Daniel 1 ESV
1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. 3 Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, 4 youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. 5 The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. 6 Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. 7 And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.
8 But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. 9 And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, 10 and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.” 11 Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” 14 So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. 15 At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food. 16 So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.
17 As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. 18 At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. 20 And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. 21 And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.
Some might consider the book of Daniel overwhelming to study because of the sections of visions and dreams in it. Yet, the book also contains beloved stories that many children learn about God’s faithfulness to save Daniel and his friends from danger. Daniel indeed stands as a unique book of history and prophecy, even though Daniel does not fit the typical prophet of the Old Testament. Ultimately, the book is a part of God’s larger message. And like the rest of scripture, it points us to God’s promises in Jesus Christ. The book is relevant to us today, not just to prepare us for the future but to live in our present world and remain faithful to God.
The events of Daniel start in the last years of 600 BC. Assyria and Egypt were the big world powers on the world scene, and Judah (Southern Kingdom) was caught somewhere in the middle. However, a new empire was about to take center stage. It is Babylon under the leadership of Nebuchadnezzar. Egypt set up puppet kings Eliakim (Jehoiakim), but he proved to be a problem for Babylon, so they removed him and replaced him. Babylon also took some of the temple's treasure along with a specific portion of people to the land of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar chose to take the best educated, best looking, best-skilled people of the land to become his property and serve the Babylonian empire as a captive ambassador or personal advisor. This was not uncommon for conquerors to do to the people they subdued.
God gave away
From a military point of view, King Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judah and subdued it by their imperial power. From a religious point of view, it appeared as if the gods of Babylon were stronger than the God of Israel. In the ancient eastern cultures, if one kingdom defeated another, it proved that the stronger kingdom had a more powerful god(s). The weaker kingdom would have to concede that their god(s) could not protect them. They might even have to rethink their devotion to that god(s). In the Old Testament, we have similar stories of challenges between the God of Israel and the god(s) of other nations.
• David viewed the challenge of Goliath of the Philistines as defying the God of Israel. 1 Samuel 17:45-47
• Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal, who threatened to turn the hearts of the people away from God toward the gods of other nations. 1 Kings 18:36-39.
› What are the people of Judah to make of this situation where God has not protected the people of Judah from the Babylonian sword? Is He still the God of Israel of the past? Is He still able? Is He worthy of one’s trust and devotion when it seems He can’t protect His own?
From a biblical point of view, scripture tells us that God gave King Jehoiakim and the temple vessels to the Nebuchadnezzar. God had forewarned Judah through prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah that they would go into exile if they persisted in their sin and rebellion against God. If they relied on nations other than God, God would allow those nations to rule over them. Therefore God, as a loving father chose to discipline his children by letting them experience the consequences of their unfaithfulness. God is still in control even when He allows our sinful consequences to overtake us. He is still present to redeem even those sinful experiences and prove that He is God.
U.C. Babylon (University of Chaldea at Babylon)
Nebuchadnezzar took a section of the population to educate and indoctrinate them in Babylon's history, values, and worldview. After three years, the end goal was to have the graduates stand before the King to be approved for the King’s service. We see a similar situation in the life of Esther when she enters the beauty treatments and preparation to be a possible bride for King Ahasuerus. Esther 2:1-4 Can you imagine being one of the people taken away? You immediately lost your freedom, and your future plans are now in the hands of a foreign King. On top of that, a foreign education was forced upon them. This education included things that were contrary to the teaching of scripture, such as a different origin of the world, spirituality apart from God, and sorcery/magic traditions of a pagan nature.
Daniel: An Introduction and Commentary b. The Captives Introduced (1:3–7)
These young men from Jerusalem’s court needed to be secure in their knowledge of Yahweh to be able to study this literature objectively without allowing it to undermine their faith. Evidently the work of Jeremiah, Zephaniah and Habakkuk had not been in vain.
