Seven Days With Daniel

Day 1 of 7 • This day’s reading



The Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 587BC. They devastated the city and the countryside and took all the potential leaders, especially young people, into exile. They ended up "by the rivers of Babylon," where they were given new Babylonian names honoring Babylonian gods and were educated in the culture and practices of the Babylonians. This "brain-drain" and "brain-wash" kept defeated nations suppressed because there was no one to lead a rebellion.

Daniel and three of his friends are "drained" from Jerusalem and are about to be brainwashed. It started with new names. If you look at the footnotes in your Bible, the names are so interesting: Daniel means "God is (my) Judge," Hananiah means "The LORD shows grace," Mishael means "Who is what God is?" and Azariah means "The LORD helps." Similarly, the new names are significant: Belteshazzar, in Babylonian, means "Bel (i.e., Marduk), protect his life!" Shadrach means "command of Aku (Sumerian moon-god)." Meshach means "Who is what Aku is?" Abednego means "servant of Nego/Nebo (i.e., Nabu)."

What's interesting is that throughout the book, the name that sticks, even in the mouths of his enemies, is not Belteshazzar but Daniel.

Daniel and his friends had little say in their naming or education, but when it came to food, Daniel decided to take a stand. It needs to be said that the Old Testament doesn't have a problem with meat. I think there are three possible reasons for Daniel's detox vegetable diet:

  1. The meat would have been offered to Babylonian gods, and Daniel didn't want to honor those gods by eating the meat.
  2. The food and wine came from the opulence of the king's table, and Daniel didn't want to be sucked into the opulence. (There may have been an element of him thinking of his people in Israel who were struggling for food in the aftermath of war.)
  3. Daniel is simply exercising some control over his environment to maintain his sense of independence. We don't know if he knew the "detoxing" power of a vegetable diet. If he didn't, he was a man of great faith, and if he did, he was a man of great wisdom.

Daniel uses tact and wisdom to deal with his changing environment, and I think all three of the above reasons motivated him. While there were some things he could not control, there were some things that he could. Every day, while they were being bombarded with new names, new ideas, and new learning, they'd be served veggies and water, which reminded them that they had some control, and it honored the one true God. As a bonus, they got healthier.

As you and I face an increasingly secular society, our little "detoxing" habits help us maintain our values and integrity.