From Captive to CaptivatorJuly 30, 2012 - 5:00 am
“Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility — young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.” — Daniel 1:3–4
Nebuchadnezzar had an ingenious plan. He would enrich his own country while impoverishing Judea and assuring that she would have no rebirth by finding the best and brightest youth in Judea and bringing them to live with him in Babylon.
There, through a carefully regimented program, he would turn them into loyal Babylonians and reap the benefits of their brilliance. He never considered that things might turn out the other way around! Yet, after just a short while with Daniel and his friends, Nebuchadnezzar proclaims, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings” (Daniel 2:47).
In 1974, media heiress Patty Hearst became famous when she was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army. Patty subsequently joined the SLA and identified with the very captors who had abducted her. Patty’s odd behavior was attributed to a phenomenon known as the Stockholm Syndrome, a psychological condition where abductees associate positive feelings with their captors.
We would expect that those held captive would resent those who had abducted them. However we find that in stressful situations, some victims not only tolerate their abusers, they also admire them.
When young Daniel and his friends were kidnapped and brought to Nebuchadnezzar, they were treated like royalty. They were given food from the royal table, wine, regal lodging, and an elite education. They even were furnished with respectful Babylonian names. All of this was done in order to get the young boys to shed their old identity as Jews and associate with their new society in Babylon.
But Daniel could not be changed: “Daniel resolved not to defile himself” (Daniel 1:8). From the very beginning of his captivity and all throughout his life, Daniel could not be persuaded or forced to change his ways. No Stockholm Syndrome here! In fact, just the opposite occurred — Daniel was able to get his captors to identify with him!
Several kings later, King Darius proclaims: “I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and revere the God of Daniel” (Daniel 6:26). How’s that for a positive influence?
We say we live in a free world, but no one can deny that mass media has a hold on our minds. Society has a set of values that are not always our own – and we are bombarded by them every single day. The question for each one of us is: will we let the world change us, or will we change the world?
We can associate with those who bring us down, or – like Daniel – we can influence everyone around us and raise them up. By sticking to a moral code dictated by biblical values instead of the latest magazines, we set an example and encourage others.