All the officials, governors, satraps, advisers, and mayors agree that the king should make a statute and enforce a decree. The decree should state that for the next 30 days whoever asks for anything from any god or person except you, Your Majesty, will be thrown into a lions’ den. Your Majesty, issue this decree, and sign it. According to the law of the Medes and Persians no one could change it or repeal it.” So Darius signed the written decree.
When Daniel learned that the document had been signed, he went to his house. An upper room in his house had windows that opened in the direction of Jerusalem. Three times each day he got down on his knees and prayed to his God. He had always praised God this way.
One of those times the men came in as a group and found Daniel praying and pleading to his God. Then they went and spoke to the king about his decree.
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Insights from the Text & Historical Records
Daniel is about 80 years old in 520 BC when this incident happened. King Solomon taught his people to pray toward Jerusalem even if they were captives:
If they come to their senses,
are sorry for what they’ve done,
and plead with you in the land where they are captives,
saying, ‘We have sinned. We have done wrong.
We have been wicked,’
if they change their attitude toward you
in the land where they are captives,
if they pray to you
toward the land that you gave their ancestors,
and the city you have chosen,
and the temple I have built for your name,
then in heaven, the place where you live, hear their prayer for mercy.
Do what is right for them.
Forgive your people, who have sinned against you.
2 Chronicles 6:37-39
Praying three times a day was a custom from the days of King David:
But I call on God,
and the LORD saves me.
Morning, noon, and night I complain and groan,
and he listens to my voice.
Some officials who were jealous of Daniel convinced King Darius of Babylon that anyone not praying exclusively to him should be thrown in a den of lions. The King agreed and signed the decree, but when these same officials accused Daniel and demanded his execution, the King was horrified. But the law was the law.
Yet the King said these encouraging words to Daniel: Your God whom you serve will deliver you. But did the King really think Daniel’s God would save him?
Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den and the King went to bed. But the King could not sleep or eat. Early in the morning he hurried to the lions’ den and called out to Daniel. Daniel reported that God had sent his angel who had shut the lions’ mouths. After Daniel was freed, the King ordered the accusers and their families thrown in the lions’ den. The lions ate them immediately.
King Darius then personally praised God and ordered his subjects to do the same. This is the end of the first part of the Book of Daniel.
Things to Think About
- Only Darius uses the expression the Living God twice, and only in this chapter. What characteristic of God is expressed by this phrase?
- How could King Darius issue this decree? Certainly, he knew that Daniel prayed every day. Certainly, Daniel told him this during their conversations. The advisors must have caught the King in an unguarded moment.
- Is this book about Daniel or about God? What is the purpose for which Daniel wrote this book?
- Lions are a symbol of Babylon. Winged lions appear on the gates of Babylon. What does God’s control of the lions in the den symbolize?
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