Learning typology with Daniel in the lions’ den

Daniel in the Lions’ Den by Rubens (Wikimedia Commons).


I  titled this post “learning typology,” instead of “teaching typology,” because this is a subject we can adapt to any age group. Many adult Catholics are unfamiliar with typology. So if your children are grown, or you’re not a parent, read this for yourself. If you do have young children or you teach religious education, you can adapt this to your students’ ages.

If you are completely unfamiliar with typology or need a refresher course, start with my post on Teaching typology with Joseph and his brothers.

Since it is Easter,  it’s a good time to look at the similarities between the prophet Daniel and Christ. The story of Daniel in the Lions’ Den prefigures Christ’s Death and Resurrection. I will go through a proposed lesson step by step for various age and skill levels.

Read the story of Daniel in the Lions’ Den

Every children’s Bible I have ever seen includes this story. Chose the Bible that is right for your child’s level and your personal preferences. We use The Golden Children’s Bible for all our lessons for the reasons I mention in the linked post.

For high school age to adults, i suggest reading Daniel 6-7 for context. Daniel doesn’t just prefigure Christ. He also prophesies about the coming of Christ. The story of the lions’ den is in Daniel 6. Chapter 7 begins Daniel’s vision, in which he sees “one like a son of man” coming “with the clouds of heaven” (verse 13).  Jesus quotes this verse, referring to Himself, in Mark 14:61 and elsewhere. He also calls Himself the Son of Man on other occasions.

To understand the Gospels, we must be familiar with the Old Testament. This passage teaches this perfectly. (As an aside, Daniel 7:13 also highlights one problem with making Scripture politically correct through so-called inclusive language. The NRSV Bible translates the phrase as “one like a human being,” completely obscuring the meaning of Jesus’ words in the Gospels.)

Daniel 8-13 deals with Daniel’s vision about the various beasts/kingdoms that will rule over God’s people, ending with the coming of the “anointed one.” These chapters are interesting, but difficult, reading.

Read the story of the Resurrection

Again, for your younger children, read the story from the children’s Bible of your choice. For older students and adults, read Matthew 27:62-28:15.

Find the similarities between the two stories

Younger children can brainstorm on the similarities. They may need you to guide them towards recognizing that both Daniel and Jesus were condemned to death but the stories end with them alive and healthy. Here are some other similarities, most of which only older students will recognize or find in their versions of the story:

  • Daniel and Jesus were both plotted against because other powerful people were jealous of them.
  • The jealous men made use of reluctant secular rulers (King Darius and Pontius Pilate) to carry out their plans. ( You may need to review the Crucifixion story a bit for this one.)
  • In both stories, the rock was sealed to make it secure.
  • King Darius and Mary Magdalene set out for the respective “tombs” at dawn.
  • Angels play a role in both stories.

Activities to reinforce the lesson

Here are a few school activities that reinforce the connection between the two stories.

Art: Here is an empty tomb coloring page. For young children, print two copies. Have them add details from Daniel’s story (Daniel, Darius, lions, etc.) to one copy and details from the Gospel (Jesus, angel, Mary Magdalene, soldiers, etc.) to the other. Display the pictures side by side. Older students can draw two such pictures from scratch.

Explore more typology: Study the story of Joseph and his brothers for another prefiguring of Christ’s Death and Resurrection. Can your students find other Old Testament stories prefiguring the Gospels? How are the stories of Joseph and Daniel similar to each other?

Writing: Direct kids age 10 and up to write their own story about an innocent person being condemned to death and being miraculously delivered. Encourage them to include similar elements to those found in the two stories they have read. This can serve as an introduction to analogy in stories. You can reinforce this lesson in turn by reading The Chronicles of Narnia.

Application to our life: Discuss with middle-school children and up how these two stories demonstrate God’s faithfulness. How should we act when people oppose us for following God? Can we trust God, even when it seems like the worst possible thing is happening? How did God come through for both Daniel and Jesus? Try to find times in your life where God also “rescued” you unexpectedly or when your situation seemed hopeless. Do you know anyone who has been miraculously healed or helped?

Have fun with this lesson. This is one of my favorite types of lessons to teach. Happy Easter!

Connie Rossini

Share with us: Can you come up with other ways to apply this lesson in your home or classroom?

Follow Connie Rossini:

Hi, I'm a Catholic writer and homeschool mother of four boys. I practice Carmelite spirituality. Check out my Books page for publications to help your whole family grow in holiness.

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