Daniel 6

The Business with the Lions

Daniel, Persian Official

It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom . . . three high officials, of whom Daniel was one (Daniel 6:1-2).

This sculpture at Persepolis depicts a Persian guard or official from the time of Daniel. The prophet was a very old man at this point and hadn’t occupied a high administrative position for decades. However, Darius must have heard the dramatic story of Daniel’s interpretation of the writing on the wall. Through this, he must have heard about Daniel’s credentials. It would be beneficial for Darius to have an experienced Babylonian official in his court, someone who knew how things operated in the province of Babylon, and who could provide continuity between the old empire and the new.

Man of the Law

Then these men said, “We will not find any ground of accusation against this Daniel, unless we find it against him with regard to the law of his God” (Daniel 6:5).

This picture of a Yemenite scribe illustrates Daniel’s knowledge of and dedication to the Hebrew Scriptures. Daniel 9:2 makes reference to his collection of books and his knowledge of the prophecy of Jeremiah, indicating that he had access to the Scriptures and spent time studying them. Daniel was a perfect government official, but these men recognized that Daniel was committed first and foremost to obeying God’s law.

Captive Lions

He shall be cast into the den of lions (Daniel 6:7).

This relief from the north palace of Nineveh shows a lion being released from a cage by an attendant. It is part of the series of reliefs in this palace that show the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (669–627) hunting and killing lions. Although the den in which lions were kept in Daniel’s day has not been found, this relief shows that the practice of capturing lions for sport was known and used even a century earlier. This image comes from Carole Raddato and is licensed under CC-BY-SA-2.0.

Ecbatana

Daniel . . . went into his house. Now his windows were open in his roof chamber toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he kneeled on his knees and prayed and gave thanks (Daniel 6:10).

Though tradition often assumes that these events happened in Babylon, the Median capital was at Ecbatana, making it the most likely setting. Excavations at the site of Ecbatana (located in modern Hamedan) have uncovered several well-preserved houses, including this one.

The King's Seal

A stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den. The king sealed it with his signet ring, and with the signet rings of his lords (Daniel 6:17).

The act of sealing the stone would have made the act official, and would also serve to guarantee that Daniel had not escaped. This would have been important since presumably there would have been very little left of him after a night with the lions. Although the seal of Darius has not survived, this impression from the seal of a Persian king provides a good idea of what it would have looked like.

A Greater Power

My God has sent His angel and shut the mouth of the lions (Daniel 6:22).

Remains of two once-fierce lion sculptures are part of this jumble of architectural fragments from Persepolis. Lions were chosen to adorn the palaces because they embodied strength and inspired fear, but they were no match for Daniel’s God. These fragments were photographed near the palace of Xerxes.

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