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Daniel 6:1-28

Introductory issues:

First, is Daniel in general and this experience (Dan. 6) in particular typological of Jesus? Wisdom / prophetic powers / suffering / oppressed / condemned without justification through the activity of conspirators / den of lions = tomb (?) / both are shut with a stone and sealed / both men emerge victorious over death / etc. . . .

Second, there are both similarities and contrasts between this event and the experience of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in chp. 3. In both cases the principals must decide between loyalty to earthly law and allegiance to Yahweh. In chp. 3 it is a question of a sin they will not commit, whereas in chp. 6 it is a question of a duty he will not omit. In both cases a cruel death is the threatened penalty. In both cases the motivation of the accusers is racial bigotry and professional jealousy. In both cases the deliverance is effected by the appearance of a heavenly messenger (angel?). Finally, in both instances the result of the deliverance of God's faithful is a royal decree extolling the power and greatness of Yahweh.

Third, during the period of Persian rule that begins with the events of Dan. 5:30-31 there occurred three separate returns to Palestine by the captive people of God. (1) The first occurred shortly after the fall of Babylon to Persia in 538 b.c., led by Sheshbazzar (Ezra 1:1-4; 6:3-5; according to Ezra 2:64-65 the number of those who returned was 42,360 in addition to 7,337 servants). Zerubbabel directed the reconstruction of the temple (Ezra 3:8). (2) The second return took place some 80 years later (@ 458 b.c.; Ezra 7:7) led by Ezra. (3) The third and final return came 13 years after the second (Neh. 2:1) and was led by Nehemiah.

Fourth, and finally, there is the problem of the identity of Darius the Mede. The identity of this man whom Daniel calls Darius, 'son of Ahasuerus of Median descent (9:1), is certainly the most controversial historical issue in the interpretation of the book. It is this man on whom the critic focuses special attention in his effort to discredit the historical authenticity and early date of the book of Daniel. The reason for this is simply that no man named 'Darius the Mede is known to history outside of what we read in the book of Daniel. According to the historical documents available to us, Babylon, whose last king was Belshazzar, co-regent with his father Nabonidus, fell to the Persians on October 11th or 12th, 539 b.c. The victorious Persian army was commanded by Ugbaru, governor of Gutium (who died within a month after the fall of Babylon). Cyrus, king of Persia, did not arrive in Babylon until Oct. 29th, at which time he appointed a man named Gubaru to rule the kingdom. Cyrus remained in power until his death in 530 b.c.

It would seem that no place can be found for the rule of a Mede named Darius. Five views have been suggested.

(1)           The liberal critic concludes that if history does not bear witness to the existence of a 'Darius the Mede then, irrespective of the testimony of Daniel, he did not exist. Furthermore, a man writing in the 6th c. b.c. would not have made so obvious an historical blunder in referring to a ruler who in fact never existed. Therefore, this is evidence that the book of Daniel was written in the 2nd c. b.c. and that its author simply confused the history of the period of Cyrus with the later reign of Darius, son of Hystaspes (520 b.c.), the third successor after Cyrus.

(2)           Charles Boutflower has suggested that Darius the Mede is another name for Cambyses, son of Cyrus, who served with his father as ruler over Babylon and later succeeded him as king. Problem: Cambyses would have been much younger than the 62 years that Daniel attributes to Darius in 5:31. Also, Cambyses would not have been considered of Median descent: both of his parents were Persian.

(3)           John Whitcomb (Darius the Mede [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959] argues that Darius the Mede in Daniel is another name for Gubaru, the governor of Babylon who was apppointed by Cyrus:

'It is our conviction that Gubaru, the governor of Babylon and the region beyond the river, appears in the book of Daniel as Darius the Mede, the monarch who took charge of the Chaldean kingdom immediately following the death of Belshazzar, and who appointed satraps and presidents (including Daniel) to assist him in the governing of this extensive territory with its many peoples. We believe that this identification is the only one which satisfactorily harmonizes the various lines of evidence which we find in the book of Daniel and in the contemporary cuneiform records (24).

