Bible Study: Daniel Chapter 1
Though I've read a few "spoilers" on Daniel (e.g. historical-critical objections) I'm trying to avoid seeing any more before I finish reading it so that I can see things as freshly as possible.
Nebuchadnezzer of Babylon comes down and overruns Judah. They take some sacred "vessels" from Gods house to put in their own temples. They also grab a number of princes and smart kids so that they can be taught the art of black magic and the local language. The training program is three years and they are supposed to eat the kings special wine and meat. The 4 that we care about right now are: Daniel (Belteshazzar), Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), Azariah (Abednego).
Daniel decides that eating the kings meat and wine would defile him so he convinces the eunuch in charge of them that if he lets them eat their own food (pulse - apparently a legume) for ten days everyone will see that they are healthier (fatter) than those on the king's diet.
God gives these 4 knowledge and skill in all learnings. When they finally meet the king he says they are 10 times better than his own wisemen. And so Daniel becomes a councilor of sorts.
Some initial thoughts:
- Why does God let another kingdom come down and take over Judah? Where is his protection? Are they being punished? Is the protection contract lapsed?
- Life back then sucked. It would be unbelievably awful for some invading army to come in and take all the smart people to indoctrinate in their evil foreign ways. Its kind of strange how non-chalantly the narrative of conquest and capture unfolds. Seems like there could be a really interesting story if it was filled in more with details.
- There is something funny about these 4 kids eating vegetarian for 10 days and ending up fatter than the wine and meat eaters. Is this a general proscription for health? Are we supposed to be tea-totalling vegetarians or was this a special rule for them since they were living with Babylonians? Certainly doesn't seem to be the case any more that vegetarians are the plump ones.
- The story already smacks of legend. These kids are captured and they are 10 times smarter than the captors. How did they get captured if they are so much smarter?
- In the side notes I've already seen a hint of the debate I'm in for as far as the authenticity of the dates of events and so on. Apparently the reigns of certain kings presented in Daniel don't agree with non-Biblical sources. But I'm sure I'll get plenty of that once I've started the essay that this is all leading up to.
- I didn't realize how Abednego was spelled. For some reason that bugs me that N and D switched in my mind.