Advisors To The King
What follows is the story of Daniel’s adventures with God as recorded in the Bible. It is being presented as if Daniel himself is telling the story in his own words.
It would have been the summer of 605 BC on your calendar when everything fell apart for my people. I was 13 years old and a Royal Prince of Judah. For 150 years the LORD had been threatening us with judgment if we didn’t stop offending Him with our pagan behavior, even using the defeat and capture of our cousins, the 10 tribes of Israel to demonstrate what would happen to us. Remember, after the death of King Solomon 300 years earlier a civil war had split us into two countries, Israel in the north and Judah in the south.
The LORD first had Isaiah warn my great uncle Hezekiah about Babylon (you call it Iraq) when he was King of Judah (Isaiah 39) and had spoken through all the prophets since that time that He was running out of patience with us. But like humans throughout the age, we didn’t think He would really follow through. Boy was that a mistake.
To give you a little background, Nabopolazzar had been King of Babylon and his 20 year old son Nebuchadnezzar was the General of the Army when Babylonian forces defeated Pharoah Neco of Egypt at the Battle of Carchemish in 606 BC. Having earlier conquered Assyria, the Babylonians were now pretty much rulers of all the known world, and remembering the stories he had heard growing up about Israel’s legendary wealth, Nebuchadnezzar decided to attack Jerusalem on his way home. (He didn’t know it then, but he was being used as the LORD’s instrument of judgment against us.)
This was the first of three battles that over the next 19 years would bring about Jerusalem’s total destruction. In the process the glorious Temple of Solomon would be burned to the ground and the wealth of Judah and all its survivors carried off to Babylon for 70 years of servitude, leaving Jerusalem a desolate heap of ruins. It seems that for 490 years we had ignored the LORD’S commandment to let our land lay fallow one year out of every seven. It was called a Sabbath for the Land and was spelled out in Leviticus 25:1-7. Our defeat by Babylon was the LORD’S punishment for our worship of false gods, the length of our servitude being determined by the 70 Sabbath Years we had skipped. And so “The land enjoyed its Sabbath Rests; all the time of its desolation it rested until the 70 years were completed in fulfillment of the Word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah” (2 Chron. 36:21). As I said, the prophets had foretold all these things, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
To forestall our total defeat and try to squirm out from under the LORD’S judgment, the Rulers of Judah had pledged their allegiance to Babylon. They also agreed to pay an enormous annual tribute to Nebuchadnezzar, who had recently learned of the death of his father and was now King of Babylon. As a show of good faith my uncle, King Jehoiakim, agreed to let Nebuchadnezzar take several Royal Princes and other nobles to Babylon as hostages. I was one of those chosen to go, and among the others were my three best friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. (Nebuchadnezzar had them re-named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and those are the names by which you know them today. My new name, Belteshazzar never really took hold.)
Later I learned that Ezekiel, although a Levite, had been taken as well and would document the defeat of Judah from Babylon while Jeremiah was left behind to give an eyewitness account from Jerusalem.
In Babylon we joined the best of the other hostages in a three-year training program designed to teach us the language and culture of the Babylonians and prepare us for service to the King. We were offered food and drink from the King’s private kitchen, but since it wasn’t kosher the four of us declined, asking for vegetables and water instead. This created a huge problem for the man in charge and could have gotten him fired or even executed, but he agreed to give us a 10 day trial period and then compare us with the others who were eating the King’s food and drinking his wine.
It wasn’t so much that the King’s food was bad, but that the LORD was honoring our obedience to His commandments when at the end of the 10 days we looked healthier and better nourished than the rest. So they let us stay on our diet, and the LORD gave us supernatural knowledge and understanding even granting me the power to interpret dreams and visions. This would soon come in very handy.
When our training was complete, we were thoroughly examined by the King and must have passed with flying colors, because he appointed us to his board of advisers. Imagine, three Jewish teenagers as advisors to the ruler of the known world. But since the King himself was only in his early twenties, and since he didn’t trust the advisers he had inherited from his father as far as he could throw them, it did make some sense. Maybe that’s where the phrase, “Don’t trust anyone over 30,” really originated.
Of course you don’t last very long in politics without learning some survival skills and so the older advisers, although clearly jealous of our appointment, went along with it and began looking for an opportunity to get revenge. It would take them a few years, but even after we literally saved their necks, they struck back twice and almost got us.