1:1 In the third year of the reign [605 BC] of Jehoiakim [a wicked king whose reign was characterized by dishonesty, oppression, injustice (2 Kings 23:36-37; Jer. 36)] king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it [2 Kings 24:1-4].
1:2 And the Lord [Adonai: title that magnifies God’s sovereignty] delivered [read Deut. 28:36-37,49-68 re: warnings that captivity would be one of the consequences of disobeying God] Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god [primary Babylonian god was Marduk, also called Bel] in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god [Nebuchadnezzar presumed his god had given him victory over God’s people].
Note: Have you recently experienced events in your life that remind you that you are not in control?
1:3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from [Babylonian practice was to deport the best and brightest from conquered nation to reduce/eliminate possibility of defeated nation rebuilding and posing a new threat] the royal family and the nobility—
Note: How do you think you would respond if you were exiled from your homeland? Do you think you would remain committed to your religious and moral convictions?
1:4 young [perhaps teenagers] men without any physical defect [cf. Lev. 21:17-23 re: requirement that priests have no physical defects], handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed [young men who had received the best education available in Israelite society], quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language [Babylonians spoke a form of the Akkadian language now called Neo-Babylonian] and literature [included Babylonian philosophy, religion, magic, astrology, science, medicine] of the Babylonians [Chaldeans (KJV)].
1:5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food [could be translated “rich food”] and wine from the king’s table [the best food available; considered a high honor to eat from king’s table]. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.
1:6 Among these were some from Judah: Daniel [name means “God is my Judge”], Hananiah [name means “The Lord is gracious”], Mishael [name means “Who is what God is”] and Azariah [name means “The Lord has/will help”].
1:7 The chief official gave them new names [perhaps to make it easier for the young men to be assimilated into the Babylonian culture; perhaps because these names were easier for the Babylonians to pronounce; note that new names included a reference to Babylonian gods]: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar [cf. Dan. 4:8; may mean either “Lady/wife of Marduk”]; to Hananiah, Shadrach [means “I am very fearful (of God)”]; to Mishael, Meshach [means “who is what (Aku) is”]; and to Azariah, Abednego [means “servant of the Shining One [or of Nego, a Babylonian deity)].
1:8 But Daniel resolved [took a firm stance on what he considered to be moral issue based on God’s Word] not to defile [contaminate] himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile [first portion of food and wine had been offered to pagan gods (Marduk, Nebo, Ishtar) in their honor (cf. 1 Cor. 10:28); food most likely unclean according to Jewish dietary rules (cf. Lev. 11; 17:13-14; Deut. 14:3-21)] himself this way.
Note: When have you recently practiced self-control? In what areas of life do you struggle most with self-control and temptation to moral compromise?
On what recent occasion have you felt a tension between your Christian values and our culture’s values? What choice did you make?
How might Daniel’s life have been easier if he had just eaten the food given to him?
Do you think it is easier to demonstrate self-control when faced with temptation if you have thought through your convictions long before the temptation arises? Why or why not?
1:9 Now God [God had not forsaken Daniel in this foreign land] had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel,
1:10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”
1:11 Daniel then said [Daniel went through proper channels and respected those in authority] to the guard [Melzar (KJV) may have been man’s name but more likely described his function] whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah,
1:12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables [something grown from seed (could include vegetables, grains, fruits, bread made from grains)] to eat and water to drink.
1:13 Then [at the end of ten days] compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see [Daniel left the decision with the guard].”
1:14 So he agreed to this [he listened to them] and tested them for ten days.
1:15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier [literally “fatter of flesh”] and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.
1:16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.
1:17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.
1:18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar.
1:19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service.
1:20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.
1:21 And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.