Setting Date Overview Commentary
1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it.
2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: 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.
3 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;
4 Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.
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.
6 Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah:
7 Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.
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.
9 Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.
10 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.
11 Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,
12 Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink.
13 Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king's meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants.
14 So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days.
15 And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat.
16 Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.
17 As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.
18 Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar.
19 And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king.
20 And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.
21 And Daniel continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus.
In the year 639 B.C., at the age of eight, Josiah became king of Judah. In the eighth year of his reign (632/631), he began to seek after God, and in the twelfth year (628/627), be began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of idols (2 Chronicles 34:1-3). In the following year Jeremiah was called to the prophetic ministry.
For well over a century Assyria had been the most powerful nation in the middle east. Nineveh, one of Assyria's capitals, had been a mighty city as early as the beginning of the 8th century when Jonah was sent there. But now Assyria's power was waning. In 626 B.C., the year in which the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal died, a revolt erupted in the Assyrian province of Babylon. Nabopolassar, a Chaldean mercenary serving in the Assyrian armed forces, was sent to Babylon to squelch the revolt. There, in 625, Nabopolassar set himself up as king and founded the Neo-Babylonian Empire. During the same period, the Medes were beginning to gain significant power.
Daniel was born around the year 623 B.C. He was about two years old at the time of the reformation in Judah under King Josiah, when the book of the law was found in the temple. So he grew up in the midst of a religious revival. Several prophets, including Jeremiah, Joel, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah, lived during this time.
In the year 614 B.C. the Medes, under King Cyaxares, overthrew Asshur, a capital of Assyria. Nabopolassar, hearing about it, rushed to the scene, hoping to get in on the victory. But he arrived too late to get involved. So he sat down with Cyaxares and visited. There the two men entered into an agreement to work together to rid themselves of Assyria. The compact was sealed in the following way: Cyaxares' daughter, Amuhean, was promised to marry Nabopolassar's son, Nebuchadnezzar.
In 612 B.C. the two forces decided to invade the present capital, Nineveh. It was a three-month siege. In August of that year the city was burned. The king, his family, and all in the palace died. The Medes and the Babylonians decided to divide the world between themselves. The Babylonians chose Syria, Palestine, Assyria, Babylon, and the whole Mesopotamian valley. The Medes chose the mountain area to the north and east.
But before they could take their claim, there was one more Assyrian king, Ashur-uballit II, to deal with. He, in Haran, tried to rally his forces together. Egypt, seeing Assyria's weakness, decided to help Assyria. But in 610 B.C. the Babylonians conquered them all. The Assyrians were never heard of again.
The Egyptians, however, still held a fortress in Carchemish. The Egyptian king Psammetik I died in 609 B.C. Necho, the new king, was in Carchemish when Josiah decided to go help the Babylonians fight a gainst the Egyptians. But tragically Josiah was killed at Megiddo, and the defeated Jews returned home. That year was 608 B.C. Upon Josiah's death the people set up his youngest son, Jehoahaz, also known as Shallum, on the throne of Judah, at the age of 23.
But Pharoah Necho disliked Jehoahaz. He invited him to come and see him. Jehoahaz, being weak and inexperienced, went. Necho arrested him and sent him captive to Egypt. Jehoahaz had reigned only three months. Now Egypt was over Judah, and Necho appointed Eliakim, the second son of Josiah, 25 years old, as a vassal king. Eliakim, whom Necho renamed Jehoiakim, favored Egypt. Jehoiakim served as king of Judah under Necho for three years.
In the year 605 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar, for the first time, went out to fight on his own. He defeated the Egyptians at Carchemish, and as they fled south, he pursued them, killing them as they went. The Egyptians tried to rally and make a final stand at Hamath, but were defeated again. They fled for home, Nebuchadnezzar right behind them. As he went, Nebuchadnezzar stopped to conquer Jerusalem, bringing Judah under Babylonian rule. Jehoiakim became a vassal of Babylon.
Nebuchadnezzar took sacred vessels from the temple in Jerusalem to place in the house of his god. He also took captives from the nobility and of the royal household, to be trained for service in the Babylonian court. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were among them.
As he continued toward Egypt, Nebuchadnezzar received word that his father, Nabopolassar, had died. That was in August, 605 B.C. He immediately hurried to Tadmor and cut across the Syrian Desert to get home to claim the throne. A tablet indicates that he was on the throne by September 7. The captives were brought to Babylon by the longer route along the fertile crescent.
Click here for points to keep in mind when Determining Biblical Dates.
The first verse assigns this chapter to the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah. Jehoiakim became king in the year 608 B.C., shortly before the end of the Jewish calendar year 609/608. The first year of his reign was therefore 608/607; the second year, 607/606; and the third year, 606/605.
Babylonian records reveal that Nebuchadnezzar became king in 605 B.C. Therefore the date of Daniel 1:1 must be 605 B.C.
The first chapter of this book opens with the capture of Daniel (who was about 18 years of age at this time) and his young companions, by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar, at the beginning of Nebuchadnezzar's prosperous reign as king of the neo-Babylonian empire. The boys were taken from Jerusalem to Babylon and put through a training program to become officials in the Babylonian government.
The chapter focuses on an issue which became a test of spiritual strength for the four Hebrew youths. When they arrived in Babylon, they were confronted with a decision to stand for the dietary principles they had been taught from childhood, or to compromise their standards under the pressures of their captivity.
The key text is verse 5: "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. . . ." For refusing to compromise in what many people would consider an insignificant issue, Daniel and his friends were abundantly blessed by God and brought to honor before the king.
Verse 1 Text
"In the third year"
See Date above.
The second son of Josiah, originally named Eliakim.
Babylon, Ancient and Spiritual
For information on this historical conquest, see the Setting for this chapter.
Verse 2 Text
That is, Babylon.
Verse 4 Text
The Babylonian people.
Verse 6 Text
"Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah"
The meaning of their Hebrew names:
Verse 7 Text
"Belteshazzar," "Shadrach," "Meshach," "Abednego"
Although the exact meaning of these names is not certain, most scholars agree that they have some reference to Babylonian gods.
We will meet Daniel's companions again in chapters 2 and 3.
Verse 8 Text
"Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself"
This verse is the high point of the chapter. Daniel firmly resolves to practice strict temperance. His decision would affect his entire future.
That this is the opening lesson of the book of Daniel indicates the importance of this commitment. Eden was lost because of appetite. Our Lord's first victory in the wilderness was over appetite. And those who will represent God in these last days must gain the same victory.
Daniel did not demand or demostrate, but showed great courtesy.
Verse 12 Text
"Let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink"
"Pulse" is plant foods, as opposed to animal products. Daniel and his
friends were requesting a vegetarian diet. These four young men
acknowledged two things:
1. The spiritual duty of healthful living
2. The superiority of a simple, plant food diet.
What the Bible Says About Diet and Health
Verse 21 Text
"Unto the first year of king Cyrus"
This does not mean that Daniel only lived until the first year of Cyrus' reign, for the prophet's final recorded vision occurred in Cyrus' third year (Daniel 10:1). It may be that Daniel here simply noted the year in which he wrote this chapter.
Imagine Daniel, nearly ninety years old, reviewing his life, and regarding this pivotal life choice at eighteen years of age as the most appropriate introduction to the story of his life.