New European Commentary


About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan

Deeper Commentary

Dan 1:1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to Jerusalem, and besieged it- This means that Daniel would have been within the very first wave of captives taken into Babylon; he would have experienced the arrival of others over the next few years, all telling an increasingly bad story of the situation in Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar was not at this point "king", he was regent, although melech could apply to any such leader as he was at the time. This explains the possible chronological problem in Dan. 2.

Dan 1:2 The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God- This is to be a theme in Daniel; that all such apparent disasters have God in control of them. The remainder of the vessels were taken in later waves of the invasion (2 Kings 24:13; 2 Chron. 36:18), confirming that Daniel was taken amongst the very first wave of captives (:1). Babylon's original plan seemed to have been to make Judah a tributary state, taking away the leadership and seeking to make the youngsters like Daniel completely Babylonian, with a view to them returning and governing Judah. Hence only part of the vessels were initially taken. But this changed to a policy of complete destruction.

And he carried them into the land of Shinar to the house of his god: and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god- The captives were paralleled with the temple treasures; they were taken into the temple as evidence that Yahweh and His people had now been apparently dominated. But Isaiah had prophesied that Bel would be rendered helpless and judged (Is. 46:1,2). The faithful captives would have remembered that, even when it seemed their chips were down.

Dan 1:3 The king spoke to Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring in some of the Israelites, those of the seed royal and of the nobles- This fulfilled the prophecy to Hezekiah: "Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day, shall be carried into Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the Lord. And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon" (2 Kings 20:17,18). This would mean that Daniel and his friends may well have been castrated. There is no mention of Daniel ever getting married or having children. So we are to imagine these young men looking forward to a rather bleak life; and they instead put their energy into devotion to their God and separation from the evil empire who has seeking to psychologically dominate them. So whilst Daniel's devotion to Yahweh is to his credit, it is also psychologically understandable given this background. If Daniel and his friends were "of the seed royal", they would not have been 'well brought up' in spiritual things. They would have seen the tragedy which occurred because attention had not been paid by their families to God's word; and they were determined to do better. Josephus claims Daniel was in fact a son of Zedekiah.

Dan 1:4 Youths in whom was no blemish- The language of the sacrifices (Lev. 22:19-21) and priests (Lev. 21:16-24). These young men were to be trained up in the culture and religion of Babylon. There is a specifically spiritual aspect to the intention to educate them, so that the princes of Judah become princes of Babylon, with loyalty wholly to Babylon and her gods, and not Judah and Yahweh. There was therefore heavy pressure on these young men, with the intention of effectively brainwashing them into a totally different worldview, so that Judah would have no princes loyal to her any more.

But handsome, well educated, knowledgeable- They were to be "wise", that is, made wise, in the wisdom of Babylon. "The wise" in Daniel however are those who reject this and are wise in Yahweh's ways (Dan. 11:33,35; 12:3,10).


Understanding science, and such as had the ability to stand in the king’s palace; that he should teach them the learning and the language of the Chaldeans- There is an intended echo here of Moses' experience in Egypt; situations repeat within and between the lives of God's people, that we might learn from Biblical history and from the experiences of our brethren contemporary with us. Daniel and his friends surely saw and were inspired by the similarities with Moses. They would later see the similarities with Joseph.

Dan 1:5 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 trained for three years; that at its end they should stand before the king- The Persians and Babylonians typically trained such candidates intensely for three years from the age of 14. We can assume that this was the age of Daniel and his friends when they first made their stand for principle. Food and wine had religious significance. They were being made to participate in the king's idolatry. For his table was seen as the table of the gods he worshipped. Right at the start of the book, we are introduced to the idea of a daily sacrifice- this pagan one mimicked the true daily sacrifice of the temple.

Dan 1:6 Now among these were, of the Judeans, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah- All these names had the name of God in them, either as el or Yah. They were perhaps from amongst the minority influenced by Jeremiah's attempted reformation on the eve of the Babylonian victory against Jerusalem. Or perhaps these were names they gave themselves, for Semitic peoples often are given or give themselves names appropriate to their belief system or life experience. "Daniel" is 'God is judge', the idea being that although Babylon had judged Jerusalem, God was the ultimate judge who had merely used Babylon and Babylon would be judged too. "Hananiah" is "Whom Yah has favoured", and this word is used of how God would "favour" Judah with restoration (Ps. 123:2,3; Is. 30:19; 33:2; Mal. 1:9). "Mishael" is from the two words misha ['who is like'] and el, 'God'. These same two words are used in the classic restoration prophecy of Is. 40:18 and Mic. 7:18, the idea being 'Who is like the God who restores Judah'. 'Who is like God!' was the commentary upon God's deliverance of Israel out of Egypt (Ex. 15:11). "Azariah", 'help of Yah', is likewise a term associated with God's promise to "help" Judah in restoring them (s.w. Is. 41:13,14;  44:2; 49:8; 50:7,9). So I suggest these young men chose their names in hope, in faith and in defiance of where they were being taken.

