These small group studies of Daniel contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Daniel 1 Inductive Bible Study – Commentary and Discussion Questions For Small Groups

Daniel 1 Key Principle – Stand uncompromisingly on the truth even in the face of intense pressure to give in to the world’s way.

Outline:

I. The background: Defeat to Babylon (1-2)
II. The subjects: young men with no blemish (3-4)
III. The plan: brainwashing (5-7)
IV. The resolve: No compromise! (8)
V. The request: A test (9-13)
VI. The result: Success (14-16)
VII. The verdict: These men were wiser than all the rest of Babylon (17-21)

I. The background: Defeat to Babylon (1-2)

Background Discussion Questions:

  • Why was Jerusalem being attacked?
  • What happened to Judea after this?
  • Who won the battle? Why?
  • What do you know about the empire of Babylon?
  • What did Nebuchadnezzar do after he defeated Jerusalem? Why?
  • What does the exile teach us about God’s character?

Cross-References

2 Kings 24-25 – These chapters give the history of three Babylonian assaults against Jerusalem.

Isaiah 39:6-7 –Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord.

Ezekiel 14:20, 28:3 – Daniel was mentioned by Ezekiel as being extraordinarily wise and righteous. A real person.

Hebrews 12:1 – For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Repeated warnings – For decades, prophets had been warning Judah that God would punish her for her gross sins and rebellion against the Lord. In recent years, these warnings reached a fever pitch. However, Judah did not listen. The prophets were ignored, scoffed, or even thrown into prison and cut in two. God planned to use 70 years of captivity to bring the people to their knees and turn them back to Himself. Although His judgment was severe, He still never forgot His promises to David and always preserved a remnant of the nation and a remnant who was faithful to himself.

Sin comes with consequences. God had promised Israel great blessings and prosperity if they were faithful. He also warned them about the results of disobedience. Though they were given a clear choice between the two paths (Deuteronomy 28), with the destination of each foretold, they still chose rebellion.

Reflect: Why, after experiencing God’s discipline in their history so often, did they still rebel?

2. His chosen instrument was Babylon. The prophet Habakkuk was confused about how God, who is infinitely holy, could use an evil kingdom like Babylon to punish Judah (Habakkuk 1-2). Wasn’t Judah, though still sinful, better than Babylon?

God’s answer was that He would use Babylon for this purpose and one day, they too would experience judgment. When you look at the history of Babylon, it is easy to see God’s sovereign hand.

They were just a small group of people with little influence and a small kingdom. But somehow, they suddenly rose to prominence and took over much of the known world. Their rise was rapid, and their downfall was equally quick.

Right before the seventy-year exile was up, they were miraculously defeated and conquered in one night. It is clear that God’s sovereign hand was behind their rise and fall. They were unknowing, and unwilling, instruments in His hands.

Looking at history, you can see many times God has used even wicked nations to accomplish his purposes. One recent example is Nazi Germany. This evil regime rose to power quickly. Though they were horribly cruel, God did use the war they inflicted on Europe to drive the Jews out of the places they had taken root for nearly two thousand years, bringing them back again to populate Israel.

Reflect: What do we learn from this about God’s sovereignty?

Babylon conquered Jerusalem and Judah three times, each time taking captive more of the population. After each of the first two times Judah rebelled again, only to be defeated.

Exiled To Babylon

Map of Nebuchandezzar’s Conquest And The Exile – Created by Study and Obey Using Accordance Bible Software

Daniel and his friends were taken in the first group. At that time, only some of the nobility were taken.

We will see that Nebuchadnezzar is a crucial character in this book and God will do a great work in his life. His name means “Nebo is the protector against misfortune.” Nebuchadnezzar took the temple treasuries from Jerusalem to his own temple as a kind of war prize to show the superiority of his gods, when actually, the one true God gave him the victory.

For decades, critics found fault with the Bible, saying that other historical sources did not record Nebuchadnezzar as practicing this.

However, as is often the case, the Bible critics were proved wrong as inscriptions were found ascribing this very practice to him.

II. The subjects: young men with no blemish (3-4)

Discussion Questions

What kind of people did Nebuchadnezzar take back to Babylon? Why?

