3 - Resisting the Pressure of the World
RDean Daniel Lesson 3
Resisting the Pressure of the World – Daniel 1:3-7
We are still in the opening section of Daniel. Last time we began to examine the historical background to the book. We looked at the background of Israel, that Israel had established a monarchy with Saul in approximately 1050 BC. That United Kingdom continued under his successor, David, and David's son, Solomon. When Solomon died in 931 BC he was succeeded by his son, Rehoboam, but Rehoboam would not listen to the counsel of the older wise men, he went with the crazy counsel of the arrogant young men and wanted to increase taxation on the people. It somehow has a modern ring to it. When he increased taxation on the people there was a tax revolt and the northern ten tribes separated themselves from the two southern tribes, and that began a period of the divided monarchy.
The northern kingdom never had divine authorization to separate. When Jeroboam, the king in the north, established that nation he understood the importance of having their own religion. So what he did in contradiction and in violation of the Mosaic Law was to establish his own religion in the north and every king followed in his idolatrous footsteps so that God finally had to discipline the nation and take them out under the fifth cycle of discipline in 722 BC. We studied the five stages of divine discipline, the five cycles of discipline as outlined in Leviticus 26, that God was going to take the nation Israel through five successive stages of discipline if they violated the Mosaic Covenant and were disobedient to Him. That applies only to Israel as a covenant nation; Israel is a covenant nation.
The other nations, for example during this era in time, known as the times of the Gentiles, God has client nations, different Gentile nations where they are characterized by not being anti-Semitic, by being supporters of the Jews, so there can be a haven for Jews during the times of the Gentiles, as well as being a place where there are a certain number of believers who have freedom of worship, or at least a modicum of freedom. It can also be a base for missionary activity. We call these client nations; there's a difference between Gentile client nations and Israel as a covenant nation because God has not entered into a literal covenant with any other nation in history other than Israel. So what pertains to Israel pertains to Israel alone in terms of strict interpretation and strict application. However, the trends that we see in the cycles of discipline do pertain and can be witness throughout history in the lives of other nations. But strictly speaking per se, the five cycles of discipline don't apply to anybody else. The five cycles of discipline as outlined in Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28, are part document called the Mosaic Covenant.
A covenant is a single piece of literature, just like the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the United States, while there may be similarities with British law, may be similarities with Canadian law, applies only to the U.S. It doesn't apply to any other nation, you can't go in and take one section out of it and make it just as applicable to another nation as it is to the U.S. That violates the integrity of the doctrine. So Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 28 do not apply to the U.S. The five cycles of discipline are only for a covenant nation, not for a client nation. But the trends, the patterns are similar. It the nation that has once known the grace of God goes into rebellion, idolatry, negative volition, then God will take them through certain types of discipline, both related to economic recession and military defeat.
So the kingdom of Israel was divided into the northern kingdom and southern kingdom. The northern kingdom went out in divine discipline, the fifth cycle of discipline in 722 BC when the Assyrian army came in. The southern kingdom went out in 586 BC but that was foreshadowed, there was a period of warning from 605 on when the nation was under the fourth cycle of discipline, and during that time, from 605 to 586 BC the nation went through three invasions by the Babylonians. That brought in the second part of the background.
You have to understand two historical frames of references to understand Daniel. One is the Jewish background divine discipline on Israel; they were taken out of the land in 586, seventy years of Babylonian captivity before they were returned to the land. The other aspect is the rise of Babylon. Babylon was a non-existing empire until an Assyrian general who came out of nowhere by the name of Nabopolassar, he was a mercenary general working for the Assyrians, he was probably Chaldean by background, although even that is debated in the literature. He came out of nowhere, he was from an insignificant family background but he had apparently risen through the ranks to be one of the top generals in the Assyrian army. He led a revolt united with the Medes and finally under his son, Nebuchadnezzar, Nabopolassar was still alive, but under his son Nebuchadnezzar had a final defeat of the Assyrian Empire in 609 BC at a place called Carchemish on the Euphrates River.
The second battle of Carchemish took place in 605. There the Assyrians were allied with the Egyptians in one final last ditch effort to stave off the Babylonians, or the Chaldeans as they are more correctly known. Nebuchadnezzar soundly defeated them, just almost annihilated the Egyptian army. The Egyptian army was under a Pharaoh named Pharaoh Neco, Pharaoh Neco II. They beat a hasty retreat back to Egypt, but to go to Egypt they had to go right down through southwestern Syria, right down through Israel. Nebuchadnezzar's army was in hot pursuit and as they were following the Egyptians they saw this wonderful land that had been blessed by God, the beautiful city of Jerusalem, and they decided to take a detour and capture Jerusalem and put Israel under their domination as a vassal state to the power of the Babylonians. So that's the Babylonian background.
