Now, we enter the Book of Daniel for a verse-by-verse study of this amazing text. Check back often for more commentaries!
Daniel 1 Commentary: An Introduction to Daniel Chapter 1
In this first chapter of the book of Daniel, one of the most intense prophetic books of the Old Testament, we are introduced to several new names, including four Hebrew men who have been taken into exile in Babylonian captivity. Their names are Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. While the plot of Daniel 1 primarily surrounds the deeds of these four Hebrews, it also provides the reader with important background information. As we will find in our reading of the book of Daniel, no stone should be left unturned by those who desire to unlock the immense prophetic knowledge that lay resident within its pages.
Daniel 1 opens in 606 B.C. with the first of three Babylonian invasions of Judah during this era. These events unfold during the reign of King Jehoiakim.
Time: The text opens in the third year of King Jehoiakim of Judah.
Daniel 1 Commentary
Simply click the arrows below each verse to reveal our notes and Daniel 1 commentary
1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.
“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah”
– King Jehoiakim is a weak vassal ruler operating under the power of Pharaoh Necho of Egypt. Since killing Jehoiakim’s father, King Josiah, in the valley of Megiddo a few years prior, Necho has maintained Judah as a tributary state. Jehoiakim’s failure as king is summed up in 2 Kings 23:37 where it says that he “did evil in the eyes of the Lord.”
“Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon”
– It is fitting that we are introduced to King Nebuchadnezzar in this first verse, considering the major role that he will play throughout much of this book. In 605 B.C., the Babylonian empire rises to regional domination with Nebuchadnezzar’s defeat of the Assyrian and Egyptian armies at the battle of Carchemish.
“came to Jerusalem and besieged it”
– This is the first of three invasions by Babylon into the heart of Judah. The second invasion occurs around 597 B.C. And the final siege came in 586 B.C. when the Babylonians torched the city of Jerusalem, including the Jewish temple complex. Solomon’s temple lay in utter ruins and the people of Judah were killed by the thousands. Most who survived were taken as captives back to Babylon.
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.
“And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand”
– As punishment against the wickedness of the people of Judah, the Lord delivers their rebellious leader, Jehoiakim, into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. This humiliating hostile takeover of Judah is yet another tragic fulfillment of God’s prophetic warning against his people’s disobedience to the Mosaic law and covenant. (See Lev. 26:33,39) During the invasion, Jehoiakim is taken and vetted by Nebuchadnezzar before he is permitted to return as a vassal ruler under Babylon.
“with some of the vessels of the house of God”
– The scripture is clear that Nebuchadnezzar carries only “some” or “part” of the temple vessels away. His pillaging of the temple vessels was not intended to prevent daily temple operations, but instead as a display of power and control over the people of Judah. More temple vessels are taken during the next two Babylonian invasions but are fully restored under the reign of the Persian king, Cyrus.
“And he brought them to the land of Shinar”
– Nebuchadnezzar carries the temple vessels into the “land of Shinar,” an ancient name for Babylonia. The word Shinar appears eight times throughout the Old Testament in reference to Babylonia, and possibly Sumer. In Gen. 10:10, the land of Shinar is described as an important part of the early kingdom of Nimrod.
“to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god.”
– Nebuchadnezzar seizes the holy temple treasures from “the house of God” and carries them away to “the house of his god.” Who is Nebuchadnezzar’s god? It was the ancient Mesopotamian god, Marduk. It is difficult to overstate the blasphemy of Nebuchadnezzar’s actions. His actions, however, are blinded by pride and self-ambition. Later in his reign, he will learn to fear of the only true 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,
“Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch”
– As the chief eunuch, Ashpenaz is the chief of staff over Nebuchadnezzar’s palace affairs. As such, he likely wielded great power within the king’s palace and was apparently entrusted with the responsibility of stewarding the Jewish captives taken by Nebuchadnezzar during his invasion of Judah. The word “eunuch,” while often used of a man who has been castrated, carried various meanings in different regions of the ancient world. Regardless of whether Ashpenaz was impotent, or even voluntary celibate, the important point is that he is placed at a very high level within Nebuchadnezzar’s court. As such, he is careful to follow the king’s every command.
