.          all rights belong to Tanis Harms, © 2014
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SERVICE TO THE KING - written by Tanis Harms

PREMISE      Captured along with the people of Judah,
.            Daniel finds himself placed in the service
.            of the king within the Babylonian empire.
.            Faced with many decisions which come
.            with the threat of death, he is
.            determined to remain obedient to God.
STYLE:       drama
TOPIC:       obedience, trust
SCRIPTURE:   Daniel 1:1-12:13
NOTES:       for CAST, SET, PROPS

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SCRIPT:                 ACT 1
.                  UNSPECIFIC AREA

(QUEEN enters, adjusting her gown and touching her hair.  
ATTENDANT 1 follows behind to close a necklace clasp.
ATTENDANT 2 enters with a bow of excitement.)

ATTENDANT 2  My queen!  King Nebuchadnezzar has returned.

QUEEN        From the general atmosphere, does it seem-
.            well?  Will my day be pleasant?

ATTENDANT 2  I believe so.  They have captured
.            and brought over a small nation.

QUEEN        (contemplatively)  Another captured nation.

ATTENDANT 2  I believe it was the south part of Israel.

QUEEN        This should make my husband very happy.

ATTENDANT 2  The kingdom of Babylon is invincible.

QUEEN        Yes, with a king who is invincible.

ATTENDANT 2  But this is still good?

QUEEN        It is better than the alternative.
.            (suddenly smiling)  Now, let us go-
.            we must prepare a marvelous feast
.            to celebrate the king’s return.
.                                                       2
.                    THRONE ROOM

(NEBUCHADNEZZAR enters stage left and crosses stage
followed by ASHPENAZ and GUARDS 1-2 carrying gold
and silver vessels like cups, bowls and candlesticks.)

ASHPENAZ     You were bold to take the holy vessels
.            from the temple of Jerusalem.

NEB          My favorite prize from this entire war!
.            It is proof that my gods are more powerful
.            than the God of Israel.

ASHPENAZ     Where should we store this loot-
.            this magnificent prize?

NEB          Put these into my vault –
.            and place them in a prominent place –
.            to be part of my god’s treasury.
.            And in a place where I might go
.            to admire my accomplishment.

(ASHPENAZ points toward stage right, and the
GUARDS obediently carry the gold and silver vessels
off stage.  ASHPENAZ turns back to NEB.)

ASHPENAZ     What about all those Israelites
.            we have taken into captivity?

NEB          Well, we do not want them
.            to reproduce - do we?
.            (he laughs, then suddenly becomes serious)
.            Have all the men and boys castrated.

ASHPENAZ     As you wish.

NEB          Then take some of their children-
.            particularly those from nobility-
.            (after musing about this, he is decisive)
.            As soon as you have made the selection,
.            I would like to inspect the best
.            and the brightest before
.            you begin their training.

ASHPENAZ     As you wish.

(ASHPENAZ bows slightly as he exits stage left.
NEB exits stage right.)

.                  UNSPECIFIC AREA                      3

(PEOPLE enter doing various business transactions
to create a city square kind of atmosphere.  MEN stand
in groups to study ledgers, WOMEN carry trays of wares,
while other WOMEN carry shopping baskets to buy wares.  
WOMAN 1 enters stage left and lingers there seductively.  
Make this church friendly.  ASHPENAZ enters stage left,
followed by teenagers: DANIEL, SHADRACH, MESACH,
ABED-NEGO, and maybe some extra HEBREW BOYS.  
GUARDS make sure the HEBREW BOYS stay together.  
SHADRACH glances at WOMAN 1, who calls out to the boys.)

WOMAN 1      Strangers, please give me some money
.            of payment for pleasure.  Please!
.            So I may go back to my new husband.

SHADRACH     LAH-MAH  HEE  OH-SAH  ET  ZEH?
.            (in Hebrew:  Why does she do this?)

ASHPENAZ     No Hebrew!  Hebrew is forbidden.
.            You are here now!
.            You will speak our language.

(WOMAN 1 lifts up her dress a little to show an ankle.)

SHADRACH     (thinking)  Why does she do this?
.            Sell her body for money to bring
.            to her husband.  Is there not a law?

ASHPENAZ     It is an expected tradition of new wives.

SHADRACH     We did not see such things in Israel.

DANIEL       Sadly, things WERE going in that direction.

ASHPENAZ     Now please, you will wait right here.

(GUARDS look more alert as ASHPENAZ exits stage right.  
HEBREW BOYS turn to each other.)

ABED-NEGO    MAH  NAH-AH-SEH  KAHN?
.            (in Hebrew:  What will we do here?)

MESHAEL      No Hebrew!  Do you want to be killed?

SHADRACH     Must we do as they say?

MESHACH      It is - obey - or be killed!

DANIEL       (thinking)  We should obey their laws –    4
.            as long as they do not go against
.            the laws given by God.

MESHACH      (sinking to the ground)
.            So we will all die, then.

ABED-NEGO    It will not take long before
.            we come up against such a conflict.
.            This country is very corrupt.

DANIEL       God will be with us.

MESHACH      Then why did God allow us to go
.            into captivity?

SHADRACH     This HAS happened before
.            in our nation’s history.  

DANIEL       Yes!  It happens every time our people
.            turn away from God.  We must repent,
.            and obey God.  When we obey– God is with us.

MESHACH      So then we will live?

DANIEL       (sitting down beside MESHACH)
.            God will do as He sees fit – to His glory.

MESHACH      So! We will all die, then!
.            All because of what?
.            Our nation does not look to God?

DANIEL       Do not be angry and bitter
.            against our people.

ABED-NEGO    King Jehoiakim is mostly at fault.

SHADRACH     And do not blame our king.

ABED-NEGO    He only became king because
.            the Egyptian Pharaoh made him so.
.            He was just a puppet in the Pharaoh’s hand.

MESHACH      Maybe if he had been a puppet to
.            the king of Babylon, we could have
.            at least stayed in Israel.
.            But now, because Babylon defeated Egypt,
.            we must suffer.  We obviously chose
.            to be friends with the wrong enemies.

DANIEL       That is the problem right there,           5
.            making allies with enemies for protection –
.            when we should be relying on God!
.            So it would not matter which enemy
.            we ally with – either decision is wrong!
.            Either decision would cause us to suffer.

SHADRACH     So then we suffer only because our king
.            was weak.  He allowed idolatry to flourish,
.            and failed to keep the sabbatical year-

ABED-NEGO    It is not always so easy to follow
.            what is written in the scriptures.

SHADRACH     His father obeyed God!  And notice,
.            Israel had great success.
.            If only King Jehoiakim could have ruled
.            as his father did.

DANIEL       King Josiah WAS a man of God.
.            And just like King Josiah,
.            I choose to be a man of God.
.            I am determined to remain faithful.

ABED-NEGO    We’ll see how determined you are
.            when you are faced with
.            a life or death decision.

DANIEL       I will not wait to choose.  I will make
.            the decision now to follow God – now –
.            before trials and temptations come our way.

MESHACH      We do not even know what is to happen to us.
.            We have – already – been made – eunuchs.

(MESHACH fights off tears while
ABED-NEGO sinks down to hug his knees in shame.  
DANIEL becomes solemn and introspective.)

DANIEL       It does not matter.  God is in control.
.            We must choose now to trust and obey God.
.            No matter what!

(BOYS roll the eyes or sadly shake their heads.  
MEN and WOMEN quietly exit as ASHPENAZ enters with NEB.
GUARDS quickly pull the BOYS up to their feet.  
After bowing, GUARDS then push down on the BOYS’ backs
to bow also.)

ASHPENAZ     You will bow to King Nebuchadnezzar.
.                                                       6
(Except for DANIEL, the BOYS bow slightly.  
NEB walks back and forth, studying the BOYS,
which includes feeling their arms for muscles and
looking at the condition of their teeth.)

NEB          You seem to have chosen well, Ashpenaz.
.            I observe no defect.  They will serve me
.            in my courts here in Shinar, once
.            they have received their education.
.            I leave you in charge of their training
.            as well as their well-being.
.            Because I want to see them succeed,
.            I will appoint to them rations
.            from my choice food and wine.

(ASHPENAZ bows as NEB exits, then turns to the boys.)

ASHPENAZ     Over the next three years,
.            you will be trained under my direction.
.            After that time, you will enter
.            into the king’s personal service.
.            You must prove yourselves
.            in every branch of wisdom, with the ability
.            to understand and discern knowledge.
.            Under the king’s command, you will learn
.            agriculture, astrology, astronomy,
.            and mathematics;  as well as the literature
.            and language of the Chaldeans.
.            But first, let me get to know your names.

SHADRACH     Hananiah.

ASHPENAZ     What does this mean?

SHADRACH     “Yahweh is gracious.”

