In Daniel 6:1-28, the Bible and the Torah present a dramatic story of God sending an angel to shut the mouths of hungry lions so they won't kill a faithful man named Daniel who has been thrown into their den. King Darius, whose edict Daniel had disobeyed in order to remain faithful to God, is inspired by Daniel's faith when he discovers Daniel's miraculous survival. Here's the story, with commentary...
Jealousy Leads to An Edict
Verse 3 reveals that David "so distinguished himself" among the men serving in King Darius' kingdom "by his exceptional qualities" that "the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom." But others who served in the king's government became jealous of David because of the king's great plans for him, so they tried to find a way to bring criminal charges against David. Since they couldn't find any corruption in David, they decided to attack his faith, instead. They flattered King Darius and suggested that he issue an edict "that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next 30 days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den" (verse 7). The king then issued such an edict, which the law of the land prevented repealing for any reason.
Disobeying the King to Obey God
Verse 10 describes how Daniel responds to King Darius' edict: "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."
As a man who was faithful to God, Daniel couldn’t in good conscience obey the law that King Darius put in place, forbidding people in the kingdom to pray to anyone except the king for a 30-day period. Daniel’s relationship with God was his top priority, so it was important to Daniel to communicate with God through prayer often. Daniel had established a habit of praying to God three times every day, and he chose to continue that practice, no matter what it would cost him to do so.
Thrown in a Den of Lions
The group of men who had convinced King Darius to write the edict in the first place see Daniel praying to God and speak to the king about it, urging him to enforce the edict. Although verse 14 reveals that "When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him" the men remind King Darius that the kingdom's laws prevent him from repealing any edicts he has already issued. So, reluctantly, the king orders Daniel thrown into a den of lions. Verse 16 records King Darius telling Daniel: "May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!"
King Darius was distressed about having to punish Daniel because he appreciated Daniel’s strong moral character and faithful service; that was why the king planned to have Daniel follow him as leader of the kingdom. He wasn’t eager to see Daniel killed and eaten by the lions, who were starved of food for several days before people were thrown into their den, in order to ensure that the lions devoured criminals.
Anguish and Hope
The story continues in verses 17-20: "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. 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’s faith in God intrigued King Darius, because he saw the positive impact that faith had on Daniel’s life. Rather than sleeping during the night that Daniel spent in the lion’s den, King Darius fasted and laid awake, thinking about the situation. Then, at the first light of dawn, the king rushed to the lion’s den and expressed hope that Daniel’s God had truly saved him.
An Angel's Rescue
Verses 21-23 continue the story: "Daniel answered, 'May the 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, Your Majesty.'
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."
Not only did the angel close the mouths of the hungry lions so they couldn’t devour Daniel, but the angel also kept Daniel company throughout the night he was trapped there. It must have been a comfort to Daniel to see a messenger from God with him during those nighttime hours, lighting up the darkness of the lion’s den with angelic light.
King Darius was elated to discover the God had indeed saved Daniel, through an angel, and that Daniel emerged from the lions' den without even a wound. The king learned that that people who are faithful to God and stand up for their convictions are ultimately in God’s care, no matter what.
A New Edict
Then King Darius harshly punishes the men who had conspired against Daniel, throwing them and their families into the lions' den, where they are crushed. Finally, the king issues a new edict, decreeing that "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." (verses 26-27).
The story ends with verse 28 mentioning that Daniel "prospered" during the rest of King Darius' reign, as well as during the reign of the following king, Cyrus the Persian.