Daniel 6:1-2 It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel.
Darius the Mede took over Babylon (Daniel 5:31), and was setting up his administration. By this time Daniel was old, but he had a good reputation, and many years of experience. This made him a natural choice for high office.
Daniel 6:3 Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators . . . that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.
This was the high point of Daniel’s career, and he must have been pleased. Politics can be rough, however, and some of Daniel’s colleagues wanted to bring him down. They examined his years of public service, with the hope of finding corruption or incompetence, but they found nothing of the sort (Daniel 6:4).
Then they knew the only way to ensnare Daniel was with regard to his faith. They conspired to pass a law that would make it illegal to pray to anyone but the king for thirty days on pain of death (Daniel 6:5-7). This flattered the king and reinforced his authority over his newly acquired region. In Daniel’s absence, the king issued the decree and made it the law of the land (Daniel 6:9).
Daniel 6:10 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 his God, just as he had done before.
All Daniel had to do to save his life was to not be caught praying for a month. His pattern of prayer was not required by Scripture, so he could have set it aside, perhaps with a clear conscience. But Daniel was less concerned to save his life than to honor God. Failure to pray as he had in the past would suggest to some that Daniel was willing to honor his earthly king above his heavenly king. This he would not do. So Daniel went to his room and prayed three times a day, just as before.
Daniel 6:12-13 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 human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?
The king answered, The decree stands—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.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, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.
Daniel’s opponents wanted the king to think that Daniel was being disrespectful, but the king saw through their hypocrisy. He understood the real purpose of their law was to get rid of Daniel. The king was not upset with Daniel, but with himself, and with those who misled him.
Once a law was passed, however, it could not be repealed. That would undermine the public’s confidence in the wisdom of the king. The king wanted to save Daniel, but there was nothing he could do to change the law. Daniel’s opponents seemed to have won.
Daniel 6:16-17 So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ 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.
It would be a long night for both Daniel and the king. The king returned to his palace and spent the night without food or sleep (Daniel 6:18). Daniel spent the night in a pit with hungry lions, waiting to be devoured. But there was an angel in the pit, that shut the lions’ mouths (Daniel 6:22), and Daniel survived the night. Early the next morning, the king went to the pit and was overjoyed to find Daniel alive. Not even a scratch was found on him because Daniel had trusted in his God (Daniel 6:23).
The story seems fantastic, but this sort of thing has been known to happen. A family went on an African safari, and enjoyed lunch under a tree, while the guide took their picture. They looked at the picture, sometime later, and saw a lion in the tree looking down on them. The whole time they were eating lunch, there was a lion in the tree that could have eaten them for lunch. Many times we are in danger and do not even know it. It will be interesting to learn, one day, how often we were saved by angels.
We must admit, however, that many Christians have been thrown to lions and died. The Bible contains accounts of miraculous preservations as well as heroic martyrdoms. Life or death are equally welcome when heaven is our home. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord (Romans 14:8), wrote Paul.
Daniel 6:24 At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ 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.
A common principle was that whoever made a false accusation was to receive the same penalty they sought for their victim. This idea is also found in the Law of Moses. [I]f the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against a fellow Israelite, then do to the false witness as that witness intended to do to the other party (Deuteronomy 19:18-19). The execution of their families may seem to be unfair, but guilt was often seen as a collective responsibility. And children often suffer for the sins of their parents.
Daniel 6:25-27 Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth: 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 signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.
Due to the king’s proclamation, Daniel’s faithfulness brought glory to God throughout the earth. Our faithfulness to Christ may never capture the world’s attention, but it always captures his. That is reason enough to be faithful.
Reflection and Review
Why was Daniel more concerned to honor God than to save his own life?
Should Christians pray three times daily?
Does God always reward faithfulness?