In the year 605 BC, about six-hundred years before Jesus, Babylon conquered Israel, taking many captives. Among the prisoners were “some of the Israelites from the royal family and from the nobility—young men without any physical defect, good-looking, suitable for instruction in all wisdom, knowledgeable, perceptive, and capable of serving in the king’s palace… (Daniel 1:3–6).
Sixty-six years later, in 539 BC, Persia, under the leadership of king Cyrus, defeated Babylon. Seventeen years later, in 522 BC, Darius became king in Persian. If Daniel was just ten years old when he was exiled, then he was ninety-three years old. He was an old guy!
For decades, Daniel had faithfully and effectively served the foreign kings and had risen to the highest ranks in the kingdom. Darius appointed “120 satraps over the kingdom, stationed throughout the realm, and over them three administrators, including Daniel. These satraps would be accountable to them so that the king would not be defrauded. Daniel distinguished himself above the administrators and satraps because he had an extraordinary spirit, so the king planned to set him over the whole realm”(Daniel 6:1-3).
How do you think his Persian associates liked taking orders for an old Jew? Not much! So they conspired and schemed to take him down, going before the king with a well-contrived proposal. “The king should establish an ordinance and enforce an edict that, for thirty days, anyone who petitions any god or man except you, the king, will be thrown into the lions’ den” (Daniel 6:7). After all, king Darius was god! Citizens of Persia shouldn’t be allowed to pray to any god except Darius… right?
Faithful to the Only True God, Daniel flung open the windows in his home, “got down on his knees, prayed, and gave thanks to his God, just as he had done before” (Daniel 6:10).
Their evil plot worked, and Daniel was sentenced to death… not death by hanging, or by the firing squad, or the electric chair, but certain death in the execution chamber … the lion’s den. Imagine a pride of hungry lions, ravenous beasts craving fresh meat! Growling, roaring, snarling… hungry beasts.
“So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den… A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den. The king sealed it with his own signet ring” (Daniel 6:16-17). In the deep darkness of the sealed cave, Daniel spent the night with the lions… But the lions ceased their snarling and purred like kitty cats. I can imagine Daniel humming a lullaby, serenading the sleeping felines.
In the morning, when the stone was rolled away, the king and his executioners found a well-rested, ninety-something-year-old Daniel, and a pride of hungry lions. Daniel must have had a grin spread across his face as he reported, “My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths; and they haven’t harmed me” (Daniel 6:22).
“The king then gave the command, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and thrown into the lions’ den… They had not reached the bottom of the den before the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones” (Daniel 6:24).
God is gracious!