“to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility”
– During Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of Judah (vs. 1), he apparently snatched several members of the noble class in Judah, including members of the royal family, and brought them back to Babylon. It is not surprising that Nebuchadnezzar is interested in the royal seed of David as it was likely the king’s custom to seize a nation’s rulers upon a conquest. By this, Nebuchadnezzar could test the loyalty of his new vassal rulers. And if they needed to be replaced, Nebuchadnezzar had rulers-in-training at his palace waiting to take their place. However, Nebuchadnezzar apparently views Jehoiakim as a pliable and willing vassal that can be easily controlled. Therefore, Nebuchadnezzar sends him back to Judah as a puppet ruler, where he remains until his death at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar in 598 B.C.
As we will see in vs. 6, Daniel is one of the captives taken by Nebuchadnezzar during this first of three invasions into Judah.
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.
From this passage, it is evident that Nebuchadnezzar is seeking to vet Judah’s royal family and nobility for those with the most promising leadership qualities. At its height, the Babylonian empire stretched from southern Mesopotamia (modern-day southern Iraq) to the Mediterranean Sea. As new regions were conquered, the previous leaders would often be replaced by new leaders that were officially trained in the king’s palace. This verse is helpful in describing the traits that Nebuchadnezzar sought in new potential leaders.
“youths without blemish, of good appearance”
– Nebuchadnezzar wanted these potential leaders to be young, (literally “children” in the Hebrew) without physical or mental defects, and outwardly attractive. After all, the minds and aspirations of a child are much easier to mold than those of an adult. “without blemish” – implies that these youths were to be untainted and free from physical and mental defects. “of good appearance” – Outward attractiveness was prized in the ancient world, much as it is today. Nebuchadnezzar wanted those who would potentially represent him and his vast empire to look pleasing to the eye.
“skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning”
– Another important trait that Nebuchadnezzar desired within his future leaders was their ability to apply the wisdom of the Chaldeans in their daily lives. The wisdom spoken of here is that which sprung forth from the religious mysticism of the Chaldeans. In order to apply this wisdom, it was imperative that these youths be “endowed” with the right kind of knowledge. (Namely, the knowledge promoted by the Chaldeans.) “understanding learning” – This root word for “learning” can be translated as “science” (as it is in the KJV.) This could include disciplines in which the Babylonians excelled, such as astronomy, mathematics, and philosophy. Only the youths who are able to grasp the volumes of knowledge and apply it through wisdom would be worthy of Nebuchadnezzar’s attention.
“and competent to stand in the king’s palace”
– Any position of leadership is demanding. However, ruling the world’s largest empire at the time was tough work and was not for the weak. The politics of empire would often be grueling. To survive the political intrigue and constant betrayal associated with levels of such great power would require that these youths would be able to handle the job. They must be strong and “competent” enough to be able to endure and “stand” in the king’s palace no matter what the cost.
“and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans”
– The Neo-Babylonian empire was a highly religious order motivated by the worship of many gods, but especially Marduk. While the people of Judah had no doubt heard of the “literature and language of the Chaldeans,” most of them were steeped in the teachings of the Torah. All future Babylonian leaders, regardless of their position, would need to be immersed in both the literature and the language of the Chaldeans. The ancient literature employed by the Chaldeans, such as Enuma Elish and the Epic of Gilgamesh, directly contradicted the creation account and flood story as set forth in the Torah. This represented a major challenge to the faith of the Hebrew captives. Meanwhile, the language of the Chaldeans was Akkadian, with a distinct Babylonian dialect. Over time, the language slowly changed from Akkadian to Aramaic, which is used heavily in the book of Daniel.
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.
“The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank.”
