Daniel 1:8
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.
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(8) Daniel purposed in his heart.—He was cautious from the first. He feared that he might eat something that had been consecrated to idols. (See 1 Corinthians 8)



Daniel 1:8 - Daniel 1:21

Daniel was but a boy at the date of the Captivity, and little more at the time of the attempt to make a Chaldean of him. The last verse says that he ‘continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus,’ the date given elsewhere as the close of the Captivity {2 Chronicles 36:22; Ezra 1:1; Ezra 6:3}. From Daniel 10:1 we learn that he lived on till Cyrus’s third year, if not later; but the date in Daniel 1:21 is probably given in order to suggest that Daniel’s career covered the whole period of the Captivity, and burned like a star of hope for the exiles. The incident in our passage is a noble example of religious principle applied to small details of daily life, and shows how God crowns such conscientious self-restraint with success. The lessons which it contains are best gathered by following the narrative.

I. The heroic determination of the boyish confessor is first set forth. The plan of taking leading young men from the newly captured nation and turning them into Babylonians was a stroke of policy as heartless and high-handed as might be expected from a great conqueror. In some measure, the same thing has been done by all nations who have built up a world-wide dominion. The new names given to the youths, the attaching of them to the court, their education in Babylonish fashion, all were meant for the same purpose,-to denationalise them, and strip them of their religion, and thus to make them tools for more easily governing their countrymen.

Most men would yield to the influences, and be so lapped in the comforts of their new position as to become pliable as wax in the conqueror’s hands; but here and there he would come across a bit of stiffer stuff, which would break rather than bend. Such an obstinate piece of humanity was found in the Hebrew youth, of some fifteen years, whose Hebrew name {‘God is my judge’} expressed a truth that ruled him, when the name was exchanged for one that invoked Bel. It took some firmness for a captive lad, without friends or influence, to take Daniel’s stand; for the motive of his desire to be excused from taking the fare provided can only have been religious. He was determined, in his brave young heart, not to ‘defile’ himself with the king’s meat. The phrase points to the pollution incurred by eating things offered to idols, and does not imply scrupulousness like that of Pharisaic times, nor necessarily suggest a late date for the book. Probably there had been some kind of religious consecration of the food to Babylonian gods, and Daniel, in his solitary faithfulness, was carrying out the same principles which Paul afterwards laid down for Corinthian Christians as to partaking of things offered to idols. Similar difficulties are sure to emerge in analogous cases, and do so, on many mission fields.

The motive here, then, is distinctly religious. Common life was so woven in with idolatrous worship that every meal was in some sense a sacrifice. Therefore ‘Touch not, taste not, handle not,’ was the inevitable dictate for a devout heart. Daniel seems to have been the moving spirit; but as is generally the case, he was able to infuse his own strong convictions into his companions, and the four of them held together in their protest. The great lesson from the incident is that religion should regulate the smallest details of life, and that it is not narrow over-scrupulousness, but fidelity to the highest duty, when a man sets his foot down about any small matter, and says, ‘No, I dare not do it, little as it is, and pleasant as it might be to sense, because I should thereby be mixed up in a practical denial of my God.’ ‘So did not I, because of the fear of God’ {Nehemiah 5:15}, is a motto which will require from many a young man abstinence from many things which it would be much easier to accept.

II. This young confessor was as prudent as he was brave; and the story goes on to show how wisely he played his part, and how willing he was to accept all working compromises which might smooth his way. He did not at all want to pose as a martyr, and had no pleasure in making a noise. The favour which he had won with the high officer who looked after the lads before their formal examination {graduation we might call it}, is set down in the narrative to the divine favour; but that favour worked by means, and no doubt the lad had done his part to win the important good opinion of his superior. The more firm is our determination to take no step beyond the line of duty, the more conciliatory we should be. But many people seem to think that heroism is shown by rudeness, and that if we are afraid that we shall some time have to say ‘No’ very emphatically, we should prepare for it by a great many preliminary and unnecessary negatives. The very stern need for parting company, when conscience points one way and companions another, is a reason for keeping cordially together whenever we can.

