Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
This chapter begins with giving a short account of Nebuchadnezzar's conquest of Judea, when Jehoiakim became tributary to him; and consequently the seventy years' captivity and vassalage began, Dan 1:1, Dan 1:2. On this expedition (taking Egypt in his way) the king of Babylon set out towards the end of the third year of Jehoiakim, but did not take Jerusalem before the ninth month of the year following. Hence the seeming discrepancy between Daniel and Jeremiah, (Jer 25:1), the one computing from the time of his setting out on the expedition, and the other from the time in which the purpose of it was accomplished. We have next an account of the manner in which Daniel and his companions were brought up at the king's court, Dan 1:3-7. They reject the daily provision of meat granted by the king, lest they should be defiled, and are allowed to live on pulse, Dan 1:8-16. Their great proficiency in the wisdom of that time, Dan 1:17-20. Daniel flourishes till the reign of Cyrus the Persian, Dan 1:21.
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim - This king was raised to the throne of Judea in the place of his brother Jehoahaz, by Pharaoh-necho, king of Egypt, Kg2 23:34-36, and continued tributary to him during the first three years of his reign; but in the fourth, which was the first of Nebuchadnezzar, Jer 25:1, Nebuchadnezzar completely defeated the Egyptian army near the Euphrates, Jer 46:2; and this victory put the neighboring countries of Syria, among which Judea was the chief, under the Chaldean government. Thus Jehoiakim, who had first been tributary to Egypt, became now the vassal of the king of Babylon, Kg2 24:1.
At the end of three years Jehoiakim rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, who, then occupied with other wars, did not proceed against Jerusalem till three years after, which was the eleventh and last of Jehoiakim, Kg2 23:36.
There are some difficulties in the chronology of this place. Calmet takes rather a different view of these transactions. He connects the history thus: Nabopolassar, king of Babylon, finding that one of his lords whom he had made governor of Coelesyria and Phoenicia had revolted from him, and formed an alliance with the king of Egypt, sent Neubuchadnezzar his son, whom he invested with the authority of king, to reduce those provinces, as was customary among the easterns when the heir presumptive was sent on any important expedition or embassy. This young prince, having quelled the insurrection in those parts, marched against Jerusalem about the end of the third or beginning of the fourth year of the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah. He soon took the city, and put Jehoiakim in chains with the design of carrying him to Babylon; but, changing his mind, he permitted him to resume the reins of government under certain oppressive conditions. At this year, which was A.M. 3398, the seventy years of the Babylonish captivity commence. Nabopolassar dying in the interim, Nebuchadnezzar was obliged to return speedily to Babylon, leaving his generals to conduct the Jewish captives to Babylon, among whom were Daniel and his companions.
Part of the vessels of the house of God - He took the richest and finest of them for the service of his god Bel, and left what were necessary for carrying on the public worship of Jehovah, (for he did not attempt to alter the civil or religious constitution of Judea); for leaving Jehoiakim on the throne, he only laid the land under tribute. The Chaldeans carried these sacred vessels away at three different times.
1. In the war spoken of in this place.
2. In the taking of Jerusalem and Jeconiah a few months after, Kg2 24:13.
3. Eleven fears after, under the reign of Zedekiah, when the city and temple were totally destroyed, and the land ruined, Kg2 25:8-16.
The land of Shinar - This was the ancient name of Babylon. See Gen 11:2.
The treasure house of his god - This was Bel, who had a splendid temple in Babylon, and was the tutelar god of the city and empire.
Master of his eunuchs - This word eunuchs signifies officers about or in the palace whether literally eunuchs or not.
Children - ילדים yeladim, youths, young men; and so the word should be rendered throughout this book.
Skilled in all wisdom - Rather, persons capable of every kind of literary accomplishment, that they might be put under proper instruction. And as children of the blood and of the nobles mere most likely, from the care usually taken of their initiatory education, to profit most by the elaborate instruction here designed, the master of the eunuchs, the king's chamberlain, was commanded to choose the youths in question out of such.
A daily provision - Athenaeus, lib. iv., c. 10, says: The kings of Persia, (who succeeded the kings of Babylon, on whose empire they had seized), were accustomed to order the food left at their own tables to be delivered to their courtiers.
