Daniel 1:1-7
Daniel is the only author of this book.  His name means “God is Judge.”  Many liberals attempt to place the writing of Daniel about 168 B.C which is the time of the Maccabean period.  Daniel was taken into captivity during the first siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 605 B.C.  At that time Babylon was at the height of its power and the most powerful kingdom on earth.  God used Babylon as a comparison to show that the Kingdom of God ruled higher and was stronger than any earthly Kingdom.  The essence of the book of Daniel is that God is showing the difference between the temporal Kingdoms of this world and the eternal Kingdom of God which Daniel was a part of.  To understand the book of Daniel correctly, we will see that it has much to do with Israel until the time of 66-70 A.D. when the Roman army besieged it and destroyed it.
The Lord Jesus Christ had prophesied many times that Israel was going to be destroyed because of its apostasy and hostility to God and the Lord Jesus Christ.  The reason that so many Christians find difficulty in understanding Daniel is because many prophecy preachers basically move the time frame to the modern nation of Israel and along with that error they try to make Matthew 24, Luke 21, and Mark 13 solely point to the second coming of Christ and not the first.  Daniel 12 hits upon the second coming of Christ but it basically shows what will happen when Christ returns without mentioning the second coming of Christ specifically.  The majority of pre-Millenial prophecy books are in total error and continue to throw confusion into the mix.  God did not write the Bible for us to not understand it but to understand it.  The modern nation of Israel has absolutely nothing to do with the book of Daniel except that there will be God’s Elect coming from that country as well as every other country in the world until the last day.
The focus of the book of Daniel is the everlasting Kingdom of God which stands even when the kingdoms of this world come and go.  Where is Babylon today?  Where is Rome today? Where is Assyria today?  They are all relegated to antiquity and every now and then archaeologists will find pottery or other things from those days to show they existed.  Now the major question, where is the Kingdom of God today?  It is worldwide and will never be extinguished even though powerful modern nations have tried to destroy it such as the Old Soviet Union or Red China.  The Roman Catholic Church even tried to destroy the Kingdom of God in the middle ages and they could not.  When we rightly see that the Kingdom of God is the central theme of the book of Daniel, then you will be on the right path of interpretation.
Daniel 1:1
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it.
There were three major sieges of Judah in the sixth century B.C.  They happened in 605 B.C., 597 B.C. and 587 B.C.  Jehoiakim ruled from 609-598 B.C.  It was in 605 B.C. that Nebuchadnezzar ascended the throne of Babylon upon the death of his father Nabopolassar.  Daniel used the accession year method of calculating a king’s reign.  That method is based upon the first full year the king in in office.  Jeremiah used the Palestinian method which includes the year that the king was beginning his reign and that is why Jeremiah came up with the fourth year of Jehoiakim. In other words, say Nebuchadnezzar was crowned king on June 1, 605 B.C. The Palestinian method of dating states 605 B.C. would be the first year of his reign while the accession method would state that May 31, 604 B.C would be the first year of his reign.  So for you Bible correctors out there, it is not a scribal error. 
Jeremiah 25:1 (KJV)   The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, that was the first year of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon;
So Jeremiah 25:1 places the fourth year of Jehoiakim as the same year that Nebuchadnezzar ascended to the throne of Babylon making it 605 B.C. when the siege of Jerusalem and Judah began.  The northern kingdom of Israel had already been living in Assyria since 721 B.C. never to be returned to the land again.
Daniel 1:2
And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.
Here we have one of the first revelations of the Kingdom of God being more powerful than the kingdom of man.  Even though Babylon was the great power at that time on earth, yet this verse reveals to us that it was God Himself who gave King Jehoiakim into the hands of the Babylonians.  Nebuchadnezzar was God’s instrument at the time to bring the prophesied judgment upon Judah.  God always reserves the right to use even unsaved people to bring chastisement upon His people.
Now this was not the full extraction of the people of Judah because there remained two more sieges before Judah would be full brought into the land of Babylon.  What we have in this verse is the revealing that King Jehoiakim had to pay tribute to King Nebuchadnezzar and that was done by means of part of the holy vessels which were in the house of God.  These will play an important part in chapter 5 of Daniel.   So the Babylonians took the treasures from the Temple and brought them into the house of their god.  Ancient cuneiform tablets show that their god was Marduk.  Later these vessels were returned to the people of Judah by King Cyrus.
