gate panels with relief of striding lion
Not the lion of Judah, but the lion of Babylonia

The Uniform Series text for Sunday, January 7, is Daniel 1:8-21. Here are a few questions we might consider in looking at that text (if they help):

In v8, Daniel resolves not to defile himself with the royal food being provided to the recruits (see vv3-4). How would we characterize this decision – that is, would we describe it as obedience, faithfulness, purity or a concern for purity, something else? (If a “concern for purity,” how much of that concern is substantive – for instance, having to do with health or hygiene – and how much symbolic – perhaps having to do with drawing a line of difference?) Will how we describe Daniel’s decision affect what we think the passage means for us today? How?

Daniel is one of a group of Israelites (see v3), and is the only one said to have made the request about diet. What does this tell us about Daniel? About the other members of the group? Can we think of situations today that pose similar challenges? Is Daniel a role model for people in those situations? Why, or why not?

What is the “palace master’s” concern in v10? How does Daniel’s proposal to the guard (vv11-13) respond to that concern? Notice there is no mention of what Daniel will do if the experiment does not turn out in Daniel’s favor. Why? Is the experiment an instance of “wisdom”? Why, or why not? Is it an instance of “science”? Why, or why not? Does this use of the experimental, arguably “wisdom,” arguably “scientific” method have any implications for people today? What are those?

Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah ultimately become advisors to the king of Babylonia (v19). Does this make Daniel and his companions “collaborators”? Why or why not? Does this make Daniel and his companions “God’s agents” in the Babylonian court? Why or why not? Does Jeremiah 29:1-7 provide any insight into this situation? Why or why not? Can we think of situations today that might raise similar issues? What are they? Does this story have anything to say to people in those situations? What?

What is the role of “risk” in Daniel’s and his companions’ actions in the story? What is the role of “faith”? “Faithfulness”? This story turns out well for Daniel and his companions. Would we have different answers if events had turned out differently? Why, or why not?

One important theme in this story is “difference,” and specifically difference that stems from obedience to God’s instructions. What implications does this story have for dealing with difference in our own day? How similar is Daniel’s and his companions’ situation to the situations of people who are “different” today? In what way(s)? Does the story give advice, encouragement, caution, other? What makes us say that?