Daniel Chapter 6 Bible Study Lesson: Lunch with Lions

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Book of Daniel Bible Study Commentary Chapter 6

Daniel Chapter 6: Lunch with Lions

by I Gordon

Now, you may wish to debate this important point, but I would say that the story before us in Daniel chapter 6 is possibly the most loved story in the Old Testament (as voted by those under 9 years of age.) Big call I know but it is backed up by fact.  [1]  Daniel chapter 6 is a great story - we've got an old godly man, hungry powerful big cats, corrupt jealous officials, supernatural preservation, and the bad guys getting what they deserve! Apologies for spoiling the story for you by giving the end away! So let's just back up a bit...

In the previous chapter we saw the end of the Babylonian empire. In a single day, the Medes and Persians took the city and killed the Babylonian king, Belshazzar. History records the date of this event as October 13, 539 B.C. In the chapter before us, Darius the Mede has been appointed by King Cyrus over Babylon and Daniel is now an old man in his early 80's. But, as we shall see, Daniel is still an extraordinary man... a fact that will raise the envy and jealousy levels amongst his peers and leave Daniel in a very precarious position with some very hungry lions. Let's have a look.

The cream rises to the top!

Dan 6:1-4 It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so.  They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.

Daniel, the NASB states, had an 'extraordinary spirit.' He was different and the evidence of God's presence in his life was clear for all to see.  [2]  As the saying goes, the cream always rises to the top and so Daniel soon found himself in a position of authority within the Medo-Persian kingdom, just as he had been within the Babylonian kingdom. Although this time he had a problem... the green eyed monster called 'Jealousy' was rearing its ugly head again, just as it had many times before for God's people  [3]  . People often don't like people who are different... especially if they can't be controlled. And even more so if they are godly! Well, our good friend Daniel was striking three out of three on those counts. On top of that, King Darius was now thinking of placing Daniel over the whole kingdom. So through no fault of his own, he soon had some pretty powerful enemies. Jealousy was rearing its ugly head! And yet, search as they could,  'they could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.'  What an awesome testimony!

The plan is hatched!

Daniel 6:5-9 Finally these men said, '  We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God  .' So the administrators and the satraps went as a group to the king and said: 'O King Darius, live forever! The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and  enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lions' den  . Now, O king, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered - in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.' So King Darius put the decree in writing.

Try as they might, they had nothing on Daniel!  [4]  Imagine if that was said of a leader or politician today! Not likely... It doesn't happen. Today's politicians only survive because they have enough dirt on each other to make sure no one raises any issues! So Daniel's enemy's only option was to change the laws of the land to be in opposition to God's law  [5]  . It's an old trick but quite successfully employed even today. In fact it is an old trick that is on the increase today!  [6]  They knew they could get him if they put his devotion to God at odds with his devotion to the king and laws of the land. They would force him to have to choose which he would do. To disobey God would ruin his testimony and integrity. To disobey the laws of the land would get him prosecuted as one who would not be fully loyal to the king. Again... this is not just something that happened 2600 years ago. This is the tactic of today as well where Christian businesses and believers are specifically targeted to try and cause persecution and prosecution.

So here was Daniel... a man who shone so brightly, others were jealous and decided to try and put that light out. So off to the king they went, saying that 'all' of the king's governors had agreed that for 30 days no one could pray to any other god. Of course, the 'all' didn't include Daniel himself who was strangely left out of this decision! And the king bought it! He made a quick, foolish decision without any consultation with Daniel that he would live to regret very soon. So a foolproof plan was hatched... they thought! It definitely would end with someone doing lunch with lions, but the 'who' is still yet to be determined!

Daniel changes his ways (not one bit!)

Book of Daniel Bible Study Commentary Chapter 6 Daniel 6:10-17 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published,  he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before  . Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: 'Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or man except to you, O king, would be thrown into the lions' den?' The king answered, 'The decree stands - in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.'  Then they said to the king, 'Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.' When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him  . Then the men went as a group to the king and said to him, 'Remember, O king, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.' So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions' den.  The king said to Daniel, 'May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!'  A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel's situation might not be changed.

