Shalom, everyone! Shortly after being brought to King Nebuchadnezzar II’s royal court to be trained as courtiers, Daniel and his three colleagues, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, are faced with a dilemma: Would they honor and obey King Nebuchadnezzar by accepting and eating the finest food he provided for them, even though this food, according to the Torah, was not fit for consumption by Israelites? Or would they obey YAH‘s commandments and adhere to the Torah‘s dietary restrictions, potentially offending the king and causing his chief officer to lose his life?
Most of us in the Ehveh (Hebrew) community will never face Daniel‘s dilemma, yet many of us find every excuse in the world as to why we cannot adhere to the Torah’s dietary restrictions. The story of Daniel outlined in Daniel 1:8-21 is proof that we can obey YAH’s dietary laws even in exile and captivity. YAH honors and rewards Daniel for his obedience, raising him higher above all his colleagues, and giving him divine wisdom and insight to interpret all manner of dreams and visions:
Daniel 1:8 ~ “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the officers that he might not defile himself.”
Daniel, being an Israelite and devout servant of YAH, was wary of eating the king’s food due to the Torah’s dietary restrictions. He makes a conscious decision to refuse that king’s food, making this request directly to the king’s chief officer identified as Ashpenaz earlier in the chapter. The king’s food most likely included meat that was forbidden according to the Torah: The meat was either from a forbidden animal, or was from a permitted animal not slaughtered correctly in the manner Moses taught the Israelites – with a sharp knife that severs the trachea, esophagus, carotid arteries and jugular veins in one smooth cut, causing instant loss of consciousness, minimal pain, and severe loss of blood bringing about quick death. The Babylonians most likely killed their animals by strangulation, which is forbidden according to the teachings of Moses. There are far less restrictions in the Torah on the consumption of plant products, that is fruits, vegetables, herbs, pulses, nuts, spices etc. Only fruit from a tree less than three years old, new grain until after Passover, and hybrid plant foods are biblically prohibited.
Daniel also refuses the wine from the king’s food which may have been offered to an idol prior to being distributed for consumption. A person is defiled whenever he or she consumes any forbidden food, or consumes any food or drink previously offered to a false deity.
Daniel 1:9 ~ “And God granted Daniel mercy and compassion in the sight of the chief of the officers.”
YAH grants Daniel favor with the chief officer, who is willing to grant Daniel his request.
Daniel 1:10 ~ “And the chief of the officers said unto Daniel: ‘I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your food and your drink; for why should he see your faces sad in comparison with the youths that are of your own age? so would ye endanger my head with the king.'”
The chief officer was worried that he would lose his own head as punishment if the king saw that Daniel‘s visage and general health were worse than that of his peers who ate the king’s food.
Daniel 1:11 ~ “Then said Daniel to the steward, whom the chief of the officers had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah:”
Daniel 1:12 ~ “‘Try thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink.”
Daniel 1:13 ~ “Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the youths that eat of the king’s food; and as thou seest, deal with thy servants.'”
Daniel challenges the steward appointed to him and his colleagues by the chief officer, asking him to feed them only pulses (peas, beans, etc.) and water for ten days. After ten days, he asks the steward to check their visage and/or general health to see if there is any difference between them and the visage/general health of their fellow Judahites who ate the king’s food. The steward was then to decide whether the four would continue the pulse-and-water diet, or if the four would be obligated to eat the king’s rich food.
Daniel 1:14 ~ “So he hearkened unto them in this matter, and tried them ten days. And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer, and they were fatter in flesh, than all the youths that did eat of the king’s food. So the steward took away their food, and the wine that they should drink, and gave them pulse.“
After ten days of eating pulse and water, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah looked happier and healthier than their counterparts who ate the king’s food. Seeing that the four young men looked better than their counterparts, the steward allows them to continue their pulse-and-water diet, thereby allowing them to continue to adhere to the Torah‘s dietary laws.
Daniel 1:17 ~ “Now as for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.”
YAH honors and rewards the four young men, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, for being faithful to his commandments regarding food. The Most High gives these four young men greater knowledge and skill in all disciplines and wisdom than He allowed their counterparts to acquire. To Daniel, because he spoke up first about his obligation to adhere to the Torah‘s dietary laws, YAH gives the gift of interpreting all dreams and visions.
Daniel 1:18 ~ “And at the end of the days which the king had appointed for bringing them in, the chief of the officers brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar.”
After three years of training, Daniel and all his Judahite colleagues are presented to King Nebuchadnezzar by Ashpenaz.
Daniel 1:19 ~ “And the king spoke with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore stood they before the king.”
King Nebuchadnezzar takes the time to interview each of the young men. Of the entire group Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah impress the king the most. They are granted the privilege of serving in the royal court.
Daniel 1:20 ~ “And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his realm.”
The king found the counsel given by these four obedient young men, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, to be ten times better than the counsel given by all the magicians and enchanters in this kingdom. YAH gives divine wisdom and favor to those who obey His commandments.
Daniel 1:21 ~ “And Daniel continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus.”
Daniel goes on to have a long and successful career, about 60 years, in both the Babylonian and successive Persian royal courts. He served the following Babylonian and Persian kings/regents:
- Nebuchadnezzar II (Babylonian king who captured Judah and exiled the elite to Babylon)
- Evil-Merodach (Babylonian, son of Nebuchadnezzar)
- Nergal-sharezer (Babylonian, son-in-law of Nebuchadnezzar)
- Labashi-Marduk (Babylonian, son of Nergal-sharezer)
- Nabonidus (Babylonian, last king of Babylon)
- Belshazzar (son/regent of Nabonidus)
- Cyrus the Great (Persian conqueror of Babylon together with co-regent Darius the Mede)
Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah chose to obey YAH commandments and remain undefiled. When a person chooses to obey YAH commandments, even under precarious circumstances, YAH will honor and reward that person. Choose YAH and choose life!