Rescued From the Jaws of Lions!
1, 2. (a) How did Darius the Mede organize his expanded empire? (b) Describe the duties and authority of the satraps.
BABYLON had fallen! Its century-long splendor as a world power had been snuffed out in just a few hours. A new era was beginning—that of the Medes and the Persians. As successor to Belshazzar’s throne, Darius the Mede now faced the challenge of organizing his expanded empire.
2 One of the first tasks undertaken by Darius was to appoint 120 satraps. It is believed that those who served in this capacity were sometimes selected from among the king’s relatives. In any event, each satrap governed a major district or a smaller subdivision of the empire. (Daniel 6:1) His duties included collecting taxes and remitting the tribute to the royal court. Though subject to periodic scrutiny by a visiting representative of the king, the satrap had considerable authority. His title meant “protector of the Kingdom.” In his province the satrap was regarded as a vassal king, with all but sovereign power.
3, 4. Why did Darius favor Daniel, and to what position did the king appoint him?
3 Where would Daniel fit into this new arrangement? Would Darius the Mede retire this aged Jewish prophet who was now in his nineties? By no means! Darius no doubt realized that Daniel had accurately foretold the downfall of Babylon and that such a prediction required superhuman discernment. In addition, Daniel had decades of experience in dealing with the varied captive communities in Babylon. Darius was intent on keeping peaceful relations with his newly conquered subjects. Therefore, he would certainly want someone with Daniel’s wisdom and experience close to the throne. In what capacity?
4 It would have been startling enough if Darius had appointed the Jewish exile Daniel to be a satrap. But just imagine the commotion when Darius announced his decision to make Daniel one of the three high officials who would oversee the satraps! Not only that but Daniel was “steadily distinguishing himself,” proving himself superior to his fellow high officials. Indeed, “an extraordinary spirit” was found in him. Darius was even intent upon giving him the position of prime minister.—Daniel 6:2, 3.
5. How must the other high officials and the satraps have reacted to Daniel’s appointment, and why?
5 The other high officials and the satraps must have been seething with anger. Why, they could not stand the thought of having Daniel—who was neither Mede nor Persian nor a member of the royal family—in a position of authority over them! How could Darius elevate a foreigner to such prominence, bypassing his own countrymen, even his own family? Such a maneuver must have seemed unfair. Moreover, the satraps evidently viewed Daniel’s integrity as an unwelcome restraint against their own practices of graft and corruption. Yet, the high officials and satraps did not dare to approach Darius about the matter. After all, Darius held Daniel in high esteem.
6. How did the high officials and satraps try to discredit Daniel, and why did this effort prove futile?
6 So these jealous politicians conspired among themselves. They tried “to find some pretext against Daniel respecting the kingdom.” Could anything be amiss about the way he handled his responsibilities? Was he dishonest? The high officials and satraps could find no negligence or corruption whatsoever in the way that Daniel handled his duties. “We shall find in this Daniel no pretext at all,” they reasoned, “except we have to find it against him in the law of his God.” And so it was that these devious men hatched a plot. They thought it would finish Daniel off once and for all.—Daniel 6:4, 5.
A MURDEROUS PLOT SET IN MOTION
7. What proposal did the high officials and satraps make to the king, and in what manner did they do so?
7 Darius was approached by an entourage of high officials and satraps who “entered as a throng.” The Aramaic expression here carries the idea of a thunderous commotion. Apparently, these men made it appear that they had a matter of great urgency to present to Darius. They may have reasoned that he would be less likely to question their proposal if they presented it with conviction and as something that required immediate action. Hence, they came right to the point, saying: “All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the high royal officers and the governors, have taken counsel together to establish a royal statute and to enforce an interdict, that whoever makes a petition to any god or man for thirty days except to you, O king, should be thrown to the lions’ pit.”*—Daniel 6:6, 7.
8. (a) Why would Darius find the proposed law appealing? (b) What was the true motive of the high officials and satraps?
8 Historical records confirm that it was common for Mesopotamian kings to be viewed and worshiped as divine. So Darius undoubtedly was flattered by this proposal. He may also have seen a practical side to it. Remember, to those living in Babylon, Darius was a foreigner and a newcomer. This new law would serve to establish him as king, and it would encourage the multitudes living in Babylon to avow their loyalty and support to the new regime. In proposing the decree, though, the high officials and the satraps were not at all concerned about the king’s welfare. Their true motive was to entrap Daniel, for they knew that it was his custom to pray to God three times a day before the open windows of his roof chamber.
