Daniel the Prophet? Or, Daniel the Pharaoh?
The Book of Daniel
I have often been asked if the famous Prophet Daniel in the Old Testament was actually gay, since no mention of a wife was ever found, and he lived with other males in the house of the king. I have heard so much speculation built out of a few short, seemingly unconnected verses in the book of Daniel, that I decided to search out the whole truth on this matter. Excerpted with permission from the book, Homosexuality,The Bible, The Truth - The Bible Does NOT Condemn Homosexuality, here are the facts. I am sure that there will be those who will close their minds to reading any further than this opening statement, such is the nature of prejudice, but I sincerely hope that those who have the correct will to learn and know the truth will read the entire piece before casting an opinion. After all, how can one learn, if one does not study?
Was Daniel A Prophet?
Was Daniel gay? This question has been discussed, both pro and con, for a very long time, and it absolutely cannot be answered by looking only at the few verses often quoted in this context. Much more historical information is needed to fully answer this question, and thanks to a wealth of information that is available to us today, we really can look into the life of Daniel considerably more than was possible only a few short years ago. To finally answer this question, we need to read the passages in Daniel that are relevant, we need to research the people in Daniel’s life and look at what influences they had on him, trace Daniel’s journeys from Jerusalem and beyond, reconstruct relevant activities experienced during those journeys, follow his rise to power and see what that did to Daniel as a person, look at his occupation, his training, his beliefs, the beliefs of those around him, and much more. Anyone who tries to answer the question of Daniel and his private life will never be able to do so with scripture verses alone, and to attempt to do so is speculative and ignorance at its worst. Hopefully, this chapter will give some conclusive and final answers.
The first thing we need to do when addressing Daniel and his life is to place him in the proper perspective. Though he certainly was a holy man, Daniel was actually not a prophet. In Jewish sacred writings, the Book of Daniel is not among the books of the prophets, but instead, is among the section known as the “Kethuvim,” or “The Writings.” These are Jewish writings by non-prophets, such as Esther, Ruth, Solomon, Ezra and Nehemiah, and they include such books as Psalms, Lamentations and 1st and 2nd Chronicles. Contrary to popular belief, Daniel was not a prophet. The best words to describe his status in life was that of being among the “wise men,” חכים “chachim.” Think of the Three Wise Men who came to see Jesus at His birth, and you have the correct category. Secondly, Daniel became a ruler with tremendous political power, eventually achieving the position that was only one step below ruler of the entire kingdom. There is much material to be considered in order to fully understand who Daniel was, so we first direct our attention to how his story came to be.
The Influence of Nebuchadnezzar
The story begins in 605 B.C. Babylonian king, Nabopolassar died, and his son, Nebuchadnezzar, rushed back to Babylon from the battlefield to be crowned king. He left orders for his army to besiege Jerusalem, and at this time, Daniel, who was of noble birth, was taken captive. He and other sons of the nobility were taken to Babylon. The sacred temple of Jerusalem was also raided and treasure taken. Daniel 1:1-2 :
“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it.
And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.”
Nebuchadnezzar then ordered the chief of his eunuchs to select from the best of the captive male children of Israel, males who were of royal descent, handsome and worthy of service in the palace. Daniel 1:3-4 :
“And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes;
Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongues of the Chaldeans.”
Thus, Daniel was selected from the royalty of Israel as a handsome and intelligent young male to live in the guarded world of the palace of Nebuchadnezzar. We don’t know when Daniel was born, or how old he was at this time, but it would be a wise assumption that he was probably between the ages of twelve and fifteen. Daniel was certainly old enough to have learned the Jewish customs of diet, and to have developed a respect for them. When Nebuchadnezzar ordered a special diet for these children of the captivity, Daniel requested an exemption and was eventually granted it. Thus, he was old enough to make such a decision, young enough to be treated as a child. Daniel 1:5 :
“And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.”
Sexual Depravity of Nebuchadnezzar
The plan of Nebuchadnezzar was to have these young males groomed for service in his palace. The fact that they were selected from among the most intelligent indicates that they were expected to be able to hold court with the king if he desired conversation, and the fact that they were selected from among the most handsome and flawless indicates that they may have also been expected to be available for sexual pleasure at the whims of the king. Such was the right of kings.
Most telling about Nebuchadnezzar’s excessive sexual appetite are the writings of the Jewish scholars in ancient midrashim. The midrash, a homiletic method of biblical exegesis, is a way of filling in the missing gaps when we look at stories in the Bible where events are only discussed incompletely, and midrashim is the plural of this word. According to these sources, Nebuchadnezzar was completely given over to sexual addiction and pederasty. We know from Herodotus that pederasty was prevalent in Babylonian civilization. We gather more detail about Nebuchadnezzar’s addiction from the fact that the midrashim go into greater detail with regard to his sex with his male captives, regardless of their age. Nebuchadnezzar would role the dice to see who was “next.” In fact, it is written in the midrashim that Zedekiah was enjoyed sexually by Nebuchadnezzar, which is why Nebuchadnezzar placed him on the throne in Jerusalem once he had removed Jehoiachim (by death) and Jehoiachin (by captivity). Further, certain midrashim explain that Nebuchadnezzar’s seven-year madness was actually his having sex with animals, beastiality, and that he had actually become so sexually corrupted as to add the beasts of the field to his escapades. Of course, that part has been debated and speculated among the best rabbis and Jewish scholars for centuries, and it will never be determined as fact, ever. Nonetheless, there are literally countless writings, midrashim, that accept as fact the sexual excesses of Nebuchadnezzar. Furthermore, they only lend greater credence to the validity that Daniel, captured for his nobility and exceptionally handsome looks was then made into a eunuch for this very king and was destined to become a sex object for Nebuchadnezzar. Any slave sold at this time and in this culture was property to be used in whatever fashion the wealthy, or royal, buyer had in mind, and sexual harems filled with virile and handsome, teenage males was completely accepted and common. Over the centuries, the sex slave trade would become one of the biggest enterprises in the world.
Eunuchs and the Sex Slave Trade
For centuries, captive slaves were the lawful property of their captors, sold especially to wealthy men and rulers, and they were to be enjoyed in whatever capacity the ruler so desired, including sex. Sex throughout this time in history was very fluid, not filled with the taboos that evolved within modern society. For men to have homosexual relationships, even while having wives, was normal, and this custom of kings having homosexual affairs existed right on through, and beyond, the time of the apostle Paul and his sojourns in Corinth.
As an example of how eunuchs of the royal court were often used sexually by the kings, we can look to a recorded account in the time closer to Daniel’s life, that of Alexander the Great. Even though Alexander lived nearly two-hundred years after Daniel, the tradition was still very much in vogue. The conqueror and Persian king, Cyrus, who took over Babylon at the time of Daniel, had as one of his descendants, Darius III, who was king of Persia in the days of Alexander the Great. Darius made a present to Alexander of one of his most handsome, young, male, eunuch sex slaves by the name of Bagoas, who was renowned for his exceptional and remarkable beauty, and Bagoas became Alexander’s favorite love and sex partner. This further speaks to the status held by eunuchs of the royal court, and that was that they had no control over their destinies.
Closer to Daniel’s time, when Darius I (known as Darius the Great) succeeded Cyrus (the ruler at the end of Daniel’s life) in the rule of Babylon, he was paid, as tribute, one-thousand talents of silver and 500 castrated boys. They were commodities, bought and sold for whatever they were deemed best suited for, and if they were handsome, then they were purchased and groomed for the sexual pleasure of their new owners. In fact, castrated boys sold for more money than ordinary slaves. That Bagoas, the favorite eunuch of Darius III was purchased as a young boy, castrated, then groomed for sex, then given as a sex toy to Alexander the Great, simply shows how normal this was considered to be. Thus, if Daniel had been made a eunuch of the royal court, and if his function was going to be sexual, then Daniel would certainly have had no say in the matter. Some might then say, “Well, Daniel was employed as a magician in the royal court of Nebuchadnezzar, so he could not have been a sex slave.” Right and wrong. Yes, he became a highly placed member of the magicians of Nebuchadnezzar, but, could a sex slave also have other functions at the royal court? Absolutely. Bagoas held the position of “chief steward.”
Daniel Is Destined To Become A Eunuch
So, Daniel and his fellow males were selected from among the most handsome and intelligent youths of the Israelite captives that the master of the eunuchs could find, and for the next three years, they were to be fed, trained and developed into handsome, sophisticated men who could please Nebuchadnezzar. During this time, a relationship developed between Daniel and the master of the eunuchs, Ashpenaz. Daniel 1:9 :
“Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.”
