Chapter 6 Daniel in the Lions' Den

In this chapter we reach the height of spiritual iniquity. In the image Nebuchadnezzer set up we read the story of idolatry; in chapter 5 Belshazzar added the sins of blasphemy and impiety, as he made mockery of the true God; but Darius agreed to set himself up as the only god. This is surely typical again of the day ahead when the man of sin, the son of perdition, shall exalt himself “above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (II Thess. 2:3, 4). Darius here is a distinct type of the coming Antichrist who is described in Daniel 11:36 in similar language to his antitype in II Thessalonians 2:4, for it reads as follows: “And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods.” Personally Darius seems to have been a man of some principle, but he allowed the pride of the human heart to trick him into the terrible dilemma in which he eventually found himself.

Who does not know the story of Daniel in the lions’ den? Yet there are precious thoughts here not always noticed. May the Lord bless our meditation on this unique incident, with its vast implications! Dispensationally we should notice that in the third chapter Nebuchadnezzar demanded divine worship through the image; here Darius does so directly; he was the ruler of the next empire after the Babylonian. We see the same thing in the next great empire following, the Grecian, for, while Antiochus Epiphanes did not demand worship for himself but only forbade the worship of the true God, yet he pictures the coming Antichrist, who does set himself up as the object of divine adoration. The emperors of the fourth empire, the Roman, also demanded that they be worshipped as God. In each case during those years there were those who refused; faithful believers had the courage to refuse to bow the knee, to worship any but the true God. There were the three in the burning fiery furnace; there is Daniel in our chapter; in the third empire there were the doughty Maccabee; under the Roman emperors many Christians died a martyr’s death; so in the future great tribulation there will be a faithful remnant of Israel. The three Jews of Daniel 3 and Daniel himself came through the trial unharmed, but it is not always so. Many have been killed for their testimony, as were many of the Maccabees, also of the early Christians, and many Jews will be slain during the coming great tribulation. In the faithfulness of these men and women God has ever been honored, as He was in the case of the three who came out of the fire and again in Daniel’s case. God triumphs in His saints. And in the final analysis all of His enemies shall bite the dust (as we see in this chapter), and His saints shall rise from the dead and reign with their Lord. The Lord will reign, and at His coming He will take the kingdom, as both Nebuchadnezzar (4:34) and Darius (6:26, 27) acknowledge. Said Darius, “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 stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end” (v. 26). It shall be thus when Christ comes forth to reign; all kings shall bow before Him and own Him as Lord of lords and King of kings.

Looking at this chapter from a moral standpoint we admire again Daniel’s faithfulness. In private and in public he was always true. When his enemies had trapped the king into setting himself up as God, Daniel continued to pray three times a day as he had done heretofore. Though a very busy prime minister of a vast empire he found time to pray regularly morning, noon, and night, his spiritual needs very likely more felt by him than his physical. He continued to pray in spite of the king’s edict. He did not go out of his way deliberately to give offense or to act as a martyr; he just continued praying as had been his habit for years. He prayed with his window open towards Jerusalem—the place where the Lord had put His name; even as we pray looking up to heaven where our Home is. Our Lord, in the Gospel of Matthew, tells us to close the door when we pray, and I think it would make a wonderful combination to pray with the door shut and with the window open—with the world around us shut out and the way towards heaven open. Daniel prayed and you may be sure he did not pray to the king of the Medes as he had been ordered to do, but he prayed to the King of heaven, and I imagine he earnestly prayed not to, but for, the king of the empire. Even so should we pray for kings and for all those who are in authority.

Daniel had his enemies; what faithful believer then and now does not? His enemies did not mind lying, for they said that “all” the presidents and other officers had agreed to suggest to make Darius God for thirty days (v. 7). Daniel was the chief of all Darius’ ministers, but he had not been consulted, so they were lying when they made their plea to the king. Those men did not have very high regard for their king when they trapped him into this unhappy situation, which the king later on did not appreciate one little bit. They learned this later on when the fate they had planned for Daniel became their own as they became food for the lions. It reminds one of Haman’s experience in the book of Esther.

And now let us take a long look at the wonderful spiritual lessons which this chapter unfolds before our eyes and our hearts. One can’t help but see that, while Darius was a heathen king, yet in a remarkable way he represents God in this story, and Daniel certainly typifies our blessed Lord and Savior. David, who failed often and glaringly, is recognized in many situations as a type of our Lord; why not this man Daniel of whom not one derogatory thing is said in all of Scripture? Listen to what Daniel’s enemies said about him:

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. 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 (vv. 4, 5).

Need we remind ourselves that three times over Pilate said the very same thing about our Lord Jesus, “I find no fault in him” (John 18:38; 19:4, 5). The Jews condemned Him, not on any real charge, but because He was true to Himself and to God. They crucified Him, not because of what He had done, for He was the sinless Son of God, but because of Who He was, and Who He claimed to be.

