on Daniel 1 :8
But Daniel - would not defile himself - I have spoken of this resolution in the introduction. The chief reasons why Daniel would not eat meat from the royal table were probably these three: -
1. Because they ate unclean beasts, which were forbidden by the Jewish law.
2. Because they ate, as did the heathens in general, beasts which had been strangled, or not properly blooded.
3. Because the animals that were eaten were first offered as victims to their gods. It is on this account that Athenaeus calls the beasts which here served up at the tables of the Persian kings, ἱερια, victims, lib. 4 c. 10, p. 145.
on Daniel 1 :8
But Daniel purposed in his heart - Evidently in concurrence with the youths who had been selected with him. See Daniel 1:11-13. Daniel, it seems, formed this as a "decided" purpose, and "meant" to carry it into effect, as a matter of principle, though he designed to secure his object, if possible, by making a request that he might be "allowed" to pursue that course Daniel 1:12, and wished not to give offence, or to provoke opposition. What would have been the result if he had not obtained permission we know not; but the probability is, that he would have thrown himself upon the protection of God, as he afterward did Daniel 6, and would have done what he considered to be duty, regardless of consequences. The course which he took saved him from the trial, for the prince of the eunuchs was willing to allow him to make the experiment, Daniel 1:14. It is always better, even where there is decided principle, and a settled purpose in a matter, to obtain an object by a peaceful request, than to attempt to secure it by violence.
That he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat - Notes, Daniel 1:5. The word which is rendered "defile himself" - יתגאל yı̂thegâ'al from גאל gā'al - is commonly used in connection with "redemption," its first and usual meaning being to redeem, to ransom. In later Hebrew, however, it means, to be defiled; to be polluted, to be unclean. The "connection" between these significations of the word is not apparent, unless, as redemption was accomplished with the shedding of blood, rendering the place where it was shed defiled, the idea came to be permanently attached to the word. The defilement here referred to in the case of Daniel probably was, that by partaking of this food he might, in some way, be regarded as countenancing idolatry, or as lending his sanction to a mode of living which was inconsistent with his principles, and which was perilous to his health and morals. The Syriac renders this simply, "that he would not eat," without implying that there would be defilement.
Nor with the wine which he drank - As being contrary to his principles, and perilous to his morals and happiness.
Therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself - That he might be permitted to abstain from the luxuries set before him. It would seem from this, that he represented to the prince of the eunuchs the real danger which he apprehended, or the real cause why he wished to abstain - that he would regard the use of these viands as contrary to the habits which he had formed, as a violation of the principles of his religion; and as, in his circumstances, wrong as well as perilous. This he presented as a "request." He asked it, therefore, as a favor, preferring to use mild and gentle means for securing the object, rather than to put himself in the attitude of open resistance to the wishes of the monarch. What "reasons" influenced him to choose this course, and to ask to be permitted to live on a more temperate and abstemious diet, we are not informed. Assuming, however, what is apparent from the whole narrative, that he had been educated in the doctrines of the true religion, and in the principles of temperance, it is not difficult to conceive what reasons "would" influence a virtuous youth in such circumstances, and we cannot be in much danger of error in suggesting the following:
(1) It is not improbable that the food which was offered him had been, in some way, connected with idolatry, and that his participation in it would be construed as countenancing the worship of idols. - Calvin. It is known that a part of the animals offered in sacrifice was sold in the market; and known, also, that splendid entertainments were often made in honor of particular idols, and on the sacrifices which had been offered to them. Compare 1 Corinthians 8:1-13. Doubtless, also, a considerable part of the food which was served up at the royal table consisted of articles which, by the Jewish law, were prohibited as unclean. It was represented by the prophets, as one part of the evils of a captivity in a foreign land, that the people would be under a necessity of eating what was regarded as unclean. Thus, in Ezekiel 4:13 : "And the Lord said, Even thus shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, whither I will drive them." Hosea 9:3 : "they shall not dwell in the Lord's land, but Ephraim shall return to Egypt; and shall eat unclean things in Assyria." Rosenmuller remarks on this passage ("Alte u. neue Morgenland," 1076), "It was customary among the ancients to bring a portion of what was eaten and drank as an offering to the gods, as a sign of thankful recognition that all which men enjoy is their gift. Among the Romans these gifts were called "libamina," so that with each meal there was connected an act of offering. Hence Daniel and his friends regarded what was brought from the royal table as food which had been offered to the gods, and therefore as impure."
(2) Daniel and his friends were, doubtless, restrained from partaking of the food and drink offered to them by a regard to the principles of temperance in which they had been educated, and by a fear of the consequences which would follow from indulgence. They had evidently been trained in the ways of strict temperance. But now new scenes opened to them, and new temptations were before them. They were among strangers. They were noticed and flattered. They had an opportunity of indulging in the pleasures of the table, such as captive youth rarely enjoyed. This opportunity, there can be no doubt, they regarded as a temptation to their virtue, and as in the highest degree perilous to their principles, and they, therefore, sought to resist the temptation. They were captives - exiles from their country - in circumstances of great depression and humiliation, and they did not wish to forget that circumstance. - Calvin. Their land was in ruins; the temple where they and their fathers had worshipped had been desecrated and plundered; their kindred and countrymen were pining in exile; everything called them to a mode of life which would be in accordance with these melancholy facts, and they, doubtless, felt that it would be in every way inappropriate for them to indulge in luxurious living, and revel in the pleasures of a banquet.
But they were also, doubtless, restrained from these indulgences by a reference to the dangers which would follow. It required not great penetration or experience, indeed, to perceive, that in their circumstances - young men as they were, suddenly noticed and honored - compliance would be perilous to their virtue; but it did require uncommon strength of principle to meet the temptation. Rare has been the stern virtue among young men which could resist so strong allurements; seldom, comparatively, have those who have been unexpectedly thrown, in the course of events, into the temptations of a great city in a foreign land, and flattered by the attention of those in the higher walks of life, been sufficiently firm in principle to assert the early principles of temperance and virtue in which they may have been trained. Rare has it been that a youth in such circumstances would form the steady purpose not to "defile himself" by the tempting allurements set before him, and that, at all hazards, he would adhere to the principles in which he had been educated.
on Daniel 1 :8