Cross-References

Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. A group of Judean youths was taken – No one knows the exact number taken captive, but it was apparently a large-sized group. The word “youth” is usually used in Scripture to denote young men between fourteen and eighteen. We also know that Daniel lived at least seventy-five years after this, so that age frame fits. Also, it fits with the purpose of taking these young men as the powers to be would expect that the young would be easier to indoctrinate.

The Flight of the Prisoners by James Tissot

Artist’s illustration of the exile to Babylon – The Flight of the Prisoners by James Tissot (1836-1902) – This art is in the public domain.

They were physically and mentally the cream of the crop. Each one was handsome, fit, and strong, with good posture and bearing. These young men excelled in all types of academics. But they weren’t only skillful in studies; they displayed real-world wisdom to solve problems and exceptional discernment. However, they weren’t nerds. Social grace and adept communication were also their strong suits. Only the best and the brightest were taken.

III. The plan: brainwashing (5-7)

Discussion Questions

  • What was to happen after they were taken?
  • Were they allowed to keep their Jewish identity?
  • In what ways did Nebuchadnezzar try to brainwash them?
  • What did he offer them as enticements to join his ranks?
  • What are some ways that the world seeks to influence and mold young minds today?
  • Why would it be difficult for youth in that situation to resist?
  • What temptations to be conformed to the world might a young person face today?
  • What advice would you give to youth about how to stand firm?
  • What did the names mean that were given to Daniel and his friends?
  • Why do you think the other Judean youths who were taken captive are not mentioned?

Cross-References

Proverbs 23:1-3 – When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite.
Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food.

Romans 12:2 – Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Colossians 2:8 – See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Babylon wanted administrators it could control – The exiled youth were not to be prisoners. Neither were they slaves. The Babylonian government correctly realized that they had great potential. A willing servant is far more valuable than a slave.

The Babylonian kingdom needed people like this to serve as sub-rulers over their people and areas, administrative puppets if you will. They were going to go through a three-year assimilation program at the University of Babylon. They were to learn the language, history, literature, and religion of the Chaldeans, while also learning to conform to the native lifestyle.

In the book of Exodus, Israel’s Egyptian overlords offered them a stick. “Make bricks or we will beat you.” Here, the gracious and benevolent Babylonians offered a carrot. “We will give you a good life, nice food, plenty of money, a steady job, an opportunity for promotion, and a position of power. You will be better off than your kinsmen back in Judah.”

This plan was ingenious:

A. Take the young, who are more impressionable.
B. Remove them from their mentors, who could positively influence them.
C. Isolate them in a foreign environment.
D. Give them free education, teach them, train them, and make them feel indebted.
E. Give them good food and tempt them with the riches and power that could be theirs.
F. Wipe out all vestiges of their past belief and practice by giving them new names.

This plan was well-thought and well-executed. In most cases, it must have worked to perfection. The program would allow the Babylonians to make use of not only the natural resources of other countries but also the human resources and turn the leaders of those countries slowly in favor of Babylon. It is the same type of information propaganda practiced by many regimes in history. If you can change their minds to accept you, you don’t have to fight them.

Daniel lived in a place that had no respect for God. There were temptations all around him. The education system was brainwashing people to believe in lies instead of the truth from God. There was tremendous pressure to conform to society and be like everyone else.

We too, live in a society that does not honor God. The education system, not only here but around the world, brainwashes people to accept lies including evolution and atheism. There is intense pressure to conform and be like everyone else.

The next step was to change their names. Here are their previous names and meaning and their new names and meaning.

Belteshazzar –It was changed from “God is my judge” to “Bel, protect the king.”
Shadrach – It was changed from “The Lord is gracious” to “Command of Aku.”
Meshach – It was changed from “Who is like the Lord” to “who is what Aku is.”
Abed-nego – It was changed from “The Lord is my helper” to “servant of nebo.”

Application: The world will seek to pressure you to compromise. You need to be alert (1 Peter 5:8) to discern from where the attack is coming. Not every promotion should be accepted, and not every lucrative job offer is the one God has for you. Do not love the world or the things in the world because these things fade away while God’s Word stands forever.

IV. The resolve: No compromise! (8)

Discussion Questions

  • At what point did Daniel draw the line?
  • Why did he draw the line here?
  • What does this tell us about his character?
  • What does this tell us about his relationship with the Lord?
  • Do you think most kids growing up in Christian families today would take that kind of a stand?
  • How can you decide where to draw the line and where accommodation is acceptable?
  • Share a testimony about a time you have been pressured to do something wrong. What lessons did you learn from it?
  • Would it have been wrong for Daniel to eat this food? Why or why not?

