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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

Daniel 1

Verses 1-2

HOMILETICS

SECT. I.—THE CAPTIVITY (Daniel 1:1-2)

This remarkable book opens with the scene or Israel’s deepest degradation and misery. Threatened judgments had at length come. Warnings had been addressed in vain. Divine expostulations had been unheeded. The kingdom of Judah, like that of Israel, had forsaken its God and King, and must now, like it, be forsaken by Him. Idolatry and wickedness can no longer be tolerated in the chosen people. Manasseh’s sin in filling Jerusalem with innocent blood had, on his repentance, been mercifully forgiven as regarded himself, but not as regarded his children and subjects, who still continued impenitent. The blow began to fall on Jehoiakim and the people of his reign (2 Kings 24:1-4). It was, as the text states, “in the third year of his reign” [1], after he had been some time tributary to Pharaoh Necho, king of Egypt, that Nebuchadnezzar [2], king of Babylon, “came up,” or rather “set out,” as in Jonah 1:3, on his expedition against Jerusalem, as the chosen instrument of Jehovah’s vengeance. The blow, however, even then did not immediately descend. It was the next or fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign before Nebuchadnezzar, who first encountered the king of Egypt at Carchemish on the Euphrates, arrived at Jerusalem (Jeremiah 46:2). Divine forbearance was still exercised. Jerusalem was taken, and Jehoiakim was “bound in fetters” to be carried away to Babylon, but was again released and allowed still to reign as a tributary prince. Many captives [3], some of them of noble and even of royal birth, were taken to Babylon, here called by its ancient name, “Shinar” [4], as well as a portion of the sacred “vessels of the Temple,” which Nebuchadnezzar placed “in the house of his god” [5] as the trophies of his conquests and the expression of his gratitude to Bel. The king, however, still remained impenitent. To all his other sins he added that which apparently sealed his doom. The book or roll, containing a divine message, which Jeremiah shortly afterwards sent by Baruch to be read in the Temple-court to the people (Jeremiah 36:1-25), he defiantly cut in pieces with a penknife, and threw the fragments in the fire. Some six years afterwards, after vain attempts to free himself from the yoke of Babylon, bands of Chaldeans and others were sent against him by Nebuchadnezzar. The threatened punishment then fell on the infatuated monarch. He was put to death in his capital, and, according to the word of the prophet, his dead body was ignominiously cast outside the gates of the city, and “buried with the burial of an ass” (2 Kings 24:7; Jeremiah 22:18-19) [6]. Observe—

[1] “In the third year,” &c. No contradiction between this and Jeremiah 46:2, which says that Nebuchadnezzar smote the army of Pharaoh Necho at Carchemish in the fourth year of Jehoiakim. Hengstenberg and Keil both prefer to render the word בָּא (ba), not “came,” but “set out or marched,” the word, as the latter observes, being frequently used of military expeditions. Objectors to the genuineness of the book have put this down among Daniel’s alleged historical errors. According to Jeremiah 25:1, say they, Nebuchadnezzar did not mount the throne of Babylon till the fourth year of the reign of Jehoiakim; and according to Jeremiah 46:1, the conquest of the Egyptians at Carchemish did not occur till the same year; and the subjugation of Jerusalem could only take place as a consequence of that conquest. Hence, it is said, the deportation here spoken of, if it really took place, could only do so in Nebuchadnezzar’s expedition to Lower Asia in the seventh year of his reign, and the eleventh of Jehoiakim’s. Hengstenberg and others have met this objection by stating that Berosus, in his Chaldean history, informs us that Nebuchadnezzar the father, also called Nabopolassar, on hearing that the governor whom he had appointed in Syria and Phœnicia had revolted to the Egyptians, being too weak to go himself, sent his son Nebuchadnezzar with an army, who defeated the Egyptians at Carchemish, and brought Syria and Phœnicia again under the Babylonian dominion, the campaign being brought to a close by the tidings of Nabopolassar’s death. The beginning of this expedition must fall, at least, in the end of the third year of Jehoiakim. Nebuchadnezzar soon succeeded in taking Carchemish, and marched into Judæa, whose king, Jehoiakim, was an ally and tributary of the king of Egypt, towards the close of his fourth year. It is thus historically certain that before the invasion in the eleventh year of Jehoiakim, Judæa was once conquered by the Babylonians. Indeed history tells of no other expedition of Nebuchadnezzar than that before us, the rest of his life, according to Berosus, being taken up with fortifying and embellishing the city, and in other internal arrangements. As to the title of “king” here given to Nebuchadnezzar, the same historian relates that Nabopolassar, being aged and infirm, conferred on his son, Nebuchadnezzar, who had attained the age of manhood, some share of the government. In reference to Jeremiah 25:1, Hengstenberg thinks that it is the first year of Nebuchadnezzar’s coregency, and not that of his sole reign, that is likely to be intended; while in Daniel 2:1, on the contrary, it is the second year of his sole monarchy, this reckoning being as natural to an author living in Babylon as the other would be to one living in Judæa.

[2] “Nebuchadnezzar.” According to the canon of Ptolemy, the son of Nabopolassar, whom some call the elder Nebuchadnezzar. According to Josephus, the father reigned twenty-three years, and the son forty-three. Ptolemy states that it was in the nineteenth year of Nabopolassar’s reign that the Babylonish captivity began. His son, to distinguish him from the father, is sometimes called Nebuchadnezzar the Great. Keil observes that as Nabopolassar came into no contact at all with Judæa, the Jews knew scarcely anything of his reign and death; and the year of Nebuchadnezzar’s appearance at Jerusalem would be regarded in a general way, both by Jeremiah and his contemporaries, as the first year of his reign; and the commander of the Chaldean army would be viewed as the king of Babylon, no matter whether on account of his being co-regent with his aged and infirm father, or merely as he was clothed with royal power as the chief commander of the army. In this sense Keil thinks Daniel now names him king, who was only afterwards such, and not yet in actual possession of the throne.

[3] Berosus relates that when Nebuchadnezzar heard of the death of his father, he set in order the affairs of Egypt and the neighbouring countries, and having commissioned some of his friends to transport to Babylon the prisoners of the Jews, Syrians, Phœnicians, and the nations in Egypt, together with the heaviest part of the army, himself with a few attendants went across the desert to Babylon. Mr. Bosanquet thinks that the year in the text could not be the third of Jehoiakim’s reign, as, among other reasons, the author of the last chapter of Jeremiah, when enumerating the several occasions when captives were carried off in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, makes no mention of this in the third year of Jehoiakim, nor of any before the seventh year of Nebuchadnezzar, when Jehoiakim fell into this king’s hands and ceased to reign (Jeremiah 36:28-30); also, as the author of Second Chronicles, writing after the seventy years of captivity were ended, makes no reference either to this supposed important siege, or to this commencement of the captivity, simply relating that Jehoiakim reigned eleven years in Jerusalem, and that “against him came up Nebuchadnezzar,” &c. (2 Chronicles 36:6-7); finally, as Ezekiel appears to know of no other commencement of the captivity at Babylon than that which began in that eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar. He quotes the Rabbinical book Seder Olam Rabba as stating that Daniel is to be understood as speaking of the third year after the rebellion of Jehoiakim, and, speaking in reference to the year of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, says that Scripture reckons the years from the destruction of the Temple. He refers also to Josephus, who reckons that Daniel was carried to Babylon as late as the time of Zedekiah, and to Hippolytus, Clement of Alexandria, and others, who considered that it took place at the time when Jehoiachin or Jechoniah was taken prisoner to Babylon. He thinks the “desolations of Jerusalem” (Daniel 9:2) are clearly marked in 2 Chronicles 36:19-21 as beginning with the burning of Jerusalem.

[4] “Shinar.” The name of the country indigenous to Babylonia itself, of which we find traces not only in classical writers, but in modern travellers. Bertholdt is led by it, according to his hypothesis of a plurality of authors, to maintain the composition of this first chapter in an earlier age and in Babylonia. The name found in historical prose only in the Book of Genesis. In later times it became quite antiquated among the Hebrews. Occurs again only in prophetic poetry,—twice in Isaiah and Zechariah. Here, however, it is found in simple prose, as the common geographical appellation of Babylonia. Assuming Daniel to be the author of the book, this is easily explained.—Hengstenberg. Dr. Rule observes that Babylonia is named Shinar in the cuneiform inscriptions.

[5] “His god.” This was Bel, the tutelar god of the city of Babylon. According to Gesenius, the planet Jupiter intended by the idol. The name identical with Baal or Beel, denoting lord, possessor, or husband, corresponding to the sun or generative power in nature. Baal or Bel worshipped by the Carthaginians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and others. Supposed by some to be the same with Moloch, to whom the Ammonites made their cruel and bloody sacrifices, and to whom Israel was seduced to offer their children, causing them to pass “through the fire.” Bel’s worship prevailed through all ancient Scandinavia, and is supposed to have been general throughout the British Islands. To this day there are various superstitious observances in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales very closely resembling the ancient worship of Bel. A town in Perthshire is called Tilliebeltane, that is, the Hill of the Fire of Bel. In Ireland, Beltein, denoting the Fire of Bel, is one of the festival days, on which fires are made early on the tops of the hills, and all the cattle are made to pass through them, in order, it is said, to be freed from contagion and disease for that year.—Dr. Eadie. Dr. Rule observes that the cuneiform inscriptions show the name of Nebuchadnezzar’s deity to have been Merodach or Bel-Merodach. Berosus says Bel was Jupiter Belus, the son of Saturn, who had a temple there, with the stupendous tower in the midst of it, which, according to Pliny, continued till the reign of Vespasian. Dr. Cox remarks that this treasure-house was probably the edifice to which Herodotus refers, where a large golden statue of Jupiter was erected, and that historians compute the riches of this temple at upwards of twenty millions sterling. It is remarkable, says Hengstenberg, that Berosus, a Chaldean historian, states that with the spoils of this very war he magnificently adorned the temple of Belus and other sacred edifices. Dr. Rule quotes from the Standard Inscription Nebuchadnezzar’s boast of having repaired the temple, which he made his treasury. “I set up long beams to support it: with pillars and beams plated with copper and strengthened with iron: I built up its gates: I stored up inside silver and gold, and precious stones whose names were almost unknown: and placed there the treasure-house of my kingdom.”

[6] Nebuchadnezzar made three incursions into Judæa. The first, in the time of Jehoiakin (606 b.c.), reduced the Theocracy to a tributary of the Babylonian world-power. Daniel was among the captives brought at that very time to Babylon. At the second inroad (598 b.c.), King Jehoiachin and the prophet Ezekiel were led into captivity. In the third (588 b.c.), Nebuchadnezzar destroyed at last the Holy City, brought the last Jewish king in fetters to Babylon; and thus the kingdom came to its end. Thus a new stage in the history of the development of the Theocracy begins with the Babylonish captivity, which may be reckoned from the first invasion of Nebuchadnezzar; for the independent existence of the Theocracy then terminated—a stage which may be designated as the rule of the powers of the world. This captivity, as well as its termination, was itself a fulfilment of prophecy. Micah (Micah 3:12; Micah 4:10) foretold the destruction of Jerusalem and of the Temple, as also the return from Babylon. Isaiah (ch. 40–66) announced the deliverance of Israel out of Babylon, and the building up of the ruins of Jerusalem and Judah, with the final glory of Zion, through the creation of new heavens and a new earth; giving the very name of the Persian monarch through whom the return should be effected. Jeremiah (ch. Jeremiah 25:29-31) proclaimed the captivity under Nebuchadnezzar, but predicted the very period of its continuance (seventy years), after which Judah and Israel should return to the land of their fathers. The captivity of Babylon, however, was to succeeded in the space of 600 years by another and a much longer one—a captivity which still continues, called by the Jews the Great Captivity, commencing with the destruction of their city and Temple by the Romans. The reason of this second one acknowledged by the Jews themselves to be their national guilt. This time, however, that guilt consisted not in idolatry according to the ordinary meaning of the word—idolatry in its gross form, but the rejection of their promised King and Saviour, which was also rejection of their God who sent Him. “Not this man,” they cried out, “but Barabbas:” “We have no king but Cæsar;” as before they said, “Not Jehovah, but the gods of the heathen” (Jeremiah 44:17-19). Even still, however, the Lord has not cast off His people whom He foreknew. Israel shall yet look on Him whom they pierced, and mourn because of Him. All Israel shall yet be saved, and the receiving of them be life from the dead to the world, at large.—Auberlen.

1. The certain fulfilment of divine threatenings. God’s word, whether of mercy or judgment, will not return to Him void. “Hath He spoken it, and will He not do it?” The promise and the threatening sure, sooner or later, to be fulfilled, unless prevented in the one case by unbelief, or in the other by repentance. Jehoiakim may cut the hated roll in pieces and cast it into the fire, but the threatened judgment is only brought so much nearer its fulfilment. The burned Bible only adds fuel to the fire.

2. The consequence of unrepented sin. Divine wrath against impenitence slow but sure. Justice travels with leaden feet, leaving time for repentance. Mercy rejoices over judgment; but, mercy despised, judgment strikes the blow. “Though sentence against an evil work be not executed speedily,” yet the judgment of the impenitent “lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.” The sun rose on Sodom gladsome and joyous as usual, but set on it a heap of ashes. The path of disobedience, whatever it may promise of pleasure or of profit, is found, sooner or later, to be planted with thorns. In continuing to do what is forbidden or to neglect what is commanded, whether to avoid a difficulty or to gain an end, we one day discover that we have but “sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind.”

3. The terrible effects of the divine displeasure. The desolated land, the sacked city, and the burned Temple of the Jews only additional illustrations. “The wrath of a king is as the roaring of a lion.” What then the wrath of a God who is holy, righteous, and omnipotent? Slow in coming, fearful when it falls. “Who can stand when once Thou art angry?” “A fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” To hide one from the wrath of the rejected Lamb, rocks and mountains will be appealed to in vain. Men’s highest wisdom and interest to prepare for the Diet Iræ, “the great day of His wrath,” before it come. “If once His anger be kindled but a little, blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.” The “blood shed for the remission of sins” the only refuge in that day; the only refuge now.

4. The awful evil of sin. It was sin that brought destruction upon Jerusalem and its king. “An evil thing and a bitter” to forsake the living God and to trample upon His laws. Only “fools make a mock at sin.” Sin the abominable thing that God hates. Kindles a fire in His anger that “burns to the lowest hell” (Deuteronomy 32:22). “Brought death into the world and all our woe.” Banished man from Paradise and buried the world in a deluge of water. Covers the earth at present with every form of sorrow and suffering, and will one day overwhelm it in a deluge of fire. Makes men and women partakers of the devil’s character now, and of his condemnation hereafter.

