Bible Society of South Africa

To The Word – Day 202

Daniel 1–5, Psalm 74

Bible text(s)

The Story of Daniel and his Friends

1.1—6.28

The Young Men at Nebuchadnezzar's Court

1In the third year that Jehoiakim was king of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia attacked Jerusalem and surrounded the city. 2The Lord let him capture King Jehoiakim and seize some of the temple treasures. He took some prisoners back with him to the temple of his gods in Babylon, and put the captured treasures in the temple storerooms.

3The king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief official, to select from among the Israelite exiles some young men of the royal family and of the noble families. 4They had to be handsome, intelligent, well trained, quick to learn, and free from physical defects, so that they would be qualified to serve in the royal court. Ashpenaz was to teach them to read and write the Babylonian language. 5The king also gave orders that every day they were to be given the same food and wine as the members of the royal court. After three years of this training they were to appear before the king. 6Among those chosen were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, all of whom were from the tribe of Judah. 7The chief official gave them new names: Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

8Daniel made up his mind not to let himself become ritually unclean by eating the food and drinking the wine of the royal court, so he asked Ashpenaz to help him, 9and God made Ashpenaz sympathetic to Daniel. 10Ashpenaz, however, was afraid of the king, so he said to Daniel, “The king has decided what you are to eat and drink, and if you don't look as fit as the other young men, he may kill me.”

11So Daniel went to the guard whom Ashpenaz had placed in charge of him and his three friends. 12“Test us for ten days,” he said. “Give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13Then compare us with the young men who are eating the food of the royal court, and base your decision on how we look.”

14He agreed to let them try it for ten days. 15When the time was up, they looked healthier and stronger than all those who had been eating the royal food. 16So from then on the guard let them continue to eat vegetables instead of what the king provided.

17God gave the four young men knowledge and skill in literature and philosophy. In addition, he gave Daniel skill in interpreting visions and dreams.

18At the end of the three years set by the king, Ashpenaz took all the young men to Nebuchadnezzar. 19The king talked with them all, and Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah impressed him more than any of the others. So they became members of the king's court. 20No matter what question the king asked, or what problem he raised, these four knew ten times more than any fortune teller or magician in his whole kingdom. 21Daniel remained at the royal court until Cyrus the emperor of Persia conquered Babylonia.

Nebuchadnezzar's Dream

1In the second year that Nebuchadnezzar was king, he had a dream. It worried him so much that he couldn't sleep, 2so he sent for his fortune tellers, magicians, sorcerers, and wizards to come and explain the dream to him. When they came and stood before the king, 3he said to them, “I'm worried about a dream I have had. I want to know what it means.”

4They answered the king in Aramaic, “May Your Majesty live for ever! Tell us your dream, and we will explain it to you.”

5The king said to them, “I have made up my mind that you must tell me the dream and then tell me what it means. If you can't, I'll have you torn limb from limb and make your houses a pile of ruins. 6But if you can tell me both the dream and its meaning, I will reward you with gifts and great honour. Now then, tell me what the dream was and what it means.”

7They answered the king again, “If Your Majesty will only tell us what the dream was, we will explain it.”

8At that, the king exclaimed, “Just as I thought! You are trying to gain time, because you see that I have made up my mind 9to give all of you the same punishment if you don't tell me the dream. You have agreed among yourselves to go on telling me lies because you hope that in time things will change. Tell me what the dream was, and then I will know that you can also tell me what it means.”

10The advisers replied, “There is no one on the face of the earth who can tell Your Majesty what you want to know. No king, not even the greatest and most powerful, has ever made such a demand of his fortune tellers, magicians, and wizards. 11What Your Majesty is asking for is so difficult that no one can do it for you except the gods, and they do not live among human beings.”

12At that, the king flew into a rage and ordered the execution of all the royal advisers in Babylon. 13So the order was issued for all of them to be killed, including Daniel and his friends.

God Shows Daniel what the Dream Means

14Then Daniel went to Arioch, commander of the king's bodyguard, who had been ordered to carry out the execution. Choosing his words carefully, 15he asked Arioch why the king had issued such a harsh order. So Arioch told Daniel what had happened.

16Daniel went at once and obtained royal permission for more time, so that he could tell the king what the dream meant. 17Then Daniel went home and told his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah what had happened. 18He told them to pray to the God of heaven for mercy and to ask him to explain the mystery to them so that they would not be killed along with the other advisers in Babylon. 19Then that same night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision, and he praised the God of heaven:

20“God is wise and powerful!

