In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it.
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem - This event occurred, according to Jahn ("History of the Hebrew Commonwealth"), in the year 607 b.c., and in the 368th year after the revolt of the ten tribes. According to Usher, it was in the 369th year of the revolt, and 606 b.c. The computation of Usher is the one generally received, but the difference of a year in the reckoning is not material. Compare Michaelis, Anmerkung, zu 2 Kon. xxiv. 1. Jehoiakim was a son of Josiah, a prince who was distinguished for his piety, 2 Kings 22:2; 2 Chronicles 35:1-7. After the death of Josiah, the people raised to the throne of Judah Jehoahaz, the youngest son of Josiah, probably because he appeared better qualified to reign than his elder brother, 2 Kings 23:30; 2 Chronicles 36:1. He was a wicked prince, and after he had been on the throne three months, he was removed by Pharaoh-nechoh, king of Egypt, who returned to Jerusalem from the conquest of Phoenicia, and placed his elder brother, Eliakim, to whom he gave the name of Jehoiakim, on the throne, 2 Kings 23:34; 2 Chronicles 36:4.
Jehoahaz was first imprisoned in Riblah, 2 Kings 23:33, and was afterward removed to Egypt, 2 Chronicles 36:4. Jehoiakim, an unworthy son of Josiah, was, in reality, as he is represented by Jeremiah, one of the worst kings who reigned over Judah. His reign continued eleven years, and as he came to the throne 611 b.c., his reign continued to the year 600 b.c. In the third year of his reign, after the battle of Megiddo, Pharaoh-nechoh undertook a second expedition against Nabopolassar, king of Babylon, with a numerous army, drawn in part from Western Africa, Lybia and Ethiopia. - Jahn's Hist. Heb. "Commonwealth," p. 134. This Nabopolassar, who is also called Nebuchadnezzar I, was at this time, as Berosus relates, aged and infirm. He therefore gave up a part of his army to his son Nebuchadnezzar, who defeated the Egyptian host at Carchemish (Circesium) on the Euphrates, and drove Nechoh out of Asia. The victorious prince marched directly to Jerusalem, which was then under the sovereignty of Egypt. After a short siege Jehoiakim surrendered, and was again placed on the throne by the Babylonian prince.
Nebuchadnezzar took part of the furniture of the temple as booty, and carried back with him to Babylon several young men, the sons of the principal Hebrew nobles, among whom were Daniel and his three friends referred to in this chapter. It is not improbable that one object in conveying them to Babylon was that they might be hostages for the submission and good order of the Hebrews in their own land. It is at this time that the Babylonian sovereignty over Judah commences, commonly called the Babylonian captivity, which, according to the prophecy of Jeremiah, Jeremiah 25:1-14; Jeremiah 29:10, was to continue seventy years. In Jeremiah 25:1; Jeremiah 46:2, it is said that this was in the fourth year of Jehoiakim; in the passage before us it is said that it was the third year. This difference, says Jahn, arises from a different mode of computation: "Jehoiakim came to the throne at the end of the year, which Jeremiah reckons as the first (and such a mode of reckoning is not uncommon), but Daniel, neglecting the incomplete year, numbers one less:" For a more full and complete examination of the objection to the genuineness of Daniel from this passage, I would refer to Prof. Stuart on Daniel, "Excursus" I.((See App. I. to this Vol.)
And besieged it - Jerusalem was a strongly-fortified place, and it was not easy to take it, except as the result of a siege. It was, perhaps, never carried by direct and immediate assault. Compare 2 Kings 25:1-3, for an account of a siege of Jerusalem a second time by Nebuchadnezzar. At that time the city was besieged about a year and a half. How long the siege here referred to continued is not specified.
And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.
And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand - Jehoiakim was taken captive, and it would seem that there was an intention to convey him to Babylon 2 Chronicles 36:6, but that for some cause he was not removed there, but died at Jerusalem 2 Kings 24:5-6, though he was not honorably buried there, Jeremiah 22:19; Jeremiah 36:30. In the second book of Chronicles 2 Chronicles 36:6, it is said that "Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and bound Jehoiakim in fetters, to take him to Babylon." Jahn supposes that an error has crept into the text in the book of Chronicles, as there is no evidence that Jehoiakim was taken to Babylon, but it appears from 2 Kings 24:1-2, that Jehoiakim was continued in authority at Jerusalem under Nebuchadnezzar three years, and then rebelled against him, and that then Nebuchadnezzar sent against him "bands of the Chaldees, and bands of the Syrians, and bands of the Moabites, and bands of the children of Ammon, and sent them against Judah to destroy it." There is no necessity of supposing an error in the text in the account in the book of Chronicles. It is probable that Jehoiakim was taken, and that the "intention" was to take him to Babylon, according to the account in Chronicles, but that, from some cause not mentioned, the purpose of the Chaldean monarch was changed, and that he was placed again over Judah, under Nebuchadnezzar, according to the account in the book of Kings, and that he remained in this condition for three years until he rebelled, and that then the bands of Chaldeans, etc., were sent against him. It is probable that at this time, perhaps while the siege was going on, he died, and that the Chaldeans dragged his dead body out of the gates of the city, and left it unburied, as Jeremiah had predicted, Jeremiah 22:19; Jeremiah 36:30.
With part of the vessels of the house of God - 2 Chronicles 36:7. Another portion of the vessels of the temple at Jerusalem was taken away by Nebuchadnezzar, in the time of Jehoiachin, the successor of Jehoiakim, 2 Chronicles 36:10. On the third invasion of Palestine, the same thing was repeated on a more extensive scale, 2 Kings 24:13. At the fourth and final invasion, under Zedekiah, when the temple was destroyed, all its treasures were carried away, 2 Kings 25:6-20. A part of these treasures were brought back under Cyrus, Ezra 1:7; the rest under Darius, Ezra 6:5. Why they were not "all" taken away at first does not appear, but perhaps Nebuchadnezzar did not then intend wholly to overthrow the Hebrew nation, but meant to keep them tributary to him as a people. The temple was not at that time destroyed, but probably he allowed the worship of Jehovah to be celebrated there still, and he would naturally leave such vessels as were absolutely necessary to keep up the services of public worship.
Which he carried into the land of Shinar - The region around Babylon. The exact limits of this country are unknown, but it probably embraced the region known as Mesopotamia - the country between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates. The derivation of the name "Shinar" is unknown. It occurs only in Genesis 10:10; Genesis 11:2; Genesis 14:1, Genesis 14:9; Joshua 7:21; Isaiah 11:11; Daniel 1:2; Zechariah 5:11.
To the house of his god - To the temple of Bel, at Babylon. This was a temple of great magnificence, and the worship of Bel was celebrated there with great splendor. For a description of this temple, and of the god which was worshipped there, see the notes at Isaiah 46:1. These vessels were subsequently brought out at the command of Belshazzar, at his celebrated feast, and employed in the conviviality and revelry of that occasion. See Daniel 5:3.
And he brought the vessels into the treasure-house of his god - It would seem rom this that the vessels had been taken to the temple of Bel, or Belus, in Babylon, not to be used in the worship of the idol, but to be laid up among the valuable treasures there. As the temples of the gods were sacred, and were regarded as inviolable, it would be natural to make them the repository of valuable spoils and treasures. Many of the spoils of the Romans were suspended around the walls of the temples of their gods, particularly in the temple of Victory. Compare Eschenberg, "Manual of Class." Literally, pt. iii. Sections 149, 150.
And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king's seed, and of the princes;
And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs - On the general reasons which may have influenced the king to make the selection of the youths here mentioned, see the analysis of the chapter. Of Ashpenaz, nothing more is known than is stated here. Eunuchs were then, as they are now, in constant employ in the harems of the East, and they often rose to great influence and power. A large portion of the slaves employed at the courts in the East, and in the houses of the wealthy, are eunuchs. Compare Burckhardt's "Travels in Nubia," pp. 294, 295. They are regarded as the guardians of the female virtue of the harem, but their situation gives them great influence, and they often rise high in the favor of their employers, and often become the principal officers of the court. "The chief of the black eunuchs is yet, at the court of the Sultan, which is arranged much in accordance with the ancient court of Persia, an officer of the highest dignity. He is called Kislar-Aga, the overseer of the women, and is the chief of the black eunuchs, who guard the harem, or the apartments of the females. The Kislar-Aga enjoys, through his situation, a vast influence, especially in regard to the offices of the court, the principal Agas deriving their situations through him." See Jos. von Hammers "des Osmanischen Reichs Staatsverwalt," Thes i. s. 71, as quoted in Rosenmuller's "Alte und neue Morgenland," ii. 357, 358.
That it is common in the East to desire that those employed in public service should have vigorous bodies, and beauty of form, and to train them for this, will be apparent from the following extract: "Curtius says, that in all barbarous or uncivilized countries, the stateliness of the body is held in great veneration; nor do they think him capable of great services or action to whom nature has not vouchsafed to give a beautiful form and aspect. It has always been the custom of eastern nations to choose such for their principal officers, or to wait on princes and great personages. Sir Paul Ricaut observes, 'That the youths that are designed for the great offices of the Turkish empire must be of admirable features and looks, well shaped in their bodies, and without any defect of nature; for it is conceived that a corrupt and sordid soul can scarcely inhabit in a serene and ingenuous aspect; and I have observed, not only in the seraglio, but also in the courts of great men, their personal attendants have been of comely lusty youths, well habited, deporting themselves with singular modesty and respect in the presence of their masters; so that when a Pascha Aga Spahi travels, he is always attended with a comely equipage, followed by flourishing youths, well clothed, and mounted, in great numbers. '" - Burder. This may serve to explain the reason of the arrangement made in respect to these Hebrew youths.
That he should bring certain of the children of Israel - Hebrew, "of the sons of Israel." Nothing can with certainty be determined respecting their "age" by the use of this expression, for the phrase means merely the descendants of Jacob, or Israel, that is, "Jews," and it would be applied to them at any time of life. It would seem, however, from subsequent statements, that those who were selected were young men. It is evident that young men would be better qualified for the object contemplated - to be "trained" in the language and the sciences of the Chaldeans Daniel 1:4 - than those who were at a more advanced period of life.
And of the king's seed, and of the princes - That the most illustrious, and the most promising of them were to be selected; those who would be most adapted to accomplish the object which he had in view. Compare the analysis of the chapter. It is probable that the king presumed that among the royal youths who had been made captive there would be found those of most talent, and of course those best qualified to impart dignity and honor to his government, as well as those who would be most likely to be qualified to make known future events by the interpretation of dreams, and by the prophetic intimations of the Divine will.
Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.
Children in whom was no blemish - The word rendered "children" in this place (ילדים yelâdı̂ym) is different from that which is rendered "children" in Job 1:3 - בנים bânnı̂ym). That word denotes merely that they were "sons," or "descendants," of Israel, without implying anything in regard to their age; the word here used would be appropriate only to those who were at an early period of life, and makes it certain that the king meant that those who were selected should be youths. Compare Genesis 4:23, where the word is rendered "a young man." It is sometimes, indeed, used to denote a son, without reference to age, and is then synonymous with בן bên, a "son." But it properly means "one born;" that is, "recently born;" a child, Genesis 21:8; Exodus 1:17; Exodus 2:3; and then one in early life. There can be no doubt that the monarch meant to designate youths. So the Vulgate, pueros, and the Greek, νεανισκους neaniskous, and so the Syriac. All these words would be applicable to those who were in early life, or to young men. Compare Introduction to Daniel, Section I. The word "blemish" refers to bodily defect or imperfection. The object was to select those who were most perfect in form, perhaps partly because it was supposed that beautiful youths would most grace the court, and partly because it was supposed that such would be likely to have the brightest intellectual endowments. It was regarded as essential to personal beauty to be without blemish, 2 Samuel 14:25 : "But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for beauty; from the sole of Iris foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him." Sol 4:7 : "thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee." The word is sometimes used in a moral sense, to denote corruption of heart or life Deuteronomy 32:5; Job 11:15; Job 31:7, but that is not the meaning here.
But well-favored - Hebrew, "good of appearance;" that is, beautiful.
And skillful in all wisdom - Intelligent, wise - that is, in all that was esteemed wise in their own country. The object was to bring forward the most talented and intelligent, as well as the most beautiful, among the Hebrew captives.
And cunning in knowledge - In all that could be known. The distinction between the word here rendered "knowledge" (דעת da‛ath) and the word rendered "science" (מדע maddâ‛) is not apparent. Both come from the word ידע yâda‛ to "know," and would be applicable to any kind of knowledge. The word rendered "cunning" is also derived from the same root, and means "knowing," or "skilled in." We more commonly apply the word to a particular kind of knowledge, meaning artful, shrewd, astute, sly, crafty, designing. But this was not the meaning of the word when the translation of the Bible was made, and it is not employed in that sense in the Scriptures. It is always used in a good sense, meaning intelligent, skillful, experienced, well-instructed. Compare Genesis 25:27; Exodus 26:1; Exodus 28:15; Exodus 38:23; 1 Samuel 16:16; 1 Chronicles 25:7; Psalm 137:5; Isaiah 3:3.
And understanding science - That is, the sciences which prevailed among the Hebrews. They were not a nation distinguished for "science," in the sense in which that term is now commonly understood - embracing astronomy, chemistry, geology, mathematics, electricity, etc.; but their science extended chiefly to music, architecture, natural history, agriculture, morals, theology, war, and the knowledge of future events; in all which they occupied an honorable distinction among the nations. In many of these respects they were, doubtless, far in advance of the Chaldeans; and it was probably the purpose of the Chaldean monarch to avail himself of what they knew.
And such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace - Hebrew, "had strength" - כח kôach. Properly meaning, who had strength of body for the service which would be required of them in attending on the court. "A firm constitution of body is required for those protracted services of standing in the hall of the royal presence." - Grotius. The word "palace" here (היכל hêykâl) is commonly used to denote the temple (2 Kings 24:13; 2 Chronicles 3:17; Jeremiah 50:28; Haggai 2:15. Its proper and primitive signification, however, is a large and magnificent building - a palace - and it was given to the temple as the "palace" of Jehovah, the abode where he dwelt as king of his people.
And whom they might teach - That they might be better qualified for the duties to which they might be called. The purpose was, doubtless (see analysis), to bring forward their talent, that it might contribute to the splendor of the Chaldean court; but as they were, doubtless, ignorant to a great extent of the language of the Chaldeans, and as there were sciences in which the Chaldeans were supposed to excel, it seemed desirable that they should have all the advantage which could be delayed from a careful training under the best masters.
The learning - - ספר sêpher. literally, "writing" Isaiah 29:11-12. Gesenius supposes that this means the "writing" of the Chaldeans; or that they might be able to read the language of the Chaldeans. But it, doubtless, included "the knowledge" of what was written, as well as the ability "to read" what was written; that is, the purpose was to instruct them in the sciences which were understood among the Chaldeans. They were distinguished chiefly for such sciences as these:
(1) Astronomy. This science is commonly supposed to have had its orion on the plains of Babylon, and it was early carried there to as high a degree of perfection as it attained in any of the ancient nations. Their mild climate, and their employment as shepherds, leading them to pass much of their time at night under the open heavens, gave them the opportunity of observing the stars, and they amused themselves in marking their positions and their changes, and in mapping out the heavens in a variety of fanciful figures, now called constellations.
(2) Astrology. This was at first a branch of astronomy, or was almost identical with it, for the stars were studied principally to endeavor to ascertain what influence they exerted over the fates of men, and especially what might be predicted from their position, on the birth of an individual, as to his future life. Astrology was then deemed a science whose laws were to be ascertained in the same way as the laws of any other science; and the world has been slow to disabuse itself of the notion that the stars exert an influence over the fates of men. Even Lord Bacon held that it was a science to be "reformed," not wholly rejected.
(3) Magic; soothsaying; divination; or whatever would contribute to lay open the future, or disclose the secrets of the invisible world. Hence, they applied themselves to the interpretation of dreams; they made use of magical arts, probably employing, as magicians do, some of the ascertained results of science in producing optical illusions, impressing the common with the belief that they were familiar with the secrets of the invisible world; and hence, the name "Chaldean" and "magician" became almost synonymous terms Daniel 2:2; Daniel 4:7; Daniel 5:7.
