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Daniel 1:12

ESV “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink.
NIV Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink.
NASB Please put your servants to the test for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink.
CSB "Please test your servants for ten days. Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink.
NLT Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,' Daniel said.
KJV Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink.

What does Daniel 1:12 mean?

Daniel must have been highly esteemed by the steward who had been assigned over him (Daniel 1:11), just as he was by the chief eunuch (Daniel 1:9), because he was allowed to make a significant suggestion. These men were charged with preparing captured Jewish boys to become advisors for King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 1:3–5). That included eating the same food as the king (Daniel 1:5), which would have been ceremonially unclean and associated with idol worship (Daniel 1:8). The chief eunuch was hesitant to allow Daniel to eat other food (Daniel 1:10), but Daniel asks the steward in charge of the king's food to test their alternative diet of vegetables and water.

The Hebrew word for "vegetables" includes seed-bearing plants, meaning anything that grows up from the ground. This diet probably included grains as well. Eating a vegetarian diet would keep Daniel and his friends from eating improperly prepared or idol-sacrificed food. Drinking only water would help them avoid the undiluted wine preferred by the Babylonians.

The number ten in the Bible is often used for a period of trial or testing. For example, the Egyptians experienced a judgment of ten plagues (Exodus 7—12), and Jesus foretold that the Devil would throw some members of the church at Smyrna into prison and cause them to have tribulation ten days (Revelation 2:10). Certainly, ten days on this diet would not threaten anyone's health, nor jeopardize a steward's reputation with the king. It was a reasonable length of time. Daniel does not promise to eat the king's food if the test fails, but only asks the man to act as he sees fit (Daniel 1:13).

Although this diet made Daniel and his friends even healthier than those who ate the king's food (Daniel 1:14–15), the point is not to endorse a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Healthy eating is good, and caring for the body is good as well; yet the purpose of this incident is to establish how God honored Daniel's convictions.
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