Study Notes

Daniel 1:1-21


In our most recent studies of Hosea and Amos, we saw how the Lord continually warned the kingdoms of Israel and Judah to turn from their sin and return to Him. They did not. In our examination of 2Kings, we saw the Lord's fulfillment of these warnings. First, Israel was taken away in the Assyrian captivity. Later, Judah fell to the Babylonians.

Tonight, we begin our study of the book of Daniel. Daniel picks up in that time period when the Babylonians attacked Judah, and it will carry us almost all the way through the Babylonian captivity.

There is no other book of the Bible that I have seen attract as much criticism as the book of Daniel. Doubting scholars have attacked it for years, claiming that it could not possibly be what it claims to be - a prophetic and historic writing by Daniel during his lifetime about events spanning from about 605 BC to about 530 BC. Their reasoning for such doubt? The prophecies have been so accurately fulfilled, they could not possibly have been written before the events! Now there's logic for you...

We won't be spending much, if any, time defending the book against such "higher criticism." Jesus attributed the book to Daniel when He said,

Matt. 24:15 "Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet..."

My rationale is that if Jesus thinks Daniel wrote Daniel, then that's good enough for me. If some scholar thinks he knows more than Jesus, well, he has bigger problems than the authorship of Daniel!

1:1-2 The Babylonians Besiege

Yeh-ho-yaw-KEEM, as you may recall from our study of 2Kings 23 and 24, had been appointed to the throne of Judah by Pharaoh Neco. We read,

2Kgs. 24:1-2 In his days Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant {for} three years; then he turned and rebelled against him. And the LORD sent against him bands of Chaldeans, bands of Arameans, bands of Moabites, and bands of Ammonites. So He sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the LORD, which He had spoken through His servants the prophets.

This was a fulfillment of the prophecy which Isaiah had spoken to King Hezekiah. Hezekiah, remember, had pridefully shown the entire kingdom and its riches to the messengers of Babylon. After they left, Isaiah said,

2Kgs. 20:17-18 ‘Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and all that your fathers have laid up in store to this day shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left,' says the LORD. ‘And some of your sons who shall issue from you, whom you shall beget, shall be taken away; and they shall become officials in the palace of the king of Babylon.'

Daniel was a young man in his mid-teens when this prophecy was fulfilled. Jerusalem was attacked, and many Jews were taken captive. The temple was looted, and the treasures put into the temple treasury of Nebuchadnezzar's false god.

1:3-4 A Chaldean Education

King Nebuchadnezzar ordered his right hand man, Ash-pen-AZ, to find among the captive Jews young men who were prime specimens of looks and intelligence to serve in the his court. They would be taught the Chaldean language and literature to be prepared for this assignment.

At the risk of possibly offending your convictions, I'd like to point something out to you. The subject of the public schools educating our children has led to some hot debates among Christians, and even caused broken fellowship between believers. There are some who go to such extremes that they even insist that it is God's will for every Christian family to homeschool. I sat in a sanctuary once and heard a pastor proclaim, "If you don't homeschool your children, you WILL lose them."

I have nothing against homeschooling - we did it for many years. But I want us all to understand something. Daniel went to the Babylonian Public School. Moses went to the Egyptian Public School. Saul went to school being instructed by the hard-hearted followers of lifeless religion. And yet, none of these men were lost to the Lord. Rather, God used them mightily. May we not condemn one another for the path God chooses for us to put our children on. If God be with them, they may be instructed by Egyptians or Babylonians, and yet still be able to serve God mightily.

1:5 Choice Food

In addition to their Babylonian education, they were also to exclusively eat the Babylonian king's choice food. I imagine that this society's diet, which was not governed by God's laws of clean and unclean food, probably looked much like our own - pork, lobster, rabbit, shellfish, etc. All of it edible, but much of it forbidden for a Jew to eat.

In addition, the Babylonians worshiped and sacrificed to false gods. No doubt, much of the meat that the king ate had been sacrificed to idols. And while Paul later told the Corinthians that what they didn't know wouldn't hurt them regarding the origin of the meat they ate, if they knew it had been sacrificed to an idol, they should not eat it (1Cor. 10:25-28).

On top of all that, the Babylonian tradition of drinking wine was to pour out a part of each glass as a libation to their false gods. To drink wine as the Babylonians did would be to practice idolatry.

While many might say that all the wine you can drink, a big buffet, and beef from Baal's barbecue sounds like a pretty good situation to be in, it certainly wouldn't be for any Jew that wanted to be obedient to the Lord.

1:6-7 Four Youths

Four of the young Jewish men chosen for this training were named Daniel, Khan-an-YAW, Mee-shaw-ALE, and Az-ar-YAW. These names proclaimed and glorified God. Daniel means "Elohim is my judge," Khan-an-YAW is, "Yahweh has favored me." Mee-shaw-ALE, says, "I am like Elohim," while Az-ar-YAW, means, "Yahweh has helped me."