“Sar hasarisim,” הסריסים שר means “Prince of the Eunuchs.” “Saris” is the root word, and comes from the verb “to castrate.” We know that the eunuchs in the Babylonian Empire were castrated, and their lives were dedicated eternally to the service of the king. The fact that Daniel never married, and that he lived with his three male companions, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, would further indicate that Daniel was indeed castrated. Daniel 2:17 :
“Then Daniel went to his house and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions:”
Even more proof that Daniel was castrated to make him a eunuch comes from a prophecy of Isaiah which was given by Isaiah to King Hezekiah of Judah, from whom Daniel was descended. In II Kings 20:18, as well as Isaiah 39:7, we read those words:
“And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”
Less than a century later, Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled as Nebuchadnezzar’s army besieged Jerusalem and took Daniel and other sons of the nobility back to Babylon where they were put into the system of the eunuchs. The fact that they were to be nourished on a special diet of the king’s own food for three years may also have been the recovery time needed to fully show no marks from the gruesome operation of castration, a process that took two months just to recover from, because at the end of those three years, these handsome young males were to be brought before the king for “inspection,” - Daniel 1:5 :
“...so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.”
And “stand before the king” meant just that. They would be brought into a private meeting with the king, and the sexually-addicted king Nebuchadnezzar would thereupon enjoy seeing what he had been “presented with.”
Nebuchadnezzar Besieges Jerusalem
As can be seen thus far, there is more to making decisions about Daniel’s sexuality than can be ascertained by simply reading only the biblical verses. But, there is more study necessary in order to make a complete statement. We now have to look at what was happening at the time of Daniel and during his life? For that, we must begin at 605 B.C., and work our way forward through several of the life-altering and major events that would have impacting effects in Daniel’s life.
As stated earlier on, 605 B.C., was the year the army of Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem. At this point, Daniel lost his homeland. Several years later, King Jehoiakim revolted, so Nebuchadnezzar returned, besieged Jerusalem for a second time, and on March 16, 597 B.C., after three months, the city fell. Nebuchadnezzar then placed a puppet king on the throne of Judah in Jerusalem, a man twenty-one years of age by the name of Zedekiah. Zedekiah was forced to swear an oath of allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar, but in the years that followed, Zedekiah formed alliances with the enemies of Nebuchadnezzar. Thus, in 586 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar returned to Jerusalem with greater destruction. He pulled down the walls of Jerusalem, demolished the sacred temple and forced a larger contingent of Israelites into the famous 70-year Babylonian captivity. Nebuchadnezzar ruthlessly made Zedekiah watch as each of his sons were put to death, then he had Zedekiah’s eyes put out. Zedekiah was then taken into Babylonian captivity along with all the powerful families of Israel. Zedekiah was a relative of Daniel’s, so now Daniel endured personal family loss, and he received word of the distressing fate of his home city and people. At this time, Nebuchadnezzar also completely sacked the temple of Jerusalem and hauled its treasures back to Babylonia. The thought of the demise of this sacred and ancient temple had to weigh heavily on Daniel. Of Israel, other than some nobles who had escaped, only the poor and the weak were left behind. Throughout all of these events, rather than descending into obscurity, or even sharing the fate of the Israelite captives, Daniel became a major player in the royal court of Nebuchadnezzar.
Daniel Never Returned To Jerusalem
Babylonia was a major city in the known world at that time, and it was a major center of commerce, as well. But, some time after Nebuchadnezzar took Judah, he began to lose his mind, and the empire began to decline. A few years after Nebuchadnezzar’s death in 562 B.C., one of Nebuchadnezzar’s high officials, Nebonidas, through a court conspiracy, took power, yet after seventeen years of his rule, the empire had declined even further. Nebonidas went on an eleven-year military campaign, and during this time, his son, Belshazzar, ruled. Under Belshazzar, the kingdom continued to decline. At the end of Belshazzar’s rule, he held a huge banquet at which event he ordered all the sacred vessels that had been plundered from the Jewish temple in Jerusalem to be brought for the use of his guests and himself. It was at this banquet that the hand of God wrote on the wall in plain sight of all who were in attendance, and the writing foretold the fall of Belshazzar and Babylon. That very night, October 12, 539 B.C., the kingdom was indeed invaded by the Medes and Persians, Belshazzar was slain, and Cyrus of Persia took over, the very same king who two years later would order the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem and end the Babylonian Captivity. Daniel was a very old man by the time Cyrus came to Babylon, but he was still alive and held in high esteem by Cyrus. Daniel saw so much history in the span of his life...and he never returned to Jerusalem.
The Beginning of the Story
Now, what we have seen thus far, these have been brief glimpses of the highlights. The picture starts to become clearer, but we cannot make definitive statements yet. Too many questions arise from the minds of those who only read thus far and assume that this is all we have to go on. No, there is much more. Scholarly pronouncements mean scholarly research. You are not done.
The stages of Daniel’s life tell us much. First, as a boy, descended from royalty, he was taken captive and held at the royal palace of Nebuchadnezzar. For three years, he was tutored under the watchful eye of Ashpenaz, the prince of the eunuchs. Some like to suggest that the relationship between Daniel and Ashpenaz was homosexual, and it may well have been. But, let’s be clear, this relationship may have been loving and homosexual, but if there had been any sexual action between these two, it would have been of a different type than normal, all due to the aftereffects of castration ( I’ll go into this reasoning more later), not to mention the fact that Daniel was the physical property of Nebuchadnezzar, and it would have been dangerous for Ashpenaz to “fool around” with the king’s property. Still, what went on in the harem stayed in the harem. We cannot say with any certainty one way or the other. Later, when Daniel was elevated to governorship, a sexual relationship with Ashpenaz would have been possible, but while Daniel was still only a sex eunuch and in the private harem of Nebuchadnezzar, a sexual relationship would have been possible, though dangerous and not likely at that point in his life. For now, though, we know from the Hebrew that Daniel certainly caught the eye of Ashpenaz. Daniel 1:9 :
“Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.”
This is the passage that so many want to hang the entire narrative on and then just leave it there. While this is a very important part of the whole picture, it is not all of it, not by a long shot. There is much more to consider, and we will. But, this passage is important, because it describes a very special relationship that Daniel and Ashpenaz entered into - one of love. There are those who have tried to mistranslate this verse, because they don’t want to see what it really says, that a young male found love in a relationship with another man, an older man at that (how much older, we don’t know). But, it is possible. It would certainly not have been unusual, since men routinely sought out physical relations with younger partners. This is a phenomenon common throughout history, again right through and beyond the time of Christ. The famous historian, Herodotus, states that pederasty was thoroughly established in Babylon by this time, and later, we will see that by the time of Corinth in the time of Paul the Apostle, the custom was the societal norm. At that time in Corinth, it was the custom of men in the age range of twenty to thirty to take on a sexual tutoring relationship with a young male who was older than a child but who had not yet begun to grow a beard. Once the young male had developed a beard, he was encouraged to find his own young lover to train and was no longer kept by his older male lover. Of course, there would most likely have been exceptions to this rule, as all rules of sexual conduct down through history have never been absolute. But generally, pederasty in those times in history was a sort of right of passage for men in a very, very male chauvinistic society. So, it would not be out of the ordinary for Ashpenaz to have taken a special love interest in Daniel. After all, Ashpenaz was a eunuch, and Daniel was being made into one, too. Daniel was among the most handsome youths that Ashpenaz could find, as that was the standing order from the king, so Ashpenaz had the pick of the “best of the best,” so to speak.
The word here for “tender love,” רחם “racham,” is used in the plural, “rachamim” ולרחמים “tender loves.” It can mean anything you want it to. We have to read between the lines here, because this is not a term meaning anything more than what it says. No hidden meanings...just “tender loves.” It has been stated by some scholars that Ashpenaz would not have dared to have sex with Daniel, since Daniel was property of the king. It is quite true that Daniel was property of the king, and taking advantage of any of the king’s property without the king bestowing that right was punishable by death. So, this is a valid argument, however, we have to keep in mind, as well, that it was not unheard of for eunuchs to have affairs of both the heart and the bed within their secret world. What was done behind closed doors was supposed to stay there, and we do not have any proof that Ashpenaz and Daniel did have sex, but, we also do not have any proof that they did not. Anyone saying otherwise is simply speculating at best. Just remember, though, it could very well have happened.
