The Book of Daniel Chapter One
by Cooper P Abrams III
Events Leading the Daniel and the Hebrew Boys Being Taken Captive.
Jehoiakim was the eighteenth King of Judah, the Southern Kingdom, made up of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. His name was Eliakim, but he was given the name Jehoiakim, by the Egyptian Pharaoh Neco (or Nechoh). Neco had attacked Judah and made them a vassal state. Jehoahaz, the younger brother of Jehoiakim became king when their father Josiah died.1 Jehoahaz favored allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar2 in the north rather than the Egyptians. Pharaoh Neco, attacked Judah capturing Jehoahaz who followed Josiah, taking him captive to Egypt. He then made Eliakim the king of Judah in 609 BC changing his name and making him responsible for collection of a tribute of one hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold. (See 2 Kings 23:33-35, 2 Chron. 36:3-4)
Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem after the battle of Carchemish 3 when he defeated the Egyptians. He then made Judah a vassal state of Babylon. He took Jehoiakim captive, binding him with bronze chains and was planning to take him to Babylon. However, he changed his mind and set Jehoiakim up as king of Judah. (See 2 Kings 24:1, Jer. 25:1)
Jehoiakim was not a good king and God instructed Jeremiah to denounce him. Jeremiah, had his prophecies written down by the scribe Baruch and read publicly in the Temple. This greatly displeased the king who had the scrolls partly read before him and then cutting them into pieces he had them burned. Jeremiah, however had other copies made and added another roll which strongly denounced Jehoiakim. This took place in the fourth year of his reign.
Jehoiakim who always favored Egypt over Babylon after three years as a vassal to Nebuchadnezzar withheld the tribute money. In Nebuchadnezzar's deportation of the nobles of Judah, which included Daniel, seems to have taken Jehoiakim as well. He details of his death are obscure as 2 Kings 24:6 simply says "he slept with this fathers." But as Jeremiah has predicted, came to a violent end.(Jer. 22:19) Josephus, wrote that Nebuchadnezzar had him slain and cast his body outside the walls of Jerusalem. 4
At the time of his battles with Egypt and Judah, Nebuchadnezzar was not the king of Babylon, as his father was still on the throne. His father Nabopolassar, died in 605 and Nebuchadnezzar took the throne of Babylon.
King Nebuchadnezzar after the siege of Jerusalem in 587 BC and took the vessels out of the Temple taking them to Babylon and placing them in the temple of his idol God Bel-Marduk.
|Dates (BC)||Kingdom of the Israelites|
|The Divided Kingdoms|
|Dates (BC)||Israel (Northern)||Judah (Southern)||Dates (BC)|
|786-746||Jeroboam II||Uzziah (Azariah)||783-742|
|721||Fall of Samaria|
|Fall of Jerusalem||587|
Daniel and the Hebrew Boys Taken Captive to Babylon
Nebuchadnezzar instructed his chief eunuch,5 Ashpenaz to take a number of the young Hebrew boys to be specially trained in Babylon. These boys were to be, "Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skillful 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." (Daniel 1:4)
The purpose for taking them captive and giving the special training was to make them servants in the king's royal court. This favored treatment included being given the same food as the king's court which included the king's meat, and wine.
Among the youths who were taken captive was Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. In was customary for a person name to be changed to denote their change in station or position in life. Daniel was given the name Belteshazzar, meaning "Bel has protected the King" or "May Bel protect his life." Bel refers to the name of Nebuchadnezzar's God, Bel-Marduk. It had no reference to Daniel's character.
Hananiah was given the name "Shadrach" the meaning of the word being unsure but thought to mean, "in command of Aku." "Aku" was the ancient Sumerian moon God. It could refer to Murduk. Mishael, was renamed, "Meshach" its meaning is unknown. This was probably the name of some Chaldean god. Azariah, the third of the Hebrew youths was named "Aded-nego." This name meant "a servant of Nego."
Figure 1 - The god Marduk
and his Muhu (idol).
Daniel Refuses to Take the King's Food
Daniel was greatly concerned about defiling himself by eating food that was not slain in accordance with Jewish law, that had been offered as a sacrifice to idols, or that was forbidden by Old Testament law. He chose to remain faithful to God and not break the Mosaic Law. The food and drink from the King's table had been dedicated to idols and to partake the food was to in fact recognize these false deities.
