Robert Duncan Culver


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  1. Chapter 1~The Historical Background
    1. Introduction
      The historical narrative of the book of Daniel relates mainly to events which transpired in or near the city of Babylon, located on the banks of the Euphrates about 400 miles due east of northern Palestine. The earliest events recorded took place in about the year 606 B.C. and the latest in about 534 B.C. All is reported by a man introduced at the be­ginning as a youth named Daniel and described the close as a very aged man.

      Though there is much history in the twelve chapters of Daniel, it is clear that the material is not intended primarily as a history of the era. The events are not related in consecutive order. For example, the date of the seventh chapter is previous to that of chapters five and six. It has been incautiously affirmed that the prophecies of Daniel are "history prewritten," but this is not strictly true. Certain events of history, and even some sequences of history, are predicted, but the essential elements of strict relative chronological arrangement and re­lationship, necessary to history 'are not always present even in the so-called historical sections of Daniel, much less in the predictive sections considered as a whole.

      One who strains to find obscure predictions in the historical sections is missing the point. This book is written with a moral purpose. Even the predictive portions are primarily moral in purpose. The best expositors have seen this. For example, Calvin, the greatest expositor of the reformation, properly saw the divine purpose of this book as a guide for God’s people in times of moral and religious persecution and therefore saw two great volumes of commentary on it, emphasizing these themes.

      At the time Daniel wrote this book his people did not live in Palestine, but were in exile in Babylon and neighboring countries. Many cultural changes were thrust upon them by this unhappy situation. The common language of their masters in Babylon was Aramaic, a tongue similar to Hebrew, also called Chaldee or Syriac. A number of evidences lead to the conclusion that this had been originally the language of Abraham when he first entered Canaan.[1] Note that the language of Laban is still Aramaic, but Jacob’s is now Hebrew, the language of the Canaanites. Aramaic was the language of the Jews’ neighbors at Damascus. It gradually replaced Hebrew, becoming by our Lord’s time the common speech of Palestine.

      The book of Daniel was written during the very early period of transition. This circumstance evidently brought about the strange result that Daniel was composed in two languages. Chapter one and the first three and one-half verses of chapter two are in Hebrew. From thence to the end of chapter seven the language is Aramaic. Chapters eight through twelve return to Hebrew. Why this strange situation? Why did not the author put the entire book in one or the other language? Or, if he wanted to use two, why did he not have one portion for each instead of two for one and one for the other?

      The best answer, in my opinion, was presented in England about a century ago by a devout scholar, S. P. Tregelles, and about the same time in Germany by another reverent teacher named C. A. Auberlen. According to this view, chapter one is an introduction to the whole book having meaning primarily for Hebrews, is about Hebrews, and is directed to them. Chapters two to seven form another division in subject matter. It is, of course, addressed to Hebrews, but relates primarily to the nations of the world, as such. Hebrew interests are introduced somewhat indirectly. Aramaic, the diplomatic and commercial language of the nations of that day is, therefore, appropriate. Chapters eight through twelve revert to the same subjects and view-point as chapter one, and are, therefore, appropriately reported in Hebrew.

      All of Daniel is a book of prophecy. Biblical prophecy includes prediction but is more than prediction. It may be history, written from a divinely given moral and spiritual point of view. And inspired writing of a prophet in the best Biblical sense is prophecy, whether it relates to the past, the present, or the future. Jesus said that the author of this book was a prophet.[2] Using the three linguistic divisions as the key, the book may be outlined as follows:  

      Daniel’s Prophecies of the Nations of the World and of Israel's Future in Relation to Them

      I. Historical Introduction to the book (chapter 1)
      II. The Nations of Earth, Their Character, Relations, Succession, and destiny (chapters 2-7)
      III. The Hebrew Nation, Its Relation to Gentile Dominion and Future in the Plan of God (chapters 8-12)

      The portion now under- consideration, chapter one, has a designed relation to the whole book. In it the historical setting is laid. We learn when and where these things happened. We learn who the chief actors are to be. And, we learn how it was that these particular people happened to be at the focus, in time and space, and at which such significant things took place.

