Bible Study: What We Can Learn from Daniel
In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. The Lord let King Jehoiakim of Judah fall into his power, as well as some of the vessels of the house of God. These he brought to the land of Shinar, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his gods. Then the king commanded his palace master Ashpenaz to bring some of the Israelites of the royal family and of the nobility, young men without physical defect and handsome, versed in every branch of wisdom, endowed with knowledge and insight, and competent to serve in the king’s palace; they were to be taught the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the royal rations of food and wine. They were to be educated for three years, so that at the end of that time they could be stationed in the king’s court. Among them were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, from the tribe of Judah. The palace master gave them other names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego. (Daniel 1:1–7)
Daniel is well-known in the scriptures as the leader of a group of young slaves including Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah and himself. His tale is one used over and over to teach young children about faith and strength. Daniel’s courage to stand up and be himself against pressure to change has inspired many of us who have faced the same pressure.
Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were abducted from their homeland of Judah. Because they were children of royalty and priests, the slave traders felt that the young men were the best of the chattel and forced them to be “gilded slaves” — trained to serve in the service of the kings. Though in the company of royalty, they were still not of the conquerors’ blood and were therefore considered expendable.
According to the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, adopted in 2000 and entered into effect in 2003, trafficking in persons is considered:
"the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs." (Article 3a)
If Daniel and his friends lived in this day and time, they would be considered trafficked persons.
Usually the focus on trafficking centers on women and children, and on sex trafficking, and many such cases do occur. However, labor trafficking and trafficking of men also occurs, and to a higher degree. This is the case with Daniel and his friends; males can also be caught in the web of slavery and exploitation.
But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the royal rations of food and wine; so he asked the palace master to allow him not to defile himself. Now God allowed Daniel to receive favor and compassion from the palace master. The palace master said to Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king; he has appointed your food and your drink. If he should see you in poorer condition than the other young men of your own age, you would endanger my head with the king.” (Daniel 1:8–10)
This passage speaks to the victim, the oppressors and those of us who want to help victims. For the victim, Daniel is a shining example of inner fortitude:
- Although his situation was dire and there was no hope of return to his homeland, Daniel managed to maintain his personhood despite danger and pressure from outside forces.
- He kept his heart, body and mind fixed on the laws that his God had placed on his life.
- He never lost faith.
Then Daniel asked the guard whom the palace master had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: “Please test your servants for ten days. Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. You can then compare our appearance with the appearance of the young men who eat the royal rations, and deal with your servants according to what you observe.” So he agreed to this proposal and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it was observed that they appeared better and fatter than all the young men who had been eating the royal rations. So the guard continued to withdraw their royal rations and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. (Daniel 1:11–16)
This passage speaks to the perpetrators.
Here the guard was given a path to aid those who were under him and he took that chance. As advocates for the victims, we need to provide venues that will allow the Holy Spirit to step into the lives of those who have wounded others and renew their minds.
Where is the Word for us? Our duty is harder as those interested in fighting against this evil. What we take away from these passages is that we are called to be the hands and feet of the God that Daniel believed in so strongly. We as advocates need to support ministries that empower victims and help them recover their dignity. In some cases, we need to stand as role models, and in other cases we need to break systems of injustice for these victims.
- Considering what you know about Daniel and the others, what do you think they truly felt about their situation?
- Sometimes we want to do things our way when it comes to conflict. Do you feel that Daniel was right in his approach with the guard?
- Where do you see yourself in this story?
- Do you believe that you could have done the same in Daniel’s place? Why or why not?
- What lessons are learned here?
- Although the Holy Spirit is not spoken about outright, where do you see the Holy Spirit here?
Marva Usher-Kerr is the executive secretary of membership and leadership outreach for United Methodist Women