Daniel 1:5-9, “And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king's delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king. Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abed-Nego. But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.”
Last Sunday we took some time to address a general assumption everyone seems to make as they approach Daniel’s courageous stand in verse 8. The assumption being that “Daniel purposed in his heart,” because he was a good and Godly young man!
The operational premise for many commentators is that while growing up in Jerusalem Daniel had been raised by Godly parents who imparted to him his Godly character. While this sounds nice — and let’s be honest it lends itself to some wonderful applications for parents hoping to raise Godly kids who’ll have the backbone to stand against the lure of Babylon and the king’s delicacies — the problems with this assumption are numerous.
Again, as we note last Sunday, the text doesn’t give us any evidence to substantiate this assumption about Daniel’s parents. In fact, unique to most of the Old Testament hero’s of the faith, we have zero biographical information on Daniel or family lineage provided for us.
Aside from this, one point often overlooked, is that Daniel grew up in Jerusalem during the ministry of the Prophet Jeremiah. The Bible tells us that for the 40 years Jeremiah is speaking for the Lord not one single person converts or repents. If Daniel’s parents were Godly, the case can be made they were far outside the norms of that day — an outlier.
Obviously, I reject this assumption in favor of a more likely position that Daniel was your typical rebellious teenager living in Jerusalem when he’s unexpectedly carried away into exile. Like all of these young men from Judah, Daniel finds himself in Babylon largely at the mercy of what was going on around him and worse still being done to him.
They changed his speech and dress. Granted him access to the king’s table. Immersed him in Babylonian thought and culture. They stripped him of his Hebrew name replacing it with one that recognized the dominion of a pagan deity. The very sign in his flesh (circumcision) designed to remind him of his faith had been cut off. Daniel’s transformation from being a Child of God into a Babylonian servant of the king was close to completion.
Daniel knows he’s experiencing God’s judgment — His name “Yahweh is Judge” constantly reminds him of this difficult reality. The Prophet Jeremiah had been right all along and the testimony of Leviticus 26 could not have been more forthcoming! Daniel’s fully aware he was in exile because God had used the Babylonians to enact their punishment.
That said… Daniel also knew from the testimony of God’s Word in that same Leviticus 26 passage that God had promised to avail His grace to the exiles. “IF they confessed their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers, confess their unfaithfulness, how they walked contrary to Him… If their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they accept their guilt,” God promised He would “remember His covenant” and not “cast them away!”
I don’t believe verse 8 records the resolve of a Godly kid who takes a stand, but Daniel’s conversion! “But Daniel purposed in his heart” is this moment he repents and returns to his covenant relationship with the LORD! Daniel has no idea what will happen next, but he determines in his heart to place his trust in God’s Word, his faith in God’s promises, and he acts with a fundamental belief God’s grace was still available even in exile.
Let’s look back at verse 8 because it’s very important you notice where Daniel decided to draw a line in this conversion moment… “Daniel purposed in his heart he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank.”
It’s interesting Daniel didn’t resist when they changed his name, his attire, or his language. He doesn’t object to these three years of Babylonian education or the plan he’d spend his days serving in the king’s palace. Daniel knew that in order for him to prove useful for God’s purposes he would need to know how that foreign culture and society functioned. Daniel needed to know Babylonian law, language, custom, and norms to serve in Babylon.
Instead of these things… Daniel opts to draw a line in the sand when it came to eating “the king’s delicacies” and drinking “the wine which the king drank.” In the context of this being Daniel’s moment of conversation, I believe there are two reasons he decides to take a stand on this particular issue and it deals with DISTINCTION and SEPARATION.
First, let’s address this idea of DISTINCTION. Look again at the text… Daniel justifies his refusal to partake of these things claiming he would be “defiling himself.” Back in Leviticus 11 God goes on the record as to the animals the Hebrew’s were allowed to eat and which one’s were forbidden. God also added stipulations as to how kosher meat was to be prepared. The animal had to be killed ethically and the blood drained thoroughly.
