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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Daniel 6


E. Darius’ pride and Daniel’s preservation ch. 6

Even though this chapter is one of the most popular in all the Bible, it has also been the target of strong critical attacks because of the problem of the identity of Darius. The chapter shares motifs with Psalms 2 and recalls Daniel 3. The structure of the chapter is basically chiastic, centering on God’s deliverance of Daniel. [Note: Goldingay, p. 124.]

A Introduction: Daniel’s success Daniel 6:1-3

B Darius signs an injunction and Daniel takes his stand Daniel 6:4-10

C Daniel’s colleagues plan his death Daniel 6:11-15

D Darius hopes for Daniel’s deliverance Daniel 6:16-18

D’ Darius witnesses Daniel’s deliverance Daniel 6:19-23

C’ Daniel’s colleagues meet their death Daniel 6:24

B’ Darius signs a decree and takes his stand Daniel 6:25-27

A’ Conclusion: Daniel’s success Daniel 6:28

Goldingay’s apt title for this chapter is, "God Vindicates His Power When Daniel Chooses the Lion Pit rather than Apostasy." [Note: Ibid., p. 119.]

"The iniquity of world rulers during the ’times of the Gentiles’ has not yet been examined to the last detail. These monarchs have sponsored idolatry in the past, and they will again in the prophetic future. They became deranged by their senseless, overbearing pride in the past, and they will again in the predicted future. They were blatantly impious in their desecration of holy things in the past, and they will be again in the foretold future.

". . . But that is not all; there is yet a final touch. Man will finally seek to displace God altogether." [Note: Feinberg, p. 73.]

Verses 1-2

When the Medo-Persian alliance overthrew the Neo-Babylonian Empire, it acquired much geographic territory that it proceeded to incorporate into its kingdom. The Persian Empire became the largest that the world had yet seen, eventually encompassing modern Turkey, Egypt, and parts of India and North Africa as well as Babylonia. Darius divided his realm into 120 satrapies or provinces, and set a satrap ("protector of the realm") in charge of each one (cf. Esther 1:1; Esther 8:9). They reported to three commissioners, one of whom was Daniel. Evidently Darius had heard about Daniel’s unique gifts and accomplishments as a Babylonian administrator, and wanted to use him in his cabinet. Daniel 6:1 strongly suggests that "Darius" and "Cyrus" refer to the same person. Because of the vast geographical region that 120 satrapies entailed, this number and size of provinces would be consistent with the Persian Empire as historically ruled by Cyrus.

Verses 1-3

1. Daniel’s promotion in the Persian government 6:1-3

Verse 3

As time passed, Daniel distinguished himself above the other commissioners, even though he was in his 80s. Darius purposed to put him in charge of them all, to elevate him to prime minister.

These verses set the stage for what follows by helping the reader appreciate how Darius felt about Daniel.

Verse 4

The text does not say why the other officials wanted to get rid of Daniel. Perhaps his integrity made it difficult for them to get away with graft and political corruption. Maybe since he was quite old they wanted to eliminate him so someone from a younger generation could take his place. Anti-Semitism appears to have been part of their reason (cf. Daniel 6:13; Daniel 3:12). The text stresses the outstanding personal integrity and professional competence of Daniel.

"It is known in advance what an honest man will do in certain circumstances. Control the circumstances and you control him!" [Note: Culver, "Daniel," p. 787.]

Verses 4-9

2. The conspiracy against Daniel 6:4-9

Verse 5

The accusers’ plan was similar to that of the Babylonian officials who had tried to topple Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego (ch. 3). They knew that Daniel was a God-fearing man who did not worship pagan idols. So they set a trap for him believing that he would remain faithful to his faith. When Daniel had to choose between obeying his God or his government, his God came first (cf. Daniel 6:10; Acts 5:29).

Verses 6-7

The adversaries’ exaggerated their claim that all the rulers of the kingdom had concurred with their proposal. Obviously Daniel had not agreed to it. Nevertheless it was believable enough that Darius did not object or consult Daniel. Furthermore, the plan catered to the king’s vanity. The proposed statute evidently covered petitions of a religious nature-rather than requests of any type-since a general ban, even a permanent ban, would have been absurd. Perhaps the antagonistic rulers also aimed at impressing the Babylonians with the importance of remaining loyal to their new Persian king. In any case, they promoted humanism, the philosophy that puts man in the place of God.

". . . this one king was to be regarded for the time being as the only representative of Deity." [Note: Montgomery, p. 270.]

