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Bible Commentaries

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Daniel 1

Verse 1

Dan 1:1. Third year should be considered in connection with 2Ki 24:1, It seems that Jehoiakim had formed some kind of mutual agreement with Babylon but that he broke that relationship after three years. That brought Nebuchadnezzar against Jerusalem with an army and that was the beginning of the "first captivity" which means the first stage of the noted 70year exile. In Jer 25:1 this event is said to have occurred in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, which might be confusing at first thought. However, If a thing takes place at the end of a man’s third year, it could be thought of as as happening in his fourth year since the term third and fourth are just that indefinite in their force.

Verse 2

Dan 1:2. The Lord gave shows that Nebuchadnezzar's advance against Jerusalem was by the decree of God. The account in 2Ki 24:3-4 goes farther than this verse and tells why it was done, that it was because of the sins that the nation had committed. This event was not intended to cause the complete ruin of Jerusalem, for it says that the king of Babylon took part of the vessels of the Lord's house with him.

Verse 3

Dan 1:3. The first king means Nebuchadnezzar and the next is Jehoiakim. Ashpmaz was an important servant under the king of Babylon, whose specific duty was to oversee the other servants or any others who might become subject to the king. This man was told by his master to bring from Jersalem to Babylon some ot the king's seed. That does not mean exclusively his bodily offspring, for we shall see that others were taken. But it includes men near the king within the royal family, and also some of his princes which means outstanding men in his service.

Verse 4

Dan 1:4. The terms Chaldeans and Babylonians may be used interchangeably for all practical purposes, although the latter is nowhere used In the book of Daniel. For the information of the readers I shall quote from three works of reference: "The Chaldeans were a Semitic [descended from Shem] people who passed into Babylonia from the south, and occupied the whole seaeoast region of South Babylonia.”- Funk and Wagnalls, New Standard Bible Dictionary, article Chaldea. "In the Old Testament, from the time Of Jeremiah and the establishment of the new Babylonian Empire under Nabopolassar and Nebuchadnezzar, the terms Chaldeans and Chaldees denote the inhabitants of Babylonia, or the subjects of the Babylonian Empire.”-SchaffHerzog Encyclopaedia, article Chaldeans. "It appears that the Chaldeans were in the earliest times merely one out of the many Cushite tribes inhabiting the great alluvial plain known afterwards as Chaldea or Babylonia. Their special seat was probably that southern portion of the country which is found to have so late retained the name of Chaldea. In process of time, as the Kaldi grew in power, their name gradually prevailed over those of other tribes inhabiting the country; and by the era of the Jewish captivity it had begun to be used generally for all the inhabitants of Babylonia. It appears that while, both in Assyria and In later Babylonia, the Shemitlc type of speech prevailed for civil purposes, the ancient Cushite dialect was retained, as a learned language for scientific and religious literature. This is no doubt the ‘learning’ and the ‘tongue’ to which reference is made in the book of Dan 1:4, The Chaldeans were really the learned class; they were priests, magicians or astronomers, and in the last of the three capacities they probably effected [accomplished] discoveries of great importance. In later times they seem to have degenerated into mere fortunetellers." - Smith’s Bible Dictionary, article, Chaldeans. When considering the subject from a political or national standpoint the two terms are used interchangeably and I trust the reader will keep that truth in mind. When some special personal characteristics are under consideration, the Chaldeans will be spoken of as a distinct group of people. Hence in this verse we see the reference to these special subjects which Nebuchadnezzar wished to develop in the lives of the Jews who had been selected out from the general population in Jerusalem. The mental qualifications were not the only points the king wished these Jews to have. Their bodies were to be without blemish and they were to be well favored. The last word is from MAKEH which Strong defines, "A view {the act of seeing); also an appearance (the thing seen), whether (real) a shape (especially if handsome, comeliness; often plural the looks), or (mental) a vision,” The Babylonian king instructed his chief servant to select some Jews who already possessed these traits of mind and body, then he purposed to develop them further by a schedule of special diet.

Verse 5

Dan 1:5. The schedule as to their bodies consisted of a special provision of food and drink taken out of the store that was brought in for the king's personal use. Having been selected for the special use of the monarch, these articles of diet were supposed to possess unusual qualities for the developing of bodily strength and appearance. This schedule was to be followed for three years after which the men were to be presented to the king for his approval.

Verse 6

Dan 1:6. This verse tells us that Daniel was taken to Babylon at tbe “first captivity,” that means the first stage of the noted 70year exile.

Verse 7

Dan 1:7. This prince of the eunuchs must have been allowed a considerable amount of authority, for he took the liberty of changing the names of Daniel and his three companions, or at least of giving them names in addition to the ones they had. These companions of Daniel are the familiar “Three Hebrew Children” who are so often referred to in the stories of heroes of the Bible.

