DANIEL - CHAPTER 1
A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
Copyright 2000 James Melough
1:1. “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it.”
The apparent contradiction between the “third year” mentioned here, and the “fourth year” recorded in Jer 25:1, is explained by the fact that the Jews had two calendars, one religious beginning in Nisan (April/May), and the other civil beginning with Tishri (October). Jeremiah, using the religious calendar, called it the fourth year because it occurred after Nisan; Daniel, using the civil calendar, called it the third year because it occurred before Tishri.
Relative to Nebuchadnezzar’s being called king of Babylon, though he didn’t actually become king until several months later, the explanation is that this was simply “a prolepsis or anticipation whereby a title is applied in speaking of a period even before it was actually conferred” (Keil).
The fact that the book of Daniel is mostly prophetic has resulted in our forgetting that it also yields much practical instruction, and an example of that practical teaching is found in the very first chapter.
Jerusalem, meaning dual peace shall be taught: lay (set) ye double peace, is a picture of the human heart. As there will be peace in Jerusalem only when the Prince of peace reigns there, so is there peace only in the life of the man in whose heart Christ reigns. And as the enemy has often besieged Jerusalem, so does Satan frequently besiege the believer’s heart.
Since Jerusalem represents the human heart, Jehoiakim, meaning Jehovah will set up, represents the man to whom the heart belongs, and since he was an Israelite, he represents a believer. In 2 Ki 23:37 we read, “And he (Jehoiakim) did ... evil in the sight of the Lord.” It was for Israel’s sin that God permitted Jerusalem to be besieged and conquered, and it is for the same reason that He permits the enemy of souls to take away peace from the heart of the disobedient believer.
The siege came in the third year of Jehoiakim’s reign, and since three is the Biblical number of resurrection, it tells us that even though the believer is spiritually on resurrection ground, he too, will lose his peace if he fails to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” (Eph 4:1).
He was king of Judah which means he shall be praised, and in this we are being shown what should be characteristic of the believer: he should be a thankful, praising man, expressing his worship in an obedient life. If we find that praise has but little part in our lives, we should perhaps examine ourselves as to the cause. It may be a warning sign that our peace is about to be taken away.
Keeping in mind that Jehoiakim means Jehovah will set up, it is to be remembered also relative to the promotion implied in the meaning of the name, that it comes only to those who are obedient. Had Jehoiakim been obedient, he would have been set up, and his throne established, but he was disobedient, with the result that he lost his crown. In Re 3:11 the believer is warned, “Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” (The crown referred to here is not to be confused with salvation, which once received, can never be lost. This crown is the believer’s reward, not his salvation).
Nebuchadnezzar, meaning confusing the lord of treasure: prophesy, the earthen vessel is preserved, is a type of Satan. It is the believer who is the lord of treasure, and we are earthen vessels, Paul reminding us that, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels” (2 Co 4:7), the Lord Himself assuring us that the earthen vessel is preserved, “...they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one” (Jn 10:28-30).
That Babylon represents the realm of false religion is confirmed, not only by Scripture, but by the fact that every false religious system can be traced back to that evil city, and Nebuchadnezzar’s being its king is God’s symbolic way of telling us that it is Satan who rules that realm of false religion. Since therefore this attack comes from Babylon, the spiritual lesson being taught is that the disobedient believer makes himself vulnerable to attack from what Babylon represents, false religion. Disobedience is simply rebellion against the Word which is the Truth, and the result is that the believer “the lord of treasure” is “confused.” He finds that “Jerusalem (peace)” is besieged by the enemy, and is in danger of being lost. The disobedient believer knows little of God’s peace.
1:2. “And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.”
When a man takes himself out of God’s hand he places himself in Satan’s. Those vessels seized by Nebuchadnezzar, played an essential part in the presentation of Israel’s worship, so that their loss speaks of the disobedient believer’s losing his capacity to worship. God is thus dishonored, and robbed of the worship that is His due. Man’s peace and God’s honor stand or fall together.
1:3. “And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes;”
1:4. “Children in whom was no blemish, but well favored, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.”
