7 Things to Know about the Story of Daniel in the Lions' Den
- Jessica Udall Contributing Writer
- 2021 29 Jun
When the biblical character Daniel is pictured, he is often next to lions. Why is this? Who was this man, and why was he thrown into a lions' den? The story of Daniel made up of twelve chapters which are full of suspense, godly character, and beautiful evidence of God’s faithful presence even in hard circumstances. Let's dive into one of the most famous stories of the Bible: Daniel in the lions' den.
What Is the Story of Daniel in the Lions' Den?
Daniel was a Jewish young man who served as a high-ranking official in the king’s court, but his colleagues resented his success and favor before the king, and so it is recorded in Daniel 6 that they created a plot by which Daniel’s faith would land him in trouble with the law and would result in his death. When Daniel was punished for praying to God by being thrown into a den of lions, God miraculously spared his life by shutting the mouths of the lions.
"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. 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, “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. 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. ... “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." (Daniel 6:6-24, 26)
This is a summary of what happened to Daniel in the lions' den, but there are many details from the book of Daniel which add to our understanding of his story.
7 Things to Know about Daniel and the Lions' Den
1. Daniel’s name means “God is my judge.”
The name Daniel comes from the Hebrew “God is my judge.” The meaning of Daniel’s name is very appropriate for one who chose to please God rather than man. His attitude is similar to that of the apostle Paul who said: “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:6). Believers can learn from these examples and say along with the parents who named Daniel: “God is my judge.”
2. Daniel was born in Jerusalem but taken captive to Babylon as a young man.
The biblical character Daniel was born into a noble family in Jerusalem but was taken into captivity as a young man and brought to Babylon. He and several other captives were selected as being “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 1:4) and were trained for three years before officially beginning their jobs as servants of the king.
3. Daniel and his friends were faithful in their work and faithful to God.
From their earliest days in Babylon, Daniel and his companions Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were characterized by a simultaneous faithfulness in their duties and faithfulness to God. Though they excelled in their training and service and were even renamed--Daniel became Belteshazzar, Mishael became Shadrach, Mishael became Meshach, and Azariah became Abednego--their primary identity as devoted servants of God remained unchanged.
It is recorded that “God gave these four young men knowledge and understanding in every kind of literature and wisdom….The king interviewed them [all of the trainees], and among all of them, no one was found equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they began to serve in the king’s court. In every matter of wisdom and understanding that the king consulted them about, he found them 10 times better than all the diviner-priests and mediums in his entire kingdom” (Daniel 1:17-20).
Daniel’s companions went on to have their faithfulness to God tested and proved when they refused idolatry and were thrown into a fiery furnace as punishment but emerged unscathed (Daniel 3:1-30). Many years passed, and Daniel continued serving each king in succession and rising through the ranks. Eventually, he was appointed to a high administrative position in the kingdom along with two others. But “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 6:3).
4. Daniel was above reproach in his work.
The other administrators and those they managed felt resentful about Daniel’s success, and so plotted to bring him down somehow, “but they could find no charge or corruption, for he was trustworthy, and no negligence or corruption was found in him” (Daniel 6:4). And the plotters realized they would have to figure out a way to get the king to penalize Daniel for his faith.
5. Daniel was targeted and penalized for his faith.
The plotting administrators went to the king and proposed a new law (which, in their legal system, was unable to be changed once it was made) that no one could pray to any god except the king himself and that anyone who broke this law would be thrown into a den of lions. The king signed the law, and Daniel continued faithfully with his habit of praying three times a day in front of the windows of his house, facing toward Jerusalem. The administrators caught him in the act, then went to the king to report on Daniel’s newly “illegal” activity. The king was distressed because he cared about and respected Daniel, but even he could not repeal a law that had already gone into effect. So down Daniel went into the lions' den, to what everyone assumed would be certain death.
6. Daniel experienced God’s faithfulness in an unlikely rescue.
Though from an earthly perspective, Daniel’s situation looked hopeless. He trusted God and was spared. After a night alive in the lions' den, Daniel emerged unharmed, telling the king: “My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him” (Daniel 6:22).
7. Daniel’s deliverance resulted in people all over the kingdom hearing about Daniel’s God.
The king was overjoyed that Daniel was unharmed. He had realized that the other administrators had tricked him into making a law that would hurt Daniel, so he put into effect another law telling people to fear Daniel’s God, saying:
“I issue a decree that in all my royal dominion, people must tremble in fear before the God of Daniel:
For He is the living God,
And He endures forever;
His kingdom will never be destroyed,
And His dominion has no end.
He rescues and delivers;
He performs signs and wonders
In the heavens and on the earth,
For He has rescued Daniel
From the power of the lions” (Daniel 6:26-27).
What Is the Main Lesson of Daniel in the Lions' Den
His story encourages those who follow God to focus more on what says about them than what others say about them. His deliverance shows believers that God is able to rescue us even from the most impossible circumstances. And we can trust that sometimes, those very impossible circumstances may be the means by which God’s name is made known to others. There are many other things to know from Daniel’s story, which is recorded over twelve chapters. The whole book is edifying reading for anyone who wants to be faithful in their own work and wants to grow in their trust of God’s faithfulness toward those who serve Him.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Raung Binaia
Jessica Udall holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Bible and a Master of Arts degree in Intercultural Studies. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Intercultural Studies and writes on the Christian life and intercultural communication at lovingthestrangerblog.com.