Daniel 2:2—Why does Daniel refer to the Chaldeans as a group of wise men here when he refers to them as an ethnic group in 5:30?

Problem: When Daniel refers to those whom Nebuchadnezzar summoned to interpret his dream, he identifies these as magicians, astrologers, sorcerers, and Chaldeans. Each of these is a group of wise men who functioned as advisors to Nebuchadnezzar. However, in 5:30 Daniel refers to the Chaldeans as an ethnic group when he refers to Belshazzar as king of the Chaldeans.

Solution: There is no contradiction here. Although these two verses use the same word, kasdim, this word has two distinct uses in the Hebrew language. The Hebrew word can refer to a class of astrologer-priests, as it is used in Daniel 2:2. It can also refer to the ethnic group of Chaldeans as it is used in 5:30. Due to its development through several languages and cultures, what originally started out as the Sumerian word Gal-du, which was applied to the astrologers meaning “master builder,” has ultimately become confused with the Hebrew word for the ethnic group, Chaldeans (kasdim). Consequently, Daniel employs the same word in its two common uses.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.