Daniel and Ashpenaz
But, what kind of sex could two eunuchs have with each other anyway? What kind of love relationship could they have? Usually, if it were the king, or some wealthy man, he would have purchased Daniel for sex, plain and simple, and this was common practice for thousands of years. The sex between the king and one of his eunuchs would have been that of an active dominate male with a passive and somewhat feminine male. For a man to act as a woman was considered disgusting, but for a man to treat a eunuch, another male, as a female was not, since the eunuch was considered a “third sex.” But, with regard to Ashpenaz the prince of the eunuchs and the possibility of his having sex with Daniel, he was not the king, he was a castrated eunuch, “third sex” with “third sex.” Daniel was “brought into favor” with Ashpenaz. So, when is the phrase “brought into favor” used elsewhere in the Bible? Esther 2:17 would be a very good example of this:
“And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti.”
The word for “favour,” חסד “khesed,” used here is the same word used in Daniel to describe the relationship between Daniel and Ashpenaz. Favored meant that you were elevated above all others. No matter how anybody tries to translate this verse, there is obviously a favored love relationship between Daniel and Ashpenaz, one that transcends the ordinary, and as Daniel grows in life, it will become more and more apparent that his life is spent living with eunuchs as a eunuch, as a member of the “third sex,” which rules out any love relationship with women. Later, as we study the horrible and barbaric practices of turning men into eunuchs, it will become totally apparent to anyone why Daniel could only have a male for a relationship.
Some suggest that the fact that Daniel was a eunuch would explain one of his reasons for not returning to Jerusalem when Cyrus freed the Israelites to do so, since Deuteronomy 23:1 states its prohibition against eunuchs coming into the congregation:
“He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD.”
However, once we study Daniel’s assimilation into Babylonian culture and privilege, his rise to great power and the immense wealth he amassed, it will become apparent that his home became Babylon. And, his love life most likely became fulfilled by a eunuch like Ashpenaz. While Daniel seems to have never lost his identification with the plight of the Jews in exile, it must be remembered that Daniel was buried in the kingdom of Babylon by his own choice.
There are some who try to eradicate the implications of this love story by saying that Ashpenaz never really existed, but we know from archaeological evidence that he did. In the Berlin Museum, there is an ancient Babylonian monument with an inscription which reads:
“Ashpenaz, master of eunuchs in the time of Nebuchadnezzar.” It is this same Ashpenaz who oversees every facet of Daniel’s new life in Babylon. Daniel had left Jerusalem forever, and he would become more Babylonian with each passing day. Ashpenaz gave him a Chaldean name - Belteshazzar. Likewise, he gave Daniel’s friends new names. Hananiah became Shadrach, Mishael became Meshach, and Azariah became Abednego. Daniel’s new name, Belteshazzar, is from the Akkadian words “bel balatsu usur,” in the language of the Assyrians and the Babylonians, and it means “Bel protect his life (the king),” Bel being the deity of Babylon. This name change was part of the separation that becoming a eunuch entailed, for it took away forever the family lineage of the eunuch’s father. For all intents and purposes, Daniel was henceforth no longer an Israelite, but an outsider separated from them by his new status as a eunuch and as one owned by the king, now even with a new name of foreign origin. Becoming a eunuch in the court of Nebuchadnezzar was a one-way ticket for Daniel.
Daniel the Magician
Daniel was trained to be a “magician” חרטם “chartom,” and an “astrologer” אשף “ashaph,” for the royal court, and Daniel would continue in this capacity through the first year of the reign of Cyrus, which began in 539 B.C. The word magician should actually be translated as a “diviner,” a “seer,” someone who could foretell the future, interpret dreams and omens. An ancient cuneiform tablet dating from the sixth century in Babylon reads:
“In regards to the bright star which has appeared, I will undertake to interpret its meaning for the glory of my lord Nabonidus, Babylon’s king, and also for the crown prince, Belshazzar”
In the case of Daniel, his “sensitivity” training would include using the astrological positions of stars and observable celestial events, coupled with other methods, such as a complex system of producing and reading omens and signs, to advise the king on timing events for propitious benefits. The Babylonians were extremely advanced in the study of astronomy, and created a seven-day week and a 24-hour day composed of 12 divisions of two hours each. Of all the magicians, or seers, Daniel became the best, and was made “Master of the Magicians.” Daniel 4:8-9 :
“But at the last Daniel came in before me, whose name is Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods: and before him I told the dream, saying,
O Belteshazzar, master of the magicians...”
Note, here, that Nebuchadnezzar is talking, and he thinks that Daniel is highly connected, like a temple priest, to the gods of Babylon, whom he refers to as the holy gods, such as Marduk and Shamash. It is interesting to note that when Daniel was called on to interpret the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, a dream which Nebuchadnezzar would not tell to any of the wise men, insisting, instead, that they prove their metaphysical skills by not only telling Nebuchadnezzar the interpretation, but the dream, as well, Daniel was not able to do so with any of the methods taught to him by the Chaldeans. Instead, Daniel and his three companions asked for help from “the God of heaven” in determining the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel 2:17-18 :
“Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions:
That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.”
This passage shows that the four Hebrews are now wise men in the court of Nebuchadnezzar, in case anyone wonders what happened to Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, but this passage also shows that Daniel still believed in the god of his fathers. This is whom he sought for help in this situation, and this is who came to his rescue with the answer to the king’s impossible demand. In verse 2:23, Daniel affirms this:
“I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers...”
Many years later, when Belshazzar uses the sacred vessels of the temple of God in his banquet, Daniel, by now an old man, lets Belshazzar know that this same “God of heaven” has rendered judgment against the king for his sacrilege. Daniel 5:22-23 :
“And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this;
But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hands thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified:”
This God of heaven is the “God of my fathers,” Daniel says in 2:23. Through all of his training, through all his years in the royal court, surrounded by all the gods of Babylon, and even though he had been made a eunuch and learned the Chaldean arts, Daniel never lost his respect for the God of his fathers. Nonetheless, his status as a eunuch made him an outcast among his people, the Israelites. Ironic.
Some like to say that Daniel was not among the wise men, the magicians, of Nebuchadnezzar, that somehow he was kept as a “separated Jew.” They don’t want Daniel “sullied.” Wishful thinking. The fact that Daniel was among the wise men of Nebuchadnezzar’s court is further proven by the fact that the king had decreed that all the wise men were to be put to death for being unable to tell him the dream. Daniel 2:13 :
“And the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain.”
Shows how cruelly fickle the king could be, how valueless a life was to him, how easily you could be replaced, and yes, that Daniel was a member of the magicians. Thus, knowing that he had a death sentence hanging over his head as one of the wise men, Daniel went to Arioch, the eunuch who was captain of the king’s guard and in charge of carrying out the king’s order. Daniel gets the king to delay long enough for him to seek help from God. Once Daniel has the answer, he saves the day. Daniel could have spoken as a separate individual who had separate powers and abilities, saved his own life, but, he spoke for all the wise men of Babylon in this instance. Daniel lets the king know that his ability to tell the king not only his dream, but its meaning, is not through some power that he personally has, nor that the other wise men possess, but that God has intervened and given him the answer. That Daniel is no different in powers than the rest of the wise men of Babylon, he states in verse 30:
“But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living...”
When Daniel succeeded in revealing not only the interpretation of the dream, but the dream itself, Nebuchadnezzar was literally beside himself. The Bible says that he fell on his face and worshipped Daniel, commanding that “oblations and sweet odors (incense) should be offered to him,” as if Daniel were a divinity. After all, here was the most handsome male that had been brought into his royal court, trained in royal demeanor, clothed in the robes of a metaphysical profession, and now this! In ancient religions, gods were always seen as exceedingly handsome, and Daniel certainly had the full attention of Nebuchadnezzar now.
The Mausoleum of Daniel
After this event, Nebuchadnezzar recognized Daniel’s god as “a God of gods.” He elevated Daniel to the position of ruler over the province of Babylon, chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon. Daniel now sat in the gate of the king, a very high position in the royal situation. But the coming years would require also that Daniel display the political prowess of a master chess player in order to live a long life in the royal court at Babylon, not only in the court of Nebuchadnezzar, but in the courts of his successors, as well, and the fact that Daniel did live a long life, dying sometime in his eighties, shows that Daniel grew in his astute skills of political maneuvering.
