The Question of Loyalty
Someone once said that loyalty is like the juice of an orange; the flavor cannot be determined until the orange is squeezed to the breaking point.
The Bible testifies to the truthfulness of this statement. Loyalty is one of the powerful forces within the human heart. Circumstances can squeeze us to a point that our highest loyalties are revealed. Loyalty can produce good results and it can also be used to produce evil results.
For example: Judas Iscariot was loyal to his dreams of self-importance, power and wealth, instead of humility, poverty and service. When he realized that following Jesus would not fulfill his dreams, he betrayed the Savior of the world for $12.60 (30 pieces of silver).
For a while King David was loyal to his passions for Bathsheba. He killed her husband, Uriah, who was one of his most loyal soldiers so he could hide his illicit affair with Bathsheba and cover her subsequent pregnancy with the cloak of marriage.
Peter swore his loyalty to Jesus was 100 percent, but when he learned that he might have to share a martyr’s death with Jesus he denied three times that he even knew Jesus. The Philippian jailer was loyal to his job until an earthquake destroyed his jail, which suddenly changed his heart.
Saul was loyal to his religion faithfully persecuting apostate Jews (a.k.a. Christians) until Jesus confronted him on the road to Damascus. Afterwards, Paul proved to have unwavering loyalty to Jesus. He suffered extreme persecution from Jews and Romans alike, as he preached salvation through Jesus Christ.
Eventually, Nero sentenced him to death because of his loyalty to Jesus. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego chose to be loyal to the God of Heaven rather than worship the golden image, and for their decision, Nebuchadnezzar threw them into the fiery furnace.
John the Baptist was loyal to God’s standards when he plainly told King Herod that living with his brother’s wife was a sin and his remarks cost him his life. Jonathan was loyal to David’s Heavenly anointing, instead of his father, King Saul, who almost killed Jonathan because of it.
Jeremiah was loyal to the Word of the Lord when he told the people the truth about their apostasy, and they threw him into a cistern to die. Job’s loyalty to God was tested with some of the harshest suffering ever recorded. Noah was loyal to God’s command and suffered an incredible amount of ridicule, but his loyalty and faith saved his family. Ruth was loyal to Naomi and chose to suffer with her in poverty, but this action made her an ancestor of Jesus.
Rahab, the prostitute, was loyal to the spies that entered Jericho, but by doing this she saved her family. Queen Esther was loyal to her people and ultimately became instrumental in delivering her people from destruction.
The prophet Daniel was another man of loyalty who was squeezed hard. He chose to defy the decree of his king by openly praying toward Jerusalem and for this small act, he was thrown into the lion’s den. Webster’s definition of loyalty states that loyalty means being constant and faithful, bearing true allegiance to something.
The truth is, every human being has loyalties, but the real question is, “To what or whom are we loyal?” Our highest loyalties are revealed when we are squeezed into a decision that favors one loyalty and harms another. Thoughtfully review the first paragraph and notice how certain people had to make some very difficult choices. Inevitably, we all face situations where circumstances leave no option, but to favor a higher loyalty and harm a lesser one!
For this reason, it is hard to say where our highest loyalties really lie until we are “squeezed” by difficult choices. (The process of “squeezing” explains why there will be a Great Tribulation. God is going to “squeeze” the loyalty out of every human being to see who loves Him above everything else. See Revelation 3:10.)
Since this month’s study concerns loyalty, I thought a Bible study on Daniel and his lion’s den experience might prove helpful. Most Christians have rejoiced in the story of Daniel’s escape from the lions, but few people know the bigger picture. Daniel’s loyalty had a profound impact on two significant nations!
To make this story as compelling as possible, I have added background information to help the reader “stand in Daniel’s sandals.”
A Prisoner Of War
Daniel was taken to Babylon as a prisoner of war as a result of Nebuchadnezzar’s first siege on Jerusalem in 605 B.C. It is believed that Daniel was about 17 or 18 years of age. It was King Nebuchadnezzar’s policy to take the best captives and enroll them in an academy to prepare them for government service.
