Since Daniel begins by relating the events of the book to the deliverance of King Jehoiakim into Nebuchadnezzar’s hands, it must have been through the first of these three invasions that Daniel and his friends Hananiah (renamed Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abednego) were taken from Jerusalem to Babylon to be trained for Nebuchadnezzar’s service.
But interestingly it is not those four that is the focus of this book but rather “the articles from the temple of God” that Nebuchadnezzar “put in the treasure house of his god.” As we will see Nebuchadnezzar was a proud, arrogant man, and his conquests made him think that his victories were evidence that he was the greatest of all kings and a god to be worshiped. His victory over Israel in His mind served as proof that he was greater than the God of Israel.
It was in demonstration of that conviction that he brought the gold and silver articles dedicated to the service of God of Israel that he placed them in the house of his gods who served him. But a lesson we all need to learn is that we should never judge by outward appearances or by the worlds standards. The Lord was behind the fall of Jerusalem and not Nebuchadnezzar.
The Lord was judging Israel for all of her sin. Daniel is a testimony that the God of Israel is sovereign. In spite of the fact that he had delivered Jehoiakim into Nebuchadnezzar’s hand,” God was going to show that he is sovereign. When it seemed to all the world that the gods of Babylon had triumphed, causing his temple to be burned to the ground, the Lord makes it quite clear that there is no other God but Him.
The theme running through the whole book is that the affairs of men are subject to God’s will, and that he is able to accomplish his will despite the most determined opposition of the worlds strongest kings on earth.
The miracles recorded in Daniel 1-6 demonstrate God’s sovereignty. God’s protection of his servants by revealing Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Daniel 2); the deliverance from the fiery furnace (Daniel 3); the judgment of Nebuchadnezzar with seven years of insanity because of his pride (Daniel 4); the writing on the wall of Belshazzar, and the immediate fulfillment (Daniel 5); and Daniel’s deliverance from the lions’ den all show that the Lord God of Israel was in charge of all those events and is perfectly able to deliver his people from any plot hatched against His people.
There is a struggle between Nebuchadnezzar and God in Daniel. It’s the war between the world’s way of doing things and God’s way, which continues today which makes Daniel especially relevant. Nebuchadnezzar has the mindset of today’s secular humanist. He believed like humanists that all that exists is of man, by man, and for man. He believed all that he had built was for his glory, and he lived as though there was no God but him.
A second example of a worldview similar today is the doctrine of separation of church and state. Nebuchadnezzar represents the state and operates in a way that resists the sovereignty of God. The doctrine of the separation of church and state used to mean that each functioned separately, kings or presidents were to be given authority to appoint religious leaders or to rule the church, and religious leaders were not being allowed to appoint kings or presidents.
However, it was always understood that both church and state were responsible to God, who ruled over both and who were answerable to Him in all their affairs. They had different roles but were servants of one master. They held each other accountable to God and served as a check so that neither could get carried away with the power entrusted to them.
Today, however, the doctrine of the separation of church and state is taken, often by believers, to mean that the church has nothing to do with the state while the state is increasingly bringing its humanist world view to bear on the church. Nebuchadnezzar wrongly thought that since he was able to take the treasures of the Temple of the God of Israel that His God and He was greater than the God of Israel. He thought he had no need for God.
But God in Daniel 4 declared, “your royal authority has been taken from you…until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes” (Daniel 4:31-32). Nebuchadnezzar became insane and was driven from the city. This is what happens when people take the glory of God to themselves. They lose the glory they have been given, made in God’s image and become like beasts.
Actually they become worse than beasts because beasts, when they act the way they were created they act as the way God made them to be, but when we forsake God we can become worse than beasts by committing crimes which at times seem inconceivable.
Daniel demonstrates to us the remnant verses the world and its ways. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshech, and Abendego represent those who loved God more than their lives and as such were rewarded both here and in the world to come. Who will we be?
Daniel 1:3-4 Nebuchadnezzar had a policy of preparing leaders to serve in his government to help manage his empire. When he conquered a nation, he took the best young men to educate so that they could help him rule and assimilate the people he conquered into his nation. His policy for training the best included removing them from their families. They had to be strong and healthy, without any defect whatsoever.
They had to be handsome. They had to be intelligent and quick to learn. They learned the language and literature of the Babylonians as Daniel 1:4 tells us learning most likely an overview of math, law, administration, business, finance, and economic principles, architecture and engineering, astronomy and astrology and various languages. Let it never be said that God’s people should not be well educated in the things of the world. Moses was similarly prepared and as such was prepared to lead God’s people.
Daniel 1:5 Nebuchadnezzar He gave them preferential treatment. They were given royal housing, food, and wine, at Babylon’s royal academy located within the palace. They were enticed to become loyal citizens of Babylon through the special treatment they received. This kind of privilege was bound to appeal to most of the young men, who could not imagine any greater honor. He ensured their security and prosperity in government service. They were trained for three years and then assigned a position in government service.
Daniel 1:6-7 In order to help assimilate them into Babylon culture he changed their names. This would help erase their attachment to their own nation and their gods. Their Hebrew names were a reference to the only true and living God, while the Babylonian names pointed to their false gods worshipped by the Babylonians. Daniel, whose name meant “God is my judge” received the name Belteshazzar (“Bel protects his life”).
