The story of Daniel is so well known to us, there is no need to repeat it here: and that is exactly the problem Like so many tales from long ago, we hear them as children with modern ears, and then never think to make the imaginative leap back into the historic conditions which completely change their significance. So familiar are we with the sanitized “Children’s Bible Stories” version, and the familiar, often soppy pictures that accompany it, we lose sight of the fact that the real story probably had sexual overtones.
To understand this, we need to call to mind the nature in Biblical times of warfare between competing societies, the prevalence of slavery, and the treatment of captives. We all know that Daniel and his companions were brought to Babylon as “captives” – i.e. as slaves – where they were given to king. What the children’s stories to not explain is that a common fate of young male captives, especially in royal or aristocratic households, was to be kept for sexual use: penetration was widely used as a symbol and demonstration of the dominant position and status of the slave owner, and of the dependent, servile status of the captive.
Several scholars who have examined the story and historical context in detail believe that Daniel and his companions would have been made into eunuchs to service the king. This does not make them “gay” in any modern sense of the word – but it does mean that even after regaining their freedom, they would have been seen as sexual outcasts in Jewish society. It is also believed by some that the very word “eunuch” in the Bible should often be interpreted in the same way as the modern term “homosexual”, as people at that time would not have drawn the distinctions between them that we do today.
UPDATE: In a comment below, Conshieguy draws attention to Daniels’ “Handsome Appearance”, which is significant in the context.
( Daniel is remembered on 21st July)
July 23, 2009 at 11:27 am
The first chapter of Daniel specifically refers to the handsome appearance of Daniel and the other captives from Judah, so it’s very likely there was a sexual element to their service to the King.
July 23, 2009 at 11:32 am
Thanks for the observation, Conshieguy. It does rather round out the hypothesis. I will add it to my post.