Bible Commentaries
Daniel 1

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Verses 1-2


This book speaks about the end time, that is, the time immediately before the coming of the Lord Jesus to reign on earth. It is an important book. This is also evident from the fact that the enemy attacks it again and again. It is perhaps the most attacked book of all Old Testament books. This is because the book contains many prophecies that were already fulfilled in the time when the Lord Jesus was on earth.

An example of this we see in the rise of the four consecutive world realms over which Daniel prophesied. Unbelief cannot accept that a prophet has predicted this so accurately. Therefore, Bible critics have dated the book much later. According to these people, the book was written after the fulfilment of the prophecies and so, they claim, cannot have been from Daniel.

But we have to do with a God who indicates in advance how history will go and how events will take place (Isaiah 46:10). In the book we also see things that took place later and things that also still have to happen. Above all, we have the clear testimony of the Lord Jesus Himself. He speaks emphatically of “Daniel the prophet” (Matthew 24:15). His testimony is the end of all contradictions.

There is also a testimony about the Lord Jesus in the book of Daniel and that is His title ‘Son of Man’. In the Gospels the Lord speaks several times about Himself as “the Son of man”. This name appears three times in the Old Testament: twice in Psalms (Psalms 8:4; Psalms 80:17) and once in Daniel (Daniel 7:13). Every time He calls Himself by this name, it is a confirmation of the historical accuracy of the book of Daniel, for He is the Son of man Who Daniel describes, Who will come once to establish His kingdom of peace (Daniel 7:13).

In the book of Ezekiel, we also find evidence of Daniel. Ezekiel is a prophet in exile and speaks of Daniel (Ezekiel 14:14; Ezekiel 14:20). Daniel is already known then. This is an extra argument that the book of Daniel can only be dated in that time and not later.

It is still important to know something about the historical background of this book. The last God-fearing king in Judah is Josiah. Josiah dies in the war against the king of Egypt, Neco, a war he should not have waged for Neco is on his way to Assyria and not to Judah (2 Chronicles 35:21-Jeremiah :). Of the four sons that Josiah has, the people take the youngest son and make him king (2 Chronicles 36:1). He rules only three months. The king of Egypt has power in Israel and takes him to Egypt. He makes the second son of Josiah, Eliakim, king, and gives him the name Jehoiakim. Jehoiakim is a godless king (2 Chronicles 36:5-Ruth :). This king Jehoiakim is the one mentioned in Daniel 1 (Daniel 1:1).

Babylon became a world empire in the year 612 BC with power over Assyria and Israel. Nebuchadnezzar is given authority over these countries by his father. In the book of Daniel we are in the year 606 BC. From that time on, the seventy years of exile are counted (Daniel 9:2). Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem in the third year of Jehoiakim. This siege is not mentioned in non-biblical history, but here the Scripture writes history. Only later, in the eleventh year of Jehoiakim, does Nebuchadnezzar take Jerusalem. Then the second deportation takes place. The first deportation takes place during the first siege, here in Daniel 1. The third deportation is under Zedekiah. Daniel and his friends are also taken away on the first deportation and end up in Babylon.

There is another aspect that is important to remember and that is the division of God’s people into ten tribes and two tribes. That division is caused by the sin of the people and their kings, beginning with Solomon (1 Kings 11:11-1 Chronicles :). By persevering in their sins, God finally had to remove the ten tribes from the land first. He used the Assyrians, who deported the population of the ten tribes from their area and scattered them over other countries over which the king of Assyria ruled (2 Kings 17:3-Joshua :). The ten tribes are still in the ‘scattering’.

The two tribes have not been warned by this, but have continued to sin and have sinned even worse than the ten tribes (Ezekiel 23:11). God carries out the judgment on them by giving them into the hand of the king of Babylon (2 Chronicles 36:11-Ecclesiastes :; Jeremiah 52:28-Amos :) for a seventy-year exile: “For thus says the LORD, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place’” (Jeremiah 29:10).

The book of Daniel is set in Babylon. Babel means ‘confusion’ and represents the religious confusion so characteristic of Christianity. In this book God shows in the attitude of Daniel and his friends what the attitude of His own should be in such circumstances. Daniel and his friends have not chosen their stay in Babylon and the career they have been given.

