Here Daniel shows his endurance of what he could neither cast off nor escape; but meanwhile he took care that he did not depart from the fear of God, nor become a stranger to his race, but he always retains the remembrance of his origin, and remains a pure, and unspotted, and sincere worshipper of God. He says, therefore, —he determined in his heart not to pollute himself with the kings food and drink, and that he asked the prefect, under whose charge he was, that he should not be driven to this necessity. It may be asked here, what there was of such importance in the diet to cause Daniel to avoid it? This seems to be a kind of superstition, or at least Daniel may have been too morose in rejecting the king’s diet. We know that to the pure all things are pure, and this rule applies to all ages. We read nothing of this kind concerning Joseph, and very likely Daniel used all food promiscuously, since he was treated by the king with great honor. This, then, was not perpetual with Daniel; for he might seem an inconsiderate zealot, or this might be ascribed, as we have said, to too much moresoness. If Daniel only for a time rejected the royal food, it was a mark of levity and inconsistency afterwards to allow himself that liberty from which he had for the time abstained. But if he did this with judgment and reason, why did he not persist in his purpose? I answer, — Daniel abstained at first from the luxuries of the court to escape being tampered with. It was lawful for him and his companions to feed on any kind of diet, but he perceived the king’s intention. We know how far enticements prevail to deceive us; especially when we are treated daintily; and experience shows us how difficult it is to be moderate when all is affluence around us, for luxury follows immediately on plenty. Such conduct is, indeed, too common, and the virtue of abstinence is rarely exercised when there is an abundance of provisions.
But this is not the whole reason which weighed with Daniel. Sobriety and abstinence are not simply praised here, since many twist this passage to the praise of fasting, and say Daniel’s chief virtue consisted in preferring pulse to the delicacies of a palace. For Daniel not only wished to guard himself against the delicacies of the table, since he perceived a positive danger of being eaten up by such enticements; hence he simply determined in his hem not to taste the diet of the court, desiring by his very food perpetually to recall the remembrance of his country. He wished so to live in Chaldea, as to consider himself an exile and a captive, sprung from the sacred family of Abraham. We see, then, the intention of Daniel. He desired to refrain from too great an abundance and delicacy of diet, simply to escape those snares of Satan, by which he saw himself surrounded. He was, doubtless, conscious of his own infirmity, and this also is to be reckoned to his praise, since; through distrust of himself he desired to escape from all allurements and temptations. As far as concerned the king intention, this was really a snare of the devil, as I have said. Daniel rejected it, and there is no doubt that God enlightened his mind by his Spirit as soon as he prayed to him. Hence he was unwilling to cast himself into the snares of the devil, while he voluntarily abstained from the royal diet. This is; the full meaning; of the passage.
It may also be asked, Why does Daniel claim this praise, as His own, which was shared equally with his companions? for he was not the only one who rejected the royal diet. It is necessary to take notice, how from his childhood he was, governed by the Spirit of God, that the confidence and influence of his teaching might be the greater; hence he speaks peculiarly of himself, not for the sake of boasting, but to obtain confidence in his teaching, and to show himself to have been for a long period formed and polished by God for the prophetic office. We must also remember that he was the adviser of his companions; for this course might never have come into their minds, and they might have been corrupted, unless they had been admonished by Daniel. God, therefore, wished Daniel to be a leader and master to his companions, to induce them to adopt the same abstinence. Hence also we gather, that as each of us is endued more fruitfully with the grace of the Spirit, so should we feel bound to instruct others. It will not be sufficient for any one to restrain himself and thus to discharge his own duty, under the teaching of God’s Spirit, unless he also extend his hand to others, and endeavor to unite in an alliance of piety, and of the fear and worship of God. Such an example is here proposed to us in Daniel, who not only rejected the delicacies of the palace, by which he might be intoxicated and even poisoned; but he also advised and persuaded his companions to adopt the same course. This is the reason why he calls tasting the king’s food pollution or abomination, though, as I have said, there was nothing abominable in it of itself. Daniel was at liberty to eat and drink at the loyal table, but the abomination arose from the consequences. Before the time of these four persons living in Chaldea., they doubtless partook of ordinary food after the usual manner, and were permitted to eat whatever was offered to them. They did not ask for pulse when at an inn, or on their journey; but they began to desire it when the king wished to infect them with his delicacies, and to induce them if possible to prefer that condition to returning to their own friends. When they perceived the object of his snares, then it became both a pollution and abomination to feed on those dainties, and to eat, at the king’s table. Thus we may ascertain the reason why Daniel thought himself polluted if he fared sumptuously and partook of the royal diet; he was conscious, as we have already observed, of his own infirmities, and wished to take timely precautions, lest he should be enticed by such snares, and fall away from piety and the worship of God, and degenerate into the manners of the Chaldeans, as if he were one of their nation, and of their native princes. I must leave the rest till tomorrow.