With Belshazzar off the scene, Daniel’s employer has changed for the third time in the book. We’ve turned the page to a new chapter, and Daniel 6, like the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in chapter 3, is one of the best-known stories in the book: Daniel in the Lions’ Den.
In one of the worst workplace stories ever, Daniel finds himself in a place where it’s impossible to please his Boss, his boss, and his colleagues at the same time. Because Daniel is such a good employee, his nasty coworkers are jealous and out for blood. But in order to find him guilty of anything, they have to create a scenario to entrap him – specifically, something related to his commitment to God: anyone who prayed to someone other than King Darius for 30 days would be cast into a den of lions.
The conspirators took their little plan to the king, hoodwinking him into going along with it, and then they lay in wait for Daniel. It wasn’t hard to catch him – the man prayed three times a day in front of an open window. No doubt delirious with their success, the conspirators hauled Daniel off to Darius, who was stunned at the turn of events he had unwittingly sanctioned.
Darius worked long and hard to change things for Daniel, but he was not able to undo what his signature had done. In language that later Gospel writers will pick up in their description of Jesus’ burial and resurrection, the narrator tells us how Darius sealed the lions’ den, spent a sleepless night, and rushed back to the den at first light. He didn’t find an empty den – but he did find a living Daniel, who told him that God had sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths and protect Daniel because he was innocent. Darius had Daniel hauled out of the den and his false accusers tossed in. With Daniel and the angel gone from the slumber party, the lions devoured their breakfast before it ever hit their plates.
The chapter ends with another decree by Darius – but this time he tells his subject that they must fear the God of Daniel because he is the living God, who endures forever and reigns over an eternal kingdom. He rescues, saves, and performs miraculous wonders. It’s no wonder Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John used the story of Daniel’s night in a “tomb” and his rescue from death as part of the backdrop for telling the story of a greater Daniel in a greater tomb and the greatest possible rescue from death.