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Bible Commentaries
Daniel 1

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary

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Verse 1

(1) In the third year.—Two questions are involved in this verse. (1) Is it historically true that Jerusalem was taken by Nebuchadnezzar in the third year of Jehoiakim’s reign? (2) Does the language of the verse imply that he did so? The second question is rightly answered in the negative. The word came means went, as Genesis 45:17; 2 Kings 5:5, and it is the natural word for a Hebrew to use who wrote from Babylon, and may be translated marched. It is therefore implied in this verse that Nebuchadnezzar started from Babylon in the third year of Jehoiakim. The rest of the history is easily supplied from other portions of Scripture. In the fourth year of Jehoiakim he conquered Pharaoh at Carchemish (Jeremiah 46:2), and then advanced upon Jerusalem. (See marginal reference.) The name Nebuchadnezzar is sometimes more correctly spelt Nebuchadrezzar, but no argument can be based upon the different modes of spelling the name, as the difficulties of transliteration of Babylonian names into Hebrew characters are considerable.

Verse 2

(2) Part of the vessels.—Literally, from one point to another. He did not take them all at once, but on different occasions. (On Shinar, see Note, Genesis 10:10.)

His godi.e., Bel-Merodach, who was originally an Accadian deity, the signification of the second part of the name being “he that measures the path of the sun.” The planet Jupiter was worshipped under this name. He was the tutelary god of Babylon, and to his honour Nebuchadnezzar dedicated a temple. For a further description of this deity see Bar. 6:14-15.

Verse 3

(3) Ashpenaz . . . his eunuchsi.e., the courtiers or attendants upon the king. (See marginal translation of Genesis 37:36; and compare Jeremiah 39:3, where a Rab-saris, or chief of the courtiers, is mentioned. See also Isaiah 39:7.)

The king’s seed.—According to the story of Josephus (Ant. x. 10, 1), Daniel and the three holy children were all connected with Zedekiah. The context makes this opinion perfectly admissible.

Verse 4

(4) Children.—If the Babylonian customs were similar to the Persian, it is probable that the course of education would commence at an early age. So elaborate a system of science as the Babylonian, whether theological, astronomical, or magical, would naturally require an early training. It is reasonable to suppose that these “children” were quite young. So much may be inferred from Nebuchadnezzar’s amazement at what he considered to be Daniel’s precocious genius (Daniel 2:26).

To stand, i.e., to act as courtiers or servants. (Comp. 2 Kings 5:25, and below, Daniel 1:19.)

Learning . . . Chaldeans.—Many interesting specimens of this may be seen in the volumes of the Records of the Past, which are devoted to Assyrian and Babylonian subjects. Many more examples may be seen in the British Museum, and among them the large treatise on magic, which originally consisted of no less than two hundred tablets. It appears, from comparing this with Daniel 1:19, that some form of examination was held by the king, before he admitted the courtiers into his immediate service. The language of Chaldæa at this time was Semitic; but there was a sacred language in use besides, which probably belonged to the Turanian family. In both these languages was Daniel educated.

Verse 5

(5) A daily portion.—(Comp. Jeremiah 52:34.) The meat was solid food, as opposed to the wine and vegetables which formed so important a part of Babylonian diet. The food appears to have been sent from the king’s table.

Three years.—The king appears to have had sufficient insight into the extraordinary character of these youths, to enable him to prescribe not only the subjects of their studies, but also the length of their course of instruction. It appears that Nebuchadnezzar was a man of far higher character than many Assyrian and Babylonian kings. We shall see, in the course of the boot, that his heart was fitted for the reception of Divine truth, and that in the end he was brought to know the true God.

Verse 6

(6) Now among these . . .—Four persons only are mentioned here, because the narrative of the book is only concerned with four. Daniel calls our attention to the fact that the very four whom Providence had endowed with the greatest natural gifts were those by whose constancy and example the king was converted. The names of these four were subsequently changed, with the view of showing that they had become nationalised Chaldee subjects. (Comp. 2 Kings 23:34; 2 Kings 24:17.) The name Belteshazzar must be carefully distinguished from Belshazzar. It is said to mean, protect his life (balatsu-usur). Daniel appears, if this be the true meaning of the name, to have endeared himself at a very early period to Ashpenaz. (See Daniel 4:18.) Abed-nego is apparently Servant of Nebo, the b and g having been designedly interchanged, on account of Azariah’s unwillingness to bear a heathen name. Shadrach and Meshach have not as yet been explained, but probably the clue to their interpretation is to be found in the last syllable, ach, which occurs also in Merodach and Arioch.

Verse 8

(8) Daniel purposed in his heart.—He was cautious from the first. He feared that he might eat something that had been consecrated to idols. (See 1 Corinthians 8:0)

Verse 9

(9) Into favour.—The close correspondence between Daniel and Joseph has been frequently remarked. Each finds favour with his master, and afterwards with a foreign monarch. The grace of God enables each to overcome the temptations into which his circumstances lead him. The acute natural faculties of each are miraculously increased by God; and, lastly, each is sent into a foreign land to comfort exiled Israel. (See Genesis 39:21; 1 Kings 8:50; Nehemiah 1:11; Psalms 106:46.) No less striking is the resemblance of Nebuchadnezzar to Pharaoh.

Verse 10

(10) Of your sort, i.e., of your contemporaries, those who are of the same age with you.

Verse 11

(11) Melzar.—(See Introduction, § VI.) Not a proper name (Hamelsar), but a cellarman. The appeal of Daniel to the chief chamberlain having proved insufficient, he applies to the man with whom he was on more familiar terms.

Verse 12

(12) Ten days.—The number “ten” is treated as a round number here, and in Daniel 1:20. (Comp. Genesis 31:41.) By adopting this mode of life, Daniel resumes the simple diet commonly used by his ancestors previously to their entering Canaan (Deuteronomy 12:15-16; Deuteronomy 26:5; Deuteronomy 26:9). This simplicity of life prevailed till the early times of David (1 Samuel 17:17-18). At the Persian court, in later times, Daniel changed his rule of life (Daniel 10:3), the infirmities of age beginning to tell upon his constitution.

Verse 15

(15) Appeared fairer.—Thus was God beginning to assert His power among the Babylonians. This change in the appearance of Daniel was the effect of his free grace, not of the meat that came from the king’s palace. May it not have been that the young exiles thought of the words of Isaiah (Isaiah 52:11), “Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out thence, touch no unclean thing”?

Verse 17

(17) Learning and wisdom.—These appear to be contrasted in this verse. The former refers to literature, and implies the knowledge of secular subjects; the latter implies philosophy and theology, and perhaps, also, an acquaintance with the meaning of portents. Abundant instances of the latter may be found in the Records of the Past (see vol. v., p. 167).

Verse 18

(18) At the end of the days, i.e., the three years specified in Daniel 1:5. Before the conclusion of this time, it appears (Daniel 2:1), Daniel was enabled to give a proof of his wisdom. (See Daniel 2:28.)

Verse 21

(21) Continued.—(See Introduction, § I.) The phrase does not mean that “he prophesied,” but that he lived until the time specified; by no means implying that he died in the first year of Cyrus. This year is specified on account of its importance to the Jewish people as the year of their deliverance. We are led to think of Daniel during this period holding high positions in the courts of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius, yet so using the things of this world that at the close of his life (Daniel 10:11) he became the man greatly beloved by God. (See Pusey: Daniel the Prophet, pp. 21-23).

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Daniel 1". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/daniel-1.html. 1905.
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