The Overview of the Chapter: The first chapter of Daniel is an introduction to the book of Daniel. Leaving out this chapter would make Daniel a rather confusing book. The first chapter is mainly about Daniel and his three friends and the impression which they made on Nebuchadnezzar.
The Outline (Main points) of the Chapter:
Daniel 1:1, 2
The first few verses of the book give the bleak period of time it was for Judah. Babylon had made havoc of the Jews beloved city Jerusalem and had profaned their Temple by taking some of the valuable items from the Temple.
"In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it" (Daniel 1:1). The date is disputed as Jeremiah says it was the fourth year of Jehoiakim's reign when this happened (Jeremiah 25:1; 46:2). The discrepancy in times can be attributed to the fact that the Babylonians computed one's reign differently than the Jews did. Daniel may have used Chaldean time. At any rate this was the first of three attacks by Nebuchadnezzar upon Jerusalem. Daniel was captured in the first attack, Ezekiel in the second, and Jeremiah was affected by the third attack.
"Jehoiakim king of Judah... Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon" (Daniel 1:1). These two men were the two kings involved. Nebuchadnezzar was the famous Gentile king, while Jehoiakim, an insignificant, was king for eleven years in Judah and was a wicked man, later, though a vassal of Babylon after this invasion, he was captured by Nebuchadnezzar in Nebuchadnezzar's second invasion of Jerusalem because Jehoiakim had been in poor relations with Nebuchadnezzar.
"Jerusalem, and besieged it" (Daniel 1:1). Jerusalem was the great and glorious city of the Jews. For it to be captured and controlled by a Gentile was a great dishonor to God. But the wickedness of the city resulted in its demise.
"The Lord gave Jehoiakim... into his hand" (Daniel 1:2). Nebuchadnezzar was given the power by God to conquer many nations among whom was Judah. This attack was not as devastating as the third and final attack, but it did indeed show the great power of Nebuchadnezzar. Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar only got stronger while Judah and Jehoiakim got weaker and weaker and also more wicked.
"Part of the vessels of the house of God... he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god" (Daniel 1:2). This really upset the Jews. However, they did not seem to be upset about the profaneness they had brought in the Temple in their idolatry. The loss of the Temple possessions and their idolatry and profaning of the Temple are closely related.
The rest of the first chapter is about Daniel and his three friends and their choosing by Nebuchadnezzar's to be placed among his wise men who gave counsel to Nebuchadnezzar.
Nebuchadnezzar appointed Ashpenaz, one of his officials to select some Jews from the captivity to become part of the wise men surrounding the king. There were three main prerequisites for choosing these men.
• Lineage. "Children of Israel... king's seed... of the princes" (Daniel 1:3). The lineage included their race (Hebrews) royalty (king's seed) and rank (princes). These were not second class citizens but of the best.
• Looks. "no blemish... well favored" (Daniel 1:4). "Well favored" means good looking in appearance. The world places much more stress on the outward looks than the inward condition and that habit is reflected here.
• Learning. "Skillful in all wisdom and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science" (Daniel 1:4). Nebuchadnezzar did not want dummies in his court. While education and degrees is no substitute for godliness, the Word of God will not encourage delinquency in learning.
An intensive plan of training was decreed for these men.
• The term of the plan. "Three years" (Daniel 1:5). This was a three year program of preparation for the king's court. It was not a few days orientation.
• The topics in the plan. "They might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans" (Daniel 1:4). Two main topics are noted here. First, the learning of the Chaldeans. "Learning." These men were to be acquainted with Babylonian thinking. Second, the language of the Chaldeans. "Tongue" This could be a very difficult topic as the language of Babylon would be different than Hebrew. Missionaries know the difficulty of learning a different language in order to communicate to the people of their calling.
"The king appointed a daily provision of he king's meat, and of the wine which he drank" (Daniel 1:5). This would later be the bone of contention with Daniel and his three friends. They would not pollute themselves with a royal repast. But you must hand it to Nebuchadnezzar, he provided the best, that he knew how, for the training of these Hebrews.
The names of the four Hebrews was changed although later in life, Daniel's original name was still used by the government.
• The practice in changing names. Changing names indicated that the one changing the name has authority over the one whose name is changed. Joseph's name was changed as an example (Genesis 41:45). The king of Egypt changed the name of Eliakim to Jehoiakim (II Chronicles 36:4). Nebuchadnezzar changed Mattaniah to Zedekiah (II Kings 24:17) when he made Zedekiah the vassal king of Judah. Today the woman changes her name to the husband when married which shows his authority over her.
• The piety in the names. The new names of Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were related to the heathen deities just as the original names were related to Jehovah-God.
