In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. Everywhere around him he saw jealousy and mayhem, because no men had all their peace of mind to carry them. And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god. The Cuervo Gold, the fine Columbia made that night a wonderful thing.
Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility — young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. They got the shapely bodies, they got the Steely Dan T-Shirts. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. Nothing but blues and Elvis. The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service. A man of mind can do anything.
Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego. Worldly wise, they realized that everybody is crazy.
But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Like the castle in its corner in a medieval game he foresaw terrible trouble; but he stayed there in the same. Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you. Your mind has turned to applesauce.”
Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. In a land of milk and honey, you must put them on the table. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days. You’ve got to admit it, at this point in time that it’s clear the future looks bright.
At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. “I never seen you looking so bad my funky one,” Daniel said to them, “you tell me that your superfine mind has come undone.” So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.
To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. The weekend in college didn’t turn out how you planned. The things that pass for knowledge, I can’t understand. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds. This was the day of the expanding man.
At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. Who are these children who scheme and run wild, who speak with their wings and the way that they smile. What are the secrets, they trace in the sky, and why do you tremble each time they ride by? The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.
And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus. Every A-frame had his number on the wall.
In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep. So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed. When they came in and stood before the king, he said to them, “I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means. Are you all part of the Dreaming? Or the end of my life so far?”
Then the astrologers answered the king, “I fear the monkey in your soul! Talk about your major pain and suffering.”
The king replied to the astrologers, “This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble. Life is short and quid pro quo. But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me. Throw out your gold teeth and see how they roll, the answer they reveal.”
And they replied, “It was sweet up at the top ’til that ill wind started blowing. Now it’s cozy down below, cause we’re goin’ out of business. Everything must go.”
Then the king answered, “I am certain that you are trying to gain time, because you realize that this is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me the dream, there is only one penalty for you. You have conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change. So then, tell me the dream, and I will know that you can interpret it for me. If you’re feeling lucky, you best not refuse. It’s your game; the rules are your own, win or lose.”
The astrologers answered the king, “What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among humans. Throw back the little ones, and pan-fry the big ones. Use tact, poise, and reason, and gently squeeze them.”
But Arioch took Daniel to the king at once and said, “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can tell the king what his dream means.”
The king asked Daniel, “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it? You’ve been tellin’ me you’re a genius since you were seventeen. In all the time I’ve known you, I still don’t know what you mean.”
Daniel replied, “I can tell you all I know, the where to go, the what to do. You can try to run but you can’t hide from what’s inside of you. Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you were lying in bed are these:
“As Your Majesty was lying there, your mind turned to things to come, and the revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen. As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than anyone else alive, but so that Your Majesty may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind. Any major dude with half a heart surely will tell you, my friend. Any minor world that breaks apart falls together again. When the demon is at your door, in the morning it won’t be there no more. Sometimes the truth is kind of hard to find. But don’t you worry, I can read your mind.”
Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. The king said to Daniel, “Do you feel like Jesus? Do you realize that you are a champion in their eyes? 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. Ruthie will give you the silver key. Three weight ounce pure golden ring.”
Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men. He reads the letters, how they are paid in gold just to babble in the back room all night and waste their time.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.