Daniel in the lions’ den

Daniel in the lions’ den
Daniel’s age
Daniel's Answer to the King
Briton Rivière, 1890
Although Peter Paul Rubens’ depiction shows Daniel as a young man, Daniel would have been over eighty years old at the time of this incident.

The story of Daniel in the lions’ den (chapter 6 in the Book of Daniel) tells how Daniel is raised too high office by his royal master Darius the Mede, but jealous rivals trick Darius into issuing a decree which condemns Daniel to death. Hoping for Daniel’s deliverance, but unable to save him, the king has him cast into the pit of lions. At daybreak he hurries back, asking if God had saved his friend. Daniel replies that God had sent an angel to close the jaws of the lions, “because I was found blameless before him.” The king has those who had conspired against Daniel, and their wives and children, thrown to the lions in his place, and commands to all the people of the whole world to “tremble and fear before the God of Daniel”.

Modern scholarship agrees that Daniel is a legendary figure. The book of which he is the hero comprises two parts, a set of tales in chapters 1–6, and the series of visions in chapters 7–12: the tales are no earlier than the Hellenistic period and the date of the vision from the Maccabean era (the mid-2nd century BC). The stories were probably originally independent but were collected in the mid-2nd century by the author of chapter 7 and expanded again shortly afterwards with the visions in chapters 8-12 to produce the modern book.

Chapter 6, the story of Daniel in the lions’ den, parallels chapter 3, the story of the “fiery furnace”: each begins with the jealousy of non-Jews towards successful Jews and an imperial edict requiring the Jews to compromise their religion, and concludes with divine deliverance and a king who confesses the greatness of the God of the Jews and issues an edict of royal protection.

Author: Godfrey Gregg

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