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DANIEL IN THE LIONS' DEN.
It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes. which should be over the whole kingdom; and over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first: that the princes might give accounts unto them, and the king should have no damage. Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm. The variations from the Massoretic text in the Septuagint are, in regard to the verses before us, very considerable. It assumes the last verse of the preceding chapter, and begins, "And he set up a hundred and twenty and seven satraps over all his kingdom. And over them he set three men as presidents (ἡγουμένους), and Daniel was one of the three men [and had authority over all men in the kingdom. And Daniel was clothed in purple, and was great and honourable (ἔνδοξος) before Darius the king, because he was honourable (ἔνδοξος) and understanding and prudent, and there was an holy spirit in him, and he prospered in the affairs of the kingdom which he did]. Then the king thought (ἐβουλεύσατο) to place Daniel over all his kingdom [(and the two men who stood with him and the hundred and twenty-seven satraps) when the king thought to place Daniel over his whole kingdom]." The passages within brackets, we think, are additions to amplify the description, and to connect it with the honor given Daniel by Belshazzar. The bracketed parts are easily separable from the rest, and then what remains forms a continuous narrative. Theodotion differs, though slightly, from the Massoretic text, Darius "set (κατεστήσεν) Daniel over the kingdom"—did not merely take counsel to do it. The Peshitta agrees also very closely with the Massoretic, only the word for "princes" is not, as in the Massoretic text, aḥashdarpnayya', but rabu ḥeel. This is the common rendering in the Peshitta of this word, and points to the Massoretic term being an adaptation. the use of the word "satrap" here has led to the idea that this is derived from the hundred and twenty-seven provinces (Esther 1:1). This identification is supported certainly by the LXX; which gives a hundred and twenty-seven as the number of the satraps set up by Darius. Josephus, it may be noted ('Ant., ' 10.11.4), mentions the satrapies as three hundred and sixty—a reading that seems scarcely to be drawn by any conceivable mistake from the Massoretic text, nor any tradition of the actual number of satrapis under the Persian rule. The probability is that there has been some early corruption of the number. On the supposition that Darius is Gobryas, these satraps would really be governors of cities and small districts in the populous province of Babylon. We have in the inscriptions of the Assyrian monarchs who intervened in the affairs of Babylon and Chaldea, notices of a large number of small kingships: each of these would require a special governor. In harmony with this, we are informed by Mr. Pinches that Gobryas appointed subordinate governors in the territory of Babylon. The phrase which states this occurs in the Annals of Nabunahid (Colossians 3:0. line 20), "And Gobryas his governor appointed governors in Babylon." Delitzsch points out that the sign of the plural after the second occurrence of the word "governor" proves that we cannot translate as if "Cyrus" were the nominative to the sentence, and "Gobryas," who was governor of Gutium or Guti, was object. From the fact that the text of Daniel was not protected by being regularly read in the synagogues, as was the Law, the Prophets, the Megilloth, the Psalms, and some other books, it was more at the mercy of scribes. The change of "Gobryas" into "Darius" led easily to other modifications. Probably medeena, "province," was the word in the original text, but it was modified to malcoutha, "kingdom," and "governors" of cities became "satraps" over provinces. After having appointed these subordinate governors, that a board of three should be set over them was a necessary arrangement. The name given to them, sarekeen, is asserted by some to be of Persian origin. On the other hand, the fact that the first syllable is sar, the Assyrian for "king," one is tempted to think of a Semitic etymology. The Authorized is wrong in making Daniel "first" of these presidents; all that is asserted is that Daniel was one of these presidents. That the king should have no damage applies most probably to the revenue. The country, in the East, is divided off into small districts for the purpose of tax-collecting, and in the division of the Persian Empire into twenty satrapies, this was greatly the object. The repetition of the word "king" here might imply that Darius was not the king whose loss of revenue was to be guarded against; but we weald not be held as pressing this. Although Daniel was not, on the creation of this board, made chief of it, he soon acquired an influence over Darius which gave him, in effect, such a position. We arc to understand that these officials were mainly Babylonians. We learn now that the capture of Babylonia by Cyrus was not accomplished by a skilful diverting of the waters of the Euphrates, so that the Persian troops were enabled to wade in by the bed of the stream, nor to the fact that in the revelry of a feast the river-gates were left open, and the sentinels were careless; but to the fact that the whole official class were at enmity with the court, and so treachery opened the gates to Gobryas, the governor of Gutium, the name given to Mesopotamia as a Persian province, and when morning broke one day, the sixteenth of Tammuz, the inhabitants of Babylon saw the shields of Gutium guarding the citadel and the temple Esakkil. This being the case. naturally the official class of the former monarchy would be largely drawn upon to supply the needs of the new government; naturally the native Babylonians would think that the preference in all matters of office ought to be given to them; that, above all, the principal place should not be given to a Jew by Cyrus, or by any one under him, since Cyrus professed to be moved by reverence for the national gods of Babylon in his war against Nabunahid. And the king thought to set him over the whole realm. This really means over the province of Babylon, malcoutha being written instead of medeena. His object was not to make Daniel satrap instead of himself, but to make him his "vizier." His knowledge of the business of the province would of necessity be very thorough, dating, as it did, from the days of Nebuchadnezzar. He, as no other, would be acquainted with the various religious beliefs of the different captive communities in Babylonia. Himself belonging to one of these communities, his interest would be excited by all in similar circumstances. His age, the dignity he had enjoyed in the courts of Nebuchadnezzar and Nabunahid, along with his zeal and ability, naturally explain the desire of Darius (Gobryas) to make him his vizier.
Daniel 6:4, Daniel 6:5
Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him. Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God. The rendering of the Septuagint is here very paraphrastic, "Then the two young men (νεανίσκοι) took counsel, and planned among themselves with each other, saying, Since they found no error nor neglect (ἄγνοιαν) against Daniel, about which they might accuse him to the king, and they said, Come, let us make a decree (ὁρισμόν) among ourselves, that no man shall make any request, or offer any prayer, to any god for thirty days, but only from Darius the king, and if not he shall die; in order that they might lower (ἡττήσωσι) Daniel before the king, and that he be thrown into the den of lions; for they knew that Daniel prayed and made supplication to the Lord his God three times a day." There are elements here of interpolation and of the coalescence of different renderings. It is difficult to understand how "the presidents" could be called νεανίσκοι. There seems no Aramaic word with that meaning, into which sarekeen could be read; certainly it is as difficult to imagine any one thinking of introducing that as a logical equivalent. Young men would not be put in such a responsible place, nor would they have thought of Daniel—a man of about eighty years—as a colleague with youths. There are evident traces of two readings having coalesced; thus we have ἀλλήλους λέγοντες followed by εἶπαν, after the course of the narrative has been interrupted by an inserted clause. As to the punishment to befall the transgressor of this decree, one statement is, "If not, he shall die" The next version of the punishment is brought into connection with the humiliation to be inflicted on Daniel, that "he may be cast into the den of lions." At the same time, the fact that we hear of the decree in connection with the consultation of these conspirators in the present text, is in harmony with what we find in the fourth chapter. In the original document not improbably the statement would be given—as in Genesis 41:1-57. in regard to Pharaoh's dreams—alike when the conspirators devise the plan, and when they carry it out. In regard to some of the differences, an explanation may be hazarded, but we will not delay. Notwithstanding that the Massoretic here is shorter than the Greek text, we fancy it is not difficult through it to find a shorter text still. The text of Theodotion is much briefer than either of the other texts, "And the presidents (τακτικοὶ) and the satraps sought to find occasion against Daniel, and they found neither occasion, nor fault, nor error against him, because he was faithful. And the presidents said, We shall not find occasion against Daniel except in regard to precepts (νομίμους) of his God." The Peshitta agrees in the main with the Massoretic. It makes Daniel faithful "towards God." That these co-presidents and the under-governors should be indignant that a Jew, who had actually been employed in the court of Nabunahid, should be put above those Babylonians who had admitted the shields of Guti into Esakkil, was natural. Of course, they could not seriously plead this before the governor Gobryas. They could not accuse Daniel directly of worshipping his national Deity, for the Persian rule in:Babylon, while zealous for the gods of Babylon, did not imply any assault on the deities of other subject races. It is to be noted that in the Septuagint the plot is concoeted by the two "youths," Daniel's co-presidents. They, most likely men of high rank, would feel most keenly that they were superseded by a Jew, and their feelings would naturally spread to those beneath them.
Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever. All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not, Wherefore King Darius signed the writing and the decree. The Septuagint, in regard to those verses, is much briefer, and reveals a better text. "Then those men came and said before the king, We have made a decree and a statute, that any man who offereth prayer or presents petition to any god for the space of thirty days, save only to Darius the king, shall be cast into the den of lions; and thus Darius decreed, and confirmed it." The fact that requests to uther men are not forbidden is to be observed. The long catalogue of officials is omitted; the whole conspiracy is the work of Daniel's co-presidents. Theodotion and the Peshitta are in practical agreement with the Massoretic text. To understand the point of this decree, that seems to us so absurd, and comprehend how any one with sufficient mental vigour left to be placed by Cyrus as governor in Babylon could be led to yield to confirm it, we must recognize the state of matters in Babylon. During the reign of Nabunahid there had been many religious changes. The seclusion of the monarch had led to the neglect of many of the regular rites of the gods of Babil. The policy he pursued of bringing the gods of various provinces to Babylon tended, as did the similar policy in Rome, to draw off from the importance of the national religion by forming rival cults. One of the first acts of Cyrus's reign was to order the replacing of these deities in their ancient shrines. This would necessarily be most distasteful to the worshippers of these imported deities. There would be much murmuring among the huge heterogeneous population; and there would be thus a well-grounded fear of a religious riot. A bold soldier as Gobryas (Darius) was, he probably was but a timid ruler, and nothing would he dread more than a religious riot. Would it not be a plausible way of meeting this difficulty to order for one month all worship to cease? The British Government in India regulates the religion of the inhabitants as summarily, forbidding religious observances that are liable to cause excitement in votaries of rival creeds. Thus Moses assigned, as a reason for refusing to sacrifice in Egypt, the wrath of the Egyptians (Exodus 8:26). The offering of a prayer among heathen peoples generally meant the offering of sacrifices, also accompanied possibly by processions. That the decree was made by Darius in the absence of his favourite minister might have two reasons: either from the fact that the word used (hargishoo) implies that the presidents rushed in tumultuously into the royal presence; that there was an emergency which must be met by instant action; or that, being a weak man, he did not wish his other counsellors to think that he was so under the influence of this Jew that he could do nothing without first consulting him; so, by way of showing his independence, he signed the decree. As for the practical deification of himself required from the subject races, that would not appear to him a matter of importance. It might even seem to him as the surest way of doing away with the rancour of religious rivalries to give these conflicting creeds a common object. He, Gobryas, was the representative of Cyrus, in whom deity was incarnate, therefore let them worship him in his representative capacity. That Daniel should be affected by this decree might easily never occur to Gobryas Jewish worship, now that the temple at Jerusalem was in ruins, must have become very much the synagogue worship of the present day. A worship that had neither idols nor sacrifices, neither temple nor altar, would seem to the Babylonians, and for that matter to the Medians and Persians also, as much the same as atheism. Christianity seemed so to the Roman Government. Darius, then, would readily think that Daniel could make no serious objection to this order That Daniel always spoke of a God in heaven did not matter much, since, to all appearance, he never worshipped him. Some have maintained that the punishment was an impossible one. It is certain that Asshur-bani-pal inflicted a similar punishment on Saulmugina, a rebel King of Babylon, and did it in honour of the gods.£ The main objection has been urged from the mistaken assumption that the text implies that the lions' den was a bottle shaped dungeon. There is nothing in the narrative that necessitates this. In regard to the decree, there is reference to the "laws of the Medea and Persians," "the Medea" being placed first. It has been attributed to court flattery, as Darius was a Merle; probably, however, there may be another explanation. The small canton of Ansan, over which Cyrus was king, lay between Elam and Media, but belonged more to the former than to the latter of these countries. Both countries bad been overrun by a nomadic race, the Manda, under Astyages, who had overthrown Cyaxarcs the King of Media. Against Astyages Cyrus rebelled, and gathered to him the Medea, Elamites, and other cognate races. Dr. Winckler thinks that, on his victory over Astyages, Cyrus assumed the name Persian, Parsu, from his race. The name Parsua appears in connection with the Medea in an inscription of Shalmaneser, where it seems to indicate a small kingdom occupying much the same geographical posit;on as Ansan. By taking this old name, not impossibly Cyrus avoided making the Medea feel themselves subject to the Elamites, or the Elamites to the Medea, or either to the little kingdom of Ansan. The Median had comparatively recently been an imperial power, therefore its laws and constitution would be placed before the more recently prominent Persian. One thing that must be observed is that, while the writer of Daniel mentions Medea separate from Persians, he mentions them conjointly. Had the writer been under the delusion attributed to him by all critical interpreters, that the Median Empire came between the Babylonian and the Persian, he would not have represented the Median courtiers as saying anything about the Persians or their laws; the Medes, and the Medea alone, would be considered. According to the Greek account, from which it is alleged Daniel drew his information, Persia was a small, undeveloped country before Cyrus raised it to empire. What right, then, would it have to have its laws mentioned in the same breath with those of imperial Media? If, however, Cyrus had been raised to such power, so as to be able to encounter successfully Astyages and his Scythian hordes by the adhesion to his cause of the Medea, the laws of the Medea might well get a preference, as the Medea were, in all probability, more numerous than the Persians, though the laws of the Persians would be mentioned. The claim that these laws were immutable must be regarded as on a par with several other Eastern exaggerations. Signed the writing and the decree. The reading of the Septuagint seems superior, "And so King Darius decreed (ἔστησε), and confirmed it." At the same time, the verb resham, translated "sign," really means "engrave," and therefore might naturally enough be used for affixing a seal to a clay tablet; only hetham is the word usually used for "sealing" a document. Behrmann thinks it does not refer to the signature of the sovereign, but to the engraving the decree on the clay. If we imagine yeqeem to have fallen out before "sara, we have a reading not unlike the LXX. In the seventh verse there is a list of officials omitted from the Septuagint; it is almost identical in members with that which we find in Daniel 3:1-30; but in a slightly different order, only the sareqeen are added and the edargazereen omitted.
Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. The Septuagint rendering differs only slightly from the Massoretic. "And when Daniel knew the decree which was passed (ἔστησε) against him, he opened the windows of his upper chamber, and fell on his face three times a day, according as he did aforctimc, and prayed." The Septuagint translator read עלה, "against him," instead of על, "went." It seems to us that the Massoretic reading, "went to his house," is an addition due to misreading עלה. That the variations of the Septuagint arc not due to paraphrase is proved by the tact that the next clause is literally translated. It would seem that the text before the LXX. had been altered, so that we have "fell upon his face," instead of "knelt upon his knees." The former phrase is an echo from Daniel 2:46. It is to be observed that "prayed and gave thanks" is omitted from the Septuagint. As the omission can have no purpose, and we can understand the reason of the words being added, we prefer the LXX. reading here. Theodotion and the Peshitta are at one with the Massoretic. The action of Daniel is here that of a man of true conscientiousness; he does not obtrude his religion now that the practice of it implies danger, as did some Christian fanatics in the persecution of the three first centuries; nor, on the other hand, does he hide his acts of worship—he simply continued his previous habits. Had a Jewish fanatic of the time of the Maccabees written this, the action attributed to Daniel would have been much more uncompromising, as the story in the Midrash Rabba of Moses in regard to the crown of Pharaoh. Or Daniel would be represented as doing, as the Jews arc said in Third Maccabees to have done to Ptolemy, bowing himself down in humble abasement before the king, to get him to reverse his decree, or, if not, to devise some means of its effect being averted. Daniel does none of these things. His windows being open toward Jerusalem. The windows were lattices, and as the room was an upper one on the roof of the house, the opening of the windows enabled everything done in the apartment to be seen. The practice of prayer "toward Jerusalem" is acknowledged to have arisen in Babylon during the Captivity. Solomon, in his prayer at the dedication of the temple, refers to the contingency of captivity (l Kings 8:48), and prays that if the captives "pray unto thee toward their land, the city which thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for thy Name, then hear thou their prayer" (see also Psalms 5:8 ). The practice of praying towards a particular point has been maintained by the Mohammedans, who pray towards Mecca. Mohammed originally made Jerusalem the qiblah, or point of prayer; but the Jews would not receive him as their Messiah, and so from Jerusalem it was changed to Mecca. The objection of Bertholdt hardly needs to be mentioned, that "the temple was in ruins"—the place was holy ground. "Three times a day" is referred to Psalms 55:18 (17), "Evening and morning and at noonday will I complain."
Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God. The Septuagint reading is very different, "And they watched Daniel, and found him praying three times a day every day." It is difficult to decide which is the preferable reading, and almost as difficult to deduce the one reading from the other. Thcodotion has a reading akin to that of the Septuagint, "Then those men watched, and found Daniel praying, and. making entreaty to his God." This is akin to the Septuagint at the beginning, but is close to the Massoretic at the end. The Peshitta is in close agreement with Theodotion. It seems more in accordance with the plan of these presidents that they should not, as the Massoretic text asserts, rush tumultuously into the house of Daniel, but rather, as the three versions represent them doing, setting a watch, and then, when information reached them of Daniel's habits, acting accordingly. Nothing in the narrative makes it probable that there was a general assembling of the governors against Daniel; it was the action of his colleagues in the presidency.
Then they came near, and spake before the king concerning the king's decree; Hast thou not signed a decree, that every man that shall ask a petition of any God or man within thirty days, save of thee, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions? The king answered and said, The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not, Then answered they and said before the king, That Daniel, which is of the children of the captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, O king, nor the decree that thou hast signed, but maketh his petition three times a day. Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him: and he laboured till the going down of the sun to deliver him. The version of the Septuagint, as usual, differs from the Massoretic text," Then these men interceded (ἐνέτυχον) with the king, and said, King Darius, didst thou not confirm a decree that no man should offer prayer or present petition to any god for thirty days, save only to thee, O king, otherwise he should be cast into the den of lions? And the king answered and said, The word is clear, and the decree remaineth. And they said to him, We adjure thee by the laws of the Medes and the Persians that thou change not the commandment, nor be an accepter of persons (μηδὲ θαυμάσῃς προσῶπον), nor diminish aught of the thing spoken, but punish the man that abideth not by this decree. And he said, This will I do, according as ye have said, and the thing is confirmed (ἔστηκε) by me. And they said, Behold, we found Daniel, thy friend, praying, and making entreaty before his God three times a day. [And the king, being grieved, spake to cast Daniel into the den of lions, according to the decree which he decreed against him.] Then the king grieved exceedingly concerning Daniel, and laboured (ἐβοήθει) till the going down of the sun to deliver him out of the hands of the satraps." One of the verses here seems to have been an addition most probably to the Aramaic text, as the Semitic spirit and construction shine through. There is, further, an obvious instance of doublet; the clause within square brackets has all the appearance of being a marginal note summarizing the contents of the verse. The words, "out of the hands of the satraps," have been added as explanatory. Theodotion is in practical agreement with the Massoretictext. The Peshitta differs in some minor points, e.g. inserting the common Eastern mode of addressing royalty, "O king, live for ever." The clause, "concerning the decree," is omitted; the other differences are unimportant. The fact that his Jewish origin is put in the front of their accusation of him indicates what Daniel's great offence was. The Septuagint places the fact that he was the king's friend in that position. It seems little likely that even to a satrap would any courtier venture to bring forward a taunting reference to his friendships. The king is caught in a trap; but no courtier would venture to press his advantage, lest he himself be taken at unawares. Darius's efforts to save Daniel are to be noted. His effort would most probably be directed to find some way out of the constitutional dilemma into which he had been entrapped. His subordinate position, occupying the place of King of Babylon merely for a season instead of Cyrus, would make it more difficult for him to override any constitutional maxim. In the Septuagint the presidents seem to compel the king by moral arguments—a thing float seems possible, though also a feature that might very naturally be added to the story. In the Massoretic text there is an endeavor to poison the king against Daniel. Daniel has despised the king and his commandment. This is more natural than the conduct imputed to the presidents in the Septuagint. These efforts were not successful, as probably they scarcely expected they would be; the king is convinced of his own hastiness, and of their treachery also, but not of any failure on the part of Daniel, in due respect to him, as the representative of the great king.
Then these men assembled unto the king, and said unto the king. Know, O king, that the law of the Medes and Persians is, That no decree or statute which the king establisheth maybe changed. The corresponding verse in the Septuagint is much shorter, "And he was not able to deliver him from them." This verse in the Massoretic text has very much the appearance of a doublet mollified to fit a new position. The first clause has occurred already twice before in the sixth verse and the fifteenth. The last portion of the verse is a modification of what is stated in Daniel 6:9 and Daniel 6:13. The first clause is omitted by Theodotion, but inserted by the Peshitta. The probability is that this verse, in its Massoretic form, has been inserted to explain the opposition the king strove in vain to overcome.
Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee. The Septuagint Version here is not so likely to represent the original text, as there are symptoms of displacement, "Then Darius the king called out and said to Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually three times a day, he will deliver thee out of the power of the lions; till the morning be of good cheer." The opening clause of the next verse in the Septuagint really represents the first clause of the verse before us, "And the king was grieved, and spake to cast Daniel into the den of lions." Theodotion and the Peshitta agree with the Massoretic text. The circumstances cannot fail to remind the reader of Herod with John the Baptist, and the still greater crime wrought by weakness—Pilate and our Lord. Darius had failed to overbear the opposition of the legalists who had determined on Daniel's death; he is obliged, therefore, to .give the order that the sentence be executed. In doing so he commends his friend to the God, or the gods, if we take the K'thib instead of the Q'ri. Darius probably knew nothing of Daniel's religious beliefs, and therefore would be prone to imagine that he worshipped several gods, and to them he commends him. The addition of the Septuagint is picturesque, "Be of good cheer until the morning." Moreover, it fits in to what follows, and at the same time it is not of such a nature as that it should suggest itself to the ordinary interpolator.
And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel. The Septuagint text begins, according to Tischendorf, with a passage elsewhere considered, "And the king was grieved, and commanded to cast Daniel into the den of lions, according to the decree which he had made concerning him." This is repeated from the fourteenth verse, where it appears alike in the Chisian Manuscript and in the version of Paul of Tella, "Then Daniel was cast into the den of lions, and a stone was brought and placed at the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signets of his lords, in order that Daniel might not be raised by them or delivered by the king out of the den." The reason assigned for the double sealing of the stone, while a very probable one, is from its very probability to be suspected; it is most likely an explanatory marginal remark, that has slipped into the text. It will be observed that the clause with which the Septuagint Version of this verse begins is the equivalent of the opening clause of the preceding verse. Theodotion's rendering does not differ from the Massoretic reading. From the similarity of the dialects, the resemblance of the Peshitta to the Massoretic is even closer. There are few criticisms of Daniel more unfair than that founded on the assumption that the writer had a bottle-shaped dungeon in his mind, that might be covered over as a well by one large stone. Nothing in the words used implies this. While gob certainly means a "pit" or a "cistern," it was by no means necessarily of small size or covered over with one stone, so that within it would be darkness. There were probably walls rising from the sides of the pit which formed the den; in that wall there would be naturally an aperture through which food could be passed to the lions. Through this door was Daniel cast, and when he had been so cast in, a stone was rolled up to the aperture and sealed. There is no necessity for arguing, as Hitzig and von Lengerke do, against this incident. The passage the former refers to in Xenophon's 'Anabasis' (v. 5.25) applies to dwellings of human beings, and even if we could transfer its description to the present case, it would not damage our argument. In these dwellings Xenophon tells us "were goats, sheep, oxen, birds, and their young; all the cattle are fed within with green fodder." These critics forget that lions' dens were in use not only among the Assyrians and Babylonians, but also among the Greek monarchs, and so, even if the writer was of the late date attributed to him by critics, still he would not speak nonsense about what he could not fail to know something. Hitzig sees in Daniel being let down into the den of lions an imitation of what befell Joseph at the hands of his brethren. Certainly the same word is used in the Targum of Onkelos, Genesis 37:22, but identity of name does not prove identity of thing. No one could argue that the pit of a theatre was necessarily dark, dirty, and damp, because a coal-pit is. That Reuben persuaded his brethren to put Joseph in the pit in order to save him alive, and the rulers had Daniel put in the lions' den in order to destroy him, is nothing to the purpose, it would seem; that there were lions in the pit or den in which Daniel was placed, and no venomous beast in that into which Joseph was let down, is also of no moment. The further fact that this letting down into the pit occurs in the beginning of Joseph's career, and in Daniel's case it is near the end of a long and prosperous life, is not noticed. The life of Daniel must be proved to be written in imitation of the life of Joseph, so any means are good enough to secure this predetermined conclusion. While this resemblance is only superficial, there is another resemblance that is, at all events, full of interest. In later history there was another sealing of the stone that was rolled to the mouth of a grave—it may be noted that gob is used for a "grave" also—and fear here also was lest the innocently condemned might be taken away.
Then the king went to his palace. and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of music brought before him: and his sleep went from him. In the Massoretic text one of the clauses, "Neither were instruments of music brought before him," has caused great difficulty. The word daḥvan, translated "instruments of music," is rendered by Furst, "dancing-girl; "Gesenius, "concubine; "Rosenmuller renders, "odours." The Mediaeval Greek Version translates, "instruments of music." Furst speaks with favour of the Syriac rendering, "food-tables." Han‛ayl, the aphel of ‛eilal, has to be noted as a sign of antiquity. The version of the Septuagint is very wide from the Massoretic in the latter part of the verse, "Thus the king returned to his palace, and went to bed fasting, being grieved about Daniel."£ It is evident that the Septuagint translator had before him deḥeel instead of doḥvan—nun in the script of Egyptian Aramaic is very like lamed in the later mode writing, as also yodh and vav. It is possible that the name "Daniel" was read han‛eel or, vies versa, as two of the letters are identical If we can accept the Septuagint reading, the difficulty of this mysterious daḥoun disappears. Another clause is added here in the Septuagint from verse 22 (23) Massoretic, though with variations. "Then the God of Daniel, taking thought for him (πρόνοιαν ποιούμενος αὐτοῦ) closed the mouths of the lions, that they did not hurt Daniel." This statement is not inserted in Daniel's answer to the king in the Septuagint, as it is in the Massoretic text. It would almost seem that our present text in both cases is a condensation of a more extended document. This view receives support from the rendering of Theodotion, "And the king departed to his house, and went to bed supperless, and viands were not brought to him, and his sleep went from him, and God closed the mouths of the lions, and they did not hurt Daniel." It will be seen that the last clause here agrees with the concluding clause of the Septuagint. The mysterious word daḥvan is rendered here "food" (ἐδέσματα)—a version that is suspicious from the fact that it merely repeats, under another form, the statement that the king went to bed fasting. It is supported by the Peshitta and the Vulgate. This difference can scarcely be due to a various reading. Otherwise the Peshitta and the Vulgate agree with the Massoretic text. The king's sorrow and humiliation could not be better pictured than it is here: even the feast of the palace had no pleasure for him, he was so grieved about Daniel. But we must also bear in mind that fasting had among the Jews, and, indeed, in the East generally, a relationship to prayer (see Esther 4:16, where fasting takes the place of prayer; see also Daniel 10:3). It means also repentance (Jonah 3:6-8). Darius, then, repented his hasty decree, and prayed for the deliverance of Daniel.
Daniel 6:19, Daniel 6:20
Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions. And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Darnel O Daniel servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? "Very early" is really "the glimmer of day;" (shapharpara'). The word used occurs in the Targums. It may, however, be doubted whether the word here is not the Syriac shapbra. The writing here presents so many peculiarities that suspicion is forced upon the reader. The first פis small, and the second is large. There is the further difficulty that nogah is nearly equivalent to shaphra. One might suspect a doublet, as Behrmann maintains, here, did not the versions indicate something like this as the meaning of this clause. A lamentable voice (atzeeb) seems to mean "sad" or "grieved." The version of the Septuagint shows traces of addition, "And King Darius rose early in the morning, and took with him the satraps, and went and stood at the mouth of the den of lions. Then the king called to Daniel with a loud voice, with weeping, saying, O Daniel, if thou art alive, and thy God whom thou servest continually, hath he saved thee from the lions? and have they not harmed thee?" It is possible the addition of "the satraps" may have been due to shapharpara being read aḥashdarpnayya. Certainly if the purpose of the double scaling was what it is assigned to be in the first verse, then the satraps would accompany him; only the suggestion is such a natural one that it might readily slip into the text. Verse 20 (21) in the LXX. has traces of expansion. The omission of yekeel and the change of sheezab to the finite preterite is possible enough, and may indicate that in the original text the word rendered "able" was not found. Theodotion renders verse 19 (20) in accordance with the Massoretic reading, but, in verse 20 (21) instead of "lamentable voice," has "strong voice," a reading that seems somewhat confirmed by the LXX. Further, he translates the interrogative ha as if it were the Hebrew kee, "if."£ The Peshitta, though agreeing in the nineteenth verse with the Massoretic, has some minor differences in the following verse—"high voice" instead of "lamentable voice," and "faithfully" instead of "continually." The Vulgate singularly inserts in verse 20 putasne? "dost thou think?" That Darius should thus hasten in the semi-darkness of the first glimmer of dawn to the lions' den to see whether Daniel were yet alive, was but natural. As the sealing of the lions' den suggested the sealing of the holy sepulchre, so the hastening of Darius to the den in the earliest dawn suggests the action of the women who got up "a great while before day." When Darius calls Daniel the "servant of the living God," there is no necessary confession of faith in him on the part of the king. It is for him simply an act of politeness to a Deity who, if this were neglected, might resent. It is to be noted that this attribute "living" is omitted in the Septuagint.
Daniel 6:21, Daniel 6:22
Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt. The Syriac construction, malleel‛im, is to be observed. The rendering of the LXX. differs from the Massoretic text in a way that can scarcely be due to differences merely of reading, "Then Daniel called with a loud voice and said O king, I am yet living, and God hath saved me from the lions according to the righteousness found in me before him, and before thee, O king, was neither ignorance nor sin to be found in me; but thou didst hearken to men who deceive kings, and hast east me into the den of lions for my destruction." It is not impossible that the opening clauses of the Massoretic and the LXX. respectively, "O king, I am yet living." and "O king, live for ever," have been derived from the same source. The last clause is to all appearance an expansion. Theodotion and the Peshitta agree with the Massoretic text. Daniel answers the king, and declares his safety. The angelology of Daniel is an interesting subject, but here the question is complicated by the fact that there is no reference to angelic interference in the Septuagint. Still all through Scripture God does most of his works through the intervention of angels. To Darius, if he had any such beliefs as afterwards are found associated with Zoru astrianism, the ascription of deliverance to an angel would be natural enough. It is doubt ful whether Cyrus and his followers were not idolaters. The rebuke implied in the state merit that not only before God was Daniel innocent, but in the sight of the king, is sufficiently clear without passing beyond the lines of courtly decorum. The expansion in the LXX. is unnecessary, and mars the stately picture; though, on the other hand, the simple answer to the king's question is more likely than the courtly "O king live for ever."
Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God. The verse that occupies the same place in the Septuagint is not a translation of the present verse at all, but looks as if it had been a sentence in the original longer documents which followed the above Massoretic verse, "Then all the powers gathered together, and saw Daniel, that the lions had not hurt him." It is barely possible float the first clause here represents Aramaic text that might be misread into the Massoretic text. Although it is supported by the later versions, the Massoretic text has a suspicions appearance. The last clause is a moral reflection, unlike anything else in the Book of Daniel, and is omitted, as we saw, from the Septuagint. The assertion of the king's gladness, too, differs in colour from the other statements in the book; thus compare the language concerning Nebuchadnezzar when the three Hebrew youths were delivered from the fiery furnace. At the same time, it is to be observed that the use of the hophal form in the verb hoosaq is an evidence of the antiquity of this portion of the verse. The hypothesis that tins narrative has been condensed from a longer one, has much to support it. The lesson inculcated, that faith in God would result in deliverance, is very true, even though it was not in the text. The irregular form of the adjective t'ayb points out a possibility that there has been some modification of the text. Sometimes words not understood have resulted in known words being written in an irregular way.
And the king commanded, and they brought those men which had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions, them, their children, and their wives; and the lions had the mastery of them. and brake all their bones in pieces or ever they came at the bottom of the den. Here the Septuagint text is superior to the Massoretic, as briefer, "Then those two men who had berne witness against Daniel, they, their wives, and their children, were east to the lions, and the lions slew them, and brake their bones." In this account of the punishment meted out to the accusers of Daniel, the victims are only two, with their wives and children. Hitzig contemptuously remarks that the lions' den must have been large to contain a hundred and twenty-two men along with their families—that number he gets by adding to the governors of the provinces the two presidents,colleagues of Daniel. If, however, we assume the Septuagint text to be correct, then this objection falls to the ground. The phrase "or ever they came at the bottom of the den," is an intensification of the narrative. In the Massoretic text it is "all their bones;" in the LXX. it is simply "their bones." Theodotion and the Peshitta agree with the Massoretic text. The slaughter of the wives and children of offenders, with the guilty persons themselves, was the common practice. There are two other accounts of this event—one preserved in the apocryphal story of Bel and the Dragon, and the other in the pages of Josephus. According to the story of Bel and the Dragon, the king, who thus condemns Daniel, is no less a person than Cyrus the great conqueror. The reason of the condemnation is not a decree forbidding all worship, but because Daniel had laid bare the deceit of the priests of Bel, and killed the sacred dragon, the people of Babylon were incensed, and threatened Cyrus that they would burn his house if he did not deliver Daniel into their hands to be cast into the lions' den. The seven lions were starved in order that they might be sure to devour Daniel. For six days he was there in the den. In order that Daniel might not starve, whatever befell the lions, Habacuc was brought from Judaea, carried by the hair of his head, to feed the prophet. The destruction of Daniel's accusers is stated in a mere compendious fashion. The fact that this version is referred to by Irenaeus ('Adv. Haeres.,' 4.), Tertullian ('De Jejuniis,' 7.), and Clement of Alexandria, shows that early.in the second century this narrative was incorporated with the canonical Daniel. This makes it almost necessarily before Christ in the date of its origin. If so, it is difficult to imagine the canonical version to be only a century and a half older. Josephus shows no signs that he knew of this apocryphal addition, but adds a feature for himself, "The enemies of Daniel, when they saw that nothing evil had befallen him, unwilling to attribute his deliverance to Deity and his providence, declared that the lions had been filled with food, and therefore neither attacked Daniel nor approached him, and maintained this to the king. But he, hating their malice, ordered that much flesh be thrown to the lions, and when they had gorged themselves, that the enemies of Daniel be cast into the den, in order that he might learn whether the lions would spare them on account of their being satisfied. It was then manifest to Darius, when the satraps had been thrown in, that Daniel had been preserved by miracle, for the lions spared none of them, but tore them all to pieces as if they had been famishing."
Then King Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end. He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions. This decree has a resemblance to the decrees of Nebuchadnezzar. In the Septuagint there is less magniloquence, though the divergence is too great to be the result merely of difference of reading, "Then Darius wrote to all nations and tongues and countries dwelling in all his land, saying, Let all men who are in my kingdom stand and worship, and serve the God of Daniel, for he alone abideth, and liveth to generations of generations for ever. I Darius will worship and serve him all my days, for none of the idols that are made with hands are able to deliver as the God of Daniel did Daniel." It is to be observed that it is only to the inhabitants of his own land that Darius writes, and further, it is "all men in his kingdom" he commands, not "every dominion in his kingdom." There is no notice taken of the kingdom of God; it is God himself who liveth and abideth for ever. The last verse, again, in the Septuagint, in which Darius professes his faith in Jehovah, is evidently spurious. Theodotion and the Peshitta agree with the Massoretic text. Removing the exaggerations from it, the decree of Darius does not mean any more than we found in the decrees of Nebuchadnezzar; it is simply a warning against showing any disrespect to a Deity with such formidable powers as Jehovah. It may be regarded as connected with the dualistic view of the universe maintained by Zoroastrianism, that deliverance from lions is spoken of with such awe. The lion was one of the beasts specially representative of the evil principle, as we see in Persepolis. There was thus evidence given that the God of the Jews was supreme over the powers of evil; therefore, without forbidding any subject of Babylonia from worshipping his own ancestral divinity. Darius yet commanded him, in so doing, to watch his conduct, so that nothing disrespectful to the powerful God of the Hebrews should be done by him.
So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian. The Septuagint follows a different reading, "And King Darius was gathered to his generation. And Daniel was established in the reign of Darius, and Cyrus the Persian inherited the kingdom"—a reading due to the influence of Xenophon's 'Cyropaedia.' Theodotion and the Peshitta agree with the Massoretic text. The statement that Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus, does not necessarily imply that they were successive. The reign of Gobryas, a satrap, and perhaps in some way "King of Babylon," would coincide with the reign of Cyrus as "king of nations." Moreover, if Darius (Gobryas) was King of Babylon for two years, then Cyrus would succeed him in this position. Certainly in some of the earlier contract tables of his reign, Cyrus in not called "King of Babil."
Excursus on Darius the Mode.
There is no character in Scripture who has given rise to more hypotheses than Darius the Mode. Every person whose name has come into prominence in early Persian history may be said to have been pressed into service. The apocryphal addition to Daniel—Bel and the Dragon—identifies Darius the Mede with Cyrus. Josephus implies that Darius is Cyaxares II; as he declares him to be a relative (συγγενής) of Cyrus and son of Astyages. Eusebius ('Chronicon' ad Olym; 54) identifies him with Astyages. Later critical commentators, e.g. Bevan, have assumed that Darius Hystaspis is intended. Still more recently, by Mr. Pinches, it has been suggested that Gobryas (Gobaru), who took possession of Babylon on behalf of Cyrus is Darius the Mede.
As a preliminary to discussing the question, we must look at what is said about Darius the Mede in Daniel. He received the kingdom when he was sixty-two years of age. He was the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes. From the fact that only the "first" year of his reign is mentioned, we may deduce that he reigned little more than a year. He appears in the Massoretic text especially as a supreme monarch, who appoints governors under him. We must, however, bear in mind the fact that the evidence from the Book of Daniel is complicated by the proofs of expansion which we find in it. Even when the Septuagint Version coincides with the Massoretic recension, we are not even then quite sure that the work of modification had not begun before the two families of recension were established. Bearing this in mind, let us gather up the information we have concerning Darius here. He is asserted to be an old man when he "received the kingdom." The verb used here is used of legitimate succession; thus in Paulus Tellensis Cyrus is said "to receive," קבל, the kingdom on the death of Darius. From the connection this is out of the question. It must mean that from some higher power he "received" his appointment. His age we may assume to be correctly stated, notwithstanding the Septuagint rendering; this seems to have been drawn from the Massoretic reading by taking כבר is a Syriac sense. This view is confirmed by the fact that the resulting construction is not a natural one. Further, the exactitude of statement gives a presumption of truth, as there is no reason in the narrative why this age should be taken and not another. We are not necessitated to maintain that the governors were satraps in the large sense of the word. The fact that "satraps" were Persian governors would lead that word to be inserted. As to the name, we cannot lay much stress on this, as variation in the matter of names is not uncommon in Hebrew literature, a less common name being replaced by one better known. This is rendered the more likely as in the Septuagint the name Darius is replaced by Artaxerxes in one instance.
If we take the Septuagint text, there is nothing that necessitates anything more than that the province of which he might be the governor was affected by his appointing these so-called "satraps." As to the title "king," we must remember that that title was used very loosely. Cyrus claims to have several ancestors who were "great kings" (Cylinder). Darius Hystaspis declares eight of his ancestors to have been "kings." Ansan, of which Cyrus and his ancestors were kings, was a canton under the power of Elam, and Hystaspes remained satrap under his son.
Let us now investigate the various hypotheses that have been brought forward, and we shall take them in order of their probable age.
The first hypothesis is that Darius is Cyrus. This we find, as we have said, in the second apocryphal addition to Daniel—Bel and the Dragon—as we find it in Theodotion. So far as the letters are concerned, it is not an impossible thing to fancy that Ko'resh was read into Daravasb, the resh and the shin being present in both words in the same position, and in the Aramaic characters of b.c. 100 daleth and caph were like. There is hardly any reason to lead one to read more readily the one name than the other. Although Darius could not fail to be a well-known name among the Jews, since three of that name successively reigned over the Persian Empire, and still in the East, Dara (Darius) is a name synonymous with "magnificence:" yet to a Jew what monarch of Persia could compare with Cyrus, "the servant of the Lord," his "shepherd," his "anointed," who allowed Judah to return and sacrifices once more to be offered? The fact that he is also called Artaxerxes in the LXX; and the further fact that in the LXX. Version of Bel and the Dragon the name is omitted, are significant. The name must be laid aside as being of no evidential value. If now we look at the men—when we compare Darius, as presented to us by the narrative here, with Cyrus, the skilful, self-contained conqueror, who had broken the power of Asytages, had built up a monarchy from the small cantons of the region east of the Tigris, and increased that monarchy to an empire—we see a vast, irreconcilable difference. Cyrus must have been at the maturity of his power when he gained possession of Babylon. Darius, we are told, was sixty-two years of age. Yet once more, he "received" his kingdom. Cyrus did not claim as inheriting from Nabunahid. We must, then, definitely decide against Cyrus being Darius.