As Christian parents, we can be overwhelmed with the thought of our kids encountering an education or worldview different from scripture. Our job as Christian parents is to train our children in the ways of God. It may be a challenge to do, but it is our privilege and responsibility to do it. We may even fail to be the example we ought to be, but we must continually get back on track to show our kids that following God is the only path. It is impossible to shelter them for their entire life, so we must prepare them to enter this world and remain faithful to the Lord in their own life. We see this occur in the lives of Daniel and his friends. It is possible to raise our children in a world that increasingly challenges the ways of the Lord.
A New Name
The four young men had wonderful Hebrew names.
• Daniel - God is My Judge
• Hananiah - Yahweh protects
• Mishael - Who is like the Mighty One?
• Azariah - Yahweh will help
But they were changed to names that honored the gods and culture of Babylon.
• Belteshazzar - may Marduk, the patron God of Babylon, guard his life (may also refer to the wife of Marduk
• Shadrach - I am very fearful (of God)
• Meshach - I am of little account
• Abednego - servant of the shining one (may also refer to the god Nabu)
Daniel: An Introduction and Commentary (House) A. God Gives His People into Nebuchadnezzar’s Hands (1:1–7)
Royal renaming was supposedly ‘an honor conferred by the king to mark the recipient’s new status and a sign of the expectation of loyalty to the king who bestows the name
It would seem that there is little chance that these young men would remain faithful to God. Who is there to remind them of the word of the Lord? Who would tell their parents if they decided to follow the gods of Babylon or change their minds about God? But the Word of the Lord was established in their hearts, and they navigated the perils of Babylon with God’s grace.
We will not defile ourselves
Daniel and his friends resolved or “set themselves” in mind that they would not defile themselves with the food and wine of the king of Babylon. This was not simply saying no to non-kosher items or things prepared in an unclean manner. Most likely, the general food preparation did not meet the standards for the Hebrews. The primary issue was to whom would they show loyalty and dependence.
Daniel: An Introduction and Commentary (c. To Conform or Not to Conform? (1:8–21))
All food in Babylon or Assyria was ritually unclean (Ezek. 4:13; Hos. 9:3, 4) and from that there was no escape.... By eastern standards to share a meal was to commit oneself to friendship; it was of covenant significance
Daniel and his friends were determined to keep their covenant faithfulness with the One True God. Their act was a theological statement to Babylon. “We will not depend upon the King of Babylon or his gods for our sustenance." We will depend upon our God.” Jesus similarly repeated this thought when tempted by Satan to turn the stones into bread during his forty days of fasting. Jesus responded by saying this.
Matthew 4:4 ESV
4 But he answered, “It is written,
“ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”
Daniel asked for a test to prove that God was the One who sustained His people even in a foreign land. Usually, a vegetarian diet would cause someone to lose some weight. But here is the miracle, they were “fatter in flesh”. So the Daniel Diet was not a way to lose weight but rather a testimony that they did not need the power or gods of Babylon to sustain them.
God continued to give
Even though God gave away Jehoiakim, the vessels, and the people of Judah into the hands of Babylon. But we learn that God gave two things for the four Hebrew boys.
• God gave them favor and compassion
• God gave them learning and great skill
In a complicated pagan world, four righteous boys found themselves forced into the consequences of their sinful nation, yet God provided His presence and power for those who would choose to follow Him. Do you believe God can still do this for you today?
Will you trust God in Babylon ?
For the Christian today, Babylon represents the world systems and beliefs that ignore and reject God. It is all around us. It permeates our entertainment, news, politics, social media, education, and even the Christian world. We must be filled with the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. We are engaged in a spiritual battle that goes beyond the world we can see. Yet, we are not without the promises and presence of God. Even when it seems that He gives things away, we can be assured that He gives exactly what we need.
2 Peter 1:3–4 ESV
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
The world may change your name, but your identity is in Christ. Live life according to God’s grace. He is with us.