Hananiah, whose name meant “The Lord is gracious” received the name Shadrach (“I am fearful of a god”). Mishael, whose name meant “who is what God is,” received the name Meshach (“who is what Aku is,” which was the Babylonian equivalent to his Hebrew name).
Azariah, whose name meant “the Lord has helped,” received the name Abednego (“servant of Nebo,” another god worshiped by the Babylonians). Daniel and his three kinsmen faced the trial of their lives. Separated from their families and immersed in pagan ways and customs, they received every imaginable privilege. Their circumstances would tempt any believer to compromise their commitment to the Lord. Either they would remain faithful to the Lord, or they would betray Him by compromising with the world and participating in its ways.
Daniel was only a boy when he was uprooted form Judah, his family, his friends, his home, his school, his synagogue. He could do nothing about his environment or his circumstances, but he could control himself; his thoughts, his words, his actions, his motives, and his heart. And he did. Against overwhelming odds, Daniel was firm in his beliefs and in his commitment to the Lord, gaining the respect of those around him. Daniel knew who he was, and he knew whose he was.
Daniel 1:8-17 Daniel remained faithful to the Lord despite the temptation to compromise. He determined to trust the Lord no matter how much pressure was put on him. When Daniel confronted a crisis after a short time at the king’s palace, he took a stand that could have led to his execution or, at the very least, enslavement or imprisonment. Scripture paints a dramatic scene of the crisis: Daniel made a decision not to defile himself with food and wine from the king’s table (Daniel 1:8-16).
According to God’s Word, the food was unclean, God’s Word warned against strong drink (Proverbs 20:1; 23:29-30;32). The king’s food and wine also most likely had been sacrificed to false gods before it was served. When Daniel and his three friends had to choose between obeying God’s Word and compromising with the world, they chose to obey God’s Word. So Daniel approached Ashpenaz, Nebuchadnezzar’s chief official, and requested permission to eat other foods that would not defile them.
Ashpenaz was reluctant to grant Daniel’s request for three reasons:
1) The king had ordered this very food and drink to be given to them.
2) Daniel and his three friends might look sickly if they ate only vegetables. The king would then execute Ashpenaz for disobeying his commands.
3) Daniel pleaded that they be tested by allowing them to eat nothing but vegetables and water (Daniel 1:12). Then they could compare their appearance to those who ate the king’s rich food (Daniel 1:13).
If their appearance was healthy, Daniel requested that they be allowed to continue the diet of vegetables and water. The request for a ten day test was accepted and surprisingly, at the end of the ten days, the four looked healthier and better nourished than the others. So they were granted Daniel’s request for a permanent diet of vegetables and water. Their faithfulness was richly rewarded by God (Daniel 1:17-21).
Daniel 1:18-21 God gave the four special understanding and knowledge. Daniel himself was given the ability to understand visions and dreams, which will be demonstrated over and over throughout this book. It’s important to note that Daniel’s education in Babylonian literature, astrology, and sorcery was no help when he was called to interpret dreams. To the contrary, all the education of Babylon proved worthless in understanding of dreams. God Himself gave Daniel insight into the dreams and revealed their explanation to him (Daniel 2:3-11).
When the three years of training ended, the students were brought before the king and interviewed. Daniel and the three proved far superior to the others. Nebuchadnezzar considered their answers ten times better than all of his royal advisers new or old. He was so impressed with Daniel’s answers and those of his three friends that he immediately assigned them to leadership positions in his government.
In Daniel 1:20 we learn that the kings advisors relied on the demonic resources, described as magicians and astrologers or enchanters. Magicians in the Hebrew refer to a diviner, astrologer, or one who actually uses magic. They used charts ancient tarot cards or the stars to interpret dreams and questions asked of them. Enchanters or astrologers refer to those who used incantations to communicate with the spirit world or the dead.
The Lord gave Daniel a long life and of royal service in Babylon and Persia. Daniel was exiled to Babylon as a young boy in 605 B.C., probably when he was between 14-16 years old. He served as a high-ranking official in both Babylon and Persia until the first year of King Cyrus’s reign (539 B.C.). Assuming he graduated in 601 B.C., he was a high-ranking official for about 65 years (601–536 B.C.). So Daniel lived to be over 80 years old. He was still living in the third year of King Cyrus’s reign (Daniel 10:1).
What an example Daniel is for us! How often we are tempted to compromise our commitment to the Lord. How often has the culture around us enticed to sin? How often have the luxuries of the world tempted us to disobey God? How often have we allowed our desire for position, power, and fame to consume us? How often have we put achieving our personal ambition before serving God?
Every day we face the temptation to compromise our commitment to the Lord. We like Daniel are called to be faithful in living for the Lord. No matter how much pressure people put upon us to compromise, we too need to stand fast and not give in to the seduction of sin. No matter how appealing, attractive or enticing the urge may be, we too need to take a stand for the Lord. We too must purpose in our hearts that we will not defile ourselves. Consider these Scriptures (Matthew10:22;1 Corinthians 15:58;Galatians 6:9;Hebrews 12:1-4;1 Peter 5:8-9).