Daniel 1 – Being Obedient to God in Dangerous Circumstances

Turn in your Bibles to Daniel 1:1;

 

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the articles of the house of God, which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the articles into the treasure house of his god.

 

3 Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king’s descendants and some of the nobles, 4 young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans. 5 And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king’s delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king. 6 Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. 7 To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abed-Nego.

 

8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. 9 Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs. 10 And the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your food and drink. For why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are your age? Then you would endanger my head before the king.”

 

11 So Daniel said to the steward[a] whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then let our appearance be examined before you, and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the king’s delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants.” 14 So he consented with them in this matter, and tested them ten days.

 

15 And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king’s delicacies. 16 Thus the steward took away their portion of delicacies and the wine that they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.

 

17 As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.

 

18 Now at the end of the days, when the king had said that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 Then the king interviewed[b] them, and among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they served before the king. 20 And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm. 21 Thus Daniel continued until the first year of King Cyrus.

 

May God bless the reading of His word.

 

Let us pray.

 

The prophet Daniel starts by giving us a very precise time as to when he his story begins. He tell us;

 

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.

 

Which would be fine and dandy, except for one thing, in Jeremiah 25:1 we read;

 

The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah (which was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon),

 

At first blush you might think that there is an error on the part of one of the writers. If Jehoiakim was in the fourth year of his reign when Nebuchadnezzar was in the first year of his reign, how could Nebuchadnezzar have come to Jerusalem and besieged it in the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim?

 

Ministrymagazine.org has an article explaining the calculations and turns of phrases being used not just here but in other parts of the Bible as well. In order to explain it, the article, called “Solving the Problems of Daniel 1,” explains;

 

In 2 Kings 18 there is given an example of the system of chronological reckoning in use among the Hebrews. In verse one it is stated that in the third year of Hoshea, Hezekiah began to reign. In verses nine and ten it states that the seventh year of Hoshea was the fourth year of Hezekiah, and the ninth year of Hoshea was the sixth year of Hezekiah. That being the case, the fourth year of Hoshea would be the first year of Hezekiah. (See table above.) But verse one states that it was in the third year of Hoshea, that Hezekiah began to reign.

 

This brings out an important principle in Biblical chronology; namely, that the year in which a king began to reign was not called his first year, but the "year of beginning to reign." In modern histories the term "accession year" has been given to such a year. The following year would then be called the first year of that king's reign. An understanding of this accession-year principle is vital to a correct understanding of Biblical chronology. Without it the student would be involved in endless difficulties, incapable of solution.

 

Neo-Babylonian and Persian kings likewise employed the accession-year principle, but the Egyptians did not. This fact must always be taken into consideration when dealing with synchronization between the reigns of Hebrew kings and those of the monarchs of surrounding nations.

 

This is exactly the situation that we see in rectifying what Jeremiah writes with the opening words of Daniel 1:1, right?

 

So when Jeremiah says that the fourth year of Jehoiakim's reign “was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,” we need to take into account that there would have been an accession year prior to the “first year” and so Nebuchadnezzar would have just become king in the third year of Jehoiakim's reign which is when Daniel tells us that Nebuchadnezzar first besieged the city of Jerusalem.

 

It might seem like a small thing, but if we don't take time to understand these small things then we can't explain them when we are confronted by them, and then the big things come into question as well. In fact, Daniel and his friends who are introduced to us in this chapter are part of a small group of Jews who were taken into exile by Nebuchadnezzar as part of a long campaign against the Jews in which he took captives and plunder as means of punishment. The prophet Ezekiel was part of one of those groups of exiles as well, although it was probably a later one than the one Daniel was in.

 

Chronologically, Daniel was taken captive in 605 BC. Nebuchadnezzar has his first dream that Daniel interprets in 603 BC. 10 years later in 593 BC is when Ezekiel writes the opening verses of his prophetic book, Ezekiel being a part of another wave of Jews taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar. Finally, in 586 BC Nebuchadnezzar finally puts a complete end to Jerusalem, sacks the city and destroys the temple.

 

Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel all prophecy during this time. Jeremiah started way back in 627 BC. Daniel starts 22 years later in 605 BC. Ezekiel begins in 593 BC and ends in 573 BC. Jeremiah finishes his prophetic stint in 562 BC. Finally, Daniel ends his prophetic reign somewhere around 536 BC after the Babylonian empire is defeated and the Medo-Persian empire has been established for more than 3 years.

