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…
Daniel, even though he was in Babylon during the captivity of his people, was not a part of them, but was a great and high officer in the government of the king of Babylon. In this respect he differed in position from Ezekiel, who was the resident prophet of Israel while in captivity, a captive with them. Ezekiel was much older than Daniel, and, humanly speaking, might have been jealous of Daniel's position as a high and favourite official with the king, whose captives were the older prophet and all his people. Besides, he might have accused Daniel of fawning on the enemies of his people and being undue to them, in that he took place and emoluments from their enemies while his brethren were suffering a bondage little better than that of Egypt. Yet he never did so reproach Daniel. On the other hand, he twice distinguishes Daniel as one of the greatest of men, classifying him with Noah and Job. (Ezekiel 14:14, 20.) This should teach us a lesson to the effect that we cannot always judge of one man's actions by that of another. Nor, on the contrary, with the examples of Joseph and Daniel, occupying similar positions in Egypt and Babylon, must we be hasty in judging the possible rightness of taking and continuing in the employment of the enemies of God. The question really is not in whose employ we are engaged, but whether in that employment we are keeping a conscience void of offence, and are using our place, while faithful to our employer, for the glory of God. This certainly did both Daniel and Joseph. There is a striking comparison between the history of Daniel and Joseph. Joseph was the first distinguished man of his house, and we may say that Daniel was the last man of great eminence. In their youth they were both captives, and both true to God and their consciences in circumstances that were very trying. Both obtained favour with their kings, and reached places of great honour and power in the kingdom whither in the providence of God they had been sent as prisoners. It is surprising to note how often young men have played great parts in the world's history; and this is especially true of the history of God's kingdom on the earth. Moses and Joshua were comparatively young men for the age in which they lived; David and Solomon were young men when they were called to assume the greatest responsibilities. John the Baptist and Jesus were young men when they began their ministry, Jesus himself being a mere child of twelve years when he first undertook his Father's business. Saul of Tarsus was a young man when Jesus met, converted, and commissioned him to be the great apostle to the Gentries. Timothy was a mere lad when Paul chose him for his companion, and adopted him as his son. What encouragement is here for young men, and even lads, to enter at once on the work and into the personal service of God!
I. DANIEL UNDER TEMPTATION. — Whether it was a part of the deliberate policy of the king of Babylon to corrupt these young men by feeding them from his own table with the meat and drink which had been offered to idols, and so to wean them away from the religion of their fathers, or whether this circumstance was the providential occasion of developing the faith and character of Daniel and his friends is not a question of great moment. Daniel was, from the very beginning of his career, a true witness for the truth. His temptation was all the more severe from the following circumstances;
1. Because of his youth. — It would not have been so remarkable that he declined to compromise his conscience, had he been a full-grown man, with religious principles and character strong by reason of maturity and long habit of righteousness. Youth is, indeed, purer than manhood, but then, as a rule, it is weaker and more easily led by those under whose power and influence it was brought. Had Daniel yielded here to the first temptation, he would hardly have recovered his faith at a later time. If we win in the first fight with the tempter, we may assure ourselves of victory all through life.
2. Because he was away from home. — One of the worst situations for a young man to find himself in, is to be away from home and home influences, in a strange city, especially when surrounded by those who have no sympathy with the religious training and principles of his home life. In this situation Daniel was placed. What had become of his father and mother, his brethren and kindred, we are not told. Possibly they had been killed in the siege or carried away captive to some other province.
3. Because of his helplessness. — He was not only in a strange land and among strangers, but he was a captive, and wholly at the mercy of the king and his servants. He might have said to himself, and not without some show of reason: "I am not responsible for the things which I do under the command of the king, whose prisoner I am." We have heard young men, who justified themselves for wrong-doing because they were only carrying out the orders of their employers.
4. Because of the subtlety of the temptation — It was a matter of great self-gratulation to Daniel that he has been selected to fill a high place in the service of the king, and that the king had complimented him by directing that he should be fed with meat and drink from his own table. This high distinction would be recognised both by the other prisoners and by the king's officers themselves. To refuse this peculiar mark of the king's favour would have been both ungracious and impertinent on Daniel's part. There is no surer approach to the citadel of man's moral nature than by the gateway of vanity and with the instruments of flattery, especially of the agents be the rich and great. What we might refuse from our inferiors, or even our equals, is not so easily declined if it is offered by our betters.
