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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

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Commentary on Daniel

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1.1—21 :The Babylonian exile.

This first chapter introduces the young courtier Daniel, his companions in exile, and the difficulties they will face as Jews in the foreign court.

1 :

Third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim is 606 BCE (see 2 Chr 36.5–7 ). Jehoiakim's son, Jehoiachin, ruled when Jerusalem was attacked in 597. Nebuchadnezzar reigned 605–562 BCE (see Isa 46.1; Jer 24.1; 25.1,9 ), but did not invadeIsrael until after 605. The difficulties of the dating cannot be resolved; such chronological problems are, rather, typical of folktales (see Jdt 1.1 ).

2 :

Shinar, an ancient (Gen 14.1,9; Isa 11.11; Zech 5.11 ) term for Babylon, is the site of the tower of Babel (Gen 11.2 ); both tower and Babylon fall through the sin of pride. His gods, Marduk, Babylon's tutelary god, and Nabu, the king's personal deity; cf. Isa 46.1n . Vessels, noted in 2 Chr 36.7,10 , foreshadow Belshazzar's feast (Dan 5 ).

1.3–7 : Courtiers in exile.

3 :

Palace master (lit. “chief eunuch”). Nobility from conquered kingdoms were typically brought into exile (see 2 Kings 24.14–16 ); educating their youth was thought to increase acceptance of foreign rule and minimize attempts at revolt.

4 :

Without physical defect may suggest priests (Lev 21.17–23 ) as well as sacrificial animals (Lev 22.19–22 ), or may simply indicate attractive men (Absalom in 2 Sam 14.25; Song 4.7 ). Versed in every branch of wisdom also describes the heroes of the author's generation ( 11.33,35; 12.3 ). Chaldeans can refer either to Aramaic‐speaking Neo‐Babylonian people (Jer 24.5; Ezek 1.3; Dan 5.30; 9.1; Ezra 5.12 ) or, more specifically, to magicians and astrologers (Dan 2.2–5,10; 4.7; 5.7,11 ).

5 :

Three years are cited by Persian texts as the time required for gaining knowledge of religious concerns.

6–7 :

The names contain “el,” meaning (the Jewish) “God.” All four names occur in the book of Nehemiah ( 8.4; 10.3,7,24 ) though referring to different individuals. The new names refer to the Babylonian gods Bel (Marduk; see 1.2n. ) and Nabu. Changing names was a well‐known practice of kings (Gen 41.45; 2 Kings 24.17 ). Fidelity is marked when those whose names are changed preserve their ethnic and religious identity (such as Joseph, Daniel).

1.8–21 : The first resistance.

8 :

Defile himself by eating non‐kosher food (see Lev 11 ); in the postexilic period, diet was a major indication of Jewish identity (Tob 1.10–11; 1 Macc 1.62–63; Jdt 10.5; 12.1–4; 2 Macc 6–7; Esth 14.17 ). Leviticus does not forbid wine; perhaps Daniel's refusal of food and wine symbolizes a refusal to feast when Israel is in exile. However, Hos 9.3–4 (also Ezek 4.13 ) suggests Gentile food is impure.

10 :

The palace master, Ashpenaz ( 1.3 ) is one of several sympathetic court functionaries (Gen 41.9–13; Esth 2.15 ; Achior of the book of Judith).

12 :

Test your servants suggests trial by ordeal, a stock folktale motif. Vegetables … and water are also food of the poor.

17 :

God grants the youths what Nebuchadnezzar had sought to teach them ( 1.4 ). Visions and dreams associates Daniel with Joseph, another handsome youth who faces temptation and danger in a foreign land (Gen 39–50 ), as well as Mordecai of the Greek Additions to Esther.

20 :

Magicians appear in the sagas of Joseph (Gen 41.8,24 ) and Moses and Aaron (Ex 7.11,22; 8.3,14–15; 9.11 ). Enchanters are priests who make incantations (Dan 2.2; 4.7; 5.7 ).

21 :

First year of King Cyrus is 539 BCE.

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