115-102 Daniel Chapter 1
The year of King Nebuchadnezzar came to besiege Jerusalem was 605 B. C. during the reign of King Jehoiakim who was stated here as in his third year of reign. This is a conflict with what we learned in 2 Kings 25:27 which implies that he was in his third year as king. The conflict is in the way the Babylonians and the Hebrews count the years of a king’s reign. King Jehoiakim was actually in his fourth year as king. (Jeremiah 25:1) Another conflict seems to be that Nebuchadnezzar was not the King of Babylon at the time of the siege. His father Nabopolassar was the King. But King Nabopolassar died later in that same year and according to the dating of the Babylonians Nebuchadnezzar was named as the king at this time. Another possibility is that it was read back so in the accounts we would know who the Scriptures were talking about
Another thing to note is that King Nebuchadnezzar only besieged the City of Jerusalem as the defenses were too strong to be taken. To conquer Jerusalem would have taken a long time and King Nebuchadnezzar’s siege was interrupted by the death of his father. This would cause King Nebuchadnezzar to return to Babylon to establish his position as king. Jerusalem was never taken at the time and terms were agreed to.
The siege of Jerusalem was sufficient enough to force Jehoiakim to submit to Nebuchadnezzar. In turn Nebuchadnezzar took part of the temple treasures back to Babylon with him along with the best of some of the young men. The custom of invading kings was to take the articles of the defeated god back to glorify their god. The supreme god of the Babylonians was Marduk, as well the Babylonians had many other gods.
We must point out here that King Nebuchadnezzar did not defeat the God of the Israelites by sacking His holy city. The Lord God handed over the city of Jerusalem to King Nebuchadnezzar according to His plan as judgment for the wickedness of the Israelite people. The Lord God was not defeated by the god of Babylon Marduk. King Nebuchadnezzar was as much a subject of God as King Jehoiakim.
The vessels of the Temple were taken to Babylon and placed in the treasury which was probably the temple of Marduk. This would be a thankfulness offering to the god Marduk. These vessels remained in Babylonian custody until the 70 year captivity was ended by the Medo-Persians.
These chosen captives taken from Jerusalem were considered treaty hostages and not as defeated foes of the Babylonian kingdom. For this reason they were treated favorably by the Babylonian court. These young men were taken from the nobility who were educated. They were the people that the Babylonians felt would fit well within the circles of the court. The Babylonian’s were looking for the best of the best to invest in them according to how they wanted them to turn out. They would be the ones who possessed wisdom and knowledge. They were the ones who had the best education of the day. By establishing these young men into the court Nebuchadnezzar hoped to seal the treaty with Israel. This whole exercise was prophesied by the Prophet Isaiah. (Isaiah 39:7)
In this text the meaning of the name Ashpenaz is not known but in non-biblical texts it carries the meaning of “eunuchs.” It has a greater meaning as we also see its usage in Genesis as used in describing the married Potiphar. (Genesis 37.36) Here it is indicated as a palace servant or chief men and officers and nobles of the palace. This group would also include eunuchs who were in charge of the harems within the court. It is unlikely that any of these young men were made into eunuchs as they were to be without blemish as the king would want perfect young men in his court. In this day young men the ages of 14 or 15 were considered to be adults. They were to be of the seed of royal offspring and nobility which would have been included in the ones taken captive. This group would have certainly been introduced to peers of the same stature from other nations as well.
These best of the best were to be further education in the Babylonian culture. They were to learn the language of the Chaldeans and the ancient language of Akkadian, taught the wisdom of Babylon the lore of magicians, astrologers, and the great wisdom of the near east. It would have been an educational opportunity equal to that of Moses in the Egyptian court.
The best of the best of Israel was also to receive the best. Every advantage was to be given unto them in food and drink. This was also a time of probation and some would no doubt not make the cut to be received into the court of the king. This training and conversion process was to last for three years. Upon graduation they would be well equipped to serve in the courts of the king.
We now focus on four of the young men chosen from the captives of Jerusalem. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. A name change was necessary to indoctrinate the men into the Babylonian culture and to give them acceptable names to serve in the court. It was also the customs of civilizations to name children in reference to the god they worshiped. Daniel meant, “God is my Judge,” Hananiah meant “Yahweh has been gracious, Mishael meant “Who is God,” and Azariah meant “Yahweh has helped.”
Daniel’s name was changed to Belshazzar which means “Bel protect the King.” Bel was a Babylonian god. Hananiah’s name was changed to Shadrach which means “command of Aku” another Babylonian god. Mishael had his name changed to Meshach which means “who is what Aku is.” And Azariah’s name was changed to Abednego and means “servant of Nebo,” a god of vegetation.
The thought may have been that the Babylonians had taken these men from the God of Israel and given them to the gods of Babylon. The Babylonians would soon learn that this was delusional thinking on their part.
As a young Jewish man all of these changes in Daniel’s life must have had a shock upon him. Taken from his home to a foreign land and now made to resect gods that was not the God of his people. Daniel was determined not to be unfaithful to his God. (Exodus 34:14-15) There was no knowing how the meat was slaughtered and some of it may have been meat that was unclean by Jewish standards such as pork. (Leviticus 11) The Law of Moses had very strict dietarian standards and this would have been more than an Israelite could in good conscience take. Daniel went further than just refusing the meat but also refused the wine. Perhaps he could not live a life in the luxury of the king’s court while his fellow countrymen were going through very hard times in captivity. (2 Samuel 11:11) The greater trouble for Daniel was that the king’s food was openly dedicated to the false gods of Babylon. Daniel may have felt that if he partook of the king’s food he would be submitting to their gods. This would have been a struggle for Daniel to rebel against his new master, as he would not understand his rejection of their gods. Yet Daniel wanted to be faithful to his God and would not bow down to idol worship. His belief would have been to do so would invoke the wrath of God.