The king had wisely established a school to train captives from various tribal nations, so the captives could eventually return to their homeland and serve the empire of Babylon as rulers who were loyal to the king of Babylon. It was for this purpose that Daniel and some of his friends were inducted into the king’s academy. The book of Daniel begins with Daniel and his closest friends asking the king’s steward if they could be excused from eating at the king’s table.
They wanted to maintain a more simple, vegetarian diet, but the steward refused this first request. He was sure that Daniel and his friends would become sick and feeble if they ate nothing but vegetables and water. If they became sick because of his negligence, he could lose his job or possibly, his head! However, Daniel persisted and eventually, the steward gave in. When it came time for the king to test the trainees, Daniel and his friends were found to be at the top of their class.
In fact, the Bible conservatively estimates their knowledge was ten times better than their fellow students. (Daniel 1) Do you think the success of Daniel and his friends had anything to do with their loyalty to God? I do.
A short time later, Daniel gained world-wide recognition when God used him to interpret a dream that God gave to Nebuchadnezzar. As a result of that incident, Nebuchadnezzar promoted Daniel to a very high government position and all the wise men of Babylon reported to him. (Daniel 2) Do you think the Daniel’s success had anything to do with his loyalty to God? I do.
Why Was Daniel Sent To Babylon?
Historians tell us that Nebuchadnezzar set siege to Jerusalem three times. He finally destroyed the city in 586 B.C. because Israel’s kings refused to submit to Nebuchadnezzar’s “higher” authority. In actuality, God allowed Jerusalem to be destroyed and its citizens put in captivity for 70 years because Israel refused to submit to God’s “higher” authority. The Bible carefully justifies God’s anger with Israel. To understand God’s wrath against Israel in 605 B.C., we have to start with Moses. Carefully read these texts:
1. Sabbath Rest Required For The Land – Leviticus 25
A few weeks after the Exodus, “The Lord said to Moses on Mount Sinai, ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a Sabbath to the Lord. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a Sabbath of rest, a Sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest.” (Leviticus 25:1-5) This text is self explanatory. God required the land to rest every seventh year. Why would any nation refuse a year’s vacation every seventh year? The Lord continues, “You may ask, ‘What will we eat in the seventh year if we do not plant or harvest our crops?’ I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years. While you plant during the eighth year, you will eat from the old crop and will continue to eat from it until the harvest of the ninth year comes in.” (Leviticus 25:20-22) There is a profound point in these verses: God promised to send a bumper crop every sixth year so there would be enough food to observe a year of rest! Contrary to what many Bible students say, the Sabbath rest for the land was not for agricultural purposes. In fact, God made the land produce its greatest harvest during the sixth year – when the land was in its most exhausted condition! The lesson to be learned from the Sabbath year is simple. God established the Sabbath year rest to test His people. There is no other reason. Would they be loyal or rebellious? (See Exodus 16 for a parallel concerning the seventh day.)
2. “If You Don’t Keep My Sabbath Years” – Leviticus 26
God also warned Israel: “If in spite of this [lesser punishments] you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over. . . . I will turn your cities into ruins and lay waste your sanctuaries, and I will take no delight in the pleasing aroma of your offerings. I will lay waste the land, so that your enemies who live there will be appalled. I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out my sword and pursue you. Your land will be laid waste, and your cities will lie in ruins. Then the land will enjoy its sabbath years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. All the time that it lies desolate, the land will have the rest it did not have during the sabbaths you lived in it.” (Leviticus 26:27,28,31-35, insertion mine) It does not take a rocket scientist to understand these words. God said the land was going to rest, with or without Israel. God wanted his people to understand a profound truth: “. . . [The Lord said] the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants.” (Leviticus 25:23, insertion mine) God wanted Israel to know that their occupation of His land was conditional on their steadfast loyalty to Him.( Leviticus 18; Deuteronomy 28)
3. Because You Have Rebelled – Jeremiah 25
The Old Testament indicates over and over again that Israel did not remain loyal to God. Their cup of disobedience overflowed and around 615 B.C. God gave a prophecy to Jeremiah: He said, “I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy them and make them an object of horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin. I will banish from them the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, the sound of millstones and the light of the lamp. This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will make it desolate forever.’ “ (Jeremiah 25:9-12) Notice three things: First, God calls King Nebuchadnezzar “my servant.” This is an important concept. God chose a pagan king to be an agent of His wrath against Jerusalem. (Parallel: The Antichrist will be an agent of God’s wrath druing the Great Tribulation.) Second, God said that Jerusalem would be destroyed and that Israel would be prisoners of war in Babylon for 70 years. Third, Babylon – for the same sins as Jerusalem – would eventually be destroyed.
