Chapter 6

Daniel is Thrown into a Lions' Den

Dan 6:1 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred and twenty satraps, to be over the whole kingdom;

So we are now discussing not only a new king here, but a brand new empire as well, that of the Medes and Persians. These two groups jointly ruled the known world after the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus which was discussed in the last chapter.

Darius was appointed as ruler of Babylon which was a very important city in the new empire, though it was not the capital of the Persian Empire.

There is some dispute as to the whether Darius is a title for Cyrus or if Darius was the Median co-king with Cyrus. For more on this see the discussion in Daniel 9:1.

One hundred and twenty satraps, to be over the whole kingdom;

Here it notes that the number of satraps was 120. A satrapie, as they are called in history, was something that the Medes came up with to rule an area with a series of governors, but it was put into wide use by Cyrus the Great during this time period, and continued to be an important part of the Medo-Persian government.

Dan 6:2 and over these, three governors, of whom Daniel was one, that the satraps might give account to them, so that the king would suffer no loss.

Over the 120 satraps were appointed three governors to watch over the satraps. The reason for this was that they might report the activities of the satraps to the king so that the king would suffer no loss.

This appears to mean monetary loss, that is that they were to watch out for corruption and stealing among the satraps and to report any funny business.

The text does not say why Daniel was chosen for this job, but we can imagine that the qualifications of such a job, that is honestly and trustworthiness, would have caused more than a few fingers to point toward Daniel.

One commentator suggests that the incident of the writing on the wall would have certainly been told to the authorities, not to mention that Daniel in the last chapter was essentially the ruler of the kingdom after Belshazzar was killed, even though it was only for a night. I can only imagine that an explanation of such an odd coronation would have needed to be recounted to the new king at some point.

Dan 6:3 Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm.

There was something about Daniel that caused the king to give thought to setting him above the whole realm. It says it is because an excellent spirit was found in him. We see the exact same thing done for the exact same reason with Joseph in Gen 41: 37-40:

So the advice was good in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of all his servants. Pharaoh said to his servants, "Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?" Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you." -Gen 41:37-40

Dan 6:4 So the governors and satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him.

Remember from the previous verse that the King had not done this yet; he had just given thought to doing it. This may mean that he announced his plans to set Daniel up in this position at a future time. He may have even said something like “unless someone can bring a charge against him” which may be why these men decided to do this. But that is reading into the text. What we can know is that there was sufficient time between Darius’ giving thought to appoint Daniel over them all and the following events to allow them to cook up this scheme.

And it may imply that they were corrupt, that is because Daniel’s initial job was to prevent corruption, and if you are wanting to be corrupt it is bad for business to have a righteous man in charge of watching and reporting your conduct.

Although their hatred of Daniel could have been for a number of reasons, not the least of which could have been jealousy of such a high position. We also know that hatred of his God Yahweh was something that was also a source of dislike of Daniel. I think the text also gives us room later on to suggest anti-Semitism as a cause.

David Guzik makes an analogy to an election. When a person is nominated for an important position of rulership, his life is justifiably under intense scrutiny by the press. If the person in question had been in public service for a long time his career would be under the microscope. Daniel had been in public office for a long time, ever since he was a young man, and he is now in his eighties or so.

“Sometimes today a candidate or nominee for office will be set under this kind of scrutiny - imagine looking as hard as you could at a public servant who had been in office some 50 years and finding nothing wrong. No fraudulent expense accounts. No intern scandals. No questionable business deals. No gifts from lobbyists. No accusations from his staff.

Simply, there were no skeletons in Daniel's closet. His enemies examined his life and found nothing to attack - they had to make up something.”

Dan 6:5 Then these men said, "We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God."

Stephen Miller in the New American Commentary makes several good points here:

“They hoped that there might be something in Daniel's religious beliefs (“the law of his God”) that might disqualify him from serving in Darius's court. Daniel was a strict monotheist, and therefore they planned to ensnare him by forcing him to refuse to worship other gods. Thus Daniel's choice would be to obey “the law of his God” or the law of man (“the laws of the Medes and Persians”

I would add to this that they decide, as we will see, that his prayer life was the best way to attack him, which stands to reason, as it was his habit to pray three times a day. Anyone that worked with Daniel, as these men certainly did, would know that he had to take a break periodically to go pray to his God. I’m sure it was the first thing that came to their mind when trying to figure out a way to make his devotion to God a snare to him.

Dan 6:6 So these governors and satraps thronged before the king, and said thus to him: "King Darius, live forever!

Dan 6:7 All the governors of the kingdom, the administrators and satraps, the counselors and advisors, have consulted together to establish a royal statute and to make a firm decree, that whoever petitions any god or man for thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions.