      There is, however, a singularly valuable series of lessons in the moral heroism of the four Hebrew boys whose story is introduced here. This makes the chapter of great worth quite apart from the rest of the book.

      During the presidency of Dwight David Eisenhower several stories of his boyhood with his brothers appeared in American newspapers and magazines. A very interesting one is about the time with great personal fortitude he bound his brother to prevent any doctor from removing his infected leg. The story, and the others, would be significant in any history giving the backgrounds of the Eisenhower administration of the presidency. For the usual reader, however, the story is of greater worth as an inspiration to personal fortitude. So it is with the first chapter of Daniel—the greatest personal profit will be derived from the inspira­tion to personal moral heroism.

      In a day when the sports and entertainment world is furnishing our people, especially youth, with many very unworthy objects of emulation this story about four of God's own truly human heroes is sorely needed.
    2. Circumstances Providing the Setting of the Story and of the Book (1-5)
      1. The Time
        In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it (Daniel 1:1)

        Until very recently this verse was the only knowledge available concerning this capture of Jerusalem except for a very interesting report of Josephus, a first century Jewish historian. II Kings 24:1 may refer to it, as may also II Chron. 36:6, 7. But this is not certain. In the absence of proof from archaeology or from other ancient historians it has been common for irreverent modern critics to deny that such a capture ever took place. In writing so-called histories of Israel it has become customary even to ignore this verse and to regard the capture of the city after the end of Jehoiakim's reign in 597 B.C. as the beginning of the Babylonian servitude. A recent work by a thoroughly orthodox and generally competent New Testament scholar makes this blunder. As recently as December 1956 were first published the archaeological findings which provide full support for Nebuchadnezzar's presence in Palestine and which make this capture of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 605 credible even to skeptical historians.[3]

        Actually there were at least three occasions when Nebuchadnezzar's armies besieged Jerusalem. The present passage of Scripture relates the first. A second was in the year 597 in the first year of Jehoiachin when Nebuchadnezzar carried away King Jehoiachin. This was the occasion of the transportation of Ezekiel.[4] The final siege took place in 587-86 B.C. and lasted a year and a half.[5]  

        About seventy years after this capture of Jerusalem in 605 Cyrus the Persian allowed the first contingent of Jews, led by Zerubbabel and Jeshua, to return to Palestine.[6] It must be, then, that this is the beginning of the "seventy years" during which the Jews would "serve the king of Babylon".[7] No other period quite fits the historical situation and Jeremiah's actual words.
      2. The Providence of God

        And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God (Daniel 1:2a).

        This gives a true interpretation of history. Just as there is "no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few”,[8] so there is no restraint to destroy by many or by few. Later in the book,[9] the rule of God in history is made even plainer. Jeremiah had referred to Nebuchadnezzar as "my servant".[10] Hitler was another of God's servants. After seventy years God would judge the king of Babylon just as finally God judged Hitler. Their self-praising exploits, as someone has quaintly said, were hardly more than "exercise to keep them healthy for execution".
      3. The Transportation of Temple Vessels

        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 (Daniel 1:2b).

        This was to show the Jews that he would not protect even the holy vessels of his holy house from desecration by heathen hands if they, his people, would use them for unholy purposes. We learn from the seventh chapter of Jeremiah that the people of this time were trusting in the temple and its ritual rather than in the God of the temple. They were to learn, as American Christians need to know, that God is not a synonym for good fortune or prosperity, and that his places and emblems of worship are not mere good luck pieces. The rest of the vessels were carried away twenty years later.[11]
      4. The Transportation of Daniel and His Friends
      5. 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 in whom was no blemish, but well favored, and skillful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the kings palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans (Daniel 1:3, 4).

        The office of Ashpenaz, "master of eunuchs" is prophetically significant. Long before; in the days of Hezekiah, when he had inadvisedly admitted Babylonian diplomatic representatives to the temple, Isaiah had prophesied the loss of the temple vessels to Babylon[12] and had ominously added: "And of thy sons that shall issue from thee ... shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon."[13] Eunuch (saris) in the Hebrew language designates a castrated, or emasculated, male. For obvious reasons eunuchs were frequently the officials in charge of royal harems. By a kind of metaphorical use of the word other officials were sometimes called eunuchs. There seems to be no reason in this case, aside from our natural revulsion at the idea, to suppose that Daniel and his friends did not submit to this mutilation. The sins of fathers are sometimes visited upon the children in divine providence.