(4)           According to D. J. Wiseman and Joyce Baldwin, Darius the Mede is Cyrus. They base this identification on the following translation of Daniel 6:28 'So this Daniel enjoyed success in the reign of Darius, that is, in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

(5)           Some ancient documents indicate that during a fourteen-month period at the beginning of his reign Cyrus ruled through a vassal who was called 'king of Babylon, and that the latter was in fact Darius

However one treats the problem, Baldwin's words of caution are well put:

'To assume that Darius the Mede did not exist, and so to dismiss the evidence provided by this book, is high-handed and unwise, especially in the light of its vindication in connection with Belshazzar, who at one time was reckoned to be a fictional character. Due consideration must be given to possible explanations of the apparent discrepancy before charges were made of mistaken identity (Daniel: An Introduction and Commentary [Downers Grove: IVP, 1978], p. 24).

[For an especially helpful discussion of this problem, including evaluation of the arguments for and against each position, see the commentary by Miller, pp. 171-77.

A.             Darius the Mede 5:31-6:3

1.              the inauguration of his rule 5:31

2.              the organization of his kingdom 6:1-2

'The Persian empire, which incorporated that of the Medes, a vast area forming an arc to the north of the Babylonian territories, extended eventually to Asia Minor, Libya and Egypt to the west, and to the Indus river and the Aral Sea to the east. It was the largest empire the world had yet seen, hence the urgent need for an efficient organization from the very beginning (Baldwin, 126). The reference to 120 satraps (a word meaning 'protector of the kingdom) has been challenged by critics. Since Darius's kingdom was not the entire Medo-Persian empire but only the smaller area approximating that of Babylon itself, there would have been no need for 120 satrapies. But, as E. J. Young has explained,

'it is not said that Darius the Mede divided the kingdom into 120 satrapies, but only that he appointed 120 satraps (kingdom-protectors) who should be distributed throughout the kingdom. It is quite possible that these satraps were given the special mission of caring for the newly conquered country, because of fear of the hostility of the land to the conquerors. In other words, this may have been a temporary arrangement and not at all a description of a formal organization of the country into 120 satrapies. These governors may very well have had responsibility for and jurisdiction over districts which were smaller than those commonly designated as satrapies (132).

The appointment by Darius of 3 heads or presidents over the satraps may have been a carry-over policy from the Babylonian triumvirate which consisted of Nabonidus, Belshazzar, and Daniel. Perhaps Darius heard about the position Belshazzar had bestowed on Daniel and chose to honor it. He may also have heard of Daniel's prophecy concerning Babylon's fall and believed that such a man would prove helpful in his own administration.

3.              the elevation and success of Daniel 6:3

B.             The Plot against Daniel 6:4-9

1.              the search for incriminating evidence in Daniel's governmental life 6:4

One gets the impression that there was a repeated monitoring of Daniel's activity. Perhaps co-workers, secretaries (!), subordinates, janitors (!) etc. watched his every move and recorded his every word. They would have examined his personal financial records and scrutinized his work history. What was their motive? (1) Envy (6:3b). (2) Daniel was a hold-over from the Babylonian regime whereas these men were of the Medo-Persian kingdom. (3) Daniel was a Jew. (4) Their dislike for his godliness no doubt provoked them to dispose of him.

Whereas it is possible, by God's grace, to be successful and honest as a Christian in the world, you can expect to be hated for it. Holiness invariably arouses the hostility of unbelievers.

2.              the search for incriminating evidence in Daniel's religious life 6:5

This determination on their part reveals two things: First, they knew about Daniel's spiritual and religious commitment; he had not hidden his faith in order either to survive or to thrive 'in the office. Second, they were persuaded that his commitment was so deep that he would rather face death than compromise. They concluded that the only way to catch Daniel in some misdeed would be to enact a law of state that would violate a law of his God. In other words, the only way to implicate Daniel in a crime is to formulate a law that requires him to sin. They reasoned this way: 'We must bring the law of Darius into conflict with the law of Yahweh. Then Daniel's devotion to his God will give us opportunity to charge him with civil disloyalty to Darius. We must make it impossible for Daniel to be simultaneously innocent before his God and obedient to the state.