5. Because of the peril of his position. — Sometimes we can brave the sneer of the ungodly and the arched eyebrows of the less conscientious, where we should not be willing to stand up under peril of life itself. Yet this was Daniel's danger. The favour of God was more to him than life. We do not wonder after this, that, at a later period of his life, he calmly went on-praying with his face towards Jerusalem, even though the den of lions was to be his portion for so doing.
II. STANDING BY A PURPOSE TRUE. —
1. He was true to a godly education. — Perhaps the low state of religion in his own land had served to increase in him the sense of responsibility for an absolutely true course in the matter now before him. No lad would have stood this test if he had not been thoroughly well taught; not in the external virtues of religion, but in its very essence and power. If we parents wish to be absolutely sure of the course our sons will take, when the time comes to send them forth into the world to fight life's battle for themselves, let us be sure that they go out from us rooted and grounded in the truth, and established in the faith of God and his Christ.
2. He was true to his conscience. — It was not only loyalty to home-training, but loyalty to conscience, that stood Daniel in good stead in the hour of trial. In leaving home we leave home influences, but if we have a conscience that has been trained in the fear of God, we shall always take that with us. Home-training will keep us a little while, but a sensitive conscience is a never-failing guide. He is a happy boy or man, whether rich or poor, prince or peasant, who has a conscience like Daniel's. It will stand by and strengthen him in many an hour of trial.
3. He was true to the word of God. — By taking heed to the word of God, a young man will not only cleanse himself from evil ways, but will be able to do something better: even to keep himself safe from being defiled.
4. He was true to his brethren. — Daniel seems to have been the spokesman for the other three young princes, as he was undoubtedly by nature, and perhaps by rank, their leader. Should he give way, his brethren would hardly stand, and so they would be defiled. If he stood fast, they, encouraged by his example, would stand by his side. Daniel was therefore jealous of his influence as of his own soul's peace. He must be a true witness for the sake of others.
5. He was true to God. — A true Christian may always appeal to the results of a Christian walk for its justification. Daniel only asked a trial of ten days. He believed "that God would vindicate his course, and show to the eunuch that in every way it was better to serve God than worship or be compromised with the worship of idols, We may always be sure that God will in the end honour those who honour him.
III. DANIEL VINDICATED AND REWARDED. — God stood by Daniel, his young servant, in this matter, as he had stood by Joseph in Egypt, and even more promptly vindicated his faith. God's favour was shown in three things.
1. In the favour be gave Daniel with the eunuch. — He had already brought him "into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs." God does not wait till the end of our faith to come to our help, but even if there be a purpose in our hearts to be true to him, he gives us preliminary vindication. The early Christians being true to God, won for themselves favour with. the people.
2. By giving them greater physical beauty. — At the end of the ten days' trial, "their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat." In the long run, the man who lives on simple fare will show more physical beauty that he who fares sumptuously every day on dainty food. says of these four young men who stood to their purpose, that "they had better health for their spare diet; and their good conscience and merry heart was a continual feast unto them. They had also God's blessing on their coarser fare, which was the main matter that made the difference."
3. By their superior intellectual ability. — At the end of the three years which had been assigned for their special education, they were brought before the king, and he found them "ten times better in all matters of wisdom and understanding than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm." There is hardly a doubt that, if the facts were known.and could be tabulated, it would appear that the intellectual life of Christian people is far in advance of those men of the world who reject God and his counsels, both as to the spiritual life and the general state of the body, promoted by a temperate use of the good things of life. Certainly a wide generalization shows marked superiority in favour of those nations commonly known as Christian, over those which are guided by the superstitions and excesses of heathenism. The general and well-known superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race is due most of all, and first of all, to the influence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God has trained that race for the civilization and the evangelization of the whole world.
(G. F. Pentecost.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king's dainties, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.