During the third year that Jehoiakim was king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and surrounded it with his army.
The Lord allowed Nebuchadnezzar to capture Jehoiakim king of Judah. Nebuchadnezzar also took some of the things from the Temple of God, which he carried to Babylonia and put in the temple of his gods.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar ordered Ashpenaz, his chief officer, to bring some of the Israelite men into his palace. He wanted them to be from important families, including the family of the king of Judah.
King Nebuchadnezzar wanted only young Israelite men who had nothing wrong with them. They were to be handsome and well educated, capable of learning and understanding, and able to serve in his palace. Ashpenaz was to teach them the language and writings of the Babylonians.
The king gave the young men a certain amount of food and wine every day, just like the food he ate. The young men were to be trained for three years, and then they would become servants of the king of Babylon.
Among those young men were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah from the people of Judah.
Ashpenaz, the chief officer, gave them Babylonian names. Daniel's new name was Belteshazzar, Hananiah's was Shadrach, Mishael's was Meshach, and Azariah's was Abednego.
Daniel decided not to eat the king's food or drink his wine because that would make him unclean. So he asked Ashpenaz for permission not to make himself unclean in this way.
God made Ashpenaz, the chief officer, want to be kind and merciful to Daniel,
but Ashpenaz said to Daniel, "I am afraid of my master, the king. He ordered me to give you this food and drink. If you begin to look worse than other young men your age, the king will see this. Then he will cut off my head because of you."
Ashpenaz had ordered a guard to watch Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
Daniel said to the guard, "Please give us this test for ten days: Don't give us anything but vegetables to eat and water to drink.
After ten days compare how we look with how the other young men look who eat the king's food. See for yourself and then decide how you want to treat us, your servants."
So the guard agreed to test them for ten days.
After ten days they looked healthier and better fed than all the young men who ate the king's food.
So the guard took away the king's special food and wine, feeding them vegetables instead.
God gave these four young men wisdom and the ability to learn many things that people had written and studied. Daniel could also understand visions and dreams.
At the end of the time set for them by the king, Ashpenaz brought all the young men to King Nebuchadnezzar.
The king talked to them and found that none of the young men were as good as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So those four young men became the king's servants.
Every time the king asked them about something important, they showed much wisdom and understanding. They were ten times better than all the fortune-tellers and magicians in his kingdom!
So Daniel continued to be the king's servant until the first year Cyrus was king.