Daniel is most famous for surviving being thrown into a den of hungry lions for defying the king’s order to pray only to his gods.

However, Daniel persevered in a career in service to the cruel Nebuchadnezzar.

I had the rare privilege to learn the Book of Daniel in the last year of primary school, where my father taught us the Aramaic language drama of Daniel and his three friends, Hanania, Mishael and Azariah.

Daniel had been brought into service at the royal palace, along with his three companions. There, they received Aramaic names: Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego.

All four declared themselves to be teetotalling vegetarians to avoid eating the meat and drinking the wine on the King’s non-kosher menu.

Daniel promised that by adhering to a kosher diet, he and his companions would perform better and not worse than the king’s other advisors.

Their performance, aided by divine intervention, was indeed outstanding.

When Nebuchadnezzar threw Daniel’s friends into a superheated furnace for not worshipping his deity, they not only survived, but emerged unscathed.

The king observed a fourth being in the furnace with them: the archangel Gabriel, who cooled the furnace for them.

Gabriel revealed to Daniel great secrets about the future and showed him the vision of the man with clay feet: a parody for Babylon crumbling under her own weight.

Nebuchadnezzar became insane and left his throne, grazing like cattle. Thereafter reigned Belshazzar, to whom a hand appeared during a drinking orgy.

The writing on the wall read: Mene Mene Tekel Ufarsin. ‘Ufarasin’ means
that the Persians would take over the Babylonian realm.

Thus, history progresses from the Temple’s destruction to the story of
Esther, the Persian queen who delivered her people and set the scene for the rebuilding of the Temple by command of Darius II.

ω Ariel is rabbi of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation