The first year of king Cyrus - That is, to the end of the Chaldean empire. And we find Daniel alive in the third year of Cyrus, see Daniel 10:1.
And Daniel continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus - When the proclamation was issued by him to rebuild the temple at Jerusalem, Ezra 1:1. That is, he continued in influence and authority at different times during that period, and, of course, during the whole of the seventy years captivity. It is not necessarily implied that he did not “live” longer, or even that he ceased then to have influence and authority at court, but the object of the writer is to show that, during that long and eventful period, he occupied a station of influence until the captivity was accomplished, and the royal order was issued for rebuilding the temple. He was among the first of the captives that were taken to Babylon, and he lived to see the end of the captivity - “the joyful day of Jewish freedom.” - Prof. Stuart. It is commonly believed that, when the captives returned, he remained in Chaldea, probably detained by his high employments in the Persian empire, and that he died either at Babylon or at Shushan. Compare the Introduction Section I.
In view of the exposition given of this chapter, the following remarks may be made:
(1) There is in every period of the world, and in every place, much obscure and buried talent that might be cultivated and brought to light, as there are many gems in earth and ocean that are yet undiscovered. See the notes at Daniel 1:1-4. Among these captive youths - prisoners of war - in a foreign land, and as yet unknown, there was most rich and varied talent - talent that was destined yet to shine at the court of the most magnificent monarchy of the ancient world, and to be honored as among the brightest that the world has seen. And so in all places and at all times, there is much rich and varied genius which might shine with great brilliancy, and perform important public services, if it were cultivated and allowed to develope itself on the great theater of human affairs. Thus, in obscure rural retreats there may be bright gems of intellect; in the low haunts of vice there may be talent that would charm the world by the beauty of song or the power of eloquence; among slaves there may be mind which, if emancipated, would take its place in the brightest constellations of genius. The great endowments of Moses as a lawgiver, a prophet, a profound statesman, sprang from an enslaved people, as those of Daniel did; and it is not too much to say that the brightest talent of the earth has been found in places of great obscurity, and where, but for some remarkable dispensation of Providence, it might have remained forever unknown. This thought has been immortalized by Gray:
“Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear;
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
“Some village Hampden, that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood;
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest.
Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country‘s blood.”
There is at any time on the earth talent enough created for all that there is to be done in any generation; and there is always enough for talent to accomplish if it were employed in the purposes for which it was originally adapted. There need be at no time any wasted or unoccupied mind; and there need be no great and good plan that should fail for the want of talent fitted to accomplish it, if what actually exists on the earth were called into action.
(2) He does a great service to the world who seeks out such talent, and gives it an opportunity to accomplish what it is fitted to, by furnishing it the means of an education, Daniel 1:3. Nebuchadnezzar, unconsciously, and doubtless undesignedly, did a great service to mankind by his purpose to seek out the talent of the Hebrew captives, and giving it an opportunity to expand and to ripen into usefulness. Daniel has taken his place among the prophets and statesmen of the world as a man of rare endowments, and of equally rare integrity of character. He has, under the leading of the Divine Spirit, done more than most other prophets to lift the mysterious veil which shrouds the future; more than “could” have been done by the penetrating sagacity of all the Burkes, the Cannings, and the Metternichs of the world. So far as human appearances go, all this might have remained in obscurity, if it had not been for the purpose of the Chaldean monarch to bring forward into public notice the obscure talent which lay hid among the Hebrew captives. He always does a good service to mankind who seeks out bright and promising genius, and who gives it the opportunity of developing itself with advantage on the great theater of human affairs.
(3) We cannot but admire the arrangements of Providence by which this was done. See the notes at Daniel 1:1-4. This occurred in connection with the remarkable purpose of a pagan monarch - a man who, perhaps more than any other pagan ruler, has furnished an illustration of the truth that “the king‘s heart is in the hand of the Lord.” “That purpose was, to raise to eminence and influence the talent that might be found among the Hebrew captives.” There can be no doubt that the hand of God was in this; that there was a secret Divine influence on his mind, unknown to him, which secured this result; and that, while he was aiming at one result, God was designing to secure another. There was thus a double influence on his mind:
(a) what arose from the purpose of the monarch himself, originated by considerations of policy, or contemplating the aggrandizement and increased splendor of his court; and
(b) the secret and silent influence of God, shaping the plans of the monarch to the ends which “He” had in view. Compare the notes at Isaiah 10:5 following.
(4) as it is reasonable to suppose that these young men had been trained up in the strict principles of religion and temperance Daniel 1:8-12, the case before us furnishes an interesting illustration of the temptations to which those who are early trained in the ways of piety are often exposed. Every effort seems to have been made to induce them to abandon the principles in which they had been educated, and there was a strong probability that those efforts would be successful.
