Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Sep 11 2019 - Daniel 1 – Daniel's training in Babylon

We have been reading of the siege and destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians; the failure of the inhabitants to listen to the warnings of God through his prophets that preceded it, and their lament over the suffering of the city that followed its destruction. With the Book of Daniel we take up the story from the perspective of Babylon.

The book starts with the results of the Babylonians siege of Jerusalem. The king of Judah was taken captive and articles from the temple were taken off as trophies to be displayed in the temple of a Babylonian god. Israelites from the royal family and nobles were taken from Jerusalem to be put into the civil service of the king of Babylon. The best of the young Israelite men were chosen for this training and work – fit in body and mind. The king wanted them to remain fit for his service and so provided them with food and wine from his own provisions.

And here we are introduced to four of those young men, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. These were all given Babylonian names.

Some of our family have recently decided to go vegan – to eat only plant based products. We have discovered how challenging it is to find tasty and nourishing recipes to cook for us all to enjoy when they come to eat with us. Well Daniel and his friends went vegan. They decided that they did not want the king's food and wine; they wanted nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. They did not want the Babylonians' food since it would undoubtedly include items which would be prohibited by the Jewish food laws. They also seemed to believe that water would be better for them than wine. The Babylonian official consigned to look after them was troubled by this suggestion. He believed that a diet without good Babylonian meat would leave them weak and prone to illness and that drinking water in the climate of the Middle East would result in sickness – remember the Apostle Paul's advice to Timothy, "Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses" (1 Timothy 5:23). But Daniel wisely suggested that they should be allowed this diet for ten days and for the official to assess their health at the end of that period. This was agreed and after the ten days the four young men "looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food" (Daniel 1:15). So they were allowed to continue with their vegan diet.

And these four young men did well in their Babylonian language and culture studies, preparing them for the service of the king of Babylon. But the Book of Daniel is careful not to attribute this to their diet, or solely to their native abilities, but records that God gave them knowledge and understanding. God was with them and honoured their determination to honour him. So, when they were brought before the king of Babylon:

The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. (Daniel 1:19-20)

It's never easy to live consistently and single-mindedly for Christ in a society which wants us to conform to its own behaviour. It may seem tempting to cut ourselves off from society and live in a holy ghetto of Christian fellowship. But Christ calls us to be a blessing and witness to the world around us – to be salt and light. We need the help of God's presence, wisdom and strength to live like that. How can we bless the world around us through a distinctively Christ-like lifestyle?

Father God, we thank you for the Lord Jesus who gave himself for us. Thank you for his perfect life and for the blessing he brought to all whom he met. Help us by your Spirit to give ourselves wholeheartedly to your service and to the blessing of the world in which we live. Give us the wisdom to make good decisions in our day-to-day lives.

Peter Misselbrook