These small group studies take us through almost twenty of the key events in the Old Testament. Our Old Testament Survey contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Old Testament Survey Lesson 17 – Daniel in Babylon


  1. Nebuchadnezzar conquers Jehoiakim (1:1-7)

    1. Nebuchadnezzar takes the holy vessels (1-2)

    2. Nebuchadnezzar takes the elite young men (3-7)

      1. Daniel and his three friends were also taken (6-7)

  2. Daniel resolves himself not to defile himself (8-16)

    1. David makes his request to the commander (8)

    2. God grants him compassion (9)

    3. The commander refuses (10)

    4. Daniel makes his request to the overseer (11-13)

    5. The test succeeded (14-16)

  3. Daniel enters the Nebuchadnezzar’s personal service (17-21)

    1. Their success was from God (17)

    2. The king esteemed them (18-20)

    3. Daniel continued on for decades (21)


When did these things take place?

What do you know about Nebuchadnezzar?

Why did he attack Judah?

Why did God let such an evil king conquer Judah?

Why did Nebuchadnezzar take the temple vessels?

Why did he take the elite young men of Judah?

Why were they given new names?

Couldn’t Daniel just eat the food so that he could have an influence and not incur anger for himself or others? Is this a small thing?

What do you notice about how Daniel handles this situation?

How can such a young man have such wisdom?

How would you have handled this situation?

What can we learn from this about how to approach people in leadership?

What attitude/attitudes should we have when we approach government leaders or others over us?

The test ended successfully; who gets the credit for it?

What principles can we learn from this?

Is it possible to live in an evil world without defiling ourselves?

Is it possible to work in an evil government without compromising?

Can we work within the system and influence it or should we revolt against the system?

What can we learn from 17-20?


Matthew 10:16 – Be shrewd as serpents, innocent as doves.

1 Cor 3:19-20- For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is THE ONE WHO CATCHES THE WISE IN THEIR CRAFTINESS”; and again, “THE LORD KNOWS THE REASONINGS of the wise, THAT THEY ARE USELESS.”

James 1:5-6 – But if any of you lacks wisdom , let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

James 3:15-16 – This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic.

Prov 1:13-16 -We will find all kinds of precious wealth, We will fill our houses with spoil; Throw in your lot with us, We shall all have one purse,” My son,do not walk in the way with them. Keep your feet from their path, For their feet run to evil And they hasten to shed blood.

2 Cor 6:16-17 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ” I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. “Therefore,COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE ,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you.

I. Nebuchadnezzar conquers Jehoiakim (1-7)

During this time period there were two world powers. One was Egypt. It was the old world power and had retained a strong empire for centuries. The other was Babylon. It was the up and coming empire. These met in one of the biggest battles of that time period at Carchemish. That was in 605 BC. Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army defeated Egypt. Unfortunately for Jehoiakim, he had made an alliance with the wrong world power. Therefore Nebuchadnezzar (NZ) wanted to teach him a lesson. So NZ made a detour on the way back from Carchemish and defeated Jerusalem. As powerful as he was, it was the Lord who let Jerusalem fall into his hands. God had told Israel that they would be exiled for their sins and God used Nebuchadnezzar to accomplish that. God uses even evil people and empires to bring about His plans and execute His judgment.

NZ wanted to prove the superiority of his gods, so it was normal for him to take holy articles from the different places he captured and store them in the temples of his gods back in Babylon. He did this with many of the articles in the temple in Jerusalem. God, however, doesn’t need to prove His superiority or His existence. It is self-evident, though people try as hard as possible to deceive themselves so that they don’t have to believe it.

NZ also ordered his chief of officials to scour Jerusalem and take back some of the most promising young noble men. Daniel and his three friends were among those taken into exile at the very beginning. Here it says that they were the cream of the crop. They were smart, educated, and talented. They were also handsome, with no defect! (There are actually a lot of smart, handsome, educated, and talented people who go nowhere in the world.) These young men (probably about 16) were meant to be trained in the Babylonian “university” and indoctrinated and assimilated into Babylonian culture for service as officials in the kings court.

They were probably pleasantly surprised. They weren’t taken to Babylon for torture, to be killed, or for slavery. They were taken there for free university! Not bad, everything might work out OK after all. But just when they thought it might work out, boom, a problem comes.

Daniel means “God is judge.” Belteshazzar means “May Bel protect his life.” Hananiah means “Yahweh is gracious.” Shadrach likely means “command of Aku.” Mishael means “Who is what God is?” Meshach may mean “who is what Aku is?” Azariah means “whom Yahweh helps.” Abed-nego means “servant of Nebo.”

II. Daniel resolves himself not to defile himself (8-16)

These boys would faced an extreme amount of pressure. They left all the spiritual support around them, temple, prophets, parents, etc. and were forcibly taken right into the heart of a wicked and evil empire that worshiped many other gods. What happens to many kids in Christian families when they leave home and go to college or other places out on their own? A large amount fall away fast because they have no root. But Daniel and his friends had ROOT! Their belief didn’t wasn’t dependent on their environment. How about you? Is your belief dependent on your environment? Do you sing and worship and talk and act spiritually when you are around your Christian friends, fellowship, church, or family but then become just like “one of the guys” around your unbelieving friends? If for some reason you are forced (it’s not good to leave this protection on our own initiative) to leave all spiritual support will you still stand up for what is right and uncompromisingly serve God and continue to dedicate yourself to him? Well, that is what Daniel did.

