Bible Commentaries
Daniel 1

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3398. B.C. 606.

In this chapter we learn,

(1,) That Daniel, and some other descendants of David, were carried captive to Babylon in the third year of Jehoiakim; and that he and some other young men were chosen by Nebuchadnezzar’s orders to be educated in the learning of the Chaldeans, and that victuals were appointed them from Nebuchadnezzar’s table, Daniel 1:1-7 .

(2,) That Daniel and his three companions, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, piously refused the royal dainties, and determined to live on pulse and water, which the steward, to whose care they were committed, allowed them to do, Daniel 1:8-16 .

(3,) The wonderful improvement which they made above all their fellows in knowledge and wisdom, Daniel 1:17-21 .

Verses 1-2

Daniel 1:1-2. In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim came Nebuchadnezzar, &c. See notes on 2 Kings 24:1-4. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim into his hand He took Jehoiakim prisoner, and put him in chains, with a design to carry him to Babylon; but he having humbled himself, and submitted to become tributary, he was restored to his kingdom. “At this time,” says Lowth, “Jehoiakim having become tributary to the king of Babylon, consequently the seventy years of the Jewish captivity and vassalage to Babylon began.” With part of the vessels of the house of God Some of the vessels were still left, which Nebuchadnezzar seized when he carried Jeconiah captive: see the margin; which he carried into the land of Shinar That is, he carried the vessels, and not, as some would understand it, the captives also; for Jehoiakim only is mentioned, who died, as we have seen, in the land of Judah. Shinar was the original name of the country about Babylon, (Genesis 11:2,) and it was still sometimes called by this name by some of the prophets: see the margin. And he brought the vessels into the treasure-house of his god Of his idol Bel, (see note on Jeremiah 50:2,) from whence they were taken by Cyrus, and delivered to Zerubbabel, Ezra 1:7-8. To this agrees the testimony of Berosus, who tells us that Nebuchadnezzar adorned the temple of Bel with the spoils of war which he had taken in that expedition: see Joseph. Antiq., lib. 10. cap. 11.

Verses 3-4

Daniel 1:3-4 . And the king spake unto Ashpenaz, master of the eunuchs One of the chief officers of his palace; the officers that attended about the persons of the eastern kings being commonly eunuchs, (a custom still practised in the Ottoman court,) such being employed as guardians over the women which the kings kept for their pleasure. That he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and, or rather, even, of the king’s seed The conjunction copulative being often used by way of explication. And thus Isaiah’s prophecy was punctually fulfilled, Isaiah 39:7. Children in whom was no blemish He was directed to make choice of such as were comely, and had no defect or deformity of body, to which the Hebrew word מאום , here used, is chiefly applied, answerable to the Greek μωμος . But by the subsequent characters in the verse, it should seem that the young men were to be as complete in every respect as was possible, perfect in their mental as well as corporal powers. The greatest care seems to have been required as to the accomplishments of their minds, and on this account three several expressions are made use of, the particular force of each of which it may not be easy to ascertain. “Perhaps,” says Mr. Wintle, “the first relates to the best and most excellent natural abilities; the second, to the acquisition of the greatest improvements from cultivation; and the third, to the communication of their perceptions in the happiest manner to others.” He translates the clause as follows: Ready of understanding in all wisdom, and of skill in science, and expert in prudence. Or, more generally, the expressions may only signify that they were to be such as had been instructed, and had made proficiency, in every thing that was taught in the land of Judea. And such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace Not only being of a strong constitution to endure the fatigue of long waitings, in or near the royal presence, during which they were not permitted to sit down; “but qualified for every business in which they might be employed, and to do credit to the situation in which they were to stand.” And whom they might teach the learning and tongue of the Chaldeans As Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, so we are not to wonder that Daniel was taught the learning of the Chaldeans; and that he so far excelled in it, as to be placed at the head of the magi: see Daniel 4:9. It must be observed that the word ילדים , rendered children in the beginning of this verse, does not signify persons in a state of childhood, but refers to those of more advanced years. The expression is applied to Rehoboam’s counsellors, 1 Kings 12:8, who cannot be thought to have been mere children. Nor can we suppose Daniel and his companions to have been less than eighteen or twenty years of age at this time, as may be concluded from Daniel’s being put into considerable posts in the government soon after.

Verse 5

Daniel 1:5. The king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat Such as he had at his own table; wherein his humanity and bounty appeared toward them the more conspicuous, they being captives. So nourishing them, &c. The Vulgate renders it, Ut enutriti, &c.; that, being nourished three years, they might afterward stand in the presence of the king. It seems from what is here said, that the Chaldeans entertained a notion that a diet of the best sort contributed both to the beauty of the body and the improvement of the mind.

