True Nobility
Daniel 1:3-4
And the king spoke to Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel…


1. They appear to have been nobly born. At all events, if the instructions which Ashpenaz received were literally carried out, that must have been the case. Birth, however, is nothing if it be a man's sole claim upon the esteem of his fellows.

2. But Daniel and his friends were both noble and good, not only of the king's, seed but children of the living God. When one thinks of the temptations to which those of high rank are exposed, it would almost appear that a pious prince is one of the most admirable of men. Of old, man, for his sin, was doomed to labour for his bread in the sweat of his brow. But the curse has proved, in the good providence of God, the greatest boon which fallen man could have bestowed upon him. Let us think with prayerful sympathy of those perils of a life of leisure and temptation to which some by their birth are exposed, while we thank God for our own humbler, and, it may be, safer lot.

3. Then, further, we may gather from the text that the personal appearance of these four young nobles was attractive. They were "children in whom was no blemish, but well-favoured" ( Josephus, Ant. 10; 10, 1). The body, it is true, is only the house which the spirit inhabits. But while the tenant is of infinitely more importance than his dwelling, we have no right to despise either a goodly home or a comely body. If the whole man belongs to God, physical beauty is a gift which the fortunate possessor of it may use for the glory of Him who bestowed it.

4. But the beauty of these young Hebrews was not that of those who have only their faces and forms to recommend them. The powers of their minds were of no mean order (verse 17). Observe here that their knowledge and skill, their learning and wisdom, are directly traced to the hand of the Giver of all good. How apt we are, if we excel our fellows in the matter of intellectual ability, to become proud of our superiority! Ours! It is not ours; it is God's. Did you ever reflect that the mental ability with which a sceptic argues out his conclusions, with which even an atheist seeks to disprove the existence of God, is the glorious gift of God Himself, prostituted to ignoble uses, and turned in defiance against its Maker and Giver? How sure and immovable the truth must be, and how certain, if I may use the expression, must God be of its ultimate triumph, when he allows men to go on year after year using the precious endowments which He has given, and could in a moment take away, for the purpose of endeavouring to overthrow His dominion ever the minds and hearts of their fellows!

5. Once more, here, the story of these comely and accomplished youths touches our deepest sympathies when we read that they were involuntary exiles from their native land. We cannot but think that they loved their country. Who shall, say what sorrows pierced the heart of this young prince, thus, with his companions, doomed to mourn, in the land and at the court of a heathen conqueror, not only his own sad fate, but still more grievously the appalling desolation which had befallen the land of his birth?

II. OF COURSE IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE BUT THAT THESE YOUNG EXILES SHOULD HAVE THEIR FAITH SORELY TRIED. The king, with that lavish and somewhat indelicate kindness so often associated with despotic power, doubtless meant them well. He had not, it is true, consulted their feelings in tearing them away from the land of their birth, but in his rough way he desired to treat them kindly. Yet to partake of the food and drink thus provided was just what they could not do. It was not wine as wine, any more than it was meat as meat, that they refused. Times are changed with us now, and our difficulties are not of the precise nature either of these captive Hebrews, or of the early Christians (1 Corinthians 8). But though customs change and ceremonial observances vanish away, principles abide unchanged for evermore. One of the favourite texts in the unwritten and unholy Bible of the world is, "When you are in Rome you must do as Rome does." Few of us dare to be singular. And yet to be right we must often be singular, not in phraseology, or tone, or look, or garb, but in character and conduct. What would some of us have said if we had been placed in the circumstances described in the text? On the one hand, there was food of the daintiest, wine of the richest; on the other, danger of displeasing the king, and perhaps being cast into an Oriental dungeon. Would it have been a thing to be wondered at if Daniel had reasoned thus; "What does it matter? The notions of our father are antiquated. Moses was well enough in his day, but that day is a long time since. Other times, other manners. It's our policy now to please the king." He would have had his meat and drink, but he would have lost his God, turned his back upon his early faith, forgotten his country, become a Babylonian idolater, and his life, unwritten and unsung, would have sunk into the oblivion which his time-serving cowardice deserved.

(J. R. Bailey.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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;

WEB: The king spoke to Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring in [certain] of the children of Israel, even of the seed royal and of the nobles;

Training for Imperial Office and Work
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