Are We to Follow Daniel's Diet?
Yesterday, (July 17, 2022), during my teaching time, I made a comment about the Daniel Diet. Over the past several years there has been much discussion and books written concerning this topic. By no means is this an attack on those people who wrote those books, or produced those studies, or on the pastors who have encouraged their congregation to participate in one of the studies. Just like what we fill our minds with affects how we live, the same is true with our physical bodies. Everything that we eat and put into our mouths will affect our physical bodies in some way. But my question concerning the Daniel Diet is this, “was this diet given to us to be followed today?” Same question can be asked about all the dietary laws in the Old Testament law. If the Daniel diet was given for us to follow, then why are we not following the Old Testament dietary laws, which was given to us by God and not by a man, and why does the New Testament teach that we can eat anything (Matthew 15:11; Mark 7:15). Again, we need to ask, what is happening in Daniel 1 that would cause Daniel and his three friends to choose to only eat vegetables and drink water.
The book of Daniel opens with the nation of Israel starting to go into exile. King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, attacked Jerusalem around 605 BC the first time (2 Kings 24:1-4). This is called the first deportation and during this time, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were taken to Babylon to be part of a reeducation program. This was common during this time in history. When a king defeated another country, the conquering king took back with them the wealthy along with the young, strong men to serve the king. This is what we see in Daniel 1. Daniel and his three friends came back with King Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon to be taught the ways and language of the Babylonians so that they would serve in the king’s palace. It is during this reeducation period, where they were to forget their homeland and their families and realize that they are now servants of the king. This is why one of the first things the conquering nation did was to give the people, who were part of this reeducation program, new names; their old life is dead, they now have new identities (Daniel 1:6-7).
Daniel, during this time, decided that he was not going to defile himself by eating the royal food (Daniel 1:8). Daniel, being Jewish, followed the Old Testament Law and God told the Jewish people that there were certain foods that He did not want them to eat (Leviticus 11). If they did eat these foods, they would become ceremonially unclean, which meant that they could not worship God at the temple in Jerusalem. Daniel had a choice, to follow God or go along with everyone else who ate the kings’ food. So, Daniel tells the guard to only give him and his three friends vegetables and water for the next 10 days as a test. Why only vegetables and water? My hunch is that this was all that was offered to Daniel that fit the dietary laws. The guard agreed to do this experiment and after the ten days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than anyone else (Daniel 1:15). Why? Was it their diet? According to some of the proponents of the “Daniel Diet,” they would say yes. But I would argue, it was their obedience to God, and not what they ate. In fact, this is the point or the main idea that Daniel, the author of this book, is making; we must obey God above all.
God isn’t teaching us a new diet to follow, but God wants us to learn that following His ways, walking in obedience to Him, is more important than anything else in life. It doesn’t matter how insignificant we may think something may be, we need to obey God above all. Daniel and his three friends were not the only Jews in this reeducation program, but they were the only three who said, we must follow God first in our lives. May we follow Daniel and his three friends’ example of walking in obedience to God no matter what.