Upon hearing of the new decree, Daniel immediately goes home and purposefully disobeys it! Not because he's a rebel... far from it. But God came first in his life and there was nothing that he would let come before his relationship with the Lord. Note also that he doesn't go home to moan at God about his predicament. No, he kneels and gives thanks to God!  [7]  He also asks God for His help. We need to remember that Daniel was in his early eighties at this stage and as such he was a man with a lifetime of experiencing the faithfulness of his Lord. Because of this, Daniel wasn't freaked out easily! D.L. Moody said that 'character is what you are in the dark.' Well we see from this verse where Daniel's strength lay and who he was when no one was looking. He is unshakeable because of the firm foundation beneath him that held him up... and that is the Lord!

But caught red handed he was none the less, practicing that oh so terrible crime of praying to God. The plan had been hatched, the trap had been set, the bait was laid, and it had now sprung on God's servant Daniel. And although the king now realized that he had now been tricked, there was nothing that he could do about it. A decree was a decree and it must be acted upon!  [8]  So, even though the king is sorrowful when he realises that the law that he agreed to is now being used to condemn Daniel, the law of the Medes and Persians must be upheld and thus Daniel was thrown into the lions den!  [9] 

How to shut a lion's mouth!

Book of Daniel Bible Study Commentary Chapter 6Daniel 6:18-23  Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep  . At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions' den. When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, 'Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?'  Daniel answered, 'O king, live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight  . Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king.' The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den,  no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. 

The king was obviously really concerned for Daniel, and, as someone has once said, fasted for the night hoping the lions would do likewise! There is a very real sense in which this is a picture for us. The New Testament tells us that '  your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.  ' We, like Daniel, need to remain strong in our faith in the midst of our difficulties. It is also important to not give the enemy reason to justifiably condemn us. We read above that Daniel was delivered from the lion because

Shutting the Lion's mouth

1) He was innocent in the matter

2) He trusted in his God. As Psalm 34:7 tells us '  The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them  .'

From this we can see that faith can shut the mouths of lions. So let me ask you... what lions are you faced with at the moment? What is it that causes you to worry and fear? Sooner or later we will face the lions whether they come in the form of health problems, opposition and slander, financial concerns, persecution... May we learn as Paul did that even if all else falls around our side, the Lord will still stand with us. No doubt the apostle Paul had Daniel 6 in mind when we wrote:

'At my first defence no one supported me, but all deserted me...but the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion's mouth  .' (2 Tim 4:17)

God can shut the lion's mouth, in whatever form it comes. Stand firm in your faith. And we look forward to the day in the Millennial Kingdom, when all of the lion's mouths shall be shut for good and peace shall reign.

An amazing testimony of God to all the people

Daniel 6:24-28  At the king's command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions' den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones. Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations and men of every language throughout the land  :

'May you prosper greatly! 'I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. 'For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves;  he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth  . He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.'

So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

Something usually missing from the Sunday school versions of this story is the judgement that was carried out upon the men (and their families!) who had falsely accused Daniel. They got to spend a little bit of time with the lions themselves. The scary thing about this is that there were no angels to guard and protect those that didn't fear the Lord! They had been snared in their own trap!

Of course, the greatest example of this came one day as Jesus was nailed to a cross. How Satan must have rejoiced as he turned the masses against Jesus. He would have been beside himself as darkness covered the land and the son of God died a slow and agonizing death upon that cross! 'I've done it' he would have proclaimed. 'I have killed the son of God! My plan has worked. I have stopped God!' And yet as Jesus breathed His last, the curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom! The way into the Holy of Holies was opened to all and Satan's plan had backfired! That cross, the same cross that was meant to seal the son of God's fate, would be the very thing that God used to seal Satan's fate and set the captives free! What a plan... what a magnificent plan of God!