However, the Babylonians weren't too hip on glorifying God, since they worshiped a multitude of false gods. Thus, the Jews' names were changed to be more palatable to Nebuchadnezzar's idolatrous beliefs. The new names gave glory to the false gods.

Daniel was called Bale-tesh-ats-TSAR, which means, "the treasure of Bel." Khan-an-YAW was renamed Shad-RAK, meaning "inspired by the god of the sun." Mee-shaw-ALE became May-SHAK, or "he who belongs to the goddess Sheshach." And Az-ar-YAW got the name Ab-ADE Neg-O, Babylonian for "the servant of Nebo" (Nebo was another one of their false gods).

This really is the way of the world, to eliminate God under the pretense that the mention of God is offensive. But while they are eliminating every trace of what they call religion, they propagate their own religion. Why, for example, are holidays like Christmas and Easter attacked, when Halloween is allowed, even though it is a religious holiday? Why is it that Christianity is constantly taken to court, yet the interests of Humanists, Satanists, and Muslims are protected? Logically, it makes no sense - it is an undefendable practice.

But we must remember that the world's bias against the Lord will never be logical, it will never make sense. It is simply the fruit of hatred for God. Jesus said,

John 15:18-21 "If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before {it hated} you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me."

Thus, like the days of Daniel, when God was brushed aside and false gods were embraced, so too we see our society practicing this today.

1:8 Determined Not To Defile Himself

Daniel was in a precarious situation. Many of his countrymen had been brutally killed in the Babylonian attack. Many others had been taken away into slavery. He was among the few who were in an enviable situation - being made comfortable, provided for, and educated, along with the promise of entering into a high-ranking position. Common sense would tell us, "Don't make waves, don't take a stand." But Daniel's relationship with the Lord was real and true. He could not, would not, allow himself to be polluted by the Babylonians, whatever the cost.

This reminds me of the stand that Moses took. After being raised in the Egyptian palace, as a member of the royal family, he threw it all away. He made it known that he was a Jew - a member of the race that had been enslaved by the Egyptians. The writer of Hebrews describes Moses as...

Hebr. 11:25 choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin;

I wonder how many of us truly understand and apply this principle? Jesus said,

Matt. 16:24 ..."If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me."

When He made this statement, He was serious. This world pulls us in a lot of directions. Things cry out for our attention, but when we give ourselves to them, they pollute our purity, they defile us as disciples. The proverb says,

Prov. 25:26 {Like} a trampled spring and a polluted well Is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.

Paul told the Corinthians,

2Cor. 7:1 ...let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Daniel knew these principles in his heart. He informed the commander that he could not defile himself with the king's food and wine. He made a stand, knowing that it could get him killed. But he would rather be dead than be defiled.

1:9 God Granted Favor

When Daniel made this statement, the commander's natural instinct would have been to either force him to follow the rules, or kill him. Who was this little punk making a moral stand?

But God interceded. The Scripture says,

Dan. 1:9 ...God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander...

This tells me that God can and does affect outcomes. That God can and does affect the minds and hearts of unbelievers to bring about His will. We've seen this before - remember that Joseph also found favor in the sight of the chief jailer (Gen 39:21).

Too many times I've been given excuses about why someone won't do things God's way. "I couldn't confront that guy, because he's such a hothead." "I couldn't talk frankly with this gal because she has a history of taking things wrong." Those are fine excuses if you don't believe in a personal God. But God is bigger than your fears. God is more powerful than your rationalization. If you need to make a stand for righteousness, but are afraid of the outcome, trust God.

Prov. 29:25 The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.

1:10-16 A Ten-Day Test

The commander, while compassionate to Daniel, was afraid of the king. If he disobeyed orders, he would be executed. But Daniel suggested a ten-day test. During that time they would eat only vegetables (or grain, as some see it - the Hebrew word comes from the root for "sowing seed") and drink only water.

Sure enough, they prospered and did even better than those following the king's diet, and they were allowed to continue, sparing themselves from defilement.

1:17 God's Gifts

When we see someone who possesses a talent, we often attribute it to "natural ability." And yet, God says that it is He who has given these abilities. He gives artists, craftsmen, musicians, athletes, and scholars their talents. Indeed, God...

James 1:5 to all men generously and without reproach...

Unfortunately, most do not choose to glorify the Lord with these God-given talents. Instead, they turn to pride and use these giftings for their own selfish gain or worldly pursuits. But they have still been given by God.

Have you given thanks for your giftings from God? Have you decided to serve Him using these abilities? He has given them to you that you would in turn use them for Him.

The writer tells us that the knowledge, intelligence, and wisdom of these four was from God. They prospered in their schooling, rising high above the other students.

1:18-21 Entering The King's Personal Service

Because of their God-given abilities, they were appointed to personally serve the king in matters of counsel. This is important for us to see as well - although many of us tend to resent the successful, success in the world is not evil. God has brought these men into these positions for His purposes, just as He has you in your place for a reason.

Well, next week, we will see that purpose begin to unfold as we examine chapter two of the book of Daniel.

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