Dan 1:7 The prince of the eunuchs gave names to them: to Daniel he gave the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego- As noted on :6, the names of these young men all spoke of their faith and hope in the restoration of the Kingdom, and they may have chosen them in defiance of where they were being taken and the unashamed program of brainwashing they were now subject to. The names they were given were an intentional subversion of Yahweh worship. "Belteshazar" is "Keeper of the hid treasures of Bel". The treasures of Yahweh's temple had been transported to the temple of Bel in Babylon, and Daniel was likewise transported.

"Shadrach" is "Filled with the spirit of the sun god". Hananiah was amongst those to be trained as Babylonian astrologers, and according to the Babylonian understanding, to do his job he would have to live up to his name, and be "Filled with the spirit of the sun god".

Mishael was tweaked to Meshach. The first syllable was retained, but el was replaced with Shak, the goddess of Babylon, also called Sheshach (Jer. 25:26; 51:41), which also means Venus, the goddess of love and mirth. But that goddess and the attempt to make Mishael into Meshach was subverted by the fact that it was during her feast that Cyrus took Babylon.

Azariah became "Abednego", "servant of Nebo", the god of wisdom, or "servant of the fire god". This was subverted wonderfully when Azariah was put in the fiery furnace, sacrificed to Nego, and yet survived thanks to Israel's God. The psychological pressure consciously exerted upon these young believers was huge, and matches that which we all live under in this latter day Babylon


Dan 1:8 But Daniel determined- "Determined" is the same word translated "gave the name to..." in :7. Babylon was determined to rename him, but he was determined not to give in to this brainwashing. He sets an example to all youngsters.

Not to defile himself- Daniel is the more commendable in this because the other captives didn't have the same sensitivity of conscience; and he is mentioned alone as the initiator in this refusal, with the three friends only coming in afterwards. The same word is used of how the later restored exiles did pollute themselves (Mal. 1:7,12; Ezra 2:62; Neh. 7:64). It is so much harder to take a stand for things when others amongst God's people don't do so.

With the king’s dainties, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself- The objection was not so much because of unclean food or the nature of its preparation, but because Daniel perceived that eating meat offered to idols was purposefully intended by the Babylonians to make these young Jews effectively part of idol worship in every meal they ate. Paul's reasoning in 1 Corinthians is based upon this; to partake in food knowingly offered to idols, when your eating was perceived as idol worship, was wrong. "The king's dainties" is better "the king's portion of food", the food that had been placed upon the idolatrous table of the king; and it is used in Dan. 11:26 to describe those on the king's side, his fellow worshippers.

Dan 1:9 Now God made Daniel to find kindness and compassion with the prince of the eunuchs- Finding chesed kindness and compassion was the language used of finding such mercy from God. But God had shown it to Daniel through the prince of the eunuchs.  Dt. 13:17 had used the term in explaining that if none of the unclean things of the gentiles defiled God's people, then Yahweh would show His people mercy and compassion. Daniel was not willing in his heart to be thus defiled, and so God showed him this promised "kindness and compassion". But how, mechanically, did it work out? We wonder if this man who was himself a eunuch may have been homosexually attracted to Daniel, who was a handsome young man and also a eunuch. "Compassion" is AV "tender love". I am not suggesting that they had a homosexual affair, but possibly the prince of the eunuchs had a homosexual attraction to Daniel and did him a favour because of it. God works in all manner of ways to bring about His purpose and work in the lives of those faithful to Him. The Hebrew however has the idea of "pity", and is the word used in Ps. 106:46: "He made them to be pitied of all those that carried them captives".

Dan 1:10 The prince of the eunuchs said to Daniel, I fear my lord the king who has appointed your food and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse looking than the youths who are of your own age? Do you really want to endanger my head with the king?- We sense this man had indeed "tender love" (:9 AV) towards Daniel but naturally feared the consequences. We also have here a window into the despotic manner of Nebuchadnezzar, who beheaded his servants for the slightest perceived lack of obedience and servitude towards him. Daniel and his friends grew up as teenagers within the threat of instant death hanging over them. It seems the king personally had come up with this idea of making the young Jews eat and drink what had been offered to idols upon his personal table; he had a personal interest in breaking the culture of Yahweh worship which these youngsters had.

