Reading For Monday Daniel 1:1-21
Chapter 1 takes place during the third year of King Jehoiakim of Judah. Nebuchadnezzar came against Jehoiakim, who was an ally of the Pharaoh at the time and the Lord gave him into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. Jehoiakim was left on the throne, but he was forced to give some of the Temple vessels and hostages of the royal family as symbols of his surrender. Having returned to Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar ordered Ashpenaz to select some of the hostages to be trained for royal service. Those selected had to be young men, of royal or noble birth, physically and intellectually superior and be competent to stand in the presence of the King. Those selected would undergo a thorough program of education and indoctrination. They studied the literature, language, and culture of the Chaldean people. These young men were being trained as upper-level administrators and advisors. The purpose of this curriculum was to change their worldview. For three years, these young men would eat the king’s choice food and wine. The goal was to change the way these young men lived. Those in the program were given new names, names which honored the gods of Babylon. For most in the program, this would be no problem but for four Hebrew young men, this would be a problem. The goal here was to change the allegiance of these young men.
The Chaldeans may have changed Daniel’s name, but they could not change his character. He made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s food and wine. His decision was based on spiritual, not physical considerations. This food was unclean by the standards of the Law of Moses, and it was detestable because it had been dedicated to idols. Daniel asked for a special exemption concerning the food. The official was reluctant to grant this request because it could mean his life should Daniel and his friends not fare well on their diet. Daniel requested a ten-day test, during which he and his companions would eat vegetables and grains while drinking water only. After the ten days, the official could compare their appearance to the others that stayed with the prescribed royal diet. The vegetarian diet was probably proposed because it would be impossible to obtain and prepare meat that would conform to the Mosaic code. Furthermore, vegetables and grains were not consecrated to pagan gods. God granted Daniel favor and the overseer accepted the proposal. At the end of the ten days, he found the appearance of the four healthier than that of the others in the program. He was so impressed that he removed the royal diet permanently. The change in the appearance of the young men was the result of God’s grace, not the properties of the foods consumed. In addition to the physical blessing, God endowed them with learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, as well as giving Daniel understanding when it came to visions and dreams. This would involve a divine insight which would give them the ability to accept what was true and to reject what was false in their instruction. At the end of the training, the students were brought before Nebuchadnezzar for final inspection. The king spoke with them and among all the candidates none was equal to Daniel and his friends. They entered into the king’s service and the king found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters. Daniel maintained his position in the court until Babylon was conquered by Cyrus.
Things To Consider:
- What do we learn about the activity of God in the affairs of his people? What do we learn about seeing adversity and suffering in the lives of Daniel and his friends?
- What kind of faith do you think was required to ask for special treatment from his captors?
- What does the text imply about the other Hebrew young men?
- How difficult do you think it was to stand for your faith before captors and peers that had acquiesced in their circumstances?
- Why do you think God endowed them with so many abilities?
- What do you think this taught Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldeans about the one true God?