Almost everyone’s familiar with the story of Daniel being consigned to the den of lions by King Darius’ jealous counselors for praying to the Lord. But did he face another lions’ den? Bel and the Dragon recounts apocryphal stories about Daniel, including another account of him being thrown into a lions’ den!
When Persian king Cyrus began to reign, Daniel became an honored friend.
Cyrus religiously worshipped Bel, an idol. Every day when Cyrus went to worship Bel, he provided 50 gallons of wine, 40 sheep, and 12 bushels of flour for Bel’s sustenance.
One day Cyrus asked Daniel why he didn’t worship Bel. Daniel answered,
“Because I do not revere man-made idols, but the living God, who created heaven and earth and has dominion over all flesh.”
The king said to him, “Do you not think that Bel is a living God? Do you not see how much he eats and drinks every day?”
Then Daniel laughed, and said, “Do not be deceived, O king; for this is but clay inside and brass outside, and it never ate or drank anything.”
Then the king was angry, and he called his priests and said to them, “If you do not tell me who is eating these provisions, you shall die. But if you prove that Bel is eating them, Daniel shall die, because he blasphemed against Bel.”
And Daniel said to the king, “Let it be done as you have said.”
70 priests attended Bel and they had been eating the Bel’s food with their wives and children every night. They’d made a secret tunneled entrance under the offering table and weren’t concerned by the king’s threats at all.
So Cyrus brought his offering to Bel. The priests made a great showing of going outside to wait for the king to provide the offering and seal the room.
Before the king sealed up the temple, Daniel had servants spread ash over the floor of the temple. Only the king, Daniel, and the servants knew about the ashes. They left the temple and Cyrus used his signet to seal up the temple doors.
Later that night, entering through the trap door, the priests and their families commenced their nightly consumption of Bel’s food.
When morning came, Cyrus and Daniel approached the door.
And the king said, “Are the seals unbroken, Daniel?” He answered, “They are unbroken, O king.”
As soon as the doors were opened, the king looked at the table, and shouted in a loud voice, “You are great, O Bel; and with you there is no deceit, none at all.”
Then Daniel laughed, and restrained the king from going in, and said, “Look at the floor, and notice whose footsteps these are.”
The king said, “I see the footsteps of men and women and children.”
Then the king was enraged, and he seized the priests and their wives and children; and they showed him the secret doors through which they were accustomed to enter and devour what was on the table.
Therefore the king put them to death, and gave Bel over to Daniel, who destroyed it and its temple.
The Babylonians revered a local dragon. King Cyrus tested Daniel’s faith and allegiance again by pointing out the dragon’s godlike attributes.
And the king said to Daniel, “You cannot deny that this is a living god; so worship him.”
Daniel said, “I will worship the Lord my God, for he is the living God.
But if you, O king, will give me permission, I will slay the dragon without sword or club.” The king said, “I give you permission.”
Then Daniel took pitch, fat, and hair, and boiled them together and made cakes, which he fed to the dragon. The dragon ate them, and burst open. And Daniel said, “See what you have been worshiping!”
The Lion’s Den
Frustrated by the dragon’s demise, the Babylonians conspired against the king.
“The king has become a Jew; he has destroyed Bel, and slain the dragon, and slaughtered the priests.”
Going to the king, they said, “Hand Daniel over to us, or else we will kill you and your household.”
The king folded under the pressure and gave up Daniel. They threw Daniel into the lions’ den where he remained for six days.
There were seven lions in the den, and every day they had been given two human bodies and two sheep; but these were not given to them now, so that they might devour Daniel.
Habakkuk the Prophet
I love this unexpected twist in the story!
Now the prophet Habakkuk was in Judea. He had boiled pottage and had broken bread into a bowl, and was going into the field to take it to the reapers.
But the angel of the Lord said to Habakkuk, “Take the dinner which you have to Babylon, to Daniel, in the lions’ den.”
Habakkuk said, “Sir, I have never seen Babylon, and I know nothing about the den.”
Then the angel of the Lord took him by the crown of his head, and lifted him by his hair and set him down in Babylon, right over the den, with the rushing sound of the wind itself.
Then Habakkuk shouted, “Daniel, Daniel! Take the dinner which God has sent you.”
And Daniel said, “Thou hast remembered me, O God, and hast not forsaken those who love thee.”
So Daniel arose and ate. And the angel of God immediately returned Habakkuk to his own place.
King Cyrus came to mourn Daniel on the seventh day. However, when Cyrus looked into the den, he found Daniel quite alive!
And the king shouted with a loud voice, “Thou art great, O Lord God of Daniel, and there is no other besides thee.”
And he pulled Daniel out and threw into the den the men who had attempted his destruction, and they were devoured immediately before his eyes.
These stories, like the Old Testament accounts, confirm Daniel’s faith, trust, and love of the Lord. His life teaches that even when facing lions or dragons, ignoring the arm of flesh and trusting in God yields awesome results!
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have moved 64 times and have not tired of experiencing this beautiful earth! I love the people, languages, histories/anthropologies, & especially religious cultures of the world. My life long passion is the study & searching out of religious symbolism, specifically related to ancient & modern temples. My husband Anthony and I love our bulldog Stig, adventures, traveling, movies, motorcycling, and time with friends and family.