The theory that has received the largest amount of support among those who maintain the ancient date of Daniel is that Darius the Mede is Cyaxares II. This is a personage introduced by Xenophon into his historical novel, the 'Cyropaedia.' If his existence could have been proved, the character suited the position admirably. The weaknesses and fussiness with which Xenophon endows him does not contradict anything we see of Darius here. Only Xenophon nowhere says that Cyrus made his uncle king in Babylon. We are in a very different position in regard to many of these events now, than we were forty years ago. We know now that Astyages was not the son of Cyaxares I; the King of the Medes. He Was King of the Manda or Umman-Manda, who overthrew the Median Empire. In Cyrus's revolts against Astyages we have no word of any relationship subsisting between him and his opponent, still less that he was his grandson. There is, further, no reference to any son of Astyages being regarded as monarch under whom Cyrus fought. Yet this must be acknowledged that, though Xenophon is at sea as to the capture of Babylon, he knew that Gobryas took a principal share in it. He associates with him a certain Gadates, which seems to be a word made from "Guti," the province from which Gobryas came. Herodotus, though he knows of a Gobryas who joined with Darius in conspiring against Smerdis, knows nothing of a Gobryas who took a principal part in the capture of Babylon. We are obliged, then, to dismiss Cyaxares II. as non-existent.
On the faith of a passage in Herodotus it has been supposed that Cyrus preserved Astyages, and may have set him as vice-king over Babylon. This, however, has nothing to support it. A much more plausible theory has been devised by Marcus yon Niebuhr, in his 'Geschichte Assur. u. Babils.' He maintained that Belshazzar was Evil-Merodach, and that he held the blasphemous feast narrated in Daniel, and that he was overthrown by a conspiracy assisted by the help of Astyages the Mede, and that Nergalsharezar (Neriglissar)reigned in Babylon as his subject-king. We know now that Astyages was not a Mede, but the King of the Mantis. We know further that there is no trace in the contract tables of the conquest of the city, so that there should be a foreign overlord. This, however, might not be notified in fixing the dates on the contracts. But if Astyages was for a year actual king in Babylon, then that fact would appear in the tables, and this is part of Baron yon Niebuhr's hypothesis. Further, Astyages does not retain his over-lordship in Babylon so far as we can judge from the proclamation of Nabunahid. We must, therefore, abandon this supposition also.
The followers of the critical method, which assumes that there must be something outrageously wrong, take for granted that the Darius here is the well-known Darius Hy-staspis. The only point in him that suits Darius the Mede is that he is called Darius. It is true that Darius Hystaspis, after it had rebelled against him, took Babylon; there is nothing said of Darius the Mede doing anything of the sort, although it may be implied. Darius in Daniel is a Mede, Darius Hystaspis was a Persian; the Biblical Darius is the son of Ahashverosh (Ahasuerus), the other Darius is 'the son of Hystaspes; the Biblical Darius is an old man when he ascends the throne, Darius Hystaspis is young. Further, if we assume the writer of the fifth and sixth chapters of Daniel wrote also the eleventh, then he knew of Darius Hystaspis and of his son Xerxes, as well as of Cyrus and his son Cambyses. If these critics maintain the author of Daniel to be under the erroneous idea that Darius preceded Cyrus, how do they explain his knowledge that Darius reigned after Cyrus? We need not appeal merely to the eleventh chapter of Daniel. We are told to remark the fact that the names Daniel, Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael all occur in Ezra and Nehemiah, as names of those who had returned from captivity, and we are expected to believe that from this source these came. If this writer studied Ezra so carefully as to pick out names to suit his purpose, how did he fail to see that Darius came not only after Cyrus, but after his two immediate successors, Cambyses and Smerdis? The critics are very ready to show us the sources of Daniel's knowledge; they forget to harmonize these alleged sources of knowledge with the stupendous ignorance they attribute to him whenever this is required by the necessities of their argument. Whoever Darius the Mede is, he cannot be Darius Hystaspis.
Another hypothesis has been started by Mr. Pinches of the British Museum—that Darius the Mede is Gobryas. We have seen that there is an uncertainty about the name. We know that in early Aramaic script the two names are not so very unlike, but that the less-known Gobaru might be read into the better known Darius. The main points known about both personages are in singularly exact historical parallel Darius received the kingdom; Gobaru (Og-baru, Gobryas) was admitted into Esakkil by the Babylonian confederates of Cyrus, and was made by Cyrus governor of Babylon. He exercised a certain amount of authority; for we are told, as above mentioned, that he appointed governors.£ Darius appointed governors. Darius was a Mede. and Gobryas was governor of the province of Guti or Gutlum, which was adjacent to Media, and therefore was not, improbably, a Mede. In thinking of this period, we are to dismiss from our minds all thought of the "Medes" being conquered by Cyrus and the Persians. Both Medes and Persians were oppressed by the Manda—probably a Scythian horde—and Cyrus commenced the rebellion against the common oppressors, and united as one nation the Medes and the Persians. As to the character of Gobryas as compared with that of Darius. we have no data to go upon either to affirm or deny a resemblance. His age is not at all improbable. Altogether the balance of probability in the mean time points to Darius the Mede being Gobryas the governor of Gutinm. That he is addressed always as "king" does not contradict this, for Media and Persia and all that region had monarchies of the most limited description, and these monarchs retained their titles even under Cyrus's rule; hence, in his Behistun inscription, Darius claims his father to have been a king, and this while Cambyses reigned as king over the empire. After his son Darius had mounted the throne, Hystaspes was satrap in Persia. He would be addressed as "King Hystaspes," since by his son he is called king. Hence, if, as was likely, Gobryas was king of some small town or canton when he became governor of Gutium, he would be always "King Gobryas," or, as it has been written, "Darius." On the whole, then, as we have said, the balance of probability at present indicates Gobryas as Darius the Mede.
The lions' den.
The story of "the lions' den" may be regarded as an instance of persecution frustrated.
I. HIGH STATION OFTEN OCCASIONS SEVERE TRIALS TO RELIGIOUS FIDELITY. If it had not been for his rank and office, Daniel would have been left unmolested. There is safety in obscurity.
1. The customs of high places are often inimical to religious fidelity. Daniel must have been tempted by fashion before he was attacked by persecution. His religious habits were singular and marked.
2. High office provokes envy. It was not anti-religious zeal which stirred the enemies of Daniel. They used a religious question simply as an instrument for their private jealousy. Blamelessness of conduct is no security against this kind of enmity.
3. Prominent positions are exposed to searching criticism. Daniel's habits were keenly watched. Happily his integrity was unimpeachable, even in the eyes of his enemies. How many of us could stand such a test? His religious habits, however, were made public; and his fidelity to God, in opposition to the royal decree, was noted against him when the similar conduct of humbler men would have been disregarded.
II. OUR DUTY TO GOD MUST TAKE PRECEDENCE OVER ALL HUMAN OBLIGATIONS. Daniel was a servant of Darius, and the law of the king was absolute; yet he had no hesitation in setting this at defiance in obedience to the higher service of God (Acts 4:19; Acts 5:29)
1. All through life there are similar cases in which lower obligations are cancelled by higher ones. The duties of subjects to sovereigns, citizens to laws, children to parents, servants to masters, etc; must all be considered to have this limitation.
2. An unrighteous law is no excuse for unrighteous conduct. This should be remembered by people in commercial or legal situations, in which the state of the law is sometimes used as a cloak for ambiguous practices.
III. RELIGIOUS FIDELITY IS OFTEN ATTENDED WITH TEMPORAL DANGER. Though jealousy was the first cause of the attack on Daniel, his religious fidelity afforded the immediate occasion for it. In the long run right will triumph, but here and now wrong often triumphs.
1. It is desirable to "count the cost," and not to expect all things to go smoothly, when we set out on the Christian warfare (Luke 14:25-33).
2. Strength and courage and independence of character are indispensable to a faithful Christian life (Joshua 23:9; Ephesians 6:10).
IV. GOD CAN SAVE THOSE WHO TRUST IN HIM WHEN ALL HUMAN HELP IS USELESS. The weak king laboured till sunset to save Daniel, but in vain. When the worst was done by men, God interfered.
1. The most savage creatures are under the control of God. When they rage and destroy they are only obeying instincts planted in them by their Creator. When he turns these instincts aside they obey. Wild beasts do not disobey the will of God. Man alone rebels.
2. To the faithful ,man tide worst dangers are more alarming than harmful. Daniel's lions looked terrific, but their mouths were shut. Bunyan's lions were chained. Spiritual evils often vanish when they are boldly faced (James 4:7).
V. THEY WHO MAKE UNJUST ATTACKS ON THE INNOCENT OFTEN BRING ABOUT THEIR OWN RUIN. The enemies of Daniel are themselves devoured by the lions. Compare this with the cases of Haman (Esther 7:10) and Judas (Acts 1:18). Thus wicked men sometimes fall into the vengeance they have prepared for their victim (Psalms 46:6). It is dangerous to show enmity to the weakest man who stands on the side of right. All the power of God is behind him.
This glimpse into the daily habits of Daniel is enough to reveal to us the secret of his fidelity and integrity among the fearful temptations of the world in which he was called to serve. Here we see the oil which saved the fire from being quenched. Daniel was a man of prayer.
I. DANIEL WAS NOT FORGETFUL OF HIS GOD IN SPITE OF THE DISTRACTIONS OF COURT LIFE. It was a heathen court, yet he remained faithful to the true God. It was a dissolute court, yet he lived in devotion to the God of holiness. It is more easy to withstand the outbreak of violent persecution than to remain pure and true amongst the daily and insidious allurements of a world of sinful pleasures.
II. DANIEL FOUND TIME FOR PRAYER AMONG THE MANY CLAIMS OF A BUSY LIFE. He had the responsibilities attendant on the highest office in the kingdom, and he fulfilled them so well that his most jealous enemies could find no fault with him. Yet he did not regard these public duties as an excuse for the neglect of prayer.
1. As our duty to God is of primary obligation, no human duties can afford an excuse for neglecting it.
2. Prayer is a help to the performance of duty. Time spent in prayer is not lost time, even as regards the work of the world. Hours of prayer can no more be neglected with profit, than the time for meals and sleep. Christ spent much time in prayer in the most active part of his life, and the more he worked the more he prayed (Matthew 45:23).
III. DANIEL PRACTISED REGULAR HABITS OF PRAYER. The observance of regular hours of prayer as a thing meritorious in itself is simply superstitious. Moreover, a spiritually minded man will live in an atmosphere of prayer, and not confine his devotions to set seasons ([ Thessalonians Daniel 5:17).
1. But on the other hand, there is great reason for observing regular habits of prayer. It is well that the mind should be at times entirely withdrawn from the world for spiritual exercises. The deeper and more far-reaching acts of prayer are only possible when we have leisure to collect our thoughts and meditate upon Divine things.
2. It is desirable, too, that these habits should be regular, because otherwise they may be neglected and crowded out by other concerns, and because the laws of habit will then help us to enter into them the more readily.
IV. DANIEL CONFESSED HIS PATRIOTISM IN HIS PRAYER, Praying towards Jerusalem was a touching proof of his true patriotism. Prayer brings out our deepest affections. We should remember our country in our prayers. It is well when high promotion does not lead a man to forget the associations of humbler days (Psalms 137:6).
