From Captive to Chief Administrator and Adviser
While living in Babylon as captive, Daniel won respect and admiration of many and served three generations of kings in high positions. He was reputed to have the Spirit of God and superior human excellence and as upright and thorough in his conduct of public affairs. He accomplished all these through unwavering commitment to worship and serve God and living in accordance with the commitment even while facing adversity.
Five testimonies in the book of Daniel provide for understanding Daniel’s life in captivity in terms of his unwavering commitment to worship and serve God, how the commitment affected his day to day human interactions, and the reputation that grew about him as a result. He was brought to Babylon as a captive under King Nebuchadnezzar, was appointed a king’s adviser after three years, and served three generations of kings at high positions. During the period, people believed he had the Spirit of God in him, had more knowledge and wisdom than any other person, and was upright and thorough in his conduct of public affairs.
The first testimony arises from events that occurred early in his life in captivity, when he recognized a conflict with his commitment to worship God while being respectful and obedient to the king and functionaries. He negotiated a resolution of the conflict so he could respect and obey the king and his staff without violating his commitment to worship and serve God. The second testimony arises from the king’s demand for someone to interpret his dream but first retell the dream to demonstrate competence in dream interpretation. Daniel recognized the task was beyond normal human competence and invoked the power of God to satisfy the king’s demand.
The other three testimonies were given publicly by highly placed people as part of their interactions with or about Daniel. One testimony was given by King Nebuchadnezzar as he explained his relying on Daniel to interpret a second dream. God revealed to Nebuchadnezzar through the dream that he would be banished to the animal kingdom until he recognized that “… the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses” [Daniel 4:25]. The other testimony was given by the queen of Belshazzar (Nebuchadnezzar’s successor) to calm the king of his fright from a strange writing that appeared on a wall in his palace. She informed him there was a man Daniel in his kingdom with a reputation of understanding and interpreting such mystery. The third testimony in this category was given by a group of administrators and provincial governors under King Darius (2nd successor after Nebuchadnezzar). The group had conspired to raise charges against Daniel to dissuade Darius from setting him up as a chief administrator over the whole kingdom, second only to the king. They searched his several decades of public service but could not find any basis for a conspiracy: “…They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent” [Daniel 5:4]. Finally, they said of Daniel: “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God” [Daniel 6:5].
We discuss these testimonies as basis for an understanding that Daniel thrived in a foreign land despite the adversity of being a captive, because he was committed to worshiping and serving God and lived a life based on the commitment. He lived the commitment through his interactions with people—both ordinary people and those in authority—in his day to day life and his conduct of public affairs. The testimonies provide evidence of his reputation as one with the Spirit of God, more knowledgeable and wise than any other, and upright and thorough in his conduct of public affairs.
Testimony on Conflict Resolution:
Worshiping God versus Obedience to the King
Early in his life in captivity, Daniel faced a conflict between worshiping God and obeying King Nebuchadnezzar. He wanted to be respectful and obedient to the king. Maybe because respect for constituted authority follows from a commitment to worship and serve God, or he recognized disobedience to the king could cause problems to escalate. The king had allotted Daniel and other trainees a daily ration of food and wine from his supply as part of their preparation to enter his elite service. However, Daniel and his compatriots believed the royal diet would compromise their worship. They knew the meat was not prepared as God had set out in the laws of Moses and likely was prepared according to rites of Babylonian worship. Therefore, they decided they will not eat or drink from the royal allotment.
As we discuss in a previous bible study under Conflict Resolution Example, Daniel determined that a substitute diet of vegetables and water would accomplish the king’s objective and satisfy his functionaries. He determined this through negotiation with the king’s functionaries, personal knowledge, and faith of God. Also, he convinced the responsible steward to perform a trial run of the diet to demonstrate its effectiveness.
The substitute diet was effective for Daniel and compatriots, thus providing a satisfactory resolution of the conflict. They were obedient to the king in all areas (showing diligence and good health through the training program) and did not violate their commitment to worship and serve God. Daniel and compatriots completed the training, demonstrated superior knowledge and mastery in all areas important to the king, and were placed in the king’s service as advisers: “And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm” [Daniel 1:20].
Channel for Power of God—
Benefit of Worshiping and Serving God
The second testimony arises from Nebuchadnezzar’s demand for a dream interpreter. Daniel used the event to show himself as a channel for the competence of God. He recognized that human competence is a gift from God and is unbounded because God can extend it as necessary to accomplish his purpose. Therefore, when Daniel recognized that King Nebuchadnezzar’s demand (for dream retelling and interpretation) could not be satisfied by human effort, he invoked the competence of God to satisfy the demand.
As we discuss in a previous bible study under Gift of Competence, King Nebuchadnezzar had invited his diviners (magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers) to interpret a troubling dream for him but demanded they first prove to him that they could interpret the dream. He demanded they verify their competence by first retelling the dream to him. When the wise men declared they could not satisfy the king’s demand because it was beyond human competence, he issued a decree to execute all the wise men of Babylon. Daniel became aware of the decree and recognized like the Chaldean wise men that the king’s demand was beyond human competence. However, he also believed God could extend human competence as necessary to accomplish his purpose. Therefore, he asked for time and called his compatriots to prayer: “He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon” [Daniel 2:18].
God granted Daniel’s prayer: “During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision…” [Daniel 2:19]. God revealed to him the details and meaning of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. First, Daniel retold the dream to the king, thereby verifying his competence to provide reliable interpretation. Second, he interpreted the dream. The king was awed by Daniel retelling the dream correctly and providing a meaningful interpretation. He not only believed Daniel’s interpretation but also acknowledged the supremacy of God because of Daniel’s performance: “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery” [Daniel 2:47].
