Bel and the Dragon is an addendum to the book of Daniel. While the book of Daniel ends after twelve chapters according to the Masoretic Text, some translations, like the Septuagint, include three extra chapters based on folk tales and legends about Daniel: chapter 13, the "Song of the Three Children"; chapter 14, "Susanna"; and chapter 15, "Bel and the Dragon," which is a three-part narrative. Some Catholic Bibles include Susanna as Daniel chapter 13 and Bel and the Dragon as chapter 14.
What is Bel and the Dragon?
The first part of the narrative tells of the new Persian king, Cyrus, and how he has shown great honor to Daniel. It also talks of a statue of a god named Bel; the people have been leaving food for the statue each day and it disappears each night, supposedly eaten by the god. When Cyrus asks Daniel why he will not worship Bel, Daniel says that he only worships the one living God, not any gods made by human hands. Cyrus says that Bel is a living god as demonstrated by the food and drink that disappears from his offerings each day. Daniel tells the king the idol never ate or drank. The king becomes angry and challenges the priests of Bel and Daniel to prove themselves right. The priests tell the king to lay out the offerings and seal the room. After the priests leave, the king sets out the food and Daniel and his servants spread ashes on the floor. Then they shut and seal the door. In the morning, the seals remain unbroken and the offerings are gone. But there are footprints in the ashes, proving that the priests and their families had been sneaking into the room each night through a hidden entrance to steal the idol's food. King Cyrus has the priests and their families executed and has Daniel destroy the idol Bel.
Part two of Bel and the Dragon is also about Cyrus commanding Daniel to worship a false god, this time a live dragon. Cyrus says that because the dragon is living and breathing it is greater than Bel and deserving of worship. Daniel says he will worship God only and claims that he will be able to slay the dragon without using any weapons. Again, the king agrees to Daniel's offer. Daniel uses a combination of ashes, tar, and hair to poison the dragon and cause it to explode—this shows Cyrus that the dragon is not a god worthy of worship.
In the third and last section of Bel and the Dragon, we revisit Daniel in the lion's den, but this is a different version. The Persian people are furious that Daniel has destroyed their two supposed gods, Bel and the dragon, and they call for Cyrus to release Daniel to them. Because he is afraid that the people will rise up against him, Cyrus grants their wish and Daniel is thrown into a lions' den that is filled with seven lions. While these lions usually feast on sheep and human corpses, they have been starved to make them more ravenously hungry for Daniel. Daniel must stay in the pit with the lions for six days, and as the story goes, God provides sustenance for Daniel through Habakkuk, the prophet. An angel sent by God carries Habakkuk by his hair all the way from Judea, and Habakkuk drops food down to Daniel. When Daniel is still healthy and whole on day seven, Cyrus rescues him from the lions' den and throws the Persian people's leaders into the den to be eaten instead.
While the book of Daniel is God-breathed Scripture, Bel and the Dragon is a separate addition to the Holy Spirit-inspired text and is therefore not included with the rest of the biblical cannon. Certain apocryphal Bibles and Catholic versions include it with the book of Daniel in their texts.
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