Dan 6:8 Now, O king, establish the decree and sign the writing, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which does not alter."

Dan 6:9 Therefore King Darius signed the written decree.

All the governors of the kingdom, the administrators and satraps, the counselors and advisors

Here we see a lie from the conspirators. We know they did not actually poll all the people, certainly not the most prominent and influential one, that is Daniel.

Verse 6 says they thronged the king—they were there in numbers presenting this request as if it was the will of the people, when it was really just a plot against a coworker.

That whoever petitions any god or man for thirty days, except you, O king

This was a religious petitioning or prayer. Some would petition directly to God; others, depending on their religion, would petition through a priest to their God. This should probably be best understood as Darius being a mediator for prayers to gods during this time, not that he himself would be petitioned for things as if he was God.

The angle was probably one of political value to a new king in an area of such religious devotion.

Now, O king, establish the decree and sign the writing, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians

The Medo-Persian law had a stipulation that it could not be changed or repealed too quickly. It could have been a protection against making decisions in haste, which didn’t work in this case, or as Guzik suggests it was because of the high view of the king as his mediator between the gods that would make a lot of quick repeals seem to be damaging to this image of the kings of the day.

Deodars of Sicily (XVII, 30), in fact, reports the case of a man put to death under Darius III (336–330) even though he was known to be perfectly innocent because of this loophole.

In any case, we will see it is this loophole that the conspirators will exploit to try to be rid of Daniel.

Dan 6:10 Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.

So we are told that Daniel does this after he hears of this ridiculous plot. But it also tells us it was his custom to pray in this manner. Therefore we know that Daniel wasn’t being defiant here with a public prayer as if to draw attention to his refusal to obey; he simply did not refrain from doing what he always had done.

His windows were probably always open toward Jerusalem during his prayer because of 1 Kings 8: 35-36 which says:

When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against You, when they pray toward this place and confess Your name, and turn from their sin because You afflict them, then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of Your servants, Your people Israel, that You may teach them the good way in which they should walk; and send rain on Your land which You have given to Your people as an inheritance. - 1Ki 8:35-36

One of the main points I would like to make about this is that Daniel was a man of prayer. I think this insight into Daniel’s life and custom in verse 10 might explain the rest of the book of Daniel up to this point.

Ask yourself the question: how different would your life be if you thanked God and prayed three times a day like clockwork. I know it would be tempting to turn it into a burden or a work, but imagine you did it out of the purest convictions. I would submit that kings would get saved and you would see God do great things in your day as Daniel saw in his.

We still worship and serve the same God that will preserve people though fire and stop the mouths of lions, the God who gives great visions and raises kings and deposes them. We have access to the throne. In fact since we have been adopted as sons through the propitiation of Christ we can boldly approach the” Throne of Grace” (Heb 4:16).

Dan 6:11 Then these men assembled and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God.

So these guys knew where to look. They got a number of people together to see this now-illegal act of Daniel. I wonder if Daniel gave them a dirty look from inside the window.

Dan 6:12 And they went before the king, and spoke concerning the king's decree: "Have you not signed a decree that every man who petitions any god or man within thirty days, except you, 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 does not alter."

This verse is interesting, as it reveals that they knew that the king would not want to execute Daniel for praying to his God if he had a choice. It is obvious that the King already really liked Daniel, and he must have known that Daniel was faithful to his God and that was at least one of the reasons for the “excellent spirit” found in him. I don’t think the king had initially considered that Daniel’s prayers would be made illegal by his now-binding decree, and these guys were counting on that.

Dan 6:13 So they answered and said before the king, "That Daniel, who is one of the captives from Judah, does not show due regard for you, O king, or for the decree that you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day."

Dan 6:14 And the king, when he heard these words, was greatly 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.

Here the king pays absolutely no attention to their suggestion that Daniel did this because he wasn’t showing regard for the king or his law. The king immediately was displeased with himself, not Daniel. He saw right through these treacherous conspirators.

It is interesting that once again the fact that Daniel was a Jew was brought up by those plotting against him, even though it doesn’t seem to have any significance. One could make a case that part of the conspirators’ hatred of Daniel was anti-Semitic.

Set his heart on Daniel to deliver him; and he labored till the going down of the sun to deliver him

Darius, realizing he had been duped, set out to find a legal loophole to deliver Daniel, but because the execution had to be carried out the same day he had limited time to do so. In the next verse the conspirators approach him:

Dan 6:15 Then these men approached the king, and said to the king, "Know, O king, that it is the law of the Medes and Persians that no decree or statute which the king establishes may be changed."

