A Commentary on Daniel Chapter 1
Trail by Food and Wisdom – 606 BC
INTRODUCTION TO DANIEL CHAPTER 1
God had sent prophet after prophet with stern warnings for Israel and Judea to reform but they were stiff necked and rebellious, so God chose a heathen nation to carry out his orders, namely, seventy years of captivity. About ninety percent of the population was either killed by war or massacred by the Babylonians and only those who were skilled or strong enough for hard labor were taken into slavery. The Babylonians captured Jerusalem and carried away civilians as war captivities and not one was ever released. Among the captivities was a young man by the name of Daniel. This chapter will tell us how he rose from a captive slave to a high government official in both kingdoms. For the next three years Daniel and his three companions will be oriented into the Babylonian culture and religion. They learn the language of the king’s court and will become servants in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar. Throughout the book you will see that God will bring them down and exalt the God of Israel.
EXPOSITION TO DANIEL CHAPTER 1
1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it.
In the year of 606 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem with his war machine. Babylon dates back to the time of Nimrod, and Genesis eleven gives us the story of the tower of Babel where the languages derived. This place was called Babel because people began to talk in different languages and it sounded like babbling, hence the word Babel. Babylon, the Greek form of BABEL; Semitic form Babilu, meaning “The Gate of God.” In the Assyrian tablets it means “The city of the dispersion of the tribes.” It stood on the Euphrates, about 200 miles above its junction with the Tigris, which flowed through its midst and divided it into two almost equal parts. This city gradually grew in extent and grandeur, but in time it became subject to Assyria. On the fall of Nineveh (B.C. 606) it threw off the Assyrian yoke, and became the capital of the growing Babylonian empire. Under Nebuchadnezzar it became one of the most splendid cities of the ancient world. After passing through various vicissitudes the city was occupied by Cyrus, “king of Elam,” B.C. 538, who issued a decree permitting the Jews to return to their own land (Ezra 1). It then ceased to be the capital of an Empire. During its decline it was again and again visited by hostile armies, till its inhabitants were all driven from their homes, and the city became completely desolate.
On the west bank of the Euphrates, about 50 miles south of Bagdad, there is found a series of artificial mounds of vast extent. These are the ruins of this once famous proud city. These ruins are principally (1) the great mound called Babel by the Arabs. This was probably the noted Temple of Belus, which was a pyramid about 480 feet high. (2) The Kasr (i.e., “the palace”). This was the great palace of Nebuchadnezzar. It is almost a square, each side of which is about 700 feet long. The little town of Hillah, near the site of Babylon, is built almost wholly of bricks taken from this single mound. (3) A lofty mound, on the summit of which stands a modern tomb called Amran ibn-Ali. This is probably the most ancient portion of the city’s remains. Where the ruins of the famous hanging-gardens, or perhaps of some royal palace. The utter desolation of the city once called “The glory of kingdoms” (Isaiah 13:19) was foretold by the prophets (Isaiah 13:4-22; Jeremiah 25:12; 50:2, 3; Daniel 2:31-38. This city and its whole empire were taken by the Persians under Cyrus; the Persians were subdued by the Macedonians, and the Macedonians by the Romans; so that Rome succeeded to the power of old Babylon. And it was her method to adopt the worship of the false deities she had conquered; so that by her own act she became the heiress and successor of all the Babylonian idolatry, and of all that was introduced into it by the immediate successors of Babylon, and consequently of all the idolatry of the earth.” Rome, or “mystical Babylon,” is “that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth” Rev. 17:18
In his days Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant three years: then he turned and rebelled against him. II Kings 24:1
After three years of servitude to the Babylonians Jehoiakim decided to throw of the yoke, but nebuchadnezzar would have none of this—so he invaded Judah again and burned the city.
