Daniel in the Lion’s Den (Daniel 6)
“Daniel in the Lions’ Den” is a story of devotion, deception, despair and deliverance. This specific event in the life of Daniel reveals the character of a man who lived the life of faith (cf. Heb. 11:33). From the time he was a teenager through to his later years, Daniel proved to be faithful. This story is the faithfulness of Daniel on public display.
DEVOTION (Daniel 6:1-4, 10-11)
So as to have order in his kingdom, Darius sets over his kingdom 120 satraps. Over these 120 satraps, he appoints three high officials (of whom Daniel was one). God caused in Daniel an “excellent spirit“, which resulted in excellent conduct (“distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps“). This internal possession was the source of how Daniel would respond to the events that would transpire in this chapter. As a result of Daniel’s character, Darius planned on promoting Daniel by setting “him over the whole kingdom” (Dan. 6:3). When his fellow ruling officials found out about this promotion, they “sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom” (Dan. 6:4a). These men did not like Daniel and they certainly did not like the idea of him being promoted above them. The consistency of Daniel’s life stood in their way and in their minds an old Jew who is faithful to his God was a threat, so they wanted to eliminate him. They evidently placed a close eye on him in the way he carried out his kingdom duties. After careful investigation of what he is like at work “they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him” (Dan. 6:4). Daniel displayed faithfulness in all situations. He was a man devoted to the Lord.
DECEPTION (Daniel 6:5-9)
After this failed investigation, these men formed a conspiracy against Daniel. The focus moves from devotion to deception. These conspirators concluded, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God” (Dan. 6:5). The only way they can bring accusation against Daniel is by making his loyalty to God a crime. Being aware of Daniel’s faithfulness, the officials (by means of deception) approached the king claiming that “All the high officials of the kingdom” agreed to their proposed plan (Dan. 6:7). This plan was the prevention of making petitions to any god or man for thirty days (a cleverly devised plan making Darius god for a month). The penalty of those who do not conform was death by lions. An injunction was made and sealed by the king. It was now illegal to pray to anyone apart from Darius. How does Daniel respond? He didn’t panic or compromise, but instead he displayed faithfulness. When he arrived home “he got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously” (Dan. 6:10). Daniel didn’t overreact to this difficult situation – instead he was simply faithful, doing what he normally did. As expected, the conspirators caught Daniel in the act! These men assumed that they had Daniel right where they wanted him (Dan. 6:11).
DESPAIR (Daniel 6:12-17)
Because Daniel was loyal to his Lord, the conspirators had ground for his punishment, and that was to be cast into the lions’ den. They brought this situation to the king by first reminding him of the newly appointed law, of which the king had affirmed and signed off on (cf. Dan. 6:12). Then they revealed to the king who the one was who broke the law – it was Daniel. As soon as Darius heard this, it would have become clear that this was a set up, and he was distressed and did all he could to reverse this law (Dan. 6:14). Despite his great respect and admiration for Daniel, there was no loophole in the law (Dan. 6:15). Darius then gave the orders for the punishment to be enforced. He said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” (Dan. 6:16), and the den was sealed.
DELIVERANCE (Daniel 6:18-28)
In this portion of the narrative the reader sees the kings distress and Daniel’s deliverance. In the night of Daniel’s trial, the king ate nothing, received no entertainment and was unable to sleep (Dan. 6:18). In the morning, Darius rushed to the lion’s den and called out for Daniel. Daniel responded by giving God the glory for shutting the mouths of the lions and preserving his life. Darius gave orders for him to be released and issued a command that brought the demise of the conspirators and their families (Dan. 6:24). King Darius writes a decree revealing his understanding of what truly took place in this situation. These words testify of the sovereignty of God. Daniel was faithful and therefore showed integrity by simply living in response to the fact God was sovereign. Wherever Daniel found himself, he knew it was God who placed him there, so he would respond faithfully. By God’s sovereign plan “Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian” (Dan. 6:28). This is a story of triumph in the midst of lies and deceit. The temptation to compromise was before Daniel but he remained faithful. Daniel may have experienced a miraculous deliverance, but all God’s people can expect an eternal deliverance. Regardless of the earthly outcome, by God’s grace we are to devote ourselves to Him and His glory.