Praise him for ever and ever.

21He controls the times and the seasons;

he makes and unmakes kings;

it is he who gives wisdom and understanding.

22He reveals things that are deep and secret;

he knows what is hidden in darkness,

and he himself is surrounded by light.

23I praise you and honour you, God of my ancestors.

You have given me wisdom and strength;

you have answered my prayer

and shown us what to tell the king.”

Daniel Tells the King the Dream and Explains it

24So Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had commanded to execute the royal advisers. He said to him, “Don't put them to death. Take me to the king, and I will tell him what his dream means.”

25At once Arioch took Daniel into King Nebuchadnezzar's presence and told the king, “I have found one of the Jewish exiles, who can tell Your Majesty the meaning of your dream.”

26The king said to Daniel (who was also called Belteshazzar), “Can you tell me what I dreamt and what it means?”

27Daniel replied, “Your Majesty, there is no wizard, magician, fortune teller, or astrologer who can tell you that. 28But there is a God in heaven, who reveals mysteries. He has informed Your Majesty what will happen in the future. Now I will tell you the dream, the vision you had while you were asleep.

29“While Your Majesty was sleeping, you dreamt about the future; and God, who reveals mysteries, showed you what is going to happen. 30Now, this mystery was revealed to me, not because I am wiser than anyone else, but so that Your Majesty may learn the meaning of your dream and understand the thoughts that have come to you.

31“Your Majesty, in your vision you saw standing before you a giant statue, bright and shining, and terrifying to look at. 32Its head was made of the finest gold; its chest and arms were made of silver; its waist and hips of bronze; 33its legs of iron, and its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. 34While you were looking at it, a great stone broke loose from a cliff without anyone touching it, struck the iron and clay feet of the statue, and shattered them. 35At once the iron, clay, bronze, silver, and gold crumbled and became like the dust on a threshing place in summer. The wind carried it all away, leaving not a trace. But the stone grew to be a mountain that covered the whole earth.

36“This was the dream. Now I will tell Your Majesty what it means. 37Your Majesty, you are the greatest of all kings. The God of heaven has made you emperor and given you power, might, and honour. 38He has made you ruler of all the inhabited earth and ruler over all the animals and birds. You are the head of gold. 39After you there will be another empire, not as great as yours, and after that a third, an empire of bronze, which will rule the whole earth. 40And then there will be a fourth empire, as strong as iron, which shatters and breaks everything. And just as iron shatters everything, it will shatter and crush all the earlier empires. 41You also saw that the feet and the toes were partly clay and partly iron. This means that it will be a divided empire. It will have something of the strength of iron, because there was iron mixed with the clay. 42The toes — partly iron and partly clay — mean that part of the empire will be strong and part of it weak. 43You also saw that the iron was mixed with the clay. This means that the rulers of that empire will try to unite their families by intermarriage, but they will not be able to, any more than iron can mix with clay. 44At the time of those rulers the God of heaven will establish a kingdom that will never end. It will never be conquered, but will completely destroy all those empires, and then last for ever. 45You saw how a stone broke loose from a cliff without anyone touching it and how it struck the statue made of iron, bronze, clay, silver, and gold. The great God is telling Your Majesty what will happen in the future. I have told you exactly what you dreamt, and have given you its true meaning.”

The King Rewards Daniel

46Then King Nebuchadnezzar bowed to the ground and gave orders for sacrifices and offerings to be made to Daniel. 47The king said, “Your God is the greatest of all gods, the Lord over kings, and the one who reveals mysteries. I know this because you have been able to explain this mystery.” 48Then he gave Daniel a high position, presented him with many splendid gifts, put him in charge of the province of Babylon, and made him the head of all the royal advisers. 49At Daniel's request the king put Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in charge of the affairs of the province of Babylon; Daniel, however, remained at the royal court.

Nebuchadnezzar Commands Everyone to Worship a Gold Statue

1King Nebuchadnezzar had a gold statue made, 27 metres high and nearly three metres wide, and he had it set up in the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2Then the king gave orders for all his officials to come together — the princes, governors, lieutenant-governors, commissioners, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the other officials of the provinces. They were to attend the dedication of the statue which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3When all these officials gathered for the dedication and stood in front of the statue, 4a herald announced in a loud voice, “People of all nations, races, and languages! 5You will hear the sound of the trumpets, followed by the playing of oboes, lyres, zithers, and harps; and then all the other instruments will join in. As soon as the music starts, you are to bow down and worship the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6Anyone who does not bow down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.” 7And so, as soon as they heard the sound of the instruments, the people of all the nations, races, and languages bowed down and worshipped the gold statue which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

Daniel's Three Friends are Accused of Disobedience

8It was then that some Babylonians took the opportunity to denounce the Jews. 9They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “May Your Majesty live for ever! 10Your Majesty has issued an order that as soon as the music starts, everyone is to bow down and worship the gold statue, 11and that anyone who does not bow down and worship it is to be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12There are some Jews whom you put in charge of the province of Babylon — Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego — who are disobeying Your Majesty's orders. They do not worship your god or bow down to the statue you set up.”

