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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Daniel 6



Daniel is made chief of the presidents: they, conspiring against him, obtain an idolatrous decree. Daniel, accused of the breach thereof, is cast into the lion's den. He is saved, his adversaries devoured, and God magnified by a decree.

Before Christ 538.

THIS chapter contains the history of Daniel's preferment under Darius, of the envy which it excited in the principal officers of the state, and their conspiracy against him on that account. By their means he is cast into a den of lions, but miraculously preserved from injury; and the punishment is retorted upon his accusers, who are torn to pieces, and the king is brought to the acknowledgment and praise of the true God.

Verse 1

Daniel 6:1. It pleased Darius That is, Cyaxares, whose father is called Assuerus, in the book of Tobit, Tob 14:15 as he is also by Daniel, chap. Dan 9:1 meaning in both places Astyages, or the king of Media, who concurred with the Assyrian monarch in the destruction of Nineveh. Herodotus and Xenophon make mention of an ancient gold coin called Δαριεκος or Daric, as is presumed by many writers, from this king; from the first Darius, according to Suidas, or one prior to Hystaspes. This coin seems to have been called by the like name after the captivity in Ezr 2:69 and 1Ch 29:7 in the original. Sir Isaac Newton says he had seen one of them, and that it was stamped on one side with the effigies of an archer crowned with a spiked crown, with a bow in his left, and an arrow in his right hand, and clothed with a long robe, that it weighed two attic drams, and was of the value of the attic stater. Chron. of Ant. Kingd. p. 319.

The war with the Chaldeans, which ended in the destruction of Babylon, seems to have commenced originally on the part of the Medes, over whom the Babylonian queen Nitocris, according to Herodotus, had kept a jealous and watchful eye. Jeremiah, Jeremiah 51:11; Jeremiah 51:28., mentions the kings of the Medes only as raised up against Babylon, and so Isaiah 13:17, but elsewhere he joins the Elamites with them; and Thucydides generally calls the Persians Medes only. However, when Babylon was taken and subdued by the united powers of Media and Persia, Cyrus was probably induced to set over it this king of the Medes, in order to make the union of the two nations more easy, and to prepare matters better for the full establishment of the Persian empire. Cyaxares, as is generally agreed, reigned not more than two years; and during that term being only a sort of viceroy, or at least dependent upon Cyrus, the whole period of nine years is ascribed by Ptolemy to Cyrus, and no notice taken of Darius at all.

An hundred and twenty princes According to the number of provinces which were subject to the Medo-Persian empire. These were afterwards enlarged to an hundred and twenty-seven, by the victories of Cambyses and Darius Hystaspis. See Esther 1:1. Darius divides the kingdom, and orders that an account of the whole should be rendered to the three principal officers, to whom he gives the superintendance over the rest. Darius preserved to Daniel the rank and employment which Belshazzar gave him a little before his death. 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 chap. Dan 8:2 and Calmet.

Verse 4

Daniel 6:4. Sought to find occasion Observed Daniel, if possibly they might find any fault in him, respecting those things which pertained to the king. Houbigant.

Verse 6

Daniel 6:6. Then these presidents and princes assembled together Came in a concourse. The true import of the verb הרגשׁו hargishu, seems to be, "they tumultuously met;" see the margin of our English translation. The princes came in a concourse, and together assailed the king with their proposal: they forced in.

Verse 8

Daniel 6:8. According to the law, &c.— 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 says, that Darius, the last king of Persia, would have pardoned Charidemus after he was condemned to death, but could not reverse the law which had passed against him. We may observe the difference of style here, and in 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, as the king at that time was a Persian. See Calmet and Lowth.

Verse 10

Daniel 6:10. His windows being open, &c.— According to the ancient custom of the Jews, those who were in the country, or in foreign lands, turned themselves towards Jerusalem; and those who were in Jerusalem turned themselves towards the temple to pray, conformably to Solomon's consecration-prayer, 1 Kings 8:48-49. His chamber, in the Greek, is, his upper chamber. It seems to have been the custom among the devout Jews to set apart some upper room for their oratories, as places farthest from any noise or disturbance. So we read in Tobit, that Sarah came down from her upper chamber; and the apostles assembled in an upper room. See Calmet and Lowth. Some have observed, that there was commonly but one window, or hole in the wall made in these oratories, which opened towards Jerusalem, and is called by Jeremiah God's window. See Jer 22:14 in the original, and Mark 14:15.

