For a long time, I’ve wondered about the significance of Daniel 1:8-16. Not because I believe it’s worthless (2 Timothy 3:16-17), but just that a passage dealing with what food a few israelites ate to “improve their appearance” seems to be more in the realm of what Joel Osteen would discuss in his “sermons.” There certainly is a physical lesson to learn from it, that fruits and vegetables have been proven to provide a better quality of life than whatever the king was eating, but what is the spiritual significance of such a chapter? Is it that we should take better care of ourselves so that we can serve for longer on this earth, or is there something more that is evident in their attitudes towards the enemy’s choice of foods that we can learn from it? After this question bothered me for a while, I decided to study it some more, and found that there are a couple very simple lessons that we can glean from it. 

  1. God’s wisdom is valued even by the heathens.

These youths that were taken were the cream of the crop, the children of royalty that had displayed exceptional wisdom and talents, easy on the eyes and capable of serving in the highest court in the land. The Babylonian mindset was to take these exceptional youths, train them in their ways, and that would make them even better – the best individuals on the planet. The problem was, it was these Israelites who displayed that they were already more advanced than the Babylonians. Displaying their exceptional knowledge in nutrition (1:12-15), the text also records that God gave these four youths (Daniel and his three friends) “knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams” (1:17). Their ability far surpassed every other youth in the King’s service (1:19), and the King found them to be “ten times better” than every other consultant in wisdom and understanding. Not too shabby for a bunch of exiles.

Even in our world, we can see the teachings of Jesus being hailed as the truest axioms in most people’s life, whether they choose to follow it or not. Sayings such as, “Do unto others as you would have them to unto you,” “turn the other cheek,” and “go the extra mile,” have become standard moral building blocks for the whole of humanity, so much so that even Ghandi looked to Jesus as the inspiration for much of his teachings. Despite most of the world rejecting Jesus, they have latched onto His words, and man continues to be influenced by it (Isaiah 55:8-11). 

  1. Stay holy

It was more than just a good decision by Daniel to not eat the foods that would cause him to die at a younger age than if he ate vegetables; it was the right decision for his spiritual life as well. Although we don’t know exactly what it was about the food that made it unholy (unclean animal, offered to idols, etc – Lev. 11:45-46), we do know from verse 8 that Daniel “would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank.” This represents a conscious decision to abstain from things that could have been pretty tasty, so that he could keep himself pure in all aspects. Daniel’s request was respectfully granted, having been shown favor in the eyes of their commander, and he and his three friends were allowed not to contaminate themselves.

It may be that in our lives we believe there isn’t a way in which we can do the Lord’s will, whether it be because there is pressure from others to conform, or that the situation seems to not allow for godliness, but we can see from this story that abstaining from worldly things is a priority and should be done at all costs (1 Cor. 10:13). There is always a way to stay pure, and the only way to see it is by making a conscious decision to be like that, and to not allow any leniency on the part of immorality. When Daniel was taken captive by the Babylonians, he found a way to stay pure before God. So should we.

Last modified: February 6, 2019