ASHPENAZ     You will now be called... (thinks) Shadrach,
.            which means “command of Aku”, the moon god.
.            (to MESHACH)  And your name?

MESHACH      Mishael.

ASHPENAZ     Meaning?

MESHACH      Meaning “Who is what God is.”

ASHPENAZ     Ugh!  Then you will be called Meshach,
.            meaning “Who is what Aku is.”
.            (to ABED-NEGO)  Name?
.                                                       7
ABED-NEGO    Azariah, meaning “Whom Yahweh helps.”

ASHPENAZ     No!...  It will be Abed-nego,
.            meaning “Servant of Nebo.”

(ASHPENAZ looks over at DANIEL who jumps right in.)

DANIEL       My name is Daniel, meaning “God is judge.”

ASHPENAZ     You should be called Belteshazzar,
.            meaning “May Bel protect his life.”

DANIEL       Yahweh is protector of all life, not Bel.

(SHADRACH, MESHACH and ABED-NEGO all become alarmed.)

ASHPENAZ     (sternly)  You will be called Belteshazzar.

(DANIEL keeps quiet, wondering how far to push this.)

ASHPENAZ     I will now see to your dinner.

(ASHPENAZ exits.  SHADRACH turns to DANIEL.)

SHADRACH     So you already back down from honoring God.
.            You will not insist that your name
.            remain as is?

DANIEL       Please, I feel bad enough.

MESHACH      To be called by another name –
.            is it really something that goes
.            against God’s laws?

ABED-NEGO    They are the ones calling you this name.
.            How can you be faulted for their actions?

SHADRACH     Never mind that now.  Have you seen
.            how they prepare the king’s meat and wine?
.            The meat is not prepared according
.            to God’s instructions, and the wine
.            is first sacrificed to their pagan gods.

(DANIEL seems to bow in prayer, contemplating
his next step.  ASHPENAZ returns.)

ASHPENAZ     Dinner will be served.  You may follow me.

DANIEL       Excuse me, Ashpenaz, sir.
.                                                       8
(ASHPENAZ approaches DANIEL.)

DANIEL.      Please, sir, I will not eat from
.            the king’s meat or drink his wine.

ASHPENAZ     It is the finest meat-

DANIEL       Which has not been slain according
.            to Mosaic law, and the wine has been
.            offered to a pagan god.  I will not partake.
.            We will not partake.

(DANIEL motions to SHADRACH, MESACH and ABED-NEGO.
SHADRACH, MESHACH and ABED-NEGO compliantly stand aside.
ASHPENAZ is mildly impressed, but concerned.)

ASHPENAZ     You will grow weak.

DANIEL       I seek your permission –
.            so that we will not be defiled.

ASHPENAZ     I only fear my lord the king,
.            who has appointed your food and your drink.
.            When the king sees your faces looking
.            more sallow and tired compared
.            to the other young people,
.            my own life will be in danger.

(While DANIEL thinks, MESHACH nudges DANIEL to stop.)

DANIEL       Please test your servants for ten days!
.            Let us be given fruits and vegetables
.            to eat - and - water to drink.
.            Then observe our appearance compared
.            to the other young people who are eating
.            the king’s choice food;  and deal with
.            your servants according to what you see.

ASHPENAZ     For only ten days?...  (thinking)
.            Very well, I will agree to that.

(ASHPENAZ leads the BOYS off at stage left.
MESHACH stops DANIEL briefly to talk.)

MESHACH      We will become weak from hunger-

DANIEL       We will ask God to nourish us
.            and keep us strong.

.                    THRONE ROOM                        9

(QUEEN follows NEB, as he deeply contemplates something
and sits on his throne.)

QUEEN        My husband the king is very deep
.            in thought today.

NEB          Hm?  Oh, yes.  I saw something -
.            rather extraordinary today.  

QUEEN        You know how I love to hear about things
.            which are extraordinary.

(QUEEN sits on the floor at NEB’s feet, eagerly waiting
to hear a good story.)

NEB          Do you remember when,
.            approximately three years ago,
.            we brought in those Israelites
.            from the land of Judah.

QUEEN        I seem to remember something about that.
.            You were bragging about how you
.            took the holy vessels from their temple.

NEB          Yes!  As well, we took their brightest
.            young people of nobility and put them
.            through some rigorous training.

QUEEN        And how has that gone?

NEB          There are four young men, who have
.            excelled – far above all the rest.
.            Especially the one we named Belteshazzar.

QUEEN        (defensively)  Why Belteshazzar?
.            Our son’s name is Belshazzar.
.            As the future king, this may confuse people.
.            What was his given name, this Belteshazzar?

NEB          I believe it was - Daniel.

QUEEN        So these particular young men excelled.
.            What was so extraordinary about that?

NEB          For one, I just found out, that throughout
.            the entire three years of their training,
.            they have refused to eat my meat
.            or drink my wine.
.                                                      10
QUEEN        What have they been eating?

NEB          Lots of fruits and vegetables.

QUEEN        (the motherly concern now appears)
.            They must be tiny and weak with hunger.

NEB          (perplexed)  Not so.  At all.  They are
.            in fact healthier than any of the others.

QUEEN        I cannot imagine that.  We watch
.            our own son – Belshazzar –
.            how he grows leaps and bounds –
.            and requires massive amounts of food.
.            Why would they not want your meat and wine?

NEB          Something about their Mosaic laws,
.            and not wanting to be defiled.

QUEEN        They do have their strange ways,
.            do they not?

NEB          (perplexed)  I do not know what to think.

QUEEN        I would think that as long as they do well
.            in serving you- what would it hurt?

NEB          Indeed.  Because not only are they the
.            healthiest, they are also the most
.            intelligent and knowledgeable
.            in every branch of literature and wisdom.
.            And Belteshazzar– Daniel- even understands
.            all kinds of visions and dreams.
.            These four are ten times better
.            than any wise men in my entire realm.

QUEEN        Interesting.  One would expect some
.            jealousy to arise at some point?

NEB          Only time will tell.  They have already
.            been placed in my personal service.

.                  UNSPECIFIC AREA

(DANIEL kneels on the floor, praying, as
SHADRACH, MESHACH and ABED-NEGO enter and wait.
DANIEL finally finishes and looks at them.)

ABED-NEGO    So, what does God tell you now?
.                                                      11
DANIEL       I was praying.  I was talking to God-

SHADRACH     We know what praying is.

MESHACH      I am sure we could all pray a little more
.            than we already do.

ABED-NEGO    I am just curious to see what
.            it will be like serving this king.
.            A king who took us into captivity
.            and stole our holy vessels,
.            and worships every and any god
.            he hears about... and sometimes
.            even creates his own gods.

MESHACH      He probably just wants to make sure
.            that he does not offend any of the gods.

SHADRACH     But just how ARE we to serve a king
.            like that?

DANIEL       By always ONLY serving God.  No matter what,
.            we should never give honor to any other.

MESHACH      I feel a little guilty for having
.            such a privileged position, compared
.            to the rest of our people here.

DANIEL       I do not think it will always be so easy.
.            But I do know that God put us here
.            for a purpose.

ABED-NEGO    And what would that be?

DANIEL       We do know that we have been placed
.            in positions which could influence kings,
.            which could ultimately help our people.

.                    THRONE ROOM

(NEB comes out, a little disheveled, not wearing
his full royal garb and begins to pace.  
QUEEN rushes out, looking for NEB.)

QUEEN        Neb!-  Nebuchadnezzar?- there you are.
.            What is wrong?  Are you feeling all right?
.            I noticed your sleep was very fitful.

NEB          I had dream...
.                                                      12
QUEEN        Which is obviously upsetting you.
.            Why don’t you just come with me
.            and try to get back to sleep?

NEB          I could not sleep now!  It was-
.            it was far too disturbing.

(GUARD 1 enters with a quick bow.)

GUARD 1      O king, live forever, I noticed you were up.
.            Do you - require anything?

NEB          Yes!...  Summon all magicians, conjurers,
.            sorcerers and Chaldeans – immediately!

(GUARD 1 bows slightly and exits.)

QUEEN        You think it is that serious?

NEB          How can you understand?  I have never
.            experienced anything so terrifying.

QUEEN        Tell me what you dreamt?

NEB          Go back to sleep.  Let me worry about this.

(QUEEN cautiously curtsies and exits, leaving
a distraught NEB.  As GUARDS usher in the WISE MEN
NEB collapses onto his throne and studies the WISE MEN
who stand anxiously and intently before him.)

NEB          I had a dream - and my spirit is anxious
.            to understand this dream.

WISE MAN 1   O king, live forever!
.            Tell the dream to your servants,
.            and we will declare the interpretation.

