For an introduction to this series, click here.
Oct. 18, 2006
The first six chapters of Daniel are so familiar that they have become commonplace. I hope I can bring them to you in a different perspective than you have seen before, but then maybe not. Anyway, here goes.
Daniel is one of the lucky ones who gets a promotion after the fall of Jerusalem. Instead of being one of many young nobles in the small country of Judah, he is now a respected member of the court of the greatest empire in the world. Unlike previous empires like the Assyrians, who conquered the Northern kingdom of Israel and with whom Hezekiah had memorable battles, Babylon was a multicultural society. They wanted contributions from the cultures they conquered, instead of assuming that they were superior because they were victorious. But the Babylonians weren't just broad-minded people - they had learned that allowing people to keep some of their traditions made the far-flung provinces easier to control.
But Daniel's life still wasn't easy. Twice in these chapters Daniel finds himself between a rock and a hard place, so to speak. He recognizes the great opportunity he has been given, and is determined to make the best of it. However, he is also determined to remain true to his Jewish culture, and that means he can only eat kosher food. Unfortunately, Babylon did not have kosher delis. Daniel and his colleagues who found favor with the king were to eat food provided by the king. Daniel has a choice to make, and he chooses not to give in like apparently most of his peers did. He acts on faith that God will bless his choice, and God does. God works it out so that the king would provide Daniel and his three friends - Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego - with kosher food.
In the second chapter, the king is suspicious of his "wise men." He gets tired of their vague and generalized answers to his dreams, so he comes up with a challenge. Tell me the dream and the interpretation, and then I will know you are for real. If not, I will kill you. Well naturally the wise men were flabbergasted. They definitely didn't see this one coming. The captain comes to Daniel's house (we don't know if he has already killed some of the other wise men) and gives him the king's pronouncement. Daniel asks for a little bit of time, and that night God gives him the dream and the interpretation.
Daniel's statement to the king is one of the key verses in the book when he says, "But there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries." There is some evidence that thanks to Daniel and his three friends, the king became a believer. Daniel is the ultimate example of making the best of a bad situation.