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.