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.” Daniel 1:8-13
“My Lord?” His eyes betrayed a genuine surprise at something he neither anticipated nor understood. One of the banqueters charged indignantly, “Is all this beneath you?!” The two other men squirmed uncomfortably, pricked by their conscience but unsure of what to do. “Indeed, my Lord, the bounty of the entire world is before you here,” resumed the official. “This platter alone offers you the best of Syria’s lambs flavored with coveted Lebanese olive oil and rare spices from the eastern isles. Would that not go well with some hot bread and a rhyton of fine wine? May I pour you a sip? It is the finest your lips shall touch.” The façade of self-assured competence had returned to his face, yet something about his eyes betrayed his curiosity, waiting to see what I would do next. I took a deep breath and replied, “Indeed, it is all very lovely. Yet your servant cannot eat this for it has not been devoted to my God but to the gods of Babylon. Please grant me vegetables to eat and water to drink and I will be thankful.” It was enough; his face had softened at the recognition that he was speaking with a man who was committed to be known even at great personal risk. “Were it in my power, I would gladly do so; however, I am responsible to the king for your welfare and were I to give you only vegetables and water you would certainly suffer for it, and I would lose my life.” Having said this he apprehensively scanned the room, turned on his heel, and briskly strode away.
Awkward Was Now for Dinner
One of the men slowly returned to his meal bearing an uneasy expression upon his face, while the second man carried on as though nothing had happened at all. But the third man—my angry banqueter—was staring at me with hatred smoldering in his glare, seemingly mulling over his thoughts. “That was really something!” came a hushed voice from my left, I glanced over to my neighbor to find him looking intently at me with eyes desiring to understand, “If only it could happen.” “All the better that it doesn’t!” shot back the smoldering man with resentful malice. “His request may well have meant the death of us all—and it still might for all we know.” His eyes darted at me with intense anger. “Don’t you know where you are?” A burst of riotous laughter erupted from a nearby group where a young man was trying unsuccessfully to catch the jet of wine being shot from the mouth of a rhyton elevated a few paces away from a companion standing near him. Yes, I thought to myself, I know exactly where I am.
The Rebellion Grows
“May I offer my service to my Lord?” We had overlooked the approach of another man, much closer to our own age, whose dress marked him out as one of the many banquet stewards. As my eyes met his, something within told me this was the opportunity. I placed my hand upon my neighbor’s shoulder and spoke. “Please, test your servants for ten days. We desire only vegetables and water for our meals. If you find that we are the worse for it after ten days then we will submit to what you deem is best for our welfare.” The steward pulled back with visible surprise but cocked his head with halting curiosity: “This is your request, my lords?” His eyes surveyed the group, seeking to gain a fuller assessment of the situation. “May I be included too?” asked the first of the three eaters. “Yes, please include me as well.” came the voice of another young man to my right. The steward eyed us carefully and walked across the room to the very official who had left us not long before. No one spoke, our attention fixed entirely on the discussion being held across the noisy hall. The steward returned with an expression of determination that seemed to already pronounce the matter as an embarrassing and empty folly. What would we do if this request was denied?
“Your request has been granted—ten days.”
Illustration by Kitti Touzeau