Daniel and Native American experience
To add depth to our understanding of what Daniel, his companions, and Israel experienced.
After conquering Jerusalem, the King of Babylon ordered that educated nobility of Israel be brought as captives to serve him in his court:
“they were to be taught the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the royal rations of food and wine. They were to be educated for three years, so that at the end of that time they could be stationed in the king’s court. Among them were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, from the tribe of Judah. The palace master gave them other names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.”
“But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the royal rations of food and wine…”
📺 Meskwaki and Tama, Iowa—resisting expulsion from their homeland
“War on Children”
“Wherever they were located or whoever ran them, the [Native American boarding] schools largely shared the mission of assimilating Indigenous students by erasing their culture. Children’s hair was cut off; their clothes were burned; they were given new, English names and were required to attend Christian religious services; and they were forced to perform manual labor, both on school premises and on surrounding farms. Those who dared to keep speaking their ancestral languages or observing their religious practices were often beaten.
“While the boarding school era might seem like distant history, aging survivors, many in their 70s and 80s, are striving to ensure the harm that was done is remembered.
“Ben Sherman, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe who spent four years living at the Oglala Community School in Pine Ridge, S.D., said he placed the emergence of some of the worst abuses at Native American boarding schools with the sunset of the “shooting wars” waged by the United States government against Indigenous peoples in the last decades of the 19th century.
“’The government was not done with war, so the next phase involved war against the children,’ said Mr. Sherman, 83, a former aerospace engineer.
“’Don’t try to tell me this wasn’t genocide… They went after our language, our culture, our family ties, our land. They succeeded on almost every level.’”
📰 ‘War on Children’: Native American boarding school system—New York Times, Aug 30, 2023
Historical/Cultural Contexts of Daniel and Esther
Rise of the Persian Princes - Archaeology Magazine
In their grand capital Persepolis, Achaemenid rulers expressed their vision of a prosperous, multicultural empire
From The JPS Bible Commentary: Esther by Adele Berlin
Esther as a Diaspora Story
Esther is a story about Jews living in the Diaspora, and in this it resembles several other books from the late biblical and early postbiblical period. The Book of Daniel, chapters 1-6, very similar in parts to Esther, also features a Jewish courtier who achieved outstanding success at the court of a Persian (and a Babylonian) king. The apocryphal Book of Judith, from the Hellenistic period, is set in a fictional Jewish community besieged by a foreign enemy. Judith, like Esther, features a woman who saves her people from destruction. The Book of Tobit, also in the Apocrypha, tells of the adventures of a pious Jew and his family, descended from the tribe of Naphtali and exiled to Nineveh by the Assyrians. All of these books are entertaining fictional narratives that present models of successful behavior for Jews living in the Diaspora. They are designed to promote pride in Jewish identity and solidarity within the Jewish community and with Jewish tradition. They reflect a situation in which Jews were a minority in a larger society and where it fell to the individual Jew, not the state, to ensure Jewish continuity. All the stories except Esther stress Jewish piety and commitment to Jewish values and rituals. The "secular" nature of Esther—its lack of God's name, prayer, kashrut, traditional modesty, and endogamous marriage—sets it apart from other Jewish Diaspora stories, and from other books of the Bible as well. But in its general tone and contents, Esther is properly classified among the Diaspora stories that circulated in the Persian and Hellenistic periods.
The Book of Esther also partakes in the category of stories about wise courtiers. This theme, recently discussed by L. Wills, was widespread in the ancient Near East and is also found in the biblical stories of Joseph and Daniel.
Of all the biblical writings, the stories in the first six chapters of Daniel are closest to the story of Esther, and are often compared to it. These stories are set in the court of the king of Babylonia or Persia and feature a Jewish courtier who overcomes religious or ethnic obstacles to become a high-ranking member of the royal court. The two books share many specific details. The description of the royal court, with a king surrounded by advisors, luxurious vessels and trappings, and a royal signet ring. The Jewish heroes (Daniel and his friends and either Esther or Mordecai) have both Hebrew and vernacular names; are described as beautiful or handsome; are among those exiled from Judah; sit at the king's gate; gain the favor of those who are in charge of their care; and are at the end elevated to high positions at court. The heroes are slandered by villains who plan to kill them, but the villains are killed by the means that they had designed for the heroes. Shared motifs include an order to bow down; communicating with peoples in their various languages; edicts that cannot be changed; banquets with wine drinking; an exaggerated number of satrapies; hero dressed in purple; the king's sleepless night. There are also linguistic similarities between Esther and Daniel 1-6, even though Daniel 2-6 is in Aramaic. These stories all probably originated in the same period. The later chapters of Daniel and the compilation of the book as a whole date from the Maccabean period, so we cannot say that Esther was imitating scriptural writings in this case. Both Esther and Daniel 1-6 are examples of a type of fictional storytelling that was popular during the Persian period.
When and Where Was the Book of Esther Written?
Most scholars now date the writing of the Book of Esther to the late Persian or early Greek period, roughly between 400-200 B.C.E. (An older view saw it as the product of Hellenistic or Maccabean times.) To put the dating in a broader context, here are the dates generally given for some other biblical and apocryphal books.
Ruth and Jonah: Persian period;
Isaiah 40-66: 550-500 B.C.E;
Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: 500-300 B.C.E.;
Ezra-Nehemiah: 400-300 BCE;
Chronicles: 400-300 BCE;
Ecclesiastes: dated by most scholars to about 250 BCE, but C. L. Seow has recently proposed an earlier date, 450-350 BCE;
Tobit: 215-175 B.C.E.;
Daniel as a whole is dated in the Maccabean period (ca. 164 BCE), but Chapters 1-6 may go back to the fourth or third centuries B.C.E.
Judith: about 100 B.C.E..
For the reasons discussed below, I would place the writing of Esther earlier in the accepted period rather than later, about 400-300 B.C.E., after the reign of Xerxes and before the Hellenization of the East in the wake of Alexander.