When Jerusalem was captured by Nebuchadnezzar,Daniel was taken away to the great city of Babylon in chains and kept a prisoner there for many years.But Daniel never forgot God.He prayed every day and tried to lead a good life.
Daniel became famous in Babylon because God gave him a special understanding of dreams.Daniel told each of the Kings of Babylon in turn what their dreams meant.Each King rewarded Daniel,and he soon became an important man in the royal court.
Then Babylon was captured by the Persians.The new King,who was called Darius,began to send for Daniel whenever he needed advice.Daniel was so clever and wise that Darius decided to put him in charge of the whole kingdom.
When the King's other advisers saw how much Darius liked Daniel,they became angry and jealous.
‘The King should be asking our advice,not talking to that foreigner,Daniel,’they grumbled.
The advisers held a secret meeting.They decided to get rid of Daniel by making him unpopular with Darius.But however hard they tried,they could never catch Daniel doing anything wrong.
By now Daniel had been away from Jerusalem for many years.But every single day he still knelt by his window,facing in the direction of Jerusalem,and prayed to God.At last,this gave Daniel's enemies an idea,and off they went to see Darius.
‘Your Majesty’,they said.‘You are the best King in the world. You should pass a law to say that,during the next month,anyone who wants anything at all must ask only you for it.That will make the people realise how great you are.And anyone who breaks the law by asking another person or god,must be thrown to the lions.’
Darius was flattered by his advisers' suggestion.He did not realise that it was a clever plot to trap Daniel,and so he agreed.He signed the law with his own royal seal,which meant that it could never be changed.
The new law was read out to everyone in the palace. As soon as Daniel heard it, he knew that his enemies were trying to trap him. But nothing would stop him praying to God. When he got home, he knelt by his window and began to pray. First, as he always did, he thanked God for all his blessings. Then, as he always did, he asked God for something. He asked God to let him go back to Jerusalem one day.
Daniel's enemies were spying on him. The moment they heard Daniel asking God for what he needed, they rubbed their hands in glee. Their plan had succeeded.
The advisers ran straight to the King.They reminded Darius about his new law.
‘Daniel has broken the law,Your Majesty,’they explained.‘While he was praying to his God,he asked for something.’
Too late,Darius realised that he had been tricked.He felt very sad.
All day, Darius tried to think of a way of saving Daniel. But he could not change the law because he had signed it with his own royal seal. Finally he gave orders for Daniel to be arrested.
The soldiers took Daniel to the pit where the lions were kept. Darius himself went with them.
‘You have been loyal to your God,Daniel,’said the King.‘I hope he will keep you safe now.’
Then the soldiers threw Daniel into the pit of lions and rolled a huge stone across the entrance.
Darius went back to his palace.He could not stop worrying about Daniel.He had no appetite for his supper,and he waved his musicians away.He went to bed early,but he tossed and turned all night and did not sleep a wink.
Early next morning, before even the palace servants were awake,Darius got up and rushed to the lion pit.
‘Are you alive, Daniel?’the King called.‘Has your God saved you from the lions?’
Darius did not really expect an answer,so imagine his surprise when Daniel called back to him.
‘Yes,Your Majesty,’came the faint cry.‘God sent an angel to help me.The angel shut the lions' mouths, and they have not hurt me.’
Darius was overjoyed. He raced back to the palace, shouting for his soldiers to come and remove the stone.
As soon as the stone was pushedaway,everyone gathered round the entrance and looked down.Daniel was sitting on the floor of the pit,surrounded by the lions who were purring quietly.
‘Get some ropes and pull him out!’ordered the King.
The King's servants rushed to find a rope,and soon Daniel was free.Darius was amazed to see that Daniel did not have a single scratch on him.
‘Your God must be very powerful indeed,’Darius told Daniel.‘I shall send out a letter to be read in every corner of my kingdom to say that your God is the true God and that everyone must respect him.’
Darius was very angry with his advisers who had plotted against Daniel, and sent for them.
‘You tried to trick me so that you could get rid of Daniel,’he told them.‘Now I will punish you in the way you wanted me to punish him.’The King ordered his soldiers to throw the advisers into the pit of lions. But this time, no angel come to shut the lions' mouths.