 

So now that we have some perspective about the interweaving of these three prophets and we understand that there is no discrepancy between what Daniel writes and what Jeremiah says, let's look at what it is that Daniel tells us about his being taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar.

 

He explains;

 

3 Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king’s descendants and some of the nobles, 4 young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans. 5 And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king’s delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king. 6 Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. 7 To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abed-Nego.

 

We know from other historical sources that this was indeed something that Nebuchadnezzar did. When he conquered a nation, he tried to bring that nation into the fold, as it were, by introducing influential members of that civilization to the customs, language, and even the gods of the Babylonians. Part of that indoctrination would include being given a Chaldean, or Babylonian name. Thus we have

Daniel, named Belteshazzar, Hananiah named Shadrach, Mishael is named Meshach, and Azariah was named Abed-nego.

 

For three years these four young men were to partake of the same delicacies and wine that the king ate as part of their training regimen.

 

But there's a problem.

 

You see, God had given the Jews a very specific dietary law from which they were not supposed to deviate. As the website jewfaq.org explains;

 

Kashrut is the body of Jewish law dealing with what foods we can and cannot eat and how those foods must be prepared and eaten. "Kashrut" comes from the Hebrew root Kaf-Shin-Reish, meaning fit, proper or correct. It is the same root as the more commonly known word "kosher," which describes food that meets these standards. The word "kosher" can also be used, and often is used, to describe ritual objects that are made in accordance with Jewish law and are fit for ritual use.

 

It goes on to explain later in the article, the general principles of kashrut. These are generally;

 

  1. Certain animals may not be eaten at all. This restriction includes the flesh, organs, eggs and milk of the forbidden animals.

  2. Of the animals that may be eaten, the birds and mammals must be killed in accordance with Jewish law.

  3. All blood must be drained from meat and poultry or broiled out of it before it is eaten.

  4. Certain parts of permitted animals may not be eaten.

  5. Fruits and vegetables are permitted, but must be inspected for bugs (which cannot be eaten)

  6. Meat (the flesh of birds and mammals) cannot be eaten with dairy. Fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables and grains can be eaten with either meat or dairy. (According to some views, fish may not be eaten with meat).

  7. Utensils (including pots and pans and other cooking surfaces) that have come into contact with meat may not be used with dairy, and vice versa. Utensils that have come into contact with non-kosher food may not be used with kosher food. This applies only where the contact occurred while the food was hot.

  8. Grape products made by non-Jews may not be eaten.

  9. There are a few other rules that are not universal.

 

It is because of this dietary law that we are told in verse 8 through 10;

 

8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.

 

It is certain beyond a doubt that Daniel and his friends would be defiled and not be able to eat according to the kashrut if they were to eat the same things that the king was eating, because the food prepared for the king, even if it were a kosher animal, would not have been killed or prepared in the manner prescribed by God for the Jews.

 

Verses 9 and 10 tell us the initial reaction of the chief of eunuchs to Daniel's request. We read;

 

9 Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs. 10 And the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your food and drink. For why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are your age? Then you would endanger my head before the king.”

 

Notice, first of all, that Daniel has the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuch, not because of his own merits, but because God has accomplished this for him. Also notice that the chief of the eunuchs is not worried about disobeying the king, in meeting Daniel's request, instead, he is worried that if Daniel and his friends do not eat what they are supposed to that they will not be as healthy as they should be and if they aren't healthy then he is worried for his own head.

 

So Daniel proposes a test, which we read in verses 11-14;

 

11 So Daniel said to the steward[a] whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then let our appearance be examined before you, and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the king’s delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants.” 14 So he consented with them in this matter, and tested them ten days.

 

15 And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king’s delicacies. 16 Thus the steward took away their portion of delicacies and the wine that they were to drink, and gave them vegetables

 

You may be surprised to know that vegetarians and Seventh Day Adventists alike use this passage and this test as “proof” that a vegetarian diet is superior to eating meat. In doing so they are not taking into account the dietary laws that I explained to you earlier.

