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Daniel 1


Daniel and His Friends Obey God Daniel and His Friends The Young Men at Nebuchadnezzar's Court Introduction
1:1-7 1:1-2 1:1-2 1:1-2
      The Young Hebrews at the Court


of Nebuchadnezzar

  1:3-7 1:3-7 1:3-7
1:8-13 1:8-17 1:8-10 1:8-17
1:14-16   1:14-16  
1:17-21   1:17-21  
  1:18-21   1:18-21

* Although they are not inspired, paragraph divisions are the key to understanding and following the original author's intent. Each modern translation has divided and summarized the paragraphs. Every paragraph has one central topic, truth, or thought. Each version encapsulates that topic in its own distinct way. As you read the text, ask yourself which translation fits your understanding of the subject and verse divisions.
 In every chapter we must read the Bible first and try to identify its subjects (paragraphs), then compare our understanding with the modern versions. Only when we understand the original author's intent by following his logic and presentation can we truly understand the Bible. Only the original author is inspired—readers have no right to change or modify the message. Bible readers do have the responsibility of applying the inspired truth to their day and their lives.
  Note that all technical terms and abbreviations are explained fully in the following documents: Brief Definitions of Greek Grammatical StructureTextual Criticism, and Glossary.

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. This chapter sets the historical setting of the entire book. Daniel and his friends are captive servants of a pagan world power of the Fertile Crescent.

B. God's hand is providentially with these young Jewish boys. He has allowed the Gentile powers to dominate His people because of His people's sin. Through them He will show His power over all nations and point toward the culmination of His redemptive plan (cf. Eph. 2:11-3:13).

C. This chapter reveals an appropriate faith response to culture. Daniel and his friends act respectfully, but faithfully to their Jewish faith, in the context of a pagan court. Their example gives Christians insight into how to deal with a post-Christian, post-modern society.

D. This chapter reveals the lexical problems involved in

1. Persian loan words

2. Babylonian idioms

3. our lack of knowledge related to the Ancient Near East(both language and history)

E. Daniel 1:1-2:4a and chapters 8-12 are in Hebrew, but the intervening text, which deals with Daniel's messages to foreign kings, is in Aramaic (as are Jer. 10:11; Ezra 4:8-6:18; 7:12-26).



 1In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along 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 he brought the vessels into the treasury of his god.

1:1 "In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim" This is Babylonian dating (also used by the northern tribes, Israel) dating, while Jer. 25:1,9; 46:2 are Egyptian dating (also used by Judean scribes). Obviously Daniel was in Babylon and Jeremiah was back in Judah. Jehoiakim (609-598 b.c.) was one of Josiah's sons who was placed on the throne by Pharaoh Necco II after he exiled Jehoahaz, another son of Josiah, who reigned only three months. His name (BDB 220) means "YHWH raises up" or "YHWH establishes," but he was an evil king (cf. II Kgs. 23:37; II Chron. 36:5; Jer. 36).

"Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon" The name (BDB 613) in Babylonian has several possible meanings.

1. "Nebo, protect (the) boundary (or frontier)"

2. "Nebo, protect (my) progeny"

3. "Nebo, protect (my) inheritance"

4. "Nebo, protect (the) crown"

5. "Nebo, protect (thy) servant"

In Daniel, like Jeremiah, it is spelled two ways, Nebuchadrezzar (most accurate spelling) and Nebuchadnezzar (found in OT 27 times). The difference is due to the transliteration from Babylonian to Aramaic/Hebrew. But why both spellings are in one book is uncertain, possibly different scribes were used. The original name in Akkadian would have been Nabu-kudurri-usur.

He was not really king yet because his father Nabopolassar (626-605 b.c.) did not die until the summer of 605 b.c. He was the crown prince in charge of the military campaign. We have no other historical record of this raid. However, II Kgs. 24:1-7 and II Chr. 36:1-7 surely imply a confrontation between Nebuchadnezzar and Jehoiakim before 597 b.c. Jerusalem seems to have fallen into Babylonian hands in 605 b.c. (Daniel and his friends taken), 597 b.c. (Jehoiachim and nobles and artisans taken), 586 b.c. (general deportation) and 582 b.c. (all who could be found taken).

1:2 "the Lord gave. . .God granted. . .God gave" These phrases are found in verses 2, 9 (both Qal IMPERFECT), and 17 (Qal PERFECT). Each combine to show God's control of history! This is a recurrent theme in Daniel. In the ancient world every army fought under the banner/name of their god. Success in battle showed the supremacy of one god over another. However, the Bible clearly asserts that it was because of Israel's and Judah's sins and rebellion against YHWH that YHWH allowed, yes even engineered, the invasion of the promised land.

