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Daniel ‘s Story, or Christ in the Lions’ Den


My entire Christian life, I have heard individuals appeal to the account of Daniel and the lions’ Den (Dan. 6) in order to promote the idea that Christians should act courageously in high-handed defiance against ungodly governments. Additionally, I have heard this passage utilized to encourage Christian obedience in the face of ungodly governmental regulations. The former is foreign to this passage. The latter is certainly an acceptable application; but, is that why the passage is in the Bible? I would suggest that in order to understand the account of Daniel in the lions’ den properly, one must read it redemptive-historically. Consider the following.

There is a clashing of kingdoms at play in the account that demands a retrospective consideration of Genesis 3:15. Babylon stands for the kingdom of Satan (interesting also being used as a shorthand for the kingdom of Satan among all the ungodly nations of the world in the book of Revelation). Jerusalem, who was, at that time, in captivity, stands for the kingdom of God — the seed of the woman. In the Babylonian captivity of the Old Covenant church, the kingdom of Satan was seeking to destroy the kingdom of God. God, however, was utilizing this ungodly people to discipline His rebellious covenant people for their disobedience. Nevertheless, they were still God’s covenant people and the people from whom the promised Messiah would come.

Daniel, far from acting in high-handed defiance against the ungodly edicts of the Babylonian (and here, against the Mede and Persian rulers), actually gained the favor of the kings who were in power during his longstanding captivity. Daniel had gained the favor of Nebuchadnezzar, and then the favor of Darius II (probably the same individual as Cyrus). He had been promoted constantly throughout his captivity. When we come to chapter 6, Daniel has been exalted to one of three of the highest places of authority under Darius himself. Then, we are told that he is about to be promoted to be a ruler over all the governors and satraps. This exaltation elicited from the other rulers distain and a desire to destroy Daniel.

The scheming and devising of a plan to ensnare Daniel, further reveals the nature of the kingdom of darkness against the kingdom of God. Because the satraps and governors cannot find anything wrong with Daniel, they have to resort to devising a plan to legislate against him on the basis of his commitment to God. They stroke the ego of the king and put into effect the prohibition against praying to any god or man other than Darius for thirty days. This scheming would buy them enough time to entrap Daniel.

Daniel’s response was not to deride those deceitful and malicious men with threats or brash repudiation in the name of godly courage. Rather, he simply goes up to his room to do as he had already been in the practice of doing–namely, praying to God three times a day with his face set the city of God.

Though Darius was grieved when he discovered that Daniel had fallen prey to this scheme, he could not do anything to set him free. The will of the rulers prevailed. Reluctantly, Darius followed through with the decree and had Daniel thrown into the lions’ den. Darius recognized that Daniel had done nothing deserving of this outcome.

The rest of the account focuses on the sovereignty of God in the deliverance of Daniel and the judgment that fell on his accusers. Daniel is brought out of the lions’ den unscathed; whereas, his accusers are thrown into the lions’ den and destroyed. There is a divine reversal of judgment in this account.