(4) It is not improbable that they had made advances in other sciences, but of this we have little knowledge. They knew little of the true laws of astronomy, geology, cheministry, electricity, mathematics; and in these, and in kindred departments of science, they may be supposed to have been almost wholly ignorant.
And the tongue of the Chaldeans - In regard to the "Chaldeans," see the notes at Job 1:17; and the notes at Isaiah 23:13. The kingdom of Babylon was composed mainly of Chaldeans, and that kingdom was called "the realm of the Chaldeans" Daniel 9:1. Of that realm, or kingdom, Babylon was the capital. The origin of the Chaldeans has been a subject of great perplexity, on which there is still a considerable variety of opinions. According to Heeren, they came from the North; by Gesenius they are supposed to have come from the mountains of Kurdistan; and by Michaelis, from the steppes of Scythia. They seem to have been an extended race, and probably occupied the whole of the region adjacent to what became Babylonia. Heeren expresses his opinion as to their origin in the following language: "It cannot be doubted that, at some remote period, antecedent to the commencement of historical records. "one mighty race" possessed these vast plains, varying in character according to the country which they inhabited; in the deserts of Arabia, pursuing a nomad life; in Syria, applying themselves to agriculture, and taking up settled abodes; in Babylonia, erecting the most magnificent cities of ancient times; and in Phoenicia, opening the earliest ports, and constructing fleets, which secured to them the commerce of the known world."
There exists at the present time, in the vicinity of the Bahrein Islands, and along the Persian Gulf, in the neighborhood of the Astan River, an Arab tribe, of the name of the "Beni Khaled," who are probably the same people as the "Gens Chaldei" of Pliny, and doubtless the descendants of the ancient race of the Chaldeans. On the question when they became a kingdom, or realm, making Babylon their capital, see the notes at Isaiah 23:13. Compare, for an interesting discussion of the subject, "Forster's Historical Geography of Arabia," vol. i. pp. 49-56. The language of the Chaldeans, in which a considerable part of the book of Daniel is written (see the Introduction Section IV., III.), differed from the Hebrew, though it was a branch of the same Aramean family of languages. It was, indeed, very closely allied to the Hebrew, but was so different that those who were acquainted with only one of the two languages could not understand the other. Compare Nehemiah 8:8. Both were the offspring of the original Shemitish language. This original language may be properly reduced to three great branches:
And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.
And the king appointed them - Calvin supposes that this arrangement was resorted to in order to render them effeminate, and, by a course of luxurious living, to induce them gradually to forget their own country, and that with the same view their names were changed. But there is no evidence that this was the object. The purpose was manifestly to train them in the manner in which it was supposed they would be best fitted, in bodily health, in personal beauty, and in intellectual attainments, to appear at court; and it was presumed that the best style of living which the realm furnished would conduce to this end. That the design was not to make them effeminate, is apparent from Daniel 1:15.
A daily provision - Hebrew, "The thing of a day in his day;" that is, he assigned to them each day a portion of what had been prepared for the royal meal. It was not a permanent provision, but one which was made each day. The word rendered "provision" - פת path - means a bit, "crumb," "morsel," Genesis 18:5; Judges 19:5; Psalm 147:17.
Of the king's meat - The word "meat" here means "food," as it does uniformly in the Bible, the Old English word having this signification when the translation was made, and not being limited then, as it is now, to animal food. The word in the original - בג bag - is of Persian origin, meaning "food." The two words are frequently compounded - פתבג pathebag Daniel 1:5, Daniel 1:8, Daniel 1:13, Daniel 1:15-16; Daniel 11:26; and the compound means delicate food, dainties; literally, food of the father, i. e., the king; or, according to Lorsbach, in Archiv. f. "Morgenl." Litt. II., 313, food for idols, or the gods; - in either case denoting delicate food; luxurious living. - Gesenius, "Lex."
And of the wine which he drank - Margin, "of his drink." Such wine as the king was accustomed to drink. It may be presumed that this was the best kind of wine. From anything that appears, this was furnished to them in abundance; and with the leisure which they had, they could hardly be thrown into stronger temptation to excessive indulgence.
So nourishing them three years - As long as was supposed to be necessary in order to develop their physical beauty and strength, and to make them well acquainted with the language and learning of the Chaldeans. The object was to prepare them to give as much dignity and ornament to the court as possible.
That at the end thereof they might stand before the king - Notes, Daniel 1:4. On the arrangements made to bring forward these youths, the editor of the "Pictorial Bible" makes the following remarks, showing the correspondence between these arrangements and what usually occurs in the East: "There is not a single intimation which may not be illustrated from the customs of the Turkish seraglio until some alterations were made in this, as in other matters, by the present sultan (Mahmoud). The pages of the seraglio, and officers of the court, as well as the greater part of the public functionaries and governors of provinces, were originally Christian boys, taken captive in war, or bought or stolen in time of peace. The finest and most capable of these were sent to the palace, and, if accepted, were placed under the charge of the chief of the white eunuchs. The lads did not themselves become eunuchs; which we notice, because it has been erroneously inferred, that Daniel and the other Hebrew youths "must" have been made eunuchs, "because" they were committed to the care of the chief eunuch.
The accepted lads were brought up in the religion of their masters; and there were schools in the palace where they received such complete instruction in Turkish learning and science as it was the lot of few others to obtain. Among their accomplishments we find it mentioned, that the greatest pains were taken to teach them to speak the Turkish language (a foreign one to them) with the greatest purity, as spoken at court. Compare this with "Teach them the learning and tongue of the Chaldeans." The lads were clothed very neatly, and well, but temperately dieted. They slept in large chambers, where there were rows of beds. Every one slept separately; and between every third or fourth bed lay a white eunuch, who served as a sort of guard, and was bound to keep a careful eye upon the lads near him, and report his observations to his superior. When any of them arrived at a proper age, they were instructed in military exercises, and pains taken to make them active, robust, and brave.
Every one, also, according to the custom of the country, was taught some mechanical or liberal art, to serve him as a resource in adversity. When their education was completed in all its branches, those who had displayed the most capacity and valor were employed about the person of the king, and the rest given to the service of the treasury, and the other offices of the extensive establishment to which they belonged. In due time the more talented or successful young men got promoted to the various high court offices which gave them access to the private apartments of the seraglio, so that they at almost any time could see and speak to their great master. This advantage soon paved the way for their promotion to the government of provinces, and to military commands; and it has often happened that favorite court officers have stepped at once into the post of grand vizier, or chief minister, and other high offices of state, without having previously been abroad in the world as pashas and military commanders. How well this agrees to, and illustrates the usage of the Babylonian court, will clearly appear to the reader without particular indication. See Habesci's "Ottoman Empire;" Tavernier's "Relation de l'Interieur du Srail du Grand Seigneur."
Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah:
Now among these were of the children of Judah - That is, these were a part of those who were selected. They are mentioned because they became so prominent in the transactions which are subsequently recorded in this book, and because they evinced such extraordinary virtue in the development of the principles in which they had been trained, and in the remarkable trials through which they were called to pass. It does not appear that they are mentioned here particularly on account of any distinction of birth or rank, for though they were among the noble and promising youth of the land, yet it is clear that others of the same rank and promise also were selected, Daniel 1:3. The phrase "the children of Judah" is only another term to denote that they were Hebrews. They belonged to the tribe, or the kingdom of Judah.
Daniel - This name (דניאל dânı̂yê'l) means properly "judge of God;" that is, one who acts as judge in the name of God. Why this name was given to him is not known. We cannot, however, fail to be struck with its appropriateness, as the events of his life showed. Nor is it known whether he belonged to the royal family, or to the nobles of the land, but as the selection was made from that class it is probable. Those who were at first carried into captivity were selected exclusively from the more elevated classes of society, and there is every reason to believe that Daniel belonged to a family of rank and consequence. The Jews say that he was of the royal family, and was descended from Hezekiah, and cite his history in confirmation of the prophecy addressed by Isaiah to that monarch, "Of thy sons which shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon," Isaiah 39:7. Compare Introduction Section I.
Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah - Of the rank and early history of these young men nothing is known. They became celebrated for their refusal to worship the golden image set up by Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel 3:12, following.
Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.
Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names - This practice is common in Oriental courts. "The captive youths referred to in the notes on Daniel 1:5, in the Turkish court also receive new names, that is, Mahometan names, their former names being Christian." - "Pict. Bible." It is "possible" that this changing of their names may have been designed to make them forget their country, and their religion, and to lead them more entirely to identify themselves with the people in whose service they were now to be employed, though nothing of this is intimated in the history. Such a change, it is easy to conceive, might do much to make them feel that they were identified with the people among whom they were adopted, and to make them forget the customs and opinions of their own country. It is a circumstance which may give some additional probability to this supposition, that it is quite a common thing now at missionary stations to give new names to the children who are taken into the boarding-schools, and especially the names of the Christian benefactors at whose expense they are supported. Compare the same general character, for this change of names may have been, that the name of the true God constituted a part of their own names, and that thus they were constantly reminded of him and his worship. In the new names given them, the appellation of some of the idols worshipped in Babylon was incorporated, and this might serve as remembrancers of the divinities to whose service it was doubtless the intention to win them.
For he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar - The name Belteshazzar (בלטשׁאצר bêlṭesha'tstsar) is compounded of two words, and means according to Gesenius, "Bel's prince;" that is, he whom Bel favors. "Bel" was the principal divinity worshipped at Babylon (notes, Isaiah 46:1), and this name would, therefore, be likely to impress the youthful Daniel with the idea that he was a favorite of this divinity, and to attract him to his service. It was a flattering distinction that he was one of the favorites of the principal god worshipped in Babylon, and this was not improbably designed to turn his attention from the God whose name had been incorporated in his own. The giving of this name seemed to imply, in the apprehension of Nebuchadnezzar, that the spirit of the gods was in him on whom it was conferred. See Daniel 4:8-9.
And to Hananiah, of Shadrach - The name "Hananiah" (חנניה chănanyâh) means, "whom Jehovah has graciously given," and is the same with Ananias (Greek, Ανανίας Ananias), and would serve to remind its possessor of the name of "Jehovah," and of his mercy. The name Shadrach (שׁדרך shadrak), according to Lorsbach, means "young friend of the king;" according to Bohlen, it means "rejoicing in the way," and this last signification is the one which Gesenius prefers. In either signification it would contribute to a forgetfulness of the interesting significancy of the former name, and tend to obliterate the remembrance of the early training in the service of Jehovah.
And to Mishael, of Meshach - The name "Mishael" (מישׁאל mı̂yshâ'êl) means, "who is what God is?" - from מי mı̂y "who," שׁ sha "what," and אל ēl "God." It would thus be a remembrancer of the greatness of God; of his supremacy over all his creatures, and of his "incomparable" exaltation over the universe. The signification of the name "Meshach" (מישׁך mêyshak) is less known. The Persian word ovicula means a little sheep (Gesenius), but why this name was given we are not informed. Might it have been on account of his beauty, his gentleness, his lamb-like disposition? If so, nothing perhaps would be better fitted to turn away the thoughts from the great God and his service to himself.
And to Azariah, of Abednego - The name "Azaziah" (עזריה ‛ăzaryâh) means, "whom Jehovah helps," from עזר ‛âzar "to help," and יה yâh, the same as "Jah" (a shortened form of Jehovah, יהוה yehovâh), This name, therefore, had a striking significancy, and would be a constant remembrancer of the true God, and of the value of his favor and protection. The name Abed-nego (עבד נגו ‛ăbêd negô) means, "a servant of Nego," or perhaps of "Nebo" - נבו nebô. This word "Nebo," among the Chaldeans, probably denoted the planet Mercury. This planet was worshipped by them, and by the Arabs, as the celestial scribe or writer. See the notes at Isaiah 46:1. The Divine worship paid to this planet by the Chaldeans is attested, says Gesenius, by the many compound proper names of which this name forms a part; as Nebuchadnezzar, Nebushasban, and others mentioned in classic writers; as Nabonedus, Nabonassar, Nabonabus, etc. This change of name, therefore, was designed to denote a consecration to the service of this idol-god, and the change was eminently adapted to make him to whom it was given forget the true God, to whom, in earlier days, he had been devoted. It was only extraordinary grace which could have kept these youths in the paths of their early training, and in the faithful service of that God to whom they had been early consecrated, amidst the temptations by which they were now surrounded in a foreign land, and the influences which were employed to alienate them from the God of their fathers.
But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
But Daniel purposed in his heart - Evidently in concurrence with the youths who had been selected with him. See Daniel 1:11-13. Daniel, it seems, formed this as a "decided" purpose, and "meant" to carry it into effect, as a matter of principle, though he designed to secure his object, if possible, by making a request that he might be "allowed" to pursue that course Daniel 1:12, and wished not to give offence, or to provoke opposition. What would have been the result if he had not obtained permission we know not; but the probability is, that he would have thrown himself upon the protection of God, as he afterward did Daniel 6, and would have done what he considered to be duty, regardless of consequences. The course which he took saved him from the trial, for the prince of the eunuchs was willing to allow him to make the experiment, Daniel 1:14. It is always better, even where there is decided principle, and a settled purpose in a matter, to obtain an object by a peaceful request, than to attempt to secure it by violence.
That he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat - Notes, Daniel 1:5. The word which is rendered "defile himself" - יתגאל yı̂thegâ'al from גאל gā'al - is commonly used in connection with "redemption," its first and usual meaning being to redeem, to ransom. In later Hebrew, however, it means, to be defiled; to be polluted, to be unclean. The "connection" between these significations of the word is not apparent, unless, as redemption was accomplished with the shedding of blood, rendering the place where it was shed defiled, the idea came to be permanently attached to the word. The defilement here referred to in the case of Daniel probably was, that by partaking of this food he might, in some way, be regarded as countenancing idolatry, or as lending his sanction to a mode of living which was inconsistent with his principles, and which was perilous to his health and morals. The Syriac renders this simply, "that he would not eat," without implying that there would be defilement.
Nor with the wine which he drank - As being contrary to his principles, and perilous to his morals and happiness.
Therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself - That he might be permitted to abstain from the luxuries set before him. It would seem from this, that he represented to the prince of the eunuchs the real danger which he apprehended, or the real cause why he wished to abstain - that he would regard the use of these viands as contrary to the habits which he had formed, as a violation of the principles of his religion; and as, in his circumstances, wrong as well as perilous. This he presented as a "request." He asked it, therefore, as a favor, preferring to use mild and gentle means for securing the object, rather than to put himself in the attitude of open resistance to the wishes of the monarch. What "reasons" influenced him to choose this course, and to ask to be permitted to live on a more temperate and abstemious diet, we are not informed. Assuming, however, what is apparent from the whole narrative, that he had been educated in the doctrines of the true religion, and in the principles of temperance, it is not difficult to conceive what reasons "would" influence a virtuous youth in such circumstances, and we cannot be in much danger of error in suggesting the following:
(1) It is not improbable that the food which was offered him had been, in some way, connected with idolatry, and that his participation in it would be construed as countenancing the worship of idols. - Calvin. It is known that a part of the animals offered in sacrifice was sold in the market; and known, also, that splendid entertainments were often made in honor of particular idols, and on the sacrifices which had been offered to them. Compare 1 Corinthians 8:1-13. Doubtless, also, a considerable part of the food which was served up at the royal table consisted of articles which, by the Jewish law, were prohibited as unclean. It was represented by the prophets, as one part of the evils of a captivity in a foreign land, that the people would be under a necessity of eating what was regarded as unclean. Thus, in Ezekiel 4:13 : "And the Lord said, Even thus shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, whither I will drive them." Hosea 9:3 : "they shall not dwell in the Lord's land, but Ephraim shall return to Egypt; and shall eat unclean things in Assyria." Rosenmuller remarks on this passage ("Alte u. neue Morgenland," 1076), "It was customary among the ancients to bring a portion of what was eaten and drank as an offering to the gods, as a sign of thankful recognition that all which men enjoy is their gift. Among the Romans these gifts were called "libamina," so that with each meal there was connected an act of offering. Hence Daniel and his friends regarded what was brought from the royal table as food which had been offered to the gods, and therefore as impure."
