As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. Daniel 1:17
“How can the god also be the water?” The question had eked its way out of my concentration as I strove to copy the next line of When on High. I sat cross-legged, just one student among seven straight rows of seven concentrating and copying in the afternoon light. With a copy on one thigh, our copy on the other, a stylus in our hands, and our heads alternating from tablet to tablet, we must have looked like some kind of machine. Forty-nine hands copying the same work in the same pose. “None of this makes sense,” I wondered to myself. “Does it matter, fool? Shut up!” came a whisper from a neighbor. Not everyone had room for wonder. In fact, in spite of all their bluster, it was clear that most of the young men were still terrified.
“Where is Siduri?” Evening had come and dinner with it, but our favorite steward was missing. Siduri was a timid yet surprisingly thoughtful woman who had been assigned to our needs not long after we were granted our request to eat lentils. The elderly woman had taken a fondness to us, and it had been a comfort to have the care of a grandmother of sorts. Yet today our bowls came by way of a new face, not much different from our own.
“They didn’t tell you? She was accused of stealing from the king’s household. She protested her innocence, but there was no way to confirm the matter one way or another. So the Diviners determined that the matter should be brought to the river for judgment. The god drowned her in no time, so she must have been quite a sinner.” Then the steward—who had not bothered to look into our eyes—walked away, completely ignorant of our dismay. We were dead quiet, staring at our bowls and scarcely knowing what to say. “I’m not sure whether I want to scream or vomit,” Mishael uttered. “Lord,” I prayed, “am I to bring wisdom and help to these people? If I am to advise kings and discern dreams, it will only be because You choose to grant it to me. Lord save us!”
Illustrations by Kitti Touzeau