Bel’s Secret

When King Astyages was buried with his ancestors, Cyrus the Persian took over his kingdom. Daniel was a companion of the king, honored above all Cyrus’ political advisors.[a] Now the Babylonians had an idol named Bel. Each day they supplied it with twelve bushels of fine flour, forty sheep, and sixty gallons[b] of wine. The king honored Bel and worshipped it daily, but Daniel worshipped his own God. So the king said to him, “Why don’t you worship Bel?”

He said, “I don’t honor idols made by humans, rather the living God who created heaven and earth and has authority over all living things.”

The king said to him, “You believe Bel is a living god, don’t you? Haven’t you seen how much he eats and drinks every day?”

Daniel laughed and said, “Don’t be taken in, Your Majesty! This is clay on the inside and brass on the outside. It hasn’t eaten or drunk anything, ever!”

Furious, the king called for his priests. He said to them,“If you don’t tell me who eats these provisions, you die! But if you can prove that Bel eats them, Daniel will die for insulting Bel.”

Daniel said to the king,“That’s fair enough.”

Now Bel had seventy priests plus their wives and children. 10 The king went with Daniel to Bel’s temple. 11 Bel’s priests said, “We’re going outside now. Your Majesty, you set out the food and mix the wine. Lock the door and seal it with your own seal. Early tomorrow, if you don’t find that Bel has eaten everything, you can kill us. Otherwise, kill Daniel for lying about us!” (12 The priests weren’t worried because they had made a hidden entrance under the table, which they regularly used to enter to eat everything.)

13 When the priests went out, the king set out Bel’s food. 14 But Daniel ordered his servants to bring ashes and sprinkle the whole temple, with only the king watching. Then everyone went out, locked the door, sealed it with the king’s seal, and left.

15 The priests came that night, as usual, with their wives and children, and ate and drank everything. 16 The king and Daniel got up very early the next morning. 17 The king said,“Are the seals unbroken, Daniel?”

He answered,“Unbroken, Your Majesty.”

18 As soon as the doors were opened, the king looked at the table and yelled,“You are great, Bel! There’s nothing fake about you!”

19 But Daniel laughed and held the king back from going in. He said,“Look at the floor. Whose tracks are these?”

20 The king said,“I see the footprints of men, women, and children!” 21 Then the king became angry. He arrested the priests, their wives, and children. They showed him the hidden doors through which they regularly entered to eat what was on the table. 22 The king killed them and handed Bel over to Daniel, who tore it and its temple down.

A living god?

23 Now there was a big snake that the Babylonians worshipped. 24 The king said to Daniel,“You can’t say that this one isn’t a living god. So worship it!”

25 Daniel said,“I will keep worshipping the Lord my God, because he is a living God. But, Your Majesty, just give me permission, and I’ll kill the snake without using a sword or stick!”

26 The king said,“I give you permission.”

27 Then Daniel took tar and cooking grease and hair. He boiled them down, made patties, and put them into the snake’s mouth. The snake swallowed them and burst open. Daniel said,“Look at what you have been worshipping!”

Daniel in the lions’ pit

28 When the Babylonians heard what happened, they were very angry. They came together as a mob and started toward the king, saying,“The king has become a Jew! He’s torn down Bel, killed the snake, and murdered the priests!” 29 When they reached the king, they said,“Hand Daniel over to us! If you don’t, we’ll kill you and your family!”

30 The king saw that he was in a bind and was forced to hand Daniel over to them. 31 They threw Daniel into a pit of lions. He was there six days. 32 There were seven lions in the pit. Usually they were fed two bodies and two sheep daily, but now they were fed nothing so that they would devour Daniel.

33 At the same time, the prophet Habakkuk was in Judah. He had boiled a stew, put some bread in a bowl, and was carrying it to the people harvesting the field. 34 But the Lord’s angel said to Habakkuk,“Take this lunch to Babylon, to Daniel in the lions’ pit.”

35 Habakkuk said,“Lord, I’ve never seen Babylon, and I’m not familiar with that pit.” 36 So the Lord’s angel lifted Habakkuk by his hair and brought him in a rush of wind[c] to Babylon, right above the pit. 37 Habakkuk yelled,“Daniel! Daniel! Take the lunch that God has sent to you!”

38 Daniel said,“God, you remembered me! You don’t abandon the people who love you.” 39 Daniel got up and ate, while God’s angel took Habakkuk instantly back to his own place.

40 On the seventh day the king came to the pit to grieve for Daniel. He looked in, and there was Daniel, sitting there! 41 Then the king shouted out loud, “You are great, Lord, Daniel’s God! There’s no other but you!” 42 He pulled Daniel out. But he threw the ones who had planned Daniel’s destruction into the pit, and they were eaten instantly, right in front of him.


  1. Bel and the Dragon 1:2 Or Friends
  2. Bel and the Dragon 1:3 Gk metretai, a liquid measure of approximately ten gallons
  3. Bel and the Dragon 1:36 Or in the rush of his spirit