Ashpenaz, meaning I will make prominent the sprinkled, appears to represent the principle of testing which manifests not only the difference between faith (the sprinkled) and unbelief, but also the difference between the carnal and the spiritual believer.
That the testing symbolically portrayed here is that of believers rather than unbelievers, is declared in that they were “of the children of Israel,” Israel means he shall be prince of God, and as the new name given to Jacob, speaks always of faith in contrast with unbelief and all that is connected with the flesh. (A careful study of the Scriptural use of the names Jacob and Israel, reveals that the interchange is not capricious. Every use of the name Jacob is designed to teach truth relative to the man as a creature of flesh and blood; every use of the name Israel, truth relative to the believer as a spiritual creature).
Their being “of the king’s seed” further emphasizes that they represent believers. Royal blood flowed in their veins, and as believers we should never forget that we too are “of the king’s seed.” The spiritual life within us is the life of God Himself.
And they were “of the princes.” This speaks of a fitness to rule, and of believers it is written, “Thou hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on (over) the earth” (Re 5:10); “If we suffer (endure), we shall also reign with Him” (2 Tim 2:12).
“Children in whom was no blemish.” We can see lots of blemishes in ourselves, and in other believers, but God sees none. He sees us as we are in Christ, “children in whom is no blemish.” The remembrance of that fact should curb the natural tendency to be critical of other believers.
“Skillful in all wisdom (intelligence), and cunning in knowledge (educated).” Believers are the only people on earth with wisdom and knowledge of eternal value, for they have learned to fear God, His Word assuring us that, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do His commandments” (Ps 111:10).
“And such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace.” The physical and mental qualities of these royal princes represent the spiritual qualities that belong to every believer. Through faith in Christ we are endowed with the ability to stand in the palace of the King of kings.
“Whom they might teach the learning and tongue of the Chaldeans.” In this is disclosed the strategy of Satan. When he fails to keep a sinner from Christ, his second expedient is to spoil that man’s testimony.
Chaldeans means as clod breakers, a literal clod breaker being intellectually capable of little more than digging in the earth. They represent the natural
man foolishly occupied only with earthly things. Nebu- chadnezzar would have these Jewish princes imbibe the learning of Babylon, and he would have them taught to speak Chaldean instead of Hebrew. Satan would have the young believer learn the ways of the world, and speak its language, but God would have believers, “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pe 3:18), and He would have their tongues employed in spreading that knowledge, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world (age)” (Mt 28:19-20).
1:5. “And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.”
Part of the testing of these young men was that they were to be given “a daily portion of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank.” This food provided by Nebuchadnezzar is a symbol of the spiritual “food” provided by Satan. God would have the believer feed on the “fine wheat” of the Word, so that he will become spiritually mature, but since Satan’s objective is to prevent spiritual growth, he seeks to entice us to exchange the wheat of the Word for the palate-tickling fare of earth. The success of his efforts is attested by the general ignorance of Scripture among Christians, and a corresponding immature spiritual state. The words of Paul were never more applicable than they are today, “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able” (1 Co 3:1-2).
What are some of the things corresponding to the “provision of the king’s meat” given Daniel and his companions? They are many, for Satan has a variety of the “king’s meat” to suit every taste and please every palate. With one it may be an interest in keeping up with current events, requiring countless precious hours to be given to reading newspapers, business periodicals, political reports, etc. With another it may be the desire to keep abreast of the latest developments in his own field: business, law, engineering, medicine, education, art.... It doesn’t require much spiritual intelligence to recognize the “king’s meat,” but it does require much spiritual intelligence to recognize the harm that comes from eating it. And it requires exactly the same courage to refuse it as was displayed by the four faithful young Israelites when they refused to eat the “king’s meat.”
The rewards, however are also exactly the same, the only difference being that whereas they had to wait three years for their reward (since three is the Biblical number of resurrection, these three years point symbolically to the resurrection of life), we have to wait till we appear at the judgment seat of Christ. But the reward is worth waiting for, as is declared by Paul, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things that God hath prepared for them that love Him” (1 Co 2:9).
We might note also that it was a daily provision. As we nourish our bodies by a daily intake of food, so must we nourish our souls with a daily intake of the Word. Satan, in this as in all things, mimics the Divine pattern. A daily intake of the “king’s meat” will produce a quicker, as well as a more vigorous conformity to the world’s standards, which will produce in turn a correspondingly weaker spiritual state.
But they were appointed also a daily provision “of the wine which he drank.” In Scripture, wine is the symbol of joy, “And wine that maketh glad the heart of man” (Ps 104:15). Nebuchadnezzar’s wine therefore is the symbol of worldly pleasure, and few will deny the success Satan has had in persuading Christians to drink it. The arch deceiver’s wine cellar is as well stocked with the “king’s wine” as is his larder with the “king’s meat”: he has something to suit every taste. His “wine list” is long and tantalizingly varied. It includes sports, music, theater, books, and a thousand other “harmless” things, and the extent to which his “wine” is consumed by Christians is easily measured. Compare, for example, the attendance at the Sunday evening church service when the “program” consists of a supper and a film or musical concert, and when it is simply for the ministry of God’s Word, or the preaching of the gospel.
Christians think it too far to travel five miles to a meeting, yet think nothing of traveling fifty miles to a sports event. There are those who complain that the church building isn’t air conditioned, and that the seats are uncomfortable, but who don’t complain about having to stand, or sit on a hard bench, in hot sun or frigid cold, to watch a sports event.
The sorry truth is that for every empty seat at the meeting, there is an occupied seat in front of a television set at home, at a ball game, or theater. The “king’s wine” is gulped down greedily, and a “drunken” Christianity staggers along the road of life with spiritual senses befuddled and numb, better informed of the achievements of an athletic hero than of the facts concerning the birth and death of the Lord Jesus Christ. And a mocking world that needs to hear the truth is treated instead to the sorry spectacle of a drunken Christianity pleading for more of the “king’s wine.”
The Bible abounds with warnings against drunkenness, and surely we can’t miss the significance of those warnings when we remember what wine, in its bad sense, symbolizes. It represents the pleasures of this world, and few things are more destructive of Christian vitality than the pursuit of just such pleasures. The prayer of every Christian should be for that same courage to refuse the world’s pleasures, as enabled those four young Hebrew princes to refuse the “portion of the king’s wine.”
The practical reason for their refusal was that the food and drink may have been used in connection with the worship of some Chaldean god, reminding us that the things represented by that food and drink are what the world offers in sacrifice to Satan, the god of this world. As we “eat the king’s meat and drink his wine” we associate ourselves with that worship.
Nebuchadnezzar’s purpose was that these young Hebrew princes might enter into the royal service, after having been indoctrinated for three years with the learning, language and customs of the Chaldeans. Since it is unlikely that there was any scarcity of young Chaldean princes, there can be little doubt that the king’s intention was to use these young Hebrew princes to lead their countrymen to abandon the order appointed by God, and adopt instead the Chaldean lifestyle. The incentive was that they would have positions of honor in the Babylonian realm, and compared to the prospect of being simply captives in a strange land, it must have been a very tempting offer. Satan holds out the same incentive today. It is for the prospect of promotion in this world - a little wealth, a little worldly glory, a little earthly fame, a little pleasure - that many a young Christian has compromised with the world, eating the “king’s meat” and drinking his “wine,” finding favor with men, but at the cost of displeasing God, for as it seems to have been Nebuchadnezzar’s plan to have these young princes lead their fellows away from God, so is it Satan’s plan to have other believers stumbled and led astray by our compromising with an ungodly world.
These faithful young men, however, remembered that it was far more necessary to be fit to stand in the presence of God than in the presence of the king of Babylon. We would do well to also remember. He who fears God will have little fear of man, and he who values the commendation of Christ will set little value on the commendation of men.
1:6. “Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,”
How many were chosen to receive this Chaldean indoctrination we aren’t told, but only four of that number determined that no matter what the cost they would be faithful to God, and something of the character that produced that resolve may be discovered in the meanings of their names.
