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Daniel 6:1-28 – May Your God Rescue You!


The story of Daniel and the lions' den is similar to Daniel 3 in which a fiery furnace was used as a threat. Darius's officials plotted against Daniel (6:4-5). The king, no doubt out of vanity, fell in line with the plot and became entrapped in his own system of supposedly permanent laws (6:6-9, 12-14). Daniel is faithful to his God, and the king recognizes the capacity of Daniel's God to rescue and save. Those who sought to kill Daniel are themselves killed.


The new king needed to organize his government around himself. He came in as an outsider; he was, according to the text, a Mede, not a Chaldean. Old loyalties may have had to be broken up in order for the king to have confidence that his will would be carried out. What specifically motivated the officials plot against Daniel is not stated, but the general context of administrative turmoil suggests that jealousy for Daniel's distinction (6:3) was among the motivations.

The officials sought to find fault with Daniel's performance record, but apparently it was so good that it could not be twisted into anything incriminating (6:4). Thus, the officials turned to his religious faithfulness to attack him at his strength. They urged the king to allow prayer to no one but himself for thirty days (6:7), knowing Daniel would not be able to live with this.

Daniel was not one to use God simply to bail himself out of trouble. No matter what his condition, he knew that, as a creature of God, he owed God honor and praise. As Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had acknowledged earlier (3:17-18), Daniel knew that allegiance to God was necessary, whether he lived or died. It was because of this that his prayer for help did not presume God's help in any way. The prayer was uttered by one who knew his creaturely place.

The king stated, "May your God, whom you faithfully serve, deliver you!" (6:16). The exclamation could be both a genuine wish and an expression of his helplessness. He undoubtedly had been proud of the strong principles of the legal system he represented. Now, however, he was trapped in it. The author and enforcer of the law had become its victim as well.

When Darius rushes out in the morning, Daniel greets the king with a standard phrase of respect: "O king, live forever!" (6:21). This was a rather remarkable statement, considering the terror to which Daniel had just been subjected. The simplicity of this honest expression of loyalty mocks the manipulative character of the officials who had entrapped both Daniel and Darius.

The officials who plotted against Daniel had used the power of the throne for their own ends. They could no longer be trusted to serve the monarch. As a result, they were killed. Recall the power that Daniel said God had granted Nebuchadnezzar (5:19). Violent power has characterized each of the kings. In giving Nebuchadnezzar and his followers their authority, God's intentions become enmeshed with the intentions of human kings.

The fear and trembling that Darius commands people to have for the "God of Daniel" (6:26) contains no statement of exclusivity. As with Nebuchadnezzar's previous decrees (2:47; 3:29; 4:34-35), Darius acknowledges the dominion of the true God, but does not prohibit the worship of other gods. It is important to remember that the first readers of these stories were Jewish. Their God was being reaffirmed and their faith encouraged. The theoretical question of existence of other gods was not a matter of central concern; rather, the question was whether or not their God was both in control and faithful.

The tight, ironic references to dominion at the end of the chapter should not be missed. Darius issues a decree for all of his royal "dominion" (6:26) in which he acknowledges the everlasting "dominion" of God. This is followed by the note that Daniel served into the reign of Cyrus the Persian. Darius's dominion did not even extend beyond the lifetime of Daniel. His decree in 6:26-27 that God's dominion had no end proved to be true in a manner he probably did not expect.

Daniel 6:1-28

The Plot against Daniel

6It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred and twenty satraps, stationed throughout the whole kingdom, 2and over them three presidents, including Daniel; to these the satraps gave account, so that the king might suffer no loss. 3Soon Daniel distinguished himself above all the other presidents and satraps because an excellent spirit was in him, and the king planned to appoint him over the whole kingdom. 4So the presidents and the satraps tried to find grounds for complaint against Daniel in connection with the kingdom. But they could find no grounds for complaint or any corruption, because he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption could be found in him. 5The men said, ‘We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.’

So the presidents and satraps conspired and came to the king and said to him, ‘O King Darius, live for ever! 7All the presidents of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counsellors and the governors, are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an interdict, that whoever prays to anyone, divine or human, for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into a den of lions. 8Now, O king, establish the interdict and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.’ 9Therefore King Darius signed the document and interdict.

Daniel in the Lions’ Den

10 Although Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he continued to go to his house, which had windows in its upper room open towards Jerusalem, and to get down on his knees three times a day to pray to his God and praise him, just as he had done previously. 11The conspirators came and found Daniel praying and seeking mercy before his God. 12Then they approached the king and said concerning the interdict, ‘O king! Did you not sign an interdict, that anyone who prays to anyone, divine or human, within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be thrown into a den of lions?’ The king answered, ‘The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.’ 13Then they responded to the king, ‘Daniel, one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the interdict you have signed, but he is saying his prayers three times a day.’

14 When the king heard the charge, he was very much distressed. He was determined to save Daniel, and until the sun went down he made every effort to rescue him. 15Then the conspirators came to the king and said to him, ‘Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no interdict or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.’

16 Then the king gave the command, and Daniel was brought and thrown into the den of lions. The king said to Daniel, ‘May your God, whom you faithfully serve, deliver you!’ 17A stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, so that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. 18Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no food was brought to him, and sleep fled from him.

Daniel Saved from the Lions

19 Then, at break of day, the king got up and hurried to the den of lions. 20When he came near the den where Daniel was, he cried out anxiously to Daniel, ‘O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you faithfully serve been able to deliver you from the lions?’ 21Daniel then said to the king, ‘O king, live for ever! 22My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no wrong.’ 23Then the king was exceedingly glad and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. 24The king gave a command, and those who had accused Daniel were brought and thrown into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. Before they reached the bottom of the den the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.

25 Then King Darius wrote to all peoples and nations of every language throughout the whole world: ‘May you have abundant prosperity! 26I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people should tremble and fear before the God of Daniel:
For he is the living God,
   enduring for ever.
His kingdom shall never be destroyed,
   and his dominion has no end.
27 He delivers and rescues,
   he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth;
for he has saved Daniel
   from the power of the lions.’
28So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

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