(2) Daniel and his friends were, doubtless, restrained from partaking of the food and drink offered to them by a regard to the principles of temperance in which they had been educated, and by a fear of the consequences which would follow from indulgence. They had evidently been trained in the ways of strict temperance. But now new scenes opened to them, and new temptations were before them. They were among strangers. They were noticed and flattered. They had an opportunity of indulging in the pleasures of the table, such as captive youth rarely enjoyed. This opportunity, there can be no doubt, they regarded as a temptation to their virtue, and as in the highest degree perilous to their principles, and they, therefore, sought to resist the temptation. They were captives - exiles from their country - in circumstances of great depression and humiliation, and they did not wish to forget that circumstance. - Calvin. Their land was in ruins; the temple where they and their fathers had worshipped had been desecrated and plundered; their kindred and countrymen were pining in exile; everything called them to a mode of life which would be in accordance with these melancholy facts, and they, doubtless, felt that it would be in every way inappropriate for them to indulge in luxurious living, and revel in the pleasures of a banquet.
But they were also, doubtless, restrained from these indulgences by a reference to the dangers which would follow. It required not great penetration or experience, indeed, to perceive, that in their circumstances - young men as they were, suddenly noticed and honored - compliance would be perilous to their virtue; but it did require uncommon strength of principle to meet the temptation. Rare has been the stern virtue among young men which could resist so strong allurements; seldom, comparatively, have those who have been unexpectedly thrown, in the course of events, into the temptations of a great city in a foreign land, and flattered by the attention of those in the higher walks of life, been sufficiently firm in principle to assert the early principles of temperance and virtue in which they may have been trained. Rare has it been that a youth in such circumstances would form the steady purpose not to "defile himself" by the tempting allurements set before him, and that, at all hazards, he would adhere to the principles in which he had been educated.
Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.
Now God had brought Daniel into favor - Compare Genesis 39:21; Proverbs 16:7. By what means this had been done is not mentioned. It may be presumed, however, that it was by the attractiveness of his person and manners, and by the evidence of promising talent which he had evinced. Whatever were the means, however, two things are worthy of notice:
(1) The effect of this on the subsequent fortunes of Daniel. It was to him a great advantage, that by the friendship of this man he was enabled to carry out the purposes of temperance and religion which he had formed, without coming in conflict with those who were in power.
(2) God was the author of the favor which was thus shown to Daniel. It was by a controlling influence which he exerted, that this result had been secured, and Daniel traced it directly to him. We may hence learn that the favor of others toward us is to be traced to the hand of God, and if we are prospered in the world, and are permitted to enjoy the friendship of those who have it in their power to benefit us, though it may be on account of our personal qualifications, we should learn to attribute it all to God. There would have been great reason to apprehend beforehand, that the refusal of Daniel and his companions to partake of the food prepared for them would have been construed as an affront offered to the king, especially if it was understood to be on the ground that they regarded it as "defilement" or "pollution" to partake of it; but God overruled it all so as to secure the favor of those in power.
And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king.
And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king - He was apprehensive that if Daniel appeared less healthful, or cheerful, or beautiful, than it was supposed he would under the prescribed mode of life, it would be construed as disobedience of the commands of the king on his part, and that it would be inferred that the wan and emaciated appearance of Daniel was caused by the fact that the food which had been ordered had not been furnished, but had been embezzled by the officer who had it in charge. We have only to remember the strict and arbitrary nature of Oriental monarchies to see that there were just grounds for the apprehensions here expressed.
For why should he see your faces worse liking - Margin, "sadder." The Hebrew word (זעפים zo‛ăpı̂ym) means, properly, angry; and then morose, gloomy, sad. The primary idea seems to be, that of "any" painful, or unpleasant emotion of the mind which depicts itself on the countenance - whether anger, sorrow, envy, lowness of spirits, etc. Greek, σκυθρωπὰ skuthrōpa - stern, gloomy, sad, Matthew 6:16; Luke 24:17. Here the reference is not to the expression of angry feelings in the countenance, but to the countenance as fallen away by fasting, or poor living. "Than the children." The youths, or young men. The same word is here used which occurs in Daniel 1:4. Compare the note at that verse.
Which are of your sort - Margin, "term," or "continuance." The Hebrew word here used (גיל gı̂yl) means, properly, a circle, or circuit; hence an age, and then the men of an age, a generation. - "Gesenius." The word is not used, however, in the Scriptures elsewhere in this sense. Elsewhere it is rendered "joy," or "rejoicing," Job 3:22; Psalm 43:4; Psalm 45:15; Psalm 65:12; Proverbs 23:24; Isaiah 16:10; Isaiah 35:2; Isaiah 65:18; Jeremiah 48:33; Hosea 9:1; Joel 1:16. This meaning it has from the usual sense of the verb (גיל gı̂yl) "to exult," or "rejoice." The verb properly means, to move in a circle; then to "dance" in a circle; and then to exult or rejoice. The word "circle," as often used now to denote those of a certain class, rank, or character, would accurately express the sense here. Thus we speak of those in the "religious" circles, in the social circles, etc. The reference here is to those of the same class with Daniel; to wit, in the arrangements made for presenting them before the king. Greek, συνήλικα ὑμῶν sunēlika humōn, of your age.
Then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king - As if he had disregarded the orders given him, or had embezzled what had been provided for these youths, and had furnished them with inferior fare. In the arbitrary courts of the East, nothing would be more natural than that such an apparent failure in the performance of what was enjoined would peril his life. The word used here, and rendered "make me endanger" - חוב chûb - occurs nowhere else in the Bible. It means, in Piel, to make guilty; to cause to forfeit. Greek, καταδικάσητε katadikasēte - you will condemn, or cause me to be condemned.
Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,
Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel ... - Margin, or, the "steward." It is not easy to determine whether the word here used (מלצר meltsâr) is to be regarded as a proper name, or the name of an office. It occurs nowhere else, except in Daniel 1:16, applied to the same person. Gesenius regards it as denoting the name of an office in the Babylonian court - master of the wine, chief butler. Others regard it as meaning a treasurer. The word is still in use in Persia. The Vulgate renders it as a proper name - Malasar; and so the Syriac - Meshitzar; and so the Greek - Ἀμελσὰδ Amelsad. The use of the article in the word (המלצר hameltsâr) would seem to imply that it denoted the name of an "office," and nothing would be more probable than that the actual furnishing of the daily portion of food would be entrusted to a steward, or to some incumbent of an office inferior to that sustained by Ashpenaz, Daniel 1:3.
Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink.
Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days - A period which would indicate the probable result of the entire experiment. If during that period there were no indications of diminished health, beauty, or vigour, it would not be unfair to presume that the experiment in behalf of temperance would be successful, and it would not be improper then to ask that it might be continued longer.
And let them give us pulse to eat - Margin, "of pulse that we may eat." Hebrew, "Let them give us of pulse, and we will eat." The word "pulse" with us means leguminous plants with thin seeds; that is, plants with a pericarp, or seed-vessel, of two valves, having the seeds fixed to one suture only. In popular language the "legume" is called a "pod;" as a "pea-pod," or "bean-pod," and the word is commonly applied to peas or beans. The Hebrew word (זרעים zēro‛ı̂ym) would properly have reference to seeds of any kind - from זרע zâra‛, to disperse, to scatter seed, to sow. Then it would refer to plants that bear seed, of all kinds, and would be by no means limited to pulse - as pease or beans. It is rendered by Gesenius, "seed-herbs, greens, vegetables; i. e., vegetable food, such as was eaten in half-fast, opposed to meats and the more delicate kinds of food." The word occurs only here and in Daniel 1:16. It is rendered in the Vulgate, "legumina;" and in the Greek, ἀπὸ τῶν σπερμάτων apo tōn spermatōn - "from seeds." It is not a proper construction to limit this to "pulse," or to suppose that Daniel desired to live solely on pease or beans; but the fair interpretation is to apply it to what grows up from "seeds" - such, probably, as would be sown in a garden, or, as we would now express it, "vegetable diet." It was designed as an experiment - and was a very interesting one - to show the legitimate effect of such a diet in promoting beauty and health, and the result is worthy of special notice as contrasted with a more luxurious mode of life.