His original protector, Ashpenaz, may have either passed away, changed positions at the royal court, or may have still been in Daniel’s life. This is important to consider, because people want to know, who was Daniel’s lover? The answer to that will always be speculation. Still, one intriguing point of interest regarding whether Ashpenaz was still around is found in Jeremiah 39:3, in which Jeremiah relates the events of Nebuchadnezzar’s sacking of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. Jeremiah tells how Nebuchadnezzar’s army came against Jerusalem, and he states that all of the princes of Nebuchadnezzar came in and sat in the middle gate:
“And all the princes of the king of Babylon came in, and sat in the middle gate, even Nergalsharezer, Samgarnebo, Sarsechim, Rabsaris, Nergalsharezer, Rabmag, with all the residue of the princes of the king of Babylon.”
Because of the way this line is written in the King James, most people would not catch the significance, but these are not just names. They are names and titles, two titles, in fact - “Rab Saris” and “Rab Mag.” Rab Saris is the title “Head of the Eunuchs,” and Rab Mag is the title for “Head of the Magicians.” There is a clerical error here, and we find it corrected in verse 13 where the actual name of the head of the eunuchs is given as Nebushashban. The scribe who copied this text left out Nebushashban, so it makes it seem as if the name of the head of the eunuchs was Sarsechim, but that is incorrect. What is written here as Sarsechim is actually the plural Hebraic form of the borrowed Akkadian words “sar sak,” “king’s son.” Sarsechim is here used as the plural in Hebrew of what the writer hears as the title in Akkadian for the “king’s sons,” the princes Nergal-Sharezer and Shamgar-Nebo, sarsechim (king’s sons). After the scribe writes the names of these two well-known princes, who were famous at that time, he accidentally leaves out the name of Nebushashban, the Head of the Eunuchs, which he correctly lists in verse 13:
“So Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard sent, and Nebushashban, Rabsaris, and Nergalsharezer, Rabmag, and all the king of Babylon’s princes;”
Wise Men, Magicians and the Selection of Eunuchs
That these men would accompany the king into battle can be understood by knowing that the wise men were to advise the king on omens and signs as to favorable conditions in planning his battle strategies, and the head of the eunuchs would have accompanied the king to select human war trophies, young males for his harem of eunuchs (Remember Daniel’s selection process?).
Still, another bit of information is necessary here, as well, as we consider the question of the whereabouts of Ashpenaz, and that is a Babylonian clay tablet, dated about 595 B.C. and currently in the British Museum, that was only translated in 2007. The inscription of that tablet reads:
“Regarding] 1.5 minas (0.75 kg) of gold, the property of Nabu-sharrussu-ukin, the chief eunuch, which he sent via Arad-Banitu the eunuch to [the temple] Esangila: Arad-Banitu has delivered [it] to Esangila. In the presence of Bel-usat, son of Alpaya, the royal bodyguard, [and of] Nadin, son of Marduk-zer-ibni. Month XI, day 18, year 10 [of] Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.”
Now, let’s look at three dates: 605 B.C., Daniel is taken to Babylon and Ashpenaz is the “Prince of the Eunuchs;” 595 B.C., the clay tablet of Nabu-sharrusu-ukin is written; and 586 B.C., the final sacking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in which Jeremiah lists the names of the royal entourage sitting in the middle gate in Jerusalem. In 605 B.C, when Daniel is taken, we meet Ashpenaz, the “sar hasarisim,” “Prince of the Eunuchs.” The word in the Hebrew text is “sar,” “prince,” each time we see the name of Ashpenaz. We also see in Daniel 1:11 that Ashpenaz set another eunuch over Daniel to see personally to his care, a eunuch by the name of Melzar:
“Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,”
That Ashpenaz has the power to assign eunuchs indicates that he is indeed the prince of the eunuchs. Only in the instance of Ashpenaz do we see the title “Prince of the Eunuchs.” When we are introduced to all the others in this list, we see the term “Head of the Eunuchs.” We see “Head of the Magicians,” which title was given to Daniel by Nebuchadnezzar, and we see “Head of the Guard,” and “Head of the Eunuchs,” so, two possibilities existed. Either Ashpenaz was the highest eunuch who ruled over all the other eunuchs, and the eunuchs were set in “units” so to speak, so that each unit of eunuchs had a “Head of the Eunuchs” over them, each “head of a unit” answerable finally to the highest eunuch, that being the “Prince of the Eunuchs.” I can see no other reason for the use of “sar,” “prince,” for Ashpenaz, and “rav,” “head,” for all the others mentioned over the years. It is certainly possible that Ashpenaz was still alive and in command of his high office during the years being discussed. The only other possibility would be that the terms are interchangeable, and Ashpenaz was no longer the highest eunuch at the times the others are mentioned. If this was the case, then Ashpenaz had moved on and was out of Daniel’s life. We do know that after chapter one, Ashpenaz is never mentioned again. Still, that cannot lead to any conclusions, either, since the Book of Daniel is not an exhaustive and complete reference of Daniel’s life. Since Daniel was made “chief” of the “governors of the magicians,” we know that each function in the royal palace had ranks, such as wise man, governor of a unit of wise men, and chief of the governors of the wise men. Thus, it would be correct to assume the same about the eunuchs, and “Prince of the Eunuchs” would put Ashpenaz above all eunuchs, including “head of the eunuchs.” My belief is that Ashpenaz stayed in Daniel’s life for many years to come.
So, what can we conclude? That Ashpenaz was the highest ranking eunuch at the time Daniel met him, that Daniel was personally selected by Ashpenaz for his handsome looks as well as his intellect, that while most captives would have only had contact with a supervisor eunuch, such as Melzar, Daniel had a close personal relationship with the prince of the eunuchs (extremely significant), that Daniel and Ashpenaz had a loving relationship, and that for someone of such high status as Ashpenaz to take the time to get personally involved with Daniel meant that there had to be a lot of attraction of some sort. These are the facts. Beyond that, however, we merely speculate.
Daniel Survives Deadly Political Tormoil
At the death of Nebuchadnezzar in 562 B.C., Daniel lost his main protector, the king, Nebuchadnezzar, himself. How would Daniel survive? Why would the new king continue Daniel in his position? Because the new king was Amel-Marduk, Nebuchadnezzar’s son, and it was Amel-Marduk who released Zedekiah, Daniel’s relative, from prison and gave him royal privileges and access to the king’s court, as well as sustenance for his family. When Zedekiah died, he was given a royal burial. But, Amel-Marduk never won the support of the priests of Marduk, a powerful political force, and he was assassinated by his sister’s husband, Neriglissar, in 560 B.C. If the priests of Marduk could arrange to have the king assassinated, imagine the amount of political maneuvering Daniel had to engage in so that he was not included. Neriglissar, (Nergal-shar-usur), one of the famous princes who sat in the middle gate of Jerusalem in 587 B.C., as listed by Jeremiah in 39:3, took over the throne and would be somewhat inclined to maintain the status quo with regards to Daniel and his high office, but in four years, he died of natural causes. His son, Labashi-Marduk, succeeded him to the throne, but in nine months, he was murdered by the priestly party. Once again, how is it that Daniel survives these court intrigues? For one thing, Daniel now had his own protective force of loyal eunuchs as the high-ranking governor of the province of Babylon.
In 556 B.C., this same priestly political force placed Nabu-na’ihc, (Nabonidas) the Aramaen from Haran, on the throne. His mother, Addagoppe, a priestess of the god Sin (god of the moon) in Haran, came to Babylon and used her position to secure high office at the royal court for her son. She lived a long life, passing away at the age of 103, and she was buried in Haran with all the honors of a queen in 547 B.C. Let’s pause and look at her funeral as a glimpse into the world of Daniel, for there is nothing more telling about a culture than how they cared for their dead. This is also important, because I especially want to remove the notion that too many people have that Daniel was somehow a “Christian prophet,” thus incapable of anything their “Christian morals” would not tolerate. Daniel was not a Christian, he was a Jewish exile who was assimilated into Babylonian culture to a greater degree than they would like to know, and when people make the mistake of trying to re-make Daniel into their image of a modern Christian living in the world of today, they really go off a cliff.
The Death of Addagoppe
When Addagoppe, who was well-known to Nebuchadnezzar, died, the fact that she had lived so long was interpreted that the gods had favored her, thus adding to the auspiciousness of the occasion. The funeral arrangements meant that Daniel would have attended as a dignitary of the royal court of Babylon, further lending high honors to her personage. In fact, the magicians would have been summoned to divine the most auspicious manners of conducting the funeral, including when and how to bury her. After all, the gods of the underworld had to be thought of with great consideration to making sure that the deceased would be well-received by them in the underworld. If the person being buried was not buried properly, their ghost, or death demon, would rise and wander the earth until a priest guided it back to its burial site with proper incantations. Improperly disturbing the bones of the deceased could result in the same, so on occasion when it was necessary to move the bones of ancestors, bringing the bones of the family to another city or country was only undertaken with the divine aid of the wise men and priests.
