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3.2.48 - Daniel 2:48 Open Bible at Dan. 2:48 Listen to Dan. 2:48

Visit of the Wise Men

Visit of the Wise Men


over the whole province of Babylon

Province is מְדִינַת [meḏînaṯ] , “a governmental administrative district (Dan. 3:1+, 2+, 3+, 12+, 30+).”2 Some take the events of this chapter as occurring prior to the end of Daniel’s training (Dan. 1:18+), suggesting his promotion by Nebuchadnezzar was not immediately in response to the interpretation of the dream, but occurred some time later.3 Others take this promotion as preceding his graduation.4 Both of these views seem unlikely. We view the events of chapter 2 naturally following after those of chapter 1—including Daniel’s graduation. See commentary on Daniel 2:1.

In the providence of God, Daniel is now promoted to a position of great authority with the ability to ensure the Jews who arrive in Babylon in subsequent deportations will be treated fairly. We see another parallel between Joseph and Daniel—both were promoted to positions of enormous power while remaining faithful in their service to God.5

In times of adversity, believers usually have their greatest spiritual growth spurts and greatest spiritual moments. but most do not do nearly as well when they are enjoying times of prosperity (cf. Deu. 8:10-11). Daniel, however, will live consistently well for the Lord during the years ahead of him even though he is prospering as few ever do.6


Administrator is from סְגַן [seḡan] , “prefect, governor or senior officer.”7

Daniel is not placed among these specific classes of diviners, but is “chief prefect” (רַב־סִגְנִין [rab–-siḡnîn] ) over them (Dan. 2:48+). He is their supervisor, but he is never one of them. Later too, Daniel is not among them, but separate from them. He is not included among them in Daniel 4+ and is brought to the king only when they cannot interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Dan. 4:7-8+). Nor is Daniel among them in chapter 5+.8

over all the wise men

Wise men is a general term for the different classes of priests and learned advisors mentioned previously.9 Although Daniel has authority over these men, we know from his obedience to God’s principles, recorded throughout the book, that it is inconceivable he would have endorsed or engaged in the occult practices of some of them.

He was made chief, or master, of the king’s wise men (Dan. 2:48+), and of his hartums (Dan. 5:11+), and of all the classes mentioned, except apparently the wizards, —as to whom it is not said, at least, that he ever had anything to do with them. It will be noted that nowhere in the Bible is connection with ’ashephs, ’ashshaphs, hartums, gazers, kaldus, or hakkims, expressly forbidden. Only the hakkims, hartums, and mekashshephs are ever mentioned outside of Daniel. The first of these are always spoken of with praise; the second without praise or blame; and the last only with condemnation. “A pious Jew,” therefore, “and one true to the law,” may certainly have studied, at least, the sciences and arts practiced by these uncondemned classes, without laying himself open to the charge of breaking the letter of the law. We see no reason, either, why he may not have studied all about the practices of the wizards without himself being a sorcerer.10

Finally, we come to consider the question as to whether Daniel is said to have been a member of any of these classes of dream–interpreters which are mentioned in his book. It will be noted that he is never called a hartum nor an ’ashshaph, but is said to have been ten times better than all of them in knowledge and wisdom. It is not said either that he was an ’asheph nor a mekashsheph nor a gazer, nor a kaldu. That he was a hakim is rightly inferred from the fact that he was sought to be killed, when the decree went forth that all the wise men should be killed; but elsewhere he is always called chief (rab) of the wise men, or of the hartums, or of three or four classes together. He is, in fact, called chief of all classes, except of the mekashshephs, the only class which is directly condemned by law. . . . He may have known all the mysteries of the Babylonian seers, priests, and enchanters; but there is no evidence in the book of Daniel, nor anywhere else, to show that Daniel practiced the black art, nor the heathen methods of divination in any form, nor to show that he became a member of any of these orders.11

The appointment of Daniel over the wise men is undoubtedly connected with the subsequent arrival, hundreds of years later, of wise men seeking the One to be born the king of the Jews.

There is no means of determining whether the μάγοι ἀπˊ ἀνατολῶν [magoi ap anatolōn] of Mat. 2:1, 7, 16 are specifically Babylonian astrologers or astrologers in general. The former is more likely, since it is only in Babylon, by contact with the [Jewish] exiles, that the μἀγοι [magoi] would acquire an interest in the Jewish king (Messiah).12

Subsequent revelation given to Daniel concerning the Seventy Sevens (Dan. 9:24-27+) would have allowed prediction of the time of the arrival of Messiah. This knowledge may have been passed down among the Babylonian wise men until the arrival of the predicted time.13


1 Birth of Jesus with visiting Magi. Image courtesy of Heinrich Hofmann, 1824-1911. This image is in the public domain.

2 James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains : Aramaic (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1997), #1406.

3 “It may well be that Daniel’s promotion (Dan. 2:46-47+) came after he had finished his schooling, for Dan. 1:18+ suggests this was the case.”—Monty S. Mills, Daniel: A Study Guide to the Book of Daniel (Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries, 1988, 1999), Dan. 2:46.

4 “Now here he’s just about to graduate from his training school, he is just on the verge and we studied when we looked at the chronology at the beginning of the chapter, he hasn’t graduated yet, this is in the spring, he doesn’t graduate for a couple of months but he’s already being promoted and he is made the “ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon.”—Robert Dean, Lessons on Daniel (Spokane, WA: Ellen Kelso [transcriber], 2006), 11.170.

5 “The Rabbis were often quite critical of Daniel, however, for enjoying such a positive relationship with the tyrant who destroyed the first Temple.”—Marc Berlin and Brettler, eds., The Jewish Study Bible (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1985,2004), 1646.

6 Paul Benware, Daniel’s Prophecy of Things to Come (Clifton, TX: Scofield Ministries, 2007), Dan. 2:46-49.

7 Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains : Aramaic (Old Testament), #10505.

8 Andrew E Steinmann, Daniel (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2008), 110.

9 “These different classes of the priests and the learned are comprehended, Dan. 2:12+ff., under the general designation of חַכִּימִין [ḥakkîmîn] (cf. also Isa. 44:25, Jer. 50:35), and they formed a σύστημα [systēma] , i.e., collegium (Diod. Sic. ii. 31), under a president (רַב סִגְנִין [raḇ siḡnîn] , Dan. 2:48+), who occupied a high place in the state; see at Dan 2:48+.”—Carl Friedrich Keil, “Daniel,” in Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002), Dan. 2:2.

10 Robert Dick Wilson, Studies in the Book of Daniel (New York, NY: G. P. Putnams & Sons, The Knickerbocker Press, 1971), 382-383.

11 Ibid., 385-386,388.

12 Gerhard Delling, “Magos,” in Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey William Bromily, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964-c1976), 4:358.

13 This does not deny the importance of the supernatural star appearing at the appropriate time and guiding them to the child (Num. 24:17; Mat. 2:2-10).

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