V. DANIEL SHOWED HIS SIMPLICITY AND HIS COURAGE BY THE PUBLICITY OF HIS PRAYER. He prayed with his windows open. Of course, prayer should never be ostentatious (Matthew 6:5, Matthew 6:6). But if there are times when we should pray in the closet, and with the door shut, there are also times when it may be our duty to let devotional habits be known. If the hiding of them suggests the abandonment of them in face of danger, it is our duty to let them be open and visible. We should thus avoid the appearance of evil. It is always wrong to be ashamed of our religion (Luke 9:26). it is our duty to make a simple unpretentious confession of religion in face of persecution or of ridicule.
The law of the Medes and Persians.
The unalterable character of" the law of the Medes and Persians" is evidently regarded with superstitious veneration, and considered to be a scrod principle of government. But in the present instance it leads to gross injustice, and, instead of honouring, it humiliates the royal authority from which the decree emanates.
I. OBLIGATIONS RASHLY CONTRACTED OFTEN LEAD TO DISASTROUS RESULTS. Darius had never contemplated the effect of his decree, or he would not have signed it.
1. It is wrong to decide on a course which will affect the future on the mere impulses of the present. If decision must be made, it should be after prayer for guidance from him who lives in the future. This applies more particularly when, as in the case of Darius, our decision affects the happiness of others.
2. It is foolish to contract any serious obligations for the future which are not necessary or plainly useful. There was no good to be gained by the king's decree; at best it was useless. Such decrees are best unsigned. It is well to turn our vows into prayers, and, instead of promising to do any hard thing, to seek grace to do it if it is God's will.
II. SO LONG AS LAW-MAKERS ARE WEAK, LAWS WILL BE DEFECTIVE. It was foolish for such a man as Darius to rashly decree unalterable laws. He was kindly disposed. But he was overcome:
1. By flattery. The king was to be the honoured exception, and prayer might still be offered to him.
2. By fear. The satraps crowded about the king until he was terrified into signing the decree.
3. Legal pedantry. The unalterable character of his law was more to Darius than right and justice. While such law-makers exist, it is not wise to enact changeless laws.
III. ALL HUMAN LAWS MUST GIVE PLACE TO HIGHER DIVINE LAWS. The law of the Medes and Persians presupposes that there is no power greater than the state. But God's laws are prior to ours. The most solemn decrees of state should only have force as by-laws coming under God's greater laws of right, and losing all obligation when they contradict these. The king should have broken his law, which violated the higher Divine law of justice.
IV. WITH FALLIBLE MEN CONSISTENCY OF CONDUCT IS NOT ALWAYS A DUTY. Some men worship consistency as a fetish. What they "have written, they have written," and they stand to it. This conduct often arises:
1. From weakness and the fear of men.
2. From pride and the conceit of infallibility.
3. From obstinacy and self-will. Whenever repentance is a duty, consistency is a sin.
V. THE ONLY LAW WHICH IS NECESSARILY AND RIGHTEOUSLY CHANGELESS IS THE LAW OF GOD. This is founded on:
(1) his infallible wisdom (Psalms 19:7, Psalms 19:8);
(2) his irresistible power (Psalms 66:3); and
(3) his changeless character (Psalms 33:11).
The forgiveness of the gospel does not frustrate God's Law, but honours it in the atonement (1 Peter 3:18). The freedom of the new covenant does not abolish this Law, but substitutes the willing obedience of the spirit for the bondage of the letter (Romans 8:4).
HOMILIES BY H.T. ROBJOHNS
Strength of soul.
"Now when Daniel knew," etc. (verse 10). Daniel stands here before us a magnificent instance of strength of soul (Psalms 138:3). We have also the advantage of seeing him contrasted with a blameworthy and contemptible weakness, as well as with something worse—with weakness passing into wickedness.
I. STRENGTH. As exhibited by the saint, statesman, and prophet. See it:
1. Advancing to the throne in common life. The new organization included a hundred and twenty satrapies; over these three presidents in close relation to the king; of these Daniel was "one" (not the "first"). But he stood out in bold relief against the other ministers of the crown. By intelligence, experience, industry, and piety, he moved at once to the front (verse 3). Religion king in every realm. Fidelity in common things (verse 5).
2. In the absence of egotism. Shallow scepticism charges Daniel with egotism, partly on the ground of verse.
3. The tables may here well be turned on the adversary. Considering the exalted power and position of Daniel, that we have here too autobiography, the absence of self-allusion and self-praise is wonderful, and that throughout the book. Besides, this seeming self-praise was necessary to account for the action of enemies. Moreover, moral greatness does not quite preclude all allusion to self (Numbers 12:3; 1 Corinthians 15:10; Nehemiah throughout).
3. In Daniel's continuance in the habit of saintly life. (Verse 10.) Note:
(1) The simplicity of action. "He kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed."
(2) The absence of ostentation. No opening of the windows in order that all might see. To have so done would not have been to exhibit religious courage, but foolhardiness. Such conduct would have been bravado. Religious courage is a calm, wise, brave thing. Picture the palace-house of one so great; the parlour on the roof; the lattices closed (as in hot climates) towards the east and south, but open (at least in the early hours, perhaps always) on the west, and intentionally "toward Jerusalem."
(3) The fearlessness of consequences.
(4) The reason of the act. "Because [Chaldee] he had done so aforetime." The persistence of the strong. "What he was as a dear little child, when his mother taught him, and prepared him with prayers and tears for the perils of Babylon—albeit she did not know he was to live the hard life of an exile—that he is now, though his hair be grey and his body bent with years." One holy, consistent life.
4. In the permanence of his patriotism. "Toward Jerusalem."
5. In the grandeur of his faith. After all these years and vicissitudes, the home of his soul was still in the Hebrew tradition—in the Hebrew history, literature, prophecies, liturgies, etc,
II. WEAKNESS. As illustrated in the character and conduct of the king. The moral weakness of the man appears:
1. In the evasion of responsibility. There is evident an indisposition to uttered to the affairs of government, which are left in the hands of officials. No surer mark of moral weakness than to leave what should be alike our duty and honour to others—possibly to the incompetent.
2. Accessibility to flattery. Keil's view of the proposal of verse 7 commends itself to us, that it referred only to "the religious sphere of prayer." On this assumption the king would be regarded as the living manifestation of all the gods, of the conquered nations as well as of Persia and Media; and the proposal was that all prayer to all divinities should for thirty days be stayed save to this divinity—the king. The inflated vanity which could accept so obsequious homage!
3. Pliability to the will of others. (Verse 9.) He had not the courage to live his own life, to think his own thoughts, and act them out.
4. Indifference to suffering. Weakness of soul means usually the weakness of every part—a feeble, emotional nature, at least on its nobler side, as well as weakness of intellect, conscience, will. Note "the den of lions" (verses 7, 24). Deficiency of sympathy, leading on to frightful cruelty, is oft the result of feeble moral imagination. No child or man could torture insect or man who vividly realized the exquisite agony.
5. The violence of passion. (Verses 14, 18-20, 24.) Take the violence of his grief and indignation alike.
6. Moral helplessness. What an humiliating picture have we in verses 14, 15 1 (The speech of the conspirators is clearly prompted by what they had observed on the part of the king—an attempt to evade the law, verses 19, 20.)
III. The strength of Daniel, his magnanimity, is here set, not only against the weakness of the king, but also against the darker background of WICKEDNESS exhibited by those who conspired against the prophet. Moral weakness is not far off deep depravity; e.g. the depravity of Ahab—perhaps the weakest character in the Old Testament. Observe:
1. The vision given to these men. Of a saintliness like that of Daniel—elevated in its devotional life, ripe with the maturity of years, clearly manifesting itself in common scenes, excellent beyond all praise by their own admission (verse 5). A beam, a ray from the holiness of God.
2. The Divine aim in the vision. Beneficent and moral we may be sure. To awaken admiration; to bring home the sense of defect; to lead to penitence; to arouse to efforts after likeness.
3. The human frustration of that aim, What was intended for salvation became the occasion of moral ruin, the cause being the deep depravity of these hearts. Note:
(1) The audacity of their aim. Men usually come to perpetrate great crimes step by step. These aimed at the ultimate of evil from the first—the utter ruin and destruction of the prophet.
(2) The recklessness of their counsel. If there be no law sufficient to crush, they will make one.
(3) The pertinacity of their pursuit of their miserable object. Shown in their dealing with the king (verse 15).
(4) The meanness of their conduct. Over that parlour on the roof of Daniel's palace-home a watch must have been meanly set.
(5) The mercilessness of their cruelty. (Verses 16, 17.)
4. The judgment that befell. (Verse 24.)—R.
"My God hath sent his angel" (Daniel 6:22). "Are they not all ministering spirits?" (Hebrews 1:14). The text in Daniel suggests the whole doctrine of angel-ministration. That imperilled life guarded by a sentinel from heaven is no solitary spectacle. It has many parallels. There had been the ministration of angels before, as there has been a thousand times since. We cannot help looking upon the scene with memories charged with all that has been revealed of the relation of that higher world to the world of men. It was a remarkable instance of a universal fact in the experience of the Church of God—a fact not limited to particular ages, but existing from the beginning to the end of time. We suppose that the angel in this case may have been invisible to Daniel; Daniel having simply inferred his presence; and further, that the action of the angel may not have been strictly supernatural. The occasional supremacy of man over savage beasts may be an illustration of the dominance of the angel. The subject, then, is—The ministration of angels.
I. THEIR EXISTENCE. Say there are angels; and some would receive the statement with scepticism. But the evidence is:
1. The analogy of the case. The interdependence of material worlds points to a similar interdependence of moral worlds. The commerce of earth to a commerce between the varied worlds of God.
2. The craving of the human mind. There is a craving for the knowledge of creatures higher than ourselves. The craving universal. It points to an objective satisfaction.
3. The testimony of Scripture. Previous argument, only presumptive; this conclusive. Fulness of Scripture on the subject.
II. THEIR NATURE.
1. They are spiritual. "Are they not all spirits (πνεύματα)?"
2. But "clothed upon" with some organization. Of a material kind, for it may become an object of sense; men may see the angel-form. Note:
(1) Angels appear in the human form. But:
(2) Glorified. (Daniel 10:6.)
(3) Men after the resurrection are to become like the angels. (Luke 20:36.)
We may infer that the organism of angels is well adapted to second the life abiding in it. Incorruptible, for the angel never dies; fit servant of high intelligence; offers no obstruction to their mighty power; no impediment to their swiftness; beautiful with immortal youth. The angels, like ourselves, are capable of everlasting intellectual and moral progress.
