Sunday Sermons

Sunday Sermons

Daniel, Chapter 1





The name Daniel means, “God is Judge” or “judge who pronounces judgment in the name of God”.  Little is known of Daniel’s family background.  From the testimony of his contemporaries he was known for his righteousness (Ezekiel 14:14,20) and his wisdom 28:3).  He is mentioned in these passages with Noah and Job, who were historical people, so Daniel was also a historical person.  Compare with what the Hebrew writer says in Hebrews 11:33 “shut the mouths of lions”.  Daniel was born into the royal family (Daniel 1:3,6).  He was physically attractive and mentally sharp (1:4).  He lived at least until the third year of Cyrus, that is, until 536 B.C. (10:1).  Therefore, he must have been a young man when Nebuchadnezzar took him captive in 605 B.C. (1:4).  If he were 16 when captured, he was 85 in Cyrus’ third year.  Daniel is the writer of this book, for Daniel names himself (speaking in the first person) as one receiving the revelations (8:1; 9:2), and he is ordered to preserve the book in which these words are found(12:4).  Added to this, Jesus placed His stamp of approval on Daniel’s status as a prophet, “which was spoken through Daniel the prophet” (Matthew 24:15), and quotes from the book of Daniel assigning Daniel as the author (Matthew 24:15; Daniel 9:27; 11:31).   The book is very unified, for example the temple vessels are carried into Babylon in chapter 1 and they will become an issue in chapter 5.  We are told that Daniel and his companions gain places of importance before the king and this helps explain the later animosity of their opponents.  We are told that Daniel was there when the Medo-Persians arrived and this prepares us for his confrontation with the lions.   The fact that manuscript fragments from the book of Daniel were found in Qumran, written perhaps in the second century B.C., preclude the notion that Daniel was written in 165 B.C., as many critics suggest.  But the motivation behind such critics is unbelief, for they do not believe in predictive prophecy, which means that they do not believe in an omniscient and all-powerful God.


Purposes of the Book


The book demonstrates Daniel and his friend’s personal devotion to God in very difficult circumstances.  Basically four teenage boys are taken over 1000 miles into a distant empire and there the attempt is made to systematically brainwash them and destroy their faith, and instead of weakening, they refuse to compromise, even upon the pain of death (Daniel 3).  And 70 years later, Daniel is still faithful (chapter 6)!    The book also emphasizes God’s complete control over even the most power nations.  He establishes kings and removes them.  It was this great truth that Nebuchadnezzar came to understand (Daniel 4:35).  The book also unfolds future history after the captivity and the empires that will follow the Babylonian empire, and the time when the church will be established (2:36-44).  The book demonstrates how God protected His people even when they were in captivity. 




The book of Daniel is bilingual.  From 2:4 to 7:28 it is written in Aramaic; the rest is Hebrew.  The comments between 2:4 and 7:28 one primarily designed to teach the world powers of those days a lesson, and this may be the reason that it was written in the language which was the world language of the time.  


Chapter 1


1:1 In the year 605 B.C., the third year of the Judean king Jehoiakim, Nebuchadnezzar came and besieged Jerusalem.  Nothing is said about him sacking or destroying the city, this will not be done until 586 B.C. (2 Chronicles 36:17-19).  Jeremiah says that Nebuchadnezzar came in the fourth year of Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 25:1); this is not a contradiction, because the Judeans and Babylonians had a different calendar and numbered the years of kings differently.  Jehoiakim was the 17th king of Judah and eldest son of Josiah (2 Chronicles 36:2,5).  This was the king who had cut up Jeremiah’s prophecy in Jeremiah 36. 


1:2  “And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand”:  This phrase sets the tone for the book.  Here we have a clear reference to the power of God and His sovereignty over all the nations.  No one is victorious unless it is “given” to him. None is a ruler unless God “gives” to him the kingdom (2:37).  It reminds Jewish readers that Jerusalem did not fall because God was weak, but because God’s people had sinned and He was punishing them.  God allows His temple to be plundered and some vessels removed and taken to Babylon.  “I’m reminded of much earlier days when the Philistines had victory over Israel (See 1 Samuel 4-6).  They took captive the ark of God but discovered to their dismay that they had a ‘tiger by the tail’.  Belshazzar will have a similar experience in chapter 5” (Daniel, McGuiggan, p. 29).  The land of “Shinar” was a very old name for this part of the world (Genesis 10:10; 11:2; 14:1,9). 


