The Appetite Of Excellence I: A General Commentary on the Book of Daniel.

#MeditationMonday‬ – Out of the abundance of a man’s heart, his mouth speaks.

Welcome, dearly beloved. I pray the mercies of God over you throughout this week. I hope to encourage and build you up in the Lord. As you grow in knowledge and understanding, may you be empowered to share your convictions with others.

This blog post is a simple commentary on the book of Daniel, chapters 1–3. It has been written in a plain verse by verse commentary style and is meant to serve as a guide for future posts on the theme of excellence.

Through this commentary, I share my thoughts on each chapter of Daniel and how it relates to the rest of the bible. Each chapter is discussed from a personal and eternal point of view. I discuss the things we should be taking away from the interactions between the characters, while also focusing on any ties to the theme of excellence.

As this is a verse-by-verse study, it is best to read this post with the actual bible text close by. On the other hand, if you are already very familiar with Daniel, then please jump in!

It is quite a long read, but I sincerely hope this edifies everyone who comes across it.

Enjoy! Let’s go!

Daniel 1

Daniel: A man from one of the royal/noble families of the tribe of Judah, who was captured by King Nebuchadnezzar and taken to Babylonia. This capture probably takes place before Daniel has finished adolescence, thus making him a young prince (it is speculated that he was around 15 years of age).

“Daniel is one of the few well-known biblical characters about whom nothing negative is written. His life was characterized by faith, prayer, courage, consistency, and lack of compromise. This ‘greatly beloved’ man (9:23; 10:11, 19) was mentioned three times by his sixth-century B.C. contemporary Ezekiel as an example of righteousness.”

(Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps & Charts, p. 233)

CHAPTER 1

vs.6–7 – Probably as an attempt to brainwash all the new exiles, the names of the young Hebrew princes were changed to pagan Babylonian names.

In Hebrew, דָּנִיאֵל, Dani’el, meaning “God is my Judge” or “the judgment of God” was renamed Belteshazzar (Bel’s Prince) after “Bel”, the ruling god of the Babylonian pantheon. 

Hananiah means “Beloved of the Lord,” but his name was changed to Shadrach, which means “Illumined by the Sun”.

Mishael means “Who is as God?” but his name was changed to Meshach, which means “Who is like Shach?” (Shach was a pagan god).

Azariah means “The Lord is my help,” but his name was changed to Abednego, which means “The Servant of Nego” (Nego was another pagan god).

**I draw attention to the name change as it briefly becomes relevant in chapter 2.**

vs.8 – Daniel was very young. About 15 to 20 years old but he was determined to live a life of purity and commitment to God.

vs.8–9: Immediately we see God’s grace working in Daniel’s story by giving him favour with the chief of staff. The man could have died due to his actions, yet he chose to permit Daniel and his friends to eat the diet of their choice rather than what the King instructed for all the recruits (See vs. 10).

vs.12–15: The 10-day test. We often consider this the fast but note that Daniel did this for the entire 3 years of his training, not just for 10 days. However, the 10 days are still instructive to us, if we can endure for 10 days, it is a test of our character and the beginning of our purification!

vs.17–20: If we’re diligent in our study, God will bless us with special wisdom, recall, (aka, retentive memory) and understanding (See John 14:26).

vs.17: Favor shows up again! God poured into these vessels who dedicated themselves and refused to defile themselves, the gift of aptitude – meaning: Understanding for EVERY aspect of literature and wisdom (thus it applies to things other than spiritual matters).

For Daniel specifically, he was given the ability to interpret visions & dreams. To each of us, God has given a special gift, endeavour to discover yours. Don’t expect the spectacular, but be grateful for the little. Even if your gift is charity or hospitality, it too is as great a gift as visions/dreams.

Cherish it, nourish it, cultivate it.

vs.18–19: Upon completion of the training they passed their interview with the King impressively. Glory to God that it is by grace through faith that we are saved, but even then we must study to show ourselves approved. Just like Daniel, there is a place for training and discipline in accessing certain levels of our calling.