I think it’s a safe assumption the vast majority of the “king’s delicacies” did not fit within these dietary guidelines! Even the animals that were ok to eat likely hadn’t been prepared properly. When you add that most of the meat had been butchered and sacrificed to one of the many Babylonian deities before ever reaching Nebuchadnezzar’s table, for these Hebrew men very little was edible without acting in direct defiance of God’s Word.
While obeying the Word of God would have been a good enough justification for His stand, Daniel’s reasoning goes much deeper. When God establishes these dietary guidelines in Leviticus 11 He does so within the context of the Hebrew’s “being holy as I am holy.”
The exhortation to “be holy” in the middle of “distinguishing” the “clean” animals from the “unclean” indicated none of it was really about doing anything in particular and was more about the people of God being something distinct and different in the world!
I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating… It’s impossible to do holiness! You must be holy! Holiness is something which naturally flows from that which is already holy. You see, in giving the Jews these dietary guidelines, God was taking holiness out of the abstract. He’d made His people holy (clean) and now He wanted them to live a life so distinctly different from the world they’d never forget they were not of children of this world!
Notice the underlying conviction in what we find in verse 8… “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself.” In the Hebrew this verb “defile” implied polluting or staining — which is interesting. In order to “defile” a person or item something would have to be done to intentionally desecrate the person or items inherent sanctity or holiness. In a way defilement was to commonize that which was not common.
Think about the implications of this statement… First, Daniel confirms his holiness. By definition you can’t “defile” that which is already polluted. In line with his conversion, we know Daniel views himself as being a Child of God — holy and distinct from the world.
Secondly, Daniel affirms these external things done TO him in order to make him Babylonian had no baring on his internal sanctity. By verse 8 so much of what’s been done to make Daniel a Babylonian has taken place completely outside of his control.
Daniel wasn’t in Babylon to serve the king as a manifestation of his own free will. He didn’t petitioned to have his name changed. He hadn’t requested his manhood be cut off. Being a Eunuch wasn’t a life-goal! Amazingly, in this moment, Daniel affirms none of the things done TO him had any baring on who he really was — he was a Child of God!
In the end we learn that Daniel recognized the only one who could defile him… the only one who could make common that which God had made distinct and holy… was Daniel! “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself.” That’s important!
Daniel rightly understood his obedience to God’s Word would not make him holy. Instead, his obedience to God’s Word would demonstrate and affirm his holiness! Holiness is a state of being that manifests holy behaviors. You see Daniel knew eating the king’s food and drinking his wine was not consistent with who God had called him to be! As such, to eat that which was prohibited would make his life common when it wasn’t.
Aside from maintaining a DISTINCTION with the world, the other reason for Daniel’s request was to maintain a SEPARATION from the world. Remember the entire reason King Nebuchadnezzar opened up his table for these men to eat his food and drink his wine to begin with was to create a dependency on himself for their new lifestyle.
In ancient times, sharing a meal was a serious and mystical experience. Who you shared a meal with was done sparingly and with deliberate intention. Since you were what you ate and therefore one with whom you ate, eating at Nebuchadnezzar's table would have represented oneness, friendship, acceptance, and solidified communion with the king. Inherently, it was an invitation for fellowship and an offer to build a relationship.
In much the same way that Jesus has invited you and I to eat from a table and in doing so establish fellowship and communion with Him, Satan has employed the same methodology — a counterfeit communion whereby he wants you and I to align ourselves with the world.
Consider, in the original Fall of Man, everything was initiated when the Serpent of Old offered forbidden fruit to Adam and Eve. Genesis 3:6, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” Satan’s invitation for them to rebel against God included the offering of a meal of sorts.
