Chronicles of Jerahmeel, by M. Gaster , at sacred-texts.com
LXXIV. (1) Daniel having now grown old in years, came one day to the king, and prostrating himself before him, said, 'O my lord the king, behold old age has crept upon me, and I have now no more strength to stand and go to and fro. Behold, the lawless men of thy people have humbled me through their enmity, and have cast me twice into the den of lions, but God, in whom I put my trust, has delivered me. They meditated to take my soul, to deprive me of my life, through their zeal on behalf of their gods, but my God withheld me from their destruction. My three friends also they cast into the fiery furnace to be burnt, and yet after all this we have not forsaken our God. Now, my lord the king, I pray thee allow me to go back to my native city and to my house, to worship the God of my fathers for the remainder of my days, for I am old and have no longer the power to restrain (check) the multitude of thy host.' And the king answered Daniel, saying, 'How can I listen to thy request to send thee away, seeing thou art a man of the God of heaven? If thou leavest me and departest from my side, how can my kingdom remain in its integrity? I am indeed aware that thou art an old man, and that thou hast no longer that strength for active life which the rulers of the kingdom ought to have; therefore, if thou wilt give me from among thy people a man of wisdom and understanding, and withal filled with the spirit of thy God as thou art, to remain with me in thy stead, then will I send thee away in peace to rest in thine own house, although my soul knoweth there is none esteemed thy equal among the sons of thy people.'
(2) Daniel then went forth from the presence of the king to the assembly of the exiles, and, finding there Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Jechoniah, King of Judah, he selected him from among the people, and taking him by the hand, led him to the king, and said, 'Behold before
thee the man who is to take my place. He is esteemed my equal, and is descended from Judah and from the chiefs of the royal seed. He is withal a man of valour, filled with the spirit of God, with knowledge and wisdom as myself, falling short of nothing that is in me, and he will be, as I have been, a faithful counsellor to thee. And now, do thou give me permission to depart for my native place for the short time I have to live.' The king, being confident of the truth of everything Daniel told him, gave him permission to depart. Daniel then made his obeisance, and the king embraced and kissed him, and having ordered many gifts to be presented to him, he sent him away.
(3) Thus did Zerubbabel take the place of Daniel, who gave all that the king presented him with to the suffering exiles, and then left for Shushan, his native place, in the land of Elam. There he worshipped the Lord among his brother exiles until the day of his death.
(4) Now, Zerubbabel was a man of valour, young and prosperous, understanding and wise, filled with the spirit of wisdom, for Daniel had put his hand upon him. He found favour in the eyes of the king, who loved him and appointed him chief of all the princes, and overseer of the two captains of die host and guardians of the king.
(5) One day, according to custom, all the princes assembled before the king, and the king said to them, 'Have ye seen in the whole of this land a man as wise and as full of understanding, in whom is the spirit of Daniel, as this man Zerubbabel?' And they answered, 'The king hath spoken the truth.'
(6) Now, about the time of noon, after they had all eaten, the king, as usual, lay upon his bed and slept. The two princes and guardians of the king then arose, as was customary, and Zerubbabel with them, and stood round the king's bedside until he awoke. On this occasion the king slept heavily, for he was drunk with wine; and the three young men, being weary of standing, proposed to test each other's wisdom by means of riddles, each one according to his wit, and they said, 'Let us write them down in a
book, and place the book under the head of the king until he awake from his sleep,' when he would see the book, and understand its meaning.
(7) 'Then it shall be that the man whose words appear wiser than his two colleagues,’ and whose riddles are superior to those of his brethren, should be made vicegerent, and should also sit on the royal throne and in the royal chariot; that he should have free access to the presence of the king; that the vessels of his table should be of silver, and the reins of his horse of gold. That the crown of the vicegerent be placed upon his head; that he receive the portion of the vicegerent from the hand of the king; that every request be granted him, and that he be a friend of the king.' To this they all agreed, and, making a covenant in accordance therewith, they established it according to the laws of Media and Persia, which can never be altered.
(8) Then, bringing the pen and the scroll, they cast lots as to who should be the first to inscribe. The first wrote, 'On the earth there is no one so powerful as a king.' The second wrote, 'Wine is the strongest thing on earth.' And Zerubbabel, who was the third, wrote, 'There is nothing on the earth so powerful as woman.' When they had finished writing their words of wisdom, they placed the scroll under the king's pillow, but the king was awake, for though his eyes were closed yet he heard their whisperings; and when they placed the scroll under his pillow the king arose as if he had just woke from his sleep, and, rubbing his eyes with his two hands, he looked under his pillow, and saw the scroll which the three young men had written. Then opening it, he read it, and was perplexed about it, until all the princes, pashas, chiefs, governors, and heads of the provinces came to him. Then calling the three young men, he said, 'Bring me each one of you his writing, and let me listen to the interpretation of your riddles; then will I fulfil for the wisest of you three everything that is stated in the scroll to honour and exalt him.'
(9) The first one then approached to read what he had written, and said, 'Hearken, O king and princes, to my words. There is nobody on earth so powerful as a king.' The second, drawing near (the king), said, 'There is nothing on earth so powerful as wine.' And the third, viz., Zerubbabel, exclaimed, 'There is nothing on earth so powerful as woman.' At this the king and the princes said, 'We have hearkened to your hidden sayings; now tell us the explanation, and we shall listen.'