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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Daniel 6


A.M. 3467. B.C. 537.

This chapter contains the history,

(1,) Of Daniel’s preferment under Darius, Daniel 6:1-3 .

(2,) Of the envy which it excited in the principal officers of the state 4, Daniel 6:5 .

(3,) Of their conspiracy against him on that account, and the decree they obtained from the king against prayer, Daniel 6:6-9 .

(4,) Daniel’s continuance and constancy in prayer, notwithstanding that decree. 10.

(5,) He is informed against and cast into the den of lions, Daniel 6:11-17 .

(6,) His miraculous preservation in the lions’ den, and deliverance out of it, Daniel 6:18-23 .

(7,) The punishment is retorted upon his accusers, who are torn to pieces, Daniel 6:24 .

(8,) The king is brought to the acknowledgment and praise of the true God, and publishes a decree in honour of him, Daniel 6:25-27 .

(9,) Daniel’s subsequent prosperity, Daniel 6:28 .

Verse 1

Daniel 6:1. It pleased Darius That this Darius was the Cyaxares of Xenophon, as has been observed in note on Daniel 5:31, St. Jerome not only asserts, but proves by the testimony of Josephus, Trogus Pompeius, and other historians; so that it appears to have been the generally received opinion in his time, as it probably was also in the time of Josephus, which was not more than five or six hundred years after Cyrus. He was the son of Astyages, or Ahasuerus, or Assuerus, as he is called Daniel 9:1, and Tob 14:15 ; namely, that king of Media who concurred with the Assyrian monarch in the destruction of Nineveh. To set over the kingdom a hundred and twenty princes According to the number of the provinces, which were subject to the Medo-Persian empire. These were afterward enlarged to a hundred and twenty-seven, by the victories of Cambyses and Darius Hystaspes: see Esther 1:1. Darius acts here as the absolute master of the Babylonish state. He distributes the employments; he divides the kingdom, and orders that an account of the whole should be rendered to three principal officers, to whom he gives the superintendence over the rest. Several writers have thought, that after Darius had conquered Babylon, he returned to Media, and took Daniel with him, and that it was there that the establishments here spoken of were made. But if this was not done at Babylon, it is much more likely to have been done at Shushan than in Media: see Daniel 8:2. See Lowth and Calmet.

Verses 2-3

Daniel 6:2-3. And over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first

He had been appointed one of the principal officers of state by Belshazzar, Daniel 5:29. The office to which he was now advanced seems to have been of the same sort with that conferred on Joseph by Pharaoh, Genesis 41:41. Grotius thinks these eparchs were like the præfecti prætorio in the latter part of the Roman empire. That the princes might give accounts unto them Might lay before them the state of the public accounts. They doubtless also received appeals from the princes, or complaints against them, in case of mal-administration. And the king should have no damage That he might not sustain any loss in his revenue, and that the power he delegated to the princes might not be abused to the oppression of the subjects; for by that a king, whether he thinks so or not, receives real damage; both as it alienates the affections of his people from him, and provokes the displeasure of God against him. Daniel was preferred, because an excellent spirit was in him Besides that spirit of uncommon wisdom and sagacity which was in Daniel, he had great experience in public affairs, it being now sixty-five years since he was first advanced by Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel 2:48. It is no wonder, therefore, that Darius should have thoughts of putting the chief management of the whole empire into his hands.

Verses 4-6

Daniel 6:4-6. Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel We may judge, from what is here said, how blameless Daniel was in his conduct, and of how great advantage it is to act with virtue and integrity. All the spite and malice of his enemies could not so much as find out a pretence for accusing him, because he conducted himself in all affairs with uprightness, and established his credit by his virtuous behaviour. Then said these men, We shall not find, &c. They concluded, at length, that they should not find any occasion against him, except concerning the law of his God By this it appears that Daniel kept up the profession of his religion, and held it fast in that idolatrous country, without wavering or shrinking; and yet that was no bar to his preferment. There was no law requiring him to be of the king’s religion, or incapacitating him to bear office in the state unless he were. It was all one to the king what God he prayed to, so long as he did the business of the state faithfully and well. In this matter, therefore, his enemies hoped to insnare him. It is observable, that when they found no occasion against him concerning the kingdom, they had so much sense of justice left, that they did not suborn witnesses against him to accuse him of crimes he was innocent of, and to swear treason against him; wherein they shame many that were called Jews, and many now called Christians.