5. The reality of God’s government of the world. Nations and kings raised up or overthrown at His will. His to plant and to pluck up, to build and to throw down. The hearts of rulers in His hand to turn them whithersoever He will. The Lord “gave” Jehoiakim into Nebuchadnezzar’s hand. The king of Babylon but Jehovah’s executioner, “the axe in the hand of him that heweth therewith.” “Against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge: howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so” (Isaiah 10:6-7; Isaiah 10:15). Attila, taught by the light of nature, called himself the Scourge of God. Who did not recognise the same in the first Napoleon? God Himself the author of the calamities that befall a sinful people, whoever or whatever the instrument. “Is there evil in a city and the Lord hath not done it?” “I make peace and create evil” (Amos 3:6; Isaiah 45:7). An all-controlling and superintending agency where man sees only the operation of human passions. A great truth uttered by England’s favourite author, “There’s a divinity that shapes our ends, Rough hew them as we will.”

6. Desecration of sacred things often a divine chastisement. The only calamity here recorded in connection with Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem, the removal of the sacred vessels of the Temple to Babylon, to be placed among the treasures of Bel, the abomination of Chaldean idolatry. The acme of Israel’s distress in the days of Eli that the Ark was seized and carried off by the Philistines. Fallen Churches in the East chastised when their sanctuaries were seized by the Saracens, and appropriated to a religion that robbed the Saviour of His divinity and placed Mahomet above Him as a prophet. The Church that shed the blood of the Huguenots like water saw its communion vessels seized and melted down to be coined into money for the payment of revolutionary armies, its bells converted into cannon, and the ancient cathedral of Notre Dame at Paris desecrated by the worship of the Goddess of Reason in the person of a prostitute. Such desecration often the chastisement of abused privileges and rejected truth. The warning addressed to Oriental Churches still applicable to those of the West, “Repent, or else I will come to thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of its place, except thou repent” (Revelation 2:5). Matthew Henry remarks: “See the righteousness of God; His people had brought the images of other gods into His Temple, and now He suffers the vessels of the Temple to be carried into the treasuries of those other gods. When men profane the vessels of the sanctuary with their sins, it is just with God to profane them by His judgments.”

7. The externals of religion no defence to a sinful, hypocritical nation. The Ark of God carried into the battle unable to save backslidden Israel from the hands of the Philistines. Christian sanctuaries unable to protect those who had already perverted the religion of Christ to one of formality, worldliness, and superstition. Hypocrisy and sin only make a Church or people a carcase where the eagles of divine vengeance will be gathered together. “Take away her battlements, for they are not the Lord’s.” “Israel fondly trusted to the Temple to defend them, though they went on in their iniquity; and now, to show them the vanity of that confidence, the Temple is first plundered.”—Henry.

8. Nebuchadnezzar, even in his profanity, an example of the recognition of, and gratitude to, a Supreme Being for favours received and success obtained. The vessels of the Temple placed in the house of his god rather than in his own, in recognition of the aid by which, as he supposed, those trophies were won. Belief in and recognition of a Supreme Being, among the first and plainest teachings of nature. The heathen, who knew not the true God, accustomed to impute their success to the favour of the deities they acknowledged (Habakkuk 1:11). After the plague in Athens, B.C. 434, the Athenians dedicated a statue to Apollo as the Averter of evil. After the battle of Salamis, the Greeks dedicated the throne of Xerxes as a thankoffering to Minerva. The Parthenon itself, where it was kept, was built in gratitude to the same imaginary deity, by whose assistance they believed their heroes had fought and conquered. The small community of the village of Phigaleia in Arcadia erected the beautiful Temple of Bassæ in gratitude to Apollo for deliverance from a pestilence. Pythagoras sacrificed an ox to the Muses on a new discovery made in geometry. The sin was, that in the blindness and depravity of the natural heart, the heathen substituted false gods for the true one. But may not the gratitude of the heathen to their false deities condemn many a professed worshipper of the true God?

Verses 3-7

HOMILETICS

SECT. II.—THE FOUR CAPTIVE YOUTHS (Chap. Daniel 1:3-7)

Among the youths of noble or princely birth taken from Jerusalem to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar as trophies of his conquest [7], and perhaps as hostages for the good behaviour of those who were left behind, were Daniel and his three companions, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. These, according to a custom prevalent in Babylon, similar to that of the Ottoman court which in more modern times originated the institution of the Janissaries [8], were, at the king’s command, immediately placed under the charge of an officer called Ashpenaz [9], the chief of the eunuchs [10]. To this often influential class these captive youths were henceforth to belong, having been selected for their handsome appearance, intelligence, and good address [11]. In token of their entire subjection to their Babylonian master, their names, according to a common usage, were changed for others intended apparently to obliterate all traces of their race and nation, and still more of their religion, and to mark them, if it could not also make them, worshippers of the gods of their new sovereign [12], as well as his property and slaves. Designed for high stations at court and about the king’s person, they were for three years to be dieted in a way judged most fitted to promote their health and more especially their good appearance; while they were carefully instructed in the learning [13] and language of the Chaldæans [14]. These captive youths, and Daniel more especially, were to be God’s chosen instruments in effecting, by their influence at court, the predicted restoration of their exiled countrymen at the appointed period. Observe from the passage—

[7] “Certain of the children of Israel and of the king’s seed, and of the princes.” When Darius Hystaspes succeeded Cyrus, he obtained from Babylonia and the rest of Assyria a thousand talents of silver and five hundred boy-eunuchs. Keil observes that פַּרְתְּסִים (partemim) is the Zend “prathema” (Sansc. “prathama”), denoting persons of distinction—magnates, princes.

[8] The Janissaries were originally Christian youths who had been taken captive by the Turks and brought to the Ottoman court, after which they were placed under the care of the chief of the white eunuchs, under whom they were trained and educated, taught some trade, and brought up in the religion of their masters. Those most gifted were employed about the ruler’s person, and in due time advanced to high and suitable offices in the state, to military commands, and to the government of provinces. Their Christian names were changed for such as their Moslem masters delighted in.—Kitto; also Ranke’s “Ottoman Empire.”

[9] “Ashpenaz.” Keil observes that the name has not yet received any satisfactory or generally adopted explanation. He thinks the person so named was the chief marshal of Nebuchadnezzar’s court. Dr. Rule thinks he might be called master of the household. Junius observes that the word in the Chaldaic denotes the master of the chiders (objurgantium), or, as Willet translates it, the master of the comptrollers, i.e., the chief comptroller and governor of the king’s house.

[10] “Eunuchs.” Dr. Rule remarks that the name סריסים (sarisim) may simply indicate members of the king’s household; the name being applied to officers in or about the palace, whether literally and physically eunuchs or not.

[11] “Well-favoured.” The Assyrian and Babylonian kings, wishing to add to the lustre and magnificence of their court, admitted into their palace none but young persons of high birth, distinguished for the gracefulness of their person and the beauty of their countenance.—Gaussen.

[12] “Gave names.” Daniel, which in Hebrew denotes, “God is my Judge,” was changed, according to the name of Nebuchadnezzar’s god (Daniel 4:8), into Belteshazzar, or “Bel’s treasurer,” or the “Depositary of Bel’s secret things;” but according to Gesenius and Nork, the “Prince of Bel.” Azariah, or “The Help of the Lord,” was changed into Abednego, the “servant of Nego,” or the Brightness, i.e., of the Sun or Fire, or perhaps one of the planets—also objects of Babylonian worship. The other two names given for Mishael and Hananiah believed to have also an idolatrous meaning, although not so obvious. Shadrach, according to some, is “The Inspiration of Rach” or the Sun; and Meshach, a “devotee of Shach “or Venus, the festival goddess. Kitto observes that the practice of changing the names of slaves is as ancient as the time of Joseph, whose name was changed by his Egyptian master to Zaphnath-Paaneah, or the Revealer of Secrets. In modern times the practice prevailed in the case of Negro slaves.

