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.
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.
The king told Ashpenaz, head of the palace staff, to get some Israelites from the royal family and nobility
- 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.
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.
Four young men from Judah - Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah - were among those selected.
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.
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.
The head of the palace staff, by God's grace, liked Daniel,
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!"
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:
"Try us out for ten days on a simple diet of vegetables and water.
Then compare us with the young men who eat from the royal menu. Make your decision on the basis of what you see."
The steward agreed to do it and fed them vegetables and water for ten days.
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.
So the steward continued to exempt them from the royal menu of food and drink and served them only vegetables.
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.
At the end of the time set by the king for their training, the head of the royal staff brought them in to Nebuchadnezzar.
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.
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.
Daniel continued in the king's service until the first year in the reign of King Cyrus.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)