Daniel means My judge is God. He was obviously worthy of his name, for the realization that God was his Judge had taught him to place a proper value on the judgment of men, even though one of those men was the king of Babylon who held the power of life and death over him.
Paul was a man of similar character, for in 1 Co 4:3-4 he declares, “But with me it is a very small thing that I be judged of you, or of man’s judgment.... He that judgeth me is the Lord.” It is this knowledge that steels the heart to faithfulness, and produces spiritual “Daniels” and “Pauls.” It is lack of that knowledge that has flawed many a Christian life, resulting in the fear of man that produces disobedience of God. “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe” (Pr 29:25). The language of the spiritual “Daniels” and “Pauls” is, “The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (He 13:6).
Hananiah means the grace of God, and in regard to that same grace, one has written:
O to grace how great a debtor,
Daily I’m constrained to be.
Let that grace, Lord, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
It was apparently the consciousness of the extent of his indebtedness to Divine grace that led that second young Hebrew prince to be numbered amongst the small minority that would be faithful to God. His consciousness of indebtedness is the more remarkable when we remember that he was a captive in an alien land. That same circumstance had led many of his companions to lose sight of their indebtedness to grace, and the sad truth being demonstrated in their forgetting, is that many believers allow outward circumstances to rob them also of that same realization. The loss of that sense of indebtedness to grace produces an unthankful heart, which in turn produces a spirit of compromise such as led the other Hebrew princes into compliance with the will of Nebuchadnezzar, which was disobedience of God.
God’s blessings are not to be measured either in material things or in outward circumstances, and another who appears to have grasped that truth was Job. He was tested as few men have ever been. Having lost his children, his health, and his possessions, he might well have forgotten that he was still a debtor to God’s grace, but he didn’t forget, and his remembrance was expressed in the reply given his wife when she urged him to curse God, “What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10), and in his reply to his friends, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (Job 13:15).
Circumstances are but the elements through which a gracious God makes “All things work together for good to them that love God” (Ro 8:28).
Mishael means Who is what God is? The character of this third faithful young Hebrew was apparently accurately reflected in his name. There seems to have been present with him always that reverential awe of God which enabled him to contemplate the majesty of Nebuchadnezzar, and realize that it was as nothing compared with the Divine majesty.
The vision of the majority of his companions seems to have extended no further than that day three years
hence when they would stand in the presence of the Babylonian sovereign. Mishael had his eye fixed on the day - he knew not how near - when he would stand in the presence of God. That contemplation reduced the glory and power of Nebuchadnezzar to proper perspective.
Another man who had the wisdom to view the transient in its right relationship to the eternal was Abraham, “By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles (tents) ... for he looked for a (the) city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb 11:9-10).
As the Hebrews, during their seventy years in Babylon, were constantly reminded of the might and power of the king in whose land they sojourned, so are believers today reminded constantly of the might and power of that king who is typified by Nebuchadnezzar: Satan, the prince of this world. In Mishael, however, God would show us how to conduct ourselves during the “seventy years” of our sojourn here in the domain of the prince of darkness. The man who contemplates the majesty of God will be little impressed with any other.
The fourth Hebrew prince was Azariah, whose name means helped of Jehovah. Like his three faithful friends, he too had his eye on God rather than on himself and on all that surrounded him in Babylon. Without that vision he would have seen only himself, a weak helpless young man confronted with the might and splendor of “great Babylon” (Dan 4:30). There was nothing in himself to inspire the confidence necessary to defy the king of Babylon, but the knowledge that he was “helped of Jehovah” gave the courage to defy a thousand Nebuchadnezzars.
A man of similar character was Gideon, who looking at himself, could only ask the angel, “O my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least of my father’s house” (Jg 6:15). But that same Gideon, helped by the same Jehovah Who helped Azariah, slew the Midianites and did deliver Israel. That same Jehovah helps those who acknowledge their own weakness, and put their trust in Him, as it is written, “My strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Co 12:9). That knowledge should inspire every believer with the same courage that enabled Azariah to defy the prince of Babylon, and honor God with obedience, even though that obedience could have cost him his life.