[13] “Might teach the learning of the Chaldeans.” According to Pliny and Strabo, the priest-caste among the Babylonians had educational establishments in certain cities; for instance, in Babylon itself, Borsippa in Babylonia, and Hipparene in Mesopotamia.—Hengstenberg. According to Plato and Xenophon, the education of royal officers in Persia did not begin until they had passed fourteen years of age, and youths did not enter into the king’s service until they had completed their sixteenth or seventeenth year.—Rule. An objection has been made to the genuineness of the Book of Daniel on the ground that it is improbable that Daniel, with his strict principles, should be willing to be taught the principles of the magi. But Moses also was “learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22). As Moses acquired the secular knowledge of the Egyptians without their debasing superstitions, so might Daniel that of the Babylonians. Nor was that learning all superstitious. Their philosophers were chiefly engaged about astronomy; and the Greeks thought that the birthplace of philosophy in general was among the magi of Persia and the Chaldees of Babylonia or Assyria. But the futility of the objection is at once obvious; at Babylon the king’s will was law, and especially with his slaves. The passage is rather a confirmation of the genuineness of the book, as affording an example of agreement with the customs and usages of the time and country.

[14] “The language of the Chaldeans.” Michaelis, Winer, and others have supposed that by the “language of the Chaldeans” we are to understand that of the Chaldeans proper, and not the Eastern Aramæan branch, which is usually called the Chaldaic, and which in chap. Daniel 2:4, as in Ezra 4:7 and Isaiah 38:0, is called the Aramaic or Syriac. Hengstenberg thinks it to be the court language, spoken by the monarch himself and his attendants, which appears from chap. Daniel 2:4 not to be the Aramaic, as that is said to be the language in which the Babylonian sages answered the king. The exact knowledge of the languages prevalent in Babylon in the time of Daniel, as shown by the book, no contemptible proof of its genuineness. Keil thinks the “language of the Chaldeans” in the text to be that of the Babylonish priests and learned men or magi, called also Chaldeans in a more restricted sense, the same being afterwards applied to the whole body of the wise men of Babylon (Daniel 2:2). He adds: “If for the present no certain answer can be given to the question as to the origin of the Chaldeans and the nature of their language and writing, yet this much may be accepted as certain, that the language and writing of the Chaldees (כַּשְׂדִּים, casdim) was not Semitic or Aramaic, but that the Chaldeans had in remote times migrated into Babylonia, and there had obtained dominion over the Semitic inhabitants of the land; and that from among this dominant race the Chaldees, the priestly and the learned class of the Chaldees, arose. This class in Babylon is much older than the Chaldean monarchy founded by Nebuchadnezzar.” This instruction in the wisdom of the Chaldeans, Auberlen thinks, “tended, at all events, to develop the high prophetical gifts which Daniel possessed by nature;” and that “a similar school was thus provided for Daniel to that which his Egyptian education was to Moses, or which study of philosophy is for the theologian of our own day.” Dr. Rule observes that “seven or eight centuries later than Daniel, the learning of the Chaldeans or Babylonians was described as comprising astronomy, astrology, divination, augury, incantations, and the science of dreams and prodigies. Although idol-worshippers, Justin Martyr, in his Exhortation to the Greeks, affirms that the Babylonians differed widely from the Greeks and from all other idolaters of the world, inasmuch as they acknowledged a supreme and self-existent God.”

1. The literal fulfilment of God’s word. The good King Hezekiah’s foolish vanity entailed a chastisement which, according to the word of the prophet, was to fall upon his descendants. Some of them were to become eunuchs in Babylon (Isaiah 39:7; 2 Kings 20:18). Probably Daniel and his three companions were thus made examples, that no word of God, whether in promise or threatening, falls to the ground. “Heaven and earth may pass away, but my word shall not pass away.”

2. The inscrutable providence of God. It is one of the mysteries of that providence that the innocent suffer with and through the guilty. Both rulers and people in Israel had deeply revolted from Jehovah. But it might be asked of those four godly youths, “What had they done?” “When the scourge slayeth suddenly, it mocketh at the trial of the innocent.” Yet God is still infinitely wise and just and good. A gracious end in view, though hidden at the time. Children often made to feel the effects of a parent’s sin, while these effects may be graciously overruled for their eternal good. The captivity of these youths made to turn to their own benefit and that of others. Apparent evil often a real good. “Ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Genesis 1:20).

3. The sovereignty of divine grace. Nothing is said of the parents of these youths. The royal seed had become a reprobate one. Both the sons of Josiah who succeeded him on the throne were wicked. The princes of Jerusalem imitated them in their sin. Grace makes exceptions. Perhaps these youths were judiciously taken away from the evil example of the rest. Safer perhaps at the time to live in Babylon than in Jerusalem. One might hope from the character of these four youths that they had been taught the fear of God at home. But graceless parents may have gracious children. Grace steps in and makes men to differ. The wind bloweth where it listeth. Saints found in Cæsar’s household, and a godly Obadiah in Ahab’s court.

4. Mercy remembered in the midst of judgment. Preparations for the purposed and promised deliverance of Israel made from the very commencement of their captivity. One of the very first captives to be made God’s chosen instrument in bringing it about. The edict of Cyrus, at the end of the predicted seventy years, the result of Daniel’s influence at the Babylonian and Persian courts. The same influence doubtless effectual in mitigating the sufferings of his fellow-exiles [15]. A silver lining often in the darkest cloud. God’s bow of mercy set in the cloud of man’s deepest misery. Mercy and judgment the alto and bass in the believer’s song.

[15] “The Lord in His great mercy had prepared for His people an influence in Babylon that must have mitigated the severity of bondage when the ten thousand captives [with Jehoiachin] were added to all that went before. The king and the princes indeed were prisoners of war; but young men of royal blood are at the head of the government, naturalised, and in rank next the imperial throne, but known as worshippers of the God of heaven, and as confessors of that God in opposition to the gods of the country, in full enjoyment of religious liberty and protected in the exercise of their sacred right by a decree in honour of Daniel’s God.”—Rule.

5. God’s instruments prepared for their work. Daniel and his three companions prepared beforehand for the part they were to perform in the relief and deliverance of their countrymen. Gifted by nature and endowed by grace, they received an education at the Babylonian court that fitted them for the post they were to occupy about the king’s person and in the government of the country. Capacity for learning, united with conscientious application and the divine blessing given in answer to prayer, made the youthful exiles ten times more able to answer the king’s questions than all the wise men in the realm, and so prepared the way for their future elevation. The influence of that education in reference to the exercise of Daniel’s prophetical gift also not to be entirely overlooked.

6. Grace superior to circumstances. Captivity in a heathen land, residence in an idolatrous and luxurious court, a three years’ course of study pervaded with idolatry and superstition, the constant presence of the followers of a false religion and a low morality, all combined are unable to crush out the piety of these young men. Circumstances changed their names but not their nature. With names imposed upon them that seemed to designate them the worshippers of idols, they were enabled by grace to remain the faithful servants of the true God. The religion produced by the Holy Spirit in the soul is fast colours—not painted, but engrained.

