Daniel 1

1 During the third year that Jehoiakim was king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and surrounded it with his army.
2 The Lord allowed Nebuchadnezzar to capture Jehoiakim king of Judah. Nebuchadnezzar also took some of the things from the Temple of God, which he carried to Babylonia and put in the temple of his gods.
3 Then King Nebuchadnezzar ordered Ashpenaz, his chief officer, to bring some of the Israelite men into his palace. He wanted them to be from important families, including the family of the king of Judah.
4 King Nebuchadnezzar wanted only young Israelite men who had nothing wrong with them. They were to be handsome and well educated, capable of learning and understanding, and able to serve in his palace. Ashpenaz was to teach them the language and writings of the Babylonians.
5 The king gave the young men a certain amount of food and wine every day, just like the food he ate. The young men were to be trained for three years, and then they would become servants of the king of Babylon.
6 Among those young men were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah from the people of Judah.
7 Ashpenaz, the chief officer, gave them Babylonian names. Daniel's new name was Belteshazzar, Hananiah's was Shadrach, Mishael's was Meshach, and Azariah's was Abednego.
8 Daniel decided not to eat the king's food or drink his wine because that would make him unclean. So he asked Ashpenaz for permission not to make himself unclean in this way.
9 God made Ashpenaz, the chief officer, want to be kind and merciful to Daniel,
10 but Ashpenaz said to Daniel, "I am afraid of my master, the king. He ordered me to give you this food and drink. If you begin to look worse than other young men your age, the king will see this. Then he will cut off my head because of you."
11 Ashpenaz had ordered a guard to watch Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
12 Daniel said to the guard, "Please give us this test for ten days: Don't give us anything but vegetables to eat and water to drink.
13 After ten days compare how we look with how the other young men look who eat the king's food. See for yourself and then decide how you want to treat us, your servants."
14 So the guard agreed to test them for ten days.
15 After ten days they looked healthier and better fed than all the young men who ate the king's food.
16 So the guard took away the king's special food and wine, feeding them vegetables instead.
17 God gave these four young men wisdom and the ability to learn many things that people had written and studied. Daniel could also understand visions and dreams.
18 At the end of the time set for them by the king, Ashpenaz brought all the young men to King Nebuchadnezzar.
19 The king talked to them and found that none of the young men were as good as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So those four young men became the king's servants.
20 Every time the king asked them about something important, they showed much wisdom and understanding. They were ten times better than all the fortune-tellers and magicians in his kingdom!
21 So Daniel continued to be the king's servant until the first year Cyrus was king.

Daniel 1 Commentary

Chapter 1

Daniel was of noble birth, if not one of the royal family of Judah. He was carried captive to Babylon in the fourth year of Jehoiachin, B. C. 606, when a youth. He was there taught the learning of the Chaldeans, and held high offices, both under the Babylonian and Persian empires. He was persecuted for his religion, but was miraculously delivered; and lived to a great age, as he must have been about ninety-four years old at the time of the last of his visions. The book of Daniel is partly historical, relating various circumstances which befel himself and the Jews, at Babylon; but is chiefly prophetical, detailing visions and prophecies which foretell numerous important events relative to the four great empires of the world, the coming and death of the Messiah, the restoration of the Jews, and the conversion of the Gentiles. Though there are considerable difficulties in explaining the prophetical meaning of some passages in this book, we always find encouragement to faith and hope, examples worthy of imitation, and something to direct our thoughts to Christ Jesus upon the cross and on his glorious throne.

The captivity of Daniel and his companions. (1-7) Their refusal to eat the king's meat. (8-16) Their improvement in wisdom. (17-21)

Verses 1-7 Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, in the first year of his reign, took Jerusalem, and carried whom and what he pleased away. From this first captivity, most think the seventy years are to be dated. It is the interest of princes to employ wise men; and it is their wisdom to find out and train up such. Nebuchadnezzar ordered that these chosen youths should be taught. All their Hebrew names had something of God in them; but to make them forget the God of their fathers, the Guide of their youth, the heathen gave them names that savoured of idolatry. It is painful to reflect how often public education tends to corrupt the principles and morals.

