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Bible Commentaries
Daniel 6

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

Verses 1-28



Daniel 5:31; Daniel 6:1-28; Daniel 9:1

The testimony of Daniel concerning Darius the Mede is found in Daniel 5:31; Daniel 6:1-28; Daniel 9:1. The Jewish Bible properly places the last verse of Daniel 5 at the beginning of Daniel 6. From these passages we gather the following facts:

1. Darius is here said to be the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Modes.

2. Darius, like Pharaoh and Caesar, is a title rather than a name.

3. He "received the kingdom," i.e., from another. He "was made king," i.e., by another.

4. He was an old man, "about three score and two."

5. Only one year of his reign is mentioned (Daniel 9:1).

6. As elsewhere throughout the book, the Medes and Persians are considered jointly as one government (Daniel 6:8; Daniel 6:12; Daniel 6:15).

7. The reigns of Cyrus and of Darius were contemporaneous (Daniel 6:28).

On this testimony the following observations are submitted:

1. It is difficult from outside history, whether sacred or profane, to determine definitely the real name and place of this Darius. If we adopt the Jewish method of dividing the chapters so as to make the last verse of Daniel 5 the first verse of Daniel 6 then there is nothing in Daniel’s account to connect closely in time the death of Belshazzar with the accession of Darius, king of Persia, so often named in the book of Ezra. But while we may accept the chapter division, the conclusion deduced, identifying this Darius with the Darius of Ezra, is every way improbable, not to say impossible. The deduction creates far greater difficulties than it removes – difficulties in this book as well as in Ezra, and even greater difficulties in Persian history. So our conclusion is that Darius the Mede, the son of Ahasuerus, in this book, is not the Darius, the Persian, the son of Hystaspes, so prominent in the book of Ezra. The testimony of Daniel, even if wholly unsupported from the outside, should be accepted as trustworthy unless better testimony should show it to be impossible. A probable explanation of this history when compared with others is all that we need to show.

The famous Annalistic Tablet of Cyrus, upon which the radical critics so confidently rely, itself alone furnishes the probable explanation. That tablet shows that a certain general of Cyrus, Gobryas by name, led the night assault in which Belshazzar was slain, and was made governor of the province of Babylon by Cyrus, and then as governor appointed all the subordinate rulers in the realm, which harmonizes perfectly with Daniel’s account that (1) Darius "received the kingdom," "was made king," and (2) that "it pleased Darius to set over the kingdom a hundred and twenty satraps." Professor Sayce, though so adverse to the historicity of Daniel, thus reads a part of the Annalistic Tablet of Cyrus: "Cyrus entered Babylon. Dissensions were allayed before him. Peace to the city did Cyrus establish, peace to all the province of Babylon did Gobryas, his governor, proclaim. Governors in Babylon he (i.e., Gobryas) appointed." Professor Driver thus renders another part of the tablet: "Gubaru (same as Gobryas) made an assault, and slew the king’s son." The king’s son was Belshazzar. Then the tablet goes on to show the national mourning for the king’s son.

Defenders of the historical trustworthiness of the book of Daniel need not commit themselves irrevocably to this identification of Daniel’s Darius with the tablet’s Gobryas. It suggests all that is necessary, a probable explanation. Mr. Pinches, who brought the Annalistic Tablet to light, and many others are quite confident of this identity. Mr. Thomson ("Pulpit Bible," Daniel) adopts this theory in his exposition. There are several other theories concerning the identity of Daniel’s Darius most plausibly argued by learned men who fully accept the trustworthiness of the history in the book of Daniel. It is not at all necessary to recite them here.

2. It is quite in line with all the probabilities in the case that Cyrus, ruler over two united nations, Medes and Persians, should appoint a Mede as subking over the conquered province of Babylon, while he attended to the general affairs of the whole empire. The reference to both Cyrus and Darius in Daniel 6:28 indicates a contemporaneous reign, Darius as subking at Babylon, Cyrus as supreme king over the whole empire.

3. Darius, being an old man when he "received the kingdom," or "was made king," did not probably reign long, Daniel specifying only his first year (Daniel 9:1).