When they surrounded the city of Jerusalem in 605 and defeated their armies they took a number of captives with them, and that's the background to Daniel 1. Many of these young men that they took were members of the royal family, not just upper aristocracy but members of the royal family itself. In fact Josephus tells us that Daniel was closely related to Zedekiah, who was the last king of Judah before they finally went out in discipline in 586 BC. So these young men were then taken as captives, they were the brightest, the best of the land, taken back to Babylon in order to fill the ranks of the upper bureaucracy.
Imagine what it must have been like for these young men to first arrive at the city of Babylon. Here is a map of the city. I ran across a description of Babylon in Howard Voss's book, Archeology in Bible Lands, and this is what he says. I want you to think about this, if you were a 13 or 14 year old young man, taken as a captive to this completely pagan society, and you are faced with the overwhelming beauty, power, and majesty of these people. "Adjacent to Nebuchadnezzar's main palace and just to the east of it was the great Ishtar Gate, through which passed Procession Street, the main street of the city. In honor of Marduk this roadway was paved with imported limestone and sometimes reached a width of sixty five feet. It was bordered with sidewalks of red brick; walls on either side of the road were faced with a blue enameled brick and decorated with life sized yellow and white lions and dragons. The city's major structures opened on this roadway. The Ishtar Gate was a double gate flanked with towers of blue enameled brick, decorated with alternating rows of yellow and white bulls and dragons. Nebuchadnezzar's palace was a huge complex of buildings protected by a double wall. Rooms of the palace surrounded five court yards. The white plastered throne room was 56 feet by 170 feet and it had a great central entrance flanked by smaller side doors." So you're just overwhelmed with the size of everything. "The city itself, roughly rectangular, sat in astride the Euphrates River which was diverted around it." Now this becomes important later on in Daniel when the Medes and Persians attack because they're going to damn up the river and divert it so that they can enter the city under the gates on the dry river bed. "The wall was 11 miles long and 85 feet thick. The inner wall was 23 feet thick with an intervening space filled with rubble. Watchtowers stood 65 feet apart on the walls. There were 8 or 9 gates in the wall with the Ishtar Gate entering from the north. As mentioned, the palace of Nebuchadnezzar, the ziggurat and the great temple of Marduk all opened off Procession Street. Altogether there were 43 temples in the city of Nebuchadnezzar's day according to literary sources. The population was about half a million."
So it was an impressive sight and here you are, walking into this city as a Jew, dedicated to the Lord, obedient to the Mosaic Law and everywhere you look, there's some 63 temples, everywhere you look there's a temple to a Babylonian god or goddess and everywhere you look, especially if you're marched down Procession Street every brick has the name of Marduk on it. So everywhere you turn, everywhere you look, you are just impressed with all of the idolatry, the paganism, the human viewpoint of this tremendous empire that has just defeated your nation. But though you might be tempted to cave in to defeat and succumb to the pressures of this conquering power, that's not what they did because in their book, they had the book of Isaiah and the second half of Isaiah, which was written a hundred years before this, between chapters 40 and chapters 66, in those 27 chapters that you have divided into three sections, 9 chapters each, chapters 40-48; 49-57 and 58-66, and each of those chapters ended with the phrase, "there is no peace for the wicked." So they have doctrine to tell them how to think and how to interpret what's happening to them.
Furthermore, when you come to the end of Isaiah, Isaiah 66, the benediction of the book, is a blessing to the whole book, a benediction of the book, and in the last three verses we read, this would be a point of comfort for them: Isaiah 66:22, "For just as the new heavens and the new earth which I make will endure before Me, declares the LORD, so your offspring and your name will endure." They have the promise of God that they're going home, it may not be them but their offspring will go home and their name will be great again. Verse 23, "And it shall be from new moon to new moon, and from sabbath to sabbath, all mankind will come to bow down before Me, says the LORD.  Then they shall go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed Me," they would be thinking about the Babylonians, "For their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched; and they shall be an abhorrence to all mankind." So they had an understanding of God's plan and purposes in history.