In the Wilderness Temptation, as part of Satan’s attempt to entice Jesus into an unholy partnership, in Matthew 4, we read, “Jesus had fasted forty days and nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’ Jesus answered and said, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”
Daniel rightly understood there was no way around the fact he would have to serve King Nebuchadnezzar. And yet, in turning down a seat at the king’s table, Daniel was establishing clear boundaries not only publicly, but most importantly in his own heart. “I have no choice but to live in Babylon. However, I can choose not to be of Babylon. I will serve Nebuchadnezzar to the best of my ability, but I refuse to be dependent upon him.”
There is no question in making this “request of the chief of the eunuchs” not to eat “the portion of the king’s delicacies” he’d been allotted Daniel was putting himself out there. Daniel was a captive. He had no freedom to make such requests. Rejecting the king’s menu could be seen as rejecting the king himself. At a minimum such a request would be viewed as being uncooperative. In the end he’s opening himself up to some very real repercussions.
Before we continue… One of the things that makes Daniel’s stand here so inspiring is the context in which he makes it. Daniel is experiencing the judgment of God. His life has fallen to pieces and he’s in the midst of incredible personal suffering. Sadly, such stands typically come with conditions, “God, if you do right by me, then I’ll do right by You. God if you get me out of this spot, then I’ll do _________” and we make all kinds of promises.
And yet, when “Daniel purposed in his heart” he had no assurances everything would work out. He makes no requests of the Lord. He doesn’t add conditions to obedience. Instead, Daniel took a stand because he knew it was the right thing to do even while he was uncertain how everything would play out. That said, notice what immediately follows…
Daniel 1:9, “Now God brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs.” I love how the ESV translates this verse, “And God gave Daniel GRACE (it’s what the word favor means) and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs.”
Let’s continue our story… Daniel 1:10, “And the chief of the eunuchs (this man Ashpenaz) said to Daniel, ‘I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your food and drink. For why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are your age? Then you would endanger my head before the king.’”
It’s worth pointing out Daniel didn’t approach Ashpenaz making demands nor was he self righteous in his approach. It’s a shame genuine moral stands end up getting overshadowed by self-righteousness and pride. While our text is clear it was “God who brought Daniel” into this man’s “favor and goodwill,” I'm sure his tact was appreciated and helped matters.
Ultimately, Ashpenaz’s reply to Daniel’s request articulated a very real concern. If he acquiesced to what Daniel proposed and he and his pals ended up looking malnourished, since he was responsible for their care, it likely “would endanger his head before the king.”
Daniel 1:11-13, “So Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, ‘Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance be examined before you, and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the king’s delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants.’”
For starters, it’s apparent Ashpenaz “chief of the eunuchs” decided to leave the final decision over this particular matter “to the steward” he’d placed over “Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.” It’s a shred move on his part. If things went south he’d have someone else to blame — which provided him with a measure of plausible deniability.
The second thing you should note from these verses is how “Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah” have joined Daniel. In verse 8 “Daniel purposed in his heart,” but by the time he approaches Ashpenaz with his request his three friends had joined him. While it’s sad only four of these Hebrew captives took a stand, I can’t help but point out Daniel’s faith inspired his Three Amigos. Genuine faith is not always popular, but it’s always contagious!
In the end, I love the fact Daniel wouldn’t let this innocent man take the fall over his conscience. In order to alleviate any and all concerns, Daniel proposes a test period. “Give us ten days of eating what we want and then examine our appearance.” Again, Daniel is not forcing things. He stands on his convictions, but he trusts God with the results.
Daniel 1:14-16, “So the steward consented with them in this matter, and tested them ten days. And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king’s delicacies. Thus the steward took away their portion of delicacies and the wine that they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.”
There are some who attempt to use this passage to argue the benefits of a vegan or vegetarian diet. The problem with this is twofold. First, in Genesis 9, God specifically commanded mankind to eat meat following the Flood. This mandate will later be specified in Leviticus. If there was a fundamental problem eating meat or a greater benefit to only eating vegetables, then the wisdom of God’s commands would be called into question. Keep in mind, Daniel and his friends did not have access to a kosher deli.