Verse 8

Dan 1:8. Daniel knew that Nebuchadnezzar was an idolater and that a portion of the royal provisions was given over to consecrate the idol in connection with the feasts. For this reason his conscience would not consent for him to take part in the false religion by accepting the food. He requested the prince to be excused from partaking.

Verse 9

Dan 1:9. The prince of the euuuchs was responsible for the development of these speciallychosen men, and he would naturally be unwilling to grant to Daniel the exemption requested. But God took a hand in the matter and caused him to have a tender love for Daniel which led him at least to be personally disposed to favor him.

Verse 10

Dan 1:10, Sort means age, and tbe prince was fearful Lest Daniel should not look as well as the others of his age if he were permitted to abstain from the diet provided for him. Of course that would endanger the life of the man who was made responsible for the welfare of the prisoners allotted to him. He made this protest to Daniel who was reasonable enough to see the position the prince was in, and he seems to have said nothing more to him on that matter.

Verse 11

Dan 1:11. But the prince of the eunuchs had placed the actual work of providing the food in charge of a steward named Melzar. As far as the record informs us, the prince of the eunuchs saw no more of Daniel and his companions until the time for their appearance before the king. He left the task of serving the food to this steward Melzar.

Verse 12

Dan 1:12. Daniel’s proposition was fair to all parties concerned, for, regardless of the success or failure of the diet he requested, it could not have any ill effect that would show up after three years. On the other hand, his faith in his God was so strong he was certain that such a period would be sufficient to bring about the desired effect. It might be asked if the Lord could not have accomplished the same result in one day. True, he could have done so, but had the transformation been made in one day, the steward would have known that it was not the effect of the diet, and that would have caused an investigation which might have interfered with Daniel’s plans. And yet a period of ten days would be enough to expect some results from the schedule of diet used. Pulse is sometimes defined as seeds of any kind of vegetables, and in some lexicons it is defined simply as a vegetable food Since the heathen always used animals in their sacrifices, Daniel knew he would be safe if his diet was restricted to vegetables.

Verse 13

Dan 1:13. Daniel was willing to leave the decision to the steward. At the end of the tenday period he was to compare the countenances (from same word as “favoured” in verse 4) of him and his three companions with those who ate of the king's food.

Verse 14

Dan 1:14. The steward agreed to the test proposed by Daniel.

Verse 15

Dan 1:15, As It was doubtless expected by the reader, the test came out as Daniel wished. One word in the definition for /after is "plump," and fairer means “beautiful.” 1 am sure the reader will give the Lord full credit for this favorable experience of the four faithful Hebrews. It was an instance of the assurance God had given, that while all citizens of Judah had to share in the national calamity ol the captivity, the individuals who were righteous would he given special favors from God even though they were in a strange land. The apparent disagreement of some statements on this subject is explained in a long note given with comments on 2Ki 22:17, in volue 2 of this Commentary.

Verse 16

Dan 1:16. Seeing the results of the test, Melzar removed the food that had been taken from the king's supplies, and permitted Daniel to continue with his vegetable diet throughout the period of three years that was appointed by the king for the test.

Verse 17

Dan 1:17. In acquiring the physical developments desired the four children could cooperate with God since it included the partaking of food. In the mental advancement they had no opportunity for their own activity because they were being put through the trial to test out their appearance in body. But God wished them to be as well qualified in mind as in body when the time of their appearance before the king arrived, hence He gave them all those talents as a direct gift.

Verse 18

Dan 1:18. End of the days means after three years (verse 5). It was then time for the prince of the eunuchs to act. since he was next to the king with regard to his rank as a servant. Accordingly he brought Daniel and his three companions before Nebuchadnezzar for his official "review.”

Verse 19

Dan 1:19. The king communed with them indicates that Nebuchadnezzar was not interested only in the bodily appearance of his captives, for that could have been observed without any conversation. This communication proved to the king that Daniel and his companions excelled all the others who appeared before him.

Verse 20

Dan 1:20. There is very little difference between the meaning of wisdom and understanding. The latter could be regarded as knowledge and the former as the ability to use the knowledge rightly. Dike the two words italicized above, the words magicians and astrologers differ very little in their meaning. They both refer to persons who pretend to acquire knowledge of the past, present and future by the relative position of the stars either to each other, or to men and things on the earth. The wisdom manifested by Daniel and his tree companions was ten times better than that possessed by all the socalled wise men of Babylon.

Verse 21

Dan 1:21. Continued, Is from haiah which Strong defines, "To exist, i.e. be or become, come to pass.” The verse means that Daniel lived to see the end of the Babylonian captivity, not that he did not live any longer. It is significant that the man who was among the first to be taken to Babylon, and who gave prophecies that they would finally be released, should live to see the fulfillment of that prediction. It was in the first year of king Cyrus that the Jews were released (Ezr 1:1-4).
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Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Daniel 1". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 1952.