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Was Daniel a vegetarian because being vegetarian is GOOD, or because he refused to:
(1) eat non-kosher meat?
(2) eat food offered to idols?
Since we can only speculate on this one, I would like to offer another option.
Perhaps Daniel was following some of the teachings of Isaiah, and looked to that time when there would be no death, and as such he sought to live without death in his time. He also did not make animal sacrifices. He only offered prayer. To him and his friends, the eating of flesh could have been considered defiling themselves in a similar way as eating that which was non-kosher or that which was offered to idols.
One of my classes was on the book of Daniel. The professor explained that, "These 4 youth could not resist their capture, deportation, selection for education, the curriculum, the change of names, etc. There was one thing they could resist and change - Diet."
One reason, as Maynard suggested, was that it was food sacrificed to idols.
I can't say for sure which of Maynard's choices is correct. But I will say that I believe many modern scholars have an automatic tendency to assume all biblical references to vegetarianism are about attempts to avoid eating food offered to idols. However, the nations of the Middle East also offered fruits and vegetables to their gods. If there are no unoffered flesh-meats available, why assume there are any vegetables that have not been offered to other gods?
When the local Boston Vegetarian Society held their annual Vegetarian Valentine's Banquet at the Buddha's Delight in Boston's Chinatown during the Chinese New year, we saw heads of cabbage being offered to the image of the Buddha.
I've seen vegetables offered to the image of the Buddha in the Vietnamese soymilk factory in the town where I live.
There are three reasons why I don't think that Daniel was primarily concerned with food that was offered to idols, or even perhaps with non-kosher meat: (1) that he also considers himself to be defiled with wine (1:8); (2) that he chose only vegetables and water (1:12); and (3) that after just 10 days his and his companions' appearances were better than those who ate the choice food of the king (1:15).
Daniel seems to have known that his choice of diet was better for him (1:12). I believe, based upon these facts, that Daniel was a vegetarian, if not a vegan, before his captivity.
The way in which Daniel speaks of "defilement" (1:8) also could be pointing to the ethical side of not taking a life. This is further amplified in 2:24 when he intercedes for the "wise men", who didn't even believe in God, that their lives would be spared. I believe that ethically and spiritually, Daniel considered the taking of any life or participating in the death by doing nothing to prevent it, as with the wise men, was defilement. In the case of an animal the defilement would come by killing it or by eating it.
This concept brings forth the Eden, no death, diet as God's true intent for the people of Daniel's day, too. And if this is true, which I believe it is, it also adds a great deal of credibility and importance to our living as vegans, today.
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