So nourishing them three years - This was deemed a sufficient time to acquire the Chaldee language, and the sciences peculiar to that people. I suppose they had good introductory books, able teachers, and a proper method; else they would have been obliged, like us, to send their children seven years to school, and as many to the university, to teach them any tolerable measure of useful and ornamental literature! O how reproachful to the nations of Europe, and particularly to our own, is this backward mode of instruction. And what is generally learned after this vast expense of time and money? A little Latin, Greek, and mathematics; perhaps a little moral philosophy; and by this they are entitled, not qualified, to teach others, and especially to teach the people the important science of salvation! To such shepherds, (and there are many such), the hungry sheep look up, and are not fed; and if all are not such, no thanks to our plan of national education.
Now among these - There were no doubt several noble youths from other provinces: but the four mentioned here were Jews, and are supposed to have all been of royal extraction.
Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names - This change of names, Calmet properly remarks, was a mark of dominion and authority. It was customary for masters to impose new names upon their slaves; and rulers often, on their ascending the throne, assumed a name different from that which they had before.
דניאל Daniel signifies "God is my Judge." This name they changed into בלטשאצר Belteshatstsar; in Chaldee, "The treasure of Bel," or "The despository of the secrets (or treasure) of Bel."
הנניה Hananiah signifies, "The Lord has been gracious to me," or "He to whom the Lord is gracious." This name was changed into שדרך Shadrach, Chaldee, which has been variously translated: "The inspiration of the sun;" "God the author of evil, be propitious to us;" "Let God preserve us from evil."
מישאל Mishael signifies "He who comes from God." Him they called מישך Meshach, which in Chaldee signifies, "He who belongs to the goddess Sheshach," a celebrated deity of the Babylonians, mentioned by Jeremiah, Jer 25:26.
עזריה Azariah, which signifies "The Lord is my Helper," they changed into אבד נגו Abed-Nego, which in Chaldee is "the servant of Nego," who was one of their divinities; by which they meant either the sun, or the morning star; whether Jupiter or Venus.
The vicious pronunciation of this name should be carefully avoided; I mean that which lays the accent on the first syllable, and hurries so the end, without attending to the natural division of the word Abed-Nego.
But Daniel - would not defile himself - I have spoken of this resolution in the introduction. The chief reasons why Daniel would not eat meat from the royal table were probably these three: -
1. Because they ate unclean beasts, which were forbidden by the Jewish law.
2. Because they ate, as did the heathens in general, beasts which had been strangled, or not properly blooded.
3. Because the animals that were eaten were first offered as victims to their gods. It is on this account that Athenaeus calls the beasts which here served up at the tables of the Persian kings, ἱερια, victims, lib. 4 c. 10, p. 145.
Then said Daniel to Melzar - Melzar was an officer under Ashpenaz, whose office it was to attend to the food, clothing, etc., of these royal captives. Others think מלצר meltsar, master of the inn or hotel, the name of an office.
Give us pulse to eat - הזרעים hazzeraim, seeds or grain, such as barley, wheat, rye, and peas, etc. Though a vegetable diet might have produced that healthiness of the system in general, and of the countenance particularly, as mentioned here; yet we are to understand that there was an especial blessing of God in this, because this spare diet was taken on a religious account.
As for these four children - Young men or youths. Our translation gives a false idea.
In all visions and dreams - That is, such as are Divine; for as to dreams in general, they have as much signification as they have connection, being the effects of the state of the body, of the mind, or of the circumstances of the dreamer. A dream may be considered supernatural, if it have nothing preposterous, nothing monstrous, and nothing irregular. If the whole order and consequences of the things be preserved in them, from beginning to end, then we may presume they are supernatural. In such dreams Daniel had understanding.
Now at the end of the days - That is, at the end of three years, Dan 1:5.
And among them all - All the young noble captives from different nations.
Therefore stood they before the king - It appears that only four were wanting.
Magicians and astrologers - Probably the same as philosophers and astronomers among us.
The first year of king Cyrus - That is, to the end of the Chaldean empire. And we find Daniel alive in the third year of Cyrus, see Dan 10:1.