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The prophecy of Daniel opens with an account of the captivity of Israel. Daniel is among those who were carried to Babylon in the captivity. He finds favor in the sight of the keeper of the prisoners. Is permitted to abstain from the food of the Court. Is commended for his understanding.
These verses are introductory to the main subject of the Prophet's writings. He relates the circumstance of the captivity. We find a confirmation of the same, Isaiah 39:0 ; Jeremiah 52:0 . I only detain the Reader at these verses to remark the awful event of the carrying away the sacred vessels of the temple, and putting them in the house of an idol. Alas! is it not so in every instance, when from the fall of man, what was designed for the Lord's glory is abused to the service of sin?
What the immediate design of this heathenish monarch was is not said; but it is blessed to watch how the Lord over-rules it for his glory and his people's happiness. Jesus is always ordering all things to this end, whatever the designs of the Church's enemies may be. Oh! that the people of God could always keep this in view!
The change of names could, have no good design. No doubt it was to make them forget both the Lord, and their interest in Him as a covenant God. The custom in Israel, of giving names to their children, which, either by direct words, or indirect meaning; had reference to the God of their fathers, was very ancient, and, no doubt, arose from the Lord. For we find that the Lord himself gave names to his people, and sometimes changed their names upon any remarkable occasion. See Genesis 17:5-15 and Genesis 32:28 . And holy men of old were very fond of calling their children by somewhat remarkable, in order to keep in remembrance the Lord's grace or his providence. Thus in the instance before us, Daniel's name signified, a God of judgment, or God is my judge. Hananiah had two of the letters which belong to the incommunicable name of Jehovah in it: and signified the Lord of grace, or the Lord is gracious to me. Michael, conveyed in the sense of it, t he strength of God; and Azariah, a compound of Azar and JAH, implied the Lord is my help. So that the very names always carried with them a blessed allusion to the Lord God of their fathers. But, Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego, were all in allusion to the dunghill idols of Babylon. Thus Belteshazzar referred to their idol Bel; and Rack and Shack are supposed to have been idols also; and Abed or Obed, a servant of Nego, another contemptible idol of the Babylonians. For it appears that they had many which they worshipped. And indeed, when by sin man revolted from the Lord, in the unity of the divine nature, existing in a threefold character of person, as the Patriarchs adored the God of Israel; and turned from one only and true God, the transition was easily then made to many. How blessedly the Apostle speaks to this subject, 1 Corinthians 8:5-6 . I cannot forbear remarking, that the names given to the planets by philosophers, as they are called, of modern times, is but too near a kin to the conduct of Eastern manners among idolaters. And it is in my view, a sad reproach to a nation like ours, professing godliness.
Mark the grace and watchful eye of the Lord in this instance over his people, or we shall lose the chief beauty of the history. Surely, nothing but grace could have prompted young men, like Daniel and his companions, to use such an abstinence in the King's court, with all their passions about them. And nothing but the overruling of the Lord, could for a moment have prompted the mind the Prince that had the charge of the captives to listen to the voice of Daniel, at the evident hazard of incurring the displeasure of the King, who, in these countries were despotic. And nothing but the grace and blessing of the Lord upon the poor fare, could have led to the hope of such effects. For certain it is, it is contrary to the common operations of nature; a poverty of living, always must induce from mere natural causes, a poverty of countenance. But under God's blessing, what may not be expected? Let us not overlook the sweet spiritual instruction which this feeding holds forth to the Churches of Jesus. Let the Melzars of the present day suspend or take away the carnal portions of our meat and wine; Jesus will give the bread in secret; and his people, like their Lord, will have meat the world knoweth not of. This is the King's meat indeed, and sent from the King's table. And oh! what a fairness of countenance will it induce at the end of the days, making the soul glad with the light of the Lord's countenance.
Reader! when the Church of God; (which Daniel and his companions represented,) is called in to stand before the King; and Jesus himself communes with his redeemed! how fully will it be found, that there can be none like the Church in point of knowledge, skill, and wisdom: because Christ himself is made of God unto all his people: wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. Such honour have all his saints!
If we consider Daniel to have been but a youth of about fifteen when brought to Babylon, and from all his history, he could not have been younger at that time, he must have lived to a good old age; for the first year of Cyrus did not commence until the whole seventy years of the captivity had run out. Think what grace the Lord manifested to his servant. And what an honor to Daniel to be so long engaged in the Lord's service!
READER! let us both pause over this first Chapter in the history of Daniel. And let us remark in his instance the wonderful properties of distinguishing grace. Behold! how the Lord made way for him, and guided all his paths, and directed all his ways. Though carried into captivity, yet, from that very captivity, all the great events which followed in the Prophet's life took their rise.
And when we have duly pondered the history of Daniel in order to mark the progress of grace in his instance, let us see if we can discover nothing similar to the same in our own. If, peradventure, the eye which reads those lines hath been opened by sovereign grace, to discover the Lord's dealings in his own experience; he will find enough to melt his very soul into tears, in the recollection, how the Lord hath been, and always is, leading on his people, making their way to differ from others; yea, to differ from themselves, in a thousand instances before their unthinking minds were brought into the least apprehension of divine mercy towards them. What a subject of this kind doth every child of God in his history, open to view when once grace opens the book, and turns back the leaves of what is past. everyone finds cause to join in what the Prophet was commissioned to deliver? Wilt thou not from this time (saith the Lord) cry unto me; My father, thou art the guide of my youth. Jeremiah 13:4 .
Lord Jesus! give to every follower of thine grace to know thee in these things; and cause us to stand before thee in those subjects of wisdom and learning; beyond all the knowledge of worldly skill that we may discover from whom, and by whom, we derive understanding in that knowledge which maketh wise unto salvation, through the faith that is in Christ Jesus!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Daniel 1". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18