7. The value of gracious principles in early life. Only the presence of divine grace in the soul able to withstand the temptations of the world and to conquer in the battle of life. “Evil communications corrupt good manners” only when those manners are not the fruit of a divine principle implanted in the soul. “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even your faith.” Only an apparently renewed Demas will forsake the truth, “having loved this present world.” Renewed by the Spirit and grafted into Christ, we are “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation,” and made “more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” Probably these youths taught like Timothy to know the Holy Scriptures from early childhood. Daniel may have had a Eunice for his mother, though her name is not recorded. His early youth spent in the reign of good Josiah, who apparently died only four years before he was taken captive to Babylon. Few men have become at once great and good who have not been able to connect their religion with a mother’s prayers and the instruction received at a mother’s knee. One thing concerning these four youths is certain, that in early life they had been taught to say in truth, “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee.”

Verses 8-10

HOMILETICS

SECT. III.—THE RESOLUTION (Chap. Daniel 1:8-10)

The religion of Daniel and his three companions was soon to be put to the test. They were to be fed from the royal table [16]; but the Jews were forbidden by the law of Moses to eat certain kinds of food, as well as food prepared in a certain way. Some animals were to be avoided as unclean, and none ware to be eaten with the blood in them. Besides, what the heathen used of animal food had been already offered in sacrifice to their idols, while a portion both of the meat and drink on their table was presented as an offering and acknowledgment to the same false deities. Daniel saw that to partake of the royal provision [17] was thus to pollute himself by participation with idolatry and to transgress the law of God [18]. His purpose was at once taken. Be the consequences what they might, he would neither defile himself nor apostatise from his God. Persuaded that man does not “live by bread alone, but by every word of God,” he would request the superintendent to substitute pulse and water for the royal viands. He determined, says Matthew Henry, to let it be known from the first day of his residence in Babylon, that though but a young Jewish slave, he was the servant of the living God. If he could not preserve his dignity as a prince, he would preserve his purity as a child of the covenant. It was no small risk. The wrath of Nebuchadnezzar, as of all Oriental despots, was as the roaring of a lion. That wrath might well be apprehended for what must appear to him, if known, an act of disobedience, and even of contempt. Unless prevented by some remarkable interposition, the act may cost Daniel and his three friends their life. Daniel had indeed already gained the favour and affection of the chief or superintendent of the eunuchs, but for him to change the diet, or even allow or connive at such a change, must endanger his life also—with Daniel a considerable aggravation of the difficulty. Still he must obey the dictates of his conscience and do what he believes to be the will of God [19]. Prayer was no doubt his refuge. The God of Abraham would open up a way of deliverance. “On the Mount the Lord will be seen.” Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity. Isaac was saved at the last hour, The Lord will provide. Jehovah-Jireh still lives. To the chief officer, therefore, Daniel communicates his difficulty and his purpose. The worthy heathen expressed his distress, and his fear for the consequences, even to himself. Daniel only requests a trial. Ashpenaz can do nothing but commend him to the good graces of the subordinate whose duty it was to attend immediately upon the young men, and whose responsibility was less than his own. Observe—

[16] “A daily provision of the king’s meat.” Among the Persians, a number of persons, all the lower attendants of the court, received their support from the king’s table. This custom derived by the Persians from the Babylonians, or at least held in common with them. According to Jeremiah 52:33-34, King Jehoiachin, by the command of Evil-Merodach, received his daily sustenance from the royal table.—Hengstenberg. Dr. Rule observes that crowds of Israelites no doubt ate “unclean things in Assyria” (Hosea 9:3), defiling themselves in like manner; but a few noble souls lived above compromise. At this same time, Ezekiel, also a captive in the same land, witnessing the shame of those who “ate their defiled bread among the Gentiles” whither they were driven, could say, “O Lord God, behold, my soul hath not been polluted; for from my youth up, even till now, have I not eaten of that which dieth of itself, or is torn in pieces, neither came there abominable flesh into my month” (Ezekiel 4:13-14). Their “barley-cakes” the prophet was commanded to treat with loathsome contempt. Good Queen Esther, too, is described in an apocryphal writing as appealing to God that she had not “eaten at Haman’s table, nor had pleasure in the king’s feast, nor had drunk the wine of the drink-offering.”

[17] “The portion of the king’s meat,” Heb. פַּתְבַּג הַמֶּלֶךְ (pathbag hammelek). Dr. Rule observes that what this might mean the old versions could not explain, and our English translators could only gather from the context. Some of the Rabbis understand it to be bread. He remarks, what Dr. Pusey has also told us in the Appendix to his Lectures on Daniel, that Professor Max Müller, in his explanation of words in the Book of Daniel supposed to be Aryan, says that this word is Aryan, and is equivalent to the Sanscrit pratibaga, “a share of small articles, as fruit, flowers, &c., paid daily to the raja for household expenditure.” The Professor quotes a passage from Athenæus, where a Greek word is supposed to represent the word in Daniel, namely, potibazis, said to be put for ποτιβαγις, and to denote “barley bread and wheaten toast, and a crown of cypress, and mixed wine in a gold cup, out of which the king himself drinks.” Dr. Rule, after quoting a passage from Herodotus, which shows that the Assyrians at their sacrifices “poured libations and offered consecrated barley-cake with the sound of the flute and crowned with chaplets,” remarks that “if the pathbag of Daniel and the potibazis of Athenæus be the same, if the king of Babylon drank of the consecrated wine, tasted the consecrated barley-cake, and put on the chaplet of cypress, amid the noise of music and hymns to his god; if the like consecrated food was sent to members of the royal household, to partake of it would be nothing less than a formal participation of idolatry.”

[18] “Would not defile himself” Keil observes that Daniel’s resolution arose from fidelity to the law, and from steadfastness to the faith that man lives “not by bread alone, but by every word of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3); and from the assurance that God would bless the humbler provision which he asks for himself and his companions. These ordinances in relation to food are part of the Levitical law, Exodus 22:31, Deuteronomy 14:2; Deuteronomy 14:21, where the principle of avoiding food inconsistent with holiness, only touched upon in Exodus, is expanded.

[19] “He requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.” Dr. Cox remarks that, in the conduct of Daniel on this occasion, his moral triumph was complete and glorious; appearing perfectly conscientious and entirely decided while exhibiting a graceful modesty connected with his moral heroism, together with great judgment and wisdom, and a spirit of self-denial and temperance of the most exemplary kind. Dr. Rule observes that it was far more than a purpose on the part of Daniel. It was a resolve. Literally “he laid it on his heart,” וַיָּשֶׁם דּ״ עַל־ לִנּוֹ (vai-yashem D. ’al libbo), made it a matter of conscience, not contemplating any possible contingency that might shake his constancy.

1. Religious principle sure to be tested. The gold must be submitted to the fire to prove its reality and purge it from dross. The trial of faith a rule in God’s government and the universal experience of His people. That trial may be a “fiery” one (1 Peter 4:12). May throw into heaviness for a season; but has for its issue “praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7). Believers to be, like Apelles, “approved in Christ.” Difficult situations, involving danger, trouble, or loss, the ordinary means of the trial. The favour of God and conscious obedience to His will on the one hand, with suffering and worldly loss, or God’s displeasure and a wounded conscience on the other, with the short-lived favour of the world; which shall it be? Moses must choose between the treasures of Egypt and the reproach of Christ; worldly greatness with idolaters, or “affliction with the people of God.”