‘The prince of the eunuchs’ made a very reasonable objection. He had been appointed to see after the health of the lads, and had ample means at his disposal; and if they lost their health in this chase after what he could only think a superstitious fad, the despot whom he served would think nothing of making him answer with his head. His fear gives a striking side-light as to the conditions of service in such a court, where no man’s head was firm between his shoulders. Why should the prince of the eunuchs have supposed that the diet asked for would not nourish the lads? It was that of the bulk of men everywhere, and he had only to go out into the streets or the nearest barrack in Babylon to see what thews and muscles could be nurtured on vegetable diet and water. But whatever the want of ground in his objection, it was enough that he made it. Note that he puts it entirely on possible harmful results to himself, and that silences Daniel, who had no right to ask another to run his head into the noose, into which he was ready to put his own, if necessary. Martyrs by proxy, who have such strong convictions that they think it somebody else’s duty to run risk for them, are by no means unknown.

This boy was made of other metal. So, apparently he gives up the prince of the eunuchs, and turns to another of the friends whom he had made in his short captivity-the person in whose more immediate charge he and his three friends were. He is named Melzar in the Authorised Version; but the Revised Version more accurately takes that to be a name of office, and translates it as ‘steward.’ He did the catering for them, and was sufficiently friendly to listen to Daniel’s reasonable proposal to try the vegetable diet for ‘ten days’-probably meaning an indefinite period, sufficiently long to test results, which a literal ten days would perhaps scarcely be. So the good-natured steward let the lads have their way, much wondering in his soul, no doubt, why they should take as much trouble to avoid good living as most youths would have taken to get it.

III. The success of the experiment comes next.

We do not need to suppose a miracle as either wrought or suggested by the narrative. The issue might have taught the steward a wholesome lesson in dietetics, which he and a great many of us much need. ‘A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth,’ and his bodily life consisteth not in the abundance and variety of the things that he eateth. The teaching of this lesson is, not that vegetarianism or total abstinence is obligatory, for diet is here regarded only as part of idolatrous worship; but certainly a secondary conclusion, fairly drawn from the story, is that vigorous health is best kept up on very simple fare. Many dinner-tables, over which God’s blessing is formally asked, are spread in such a fashion as it is hard to suppose deserves His blessing. The simpler the fare, the fewer the wants: the fewer the wants, the greater the riches; the freer the life, the more leisure for higher pursuits, and the more sound the bodily health.

But the rosy faces and vigorous health of Daniel and his friends may illustrate, by a picturesque example, a large truth-that God suffers no man to be a loser by faithfulness, and more than makes up all that is surrendered for His sake. The blessing of God on small means makes them fountains of truer joy than large ones unblessed. No man hath left anything for Christ’s sake but he receives a hundred-fold in this life, if not in the actual blessings surrendered, at all events in the peace and joy of heart of which they were supposed to be bearers. God fills places emptied by Himself, and those emptied by us for His sake.

IV. The conscientious abstinence of Daniel had limits.

The learning of the ‘Chaldeans’ was largely ritualistic, and magic, incantations, divination, and mythology constituted a most important part of it. Did not the conscience, which could not swallow idolatrous food, resent being forced to assimilate idolatrous learning? No; for all that learning could be acquired by a faithful monotheist, and could be used against the system which gave it birth. Like Moses, or like the young Pharisee Saul, these Jewish boys nurtured their faith by knowledge of their enemies’ belief, and used their childhood’s lessons as weapons in fighting for God’s truth. It is not every man’s duty to become familiar with error, or to master anti-Christian systems. But if it become ours, we are not to turn away from the task, nor to doubt that God will keep His own truth alight in our minds, if we realise the danger of the position, and seek to cling to Him.

