Instead of just continuing on to Romans, which might have made sense, except for that one seminary class I took that made me never want to read Romans again, I decided to switch to the minor prophets. I'm writing and teaching a study on Joel right now, so maybe that's why the minor prophets seemed like a good idea, or maybe it's because I'm a "random-abstract" thinker, not a "concrete-sequential" thinker, according to my older sister...Anyway without further ado, let's begin with Daniel...
Daniel 1:1-2--Jerusalem taken by the Babylonians
So, God handed the king (who was not a very good king) and "some of the equipment from God's house" over to Nebuchadnezzar. That's a weird way to say it, but I guess it gets the point across that the writer believes God is the one running the show. My study Bible says that the timing is not quite historically accurate and that the writer is signaling that this is folktale or historical fiction, not exactly fact, by making the dating not quite right. That is an interesting claim, I think.
Daniel 1:3-7--Training for royal service
It sounds like Nebuchadnezzer is being nice by offering Daniel and his friends all this stuff, but he is also trying to completely change their identities, so that's not exactly "nice." It's a bit ironic, then, that we call Daniel by his Hebrew name, but we only remember he Babylonian names of the other three men. Maybe that makes sense because the book is named after Daniel, but would we get the meaning of the story even more if we remembered that Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego are not the Hebrew names of the other characters, and if we referred to them by their Hebrew names, instead?
Verse 9 tells us that God made a special understanding between Daniel and the chief official, but even God's work didn't erase the fear of Nebuchadnezzer, it appears. So, Daniel finds someone else who's game to let him try his plan not to eat the king's food and drink the king's wine. We shouldn't at all be surprised that his plan worked--God is at work in mighty ways here, even though it happens under cover and God's name isn't really used that much by Daniel (yet). This is similar to the book of Esther, in some ways, and even to Acts, in some ways--God is showing up all over!