THE BOOK OF DANIEL, Chapter 6
[This is an excerpt from my book, Mankind’s Final 7 Years Before Christ Returns: A verse-by-verse explanation of the book of Revelation]
6 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom;
Many commentators suppose that Darius suddenly appointed 120 princes over the whole Medio-Persia empire, because Esther 1:1 mentions that King Ahasuerus ruled over 127 provinces. And some suggest that Darius took Daniel back to the Medio-Persian kingdom. This verse, however, appears to be speaking of the newly acquired Babylonian kingdom. Also, as we saw in the last verse, Darius was not the ruler over the entire Medio-Persia empire.
2 And over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first: that the princes might give accounts unto them, and the king should have no damage.
There is much debate as to whether the three each ruled over a third of the princes, or if each ruled over a different component of the kingdom and all 120 princes.
3 Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm.
The excellent spirit was his godliness, also appreciated by the queen-mother in chapter 5:12.
4 Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him.
There is some debate as to how many of the 120 princes, along with the two other presidents, plotted against Daniel. They will claim, in verse 7, that their number included all princes, counselors, and captains.
5 Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.
They looked for any corruption, mistakes, or negligence, and found none. So, they sought to make his religion a crime. Politics 101. (See also- Daniel 3:1-12; Esther 3:1-12)
6 Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever.
The word translated “assembled” suggests disorderly haste. Once they had a plan, they almost fell over themselves putting it into action.
7 All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions.
While Daniel was not present, they falsely claimed that he had been consulted. It is debatable as to how many men were actually involved in the conspiracy.
8 Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not.
While the king would later regret signing the law, there would be nothing he could do to change it. In verse 15, his deceivers will basically threaten him with this fact, in an attempt to seal Daniel’s doom.
9 Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree.
Many commentators remark on the supposed stupidity of Darius for falling into their trap. Yet, it was quite ordinary for a king to be viewed as a god, and all his counselors had allegedly thought it was a good idea. Moreover, this law would test the loyalty of the conquered Babylonians for their new king.
10 Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.
In 1 Kings 8:46-50, King Solomon asks God to hear the prayers of Israelites if taken captive, if they prayed toward Israel. Apparently, Daniel was also praying in a direction away from the king’s palace, lest he give the appearance of obeying the king’s law.
It appears that Daniel did not try to keep his prayers secret, or make them public, but simply placed his life in God’s hands and continued his normal custom. (See also- Psalm 55:17; 5:7)
11 Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God.
12 Then they came near, and spake before the king concerning the king’s decree; Hast thou not signed a decree, that every man that shall ask a petition of any God or man within thirty days, save of thee, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions? The king answered and said, The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not.
Adding more deceit upon their trickery, they get the king to reaffirm the crime and punishment.
13 Then answered they and said before the king, That Daniel, which is of the children of the captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, O king, nor the decree that thou hast signed, but maketh his petition three times a day.
This carefully worded accusation attempts to paint Daniel as a captive foreigner intent on treason. This approach worked well in the accusation of Daniel’s three friends, in chapter 3:12. While they did not mention that Daniel’s petitions were to God, it appears in verse 16 that the king understood this.
14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him: and he laboured till the going down of the sun to deliver him.
While the king understood that he had been tricked, he blamed himself for falling into their trap. The word translated “displeased” literally means to be evil. The king now saw the consequences of his vanity and pride.
Since he had no trustworthy counselors left to help him, the king, himself, tried to come up with a way to save Daniel.
15 Then these men assembled unto the king, and said unto the king, Know, O king, that the law of the Medes and Persians is, That no decree nor statute which the king establisheth may be changed.
The word translated “assembled” is the same word used in verses 6 and 11, suggesting a disorderly uproar. The men expected the king to hesitate condemning Daniel, but as the day neared the end, they were probably fearful that he would refuse to do so. They basically accused the king of treason for not obeying the law. While the law had proposed to place the king above god and man, it actually made him servant to his subordinates.
16 Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee.
Daniel had refused to obey the wicked law, with the same conviction of his three friends in chapter 3. Daniel knew that God could deliver him, but even if He didn’t, Daniel would still not dishonor God by obeying the law (see Daniel 3:16-18).
While King Darius apparently didn’t worship God, it was common among the pagans to believe that “the gods” would intervene for the righteous.
17 And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel.
Critics view the den as being a small well-like pit, since a single stone could be used to cover the opening. Yet the den could easily be quite large, with only a small opening in the top. In the modern world, just how small are the sewers beneath manhole covers?
It appears to be uncommon for the stone to be royally sealed, but that it was done so nothing could be changed for or against Daniel. The king probably sealed the stone to prevent his wicked lords from disposing of Daniel in some other way, if need be. The fact that the king also sealed it with the signet of his lords, seems to suggest that he really believed that God might save Daniel, and the king didn’t want to be accused of releasing Daniel.
18 Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of musick brought before him: and his sleep went from him.
Common symptoms of grief, not only from possibly losing Daniel, but also from allowing himself to be the instrument of doom for an innocent man.
19 Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions.
The word translated “in haste” can be translated “terrified”. He had a mixture of fear and faith.
20 And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?
Again, we see that Darius apparently didn’t worship God, but believed He was one of many gods. While Darius displays a belief in God, he shows only little faith.
21 Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever.
22 My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.
Although we might presume the angel was visible, Daniel never actually says so. Also, Daniel does not give any details as to the actions the angel took to shut the lions’ mouths. (See also- Hebrews 11:33; 1 Samuel 17:37; Psalm 91:11-13)
23 Then was the king exceedingly glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God.
The law having been upheld, the king was now free to release Daniel. While the king had been required to uphold the evil law, there was nothing to prevent him from seeking vengeance against those who conspired against him and Daniel.
24 And the king commanded, and they brought those men which had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions, them, their children, and their wives; and the lions had the mastery of them, and brake all their bones in pieces or ever they came at the bottom of the den.
Again, we don’t know how many of the 120 princes were involved in the conspiracy, but it appears that the king only punished those who had openly accused Daniel. It was common oriental custom to also punish the wives and children of those condemned. This was, sometimes, also done by the Israelites (Joshua 7:24-25; 2 Samuel 21:1-9), even though it was forbidden by the law of Moses (Deuteronomy 24:16).
25 Then king Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you.
26 I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end.
27 He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.
The reaction of Darius is very similar to that of king Nebuchadnezzar, after God had delivered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:28-29). Probably neither king become a true follower of God, but simply placed God among the many gods they believed existed. (See also- Hebrews 2:3-4; 2 Timothy 4:17-18)
28 So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
At this point, Daniel was an old man. We don’t know how long Daniel lived afterward, or how long he served Cyrus. We do know, from Daniel 10:1 that he was still alive in the third year that Cyrus reigned. (See also, commentary from Daniel 1:21)