Daniel, the biblical Old Testament prophet, served four kings in the royal court of ancient Babylon. His Hebrew name, which means "God is my judge," appears many times throughout the Bible. For the early church, Daniel symbolized the wisdom and virtue of the persecuted believer in the midst of a polytheistic society (one that worships many gods). Throughout his life of trial and service, Daniel gave credit to God for his well-being.
A Hostage in the Royal Court
In 605 B.C., during King Jehoiakim's reign, the king of Babylon besieged the Hebrew kingdom of Judah and took hostages from royal families. A royal official chose Daniel and at least three other young men to receive a Babylonian education, which included instruction in divination and astrology. The Book of Daniel says these young men were handsome, intelligent and quick to learn. The boys received new Babylonian names (Daniel's name was changed to "Belteshazzar"), and they excelled in health and learning, despite existing on a diet of vegetables. Jewish tradition asserts that the young men were made eunuchs in the royal court.
Favor with Nebuchadnezzar
During the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel and his Hebrew associates escaped a death sentence by recalling the king's dream and interpreting its meaning when his other advisers could not. Nebuchadnezzar gave Daniel numerous gifts and named him the ruler of the province of Babylon. At Daniel's request, his young colleagues also acquired high positions in the Babylonian government. Daniel remained in Nebuchadnezzar's service, interpreting other dreams for the king, who died in 561 B.C.
At the Court of Belshazzar
During the reign of Belshazzar in 538 B.C., the elderly Daniel once more received a summons to interpret a sign for the king. The prophecy in question appeared on the wall of the banquet hall, written by an unseen messenger to the drunken king and his nobles. Although Daniel predicted the king's demise, Belshazzar appointed Daniel to a high position in the Babylonian court, where he remained until the first year of Cyrus, the Persian emperor.
Darius and Cyrus
After the murder of Belshazzar in 539 B.C., Darius the Mede took over the kingdom of Babylon, marking the beginning of the Achaemenid Empire. Daniel remained in favor with the Persians and was one of three high officials involved in the empire's administration. Daniel's enemies plotted to have him killed, but the prophet survived a night in a den of lions. After this miracle, King Darius acknowledged the power of Daniel's God. Daniel's burial site is disputed, but it most likely is in Babylon or Susa.
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