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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

Daniel 1

Verses 1-7

STORIES AND DREAMS

Daniel 1:1 to Daniel 7:28

Daniel and His Friends (Daniel 1:1-21)

The Situation in Life (Daniel 1:1-7)

The third year of Jehoiakim’s reign was not the year when Nebuchadne2:zar captured the city of Jerusalem. It is a well known fact that the city was not conquered while Jehoiakim was on the throne (11 Kings 24:10-15). The confusion is understandable when we recognize that the author was writing in a much later era and took the reference in 2 Chronicles 36:5-8 more seriously than the historical records of Second Kings. Nebuchadnezzar, son of Nabopolassar, became king of all the Chaldean Empire in 605 B.C. upon the death of his father. His name is misspelled throughout the book with "n" appearing instead of the correct "r" (Nebuchadrezzar). This mistake has become so common in the modem day that Nebuchadnezzar is the most used form among those familiar with the era.

Judah was given into the hand of the Chaldean conqueror in 598 B.C. and was finally and utterly destroyed in 587 B.C. On the latter occasion the Jerusalem Temple was stripped and its sacred vessels carried to Babylon (see 2 Kings 24:18 to 2 Kings 25:30; Jeremiah 52). The name given to Babylonia ("the land of Shinar") shows the influence of Genesis, especially chapter 11, upon the Book of Daniel. Thus the Book of Daniel opens with the picture of exile in a strange, foreign land.

It was not uncommon for rulers to choose the well-favored from their prisoners of war for special training and service. Ashpenaz was ordered to institute such a program for the noble and royal prisoners in Babylon. Prerequisites for this privilege were very high. Youths chosen were to be of noble ancestry, without blemish, handsome, skillful in wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding in learning, and competent to serve the king. Those who qualified were to study the letters and language of the Chaldeans for a period of three years. Like Jehoiachin, those who were given special training would be privileged to eat from the royal table. Such privileges were probably highly prized and gratefully accepted by most of those fortunate enough to receive them.

Having sketched the general background of exile and having given the particular situation which arose within that context, the author with real dramatic restraint introduces the main characters. They are four in number, all Jews: Daniel, Hananiah, Misha-el, and Azariah. All were descendants of the tribe of Judah, and all the names contain some form of the name of Israel’s God.

When these persons became part of the Chaldean court, they were given names befitting their new status in life. Daniel became "Belteshazzar," which means "protect the life of the prince." Hananiah is renamed "Shadrach," which is a corruption of the god-name "Marduk," while Misha-el becomes "Meshach," a name for which there is no present explanation. Azariah is hereafter called "Abednego," which is almost certainly a corruption of "Abed-Nebo" ("servant of Nebo"). These Jewish youths became part of the court, even as Joseph had become a functionary at the Egyptian court and Esther had become attached to the Persian royal house.

Verses 8-16

The Dietary Problem (1:8-16)

Jewish diet was a point at which friction inevitably arose in a foreign land or in an alien climate. Restrictions on foods were many and varied (see, for example, Deuteronomy 12:23-28; Deuteronomy 14:3-21; Lev. ch. 11). This was one of the areas of conflict which arose during the Maccabean revolt. Jewish faith was tested and loyalty was proved by fidelity to the dietary restrictions of the Law, because this part of the inheritance of faith was emblematic of the whole way of life.

The defilement which would come from eating nonkosher food became an immediate problem. Daniel made a rather daring suggestion to the chief eunuch. He asked that an alternative menu be provided, at least for a limited time; and God moved the eunuch to favor Daniel, as Potiphar had favored Joseph. Understandably the chief eunuch answered, "I fear lest my lord the king, who appointed your food and your drink, should see that you were in poorer condition than the youths who are of your own age." Should this happen, the tragic result for the chief eunuch would be plain: "So you would endanger my head with the king."

Daniel, always equal to the situation, said, "Test your servants for ten days," A vegetable diet was to be followed for a limited period and then the results were to be checked.

The experiment was acceptable to the chief of the eunuchs, and after ten days the four Jewish youths were far better in appearance than their non-Jewish companions. The steward, learning from the temporary experiment, made this diet a matter of permanent policy.

Verses 17-21

Success and Blessing (1:17-21)

For a generation for whom fidelity to dietary and other laws was a life-and-death decision, the success of Daniel was more than a charming story. To these youths who had been loyal God gave the blessings not only of good health but of wisdom and learning beyond their contemporaries. Even in a land famous for its wise men the king recognized the superior wisdom of these Jewish youths. The source of their wisdom was not culture, Chaldean or Hellenistic, but God himself. Such wisdom found its recorded form in the Law, and was the heritage of Israel. For the loyal and brave, God’s support was sure and his wisdom available, as Daniel thus learned from experience. That experience stretched from the age of Nebuchadnezzar to the reign of Cyrus. Obviously the author by this story prepared the way for Daniel to appear in the next chapters as a wise man gifted especially in the interpretation of dreams.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Daniel 1". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/daniel-1.html.