        Josephus quotes from Berosus, an ancient Greek historian, the following very interesting account of the circumstances and manner of Daniel’s trip to Babylon.

        When Nabolassor, father of Nabochodnosor, heard that the governor whom he had set over Egypt … had revolted from him, … com­mitting certain parts of his army to his son Nabochodnosor, who was then but young, he sent him against the rebel, Nabochodnosor joined battle with him, and conquered him, and reduced the country under his dominion again. Now it so fell out that his father Nabolassor fell into a distemper at this time, and died in the city of Babylon, after he had reigned 29 years. But as he understood, in a little time, that his father was dead, he set the affairs of Egypt and the other countries in order, and committed the captives he had taken from the Jews, and Phoenicians, and Syrians… to some of his friends, that they might conduct that part of the forces that had on heavy armor, with the rest of his baggage, to Babylonia; while he went in haste, having but a few with him, over the desert to Babylon; whither, when he was come, he found the public affairs had been managed …Accordingly, he now entirely obtained all his father's dominions."

        Daniel must have been in the group that took the long way home, north­ward to Euphrates, and thence southeastward along its banks to Babylon. These weeks of travel were likely a time of great physical distress for the four Jewish boys. Perhaps they also improved the opportunity for reflection and prayer regarding the spiritual struggles.

        5.    The Training of Daniel and His Friends for Court Service at Babylon

        And the king appointed for them a daily portion of the king's dainties, and of the wine which he drank, and that they should be nourished three years; that at the end thereof they should stand before the king (Daniel 1:5).

        These boys were taken from the "seed royal" and nobility in order to break the spirit of rebellion at Jerusalem. The particular ones chosen for the training were selected for their suitability to be trained for court service. The term "youths" is indefinite as to age. Rehoboam at about 40 is called by the same Hebrew word, as is Joseph at about 17, and Benjamin at about 30. In view, however, of the train­ing and growth designed for them as well as the fact that Daniel lived on for some 70 years, we may suppose that they were in the "teens." "No blemish…well favored" indicates that they were to be good physical specimens and handsome. The wisdom in which they were to be trained was the technical and proverbial lore of the day—the cultural equivalent of science and philosophy today. "Knowledge" means "intelligence” here, and “Science,” “education.” “Ability…to stand in the king’s palace” designates the poise necessary for the public eye. They were the physical, intellectual, and moral cream of the crop, and being "seed royal," i.e., of the king's kinsfolk, of the best families, socially speaking. These were true advantages, not fully appreciated in our present democratic epoch.

        These facts strongly suggest that Christian mothers ought to consider meanings when they name their babies. Are we so fearful of being considered quaint or old-fashioned that we prefer the flimsy flippant names of currently popular entertainers to those of Biblical origin or of Christian significance? Our second most honored president was named Abraham. The entire roster of the presidents does not furnish an unsubstantial name. Dwight David was the name of a late honored president, conferred upon him by a pious Pennsylvania Dutch mother. John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson and Richard Millhouse Nixon are the names of the honored men who have since held the nation’s highest office. One wonders how the owners of some of the current crop of abbreviated and manufactured names, contracted on no principles ex­cept whimsy and fancy, will feel about their names if they ever reach the presidency!

        It is this group of four God-fearing youths who become the main actors in the crisis of right behavior immediately to follow and in the entire book of Daniel.

        C.   Events Placing the Author in the Position He Holds Throughout the Book (5-20)

        In addition to an explanation for the high position of Daniel and his three friends in the later history, this portion furnishes an outstanding example of spiritual and moral heroism.

        Our own period, aptly dubbed “the ease era,” does not have the climate which produces many heroes. The average American, including many who are already parents and a few grandparents, has yet to be involved in an unavoidable choice involving the necessary risk of his physical safety or public reputation. We prefer to watch synthetic heroes on television rather than even to read about authentic ones—much less to be real heroes!