– On first glance, Nebuchadnezzar’s act of appointing a daily portion of food to the Hebrew captives appears to be a positive development. Imagine what a blessing this would be to the average Babylonian. One of the most laborious tasks of the ancient world was the daily preparation of food. Here we see that the Hebrew captives would not have to spend any time at all worrying about where their next meal would come from as the king himself would provide it to them. And this was not just any kind of meal. The daily portion of food would be from the king’s own menu! The rich delicacies and finest of wines enjoyed daily by the royal monarch of Babylon would be given freely to the Hebrew captives. But as we will see in vs. 8, the moral convictions of Daniel and his companions will lead them to reject this “generous” offer. (See Prov. 23:3.)
“They were to be educated for three years”
– Here we learn the length of their tutelage would be three full years. Because the word “youths” in vs. 4 is literally translated as “children” in the Hebrew, many scholars believe that Daniel and his companions were taken at a tender age, perhaps anywhere from age 10-16. Regardless of their specific age at the time of their captivity, it is safe to assume that they would still be in their teenage years (or at most, early 20’s) upon completion of the three-year education.
“and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king.”
– Upon the completion, or lit. “termination,” of their three-year education, Daniel and his companions, as well as all of the other Hebrew captives, would be required to “stand before the king.” To “stand” in the presence of the king was a great honor in ancient times that few subjects were ever granted. Most translations render this phrase as “serve in the king’s court.” Based upon the context, and ancient historical precedent, it can be safely assumed that upon completion of their three years of schooling in the literature and language of the Chaldeans, they would become members of the monarch’s council.
6 Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah.
It is in this verse that Daniel’s name first appears in the narrative. He, along with three others, are said to be among those taken from Judah and into Babylonian captivity. We don’t know how many others were taken from Judah. We do know, however, from vs. 3 that the ones taken to Nebuchadnezzar’s palace were of Judah’s nobility and royal family.
“Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah”
– In ancient times, a name often carried a special meaning. For this reason, a person’s name in ancient times carried much more importance than it does in modern Western cultures today.
– The name Daniel literally means “God is my Judge.” (A combination of “Dan” and “El”)
– The name Hananiah means “Jah has favored.” (A combination of “chanan” and “Yahh”)
– The name Mishael means “Who is what God is?” (A combination of “Miy” and “El”)
– Finally, the name Azariah means “Jah has protected.” (A combination of the words “Azar” and “Yahh”)
“of the tribe of Judah”
– This brief phrase alerts the reader to the fact that Daniel, and his three friends, are of the tribe of Judah, the royal bloodline of the coming Messiah.
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.
“And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names”
– Here we learn that Ashpenaz, the chief of the king’s eunuchs, gives new names to these four Hebrew youths. These new names would bestow honor upon the Babylonian gods instead of the God of the Hebrews. This was likely done in honor both to the Babylonian gods and to King Nebuchadnezzar. These new Babylonian names also served to complete their immersion into the new pagan culture.
“Daniel he called Belteshazzar”
– Daniel’s name is changed to Belteshazzar meaning: “Prince of Bel” or “Bel protect the king.” Bel is the Babylonian word for Lord and was used to refer to Marduk, the chief god of Babylon.
“Hananiah he called Shadrach”
– Hananiah’s name is changed to Shadrach meaning: “Command of Aku.” Aku was the Babylonian god of the moon.
“Mishael he called Meshach”
– Mishael’s name is changed to Meshach meaning “Who is what Aku is?” Note that the divine name of the Hebrew God within his original name is simply replaced with the name of Aku.
“and Azariah he called Abednego”
– Azariah’s name is changed to Abednego meaning “The servant of Nebo.” Nebo, also known as Nabu, was the son of Marduk and was the Babylonian god of wisdom.
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.
“But Daniel resolved that he would not”
– Despite the new Babylonian identity imposed upon him, Daniel resolves, determines, makes up his mind, and purposes in his heart to stand firm in his spiritual beliefs and deeply-held convictions. Despite the consequences, Daniel refuses to buckle under the heavy weight of the king’s desires. Here we can clearly see Daniel’s fear of the Lord far outweighs his fear of men – even the king of the known world!
