“Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself” (Daniel 1:8).
Daniel, whose name means “Judgement of God” (Smith’s Bible Dictionary, 135), was chosen, among other Jewish captives, to serve before king Nebuchadnezzar, “The greatest and most powerful of the Babylonian kings” (Smith’s, 437). The Lord, through the prophet Isaiah, describes the city of Babylon as “The golden city” (Isaiah 14:4). Being made aware of the grandeur of the king and his great city, our minds are free to form a more perfect picture of the environment Daniel was immersed in. The quality of the “king’s delicacies” (Daniel 1:8) must have been exquisite; and such a grand king ruling over an equally grand city would no doubt desire the best of the Jewish captives to serve under him. Strict requirements for servants can be found in Daniel 1:4. They included:
Young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge, and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans.
Not only did Daniel (and his three friends) qualify based on the list of requirements, but we can probably add to their qualities that they were, what first-century historian Josephus claims, “Kinsmen of Zedekiah, their king” (333). Such a claim is verified in the book of the prophet Isaiah where the the prophet, speaking to king Hezekiah, foretold the following, recorded in 39:6-7:
“‘Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and what your fathers have accumulated until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left,’ says the LORD. ‘And they shall take away some of your sons who will descend from you, whom you will beget; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon’”
David is not named in the above reference, but he was taken away, and he did serve in the palace of several Babylonian kings. Hezekiah was the twelfth king of the Southern kingdom; Zedekiah was the nineteenth, and final king of the Southern kingdom. The king’s shared a blood line.
Based on the impressive list, which qualified him for service in the Babylonian kingdom, Daniel possessed all the ingredients for arrogance, but this young man did not stir up wrath for himself, but blessings. He was a young man who was extremely humble and dedicated to God Almighty.
Being in the king’s select group of servants, Daniel and his three friends were offered delicacies from the king’s table; delicacies that included foods which would have been offered to idols. Refer to Exodus 34 where God, renewing His covenant with His people: the Israelites, warned them not to make a covenant with inhabitants in pagan lands, because if they did, they would be tempted to “play the harlot with their gods and make sacrifice to their gods” (v.15). Not only could Daniel have been avoiding the making of a covenant with heathens, but he could have also been recalling and observing Leviticus 3:17, where the LORD, instituting the peace offering for the Israelites, stated, “‘This shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings; you shall eat neither fat nor blood.’” Additionally, in Leviticus chapter 7, verses 22-27, the LORD spoke in this matter:
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘You shall not eat any fat, of ox or sheep or goat. ‘And the fat of an animal that dies naturally; and the fat of what is torn by wild beasts, may be used in any other way; but you shall by no means eat it. ‘For whoever eats the fat of the animal of which men offer an offering made by fire to the LORD, the person who eats it shall be cut off from his people. ‘Moreover you shall not eat any blood in any of your dwellings, whether of bird or beast. ‘Whoever eats any blood, that person shall be cut off from his people.
From the scripture, we can fathom why an Israelite would think twice before eating from just any table; for to be cut off would be a sentence that no Israelite would want to bear. And the Israelites knew exactly how God felt about them as a people; His words, recorded by Moses in Deuteronomy 7:6, must have provided great comfort and hope to His faithful. God said:
For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.
Daniel must have at least pondered on going from God’s special treasure to being cut off from Him. Not that Daniel had access to New Testament teachings, but it is important to expose the truth—that idol worship is a sacrifice to demons. The example, taken from 1 Corinthians 10:19-20, is applicable, because the Babylonians certainly worshipped idols; this example shows how God feels about “things” sacrificed to idols:
What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons.
If Daniel wanted to please God, he had to be purposeful and brave in his decision not to eat of the foods spread out on the Babylonian’s table. The fear of being cut off from God’s chosen, because of food sacrificed to demons and not to God, would definitely have been a thought pacing through his young mind.
After exposing Daniel’s credentials, we know he could have been haughty; and after exposing the majesty of king Nebuchadnezzar and his golden city, we can assume the delicacies were indeed delectable. So, how did Daniel use his fortune? How did he react to the delicacies offered to him? After the word of God gives the details of Daniel’s status, and mentions the delicacies and wine he was offered, we read: “But Daniel purposed in his heart” (1:8). Let us back up for a minute—Daniel was handsome, wise, knowledgeable, quick-witted, and likely royal. King Nebuchadnezzar was a golden king living in a golden city; offering golden-quality food—“But Daniel!” The tiny, three letter conjunction, “but,” proves vital as it introduces the contradictory statement that follows: “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself.” Daniel was not haughty, but humble. Daniel was not deceived by the delectable delicacies of the king’s provisions, but devoted to Jehovah. Daniel could have eaten off the heathen’s table, but he purposed—decided; and his decision—and devotion—led to his tremendous bravery. So, with his three friends in agreement, brave Daniel asked the steward if he and his three companions could be tested for ten days, wherein they would be given only vegetables: “Pulse and dates” (Josephus, 334) and water to drink. If after the ten days they appeared healthy, they would continue the vegetable and water diet. Because he feared for his own life, the steward only reluctantly agreed to Daniel’s request.
