“Then at the end of the days which the king had specified for presenting them, the commander of the officials presented them before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king talked with them, and out of them all not one was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s personal service. And as for every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king consulted them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and conjurers who were in all his realm.”
God always equips you for the tasks He requires of you.
Daniel and the other young men deported in 606 b.c. received three years of intense training under the watchful eye of the commander of King Nebuchadnezzar’s officials. At the conclusion of their training, they were presented to the king for his personal evaluation. The results were impressive indeed. Of all those who were trained, none compared to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Beyond that, they were found to be ten times better than all the wise men in the entire kingdom of Babylon! Consequently, at the age of only seventeen or eighteen, they were made the king’s personal servants.
Why were these young men so superior to their peers? It wasn’t simply their training, because each man had received the same education. The difference was their character and the faithful provisions of their God, who granted them special knowledge, intelligence, and wisdom (v. 17). They were so righteous and wise that even those who did not believe in their God were compelled to acknowledge the quality of their lives. That’s the impact every believer should have on those around them!
God wants you to live the kind of life that silences those who would seek to malign you or your God (1 Peter 2:15), and He has provided every spiritual resource for you to do so (2 Peter 1:3). Therefore, when you live with integrity, you prove to others that God really does accomplish His work in those who love Him.
Suggestions for Prayer: Make a list of spiritual resources that are yours in Christ, then praise Him for each of them.
For Further Study: Read Psalm 119:97–104. What are the psalmist’s attitudes toward God’s Word (His “law”)? ✧ What steps did he take to ensure that godliness would be evident in his life?
Foreshadow of the Outcome (1:18–21)
18–21 The conclusion of the first court story is a fortuitous one for Daniel and his three friends. After their three-year program of study in the “arts and sciences” of Babylonia, the Hebrews appear before King Nebuchadnezzar for an interview and subsequent appointment to posts of civil service (v. 18). All four pass their oral examination with “honors” and are deemed by the king to be superior to all the other wise men of the kingdom in “wisdom and understanding” (v. 20). The expression “ten times better” is a common idiom in the OT for expressing hyperbole in dialogue (e.g., Ge 31:41; Nu 14:22; Ne 4:12).
Induction into the civil-service corps of the king meant candidates had to be “qualified to serve in the king’s palace” (v. 4). Once the qualifications of the four Hebrews were certified, they “entered the king’s service” or received administrative appointments as civil servants (v. 19). The same word (lit., “stand,” ʿāmad) is used in both statements to express the idea of entering the king’s service. To “stand” before the king is an idiom for serving the king (cf. 1 Ki 10:8; 12:8) and connotes both loyalty to the crown and adherence to royal protocol and etiquette (cf. Miller, 61).
The purpose of the final section of the first court story is twofold. First, we learn that there is a difference between learning as an “acquired skill” and wisdom as a divine gift (v. 20; cf. v. 17). Daniel and his friends learned the secret lore of the Babylonian magicians and priests, but they clearly understood the God of Israel to be the source of all knowledge and wisdom (cf. 2:20). The rest of the court stories of Daniel give testimony to the four Hebrew captives’ reliance on God as the fountainhead of knowledge and wisdom, unlike their Babylonian counterparts, who relied on occultic arts and all the gods and demons associated with Babylonian religion (e.g., 2:20–23, 28; 4:18, 24; 5:12). Much like Joseph, who served Pharaoh in Egypt, Daniel and his friends recognized that it is God in heaven who reveals mysteries to his faithful servants (2:28; cf. Ge 40:8; 41:16).
Russell, 32, sums up the outcome of the king’s examination of the Hebrew apprentices by noting that “even in this highly skilled field [i.e., Babylonian ‘arts and sciences’] Daniel and his friends were so obviously better than them all! By the goodness of God they could beat the Babylonian experts at their own game. The secrets of Babylon were no secrets to Yahweh who made them known to whomsoever he willed.” The experience of Daniel and his friends anticipates the instruction of the apostle Paul about the “only wise God” (Ro 16:27) and his son Jesus the Messiah, who is the “wisdom from God” for the Christian (1 Co 1:30).
Second, the chronological notice in v. 21—attached as an addendum to the opening court story explaining how Daniel and his friends came to be royal officials in Babylonia under King Nebuchadnezzar—attests to the “staying power” of Daniel (cf. Wallace, 47–48). The first year of King Cyrus of Persia is dated to 539 or 538 BC, depending on the source consulted. This means Daniel held an administrative post in the royal court of Babylon for more than sixty years, and his time spent in Babylonian captivity was nearly seventy years (given his deportation in 605 BC; cf. 1:1). Earlier the prophet Jeremiah had predicted that the Hebrew captivity would cover seven decades (Jer 25:11–12; 29:10). The reference to the accession year of Cyrus to the throne of Babylon probably marked the end of this enforced exile of the Hebrews by the Babylonians (so Goldingay, 27; Lucas, 56).
In reality, Daniel’s longevity testified both to God’s sovereignty over the nations and his faithfulness to his people Israel. Even as Daniel outlasted the kings of the Babylonian Empire, so God’s people were sustained in captivity and eventually permitted to return to their homeland of covenantal promise (2 Ch 36:22–23; Ezr 1:1–4). Likewise, the presence of the Israelite named Daniel in the royal court of seven Babylonian monarchs and the first king of Persia was a tangible reminder that God is the one who sets up kings and deposes them (Da 2:21).
1:17–21 Daniel and His Friends Promoted and Preserved. God also gave to all four of them exceptional knowledge and understanding of the Babylonian literature and wisdom, and to Daniel the ability to discern all visions and dreams (v. 17). God’s favor enabled them to answer all of Nebuchadnezzar’s questions, so that he found them ten times better than all of his pagan advisers (v. 20). God placed them in a unique position where they could be a blessing to their captors and build up the society in which they found themselves (see Jer. 29:5–7), while at the same time enabling them to remain true to him amid extraordinary pressures.
1:17 Daniel is like Joseph (Gen. 40:8; 41:39) and prefigures the wisdom of Christ (1 Cor. 1:30; Col. 2:3).
 MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 Hill, A. E. (2008). Daniel. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Daniel–Malachi (Revised Edition) (Vol. 8, pp. 54–56). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1587). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.