9. Why would the new law not pose a problem for most non-Jews?
9 Would this restriction on prayer create a problem for all the religious communities in Babylon? Not necessarily, especially since the prohibition was to last only for a month. Furthermore, few non-Jews would view directing their worship to a human for a time as a compromise. One Bible scholar notes: “King-worship made no strange demands upon the most idolatrous of nations; and therefore the Babylonian when called upon to pay to the conqueror—Darius the Mede—the homage due to a god, readily acceded to the demand. It was the Jew alone who resented such a demand.”
10. How did the Medes and the Persians view a law enacted by their king?
10 In any event, Darius’ visitors urged him to “establish the statute and sign the writing, in order for it not to be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which is not annulled.” (Daniel 6:8) In the ancient East, the will of a king was often regarded as absolute. This perpetuated the notion that he was infallible. Even a law that could cause the death of innocent people had to remain in effect!
11. How would Daniel be affected by Darius’ edict?
11 Without thinking of Daniel, Darius signed the decree. (Daniel 6:9) In doing so, he unknowingly signed the death warrant of his most valued official. Yes, Daniel was sure to be affected by this edict.
DARIUS FORCED TO RENDER ADVERSE JUDGMENT
12. (a) What did Daniel do as soon as he found out about the new law? (b) Who were watching Daniel, and why?
12 Daniel soon became aware of the law restricting prayer. Immediately, he entered into his house and went to his roof chamber, where the windows were open toward Jerusalem.* There Daniel began praying to God “as he had been regularly doing prior to this.” Daniel may have thought that he was alone, but the conspirators were watching him. Suddenly, they “crowded in,” no doubt in the same excited manner in which they had approached Darius. Now they were seeing it with their own eyes—Daniel was “petitioning and imploring favor before his God.” (Daniel 6:10, 11) The high officials and satraps had all the evidence they needed to accuse Daniel before the king.
13. What did Daniel’s enemies report to the king?
13 Daniel’s enemies slyly asked Darius: “Is there not an interdict that you have signed that any man that asks a petition from any god or man for thirty days except from you, O king, he should be thrown to the lions’ pit?” Darius answered: “The matter is well established according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which is not annulled.” Now the conspirators quickly got to the point. “Daniel, who is of the exiles of Judah, has paid no regard to you, O king, nor to the interdict that you signed, but three times in a day he is making his petition.”—Daniel 6:12, 13.
14. Evidently, why did the high officials and satraps refer to Daniel as being “of the exiles of Judah”?
14 It is significant that the high officials and satraps referred to Daniel as being “of the exiles of Judah.” Evidently, they wanted to emphasize that this Daniel whom Darius had elevated to such prominence was in reality no more than a Jewish slave. They believed that as such, he was certainly not above the law—no matter how the king felt about him!
15. (a) How did Darius react to the news that the high officials and satraps brought him? (b) How did the high officials and satraps further show their contempt for Daniel?
15 Perhaps the high officials and satraps expected the king to reward them for their astute detective work. If so, they were in for a surprise. Darius was sorely troubled by the news they brought him. Rather than becoming enraged at Daniel or immediately consigning him to the lions’ pit, Darius spent all day striving to deliver him. But his efforts proved futile. Before long, the conspirators returned, and in their shameless spirit, they demanded Daniel’s blood.—Daniel 6:14, 15.
16. (a) Why did Darius respect Daniel’s God? (b) What hope did Darius have regarding Daniel?
16 Darius felt that he had no choice in the matter. The law could not be annulled, nor could Daniel’s “transgression” be pardoned. All that Darius could say to Daniel was “your God whom you are serving with constancy, he himself will rescue you.” Darius seemed to respect Daniel’s God. It was Jehovah who had given Daniel the ability to foretell the fall of Babylon. God had also given Daniel “an extraordinary spirit,” which distinguished him from the other high officials. Perhaps Darius was aware that decades earlier this same God had delivered three young Hebrews from a fiery furnace. Likely, the king hoped that Jehovah would now deliver Daniel, since Darius was unable to reverse the law he had signed. Hence, Daniel was thrown into the lions’ pit.* Next, “a stone was brought and placed on the mouth of the pit, and the king sealed it with his signet ring and with the signet ring of his grandees, in order that nothing should be changed in the case of Daniel.”—Daniel 6:16, 17.
