Bible Commentaries

Dummelow's Commentary on the BibleDummelow on the Bible

Daniel 1

Verses 1-21

Introductory. The abstinence of Daniel and his Friends from Unclean Food

Daniel is introduced as one of a band of Jews taken captive to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar in the third year of Jehoiakim (Daniel 1:1-2). Along with three of his youthful countrymen he is chosen to be trained during three years for personal attendance on the king (Daniel 1:3-7). As the food and drink provided for those in this position are ceremonially unclean Daniel resolves not to partake of them. After an unsuccessful appeal to the chief official in charge, he persuades a subordinate official to give himself and his friends vegetable food and water for ten days. The results of the experiment are favourable, and the four Jewish youths continue to live on this fare during the three years of their training (Daniel 1:8-16). At the end of this time they are found superior to their fellow-students both physically and intellectually, and indeed wiser than all the learned men of Babylon, They are accordingly appointed to attend upon the king (Daniel 1:17-20). Special emphasis is laid upon Daniel’s understanding of visions and dreams, and the superiority of the Jewish youths is traced, not to their heathen training but to God (Daniel 1:17). A biographical note about Daniel is added in Daniel 1:21.

Teaching.This c, emphasises the duty of abstaining from food contaminated by idolatry, or otherwise unclean, and teaches that firmness in this respect will bring its own reward from God. These lessons bore very plainly on the position of the Jews in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes (see 1 Maccabees 1:48, 1 Maccabees 1:62-63; 2 Maccabees 6:18-31; 2 Maccabees 7:1-41), and were of practical importance also in the early days of Christianity: see Romans 14; 1 Corinthians 10:20, 1 Corinthians 10:27-29. The wider moral as to the grandeur of fidelity to principle is one for all time.

1. The third year.. of Jehoiakim] presents a historical difficulty at the outset. Nebuchadnezzar’s supremacy over Palestine dated from the battle of Carchemish (605 b.c.). This battle took place in the fourth year of Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 46:2), which is also called, the first year of Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 25:1). The first question is how Nebuchadnezzar could be king of Babylon in the third year of Jehoiakim, The monumental evidence, however, makes it probable that the first year of Nebuchadnezzar coincided partly with the third and partly with the fourth year of Jehoiakim, so that the statements of Daniel 1:1 and Jeremiah 25:1 may both be correct. The second and more serious difficulty is as to a siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in Jehoiakim’s third year. The chastisement of Jehoiakim by ’bands of the Chaldeans’ (2 Kings 24:1-2) took place when he revolted after serving Nebuchadnezzar for three years, i.e, not earlier than his seventh year. It is said in 2 Chronicles 36:5-6 that Nebuchadnezzar bound-Jehoiakim in fetters to carry him to Babylon, and also took away the vessels of the house of the Lord, but there is no indication of the date of these events, while it appears from Jeremiah 25:9; Jeremiah 36:9, Jeremiah 36:29, that in the fourth, and even in the fifth year of Jehoiakim a siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar was still a thing of the future. It has been thought possible that Nebuchadnezzar may have followed up his victory at Carchemish by a rapid excursion southwards, during which Jehoiakim may have averted attack by a timely submission, and a gift of captives and sacred vessels, and that this may be referred to in the words ’Nebuchadnezzar came up’ (2 Kings 24:1). This, however, is very doubtful. It is much more probable that the writer of Daniel mistook the three years of Jehoiakim’s submission to Babylon (2 Kings 24:1) for the first three years of his reign, and placed the invasion of 2 Chronicles 36:5-6 in the last of the three.

Nebuchadnezzar] For the spelling see Intro.

2. His god] The patron deity of Babylon was Marduk (Merodach, Jeremiah 50:2). Shinar] the old name of Babylonia (Genesis 10:10).

3. Master of his eunuchs] The Heb. is rab sarisim, the same title as ’Rabsaris’ in 2 Kings 18:17

The king’s seed.. the princes] It is uncertain whether Israelites or Babylonians are meant.

4. Children] RV ’youths,’ and so in Daniel 1:10, Daniel 1:13, Daniel 1:15, Daniel 1:17. Blemish] in a physical sense. Cunning] intelligent. Science] knowledge, so rendered in Daniel 1:17. Learning] lit. ’book,’ literature: so in Daniel 1:17. Chaldeans] not the Babylonians in general, but a special class of learned men.

5. Meat] RM ’dainties.’ A Persian word occurring nowhere in OT. save in Daniel. Stand before the king] as court attendants.

6. Children of Judah] Daniel and his friends belonged to the royal tribe. Daniel] The name means ’God is my judge.’ Hananiah] ’Jehovah is gracious.’ Mishael] ’Who is what God is?’ Azariah] ’Jehovah has helped.’ All these names are found elsewhere in OT.: see especially Nehemiah 3:8, Nehemiah 3:23, Nehemiah 3:30; Nehemiah 8:4.

7. The changes of name have a parallel in the case of Joseph (Genesis 41:45). The new names had no reference to the God of Israel, and perhaps contained the names of Babylonian deities.

Belteshazzar]Balatsu-utzur, ’Protect his life.’ Not to be confounded with Belshazzar.

Shadrach] Perhaps Shudur-Aku, ’the command of Aku,’ the Moon-god. Meshach] of uncertain meaning. One suggestion is Mi-sha-Aku, ’Who is what Aku is?’ Abed-nego] Probably a corruption of Ahed-Nebo,’ Servant of Nebo.’

8. Defile himself] The king’s food might consist of the flesh of unclean animals, or might not be freed from blood, or part of it might have been offered in sacrifice to idols. Part of the wine would have been poured out as a libation to the gods.

10. Your sort] RV ’your own age.’

11. Melzar] RV ’the steward’: so in v.16.

12. Pulse] RM ’herbs’: so in Daniel 1:16.

17. Daniel had understanding, etc.] A special statement by way of introduction to what follows in the book.

20. Magicians] A word used only in Daniel, and of the Egyptian magicians in Genesis 41:8, Genesis 41:24; Exodus 7:11, Exodus 7:22; Exodus 8:7; Exodus 9:11.

Astrologers] RV ’enchanters.’ The Babylonians had an elaborate system of magic, the fame and practice of which survived long after the Babylonian empire had ceased to exist.

21. The first year of king Cyrus] 538 b.c., some 66 years after the third year of Jehoiakim.

Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Daniel 1". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.