The Education of Daniel and His Friends
1 1 It was the third year of King Jehoiakim's reign in Judah when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon declared war on Jerusalem and besieged the city. 2 The Master handed King Jehoiakim of Judah over to him, along with some of the furnishings from the Temple of God. Nebuchadnezzar took king and furnishings to the country of Babylon, the ancient Shinar. He put the furnishings in the sacred treasury. 3 The king told Ashpenaz, head of the palace staff, to get some Israelites from the royal family and nobility 4 - young men who were healthy and handsome, intelligent and well-educated, good prospects for leadership positions in the government, perfect specimens! - and indoctrinate them in the Babylonian language and the lore of magic and fortunetelling. 5 The king then ordered that they be served from the same menu as the royal table - the best food, the finest wine. After three years of training they would be given positions in the king's court. 6 Four young men from Judah - Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah - were among those selected. 7 The head of the palace staff gave them Babylonian names: Daniel was named Belteshazzar, Hananiah was named Shadrach, Mishael was named Meshach, Azariah was named Abednego.
8 But Daniel determined that he would not defile himself by eating the king's food or drinking his wine, so he asked the head of the palace staff to exempt him from the royal diet. 9 The head of the palace staff, by God's grace, liked Daniel, 10 but he warned him, "I'm afraid of what my master the king will do. He is the one who assigned this diet and if he sees that you are not as healthy as the rest, he'll have my head!" 11 But Daniel appealed to a steward who had been assigned by the head of the palace staff to be in charge of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: 12 "Try us out for ten days on a simple diet of vegetables and water. 13 Then compare us with the young men who eat from the royal menu. Make your decision on the basis of what you see." 14 The steward agreed to do it and fed them vegetables and water for ten days. 15 At the end of the ten days they looked better and more robust than all the others who had been eating from the royal menu. 16 So the steward continued to exempt them from the royal menu of food and drink and served them only vegetables.
17 God gave these four young men knowledge and skill in both books and life. In addition, Daniel was gifted in understanding all sorts of visions and dreams. 18 At the end of the time set by the king for their training, the head of the royal staff brought them in to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 When the king interviewed them, he found them far superior to all the other young men. None were a match for Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. 20 Whenever the king consulted them on anything, on books or on life, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his kingdom put together. 21 Daniel continued in the king's service until the first year in the reign of King Cyrus.
Daniel Interprets Nebuchadnezzar's Dream
2 1 In the second year of his reign, King Nebuchadnezzar started having dreams that disturbed him deeply. He couldn't sleep. 2 He called in all the Babylonian magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and fortunetellers to interpret his dreams for him. When they came and lined up before the king, 3 he said to them, "I had a dream that I can't get out of my mind. I can't sleep until I know what it means." 4 The fortunetellers, speaking in the Aramaic language, said, "Long live the king! Tell us the dream and we will interpret it." 5 The king answered the fortunetellers, "This is my decree: If you can't tell me both the dream itself and its interpretation, I'll have you ripped to pieces, limb from limb, and your homes torn down. 6 But if you tell me both the dream and its interpretation, I'll lavish you with gifts and honors. So go to it: Tell me the dream and its interpretation." 7 They answered, "If it please your majesty, tell us the dream. We'll give the interpretation." 8 But the king said, "I know what you're up to - you're just playing for time. You know you're up a tree. 9 You know that if you can't tell me my dream, you're doomed. I see right through you - you're going to cook up some fancy stories and confuse the issue until I change my mind. Nothing doing! First tell me the dream, then I'll know that you're on the up and up with the interpretation and not just blowing smoke in my eyes." 10 The fortunetellers said, "Nobody anywhere can do what you ask. And no king, great or small, has ever demanded anything like this from any magician, enchanter, or fortuneteller. 11 What you're asking is impossible unless some god or goddess should reveal it - and they don't hang around with people like us." 12 That set the king off. He lost his temper and ordered the whole company of Babylonian wise men killed. 13 When the death warrant was issued, Daniel and his companions were included. They also were marked for execution.
