Daniel 1:17-21

¿Do you doubt sometimes about your abilities? Read the following passage:

Daniel 1:17-21

"To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds"

"At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom".

"And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus".

If you have compared with the Interlinear Bible you can see that the New International version is a very good translation (you can find "chief of eunuchs" instead of "chief official", but it's been explained before). The "enchanters" of verse 20 are "astrologers" too - in KJV and other versions it is the rendering of "ashafím". Some points could give us more insight about the words and their use in the biblical Hebrew. Especially when they talk about "wisdom" and "understanding", it is not in the sense that the words are used nowadays. In our times we mean that a person is "intelligent" because is very good at something, or skillful in some discipline, or just has a high IQ, without regarding God or His gifts. But it is not biblical "wisdom" or "intelligence".

There are three words that can be rendered as "wisdom" in this passage - with the collateral meanings of "prudence", "perception", "understanding" or "intelligence". They are almost synonyms, but there are certain differences. "Khokmá" ("learnig" in Dn 1:17; "wisdom" in Dn 1:20) is wisdom in a wider sense; in the book of Proverbs is "Wisdom" - God's wisdom - talking as a person. This word means to have knowledege and to use it wisely. "Sékel" is "understanding" in Dn 1:17, and it includes some human features, as "ability", "wit", "experience", which - been human - could need some time of training, even when they, as every kind of "wisdom", is a gift from God to men. It is often rendered "shrewdness" in it's appearance in Dn 8:25, describing a wretch person (with intelligence, but using it for evil, not good). There are some Psalms (32, 42, 52-55, 74 and others) which are called "maskil"; it means that they are for instruction or contemplation, "acording to sékel". Last but not least, "biná" ("understanding" in Dn 1:20) alludes to the intelligence and knowledge.

In all kinds of "wisdom" were Daniel and his friends tested, and they were found "ten times better" than the Chaldean magicians and astrologers. The gift of Daniel - "to understand dreams and visions" - is seen in the book of Genesis also in Joseph, and it is a heavenly gift (often there are angels who come to help the persons who have seen a vision that they would not understand otherwise)

Daniel chapter I ends with a declaration about Daniel's ministry. The "first year of king Cyrus" is 539 BC, the year when Persia conquered Babylonia (but it doesn't mean that Daniel died that year; in Daniel 10 he received visions two years later). The total spam of Daniel's ministry is 66 years, including three years of training. The second chapter begins in the "second year" of Nebuchadnezzar, when Daniel was called before the king when he attended his training.

This is the last passage of Daniel chapter one. If you have read the previous messages - and if you believed - it is possible that you will face a "performance crisis". It's nothing new, don't worry about it! It happened to Moses, Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah and other many persons whom God would use in His service in a glorious manner. The end of the chapter shows a "happy ending" to a story which began as a tragedy; the "slaves" became important statesmen in Babylonia. How was it possible? How could be happen TO ME nowadays?

We need to understand the special relationship of the Hebrew people with God. One of the accusations of anti-semitic enemies of Israel is that "jews think that they are better than everyone else". If there's someone who belives that, then it is a person who doesn't know the Scripture, because God proclaims that they are being chosen because of His love, being "the fewest - possible meanings: least, littlest - of all peoples" (Deuteronomy 7:7). When God called Moses to set His people free from Egypt, "God's people" were simply Pharao's slaves. How was it possible that four descendants of this people were "ten times better" than all magicians and astrologers of Babylonia, the most powerful empire by that time? Observe also that to say "magician" (sorcerer) and "astrologer" in this time of scientists and Nobel prizes could sound confusing to the modern mind. In the ancient Babylonia those "magicians and astrologers" were the "great brains"; real "science" and occult "science" were one and the same thing in Antiquity. With the exception of Israel - whose kings asked prophets of God for counsel and guidance - the other kings, the pagan ones, used to consult soothsayers, magicians, astrologers, etc. in the same way that a president in our time should call his team of advisors, or some NASA experts. The "magicians and astrologers" were the "super-brains" of Babylonia. And four Hebrew slaves were found "ten times better" than them. How is it possible?

In my years of ministry in the church I've been leader of worship for some time. The Lord has giving me the ability to play some musical instruments. But, for instance, the trumpet is not one of them. If I should try to play "Amazing Grace" with a trumpet, it wouldn't be grace at all, but disaster. There's a word that every musician, sportsman or soldier knows very well, "discipline". It includes a certain knowledge of your instrument (or ball, or weapon) and some training in order to be able to use them. Besides, "discipline" includes other many things for each one of them (you don't become a musician, football player or soldier just playing scales and chords, kicking a ball or being good with a rifle; there are another stuff to be learned).

