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Daniel Finds Favor in Babylon

In the third[a] year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar[b] of Babylon advanced against Jerusalem and laid it under siege.[c] Now the Lord[d] delivered[e] King Jehoiakim of Judah into his power,[f] along with some of the vessels[g] of the temple of God.[h] He brought them to the land of Babylonia[i] to the temple of his god[j] and put[k] the vessels in the treasury of his god.

The king commanded[l] Ashpenaz,[m] who was in charge of his court officials,[n] to choose[o] some of the Israelites who were of royal and noble descent[p] young men in whom there was no physical defect and who were handsome,[q] well versed in all kinds of wisdom, well educated[r] and having keen insight,[s] and who were capable[t] of entering the king’s royal service[u]—and to teach them the literature and language[v] of the Babylonians.[w] So the king assigned them a daily ration[x] from his royal delicacies[y] and from the wine he himself drank. They were to be trained[z] for the next three years. At the end of that time they were to enter the king’s service.[aa] As it turned out,[ab] among these young men[ac] were some from Judah:[ad] Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.[ae] But the overseer of the court officials renamed them. He gave[af] Daniel the name Belteshazzar, Hananiah he named Shadrach, Mishael he named Meshach, and Azariah he named Abednego.[ag]

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  1. Daniel 1:1 sn The third year of the reign of Jehoiakim would be ca. 605 b.c. At this time Daniel would have been a teenager. The reference to Jehoiakim’s third year poses a serious crux interpretum, since elsewhere these events are linked to his fourth year (Jer 25:1; cf. 2 Kgs 24:1; 2 Chr 36:5-8). Apparently Daniel is following an accession year chronology, whereby the first partial year of a king’s reign was reckoned as the accession year rather than as the first year of his reign. Jeremiah, on the other hand, is following a nonaccession year chronology, whereby the accession year is reckoned as the first year of the king’s reign. In that case, the conflict is only superficial. Most modern scholars, however, have concluded that Daniel is historically inaccurate here.
  2. Daniel 1:1 sn King Nebuchadnezzar ruled Babylon from ca. 605-562 b.c.
  3. Daniel 1:1 sn This attack culminated in the first of three major deportations of Jews to Babylon. The second one occurred in 597 b.c. and included among many other Jewish captives the prophet Ezekiel. The third deportation occurred in 586 b.c., at which time the temple and the city of Jerusalem were thoroughly destroyed.
  4. Daniel 1:2 tn The Hebrew term translated “Lord” here is אֲדֹנָי (ʾadonay).
  5. Daniel 1:2 tn Heb “gave.”
  6. Daniel 1:2 tn Heb “hand,” which is often used idiomatically for one’s power and authority. See BDB 390 s.v. יָד 2.
  7. Daniel 1:2 tn Or “utensils”; or “articles.”
  8. Daniel 1:2 tn Heb “house of God.”
  9. Daniel 1:2 sn The land of Babylonia (Heb “the land of Shinar”) is another name for Sumer and Akkad, where Babylon was located (cf. Gen 10:10; 11:2; 14:1, 9; Josh 7:21; Isa 11:11; Zech 5:11).
  10. Daniel 1:2 tn Or “gods” (NCV, NRSV, TEV; also later in this verse). The Hebrew term can be used as a numerical plural for many gods or as a plural of majesty for one particular god. Since Nebuchadnezzar was a polytheist, it is not clear if the reference here is to many gods or one particular deity. The plural of majesty, while normally used for Israel’s God, is occasionally used of foreign gods (cf. BDB 43 s.v. אֱלֹהִים 1, 2). See Judg 11:24 (of the Moabite god Chemosh); 1 Sam 5:7 (of the Philistine god Dagon); 1 Kgs 11:33 (of the Canaanite goddess Astarte, the Moabite god Chemosh, and the Ammonite god Milcom); and 2 Kgs 19:37 (of the Assyrian god Nisroch). Since gods normally had their own individual temples, Dan 1:2 probably refers to a particular deity, perhaps Marduk, the supreme god of Babylon, or Marduk’s son Nabu, after whom Nebuchadnezzar was named. The name Nebuchadnezzar means “Nabu has protected the son who will inherit” (HALOT 660 s.v. נְבוּכַדְרֶאצַּר). For a discussion of how temples functioned in Babylonian religion, see H. Ringgren, Religions of the Ancient Near East, 77-81.
  11. Daniel 1:2 tn Heb “brought.” Though the Hebrew verb “brought” is repeated in this verse, the translation uses “brought…put” for stylistic variation.
  12. Daniel 1:3 tn Or “gave orders to.” Heb “said to.”
  13. Daniel 1:3 sn It is possible that the word Ashpenaz is not a proper name at all but a general term for “innkeeper.” See J. J. Collins, Daniel (Hermeneia), 127, n. 9. However, the ancient versions understand the term to be a name, and the present translation (along with most English versions) understands the word in this way.
  14. Daniel 1:3 sn The word court official (Hebrew saris) need not mean “eunuch” in a technical sense (see Gen 37:36, where the term refers to Potiphar, who had a wife), although in the case of the book of Daniel there was in Jewish literature a common tradition to that effect. On the OT usage of this word see HALOT 769-70 s.v. סָרֹיס.
  15. Daniel 1:3 tn Heb “bring.”
  16. Daniel 1:3 tn Heb “and from the seed of royalty and from the nobles.”
  17. Daniel 1:4 tn Heb “good of appearance.”
  18. Daniel 1:4 tn Heb “knowers of knowledge.”
  19. Daniel 1:4 tn Heb “understanders of knowledge.”
  20. Daniel 1:4 tn Heb “who had strength.”
  21. Daniel 1:4 tn Heb “to stand in the palace of the king” (cf. vv. 5, 19).
  22. Daniel 1:4 sn The language of the Chaldeans referred to here is Akkadian, an East Semitic cuneiform language.
  23. Daniel 1:4 tn Heb “Chaldeans” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NRSV). This is an ancient name for the Babylonians.
  24. Daniel 1:5 tn Heb “a thing of a day in its day.”
  25. Daniel 1:5 tn Heb “from the delicacies of the king.”
  26. Daniel 1:5 tn Or “educated.” See HALOT 179 s.v. I גדל.
  27. Daniel 1:5 tn Heb “stand before the king.”
  28. Daniel 1:6 tn Heb “and it happened that.”
  29. Daniel 1:6 tn Heb “among them.” The referent (the young men taken captive from Judah) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  30. Daniel 1:6 tn Heb “the sons of Judah.”
  31. Daniel 1:6 sn The names reflect a Jewish heritage. In Hebrew Daniel means “God is my judge”; Hananiah means “the Lord is gracious”; Mishael means “who is what God is?”; and Azariah means “the Lord has helped.”
  32. Daniel 1:7 tc The LXX and Vulgate lack the verb here.
  33. Daniel 1:7 sn The meanings of the Babylonian names are more conjectural than is the case with the Hebrew names. The probable etymologies are as follows: Belteshazzar means “protect his life,” although the MT vocalization may suggest “Belti, protect the king” (cf. Dan 4:8); Shadrach perhaps means “command of Aku”; Meshach is of uncertain meaning; and Abednego means “servant of Nego.” Assigning Babylonian names to the Hebrew youths may have been an attempt to erase from their memory their Israelite heritage.