In addition to the angel of the Lord’s appearance in the fiery furnace of ancient Babylon, we should briefly review the well-known story of Daniel in the lions’ den, paying particular attention to Daniel’s report to Darius the Mede, the ruler of Babylon, “My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths” (Dan. 6:22). Who is this angel? Could it be the angel of the LORD?
You may recall that Daniel has distinguished himself among Darius’ appointed leaders. In fact, he is one of three administrators who oversee the work of one hundred twenty satraps, or provincial governors, and Darius now plans to set Daniel up over the entire kingdom (6:3). This arouses jealousy among the satraps and the two other administrators. They try to find grounds for charges against Daniel but discover he is neither corrupt nor negligent (6:4).
So, they hatch a plan to use Daniel’s devotion to Yahweh against him. They convince Darius to sign an irrevocable edict that anyone who prays to any god or human over the next thirty days shall be thrown into a den of lions. In effect, this makes Darius the only priestly mediator during this period. Prayers to the gods are to be offered through him rather than through the kingdom’s pagan priests. Perhaps Darius believes this to be a unifying decree among his subjects in the Middle and Near East. Or, he may be convinced this is a good test of loyalty for the people, especially his appointed rulers.
In any case, punishment is severe for anyone who breaks the law. The Assyrians and Persians are known to capture lions and keep them in cages, so a large natural or manmade pit into which lions are placed is one particularly gruesome venue for those who displease the king. Further, the Persians are known to employ an array of ghastly forms of execution, including crucifixion. Tossing humans into a pit of ravenous lions is as certain to cause death as crucifying them, although the latter method could prolong the excruciating pain by a matter of days.Continue reading