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…
The scene is the city of Babylon, the most magnificent of all the cities of antiquity. "Far as the horizon itself extended the circuit of the great capital of the then known world. It stretched out over an area of two hundred square reties, and the whole territory was enclosed within vast walls, one hundred feet higher than Bunker Hill Monument, and along their summit ran a vast terrace which admitted of the turning of chariots with four horses, and which may, therefore, well have been more than eighty feet broad." As one approached the city from a distance, these walls extended along the horizon like lines of towering hills. The space within the walls was divided off by streets or roads running at right angles. "Forests, parks, gardens were intermingled with the houses so as to present the appearance of the suburbs of a great metropolis rather than the metropolis itself." The great palace of the kings was itself a city within a city — seven miles round, compared to which the Temple of Solomon was insignificant. The houses of the city were made of pale brown brick, and were set in gardens of luxuriant trees and flowering shrubs. A carpet of variegated and brilliant flowers covered the unoccupied spaces between the streets, producing an enchanting spectacle. Elegance and luxury characterized the habits of the people. Gorgeous splendour of dress and dwelling and equipage met the eye at every turn. Gold and silver and ivory adorned the houses, and everything was on a scale of Oriental magnificence. The people were given to a voluptuous life, and worldliness in its most attractive forms abounded on every side. Into these unusual surroundings four young lads from Judea were carried captive, and confined within the palace of the king. The contrast to their former manner of life was most marked, and it is easy to see that in mingling in the worldliness they have arrived at a most critical point in their lives. Their manner of meeting that test is very suggestive, and contains a striking lesson for the youth of modern times.
I. Daniel and his three friends illustrate the POWER OF PRINCIPLE. It would be safe to prophesy concerning these four lads that when they entered that heathen city they would soon fall into the ways of the people and yield to the circumstances, and become like their captors. For it was a kind of life that appealed to sensibilities of youth. Physical enjoyments of every kind presented themselves before these inexperienced young men. Moral restraints were absent. Public sentiment was against all such restraints, and they could indulge in whatever they desired without fear of offending social customs. We are agreeably disappointed, therefore, when Daniel and his friends take a decided stand on a matter of conscience. They refused to eat the meat and wine set before them by the eunuch having them in charge. They know that meat and wine were used in idol worship, and they had been brought to abhor idolatry. They knew also that the food of the king's table was not the most wholesome. In view of these two facts they agreed to refuse the king's food. It was a daring thing for them to make their stand against the rules of a king's palace, but principle was at stake, and they dared all for principle. Many may think it was a small matter upon which to raise an issue, but a great principle often lies concealed within a trifle. It is a comparatively insignificant thing for any one of us to stamp a piece of silver with the die of the United States, but it is an set involving the whole question of treason to one's government, and treason is no trifle. Daniel knew that if he quieted his conscience on this small matter he would yield all the way through. Principles are to be declared at once. It is sometimes half the battle. The young man just beginning his mercantile career had best let his scruples be known at once to his fellow clerks, and it will save him many temptations. They will not be likely to want him to become a companion in evil. The commentator tells us that Daniel was only fourteen years old when he was carried away to Babylon. If this is so, it only proves conscientiousness is not a matter of years. Parents may trust their children amid the most perilous influences, provided they have been thoroughly trained and are acquainted with moral distinctions. We can give our children no more valuable gift than correct principles. Money, education, social standing, are nothing in comparison with them.
II. We remark next this experience of Daniel is A PLEA FOR SIMPLICITY OF LIFE. Daniel was satisfied to eat the plain food to which he bad been accustomed at home. Rich and delicate viands were partaken of by all within the royal palace; he was content with a few plain vegetables. He was thus a constant rebuke to the gluttons and epicures who made a god of their food, for he proved that health and physical comfort did not depend on the variety and costliness of that which was eaten. We cannot estimate the value of his example in that luxurious, extravagant court. How it must have opened the eyes of the young courtiers whose lives were given over to the gratification of bodily desires! Daniel speaks no less forcibly to the young people of to-day, for they are in danger of spending too much thought and money on artificial wants. Too large a part of the earnings of our young men and women is spent upon non-essentials. Neither utility nor comfort demands them. It requires grit to live in an unostentatious manner, to cut down expenses, to cast aside the yoke of unnecessary wants; but it is a great relief when once the freedom has been gained.
III. This narrative also shows THAT YOUNG MEN CAN SERVE THEIR GOD BY SERVING THE STATE. Daniel consecrated his skill and ability to the securing of good laws and to the guidance of their administration. The making and administering of law is noble work, and when so much depends on legislation as in our country there is need that young men consecrate their powers to this important service. Politics must be rescued from the unworthy and self-seeking, and lifted to the high place where they belong. All of God's early lawmakers and rulers were able and good men, — Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Daniel, — men of breadth of view, integrity, and faith. The idea that the conduct of government can best be served by selfish and cunning men is totally false. Men are beginning to realise the wide opportunity for serving God afforded by a political calling.
IV. This lesson also suggests the PRESERVING POWER OF RELIGION. Daniel carried his religion into all the departments of his life. He glorified God in his daily life and commended his religion to the heathen king by manliness and fidelity. He was a faithful servant of the king because of his religious belief. His religion gave him self-control and practical wisdom. Young men should not hesitate to subject their whole plan of life to God's scrutiny — to ask His blessing on their business, their professional duty, and their social obligations. The professional, commercial, artistic, literary world needs men who know how to pray in connection with their work. May Daniel teach us how to do it!
(E. S. Tead.)
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.