The Choice Young Men
In the third year of the reign of [a]Jehoiakim king of Judah, [b]Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles of the house of God; and he brought them into the land of [c]Shinar, to the house of his god, and brought the articles into the treasury of his god.
And the [Babylonian] king told Ashpenaz, the chief of his [d]officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some from the royal family and from the nobles, young men without blemish and handsome in appearance, skillful in all wisdom, endowed with intelligence and discernment, and quick to understand, competent to stand [in the presence of the king] and able to serve in the king’s palace. He also ordered Ashpenaz to teach them the literature and language of the [e]Chaldeans. The king assigned a daily ration for them from his finest food and from the wine which he drank. They were to be educated and nourished this way for three years so that at the end of that time they were [prepared] to enter the king’s service. Among them from the sons of Judah were: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. The commander of the officials gave them [Babylonian] names: Daniel he named Belteshazzar, Hananiah he named Shadrach, Mishael he named Meshach, and Azariah he named Abed-nego.
But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile (taint, dishonor) himself with the [f]king’s finest food or with the wine which the king drank; so he asked the commander of the officials that he might [be excused so that he would] not defile himself. Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials, and the commander of the officials said to Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has prearranged your food and your drink; for why should he see your faces looking more haggard than the young men who are your own age? Then you would make me forfeit my head to the king.” But Daniel said to the overseer whom the commander of the officials had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Please, test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the young men who eat the king’s finest food be observed and compared by you, and deal with your servants in accordance with what you see.”
So the man listened to them in this matter and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it seemed that they were looking better and [g]healthier than all the young men who ate the king’s finest food. So the overseer continued to withhold their fine food and the wine they were to drink, and kept giving them vegetables.
As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all kinds of literature and wisdom; Daniel also understood all kinds of visions and dreams.
At the end of the time set by the king to bring all the young men in [before him], the commander of the officials presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king spoke with them, and among them all not one was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; so they were [selected and] assigned to stand before the king and enter his personal service. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king consulted them, he found them ten times better than all the [learned] magicians and enchanters (Magi) in his whole realm. And Daniel remained there until the [h]first year of [the reign of] King Cyrus [over Babylon; now this was at the end of the seventy-year exile of Judah (the Southern Kingdom) in Babylonia, as foretold by Jeremiah].
- Daniel 1:1 Pharaoh Neco had killed Josiah king of Judah and installed Eliakim (Josiah’s son) as a vassal ruler. Neco changed Eliakim’s name to Jehoiakim and he ruled for eleven years (2 Chr 36:4, 5).
- Daniel 1:1 Nebuchadnezzar II of the Chaldean Dynasty, more commonly known as Nebuchadnezzar the Great, ruled Babylon from 605-562 b.c. He conquered Jerusalem in 597 b.c.
- Daniel 1:2 I.e. southern Babylonia.
- Daniel 1:3 Or eunuchs, and so throughout.
- Daniel 1:4 The Chaldeans dominated and ruled Babylonia from 625 b.c. until their empire fell in 539 b.c., but they were known as early as 1000 b.c. as an aggressive, tribal people in the southern region of Babylonia. They were highly skilled in both the science of astronomy and the pseudo-science of astrology. They kept meticulous records of celestial motion and correctly calculated the length of a year to within just a few minutes. Babylon, their capital city, was the center of trade and learning in the western part of Asia. The classical literature of the Chaldeans was written in cuneiform, but the common language, both written and spoken in Babylon, was Akkadian increasingly influenced by Aramaic.
- Daniel 1:8 The first portions of the food and wine would have been presented to idols before being served at the table.
- Daniel 1:15 Lit fat of flesh.
- Daniel 1:21 Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian Empire, ruled from 559-529 b.c. He conquered the Median (549 b.c.), the Lydian (546 b.c.), and the Neo-Babylonian (539 b.c.) kingdoms and formed the greatest empire the world had ever known. He returned a remnant of the Jewish population from Babylon to Jerusalem along with an edict to rebuild the temple.
The King’s Forgotten Dream
In the second year (604 b.c.) of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams which troubled and disturbed his spirit and [interfered with] his ability to sleep. Then the king gave a command to call the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the [a]Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. The king said to them, “I had a dream, and my spirit is troubled and anxious to know the [content and meaning of the] dream.”
Then the Chaldeans said to the king in [b]Aramaic, “O king, live forever! Tell the dream to your servants, and we will declare the interpretation.” The king replied to the Chaldeans, “My command is firm and unchangeable: if you do not reveal to me the [content of the] dream along with its interpretation, you shall be cut into pieces and your houses shall be made a heap of rubbish. But if you tell [me] the [content of the] dream along with its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. So tell me the dream and its interpretation.” They answered again, “Let the king tell the dream to his servants, and we will explain its interpretation [to you].” The king replied, “I know for certain that you are bargaining for time, because you have seen that my command [to you] is firm and irrevocable. If you will not reveal to me the [content of the] dream, there is but one sentence for you; for you have [already] prepared lying and corrupt words [and you have agreed together] to speak [them] before me [hoping to delay your execution] until the situation is changed. Therefore, tell me the dream [first], and then I will know [with confidence] that you can give me its interpretation.” The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who can tell the king this matter, for no king, lord or ruler has ever asked such a thing as this of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. Furthermore, what the king demands is an unusual and difficult thing indeed! No one except the gods can reveal it to the king, and their dwelling is not with [mortal] flesh.”
Because of this the king was indignant and extremely furious and gave a command to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. So the decree went out that the wise men were to be killed; and they looked for Daniel and his companions to put them to death.
Then Daniel replied with discretion and wisdom to Arioch, the captain of the king’s [c]bodyguard, who had gone out to execute the wise men of Babylon; he said to Arioch, the king’s captain, “Why is the decree from the king so harsh and urgent?” Then Arioch explained the matter to Daniel. So Daniel went in and asked the king to appoint a date and give him time, so that he might reveal to the king the interpretation of the dream.
Then Daniel returned to his house and discussed the matter with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, in order that they might seek compassion from the God of heaven regarding this secret, so that Daniel and his companions would not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.
The Secret Is Revealed to Daniel
Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night, and Daniel blessed the God of heaven. Daniel answered,
“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
For wisdom and power belong to Him.
“It is He who changes the times and the seasons;
He removes kings and establishes kings.
He gives wisdom to the wise
And [greater] knowledge to those who have understanding!
“It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
And the light dwells with Him.
“I thank You and praise You, O God of my fathers,
For You have given me wisdom and power;
Even now You have made known to me what we requested of You,
For You have made known to us [the solution to] the king’s matter.”
- Daniel 2:2 I.e. Babylonian sages who were master astrologers, and so below.
- Daniel 2:4 In addition to their native language, most people involved in government or trade could speak and write in Aramaic. At this point in the book Daniel switches from writing in Hebrew to writing in Aramaic. He returns to writing in Hebrew in ch 8.
- Daniel 2:14 Or executioners.