The lands which had been the Babylonian or Chaldean empire, now became the empire of Persia; and over these Darius was the king. King Darius gave to Daniel, who was now a very old man, a high place in honor and in power. Among all the rulers over the land, Daniel stood first, for the king saw that he was wise and able to rule. This made the other princes and rulers very jealous, and they tried to find something evil in Daniel, so that they could speak to the king against him.
These men saw that three times every day Daniel went to his room and opened the window that was toward the city of Jerusalem, and looking toward Jerusalem, made his prayer to God. Jerusalem was at that time in ruins, and the Temple was no longer standing; but Daniel prayed three times each day with his face toward the place where the house of God had once stood, although it was many hundreds of miles away.
These nobles thought that in Daniel's prayers they could find a chance to do him harm, and perhaps cause him to be put to death. They came to King Darius, and said to him:
"All the rulers have agreed together to have a law made that for thirty days no one shall ask anything of any god or of any man, except from you, O king; and that if any one shall pray to any god, or shall ask anything from any man during the thirty days, except from you, O king, he shall be thrown into the den where the lions are kept. Now, O king, make the law, and sign the writing, so that it cannot be changed, for no law among the Medes and the Persians can be altered."
The king was not a wise man; and being foolish and vain, he was pleased with this law which would set him even above the gods. So without asking Daniel's advice, he signed the writing; and the law was made, and the word was sent out through the kingdom, that for thirty days no one should pray to any god.
Daniel knew that the law had been made, but every day he went to his room three times, and opened the window that looked toward Jerusalem, and offered his prayers to the Lord, just as he had prayed in other times. These rulers were watching near by, and they saw Daniel kneeling in prayer to God. Then they came to the king, and said:
"O King Darius, have you not made a law, that if any one in thirty days offers a prayer, he shall be thrown into the den of lions?"
"It is true," said the king. "The law has been made, and it must stand."
They said to the king: "There is one man who does not obey the law which you have made. It is that Daniel, one of the captive Jews. Every day Daniel prays to his God three times, just as he did before you signed the writing of the law."
Then the king was very sorry for what he had done, for he loved Daniel, and knew that no one could take his place in the kingdom. All day, until the sun went down, he tried in vain to find some way to save Daniel's life; but when evening came, these men again told him of the law that he had made, and said to him that it must be kept. Very unwillingly the king sent for Daniel, and gave an order that he should be thrown into the den of lions. He said to Daniel: "Perhaps your God, whom you serve so faithfully, will save you from the lions."
They led Daniel to the mouth of the pit where the lions were kept, and they threw him in; and over the mouth they placed a stone; and the king sealed it with his own seal, and with the seals of his nobles; so that no one might take away the stone and let Daniel out of the den.
Then the king went again to his palace; but that night he was so sad that he could not eat, nor did he listen to music as he was used to listen. He could not sleep, for all through the night he was thinking of Daniel. Very early in the morning he rose up from his bed and went in haste to the den of lions. He broke the seal and took away the stone, and in a voice full of sorrow he called out, scarcely hoping to have an answer:
"O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God been able to save you from the lions?"
And out of the darkness in the den came the voice of Daniel, saying:
"O king, may you live forever! My God has sent his angel and has shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because my God saw that I had done no wrong. And I have done no wrong toward you, O king!"
Then the king was glad. He gave to his servants orders to take Daniel out of the den. Daniel was brought out safe and without harm, because he had trusted fully in the Lord God. Then by the king's command, they brought those men who had spoken against Daniel, and with them their wives and their children, for the king was exceedingly angry with them. They were all thrown into the den, and the hungry lions leaped upon them, and tore them in pieces, so soon as they fell upon the floor of the den.
After this king Darius wrote to all the lands and the peoples in the many kingdoms under his rule:
"May peace be given to you all abundantly! I make a law that everywhere among my kingdoms men fear and worship the Lord God of Daniel; for he is the living God, above all other gods, who only can save men."
And Daniel stood beside king Darius until the end of his reign, and afterward while Cyrus the Persian was king over all the lands.