Daniel understood God's doctrine of separation. Though the food was not physically harmed in any way Daniel understood that in the minds of those who took it, it had been blessed by this idol god. In the New Testament in Acts 15 this was a problem for the Jewish believers in Jesus Christ. 6 In the eyes of those who revered the idol they worshiped it and received its blessings by eating the food. Daniel refused to do anything that would, in anyone's mind, think he was denying God. 7 The fact Daniel was in captivity was as a direct result of God's judgment on the Children of Israel for their past idolatry and disobedience. Daniel certainly knew of Jeremiah's prophecies about the destruction and restoration of Israel. (Jer. 32-33) Jeremiah had prophesied that although Israel would be taken from the land in captivity He promised "For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land." (Jeremiah 32:15) Daniel knew God's promises to Israel of the future kingdom and Messiah would be fulfilled and thus he remained faithful to God in spite of most of his countrymen admonishing God and having not faith in His promises.
Thus Daniel sought to do what was right and to worship God. To take the king's food would mean their abandonment of God, His Law and the promises God had made to restore Israel. Thus in remaining pure Daniel and the young men were showing their faith in God's promises to Israel.
Daniel understood that the food had been sacrificed to demons (idols). Paul explains this in 1 Corinthians 10:20, "But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils." This was reason enough to refuse the food, but the greater reason was Daniel's commitment to and faith in God.
Daniel used good sense in that he did not cause a confrontation over the matter but went to the eunuch and privately asked for permission to eat "pulse" and water instead. Pulse was food grown from seeds such as vegetables. It is important to understand that God knew Daniel's heart and commitment to obeying Him. God intervened and caused the eunuch to have a fondness for Daniel. The eunuch feared that if he granted Daniel's request that he would be guilty of not taking proper care of them which would displease the king, who would behead the unfaithful eunuch.
Daniel convinced the eunuch to put the matter to a test. He assured him that after only ten days there would be a marked difference for the better between those eating pulse and water, and those eating the king's food. As Daniel predicted, after ten days, ". . .their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat." (Daniel 1:15)
We should note that God does not leave himself without a witness even in the worse of times. The Jews did not have a faithful religious leader to follow, yet these four young men turned to their own faith and remained faithful to the Lord. The lives that counted were those that were different who did not follow the crowd. Most of the Hebrew captives took the king's meat and abandoned their faith. To disobey the king would mean death, but they had no faith in God to protect them. We know nothing of these personally, nor even their names who abandoned God. They chose the easier life and in turn they lost God's promise of salvation and thereby losing their souls. They lost the opportunity to stand up and bring honor to the Lord. In most cases. in the examples in the Bible, the majority was wrong! However, God and only one faithful child of God is the real majority.
God blessed these four Hebrew young men and He "gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom." To Daniel who was their leader God gave the ability to interpret visions and dreams. It should be understand that their increase in knowledge was not necessarily only because they ate vegetables, but because of their faith and commitment to God. God blessed their faithfulness. Verse 17, specifically says that God gave them these abilities. Eating vegetables is good for our health, but Daniel and these three young men remained true to God's laws, because they believed God and in faith refused to disobey God.
At the end of the trial period the king called all the Hebrews boys into his presence and among them was Daniel and his three companions. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah stood out from the rest in their appearance. Clearly they were physically superior to the others who had eaten the kings rich food. Nebuchadnezzar talked with them testing their knowledge and wisdom. He examined them with his court magicians and astrologers and found them ten things brighter and more intelligent. The magicians were priests of the gods of Babylon and the astrologers were those who dealt in the occult arts.
Daniel 1:21, states that Daniel lived unto King Cyrus, the Persian, defeated the Babylonians and took over their empire.( See Ezra 1:1) It was Cyrus who issued the decree that ended the exile of Israel and allowed them to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and its walls. This means that Daniel lived pass the time of the exile, but there is no mention that he returned to Israel. He was a very old man and died in Babylon.
Daniel and His Companions Are Rewarded for their Devotion to God
God blessed their devotion and faithfulness to Him in keeping His laws and remaining undefiled by the food and philosophy of the ungodly Babylonians. In return this allowed God give them great knowledge and skill in learning. They were enrolled in the king's wise men's school which trained magicians and astrologers. It was the highest education one could receive and God enabled them to learn excel in their studies.