Verses 8-16 The interest we think we make for ourselves, we must acknowledge to be God's gift. Daniel was still firm to his religion. Whatever they called him, he still held fast the spirit of an Israelite. These youths scrupled concerning the meat, lest it should be sinful. When God's people are in Babylon they need take special care that they partake not of her sins. It is much to the praise of young people, not to covet or seek the delights of sense. Those who would excel in wisdom and piety, must learn betimes to keep the body under. Daniel avoided defiling himself with sin; and we should more fear that than any outward trouble. It is easier to keep temptation at a distance, than to resist it when near. And we cannot better improve our interest in any with whom we have found favour, than to use it to keep us from sin. People will not believe the benefit of avoiding excess, and of a spare diet, nor how much they contribute to the health of the body, unless they try. Conscientious temperance will always do more, even for the comfort of this life, than sinful indulgence.

Verses 17-21 Daniel and his fellows kept to their religion; and God rewarded them with eminence in learning. Pious young persons should endeavour to do better than their fellows in useful things; not for the praise of man, but for the honour of the gospel, and that they may be qualified for usefulness. And it is well for a country, and for the honour of a prince, when he is able to judge who are best fitted to serve him, and prefers them on that account. Let young men steadily attend to this chapter; and let all remember that God will honour those who honour him, but those who despise him shall be lightly esteemed.

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO DANIEL

This book is called, in the Vulgate Latin version, "the Prophecy of Daniel"; and in the Syriac and Arabic versions "the Prophecy of Daniel the Prophet". This Daniel was of the children of Judah, that were carried captive into Babylon with Jehoiakim; and was of princely blood, if not of the royal seed, as appears from, Da 1:3,5. Josephus {a} is express for it, that he was of the kindred and family of Zedekiah: and Saadiah Gaon {b} says he was of the seed of Hezekiah, and so fulfilled the prophecy in 2Ki 20:18. As to what the author of the "Lives of the Prophets", ascribed to Epiphanius, says {c}, that he was born in upper Bethabara, not far from Jerusalem, it is not to be depended on; or that his father's name was Sabaam, according to a tradition mentioned by the true Epiphanius {d}. The Jews {e} would have it that this book was not written by Daniel himself, but by the men of the great synagogue; though it is evident, from the book itself, that Daniel is the writer of it, as from \Da 7:1,2,28 8:1,15,27 9:2 10:2 12:5\. That he wrote books, which were received, read, and believed by the Jews as of God, is affirmed by Josephus {f}; and the Jews in general acknowledge that this book was written by the influence of the Holy Spirit, but not by prophecy; they, without any foundation, distinguishing between the Holy Spirit and prophecy. And so Maimonides says {g}, it is the general consent of their nation, that this book is among the holy writings, but not among the Prophets; nor will they allow Daniel to be a prophet: the reasons they give are frivolous; what seems to have induced them to degrade him is the manifest prophecy of the time of the Messiah's coming in this book, which sometimes they are obliged to own is fixed in it. They tell us a story of Jonathan ben Uzziel, that having finished his paraphrase of the Prophets, thought to have wrote one on the Hagiographa, or holy writings, among which they place the book of Daniel; but was forbid by "Bath Kol", or a voice from heaven, giving this as a reason, because that in it is contained the end of the Messiah {h}, the precise time of his coming; and the gloss on the passage adds, by way of explanation,

