Outline of Chapter 1
I. The arrival at Babylon: verses 1-7
1. The successful siege: 1-2
2. The captive nobles: 3-7
II. Trial by food: verses 8-16
1. Daniel's purpose and plea: 8
2. Daniel's progress: 9
3. Daniel's proposition: 10-13
4. Daniel's triumph: 14-16
III. Trial by wisdom: verses 17-21
1. God's gifts: 17
2. The king's examination: 18-19
3. The brilliant students: 19-21
Questions Answered Concerning Chapter 1
- What's the problem raised by the Liberal concerning verse 1?
- How is it to be handled?
- What's the special significance of verse 2a?
- Why were the nobles and promising people taken to Babylon?
- What was the point of feeding them well?
- How are we to understand Daniel's refusal to "defile" himself?
- What's the significance of verse 9?
- What was the prince of the eunuchs afraid of?
- What was Daniel's proposition?
- What New Testament text might this help to explain?
- How did the 4 Hebrews get their wisdom and knowledge?
- Does "at the end of 3 years" require a full 36 months?
- How thoroughly did Nebuchadnezzar test the four friends?
- Are we told when the four "stood before the king"?
- Did the king think they were greater than his wisemen?
- What's the problem raised by the Liberals concerning verse 21?
- How's it to be handled?
Introduction to Chapter 1
Chapter 1 sets the tone for the rest of the book. We're assured in this chapter that God is altogether in control both on a national and individual level.
Nebuchadnezzar doesn't seize Jerusalem, God gives the king of Judah into his hands. Daniel doesn't just happen to find favor with the prince of the eunuchs, God causes Daniel to be favored. (This complete sovereignty is illustrated in all historical chapters by incidents in which the decrees of the heathen kings are annulled by the Lord. When conflict arises between the saints and the pagan, truth and error, the saints and truth are seen to prevail.)
Several events of Chapter 1 lay the foundation for important elements later in the book. This is one of the reason the Liberals are willing to concede the unity of the book.
The temple vessels are carried into Babylon and they will become an issue in Chapter 5 when Belshazzar offends God's honor in regard to them. We are told that Daniel and his companions gain places of importance before the king and this helps explain the later animosity of thier opponents. We are told that Daniel was there when the Medo-Persians arrived and this prepares us for his confrontation with the lions.
I. The arrival at Babylon: verses 1-7
Verses 1-2: In the year 605 (the third year of Jehoiakim if one computes Babylonian style but the fourth is using Jeremiah's Palestinian style) came Nebuchadnezzar and besieged Jerusalem. Nothing is said about him destroying or sacking the city.
Nebuchadnezzar is called "king" even though at the time of the seige he hadn't yet taken the throne. I need hardly tell you that speech like this (proleptical) is extremely common in the Bible and out of it. Out own speech is full of it. He who was now king when Daniel wrote the letter was the same gentleman who besieged the city.
"And the Lord gave..." This phrase sets the tone for the book. We have here an explicit reference to the sovereignty of Jehovah. He rules the nations. No one is victorious unless it is "given" him. None is the ruler except God "gives" to him the kingdom (2:37).
"The vessels of the house of God." We are introduced here to the insult against God in the taking away of his temple treasures. We are reminded however that this is done only with God's help.
This presence of the temple treasures in Babylon figures later in the book (Chapter 5). This is another of the great number of pointers to the unity of Daniel. The Liberals on the whole accept the unity of Daniel.
I'm reminded of much earlier days when the Philistines had the victory over Israel (See 1 Samuel 4-6). They took captive the ark of God but discovered to their dismay (and the humiliation of Dagon) that they had "a tiger by the tail". Belshazzar will have a similar experience in Chapter 5.
Verses 3-7: "The children of Israel..." You'll notice that even though "Israel" (the northern kingdom) had long been in captivity the captives taken by Nebuchadnezzar are called "children of Israel". Verse 6 speaks of them as "children of Judah". The New Testament in general and the book of Romans in particular uses "Jews" and "Israelites" as synonyms.
"The seed royal of the nobles..." The removal of the royalty and the nobility had a two-fold purpose. It was to weaken the subjugated nation and strengthen the conquering people (see Ezekiel 17:4,5,13,14).
"In whom was no blemish..." The external appearance was thought to manifest an inner quality. It was necessary for the body to agree with that inner condition. This was very important to ancient people (and, though we don't like admitting it, it affects us too) and God disqualified from the priesthood men with certain physical deformities (see Leviticus).
"The tongues and learning of the Chaldeans..." The term "Chaldean" has two uses. One is ethnic and the other denotes a sect of men thought to be wise. In extra-Biblical materical, it is said, the term "Chaldean" is not used of "wise-men" until about 450 B.C. - because of this the Liberals have suggested Daniel must have been written later than 450 B.C.
Isn't it remarkable how often the Liberals make arguments on silence? And isn't it almost monotonous how the archaeologist exposes these arguments? How does it happen that the Bible writer must always be judged "guilty" until proven "innocent"? When Luke and Josephus come into conflict the Liberal holds to Josephus and demands that Luke be vindicated. Oh, well, I suppose that's how it ought to be since whether these fellows are mistaken or not, it doesn't matter. If the Bible writer is mistaken we've something to worry about!
Perhaps the ethnic sense should be preferred here but then again, the passage might be stressing that the "wise men" knew lots of languages and the apprentice "wise men" had to learn them. What do you think?
"A saily portion of the king's dainties..." It was customary for royalty to support its advisors and officers from the royal income. The special period of nourishment would offset any effects of the siege. In addition the exiles would in this way become obligated to their lords.
