The Daniel Diet

Daniel 1:8-21

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
July 2018

One of the most effective ways the enemy can neutralize the testimony of God’s people is by assimilation.  When Christians become just like the world, they have no testimony.  They have no testimony when they think like the world, talk like the world, act like the world and look like the world. In the church today, some Christians seem very little different from the world.

The Apostle Paul says in Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV).

The culture we live in as pagan as Babylon.  The great danger of the church today is to conform.  We are tempted to do what is culturally accepted and approved.  We are tempted to think like the world in areas of sexual orientation, marriage, gender identity, abortion and many other issues.

As believers, we are to be different.  We should stand out in some way.  In Daniel 1, we see some people that do that that.  What do we know about these people?

One, they are part of the upper class.  These are not country bumkins.  They are not rednecks.  They are not hillbillies.  They are part of the royalty.  They were related to the king of Judah.

Two, they experienced hardship in their life.  They were deported nine hundred miles away against their will.  Their whole world was turned upside down.  Were they happy about being forced to move to the other side of the world separated from their family?  No.  Were they disappointed, upset and angry about what happened to them?  Yes.  They may have wondered how a God of love let this happen.

Three, they were young.  They are teenagers.  They are high school students and these students were on fire.  They were sold out to God.

Four, they lived in Babylon.  They did not have godly influences all around them.  Babylon was not only an idolatrous country, it was the center of idolatry.  It was the headquarters of idolatry.  There were over two hundred pagan temples in Babylon.  It was where Shinar was located.  The Tower of Babel was at Shinar and it was a center of organized rebellion against God.

Not everything about assimilation is wrong.  Hudson Taylor was a missionary to China in the 1800s.  He stayed there for fifty-one years.  He was one of the greatest missionaries of all time.  When he moved to China, he acted Chinese.  He dressed like they did.  He wore native Chinese clothes.  He lived like they did.  He assimilated into Chinese culture and some people criticized him for it.  The other missionaries did not do this but there was nothing wrong with it.

Joseph assimilated to Egypt.  He lived there.  He worked there.  He spoke the language.  He dressed like an Egyptian.  He married an Egyptian wife.  He had an Egyptian name and Daniel does the same thing.

Daniel moved to Babylon.  He lived in a new country and adopted a new culture.  He had a new home under a new king.  He was given a new name.  He learned a new language.  He was given a new outfit to wear, so he looked Babylonian.  He was also given a new education.  He learned Babylonian history, science and math.

He learned about Babylonian literature and Babylonian religion.  Learning about Babylonian gods is not the same thing as worshipping them but Daniel shows that there are limits to assimilation.  There are many things that Daniel did and had no problem doing or at least accepted doing but there was one thing that he REFUSED to do.  What he refused to do was to eat something.

He did not do this because he hated to follow rules, like a lot of teenagers who just have a streak of rebellion in them. He didn’t do it because he was a picky eater, like children do when parents put food before them.  He refused to eat it because it went against his conscience.

Daniel and Joseph both lived in foreign countries, worked for foreign governments and both faced temptations but they faced different temptations. Joseph faced a SEXUAL TEMPTATION in Egypt.  Potiphar’s wife tried to get him to commit adultery.  Daniel faced a FOOD TEMPTATION in Babylon.

If you face food temptation, you are not alone.  Many people in the Bible faced food temptation.  Adam and Eve were tempted with food.  God told them that there was something they were not allowed to eat.  He did not deprive them of anything.  They lived in a paradise.  There were plenty of other things to eat and they tasted good.

Even Jesus faced a food temptation.  The Book of Hebrews says that Jesus was tempted in always like we are.  He was tempted to turn stones into bread so he could eat it.  He was hungry.  He had been fasting for forty days.  Satan tempted him to use his supernatural powers to meet his own physical needs.  Daniel also faced a food temptation.

Excuses for Disobedience

Daniel could have made a lot of excuses for eating the king’s food and wine. What were some of them?

1) It tastes really good.  Who does not like to eat a nice juicy steak?

2) It is the order of the king.  The king wants us to do it.  We are supposed to obey governmental authorities.

3) If I do not do it, I will not get a good job.  It will kill any career opportunities.

4) It is really not that bad.  It is not like doing drugs or committing some sexual sin.

5) No one will know.  His parents were thousands of miles away. He had no parental supervision.

6) Everyone else was doing it.  We hear about these four youths who didn’t eat the king’s food but most of them did and it was an order from his superiors.[1] These sound like good reasons but notice how Daniel responded to this temptation.

Daniel’s Resolve

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 (Daniel 1:8 NIV).

