Book of Daniel Bible Study Chapter 1

Stranded in Babylon[1]

 

By I Gordon

 

 

Background

 

The book of Daniel was written by, well, Daniel, in 537 B.C. Daniel identifies himself as the author of the book in 12:4 and Jesus also identified him in Matt 24:15. That's good enough for me! Daniel was led into exile as a youth in 605 B.C. There he lived until the third year of Cyrus in 536 B.C. But how did Daniel, a Jewish boy, find himself exiled in Babylon you ask? Well, that is a good question and for those interested in a little bit of history, please check out the footnote. Daniel's life is one of complete abandonment and devotion to the God of Israel. The book itself is well known for its extraordinary prophecies that outline the future gentile world powers and the end of this age.

 

Under Seige!

 

Dan 1:1-2 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 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.

 

Why did the Lord allow Judah to be besieged? It can be traced back to the actions of Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:12-19 and Isaiah's prophecy[2]. In short, pride and worldliness! It is important also that you read Jer 25:4-12 if you are truly interested in the background to how many Israelites, like Daniel, found themselves in exile in Babylon.

 

Now Babylon means 'confusion' and stands as a type of this present world. In many ways, the Christian's life is one of exile, in a world that is by and large set against the ways of God. We are to know and consider ourselves as exiles and strangers on this earth because it is not our real home! See Heb 11:8-16.

 

The goal of the Babylonians - Let the brain washing begin

 

Dan 1:3-7 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. 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. 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.

 

Now, it is very interesting to see the method used to make good little “Babylonians” of the exiled Israelites. So what was Babylon's method? Well, first they were taught to speak the lingo... then they had to read all the Babylonian literature, and finally they even had their names changed. Everything is done to separate these guys from their Jewish roots. In short, brain washing and indoctrination! Babylon doesn't want them remembering or thinking of their real home. The idea was to make the Israelites so taken up by the things of Babylon that no time is taken to think of their own home and their own God.[3] Now, I am sure you see a familiar pattern here… You should because the enemies plan is no different for Christians today! The world would rather that we are just like them. But we're not.

 

Now in this passage we are introduced to four important Jewish youths – Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael abd Azariah - although you might know Daniel’s friends by their Babylonian names – Shadrach, Mechach and Abed-nego. Now it is interesting to look at the meaning of their names before and after the change. According to the Ryrie Study Bible:

 

Daniel ("God is judge") become Belteshazzar ("May Bel protect his life")

Hananiah ("Yahweh is gracious") becomes Shadrach ("command of Aku")

Mishael ("Who is what God is") becomes Meshach ("Who is what Aku is")

Azariah ("Whom Yahweh helps") becomes Abed-nego ("Servant of Nebo")

 

In each case, their Hebrew name spoke of the true God and their names were changed to speak of the Babylonian gods. The bottom line for our lives is clear: Don't let the world change your name or your character![4] So nearly all of Daniel's outward life was changed... But could they change his heart?

 

The inner resolve from God.

 

Dan 1:8-14 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. 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 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.” So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

Verse 8 is obviously a key verse for anyone facing pressure from the ways of Babylon. Daniel resolved, or as the KJV says, Daniel purposed in his heart not to defile himself. They couldn't change his heart! He was not swayed by the lure of Babylon even though he lived right in it’s midst. So think about the affect that the world has on your life? Is there a difference between the desires of your life and of those who don’t know the Lord? Because it is fair to say that non-Christians watch you a lot more than you think. And they watch and are interested in your actions more than your words. So you watch what you're doing!

 

Prov 25:26 states: "Like a muddied spring or a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way to the wicked."

 

If Daniel had given up his convictions and just become like the other Babylonians (as they wanted) then the Bible says he would have become like a muddied spring or a polluted well. That is, he would have become someone that once had the ability to give life and sustain the thirsty… but now was useless for that which it had been created!

