The Story of Daniel
(DANIEL 1, 2, 6)
Over and over the Jewish people found themselves looking for a saviour. One empire after another took over their land. Assyria. Babylon. Persia. Greece. One of the Greek kings was especially cruel. He outlawed Jewish feasts and festivals and set up a statue of the Greek god Zeus in the temple. When some of the Jews fought back, he sent his armies to attack Jerusalem. "Why do we suffer so much?" the people wondered. "Will it always be like this?" They told stories to give themselves hope. This was one of those stories.
Years ago, when our people were in exile in Babylon, there was a young man called Daniel who was so wise and clever that the King of Babylon invited him to court to become one of his advisors. Unlike other young Jewish men, who acted like Babylonian princes, Daniel did not pretend to be anything other than who he was. He ate simple meals, wore simple clothes, and would not answer to the Babylonian name the king tried to give him. Every day he faced Jerusalem and prayed in his own language to the God of Israel.
One night the king of Babylon had a strange and troubling dream. No one could tell him what it meant.
"Your Majesty," said Daniel. "It is God who reveals the meaning of dreams. You saw a statue of a strong man. From head to ankles it was made of metal. Gold. Silver. Bronze. Iron. Only its feet were clay. When a stone smashed the feet, the whole statue collapsed. But the stone that struck it became a great mountain." "But what does it mean?" the king wanted to know.
"It means," replied Daniel, "that your empire, and all the empires that come after it, will not stand. As powerful as they are, they will come crashing down. In their place, God will raise up a new kind of kingdom."
For many years, Daniel was chief advisor to the kings of Babylon. He was so wise that when Babylon fell to Persia, Daniel stayed at court to guide the Persian kings. Jealous of his success, his enemies plotted to destroy him.
"O King, may you live forever," they said to the king of Persia. "You are as powerful as a god, so we have written a new law in your honour. For the next month, no one may pray to any god but you!" The king was so pleased and flattered, he signed the law.
On the day the new law was made, Daniel went home. As he had done all his life, he turned to Jerusalem and knelt to pray. His enemies were watching and waiting.
"Aha!" they cried. "Now we've caught you!" They dragged Daniel before the king and told what they had seen. When the king realized he had been tricked, he tried to save Daniel. But there was nothing he could do.
That very night, Daniel was thrown into a pit full of lions. A huge stone was slid over the opening to seal it shut.
"May your God keep you safe," whispered the king. Then he returned to his palace and sat up all night, worrying about Daniel.
Very early in the morning, when it was still dark, he hurried to the pit, rolled away the stone and peered inside. There was Daniel, alive and unharmed.
"My God has saved me from the jaws of death," Daniel said. Even the great king of Persia was amazed that God could bring new life out of such a place of death.
This is one of more than 100 stories included in the beautiful new book from Wood Lake, Read Wonder Listen: Stories from the Bible for Young Readers which we invite you to discover below, and add to your library and gift list.
Read Wonder Listen
Stories from the Bible for Young Readers.
Laura Alary combines her gift for telling the biblical stories, with historical research, contemporary concerns about language, and a compassionate and inclusive theology, making Read, Wonder, Listen a perfect children's Bible for progressive Christians. "The reason these stories have lasted so long," writes Alary, "the reason they were collected and saved so carefully, is because people have always found in them something precious. Something that speaks to people of all times and places. All of these stories are about the great Mystery we call God. They tell of people who met God, wondered about God, waited for God, and were surprised by God." That sense of wonder and surprise is strikingly and evocatively captured in the full-colour illustrations by Ann Sheng.
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