I. Their great attainments in learning, Dan 1:17. They were very sober and diligent, and studied hard; and we may suppose their tutors, finding them of an uncommon capacity, took a great deal of pains with them, but, after all, their achievements are ascribed to God only. It was he that gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom; for every good and perfect gift is from above, from the Father of the lights. It is the Lord our God that gives men power to get this wealth; the mind is furnished only by him that formed it. The great learning which God gave these four children was, 1. A balance for their losses. They had, for the iniquity of their fathers, been deprived of the honours and pleasures that would have attended their noble extraction; but, to make them amends for that, God, in giving them learning, gave them better honours and pleasures than those they had been deprived of. 2. A recompence for their integrity. They kept to their religion, even in the minutest instances of it, and would not so much as defile themselves with the king's meat or wine, but became, in effect, Nazarites; and now God rewarded them for it with eminency in learning; for God gives to a man that is good in his sight, wisdom, and knowledge, and joy with them, Ecc 2:26. To Daniel he gave a double portion; he had understanding in visions and dreams; he knew how to interpret dreams, as Joseph, not by rules of art, such as are pretended to be given by the oneirocritics, but by a divine sagacity and wisdom which God gave him. Nay, he was endued with a prophetic spirit, by which he was enabled to converse with God, and to receive the notices of divine things in dreams and visions, Num 12:6. According to this gift given to Daniel, we find him, in this book, all along employed about dreams and visions, interpreting or entertaining them; for, as every one has received the gift, so shall he have an opportunity, and so should he have a heart, to minister the same, 1Pe 4:10.
II. Their great acceptance with the king. After three years spent in their education (they being of some maturity, it is likely, when they came, perhaps about twenty years old) they were presented to the king with the rest that were of their standing, Dan 1:18. And the king examined them and communed with them himself, Dan 1:19. He could do it, being a man of parts and learning himself, else he would not have come to be so great; and he would do it, for it is the wisdom of princes, in the choice of the persons they employ, to see with their own eyes, to exercise their own judgment, and not trust too much to the representation of others. The king examined them not so much in the languages, in the rules of oratory or poetry, as in all matters of wisdom and understanding, the rules of prudence and true politics; he enquired into their judgment about the due conduct of human life and public affairs; not “Were they wits?” but, “Were they wise?” And he not only found them to excel the young candidates for preferment that were of their own standing, but found that they had more understanding than the ancients, than all their teachers, Psa 119:99, Psa 119:100. So far was the king from being partial to his own countrymen, to seniors, to those of his own religion and of an established reputation, that he freely owned that, upon trial, he found those poor young captive Jews ten times wiser and better than all the magicians that were in all his realm, Dan 1:20. He was soon aware of something extraordinary in these young men, and, which gave him a surprising satisfaction, was soon aware that a little of their true divinity was preferable to a great deal of the divination he had been used to. What is the chaff to the wheat? what are the magicians' rods to Aaron's? There was no comparison between them. These four young students were better, were ten times better, than all the old practitioners, put them all together, that were in all his realm, and we may be sure that they were not a few. This contempt did God pour upon the pride of the Chaldeans, and this honour did he put upon the low estate of his own people; and thus did he make not only these persons, but the rest of their nation for their sakes, the more respected in the land of their captivity. Lastly, This judgment being given concerning them, they stood before the king (Dan 1:19); they attended in the presence-chamber, nay, and in the council-chamber, for to see the king's face is the periphrasis of a privy-counsellor, Est 1:14. This confirms Solomon's observation, Seest thou a man diligent in his business, sober and humble? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men. Industry is the way to preferment. How long the other three were about the court we are not told; but Daniel, for his part, continued to the first year of Cyrus (Dan 1:21), though not always alike in favour and reputation. He lived and prophesied after the first year of Cyrus; but that is mentioned to intimate that he lived to see the deliverance of his people out of their captivity and their return to their own land. Note, Sometimes God favours his servants that mourn with Zion in her sorrows to let them live to see better times with the church than they saw in the beginning of their days and to share with her in her joys.