Daniel in the Lion's Den - a Jewish story
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Daniel in the Lion's Den

Daniel in the Lion's Den
Daniel in the Lion's Den
(Sta. Maria Maggiore, Pavia, ca. 1030 AD)

In the Bible story, Daniel was one of the Jews who was in captivity in Babylon during the reign of the Neo-Babylonian kings, in the 600s BC. Like the earlier Joseph (and many other characters in stories), Daniel was able to interpret people's dreams to tell the future. Because God let him interpret dreams, Daniel became a big favorite of King Nebuchadnezzar.

A little later on, Babylon was being ruled by the last Babylonian king Belshazzar. Belshazzar was drinking wine with his lords one night when a disembodied human hand appeared and wrote mysterious letters on the wall of his palace. They said MENE, MENE, TEKEL, U-PHARSIN. Daniel interpreted the letters for Belshazzar, but these letters said that the Babylonian Empire would fall, and that very night (according to the story) the Persians did take over Babylon.


A lion being released from a cage
from a carving on the wall of an Assyrian palace.
(See the man on top who is releasing the lion?)

The new Persian king, Darius, made Daniel one of his main helpers. (Though really the first Persian king was Cyrus, not Darius - the story has it wrong.) But other people were jealous and got Darius to make a law that no one could worship any god but Darius himself. Daniel continued to worship his own God, following the Commandments, and Darius was forced to throw Daniel into a pit with lions.

But (says the Bible), because God protected Daniel, the lions refused to eat Daniel, and he came out of the pit safe. Soon Darius (really Cyrus) allowed all the Jews to go back to Jerusalem.

To buy an excellent Child's Bible, click on the picture (this is the one
I learned from, and the one I give my own kids):

Children's Bible

The Persians and the Jews
More about the Persian Empire
Alexander and the Maccabees
Main Judaism page
Main religion page


Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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With Mother's Day coming up, remember the Mother Goddesses: Mut, Isis, Gaia, Hera, Demeter, Parvati, and the Corn Mother. And honor powerful mothers: Ankhesenpepi II, Agrippina, Wu Chao, Blanche of Castile, Catherine de' Medici, Hamida Banu and Nur Jahan, Nurbanu Sultan, Sofia Baffo, Xiaozhuang, Anne of Austria. A great Mother's Day story: Kleobis and Biton.