Genesis 41

Article excerpt

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This article explores the various ways in which Daniel 2 reconfigures Genesis 41. Though many scholars have noted similarities between these two texts, such observations have not generated significant advances in our understanding of Daniel 2.1 John J. Collins lists some of the similarities between Daniel and Joseph, yet he downplays any significant relationship between the two texts.2 Though I agree with Collins that Daniel "has its own new hero in a different situation," I do not see why such a statement necessarily precludes reading Daniel 2 as an attempt to reconfigure the character of Joseph.3 Although C. L. Seow recognizes points of contact between Daniel 2 and Genesis 41, he neglects to draw any substantive conclusions from the similarities he observes.4While Aaron Wildavsky recognizes the importance of the Joseph story for Daniel, he tends to stretch the boundaries of cogent exegesis.5

Robert K. Gnuse and C. G. Labonté provide two of the most detailed comparisons of Daniel 2 and Genesis 41.6 Similarities between the two narratives listed by Gnuse include observations of other commentators as well as his own.7 Yet many of the parallels he cites from other scholars concern not Daniel 2 but other chapters of the book,8 and two of the fifteen similarities noted by Gnuse also rely on material outside of Daniel 2. He cites Dan 4:8-9 to show that in each case the ruler "recognizes the 'spirit of God' in the hero," and he refers to Dan 1:6 to demonstrate that Daniel receives a "new courtly name."9 Another of his alleged similarities, that the "deity of the Jewish boy is recognized as the true God" unfairly renders Dan 2:47 ("your God is God of gods and Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries").10 Regardless, Gnuse and I differ in the scope of our comparative work; he is interested in parallels between Genesis 41 and any aspect of Daniel, whereas I restrict my comparison to Daniel 2. More importantly, Gnuse does not acknowledge the consistent ways in which Daniel 2 contrasts the character of Daniel with Joseph. His lack of attention to such contrasts flattens the disparate ways in which Joseph and Daniel are characterized.11

Labonté notes several commonalities between the portrayals of Joseph and Daniel in Genesis 41 and Daniel 2.12 Following Philip R. Davies, he mentions seven specific similarities between these two chapters.13 Labonté adds two details to Davies's list: each tale begins with a temporal note, and in each story there is recognition of the divine presence with the hero.14 Like Gnuse, Labonté seeks comparisons beyond the scope of Daniel 2 and also exaggerates some of these comparisons.15 Neither Gnuse nor Labonté notes any of the substantive ways in which Daniel is portrayed differently from Joseph,16 and Labonté thus avers that Genesis 41 and Daniel 2 carry "the same message."17 The distinct perspective of each narrative is thereby muted. Nor is any sense conveyed of the manner in which the character of Daniel is presented as a reworked Joseph.

After noting multiple similarities between these two texts, I will identify particular patterns that emerge concerning how Daniel 2 reconfigures Genesis 41. Such patterns indicate a few of the distinct and pressing concerns of the author(s) of Daniel 2. Daniel 2 evinces an interest, for example, in the question of the relationship between Jews and a foreign empire. I will argue that, in its reworking of Genesis 41, Daniel 2 provides an ideal model for how Jews are to relate to, and function within, a foreign empire. In addition to discussing how the author adapts the Joseph material, I explore the likely effects of such a reconfiguration on the authorial reader/hearer of Daniel 2. I am thus interested in the diachronic influence of Genesis 41 on Daniel 2, and the intertextuality that would exist between these two texts for the authorial audience of Daniel 2.18


Eighteen specific similarities exist between the plot structures of Genesis 41 and Daniel 2. …

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