In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. (Daniel 1:1)
The third year represents the end of a term; In this case it was the end of Jehoiakim’s reign. Although Jehoiakim (portraying our human spirit) was the king of Judah (he was our connection to heaven), he sold himself out to Egypt (our sinful desires) and ordered his people to do whatever the Egyptian pharaoh said. Nebuchadnezzar (representing our fallen human soul) took control of the kingdom (the kingdom is our entire being).
And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god. (Daniel 1:2)
The results of this horrible sellout are captured inwhere it repeatedly states that God handed us over to our sinful desires because we (each and every one of us) abandoned Him. That Romans passage sums up the fall of mankind.
The treasures (the things meant to be used in worshipping God) of the temple (our body is the temple) were also handed over to use in perverted ways.
Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility– young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. (Daniel 1:3-4)
The human soul is often described as having three parts: the mind (which does the thinking), the will (which makes the decisions), and the emotions (which experience feelings). Although it’s not quite so simply pictured in Daniel, we can use some of those concepts for some of the people in the court.
Ashpenaz represents our will. He is in charge of the court where business and pleasure take place. (It’s our will that decides what we will do to occupy our minds.) He was told to get some of God’s finest religious people to be pleasing and serve the king.
The king described the qualities that he wanted to display in his court. It’s also a picture of what we want to be and how we want others to see us: Good looking, smart, able to communicate with everyone, especially those who are important.
The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service. (Daniel 1:5)
The king decided what was best for them so that they could best serve him. in the same way, we decide for ourselves what is good for our own spiritual growth. We feed it what we want with our own bread and our own wine so that it will grow into something useful for our own purposes. A common example is when a person attends a church in order to gain friends or business contacts.
Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego. (Daniel 1:6-7)
The four young men were all from Judah (from heaven). Their Hebrew names have meanings quite pertinent to this story. One of the meanings of Hananiah is “he camped with us.” Mishael means “Who and What is God?” And Azariah is “helper or protector from God.” I’ll refer to these three as God’s witnesses because they described the witness Jesus gave about His Father. He came and lived in a human body like us. He told us every thing we needed to know about His Father. And He told about His Spirit, the Comforter-Helper, that He would send back to us.
Each one of them was given a different name that was more familiar to the ways of the king. Since God’s ways cannot be understood by the unspiritual or unregenerated mind, we describe God in terms of what we think He should be and do.
Isn’t it curious that when we were little children, we learned the Babylonian names for these three men rather than their given names? Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are the names we remember so well, even to this day. Maybe that’s part of God’s plan. We learn the basic story-line of Daniel and his friends through traditional teaching, but the real meaning has to be revealed to us by God. You might reflect on this when you get to the end of the study.
But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. (Daniel 1:8)
Daniel (the Holy Spirit) resolved to not join in our worldly ways. Yet, He didn’t make any demands. Instead He asked permission much like is described in the Revelation passage below.
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)
Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.” (Daniel 1:9-10)
God gave the official a little faith to try Daniel’s ways. Similarly, God has given each one of us enough faith to begin trusting Him. However, like the official, with only a little faith, we remain highly skeptical about trusting someone who is new to us and has ways that are different from our own.
Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink.” “Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” (Daniel 1:11-13)
The guard represents our human emotions. Just as Daniel appealed through the guard to convince the chief official, the Holy Spirit appeals through our emotions (our frustration, depression, desperation) to convince our will that He is trustworthy.
Ten days are like ten tests for Daniel and his friends to determine their reliability. Those ten tests could well represent the Ten Commandments. They are tests that we know we can’t pass and they are perfect for us to test God’s holiness.
So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days. At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead. (Daniel 1:14-16)
Not only did it test them, but it also showed them to be better than the other young men. Comparing Daniel and his three friends to the others is much like testing our own spiritual ways. Is it better to have an intimate relationship with Jesus or to follow religious traditions?
To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds. (Daniel 1:17)
Although the king decided to train these men in his ways, God trained them in His ways. Nebuchadnezzar contributed nothing to what they were and did.
At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. (Daniel 1:19-20)
Of course, God’s ways always surpass mans’ ways. As we go through life and experience Jesus’ testimony about His Father is true, we trust Him more and more.
And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus. (Daniel 1:21)
Remaining until the reign of King Cyrus is representative of the Holy Spirit remaining with us until Jesus reigns in us!
This verse explains the purpose of the chapter as it relates to our parallel story “Daniel, an Anatomy of Salvation.” This first chapter is an overview of the rest of our story –which is more detailed in chapters two through six.