        Our era needs some heroes, too. We need them in public civic office no less than in pulpit and mission station; in newspaper office as well as on judge's bench, and in professor's chair. We might well pray as does Josiah Gilbert Rolland in his moving lyric—

        GOD, GIVE US MEN
        God, give us men. A time like this
        demands Strong minds, great hearts,
        true faith and ready hands;
        Men whom the lust of office does not
        kill; Men whom the spoils of
        office cannot buy;
        Men who possess opinions and a will;
        Men who have honor; men who
        will not lie;
        Men who can stand before a demagogue
        And damn his treacherous
        flatteries without winking;
        Tall men, sun-crowned, who live above
        the fog in public duty,
        and in private thinking;
        For while the rabble with their thumb-worn
        creeds, their large profes­sions
        and their little deeds,
        Mingle in selfish strife, lo, Freedom
        weeps, Wrong rules the land,
        and waiting justice sleeps.

        1.    The Crisis of Right Living (5)

        And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king (Daniel 1:5).

        Something about the wine and meat (food) was defiling for these youths to partake. It is a naïve supposition that some alcoholic content of the wine was the cause of defilement. There is no reason to believe that this wine was more alcoholic than the common wine the boys had drunk every day from infancy. The defilement was evidently connected with the fact that it was "the king's" food and drink. The word for defilement[14] sometimes means physical defilement, as at Isaiah 63:31 where it is translated "stain" (as of garments). It sometimes means moral defilement, as at Zephaniah where it is translated "polluted." It is most frequently to be understood as ceremonial (or religious) defilement. Certain priests, for example, who could not establish their relationship to the Aaronic family by written records, were therefore "as polluted, put from the priesthood".[15] In view of our Lord's familiar dictum that "not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man"[16] the possibility of moral defilement hardly seems pos­sible. It must also be remembered that although the Old Testament fur­nishes many warnings by precept and example against the danger of drunk­enness, complete abstinence is not commanded. Furthermore, since the food and drink was "the king's" it would not have been physically con­taminated. The only likely possibility is therefore ceremonial defilement.

        Among the ancients, religion, as among primitive people today, was not a department of life to be cared for once a week, it was rather something that conditioned all of life, including eating and drinking. The preparation of food involved religious ritual and had mystic significance. Portions were offered to household deities. Slaughtering of animals among pagans, as well as among Jews, was a religious act to be carried out with proper solemnities. The flesh of animals from the king's table would first have been offered to the god of the king. To eat flesh sacrificed to a pagan god was forbidden[17] for it involved "serving other gods" in the public mind. Hosea 9:3, 4 predicted that the citizens of the northern kingdom would be thus polluted, and from Ezekiel 4:13, 14 we learn that Ezekiel faced the same problem. What was true of the flesh would also have been true of wines from the king's table.

        A further problem was involved in the fact that Nebuchadnezzar's food would not have been prepared according to Levitical procedures, that is, it was not "kosher".[18]

        It is an indication of what God counts important that so many verses of a truly great book are devoted to discussing what four men did about a small religious scruple which had no evident practical importance. Sacred scripture frequently devotes more space to religious minutiae than to the rise and fall of empires. It may seem to be a matter of slight importance whether one confesses Jesus to be like God or the same as God—yet the very integrity of our faith hangs on that distinction. It may seem like an unimportant hair-splitting distinction to insist that an objective propitiation of God's wrath[19] was accomplished at Calvary rather than a mere demonstration of love, but again the very integrity of our salvation is at stake in the distinction. Furthermore, moral scruples may be quite as important as these theological ones. The fixing of a definite "back home" hour for one's adolescent son or daughter can be a distinctly necessary moral scruple which must be kept. Standards of "dating," counting money, places of entertainment—and a host of other things may take on high moral and spiritual importance. Especially where promises to parents, school rules, etc. are involved, these things become matters for resolute spiritual decision. It may come as a shock to learn that God once destroyed two other young priests “on the spot” at the scene of their carelessness in observance of a seemingly un­important matter of religious ceremonial.[20]

        2.    The Decision for Right Living (8)

        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 (Daniel 1:8).

