Daniel 1

Introduction

The name of this book is taken from its main character and author, Daniel, which means, “God is my judge.”

We know very little about his early life or his parents. It seems evident that he was of royal or princely ancestry. He probably was born and reared in Jerusalem. He must have received outstanding training. It is estimated that he was carried to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar when very young about 15 or 16 years of age.

Daniel’s life spanned a very interesting period of history. He saw his beloved nation overrun by the Babylonians. Carried to Babylon he saw this great kingdom fall to the Persians. He served during this time of the captivity under many of the kings of Babylon and Persia. He also lived to see a remnant of the Hebrews return to their native land after seventy years of captivity. His life then spanned the entire period of Babylonian captivity.

Upon the death of Solomon, the great kingdom built by David and Solomon was divided into two parts. Ten northern tribes united to become known as the nation of Israel while the remaining two tribes of the south became known as Judah. Both would fall into idolatry. Israel fell first with Judah falling next. It is the fall and captivity of Judah that the book of Daniel centres around.

The fall of Judah is a sad time in the history of God’s people. Their last good king was Josiah. Unfortunately, he was killed as he attempted to stop the advance of the Egyptian army as it was passing through the land to engage the Assyrians in battle. The battle took place near Megiddo when the young king was wounded. He was carried back to Jerusalem where he died. With the death of Josiah, we begin to see the downfall of Judah.

After Josiah’s death, his son Jehoahaz was proclaimed king in 609 BC. His reign lasted three months when Pharaoh Necho deposed of him having him deported to Egypt where later he died. In his place, Necho placed his brother Eliakim on the throne changing his to Jehoiakim. He was nothing more than a puppet king ruling from 609 to 598. Heavy tribute was placed upon the people during his reign. In 605 Nebuchadnezzar defeated Necho at the battle of Carchemish in northern Syria. The result was that Nebuchadnezzar came into control of Palestine.

The following year he moved into Palestine and suddenly Jehoiakim found it expedient to transfer his allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar. Later on, after a battle with the Egyptians Nebuchadnezzar would return home. During his absence, Jehoiakim rebelled turning his allegiance to Egypt again. Nebuchadnezzar dispatched troops to Judah in December 598. Jehoiakim was bound in chains but before he could be carried to Babylon he either died or was killed.

Jehoiachin, the eighteen-year-old son of Jehoiakim took the throne. Three months later Jerusalem surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar. The king, his mother and leading citizens were taken to Babylon along with many of the vessels of the temple and other treasurers. This king after being taken to Babylon lived for 37 years.

Zedekiah, the last king of Judah and a brother to Jehoiachin next came to the throne and ruled from 597 to 587. He was a weak ruler. Many of the Judeans never considered him as their king but still considered the exiled Jehoiachin as the legitimate king. Jeremiah who was still in Judah at this time advised the king to use restraint and reject the advice of the Egyptians to come over to their side. Babylon and Egypt again fought with the victory going to the Babylonians.

In July 587, the Babylonians breached the walls of Jerusalem. Zedekiah tried to escape but was captured near Jericho and taken to Nebuchadnezzar’s camp. He was forced to watch the execution of his sons. He was blinded and taken in chains to Babylon where he later died. A month later the Temple, palace and private houses of Jerusalem were burned. The walls of the city were broken down. Many people were executed and in 832 were carried captives to Babylon. This left only the poorest classes of people to remain behind.

The Babylonians appointed a man Gedaliah to serve as their governor with headquarters in Mizpah because Jerusalem was now in ruins. He sought to return things to normal but a group of extremists looked upon him as a collaborator and plotted to kill him. Those who were left fearing Nebuchadnezzar fled to Egypt. The prophet Jeremiah was forced to go with them.

In all Nebuchadnezzar was 20 years in taking and destroying Jerusalem. The reason for this lengthy period was that he would have preferred to receive tribute than to have to destroy the city and its people. Destroyed it was useless to him. If the kings and people had lived in subjection to him he could have received a great amount of tribute.

It was during the reign of Jehoiakim that Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego were taken captive to Babylon. Ezekiel the prophet was also to be taken a prisoner. He was sent to a work camp on the river Chebar.