The king already knew Daniel as a competent person with more knowledge and wisdom than any of his other advisers: “And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm” [Daniel 1:20]. Now he also recognized Daniel as a channel for the power of God. He appointed Daniel “ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon” [Daniel 2:48].
Channel for Power of God—
Nebuchadnezzar’s Testimony on Daniel
King Nebuchadnezzar testified about a second dream, through which God revealed
that he would be banished to the animal kingdom until he recognized that “… the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses” [Daniel 4:25]. He did not understand the dream or its message. Neither did the wise men of Babylon. But Nebuchadnezzar was relieved when Daniel arrived. His declaration of relief and expectations of Daniel are a testimony to Daniel: “But at last Daniel came before me … and I told the dream before him, saying: ‘Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the Spirit of the Holy God is in you, and no secret troubles you, explain to me the visions of my dream that I have seen, and its interpretation’” [Daniel 4:8–9].
Daniel interpreted the dream as Nebuchadnezzar expected. Furthermore, his interpretation was fulfilled exactly [Daniel 4:28–37]. Thus, his reputation continued to grow that the Spirit of God lived in him.
Human Excellence and Wisdom from God—
Testimony by Queen of Belshazzar
Daniel’s reputation extended beyond interpreting dreams for kings. Testimony by the queen of Belshazzar (Nebuchadnezzar’s successor) indicates that Daniel was a problem solver to all people, a go-to person that helped find solutions to human problems. Belshazzar (Nebuchadnezzar’s son) succeeded his father as king but apparently did not continue with his father’s recognition of God. During a great feast in his palace, he served wine to his guests using the gold and silver vessels that his father took from the temple in Jerusalem. As they reveled drunk and extolled his greatness, a finger wrote a message on a wall right in their presence, in strange language and writing. The king was frightened because none of his wise men could read or interpret the writing: “Now all the king’s wise men came, but they could not read the writing, or make known to the king its interpretation” [Daniel 5:8].
The queen stepped in to calm the king’s fright, telling him there was a man in his kingdom with the reputation to solve such problems. Her message to the king was a testimony on Daniel: “Inasmuch as an excellent spirit, knowledge, understanding, interpreting dreams, solving riddles, and explaining enigmas were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar, now let Daniel be called, and he will give the interpretation” [Daniel 5:12].
The queen testified to Daniel’s human excellence and reputation as a channel for the power of God. Daniel was brought in and he read and interpreted the writing.
Upright and Thorough in Public Administration—
Testimony by Daniel’s Rivals
A conspiracy against Daniel resulted in a testimony for him. Rival administrators and and governors conspired to bring charges against Daniel to discredit his conduct of public affairs. Their goal was to dissuade King Darius from promoting Daniel to the highest administrative position in his kingdom. Darius had taken over the kingdom from Belshazzar (Nebuchadnezzar’s successor) [Daniel 4:30–31] and set up a system of 120 provincial governors that reported to three administrators that reported to him. Daniel was one of the three administrators but so distinguished himself that the king considered setting him over the whole kingdom, i.e., at the apex of the administrative system. The other administrators and provincial governors conspired to find charges against Daniel to dissuade the king from his plan: “At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs…” [Daniel 6:4].
They searched through records of his several decades of public administration but could not find any “dirt.” They did not find any corruption or negligence in his conduct of public affairs: “…They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent” [Daniel 6:4]. Then they declared: “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God” [Daniel 6:5]. A wonderful testimony about Daniel.
LION’S DEN They persuaded the king to issue a decree to compel people to worship him only, with execution by throwing into the lion’s den for anyone that did not comply. King Darius issued the decree. The conspirators used the decree to bring charges successfully against Daniel. He was thrown into the lion’s den.
The king followed through to implement the decree against Daniel, maybe because “…according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed” [Daniel 6:15]. However, he doubted that Daniel deserved execution and believed that God will save him, maybe because of Daniel’s reputation as one with the Spirit of God. The king prayed for Daniel as he was being thrown in to the lions: “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you” [Daniel 6:16]. Also, he was concerned in his heart for Daniel [Daniel 6:18–20]: “Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep. At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, ‘Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?’”
EXALTED FROM INJUSTICE After the king determined that Daniel survived the meeting with the lions, he “was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den” [Daniel 6:23]. He punished the conspirators by throwing them and their families into the den. Then he issued a decree telling people to worship the God of Daniel [Daniel 6:26–27]: “For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.”
The decree was informational only and did not convey any force of law or threat of punishment for non-compliance. As we discuss in a previous bible study under Motivation for Worship—Choice, not Coercion, God creates every person to worship him but gives each person the right to choose to worship him. King Darius used the decree to publicize the right within his kingdom and beyond, informing people to worship the God of Daniel because he is God and is able to perform “signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth” just like he saved Daniel from the lions.
Summary of What We Learned
We discuss five testimonies in the book of Daniel to understand Daniel’s life in captivity in terms of his unwavering commitment to worship and serve God. The commitment affected his day to day human interactions, and resulted in a reputation of Daniel as one with the Spirit of God, knowledge and wisdom that surpassed others, and uprightness and thoroughness in his conduct of public affairs. His reputation grew widely as a person with superior competence for solving human problems and a channel for the power of God. His actions testified on his behalf. Furthermore, highly placed people (including those that intended to hurt him) and kings that he served testified publicly in favor of his human service and the worship of God.