Daniel arrived as a captive in Babylon. Before he could adapt to this new life style, he was challenged with the compulsory enrolment, together with fellow captives, into a three year training program. At the end of the three years the king himself would personally interview each candidate to decide who qualified to serve in his administration. Daniel was not an exchange student, but he did become a student in a foreign land. He was given an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. When he qualified after three years, his career would have a flying start with a job at the palace. Daniel would be employed by the king himself. What an opportunity!
Captivity did not sound so bad anymore. All their expenses were paid; in fact they were looked after and treated as part of the king’s household; they even received food from the king’s table. The future looked better and better each day or did it?
There were certain things expected from them.
• Their names were changed from names referring to God, to names referring to foreign gods. The custom in Babylon was to change a person’s name to represent a new development in his career. Daniel and his three companions’ names were changed to reflect that they were servants of the Babylonian gods.
• They were to learn the culture and languages of Babylon from the best. History records that there were great libraries in Babylon with books on all subjects.
• They were to eat from the king’s table.
Sharing a Meal
To eat from the king’s table meant much more than eating the best food in the land compared to the food of the common people. According to the Law, the Jews had strict dietary rules that prevented them from eating food from a pagan’s table, even if he was the king. The king’s food was offered to idols before eaten and the meat killed with the blood. The priests often drank the blood as part of the ritual. All this was against dietary laws of the Jews. Eating and drinking in ancient times were lavish social events that were in contrast to the will of God.
In the Bible times, who and why you shared a meal with, was taken very seriously. It was very important who you shared a meal with. When two enemies shared a meal, it was a sign of peace and the end of strife. Covenant relationships and friendships were established by sharing a meal together. Daniel had a choice.
Daniel 1:8 tells us about the choice Daniel made. Daniel decided not to defile himself and eat from the king’s table or drink the wine offered.
Was not eating the king’s food so important to risk throwing, not only your future away, but putting your life in danger? In a very short time, Daniel was taken captive, then given a great career opportunity to become an employee in the king’s palace, and now he wanted to give it all up for laws he was taught at home, a home that didn’t exist anymore. Was this a wise choice? Was Daniel and his companions the exception to the rule? The Bible doesn’t mention others following Daniel’s example. Perhaps they reasoned they would rather adapt than die. Besides, they were far from their homeland. Wasn’t the wise choice not to “make waves”? Think of all the good he could do while working in the palace. After all he would be of no use dead. Surely the end justified the means.
To Daniel God was much more important than his future or his life. His faith in God made the choice for him; to stay in the will of God rather than the will of man. Daniel made the choice not to defile himself and he was rewarded by God with favor and compassion from the chief of the eunuchs. (Daniel 1:9).
Daniel had favor with God and also with man.
Daniel and his three friends were tested and were allowed ten days eating their special diet of vegetables. After ten days the steward, appointed to oversee them, noticed that they looked and acted healthier than the other candidates. They were allowed to continue eating the special diet; they were no longer obligated to eat food from the king’s table.
God also gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom and to Daniel He also gave understanding in all visions and dreams. They paid the price to stay faithful to God and they were rewarded.