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a Bible passage
Four Young Israelites at the Babylonian Court
In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2The Lord let King Jehoiakim of Judah fall into his power, as well as some of the vessels of the house of God. These he brought to the land of Shinar, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his gods.
3 Then the king commanded his palace master Ashpenaz to bring some of the Israelites of the royal family and of the nobility, 4young men without physical defect and handsome, versed in every branch of wisdom, endowed with knowledge and insight, and competent to serve in the king’s palace; they were to be taught the literature and language of the Chaldeans. 5The king assigned them a daily portion of the royal rations of food and wine. They were to be educated for three years, so that at the end of that time they could be stationed in the king’s court. 6Among them were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, from the tribe of Judah. 7The palace master gave them other names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.
8 But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the royal rations of food and wine; so he asked the palace master to allow him not to defile himself. 9Now God allowed Daniel to receive favor and compassion from the palace master. 10The palace master said to Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king; he has appointed your food and your drink. If he should see you in poorer condition than the other young men of your own age, you would endanger my head with the king.” 11Then Daniel asked the guard whom the palace master had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: 12“Please test your servants for ten days. Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13You can then compare our appearance with the appearance of the young men who eat the royal rations, and deal with your servants according to what you observe.” 14So he agreed to this proposal and tested them for ten days. 15At the end of ten days it was observed that they appeared better and fatter than all the young men who had been eating the royal rations. 16So the guard continued to withdraw their royal rations and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. 17To these four young men God gave knowledge and skill in every aspect of literature and wisdom; Daniel also had insight into all visions and dreams.
18 At the end of the time that the king had set for them to be brought in, the palace master brought them into the presence of Nebuchadnezzar, 19and the king spoke with them. And among them all, no one was found to compare with Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they were stationed in the king’s court. 20In every matter of wisdom and understanding concerning which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. 21And Daniel continued there until the first year of King Cyrus.
Da 1:1-21. The Babylonian Captivity Begins; Daniel's Education at Babylon, &C.
1. third year—compare Jer 25:1, "the fourth year; Jehoiakim came to the throne at the end of the year, which Jeremiah reckons as the first year, but which Daniel leaves out of count, being an incomplete year: thus, in Jeremiah, it is "the fourth year"; in Daniel, "the third" [Jahn]. However, Jeremiah (Jer 25:1; 46:2) merely says, the fourth year of Jehoiakim coincided with the first of Nebuchadnezzar, when the latter conquered the Egyptians at Carchemish; not that the deportation of captives from Jerusalem was in the fourth year of Jehoiakim: this probably took place in the end of the third year of Jehoiakim, shortly before the battle of Carchemish [Fairbairn]. Nebuchadnezzar took away the captives as hostages for the submission of the Hebrews. Historical Scripture gives no positive account of this first deportation, with which the Babylonian captivity, that is, Judah's subjection to Babylon for seventy years (Jer 29:10), begins. But 2Ch 36:6, 7, states that Nebuchadnezzar had intended "to carry Jehoiakim to Babylon," and that he "carried off the vessels of the house of the Lord" thither. But Jehoiakim died at Jerusalem, before the conqueror's intention as to him was carried into effect (Jer 22:18, 19; 36:30), and his dead body, as was foretold, was dragged out of the gates by the Chaldean besiegers, and left unburied. The second deportation under Jehoiachin was eight years later.
2. Shinar—the old name of Babylonia (Ge 11:2; 14:1; Isa 11:11; Zec 5:11). Nebuchadnezzar took only "part of the vessels," as he did not intend wholly to overthrow the state, but to make it tributary, and to leave such vessels as were absolutely needed for the public worship of Jehovah. Subsequently all were taken away and were restored under Cyrus (Ezr 1:7).
his god—Bel. His temple, as was often the case among the heathen, was made "treasure house" of the king.
3. master of … eunuchs—called in Turkey the kislar aga.
4. no blemish—A handsome form was connected, in Oriental ideas, with mental power. "Children" means youths of twelve or fourteen years old.
teach … tongue of … Chaldeans—their language and literature, the Aramaic-Babylonian. That the heathen lore was not altogether valueless appears from the Egyptian magicians who opposed Moses; the Eastern Magi who sought Jesus, and who may have drawn the tradition as to the "King of the Jews" from Da 9:24, &c., written in the East. As Moses was trained in the learning of the Egyptian sages, so Daniel in that of the Chaldeans, to familiarize his mind with mysterious lore, and so develop his heaven-bestowed gift of understanding in visions (Da 1:4, 5, 17).
stand before the king—as attendant courtiers; not as eunuchs.
6. children of Judah—the most noble tribe, being that to which the "king's seed" belonged (compare Da 1:3).