2. Trial a needful preparation for future service. Daniel and his companions destined to important service in Babylon. God was to be glorified in them as His faithful witnesses. The deliverance of their captive countrymen to be ultimately effected through their influence. Hence the necessity of discipline and trial. The instrument to be prepared and polished. The faith and obedience of these font godly youths to be afterwards severely tested. The trial to commence now, even at the beginning. Smaller trials must prepare for greater ones. The faith that is to face and triumph over the fiery furnace and the lions’ den to be made strong by exercise.

3. Self-denial necessary to true religion. Daniel and his friends must choose between the dainties of the king’s table and the diet of the humblest slave. A considerable difference to the flesh between the king’s savoury dishes and delicious wines, and mere boiled beans and water. But the choice was soon decided on. Grace enabled Daniel, “instead of yielding to the temptations of luxury, voluntarily to subject himself to the humblest fare, that appetite might not betray him into sin.” Like his ancestor Moses, he “chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” The Master’s rule, “If any man will be my disciple, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.” The part of good soldiers of Jesus Christ to “endure hardness.” Such endurance and self-denial the means of strengthening character and fitting for service in the world. The pulse itself probably made, even physically, a means towards Daniel’s elevation. Protogenes, the celebrated painter, said to have lived on lupins during the seven years he was engaged on his famous picture, “that his judgment might not be clouded by luxurious diet.” Calvin even thinks that Daniel might have desired pulse and water, on account of the injurious effects of good living. Auberlen remarks that “he who is to receive or interpret divine revelations, must not feed on the dainties nor drink from the intoxicating cup of this world.”

4. Abstinence from what is in itself lawful sometimes a sacred duty. The royal provisions in themselves good, but in the circumstances not to be partaken of by Daniel and his friends without sin and moral defilement. So even in his old age, Daniel for a special religious purpose abstained for a time both from flesh and wine (Daniel 10:3). “Every creature of God is good, and to be received with thanksgiving of them that know and believe the truth.” But there are times when, for the sake of others, if not for our own, it may be our duty to abstain from the use of some. Christian wisdom and an enlightened conscience needed to direct us in regard to such abstinence. The same Apostle who counselled Timothy to “use a little wine” for his stomach’s sake and his frequent infirmities, asserts that “it is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak;” and declares for himself, “If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend” (Romans 14:21; 1 Corinthians 8:13). The character of the wines and other intoxicating drinks used in this country, the prevalence of the drinking customs, the continued evidence before our eyes of the terrible effects of the use of these drinks, both physically, socially, and morally, slaying as they do their tens of thousands, and drawing in their train both misery, poverty, disease, and crime—these facts are believed by many to make it the duty of Christian men and women in general, in the exercise of that charity that “pleaseth not itself” and “seeketh not her own,” to abstain entirely from the use of these beverages for at least the sake of those who must, one way or other, be influenced by our example.

5. Grace made sufficient for all situations. Grace needed most in times of difficulty and trial. That grace now afforded to Daniel and his friends in their perplexity. To Paul’s thrice-repeated prayer that the “thorn in the flesh” might depart from him, the only answer vouchsafed was, “My grace is sufficient for thee; my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Believing this, Paul gloried in his infirmities and necessities. Neither tribulation, nor persecution, nor famine, nor nakedness, nor peril, nor sword, able to separate the genuine believer “from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

6. The value of courage and resolution in the matter of religion. These needful to serve God and keep a good conscience in the world. Constantly verified in the history of the Church, both in Old and New Testament times. To be faithful to God and faithful to the end, one must, like Daniel, “purpose in his heart,” and through grace adhere to it. Joshua exhorted more than once before encountering the Canaanites, and marching in to take possession of the land, to “be strong and of a good courage, and not be afraid.” Impossible at once to be a faithful Christian and a coward. The “fearful and unbelieving” among those who are excluded from the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:8). “We have received, not the spirit of fear, but of love, and of power, and of a sound mind.” He that timidly will save his life shall lose it. The feet to be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, in order to tread on briars and scorpions, “and all the power of the enemy.” The promise, “Thy shoes shall be iron and brass.” In a world up in rebellion against God, His servants need to be “made as an iron pillar and a brazen wall.” The exhortation to Ezekiel always needed, “Be not afraid of their faces.” Reuben “unstable as water,” therefore “unable to excel.” Fear makes men deserters; but “if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” He that putteth his hand to the plough and looketh back is not fit for the kingdom of God,—neither for the enjoyment of it himself or the extension of it to others. A Christian needs to be a hero, and grace makes him one. Faith the foundation of true courage. Through faith, “out of weakness men were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, and turned to flight the armies of the aliens.” The faith that is “of the operation of God” makes men heroes, and in religion a man must either be that or nothing.

7. Fidelity to God the best way to favour with men. “When a man’s doings please the Lord, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” Psalms 106:46 verified in Daniel and his companions: “He made them to be pitied of them that carried them captives.” True religion commends itself even to worldly men. Grace a winning thing. Includes “whatsoever things are comely and of good report.” Favour with men not to be bought at the expense of religious principle, and need not be. Daniel found favour with the chief of the eunuchs and yet kept his religion, and indeed by keeping it. Daniel made God’s love and favour the first and chief thing, and God gave him in addition the love and favour of men. “The hearts of kings are in the hand of the Lord, and He turneth them as the rills of water.” True religion consists in love, and love naturally begets love. Jesus, the embodiment of that religion, “grew in favour with God and men.” The experience of Daniel in Babylon that of Joseph in Egypt. The chief of the eunuchs, like the keeper of the prison, won by the becoming behaviour and sweetness of disposition in a youthful Hebrew slave. The youth who pleases God likely to find acceptance with men.

8. The importance of faithfulness in little things. An apparently small matter, the kind of food Daniel should eat or not eat; but God’s law made even that a matter of conscience. Fidelity to God and His worship involved in it. Daniel was faithful to his conscience, and desired to be excused from eating what he could not partake of without sin. Thus prepared for proving faithful in greater things—faithful to all his duties and trusts under the king, and faithful to God at the peril of the lions’ den. “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much.”

9. The necessity of decision in the matter of religion. A distinct and settled purpose often our safety and preservation in the world. Daniel’s purity in Babylon due to his “purposing in his heart.” A firm purpose in God’s strength to do right, the girdle that binds the spiritual armour together. “I have said that I will keep Thy word.” “One shall say, I am the Lord’s.” “I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep Thy righteous judgments.” Jesus Himself an example of such decision. He “steadfastly set His face to go up to Jerusalem.” Temptations to turn aside are to be resolutely answered as He answered Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan; for thou savourest not the things that are of God, but the things that are of men.” “When people are in Babylon they have need to take special care that they partake not in Babylon’s sins.”—Henry. Safety often in a decided “No.”

