Nov 29, 2011

Some Explanations for Daniel's Decision to Avoid Defilement (Daniel 1)

Anne Gardner has an interesting article in the Australian Biblical Review in which she surveys various explanations and then offers her own take on the matter. Gardner lists the following explanations which I have summarized and modified somewhat. 

  • The king’s food would have been defiling because foreigners made no distinction between clean and unclean animals.
  • The king’s food had been offered to idols.
  • Daniel and his friends did not want to put themselves under obligation to Nebuchadnezzar.
  • Daniel and his friends desired to live austerely.
  • Daniel and his friends had an aversion to foreign food.
  • Daniel and his friends were fasting as a sign of mourning.
  • Daniel and his friends did not want to be defiled generally.
  • Daniel's refusal of the king's food is a refusal of part of the indoctrination process which occurred when the youths entered the king's court.
  • Daniel and his friends wanted to eat “seeds” because dry seeds were considered “clean” (Lev 11:37–38)
I have summarized Gardner's solution as follows.

Daniel and his friends reject the king’s portion of prey because it is morally tainted and and wish to live according to God’s first mandate concerning food (Gen 1:29–30). It is also possible that Daniel and his friends had taken a Nazirite vow and the consumption of “seeds” and “water” may also mirror Ezekiel’s prophetic sign in Ezekiel 4:1–15. 

See Anne E.Gardner, "The Eating of Seeds and Drinking Water by Daniel and Friends: An Intimation of Holiness," Australian Biblical Review 59 (2011): 53-63.

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