Daniel 1

1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.
2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the articles of the house of God, which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the articles into the treasure house of his god.
3 Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king's descendants and some of the nobles,
4 young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans.
5 And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king's delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king.
6 Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
7 To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abed-Nego.
8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
9 Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs.
10 And the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, "I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your food and drink. For why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are your age? Then you would endanger my head before the king."
11 So Daniel said to the steward [a] whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,
12 "Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink.
13 Then let our appearance be examined before you, and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the king's delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants."
14 So he consented with them in this matter, and tested them ten days.
15 And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king's delicacies.
16 Thus the steward took away their portion of delicacies and the wine that they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.
17 As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.
18 Now at the end of the days, when the king had said that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar.
19 Then the king interviewed [b] them, and among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they served before the king.
20 And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm.
21 Thus Daniel continued until the first year of King Cyrus.

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.

Footnotes 2

  • [a]. Hebrew Melzar, also in Daniel 1:16
  • [b]. Literally talked with them

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