Daniel in the Lion''s Den
Verse 1 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom; 2 and over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first: that the princes might give accounts unto them, and the king should have no damage. 3 Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm. 4 Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him. 5 Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.
Babylon was taken by the Persians, and Darius the Median was placed upon the throne in 538 B.C. When Darius died two years later, Cyrus took the throne. Somewhere, therefore, between these two dates the even occurred which is narrated in this chapter.
Daniel was an active leader in the kingdom of Babylon at the height of its glory. From that time until the Medes and Persians took the throne of universal empire, he was at least a resident of the capital, acquainted with all the affairs of the kingdom. Yet he gave us no consecutive account of events that occurred during his long connection with these kingdoms. He touched upon only an event here and there which would inspire faith, hope, and courage in the hearts of the people of God in every age, and lead them to be steadfast in their adherence to the right. The event narrated in this chapter is alluded to in Hebrews 11, where we read of those who through faith "stopped the mouths of lions."
Daniel Prime Minister in Medo-Persia.--Darius set over the kingdom one hundred and twenty princes, there being at that time, as is supposed, one hundred twenty provinces in the empire, each one having its prince, or governor. By the victories of Cambyses and Darius Hystaspes, it was afterward enlarged to one hundred twenty-seven provinces. (Esther 1: 1.) Over these princes were set three presidents, and of these Daniel was chief. Daniel was doubtless advanced to this high position because of the excellent spirit and fidelity manifest in his work.
As a great man in the empire of Babylon, Daniel might have been regarded an enemy by Darius, and have been banished or otherwise put out of the way. Or as a captive from a nation then in ruins, he might have been despised and set at naught. But to the credit of Darius be it said, Daniel was preferred over all the others, because the discerning king saw in him an excellent spirit. The king thought to set him over the whole realm.
Then was the envy of the other rulers raised against him, and they set about to destroy him. As related to the kingdom, Daniel's conduct was perfect. He was faithful and true. They could find no ground for complaint against him on that score. They then said they could find no occasion to accuse him, except as concerning the law of his God. So let it be with us. A person can have no better recommendation.
Verse 6 Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever. 7 All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counselors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. 8 Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. 9 Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree. 10 Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.
Plot Against Daniel.-- Mark the course these persons took to accomplish their nefarious purposes. They came together to the king--came tumultuously, says the margin. They came as if some urgent matter had suddenly sprung up, and they had come to present it before him. They claimed that all were agreed. This was false, for Daniel, the chief of them all, was of course not consulted in the matter.
The decree they presented was designed to increase honor and respect for the royal will. No prayer or petition, they declared, was to be addressed to any man or god, save the king, for thirty days. By this flattering approach the princes hid their evil design against Daniel. The king signed the decree, and it became an unalterable law of the Medes and Persians.
Mark the subtlety of these men--the length to which they went to accomplish the ruin of the good. If they had made the decree read that no petition should be asked of the God of the Hebrews, which was the real design of the matter, the king would at once have divined their object, and the decree would not have been signed. But they gave it a general application, and were willing to ignore and heap insult upon their own religion, and all the multitude of their gods, in order to ruin the object of their hatred.
Daniel realized that a conspiracy was formed against him, but he took no means to thwart it. He simply committed himself to God, and left the issue to His providence. He did not leave the capital on pretended business, or perform his devotions with more than ordinary secrecy. When he knew the writing was signed, he knelt in his chamber three times a day, as was his usual custom, with his face turned toward his beloved Jerusalem, and offered his prayers and supplications to God.
Verse 11 Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God. 12 Then they came near, and spake before the king concerning the king's decree; Hast thou not signed a decree, that every man that shall ask a petition of any God or man within thirty days, save of thee, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions? The king answered and said, The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. 13 Then answered they and said before the king, That Daniel, which is of the children of the captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, O king, nor the decree that thou hast signed, but maketh his petition three times a day. 14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him: and he labored till the going down of the sun to deliver him. 15 Then these men assembled unto the king, and said unto the king, Know, O king, that the law of the Medes and Persians is, That no decree nor statute which the king establisheth may be changed. 16 Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee. 17 And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel.
