Daniel and the Lion of Judah’s Den

by Contributor David Voetberg

In this article, I’d like to attempt to make an argument for the events of Daniel 6 as typologically foreshadowing the sufferings & resurrection of Christ. I understand that there are potential dangers when we start talking about typology in Scripture, being that wild things can potentially be imported from our imaginations onto the text. At the same time, I think it is helpful to keep in mind that both the New Testament Scriptures & Jesus himself reference to a number of situations/objects/people from the Old Testament that have intentional typological connections with Christ & his work. Surely that doesn’t necessarily mean my interpretation of Daniel 6 is then correct, but at the very least attempting to interpret the events of Daniel 6 in light of the coming Messiah shouldn’t be immediately ruled out as implausible.

One explicit example that I find compelling & helpful for navigating other similar passages of Scripture that function typologically is Jonah’s sojourn in the belly of a fish. Jesus said “Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth”(Matt.12.40). This is one of a number of examples of this nature found in the New Testament. If Jonah’s dwelling in the belly of a fish for a time bears a relationship with Christ’s death, burial & resurrection, it would seem to follow logically then that other Scriptural stories of believers having similar experiences to Jonah may potentially be interpreted in similar fashion, given there is sufficient evidence for doing so. 

Another example would be Genesis 22. Isaac’s near death experience when he was to be sacrificed & his subsequent coming down off of the altar (which the writer of Hebrews calls a ‘figurative’ resurrection, Heb.11.19) is not explicitly referenced as foreshadowing Christ’s sacrificial death & resurrection in the New Testament. But given the information provided to us in the story combined with various patterns, pictures & themes found throughout Scripture, we can safely say such an interpretation is intentional & does not do violence to the text. Abraham’s giving up His son Isaac, who experienced a figurative death & resurrection, is ultimately fulfilled in the sacrifice of God’s only Son, whom He loves, with a literal death & resurrection.

In light of the above examples, I want to attempt to make the argument argue here that Daniel too experienced a figurative death & resurrection which finds it’s ultimate fulfillment in the literal death & resurrection of The Messiah.

Here is the relevant text of Daniel in its entirety:

“It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss.Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”
Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.
10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. 11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God. 12 Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 13 Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”
14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him.15 Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”
16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” 17 And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. 18 Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him.
19 Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” 23 Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. 24 And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.
25 Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you. 26 I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, 
                for he is the living God,
               enduring forever;
               his kingdom shall never be destroyed,
               and his dominion shall be to the end.
              27 He delivers and rescues;
               he works signs and wonders
               in heaven and on earth,
              he who has saved Daniel
              from the power of the lions.”
28 So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.” (Daniel 6:1-28 ESV)

I’d like to make six observations from the passage of Scripture above that cumulatively form a pattern structure that would later be repeated in The Gospels. Below I will include the relevant texts from Daniel 6 and The Gospels to display these connections in Scripture & will then attempt to show the relationship between them.

1.) Innocent person hated without cause (Opponents unable to find wrong in him)

Daniel 6:4:
 “Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him.”

The unwarranted hatred directed towards Daniel (who was included in the group of Jews brought over from Judah during the time of exile) comes in the wake of King Darius setting him up as one of the top 3 officials over 120 lower-ranked officials in the Babylonian kingdom. From this top 3, Daniel “became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.”(6:3) It was this rise to power of this Jewish man that triggered their jealousy & fueled their plan to bring him down.

Mark 14:55-56:
 Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none.”

The malicious intent of the religious leaders towards Jesus drips through the pages of The Gospels. His Sabbath healings. His teachings. His neglect of man-made traditions. His calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. All these things & more fueled the jealousy & hatred in their hearts towards the King of the Jews on his rise to power. They, like Daniel’s accusers, would have to get creative in their dealings with him because his innocence left them with no legitimate foothold they could use to indulge their lust for his blood.

2.) Opponents bring malicious accusations against innocent person

Daniel 6:5, 7 & 13: “Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God….whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions….Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”

Daniel’s accusers were so destitute of finding any loopholes in his conduct that they resorted to instituting a law that would bring about his demise instead. They couldn’t find wrong, so they maliciously created a wrong to fault him with. The king naively agreed to the terms of their request and for thirty days it was established that whoever prayed to any god or man except King Darius would be cast into the lion pit (6:7). Daniel continued in the fear of The Lord, choosing to obey God rather than men. “He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously”(6:10). His accusers finally had the accusation they were looking for.

Luke 20:20: “So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor.”

Luke 23:1-2:
 “Then the whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.”

The plan these opponents concocted to fulfill their dreams of Christ’s death left them resorting to hypocrisy, lies & false accusations. They, like Daniel’s accusers, sought a complaint against their enemy in connection with the law of God. “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God” (John 19:7). Their unbelief translated his truth-telling into blasphemy. They had ears but couldn’t hear. They had eyes but couldn’t see. They had found their lane & they were determined to stay in it until their plan was carried out. They would settle for nothing less than ridding the earth of Jesus of Nazareth.

3.) Ruler over situation seeks release of innocent person (Though pressured to follow through by opponents)

Daniel 6:14: “Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”

What King Darius naively (and probably narcissistically) agreed to priorly, he now frantically sought to remedy on behalf of an innocent man. Daniel’s accusers refreshed King Darius’s memory concerning the familiar law of the Medes & Persians, which prohibits the reversal of the King’s prior decrees. The King has shot himself in the foot in the signing of Daniel’s death warrant. Darius is held accountable in the matter by Daniel’s crafty accusers, successfully securing the certain death of an innocent man. 

