But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your[c] food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”
Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.
At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.
To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.
At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.
Daniel and his friends, captives from Judah were chosen by the King of Babylon to serve in a high position. But they would be required to eat and drink that which would not be kosher according to what was prescribed for them by God. And it would actually be a breaking of the commandment Yahweh had given them. Although in the circumstances they were in, they certainly wouldn’t be able to keep the covenant requirements, such as the festivals in Jerusalem, and the sacrifices required at the temple.
Daniel resolved to not to defile himself. At the same time, God made the official in charge of Daniel favorably disposed to him. Of course Daniel couldn’t just say we won’t keep the king’s order. Or at least that’s not the way he approached it. Instead he chose to appeal to the official, actually the guard under the official, to let them stick to their food and drink for a period of time, and see how they do. The appeal was in the interest of both Daniel and his friends, and for what the Babylonians wanted, as well. It was an appeal for a win/win, rather than a demand or stand against the king’s command, even though Daniel had resolved already not to follow it.
Of course Daniel would know that failure to keep the king’s command would mean his execution, along with the execution of any Jews who followed his example. It was certainly an urgent time, and set a precedent which we will see played out again in the book of Daniel. Daniel appealed to the authority over him, and placed everything into the hands of the Highest Authority of all, God. Although in Daniel 1, we don’t see Daniel praying to God. But he was endeavoring to live in God’s will. I’m sure he was praying, but the text does not bring that out. What it does bring out is his resolution, and appeal.
We can benefit from this when we’re up against what seems to be wrong. We should make our appeal in terms of what is beneficial not only for us, but for those in charge with whom we either might disagree, or might not out of conscience be able to do what they are requiring. In some cases that might cost us our jobs, or whatever opportunity was present. But we need to seek to be creative in thinking of ways in which our appeal will not only satisfy our own desire, need, or what’s required of us, but also how it will help meet the goal of the authority over us.
This story doesn’t tell us what would have happened if Daniel’s request would have failed, though I don’t think it takes much imagination to understand the difficulty he was in. But it does help us see how God helped him in those circumstances, his commitment to God, and his attitude, and how God’s blessing accompanied him in all of this.
This, like the rest of scripture is written for us, to encourage and give us instruction as needed for our own lives. In seeking to apply and live in the wisdom God gives us. In and through Jesus.