Daniel 1 – Keeping Pure in The Face of Adversity
A. Introduction to the Book of Daniel.
1. Setting the time: The prophet Daniel lived in the sixth century before the birth of Jesus. During this approximate period:
· Construction began on the Acropolis in Athens.
· Mayan civilization flourished in Mexico.
· Aesop wrote his fables.
· Confucius and Buddha lived.
· Greek art began to truly excel.
· The Greeks introduced the olive tree to Italy.
· The Phoenicians made the first known sea journey around Africa.
2. The Book of Daniel is a target of critics who doubt that the Daniel described in the book actually wrote the book, especially in light of the book’s amazing prophecies.
a. The Book of Daniel claims to be written by Daniel himself, and the fact that it is written mostly in the third person does not contradict that claim.
i. The author mostly speaks in the third person, except for Daniel 8:1, 9:2, 9:20, and 10:2, where he speaks in the “I, Daniel” form. However, it was customary for ancient writers to speak in the third person even when writing about themselves. The one Old Testament exception to this is the Book of Nehemiah, which is in the form of a personal diary.
ii. Even God switches between the grammatical first and third person when speaking of Himself. One can compare Exodus 20:2 (I am the LORD your God) and Exodus 20:7 (for the LORD will not hold him guiltless).
iii. Fortunately, Jesus took away all doubt on the matter. He told us that Daniel wrote the book of Daniel: Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet (Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14).
b. The Book of Daniel predicts events of the second century before the coming of Jesus (especially the period 175-164 B.C.) with such precision that doubting critics believe it had to have been written after that period, during the time of the Maccabees (in-between the Old and New Testaments). Supposedly, the purpose for writing Daniel at that time was to inspire God’s people on to victory during the Maccabean wars.
i. The first recorded suggestion for a Maccabean date for Daniel was by the Neoplatonic philosopher Porphyrius of Tyre (third century A.D.). Porphyrius couldn’t believe the prophecies, so he suggested the later date. An early Christian writer and scholar named Jerome refuted these arguments in his commentary on Daniel.
ii. Influenced by Enlightenment philosophies, academics began to revive the old Maccabean date theory about the Book of Daniel. There was consensus among many academics that every accurate prediction in Daniel was written after the events took place.
c. The modern argument for late dating Daniel is based on supposed inevitable mistakes that a second century B.C. writer made when writing about a period 400 years before, in the sixth century B.C. In our own day, it would be as if someone wrote a story about the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock while mentioning speedboats and computers. We would know that it was a forgery. There are usually said to be five main historical blunders:
· The date for Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of Judah.
· Using the word Chaldeans to describe a class of soothsayers.
· The account of Nebuchadnezzar’s madness.
· King Belshazzar and his relationship to Nabonidus.
· The figure of Darius the Mede.
i. There is also a linguistic argument made against the Book of Daniel, claiming that certain Greek words used in Daniel are words that did not come into the Hebrew vocabulary until the second century B.C.
3. (1-2) Nebuchadnezzar conquers Jerusalem.
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the articles of the house of God, which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the articles into the treasure house of his god.
a. Jehoiakim king of Judah: This was a Judean king placed on the throne by the Pharaoh of Egypt. His name means “Yahweh raises up,” but the LORD did not raise him up at all – Pharaoh did.
b. Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon: This was the mighty ruler of the Babylonian Empire. The name Nebuchadnezzar is a Hebrew transliteration of the Babylonian name Nebu-kudduri-utzur, which means “Nebu protects the crown.”
c. Came to Jerusalem and besieged it: Nebuchadnezzar came against Jerusalem because the Pharaoh of Egypt invaded Babylon. In response, the young prince Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Egyptians at Charchemish, then he pursued their fleeing army all the way down to the Sinai. Along the way (or on the way back), he subdued Jerusalem, which had been loyal to the Pharaoh of Egypt.
i. This happened in 605 B.C. and it was the first (but not the last) encounter between Nebuchadnezzar and Jehoiakim. There would be two later invasions (597 and 587 B.C.).
ii. Some say that this mention of the siege of Jerusalem is a historical blunder made by a pseudo-Daniel. This is based on the fact that this invasion in 605 B.C. is not mentioned in the book of Kings. But the Jewish historian Josephus quotes the Babylonian historian Berossus, showing that the Biblical account of three separate Babylonian attacks on Judah is accurate (Against Apion, I 19 and Antiquities, X 11, 1).
iii. This specific attack mentioned by Daniel is documented by the Babylonian Chronicles, a collection of tablets discovered as early as 1887 and kept in the British Museum. Nebuchadnezzar’s 605 B.C. presence in Judah is documented and clarified in these tablets.
