From Daniel Chapter 6.
Daniel had been exiled from his homeland in Judah and brought to the great kingdom of Babylon. At that time, Nebuchadnezzar was king but he was eventually succeeded by his son Belshazzar. After Belshazzar had ruled for a while, the Medes attacked Babylon and deposed him. Darius leader of the Medes took over the kingdom.
Now Babylon was a vast kingdom so Darius decided to put in place satraps (governors) to rule over the numerous provinces under it. In addition, three high officials were appointed to oversee the work of the satraps. Daniel was one of them and being full of the wisdom of God, he excelled in his role. The king took notice and considered appointing him to rule over the entire kingdom.
It wasn’t too long therefore, before his fellow high officers and some of the satraps became envious of him. They tried their utmost to find fault in the man but simply could not. So they came to a conclusion, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God”, they reasoned.
After some deliberations they came up with a plan. The men went over to King Darius and told him to “establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions.” They then urged him to make it law, sign it, send it throughout the kingdom and by so doing make it irrevocable. The king listened to his officials without thinking much about it and the law was established.
When Daniel heard of it, he went to his upper-room and prayed with his window open facing Jerusalem as he had always done. The officers converged and went to see whether he would continue to petition his God. Sure enough they found him praying and went straight to the king.
The king was distressed when he understood it was Daniel because he valued him as a high officer and person. He spent all night trying to find a way (using the law) through which he could rescue him but he could not. So he had no choice but to give the command.
BABYLON AND LIONS
Historical artifacts and relics have shown that the ancient Babylonians highly regarded the king of the beasts. Not only because of its great strength but also because it was associated with one of their gods Ishtar. Furthermore, in more recent times a basalt statue of a lion trampling a man was unearthed in Iraq. It demonstrates that feeding lions with men was indeed a practice in the kingdom.
The kings of Babylon would have used these beasts to be rid of their enemies brutally and ensure their officers did as they were told.
The place they took Daniel is described as a pit. It most probably was dug up purposely to house the animals. Lions were captured using rope nets and let down into it through the opening. From the Scriptures we learn it had a slope that went down to the bottom. We are also told the lions could reach certain parts of that slope. The wild beasts were given just enough to keep them alive. Their big meals came when there was another unfortunate victim of the monarch’s wrath.
Daniel was escorted to the pit by the king and his officials together with the royal guards. There is no doubt that as they approached the pit’s covered entry-point he was praying in his heart. It must have been a terrifying experience to imagine the lions tearing him up – if this was the time God had chosen for him to go.
They removed the stone and the lions must have let out growls in anticipation of a rare meal.
Animals can be conditioned to associate certain sounds with feeding time. The grinding of the stone as it shifted was the signal in this case.
They pushed Daniel through the narrow opening and he went downward. The king said, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you.”
The large stone was then dragged back over the mouth of the pit to close it off. Darius and his satraps put their seals at the edges so that no one would be able to secretly rescue Daniel. When the king went back to his palace, he fasted and did not sleep all night.
Daniel reached the pit bottom and was suddenly in the midst of several hungry and rugged looking lions – then it got pitch dark as the stone was put in place.
The Word tells us God shut the lions’ mouths. It does not however say they could not come near him or breathe on him. He must have felt their manes brush his face as they walked curiously around him. Try to imagine what that felt like.
The angel of God appeared at some point and this must have calmed Daniel. He however still had to spend a whole night there.
Early in the morning, Darius went with great haste to the entrance of the lions’ den and cried out “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” The answer came, “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before Him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.”
The king was delighted and commanded that Daniel be pulled up out of the pit. Soon afterward his anger was kindled against those who had tried to manipulate the law. He ordered that these men themselves be cast into the den—and the lions tore their flesh breaking their bones before they ever reached the bottom of the pit.
The king then decreed, “In all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for He is the living God, enduring forever; His kingdom shall never be destroyed, and His dominion shall be to the end. He delivers and rescues; He works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, He who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.”
So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian. He inspires us believers to continue to be faithful to God even when there is a heavy price to pay. Now how many of us would accept to spend the night with lions because of our faith? Well, most of us are faced with challenges that are not as perilous so we should persevere and be encouraged. The God who delivered Daniel can certainly help us and bring us out of whatever den we find ourselves in.