How Babylonians ran their everyday affairs can even be seen in such things as a Babylonian cuneiform tablet that shows a calendar from 850 B.C., and on the seventh month, one of the daily admonitions states: “Avoid eating garlic on the second day, or risk a death in the family.” Babylonians invented astrology and were the first to assign characters and personalities to the 12 astrological signs. The position of the stars and the moon would play heavily into the decision of when to bury Addagoppe. Funeral arrangements of the royals meant that a lot of visual pomp was also necessary to show the value of the deceased, and the magicians would have a lot of say as to the “spiritual” arrangements of who stood next to whom, even the colors chosen for processional banners and the symbols to be displayed thereon. The journey to Haran and Addagoppe’s “Palace of Rest,” “Ekal Tabshuti” in Akkadian, would be approximately two months, and her body would be conducted there with great ceremony the entire distance. Daniel was the chief of the magicians, and as such, he would have been involved in some degree in this important funeral and its metaphysical and astrological schedules. Due to his high office, he would most certainly have been in the colorful and musical procession to the tomb.
Down inside the tomb, Addagoppe’s mummified body (most likely smoked and dried at temperatures of 300-500 degrees, as one queen discovered under the palace of Nimrud from the 8th Century B.C., had been done) would have been laid out in the most expensive clothing possible, robes made with gold, silver and lapis lazuli. She would have been adorned with fine jewelry, including bell-shaped amulets that were to ward off evil, and she would have been surrounded with many of her favorite items in life, such as her favorite drinking goblet, hair adornments, and games. On the actual day of interment, incense would be burning everywhere in great quantities. Daniel would have descended into the tomb with the royals where musicians would have played and singers sang until the end, and the “taklimtu” ritual would be observed, wherein Addagoppe’s body and her possessions would have been displayed with all the funerary pageantry and pomp of a queen. Her rich possessions were laid out intentionally for Shamash, the sun god, to admire and take note of. She would have been laid out, exposed, for all to admire, rituals would be observed, then her body would be prepared for her final burial, placed within the sarcophagus, sealed, and the family would then cry over her. The ritual of “shuruptu” would take place, “purification,” during which some of the possessions of Addagoppe would be burned. This was to protect the family from the “death spirit” and to purify them from contact with a corpse. Priests, singers and musicians from the temple of the moon god, Sin, would have played prominent roles at the tomb. At the end of it all, the dignitaries would have had a drink together, then ascended from the place where Adagoppe’s bones, being in proximity to the world of the living, would forever insure prosperity on the kingdom. Adagoppe, however, would have been accompanied into the next life with many of her closest servants, who would have been slain on the spot and arranged in positions in order of importance to await her needs in the next world. A story from much earlier shows that this custom had been around for centuries. From the Epic of Gilgamesh, when King Gilgamesh of Uruk died, he had buried with him the following list of “loved ones:” His beloved son, his beloved wife and junior wife, his beloved singer, his cup-bearer and his beloved barber. The number of attendants buried with royals always varied, some were even buried alive, and this custom survived long after Daniel.
Addagoppe would also have been buried with gifts for the gods of the underworld. Once the tomb was sealed, regular offerings of food and drink would be brought to her tomb for generations to come, since the deceased could bring rain or drought, prosperity or famine, all dependent on how they were revered after death.
From a cuneiform inscription from this event, we read:
“In the month of Nisannu the fifth day, the mother of the king died in the Walled Camp, which is on the banks of the Euphrates, above Sippar. The crown prince and his army were in deep mourning for three days, an official weeping was performed. In Akkad, an official weeping on behalf of the mother of the king was performed in the month of Simanu.”
Nissanu is the Akkadian word for the period of March/April, and Simanu is the period of May/June. Sippar was a city located just about forty-five miles above Babylon. One thing that the official weeping period meant was that nobody combed their hair. One of the inscriptions said that “everyone went around with their hair disheveled.” But, the “official weeping” meant that there were professional mourners who would be paid to wail loudly; not anything remotely resembling our wailing of today, but a type of wailing called ululating, which is produced by emitting a wailing type sound with a rapid movement of the tongue back and forth in the mouth. These professional mourners would be stationed at key spots and in large numbers to “mourn.”
Once the tomb of Addagoppe was sealed, the king would have uttered a “powerful curse” against anyone attempting to re-enter or rob it, which curse would have been pronounced in front of the attending guests, then inscribed on the tomb to warn others. An example of such a curse would be one from Daniel’s time found on a bowl from the tomb:
“May his tongue dry up in his mouth, may his legs dry up, may sulfur and fire burn him, may his body be struck by boiling water, may he be choked, estranged, and disturbed in the eyes of all who see him, may he be banned, broken, lost, finished, vanquished and die, and may flames seize him.”
The bones of the royals were protected in more ways still, because those bones carried powers, so much so, that if a kingdom were to be invaded, the bones of the family would be exhumed and taken with the family lest they be desecrated by the invaders. That this custom of carrying bones around was in existent long before Daniel is attested to in Genesis 50:25-26 :
“And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence.
So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.”
Daniel's Burial Was As A Pharaoh
Notice all the similarities. Notice also that embalming was practiced by the Israelites, so Daniel was familiar with the much of the customs already.
The Babylonians believed in ghosts. Anyone who was not buried properly would wander the earth forever, looking for crumbs of food and bringing bad luck to anyone they haunted. Proper burial and reverence for the bones of the deceased was integral to Babylonians, and when Daniel, himself, died, he was buried like a pharaoh. Much of what we have thus far described would be repeated when Daniel died and was buried years later. Furthermore, his bones were considered sacred and able to bring wealth and prosperity, even rainfall in a drought, so much so, that his coffin was taken from Babylon, where he had been interred, and removed to the city of Shushan by the Jews who felt it necessary. Those Jews who lived on the side of the river where Daniel’s coffin was kept prospered, and those Jews who lived on the other side of the river did not. A great contention arose over the matter, and it was agreed that Daniel’s bones should be shared equally. Thus, each year, the coffin was taken to one side of the river, and the following year, it was returned. Eventually, one of the rulers decided that this was disrespectful of Daniel, so he had a glass sarcophagus made to encase the coffin which was then chained to the side of the bridge over the river at exact midpoint. Later, another ruler had the river diverted long enough to dig a grave, constructed a three-layered sarcophagus, had Daniel’s coffin put into that, and had it all buried in that grave, whereupon, he had the river returned to its natural course, protecting Daniel’s “tomb.” Later, Daniel was dug up one last time and buried in the current resting place at Shushan.
The Tomb of Daniel in Sushan
Nabonidas, Belshazzar and Cyrus
Nabonidas, famous for his cruelty to the populace, including forced slave labor without pay, was a king whose mother had been a former temple priestess for another one of the pagan gods. Speaking against her in any way would be a death sentence. Daniel lived through all of this and more. Nabonidas devoted himself to the renovation of many temples, and his preference for the moon god, Sin, fueled enmity with the powerful Babylonian priests of the temples, especially those of Marduk. Around 552 B.C., Nabonidas left Babylon to reside in Tema (modern Tayma) in northern Arabia. While residing in Tema, he restored the temples of the moon god, Sin, in Haran and Ur, among others. Of intriguing interest here is that the temple to Sin that was restored by Nebonidas was originally built by Terah, the father of Abraham, the ancestor of Daniel. While Nebonidas spent his years away doing his archaeological restorations, he made his eldest son, Bel-shar-usur (Belshazzar) his viceroy. It was Belshazzar who was on the throne of Babylon the night of the hand writing on the wall described in the fifth chapter of the Book of Daniel. Belshazzar was the last Babylonian king. He died that night in 539 B.C., when Cyrus invaded, and some stories have it that the priestly powers opened the gates to let Cyrus in. At any rate, Nabonidas and Belshazzar were so hated by the people, that Cyrus was welcomed as a liberator.