 

You see, Daniel, Haniniah, Mishael and Azaraiah could only eat that which they knew was kashrut. That means literally that they could only eat that which they knew was kashrut when it got to them. If you go back to those general rules, you'll see number 5;

 

Fruits and vegetables are permitted, but must be inspected for bugs (which cannot be eaten)

 

Is really the only thing that they could eat and be certain that they were not violating God's laws to the Jews about food. Those young men's features did not appear better and fatter in flesh because they ate vegetarian. They appeared that way because they were obeying God by keeping His law concerning food. If they had had access to kosher meat they could have eaten that as well and appeared just as healthy, maybe even healthier. The point that is somtimes lost here is that it is not about vegetables, it is about being obedient to God.

 

This is why we read in the next verses;

 

17 As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.

 

God is blessing them and will use them mightily because they are devote. Even in the midst of a new culture where they might be persuaded to forsake God's dietary law they will not do so. They don't use their circumstances as rationale to relinquish God's hold upon them. Daniel doesn't even say that they were tempted to eat of the kings delicacies and drink his wine which is pretty awesome in itself when consider that it was food that was literally fit for a king.

 

Of course, when we truly understand God's omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence, we know that God explicitly put these four young men in King Nebuchadnezzar's court. Though the book is named after the prophet Daniel, each of these young men will play a role in God's eternal plan, including preparing generations of wisemen to look for the signs of the coming of the Jewish Messiah in the stars. Thus we read;

 

18 Now at the end of the days, when the king had said that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 Then the king interviewed[b] them, and among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they served before the king. 20 And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm. 21 Thus Daniel continued until the first year of King Cyrus.

 

If you confess Jesus as Lord, I pray that, as we open the book of Daniel and ask God to help us to understand it more intimately, that you might, even in these opening verses, been edified.

 

I pray that you will be emboldened by the proper explanation of the “conflicts” between Jeremiah 25 and Daniel 1. You may not have even known about it before, but now you not only know about it but can see that it can be easily explained, like all of the supposed “contradictions” that the Bible's detractors scream about all the time, but fail to really understand.

 

I also pray that you will not miss the fact that, even as Esther, who will come after him, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah have been born for the time that they are in, and they will be used by God, for His purposes and to His glory because they are obedient to God. If you asked them, they would tell you that it is God Who is responsible for their destinies and their circumstances. As we will see as we go through this wonderful book, each of these men will show their absolute faith in God even unto death, and will not waiver from His law.

 

Finally, I pray that you will be encouraged to contemplate the kind of faith that these young men have. It is a faith that is not predicated upon them receiving anything. Rather, it is a faith rooted in obedience to their Creator, Whom they revere, or as the translators put it, fear, regardless of their circumstances. The first lesson that we can learn from these young men is that our obedience to God should not waiver, even if the situation seems difficult. God will make a way for us to persevere and to bring glory to Him, always.

 

That is a theme that we will see repeated throughout the lives of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishrael, and Azariah as we follow them through the book of Daniel.

 

And if you have never confessed Jesus as your Lord. I urge you to contemplate the power of a book that dictates dietary laws to men that, when followed in obedience to the Author of that book and those laws, results in someone being healthier than others who are literally eating food fit for a king.

 

I don't want you to think about the diet, or vegetables, I want you to think about a Creator who put His servants in this situation to fulfill His purposes, Who causes the chief of the eunuchs to be favorable to them, and yes, Who causes them to be healthy, wise and influential among their captors because of their obedience to Him and His laws.

 

While Daniel, Hananiah, Mishrael and Azariah were able to keep God's dietary law, they certainly were not able to obey God's law perfectly. There is only one Person Who was able to do that.

 

That is Jesus.

 

For the rest of us, we find ourselves either not doing what God wants us to do, or doing what God doesn't want us to do regularly.

 

This is called sin, and the Bible says that we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

 

The Bible also says that the wages of sin is death.

 

Death is not simply ceasing to exist, but rather it is eternal separation from God and anyone else in that place that Jesus called “the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

 

If the reality of your sin, and God's impending wrath is real to you, then God is changing you into a new creation, one that can confess Jesus as Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead. With this confession and faith you can be spared from eternal death and instead have eternal life, through Christ Jesus.

 

Won't you cry out to Him today?

 

Humble yourself before God, confess Jesus as Lord, believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead and be saved.

 

Do it today.

 

 

Let us pray.

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