4. 430 Years Of Rebellion
During the 70 years of captivity in Babylon, God anointed two prophets. Ezekiel was a prisoner of war like Daniel, but Ezekiel lived among the captives, while Daniel lived in the halls of power. Ezekiel was timid and afraid of public speaking, so the Lord prompted him to “act out” various signs for Israel to watch. Notice this sign: “. . . This will be a sign to the house of Israel. . . [Ezekiel] lie on your left side and put the sin of the house of Israel upon yourself. You are to bear their sin for the number of days you lie on your side. I have assigned you the same number of days as the years of their sin. So for 390 days you will bear the sin of the house of Israel. ‘After you have finished this, lie down again, this time on your right side, and bear the sin of the house of Judah. I have assigned you 40 days, a day for each year.’ “ (Ezekiel 4:3,6, insertion mine) This text is important because God indicates the length of rebellion of the twelve tribes as 430 years. (390 + 40 = 430) This number should catch your attention because it is the same number of years that Israel spent in Egypt. (Exodus 12:41) These two separate and distinct instances of 430 years have three things in common: apostasy, timing and vigil. First, the apostasy of the Israelites in Egypt is no different than the apostasy of the Israelites in the promised land of Canaan! Apostasy is always the course of fallen man. Second, God’s timing is perfect in both instances. The Bible says that God delivered the Israelites from Egyptian slavery according to His promise to Abraham, exactly 430 years to the very day. (Exodus 12:41) If God delivered Israel from Egypt on time, then it should be no surprise that He sent them into captivity on time as well. It should be noted that when Israel violated 70 Sabbath years, God sent them into captivity! How do we know this? Ezekiel performed the “430 day” sign for all of Israel to see. There are exactly 70 Sabbatical years in 430 years. In other words, the Babylonian captivity was 70 years in length because that is the exact number of Sabbath years Israel violated. Remember God’s threat in Leviticus 26:34,35? “Then the land will enjoy its Sabbath years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its Sabbaths. All the time that it lies desolate, the land will have the rest it did not have during the Sabbaths you lived in it.” This text demonstrates the last significant point in common between these separate 430 year periods. God keeps vigil. He does not sleep. He is very much aware of everything that takes place on Earth and He will step into the affairs of men when the timing is just right. He delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt during the right year, and He sent Israel into Babylon in captivity on time during the right year! Even more, the next text demonstrates that God also delivered Israel out of their Babylonian captivity during the right year just on time.
5. Prophecy Fulfilled
The Bible says, “God handed all of them [the Jews] over to Nebuchadnezzar. He carried to Babylon all the articles from the temple of God, both large and small, and the treasures of the Lord’s temple and the treasures of the king and his officials. They set fire to God’s temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem; they burned all the palaces and destroyed everything of value there. He carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his sons until the kingdom of Persia came to power. The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah.” (2 Chronicles 36:17-21, insertion mine) Again, the reason for the Babylonian captivity is simple and obvious. God handed Israel over to Nebuchadnezzar because of their disloyalty. They refused to keep His Sabbaths, so He evicted them and the land rested for 70 years.
Now that we understand why Israel went into Babylonian captivity, we need to zoom forward in time to the fall of Babylon, when Nebuchadnezzar’s reign ended. Historians say Babylon fell on Tishri 16 (around October 13), 539 B.C.
Darius came to the throne during that year (his ascension year), so his first calendar year (according to the religious calendar of the Jews) was 538/7 B.C. The first year of Darius’ reign is Daniel’s 68th year in captivity.
Daniel was taken captive during 605 B.C., a “Sabbath year,” and he calculated that the seventy years of desolation decreed upon Jerusalem would end on the “Friday year,” 536 B.C. (Counting inclusively, 605 B.C. minus 536 B.C. equals 70 years.)
