Daniel 1:1-7 – Why was Daniel Taken to Babylon?

Daniel and the other three young men were brought to Babylon in the first deportation for the express purpose of being trained to serve the Babylonian government. The young men were from the royal family and nobility. According to Josephus, Daniel and the other boys were from the family of Zedekiah, the last king of Judah. Although not specifically stated, there may have been other Judeans in this training as well as young men from other territory controlled by Babylon.

Why train young men from the nobility? Babylon wants to prepare administrators trained to rule the Jews in captivity. The goal is for the young men to become loyal to Babylon and dependent on the Babylonian government for everything. This training is an honor, even if it is an attempt to integrate the leadership of Israel into the culture of Babylon. Daniel and his three friends are the best that Israel has to offer, intellectually and physically, and as we will see, spiritually.

Babylonian Exile

Another goal of the training is to separate them from their former life in every way possible. They are separated from their families and given new Babylonian names. The new Babylonian names were not intended to be degrading or humiliating, but their Jewish honoring the God if Israel is replaced by a Babylonian name honoring a god of Babylon. For example, the name Daniel means “God is my Judge,” but his new name is Belteshazzar, “Bel, Guard his life!” Hananiah means “God has Favored,” his new name Shadrach means” Command of Aku” (Aku is the Babylonian moon god). Mishael means “Who is like God?” but Meshach means “Who is what Aku is?” Azariah means “Yahweh has helped” but Abednego means “Servant of Nebo.”

Physically, they four were to be in the best shape possible. They are were “without any physical defect” meaning healthy enough they would be expected to serve the government for a long time.. Intellectually, they are to be superior and showed aptitude for every kind of learning. They are “quick to understand,” meaning they learn how to apply knowledge, perhaps “self-motivated” learner.

The education that Daniel receives is reserved for the elite of the society. They are to learn the “language and literature of the Babylonians.” The literature of the Neo-Babylonian period was extensive and would have included much of the earlier Assyrian and Mesopotamia culture. They may have been trained as scribes so they could read cuneiform legal documents, religious texts, fables, omen texts, astrological material, mathematical material, economic data and historical records.

This sort of training would have immersed the young men in the culture of Babylon. The literature of Babylon could claim to be as old, if not older than that of Israel, and it was certainly more extensive. It would have been a very attractive culture, one that conquered the known world and built the city of Babylon, the most beautiful city in the world.

Undoubtedly these young men experienced a clash of world views. When their Jewish culture was compared to Babylon, it quite likely they were impressed with culture and power of Babylon. It is also likely they could suffer from what is now called Stockholm syndrome. Often hostages form emotional bonds with their captors and begin to sympathize with them and begin to accept the captor’s way of thinking. In fact, Babylon expected Daniel and the three young men to be so impressed with Babylon they abandon their Jewish worldview and become as Babylonian as possible.

Will this Babylonian brain-washing work on Daniel and his friends? Will these four Jewish young men decide the worldview of Babylon is superior to that of the small, backwater worldview of Judea? Will they reject the traditions of their fathers in favor of the new world order of Babylon?

As is evident from the book of Daniel, there are some elements of culture Daniel is able to accept and he is able to have a long and successful career in Babylon. Yet there are clear lines drawn in Daniel 1 and later in Daniel 3 and 6. Daniel will not “defile himself” in some ways even as he learns the language and culture of Babylon.

In many ways, Daniel can be described as resistance literature outlining how the Jews adapted to the new situation of the diaspora. How can a Jewish person prosper in Babylon? Daniel outlines some principles of adaptation and resistance to whatever culture in which the Jews find themselves. They can really seek the welfare of the cities where they live in the exile (Jeremiah 29:7) while holding tenaciously to some traditions which are non-negotiable.

This is one of the most important applications of Daniel to the contemporary Christian reader. Like the Jews, global Christians do not live in cultures which are Christian. Many Christians live in countries where Christianity is not legal and it is dangerous to publically acknowledge their faith. Even in America, true Christianity is fast becoming a minority. How can the contemporary Christian adapt to an increasingly hostile world? What are the non-negotiable boundaries?

