The Diet of the Prophet Daniel
The book of Daniel starts out in one of the most unique ways of any of the biblical books: with a wager. To set the scene, in 608 B.C., the godless tyrant king of Judah, Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah the Reformer, had been king for three years after Pharaoh Necho II of Egypt had deposed his younger brother, Jehoahaz, after only three years. This made Jehoiakim a vassal of Necho II, who was defeated by King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon in the Battle of Carchemish. This opened the door for Nebuchadnezzar to besiege Jerusalem, forcing Jehoiakim to swear his allegiance to Babylon, including giving him some of the Temple artifacts and some of Judah’s best and brightest young nobles as hostages, of whom Daniel was included.
When Daniel was taken to the capital of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, Babylon, in modern day Iraq, he was one of the select few chosen by the chief Eunuch to eat from the kings table and to be educated in the wisdom of the Babylonians. With that, we look to scripture to tell us what happened next.
But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.” Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food. So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables (Daniel 1:8-16, ESV).
And now, we have to ask ourselves: “why were Daniel and his three friends healthier than those who ate from the King’s table?”
It is my belief that this ties back into our discussion of the diet of Moses. Because the Babylonians were pagans who did not fear the God of Israel, they likely only ate meat that was unclean. I think that this is alluded to in the selection above: “Daniel resolved not to defile himself.”
Imagine for a moment someone who focuses on eating healthy for a year, and then goes to McDonald’s to eat three cheeseburgers and four large fries at the end of the year. It is well proven that eating that much processed food is terrible for you, and will cause an immense amount of intestinal discomfort…especially in one who formerly focused on eating healthy. Well, that’s effectively what was happening internally to the youths of Judah who ate pork and other unclean foods of the Babylonians. Also, as I mentioned in the article on the Mosaic diet, pork is notoriously hard to cook safely. It is likely that many of the youths were experiencing acute food poisoning, whilst Daniel was continuing in his healthy diet that he grew up eating.
Another aspect of Daniel’s diet that simply cannot be ignored is that of fasting. As a matter of fact, fasting is likely more important than what he actually ate. Daniel regularly gave himself up to three week fasts, where he would only eat the basest of food to keep him functioning, and only drinking water. During these times, he would focus on spending time with God through prayer. I will not go into much detail on fasting here, because the next article will be dedicated to the subject.
There is an increasing trend among Evangelicals to follow Daniel’s fasting diet for purposes other than the spiritual. The benefits are numerous, and they include: whole body detox, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, more energy, lessened symptoms of depression, hair and nail strength improved, lessened insomnia, weight loss, and many more. However, I would caution following Daniel’s diet specifically for the health benefits, as fasting is intended to be about your spiritual health, rather than physical. So, if you are considering the Daniel Diet (fasting from all processed food, meat, and things that make food “tasty,” all while drinking only water) for the health benefits, I would suggest you need to examine your motives before moving forward. After all, fasting is intended to allow the person doing so to focus on time with God, not the size of his pants.