A DRAMATIC TURN OF EVENTS
17, 18. (a) What shows that Darius was distressed over Daniel’s situation? (b) What happened when the king returned to the lions’ pit the following morning?
17 A dejected Darius returned to his palace. No musicians were brought in before him, for he was in no mood for entertainment. Instead, Darius lay awake the whole night, fasting. “His very sleep fled from him.” At dawn, Darius hastened to the lions’ pit. He cried out in a sad voice: “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you are serving with constancy been able to rescue you from the lions?” (Daniel 6:18-20) To his amazement—and utter relief—there was an answer!
18 “O king, live on even to times indefinite.” With this respectful greeting, Daniel showed that he did not harbor feelings of animosity toward the king. He realized that the real source of his persecution was, not Darius, but the envious high officials and satraps. (Compare Matthew 5:44; Acts 7:60.) Daniel continued: “My own God sent his angel and shut the mouth of the lions, and they have not brought me to ruin, forasmuch as before him innocence itself was found in me; and also before you, O king, no hurtful act have I done.”—Daniel 6:21, 22.
19. How had Darius been deceived and manipulated by the high officials and satraps?
19 How those words must have stung Darius’ conscience! He knew all along that Daniel had done nothing to merit being thrown into the lions’ pit. Darius was well aware that the high officials and satraps had conspired to have Daniel put to death and that they had manipulated the king to achieve their selfish ends. By their insisting that “all the high officials of the kingdom” had recommended the passing of the edict, they implied that Daniel too had been consulted in the matter. Darius would deal with these devious men later. First, however, he gave the command to have Daniel lifted out of the lions’ pit. Miraculously, Daniel had not suffered so much as a single scratch!—Daniel 6:23.
20. What happened to Daniel’s malicious enemies?
20 Now that Daniel was safe, Darius had other business to attend to. “The king commanded, and they brought these able-bodied men who had accused Daniel, and into the lions’ pit they threw them, their sons and their wives; and they had not reached the bottom of the pit before the lions had got the mastery over them, and all their bones they crushed.”*—Daniel 6:24.
21. In dealing with family members of wrongdoers, what contrast existed between the Mosaic Law and the laws of some ancient cultures?
21 Putting to death not only the conspirators but also their wives and children may seem unreasonably harsh. In contrast, the Law that God gave through the prophet Moses stated: “Fathers should not be put to death on account of children, and children should not be put to death on account of fathers. Each one should be put to death for his own sin.” (Deuteronomy 24:16) Nevertheless, in some ancient cultures, it was not unusual for family members to be executed along with the wrongdoer, in the case of a serious crime. Perhaps this was done so that family members would not be able to seek revenge later on. However, this act against the families of the high officials and the satraps was certainly none of Daniel’s doing. Likely, he was distressed over the calamity that these wicked men had brought upon their families.
22. What new proclamation did Darius issue?
22 The scheming high officials and satraps were gone. Darius issued a proclamation, which stated: “From before me there has been put through an order that, in every dominion of my kingdom, people are to be quaking and fearing before the God of Daniel. For he is the living God and One enduring to times indefinite, and his kingdom is one that will not be brought to ruin, and his dominion is forever. He is rescuing and delivering and performing signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth, for he has rescued Daniel from the paw of the lions.”—Daniel 6:25-27.
SERVE GOD WITH CONSTANCY
23. What example did Daniel set regarding his secular work, and how can we be like him?
23 Daniel set a fine example for all modern-day servants of God. His conduct was always above reproach. In his secular work, Daniel “was trustworthy and no negligence or corrupt thing at all was found in him.” (Daniel 6:4) In a similar way, a Christian should be industrious with respect to his employment. This does not mean being a business cutthroat who eagerly pursues material wealth or who steps on others to climb the corporate ladder. (1 Timothy 6:10) The Scriptures require that a Christian fulfill his secular obligations honestly and in a whole-souled way, “as to Jehovah.”—Colossians 3:22, 23; Titus 2:7, 8; Hebrews 13:18.