In which "discipline" were Daniel and his friends trained? We don't read it about it directly, but we could see it in action in Daniel 2:17-18 (prayer) 9:1-3 (reading Scripture + prayer) or 10:2-3 (fasting + prayer). We can read also Daniel 1:8, 3:16-18 and 6:10, that shows another "discipline" called "FAITH". They kept their faith in Babylonia, the faith in the God of Israel, in the midst of many other "gods" which were worshipped there. They always prayed to the Lord and read the Holy Scriptures, through all their lives. Their faith (trust, fidelity) is a reason for God to give them more faith (miraculous power) to become victorious in everything. The spiritual gifts that worked in them were from the Spirit of God. But the magicians and astrolgers were moved by other spirit - as every sorcerer or astrologer nowadays, must be said. The so called "occult sciences" are satanic practices that will only harm you if you follow them.

It is not a matter of "intelligence"; the Hebrews were not in themselves more "intelligent" than the Babylonians. The question is that there is a source of wisdom called "GOD". It is He who gives "wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning" in the words of Daniel, in his prayer in chapter two. It is He who gives revelation, vision, understanding, strength. He is everything for us. If He isn't everything for you, as He was for Daniel and his friends, let me tell you that His power and His wisdom are available for everyone who seeks Him. He has sent His Son Jesus Christ to save us, and in this salvation are included all blessings that He wants to give us. Those who receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior will receive also the Spirit of God (Acts 2:38).

How can it be possible? Let the Scriptures answer to you: the Scriptures give testimony about Jesus (John 20:31) and they make us wise for salvation (2 Timothy 3:15). When you - under the guidance of the Spirit of God - confess your sins and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are precisely obeying the Scripture (1st John 1:9-10, Romans 10:9-10). And the Word of God has a supernatural property of being fulfilled to the ones who believe. Because God has sent it in order to be fulfilled (Isaiah 55:10-11).

This page which you are reading now is one of the greater miracles that the Lord God has done with me in my life. Before I met Christ, I attended several schools, learning different "disciplines" that sometimes weren't fulfilled, and as a result I worked in different occupations, from school teacher in Physics, draftsman, design engineer, computer programmer, to musician. Mi education and my atheist way of thinking kept me away from "God" and "God purpose for my life"; those were totally alien concepts for me. It was neccesary a deep crisis in my life, to kneel at Jesus' feet, to come to know Him, to receive His word and to preach it in several manners. The Spirit of God had to come to my life. Many pages should be filled with the work of the Lord in my life in more than twenty years, but right now it is not "I" who is important, but YOU and your salvation. Maybe you're entertaining some doubts about your possibilities in serving God. I did. But, listen to this: when I met Jesus, I was able to play guitar only. But through a miraculous anointing the Lord has used me in other instruments and then He has guided me to learn them. When I met Jesus, my "religion" was atheism - in communist countries you are indoctrinated in it from childhood - but He learned me to read and obey my Bible. When I met Jesus I suffered of asthma and was rather weak, physically speaking (from childhood; for instance, physical education was never my strongest side, mainly because of asthma). The Lord took away "my" asthma (it is not "mine" but Satan's) and led me to practice sports, even to sing for Him. When I met Jesus, I was in a deep crisis which could end with my imprisonment or death (it's why I've got political asylum in Sweden) but the Lord made it possible - miraculously possible - for me to come to Sweden and to become a Swede. Anything, listen, anything! that keeps you oppressed, weak or unable, isn't eternal; the Lord is eternal, and He is powerful to destroy it. The only thing you need to do is to put yourself in Jesus Christ's hands.

May the Lord bless you. In the love of Jesus Christ, your brother

Israel Leonard

PS. The book of Daniel particularly had a miraculous impact in my life. It is the main cause that my ministry has moved from the church choir to the Word of God, the prophecy and the coming events. From Daniel II, if the Lord allows, we will also speak about those awesome revelations, "tomorrow's news" that the Lord has given us in His Word. Keep reading and you will know the things that God has revealed in Daniel and other prophets, in John and other apostles, and above all, in His Son Jesus Christ.

Jesus is coming soon!

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