A. Introduction 1:1-7
1. Historical context 1:1-2
Several items of interest:
* The date For a solution to the apparent chronological discrepancy in 1:1, see the Introduction.
* Jehoiakim, king of Judah (Eliakim) ascended to the throne in Judea (the southern kingdom) after the defeat and death of Josiah at Megiddo in 609 b.c. (2 Kings 23:34-24:7; 2 Chron. 36:4-8; Jer. 22:13-19). He ruled from 609-597 b.c. His son, Jehoiachin, reigned for only three months before being taken captive to Babylon along with 10,000 other Judean citizens (including Ezekiel). Zedekiah became the last king of Judah and ruled from 597-586 b.c. He defied Babylonian authority, provoking Nebuchadnezzar's seige of Jerusalem on January 15, 588 b.c. Zedekiah was captured, forced to watch the execution of his sons, and then blinded. The city was captured on July 18, 586 and the final destruction began on August 14, 586 b.c.
* Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, was the son of Nabopolassar. He ruled from 605 to 562 b.c. In Jeremiah and Ezekiel his named is spelled 'Nebuchadrezzar. Here he is called 'king proleptically, not yet having ascended the throne when he beseiged Jerusalem (in the same way we might refer to 'the childhood of President Clinton; obviously he was not President when he was a child). His son, Amel-Marduk, succeeded him and ruled from 562-560. He was assassinated by his brother-in-law, Neriglissar, who assumed the throne and ruled until he died in 556. His son became king but was assassinated in another coup after a reign of only a few months. Nabonidus, father of Belshazzar, then ascended the throne.
* the Lord gave . . . Ultimately it was neither the sin and weakness of Jehoiakim nor the brilliance and strength of Neb, not even the impotence or inactivity of God, but the sovereign good pleasure of Yahweh that determined the historical outcome (cf. Dan. 2:20-23). The Israelites 'are not mere pawns on a political and geographical chessboard. To be in the hand of Nebuchadnezzar is not to be out of the control of God (Goldingay, 22).
* the vessels of the house of God . . . There are two reasons why they are mentioned here. First, this is a literary preparation for the events of chapter 5. Second, the deportation of these vessels to the land of Shinar has theological significance. Shinar, i.e., Babylonia (the southeastern part of modern Iraq), was the site of the tower of Babel (Gen. 10:10; 11:1-9), and thus the place of man's initial corporate rebellion against God. It was synonymous with opposition to God, a symbol of darkness and the anti-kingdom forces of evil. Consequently, the deportation of the vessels would have indicated to the ancient near eastern (ANE) mind a victory of the Babylonian god Marduk over YHWH. 'Wars were fought in a god's name and plunder thus belonged to him. The temple articles are his booty. They are taboo and are put into the 'treasury' that belonged to a temple for this purpose (Goldingay, 15). But note well: God gave . . . The 'captive God controls and manipulates his 'captors and will, when the course of Israel's exile is complete, restore what is rightfully his!
2. Individual protagonists 1:3-7
The deportation of the children to Babylon occurred in three stages:
First, the deportation of Daniel, his three friends, and other Judeans in 605 b.c. Most believe Daniel would have been @ 15 years old at the time.
Second, in 597 b.c. during the rule of Jehoiachin some 10,000 people were taken to Babylon, among whom was the prophet Ezekiel (2 Kings 24:11-16).
Third, the utterly devastating destruction of Jerusalem came in 586 b.c. when the country became a province of Babylonia (2 Kings 24:10-25:21).
Thus, Daniel had been in Babylon some 19 years before the final fall of Jerusalem and the complete deportation of the southern kingdom (remember: the northern kingdom had fallen to Assyria in 722 b.c.; see 2 Kings 17:4-23). The reason for the Babylonian Captivity is stated in 2 Chronicles 36:14-21.
