INTRODUCTION TO DANIEL 1.
This chapter begins with an account of the first captivity of the Jews, in the times of Jehoiakim; of which captivity Daniel was one, and it is mentioned on his account, Daniel 1:1, who, with others, were selected by the order of the king of Babylon, to be educated in the learning of the Chaldeans, and to be maintained at his expense, in order to be his ministers, Daniel 1:3, but Daniel and his three companions refused the king's meat and wine, lest they should be defiled; in which they were indulged by their governor, after trial being made, that they were fairer and fatter for it, Daniel 1:8, and, at the end of the time appointed, they appeared to have a large share of knowledge, wisdom, and learning; upon which they were taken into the king's court and service, Daniel 1:17, and the chapter is concluded with observing the long continuation of Daniel here, even to the first year of Cyrus, Daniel 1:21.
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah,.... At the close of it, and at the beginning of the fourth, which was the first of Nebuchadnezzar, Jeremiah 25:1. Jerusalem seems to have been taken twice in his time, and two captivities in it: the first was in the third or fourth year of his reign; when humbling himself, he was restored to his kingdom, though he became a tributary to the king of Babylon; Daniel and his companions, who were carried captive with him, were retained as hostages; but after three years he rebelled, but it was not until his eleventh year that Nebuchadnezzar came against him again, took him, and bound him, in order to carry him to Babylon, but he died by the way; see 2 Kings 24:1, some, as Jarchi and Saadiah Gaon, make this to be the third year of his rebellion, and the last of his reign; they suppose that he was conquered by the king of Babylon, and became subject to him in the fifth year of his reign; that he served him three years, and rebelled against him three years: at the end of which
came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it; with his army, and took it; and the same way it is accounted for in the Jewish chronicle
The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand,.... And the city of Jerusalem too, or he could not have took the king, and so the Syriac version renders it,
and the Lord delivered it into his hands, and Jehoiakim, &c.: this was from the Lord, because of his sins, and the sins of his ancestors, and of his people; or otherwise the king of Babylon could not have taken the city, nor him, because of the great power of the Jews, as Jacchiades observes:
with part of the vessels of the house of God; not all of them; for some, as Saadliah says, were hid by Josiah and Jeremiah, which is not to be depended on; however, certain it is that all were not carried away, because we read of some of the vessels of the temple being carried away afterwards, in Jeconiah's time, 2 Kings 24:13, and still there were some left, as the pillars, sea, bases, and other vessels, which were to be carried away, and were carried away by the king of Babylon, in Zedekiah's time, Jeremiah 27:19,
which he carried into the land of Shinar, to the house of his god; which Jarchi understands both of the men that were carried captive, and the vessels that were taken out of the temple; but the latter seem only to be intended, since of men Jehoiakim is only spoken of before; and it does not appear he was ever carried into Babylon; but it is certain the vessels of the temple were carried thither; which is meant by the land of Shinar, where Babylon stood, and where the tower of Babel was built, Genesis 10:2, the same, as Grotius thinks, with the Singara of Pliny
"the temple of Jupiter Belus had gates of brass; it was four hundred and forty yards on every side, and was foursquare. In the midst of the temple was a solid tower, two hundred and twenty yards in length and breadth; upon which another temple was placed, and so on to eight. The going up them was without, in a winding about each tower; as you went up, in the middle, there was a room, and seats to rest on. In the last tower was a large temple, in which was a large bed splendidly furnished, and a table of gold set by it; but there was no statue there; nor did any man lie there in the night; only one woman, a native of the place, whom the god chose from among them all, as the Chaldean priests of this deity say.'