V. So we have the last scene in the youths’ appearance before Nebuchadnezzar.

A three years’ curriculum was considered necessary to turn a Jewish boy into a Chaldean expert, fit to be a traitor to his nation, an apostate from his God, and a tool of the tyrant. So far as knowledge of the priestly and astronomical science went, the four Hebrews came out at the top of the lists. The great king himself, with that personal interference in all departments which makes a despot’s life so burdensome, put them through their paces, and was satisfied. His object had been to get instruments with which he could work on the Captivity, and, no doubt, also to secure servants who had no links with anybody in Babylon. Foreigners, ‘kinless loons,’ are favourites with despots, for plain reasons. But Nebuchadnezzar could not fathom the hearts of the lads. An incarnation of unbridled will would find it difficult to understand a life guided by conscience, and religious scruples would have sounded as an unknown tongue to him. But yet, as he and they stood face to face, who was stronger, the conqueror or the youths who feared God, and none besides? They were in their right place at the head of the examination lists. They had not said, ‘We do not believe in all this rubbish, and we are not going to trouble ourselves to master it,’ but they had set themselves determinedly to work, and been all the more persevering because of their objection to the diet. If a young man has to be singular by reason of his religion, let him be singularly diligent in his work, and seek to be first, not merely for his own glory, but for the sake of the religion which he professes.

‘Plain living and high thinking’ ought to go together. England and America have many names carved high on their annals, and written deep on their citizens’ hearts, who have nourished a sublime, studious youth in poverty, ‘cultivating literature on a little oatmeal,’ and who all their lives have ‘scorned delights and lived laborious days.’ It is the temper which is most likely to succeed, but which, whether it succeeds or not, brings the best blessings to those who cultivate it. Such a youth will generally be followed by an honoured manhood like Daniel’s, but will, at all events, be its own reward, and have God’s blessing.

‘Daniel continued unto the first year of king Cyrus.’ These simple words contain volumes. During all the troubles of the nation, from the king’s insanity, and the murders of his successors, amidst whirling intrigues, envies, plots, and persecutions, this one man stood firm, like a pillar amid blowing sands. So God keeps the steadfast soul which is fixed on Him; and while the world passeth away, and the fashion thereof, he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

Daniel 1:8. But Daniel purposed that he would not defile himself — The defilement here alluded to might arise either from the food being such as was prohibited in the law of Moses, or else what was offered to the idols of the Chaldees, or entreated to be blessed in their names: see 2 Corinthians 8:10; 2 Corinthians 8:20. With the portion of the king’s meat — It was the custom of most nations, before their meals, to make an oblation of some part of what they ate and drank to their gods, as a thankful acknowledgment that every thing which they enjoyed was their gift; so that every entertainment had something in it of the nature of a sacrifice. This practice, generally prevailing, might make Daniel and his friends look upon the provisions coming from the king’s table as no better than meats offered to idols, and therefore to be accounted unclean, or polluted: see the margin. Nor with the wine which he drank — Though wine was not prohibited in the Levitical law, yet Daniel might wish to abstain from it, chiefly from motives of temperance; or because it came from an entertainment wherein a libation was made of it to idols, he might think himself obliged to abstain from motives of conscience: see Wintle and Lowth.

1:8-16 The interest we think we make for ourselves, we must acknowledge to be God's gift. Daniel was still firm to his religion. Whatever they called him, he still held fast the spirit of an Israelite. These youths scrupled concerning the meat, lest it should be sinful. When God's people are in Babylon they need take special care that they partake not of her sins. It is much to the praise of young people, not to covet or seek the delights of sense. Those who would excel in wisdom and piety, must learn betimes to keep the body under. Daniel avoided defiling himself with sin; and we should more fear that than any outward trouble. It is easier to keep temptation at a distance, than to resist it when near. And we cannot better improve our interest in any with whom we have found favour, than to use it to keep us from sin. People will not believe the benefit of avoiding excess, and of a spare diet, nor how much they contribute to the health of the body, unless they try. Conscientious temperance will always do more, even for the comfort of this life, than sinful indulgence.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.