17 thoughts on “Daniel 1:1-7 – Why was Daniel Taken to Babylon?

  1. Just as taken was in a sense an “alien” when he was snatched up and dropped unprepared into the culture of the Babylonians, Christians of today’s age face a similar precedent: to what extent is it acceptable before God to integrate ourselves into culture enough in order to function on a daily basis, while still remaining holy and set aside from the sin and wickedness of the world? For Daniel and his brethren, it meant not eating certain foods that were either unclean and had been sacrificed to idols. For a believer today, it might be abstaining from anything that they know could has the potential to draw them away from the Lord. Perhaps that means when a group of your best or closest friends invites you to go to a bar with them, you have to decline, since you feel that consuming alcohol would be detrimental to your relationship with God. Daniel and his friends were willing to risk their very lives for things they believed in, such as unclean food, and not bowing down or worshiping other gods or kings. Are we as believers today willing to risk something for God today, perhaps things or activities we enjoy, or even friendships? Although it must be stipulated that if someone would choose to end a friendship with you over something that would cause you to stumble in your walk with God, it must be asked how good of a “friend” they are to you in your life. Non-negotiable boundaries that are relevant to today would be not accepting what our culture deems “okay”, such as the sins of homosexual marriages becoming legalized, the wickedness of abortion, or entering into sexual relations before marriage or willfully having multiple sexual partners, among others.

  2. Today we are faced with many challenges that could potentially pull us away from God and his directions for our lives; this could be being around certain people, of same or different beliefs, reading certain books, watching certain movies or shows, etc. All off these things could turn us away from God and become things that we rely on, but we need to be strong enough to resist those things and stay focused on God and his word. Just like with Daniel and his friends being taken away and basically forced to learn the ways of the Babylonians and still staying true to God, we also need to maintain courage and strength to turn away from anything that may be a temptation or something that will sway our faith.

    Also, when we do stick to our faith and resist those things that try to pull us away, the people around us may not accept that or may act towards us in a hostile way. Just as you said in your post about how Christians are not always in an environment with other Christians it can become very hard to live out a life reflecting Christ because of potential danger. However, Daniel is an example of doing it successfully because he and his friends were Jews in a place where their beliefs were not accepted but they still managed to stay firm in their beliefs and even voice them from time to time.

  3. After reading this blog post and thinking about the last question about how being a Christian today is becoming harder because Christianity is becoming more of a minor religion. As a contemporary Christian in the twenty-first century, I was confused about why the blog post said that the world has become more hostile. At first, I didn’t understand what that meant. Then I realized that I have grown up in a slightly sheltered culture. My dad was a pastor then I went to a Christian college. Although I wasn’t kept from the real world, I had gone to a large public school and worked in the real world. After thinking about these things, I was reminded of how unwelcome my beliefs were at school. I was able to understand what P Long meant by living in a hostile world.
    That being said, as Christians, if you confess with your mouth and believe that Jesus was sent to this world to save us from our sins and that he is lord, then you will be saved. We need to be confident in our faith and not afraid of what people think or say about what we believe. I struggled with being confident in my faith. It wasn’t until coming to college that I became confident in myself and who God says. And that is what I want for all Christians, I want them to know that God loves them and made them for a purpose.

  4. I really like this thought, and how you were explaining how Babylon was trying to integrate the people who they saw to be the most fitting for the job to be put into the correct schooling that would start to strip them of their former Jewish cultures story than to me seems to be beging the question of did God do this to them, and once they came into the city was it right for them to go to those schools, or would it have been better for Daniel, and his friends to try to run and escape, and potentially get caught and be killed. and the answer that I come to in my mind is that Daniel made all of the right decisions. Daniel was faced with a dilemma that most Christians actually today face on a daily basis. they are forced to choos between culture and the church traditions. Daniel knew that culture was not inherently evil, however, he did know that if it were to go too far like worship false god’s Daniel would have to decline. I believe that Daniel is a great representation story of our lives today. we are to be in the world but not of it.