iv. When the Babylonian Chronicles were finally published in 1956, they gave us first-rate, detailed political and military information about the first 10 years of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. L.W. King prepared these tablets in 1919. He then died, and they were neglected for four decades.
v. Excavations also document the victory of Nebuchadnezzar over the Egyptians at Carchemish in May or June of 605 B.C. Archaeologists found evidence of battle, vast quantities of arrowheads, layers of ash, and the shield of a Greek mercenary fighting for the Egyptians.
vi. This campaign of Nebuchadnezzar was interrupted suddenly when he heard of his father’s death and raced back to Babylon to secure his succession to the throne. He traveled about 500 miles in two weeks – remarkable speed for travel in that day.
vii. Therefore, we know that the siege of Jerusalem in 605 B.C. was cut short by Nebuchadnezzar’s return to Babylon. This was not specifically detailed in the Babylonian Chronicles, but it is entirely consistent with the record.
d. In the third year of the reign: There is also no contradiction between Daniel (who said this happened in the third year of Jehoiakim) and Jeremiah 46:2 (which said it was in the fourth year of Jehoiakim). Daniel reckoned a king’s years after the Babylonian method: the first year of a king’s reign began at the start of the calendar year after he took the throne. Jeremiah used the Jewish method.
i. “It was customary for the Babylonians to consider the first year of a king’s reign as the year of accession and to call the next year the first year… Having spent most of his life in Babylon, it is only natural that Daniel should use a Babylonian form of chronology.” (Walvoord)
e. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand: In this 597 B.C. deportation Jehoiakim, Ezekiel, and others were taken away. This deportation is described in 2 Kings 24:14-16.
i. This was prophesied in Isaiah 39:7: And they shall take away some of your sons who will descend from you, whom you will beget; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon. This prophecy leads some to think Daniel and his companions were made eunuchs. Certainly, the Hebrew term saris was used of literal eunuchs; but the word derives from a phrase that simply means to be a servant of the king. It wasn’t exclusively applied to literal eunuchs.
ii. The LORD gave Judah into the hands of the Babylonians for mainly two reasons. The first was Israel’s idolatry and the second was their failure to observe the Sabbaths for the land (Leviticus 25:1-7 and 26:2-35). This shows that God always settles accounts with those who refuse to respond to His warnings. In the 587 B.C. invasion the city of Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed (2 Kings 25:9-10).
f. Some of the articles of the house of God: Nebuchadnezzar did not take all the furnishings of the temple, only some. The remaining furnishings were either hidden before Nebuchadnezzar came or they were brought to Babylon later.
i. The confiscation of these items and their deposit in a Babylonian temple was a dramatic declaration by Nebuchadnezzar saying, “my god is better than your God.” Now the God of Israel had to vindicate Himself.
ii. This was a low time for Judah and God’s people. It seemed that the God of Israel lost out to the gods of Assyria, Egypt, and Babylon. The Book of Daniel shows God vindicating Himself at a time when the conquest of Israel might have brought God’s reputation into disgrace.
B. Babylon’s system of indoctrination.
1. (3-4) The best and the brightest of Jerusalem’s young men are chosen and taken to Babylon.
Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king’s descendants and some of the nobles, young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans.
a. Bring some of the children of Israel: Nebuchadnezzar not only confiscated holy things from the temple but also the shining lights of Judah’s future (young men perhaps 13 to 17 years old).
i. Walvoord on the phrase king’s descendants: “The Hebrew for the princes is a Persian word, partemim, which is cited as another proof for a late date of Daniel. However, inasmuch as Daniel lived in his latter years under Persian government as a high official, there is nothing strange about an occasional Persian word.”
b. Who had the ability to serve in the king’s palace: Nebuchadnezzar demonstrated that he was a wise administrator and a shrewd tactician. Taking these young men as hostages reminded the people back in Jerusalem that they should not revolt against the recently imposed Babylonian rule.
2. (5-7) In Babylon, the Hebrew youths are groomed for the civil service.
And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king’s delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king. Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abed-Nego.
a. The king appointed for them a daily provision of the king’s delicacies: It was a given that the Babylonian government would provide for these young men in training. Yet, having the same food and wine prepared for the king was intended to be a special honor.
i. In the ancient world much more than in the modern world there was a huge difference between the food enjoyed by the elite and what common people ate.
b. To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: Daniel tells us about four of these youths, and their new Babylonian names.
i. The name Daniel (meaning God is my judge) was changed to Belteshazzar (meaning Bel’s prince).
ii. The name Hannaniah (meaning Beloved by the LORD) was changed to Shadrach (meaning Illumined by Sun-god).
