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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary
Daniel 1

 

 

Verses 1-21

THREE TIMES DID Nebuchadnezzar and his servants come up against Jerusalem, when the three kings, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah, fell before him. On the first of these occasions, Daniel and his three friends were carried captive amongst a number of youths of royal or princely birth, who were considered to be of exceptional intellectual capacity — the pick of the nation in wisdom and understanding. The astute Babylonian king intended to fortify his position with the cleverest men of conquered nations, working them into the army of magicians — the men who trafficked with demon powers, and gave him guidance by their occult practices.

So Daniel and his friends were to go through a kind of college course that would make them to be 'cunning in knowledge, and understanding science;' the 'science' being doubtless connected with those 'curious arts,' mentioned in Acts 19:19, as practised in Ephesus at a later date. If the great Babylonian monarch could increase the number of men, who could give him supernatural wisdom and guidance, his power would be further increased.

Hence their food and drink was to be of a special and prescribed course from the king's table: the very best of the land, and doubtless of a kind that was connected with idolatrous rites. And further, by the prince of the eunuchs each had his original name discarded. They had come under new ownership, and this was signalized by new names of idolatrous origin and significance. Such was the position in which Daniel and his companions found themselves.

Reaching Daniel 1:8, our thoughts are arrested by the words, 'But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself.' A great statement this! Had he not so purposed. no Book of Daniel would have found a place in our Bibles. Notice in the first place that the Spirit of God in the record disowns his heathen name, and uses his original one, which means, 'God is Judge.' The man evidently lived in the light of his name, and so we notice, in the second place, that he purposed, not in his head, the seat of intelligence, but rather in his heart, the seat of affection Godward, before whom he walked. This is the kind of purpose that stands firm and does not vary.

Then, in the third place, notice that it was defilement that he was determined to avoid. From a material stand-point the food was pure without a doubt. It was the spiritual defilement he had in view, since Babylon was the original hot-bed of idolatry. His three friends are not mentioned in verse Daniel 1:8, but if we turn to Daniel 3:18, we discover they were entirely of the same mind and purpose as he was.

Let us take very seriously to heart the lesson that confronts us here. The secret of Daniel's remarkable power was his purposed separation from the evil world that surrounded him. He knew its defiling power and he refused it. Some five centuries after his day its true character was fully and finally exposed in the cross of Christ as He Himself said, 'Now is the judgment of this world' (John 12:31). We now live in the light of this fact, and we know that it is dominated by Satan, who is 'the god of this world' (2 Corinthians 4:4); hence a purposed separation from the world is more necessary for us than it was even for Daniel.

There was with him however not only great firmness of purpose but also a wise and humble spirit in making it known. God had acted on his behalf, bringing him into favour with the prince of the eunuchs and with Melzar his subordinate, yet he did not presume on this and speak haughtily. He rather stated his desire, and presented his prayer that he and his friends might be fed on the plainest of food for ten days as a test, and on the result of this the situation should be stabilized. God was with them and as a result they were delivered from the defilement that otherwise would have been theirs.

From this incident let us learn a lesson. Separation from defilement is ever God's path for His saints, but much depends on the spirit they display as they take it. If taken in a harsh or haughty spirit, rather than a meek and lowly spirit, the testimony to others will be nullified. If our spirit in taking it is marked by, 'Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou' — the spirit that marked the Pharisees of our Lord's day — we shall be helping on the evil from which we profess to be separating ourselves. Daniel and his friends sought their separation, and maintained it, in the right spirit.

Consequently God was with them in a truly remarkable way. Not only were they fairer and fatter in their bodies, but in knowledge, skill, learning, wisdom they excelled all the others who had their portion of the king's meat; and as for Daniel, he was granted a supernatural understanding in visions and dreams, by which in those days God often made His mind known.

When tested before Nebuchadnezzar the verdict was clear. The magicians and astrologers were men who trafficked with the powers of darkness in order to possess knowledge beyond the powers of ordinary men, and compared with these the four men, taught of God, were ten times better. There is nothing surprising in this. Indeed the same thing meets us in more emphatic form in 1 Corinthians 2:1-16, where we read that the princes of this world knew nothing of God's wisdom, so much so that they 'crucified the Lord of glory.' Whereas the simplest believer, indwelt and controlled by the Spirit of God, judges, or discerns, 'all things.'

Before passing from chapter 1, we may remark that this question of food contaminated by idolatrous practices was acute among the early Christians at Corinth. They were instructed as to it in Paul's first epistle to them, 1 Corinthians 8:1-13, and 1 Corinthians 10:25-31. Meat sold in the markets or supplied in a friend's house they could eat without raising any question; but if they were definitely informed that it had been offered in sacrifice to idols, they were to have none of it. In this the Christian keeps clear of idolatrous associations just as Daniel and his friends did.

 


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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Daniel 1:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fbh/daniel-1.html. 1947.

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Friday, December 6th, 2019
the First Week of Advent
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