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N the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah 1 came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem,
The first part of the book, describing the experiences of Daniel and his three companions under Nebuchadnezzar (chs. i.—iv.), Belshazzar (ch. v.), and Darius the Mede (ch. vi.).
CHAP. I. INTRODUCTION.
Chap. i. describes how Daniel and his three companions, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, came to be in Babylon, at the court of Nebuchadnezzar, the scene of the events narrated in the following chapters (ii. iv.). Nebuchadnezzar, in the third year of Jehoiakim, king of Judah (B.C. 605), laid siege to Jerusalem: part of the vessels of the Temple and some Jewish captives fall into his hands and are carried by him to Babylon (vv. 1, 2). He there gives directions for a number of youths of noble blood, including some of the Jewish captives, to be instructed in the language and learning of the sacred caste, and educated for the king's service (vv. 3-7). Among these youths are Daniel and his three companions, who, while content to pursue the studies prescribed by Nebuchadnezzar, crave and obtain permission to be allowed not to defile themselves in any way by partaking of the special delicacies provided for them from the king's table (vv. 8—16). At the expiration of three years, when the education of the selected youths is completed, the four Jewish youths are found to be distinguished beyond all the others in wisdom and knowledge, Daniel being skilled in particular in the interpretation of visions and dreams; they are accordingly admitted to the rank of the king's personal attendants (vv. 17-21).
The chapter serves a double purpose. It both serves as an introduction to the Book generally; and also teaches the practical lessons of the value, in God's eyes, of obedience to principle, and of abstinence from self-indulgence. The rule which the four Jewish youths felt called upon to obey was indeed a ceremonial rule, of no permanent obligation; but it was one which, to Jews living amongst heathen, acquired sometimes a supreme importance (cf. on vv. 8-10), so that obedience to it became a most sacred duty.
1. In the third year &c.] Whether this is historically correct is
doubtful. Jehoiakim's reign lasted eleven years (B. C. 608-597); and the Book of Jeremiah (xxv. 1) equates his fourth year with the first year of Nebuchadnezzar. Early in the same year (if the date in Jer. xlvi. 2 is correct1) there had taken place the great defeat of the Egyptians by Nebuchadnezzar at Carchemish on the Upper Euphrates, the effect of which was to transfer the whole (virtually) of Western Asia from the power of Egypt to that of Babylon (cf. Jer. xxv. 9—11, 18-26, xlvi. 25 f.; 2 Ki. xxiv. 7). We learn, now, from Berosus (ap. Josephus, Ant. x. xi. 1) that in this campaign Nebuchadnezzar was acting on behalf of his father, Nabopolassar, who was too infirm to conduct the war himself: 'hearing soon afterwards of his father's death, and having arranged the affairs of Egypt and the remaining country (i.e. Coele-Syria and Phoenicia, mentioned just before), and committed the Judaean, Phoenician, and Syrian prisoners, as well as those of the nations in Egypt, to some of his friends to convoy to Babylon with the heavy part of his army, he himself hastened home across the desert accompanied only by a few attendants.' Although Judahite captives are here mentioned, nothing is said of any siege of Jerusalem; and the terms in which Jeremiah speaks, not only in the fourth year of Jehoiakim (xxv. 9 ff.), but also in his fifth year (xxxvi. 29, see v. 9), seem to imply that a Chaldaean invasion of Judah was still in the future (Ewald, Hist., iv. 257, n. 5, Keil), and that Jehoiakim had not already, in his third year, fallen into Neb.'s hands2.
On the other hand, in the summary of Jehoiakim's reign which, in 2 Chr. xxxvi. 6, 7, takes the place of 2 Ki. xxiv. 1-4, we read, 'Against him came up Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and bound him in fetters to carry him to Babylon. And some of the vessels of the house of Jehovah brought Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon; and he put them in his palace in Babylon': but the year in which this invasion took place is not specified; and a statement which rests on the authority of the Chronicler alone, and is not supported by contemporary testimony, is of slight value. It bears witness, however, to the existence, at about 300 B.C., of a tradition respecting an attack upon Jerusalem, and the carrying away of a part of the sacred vessels of the Temple, during Jehoiakim's reign, which is also no doubt the basis of Dan. i. 1, 2. The tradition, it must be owned, wears the appearance of being a Haggadic development of 2 Ki. xxiv. I. Those who defend the accuracy of the statement of Daniel sometimes (Hengst., Keil, Zöckler) understand ('came'), with reference to the starting-point, virtually as equivalent to set out, sometimes suppose that Nebuchadnezzar made an attack upon Jerusalem either (Hävernick, Pusey, p. 401) the year before the battle of Carchemish, or (Behrmann, p. xvii) after it, but that more serious consequences were for the time averted by Jehoiakim's timely submission, and the surrender of some of the valuable vessels of the Temple. The
1 See the Introduction, p. xlix.
2 The invasion of Judah by Neb., and the three years' submission of Jehoiakim, mentioned in 2 Ki. xxiv. 1, 2, are also certainly to be placed after Jehoiakim's fourth year-most probably, indeed, towards the close of his reign (cf. Ewald, . c.).