And water to drink - This, also, was a most interesting and important experiment, to show that wine was not necessary to produce healthfulness of appearance, or manly strength and beauty. It was an experiment to illustrate the effect of "cold water" as a beverage, made by an interesting group of young men, when surrounded by great temptations, and is, therefore, worthy of particular attention.
Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king's meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants.
Then let our countenances be looked upon - One of the "objects" to be secured by this whole trial was to promote their personal beauty, and their healthful appearance Daniel 1:4-5, and Daniel was willing that the trial should be made with reference to that, and that a judgment should be formed from the observed effect of their temperate mode of life. The Hebrew word rendered countenance (מראה mar'eh) is not limited to the "face," as the word countenance is with us. It refers to the whole appearance, the form, the "looks;" and the expression here is equivalent to, "Then look on us, and see what the result has been, and deal with us accordingly" The Greek is, αἱ ἰδέαι ἡμῶν hai ideai hēmōn - our appearance.
Of the children - Youths; young men. Notes, Daniel 1:4. The reference is, probably, to the Chaldean youths who were trained up amidst the luxuries of the court. It is possible, however, that the reference is to Hebrew youths who were less scrupulous than Daniel and his companions.
And as thou seest, deal with thy servants - As the result shall be. That is, let us be presented at court, and promoted or not, as the result of our mode of living shall be. What the effect would have been if there had been a failure, we are not informed. Whether it would have endangered their lives, or whether it would have been merely a forfeiture of the proffered honors and advantages, we have no means of determining. It is evident that Daniel had no apprehension as to the issue.
So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days.
So he consented to them in this matter - Hebrew, "he heard them in this thing." The experiment was such, since it was to be for so short a time, that he ran little risk in the matter, as at the end of the ten days he supposed that it would be easy to change their mode of diet if the trial was unsuccessful.
And 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.
And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer - Hebrew, "good;" that is, they appeared more beautiful and healthful. The experiment was successful. There was no diminution of beauty, of vigour, or of the usual indications of health. One of the results of a course of temperance appears in the countenance, and it is among the wise appointments of God that it should be so. He has so made us, that while the other parts of the body may be protected from the gaze of men, it is necessary that the "face" should be exposed. Hence, he has made the countenance the principal scat of expression, for the chief muscles which indicate expression have their location there. See the valuable work of Sir Charles Bell on the "Anatomy of Expression," London, 1844. Hence, there are certain marks of guilt and vice which always are indicated in the countenance. God has so made us that the drunkard and the glutton must proclaim their own guilt and shame.
The bloated face, the haggard aspect, the look of folly, the "heaviness of the eye, the disposition to squint, and to see double, and a forcible elevation of the eyebrow to counteract the dropping of the upper eyelid, and preserve the eyes from closing," are all marks which God has appointed to betray and expose the life of indulgence. "Arrangements are made for these expressions in the very anatomy of the face, and no art of man can prevent it." - Bell on the "Anatomy of Expression," p. 106. God meant that if man "would" be intemperate he should himself proclaim it to the world, and that his fellow-men should be apprised of his guilt. This was intended to be one of the safeguards of virtue. The young man who will be intemperate "knows" what the result must be. He is apprised of it in the loathsome aspect of every drunkard whom he meets. He knows that if he yields himself to indulgence in intoxicating drink, he must soon proclaim it himself to the wide world.
No matter how beautiful, or fresh, or blooming, or healthful, he may now be; no matter how bright the eye, or ruddy the cheek, or eloquent the tongue; the eye, and the cheek, and the tongue will soon become indices of his manner of life, and the loathsomeness and offensiveness of the once beautiful and blooming countenance must pay the penalty of his folly. And in like manner, and for the same reason, the countenance is an indication of temperance and purity. The bright and steady eye, the blooming cheek, the lips that eloquently or gracefully utter the sentiments of virtue, proclaim the purity of the life, and are the natural indices to our fellow-men that we live in accordance with the great and benevolent laws of our nature, and are among the rewards of temperance and virtue.
Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.
Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat ... - Doubtless permanently. The experiment had been satisfactory, and it was inferred that if the course of temperance could be practiced for ten days without unhappy results, there would be safety in suffering it to be continued. We may remark on this:
I. That the experiment was a most important one, not only for the object then immediately in view, but for furnishing lessons of permanent instruction adapted to future times. It was worth one such trial, and it was desirable to have one such illustration of the effect of temperance recorded. There are so strong propensities in our nature to indulgence; there are so many temptations set before the young; there is so much that allures in a luxurious mode of life, and so much of conviviality and happiness is supposed to be connected with the social glass, that it was well to have a fair trial made, and that the result should be recorded for the instruction of future times.
II. It was especially desirable that the experiment should be made of the effect of strict abstinence from the use of "wine." Distilled liquors were indeed then unknown; but alcohol, the intoxicating principle in all ardent spirits, then existed, as it does now, in wine, and was then, as it is now, of the same nature as when found in other substances. It was in the use of wine that the principal danger of intemperance then lay; and it may be added, that in reference to a very large class of persons of both sexes, it is in the use of wine that the principal danger always lies. There are multitudes, especially of young men, who are in little or no danger of becoming intemperate from the use of the stronger kinds of intoxicating drinks. They would never "begin" with them. But the use of "wine" is so respectable in the view of the upper classes of society; it is deemed so essential to the banquet; it constitutes so much, apparently, a mark of distinction, from the fact that ordinarily only the rich can afford to indulge in it; its use is regarded extensively as so proper for even refined and delicate females, and is so often sanctioned by their participating in it; it is so difficult to frame an argument against it that will be decisive; there is so much that is plausible that may be said in favor or in justification of its use, and it is so much sanctioned by the ministers of religion, and by those of influence in the churches, that one of the principal dangers of the young arises from the temptation to indulgence in wine, and it was well that there should be a fair trial of the comparative benefit of total abstinence. A trial could scarcely have been made under better circumstances than in the case before us. There was every inducement to indulgence which is ever likely to occur; there was as much to make it a mere matter of "principle" to abstain from it as can be found now in any circumstances, and the experiment was as triumphant and satisfactory as could be desired.
III. The result of the experiment.
(a) It was complete and satisfactory. "More" was accomplished in the matter of the trial by abstinence than by indulgence. Those who abstained were more healthful, more beautiful, more vigorous than the others. And there was nothing miraculous - nothing that occurred in that case which does not occur in similar cases. Sir John Chardin remarks, respecting those whom he had seen in the East, "that the countenances of the kechicks (monks) are in fact more rosy and smooth than those of others; and that those who fast much, I mean the Armenians and the Greeks, are, notwithstanding, very beautiful, sparkling with health, with a clear and lively countenance." He also takes notice of the very great abstemiousness of the Brahmins in the Indies, who lodge on the ground, abstain from music, from all sorts of agreeable smells, who go very meanly clothed, are almost always wet, either by going into water, or by rain; "yet," says he, "I have seen also many of them very handsome and healthful." Harmer's "Observa." ii. pp. 112, 113.
(b) The experiment has often been made, and with equal success, in modern times, and especially since the commencement of the temperance reformation, and an opportunity has been given of furnishing the most decisive proofs of the effects of temperance in contrast with indulgence in the use of wine and of other intoxicating drinks. This experiment has been made on a wide scale, and with the same result. It is demonstrated, as in the case of Daniel, that "more" will be secured of what men are so anxious usually to obtain, and of what it is desirable to obtain, than can be by indulgence.
(1) There will be "more" beauty of personal appearance. Indulgence in intoxicating drinks leaves its traces on the countenance - the skin, the eye, the nose, the whole expression - as God "meant" it should. See the notes at Daniel 1:15. No one can hope to retain beauty of complexion or countenance who indulges freely in the use of intoxicating drinks.
(2) "More" clearness of mind and intellectual vigour can be secured by abstinence than by indulgence. It is true that, as was often the case with Byron and Burns, stimulating drinks may excite the mind to brilliant temporary efforts; but the effect soon ceases, and the mind makes a compensation for its over-worked powers by sinking down below its proper level as it had been excited above. It will demand a penalty in the exhausted energies, and in the incapacity for even its usual efforts, and unless the exhausting stimulus be again applied, it cannot rise even to its usual level, and when often applied the mind is divested of "all" its elasticity and vigour; the physical frame loses its power to endure the excitement; and the light of genius is put out, and the body sinks to the grave. He who wishes to make the most of his mind "in the long run," whatever genius he may be endowed with, will be a temperate man. His powers will be retained uniformly at a higher elevation, and they will maintain their balance and their vigour longer.