This verse is compelling as it demonstrates Daniel’s resolve in the face of great temptation. After all, Daniel and his fellow captives are in a strange new place. It is typical human nature to seek to adapt and fit into our new environment as soon as possible. After being given a new name, Daniel is offered the rich and savory foods and wine directly from the king’s table. This is a chance for Daniel to drown himself in excess. Today, how many people seek refuge and comfort in rich food and in strong drink? Daniel’s strength of character teaches us how to live righteously even in the midst of great spiritual darkness.
“defile himself with the king’s food or with the wine that he drank”
– “Defile” meaning to pollute, desecrate, soil or stain. Daniel is resolute in his decision not to desecrate his God-given body with the delicacies at the king’s table. The Jewish law forbade the eating of unclean foods and meats, including pork, which was undoubtedly served in the king’s palace. While no such prohibition existed in wine in moderation, the king’s food and drink were dedicated to the Babylonian gods before being served, which made it instantly impure, despite its contents or style of preparation. Daniel refused to sanction the idolatrous behavior of his captors.
Nevertheless, we can imagine the temptation that Daniel might have had seeing the sumptuous feasts that Nebuchadnezzar enjoyed on a daily basis. Still, his spiritual eyes recognize the desecration and reject the temptation. Daniel chose “rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.” (Heb. 11:25)
“Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs”
– Despite Daniel’s holy resolve, he still respects the authority that has been placed over him. He does not attempt to incite a rebellion or to cause a scene. Instead, he goes directly to the proper place within the chain of command, Ashpenaz, to make his request known.
“to allow him not to defile himself”
– Ashpenaz was likely perplexed by Daniel’s unique request. After all, what could Daniel possibly gain by rejecting the delicacies at the king’s table?
9 And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs,
“And God gave Daniel favor and compassion”
– God has a great purpose for Daniel’s life, which will require favor within the Babylonian courts. Note that God is the source of this favor (Hebrew: checed) and compassion (Hebrew: racham) towards Daniel. “Racham” implies a tender love or tender mercies and can even be translated as “womb”, such as in Ezekiel 20:26.
“in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs”
– God steers the mind and heart of Ashpenaz, the chief of the eunuchs, to demonstrate favor, compassion, and mercy towards Daniel. This God-given compassion opens the heart of Ashpenaz to Daniel’s unusual request.
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.”
“and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel,”
– Ashpenaz will now respond to Daniel’s request with a God-given compassion and favor.
“I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink;
– The fact that Ashpenaz’s heart has been softened to the plight of Daniel and his friends is clearly seen by the transparency he expresses to Daniel in this statement. As one of the king’s most trusted advisors, Ashpenaz feels — and openly expresses — a sincere reverence and moral duty to keep the commands of Nebuchadnezzar, who has “assigned” (meaning to appoint or allot, in an official sense.) Ashpenaz admits openly the moral conflict he is feeling between being faithful to his king and to honor the request of Daniel, towards whom he suddenly feels a God-inspired sense of compassion and favor.
“for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age?”
– Daniel’s request to be given only vegetables to eat and water to drink likely perplexed Ashpenaz. In a land of plenty, why would Daniel and his friends desire such a restricted diet? He feared that such a strict diet would cause the youths to become emaciated and pitiful in appearance as compared to their peers.
“So you would endanger my head with the king.”
– Finally, Ashpenaz confesses his deepest fear regarding Daniel’s request. It is doubtful that Ashpenaz’s fears were unfounded as openly disobeying the king’s orders would likely carry a stiff penalty, including beheading. Hidden within Ashpenaz’s fearful statement is a deep question aimed at Daniel: “Why would you endanger my life over this matter? Is it really that important to you?” Ashpenaz wants Daniel to fully comprehend the weightiness of his request, along with the possible repercussions. Considering the cost to Ashpenaz, the fact that he would even entertain the idea of violating the king’s commands in order to honor Daniel’s wishes, which would risk his position — and likely his life, is proof of God’s intervention into the man’s mind and heart.
11 Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,
“Then Daniel said to the steward”
– The KJV translates this word “steward” as Melzar, which is more literal translation of the Hebrew word, “meltsar,” which is a Babylonian title meaning a “butler” or an “overseer.”
“whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned”
– It is interesting that once Ashpenaz demonstrates a great reluctance to Daniel’s request, Daniel immediately takes his request to an overseer appointed by Ashpenaz. As evidence of his wisdom, even at a tender age, Daniel escalates his sincere request to the highest level of power first. Daniel foresaw the potential danger that would await those who looked to King Nebuchadnezzar for their daily bread. Daniel and his friends were apparently committed to a spartan lifestyle that allowed them to remain spiritually alert. But don’t miss the danger present within this story. It may not have the same intensity as Daniel’s night in the lion’s den, but the concern that Daniel and his friends felt was no doubt very real. Remember, vs. 8 told us that “Daniel resolved,” once again meaning that he had “determined,” “made up his mind,” and had already “purposed in his heart” that he would allow the demonically-infiltrated and utterly wicked kingdom of Babylon to break him. To turn back now would be to violate his very own deeply-held convictions, while simultaneously shaming himself, as well as the power of his God, before the pagan officials within the Babylonian court.
Wisdom Key: Treasure your testimony and protect it at all costs. When your testimony is on the line, “make up your mind” and “purpose in your heart” to defend it.
“over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,”
– The conversation that Daniel is preparing to have with this overseer will not just impact him, but his three friends as well. Apparently, Daniel’s friends trusted him to speak on their behalf.
12 “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink.
“Test your servants for ten days;
– The number ten and the concept of being “tested” are uniquely associated throughout scripture. For example, consider 1) the Ten Commandments, 2) the concept of the tithe, being a tenth, as a “test” of our faith, 3) the ten plagues sent upon Pharaoh’s Egypt, and 4) the ten days of testing for the saints described in Revelation 2:10. Therefore, it is not surprising that Daniel challenges the overseer to “test” or “prove” he and his friends for a period of ten days.
“let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink.”
– The original word for “vegetables” here is “zeroa`”, which is derived from the Hebrew word “zera”, meaning “seed.” The word construction implies that Daniel’s request is to eat only something that has been “sown.” This includes vegetables, along with any other foods that originate from a seed; pulse. Pulse meaning beans, peas, lentils, etc. These are the types of foods that Daniel and his friends requested, as opposed to the sumptuous and rich meals that the king had assigned to them, which likely included a variety of meats and starches. To replace the wine and other available beverages, Daniel and his friends requested only water.
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.”
Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you,
– After Daniel appeals to the overseer to permit him and his friends to consume only vegetables and other natural foods along with only water to drink instead of the food and wine portions assigned by the king, he tells the overseer to compare their appearance with the others. This is a wise move as the primary concern of Ashpenaz and the overseer regarding Daniel’s request is that the king will notice the “appearance” of the youths due to their strict diet.
“and deal with your servants according to what you see.”
– By requesting this strict diet on a ten-day trial basis, Daniel has wisely provided the overseer a way out. While his first inclination may be to deny Daniel’s request, the overseer realizes that he is only consenting for a brief period with the option of terminating the experiment after just ten days. The methods employed by Daniel in approaching his captors regarding this very important request displays his wisdom. And the fact that his captors agree to Daniel’s request shows God’s obvious divine intervention in the matter.
14 So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days.
So he listened to them in this matter,
– After hearing Daniel’s request, the overseer “listened to them.” The Hebrew word for this phrase is shama` meaning “to hear intelligently,” “to carefully consider,” or “to consent.” This word shama` is derived from the same word used for “hear” in the familiar Hebrew phrase, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD.” (Deut. 6:4)
“and deal with your servants according to what you see.”
– After carefully considering their request, and no doubt with the full support of Ashpenaz, his supervisor, the overseer consents to Daniel’s request, allowing him to be tested with a restrictive diet for ten days. It is likely that Daniel and his friends felt a tremendous sense of relief that their request was accepted. Why? Based on Daniel’s strength of character and unwavering devotion to his God, Daniel’s resolve to not eat the king’s food would have led to immediate conflict. As we will see in later chapters, Daniel refuses to submit to any and all requests that violate God’s laws. (As does his friends, as we will see in vivid detail in Chapter 3.) But because God gave Daniel “favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs” (vs. 9), Daniel and his friends are spared from the king’s wrath.