Last time we went over the doctrine of the kingdom of man because Babylon represents the highest and best of man's efforts. It traces its beginnings back to Genesis 10 and 11 when Nimrod tried to establish his kingdom and throughout the Bible Babylon always stands for the highest and the best in man's efforts to oppose God. And throughout history it has been that way so there is always the juxtaposition between Jerusalem representing the city of peace, the city of God on the one hand, and Babylon the city of man on the other hand. We went over five points related to the kingdom of man; let's review those briefly.
Number one was the promise of the kingdom of man. There is always a promise, man promises the best, promises peace, promise security, promises happiness, it is the kingdom of man that promises to gives us cradle to grave security and man is always ready to buy into that lot. Mankind is a creature, as a finite creature does not have the ability to give cradle to grave security, yet men always gravitate to the ideals of the kingdom of man. Every great political leader tries to do this, they always promise a chicken in every pot and a car in garage, or now it's two cars in every garage, a 501K plan or some other retirement plan. Man wants to determine his destiny and wants to feel as if he is in control of his destiny. They want a society that's independent from God, free from His values and they want a society that is not going to be interfered with by God. That's why they were building the tower of Babel to begin with, because God had intervened in human history and judged the world with His worldwide flood, worldwide cataclysm and they wanted freedom from divine interference.
The second characteristic of the kingdom of man is its formation is always by conquest. Nimrod set the pattern; it's never based on voluntarism, the kingdom of man wants to compel people to conform to it by force; tyranny is typical in the kingdom of man.
Third, the ethics of the kingdom of man are always subjective, the state determines what's right or wrong, or the majority determines what is right or wrong. Right and wrong is not determined by some absolute external criteria but if 51% of the people say it's okay to commit infanticide then it's now right to commit infanticide, it doesn't matter what has occurred before. So ethics are always subjective.
Fourth, the kingdom of man always seeks more territory, more control, more power; government always seeks to expand its influence over people. This is why the founders of the United States had a check and balance in the constitution, they understood the nature, the propensity of fallen man is to move towards to power, so they wanted to control it through an internal system of checks and balances. But that ultimately and always break down because men always seek to control and people in the kingdom of man want to think that somehow man can provide security and that is the lie of socialism.
Fifth, the leadership; the leadership might be educated, might be cultured, might be polite, it might also be barbaric, as we've seen throughout history with many different leaders, not the least of which would be in this century people like Saddam Hussein, Adolph Hitler, Stalin, Lenin were all examples of a more barbaric leadership. But they may also be skillful, they may also be well-educated, they may be cultured and diplomatic and tactful, and they also may sound very good. The kingdom of man ultimately wants to produce that which is good; that's why it is so deceptive.
And Daniel and his friends now face one of the greatest expressions of the kingdom of man in all of history, and how are they going to respond to it. This is what is important for us to look at as we look at what happens in this chapter because they have to live, they know they're going to have to live and function, they're going to have to work in this pagan environment. It's an environment where the art on the walls, the names of the streets, the names of the people all scream out the religious presuppositions of the Babylonians. Everywhere they look, everywhere they go, every thing they do they are faced visually and every one of their senses is assaulted by the paganism of the society. We can't even imagine it, what we deal with in our society in terms of the human viewpoint of our culture is mild compared to the pressure that these men faced. And yet they are going to be men who are highly successful in their battle with this pagan environment and we can learn lessons in this chapter of how they are able to survive.
This book is written for believers who are suffering and struggling inside the kingdom of man. In one sense it's almost a political handbook for how to survive and how to live in a pagan world without compromise. Here we're going to see lessons on how to be flexible on the non-essentials. The problem is too many Christians want to get out there and do battle at every single point. Now we are in conflict, divine viewpoint, Biblical thinking is in conflict at almost every point with human viewpoint thinking. But if you do battle in every single point you're going to be defeated and you're going to lose instantly and you're going to run out of energy; it's exhausting, you have to pick the battles and they have to be the strategic battles, not the secondary battles. And Daniel and his friends give us some lessons as to discernment in these issues. They are flexible on the non-essentials but unyielding and uncompromising on the critical issues. They know when to adjust and they know when to open their mouth and fight the system. We're going to look at this.
