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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Daniel 6

Verses 1-28

Daniel 6:3-4

Whatever the world thinks, he who hath not much meditated upon God, the human soul, and the sum-mum bonum , may possibly make a thriving earthworm, but will most indubitably make a sorry patriot and a sorry statesman.

Berkeley.

Daniel 6:4

That we have little faith is not sad, but that we have but little faithfulness. By faithfulness faith is earned. When, in the progress of a life, a man swerves, though only by an angle infinitely small, from his proper and allotted path (and this is never done quite unconsciously even at first; in fact that was his broad and scarlet sin oh, he knew of it more than he can tell), then the drama of his life turns to tragedy, and makes haste to its fifth act.

Thoreau's Letters.

'We have more sneakers after Ministerial favour,' wrote Sir Walter Scott in 1826, 'than men who love their country and who upon a liberal scale would serve their party.'

Daniel

Daniel 6:5

The two points only in this history are the character of Daniel, which here came out like gold from the fire, and the mysterious dealings of God with him.

I. First then, with respect to Daniel's character. There are three points to be especially noticed: ( a ) There is his steady walk with God. He had riches and honours and everything to make this world enjoyable; but he never turned aside from the narrow way either to the right or to the left. The eyes of all were fixed upon him; many envied and hated him. They examined his public conduct; they inquired into his private character; they sifted his words and actions; but they sought in vain for any ground of accusation. He was so steady, so upright, so conscientious, that they could find no occasion of fault in him they could not touch him except as concerning the law of his God. ( b ) Another point is Daniel's habit of private prayer. He was in the habit of kneeling upon his knees and praying three times a day; this was the practice of holy David, as we read in the Psalms, and this was the spirit of the centurion in the Acts, who prayed to God alway. ( c ) The last point to be observed in Daniel's character is his faith, his confidence in God. The decree appeared, forbidding all sorts of worship for thirty days on pain of death; and oh, how many professors of our generation would have held their peace; Daniel knew that the writing was signed he knew that he was watched, he knew that his life was at stake and yet he went to his home and kneeled on his knees and prayed as he did aforetime. Mark here the fruits of daily communion with God; see how a habit of prayer will produce quietness and assurance in the hour of trial and difficulty.

II. The mysterious dealings of God with His faithful and holy servant ( a ) There was first a season of darkness. Who would have supposed that God would have allowed iniquity so far to triumph as to leave Daniel in the hands of enemies? Who would have thought that this pious old man would be cast into the den of lions? This hour of darkness seems a mystery. But is it not agreeable to all the dealings of God with man? ( b ) How the darkness was scattered and the light returned. Daniel was brought forth and honoured and exalted; while his enemies, in their turn, were cast into the den and the lions destroyed them all. So true it is that light is sown for the righteous, that God will keep them in perfect peace whose minds are stayed in Him. ( c ) Consider what showers of good descended from this dark cloud which at one time seemed so threatening. Think what a blessed effect this deliverance would have on Daniel 1:0 What deep views of God's love and power and goodness and wisdom he would obtain, ( d ) Think, lastly, What mighty good would come to the people and cause of God, how much they would be comforted by such a miracle, how much they would be encouraged to go forward; the very thing which once appeared so untoward, which threatened the destruction of Israel and the dishonour of God, would bring glory to the Lord and set forward the Kingdom of Heaven.

J. C. Ryle, The Christian Race, p. 258.

Reference. VI. 5. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Daniel, p. 68.

Prayer and Conduct

Daniel 6:10

I. The Value and Importance of Prayer. It is natural to all men to pray. But here steps in philosophy, falsely so called, and tells us not to pray. This philosophic teacher brings all the learned and profound arguments to show that this natural instinct is mere folly and delusion, and it will end by persuading us that we may adore in praise if we will, but that to ask aught of God is absurd and even profane. Now this is a criminal, unnatural philosophy, which would condemn us to live in a fatherless world, with none to pity, none to comfort, none to help. If any one is led by his sins and worldliness to neglect prayer, let him not think that he is showing superior sagacity and penetration by so doing. Let him rather be ashamed of this, that he neglects prayer, not because he is wise, but because he has corrupted his heart, and has done violence to his own moral and even intellectual nature. How opposed to all this self-conceited, self-corrupted, prayerless character is the example of that aged and wise saint who is portrayed for us by the Holy Spirit in Today's lesson!

