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The Exile

[Daniel 1-6]

Daniel and his friends taken captive

[Daniel 1] During the first captivity of Jews from Jerusalem, when Nebuchadnezzar besieged the city, among those taken captive with the sole purpose of being trained for service to the king are Daniel and three of his companions: Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The four are given the names Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego by the prince of eunuchs in whose charge they have been placed. The trainees are provided with a daily portion of the king’s meat and wine. In fear of defiling himself, Daniel abstains from the king’s provision but, to gain approval and prove himself and his companions, agrees they should live on water and pulse for ten days. When the ten days are up, the four young men appear in better health than those eating the king’s meat. Their abstinence then accepted, they continue their training and grow in wisdom and understanding, to the extent that the king judges them to be ten times more knowledgeable than all the magicians and astrologers in his realm.

Nebuchadnezzar’s dream

[Daniel 2] After the young men’s three years of training, Nebuchadnezzar has a dream that troubles him, yet he appears to forget its content. He calls on his wise men to tell him what the dream was and then to interpret it, threatening death if they do not, but great rewards if they do. They naturally say the demand is unreasonable, which angers the king and he orders their execution. As they are numbered amongst the wise, this puts Daniel and his companions in danger, so Daniel approaches the king to ask to be given time to divulge and interpret the dream. Following prayer, Daniel is shown the dream in the night and is able to relate it to the king the next day, and its interpretation concerning the four kingdoms, or empires, and God’s everlasting kingdom. Daniel rightly gives credit to God for the interpretation. Nebuchadnezzar rewards him with gifts and promotes him to rule over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon. At Daniel’s request, his three companions are made his deputies.

The fiery furnace

[Daniel 3] Nebuchadnezzar has an image made of gold having a height of 60 cubits (approximately 90 ft or 27 m) and a breadth of 6 cubits (approximately 18 ft or 5.4 m). He convenes a large assembly for the dedication of the image, led by all his princes, governors and officers. A proclamation is given that every person must fall down and worship the image when they hear the sound of music, under pain of death by fire. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are seen disobeying this command and are reported to the king, who summons them for questioning. They admit their disobedience and refuse to comply, putting their trust in God. In anger, the king orders the furnace to be heated to seven times hotter than usual, and for the three to be cast into it. The heat is such that it kills the men casting them into the furnace, but the king is then astonished to see the three men with a fourth walking around in the fire. Nebuchadnezzar says, ‘The form of the fourth is like the Son of God.’ He calls the men from the furnace and they emerge completely unscathed, leading Nebuchadnezzar to give praise to God and decree that no person is to speak against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. If they do, then they will be executed and their property destroyed. The three are then restored to the positions held before they were accused and given more responsibilities.

Nebuchadnezzar’s testimony

[Daniel 4] Nebuchadnezzar is the author of this chapter, which in his words is a testimony of the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me. Nebuchadnezzar has another dream; this one troubles him and even makes him afraid. His wise men are unable to interpret it, so he calls on Daniel and relates the dream to him. Daniel is astonished by the dream, as the interpretation is that Nebuchadnezzar will lose his mind for seven years in order that he will come to know that God is all powerful. He will then be restored to his position as king of Babylon. After a year during which nothing happens, and while the king is reflecting on his achievements, he is struck down just as the dream foretold, and is reduced to behaving like an animal. After seven years in this mental state, Nebuchadnezzar’s mind is healed and he gives praise to God. His position is restored with more honour than before, and in his praise of God, he recognises that God will deal with the proud.

The writing on the wall

[Daniel 5] Many years later Belshazzar holds a great feast for a thousand of his lords, during which he calls for and uses the gold and silver vessels that had been taken from the temple by his father. While they are praising the gods of gold, silver, brass, iron and wood, a hand is seen writing a message on the wall. This terrifies the king and he sends for his wise men, but they are unable to interpret the message. His distress grows and is visible to all, so much so that his mother recommends he consults Daniel, who is then sent for. Daniel is promised a great reward if he can interpret the writing, but he declines the offer, praises the king’s father but charges the king with pride, idolatry and profaning the vessels from the temple. Daniel then interprets the writing, which is a short condemnation of Belshazzar and an announcement that he is to lose his kingdom. Daniel is given the rewards promised and is made third ruler in the kingdom. That night the city is invaded and Darius the Mede takes the kingdom.

Daniel and the lions’ den

[Daniel 6] Because of the excellent spirit that was in Daniel, Darius promotes him to be over all the presidents and princes in his kingdom. Daniel’s high position causes envy amongst Darius’ officials and they seek to be rid of him, but can find no fault. Their only means would be through his faithfulness to God, so a plot is hatched to bring about his death. They approach Darius with a decree that whosoever shall ask a petition of any god or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. Darius agrees to sign this decree and having done so, under the Mede and Persian law, it cannot be revoked, even by the king. Daniel, despite knowing of this decree, continues with his daily prayers at his window, which faces east towards Jerusalem. His praying is seen and reported with the intended consequence that Daniel has to be thrown in the lions’ den. Precautions are put in place to prevent Daniel being helped or rescued, and the king spends a sleepless night worrying about Daniel’s fate. In the morning he goes straight to the den and finds Daniel safe. He then orders Daniel’s accusers and their families to be cast into the den, and makes a decree that all are to fear the God of Daniel. Daniel continues to prosper throughout the reigns of Darius and Cyrus, and sees some of his people being returned to Jerusalem by the decree of Cyrus. Daniel is not known to have returned to Jerusalem and the timing and nature of his death are not recorded.

Hierarchical Précis