Verses 7-9

Daniel 6:7-9. All the presidents, &c., have consulted to make a firm decree As Daniel’s adversaries could have no advantage against him by any law now in being, they therefore contrive a new law, by which they hope to insnare him, and in such a matter as they knew they would be sure of doing it. They pretended that this law, which they wished to have enacted, was the result of mature deliberation; that all the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, princes, &c., had consulted together about it, and that they not only agreed to it, but advised it, for divers good causes and considerations; nay, they intimate to the king that it was carried nemine contradicente. All the presidents, say they, are of this mind, and yet we are sure that Daniel, the chief of the three presidents, did not agree to it; and we have reason to think that many more excepted against it, as absurd and unreasonable. Observe, reader, it is no new thing for that to be represented, and with great assurance too, as the sense of the nation, which is far from being so; and that which few approve of, is sometimes confidently said to be that which all agree to! These designing men, under colour of doing honour to the king, but really intending the ruin of his favourite, urge him to make one of the most absurd decrees that can well be imagined; a decree which would not only suspend by law all the exercise of every kind of religion through that vast empire, for the space of a month, (except any chose to worship the king, who thus inconsiderately, or impiously, suffered himself to be regarded as the only deity of his subjects,) but would prohibit under pain of death, to be inflicted in the most barbarous manner, any request being made from one man to another: “nay, the edict was so framed, that a child might have been condemned for asking bread of his father, or a starving beggar for craving relief.” Scott. And now, O king, say they, establish the decree, &c., according to the law of the Medes and Persians There was a law in this monarchy, that no ordinance or edict, made with the necessary formalities, and with the consent of the king’s counsellors, could be revoked: the king himself had no power in this case. Diodorus Siculus tells us, lib. 4., that Darius, the last king of Persia, would have pardoned Charidemus after he was condemned to death, but could not reverse the law that had passed against him. We may observe the difference of style between this text and that of Esther 1:19. Here the words are, the law of the Medes and Persians, out of regard to the king, who was a Mede; there it is styled, the law of the Persians and Medes, the king being a Persian at that time: see Calmet and Lowth. Chardin says, that in Persia, when the king has condemned a person, it is no longer lawful to mention his name, or to intercede in his favour. Though the king were drunk, or beside himself, yet the decree must be executed; otherwise he would contradict himself, and the law admits of no contradiction. Wherefore King Darius signed the writing It is not much to be wondered at that Darius, who seems to have been a weak man, should sign the decree, as it appeared to be proposed in order to do him the highest honour, and to set him, as it were, upon an equality with the gods.

Verse 10

Daniel 6:10. Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house, &c. He did not retire to the country, or abscond for some time, though he knew that the law was levelled against him; but because he knew it was so, therefore he stood his ground, knowing that he had now a fair opportunity of honouring God before men, and showing that he preferred his favour, and his own duty to him, before life itself. And his windows being open in his chamber The LXX. read, εν τοις υπερωοις αυτου , in his upper rooms. It seems to have been a custom among the devout Jews to set apart some upper room, or rooms, in their houses, for their oratories, as places the farthest from any noise or disturbance. So we read, Tob 3:17 , that Sarah came down from her upper chamber: and, the apostles assembled in an upper room, Acts 1:13. Toward Jerusalem According to the ancient custom of the Jews; for those who were in the country, or in foreign lands, turned themselves toward Jerusalem; and those who were in Jerusalem turned themselves toward the temple to pray, conformably to Solomon’s consecration-prayer, 1 Kings 8:48-49. He prayed, it seems, with his windows quite open to view, the shutters being removed, since he chose to make his testimony to the exclusive worship of God, neglected by others, as public as might be, that he might show he was neither ashamed of worshipping Jehovah, the God of his fathers, nor afraid of any thing he might suffer on that account; and he had them open toward Jerusalem, to signify his affection for the holy city, though now in ruins, and the remembrance he had of its concerns daily in his prayers. He kneeled upon his knees The most proper posture in prayer, most expressive of humility before God, of reverence for him, and submission to him; three times a day Morning, noon, and evening, the hours of prayer observed by devout men of former times, Psalms 55:17; which religious custom was continued by the apostles, with whom the third, the sixth, and the ninth hours were times of prayer; and prayed, and gave thanks before his God He joined prayer and thanksgiving together in all his devotions, in which he is an example for our imitation. Thanksgiving ought to make a part of every one of our prayers; for when we pray to God for the mercies we want, we ought to praise him for those we have received. Observe, reader, though Daniel was a great man, he did not think it below him to be thrice a day upon his knees before his Maker; though he was an old man, and it had been his practice from his youth up, he was not weary of this kind of well-doing; and though he was a man of business, of great and important business, and that for the service of the public, he did not think this would excuse him from the daily exercises of prayer and praise. How inexcusable then are they who have but little to do in the world, and yet will not do thus much for God and their souls! As he did aforetime He did not abate his prayers because of the king’s command, and through fear of death by the lions; nor did he break the law purposely: for he did no more than he had been wont to do aforetime, he only persevered in his former long-continued course.

