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The lions' den

Jun 02, 2015

After King Darius realized that he had been tricked into signing a decree that would condemn Daniel, he set about trying to find a lawful way to exonerate the prophet. However, he appeared to be under a legal deadline, as he had only until sunset. When Daniel’s enemies saw what the king was doing, they came to him to remind him of his legal obligation, as Daniel 6:15 tells us,

15 Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Recognize, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or statute which the king establishes may be changed.”

They were telling the king to stop trying to exonerate Daniel and fulfill his duty to the law of the Medes and Persians. Daniel 6:16 continues,

16 Then the king gave orders and Daniel was brought in and cast into the lions’ den. The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Your God whom you constantly serve will Himself deliver you.”

For the king to make such a statement of faith suggests that Darius knew something of Daniel’s history and perhaps had already linked this to God’s deliverance of Daniel’s three friends in chapter 3. He must have known some of the history of divine deliverance that had occurred during the Babylonian regime. He may also have discussed this personally with Daniel, and, if so, this may have been one of his motives earlier for appointing Daniel as the head commissioner.

Therefore also, it is plain that Darius never would have commanded Daniel to cease from praying to his God. Whether or not we might consider Darius to be a true believer, he knew that Daniel’s God was more powerful than the other gods that others worshiped.

Even so, Darius had not been an eyewitness of God’s deliverance. As with all such people who have faith without personal experience, their faith is mixed with a certain amount of doubt or uncertainty as to the outcome. For this reason, as we will see shortly, Darius spent a sleepless night, wondering if God would actually deliver Daniel.

Daniel 6:17, 18 reads,

17 And a stone was brought and laid over the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signet rings of his nobles, so that nothing might be changed in regard to Daniel. 18 Then the king went off to his palace and spent the night fasting, and no entertainment was brought before him; and his sleep fled from him.

The signet rings on the seal ensured that neither the king nor the nobles could interfere with the administration of justice. The king could not save Daniel secretly, nor could the nobles enter the den to kill Daniel. The prophet was alone with the lions and with God. The king then fasted and prayed all night.

One can scarcely find in the pages of history, any occasion where a king fasted and prayed for one of his servants. This highly unusual event shows the king’s high regard for Daniel. Whether he understood his actions or not, he was appealing his case to the divine court, asking God to deliver Daniel, for he knew that justice had not been served in putting Daniel in the lions’ den.

The Conversion of Darius

The next morning, after a sleepless night of fasting, the king hastened to the lions’ den to view the results of his appeal. Daniel 6:19, 20 says,

19 Then the king arose with the dawn, at the break of day, and went in haste to the lions’ den. 20 And when he had come near the den to Daniel, he cried out with a troubled voice. The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?”

Here we see that after a night of prayer and fasting, King Darius had come to recognize Daniel’s God as “the living God.” This suggests, at least on a prophetic level, that the king had received some form of revelation. To recognize Daniel’s God as “living” implies that he knew the idols and gods of Babylon and Persia were all “dead.” Psalm 135:15-18 says,

15 The idols of the nations are but silver and gold, the work of man’s hands. 16 They have mouths, but they do not speak; they have eyes, but they do not see; 17 they have ears, but they do not hear; nor is there any breath at all in their mouths. 18 Those who make them will be like them, yes, everyone who trusts in them.

When the Israelites worshiped these other gods, they became like those gods. Hence, we read in Jeremiah 5:20, 21,

20 Declare this in the house of Jacob and proclaim it in Judah, saying, 21 Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not; who have ears, but hear not.

If we apply this principle to King Darius, it suggests that the king’s night of fasting was more than a night of worry. He was converted to the God of Daniel, and his faith would be ratified the next morning when he saw evidence of the power of the living God. Prior to this time, his eyes had been blinded and his ears closed—the natural result of serving gods who were both blind and deaf. But in the morning, armed with the revelation of “the living God,” his spiritual eyes and ears were opened to see the glory of God and to hear His revelatory word, by which faith is imparted in the hearts of men.

This prophetic story also applies necessarily to the kings of the east in the last days when Mystery Babylon is taken.

Daniel’s Deliverance

Daniel 6:21, 22 says,

21 Then Daniel spoke to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, inasmuch as I was found innocent before Him; and also toward you, O king, I have committed no crime.”

Daniel’s answer attributes his deliverance to an acquittal in the divine court, “inasmuch as I was found innocent before Him—and also toward you.” This is a good example of how a man may be found guilty in an earthly court, but innocent in the heavenly court.

Here, however, we must point out that many martyrs throughout history have been found innocent in the heavenly court but were not delivered from unjust sentences of the earthly courts. What is the difference? When can we expect to be delivered as in Daniel’s case?

It is hardly possible to make a broad statement about every such case, but generally speaking, it depends on whether a person is part of the pattern of the first work of Christ or the second. The laws of the two works of Christ are set forth primarily in Leviticus 14 and 16. Leviticus 14 speaks of the laws of leprosy (i.e., mortality), wherein the first dove was to be killed, and the second was to be released alive. Leviticus 16 speaks of the lawful procedure on the Day of Atonement to deal with sin, wherein the first goat was to be killed, and the second was to be released alive.

The first dove and the first goat prophesy of the first work of Christ, where He was to die to bring us both mortality and cleansing from sin. The second dove and the second goat were to be released alive, prophesying of Christ’s second coming (and work) to complete the work begun with His first work. The fact that the second dove represents Christ in His second coming is proven by comparing Leviticus 14:6 with Revelation 19:13, where both are said to be dipped in blood.

In other words, the first was a death work, while the second was a living work. The aftermath of Christ’s first work was foreseen in John 15:18-20, where Jesus said,

18 If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you… 20 If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you…

The apostles and many other believers in the first century—and for many centuries afterward—became martyrs, giving their lives for their witness of the gospel. They all identified with Christ’s first work as the Great Martyr. But at the time of Christ’s second coming, a new situation is established, wherein the persecution does not result in death but in deliverance. This idea is expressed prophetically in Psalm 118:16-18,

16 The right hand of the Lord is exalted; the right hand of the Lord does valiantly. 17 I shall not die, but live, and tell of the works of the Lord. 18 The Lord has disciplined me severely, but He has not given me over to death.

This is a psalm that prophesies of the rejected stone becoming the head of the corner (Psalm 118:22). The rejected stone was Jesus in His first coming; the stone’s placement is Jesus in His second coming. This being a living work, rather than a death work, the psalmist was able to prophesy in Psalm 118:6,

6 The Lord is for me; I will not fear; what can man do to me?

If Daniel had been cast into the lions’ den in the early part of his career—at the start of the Babylonian era—he may have become another example of an Old Testament martyr. But this story took place in the early days of the Persian Empire after the fall of Babylon. Therefore, it speaks prophetically about the saints of the Most High who are to be given authority in the Age to come. Their prophetic pattern is not based upon Jesus’ death on the cross, but upon His coming in power to rule the earth. Hence, the saints’ destiny today is not to be killed but to be released alive and only “dipped in blood.”

Daniel’s deliverance, then, is what we should expect at this end of the age. We may not be able to avoid the lions’ den (whatever form it may take), but it is our lot to prepare to live and to rule, not to join the ranks of the blessed martyrs of the past.


This is part 24 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Daniel." To view all parts, click the link below.

Studies in the Book of Daniel


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Category: Teachings

Dr. Stephen Jones


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