DANIEL A NOTABLE EXAMPLE OF RESOLUTION
Daniel purposed in his heart”—(Daniel 1:8)

Resolution both an act and a habit. As a habit, it marks the character of the man who makes a resolution and acts upon it. The habit formed by frequent acts of resolving and acting accordingly. As a habit, resolution a most important part of character. Gives a man moral strength, energy, backbone. Constitutes force of character. Makes a man strong. Forms the hero, the scholar, the statesman, the artist. Makes the successful merchant, the man of science, the philanthropist, and the benefactor of his kind. “I will be a hero,” the turning-point in Nelson’s history. Reynolds resolves at Rome to study the works of the old masters till he has understood their excellence, and becomes a master himself. Paley at college resolves to shake off his habitual indolence and rise at four o’clock to his studies, and produces works that cannot die. Daniel’s resolution in regard to his diet one of the means of strengthening his character and fitting him for future greatness. Each resolution carried out in spite of difficulty or natural reluctance makes a man stronger. An irresolute man a weak man. The part of weakness either to make no resolution, or to make it and fail to keep it. “Resolves and re-resolves, and dies a fool.” Broken resolutions leave a man weaker. One resolution kept prepares for keeping the next. A resolution manfully carried out often the turning-point in a man’s life and the determination of a man’s character. Resolution as an act should be—

1. Made deliberately. Rash resolutions often both foolish and dangerous. Resolutely to carry out such, worse than the making of them. Resolution not to degenerate into obstinacy and wilfulness, as in Herod the Tetrarch, and Pharaoh at the Red Sea. Daniel thought before purposing in his heart. “Ponder the path of thy feet.”

2. Directed to what is right. A resolution should be to pursue a right course—to act right, speak right, feel right. Daniel resolved to do what he saw and believed to be his duty. Resolution noble when it is to serve God, do good, and sin not; to be truthful, honest, industrious, kind, obliging; to avoid temptation as far as possible, and to resist it when it comes; to say “No “to every evil suggestion. If still with our back to God, our resolution to be that of the prodigal,—“I will arise and go to my Father.” The diseased woman’s resolution to press through the crowd and touch the hem of Christ’s garment brought health to her body and life to her soul. The Syrophenician mother pressed on with her suit till she obtained a favourable answer, notwithstanding discouragements and repulses, and she succeeded. So Esther resolved, at the risk of her own life, to plead with the king for the lives of her countrymen: “If I perish, I perish.”

3. Made in dependence on divine assistance. To make a right resolution needs divine aid; much more to keep it. The spirit willing when the flesh is weak. To will may be present, but how to perform that which is good we find not, and needs divine strength. Resolution to be linked with prayer. Strength given to them that ask for it. Daniel a man of prayer as well as purpose; the latter because the former. Peter resolved to follow his Master even unto death, but, trusting in himself, he denies Him at the challenge of a servant-girl. Neglect of the Saviour’s caution, “Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation,” likely to be followed with a fall. “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool.” David’s prayer, “Hold Thou me up and I shall be safe.”

Verses 11-21

HOMILETICS

SECT. IV.—THE TRIAL (Chap. Daniel 1:11-21).

God works by means, and in doing so deals with men’s minds as well as their bodies. Daniel was delivered out of his difficulty in regard to the food by a suggestion made upon his own mind, and favourably regarded by the person with whom he had to do. This suggestion was the proposal of a trial for ten days with pulse [20] instead of the king’s meat, and water instead of wine. Melzar [21], the subordinate officer, who could agree to the proposal with less risk to his head than his chief, and who was, no doubt, in the meantime, to reap the material advantage of it, consented to the proposed trial. The trial was made, and proved, by the divine blessing on the humbler fare, eminently successful. At the end of the period, no doubt could exist that the four Jewish youths were not only no worse in their looks for their pulse diet, but actually appeared fairer and plumper than those who had subsisted on the royal dainties [22]. Nor was this all; for at the end of the three years’ study and preparation prescribed for them by the king, they were found, on examination, to have made much greater proficiency than the rest, and, indeed, to possess a wisdom and understanding greatly superior to any of the magicians [23] and astrologers [24] within the realm. The result was, in the providence of God, an influential appointment to each of the young men about the king’s person as his attendants and councillors [25]; God, as Calvin observes, aiming at exalting Himself in and through the person of His servants. They “stood before the king,” an expression that finds its parallel in such passages as Luke 1:19; Matthew 18:10; 1 Samuel 16:21; 1 Kings 12:6; 1 Kings 12:8. The purpose of Divine Providence in thus elevating Daniel is indicated in the closing words of the chapter, “Daniel continued even unto the first year of King Cyrus” [26]. Daniel was to acquire an influence which should operate on Cyrus to do what was already written of him in the Scripture of truth,—release the Jewish captives and restore the Holy City with its Temple and worship” (Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1-4) [27]. We observe from the passage—

[20] “Pulse,” מִן הַזֵּרֹעִים (min haz-zero’im), “out of the vegetables.” Dr. Rule observes that according to Buxtorf, Daniel and his companions would thus be allowed free use of grain, pulse, and spices, not necessarily excluding vegetable oils for the preparation of such food as they had been accustomed to at home, like their ancestors before entering the land of promise, and many of them afterwards (1 Samuel 17:17-18), living as do multitudes in the Levant at this day. He thinks it cannot be inferred that they suffered any severe privation. They were content to live moderately and humbly.

[21] “Melzar.” Hengstenberg thinks that Melzar was perhaps the official name of the sub-overseer of the royal attendants. Melzar, or “the Melzar,” observes Dr. Rule, whatever that may mean, being in a subordinate station, and therefore not directly responsible, like his chief, consented to make a brief trial by way of private experiment.

[22] “Fairer and fatter in flesh.” Dr. Pusey remarks that even now God protects religious abstinence, and quotes the words of Chardin: “I have remarked that the countenance of the Keshicks (Keshishim or monks) are in fact more rosy and smooth than those of others; and that those who fast much, I mean the Armenians and Greeks, are notwithstanding very beautiful, sparkling with health, and with a clear and lively complexion.”

[23] “Magicians,” הַחַרְטֻמִּים (ha-khartummim), from חֶרֶט (kheret), a writing or graving instrument, a pen or style. Persons skilled in writing, especially hieroglyphics.—Nork and Gesenius. According to Hengstenberg, persons skilled in mystic writing. The existence of such among the Babylonians confirmed by the fact that they are found among the Egyptians, whose religious system stands in the closest historical relation to the Babylonian. The existence of a mystic writing in Babylon supposed in the narration in chap, 5, where the king thinks of calling for the wise men to interpret the writing on the wall. According to Gesenius, they were persons among the ancient Egyptians who studied the interpretation of dreams and wrought miracles by magic (Genesis 41:8; Genesis 41:24; Exodus 7:11; Exodus 7:22, &c.); the name also applied to the Chaldean wise men similarly versed in the interpretation of dreams; sacred scribes, or persons skilled in interpreting sacred writing, especially hieroglyphics.

[24] “Astrologers,” הָאַשָּׁמִים (ha-ash-shaphim). Nork derives the name from &#אָשַׁף אָסַף (ashaph = asaph), to “gather together,” and understands by it such persons as professed to foretell events by a contemplation of the stars in their situation relative to each other. According to Gesenius, they were enchanters or magicians, from אָשַׁף (ashaph), a root of uncertain meaning; but in Syriac, “to enchant.” Rendered by the Sept. and Theodotion, μαγοι (magic). So the Vulgate. The Venetian Bible has “astronomers.” So Abulwaled and Kimchi. Aben Ezra understands “physicians.” Hengstenberg thinks of “exorcists;” not “natural philosophers,” as Bertholdt and Münter suppose. According to Diodorus Siculus, the Babylonian wise men sought to avert misfortune by lustrations, sacrifices, and witchcraft. Isaiah (Isaiah 47:9; Isaiah 47:12) derides Babylon by saying that all the incantations of their wise men availed not to avert the threatened ruin from her. According to Claudian, a rain was ascribed to the incantations of the Chaldeans, by which the army of Antoninus was delivered from the threatened destruction. Dr. A. Clarke thinks the name may be derived from נפש (na-phash), “to breathe,” these men laying claim to inspiration; but supposes them to have been the philosophers and astronomers among the Babylonians. See further under chap. Daniel 2:2.

