Summary: Daniel and the lions' den is a familiar and fantastic story. I've loved this story ever since on of the first times my aunt and grandmother read it to me, and I'm grateful for their love. This one is dedicated to you, Aunt V!
Daniel-the lions didn’t hurt him!
Introduction: After Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians, Daniel’s life was spared and he was given a position under the new rulers. Eventually some of the other officials became jealous and conspired to have Daniel put to death—by being thrown into a den of lions. Even there, God was with Daniel and again kept him safe so that the lions didn’t even touch him! This miracle so impressed the king that he commanded everyone in the kingdom to respect the God of Daniel!
I The prologue
Text, Daniel 6:1-3, KJV: 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.
Introduction: where the events of this chapter tale place is not specified. Darius the Mede conquered Babylon (see the last few verses of chapter 5) but whether he made Babylon a capital or simply a regional headquarters, so to speak, is not certain.
What is certain is that Darius spared Daniel’s life and appointed him to one of the highest positions in the new kingdom or empire. Daniel had lived most of his life in Babylon but still remained true to the God of Israel and now he was going to be a witness for the God of Israel under the rule of the Medes and Persians.
II The problem
Text, Daniel 6:4-9, KJV: 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. 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 counsellers, 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.
The problem, really, wasn’t with Daniel—according to verse 4, they couldn’t find anything to fault him with! The problem seems to be with those who were, dare I say, jealous of Daniel. And they eventually found something that wasn’t really a problem, but they used this to set a trap for Daniel. It was because he was faithful to his God.
Digressing for just a moment, when people can find your faithfulness to God a problem, that means it is their problem, not yours. After all, God had blessed Daniel for many years because Daniel had been faithful to God. Why that should be a problem to these others is a mystery.
Eventually, though, these others did come up with a plan to catch Daniel in a trap, and solve this problem, one might say. You and I don’t need to guess who was giving some hints or ideas about how to do this—the Enemy of our souls has been walking about, seeking someone to devour, long before Peter wrote of this in his first letter (1 Peter 5:8)!
And the plan they came up with was like so many others: an appeal to the king’s vanity or position (or, probably, anything else they could come up with), and an appeal to its simplicity.
Nobody in the entire kingdom, was the proposed decree, would be allowed to ask a petition of any God or man, except the king himself, for the next 30 days, would be thrown into a den of lions. Again, thinking about this, at first the request seemed reasonable (to the king, anyway)—just think, he would be enjoying absolute power over the entire kingdom! But the sheer logistics of this decree made it nearly impossible for anyone outside the immediate area to follow. Not knowing if this decree was made in Babylon or any other headquarters in the Medo-Persian Empire, it might have taken a good amount of time just to get to the king’s palace so they could make their requests!