Daniel Cast Into the Lions' Den.--After the trap was set, it only remained for these men to watch their victim that they might ensnare him. So they again came together, this time at the residence of Daniel, as though some important business called them suddenly to consult the chief of the presidents; and lo, they found him, just as they intended and hoped, praying to his God. So far their scheme worked well. They were not long in going to the king with the matter.
Receiving an acknowledgment from the monarch that the decree was in force, they were ready to inform him against Daniel. In an attempt excite the prejudices of the king they said, "That Daniel, which is of the children of the captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, O king, nor the decree that thou hast signed." Yes, they complained, that poor captive, who is entirely dependent on you for all that he enjoys, so far from being grateful and appreciating your favors, regards you not, nor pays any attention to your decree. Then the king saw the trap that had been prepared from him as well as for Daniel, and he labored until the going down of the sun to deliver him, probably by personal efforts with the conspirators to cause them to relent, or by arguments and endeavors to procure the repeal of the law. But the law was sustained; and Daniel, the venerable, the grave, the upright, and the faultless servant of the kingdom, was thrown into the den of lions.
Verse 18 Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of musick brought before him: and his sleep went from him. 19 Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions. 20 And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? 21 Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever. 22 My God hath sent His angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before Him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt. 23 Then was the king exceedingly glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God. 24 And the king commanded, and they brought those men which had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions, them, their children, and their wives; and the lions had the mastery of them, and brake all their bones in pieces or ever they came at the bottom of the den.
Daniel Delivered.--The course of the king after Daniel had been cast into the den of lions attests his genuine interest in the prophet's behalf, and the severe condemnation he felt for his own course in the matter. At dawn he repaired to the den of hungry and ravenous beasts. Daniel was alive, and his response to the monarch's salutation was no reproach for his having yielded to his evil counselors. In terms of respect and honor he said, "O king, live forever." Afterward he reminded the king, in a manner which he must have keenly felt, but to which he could take no exception, that before him he had done no wrong. Because of his innocency, God, whom he served continually, had sent His angel and had shut the lions' mouths.
Here, then, stood Daniel, preserved by a power higher than any power of earth. His cause was vindicated, his innocency declared. "No manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God." Faith did it. A miracle had been wrought. Why, then, were Daniel's accusers brought and cast in? They probably attributed the preservation of Daniel, not to any miracle in his behalf, but to the fact that the lions chanced at that time not to be hungry. The king may have said, "In that case they will no more attack you than him, so we will test the matter by putting you in." The lions were hungry enough when not restrained by divine intervention, and these men were torn to pieces before they reached the bottom of the den. Thus was Daniel doubly vindicated, and the words of Solomon were strikingly fulfilled: "The righteous is delivered out of trouble, and the wicked cometh in his stead." Proverbs 11: 8.
Verse 25 Then king Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. 26 I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for He is the living God, and steadfast for ever, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and His dominion shall be even unto the end. 27 He delivereth and rescueth, and He worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions. 28 So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
Daniel Prospered.--Daniel's deliverance resulted in another proclamation's being sent out through the empire in favor of the true God, the God of Israel. All men were commanded to fear and tremble before Him. The plot which Daniel's enemies had designed to prove his ruin, resulted only in his advancement. In this case, and in the experience of the three Hebrews in the fiery furnace, the approval of God is placed on two great lines of duty--the refusal to yield to any known sin, and the refusal to omit any known duty. From these instances the people of God in all ages may derive encouragement.
The decree of the king sets forth the character of the true God: He is the Creator; all others are without life in themselves. He is steadfast forever; all others are helpless and unavailing. He has a kingdom; for He made and governs all. His kingdom shall not be destroyed; all others come to an end. His dominion is without end; no human power can prevail against it. He delivers those who are in bondage. He rescues His servants from their enemies when they call upon Him for help. He works wonders in the heavens and signs upon the earth. And to complete all, He has delivered Daniel, giving before our eyes the fullest proof of His power and goodness in rescuing His servant from the power of the lions. How excellent a eulogy of the great God and His faithful servant!
Thus closes the historical part of the book of Daniel.