Note: When God established the week of years at the time of the Exodus, God required Israel to set their slaves free every sixth or “Friday year.” The seventh or “Sabbath year” was to be celebrated as a year of freedom from the bondage of slavery. (See Exodus 21:2 and Jeremiah 34:14-16.)
Daniel was aware of the Jubilee calendar. He also understood how the “week of years” synchronized and knew that 536/5 B.C. was a “Friday year,” as well as the 70th or final year of captivity.
The Political Situation in Daniel’s 68th Year
It was extremely unusual in ancient times for a conquering king to give a prisoner of war a position of authority in his government. The possibility of rebellion was just too great. Incredible as it seems, this happened to Daniel three times that we know of. Nebuchadnezzar promoted Daniel to one of his highest governing positions after Daniel interpreted his dream. Belteshazzar promoted Daniel to one of his highest governing positions after Daniel read the handwriting on the wall.
Daniel was also promoted to one of the highest positions in the kingdom when Darius became king. Do you think Daniel’s promotions had anything to do with his loyalty to God? I do.
It is my understanding that Daniel believed God had placed him in a very powerful political position within the government of Darius so that he, Daniel, might facilitate Israel’s release from captivity. However, Daniel was nearing 90 years of age and knew that if he acted on his own wisdom, he could interfere with God’s plans, just as Moses did when he wrongfully killed the Egyptian. (Exodus 2:11-14)
Daniel also knew that if his actions backfired, it could result in a lot of suffering for his people, just as it did when Moses and Aaron ordered the Hebrew slaves to rest from their labors. (Exodus 5:5) Daniel was acutely aware that he could dishonor God if his actions to free his people aroused suspicion, jealousy or any hint of rebellion against the Medes and Persians.
Many of the Chaldeans intensely hated the Jews, and any move on Daniel’s part to free his people would probably be construed as treason. If this occurred and he was convicted in a court of public opinion, the punishment was sudden death.
Note: Hatred for the Jews erupted on a national scale about 70 years after Daniel died. The noble, Haman, obtained a universal death decree from King Artaxerxes for all Jews in the Persian kingdom, but God used Queen Esther to save her people.
Daniel’s dilemma had other ramifications. During the 70 years of captivity in Babylon, the Jews multiplied and integrated into the fabric of the province of Babylon. Some Jews prospered and others remained servants or slaves of the Chaldeans.
When Darius began his reign over Babylon, most of the original captives from Jerusalem had died. Therefore, their offspring who lived in Babylon had little attachment to a place where they had never lived or even seen. In fact, when Cyrus set the Jews free in 536 B.C., Ezra 2 indicates that only a minority of captives, 29,818 Jewish males, returned to Jerusalem.
The Greatest Problems
Politically, Daniel knew that the emancipation of his people after 70 years in Babylon could cause a number of problems for King Darius. If large numbers of Chaldeans lost their servants resulting in financial losses, this could produce terrible social unrest. Daniel was also aware that during the 70 years of desolation, tribal nations had moved into the territory abandoned by Israel and a returning Israel could be embroiled in wars and land disputes.
Even more, the greatest cause of concern for Daniel was that Darius did not rule over the land of Canaan where Jerusalem was located. Any decree that freed the Jews from the province of Babylon would also require a decree by King Cyrus who ruled over Canaan.
The ultimate goal, of course, was that the Jews recover the land they had lost and all the circumstances surrounding this situation greatly perplexed Daniel. What could he do to facilitate the freedom of his people? Even if they were set free, how could Daniel motivate a majority of the Jews to return to Jerusalem?
Daniel’s mind churned over these issues for months because he could see how a significant exodus from Babylon could be a political nightmare for King Darius as well as King Cyrus.
Jealousy Knows No Bounds
From Daniel’s point of view, the upcoming 70th year, 536/5 B.C., would not be a very good year to attempt the release of the Jews. Even though Daniel held one of the highest positions in the empire, a new king was on the throne. This meant a new administration was in place adhering to a new set of laws and corporate culture, which included a large group of powerful nobles who hated the Jews.
As Daniel pondered his helpless position, it became apparent to him that Israel’s deliverance from slavery would have to be an “Act of God,” a miracle as great as the exodus from Egypt. To his credit, Daniel faithfully carried out his responsibilities within Darius’ administration.