'Furthermore, all the officials of the priests and the people were very unfaithful following all the abominations of the nations; and they defiled the house of the Lord which He had sanctified in Jerusalem. And the Lord, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, until there was no remedy. Therefore He brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion on young man or virgin, old man or infirm; He gave them all into his hand. And all the articles of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king and of his officers, he brought them all to Babylon. Then they burned the house of God, and broke down the wall of Jerusalem and burned all its fortified buildings with fire, and destroyed all its valuable articles. And those who had escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon; and they were servants to him and to his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths. All the days of its desolation it kept sabbath until seventy years were complete.
One of the more vivid portrayals of the situation leading up to the Babylonian invasion of Palestine is found in the prophecy of Habakkuk. See especially Habakkuk's prayer for judgment against Judah (1:1-4), God's stunning declaration of how he will bring it to pass (1:5-11), and Habakkuk's confusion about God's chosen method (1:12-17). Habakkuk's famous declaration of faith in 3:17-19 is thus set in the context of the impending Babylonian invasion of the Holy Land and the destruction it would bring.
a. the royal summons 1:3
b. the Judean youths 1:4-7
1) their character 1:4a
* no defect
* good looking
* intelligent in all matters of wisdom
* endowed with understanding
* discerning in knowledge
* able to serve
2) their task 1:4b-5
* learn the literature of Babylon
* learn the language of Babylon
* adhere to a Babylonian diet
* be thoroughly educated
'The writer of Daniel implies no objection to the study of a polytheistic literature in which magic, sorcery, charms and astrology played a prominent part, though these had long been banned in Israel (Dt. 18:10-12; cf. 1 Sam. 28:3ff.). These young men from Jerusalem's court needed to be secure in their knowledge of Yahweh to be able to study this literature objectively without allowing it to undermine their faith. . . . In order to witness to their God in the Babylonian court they had to understand the cultural presuppositions of those around them (Baldwin, 80).
'The wise person knows how to learn from the wisdom of other peoples without being overcome by it (Goldingay, 24). How do you harmonize the experience of Daniel with the teaching of Ps. 1?
3) their names 1:6-7
There are differing opinions as to the significance of their names being changed.
* Some point to the fact that in the ANE to name an individual or a thing was to assert possession and control over them/it.
* According to Baldwin, 'the renaming of the foreigners was a matter of convenience rather than of ideology, and biblical characters from Joseph onwards (Gen. 41:45) accepted new names without fuss (81; cf. Gen. 17:5; 2 Sam. 12:24,25; Esther 2:7). 'All the same, Baldwin admits, 'it is true that they [Daniel and his friends] forfeited names compounded with 'El' or 'Yah' and acquired Babylonian names some of which incorporated references to the deities of the land (81).
* Ford suggests that 'the change of names was an obvious attempt at primitive brainwashing (80).
* Daniel = God is my Judge
* Hananiah = Yahweh is Gracious
* Mishael = Who is what El (God) is?
* Azariah = Yahweh has helped
* Belteshazzar = may (a god) protect his life or Bel/Belti protect the king (Bel was the wife of Marduk)
* Shadrach = command of Aku (Aku was the Babylonian moon god) or I am very fearful (of god) or, according to E. J. Young (43), Shadrach could be 'an intentional perversion of Marduk
* Meshach = uncertain of its meaning; possibly, I am of little account or who is what Aku is? (with Aku being substituted for El)
* Abednego = servant of the shining one, i.e., servant of Nego (an alternative spelling for Nebo, another Babylonian deity).
B. Confrontation 1:8-16
1. Daniel's resolve 1:8-10
Why did Daniel believe the kings' food and wine would 'defile him? There are several possible reasons:
First, the food was ceremonially unclean according to the standards of the Mosaic Law (Lev. 3:17; 11:1-47; 17:10-14). But this would not explain why he refused to drink wine as well.
Second, according to Keil (80), the reason for 'their rejection of it was, that the heathen at their feasts offered up in sacrifice to their gods a part of the food and the drink, and thus consecrated their meals by a religious rite; whereby not only he who participated in such a meal participated in the worship of idols, but the meat and the wine as a whole were the meat and wine of an idol sacrifice, partaking of which, according to the saying of the apostle (1 Cor. x.20f.), is the same as sacrificing to devils. But Keil fails to note that this would have been no less the case with vegetables: they too were regularly consecrated to idols.
