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When Nebuchadnezzar conquered Israel and took Daniel and other Jewish men into his court, he assigned them food and wine from the king's table.

The king appointed for them a daily ration from the king’s choice food and from the wine which he drank, and appointed that they should be educated three years, at the end of which they were to enter the king’s personal service. Daniel 1:5 NASB

However, Daniel seems to believe it would be wrong for him to eat this, but eating vegetables and water is, somehow, alright.

But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself. Daniel 1:8 NASB

“Please test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink. Daniel 1:12 NASB

So, what was it about the food and what was it about the wine that made Daniel believe it was inappropriate to eat?

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I had always assumed it was for ritual cleanness, but Matthew Henry also mentioned a kind of food chastity and a kind of mourning (cf. Ps. 137:1-4?) as possibilities. An understanding of the translation "defile" might help. –  Paul A. Clayton Jul 15 '13 at 14:16
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The Babylonians did not share Israelite dietary laws - in all probability, part of the issue was they were serving something Jews were forbidden to consume. –  warren Jul 15 '13 at 14:35
    
From the Wikipedia article on alcohol in the Bible: "During the Babylonian captivity, Daniel and his fellow Jews abstained from the meat and wine given to them by the king because they saw it as defiling in some way, though precisely how these would have defiled the Jews is not apparent in the text. A later passage implies that Daniel did drink wine at times, though it may not have been the king's. Similarly, [in the Aprocrypha] Judith refused the Assyrian general's wine, though she drank wine from the stores she brought with her." –  metal Jul 15 '13 at 14:47
    
Whether or not it would have been offered to idols, the food would not have been prepared according to Jewish dietary laws ('kosher' as we would say now). Most of the laws are about meat and fish, so vegetables and water would probably be OK, however they were prepared. –  DJClayworth Jul 15 '13 at 15:30
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@DJClayworth Ah, yes, perhaps the blood was still in it. –  Narnian Jul 15 '13 at 15:34
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3 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Some possibilities why Daniel refused the King's choice of food.

  1. Unclean animals: According to this source, pork was the choice meat of Babylonians. If this is true, it is certain that Daniel was ready to die by not eating nor touching the food.

    Leviticus 11:7-8 (NIV) And the pig, though it has a divided hoof, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.

  2. Cooking method: According to this source, ancient Babylonians were very advanced in cooking method unlike the ancient Jews who were eating food with simple recipes prepared in a simple way. The Babylonian food might have upset the stomach of Daniel. Eating food prepared in a way other than what we are used to is not easy.

  3. Offered to idols: Ancient Babylon was highly influenced by idolatry. They were ready to annihilate any group who did not bow down in front of their idols. The three friends of Daniel were also the victim of this. Idol worshipers have the habit of offering their foods to their idols before they eat. This is still in practice today by Hindus as this source says. Daniel was probably suspicious about the source of the food or he saw that it was offered to idols first and refused to eat it. Sacrificing food to idols was also in practice during the first century.

    1 Corinthians 8:7 (NIV) But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled.

Daniel took a leap of faith towards his diet and God blessed him.

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+1 though I am not certain that "upset the stomach" would equate with being "defiled". –  Paul A. Clayton Jul 15 '13 at 17:10
    
"Defiled" would fall under the category of offering to idols. –  Mawia Jul 15 '13 at 17:14
    
Since Daniel rejected the food based on making "up his mind that he would not defile himself", this would seem to make reason 2 less plausible as the primary reason (that was the point of my comment). Avoiding sickness might be a valid reason, but it would seem to be an additional reason rather than a reason that could stand on its own. Either of the other two reasons could stand on its own (or both be the case). –  Paul A. Clayton Jul 15 '13 at 22:17
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My pastor preached a sermon on this exact question. There is a lot going on the that particular story but to answer your question. The reason had to do with the treatment of the food before it was served. Any of the kings choice food and drink was offered to idols before coming to the table. Thus the statement from Daniel about defilement.

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Do you have a reference about the food being offered to idols? –  DJClayworth Jul 15 '13 at 15:36
    
I was working on getting the sermon notes but Mawia beat me too it. –  csleys Jul 17 '13 at 14:02
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Daniel's refusal to eat the king's meat may be explained as obedience to God (Daniel refused to eat what was forbidden by the Scriptures).

That inspires us, yet the question is deeper than it looks at first glimpse. While refusing to eat what was stated as the inappropriate, Daniel didn't see any error in serving the king - didn't resist his enslaver.

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Hi Tomas! This is a better post, although I edited out the "next question." You may want to pose that as a separate question, as it is answerable using theological sources. Each answer given is supposed to answer the question at hand. If it leads you to another, ask it! When you get the chance, please check out our about and specifically How we are different than other sites. –  Affable Geek Nov 26 '13 at 12:37
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