13At that, the king flew into a rage and ordered the three men to be brought before him. 14He said to them, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, is it true that you refuse to worship my god and to bow down to the gold statue I have set up? 15Now then, as soon as you hear the sound of the trumpets, oboes, lyres, zithers, harps, and all the other instruments, bow down and worship the statue. If you do not, you will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace. Do you think there is any god who can save you?”

16Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered, “Your Majesty, we will not try to defend ourselves. 17If the God whom we serve is able to save us from the blazing furnace and from your power, then he will. 18But even if he doesn't, Your Majesty may be sure that we will not worship your god, and we will not bow down to the gold statue that you have set up.”

Daniel's Three Friends are Sentenced to Death

19Then Nebuchadnezzar lost his temper, and his face turned red with anger at Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. So he ordered the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than usual. 20And he commanded the strongest men in his army to tie the three men up and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21So they tied them up, fully dressed — shirts, robes, caps, and all — and threw them into the blazing furnace. 22Now because the king had given strict orders for the furnace to be made extremely hot, the flames burnt up the guards who took the men to the furnace. 23Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, still tied up, fell into the heart of the blazing fire.

24Suddenly Nebuchadnezzar leapt to his feet in amazement. He asked his officials, “Didn't we tie up three men and throw them into the blazing furnace?”

They answered, “Yes, we did, Your Majesty.”

25“Then why do I see four men walking about in the fire?” he asked. “They are not tied up, and they show no sign of being hurt — and the fourth one looks like an angel.”

The Three Men are Released and Promoted

26So Nebuchadnezzar went up to the door of the blazing furnace and called out, “Shadrach! Meshach! Abednego! Servants of the Supreme God! Come out!” And they came out at once. 27All the princes, governors, lieutenant-governors, and other officials of the king gathered to look at the three men, who had not been harmed by the fire. Their hair was not singed, their clothes were not burnt, and there was no smell of smoke on them.

28The king said, “Praise the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel and rescued these men who serve and trust him. They disobeyed my orders and risked their lives rather than bow down and worship any god except their own.

29“And now I command that if anyone of any nation, race, or language speaks disrespectfully of the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, he is to be torn limb from limb, and his house is to be made a pile of ruins. There is no other god who can rescue like this.”

30And the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to higher positions in the province of Babylon.

Nebuchadnezzar's Second Dream

1King Nebuchadnezzar sent the following message to the people of all nations, races, and languages in the world:

“Greetings! 2Listen to my account of the wonders and miracles which the Supreme God has shown me.

3“How great are the wonders God shows us!

How powerful are the miracles he performs!

God is king for ever; he will rule for all time.

4“I was living comfortably in my palace, enjoying great prosperity. 5But I had a frightening dream and saw terrifying visions while I was asleep. 6I ordered all the royal advisers in Babylon to be brought to me so that they could tell me what the dream meant. 7Then all the fortune tellers, magicians, wizards, and astrologers were brought in, and I told them my dream, but they could not explain it to me. 8Then Daniel came in. (He is also called Belteshazzar, after the name of my god.) The spirit of the holy gods is in him, so I told him what I had dreamt. I said to him: 9Belteshazzar, chief of the fortune tellers, I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you, and that you understand all mysteries. This is my dream. Tell me what it means.

10“While I was asleep, I had a vision of a huge tree in the middle of the earth. 11It grew bigger and bigger until it reached the sky and could be seen by everyone in the world. 12Its leaves were beautiful, and it was loaded down with fruit — enough for the whole world to eat. Wild animals rested in its shade, birds built nests in its branches, and every kind of living being ate its fruit.

13“While I was thinking about the vision, I saw coming down from heaven an angel, alert and watchful. 14He proclaimed in a loud voice, ‘Cut the tree down and chop off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Drive the animals from under it and the birds out of its branches. 15But leave the stump in the ground with a band of iron and bronze round it. Leave it there in the field with the grass.

“ ‘Now let the dew fall on this man, and let him live with the animals and the plants. 16For seven years he will not have a human mind, but the mind of an animal. 17This is the decision of the alert and watchful angels. So then, let all people everywhere know that the Supreme God has power over human kingdoms and that he can give them to anyone he chooses — even to those who are the least important.’

18“This is the dream I had,” said King Nebuchadnezzar. “Now, Belteshazzar, tell me what it means. None of my royal advisers could tell me, but you can, because the spirit of the holy gods is in you.”

Daniel Explains the Dream

19At this, Daniel, who is also called Belteshazzar, was so alarmed that he could not say anything. The king said to him, “Belteshazzar, don't let the dream and its message alarm you.”

Belteshazzar replied, “Your Majesty, I wish that the dream and its explanation applied to your enemies and not to you. 20The tree, so tall that it reached the sky, could be seen by everyone in the world. 21Its leaves were beautiful, and it had enough fruit on it to feed the whole world. Wild animals rested under it, and birds made their nests in its branches.

22“Your Majesty, you are the tree, tall and strong. You have grown so great that you reach the sky, and your power extends over the whole world. 23While Your Majesty was watching, an angel came down from heaven and said, ‘Cut the tree down and destroy it, but leave the stump in the ground. Wrap a band of iron and bronze round it, and leave it there in the field with the grass. Let the dew fall on this man, and let him live there with the animals for seven years.’

24“This, then, is what it means, Your Majesty, and this is what the Supreme God has declared will happen to you. 25You will be driven away from human society and will live with wild animals. For seven years you will eat grass like an ox, and sleep in the open air, where the dew will fall on you. Then you will admit that the Supreme God controls all human kingdoms, and that he can give them to anyone he chooses. 26The angel ordered the stump to be left in the ground. This means that you will become king again when you acknowledge that God rules all the world. 27So then, Your Majesty, follow my advice. Stop sinning, do what is right, and be merciful to the poor. Then you will continue to be prosperous.”

28All this did happen to King Nebuchadnezzar. 29Only twelve months later, while he was walking about on the roof of his royal palace in Babylon, 30he said, “Look how great Babylon is! I built it as my capital city to display my power and might, my glory and majesty.”

31Before the words were out of his mouth, a voice spoke from heaven, “King Nebuchadnezzar, listen to what I say! Your royal power is now taken away from you. 32You will be driven away from human society, live with wild animals, and eat grass like an ox for seven years. Then you will acknowledge that the Supreme God has power over human kingdoms and that he can give them to anyone he chooses.”

33The words came true immediately. Nebuchadnezzar was driven out of human society and ate grass like an ox. The dew fell on his body, and his hair grew as long as eagles' feathers and his nails as long as birds' claws.

Nebuchadnezzar Praises God

34“When the seven years had passed,” said the king, “I looked up at the sky, and my sanity returned. I praised the Supreme God and gave honour and glory to the one who lives for ever.

“He will rule for ever,

and his kingdom will last for all time.

35He looks on the people of the earth as nothing;

angels in heaven and people on earth

are under his control.

No one can oppose his will

or question what he does.

36“When my sanity returned, my honour, my majesty, and the glory of my kingdom were given back to me. My officials and my noblemen welcomed me, and I was given back my royal power, with even greater honour than before.

37“And now, I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, honour, and glorify the King of Heaven. Everything he does is right and just, and he can humble anyone who acts proudly.”

Belshazzar's Banquet

1One night King Belshazzar invited a thousand noblemen to a great banquet, and they drank wine together. 2While they were drinking, Belshazzar gave orders to bring in the gold and silver cups and bowls which his father Nebuchadnezzar had carried off from the Temple in Jerusalem. The king sent for them so that he, his noblemen, his wives, and his concubines could drink out of them. 3At once the gold cups and bowls were brought in, and they all drank wine out of them 4and praised gods made of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

5Suddenly a human hand appeared and began writing on the plaster wall of the palace, where the light from the lamps was shining most brightly. And the king saw the hand as it was writing. 6He turned pale and was so frightened that his knees began to shake. 7He shouted for someone to bring in the magicians, wizards, and astrologers. When they came in, the king said to them, “Anyone who can read this writing and tell me what it means will be dressed in robes of royal purple, wear a gold chain of honour round his neck, and be the third in power in the kingdom.” 8The royal advisers came forward, but none of them could read the writing or tell the king what it meant. 9In his distress King Belshazzar grew even paler, and his noblemen had no idea what to do.