  5. This article was very intriguing to me because it made me give a little more thought to “Why was Daniel taken to Babylon?” Obviously, there had to be a reason why Babylon needs bodies. My only thought is that Babylon needed people same reason why we draft people for the military. Our Military Personnel our all in the best physical health they can be which is the same as what the Babylonians were looking for.

    The Babylonians weren’t just “drafting” though. They were brainwashing their new recruits. The Babylonians were taking everything that the recruits knew and replacing it with what they wanted them to know. One of the things they were trying to get rid of was God the Father. Daniel knew better and he helped keep his three friends accountable. Instead of forgetting everything he already knew, Daniel relied on God so that they could become the best of the crop. Because of Daniel’s faith, God blessed him so that Daniel could become a chief official and preserve the Jews. Daniel even outlived the Babylonian Empire and was a chief official in the following empire until he died. This is God moment where a normal person is taken and then used to further the Lord’s kingdom. Daniel is a prime example for our present-day life as we are faced with many challenges’ day in and day out. He stood out when nobody else would.

  6. With the sad reality that Christianity is becoming the minority here in the United Sates, the importance of the authentic Christian adapting to this world is at an all time high. Part of the reason Christianity is on the decline is due to poor representation of Jesus Christ as “Christians” interact with non-believers, using scripture and the idea of heaven or hell as a weapon to manipulate and control others. This mindset that Christians are judgmental and hypocritical, that is clearly seen in the world, needs to be broken by us. Christians need to accurately represent Jesus to the lost with hearts full of love, adapting to their world as an opportunity to correctly represent Jesus and combat their jaded worldview of who Jesus Christ is. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow” (Heb. 4:12 NIV), and the truth will always penetrate a jaded and broken worldview of who Jesus is. Daniel is an excellent example of this, while Daniel is in Babylon, he is always respectful those he interacts with, while always speaking the truth about who God is. For example, when Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s first dream, he constantly addresses the king as “Your Majesty” (Dan. 2:29,31), while still profoundly speaking the truth. “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries” (Dan. 2:27). The result of Daniel adapting to Babylon culture while accurately representing God was astronomical. Both Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar, and Persian King, Darius, praise and worship the God of Israel as a result of Daniel’s words and actions (Dan. 4:2-3, 6:25-27). Therefore, we can learn from Daniel and do the same in our world today.
    As far as non-negotiable boundaries, Jesus states, “I am the truth and the way and the life. No one comes to the father except through me” (Jn. 14:16) and “Love the LORD your God with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). Therefore, believing in and loving all three persons of the Trinity is non-negotiable for me. Jesus also states, “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven” (Matt. 12:32), therefore this is also a non-negotiable, I would not blaspheme against any of the three persons of the Trinity. As for me, holding to the ten commandments (Ex. 20:1-17, Deut. 5:6-21) are also non-negotiable. Take thy life because I shall not bow!

    • Are there any behaviors, maybe social issues which are non-negotiable? If I believe Jesus is the only way, truth and life, can I sin all that I want?

  7. Jesus made it clear in his ministry that there would be both a broad road and a narrow road when it comes to following him (Matthew 7:13-14). As Dr. Long mentioned, there are plenty of places throughout the world where Christianity isn’t legal and is “dangerous to publicly acknowledge their faith”. It is also true that we are seeing more hostility toward the Christian faith in our own country. Similarly, Daniel was in the minority as while in Babylon, he is encouraged to adapt to more of a Babylonian type of lifestyle that is contrary to the life his Jewish life in Israel. We talked a little bit in class about the fact that for Daniel, a big problem was he had to abstain from meat that was sacrificed to idols as that was contrary to the worship of the one true God. With being a college age student living in the twenty first century, abstaining from foolish conversations, drinking parties and other sensual pleasures (Ephesians 5:4) (1 Peter 4:3) that so much of my peers who attend secular universities partake in.

    We can learn from studying Daniel the importance of not conforming to the cultural ways of life that are contrary to our devotion to Yahweh.