Cross-References

Psalms 119:106 – I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules.

Psalms 119:115 – Depart from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commandments of my God.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Daniel made up his mind not to defile himself –

Daniel 1:8 – But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.

This is the key verse in the whole chapter. It highlights one aspect of Daniel’s character that will show itself throughout the book. That is his resolve. He made up his mind that he would not defile himself.

What a powerful statement this is. We see the might and strategies of the Babylonian ruler on one side. On the other side, we see a teenage boy. He is far from home, lonely, and surrounded by pagan culture. Temptations and sin are on every side. And when he is faced with a temptation, he draws a line in his mind and resolves that he will not cross it.

He was commanded to eat this food. Why would he refuse? He did not object to the schooling, and there is no record of objection to his name change. Both of these things were external and neither was technically forbidden in the Mosaic law. He did refuse to eat the food. In Leviticus 11:4-20, there is a list of foods that were unlawful for Jews to eat. Some include pigs, eels, ravens, camels, and bats. While wine was not expressly forbidden, it was warned against (Proverbs 23:31-35).

Notice where Daniel drew his line in the sand. It was not based on his own opinion, tradition, customs, or culture. It is based on the Word of God. God’s Word clearly forbids him from eating this food, so he resolved not to. He made up his mind to do what was right without compromise and without offering excuses.

Even in the face of overwhelming pressure, he stood on the truth and wouldn’t budge.

Exodus 23:2 says, “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong.”

He didn’t.

Was this an easy decision for Daniel? I am sure he knew that the potential consequence of disobedience is death. What use would the king have for captives who wouldn’t obey?

The results were less important to him than the principle. He made up his mind to do what was right without compromise and without offering excuses.

Scores of people I have met, if they were in that situation, would have said, “I have to do it.” There is no choice, right?

You are all alone in a foreign country under the rule of pagans. They hold your life in their hands, seemingly. But while it may seem like resistance is futile, it’s not.

Daniel had a choice. We all have a choice. We never have to do wrong. Wow, the world desperately needs this kind of believer! We must ask ourselves, what would we do if we were in Daniel’s situation? Would we have given in?

Application: Let Daniel be an inspiration to all of us to stand uncompromisingly on the truth even in the face of powerful pressure to give in to the world’s way. If we only learn this one lesson from this book, it will be well worth it.

V. The request: A test (9-13)

Discussion Questions

  • How did Daniel handle this issue? What was his attitude?
  • What did he propose?
  • What do you think the other Israel youths would have thought of his chances for success?
  • What are some “reasonable” excuses or justifications could he have come up with for why it was acceptable to compromise?
  • Was he successful on the first try? What did he do when his first try failed?
  • Daniel didn’t offer excuses or justifications for eating the food. He could have made a lot. Like what?

Cross-References

James 3:17 – But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

Luke 21:15 – For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Daniel did not make excuses to justify compromise –

Many in Daniel’s position would have compromised and then justified it.

‘Possible excuses include:

• God abandoned me in this foreign country. Maybe He isn’t real, or perhaps I don’t need to serve Him anymore.
• I have no choice. If I don’t eat it, they will kill me.
• Perhaps I am willing to die for it, but if I don’t eat it, they will get angry with all of us Judah boys, and then I will be responsible for the punishment the rest of them receive.
• It’s not really that big of a deal. It’s only food. God knows my heart.
• God must have brought me here for a reason. He wants me to be an influence for Him. If I don’t fit in, I will never have the position or the opportunity to influence others for Him.
• Once I get to power, I can use my influence for Him.

2. Daniel did exercise wisdom in the way he stood his ground –

Reflect: What would have happened if Daniel had made an excuse and eaten the food?

We wouldn’t even have the book of Daniel. Eating the food would be the first foot going down the slippery slope. One compromise would have led to another, and Daniel would have been just one more of the flattering, manipulative wise men we will see around the king’s court later in this book.

Let’s look at how he handled the situation. Although he made up his mind, he didn’t just flaunt it in the official’s face and arrogantly declare that he wouldn’t do it. He didn’t say, “Old Neb can stuff the food in his own fat face for all I care; I’m not going to eat it.”