Secondly, such a position misses what’s actually happening in our passage because it removes the supernatural undertones by pointing to a natural explanation. You see it wasn’t their diet that caused “their features” to “appear better and fatter in flesh.” Instead, it was the fact God honored their stand and blessed them accordingly.
The final 5 verses of Daniel 1 wrap up the backstory of these four men the rest of the book will ultimately spin off of… Daniel 1:17-21, “As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. Now at the end of the days (the three years of training), when the king had said that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. (What a scene that must have been like.)
Then the king interviewed them and among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they served before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm. Thus Daniel continued until the first year of King Cyrus.”
Amazingly, while “Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah” had been hand-selected from Judah to serve in the “king’s palace” because of their intellectual giftings, in Babylon these young men quickly rise to incredible prominence and favor with Nebuchadnezzar because “God gave them knowledge, skill, and understanding in all matters of wisdom.” In fact, after “the king interviewed them” these four men were not only “better than all the magicians and astrologer in all his realm,” but Nebuchadnezzar “found them to be ten times better.”
One of the tragic realities of this first chapter I alluded to earlier is that of all the young men taken from Judah into Babylon to serve the king only Daniel and his Three Amigos took a stand. As such, of the entire lot, only these four men end up receiving the blessings of God. In the first chapter we read how “God gave them grace, knowledge, and skill!”
One of the great misconceptions of grace is that we play no role at all. It’s been said, “The only prerequisite of grace is that we have to receive it!” Not only is this true, but Daniel and his friends illustrate how that happens! Please don’t miss this… Because these four men made a decision to confess their sin, repent, trust in God’s Word, hold fast to His promises, believing God’s grace was still available even to the exile…
Because they were willing to place their futures completely into the hands of a sovereign God by refusing to “defile themselves” so that they might maintain their holy DISTINCTION with and purposeful SEPARATION from Babylon — God’s grace and the amazing blessings that result were set loose in their lives. “God gave them grace.”
To this point David Guzik writes, “The seeds of their great success are evident in the very first chapter of the Book of Daniel. Daniel and his friends show us that inner conviction can overcome any outer pressure, and that God-honoring convictions yield God-given rewards.”
Concerning Daniel, this chapter closes setting up the rest of the book in two simple ways… First, we’re told “Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.” As we’ll see God will speak through the Prophet Daniel in awesome and supernatural ways. Like Joseph, God will give to Daniel the ability to interpret “dreams” which occur while one is asleep as well as “visions” which can be seen as revelations that take place while one is conscious.
Additionally, we read, “Thus Daniel continued until the first year of King Cyrus.” Daniel is taken into Babylon as a captive of King Nebuchadnezzar. Most astoundingly, Daniel will see Babylon fall to the Medo-Persian Empire and continue his service until the reign of King Cyrus. In totality, over the course of 70 years, Daniel will impact two different world powers.
As we wrap up Daniel chapter 1 there is one more component to these things we need to discuss that in a round about way has a very particular application for you and I.
Back in verse 2 we read, “And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god.” For the student of Scripture Daniel’s reference here to “the land of Shinar” possesses deep significance and relevance.
In the genealogy of Genesis 10 we read, “Cush begot Nimrod” and “he began to be a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord and the beginning of his kingdom was Babel in the land of Shinar.” This ancient word “Shinar” means the country of two rivers — the very location in which these men had been taken — Babylon!
Concerning Nimrod’s kingdom, as you then turn to Genesis 11 we’re provided more details, “Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and dwelt there. Then they said to one another, ‘Let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the earth.’”
Nimrod, the son of Cush, was the grandson of Ham and great-grandson of Noah. His name means “the rebel” or “we will rebel.” During this population explosion a few hundred years after the Flood, the Bible tells us Nimrod “began to be a mighty one on the earth…” The idea is Nimrod grew in strength, power, influence, and developed a following.