They approached him and reminded him of his obligation to carry out this law.

It amazes me to think that these men thought they would get away with this. They set this whole scheme up knowing that Darius would not want Daniel to be killed. One wonders if they knew he would see right though it as he did, because if he did it surely would not achieve the end of getting them promoted, and as we will see could even be a lot worse for them.

Dan 6:16 So the king gave the command, and they brought Daniel and cast him into the den of lions. But the king spoke, saying to Daniel, "Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you."

So the king does it—he gives the order to cast Daniel into the den of lions.

We see this touching scene of Darius telling Daniel that he hopes that Daniel’s God will deliver him, which is now their last hope.

There are many reasons that we could speculate as to what would give Darius such confidence in Daniel’s God. Perhaps it was the stories that were known of Daniel’s God in Babylon, both from Daniel himself and others who had seen them.

It is noteworthy that he mentions that the God whom you serve continually will deliver you. This reference to his consistent devotional life is important in light of the context, because this is the very reason he is being put in the lion’s den, his unwillingness to stop serving his God continually.

Dan 6:17 Then a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signets of his lords, that the purpose concerning Daniel might not be changed.

“A stone was placed over the opening of the den 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”). 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.63 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.”1

God Rescues Daniel from the Lions

Dan 6:18 Now the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; and no musicians were brought before him. Also his sleep went from him.

Dan 6:19 Then the king arose very early in the morning and went in haste to the den of lions.

The king really liked Daniel. He wanted to put him over all of Babylon, and he also thought he was an honest man and maybe even a friend. There might have also been a bit of guilt and perhaps fear of Daniel’s God for being a party to the killing of an innocent men. Any one of these might be a reason for the king’s distress this night.

It says he arose very early and made haste to the lion’s den. I love this, as it shows the reckless abandon and even faith that it was at least possible that Daniel could have survived the night.

“Lacocque comments: “Perhaps we should see the king's hasty return early the next morning… in the perspective of the ancient Babylonian custom that the victim would be pardoned if he were tortured and had not died”2

Dan 6:20 And when he came to the den, he cried out with a lamenting voice to Daniel. The king spoke, saying to Daniel, "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?"

Dan 6:21 Then Daniel said to the king, "O king, live forever!

Dan 6:22 My God sent His angel and shut the lions' mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him; and also, O king, I have done no wrong before you."

Dan 6:23 Now the king was 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 injury whatever was found on him, because he believed in his God.

So he calls in and he hears a reply back! What a relief it must have been for him.

Daniel says that God had sent an angel to accomplish this deliverance.

God also sent an angel to free Peter from prison, as well as a huge number of other jobs in the Old and New Testament. We are to understand angels as on a mission from God to accomplish a task. They are not doing something out of their own will but are servants of God’s will on earth.

One thing that I think should be highlighted here is Daniel’s commitment to using these opportunities for glorifying God, one might even say evangelism. I sense a kind of premeditation in these speeches Daniel gives when he knows he has an opportunity to glorify God.

Consider when he was on his way to Nebuchadnezzar’s throne room in Daniel Chapter 2. He had the answer in hand, he had been given the interpretation in the prayer meeting. I don’t think Daniel was practicing how he was going to present the dream. Instead, I think he was practicing how he would glorify God before and after he gave the dream.

I can imagine that Daniel was thinking of what he would say to the king all night, as opportunities for evangelism like this did not come every day and Daniel intended to make the most of it.

Dan 6:24 And the king gave the command, and they brought those men who had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions—them, their children, and their wives; and the lions overpowered them, and broke all their bones in pieces before they ever came to the bottom of the den.

This should not have come as a surprise to these men after seeing that the king saw through their plot.

Being fed to the lions was a known part of the Persian Empire. The picture here demonstrates the miraculous nature of Daniel’s deliverance; this was not a matter of the lions being full. They were in fact very hungry, which is reasonable, that is to keep them hungry, if you were using them for a form of execution.

Dan 6:25 Then King Darius wrote: To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you.

Dan 6:26 I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom men must tremble and fear before the God of Daniel. For He is the living God, And steadfast forever; His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed, And His dominion shall endure to the end.

Dan 6:27 He delivers and rescues, And He works signs and wonders In heaven and on earth, Who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.

Dan 6:28 So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

So much like the case of Nebuchadnezzar, a written proclamation of Yahweh is put out by Darius, expressing many of the revelations of God that Nebuchadnezzar only realized late in his life, namely that God is the one who rules men and his kingdom is an everlasting one.

This again is the realization that we all must come to. Darius realized it quicker than Nebuchadnezzar.