If God were to interview you for the job of working His Kingdom, would you pass the test? Would you meet his standards? Are you a vessel unto honour? 

vs.20: “wisdom/balanced judgment”, they were “10 times more capable” – as Christians, is this our testimony at the workplace? that we are skilled problem solvers? solution harbingers? or are we no different from the magicians and the enchanters? who also serve as workers in the King’s palace?

CHAPTER 2

vs.1–9: Even an unbeliever knew how to be discerning of spirits! He knew if he told them the dream, they could make up an interpretation, so he put them to the test by asking for the dream itself. How many of us Christians use our God-given discernment to put things to the test? Do we even know how?

See more on discerning/testing the spirits here!

vs.10–16: The Chaldeans confessed that they were unable to help the king and that only “the gods” could tell the king what he had dreamed. In their words, “the gods do not live here amongst people”.

Ah, so they thought. But Daniel was about to show them how wrong they were, for He was a man in whom the Spirit of the Living God could be found.

Daniel handled the situation with wisdom and discretion. He requested more time; patience is a symbol of excellence. Stop to think and don’t be afraid to ask for more time to make a decision, no matter how high the authority. A decision you’re rushed into making is likely not to be a well thought out decision.

vs.17–18: Daniel referred to his friends by their Hebrew names. This is why we highlighted their name change in Chapter 1. Even though their names had been changed, Daniel chose to call his friends by their Hebrew names, showing us another way in which he refused to conform to the idolatrous society around him.

He prayed with his friends over the issue. He “urged them to seek the Lord” with him so that their fate would not be as the sorcerers and magicians (i.e. the unbelievers).

Christianity is not designed to be carried out in isolation. There is safety within the 99 (Luke 15). Do you have a group of friends you can approach to pray with you over a matter?

vs.19: All the friends prayed, but it was only Daniel who got the revelation. If we were in their shoes, would we be envious of Daniel? Or would we praise God, even when He chooses to use someone else for His glory rather than us?

Further, when Daniel received the revelation, He praised God. When we receive revelation from God, does it lead us to react the same way Daniel did, or to become prideful, boasting in our newfound knowledge?

vs.27–30: Daniel made sure the King is aware that the source of his knowledge is different from that of the ‘wise men, sorcerers, and magicians et al’. He gave credit to God and did not boast in himself. He didn’t try to strengthen his standing with the king by taking any credit for the work of God in his life. When God exercises His grace in us, we should minimize our part and maximize His part (Romans 12:3).

vs.47: Upon interpretation, Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged Daniel’s God as “the greatest of gods, the Lord over kings, a revealer of mysteries”.

vs.48–49: Daniel was rewarded by the King, but he did not forget his friends, he requested for their promotion since they played a role by praying together with him for the revelation. When we are glorified, we must not forget those who helped us on our way. We must lift up those who helped lift us up. 

CHAPTER 3

In summary, this is the story of the three boys delivered from the fiery furnace. Remember their refusal to compromise till the end + the demonstration of God’s power moved the King’s heart, and he proclaimed the worship of their God over the worship of the idol.

vs.1: Quite ironic that the king who dreamt of a statute/idol being destroyed is here making one? Perhaps this event occurs before the dream in Chapter 2? Well, whatever the case, everyone was commanded to bow before it or be thrown into a furnace.

“People of all races and nations and languages, listen to the king’s command! When you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and other musical instruments, bow to the ground to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s gold statue.”

This is a very interesting command. At the sound of musical instruments, people of all races, nations and languages, were to bow to a gold statute.

Are you seeing what I’m seeing here?

This King was directly trying to imitate the worship of God in heaven. Scripture says, “every knee will bow, every tongue will confess”.

Let’s transpose that into this context:

people of all races = every knee

people of all languages = every tongue

bow to the ground = will bow, total submission

to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s gold statute = confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father

Do you see how each instruction mirrors how worship is to be offered to God? This was a perverted version of that pure worship. Even more interesting is that they weren’t to bow to the King himself but to the gold statute, which mirrors how the proper way to worship God is to submit (i.e. bow) to Jesus, God’s son.

