It was the third year that Jehoiakim was king of Judah. Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem. His armies surrounded the city and attacked it. Nebuchadnezzar was king of Babylonia.
The LORD handed Jehoiakim, the king of Judah, over to him. Nebuchadnezzar also took some of the articles from God's temple. He carried them off to the temple of his god in Babylonia. He put them among the treasures of his god.
The king gave Ashpenaz an order. Ashpenaz was the chief of Nebuchadnezzar's court officials. The king told him to bring in some of the Israelites. He wanted nobles and men from the royal family.
He was looking for young men who were healthy and handsome. They had to be able to learn anything. They had to be well educated. They had to have the ability to understand new things quickly and easily. The king wanted men who could serve in his palace. Ashpenaz was supposed to teach them the Babylonian language and writings.
The king had his servants give them food and wine from his own table. They received a certain amount every day. The young men had to be trained for three years. After that, they could begin to serve the king.
Some of the men were from Judah. Their names were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.
The chief official gave them new names. He gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar. He gave Hananiah the name Shadrach. He gave Mishael the name Meshach. And he gave Azariah the name Abednego.
Daniel decided not to make himself "unclean" by eating the king's food and drinking his wine. So he asked the chief official for a favor. He wanted permission not to make himself "unclean" with the king's food and wine.
God had caused the official to be kind and friendly to Daniel.
But the official refused to do what Daniel asked for. He said, "I'm afraid of the king. He is my master. He has decided what you and your three friends must eat and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men who are the same age you are? When he sees how you look, he might kill me."
So Daniel spoke to one of the guards. The chief official had appointed him over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.
Daniel said to him, "Please test us for ten days. Give us nothing but vegetables to eat. And give us only water to drink.
Then compare us with the young men who eat the king's food. See how we look. After that, do what you want to."
So the guard agreed. He tested them for ten days.
After the ten days they looked healthy and well fed. In fact, they looked better than any of the young men who ate the king's food.
So the guard didn't require Daniel and his friends to eat the special food or drink the wine. He gave them vegetables instead.
God gave knowledge and understanding to those four young men. So they understood all kinds of writings and subjects. And Daniel could understand all kinds of visions and dreams.
The three years the king had set for their training ended. So the chief official brought them to Nebuchadnezzar.
The king talked with them. He didn't find anyone equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. So they began to serve the king.
He asked them for advice in matters that required wisdom and understanding. He always found their answers to be the best. In fact, the men were ten times better than anyone in his kingdom who claimed to get knowledge by using magic.
Daniel served in Babylon until the first year Cyrus ruled over Babylonia. Cyrus was king of Persia.