(3) the same is true in regard to everything which requires vigour of body. The Roman soldier, who carried his eagle around the world, and who braved the dangers of every clime - equally bold and vigorous, and hardy, and daring amidst polar snows, and the burning sands of the equator - was a stranger to intoxicating drinks. He was allowed only vinegar and water, and his extraordinary vigour was the result of the most abstemious fare. The wrestlers in the Olympic and Isthmian games, who did as much to give suppleness, vigour, and beauty to the body, as could be done by the most careful training, abstained from the use of wine and all that would enervate. Since the temperance reformation commenced in this land, the experiment has been made in every way possible, and it has been "settled" that a man will do more work, and do it better; that he can bear more fatigue, can travel farther, can better endure the severity of cold in the winter, and of toil in the heat of summer, by strict temperance, than he can if he indulges in the use of intoxicating drinks. Never was the result of an experiment more uniform than this has been; never has there been a case where the testimony of those who have had an opportunity of witnessing it was more decided and harmonious; never was there a question in regard to the effect of a certain course on health in which the testimony of physicians has been more uniform; and never has there been a question in regard to the amount of labor which a man could do, on which the testimony of respectable farmers, and master mechanics, and overseers of public works, could be more decided.
(4) the full force of these remarks about temperance in general, applies to the use of "wine." It was in respect to "wine" that the experiment before us was made, and it is this which gives it, in a great degree, its value and importance. Distilled spirits were then unknown, but it was of importance that a fair experiment should be made of the effect of abstinence from wine. The great danger of intemperance, taking the world at large, has been, and is still, from the use of wine. This danger affects particularly the upper classes in society and young men. It is by the use of wine, in a great majority of instances, that the peril commences, and that the habit of drinking is formed. Let it be remembered, also, that the intoxicating principle is the same in wine as in any other drink that produces intemperance. It is "alcohol" - the same substance precisely, whether it be driven off by heat from wine, beer, or cider, and condensed by distillation, or whether it remain in these liquids without being distilled. It is neither more nor less intoxicating in one form than it is in the other. It is only more condensed and concentrated in one case than in the other, better capable of preservation, and more convenient for purposes of commerce. Every "principle," therefore, which applies to the temperance cause at all, applies to the use of wine; and every consideration derived from health, beauty, vigour, length of days, reputation, property, or salvation, which should induce a young man to abstain from ardent spirits at all should induce him to abstain, as Daniel did, from the use of wine.
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.
As for these four children - On the word "children," see the notes at Daniel 1:4. Compare Daniel 1:6.
God gave them knowledge and skill - See the notes at Daniel 1:9. There is no reason to suppose that in the "knowledge and skill" here referred to, it is meant to be implied that there was anything miraculous, or that there was any direct inspiration. Inspiration was evidently confined to Daniel, and pertained to what is spoken of under the head of "visions and dreams." The fact that "all" this was to be attributed to God as his gift, is in accordance with the common method of speaking in the Scriptures; and it is also in accordance with "fact," that "all" knowledge is to be traced to God. See Exodus 31:2-3. God formed the intellect; he preserves the exercise of reason; he furnishes us instructors; he gives us clearness of perception; he enables us to take advantage of bright thoughts and happy suggestions which occur in our own minds, as much as he sends rain, and dew, and sunshine on the fields of the farmer, and endows him with skill. Compare Isaiah 28:26, "For his God doth instruct him." The knowledge and skill which we may acquire, therefore, should be as much attributed to God as the success of the farmer should. Compare Job 32:8, "For there is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding." In the case before us, there is no reason to doubt that the natural powers of these young men had been diligently applied during the three years of their trial Daniel 1:5, and under the advantages of a strict course of temperance; and that the knowledge here spoken of was the result of such an application to their studies. On the meaning of the words "knowledge" and "skill" here, see the notes at Daniel 1:4.
In all learning and wisdom - See also the notes at Daniel 1:4.
And Daniel had understanding - Showing that in that respect there was a special endowment in his case; a kind of knowledge imparted which could be communicated only by special inspiration. The margin is, "he made Daniel understand." The margin is in accordance with the Hebrew, but the sense is the same.
In all visions - On the word rendered "visions" - חזון châzôn - see the notes at Isaiah 1:1, and the introduction to Isaiah, Section 7. (4). It is a term frequently employed in reference to prophecy, and designates the usual method by which future events were made known. The prophet was permitted to see those events "as if" they were made to pass before the eye, and to describe them "as if" they were objects of sight. Here the word seems to be used to denote all supernatural appearances; all that God permitted him to see that in any way shadowed forth the future. It would seem that men who were not inspired were permitted occasionally to behold such supernatural appearances, though they were not able to interpret them. Thus their attention would be particularly called to them, and they would be prepared to admit the truth of what the interpreter communicated to them. Compare Daniel 4; Daniel 5:5-6; Genesis 40:5; Genesis 41:1-7. Daniel was so endowed that he could interpret the meaning of these mysterious appearances, and thus convey important messages to men. The same endowment had been conferred on Joseph when in Egypt. See the passages referred to in Genesis.
And dreams - One of the ways by which the will of God was anciently communicated to men. See Introduction to Isaiah, Section 7. (2), and the notes at Job 33:14-18. Daniel, like Joseph before him, was supernaturally endowed to explain these messages which God sent to men, or to unfold these preintimations of coming events. This was a kind of knowledge which the Chaldeans particularly sought, and on which they especially prided themselves; and it was important, in order to "stain the pride of all human glory," and to make "the wisdom of the wise" in Babylon to be seen to be comparative "folly," to endow one man from the land of the prophets in the most ample manner with this knowledge, as it was important to do the same thing at the court of Pharaoh by the superior endowments of Joseph Genesis 41:8.
Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar.
Now at the end of the days ... - After three years. See Daniel 1:5.
The prince of the eunuchs brought them in - Daniel, his three friends, and the others who had been selected and trained for the same purpose.
And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king.
And the king communed with them - Hebrew, "spake with them." Probably he conversed with them on the points which had constituted the principal subjects of their studies; or he "examined" them. It is easy to imagine that this must have been to these young men a severe ordeal.
And among them all was found none like Daniel ... - Daniel and his three friends had pursued a course of strict temperance; they had come to their daily task with clear heads and pure hearts - free from the oppression and lethargy of surfeit, and the excitement of wine; they had prosecuted their studies in the enjoyment of fine health, and with the buoyousness and elasticity of spirit produced by temperance, and they now showed the result of such a course of training. Young men of temperance, other things being equal, will greatly surpass others in their preparation for the duties of life in any profession or calling.
Therefore stood they before the king - It is not said, indeed, that the others were not permitted also to stand before the monarch, but the object of the historian is to trace the means by which "these youths" rose to such eminence and virtue. It is clear, however, that whatever may have been the result on the others, the historian means to say that these young men rose to higher eminence than they did, and were permitted to stand nearer the throne. The phrase "stood before the king," is one which denotes elevated rank. They were employed in honorable offices at the court, and received peculiar marks of the royal favor.
And 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.
And in all matters of wisdom and understanding - Margin, "of." The Hebrew is, "Everything of wisdom of understanding." The Greek, "In all things of wisdom "and" knowledge." The meaning is, in everything which required peculiar wisdom to understand and explain it. The points submitted were such as would appropriately come before the minds of the sages and magicians who were employed as counselors at court.
He found them ten times better - Better counselors, better informed. Hebrew, "ten "hands" above the magicians;" that is, ten "times," or "many" times. In this sense the word "ten" is used in Genesis 31:7, Genesis 31:41; Numbers 14:22; Nehemiah 4:12; Job 19:3. They greatly surpassed them.