In our age of constant spiritual compromise, Daniel’s courageous allegiance to God, even when it could endanger his life, serves as a wonderful example. This same boldness is later encapsulated in the bold declaration “We must obey God rather than men,” by the Apostle Peter when he and the other Apostles are ordered by the Sanhedrin to stop preaching the Good News of Christ. (Acts 5:29)
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.
At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance
– After the 10-day trial diet of only natural foods and water, the Bible declares that Daniel and his friends “better in appearance.” The Hebrew word “towb” is the word translated as “better” in this verse. Its particular construct literally means “beautiful to the sight.”
and fatter in flesh
– The Hebrew word “Bari” is translated as “fatter” in this verse. It carries the meaning of “fat” “plentiful” or “plump.” This is an important statement as Ashpenaz’ primary concern was that the strict diet of Daniel and his friends would leave them with an emaciated appearance.
than all the youths who ate the king’s food.
– The text leaves us to assume that “all” (Hebrew: “kol,” meaning “the whole, all”) of the other young captives, taken along with Daniel and his friends, compromised God’s law under the weight of Babylon. Remember that Judah had become a terribly wicked place the final generations leading up to the Babylonian captivity. This wickedness pervaded the royal family and the nobility. So, it is a fair assumption that “all the youths” referred to were quick to embrace their new home. While they were still captives, they ate from the king’s table, drank strong wine (Babylonian wine was undiluted, unlike in Judah), and had potentially bright futures awaiting them in the Babylonian courts. The text is clear; only Daniel and his friends display the courage needed to resist the temptations of abandoning the laws of their God and surrendering their Hebrew identities while in Babylon.
16 So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.
So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink,
– Here we see God’s faithfulness to Daniel’s refusal to bow to the will of Babylon. The food and wine that had been designated for them were taken away from their midst. While Daniel and his friends may be in Babylon, they had no desire to allow Babylon to be in them. Therefore, they made no room within themselves for the dainties provided by the king.
When God’s people are confronted by the spirit of Babylon, it often comes in the disguise of external things, such as “food and wine.” While the actions may seem innocent, they carry with them the adoption of a Babylonian lifestyle. In wisdom, Daniel knew that gaining his daily sustenance from the king’s table was no ordinary action. Not only was it a clear violation of God’s dietary laws, but it would likely dull his spiritual senses and potentially cause him to take ease in embracing of a Babylonian lifestyle. Daniel’s spiritual sobriety was one of the only defenses that remained for him to battle the spirit of Babylon that had infiltrated his land and his people.
and gave them vegetables.
– Note that it is the Babylonian overseer gives Daniel and his friends “vegetables” (Hebrew: “zeroa`”). Daniel’s obedience to God and his refusal to break His commandments, even in such a tumultuous time is admirable. When we are faced with overwhelming circumstances, or even extreme cultural pressures, it can be tempting to condone small violations of God’s commands in order to prevent persecution. But Daniel’s example clearly shows that when our faith, hope, and trust remains fixed in God, He will provide what we need. And, as in Daniel’s case, God can even use the hands of our mortal enemies to deliver our needs! Nothing is too difficult for our God.
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.
As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom,
– Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are given divine knowledge and intelligence to comprehend the vast amounts of Babylonian literature and wisdom that they must absorb over the following three years. This “literature and wisdom” included a variety of sciences, mathematics, and ancient writings. The Babylonians had a different approach to the sciences and mathematics, which would have been new to the Hebrew captives. The difficulty in absorbing ancient Babylonian literature, which included works like the Epic of Gilgamesh, is best summed up in an old Sumerian proverb: “He who would excel in the school of the scribes must rise with the dawn.” Larges amounts of ancient Babylonian literature was regurgitated from the stories hand-carved into much earlier Sumerian clay tablets. But God eased the task of learning all of this new material for Daniel and his friends because He had great plans for their future. They were to shine as God’s light in the Babylonian darkness. In order to gain influence over the king, and to be taken seriously within their newfound culture, these four young men would need supernatural wisdom, which God provides.
