Daniel was an Israelite born to a very noble Judean family and taken to Babylon as a captive during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, in the sixth century before Christ. The king of Babylon besieged Jerusalem during the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah. He ransacked the house of God taking some of its vessels with him and used some of the most skilful, knowledgable and clever young men of Israel as eunuchs in his royal palace.
Daniel, who was young, good-looking and gifted in all wisdom, was elected – along with Hananiah known as Shadrach, Mishael known as Meshach and Azariah known as Abed Nego – to be taught the language and literature of the Chaldeans in order to serve before the king.
Babylon was a city of great reknown. It was the administrative and political centre of Mesopotamia and also its religious capital. It was a city filled with temples in honour of many pagan divinities. Thus, Daniel was given the name “Belteshazzar” that means “prince of Bel” or “Bel protects the King” to honour the Babylonian divinity Bel. However, despite being away from his roots, Daniel – whose name means “God is my judge” – held firmly to his faith and managed to preserve his identity as his life testifies.
THE RESOLUTION TO BE SEPARATE
Daniel was one of the most righteous man of his generation. Although living in Babylon, a city where eating to excess, idolatry and debauchery were the norm, he did not let sin dominate his life. On the contrary, while he was still a young man, he demonstrated a firm determination to walk according to the law of Yahweh despite a very hostile environment.
“Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.” Daniel 1: 8
He refused to eat what was offered to him and in doing so, he showed his steadfast resolution to not be corrupted. Indeed, this food was dedicated to pagan divinities and was certainly a stumbling block set before the people of Israel to make them disobey the Law of Moses. Daniel understood that partaking to the king’s table meant compromising himself with regard to his faith and implied falling into idolatry, from which he had been well instructed to keep away from.
From that moment on, he decided to stay holy and the favour of God was upon his life. He resolved to solely feed on vegetables for ten days and convinced the chief Eunuch that his health would not be affected. The trial time over, this proved to be the case. Daniel’s countenance appeared fairer and he was fatter in flesh than all the youths that did eat of the king’s dainties (Daniel 1: 15). Moreover, God gave him wisdom to understand all visions and dreams (Daniel 1: 17) and he and his companions were found ten times better than all the wise men of the entire kingdom (Daniel 1: 20).
THE FEAR OF GOD AND ITS FRUITS
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom […] Proverb 9: 10
By humility and fear of the Lord are riches and honour and life. Proverb 22: 4
In the book of Daniel chapter 2, the king Nebuchadnezzar had a very disturbing dream which he could not remember. His spirit was deeply troubled and he could no longer find sleep. As a result, he decided to resort to the magicians, the astrologers, the sorcerers and the Chaldeans of his kingdom to remind him his dream and receive an interpretation. However, none of them was able to give a satisfactory answer. The king was very angry to hear that only the gods could help him so he decided to kill all the wise men of his kingdom. Therefore, the decree was published and they sought Daniel and his friends to be put to death.
When Daniel heard it, he found the king’s decision hasty and requested some time to be granted to him and his companions to pray the Lord his God to receive the correct interpretation. His request was favorably accepted. The secret was revealed to him in a night vision and Daniel promptly informed Nebuchadnezzar who fell on his face saying:
“Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret”. Daniel 2: 47
Consequently, Daniel saved his life and that of the wise men of the kingdom. The king presented him with many great gifts and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief in charge of all the Babylonian wise men.
Later on, in chapter 4, another opportunity to demonstrate the wisdom of God to the eyes of the king presented itself. Nebuchadnezzar had a second dream that could not be explained. And Daniel intervened once more revealing what no other man could have found. As for the meaning, it was not good news; as it predicted an imminent judgment of God over the king. Nevertheless, he praised the Lord and recognised his power and authority.
Daniel’s reputation was established and for decades he remained a key figure of the kingdom.
In the reign of king Belshazzar, son of Nebuchadnezzar, wise men were again called upon to give the interpretation of a handwriting that appeared on the palace wall, during a great feast attended by a thousand royal guests (chapter 5). One more time, Daniel was the only one able to give a precise translation which made the king promote him as the third highest ruler in the kingdom.
Daniel thus became highly regarded and proved that nothing could exceed or outpass the wisdom of God which clearly shows the benefit of fearing God and bearing fruits that exalt His Name. Yahweh God rewarded Daniel’s integrity offering him superior wisdom that produced life, honours and riches as well as adversity. Indeed, walking with God does not help to make friends but often draws some dangerous enemies.
FROM ADVERSITY TO MIRACLE
Unsurprisingly, Daniel’s position and consecration to God created jealousy. Therefore, the high officials and the satraps tried to kill him as they could not bear his dedication to God.
“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” John 15: 19
Thus, the satraps made the king sign a decree stating that no petition should be made to any god or man, except to the king, for thirty days and that death would be the punishment of anyone breaking this decision (Daniel 6: 1-9).
However, Daniel did not fear this intimidation attempt and kept his same old habits praying three times a day in his upper room with opened windows (Daniel 6: 10). His attitude is a perfect example of how one should behave in times of persecution as he persevered and loved God more than his own life, having chosen to obey God’s law rather than the law of men.
He was thrown into a lions’ den because of his faithfulness. But the Lord sent his angel, who miraculously delivered him shuting the mouth of the lions, because Daniel was found blameless (Daniel 6: 11-28).
The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to turn one away from the snares of death. Proverbs 14: 27
THE SECRET OF DANIEL: INTIMACY WITH GOD
In Hosea 4: 6, God declared that his people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. He was actually talking about the understanding of God’s nature and character. Truly, the knowledge of the Almighty God helps to stand firm in all circumstances just like Daniel did. That is why he said:
…The people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. Daniel 11: 32
Daniel was a man of prayer and received great prophecies about the end times. He called unto God who showed him great and hidden things that no one could have ever discovered (Jeremiah 33: 3). In chapter 7, when he was on his bed, he had a first vision of the Son of man and the Ancient of Days. Then, in chapter 10, while he was by the side of the river Tigris, he saw “a certain man clothed in linen” whose description matches that of Jesus Christ as portrayed in the book of Revelation chapter 1. Those exceptional encounters most certainly increased the fear and the thirst of God in his heart.
He was so faithful to God that he received a special testimony while he was still alive. Indeed, the Lord attested his righteousness to the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 14:14 and 20) showing that he was a well-known character of his time. Moreover, from his very young age, he was a great example that inspired his companions to hold on to their faith and firmly stand their ground in difficult times (Daniel 1 and 3). He can thus be seen as one of the instruments that God used to trigger the movement of the coming out of Babylon.
His reward was honourable; he was called: “man greatly beloved” in Daniel 10 verses 11 and 19. Therefore, he is an image of the glorious and spotless church who is out of the world and who does not share the sins of Babylon the great.
And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues”. Revelation 18: 4
Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. Philippians 2: 14-15