Than all the magicians - Greek, τοὺς ἐπαοιδοὺς tous epaoidous. The Greek word means, "those singing to;" then those who propose to heal the sick by singing; then those who practice magical arts or incantations - particularly with the idea of charming with songs; and then those who accomplish anything surpassing human power by mysterious and supernatural means. - Passow. The Hebrew word (הרטמים chareṭummı̂ym), occurs only in the following places in the Scriptures, in all of which it is rendered "magicians:" - Genesis 41:8, Genesis 41:24; Exodus 7:11, Exodus 7:22; Exodus 8:7 (3), 18 (14), 19 (15); Exodus 9:11; Daniel 1:20; Daniel 2:2. From this it appears that it applied only to the magicians in Egypt and in Babylon, and doubtless substantially the same class of persons is referred to. It is found only in the plural number, "perhaps" implying that they formed companies, or that they were always associated together, so that different persons performed different parts in their incantations.
The word is defined by Gesenius to mean, "Sacred scribes, skilled in the sacred writings or hieroglyphics - ἱερογραμματεῖς hierogrammateis - a class of Egyptian priests." It is, according to him (Lex.), of Hebrew origin, and is derived from חרט chereṭ, "stylus" - an instrument of writing, and the formative מ (m). It is not improbable, he suggests, that the Hebrews with these letters imitated a similar Egyptian word. Prof. Stuart (in loc.) says that the word would be correctly translated "pen-men," and supposes that it originally referred to those who were "busied with books and writing, and skilled in them." It is evident that the word is not of Persian origin, since it was used in Egypt long before it occurs in Daniel. A full and very interesting account of the Magians and their religion may be found in Creuzer, "Mythologie und Symbolik," i. pp. 187-234. Herodotus mentions the "Magi" as a distinct people, i.101.
The word "Mag" or "Mog" (from the μάγοι magoi of the Greeks, and the "magi" of the Romans) means, properly, a "priest;" and at a very early period the names "Chaldeans" and "Magi" were interchangeable, and both were regarded as of the same class. - Creuzer, i. 187, note. They were doubtless, at first, a class of priests among the Medes and Persians, who were employed, among other things, in the search for wisdom; who were connected with pagan oracles; who claimed acquaintance with the will of the gods, and who professed to have the power, therefore, of making known future events, by explaining dreams, visions, preternatural appearances, etc. The Magi formed one of the six tribes into which the Medes were formerly divided (Herodotus, i. 101), but on the downfall of the Median empire they continued to retain at the court of the conqueror a great degree of power and authority. "The learning of the Magi was connected with astrology and enchantment, in which they were so celebrated that their name was applied to all orders of magicians and enchanters." - Anthon, "Class. Dic." These remarks may explain the reason why the word "magician" comes to be applied to this class of men, though we are not to suppose that the persons referred to in Genesis and Exodus, under the appellation of the Hebrew name there given to them (הרטמים chareṭummı̂ym), or those found in Babylon, referred to in the passage before us, to whom the same name is applied, were of that class of priests.
The name "magi," or "magician," was so extended as to embrace "all" who made pretensions to the kind of knowledge for which the magi were distinguished, and hence, came also to be synonymous with the "Chaldeans," who were also celebrated for this. Compare the notes at Daniel 2:2. In the passage before us it cannot be determined with certainty, that the persons were of "Magian" origin, though it is possible, as in Daniel 2:2, they are distinguished from the Chaldeans. All that is certainly meant is, that they were persons who laid claim to the power of diving into future events; of explaining mysteries; of interpreting dreams; of working by enchantments, etc.
And astrologers - - האשׁפים hâ'ashâpı̂ym. This word is rendered by the Septuagint, μάγους magous, "magians." So also in the Vulgate, "magos." The English word "astrologer" denotes "one who professes to foretell future events by the aspects and situation of the stars." - Webster. The Hebrew word - אשׁפים 'ashâpı̂ym - according to Gesenius, means "enchanters, magicians." It is derived, probably, from the obsolete root אשׁף 'âshap, "to cover," "to conceal," and refers to those who were devoted to the practice of occult arts, and to the cultivation of recondite and cabalistic sciences. It is supposed by some philologists to have given rise, by dropping the initial א to the Greek σοφος sophos, "wise, wise man," and the Persian sophi, an epithet of equivalent import. See Gesenius on the word, and compare Bush on Daniel 2:2. The word is found only in Daniel, Daniel 1:20; Daniel 2:2, Daniel 2:10, Daniel 2:27; Daniel 4:7 (4); Daniel 5:7, Daniel 5:11, Daniel 5:15, in every instance rendered "astrologer" and "astrologers." There is no evidence, however, that the science of astrology enters into the meaning of the word, or that the persons referred to attempted to pracrise divination by the aid of the stars. It is to be regretted that the term "astrologer" should have been employed in our translation, as it conveys an intimation which is not found in the original. It is, indeed, in the highest degree probable, that a part of their pretended wisdom consisted in their ability to cast the fates of men by the conjunctions and opposition of the stars, but this is not necessarily implied in the word. Prof. Stuart renders it "enchanters."
In all his realm - Not only in the capital, but throughout the kingdom. These arts were doubtless practiced extensively elsewhere, but it is probable that the most skillful in them would be assembled at the capital.
And Daniel continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus.
And Daniel continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus - When the proclamation was issued by him to rebuild the temple at Jerusalem, Ezra 1:1. That is, he continued in influence and authority at different times during that period, and, of course, during the whole of the seventy years captivity. It is not necessarily implied that he did not "live" longer, or even that he ceased then to have influence and authority at court, but the object of the writer is to show that, during that long and eventful period, he occupied a station of influence until the captivity was accomplished, and the royal order was issued for rebuilding the temple. He was among the first of the captives that were taken to Babylon, and he lived to see the end of the captivity - "the joyful day of Jewish freedom." - Prof. Stuart. It is commonly believed that, when the captives returned, he remained in Chaldea, probably detained by his high employments in the Persian empire, and that he died either at Babylon or at Shushan. Compare the Introduction Section I.
In view of the exposition given of this chapter, the following remarks may be made:
(1) There is in every period of the world, and in every place, much obscure and buried talent that might be cultivated and brought to light, as there are many gems in earth and ocean that are yet undiscovered. See the notes at Daniel 1:1-4. Among these captive youths - prisoners of war - in a foreign land, and as yet unknown, there was most rich and varied talent - talent that was destined yet to shine at the court of the most magnificent monarchy of the ancient world, and to be honored as among the brightest that the world has seen. And so in all places and at all times, there is much rich and varied genius which might shine with great brilliancy, and perform important public services, if it were cultivated and allowed to develope itself on the great theater of human affairs. Thus, in obscure rural retreats there may be bright gems of intellect; in the low haunts of vice there may be talent that would charm the world by the beauty of song or the power of eloquence; among slaves there may be mind which, if emancipated, would take its place in the brightest constellations of genius. The great endowments of Moses as a lawgiver, a prophet, a profound statesman, sprang from an enslaved people, as those of Daniel did; and it is not too much to say that the brightest talent of the earth has been found in places of great obscurity, and where, but for some remarkable dispensation of Providence, it might have remained forever unknown. This thought has been immortalized by Gray:
"Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear;
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
"Some village Hampden, that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood;
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest.
Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country's blood."
There is at any time on the earth talent enough created for all that there is to be done in any generation; and there is always enough for talent to accomplish if it were employed in the purposes for which it was originally adapted. There need be at no time any wasted or unoccupied mind; and there need be no great and good plan that should fail for the want of talent fitted to accomplish it, if what actually exists on the earth were called into action.
(2) He does a great service to the world who seeks out such talent, and gives it an opportunity to accomplish what it is fitted to, by furnishing it the means of an education, Daniel 1:3. Nebuchadnezzar, unconsciously, and doubtless undesignedly, did a great service to mankind by his purpose to seek out the talent of the Hebrew captives, and giving it an opportunity to expand and to ripen into usefulness. Daniel has taken his place among the prophets and statesmen of the world as a man of rare endowments, and of equally rare integrity of character. He has, under the leading of the Divine Spirit, done more than most other prophets to lift the mysterious veil which shrouds the future; more than "could" have been done by the penetrating sagacity of all the Burkes, the Cannings, and the Metternichs of the world. So far as human appearances go, all this might have remained in obscurity, if it had not been for the purpose of the Chaldean monarch to bring forward into public notice the obscure talent which lay hid among the Hebrew captives. He always does a good service to mankind who seeks out bright and promising genius, and who gives it the opportunity of developing itself with advantage on the great theater of human affairs.