Finally, God’s pattern of exploiting worldly learning and wisdom for His own purposes has a precedent in the life of Moses who “was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.” (Acts 7:22)
and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.
– While all four youths had been blessed with supernatural understanding to successfully digest their intense training by the Babylonians, the Bible singles out Daniel alone as being gifted with an “understanding in all visions and dreams.” The Hebrew word for understanding in this verse is “biyn”, meaning “to separate mentally” or “to distinguish.” Put simply, Daniel had supernatural discernment in all dreams (Hebrew: “chalowm”) and visions (Hebrew: “chazown”).
“Chalowm” is almost always translated as “dream(s)” throughout the Old Testament. It is used of normal dreams in sleep, and of dreams of divine origin revealing hidden truths.
“Chazown” is used 35 times throughout the Old Testament, but never before the book of 1 Samuel. It appears most often within the prophetic books and is usually translated as “vision(s).” It carries the idea of divine revelation.
The ancient Babylonian culture greatly prized the ability to interpret dreams and visions. Political leaders, like King Nebuchadnezzar, surrounded themselves with soothsayers, diviners, and magicians for their supposed ability to foretell the future and to issue divine warnings of future calamity. The fact that God endows Daniel with this supernatural discernment of dreams and visions in the midst of a culture that highly valued such giftings helped him rise to great power within the Babylonian court in short order. Daniel was living proof of Proverbs 18:16 where it says, “A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before the great.”
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.
At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in,
– Earlier, in verse 5, we learned that the Hebrews were “to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king.” This verse moves us forward to the end of this three year training period appointed for the Hebrew captives by King Nebuchadnezzar. Imagine the anxiety many of these youths must have felt to finally stand before the world’s most powerful king to have their newfound knowledge tested.
the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar.
– As ordered, Ashpenaz presents the Hebrew youths before the king.
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.
And the king spoke with them,
– After three years of intense education through immersion into the Babylonian culture, King Nebuchadnezzar speaks directly with all of the Hebrew youths as they stand before him. Nebuchadnezzar’s goal is clear: To thoroughly test their overall knowledge and to identify the most promising youths within the group.
and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
– The divine wisdom and learning abilities given to Daniel and his friends emerge as the king interviews the entire group of Hebrew youths.
Therefore they stood before the king.
– Nebuchadnezzar immediately recognizes the promise of these four young men and calls them into his royal service. “They stood before the king” literally means that the four youths were placed into service in the king’s royal court.
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.
And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them,
– King Nebuchadnezzar inquired, or “searched,” the “wisdom” and “understanding” of these four Hebrew youths likely through an intense round of questions.
he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.
– The king finds the answers given by these four Hebrews “ten times better” than the answers he had been receiving from his current spiritual advisors. Nebuchadnezzar, however, did not know that Daniel and his friends served the Lord of lords and the King of kings. He simply considered them more greatly blessed by the “gods” with wisdom and understanding than any of his other wise men.
Note the wisdom possessed by Daniel and his friends is described by the king as being “ten” times greater than that given by his other counselors after they are “tested.” The number “ten” and the concept of “testing” are directly connected both in this chapter (see vs. 12) and throughout much of the Bible. (See commentary of Daniel 1:12)
Finally, King Nebuchadnezzar’s praise of Daniel and his friends likely engendered jealousy within the ranks of the existing spiritual advisors within the court. However, this is mere speculation as the text remains silent on the matter. However, Daniel’s peers will manifest their jealousy against him in Chapter 6.
21 And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.
And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.
– Daniel was one of the first Hebrews taken into captivity in Babylon. He lives to see the end of the 70 years of captivity when the Medes and Persians, under the leadership of King Cyrus, conquered Babylon in 539 B.C.
And, as we will see in Dan. 10:1, Daniel is still alive in the third year of the reign of King Cyrus.
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