The contention came about because of the provisions of the king for the four men mentioned and because of the convictions of Daniel. Convictions which were so strong they changed the diet given to all the those around the king.
"Daniel purposed in his heart" (Daniel 1:8). Your convictions must be in your heart otherwise they will not last. Some have good convictions when they are around good people but put them in a bad crowd and their convictions disappear.
"He would not defile himself" (Daniel 1:8). Daniel was for purity. Failure to have convictions about purity will destroy your life with shameful defilement.
Daniel's convictions were earnest. This can be seen in at least two ways.
• The passion. "He would not" (Daniel 1:8). Daniel was stubborn. We need to have convictions that are stubborn against doing evil.
• The portion. "With the portion of the king's meat not with the wine which he drank" (Daniel 1:8). Satan's favorite trick is to tell you it will not matter if you only do a little sinning. Daniel would not take even a portion. He would not dabble in sinful conduct.
Convictions must be proclaimed but that take courage and character. This Daniel had in large amounts.
• The courtesy in the proclaiming. "He requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself (Daniel 1:8). Daniel was not a bull in a china shop in expressing his convictions. Obviously he was not going to defile himself regardless of the response of his overseers, but he first gave them the courtesy of knowing about his convictions.
• The courage in the proclaiming. "He requested of the prince of the eunuchs" (Daniel 1:8). It always takes courage to practice and proclaim your convictions. No one ever said living a Christian life would be easy. Daniel was opposing the strongest government in the world, and some believe Daniel was only a teenager here. It would take much courage to proclaim his convictions.
• The circumstances for the proclaiming. "Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs" (Daniel 1:9). Daniel had a circumstance in his situation which would make it very hard to state his convictions. He had to go against a man who had befriended him. Stating his convictions looked like he was opposing the man and betraying his friendship. It is always difficult to go contrary to what our friends are doing. What God has arranged to help us Satan will pervert to cause our fall. Satan likes to use close relationships and advantages to promote compromise.
"I fear my lord the king... ye make me endanger my head to the king" (Daniel 1:10). This was a strong protest. We note this in two ways.
• The dread. "I fear my lord the king" (Daniel 1:10). Melzar did not want to go against the king's orders.
• The danger. "Ye make me endanger my head" (Daniel 1:10). Satan loves to tell us our convictions will harm others. But, in truth, they will help others.
Wisely Daniel asked to prove his convictions. God wants to be tested to show He is the best. The Gospel is not afraid of testing. "He showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs" (Acts 1:3) shows that fact true.
• The calendar in the proving. "Then said Daniel... prove thy servants... ten days" (Daniel 1:11, 12). The test was to last ten days. Ten in Scripture is the number of testing.
• The countenance in the proving. "Then let our countenances be look upon before thee" (Daniel 1:13). Melzar had complained that Daniel's convictions would affect their countenances adversely (Daniel 1:10).
• The consenting for the proving. "So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days" (Daniel 1:14). Daniel refused to buckle under pressure and finally Melzar, the keeper of these trainees consented to the test by removing the king's diet for "pulse [grain, corn, peas etc.]... water" (Daniel 1:12)
• The conclusion of the proving. After ten days the examination took place to see the test results. First, the recognition in the conclusion. "At the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat" (Daniel 1:15). God's way will show conspicuously. Second, the removal in the conclusion. "Melzar took away the portion... and gave them pulse" (Daniel 1:16). Not only did Daniel prove the God's diet was better, but Melzar made all the trainees eat Daniel's diet.
The last few verse of the chapter report the conclusion to the whole matter of Daniel's convictions and choosing. "At the end of the days" (Daniel 1:17). After three years of training, the king examined the trainees to see how they did. The conclusion of the examination honored God.
"As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams" (Daniel 1:17). Daniel and his three friends were Divinely endowed with ability for their task. When God calls God will enable and He will put you in the place of service where He wants you, though you might think you could not get their with a crow bar and a hammer.
"The king communed with them" (Daniel 1:19). Nebuchadnezzar examined these trainees to see how they had prospered in their training.
"In all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm" (Daniel 1:20). "Ten times" is a figure of speech for a superior comparison. Nebuchadnezzar found in his examination that Daniel and his three friends were much, much better than any of the other counselors that he had. This gives further proof to God's way of living as shown in Daniel's diet.
"Daniel continued even unto the first year of Cyrus" (Daniel 1:21). The excellence of Divine endowments kept Daniel high up in government for many many years. The reference here is to Cyrus is when he became ruler over Babylon. Daniel was then in his eighties or even his nineties. He remained faithful to God all those years. "What a span of useful and prominent activity!" (Leupold).