(a) They were among strangers, far away from the homes of their youth, and surrounded by the allurements of a great city.
(b) Everything was done which could be done to induce them to “forget” their own land and the religion of their fathers.
(c) They were suddenly brought into distinguished notice; they attracted the attention of the great, and had the prospect of associating with princes and nobles in the most magnificent court on earth. They had been selected on account of their personal beauty and their intellectual promise, and were approached, therefore, in a form of temptation to which youths are commonly most sensitive, and to which they are commonly most liable to yield.
(d) They were far away from the religious institutions of their country; from the public services of the sanctuary; from the temple; and from all those influences which had been made to bear upon them in early life. It was a rare virtue which could, in these circumstances, withstand the power of such temptations.
(5) young men, trained in the ways of religion and in the habits of temperance, are often now exposed to similar temptations. They visit the cities of a foreign country, or the cities in their own land. They are surrounded by strangers. They are far away from the sanctuary to which in early life they were conducted by their parents, and in which they were taught the truths of religion. The eye of that unslumbering vigilance which was upon them in their own land, or in the country neighborhood where their conduct was known to all, is now withdrawn. No one will know it if they visit the theater; no one will see them who will make report if they are found in the gambling room, or the place of dissipation. In those new scenes new temptations are around them. They may be noticed, flattered, caressed. They may be invited to places by the refined and the fashionable, from which, when at home, they would have recoiled. Or, it may be, prospects of honor and affluence may open upon them, and in the whirl of business or pleasure, they may be under the strongest temptations to forget the lessons of early virtue, and to abandon the principles of the religion in which they were trained. Thousands of young men are ruined in circumstances similar to those in which these youths were placed in Babylon, and amidst temptations much less formidable titan those which encompassed them; and it is a rare virtue which makes a young man safe amidst the temptations to which he is exposed in a great city, or in a distant land.
(6) we have in this chapter an instructive instance of the value of early training in the principles of religion and temperance. There can be no doubt that these young men owed their safety and their future success wholly to this. Parents, therefore, should be encouraged to train their sons in the strictest principles of religion and virtue. Seed thus sown will not be lost. In a distant land, far away from home, from a parent‘s eye, from the sanctuary of God; in the midst of temptations, when surrounded by flatterers, by the gay and by the irreligious, such principles will be a safeguard to them which nothing else can secure, and will save them when otherwise they would be engulphed in the vortex of irreligion and dissipation. The best service which a parent can render to a son, is to imbue his mind thoroughly with the principles of temperance and religion.
(7) we may see the value of a purpose of entire abstinence from the use of “wine,” Daniel 1:8. Daniel resolved that he would not make use of it as a beverage. His purpose, it would seem, was decided, though he meant to accomplish it by mild and persuasive means if possible. There were good reasons for the formation of such a purpose then, and those reasons are not less weighty now. He never had occasion to regret the formation of such a purpose; nor has anyone who has formed a similar resolution ever had occasion to regret it. Among the reasons for the formation of such a resolution, the following may be suggested:
(a) A fixed resolution in regard to the course which one will pursue; to the kind of life which he will live; to the principles on which he will act, is of inestimable value in a young man. Our confidence in a man is just in proportion as we have evidence that he has formed a steady purpose of virtue, and that he has sufficient strength of resolution to keep it.
(b) The same reasons exist for adopting a resolution of abstinence in regard to the use of wine, which exist for adopting it in relation to the use of ardent spirits, for
(1) The intoxicating principle in wine or other fermented liquors is precisely the same as in ardent spirits. It is the result of “fermentation,” not of “distillation,” and undergoes no change by distillation. The only effect of that chemical process is to drive it off by heat, condense, and collect it in a form better adapted to commerce or to preservation, but the alcoholic principle is precisely the same in wine as in distilled liquors.
(2) Intoxication itself is the same thing, whether produced by fermented liquors or by distilled spirits. It produces the same effect on the body, on the mind, on the affections. A man who becomes intoxicated on wine - as he easily may - is in precisely the same condition, so far as intoxication is produced, as he who becomes intoxicated on distilled liquors.
(3) There is the same kind of “danger” of becoming intemperate in the use of the one as of the other. The man who habitually uses wine is as certainly in danger of becoming a drunkard as he who indulges in the use of distilled liquors. The danger, too, arises from the same source. It arises from the fact that he who indulges once will feel induced to indulge again; that a strong and peculiar craving is produced for stimulating liquors; that the body is left in such a state that it demands a repetition of the stimulus; that it is a law in regard to indulgence in this kind of drinks, that an increased “quantity” is demanded to meet the exhausted state of the system; and that the demand goes on in this increased ratio until there is no power of control, and the man becomes a confirmed inebriate. All these laws operate in regard to the use of wine as really as to the use of any other intoxicating drinks; and, therefore, there is the same reason for the adoption of a resolution to abstain from all alike.
