Daniel Introduction | Table of Contents | Daniel Chapter 2

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Daniel Chapter 1

A Captive in Babylon’s Royal Court

      Verse 1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.
      With a directness characteristic of the sacred writers, Daniel enters at once upon his subject. He begins his book in a simple historical style. The first six chapters, with the exception of the prophecy of chapter 2, are narrative in content. With chapter 7 we reach the prophetical part of the book.
      Siege of Jerusalem. —Like one conscious of uttering only well-known truth, he proceeds at once to state a variety of particulars by which his accuracy could be tested. The overthrow of Jerusalem recorded here was predicted by Jeremiah, and was accomplished in 606 B.C.[*] (Jeremiah 25:8-11.) Jeremiah places this captivity in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, Daniel in the third. This seemingly discrepancy is explained by the fact that Nebuchadnezzar set out on his expedition near the close of the third year of Jehoiakim, from which point Daniel reckons. But the king did not accomplish the subjugation of Jerusalem until about the ninth month of the year following, from which year Jeremiah reckons. Jehoiakim, though bound for the purpose of being taken to Babylon, humbled himself and was permitted to remain as ruler in Jerusalem, tributary to the king of Babylon.
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      This was the first time Jerusalem was taken by Nebuchadnezzar. Twice subsequently the city revolted, but was recaptured by the same king, and more severely dealt with each succeeding time. The second overthrow was during the time of Jehoiachin, son of Jehoiakim, when all the sacred vessels were either taken or destroyed, and the best of the inhabitants of were led with the king into captivity. The third was under Zedekiah, when the city endured a formidable siege. During its continuance for a year and a half, the inhabitants of the city suffered all the horrors of extreme famine. At length the garrison and the king attempted to escape from the city, but they were captured by the Chaldeans. The sons of the king were slain before his face. His eyes were put out, and he was taken to Babylon. Thus was fulfilled the prediction of Ezekiel that he should be carried to Babylon, and die there, yet he should not see the place. (Ezekiel 12:13.) The city and temple were at this time utterly destroyed, and the entire population of the country, with the exception of a few husbandmen, were carried captive to Babylon, in 586 B.C.
      Such was God’s passing testimony against sin —not that the Chaldeans were the favorites of Heaven, but that God made use of them to punish the iniquities of His people. Had the Israelites been faithful to God, and kept His Sabbath, Jerusalem would have stood forever. (Jeremiah 17:24-27.) But they departed from Him, and He abandoned them. They profaned the sacred vessels by bringing idols into the temple; therefore God allowed these vessels to be further profaned by letting them go as trophies to heathen shrines abroad.
      Hebrew Captives in Babylon. —During these days of trouble and distress upon Jerusalem, Daniel and his companions were nourished and instructed in the palace of the king of Babylon. Though captives in a strange land, they were doubtless in some respects much more favorably situated than they could have been in their native country.

      Verse 3 And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed,
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and of the princes; 4 children in whom was no blemish, but well favored, and skillful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans. 5 And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.
      Here is recorded the probable fulfillment of the judgments predicted by the prophet Isaiah to King Hezekiah more than a hundred years before. When this king had vaingloriously shown to the messengers of the king of Babylon all the treasures and holy things of his palace and kingdom, Hezekiah was told that all these good things would be carried as trophies to the city of Babylon, and that even his own children, his descendants would be taken away and be eunuchs in the palace of the king there. (2 Kings 20:14-18.)
      The word “children” as applied to these captives is not to be confined to the sense to which it is limited at the present time. It included youth also. We learn from the record that these children were already “skillful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and . . . had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace.” In other words, they had acquired a good degree of education, and their physical and mental powers were so far developed that a skillful reader of human nature could form an accurate estimate of their capabilities. They are supposed to have been about eighteen or twenty years of age.
      In the treatment which these Hebrew captives received, we see an instance of the wise policy and the liberality of the rising king, Nebuchadnezzar. Instead of choosing means for the gratification of low and base desires, as too many kings of later times have done, he chose young men to be educated in all matters pertaining to the kingdom, that he might have efficient help in administering its affairs. He appointed them daily provision of his own food and drink. Instead of the coarse fare which some would have thought good enough for captives, he offered them his own royal viands. For the space of three years
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they had all the advantages the kingdom afforded. Though captives, they were royal children, and were treated as such by the humane king of the Chaldeans.

