I. DANIEL AND THE KINGS OF BABYLON
The Food Test.
1In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim,#According to 2 Kgs 24, the siege of Jerusalem took place after the death of Jehoiakim, but 2 Chr 36:5–8 says that Jehoiakim was taken to Babylon. king of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came and laid siege to Jerusalem.#a. [1:1] 2 Kgs 24:1; 2 Chr 36:6; Jer 25:1. 2#b. [1:2] Dn 5:2; 2 Chr 36:7; Gn 10:10. The Lord handed over to him Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and some of the vessels of the temple of God, which he carried off to the land of Shinar#Shinar: ancient name for Babylonia, a deliberate archaism in this text; cf. Gn 10:10; 11:2. and placed in the temple treasury of his god.
3The king told Ashpenaz,#The proper name Ashpenaz is sometimes taken as a title, major-domo. his chief chamberlain, to bring in some of the Israelites, some of the royal line and of the nobility. 4They should be young men without any defect, handsome, proficient in wisdom, well informed, and insightful, such as could take their place in the king’s palace; he was to teach them the language and literature of the Chaldeans. 5The king allotted them a daily portion of food and wine from the royal table. After three years’ training they were to enter the king’s service. 6Among these were Judeans, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. 7#Other prominent Jews with Babylonian names include Sheshbazzar and Zerubabbel, who were leaders of the postexilic community. The chief chamberlain changed their names: Daniel to Belteshazzar, Hananiah to Shadrach, Mishael to Meshach, and Azariah to Abednego.
8But Daniel was resolved not to defile himself with the king’s food or wine; so he begged the chief chamberlain to spare him this defilement.#This defilement: the bread, meat, and wine of the Gentiles were unclean (Hos 9:3; Tb 1:12; Jdt 10:5; 12:1–2) because they might have been offered to idols; and the meat may not have been drained of blood, as Jewish dietary law requires. This test relates to the attempt of Antiochus to force Jews to eat forbidden foods in contempt of their religion (1 Mc 1:62–63; 2 Mc 6:18; 7:1). 9Though God had given Daniel the favor and sympathy of the chief chamberlain, 10he said to Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who allotted your food and drink. If he sees that you look thinner in comparison to the other young men of your age, you will endanger my life with the king.” 11Then Daniel said to the guardian whom the chief chamberlain had put in charge of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12“Please test your servants for ten days. Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13Then see how we look in comparison with the other young men who eat from the royal table, and treat your servants according to what you see.” 14He agreed to this request, and tested them for ten days; 15after ten days they looked healthier and better fed than any of the young men who ate from the royal table. 16So the steward continued to take away the food and wine they were to receive, and gave them vegetables.
17To these four young men God gave knowledge and proficiency in all literature and wisdom, and to Daniel the understanding of all visions and dreams. 18At the end of the time the king had specified for their preparation, the chief chamberlain brought them before Nebuchadnezzar. 19When the king had spoken with all of them, none was found equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; and so they entered the king’s service. 20In any question of wisdom or understanding which the king put to them, he found them ten times better than any of the magicians and enchanters in his kingdom. 21#c. [1:21] Dn 6:29. Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.#The first year of King Cyrus: the year of this Persian king’s conquest of Babylon, 539/538 B.C.