Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to shew the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king. (Dan 2:2)

Strong's H3778

(Occasionally shown as the second form with enclitic; meaning towards the Kasdites); patronymic from H3777 (only in the plural); a Kasdite, or descendant of Kesed; by implication a Chaldaean (as if so descended); also an astrologer (as if proverbial of that people): - into Chaldea), patronymicallyn. from H3777 (only in the plural); a Kasdite; or descendant of Kesed; by implication a Chaldan (as if so descended); also an astrologer (as if proverbial of that people): - Chaldeans, Chaldees, inhabitants of Chaldea.

Some commentaries:

John Gill: so called, not from their country; for probably all the preceding were Chaldeans by nation; but inasmuch as the study of judiciary astrology, and other unlawful arts, greatly obtained in Chaldea; hence those that were addicted to them had this name

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

Probably the Chaldaeans spoken of in this verse did not form a separate class of magicians but denoted the priests, such as those mentioned Herod. i. 181, and was contained in the first class of magicians mentioned in the verse.

In a similar question the selected answer explained:

"casdim" (Chaldeans) were known as expert astrologers and also had a religion based on astrology - that's a possible meaning in 2:2, and that's the interpretation of the oral tradition. The word is used in Daniel 1:4 to denote the language that the king taught the captive boys from the royalty of Jerusalem. It is not used anywhere else in the OT to denote wise men or magicians. My guess is that it just means the kings wise men who the author refers to collectively as the Chaldeans in the same sense that he uses the proper name in 1:4.

In the definition and commentaries and noted answer, the Chaldeans appear to be a separate class of Magicians and/or astrologers, or maybe even priests. These diviners may all have been Chaldean by nationality so it is unlikely to be just Chaldeans. It just does not appear a natural reading to assume that they are a separate class of the same type of the forgoing groups - one would assume these groupings would include all these "classes". I mean if the text only said: "call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers", one would have naturally have assumed that if there are different classes of magicians/astrologers/sorcerers, they would have been included among these three groupings.

If they were a type of priest or prophet, I would have expected Daniel to have used the term familiar to that title and OT readers, like authors elsewhere would have used the term priest/prophet of Baal for example. As the previous explanation, it is a reasonable explanation but not a very convincing or at all satisfactory one.

It does, however, appear that Daniel talks about them as if the reader should be familiar with the term as a type of diviner - though Scripture does not provide any helpful other uses.

The Pulpit Commentary has a long and thorough explanation that makes a few good suggestions, and likely the best explanations I can gather so far, but can anyone shed more light on who the Chaldeans in Daniel 2 were and how they may have been different from the aforementioned, or make the any of the above explanations a bit more convincing?

  • See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaldea - the Chaldeans were simply the ruling class whose language, Aramaic = Chaldean, was adopted (foisted upon them) by the ruling class of Babylon. – Dottard Oct 8 '20 at 20:26

The Chaldeans were originally a nomadic tribe who settled on the plain between the Euphrates and the Tigris, an area that extended some 400 miles in length and about 100 miles in width. The following two paragraphs make reference to the link between the people and the societal class of astrologers and astronomers in southern Mesopotamia:

When the Babylonian Empire was absorbed into the Persian Achaemenid Empire, the name "Chaldean" lost its meaning in reference to a particular ethnicity or land, but lingered for a while as a term solely and explicitly used to describe a societal class of astrologers and astronomers in southern Mesopotamia. The original Chaldean tribe had long ago became Akkadianized, adopting Akkadian culture, religion, language and customs, blending into the majority native population, and eventually wholly disappearing as a distinct race of people, as had been the case with other preceding migrant peoples, such as the Amorites, Kassites, Suteans and Arameans of Babylonia.

The Persians considered this Chaldean societal class to be masters of reading and writing, and especially versed in all forms of incantation, sorcery, witchcraft, and the magical arts. They spoke of astrologists and astronomers as Chaldeans, and it is used with this specific meaning in the Book of Daniel (Dan. i. 4, ii. 2 et seq.) and by classical writers, such as Strabo. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaldea

Background Information from the Old Testament: Genesis 11:28 and 31 speaks of Abram and his father Terah, who lived in “Ur of the Chaldees,” home to the specific tribe or people known as the Chaldeans. Genesis 15:7 also says that God called Abram out of Ur of the Chaldees, which is confirmed in Acts 7:4 where it says that Abraham “left the land of the Chaldeans.” Some scholars believe that Ur is not the name of a city but simply a word that means “land.” If this is the case, then Ur of the Chaldees (or the Chaldeans) is simply the land of the Chaldees. Chaldea was in the area known as the Fertile Crescent.

The Septuagint translation of Genesis does not include the term "Ur"; instead it describes the "Land (Chora) of the Chaldees". Some scholars have held that Ur was not a city at all, but simply a word for land. The Septuagint Greek used the word Χαλδαίων, or Chaldaion, from which Chaldees is derived. The terms Chaldee and Chaldean were henceforth found in Hebraic and Biblical sources dating from the 6th and 5th centuries BCE, and referring specifically to the period of the Chaldean Dynasty of Babylon. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ur_of_the_Chaldees

A non-secular source provides some historical background:

The Chaldeans were an intelligent and sometimes aggressive, warlike people. In 731 BC Ukinzer, a Chaldean, became king of Babylon; however, his reign was short-lived. A few years later Merodach-Baladan, also a Chaldean, became king over Babylon. Then in 626 BC Nabopolassar, another Chaldean, began what would be an extended period of time during which Babylon was ruled by a Chaldean king. During this time the word Chaldean became synonymous for Babylon, and we see many verses in Scripture where the word Chaldean was used to refer to Babylonians in general (Isaiah 13:19; 47:1, 5; 48:14, 20). Successors to Nabopolassar were Nebuchadnezzar, Amel-Marduk, Nabonidus and then Belshazzar, “king of the Chaldeans” (Daniel 5:30).

At the height of the Babylonian Empire, the Chaldeans were an influential and highly educated group of people. Some historians believe that, after Persia conquered Babylon, the term Chaldean was used more often to refer to a social class of highly educated people than to a race of men. The Chaldeans influenced Nebuchadnezzar’s decision to throw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:8) and were well known as wise men and astrologers during the time of Jewish captivity in Babylon. (Daniel 1:4; 2:10; 4:7; 5:7, 11). At the time of Daniel, Babylon was the intellectual center of western Asia, and the Chaldeans were renowned for their study and knowledge of astrology and astronomy. They kept detailed astronomical records for over 360 years, which can help us understand how the wise men from the East would have been able to recognize and follow the star that would lead them to the King of the Jews (Matthew 2:2). Source: https://www.gotquestions.org/Chaldeans.html

The English Standard Version Study Bible makes this comment regarding Daniel 2:2:

Nebuchadnezzar had a staff of specialists in dream interpretation: the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans. The name “Chaldeans” initially referred to a part of the Babylonian Empire, but it developed into a descriptive term for a special group, known for their expertise in magic lore and interpreting dreams.

Interesting question and I hope these insights are helpful.

  • As I started reading I had a conjecture: This is Lesley! And behold...Thanks for the research, Lesley! I am definitely looking into the references you provided. I found many of them myself also but they were a bit unconvincing. For Example, the Wikipedia references seem to simply be making an inference from Daniel that they are a class of Astrologers - it not convincing me. Maybe the rest of your resources is more convincing! – Pieter Rousseau Oct 10 '20 at 12:08
  • Why, thank you. Wikipedia is a very useful resuorce but when it comes to biblical insights, I prefer to go to Christian sources. I love doing research into Bible subjects and it's always a blessing when I learn something new. – Lesley Oct 10 '20 at 13:40

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