(God’s son, Jesus vs. Nebuchadnezzar’s Gold Statute i.e. him being the owner, creator, and dare I say, the father of the statute, do you get it now?)

The parallel fits even to the finest detail. They would be submitting to the idol rather than God. Even if this verse (Philippians 2:9-11) hadn’t been written at the time, the 10 commandments and indeed the entirety of the law were clearly against idolatry, therefore the three Jewish boys had every reason to resist this blasphemy!

vs.8–15:  After they were reported for refusing to bow, Sh, Ms, Ab, (the three boys) were brought before the king who gave them “one more chance” to compromise, their faith. He further challenges them with this question “and what god will be able to save you from my power?”.

vs.16: they didn’t need one more chance to defend themselves, for they relied on God, whom they serve to save them. They go even further to proclaim that even if God does not save them, they will NEVER BOW to the statute! (vs.17).

This rings similar to Esther’s “If I perish, I perish”. Only those with a pure/intimate relationship with God can boast of Him in this manner. Can you in the face of death, boast of God like these boys, like Esther or like Job saying, “though He slay me, yet I will trust Him.”

vs.19: “his face became distorted with rage”. Earlier in vs.13, “he flew into a rage”. Clearly, this guy has an anger problem – at the root of which was pride. How dare anyone defy me, he probably thought to himself, yet God humbles him a few chapters later as we’ll see. Back to vs.19, even the soldiers were killed by the heat of the furnace as they threw them into the fire, vs.22 – fully robed, vs.21 – securely tied vs.23.

vs.24: Here, Nebuchadnezzar sees the 4th man, and I bet you only He could see the 4th man in the fire, for God opened his eyes – vs.29, He even notes that the fourth man looks “like a god”, juxtapose this statement with his earlier question in – vs.15 about which god could save them from his power? Well, here was a God who could save, a God who was mighty to deliver them!

vs.26: To the King, Sh Ms and Ab have now become servants of the “Most High God”. They emerge from the fire unbound, unscathed, not even smelling of smoke (vs.27).

I bet you they were thrown into another realm, where the Lord’s fire burnt off their bonds but protected their bodies from decay, for His fire protects even as it consumes. I wonder if these three boys didn’t even see any fourth person and were just as amazed as everyone else that they were unharmed when they were brought out of the flames.

Can you imagine how surreal it must have felt? They went in surrendering their lives but returned stronger in their faith in God. Their lives were used to bring glory to God’s name, and proclaim Him over an entire nation.

Will you let God use your surrender/submission to bring glory to His name?

vs.28: The King finally gives praise to God and honours the boys for not compromising. Steadfastness is the mark of an excellent spirit, it shows no compromise, takes no shortcuts and does not do “wuru wuru” to the answer.

Excellence comes with tests and trials, never compromise.

vs.29: The king makes a decree was made that no false word was to be spoken against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, for there is no other god who can rescue like this!

Can our excellence make those around us give the same testimony? Do people speak false words about God around you? Do they swear and use curse words against Jesus/God in your presence? Are people comfortable to abuse and mock the Lord in your presence due to your compromise?

If they do, then your light is not shining enough, please adjust your lampstand and shine brighter!!! Live your life in such an excellent way that men will be forced to testify that God is working in your life!!

The King’s statement “No other God can rescue like this” is also an aside to the uniqueness of God’s salvation through Jesus’ death on the cross. No other God rescues the way Yahweh has by giving us Salvation.

No other God offers a reconciliation like this. He has brought us out of the darkness, (i.e. the fiery furnace, a metaphor for hell) and into the light (i.e. God’s kingdom, where righteousness, peace and joy know no end).

SELAH

Alright, there goes our commentary on the first 3 chapters of Daniel. Hope it’s been a joyful ride. I will update the remaining chapters in 2 more blog posts, so watch out for those. If you made it this far, and actually read through, that’s amazing. I hope you were edified in one way or another! God bless you.

Grace & Peace!

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