▣ "the Lord" This is the Hebrew term Adon (BDB 10), which was commonly used in the sense of "husband," "owner," "master" (cf. v. 10 of Nebuchadnezzar). It is comparable to (1) Ba'al in the OT and (2) the NT term kurios. When used of YHWH it denotes His rule and reign.

In English "Lord" is used (1) to translate Adon and (2) because the Jews became nervous of pronouncing the covenant name for God - YHWH, all capitals Lord became the way to designate it. For pronunciation the Jews used the vowels for Adon with the consonants for YHWH. See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY at Dan. 4:2.

▣ "Judah" The Jewish nation that developed from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was organized around thirteen tribes (Joseph's two sons became tribes). These tribes were united under Saul, David, and Solomon (the united monarchy), but split because of Solomon's sin (cf. I Kgs. 11) and Rehoboam's arrogance (cf. I Kgs. 12) in 922 b.c. The northern tribes under Jeroboam I became Israel and the southern tribes (Simeon, Benjamin, Judah, and most Levites) became Judah.

▣ "vessels of the house of God" This refers to the utensils and furniture of the temple (cf. Jer. 27:19-20; II Chr. 36:7). These are mentioned again in Dan. 5:2 and Ezra 1:5-11.

▣ "Shinar" This is another name for Babylon (cf. Gen. 10:10; 11:2; 14:1,9; Isa. 11:11; Zech. 5:11). The meaning of Shinar is uncertain (BDB 1042). It somehow relates to the Sumerian civilization of southern Iraq (cf. Gen. 10:10), which is the earliest known civilization to use writing (cuneiform script on clay tablets). It is the site of the building of the tower of Babel (cf. Gen. 11:1-9). It becomes an idiom for evil and rebellion (cf. Zech. 5:11).

"to the house of his god" This is literally "gods" - Elohim (BDB 43). Marduk was the chief neo-Babylonian god. This god is also known as Bel ("Lord," cf. Jer. 51:44) and in Hebrew as Merodack (cf. Jer. 50:2). He took over the functions of En-lil (storm god and creator) about the time of Hammurabi in the second millennium b.c. Putting the vessels of YHWH in his temple was (1) a sign of respect, so as not to offend the gods, but mostly (2) a sign of YHWH's defeat by Marduk.

 3Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles, 4youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king's court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. 5The king appointed for them a daily ration from the king's choice food and from the wine which he drank, and appointed that they should be educated three years, at the end of which they were to enter the king's personal service. 6Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7Then the commander of the officials assigned new names to them; and to Daniel he assigned the name Belteshazzar, to Hananiah Shadrach, to Mishael Meshach and to Azariah Abed-nego.

1:3 "Ashpenaz" His name's meaning is uncertain (BDB 80), but (1) a possible Persian origin would suggest "guest" or "chief eunuch" or (2) an Armenian origin, "guest," "friend," or "stranger."

NASB"the chief of his officials"
NKJV"the master of his eunuchs"
NRSV"his palace master"
TEV"his chief official"
NJB"his chief eunuch"

This title reflects an Akkadian phrase, "he who is of the king's head," therefore, it contains no implication of castration. In Isa. 56:3; Jer. 38:7, and Esther 2:3 the Hebrew term (BDB 710) reflects castration. In Gen. 37:36; 39:1 it is used of Potiphar, who was married (cf. Gen. 39:7). The term came to be used generally of court officials. Some were castrated, especially those who worked with the harem, but not all. Josephus says the youths were tortured (i.e. castrated, cf. Antiq. 10.10.1).

▣ "to bring some of the sons of Israel" The VERBAL is an INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT. There are also two in v. 4 and one in v. 5.

This fulfills Isa. 39:5-7 and II Kgs. 20:16-18. Israel here refers to Jacob, not the northern Ten Tribes. Nebuchadnezzar took youths from all the people groups he conquered and used them in his palace and courtroom as a way of showing his military conquests (cf. v. 10 and H.C. Leupold, Exposition of Daniel, p. 58).

NASB"some of the royal family and of the nobles"
NKJV"some of the king's descendants and some of the nobles"
NRSV, TEV"some. . .of the royal family and of the nobility"
NJB"a certain number of boys of royal or noble descent"

The term "royal" (BDB 574) is from the Hebrew root mlk - king (BDB 572). The fact that Nebuchadnezzar could do this showed his total control of Palestine. The added word "nobility" is another Persian loan word (BDB 832).

