Daniel and his friends taken captive
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.
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
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 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
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
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.