Daniel was greatly blessed by the Lord and was given the extra ability in understanding dreams and visions. This special talent given to Daniel would enable him to be greatly used of the Lord the rest of his life. We can see that God had a special purpose in bestowing this gift on Daniel. This reminds us again that the abilities or talents God gives the Christian is for the purpose of being used of the Lord. God has a will for each of our lives and He equips us with the talents to fulfill that will. Hudson Taylor is quoted to have said, "God's work, done God's way, will never lack God's supply."
At the end of the three years of training the prince of the eunuchs, who had been responsible for their schooling, brings them all before the king. It is graduation day! Four young men would graduate "summa cum laude." The king then personally talks to each of the group questioning them and testing their knowledge. In the examination, Daniel and his companions stood head and shoulders above the rest of the group. The other young Hebrew captives had abandoned the Levitical laws and God's instructions to remain separated unto God and separated from the world. They chose the easier way and thereby disobeying God. The Lord cannot bless those who disobey Him and His blessings was not with them and all they had learned was done in the flesh. None of them even came close to the achievements of Daniel and the three Hebrew young men. What a waste of their lives. They loved the world and followed its sinful ways. Their eating the king's food was the result of a deeper spiritual failure. They drank the wine God said to abstain from and they lived the world's scrumptious life style and they were defied by it. They had a great and wonderful opportunity to be involved in the eternal things of God that would stand as a testimony for God and for truth, but they willingly and knowingly threw it all away.....and for what? They gave all this up for some rich food and drink?!
It appears from the account that Nebuchadnezzar not only tests Daniel and his companions against the other Hebrew captives. He is so impressed with them that he further tests them against all the wise men in his court. The Bible says he found they were ten times more knowledgeable that than the magicians, astrologers that were in the kings realm. We should not be surprised by this because one cannot live a better life than one lived for the Lord. Matthew 5:13, says that God's children are the salt of the earth.
I am sure that these young men, unlike all students who are involved in higher learning, found that school was difficult at times. They were being trained in a pagan atmosphere that certainly must have been repulsive to them. For three years it was for them a test of their character and trust in God. But these four men were motivated by a sincere faith in God and a belief in His purposes for their lives. This devotion to the Lord held them in good stead. Surely, they did not know what the future held for them, but they applied themselves wholly to where they were and the task at hand. We do not have to know what God has for us in the future, but we must accept that God is now preparing us for His future plans. If we are slack, lazy, and unfaithful to God's will, we will not experience the blessing of being used of God. It may be to some boring to attend Sunday School, Bible study and worship services, but they are part of God's plan given to the local church for our benefit. We at the moment may not see the purpose or value in our faithfulness, but the lessen we hear and learn today and the sermon given by God's faithful minister, may be the instrument God uses tomorrow to use us in his plan to see others saved and His work done. God's word tell us His heart in the matter, "Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful" ( 1 Corinthians 4:2).End Notes:
1 Josiah was a good king of Judah who followed the Lord. His father Amon was an evil king that promoted idolatry in Judah. However, his son Josiah was nothing like his father and he destroyed everywhere high places, groves, images and all outward signs and relics of idolatry. The temple was restored under a special commission; and in the course of the repairs Hilkiah the priest found that book of the law of the Lord which quickened so remarkably the ardent zeal of the king. He was aided by Jeremiah the prophet in spreading through his kingdom the knowledge and worship of Jehovah.
2 Nebuchadnezzar, the most powerful Babylonian king, was the son and successor of Nabopolassar, who delivered Babylon from its dependence on Assyria and laid Nineveh in ruins. He was the greatest and most powerful of all the Babylonian kings. Nebuchadnezzar also subdued the whole of Palestine, and took Jerusalem, carrying away captive a great multitude of the Jews, among whom were Daniel and his companions.
3 Carchemish fortress of Chemosh was a city on the west bank of the Euphrates. It was the capital of the kingdom of the northern Hittites. The Babylonian army, under Nebuchadnezzar, the son of Nabopolassar, here met and conquered the army of Pharaoh-necho, king of Egypt (B.C. 607). It is mentioned in monuments in B.C. 1600 and down to B.C. 717.
5 The word eunuch means bed-keeper or "chamberlain". In the strict and proper sense they were the persons who had charge of the bed-chambers in palaces and larger houses. They were sexually mutilated making them impotent.