The name Daniel means “God is my judge,” and God judges him as righteous and innocent of the crimes of which he is accused. His story, as depicted in the Old Testament book of the same name, strongly parallels that of Jesus. Daniel is a type of Christ.
Daniel lived during a time of Jewish captivity in Babylon, which lasted approximately 70 years. During this period of captivity, some of the young Israelite men were taken by the Babylonians to be trained and to serve in the King’s court—Daniel was one such youth. As some of these young men were of the royal bloodline (Daniel 1:3), it is quite possible that Daniel, like Christ (Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 1:1), was a prince of the House of David.
Daniel is recognized as a prophet and an interpreter of visions (Daniel 2:24-25; 4:8-9). Where the sins of biblical figures are often recorded within their stories, there is no record of Daniel engaging in sinful behavior. Rather, scripture shares examples of how Daniel was tried and tempted (Daniel 1:5-8; 6:10-11), yet stood resolute in his faith—willing to face unrighteous persecution in the name of God. And though innocent, Daniel was sentenced to death (Daniel 6:15-16). Yet, God judges him innocent (6:21-22), and delivers him from the lions…and the wicked intentions of his fellow commissioners and the satraps.
JUDGMENT WITH SALVATION: DANIEL IN THE LIONS’ DEN
While there are numerous allusions to Christ throughout the book of Daniel, this post focuses primarily on Chapter 6, where Daniel’s story strongly parallels the resurrection story of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Daniel Serves Darius
6 It seemed good to Darius to appoint 120 satraps over the kingdom, that they would be in charge of the whole kingdom, 2 and over them three commissioners (of whom Daniel was one), that these satraps might be accountable to them, and that the king might not suffer loss. 3 Then this Daniel began distinguishing himself among the commissioners and satraps because he possessed an extraordinary spirit, and the king planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom. 4 Then the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs; but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We will not find any ground of accusation against this Daniel unless we find it against him with regard to the law of his God.”
6 Then these commissioners and satraps came by agreement to the king and spoke to him as follows: “King Darius, live forever! 7 All the commissioners of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the high officials and the governors have consulted together that the king should establish a statute and enforce an injunction that anyone who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, shall be cast into the lions’ den. 8 Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document so that it may not be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked.” 9 Therefore King Darius signed the document, that is, the injunction.
10 Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously. 11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and supplication before his God. 12 Then they approached and spoke before the king about the king’s injunction, “Did you not sign an injunction that any man who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, is to be cast into the lions’ den?” The king replied, “The statement is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked.” 13 Then they answered and spoke before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the injunction which you signed, but keeps making his petition three times a day.”
14 Then, as soon as the king heard this statement, he was deeply distressed and set his mind on delivering Daniel; and even until sunset he kept exerting himself to rescue him. 15 Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Recognize, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or statute which the king establishes may be changed.”
Daniel in the Lions’ Den
16 Then the king gave orders, and Daniel was brought in and cast into the lions’ den. The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Your God whom you constantly serve will Himself deliver you.” 17 A stone was brought and laid over the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signet rings of his nobles, so that nothing would be changed in regard to Daniel. 18 Then the king went off to his palace and spent the night fasting, and no entertainment was brought before him; and his sleep fled from him.
19 Then the king arose at dawn, at the break of day, and went in haste to the lions’ den. 20 When he had come near the den to Daniel, he cried out with a troubled voice. The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel spoke to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths and they have not harmed me, inasmuch as I was found innocent before Him; and also toward you, O king, I have committed no crime.” 23 Then the king was very pleased and gave orders for Daniel to be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den and no injury whatever was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. 24 The king then gave orders, and they brought those men who had maliciously accused Daniel, and they cast them, their children and their wives into the lions’ den; and they had not reached the bottom of the den before the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.
25 Then Darius the king wrote to all the peoples, nations and men of every language who were living in all the land: “May your peace abound! 26 I make a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel;
For He is the living God and enduring forever, and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed, and His dominion will be forever. 27 “He delivers and rescues and performs signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, Who has also delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.”
28 So this Daniel enjoyed success in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian (Daniel 6)
PARALLELS AND FORESHADOWING OF CHRIST
The parallels between Daniel’s deliverance story and Jesus’ resurrection story are many. And the major difference between these two events communicates why Jesus is a better Christ than Daniel. First, let us consider all the similarities between Daniel and Christ. Like Christ:
- Daniel was faithful, and lived righteously, devoted to God
- Daniel’s faith was used by those envious of his repute. For Jesus, it was the scribes and Pharisees who positioned His true claim as the messiah to be blasphemy, condemning Jesus to death. With Daniel, it was the commissioners and satraps who convinced the king to establish a law in his kingdom that would contradict with the law of God—its punishment being death
- Daniel was arrested after praying three times. He was praying privately in his chamber, facing Jerusalem. Jesus was arrested while after praying three times in the garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. The garden overlooks Jerusalem. Neither Daniel or Jesus are recorded as resisting their arrest
- Daniel’s condemnation was predicated by political pressures rather than religious matters. The commissioners and satraps manipulated King Darius to establish a law that he would be unable to revoke because of political pressures. So too, Jesus, while accused of blasphemy, would have likely been exonerated by Pilate if the scribes and Pharisees did not position Jesus’ claims as encouraging an uprising against Rome. For Pilate to free Jesus under such claims would position him a traitor to Rome
- Daniel was condemned by a Gentile authority figure. For Daniel, it was King Darius. For Jesus, it was Pontius Pilate
- The Gentile authority figure (King Darius) saw Daniel’s innocence and desired to save him, but would have subverted his own authority. Similarly, Pilate tried to save Jesus from the cross, but not at risk of his own well-being
- Daniel’s accusers represented a mob mentality. King Darius was pressured by two commissioners and 120 satraps to enact punishment for the violation of law. So too, Pilate was pressured by the Sanhedrin to crucify Jesus
- Daniel was condemned to death; being cast into the lions’ den. Psalm 22:13 prophetically alludes to Jesus crucifixion as “roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me [Him].” So, as Daniel was to be torn apart by lions, Jesus was torn apart by the accusations of the Sanhedrin, scourged by whip before His crucifixion
- When Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den, a stone was rolled at the mouth of its entrance to entrap him. After his crucifixion, a large stone was used to close Jesus’ tomb. Both were sealed by the Gentile authorities
- As the sun rose, Daniel was lifted out of the lions’ den alive. At dawn of the third day, Jesus rose from the dead, freed from His tomb.
