The Book of Daniel begins in 605 BC, at the beginning of the Babylonian exile. This was the first deportation, before Jerusalem was burned and the Temple destroyed. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were four of the young men that were taken captive and brought to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar called the latter three Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These Chaldean names were representative of the Babylonian gods, “Marduk,” “Bel”, and “Nebo.” The king had the young people educated for three years. By doing so and giving them these names, as well as feeding them the luxurious foods of the king, he intended to strip them of their Hebrew identities, in order to complete their assimilation. The food from the kings’s table would also serve to remind them of the source of their daily bread.
But Daniel convinced the chief of the Eunuchs (in whose eyes God had given him favor – verse 9) to allow them to be fed only vegetables and water. Verse 15 tells us that at the end of ten days on this diet, their appearance was better than the youths that ate the generous diet of the king – obviously more of God’s work. Verse 17 states that God gave these four learning and skill in literature and wisdom. Daniel was given understanding of dreams and vision. When the time came for them to appear before the king, he was pleased to find their wisdom very great indeed ( verse 20). Also, in verses 11 and 18, we see that Daniel referred to them by their real names. The boys were refusing to be turned from serving the Lord, despite their circumstances.
Verse 21 says that Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus, when Cyrus conquered Babylon in 539 BC. These four youths demonstrated that it is possible to remain faithful to the Lord while living among the pressures of pagan influences.
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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