In the Old Testament book of Daniel, there is a story in the first chapter that is pretty well known. After Jerusalem fell to King Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel and his three friends are taken to Babylon because they were the brightest young Jewish men. Babylon was the ruler of the world at that time so it had the best educators and most knowledge. Daniel and his friends were to study at “The University of Babylon” for three years and then take government jobs (verse 5). We presume Daniel and his buds were about 20 years old at the time.
Their dorm was interesting: they had all the food and wine they could want. Knowing the times, they probably had access to a nearby harem. It was a college boy’s dream: all the beer, steaks, and women you could ask for!
But Daniel and his friends declined. They actually said, “I’ll have the salad, please.” These virile, strong, intelligent young men passed on what every teenage boy dreams of and asked for veggies instead of meat. After a 10-day experiment, their Babylonian supervisor saw that these guys were better off than the others who indulged (verse 15). For the rest of their studies, Daniel and his friends ate according to their wishes and they were ten times better than anyone else (verse 20).
We don’t know anything about Daniel’s family. But what I’ve learned about Jewish culture from that time is that children were exceedingly close to their moms growing up. At about age 12, Jewish boys went to synagogue school where they memorized and debated teachings for hours upon end.
When Daniel and his friends were faced with a serious test, they relied on their experience – and they didn’t have much of that since they were so young. But they spoke up and said they wouldn’t do what was requested because it went against their beliefs. Who were the persons who taught these four guys to stand up for themselves? Who influenced them so heavily that they would forego every boy’s fantasy? Who inculcated their faith so deeply that they would risk their young lives for salad?
We don’t know. We’ll never know. But it does show the value and impact of teachers on young men and women; it demonstrates the lasting effect of a mom on boys and girls. Even when they were a thousand miles from home, with no one around to judge them, and faced with the greatest temptation a young man can have, they instead relied on their upbringing.
Here’s to you, teachers of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah!