Thoughts to Ponder: Chapter 2
Chapter 2: Living In Times of Turbulence ~ Daniel 1:1-7
Q1 – Compare the account of what happened here with what had been prophesied years before. (Reread II Kings 20:16-18 or Isaiah 39:5-7) Do you think these young men were among the descendants referred to in this prophesy?
A1 – Isaiah told Hezekiah three things would happen: 1) everything in his palace, including the treasures amassed by previous kings, would be carried off to Babylon; 2) some of Hezekiah’s own direct descendants would be taken to Babylon; and 3) these direct descendants would become eunuchs, serving in the palace of the king of Babylon.
While it’s likely Daniel and his friends were among Hezekiah’s descendants referred to in this prophesy, scripture does not specifically state that they were the ones. However, in reading Daniel 1, you can see how their situation seemed to parallel what had been prophesied. Let’s look at each of the above points:
1) Not only were articles from the temple of God delivered into Nebuchadnezzar’s hand, but also the king of Judah, Jehoiakim, was as well. Some of these temple treasures led to the downfall of a later Babylonian king, Belshazzar, when he used the goblets to toast the pagan gods.
While the palace of the king and the temple were two different structures, both were under the control of the king and were in close proximity to one another. Evidently, what the Babylonians didn’t seize and carry off, they ultimately destroyed. Remember that the Babylonians invaded Jerusalem several times. (This article, “The Destruction of Jerusalem,” presented by bible-history.com gives an overview of this time period. It’s also helpful to refer to their “Timeline of the Babylonian Captivity.”)
An account of this time period is given in II Kings 24. During the siege of Jerusalem when Jehoiachin, Jehoiakim’s son, was king, this scripture states in verse 13 that Nebuchadnezzar removed the treasures from the temple and the royal palace and cut up the gold articles that Solomon had made for the temple. So after enduring various invasions by the Babylonians, Jerusalem lay pretty well decimated.
2) Many of the Jews who survived the sieges were carried off into Babylonian captivity, and only the poor of the land were left behind to take care of things. During the invasion described in II Kings 24, Nebuchadnezzar carried off all the officers and fighting men along with the skilled workers and artisans (see verse 14). More destruction and deportation of Jews occurred during a later invasion described in II Kings 25, and again, only the poorest people were left behind to work the land (see verse 12). So it’s safe to assume that any of Hezekiah’s descendants who were still alive were deported to Babylonia. We also know from Daniel 1:3-4 that some of them were brought into King Nebuchadnezzar’s service, because the royal family would consist of his descendants. In fact, the King James Version refers to them as being “of the king’s seed, and of the princes” (Daniel 1:3 KJV).
3) While Daniel 1:3-5 tells us that Jewish royalty and nobility were brought into King Nebuchadnezzar’s three year training program for the express purpose of entering the king’s service, it doesn’t state if they were made eunuchs or not. However, the King James Version of the Bible calls the king’s official, Ashpenaz, who was over Daniel and his friends, “the master of his eunuchs” (Daniel 1:3 KJV). Moreover, there is no mention in the Bible of Daniel ever having a wife or children. So while it’s possible, and perhaps even likely, that Daniel and his companions were made eunuchs, there doesn’t seem to be scriptural verification one way or the other.
Q2 – Even though God was unhappy with the nation, He did not blanket condemn every person. Think on the many ways God showed His favor to these four young men.
A2 – God cared and provided for the individuals who were faithful to them, even though the nation as a whole was being disciplined and forced to endure deportation to a foreign land. The following are some of the instances recorded in the book of Daniel.
God caused the king’s official to treat Daniel and his friends favorably while in the training program and agreed to let them eat the food they asked for. Remember that the Israelites were not allowed to eat certain foods under the Law of Moses, and it’s possible the king’s food would have violated their dietary restrictions.
God granted these young men exceptional knowledge and understanding and gave Daniel the ability to understand visions and dreams. As a result, they were noticed by the king and his officials and quickly appointed to leadership positions. These abilities caused them to be held in much higher regard than they would otherwise have been.
God saved Daniel and his friends from certain death when He delivered them from the fiery furnace and the lion’s den. When there appeared to be no way out for them, God provided a way and preserved their lives. Moreover, their miraculous deliverances showed the Babylonians the awesome power of Jehovah God.
Q3 – God’s people are never “lost in the crowd” in God’s eyes. Think of the teachings in the New Testament, particularly the parables of Jesus, that emphasize the importance of each individual.
A3 – The three parables presented in Luke 15 truly emphasize the value of each individual in God’s eyes. In the Parable of the Lost Sheep, when one sheep out of the whole flock wanders off, the shepherd first of all notices that it is missing. He searches until he finds it, and then he carries it back to the flock on his shoulders. Finally, he calls upon his friends and neighbors to rejoice with him that he has found his lost sheep.
Not only does this parable emphasize the importance of each individual, but it also presents a template for how the lost should be treated:
1) The shepherd keeps track of his sheep. Maybe he counts them or perhaps he knows the individual characteristics of each one. Note how crucial it is that he notices one sheep has wandered away—otherwise, how would he know to go look for it?
2) The shepherd searches until he finds the sheep. He doesn’t search until he gets tired, or until it gets dark, or until he gets distracted with something else. His focus remains on the lost sheep, and he doesn’t quit until he finds it. Each sheep is a treasure—each one possesses great value.
3) The shepherd carries it back to the flock on his shoulders. The sheep has been wandering for awhile, and the shepherd knows it’s tired. He doesn’t scream at it or berate it, he doesn’t put a rope around its neck and drag it back to teach it a lesson, and he doesn’t beat it as punishment for wandering off. The shepherd is joyful at finding his sheep and treats it tenderly.
4) The shepherd rejoices that he has found his lost sheep, and he calls upon his friends and neighbors to rejoice with him. It’s not enough just to reunite his sheep back to the flock. This one sheep is too important—its return must be celebrated!
The other two parables in this chapter, the Parable of the Lost Coin and the Parable of the Lost Son, hold similar messages. They hold a message for the lost—you are important, a real treasure in God’s eyes. They also hold a message for those who are not lost—be genuinely joyful when the lost come back and rejoice with them. It is not your place to berate them or shame them or try to teach them a lesson so they’ll never do that again. It is your place to embrace them and help them regain solid footing.