        In spite of all that has been said above about the ceremo­nial defilement involved in eating Nebuchadnezzar's food, the fact remains that in extreme cases, when necessary to sustain life, the Jews were conscience-free to violate these things. There are quite a number of such examples, most notably that of David's eating the shew bread.[21] It was because Daniel saw the intent of the king through these things to wean him from his faith that he refused. Calvin well says, Daniel" simply determined in his heart not to taste the diet of the court, desiring by his very food perpetually to recall the remembrance of his country. He wished so to live in Chaldea, as to consider himself an exile and a captive, sprung from the sacred family of Abraham."

        Had Daniel been one of the easy-going Christians of our day who are prepared to let any worldly pleasure or entertainment, earthly gain or excitement, be an excuse for setting aside the claims of the Lord upon them, we would never have heard of this firm choice of his. But then, we would never have heard of Daniel either! He certainly would never have adopted "safety first" as his slogan! What worldly people call squeamishness may be truly a matter of principle. “Principle is never small. It is even greater when exhibited in little things than in matters so imposing that there is scarcely room for trial. And he that is faithful in little is thereby also faithful in much. The man who has no regard for pence is not to be trusted for pounds. Our own history has shown us how a mighty revolution and the creation of a great and glorious nationality may be wrapped up in a box of tea. Daniel took his stand for God, conscience, and righteousness even in the little matter of his meat and drink, and thus laid the groundwork of a character which passed untarnished and unscathed through seventy years of political life, which outlived envy, jealousy, and dynasties, and which stands out to this day the brightest on all the records of humanity. We wonder and gaze with awe upon him as we contem­plate his sublime career".[22]

        3.    Procedures for Right Living—The Elements of Moral Heroism (8b-14)

        It is in these seven verses that the heart of the story of Daniel’s moral heroism lies. In order the better to understand the fine points of the narrative, and as a step preliminary to pointing out, in order, the precise elements of this heroism, we will examine closely some of the language. 

  • Therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself (Daniel 2:8b).
  •  The Hebrew language is replete with words which might be translated "requested." This one is usually translated "seek." It never appears except in what is called an intensive stem. The word cannot be used to describe any mild or indifferent entreaty. An idea of the nature of the entreaty here is indicated by the fact that the word is used of Saul’s three days of seeking for his father’s asses[23] and of David's importunate prayer to God for the life of his first child by Bathsheba.[24]

    Now God had brought Daniel into favor and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. 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 (Daniel 1:9, 10).

    Literally rendered: "And the [One true] God [emphasizing that God rules even in the hearts of pagans who do not acknowledge Him] brought Daniel for kindness and tender affection before the prince of the eunuchs," this shows how ultimately the lives of these boys were spared. God provides defenders for His own in strange places and from unexpected sources.

    This also shows that admirable motives and sentiments are not absent from heathen hearts. They not infrequently put some Christians to shame by their genuine concern for the needs of other people. It was, for example, a harlot of Jericho who sheltered the spies sent to that city by Joshua: the reason was that God had touched her heart. Wherever it appears, love is a "fruit of the Spirit." The rule is that "the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel".[25]

    Though the text does not specifically say so, it is certain that Daniel’s request of the prince of the eunuchs did not quite gain approval. What Daniel specifically asked is not stated either. At this stage, whatever the specific request may have been it evidently was neither granted nor denied. The prince of the eunuch’s answer simply made it discourteous for Daniel to pursue it further.

    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. Then let our counten­ances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the king's meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants (Daniel 1:11-13).

    Observe that the author, guided by the Holy Spirit's own point of view, does not deign to recognize the new names honoring the pagan gods of Babylon. He uses their proper Hebrew names.

    “Melzar," it is now generally agreed by scholars, means "steward," a name for the man's office, not for the man. The Hebrew prefixes the definite article to the word—and proper names seldom bear the article in Hebrew. He was simply "the steward."

    "Pulse" probably should read "vegetables." This is not a text in proof of vegetarianism. The objections to the king's food were based on the ground that, containing slain flesh improperly prepared, it was ceremonially unclean. This was not the case with vegetables.

    "As thou seest, deal…" probably means no more than that Daniel was prepared to accept it as the will of God for them to ignore the ceremonial impurity of the king's food if He did not miraculously (or providentially) intervene. As stated above, if necessary to sustain life, or if God specially commanded, "unclean" food could be eaten.[26] There is no support for the idea that God had given Daniela special revela­tion to the effect that the experiment would be successful. 

