Oh To Be Like Daniel!

Posted on February 20, 2020


By David Ettinger

A Man of Character
When we think of the Prophet Daniel, we think of difficult passages of text and fascinating visions of the end-times. We think of the greatest prophecies ever given to the human race, and study the scholars in an effort to decipher them.

Book of Daniel

But there is far more to the prophet than just his prophecy: there is the man himself. In a word, Daniel was extraordinary – even as a teenager!

Imagine taking a stand such as he did at the tender age (approximately) of 16? He had the world at his feet to do with as he pleased, but he chose to deny the world and its pleasures. He opted to obey and honor God, and the Lord blessed him abundantly.

Who exactly is Daniel, what was he doing in Babylon, and how did he – a Hebrew – rise to such a high position of power in a pagan empire?

Daniel the Exile
First, Daniel was part of Israel’s royal family. Not only was Daniel of noble descent, but he was an outstanding individual. When the Babylonians besieged Jerusalem, they took many Hebrews captive. “Then the king [Nebuchadnezzar] ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility – young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace” (Daniel 1:3, 4). Daniel was among this elite group the king seized.

Second, Daniel was in Babylon to eventually become one of the king’s counselors and advisors. Once the Hebrew captives were transplanted to Babylon, Ashpenaz “was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians” (Daniel 1:4). It was Nebuchadnezzar’s policy to take the best young minds of his conquered nations and train them to serve him. Usually, these elite young men were separated from their parents in hope they would forget their past lives and culture and become fully immersed in that of Babylon.


No doubt numerous captives, Hebrews included, surmised that if God had forsaken them, then they might as well conform. It wasn’t a difficult decision. Far from being treated as prisoners and exiles, the Babylonians showered these promising future leaders with luxury. “The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table” (Daniel 1:5). Food from the king’s table was the finest in the empire. No doubt these young trainees were also given comfortable homes in which to live and the finest clothing to wear.

Daniel the Man of God
How can any 16-year-old resist? Daniel did.

Confronted with compromise, “Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine” (Daniel 1:8). This may not seem like such a big deal, but it was huge. The king’s food was first offered to idols during pagan worship rituals. To consume it, in Daniel’s mind, was to pay homage to these heathen deities. Daniel’s heart belonged solely to the God of Israel. The flasks pouring the wine served at Nebuchadnezzar’s table were also used to pour wine on pagan altars.

More importantly to Daniel was the Hebrew code regarding food. Leviticus chapter 11 is devoted to “clean” (kosher) and “unclean” (unkosher) food – food the Israelites were permitted to eat and that which was forbidden. Also, the food was to be prepared in a specific way. Though not all of Nebuchadnezzar’s food would have been unclean, it certainly would not have been prepared according to the stipulations of the Mosaic Law.


Therefore, “Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine.” Instead, he asked Ashpenaz for permission to consume only vegetables and water.[1] Such fortitude was as rare in Daniel’s day as it is today. Daniel’s reward for his faithfulness was God’s hand working in every aspect of Daniel’s life: “Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel” (Daniel 1:9). This verse could well be the theme of Daniel’s entire life, as over the next 70 years the world’s most powerful monarchs would show him favor.

Daniel the Prophet
This brings us to the third question: How did Daniel rise to a dizzyingly high position of power in a pagan empire? Several years following Daniel’s stand not to defile himself, Nebuchadnezzar had a frightening dream that his closest advisors could neither identify nor interpret.[2] Daniel, however, endowed by God with the gift of dream interpretation,[3] was able to identify and interpret the king’s dream.[4] In return, Nebuchadnezzar “placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men” (Daniel 2:48).

Emulate Daniel!
Given the opportunity to compromise, Daniel refused. And he was just 16 years old!

How would you or I have fared in such circumstances? How do you and I fare today in circumstances involving compromise? Oh that God would give us the heart and grit of Daniel – even the teenage version! Oh to be like Daniel!

[1] Daniel 1:11

[2] Daniel 2:1-11

[3] Daniel 1:17

[4] Daniel 2:24-27