7. gave names—designed to mark their new relation, that so they might forget their former religion and country (Ge 41:45). But as in Joseph's case (whom Pharaoh called Zaphnath-paaneah), so in Daniel's, the name indicative of his relation to a heathen court ("Belteshazzar," that is, "Bel's prince"), however flattering to him, is not the one retained by Scripture, but the name marking his relation to God ("Daniel," God my Judge, the theme of his prophecies being God's judgment on the heathen world powers).
Hananiah—that is, "whom Jehovah hath favored."
Shadrach—from Rak, in Babylonian, "the King," that is, "the Sun"; the same root as in Abrech (Ge 41:43, Margin), "Inspired or illumined by the Sun-god."
Mishael—that is, "who is what God is?" Who is comparable to God?
Meshach—The Babylonians retained the first syllable of Mishael, the Hebrew name; but for El, that is, God, substituted Shak, the Babylonian goddess, called Sheshach (Jer 25:26; 51:41), answering to the Earth, or else Venus, the goddess of love and mirth; it was during her feast that Cyrus took Babylon.
Azariah—that is, "whom Jehovah helps."
Abed-nego—that is, "servant of the shining fire." Thus, instead of to Jehovah, these His servants were dedicated by the heathen to their four leading gods [Herodotus, Clio]; Bel, the Chief-god, the Sun-god, Earth-god, and Fire-god. To the last the three youths were consigned when refusing to worship the golden image (Da 3:12). The Chaldee version translates "Lucifer," in Isa 14:12, Nogea, the same as Nego. The names thus at the outset are significant of the seeming triumph, but sure downfall, of the heathen powers before Jehovah and His people.
8. Daniel … would not defile himself with … king's meat—Daniel is specified as being the leader in the "purpose" (the word implies a decided resolution) to abstain from defilement, thus manifesting a character already formed for prophetical functions. The other three youths, no doubt, shared in his purpose. It was the custom to throw a small part of the viands and wine upon the earth, as an initiatory offering to the gods, so as to consecrate to them the whole entertainment (compare De 32:38). To have partaken of such a feast would have been to sanction idolatry, and was forbidden even after the legal distinction of clean and unclean meats was done away (1Co 8:7, 10; 10:27, 28). Thus the faith of these youths was made instrumental in overruling the evil foretold against the Jews (Eze 4:13; Ho 9:3), to the glory of God. Daniel and his three friends, says Auberlen, stand out like an oasis in the desert. Like Moses, Daniel "chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season" (Heb 11:25; see Da 9:3-19). He who is to interpret divine revelations must not feed on the dainties, nor drink from the intoxicating cup, of this world. This made him as dear a name to his countrymen as Noah and Job, who also stood alone in their piety among a perverse generation (Eze 14:14; 28:3).
requested—While decided in principle, we ought to seek our object by gentleness, rather than by an ostentatious testimony, which, under the plea of faithfulness, courts opposition.
10. worse liking—looking less healthy.
your sort—of your age, or class; literally, "circle."
endanger my head—An arbitrary Oriental despot could, in a fit of wrath at his orders having been disobeyed, command the offender to be instantly decapitated.
11. Melzar—rather, the steward, or chief butler, entrusted by Ashpenaz with furnishing the daily portion to the youths [Gesenius]. The word is still in use in Persia.
12. pulse—The Hebrew expresses any vegetable grown from seeds, that is, vegetable food in general [Gesenius].
13-15. Illustrating De 8:3, "Man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord."
Daniel had understanding in … dreams—God thus made one of the despised covenant-people eclipse the Chaldean sages in the very science on which they most prided themselves. So Joseph in the court of Pharaoh (Ge 40:5; 41:1-8). Daniel, in these praises of his own "understanding," speaks not through vanity, but by the direction of God, as one transported out of himself. See my Introduction, "Contents of the Book."
19. stood … before the king—that is, were advanced to a position of favor near the throne.
20. ten times—literally, "ten hands."
magicians—properly, "sacred scribes, skilled in the sacred writings, a class of Egyptian priests" [Gesenius]; from a Hebrew root, "a pen." The word in our English Version, "magicians," comes from mag, that is, "a priest." The Magi formed one of the six divisions of the Medes.
astrologers—Hebrew, "enchanters," from a root, "to conceal," pactisers of the occult arts.
21. Daniel continued … unto … first year of Cyrus—(2Ch 36:22; Ezr 1:1). Not that he did not continue beyond that year, but the expression is designed to mark the fact that he who was one of the first captives taken to Babylon, lived to see the end of the captivity. See my Introduction, "Significance of the Babylonian Captivity." In Da 10:1 he is mentioned as living "in the third year of Cyrus." See Margin Note, on the use of "till" (Ps 110:1, 112:8).