Daniel 1:1. In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it.
Sin always brings its punishment. King Jehoiakim did evil in the sight of the Lord, so God used Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, to be the rod in his hand to scourge his sinful people and their wicked king.
Daniel 1:2. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand,
It was not merely that Nebuchadnezzar was strong enough to overcome the Jews; but God handed over his people into Nebuchadnezzar’s hand. The enemy cannot touch the Church of God without the divine permission.
Daniel 1:2. With part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.
See how holy things, once used for the noblest purposes, become of no further service when the Spirit of God is gone from the Church. You know that when the Philistines captured the ark of God, and put it in the temple of Dagon, the fish — god fell down broken before the ark. Nothing of this kind happened in Babylon. The holy vessels were put into the heathen temple, and no miraculous result followed, for God cares nothing for golden vessels in and of themselves. When sin has polluted his people, their precious things are nothing to him. They may go where men please to carry them. All their value lies in God accepting the service rendered through them. So, brother, you may keep up your attendance at the Lord’s supper, and your preachings, and your gatherings for worship; but they will all be nothing without the Spirit of God. See how the Lord’s supper is turned into the sacrifice of the mass, and how baptism is represented as the channel or medium of regeneration, when once the Spirit of God has gone from the divinely-appointed ordinances. Besides these holy vessels, Nebuchadnezzar took the best of the people of the land, and carried them away captive. He singled out the rich and the noble, those who had education and other attainments, while he left the poorest of the land behind. Sometimes those who are the most exalted will have the most suffering.
Daniel 1:3-4. And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes; Children —
Or, youths, —
Daniel 1:4. In whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.
Nebuchadnezzar was, in many respects, an enlightened ruler. He looked upon this as one of the best things that he could do for his court and vast empire, that he should pick out the best of the young men of every nation, who should bring their national knowledge with them; and then, being sprightly in body and nimble in mind, should be trained to become counsellors, or advisers of the court, or be prepared to fill important offices as they became vacant.
Daniel 1:5. And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank:
Treating them exceedingly well, thinking, perhaps, that the very food they ate might help to tone their minds for the work to which he had called them. He wished to make them into true Chaldeans, so be ordained that they must eat of the meat he ate, and drink of the wine he drank.
Daniel 1:5. So nourishing them three years,
Putting them to college, as it were, for three years, —
Daniel 1:5-6. That at the end thereof they might stand before the king. Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah:
You know these men’s names. You will recognize them when you hear them in their altered form.
Daniel 1:7. Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names:
This was to Chaldeanize them, to take away from them everything Jewish.
Daniel 1:7. For he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.
Now these young men’s Jewish names had, each one of them, the name of God wrought into their texture. I need not stay to bring it out; but there is a signification about each name connecting it with God. You hear in two of them the sound of El, which is a name of God; and in the other two, the termination Iah, which brings out the name Jehovah. The new names that were given to them appear to have been connected with idols; at all events, it was so with Belteshazzar and Abed-nego, or Abednego. The intent was to make Babylonians of them.
Daniel 1:8. But Daniel purposed in his heart —
I always like to come across a “but” when there is any scheme of this kind on. When the plan is to seduce men from right, then it is a happy thing to have a but, but, but, “But Daniel purposed in his heart,” determined, settled, fixed it,
Daniel 1:8. That he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank:
Daniel here mentions only himself; but the three others were one with him in the resolve and the request. He was the leader. Sometimes there would be no Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, if there was not a Daniel. The other three might never have had the strength of mind, if it had not been for the Daniel, who dared to stand alone; but having such a brave leader, they dared to stand with him. We often owe much to spiritually-minded men, who are able to help others to take a right course.
Daniel 1:8-9. Therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.
It was like the case of Joseph and Potiphar. Daniel’s gentle disposition, his loving ways, his open and frank spirit, had won upon the prince of the eunuchs, so that he not only regarded him with favour, but even had a tender love for him. God has the hearts of all men under his control, and he may give his people favour where they least expect it.
Daniel 1:10. And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king.
What a reign of terror there is in a despotic country, where kings can do as they will! For the smallest offence, a man’s head may be in danger.
Daniel 1:11-12. Then said Daniel to Melzar whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink.
I like it that the Holy Ghost uses their old names whenever it is proper that they should be used. May we never lose our old names! I mean, our new names, for they have grown old with some of us now. May we ever be known as the servants of God, and not as Chaldeans! The prince of the eunuchs gave Daniel a kind of hint, that, if the officer under him chose to take the responsibility of altering the food and drink, he might do so, and the prince would not interfere with the experiment. So Daniel turns to Melzar, and says to him, “Prove thy servants for a suitable time. Let us have pulse to eat, and water to drink.” He put his request in an extreme light, in order to be quite sure that nothing brought to him would come from the king’s table.
Daniel 1:13. Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants.
“If we do fall off, and grow thin, and look pale and ill through this coarse food, as you think it, well then, alter it; and if, on the other hand, we should be as well as those who have eaten the king’s meat, and drunk the king’s wine, then let us keep to our pulse and water.”
Daniel 1:14. So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days.
A round number, standing for a sufficient period to afford a fair test.
Daniel 1:15. And at the end of days their countenances appeared fairer — and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat.
I doubt not that the satisfaction of heart which they had in keeping themselves undefiled tended to give them a good digestion, and thus they were more likely to be well than were the others.
Daniel 1:16-17. Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse. As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom:
God can help us in our study. We may pray as much over what we have to learn as over what we have to do. I believe that, often, a difficult problem can be best solved by prayer. All true knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom are the gifts of God.
Daniel 1:17-19. And Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king.
They were made to be his attendants, his advisers, these very men who had been so absurd as not to eat the food from the royal table, so obstinate as to consider that they would defile themselves if they did. It is these absurd and obstinate people who cannot be bent, but must be straight; the upright men, who shall stand before kings, for God is with them.
Daniel 1:20. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.
They communed with God, and that was better than being magicians or stargazers. Men of God are ten times better than all that lot put together.
Daniel 1:21. And Daniel continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus.
Those two words summarize the whole of Daniel’s history: Daniel continued.” May God give to each of us here grace to continue as Daniel did!