The Glossary of Terms

Bel and the Dragon


Harper’s Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

You are strongly recommended to add to your library the excellent revised edition of Harper's Bible Dictionary titled, The Harper Collins Bible Dictionary, Revised Edition [book review], edited by Paul J. Achtemeier, with the Society of Biblical Literature (NY: Harper Collins, 1996). It is currently the best one-volume Bible dictionary in English, and it is available at Border's Books, Christian Science Reading Rooms,, or


Bel and the Dragon, one of the Additions to Daniel found at the end of that book in both the Septuagint and Theodotion, Greek translations of the Hebrew ot. It was probably composed in Hebrew and added to some manuscripts of the Hebrew-Aramaic version of Daniel during the course of the second century b.c. It includes:

I. Daniel and the statue of Bel (vv. 1-22)

II. Daniel and the dragon (vv. 23-27)

III. A second story of Daniel in a lions’ den (vv. 28-42).

The narrative is a mixture of folklore and Jewish satire directed against idolatry. It centers around the act of eating, becoming more fantastic and humorous as it goes along. The food offered to the ‘dead’ god, Bel, is eaten by his living priests, who are put to death by the king, Cyrus, for their deception after Daniel exposes them as frauds. The dragon, a living ‘god,’ eats Daniel’s concoction and dies. Angered, the Babylonians force the king to cast Daniel into the lions’ den. The lions’ daily ration of two human bodies and two sheep is suspended, but they do not eat Daniel. In the meantime, God transports the prophet Habakkuk from Judea—suspended by his hair—with boiled pottage and bread to feed Daniel while in the lions’ den. After a week, Daniel is discovered alive by the king, who comes to mourn him. He orders Daniel’s enemies cast into the den, where they are immediately eaten. All of this is designed to prove that only God is God, a theme explored in a more serious vein by the stories in Daniel 1-6.

Protestants include Bel and the Dragon among the Apocrypha, while Catholics print it with the canonical text of Daniel.


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Copyright 1996-2002 Robert Nguyen Cramer
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