10The queen mother heard the noise made by the king and his noblemen and entered the banqueting hall. She said, “May Your Majesty live for ever! Please do not be so disturbed and look so pale. 11There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. When your father was king, this man showed good sense, knowledge, and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods. And King Nebuchadnezzar, your father, made him chief of the fortune tellers, magicians, wizards, and astrologers. 12He has unusual ability and is wise and skilful in interpreting dreams, solving riddles, and explaining mysteries; so send for this man Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar, and he will tell you what all this means.”

Daniel Explains the Writing

13Daniel was brought at once into the king's presence, and the king said to him, “Are you Daniel, that Jewish exile whom my father the king brought here from Judah? 14I have heard that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that you are skilful and have knowledge and wisdom. 15The advisers and magicians were brought in to read this writing and tell me what it means, but they could not discover the meaning. 16Now I have heard that you can find hidden meanings and explain mysteries. If you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be dressed in robes of royal purple, wear a gold chain of honour round your neck, and be the third in power in the kingdom.”

17Daniel replied, “Keep your gifts for yourself or give them to someone else. I will read for Your Majesty what has been written and tell you what it means.

18“The Supreme God made your father Nebuchadnezzar a great king and gave him dignity and majesty. 19He was so great that people of all nations, races, and languages were afraid of him and trembled. If he wanted to kill someone, he did; if he wanted to keep someone alive, he did. He honoured or disgraced anyone he wanted to. 20But because he became proud, stubborn, and cruel, he was removed from his royal throne and lost his place of honour. 21He was driven away from human society, and his mind became like that of an animal. He lived with wild donkeys, ate grass like an ox, and slept in the open air with nothing to protect him from the dew. Finally he admitted that the Supreme God controls all human kingdoms and can give them to anyone he chooses.

22“But you, his son, have not humbled yourself, even though you knew all this. 23You acted against the Lord of heaven and brought in the cups and bowls taken from his Temple. You, your noblemen, your wives, and your concubines drank wine out of them and praised gods made of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone — gods that cannot see or hear and that do not know anything. But you did not honour the God who determines whether you live or die and who controls everything you do. 24That is why God has sent the hand to write these words.

25“This is what was written: ‘Number, number, weight, divisions.’ 26And this is what it means: number, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27weight, you have been weighed on the scales and found to be too light; 28divisions, your kingdom is divided up and given to the Medes and Persians.”

29Immediately Belshazzar ordered his servants to dress Daniel in a robe of royal purple and to hang a gold chain of honour round his neck. And he made him the third in power in the kingdom. 30That same night Belshazzar, the king of Babylonia, was killed; 31and Darius the Mede, who was then 62 years old, seized the royal power.

A Prayer for National Deliverance

1Why have you abandoned us like this, O God?

Will you be angry with your own people for ever?

2Remember your people, whom you chose for yourself long ago,

whom you brought out of slavery to be your own tribe.

Remember Mount Zion, where once you lived.

3Walk over these total ruins;

our enemies have destroyed everything in the Temple.

4Your enemies have shouted in triumph in your Temple;

they have placed their flags there as signs of victory.

5They looked like woodmen

cutting down trees with their axes.

6They smashed all the wooden panels

with their axes and sledgehammers.

7They wrecked your Temple and set it on fire;

they desecrated the place where you are worshipped.

8They wanted to crush us completely;

they burnt down every holy place in the land.

9All our sacred symbols are gone;

there are no prophets left,

and no one knows how long this will last.

10How long, O God, will our enemies laugh at you?

Will they insult your name for ever?

11Why have you refused to help us?

Why do you keep your hands behind you?

12But you have been our king from the beginning, O God;

you have saved us many times.

13With your mighty strength you divided the sea

and smashed the heads of the sea monsters;

14you crushed the heads of the monster Leviathan

and fed his body to desert animals.

15You made springs and fountains flow;

you dried up large rivers.

16You created the day and the night;

you set the sun and the moon in their places;

17you set the limits of the earth;

you made summer and winter.

18But remember, O LORD, that your enemies laugh at you,

that they are godless and despise you.

19Don't abandon your helpless people to their cruel enemies;

don't forget your persecuted people!

20Remember the covenant you made with us.

There is violence in every dark corner of the land.

21Don't let the oppressed be put to shame;

let those poor and needy people praise you.

22Rouse yourself, God, and defend your cause!

Remember that godless people laugh at you all day long.

23Don't forget the angry shouts of your enemies,

the continuous noise made by your foes.

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