It is strangely ironic that the only way they can make Daniel appear immoral is by deceitfully exploiting his morality! They take advantage of his integrity to portray him as dishonest. They were determined to make his own high degree of commitment to God work against him. Would that we were all of such character that this would be the only way to ensnare us in the appearance of unrighteousness.

3.              the conspirators make their proposal to Darius 6:6-8

On the alleged irrevocable character of Persian law, see Esther 1:19; 8:8. They insist that it be written in order that Darius might not be able to rescind it at a later time. Perhaps they were motivated in this by their knowledge of the affection and admiration that Darius had for Daniel.

What is meant by the prohibition against anyone praying or making petition 'to any . . . man besides you, O king? Miller is probably correct in concluding that 'it seems to allude to the priests through whom petitions were mediated to the gods. Thus Darius was to be the only priestly mediator during this period. In his role as mediator, prayers to the gods were to be offered through him rather than the priests. Such a law might have been allowed for political reasons, and Darius may also have permitted a decree of this kind as a test of loyalty to his new government. . . . Thus Darius was not proclaiming himself to be a god but during this thirty-day period was acting as mediator for the gods of all the nations subject to him (pp. 180-81).

4.              Darius acquiesces to their recommendation 6:9

C.             Daniel: Faithful in Prayer 6:10

How best should we characterize Daniel's response?

*          Was he guilty of tempting God (cf. Mt. 4)?

*          Was his response one of religious ostentation? Was Daniel a spiritual show-off?

*          Was he characterized by a martyr complex?

*          Was he lacking in wisdom and common sense?

*          Why did he not pursue a different course of action, such as:

(1) ceasing to pray for the period of the decree (after all, what is one month without prayer when compared to a lifetime to serve God?);

(2) praying silently;

(3) if not silently, then secretly ('It would have been infinitely easy for one in danger of his life to say his prayers while lying in bed rather than to make a risky demonstration of piety [Ford, 134]).

The reason why Daniel persisted in his practice is not difficult to understand:

'If he should pray elsewhere, those knowing him and his habits, including especially his hostile colleagues, would think that he had ceased, and this would spoil his testimony before them. He had been an open witness before, both in word and life practice; he must continue now lest all that he had done before to influence others to faith in the true God should be for naught. The existence of a continued testimony was more important than the existence of his life! (Wood, 163).

In other words, if Daniel were suddenly to cease praying in his customary fashion he would have been labeled a hypocrite, a 'convenient Christian. Goldingay rightfully comments that 'when prayer is fashionable, [then] it is time to pray in secret (Matt. 6:5-6), but when prayer is under pressure, to pray in secret is to give the appearance of fearing the king more than God (131). Daniel no doubt realized what was going on and knew that if they failed in this plot they would certainly try another until they succeeded. One final observation: could it be that one reason he was so successful before men in public is that he was so dedicated to God in private?

We also learn something here of the ancient practice of prayer: a) toward Jerusalem, 500 miles to the west (1 Kings 8:33,35,38,41-45,48; 2 Chron. 6:34; Ps. 5:7; 28:2); b) kneeling (1 Kings 8:54; Ezra 9:5; Ps. 95:6; etc.); c) three times a day (Ps. 55:17-18).

D.            Daniel: Accused and Convicted 6:11-15

Darius, no doubt, was angry. Perhaps he was angry with Daniel for defying the injunction against prayer (but this is doubtful). He may well have been angry with the commissioners for plotting Daniel's demise, or perhaps with himself for having been duped and manipulated into passing the law in the first place. According to v. 14, he obviously liked Daniel. This verse invites us 'to imagine the fevered activity of the court lawyers looking for that never-to-be-found loophole (Anderson, 70).

E.             Daniel: In the Den of Lions 6:16-18

1.              the 'execution 6:16

The verb in v. 16 is ambiguous: it is uncertain whether Darius says 'your God will or 'may your God deliver you. It is either a prediction or a wish (most likely the latter).