14 When Arioch, chief of the royal guards, was making arrangements for the execution, Daniel wisely took him aside 15 and quietly asked what was going on: "Why this all of a sudden?" 16 Daniel went to the king and asked for a little time so that he could interpret the dream. 17 Daniel then went home and told his companions Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah what was going on. 18 He asked them to pray to the God of heaven for mercy in solving this mystery so that the four of them wouldn't be killed along with the whole company of Babylonian wise men. 19 That night the answer to the mystery was given to Daniel in a vision. Daniel blessed the God of heaven, 20 saying, "Blessed be the name of God, forever and ever. He knows all, does all: 21 He changes the seasons and guides history, He raises up kings and also brings them down, he provides both intelligence and discernment, 22 He opens up the depths, tells secrets, sees in the dark - light spills out of him! 23 God of all my ancestors, all thanks! all praise! You made me wise and strong. And now you've shown us what we asked for. You've solved the king's mystery."
24 So Daniel went back to Arioch, who had been put in charge of the execution. He said, "Call off the execution! Take me to the king and I'll interpret his dream." 25 Arioch didn't lose a minute. He ran to the king, bringing Daniel with him, and said, "I've found a man from the exiles of Judah who can interpret the king's dream!" 26 The king asked Daniel (renamed in Babylonian, Belteshazzar), "Are you sure you can do this - tell me the dream I had and interpret it for me?" 27 Daniel answered the king, "No mere human can solve the king's mystery, I don't care who it is - no wise man, enchanter, magician, diviner. 28 But there is a God in heaven who solves mysteries, and he has solved this one. He is letting King Nebuchadnezzar in on what is going to happen in the days ahead. This is the dream you had when you were lying on your bed, the vision that filled your mind: 29 "While you were stretched out on your bed, O king, thoughts came to you regarding what is coming in the days ahead. The Revealer of Mysteries showed you what will happen. 30 But the interpretation is given through me, not because I'm any smarter than anyone else in the country, but so that you will know what it means, so that you will understand what you dreamed.
31 "What you saw, O king, was a huge statue standing before you, striking in appearance. And terrifying. 32 The head of the statue was pure gold, the chest and arms were silver, the belly and hips were bronze, 33 the legs were iron, and the feet were an iron-ceramic mixture. 34 While you were looking at this statue, a stone cut out of a mountain by an invisible hand hit the statue, smashing its iron-ceramic feet. 35 Then the whole thing fell to pieces - iron, tile, bronze, silver, and gold, smashed to bits. It was like scraps of old newspapers in a vacant lot in a hot dry summer, blown every which way by the wind, scattered to oblivion. But the stone that hit the statue became a huge mountain, dominating the horizon. 36 This was your dream. 37 You, O king, are the most powerful king on earth. The God of heaven has given you the works: rule, power, strength, and glory. 38 He has put you in charge of men and women, wild animals and birds, all over the world - you're the head ruler, you are the head of gold. 39 But your rule will be taken over by another kingdom, inferior to yours, and that one by a third, a bronze kingdom, but still ruling the whole land, 40 and after that by a fourth kingdom, iron-like in strength. Just as iron smashes things to bits, breaking and pulverizing, it will bust up the previous kingdoms. 41 "But then the feet and toes that ended up as a mixture of ceramic and iron will deteriorate into a mongrel kingdom with some remains of iron in it. Just as the toes of the feet were part ceramic and part iron, 42 it will end up a mixed bag of the breakable and unbreakable. 43 That kingdom won't bond, won't hold together any more than iron and clay hold together. 44 "But throughout the history of these kingdoms, the God of heaven will be building a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will this kingdom ever fall under the domination of another. In the end it will crush the other kingdoms and finish them off and come through it all standing strong and eternal. 45 It will be like the stone cut from the mountain by the invisible hand that crushed the iron, the bronze, the ceramic, the silver, and the gold. "The great God has let the king know what will happen in the years to come. This is an accurate telling of the dream, and the interpretation is also accurate."