Verse 13

Daniel 6:13. That Daniel, which is of the children of the captivity This is added to aggravate his fault: "One who was a foreigner, and brought thither as a captive, dared to offer a public affront, to the laws of a king whose favour and protection he enjoyed." We cannot have a more striking instance than this relation affords us, of the power of inveterate malice, and of bitterest envy.

Verse 17

Daniel 6:17. Sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords That neither one nor the other of the parties might separately do any thing for or against Daniel. The Vulgate reads the last clause, 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.

Verse 18

Daniel 6:18. Neither were instruments of music brought before him Nor were sweet odours brought to him. Houbigant. Several of the other versions read, Nor was food, or provision set before him. See Houbigant's note.

Verse 21

Daniel 6:21. O king, live for ever לעלמין lealmin, in saecula, or "long live the king;" an usual mode of addressing the monarch. When he in his turn addressed the people, it was, as we have seen, "Your peace be multiplied;" see Daniel 6:25. And when the people saluted one another, it was according to the mode now practised, as Shaw tells us, among the Bedouin Arabs, "Peace be unto you." Mr. Bruce intimates, that when individuals or clans of suspected persons meet each other, if the one party pronounces this Salam Alicum, and it is returned by the other Alicum Salam, it is a sure indication that no evil is intended on either part.

Verse 22

Daniel 6:22. And also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt "Thou knowest my fidelity in every thing respecting my service. If upon this occasion I have disobeyed thy orders, it was only from a sense of that duty which I owe to a much greater master."

Verse 23

Daniel 6:23. Because he believed in his God Or, Because he had believed in his God. The author of the epistle, to the Hebrews attributes to the faith of Daniel the having stopped the mouths of lions. The Chaldean word may signify faith, confidence, hope. Houbigant renders it, Because he had hoped, or trusted in his God.

Verse 24

Daniel 6:24. They cast them—their children, &c.— By the law of retaliation, which inflicted upon calumniators the same punishment that they would have brought upon others. They punished the children with their parents, as supposing that they would be infected by their ill example. We have various instances of this sort of chastisement; a sort of justice common among the Persians. Ammianus Marcellinus says, "They were abominable laws, by which a whole family suffered for the crime of one." Abominandae leges, per quas ob noxam unius omnis propinquitas petit.

Verse 26

Daniel 6:26. He is the living God The characters of the Deity in this and the next verse are very just and sublime, and suited to his nature, and were probably such as Darius had learnt from Daniel. Some think that he was a convert to the worship of the true God; and this, together with the favours shewn to the prophet, may in some measure account for the notice taken of his reign: many other reasons may also be assigned from a reflection on various parts of this book, and especially at chap. 9:

Verse 28

Daniel 6:28. So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, &c.— These two reigns are clearly distinguished. Daniel was in honour successively under the reign of five princes, Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-merodach, Belshazzar, Darius, and Cyrus.

We cannot read this chapter, without admiring the zeal and integrity of Daniel; who, religious and devout in the midst of prosperity, continues unshaken in his principles in the greatest danger: no way intimidated by the king's edict, he continues to worship his God, and that in the most public manner, without respect to the peril whereto he was thus exposed; lest, if he had done it in secret, he might be thought to dissemble his faith, and obey the king's command. Though ostentation and affectation in religious duties are on every account to be condemned; yet, on such trying occasions, we are bound to make the most public profession of our faith, without the least dissimulation, and without betraying our consciences through the fear of men. It is to be observed, that Darius was weak enough to consent to Daniel's death, though he believed him to be innocent. God did not think fit to deliver his servant by means of the king, but suffered him to be cast into the den of lions, because he designed to make his deliverance the most conspicuous possible. The Scripture says, that Daniel was thus preserved, "because "innocency was found in him, and he believed in his "God:" a glorious reward of his fidelity, and a noble triumph of that faith, which, when true, is always victorious. The solemn acknowledgment which the king made of the majesty of the true God engages us to adore the goodness, justice, and omnipotence of the Lord, to publish his marvellous works, and to admire the ways of his providence; who made use of this king's edict, of Nebuchadnezzar's, and that of several other heathen princes, to make his name and glory known among those idolatrous nations.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, Daniel had been highly advanced by Belshazzar; and on a reverse of government he might have expected a reverse of station; but it happened quite otherwise.