Dan 1:11 Then Daniel said to the steward whom the prince of the eunuchs had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah- It seems Daniel didn't respond directly to the prince of the eunuchs but to the steward, AV "Melzar". It seems those four had one "steward" responsible for them; with only four charges under his control, he would have observed them carefully and known them well.

Dan 1:12 Test your servants, I beg you, for ten days; let them give us vegetables to eat, and water to drink- "Ten days" is elsewhere a period of testing (Rev. 2:10 etc.).

Dan 1:13 Then let our faces be looked on before you, and the faces of the youths who eat of the king’s dainties; and as you see, deal with your servants- "Faces" or 'appearance' is the word specifically used in Daniel of the "visions" about the ending of gentile power over Israel. The idea could be that this was a hint that  those looking after them were invited to look upon the later visions and judge for themselves.

Dan 1:14 So he listened to them in this matter, and proved them ten days- The Hebrew is literally 'He heard / obeyed them in this word', the phrase so often used in appealing to people to hear God's word. Those in charge of Daniel are presented as spiritually perceptive.

Dan 1:15 At the end of ten days their faces appeared fairer, and they were fatter in flesh, than all the youths who ate of the king’s dainties- Or, "the king's portion". There was a fair chance of word getting out about Daniel and his friends, but the men in charge of their feeding took that chance. "Fair and fat" is the very Hebrew phrase used about the seven fat ears of corn in Pharaoh's dream (Gen. 41:5). There are so many echoes of the Joseph story in Daniel. We are to understand that it served as a Divine template for the situation Daniel found himself in; and our familiarity with God's word coupled with sensitivity and self-examination enables us to discern such templates working out in our own lives. "Zaphnath Paaneah", the name given to Joseph, can mean 'interpreter of dreams'; and Daniel's interpreting the king's dreams, at one stage being summoned out of obscurity to do so, is so clearly based upon Joseph's experience. Man is not alone- in that no experience is without Biblical precedent, in essence. For other connections with Joseph, see on Dan. 1:19.

Dan 1:16 So the steward took away their dainties, and the wine that they should drink, and gave them vegetables- This was all the same a great risk, to disobey the king, and not give "the king's portion" ("dainties") when he had specifically stipulated it should be given them. The steward had sympathy for them.

Dan 1:17 Now as for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams- The intention was that they should obtain such learning and wisdom from their education in the school of Babylonian mythology; interpretation of dreams was specifically connected with idolatry. Hence the emphasis that Israel's God gave them wisdom. Daniel's wisdom was proverbial throughout the empire (Ez. 28:3). The language recalls how Bezaleel was "filled with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge" (Ex. 31:2,3) in order to build the tabernacle; these young men were given wisdom to effectively lead to the rebuilding of the temple. God is shown here to be able to operate directly on the human heart by His Spirit; and He can do so to this day (James 1:17; Eph. 3:15-22). We don't read here that Daniel and the four youths got wisdom from their own unaided Bible reading; rather, God gave them knowledge.

Dan 1:18 At the end of the days which the king had appointed for bringing them in, the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar- The King wanted to see how far they had progressed out of the Yahweh cult, as he would have seen it, into the Babylonian mindset. The fact he was impressed with them was a result of the wisdom given to them and probably various providential situations which enabled them to answer his questions in an impressive way. Dan. 2:1 says that Daniel interpretted Nebuchadnezzar's dream in his second year, so it's possible that this examination ceremony was actually after that; chapter 2 is explaining, in the case, how the huge reputation of Daniel had been built up. However, the commentaries all give various suggestions about the chronological issues in Daniel and there are other apparently valid ways of understanding it.

Dan 1:19 The king talked with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore they served the king- The other young Jewish men had comprised their faith in order to gain acceptance with the king; but their efforts somehow failed. "They served the king" is literally 'they stood before [the face of] the king", and the same term is used of Pharaoh being brought before Pharaoh and his 'standing before [the face of]' that king (Gen. 41:46). As noted on Dan. 1:15, this is another background allusion to Pharaoh which sets up the similarities with Joseph.

Dan 1:20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters who were in all his kingdom- They were not only better than the other Jewish youths, but ten times better than the existing Babylonian magicians. "Ten times" may connect with the ten days testing which they initially gave their steward (:14). Already the seeds of jealousy were sown; these young foreigners were found to be so far ahead of their teachers. It was thereby obvious that they had access to a wisdom far beyond that of their teachers.

Dan 1:21 Daniel continued up to the first year of king Cyrus- This may refer to the length of Daniel's uninterrupted court service. The first year of Cyrus was when the command was given to allow the Jewish exiles to return and rebuild the land. This isn't necessarily when Daniel died, but the point is being made that he lived to see that significant moment. Some Jewish traditions claim Daniel returned to Judah at that time, but then went back to Babylon to die there.