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Daniel 1: Preparation for Service



People Group Taken

Notable Event


605 BC

Some Nobles

Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego Taken


597 BC

Leaders and Craftsmen

King Jehoiachin and Ezekiel Taken


587 BC

Most of the People

Temple and Jerusalem Destroyed

{1:2} The Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah to him, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. Nebuchadnezzar carried these off to the temple of his gods in Babylonia and put them in the treasure house of his gods.

The Hebrew 'Elohayw 'may be translated 'his god 'or 'his gods'. The NIV chose 'god', but I prefer 'gods' because I think Nebuchadnezzar was a polytheist and he put the treasure in the 'temple of his gods'.

{1:3} The king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to take some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility-

These young Israelites were captives, not volunteers. The word for 'court officials' may also be translated 'eunuchs'. These men would be fully devoted to the service of the King, having no wives or children. (In Egypt, but not Babylon, the eunuchs would make political marriages, such as Potiphar, the captain of the guard over Joseph.)

{1:4} 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 train them in the Babylonian language and literature.

The young men were already 'well informed', perhaps trained for family and royal business back in Jerusalem, but they needed to be trained in the government, language, and culture of Babylon.

{1:5} The king assigned them a daily portion of food and wine from the king's table. They were to be trained for three years in preparation to enter the king's service.

Daniel and the young nobles were given the equivalent of a liberal-arts college education as preparation for serving in the Babylonian government. This would put them in the service of Babylon before the second invasion of the Holy Land in 597 BC. Their service was performed locally in Babylon, and they never returned to their homeland. Jeremiah would proclaim that the LORD's will was for the Jews to accept servitude under Babylon as discipline from the LORD, and not rebel or resist. However, continued resistance in Jerusalem eventually led to the second and third invasions and destruction of the Holy City.

{1:6} Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.

Perhaps the others blended in, they are not named. They apparently did not stand with Daniel and his friends, but perhaps they are just not mentioned.

{1:7} The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.

Belteshazzar probably means 'Bel protect the King' as in Unger's New Bible Dictionary. The scheme of giving pagan names to these servants was so effective that today most Christians recognize Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, but do not know the Godly names of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. This is effective propaganda.

{1:8} 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.

Why would eating the 'royal food and wine' defile them? The meat would not be bled and cooked in accord with the Law given to the Hebrews through Moses. There was no particular prohibition on wine (other than overuse or drunkenness). Perhaps both the meat and wine were offered to the pagan gods first (the meat by sacrifice at a pagan altar, the wine by pouring a small amount on an altar or on the ground). The reason for the defiling is speculation for us today, but Daniel knew that he would be defiled by the 'royal food and wine' and resisted it.

{1:9} God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel,

Before Daniel asked his question, the official was already influenced in Daniel's favor. Even in exile, God would show favor to His people.

{1:10} but the official told Daniel, "I'm afraid of my lord the king, who assigned your food and drink. What if he sees you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would have my head because of you."

The official would face a real risk if he did not follow the letter of the Kings command, especially if his lack of care led to the young men becoming sick or weak. After all, what could be better healthy food than what comes from the King's own table?

{1:11} Daniel said to the guard appointed by the chief official over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah,

Remember that they are hostage/prisoners and kept under guard. It appears that the chief official and guard are together.

{1:12} "Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink.

Because vegetables are mentioned here, it implies that the 'royal food' above was meat. This story is not intended to make us vegetarians, but it was to encourage the Jews to follow the dietary laws given to them through Moses. If the royal food was meat, it would not be 'kosher'. We must remember that the first readers of Daniel were Jews in captivity in Babylon, and later the majority of Jews who lived scattered throughout the world. They would always struggle with conforming to the customs of the world. Do you stand firm when the 'rules' of Christian behavior go against what our culture expects us to do?

{1:13} Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants according to what you see."

Daniel was confident that his faith could withstand an objective test, and it did! Are you confident that your faith can stand a test in front of unbelievers?

{1:14} So he agreed and tested them for ten days.

Sometimes the Lord limits our tests. He did not make Daniel show what he would do if the official denied the request, we do not know. We assume that since Daniel would not defile himself, he would starve rather than defile himself. Again, the Lord is in control, and the official agreed to the ten day test. Sometimes we must also be reasonable in our stand for our faith. Daniel gave a reasonable request, not a refusal to eat.

{1:15} After the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.

Was it the diet or the obedience which showed results in only ten days? Or both?

{1:16} So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

Now they are committed to this diet of vegetables for three years. The definition of vegetable (in Hebrew) could include grains such as barley and bread.

{1:17} God gave these four young men knowledge and understanding of all types of literature and learning, and Daniel could understand all kinds of visions and dreams.

It was not the school, but (ultimately) the LORD who gave Daniel his deep understanding. Daniel was able to understand both visions and dreams. In this way he was similar to Joseph, who was taken as a slave to Egypt, could interpret dreams, and rose to a high position in the foreign government. The other similarity to Joseph is that the nation of Israel will go into the Babylonian empire (for Joseph the family of Israel went into Egypt).

{1:18} At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar.

Verse 1:5 stated they would be trained for three years. We may assume that the three years are summarized by verse 1:17, and that God gave the young men understanding of all types of literature during the time of their study.

{1:19} The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king's service.

We do not know what positions were given the other youths that went into captivity. Perhaps they were in lesser positions. The assignments of the four youths showed respect for their character as well as their knowledge, for they were positions of trust and honor.

{1:20} 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.

This is very high praise, since 'all the magicians and enchanters' would presumably include the teachers of these recent graduates.

{1:21} Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.

DATES: Daniel served from graduation about 602 BC until about 537 BC, when Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem (Book of Ezra). Daniel received the revelations of Ch 10 two years after that, about 535 BC, at the age of perhaps 83. Cyrus will be mentioned later in this book, and was a ruler of the later Medo-Persian Empire which would conquer Babylon.

Chapter 1 - Summary

Daniel and associates are taken to Babylon and trained for the civil service. They put their faith on the line in a pagan society by asking to eat 'kosher'. The LORD acted on their behalf, and also gave them wisdom which was recognized as outstanding by the King. They are appointed to responsible government positions.

Chapter 1 - Questions

The Bible Text for this page is BrRon's Paraphrase
BrRon's Bible Commentary (C)Copyright 2010 by Ronald Miller, All Rights Reserved