In the third year that Jehoiakim was king of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia attacked Jerusalem and surrounded the city.
The Lord let him capture King Jehoiakim and seize some of the Temple treasures. He took some prisoners back with him to the temple of his gods in Babylon, and put the captured treasures in the temple storerooms.
The king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief official, to select from among the Israelite exiles some young men of the royal family and of the noble families.
They had to be handsome, intelligent, well-trained, quick to learn, and free from physical defects, so that they would be qualified to serve in the royal court. Ashpenaz was to teach them to read and write the Babylonian language.
The king also gave orders that every day they were to be given the same food and wine as the members of the royal court. After three years of this training they were to appear before the king.
Among those chosen were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, all of whom were from the tribe of Judah.
The chief official gave them new names: Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Daniel made up his mind not to let himself become ritually unclean by eating the food and drinking the wine of the royal court, so he asked Ashpenaz to help him,
and God made Ashpenaz sympathetic to Daniel.
Ashpenaz, however, was afraid of the king, so he said to Daniel, "The king has decided what you are to eat and drink, and if you don't look as fit as the other young men, he may kill me."
So Daniel went to the guard whom Ashpenaz had placed in charge of him and his three friends.
"Test us for ten days," he said. "Give us vegetables to eat and water to drink.
Then compare us with the young men who are eating the food of the royal court, and base your decision on how we look."
He agreed to let them try it for ten days.
When the time was up, they looked healthier and stronger than all those who had been eating the royal food.
So from then on the guard let them continue to eat vegetables instead of what the king provided.
God gave the four young men knowledge and skill in literature and philosophy. In addition, he gave Daniel skill in interpreting visions and dreams.
At the end of the three years set by the king, Ashpenaz took all the young men to Nebuchadnezzar.
The king talked with them all, and Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah impressed him more than any of the others. So they became members of the king's court.
No matter what question the king asked or what problem he raised, these four knew ten times more than any fortuneteller or magician in his whole kingdom.
Daniel remained at the royal court until Cyrus, the emperor of Persia, conquered Babylonia.
In the second year that Nebuchadnezzar was king, he had a dream. It worried him so much that he couldn't sleep,
so he sent for his fortunetellers, magicians, sorcerers, and wizards to come and explain the dream to him. When they came and stood before the king,
he said to them, "I'm worried about a dream I've had. I want to know what it means."
They answered the king in Aramaic, "May Your Majesty live forever! Tell us your dream, and we will explain it to you."
The king said to them, "I have made up my mind that you must tell me the dream and then tell me what it means. If you can't, I'll have you torn limb from limb and make your houses a pile of ruins.
But if you can tell me both the dream and its meaning, I will reward you with gifts and great honor. Now then, tell me what the dream was and what it means."
They answered the king again, "If Your Majesty will only tell us what the dream was, we will explain it."
At that, the king exclaimed, "Just as I thought! You are trying to gain time, because you see that I have made up my mind
to give all of you the same punishment if you don't tell me the dream. You have agreed among yourselves to go on telling me lies because you hope that in time things will change. Tell me what the dream was, and then I will know that you can also tell me what it means."
The advisers replied, "There is no one on the face of the earth who can tell Your Majesty what you want to know. No king, not even the greatest and most powerful, has ever made such a demand of his fortunetellers, magicians, and wizards.
What Your Majesty is asking for is so difficult that no one can do it for you except the gods, and they do not live among human beings."
At that, the king flew into a rage and ordered the execution of all the royal advisers in Babylon.
So the order was issued for all of them to be killed, including Daniel and his friends.
Then Daniel went to Arioch, commander of the king's bodyguard, who had been ordered to carry out the execution. Choosing his words carefully,
he asked Arioch why the king had issued such a harsh order. So Arioch told Daniel what had happened.
Daniel went at once and obtained royal permission for more time, so that he could tell the king what the dream meant.
Then Daniel went home and told his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah what had happened.
He told them to pray to the God of heaven for mercy and to ask him to explain the mystery to them so that they would not be killed along with the other advisers in Babylon.
Then that same night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision, and he praised the God of heaven:
"God is wise and powerful! Praise him forever and ever.
He controls the times and the seasons; he makes and unmakes kings; it is he who gives wisdom and understanding.
He reveals things that are deep and secret; he knows what is hidden in darkness, and he himself is surrounded by light.
I praise you and honor you, God of my ancestors. You have given me wisdom and strength; you have answered my prayer and shown us what to tell the king."
So Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had commanded to execute the royal advisers. He said to him, "Don't put them to death. Take me to the king, and I will tell him what his dream means."
At once Arioch took Daniel into King Nebuchadnezzar's presence and told the king, "I have found one of the Jewish exiles who can tell Your Majesty the meaning of your dream."
The king said to Daniel (who was also called Belteshazzar), "Can you tell me what I dreamed and what it means?"
Daniel replied, "Your Majesty, there is no wizard, magician, fortuneteller, or astrologer who can tell you that.
But there is a God in heaven, who reveals mysteries. He has informed Your Majesty what will happen in the future. Now I will tell you the dream, the vision you had while you were asleep.
"While Your Majesty was sleeping, you dreamed about the future; and God, who reveals mysteries, showed you what is going to happen.
Now, this mystery was revealed to me, not because I am wiser than anyone else, but so that Your Majesty may learn the meaning of your dream and understand the thoughts that have come to you.
"Your Majesty, in your vision you saw standing before you a giant statue, bright and shining, and terrifying to look at.
Its head was made of the finest gold; its chest and arms were made of silver; its waist and hips of bronze,
its legs of iron, and its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.
While you were looking at it, a great stone broke loose from a cliff without anyone touching it, struck the iron and clay feet of the statue, and shattered them.
At once the iron, clay, bronze, silver, and gold crumbled and became like the dust on a threshing place in summer. The wind carried it all away, leaving not a trace. But the stone grew to be a mountain that covered the whole earth.
"This was the dream. Now I will tell Your Majesty what it means.
Your Majesty, you are the greatest of all kings. The God of heaven has made you emperor and given you power, might, and honor.
He has made you ruler of all the inhabited earth and ruler over all the animals and birds. You are the head of gold.
After you there will be another empire, not as great as yours, and after that a third, an empire of bronze, which will rule the whole earth.
And then there will be a fourth empire, as strong as iron, which shatters and breaks everything. And just as iron shatters everything, it will shatter and crush all the earlier empires.
You also saw that the feet and the toes were partly clay and partly iron. This means that it will be a divided empire. It will have something of the strength of iron, because there was iron mixed with the clay.
The toes - partly iron and partly clay - mean that part of the empire will be strong and part of it weak.
You also saw that the iron was mixed with the clay. This means that the rulers of that empire will try to unite their families by intermarriage, but they will not be able to, any more than iron can mix with clay.
At the time of those rulers the God of heaven will establish a kingdom that will never end. It will never be conquered, but will completely destroy all those empires and then last forever.
You saw how a stone broke loose from a cliff without anyone touching it and how it struck the statue made of iron, bronze, clay, silver, and gold. The great God is telling Your Majesty what will happen in the future. I have told you exactly what you dreamed, and have given you its true meaning."
Then King Nebuchadnezzar bowed to the ground and gave orders for sacrifices and offerings to be made to Daniel.
The king said, "Your God is the greatest of all gods, the Lord over kings, and the one who reveals mysteries. I know this because you have been able to explain this mystery."
Then he gave Daniel a high position, presented him with many splendid gifts, put him in charge of the province of Babylon, and made him the head of all the royal advisers.
At Daniel's request the king put Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in charge of the affairs of the province of Babylon; Daniel, however, remained at the royal court.
King Nebuchadnezzar had a gold statue made, ninety feet high and nine feet wide, and he had it set up in the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.
Then the king gave orders for all his officials to come together - the princes, governors, lieutenant governors, commissioners, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the other officials of the provinces. They were to attend the dedication of the statue which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
When all these officials gathered for the dedication and stood in front of the statue,
a herald announced in a loud voice, "People of all nations, races, and languages!
You will hear the sound of the trumpets, followed by the playing of oboes, lyres, zithers, and harps; and then all the other instruments will join in. As soon as the music starts, you are to bow down and worship the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.
Anyone who does not bow down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace."
And so, as soon as they heard the sound of the instruments, the people of all the nations, races, and languages bowed down and worshiped the gold statue which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
It was then that some Babylonians took the opportunity to denounce the Jews.
They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, "May Your Majesty live forever!
Your Majesty has issued an order that as soon as the music starts, everyone is to bow down and worship the gold statue,
and that anyone who does not bow down and worship it is to be thrown into a blazing furnace.
There are some Jews whom you put in charge of the province of Babylon - Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego - who are disobeying Your Majesty's orders. They do not worship your god or bow down to the statue you set up."
At that, the king flew into a rage and ordered the three men to be brought before him.
He said to them, "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, is it true that you refuse to worship my god and to bow down to the gold statue I have set up?
Now then, as soon as you hear the sound of the trumpets, oboes, lyres, zithers, harps, and all the other instruments, bow down and worship the statue. If you do not, you will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace. Do you think there is any god who can save you?"
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered, "Your Majesty, we will not try to defend ourselves.
If the God whom we serve is able to save us from the blazing furnace and from your power, then he will.
But even if he doesn't, Your Majesty may be sure that we will not worship your god, and we will not bow down to the gold statue that you have set up."
Then Nebuchadnezzar lost his temper, and his face turned red with anger at Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. So he ordered the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than usual.
And he commanded the strongest men in his army to tie the three men up and throw them into the blazing furnace.
So they tied them up, fully dressed - shirts, robes, caps, and all - and threw them into the blazing furnace.
Now because the king had given strict orders for the furnace to be made extremely hot, the flames burned up the guards who took the men to the furnace.
Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, still tied up, fell into the heart of the blazing fire.
Suddenly Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement. He asked his officials, "Didn't we tie up three men and throw them into the blazing furnace?" They answered, "Yes, we did, Your Majesty."
"Then why do I see four men walking around in the fire?" he asked. "They are not tied up, and they show no sign of being hurt - and the fourth one looks like an angel."
So Nebuchadnezzar went up to the door of the blazing furnace and called out, "Shadrach! Meshach! Abednego! Servants of the Supreme God! Come out!" And they came out at once.
All the princes, governors, lieutenant governors, and other officials of the king gathered to look at the three men, who had not been harmed by the fire. Their hair was not singed, their clothes were not burned, and there was no smell of smoke on them.
The king said, "Praise the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel and rescued these men who serve and trust him. They disobeyed my orders and risked their lives rather than bow down and worship any god except their own.
"And now I command that if anyone of any nation, race, or language speaks disrespectfully of the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, he is to be torn limb from limb, and his house is to be made a pile of ruins. There is no other god who can rescue like this."
And the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to higher positions in the province of Babylon.