iii. The name Mishael (meaning Who is as God) was changed to Meshach (which may mean Who is like Shach, which some believe was a Babylonian goddess corresponding to Ishtar or Venus).
iv. The name Azariah (meaning The LORD is my help) was changed to Abed-Nego (meaning Servant of Nego).
c. Three years of training for them: The purpose of the food, names, and education was simple. This was an effort at total indoctrination, with the goal of making these young Jewish men leave behind their Hebrew God and culture. Undoubtedly, Nebuchadnezzar wanted to communicate to these young men, “look to me for everything.” Daniel and his friends refused, insisting that they would look to God.
i. Calvin wrote that Nebuchadnezzar knew that the Jews were a stiff-necked and obstinate people, and that he used the sumptuous food to soften up the captives.
ii. Satan uses a similar strategy against believers today, wanting to indoctrinate us into the world system. Satan wants us to:
· Identify (name) us in reference to the world.
· Feed us what the world offers.
· Educate us in the ways of the world.
3. (8) Daniel’s decision to be faithful.
But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
a. That he would not defile himself: The ancient Hebrew word defile carries the thought of polluting or staining (see also Isaiah 59:3, Zephaniah 3:1, and Malachi 1:7). That Daniel requested that he might not defile himself implies that he explained the spiritual basis for his request. He didn’t make it seem that he wanted to avoid the king’s food out of other reasons.
i. Therefore he requested: Daniel made a big deal over a little thing. The only way to go on with God is to be faithful in little things. We might ask, “Daniel, why bring religion into it?” But Daniel realized that his relationship with God touched every area of his life, including what he ate. Significantly, the root of sin goes back to eating forbidden food.
b. That he might not defile himself: Daniel and his friends considered the king’s food defiled for at least three reasons. First, it undoubtedly was not kosher. Second, it was probably sacrificed to idols. Third, eating the king’s food implied fellowship with Babylon’s cultural system.
i. Daniel did not object to the name given to him, because he knew who he was and others could call him what they wanted. Daniel did not object to the Babylonian education, because he knew what he believed. Daniel did object to the food from the king’s table because eating it was direct disobedience to God’s word.
ii. “By eastern standards to share a meal was to commit one’s self to friendship; it was of covenant significance.” (Baldwin)
iii. Nor with the wine which he drank: God did not forbid drinking wine. Nevertheless, in pagan cultures most wine and meat was dedicated to the gods, so Daniel and his friends refused it.
c. Therefore he requested: Daniel made a remarkably courageous decision, especially when we think of all the reasons why it was a hard decision to make.
i. The king ordered the menu. Rejecting the menu was rejecting the king, and could result in severe punishment.
ii. Refusing the food might have branded them as being uncooperative, and could have spoiled all chances of advancement (many other Hebrew youths did eat the food).
iii. There was a real threat of punishment. Ancient kings were well known for the severe and often sadistic punishments against those who crossed them. Nebuchadnezzar was capable of great cruelty. He murdered the sons of one king of Judah before the king’s eyes then immediately gouged out the eyes of the king, so his last memory would always be the murder of his sons (Jeremiah 39:6-7). Other rulers of Judah were literally roasted to death over a fire (Jeremiah 29:22).
iv. The food itself was no doubt pretty attractive, and seemed a much better alternative than eating a vegetarian diet and water for three years.
v. Mere distance made this challenging. Separated from family and home, it was easy to compromise.
vi. It was easy to think that God had let them down by allowing them to be carried away into Babylon. These exiles, kidnapped from Jerusalem, might have said: “Why should we risk our neck for a God who let me down?” Yet they were committed to obedience even if God did not fulfill their expectations.
d. Daniel purposed in his heart: In this, Daniel illustrated how to conquer a difficult trial and glorify God before others in the midst of testing.
i. First, the heart must be set. Daniel purposed in his heart, making up his mind beforehand that he would not compromise.
ii. The life must be positive. Daniel found favor with his superiors.
iii. Protest must be courteous. Daniel requested to be excused from the king’s table. He made a polite request, showing discretion. Making a stand for Jesus Christ does not mean we must be obnoxious.
iv. Self-denial must be sought. Daniel and his friends knew this would cost them something, yet they were willing. “Be ready for a bad name; be willing to be called a bigot; be prepared for the loss of friendships; be prepared for anything so long as you can stand fast by Him who bought you with His precious blood.” (Spurgeon)
v. The test must be boldly put. “I think that a Christian man should be willing to be tried; he should be pleased to let his religion be put to the test. ‘There,’ says he, ‘hammer away if you like.’ Do you want to be carried to heaven on a feather bed? Do you want always to be protected from everybody’s sneer and frown; and to go to heaven as if you were riding in the procession on Lord Mayor’s day?” (Spurgeon)
C. The results of Daniel’s courageous decision.
1. (9) God gave Daniel favor and goodwill with the authorities.
Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs.
a. God had brought Daniel into the favor: God did not abandon those who stood for Him. Daniel entrusted himself to God and God came through – though it was no doubt a stretching experience for Daniel and his friends.
b. Into the favor and goodwill of the chief: God moved upon the authorities so they regarded Daniel with goodwill; but God also worked through the wise actions of Daniel to cultivate this goodwill.
2. (10-13) Daniel suggests a plan.
And the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your food and drink. For why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are your age? Then you would endanger my head before the king.” So Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. “Then let our appearance be examined before you, and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the king’s delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants.”
a. Please test your servants: Daniel saw the situation through the steward’s eyes and addressed his legitimate concerns. He wouldn’t let the chief of the eunuchs pay the price for Daniel’s conscience. In it all, Daniel was willing to put himself and his faith in God to the test.
i. There was something so reasonable about Daniel’s approach. He could have gone on a hunger strike or made some other kind of protest. Instead he made a polite request, he made it to the right person and said, “Put us to the test.”
ii. In this sense we might say that Daniel made a godly and wise compromise with the chief of the eunuchs. He certainly did not compromise in an ungodly way, but he showed the wisdom James 3:17 speaks of: But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.
iii. “Martyrs by proxy, who have such strong convictions that they think it somebody else’s duty to run risk for them, are by no means unknown.” (Maclaren)
iv. “It is of no use for a man to say, ‘I have made up my mind upon certain things,’ and to keep doggedly fighting over those matters, while, at the same time, the whole of his life is unkind, ungenerous, and unlovable. Yes, by all manner of means be a martyr if you like; but do not martyr everybody else.” (Spurgeon)
b. Vegetables to eat and water to drink: Vegetables refers to all kinds of grains and plants, not strictly vegetables. Basically, this was a vegetarian diet, chosen because the meat at the king’s table was not prepared in a kosher manner or it was sacrificed to idols.
i. Daniel was not presumptuous and he did not wrongly test God in this situation, because he had both a command to obey and a promise to trust. Exodus 23:25 says, So you shall serve the LORD your God, and He will bless your bread and your water.
3. (14-16) Daniel and his companions are blessed for their faithfulness.
So he consented with them in this matter, and tested them ten days. And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king’s delicacies. Thus the steward took away their portion of delicacies and the wine that they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.
a. So he consented with them in this matter: This was the hand of God at work. The chief of the eunuchs had all the power in this situation. Daniel and his friends seemed to be completely at his mercy. Yet God moved upon this man, and he consented with them in this matter.
b. Their features appeared better and fatter: This was the hand of God at work. There was no biological reason why a vegetarian diet should make them appear better and fatter. Perhaps their diet would make them appear the same as the other Jewish young men who ate the king’s food, but not better and fatter.
4. (17-21) Daniel and his companions are blessed and promoted.
As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. Now at the end of the days, when the king had said that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. Then the king interviewed them, and among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they served before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm. Thus Daniel continued until the first year of King Cyrus.
a. God gave them knowledge and skill: The special intellectual ability of Daniel and his companions was not due to their diet, but to the special intervention of the LORD.
i. Some think their diet had a direct effect on their knowledge. Trapp says, “This slender diet was some help to their studies; for loaden bellies make leaden wits.” Nevertheless, the key was certainly spiritual.
ii. These young Jewish men gave themselves to the LORD in a remarkable way and God blessed them in a remarkable way. J. Edwin Orr remembered something Billy Brice said to him: “Edwin, if Christians would only give over and above their reasonable service, the Lord would give over and above the usual blessing.” Daniel and his friends understood this principle, and God blessed them for acting on it.
b. Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams: This shows that purity of heart and faithfulness to God come before enlightenment in divine mysteries. Daniel would later receive great revelation, but now he simply showed himself a dedicated follower of God.
c. None was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: These young men from Jerusalem were immersed in the study of Babylonian culture, literature, and religion; yet they remained faithful to God. The work of the prophets like Jeremiah, Zephaniah and Habakkuk was not in vain. They were in Babylon, but not of Babylon.
d. Thus Daniel continued until the first year of King Cyrus: Daniel had a long, successful career in the worst of circumstances. He worked for tyrants who thought nothing of killing their staff and advisors, much less of firing them. His employer suffered the worst kind of hostile takeover when the Medo-Persian Empire conquered the Babylonian Empire. The seeds of his great success are evident in the very first chapter of the Book of Daniel.
i. Daniel and his friends show us that inner conviction can overcome any outer pressure, and that God-honoring convictions yield God-given rewards.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission