THE YOUNG DANIEL
The Bible book Daniel begins with a look at his teen ears. This study of Daniel Chapter 1 provides vital life principles concerning how to stand for God in a corrupt society. It should be of special value to young people, but its lessons are for us all. For more about Daniel, see either of these two fine books:
Robust in Faith,
All the Men of the Bible.
In the first, by J. Oswald Sanders, notes that Daniel was "Prime Minister Under Five Kings." In the second, Herbert Lockyer calls Daniel "The Man Who Kept His Window Open," referring to an incident in Chapter 6.
Daniel is one of the most outstanding saints of Bible times. A man of godly wisdom, and a man of prayer, he lived in Babylon through the entire seventy years of the Jews' captivity there. Thought to be of royal descent (likely related in some way to King Hezekiah, II Kgs. 20-17-18; Dan 1:3), Daniel was captured during Nebuchadnezzar's attack on Jerusalem in 605 BC. He was approximately 15 years old at the time, and he lived to the age of about 90 (in 530 BC).
The book he wrote provides important keys to Bible prophecy, especially as it concerns a period Jesus called "the Times of the Gentiles" (Lk. 21:24), extending from the beginning of Babylon's domination of Israel (in 605 BC) until Armageddon and the defeat of the Antichrist, up ahead (Dan. 2:34-35, 44). The great overarching theme of Daniel is the sovereignty of God over all the affairs of men.
The book of Daniel can be divided into two equal parts. Chapters 1-6 are mainly narrative, with some important prophecies included. Chapters 7-12 are mainly prophetic visions, with a bit of narrative along the way. In the first half of the book, Daniel's story is told in the third person (he, him). In the last half of the book, Daniel presents his prophecies in the first person ("I saw..." "I watched..." etc.). This study will concentrate on Chapter 1.
1) What significant event launches the book of Daniel (vs. 1)?
INSIGHT: Of the thousands of slaves taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, he asked his chief eunuch to separate out certain ones.
(Please read Daniel 1:3-5)
2) Which slaves were singled out? And what job were they to be prepared for?
3) What kind of preparation was planned for this select group?
INSIGHT: In vs. 6-7 we learn that among these favoured young men were Daniel and three of his friends. To begin the preparation process, each was given a new name. In ancient times, the power to name something (or someone) showed your authority over it (cf. Gen. 1:28; 2:20). Also, the Babylonians did not want to have their slaves named in honour of "gods" whose people they had conquered. They gave them names honouring their own gods. "Daniel" means God is my Judge. "Belteshazzar [Bel-ta-SHAZ-ar]" means Bel protect the king. (Bel was one of the idols of the Babylonians.) The aim was to completely divorce the slaves from their former life. They were taught "the language and literature of the Chaldeans [Babylonians]" (vs. 4) and given Babylonian food (vs. 5).
(Please read Daniel 1:8-13)
4) What matter of conscience did this raise for Daniel (vs. 8)?
INSIGHT: It is likely some things in the diet were off limits for the Jews on the basis of their Law (such as pork, Lev. 11:1, 7). Also, the food would have been prayed over in the name of an idol, and dedicated to an idol. In accepting it, one could be seen as honouring the benevolence of an idol god.
5) If Daniel had been less committed, how might he have tried to talk himself into making a compromise in this situation? (That is, what excuses might he have thought of?)
6) Sometimes compromise with the unbelieving world seems the easiest way. Why? And why is it not the best way?
INSIGHT: We are told Daniel "purposed in his heart" (vs. 8)? (The NIV's "made up his mind" seems weaker. It suggests Daniel simply decided something. But the original means he established a purpose deep in his innermost being?)
7) What prior influences or experiences do you think led up to such a commitment?
8) The Babylonians had changed many things in Daniel's life. What were they not able to take away from him?
9) Is there a lesson here for young people attending secular schools today? (And for their parents?)
INSIGHT: Though Daniel had personal convictions, he recognized he was under the authority of the Babylonians. He did not react in arrogant pride.
10) What approach did Daniel try (vs. 8)?
INSIGHT: God has been at work in the heart of Daniel's superior (vs. 9). But, in part, the Lord worked through Daniel to bring this about.
11) What kind of things might Daniel have been doing by which the Lord was able to encourage the good will of the one over him?
12) Of what was the eunuch afraid (vs. 10)?
12b) What suggestion does Daniel make (vs. 12-13)?
INSIGHT: There are some important lessons here with regard to making an appeal to those in authority over us. 1) Daniel seems to have built a good relationship by a gracious attitude, hard work, and reliability. 2) He went through the proper line of authority. 3) He showed courtesy and a desire to cooperate rather than prideful resistence. 4) He discerned that the desired goal was not wrong. (The Babylonians simply wanted the young men to be in the best physical condition.) 5) He suggested a way to reach the desired goal which did not violate his own conscience. (This is sometimes called a creative alternative.)
13) How is this plan an expression of Daniel's faith in God?
14) What if Dad says to his young daughter, "If Mr. Smith phones, tell him I'm not at home"--when it would be a lie? Suggest some steps the girl could take to apply Daniel's method described above and avoid doing wrong.
15) Daniel says, "as you see fit, so deal with your servants" (vs. 13). But suppose the test doesn't work in his favour. Do you think he means he will then accept the king's food?
(Please read Daniel 1:14-21)
16) How did the test actually turn out (vs. 15)?
INSIGHT: This may have involved the miraculous intervention of God. But it could also be that the king's food was rich, and not particularly healthy! When he saw how well Daniel and his friends thrived on a diet of vegetables and water, the eunuch was willing to go along (vs. 16).
17) Vs. 17 describes some special gifts the Lord gave to Daniel. What are they?
18) Is there a connection between what happens in vs. 8 and in vs. 17?
19) What important principle does this illustrate (cf. Matt. 24:45-47; Rev. 2:10)?
INSIGHT: Then, at the end of their three years of training (vs. 5), the young men were interviewed by Nebuchadnezzar, a brilliant and able man in his own right.
20) What did the king discover (vs. 18-19)?
INSIGHT: In His high priestly prayer (in John 17), the Lord Jesus speaks of His followers being "in the world" but not "of the world" (vs. 11, 14). We are in the world in the sense that we live out our mortal lives on planet earth. But those who put their faith in Christ become citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20), and we are therefore to live our lives on the basis of spiritual and eternal values (Col. 3:1-2).
21) What are the problems with earthly values, according to the following passages (Matt. 6:19-21; 31-33; and I Jn. 2:15-17)?
INSIGHT: There is an old gospel song that begins, "Dare to be a Daniel, / Dare to stand alone; / Dare to have a purpose firm, / And dare to make it known..." Situations will arise in all our lives when there is a need to do that very thing. What will our response be?
22) If a Christian today makes the kind of commitment Daniel did, what results can he expect in the short-term? And in the long-term (Matt. 5:11-12; I Pet. 4:12-13, 19)?
22b) What kind of help from the Lord can the believer expect in such circumstances (I Cor. 10:13; Phil. 4:12-13)?