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2.8.3 - Hebrew vs. Aramaic

Daniel consists of three sections written in two different languages: (1) Daniel 1:1+-2:4a+ in Hebrew; (2) Daniel 2:4b+-7:28+ in Aramaic; and (3) Daniel 8:1+-12:13+ which reverts back to Hebrew. This distinction is frequently used as the basis for concluding that chapters 1+ and 8-12+ are predominantly focused on things of interest to the Jews (written in Hebrew), whereas chapters 2+-7+ are predominantly focused on things of interest to Gentiles (written in the lingua franca of Daniel’s day, Aramaic).1

While it appears that the most important revelation concerning Gentile rule is written in Aramaic (chapters 2 and 7) and that revelation of greater importance to Jewish concerns is written in Hebrew (chapters 9, 11, 12), one must be careful not to overemphasize a hard and fast distinction between the interests of the two groups because there is considerable overlap in the information given in each section and the interests of both groups. For example, the Jews would also be deeply interested in the prophecies concerning the sequence of kingdoms which they will be subject to until the Davidic throne is reestablished (Daniel 2+ and 7+). Moreover, there are also important aspects concerning Gentile prophecy in the non-Aramaic sections. For example, the famous prophecy regarding the Seventy Sevens (Dan. 9:24-27+) identifies the Gentile nationality of the Antichrist and his people and provides important information concerning the timing and nature of the tribulation period. Also, in the second Hebrew section there are important prophecies (chapters 8+ and 11+) which parallel the sequence of Gentile kingdoms discussed in the Aramaic section (chapter 2+ and 7+). (These parallels are discussed in the section titled Sequence of Kingdoms.) There is much of interest to both Jews and Gentiles in each chapter. Even so, the presentation of material out of chronological order appears to reflect a desire to keep the Aramaic section contiguous (see below).


1 “The employment of the two languages points to an equally valid division, which has to do with the identity of the people concerned, rather than the literary criteria. For want of better terms, these two divisions may be called by the names ‘Jewish’ and ‘Gentile.’ The first chapter of the book clearly places itself in the ‘Jewish’ category, . . . The eighth chapter is again in this group, . . . The ninth chapter belongs to the same group, . . . Then the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth chapters must also be so classified, . . . The intervening seven chapters, however, place matters pertaining to Gentile history to the fore.”—Leon J. Wood, A Commentary on Daniel (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1998), 18.

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