Why did Daniel choose not to eat the king’s food?
When Daniel and his three friends first arrive in Babylon in captivity during the exile, the king wants to see the very best of Israel. So he has these young men and he wants to see them healthy and ready to show their abilities in wisdom and learning (Daniel 1:8-16).
But instead of receiving the king’s allotment of food, Daniel doesn’t want to “defile himself.” The suggestion of this word “defile” lays in my mind the possibility that the meat the king wanted to give may have been sacrificed to their idols.
“Defile” is more of a ritual word in the Old Testament. It speak specifically of the kind of clean and unclean defilement’s as well. And this may have been part of it. The food, especially the meat, may have been from animals categorized in the Torah as unclean.
Daniel has no problem with vegetables and water. So he wasn’t eating the meat or the wine. The wine may have been different in Babylon than it was in Israel. Perhaps it was more potent. Either way, Daniel issues a ten-day challenge to only eat vegetables and water instead of the meat and wine (Daniel 1:12).
The guy in charge was worried that the youths from Israel would not look good in front of the King if they did this. But he gave Daniel favor and allowed them to try it. And God also favored Daniel and his three friends so that they looked better than anyone who eight from the king’s food.
Whether it was an issue of unclean food or idolatry, Daniel and his three friends remain pure while in a worldly culture. The lesson is for us to not give an inch as we practice purity in our world full of temptation and sin. We also have been given a high standard by our King to not live like the world. And he will reward our obedience as he did Daniel and his three friends.