II. We are to Follow this Aged Saint's Example, and be bold, honest, outspoken in our allegiance to God. It is true that none of us is likely ever to be called upon to hazard our lives as Daniel did, but yet how often have we in everyday life to take our stand openly and boldly, either on the side of Christ or of His enemies! Christ requires this of all of us. He requires it in every workshop. He requires it in every office He requires it in every place of business. He requires of us that we should on all fit occasions declare what we think of Him; that we never from fear of man, never from shame, never from regard to worldly interest, never from fear of ridicule, shun to bear witness for Him, or shrink from avowing ourselves His disciples. It may be, or it may not be, wise or proper for us to enter into argument, or directly to rebuke. Whether it be wise or our duty to do so must always depend upon circumstances. It sometimes happens that a discreet and modest silence is the best way to meet the occasion. No certain and plain rule can be laid down as to how our Lord would have us act. Our action must be guided by our own feeling of what we ought to do. But of one thing we may be certain. On every such occasion Christ is there present. He is there noting how we act, pleased if we maintain the cause of truth and holiness, quick to see if we are in any way ashamed of Him or His words, vexed, frowning, if from cowardice or self-interest we betray His cause or allow His gainsayers to think we agree with them and feel as they do. Even in social intercourse, at times in their own families, men and women have to determine whether they will confess Christ or deny Him, whether they will be faithful to their Lord and Master or flinch from His service and disown it.

III. Not by Words only can we Confess or Deny Christ; We may do it even more decisively by our deeds. It is very possible for men in word to confess Christ, and yet in heart and life to renounce Him. No confession of the lips can be accepted which has the lie given to it by the life. Vain is our orthodox profession of faith if we are heterodox in the feeling of our hearts. The best, the truest confession of Christ is that which is afforded by the life, by the life in which purity and holiness and charity testify, that we have been with Jesus and have learned of Him. No confession so eloquent as this because it is manifestly sincere, none which so honours our Lord or so much advances His kingdom.

The Spirit of Prayer

Daniel 6:10

It is interesting to compare the character of Daniel, 'the man greatly beloved,' with that of St. John, 'the disciple whom Jesus loved'. The likeness can be followed out also through the history of the two men. But that is not my purpose this morning; my desire is to emphasize the value of prayer. So highly was it esteemed by Daniel that he braved death to engage in it. He knew God; and, knowing Him, loved Him. He was ever communing with God. To God he turned in every hour of difficulty. The 'three times a day' were not isolated moments, but rather an integral part of what was a life of prayer. If prayer had been to Daniel what it is to too many of us he would not have risked his life in the way he did; he would have forgone the privilege or he would have prayed in secret.

I. What was it that Caused Daniel to Treat the Decree of Darius as if it were not? Surely it was his desire after God. Prayer can be regarded in two aspects:

a. As an act of honour done to God, and

b. As the means of supplying our own wants.

These two ideas take in prayer from two different sides, but they both proceed from the same motive, the desire to know and to love God. Let us never lower the dignity of prayer by regarding it as the mere putting forth of a request; if it be true prayer it will be actuated by a desire after God.

II. Why Did Daniel Pray towards Jerusalem? Daniel, though favoured by Darius and raised to high position, could never forget that he was an exile where he was. He had wicked Babylon all round him; there were men ready to kill him; yet none of these things moved him. He looked towards Jerusalem; he saw the King in His beauty; his eyes beheld the land which was very far off.

III. The True Basis of Prayer is the Soul's Desire after God. Put the privilege of prayer out of human life, and what will human life be without it? What will it be when friends disappoint, when temptations assail, when some one very near has gone into the unseen world not to have access to God?

IV. Daniel's Prayer was Largely Intercessory for Others. We are not told what was its subject on the occasion mentioned in the text, but we cannot doubt from Daniel's subsequent history that it was wide-embracing in its scope; and so it is with us that he who loves God best has the widest sympathy and the highest faith. Prayer is the one great service we can render to others.

A Good Man

Daniel 6:10

Daniel was of noble birth, perhaps a member of the royal family of Judah. Born at Jerusalem; carried into captivity in his youth; became a member of the royal court; received a thorough education; acquired a high position through his power of interpreting dreams and mysteries; and, when Babylon was conquered by the united powers of Media and Persia, became premier. Distinguished above all for his piety. He was now eighty years of age. His position exposed him to the envy of his colleagues, who sought to depose him. In this chapter we have an account of their plot and its result. Several characteristics of a good man are mentioned.