NEB          The command from me is firm:
.            if you do not make known to me
.            the dream and its interpretation,
.            you will be torn limb from limb
.            and your houses will be destroyed.
.            But if you declare the dream and
.            its interpretation, you will receive from me
.            gifts and a reward of great honor;
.            therefore - declare to me the dream
.            and its interpretation.

WISE MAN 1   Let the king tell the dream               13
.            to his servants, and we will declare
.            the interpretation.

NEB          I know you are just bargaining for time.
.            If I told you what the dream was,
.            you would collaborate together
.            and tell me lies and corrupt words
.            in order to manipulate things
.            and make me feel better.  But I desire
.            to know the truth behind this dream.

WISE MAN 1   There is not a man on earth
.            who could know what you dreamt!

NEB          If you can tell me what my dream was,
.            then I will know that I can trust
.            your interpretation.

WISE MAN 1   No reasonable king or ruler would ever
.            ask such a thing.  This is something
.            that only the gods could accomplish.

(NEB stands up with great anger and begins to point
at the WISE MEN, then looks around for a GUARD.)

NEB          I order these men to be destroyed.  Gather
.            and destroy all the wise men of Babylon.
.            I make a decree to destroy ALL of them!

(GUARDS usher the GROUP.)

.                  UNSPECIFIC AREA

(DANIEL is on his knees praying when GUARD 1 enters.)

GUARD 1      I am here to collect you and your friends.
.            King Nebuchadnezzar has issued a decree
.            to have all wise men destroyed.

DANIEL       (stands to face GUARD 1)  For what reason
.            is this decree from the king so urgent?

GUARD 1      King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream.
.            He asked all of the wise men to tell him
.            what he dreamt, as well as what it meant.
.            None of the wise men were able to do so...
.            Why were you not among these men
.            when they were summoned?

DANIEL       I do not want the glory of the power      14
.            I have through God - to be associated
.            with that particular group of men
.            and what they do.

GUARD 1      Well nonetheless, I need to follow through-

DANIEL       Please!  I wish to be brought
.            before the king.

(GUARD 1 nods and ushers DANIEL out stage left.)

.                  UNSPECIFIC AREA

(MESHACH enters stage left and paces.  Soon after,
SHADRACH and ABED-NEGO enter.)

SHADRACH     What is happening?

MESHACH      Did you not hear about the decree?

ABED-NEGO    I just heard that Daniel went to see
.            the king.

MESHACH      We are all to be put to death.
.            Daniel told us to stand firm
.            and not disobey God, even it meant death.
.            But now we have not even done anything
.            wrong against God OR the king,
.            and we are going to be put to death.

(DANIEL enters and waits for his friends to notice.)

ABED-NEGO    Daniel, how did it go with the king?

MESHACH      Did you change the king’s mind
.            on this outrageous decree.

DANIEL       I requested that the king give me time.

SHADRACH     I hear that the king will not even
.            tell anyone what the dream was.
.            How will you interpret what it means?

MESHACH      That is it then!  We will all die.

DANIEL       That is why we will pray fervently
.            and request compassion from God
.            concerning this mystery.

.                    THRONE ROOM                       15

(NEB sits on throne when GUARD 1 enters with DANIEL -
and with a bow.  NEB studies DANIEL intensely.)

NEB          (to DANIEL)  Are you able to make
.            known to me the dream which I have seen
.            and its interpretation?

DANIEL       There is not a man on earth who is able.
.            And it is not that I can, but there is
.            a God in heaven who reveals mysteries,
.            and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar
.            what will take place in the future days.
.            This is what you saw in your dream...
.            There was a single great statue;  which
.            was large and of extraordinary splendor.
.            The statue’s head was made of fine gold,
.            its breast and its arms of silver,
.            its belly and thighs of bronze,
.            its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron
.            and partly of clay.  You continued looking
.            until a stone was cut out without hands,
.            and it struck the statue on its feet
.            of iron and clay and crushed them.
.            Then the iron, the clay, bronze, silver
.            and the gold were crushed all at once
.            and became like dust - blowing away
.            in the wind so that nothing was left.
.            But the stone that struck the statue
.            became a great mountain and filled
.            the entire earth.  That was the dream;
.            and now you will hear its interpretation.
.            You, O king, are the king of kings, to whom
.            the God of heaven has given the kingdom,
.            and has caused you to rule over them all.
.            You are the head of gold.
.            After you is the silver -
.            a kingdom inferior to yours will arise,
.            then a third kingdom of bronze,
.            will rule over all the earth.
.            Then there will be a fourth kingdom
.            as strong as iron.  But it will become
.            a fragmented kingdom, just as you saw
.            in the mix of iron and clay for the feet.
.            The stone that was cut without hands
.            is the kingdom that the God of heaven
.            will set up and will never be destroyed.
.            It will crush and put an end to all other
.            kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.
.                                                      16
(NEB is in a trance, absorbing what he is hearing,
and now snaps to attention with realization.)

DANIEL       This is the future that will take place,
.            that the great God of heaven has made known
.            to the king;  so the dream is true
.            and its interpretation is trustworthy.

(NEB falls on his face before Daniel.  Standing up,
NEB faces DANIEL.)

NEB          (to DANIEL)  Surely your God is
.            a God of gods and a Lord of kings
.            and a revealer of mysteries!

(NEB snaps his fingers to GUARD 1 who rushes off.)

NEB          Gifts!  And a promotion.  You will now
.            act as chief prefect over all wise men,
.            and rule over the entire province of Babylon
.            to serve in my court and royal offices!

DANIEL       (cautiously)  Might I make a request?

(THOSE AROUND freeze, afraid of the answer.)

.                  UNSPECIFIC AREA

(Makes most sense at downstage right,
QUEEN enters and sees ASHPENAZ walking by.  
Seeing the QUEEN, ASHPENAZ quickly bows politely.)

ASHPENAZ     Your majesty.

(QUEEN continues to walk, but stops, curious.  
ASHPENAZ was in the midst of standing back up,
but quickly bows again.)

QUEEN        You are my king’s servant.  Were you there –
.            or have you heard?  How did it go?

ASHPENAZ     Excuse me, your majesty?

QUEEN        My king had been called away from me,
.            saying that there was an exile from Judah
.            who could interpret his dream.
.            Was he able to do so?

ASHPENAZ     Yes, he was able to interpret the dream.
.                                                      17
QUEEN        Really?  And - what was the man’s name?

ASHPENAZ     Hardly yet a man, but his name is
.            Belteshazzar.

QUEEN        Ah, the one named Daniel.

ASHPENAZ     (curious how she’d know this)
.            Yes.

QUEEN        And what sort of mood might I expect
.            from my king?

ASHPENAZ     The interpretation’s message was favorable.

QUEEN        Was that all?

ASHPENAZ     Belteshazzar – Daniel – made a request
.            that his friends be promoted to work
.            alongside him, over the administration
.            of the province of Babylon –

QUEEN        Oh... my husband can be generous –
.            to a point.

ASHPENAZ     The king granted the favor.

QUEEN        (sighing)  This is good.  It shall be
.            a good day for me.  Ah, that is all.
.            Thank you.

(ASHPENAZ bows once more, and they both exit.)

.                  UNSPECIFIC AREA

(Perhaps at downstage left, DANIEL enters with
SHADRACH, MESHACH and ABED-NEGO.)

MESHACH      God is with us...  Right?

SHADRACH     Of course.  We are living in obedience
.            to God.

ABED-NEGO    This good fortune cannot continue.
.            I am sure something will happen.
.            Did you not see how the other officials
.            were looking at us when we arrived here
.            to work?  I do not trust any of them.

DANIEL       Well, let us not worry, but trust God,    18
.            and do our work as we should.

SHADRACH     I am hoping that this does not involve
.            overseeing the building of that structure.

MESHACH      Which structure?

SHADRACH     I am not sure what it is, but it looks
.            to be - a very tall pillar of gold.

ABED-NEGO    Could that be another one of
.            the king’s gods?

SHADRACH     Well, as usual, we will just ignore it.

(OFFICIAL 1 enters to get DANIEL’S attention.)

OFFICIAL 1   Excuse me.  Belteshazzar?
.            There is business that requires
.            your attention and insight.

DANIEL       What is it exactly?

OFFICIAL 1   You will have to come with me.
.            I will explain the details while we travel.

DANIEL       Is it far?

OFFICIAL 1   It will be two days journey to get there.

DANIEL       Thank you.  I will be with you
.            in a few minutes.

(As OFFICIAL exits, DANIEL turns to FRIENDS.)

DANIEL       I do not know how long until I return.
.            I trust that you will remain steadfast
.            and continue to work as you should.

SHADRACH     Of course.

DANIEL       And I pray that God sees you through
.            all things-

ABED-NEGO    We will be fine.

MESHACH      Thank you.  We will pray for you as well.