Verses 6-7

Daniel 1:6-7. Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, &c. All their names had some affinity with the name of Jehovah, the God whom they worshipped. Daniel signifies, God is my judge, or the judgment of God; Hananiah, God has been gracious to me, or, one favoured of Jehovah; Mishael, the powerful one of God; Azariah, the help of Jehovah, or, Jehovah is my succour. In like manner, the prince of the eunuchs, in changing their names, as a mark of dominion and authority over them, gave them such as had an affinity with the names of the gods of the Chaldees; Belteshazzar, the name given to Daniel, being derived from Bel, or Baal, the chief idol of Babylon, and signifying the treasurer of Baal, or, the depositary of the secrets, or treasure, of Baal. Shadrach, according to some, means the inspiration of the sun; being derived from shada, to pour out, and rach, a king, a name given to the sun by the Babylonians. Meshach, derived from a Babylonian deity called Shach, or from a goddess called Sheshach, is thought to signify, He who belongs to Shach, or Sheshach. Abed-nego imports the servant of the shining light, or, as Calmet thinks, of the sun, or the morning star, unless the word should be written Abed-nebo, referring to the idol so called, which gave name to several distinguished personages among the Babylonians: see Isaiah 46:2. It is certain from Herodotus, lib. 1., that the Chaldeans worshipped Jupiter Belus, Venus, and other idols, or the same under other names; and from these it is probable that the names were given, according to Chaldee usage, to these young men.

Verse 8

Daniel 1:8. But Daniel purposed that he would not defile himself The defilement here alluded to might arise either from the food being such as was prohibited in the law of Moses, or else what was offered to the idols of the Chaldees, or entreated to be blessed in their names: see 2 Corinthians 8:10; 2 Corinthians 8:20. With the portion of the king’s meat It was the custom of most nations, before their meals, to make an oblation of some part of what they ate and drank to their gods, as a thankful acknowledgment that every thing which they enjoyed was their gift; so that every entertainment had something in it of the nature of a sacrifice. This practice, generally prevailing, might make Daniel and his friends look upon the provisions coming from the king’s table as no better than meats offered to idols, and therefore to be accounted unclean, or polluted: see the margin. Nor with the wine which he drank Though wine was not prohibited in the Levitical law, yet Daniel might wish to abstain from it, chiefly from motives of temperance; or because it came from an entertainment wherein a libation was made of it to idols, he might think himself obliged to abstain from motives of conscience: see Wintle and Lowth.

Verse 9

Daniel 1:9. Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love, &c. Hebrew, לרחמים , compassionate regard, or, bowels of compassion, which is also the sense of the same word, Daniel 2:18. It is a very strong expression, and denotes a kind of parental compassion, like that of St. Paul in his epistle to Philemon, Daniel 1:12, Receive him that is mine own bowels. We see a like instance of God’s care over Joseph, (Genesis 39:21,) when he was a poor captive, a prisoner, and destitute of all friends to support or comfort him: see Psalms 106:46, where, as here, the favour of men toward God’s people is attributed to his overruling and gracious providence over them. And, considering what important consequences frequently follow upon it, we may, with great reason, acknowledge the hand of God in it, whenever it takes place.

Verse 10

Daniel 1:10. The prince of the eunuchs said, I fear my lord the king He objects that he should incur the king’s displeasure, and bring his life into danger, if he complied with Daniel’s request; the king having appointed what sort of meat and drink Daniel and his young friends should use, and having given no one authority to change it for any other, especially for a kind less calculated to preserve their health, and increase the strength and vigour of their constitutions, and beauty of their appearance. For why should he see your faces worse liking Hebrew, זעפים , σκυθρωπα , as the LXX. render it, more sad and dejected, or meager and lean; than the children which are of your sort Or, which are of your age, as the Hebrew word גיל signifies in the Arabic, and as the LXX. understand it. Probably, however, the word may include the condition also.

Verses 11-12

Daniel 1:11-12. Then said Daniel, Prove thy servants, I beseech, thee To satisfy him that there would be no danger of any ill consequence, Daniel desires the matter might be put to a trial for ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat The word הזרעים , here used, seems to signify fruits or vegetables; or rather, according to the Greek interpreter, seeds in general. At the 16th verse the word is זרענים , seeds, and some MSS. read it so in this verse. The sense is doubtless the same in both places, and perhaps may be well enough expressed by that kind of nourishing seed called pulse. The LXX. render it, απο των σπερματων , of seeds. “Pliny, in his Natural History, p. 380, mentions a kind of pulse, that is said to affect the temper of those that feed upon it, and to produce equanimity and gentleness. Various sorts of grain were dried and prepared for food by the people of the East, as wheat, barley, rice, and pulse. Of some of these was the parched corn, mentioned in Scripture, and the chief food of the labourers and poorer sort of people; and perhaps something of this kind of preparation might have been the choice of Daniel.” Wintle.

