“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.” Daniel 1:1, 2
Time and time again, Israel turned their backs, on the God of their fathers, becoming enchanted by the exciting festivals and holidays of the pagans nearby.
Long had the Lord pled with the nation of Israel, through prophets and providential happenings, to return from their apostasy and idol worship that they copied from the Pagans around them, but they did not remain faithful to Him.
God had allowed the nation to become divided into two parts after the reign of Solomon. Israel had fallen years before to the Assyrians, and now the forces of Babylon under the young prince Nebuchadnezzar were threatening Jerusalem. They were warned by God’s prophets that Jerusalem would be taken.
Siege of Jerusalem: Like one conscious of uttering only well-known truth, Daniel proceeds at once to state a variety of particulars by which his accuracy could be tested. The overthrow of Jerusalem recorded here was predicted by Jeremiah, and was accomplished in 606 BC (Jeremiah 25:8-11.)
(The date 606 BC is widely supported by Ussher, Hales, and other chronologists, but more recent research by archeologists favors the date 605. This apparently more accurate date, however, in no way affects the calculation of prophetic periods presented here, for it should be remembered that the Jews and other ancients counted both the first and last years of a period.)
Jeremiah places this captivity in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, Daniel in the third. This seeming discrepancy is explained by the fact that Nebuchadnezzar set out on his expedition near the close of the third year of Jehoiakim, from which point Daniel reckons. But the king did not accomplish the subjugation of Jerusalem until about the ninth month of the year following, from which year Jeremiah reckons. Jehoiakim, though bound for the purpose of being taken to Babylon, humbled himself and was permitted to remain as ruler in Jerusalem, tributary to the king of Babylon.
This was the first time Jerusalem was taken by Nebuchadnezzar. Twice subsequently the city revolted, but was recaptured by the same king, and more severely dealt with each succeeding time. The second overthrow was during the time of Jehoiachin, son of Jehoiakim, when all the sacred vessels were either taken or destroyed, and the best of the inhabitants were led with the king into captivity. The third was under Zedekiah, when the city endured a formidable siege. During its continuance for a year and a half, the inhabitants of the city suffered all the horrors of extreme famine.
At length the garrison and the king attempted to escape from the city, but they were captured by the Chaldeans. The sons of the king were slain before his face. His eyes were put out, and he was taken to Babylon. Thus was fulfilled the prediction of Ezekiel that he should be carried to Babylon, and die there, yet he should not see the place. (Ezekiel 12:13.) The city and temple were at this time utterly destroyed, and the entire population of the country, with the exception of a few husbandmen, were carried captive to Babylon, in 586 BC.
Such was God’s passing testimony against sin; not that the Chaldeans were the favorites of Heaven, but that God made use of them to punish the iniquities of His people. Had the Israelites been faithful to God, and kept His Sabbath, Jerusalem would have stood forever. (Jeremiah 17:24-27.) But they departed from Him, and He allowed them to be captured. They profaned the sacred vessels by bringing idols into the temple; therefore God allowed these vessels to be further profaned by letting them go as trophies to heathen shrines abroad.
Nebuchadnezzar also took captives from the royal family. About this time, Nebuchadnezzar’s father, the King Nabopolassar, died and he returned to Babylon quickly to secure his throne. He left some special orders:
“And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes; Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.” Daniel 1:3, 4
Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, were among these captives taken away from their homes to Babylon. They were just youths at the time.
When they arrived in the Great City of Babylon, they were given over to the Prince of the Eunuchs who was to see that they were educated. For three years they were to study in the schools of what was then the most advanced kingdom on earth. After their training they were to go in before the King, who would assign them duties in his government. It seemed things were looking up for the captive children from Jerusalem.
“And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king. Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.” Daniel 1:5-7
But then came a big problem! The Hebrew boys were given new names honoring the Babylonian idol-gods. However, it seems that he took no means to compel his royal captives to change their religion. Provided they had some religion, he seemed to be satisfied, whether it was the religion he professed or not. The change of their names to signify some connection with heathen worship may have been more to avoid the use of Jewish names by the Chaldeans than to indicate any change of sentiment or practice on the part of those to whom these names were given.
This change of names was probably made on account of the signification of the words. In the Hebrew, Daniel signified, “judge for God;” Hananiah, “gift of the Lord;” Mishael, “who is what God is;” and Azariah, “whom Jehovah helps.” Since these names had some reference to the true God and signified some connection with His worship, they were changed to names which had definitions linking them to the heathen divinities and worship of the Chaldeans. Thus Belteshazzar, the name given to Daniel, signified “prince of Bel;” Shadrach, “servant of Sin” (the moon god); Meshach, “who is what Aku is” (Aku being the Sumerian equivalent of Sin, the name of the moon god); and Abednego, “servant of Nebo.”
However, they were to be fed straight from the King’s own table and be given the King’s wine to drink. This was a great honor the King had bestowed on those who were his captive slaves, but Daniel recognized a problem.
“But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.” Daniel 1:8
Daniel ‘purposed in his heart’, he made up his mind that come what may, he was not going to eat the rich food and meats from the King’s table, nor was he going to drink his alcoholic wine.
“Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king. Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink.” Daniel 1:9-12
He spoke to Melzar, the man that had been put in charge of himself and his three friends, and asked that they be allowed to have ‘pulse’, fruits and vegetables for their diet and plain water to drink.
Now the Bible tells us that God had caused the Prince of the Eunuchs that had charge over Daniel to be very fond of him. But this request seemed impossible!
“What do you think will happen to me, if the King sees you not looking as ruddy and healthy as the rest of the young men? Why, he will have my head!”
Why did Daniel and the three faithful worshippers of the God of Heaven not want to have the King’s diet of rich, succulent dainties, and his alcoholic wine? There were several reasons; and these reasons are important to you and me as well.
One of the reasons was that the king’s meat was first offered before idols and blessed by the heathen priests. To partake of it would be a form of worship to these idols. Daniel and his friends knew well, that this decision could cost them their lives; but they determined that come what may, they would be faithful to their God.
Another reason was that most of the king’s meat was from animals that God had declared in the Holy Scriptures to be unclean and defiling and not to be used as food. In the Holy Scriptures, God had shown the difference between clean and unclean animals and that the unclean were not to be eaten. (See Leviticus 11)
The next reason was that Daniel knew that a simple vegetarian diet with plenty of pure water to drink, was the healthiest diet and he wanted to keep his mind alert. Daniel knew that there in the heathen court of the King of Babylon, would be many temptations for his companions and himself. He knew that he could depend on God to give them strength to be faithful, but that if he did not do his part to follow God’s rules of health and keep his mind alert, he would be in real danger.
So Daniel had proposed a test:
“Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants. So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days.” Daniel 1:12-14.
The word translated ‘pulse’ here in this verse, does not just refer to beans and peas. The menu for which Daniel asked and which he received was made up of cereals, legumes, fruits, nuts, and vegetables, a vegetarian diet of good variety, together with the universal drink for man and beast, clear water.
Melzar agreed to try the boys for ten days. They could have their strange diet, and after the test he figured they would see that the King’s diet was much better and they would agree to that.
The ten days passed; the other captives all gorged themselves on the rich meats and spicy dainties, washed down with goblets of the finest vintage wines. Perhaps they may have cracked a few jokes at the four at the one table with bread, fruit and vegetables and plain water on it.
The day came when Melzar made his inspection, lining up the captives to evaluate their health.
“And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat. Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse. As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.” Daniel 1:15-17.
Now the Bible lets us in on another important secret; after the three years of intense schooling were completed, the graduates were brought in before the King himself to have their final exams.
“Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.” Daniel 1:18-20
These were the best educated men in the world at that time; and Daniel and his three friends were ten times smarter! Would you like to be ten times smarter? Well, that diet of Daniel’s, plain fruits, grains and vegetables, simply prepared and lots of pure water will definitely help you.
There is another secret also; when we ‘purpose in our hearts’ to follow God and obey both His physical and His moral laws, then He will bless us in whatever we undertake. With His blessing and guidance it is easy to be ten times smarter.
“And Daniel continued even unto the first year of King Cyrus.” Daniel 1:21
He lived to a ripe old age also and remained physically and mentally active.
“Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” 1 Corinthians 10:11
The Bible is not just a story book of history; everything in it has a message for our days here at the end of time. If it was important for Daniel to abstain from rich and unhealthful foods and beverages, how much more is it important to us, who expect shortly to be facing the trials and tests of the closing up of God’s work for planet earth? In our day it seems customary to live to indulge in every kind of unhealthy habit and consider such indulgence a ‘treat’. At a time when animal food has been clearly demonstrated to be unnecessary to human nutrition, we still hear from ‘official’ sources about the importance of protein in the diet with the emphasis placed on animal flesh.
Yet never has there been a time in history when animal products were more objectionable. Because of the factory farm methods of raising food animals and the unnatural diet fed to them, disease is rampant in food animals sent to the slaughter houses to appear on our tables. Mad Cow and other deadly scourges have immerged from the shadows to take their toll in the lives of men, women and even children.
Careful and unbiased researchers have found that most of the diseases bringing misery and suffering to people of our day, have at least some of their roots in the use of animal flesh and animal products for food.
The message of Daniel 1 is a message for today. A simple diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds and nuts with adequate pure water, will still work the wonders today that it did for the four youth in Babylon. Also such a diet will protect us from much, if not most, of the diseases that are crowding our hospitals and doctor’s clinics with suffering humanity, seeking, too often in vain, to obtain relief through chemical drugs and surgery.
Take heed of the lesson; pray for strength and guidance and start today to put it into effect in your life: you will be glad that you did.
“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31