Third, Baldwin suggests that 'by eastern standards to share a meal was to commit oneself to friendship; it was of covenant significance (Gen. 31:54; Ex. 24:11; Neh. 8:9-12; cf. Mt. 26:26-28). Those who had thus committed themselves to allegiance accepted an obligation of loyalty to the king. It would seem that Daniel rejected this symbol of dependence on the king because he wished to be free to fulfill his primary obligations to the God he served. The defilement he feared was not so much a ritual as a moral defilement, arising from the subtle flattery of gifts and favours which entailed hidden implications of loyal support, however dubious the king's future policies might prove to be(83). The problem with this view is two-fold. First, it isn't clear why this should be spoken of as 'defilement, and second, Daniel and his friends do in fact become the king's courtiers, very much dependent on him and in his service.
Fourth, meat and wine were regarded as festival food and thus 'abstaining from it is a sign of mourning or penitence and would be appropriate in exile. . . . Further, meat and wine suggest food fit for nobility, whereas the four young men ask for peasant food (Goldingay, 19). But this explanation does not account for Daniel's reference to 'defilement.
Fifth, some have argued that he turned down this food for purely ascetic reasons, hoping thereby to hear and know and love God more intimately. But no such reason is given by Daniel.
Sixth, perhaps the best explanation is that 'pagan food and drink simply epitomize the pagan uncleanness associated with exile (cf. Isa. 52:11). This reflects the fact that what we eat and drink, like what we wear and how we speak, generally constitutes an outward expression of our self-identity and commitments. . . . Daniel's abstinence thus symbolizes his avoiding assimilation (Goldingay, 19). In other words, eating the palace provisions, at least in Daniel's way of thinking, entailed a compromise of faith that getting a new name, learning Babylonian culture, and serving in a Babylonian court did not. We must remember that Israel's own food laws and dietary restrictions were designed, in part, to highlight and preserve their distinctiveness as God's people over against all other peoples.
We should also take note of Daniel's spirit and tone in declining the king's food. A person of principle and deep moral conviction who steadfastly refuses to compromise need not be rude, discourteous, or abandon common sense to make a point. One can be holy without being obnoxious.
2. The Test 1:11-13
3. The Results 1:14-16
What accounts for this result? Is it that a vegetarian diet is actually that much better than one with meat? [God forbid!] Or perhaps it is a lesson that God truly intervenes on behalf of his people when they take a stand for righteousness. We are given no explicit answer.
C. Conclusion 1:17-21
1. Divine endowment 1:17
This verse yet once more emphasizes the role of a sovereign God: 'God is the giver in connection with their destiny, even when it does not appear so (v. 2), the giver in connection with their relationships, even when these are most threatening (v. 9), and the giver in connection with their character and abilities, even when these are under most pressure (v. 17). His involvement thus relativizes military power, political power, and the power of human wisdom (Goldingay, 27).
2. Earthly success 1:18-21
Problem: 'until the first year of Cyrus, i.e., from 605 to 539 b.c. Does this contradict 10:1 which says that Daniel lived until Cyrus' 'third year? No, for as Keil points out, the word 'until marks 'the terminus ad quem in a wide sense, i.e., it denotes a termination without reference to that which came after it (83). Therefore, the statement means only that 'he lived and acted during the whole period of the exile in Babylon, without reference to the fact that his work continued after the termination of the exile (83).
A practical reminder:
As Goldingay points out, 'we are reassured that the Daniel who lives at court, stands by the side of the king, and serves the empire, is one who has taken his stand and kept himself pure; and we are challenged about our own willingness to accept an involvement in the world, but to recognize that there are points at which we have to draw a line. We are called to be citizens of two worlds, neither surrendering one's citizenship by assimilation nor surrendering the other by forming a ghetto (25).