by Mike Ratliff
1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. 3 Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, 4 youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. 5 The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. 6 Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. 7 And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego. (Daniel 1:1-7 ESV)
Perhaps before we jumped heavily into Revelation we should have started with the Book of Daniel. We have reached a crucial point of contention in our study of Eschatology. Every time I think I have come to an understanding of the various views on the end times I find that someone else has a totally different view of how things will be worked out by our God in Heaven. If nothing else, I have learned that I must approach those who hold these various views in all humility. Who am I? However, my approach to this study is to let the scripture interpret itself. I pray that all reading this will let God speak to their hearts from this wonderful book that God gave Daniel over a period covering 605-536BC.
The northern Kingdom of Israel was in one form of apostasy or another during its entire existence. It’s first king, Jeroboam, did not want his people going back to Jerusalem to worship God at the Temple. So, he created golden calves in Bethel and Dan. He rejected the Levites as priests by creating a non-Levitical priesthood serving this false worship. In 722 B.C. the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom. The people who survived were deported and scattered all over the then known world. However, the southern Kingdom of Judah was not much better. Over the centuries its Kings became progressively worse and worse until Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, caused such horrible apostasy within the people that it was only a matter of time before God caused judgment to fall on them just as He had the Northern Kingdom. However, Mannaseh’s grandson, Josiah, was a King who followed after God with His whole Heart. He cleansed the Temple and restored genuine worship. He led the people into a proper relationship with their covenant God. It was during His reign that the people celebrated Passover and the other festivals correctly as no one before them. It is as if Josiah’s reign is a welcome respite in a long dreary line of somewhat good kings and many bad ones. Josiah knew the Lord and reigned in light of that. His heart was totally wrapped around His relationship with God.
It was during his reign that Daniel’s parents were probably born and grew up. They raised their son Daniel to worship the Lord alone. His faith was strong like Josiah’s. He knew God and God knew Him. However, Josiah was killed and replaced with one of his sons who reverted back to the apostate ways of the kingdoms around Judah. As a result, God raised up the Babylonian Empire in the late 7th Century B.C. Nebuchadnezzar was the second king of Babylon. In 605 B.C he conquered Jerusalem. Daniel was probably around 15 years old at this time. He was kidnapped from his noble family, taken to Babylon to be trained and indoctrinated in the Babylonian culture to be of use to the King in dealing with the Jews who had been deported as he was.
Look at the passage I placed at the top of this post. We find that Daniel is not alone. He had three friends named Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah along with many other youths all from Judah. The King assigned their diet to be from the food he ate and the wine he drank. All of these youths were to be trained over 3 years then be examined. Part of their indoctrination into Babylonian culture was to have their names changed. Daniel means, “Good is my judge.” His new name was Beleshazzar, which means, “Bel Protect the King.” Bel was a Babylonian god. Hananiah means, “the Lord is Gracious.” His new name was Shadrach, which means, “Command of Aku.” Aku was another Babylonain god. Mishael means, “Who is like the Lord?” His new name was Meshach, which means, “Who is what Aku is?” Azariah means, “The Lord is my Helper.” His new name was Abed-nego, which means, “Servant of Nego.” Nego, another Babylonain god, was also called Nebo.
Things look tough for these young men. They are away from their families and are being indoctrinated into an alien culture that does not know the Lord. In fact, since the Babylonians conquered the Judeans, they would consider their gods superior to the Lord. Again, it looks as if these young men will have to submit to their new masters into pagan worship and lifestyles. However, God had other plans.
8 But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. 9 And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, 10 and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.” 11 Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” (Daniel 1:8-13 ESV)
What wisdom for one so young! What did he do? He resolved in his heart to not defile himself by eating unclean food or drinking unclean wine. His heart was captive to God and His ways. Do you suppose that this resolve, perhaps, came as a result of some serous prayer time with his friends about this? What did God do as a result? God gave Daniel favor with those placed over him. Did Daniel arrogantly demand his rights? Did he angrily demand his way? No! He humbly approached those over him whom God had given him favor and compassion in their sight. Daniel proposed a test of ten days of he and his friends eating only vegetables and drinking water. He boldly submitted to the steward’s judgment. If their appearance was worse than those eating the unclean food then they would obey those in authority over them. This is quite bold. How often do we trust our God like this? How often do we hold back in unbelief and, therefore, disobedience? However, God is faithful!
14 So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. 15 At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food. 16 So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.
17 As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. 18 At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. 20 And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. 21 And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus. (Daniel 1:14-21 ESV)
As a result of these four young men’s commitment to their obedience to God, they were blessed with health, learning, wisdom, understanding, and excellence so that king Nebuchadnezzar found them to be far better to be in his service than all the magicians and enchanters who were in his kingdom. That should not surprise us should it? After all, God did this. He gave them this ability. He blessed them and they remained obedient to Him. Those who could not measure up to them were pagan conjurers. It is no wonder that Nebuchadnezzar could see the difference.
Daniel was given understanding in all visions and dreams. As we work our way through this wonderful book we will see how God used this gift in Daniel to give us the layout or blueprint of the remaining history of the world.
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