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Our Young Folk's Josephus by  William Shepard
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[231] NEBUCHADNEZZAR, king of Babylon, chose from among the captive Jews a number of young men who were strong and handsome and of good understandings. He handed them over to the care of tutors, and had them instructed in the language of the Babylonians and the Chaldeans, and in all the wisdom of the learned men of those nations. Among these youths were four princes of the house of Zedekiah, whose names were Daniel, Ananis, Misael, and Azarias, but Nebuchadnezzar change their names, respectively, to Balthaser, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Daniel, however, is generally known by his Jewish name, while the others are mentioned in history by the names which Nebuchadnezzar gave them.

Daniel and his kinsmen disdained luxury, and determined to live only on fruit and vegetables. So they asked the servant who was over them to take for himself the meat and wine that was sent them from the king's table, and to leave them only simple food. But the servant was afraid, saying that they would grow thin and pale, and the king would discover what he had done and be very angry with him.

"Nay," said the youths; "try us for ten days on the simple food, and if we look less fat and healthy than the other young men, you may give us the meat and wine."

The servant agreed to this, and at the end of ten days the four youths looked fatter and heartier than the rest of the young men who were fed from the king's table. So the [232] servant continued to keep for himself the meat and wine, and gave them only fruit and vegetables. And God was with them, so that they readily acquired all the learning of the Babylonians and the Chaldeans, as also of the Jews. Daniel was especially favored, so that God revealed to him the meaning of dreams and visions.

Now one night King Nebuchadnezzar dreamed a wonderful dream, and while he was sleeping God explained the meaning of his dream to him. But when he awoke he forgot both the dream and its interpretation. He was much troubled, and sent for all the wise men and the prophets among the Chaldeans, and asked them to tell him his dream and its interpretation. The wise men told him that he asked what was impossible, but that if he would tell them the dream they would give him the interpretation. But Nebuchadnezzar threatened to put all the wise men to death, with their disciples and pupils, unless they could tell him both the dream and its meaning. When Daniel heard this, and that he and his kinsmen were in danger, he sent word to the king to put off the slaughter of the wise men for one night, for that he hoped within that time to obtain by prayer to God a knowledge both of the dream and its meaning. And the king consented to this.

Daniel retired to his own house with his kinsmen, and prayed all that night to God. And God heard his prayer, and revealed to him the dream and its interpretation.

Early next morning the king sent for Daniel, who came joyfully into his presence. And he said,—

"O king, thou didst see in thy sleep a great image. Its head was of gold, its shoulders and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of brass, but the legs and the feet of iron. Then there fell a stone from the mountain upon this image and threw it down and broke it to pieces, so that the gold, the silver, the iron, and the brass were ground into powder, and the wind blew them away, no one could tell where. But the [233] stone grew so large that the whole earth seemed to be filled with it. This was thy dream. The interpretation is as follows: The head of gold denotes thee and the kings of Babylon that have been before thee; the two hands and arms signify this, that thy kingdom shall be conquered by two kings, but the government of these kings shall also be destroyed by another king, who shall come from the west armed with brass, and another government that shall be like unto iron shall put an end to the power of the western king, and shall have dominion over all the earth, on account of the nature of iron, which is stronger than gold, or silver, or brass."

When Nebuchadnezzar heard this and recollected that it was indeed his dream, he was astonished, and fell on his face before Daniel and saluted him as if he were a god. And he appointed Daniel and his kinsmen rulers under him of his whole kingdom.

But soon afterwards the three kinsmen of Daniel incurred the anger of Nebuchadnezzar. For that king made a great statue of gold and set it up on a plain in the province of Babylon. And he commanded all the principal men and the rulers in his dominions to come to the plain, and when the trumpet sounded they were to bow down and worship the statue. Those who refused to do this should be cast into a fiery furnace. The trumpet sounded, and every one obeyed the command of the king except Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, [234] who said they could not offend in this way against the laws of their country. They were brought before the king, and he had them cast into the fiery furnace. But God saved them in a surprising manner, for the fire would not burn them. This great miracle recommended them still more to the king, who now saw that the blessing of God was upon them; therefore he released them from the furnace, and they continued in great esteem with him.

Some time after this Nebuchadnezzar dreamed another dream, which meant that he should be despoiled of his kingdom and should pass seven years in the desert with wild beasts, after which he would return to his kingdom. No one of the wise men could tell him what the dream meant, except Daniel, and Daniel's interpretation came true.

After Nebuchadnezzar had reigned for forty-three years, he died, and was succeeded by Evil-Merodach, his son.

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