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Relationship to Daniel. The relationship of Chapter 1 to Daniel as a whole, and in particular to the account of Jerusalem's purification and future history in Chapter 9, is discussed at Daniel. The historical setting of Chapter 1 is also discussed at Daniel.
Story. Chapter 1 tells the story of Daniel refusing the king's food. Chapter 1 has four principal parts.
- Verses 3-4: The king's plan to teach Daniel and his friends the learning of the Chaldeans.
- Verses 5-7: The king's plan to feed Daniel and his friends the food of the Chaldeans.
- Verses 8-16: Daniel and his friends instead eat God’s food and become the fairest.
- Verses 17-21: Daniel and his friends are also taught by God and become the wisest.
Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapter 1 include:
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The four main parts of this chapter are organized as a chiasmus:
- a. the king's plan to teach Daniel and his friends the learning of the Chaldeans (1:3-4)
- a. Daniel and his friends are also taught by God and become the wisest (1:17-21)
From the king’s perspective, his plan is both wise and generous. He searches the empire for promising young talent and then nurtures them at his own expense with food for both mind and body (1:3-4, 5-7). The problem is framed in the first line of the transition from the first half to the second half of this chapter: “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank” (1:8). The question posed is whether one looks to God or to the world for nourishment and for guidance in achieving success.
God brought Daniel into favor. He is still controlling history on an individual level. And yet Daniel’s first request to the prince of the eunuchs is refused (1:8-10). He must continue seeking for a way to live righteously and not simply give up when the world tells him to live a different standard.
The prince of the eunuchs did not care about Daniel’s motives. So Daniel’s next conversation with Melzar (1:11-16) is all about results in testing whether God’s dietary law is superior to the dietary wisdom of the world. Daniel’s dietary requests are granted on a permanent basis only after this superiority is proved to Melzar’s satisfaction. The Book of Daniel teaches that we need not fear putting God’s wisdom to the test, either privately for ourselves or publicly before the world.
There is no indication that Daniel and his friends refuse to be instructed in the learning of the Babylonians. But their trust is placed in what they learn from God. “As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom ... And in all matters of wisdom and understanding that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in his realm” (1:17, 21). God’s wisdom, and our individual reliance upon it, are again proved superior to the wisdom of the world, even by the world’s own standard of testing.
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Points to ponder
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