I. Moral Integrity which None Could Dispute.

They 'sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom,' etc., vv. 4, 5.

Few can stand the close scrutiny of an enemy, or even of a friend.

II. Unflinching Fidelity, which Persecution could not Destroy.

The true value of friendship is not discovered until the hour of trial.

III. A Firm Avowal of Religious Principles.

'He went into his house; and his windows being opened,' etc.

No ostentation, but no concealment.

IV. Habitual Devotion Unhindered by Business. 'As he did aforetime.' 'Three times a day.' Prayer is one of the chief sources of support and comfort in difficulty and trouble.

V. A Recognition of Mercies in the Midst of Trial.

'And gave thanks before his God.' 'The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.'

VI. Childlike Trust in God Amid the Vicissitudes of Life.

It is hard to stand alone; but God never deserts His people. 'I will never leave thee,' etc.

F. J. Austin, Seeds and Saplings, p. 59.

The Open Window

Daniel 6:10

It is not easy to know where to begin the story of this man whose windows were open toward Jerusalem. Those open windows are so eloquent. They have such a tale to tell. It is a beautiful, brave, pathetic story, worthy its place in this book that records the purest heroisms, and the most lustrous fidelities, and the holiest patiences of history.

I. Those are not vain hours that a man spends at the open lattice of his heavenly hope. See what the open window did for Daniel. In the city of a thousand spurious divinities, it reminded him of a temple erected for the worship of the One God. In the city full of fascinating lures and shameless enticements, it brought home to his heart every day the sweet, stern morality of the Hebrew ethical ideal.

The breath from that open window kept his life clean. But for it he might have been drawn into the dark current of Babylonian sensuality and sinfulness. He might have become unwilling, unworthy, unable to utter in the ears of Babylon the words of his God. But the open window taught him that Babylon was a terrible place. He saw a sinister shadow in its smiles, he heard the whisper of danger in its plaudits; and three times a day he knelt with his face toward the holy city, and his heart going out unto his God: never too busy or tired for that.

II. We who live in Babylon cannot afford to spend all our time in its streets amid the traffic and the merchandise, the gains and the greetings, the weariness and the sin. If life's western window is never opened; if the breath from the hills of God plays in vain around its closed and dust-laden lattice; if morning, noon, and night the vision is the vision of Babylon and the voice is the voice of Babylon, than is the seal of the city set ever more broadly upon a man's forehead and its delusions and its passions make their home in his heart.

God is near us in the babel of buying and selling, in the toil for bread, in the rush of life. But they who find Him thus in the thick of the world are they who have first found Him waiting for them, as He waited for one of old, at the window that looks toward Jerusalem, to send them forth into the day's life with the temple reverence and the temple ideal impressed afresh upon their spirit. And when the day is over, and Babylon has done its worst, they find Him there again waiting to sweep the last jangling echoes of the city right out of their hearts that as they lie down to rest their last thought shall be laden with the peace of that other city Jerusalem beyond the hills.

III. The men who conquer the world are the men who see beyond the world. Babylon published an interdict, and it meant for Daniel no communion at his western lattice for thirty days: thirty prayerless days! That was what the interdict said; and after it had been signed and sealed by Darius, it was unalterable. The Medes and Persians prided themselves on never going back on anything they had decreed. Babylon had challenged Jerusalem. It had pitted its powers against the powers of the God of Daniel. 'And when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house (now his windows were open in his chamber toward Jerusalem) and he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and gave thanks before his God as he did aforetime.' Babylon had a law that altered not. So had Daniel. He was not a Babylonian. He lived under the law of another city, and he obeyed that law, and it cast him into a den of lions, and it brought him out again and made him a splendid witness for God. History tells us that, whenever the heavenly unalterable and the earthly unalterable have met, one has always had to alter, and it has not been the heavenly one.

P. Ainsworth, The Pilgrim Church, p. 107.

The Opened Windows

Daniel 6:10

It was in an hour of very sore distress that Daniel acted in the manner of which our text speaks. The crisis had come which he had long expected, and the crisis drove him to the feet of God. There was widespread irritation, rising at times into very bitter envy, among the aristocratic patrons of Babylon at the powerful eminence of foreigners like Daniel. And it was then, when Daniel fully recognized his peril, that he went into his house to pray, his windows being open to Jerusalem.