4. The contention of the radical critics that, in Daniel’s mind, the empire of the Medes precedes and is distinct from the empire of the Persians is contradicted flatly by the whole tenor of the book. While everywhere recognizing them as distinct peoples, the book throughout knows them only as a conjoined nation, one government. The laws of the one government are the laws of the Medes and Persians (Daniel 6:8; Daniel 6:12; Daniel 6:15). This unity in duality is manifested in the symbolic features: the silver beast and two arms of Nebuchadnezzar’s image (Daniel 2:32); the bear with one side higher than the other (Daniel 7:5); the ram with the two horns, one higher than the other (Daniel 8:20). This last symbol is expressly interpreted as a unity in duality and named "Medes and Persians."

This absurd contention of the radical critics is evidently intended to hedge against any possible prophecy in the book concerning Rome, as the fourth world empire, and so to make the prophetic forecast of history culminate in Antiochus Epiphanes, and then by arbitrarily dating the book after his reign, to deny all prophetic element in it. In no other radical criticism do they so utterly betray their atheistic presuppositions, and so clearly manifest their utter untrustworthiness as biblical expositors. The very exploit which they regard as their greatest achievement most overwhelmingly exposes their disqualifications and advertises their shame.

1. On the fall of Babylon and the death of Belshazzar, Cyrus appoints Darius the Mede, subking over the province of Babylon.

2. Darius districts the kingdom under his jurisdiction and appoints 120 satraps over the several districts. Over these satraps he appoints three presidents, Daniel, one of the three, to whom all the satraps must give account of the king’s matters in their several satrapies. This division of authority and responsibility was common then and is yet common in Oriental countries. The three presidents would constitute the king’s cabinet. From this place Farrar gets his "board of three," but his arbitrary attempt to transfer it back to a preceding regime in order to break the force of "third ruler in the kingdom" (Daniel 6:8; Daniel 6:12; Daniel 6:15) is merely puerile and amusing. Daniel’s age, wisdom, experience, administrative capacity and character so easily make him the dominant spirit over the two other presidents and over all the satraps that Darius purposes to set over the whole realm a grand vizier.

3. And now comes a development so true to the life and character of Oriental despotism, with their large delegation of powers to subordinates, that its absence from the story would have discounted its credibility. Envy, jealousy, and disappointed greed on the part of the two other presidents and all the satraps, lead them to conspire against Daniel. It was bad enough, in their minds, to have him one of three presidents, but if he be made grand vizier, then there would be no hope of successful fraud and loot. Daniel here brings to mind that great commoner, the elder William Pitt, who, as secretary, stood alone in a corrupt age, whose spotless character and imperious will dominated an unwilling king and a venal ministry, before whom all fraud in politics and peculation in office fled affrighted. One such man in a thousand years is about all the world can produce. And when he appears he is like a solitary, huge, cloud-piercing granite mountain in an almost boundless plain.

What a tribute to Daniel’s purity of life, official integrity and sublimity of character, is their confession that nothing could be found against him except his alien religion! But just here these jackals were most sure of their lion. His record was unequivocal and univocal. Not even the mighty Nebuchadnezzar could shake him in a matter of conscience and religion, but rather bowed before him. On this point he was as God himself before the white-faced, pale-lipped, knee-shaking Belshazzar. Hence the low scheme of cunning, the short-sighted trick of engineering on the unsuspecting Darius the signing of a blasphemous law that for thirty days no man should offer prayer or petition to any god, but to the king alone. To polytheistic Orientals, or even to a Roman Caesar, who was ex officio not only pontifex maximus, but was himself divine, such temporary suspension of empty religious services except through the ruler himself, was a light matter enough. But to a pious Jew recognizing one only true God it was every way blasphemous and horrible.

In all the world history of legislative folly this statue stands unique – "without a model and without a shadow." The suspension of the law of gravitation, the suspension of either the centripetal or the centrifugal force, whose joint powers produce the circling orbits of heavenly bodies, would not introduce more confusion in the material universe than such a law, if capable of execution, would produce in the moral and spiritual realm.