Daniel made a firm decision not to defile himself. He made up his mind and wasn’t going to change it. Did he know he could be punished severely or killed for it? I’m sure he did. It wasn’t a light decision. He was dead serious. It came from his own heart (not from parents or pressure from others). The meat was probably sacrificed to pagan gods and wouldn’t have been kosher. To eat it, Daniel would be disobeying the Mosaic law. He could have found a reasons TO eat the meat and justified it. (If he didn’t eat it, it would cause problems for everyone, not only himself. It is only a small thing. If they were to influence those around them they would need to eat it so that they could rise up and have more influence. It tasted good!) However, Daniel didn’t attempt to justify it. He had a conviction and it would be sin to break it or compromise in any way.

So Daniel had a dilemma. One thing you can be sure of. As a Christian, you WILL run into dilemmas during your lifetime. There will be times when there is seemingly no good way to solve a problem. There will be times when your faced with a choice, either make a sacrifice or defile yourself in some way. Daniel faced this choice here. We can learn a lot from how he handled it. First, he made the decision not to defile himself. He remained innocent. Then he used great wisdom to deal with it. He went to the commander of the officials and asked permission not to eat that food. That’s the first step, ASK PERMISSION! So many times we give up without even asking. We think there is no way someone will listen to us or grant our request. But how can you know without trying? He also did it relying on God (9). However, the commander (even though he liked Daniel) denied his request. Just because someone likes you doesn’t guarantee that they will give you a favorable answer. Daniel could have given up and thought, “if God didn’t want me to eat this food, He would have moved the commander to grant my request”. But again, Daniel didn’t do that. He moved down the chain of command and talked to the overseer directly. “When at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” He proposed a solution that would allow the overseer to grant his request without endangering himself. He proposed an objective ten day test to evaluate at the end of that time if the choice food was really necessary. The test turned out favorably and Daniel’s dilemma was solved. This time God granted success. Daniel remained innocent, but also showed great wisdom.

There are a lot of good lessons to learn here. First, it is possible to live for God in a dark culture and world. It is possible to go through life without compromise. It doesn’t matter if you are in Asia, Africa or the US. It doesn’t matter if your boss is a liar or a saint. It doesn’t matter if your family is Buddhist, atheist, or Christians. We can remain steadfast and not give in to the world.

Second, in order to accomplish this we must make up our minds ahead of times. And we must have a strong root in God. We can’t rely on others to push us through these times although we can solicit their help. If we don’t have a strong personal relationship with God we will give in. Don’t wait until you are in the situation to decide what to do. Decide ahead of time.

Third, there is a right way and a wrong way to make a stand. I probably would have said something like, “That meat has been sacrificed to false idols, worthless, lifeless wood and rock. I believe in the one, true God, who is God over all the earth, EVEN BABYLON. He commands me not to eat this kind of food, and there is no way that I am going to eat it and sin like all of these other guys. So go tell THAT to NZ!!” Well, a slight exaggeration, but that is the attitude of many Western people. Even when we make a stand, we may do so with pride and come off as arrogant. That is not a good testimony at all, and it will certainly anger the officials and cause a much worse problem. We need to be humble and tactful.

Fourth, if you encounter a dilemma pray and handle it with faith and God’s wisdom. Do not give in, but do not give up in finding an acceptable way to handle the problem. For example your boss asks you to work on Sunday. First, talk humbly and ask for permission not to. Propose an objective evaluation of your performance during the weekdays to see how much you accomplish (as a diligent worker you should be able to satisfy them). Ask for permission of your boss’ boss or their underboss. Propose that you work extra during your lunch hours. Etc. etc. If in the end, there is no way to solve it, maybe you need to quit. But a lot of times the problem can be solved in an acceptable way for both parties without compromising.

Fifth, the very thing that sometimes is our obstacle is the thing that makes us succeed. This food was a big obstacle and one which appeared to prevent Daniel from rising up. But in the end, he rose up more because of it then if it had never come. His diligence in seeking a solution commended himself to those in authority over them and showed them his strength of character. Give woodcutter story here. If you talk reasonably to your boss why you can’t do something because of your belief they may be impressed by your character and respect you because of your stand.

III. Daniel enters Nebuchadnezzar’s personal service (17-21)

Teaching points

1. Background – Carchemish, indoctrination

2. Daniel resolved not to defile himself (peer pressure, many reasons to do it)

3. How to handle difficult situations

4. Proposing objective tests

5. All credit was due to God

6. Relationships are important

7. We can serve in evil governments and have a good influence, without compromising

Practical Application Points –

  1. We need to have a strong root in God and an independent walk with Him, not relying on others or a spiritual environment.

  2. We need to make up our minds not to defile ourselves.

  3. We need to wisely deal with difficult issues, not giving up, or giving in.

  4. We can serve in evil governments and have a good influence without compromising. Compromising will lesson that influence, not increase it.

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