Starting in Daniel 1:3, "Then the king," this is Nebuchadnezzar, one of the most powerful monarchs or all history, "ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials," this would have been like his chief of staff, "to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles." So that's these young men, they are part of the nobility, the upper aristocracy, and more than likely these three or four young men, Hananiah, Azariah, Mishael and Daniel were all directly related or in the immediately family of Zedekiah, the king of Judah. I want you to pay attention to this; this is an example of high drama here. It's incredible what's going on, the focal point of the universe at this point is on what's happening with Daniel and these three men, and how they are going to handle the conflict. Is God going to win or is the world system going to win; are they going to cave in, is their inner resolve and inner strength from Bible doctrine going to be more substantive than all the pressure that the human viewpoint kingdom of man can bring against them or are they going to stand fast. Are they going to be compromised by external pressure or is the Word of God going to be strong enough and sufficient enough to keep them strong and stable and successful despite all the outside pressure.
Ashpenaz, in the old King James it says that he was the chief eunuch; the term "eunuch" originally meant those who had been emasculated in order to protect the harem. They were to guard all of the king's wives and you didn't want them having too much fun while they were guarding all the king's wives so they emasculated them to protect them, but by this time in history the term "eunuch" didn't refer to just those type of individuals but to any loyal, faithful, bureaucratic official, so that it is not restricted to just someone who has been emasculated. The term in Hebrew here is caric, and it is the same word that is used to describe Potiphar in Genesis 37:36 and Potiphar, of course, was married, it was his wife who accused Joseph of seeking to rape her. So he was married, which would indicate that he was not an actual eunuch. So this is more of a technical term for a high government official, and so the New American Standard actually translates it "the chief of his officials."
"Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel," these were the royal family of the king's seed, the king's family, and they are brought in to him. Now this doesn't just happen, this isn't a chance event in history but this relates to the fulfillment of a prophecy that occurred in Isaiah 39:6-7, this is during the days of Hezekiah and Hezekiah had done something extremely foolish. He had been visited by some of the high officials of Babylon and of the Assyrian Empire and they came to Jerusalem and Hezekiah was a little proud of all that they had at the temple and all the gold furniture, the wealth that they had amassed over the years, so he took these visiting officials in for a little tour of the temple treasury. Of course word got back to Babylon and to Assyria of all the wonderful treasures that were in the temple in Jerusalem and that was left on record in Babylon, so as soon as Nebuchadnezzar came he knew of all the gold and the jewels that were in the temple, so he carted all of that back to Babylon with him to melt it down. Now that was 200 years earlier and because Hezekiah was so foolish God warned him through Isaiah.
Isaiah 39:6, "Behold, the days are coming when all that is your house, and all that your fathers have laid up in store to this day shall be carried to Babylon," notice the specificity of the prophecy 200 years earlier, "nothing shall be left" and nothing was left,  "And some of your sons who shall issue from you ,whom you shall beget, shall be taken away; and they shall become officials in the palace of the king of Babylon." Now I want you to think about Daniel and Azariah, Mishael and Hananiah, they're sitting there and they're descendants of the king and they know doctrine and they know Isaiah 39. They have a promise that no matter what happens they're going to be officials in the palace of the king; God said it to Isaiah 200 years earlier. So they're going to be able on the faith rest drill by claiming that as a promise and they know that no matter what happens, if they take their stand for doctrine God will protect them and what we see throughout this whole thing is how God is using prepared believers. What prepared them was their parents; their parents taught them doctrine from the time they were in the cradle and so they were prepared to withstand the onslaught of the kingdom of man. That is the role of parents, is to train, to indoctrinate your children with your values, with the values of Scripture so that when they're out from your presence they think Biblically. Of course that presupposes that you've learned to think Biblically. That's the challenge to parents.
So they are taken into the palace. Now there's one problem that comes up here in verse 3, I said that at the beginning that what I want to do is address certain of the attacks made upon Daniel by the liberal critics. And the reason they always attack Daniel is because they operate on an anti-supernatural assumption that this can't be prophecy because if it was really prophecy then… man can't really do that, man's incapable of telling the future, so therefore it has to be history, it was really a fraud and it was written 300 years later, it was written sometime around 100 or 150 BC and so they go to a lot of different things in Daniel to try to document their case and I'm going to point out some of those as we go along the way.
One of the things that they come up with here is on the use of the word translated "nobles" here. It says that they were "to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles." The word translated "nobles" here is the Persian word, partamim, a Persian word; now we haven't gotten to the Persian period yet, this is about 605 BC, and the Persian period, the Persians don't come in until about 537-538 BC, it's another 65 years before the Persians defeat the Babylonians. So what happens is the liberals come along and say see, they're using Persian here and that didn't come about until a long time after Daniel claims to have been written so it really must have been written much, much later than this. In fact, one of the most well known Old Testament scholars from about a century ago argued that they had to be after Alexander the Great simply because of these words and the use of a Persian word like this proved it.
