Daniel's life was turned upside down at the age of seventeen. Raised as a member of the Jewish nobility, the Hebrew teenager was captured and forcibly taken from his conquered city, Jerusalem, to the country of Babylon where King Nebuchadnezzar ruled.
Soon after his arrival, Daniel, three of his friends, and a group of other young members of the Jewish royal family and nobility found themselves being trained in the ways of the palace. This training was designed to last three years and would qualify graduates to serve in King Nebuchadnezzar's palace.
The training started dramatically as Daniel and his friends refused to eat the king's food and wine provided for the palace trainees. Raised as strict Jews, the four were unwilling to defile themselves with rich, unclean food that had been sacrificed to idols.
Daniel requested he and his friends be exempted from eating this food, asking instead for a a very plain diet of vegetables and water. Their request was declined because the official in charge of their care feared for his own life if he were to allow them to deviate from the palace diet. But Daniel persisted and asked that they be permitted to eat a simple diet for a ten-day trial period. His and his friends' health could then be compared with the other trainees eating rich food and wine.
After ten days, Daniel and his friends stood head and shoulders above the rest of the trainees and were thus allowed to continue with their plain diet for the rest of the training.
After three years of instruction, King Nebuchadnezzar himself tested each of the trainees and found Daniel and his three friends were ten times more knowledgeable than their peers.
One night, King Nebuchadnezzar had a nightmare that disturbed him greatly. He could not remember the details of his dream, so he summoned his wise men, demanding that they tell him what he had dreamed of and what it meant.
The wise men infuriated the king because they were unable to tell him the dream. Thus, the king ordered all of them to be executed. Unfortunately for Daniel and his friends, they were newly minted wise men.
Daniel went to the enraged king and told him that God could reveal his dream. That is exactly what happened. God revealed both the dream and its interpretation to this wise man. With this, he explained that the king dreamed of a large statue. Its different parts symbolized future kingdoms that would rule in different periods of the earth’s history.
Daniel explained that the statue's head of gold represented Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, Babylon. It would rule the world from 612 to 539 BC. Moving on, the statue's chest and arms of silver represented Medo-Persia, which was to become the next dominant world power from 539 to 331 BC.
The belly and thighs of brass stood for another great power, Greece, which was to rule from 331 to 168 BC. Then the statue's iron legs symbolized Rome, the empire that would conquer the Greeks in 168 BC and would dominate world affairs with an iron will until its fall in 476 AD.
The statue also had feet made of iron and clay (representing the divided kingdoms of Europe that have never achieved unity.) At the end of the dream a rock, symbolizing God's everlasting kingdom, destroyed the statue and proceeded to endure forever.
Thanks to Daniel's God-given wisdom in interpreting that dream, all the wise men were spared. Making a good impression on the king, he was promoted governor of the entire province of Babylon.
Later in his reign, King Nebuchadnezzar had another dream, which compelled him to again consult Daniel. This dream was of a huge tree that, despite its magnificent appearance, was cut down, leaving just its stump.
Though reluctant, Daniel had to reveal that the tree represented the king and that he would be cut down and reduced to living with wild animals. He would remain in this state until he was prepared to acknowledge that there is no one greater than God.
King Nebuchadnezzar's seven-year bout of insanity began when he credited himself with Babylon's success, despite Daniel's warning. He lived for seven years with wild animals, having been struck with a severe psychosis for the entire period. His hair grew as long as eagle feathers, and his fingernails and toenails resembled talons.
The king's life in the wilderness ended when he acknowledged that God was superior to any king and was able to "bring low those who walk in pride."
Daniel's public service in Babylon spanned the reigns of successive rulers including King Nebuchadnezzar's grandson, Belshazzar. One time, Belshazzar held a lavish party for a thousand members of the Babylonian elite. No expense was spared. Gold and silver dishes, originally looted from Jerusalem's former temple, were used to serve refreshments. During the feast, a mysterious hand appeared and a finger wrote on the palace wall.
Terrified, the monarch immediately agreed to the queen-mother's suggestion and summoned the statesman Daniel to interpret the meaning of this handwriting. Daniel told Belshazzar that he had failed to embrace the lesson of humility that Nebuchadnezzar had learned. He had defiled sacred temple vessels and worshipped worthless, inanimate objects instead of the true God.
Daniel then interpreted the Hebrew words Mene, Tekel, and Parsin. 'Mene' meant that God had numbered the days of Belshazzar's kingdom and was bringing it to an end. 'Tekel' expressed that he had not proved himself to be a worthy or humble ruler. Finally, 'Peres,' the singular form of Parsin, signified that Babylon would fall and be divided between the Medes and Persians.
Not long after Daniel delivered this tough message, Darius the Mede invaded Babylon and Belshazzar was killed that night.
Daniel continued to court kingly favor under the reign of King Darius. His high status and the universal respect for the Hebrew aroused the envy of other officials. They hatched a plan to remove him, convincing the king to enact a law stating that nobody could pray to anyone but the king himself.
Anyone who didn’t obey the law would be thrown to Anyone who didn’t obey the law would be thrown into the lions' den to be devoured by them. This proved to be a problem for Daniel who was known in Babylon for publicly praying to God three times a day. Nonetheless, the faithful Hebrew stood firm and continued with his prayer habit. He was arrested and tried much to the dismay of King Darius who realized too late the devious scheming of his officials.
Before Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den, the king prayed for the young man's God to protect him. After that sleepless night, the king rushed to the lions’ den, anxious to see if his faithful adviser had survived.
Miraculously, Daniel had been spared. He told the king that God had shut the lions' mouths. The king was overjoyed to discover that his loyal adviser had survived this dreadful ordeal and immediately had him removed from the pit. He ordered his accusers instead be thrown into the lions’ den, where they were promptly devoured. After which, he issued a decree to every nation, declaring that Daniel’s God be respected.
Indeed, Daniel had faithfully served the rulers and people of his time. Perhaps, his greatest contribution was the insight he provided concerning future events. He did this by interpreting messages from God and relaying visions and dreams He personally gave him.