All connection between the throne of mercy and grace and helpless, hungering, thirsting, dying men, severed for thirty days! For a whole month travailing mothers may not cry to God; cradles must remain unblessed; youth helpless before temptation; widows and orphans at the mercy of oppressions and without appeal; human life unguarded in the presence of assassins; property at the mercy of the thief, the burglar and the incendiary; sinners dying unabsolved and unforgiven, an earthly embargo against angel ministrations or heavenly mercies – such a law, if enforceable, would be the climax of insanity. What an ocean-sweeping dragnet to catch one fish!

How clearly the record brings out the weakness of Darius I The mind instantly calls up, in association, Herod’s vain regret for his oath when called upon to surrender John the Baptist to the murderous woman, and Pilate vainly washing his hands as he surrenders Jesus to crucifixion, as if consistency were more than righteousness.

Daniel’s attitude was calm, inflexible. Though he knew that the law was signed, and could not have been ignorant of either its malicious purpose or its result to himself, he kept right on praying to God at the three regular Temple hours of prayer, morning, noon, and evening.

He kept his window open toward Jerusalem. How well he bears in mind the words of Solomon’s great intercession at the dedication of the Temple, preserved in the sacred history of his people: If thy people go out to battle against their enemy, whithersoever thou shalt send them, and shall pray unto the Lord toward the city which thou hast chosen, and toward the house that I have built for thy name: then hear thou in heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause. If they sin against thee (for there is no man that sinneth not), and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near; yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried captives, and repent, and make supplication in the land of them that carried them captive, saying, We have sinned, and have done perversely, we have committed wickedness; and so return unto thee with all their heart, and with all their soul, in the land of their enemies, which led them away captive, and pray unto thee toward their land, which thou gavest unto their fathers, toward the city which thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for thy name: then hear thou their prayer and their supplication in heaven thy dwelling place, and maintain their cause, and forgive thy people that have sinned against thee, and all their transgressions wherein they have transgressed against thee, and give them compassion before them who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them. – 1 Kings 8:44-50.

But by espionage on his private devotions in his own domicile – the most accursed method of tyranny – his infraction of human law is clearly established. Peter and John when charged by human authority "not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus" boldly replied: "Whether it is right in the sight of God to hearken unto you rather than unto God, judge ye: for we cannot but speak the things we saw and heard" (Acts 4:19-20). So Daniel here.

This miraculous preservation of Daniel, though its miracle sorely grieves the radical critics, is, like the preservation of his three friends in the fiery furnace, certified in the New Testament book of Hebrews, which records among the achievements wrought by Israel’s ancient worthies: "By faith they quenched the violence of fire – by faith they stopped the mouths of lions." The fate of Daniel’s accusers when he was vindicated is fully in line with the history of Oriental nations as well as the law of Moses. The consequent proclamation of Darius is not incredible per se, because in keeping with his character, his times, and his people. It is in line with other proclamations in this book, in Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther.

I must again call attention to this fact concerning the text: The accepted Hebrew text, Theodotion’s Greek version in the second century A.D., and the Peshito Syriac version of the same century are generally agreed. The important variant readings are in the Septuagint Greek version. That version, for example, makes only the two other presidents (not the satraps) accuse Daniel, and they alone, with their families (not the satraps) are cast in the lions’ den when Daniel is vindicated. I have not thought it necessary to give all the Septuagint variations.


1. What are the affirmations in Daniel 5:31; Daninel 6; Daniel 9:1 concerning Darius?

2. Is he the same as the Darius of the book of Ezra? What the proof?

3. State the archaeological proof that he was probably Gobryas.

4. Give the reply to the radical critic contention that, in Daniels mind the kingdom of the Medea was distinct from the Persian kingdom and preceded it. .

5. By whom and why a conspiracy against Daniel, and what their method of destroying him?

6. State the comparison of Daniel with William Pitt.

7. Show the folly of the statute Darius was induced to sign.

8. What the weakness of Darius and with whom compared?

9. From what texts and versions must we get a true text of Daniel, and which of these are in agreement and which one variant?

10. State the most important variations in the Septuagint.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Daniel 6". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/daniel-6.html.
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