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In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it.
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim - cf. Jeremiah 25:1, "the fourth year:" Jehoiakim came to the throne at the end of the year, which Jeremiah reckons as the first year, but which Daniel leaves out of count, being an incomplete year: thus, in Jeremiah, it is "the fourth year;" in Daniel. "the third" (Jahn). However, in Jeremiah 25:1 ("In the fourth year of Jehoiakim ... that was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar"), Jeremiah 46:2, ("The army of Pharaoh-necho king of Egypt, which was by the river Euphrates in Carchemish ... Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon smote in the fourth year of Jehoiakim"), Jeremiah merely says the fourth year of Jehoiakim coincided with the first of Nebuchadnezzar, when the latter conquered the Egyptians at Carchemish: not that the deportation of captives from Jerusalem was in the fourth year of Jehoiakim. This probably took place in the end of the third year of Jehoiakim, shortly before the battle at Carchemish (Fairbairn).
Nebuchadnezzar took away the captives as hostages for the submission of the Hebrews. Historical Scripture gives no positive account of this first deportation under Jehoiakim with which the Babylonian captivity - i:e., Judah's subjection to Babylon for 70 years-begins (Jeremiah 29:10); but 2 Chronicles 36:6-7 states that Nebuchadnezzar had intended "to carry Jehoiakim to Babylon," and that he "carried off the vessels of the house of the Lord" there. But Jehoiakim died at Jerusalem Before the conqueror's intention as to him was carried into effect (Jeremiah 22:18-19; Jeremiah 36:30), and his dead body, as was foretold, was dragged out of the gates by the Chaldean besiegers, and left unburied ("Thus saith the Lord concerning Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah; They shall not lament for him, saying, Ah my brother! or, Ah sister! they shall not lament for him, saying, Ah lord! or, Ah his glory! He shall be buried with the burial of a donkey, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem"). The second deportation under Jehoiachin was eight years later (2 Kings 24:12-16).
And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.
The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar - the old name of Babylonia (Genesis 11:2; Genesis 14:1; Isaiah 11:11; Zechariah 5:11). Nebuchadnezzar took only "part of the vessels," as he did not intend wholly to overthrow the state, but to make it tributary, and to leave such vessels as were absolutely needed for the public worship of Yahweh. Subsequently, all were taken away by Nebuchadnezzar, and "put in the house of his gods," and were restored under Cyrus (Ezra 1:7).
To the house of his god - Bel. His temple, as was often the case among the pagan, was made the "treasure-house" of the king.
And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king's seed, and of the princes;
Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs - called in Turkey the 'Kislar Aga.' "Eunuchs" mean the king's chamberlains.
Certain ... of the king's seed. Compare the prophecy to Hezekiah, "Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day, shall be carried into Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the Lord. And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon" (2 Kings 20:17-18).
Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.
Children in whom was no blemish. A handsome form was connected, in Oriental ideas, with mental power. "Children" means youths of 12 or 14 years old.
Whom they might teach ... the tongue of the Chaldeans - their language and literature, the Aramaic-Babylonian. That the pagan lore was not altogether valueless appears from the Egyptian magicians who opposed Moses. Compare also the case of the eastern magi who sought Jesus, and who may have drawn the tradition as to the "King of the Jews" from Daniel 9:24, written in the East. As Moses was trained in the learning of the Egyptian sages, so Daniel was trained in that of the Chaldeans, in order to familiarize his mind with mysterious lore, and so develop his heaven-bestowed gift of understanding in visions (Daniel 1:4-5; Daniel 1:17).
And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.
And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat. It is usual for an eastern king to entertain, from the food of his table, many retainers and royal captives, as Evil-merodach king of Babylon entertained Jehoiachin king of Judah (Jeremiah 52:33-34). The Hebrew for "meat" [ patbag (H6598)] implies delicacies, dainties-literally, the food that the father (i:e., the king) provides. The latter syllable of the word is of Persian origin. Lorsbach takes it, 'food for the gods.'
Stand before the king - as attendant courtiers; not as eunuchs.
Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah:
Now among these were, of the children of Judah - the most noble tribe, being that to which the "king's seed" belonged (cf. Daniel 1:3).
Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.
Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names - designed to mark their new relation, so that they might forget their former religion and country, as Pharaoh called Joseph Zaphath- paaneah widen he promoted him to be lord over Egypt (Genesis 41:45). But as in Joseph's case, whom Pharaoh called Zaphnath-paaneah, so in Daniel's, the name indicative, of his relation to a pagan court ("Belteshazzar," i:e., 'Bel's prince'), however flattering to him, is not the one retained by Scripture, but the name marking his relation to God ("Daniel," God my Judge, the theme of his prophecies being God's judgment on the pagan world-powers).
To Hananiah - i:e., Whom Yahweh hath favoured.
Of Shadrach - from Rak, in Babylonian, 'the king' - i:e., 'the sun;' the same root as in Abrech (margin, Genesis 41:43), 'inspired or illumined by the Sun-god' [from shªdaa', to inspire, and rak] (Junius). Gesenius takes it to mean 'rejoicing in the way' (Barnes).
To Mishael - i:e., 'Who is what God is?' Who is comparable to God? To Mishael - i:e., 'Who is what God is?' Who is comparable to God?
Of Meshach. The Babylonians retained the first syllable of Mishael, the Hebrew name; but for El - i:e., GOD-substituted Shak, the goddess of Babylon, which city is thence called Sheshach (Jeremiah 25:26; Jeremiah 51:41), answering to the Earth, or else Venus, the goddess of love and mirth: it was during her feast that Cyrus took Babylon.
To Azariah - i:e., 'Whom Yahweh helps.'
Of Abed-nego - i:e., Servant of, the shining fire (Junius); or 'Servant of Lucifer,' as the term in Isaiah 14:12 is rendered by a word akin to Nego in the Chaldee version [nowghaa'] (Grotius). Thus, instead of Yahweh, these His servants were dedicated by the pagan to their four leading gods (Herodotus, 'Clio'). Bel, the chief god, the Sun-god, Earth-god, and Fire-god. To the last the three youths were consigned when refusing to worship the golden image, (Daniel 3:1-30.) Thus, the names at the outset are significant of the seeming triumph but sure downfall of the pagan powers before Yahweh and his people.
But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat. Daniel is specified as being the leader in the 'PURPOSE' (the word implies a decided resolution) to abstain from defilement, thus manifesting a character already formed for prophetic functions. The other three youths, no doubt, shared in his purpose. It was the custom to throw a small part of the viands and wine upon the hearth, as an initiatory offering to the gods, so as to consecrate to them the whole entertainment (cf. Deuteronomy 32:38). To have partaken of such a feast would have been to sanction idolatry, and was forbidden even after the legal distinction of clean and unclean meats was done away (1 Corinthians 8:7; 1 Corinthians 8:10; 1 Corinthians 10:27-28).
Thus, the faith of these youths was made instrumental in overruling the evil foretold against the Jews (Ezekiel 4:13; Hosea 9:3), to the glory of God. ("Thus shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles." "Ephraim ... shall eat unclean things in Assyria"). Daniel and his three friends, says Auberlen, stand, out like an oasis in the desert. Like Moses, Daniel "chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season" (see Daniel 9:1-27; Hebrews 11:24-26). He who is to interpret divine revelations must not feed on the dainties, nor drink from the intoxicating cup, of this world. This made him as dear a name to his countrymen as Noah and Job, who also stood alone in their piety among a perverse generation (Ezekiel 14:14; Ezekiel 28:3).
Therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. While decided in principle, we ought to seek our object by gentleness, rather than by an ostentatious testimony, which, under the plea of faithfulness courts opposition.
Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.
God had brought Daniel into favour. The favour of others toward the godly is the doing of God. So in Joseph's case (Genesis 39:21). Especially toward Israel (Psalms 106:46; cf. Proverbs 16:7).
And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king.
Why should he see your faces worse liking - looking less healthy.
Than the children which are of your sort? - of your age or class; literally, circle.