The Bible says of this time-period, “Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.” (Daniel 6:3)
Sometime during Darius’ first calendar year (538/7 B.C.) Daniel decided the best thing he could do was seek God through fasting, praying and wearing sackcloth and ashes. Time was running out! The 70th year was approaching fast. So, Daniel sought the Lord in utter humility to see what God wanted of him.
To be seen in sackcloth and ashes was a sign of mourning or extreme humiliation. To the Medes and Persians, Daniel’s appearance must have been very odd since Daniel usually wore clothing appropriate for his exalted office. Regardless, Daniel embarrassed (humbled) himself before God as a man in sackcloth and ashes demonstrating that God could use him in whatever meaningful or menial way God desired.
Unknown to Daniel, King Darius had planned to promote Daniel above the other two governors of his empire. Darius decided to do this because He had contracted a degenerating health problem. Darius favored Daniel because Daniel was “pure in heart,” a very unusual quality among people in politics, then and now.
Darius also wanted to make Daniel, “the Jew,” his number two man in the kingdom because this would strategically protect his throne when he became too weak to meet the day to day needs of his office. Unlike the other two administrators, Darius knew Daniel would be loyal to him instead of an inner ambition to acquire the throne.
Besides, Darius knew that a Jew would not aspire to be king over an empire of Medes and Persians. By putting Daniel in the number two seat, his throne would be safer from the schemes of ambitious politicians and administrators.
Somehow, this information about Darius’ plans was leaked to the administrators and they were filled with jealousy and rage. No self respecting Mede or Persian would be subject to a Jew! Jealousy and hatred for Daniel, “the Jew,” led them to search for anything they could use to marr Daniel’s reputation and disqualify him from such a position of honor.
They studied Daniel’s personal history and tried to find a flaw in his character, but were unable to find anything they could use. The Bible says, “At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said, ‘We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.’ “ (Daniel 6:4,5)
Given the hatred and determination of his enemies and the notorious behavior of politicians down through the ages, these are amazing words!
Putting The Squeeze On Daniel
Finally, the administrators and satraps concluded that the only way to stop Darius from promoting Daniel was to prove to Darius that Daniel’s loyalty to his “Jewish” God was higher than Daniel’s loyalty to the king. They figured the question of loyalty would prove their point to Darius. When it comes to politics, kings have to be gods. Their ego and government rests upon nothing less than total submission and devotion to their will. If no one wants to obey the king, how can he be king?
Therefore, “loyalty tests” were used by ancient kings to ferret out people with bad attitudes toward the authority of the king. This may explain why Darius did not quibble or hesitate to issue a loyalty decree. Loyalty tests were simple: During the specified month, suspects were arraigned and questioned before a court of political leaders. If the suspect freely confessed allegiance to the king as the highest authority on Earth, the suspect would then affirm his loyalty to the king with an oath.
However, if the suspect was hostile toward the king or plotting rebellion, a “loyalty test” became a life and death issue, even though the suspect may not have been caught doing anything wrong. This is why loyalty tests were so effective.
If the suspect refused to take an oath affirming his allegiance and submission to the king, he was declared a rebel and killed immediately. On the other hand, if he lied about his allegiance to the king and gave an oath of loyalty, his sympathizers would see that he was a common coward and a liar.
Who could respect such a disgusting person? This technique for testing loyalty was simple and effective. Incidentally, the Caesars also used loyalty tests. Thousands of Christians perished because they would not bow down before the “man-god,” Caesar. (John 19:15; Romans 10:9) During the Great Tribulation, God will also use a simple loyalty test. A test of worship will put the “squeeze” on every person and our deepest loyalties will be “squeezed out” for everyone to see. (See Revelation 13:8-18.)
The Perfect Plot
The crafty administrators asked Darius for permission to conduct a “loyalty check” for three reasons: First, a loyalty test was a well-known tactic. Since the province of Babylon was a new territory for Darius, a loyalty test appeared to be a “good idea” to help secure his throne. Second, if Daniel should slip through the 30 day decree trap, Darius would never know the real motives behind the administrators request for the loyalty test.
