What does it say?
Daniel is among the first exiles to go into Babylon, even before Ezekiel. While almost all of the Old Testament is in Hebrew, Daniel 2:4 – 7:28 is written in Aramaic, the international language of the time. The first six chapters are historical, while the final 6 are visions of the future.
Daniel 1 opens in 605 B.C. with Daniel and 3 Hebrew friends arriving in Babylon shortly after the Battle of Carchemish. The plan is to give them a proper Babylonian education to later use them to oversee their own people as loyal representatives of Babylon. They struggle to be submissive yet faithful to their faith. Shinar is an alternative and older name for Babylon.
The second chapter records a dream of Nebuchadnezzar that his best advisors cannot interpret. By God’s grace Daniel interprets the dream as a vision of empires to come. The king rewards Daniel with a position of power and influence.
Years pass and Nebuchadnezzar makes a giant image (perhaps inspired by his previous dream) and commands that all bow down and worship it. Not willing to compromise their faith, Daniel’s three friends refuse and are sentenced to death by fire (Daniel is not mentioned, perhaps is on assignment at the time). God miraculously delivers them without so much as the smell of the fire. Nebuchadnezzar sees what he describes as a god-like figure (pre-incarnate Christ, Angel of the Lord?) with them and turns again to worship the God of the Hebrews.
What does it mean?
Chapter one is a great lesson in how to stand for one’s faith in an unbelieving environment. Rather than argue or resist, the Hebrews discern that Babylonians do not want to hurt them or destroy their faith, only to prepare them for the plans they have for them. They propose creative alternatives and God honors their conviction and courage.
Prayer is a key theme in the book of Daniel and the reason that Daniel is able to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Daniel is also very careful to give all the glory to God. Neither Daniel nor his friends in the next chapter are fearful in the face of death. They operate by faith and stand firm despite the danger.
How will I respond?
These first chapters of Daniel are filled with practical lessons on the life of faith. What is one concrete lesson I learned or had confirmed in this reading and how will I apply that lesson to my life today?