[25] “Therefore stood they before the king.” Dr. Cox remarks that the king’s preference of the four young Jews was all the more remarkable from the fact that the Chaldeans boasted of their literature and science, and deemed all other nations to be barbarians; their superiority, which thus so greatly attracted the royal favour, being certainly from the Lord, who exalts and depresses according to His own good pleasure, and to subserve the purposes of His universal government. Keil observes that Daniel needed to be deeply versed in the Chaldean wisdom, as formerly Moses was in the wisdom of Egypt (Acts 7:22), so as to be able to put to shame the wisdom of this world by the “hidden wisdom” of God. Gaussen notices that four benefits were bestowed by God on these faithful youths as a recompense for their fidelity: knowledge, skill in all learning, wisdom in the conduct of themselves, and, in the case of Daniel at least, something supernatural, prophetic gifts, a miraculous knowledge of the secrets of the Lord. Matthew Henry quaintly remarks that the king was soon aware that a little of their divinity was preferable to a great deal of the divinations he had been used to.

[26] “And Daniel continued even unto the first year of King Cyrus.” Hengstenberg remarks that the author considers it superfluous to describe more precisely the event which distinguished the “first year of Cyrus; “he takes it for granted that all his readers would of themselves remember it. He must, therefore, have written as a cotemporary for cotemporaries; a confirmation of the genuineness of the book. The year referred to, 536 b.c., exactly seventy years after the first captives were taken from Jerusalem to Babylon, of whom Daniel was one, being then probably fourteen or sixteen years of age.

[27] That the authority of Daniel had a very great share in bringing about the liberation of the Jews is generally admitted. Bertholdt, who opposes the genuineness of the book, says that Daniel without doubt very much contributed to obtain the permission from Cyrus for the exiled Jews to return to their fatherland, and to build Jerusalem and the Temple anew. Kleinert expresses the opinion that the immediate occasion of the edict of Cyrus was the reading of the prophecies of Isaiah concerning the liberation to be granted to the Jews by a person of his name. But this supposes another more remote cause—the influence of Daniel. Daniel influenced Cyrus to take the step partly by his great credit with the monarch, resulting from all the preceding miraculous events, even those which had occurred under the reign of the Chaldeans, partly by his laying before him the prophecies of Isaiah concerning him, which he attested with his own authority.—Hengstenberg.

1. Faith IN God and fidelity TO God sure to be rewarded. “They trusted and were not confounded.” “They shall not be ashamed that wait for me.” “Them that honour me I will honour.” God is a good paymaster, says Kitto; give what we may to Him of faith, or work, or trust, or love, or zeal, He gives back again with large interest. Trust in man or self may disappoint; trust in God never. “Better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.” “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall; but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:30-31). The trust reposed in God by these four youths, honoured by the blessing received from God on all their undertakings and pursuits.

2. Health and vigour often the result of God’s blessing on the humblest fare. Pulse and water, says Matthew Henry, shall be the most nourishing food, if God speak the word. The coarsest food with the divine blessing more conducive to health and good liking than the choicest diet without it. A natural connection with godliness and good looks not to be forgotten. Godliness promotes temperance, temperance health, and health a good complexion. Peace with God brings peace of conscience, serenity of mind, and sweetness of temper; and these the most certain means of bringing sweetness of countenance. One of the promises made to godliness, or godlikeness which is love—“The Lord shall make fat thy bones” (Isaiah 58:11). “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” A truly and abidingly merry heart the result of peace with God, trust in God, and obedience to God.

3. The divine blessing the best help to successful study. A sound intelligent mind as well as a sound and healthful body acknowledged even by the heathen to be given by the deity, and to be sought in prayer. One of the favourite gods of the Hindoos is one that is worshipped as the giver of wisdom and helper in study. That study likely to be barren enough that lacks the divine blessing. Daniel’s three years’ study with that blessing better than others’ ten without it. That blessing given in answer to prayer. Hence, bene orasse est bene studuisse,—to have prayed well is to have studied well. He studies to best purpose who has a closet for prayer as well as a study for his books, and who is much in the one as well as in the other. Godliness one of the best teachers. “I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Thy precepts,”—a sentiment of which Daniel himself may have been the author. The most prayerful and conscientious usually the most proficient student. Hence the knowledge even of difficult languages so readily acquired by missionaries to the heathen, enabling them not only to preach the gospel, but to translate the Scriptures in the vernacular language. The late William C. Burn enabled to converse and preach in Chinese in a wonderfully short time after his arrival in the country. “We count it reasonable,” says Kitto, “to look to the Lord for our daily bread, and to apply to Him for aid and guidance in the trials and emergencies of life. But how few are they who seek for the same aid from Him, and feel the same dependence upon Him, in matters of the intellect,—in learning, in study, in thought! It is very reasonable and becoming,—it is very necessary,—that when we go forth to the toil and business of the day, or when our affairs present perplexing difficulties, we should cast ourselves upon the Lord’s protection, and look to Him for counsel and guidance. But is it,—can it be,—less needful that, when we sit down to write, to study, to think, we should lift up our hearts trustingly to Him?” Kitto himself an eminent example of the truth he teaches.

4. True piety the frequent path to worldly promotion. “Length of days is in her right hand, and in her left hand riches and honour.” Daniel in Babylon and Joseph in Egypt distinguished examples. Worldly honour and advancement in God’s hand. “Promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south: but God is judge; He putteth down one and setteth up another” (Psalms 75:6-7). God promotes His servants in the world as He sees to be most for His own glory and the good of themselves and others. Such promotion often a natural consequence of true piety. Godliness, even on natural grounds, “profitable unto all things.” Makes a man more faithful, conscientious, truthful, honest, unselfish; hence more trustworthy and reliable. True piety connected with the exercise of thought; hence tends to make a man intelligent and prudent, even though poorly educated. Makes him acquainted with the best and most elevating book, the Bible; and gives him the best and most efficient teacher, the Holy Spirit. Hence a man with true godliness, though less gifted by nature and providence, more likely to acquire advancement in the world than a man more highly gifted without it.

5. God’s purposes and promises sure of fulfilment. Means for accomplishing divine purposes never wanting. Daniel’s good appearance, proficiency in study, and superior intelligence, with their result, his elevation at court, part of the means for accomplishing the divine purpose and promise in regard to Israel’s restoration. The same true of Daniel’s longevity. His life extended to about ninety years, in order to accomplish the purpose for which God had raised him up and sent him an exile to Babylon. His influence with Cyrus to be the principal means of leading that monarch, in the very first year of his reign, to liberate the Jewish captives, then under his dominion. An easy thing with God to make slaves and exiles, like Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon, his honoured instruments in accomplishing His designs in reference to His people, His kingdom, and the world. “I will work, and who shall let it?”

6. A happy issue given to a believer out of all his troubles. Believers have troubles promised to them, but with the troubles a joyous deliverance out of them. The angel “that redeemed Jacob from all evil” still lives, and does the same for all Jacob’s faithful children. With the godly, the end better than the beginning. “Always better on before.” Their latter end peace, whatever their previous experience. Those who mourn with Zion in her sorrows sometimes spared to rejoice with her in her joys. Daniel, after all his sorrow for his people, spared to see the promise made by Jeremiah fulfilled,—to see, at least in its beginning, “the good of Jerusalem and peace upon Israel.” “Weeping may endure for a night; joy cometh in the morning.”

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Daniel 1". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/daniel-1.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.