Well, there's a clear response to that; liberals often play with history. They are constantly trying to rewrite history because if history is what the Bible claims it to be, then it is God's story, it is His story; history is His story. And they can't live with that; they do not want a God who is intervening in human history. Here's how we explain the Persian words. First of all, Daniel lived well into the Persian period. Daniel lived until about 533 or 535 BC, in fact, he was one of the top officials under Darius the Mede, and the Medes were united with the Persians. So it is clear that Daniel was familiar with this terminology and spoke old Persian and spoke it well. So he would have updated the vocabulary of the book when he wrote it so that it would be understandable to those who lived after the Persian period.
Of the approximately 20 Persian words that are found in Daniel, almost all of these are of officials and government officers. In fact, 9 of the 19 words used here, there are 19 Persian words used here, 9 of them are found only in early literature. So what this tells us is that the Persian expressions don't indicate a late date for Daniel, which the liberal contends, but the Persian expressions actually validate the Biblical claim that Daniel has a very early date. Furthermore, this is an old Persian word; it's not a middle Persian word. So if Daniel was written in 150 BC like the liberals say, then the Jews who lived in 150 BC would not have known, there was nobody alive at that time who spoke old Persian, it was a dead language by 150 BC, so the fact that it's old Persian indicates that it had to have been written by somebody who lived at least in the 4th or 5th century BC. That's the problem with most of the liberal claims, is they don't actually hold water once you evaluate them on the basis of proof.
Daniel 1:4 goes on to tell us that these were "youths," the word there is yeledim in the Hebrew which can indicate anyone up to the age of about 14, so they could have been 12, 13, but not more than 14 years of age. We don't know exactly how old they were. They were "youths in whom there was no defect," the Persians were like the Greeks, they wanted to have beautiful people operating in their courts, they wanted those who looked good physically. The word "no defects" is from the Hebrew m'uwm which means no physical blemish. They chose them on the basis of their physical attractiveness. These men all looked good, they were handsome, rugged looking men, but they were attractive. Next it says "they were good looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom." "Showing intelligence" here is a hiphil participle of the verb sakal, which means to understand, to comprehend, to have insight; it is a synonym for the Hebrew word bin. The Hebrew word bin has to do with discernment, to decide between two options. But sakal has a more significant meaning; it indicates an ability to think critically. It indicates an ability to reason through a complex arrangement of ideas in order to solve the problems in a wise and judicious manner. The bottom line is they had some sort of IQ test and they evaluated these men and they were at the very top of the ranks. These were some of the smartest, most intelligent people produced in Israel.
Furthermore, they were "endowed with understanding," that's the Hebrew word chakmah, which means skill, it's not just knowledge. We have a problem today, we have information overload; some people think that if they have a lot of information that they're smart. Information isn't knowledge and knowledge isn't wisdom. That's one of the problems that I see with so many of the computer programs that are available today for Bible study. I have a program on my computer and I have at least 500 books on this computer with an incredible search engine and it allows me to do in 2 or 3 hours of Bible study what I could never to in 2 or 3 weeks of research in a library, like at Dallas Seminary library when I was a student in seminary 25 years ago. It's an awesome tool to exegete, parses every verb, tells you what they are, in two seconds I can open up five different dictionaries and read all the different definitions; it's an incredible amount of information but the problem is that you have to know how to use that information and that only comes from theological training. Just because it's written in a book doesn't make it so.
For example, one of the most well known and most used resources for Greek studies is a book called The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, edited by Gerhard Kittel, but that was originally a work written in German, all the scholars who write those articles, while they are educated, well-educated, brilliant men in their fields in Greek studied and have some of the highest academic credentials of anyone in the world, they all buy into a liberal Protestant theology; most of those men probably are not saved. Therefore they really didn't understand the spiritual dimension of what they're writing about, so while they come up with a lot of good information, you can't just read the article and just because they say a word means such and so doesn't mean it does. Now you have to have the skill and the ability to go in and look at their sources and to be able to research their sources and valuate their opinions. But they give you good information; but if you don't have a seminary degree and the ability to do that then you might read it and say oh well, Kittel says it's true and then just quote it as if it's true. You have to have critical thinking skills and the problem today is that anybody can go out and buy all this software, and there are many pastors who have all of this stuff, and may lay people have a lot of this stuff on their computers but they don't know how to properly use it.