Then shall ye make me endanger my head. An arbitrary Oriental despot would, in a fit of wrath at his orders having been disobeyed, command the offender to be instantly decapitated.
Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,
Then said Daniel to Meizar - rather 'to the steward,' or chief butler, entrusted by Ashpenaz with furnishing the daily portion to the youths (Gesenius). The word is still in use in Persia.
Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. Pulse. The Hebrew [ zeero`iym (H2235)] expresses any vegetable grown from seeds - i:e., vegetable food in general (Gesenius).
Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king's meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants.
Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee ... and as thou seest, deal with thy servants - illustrating Deuteronomy 8:3, "Man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord."
Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.
No JFB commentary on this verse.
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.
God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom - so God "filled Bezaleel with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge" (Exodus 31:2-3), and gave to Solomon "a wise and an understanding heart" (1 Kings 3:12; Job 32:8, "The inspiration of the Almighty ... giveth understanding;" James 1:5; James 1:17, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not").
Daniel has understanding in all visions and dreams - God thus made one of the despised covenant-people eclipse the Chaldean sages in the very science on which they most prided themselves. So Joseph in the court of Pharaoh interpreted the king's dream, as he had done those of the chief butler and the chief baker previously (Genesis 40:5; Genesis 41:1; Genesis 41:8). Daniel, in these praises of his own "understanding," speaks not through vanity, but by the direction of God, as one transported out of himself. See my Introduction, 'CONTENTS OF THE BOOK.'
Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar.
At the end of the days - at the end of the three years (Daniel 1:5), which was the appointed time of training.
The prince of the eunuchs brought them in - i:e., not only Daniel and his three friends, but other youths (Daniel 1:3; and Daniel 1:19, "among them all").
And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king.
Therefore stood they before the king - i:e., were advanced to a position of favour near the throne.
And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.
The king ... found them ten times better than all the magicians - "ten times," literally, 'ten hands.'
Magicians - properly, 'sacred scribes, skilled in the sacred writings, a class of Egyptian priests' (Gesenius); [ charTumiym (H2748), from a Hebrew root, chereT (H2747), a pen]. The word in our English version, "magicians," comes from Mag, i:e., 'a priest.' The Magi formed one of the six divisions of the Medes.
Astrologers - Hebrew, 'enchanters' [ haa'ashaapiym (H825), from a root, 'aashap, 'to conceal'], practicers of the occult arts.
And Daniel continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus.
Daniel continued even unto the first year of ... Cyrus - (2 Chronicles 36:22; Ezra 1:1). Not that Daniel did not continue beyond that year, but the expression is designed to mark the fact that he who was one of the first captives taken to Babylon, lived to see the end of the captivity. See my Introduction, 'SIGNIFICANCE OF THE BABYLONIAN EXILE.' In Daniel 10:1 he is mentioned as living "in the third year of Cyrus." See margin note here on the use of "till," in Psalms 110:1; Psalms 112:8. He lived until the first year of Cyrus, the epoch of the end of the captivity, and he lived beyond it.
(1) This book begins with an historical and biographical introduction in the first chapter. Daniel as a captive exile represents his nation in their servitude and captivity, while his holy separation from pagan pollutions (Daniel 1:8-17), the care and favour of God toward him, and his heavenly insight into the deep mysteries of the future (Daniel 1:20), represent the divine superiority of the elect people of God, even in their exile, to their proud pagan masters. As Daniel saw the beginning, so he lived to see the end of the Babylonian captivity under Cyrus, and the downfall of the haughty oppressor, Babylon (Daniel 1:21). The greatness of the world at its best is transitory; the people of God, at their worst, are still heirs of heavenly glory.
(2) The vessels of Yahweh deposited in the house of a Babylonian idol (Daniel 1:2) were a presage of the destruction of Babylon by Yahweh; because it was impossible but that God would be jealous for His own honour, thus insulted, and vindicate it by awful judgments at last on the insolent enemy. Wicked men often are suffered to complete their guilt by some one act which provokes God to inflict vengeance upon them.