Daniel means ‘God is my Judge’. That is an encouragement for him and it is an encouragement for us too. If we are in circumstances comparable to those of Daniel and his friends, we may be assured that only the judgment of God counts.

There are many prophetic books in the Old Testament, but Daniel is special. In all other prophetic books, Israel is still God’s people, the people are still in God’s land, and there is still the throne of God. God still recognizes the people. There are also prophecies in those books concerning the coming of the Messiah. In the book of Daniel, it is different. Israel is no longer God’s people in this book, but it is “Lo-ammi”, which means “not My people” (Hosea 1:9). The people are no longer in the land either, but they have been taken to Babylon.

Here begins what the Lord Jesus calls “the times of Gentiles” (Luke 21:24). From now on, time is counted according to the kings of the world empires. The throne of God is no longer in Jerusalem. The glory of God has gone away from the earth. This happened in phases (Ezekiel 9:3; Ezekiel 10:18-Psalms :Ezekiel 11:22-Isaiah :). God is no longer the God of the earth, but of heaven (Daniel 2:28; Daniel 2:37), to which He has withdrawn. His government is no longer connected with Jerusalem.

Division of the book

We can divide the book into two parts:
1. Daniel 1-6: In this part we have the fates of Daniel and his friends;
2. Daniel 7-12: This part shows us future events through visions that Daniel has received.

Not only the second part of the book is prophecy, but the whole book, including the first part. We will see that what happens to Daniel and his friends, also has an application to the future.

The first part contains visions and dreams that are given to gentiles, but they must be explained by Daniel. Daniel represents the believing and faithful remnant of Israel in the end times. He is one of the wise men about whom we hear in this book and who have insight into the thoughts of God. The first part also describes the circumstances of the gentile rulers in connection with their behavior.

In the second part the announcements are made to the faithful prophet. These are events that are more directly related to the people of God.


The subject of this chapter is the conduct of those who, as a result of God’s judgment of His people, are in a foreign land, wherein the favor of God rests on them. The message is that obedience to God gives insight into His thoughts and also the power to act in accordance with them. This is further elaborated in the following chapters.

Daniel and his friends are a picture of the faithful remnant of Israel in the end times. It is not a remnant in the land of God, but among the nations. That is how it will be in the great tribulation. The true believers in our days are also a remnant for God, they also live in an end time. It is about God finding in us something of the characteristics that should be found in the whole people. We see that in Daniel 1.

Daniel’s personal behavior is the basis and introduction to gain insight into the whole book. With us it is the same. Separation from the (Christian) world – a pertinent refusal to participate in what it has to offer – puts us in a position to receive what God wants to communicate to us.

The Deportation to Babylon

What is described here is foretold by the prophet Isaiah: “‘Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house and all that your fathers have laid up in store to this day will be carried to Babylon; nothing will be left,’ says the LORD” (Isaiah 39:6). This prophecy is the judgment of what Hezekiah has done with the treasures of the LORD’s house. He showed them all to the delegation from Babylon: “There was nothing in his house nor in all his dominion that Hezekiah did not show them” (Isaiah 39:2). That delegation visited him because of his illness and miraculous healing and also because of the miracle of the going back of the sun’s shadow (Isaiah 38:8; Isaiah 39:1; 2 Chronicles 32:31).

Jehoiakim is a son of king Josiah. Josiah gave him the name Eliakim, but Pharaoh Neco “changed his name to Jehoiakim” (2 Kings 23:34). Pharaoh has the power to do so because Israel has been conquered by him. He makes Jehoiakim king. Jehoiakim is twenty-five years old then “and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem” (2 Kings 23:36).

During his reign, in its third year, Nebuchadnezzar besieges Jerusalem. There is no way to escape from his grip, because the LORD is behind this siege. This is not because Nebuchadnezzar is so strong, but because “the Lord”, Adonai, the souverain Ruler over all things, stands behind this siege. He must give His people into the hand of the enemy, because all the previous means to make His people repent failed to have any effect.

The third year of the reign of Jehoiakim is the year 606 BC. In that year the transport of a number of nobles, including Daniel and his friends, takes place (Daniel 1:3-Numbers :; Daniel 1:6).