  8. As I was reading through this blog post. I realized that I was very thankful that God does not only use the best of the best Christians to be used by Him. I love that God always use the very broken people like me to advance his gospel. Unlike king Nebuchadnezzar who wanted only the best of the best without any deformity God calls for everyone to enter his Kingdom. (Just a Thought ).
    Every year there’s new gadgets in the market, new iPads, iPods, phones, computer and is much more. All this is supposed to make life a little bit easier. The truth is most people are falling face first into these traps. Daniel and his three friends are such great role models for the modern culture. instead of just doing what everyone is doing, Daniel sought the counsel of God first. He lived in Babylon but was not associated with their evil and sinful behavior. I admire their courage to stand strong, and praise God for providing the strength to do so. Our Generation surely need more of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Faithful faith to stand strong in the promises of God.

    • >without any deformity God calls for everyone to enter his Kingdom…

      This is a good idea, but the Law has several prohibitions against people with deformity entering into temple worship. You are right from the NT perspective, in Act 8 the Ethiopian Eunuch would not be permitted to enter the Temple courts, but in Christ his “deformity” would not count against him.

  9. In today’s world there can be hundreds of different types of distractions that could potentially pull us away further and further from God. Some of these things could be certain types of music, people going out to the bars, people having sex before marriage and many others. From this, I was reminded that Christianity is being more and more difficult to spread the God’s word. Along with Christianity becoming more of the minority religion. By working at a Police Department, you really get first hand of how “hostile” the world is become from all of the terrible things that people do every single day. Whether it was people stealing, getting arrested of OWI, domestic assaults, and even homicide. These are things that happen quite often, and I would not even know half of what was going on around here if I was not working there. I grew up in a small town where there was not a whole lot going on and then moving to a bigger city really opened my eyes. After thinking about this, so many people are making very bad choices and sinning so much without a second thought.

  10. Daniel and his friends had clearly set boundaries in their faith. They were also immensely devout Jewish people. This comes through in their refusal to eat Nebuchadnezzar’s food and later in chapters 3 and 6 during the fiery furnace and the lion’s den. Daniel and his friends did not want to “defile” themselves with the king’s food because it would dishonor God (1:8). As young men being immersed in a new culture, there were so many different things to partake in that would not hinder their Jewishness. They excelled in all of the different subjects of Babylonian culture but would not compromise the Mosaic Law. While reading these stories might seem trivial to us today, the things that were happening to them were very serious. If they were to step out of line the consequences were deadly. And while not much would cause them to do that there were still things that would. Mostly things that pertained to worship.
    Christians may live in a more dangerous environment today. There are places in the Middle East where being a Christian is a death sentence. Are they to hide their faith? Would it be wrong to do so? Are they doing things that are compromising so that they can stay alive? Martyrdom is a reoccurring happenstance due to people who do not compromise their faith. Personally, I think martyrdom is a beautiful thing. A place where martyrdom does not typically happen is in the United States. This is a place filled with Lukewarm Christians. I cannot emphasize your statement on “true Christians” becoming a minority. As Christians, are we compromising anything? One thing that I see that is clearly an issue is slanderous and corrupt speech. There are so many places in Scripture to tell us not to do this (Eph 4:29, Col 4:6). The culture we live in is so negative and is invading our lifestyle. Another place being sexual immorality or lying. These things are becoming more and more common in our Christian communities. While I know that everything is permissible but not beneficial (1 Cor 6:12) I still need to act on what I believe or what I claim to believe. Daniel and his friends are a true example of faithfulness in a foreign land. As believers in Christ, we are all in a foreign land and we all need to find our boundaries before we are in a situation where we need to choose to keep them.

