Daniel in a Pit of Lions
1Darius divided his kingdom into 120 states and placed a governor in charge of each one. 2In order to make sure that his government was run properly, Darius put three other officials in charge of the governors. One of these officials was Daniel. 3And he did his work so much better than the other governors and officials that the king decided to let him govern the whole kingdom.
4The other men tried to find something wrong with the way Daniel did his work for the king. But they could not accuse him of anything wrong, because he was honest and faithful and did everything he was supposed to do. 5Finally, they said to one another, “We will never be able to bring any charge against Daniel, unless it has to do with his religion.”
6They all went to the king and said:
“Your Majesty, we hope you live forever! 7 All of your officials, leaders, advisors, and governors agree that you should make a law forbidding anyone to pray to any god or human except you for the next 30 days. Everyone who disobeys this law must be thrown into a pit of lions. 8Order this to be written and then sign it, so it cannot be changed, just as no written law of the Medes and Persians can be changed.”
9So King Darius made the law and had it written down.
10Daniel heard about the law, but when he returned home, he went upstairs and prayed in front of the window that faced Jerusalem. In the same way that he had always done, he knelt down in prayer three times a day, giving thanks to God.
11The men who had spoken to the king watched Daniel and saw him praying to his God for help. 12They went back to the king and said, “Didn't you make a law that forbids anyone to pray to any god or human except you for the next 30 days? And doesn't the law say that everyone who disobeys it will be thrown into a pit of lions?”
“Yes, that's the law I made,” the king agreed. “And just like all written laws of the Medes and Persians, it cannot be changed.”
13The men then told the king, “That Jew named Daniel, who was brought here as a captive, refuses to obey you or the law that you ordered to be written. And he still prays to his god three times a day.” 14The king was really upset to hear about this, and for the rest of the day he tried to think how he could save Daniel.
15At sunset the men returned and said, “Your Majesty, remember that no written law of the Medes and Persians can be changed, not even by the king.”
16 So Darius ordered Daniel to be brought out and thrown into a pit of lions. But he said to Daniel, “You have been faithful to your God, and I pray that he will rescue you.”
17A stone was rolled over the pit, and it was sealed. Then Darius and his officials stamped the seal to show that no one should let Daniel out. 18All night long the king could not sleep. He did not eat anything, and he would not let anyone come in to entertain him.
19At daybreak the king got up and ran to the pit. 20He was anxious and shouted, “Daniel, you were faithful and served your God. Was he able to save you from the lions?”
21Daniel answered, “Your Majesty, I hope you live forever! 22 My God knew that I was innocent, and he sent an angel to keep the lions from eating me. Your Majesty, I have never done anything to hurt you.”
23The king was relieved to hear Daniel's voice, and he gave orders for him to be taken out of the pit. Daniel's faith in his God had kept him from being harmed. 24And the king ordered the men who had brought charges against Daniel to be thrown into the pit, together with their wives and children. But before they even reached the bottom, the lions ripped them to pieces.
25King Darius then sent this message to all people of every nation and race in the world:
“Greetings to all of you!
26I command everyone
in my kingdom
to worship and honor
the God of Daniel.
He is the living God,
the one who lives forever.
His power and his kingdom
will never end.
27He rescues people
and sets them free
by working great miracles.
Daniel's God has rescued him
from the power of the lions.”
28All went well for Daniel while Darius was king, and even when Cyrus the Persian ruled.
Was it news of Daniel’s prophecy of Belshazzar’s fall that precipitated his return to public life? The new king saw in him an ally, but though he offered the best service he could, as events showed, he was not in anyone’s pocket. It says much for his integrity that they couldn’t find anything to accuse him of, so when those who plotted against him failed to find any weaknesses, they had to use his strengths against him.
How susceptible to flattery are those in power! Lavish praise can make fools of us all. Without thinking of unintended consequences, Darius binds himself in a legal tangle from which there is no escape. Once again a king thinks that he is equal to God and that prayer should only be offered to himself. Daniel has travelled this road before and, having set his course, will not stray from it by any personal considerations of safety. By turning to Jerusalem, he daily reminded himself where his true allegiance lay.
The king is trapped by his own conceit, made powerless by his own pride. Daniel faces his probable death in faith, but the king had a long disturbed night. Hoping against hope, he calls out in the morning and Daniel’s voice, familiar in tone and content, replies as usual.
Daniel’s God has protected him, though the lions were no vegetarians as the plotters soon discovered! Once more a decree goes out proclaiming who is Lord of the nations. There is only one correct response: fear and reverence. Daniel is secure in his position and all thoughts of early retirement have now been firmly put to rest!
Father, help me live with Daniel’s kind of integrity and single-mindedness, and give me the courage and faith to know that you will protect me from whatever “lions” I may face. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Colin Sinclair is a Church of Scotland Minister serving a congregation in the centre of Edinburgh. He is married to Ruth and they have four adult children and three grandchildren. Colin served on the SU staff in Zambia 1974-77 and as General Director SU Scotland 1988-96 and is currently the chair of the SU International Council and Executive. Colin and Ruth led SU holidays together for many years. Publications: “The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Bible”; has contributed regularly to Encounter with God/ Wordlive for the last decade.