"Parsism [the official religion of Persia] did not indeed require men to regard the king as a god in his own proper nature, but to pay him supreme homage as the representative of Ormusd." [Note: Moses Stuart, A Commentary on the Book of Daniel, p. 171.]

"The probability is that Darius regarded this act as a pledge of loyalty to himself and a token of their desire to respect his authority to the utmost." [Note: Walvoord, p. 137.]

The Babylonians burned criminals alive (ch. 4), but the Persians, who worshipped fire, threw them to the lions. [Note: Olmstead, p. 473.]

Verses 8-9

Under Persian law, the king was bound by the authority of a royal edict (Daniel 6:8; Daniel 6:12; Daniel 6:15; cf. Esther 1:19; Esther 8:8). This made his power less than it was under an absolute dictator such as Nebuchadnezzar (cf. Daniel 2:39).

"The action of Darius was both foolish and wicked. What led him to yield to the request of the ministers can only be conjectured, but probably he was greatly influenced by the claim of deity which many of the Persian kings made." [Note: Young, p. 134.]

Verse 10

The new decree did not deter Daniel from continuing to pray for the welfare of the city where God had sent them into exile, and for the Jews’ return from exile. That this was the subject of his praying, among other things, including thanksgiving (Daniel 6:10), seems clear since Daniel possessed a copy of Jeremiah’s prophecy (Daniel 9:2; cf. Jeremiah 29:1; Jeremiah 29:7; Jeremiah 29:10). Jeremiah had written that God had promised to hear such prayers, if they were sincere and wholehearted, to restore the fortunes of the Jews, and to re-gather them to the Promised Land (Jeremiah 29:12-14). Cyrus issued his decree allowing the Jews to return from exile in 538 B.C. (2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4). The events of Daniel 6 must have happened just before or shortly after this great turning point in Israel’s history. The events recorded in this chapter undoubtedly played some part in Cyrus’ decision to favor the Jews. Daniel refused to pray to the king, but he willingly prayed to the king’s Sovereign.

"It is not a question of a positive sin which he will not commit, but of a positive duty which he will not omit." [Note: Driver, p. 71.]

Solomon had taught the Jews to pray to the Lord facing Jerusalem, since that is where He promised to be in a special sense for them (2 Chronicles 6:21; 2 Chronicles 6:34-39; cf. Psalms 5:7). Jesus Christ later taught that the place of worship is not as important as truly spiritual worship (John 4:20-24). Daniel’s kneeling posture, reminiscent of Solomon’s at the temple dedication, indicated his dependence on God as a supplicant. Normally the Jews stood when they prayed (cf. 1 Chronicles 23:30; Nehemiah 9; Matthew 6:5; Mark 11:25; Luke 18:11; Luke 18:13), but they kneeled (and prostrated themselves) when they felt a more urgent need (cf. 1 Kings 8:54; Ezra 9:5; Luke 22:41; Acts 7:60; Acts 9:40; Acts 20:36; Acts 21:5). Praying three times a day was evidently the practice of godly Jews dating back to David, if not before then (cf. Psalms 55:16-17). The fact that his window was open evidently symbolized for Daniel that his prayers were unhindered. Windows in ancient Near Eastern cities were normally small, high, and had a lattice covering, so Daniel was probably not praying with his window open to be seen by others. [Note: Baldwin, p. 129.]

"While Daniel’s consistency of life and testimony has been evident throughout the book of Daniel, here we learn the inner secret. In spite of the pressures of being a busy executive with many demands upon his time, Daniel had retired to his house three times a day to offer his prayers for the peace of Jerusalem as well as for his personal needs. This was not the act of a person courting martyrdom but the continuation of a faithful ministry in prayer which had characterized his long life." [Note: Walvoord, p. 138.]

"It was this prayer-fellowship with Yahweh that had safeguarded Daniel from the corrupting influences of Babylonian culture." [Note: Archer, "Daniel," p. 79.]

"It is a common observation that those who have no regular habits of prayer very seldom do much praying. It is well for God’s people purposefully and deliberately to set aside and faithfully adhere to a definite prayer schedule. Prayer is thus recognized as a [sic] important part of the Christian life and given the place which it deserves." [Note: D. Edmond Hiebert, Working with God: Scriptural Studies in Intercession, p. 110.]

"In times of testing believers need to remain faithful to God. Sometimes this will require:

• Wisdom to seek a creative compromise that enables the believer to meet society’s expectations without violating his or her beliefs (Daniel 1:8-14).

• Courage to be willing to stand up for one’s beliefs when no compromise is possible (Daniel 3:15-18).

• Personal discipline to develop a lifestyle of faithfulness so the right response to a test will come ’naturally’ (Daniel 6:10)." [Note: Dyer, in The Old . . ., p. 703.]