    So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days (Daniel 1:14).

    Daniel’s proposition appealed to the steward as sensible and feasible. What the results would have been if they had not fared well on the diet is not stated. Likely neither the steward nor Daniel and his three friends knew exactly. He as well as they wanted the plan to succeed—they were crossing their bridges as they came to them and making up the rules as they went along. It was a tense situation. Both the boys and the steward were in some danger to their lives, as the prince of the eunuchs had already indicated. Uncertainty only added to the tension. The situation called for no ordinary amount of diplomatic dexterity on the part of all concerned.

    For the instruction and enlightenment of a hundred generations this story presents the elements present in true Christian heroism.

    If we want heroes to emulate, here are some of them. We shall see herein good reasons why twice later in the book Daniel’s called a man "greatly beloved"[27] and why Ezekiel's prophecy links him in character with Noah and Job.[28]

    a.    Discernment

    Daniel and his friends saw what was evil in the diet prescribed by the king's officials. The specific items of diet were likely the same as he had been eating all his life, and hence, the defilement involved was not obvious. He did recognize the risk of defilement, however.

    Where did he learn such discernment? We do not know just how much schooling Jewish boys of those days had but we do know the Mosaic commands about parental training of children.[29] The credit, then, must go to Daniel’s parents. Surrounded from infancy by good example and instructed daily in divine things he could not fail to have a sense of the spiritually appropriate. The appli­cation to present day situations is obvious: the best place to receive spiritual nurture is the home.

    One wonders what happened to the multitudes of other Jewish boys transplanted into a pagan culture. Evidently most of them went the way of Babylon.

    We live in a time when most boys are being taken away from their home and church surroundings into the worldly and frequently defiling atmosphere of military training or of university education. Our girls likewise go out pretty much unguarded to the temptations of study on the impersonal university campus or work and play in the pagan city. If our youth are to retain their purity, then they will have to have a basis for spiritual discernment brought from home.

    b.   Resistance to Evil

    There was steel in this young man's character. Separation from home, distance from family observation, and relative immunity from criticism did not make him a push-over for the tempter. Fearing only God[30] he exemplifies the truth of James 4:7, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."

    Again, where did he get this fiber...this inner strength of soul? The answer is the same as before—from parental training. Children are by nature undisciplined. There is nothing, in fact, quite so against the nature of the young as to resist temptation where food and drink are concerned. The numerous "cookie jar" jokes are a bit of evidence of this. Yet children must be taught to resist the desire to eat all the time and to eat anything that appeals to the natural appetite. For the sake of health, as well as for the sake of spiritual welfare, they must learn to resist temptation. For a very few children precept and example may be enough—perhaps Samuel was this kind of child—but nearly all of them need to experience some kind of pain, inflicted by the hand of the parent, when the rules are broken. Parents who wish to rear sons and daughters who will re­sist evil when away from home will so manage their homes that they must, on pain of punishment, resist temptation at home. Let all Christian parents ponder and obey such passages as Hebrews 12:9-13 and Proverbs 3:11, 12; 13:24. Further, let them remember the lesson of Eli and his sons.[31]

    c.    Power to say No!

    He purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself—and he said so! He declared himself. By doing so he not only put himself on record but the force of his example carried others with him and won the respect of unbelievers. This force of character does not ordinarily develop in youth. Youth is a season of conformity. At the height of the Second World War a few college girls (in the absence of men from the war-time campuses) started wearing men's wool shirts, tails dragging at their calves, across the campus walks. In a few weeks thousands of men's shirts had been sold to college girls. Some of the young ladies looked liked nothing quite so much as bags stuffed with watermelons—but they wore the shirts just the same. Why? No power to say ‘No’ to a ridi­culous fad. Then came the custom of painting red spots high on the cheeks, then on the mouth. These things are quite harmless. There are other areas, the wearing of immodest apparel, for example,[32] where the possibility of harm in conformity is great. We need no non-conformity for the difference’ sake; what we need in non-conformity for Jesus' sake.[33]

    d.   Physical Courage

    If the prince of the eunuchs felt that he would endanger his head if he should grant Daniel’s request then Daniel likewise would endanger his head to persist in his request as he did. The man who threatened his own college of wise men with slaughter and the reduction of their houses to dunghills[34] for failure to do the manifestly impossible was not one to be trifled with. The same courage that later sent the three friends to a fiery furnace[35] and Daniel to a den of hungry lions[36] is first manifested here.