46 When Daniel finished, King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face in awe before Daniel. He ordered the offering of sacrifices and burning of incense in Daniel's honor. 47 He said to Daniel, "Your God is beyond question the God of all gods, the Master of all kings. And he solves all mysteries, I know, because you've solved this mystery." 48 Then the king promoted Daniel to a high position in the kingdom, lavished him with gifts, and made him governor over the entire province of Babylon and the chief in charge of all the Babylonian wise men. 49 At Daniel's request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to administrative posts throughout Babylon, while Daniel governed from the royal headquarters.
The Deliverance from the Fiery Furnace
3 1 King Nebuchadnezzar built a gold statue, ninety feet high and nine feet thick. He set it up on the Dura plain in the province of Babylon. 2 He then ordered all the important leaders in the province, everybody who was anybody, to the dedication ceremony of the statue. 3 They all came for the dedication, all the important people, and took their places before the statue that Nebuchadnezzar had erected. 4 A herald then proclaimed in a loud voice: "Attention, everyone! Every race, color, and creed, listen! 5 When you hear the band strike up - all the trumpets and trombones, the tubas and baritones, the drums and cymbals - fall to your knees and worship the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 Anyone who does not kneel and worship shall be thrown immediately into a roaring furnace." 7 The band started to play, a huge band equipped with all the musical instruments of Babylon, and everyone - every race, color, and creed - fell to their knees and worshiped the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
8 Just then, some Babylonian fortunetellers stepped up and accused the Jews. 9 They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, "Long live the king! 10 You gave strict orders, O king, that when the big band started playing, everyone had to fall to their knees and worship the gold statue, 11 and whoever did not go to their knees and worship it had to be pitched into a roaring furnace. 12 Well, there are some Jews here - Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego - whom you have placed in high positions in the province of Babylon. These men are ignoring you, O king. They don't respect your gods and they won't worship the gold statue you set up." 13 Furious, King Nebuchadnezzar ordered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to be brought in. When the men were brought in, 14 Nebuchadnezzar asked, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you don't respect my gods and refuse to worship the gold statue that I have set up? 15 I'm giving you a second chance - but from now on, when the big band strikes up you must go to your knees and worship the statue I have made. If you don't worship it, you will be pitched into a roaring furnace, no questions asked. Who is the god who can rescue you from my power?" 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, "Your threat means nothing to us. 17 If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. 18 But even if he doesn't, it wouldn't make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn't serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up."
19 Nebuchadnezzar, his face purple with anger, cut off Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace fired up seven times hotter than usual. 20 He ordered some strong men from the army to tie them up, hands and feet, and throw them into the roaring furnace. 21 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, bound hand and foot, fully dressed from head to toe, were pitched into the roaring fire. 22 Because the king was in such a hurry and the furnace was so hot, flames from the furnace killed the men who carried Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to it, 23 while the fire raged around Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 24 Suddenly King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in alarm and said, "Didn't we throw three men, bound hand and foot, into the fire?" "That's right, O king," they said. 25 "But look!" he said. "I see four men, walking around freely in the fire, completely unharmed! And the fourth man looks like a son of the gods!" 26 Nebuchadnezzar went to the door of the roaring furnace and called in, "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the High God, come out here!" Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked out of the fire. 27 All the important people, the government leaders and king's counselors, gathered around to examine them and discovered that the fire hadn't so much as touched the three men - not a hair singed, not a scorch mark on their clothes, not even the smell of fire on them!
28 Nebuchadnezzar said, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel and rescued his servants who trusted in him! They ignored the king's orders and laid their bodies on the line rather than serve or worship any god but their own. 29 "Therefore I issue this decree: Anyone anywhere, of any race, color, or creed, who says anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego will be ripped to pieces, limb from limb, and their houses torn down. There has never been a god who can pull off a rescue like this." 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.