1:7. “Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshaz-zar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.”
Before looking at the meanings of these names, it is necessary to say that while some writer’s have suggested other meanings related to the names of Babylonian gods, those used here are according to the very reliable Dictionary of Scripture Proper Names, by J.B. Jackson.
Before looking at the names as given by Jackson, however, we shall note the commonly accepted other meanings. Belteshazzar means Bel’s treasure: Bel protects the king; Shadrach means enlightened by the sun goddess, or by the moon god; Meshach servant of Venus: who is what the moon god is?; and Abed-nego servant of Nego. Very obviously these Babylonian names were intended to imply a close association of the four young Hebrews with the Babylonian deities.
Inasmuch as there is much conjecture relative to the accuracy of these meanings, we must look also at the meanings as given by Jackson. Belteshazzar means Lord of the straitened’s treasure: the Lord’s leader. Straitened here has the sense of being confined, restricted, hemmed in: it is descriptive of believers in general, for they are those who have treasure, “... we have this treasure in earthen vessels” (2 Co 4:7), but their earthly condition restricts their full enjoyment of it. They are “straitened” and must wait till they get to heaven before they can enjoy their treasure fully.
Belteshazzar is the name of one who is lord or ruler of such treasure. It refers to one who is a leader, for control of that inward treasure is linked with obedience to God, and the man who yields that obedience is “the Lord’s leader.” He is an example for others to follow.
While the purpose of Nebuchadnezzar was undoubtedly to give these four young men names which would identify them with the false gods of Babylon, the overruling of God is seen in that those same names have, as already noted, additional meanings, which we shall now examine.
Daniel was a young man who was “straitened” (he was a captive), but he had an inward “treasure” (peace with himself and with God), and his obedience to God made him lord over that treasure, so that nothing - not even captivity in Babylon - could take that treasure from him. There is in fact a very close link between Daniel’s Hebrew name, My judge is God, and his Chaldean name, Lord of the straitened’s treasure: the Lord’s leader. He who lives in the consciousness that God is his Judge, will be seen by men as one who is fit to lead others, because he himself is led by God.
Hananiah the grace of God, was given the Chaldean name of Shadrach, meaning The breast (heart) was tender. The assurance of being indebted to God’s grace will always produce a tender heart that is ready to bestow grace on others. It isn’t unreasonable to presume that his captors saw in this young Hebrew one who demonstrated in his life that he was a debtor to Divine grace, and the result was that he had a tender heart.
Mishael, meaning Who is what God is, was given the Chaldean name of Meshach, meaning waters of quiet: who is what thou art? Can there be any doubt that as the Chaldeans observed his life, they saw one, who because he set God above all others, was himself seen by them as standing above other men? The knowledge that God is above all, lusters a man’s life with a quiet dignity that sets him apart from others, because his life is the witness to the truth that he who puts God first, can say, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters” (Ps 23:1-2). Outward circumstances won’t ruffle the “quiet waters” of his life.
Abednego, Servant of brightness, was the Chaldean name given to Azariah, Helped of Jehovah. “God is light (brightness)” (1 Jn 1:5), and it may well be that Azariah was seen by the Chaldeans as one who was a servant of God (brightness), that knowledge affecting his life, as it should ours. Who can doubt that such a man would perform willingly and to the best of his ability, the tasks assigned by his captors, because he recognized that his real Master was God, and that the Chaldeans were simply His agents?
Believers are to display the same character, “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eyeservice, as men pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men” (Eph 6:5-7).
1:8. “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.”
It is in the heart that spiritual battles are lost or won, for God declares in regard to man that, “... as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Pr 23:7).