Ezra 1:7 (KJV)   Also Cyrus the king brought forth the vessels of the house of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had brought forth out of Jerusalem, and had put them in the house of his gods;
Daniel 1:3
And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king's seed, and of the princes;
With Nebuchadnezzar’s victory at Carchemish in 605 B.C. where he defeated Pharaoh Neco and now with the siege of Judah just beginning, the kingdom of Babylon was now growing at a very rapid pace and the leaders could not keep up with the rapid expansion.  So King Nebuchadnezzar had ordered Ashpenaz who was master or chief of the eunuchs that he should now begin to bring people into Babylon which was of the seeds of Kings and Princes.  In other words, he wanted people who could help in the rule of Babylon.  He was looking for quality people who had experience in ruling people to keep his kingdom from flying into anarchy or rebellion.  Ashpenaz was chief of the eunuchs.  Let me inject here that the term eunuch did not only mean an emasculated man but also referred to those who held office and were court officials. 
Matthew 19:12 (KJV)   For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.
Here the Lord speaks about three different types of Eunuchs.  The first is one from the mother’s womb which means they would never marry and be single all their life.  The second type of eunuch were those who were emasculated by men especially rulers who put these men in charge of their harems when they conquered a country and took the women captive.  Then there is the third kind of eunuch which made themselves fully dedicated to the work of the Kingdom of God and has rejected all the pitfalls this world has to offer which can derail a Christian.  One more comical point.  The name Ashpenaz means “Horses Nose.”  Would you name your child that?
Daniel 1:4
Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.
Nebuchadnezzar wanted the cream of the crop.  They were to have no blemish which means they were to have no type of defect, whether bodily, emotionally, or psychologically.  Then he wanted those who were well favored which means they were to be excellent in appearance since they would be in the King’s court.  They were to be skillful in wisdom which means they were to be insightful with all wisdom.  They were to be cunning in knowledge which meant they were to be very discerning in what they knew and how they would disseminate that knowledge in the King’s court.  They were also to understand science, that is, they were to literally be understanding in their understanding.
They were not just to understand something glibly but must be able to understand what others cannot see such as the who, where, why, when, etc.  Their understanding must be thorough.  Then they must be able to stand in the king’s palace which basically meant they had to be wise and knowledgeable enough to be able to make decisions and give counsel right in the king’s court without having to take time to study a matter.  They were also to have the ability to learn the tongue of the Chaldean and to learn about the history and ways of Babylon since they will be ruling and need to know customs.
Daniel 1:5
And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.
These men who were able to meet those standards were not treated like prisoners but more like princes and rulers since they were given the same diet the king had.  They were to remain on that diet and eat like princes and live like princes while learning all that had to be learned such as the language and customs of Babylon so when they stood before the king, they would be ready to rule and get their assignments.  It was also a three year probation period to see if any of them would not be ready for the tasks coming their way.  If they would not be able to learn then how could they rule?  It was during this time that they sharpened their skills for leadership.
Daniel 1:6
Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah:
Ashpenaz must have had a keen eye for picking out those who would be beneficial for the kingdom of Babylon.  He saw Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.  These were four of the most skilled men of the kingdom of Judah and they must have exuded something which caught the attention of Ashpenaz who was probably quite skilled himself at knowing people and their characteristics.  Their names mean:
Daniel – “God is my Judge”
Hananiah – “Yahweh has been gracious or favored by Yahweh”
Mishael – “Who is what God is”
Azariah – “Yahweh has helped”
Daniel 1:7
Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.
Since they were in Babylon and no longer in Judah, their names were to be changed to Babylonian names.  Babylonian law required that if they were to rule, then they would need to have Babylonian citizenship along with Babylonian names.  With these names they could now take their place in the court of the king.
Daniel – Belteshazzar – “Protect his life” or ‘Bel favors him”
Hananiah – Shadrach – “Command of the moon god”
Mishael – Meshach – “Who is this?”
Azariah – Abednego – “Servant of Nego”