Some believe that this the greatest verse in the whole book.  Notice it starts with two words (But Daniel).  Daniel went along with everything else but when it came to this food, he drew a line in the sand.  He did not want to be defiled with the king’s food and wine.  It may have smelled good and tasted good but he did not want to be defiled by it.  That raises an interesting question.  How could the king’s food and drink possibly defile Daniel?  How can food defile people?

It doesn’t make much senses to us today. Jesus said, Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them” (Mark 7:15 NIV).  The NT teaches that “all foods are clean” (Mark 7:19) but in OT times, if you ate certain foods, you were defiled, not morally but ceremonially.

“‘Every creature that moves along the ground is to be regarded as unclean; it is not to be eaten. 42 You are not to eat any creature that moves along the ground, whether it moves on its belly or walks on all fours or on many feet; it is unclean. 43 Do not defile yourselves by any of these creatures. Do not make yourselves unclean by means of them or be made unclean by them. 44 I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves along the ground. (Leviticus 11:41-43 NIV)

25 “‘You must therefore make a distinction between clean and unclean animals and between unclean and clean birds. Do not defile yourselves by any animal or bird or anything that moves along the ground—those that I have set apart as unclean for you. 26 You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own (Leviticus 20:25-26 NIV).

In the OT Law, there was clean and unclean food.  In Babylon, no distinction was made between clean and unclean animals.  They could eat anything.   They had no rules about what they could eat or not eat.  Even some of the meat that was kosher had been previously offered to idols or had fat or blood in it, which was forbidden by OT law.

Daniel did not want to eat food dedicated to Marduk.  He did not always know where this food came from or how it was prepared or if this food had been used in pagan rituals.  Since he didn’t know, he did not want to even take the chance that he was eating anything that violated OT food laws.

Application for Today

How could we be like Daniel today? If we are going to be like Daniel, we need to do three things.

1) Have personal convictions

Our passage says that Daniel was RESOLVED about some things.  He had some resolutions.  He had personal convictions about things that are right and things that are wrong, about things that he would do and things he would never do.  That’s what we need to do.

We have to have personal convictions.  They have to be things we want to do or not do, not others want us to do, not what our friends want us or do or our parents are making us do.  Daniel’s parents were hundreds of miles away.

They have to be our personal convictions.  Daniel did not make a resolution about what other people would do.  We need to have these personal convictions in advance.  If you wait until you are tempted to do something, it is too late.

We could make a resolution to stay sexually pure or a resolution to read through the entire Bible or a resolution to pray regularly or a resolution to speak to others about your faith.  Jonathon Edwards had seventy of them.

2) Have biblical convictions

We not only need strong convictions, we need to have biblical convictions. The only way to do that is to know what the Word teaches. Daniel’s resolutions were based on the laws of God.  They were biblical.  They were not just his ideas or what he thought was a good idea.

3) Act on those convictions

Daniel did something about those convictions.  He acted on his convictions.  Many people make new year resolutions (e.g., to exercise more, eat healthier) but very few keep them.  Let’s notice HOW he acted on these convictions.

Daniel’s Request

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.  9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your 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.”

11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 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.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days. (Daniel 1:8-14 NIV)

Notice what Daniel did not do and what he did do here.  He did NOT engage in civil disobedience.  He did NOT threaten anyone or harass anyone.  He was NOT an agitator or a rebel.  He was not defiant.  He made a request.  He politely ASKED if he could do this.  He did not demand or insist on it.  When he did not get his request, he asked someone else but he changed and modified his request this time.

First, he asked Ashpenaz, the chief of the court officials.  He went to the top first.  He was told “No.”  He says, “That will only get me in trouble.” Ashpenaz liked Daniel.  He was sympathetic but thought it would be too dangerous for him but Daniel is persistent.  He doesn’t give up.  Next, he talked to the man who was under Ashpenaz, the one who served Daniel the food.

The KJV gives him a name (Melzar) in Daniel 1:11, 16 but it is probably not a proper noun because it has the article in front of it in both verses.  It is not a proper noun but a title or office.  It means like “warden” (NET), “guard” (NIV) or “overseer” (NASB).[2]  Daniel asked him if he could only eat vegetables and water for ten days.

Daniel proposes a test. TEST your servants for ten days (Daniel 1:12).  It was safe.  Ten days should not get anyone in troubleHe becomes a scientist.  He conducts the first controlled scientific experiment.  He has a hypothesis and tests it with control and experimental groups.[3]  He is also a man of faith.  He says, “Give me ten days.”  If our God does not answer our prayers, you can make us Babylonians.  The overseer agrees, so Daniel goes on a diet of vegetables and water.  He went on a vegetarian diet.

