After the death of King Astyages, Cyrus of Persia took over his kingdom.
Daniel was one of King Cyrus' closest companions, and the king thought more highly of Daniel than of any other of his advisers.
The Babylonians had an idol named Bel. Each day the people had to provide Bel with an offering of twelve bushels of fine flour, forty sheep, and fifty gallons of wine. 1
King Cyrus believed that Bel was a god, and each day he used to go and worship it. But Daniel worshiped his own God.
One day the king asked Daniel, "Why don't you worship Bel?" Daniel answered, "I do not worship idols made with human hands. I worship only the living God, who created heaven and earth and is the Lord of all human beings."
"And don't you believe that our god Bel is really alive?" asked the king. "Haven't you seen how much he eats and drinks every day?"
Daniel laughed and said, "Don't be fooled, Your Majesty. This god you call Bel is nothing more than clay covered with bronze; it has never eaten or drunk anything."
At this the king became angry and called in all seventy of the priests of Bel. He said to them, "I warn you that you will be put to death, unless you can show me that it is Bel who is eating these offerings. If you prove to me that it is Bel, then I will have Daniel put to death for claiming that Bel is not a god." Daniel agreed to this proposal.
Then they all went with the king into Bel's temple, where the priests said to the king, "Your Majesty, we will go out and let you place the food on the table and prepare the wine. When you leave, you may lock the door behind you and seal it with the royal seal.
In the morning when you return, if you find that Bel has not eaten everything, you can put us to death. But if he has, Daniel will die for making false accusations against us."
But the priests were not worried, because they had made a secret entrance underneath a table in the temple, so that they could go in every night and eat the offerings.
When the priests had left, the king set out the food for Bel. Then Daniel ordered his servants to bring some ashes and scatter them all over the floor of the temple. No one except the king saw them do this. After that they all went out, locked the door, sealed it with the royal seal, and left.
That night, as usual, the priests with their wives and children came into the temple by the secret entrance and ate all the food and drank all the wine.
Early the next morning, the king and Daniel went to the temple.
The king asked, "Have the seals been broken, Daniel?" "No, Your Majesty, they have not been broken," he replied.
As soon as the door was opened, the king saw the empty table and shouted, "You are great, O Bel! You really are a god."
But Daniel began to laugh and said to the king, "Before you enter the temple, look at the floor and tell me whose footprints you see there."
"I see the footprints of men, women, and children," said the king,
and he became so angry that he had the priests and their families arrested and brought to him. They showed him the secret doors through which they had come in each night to eat the food placed on the table.
So the king had the priests put to death, and he gave Bel to Daniel, who destroyed the idol and tore down its temple.
There was also a huge dragon which the Babylonians worshiped.
One day the king said to Daniel, "You can't tell me that this god is not alive. So worship him!"
"I worship the Lord," replied Daniel. "He is the only living God.
And if Your Majesty will give me permission, I will kill this dragon of yours without using a sword or a club." "You have my permission," answered the king.
So Daniel took some tar, some fat, and some hair and boiled them all together. He made cakes out of the mixture and fed them to the dragon. When the dragon ate them, it swelled up and burst open. "That's the kind of thing you Babylonians worship," said Daniel.
When the people of Babylon heard what had happened, they staged an angry demonstration against the king. "The king has become a Jew," they shouted. "First he destroyed Bel and slaughtered the priests, and now he has killed our dragon."
They went to the king and demanded that Daniel be handed over to them. "If you refuse," they warned the king, "we will put you and your family to death."
When the king saw that they meant what they said, he was forced to hand Daniel over to them.
They threw him into a pit of lions, where they left him for six days. 2
There were seven lions in the pit, and normally they were fed two human bodies and two sheep each day. But they were given nothing to eat during these six days, in order to make sure that Daniel would be eaten.
At that time the prophet Habakkuk was in the land of Judah. He had cooked a stew and crumbled bread into it. He was carrying a bowl of it to the workers who were out in the fields harvesting grain,
when an angel of the Lord spoke to him, "Take the food you are carrying and give it to Daniel, who is in Babylon in a pit of lions."
Habakkuk answered, "Sir, I have never been to Babylon, and I don't know where the pit of lions is."
So the angel grabbed the prophet by the hair and took him to Babylon with the speed of the wind. He set him down near the pit of lions. 3
Habakkuk called out, "Daniel! Daniel! God has sent you some food. Here, take it."
When Daniel heard Habakkuk, he prayed, "God, you did remember me; you never abandon those who love you."
Then he got up and ate the meal, and God's angel immediately took Habakkuk home.
Seven days after Daniel had been thrown to the lions, the king went to the pit to mourn for him. When he got there and looked in, there sat Daniel.
The king shouted, "O Lord, the God of Daniel, how great you are. You alone are God."
So he pulled Daniel out of the pit and had those who had tried to kill Daniel thrown into it. And the lions ate them immediately, while the king watched.