The opponents of Daniel succeeded in having a law passed to command that the king must be recognized as God; he alone was to be prayed to and thus worshipped. They tricked the king into signing this edict; in his shortsightedness he didn’t realize the predicament it would put him in. The king loved Daniel and had been trapped into this distressing situation. The Eternal God passed a law too (and rightly so, for He is the supreme God), ordering all men to own and honor Him and to worship Him alone and no other. That command, as the Lord reminded Satan (Matt. 4:10), said, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” As a result all men fell under the sentence of death as Daniel did here, for no one ever fully obeyed that command. With Darius this was an unforeseen result; not so with God. He knew, when He commanded that man should serve and obey Him, that man would fail; God Himself had set death as the penalty for disobedience to His laws. Darius came face to face with the doom of the one he loved, even as God faced the fact that men, whom He loved, were under the sentence of eternal death because of their sins. The king, when he heard and realized the fearful death that awaited his favorite, beloved minister, “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” (v. 14). But there was no way. Need we say that all this speaks loudly of the truth that our faultless Savior and Lord came under the sentence of the law, under the curse of a broken law? He redeems us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us (Gal. 3:13). Daniel was to die alone and only for himself, and certainly not voluntarily; our blessed Lord died not for Himself (for He had broken no law as Daniel had); He died for us and, praise His Name, of His own voluntary will. The law condemned Daniel; love sought to deliver him. The law condemned our blessed Lord, too, because He took our place, but in His case love did not seek to deliver Him; nay, it is love that gave Him to die on our behalf. And yet, and yet … as Darius labored to find some way to deliver Daniel from his fate, didn’t our God, too, seek for some way to avoid Christ’s terrible suffering and death? Didn’t our blessed Lord, as it were, look for a way out when He prayed three times over in Gethsemane, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matt. 26:39-44)? Of course He knew from all eternity that this was not possible (He must die if we are to live), but He prayed these solemn words that we might know that there is no way except by the way of the Cross. Daniel was cast to the lions, but they did not touch him; he was saved from death. Not so with our blessed Lord; of Him it was truly said, “He saved others; himself he cannot save” (Matt. 27:42). Joyously and wor- shipfully we add, “Himself He would not save.”

Daniel was cast into the den of lions. Our Savior, too, was cast to the lion, as He prays in Psalm 22:21, “Save me from the lion’s mouth.” Animals in Daniel’s case; Satan in our Lord’s case. That night the king was in his palace; his devoted servant was in the pit. I imagine Darius had the worst of it that night. I can see Daniel with his head resting on the tawny neck of some lazy old lion sleeping peacefully while the king could not sleep; his sleep broke from him as he spent those hours fretting and fasting (v. 18). May we not gather one precious thought here, as we contemplate Darius’ experience that long and troubled night? Daniel in the pit and Darius in the palace may well illustrate what happened that awful hour when the Savior hung on the Cross and God was upon His throne in heaven. Which one of these two suffered the most? Who can tell? When in Genesis 22 we see the father and the son travel together to the altar of sacrifice, we might well wonder who was the greatest sufferer. I believe, at least there, that the suggestion is that the father sorrowed more than the son, for on that occasion the son did not know what awaited him, but his father did. But the Son of God knew from all eternity what lay ahead of Him at Calvary, and He and the Father went together that sorrowful way to the Cross. One gave Himself; the other gave His Son; and, oh, who can know what it cost the Father to yield up His beloved Son to the agonies of Calvary? One suffered on the Cross; the other suffered on the throne. Praise God, Jesus died, not for His sins, but for ours; He was not delivered as was Daniel, but He surrendered Himself to the death of shame and suffering in order to deliver us, and millions like us, from the doom of death and hell. All glory to His Name!

A stone was brought and laid upon the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet (v. 17). There was also a stone rolled to the mouth of the cave where our Savior lay, and it was sealed as well, even as here (Matt. 27:66). Neither stone succeeded in keeping the guarded one there. Daniel came forth unharmed, and we might say that our Lord came forth unharmed too (death had no claim on Him), and He arose triumphantly. Daniel experienced no suffering, but our Lord suffered the indescribable agonies of God’s judgment against our sins, as well as the horrible pains of crucifixion. But He arose, as Daniel rose. Jesus arose because He himself was guiltless, and so did Daniel in like manner. It was for our guilt He died—glory to God.

And now vengeance falls on the enemy (v. 24). Daniel’s enemies were slain, though throughout the centuries millions of Christ’s foes (poor sinners) have been saved by God’s grace, ourselves included. But our story in Daniel looks on the future day when Christ comes forth to reign; it is at His coming that His foes are destroyed, and the Prince of peace shall reign. Darius spoke of that coming day when he said, “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 stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end” (v. 26).

Thus ends the first half of the book of Daniel.