Daniel was a Jewish young man, probably of royal descent. As a late teen he was among those deported from Jerusalem by the conquering Babylonians in about 605 BC. After three years of formal education in the language and literature of Babylon, he became an official in the royal household.
Daniel was intelligent, reliable, and had the gift of interpreting significant dreams. But more than anything else it was Daniel’s character that distinguished him from many outstanding government officials in the empire. He had determined early on to always do what was right, and, no matter what the awful price, he kept that commitment throughout his long and productive life.
During his education in Babylon Daniel and the other trainees were served the rich meats and intoxicants of royalty. Determined to follow the dietary rules in God’s Law, Daniel asked if he and his friends could eat a very simple diet. Daniel had to know the danger of insulting his foreign hosts. If his request was interpreted as a conceited rejection of the king’s best, he could be imprisoned or punished severely. But he asked politely and firmly, and the king’s steward finally agreed to let the Hebrews adopt the diet.
During his long 70-year career in Babylon, Daniel occupied a high position in government for many years. One reason he was promoted was his ability to interpret dreams and languages. But both times he was called upon to interpret, the messages he was given to deliver to the respective kings were dreadful. With one word these monarchs could have had Daniel’s head removed from his shoulders, yet Daniel did not retreat in fear or even soften God’s message to these pagans.
In time other Babylonian officials became insanely jealous of Daniel’s success, so they talked King Darius into signing a decree that all citizens should pray only to the king for thirty days. By now Daniel was in his 80s. Other leaders knew Daniel’s decades-long habit of kneeling before his window and praying toward Jerusalem three times each day. Though Daniel realized the decree had been signed, he continued to pray to Yahweh in full view of all. Sure, he could have begun praying in secret, but he didn’t. Undoubtedly these men would have hounded Daniel, attempting anything to destroy him, and Daniel wasn’t about to allow these officials to reduce him to a cowering fugitive.
The king could not rescind a law he had instituted, so he was forced to place this brilliant, devout man in a lions’ pit. These beasts were purposely made ravenous for such occasions, but they didn’t touch Daniel throughout a long night. The king hadn’t eaten or slept and had refused all entertainment. At dawn he rushed to the den and called out, “Daniel, servant of the living God…has he saved you from the lions?” A calm voice echoed from the pit. “My God sent his angel and he shut the mouth of the lions, because I was found innocent in his sight.” It is interesting to note that Daniel’s behavior had proven to the king that his was the living God even before he knew whether Daniel had been spared.
In cases such as his dietary stand, his interpretations, and his prayer life, Daniel did the right thing, even at terrific risk. In Babylonian society Daniel could easily have blended in such a way that his religious faith would have faded into nothingness. Instead he chose to stand against the tide and let all around him know of his staunch faith in the one true and living God.
What can we learn from Daniel?
Daniel believed in obeying God and he didn’t care who knew it. One gets the impression that he didn’t even agonize painfully before deciding to stand for God. His love and commitment to God were indomitable and irreversible. We, too, can gain a reputation for doing right, even if it costs us dearly.
Bible Verses about Daniel
Daniel chaps. 1-12; Ezekiel 14:14, 28:3; Matt. 24:15
What questions does this help to answer?
- Who was Daniel in the Bible?
- How was Daniel faithful to God?
- Who appeared with Daniel in the fiery furnace?
- How should Christians live in but not be of the world?
- Was Jesus in the fiery furnace with Daniel?
Steve Fortosis served for six years as youth minister in several parishes. Meanwhile he was also working toward his masters, then his doctorate in religious education. Through the years he has enjoyed teaching on the college and seminary levels and writing professionally. He has published a number of books including story and prayer compilations, missionary biography, Biblical character biography, devotional lit, children’s lit, and even stories of Bible translation. Presently he resides in Florida with his wife, Debra, where he teaches part-time and writes on a free-lance basis.Steve Fortosis