Diodorus Siculus says
he brought into the treasure house of his god; very probably this was the chapel Herodotus
And the king spake unto Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs,.... That is, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon spake to this officer of his, whose name was Ashpenaz; which, according to Saadiah, signifies a man of an angry countenance; but Hillerus
that he should bring certain of the children of Israel; whom he had taken and brought captive to Babylon, and were disposed of in some part or another of the city and country; and out of these it was his will that some should be selected and brought to his court:
and of the king's seed, and of the princes: or, "even
Children in whom was no blemish,.... Not mere children, but young men of fifteen or twenty years of age; about which age Daniel is by Aben Ezra supposed to be when he was carried captive; and less than this be cannot well be thought to be, since, in a few years after, he was put into posts of the greatest eminence and importance: such were ordered to be selected that had no deformity or defect in any parts of their body, or wanted any, as an eye, or a hand, &c.; or, "in whom was not anything"
but well favoured; of a good complexion, a ruddy countenance, and a healthful look. So Curtius
"that the youths that are designed for the great offices of the Turkish empire must be of admirable features and pleasing looks, well shaped in their bodies, and without any defects of nature; for it is conceived that a corrupt and sordid soul can scarce inhabit in a serene and ingenious aspect; and (says he) I have observed not only in the seraglio, but also in the courts of great men, their personal attendants have been of comely lusty youths well habited, deporting themselves with singular modesty and respect in the presence of their masters: so that when a pascha, aga, spahee, travels, he is always attended with a comely equipage, followed by flourishing youths, well clothed, and mounted in great numbers; that one may guess at the greatness of this empire by the retinue, pomp, and number of servants, which accompany persons of quality in their journeys.'
And no doubt Nebuchadnezzar had some of these ends in view, in ordering such persons to be selected and brought up at his expense; that they might be both for service and usefulness, and for his grandeur and glory.
And skilful in all wisdom: in the wisdom of the Jews, or had a liberal education according to the custom of their country; or were young men of good capacities, capable of being instructed, and of improving themselves in all kind of wisdom:
and cunning in knowledge; or "knowing knowledge"
and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace; not only strength of body, which was requisite to a long waiting there, as sometimes they were obliged to do; but strength of mind, courage, and undauntedness, to stand before the king and his nobles, without showing a rustic fear, and timidity of mind:
and whom they might teach the learning and tongue of the Chaldeans; or, "the book and language of the Chaldeans"
And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat,.... Every day a portion was ordered them, from the king's table, of the richest dainties he himself ate of; which was done not only as an act of royal munificence and generosity, and in respect of their birth and breeding; but also as a bait and snare to allure and entice them, to make them in love with the country and condition in which they were, and to forget their own; as well also in order to preserve their well favoured look and good complexion, and fit them for their study of language and literature; which might be hindered for want of the necessaries of life, or by living on gross and coarse food:
and of the wine which he drank; which, as it was of various sorts, so of the best and most excellent; and which, moderately drank, conduces to the health of the body, and cheerfulness of the mind; and which are both useful to forward learned studies:
so nourishing them three years; this was the time fixed for their acquiring the learning and language of the Chaldeans; during which they were to be provided for from the king's table, and at his expense, as above; which term of time was judged sufficient for their learning everything necessary to qualify them for the king's service; and in which time it might be thought they would forget their own country, customs, religion, and language, and be inured to the place and persons where they were, and be satisfied and easy with their condition and circumstances:
that at the end thereof they might stand before the king; that is, at the end of three years they might be presented to the king for his examination and approbation, and be appointed to what service he should think fit; and particularly that they might be in his court, and minister to him in what post it should be his pleasure to place them. Some in Aben Ezra, and which he himself inclines to, read and interpret it, "that some of them might stand before the king"; such as he should choose out of them, that were most accomplished and most fit for his service; so Jacchiades.
Now among these were of the children of Judea, Among those youths that were selected from the rest, and brought up in the above manner, and for the above purposes, who were of the tribe of Judah, and very likely of the house of David, and of royal descent, were the four following persons:
Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; who are particularly mentioned, because they were the most famous and renowned of them, and are concerned in the subsequent history and account of facts: their names are expressive and significant: Daniel signifies "God is my Judge"; Hananiah may be interpreted "God is gracious to me"; Mishael is by some thought to be the same as Michael, "he who is God", or "as God"; and by others, "asked of God", by his mother, as Samuel was by Hannah, so Saadiah interprets it; and Azariah may be explained, "God is my help", or "helps me".
Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names,.... Other names, Chaldee names, according to the names of the gods of that country, for honour and glory, as Saadiah observes; which was done either to make them more acceptable to the court and courtiers of the king of Babylon; and to show that they were his servants, and naturalized subjects; and chiefly to cause them to forget the names their fathers gave them, and out of hatred to them, having all of them in them the names of the true God, El or Jah; and, most of all, that they might forget the God of their fathers, whose names they bore. This prince of the eunuchs seems to be the same with the master of the eunuchs, Ashpenaz, before mentioned, so Jacchiades; but some take him to be another person: what he did in changing the names of these four Hebrew youths was not his own idea and by his own authority, but by the order of the king; Daniel 5:12,
for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; which signifies "Bel hath hid and treasured"; or Bel's treasurer, or the keeper of his treasures; see Daniel 1:2. Bel was the chief idol of the Chaldeans, Isaiah 46:1, and Daniel was named according to him, as Nebuchadnezzar himself says, Daniel 4:8 and differs but in one letter from the name of a successor of his, Belshazzar, Daniel 5:1, hence Daniel is thought by Broughton, and others, to be the Belesis of Diolorus Siculus: or it may be he had this name given him from "beltis" or "baaltis"
and to Hananiah of Shadrach; which some interpret a "tender pap", or "breast": others, the "king's messenger", or "the messenger the sun". The word "rach" signifies a "king" with the Chaldeans, as it did with the Egyptians, as may be observed in the word "abrec", the king's father, in Genesis 41:43 and is used by them of the sun, the prince of planets, whom they worshipped: others, "the inspiration of the sun", their idol. Hillerus
and to Mishael of Meshach; or; "of Shach", which was a name of a god or goddess of the Chaldeans, they worshipped; at the celebration of whose feast they were when Babylon was taken by Cyrus:
and to Azariah of Abednego; or "a servant, or worshipper of Nego". The word signifies "shining brightness": which some understand of fire worshipped by them; others of the bright planet Venus; and others of Lucifer, or the morning star. Saadiah takes it to be the same with Nebo, by a change of a letter, which was a god of the Chaldeans; see Isaiah 46:1.
But Daniel purposed in his heart,.... It being proposed to him to be brought up in the manner before described, he revolved it in his mind; he well weighed it, and considered it with himself, and came to a resolution about it. This is to be understood of him, not to the exclusion of his three companions, who were of the same mind with him, as appears by what follows; but perhaps it was first thought of by him; at least he first moved it to them, to which they consented; and because he was the principal in this affair, it is ascribed to him as his purpose and resolution:
that he would not defile himself with the portion the king's meat; by eating of it; partly because it might consist of what was forbidden by the law of Moses, as the flesh of unclean creatures, particularly swine, and fat and blood, and so defile himself in a ceremonial sense; and partly because, though it might be food in itself lawful to be eaten, yet part of it being first offered to their idol "Bel", as was usual, and the whole blessed in his name, it would have been against his conscience, and a defiling of that, to eat of things offered to, or blessed in the name of, an idol:
nor with the wine which he drank; which was as unlawful as his food; being a libation to his gods, as Aben Ezra observes; otherwise wine was not forbidden; nor was it disused by Daniel, when he could partake of it in his own way, Daniel 10:3,
therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself; he did not, in a surly, still, and obstinate manner, refuse the meat and drink brought; but prudently made it a request, and modestly proposed it to the prince of the eunuchs, that had the care and charge of him and his companions; and who also joined with him in this humble suit, as appears by what follows.
Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. Even before this request was made; as he gave to Joseph favour in the sight of Potiphar, and of the keeper of the prison; for whatever favour is shown to good men by bad men is from the Lord; for though Daniel's ingenuity, the goodness of his temper, and his modest behaviour, his excellent natural parts, and other accomplishments, might be a means of ingratiating him into the favour of this officer; yet all would have been insufficient to recommend him to him, or to overcome his prejudices on account of religion, if the Lord had not wrought upon his heart to show kindness and tenderness to him; which appeared not only by his past usage of him; but, when he presented his supplication to him, he did not put on a stern countenance, and answer him roughly, and threaten him if he did not comply with the king's orders; but in a mild and gentle manner, as follows:
And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king,.... This he said, not as refusing and denying the request of Daniel; but as hesitating about it, divided in his own mind, between love and tenderness to Daniel, and fear of the king: it is as if he should say, I could freely out of respect to you grant you your request; were it not for duty to my lord the king, reverence of him, and especially fear of his wrath and displeasure: who hath appointed your meat and your drink; has ordered it himself, both the quality and quantity, both what and how much; whose will is his law, and cannot be resisted, but must be obeyed; and though I should indulge you in this matter, and it may be concealed for a while, yet it cannot be always a secret, your countenance will betray it:
for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? than the other Jewish youths that were selected at the same time, and brought up in the same manner, and for the same ends. Some
then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king; I shall commit a trespass, of which I shall be found guilty, and be condemned to die, and lose my head for it; and now, as if he should say, I leave it with you; can you desire me to expose myself to so much danger? I would willingly grant your favour, but my life is at stake.
Then said Daniel to Melzar,.... The prince of the eunuchs, having put off Daniel with the above answer, seems to have left him; or, however, Daniel, finding he could not obtain of him what he sought for, applies to Melzar, a subordinate officer, whom he hoped to find more pliable; and it may be that Ashpenaz might suggest it to him to apply to this person, and signify that if he could prevail upon him to give him other food instead of the king's; who might be under a temptation from profit, being a meaner officer; he for his part would wink at it, so be it he came not into any danger himself; however, be it as it will, Daniel did apply to this man, whose name was Melzar, for so most take it to be the proper name of a man; which, according to Hillerus
whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; to give them their food at proper time.
Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days, Here Daniel manifestly includes his companions, and makes his request for himself and them; desiring that they might be tried ten days with different sort of food and drink, and see whether any alteration would be made in them for the worse; which was a proper time for such a trial; for in that time it might be reasonably supposed that their food, if it had any bad effect on them, would appear. Saadiah makes these ten days to be the days between the first day of the year and the day of atonement; but without any foundation:
and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink; instead of the king's meat, pulse, beans, pease, vetches, lentiles, rice, millet, and the like. The word
Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee,.... And be thoroughly examined, whether any alteration is made therein for the worse:
and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king's meat; who were either Chaldean youths brought up in this manner; or rather young men of the Jews, who were not so scrupulous as Daniel and his companions, and made no objection to eating the king's food; let their countenances and ours be compared together:
and as thou seest deal with thy servants: if there is no difference, or we are not the worse for abstaining from the king's meat, then grant us our request, and continue to indulge us in this manner; but, if otherwise, do as thou wilt. Daniel, no doubt, in putting the matter on this issue, as it should turn out at the end of ten days, had a revelation or assurance from God how it would be, or he would never have ventured to put it to such a trial.
So he consented to them in all this matter,.... Or, "hearkened to them"
and proved them ten days; tried the experiment, by giving them pulse and water only during this time, in order to see how it would agree with them; and whether any visible alteration could be discerned in their countenances, so as to bring him or his master into suspicion and danger.
And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer, and fatter in flesh,.... At the time fixed for the trial of them, when they came to be examined, they appeared to be of a better complexion, and a more healthful look, and even plumper and fatter, with good solid flesh, and not swelled up as persons in a dropsy:
than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat: who appeared at the same time, and were compared with them, being under the care of the same persons: now this was owing to the blessing of divine Providence, as Jacchiades observes; for, how healthful soever pulse may be, or the several things designed by it, particularly rice, of which Aben Ezra on the place gives great encomiums, as very salutary and nourishing, and a purifier of the blood; yet neither that, nor any of the things before mentioned, tend to make persons fat in flesh, as these were.
Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat,.... To himself, as the Syriac version adds; he took and carried it to his own family, and made use of it himself; and the portion of four such young gentlemen, maintained at the king's expense, and who had their provision from his table, must be, especially in the course of three years, of great advantage to this man and his family; for this was continued, as the word signifies, and may be rendered, "and Melzar was taking away &c."
and the wine that they should drink; which he also took for his own use:
and gave them pulse; to eat, and water to drink, as the Syriac version adds, and which they desired; when he found this agreed so well with them, and he could safely do it without exposing himself to danger, and being to his profit and advantage.
As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom,.... As they prospered in their bodies, they succeeded in their studies, and improved in their minds, and became great proficients in all kind of lawful and useful knowledge; not owing so much to their own sagacity and diligence, and the goodness and ability of their teachers, as to the blessing of God on their instructions and studies; for, as all natural, so all acquired parts are to be ascribed to God; and which these were favoured with by him in a very great manner, to answer some purposes of his. This is to be understood, not of magic art, vain philosophy, judicial astrology, to which the Chaldeans were addicted; but of learning and wisdom, laudable and useful, both in things natural and political; for these men, who scrupled eating and drinking what came from the king's table, would never indulge themselves in the study of vain, curious, and unlawful knowledge; much less would God have blessed the study of such things, and still less be said to give them knowledge and skill therein:
and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams; besides knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom, in languages and sciences, in common with the other young men; he had the honour of seeing very remarkable visions of future things, and of interpreting dreams; and this not by rules of art, such as the Oneirocritics use, but by the gift of God; of which many singular instances follow in this book.
Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in,.... That is, at the end of three years; which was the time appointed for their education, and when they were to be brought before the king for his examination and approbation:
then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar; even all the young men that were taken from among the children of Israel and Judah, as well as the four children before and after mentioned, appears by what follows. This was done by Asphenaz, and not Melzar.
And the king communed with them,.... He asked them several questions upon the several articles of literature in which they had been educated, to try and see what proficiency they had made; he discoursed with them on various topics of learning, that he might be able to form a judgment of them, and of their capacities, and what employments under him they would be most fit for, and capable of. This shows that the king was a man of learning and good sense, as well as prudence, to be capable of taking such a step as this:
and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; for their learning and knowledge: after the king had gone through the examination of all the youths, these four appeared to be the greatest proficients, and were accordingly taken notice of and distinguished:
therefore stood they before the king; ministered unto him, became his servants, and even came to be of his privy council, especially Daniel; see Proverbs 22:29.
And in all matters of wisdom and understanding that the king inquired of them,.... At the time of their examination before him, when he put questions to them, which they gave a ready, pertinent, and solid answer to: and afterwards, when he had occasion to consult them on any affair,
he found them ten times, or ten hands
And Daniel continued,.... In Babylon, and at court there, and in the favour of Nebuchadnezzar and his successors:
even unto the first year of King Cyrus: by whom Babylon was taken, and when the seventy years' captivity of the Jews were at an end; which time Daniel was there, for the sake of observing which this is mentioned: not that Daniel died in the first year of Cyrus; or went from Babylon with the rest of the Jews to Jerusalem upon the proclamation of Cyrus, as Jacchiades thinks; for we hear of him at the river Hiddekel, in the third year of Cyrus, Daniel 10:1, but he was till this time in the court of the kings of Babylon; and afterwards in the courts of the kings of Media and Persia; for when it is said he was there, it does not so much intend his being there as the state and condition in which he was there; namely, as a favourite and prime minister; for he is said to prosper in the reign of Darius and Cyrus, Daniel 6:28. This is that Cyrus who was prophesied of by name, near two hundred years before he was born, by the Prophet Isaiah, Isaiah 44:28, which were sure prophecies, and to be depended upon; and had their exact accomplishment in him. Heathen writers report many things, as presages and predictions of his future greatness; they tell us some dreams, which his grandfather Astyages had concerning his daughter Mandane, the mother of Cyrus; which the interpreters of dreams in those days explained of a future son of hers, that was to be lord of all Asia
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Gill, John. "Commentary on Daniel 1". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Easter