      Verse 6 Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: 7 Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs 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 Abednego.
      Daniel and His Companions Renamed. —This change of names was probably made on account of the signification of the words. In the Hebrew, Daniel signified, “judge for God;” Hananiah, “gift of the Lord;” Mishael, “who is what God is;” and Azariah, “whom Jehovah helps.” Since these names had some reference to the true God and signified some connection with His worship, they were changed to names which had definitions linking them to the heathen divinities and worship of the Chaldeans. Thus Belteshazzar, the name given to Daniel, signified “prince of Bel;” Shadrach, “servant of Sin” (the moon god); Meshach, “who is what Aku is” (Aku being the Sumerian equivalent of Sin, the name of the moon god); and Abednego, “servant of Nebo.”

      Verse 8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. 9 Now God had brought Daniel into favor and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. 10 And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? Then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king. 11 Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. 13 Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants. 14 So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days. 15 And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat. 16 Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.
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      In this record Nebuchadnezzar appears wonderfully free from bigotry. It seems that he took no means to compel his royal captives to change their religion. Provided they had some religion, he seemed to be satisfied, whether it was the religion he professed or not. Although their names had been changed to signify some connection with heathen worship, this may have been more to avoid the use of Jewish names by the Chaldeans than to indicate any change of sentiment or practice on the part of those to whom these names were given.
      Daniel’s Diet. —Daniel purposed not to defile himself with the king’s food or with his wine. Daniel had other reasons for this course than simply the effect of such a diet upon his physical system, though he would derive great advantage in this respect from the fare he proposed to adopt. It was frequently the case that food used by the kings and princes of heathen nations, who were often the high priests of their religion, was first offered in sacrifice to idols, and the wine they used, poured out as a libation before their gods. Again, some of the flesh food used by the Chaldeans was pronounced unclean by the Jewish law. On either of these grounds Daniel could not, consistently with his religion, partake of these articles. Hence he respectfully requested the proper officer that from conscientious scruples he might not be obliged to defile himself.
      The prince of the eunuchs feared to grant Daniel’s request, since the king himself had appointed the food for Daniel and his companions. This shows the great personal interest the king took in these captives. It appears that his sincere object was to secure in them the best mental and physical development that could be attained. How different is this from the bigotry and tyranny which usually hold supreme control over the hearts of those who are clothed with absolute power. In the character of Nebuchadnezzar we shall find many things worthy of our highest admiration.
      It is interesting to note what was included in Daniel’s request for his diet. The Hebrew word {Hebrew syurz} zeroim, here
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translated “pulse,” is built on the same root as the word “seed” in the record of creation, where it mentions “every herb seeding seed,” and again, the “fruit of a tree seeding seed.” Genesis 1:29. This makes it clear enough that Daniel’s request included grains legumes, and fruits. Then, too, if we understand Genesis 9:3 correctly, the “green herb” itself must have been included in the diet requests. In other words, the menu for which Daniel asked and which he received was made up of cereals, legumes, fruits, nuts, and vegetables —a vegetarian diet of good variety, together with the universal drink for man and beast, clear water.
      The Cambridge Bible, has this note on zeroim: “vegetable food in general; there is no reason for restricting the Hebrew word used to leguminous fruits, such as beans and peas, which is what the term ‘pulse’ properly denotes.”
      Gesenius gives this definition: “Seed-herbs, greens, vegetables, i.e., vegetable food, such as was eaten in a half fast, opposed to meats and the more delicate kinds of food.”
      A ten days’ trial of this diet resulting favorably, Daniel and his companions were permitted to continue it during the whole course of their training for the duties of the palace.

      Verse 17 As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. 18 Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king. 20 And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm. 21 And Daniel continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus.
      After Three Years’ Study. —To Daniel alone seems to have been committed an understanding in visions and dreams. But the Lord’s dealing with Daniel in this respect does not prove his companions any less accepted in His sight. By their preservation in the midst of the fiery furnace they had equally good evidence of the divine favor. Daniel probably had some
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natural qualifications that peculiarly fitted him for this special work.
      The same personal interest in these individuals heretofore manifested by the king, he still continued to maintain. At the end of the three years, he called them to a personal interview. He must know for himself how they had fared, and to what proficiency they had attained. This interview also shows the king to have been a man well versed in all the arts and sciences of the Chaldeans, else he would not have been qualified to examine others in them. Recognizing merit where he saw it without respect to religion or nationality, he acknowledged them to ten times superior to any in his own land.
      It is added that Daniel “continued even unto the first year of King Cyrus.”

      [*] The date 606 B.C. is widely supported by Ussher, Hales’, and other chronologists, but more recent research by archaeologists favors the date 605. This apparently more accurate date, however, in no way affects the calculation of prophetic periods presented by the author, for it should be remembered that the Jews and other ancients counted both the first and last years of a period. —Editors.

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