After this there are three more deportations of the population. The first of these takes place in the days of Jehoiachin, a grandson of Josiah, who came to the throne after Jehoiakim’s death (2 Kings 24:6-Esther :; 2 Chronicles 36:9-2 Samuel :). When Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem in 597 BC, Jehoiachin and a number of others went out of the city to the king of Babylon, who took them prisoner (2 Kings 24:12). Ezekiel is part of this deportation (2 Kings 24:14-Nehemiah :; Ezekiel 1:1-Exodus :), he is then twenty-five years old.

Nebuchadnezzar makes Zedekiah, a third son of Josiah, king in place of Jehoiachin. Zedekiah is the last king of Judah (2 Kings 24:17-Proverbs :; 2 Kings 25:1-Judges :; 2 Chronicles 36:10-:), he reigns from 597-587 BC. He comes to his end because he rebels against Nebuchadnezzar, who goes up against Jerusalem and destroys the city in 586 BC. Nebuchadnezzar then again leads some of the population into exile (2 Kings 25:11).

Finally, around 582 BC, the last deportation takes place (Jeremiah 52:30).

Nebuchadnezzar brings the captured temple vessels “to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god”. Shinar is the area where the cities of the Babylonian empire are located, with Babel as the capital. Nimrod is the founder of that empire (Genesis 10:8-2 Samuel :). The name of the city and its origin can be found in the confusion of speech (Genesis 11:1-1 Samuel :). Babel means ‘confusion’ or ‘scattering’.

Twice it is said that Nebuchadnezzar brings the objects of the house of God into the house “of his god”. This shows how great the unfaithfulness and apostasy of the people of God are towards the LORD. They never thought this would happen. They thought they could count on the eternal presence of the LORD in their midst in the temple. The temple is their national pride. They have boasted in it (Jeremiah 7:4). But such pride must be punished by the LORD with humiliation. He leaves His people and surrenders His temple to the nations.

Verses 3-4


Nebuchadnezzar wants to train a number of young Judean men to serve at his court and to give them an important position in his country’s government. He acts according to the principle ‘he who has the youth, has the future’. In Daniel 1:3-Numbers :, a profile of these young men is given. Among them are Daniel and his three friends.

Daniel belongs to the Judean nobility. He was brought to Babylon at the first transportation. The prophet Isaiah prophesied the deportation of these men to Babylon: And [some] of your sons who will issue from you, whom you will beget, will be taken away, and they will become officials in the palace of the king of Babylon” (Isaiah 39:7). These men are chosen to increase the glory of Nebuchadnezzar. But God uses these young men from Judah to provide a testimony for Himself in Babylon with the most powerful man on earth.

In order to free them completely from their own way of thinking and to introduce them into Babylon’s way of thinking, a program with three main points must be followed. In order to do good service, the first point is “to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans”. This part of the program focuses on their mind, what they should take in, in their mind and how they should pass on their knowledge in words to others.

This is in contrast, to being taught in “the sacred writings” (2 Timothy 3:15) and speaking “the things which are fitting for sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). As a current application we can look at the Bible translation we use. Is it a reliable translation? We can also think of the songs we sing. The use of these means, form our spirit and our language. Therefore, it is good to ask ourselves what we read and sing.

Verse 5

Eating and Drinking

The second point of the program concerns food. The deported princes and nobles get other food. They should eat from the royal table. The spiritual meaning is that they must find the strength for their service in the products of Babylon or the methods of Babylon. What is offered to them is attractive for their natural taste. But the trick behind it is that the Babylonian food will transform them into Babylonian people with Babylonian behavior.

The food they eat speaks of what they absorb in their minds. The result will be that their whole behavior, their whole attitude, will radiate what appeals to man without God. In the application we can say that they are trained in sales techniques and management that is intended to promote Babylon and keep it big. Drinking the king’s wine means that they must find their joy in the things in which he finds his joy. The result will be that their spiritual discernment will disappear.

Verses 6-7

Other Names

Here the names of four of the deported young men are mentioned. God’s Spirit puts the spotlight on them, because in them the characteristics of the faithful remnant are clearly visible. Nowhere it seems that they share in the judgment God had to bring over His people because of their personal crimes. But there is also no evidence that they have opposed this judgment for that reason. We just see them bowing under the judgment that affects the whole people, including themselves.

At the same time, we see how they remain faithful to the LORD and his statutes, from Whom and from which they have not departed. Their upbringing in Israel is not rejected by them in the land of their exile. Even though Daniel, it is estimated, is currently between fourteen and eighteen years old, a teenager.

