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Insights from the Text & Historical Records
The word Shinar for Babylon usually denotes Babylon as a city hostile to God. It appears in Genesis 10:10 as the city of Nimrod; Genesis 11:2, in the Tower of Babel story; in Isaiah 11:11; and in Zechariah 5:11.
The historian Josephus said that those deported were members of the family of King Zedekiah. Daniel means: My Judge is God. Mishael means: Who Is What God Is. Azariah means: YHWH Has Helped. Belteshazzar means: The god Bel Is My Prince. Shadrach means: Command of Aku. Abednego means: Servant of the god Nebo. Renaming was designed to take their Jewish identity away. In the Book of Daniel, however, Daniel retains their Jewish names. This apparently demonstrates they retained their Jewish identity as best they could.
Daniel was determined to keep himself ritually pure according to Jewish dietary laws in the Torah and thus ate vegetables, avoiding meat sacrificed to pagan gods.
Daniel and the other three Judeans were trained for three years to be administrators in King Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom. Daniel is the first book in the Bible where God teaches his Chosen People how to live in a pagan land. Daniel and his friends do their best to retain their Jewish identity and follow the laws of the Torah. Surprisingly, they do this successfully and King Nebuchadnezzar finds them to be ten times better than his Babylonian administrators.
Daniel will serve for 70 years in the Babylonian palace as a government official. God also sent the prophet Ezekiel to Babylon in 597 BC, although God did not call him as a prophet until 592 BC. Yet it seems he and Daniel did not meet or correspond with each other. Daniel was aware of what the prophet Jeremiah was writing in Jerusalem as he mentions the Seventy Years of Exile Jeremiah prophesied (Daniel 9:2). Jeremiah ministered in Jerusalem from 650-586 BC.
Things to Think About
- Why did God send the Judeans into exile in Babylon for 70 years? What did he want them to learn?
- Read Deuteronomy 28-30. What did God warn the Judeans about doing and what would be the consequences if they did it?
- Why did Daniel want to eat vegetables rather than the King’s rich food?
- What does this chapter teach God’s people about how to live in a godly way in a pagan environment?
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