Ezekiel 41** Daniel was of noble birth, if not one of the royal family ofJudah. He was carried captive to Babylon in the fourth year ofJehoiachin, B. C. 606, when a youth. He was there taught thelearning of the Chaldeans, and held high offices, both under theBabylonian and Persian empires. He was persecuted for hisreligion, but was miraculously delivered; and lived to a greatage, as he must have been about ninety-four years old at thetime of the last of his visions. The book of Daniel is partlyhistorical, relating various circumstances which befel himselfand the Jews, at Babylon; but is chiefly prophetical, detailingvisions and prophecies which foretell numerous important eventsrelative to the four great empires of the world, the coming anddeath of the Messiah, the restoration of the Jews, and theconversion of the Gentiles. Though there are considerabledifficulties in explaining the prophetical meaning of somepassages in this book, we always find encouragement to faith andhope, examples worthy of imitation, and something to direct ourthoughts to Christ Jesus upon the cross and on his gloriousthrone. * The captivity of Daniel and his companions. (1-7) Theirrefusal to eat the king's meat. (8-16) Their improvement inwisdom. (17-21)1-7 Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, in the first year of hisreign, took Jerusalem, and carried whom and what he pleasedaway. From this first captivity, most think the seventy yearsare to be dated. It is the interest of princes to employ wisemen; and it is their wisdom to find out and train up such.Nebuchadnezzar ordered that these chosen youths should betaught. All their Hebrew names had something of God in them; butto make them forget the God of their fathers, the Guide of theiryouth, the heathen gave them names that savoured of idolatry. Itis painful to reflect how often public education tends tocorrupt the principles and morals. 8-16 The interest we think we make for ourselves, we mustacknowledge to be God's gift. Daniel was still firm to hisreligion. Whatever they called him, he still held fast thespirit of an Israelite. These youths scrupled concerning themeat, lest it should be sinful. When God's people are in Babylonthey need take special care that they partake not of her sins.It is much to the praise of young people, not to covet or seekthe delights of sense. Those who would excel in wisdom andpiety, must learn betimes to keep the body under. Daniel avoideddefiling himself with sin; and we should more fear that than anyoutward trouble. It is easier to keep temptation at a distance,than to resist it when near. And we cannot better improve ourinterest in any with whom we have found favour, than to use itto keep us from sin. People will not believe the benefit ofavoiding excess, and of a spare diet, nor how much theycontribute to the health of the body, unless they try.Conscientious temperance will always do more, even for thecomfort of this life, than sinful indulgence. 17-21 Daniel and his fellows kept to their religion; and Godrewarded them with eminence in learning. Pious young personsshould endeavour to do better than their fellows in usefulthings; not for the praise of man, but for the honour of thegospel, and that they may be qualified for usefulness. And it iswell for a country, and for the honour of a prince, when he isable to judge who are best fitted to serve him, and prefers themon that account. Let young men steadily attend to this chapter;and let all remember that God will honour those who honour him,but those who despise him shall be lightly esteemed.
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