(DANIEL exits with a “thank-you” smile.)
.                                                      19
MESHACH      (turning to ABED-NEGO)
.            You do not know that we will be fine.

ABED-NEGO    We were wise enough to learn several
.            languages and subjects in just three years.
.            We can manage this.

SHADRACH     THIS is where we could fail.

ABED-NEGO    What are you talking about?

SHADRACH     (fishing)  WE – can manage this?

MESHACH      The correct answer would be –
.            we will let God manage this for us.

ABED-NEGO    All right.  Fine.  Yes, you are right.

(OFFICIAL 2 enters.)

OFFICIAL 2   Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego?
.            All officials have been summoned
.            by King Nebuchadnezzar.

SHADRACH     Thank you.

OFFICIAL 2   Do not thank me yet.  We are watching you.

(OFFICIAL 2 exits.)

ABED-NEGO    What now?

MESHACH      I am afraid to speculate.

(SHADRACH, MESHACH and ABED-NEGO exit.)

.                    THRONE ROOM

(NEB sits on his throne.  OFFICIAL 3 enters and
approaches NEB with a bow.  
[As they speak, crowds of men enter from stage left,
including SHADRACH, MESHACH and ABED-NEGO,
filling in the space to give the illusion
that there are many more behind them.])

OFFICIAL 3   Oh great king, live forever.

NEB          (proudly and grandly)  What do you think
.            of my newly built golden image?
.                                                      20
OFFICIAL 3   The king’s golden image is magnificent.
.            It can be seen from a great distance.
.            Everyone in the plain of Dura
.            is able to admire its beauty.

NEB          One should, indeed.  I built it 9 feet wide,
.            and 90 feet high!

OFFICIAL 3   And there has never been such
.            a wondrous image in all the world.

NEB          And has everyone been summoned?

OFFICIAL 3   All of your officials in this region
.            have been summoned and are eagerly waiting
.            for your appearance.

(OFFICIAL 3 bows.  As NEB steps forward to address
the CROWD, the light comes up to reveal the CROWD.)

NEB          My loyal subjects and official servants,
.            we have gathered here together
.            for the dedication of the image
.            that I have set up.

(NEB’s grand motion behind him alludes to the fact
that they are all looking up at a very tall structure.
OFFICAL 3 steps forward and loudly proclaims to CROWD...)

OFFICIAL 3   To you the command is given, o peoples,
.            nations and men of every language,
.            that at the moment you hear the sound
.            of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon,
.            psaltery, bagpipe and all kinds of music,
.            you are to fall down
.            and worship the golden image.
.            But whoever does not fall down and worship
.            shall immediately be cast into
.            a furnace of blazing fire.

(SHADRACH, MESHACH and ABED-NEGO look at each other.)

SHADRACH     Whatever we do, we cannot bow down
.            to this.

(MESHACH puts worried hands to his face,
thinking and nodding.  ABED-NEGO braces himself
and squares his shoulders resolutely.
OFFICIAL 2 is there and watching.)
.                                                      21
SOUND:       noisy eastern sounding music

(ALL bow down to the floor, except for NEB., and
SHADRACH, MESHACH and ABED-NEGO.  When the music ends,
ALL stand back up and quietly mill about.
Smirking, OFFICIAL 2 goes to approach NEB with a bow.)

OFFICIAL 2   O king, live forever!

(NEB motions for OFFICIAL 2 to continue.)

OFFICIAL 2   You, O king, have made a decree -
.            that anyone not falling down and worshiping
.            the golden image at the sound of the music
.            should be cast into the fiery furnace.
.            There are certain Jews who have disobeyed.
.            These are the ones you appointed over
.            the province of Babylon’s administration -
.            namely Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego.

(NEB looks over at OFFICIAL 3.)

NEB          Did I not just appoint them?

(OFFICIAL 3 nods.  NEB motions for OFFICIAL 2 to go on.
As OFFICIAL 2 speaks, NEB becomes very angry.)

OFFICIAL 2   These men, O king, have disregarded you.
.            They did not worship the golden image
.            which you have set up, but they also
.            do not serve ANY of your gods.

NEB          Bring them before me at once!

(OFFICIAL 2 motions for GUARDS 1-2 to follow him.
Finding SHADRACH, MESHACH and ABED-NEGO in the CROWD...)

OFFICIAL 2   These men are to stand before the king.

(SHADRACH, MESHACH and ABED-NEGO try to calm
their breathing as they are ushered up to NEB.
Meanwhile CROWD exits quietly.)

NEB          Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego,
.            that you do not worship the golden image,
.            AND you do not serve any of my gods?

(SHADRACH, MESHACH and ABED-NEGO all nod solemnly.)

NEB          (sternly) I will give you another chance. 22
.            When the music plays, if you fall down
.            and worship the image I have made,
.            all will be very well.  But
.            if you do not, you will immediately
.            be cast into the fiery furnace.
.            There is no god who will be able
.            to deliver you from my hands!

SHADRACH     O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give
.            you an answer concerning this matter.
.            If it be so, our God whom we serve is able
.            to deliver us from the fiery furnace,
.            and He will deliver us out of your hand,
.            O king.  But even if He does not,
.            let it be known to you, that
.            we are NOT going to serve any of your gods
.            or worship the golden image.

(NEB is so angry that for a few moments he is unable to
speak.  When he does, he finally says to the GUARDS...)

NEB          Tie them up and throw them in –
.            and make the furnace seven times hotter!

(GUARDS 1-2 look at each other, very concerned.)

NEB          What are you waiting for?

OFFICIAL 3   They will probably die just from
.            standing too close to the furnace.

NEB          These three are willing to go
.            to a certain death for their God!!!
.            You will not honor me with your death?!!!

(GUARDS brace themselves and usher SHADRACH, MESHACH
and ABED-NEGO out toward the “furnace.”  
LIGHTING effects soon grow brighter.  Neb watches
with anger, and OFFICIALS 2-3 watch with eagerness.)

OFFICIAL 2   (smiling to OFFICIAL 3)
.            That is done.  We are rid of them.

(NEB suddenly starts to squint and lean forward,
trying to make sure he is seeing correctly.
The faces of OFFICIALS 2-3 now fall as they see it too.)

NEB          Am I seeing correctly?!

(Upset now, OFFICIALS 2-3 are afraid to answer.)       23

NEB          Am I?!!!  And did we not throw TRHEE men
.            into the fire?

OFFICIAL 3   Yes.   Most certainly, O king.

NEB          And now LOOK!  I see four men loosed
.            and walking about in the midst of the fire
.            without harm.  (looking now in fearful awe)
.            The appearance of the fourth is like
.            a son of the gods!  What have I done?

(NEB paces frantically, then suddenly stops to look
at OFFICIAL 3.)

NEB          Have the guards bring them out!!!

OFFICIAL 3   But – several guards have already died
.            because of the extreme heat.

(Desperate, NEB takes a few steps toward the fire
and leans in, yelling...)

NEB          Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego! come out!
.            You - servants of the Most High God!
.            Please come here!

(SHADRACH, MESHACH AND ABED-NEGO slowly enter
from the furnace area.  NEB and OFFICIALS 2-3 walk
around the THREE, studying them closely.)

OFFICIAL 2   I do not understand.  The ropes around
.            your hands and feet were burned away,
.            but - your clothes are not burned at all.
.            Their hair is not even singed.

OFFICIAL 3   How is it - they do not even smell
.            of smoke?

NEB          Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach
.            and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel
.            and delivered His servants - who put
.            their trust in Him.  They disobeyed
.            the king’s command, and yielded up
.            their bodies so as not to serve or worship
.            any god except their own God.

(NEB paces, thinking, then stops short, speaking
with new awestruck conviction.)
.                                                      24
NEV          I make a decree that any people, nation
.            or tongue that speaks anything offensive
.            against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and
.            Abed-nego shall be torn limb from limb
.            and their houses will be destroyed,
.            inasmuch as there is no other god
.            who is able to deliver in this way.

(OFFICIAL 2 reluctantly bows and exits, followed
by OFFICIAL 3.  They glower at each other as they leave.
NEB turns to SHADRACH, MESHACH and ABED-NEGO.)

NEB          I will see to it that you prosper
.            in the province of Babylon.

.                       ACT 2
.                  UNSPECIFIC AREA

(DANIEL [young adult now] enters with OFFICIAL 1.)

DANIEL       I am curious to see my friends.

OFFICIAL 1   While we were gone, I got word
.            that something happened to them.

DANIEL       What?  Why did you not tell me?

OFFICIAL 1   I – did not want to worry you.
.            Besides, that is all I know.

(OFFICIAL 2 enters.  Seeing OFFICIAL 1,
he quickly approaches, until he sees DANIEL.  
OFFICIAL 2 then stops short, wondering what to do next.)