1:3  “Ashpenaz”:  This name held a very influential position (1:7-11,18).  It is not clear whether the word for “official” means eunuch or simply a courtier or court officer.   Ashpenaz himself might not have been a literal eunuch seeing that Joseph’s master at the court of Pharaoh is called by the same Hebrew word and yet was married (Genesis 37:36; 38:1-7).  It may also be assumed that Daniel would resist being made a eunuch with as much forcefulness as he did the “king’s dainties” since the Law of Moses prohibited a eunuch to enter the congregation of Israel (Deut. 23:1).  The removal of the royalty and the nobility had a two-fold purpose.  It was to weaken the conquered nation and to strengthen the conquering people. 


1:4 these are the kings own specifications.  They must come from neither the royal family (a descendant of David) or from the nobility (1:3).  They must have no physical blemish or infirmity.  They must be physically handsome and be mentally sharp.  In ancient times (and even today), the outward appearance was thought to manifest an inner quality.  “Showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom”:  The ability to apply themselves to Chaldean and not merely Jewish subjects of wisdom.  “Endowed with understanding”: Already having a broad range of knowledge.  “Discerning knowledge”:  Perception, discernment, and the ability to apply what they have learned.  “Ability for serving in the king’s court”:  The bodily and mental fitness to stand in the presence of the king, grace his court, and give him wise advice.  “To teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans”:  They must now learn the language and culture of the people among whom they now dwelt.  They are to undergo an intensive three-year course of training.  That educational program probably included a study of agriculture, architecture, astrology, astronomy, law, mathematics, and the difficult Akkadian language.  The Babylonians had inherited the sexagesimal system from the ancient Sumerians.  This system of numbering by sixties is still in use, i.e., sixty seconds in a minute, sixty minutes in an hour, and 360 degrees in a circle.  Clay tablets have been found showing a common familiarity with measurement of the area of rectangles and right and isosceles triangles.  An amazing knowledge of algebra is also shown in Babylonian literature, tablets of squares, square roots, cubes and cube roots.   We need to be impressed that all this learning does not corrupt Daniel or go to his head (1:8).  He is attending the most prestigious university of his time and yet he does not lose his faith and neither does he begin to look down upon the Scriptures. 


1:5  “A daily ration”:  It was customary for royalty to support its advisors and officers from the royal income (1 Kings 4:22-23). Such meals were impressive and included the finest that the empire could offer.  The term “choice food” or “dainties” probably refers to foods in which the king could afford to indulge, luxurious, costly, and rare delicacies.  By association with this kind of diet they would be exposed to a subtle kind of moral weakening, that is, the pampering of the flesh that can lead to the lowering of our defenses against temptation (Proverbs 23:1-3).  The expression, “put a knife to your throat”, means to curb your appetite or control yourself (like “bite your tongue”).  “What you say and do at a banquet or elegant dinner tells others what kind of person you are.  The ruler who hosts a dinner has a sharp eye on his guests.  Some are so awed by the elegant surroundings and rich array of food that they will probably miss out on the real purpose of the evening.  Others will overeat, thereby revealing greed and overindulgence.  Wise men, however, will eat with moderation and restraint, constantly aware of what the host is asking of them”(Alden pp. 167-168).   The food at such a banquet is called “deceptive”, because the ruler isn’t simply hosting a party.  Nothing is free, and the ruler is probably wanting something, whether it is information or a favor.  “The banquet may be a buttering-up occasion” (Bible Knowledge Comm. p. 956).   “The rich do not give away their favors for free.  They want something in return, and it is generally much more than what they have invested” (Garrett p. 195).  The verse serves as a warning to those who long to be around the rich and powerful.  It is a reminder that the stakes can be very high in such a crowd and the games that they play can be very dangerous.


1:6-7 How many were selected for this very special course of training we cannot say, four are mentioned as coming from “the children of Judah”.  The name Daniel means, “my judge is God”.  Hananiah meant, “gracious is Yahweh”.  Mishael meant “who is He that is God?”  Azariah meant, “God hath helped”.  All the names are of a kind that might in evil days be given to children of godly parents.  New names are now given to these young men, “Belteshazzar” means “protect his life”, “Shadrach” means “command of Aku” (Aku being the moon-god), “Meshach” means “who is what Aku is?”  And “Abed-nego” means “servant of Nebo”, another Babylonian god.  The change of name involved the idea that the god of those whom bestowed the new name was to be honored rather than the god of the vanquished.  No doubt the purpose was to so completely assimilate these young men into the Babylonian culture that they would become, for all practical purposes, Babylonians and disassociate themselves completely from the Hebrew ways, even from their God. 