We’re also told “he was a mighty hunter before the Lord…” Since God commanded men to eat meat following the Flood, humans and animals had gone from friends to foes. Pastor Sandy Adams writes, “Among men not accustom to this new threat from the animal kingdom, Nimrod was an impressive person. He played on man’s fears. In the wake of the new threats posed by a post-flood world he was able to manipulate people into following him. People looked to Nimrod for protection. Nimrod was hailed as a Savior.”
This statement that Nimrod “was a mighty hunter before the Lord” is confusing. This word “before” means in the face of. The idea is that Nimrod and his activities were an offense before God. Nimrod used his hunting ability to draw people to himself and away from God.
For our purposes, the Bible says, “The beginning of Nimrod’s kingdom was Babel!” Nimrod through force, coercion, and will was not only able to gain considerable power, but was able to consolidate it. Nimrod was the first king and Babel the first kingdom in Scripture.
Not only was his establishment of a centralized government directly in opposition to God’s command for Noah’s sons and their descendants to “multiply and fill the earth,” but there also appears to be an even deeper form of rebellion behind Nimrod’s establishment of Babel. The word “Babel” is an interesting word meaning to confuse by mixing.
Again, in Genesis 11 we’re given Nimrod’s purpose for the City of Babel… “Let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the earth.” Babel was founded not only in rebellion against God’s commands, but to celebrate the glory of man! Babel was man-centric, exchanging the worship of God for the might of man! Of Nimrod and his city Guzik observers, “This was a statement of self against God.”
In Genesis 3:4-5 we read of Satan’s appeal to Eve. He said, “God knows that in the day you eat of the fruit your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The original sin always centered on the exaltation of man as being his own god.
As a result Babel, while having a physical location in bygone eras, always represented this man-centric religious structure that stood in opposition to God. Babylon was evil because it substituted the worship of the Creator for the worship of creation.
What began in the Garden of Eden and became codified through Nimrod’s formation of Babel is often referred to as the Spirit of Babylon. The idea itself ultimately weaves it’s way all throughout Scripture. For example, in the end of days, we’ll read in Revelation, “Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and of the abominations of the earth is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.”
Though God would put an end to Nimrod’s rebellion and the building of this city when he confused their languages, since her inception Babel has always existed as the system whereby man seek to create a god of his own making into his own likeness! It’s not an accident God allowed Babylon to rise once again to be used as His instrument of judgment. In fact, this will not be the last time the Spirit of Babylon will be used in such a way.
Friend, while the ancient city of Babylon exists today as ruins under the Iraqi sands, as Daniel and his friends, we are presently living in a Babylon of sorts. The Spirit of Babylon that exalts man into a place reserved only for God is very much alive and well in our world. Babylon opposes God and His people. She persecutes the righteous and exalts the wicked. The Spirit of Babylon is propagating a culture and society that rejects a need for the divine.
Because this is the world we live in and have to navigate our way through, Daniel’s example is very relevant. It’s simply a truth we all occupy space under a godless system that’s not our home. We’re citizens of the Kingdom of God filled with the Holy Spirit living in Babylon. No doubt, there is a component to our present reality whereby we all have to serve Nebuchadnezzar. And yet, never forget we’re servants of God and Babylon is not our home!
You see under such conditions Daniel and his friends were able to recognize the critical importance of remaining DISTINCT and SEPARATE. They could live in Babylon and prove productive, but they refused to become Babylonian or dependent upon a pagan king.
As we see with Daniel, when it comes to the decisions under your controlled, may you “purpose in your heart” not to allow who you are to be DEFINED by where you live or DEFILED through compromise. There is a great appeal to Babylon, but she’s a whore!
These men proved useful to the Lord because they retained a proper DISTINCTION with and SEPARATION from Babylon. They were living in Babylon, but they never allowed themselves to become Babylonian. Like Daniel, I exhort you to place your trust in God’s Word, your faith in His promises, and may you act boldly knowing with complete confidence God’s grace is available and accessible to grant even the exile incredible purpose.
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