Daniel, The Political Survivor, Lives to See Cyrus
Look at the highlights of the Babylonian kingdom while Daniel lived right in the middle of it all. The temples dedicated to a multitude of gods, then think of all the times that Daniel would be called upon to show the kings when would be auspicious times for dedicating new temples, for going into battle, for elevating other magicians. When people of the twenty-first century try to re-make Daniel into a Christian, they are ignorant of so much. Think of the court intrigue when Daniel saw that the very daughter of Nebuchadnezzar was selling out her own brother to a man who was married to her for political gain. Think of how Daniel felt when he knew that this Aramaen was the co-conspirator in the act of murder of the king of Babylon, Labashi-Marduk, a man Daniel served as chief of the magicians and who owned him. Did he foresee the death of Labashi-Marduk? Did Labashi-Marduk consult with Daniel? If so, how did he fail to prevent the death of his owner? Now Daniel had a new owner, Nabonidas.
We do know that Daniel must have fallen out of use, because the priests of various temples in Babylon complained bitterly and often that Nabonidas had neglected them and their highly important sacred rituals. One of the main annual rituals of the New Year, bringing the god Bel out of his temple in a procession through the streets of the city, led by the king, of course, insured the Babylonian Empire’s very future, its right to be the center of the world, and it was being completely ignored by Nabonidas. One inscription reads: “the god Nabû did not come to Babylon, the god Bêl did not go out of Esagila in procession...” Nabonidas had gone completely after the god Sin. This was the main reason they turned on his household and allowed Cyrus entry into the city. Thus, by the time of the great banquet of Belshazzar, a true playboy and reveler, Daniel had not been called on by the kings for quite some time. An inscription of Cyrus speaks of the contempt so many held for Belshazzar:
“A coward was put in charge as the king of this country…With evil intents he did away with the regular offerings to the gods…and desecrated the worship of the king of his gods, Marduk.”
Daniel At the End of the Babylonian Rule
We see proof that Daniel had been neglected by the royal family, because Nabonidas was pursuing the god Sin, and his son, Belshazzar, was pursuing some sin of his own. By this time, things had so broken down that Belshazzar had never even met Daniel. Thus, in chapter 5, we read that Belshazzar has to literally ask Daniel if he is the one that Nebuchadnezzar brought out of Jerusalem, saying in verse 14:
“I have even heard of thee...”
“I’ve heard of you?” Daniel lived in the winter palace at Shushan, not far away, but Belshazzar had no use for Daniel, until Belshazzar’s wife remembered him and brought his name up to the king. Though Belshazzar had called his wise men before him to interpret the writing on the wall, he had not considered calling Daniel until the queen came in and told Belshazzar that, since his wise men could not interpret the mystery, she remembered a wise man who could, Daniel. This shows that at least by the time of Nabonidas and his neglect of those temples and gods he had no concern for, Daniel was neglected and left to live life without much need from the king for spiritual advice. Of course, one must remember that Daniel was governor of the province of Babylon, similar to a prime minister, so, as such, he was not idle and was running his own household of eunuchs and attending to the business of the governor’s court, as well as acting as a liaison for the king. We know that at this point in his life, he lived in the winter palace at Shushan. Daniel 8:2 :
“And I saw in a vision; and it came to pass, when I saw, that I was at Shushan in the palace...”
By this time in Daniel’s life, Nabonidas neglected him, and Belshazzar had never met him, only heard of him. Still, Daniel was dedicated to his religious faith and kept his ability to call on his god for answers. He was apparently out of vogue, though, because the king called everyone but Daniel when he first sought an answer to the handwriting on the wall. This writing had to have caused great panic in the royal banquet, because a disembodied hand was seen writing a huge message on the wall in letters of fire. To the Babylonians, this had to be a “demon spirit,” some royal’s tomb had been desecrated, their bones disturbed. This was a great omen, and the magicians had to be summoned.
Daniel lived in a world of survival of the mentally fittest. He may have found that with each changing of the ruling elite, the powers that came with that clique edged him out of the way just a little further each time, because there was ruthless and fatal jealousies in that kingdom. Many a man lost his life to falling from favor. Daniel survived it all, even the den of lions. Still, Daniel never lost the office of governor of Babylon due to the fact that when he interpreted the writing on the wall for Belshazzar, Belshazzar elevated him to the highest position possible, which was third ruler in the kingdom. That meant that Nabonidas was king, Belshazzar directly under him on the very throne of Babylon, and Daniel would become ruler directly under Belshazzar. If Daniel had merely been chief of the magicians, Belshazzar would most likely have elevated him to a governorship. Being that he was already the governor of all of the province of Babylon, the logical move would be a position higher than that, thus, third ruler in the kingdom, Daniel 5:29 :
“Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with scarlet, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him, that he should be third ruler in the kingdom.”
Stele of Nabonidas
The Stele of Nabonidas, in the British Museum, showing the king in his royal Babylonian attire with the religious ceremonial staff in his hand. To the right of that is the symbol for the moon god, Sin, followed by the symbol for the goddess Ishtar, followed by the symbol for the sun god, Shamash.
Daniel Becomes Third Ruler Of The Babylonian Empire
That night, Daniel was elevated to the position of third ruler in the kingdom, and by the next day, the kingdom was in the hands of Cyrus of Persia. I have read accounts by historians claiming that Cyrus destroyed Babylon, but then, if that were true, how did Daniel survive? On a cuneiform cylinder from the reign of Cyrus, we can read his own account of what happened after he took Babylon:
“...I am Cyrus, King of the world. When I entered Babylon...I did not allow anyone to terrorize the land...I kept in view the needs of the people and all its sanctuaries to promote their well-being...I put an end to their misfortune. The Great God has delivered all the lands into my hand; the lands that I have made to dwell in peaceful habitation...”
Cyrus immediately established a new political order of one hundred and twenty princes, satraps, to rule the kingdom, and over these one hundred and twenty princes were three presidents, commissioners, and the chief of these presidents was Daniel (further illustrating the system of hierarchy in all functions in the royal house - prince of the eunuchs over head of the eunuchs). Of course, now that Daniel was essentially in the position of Nebuchadnezzar, ruling all of the Babylonian kingdom, the rest of the princes and presidents chaffed with jealousy. And this set the stage for the next attempt on removing him from favor, the collusion of presidents and princes that resulted in Daniel’s famous trip to the lion’s den. Through all of these years in Babylon, Daniel walked a fine line between treacherous snakes in the royal court, and he never made a misstep. Ashpenaz had taught him well, and maybe Ashpenaz was right there with him all along, sharing his love, as well as his tremendous political clout and skill. That would have been a powerful team.
Inscription Tablet "I Am Cyrus, King of the World"
Daniel's Pure Love
So, we see that Daniel came to the royal court of Nebuchadnezzar as a young boy, was castrated and made a eunuch, developed into a political power, never married, never returned to Jerusalem, and may or may not have been a lover of Ashpenaz. Further, as a governor, Daniel would have been permitted his own eunuchs. He lived a life of a eunuch among eunuchs, and had to have found his love among eunuchs, because he would have been unable to fulfill any woman. Thus, Daniel would have had a male to male relationship, a homosexual relationship, with whoever eventually became his companion. Over the centuries, the Church, since the time just after Christ, began to distort human sexuality until eventually what should be normal, pure and healthy was made into abnormal, sinful and detestable. The Church perverted human sexuality, and for those who think that today’s sexual mores are the same as those of the times of the Old Testament writers, I have news for you. Today’s dark view of sex was not shared by our forefathers. Further, for men to have homosexual relationships with one another was not viewed as evil, but just another of a myriad of potential relationships. Thus, for Daniel to have lived in a homosexual relationship with another man was not abnormal, especially for eunuchs, nor was it ever considered perverted. It was just love, plain and simple, a relationship that caused no one in Daniel’s day to raise an eyebrow. But, to understand why the only relationships possible to Daniel were homosexual, we are absolutely required to look at the process of castration and what it did to the men who were so rendered.
