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?

  • 2
    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.
    – user3331
    Commented Jul 15, 2013 at 14:16
  • 2
    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
    Commented Jul 15, 2013 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
    Commented Jul 15, 2013 at 14:47
  • 2
    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. Commented Jul 15, 2013 at 15:30
  • 1
    @DJClayworth Ah, yes, perhaps the blood was still in it.
    – Narnian
    Commented Jul 15, 2013 at 15:34

4 Answers 4


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.

  • +1 though I am not certain that "upset the stomach" would equate with being "defiled".
    – user3331
    Commented Jul 15, 2013 at 17:10
  • "Defiled" would fall under the category of offering to idols.
    – Mawia
    Commented Jul 15, 2013 at 17:14
  • 5
    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).
    – user3331
    Commented Jul 15, 2013 at 22:17
  • Due to Peter's sailcloth vision, and the fact that besides meat Hindus also sacrifice fruit and vegetables to their gods I vote for your option number 2. The, for the Hebrews forbidden, meat cooking method of cooking a calf in its mother's milk was probably the common universal way of preparing a tasty, but not so healthy, food dish. Commented Jan 14, 2018 at 4:24

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.

  • 3
    Do you have a reference about the food being offered to idols? Commented Jul 15, 2013 at 15:36
  • I was working on getting the sermon notes but Mawia beat me too it.
    – csleys
    Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 14:02

Maybe how the wine was processed would shine some light on it's inappropriateness. What about how it was stored--what kind of skins did they put it in, or what kind of other vessel was used? Could it simply just be the "offered to idols" problem? The vessels of the Jewish temple were carried into Babylon and were brought into Nebuchadnezzar's temple to his god. Much later, Belshazzar, Nebuchadnezzar's son, commanded those same vessels to be brought for him, his princes, wives, and his concubines to drink wine out of. They praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone. God punished this act! Maybe Babylonian wine was specifically used with it's vessel for idol worship.

  • 2
    Maybe. But this site doesn't work in "maybes". If you have some sources this would be a much better answer.
    – user3961
    Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 0:34
  • I agree with fredsbend, if you haven't yet taken the tour or had a look at the help section, please do so to help you come to grips with what this site is all about. Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 2:00

Although it doesn't state exactly what the food actually was, it leads me to question the word defiled as in the bible, defile meant unclean. Example numbers 5:38. Defile also could mean destroy, for example 2kings 23:10. look at psalm 119: 1 which says blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of God. This verse refers us to the laws of God given through Moses as in Leviticus, numbers.

Take Isaiah 24:5 which says- The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. From this scripture I understand that the word defiled is given because of disobedience of the law of God by those who inhabited the earth.

Could it be that Daniel did not wish to be separated from God by defiling (destroying, make unclean) his flesh with defiled (unclean) food. because he was determined in his heart to walk in the law of God given through Moses?


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