(4) The temptations are often “greater” in relation to wine than to any other kind of intoxicating drinks. There is a large class of persons in the community who are in comparatively little danger of becoming intemperate from any other cause than this. This remark applies particularly to young men of wealth; to those who move in the more elevated circles; to those who are in college, and to those who are preparing for the learned professions. They are in peculiar danger from this quarter, because it is regarded as genteel to drink a glass of wine; because they are allured by the example of professed Christians, of ministers of the gospel, and of ladies; and because they axe often in circumstances in which it would not be regarded as respectable or respectful to decline it.
(c) Third reason for adopting such a resolution is, that it is the only security that anyone can have that he will not become a drunkard. No one who indulges at all in the use of intoxicating liquors can have any “certainty” that he will not yet become a confirmed inebriate. Of the great multitudes who have been, and who are drunkards, there are almost none who “meant” to sink themselves to that wretched condition. They have become intemperate by indulging in the social glass when they thought themselves safe, and they continued the indulgence until it was too late to recover themselves from ruin. He who is in the habit of drinking at all can have no “security” that he may not yet be all that the poor drunkard now is. But he “will” be certainly safe from this evil if he adopts the purpose of total abstinence, and steadfastly adheres to it. Whatever other dangers await him, he will be secure against this; whatever other calamities he may experience, he is sure that he will escape all those that are caused by intemperance.
(8) We have in this chapter a most interesting illustration of the “value” of temperance in “eating,” Daniel 1:9-17. There are laws of our nature relating to the quantity and quality of food which can no more be violated with impunity than any other of the laws of God; and yet those laws are probably more frequently violated than any other. There are more persons intemperate in the use of food than in the use of drink, and probably more diseases engendered, and more lives cut short, by improper indulgence in eating than in drinking. At the same time it is a more base, low, gross, and beastly passion. A drunkard is very often the wreck of a generous and noble-minded nature. He was large-hearted, open, free, liberal, and others took advantage of his generosity of disposition, and led him on to habits of intoxication. But there is nothing noble or generous in the gourmand. He approximates more nearly to the lowest forms of the brutal creation than any other human being; and if there is any man who should be looked on with feelings of unutterable loathing, it is he who wastes his vigour, and destroys his health, by gross indulgence in eating. There is almost no sin that God speaks of in tones of more decided abhorrence than the sin of “gluttony.” Compare Deuteronomy 21:20-21; Psalm 141:4; Proverbs 23:1-3, Proverbs 23:20-21; Luke 16:19; Luke 21:34.
(9) We have, in the close of the chapter before us, a most interesting illustration of the effect of an early course of strict temperance on the future character and success in life, Daniel 1:17-21. The trial in the case of these young men was fairly made. It was continued through three years; a period long enough for a “fair” trial; a period long enough to make it an interesting example to young men who are pursuing a course of literary studies, who are preparing to enter one of the learned professions, or who are qualifying themselves for a life of mechanical or agricultural pursuits. In the case of these young men, they were strictly on “probation,” and the result of their probation was seen in the success which attended them when they passed the severe examination before the monarch Daniel 1:19, and in the honors which they reached at his court, Daniel 1:19-21. To make this case applicable to other young men, and useful to them, we may notice two things: the fact that every young man is on probation; and the effect of an early course of temperance in securing the object of that probation.
(a) Every young man is on probation; that is, his future character and success are to be determined by what he is when a youth.
(1) all the great interests of the world are soon to pass into the hands of the young. They who now possess the property, and fill the offices of the land, will pass away. Whatever there is that is valuable in liberty, science, art, or religion, will pass into the hands of those who are now young. They will preside in the seminaries of learning; will sit down on the benches of justice; will take the vacated seats of senators; will occupy the pulpits in the churches; will be entrusted with all the offices of honor and emolument; will be ambassadors to foreign courts; and will dispense the charities of the land, and carry out and complete the designs of Christian benevolence. There is not an interest of liberty, religion, or law, which will not soon be committed to them.
(2) The world is favorably disposed toward young men, and they who are now entrusted with these great interests, and who are soon to leave them, are ready calmly to commit them to the guardianship of the rising generation, as soon as they have the assurance that they are qualified to receive the trust. They, therefore, watch with intense solicitude the conduct of those to whom so great interests are so soon to be committed
(3) Early virtue is indispensable to a favorable result of the probation of young men. A merchant demands evidence of integrity and industry in a young man before he will admit him to share his business, or will give him credit; and the same thing is true respecting a farmer, mechanic, physician, lawyer, or clergyman. No young man can hope to have the confidence of others, or to succeed in his calling, who does not give evidence that he is qualified for success by a fair probation or trial.
