Daniel 1

Princes Brought to Babylon

Nebuchadnezzar

Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it (Daniel 1:1).

Nebuchadnezzar was one of the greatest kings of the ancient world. He was a great general and conqueror, a great builder, and one of history’s ablest administrators. This brick is inscribed with the king’s names and his titles. He defeated the Egyptians at Carchemish while still only a crown prince, and he subsequently subdued Judah while he was chasing the Egyptian army back toward their homeland.

Loot from the Temple

The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God (Daniel 1:2).

The mention of the temple vessels is intended to give background information to ch. 5, when Belshazzar removes the sacred vessels from storage and defiantly treats them as common. Gold and silver drinking vessels (possibly libation vessels) are specifically mentioned in Daniel 5:2-3, 23. This silver and gold cup belonged to a general of Pharaoh Psusennes I (1051-1006), a contemporary of King David. It serves to demonstrate the sort of valuables that the Babylonians probably found in the temple.

Entering Babylon

He brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god (Daniel 1:2).

Daniel and his friends would have certainly passed through this gate in Babylon (known as the Ishtar Gate) during their lifetimes. It may even have been the gate through which they entered Babylon for the first time after being carried off from Jerusalem. This reconstruction, located in the Museum of the Ancient Near East in Berlin, was made using original bricks from the ancient city.

Belteshazzar

The chief of the eunuchs gave them names: to Daniel he gave the name Belteshazzar (Daniel 1:7).

In Babylon, Daniel did not merely have his name written in a different language—it was changed to something altogether different. Instead of Daniel (Heb. “God is my judge”), he was named Belteshazzar (“May Bel protect the king”). “Bel” (lord) was a title given to Marduk, the chief god of the Babylonian pantheon at the time of Nebuchadnezzar. He was often depicted as a dragon, as on these glazed bricks from Babylon.

Defiled Food and Drink

But Daniel resolved in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food, nor with the wine which he drank (Daniel 1:8).

Exodus 34:15 prohibited eating of a pagan sacrifice, and the king’s food was apparently dedicated to his idols. (It also likely included meat that was unclean, such as pork.) Nebuchadnezzar’s wine was evidently also offered to idols. This Egyptian figurine from the 7th century BC shows the king Taharqa offering wine to the god Hemen.

Babylonian Education

As for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom (Daniel 1:17).

This Babylonian dictionary from Uruk is roughly contemporary with the lifetime of Daniel. Daniel would have had to master these languages (Sumerian and Akkadian), so he would have been thoroughly familiar with dictionaries like this one. Learning Akkadian was an especially difficult task, as the script is syllabic (not alphabetic) and has over 900 different signs. The tablet was photographed at the Louvre Museum (AO 7661); this image comes from Poulpy and is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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