Daniel 1 sets the scene for the book, introducing us to:
- The historical context (see v.1). This was round 1 of Babylon’s annihilation of Jerusalem, in 605, the job being completed in 597 and 587. The story is recorded in 2Kings 24:1-25:1. The exile ranks with the exodus as one of the two most significant events in Israel’s history. It raised profound and searching questions about Israel’s God and Israel’s future.
- The main characters. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, the superpower of the day, and Daniel and his friends. And the Lord (v.2), who seemed to be defeated – his people were in exile, and his treasures placed in a pagan shrine.
- Some key themes, such as the sovereignty of God – for it is he who delivered his people and his treasures into pagan hands (v.2); the conflict between the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of God – it’s striking that the setting is “the land of Shinar” (v.2, see footnote), the place where people had built the tower of Babel as humanity asserted itself against God and his kingship; living the life of faith in the midst of a hostile environment – the stand that Daniel and his friends took on the comparatively small matter of food and drink enabled them to make their far more significant and bolder stands later in the book; and God’s vindication of his people – not only do Daniel and his friends come top of the class, but Daniel lives to see Babylon overthrown (v. 21, for Cyrus was the Persian king who conquered Babylon and authorised the return from exile).
- When one nation defeats another, what are some of the methods used in dealing with the subjects and property of the conquered nation?
- What policy does Nebuchadnezzar appear to be following? What actions in this passage indicate this?
- How might a young exiled Jew react, or feel, in such a situation?
- Daniel accepted a Babylonian education and a name change, but then “resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine”. What could be wrong with the food and wine?
- What statement is Daniel making by his stand, and for whose benefit?
- Why do you think Daniel is doing this, and what made it so important to him?
- How does God respond to Daniel’s act?
- In what ways are our faith and identity as God’s people put in jeopardy?
- What lines in the sand might we draw to guard against compromising our faith?
- What do we learn about God in this chapter?