OFFICIAL 1   What is it?  It looked as if you
.            had something to say.

OFFICIAL 2   Is this – Belteshazzar?  The boy
.            his friends call Daniel?

OFFICIAL 1   It is.  Although, no longer a boy.

DANIEL       Do you have news of my friends?

OFFICIAL 2   (dryly)  They are fine.  Very fine.
.            They have found great success
.            in the province of Babylon.

OFFICIAL 1   And other news?  Anything we should know?
.                                                      25
OFFICIAL 2   It pains me to say –
.            (eyes DANIEL suspiciously)

OFFICIAL 1   Daniel is your superior, you had better
.            speak your peace.

OFFICIAL 2   King Nebuchadnezzar made a decree
.            that no one should speak offensively
.            against the God of Shadrach, Meshach
.            and Abed-nego.

(DANIEL nods, finding this favorably interesting.)

OFFICIAL 1   Strange.  And?

OFFICIAL 2   King Nebuchadnezzar has been declaring
.            to the entire world how great this God is.
.            Just because he saw some signs and wonders.

DANIEL       What sort of signs and wonders?

OFFICIAL 2   I am sure your friends will tell you
.            all about it.

DANIEL       Thank you.  I will go find them now
.            and ask them.

(DANIEL exits.  OFFICIAL 2 rolls his eyes.)

OFFICIAL 2   I cannot stand him!  I cannot stand him
.            or his friends.  Something must be done.

OFFICIAL 1   What do you have in mind?

OFFICIAL 2   I do not know.  For as long as the king
.            continues to follow this God of heaven,
.            it will be difficult to do anything.

.                    THRONE ROOM

(NEB enters to pace the floor and fret.  
QUEEN enters right after him.)

QUEEN        My darling king, O live forever.
.            You have had yet another upsetting dream?

NEB          I simply cannot sleep tonight because
.            of the dream I had LAST night.
.            I fear this one is not so favorable.
.                                                      26
QUEEN        How can you be so sure?

NEB          It is different, somehow.

QUEEN        Will you call on Daniel?

NEB          Belteshazzar?  He has been away
.            on business for some time.
.            Instead I had a meeting today with all
.            the wise men in my kingdom, but
.            none of them were unable to interpret-
.            even though this time,
.            I told them what the dream was.

QUEEN        I hear that Daniel has returned.
.            Why not call on him?

NEB          I fear what he will tell me.

QUEEN        But he will tell you the truth!

NEB          Yes, and that is what I fear.

QUEEN        (starts to exit)  Do what you must, dear.

NEB          (rethinks then calls out)  Guards!

(GUARDS 3-4 enter and bows.  Queen stops to listen.)

NEB          (resignedly)  Find Daniel– Belteshazzar –
.            and bring him to me.

(GUARD 3 disappears quickly.)

QUEEN        So you will listen to him.

NEB          I will.  And I will accept
.            what the God in heaven says.

QUEEN        How you have changed over the years.

(NEB looks at QUEEN, angrily wondering.)

QUEEN        In a good way, O king.
.            And you have seemed - wiser.

NEB          You are my most dutiful wife,
.            you MUST say such things.

QUEEN        Tonight I dared to speak the truth.       27
.            I see how you value that virtue.

NEB          Would not a wise man wish to deal
.            with the truth, and not a nest of lies?

QUEEN        Indeed.  Although, I can appreciate
.            how dreadful that might be under
.            many circumstances.

NEB          (solemnly)  Yes.

(NEB awkwardly takes the QUEEN’S hands in his.
GUARD 3 enters with DANIEL and clears his throat
before bowing.)

GUARD 3      O king, live forever.
.            You have before you, Belteshazzar.

(NEB turns to study DANIEL then slowly sits down.
QUEEN lurks timidly in the background,
wondering if she should be listening in.  
NEB motions for DANIEL to come closer.)

NEB          I had another dream...
.            O Belteshazzar, chief of the wise men.
.            Since I know that a spirit of the holy gods
.            is in you and no mystery baffles you, I want
.            you to tell me the visions of my dream which
.            I have seen, along with its interpretation.

(NEB motions for GUARD 4 to pull up a chair for
DANIEL so he can sit down and concentrate.)

NEB          Now these were the visions in my mind
.            as I lay on my bed:  I was looking,
.            and behold, there was a tree in the midst
.            of the earth and its height was great.
.            The tree grew large and became strong,
.            visible to the entire earth.
.            Then an angelic watcher, a holy one,
.            descended from heaven, and shouted out,
.            CHOP DOWN the tree and CUT off its branches!
.            But leave the stump with its roots
.            in the ground with a band of iron and bronze
.            around it.  Let him share with the beasts
.            in the grass of the earth.
.            Let his mind be changed from that of a man
.            and let a beast’s mind be given to him.
.            And let seven periods of time pass over him.
.                                                      28
(Toward the end, QUEEN puts a concerned hand
to her chest, concerned what this may all mean.
DANIEL remains quiet, nodding with understanding.)

NEB          The decision is a command of the holy ones,
.            in order that the living may know that
.            the Most High is ruler over mankind...

(As DANIEL draws in a deep breath, he sits up rigidly.)

NEB          I know you are able to tell me its meaning,
.            for a spirit of the holy gods is in you.

(DANIEL stands up, afraid to look at NEB.)

NEB          Belteshazzar, do not let the dream
.            or its interpretation alarm you.

DANIEL       My lord, if only the dream applied
.            to those who hate you, and its meaning
.            applied to your enemies.  The mighty tree
.            that you saw- is you, O king.
.            And this is the decree of the Most High,
.            that you be driven away from mankind
.            and your dwelling place be...
.            with the beasts of the field.
.            You will eat grass, like the cattle.
.            For seven years like this – you will –
.            have lost your mind, and therefore,
.            your kingdom.

(QUEEN puts a trembling hand to her mouth
in attempts to remain quiet.  NEB does not move.)

NEB          And that is it?

DANIEL       Once the seven years are over, you will
.            recognize that it is Heaven that rules,
.            and your kingdom will be returned to you.

NEB          That does not seem so bad.

(Feeling faint, QUEEN tires to compose herself.)

DANIEL       O king, may my advice be pleasing to you:
.            stop sinning and live righteously,
.            by showing mercy to the poor,
.            in case there may be a prolonging
.            of your prosperity.
.                                                      29
NEB          I will give this some thought.

(As DANIEL exits, QUEEN pounces and clutches NEB’s robe.)

QUEEN        You will listen to his advice,
.            will you?– will you not do that?

NEB          The interpretation was not as I feared.
.            And actually, a little - out there.
.            You can see that I am of sound mind.
.            (motioning grandly with his arm)
.            Are we not here in Babylon the great,
.            which I myself built as a royal residence
.            (emphatically)  by the MIGHT of MY power
.            and for the glory of my majesty?!

VOICE:       (can be prerecorded, maybe use reverb)
.            King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared:
.            sovereignty has been removed from you,
.            and you will be driven away from mankind
.            to dwell with the beasts of the field.
.            You will eat grass like the cattle,
.            and seven years will pass by
.            until you recognize - that the Most High -
.            is ruler over the realm of mankind.

(As VOICE speaks, QUEEN shrinks with fear.  As it ends,
NEB growls like a madman and clamors out, scary-like,
not comedic.  QUEEN now shrinks back trying to scream.  
GUARDS 3-4 rush over to catch her from fainting.)

QUEEN        The king!  You must – help – the king.

(GUARD 3 nods to GUARD 4.  GUARD 3 then helps QUEEN exit
as GUARD 4 dashes out to search for NEB.)

.                  UNSPECIFIC AREA

(DANIEL is followed by SHADRACH, MESHACH and ABED-NEGO
[also young adults now].)

SHADRACH     I fail to understand what has become
.            of king Nebechadnezzar.

ABED-NEGO    It is quite simple, he has gone insane.

MESHACH      I just saw him.  His hair is all –
.            wild-looking.  His fingernails have not
.            been cut in years. It is a disturbing sight.
.                                                      30
SHADRACH     Surely he could just snap out of it.

DANIEL       Who understands the minds of men?
.            Even the men with sound minds?
.            And - there seem to be CONDITIONS
.            that we do not understand.
.            But this is what the king was warned of
.            in his dream.  He did not care to listen
.            to advice, and so, it went according
.            to God’s message to him.

MESHACH      And so there is no hope for him?

DANIEL       Not until the seven years have gone by.

.                    THRONE ROOM

(QUEEN paces and touches the throne, as if longing to see
her husband sitting in it.  NEB enters tentatively and
stops to watch her.  QUEEN finally notices, jumps back,
and freezes, not knowing whether she should be afraid.)

NEB          (cautiously)  My queen.

QUEEN        My king?  O live forever.

(QUEEN slowly moves behind the throne, just in case
she needs it for protection.)

QUEEN        It has been seven years now.
.            I have been waiting – and hoping –
.            for the last few weeks.  Are you – well?  

NEB          I am.  I must look a mess.

QUEEN        (with a tentative giggle)  Indeed.

NEB          I was out in the field, when –
.            I raised my eyes toward heaven
.            and my sanity returned to me.

QUEEN        What happened?

NEB          I suddenly realized my errors.
.            Then I blessed the Most High and praised
.            and honored Him who lives forever.

QUEEN        I still fail to understand.

NEB          Seven years ago you were saying           31
.            how much I had changed.  But –
.            it was more of a knowledge-
.            (taps his head)  Up here!  But I needed
.            to KNOW – to understand - in here.
.            (taps his heart)
.            What happened was that I thought
.            I was in control.  My pride was
.            my downfall.  God is in complete control.
.            He does according to His will
.            in both heaven and on earth.
.            No one is above Him.  So from now on
.            I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor
.            the King of heaven, for all His works
.            are true - and His ways - just, and He
.            is able to humble those who walk in pride.

QUEEN        And so humble you have been become.
.            I could – just – hug you - tight.

NEB          I shall clean myself up first.

(QUEEN gives NEB an adoring look as they exit.)

.                       ACT 3
.                  UNSPECIFIC AREA

(OFFICIAL 1-3 enter to hold a meeting.)

OFFICIAL 1   I was very sad to see king Nebuchadnezzar
.            pass away.

OFFICIAL 3   Why?  It is good to be rid of him.

OFFICIAL 1   But in these last several years, the kingdom
.            of Nebuchadnezzar had more majesty
.            and splendor than in any of the days
.            before he had gone insane.  In fact,
.            after that, his wisdom and advice had been
.            widely sought after by all officials
.            and noblemen throughout the kingdom.

OFFICIAL 3   And now we will have other fine years.

OFFICIAL 2   Exactly.  His son, Belshazzar will take
.            the throne.  We have a new start.

OFFICIAL 1   I hope you are right.

OFFICIAL 2   At least people have forgotten about Daniel.
.                                                      32
OFFICIAL 1   You were so jealous when he got his
.            new position of honor.

OFFICIAL 2   Well, I see now that it hurt his career.
.            Being put in charge of remote regions
.            finally makes one become a nobody.

.                    THRONE ROOM

(QUEEN enters and wanders around the throne room,
mourning the loss of her husband.  GUARDS 3-4 plus,
walk past her from stage right to left carrying the
gold and silver vessels taken from Israel’s temple.)

QUEEN        Stop!  What are you doing?!

GUARD 3      Orders from king Belshazzar, your majesty.
.            They wish to use these to eat and drink.

QUEEN        That is madness.

GUARD 3      Orders from King Belshazzar.

(QUEEN watches them exit, then in despair,
sits on the throne, shaking her head and wiping her eyes.
She can hear lots of loud laughing from stage left,
but then suddenly silence.  QUEEN sits up, wondering.  
Then decides to stand up, curiously concerned, pacing,
wringing her hands.  When followed by GUARDS 3-4,
BELSHAZZAR staggers in, shaken and upset.  Not noticing
the QUEEN, BELSHAZZAR slumps down into the throne.)

QUEEN        What has happened?

BELSHAZZAR   Why did you leave the great feast?

QUEEN        I did not approve of your behavior.

BELSHAZZAR   Who are you to judge?

QUEEN        I am speaking to you as your mother.
.            I wish you could be more like
.            how your father was in the last years.

BELSHAZZAR   (proudly)  I grew up admiring my father from
.            the early years.  (now concerned)  But now -

QUEEN        Now?  What?  What happened in there?

BELSHAZZAR   I was eating and drinking with all        33
.            the noblemen from my kingdom.  And-
.            I kind of got carried away and
.            wanted to show off my power...
.            I asked for the holy vessels
.            which were taken from the temple
.            in Jerusalem by my father.

QUEEN        I saw them take the vessels in.

BELSHAZZAR   Well, we were drinking from them,
.            and using them to praise other gods.

QUEEN        Oh no.  You did not.

BELSHAZZAR   It was a party.  I was just trying
.            to boost morale, is all.  But - then-

(QUEEN waits with wide-eyed, dreaded curiosity.)

BELSHAZZAR   Suddenly - the fingers of a man’s hand
.            appeared – in the air –
.            and began writing on the wall...

QUEEN        What did it say?

BELSHAZZAR   None of the wise men could read it.
.            I even promised great rewards
.            and promotions.  But - nothing!
.            And, I am afraid of its meaning.

QUEEN        I would be too.  But, O king, live forever!
.            Do not worry...  I remember -
.            there is a man in your kingdom
.            in whom is a spirit of the holy gods;
.            and in the days of your father,
.            your father the king appointed him chief
.            of all the wise men.  This was because
.            an extraordinary spirit of knowledge
.            and insight was found in this man, Daniel,
.            whom the king named Belteshazzar.
.            Let Daniel now be summoned and
.            he will declare the interpretation.

(BELSHAZZAR waves to GUARD 3 to go.  GUARD 4 remains.)

BELSHAZZAR   What are you waiting for?  Go!
.            Find this man named – Daniel -
.            and bring him here immediately.

(GUARD 4 exits hurriedly.)                             34

.                  UNSPECIFIC AREA

(SHADRACH, MESHACH and ABED-NEGO [now older adults]
meet together.)

ABED-NEGO    Of course, as soon as there is trouble,
.            that is when they call on Daniel.

MESHACH      Which only ever puts us all
.            in a precarious position.

ABED-NEGO    Most people do not want to hear the truth.
.            And their way of dealing with it
.            is to kill the messenger.

SHADRACH     You do realize, though,
.            that God HAS protected us every time?
.            And not only have we been protected,
.            but we have always been rewarded.

MESHACH      This will only go on for a time.
.            At some point, we will die.

ABED-NEGO    Everyone has to die at some point.

SHADRACH     Until then, we were put HERE to serve God.

MESHACH      I sometimes wonder what
.            it would have been like
.            to serve God in other capacities.

ABED-NEGO    Maybe it would not have been
.            as different as you would think.

SHADRACH     Come on, let us pray for our brother
.            who must now face another king.
.            Remember king Nebuchadnezzar at his worst?
.            Well, his son rivals that.
.            There is no common sense with this man.
.            Completely unpredictable.

(SHADRACH, MESHACH and ABED-NEGO exit.)

.                    THRONE ROOM

(OFFICIAL 3 watches as BELSHAZZAR paces and bites
his nails, until DANIEL [now older adult]
enters from stage left.)
.                                                      35
BELSHAZZAR   Daniel! Could you read it? What does it say?
.            I have heard about you - that a spirit
.            of the gods is in you, and that
.            illumination, insight and extraordinary
.            wisdom have been found in you.
.            And if you are able to read the inscription
.            and make its interpretation known to me,
.            (becomes very pompous and grand)
.            you will be clothed with purple and
.            wear a necklace of gold around your neck,
.            and you will have authority
.            as the third ruler in the kingdom.

DANIEL       Keep your gifts for yourself
.            or give your rewards to someone else-
.            although, I will let you know what it means.
.            O king, the Most High God granted
.            sovereignty, grandeur, glory and majesty
.            to Nebuchadnezzar your father.
.            But when he became proud and arrogant,
.            he was deposed from his royal throne
.            and his glory was taken away from him.
.            He became insane and lived like a madman-
.            eating grass like the cows -
.            until he recognized that the Most High God
.            is ruler over all mankind.
.            Now you, his son, Belshazzar,
.            have not humbled your heart,
.            even though you knew all of this,
.            and you STILL exalted yourself above God.
.            And you took God’s holy vessels
.            and used them to drink from,
.            and praised the gods of silver and gold,
.            of bronze, iron, wood and stone,
.            which do not see, hear or understand.
.            So then the hand was sent from God
.            to write out this message for you.
.            ‘MENĒ, MENĒ, TEKĒL, UPHARSIN.’
.            Meaning, God has numbered your kingdom
.            and put an end to it.  You have been weighed
.            on the scales and found deficient.
.            And so - your kingdom has been divided
.            and given over to the Medes and Persians.”

(BELSHAZZAR paces a bit, pondering things lightly,
then stops short and begins to speak very candidly.)

BELSHAZZAR   Huh!  Well-  I thank you – for that!

(BELSHAZZAR to OFFICIAL 3, once again pompously...)    36

BELSHAZZAR   Please – as I promised - clothe Daniel
.            with purple and put a necklace of gold
.            around his neck, and issue a proclamation
.            that he now - has authority
.            as the third ruler in the kingdom.