    It is sad that the customary picture of the Christian missionary, and even of our Lord Himself, in the popular mind, is that of a bloodless weakling. Quite to the contrary, the roster of the spiritual giants is a list of courageous men. Luther risked his life at Worms, Calvin at Geneva, Savonarola at Florence, Huss at Constance, Paul at Jerusalem. Within recent decades in New Guinea and in Ecuador stalwart young men have lost their lives for Jesus' sake—and there have been many others. No one will ever know the number of Christian martyrs to Communism in China and Southeast Asia. They number at least thousands.

    All men admire courage and every nation has its hall of fame. If Christians are to win the respect of men they must be brave men. Daniel had no way of knowing that his brave action would lead to political power. He sided with truth and right when they were unpopular 

    Then to side with Truth is noble when we share
    here wretched crust,
    Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and 'tis
    prosperous to be just;
    Then it is the brave man chooses, while the coward
    stands aside
    Doubting in his abject spirit till his Lord
    is crucified
    And the multitude make virtue of the faith
    they had denied.[37]

    e.    Perseverance

    Daniel did not accomplish his purpose to change the food order "in one jump" so he took another jump. The story relates that after he failed with the prince of the eunuchs he tried with the steward. The bare request had failed, so next time he joined a workable and sensible proposition with the request. A man whose sympathy did not lie in the direction of God's law would have been satisfied with a token effort to avoid defilement. A man truly sympathetic with the law of God but lack­ing in perseverance would have capitulated likewise. The same ingenuity at finding loop-holes in the law, for which youth is fa­mous, was here directed toward plugging all the holes! No wonder it is that when seventy years later Gabriel came to this man with a divine revelation he addressed him as “O man greatly beloved".[38]

    f.      Determination

    "Daniel purposed in his heart." He knew what his goals were and he determined to attain them. A pro­fessor in a Christian college spoke recently of a conference of college youth wherein the young men and young women were each questioned in writing, separately in groups, as to what their goals in life were. Economic security (in the form of income) was first while social security in the form of husband (or wife) and children was second. All agreed that they were dissatisfied with them­selves because their reasons for these goals were simply that they really had no goals. Daniel got his goals from Holy Scripture and from pious training in godliness. We will gain good goals and de­termination to follow them from the same sources. Christ himself is the Christian's goal for living. In the words of Paul: "To live is Christ, and to die is gain".[39]

    g.   Meekness

    There is not the slightest evidence of mock heroics, bravado, or of disrespect for authority in Daniel’s behavior. Daniel did not loudly stand on any alleged "constitutional rights." Rather he "requested" or "besought" the prince of the eunuchs and to the steward humbly said, "I beseech thee." Such meekness is always a sign of greatness. There is none greater in the Old Testament story than Moses. Yet of him it is written; "Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth".[40] This has no similarity to contemporary youthful blockading of the dean's office or the Student Union!

    h.   Wisdom, or Good Sense

    Not only his discreet manner of approach to his masters but in the sensible proposal—a ten-day trial—is this demonstrated. Already in his own life-time his wisdom was proverbial as the expression, "wiser than Daniel"[41] shows. There is a kind of factual Bible knowledge which contains no wisdom, no discernment; no good sense. Of the "son" who gets wisdom and heeds its teachings, it is written, “so shall they be life unto thy soul and grace to thy neck.  Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble”.[42] The passage goes on to say that wisdom brings freedom from fear and sweet sleep.

    4.    The Rewards of Right Living (15-21)

    In the first place, the four boys fared better physically (v. 15). Certain commentators are probably correct in attributing the cause of this not directly to the superiority of their diet, but to the overruling providence of God. It was at this point in the story that God is first seen to assert his power over the Babylonians.

