God gave the kingdom of Judah into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, but He also equipped Daniel and his companions for service in the court of Babylon.
In its opening paragraph, Daniel labels Babylon the “land of Shinar,” which links it to the “tower of Babel” in Genesis. The Neo-Babylonian Empire had an ancient pedigree, and like his ancient forbears, Nebuchadnezzar had determined to unite all men under one language and one government, where all would render homage to his high image.
Unwittingly, the king of Babylon was working to reverse the judgment of Yahweh against Shinar by gathering all nations under his rule. Representatives from conquered peoples were taken to Babylon to be educated in its “language” and wisdom, including Daniel and his three companions.
Despite the efforts and intentions of the king, events moved according to God’s plan, for He is sovereign and rules over the kingdoms of this age. It was Yahweh who “gave” Nebuchadnezzar the Babylonian throne, and his subjugation of the kingdom of Judah.
- (Daniel 1:1-2) – “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, came Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon to Jerusalem and laid siege against it; and the Lord gave into his hand Jehoiakim king of Judah and a part of the vessels of the house of God, and he brought them into the land of Shinar into the house of his gods, and the vessels he brought into the treasure-house of his gods.”
God is active in the affairs of all nations, not just in those of Israel. He “gave” the kingdom of Judah into the Babylonian king’s “hand.” Moreover, in doing so, He also placed the four powerless Jewish captives inside the imperial court to achieve His plans.
The first verse sets the stage – In the “third year of the reign of Jehoiakim” – about the year 605 B.C. The career of Daniel continued from that point until the “first year of King Cyrus” when the “kingdom of the Medes and Persians” overthrew Babylon, also according to Yahweh’s decree. But this is more than a chronological marker, for it establishes the commencement of the seventy-year captivity of the Jewish nation, an important milestone for the Book of Daniel.
In 605 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem after defeating Egypt at the Battle of Carchemish. It was at that time that he removed the “vessels” from the Temple and selected men from the Judean royal house to be educated in Babylon for service in his government.
With the conquest of Jerusalem, the political independence of Judah had ceased. The city and Temple were ransacked, and the upper echelons of Judean society were removed to Mesopotamia. Thus, Daniel found himself a powerless exile working in the civil service of the World-Power.
From the human perspective, this was disastrous, nonetheless, it was in accord with the purposes of Yahweh. The Hebrew verb rendered “gave” or nathan is applied several times in the chapter whenever Yahweh arranged events. Precisely why God “gave” Judah over to this fate is not stated at this point in the book.
The Babylonian ruler removed the vessels to the land of “Shinar,” and like the “Tower of Babel” incident, he attempted to unite all people under one language, religion, and culture. However, the “Most-High God” used the situation to accomplish His purposes.
The ruler of Babylon intended to educate the Jewish exiles in the wisdom, literature, and language of the “Chaldeans.” On their arrival in Babylon, the “king appointed them a daily provision of his food and of the wine that he drank to nourish them three years.” This was a great honor not to be rejected without suffering serious consequences.
But Daniel was concerned that partaking of the royal provisions would impinge on his ritual purity, and most probably, the issue was eating food offered to (Babylonian) idols. In Babylonian rituals, food consumed in the royal court was offered first to the Babylonian gods in their sanctuaries before it was served at the royal table.
But God “gave” Daniel favor before the “prince of the eunuchs,” who granted his request to abstain from the royal provisions for ten days. His positive response to Daniel was due to the intervention of Yahweh – it was God who “gave” Daniel “kindness and compassion in the sight of the prince of the eunuchs.”
Furthermore, God also “gave” the exiles “knowledge and prudence in all learning and wisdom,” and He also gave Daniel “understanding in all visions and dreams,” which, through the prophet, became the primary means by which God announced and influenced the direction of empires – (Daniel 1:9-16).
Nebuchadnezzar examined the youths and found they excelled in “every matter of wisdom and understanding.” “And Daniel continued even unto the first year of King Cyrus.” That is, until 538 B.C. This establishes the length of his career – from the third year of King Jehoiakim to the first year of Cyrus the Great – 605 to 538 B.C.
In the Book of Revelation, the story of Daniel’s “test” is alluded to in its letters to Pergamos, Thyatira, and Smyrna. In the cities of Asia, believers were tempted to “eat meat offered to idols,” and thereby, compromise with idolatry:
“The Devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tried; and you shall have tribulation ten days.”
The Greek verb rendered “try” is the same one used in the Greek Septuagint version of Daniel. The verbal link is deliberate, for Daniel’s example becomes the model for perseverance to the “seven churches of Asia” – (Daniel 1:12-14, Revelation 2:8-10).
Like Daniel, John found himself given over to exile on the isle of Patmos for the “testimony of Jesus.” And on Patmos, he became a “fellow participant in the tribulation and the kingdom and the perseverance in Jesus” with the beleaguered and marginalized congregations of Asia. And like Daniel, God used John to “prophesy to nations and kings,” pronouncing their rise and fall, and in the end, the victory of the kingdom of God and the absolute sovereignty of Jesus over the Cosmos – (Revelation 1:9, 10:11).