Common Myth about the Daniel Diet

This is one of the most misunderstood parts of the chapter.  A lot has been written on this topic.  There are two books on the market right now: The Daniel Fast by Susan Gregory and The Daniel Plan by Rick Warren and two other authors.  Many of these books have helped people.  They have changed some lives but there is one common myth that many people have about this chapter.

This diet was not for weight loss.  He did NOT do this for health reasons.  He did it for religious reasons.  When we think of diet, we think of weight loss.  Daniel did not do this diet for weight loss.  He did not do this to lose weight. He did not do it to decrease his waistline.  He did not do it to get healthy. He was already healthy.

This diet was not about eating food with a lot of calories.  This diet was not about eating junk food or cutting out sugar.  How do we know that?  Daniel did not lose weight from this diet.  He did not get skinnier.  He got FATTER from this diet.  At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food (Daniel 1:15 ESV).  If this diet was all about weight loss, it didn’t work.

The point of the passage is NOT that vegetables are healthy.  Vegetables don’t make you fat.  They are low in calories.  The point of the passage is NOT that alcohol is sinful.  Some people have used this passage to condemn the drinking of wine.  Daniel was allowed to drink wine in the Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 14:23-26).  It was allowed in the OT and in the NT.

The point of the passage is NOT that eating meat bad.  Daniel was allowed to eat meat in the Mosaic Law.  In fact, in some cases it was commanded (Passover). You are allowed in the OT and NT to eat meat.  Jesus ate meat.

The truth is that the Bible is not a diet book. It tells you how you get eternal life and live forever but it does not say how to lose ten or twenty pounds.  The Bible does not contain any secret miracle food cure for cancer or heart disease or arthritis.  There is no secret to weight loss found in the Bible.  That is an abuse of the Scripture.

Daniel’s Reward

At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 20 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 1:18-20 NIV)

God rewarded Daniel.  God says, “Those who honor Me, I will honor” (I Samuel 2:30 ESV).  Let’s go back through the whole chapter and think about some ways that God rewarded Daniel.  What are some of the ways God blessed Daniel?

Daniel’s Ten Blessings

1. God blessed Daniel with good parents

His parents who raised him right. This was God’s blessing on him. It is not mentioned in the text but it is an inference.

2. God blessed Daniel with godly friends

He had good friends to support him (Shadrack, Meshack, Abednego).  He was alone but he was not completely alone.

3. God blessed Daniel with good looks

He was without any physical defect and handsome (Daniel 1:4).  He was physically attractive.  God gave him his looks.

4. God blessed him with a very good education

It was a quality education taught by the top scholars in the country.  Daniel did not complain about it.  He took advantage of it.  In fact, he excelled in it.  He was at the top of his class.

5. God blessed him with special gifts

Daniel had gifts no one else had, like the ability to interpret visions and dreams OF ALL KINDS (Daniel 1:17).  God has also given us some unique gifts that no one else has.

6. God blessed Daniel with favor

GOD GAVE Daniel favor in the sight of the chief official (Daniel 1:9).  God caused Ashpenaz to show Daniel favor and compassion.  They were not believers.  They were pagans but God caused them to like Daniel.  God can cause people to actually like us.

7. God blessed Daniel with physical health

Even after being on a diet and eating only vegetables and water, he was not malnourished or nutritionally deficient.

8. God blessed Daniel with knowledge

GOD GAVE knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning (Daniel 1:17).  Daniel does not take credit for this knowledge.  He says that God gave it to him.  At the end of three years, Daniel took a test.  The king conducted the final examination.  He was asked some questions.  Daniel and his friends were smarter than anyone in Babylon.

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 1:20 NIV).  These four young men were not just smarter but TEN TIMES smarter than anyone in Babylon and they were foreigners.  They were immigrants.  In fact, they were teenagers.

9. God blessed Daniel with a promotion.

For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another. (Psalm 75:5-6 KJV).  At the end of three years, Daniel got a job, not just any job but a government job, one of the top jobs in the country, working for the king.  He has a ministry in the palace.

10. God blessed Daniel with longevity.

The last verse of the chapter says that Daniel continued until the first year of King Cyrus (Daniel 1:21).  The first year of Cyrus was 539 BC.  Daniel was born around 620 BC, which would put him in his eighties when he was still working in the palace.

 I have taken some points from James Macdonald’s message “Stand Up and be Counted” and Ed Rickard’s website and added some of my own.

[2] The KJV (1611) marginal note reads “”or the stewart”.



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