Food Offered to Idols

Upon his arrival in the imperial city, Daniel was confronted with a predicament. If he consumed the food and drink of the pagan king, it would violate his ritual purity. While he might have wished to avoid eating “unclean” meats, more likely, his concern was that consuming the royal “delicacies” would mean his participation in the idolatrous rituals of the Babylonian court and religion. Either way, the young man's decision could have dire consequences.

This was the kind of dilemma every believer faces sooner or later, whether to compromise with the demands and expectations of the world order or remain faithful to God. In the passage, Daniel objected to the “meats” and the “wine” from the royal table. However, according to the Book of Leviticus, wine by itself did not cause ritual defilement.

Two Doors - Photo by James Balensiefen on Unsplash
[Photo by James Balensiefen on Unsplash]

Moreover, Daniel made no reference to the dietary regulations of the 
Torah, and the Hebrew term rendered “defile” (ga’al) here is not the same one used for “unclean” in Leviticus (ga’al appears nowhere in the Pentateuch).

  • (Daniel 1:8, 12) – “But Daniel laid it upon his heart not to defile himself with the meats of the king, nor with the wine which he drank, therefore, he sought the ruler of the eunuchs, that he might not DEFILE (ga’al) himself… I pray you, prove your servants ten days, and let them give us vegetable food, that we may eat, and water that we may drink.

The Hebrew term pathbag more correctly means “delicacies,” not “meat” or animal flesh, though it could include the latter. Consuming meat, clean or unclean, was not the point of the passage.

Babylonian religious customs point to a different conflict - participation in idolatrous practices. Daniel objected to consuming provisions from the “table of the king,” and the stress is on the source of the food - THE ROYAL TABLE.

The young exile proposed a “test.” For “ten days,” he and his friends would only eat vegetables and drink water. Afterward, their Babylonian keeper could compare their appearance with that of the other young men who consumed the food from the royal table.

Idols played a key role in Babylonian religious rituals. It was believed the god was present in his or her image kept in its temple. Such images were provided with daily meals of food and drink. The king provided the required foodstuffs for the god’s “meal,” and no one else present could eat before the deity had finished “consuming” it.

Thereafter, the remaining food was distributed for consumption at the royal table. Thus, the king’s provisions were linked to the idolatry of the Babylonian temples – (Joan Oates, Babylon, London - Thames and Hudson, 1986, p. 174-175).

IN REVELATION


The Book of Revelation alludes to this story in its letter to the Assembly of Smyrna. The congregation was told to expect persecution - “You will BE TRIED, and you will have tribulation TEN DAYS.” The Greek verb rendered “tried” in the Septuagint version of the story in Daniel (peirazō) is the same one used in the Greek text of the Letter to Smyrna - (Daniel 1:14, Revelation 2:8-11).

The Assembly was being “slandered by those who say they are Jews and are not, but instead, are a synagogue of Satan.” Consequently, some believers had been “cast into prison.” Nevertheless, those who remained “faithful until death” would receive the “Crown of Life and NOT BE HURT by the Second Death.”

In Chapter 20, we read that those who take part in the “First Resurrection” will avoid the “Second Death.” At the Great White Throne of Judgment, “Death and Hades were cast into the Lake of Fire,” and the latter is identified as the “Second Death.” Thus, the term does not refer to the death that all men experience sooner or later. The faithful believer may die a violent death for his “Testimony,” but he will not undergo the “Second Death” - (Revelation 20:6, 20:14).

New York - Photo by Bernd 📷 Dittrich on Unsplash
[New York - Photo by Bernd 📷 Dittrich on Unsplash]

The saint who does not eat “meat offered to idols” will “overcome” and inherit all the promises given in the seven letters to the Asian congregations when he enters the “New Jerusalem,” including the “Crown of Life.” However, the unfaithful and compromising members of the Asian congregations will have their “p
art in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the Second Death” - (Revelation 21:7-8).

The “slander” experienced by the saints of Smyrna refers to the false charges leveled against them before civil magistrates, probably for refusing to participate in the Roman imperial cult. In Pergamos, Jesus rebuked believers who tolerated deceivers who taught the Asian congregations “to eat things sacrificed to idols,” which was the “Doctrine of the Nicolaitans.”

Likewise, in Thyatira, the Assembly was reprimanded for allowing the false prophetess, Jezebel, “to seduce my servants to fornicate and to eat things sacrificed to idols.” The term “fornicate” is used metaphorically by Revelation for participation by believers in idolatrous practices - (Revelation 2:12-17, 17:2, 18:3, 18:9).

Thus, the issue in Daniel was not ritually “unclean” food but participation in the idolatrous religion of Babylon. Likewise, in the Book of Revelation, the Seven Assemblies of Asia were exhorted by Jesus to avoid the idolatrous practices of “Babylon,” namely, the Roman imperial cult with its veneration of Caesar.

In the same way, the disciples of Jesus today must not render homage to the idolatrous demands of End-Time “Babylonthe Great Whore” when she entices one and all to give allegiance to the “Beast from the Sea” or its idolatrous “image,” or to take its “Number” or “Name.” This the saint begins to do whenever he compromises his commitment to Jesus with the demands of society and this fallen age.



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