Verses 11-12

Daniel 6:11-12. Then these men assembled and found Daniel praying Their design being laid, they watched narrowly, and found, as they expected, Daniel upon his knees, making supplication, not to Darius, but to Jehovah, in flat opposition to the law signed by the king, and not to be violated without suffering its penalty. Then they came near, and spake before the king Having now got what they wanted, an unanswerable plea against Daniel, they came with open mouth, and urged that the king’s law was broken, a law which he had solemnly signed and ratified, and so rendered unalterable; pleading that the king’s authority, and the honour of the nation, lay at stake. The king answered, The thing is true, &c. He owned such a law had been made, and signed by him, and that therefore it must be put in force.

Verse 13

Daniel 6:13. Then answered they, That Daniel Thus they expressed themselves by way of contempt; which is of the children of the captivity of Judah This was added to aggravate his fault; that one who was a foreigner, and brought thither a captive, should offer a public affront to the laws of the king, whose favour and protection he enjoyed. One cannot easily find a more striking instance than this relation affords of the power of inveterate malice and bitter envy. He regardeth not thee, O king, say they, nor the decree that thou hast signed Thus it often happens, that what is done faithfully, and out of conscience toward God, is misrepresented as done obstinately, and in contempt of the civil powers. In other words, the best saints are frequently reproached as the worst men. Daniel regarded God, and therefore prayed, and doubtless prayed for the king and government; and yet this is construed as not regarding the king. And the excellent spirit with which Daniel was endued, and that established reputation which he had gained, could not protect him from these poisonous darts. They do not say, He makes his petition to his God, lest Darius should interpret that to his praise, but only, He makes his petition; which was the thing forbidden by the law.

Verses 14-15

Daniel 6:14-15. Then the king, when he heard these things, was sore displeased with himself Having too late discovered that the princes, in procuring him to sign this decree, had no other end or aim, but to take advantage of it to the prejudice of Daniel. The word באשׂ , here rendered displeased, which in Hebrew signifies to be rotten, is used in Chaldee for such great distress as preys upon the mind, and occasions rottenness in the bones. The meaning is, that the king was very much troubled, and exceedingly vexed with himself. And set his heart on Daniel to deliver him The LXX. render it, και περι του Δανιηλ ηγωνισατο το εξελεσθαι αυτον , a very strong expression, implying that his anxiety to save him was so great as to throw him into an agony. And he laboured till the going down of the sun Endeavouring to find out some exception for him from the law, and being in a great strait through the necessity he was under to have the law executed, and the regard he had for Daniel. Then these men assembled unto the king These were bold men, and resolved to pursue their point and have their will, rather than the king should have his, in this case. The king wished to retrieve an evil act, and to retract, or at least to mitigate, a rigid and rash decree, which was acting an honourable and princely part; but they insist that the law must have its course, and its sentence be fully executed on him, who, they urged, had violated it, because it was a fundamental maxim in the constitution of the government of the Medes and Persians, that no decree or statute which the king established should be changed.

Verse 16

Daniel 6:16. Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, &c. The king at last, though with great reluctance, and against his conscience, yields to the violence of Daniel’s enemies, and signs the warrant for his execution: and that venerable, grave man, who carried such a mixture of majesty and sweetness in his countenance, who had so often shown himself great upon the bench, and at the council-board, but was greater upon his knees; that had power with God and man, and had prevailed, is, purely for worshipping his God, brought, as if he had been one of the vilest malefactors, and thrown into the den of lions to be devoured by them. Thus the best man in the kingdom is made a sacrifice to the vilest! Who can think of it without the utmost compassion for the sufferer, and the utmost indignation against the malicious persecutors? Now the king spake unto Daniel Partly, perhaps, to encourage him, but chiefly, it seems, to excuse himself for giving his consent to so palpable an act of injustice and cruelty, which he ought to have resisted, whatever had been the consequence; Thy God, whom thou servest continually Here the king bears testimony to Daniel’s integrity and fidelity to his God, notwithstanding that it had influenced him to disobey the new law; he will deliver thee So the Chaldee, the Greek, and Vulgate; but the Syriac and Arabic render the words optatively, May he deliver thee, which seems best, as it is not likely the king, after consenting to so wicked an act, should be inspired with a persuasion from God (and he could have it no other way) of Daniel’s deliverance. He might, indeed, have heard of the miraculous preservation of Daniel’s three friends in the fiery furnace, by the power of their God, in the days of Nebuchadnezzar; but he could have no assurance that a similar miracle would now be wrought by the same God. All, therefore, that his words were intended to express, seems to be only a wishful hope, but no certain persuasion.