(BELSHAZZAR exits with a nod and struts out.
QUEEN throws up her hands in despair and follows after.
OFFICIAL 1 looks at DANIEL.)

OFFICIAL 3   Why did you say to give your reward
.            to someone else?

DANIEL       Do you seek after this?  There is no point.
.            This very night, the enemies will
.            overtake the Babylonian kingdom.

OFFICIAL 3   And what is to become of King Belshazzar?

DANIEL       He will not live.

.                  UNSPECIFIC AREA

(OFFICIAL 1-2 enter and speak together.)

OFFICIAL 1   King Belshazzar did not last long.
.            I thought he surely would,
.            as his father did.

OFFICIAL 2   Well, it is a fresh new start.

OFFICIAL 1   Do not mock me.  I will do whatever it takes
.            to prove myself to this new king.

(OFFICIAL 3 enters.)

OFFICIAL 3   King Darius has called a meeting.
.            He wants all officials and noblemen
.            to be present.

OFFICIAL 2   Does it look favorable for us?

OFFICIAL 3   I suppose.  King Darius lacks leadership
.            from his own people.  He will more
.            than likely have to look to the ones
.            from the Babylonian empire to run things.
.            Especially since we already know
.            what needs to be done in these regions.
.                                                      37
OFFICIAL 2   So nothing much should change, then.

OFFICIAL 3   Except for maybe the names of the positions.
.            Instead of being called officials,
.            we will be called satraps.

OFFICIAL 1   Satraps?

OFFICIAL 2   I do not care what I am called,
.            as long as I have a position.

.                    THRONE ROOM

(DARIUS sits on the throne as OFFICIALS and WISE MEN
enter and crowd in.  DANIEL, SHADRACH, MESHACH and
ABED-NEGO are also part of the group.)

DARIUS       After making several investigations
.            and speaking to many of you, as well as
.            receiving certain recommendations -
.            I am ready to announce the governing
.            structure of this kingdom of Persia.
.            I have decided to make the 120 of you here
.            satraps.  

(OFFICIALS 1-3 nod congratulations to each other
with big smiles of relief as well as greed.)

DARIUS       I have assigned three commissioners.
.            All satraps will be accountable
.            to these three.  They already know who
.            they are, so if they could step forward.

(OFFICIAL 3 steps forward, much to the surprise and
jealously of OFFICIALS 1-2.  OFFICIAL 4 steps forward.
And then DANIEL steps forward.  OFFICIAL 2’s face drops.)

OFFICIAL 2   Wait!  Why would you make Daniel
.            a commissioner?  He is a Hebrew slave!

DARIUS       (angrily)  A Hebrew slave that is incredibly
.            wise and honorable.  It only seems right,
.            as he has served the last two kings well,
.            even though this is not his country,
.            and you are not his countrymen.

OFFICIAL 2   But-

(OFFICIAL 1 holds OFFICIAL 2 back.)
.                                                      38
DARIUS       Are you questioning your king?

OFFICIAL 2   No, as I was going to say,
.            But... BUT- as he has proven himself,
.            you HAVE made a very wise choice.

DARIUS       You are dismissed.

(ALL bow as DARIUS gets up and exits.
ALL exit except for OFFICIAL 1-3 who stroll across
to stage left.)

.                  UNSPECIFIC AREA

OFFICIAL 2   Unbelievable!  I cannot stand Daniel!
.            And there he is again – in a position
.            of authority.  Over me!

OFFICIAL 1   I agree.  Something must be done!

OFFICIAL 3   Please, let us tread carefully.
.            I would not want to upset my position
.            as a commissioner in the process.
.            But – yes – I agree –
.            something should be done.

OFFICIAL 2   It cannot be soon enough.

OFFICIAL 3   I have a private meeting
.            with king Darius this afternoon.
.            I will feel the situation out
.            and get back to you.

.                    THRONE ROOM

(DARIUS enters again to sit on his throne.  
OFFICIAL 3 approaches with a bow.)

OFFICIAL 3   King Darius, live forever.

DARIUS       You wished to speak with me privately.

OFFICIAL 3   Indeed.  I am curious if you will place
.            anyone over all satraps and commissioners,
.            as well as all other noblemen.  In your
.            absence, if it should ever happen, you will
.            need an overseer whom you can trust.

DARIUS       You seem to have read my mind.
.                                                      39
OFFICIAL 3   Have I, o king?  I am honored.

DARIUS       I was in fact thinking of promoting
.            Daniel, the Hebrew.

(OFFICIAL 3 tries to hide his dismay and anger.)

OFFICIAL 3   Why would you place a Hebrew
.            over the entire kingdom?
.            I understand what you just said of him,
.            but- he will not care as much-
.            as if it were his own country.

DARIUS       With that same line of thinking,
.            why would I put a Babylonian
.            in charge of my kingdom?  After all,
.            this is no longer Babylon –
.            it is now part of Persia.

OFFICIAL 3   There are others.  Why Daniel?

DARIUS       This Daniel distinguishes himself.
.            He seems to possess an extraordinary spirit.

OFFICIAL 3   So the stories go.  (thinking)  But-
.            there ARE other stories!  I have known
.            Daniel for some time now.  And I know
.            that he has a tendency to defy the king.
.            You may even look back into
.            the history books.  It is as I say.

DARIUS       And as I am king, it will be as I say!
.            I still plan to appoint Daniel
.            over the entire kingdom.

OFFICIAL 3   It is - a very wise choice, o king.

(OFFICIAL 3 bows as DARIUS exits.  OFFICIAL 3 waits
until DARIUS is gone, then begins pacing in
a very tight pattern at center stage.  
OFFICIALS 1-2 approach.)

.                  UNSPECIFIC AREA

OFFICIAL 1   Did you impress the king?

OFFICIAL 3   The king plans on promoting Daniel-
.            to be over the entire kingdom.

OFFICIAL 2   WHAT?!                                    40

(OFFICIAL 2 tries to speak, but he is too angry.)

OFFICIAL 1   We need a plan.

(Meanwhile, on the other side of the stage,
DANIEL enters and knees in prayer.  OFFICIALS see this.)

OFFICIAL 3   We would never be able to accuse Daniel
.            of doing anything wrong involving
.            government affairs.

OFFICIAL 1   Certainly - there is no evidence
.            of corruption or even negligence.

OFFICIAL 2   (seeing Daniel)  We will not find any ground
.            of accusation against this Daniel – unless -
.            we find it against him with regard
.            to the law of his God.

(OFFICIAL 2 motions toward the praying DANIEL.)

OFFICIAL 1   He does that three times a day.

OFFICIAL 2   Always with the window open?

(OFFICIAL 1 nods.)

OFFICIAL 3   What is he doing?

OFFICIAL 2   He is praying.  He prays to his God,
.            and HIS God alone.

OFFICIAL 3   Follow me.

(OFFICIALS 1-3 exit stage right.  
DANIEL at stage left ends his prayer and exits.)

.                    THRONE ROOM

(DARIUS sits on his throne with OFFICIALS 1-3 there.)

OFFICIAL 3   King Darius, live forever!
.            All the leaders, commissioners and satraps
.            of the kingdom have consulted together
.            that the king should establish his name
.            in a mighty way.  As a way to confirm
.            your power as well as to bring honor
.            to the kingdom of Persia.  Our new homeland!
.                                                      41
DARIUS       Hm.  This seems good to me thus far.
.            Continue.

OFFICIAL 3   As we know our people well
.            and know how to keep them
.            under the government’s control,
.            we recommend that you, o king,
.            should establish a decree –
.            for thirty days – people must only
.            pray to you, o king, which would
.            establish and reinforce your power
.            in this kingdom amongst these people.
.            And that – if anyone prays to any other god,
.            besides you, they should be thrown
.            into the lions’ den.

(DARIUS mulls this over and is pleased with the idea.)

OFFICIAL 2   We have already written out the decree.
.            All you need - is to sign the document
.            so that it may not be changed,
.            according to the law of the Medes
.            and Persians, which may not be revoked.

(OFFICIAL 2 shows the document to DARIUS, who takes it.
ALL exit as if to sign it in another location.)

.                  UNSPECIFIC AREA

(QUEEN enters with ATTENDANT 1.)

ATTENDANT 1  Have you heard the new decree, my queen.

QUEEN        I am no longer queen here.

ATTENDANT 1  You remain as my queen.

QUEEN        I am most honored, and humbled.
.            Now what of this decree?

ATTENDANT 1  For thirty days, we are only to pray
.            to king Darius.

QUEEN        What an odd decree.  Sounds like something
.            my husband would have done before-
.            before he had changed his ways.

ATTENDANT 1  We will do this, then?

QUEEN        Ah, I must think about this.              42
.            To me it does not seem right.
.            Ah!  (gasping - realizing)

ATTENDANT 1  What is it?  Are you all right?

