We’ve been teaching the little kids at church about Daniel in the lions’ den (Daniel 6), and lately I’ve been wondering about all the little details. They aren’t important for me to know otherwise they’d be there. While some of the details are readily apparent, I do still wonder about others. Like, what did Daniel do once he realized the lions couldn’t hurt him? What all was going through King Darius’ head when he was trying to spare Daniel? Let’s just take a look at the passage though.
King Darius did some delegating to make his rule easier (Daniel 6:1-2). Daniel was a prominent man in this setup, likely because of the good job he did (Daniel 6:3-4).
It seems this made at least some of other men in these positions jealous (Daniel 6:4-5). Maybe they were also upset that Daniel didn’t worship the same gods they did, or that he was a foreigner. We aren’t told what all went into it, but these men decided they were going to get rid of Daniel. They couldn’t find anything in his work to accuse him of, but they did notice something very important about Daniel’s daily habits that they could exploit (Daniel 6:5-9).
Daniel had a habit of praying three times a day at his open window (Daniel 6:10). The way that verse is written sounds interesting to me. Daniel sees the new law about only praying to the king for 30 days, and he just goes and prays to the real God like he always did because that’s what he knew was right. Was he nervous? Did he know the law was about him? Did he know he was going to get caught? Regardless of the answers, it didn’t seem to matter to Daniel. He just did the right thing because it was right.
Of course the men trying to get rid of Daniel were there right on time to notice and then tattle (Daniel 6:11-13). It was then that the king was upset with himself (Daniel 6:14). He had signed a law that even he as the king couldn’t change, but still tried all day to figure out how to spare Daniel. Was he looking for a loophole in the law? Was he hoping if he stalled something else might come up? Did he realize that the law he’d signed was wrong, not just because it put a trusted leader in danger, but because it wrongfully attempted to put himself in the place of God?
But all his efforts were fruitless. The men accusing Daniel came to him by sundown and reminded him that he made a law that couldn’t be changed (Daniel 6:15). So the king commanded and had Daniel thrown to the lions, but he did talk to Daniel (Daniel 6:16-17). King Darius told Daniel that the God Daniel served would save him. Did he say it out of desperate hope? Did he say it to make himself or Daniel feel better? Did he say this because he believed it? Whatever the reason, the king spent the rest of the night in misery (Daniel 6:18). He didn’t eat, he didn’t want any music, and he couldn’t sleep. The word used for not eating is fasting, so was the king just not eating, or actually fasting in hopes this would show God he was asking for help? As the sun rose the next morning, he headed straight for the lions’ den (Daniel 6:19).
The king cried out desperately for Daniel, asking if his God had indeed saved him (Daniel 6:20). To the king’s great relief, Daniel answered! Daniel told the king that God had sent an angel in the night to close the lions’ mouths because of his innocence (Daniel 6:21-22). I do wonder what happened all night though. How much did Daniel pray and what did he say? How soon did the angel arrive? Was Daniel afraid of the angel at first? Did the angel stay all night, or just appear and then leave? Once Daniel realized what was happening, did he pet any of the lions just because? Did he stay over on one corner away from them, uncomfortably watching? Did he lay his head down on a lion for a pillow? Did he even sleep that night? Whatever happened, the king was ecstatic that Daniel had lived. Upon having Daniel pulled out of the den, it was found that Daniel didn’t have a single scratch on him because he believed in God (Daniel 6:23).
The next part feels a little harsh, but something you might expect an angry pagan king to do. He gathered all the men who had accused Daniel, along with their families, and put them in with the lions. There was no angel from God to save them (Daniel 6:24). Why was the king so harsh? Was that really necessary? Was the king actually so angry with their conspiracy that he felt this was justice? Did Daniel have anything to say about it, or did he even have a say? Upon reading other commentary, I have other questions. Was this just the way this culture meted out justice? Did the accusers think the lions had already been fed, so the king threw them in just to see?
Whatever the reason, the king then went on to write to the peoples in his realm and made a decree about the importance of the God who saved Daniel from the lions (Daniel 6:25-27). Daniel then continued to prosper, even after Darius was no longer king (Daniel 6:28). Did the king believe in the one true God only, or was this a decree to assure they included this God among the worship of other gods? Just how did the bureaucracy between transferring rulers work, and how was it made apparent that Daniel should continue working in the new administration?
Again, I don’t need the answers to all my questions to understand the importance of this account or the lessons within it, it’s just a mental exercise I like to do. Can some of these questions be answered? Probably. Can those answers give me a deeper appreciation and understanding? Yes, it’s just important that I don’t get so caught up in those details that I miss what God really wants me to see, with or without those answers.