Daniel in the Lion’s Den
It pleased Daniel to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.
This chapter begins with the details regarding the organisation of the new kingdom under Darius the Mede. Daniel had such “an excellent spirit” that the king thought to put all the princes who had been appointed to rule under him.
At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find ground for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.” So the administrators and the satraps went as a group to the king and said, “O king Darius, live forever. The royal administrators prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lion’s den. Now, O king, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered – in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” So King Darius put the decree in writing.
Daniel’s favour with the king aroused the jealousy of his fellow officials so they tried to find some means of exposing Daniel. They realised that the only way they could trip up Daniel was to provide a conflict between official regulations and Daniel’s conscience and the law of God. They brought a petition before the king requesting that a decree should be issued that no one should present a petition to any god or man for thirty days except to the king. The king signed the petition since he, in all probability, regarded this act as a pledge of loyalty to himself and a token of their desire to respect his authority to the utmost.
Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to God , just as he had done before. Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree; “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or man except to you, O king, would be thrown into the lion’s den?” The king answered, “The decree stands – in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” Then they said to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.” When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him. Then the men went as a group to the king and said to him, “Remember, O king, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.” So the king gave the order and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lion’s den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!” A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed. Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.
Daniel’s enemies knowing his daily prayer habits assembled to witness his prayers which were always prayed before an open window facing Jerusalem, thus to have evidence for a charge against Daniel before the king. They were not disappointed. With the fresh evidence acquired they went to the king to accuse Daniel before him. The king recognized the trap sprung on Daniel and attempted in every legal way to find a loophole by which Daniel could be delivered. However there was no way out and so the king issued the command that Daniel should be cast into the lions’ den. What will we do when we are challenged in our faith? Will we continue to live it out as we have done or will we compromise on our faith? Daniel can teach us so much on being faithful to what we believe to be right and not to give in, even when it seems the easier thing to do.
At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, who you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?” Daniel answered, “O king, live forever! My God sent His angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in His sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king! The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lion’s den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.
Early the next morning, the king went to the den of the lions. He called Daniel and, to his great joy, Daniel greeted him with the courteous words “O king, live forever. “ His God had protected him. Daniel was then taken up out of the lions’ den and in his place his accusers were cast into the lions’ den. The experience of the false accusers is another illustration of God’s faithfulness to the Abrahamic Covenant where God promised to bless those who blessed Abraham’s seed and to curse those who curse him (Genesis 12:3).
Then king Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations and men of every language throughout the land: “May you prosper greatly! I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. For He is the living God and He endures forever; His kingdom will not be destroyed, His dominion will never end. He rescues and He saves; He performs sign and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.” So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
The chapter ends with the decree given by the king calling on men everywhere in the kingdom of Darius to ‘tremble and fear before the God of Daniel’. God was using the kings He had appointed to rule at a certain time so that people everywhere received knowledge of the one true God. You could say that God was making sure that His people were still fulfilling their role, even when they were dispersed.