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KD Old Testament Lesson 45: Daniel 1,3, 6

Posted by Karl D. on December 5, 2010

Gospel Doctrine
Lesson: Daniel (#45)
Reading: Daniel 1,3,6 & Esther 3-5,7-8

PDF Version of Notes

1 Approach

These represent the notes I made during my reading of the scriptural text for this lesson. It is not a lesson outline or a lesson plan but really notes about issues and questions that struck me as interesting during my reading. Consequently, the notes do not have a conclusion and very little mention of application. I like to let those things arise while I teach.

2 Introduction

2.1 Literary Structure

It appears that the book of Daniel contains at least two different distinct genres:1

1. Public History: Stories of Daniel & Friends 1-6
Deliverance stories: preservation of Daniel & Friends 1,3,6
Interpretation stories: Daniel explains puzzles 2,4,5
2. Private History: A vision written in the first person 7-12

2.2 Original Language

The beginning of the book and chapters 8-12 of Daniel are written in Hebrew. Daniel 2:4-7 is written in Aramaic. “Aramaic is the common language of the near east from the time of the Babylonian exile until the conquests of Alexander the great.”2 Hebrew would have been primarily the language of worship rather than every day use.3 W. Sibley Towner, in the HarperCollins Bible Commentary explains what we can learn from the language structure of the book with the following:4

Were one of the two languages confined to the narrative section of Daniel, chaps. 1-6, and the other to the apocalyptic vision, chaps 7-12, one simple postulate dual authorship. But as is obvious, the Aramaic portion of Daniel overlaps the narrative and the apocalyptic portions of the book. That its present bilingual character goes back to its beginnings is attested by the fact that in fragments of the text of Daniel found at Qumran, written not more than a century after the book itself, the same transition points between Hebrew and Aramaic occur. Perhaps the most widely accepted explanation for the bilingualism of the book is Daniel was originally written in Aramaic and that the beginning and end of the book were later translated into lat biblical Hebrew (rife with Aramaisms) to make the book mote acceptable to the devout and observant Jewish audience that treasured it.

2.3 Dating

I think most scholars today date the apocalyptic sections (chapters 7-12) and the final form of the book to about 167-164 BCE because they feel the visions are most accurate and detailed when writing about the crisis caused by the division of Alexander the Great’s empire.5 On the other hand scholars think that the writing is less accurate when describing 6th century BCE. 6 Also, scholars tend to suggest that chapters 1-6 may date to an earlier period in terms of authorship.

I don’t think the dating is particularly important issue in the context of gospel doctrine class. Probably more important is the setting of exile in Babylon (6th century BCE). That actually makes the setting here pretty similar to Ezekiel and Esther. And like Esther, the book certainly deals with the question of how a Jew can survive in exile.

3 Four Jewish Heroes in Babylon

3.1 In Babylon

Read Daniel 1:1-2

1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.

Apparently there are lots of dating problems here. The third year of the rein of Jehoiakim is 606 BCE but Nebuchadnezzar didn’t come to power until 605 BCE and didn’t invade Israel until later.7

3.2 Daniel and Friends

Read 1:3-7

3 And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes; 4 Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans. 5 And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king. 6 Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: 7 Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.

  • Obviously Daniel and friends are introduced here, and are brought to the palace. Why would Babylon do something like this? How does this potentially benefit the empire?
  • Well it strikes me as a very sensible assimilation technique.
  • The language used to describe the children is really interesting: “Children in whom was no blemish.” Does this “no blemish” language remind or bring other biblical language or stories to your mind?
  • Does it remind you of the language used to describe sacrificial animals (Lev 22:19-22)?

19 Ye shall offer at your own will a male without blemish, of the beeves, of the sheep, or of the goats. 20 But whatsoever hath a blemish, that shall ye not offer: for it shall not be acceptable for you. 21 And whosoever offereth a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD to accomplish his vow, or a freewill offering in beeves or sheep, it shall be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no blemish therein. 22 Blind, or broken, or maimed, or having a wen, or scurvy, or scabbed, ye shall not offer these unto the LORD, nor make an offering by fire of them upon the altar unto the LORD.

  • The “no blemish” language is also used in the connection with priests (Lev 21:17):

17 Speak unto Aaron, saying, Whosoever he be of thy seed in their generations that hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God.

  • Why would this language be used to describe Daniel and friends? Do you think it is purposeful?
  • Is the “no blemish” language meant to give us insight into Daniel’s character?
  • Does the “no blemish” language give us insight into what the exiles might have felt like?

3.3 Names

/Daniel and Friends: Hebrew Names/8

Name Pronunciation Meaning
Daniel dan’yuhl God is my Judge
Hananiah han’uh-ni’uh God has favoured
Mishael mish’ee’uhl Who is what God is
Azariah az’uh-ri’uh Jehovah has helped
  • Why the name changes? On a practical level? Why are the name changes important to the story?
  • To me it speaks to one of the core sources of conflict in Daniel. How can the Jews/Israel survive when faced with this overwhelming pressure to assimilate. The Hebrew names emphasize their special relationship with Jehovah and the need for devotion to Him and no-one else. This is underscored by the fact that all the new names refer to the Babylon gods Bel and Nabu.

3.4 Diet

Read Daniel 1:8-17:

8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. 9 Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. 10 And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king. 11 Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. 13 Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants. 14 So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days. 15 And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat. 16 Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse. 17 As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.

