“Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles, youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding, and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king’s court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. . . . Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah” (Daniel 1:3-4, 6).
Man values physical beauty and superior human capabilities, whereas God values spiritual character.
As King Nebuchadnezzar was besieging Jerusalem, he received word that his father had died. So he returned to Babylon, leaving Jehoiakim, king of Judah, in power. To ensure the king’s loyalty, Nebuchadnezzar instructed Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to take some hostages from among the royal families of Israel. Among those selected were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
Nebuchadnezzar’s plan was to train these young hostages in the ways of the Babylonians (Chaldeans), then press them into service as his representatives among the Jews. There were an estimated fifty to seventy-five hostages, each of whom was young (probably in his early teens), handsome, and without physical defect. In addition, each had superior intellect, education, wisdom, and social graces.
Being among such a select group of people could have led to pride in Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. But self-glorification meant nothing to them. Their priority was to serve their God with humility, integrity, and fidelity. Nebuchadnezzar could look on them favorably, train them in the ways of the Chaldeans, and offer them power and influence in his kingdom, but he could never incite their pride or diminish their allegiance to the Lord.
Like Babylon, our society is enamored with physical beauty and human capabilities. However, let your focus be on spiritual character and using for God’s glory the talents and abilities He has given you.
Suggestions for Prayer
- Thank the Lord for the special gifts He has given you.
- Prayerfully guard your heart against subtle pride, which undermines spiritual character.
For Further Study
Read Daniel 4:28-36.
- How did God deal with King Nebuchadnezzar’s pride?
- What was the king’s response (see v. 37)?
From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.