III. THEIR PUBLIC LIFE. Its essential characteristic is given in the question, "Are they not all liturgic (λειτουργικὰ)?" But what is the meaning? We must go to Athens, the home of the Greek tongue, for the answer. A few words, then, on:
1. The Greek liturgy. It was a public service—a ministration of the citizens to the commonwealth. Certain citizens were bound to contribute money, labour, time, towards making Athens splendid at home, triumphant abroad. Such a contribution was a "liturgy;" it stood for the public service of the Athenian people.
2. The Hebrew liturgy. The word was transferred from things Greek to designate the public ministration of the priests in the temple. As the liturgy of the Athenians was for the glory of the Athenian commonwealth, so the liturgy of Hebrew priests was for the glory of the Hebrew commonwealth—a ministration to its awful King.
3. The heavenly liturgy. Here thought ascends to a higher state, to a grander temple, in which angels contribute to the public service. Their wealth, energy, time, are given for the glory of the Eternal, and for the majesty of his kingdom. "Are they not all liturgic? Do they not minister to God in the exalted service of the heavenly temple? Are they not employed in the administration of the celestial government? Do not ' thousand thousands minister to him, and ten thousand times ten stand before him '?" "The chariots of God are twenty thousand,"
IV. THEIR APOSTOLIC CHARACTER. "Are they not all … sent forth?" Where he appoints, they go. Describe their coming and going as recorded in Scripture. But all this mysterious appearing and disappearing was not at all of their own self-moved will; they were "sent forth." They came on embassage, and the love that sent them was the Lord of angels and ours.
V. THEIR MINISTRATION. They are "sent forth" to bring us help, to aid the otherwise helpess. Look at this:
1. Negatively. Their main object is not any of the following, though angels have been commissioned for them all.
(1) To glorify some great event; e.g. the incarnation.
(2) To answer prayer. (Daniel 9:21.)
(3) To terrify enemies. (Matthew 26:53.)
(4) To destroy the doomed; e.g. the Assyrian army.
(5) To advance their own knowledge. (1 Peter 1:12; Ephesians 3:10.)
2. Positively. To bring help. The lesson for us—not to live in the light that shines from superiors, not to enjoy the company of equals, but to minister to those below. (Why not include in this lesson from the angels, our duty of ministration to races of life below man?)
VI. THEIR RELATION TO REDEMPTION AND THE REDEEMED.
1. Their general attitude.
(1) With reference to redemption generally. The attitude is one of anxious interest, which was typified in the aspect of the cherubim over the ark, "towards the mercy-seat shall the faces," etc.; and declared in the New Testament (1 Peter 1:12).
(2) With reference to the redeemed particularly. Interested are they in the beginnings and developments of regenerated life (Luke 15:7, Luke 15:10; 1 Corinthians 4:9).
2. Their critical services. Angels are prominent through all the great epochs of Divine revelation—in the patriarchal, legal, and prophetical dispensations. Keep watch and ward about the Person of Christ. They were active at the founding of the Church; are now agents in providence; will add to the glory of the last assize.
3. Their combined action. Militant action, we may call it. Much in the Bible to imply that the angels are ever exerting, on behalf of the saved, a moral influence, equal in extent, though opposite in kind and greater in degree, to that exerted by evil spirits. They are not idle spectators of the long-drawn-out moral conflict of this earth.
4. Their individual ministration. (See John 1:51; Matthew 18:10; Psalms 34:7; Psalms 91:12; 2 Kings 6:17; Daniel 6:22; Acts 27:23.) (The "Angel-god" passages not referred to, because his appearances were those of the Lord Jesus.)
1. The majesty of their King. Christ the Lord. Such a retinue.
2. The greatness of the object of angel solicitude. Salvation.
3. The brightness of the Christian prospect. "Equal unto the angels."—R.
HOMILIES BY J.D. DAVIES
The murderous plot of envy.
As every climate and every condition of soil are favourable to the propagation of particular weeds, so every state of society offers facility for the growth of some sins. Prosperity has its dangers as well as adversity. If the refinements of civilization make grosser vices intolerable, the greater encouragement is given for the secret sins of envy, deceit, and uncharitableness. It is never safe for the conscience to fall asleep.
I. ENVY CAN EXIST IN THE BEST-ORDERED COMMUNITY. Whatever may have been the faults of Darius, he had a remarkable faculty for wise government. The difficult task of ruling a large empire was distributed among suitable orders of men. He was not only successful in war, but also skilful in council. Unlike many Oriental monarchs, he was neither an autocrat nor a tyrant. He did not suppose that all wisdom resided in himself, nor did he imagine that intelligent beings could be ruled by sheer will. Therefore he laid the basis for constitutional government, and appointed a prince in every province of the empire, whose business it would be to maintain the royal authority, and to secure to all subjects rights of freedom and property. But no human government, however wise or good, can check the growth of immoral principles. Human authority, at the most, can deal with overt crimes; it cannot check or punish the iniquities in the human heart. There is need for higher authority—for a heart-searching God—to control the tempers and passions of the soul.
II. ENVY IS EXCITED BY THE SIGHT OF SUPERIOR GOODNESS IN OTHERS, It is a strange phenomenon that virtue in one should be the occasion of vice in others. Yet virtue is not responsible for this result. Eminent goodness either allures or repels men. Virtue may be the innocent occasion of wickedness: it is not its originating cause. The warmer the sun shines on our gardens, the faster grow the weeds on the dunghill. Yet the sun is not to be blamed. The peerless purity of Jesus Christ exasperated men to commit the foulest offence that our earth has ever witnessed. As a rule, it is not the virtue itself that is envied, but the advantages and rewards which virtue secures. Men, for the most part, wish to gain the fruits of virtue rather than the virtue itself; and if they cannot, with facility, rise to the elevation of their rival, they seek to bring him down to their level or else destroy him altogether. Because Daniel was preferred by the king on account of his probity and prudence, the evil nature in his competitors developed in the direction of bitter envy.
III. ENVY IS LABORIOUS IN THE SEARCH AFTER OTHERS' SINS. The base and contemptible nature of envy is seen in its occupations. It is not conducive to the health of men's minds to be perpetually engaged in the study of disease. There may be compensations and alleviations to be obtained from other sources. But the pursuit itself is injurious. Much more injurious to the soul is it to be on the search for diseases of the soul, and to find a satisfaction in the supposed faults of our fellow-men. In the case of Daniel, this search served only to bring more clearly into view Daniel's exceptional virtue. Not even the sharp lynx-eye of ambitious envy could find a blemish on his reputation. His unworthy detractors were at length compelled to acknowledge his private and his public virtues; so they confessed to each other, "We shall find no occasion of blame against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the Law of his God."
IV. ENVY SEEKS TO GAIN ITS END BY THE MOST DISCREDITABLE METHODS. It matters little to Envy whether she speaks the language of truth or of falsehood; whether she employs just or unjust measures. These jealous rivals of Daniel went to the king with a lie in their mouths when they said that "all the presidents" and princes had united in asking this decree. How sedulously busy is Envy in her intrigue! She counts no toil inordinate! She had paced up and down the land, whispered in the ear of every state official, and secured their adhesion to this deadly plot. Seeming success makes her bold. She will involve the king himself in her murderous scheme. A crafty use of flattery will win his powerful patronage. The intrigue shall be masked under the pretence of excessive loyalty. For thirty days the king shall be the sole dispenser of bounty to the people. His ear shall be open to every complaint. This will gain him wide popularity; this will bring pious Daniel within the meshes of contumacy. These professed believers in other gods will neglect their deities for a whole month in order to encompass the murder of the best and noblest man in the empire.
V. ENVY IS NOTHING BETTER THAN INCIPIENT MURDER. No tender or humane feeling can dwell in the same breast as Envy. She will gradually banish every virtuous occupant, and introduce instead the basest crew. Hide her final intention as she may, she must at length confess that murder is the final act in her programme. These jealous colleagues of Daniel would probably have been for the moment satisfied, if only they could have deposed Daniel from his just eminence, or if they could have seriously injured his reputation with the king. But since these ends were compassed with insuperable difficulty, they determine to aim higher still, and because this end seemed within easier reach, they make a thrust at his life. It is a perilous thing to harbour an evil principle in any corner of the heart. Like a tiny leak in a mill-dam, it will steadily increase: the trickling stream will carve for itself a larger and a larger channel, until every barrier at last gives way, and devastation on a large scale is the result. "Keep thine heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life." Envy, when developed to maturity, becomes red-handed murder.—D.
Piety in perilous circumstances.
Daniel was at this time advanced in years. His principles, good at the first, had grown in strength and mutual support. At his age ha was not to be surprised by alarm nor driven into rashness. His character had been moulded into heavenly shape under the rough handling of oppression and persecution, and now every fibre of his moral nature had toughness and tenacity. He was manly because he was eminently devout.
I. TRUE PIETY FINDS ITS CHIEF EXPRESSION IN PRAYER. Piety shows itself in many acts, some of which, though useful, are accidental; one, however, is essential, viz. prayer. If there be no outgoing of desire from the soul Godwards, there is no real piety; if there be prayer, vocal or silent, there is piety. Pious men, when placed in perilous circumstances on account of their faith, may suspend (sometimes must suspend) overt acts of public worship; they may never relinquish prayer A beggar asking alms, a child thanking its parent, a subject honouring his monarch,—these are earthly acts parallel to prayer. When first the gospel found its way into the hearts of the Malagasy, they did not style themselves Christians—they simply styled themselves the praying people. Prayer is the distinctive mark and badge of piety. What colour is to the rainbow, what saltness is to the sea, what roundness is to the circle,—such prayer is to piety. It is its essential element. It is the breath of spiritual life.
II. TRUE PIETY HAS RESPECT TO MINUTE PRECEPTS. For Daniel to pray was the first principle of his religion. To pray three times a day, to pray with his window open, to pray with his face toward Jerusalem,—these things were non-essentials. Nevertheless, there was a fitness and a propriety in these minuter acts. If not positive commands from God, they were indications of God's pleasure. Daniel had found them helpful to his spirit's health. Such habits of piety had been sanctioned by the most eminent saints who had gone before him. David had ascribed his elevation and his prosperity to the favour of God, and David had been accustomed to pray three times a day. The temple in Jerusalem had contained the only visible symbol of the Divine Presence on earth. Thither the longing heart of every pious Jew turned. On what ground should these pious habits be abandoned? It would not conciliate the unreasonable hostility of Daniel's detractors. The king's decree was not directed against these minor forms, but against prayer itself. Amidst so many unfriendly influences, it is wise to secure every vantage-ground for piety.