3.4.1 No Meat for You

  • Many Mormons find a connection with the Word of Wisdom here. To me the connection has to do with Jewish and Mormon identity. Scholars point out that in the post exilic period that diet was a major marker of Jewish identity. It set them apart; certainly the Word of Wisdom does the same thing for us.
  • What is strange about this story?
  • Why do Daniel and friends refuse the wine given that Leviticus (the Mosaic law) doesn’t forbid wine?
  • Why do Daniel and friends go vegan given that Leviticus (the Mosaic law) doesn’t forbid meat. Could it be how these foods were prepared?
  • Also compare what Daniel does with Esther 1:9 where Esther eats the palace food. What is up with that? Sometimes you can eat Gentile palace food and sometimes you can’t?
  • Some commentators have suggested that this is largely symbolic. Daniel and friends refuse to feast while the Jews are in exile. What do you think of this idea? Does it make sense?
  • Could we view these self-imposed prohibitions as anti-assimilation measures on the part of Daniel and friends?
  • Vegetables and water are also the food of poor people. Is that important?
  • Other commentators suggest that this eating and drinking is done in connection with Babylonian religious ceremonies. Thus Daniel and friends are avoiding the food so as not to engage in idolatry.9 What do you think of this idea? I wonder if this might be related to the references in Ezekiel where Ezekiel says that righteous men avoid eating food in high mountains (see, for example, Ezekiel 16:5-9)?
  • Finally, not eating the food shows that Daniel and friends do not need the Kings favor. There is only one King and they only need His favor. What to you think of this as a potential explanation for the actions of Daniel and friends?

3.4.2 A Few Thoughts

Verse 5 mentions that the King “educated them for 3 years.” The King James version says nourished and not educated but all the modern translation say educated. This provides a wonderful contrast to verse 17:

17 As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.

  • Nebuchadnezzar had sought to teach them (assimilate them really), but God both nourished them physically but also spiritually and mentally. The message seems to be despite the exile, the Lord is still in control not the King of Babylon.
  • I think this story serves as a wonderful introduction to the book of Daniel. The conflict between earthly Kingdoms and the Kingdom of Heaven comes through strongly here. It seems to me that this story is often read as a didactic narrative about the benefit of a healthy modest lifestyle in contrast to a decadent lifestyle. It certainly is such a didactic narrative but I think the story is so much more than that. It is about trusting and turning to God when it is most difficult or inconvenient to do so.
  • Do you see echos of the Joseph in Egypt narrative in this Daniel story? Do you think those echos are purposeful or important?

4 The Fiery furnace

4.1 Some Questions about Daniel

  • Why isn’t Daniel in this story?
  • Can Nebuchadnezzar really be that dumb? How do we reconcile the events of chapter 2 with the narrative in chapter 3? Shouldn’t the king have learned something?
  • Don’t really know the answer to this other than to say that the depiction of the king is highly stylized. He is usually written as a bullying buffoon. Maybe this is to provide contrast to the real king (God).

4.2 An Image of Gold

Read Daniel 3:1-3:

1 Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. 2 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellers, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. 3 Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellers, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

  • Note the golden statue here is about 90 x 9 feet. So I guess those dimension could make sense if the thing was an obelisk.
  • Suppose the author is engage in a bit of hyperbole here? Why might he/she do that? What purpose does it serve?
  • I think the hyperbole is meant to impart to the reader how impressive the statue was or the impressive overwhelming power of the Babylon king (look at what Daniel’s friends stand up to). Notice how this is followed by a long list of people who are obedient to the King. This emphasizes the Kings power. All of this contrasts with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s obedience later to the Lord.

4.3 A Herald

Read Daniel 3:4-5:

4 Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, 5 That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up:

  • What is going on here?
  • Should we read the description here as hyperbolic as well?
  • If it is hyperbolic, does the hyperbole emphasize or reinforce the point made in the first three verses of the chapter?

4.4 Comedy

Read Daniel 3:8-12:

8 Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews. 9 They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever. 10 Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, shall fall down and worship the golden image: 11 And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

  • Is it just me or are these verses actually funny?
  • Do you think the author is trying to be funny here? What could be the point of engaging in some comedic imagery?

4.5 We Will Not Serve Thy Gods

Read Daniel 3:16-18:

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. 17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

  • Are Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego sure of the rescue? Does this suggest a lack of faith on their part or something else?
  • Do you think that their response is applicable more generally? Does it tell us something about how we should face trials?
  • Would this have been meaningful to the original reader or hearers of the story? Encountering terribly difficult trials (exile) without very much hope of success or much foresight into what would happen in the future?

Footnotes:

1 Davies, P. R., 2001, “Daniel” in The Oxford Bible Commentary, Oxford University Press, 563.

2 Davies,P. R., 2001, “Daniel” in The Oxford Bible Commentary, Oxford
University Press, 563.

3 The New Annotated Oxford Bible, introductory notes on Daniel.

4 Towner, Sibley W., 2000, “Daniel” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary, Harper & Row, 624.

5 Towner, Sibley W., 2000, “Daniel” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary, Harper & Row, 624.

6 Davies, P. R., 2001, “Daniel” in The Oxford Bible Commentary, Oxford University Press, 564.

7 The New Annotated Oxford Bible

8 Pronunciation taken from Walker, William O. Jr., 1989, The HarperCollins Bible Pronunciation Guide, HarperCollins.

9 Davies, P. R., 2001, “Daniel” in The Oxford Bible Commentary, Oxford University Press, 564.

2 Responses to “KD Old Testament Lesson 45: Daniel 1,3, 6”

  1. Rosebud said

    Thanks. This is well put together. I’m tired and this will buy me some sleep. I’m feeling VERY thankful for your hard work right now. Thanks again. Did I say thanks yet? Oh yeah….

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