“There are no compacts between lions and men.” –Homer
Found in the small town of Henderson, Tennessee, on the campus of Freed-Hardeman University, is a ferocious-looking African lion. Just walk through the doors of the Sports Center and peer behind the staircase. There behind the glass, you will see it! Killed by Harry Seratt in 1993, this stuffed beast now serves as a mascot for the university./1
Lions have always been a symbol of bravery and prowess. Highly prized in Babylon, the Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica) was found throughout the Fertile Crescent until 1942./2 Dating back to Ashurnasirpal II of Assyria (883-863 B.C.), the lion motif can be found on numerous ancient palaces, temples, and tombs.
After the defeat of Belshazzar, in 539 B.C., Darius the Mede made Babylon his home (Daniel 5:30,31)./3 Inheriting the spoils of war, which included captive lions, Darius planned to expand and consolidate his kingdom. Looking for exceptional leadership, he decided to appoint a chief administrator to oversee the entire nation. Distinguished in service and blameless in conduct, Daniel was selected to fill this appointment./4
Disliked by those who would be made accountable, Daniel’s enemies tried to find a flaw in his character (Daniel 6:1-5)./5 Knowing that he was a Hebrew, they created a scandal by putting him in a position where he had to choose between his God and his king. Appealing to the king’s desire for a unified kingdom, the conspirators suggested that all subjects pray to him for a period of thirty days. Anyone violating the decree by worshiping another would be thrown into a pit of lions. King Darius agreed with this recommendation and signed it into law (Daniel 6:6-9)./6
Eagerly waiting for the edict to be violated, Daniel’s elated enemies watched as he continued his daily habit of prayer. Once informed of the treason, the displeased king realized that he had been tricked, for he was about to kill his most faithful servant. Unable to amend the decree, he followed its provisions and ordered the execution. As Daniel was being thrown into the underground cistern, the king called out, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!” (Daniel 6:10-18).
Early the next morning the anxious king returned to the lions’ den to see if Daniel was alive. To his amazement, he heard his servant call out, “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel, and shut the mouth 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.” As Daniel was lifted to safety, the hunger-starved lions looked up from their enclosure and justice was served (Daniel 6:19-28).
Daniel could have taken the path of least resistance, but he did not. He remained faithful to God. Have you ever faced the jaws and paws of a hungry lion (1 Peter 5:8-10)? Pray to God for rescue. Christian, are you up for the task?
“O for a faith that will not shrink,
Tho pressed by every foe,
That will not tremble on the brink,
Of any earthly woe.” — W.H. Bathurst
1/ Harry Seratt shot this lion near the town of Panamatanga, in Botswana, Africa. The night before, it was part of a pride of lions that had killed a baby elephant. The lion weighed between 400-450 pounds.
2/ These wild carnivores are no longer indigenous to the Tigris-Euphrates region. The last one was killed in Dezful, Iran. While in captivity, they can live up to twenty years and eat up to 15 pounds of meat per day. The Arab name Shir is the Persian word for lion.
3/ John C. Whitcomb, Darius the Mede (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959), 24. The name Darius (“holder of the scepter”) may be a title of honor. Secular history has no record of a king called Darius the Mede. Since King Darius was incapable of changing written law, perhaps he was a subordinate to King Cyrus of Persia (Daniel 6:28).
4/ The name Daniel is a Hebrew word, which means “God is my Judge.”
5/ The title of Satrap is derived from a Persian word meaning “protector of the realm” (Esther 3:12-14; Daniel 3:2; Ezra 8:36). These vassals were held in check by governors who reported to the king.
6/ “In view of the intimate connection between religious and political loyalty which governed the attitude of the peoples of that ancient culture, it might well have been considered a statesmanlike maneuver to compel all the diverse inhabitants with their heterogeneous tribal and religious loyalties to acknowledge in a very practical way the supremacy of the new Persian empire which had taken over supreme control of their domains.” Gleason L. Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago: Moody Press,1964), 386.