(4) Of no young man is it “presumed” that he is qualified to be entrusted with these great and momentous interests until he has had a fair trial. There is no such confidence in the integrity of young men, or in their tendencies to virtue, or in their native endowments, that the world is “willing” to commit great interests to them without an appropriate probation. No advantage of birth or blood can secure this; and no young man should presume that the world will be ready to confide in him until he has shown that he is qualified for the station to which he aspires.
(5) Into this probation, through which every young man is passing, the question of “temperance” enters perhaps more deeply than anything else respecting character. With reference to his habits on this point, every young man is watched with aft eagle eye, and his character is well understood, when perhaps he least suspects it. The public cannot be deceived on this point, and every young man may be assured that there is an eye of unslumbering vigilance upon him.
(b) The effect of an early course of temperance on the issue of this probation. This is seen in the avoidance of a course of life which would certainly blast every hope; and in its positive influence on the future destiny.
1. The avoidance of certain things which would blast every hope which a young man could cherish. There are certain evils which a young man will certainly avoid by a course of strict temperance, which would otherwise certainly come upon him. They are such as these:
(a) Poverty, as arising from this source. He may, indeed, be poor if he is temperate. He may lose his health, or may meet with losses, or may be unsuccessful in business; but he is certain that he will never be made poor from intemperance. Nine-tenths of the poverty in the community is caused by this vice; nine-tenths of all who are in almshouses are sent there as the result of it; but from all this he will be certain that “he” will be saved. There is a great difference, if a man is poor, between being such as the result of a loss of health, or other Providential dispensations, and being such as the result of intemperance.
(b) He will be saved from committing “crime” from this cause. About ninetenths of the crimes that are committed are the results of intoxicating drinks, and by a course of temperance a man is certain that he will be saved from the commission of all those crimes. Yet if not temperate, no man has any security that he will not commit any one of them. There is nothing in himself to save him from the very worst of them; and every young man who indulges in the intoxicating cup should reflect that he has no security that he will not be led on to commit the most horrid crimes which ever disgrace humanity.
(c) He will certainly be saved from the drunkard‘s death. He will indeed die. He may die young, for, though temperate, he may be cut down in the vigour of his days. But there is all the difference imaginable between dying as a drunkard, and dying in the ordinary course of nature. It would be a sufficient inducement for anyone to sign a temperance pledge, and to adhere to it, if there were no other, that he might avoid the horrors of a death by “delirium tremens,” and be saved from the loathsomeness of a drunkard‘s grave. It is much for a young man to be able to say as he enters on life, and looks out on the future with solicitude as to what is to come, “Whatever may await me in the unknown future, of this one thing I am certain; I shall never be poor, and haggard, and wretched, as the drunkard is. I shall never commit the crimes to which drunkenness prompts. I shall never experience the unutterable horrors of “delirium tremens.” I shall never die the death of unequalled wretchedness caused by a “mania a potu.” Come what may, I see, on the threshold of life, that I am to be free from the “worst” evils to which man is ever exposed. If I am poor, I will not be poor as the victim of intemperance is. If I die early, the world will not feel it is benefited by my removal, and my friends will not go forth to my grave with the unutterable anguish which a parent has who follows a drunken son to the tomb.”
2. A course of temperance will have a direct and positive effect on the issue of such a probation. So it had in the case of the young men in the chapter before us; and so it will have in every case. Its effect will be seen in the beauty, and healthfulness, and vigour of the bodily frame; in the clearness of the intellect, and the purity of the heart; in habits of industry, in general integrity of life, and in rendering it more probable that the soul will be saved. In no respect whatever will a steadfast adherence to the principles of temperance injure any young man; in every respect, it may be the means of promoting his interests in the present life, and of securing his final happiness in the world to come. Why, then, should any young man hesitate about forming such a resolution as Daniel did Job 1:8, and about expressing, in every proper way, in the most decided manner, his determined purpose to adhere through life to the strictest principles of temperance?
This chapter is based on Daniel 1.
Among the children of Israel who were carried captive to Babylon at the beginning of the seventy years’ captivity were Christian patriots, men who were as true as steel to principle, who would not be corrupted by selfishness, but who would honor God at the loss of all things. In the land of their captivity these men were to carry out God's purpose by giving to heathen nations the blessings that come through a knowledge of Jehovah. They were to be His representatives. Never were they to compromise with idolaters; their faith and their name as worshipers of the living God they were to bear as a high honor. And this they did. In prosperity and adversity they honored God, and God honored them. PK 479.1Read in context »