The book of Daniel starts by giving us some context. “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem and besieged it (Daniel 1:1).” Babylon conquers Judah, and the king tells his deputy to bring young men to his palace as tutors. For some reason, these men need to be handsome as well as intelligent, which I’m sure is indicative of some near-Eastern practices that the commentators go nuts over. It actually seems like a counterpart to Esther, when the women had to prepare for months before they were deemed ready to stand before the king, because we see here that it takes three years of training for these young men to go before Nebuchadnezzar.
“Now there were among them, from the Judahites, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Daniel 1:6).” All of their names are changed to Babylonian names, and Daniel stands out, because he wants to maintain his standards of kashrut, even in the king’s palace. He and his friends, as a result, become more favored and more attractive than any of the other young men, in addition to being more intelligent. This foursome become his trusted advisors on numerous matters.
We end with another context clue. “And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus (Daniel 1:21).” Cyrus apparently reigned from 550 – 530 BCE, so we know at least a gist of when we’re talking about with this book. As I said, it’s a totally new one for me, so I’m intrigued! More next week!