8. Daniel … would not defile himself with … king's meat—Daniel is specified as being the leader in the "purpose" (the word implies a decided resolution) to abstain from defilement, thus manifesting a character already formed for prophetical functions. The other three youths, no doubt, shared in his purpose. It was the custom to throw a small part of the viands and wine upon the earth, as an initiatory offering to the gods, so as to consecrate to them the whole entertainment (compare De 32:38). To have partaken of such a feast would have been to sanction idolatry, and was forbidden even after the legal distinction of clean and unclean meats was done away (1Co 8:7, 10; 10:27, 28). Thus the faith of these youths was made instrumental in overruling the evil foretold against the Jews (Eze 4:13; Ho 9:3), to the glory of God. Daniel and his three friends, says Auberlen, stand out like an oasis in the desert. Like Moses, Daniel "chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season" (Heb 11:25; see Da 9:3-19). He who is to interpret divine revelations must not feed on the dainties, nor drink from the intoxicating cup, of this world. This made him as dear a name to his countrymen as Noah and Job, who also stood alone in their piety among a perverse generation (Eze 14:14; 28:3).

requested—While decided in principle, we ought to seek our object by gentleness, rather than by an ostentatious testimony, which, under the plea of faithfulness, courts opposition.

Ver. 8. There may be several weighty reasons assigned why Daniel did this.

1. Because many of those meats provided for the king’s table were such as were forbidden by the Jews’ law, whereof Daniel made conscience,

2. Daniel knew these delicacies would too much gratify and pamper the flesh, and therefore he would prevent the defilements which too often do arise from delicious fare, Deu 32:14,15 Eze 16:49 Hosea 13:6 Romans 13:13; so that those who fare deliciously would practise this.

3. Daniel knew he should by this bait be taken with the hook which lay hid under it, and insensibly be drawn from the true to a false religion, by eating and drinking things consecrated to idols.

4. Daniel saw his people lie under God’s displeasure by their captivity, and therefore could not but be sensible how unsuitable a courtly life would be in him to the afflicted state of God’s people, Hebrews 11:24-26. Therefore Daniel was herein a rare pattern of avoiding all the occasions of evil, which he did with purpose of heart, Acts 11:23; saith the text, he

purposed in his heart to abstain.

But Daniel purposed in his heart,.... It being proposed to him to be brought up in the manner before described, he revolved it in his mind; he well weighed it, and considered it with himself, and came to a resolution about it. This is to be understood of him, not to the exclusion of his three companions, who were of the same mind with him, as appears by what follows; but perhaps it was first thought of by him; at least he first moved it to them, to which they consented; and because he was the principal in this affair, it is ascribed to him as his purpose and resolution:

that he would not defile himself with the portion the king's meat; by eating of it; partly because it might consist of what was forbidden by the law of Moses, as the flesh of unclean creatures, particularly swine, and fat and blood, and so defile himself in a ceremonial sense; and partly because, though it might be food in itself lawful to be eaten, yet part of it being first offered to their idol "Bel", as was usual, and the whole blessed in his name, it would have been against his conscience, and a defiling of that, to eat of things offered to, or blessed in the name of, an idol:

nor with the wine which he drank; which was as unlawful as his food; being a libation to his gods, as Aben Ezra observes; otherwise wine was not forbidden; nor was it disused by Daniel, when he could partake of it in his own way, Daniel 10:3,

therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself; he did not, in a surly, still, and obstinate manner, refuse the meat and drink brought; but prudently made it a request, and modestly proposed it to the prince of the eunuchs, that had the care and charge of him and his companions; and who also joined with him in this humble suit, as appears by what follows.

But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not {m} 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.

(m) Not that he thought any religion to be in the meat or drink (for afterwards he did eat), but because the king should not entice him by this sweet poison to forget his religion and accustomed sobriety, and that in his meat and drink he might daily remember of what people he was from. And Daniel brings this in to show how God from the beginning assisted him with his Spirit, and at length called him to be a Prophet.