24. How did Daniel prove himself to be uncompromising in the matter of worship?
24 In his worship, Daniel was uncompromising. His custom of praying was a matter of public knowledge. Furthermore, the high officials and satraps well knew that Daniel took his worship seriously. Indeed, they were convinced that he would hold to this routine even if a law forbade it. What a fine example for present-day Christians! They too have a reputation for putting God’s worship in first place. (Matthew 6:33) This should be readily evident to onlookers, for Jesus commanded his followers: “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your fine works and give glory to your Father who is in the heavens.”—Matthew 5:16.
25, 26. (a) What might some conclude about Daniel’s course of action? (b) Why did Daniel view a change in his routine to be tantamount to compromise?
25 Some might say that Daniel could have avoided persecution by praying to Jehovah in secret for the 30-day period. After all, no particular posture or setting is required in order to be heard by God. He can even discern the meditations of the heart. (Psalm 19:14) Nevertheless, Daniel viewed any change in his routine to be tantamount to compromise. Why?
26 Since Daniel’s custom of praying was well-known, what message would have been conveyed if he suddenly discontinued it? Observers might well have concluded that Daniel was fearful of man and that the king’s decree superseded Jehovah’s law. (Psalm 118:6) But Daniel showed by his actions that Jehovah received his exclusive devotion. (Deuteronomy 6:14, 15; Isaiah 42:8) Of course, in doing this Daniel did not disrespectfully flout the king’s law. Yet, neither did he cower by compromising. Daniel simply continued to pray in his roof chamber, “as he had been regularly doing” prior to the king’s edict.
27. How can servants of God today be like Daniel in (a) being in subjection to the superior authorities? (b) obeying God as ruler rather than men? (c) striving to live peaceably with all men?
27 Servants of God today can learn from Daniel’s example. They remain “in subjection to the superior authorities,” obeying the laws of the land in which they live. (Romans 13:1) When the laws of man conflict with those of God, however, Jehovah’s people adopt the position of Jesus’ apostles, who boldly stated: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) In doing so, Christians do not promote insurrection or rebellion. Rather, their aim is simply to live peaceably with all men so that they “may go on leading a calm and quiet life with full godly devotion.”—1 Timothy 2:1, 2; Romans 12:18.
28. How did Daniel serve Jehovah “with constancy”?
28 On two occasions Darius commented that Daniel was serving God “with constancy.” (Daniel 6:16, 20) The Aramaic root for the word translated “constancy” means to “move in a circle.” It suggests the idea of a continuous cycle, or something that is perpetual. Daniel’s integrity was like that. It followed a predictable pattern. There was no question about what Daniel would do when faced with tests, whether large or small. He would continue in the course he had already established decades earlier—that of loyalty and faithfulness to Jehovah.
29. How can servants of Jehovah today benefit from Daniel’s faithful course?
29 God’s present-day servants want to follow Daniel’s course. Indeed, the apostle Paul admonished all Christians to consider the example of God-fearing men of old. Through faith, they “effected righteousness, obtained promises,” and—evidently a reference to Daniel—“stopped the mouths of lions.” As servants of Jehovah today, let us display the faith and constancy of Daniel and “run with endurance the race that is set before us.”—Hebrews 11:32, 33; 12:1.
The existence of a “lions’ pit” in Babylon is supported by the testimony of ancient inscriptions showing that Oriental rulers frequently had menageries of wild animals.
The roof chamber was a private room to which a person could retire when he wished to be left undisturbed.
The lions’ pit may have been a subterranean chamber with a mouth at the top. Likely it also had doors or gratings that could be raised to allow the animals to enter.
The word “accused” is a translation of an Aramaic expression that may also be rendered “slandered.” This highlights the malicious intent of Daniel’s enemies.
WHAT DID YOU DISCERN?
• Why did Darius the Mede decide to use Daniel in a high position?
• What devious plot did the high officials and satraps devise? How did Jehovah rescue Daniel?
• What did you learn from paying attention to Daniel’s example of faithfulness?
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Daniel served Jehovah “with constancy.” Do you?