1. He is preferred to the first post in the kingdom by the new emperor Darius, who probably had heard of his predictions and uncommon wisdom, and was glad to have so great a man to employ under him. In the new distribution of the empire into one hundred and twenty provinces, under the care of so many princes, three presidents were appointed to inspect the conduct of these governors, and their accounts: of these Daniel was chief. His excellent spirit was his commendation to Darius; and so well satisfied was he of his abilities and integrity, that he meditated his farther advancement, designing as viceroy to set him over the whole realm. Daniel must now be very aged, it being above seventy years since he was carried captive to Babylon; but his natural force, it seems, was not abated, and his experience was increased. It was a proof of the wisdom of Darius to make such a choice; and it was a noble testimony to the uprightness of the minister, that no fault was to be found in him. Happy the nation blessed with such wise princes, and upright ministers.

2. His greatness naturally provoked the enmity of the courtiers, who, though his merit stood confessed, could not bear to see a foreigner, a Jew, a captive, thus preferred before them. Thus will superior excellence, however spotless the character, awaken the malignant passions of the corrupted heart. They eyed him with malicious acuteness, and hoped, but hoped in vain, to find some flaw in his management, which might afford a handle for accusation. Despairing at last of being able to attack him on account of his civil conduct, they can think of no method of ruining him, unless it be on account of his religion. Note; (1.) It is an honourable testimony when even enemies own our integrity, and, except concerning the law of our God, have no evil thing justly to say of us. (2.) The more the eyes of malignant observers are fixed upon us, the more careful should we be in the minutest particulars to walk circumspectly, and cut off occasion from those that desire occasion against us. (3.) Our fidelity to God will often expose us to the persecution of the world; but when we thus suffer, we need be neither afraid nor ashamed.

2nd, Since there was no probability of finding matter of accusation against Daniel but on account of his religion, and no law then in being seems to have restrained him from worshipping God in his own way, they craftily contrive a new one to ensnare him.
1. They make a solemn application to Darius for his approbation of a new edict, which seemed indeed to contain in it an uncommon respect for the king, but was really big with evils. They came in a body, and pretended it was the unanimous suffrage, after mature deliberation of all the presidents, &c., though probably many of the princes excepted to it, and all the presidents were but two; for Daniel, their chief, certainly consented not to it. But if the concurrence had been never so general, the matter of the request was utterly wrong, that no man should ask a petition of any god or man for thirty days, save of the king, on penalty of being cast into the lions' den. Had it only forbidden religious worship for so long a time, it had been highly impious; but to extend the prohibition to all civil requests between man and man, must have been to the highest degree inconvenient, absurd, and unreasonable: yet as it seemed to put such distinguished honour on the king, and set him in a sort even above the gods, this court to his pride blinded his reason, and he consents and seals the decree, then become unalterable by the law of the Medes and Persians. Note; (1.) The malicious care not what mischief is done, so their vile spirit be gratified; let dearest friends suffer, so the object of their enmity be but ruined. (2.) it is the unhappiness of kings, that they can hardly know the truth; and, compassed with flatterers, often are accessary to evils that they never meant. (3.) Pride is our weak side; when that is attacked by flattery, we had need double our guard.

2. Daniel persisted in his stated practice of devotion. Though he knew the decree was signed, and the penalty so fearful, he went as usual to his house, and prayed and gave thanks unto his God upon his knees three times a day, turning his face towards the temple, though in ruins, and hoping that God would remember its desolations, 1 Kings 8:48-49.: nor did he seek concealment; his windows were open. Whatever precautions or excuses coward fear and selfish prudence might have dictated, he dared not submit to any thing which might dishonour God, disgrace his profession, or discourage his people: any suffering, or death itself, in his eyes was preferable to but the appearance of unfaithfulness. Note; (1.) In time of danger to be ashamed of Christ, or afraid to suffer for him, is the sure way to be disowned by him in the day of his appearing. (2.) What lukewarm Christians so carefully inculcate under the specious name of prudence, is for the most part base selfishness, and a treacherous betraying of the cause of God and truth. (3.) A gracious person cannot live a day without prayer and praise; and though he never kneels or sings to be seen or heard of men, he is never ashamed to be known to do so. (4.) Thrice a day Daniel prayed, notwithstanding all his occupations, and engagements: can we then have a plea for a less frequent attendance on the throne of grace?

3rdly, The snare was so laid, that it could not but succeed. Accordingly we have,
1. Daniel discovered acting in disobedience to the law. They knew, probably, his stated hours of devotion; and assembling tumultuously, as the word signifies, broke in upon him in the very act of prayer.
2. Without delay an impeachment is laid against him before the king. After having gained a recognition of the edict on which it was founded; they bring their accusation; and, not content with the proof of the fact, they seek by the manner of their charge to exasperate the king against him. They call Daniel one of the captivity of Judah; as if the despicable condition of his people, from among whom he had been preferred to such high honour, aggravated the crime of disobedience with ingratitude; and they insinuate that he did this in proud contempt of the king's authority: He regardeth not thee, O king, nor the decree that thou hast signed. And thus is conscientious adherence to God in the way of duty still frequently branded as obstinacy and contempt of authority; but we believe that thou shalt come to judge the world.

