Right off the bat there’s a contradiction, which will be no surprise if you read the intro. The third year of the reign of King Jahoiakim would have been 605 or 606 BCE, and Nebuchadnezzar was not yet king of Babylon; moreover, he didn’t invade Jerusalem for the first time until 597 BCE, by which time Jahoiakim was dead.
Anyway, King Neb decides to do what any good conqueror does – try to win over/assimilate the natives by placing them in residential schools (or whatever comparable institutions they had back then), and training them in the culture of their oppressors. He selects a few strong, healthy young males. (I guess there was no need to assimilate the women, since women were just expected to obey the men.) So off go Daniel and 3 of his best buddies, whose names I’ve never heard of. I sure recognize the new Babylonian names that they were assigned, though – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Don’t miss the vintage version of this song about them, from 1939. Daniel was also assigned a Babylonian name: Belteshazzar.
First problem in captivity – the Jews refuse to eat the non-kosher diet and insist on sticking to vegan. This upsets the staff, who are worried that they will be in big trouble if their captives become weak or ill. But after a couple of weeks, our heroes prove that they are stronger than ever when they eat only the Popeye diet. They become wise and the king begins to consult them about his decisions. And so they live happily ever after… OK, it didn’t take me very long to see why scholars consider that the stories in Daniel are mostly legends. Doesn’t this sound like a typical cartoon/super-hero movie/fairy tale already????
King Neb challenges all the ‘wise men’ (astrologers and other purveyors of woo) to describe and interpret a dream, and of course, no one can, so he orders them killed. But then along comes our hero, Daniel, who has a ‘vision’ from god. Read about Daniel’s fantastical vision of the king’s dream, and what it means, in v 31-45. Of course, Daniel’s interpretation is correct, and the king is in awe, and he makes Daniel the most powerful man in the empire, and his buddies get promoted too, and they live happily ever after… until the next adventure, anyway. This tale is pretty similar to the story of Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and just about every fairy tale and Disney movie. Just sayin’.
Another winner. King Neb gets the notion to actually build the statue he dreamed about – out of gold. To do this, he needs about half the amount of gold in Fort Knox. I’ll leave you to decide if that sounds plausible – but apparently he succeeds. At the dedication of the statue, everyone is informed that they must now bow down to it whenever they hear music. And guess who refuses to comply? We all know what happens next – the fiery furnace. King Neb is so angry that he orders it heated 7 times hotter than usual. (Is that scientifically possible??? With a different fuel maybe? Or… is this just a tall tale, maybe, like Paul Bunyan and his big ox?) Well, the ending is so obvious – our heroes prance around in the fire like Superheroes, and King Neb realizes that their god must be the real one, and they all live happily… This is more predictable than Saturday morning cartoons.