The city of Babylon was one of the great cities of the ancient world. Nebuchadnezzar made one of the most beautiful cities in history with its famous hanging gardens. Its outer walls were 60 miles around a 15-mile square. The walls were 300 feet high, 80 feet thick and 35 feet into the ground. There were 250 towers guarding the walls. One hundred brass gates made it accessible from every side.

The Euphrates River flowed under its walls and through the midst of the city. The famous hanging gardens were one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The Temple of Marduk (Bel) was the most famous in that part of the world. Its golden image and altar weighed 50,000 pounds. Today Babylon lies in ruins.

This was prophesied by Jeremiah in 51:37-43.  It was also prophesied in Isaiah 13:17-22. Archaeologists have been able to locate where the city once existed.

The book of Daniel falls into two main parts.

Daniel 1-6 are historical, dealing with important events in Babylon.

Daniel 7-12 are prophetical, revealing the future of great world governments and the coming of the kingdom of Christ.

An interesting aspect of the book is that it is written in two languages.

Daniel 1:1-2:4a and Daniel 8-12:13 are written in Hebrew.

However, Daniel 2:4b-7:28 are written in Aramaic. Why is this? Aramaic was the language of the world and is used in those portions which outline the future history of world empires. Hebrew is used in those portions which interpret for the Hebrews the meaning of the visions.

Its prophecy is of a style termed Apocalyptic which is similar to the book of Revelation. It uses bold, symbols and figures to describe the future of nations and the kingdom of God. It also has a very strong Messianic message, especially in chapters Revelation 2, 7 and 9.

The purpose of this book is to show the superiority of the God of Israel over the idol gods of Babylon and other pagan nations. We see the humiliation of the idol gods and uselessness and on the other hand the glorious victories of Jehovah, God of the Hebrews. Jehovah met and solved every problem whereas the idols failed on every occasion.

The book also serves as a great comfort to the Hebrews in the hardships they were enduring. God will deliver them from their captivity and return them to their homes in Palestine. The wisdom of Daniel was found to be ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters of Babylon.

Daniel gave God the credit for his wisdom and understanding. He was rewarded for his counsel and rose to the highest civil posts in three governments. He was not only a prophet but an outstanding statesman. Yet, in all his high positions he was never afraid to declare God’s truth boldly. Ezekiel praised him as a righteous man of the same calibre as Noah and Job Ezekiel 14:14.

The Text

The first chapter is historical in nature. Its purpose seems to be to introduce us to Daniel and how he was able to reach such a distinguished place in Babylon. It is indeed remarkable that a young Jewish captive should be raised to such a high position of counsellor and ultimately, he would become the Prime Minister.

‘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 delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god.’ Daniel 1:1-2

The date of this event was around 606 B.C. and 369 years from the time the kingdom divided. After the death of Josiah, the last good king, his youngest son Jehoahaz began to rule. After three months, he was replaced by his elder brother Eliakim who was called Jehoiakim. He was one of the worst kings to rule over Judah.

In the third year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon who had recently defeated the Egyptians marched to Jerusalem which was under the dominance of Egypt. After a short siege, Jehoiakim surrendered but was permitted to continue as a puppet king.

Nebuchadnezzar took part of the furniture of the temple back to Babylon with him. He also took several young men, sons of prominent people among whom were Daniel and his three friends.

Josephus says Daniel and his three friends were kin to King Zedekiah. The articles taken from the temple were placed in the house of Nebuchadnezzar’s god, the temple of Bel. The presence of these articles in Babylon figures later in a prominent way in the fall of Babylon.

‘Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility—young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.’ Daniel 1:3-4

It seems that the object was to select those who were the most perfect in form and intelligence to be trained in the procedures of the Babylonian court. Daniel was one of these. They were all placed under the supervision of Ashpenaz the master of the eunuchs.

The king no doubt felt that such young brilliant men would add to the splendours of his court. Their training seems to have included such things as astronomy, astrology, magic and the interpretation of dreams as well as the language of the Chaldeans.

‘The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service. Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.’ Daniel 1:5-7

The best of the king’s food and wine were assigned to those selected for this intensive training. They were to be on this diet for three years. This no doubt was the period of their training. Among those in training were Daniel and his three friends. The chief eunuch gave them new names. This may have been done so they would be severed from their Jewish names and background taking on names whereby they would now be identified with the Chaldeans.