Third, if Daniel was caught in their trap, he would be “legally” killed because the law demanded the sudden death of anyone caught in rebellion against the king. If Daniel was destroyed, the administrators would not be implicated in Daniel’s death. The “loyalty test” seemed like the perfect way to eliminate Daniel, or so they thought.
When the administrators asked the king for a loyalty decree, they must have known that Darius did not know about Daniel’s current state of humiliation.
If Darius had been aware of Daniel’s behavior, praying to his God three times a day in sackcloth and ashes, this knowledge would have foiled their plot. “So the administrators and the satraps went as a group to the king and said: ‘O King Darius, live forever! The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. Now, O king, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered–in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.’ So King Darius put the decree in writing.” (Daniel 9:6-9)
Daniel Springs The Trap
“Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.
Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: ‘Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or man except to you, O king, would be thrown into the lions’ den?’
The king answered, ‘The decree stands–in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.’ Then they said to the king, ‘Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.’ When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him.” (Daniel 6:10-14)
Did you notice how fast Daniel willfully disobeyed the king’s decree? Why did one of the kingdom’s highest officials publicly defy the law of the king? The answer lies in the fact that Daniel understood the reasons behind the loyalty test.
Daniel remembered his three friends and their fiery furnace test and knew he was being tested just like his three friends. Evidently, notification of the decree came suddenly and without warning to Daniel. I find it interesting that Daniel did not go to his immediate superior, King Darius and plead his case! When Daniel learned of the loyalty test he ran to (not from) his prayer room. This action says volumes about Daniel’s loyalty to the God of Heaven!
When Daniel humbled himself before God and man by wearing sackcloth and ashes, Daniel’s heart was ready and willing to submit, even to death, if that was God’s will. Daniel was willing to do anything God required of him to facilitate the release of his people.
Daniel’s loyalty to God is extraordinary and God’s approval of Daniel is amazing. In fact, Daniel’s loyalty became the very tool that God used to glorify His name before the Medes and Persians so that He could deliver the Jews from captivity! If the plot to kill Daniel was clever, God’s use of the situation was even more so. God used the administrator’s hatred of Daniel, Darius’ affection for Daniel, and Daniel’s loyalty (and ultimately the lion’s den) to set Israel free from slavery. Watch how these elements combined to accomplish God’s plan.
King Darius Humiliated
The next morning, “. . . the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, ‘May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!’ A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed. Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.” (Daniel 6:16-18)
Daniel was arraigned before King Darius. When the king saw the old prophet in sackcloth and ashes, he became furious with his administrators. He saw through their plot. Daniel, “the Jew,” was no rebel and Darius knew that. In fact, Daniel was the only administrator the king could trust! According to law, however, Daniel was subjected to the usual “loyalty” interrogation and without hesitation, confessed to praying to His God three times a day.
Daniel did not offer excuses, plead his case or beg for his life. Even more importantly, he did not swear an oath of loyalty to King Darius as his highest authority. King Darius churned with grief. He condemned himself all night for failing to consider the intense hatred of his administrators for Daniel, “the Jew.” How ironic the twist of events.
Darius was planning to promote Daniel, but now he would have to kill him instead. Darius knew Daniel was unjustly condemned, but not even the king himself could change the law of the Medes and Persians. With these words, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!” Darius bids farewell to Daniel. The king gives the order and with his own ring and the rings of those who hated the old Jew, seals Daniel’s fate to be thrown into the lion’s den. Daniel was at peace, Darius was in torment, and the administrators were on their way to a secret celebration party.
King Darius Exhilarated
“At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, ‘Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?’
Daniel answered, ‘O king, live forever! 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.’ The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.
At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones. Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations and men of every language throughout the land: ‘May you prosper greatly! ‘I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. ‘
For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the Earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.’ So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius [the Mede] and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.” (Daniel 6:19-28, insertion mine) Thoughtfully consider the profound experience of Darius that morning.
Upon hearing Daniel’s voice, a pagan king was given every reason that morning to put his faith in the God of Daniel. The tomb was opened and “a dead man” was received by the living! The king immediately published another decree requiring every person in his kingdom to fear and reverence the God of Daniel, “the Jew.” The news about Daniel’s miraculous deliverance was told everywhere!