(3) Daniel and his three youthful fellow captives were by Nebuchadnezzar's direction taught in all the learning of Chaldea. How remarkable is the providence of God, that He should make the enemy of the elect people the instrument of training his chosen servant in those human qualifications which adapted him for the high functions, temporal and spiritual, which he was to discharge! The prophet of Babylon's downfall, and of the doom of all the opponents of God and His people, to the last ages of the world, was prepared for his work by the then existing representative of Antichrist, the Babylonian king. As Moses was trained in all the learning of Egypt by the instrumentality of the daughter of the King of Egypt, whereby he was qualified to be the deliverer God's people out of the hand of the King of Egypt; so in all ages God makes His enemies unconsciously further His purposes against themselves, to the praise of His glory.
(4) In order that Daniel and his three friends might forget their God, whose name entered into the composition of their Hebrew names, Nebuchadnezzar gave them new names, containing the names of his idols: Belteshazzar, from the idol Bel; Shadrach, from Rak the sun-god; Meshach, from Shak the earth god; and Abed-nego, from Nego the fire-god. Their names thus indicate at the outset the seeming triumph of the pagan world-power; but they really were the pledge that God would save His people and cast down the idolatrous oppressor, for the honour of His holy name, which was thus set at nought. They who bear the name of God should always, however exalted in worldly position, walk worthy of their high name, and never allow the name and rank which the ungodly world gives them to cause them to forget their trite name and character as the children of God. In educating the young, parents ought to remind them that they belong to God and His Christ, whose holy name was put upon them in their baptism.
(5) Though the sentence of God on the Israelites, that "they should eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles" (Ezekiel 4:13), was executed on the majority, there was an elect remnant who remained pure amidst Gentile defilements. Daniel, with deliberate "purpose of heart" (Daniel 1:8), would not defile himself with the king's meat or wine; because to have partaken of it would have been a tacit sanction of idolatry, seeing that an initiatory offering had been made of it to consecrate the whole meal to idols. He who was to be the interpreter of Yahweh's revelations against the pagan world-power, must not himself feed on the dainties, nor drink from the intoxicating cup of the world. Like Moses, he must "choose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season" (Hebrews 11:24-26). Faith was the secret principle of Daniel's consistency. Faith alone can enable the young to overcome the carnal appetites of sense, which are especially strong in early life and youthful vigour. They who would excel in wisdom and piety must learn early to keep the body in subjection to the spirit. Temperance is conducive to the health alike of body and of soul. A pampered body clogs the intellect, and still more incapacitates the man for spiritual impressions.
(6) Above all, when indulgence in the appetite, as in Daniel's case, would have involved a compromise of religious principle, the path of self-denial is clearly the path of duty, of safety, and of happiness. Daniel and his three companions living on pulse and water, for conscience' sake, were fairer in countenance and fatter in flesh than all the children who did eat of the king's meat (Daniel 1:15). Not that God ordinarily enjoins asceticism for "meat commendeth us not to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, neither if we eat not are we the worse" (1 Corinthians 8:8). But where the question is between eating some particular food at the cost of offending God and not eating, and so retaining the favour of God, there the principle which should actuate us is plain-namely, faith in the power of God to find other means of sustaining His people when He forbids them certain viands as being connected with sin. "Man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the month of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 8:3).
(7) Firmness in faith is consistent with gentleness of demeanour. Many, under the pretext of faithfulness in bearing testimony, cover over a spirit of ostentation and love of opposition. Daniel did not court martyrdom for its own sake, but sought, by conciliatory means, to maintain a conscience void of offence, without the least compromise of principle. So "God brought him into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs" (Daniel 1:9); and ultimately, when the time of training was completed, God had endowed Daniel and his three companions with such "knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom," that "the king found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm" (Daniel 1:17; Daniel 1:20). God thus made one of the despised covenant-people to excel the Chaldean sages in the very science on which the most prided themselves; an earnest of the final triumph of the people of God, though now so downtrodden, above all their enemies. Let us see that we give our sympathies to, and take our portion among, the people of God at all costs; for whosoever, like Daniel, shall confess the Lord before men, shall be confessed by Him before the assembled universe when He shall come in His glory.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Daniel 1". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany