Lessons from Daniel 1
The book of Daniel opens with the scene of Israel’s deepest degradation and misery. It was written in the context of the fall of Jerusalem and the deportation of the Jews to Babylon.
As the book opens, we are introduced to a young Daniel being taken captive to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar in 605 BC.
The author begins by describing time and place. It is the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon has besieged Jerusalem (Daniel 1:1-2).
The author narrates events that took place stating that Nebuchadnezzar the King of Babylon captured Hebrews and vessels belonging to the temple.
Daniel and three other Hebrew boys (Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah) are among the Hebrew captives that have been brought to Babylon.
In Daniel 1:3-7, “the young Hebrew men (Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah) are taken for training” as a way of preparing them to serve before the king of Babylon.
It is here where they go through an important test…
The main themes of the book of Daniel include the sovereignty of God, dependence on God, faith in God, and loyalty to God in dire circumstances.
In chapter 1 of Daniel, we find a narration of the events that surrounded the assimilation of the well-favored Hebrew young men.
They were taken in for training and apprenticeship ahead of becoming part of the king’s service.
We see the Hebrew boys being assimilated in a culture that does not know or recognize their God…
Up to this point, Daniel and his three friends have provided no recorded resistance to their assimilation into Babylonian society and culture…
…They have received new names…
… submitted to a foreign educational curriculum…
…All of this makes their next move all the more startling…
They are audacious enough to reject the king’s special food…
…. In v8, Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine given to them by the king. Daniel requests for permission to abstain from the royal foods…
…The author does not spend a lot of time giving details regarding the type of food that was being served…
…one would wonder what exactly was wrong with the king’s food. One is justified to wonder why there was only a refusal of food and wine, and not of anything else. Different views have been expressed regarding what could have been the problem with the king’s food.
Life Application Study Bible expresses the view that “Daniel resolved not to eat this food, either because it was forbidden by Jewish law such as pork (Leviticus 11), or because accepting the king’s food and drink was the first step toward depending on his gifts and favors.” This view is apt and does well in observing that something was wrong with the food or the act of accepting the food.
If it was not a forbidden food, then Daniel may have been convinced in his heart that this was a snare that he needed to avoid, hence his refusal to eat this food.
Other Bible scholars hold the view that, probably, Daniel was “concerned about the religious overtones of the food from the king’s table…”
…Perhaps Daniel would have been troubled by eating food that was first offered to idols, so that we can here locate his determination to avoid the food.”
In verse 9, God gives Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs. This may imply that Daniel and his three friends may also have been made eunuchs, as a prerequisite to the king’s service.
One of the most remarkable realizations that this account brings is that God moved with an unseen hand to change the heart of this Babylonian official…
…In V10, the Babylonian official, chief of the eunuchs expresses his reservation: he fears that the king will kill him for underfeeding the Hebrew boys…
…The official’s expression of fear that “you would endanger my head with the kings” could offer some insight into the kind of a king that Nebuchadnezzar was: he must have been cruel and able to mete inhuman punishments upon his offenders….
…In vv11-13, Daniel requests for a 10 day test, (not only for him but also for his three Hebrew friends), that they be permitted not to take the king’s food:
“Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.”
This is very moving. First, we see the humility of Daniel in the manner in which he addresses the Babylonian official.
It is also evident that Daniel was not doing this to prove his uniqueness and take pride in it: he involved his three Hebrew friends in the quest to remain loyal to their God.
Daniel made a wise choice; He chose to negotiate as opposed to rebel.
Daniel and his three friends have been forced to leave their homeland, Israel, and settle in the Babylonian king’s government, which has made a hostile incursion against Israel and looms dangerously over that country of their birth…
…God, however, is up to the task, demonstrating his sovereign power over evil human intentions…”
…This matter was a huge dilemma for the four Hebrew boys, but we see that God intervened and gave them a way out.
In v14, the Babylonian official listened to them and tested them for ten days.
“At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food. So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables” (Daniel 1:15-16).
This was a profound breakthrough for the young Hebrew boys who were in exile in a foreign nation.
“…at the end of this period the young men looked healthier and better nourished than the other youths who were eating the king’s rich food. So the overseer allowed Daniel and his friends to continue their new diet.”
After this God gives Daniel , Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah “learning and skill in all literature and wisdom” (Daniel 1:17).
These four Hebrew boys experienced great prosperity and at the end of their apprenticeship programme, “they were ten times better than all the advisers that were in the entire Babylonian kingdom” (Daniel 1:20).
Indeed God’s sovereign involvement is evident throughout this account.
It is paradoxical to note that, at this moment in time, Israel had gone through a devastating defeat as a nation. One would think that the God of Israel had been defeated by the gods of the Babylonians.
…from a human viewpoint, it now seemed that the religion of the Hebrews had been completely discredited. The Lord appeared inferior to the gods of Assyria and Babylon.”
This is a great paradox. However, as we find in the book, God manifests his sovereign power and rule through great miracles.
It was essential at this time in Israel’s history for God to display his power in such a way as to prove that he was the one true God and sovereign Lord of history.”
It is here that Daniel and his friends join the king’s service, a position that God will use to manifest his power showing great signs and insights.
Through God’s strength and power, these four Hebrew boys will outshine the magicians and the trusted advisors in the Babylonian kingdom.
Here we see God’s servants remaining faithful to him as exiles in a foreign nation that does not fear God.
They did this through God’s strength and favor.
God gave Daniel favor and, as a spokesman, he was able to wisely approach the Babylonian official and negotiate exemption from the defiling foods and wine.
We see the involvement of God as the orchestrator of times and events, a theme that is prevalent in the entire book of Daniel.
Daniel’s subject of loyalty to God in the midst of adversity and opposing forces agrees with the New Testament theme of non-conformity. In Romans chapter 12, Paul tells believers not to be “conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2).
Daniel Chapter 1 also brings out the concept of God’s favor upon individuals. We are told that God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs. There are events in the new testament during which God’s people had undeserved favor with people. For example, Paul and travellers were treated with great favor in Acts, after the shipwreck, because of what God had done through them (Acts 28:9-10) .
The events that took place during the assimilation of the young Hebrew men offer great insights that God’s children can apply today.
God’s favor empowers us to accomplish the impossible
God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs. Daniel was able to speak on behalf of his peers and negotiate for exclusion from the defilement of the king’s food. This shows that God’s people can approach authorities with respect and humility. These boys were in a foreign nation, under captivity…
… they had every reason and opportunity to compromise considering the fact that their nation had been defeated. The devastating defeat of Israel was almost indicative of the defeat of their God. Despite this fact, these Hebrew boys, through God’s enabling, were able to remain loyal to God in exile.
Do not apologize for being different, for God’s sake
God’s servants may indeed be right to give their service to the wider world in which they may find themselves, nevertheless there are limits to their participation in the life of that world which may make it necessary for them to show their loyalty to their faith by a refusal to compromise… The assurance given in this chapter is that God will honor such loyalty.
Let us be encouraged by the reliability of God
Let us be encouraged that our God is dependable and reliable; even when there is visible evidence of defeat, God can and will still intervene and grant his children favor and power to rise up.
He will grant them what it takes to manifest His glory and power.
God’s children should rely on Him for the empowerment to avoid compromise and conformity in a world full of turbulences and different sorts of evil pressures.
Let us trust God to see us through in our walk of faith, irrespective of the dire circumstances that we may have to go through.
Glory to our God who always causes us to triumph!