The greater lesson for us is that if we are not faithful in the little things then neither will we be faithful in the greater things. “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” (Luke 16:10)
God honored Daniel’s commitment to keep the law. God caused Daniel’s master to have favor with him and allowed him to remain on his strict Jewish diet.
This was a problem for the master of Daniel. If he defiled the order of the king he could lose his head. If Daniel remained on the Jewish diet and looked poorly in comparison to the others Jewish young men the king would wonder why this was so. He believed like many of us today that we become that which we eat. A poor diet will have its adverse effect. Most likely the master referred Daniel to the steward in charge of the meals that Daniel was to be given. The steward would be much more experienced in dealing with such troubles of diet.
When Daniel went before the steward he also asked that his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah also be allowed to eat the food of their culture. Daniel made a wise bargain with the steward that let them eat only vegetables and water for ten days and then compare them to the others. After this they would abide with the decision of the steward. The diet Daniel proposed was not that of a vegetarian but a diet that would not contain anything that was unclean to the Jewish people or dedicated to the Babylonian gods. The steward agreed to the proposal as he would be able to watch over then and stop the experiment at any time. Perhaps he had a sympathetic heart as well.
The steward did as Daniel asked and as result of the ten day test they had a better overall appearance than those who ate the king’s food. They were fresher in appearance than the others. In their observance of God’s law they had demonstrated His truth. Given the effects of our own overindulgence we can appreciate how this might be.
The steward seeing the effects of the diet that the request of Daniel and his friends the steward was willing to continue as they had requested and refrained giving them the king’s food and wine. He provided them with only the vegetables and water.
The four young men’s complexions were clear and their minds were sharp as well, and the four continued to grow in wisdom and knowledge. Their minds were alert and they learned their lessons well. They also grew in the knowledge of God, as this is the true wisdom that comes from God. Daniel was especially blessed by God and had the special gift of interpretation of visions and dreams. God was preparing Daniel for his career in the service of his God.
This was a time when men obtained high position by interpreting visions and dreams. For some it was a craft much like today in which they would report what they thought was pleasing to the dreamer. Most could not tell the truth or falsehood of men’s dreams and vision. King Nebuchadnezzar was aware that most were not able to truly discern the meaning of a dream. God had enabled Daniel to tell the truth from the fiction and the ability to discern the meaning of a dream or vision.
After the training period had come to an end Daniel and his friends came before King Nebuchadnezzar. The king’s primary concern was not in their appearance but what they had learned. Their performance before the king was impressive as he listened to their knowledge and wisdom. The king declared that they were ten times better that he had expected. This was a good report although an exaggeration, which was common in that day. King Nebuchadnezzar felt them to be better than his own magicians and enchanters. Also they answered his questions with what was most important with good interpretation in matters of the court.
From this time forward by the appointment of King Nebuchadnezzar Daniel had standing in the Babylonian court until its overthrow by the Medo-Persians under the hand of Cyrus. In all Daniel served the Babylonian court for approximately 66 years. During most of that time Daniel was respected by the Babylonian kings that he served.
|Chapter 2||Chapter 7||Kingdom|
|Head of Gold||Lion||Babylon|
|Chest and Arms of Silver||Bear||Media-Persian|
|Belly and Thighs of Bronze||Leopard||Greece|
|Legs of Iron||Forth Beast||Rome|
The four world empires of Chapter 2 and 7 have traditionally been identified as shown.
Four World Empires
Two panoramic visions in Daniel present God’s sovereignty over history. Nebuchadnezzar had the first vision in Chapter 2, and Daniel had another like it in Chapter 7. In each of these visions, four of the kingdoms of the world are presented.
There have always been questions about the identities of the four empires, but historically there has also been consensus. Hippolytus (AD 170-236), one of the early Church fathers, identified the four kingdoms as Babylonia, Media-Persia, Greece, and Rome. The Church father and historian Eusebius of Caesarea (AD 260-340) initially identified the first kingdom as Assyria, which once also controlled Babylon, but he later agreed with Hippolytus, as did most of the Church fathers. Later, Jerome and Augustine accepted this same understanding, and conservative interpreters largely still agree.
In antiquity and in our era, some interpreters have argued that Greece is the fourth empire, and they treat the Medes as a separate kingdom. This interpretation is due in part to denying the possibility of prediction and assuming that the book was written about 164 BC, when the Roman Empire had not yet arisen. But Media and Persia are usually regarded as one empire, and the Median kingdom had been mostly assimilated by the Persians by the time Cyrus 2 conquered Babylon in 539 BC.
Rome is then seen as the fourth kingdom, but the bestial, demonic, and inhumane characteristics of the vision extend beyond the historical Rome. The visions represent a panorama of the whole world and its governments; all will be destroyed and replaced by the Kingdom of God, the “rock cut from the mountain”. (Daniel 2:34) The Metals of the statue become progressively less valuable in Chapter 2, while the animal imagery of Chapter 7 become more menacingly fierce, violent, and inhumane. These features represent a deterioration of human civilization across the centuries, even as the Kingdom of God grows in power and stature. (Daniel 2:35)