The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service. Daniel 1:5 (NIV).
So what if Daniel and his fellow servants got special food and drink? So what indeed, or haven’t you heard of the health benefits of good nutrition? If, that is, that is what “food and wine from the king’s table” actually was. We’ll see in a few days that this caused a conflict that led Daniel to stand on his principles.
For now, let’s get back to that “so what” question. It was not just for nutrition’s sake that the food was provided: it was instruction. Nebuchadnezzar’s purpose was to train up his new captives into the way a young servant of Babylon should behave. The ancient city of Babylon lies approximately 100 nautical miles from Jerusalem. Daniel and his fellow captives would have walked there; they didn’t ride a horse or in a wagon. Walking at a good pace, a healthy young man could make the trek, on roads and when properly shod and fed, in just a few days. But that probably didn’t happen because a few things can be logically assumed:
- There were hundreds of thousands of defeated, exhausted, terrified people walking to Babylon at the same time.
- There weren’t improved roads, so the group traveled en masse over small roads and open desert.
- They may have been in chains, driven by taskmasters and soldiers.
- It probably took many days, perhaps several weeks, without readily plentiful food or water.
By the time Daniel arrived in Babylon, healthy or not, he would have been physically and emotionally exhausted. Drained of energy and will, he would have been a ripe target for ‘re-education’ into the ways of his new captors. To better serve his new master-king, Daniel and his fellow ‘students’ were fed plates of food like the officials of Babylon would have eaten. Reference.com says that “Ancient Babylonian cuisine was rich and varied, including meat from cows, sheep, goats, pig, deer and fowl, as well as eggs, fish, shellfish and even turtles…among the vegetables eaten by the ancient Babylonians were beets, peas, arugula, lettuce, turnips, legumes, and mushrooms.” A varied diet indeed.
But things like pigs and shellfish were anathema to the Jews, forbidden as unclean by the laws of Moses. To refuse to eat them would have been an insult to the king, their new captor, and that would have been problematic; a death sentence even…which was exactly how things turned out. It would have been a nutritious diet, but it would have caused a moral conflict for Daniel (and a lesson for us). That was exactly what God was counting on.
For further reading: Esther 2:5-9, Daniel 1:6
Lord God, thank You for the story of Daniel.
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