The third point of the program of the re-education concerns their names. Of these four young men are mentioned both their old, Hebrew, names and the new, Babylonian, names they receive.

1. Daniel means: God is my judge,
2. Hananiah: Yahweh is Grace,
3. Mishael: Who is like God?
4. Azariah: Yahweh is help or Yahweh helps.

The new names are related to the gods of Babylon. The meaning of these names is not always clear.

1. Belteshazzar: (possible meaning) ‘prince of Bel’, the god of Babylon,
2. Shadrach: possibly derived from ‘Rach’, a sun god,
3. Meshach: (possible meaning) ‘he who belongs to the goddess Seshach’,
4. Abed-nego: ‘slave of Nego’ also a god of Babylon.

They have to accept this name change and they did. They do not defend themselves against it.

In the change of their names we can see a process of ‘brainwashing’. In their Hebrew names the name of God or of the LORD appears in each of them. This can be seen from the syllable el or yah. El means ‘God’ and Yah is ‘Yahweh’ which is translated with ‘LORD’. Any reminder of their origin must make way for their new status. If this is done consistently long enough, they will have forgotten their origin over time and fully adopted Babylon’s way of living and thinking.

Verses 8-9

A Resolution of Heart

They have not refused to change their names, but they do not take the food that is given to them. Daniel intends not to defile himself with this. The LORD has said beforehand that His people will defile themselves with the food of the nations, when He has had them taken away (Hosea 9:3).

Daniel will have known that prophecy. But he does not use that reason to adapt. He doesn’t say, just to adapt it to themselves: ‘You have to go with the times.’ Or: ‘The Bible is time-bound.’ He also does not seek excuses in the circumstances. For him, the Word of God is also the norm in Babylon, when he is far from home, and he submits to its authority.

He “sets upon his heart” (which is the literal translation) or “purposed in his heart” (Darby translation) not to defile himself. The heart is the center of life. There all decisions are made: “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it [flow] the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23). God can use Daniel because he purposes this in his heart.

He cannot refuse to undergo his forming, but he can ask if he does not have to defile himself as a Jew. He is honest about what he is. He does not protest, but submits a request. He did not protest against the name change, but eating what defiles is another matter. Then one must “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). However, he does not demand, but asks.

When young people come in another environment, for example to study, it becomes clear what their upbringing has done to them. What matters in such a situation is the intention of the heart. Daniel “purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself”. This principle is of great importance to every young person who knows the Lord Jesus. It is not about a Christian behavior, the appearance, but about what is in the heart.

Daniel never let himself be dominated by the science of Babylon, because he directed his heart to God. He was willing to obey the LORD in all things, even in the smallest things. It is about what we feed ourselves with, what we spiritually take in, for that is what forms us. This also determines the answer to the question of whether a person adapts to the circumstances or whether he is guided by his dealings with the Lord.

By the way, Babylon does not so much represent the wicked world, but the Christianity which is led by worldly principles. For us, to remain standing in Babylon means to remain standing in Christian confusion – Babel or Babylon means, as I said, ‘confusion’ – before the principles of God. If we remain with the Lord with a resolution of the heart (Acts 11:23), we will not follow the trend of casual Christianity based on a pragmatic gospel.

There are in connection with Babylon, some lessons for us. We read about the departure of a remnant from Babylon that returns to Jerusalem (Ezra 1:2-Leviticus :; Ezra 1:5). This presents the aspect of separation within Christianity. We need to withdraw from the confusion and look for the place where the Lord Jesus is in the midst, where He is now, gathering the church. Another aspect is that at the same time, we are also in Babylon, because we cannot leave Christianity. If we look at ourselves in that aspect of Babylon, the lesson is that we have to show a sure and decided attitude. We see that attitude in Daniel.

We are part of Christianity. Another thing is that we must not allow; is ourselves to be influenced by the principles that prevail there. These principles are attractive to the flesh. We are, like Daniel, of royal blood, we are “a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9). Christianity addresses us in that way, often in flattering language. But the program she has ready for us is aimed at forgetting our origins and the purpose of our lives, and to commit ourselves to forming a power on earth. Certainly, we have earthly responsibilities, but we should look at them in the light of our citizenship that is in heaven (Philippians 3:20).