Never mistake information or an academic degree for someone who has real knowledge or wisdom; they're different. These men all had wisdom; that means they knew how to take the raw academic information that they had and apply it in a skillful productive manner. So they are "youths in whom there was no defect, who were good looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding, and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king's court," so they had a diplomatic ability as well. It's very tough if you're working for an organization where the people at the top are never wrong and are almost viewed as if they're gods; you have to have a high degree of humility and diplomacy in order to operate in that environment because if you make a wrong step it'll probably be the last mistake you make, you'll either lose your job, or in their case lose your life. So they had the ability to function and to "serve in the king's court."
Now we know from what Plato tells us about the operation of the Babylonians that the standard age for developing their training was at 14. So that's probably about the age of these men. They were then given a three year course of training to prepare them for government service and this was an intense period of training, so that by the time they were 17 years of age they probably had an academic training that would be comparable to a master's degree in our time; they were the most intelligent, the most educated, the most advanced people in their culture, so we're talking about the absolute cream of the crop.
At the end of verse 4 we read that "he," that is the king, Nebuchadnezzar, "ordered him," Ashpenaz, "to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans." So they had to learn to think in Babylonian. As soon as you start teaching somebody your culture you're going to be teaching them religious concepts and a lot of other things that are imbedded in the literature and the language. What they want to do is completely brainwash these captives so they're going to try to wipe away every vestige of their background, as much as possible completely retrain and reeducate them to think, live, act as Chaldeans. That's going to begin with their diet, verse 5.
Daniel 1:5 says, "And the king appointed for them a daily ration," it wasn't Ashpenaz, it wasn't some other court official, it's Nebuchadnezzar himself; he is intimately involved in their curriculum. He is measuring each step of their development and he is overseeing every detail of their life. And Nebuchadnezzar is going to decide exactly what they're going to eat; "the king appointed for them a daily ration," this too is a Persian word and it indicates that from the king's own table to be served, from his own pantry they were to receive their food. He wanted the absolute best for all of them; he is going to make sure they have good nutrition and that they are healthy and strong. "And the king appointed for them a daily ration from the king's choice food and from the wine which he drank, and appointed that they should be educated three years, at the end of which they were to enter the king's personal service."
Now the food and the wine that the king had was first taken to the temple to Marduk, or the temple to Bel or one of the other temples, Ishtar, and was dedicated to the god and sanctified to Ishtar or to Marduk or to Bel or to one of the other gods, so there is a religious undertone to the diet. So part of what is happening here is they're not only being reeducated but they are going to be retrained to think in terms of the religion of the Babylonians. Now in the course of study that they would go through these men were going to study Babylonian philosophy and religion, they would study magic, they would study astrology, science, and medicine. They had to do all of this in the language of the Babylonians, which was a form of probably early northeastern Arabian dialect, maybe with a mix of early Aramaic, and they wrote with an Akkadian cuneiform, which was done by taking soft clay, and you had little wedges and you would make your symbols with the wedges. So they had to learn how to read that, they couldn't take their laptops home and do their reading on their computer home, or take their textbooks home. They had stacks of clay tablets and they would have to master all of the information there, so they had to first learn how to read and write in the Babylonian language, in the cuneiform alphabet, and then they had to learn this whole curriculum.
I want you to think about that; they're studying magic, they're studying the mythology of the day, they're studying all the religious systems of the Babylonians, they are studying a lot of stuff they don't agree with. So it would be real easy for them to start having some kind of a conflict or challenging their professors. It's not any different today, if you're going to college somewhere you're going to be in a classroom where you're going to be taught a lot of things from a post-modern perspective, you'll be taught things from an evolutionary perspective, perhaps from a liberal socialist perspective, all of which you know to be wrong. But that doesn't mean you go to battle every time the professor opens his mouth with something you disagree with. Pick and choose your battlefield, just like they did. Imagine these young men being reeducated in Babylonian mythology, yet they sat there, they had respect authority, we see that from every time they come into conflict they show respect for authority, they're never antagonistic, they never operate on arrogance, but they pick and choose their battles.
