The Story of Daniel in the Lions' Den

Learn from Daniel how to survive your own lions' den experience

Daniel in Lions Den
DEA / A. DAGLI ORTI / Getty Images

Daniel in the lion's den is one of the most familiar stories in the Bible. Even though Daniel was an old man at the time, he refused to take the easy way out and abandon God. The threat of an agonizing death did not change his trust in God. Daniel’s name means "God is my judge," and in this miracle, God, not men, judged Daniel and found him innocent.

Question for Reflection

Daniel was a follower of God living in a world of ungodly influences. Temptation was always at hand, and as is the case with temptation, it would have been much easier to go along with the crowd and be popular. Christians living in today’s sinful culture can readily identify with Daniel.

You might be enduring your own personal "den of lions" right now, but remember that your circumstances are never a reflection of how much God loves you. The key is not to put your focus on your situation but on your all-powerful Protector. Are you putting your faith in God to rescue you?

Background and Story Summary

The ancient Middle East was the story of one empire rising, falling, and being replaced by another. In 605 B.C., the Babylonians conquered Israel, taking many of its promising young men into captivity in Babylon. One of those men was Daniel.

Some Bible scholars speculate that the Babylonian captivity was both an act of God’s discipline for Israel and a way to teach them necessary skills in commerce and government administration. Even though ancient Babylon was a pagan nation, it was a highly advanced and organized civilization. Eventually, the captivity would end, and the Israelites would take their skills back home.

When the lions' den event occurred, Daniel was in his 80s. Through a life of hard work and obedience to God, he had risen through the political ranks as an administrator of this pagan kingdom. In fact, Daniel was so honest and hardworking that the other government officials—those who were jealous of him—could find nothing against him to cause him to be removed from office.

So they tried to use Daniel's faith in God against him. They tricked King Darius into passing a 30-day decree that said anyone who prayed to another god or man other than the king would be thrown into the lions' den.

Daniel learned of the decree but did not change his habit. Just as he had done his whole life, he went home, knelt down, faced Jerusalem, and prayed to God. The wicked administrators caught him in the act and told the king. King Darius, who loved Daniel, tried to save him, but the decree could not be revoked. The Medes and Persians had a foolish custom that once a law was passed—even a bad law—it could not be repealed.

King Darius signs the decree
Vintage colour lithograph from 1882 of King Darius signing the writing and the decree. A scene from the Book of Daniel. duncan1890 / Getty Images

In the Lions' Den

At sundown, they threw Daniel into the den of lions. The king could not eat or sleep all night. At dawn, he ran to the lions' den and asked Daniel if his God had protected him. Daniel replied,

"My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king." (Daniel 6:22, NIV)

Scripture says the king was overjoyed that the prophet had survived his night with the wild beasts. God had sent an angel to shut the mouths of the lions. Daniel was brought out, unharmed, "...because he had trusted in his God." (Daniel 6:23, NIV)

King Darius had the men who falsely accused Daniel arrested. Along with their wives and children, they were all thrown into the lions' den, where they were immediately killed by the beasts.

Because of the lions' den experience, Darius reached this conclusion about God:

For he is the living God, and he will endure forever. His kingdom will never be destroyed, and his rule will never end. He rescues and saves his people; he performs miraculous signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions." (Daniel 6:26–27, NLT)

The king issued a decree, ordering the people to fear and reverence the God of Daniel. Daniel prospered under the reign of Darius and King Cyrus the Persian after him.

Lessons and Points of Interest

  • The name Daniel means “God is my judge.”
  • Daniel is a type of Christ, a godly Bible character who foreshadowed the coming Messiah. He is called blameless. In the lions' den miracle, Daniel's trial resembles that of Jesus before Pontius Pilate, and Daniel's escape from certain death is like Jesus' resurrection.
  • The lions' den also symbolized Daniel's captivity in Babylon, where God protected and sustained him because of his great faith.
  • God was not concerned with man’s laws. He saved Daniel because Daniel obeyed God’s law and was faithful to him. While the Bible encourages us to be law-abiding citizens, some laws are wrong and unjust and are overruled by God’s commands.
  • Daniel is not mentioned by name in Hebrews 11, the great Faith Hall of Fame, but he is alluded to in verse 33 as a prophet "who shut the mouth of lions."
  • Daniel was taken into captivity at the same time as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. When those three were thrown into the fiery furnace, they exhibited the same kind of trust in God. The men expected to be rescued, but if they were not, they chose trusting God over disobeying him, even if it meant death.