The Education of Daniel

Taken from the book, The Bible in Education, by A.T. Jones, p. 78-80

When Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon captured Jerusalem the first time,

Daniel 1:3,4
3 …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;
4 children in whom was no blemish, but well favored, and skillful 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.

“No blemish” and “well favored.” This would require that they should be physically sound, well built, and symmetrical.

The words translated “wisdom,” “knowledge,” and “science,” in verse 4 — Hebrew daath, madda, and chokmah — are closely related, though the second is an extension of the first, and the third an extension of the second.

The word translated “wisdom” signifies “knowledge, understanding, and intelligence.” It implies the faculty to discern what is valuable knowledge, and the ability and capacity to acquire such knowledge.

The word translated “knowledge” relates to “the mind or thought,” and implies knowledge acquired by thinking and application.

The word translated “science” signifies “skill, dexterity, sagacity, shrewdness, ability to judge;” and is well translated in our word “science,” which signifies “skilful in knowledge.” It implies a selected and systematized knowledge.

Therefore the requirement of King Nebuchadnezzar in the selecting of these youth was that they should be physically sound and symmetrically built; and that, mentally, they should be:

  1. Skilful in discerning what is valuable knowledge, and skilful in the ability to acquire such knowledge;
  2. Cunning in the acquisition of knowledge by thinking and application; and
  3. Understanding how to correlate, classify, and systematize the knowledge which they had the faculty to discern was valuable knowledge, and which they were cunning in gathering.

And they must have “ability” in all these things. What they knew was not to be mere head-knowledge; but they must have the faculty of observation and adaptation so trained that what they had learned could be practically applied in their experience in every-day affairs. They were to have such ability, such every-day common sense, as would enable them to use their knowledge to practical advantage in the common things of daily life, so that they would be practical men wherever they were; so that they could adapt themselves to any circumstances or situation, and be the master and not the slave of either circumstances or situation.

From the specifications distinctly made in the scripture, and from the close and thorough examination that must be passed, it is certain that all that we have outlined was comprehended in the requirements of the king respecting the youth who were to be chosen.

And this is no small tribute to the educational ideas of King Nebuchadnezzar. Indeed, his views of education, as shown in this verse of the Bible, were, for all practical purposes,

far in advance
of the educational system
that prevails today,

…even in the leading colleges and universities of the United States.