Exiles in Babylon

This poem is about remaining steadfast during persecution. It is an interpretation of part of the book of Daniel, from the Bible. It was written using couplets.

In the land of Judah, Jehoiakim reigned,
but in his third year he was chained
by Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon’s king,
who did besiege him, and who did bring
him and many of his nobles and clan
back home to Babylon by caravan.

From these exiles of Judah were selected
some young men with no defects detected;
these three men, who were both handsome and wise,
were chosen to serve the king and to advise;
so they were the Chaldean language taught,
and they learned what the locals thought;
they were also given names that were faux:
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

King Nebuchadnezzar built on a plain
a tall image of gold, and did ordain
that whenever any person should hear
diverse kinds of music being played near
he must worship and bow down low
and devotion to the gold image show.

But any who did not heed this decree,
who did not with the king’s order agree,
must be thrown into a furnace of fire,
where he would surely suffer and expire.

So, when all of the instruments were played,
the people ceased their work and they obeyed;
they bowed down low to the image of gold
that rose up from the plain, as they were told.

But some of the locals discovered three
who would not obey the king’s decree;
and these spies took their report
to the king, his advisers, and court.

And the king’s face became so distorted
with rage at the things the men reported
that he said with anger to the three Jews:
“What is this most unbelievable news?
Is it really true that you don’t revere
my gods and idols and don’t even fear
the great fire that I have just prepared
for those who try to do what you have dared?

“But if you decide that you will obey
my order and bow down, when the flutes play,
to the image of gold on yonder plain,
then you will not feel any cold, hard chain,
and you will not feel the furnace’s heat,
nor burn like a piece of scorched human meat.

“What god that is worshiped in any land
can free you from my mighty hand?”

And the three from Judah replied to him:
“We don’t need to answer your threats grim—
our God is able to deliver us
from the fire with which you threaten us.

“But even if our God does not prevent
the fire from burning, we won’t consent
to serve your gods or worship the gold
on yonder plain that we all behold.”

Then the king was overcome by wrath,
and he prepared the furnace fire bath
so that the furnace was heated to a grade
seven times hotter than it normally stayed.

The king also commanded his strong men
to tie up the three in their clothes, and then
to throw them into the furnace of heat
and then to beat a quick retreat.

But all of the king’s men were slain
by the heat as it burst the fire main;
and the king viewed the fire from a distance
to watch the three men lose their existence.

But the king was amazed to see
that in the furnace he no longer saw three;
instead, he saw four men walking around
inside the furnace, and now unbound.

The king turned to his officials to proclaim:
“Didn’t we cast three into the flame?”
And they answered: “Yes, that is so.”
“Look, I now see four men who freely go
about the hot furnace without burning,
and a son of the gods I am discerning.”

Then the king went up to the furnace door
and to the three loudly implored:
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, come out!
You servants of the Most High God, come out!”

Then the three came out of the burning blaze,
and the king and his council were amazed,
for they saw that the furnace of fire
had not harmed their flesh, hair, or attire;
neither did the strong odor of the smoke
the clothing or hair of the three men soak.

Then the amazed Nebuchadnezzar said:
“Blessed be your God, your Protector, your Head!
For He sent His mighty angel and saved
all three of you men, who willingly braved
the fire, and defied my stern command—
you risked your lives and took your stand;
you didn’t worship any other power,
but served only your God in that hour;
now I know that no other god can aid
as yours did when you stood unswayed!”

(written c. January 2015)

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