 

But thankfully, Daniel had a greater resolve than that! He wasn’t someone who was going to buckle and nor should we. We read above that Daniel decided to only eat vegetables instead of defiling himself with the King’s food and wine.[5] So would God honor such commitment or would Daniel and his friends be headed for the chop?

 

The God who watches…

 

Daniel 1:15-16 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.

 

Does God watch and act for those who fear Him? We know from scripture that he does watch and He certainly does act when it is required[6]. Please read Psalm 33:13-19 for it is very clear on this point. No please, go read it! So Daniel lives on only vegetables and water. Rather him than me! But that aside, God looks after Him because he fears the Lord and puts His thoughts first and after the 10 days he even ends up fatter on veges than those eating the King's choice food. Now that is a miracle!

 

We need a simple, uncomplicated faith. A faith that says God watches and God cares, and God acts. The Christians that really know God seem to be blessed by what I would call a 'divine simplicity'. They know the character of God and this makes all the difference.  

 

Every good and perfect gift...

 

Dan 1:17-21 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. 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. And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.

 

Finally, we see that the abilities and giftings of these four teenagers were God given. Their knowledge, their understanding, their wisdom was all from God. I love it when simple folk with God first in their lives can confound the wise! But always remember what the Bible says is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge?[7]

 

Proverbs 1:7 ‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise

wisdom and discipline.’

 

So these young Jewish boys were 10 times better than any in the whole Babylonian kingdom. That's God! Is He in the right place in your life?  Are you being conformed to the world’s image or being transformed into the Lord’s image? Do you have that divine simplicity of faith that trusts the Lord in trying times? I hope we all do. Daniel and his friends may be ‘Stranded in Babylon’, but though in the world, they are not of the world. May we be the same.

 

Bible Studies in the Daniel Series

 Book of Daniel Bible Study Chapter 1: Stranded in Babylon
 Book of Daniel Bible Study Chapter 2: Faith under pressure and the God of the impossible
 Book of Daniel Bible Study Chapter 2 p2: A vision of things to come
 Book of Daniel Bible Study Chapter 3: When things get hot
 Book of Daniel Bible Study Chapter 4: Nebuchadnezzar and the tree of doom!
 Book of Daniel Bible Study Chapter 4 p2: Nebuchadnezzar - Lessons from a loon!
 Book of Daniel Bible Study Chapter 5: Ichabod and the writing is on the wall
 Book of Daniel Bible Study Chapter 5 p2: The Precarious Position of the Unbeliever
 Book of Daniel Bible Study Chapter 6: Lunch with Lions 
 Book of Daniel Bible Study Chapter 7: The Times of the Gentiles - The Earthly Scene
 Book of Daniel Bible Study Chapter 7 p2: The Times of the Gentiles - The Heavenly Scene
 Book of Daniel Bible Study Chapter 8: Gods Declaration of the End... From the Beginning
 Book of Daniel Bible Study Chapter 9: Daniel - Lessons from a Legend
 Book of Daniel Bible Study Chapter 9 p2: Daniel's 70 Weeks P1 
 Book of Daniel Bible Study Chapter 9 p3: Daniel's 70 Weeks P2
 Book of Daniel Bible Study Chapter 10: Lifting the Veil
 Book of Daniel Bible Study Chapter 11: A Tale of Three Madmen
 Book of Daniel Bible Study Chapter 12: How to Shine like the Stars

 

  



[1] Ok, I stole this title from the name of a Larry Norman album. It emphasizes that all Christians, in a spiritual sense, are now stranded in Babylon (the world) while we wait for the establishment of our true home in the Heavenly Jerusalem.

 

[2] Ok, a bit of background to the background. After the reign of Solomon, the Israelite nation split into two different kingdoms. The northern kingdom was called ‘Israel’ and consisted of 10 of the twelve tribes. The southern kingdom was called “Judah’ and consisted of the two remaining tribes. Both of these kingdoms would eventually be ruled by 20 different kings. Out of the 20 kings who ruled in the southern kingdom, the Bible says that 7 were generally considered godly kings. Could the northern kingdom top that? Um, nope. Not likely! Out of their 20 kings they had precisely 0 godly kings. Couldn’t even find one! It is not surprising then that they were the first to fall. You can read about in 2 Kings 18:9-11. While you are there, you will see that one of Judah’s godly kings, Hezekiah, is coming under siege by the same Assyrian army that defeated the northern kingdom of Israel. Have a look 2 Kings 18:17-19:37. It is a fantastic story and highlights the trust and godliness of Hezekiah and the faithfulness of the God of Israel in looking after His people! But then read 2 Kings 20 - Especially vs 12-19. It seems that in his older age, even Hezekiah began to allow ‘things’ to take the place that the Lord should have. And in a moment of pride and worldliness he shows the Babylonians all his gold, silver, armory and treasures. Fatal mistake as Isaiah tells Hezekiah ‘Hear the word of the LORD:  The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the LORD. ‘

 

So what can we learn from this? A few things come to mind -

:: Hezekiah’s courting and flirting with Babylon (the world) would ultimately lead to Israel’s downfall even though he would not have known his decision would have led to such consequences. It can have the same affect in our lives and that of the church (which does seem to be pretty smitten by the world!)
:: If even a godly man such as Hezekiah can lose his focus and start taking pride in worldly things then so can you. And so can I.
:: Always remember that in any long distance race anyone can take off sprinting at the start… that’s not that impressive. I used to do it at school races and then drop out! But going the distance and finishing well is impressive. Be mindful to endure and finish your Christian life well. Gal 5:7 “You were running well – who hindered you from obeying the truth?”

 

[3] Although this is easier said than done with the Jewish nation for the importance of their roots, background, beliefs and God are repeatedly taught to their young (in accordance with God’s commands) from an early age. And it seems from Psalm 137 that the Jews in Babylon were in no mood to forget Jerusalem despite any attempts of the Babylonians to ‘encourage’ them to do so. It was by the rivers of Babylon, as Boney M used to sing about, that the Jews sat down and wept as they remembered Zion!

[4] It is interesting that the first trial in the book of Daniel is towards worldliness. Later in the life of Daniel will come direct persecution. It’s a side note really but currently, in the Western world at least, the main trial or temptation is towards worldliness. But there is a sense that things are changing and persecution of Christians even amongst so called ‘Christian’ nations is beginning. First comes worldly compromise and then comes persecution. That is the order in Daniel and will probably be the case in the western world.

 

[5] Just a useful comment on this from the Bible Knowledge Commentary concerning ‘defilement’:

“Nebuchadnezzar had made abundant provision for the captives. Theirs was a life of luxury, not deprivation, for they were given a portion of food and wine daily from the king’s own table. However, this food did not conform to the requirements of the Mosaic Law. The fact that it was prepared by Gentiles rendered it unclean. Also no doubt many things forbidden by the Law were served on the king’s table, so to partake of such food would defile the Jewish youths. Further, without doubt this royal food had been sacrificed and offered to pagan gods before it was offered to the king. To partake of such food would be contrary to Exodus 34:15, where the Jews were forbidden to eat flesh sacrificed to pagan gods. Similar problems would arise in drinking the wine… Daniel’s desire was to please God in all he did. So he resolved that even though he was not in his own land but in a culture that did not follow God’s laws, he would consider himself under the Law. He therefore asked the chief court official to be excused from eating and drinking the food and wine generously supplied by the king. Daniel was courageous, determined, and obedient to God.”

[6] God watches, He notes and He acts. God is well able to look after His own. Whether it is Daniel in Babylon, Joseph in Egypt, Moses in the backside of the desert or even you! We are not called to totally separate ourselves from this world mind you. We are called to be in it, like Jesus was, but not of it (and yes, like Jesus again!)

 

[7] Please read Prov 2:1-11 about knowledge, wisdom and understanding. It is a very interesting passage. What is God looking for from us?