Chapter 6: DANIEL IN THE LIONS’ 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 found 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 placed upon the throne, B.C.538. Two years later, B.C.536, Darius dying, Cyrus took the throne. Somewhere, therefore, between these two dates the event here narrated occurred. Daniel was a chief actor in the kingdom of Babylon in the height of its glory; and from that time on to the time when the Medes and Persians took the throne of universal empire, he was at least a resident of that city, and acquainted with all the affairs of the kingdom; yet he gives us no consecutive account of events that occurred during his long connection with these kingdoms. He only touches upon an event here and there such as is calculated to inspire faith and 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 by the apostle Paul in Hebrews 11, where he speaks of some who through faith have “stopped the mouths of lions.” Darius set over the kingdom a hundred and twenty princes, there being, as is supposed, at that time a hundred and 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 a hundred and twenty-seven provinces. Esther 1:1. Over these one hundred and twenty provinces were set three, and of these Daniel was chief. Preference was given to Daniel because of his excellent spirit. Daniel, who, for being a great man in the empire of Babylon, might have been esteeemed an enemy by Darius, and so have been banished or otherwise put out of the way; or, being a captive from a nation then in ruins, might have been despised and set at naught, was not treated in either of these ways; 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. And 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. But Daniel’s conduct was perfect so far as related to the kingdom. He was faithful and true. They could find no ground for complaint against him on that score. Then they 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 forever. 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.”

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 though some urgent matter had suddenly sprung up, and they had come unanimously to present it before him. They claimed that all were agreed. This was false; for Daniel, the chief of them all, was not, of course, consulted in the matter. The decree they fixed upon was on which would flatter the king’s vanity, and thus the more readily gain his assent. It would be a position before unheard of, for a man to be the only dispenser of favors and granter of petitions for thirty days. Hence the king, not fathoming their evil designs, signed the decree, and it took its place on the statute-books as one of the unalterable laws of the Medes and Persians. Mark the subtlety of these men – the length to which people will go 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. So they gave it a general application, and were willing to ignore and heap insult upon their whole system of religion, and all the multitude of their gods, for the sake of ruining the object of their hatred. Daniel foresaw the conspiracy going on against him, but took no means to thwart it. He simply committed himself to God, and left the issue to his providence. He did not leave the empire on pretended business, or perform his devotions with more than ordinary secrecy; but when he knew the writing was signed, just as aforetime, with his face turned toward his beloved Jerusalem, he kneeled down in his chamber three times a day, and poured out 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 they answered 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 or 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.”

It only remained for these men, having set the trap, to watch their victim that they might ensnare him therein. So they again came tumultuously together, this time at the residence of Daniel, as though some important business had called them suddenly together to consult the chief of the presidents; and lo, they found him, just as they intended and hoped, praying to his God. So far all had worked well. They were not long in going to the king with the matter, and, to render it more sure, got an acknowledgment from the king that such a decree was in force. Then they were ready to inform against Daniel; and mark their mean resort to excite the prejudices of the king: “That Daniel, which is of the children of the captivity of Judah.” Yes; that poor captive, who is entirely dependent on you for all that he enjoys, so far from being grateful and appreciating your favors, regards not you, nor pays attention to your decree. Then the king saw the trap that had been prepared for him as well as for Daniel, and he labored till 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 they were inexorable. The law was sustained; and Daniel, the venerable, the grave, the upright and faultless servant of the kingdom, was thrown, as if he had been one of the vilest malefactors, into the den of lions to be devoured by them.

“VERSE 18. Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting; neither were instruments of music 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 forever. 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 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 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.”

The course of the king after Daniel had been cast into the den of lions attests his genuine interest in his behalf, and the severe condemnation he felt for his own course in the matter. At earliest dawn he repaired to the den where his prime minister had passed the night in the company with hungry and ravenous beasts. Daniel’s response to his first salutation was no word of reproach for the king’s course in yielding to his persecutors, but a term of respect and honor, “O king, live forever.” He afterward, however, reminds 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 hurt. And on account of his innocency, God, whom he served continually, not at intervals, nor by fits and starts, had sent his angel, and 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 hurt was found on 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? It is conjectured that they 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. Then, said the king, they will no more attack you than him, so we will test the matter by putting you in. The lions were hungry enough when they could get hold of the guilty; and these men were torn to pieces ere they reached the bottom of the den. Thus was Daniel doubly vindicated; and thus strikingly were the words of Solomon fulfilled: “The righteous is delivered out of trouble, and the wicked cometh in his stead.” Prov.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 forever, 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.”

The result of Daniel’s deliverance was that another proclamation went out through the empire in favor of the true God, the God of Israel. All men were to fear and tremble before him. What Daniel’s enemies designed to prove his ruin, resulted only in his advancement. In this case, and in the case of the three Hebrews in the fiery furnace, the seal of God is set in favor of two great lines of duty: (1) As in the case of the three in the fiery furnace, not to yield to any known sin; and (2) As in the present case, not to omit any known duty. And from these instances, the people of God in all ages are to derive encouragement. The decree of the king sets forth the character of the true God in fine terms. (1) He is the living God; all others are dead. (2) He is steadfast forever; all others change.
(3) He has a kingdom; for he made and governs all. (4) His kingdom shall not be destroyed; all others come to an end. (5) His dominion is without end; no human power can prevail against it. (6) He delivereth those who are in bondage. (7) 122 He rescueth his servants from their enemies when they call upon him for help. (8) He worketh wonders in the heavens and signs upon the earth. (9) And to complete all, he hath delivereth Daniel, giving before our own eyes the fullest proof of his power and goodness in rescuing his servant from the power of the lions. How excellent an eulogium is this on the great God and his faithful servant! Thus closes the historical part of the book of Daniel. We now come to the prophetic portion, which, like a shining beacon light, has thrown its rays over all the course of time from that point to the present, and is still lighting up the pathway of the church onward to the eternal kingdom.

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