Verses 10-15

3. Daniel’s faithfulness and Darius’ predicament 6:10-15

Verse 11

Daniel’s colleagues knew about his prayer habits (cf. Philippians 4:6). They contrived to observe him praying in his own house, somehow, to enable them to give eyewitness testimony that they had seen him violate the king’s order. Did they suppose that Daniel would deny that he had been praying? They expected that the edict would not deter him from his regular devotional habit-even though it might cost him his life! What a testimony Daniel had among his fellow workers!

Verses 12-13

After reminding Darius of his decree, the hostile officials informed the king that his prime minister elect had violated it and was therefore worthy of death. Notice that they described Daniel as "one of the exiles from Judah" (cf. Daniel 2:25; Daniel 5:13), rather than as a royal cabinet minister. They were evidently hoping that Daniel’s Jewish nationality and religion would contribute to Darius’ distaste for him. This was not the result, however. They also used almost the same words that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego’s accusers had used when they charged Daniel with disregarding the king (cf. Daniel 3:12). To them, prayer to Yahweh constituted disrespect for the king, rather than respect for the Most High God. How quickly and persistently humankind reverts to humanism!

Verses 14-15

Daniel had so won the king’s favor that Darius immediately and energetically began trying to rescue his friend. Nebuchadnezzar had become angry with Daniel’s three friends when they refused to idolize him (Daniel 3:19), but Darius became angry with himself for signing the decree (cf. Daniel 2:1; Daniel 3:13; Daniel 5:6; Daniel 5:9). This shows how much he respected and valued Daniel.

Verse 16

Darius’ parting words to Daniel are significant. One could render them, "Your God whom you serve continually, He will deliver you." [Note: Franz Rosenthal, A Grammar of Biblical Aramaic, pp. 54-55.] The idea is that Darius had tried to save Daniel and had failed. Now Yahweh must save him. We do not know, of course, if Darius knew about Yahweh’s deliverance of Daniel’s three friends. Again, we see that God did not preserve His servant from difficulty, but brought him though it safely-His normal way of dealing with His own.

"Observable in this assurance of Darius is the deep impression that Daniel’s personal piety and faithfulness to God had made upon the king and that this impression had brought about Darius’ own conviction that Daniel’s God would come to his rescue in Daniel’s extremity." [Note: Walvoord, p. 140.]

Verses 16-18

4. Daniel in the lions’ den 6:16-18

Verse 17

The lions’ den appears to have been a large pit in the ground with an opening above that a large stone sealed, probably to keep people from stumbling into it. Such pits were commonly used as cisterns to store water or as prisons. [Note: Goldingay, p. 128.] Daniel had to be lifted up out of it (Daniel 6:23), and others when thrown into it fell down toward its bottom (Daniel 6:24). It may also have had a side entrance or drain since if it did not, rain could have filled the den and drowned the lions. Keil summarized a description of a fairly modern lions’ den in Morocco written by Höst. [Note: Keil, p. 216. He cited Ge. Höst, Fez and Morocco, p. 77.] However, statements in the text cast the type of lions’ den pictured in this description into question. The king and his nobles sealed the stone that covered the opening to make sure no one would release Daniel (cf. the sealing of Jesus’ tomb).

Verse 18

In contrast to Nebuchadnezzar, who showed no compassion for Daniel’s three friends, Darius spent a fitful night without food, entertainment, or sleep. Normally, prayer accompanied fasting among the Israelites. Darius may have prayed too, but the point of this description is that he felt extremely anxious over the welfare of his friend.

Verses 19-20

Evidently, one night in the lions’ den was the minimum sentence the law required, because early the next morning Darius set out to free Daniel-if he had survived. Uncertain about the prophet’s fate, the king called to Daniel, whom he could not see, hoping that he might still be alive. Daniel had apparently told Darius previously that he worshipped the living God. Now Darius wanted to know if this God had been able to save His servant from the lions (cf. Daniel 6:16; Daniel 3:17).

Verses 19-24

5. Daniel’s deliverance and his enemies’ destruction 6:19-24

Verses 21-23

Daniel’s voice was untroubled. He even sermonized a bit from his unlikely chapel amid his subdued animal companions. After greeting the king courteously, he explained that his God had sent His angel who had shut the lions’ mouths (cf. Hebrews 11:33). This may have been the same angel, or the Angel of the Lord, who had visited Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:28). Daniel believed that God had had mercy on him because he had not sinned against God or Darius in what he had done. True, he had violated the king’s edict, but he had not done anything that really harmed the king. God had rewarded Daniel’s trust (Daniel 6:23), which Daniel demonstrated by obeying God’s will. Darius had Daniel extracted from the den, and undoubtedly marveled that he had sustained no injuries whatsoever (cf. Daniel 3:27). Compare the accounts of Peter and Paul’s releases from prison in Acts 12, 16.