Verse 17

Daniel 6:17. And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den Because, perhaps, it was seen that the lions did not seize on him immediately; and therefore, that they might have full opportunity to satisfy their rage and hunger, Daniel’s enemies were determined he should be confined all night among them. And the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords That neither the one nor the other of the parties might separately do any thing for or against Daniel. We may observe here, with Mr. Wintle, that the design of the king and of the nobles was probably different; the latter feared the king, lest he should release Daniel; the former was apprehensive that some other injury might be done to him, beyond the power of the wild beasts. Hence the Vulgate renders the conclusion of the verse, Ne quid fieret contra Danielem, That nothing might be done against Daniel; indicating the king’s desire, that the lions’ den might be closed with a sealed stone, lest the lords should put Daniel to death when they found him not slain by the lions. The king’s sealing the stone, “must naturally remind us of the like circumstances which happened at the interment of our Saviour, of whom Daniel, in this case at least, has by many been considered as a type:” see Matthew 27:60; Matthew 27:66.

Verses 18-20

Daniel 6:18-20. Then the king went to his palace Vexed at himself for what he had done, and calling himself unwise and unjust for not adhering to the laws of God and nature, notwithstanding the law of the Medes and Persians; and passed the night fasting His heart was so full of grief and fear, that he could eat no supper, nor take any kind of refreshment. Neither were instruments of music brought before him In which, amidst his present distress and trouble, he could take no pleasure. “No doubt Daniel spent a far more pleasant night among the lions, while employed in fervent prayer, and admiring, grateful praise, than either his malicious persecutors, or the king himself,” whose solicitude about Daniel made him very unhappy, and effectually prevented him from closing his eyes in sleep. The king arose very early in the morning Full of anxiety about Daniel; and went in haste unto the lions’ den Concerned to know whether the faint hope he entertained of his preservation had been realized. And when he came to the den The LXX. render it, εν τω εγγιζειν αυτον τω λακκω , in his approaching the den, or, when he came near to the den, as Wintle renders it; he cried with a lamentable, or doleful, voice unto Daniel Longing to know whether he was yet alive, and yet trembling to ask the question, lest he should be answered by the roaring of the lions after more prey; O Daniel, servant of the living God Here Darius makes an acknowledgment, that the God whom Daniel served was the true and living God, not an imaginary and fictitious deity. Nebuchadnezzar made the same confession more than once; but neither of these kings had courage to renounce the worship of the false and fictitious deities of their country. Is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee, &c. That is, has he been able to deliver thee, or has he thought fit in this case to exert his power? What he doubted of, we are sure of, that the servants of the living God have a master who is well able to deliver and protect them; and who will assuredly do both the one and the other, as far as he sees will be for their good and for his glory.

Verses 21-23

Daniel 6:21-23. Then said Daniel Daniel knew the king’s voice, though it was now a doleful voice, and spake to him with all the deference and respect that was due to him. O king, live for ever He does not reproach him for his unkindness to him, and his easiness in yielding to the malice of his persecutors; but, to show that he has heartily forgiven him, he meets him with his good wishes. Observe, reader, we must not upbraid those with the unkindnesses they have done us, who, we know, did them with reluctance, for they are very ready to upbraid themselves with them. My God hath sent his angel The same bright and glorious being that was seen with Shadrach and his companions in the fiery furnace, (see note on Daniel 3:25,) had visited Daniel; and, it is likely, in a visible appearance, had enlightened the dark den, kept Daniel company all night, and had shut the lions’ mouths that they had not in the least hurt him. This heavenly being made even the lions’ den Daniel’s strong hold, his palace, his paradise; he never had a better night in his life. See the power of God over the fiercest creatures, and confide in his power to restrain the roaring lion, that goes about continually seeking to devour, from hurting those that are his! See the care God takes of his faithful worshippers, especially when he calls them out to suffer for him. If he keep their souls from sin, comfort their souls with his peace, and receive their souls to himself, he doth, in effect, stop the lions’ mouths that they cannot hurt them. Forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me Daniel, in what he had done, had not offended either against God or the king. Before him, to whom he had prayed, he had been continually upright and conscientious in the discharge of his duty, endeavouring to walk unblameably before him. And also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt He was represented to the king as disaffected to him and his government, because he had not obeyed the new law; but he could appeal to the Searcher of hearts, that he had not disobeyed it out of contumacy or stubbornness, but purely to preserve a good conscience, which is the only true principle of loyalty and obedience: see Romans 13:5. On this subject, as far as we find, Daniel had said nothing before in his own vindication, but had left it to God to clear up his integrity as the light, and God had now done it effectually, by working a miracle for his preservation. Then was the king exceeding glad To find him alive and well; and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den As Jeremiah was taken out of the dungeon: for as the decree had now been complied with, and its penalty suffered, even Daniel’s persecutors could not but own that the law was satisfied, though they were not; or, if it were altered, it was by a power superior to that of the Medes and Persians. And no manner of hurt was found upon him He was nowhere crushed, or torn, or scared, or hurt in any way whatever; because he believed in his God In God’s power, and love, and faithfulness; because he confided in him for protection, while he lived in obedience to his commandments.

Verse 24

Daniel 6:24. And the king commanded, and they brought those men, &c. Darius, being animated by this miracle wrought for Daniel, now begins to take courage and act like himself: those that would not suffer him to show mercy to Daniel, now God has done it for him, shall be made to feel his resentments, and he will do justice for God, who hath showed mercy for him. Daniel’s accusers, now his innocence is cleared, and Heaven itself is become his compurgator, have the same punishment inflicted on them which they designed against him, according to the law of retaliation made against false accusers, Deuteronomy 19:11; Deuteronomy 19:19. Such they were now reckoned, Daniel being proved innocent; for though the fact of his praying was true, yet it was not a fault. They were cast into the den of lions, which perhaps was a punishment newly invented by themselves; it was, however, that which they maliciously designed for Daniel. And now Solomon’s observation was verified, The righteous is delivered out of trouble, and the wicked cometh in his stead. Them, their children, and their wives According to the cruel laws and customs which prevailed in those countries, of involving whole families in the punishment due to particular persons; in opposition to which that equitable law was ordained by Moses, that the fathers should not be put to death for their children, nor the children for the fathers, Deuteronomy 24:16. And the lions had the mastery of them This verified and magnified the miracle of their sparing Daniel; for hereby it appeared, that it was not because they were not fierce, or had not appetite, but because they were not permitted to touch him. The Lord is known by those judgments which he executeth.

Verses 25-27

Daniel 6:25-27. Then King Darius wrote to all people He wrote to all the several nations in his extensive empire. Darius here studies to make some amends for the dishonour he had done both to God and Daniel, by now doing honour to both. I make a decree, that men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel This decree goes further than Nebuchadnezzar’s upon the like occasion, for that only restrained people from speaking amiss of this God; but this requires them to fear before him, to maintain and express awful and reverent thoughts of him. And well might this decree be prefaced, as it is, with Peace be multiplied unto you; for the only foundation of true peace and happiness is laid in the fear of God. But though this decree goes far, it does not go far enough: had he done right, and acted according to his present convictions, he would have commanded all men, not only to tremble and fear before this God, but to trust in, love, and obey him, to forsake the service of their idols, and to call upon and worship him only, as Daniel did. But idolatry had been so long and so deeply rooted, that it was not to be extirpated by the edicts of princes, nor by any power less than that which accompanied the glorious gospel of Christ. For he is the living God, &c. Darius here mentions the considerations which moved him to make this decree; and, in doing this, he presents us with a very just and sublime character of the true God, a character suited to his nature, and probably such as the king had learned of Daniel. Some think he was a convert to the true religion; if so, this, together with the favours shown to the prophet, may in some measure account for the notice taken of his reign. Certainly the reasons on which he here grounds his decree, were sufficient to have justified one for the total suppression of idolatry. He delivereth and rescueth, &c. He has an ability sufficient to support his authority and dominion, delivering his faithful servants from trouble, and rescuing them out of the hands of their enemies. He worketh signs and wonders, quite above the power of nature to effect, both in heaven and earth By which it appears that he is sovereign Lord of both: who hath delivered Daniel from the lions This miracle, and that of delivering Shadrach and his companions, were wrought in the eye of the world; were seen, published, and attested, by two of the greatest monarchs that ever existed: and were illustrious confirmations of the first principles of religion, abstracted from the narrow scheme of Judaism, effectual confutations of all the errors of heathenism, and very proper preparations for pure catholic Christianity.

Verse 28

Daniel 6:28. So this Daniel prospered Observe, reader, how God brought good to him out of evil! The bold stroke which his enemies made at his life became the occasion of taking them off, and their children also, who otherwise would have stood in the way of his preferment, and have been, upon all occasions, vexatious to him; and now he prospered more than ever, was more in the favour of his prince, and in reputation with the people, which gave him a great opportunity of doing good to his brethren.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Daniel 6". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.