In Pr 23:1-3 it is written, “When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee.... Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat.” Since the Proverbs are believed to have been compiled in the tenth century B.C., it may be that Daniel was being guided at least partly by these words when he resolved not to eat Nebuchadnezzar’s food, or drink his wine. Young or old, he is a wise man who takes the Scriptures as his guide in all things, believing what the Psalmist has written, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Ps 119:105); “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to Thy word” (Ps 119:9). It isn’t what a man is outwardly that matters: it is what he is in his heart that counts with God, for “... man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Sa.16:7).
Daniel’s heart was right. The outward integrity of his life simply reflected his inward state. The Psalmist could say, “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee” (Ps 119:11), and apparently this was true of Daniel, as it must be of all who would display the same integrity. Daniel is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore a model for us to follow.
1:9. “Now God had brought Daniel into favor and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.”
In this we learn the truth that God works for the man who walks obediently. Obedience is the secret of power.
The skepticism of the prince of the eunuchs reflects the thinking of the natural man: he can’t see success apart from the use of the world’s methods - “the king’s meat,” and “the king’s wine,” the world’s wisdom and the world’s pleasure. But Daniel walked on a higher plane. He would leave the things of the world for those who were of the world, and such was his confidence in God that he wasn’t afraid to be tested.
1:10. “And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink; for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king.”
The ways of God are inexplicable to the men of the world.
1:11. “Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,”
1:12. “Prove they servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink.”
1:13. Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants.”
It is frequently overlooked that Daniel didn’t agree to eat the king’s meat and drink his wine in the event that the ten days should result in their appearing to have suffered as a consequence of their abstinence. What is recorded of these four young Hebrews leaves no doubt that they trusted God to preserve their health, but were prepared to suffer the consequences if He chose not to. See, for example, 3:17-18.
Melzar means the circumcised, he straitened, but inasmuch as circumcision speaks symbolically of the cutting off of the deeds of the flesh; and straitened, of that which is hemmed in or restricted, this Melzar, under whose control Daniel and his three friends were placed, may represent the principle of moral restraint which is to govern the lives of those who belong to Christ.
Since four is the Biblical number of testing, it would seem that the number of days should have been four rather than ten, but there is no mistake. It was a test only in the eyes of Ashpenaz and Melzar. Daniel and his friends had no doubt of the result. To them it wasn’t a test, but rather an opportunity to secure blessing by submission to God’s government of their lives - for ten is the number of God as the Supreme Governor, just as twelve is the number of that government on display, the twelve tribes of Israel, for example, demonstrating that obedience brought blessing; and disobedience, chastisement. The Church, built upon the foundation of doctrine of the twelve Apostles (Eph 2:20), demonstrates the same truth today. Those ten days were to reveal that when God governs a man’s life nothing can be against that man. They were to disclose also God’s ability to supply more nourishment from pulse and water than from the rich food and wine of the Babylonian king.
Pulse is literally “seeds,” and refers to grain or vegetables grown from seed. Here, as throughout Scripture, literal food is the symbol of spiritual food good or bad, and here it represents the Word as that which nourishes the life of faith; while water represents the Word, ministered by the Holy Spirit, in its ability to refresh and cleanse. Believers are not built up spiritually by “the king’s meat,” (the world’s wisdom), nor are they refreshed or cleansed by “the king’s wine,” (the world’s pleasures).
1:14. “So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days.”
1:15. “And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat of the portion of the king’s meat.”
Time hasn’t changed anything: a man’s face still reflects his fare. Our lives reveal whether we are feeding on the “meat and drink” of the “Babylonian king,” or on the “pulse and water,” - the Word of God.
1:16. “Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink: and gave them pulse.”
Resolve must be followed by action. The prodigal would have died in the far country had he not acted on his resolve to return to his father. Good intentions must be carried out. The believer who would be blessed must not eat “the king’s meat” or drink “the king’s wine.” The pure Word of God must be his food and drink.
1:17. “As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.”
God repaid their obedience with blessing. As they were willing to honor Him, He honored them, as it is written, “Them that honor Me I will honor” (1 Sa 2:30). “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mt 6:33). He who seeks first the kingdom of God will lack no necessary thing in this world. What may seem like lack, is the result of our failure to distinguish between our wants and our needs.
It isn’t in the number of days that we find the number of testing, but in the number of the young men: there were four of them. It isn’t in the things that test us, but in us that the results of God’s testing are seen!
1:18. “Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar.”
1:19. “And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king.”
Three years had passed, bringing the appointed day of examination, and as noted already three is the Biblical number of resurrection, reminding us that for us also there has been appointed a day of examination, as it is written, “We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (Ro 14:10), that examination taking place after the rapture of the Church at the second stage of the resurrection of life (Jn 5:29). (The third and final stage of the resurrection of life will occur at the Lord’s return to end the Tribulation and establish His millennial kingdom, when He will raise the saints of the OT and Tribulation eras, the seven years of the Tribulation being the seventh and final “week” of the seventy weeks of years that will conclude God’s program for the conversion and blessing of Israel).
The certainty of that day of examination ought to impel the prayer for wisdom and grace to live here on earth for the equivalent of the “three years,” so that we too may emerge from that interview with the King’s commendation.
1:20. “And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.”
Three years was a long time to eat only pulse and water, but patient endurance in honoring God by living in submission to His government, brought “an exceeding great reward.” They were “ten times” better than all others in the realm, and as noted already, ten is the number of God in government. Those who honor Him by obedience on earth, He will honor in eternity.
The folly of compromise on the part of Christians, is declared in that we are told nothing of the other young Hebrews who had eaten the king’s meat, and drunk his wine. Not even their names are given. And as for the world’s wisdom, its ultimate worth is announced in the fact that Daniel and his three companions were ten times better than “all the magicians and astrologers (i.e., all the wise men) that were in all his realm.”
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding” (Pr 9:10).
1:21. “And Daniel continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus.”
This Cyrus is mentioned in Isa 44:28 where he is described as God’s shepherd; and in 45:1-7 as God’s anointed. See also Ezra 1:1,2,7,8; 3:7; 4:3,5; 5:13,14,17; 6:3,14; and Dan 6:28; 10:1. He is very clearly a type of Christ, a fact which lends significance to the statement that “Daniel continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus.” That Daniel continued beyond the first year of Cyrus is clear from Dan 10:1, “In the third year of Cyrus ... a thing was revealed unto Daniel....” Daniel not only lived to see Cyrus, the Lord’s shepherd, the Lord’s anointed, he “prospered in the reign of ... Cyrus” (Dan 6:28).
This tells us that all “that have obtained like precious faith” (2 Pe.1:1), will enjoy the experience typically portrayed in Daniel’s seeing Cyrus: we shall see God’s Shepherd, God’s Anointed; we, “shall see the King in His beauty” (Isa 33:17); and for faith there is no higher experience. “As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness” (Ps 17:15). Simeon, having seen the King, though only as a child in Mary’s arms, “... took Him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation” (Lk 2:28-30). That joyous satisfaction is typically foreshown in Ge 46:30 when Israel said unto Joseph, “Now let me die, since I have seen thy face.”
Daniel, however, didn’t die after seeing Cyrus: he “prospered in the reign of ... Cyrus.” Nor will we die upon seeing Christ. We too will “prosper.” “We shall reign with Him” (2 Tim 2:12), our positions in His government being determined by the measure of our faithfulness in the things he has committed to our stewardship while we are here on earth.
While on the surface it may appear that there is nothing prophetic in this first chapter, it should be noted that it does in fact furnish a symbolic preview of what will be in the coming Tribulation era. The attempt of Nebuchadnezzar to have the Hebrew captives submit to his will and conform to the Babylonian lifestyle, very clearly foreshadows the activity of the beast. He too will attempt to compel the Jews to abandon their belief in God, and to worship him as God. Like the others carried captive into Babylon with Daniel and his three friends, who did obey Nebuchadnezzar, many of the Jews in the Tribulation will bow to the will of the beast, but in doing so damn their own souls. As Daniel and his three faithful companions refused to obey the Babylonian king, so will there also be in the Tribulation a small faithful remnant who will be willing to die rather than disobey God.