1:4 "youths" This word has a wide usage (BDB 409) from newborns (cf. Exod. 1:17,18; 3:6,7,8,9,10; II Sam. 12:5) to young men able to be trained for court service (cf. Dan. 1:4,10,15,17). Therefore, the age of these four youths cannot be determined by the word, but only by context.

▣ "no defect" This word (BDB 548) is used in Leviticus in relation to (1) acceptable priests (cf. Lev. 21:16-24) and (2) acceptable sacrifices for complete destruction (cf. Lev. 22:17-25). Its basic meaning is "perfection" or "completeness." These youths had to be physically and intellectually the best of the captive youths of Judah.

NASB"showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding and discerning knowledge"
NKJV"gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand"
NRSV"versed in every branch of wisdom, endowed with knowledge and insight"
TEV"intelligent, well-trained, quick to learn"
NJB"versed in every branch of wisdom, well-informed, discerning"

There must have been some kind of testing and questioning involved in the choice. These skills were developed in training, but present before their capture. These were bright, insightful, and teachable young men.

Basically the word "wisdom" (BDB 315) has a practical orientation, like the Proverbs. Wisdom Literature in the OT was a guide for the individual to learn how to have a happy and successful life. Israel developed a group of "wise men" or "sages" (cf. Jer. 18:18) who advised their kings.

"the literature and language of the Chaldeans" This refers to the cuneiform language. In northern Babylon this was known as Akkadian (Semitic); in southern Babylon as Sumerian (non-Semitic). These youth would be trained in several related languages, but all written in cuneiform script.

The context seems to imply a knowledge of all Chaldean literature (ethnic sense, cf. Gen. 11:28,31; II Kgs. 24-25; often in Isaiah and Jeremiah; Dan. 1:4; 5:30; 9:1; Ezra 5:12) rather than just magical, astrological, and religious texts (magi sense, cf. 2:2-5,10; 4:4; 5:7,11, used by Herodotus, Diodorus, and Strabo).

"Chaldeans" Herodotus (450 b.c.), Hist. I, uses this term to refer to an ethnic group (cf. II Kgs. 24:1-4; Dan. 5:30) as well as a priestly class (cf. Dan. 2:2; 3:8; 4:7; 5:7,11) whose usage goes back to Cyrus II. Even before this Assyrian records used the term (BDB 505) in an ethnic sense (cf. R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 1113). Also read the good discussion of the possibility of a confusion of two similar terms (i.e. Kal-du vs. Kasdu) in The Expositors Bible Commentary, vol. 7, pp. 14-15 or Robert Dick Wilson, Studies in the Book of Daniel, series 1.

Because Gen. 11:28 states that Ur of the Chaldeans was the home of Terah and his family. Chaldeans may have been ethnically Semitic (i.e. same racial group as the Hebrews).


NASB"the king's choice food"
NKJV"the king's delicacies"
NRSV"the royal rations"
TEV"as members of the royal court"
NJB"from the royal table"

These youths, like all the youths, both those in training and those who served Nebuchadnezzar, shared in the king's food and drink (literally in Persian, "kingly delicacies," or "honorific gifts," or "royal table rations" (cf. BDB 834 and Dan. 1:5,8,13,15,16; 11:26). These royal provisions were a real honor and perk. This was the best quality and best variety of food available anywhere. It was also provided to Jehoiachin in exile (cf. II Kgs. 25:30; Jer. 52:34). However, it was not levitically "clean" (cf. Lev. 11: Deut. 14). It was not kosher.

NASB"enter the king's personal service"
NKJV"serve before the king"
NRSV"could be stationed in the king's court"
TEV"appear before the king"
NJB"enter the royal service"

This is literally "stand before the king," (BDB 763, KB, Qal IMPERFECT), which is an idiom for service (cf. Deut. 10:8; 17:12; 18:5,7). The NRSV catches the historical setting of Nebuchadnezzar stationing young men from all the conquered lands around his court room to show how extensive his empire was.

1:6 "Daniel" His name means "God (El) is my Judge" (BDB 193).

" Hananiah" His name means "YHWH (iah) has been gracious" (BDB 337).

▣ "Mishael" His name means "Who is what God (El) is" (BDB 567).

 ▣ "Azariah" His name means "YHWH (iah) has helped" (BDB 741).

1:7 The names were changed to: (1) break the ties with the past or (2) associate with the Babylonian deities.

▣ "Belteshazzar" This is the Babylonian name, balatsu-usur, which means "protect his life" (BDB 117). Many suppose that the name of the Babylonian god Nabu (Nebo) was the assumed prefix.