  11. One of the most frequently neglected passages in Scripture is Peter’s intelligent and wise admonition to submit ourselves to the current governing body–regardless of what nation you reside in (I Peter 2:13-17). He did not make an exception for particular legislative systems, which I think we do as citizens quite often. We are certainly willing to submit to a president that happens to agree with our political beliefs, but as soon as they are replaced with an authority figure that we dislike, we dig our heels in and refuse to capitulate. This is totally against the attitude that Daniel demonstrated in Scripture. Not only was he willing to submit to the authority figure reigning over him (King Nebuchadnezzar), but he was compliant enough to actually work for him. However, this does not mean that the King and Daniel were by any means friends. In fact, as I explained in a previous blog, Daniel’s refusal of the King’s food depicted his rejection of the King as a friend–or as someone he was dependent upon. But this does not mean that Daniel did not respect him. In the book of Daniel, each time he addresses the King, his words are filled with deference. I think, as opposed to determining what kind of actions or behavior we should accept and reject in our culture, which is a difficult business, we should simply adopt an attitude like Daniel demonstrated–one of respect and deference for the current governing bodies. In this way, God will be honored, and all of our actions will appropriately flow from this foundational commitment. We will obviously refuse to participate in actions that go against the words of our Lord (Ephesians 4:29), and we will choose to promulgate and promote His kingdom.

  12. Just as Daniel and his friends did, tons of Christians today have to consider what it looks like to be part of the culture around them without sacrificing the key aspects of their faith. We see many examples in these stories of how strong Daniel’s faith was. He was fully immersed in Babylonian culture, and yet his commitment to God never wavered. Daniel could have arrived in Babylon after being captured and immediately opposed everything about this new culture. He could have refused to learn what they wanted to teach him, refused to wear the clothes they gave him, and put up a fight about anything he could. This probably would have made the Babylonians angry and there would likely have been consequences for Daniel, possibly even death. But Daniel knew that he could find a way to live and work in the situation he was in and maintain his relationship with God and commitment to his tradition. He still prayed every day (Daniel 6:10) and did not eat any food that was not allowed by Jewish law (Daniel 1:8). Daniel stayed strong in his faith, but still worked within this different culture and was able to be successful and move up in the ranks (Daniel 2:48). I think this is totally possible for modern christians. We can be in the world without being of the world (1 John 2:15-17). Being in cultures or circumstances different than our own can give us opportunities to really put our faith into practice. Would Daniel and friends have been considered men of such strong faith if they had lived in Judah for their whole life? They would probably never have had the danger of the fiery furnace or the lion’s den and not have had the testimony of God’s mercy and faithfulness in those situations. Certainly, God would still have been present with them even if they hadn’t been taken to Babylon, but being thrown into that other culture allowed them to opportunity to show other people what their God could do and discredit the gods they believed in. As modern christians, I think it’s about finding the balance of being part of the culture without doing anything that would go against the way that we are called to live and still striving to become stronger in faith.

  13. In the blog post P Long stated, “…Babylon expected Daniel and the three young men to be so impressed with Babylon they abandon their Jewish worldview and become as Babylonian as possible” (Long, 2020). And I really believe this is the world’s view of Christians today. I think this is our society’s goal in this day in age. It seems like society wants us to be so impressed with what it has to offer that we will drop our beliefs and live a life of sin away from God. But this is not how the Bible teaches us to live our lives. We were created to live in this world, but not to be part of this world. Growing up I always was taught, “Be in the world but not of the world.” And I think this is a real struggle for Christians today. It is easy to fall into the lifestyle and practices of society around us. We are taught that sex before marriage is okay, getting drunk is the typical Friday and Saturday night for college students, and using the Lord’s name in vein is not a big deal, as well as many other things. This goes along with the “brain-washing” concept P Long discussed that the Babylonians were doing to the recruits in the training process. As Christians, we know we are called to a higher standard and a different way of life. Luke 9:23 tells us that in order to follow Christ we must deny ourselves (our wants and desires), and pick up our cross daily and follow Him. In verse 26 Luke goes on to say that if we are ashamed of Christ in this world, the Son of Man will be ashamed of us when we come into His glory. This is a clear reminder that we are meant to live our lives for Christ and not be ashamed for what we believe. In this society, we need bold Christians to stand up and be brave and preach what we believe, not falling into the brain-washing of our generation.

  14. In the discussion of the different aspects of space utilised by the narrator, the link to the power play behind the narrative was demonstrated: between Judah as a defeated nation and the mighty Babylonian nation, the Jewish king being in prison in Babylon and the king ruling his royal court and the world, and Israel’s God (who was seemingly defeated when his country was taken and his people removed from it) and Babylon’s god triumphing over the exiles and their gods.

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