DANIEL CHAPTER 1.
The Early History of Daniel.
DANIEL AND HIS FRIENDS BROUGHT TO BABYLON. — V. 1. In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, cp. 2 Kings 24, 1; 2 Chron. 36, 6. 7, came Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, unto Jerusalem, and besieged it. This account, which has been declared to be untrue by unbelieving Bible critics, is abundantly supported and verified by secular accounts, as recent investigations have shown; for even if Nabopolassar was king of Babylon at the beginning of this year, his death took place while Nebuchadnezzar was in the midst of his expedition against Jerusalem, and so the latter was king in fact before the city was taken. 2) V. 2. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim, king of Judah, into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God, the rest being taken in later expeditions, 2 Kings 25, which he carried into the land of Shinar, the ancient name for Babylonia, to the house of his god, the temple of Bel, one of the chief deities of Babylon; and he brought the vessels into the treasure-house of his god, the usual storage-place of vessels made of precious metals. The object of this expedition was merely to make Jerusalem and Judah tributary to the king of Babylon. Later expeditions increased the power of the world empire over Jerusalem, until it was finally subjugated and destroyed, some twenty years later. V. 3. And the king spake unto Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, the chief of all the officers of the court, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, of those who had been taken captive to Babylon, and of the king's seed and of the princes, 2 Kings 20, 17. 18, v. 4. children, young men of the middle adolescent period, between the ages of sixteen and twenty, in whom was no blemish, that is, no physical defect, so that they would be faultlessly handsome, but well favored, this being considered essential among Oriental nations in the case of those destined for court service, and skilful in all wisdom, with the evident talent to acquire knowledge and ability rapidly, and cunning in knowledge and understanding science, that is, with good, sound judgment and common sense in applying the knowledge which they possessed and gained, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace, to become accustomed to the ways and manners of a king's court, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans, that of the learned classes of the Babylonian people. Their course of study would thus comprise all that was taught in the highest schools of the empire, and their training would be that of the noblest youths of the empire. V. 5. And the king appointed them, namely, for those who were to be selected, a daily provision of the king's meat, of the food which was served on his own tables, and of the wine which he drank, literally, "of the wine of his drinking," or "banqueting," so nourishing them three years, their education and their physical development going hand in hand, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king, fully equipped for his service as courtiers and advisers, or in whatever capacity he might choose to use them. V. 6. Now, among these, among the youths selected in accordance with this royal order, were of the children of Judah, of the most prominent tribe of the Jewish people, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, v. 7. unto whom the prince of the eunuchs, as being in charge of this entire experiment, gave names; for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar, and to Hananiah of Shadrach, and to Mishael of Meshach, and to Azariah of Abed-nego. “The changing of names as a sign of entrance into the condition of subjection to a ruler is a frequently attested custom of Oriental and classical antiquity." It is significant that all these names had definite meanings, a fact which it might be well for Christian parents to remember as they bring their children to Christ, their merciful King, in Holy Baptism. The giving of meaningless and heathen names ought certainly to be discouraged in all Christian congregations.
DANIEL FAITHFUL TO HIS RELIGIOUS CONVICTIONS. — V. 8. But Daniel purposed in his heart, definitely made up his mind, that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat nor with the wine which he drank, chiefly because the heathen had the custom of consecrating their food and, in fact, their entire meals by offering a portion to their gods, cp. 1 Cor. 10, 18-20; therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. Daniel's resolution to refrain from the king's food thus was due to the fact that he had the proper spiritual understanding of the Law, that he desired to be obedient to its spirit as well as to its letter. V. 9. Now, God, whose kind providence is brought out throughout the narrative, had brought Daniel into favor and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs, so that the latter was favorably disposed toward Daniel, was ready to grant him any reasonable request from the outset. V. 10. And the prince of the eunuchs, to whom Daniel promptly presented his petition, said unto Daniel, as he gave evidence of the favorable mental attitude which he had toward the Jewish youth, I fear my lord, the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink, by a definite command; for why should he see your faces worse liking, of a meager and emaciated appearance, in a worse condition, than the children which are of your sort? The question has the meaning of a most emphatic denial: He must not see you in that condition. Then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king, that is, the king held his life as a pledge for the faithful fulfillment of his commandment concerning the training of the Jewish youths. V. 11. Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, the official who was their immediate superior during the course of their training, v. 12. Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days, making an experiment in their case; and let them give us pulse to eat and water to drink, the simplest kind of vegetable food with water, all luxuries in the line of food being omitted in their diet. V. 13. Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, in a careful examination of their physical condition, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king's meat, making a comparison between these four and the youths who complied with the king's order concerning their diet; and as thou seest, according to the result of the observations made after the period, deal with thy servants, the test determining the matter once for all. V. 14. So he consented to them in this matter and proved them ten days, making the experiment in accordance with their petition. V. 15. And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh, they were clearer-eyed and in better condition in every way, than all the children, or youths, which did eat the portion of the king's meat. V. 16. Thus Melzar, who evidently was in charge of the king's kitchen, took away the portion of their meat and the wine that they should drink, he no longer set it aside for their diet; and gave them pulse, vegetables, especially legumes. V. 17. As for these four children, God, who thus rewarded their faithfulness, gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom, so that they mastered the Chaldean literature and scientific knowledge; and Daniel, in addition to these accomplishments, had understanding in all visions and dreams, this being clearly a miraculous gift granted by God for a special purpose and not identical with the gift of prophecy. V. 18. Now, at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, that is, at the end of the three-year period originally fixed, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar, so that all the Jewish youths were presented for inspection and examination. V. 19. And the king communed with them, examining them in all the branches which they had studied; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, none of the others equaled them either in physical beauty or in mental excellencies; therefore stood they before the king, they entered the royal service, they were given a position of importance at the royal court. V. 20. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding that the king enquired of them, namely, at the general examination, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers, the most learned men and those who practiced occult arts, that were in all his realm. V. 21. And Daniel continued, he held positions at court, he lived in Babylonian court circles, even unto the first year of King Cyrus. If God's children are faithful in their adherence to His Word and commandments, He often rewards them even in this life by giving them positions of wealth and influence in the world.