It is also possible that another origin is Belet-sar-usur, meaning "lady (wife of Marduk or Bel) protect the king" (cf. A. R. Millard, "Daniel 1-6 and History," EQ, XLIX, 2, 1977 mentioned in Tyndale Commentary, p. 81 footnote #1).

"Shadrach" Scholars suppose that the later Jewish scribes slightly changed the Babylonian names to make fun of their gods. The original Akkadian names may have meant "Command of Aku" (the Sumerian moon god (BDB 995). Joyce G. Baldwin, Daniel, Tyndale Commentaries p. 81, says that Shadrach comes from Saduraku, which means "I am very fearful (of God)." Obviously these Babylonian names are lost to us because later Jewish scribes substituted vowels to make puns on the names in order to ridicule them.

▣ "Meshach" Originally this would have been "Who is what Aku is" (BDB 568). Again Joyce G. Baldwin, in the Tyndale Commentaries on Daniel, says it is from Mesaku, meaning "I am of little account," p. 81.

"Abed-nego" Originally this would have been "Servant of Nabu" (BDB 715, the Babylonian god of wisdom, also called Nebo).

Joyce G. Baldwin, in the Tyndale commentary on Daniel, says it is from an Aramaic word play on "servant of the shining one (Nabu)," p. 81.

 8But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king's choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself. 9Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials, 10and the commander of the officials said to Daniel, "I am afraid of my lord the king, who has appointed your food and your drink; for why should he see your faces looking more haggard than the youths who are your own age? Then you would make me forfeit my head to the king." 11But Daniel said to the overseer whom the commander of the officials had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12"Please test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13Then let our appearance be observed in your presence and the appearance of the youths who are eating the king's choice food; and deal with your servants according to what you see."

1:8 "not defile himself" Two possibilities are: (1) because the food had been offered to Babylonian idols or (2) because of restraints of the Jewish food laws (cf. Lev. 11: Deut. 14). It is surprising that Daniel did not object to (1) his name change, which reflects a pagan god or (2) his study of magic texts, but he did express his Jewish tradition in relation to his diet. It is interesting that both Joseph and Moses faced similar cross-cultural experiences in Egypt. There were precedents!

"so he sought permission from the commander of the officials" Notice Daniel purposed in his heart and then with tact and politeness asked the eunuch's permission. Daniel 1-6 shows how these four Jewish youths dealt tactfully and graciously with their captors. They trusted in God, but did not flaunt their faith!

1:9 "God granted" This verse, like v. 17, shows God's presence and purpose in the situation. God was with them and would use them for His purposes.

The book of Daniel is unique in the OT as God reveals truths and manifests His power to Gentile kings, YHWH shows His love, concern, and redemptive plan for "the nations." Isaiah saw "the nations" inclusion, but Daniel shows how God was in control of the history of all nations for His redemptive purposes (cf. Eph. 2:11-3:13).

Apocalyptic literature, of which Daniel is surely a classic example, is characterized by a sense of divine sovereignty, even determinism. One God is in control of all events, persons, and nations. This theological view of monotheism is unique in the ancient Near East, whose religions were polytheistic and cyclical (i.e. the dying and rising of gods).

"favor" This is the non-covenant use of the Hebrew word hesed (BDB 338), which came to denote YHWH's special covenant love and loyalty to Israel.

"and compassion" These two terms "favor" and "compassion" (BDB 933) are used often to describe God's actions toward Israel (cf. Ps. 25:6; 40:11; 69:16; 103:4).

1:10-13 Daniel acknowledges the eunuch's fear and concerns. Daniel proposes a test period to determine if the Hebrew youths can grow and prosper on vegetables (i.e. "sown things") only! He submitted to the eunuch's authority (cf. v. 13). Daniel's faith is verified in vv. 14-16.

1:10 "forfeit my head to the king" This shows the power of the king and the fear of his servants over even minor problems.


NASB"the overseer"
NKJV"the steward"
NJB"the guard"

This Babylonian word (BDB 576) is used only here in the Bible. Its meaning is disputed, but it obviously refers to a servant under Ashpenaz, who would directly be involved in daily food services. The KJV made this a proper name, Melzar, but the title here and in v. 16 has the article, which denotes a rank of servant, not a name.

1:12 "some vegetables" This term refers to things sown or grown from seeds (BDB 283). It is not certain if these types of food were part of the royal diet or special ordered items. These youths wanted to avoid the royal meat and wine possibly because (1) had been dedicated to pagan Persian gods and (2) also did not conform to Levitical regulations (Lev. 11; Deut. 14).

 14So he listened to them in this matter and tested them for ten days. 15At the end of ten days their appearance seemed better and they were fatter than all the youths who had been eating the king's choice food. 16So the overseer continued to withhold their choice food and the wine they were to drink, and kept giving them vegetables.