Keil cites the explanation given of lions' dens as they have been found in Morocco:

'They consist of a large square cavern under the earth, having a partition-wall in the middle of it, which is furnished with a door, which the keeper can open and close from above. By throwing in food they can entice the lions from the one chamber into the other, and then, having shut the door, they enter the vacant space for the purpose of cleaning it. The cavern is open above, its mouth being surrounded by a wall of a yard and a half high, over which one can look into the den. This description agrees perfectly with that which is here given in the text regarding the lions' den. . . . No reason, therefore, exists for supposing that it is a funnel-formed cistern. The mouth of the den is not its free opening above by which one may look down into it, but an opening made in its side, through which not only the lions were brought into it, but by which also the keepers entered for the purpose of cleaning the den and of attending to the beasts, and could reach the door in the partition-wall. . . . This opening was covered with a great flat stone, which was sealed, the free air entering to the lions from above. This also explains how, according to ver. 21 (20)ff., the king was able to converse with Daniel before the removal of the stone (namely, by the opening above) (216).

2.              the seal 6:17

3.              the turmoil of Darius 6:18

F.             The Deliverance of Daniel 6:19-24

1.              the inquiry of Darius 6:19-20

'Perhaps we should see the king's hasty return early the next morning in the perspective of the ancient Babylonian custom that the victim would be pardoned if he were tortured and had not died by the following day (Lacocque, 118). On the other hand, we may see evidence here of an emerging faith in Darius. After all, if he did not believe at all in the God of Daniel, it is unlikely he would have much hope that Daniel had survived the night.

2.              the response of Daniel 6:21-22

Cf. Heb. 11:33 (see also Ps. 34:7; 91:11; Mt. 18:10; Heb. 1:14).

'If we ask how this miracle could be, a clue is found in the prophetic literature (Is. 11:6; 65:25; Hos. 2:18) and in the intention at creation that man should have dominion over the beasts. 'Part of the glory of the coming regeneration when the king comes back, will be that nature and the lower orders of creation will once again be subject to man redeemed and saved to sin no more.' In the man of God the powers of the world to come have broken in, in anticipation of what will be when the king comes to reign (Baldwin, 131).

3.              the removal of Daniel 6:23

4.              the execution of the conspirators 6:24

The fact that Daniel's accusers were so quickly devoured, before reaching the floor, proves how truly miraculous Daniel's preservation was. 'The lions were not old and without interest in human flesh. They were simply kept from inflicting the same sort of horrifying death on Daniel by the presiding messenger from God (Wood, 174). Although cruel, executing wives and children of those found guilty was common in ancient Persia. If nothing else, it prevented retaliation from family members.

G.            The Decree of Darius 6:25-27

The fundamental difference between this decree and that of Neb (3:29) is that the latter threatened to punish any who spoke against Daniel's God, whereas the former demanded actual homage and praise. Significance? Was Darius saved?

'Darius does not rise above his polytheistic background. He does not confess Daniel's God to be the only true God, but merely raises Him above other gods. Thus, he does not condemn the worship of these other gods. In demanding that men fear and tremble before Daniel's God, Darius requires no more than Neb had apparently demanded for himself (cf. 5:19 where the same words are used). How tragic it is that in the presence of his mighty miracles, men do not acknowledge God to be the only true God! In the statements made concerning God and His kingdom, Darius is probably influenced by the events of the immediate past and by the instruction which he had received from Daniel. His words, while true enough in themselves, could only have had a hollow meaning for himself (Young, 139).

H.            The Success of Daniel 6:28

Special note: Daniel is obviously portrayed as a godly, obedient man of God in this chapter. In fact, one gets the strong impression that it is precisely because of his godliness and faith in Yahweh that he is delivered from a horrifying death. In v. 20 Darius portrays him as a 'servant of the living God whom Daniel 'constantly serves. In v. 22 Daniel himself attributes his deliverance to the fact that he 'was found innocent before God. Finally, in v. 23 we read, 'So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no injury whatever was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. So the question is this: can every innocent, godly, faithful believer expect God to deliver him/her from pain, persecution, and martyrdom? No.