He displayed:

Humility – He asked for permission.

Wisdom – He proposed a test. He knew how the world works, and it is geared towards results. He proposed a solution that would be acceptable on all sides.

Faith – He had faith that God would make the test work.

Perseverance – When the first guy rejected him, he didn’t give up but went and asked another guy.

We can learn a lot from this passage about how to solve problems. When the world tempts us, too often we simply just give in. Other times we respond with rude arrogance and flaunt our “righteousness” in their face.

Instead, we can think of a proposal that will work to all sides’ satisfaction. We can try to stand firmly on the Word of God without offending others. Sure, this will not “work” every time. If they won’t listen to reason, we still do need to do what is right, even if that is offensive. But if we take a humble, respectful attitude and ask for permission or propose another solution, many problems will be solved before reaching the “I quit” or “just kill me” stage.

Proverbs 2:6 – For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Application: Do you need special wisdom for a situation that you are facing? Ask the Lord. He will give you discernment as you seek His will.

God gives the wisdom to solve problems. Go to Him for it.

VI. The result: Success (14-16)

Discussion Questions

  • Why was he successful in the end?
  • Was it a natural or supernatural explanation?

Cross-References

Genesis 39:21 – But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.

Psalms 4:3 – But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself;
the LORD hears when I call to him.

Proverbs 16:7 – When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.

Haggai 1:6 – You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.

Matthew 4:4 – But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. God made them appear healthier after ten days – If we stand firm on His Word and take a “leap of faith,” He will honor that. That doesn’t mean that every time we will get what we want.

Sometimes persecution or trouble will still come. Nonetheless, the Lord is with us, and if it is His will for us to succeed in the matter He will bring it about no matter what. God looks out for those who belong to Him.

2. The Daniel de-tox – Many people have unhealthy eating habits. The Babylonian court encouraged them. Unhealthy eating habits have an adverse effect on our health, mental and physical. Vegetables and fruit have always been the healthiest foods. The Bible teaches that you “reap what you sow.” It is also true with the foods we eat. If you eat more nutritious foods, you will be healthier.

Some believers have suggested a ten-day “Daniel de-tox” as a way to clear out toxins from our system and go back to the basics. Many who have tried it have found inflammation down and energy levels up.

Application: Consider your eating habits. Are you honoring God with your body as a temple for Him? Are you losing self-control and allowing the world to tempt you with delicacies that are harming your health? God wants us to honor Him with our bodies. The longer we live, the longer we can serve Him and our families. Move more. Eat better. Many scientific studies equate those two simple concepts with a longer and healthier life. The Bible already taught these principles long ago (1 Corinthians 6:12-20).

VII. The verdict: These men were wiser than all the rest of Babylon (17-21)

Discussion Questions

  • What position did they get after this education period was over?

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. They were promoted!

In verse 17, God blesses these four young men’s obedience. He gives them great skill, knowledge, and wisdom, blessing them with special gifts and abilities. The Bible says that He who is faithful in a little thing is also faithful in much. They had proven their obedience to God in this “little thing” in front of some low-ranking officials. And because of that, they would have many more opportunities to use their gifts and talents to serve God in kingdom-altering events.

We see in verses 18-20 that they have an audience with the king. That audience likely came after the three years of their education program were up. And the king was very impressed by their wisdom and understanding.

An objective observer would conclude that not eating the food would destroy their political careers and possibly their lives. But amazingly, doing what seemed like political suicide from man’s perspective was the catalyst that sparked their rise to political office.

Not everything is always what it seems. We don’t have to do things the world’s way. People think conforming to culture is the only way to get results, but it is a lie. Being bold, truthful, and full of integrity often brings more long-term results. Bosses often appreciate it when they realize they are dealing with a person of integrity who will not cheat them or compromise their beliefs.

Application: We live in a dark and pagan world like Daniel. The truth of God has been exchanged for a lie. The world around us tries to squeeze us into its mold, just as it did with Daniel. We are constantly tempted and pressured to give in and be the same as everyone else, and we are tempted to compromise what we know is right.

Perhaps in the past you have faced this pressure. Perhaps in the past you gave in. But today, you have a choice. Will you be like Daniel and resolve yourself to do what is right no matter what?

Philippians 2:15 – That you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.

Study Daniel 2
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