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Bible Commentaries

Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Daniel 1

Verses 1-21

Daniel 1. Daniel at the Court of Nebuchadnezzar.— This introductory chapter describes the circumstances which brought Daniel to Babylon, introduced him into the Court, and gained him favour with the king. The writer’ s purpose is to enforce the duty of loyalty to the Law and the principles of religion, and he illustrates his point by describing Daniel’ s refusal to “ defile himself with the king’ s meat and wine” ( Daniel 1:8). There can be little doubt that his object in this chapter is to appeal to the Jews of his own day to resist the s to compel them to eat forbidden food. Daniel is held up as an example to the Jews of the Maccabean age.

Nebuchadnezzar (the name is more correctly spelt Nebuchadrezzar) was king of Babylon from 604 to 561 B.C. (pp. 60f.). Under his rule Babylon reached the summit of its power. The picture of the splendour and prosperity of his empire which is drawn in Daniel 2:37 f., Daniel 4:10-12; Daniel 5:18-20 is borne out by inscriptions and references in the historians. His decisive victory in 605 B.C. (a year before he ascended the throne) over the rival world-power of Egypt at the battle of Carchemish made the Babylonian Empire supreme. His reputation, however, rests not so much upon deeds of war, as upon his architectural achievements. The question in Daniel 4:30, “ Is not this great Babylon which I have built?” is no rhetorical expression, but represents sober fact. Nearly every cuneiform document now extant dating from his reign treats of the building and restoration of the walls, temples, and palaces of his beloved city of Babylon. The best account of his work is to be found in the celebrated “ India House Inscription” (see Records of the Past, iii. 104– 123). Another well-authenticated fact is the keen interest which he took in religion. Some of the prayers in the “ India House Inscription” breathe the true spirit of devotion. A good illustration is given by Driver (CB, p. 26).

1. In the third year: there is considerable difficulty with regard to this date. Jehoiakim reigned from 608 to 597 B.C. Accordingly, as is definitely stated in Jer. 251, Nebuchadnezzar did not come to the throne till the fourth year of Jehoiakim. It has been suggested that the invasion of Palestine was an incident in the campaign against Egypt, and took place just before or just after the battle of Carchemish in 605, when Nebuchadnezzar was commanding the Babylonian army for his father. But this theory seems definitely excluded by the fact that statements made by Jeremiah in the fourth and fifth years of Jehoiakim’ s reign imply that the Babylonian attack on Jerusalem was still in the future ( Jeremiah 25:1; Jeremiah 46:2; Jeremiah 36:9). The error seems to be due to the writer’ s mistaken opinion that 2 Kings 24:1, “ Jehoiakim became his servant for three years,” referred to the first three years of his reign.

Daniel 1:2 . the land of Shinar: Babylonia. The term occurs nine other times in the OT ( Genesis 10:10; Genesis 11:2; Genesis 14:9, Joshua 7:21, Isaiah 11:11, Zechariah 5:11), and is probably an archaism, the origin of which is uncertain.— the house of his god: omitted in the LXX and probably an interpolation. Translate “ He brought them ( i.e. the captives) into the land of Shinar, and as for the vessels he brought them into the treasure-house of his god” According to 2 Chronicles 36:6 Jehoiakim himself was carried “ in fetters” to Babylon, but 2 K. makes no reference to this, and our Book has no allusion to it.— his god: Merodach or Marduk, the patron deity of Babylon. In the “ Inscription” he is described as “ the great Lord,” “ king of the heavens and the earth,” “ supreme governor.” The only reference to him in the OT is Jeremiah 50:2.

Daniel 1:3 . even of the seed royal. This translation implies that the selected youths belonged to the royal or noble families of Israel. The rendering of AV, “ and of the seed royal,” makes the sentence refer to Babylonian princes, etc.

Daniel 1:4 . well - favoured: good-looking.— Chaldeans: the term is used in two senses in Daniel. (1) In the ethnic sense ( Daniel 5:30, Daniel 11:1), to denote a powerful race who lived in the SE. of Babylonia, and subsequently became the dominant power in the country (pp. 58– 61). (2) To denote the “ wise men” or religious leaders of Babylon. “ Babyon,” as Driver says, “ was the land of magic,” and the Chaldeans were the chief exponents of the magic art. An ancient writer describes them as “ a caste with a fixed tradition,” and says that “ they devote their lives to philosophy enjoying a reputation for astrology.” They were experts in the art of divination and the interpretation of dreams. For a good account of the Chaldeans see Driver, CB, p. 12.

Daniel 1:6 f. Proper names in ancient times generally had a religious significance. The names of the four Hebrew youths indicated their connexion with the worship of the God of Israel. Daniel means “ God is my judge” ; Hananiah, “ Yahweh hath been gracious” ; Mishael, “ Who is what God is?” Azariah, “ Whom Yahweh aids.” At the court of Babylon other names were substituted having reference to the Babylonian religion. Belteshazzar probably means, “ Bel protect his life,” Bel being one of the most important Babylonian deities (see Jeremiah 50:2); Shadrach probably, “ The command of Aku,” Aku being the name of the Semitic Moon god; Meshach, “ Who is what Aku is?” Abed-nego, Servant of Nebo,” Nebo being the Babylonian god of wisdom and literature.

Daniel 1:8 . defile himself: the Jews were always most scrupulous in keeping the law of clean and unclean meats (pp. 202 f.). To partake of the “ king’ s meat” would have involved the risk of eating ( a) what was forbidden by the Jewish Law; ( b) what had not been slaughtered according to the provisions of the Law; ( c) what had been offered to idols. The food question was always a problem to Jews in foreign lands. Josephus, for instance, tells us that when he went on an embassy to Rome, he and his fellow-deputies lived on fruit and nuts to avoid the risk of defilement.— Steward: the translation of a technical term, Melzar, which is found only in this chapter. The exact functions of the Melzar are uncertain. The AV is wrong in regarding the word as a personal name.

Daniel 1:12 . pulse: the Heb. word denotes all kinds of vegetable food, and is not restricted to what is technically known as “ pulse.”

Daniel 1:17 . learning and wisdom: “ literature and science” would more nearly convey the sense of the original.

Daniel 1:20 . magicians and enchanters. The extent to which magic was practised in Babylon may be gathered from the fact that no less than six different words are employed in Daniel to describe the diviners: ( a) “ wise men,” ( b) enchanters, ( c) magicians, ( d) Chaldeans, ( e) determiners (of fate), ( f) sorcerers (see Driver, CB, p. 15).

Daniel 1:21 . the first year of Cyrus: 538 B.C. Daniel is therefore said to have lived at the Babylonian court for about sixty-seven years, from 605 B.C. to 538 B.C. In 101, however, a vision is said to have come to Daniel in “ the third year of Cyrus.”

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Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Daniel 1". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.