8–10. Daniel and his companions crave to be allowed not to use the provision supplied from the royal table. The meat might be that of animals not slaughtered in the proper manner (Deuteronomy 12:23-24), or of animals prohibited to the Jews as food (Leviticus 11:4-7; Leviticus 11:10-12; Leviticus 13-19, 20); while both the meat and the wine might have been consecrated to the Babylonian gods by portions having been offered to them in sacrifice, so that to partake of either would be tantamount to the recognition of a heathen deity (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:20; 1 Corinthians 10:27-29). The Jews, especially in later times, attached great importance to the dietary laws, and were also very scrupulous in avoiding acts which, even indirectly, might seem to imply the recognition of a heathen deity. Antiochus Epiphanes, in his endeavour (b.c. 168) to Hellenize the Jews, sought to compel them both to sacrifice to heathen deities and to partake of unclean food; and resistance to his edict was a point on which the utmost stress was laid by the loyal Jews (1Ma 1:47-48; 1Ma 1:62-63; cf. 2Ma 6:18 ff; 2Ma 7:1). Comp. also 2Ma 5:27; Add. to Esther 14:17; Jdt 12:1-2 (see Daniel 10:5); Tob 1:10-11 (where Tobit says that when he and his companions were taken captive to Nineveh, ‘all my brethren and those that were of my kindred did eat of the bread of the Gentiles, but I kept myself from eating’). Josephus (Vita 3) speaks of certain priests who, being sent to Rome, partook on religious grounds of nothing but figs and nuts. For the abrogation of the principle, in the new dispensation, see Mark 7:19 (R.V.), Acts 10:9-16,—comparing, however, also, 1 Corinthians 8:4-13.

with the king’s delicacies] as Daniel 1:5.

purposed in his heart] lit. laid (it) on his heart, i.e. gave heed (Isaiah 47:7; Isaiah 57:11, Malachi 2:2). ‘Purposed’ is too strong.

8–16. The loyalty to their faith shewn by the four Jewish youths.