The Purpose of Castration
Why were men castrated in the first place? One of the best examples of what the kings were thinking when they sought to have men castrated for the position of eunuch comes from the words of the Greek historian Xenophon, (circa 435 B.C. to circa 354 B.C.). In his “Education of Cyrus,” 7.5.59-65, Xenophon wrote about Cyrus (II) the Great, (539-530 B.C.), saying:
“Recognizing that human beings are nowhere more easily overcome than when eating, drinking, washing, in bed, or asleep [kings being most vulnerable to harm in their private moments], he [Cyrus] considered who would be most trustworthy to have about him at these times. He believed that there could never be a trustworthy human being who was more friendly to someone else than to the one in need of the guard. So he recognized that those who had children, or wives well suited to them, or boyfriends, were compelled by nature to love especially these. Seeing that eunuchs [however] were deprived of these ties, he held that they would most value those who were especially able to enrich them; to help them, if they should be treated unjustly; and to bedeck them with honors. He held that no one would be able to surpass him in doing good to eunuchs. Besides these points, since eunuchs are deemed disreputable by other human beings, they therefore need a master as a protector, for there is no man who would not think he deserved to have more than a eunuch in everything, unless something stronger should prevent it. But if he is trustworthy to a master, there is nothing to prevent even a eunuch from having the first position. One might especially think that eunuchs would lose their strength, but this did not appear to him [Cyrus] to be so. From other animals he took it as evidence that unruly horses when castrated cease biting and being unruly, but they become no less warlike; and bulls when castrated give up their big thoughts and disobedience, but they are not deprived of their strength and energy; and dogs, similarly, cease to abandon their masters when they are castrated, but they become no worse at guarding and for the hunt. And human beings become similarly more gentle when deprived of this desire, but they do not, however, become more neglectful of what is assigned to them, nor at all less skilled as riders, nor at all less skilled as spearmen, nor less ambitious. It showed quite clearly in wars and on the hunt that they safely retained the love of victory in their souls. It is especially on the ruin of their masters that they have given evidence of their being faithful, for none have shown more faithful deeds amidst the misfortunes of their masters than have eunuchs. If, then, they seem to be diminished somewhat in bodily strength, iron makes the weak equal to the strong in war. So realizing these things he [Cyrus] made all those who served near his own person, beginning with the doormen, eunuchs.”
Observing this primary reason for castration, we also need to note two points of interest in Xenophon’s words here. He writes “... since eunuchs are deemed disreputable by other human beings, they therefore need a master as a protector, for there is no man who would not think he deserved to have more than a eunuch in everything, unless something stronger should prevent it.” We see that, with the exception of boys who were sold and trained as sex slaves, who were then for the primary pleasure of their owners, for regular eunuchs, only another eunuch could love a eunuch. And attesting to their lack of manliness in all appearances, we note Xenophon’s comment, “But if he is trustworthy to a master, there is nothing to prevent even a eunuch from having the first position.” In a world of male chauvinism, if it were not for the king as protector, the eunuch would have nothing, because he was un-manly in all appearances, further attesting to one of several reasons why eunuchs only had love relationships with other eunuchs. Xenophon also wrote that under Cyrus’ successor, Darius, “eunuchs acquired a vast political authority and appeared to have filled all the chief offices of state. They were the king’s advisors in the palace and his generals in the field.”
Further Reasons For Castration
The secondary reason for castration was that boys who were castrated at a certain age would maintain their youthful looks longer, since they would never grow beards or go bald, as well as the fact that their voices would always remain high pitched. Castration produced a hermaphroditic quality in the male that was found to be sexually attractive and much sought after. Also, it was considered unmanly to be passive and on the receiving end of anal intercourse, but with a eunuch, this was a person of “the third sex,” so to speak, so it was felt that it was perfectly okay to practice anal penetration with them. A “man” would not allow himself to be penetrated anally, but a eunuch purchased for sex had no say in the matter. Therefore, boys were also castrated for use as sexual bed partners, brought higher prices than ordinary slaves, and could be used as gifts for political favors from other rulers. For example, according to Herodotus in his “Persian Wars,” 6.31-32, when the Persian navy captured the islands of Chios, Lesbos and Tenedos, during the reign of Darius I (521-486 B.C.), they selected the most handsome boys, made them into eunuchs and brought them to Darius as presents.
Also, if a king grew bored with his young sex slaves, they would either be put into other occupations, sold or given away as presents. As an example of the precariousness of their fates, even though centuries later, in the case of emperor Tiberius of Rome, who ruled during the time of Christ, when his “minnows,” as he called his catamites, failed to amuse him, he had them tossed to their deaths from the cliffs at his palace on the island of Capri. Interestingly enough, one of those “minnows” was smart enough to have himself “adopted” by Tiberius as a grandson, then later poisoned Tiberius and had himself declared emperor - Caligula. And, yes, Tiberius had his wives, as well, which further speaks to what I have mentioned about the fluidity of sexual mores over the centuries before the Church began its anti-sex campaign.
The Process of Castration
So, we see castration produced two types of eunuchs - servants and sex slaves. The next point to consider is the process itself. Castration involved several outcomes, all being dependant on the three most common methods. The testicles could be bruised or crushed, and the penis left intact; the testicles could be removed, and the penis left intact; or, the testicles and the penis could both be completely removed. When these young boys were castrated, one of the methods found in ancient texts in Upper Egypt shows that the process was equally barbaric. The boy would be restrained, and for full castration, the penis and scrotum would be tied with a cord which was pulled tight. Then, the penis, testes and scrotum would be removed with a single stroke of a sharp razor. The bleeding would be stopped by the use of boiling oil, and the wound would be dressed with wax and tallow. In some cases, the wound was cauterized by burying the boy up to his neck in hot sand, and the wound was dressed with an extract made from acacia bark. The death rate from castration was very high, some methods running as high as eighty percent, which is why eunuchs were priced higher than normal slaves.
Now, it is important to discuss the medical implications of all phases of castration. One note to keep in mind that is extremely important is at what age the castration took place, i.e., before puberty, or after puberty. The end results are significantly variant.
Removal of the testes stops most production of the hormone testosterone. If this is performed before puberty, the development of functioning adult sex organs is prevented. Thus, the eunuch will have small genitalia, a high-pitched voice and a non-muscular build. If performed after puberty, the sex organs shrink and stop functioning. Also, sperm production ceases, and sexual interest either ceases completely, or is greatly reduced. This has two implications to consider:
one is that a eunuch who had been castrated for sexual service would be merely an object of sexual gratification for the person who purchased him, deriving very little “physical” satisfaction out of the experience of the sex act performed with his owner, and the other, because there would be no sex drive, and in some cases, no penis, a eunuch would be of no sexual value to a female. Further, since the eunuch, even if he had a penis, could not produce sperm, the female would have no possibility of children by a eunuch, only adding to the multitude of reasons why a eunuch could only find a lasting and fruitful partnership with another eunuch.
Because removal of the testes stops the production of testosterone and spermatozoa, all testosterone-dependent characteristics fail to develop. The physical appearance of a eunuch would not be manly. They had long, thick hair on their heads, but no hair on their faces, remaining smooth-faced all their lives. Their voices never change from that of boys. They gradually developed breasts like women (gynecomastia) and fat deposits in the same places as women. They had unusually long arms and legs. They grew little or no pubic hair, and their scrotums, if not fully castrated, shrank from disfunction. And these are just the eunuchs who had only their testicles removed. If they had their penises removed, they also had to squat to urinate.
Eunuchs who were castrated after puberty were sterile, sex drive was reduced considerably or completely eliminated, and their muscle mass decreased somewhat. Their body hair could decrease, although the hair on their heads remained with them for life. Eunuchs never went bald. One thing all eunuchs had in common was mood changes, either toward depression or serenity.
The eunuch who had the removal of both the scrotum and the penis suffered from long-term effects of castration. There was the urinary incontinence, so that those castrates who survived the operation had to be fitted with lead pipes to keep the urethra open - for life - and they faced urinary tract problems because of this - for life. While they were prized for their youthful looks that were maintained longer than average, they went from one extreme, that of youthful beauty, to another, that of premature aging, osteoporosis, kyphosis (curvature of the spine resulting in a hump back) and diabetes. Furthermore, one cannot even begin to imagine the lifelong shame and humiliation they felt from being castrated against their will.
The Kama-sutra, which is a Hindu text written some time between the first and sixth centuries, and which was based on much more ancient writings, stated that all eunuchs, both those who dressed feminine and those who acted masculine, engaged in homosexual activity to some degree. This book also describes some of the sexual practices of the eunuchs, much of it centering around fellatio and other oral pleasures. So, while we can show that castration causes medical implications that render some methods of sex a mute issue, if the two partners develop a desire to share their bodies in other ways, I am certain that they devised ways of pleasuring each other. For example, a simple body massage can be just that, and it can also be used to reach high levels of sensual pleasure with a loving partner. Just because one method of sensually enjoying one’s partner is removed does not mean that imaginative minds cannot find substitutes. Down through the ages, the catalogues are full of all types of sex tools and manuals, thus proving what imaginative minds can achieve.
