Is There An Aramaic Word for ‘Etcetera’?: The Rhetorical Function of Repetition in Daniel 3

This paper will explore the literary effect of the repetition in Daniel 3. The narrator repeats many phrases to an extraordinary degree, such as “the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces” (vss 2, 3, 27) and “the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music” (vss 5, 7, 10, 15). This paper will argue that the mechanistic repetition serves to contrast the rote behavior of the pagans with the outstanding behavior of Daniel’s three friends. By comically stylizing the king’s servants as robotic automatons in their worship—along with the sharp contrast of the three faithful Jews—the narrator warns readers of blind loyalty or unthinking devotion.

After a brief contextual overview, the first section of the paper will demonstrate the nature and extent of the repetitious phrases in Dan 3 by laying them out in parallel charts and discussing any key differences and their impact on the meaning of the text. The paper will have a special focus on the three friends’ bold statements to Nebuchadnezzar in 3:16-18 and the way in which it breaks the repetitious pattern of the text, thus positively highlighting their behavior.

By applying intertextual disciplines and following the literary movement of the text, this study hopes to avoid ancillary discussions on the meaning of the instruments or the identity of the fourth figure in the furnace, thereby drawing out the rhetorical purposes of the narrator. It will closely interact with several notable studies in Daniel, including Hector I. Avalos’s article, “The Comedic Function of the Enumerations of Officials and Instruments in Daniel 3” (CBQ 53: 1991), as well as many excellent commentaries which focus on the literary features of the text (e.g., Widder, Steinmann, Collins, etc.).