The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, that was the first year of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon; The which Jeremiah the prophet spake unto all the people of Judah, and to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, From the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, even unto this day, that is the three and twentieth year, the word of the LORD hath come unto me, and I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye have not hearkened. And the LORD hath sent unto you all his servants the prophets, rising early and sending them; but ye have not hearkened, nor inclined your ear to hear. They said, Turn ye again now every one from his evil way, and from the evil of your doings, and dwell in the land that the LORD hath given unto you and to your fathers for ever and ever: And go not after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, and provoke me not to anger with the works of your hands; and I will do you no hurt. Yet ye have not hearkened unto me, saith the LORD; that ye might provoke me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt. Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Because ye have not heard my words, Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the LORD, and Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will bring them against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof, and against all these nations round about, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and an hissing, and perpetual desolations. Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones, and the light of the candle. And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. Jer. 25:1-11
Zedekiah rebelled against Babylon and was captured, all the nobles slain, his children massacred, he was bound in chains, his eyes gouged out with a dagger and the sockets were cauterized with a hot iron poker. They manacled him like a slave, iron rings were forged around the ankles and linked together by a six inch chain, and then a tight chain was placed around the waist, this was attached by a third chain in such a way that the prisoner could not run away. Once they arrived in Babylon they knew that if they tried to escape it would result in execution. So, for 70 years they lived and died in a foreign land. No one ever returned home from the exile.
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.
Jehoiakim was permitted to remain at Jerusalem, though tributary to the King of Babylon. Note that the “Lord gave” Jehoiakim into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. God’s reason for destroying Jerusalem is told in the following quotes of scripture.
And it shall come to pass, if ye diligently hearken unto me, saith the LORD, to bring in no burden through the gates of this city on the sabbath day, but hallow the sabbath day, to do no work therein; Then shall there enter into the gates of this city kings and princes sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they, and their princes, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: and this city shall remain for ever. And they shall come from the cities of Judah, and from the places about Jerusalem, and from the land of Benjamin, and from the plain, and from the mountains, and from the south, bringing burnt offerings, and sacrifices, and meat offerings, and incense, and bringing sacrifices of praise, unto the house of the LORD. But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the Sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched. Jer. 17:24-27
At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came against the city, and his servants did besiege it. And Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he, and his mother, and his servants, and his princes, and his officers: and the king of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his reign. And he carried out thence all the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king’s house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the LORD, as the LORD had said. And he carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land. And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon, and the king’s mother, and the king’s wives, and his officers, and the mighty of the land, those carried he into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon. And all the men of might, even seven thousand, and craftsmen and smiths a thousand, all that were strong and apt for war, even them the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon. And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah his father’s brother king in his stead, and changed his name to Zedekiah. Zedekiah was twenty and one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that Jehoiakim had done. For through the anger of the LORD it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, until he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon. II Kings 24:10-20
He carried part of the vessels to his trophy house in Babylon on the first invasion. During the second invasion the remaining vessels were carried away. They were on display in the temple of Belus, and placed in the treasure house or as we would call it “the trophy room.”
Jehoiakim was twenty and five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem: and he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD his God. Nebuchadnezzar also carried of the vessels of the house of the LORD to Babylon, and put them in his temple at Babylon. 2 Ch. 36:5-7
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, and of the princes;
Ashpenez was over all the servants in the palace. He was master of the eunuchs.
Then came Isaiah the prophet unto king Hezekiah, and said unto him, What said these men? and from whence came they unto thee? And Hezekiah said, they are come from a far country, even from Babylon. And he said, What have they seen in thine house? And Hezekiah answered, All the things that are in mine house have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shewed them. And Isaiah said unto Hezekiah, Hear the word of the LORD. Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day, shall be carried into Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD. And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon. Then said Hezekiah unto Isaiah, Good is the word of the LORD which thou hast spoken. And he said, Is it not good, if peace and truth be in my days? 2 Ki. 20:14-19
There is no doubt that the prophets word was being fulfilled at that very moment. Daniel and his three friends were of the King’s seed. But they were castrated so that there would be no more of their seed. The four young men are castrated They are incapable of marriage or producing children because they are impotent. Their testicles are removed from the scrotum with no sterilized instruments and no anesthesia. It was brutal and inhumane but after all they did not have to answer to the Geneva Convention regarding war crimes. The Catholic Church practiced the same procedure on altar boys used in the choir during the Middle Ages in order to retain their tenor voice.
