At the outset of their training into the service of the king Babylon, Daniel and his companions are to be given a daily portion of royal food and wine from the king's table. Daniel 1:8 then says:

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.

There is nothing in the text I can see to indicate that the food was from unclean animals, and I know of nothing that would make wine unclean. Why does Daniel consider the food and wine to be defiling?

2 Answers 2


Remaining true to Mosaic laws in matters regarding diet has always been a challenge for Jewish people residing in other lands. Consider:

Tobit 1:10-12

After I was carried away captive to Assyria and came as a captive to Nineveh, everyone of my kindred and my people ate the food of the Gentiles, but I kept myself from eating the food of the Gentiles. Because I was mindful of God with all my heart. [NRSV]


1 Mac 1:62-63

But many in Israel stood firm and were resolved in their hearts not to eat unclean food. They chose to die rather than to be defiled by food or to profane the holy covenant, and they did die. [NRSV]

There are potentially several factors that could have contributed to Daniel's sense of defilement (moral and ceremonial).

1) Though we are not told specifically what the food was it could well have included pork and horse meat1. According to the law (Lev 11 & Deut 14), this would have made the whole meal unclean.

2) The food probably was not prepared in accordance with proper ritual, for example, the blood might not have been drained from the meat (Lev 17:13-14)

3) It is also possible that the meat and drink had been offered to Babylonian idols before being set before the king (or at least a portion of it might have been. First century Christians in Corinth also faced this dilemma.

The truth is we can only surmise, but any or all of these options might have been on Daniel's mind and gone against his conscience.


1 Oppenhiem, ancient mesopotamai


The simple answer is this: Pagans typically offered their food to their gods (i.e., idols) before consuming it, especially meat and wine.1 And since idols are considered to be dead,2 and dead things were considered by the Jews to transmit uncleanness (טָמְאָה),3 the sacrifices offered to those idols were also considered to be unclean.4


1 The Jews referred to such wine as יין נסך (yayin nesek). See The Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. 9, p. 227, nesek.
2 cf. Psa. 106:28; Wisdom 13:10
3 Num. 19:14
4 Babylonian Talmud, Seder Nezikin, Tractate Avoda Zara, Mishna, Folio 32b; cf. 1 Cor. 8:1–13, 10:25; Rom. 14:1–3; also, see Delitzsch on Psa. 106:28 (Vol. 5, p. 156).


Babylonian Talmud. Vilna: Romm, 1835.

Delitzsch, Franz. Commentary on the Old Testament. 1900. Reprint. Trans. Bolton, Francis. Vol. 5. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988.

The Jewish Encyclopedia. Ed. Singer, Isidore. Vol. 9. New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1905.

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