III. TRUE PIETY IS SELF-CONSISTENT. When the ridiculous decree of the king was promulgated, Daniel wisely resolved not to alter his course by a single point. He will steer his bark straight for the port of heaven, come what may. To a self-willed man, the temptation would be strong to resist the imperious interference of the king, and to pray more frequently and more prominently than before. To a timid man the inducement would be to close his chamber-window, and clandestinely do that which the new law disallowed. But Daniel leant neither to temerity nor to timidity. He maintained an upright and straightforward demeanour. Every habit of his life had been formed under the guidance of wisdom and discretion, and terror shall not rob him of advantages which experience has given. His loyalty to God is an obligation earlier, stronger, deeper, than loyalty to an earthly king. As God bad been a true and trusty Friend for seventy years and more, it would be base ingratitude to neglect him now.
IV. TRUE PIETY ACTS WITHOUT REGARD TO MAN'S JUDGMENT. In every circumstance of life, God's honour being first secured, the pious man will find a delight in serving his fellow-men. But to attempt to appease malice by abandoning honest principle, would be, in very deed, to "cast pearls before swine," Full well Daniel knew that his enemies were watching his every step, yet would he not submit to the slightest compromise or concealment. These princes and presidents degraded themselves into spies and informers. They watched, as with wolves' eyes, the open lattice of this man of God. Their organs of bearing were made sensitively alive by keen suspicion. As the fowler watches for his prey in the net which he has spread, so these inhuman spies watched for the successful issue of their plot. In breathless haste they press into the council-chamber of the king, and divulge what they have heard and seen. They employ every stratagem that can arouse his anger and enflame his wrath. They meanly point to Daniel's foreign origin. They knavely describe his deed as treason against the king. "This fellow," urged they, "doth not regard thee, O king. He tramples on thy authority, and treats as a dead letter thy royal edict." Not a stone was left unturned by which they might injure the innocent man. Nevertheless, Daniel maintained a dignified and peaceful demeanour. To be right was with him a higher honour than to be respected. He was no stoic. He had all the better feelings of a man. He entertained the good opinion of his fellows at its true value. He would be delighted to enjoy that good opinion if he could have, at the same time, the approbation of his God. But the latter was paramount, transcendent, priceless. And if, as the result of his loyalty to God, men maligned and hated him, much as he lamented the fact, he was content to face the consequence. It is, after all, comparatively a little thing to be approved or reprobated by man's judgment. "He that judgeth us is the Lord."—D.
One thoughtless act brings much sorrow.
King Darius was free from many bad qualities which have stained the reputation of other monarchs. He had more gentleness and kindness—had more regard for the interests of others—than most Oriental kings. Yet he had grave faults also. He was too fond of ease. He was too ready to allow others to take the responsibility which of right belonged to him. To share the responsibilities of government with competent statesmen is an advantage to all; but his readiness to sign decrees without weighing their significance and design is a grave dereliction. The foibles which in a private person escape an adverse judgment may in a king be ruinous to the nation.
I. A THOUGHTLESS ACT REVEALS THE INTERNAL WEAKNESS OF CHARACTER. King Darius, having discovered the practical outcome of the rash edict, was "sore displeased with himself." This feeling is commendable. He does not blame the cunning, the envy, the malice of others, so much as the easy thoughtlessness of himself. Others may be more blameworthy accomplices than ourselves in an evil transaction; but if any blame attach to ourselves, it is wiser first to discover and remove the mote in our own eye, before we touch the beam in another's eye. An hour's serious reflection, at the right time, would have prevented this Oriental king much anguish and remorse. It was an alleviation of his inward grief that he had not intended to do Daniel harm; yet, in effect, his thoughtlessness had produced as much suffering on others as if he had been instigated by feelings of bitterest malice. He ought to have given the edict mature consideration before he gave to it the authority of his great name. He ought to have inquired into its purpose, its meaning, its probable effects on society. The very haste of the councillors ought to have awakened his vigilance. Too easily his supple will yielded to others' inclination. Too easily he swallowed the bait of human adulation. Truly saith our poet—
"Evil is wrought by want of thought,
As well as want of heart."
II. A THOUGHTLESS ACT GIVES SCOPE TO WICKED MEN TO EXECUTE THEIR PLOTS. Want of vigilance upon our part gives an advantage to our enemies, which they seize upon with avidity. We might often nip iniquity in the bud, if we were only on the alert against the secret machinations of the tempter. We encourage wicked men in their base intrigues, if only inadvertently we smooth the way for their success. We are counselled by a high authority to be "wise as serpents." Intelligence has been given to us for this selfsame purpose, and it is a sin to allow any faculty of mind to be lulled into needless sleep. Darius had both admiration and personal regaled for Daniel; but this very esteem and preference of the king brought with it elements of danger to the prophet. Hence the affection of the king ought to have been thoughtful, inventive, watchful. The mean-souled officials had prepared the axe, and unwittingly the king gave them the handle by which the better to use it. For want of wariness, we may lend sheep's clothing to human wolves.
III. A THOUGHTLESS ACT OFTEN LEADS TO SAD AND IRREPARABLE RESULTS. It was a settled principle in the Persian government that a law, having once received the sign-manual of the king, could in no way be altered or repealed. This principle in the main was beneficent and useful. In a period when communication between the palace and the remote provinces was difficult and tardy, it was a great advantage to the people to know that a law, once enacted, was fixed and irreversible. But the knowledge of this first principle ought to have made Darius all the more cautious and wary in affixing the seal of authority to any new decree. He was master of that simple act; but, having performed it, he was no longer master of its consequences. It would have imperilled his reputation, his influence, perhaps his government itself, if he should have ventured to rescind it. Yet no sooner was the effect of his rash deed discovered than remorse seized his mind. Conscience lashed him for his folly. His appetite departs. The desire for enjoyment ceases. Yea, the very capacity for enjoyment is suspended. Sleep forsakes his bed. His pillow is sown with sharpest thorns. No rest can the king find for body or for mind, because an innocent life, a noble life, is jeopardized through his rash deed. His mind roams over a variety of devices by which, if possible, he can yet protect Daniel from the ferocity of human wolves. But the king himself is powerless—as powerless as the meanest peasant—in this matter. He had, not long since, the power to deft, rid any and every subject, but he has thoughtlessly allowed the power to depart. It is in other hands now, and cannot be recalled. Opportunity has fled. The king is a prisoner in the hands of evil workers, and is compelled by them to do a disgraceful deed—to sign the death-warrant of his best friend. Nothing is left to him but his tears. Oh the hitter fruits of rashness!—D.
The tables turned.
If human law and human authority are impotent to save an innocent man from death, the unseen but supreme Monarch will appear upon the scene, and will vindicate the cause of injured innocence. The calculations of human sagacity often prove false. Otto factor is omitted, which entirely vitiates the result. Just as the ruffian is about to seize his prize, a judicial hand is laid upon him, and completely defeats his project. The victor is vanquished; the biter bitten.
I. WE HAVE PRESENTED TO US HERE NOBLE ACTIVITY IN THE PLACE OF INDOLENT EASE. The craft of these base politicians was too short-sighted. Within reach of success, they were doomed to ignominious failure. Fortunately for the interests of justice, the king awoke to the deceit that was practised on him. At once he shook off his lethargy, applied such mental energy as he had to the business of the state, and searched in every direction for an expedient to save Daniel. Now that the king has discovered the treacherous design of his princes, all his wits are summoned to meet craft by craft. No effort shall be left untried by which his trusty and noble servant may be saved. He will no longer be a pliant tool in the hands of others, but a master of his own destinies. The hour was critical for Babylon, and Darius rose to the high demands of the occasion. King he will be yet.
II. THE GUILTY PUNISHED IN THE PLACE OF THE INNOCENT. Darius perceived that it would be perilous to abrogate, in unseemly haste, an edict so lately made. It would weaken the force of all imperial laws. It would loosen the bands of loyalty. It would arouse the sleepless hostility of his captains and princes. He had heard strange reports of the power of Daniel's God to save in times of danger. He believes that the same God will rescue now. The penalty which Daniel had incurred was that he should be cast into the den of lions. The edict did not say that he should be, left there to die. The king's decree would have been fulfilled if Daniel had spent an hour or less amid the caged beasts. All through that dismal night the king had taken counsel of himself. Desiring, on this occasion at least, to do for Daniel all that justice and good will could devise, we cannot doubt that his mind came under the influence of the Divine Spirit. The selfsame God who, through that long night, was giving Daniel courage to control and subdue the lions' rage was also conveying wisdom to King Darius. At earliest dawn the king goes in person to the den, and finds faith in God honoured, human malice frustrated. The king's edict had been observed to the letter. But there was an authority, appertaining to the king, beyond what was embodied in law. He held in his hand the lives of all his subjects. It is clear as noonday that these envious statesmen had basely deceived the king. Under cover of bringing him honour, they thought only of glutting their own malice, and robbing the state of its best servant. It was nothing less than a murderous conspiracy. They were as guilty of murder as if Daniel had died. Justice plainly demanded that summary retribution should follow; and at once these crafty lords were consigned to the death they had prepared for Daniel. Every man shall receive the due reward of his deeds.
III. GOD MAGNIFIED INSTEAD OF BEING DISCREDITED. Profane men thought to use God only as a tool in order to gain their nefarious end. If God was defrauded of his daily tribute of praise, what cared they? If humble souls were deprived of guidance and pardon and heaven, what heeded they, so long as they could lay murderous hands on Daniel? But will men rob God with impunity? Be well assured that God can defend his own! The opposition of vain men shall only advance his cause. The attempt to gag the mouth of prayer shall make even kings vocal in God's praise. When pompous statesmen league themselves against him, "he that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh." The proposal was that all prayer should cease for the space of thirty days. The effect was that Jehovah was proclaimed as the True and Mighty all through the Persian empire; and a wider effect has been that God has been more honoured and trusted all the world over. "His Name shall endure for ever;" "To him all flesh shall come."
IV. THE ELEVATION OF THE MAN WHOM MALICE SOUGHT TO DEPRESS. These worldly wise statesmen felt that Daniel was a superior man to themselves. They could not expect promotion so long as they had to compete with him. Hence they resolved that what they could not gain by fair means they would gain by foul means. But they reckoned without their host. It came to pass that they were degraded, and that Daniel was advanced. True merit will, sooner or later, find its fitting level! Now that these grasping placemen are removed from the empire, there is all the more room for Daniel—the more need for an able and trusty councillor. Step by step he rises in favour and in influence. His increasing power brings advantage to the captive tribes of Israel. The sunshine of his prosperity lends brightness to their fallen fortunes. They, too, begin to lift up the head. This event becomes another step in the way of Israel's restoration. And Daniel rises to the enjoyment of a reputation which is world-wide and immortal. "Me shines as the brightness of the firmament, and as the stars for ever and ever."—D.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Daniel 6". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent