A Noble Character
One of the themes of the Book of Daniel, along with others such as the sovereignty of God (4:25) and the prophecy of the kingdom (2:44-45), is the personage of Daniel.
The reader doesn’t get past chapters 1 and 2 before they become informed of the character of Daniel. Verse 8 in chapter 1 says of him that he “purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself” (KJV).
This decision came as a reaction to King Nebuchadnezzar’s order for a group of young Jewish males to be served some of his daily meals. This favour was a part of the plan the Babylonian monarch had to assimilate the Hebrews to the Babylonian culture. These youths were among the many people from Judah the king of Babylon had deported to his country after ransacking Jerusalem and its temple in 597 BC. They were being “groomed” to be employed in the service of the king’s court.
But Daniel made it a goal not to eat of the daily portion. The reason was that, Babylon being a heathen country, food and drink were evidently consecrated to a pagan religious ceremony. So, to consume them, Daniel believed, would have been for him to be guilty of idol worship. Keeping himself away from involvement in pagan activities became for him a principle of life.
Daniel could well have done like others among the exiles and enjoyed this royal privilege. Instead, he showed integrity before the God of Israel who demanded that the descendants of Jacob “shalt have no other gods before [Him]” (Exodus 20:3). The stand he took was as noble as the opposition Joseph exerted against Potiphar’s wife’s sexual advances when he refused to “do evil and sin against God” (Genesis 39:9).
Daniel’s loyalty to the Most High, the God of heaven, was tested on two more occasions later in his life as he continued to interact with the royal palace.
In one instance, King Nebuchadnezzar summoned all the charlatan-advisors of the palace court and tasked them with revealing and interpreting a dream he had had. When the soothsayers proved themselves incapable of telling the dream, he sentenced all of them to death. His frustration led him to order also the killing of Daniel and his three companions, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego.
What did Daniel do then? He called his friends together for prayer to God, and the four of them laid the case at the feet of throne of Jehovah (2:17-18). They asked God to spare their lives.
God saved them by revealing Nebuchadnezzar’s dream to Daniel. The dream was about a giant image of a human with its body divided into four parts representing four kingdoms which was hit on the feet by a stone cut out of a mountain. At the strike of the stone, the feet broke and the whole image collapsed. We learn from world history that the kingdoms were Babylon, Persia, Greece, and the Roman Empire. They rose to world power in that order, just as Daniel had foretold.
Daniel also said to the king, “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.” We have proof in the New Testament that the eternal kingdom Daniel predicted was established on the Pentecost following the resurrection of Christ. It was set up as the church (Acts 2). It already existed by the time the apostle Paul was in prison in Rome (Acts 28:31; cf. Colossians 1:13). It is a spiritual realm where God reigns (Matthew 6:10) and still exists as such today (Hebrews 12:28).
Daniel’s nobility of character, which reflected his noble blood as he descended from one of the highest families in Judah (1:3), was also manifested in chapter 6.
At this point in the narrative, the Persian empire had defeated Babylon and now ruled the world. Daniel had been placed in authority in Babylon and became for that reason the object of the enmity and jealousy of men who plotted against him.
When a decree from king Darius was announced forbidding any man to worship God or man except the king, Daniel disobeyed. Upon hearing the law, he went into his room and prayed to God (6:10; cf. Matthew 6:6). But his enemies denounced him to the king who then punished him by throwing him to lions for disobedience.
He landed up in the den of lions because of the combination of the irreversibly of the king’s decree and the calumny of wicked men. But in God’s providence, he was protected from the lions and came out of the den unharmed. After Daniel was delivered, Darius issued a proclamation into the world demanding that “men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God…” (6:26).
Daniel was an influencer, yet not of the type of men we see on social media today who claim to have such authority but do not necessary do good promoting virtue (Philippians 4:8). Not only did he influence his three friends to be faithful to God, but he also caused the great pagan king Nebuchadnezzar to acknowledge the God of Israel and praise Him (2:47). King Darius of Persia did the same.
The exemplary godly life of this young man as well as his commitment to the will of heaven caused even kings to praise the true God. It takes a noble character to achieve that.