So we’ve gone through two kings at this point in the book, and it’s time for a new one. “And Darius the Mede received the kingdom at the age of sixty-two (Daniel 6:1).” Darius seems to govern well, at first. He has three ‘satraps’ to carry out his wishes, and over them are viziers, one of whom is Daniel. It seems like a government bureaucracy, which hopefully will keep things from escalating out of control for this new ruler. But first, he has to deal with the issue of Daniel. Daniel is naturally superior to the other government officials, which upsets all of them, because Darius favors him over all of them. “Then the viziers and the satraps sought to find a pretext against Daniel regarding the kingdom, but they could find no pretext or fault because he was trustworthy, and no error or fault was found about him (Daniel 6:5).”
So they take another tactic – if nothing can be found wrong with the man, they go on a mission to delegitimize his faith. They coerce the king into issuing a decree saying that anyone who prays to either a god or a man other than the king for thirty days should be thrown into a pit of lions. Leaving aside that this is insane, it’s clearly a plot against Daniel, because we know that he will not go a month without praying to or consulting God. And he doesn’t – he prays publicly, just as before, three times a day, and the bureaucrats seek him out with the goal of catching him in the act. The king is upset when he hears the news, and tries to give Daniel a reprieve, but the men don’t let him, reminding him that his decrees cannot be altered. They’re just the absolute worst.
So the king carries through, much like in the book of Esther where the king wanted to change his mind and walk back his decision, but couldn’t. Daniel is thrown into a pit of lions overnight. The king is restless, and wants to see if he lived, and in the morning, it turns out that God protected Daniel. “My God sent His angel, and he closed the mouths of the lions and they did not hurt me because a merit was found for me before Him, and also before you, O king, I have done no harm (Daniel 6:23).” The king has him taken out of the pit, and now, all of the men who set Daniel up, and their families, women and children included, are thrown into the pit and are crushed to death by the lions. I realize this is meant to be some kind of poetic justice, but it just seems to me to be just like the story back in Esther where justice turns into revenge, which turns into excessive brutality. I’m all about justified retribution, but these kinds of escalations leave me with a bad taste.