Only when you consider the Chaldeans intense hatred for the Jews does the significance of Darius’ actions stand out. Because of Daniel’s loyalty, the God of Heaven was exalted to the highest position through the eyes and lips of a heathen king. This demonstrates an interesting point that all religious people would do well to remember. The objective of serving the God of Heaven is to bring honor and glory to God, not to self.
Israel Set Free
The story of Daniel’s miraculous deliverance and the immediate destruction of his enemies by the same lions that refused to eat him has been closely examined for some important reasons. First, remember that God’s timing is always perfect!
Evidently, the lion’s den episode happened during Darius’ first calendar year, 538/7 B.C. This allowed time for Darius to become acquainted with Daniel and to develop such confidence in him that he wanted to make him the number two man in his kingdom. As we are about to see, the timing of the lion’s den event is also perfect!
God used the hatred of the administrators and the loyalty of Daniel in a way that no one could have anticipated. I believe the events unfolded as follows: When Daniel sought the Lord in sackcloth and ashes for instructions on what he should do to facilitate the deliverance of Israel, God heard Daniel’s prayer and gave Daniel something that Daniel did not know he was about to need.
God gave Daniel peace in the face of death. This peace is reflected in Daniel’s courageous action after he learned about the law. God did not give Daniel wisdom to outfox the evil administrators, nor did God rain down plagues on Babylon like He did in Egypt. God had a better plan in mind.
After Daniel violated man’s law, God honored Daniel’s loyalty to His law with protection and enormous notoriety. (No one had ever spent a night in a den of wild and ravenous lions and lived to tell about it.) Simultaneously, God eliminated a big obstacle that stood in the way of delivering His people.
God granted Darius a legal opportunity to purge his government of men who had proven their disloyalty to the interests of the king. Politically speaking, the death of these administrators would make the release of the Jews a manageable problem for the king, even though Darius did not know the Jews were about to be set free. After Darius destroyed the administrators that hated Daniel, the king promoted Daniel to the number two position in his kingdom and no one else complained!
Evidently, King Darius died the following year after the lion’s den event and King Cyrus absorbed the territory of Darius into his expanding kingdom. Therefore, the ascension year of Cyrus over the province of Babylon was 537/6 B.C. and his first calendar year was 536/5 B.C.
Because of Daniel’s notoriety from the lion’s den event and because he was the highest official in Darius’ kingdom, Daniel became well acquainted with King Cyrus during his ascension year. During the Spring of 536/5 B.C., which was the 70th year of captivity, King Cyrus met with Daniel. Daniel informed the Persian king that the God of Heaven had chosen him to be a great king before he was even born.
Daniel showed King Cyrus the writings of the prophet Isaiah where Cyrus is called by name in Scripture years before Cyrus was born. (Isaiah 45:1-4) When Daniel explained to King Cyrus why he was fasting and praying – the behavior that ultimately sent him to the lion’s den – the king’s heart was moved at the loyalty and devotion of this elderly man to the Supreme God over Heaven and Earth.
Daniel informed Cyrus that the God of Heaven had appointed the Persian king to set the Jews free, “without price or reward,” (Isaiah 45:13) for the purpose of rebuilding His temple. This same God of Heaven had delivered Daniel from the lion’s den and the rest of the story is history.
Cyrus issued the decree in Daniel’s presence in the 70th year, a Friday year, in the Spring of 536 B.C. The Bible says, “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing: ‘This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of his people among you–may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem.’ “ (Ezra 1:1-3)
The timing could not have been more perfect. The decree of Cyrus ended 70 years of captivity (counting inclusively). It is amazing how God took one loyal man through the lion’s den so that Daniel could present the will of God to a king who now controlled the province of Babylon, as well as the territory of Judea!
This decree was possible because Cyrus ruled over the province of Babylon where the Jews were captives, as well as the territory of Judea where Jerusalem is located. The greatest problem was solved. God’s timing is so perfect. His ways are so magnificent! Remember, God required the release of slaves during the Friday year (the sixth year) and this is exactly what He did for the nation of Israel. The decree of Cyrus occurred in 536 B.C., a Friday year.
Note: The Bible does not indicate that Darius died in 537/6 B.C. For two reasons, this point is deduced from the course of events recorded in Daniel 6 and Daniel 9. First, even though they are contemporary kings, Darius and Cyrus did not rule over Daniel or the province of Babylon at the same time.
