The Prophet Daniel
The Prophet Daniel was descended from the royal family. While still a young boy, he was taken prisoner to a Babylonian prison. In prison, by the will of King Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel was chosen with several other imprisoned youths of the children of Israel to serve in the King’s palace. The King ordered that they be brought up in the palace, taught in various fields of knowledge and in the language of the Chaldeans. The King appointed them a daily provision of food from his own table. Among those chosen besides Daniel were Ananias, Azarias, and Misael.
Daniel and his three friends firmly kept faith in the true God. They did not wish to eat the King’s meat in order to avoid being defiled by anything forbidden by the Law of Moses. They begged the prince of eunuchs to give them only bread and vegetables. The prince would not agree for fear they would lose weight, and the King would decapitate him. But Daniel asked him to do as they asked for ten days. When ten days had passed, Daniel and his friends not only did not lose weight, but they appeared fatter, more healthy and fairer than all the other children. After this they were not required to eat the King’s food. For such strict observance of the Law, for their fasting and piety, God rewarded these young boys with great ability and success in their studies. In tests, they proved to be more intelligent and better than the others, and they were given positions in the King’s palace. To Daniel, God gave the gift of interpreting dreams, as He had once to Joseph.
The rise of the Hebrew youths benefited the Jews in captivity. The piety of the youths served to defend the Jews from oppression and to better their life in captivity. Furthermore, through them the pagans were able to come to a knowledge of the true God and to glorify Him.
One day Nebuchadnezzar had an unusual dream, but when he awoke in the morning, he could not remember it. This dream greatly distressed the King. He convened all his wise men and magicians and ordered them to recall this dream and explain it. But they were not able do it and said, "There is not a man upon the earth that can recall the dream for the king" (Dan. 2:10). Nebuchadnezzar was infuriated and wanted to destroy all the wise men of Babylon.
Then Daniel asked the King to give him some time, and he would explain the dream. Going home, Daniel fervently implored God to reveal to him this mystery. In a vision at night, God revealed to him the dream of Nebuchadnezzar and its meaning.
Daniel went to the King and said, "O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter ...Thou, O king, sawest and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, his legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay" (Dan. 2:29, 31-33). Then from a mountain, by itself, a stone was cut out without hands, and it smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces, then the whole image fell apart and turned into dust, and the stone became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. This, O King, is thy dream!
This dream," continued Daniel, "means the following. Thou art a king of kings, for the God of Heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory, and He hath made thee ruler over all. Thou art this head of gold. After thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass which shall bear rule over all the earth. The fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and all these shall it break in pieces and bruise. But at the same time that the kingdom shall be divided, the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly broken. In the days of these last kings shall the God of Heaven set up an eternal kingdom which shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. Thus the great God hath made known to the King what shall come to pass hereafter."
Hearing this, King Nebuchadnezzar stood up and bowed down to the earth before Daniel, and said, "Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings!" (Dan. 2:47).
He honored Daniel greatly by giving him great gifts, seating him in the gate of the King, and making him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief of the governors, over all the wise men of Babylon. His three friends Ananian, Azarias, and Misael were set over the affairs of the province of Babylon.
The prophecy of Daniel was precisely fulfilled. After the Babylonian kingdom, there followed three great kingdoms: the Median-Persian, the Macedonian or Greek, and the Roman, each of which reigned over the Jewish people. Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, appeared on earth during the Roman empire, and established His universal, eternal kingdom, the holy Church.
The mountain, from which was carved the stone, represents the Holy Virgin Mary, and the stone, Christ and His eternal kingdom.
Note: See the Book of Daniel, chapters 1-2.
(from: The Law of God by Fr. Seraphim Slobodskoy)