John 19:12: “From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”

The arguments the crowd put forward at first were not compelling enough for Pilate to condemn The Christ to death. That being the case, they resorted to manipulation & forceful persistence in their cries in order to get him to give them what they wanted. Pilate found no fault in Jesus, but the mob wouldn’t take no for an answer. Even his wife warned him to “have nothing to do with that righteous man” because she had “suffered much because of him today in a dream” (Matt. 27:19). Her prophetic dream ultimately went unheeded, and the mob got to experience the fulfillment of their dream.

4.) Unjust condemnation of innocent person carried out & fate secured

Daniel 6:16: “Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel.”

Certainly reluctantly, the King gave the word & Daniel was whisked away to the death pit. It was sealed with stone & signet, giving Daniel’s fate the stamp of certainty.

Mark 15:15, 24: “So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified…And they crucified him.

Matthew 27:59-60, 65-66: “And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away…Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.”

Truth & reason were not on the side of Christ’s accusers nor in their minds, but their persistence paid off in the end. They were able to wear Pilate down like Delilah did to Samson. And wishing to satisfy their hearts’ desire, Pilate quenched their thirst with an approval for the crucifixion of an innocent man. After giving up his spirit & being struck through with a spear, Jesus’ body was tightly secured behind stone & seal, reminiscent of Daniel’s situation in the den of the lions. If that weren’t enough, soldiers were posted outside of his sealed tomb to guarantee the non-removal of his dead body.

5.)  Vindication of innocent person & punishment of opponents

Daniel 6:22-24: “My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.”Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions-they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.”

Though Daniel’s enemies devised a way to find fault with him, God found him blameless in the matter & vindicated him with a figurative resurrection from the dead as he emerged alive from the lions. Humanly speaking, he was as good as dead when he was cast down into the pit. The sealed den should’ve become a sealed tomb for Daniel. But The Lord sent an angel to close the lions’ mouths. The mouths of Daniel’s accusers would soon be closed as well, as they would now have to face the fate they tried to subject him to.

Similar to the Red Sea experience in which the Israelites walked across safely but the Egyptians drowned when they tried to do the same, Daniel was miraculously rescued out from the lion’s den while his enemies were crushed to pieces in the same one.

Acts 2:23-24: “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.”

Matthew 21:38-41: “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”

Though despised & rejected by men, “in the sight of God chosen & precious” is this Christ (1 Peter 2:4). Never had such an injustice been carried out in all the history of the world. He was without spot, without blemish, and no deceit was found in his mouth. Yet according to the foreknowledge of God, Jesus was delivered over into the hands of sinners. He was cast into the pit & it was Yahweh who crushed him & put him to grief (Is.53:10). The righteous Lamb of God was slain for the unclean. 
After his sufferings, The Father vindicated his righteous Son, bringing him back from the pit of destruction. His body saw no decay. Christ, like Daniel, emerged from behind the sealed stone with no harm found on him, excepting only the nail marks left in the places where he was pierced for our transgressions.

Those who sought the death of the Author of life & continued on stubbornly in their rebellion (as well as all who refuse to accept God’s testimony about His Son) will ultimately be cast into a fiery furnace, reminiscent of that which Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego were subjected to. Though the fire of this furnace of judgment burns forever & never goes out (Matthew 13:41, 25:41).

6.) Global proclamation made subsequently to innocent sufferer’s vindication (All people called to pledge allegiance to the true God).

Daniel 6:25-27: “Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you. I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.”

A true turn of events was brought about by The Lord in that what started out as a 30-day requirement to pray to King Darius ended up turning into a global proclamation for all under his jurisdiction to “tremble and fear before the God of Daniel” who had saved him “from the power of the lions.” Upon Daniel’s figurative resurrection from the dead the decree went out, calling for global exaltation of the eternal God who had worked such a miraculous deliverance for his faithful servant.

Acts 17:30-31: “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

Luke 24:46-47
: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

God’s raising Jesus from the dead was the eternal flame that set a global campaign of Gospel proclamation in motion at the end of the ages, calling all people to turn away from idolatry & “believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord” (Rom.4.25). Yahweh alone is God. The apostle John caught a glimpse of the glory of this redemptive plan & its success when he heard a new song being sung in heaven around the throne:

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
      and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
   from every tribe and language and people and nation,
   and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
   and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10)

Conclusion
In summary, I find the above six points which occurred in the life of Daniel to bear a typological relationship to the events that the coming Messiah after him would undergo. It seems very plausible based on the given evidence that the various circumstances noted from Daniel 6 provide us with a framework for what Christ, the greater Daniel, would later encounter in undertaking his work of redemption for sinners.

Praise God for His glorious Gospel.

3 thoughts on “Daniel and the Lion of Judah’s Den

  1. Hey David, I appreciated and was blessed by the article and your six points that parallel the Lord and Daniel’s experience. It is very thought provoking and something I had not seen before in the passage. Being placed in the Lions Den was certainly a death sentence just as the cross. To be honest I am cautious when it comes to typology, but I think you make a very suggestive case. So I have a few questions? (I genuinely want to know what you think!).
    1. If Jesus is the greater Daniel as you mention– what other experiences or actions in Daniel’s life would build onto this typology?
    2. In your view, do there need to be additional aspects of Daniel life that are typological for your conclusion that Jesus is the Greater Daniel?
    3. For me specificity– Like in the Jonah example of 3 days and nights– is important. I think your first point is most compelling due to the “found no fault” phrase for Daniel. For me this provides the foundation for your remaining points. What are your thoughts on that? 🙂

    Thank you again. It was a blessing to consider Jesus’ experience through Daniel. Praying for your ministry.

    Don

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Don,

      Thank you for the insightful questions. I feel like possibly writing an article to follow-up with your questions
      would be more helpful than a brief answer here in the comments. Also, I think it would help me to think this
      through more extensively as I try to provide substantial answers to your questions. I’ll look into trying to
      write something here fairly soon. Thanks.

      Like

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