According to Josephus (Ant. x. vi. 1) Neb., after the battle of Carchemish, 'acquired possession of the whole of Syria, as far as Pelusium, except Judah'; and only made Jehoiakim tributary four years afterwards (2 Ki. xxiv. 1).
and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of 2 Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the
first of these explanations is opposed to Heb. usage; the second, though possible in the abstract, is not strategically probable; the third, though it cannot be categorically rejected, seems scarcely consistent with what appears, from other indications, to have been the historical situation at the time. Cf. Ewald, iv. 264, n. 2.
Nebuchadnezzar] So v. 18, and uniformly in this book. The more correct form of the name is Nebuchadrezzar (properly Nabû-kudurriușur, i.e. (probably) 'Nebo, protect [Heb. 7] the boundary!'), which is the one usually found in contemporary writers, as Jer. xxi. 2, 7 (and generally in Jer.); Ezek. xxvi. 7, xxix. 18, 19, 301.
king of Babylon] Nebuchadnezzar did not become 'king of Babylon' until after the battle of Carchemish, in Jehoiakim's fourth year (Jer. xxv. 1, xlvi. 2), so that the title must be used here (as in Jer. xlvi. 2) proleptically. There is no authority in either Berosus or the Inscriptions for the supposition sometimes made that Nebuchadnezzar was associated on the throne by his father, Nabopolassar.
2. gave into his hand Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and part, &c.] To 'give into the hand,' as Jud. iii. 10; Jer. xx. 4, xxi. 7, xxii. 25, and frequently. The expression is a strong one, and seems to imply that the writer had in view a defeat, and not merely a timely submission.
the house of God] A frequent expression in late writers for the Temple (e.g. 2 Chr. iii. 3, iv. 19, v. 1, 14, vii. 5): earlier writers say nearly always 'the house of Jehovah' (e.g. 1 Ki. vii. 40, 45, 48, 51).
which he carried] and he brought them. The pron. (as the text stands: see below, p. 4) refers to the vessels.
Shinar] properly Shin'ar, a Hebrew name for Babylonia (Gen. x. 10, xi. 2, xiv. 1, 7; Josh. vii. 21; Isa. xi. 11; Zech. v. 11), here, no doubt, an old expression revived. The explanation of the name is uncertain, as nothing directly parallel has been found hitherto in the Inscriptions. According to some Assyriologists there are grounds for supposing it to be a dialectic variation of Shumer, the name given in the Inscriptions to South Babylonia2; but this explanation is not accepted by all scholars3.
to the house (i.e. temple) of his god] If any stress is to be laid upon the particular deity intended, it would be Marduk (the Merodach of Jer. 1. 2), the patron-god of Babylon. According to 2 Chr. xxxvi. 7, the vessels which Nebuchadnezzar brought to Babylon in the reign of Jehoiakim were placed by him in his palace. But see the next note.
1 The incorrect form with n is found in Jer. xxvii-xxix. (except xxix. 21: see Baer's note on xxi. 2); in 2 Ki. xxiv-xxv.; and in Chr., Ezr., Neh., Est.
2 As in the common title of the Assyrian kings, 'King of Shumer and Akkad' (Akkad being North Babylonia): so Delitzsch, Paradies (1881), p. 198, Assyr. Gramm. (1889), § 49a, Rem.; Schrader, KAT.2, p. 118 f.; Prince, p. 58.
8 Cf. Dillmann on Gen. x. 10. Sayce, Patriarchal Palestine, p. 67 f., connects the name with Sangar, a district a little W. of Nineveh.
4 See, however, Ezr. i. 7, v. 14, though the gold and silver vessels mentioned here may be those carried away by Nebuchadnezzar with Jehoiachin (Jer. xxvii. 16 [see v. 20, and cf. 2 Ki. xxiv. 13], xxviii. 3), or Zedekiah (2 Ki. xxv. 14, 15).
house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.
3 And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his
and the vessels he brought, &c.] In the Heb. 'the vessels' is emphatic by its position, and would naturally imply that something different had been mentioned before. As the verse stands, the clause is almost tautologous with the preceding one: at all events, if the 'treasure house of his god' be really a place distinct from the 'house of his god,' the correction is attached very awkwardly. Ewald supposed that some words had fallen out, and proposed to read 'Jehoiakim, king of Judah, with the noblest of the land, and part,' &c. Certainly the transportation of captives is presupposed in v. 3; but the insertion of these words does not relieve the awkwardness of v. 2. It is better, with Marti, to reject the preceding words, ' (in) the house of his god,' as a gloss, intended originally to define the position of the 'treasure house' of clause b, which has found its way into the text in a wrong place1. Still, the author's Hebrew is often far from elegant, and the anomalous wording of the verse is possibly original.
3-5. Nebuchadnezzar's purpose to have certain noble and promising youths educated for the king's service.
