The International Bible Lesson (Uniform Sunday School Lessons Series) for Sunday, February 1, 2015, is from Daniel 1:1-21. Please Note: Some churches will only study Daniel 1:5, 8–17 in addition to Matthew 6:16-18, which is the commentary posting below this one. Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further follow the verse-by-verse International Bible Lesson Commentary below. Easy print International Bible Lessons Commentary versions are now available in the English Standard Version, King James Version, New American Standard Bible, and the New Revised Standard Version on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website. Study Hints for Thinking Further, a study guide for teachers, discusses the questions below to help with class preparation and in conducting class discussion: these hints are also available on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website. The weekly International Bible Lesson is also posted below for you to study or read to your class. Additional publications and resources by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr. are also available for study and worship.
(Daniel 1:1) In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.
King Jehoiakim was appointed king over Judah by the king of Egypt before the Babylonians conquered Egypt and Judah. The “third year” may refer to Babylonian dating for some time between 606-605 BC. Daniel was taken to Babylon in the first captivity and remained there for the entire 70 years of captivity (see Jeremiah 25:11-13).
(Daniel 1:2) The Lord let King Jehoiakim of Judah fall into his power, as well as some of the vessels of the house of God. These he brought to the land of Shinar, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his gods.
Because of their sins, because the Judeans had turned from worshiping and serving the true God only to also sacrificing (even sacrificing their children) to idols, they forfeited the protection of God. God would no longer hear their prayers, and God would punish them at the hands of faraway enemies who would conquer them. Shinar is another name for Babylon. The gods or idols were probably Marduk and Bel.
(Daniel 1:3) Then the king commanded his palace master Ashpenaz to bring some of the Israelites of the royal family and of the nobility,
Perhaps three groups of people were meant in this verse: Israelites with skills that could be used by the Babylonians; descendants of the house of King David; nobles from Judah and other Israelite tribes who had homes in Jerusalem when the city fell to King Nebuchadnezzar.
(Daniel 1:4) young men without physical defect and handsome, versed in every branch of wisdom, endowed with knowledge and insight, and competent to serve in the king’s palace; they were to be taught the literature and language of the Chaldeans.
The king of Babylon wanted perfect physical specimens of those he defeated in battle to beautify his court and demonstrate his power over other nations. The sons of the nobility and the descendants of King David and King Solomon would have received the best education the Judean court could have provided. Their knowledge of science, mathematics, and politics would help the Babylonian court when they learned how to speak the Babylonian language, act according to court customs, and learn Babylonian history and literature.
(Daniel 1:5) The king assigned them a daily portion of the royal rations of food and wine. They were to be educated for three years, so that at the end of that time they could be stationed in the king’s court.
The king showed concern for their mental and physical well-being; for selfish reasons probably. God also providentially showed love and concern for the Judean captives who especially remained loyal to God but who were taken into captivity anyway.
(Daniel 1:6) Among them were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, from the tribe of Judah.
These four young men became examples of how to act if carried into captivity or if you are under the dominion of a government that does not seek to obey the true God and the moral law. Their names probably meant: Daniel – “God is my judge.” Hananiah – “God is gracious.” Mishael – “Who is what God is.” Azariah – “God has helped.”
(Daniel 1:7) The palace master gave them other names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.
The palace master gave them new names because they were now under a new king and were required to learn a new language and customs. Their new names meant a new worldly authority had conquered them. Beltsehazzar means “protect his life.” Shadrach means “the command of Aku (the moon God).” Meshack may mean “who is what Aku is.” Abednego means “servant of Nebo (another Babylonian god).”
(Daniel 1:8) But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the royal rations of food and wine; so he asked the palace master to allow him not to defile himself.
Daniel’s resolve may have influenced the other three not to defile themselves either. We should not be surprised if this was the case. There may have been others from Jerusalem who ate the king’s rations (which seems possible since the nation was exiled for her unrepentant idolatry and allegiance to foreign gods). The food and wine had probably been offered to idols first and some meats God had forbidden His people to eat.
(Daniel 1:9) Now God allowed Daniel to receive favor and compassion from the palace master.
Daniel first resolved to obey God completely. Then, he asked the official over him for permission to avoid eating the king’s rations. God intervened at that point and the palace master showed them favor, compassion, and understanding. God sustained Daniel in his resolve to remain completely loyal to Him.
(Daniel 1:10) The palace master said to Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king; he has appointed your food and your drink. If he should see you in poorer condition than the other young men of your own age, you would endanger my head with the king.”
The palace master did not command Daniel and his friends to eat the king’s food. He simply expressed his fear of the king to Daniel and why he feared the king – Daniel and his friends might not look as healthy as the other young men, and if the king discovered that he had disobeyed and had fed them different food he would be executed.
(Daniel 1:11) Then Daniel asked the guard whom the palace master had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah:
Since the palace master did not approve or deny Daniel’s request, Daniel spoke to the palace guard who had direct responsibility for Daniel and his friends. Daniel quietly and patiently persisted in trying to receive the approval of his captors for a diet change instead of defiantly confronting anyone directly and endangering the lives of anyone needlessly.
(Daniel 1:12) “Please test your servants for ten days. Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink.
Daniel showed his wisdom by proposing a test regarding the foods they would eat so as not to defile themselves. Rather than eat forbidden meats or meat that had been offered to idols, they would eat vegetables only. Rather than drink wine, and possibly so much wine that it would impair their judgment and ability to learn, they would drink only water.
(Daniel 1:13) You can then compare our appearance with the appearance of the young men who eat the royal rations, and deal with your servants according to what you observe.”
Daniel did not want to disobey the objective moral law of God that he knew God had given for the benefit of all people. To show the guard that God’s law is better than obeying a king’s law, Daniel asked the guard to judge by appearances. Daniel believed that God would bless the appearance of those who obeyed Him when they were tested.
(Daniel 1:14) So he agreed to this proposal and tested them for ten days.
The guard saw no harm in agreeing to a test for only 10 days. Neither the king nor the palace master would notice much change in Daniel’s appearance over 10 days, but the palace guard would be particularly attentive to any problems since his life depended on his obedience and watchful care over Daniel and his friends.
(Daniel 1:15) At the end of ten days it was observed that they appeared better and fatter than all the young men who had been eating the royal rations.
God nourished Daniel and his friends properly when they sought to obey Him and not defile themselves by eating unclean food. Their whole godly lifestyle would give them a better appearance than those who ate unhealthy foods and/or drank too much wine.
(Daniel 1:16) So the guard continued to withdraw their royal rations and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.
The purpose of the king’s command was to promote the mental and physical well-being of those he had chosen to beautify and serve his court. It would not do for Daniel and his friends to condemn the royal rations and declare defiant disobedience to the king; so, God gave them wisdom and showed them a diplomatic way to obey Him and achieve the purpose of the Babylonian king without disobeying God.
(Daniel 1:17) To these four young men God gave knowledge and skill in every aspect of literature and wisdom; Daniel also had insight into all visions and dreams.
These four young men were rewarded by God for their loyalty to God and their unswerving efforts to obey God in everything – even by what they refused to eat. Their diet no doubt aided their study and promoted clear thinking. In addition, God gave all four of them knowledge, skill, and wisdom beyond human learning. As far as we know, only Daniel received from God insight into visions and dreams, which he will demonstrate in the king’s court throughout the Book of Daniel.
(Daniel 1:18) At the end of the time that the king had set for them to be brought in, the palace master brought them into the presence of Nebuchadnezzar,
After three years of education and eating foods approved by God, all of the young men were brought before King Nebuchadnezzar to be examined and judged personally by him. After having passed the 10 day test of the guard, they were tested again at the end of three years by the king himself.
(Daniel 1:19) and the king spoke with them. And among them all, no one was found to compare with Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they were stationed in the king’s court.
The king questioned all those he had formally set aside for service in his court. None of the exiles from Judah or any other nation except for Daniel and his friends excelled as much as they did as they were examined. Therefore, the most godly and obedient young men from Jerusalem were stationed in the king’s court as advisors to the king, which would bring many blessings to the exiled Judeans and perhaps saved many from death. Daniel eventually became the king’s most honored and trusted advisor, especially after he faced further tests of his loyalty to God.
(Daniel 1:20) In every matter of wisdom and understanding concerning which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.
Magicians and enchanters (or astrologers) had occupied the king’s court from the beginning as his advisers. To these advisors, the king added four men of God: men who prayed and obeyed God no matter what the possible consequences (as the entire Book of Daniel shows). Those who listened to God and inquired of God for guidance were 10 times better advisors than those who worshiped idols and sought only worldly wisdom. This fact has been true for hundreds of years in many nations.
(Daniel 1:21) And Daniel continued there until the first year of King Cyrus.
Daniel continued to serve in the court of the Babylonians until the Babylonians were conquered by the Persians and Babylon itself fell to King Cyrus. We have no indication that Daniel did not continue to serve for some time in the court of King Cyrus. It seems very likely that he would have served King Cyrus and have helped the Judeans return home to Jerusalem at the command of King Cyrus. God, who had blessed Daniel during 70 years of exile, would have continued to watch over him until his work on earth was done.
Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further
1. What resulted when the four young men put obedience to God first in their lives?
2. Can you name two prophets whose words might have encouraged Daniel as he and his friends were taken into exile?
3. Can you think of one reason God might have wanted these four young men to serve in the king’s court?
4. Read the Romans 8:28. Did God keep this promise to Daniel and his three friends? Explain your answer.
5. What tests did Daniel and his three friends face?
Study Hints for Discussion and Thinking Further, a study guide for teachers, discusses the questions above to help with class preparation and in conducting class discussion. These hints are available on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website.
The Word Search Puzzle, the True and False Test, and the Crossword Puzzle below are provided from the International Bible Lessons Commentary website to help teachers provide a simple review game or quiz for their students. May you find them helpful.
Word Search Puzzle
An Educational Take Home Review and Handout using Key Bible Lesson Words.
NEW —› True and False Test ‹— NEW
An Easy Review Test to Help Students Remember the Bible Lesson
NEW —› Crossword Puzzle ‹— NEW
An Easy Review or Handout to End Your Class
International Bible Lesson
God Rewards Faithfulness
“Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs” (Daniel 1:9—KJV).
“Now God allowed Daniel to receive favor and compassion from the palace master” (Daniel 1:9—NRSV).
After the king of Babylon commanded Daniel and his three friends to eat the royal food, comprised of ritually unclean meat and wine, they resolved to obey God and not defile themselves. However, rather than directly confront the king, God showed them a wiser way. Daniel proposed to their guard that they be tested for ten days and given only vegetables to eat and water to drink. After ten days they looked better than the other exiles that the king wanted prepared to serve in his court. After three years of training, they demonstrated to the king that they were more gifted in knowledge and wisdom that everyone, even more than all the Babylonian magicians and enchanters in the whole kingdom. We do not know if King Nebuchadnezzar ever learned of their change of diet, but if they ever ate before the king there is no reason to believe that they would have eaten anything but vegetables or drank anything but water. Later, when necessary, after they had proven themselves wiser than everyone else in the king’s court, they did indeed openly refuse to obey the king. When they openly obeyed God, God saved Daniel from death in the lion’s den. God also saved Daniel’s friends from perishing in the fiery furnace after they told the king, “If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18). – L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.
Begin or close your class by reading the short weekly International Bible Lesson. To print the International Bible Lesson in three different sizes (including large print size and bulletin size) and for the Teacher’s Study Hints for Five Discussion Questions andThinking Further, go to the International Bible Lessons Commentary website.
See the recommended Bible study, Recovery, and Worship Resources at SmallChurchResources.com.
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