Verse 24

Then the king applied the lex talionis (law of retaliation) and cast his friend’s accusers into the very den in which they had placed Daniel (cf. Genesis 12:3; Esther 7:9-10; Galatians 6:7). Before they reached the bottom of the den the lions overpowered and crushed them.

"What Darius did seems arbitrary and unjust. But ancient pagan despots had no regard for the provision in the Mosaic law (Deuteronomy 24:16): ’Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin.’ (Even in Israel this humanitarian rule had been flouted, as when Abimelech ben Gideon had nearly all his father’s sons massacred, or when Queen Athaliah nearly exterminated the Davidic royal line and Jehu had all Ahab’s sons decapitated.)" [Note: Archer, "Daniel," p. 82.]

The effects of people’s sins touch others beside themselves. The execution of the evildoers’ family members seems unfair and cruel, but it reflects the principle of corporate solidarity that was common in the biblical world. [Note: See Joel S. Kaminsky, Corporate Responsibility in the Hebrew Bible.]

Verses 25-27

This story ends, as previous ones in the book did, with the king praising and promoting Yahweh. This expression of praise, however, surpasses the others (cf. Daniel 3:28-29; Daniel 4:3; Daniel 4:34-35; Daniel 4:37). Not only did Darius personally praise God, but he ordered his subjects to do the same thing (cf. Daniel 3:29; Daniel 4:1). It is as though God was giving two witnesses to His people Israel: Nebuchadnezzar and Darius. Both monarchs testified to the living and eternal God’s unshakable sovereignty, grace, and power in heaven and on earth (cf. Daniel 4:3; Daniel 4:34-35). These testimonies certainly would have encouraged the Israelites to trust Him in spite of the circumstances of the exile.

"Once again, during this time of Israel’s helplessness with her survival in doubt, Yahweh of hosts acted redemptively to strengthen his people’s faith in him. On the eve of their return to the Land of Promise under the leadership of Zerubbabel, God reassured them that he was still the same as in the days of Moses and was able to take them back to Canaan, where they could establish a new commonwealth in covenant fellowship with him." [Note: Archer, "Daniel," p. 83.]

Verses 25-28

6. Darius’ decree and praise of Yahweh 6:25-28

Verse 28

The last verse notes that Daniel continued to enjoy success during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus. That is, Daniel continued to enjoy success during the reign of Darius-even the reign of Cyrus-since Darius was apparently a title for Cyrus. Cyrus’ first full year as king of Babylon was 538 B.C., and this is when Daniel’s career in government service ended (Daniel 1:21). This was the same year that Cyrus issued his decree permitting the Jews to return to their homeland. Daniel received the revelations of chapters 10-12 in the third year of Cyrus’ reign (Daniel 10:1), but he was no longer in government service then.

"Although historical and to be accepted in its literal portrayal of an event, it [this chapter] is also parabolic like chapter 3 and is a foreshadowing of the ultimate deliverance of the people of Israel from their persecutors in the time of the great tribulation at the end of the times of the Gentiles. When the power of God is finally demonstrated at the second coming of Christ, the persecutors of Israel and the enemies of God will be judged and destroyed much like the enemies of Daniel. Like Daniel, however, the people of God in persecution must remain true regardless of the cost." [Note: Walvoord, p. 144.]

The first six chapters of Daniel contain his "court tales." Rationalistic critics of the book are quicker to grant them a sixth-century date of composition than they are the remaining six chapters, which are more explicitly prophetic. Conservative scholars agree that there is ample historical, linguistic, and literary evidence for a sixth-century date for these chapters. [Note: Baldwin, p. 37; Richard D. Patterson, "Holding on to Daniel’s Court Tales," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 36:4 (December 1993):445-54. See also Longman and Dillard, pp. 391-92, for discussion of the unity of the book.]

"In the first part of his book the writer presents the situations out of which his theology has grown, and the lessons are plain for all to see. But from the very fact that his God is in control of time and circumstances in heaven as well as earth, any experience of His deeds, whenever it may have occurred, is valid for all time and even for eternity (Daniel 6:26). It is on this firm theological understanding that the revelations of the second part of the book are made." [Note: Baldwin, p. 135, who divided the book into two parts: chs. 1-6 and 7-12.]

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Daniel 6". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.