This study of Daniel Ch1 was given by pastor Barry Forder on 25th April 2021 at Calvary Chapel Portsmouth’s online family service.
Daniel Chapter 1
The book of Daniel opens with an historical statement. Critics of the Bible (and of the book of Daniel in particular) try to deny that this really happened, yet it is a matter of historical record that Jews were deported to Babylon. For the previous 150 years or so, Israel had been preparing for invasion. Initially the threat of Assyria loomed – the Northern kingdom of Israel had been carried away to Assyria in 722 B.C. – now the might of Babylon posed an imminent threat to remaining southern kingdom of Judah. It is inconceivable that Judah would have let its finest young people and wealth be taken to Babylon without putting up a struggle. The writings of Berosus and Josephus, along with the accounts in Kings, Chronicles and Daniel all support the fact that Nebuchadnezzar did come into Israel (Judah) early in the reign of king Jehiokim; Berosus and Josephus also unite with Chronicles and Daniel in affirming that captives – including Israel’s finest – were taken from Judea to Babylon at this time.
However, for the purposes of our study, it is not the 1st verse, which tells us that the siege happened, but the 2nd verse that tells us why it happened that should grab our attention! Daniel records “And the LORD gave Jehoiakim, king of Judah, into his hand...” Prophets like Jeremiah and Habakkuk repeatedly warned that God was going to use the king of Babylon to judge Israel. God told Habakkuk “I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you. For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwelling places that are not theirs.” (Hab1:5-6). Jeremiah prophesied: “this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years”. (Jer 25:11) When Habakkuk and Jeremiah prophesied this, Babylon was nothing more than just a city state of the then great Assyrian Empire. This is partly why so many false prophets had risen up who didn’t want to bother with all this ‘doom and gloom’ prophecy stuff; who takes prophecies literally anyway? That’s just for the fundamentalists right? – Sound a bit like today?
Despite how it seemed on the surface, because he trusted God’s word through the mouths of the prophets, Daniel knew that God was very much in control and so he says: “the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand”. This was no accident or haphazard event.
Another example of the literal fulfilment of prophecy in verse 2 where we read that Nebuchadnezzar carried away the vessels of the Temple. About 120 years before this, the son of the then king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and was given a guided tour by king Hezakiah. We read in 2nd Kings: “Then came Isaiah the prophet unto king Hezekiah, and said unto him, What said these men? and from whence came they unto thee? And Hezekiah said, They are come from a far country, even from Babylon. And he said, What have they seen in thine house? And Hezekiah answered, All the things that are in mine house have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shewed them. And Isaiah said unto Hezekiah, Hear the word of the LORD. Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day, shall be carried into Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD. And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” (2 Kings 20:14-18).
Verse 3 alludes to the fact that Daniel was of the royal line, and that he was made a eunuch. This was a common practice because a conquering king would not want to have fertile chief advisers around the palace, for if they produced offspring they may conspire against the king and attempt to establish their own ‘royal’ line. It also meant that they were less likely to get distracted from their tasks by the king’s harem!
An inscription was found on a monument that is now in the Berlin museum confirming the person of Ashpenaz; the inscription reads: “Ashpenaz, master of the kings eunuchs” – so once again confirming the historical accuracy of Daniel.
The practice of carrying away the best and brightest of a conquered nation was a good strategic move. Firstly it meant that you rob that nation of its future leaders, and secondly it would help to keep the conquered nation in subjection, knowing that its favourite sons were ‘hostages’ under the ruling regime. The ancient cultures knew that the wealth of a nation is not its silver and gold but its youth; if the next generation were to be destroyed the empire would crumble. What a contrast to today where our youth are being systematically destroyed by the eroding of morals and a sense of accountability. Today we send our young people to the humanist training camps we call universities where morals and the fear of God are sucked out of them and then we commission research agencies to try to discover why suicide among young people is so high, why teenage pregnancy is out of control, why violent crime is on the increase etc. etc. Can we really be surprised when Evolution underpins almost all further education, teaching young people that we are here by chance, we are nothing more than animals and that there are no absolutes? Evolution is anti-God and anti-science. The Bible tells us that “the fool has said in his heart, ‘there is no God’” (Ps 14:1) and that “the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Rom 1:20) In other words, by the study of things that are made, i.e. science, we can clearly see that there is a God. This is what our young people need. This is what Daniel had! He trusted God and would not be defiled, even though he was now over 1500 miles away from home and accountability.
Ashpenaz was the man appointed by Nebuchadnezzar to oversee an intensive three-year training program, where, no doubt, Daniel and his Jewish friends would be ‘nourished’ and re-educated in the Babylonian ways and customs to go on to serve the king as his advisors. As we will see, what the ‘world’ sees as ‘nourishing’ seldom is.
