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Lessons on Daniel: Chapter I Daniel’s Early Days

by R. H. Boll

(This is the first in a series from Bro. R.H. Boll’s Lessons on Daniel.)

Robert H. Boll (1875-1956)

Robert H. Boll (1875-1956)

Daniel 1

Those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ need no other proof of the Divine authority and inspiration of the book of Daniel than the endorsement of it by our Lord Himself. He not only acknowledged the whole of the Old Testament scriptures according to the Hebrew Canon–the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms, (or the “Writings”), but He also spoke specifically of “Daniel the Prophet” and repeatedly alluded to Daniel’s prophecies. (Matt. 24:15; Matt. 21; Matt. 26:64Luke 24:24, et. al.) To the believing child of God this fact infinitely outweighs all that unbelieving critics have ever been able to say against this part of God’s word. And the blessing of the word of God is for those who receive it as the word of God! (1 Thes. 2:13.)

“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim” These are the opening words of the book of Daniel, which give us the historical setting. We must know something of those times in order to understand the book of Daniel and its prophecies.

  1. The great and good King Josiah had fallen at Megiddo after having reigned for 31 years. He was the last of the good kings of the Kingdom of Judah, and the greatest and noblest of them all. (See the account of his reign in 2 Chron. 34-35) In the thirteenth year of Josiah the prophet Jeremiah began his ministry. (Jer. 25:3.) About the same time, or a year or two earlier, Daniel was born. So during his early years Daniel (being, as we shall see, of royal blood or of nobility) must have known Josiah personally. How profound an influence the example of this brave and true man may have had on the lad Daniel, we can only surmise. Also he must have known Jeremiah, and seen and heard him frequently.
  2. The death of Josiah was also the death-blow to the nation, the Kingdom of Judah. His four successors were all wicked and worthless rulers, who finished up the long-gathering ruin of their people, only for a little while retarded by Josiah’s righteous reign. The first of these was Jehoahaz, a son of Josiah, whom the people of the land made king. His evil reign lasted but three months. The king of Egypt, returning from the first battle of Carchemish (not the great decisive battle in which Egypt was defeated by Babylon) deposed Jehoahaz and set up another son of Josiah’s, Eliakim, as king over the kingdom of Judah, changing his name to Jehoiakim. (See2 Chron. 36:1-4.)
  3. “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God; and he carried them into the land of Shinar to the house of his god: and he brought the vessels into the treasure-house of his god.” (Daniel 1:1-2.) He also took with him a small number of captives, among them Daniel and his three companions. This was the well-known year 606 B. C. which marked the beginning of the captivity of Judah. From that day to this (near 2550 years) the Gentile has ruled over Israel, and, barring a short period under the Maccabees, the Jew has never again been independent as a nation, nor had an autonomous government.

It must have seemed a bitter fate to young Daniel to be thus ruthlessly torn and forever severed from his childhood home, his loved ones, his country, rudely regimented in the drove of the captives, transported some 500 miles across a desert land, into the heathen country of the Chaldeans, to Babylon the capital city of the conquering enemy. In the midst of a people of strange language, strange ways and idolatrous religion, no doubt he often wept when he remembered Zion. (Ps. 137.) But the God of his fathers must have been his refuge and strength in those sorrowful days. There came an unexpected turn for him when Nebuchadnezzar, desiring to avail himself of the best material among the captives, ordered the selection of youths that measured up to certain requirements.

Exceedingly high were the standards and qualifications demanded. These youths must be:

Of the seed royal and of the nobles.

Without physical defects or deformity.

Well favored –i. e., of pleasing appearance.

Skillful in all wisdom–bright, intelligent.

Endued with knowledge, and understanding science–therefore highly educated.

Such as had ability to stand in the king’s palace–having that poise, and polish, culture and manner that             would fit them for the king’s court.

The youths that measured up to these stringent, and exacting requirements (among whom were Daniel and his three companions) were to be educated in the learning and tongue of the Babylonians. The course of schooling was three years. During this time they were to be fed from the King’s table, the King himself appointing their daily portion of his dainties and of his wine. To Daniel was given the name “Belteshazzar”; the names of his companions (Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah) were changed to Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego–all of which names embodied titles of Babylonian deities.

“Daniel purposed in his heart” No doubt Daniel had made his decision for God before ever he was brought to Babylonia. But now he and his companions were confronted with the [4] first great test. The King’s dainties included items of food which God had forbidden His people Israel to eat. (See Lev. 11 and Lev. 17.) And his wines had all been offered as libation to his idols. Quietly but irrevocably, Daniel resolved in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s meats and wine which he drank. In making up his mind to this, Daniel assumed the risk of heavy punishment, even possible death by execution. Whatever the consequences might be, Daniel had purposed in his heart. And that was that.

To us who live in a time of laxity and compromise, Daniel’s stand may seem to have been extreme. Think of a boy far removed from home, from parental oversight, from the watchful eyes of friends and spiritual leaders–how natural for him to forget the teaching of his early days; how natural it would seem in a new world to change his views and convictions (many of our youth, alas, go out into the world without convictions to begin with) and to feel that when you are in Babylon you must fall in with Babylon’s ways! For who wants to be “odd” and different; who wants to be branded as a crank or as a “stick-in-the-mud”? The extreme old-fashioned notions of father and mother are not practical nor practicable in the new environment. One cannot be a laughing stock in an up-to-date world. And so on. They are the old familiar arguments of the tempter since the world began. In Daniel’s case the test was a more severe one: on the one hand lay honor and ease and preferment at the king’s court; on the other hand  the possibility of a cruel death. Nevertheless–“Daniel purposed in his heart.”

How by faith and courage and sweet wisdom the first round in the battle was won, how God blessed Daniel and his three companions, how in their final examination before the King they excelled all others–is all related in the first chapter of the book of Daniel.

Often the first victory is the decisive one for all after-life. It was so in Daniel’s case. “Daniel purposed in his heart”–that struck the key-note of all that long and wonderful career that followed. “Daniel continued,” in high place and ever higher, even unto the first year of King Cyrus”–that is, throughout the entire seventy years of the Captivity. In the midst of the most corrupt court on earth, the court of Babylon, he kept his garments unspotted from the world.

It would be interesting, could we know and see, how many myriads of lives have been strengthened and hearts have been inspired to fight the good fight, by this single brave, God-fearing decision of God’s young servant Daniel. For indeed, “No life can be strong in its purpose, or pure in it strife, and all life not be stronger and purer thereby.”

Our next lesson will enter into that outstanding land-mark chapter, the second of Daniel.

PERSONAL THOUGHTS

“Daniel purposed in his heart.” Then, and ever after, this was his one rule and aim: to do the will of God first, last, and all the time. From this purpose he never swerved. His was the pure heart and the single eye. Though he was a servant under the king of Babylon, he had but one Master.

Daniel was one of the few characters that rated 100 per cent. No scratch stands against his record. Joseph and Joshua and Samuel also held such a standard.

Daniel’s companions. We do not know, but it is possible they might not have had so much courage and strength but for Daniel’s bold stand and leadership. To a brave and faithful soul kindred souls will rally. And if one chase a thousand, two will put ten thousand to flight.

“Daniel continued.” Throughout the years of the captivity, through the change of rulers and governments, and on into the time of Cyrus, the Persian king, Daniel continued steady, steadfast, faithful, true, always, in every relationship of life. Behold what God’s blessing may mean to a man!

Two passages in the Psalms apply with exactness to Daniel. See how Psalm 1 describes him and his career; and how the words of Psalm 94:14-16 were literally true of him.

“He that overcometh.” If Daniel had failed or compromised in his first test, how great would have been the shame and loss! How great, on the other hand, was the gain and glory of his victory!

Daniel was God’s man at the court of the Gentile world-power. To him God revealed the secret of the “times of the Gentiles,” of which we shall learn. In addition to the distinct prophetic gift, Daniel had the seeing eye, the hearing ear, and the understanding heart.

Since this was written Israel is now again an independent and autonomous nation in the land of Palestine. It is one of the “signs of the times”.

 

Bro. R. H. Boll was an editor of the print edition of Word & Work from 1916-1956




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I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33