Daniel makes the official list of Bible heroes (Hebrews 11:33). Surviving a night in the companionship of hungry lions was enough to seal his reputation. But long before he was dropped into the lions’ den, Daniel’s faith endured a hostile environment.

Key Verse

But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuch to allow him not to defile himself.Daniel 1:8

Daniel’s Diary

Daniel began his diary as a young man carried into captivity against his will. He was probably 16 years old or so at the time. Taken away from his family, from most of his friends and from the land in which he grew up as a boy, Daniel faced an uncertain future. He was transported more than 700 miles from Jerusalem to Babylon.

Daniel soon discovered the life planned for him and his friends. They were selected as young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand. In Babylon (Chaldea), they would embark on three years of intense education under royal supervision. They would eat the king’s food and prepare to serve the king.

They were given new names. Daniel became Belteshazzar. In those times the names of captives were often changed to avoid the significance of their original names and prevent embarrassment for a pagan king. Daniel’s name, for example, means “God is my judge.” If a pagan king (who often saw himself as divine) used Daniel’s Hebrew name, he would also be admitting something he didn’t want to admit! Similarly, Daniel’s friends Mishael (“Who is like God?”), Azariah (“Yahweh, our help”), and Hananiah (“Yahweh is gracious”) weren’t allowed to keep their names but became Meshach, Abednego and Shadrach. These new names related to the pagan gods of the Chaldeans (Babylonians).

Daniel decided he could not go along with all the king’s arrangements. He was willing to accept training in agriculture, law, astronomy, astrology and math. He learned the language of his captors. He was even willing to serve the king. But he drew a clear line at anything that would “defile” him (v. 8).

He was not proud, cocky or belligerent. He approached Ashpenaz, the king’s chief eunuch, politely. But he knew what he believed, and he knew why he believed it. He presented his case persuasively: “Look, I can’t eat this food because, well, first of all, this food is prepared with ingredients that could well be forbidden to me in the Law. Secondly, this food is probably not prepared in a kosher way.”

He suggested to the eunuch a no-risk, reasonable alternative—a trial period during which Daniel and his friends would eat only vegetables and water. As a result, Daniel wound up with a powerful ally: “And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs” (v. 9). Daniel was living for God, and God was in turn helping Daniel to live for Him. At the end of ten days, the four friends looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.

God rewards faithfulness. Daniel’s diary records at least three ways God rewarded the faithfulness of Daniel and his three Hebrew friends. The first has already been mentioned: they were rewarded with health. God blesses physically those who live for Him. It’s not that the faithful never get sick. But today those who live by faith usually are not afflicted with STDs, fetal alcohol syndrome, drug overdoses, etc.

Second, God also blessed them intellectually (see v. 17). They exhibited healthy bodies and healthy minds. James reminds us that God is the source of wisdom: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God” (James 1:5).