So what we learn from this is that it is possible to survive and to succeed in a human viewpoint education system. Sometimes you have to be wise as serpents and as crafty as doves. Sometimes today it's very difficult, I know of cases where men have wanted to pursue PhD's in geology, paleontology, biology, they were creationists and they're going to schools that are deeply committed to a Darwinian evolution, so they can't let it be known that they're creationists because if they do their funds will dry up, their scholarships will dry up, they're teaching fellowships will disappear and they won't be allowed to complete their degrees. So I know of cases where they've had to publish scholarly creationist articles under pseudonyms in order not to blow their cover. But they go through and they are successful. It's possible to succeed in a human viewpoint education system, 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that we'll never be "tested beyond what we are able, but God will, with the test, make a way to escape that we may be able to bear it." God is the One who is in control and we have to be just like Daniel and his friends and trust God, no matter that pressure is or how extreme that pressure becomes, you continue to trust doctrine and do what's right and you'll see how God operates behind the scenes in protection.
God always uses prepared believers. When we look at what Daniel and these men went through it should remind also of Joseph. Joseph was another believer in the Old Testament who operated all on his own in the pagan environment of the palace of Pharaoh in Egypt, and he was successful and rose to the second highest position in the land. Moses also did the same thing, he had to operate in a pagan environment and he was successful. We will never face the kind of pressure from the pagan system around us that these men faced. We won't even come close; I dare say not one of us will experience 10% of the kind of pressure to conform to a pagan way of thinking that those men faced. If God sustained them, He can sustain us.
The key for all those men was in their early years; that's a second observation. Moses' mother was appointed his nurse and she probably taught him doctrine from the time he got out of diapers. Joseph learned doctrine from his father, Jacob. It was the influence of those parents inculcating doctrine in them at every opportunity that gave them the foundation so that they could succeed when they became adults.
Third observation; human viewpoint education has a lot of truth in it and we can benefit from that truth; you can not only learn positive things from some of the things that are taught in a human viewpoint education but you can learn a lot about how pagans think in a negative way. Learn how they think, learn the problems, be able to spot the weakness in their arguments. That doesn't mean you have to debate them in class but you can learn their weaknesses. Daniel learned to write, he learned his administrative skills, he learned to rule the nation, he learned the skills he used to be a successful witness for the Lord later on in the midst of a pagan education system.
Fourth observation; human viewpoint always seeks to indoctrinate man in the thinking of the kingdom of man. So if you think your kids are getting a neutral education then you are incredibly deceived. From the moment your kids go to kindergarten or nursery school they are being indoctrinated in human viewpoint methodology and human viewpoint philosophy and it's your responsibility to know what that is and to counteract it with doctrine, not by taking them to a church where doctrine is taught but it's your responsibility to counteract that and know what they're being taught in the classroom and to be teaching them, and that means you need to lay that foundation before they ever leave the home to go into that environment. This is the challenge for believers and it's amazing how we can learn, even in a pagan environment, even in a negative environment we can learn many things and turn it for our own advantage. This was a common practice in the early church.
John Milton, in his book Aereopagitica wrote: "Paul thought it no defilement to insert into Holy Scripture the sentences of three Greek poets," see, he was well-educated, he knew what the Greeks were thinking, he understand the pagan literature, he knew who their favorite writers were and he used it against them. "Paul thought it no defilement to insert into Holy Scripture the sentences of three Greek poets, and one of them a tragedian. The question was notwithstanding sometimes controverted among the primitive doctors," that means the early teachers in the Church, but with great odds on that side which affirmed it both lawful and profitable. As was then evidently perceived, when Julian the Apostate," he was the successor to Constantine, "when Julian the Apostate and subtlest enemy to our faith made a decree forbidding Christians the study of heathen learning, for said he, they wind us with our own weapons and with our own sciences they overcome us." So in the 5th century AD the Christians mastered, went to the pagan schools, mastered the teaching and used it to defeat the thinking of the pagans surrounding them. So doctrine makes a difference.
Now Daniel and his friends could have challenged them on many different levels; they could have challenged them on their name change. See, the indoctrination, brainwashing technique that Nebuchadnezzar used was to come along and to change their names, to change their identities. In Daniel 1:6 we read, "Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah." Now these aren't simple names. So often when Americans pick names all they ever do is say oh, I like the name Joe, or that was a family name, William, so that's what I'm going to name my kid. But the Jews picked names that significance, and often the suffixes on the names, like you see the "el" at the end of Daniel; that is a reference to God, from Elohim, "El," God. The "ah" at the end of Hananiah, and Azariah, is the first syllable in the name of God, Yahweh. The last syllable in Mishael is from Elohim. These were names that testified to their relationship to God. And so that won't do as far as Nebuchadnezzar is concerned, they can't have any loyalties other than to the kingdom of man, his state and the gods that he's created, so we're going to have to rename them.