1:8  “But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food”:  Daniel could accept the new teaching, because he could filter it (Hebrews 5:12-14; 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22; 1 Timothy 6:20), and the new languages because truth is truth in any language.  He could accept the name change, because you cannot control what people from call you and he still knew that he was Daniel.  The matter of eating from the king’s table was another problem, seeing that many of these foods probably were violations of the Jewish food laws.  1.  Instead of trying to divide up God’s laws into important and not-so-important laws, or moral verses ceremonial laws, Daniel knew that every command that God had given is important.  2.  Daniel also knew that obeying the commands of God is not legalism.  3.  Daniel knew that the way to resist temptation is to make up his mind; he knew the difference between obedience and disobedience, and that success or failure is the decision that is made in the heart.  “Has there even been anything worthwhile without purpose?  Here’s a young man away from home but he makes a purpose.  I wish to God that all our young men who are away from home would make purposes not to defile themselves”(McGuiggan p. 31).  4.  Daniel understood that disobedience defiled “himself”, that the person truly affected or hurt by disobedience is ourselves. 


1:8 “So he sought permission”:  A devotion to God’s truth can be presented in a away that is humble and respectful.  Daniel was both courteous and courageous. 


1:9  “Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander”:  God is behind the scenes working. In addition, Daniel’s courteous attitude and good example also contributed to this favor.  God not only works on the national and international level, He also works in the life of the individual.


1:10  “I am afraid”:  Give the commander of the officials this much credit; he was a very conscientious about his job.  Note the difference, this man feared Nebuchadnezzar, while Daniel feared  Nebuchadnezzar’s Lord. 


1:11-14  I am impressed that Daniel had a plan.  Often we fail because we do not have a plan.  If we are going to teach people, then we need to anticipate their objections (1 Peter 3:15).  Such planning will come naturally when we, like Daniel, take our service to God seriously.  Since the law of Moses did not name any unclean vegetables, Daniel could safely eat all the Babylonian vegetables he wanted.  Note that God’s children do not mind being “tested”.  “When we know our ground, we are not only willing to be tested we are eager for the trial” (McGuiggian p. 32).  The word for “vegetables” here involves more than such things as peas and beans and would include wheat and other grains so that bread would also be part of their diet. 


1:15-16  We need to note that Daniel is not trying to live on “bread and water”, but rather, the Babylonian kitchen certainly had access to many “vegetables” and vegetable dishes. 


1:17  “God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom”:  The first part of this verse may mean that God gave such knowledge to these men because they applied themselves, and they were providentially given the best teachers.  The second part of the verse, “Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams”, clearly refers to a miraculous giving by God.  Other people also knew that God had given such knowledge to Daniel (Ezekiel 14:14,20).  There are times when God gives something to someone directly and miraculously and there are other times that something is given by God through natural means or providence (Daniel 1:2).


1:18-20 “Ten times better”:  Daniel and his friends, when questioned or critiqued by the king, give far better answers than the king’s own personal advisors.  Some complain, “If the king thought them better than his wise men, why did not he call on them when he had the disturbing dream of chapter 2?”  Yet, a student or apprentice may show superior knowledge in some area over a teacher or craftsman and yet still be the second choice when it comes to obtaining advice and aid.  The terms “magicians” and ”conjurers” refers to those who practiced the arts of divination, which includes astrologers, palm-readers, and so on.  Be impressed that learning that is applied with God’s truth is 10 times better in knowledge, discernment, and wisdom than the practices and theories of unbelievers.  Daniel and his friends had the same basic learning as the magicians and conjurers. What made the difference was that Daniel and his friends had monitored their learning with the Scriptures, that is, what did not conflict with the Scriptures was embraced, what did, was rejected.  God’s truth gave them the ability to rightly apply what they were learning. 


1:21  Daniel’s service in the Babylonian royal court continued until the Babylonian Empire came to an end in 539 B.C.  Chapter 10:1 tells us that Daniel received a vision in the third year of Cyrus.  This passage informs us that Daniel survived on into the new empire.  When the kingdom changed hands the man who had prophesized such a change was there! 


Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017