February 10, 2012

Apocalypse Prophecy XVII-Daniel and The Lion’s Den

Clearly this is one of the most popular and familiar stories in the Bible: Daniel in the lions’ den. The events occurred as the new government was being formed. Thus they must have taken place soon after Babylon had fallen to the Persians, likely within the first or second year (539–537 B.C.). By this time some Jewish captives had returned to Palestine under the leadership of Zerubbabel, and Daniel was probably over eighty years of age. Daniel the book introduces Darius the Mede as the leader of the new government in Babylon, and this king plays a prominent role in chap. 6. His identification has been the subject of much debate. The LXX translators substituted the name Artaxerxes for that of Darius in 6:1a (Eng. 5:31a), but the translation of Theodotion agrees with the Hebrew Masoretic text. Well, who is this Darius the Mede? It will suffice to say for this post that I sort of went over this in an older post called: Examining the Scriptures CXXI (go read it!). I will not be going into it again, as it is a long and convoluted explanation.


Regardless of the manner in which Daniel rose to power in the new administration [Daniel 6:3-ish], the man/leader named Darius was extremely impressed with him and planned to set him over all the other officials in the kingdom. Daniel had a proven track record, he had “differentiated himself” among the other officials because of his “extraordinary abilities,” literally, “An exceptional spirit was in him.” In the original language it literally said that Daniel “was continually distinguishing himself.” It is possible that the “exceptional spirit” may refer to his good attitude or abilities, but it is more probable that people around him recognized that Daniel was in touch God and thus possessed greater wisdom because of this.

Daniel then becomes the object of a plot to undermine him because the king planned to set Daniel over all the satraps and administrators, jealousy seems to overwhelm the others. They examine Daniel’s activities in order to discover some flaw in his character or professional ability in order to bring a charge against him to the king, but none was found. Many of the 120 satraps were not involved in this plot, and the number probably was limited to a small handful. However the texts seems to indicate that both of the other administrators did attempt to prevent Daniel from being appointed to this high position. The jealous officials decided that there was only one area in which they might find a conflict between Daniel and the Persian government, namely, in the area of his religion. They planned to ensnare him by forcing him to refuse to worship other gods.

The choice, would he be obey “the law of his God” or the law of man. Daniel’s religious convictions were not hidden. The prophet was not a secret disciple but a man who was not ashamed to let others know that his allegiance was to the God of Israel. It is clear from Daniel’s commitment that he would not compromise even in the face of punishment or death.

The treacherous administrators proposed that the king issue a decree, and strictly enforce it, that no one should pray to any god or man except the king for the next thirty days on penalty of death. Such a law might have been allowed for political reasons, and Darius may also have permitted a decree of this kind as a test of loyalty to his new government. We must note clearly here that Darius was not proclaiming himself to be a god but during this thirty-day period was acting as mediator for the gods of all the nations subject to him. Disobedience to the degree meant being thrown into a den of lions, where they would be torn to pieces and devoured. Such a gruesome death accurately reflects conditions the Assyrians and Persians employed this form of punishment in their kingdoms at the time. Once signed, Darius’s decree could not be “altered”. This was a common practice of the time also.

As we all know the story… when this law was passed, he did not change his religious behavior, nor did he hide it. Daniel was a man of courage and conviction who was willing to stand for God even if it meant death. As Daniel prayed three times a day, he continued to do so. The truth that Daniel deliberately defied a law of the land troubles some people. How can this action be reconciled with the biblical admonition in Romans 13:1–2? Simple… Scripture does indeed tell us to obey the government, BUT the Bible also teaches that there is a higher law—the law of God. There may be times when the law of the land and the law of God come into conflict. God trumps man in these situations!

So Daniel broke the king’s law before witnesses. Therefore the spineless wimp Satraps promptly reported that Daniel had violated the king’s command and attempted to put as bad a light on the situation as possible. They said Daniel “pays no attention” to the king, which means that Daniel did not consider the king important. Darius’s concern for his friend is touching. He shouted down to Daniel in the pit, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”

A stone was placed over the opening of the den (Daniel 6:17-18) and sealed with the signet rings of the king and his nobles so that no one would dare attempt to rescue Daniel so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed. The practice was that soft clay was attached to the chains draped over the stone, and the king and his nobles made their personal marks (seals) by pressing their rings into the clay. After the clay hardened, the chains could not be removed without breaking the seals. Surely no one would attempt to remove the chain containing the names of the king and some of his highest officials. Daniel was now in the den, and all possibility of escape was cut off.

The king hastily returns to the opening of the den and cried out to Daniel in anguish and hope. The king’s actions demonstrate that he held out the hope that Daniel’s God could deliver him, but his “anguished” voice betrayed the fact that he did not believe it was likely. No one can visualize the great happiness and bewilderment that must have overwhelmed Darius when he heard the cheerful voice of Daniel reply, “O king, live forever!” Daniel explains to the king that God had sent his angel to protect him against the lions. . Now the king commanded that those who had “falsely accused” the prophet should be thrown into the den of lions.

The treachery is then returned to the others. Not only the conspirators but their families were thrown into the den of lions which was a Persian custom to prohibit retaliation from family members. The king was so floored by this miracle that he issued a public decree ordering all people throughout the “land” to give proper recognition to the God of Daniel. He decreed that people throughout his kingdom should “fear” and “revere” the God of Daniel. Amazingly, Darius a pagan kings proclaims that God is great because he protects rescues and saves his followers from harm and is able to perform great miracles.

The miracle the Lord had performed on earth was the rescue of Daniel “from the power of the lions.” Any God who is able to work this kind of miracle certainly should be feared. A God that can control the wild beast...and as we will see with Jesus, even the weather. It is here that we see the purpose of miracles is set forth in this passage. Miracles are not used by God to “show off” but to demonstrate to a lost world that he is the true God and should be honored.

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