QUEEN        No.  It is wrong.  I suspect something
.            is very wrong.

ATTENDANT 1  What will you do about it?

QUEEN        There is nothing I can do about it.
.            It is a decree.  Under the laws, not even
.            the king himself could undo this.

.                  UNSPECIFIC AREA

(DANIEL enters, followed by SHADRACH, MESHACH and
ABED-NEGO.)

MESHACH      Daniel, what are we going to do?

DANIEL       I cannot believe you ask that question.

MESHACH      I know not to pray to king Darius.
.            I mean – we can still pray to God!
.            But we can just do this in private.

ABED-NEGO    I prefer to pray in private, anyway.

MESHACH      But Daniel does not.
.            Daniel prays with the windows wide open –
.            for all the world to see.

SHADRACH     Daniel, just for these thirty days,
.            you do not have to make a show of it.

DANIEL       I will continue to SHOW honor to God!

MESHACH      Are you losing your senses in your old age?

DANIEL       (smiling)  Do not even joke.  And no-
.            I have all my senses intact.
.            If men are really trying to trap me
.            in some sort of act where I show honor
.            to God, then it will happen soon enough.

MESHACH      So you merely become more stubborn
.            in your old age!

DANIEL       (laughing)  And if by that you mean       43
.            I become more steadfast and resolved,
.            then yes!  I can only pray that I do.

(DANIEL and FRIENDS exit as...
OFFICIALS 1-3 enter and stroll to center stage.)

OFFICIAL 2   And now we watch and wait.

OFFICIAL 3   You are sure he does this every day?

OFFICIAL 1   Three times.  Sometimes more!

OFFICIAL 2   And – there he is!

(DANIEL enters at stage left and kneels to pray.)

OFFICIAL 3   You have to at least admire
.            his courage a little.

OFFICIAL 2   It is stupidity.

OFFICIAL 1   That is one thing!  I have never known
.            Daniel to be stupid.

OFFICIAL 2   You would not consider that stupid?

OFFICIAL 3   I would, yes.  I think it is insane.

OFFICIAL 2   Well, we certainly cannot have
.            an insane man helping to rule
.            the kingdom, now can we?

.                    THRONE ROOM

(DARIUS sits on the throne as OFFICIALS 1-3 approach.)

OFFICIAL 3   O king, live forever.  We approach you
.            to confirm:  did you not sign a decree
.            that for thirty days – people must only
.            pray to you, o king?  And that –
.            if anyone prays to any other god,
.            besides you, they should be thrown
.            into the lions’ den?

DARIUS       It is not only true, but cannot be undone.

OFFICIAL 3   Then it pains me to have to tell you-
.            Daniel has disobeyed this decree.

DARIUS       Are you sure about this?                  44

OFFICIAL 3   We have witnessed Daniel praying to his God
.            every day – three times a day without fail!
.            He does not even try to hide it.  Daniel
.            does not heed what you have put into place.

DARIUS       What have I done?

(DARIUS gets up to pace and think and fret.)

OFFICIAL 2   What you have signed cannot be undone.
.            Daniel must be thrown into the lions’ den.

DARIUS       There must be a way to change this.

OFFICIAL 3   It is law.  It cannot be revoked.

DARIUS       This is unacceptable!  (growling)
.            There must be a way!  I will not sleep-
.            until I think of something.

OFFICIAL 3   Then, you will not sleep.

.                  UNSPECIFIC AREA

(ATTENDANT 1 brushes QUEEN’S hair when ATTENDANT 2
enters with a nervous curtsy.)

ATTENDANT 2  My queen, it is bad...

QUEEN        Go on...  I am waiting.

ATTENDANT 2  You will not like it.  At all.

QUEEN        Please, no matter how painful,
.            I need to hear it.

ATTENDANT 2  You remember the man you have
.            spoken about before... Daniel-

QUEEN        (fondly)  Oh, yes.  Of course
.            I remember Daniel.

ATTENDANT 2  He is to be thrown into the lions’ den
.            today.

(Even though ATTENDANT 2 is still brushing her hair,
QUEEN becomes distraught and exits in tears.
ATTENDANT 1-2 rush after her.)
.                                                      45
.                  UNSPECIFIC AREA

(OFFICIALS, WISEMEN, and WOMEN gather with anticipation.
DARIUS tries to brace himself with authority
as DANIEL is escorted up to DARIUS by GUARDS 3-4.)

DARIUS       All night long I have prayed.
.            Daniel, your God whom you constantly serve
.            will Himself deliver you.  Yes?

(DANIEL’S and DARIUS’ eyes meet with understanding,
then DANIEL is escorted off stage.  
The SOUND OF LIONS can be heard as if a door
has been opened.  Then – the sound stops.  It is silent.  
Everyone stands still, until DARIUS exits.  
ALL exit solemnly except for OFFICIALS 1-3.)

OFFICIAL 1   (looking around)  I wonder where Daniel’s
.            friends are right now.  I’m surprised
.            they are not here.

OFFICIAL 2   I would not be surprised if they were
.            praying.

OFFICIAL 1   What good will that do now?

OFFICIAL 2   If only THEY were in there
.            with Daniel.

OFFICIAL 3   Give it some time.  I am quite sure
.            it will be easier to get rid of the friends
.            now that Daniel is gone.

OFFICIAL 2   I will sleep well tonight!

(OFFICIALS 1-3 exit.)

.                    THRONE ROOM

(DARIUS sits on his throne, slouching in despair.
GUARD 3 enters.)

GUARD 3      O king Darius, live forever.
.            The kitchen staff would like to know
.            when you will eat.

DARIUS       I will not be eating today.
.            Or tonight.  

GUARD 3      I can send someone in to sing or dance-   46

DARUS        Nothing tonight.  I prefer to be left alone.

(GUARD 3 bows and exits.  DARIUS tries to bow
in prayer, then realizes that he is sitting on a throne.  
Getting onto the floor, DARIUS kneels in prayer.)

.                  UNSPECIFIC AREA

(OFFICIAL 2 enters and wanders the area where the
lions’ den is.  OFFICIAL 1 and 3 enter now and approach.)

OFFICIAL 1   Trying to hear the lions chew on his bones?

OFFICIAL 2   They usually like to roar
.            first thing in the morning.
.            (seeing DARUS)  O king – live – forever.

(DARIUS rushes out and up to the area but totally ignores
OFFICIALS 1-3 as he yells out toward the den.
GUARDS 3-4 catch up to DARIUS and stand at attention.)

DARIUS       Daniel, servant of the living God!
.            Has your God whom you constantly serve,
.            been able to deliver you from the lions?

(OFFICIAL 2 silently laughs behind DARIUS’ back, until-)

DANIEL       (from offstage)  O king, live forever!
.            God sent His angel and shut the mouths
.            of the lions and they have not harmed me,
.            since in this, I was found innocent
.            before Him; and also toward you, O king!
.            I have committed no crime.

DARIUS       (relieved)  Guards!  Get Daniel out!

(GUARDS pull out DANIEL.  OFFICIAL 2 shakes his head.)

OFFICIAL 2   Impossible!

(DARIUS looks at OFFICIALS 1-3 and points them out.)

DARIUS       Guards – arrest these men.
.            THEY will be thrown into the lions’ den
.            along with their families!
.            Please, get them out of my sight.

(GUARDS usher OFFICIALS 1-3 off quickly.)
.                                                      47
DARIUS turns to address the CROWDS, which
now includes QUEEN with ATTENDANTS 1-2 and
SHADRACH, MESHACH and ABED-NEGO.)

DARIUS       I will send out this message
.            to all those living in this land!
.            May your peace abound!
.            I make a decree that
.            in all the dominion of my kingdom,
.            men are to fear and tremble
.            before the God of Daniel,
.            Who has delivered Daniel
.            from the power of the lions.
.            For this God is the living God –
.            enduring forever!
.            His kingdom is one
.            which will never be destroyed!
.            He is the one who delivers and rescues!

(SHADRACH, MESHACH and ABED-NEGO look at each other
as they step forward with confidence.  
Seeing DARIUS motion for them to join DARIUS and DANIEL,
they exit together.  As they do, these MEN
see QUEEN and stop to respectfully and knowingly
nod to each other.  AS ALL PEOPLE exit,
QUEEN and ATTENDANTS 1-2 turn to each other...)

ATTENDANT 1  It makes me happy to know we have
.            a good king again.  And that Daniel
.            will continue on in prosperity.

ATTENDANT 2  I cannot believe what I just saw.

(QUEEN pauses to look across the sky as if remembering
every miracle she has seen over the years.)

QUEEN        (poignantly)  I can.

(QUEEN smiles and exits, followed by ATTENDANTS 1-2.)