Ahhh. The joys of “as-I-feel-like-it” writing. It’s only a few days since I let you all know this was coming, and I’m already kicking in part one. What can I say? Daniel is too good to let it sit on the shelf for too long.
The first six chapters of Daniel are not just random “day in the life of Daniel” quips to fill space before you get to the visions. These chapters serve a number of very key purposes:
- They establish, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God is sovereign — a necessary foundation when looking at the unfolding of end times events, as seen in chatpers 7-12.
- They show that Daniel was a man who consistently heard God, which lends credibility to the visions in chapters 7-12.
- They show us Daniel’s personal history in the Lord, so we can see how he became the man of God that he was.
- They show us the stories of godly people who are under an evil government, much like the end-time Church will experience, and serve as an inspiration and example for us.
In verse 1, we see that Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, beseiged Jerusalem. In verse 2, the message of God’s sovereignty is already thundering into the book of Daniel. “And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the articles of [the temple]…” To be sure, the fall of Judah was a tragic event, and one that God was grieved over, but it’s not like Nebuchadnezzar snuck in below God’s radar and took over when He wasn’t looking. The entire affair took place under God’s merciful eye and His disciplinary hand. While some people balk at the idea of God being directly involved in this invasion, it’s a lot scarier to think of a God who would either not care to intervene, or not be able to.
This was the first time Babylon raided Judah, in 605 B.C. During the invasion, they took captive many of the noble and gifted young men, in order to cripple Judah’s government and strengthen Babylon’s. These young men were to be taught the “language and literature” of the Chaldeans — which would have included the religious system — and to be given a portion from the king’s table every day. The goal was to indoctrinate the Hebrews, many of whom were probably 13-17 years old. Even the new names given to Daniel and his friends contained references to pagan gods, to replace their Hebrew names which gave praise to Yahweh.
Daniel, however, wasn’t buying it. He purposed in his heart not to defile himself. I love this language. He wasn’t magically more holy. He did not naturally come by purity. He had to make a conscious choice within himself not to be lured in by the comforts and luxuries of Babylon. This, I believe, is why he refused the king’s food. Part of it could be kosher laws, but more likely to me is that he was putting his foot down to not allow himself to become intoxicated with the Babylonian culture.
Daniel’s request to be fed only vegetables for 10 days was a strange one. Even stranger, though, is the result. After a mere week and a half, Daniel and his friends looked better and stronger (NKJV, “fatter”) than the other young men their age. Firstly, this is incredible because ten days is not a very long testing period. It takes a very dramatic change to be physically visible that quickly. Secondly, not many people get bigger and beefier from going vegan. Yet these four Hebrew boys did. I firmly believe there is a lot more going on here than benefitting from a good diet. I believe that God had His hand on them in a supernatural way as a reward for their obedience.
As if that weren’t enough, God gave them understanding and wisdom to such a degree that they were ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers in the court. This is not very striking to us as we think of magicians pulling bunnies out of hats and astrologers posting Nostradamus’ latest rediscoverd “prophecy” on cheap newsprint magazines in the checkout lanes. But these men, in ancient Babylon, were professional advisors to the throne. They were the best of the best. They were employed by the king because they did their job well. And these young boys from Jerusalem, after three years’ training, proved to be ten times better than the best Babylon had to offer. While the Babylonian magicians leaned on the wisdom of men and the inspiration of cultic practices, Daniel and his crew trusted in the living God.
Already, in chapter 1, we have a sketch of Daniel’s character that would chart the rest of his life. He was determined in his heart not to become defiled by the spirit of the age around him. He carried himself with wisdom and purity, even in the midst of a demonized kingdom, and experienced the favor of God (who put them in favor with their superiors) because of it.
If you have any observations or questions, feel free to post them in the comments. Like I said, there’s nothing I love more than a good Daniel discussion. 🙂