Putting The Pieces Of The Puzzle Together
At this point, we have discussed enough historical material that we can start putting the pieces of the “Daniel puzzle” together. Here, then, is what we know. In 605 B.C., Daniel was taken captive when the army of Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem. Undoubtedly, a chief eunuch, a rab saris, accompanied Nebuchadnezzar’s army for the purpose of selecting eunuch candidates from among the captives. Daniel would have been selected by this rab saris, and Daniel was probably between the ages of 12 to 15 at this time. Daniel was from the royal family. The kings Jehoiakim, Jehoiakin and Zedekiah were blood relatives. Daniel knew when he was captured that Nebuchadnezzar had slain King Jehoiakim, Daniel’s uncle, so Daniel was taken into captivity with a great sorrow that included more than just the loss of his homeland. Now, Daniel began the long journey across the desert to Babylon, which was a distance of over five-hundred miles if you drew a straight line between Jerusalem and Babylon, but the journey would have followed the Fertile Crescent and taken approximately four to six months. We read in Ezra 7:9, when Ezra made the journey from Babylon to Jerusalem, how long it took:
“For upon the first day of the first month began he to go up from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem...”
It took Ezra five months to arrive in Jerusalem from Babylon. Daniel was probably castrated in the city of Haran, the city which Abraham’s family settled in after leaving Ur of the Chaldees, which would have been a stopping off point along the way back to Babylon. Haran was an important center on the trade route between Ninevah and Carchemish, and was located far north of both Jerusalem and Babylon. If you drew a triangle, Jerusalem would be at the lower left, Haran at the top, and Babylon at the lower right. Directly between Babylon and Jerusalem was vast and unforgiving desert. Wisely, they would travel the Fertile Crescent, making the journey longer, but this would enable them to replenish supplies along the way. Remember, Haran was the city where Addagoppe was buried. We can calculate that Daniel’s journey back to Babylon took approximately four to six months, covered approximately 1,000 miles, and since it was customary to castrate the young boys before they returned to the home city, the Babylonian captors most likely performed the castration of Daniel about two months after leaving Jerusalem and in the city of Haran. Nebuchadnezzar’s father, Nabopolassar, had defeated the Assyrians there in 609-608 B.C., just four years prior to Daniel’s journey through this same place. Daniel survived the capture of Jerusalem and the loss of one of his relatives to slaughter, he survived the trek to Haran, and now he had to endure castration in all of its brutality. But, he was among that small percentage of those who did not perish from the ordeal. From Haran, Daniel was taken on to Babylon where he was put under the care of the Prince of Eunuchs, Ashpenaz, and it was Ashpenaz who fell in love with the extremely handsome and intelligent Daniel and made special provisions for his life at the royal court. Ashpenaz gave Daniel a new Chaldean name, Belteshazzar, as well as the special emblems and robes of the eunuchs, special earrings and bracelets signifying his rank and a dagger which would be worn in his sash. He was tutored under the supervision of Melzar, another eunuch, in the arts of the Chaldeans for three years, namely, astrology, astronomy, mathematics, science, magic and soothsaying (the arts of a seer).
At the end of the three years, Daniel was brought before the sex-addicted King Nebuchadnezzar for inspection, and the king found him to be exceptional. At this time, Daniel would have been fully aware that his other uncle, King Jehoiakin, brother of King Jehoiachim, had been enslaved and brought to Babylon, as well, and that Zedekiah, from Daniel’s immediate family, had been placed on the throne in Jerusalem at the age of twenty-one by order of Nebuchadnezzar. Ten years later, Daniel would learn that Zedekiah had revolted against Nebuchadnezzar, and that Nebuchadnezzar had Zedekiah’s sons put to death while he made Zedekiah watch, then he had Zedekiah’s eyes put out, and brought him to Babylon in chains. When Zedekiah died, Nebuchadnezzar’s son had him buried with royal honors. Daniel knew about all of this. He lived in a house with his three companions at this time, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, also eunuchs and captives from Jerusalem, all while maintaining his close and loving relationship with Ashpenaz. Daniel lived through and survived the many court intrigues of five Babylonian kings and royal households, and he finished his life under the reign of one Persian king. He was elevated several times under the Babylonian royals, from simple eunuch to Master of the Magicians, then to governor of the province of Babylon, finally to Third Ruler over all of the Babylonian Empire, and under Cyrus of Persia, he was made the highest of the Three Presidents of Babylon. He lived his entire adult life as a castrated eunuch, never married, never had children, lived with all of the crippling effects of castration, and undoubtedly lived his love life with another eunuch, possibly several, which ones, however, we cannot be sure, and never returned to Jerusalem, even though under King Cyrus, he was free to do so. Daniel died in Shushan amid the royal splendor of the final days of the mighty Babylonian period of building wonders. The city of Babylon was one of the seven wonders of the world at its time, and Shushan was beautified by the same rulers who spared no expense. Daniel was mummified and buried as a pharoah with a seal that showed a man between two lions. Today, the well-kept tomb of Daniel in Shushan is part of modern Iran.
One More Note
One more note to add to this discussion. In most copies of the Book of Daniel, there are only twelve chapters, but in other versions of the Bible, this book has two more chapters. Many scholars believe that these other two chapters were added later around the 2nd century B.C. These two chapters were in the original King James version printed in 1611, but were later dropped by some Christians. I want to quote from Daniel 14:2 :
“Daniel was the king's favorite and was held in higher esteem than any of the friends of the king.”
There are those who use this passage as further proof that Daniel was homosexual, because the Aramaic version of this passage has the word “lovers” instead of friends, thus making it read that Daniel was the favorite of the king’s lovers. I have a problem with that assumption. This verse refers to Cyrus, the Persian king who conquered Babylon in 539 B.C. The first verse in this translation into Greek by Theodotian reads:
καὶ ὁ βασιλεὺς Ἀστυάγης προσετέθη πρὸς τοὺς πατέρας αὐτοῦ καὶ παρέλαβεν Κῦρος ὁ Πέρσης τὴν βασιλείαν αὐτοῦ
I have underlined the only word you need to notice, Astuages (usually written Astyages), who was taken captive by Cyrus around 554 B.C. (according to an inscription) or around 550 B.C. (according to most historians). We don’t know exactly when he died. This line says that Astuages was gathered to his fathers, which means he died. Thus, the line that follows can be dated as near the beginning of the reign of Cyrus, and since Daniel is involved, it means that Daniel is a very old man, nearing the end of his life. Cyrus was born around 600 B.C., which means that Daniel was between fifteen and twenty years older than Cyrus. So, when we come to verse two:
καὶ ἦν Δανιηλ συμβιωτὴς τοῦ βασιλέως καὶ ἔνδοξος ὑπὲρ πάντας τοὺς φίλους αὐτοῦ
We read the words συμβιωτὴς meaning “companions,” and φίλους meaning “friends.” This verse says that Daniel was a companion of the king (Cyrus), and that the king favored him above all of his other friends. If the Aramaic version, which is considered to be the original that Theodotian used to make his translation into Greek, has the word “loves” instead of friends, I know that “loves” in ancient Semitic languages can mean “lovers,” but I think in this case it would be a stretch to think that Daniel was still sexually desirable to anyone. You have to remember the ravages of castration, and realize that by this time in his life, Daniel had many medical problems, a feminine appearance complete with sagging breasts, a high-pitched voice, most likely a hump back, had to wear a metal tube and a plug with a string attached to prevent unwanted urination from incontinence, and the list goes on. His mind was sharp till the end, and his spiritual dedication to his God of the Heavens never ceased, but he would have been a physical wreck by the time Cyrus took over Babylon. To translate this passage, debated as it is to veracity, as indicating that Daniel was still capable of a sexual romp in the palace is scholarly wanton.
My conclusion: Daniel lived his life as a eunuch, and his love life was homosexual. Daniel lived at a time when there were few sexual restrictions and no cultural bias against a man having homosexual relations with another man. . People often make the mistaken assumption that, because of modern bias against homosexuals, that a “holy” man would never engage in such activity, but they are extremely wrong in this assumption, an assumption that is based in nothing more than ignorance and prejudice.
In the words of Jesus Christ,
“For there are eunuchs who were born so from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. To him who can comprehend, that is enough.”
The Tomb of Daniel
Daniel stood on the balcony of the palace at Shushan, and saw a vision by the river U’lai. In this aerial photo of the ruins of Shushan, the tall, white pyramidal shape on the left is the Tomb of Daniel, as seen in 1935.