God’s response to Daniel’s purposeful actions:
- After Daniel purposed in his heart, and bravely spoke to the chief eunuch, it is written: “Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of eunuchs” (1:9). Did you catch that? “But Daniel” in verse eight, then “Now God” one verse later in verse nine. Those who say God does not see or acknowledge purposeful, righteous actions are greatly deceived, for God immediately brought Daniel into the good favor of the chief of the king’s eunuch.
- After Daniel and his friends trusted God to nourish their bodies with vegetables alone it is written: “And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king’s delicacies . . . God gave . . . knowledge and skill . . . and wisdom . . . and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams” (1:15, 17).
Visual Action Picture:
1.) Daniel purposed in his heart. / Daniel’s action
2.) God brought Daniel into the favor of the chief of the eunuchs. / God’s response
3.) Brave Daniel requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he (and his friends) might not defile themselves by eating the king’s delicacies or drinking the king’s wine. / Daniel’s action
4.) God blessed Daniel and his three friends with knowledge, skill, and understanding. / God’s response
Purposed in heart-> Brought into favor
Requested -> Blessed
Just to Ponder:
What does food mean to you? How hard would it be for you to choose vegetables and water over a great king’s fine food and wine? Food itself can be a “Lust of the flesh” (1 John 2:16) “Lust”- Greek epithumia- desire, eagerness for, inordinate desire, lust (Strong’s Concordance). True, we need food to survive, but some take the necessity to the extreme: they desire or lust after it. Recall the importance of food in the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden. It was a simple piece of fruit which led to the inception of sin in the world: Eve, seeing that the fruit was: “good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband and he ate” (Genesis 3:6). Daniel’s decision to avoid the king’s delicacies proves that he was a disciplined and devoted young man who was not easily deceived.
If we set up a visual picture, juxtaposing the first sin, in the Garden of Eden, with the love of the world in 1 John 2:16 we observe:
|The Tree Genesis 3:6
||The Love of the World 1 John 2:16
|“Good for food”
||“Lust of the flesh”
|“Pleasant to the eyes”
||“Lust of the eyes”
|“Desirable to make one wise”
||“Pride of life”
Notice that the tree being “good for food” easily compares to the lust of the flesh; the flesh desires, even lusts after food. Also notice that the tree being “pleasant to the eyes” compares to the lust of the eyes. The flesh likes to look upon pleasant things; therefore, the eyes lust. When Eve saw that the tree was “desirable to make one wise”, she was relishing in the pride of life, where being wise in this world is often accompanied by pride. What we observe when we compare the fall in the Garden, and the text in 1 John, is that sin has a basic composition; and all sins fall into one of the three traps. Now think of Daniel in relation to the table above. The three traps could have easily ensnared him: lust of the flesh—delicacies: food, etc.; lust of the eyes—all the prosperity of the Babylonian kingdom; the pride of life—his capability of serving and advancing in the king’s palace. But, because of his purposeful devotion to God, he was able to stay out of sin’s deadly traps and glorify God.
Fill in the blank after prayerfully pondering awhile: “I will not defile myself with _______________________.”
Possible Examples: (add your own to the list)
- Have you ever let physical enticements, or distractions get in the way of serving the Lord?
- Purposing (setting) in our hearts is a direct act of the will. Just as Daniel controlled his will under difficult circumstances: purposed that he would not defile himself in a pagan land, so we must control our will under difficult circumstances. Daniel deprived himself of physical pleasure: choosing vegetables over a grand king’s delicacies, and drinking water over wine in an effort to please God. We too must deprive ourselves of physical pleasures in order to please God.
- Remember, Daniel was brave and bold in his determination to obey God’s laws. We too must be brave and bold in the face of those who may want or expect us to please men, rather than Christ. Refer to Galatians 1:10. When can we be brave and bold today for God? Give some examples.
The beloved of God are purposeful and firm in righteous decisions. The beloved of God are also brave in the face of that which violates God’s commands. What are God’s commands? We should know. Turn to Matthew 22:36-40 and hear the voice of Jesus.
- Let us purpose in our heart that we will not defile God.
- Let us be brave when tempted (or even expected) to violate God’s commandments. Commandments of which we are well aware.
Daniel had to choose whether or not to eat off a table on which food was sacrificed to idols. What does the table represent? What does the food represent? Think—Think. Do we figuratively (or literally) ‘eat food’ sacrificed to demons? How can we apply the Babylonian ‘table’ and sacrificed ‘food’ to our lives? We can, I assure you.