1:14-16 This is a summary of the results of the test.

 17As for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams.

1:17 "God gave" Again, like v. 9, it was not the natural talents or intelligence of these young men, but the power of God. God had a purpose for their lives.

This is a good word for those who feel called by God, but feel inadequate for the task. When God calls, God equips and He equips in such a way that He gets the glory, not the human agent.

As these youths honored God in what they did know (food laws), God gifted them in areas they did not know. Their one step of faith opened other opportunities. Believers must act on what they do understand, then more knowledge and opportunities will be provided (cf. Rom. 1:17).

▣ "Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams" This was a special gift from God that only Daniel of the four Jewish youths possessed (cf. 2:19; 7:1; 8:1). It was similar to Joseph's ability in interpreting Pharaoh's dream (cf. Gen. 37,40-41). God would use this gift to equip Daniel to receive His revelation (1) to pagan kings; (2) to Daniel himself; and (3) from angels. The rest of the book is based on these revelations and their interpretations.

God equipped Daniel to minister to a culture where dreams were a primary way of receiving information from the spiritual realm.

 18Then at the end of the days which the king had specified for presenting them, the commander of the officials presented them before Nebuchadnezzar. 19The king talked with them, and out of them all not one was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king's personal service. 20As for every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king consulted them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and conjurers who were in all his realm. 21And Daniel continued until the first year of Cyrus the king.

1:18 "at the end of the days" This refers to v. 5.

1:20 The Hebrew youths in their conversations with Nebuchadnezzar, proved to be much (the idiomatic use of ten) better than (1) the other youths from other conquered countries who studied with them and (2) even all the established counselors (magicians and conjurers).

▣ "ten times better" Eastern literature uses many figures of speech, metaphors, and hyperboles. It also uses numbers in symbolic ways (see Biblical Numerology: A Basic Study of the Use of Numbers in the Bible, by John J. Davis). Ten is the number of completeness (cf. Gen. 31:7,41; Exod. 34:28; Lev. 26:26; Num. 14:22; I Sam. 1:8; 25:38; II Sam. 19:43; I Kgs. 6-7; 11:31,35; II Kgs. 20:9-11; 25:25; II Chr. 4; Neh. 4:12; Job 19:3; Eccl. 7:19; Jer. 41; Ezek. 45;48; Dan. 1:12,14,15,20; Zech. 8:23, the Aramaic form of the Hebrew word in Dan. 7:7,20,24. Also notice Rev. 2:10; 12:3; 13:1; 17:3,7,12,16). To miss the symbolic nature of 1,4,6,7,10, & 12 is to miss a basic literary technique of eastern literature.

This recognition of the Hebrew youths' superiority (cf. chapters 1,2,4,5) over all the other Chaldean wise men will cause great jealousy (cf. chapters 3 & 6).

JPS, NIV"magicians"

This type of counselor, magician, is used (1) in Egypt (cf. Gen. 41:8,24; Exod. 7:11,22; 8:15; 9:11; Isa. 19:11-12); (2) in Babylon (cf. 1:20; 2:2; Isa. 44:25; Jer. 50:35; 51:57; and also (3) in Persia (cf. Esther 1:13; 6:13).

The Hebrew term (BDB 355) is chartummim, which is from charath, an engraving tool from an Egyptian loan word (cf. Gen. 41:8,24; Exod. 7:11,22; 8:7,18-19; 9:11). This probably refers to the magical texts and charms found in cuneiform tablets.

For Israel these things and their practitioners are condemned (cf. Deut. 18:9-11). This is one reason why the book of Daniel was not popular with the rabbis because Daniel was involved in and identified with this type of activity.


Brown, Driver, and Briggs (BDB 80) call this a Babylonian loan word, which denotes conjuring or necromancing. In the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, vol. 1, p. 556, it lists the possible derivation.

1. Babylonian and Aramaic - conjurer

2. Akkadian - exorcist

This type of person attempted to receive information from the dead.

1:21 "first year of Cyrus" This seems to contradict 10:1, but the meaning is that Daniel lived during the entire exilic period and into the reign of Cyrus II, "the Great" (cf. 6:28). Daniel fully lived out Jeremiah's prophecy (cf. 25:11,12; 29:10).


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why would God allow such a horrible thing to happen to His people?

2. List the theological pressures imposed on the four Hebrew youths.

3. List the tactful ways in which Daniel dealt with the problem of food.

4. Why did God want to reveal prophecies to pagan kings?

5. In what way does chapter 1 set the theological stage for understanding the rest of the book?