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Bible Commentaries

Hamilton Smith's Writings

Daniel 1

Verses 1-21

THE FAITHFUL REMNANT

( Daniel 1 )

In the opening chapter of Daniel we are permitted to see the character of the men to whom God foretells the course of the times of the Gentiles and to whom He gives understanding as to His mind for His people during the times of their distress and captivity.

(Vv. 1, 2). As an introduction to the Book, the first two verses briefly indicate the ruin of Israel and the consequent transference of the government of the earth - as represented by kingly power - from the king of Judah to the king of Babylon. This solemn act is definitely described as the Lord's doing, for we read "The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah" into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar.

Not only is the king of Judah given over to bondage, but God so completely abandons Jerusalem as the seat of His government and worship, that the very vessels used in His worship are given into the hand of this heathen king. At once we are permitted to see the character of this Gentile king, for we read, "He brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god." He has no true knowledge or fear of God, and no real sense of the sacred character of these vessels - a premonition of the godless character of the Gentile rulers during the times Of the Gentiles.

The people of Israel and the kings of Judah had been warned again and again that their evil and idolatrous ways would bring upon them the chastening hand of God. Unheeded warnings were followed by the definite pronouncement of the prophet Isaiah that judgment would fall. Thus runs the message to king Hezekiah, "Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store until this day, shall be carried to Babylon" ( Isa_39:6 ). Despite this message, the evil increased and reached its climax in the reign of Hezekiah's son, the wicked Manasseh, who seduced the people "to do more evil than did the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the children of Israel ( 2Ki_21:9 ). At length, in the reign of Jehoiakim, God's words by Isaiah were fulfilled. The government passed from the Jew to the Gentile, and henceforth the Jews will be in subjection to the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are closed by the introduction of the reign of Christ.

Nevertheless, we learn from this chapter that, though the nation of Israel is brought into subjection to the Gentiles, yet God preserves to Himself a godly remnant who are faithful to God and supported by God. The gracious ways of God with this remnant clearly prove that, however much God may have to chasten His people on account of their unfaithfulness, they are still the objects of His care, even though they have ceased to be the instruments of His direct government of the world.

Moreover, the understanding of the ways of God is found with this godly remnant; and God uses them as individual witnesses for Himself, though the nation as a whole has entirely failed as a witness for God. Furthermore, we see, on the part of this remnant, that obedience to the word of God and separation from the defiling influence of Babylon are the moral conditions necessary in order to receive and understand communications from the Lord, to enjoy the support of the Lord, and to be used in any measure as a witness for the Lord .

(Vv. 3-7). This godly remnant is brought to our notice by the efforts of the King of Babylon to use the people of God for his own ends. He would seek to adorn his court with the leaders of God's people - the king's seed, the princes, and those who were well-favoured and marked by wisdom, knowledge and science. But, while the religious world would seek to use the people of God for its own glory, it cannot tolerate their God, obedience to His word, or separation from its own evils. Hence the world would fain obliterate all evidence of their link with the true God. To this end the people of God, if they are to take their place at the court, must be instructed in the world's wisdom, partake of the world's dainties, and share in the world's titles. Nor is it otherwise to-day. Those who are destined for a place as religious leaders in the Babylonish corruption of Christendom must be trained in the religious schools of this world, must, as it were, be taught - the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans." They must benefit from the resources provided by the world - "a daily provision of the king's meat;" and lastly, they must accept such titles and dignities as the world can give.

In connection with the king's plan, four men of the children of Judah are specially mentioned. The names that are given to them are presumably connected with the gods of Babylon (See Dan_4:8 ). In order to conform to their world, the minds of these men are to be trained in the learning of the Chaldeans, their tongues are to speak the Chaldean language, their bodies fed with the king's dainties, and their names changed to those of heathen gods.

In exchange for their loss of nationality, to these captives is held out a most alluring prospect in a foreign land. They shall have a free course of the best education in the land, their daily needs shall be met by the finest provision at the king's cost, and in the end they shall have an exalted position in the king's palace.

(Vv. 8-17). There are, however, in the king's scheme, serious difficulties for godly men. To carry out the king's plan, in the king's way, would involve disobedience to the word of God. To partake of the king's dainties would be to eat things forbidden by law to an Israelite. Hence the alluring prospect becomes a severe trial to their faith. The test is, will they disobey God's direct instructions for the sake of worldly advancement, or will they remain true to the word of God whatever the consequences?

Many plausible arguments could have been advanced in favour of unconditionally submitting to the proposal of the king. Expediency would suggest that to raise an objection to the proposal would probably wreck all their prospects. It would not only end their career of usefulness to their brethren, but it might do positive harm to others and add to the difficulties of the captives. Reason would argue that, as they had been given into the hand of the king of Babylon by an act of the Lord, their only right course was to submit entirely to the king, otherwise they might be rebelling against what the Lord had allowed. Compromise would suggest that, as long as they did not give up the confession or their God, the instructions as to not eating certain foods might under the circumstances be waived. Such instructions surely applied to a free people in their own land; but now that they were in bondage in a foreign land, would it not be a mere scruple to insist upon the strict observance of the letter of the law?

Such arguments, if used, carried no weight with these godly men. The test only makes manifest their devoted character. They refuse to be directed by mere expediency, or the dictates of human reason, and will enter into no compromise. They do not forget that, in spite of the failure of Israel, and though suffering under the chastening of God, they are still the people of the true God to whom they owe whole-hearted allegiance. They are rightly prepared to submit to the Gentile king, but they will not disobey the word of their God.

The secret of Daniel's strength was that his heart was right with God, as we read, "Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat." He acts, however, with great discretion, for he makes request to the prince that "he might not defile himself," without irritating and antagonising the man by telling him that he had already purposed in his heart that "he would not defile himself."

The prince explains the difficulty and danger in granting Daniel's request. At once Daniel proposes a ten days' test of a diet in accordance with their law. This suggestion is a striking proof of Daniel's faith in the living God. The result proves that his faith is not in vain. Obeying the word of God, these godly men are found at the end of the test to be in better bodily condition than those who ate of the king's meat. So Daniel's request is granted.

Obedience to the word of God, faith in the living God, separation from the defilements of Babylon are the outstanding marks of these godly men. Such have the understanding of the mind of God, for we read, "As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams" (17). It is true the Lord had given them into the hands of the king of Babylon, but this did not hinder His giving understanding of His mind and purpose to those who were faithful to Himself.

(Vv. 18-21). In result, these faithful men became witnesses for God, for we read they stood "before the king." God was true to His own word, "Them that honour Me I will honour" ( 1Sa_2:30 ). So it came to pass that in all matters of wisdom and understanding the king found these faithful men ten times better than all the men of the world.

These things are surely recorded for our instruction and encouragement. However much dispensations change and circumstances may alter, the great moral principles of God for the guidance of His people remain the same. Like Israel of old, the Church has entirely failed as a witness for God during the absence of Christ. In consequence of this failure, the professing Church has become captive in religious corruption which God likens to Babylon.

But again, the word clearly indicates that, however great the failure, God will have faithful individuals - overcomers - who again and again will find their faith severely tested. If, however, they purpose in their heart to obey the word of God to walk in faith in God, and in separation from the defilements of the corruptions around, they will have understanding of the mind of God, and will be honoured of God as witnesses for Himself.

What greater privilege than to have the mind of God and to be in any measure a witness for God in the midst of corrupt Christendom whose sky grows black with the signs of coming judgment.

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Bibliographical Information
Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Daniel 1". "Hamilton Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hsw/daniel-1.html. 1832.