Verse 15

Daniel 1:15. At the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer, &c. The poor pulse, seeds, and roots, nourished and strengthened Daniel and his companions more than the rich food which the others ate from the king’s table nourished them. Although this might, in part, be the natural effect of their temperance, yet it must chiefly be ascribed to the special blessing of God, which will make a little go a great way, and a dinner of herbs more nutritive and strengthening than a stalled ox.

Verse 17

Daniel 1:17. As for these four children The Hebrew is literally, As to these children, or young men, each of them four: to them God gave knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom That is, in all sorts of learning and knowledge. They became particularly skilful in those parts of the Chaldean learning which were really useful, and which might recommend them to the favour of the kings both of Babylon and Persia, and qualify them for places of trust under them; as Moses’s education in the Egyptian learning fitted him to be a ruler of God’s people. And Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams Daniel excelled the others in the gift of prophecy, and in his extraordinary skill in interpreting all sorts of visions and dreams, namely, such as were sent of God, and foreshowed future events, under the cover of certain images and representations, which required an interpretation in order to the understanding of their true signification. But we must not suppose that Daniel attained this skill by any study or rules of art. It was God’s supernatural gift unto him, as was the same kind of knowledge which Joseph possessed and manifested when he interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh, and those of the chief butler and baker.

Verses 18-20

Daniel 1:18-20. Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in At the end of three years, see Daniel 1:5, the prince of the eunuchs brought them in According to the king’s command. And the king communed with them To try their proficiency. This shows the king’s ability and judgment, without which he could not have discerned their fitness for his service, and their excellence above others. He examined all candidates that applied, and preferred those that outstripped the rest. Therefore stood they before the king They were in continual attendance in the king’s court. The same expression is used of Elijah and Jeremiah, as God’s servants and messengers, 1 Kings 17:1; Jeremiah 15:19. And the Levites are said to stand before the congregation to minister to them, Numbers 16:9. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding In a general knowledge of things; that the king inquired of them This is a further confirmation of the king’s noble endowments, and of his great care to choose only proper persons to be in offices of trust, namely, persons well qualified to serve him in the great affairs of the kingdom. He found them ten times better, &c. Hebrew, עשׂר ידית , ten hands above, all the magicians and astrologers that were in his realm The words may be understood of those that employed themselves in the lawful search of natural causes and effects, and of the regular motions of the heavenly bodies. For, inasmuch as Daniel made intercession to the captain of the guard, that the wise men of Babylon might not be slain, Daniel 2:24, we cannot suppose that all of them were such as studied unlawful arts and sciences, especially as he himself was afterward made master, or head, over them. These names are evidently to be taken in a good sense, as the magi, Matthew 2:1; and the astrologers were then nearly, if not altogether, the same as astronomers with us. In short, the words seem to comprehend those persons in general, that were distinguished in the several kinds of learning cultivated among the Chaldees. It cannot, therefore, be collected from these words, that Daniel applied himself to the study of what are called magic arts, but to the sciences of the Chaldees; in the same manner as Moses had, long before, applied himself to the study of the wisdom of Egypt. And in giving Nebuchadnezzar proof that Daniel excelled all the wise men in his realm in these branches of knowledge and wisdom, God poured contempt on the pride of the Chaldeans, and put honour on the low estate of his people.

Verse 21

Daniel 1:21. And Daniel continued Hebrew, ויהי , he was, namely, in the court of Babylon, known, employed, and held in reputation, under Nebuchadnezzar and his successors; even unto the first year of Cyrus Till the monarchy passed from the Chaldeans to the Persians in the person of Cyrus, under whom also he maintained his authority. For the expression, unto, or till, the first year, is not intended to signify that he lived no longer; for it appears, from Daniel 10:1, that he lived at least till the third year of that monarch, in which year he had visions and revelations. He lived to see the promises of Isaiah and Jeremiah fulfilled, with respect to the deliverance of the Jews from their state of captivity in Babylon, which began to be accomplished in the first year of Cyrus, Ezra 1:1, and for the accomplishment of which we find Daniel very solicitous, Daniel 9:1-2. This being so remarkable a year, the text takes notice that Daniel lived to that time, but does not say how much longer he lived.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Daniel 1". Benson's Commentary. 1857.