The Jewish Captives in the Court of the King
Daniel i: 1, to
Jehoiakim was the wicked son of the good King
Josiah. While Jehoiakim was ruling over the land of
Judah, Nebuchadnezzar, the great conqueror of the
nations, came from Babylon with his army of Chaldean
soldiers. He took the city of Jerusalem, and made
Jehoiakim promise to submit to him as his master, a
promise that Jehoiakim soon broke. And when
Nebuchadnezzar went back to his own land he took
with him all the gold and silver that he could find
in the Temple; and he carried away as captives very
many of the princes and nobles, the best people in
the land of Judah.
When these Jews were brought to the land of Chaldea
or Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar gave orders to the
prince who had charge of his palace to choose among
these Jewish captives some young men that were of
noble rank, and beautiful in their looks, and also
quick and bright in their minds, young men who would
be able to learn readily. These young men were to be
placed under the care of wise men, who should teach
them all that they knew, and fit them to stand
before the king of Babylon, so that they might be
his helpers, to carry out his orders; and the king
wished them to be wise, so that they might give him
advice in ruling the people.
Among the young men thus chosen were four Jews, men
who had been brought from Judah. By order of the
king the names of these men were changed. One of
them, named Daniel, was to be called Belteshazzar,
the other three young men were called Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abed-nego. These four young men were
taught in all the knowledge of the Chaldeans; and
after three years of training they were taken into
the king's palace to stand before the king.
After they came to the palace the chief of the
princes in the palace sent to these men as a special
honor some of the dishes of food from the king's
table, and some of the wine that was set apart for
the king and his princes to drink. But both the meat
and the wine of the king's table had been a part of
the offerings to the idols of wood and stone that
were worshipped by the Chaldeans. These young Jews
felt that if they should take such food they, too,
would be worshipping idols. Then, too, the laws of
the Jews were very strict with regard to what kind
of food might be eaten, and how it should be cooked.
Food of certain kinds was called "unclean," and the
Jews were forbidden to touch it.
These young Jews, far away from their own land and
from their temple, felt that they must be very
careful to do nothing forbidden by the laws which
God had given to their people. They said to the
chief of the nobles in the palace:
"We cannot eat this meat and drink this wine, for it
is forbidden by our laws."
The chief of the nobles said to Daniel:
"If you do not eat the food that is given you, the
king will see that you are not looking well. He will
be angry with me for not giving you better care.
What shall I do? I am afraid that the king may
command me to be put to death."
"Give us vegetable food, and bread. Let us eat no
meat, and drink no wine for ten days; and see if we
do not look well-fed."
The chief of the nobles, to whose care these young
men had been given, loved Daniel; as every one loved
him who knew him. So he did as Daniel asked. He took
away the meat and the wine, and gave to these young
Jews only vegetables and bread. At the end of ten
days the four young men were brought into the room
where the great King Nebuchadnezzar sat; and they
bowed low before him. King Nebuchadnezzar was
pleased with these four young men, more than with
any others who stood before him. He found them wise,
and faithful in the work given to them, and able to
rule over men under them. And these four men came to
the highest places in the kingdom of the Chaldeans.
And Daniel, one of these men, was more than a wise
man. He was a prophet, like Elijah, and Elisha, and
Jeremiah. God gave him to know many things that were
coming to pass; and when God sent to any man a dream
that had a deep meaning Daniel could tell what was
the meaning of the dream.
At one time King Nebuchadnezzar dreamed a dream
which troubled him greatly. When he awakened he knew
that the dream had some deep meaning, but in the
morning he had forgotten what the dream was. He sent
for the wise men who had in times past given him the
meaning of his dreams, and said to them:
"O ye wise men, I have dreamed a wonderful dream;
but I have forgotten it. Now tell me what my dream
was, and then tell me what it means; for I am sure
that it has a meaning."
The wise men said:
"O king, may you live forever! If you will tell us
your dream, we will tell you its meaning. But we
have no power to tell both the dream and its
meaning. That only the gods can know."
The king became very angry, for these men had
claimed that their gods gave them all knowledge. He
"Tell me the dream, and its meaning; and I will give
you rich reward and high honor. But if you cannot
tell, I shall know that you are liars, and you shall
be put to death."
The wise men could not do what the king asked; and
in great fury he gave command that all of them
should be slain. Among these men were Daniel and his
three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; and
these four Jews were to be slain with the rest of
the wise men. Daniel said to the chief captain, who
had been sent to kill the wise men:
"Give me a little time; and I will call upon my God.
I know that he will help me to tell to the king his
dream and its meaning."
So time was given; and Daniel and his three friends
prayed to the Lord God. That night the Lord gave to
Daniel the secret of the king's dream and its
meaning. Then Daniel gave praise and thanks to the
Lord; and in the morning he said to the king's
"Do not kill the wise men. Take me before the king,
and I will show him his dream and its meaning."
Then in haste Daniel was brought before King
Nebuchadnezzar. The king said to him:
"Are you able to tell me the dream that I dreamed
and the meaning of it?"
"The wise men of Babylon, who look to their
idol-gods, cannot tell the king his dream. But there
is a God in heaven who knows all things; and he has
given me his servant to know your dream and the
meaning of it. This is the dream, O king. You saw a
great image, tall and noble-looking. The head of
this image was of gold, his breast and his arms were
of silver, his waist and his hips of brass, his legs
of iron, and his feet and toes were of iron and clay
mixed together. And while this great image was
standing, you saw a stone cut out without hands; and
the stone rolled and dashed against the feet of the
image; and the whole image fell down; and was broken
in pieces; and was crushed and ground into a powder
so fine that the wind blew it away like chaff. And
you saw the stone that struck the image grow until
it became a mountain, and it filled the whole world.
This was your dream, O king."
And Daniel went on, and said:
"And this, O king, is the meaning of the dream. God
has shown to you what shall come to pass in the
years that are to be. You are that head of gold, O
king; for that head means your kingdom that now is.
After your kingdom has passed away, another kingdom
shall take its place; the shoulders and arms of
silver. That kingdom shall be followed by
another,—the waist and hips of brass; and after that
shall come one more kingdom, that of iron. But as
you saw a stone cut out without hands; so while the
last of these kingdoms shall be standing, the Lord
God of heaven shall set up his kingdom. And God's
kingdom like that stone, shall be small at first,
but it shall break down and destroy all those
kingdoms. They shall pass away and perish before it.
And as you saw the stone grow into a mountain, so
God's kingdom shall become great, and shall rule all
the lands. And that kingdom of God shall never pass
away, but shall last forever."
When King Nebuchadnezzar heard this he was filled
with wonder. He bowed down before Daniel, and
worshipped him, as though Daniel were a god. Then he
gave to him great presents, and made him ruler over
the part of his kingdom where the city of Babylon
was standing. He gave to Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego,
Daniel's friends, high offices; but Daniel himself
he kept in his palace, to be near him all the time.