Daniel is called Belteshazzar which is supposed to be a compound of two words meaning Bel’s prince. Bel was one of the chief gods of the Chaldeans. This no doubt would have been considered a very flattering name. Knowing the charter of Daniel however we can imagine that he was not flattered at all.

‘But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.’ Daniel 1:8

Daniel decides he would not defile himself with the king’s food. It may be that this food in some way had been connected with idolatry such as the meats in the meat shops of Corinth, 1 Corinthians 8.

Also, no doubt some of the food would have been considered unclean under Jewish. The matter of temperance would also play a part. Whatever the reasons Daniel requested that they not be required to eat the king’s food.

‘Now God had caused the official to show favour and compassion to Daniel, but the official told Daniel, ‘I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.’ Daniel 1:9-10

In some way, Daniel had impressed the eunuch who was over him. This was probably by his conduct and manner of life. However, it must be noticed that this was all by the providence of God. The eunuch was hesitant. He was afraid if Daniel appeared less healthy it would reflect upon the eunuch in that he was responsible. He felt this might show up in the countenance of Daniel and the king would notice the downcast look of one who had been fasting.

Eunuchs were employed in positions of trust. They often rose to positions of great influence and power. This man did not want to endanger his rank or position.

‘Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, ‘Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink.’ Daniel 1:11-12

Daniel proposes a trial test of ten days. If during this period, there were no indications that their condition was worsening then they could assume that the experiment would not harm their appearance in any way.

The diet proposed by Danial was pulse and water. The king’s diet by contrast contained the best meats and wines from his table. The word rendered “pulse” would seem to indicate vegetables or anything that grows from seed.

That Daniel’s diet called for water instead of wine is interesting. It would prove that wine did nothing to produce a healthful condition during their training. Wine has some medicinal value when used in the proper way. Paul prescribed it for Timothy in little amounts for a stomach condition but he did not prescribe it as a beverage.

Wine has always been a source of drunkenness and therefore condemned in both the old and new testaments. Daniel had good reasons for rejecting wine as a part of his diet. He was a very wise young man.

‘Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.’ So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.’ Daniel 1:13-14

Daniel leaves the judgment of the matter to the Steward who was placed over them. If he looked upon them and found them less favourable, then he could deal with them as he pleased. Daniel seems to have no fear as to the outcome of this test. The eunuch consented as the time of trial was so short, just ten days, that he would run no risk in the matter.

‘At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So, the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.’ Daniel 1:15-16

The test proved successful. They appeared in better physical shape than the others. The steward was so impressed that he removed the king’s diet and let them remain on their vegetable diet and water.

‘To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.’ Daniel 1:17

As they continued their training God blesses their development so that they are especially gifted in matters of knowledge, intelligence, literature and wisdom. Daniel is additionally gifted in regard to dreams and visions. This will play a great part in his life around the court later on.

‘At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so, they entered the king’s service.’ Daniel 1:18-19

All who have been under the intensive period of training are brought before King Nebuchadnezzar. In his examination, he found Daniel and his three friends far superior to all the others who were being trained.

‘In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.’ Daniel 1:20

Their wisdom and knowledge are even much greater, ten times, than those of the magicians and astrologers who were called upon by the king. This included not only those in the court but all the wise men in other parts of the kingdom.

‘And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.’ Daniel 1:21

Daniel’s influence continued into the reign of Cyrus. He resided in Babylon during the entire period of the Babylonian captivity. He served under both Chaldean and Persian kings.

While there were changes on the throne and even in the Babylonian government, Daniel seems to retain his status among those who ruled. His influence is so great he is constantly called upon by those who ruled.

Upon the first reading of Daniel 1:21, one might get the impression that his life was terminated with the first year of Cyrus. But from Daniel 10:1 we are told Daniel received a vision in the third year of Cyrus. Is this a contradiction?

No, the passage simply informs us that Daniel survived the changeover of power when the Persians took over and his life extended on into the new dynasty. In other words, when the kingdom changed hands Daniel was still there.

Conclusion

Daniel could have thrown himself into the luxurious living of the Babylonian court. Instead of indulgence, he chose a life of temperance. He was a young man of great principles and served as an example for all young people today.

Daniel and his three friends seem to be the exceptions as far as temperance is concerned. Because they wanted to do right God blessed them. God will always bless our efforts if they are right.

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