    In the second place, their right living, or perhaps it might better be said, their right choosing, was rewarded by deliverance from any necessity for ceremonial defilement. They had honored God, so God honored them. They had trusted in the Lord with all their heart; they had not leaned on human understanding. They had acknowledged Him in all their ways. As a result God had directed their paths.[43]

    In the third place all four of the "children" gained increased knowledge and skill, especially Daniel who gained understanding of vis­ions and dreams—used with good effect later. Verily, "to him that hath shall be given." The "Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."

    In the fourth place, they gained pre-eminence among all their associates. Again, it is written, "Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men".[44]

    Finally, Daniel was granted a continuing influence in high places for a period of about seventy years, even on into the period of the Medes and Persians who replaced the Babylonians in rulership of the Near East. “And Daniel continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus” (v. 21). This was at least till 539 B.C., and perhaps even as much as 15 years longer, i.e., at least for a period of 66 years after Daniel's transportation from Jerusalem. It does not have reference to his lifetime, for chapter 10 represents him as living in the third year of Cyrus. It likely has reference to his continuing, as indicated by the preceding verse, in official capa­city. No Hebrew mentioned in the Old Testament, outside of Joseph in Egypt, ever had influence in the affairs of nations like that of this man Daniel.

    The strength with advanced age to which Daniel came teaches a lesson of which Shakespeare reminds us through the old man of his drama As You Like It.

    "When I was young I never did apply
    Hot and rebellious liquors in my blood
    Nor did not with unblushed forehead woo
    the means of weakness and debility;
    Therefore mine age is as a lusty winter,
    Frosty, yet kindly."

    D.  Conclusion

    This chapter has set the stage for understanding the rest of the book of Daniel. In doing so it has imparted a lesson in moral heroism. A couple of additional final observations should be added. This chapter demonstrates how that God's Word, the Bible, gives emphasis to the truly important things. One verse only is devoted to the fall of Jerusalem and another to the professional education of the four boys, but almost half a chapter is devoted to detailed recital of the story of what might appear to be a trifling religious scruple. What takes place in a young child’s heart or in a Wednesday evening prayer meeting in a small church may be more important to god than what happens in the capitals of the world. Further, observe how that God, as usual, operated through a minority—a remnant if you will. Thank God for his faithful minority!

    [1] vid. Deut. 26:5, Gen. 26:5; 31:47

    [2] Mt. 24:15

    [3] vid. Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. LXXV, Part IV, p. 277

    [4] vid. II Kings 24:8-16; cf. Ezek. 1:1 ff

    [5] vid. Jer. 52; II Kings 25

    [6] vid. Ezra 1

    [7] Jer. 25:11, 12

    [8] I Sam. 14:6

    [9] 4:17

    [10] Jer. 25:9

    [11] Jer. 52:16-23

    [12] II Ki. 20:12-17

    [13] II Ki. 20:18

    [14] Dan. 1:8

    [15] Ezra 2:62, cf. Neh. 7:64

    [16] Mt. 15:11

    [17] vid. Exodus 34:15

    [18] vid. Lev. 3:17, 6:26; 17:10-14; 19:26

    [19] Romans 3:25, 5:9

    [20] Lev. 10:1 ff

    [21] Mt. 12:3-5 cf. I Sam. 21:6, Num. 28:8, 9

    [22] J. A. Seiss

    [23] II Sam. 2:17

    [24] II Sam. 12:16

    [25] Prov. 12:10

    [26] vid. above on v. 8 and also Ezek. 4

    [27] Dan. 9:23; 10:19

    [28] Ezek. 14:14, 20

    [29] Deut. 6:4-9

    [30] cf. M`t. 10:26-28

    [31] I Sam. 2:12-30, esp. v.29

    [32] I Peter 3:1-5; I Tim. 2:9

    [33] vid. Acts 4:19, 20

    [34] Daniel 2:5

    [35] Daniel Chapter 3

    [36] Daniel Chapter 6

    [37] (James Russell Lowell: The Present Crisis)


    [38] Dan. 10:19

    [39] Phil. 1:21

    [40] Num. 12:3

    [41] Ezek. 28:3

    [42] Prov. 2:23

    [43] Prov. 3:5, 6

    [44] Prov. 22:29, cf. Dan. 8:27

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