Daniel 7:1 reads, “In year one of Belshazzar king of Babel, Daniel saw a dream and a visions of his head upon his bed; then, the dream he wrote a head of words, he said…” This is a very wooden translation for the sake of noting the odd word play that I don’t quite understand. Now, the dream and vision that he saw “of his head” (ראשׁה) is idiomatic for something like “in his head/mind,” so don’t be confused when the dream recorded in vv. 2-8 has nothing to do with Daniel’s noggin. It is the second mention of “head” is the one that confuses me.

It says that Daniel wrote “a head of words (ראשׁ מלין),” which the NASB interprets to be “a summary,” the NIV as “the substance,” and a footnote for the NRSV as “the beginning of words.” I am inclined to go with the NRSV’s footnote. A “head” can be a beginning. It may be that there is a play on words mixed with a conceptual rhythm: the “beginning” of Belshazzar’s reign corresponds with Daniel seeing visions in his head of which he provides the “head/beginning” words describing the vision?

For what it’s worth, the LXX does not have corresponding words. Rather, it reads, “…and the dream he wrote (καὶ τὸ ἐνύπνιον ἔγραψεν).” My inclination is to presume that the author(s) of Greek Daniel preferred to avoid the quirky wording rather than that the Hebrew text from which it was translated did not include the words, which were added later. It makes more sense that difficult wording was removed than added.

Anyone have another take on this Aramaic idiom?

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