“E Daniel propôs no seu coração não se contaminar com a porção das iguarias do rei, nem com o vinho que ele bebia; portanto pediu ao chefe dos eunucos que lhe permitisse não se contaminar.”  Daniel 1:8

No verso 12, Daniel propõe um teste ao chefe dos eunucos que estava destacado para cuidar da saúde dos jovens que seriam preparados para servir como sábios e conselheiros perante o rei. Pediu que durante 10 dias, eles fossem alimentados com uma dieta vegetariana. A palavra hebraica (זרעים zēro‛ı̂ym) se refere aos produtos das sementes de qualquer tipo, vindo da raiz זרע zâra‛, que significa espalhar, semear, plantar. A Vulgata traz a palavra legumina.

Daniel propõe beber água ao invés de vinho. Esse detalhe não deve passar desapercebido.

Deus honrou a sua decisão e temperança. Sim, porque decisão é o primeiro importante passo. Seria necessário persistir até o final da prova. Eles receberam conhecimento, perspicácia e sabedoria, assim, quando compareceram à presença do rei após os três anos de treinamento, ele os achou “dez vezes melhores do que todos os sacerdotes-magos e os conjuradores que havia em todo o seu domínio real”. — Daniel 1:20.

Nabucodonosor estava diante de um homem que não cairia diante de 4 Reinos que iriam se suceder um após o outro. Ele passaria por outras provas. Ele receberia visões e, por acreditar nelas, as escreveu. Mas o primeiro passo da longa jornada foi dado.

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The Bible is not a diet book. Study it as closely as you want, and you’ll never find anything remotely approaching “10 Tips to Drop 10 Pounds.” And yet that same Bible has helped 15,000 members of Rick Warren’s Saddleback megachurch drop a collective 260,000 lbs. The program the Saddleback members are following is known as The Daniel Plan.

The book tells the tale of a boy who was taken with other young Jewish men to serve in the conquering King Nebuchadnezzar’s palace. Daniel and three of his friends accepted the king’s teaching and even new Chaldean names, but they refused the royal food and wine, choosing instead a diet of legumes (literally “seeds”) and water. “At the end of the ten days,” reads the scriptural passage, “they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.

So the Biblical message is to go vegetarian, right? Well, Daniel’s decision to forgo rich foods like cakes, meats, and wine, combined with New Testament passages calling the human body a “temple of the Holy Spirit” certainly seems to suggest as much. It is difficult to serve God, after all, if you are chronically ill and at risk of dying young.

But the historical context of the Book of Daniel suggests that the text in fact has very little to do with diet or health. Daniel scholar and professor of Old Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary Choon-Leong Seow represents a school of Christian thought that says Daniel is less a story of resisting rich food than a story of resisting a foreign king. (Full disclosure: I took a class on the consequences of Biblical history with Seow when studying for my Masters of Divinity.) Daniel and his friends resisted the king’s table, Seow says, as a tangible expression of their reliance on God’s power instead of the king’s. “They needed to establish their own identity. They even accepted silly names Chaldeans gave them,” Seow explains. “The one thing they could reject was the privilege of the king’s largess.”

If the text were actually about diet, Seow argues, there would be evidence that the king’s table violated Jewish food laws. A Jewish diet would have meant no pork, Seow notes, but most other meats, slaughtered properly, are O.K. Wine too is permissible. Nor does the text give any indication that the king’s food had been offered to idols, which is another thing that would have made it off-limits to the young Jews.

“Whatever the reason,” Seow wrote in his commentary on Daniel, “it appears that, for Daniel, a diet of legumes … was one way to remain faithful in the face of the overwhelming power of the Babylonians.” It’s no surprise many people don’t realize this, since English translations sometimes miss the original emphasis the Bible places on contrasting what the king could give Daniel (earthly pleasures) and what God could give him (something much greater). “The point is not the triumph of vegetarianism or even the triumph of piety or the triumph of wisdom,” Seow concludes, “but the triumph of God.”