I. The Moral Significance of Indifferent Actions. There was nothing remarkable in opening a window, yet every time that Daniel opened that lattice it spoke of a heart that was travelling to Jerusalem. It revealed a heroism which no impending doom could shake. There are actions which are quite indifferent in themselves, yet if they reveal the trend of character and the direction that our thoughts are setting in no man dare say they are immaterial.

II. The True Relationship of the Unseen and the Seen. When Daniel opened his window an instinct moved him to open the window towards Jerusalem. He could brook no barrier betwixt him and the unseen. Now that is like a little parable of something that happens to the truly religious man. Let him open the window of his heart on the unseen, and the life at his door grows doubly real to him. There is no such instance in history of this as the life of Jesus Christ Himself. His heart was in heaven as truly as the heart of Daniel was in Jerusalem. Yet though all the windows of His soul were opened heavenward the life round Him was infinitely precious. The meanest villager ceased to be insignificant to a heart whose lattice was thrown wide on God.

III. The Right Attitude Towards the Unattainable. Daniel was a prisoner in Babylon. Yet though all hope of seeing Jerusalem was banished, he opened his windows toward Jerusalem. Every man who is striving to live nobly is struggling after things he cannot reach. Have the casement open toward the unattainable, and by the open casement be in prayer.

G. H. Morrison, Sun-Rise, p. 207.

References. VI. 10. Canon Duckworth, Christian World Pulpit, 1891. R. J. Campbell, Sermons Addressed to Individuals, p. 37. T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iii. p. 175. G. W. Brameld, Practical Sermons, p. 386. J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons (2nd Series), p. 90. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx. No. 1154. Ibid. vol. 14, No. 815. J. J. S. Perowne, Sermons, p. 17. VI. 13. F. W. Farrar, Everyday Christian Life, p. 93. H. P. Hughes, Essential Christianity, p. 57. VI. 14. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Lessons, vol. i. p. 393. VI. 16-28. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Daniel, p. 75. VI. 20. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Lessons for Daily Life, p. 284. J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes (2nd Series), p. 44. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlix. No. 2859. VI. 22. J. H. Horton, Every Sunday, p. 467. C. Stamford, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxi. p. 328.

The Calamity That Hurts Not

Daniel 6:23

It is not enough for a man to be taken out of his den. When he has been raised from his calamity the question remains, Has it hurt him? It seems a small thing to record of Daniel that after his life had been preserved from the lions 'no manner of hurt was found upon him'. But in truth the great fear in such cases is just their after-effects.

I. Calamity has not always a good influence upon a man. It changes many a soul for the worse. There are hundreds who after their liberation from the den of lions live as if they were still in the den. There are men who have risen to opulence after a hard fight with poverty and who never forget their early scars. They resent the years that the locusts have eaten.

They preserve a demeanour of frigidness, of sourness, of cynicism towards all the events of life; they damp the enthusiasm of those who are entering in.

II. It is a great thing if a man can emerge from the den not only sound in body but unharmed in mind. What enabled Daniel to come forth mentally whole? The passage states the reason explicitly 'He believed in his God'. The mental effects of calamity can only be conquered by a mental attitude. It is a great mistake to suppose that we require trust in God merely for the future; we need it as much for the past. We think of Daniel as trusting in God before he was thrown in; he required an equal faith after he had come out.

III. We doubt, not only in the hour of danger, but in the hour of retrospect. Faith may waver over the question, What if this befall me? But it can also waver over the question, Why has this befallen? If I am to be free from mental gloom, I must see a bow in the cloud of yesterday as well as in the cloud of tomorrow. God must justify to my soul the shadows of last night. Nothing else will obliterate my inward scars; nothing else will enable me to come forth from the den unhurt.

G. Matheson, Messages of Hope, p. 284.

References. VI. 23. A. Ainger, Sermons Preached in the Temple Church, p. 1. VI. 27. D. Swing, American Pulpit of Today, vol. i. p. 90. VI. 28. F. Bourdillon, Plain Sermons for Family Reading, pp. 43, 55. VI. J. G. Murphy, The Book of Daniel, p. 119. VII. Ibid. p. 124.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Daniel 6". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/daniel-6.html. 1910.