In a battle at Carchemish in 605 B.C., Babylonian troops led by Nebuchadnezzar defeated Egyptian forces, led by Pharoah Necho, in a battle that marked the beginning of the end of the Egyptian empire as a world power. (See Jer. 46:2.)
Nebuchadnezzar, then a prince in Babylon, pursued the Egyptians southward. Dealing Egypt its worst defeat near Hamath in Syria, Nebuchadezzar secured Syria and Palestine, enabling Babylon to expand its empire.Nebuchadnezzar did not stop there. "In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah," Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem. (Dan. 1:1.) Judah became a vassal to Babylon for the next three years. (2 Kings 24:1.)
During the siege, the temple was desecrated; many of its fine vessels were taken to Babylon as tribute. (2 Chron. 36:7.)
Perhaps more devastating to Judah, selected members of its upper class were carried captive to Babylon. Daniel - who became known as the prophet of the Exile - was among a group of Judah's young princes carried into Babylon.
The scriptures make no mention of Daniel's age at the time he was taken into captivity. However, Dan. 1:3-4, refers to Daniel and his three friends as "children," a word that could have been translated as "youths" or "young men."
Daniel served various kings in Babylon through the 70 years of the Jewish captivity. (See Jer. 25:11; 29:10.) According to Dan. 1:21, he lived to be at least 80. As a captive much of his life, Daniel saw the development and extensive power of the Babylonian state under Nebuchadnezzar, and he also saw the decline of Babylon.
Daniel lived to see the exiles released by Cyrus, king of Persia, when the Babylonians were defeated in 538 B.C. Daniel was revered and his advice was sought in the courts of his captors. When Cyrus freed the captives, Daniel was given a high position in the Persian empire. With the exception of Joseph who was sold into Egypt and rose to become second in command, no other man among the children of Israel held such a high position of honor and influence in a foreign state as did Daniel. He remained in Babylon even after most other captives had returned to Judah to rebuild their temple and nation.