Early Life of Daniel in Babylon
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord delivered 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 in Babylonia and put in the treasure-house of his god.
The first chapter of Daniel is a beautifully written, moving story of the early days of Daniel and his companions in Babylon. Daniel begins by giving us the historical setting which includes the first siege and capture of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, which occurred in 605 B.C. Because of sin, Israel was being carried off captive to wicked Babylon.
Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility – young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service. Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.
Daniel explains how he and his companions came to Babylon.He records that the King ordered Ashpenaz to bring some of the children of Israel to Babylon for training to be servants of the king. Those selected were to be descendants of Jacob who belonged to the nobility of Israel. Their physical, personal and intellectual capacities were included in this selection process.Their training was to separate them from their previous Jewish culture and environment and teach them “the language and literature of the Babylonians.”Their environment and circumstances soon presented some real challenges, at least for Daniel or Belteshazzar, Hananiah or Shadrach, Mishael or Meshach and Azariah or Abednego because there would have been certain aspects of their training which may have been ungodly. Nevertheless, they went through their training program but they did not allow it to change them. Neither did they allow their new names to change their real identity.Then they had to face the issue of food and drink. They knew that the food and the wine had been dedicated to idols and to partake thereof would be to recognize the idols as deities. So what should they to do in this case? We can read the answer in:
But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself in this way. Now, God had caused the official to show favour and sympathy to Daniel, 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 of your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”
Daniel then said to the guard, whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days. At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.
This time, Daniel and his friends knew that they needed to take a stand, even though this could cost them their lives, because they understood that taking part in the king’s food and wine which had been dedicated to idols would have defiled them. So Daniel requested to be given a ten-day trial during which time he and his three friends would only be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. His request was granted and the result was four very healthy looking young men. Likewise, we too need to know when to take a stand, even when it may cost us our lives, so that our relationship with God will not be affected and we need to know when it is ok to participate in something since it will not affect our relationship with God.
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. At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 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.
Daniel gives us here a summary of the three years of hard study which resulted in them being selected for the king’s service. Although all four youths shared in an intelligent understanding of the literature of the Babylonians and were able to wisely separate the true from the false, only Daniel had “understanding in all visions and dreams.” In this, Daniel differed from his companions as a true prophet.