4 Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful 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.
The young men were strong, healthy and good looking. The king institutes a wise policy of using these young men in his kingdom. It appears that the dialect taught to the four Hebrews was the ancient Cushite language used for scientific and religious purposes. Thus, no one really knew this dialect except the learned, namely, the priests, magicians, and astrologers. Three years later they have passed all the grades with a 4.0. Now they are equipped and endowed with knowledge and wisdom. No doubt that they were child prodigies.
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.
They are the only ones of the exile that are so privileged. The law of Moses forbade the eating of unclean meats.
Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, These are the beasts which ye shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth. Lev. 11:2
Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: as the camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. Lev. 11:4
These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat. Lev. 11:9
And these are they which ye shall have in abomination among the fowls; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray,And the vulture, and the kite after his kind; Lev. 11:13-14
These also shall be unclean unto you among the creeping things that creep upon the earth; the weasel, and the mouse, and the tortoise after his kind, Lev. 11:29
That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well. Acts15:29
6 Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah:
These four young men were probably 18 to 20 years old.
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.
Aspenaz probably had plenty of authority and therefore could rename the four Hebrews. He changes their names but could not change their character. Daniel’s name meant “Judge of God” now he is called Belshazzer “Prince of bel.” Hananiah’s name meant “gift of the Lord” now he is called “Shadrack-servant of the moon god.” Mishael’s name meant “who is what God is” now he is called Meshack “servant of the sun god by that name.” Azariah’s name meant “whom Jehovah helps” now his name is Abed-nego “Servant of Nebo.”
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.
Daniel could make friends easily and was skilled in the ability to handle a stressful situation. He kept everything smooth and pleasant, he had the ability to get things done.
9 Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.
Our “God” took a hand in the matter and made an exemption in the matter. Prince Melzar, who was in charge of the food, has now brought Daniel into his favor.
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.
We know from verses eleven and sixteen that this Prince was Melzar. He wanted Daniel to know that he was ‘sticking his neck out’ for him and that he could be endangering his position and risking his life.
11 Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,
Daniel then suggests in a diplomatic way that his request be tried.
12 Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink.
Daniel only asked for a ten-day trial. It might be asked if God could not have accomplished all this in one day, and we reply, yes: but if he had, then Melzar would have known that it was not the diet. Daniel knew if he requested a vegetable diet that he would not be eating anything or drinking wine that had been offered to idols.
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.
Daniel was willing to let Melzar make the decision on who looked the best in a trial period of ten days.
14 So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days.
The results would be at the end of ten days, and they were overwhelming.
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.
Ten days later Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego Looked healthier and better nourished than others. Although all the children of Judea had to share in the captivity it is a well-established fact that he favored these who trusted in God.
When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. Isa. 43:2
God didn’t promise the faithful that they wouldn’t pass thru the waters or fire but rather that we would be with them. As he says in Isa. 43:5. “Fear not: for I am with thee.”
16 Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.
Melzar put it to the test. I expect that he kept a close tab on the results.
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.
The scripture says God gave the four children “knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom,” This is an example where God gives one man, Daniel, special favor above the others. However, this verse says that God gave Daniel a bonus “and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.” So you see, God did something extra for Daniel.
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.
The time has arrived and Melzar, who is the Prince of the Eunuchs, brings Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego into the throne room to be debriefed. They are proficient in literature and science and the arts.
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.
It has been three years of hard study, now it is time for the review. So Nebuchadezzar will examine them, not only for their looks, but also for learning. The king was impressed and they were given jobs as attendants before the king.
20 And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.
Their knowledge surpassed their teachers. Gibbons who wrote “Decline and fall of the Roman Empire,” had read more books and had a greater knowledge of history than any professor at Oxford.
21 And Daniel continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus.
This verse declares that Daniel lived to see the end of captivity. Cyrus was the ruler of Persia and conquered Babylon.