Daniel 1:3-21 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. A select group of Hebrew youths were chosen for “re-education,” to prepare them for royal service in the courts of Babylon. In order to be considered for this honor, what were the qualifications they needed to have (see verse 3 and 4a printed below?) What was their prescribed course of study (see verse 4b printed below?)

Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility—(4) young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. (Daniel 1:3-4a)

He was instructed to teach them the literature and the language of the Chaldeans. (Daniel 1:4b)

A select group of Hebrew youths were chosen for “re-education,” to prepare them for royal service in the courts of Babylon. The necessary qualifications were as follows: they must be from the Hebrew nobility; they must be handsome and without physical defect; and they must show an aptitude for a broad range of learning. The prescribed course of instruction included the language and all the learning of the Chaldeans: astronomy and astrology, mathematics, natural history, agriculture, architecture, and Babylonian mythology.

2. What is the first thing the Babylonians do with these young men (see verse 7 printed below?) Why do you suppose the Babylonians did this?

But the chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, he gave the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, the name Shadrach; to Mishael, the name Meshach; and to Azariah, the name Abed-Nego. (Daniel 1:7)

In dealing with these youths the first order of business was to create a change of identity. The giving of Babylonian names was intended to accomplish two things. First, it was intended to sever these young men from their Hebrew background. The second purpose was to thoroughly initiate them into the culture and religion of Babylon. The meaning of the names (both the Hebrew and the Chaldean) is significant: Daniel (God is Judge) is changed to Belteshazzar (a name derived from the chief god of Babylon, Bel); Hananiah (the Lord is gracious) is changed to Shadrach (the command of Aku, the Moon god); Mishael (Who is like God?) is changed to Meshach (Who is like Aku?); and Azariah (the Lord helps) is changed to Abednego (slave of Nebo, another of the main gods of Babylon).

3. When confronted with the temptation to eat the king’s choice food, what did Daniel do (see verse 8 printed below?) Note: The king’s choice food would first be consecrated to the idols of Babylon; to eat of this food would amount to participating in a daily communion meal with the pagan gods of Babylon.

Now Daniel resolved in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food, nor with the wine he was given to drink; therefore, he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself. (Daniel 1:8)

Daniel and his three companions were confronted with the temptation to deny Christ and become conformed to this world, and thereby gain its much coveted benefits. How did Daniel—and how can we—meet this challenge? We are told, “Daniel resolved in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food” (vs.8). Daniel resolutely determined to be faithful to Christ rather than yield to the temptation of denying Christ by compromising or abandoning his Christian convictions. In the case of Daniel we learn that genuine conviction of heart reveals itself in acts of commitment, no matter what may be the potential outcome. Verse 8 goes on to tell us that since Daniel had determined in his heart that he would not defile himself, he therefore “asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself.” An attitude of loyalty to Christ that never exhibits the accompanying acts of loyalty is merely self-deception.

4. What price and what possible risk did Daniel and his companions face for their refusal to partake of the king’s choice food? See Daniel 1:10-12 (printed below)

But the chief of the officials said to Daniel, I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and your drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? If that were the case, you would be endangering my head before the king. (11) Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the officials had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, (12) I beg you, test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. (Daniel 1:10-12)

The commitment to Christ exhibited by Daniel and his companions involved some measure of personal deprivation and possible alienation from their peers. According to verse 12, Daniel and his companions requested a diet of vegetables and water while all the others feasted on the king’s delicacies. They very well may have suffered mocking and scorn from their peers and have been considered by many to be fools—but at the same time they may have gained the respect of some, as well as an opportunity to witness for Christ. Furthermore, Daniel and his companions risked the danger of incurring the wrath of the king—and thereby not only forfeiting the benefits of Babylon but in all likelihood forfeiting their lives.

5. In what way did the Lord help Daniel (see verse 9 printed below?) How did the Lord honor Daniel and his companions for their faithfulness to Him (see verses 17-19 printed below?)

Now God caused Daniel to find favor and compassion in the sight of the chief official. (Daniel 1:9)

To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding in every branch of literature and learning; furthermore, Daniel could understand all kinds of visions and dreams. (18) At the end of the period that the king had appointed for preparing them to be presented before him, the chief of the officials brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. (19) The king conversed with them, and from among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azaraiah; therefore, they stood before the king. (Daniel 1:17-19)

Daniel determined to be true to Christ, and Christ took care of him. On this present occasion the Lord turned the heart of the prince toward Daniel to look favorably upon him and deal kindly with him. The Lord blessed these four young men—in distinction from all the others—”with knowledge and understanding in every branch of literature and learning” (vs.17). Verses 18-19 indicate that none could compare with Daniel and his companions; therefore, they stood before the king (i.e., they were appointed to the chief positions of honor in the empire).