Second, history says that Cyrus had been a Persian king for more than twenty years before his first year over the province of Babylon came about. In order for Cyrus to become king over the province of Babylon, death had to eliminate Darius from the throne in 537 B.C. If this is a correct assumption, Cyrus’ ascension year over Babylon is 537/6 B.C. and Cyrus’ first calendar year is 536/5 B.C.
The Bible confirms this scenario by saying, “So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.” (Daniel 6:28) This text can be understood from the perspective that Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius which was followed by the reign of Cyrus. Of course, this text can also be interpreted to mean that Daniel prospered during the co-regent reign of both kings, but it seems evident that both kings did not rule over Daniel or the province of Babylon at the same time.
Other facts may come to light in the future that offers a better answer. Ancient history aside, the good news is that we know the 70 years were fulfilled in a timely way. The Bible says, “The land enjoyed its Sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah.” (2 Chronicles 36:21)
Calendar of Events
Julian Years Chart:
- Babylon falls, ascension year for Darius
- First year for Darius, lion’s den
- Darius dies, ascension year for Cyrus
- First year for Cyrus, frees the Jews
End Time Parallels
As we see how God used the loyalty test to set his people free, it is easy to compare the parallels of the Great Tribulation. Here are some parallels for you to consider: Revelation 13:8 says, “All inhabitants of the Earth will worship the beast, all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.”
This text implies that false worship will become a matter of law during the Great Tribulation because all of the world will not voluntarily worship the beast. In other words, when the world is squeezed by threats of severe punishment, “all inhabitants of the Earth” will worship the beast, except those who have a higher loyalty to the worship of God.
The human race is about to be squeezed very hard. That ancient serpent the devil, the roaring lion from the lion’s den, is about to make war upon the saints. (Revelation 12:17) Revelation 13 predicts the devil will wage war upon the saints for 42 months using the force and penalty of laws. (Revelation 13:5)
The end result is that the saints will be legally persecuted! “He [the Antichrist] was given power [from God] to give breath [life] to the image of the first beast [the one-world-church-state which the devil will set up], so that it could speak [decree laws] and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a [visible] mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.” (Revelation 13:15-17, insertions mine) There it is!
The coming loyalty test will boil down to survival. Those people who are loyal and worship God will be hunted down as criminals and shut off from the necessities of life. The saints will be forced to live by faith in God because they will not be able to obtain the necessities of life.
However, those people who have the highest loyalty for personal survival will submit to the mark of the beast, a tattoo that will be placed on the forehead or the right hand. Officials in the devil’s government will wear the devil’s name tattooed on the foreheads. (This is a counterfeit of what God intends to do to the 144,000.
They will wear the name of Jesus and the Father on their foreheads throughout eternity. See Revelation 14:1.) Ordinary citizens will wear the literal number, 666, tattooed on their right hand. Billions of people will submit to wearing a tattoo that they know is evil in order to survive. This test will prove where our highest loyalties are!
Another parallel between Daniel’s experience and the Great Tribulation is timing. Just as God set His people free right on time, God will set the saints free from the curse of sin – right on time. Several prophecies of Daniel and Revelation tell us there are important time-periods during the Great Tribulation. God has predetermined the number of days and we know His timing is perfect!
There are many more end-time parallels between Daniel and his lion’s den experience and the Great Tribulation. I have mentioned a few to encourage you to practice putting the Lord first in your life. I encourage you to seek the Lord through prayer and fasting.
For the past two years WUAS supporters have been fasting and praying on the seventh day of each month. Why don’t you join us? We want God to use us in whatever way possible to share the good news of the coming King of kings. We pray for the outpouring of Holy Spirit power. We want to be sure that we are willing to do anything that God asks of us. If Daniel had been lax about his loyalty to God, when the test came he would have fumbled, faltered and failed.
Loyalty to God doesn’t suddenly spring up when consequences for disobedience against the law of the land is death. Loyalty to God is a way of life that requires practice and determination. Webster describes loyalty as being constant and faithful, bearing true allegiance.
What Webster did not know is that the highest loyalty of every human being is about to be revealed!