Daniel addresses himself correctly to the commander of the officials. He approaches him with due respect, aware of his submissive position. God blesses Daniel’s intention and attitude and gives him “favor and compassion” in the sight of the commander. He works in the heart of the commander of the officials, so that he listens to Daniel.

Verse 10


The commander of the officials does not understand what Daniel says and is also afraid of his position. According to him, what Daniel proposes can never be better than what he wants them to eat. After all, that is of the best possible quality, isn’t it? Thus, the man of the world understands nothing of what the Christian is concerned with, what he feeds himself with.

The world feeds on what is destined for God. Man, without God uses his time and strength for himself and is busy with what has been sacrificed to the idols. He believes that this also gives the best result. But what is food for the world cannot be food for the believer.

Verses 11-13

A Trial Period

Daniel suggests a test. He proposes a ten-day trial period. Ten is the number of responsibility. We see this, among other things, in the ten commandments. Young people are always put to the test when they come to stand alone. You can, just like Daniel does here, ask that you be put to the test to show who you live for. You can also dare to go into it and think you will succeed.

Daniel dares nothing, but acts in faith, from a relationship with God. He doesn’t choose wine, which is good in itself (Judges 9:13; Psalms 104:15), but water. For us the choice is: wine, that is to say the earthly joys, or water, that is to say the living water.

Daniel does not speak in pride, but with the certainty of faith. He trusts the outcome, that it will be governed by God. After the trial period, the test must be evaluated.

Verses 14-17

After the Trial Period

That the overseer wants to try it for ten days is the result of God’s work in him. After the ten-day test, the effect of the food that Daniel and his friends have eaten is apparent. They looked better and fatter or healthier than any other of young men. Sincere trust in God will always be rewarded by Him. God gives the four friends knowledge, intelligence and wisdom – and to Daniel also insight into all kinds of visions and dreams.

It will become clear to the world with what we feed ourselves. That cannot remain hidden. That is already the case now. It is also true when the time comes, that men of the world will have to acknowledge that what has occupied the believers has real value, while what has occupied them will turn out to be worthless.

Because the test is positive, the young men receive vegetables instead of the food from the king’s table. God takes care of the men because they have remained faithful to Him. He blesses the teaching they follow at the ‘university’ in Babylon. In reality they are not taught by the scholars of Babylon, but by God, for He gives them insight.

If anyone follow learning and submits to the Lord in it, he may trust that the Lord will make clear to him what he needs to know. If the heart is focused on the Lord, he remains with Him. Much of what he must learn is not true because it goes against the Scriptures, but the Lord will make sure that he does not become entangled in it.

Verses 18-20

Before Nebuchadnezzar

After three years the young men come to Nebuchadnezzar. They can answer him to all his questions because they are taught by God. Not only are they better than the other magicians in the kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar, but they rise head and shoulders above them. They are “ten times better” than all the magicians of Babylon. This is because they have kept God’s Word (Psalms 119:98- :). They have experienced that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom (Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 9:10), while the wisdom of the world is folly.

Their wisdom, knowledge and insight do not make them proud, but subservient. There is no need for intelligent young people, but for servant-minded young people, as there is for the elderly. God controls everything in such a way that the men come into service for the king. Solomon said: “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men” (Proverbs 22:29). The friends have experienced that. We also see here the fulfilment of what the LORD says to Eli: “Those who honor Me I will honor” (1 Samuel 2:30).

They get this high position because they have resolved in their hearts to obey the Word. In that position they have shown that they trust the LORD and have not polluted themselves with the destruction that prevails around them. This has given the LORD the space to fill them with the knowledge of His thoughts and to use them as His witnesses in the very environment where He is not taken into account.

Verse 21

Duration of the Stay in Babylon

Daniel has experienced the entire history of the New Babylonian Empire. In the “first year the of Cyrus the king” he is about ninety years old. He has then been more than seventy years in Babylon. This mention at the end of this chapter indicates that Daniel has shown the same faithfulness to God that we see in this chapter, through all the time he spent in Babylon. He is an example of the word: “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

Also “the first year of Cyrus the king” refers to the end of the exile in Babylon and the liberation of the people of God from it (Ezra 1:1; 2 Chronicles 36:22; Ezra 6:3).

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Daniel 1". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.