Verse 8. - But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wins which he drank, therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. The Septuagint renders the first clause somewhat paraphrastically, "Daniel desired in his heart," led possibly to this by the more limited meaning assigned to "heart" in the psychology of ordinary Greek speech. Theodotion is, as usual, in close harmony with the Massoretic text. The Peshitta, instead of "heart," has r'ina, "mind." As before noticed, the G reek versions here render פּת־בג by δεῖπνον. Jerome renders it mensa In the Syriac the word is present, as we before said. We have above indicated that it is possible that the original word was not path-bag, but pathura. In regard to the Massoretic text as compared with the Greek and Latin versions, it seems certain that path-bag, if belonging to the text, was only understood in the East - a phenomenon that would be intelligible if this chapter be a condensation and translation of an original Aramaic text, especially if the Aramaic were Eastern, not Western. An ancient feast had always the nature of a sacrifice. It was the case with the Jews: thus in Deuteronomy 12:11, 12, directions are given for sacrificing in the place which the Lord should choose, and they and all their household rejoicing. But if the place chosen were too far, then permission was given them to eat flesh, only they were to be careful not to eat with the blood. It was the characteristic of the classic nations all through their whole history, that the feast should be consecrated by the offering of something of it to the Deity. The immense probability was that this was the case also among the Babylonians. It may be that this consecration of the feast arose from the same justifiable religious feeling which leads us to ask a blessing on our meals. The habit of the African Church to celebrate the Lord's Supper at every supper, was probably connected with this offering to God of what the guests were about to partake. This fact, that every feast had the character of a sacrifice, might easily make these Hebrew youths refuse the royal dainties. So far as animal food was concerned, the careful directions as to not eating with blood made partaking of the feasts of the Babylonian monarch peculiarly liable to bring on them defilement. The fact that Evil-Merodach provided Jeconiah with a portion from his table, and that Jeconiah did not refuse it, does not necessarily militate against the early date of Daniel. Jeconiah probably was not as conscientious as those youths, and, on the other hand, Daniel's influence by this time may have arranged some consideration for Jewish scruples. It is certain that in 2 Maccabees 5:27 Judas and his brethren are represented as living in the mountains on herbs, after the manner of beasts, that they might not be defiled; but as there is nothing parallel to this in 1 Maccabees, we may dismiss the statement as probably untrue. So the whole idea of this action on the part of Judas and his nine companions may have arisen from the case recorded before us. It has all the look of a rhetorical addition to the narrative, and the differences of the circumstances were not such as would strike a rhetorical scribe; but as this abstinence appeared to add to the sanctity of these four Hebrew youths, would it not add to the sanctity of Judas also? 'In the Assyrian feasts the guests do not seem to have sat at one long table or several long tables, as is usual with us. The guests were divided into sets of four, and had provisions served to them, and it is to be observed that the youths before us would have exactly occupied one of those tables. The word used for "defile" (ga'al) occurs in Isaiah, Lamentations, Zephaniah, Malachi, Ezra, and Nehemiah. It is an Exilic and post-Exilic word mainly; the old priestly word lama had not disappeared - it is used in Haggai. It is to be observed that there is nothing about defilement in the Peshitta; it is not impossible that the word is a later addition, only its presence both in Theodotion and the Septuagint renders the omission improbable. There is nothing in the passage here which makes it necessary for us to maintain that the principle of action followed by those youths was one which was generally acknowledged to be incumbent on all Jews. It may simply have been that, feeling the critical condition in which they were placed, it was well for them to erect a hedge about the Law. There may even have been an excess of scrupulosity which is in perfect dramatic suitability to the age of the youths. Such abstinence may well have occasioned the regular abstinence of the Essenes, but this state-merit concerning Daniel and his friends can scarcely have originated from the Essene dietary. It has been noted, as a proof of Daniel's courtesy and docility, that he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. But to have refused the food provided by the king might have been construed as an insult to the king, and anything of that sort had swift and severe punishment meted out to it. Daniel's request was simply due to the necessities of the situation. Daniel 1:8The command of the king, that the young men should be fed with the food and wine from the king's table, was to Daniel and his friends a test of their fidelity to the Lord and to His law, like that to which Joseph was subjected in Egypt, corresponding to the circumstances in which he was placed, of his fidelity to God (Genesis 39:7.). The partaking of the food brought to them from the king's table was to them contaminating, because forbidden by law; not so much because the food was not prepared according to the Levitical ordinance, or perhaps consisted of the flesh of animals which to the Israelites were unclean, for in this case the youths were not under the necessity of refraining from the wine, but the reason of their rejection of it was, that the heathen at their feasts offered up in sacrifice to their gods a part of the food and the drink, and thus consecrated their meals by a religious rite; whereby not only he who participated in such a meal participated in the worship of idols, but the meat and the wine as a whole were the meat and the wine of an idol sacrifice, partaking of which, according to the saying of the apostle (1 Corinthians 10:20.), is the same as sacrificing to devils. Their abstaining from such food and drink betrayed no rigorism going beyond the Mosaic law, a tendency which first showed itself in the time of the Maccabees. What, in this respect, the pious Jews did in those times, however (1 Macc. 1:62f.; 2 Macc. 5:27), stands on the ground of the law; and the aversion to eat anything that was unclean, or to defile themselves at all in heathen lands, did not for the first time spring up in the time of the Maccabees, nor yet in the time of the exile, but is found already existing in these threatenings in Hosea 9:3., Amos 7:17. Daniel's resolution to refrain from such unclean food flowed therefore from fidelity to the law, and from stedfastness to the faith that "man lives not by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 8:3), and from the assurance that God would bless the humbler provision which he asks for himself, and would by means of it make him and his friends as strong and vigorous as the other youths who did eat the costly provision from the king's table. Firm in this conviction, he requested the chief chamberlain to free him and his three friends from the use of the food and drink brought from the royal table. And the Lord was favourable to him, so that his request was granted.
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