``in the book of Daniel;''

though elsewhere they would have it, that after it was made known to Daniel, it was taken away from him. For so, they say {i}, there are two men to whom the end was revealed, and afterwards it was hidden from them; and these are they, Jacob and Daniel: from Daniel, according to Da 12:4, "but thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book &c.", from Jacob, Ge 49:1, "that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days". Yet the prophecy of Daniel was so clear, with respect to the time of the Messiah's coming, that one of their Rabbins, who lived about fifty years before the coming of Christ, asserted that the time of the Messiah, as signified by Daniel, could not be deferred longer than those fifty years {k}; and a most glaring prophecy it is, and sufficient to denominate Daniel a prophet, as well as many more contained in this book. And, after all, Maimonides himself owns, that he, and the other writers of the Hagiographa, or holy writings, may be called prophets in general. And Aben Ezra observes of Daniel, in his preface, that he delivered out prophecies of things now past, and of things to come; yea, he expressly calls him a prophet on Da 1:17. And Jacchiades, another of their commentators on this book, says that he attained to the highest degree of prophecy. To which may be added the testimony of Josephus {l}, who says he was one of the greatest prophets, and to be preferred to others; since he not only predicted things future, but fixed the time when they should come to pass. And, above all, and what should satisfy us Christians, he is expressly called a prophet by our Lord, Mt 24:15. There are no other authentic writings of Daniel, which bear his name; the stories of Susannah, and of Bel and the Dragon, which make the "thirteenth" and "fourteenth" chapters in the Greek of Theodotion, and in the Vulgate Latin version, are apocryphal and spurious. The Oriental writers make Daniel the author of a volume, entitled, "Principles relating to the Explanation of Dreams". And there is another book in the king of France's library, with this title, "Odmath-al-mantoul n Daniel al-nabi"; which contains predictions of the Prophet Daniel, received by tradition from him. This is a book which abounds with falsities, forged by the Mahometans, and founded on the real prophecies of Daniel {m}. This book, written by him, is partly historical, relating facts in which he was concerned; and partly prophetic, of things that should happen from his time to the end of the world, and especially of the Messiah and his kingdom; and it is written partly in Hebrew, and partly in Chaldee. This great man, as he was both in nature and grace, in religion and politics, lived throughout the captivity, but does not seem ever to have returned into Judea; but continued in the courts of the kings of the Medes and Persians, to take care of the affairs of his people the Jews. Where he died, and was buried, is not certain. Some say in Babylon; and others, which is more likely, at Susa on the Tigris, where he was in the third year of Cyrus, Da 10:1,4. So says Abulfeda {n}; with which agrees the account of Benjamin of Tudela {o}.

{a} Antiqu. l. 10. c. 10. sect. 1. {b} Comment. in Dan. i. 5. {c} Pseudo-Epiphan, de Vit. Prophet. c. 10. {d} Contra Haeres. haeres. 55. {e} T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 15. 1. {f} Antiqu. l. 10. c. 10. sect. 7. {g} Moreh Nevochim, par. 2. c. 45. {h} T. Bab. Megillah, fol. 3. 1. {i} Bereshit Rabba, sect. 98. fol. 84. 4. {l} Ibid. ( Antiqu. l. 10. c. 10. sect. 7.) ut supra. {m} Calmet's Dictionary, in the word "Daniel". {n} Apud Schickard. Not. in Purim. {o} Itinerar. p. 86.

\\INTRODUCTION TO DANIEL 1\\.

This chapter begins with an account of the first captivity of the Jews, in the times of Jehoiakim; of which captivity Daniel was one, and it is mentioned on his account, Da 1:1,2, who, with others, were selected by the order of the king of Babylon, to be educated in the learning of the Chaldeans, and to be maintained at his expense, in order to be his ministers, Da 1:3-7, but Daniel and his three companions refused the king's meat and wine, lest they should be defiled; in which they were indulged by their governor, after trial being made, that they were fairer and fatter for it, Da 1:8-16, and, at the end of the time appointed, they appeared to have a large share of knowledge, wisdom, and learning; upon which they were taken into the king's court and service, Da 1:17-20, and the chapter is concluded with observing the long continuation of Daniel here, even to the first year of Cyrus, Da 1:21

Daniel 1 Commentaries