See Jer 29.5-7; Jeremiah wrote to the captives in Babylon, bringing the Lord's command to be involved and influential; the promise was that God would bring peace, and the people would increase. This was fulfilled in the lives of Daniel and his three friends.
We also see their faithfulness to God in a hostile environment. Indeed, it is hard to fault Daniel in any way; like the satraps and governors, we can find no fault in him, see 6.4.
v1-2: Nebuchadnezzar defeats Jehoiakim, 2 Kings 23.35-24.7; 2 Chr 36.5-8. He takes some Jews to Babylon, choosing more able Jews, who can serve him. This is some 20 years before Jerusalem is finally defeated. Daniel is clear that the Lord Himself delivered the people into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar; the keynote of the booked is: ‘the Most High rules in the kingdoms of men.’
Nebuchadnezzar also removes articles from the temple of the Lord, which Belshazzar later misuses, 5.2-3.
v3-5: Man's choice, the king's descendants and nobles; contrast 1 Cor 1.26; God takes those overlooked by man, and uses them for His glory. Man cannot and will not do that; for he looks for certain desirable qualities and qualifications.
Nebuchadnezzar's purpose is to teach these young men the language and literature of the Chaldeans, but this is more than just education, for he wants to destroy their Jewish identity. This includes a special diet, probably of food previously offered to idols, making it unclean for a Jew.
v6-7: The narrative mentions just four men, but doubtless many more have their names changed;
- Daniel; God will judge; Belteshazzar
- Azariah; God has helped; Abed-Nego
- Hananiah; Grace of God; Shadrach
- Mishael; Who is God?; Meshach.
Their names are changed to remove the testimony to God that they all carry. In 4.8, Nebuchadnezzar commented that Daniel was given a new name "after the name of my god."
In a similar way, Christians face the constant influence of the world, to silence our testimony. Not only is there the temptation to sin, but there is the compromise of the world, and the avoidance of our testimony of Christ.
v8: Although many in Babylon are in despair (Ps 137), Daniel has purpose of heart, a principled stand, meaning that he draws a line at something that was not acceptable. His stand is also gracious, for "he asked" (requested) not to eat the special food. There is a challenge here to maintain a consistent purpose and attitudes, matching our actions and to demonstrate grace in our dealings with others.
The heart is central to the whole of our lives; it determines our beliefs, dictates our morals, and directs our actions. The heart is the wellspring of life (Prov 4.23).
v9: Daniel's blameless life has already brought him into favour with the chief official.
v10: The chief official has a genuine concern for Daniel, thinking that a change of food would spoil his appearance.
v11-14: Daniel's response, polite but firm, enables him to maintain his stand, and encourages his friends to stand with him. The four young men, probably teenagers at this stage, confidently put themselves in God's hand. The period of ten days indicates a time of trial, compare Rev 2.10.
There is no argument for vegetarianism here. Daniel and his friends did not reject the meat simply because it was meat, but because the meat had most likely been offered to idols, and would therefore render them ‘unclean’ under the OT Law.
v15-16: God honours them by a better and healthier appearance than those on the richer diet; see 1 Thess 4.12; they walk properly, and lack nothing.
v17-20: More blessing from God; they grow in knowledge and skill, as we grow in spiritual giftings. Nebuchadnezzar finds them "ten times better" than even the magicians and astrologers, let alone other students. It is clear that faithfulness to God will be rewarded.
v21: It is significant that Daniel continues in high office for many years.