It was customary for pagans in ancient times to offer their own sort of "first-fruits" activity to the gods; to begin feasts with sacrifices unto the gods. This, added to the fact that much of the meat they would eat would be unclean to a pious Jew would encourage Daniel not to wish to contaminate himself with such food.
"Nourished three years..." Three years need not be a complete 36 months. A part of three years easily fulfills the requirement of such a period. (See Genesis 42:17-18; Esther 4:16; 5:1; Mark 8:31 and Matthew 16:21 and numerous other passages which illustrate how Bible characters computed time.)
The question arises how it is possible for the youths to appear before Nebuchadnezzar at the end of the three years (1:18) and the dream of Chapter 2 to occur in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar. The solution is simple enough when we recognize the Babylonian system of computing years of the king's reign.
The first year of the training of the youths answered to the accession year of Nebuchadnezzar. That year is NOT counted as his first year. The second year of the training of the youths becomes the first year of Nebuchadnezzar and their third year is his second! It doesn't matter that it sounds awfully convenient, the question is, is it accurate?!
The first year of their training equals the accession year of Nebuchadnezzar. Their second year equals the first year of Nebuchadnezzar. Their third year equals the second year of Nebuchadnezzar.
(The book which handles all these issues of chronology is Edwin Thiele's "Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings". In that volume Thiele untangles the bulk of chronological difficulties involved in the famous Uzziah-Jotham-Ahaz-Hezekiah period and gives us the method by which to untangle the rest.)
II. Trial by Food: verses 8-16
Verse 8: "Daniel purposed..." 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.
Verse 9: "Now God made Daniel to find kindness..." It wasn't his looks or his fine personality which brought the favor of the officer. The credit must be given to God. Do you think we're missing this in our society? In a society which puts so much stress on "Think Positively!" is it possible that we're gearing our young to put their trust in athletic ability or scholastic achievement?
We are supposed to learn from this text that God doesn't only operate on the national and international level - He's at work on the level of individual lives! Thank God for that news. God really IS sovereign.
Verse 10: "I fear my lord the king..." Here's the difference that makes the difference. One man feared the lord Nebuchadnezzar and the other feared Nebuchadnezzar's Lord!
The eunuch had a job to do, and to his credit he was conscientious about it (as well as fearful). If Daniel and his friends looked poorly, the eunich would have to pay the price once the story came out.
Verse 12: "Prove thy servants... ten days..." Daniel then went to the under-servant and asked him to make a test for ten days. This may mean he was able to persuade the prince of the eunuchs to try it, but it's more likely that he didn't want to press the kind man any further even though he (Daniel) knew what would be the result of the test. See Revelations 2:10!
Verse 15: "and at the end of ten days..." God's children don't mind being tested. Let the world speak; let the sceptic speak; then let the saint speak - and "the God who answers by fire" let him be God! When we know our ground, we are not only willing to be tested was are eager for the trial. This is what Elijah taught us! This is what Daniel teaches us!
III. Trial in Wisdom: verses 17-21
Verse 17: "God gave them knowledge..." Who gave Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar? Who gave favor to Daniel? Who gave knowledge to the four youths? Notice that to the "four" God gives knowledge and skill (that includes Daniel). In addition, Daniel receives the ability to understand dreams and visions. Is it only coincidence that Ezekiel knew of a "Daniel" who was known for righteousness, wisdom and ability with "secrets"? See Ezekiel 14:14,20; 28:3 and the introductory notes on this matter.
Verse 19: "and the king communed with them..." For how long? How thoroughly? How widely? Who knows? The Bible doesn't say! We only know from verse 20 that in whatever matter of wisdom and understanding he questioned them, they gave better answers than any other of his wise men.
This is said to constitute a difficulty. If, said the Liberals, the king thought them to be better that his wise men, why didn't he call on them when he had the disturbing dream of Chapter 2?
The answer isn't difficult. Where does it say the king thought they were better then his wise men? It only affirms that they gave better answers to the questions put to them that any of his wise men! This is not the same as saying he thought these young men "better" than his experienced advisors. May a student or an apprentice not show superior knowledge in some areas over a teacher or a craftsman and yet be second choice when it somes to obtaining advice or aid?
Besides, it there anything in chapter one whuch relates to the ability of the young men with dreams and their interpretation? We know what God had granted to Daniel but did the king? So even if the king had thought they were better than his wise men, he had no reason to believe any one of them could handle dreams.
"Therefore stood they before the king..." This doesn't say when they stood before the king, it only says why! There is nothing in the text to suggest that at the time of the test they were given an official capacity as the king's advisors (although that's possible).
Verse 21: "Unto the first year of king Cyrus..." Chapter 10:1 tells us that Daniel received a vision in the third year of Cyras. Liberals have supposed that this is a glaring mistake by the writer of Daniel since in 1:21 we are taught that he either died or finished prophesying in the first year of Cyrus while in 10:1 he is very much alive and at work.
It would be a difficulty indeed if that's what 1:21 taught us; but that's not its point at all. The passage is simply to inform us that Daniel survived into the new empire. When the kingdom changed hands, the man who prophesied that change was there! This passage is also to prepare us for the grand prophesy of the "70 weeks" in Chapter 9 which takes place in or around the first year of Cyrus - the date when the Jewish captivity ends. See the comments of Chapter 9.
Note In This Chapter:
- The Sovereignty of God - Relative to nations (verse 2a)
- The Vindication by God - Relative to the faithful (verses 8,14,15)
- The Providence of God - Relative to his needy people (verse 9)
- The Superiority of God - Relative to all other gods (verses 17,20)