But look also at the result of this trial from a personal point of view. We can see that the strength of a person's testimony is proportional to the depth of the trial and the extent of the deliverance. God knows what He is doing if we are asked to endure such a trial. Daniel, as we have read above, was required to go through such a trial... But what a result! Not only had Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon issued an earlier personal testimony to all of the then known world praising the God of Israel (see Daniel 4), but now king Darius of the Medo-Persian kingdom has also issued a decree to all peoples that the God of Daniel must be feared and revered! Awesome! When we are down and are wondering what is happening, let us remember these words of Darius. For he reminds us, as does this whole chapter, that

God - What Darius helps us remember

God is a LIVING God.
God endures FOREVER.
God PERFORMS WONDERS on our behalf.


[1] ↩  Um, well, I did try to back up this statement with some convincing survey results... but alas, no luck. My niece went for Jonah and the whale and my nephew liked David's conflict with Absalom for some strange reason! And that was even with a slightly skewed survey question of 'What story in the Old Testament, like possibly, Daniel in the lions den, is your favourite?'

[2] ↩  For a quick overview of Daniel's character, look at some of the verses we have already seen (1:4,8, 2:14,18,23,49, 5:17)

[3] ↩  The classic is Joseph's brothers in Gen 37. Or check out Korah's rebellion against Moses in Num 16. Saul's jealousy of David in 1 Sam 18 is right up there as well. And of course we can't leave off the Pharisees jealousy of Jesus in Luke 20:19-26.

[4] ↩  Daniel is a good example of what Paul speaks about:  'In everything you do, stay away from complaining and arguing, so that no one can speak a word of blame against you. You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God in a dark world full of crooked and perverse people. Let your lives shine brightly before them.' (Phil 2:14-15 NLT) 
And as Peter says:  'If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.' (1 Pet 4:15-16) 

[5] ↩  I read a quote on this that said 'Today there are many sins that aren't crimes, and many crimes that aren't sins.' So true. I live in a country were it is now illegal to smack your own child to discipline them. Smacking your child is now a crime. But it is certainly not a sin in God's eyes. On the other hand, it is legal to kill the unborn. This is not a crime but it is a sin. Expect things to go more mixed up as society moves away from God and the Bible.

[6] ↩  I was listening to Chuck Missler the other day and he said the following concerning persecution of Christians in the West: 'You can expect increasing laws to be enforced to try to encumber you as a biblical believer. The freedom of expression that we had in America, Canada and in Australia is starting to be curtailed. There are certain things you cannot talk about in public anymore. The thought control is beginning. The biblical believer will be the minority guy. The attack will include, if not lead by, the denominations. The substitutionary death of Jesus for our sins is a topic that is not comfortable from many pulpits. How many pulpits can you hear that from? A vanishing number in America. People who hold to those 'old fashioned' ideas will be continually marginalized. You have to understand how you persecute a group. First you identify that group. Then you marginalize that group. Then you vilify that group. Then you pass laws against what that group does. Finally, you simply enforce those laws. When the Gestapo broke down doors in the middle of the night and took away the head of the household they were not breaking the law - they were enforcing the law. The biblical believer has been promised persecution by our King. And it is coming. And most Christians aren't ready for that, but they need to be.'

[7] ↩  In this trying time, Daniel could still give thanks! I may have written on this before but I really like the quote that Mathew Henry gave after being robbed. He wrote: 'I thank thee first because I was never robbed before. Second, because although they took my purse, they did not take my life. Third, because although they took my all, it was not much. And fourth because it was I who was robbed and not I who robbed.' That's pretty cool. Always look for what you can give thanks for even if the situation itself is not pleasant.

[8] ↩  The law of the Medes and Persians was different to that of the Babylonians. For the Medes and Persians, once a law had been passed even the king could not annul it. How different this was from the days of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, who simply changed his mind and dictated whatever seemed best at the time. Because of this even the king, though he now knew he had been tricked by his 'wise men' was still required to enforce the law and have Daniel thrown to the lions!

[9] ↩  There is a little Midrash here. Just as king Darius was pressured by Daniel's jealous peers to pass a law that would be used to condemn Daniel, so Pilate was pressured by Jesus' jealous peers. As Daniel is put in the place of death and the king seals the stone and Daniel's fate, so Pilot would put his seal on the stone that was meant to keep Jesus in the place of death. Although, like Daniel in the lions den, God would have the last say and death would not be the end in either case!