The Babylonian Empire had been taken over by the Medes and Persians. Babylon was now a small kingdom inside a larger empire, and Daniel was now an old man, in a foreign land that had become his home. He had faithfully served under whatever king was in power.
The new ruler, Darius, divided his kingdom into a hundred and twenty states and placed a governor in charge of each one. Three other officials were in charge of the governors, and one of them was Daniel. Daniel did his work so much better than everyone else that the king promoted him ahead of all of them.
But being promoted made the other governors jealous. They tried to catch Daniel doing something dishonest in his work, but Daniel was faithful to do his job properly. They realized they couldn’t catch Daniel breaking any rules unless there were a rule that would go against his religion.
So they went to the king and began to flatter him. “Your Majesty, we hope you live forever! All of your governors have agreed that you should make a law that no one-no god, animal or person-can be prayed to for the next thirty days.”
Of course, not all the governors had agreed to this. They never asked for Daniel’s opinion, but they let the king think he was included.
“Let anyone who breaks this law be thrown into a den of lions,” they continued, knowing exactly what that would mean for Daniel. “And let this law be put in writing, so that it cannot be changed.”
When Daniel heard about the law, he returned home, went upstairs and prayed in front of the window that faced Jerusalem. He prayed in the exact same way that he had always done, not in hiding, or in a demonstration before the king’s gates. Three times a day he knelt down in prayer. He asked for God’s help and gave his thanks to God.
When the other officials saw Daniel praying in front of his window, they knew they had caught him. They rushed to the king and bowed before him.
“Mighty king,” they began, “did you not sign a law that no one can pray to anyone but you? Did you not put in writing that for thirty days anyone who disobeys this law would be thrown into a den of lions? And don’t written laws remain, no matter who breaks them?”
“This is all true,” the king replied. “Why?”
“O King, one of your most trusted officials, that Jew Daniel, has been disobeying this law right in front of his window, for anyone to see!”
The king knew he had been tricked but did not want those in his kingdom to see him go back on his word. He spent the rest of the day trying to think of a way to save Daniel.
Unable to think of an excuse to pardon him, Darius ordered Daniel to be thrown into a den of lions (which all kings kept back then to show off how wealthy they were).
“You risked your life to obey your God,” he told Daniel. “I hope that He will hear your prayers and rescue you.”
A stone was rolled across the opening of the den and Daniel was left alone in the dark with the lions. All night long King Darius could neither sleep nor eat. He wouldn’t see anyone and imagined the worst for Daniel.
At the crack of dawn, Darius leapt out of bed and ran to the lions’ den. The stone was removed and he shouted to Daniel, “Daniel! Are you still there? Did your God protect you from the lions?”
“Good morning, your majesty!” Daniel called back. “God knew that I was innocent and protected me. He sent His angel to keep the lions’ mouths closed all night long. I have always served you faithfully, my king. I have never cheated you.”
“I know!” Darius replied, feeling both relieved at Daniel’s rescue and furious with the other officials.
God had watched out for Daniel and used his difficult situation to show others how powerful He is.