27 November 2023Daniel 1:1-6, 8-20
They were to be educated for three years, so that at the end of that time they could be stationed in the king’s court. Among them were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, from the tribe of Judah. (vs 5-6)
Daniel is one of the more complex books in scripture. It is unique in the Old Testament (more often now referred to as the Hebrew scriptures) as it isn’t all written in Hebrew. From 2:4 to 8:27 it is in Aramaic and there are other parts that we only have in Greek usually included in the Deuterocanon (Apocrypha). These are the Prayer of Azariah, Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon: they are not just additions but interweave into the text. There are differences between the Greek and the Hebrew/Aramaic as well.
The literary form is also unusual with stories narrated by Daniel (chapters 2, 3, 5 and 6) and Nebuchadnezzar (chapter 4), followed by the vision report. Then there is chapter 1 which appears to be an introduction that was added later.
Possibly due these complexities, in combination with the apocalyptic prophetic content, the understanding and and application of Daniel is varied and controversial. That includes a lack of agreement on dating within the book and when it was written.
In these verses we see the complexity of faith in the context of a defeated nation in exile. Following Nebuchadnezzar's defeat of Jerusalem we see the victorious Babylonian king carrying key people into exile (it seems there were three main waves of exile: Daniel in the first, Ezekiel in the second and a third when Solomon’s temple was destroyed). Then, possibly to appease the people in exile or to legitimise power over them, the king brings 'senior' people into the palace for 'indoctrination/assimilation'. It appears that Daniel understands this and resists by rejecting the diet requirements (possibly because the royal food was connected with idol worship). This has been one of the powerfully thought-provoking ideas of the book of Daniel over many centuries: how do we stay faithful and peaceable with the powers of this world and at the same time hold onto the kingdom of God as a different vision when these two ideas are in conflict?
- What might we learn from Daniel about being faithful and and on peaceful terms with the powers of this world in which we live?
- Do you feel that the kingdom of God is in conflict with our society? How might we experience this? What should we do about it (if anything)?