Part of this training programme was subtle indoctrination. By changing their names they would begin to sever the ties with their homeland and the remembrance of their God. With Babylonian names they would start to fit into Babylonian culture and eventually this would become ‘home’. This merging into the culture and forgetting your past was a successful tactic for the Babylonians as can be seen in the fact that after the exile, only 50,000 Jews returned home; the rest had taken root in Babylon.
- Daniel, whose name meant ‘my God is Judge’ became ‘may Bell protect you’.
- Hananiah meant ‘God is gracious’, he became ‘Alumin by Rah’.
- Mishael was ‘Who is like the Lord’, he became ‘Who is like Acou’.
- And Azariah’s name was changed from ‘The Lord helps’ to ‘The servent of Nebo’.
How much this change of names influenced Daniel’s thinking can be seen in the fact that only once does Daniel call himself by this new name, and it only appears ten times in total in the book – including this occurrence. Yet he uses His Hebrew name 75 times. Bill Cooper points out that Daniel intentionally miss-spells this new name so as not to give any honour to the false Babylonian god!
Verse 8 is one of the most incredible in the Bible. In the midst of all this compromise and idolatry, with the pain of separation from his homeland still raw, we read:
“But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself”
What an incredible statement by a 14 year old boy. And even more remarkable when you try to picture the following:
A 14-16 year old Daniel and his friends leave Jerusalem and travel for weeks across desert terrain. Suddenly they see a city in the distance. As they get closer the scale becomes clear. This is a city that is 15 miles per side, walls that are 330ft high and 80ft thick – wide enough for the Babylonians to have chariot races around the walls – six a breast! 250 towers are around the walls; 80ft brass gates reflecting the sun and shining for miles around, and the infamous hanging gardens that were one of the seven wonders of the ancient world with the Euphrates river running through the city. Babylon had orchards and vineyards inside the city as well as grazing for the herds; pine trees and all kinds of foliage – in the middle of a desert! It was completely self-sustaining so that in the event of a siege they could simply shut the gates and carry on life as normal.
There were over 200 open alters throughout the city, 153 different temples including one that had an 8 mile perimeter. Another had a perimeter of 3 miles. One table from the temple of Merodach was 40ft long and 6ft wide made from pure gold. The city was about 225 square miles inside, which is about 4-5 times the size of London today.
Into all of this come these four young Hebrew boys. You can hear the taunts: ‘Don’t tell us about your God – He’s the one whose temple we have just ransacked in Jerusalem, and we’ve brought all of His golden cups and bowls and shields to put them in the temple of our gods – you better start worshipping our gods, they’re the ones with real power!’ ‘You don’t want to keep those Hebrew names either, people will make fun of you – being named after that God, you need new names that people here will respect. Daniel, what’s the use of being called ‘my God is Judge’ from now on you should be called ‘may Bell protect you’. Hananiah, there’s no point being called ‘God is gracious’, if He was, you wouldn’t be here would you! ‘You can be ‘Illuminated by Rah’. Mishael, people will laugh if they hear you being called ‘Who is like the Lord’, so why not be ‘Who is like Acou’ one of our gods. And Azariah, you need to rethink your name ‘The Lord helps’, after all you are not in Jerusalem but Babylon. You should be called ‘The servant of Nebo’. Now what would be the problem with eating a bacon sandwich? Or maybe an Oyster? Or having a glass of the kings wine? After all Daniel was now a long way away from those who would disapprove, what harm would it do and who cared in Babylon anyway, everyone else would be doing it and no one would think less of him?
This was the temptation facing these young teenage boys, yet we read: “He purposed in his heart…” This was not a spur of the moment decision but a way of life that Daniel was not prepared to compromise for anyone or anything. As Joseph in Egypt had rejected the lust of the flesh for the sake of his God, so did Daniel. Purity was the key; but it is so easy to give in, you only have to do it once and there’s no going back. Once contaminated, even just a little bit, it is no longer pure. May we too purpose in our hearts not to give an inch to sin.
“How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Rom 6:2)
“Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom 6:11)
“And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” (Rom 13:11-14)
“But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16)
Of course, Ashpenaz was understandably concerned at Daniel’s request to have a kosher diet. If these boys didn’t turn out looking fit and healthy, he would lose more then just his job!
However, after the 10 day trial proposed by Daniel, Ashpenaz could see that these Hebrew boys were looking fitter and healthier than the others. So in a move that must have caused some murmurings in the camp, all the trainee royal advisors were put on the ‘Daniel Diet’ of ‘pulse and water’! Can you imagine how this went down with all the other captives! In all seriousness, this may have been the start of Daniel’s unpopularity with his colleagues that we see fester and grow in the subsequent chapters.
Daniel purposed in his heart as a 14 year old, and as we will see, nothing has changed by the time he is in his 90’s. In the last verse of chapter 1 (v21) we read that ‘Daniel continued…’ What a testimony, what a challenge!
May you be blessed by this study and, like Daniel, purpose in your heart to not be defiled by anything of this world!