DANIEL - Chapter 1 Commentary

Daniel is said to have descended from the royal family of David. He was captured and taken to Babylon at a very early age, most likely middle to late teens. He was handsome and brilliant. That was exactly what the king wanted. So he captured prime young men and trained them in the Chaldean pagan ways and science. Daniel and his three friends were not the only ones taken to Babylon. However, they are the key persons in prophecy toward Christ. He was very wise. He is even referenced by Ezekiel when he told the Tyre king that he was wiser than Daniel (Ezek. 28:3). The famed non-believer historian Josephus said that God bestowed many favors on him and he was the most considerable of the prophets.

Daniel starts the book in Hebrew. He changes to Aramaic in 2:4. He then reverts back to Hebrew at the beginning of chapter 8. The chapter starts with Nebuchadnezzar's conquest of Judea into the 70 years of Jewish captivity. Daniel is brought into the king's court. Through various activities and means, he and his friends do not bow down to the king's demands on how to act, what to eat, etc.

Whenever the term "other friends of Daniel" is used, it is meant to mean Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego (the more popular Babylonian names).

Jehoiakim was the eldest son of the godly king Josiah. He was made king by Pharaoh Neco in 609 B.C. in place of Jehoiakim's younger brother. He was put into this position primarily because Neco would have no problem with Jehoiakim. He would just be a vassal king to Neco. Jehoiakim was also a poor leader, poor administrator, and a cruel non-believing man (Jer. 22:13-19). He even destroyed Jeremiah's writings, which warned him of the upcoming judgment.

Two reasons are given for the Babylonian captivity: 1) continued idolatry and 2) failure to give the land 70 sabbatical years of rest. (2 Chron. 36:14-21;
Lev. 25:2-7; 1 Kings 7:48-51; 24:13)

The first Biblical king is Nimrod. His activities centered first in Shinar (the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, ancient Babylonia) and included building the tower of Babel.

The term officials is used in the NASB; the term eunuchs is used in the KJV. The NASB considers Hebrew transliterations that include other meanings. That person and possibly others in the same catagory may have official duties and may not be actual eunuchs. The Hebrew saris can mean court officers, court officials, eunuchs, and other officers and officials. This could give us a lead into the probability that Daniel and his friends may not have been eunuchs. See Section VI for additional eunuch information. (2 Kings 20:18)

Isaiah tells Hezekiah of his offspring being taken to Babylon to be officials or eunuchs. (Isa. 39:5-7) However, Isaiah also says that God would repay any eunuch for faithfulness (Isa. 56:3-5). Note the Ethiopian eunuch helped by Phillip. (Acts 8:27)

Nebuchadnezzar, whose name means "Nebo, protect my frontier," reigned for 43 years (605-562). Sent by his father, Nabopolassar, to lead the Babylonian army against Egypt (which he defeated at Carchemish in May-June 605), he was called back home at the death of his father. Later in July he was crowned king. Thus he was not yet king of Babylon when he invaded Jerusalem in 605 (the title is used prophetically).

Daniel and his friends were chosen for perfection such as: looks, intelligence, and wisdom. They would be working in the king's service. Various subjects taught to Daniel and his friends were items like agriculture, astrology, astronomy, occult activities such as divination, mathematics, and the Akkadian language.

The phrase "language ... of the Chaldeans" refers to the Babylonian language written in ancient cuneiform. Although Aramaic was the language of the empire, literature was still written in cuneiform. The term "Chaldean" in a ethnic sense is equivalent to "Babylonian." The other use of the term refers to a class of astrologer-priests noted for their literary scholarship. In any case, the four Hebrew men were to be thoroughly trained for three intensive years for government service.

The term Chaldeans in Daniel is referring to the Babylonian sense. However, the Chaldeans probably was centered at first more north than the Mesopotamian area of Babylon. This is worthy of study in Genesis for Abraham leaving the Ur of Chaldeans.

This verse is really directing even the food that would be eaten by Daniel and his friends. However, there was a problem (see vs. 8). One custom of the kings was to order the extra food they ate to be given to the persons that attended the court needs.

This is where Daniel and his friends are identified. Their original Hebrew names are Daniel (God is my Judge), Hananiah (The Lord's beloved), Mishael (Who is as God?), and Azariah (The Lord is my help.). Daniel's friends are only known in the book of Daniel to support the power of God.

In addition to adapting to the diet and habit of the king himself, the Babylonians attempted to erase from their (Daniel and friends) minds all memory of former religious commitment. To this end, their names, all of which in some way incorporated the name of the true Hebrew God, were replaced with names containing references to the diverse gods of Babylon. Daniel became Belteshazzar (favored by Bel, a pagan god; Hananiah became Shadrach (Illumined by Rak the sun god); Mishael became Meshach (belonging to Shak, the wine goddess); Azariah became Abed-nego (Sevant of Nego, equal to Lucifer). Even though the names were pagan in nature, Daniel did not think there was any theological reason to reject the new names. The name of a person does not make the person.

This is a point of departure for Daniel. He refuses to eat the king's food, even though it was considered the finest in the land. Remember, the lives of the officials was not of deprivation. It was a life in luxury. The king was feeding them some of the finest meat and wine. The primary reason for this was his Hebrew belief in his God telling him that idol meat and other offerings to idols or other gods was not to be eaten. He would be defiling himself. Another objection was the blood in the meat (Lev. 17:10-14) because if was not bled properly (kosher). It would also have included pork, which was also forbidden (Lev. 11:7-8). Note that he was not an activist about the problem. It appears he got along very well with the commander of the officials. So he requested to be allowed to eat other food. Beside the food, the wine was also "strong drink". The Hebrew people cut their wine approximately 3 to 1. So they were not likely to become intoxicated as the pagans would. The wine was also offered to the gods.

God grants the support that would be required to NOT eat the king's food. Apparently He causes the commander to have compassion. The term "to show favor" is hesed (loyality, love) and the term "and sympathy" is rahamim (compassion). However, the commander was afraid for his life. If he allowed Daniel and his friends to eat something else and they were not looking healthy, the commander's life would be in jeopardy.

Now Daniel makes a deal with the commander. At this point, different versions use guard (NIV), Melzar (KJV), and overseer (NASB) for the leader of the servants. The term melzar appears to be the Hebrew for someone as an overseer. I have not been able to find that melzar is the proper name Melzar as it is used in the KJV. It is used twice in Daniel but only in the KJV. <

Daniel requests they be allowed to eat what he wishes. If they "deteriorate" in looks and strength, then the king's food would be eaten. Remember the food of the king was also not very healthy. It was full of blood and grease. Even today that is not good for us. The food they will eat is pulse (KJV) and water. Pulse is considered to be vegetables and grains. In most other Bibles it is translated as vegetables and grains.

Daniel wants 10 days to eat his food. This may not seem to be a very long time to prove his point. But, it was. After the 10 days, they were in better health than the other officials. So from then on, the commander allowed Daniel and his friends to eat the vegetables and grains with water.

Only God, not human wisdom, can instruct how to interpret visions and dreams accurately. God gave Daniel the gift of interpreting visions and dreams. That is about what this book of Daniel is emphasizing. So, the men grew in God and learned all the king wanted them to know.

After the 3 years, the officials were brought to Nebuchadnezzar. None of the officials measured up to the levels of knowledge of Daniel and his friends. He was very satisfied. Daniel continued in his service to the king until Cyrus took over (536 B.C.).

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