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Daniel: Chapter 1

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1In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2The Lord let King Jehoiakim of Judah fall into his power, as well as some of the vessels of the house of God. These he brought to the land of Shinar, a Heb lacks of Egypt and placed the vessels in the treasury of his gods.

3Then the king commanded his palace master Ashpenaz to bring some of the Israelites of the royal family and of the nobility, 4young men without physical defect and handsome, versed in every branch of wisdom, endowed with knowledge and insight, and competent to serve in the king's palace; they were to be taught the literature and language of the Chaldeans. 5The king assigned them a daily portion of the royal rations of food and wine. They were to be educated for three years, so that at the end of that time they could be stationed in the king's court. 6Among them were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, from the tribe of Judah. 7The palace master gave them other names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.

8But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the royal rations of food and wine; so he asked the palace master to allow him not to defile himself. 9Now God allowed Daniel to receive favor and compassion from the palace master. 10The palace master said to Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king; he has appointed your food and your drink. If he should see you in poorer condition than the other young men of your own age, you would endanger my head with the king.” 11Then Daniel asked the guard whom the palace master had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: 12“Please test your servants for ten days. Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13You can then compare our appearance with the appearance of the young men who eat the royal rations, and deal with your servants according to what you observe.” 14So he agreed to this proposal and tested them for ten days. 15At the end of ten days it was observed that they appeared better and fatter than all the young men who had been eating the royal rations. 16So the guard continued to withdraw their royal rations and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. 17To these four young men God gave knowledge and skill in every aspect of literature and wisdom; Daniel also had insight into all visions and dreams.

18At the end of the time that the king had set for them to be brought in, the palace master brought them into the presence of Nebuchadnezzar, 19and the king spoke with them. And among them all, no one was found to compare with Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they were stationed in the king's court. 20In every matter of wisdom and understanding concerning which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. 21And Daniel continued there until the first year of King Cyrus.

Notes:

a Heb lacks of Egypt

Text Commentary view alone

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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