3. Ashpenaz] No satisfactory explanation of this name has yet been found. Acp in old Persian means a horse (Sansk. açpa); but the name as a whole, in its present form, is not explicable from either Persian or Babylonian. LXX. has Aẞieoopt. The word is not improbably a corrupt form (like 'Holophernes,' in Judith; or 'Osnappar,' Ezra iv. 10).
the master of his eunuchs] Eunuchs were, and still are, common in Oriental Courts; they sometimes attained to great influence with the monarch, and were treated by him as confidential servants. Eunuchs are often represented on the Assyrian monuments, where they are readily recognizable by their bloated and beardless faces (cf. Smith, D. B.2 s. v.; Rawlinson, Ancient Monarchies1, I. 496—8, III. 221— 223). The master,' or superintendent, of the eunuchs would have the control of the eunuchs employed in the palace, and would naturally hold an important position at court. The principal eunuch, with other eunuchs under him, would have the care of the royal harem; and the training of youths for the service of the king was a duty which would be naturally entrusted to him2. Cf. the prophecy, 2 Ki. xx. 18 (= Is. xxxix. 7); though it is not said that Daniel and his companions were made eunuchs, and it is too much to infer this (as has been done) from the statement that they were put in charge of the 'master of the king's eunuchs' in Persia eunuchs superintended the education of the young princes (Rawl. Anc. Mon., III. 221); and in Turkey, Rycaut states (see the note below), a eunuch had charge of the royal pages.
1 The words were not, it seems, in the original LXX. (see Swete, footnote). 2 In Turkey, as described by Rycaut in 1668 (The Ottoman Empire, p. 35 ff.), the office was divided, the women being under the charge of a black eunuch, called Kuzlir Agasi, and the selected youths who were being educated in the Seraglio as pages for the royal service (together with the white eunuchs employed about the Court) being under the superintendence of a white eunuch, the Capa Aga (p. 25 ff.).
eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king's seed, and of the princes; children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and
bring] bring in (R.V.), viz. into the palace (v. 18).
children of Israel] The expression would include, at the time here referred to, men of Benjamin and Levi, as well as of Judah (cf. Ezra i. 5, iv. 1, x. 9), perhaps also men of other tribes who had migrated into the territory of Judah.
and of the seed royal, and of the nobles] If the first ↑ ('and') is to be taken in its obvious sense, the reference must be to members of the royal family and nobility of Babylon (so Prof. Bevan). Most commentators render both (cf. viii. 13; Jer. xxxii. 20; Ps. lxxvi. 7 [A. V. 6]), though that is hardly a sense which it would naturally convey in the present sentence. Perhaps it is best to understand it in the sense of and in particular (cf. viii. 10).
of the seed royal] Lit. seed of royalty, or of the kingdom: so Jer. xli. 1 (=2 K. xxv. 25); Ezek. xvii. 13. Not necessarily the descendants of the reigning 'king.' LXX. ' of the royal race.'
nobles] Heb. partěmim, elsewhere only in Est. i. 3, vi. 9: the Pers. fratama, Sansk. fratema, akin etymologically to Tрóт-Eрos, πρῶτος. "The phrase martiya fratama, 'foremost men,' occurs several times in the Achaemenian inscriptions" (Bevan).
4. children] youths (R.V.).
blemish] here of physical imperfection, as Lev. xxi. 17, 18, &c.
well favoured] An archaistic English expression for good-looking: so Gen. xxix. 17, xxxix. 6, xli. 2 al. As Mr Wright (Bible Word-Book, s. v. FAVOUR) shews, 'favour' in old English meant face', so that 'well favoured' means having a handsome face. The Heb. (lit. good in looks) is the same as in Gen. xxiv. 16, xxvi. 7. An Oriental monarch would attach importance to the personal appearance of his attendants.
intelligent in all wisdom, and knowing knowledge, and understanding science] i.e. men of sagacity and intelligence, the combination of synonyms merely serving to emphasize the idea. 'Cunning' (i.e. kenning) in A.V., R.V., is simply an archaism for knowing, skilful, though the word is used generally where the reference is to some kind of technical knowledge (Gen. xxv. 27; Ex. xxxviii. 23 [where, for 'cunning workman,' read 'designer']; 1 Sam. xvi. 16; 1 Chr. xxv. 7 [not R.V.]; 2 Chr. ii. 7, 13, 14; Jer. ix. 17, x. 9 al.). The modern associations of the word prevent it, however, from being now a good rendering of the Hebrew.
science] In the Heb. a (late) synonym of 'knowledge' (as it is rendered v. 17; 2 Chr. i. 10, 11, 12), and derived from the same root: the word is not to be understood here in a technical sense, but simply
1 Bacon, Essays, XXVII. p. 113, 'As S. James saith, they are as men, that looke sometimes into a glass, and presently forget their own shape, and favour'; Cymbeline, v. 5, 93, 'His favour is familiar to me.'