First, let's look at what these names do mean, Daniel, or Dan-el means God is judge, or God is my judge. The "i" there is a first person singular suffix in the Hebrew so it might mean God is my judge, or sometimes the "i" is just inserted to give it smoothness so it probably means just Dan-el. Hananiah, "yah" refers to God so it means "yah" is gracious, from hanan, to be gracious, to be kind; God is gracious, Yah is gracious. Mishael, "el" is for God, "mish" is the word for "who" in the Hebrew, "sha" refers to light, and "el," so Mishael means who is like El? And Azariah, "yah" from Yahweh, hezer is the same word, hezer in Genesis 2 where God says I'm going to make an hezer for the man, I'm going to make an helper for him, assistance. So Azariah means Yah is my helper. Yahweh is my helper.
So from this we see that these boys were raised by parents who were solid believes, who were mature, who understood doctrine and who spent a tremendous amount of time preparing them. They had listened to Isaiah, they had listened to Jeremiah, they knew what the prophets had said, they knew that their days were numbered and that is was very possible the nation was going to go out under the fifth cycle of discipline in their lifetime so they prepared their sons to handle it.
Now what happens in Daniel 1:7 is these boys get new names. Just imagine how humiliating that must be, to have your name changed and there's nothing they can do about it. Do they fight this? Now they don't. They don't fight this at all, they don't fight their education, they're not fighting. They're going to pick their battleground. "Then the commander of the officials assigned new names to them; and to Daniel he assigned the name Belteshazzar, to Hananiah the name Shadrach, to Mishael Meshach, and to Azariah Abed-nego."
Each of these names has religious significance. Belteshazzar has the initial syllable, "Bel" for the god Bel and it means may Bel protect your life this is the Babylonian deity, may Bel protect your life. So Daniel's name goes from being "God is my judge" to "may Bel protect your life." Now he is known by a pagan name, everywhere he goes he is going to be reminded that he's no longer a Jew to worship God. What they are saying to him, the subtle message here is your God deserted you, He left you unprotected, but now you are going to be protected by Bel.
Shadrach is based on the Babylonian word Psuder Achu, that's the basic breakdown probably, the suffix is Achu, a reference to the moon god. So the name would mean at the command of Achu, so he is no longer reminding people that God is gracious but that he is at the command or under the authority of the moon God, Achu. Meshach now means "who is Achu," the "ach" is the same moon god, Meshach meaning "who is Achu," that he is the great one. Then Abed-nego, "nego" is really a corruption of the Babylonian word, Nebo, one of the gods, and it means "I am the slave of Nebo." I am the slave of Nebo rather than being "God is my helper."
So their testimony, the testimony of their names is being changed, their identity, they're seeking to change their identity and they are seeking to completely reeducate them. This is always the battle between the kingdom of man and the kingdom of God; it's always the battle between paganism and Biblical thinking. And the only way that we can protect ourselves is by being inculcated in doctrine. That's why I emphasize the fact that it's not just enough to be in church an hour or two hours a week but we need it over and over again, constantly being reminded of God's grace, God's sufficiency, of the work that Christ did on the cross for us, that salvation is by no other name under heaven, except for Jesus Christ, that in Christ we have been blessed with all the spiritual blessings and that God has provided everything for us to handle any situation and any problem.
Daniel understands this and so in Daniel 1:8 he's going to make a decision, he's going to decide how he's going to confront the system, and this emphasizes his volition, he's thinking. He's constantly being bombarded and now he's going to make a decision and he's going to stand his ground over the dietary issue, and it's not just because of the diet but because God has specifically revealed what diet they're supposed to follow. This diet is a diet that is based on a religious assumption and so he's going to make a stand, not on a gray area but on a clear statement of God. See, too many Christians get out there and they want to do battle with somebody over some issue that is not a black and white statement in Scripture. But Daniel is going to stake his ground on something that's a black and white statement in the Scripture and we're going to see how he did that and the dynamics of that confrontation next time. We're going to learn some strategy, now to operate, how to think when we're in an enemy environment and we are being oppressed from all sides through human viewpoint thinking.