- With Daniel’s deliverance serving as evidence of His ultimate sovereignty, King Darius had messengers travel throughout the kingdom, proclaiming the power and dominion of Daniel’s God. And Jesus, after His resurrection, commissioned His disciples to proclaim the gospel of salvation to all nations
And what would be the most significant difference between these events? It is that of Jesus’ resurrection versus Daniel’s deliverance. Both Jesus’ and Daniel were seen to be innocent of the crimes for which they were accused. Daniel, however, was delivered from his unjust punishment. Jesus was allowed to receive condemnation though free from sin.
And while the bible is silent regarding Daniel’s sin, we should likely assume that Daniel is not free of sin—only God can be free from sin. Daniel was not a perfect sacrifice, and was spared. Jesus is the only One capable of being Christ, serving as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of His people. While Daniel was solely a prophet, Jesus was a prophet, priest, and king—our Lord, intercessor with God the Father, and provider of the indwelt Holy Spirit.
Following His resurrection, Jesus claims His rightful authority, and delivers to His disciples the Great Commission. Daniel, once delivered, does not receive additional authority, but it is King Darius that issues a declaration of God’s power and authority throughout the kingdom.
Through Daniel’s story in the lion’s den, Jesus’ resurrection is foreshadowed and His place as THE Christ long prophesied is affirmed.
CONCLUDING THOUGHTS: CONSIDERING THE ENTIRE BOOK OF DANIEL
While he is a strong representative for Christ, Daniel is not the Christ. Rather, through his deeds and his words (prophecy), Daniel foreshadows the coming of Jesus.
“I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven one like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14, NASB)
When Jesus refers to Himself as the “Son of Man,” he is acknowledging Himself as the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy:
“But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:63-64, NASB)
Daniel’s prophecies foreshadow the fall of worldly kingdoms, and emphasize the sovereignty of the one true God. His visions make clear that any authority one possesses in this world is from God. And Jesus is the Messiah. He is Lord. Daniel is a loyal follower, who serves as an example of living by faith; trusting in God. Ironically, Daniel, who presence on earth was prior to the Christ’s coming, provides us a model for following Christ.
While his faith led Daniel into trouble, it was also faith got him out of trouble. He was thrown to lions by the manipulations of wicked people, but stayed true to God, adhering to God’s law. Too often, it seems that we, as professed followers of Christ, respond with short-term, worldly compromises in an effort to maintain the status-quo. Unfortunately, when acting in such a manner, we are subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) exhibiting disobedient behaviors that perpetuate upon themselves. In other words, when the going gets tough, we often sacrifice the moral and ethical standards we profess to possess. While it may seem to keep us from trouble in the short-term, such behavior will almost assuredly have significant and detrimental repercussions in the long-term. Yet, compromising love and compromising beliefs is to be expected by those who are following the wisdom of the world.
Consider when Jesus tells his disciples about the sacrifice that He would become, and Peter’s response to Him:
21 From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. 22 Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” 23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s” (Matthew 16:21-23, NASB).
God will often lead us into righteous action when we are being obedient followers—causing us discomfort—causing us to grow in faith, and more into His likeness. We must take up our cross and follow Him, hence the term “follower.”
24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.
28 “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Matthew 16:24-28, NASB).
Another story in the book of Daniel speaks to how faith can lead us to persecution, yet ultimately serves as our deliverance. It is the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego being thrown into a blazing hot furnace for not bowing to a golden statue—a false idol. These three Jewish men refused to obey a decree from King Nebuchadnezzar to worship the statue, as they rightly state that God commands them to only worship Him; saying to the king:
“We have no need to answer you in this matter….Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you set up” (Daniel 3:17-18 ESV).
Consider what happens once Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego are thrown into the furnace:
26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the furnace of blazing fire; he responded and said, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, come out, you servants of the Most High God, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego came out of the midst of the fire. 27 The satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king’s high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them.
28 Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.” 30 Then the king caused Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego to prosper in the province of Babylon (Daniel 3:26-30, NASB)
God rewarded their faith and allowed them to be part of His glorification—a message of God’s authority and dominion to the Gentiles. Yet, the words of these three men prior to being tossed in the furnace is important to note. Regardless of whether they were to be delivered from the furnace, it would not have changed their decision to refuse worship of a false idol. Their faith was not based on what they could see or touch, but on what they believed. As God is omniscient, they accept that what God chooses to do is what will ultimately bring Him the most glory. And they understand that we cannot fully understand, given that we can only see through a mirror dimly. Only that He promises to reward those who live by faith in Him.
Not all of us will be privy to miracles. Not all of us will be given tangible evidence to substantiate our faith. But those of us who still exhibit faith regardless—we will be blessed.
Jesus Appears to Thomas
24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
26 After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28 Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”
Why This Gospel Was Written
30 Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:24-31, NASB).
Therefore, those with faith, live accordingly. May we follow the examples of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; serving as ambassadors of Christ.