3. Too late the king perceived the fatal tendency of this impious edict, and the malicious intent of those who proposed it; sore displeased at himself for what he had done, he set his heart to deliver Daniel from the penalty that he had incurred, and laboured all day by every means to persuade his accusers to drop the prosecution, but in vain. His enemies insist that the law must have its course, according to the fundamental maxim of their government; and, though with deep reluctance, Darius is compelled to order the execution of this venerable saint, this aged sage, this upright minister, for no real crime, but for doing that which was his highest honour, and worthy the greatest commendation. To make sure work, that no escape should be practicable, a ponderous stone is laid on the den's mouth; and, as if the king's signet thereon afforded not sufficient security, the lords added theirs also, to prevent all possibility of collusion. Thus the precautions taken to secure the body of Jesus rendered his resurrection more undeniable and notorious; so easily can God take the wise and malicious in their own craftiness.

4. The king encourages Daniel to trust in God. Thy God, whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee; since for no crime, but purely for fidelity to his God, he suffered, he was as able now to deliver him from the lions, as he had saved his servants of old from the devouring fire. Note; Let us but be faithful, and then we may safely trust our all with God.

4thly, We are told,
1. The melancholy night that Darius passed. He returned to his palace, overwhelmed with grief, vexation, and self-reproach: his appetite was gone, his ears incapable of relishing one cheerful note; fasting he passed the night, and sleepless waited in suspense the return of day. A troubled conscience puts a thorn even into a downy pillow.
2. At early dawn he springs from his bed; and, eager to know what he dreaded to ask, with a lamentable voice addresses the faithful sufferer, O Daniel, servant, &c. Some imagine that the king proposed this question as fluctuating between hope and despair; while others rather consider it as expressive of his astonishment and admiration, when, on the nearer approach to the den, and hearing Daniel's voice, he perceived that he was yet alive.

3. Daniel, addressing the king, recounts his miraculous deliverance. He does not upbraid Darius with giving him up into the hand of his enemies, but expresses his warmest wishes for his prosperity, O king, live for ever! My God, in whom I trusted, hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me; and herein God bore testimony to his innocence. Nor could the king in conscience imagine that Daniel designed him either injury or affront in what he had done. Note; God will stand by his faithful people in the hour of temptation; and though their souls may be among lions, he can not only keep them safe, but make their consolations abound. Daniel in the den, with the presence of that heavenly visitant, was happier far than Darius in his palace.

4. Daniel is immediately discharged. The king, transported with joy, orders him to be taken out of the den, and not a blemish was found on him, so carefully had that God in whom he believed preserved him: nor shall any who boldly trust in him have ever reason to be ashamed of their confidence.
5. Daniel's persecutors are justly consigned to that den from which he is delivered. Darius, now fully assured that it was from mere malice that they had accused him, will avenge the innocent blood which they meant to shed; and, by a fearful example of severity, to deter others from the like conspiracies, their wives and children share their fate: when, lo! these ravening lions, who mildly crouched at the prophet's feet, with open mouths seized these miscreants as they fell, and broke all their bones ere they touched the bottom of the den. Note; God's justice in this world is sometimes eminently seen in suffering the malicious to fall into the pit which they have digged for others.

5thly, Darius, exceedingly affected with the miracle,
1. Issues an edict throughout his kingdom, enjoining the highest reverence and veneration for Daniel's God; that in all provinces of his empire men should tremble and fear before him; for he is the living God, self-existent, the author of life to all his creatures, and stedfast for ever, himself unchangeable and everlasting, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end; unlike the kingdoms of the world, it can neither be shaken by external violence, nor is subject to internal decay, but enduring as the days of eternity. He delivereth and rescueth his faithful from the deepest afflictions, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, controlling at his pleasure the course of nature; an eminent instance of which had now appeared; who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.

2. Daniel is restored to all his former honours and dignity, and during this whole reign continued greatly in favour with the king: and his successor Cyrus shewed him the same respect: so wonderfully can God overrule the events which seemed most grievous, for our good; and make, if he pleases, a prison like Joseph's, or a den of lions as Daniel's, the means of our greatest prosperity.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Daniel 6". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.