on Daniel 1 :5
A daily provision - Athenaeus, lib. iv., c. 10, says: The kings of Persia, (who succeeded the kings of Babylon, on whose empire they had seized), were accustomed to order the food left at their own tables to be delivered to their courtiers.
So nourishing them three years - This was deemed a sufficient time to acquire the Chaldee language, and the sciences peculiar to that people. I suppose they had good introductory books, able teachers, and a proper method; else they would have been obliged, like us, to send their children seven years to school, and as many to the university, to teach them any tolerable measure of useful and ornamental literature! O how reproachful to the nations of Europe, and particularly to our own, is this backward mode of instruction. And what is generally learned after this vast expense of time and money? A little Latin, Greek, and mathematics; perhaps a little moral philosophy; and by this they are entitled, not qualified, to teach others, and especially to teach the people the important science of salvation! To such shepherds, (and there are many such), the hungry sheep look up, and are not fed; and if all are not such, no thanks to our plan of national education.
on Daniel 1 :5
And the king appointed them - Calvin supposes that this arrangement was resorted to in order to render them effeminate, and, by a course of luxurious living, to induce them gradually to forget their own country, and that with the same view their names were changed. But there is no evidence that this was the object. The purpose was manifestly to train them in the manner in which it was supposed they would be best fitted, in bodily health, in personal beauty, and in intellectual attainments, to appear at court; and it was presumed that the best style of living which the realm furnished would conduce to this end. That the design was not to make them effeminate, is apparent from Daniel 1:15.
A daily provision - Hebrew, "The thing of a day in his day;" that is, he assigned to them each day a portion of what had been prepared for the royal meal. It was not a permanent provision, but one which was made each day. The word rendered "provision" - פת path - means a bit, "crumb," "morsel," Genesis 18:5; Judges 19:5; Psalm 147:17.
Of the king's meat - The word "meat" here means "food," as it does uniformly in the Bible, the Old English word having this signification when the translation was made, and not being limited then, as it is now, to animal food. The word in the original - בג bag - is of Persian origin, meaning "food." The two words are frequently compounded - פתבג pathebag Daniel 1:5, Daniel 1:8, Daniel 1:13, Daniel 1:15-16; Daniel 11:26; and the compound means delicate food, dainties; literally, food of the father, i. e., the king; or, according to Lorsbach, in Archiv. f. "Morgenl." Litt. II., 313, food for idols, or the gods; - in either case denoting delicate food; luxurious living. - Gesenius, "Lex."
And of the wine which he drank - Margin, "of his drink." Such wine as the king was accustomed to drink. It may be presumed that this was the best kind of wine. From anything that appears, this was furnished to them in abundance; and with the leisure which they had, they could hardly be thrown into stronger temptation to excessive indulgence.
So nourishing them three years - As long as was supposed to be necessary in order to develop their physical beauty and strength, and to make them well acquainted with the language and learning of the Chaldeans. The object was to prepare them to give as much dignity and ornament to the court as possible.
That at the end thereof they might stand before the king - Notes, Daniel 1:4. On the arrangements made to bring forward these youths, the editor of the "Pictorial Bible" makes the following remarks, showing the correspondence between these arrangements and what usually occurs in the East: "There is not a single intimation which may not be illustrated from the customs of the Turkish seraglio until some alterations were made in this, as in other matters, by the present sultan (Mahmoud). The pages of the seraglio, and officers of the court, as well as the greater part of the public functionaries and governors of provinces, were originally Christian boys, taken captive in war, or bought or stolen in time of peace. The finest and most capable of these were sent to the palace, and, if accepted, were placed under the charge of the chief of the white eunuchs. The lads did not themselves become eunuchs; which we notice, because it has been erroneously inferred, that Daniel and the other Hebrew youths "must" have been made eunuchs, "because" they were committed to the care of the chief eunuch.
The accepted lads were brought up in the religion of their masters; and there were schools in the palace where they received such complete instruction in Turkish learning and science as it was the lot of few others to obtain. Among their accomplishments we find it mentioned, that the greatest pains were taken to teach them to speak the Turkish language (a foreign one to them) with the greatest purity, as spoken at court. Compare this with "Teach them the learning and tongue of the Chaldeans." The lads were clothed very neatly, and well, but temperately dieted. They slept in large chambers, where there were rows of beds. Every one slept separately; and between every third or fourth bed lay a white eunuch, who served as a sort of guard, and was bound to keep a careful eye upon the lads near him, and report his observations to his superior. When any of them arrived at a proper age, they were instructed in military exercises, and pains taken to make them active, robust, and brave.
Every one, also, according to the custom of the country, was taught some mechanical or liberal art, to serve him as a resource in adversity. When their education was completed in all its branches, those who had displayed the most capacity and valor were employed about the person of the king, and the rest given to the service of the treasury, and the other offices of the extensive establishment to which they belonged. In due time the more talented or successful young men got promoted to the various high court offices which gave them access to the private apartments of the seraglio, so that they at almost any time could see and speak to their great master. This advantage soon paved the way for their promotion to the government of provinces, and to military commands; and it has often happened that favorite court officers have stepped at once into the post of grand vizier, or chief minister, and other high offices of state, without having previously been abroad in the world as pashas and military commanders. How well this agrees to, and illustrates the usage of the Babylonian court, will clearly appear to the reader without particular indication. See Habesci's "Ottoman Empire;" Tavernier's "Relation de l'Interieur du Srail du Grand Seigneur."
on Daniel 1 :5