Thoughts to Ponder: Chapter 17

Chapter 17: God Saves Daniel from Death ~ Daniel 6:13-28

Q1 – If you were King Darius, what thoughts would race through your mind when you realized you had been trapped by your own decree?

A1 – The king must have immediately realized he had been manipulated by the very people whom he had entrusted with overseeing his kingdom. These administrators knew the king favored Daniel, and they purposely set about to have him killed—by means of the king’s own decree! The king must have felt not only anger, but also a deep sense of betrayal. Even though he was the ruler, these underlings had outmaneuvered him. They had played to his vulnerability, to his pride. This could not have set well with one of the most powerful leaders in the world at that time.

Q2 – If you were the other officials who had pulled this off, what would you be thinking and feeling when the king realized he had no choice but to follow through on his orders?

A2 – How smug these officials must have felt! With Daniel out of the way, they would enjoy greater freedom in accessing the wealth of the kingdom and peddling their influence. And they had accomplished all this by means of the king’s own decree, which no one, not even the king, could revoke.

These men thought they had outsmarted the king. But if the king would have made a poor chess player for his inability to think beyond the move at hand, these men would have been even worse. They had invoked the wrath of someone who held the power of life and death in his hands, and they had just given him great cause to seek retribution against them.

Q3 – Do you think it ever occurred to these officials that the tables would be turned and they would be the ones to suffer the gruesome fate they had planned for Daniel? Can you think of other instances where someone became ensnared by their own trap?

A3 – When these administrators made their proposal to Darius, they also suggested the punishment for disobedience—being thrown into the lions’ den. While execution with a sword would have been quicker, the thought of being torn apart by savage lions must have struck even greater fear in the hearts of the people. Execution by wild animals would later be used by the Romans, but it must have already been used for capital punishment in Daniel’s time because of the fact that the king had a lions’ den available, waiting and ready.

And these officials pulled off their scheme! They probably witnessed everything—Daniel being thrown into the den, the stone being placed over the opening, and the stone then being sealed with the king’s own signet ring and those of his nobles. They probably celebrated as they went to bed that night, absolutely confident that soon only a few inedible scraps would be left of Daniel.

Can you imagine the disbelief these same officials felt the next morning upon learning that Daniel was alive and he was also unharmed? That shock would soon be followed by a tremendous feeling of doom and dread as the king pronounced not only their fate, but also the fate of their entire family. The gruesome death they had planned for Daniel quickly became their own.

You may think of other instances, either in the Bible or from secular history, where the evil plotted by one person turned out to be their own fate. One notable example that comes to mind occurred in the book of Esther. Mordecai, the cousin who raised Queen Esther, incurred the wrath of Haman, whom King Xerses had elevated to a position higher than all the other nobles in his kingdom. When Haman would pass by, Mordecai refused to kneel down or pay him honor because he was a Jew.

Mordecai so infuriated Haman that Haman managed to get the king to issue an edict declaring that all the Jews in the kingdom were to be killed on a certain date in the future. In the meantime, Haman was still so vexed that Mordecai continued to not kneel or bow to him, that his wife suggested he erect a pole about 75 feet high (50 cubits or 23 meters) and have Mordecai impaled upon it. This suggestion delighted Haman, so he had the pole erected. (Assuming that each story of a modern building is about 10-12 feet high, this pole would have stood about 6-7 stories tall!)

Determined to at least try to save her people from annihilation, Esther arranged for a banquet where she, the king, and Haman would be the only attendees. At that banquet, she did not reveal her purpose, but simply asked that the king and Haman come back the next day for yet another banquet. As luck would have it, the king had trouble sleeping that night before the second banquet, so he ordered the book of chronicles, the record of his reign, be brought in and read to him. The reader came to the part about Mordecai having sent word to the king upon overhearing two officials who were plotting to assassinate him.

When the king realized nothing had been done to honor Mordecai for saving the king’s life, he snagged the only person hanging around his court at the time to help him with this task. That person was Haman, who had come to speak to the king about impaling Mordecai. Haman, thinking the king wanted to honor him, suggested providing the honoree with a royal robe, sitting him atop a royal horse, and having a prince lead the horse through the city streets proclaiming, “‘This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!’” (Esther 6:9, NIV)

When Haman realized the king wished to honor the despised Mordecai instead, and that Haman would be the one to lead the horse through the streets carrying out his own glorious suggestion, he was beyond humiliated. His wife and friends even warned him that he was doomed. Indeed, at the second banquet when Esther identified him as the evil person who wished to annihilate her people, the king was enraged. Then, when the king learned that Haman had erected a pole by his house for the purpose of impaling Mordecai, the king ordered Haman be impaled upon that pole instead.

But that’s not the end of the story. The king awarded Esther the estate of Haman, and she in turn appointed Mordecai to oversee the estate. Not only that, the king reclaimed the signet ring he had given to Haman and awarded it instead to Mordecai, making Mordecai second in rank with only King Xerxes over him.

The original edict from the king concerning the Jews in the kingdom being put to death on a certain day could not be rescinded. However, a new decree went out allowing the Jews to defend themselves and kill their aggressors. This turned the tables on the Jew’s enemies, and thousands were killed throughout the kingdom.

Among those slain were the ten sons of Haman, who were then impaled on poles as well. So in the end, Haman and his male descendants were all killed, Mordecai had taken his place of power in the kingdom, and his estate now belonged to the Jewish queen, with Mordecai in charge of his property.