“The king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, […] to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king.” (Daniel 1:4-5)
As soon as the Jewish teenagers arrived in Babylon, their education began. After all, they are to become the king’s servants and thus need to learn a lot about the Chaldeans’ language, wisdom and culture. They also need to adapt to the Babylonian way of life, for example by eating the same food and drinking the same wine that is served to the king. The king’s goal is to transform these boys into Babylonian men, and to let them forget about their Jewish identity — including their religion.
During the following three years, the boys did indeed learn a lot. “God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom”. We even read that “in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom” (Daniel 1:20).
And yet, these youths do not forget about their background and do not forget about their God. Apparently it is possible to grow up in a ungodly culture without your parents to guide you, to be trained in wisdom that has nothing to do with God, and to nevertheless keep the faith; or in other words, “to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27) while living in the middle of it. Nothing can separate believers from Jesus Christ, not even a Babylonian king with his carefully considered education plan.
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