T H E E X I L E - PART I
BABYLON - 539 B.C. - The angel Gabriel appears before the aged prophet Daniel to show him, once again, the vision of a man suffering, nailed to the crossed timbers he hangs from.
Daniel prods for an answer to this mystery, sensing this to be an event happening far into the future. Instead, Gabriel proclaims that the children of Israel will soon be freed from the long years of captivity in Babylon. Daniel reflects back to his youth, and the day the seventy year exile began.
FLASH BACK - JERUSALEM - 604 B.C. Surrounded by thousands of battle-hardened warriors, Jerusalem surrenders to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. To keep the kingdom of Judah loyal, Nebuchadnezzar takes hostage the adolescent sons of Jerusalem’s more prominent citizens. During the long march to Babylon, Daniel risks his own life to save that of Mishael, a younger captive. Impressed by Daniel’s bravery, the Babylonian warrior Arioch soon recognizes his intellect and integrity as well, and earmarks him and his friends for future service within the palace at Babylon.
Distrust exists between King Nebuchadnezzar and the powerful priesthood serving Babylon’s gods, with his late father having usurped the throne years earlier. Upon his return to Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar begrudgingly surrenders a share of his spoils to the temple of Marduk, patron god of the city. Bolstered by his recent victories over Egypt and her allies, Nebuchadnezzar refuses to part with the chalices taken from Solomon’s temple, baring his enmity toward the priesthood.
Daniel and his friends are placed in the school for training scribes and administrators, and soon find favor with the king’s high minister, Ashpenaz. When they refuse to eat the foods dedicated to the gods of Babylon, their subsequent recovery from the long journey is considered a blessing bestowed by their God for their faithfulness. This “miracle” emboldens Nebuchadnezzar to undermine that which he fears most: the priesthood’s ability for inciting Babylon’s masses to rebel against him, the resulting chaos certain to entice other subject states to follow suit. He conspires to turn his subjects toward this “new” God brought from distant Jerusalem, and abandon the old. To further this end, he entrusts Daniel to administrate the young Judean’s innovative approach for irrigating the drought ridden region of Sippar.
On his journey up the Euphrates River, Daniel befriends Adda, a beautiful girl of Jewishlineage. He hires her to cook and clean for him during his stay in Sippar to help her earn passage to Haran, much further upriver. Daniel’s affection for Adda grows during the following months,unaware of her past or her ambitious nature.
With work on the canal progressing faster than expected, Daniel conceptualizes a means for producing immense wealth for the king by greatly increasing the trickle of trade passing through Babylon between the lands surrounding the great sea to the west (Mediterranean), and those adjacent to the great southern sea (Indian Ocean). His proposal is well received in Babylon. With the project at Sippar nearing completion, Daniel pleads with Adda to return with him to Babylon as his wife, but the opportunities awaiting her in Haran are much too alluring. She eases him down gently sensing his star is still rising.
Upon Daniel’s return to Babylon, Ashpenaz petitions the king to appoint him and his friends to prestigious posts within the palace for his recent successes. The priests of Marduk protest vehemently fearing it a move designed to undermine their influence within the palace.They warn the king that the Judeans worship a foreign God, and that angering Marduk will only antagonize the populace. Lashing back at this thinly veiled threat, Ashpenaz cites that the God of Abraham commands His faithful to deal honestly with all men, and not just their own. He alludes he can prove corruption within the palace administration, giving Nebuchadnezzar assurance that the priests can be implicated as well. Emboldened by his words, Nebuchadnezzar commends Daniel for his recent achievements before appointing him and his friends to the treasury. Theking looks forward to the demise of Marduk’s priesthood, confident he can discredit them before the masses.
Tragedy strikes within days, when Ashpenaz dies under a shroud of mystery. Distraught over his loss, Nebuchadnezzar suspects that the priests of Marduk may have poisoned his trusted vizier. Wracked with drink and paranoia, the king suffers a disturbing dream, but uses it to trap the priests of Marduk. He commands them to describe his dream, and when they fail, he decrees that all men seeking wisdom from the gods be put to death, confident the masses will now see the priests as charlatans. Coming under the same death sentence, Daniel is afforded the opportunity to deny His God and live, but refuses instead. At the precipice of death, he begins to recite the perplexing dream to Nebuchadnezzar, giving the astonished king irrefutable evidence that at least one God does exist.
Daniel explains the dream, that the king has seen the future of mankind, and that the God of creation has declared Nebuchadnezzar lord over all the kings of the earth. Having been highly esteemed by a real God, the ecstatic king of Babylon proclaims Daniel his new high minister. To rescue Daniel from death, the king lifts his harsh decree. Forced to spare the priests as well, he takes comfort knowing they will spend their days agonizing that Daniel’s God is a true God.
Synopses for Part II; III, and screenplays (3– 320 pgs. total) for “The Exile” are available. See contact information.