Daniel Interprets the King's Dream
Summary of Lesson Activities:
"God cares for us in times of trouble."
Creative dramatics of Daniel's interpreting dreams for King Nebuchadnezzar.
This lesson has two scripts below. They can be adapted for drama, puppets, storytelling, pantomime, etc.
Daniel 1-2 (and chapter 4 if time permits)
At the end of the session the children will be able to:
- Locate the book of Daniel in the Old Testament and identify it as stories of the Israelite nation in exile.
- Relate the story of Daniel interpreting dreams for Nebuchadnezzar.
- Understand that God is faithful to all who love and follow Him in faithfulness.
- Know that we can lead our friends by doing what is right and by setting a good example.
Background comments on the story:
The Babylonians conquered Jerusalem. Some of the promising young Israelite noblemen ("intelligent, well-trained, quick to learn, free of physical defects") were selected to serve in the royal court. Those chosen included Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah from the tribe of Judah. The Babylonians gave them new names: Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Babylon was a diverse nation; people came together from many nations (some by force, as in the case of the Israelites) and they were permitted to worship whichever god or gods they chose. Daniel and his friends continued to be faithful to the one true God, even as they served a succession of Babylonian and Persian kings. In return, "God gave the four young men knowledge and skill in literature and philosophy. In addition, he gave Daniel skill in interpreting visions and dreams" (Daniel 1:17). Also in the book of Daniel are two very familiar stories: God rescues Daniel from the lions (chapter 6) and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace (chapter 3).
Props, scenery, costumes, and supplies:
- Bible time costumes,
- maps of Babylon then and now.
- Gather the materials.
- Read the script ahead of time.
Opening-Welcome and Lesson Introduction:
Early Arrival Activity:
- Look at a map to see where today's story takes us (Babylon/Iraq). Look at some books that show life in ancient Babylon and Persia.
- Take some time to get to know the class. Chat about dreams. Do you remember any Bible stories with dreams, dreamers, or visions? (Joseph, Jacob's ladder, Wise Men do not return to see Herod, Peter sees the sheet holding clean and unclean animals lowered from the sky...)
Open with prayer.
Dig-Main Content and Reflection:
Tell the story. (See following adaptation.)
Read the scripture: Daniel 2: 24-49
Discuss before acting out the story:
Characters: King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, Ashpenaz (chief official), Daniel, Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshac), Azariah (Abednego), guard over the young men in the school, fortunetellers, magicians, sorcerers, wizards, Arioch (commander of the king's bodyguard commanded to kill the fortunetellers)
Where did the story take place: Babylonia, now Iraq (by the end of the book of Daniel, the Persians had taken over)
How would you feel if you were:
- Daniel faced with eating unclean food
- one of the wise men asked to interpret a dream, but first you had to tell the King what his dream was!
Warm-up or follow-up exercise: (as time permits) (adapted from Daniel 4)
I am King Nebuchadnezzar. You are my magicians and dream interpreters. This time I remember my dream, and I need you to tell me what you think it means: (read Daniel 4: 10-17)
Now tell me, what do you think it means? (encourage the children to be creative and have fun with this; there are no right or wrong answers.)
Thank you for your suggestions. Daniel, again with the help of God, told me what the dream meant. (read Daniel 4: 22-27).
Unfortunately, Daniel was right. Only twelve months later God took my royal power away. But thanks to the one true God, after seven years, my sanity returned, and I am here to praise, honor, and glorify the King of Heaven! Everything He does is right and just, and He can humble anyone who acts proudly, even me.
Next....Assign parts and act out the story using the script.
One volunteer reads the script (Make sure the narrator knows to pause to allow the actors to respond to the prompts). If the children chosen for the parts have difficulty thinking of what to say in response to the prompts, ask the other children to make suggestions. Many of the prompts relate to feelings, so there are no right or wrong answers; we can only guess what Daniel, his friends and the other people at the court were thinking. If time permits, reassign parts and act it out again.
Pulling it all together (closing discussion):
- What does it mean to be faithful?
- What does it mean to say that God is faithful to all who love and follow Him in faithfulness? How does he show his faithfulness to Daniel and his friends?
- People in Babylon worshiped a variety of gods. They ate all sorts of foods Daniel had been taught were impure. I wonder how Daniel and his friends managed to stay faithful in a strange land, surrounded by strange customs?
- Can you think of a time when you knew what God would want you to do, but it was hard to do it? Did you have a friend who also did the right thing, so it was easier for you? Or were you the leader who helped a friend to do the right thing? (It is helpful if the teacher can give an example from his or her experience first to help the conversation get started. Perhaps you welcomed a new child in school who was being teased by the other children for being different in some way.) A discussion of "WWJD" may help open discussion: does anyone wear the "What Would Jesus Do?" jewelry? What does it mean to you?
Pray in unison Daniel's prayer after God reveals to him the meaning of Nebuchadnezzar's dream (Daniel 2: 20-23a).
Script: Daniel and the Dreamer
Retelling adapted from Daniel 1-2.
Could be story-told, acted out, narrated, pantomimed, puppeteered....
Long ago King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon attacked Jerusalem. He conquered the city and Judah became part of Babylon. Now, King Nebuchadnezzar liked to have the best and brightest young men from the many lands that made up Babylon serve in his court. So he commanded his chief official, Ashpenaz, to select some young men from the Israelite noble families. Among those chosen were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. As was the tradition, they were given Babylonian names: Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
The trainees learned to read and write in the Babylonian language. They were well cared for in the royal court. In fact, the King ordered that the trainees be fed fine food and wine prepared in the royal kitchen.
Daniel knew that in spite of his new Babylonian name, he was still one of God's chosen people, an Israelite, and so he must follow the laws of the one true God. Which meant he must not defile his body — make it unclean by eating food that was not prepared properly in a kosher way.
Daniel approached Ashpenaz with his concerns, "It is the law of my God that I must eat only certain foods. Please give my friends and me only vegetables to eat and water to drink."
God made Ashpenaz sympathetic to Daniel's concerns. But Ashpenaz was afraid of the King. "King Nebuchadnezzar has commanded that you be fed the fine food and wine from the royal kitchen. If we do not feed you well, you won't look as healthy as the other men, and I shall be killed."
Daniel said, "Please, let us try our own diet for just ten days. Then, see if after eating just vegetables and drinking only water we look as healthy as the other young men. Then you can decide."
So they agreed. For ten days Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were fed only vegetables and water. And at the end of that time they looked healthier and stronger than the young men who had been eating the royal food. Therefore the four friends continued to eat vegetables instead of what the king provided. Because they remained faithful, God gave the four young men knowledge and wisdom. In addition, He gave Daniel skill in interpreting visions and dreams.
One night King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream. It worried him so much that he could not go back to sleep. He sent for his fortunetellers, magicians, sorcerers, and wizards to come to explain the dream to him. "I am worried about a dream I had. I want to know what it means."
They replied, "May Your Majesty live forever! Tell us the dream and we will tell you what it means."
"No! You tell me the dream AND what it means. If you can't, I'll have all of you torn limb from limb. If you can, then all of you will be greatly rewarded."
They replied, "May Your Majesty live forever! Tell us the dream and we will tell you what it means."
"Just as I thought! You are just stalling for time. Tell me what the dream was, and then I will know that you truly know what it means."
They replied, "May Your Majesty live forever! Tell us the dream and we will tell you what it means. There is no one that can tell you what you dreamed except the gods, and they do not live among human beings."
At that, the King flew into a rage. "Guards! I demand that all the royal advisors in Babylon be executed!" And so the order was issued for all of the advisors to be killed, which included the trainees Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
When Daniel heard that they were to be executed, he went to Arioch, the commander of the King's Guard. "What's the deal? Why has the King commanded such a cruel thing?" Arioch told Daniel what had happened.
Daniel hurried to tell Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah what had happened. And they began to pray. "God of Heaven, be merciful. Hear our prayers. Explain the mystery to us so that we and the other advisors will not be killed."
That night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. He praised God, "God is wise and powerful! Praise Him forever and ever. He reveals things that are deep and secret. I praise and honor you, God of my ancestors."
Daniel returned to Arioch. "Do not put me and the other advisors to death. Take me to the King, and I will tell him what his dream was and what it means."
Arioch took Daniel to King Nebuchadnezzar. "This Jewish exile can tell Your Majesty the meaning of your dream."
"Can you tell me what I dreamed and what it means?"
"Your Majesty, there is no fortuneteller, magician, sorcerer, or wizard who can tell you what you dreamed. But there is the one true God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has revealed to me the dream He sent Your Majesty. This dream tells you what will happen in the future.
Now I will tell you the dream:
Your Majesty, in your vision, you saw before you a bright and shining statue.
Its head was made of finest gold,
its chest and arms were made of silver,
its waist and hips were made of bronze,
its legs were made of iron, and
its feet were partly of iron and partly hardened clay.
While you were looking at this giant statue, a stone broke loose from a mountain. It struck the iron and clay feet of the statue, and they shattered. At once the gold, silver, bronze, and iron crumbled and became like dust, carried away by the wind. But the stone grew to be a mountain that covered the whole earth."
"Yes, YES! That's it. That was my dream. It troubled me greatly. Yet I know not why. What does it mean?"
"Your Majesty, you are the greatest of all kings. The one true God of heaven has made you emperor and given you power, might, and honor. You are the head of gold. After you, there will be another empire, not as great as yours. And then a third, an empire of bronze. Then there will be a fourth empire, an iron one that shatters and crushes the earlier empires. The feet, divided between clay and iron represent a divided empire, part strong and part weak. At that time, God of heaven will establish a kingdom that will never end. It will completely destroy all the other empires. Thus the one true God of heaven is telling Your Majesty what will happen in the future."
King Nebuchadnezzar said, "Your God is the greatest of all gods. I know this because you have been able to explain this mystery. I will make you an official in my court, in charge of the province of Babylon, the head of all my royal advisors." He gave Daniel many splendid gifts. And at Daniel's request, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (also known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) were put in charge of the province of Babylon.
Daniel remained at the royal court and served King Nebuchadnezzar, and after him served his son King Belshazzar, followed by King Darius and King Cyrus of Persia. But that's another story — or two or three....
Tips for telling:
- read the story in several translations of the Bible and Bible storybooks to see other ways to tell it.
- practice saying Daniel, Ha-na-ni-ah, Mish-a-el, and Az-a-ri-ah and soon their names will roll off your tongue.
- when speaking for the King, hold yourself erect and tall and speak in a "kingly" voice.
- when speaking for the fortunetellers, magicians, sorcerers, and wizards, give the group an appropriate personality. Perhaps you think they are obsequious, or nervous, or snide. Try bowing and bobbing your head a lot and wringing your hands.
- notice the dream interpretation question occurs in threes. This is a common storytelling/folklore motif. The repetition will help you remember the story, too.
- if you cannot learn this story by heart (to tell it in your own words), read and reread it until you are very comfortable with it. Then you will be able to look up and make eye contact and interact with your listeners, which will help bring the story to life for them.
- For additional information on retelling Bible Stories, see Amy Crane's manual on Biblical Storytelling in the Rotation Documents: Workshop Manuals section of the IDEA AND LESSON EXCHANGE.
- Howie, Carl G. The Layman's Bible Commentary: Ezekiel, Daniel. John Knox Press, 1961.
- Kimmel, Eric A. Be Not Far From Me: The Oldest Love Story: Legends from the Bible. Simon and Schuster, 1998.
- Richards, Larry. Talkable Bible Stories. Revell, 1995.
Books for sharing before and after class:
There are many picture book versions of Daniel in the Lions' Den available in the public library. More complete stories of Daniel, including the dream interpretations can be found in longer Bible storybooks. Ask your librarian for help, or look for
- Auld, Mary. Daniel in the Lions' Den. Franklin Watts, 1999.
- Chaikin, Miriam. Children's Bible Stories from Genesis to Daniel. Dial Books, 1993.
- Also look for books that show life in ancient Babylon and Persia.
This lesson was written by Amy Crane (firstname.lastname@example.org) for Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church in Tampa, Florida.
Copyright 2001 Amy Crane. Permission granted to freely distribute and use, provided the copyright message is included. For additional inforamation on using Drama in teaching Bible stories, see Amy Crane's manual in the Rotation Documents: Workshop Manuals section of the LESSON and IDEA EXCHANGE.
A representative of Rotation.org reformatted this post to improve readability.