The malice of Daniel's enemies. (1-5) His constancy in prayer. (6-10) He is cast into the lion's den. (11-17) His miraculous preservation. (18-24) The decree of Darius. (25-28)
Verses 1-5 We notice to the glory of God, that though Daniel was now very old, yet he was able for business, and had continued faithful to his religion. It is for the glory of God, when those who profess religion, conduct themselves so that their most watchful enemies may find no occasion for blaming them, save only in the matters of their God, in which they walk according to their consciences.
Verses 6-10 To forbid prayer for thirty days, is, for so long, to rob God of all the tribute he has from man, and to rob man of all the comfort he has in God. Does not every man's heart direct him, when in want or distress, to call upon God? We could not live a day without God; and can men live thirty days without prayer? Yet it is to be feared that those who, without any decree forbidding them, present no hearty, serious petitions to God for more than thirty days together, are far more numerous than those who serve him continually, with humble, thankful hearts. Persecuting laws are always made on false pretences; but it does not become Christians to make bitter complaints, or to indulge in revilings. It is good to have hours for prayer. Daniel prayed openly and avowedly; and though a man of vast business, he did not think that would excuse him from daily exercises of devotion. How inexcusable are those who have but little to do in the world, yet will not do thus much for their souls! In trying times we must take heed, lest, under pretence of discretion, we are guilty of cowardice in the cause of God. All who throw away their souls, as those certainly do that live without prayer, even if it be to save their lives, at the end will be found to be fools. Nor did Daniel only pray, and not give thanks, cutting off some part of the service to make the time of danger shorter; but he performed the whole. In a word, the duty of prayer is founded upon the sufficiency of God as an almighty Creator and Redeemer, and upon our wants as sinful creatures. To Christ we must turn our eyes. Thither let the Christian look, thither let him pray, in this land of his captivity.
Verses 11-17 It is no new thing for what is done faithfully, in conscience toward God, to be misrepresented as done obstinately, and in contempt of the civil powers. Through want of due thought, we often do that which afterwards, like Darius, we see cause a thousand times to wish undone again. Daniel, that venerable man, is brought as the vilest of malefactors, and is thrown into the den of lions, to be devoured, only for worshipping his God. No doubt the placing the stone was ordered by the providence of God, that the miracle of Daniel's deliverance might appear more plain; and the king sealed it with his own signet, probably lest Daniel's enemies should kill him. Let us commit our lives and souls unto God, in well-doing. We cannot place full confidence even in men whom we faithfully serve; but believers may, in all cases, be sure of the Divine favour and consolation.
Verses 18-24 The best way to have a good night, is to keep a good conscience. We are sure of what the king doubted, that the servants of the living God have a Master well able to protect them. See the power of God over the fiercest creatures, and believe his power to restrain the roaring lion that goeth about continually seeking to devour. Daniel was kept perfectly safe, because he believed in his God. Those who boldly and cheerfully trust in God to protect them in the way of duty, shall always find him a present help. Thus the righteous is delivered out of trouble, and the wicked cometh in his stead. The short triumph of the wicked will end in their ruin.
Verses 25-28 If we live in the fear of God, and walk according to that rule, peace shall be upon us. The kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever, are the Lord's; but many are employed in making known his wonderful works to others, who themselves remain strangers to his saving grace. May we be doers, as well as believers of his word, least at the last we should be found to have deceived ourselves.
Daniel 6:1-28 . DARIUS' DECREE: DANIEL'S DISOBEDIENCE, AND CONSEQUENT EXPOSURE TO THE LION'S: HIS DELIVERANCE BY GOD, AND DARIUS' DECREE.
1. Darius--GROTEFEND has read it in the cuneiform inscriptions at Persepolis, as Darheush, that is, "Lord-King," a name applied to many of the Medo-Persian kings in common. Three of that name occur: Darius Hystaspes, 521 B.C., in whose reign the decree was carried into effect for rebuilding the temple ( Ezra 4:5 , Haggai 1:1 ); Darius Codomanus, 336 B.C., whom Alexander overcame, called "the Persian" ( Nehemiah 12:22 ), an expression used after the rule of Macedon was set up; and Darius Cyaxares II, between Astyages and Cyrus [AESCHYLUS, The Persians, 762, 763].
hundred and twenty--satraps; set over the conquered provinces (including Babylon) by Cyrus [XENOPHON, Cyropædia, 8.6.1]. No doubt Cyrus acted under Darius, as in the capture of Babylon; so that Daniel rightly attributes the appointment to Darius.
3. Daniel was preferred--probably because of his having so wonderfully foretold the fall of Babylon. Hence the very expression used by the queen mother on that occasion ( Daniel 5:12 ) is here used, "because an excellent spirit was in him."
king thought to set him over the whole realm--Agreeing with Darius character, weak and averse to business, which he preferred to delegate to favorites. God overruled this to the good both of Daniel, and, through him, of His people.
4. occasion . . . concerning the kingdom--pretext for accusation in his administration ( Ecclesiastes 4:4 ).
5. It is the highest testimony to a godly man's walk, when his most watchful enemies can find no ground of censure save in that he walks according to the law of God even where it opposes the ways of the world.
6. assembled together--literally, "assembled hastily and tumultuously." Had they come more deliberately, the king might have refused their grant; but they gave him no time for reflection, representing that their test-decree was necessary for the safety of the king.
live for ever--ARRIAN [Alexander, 4] records that Cyrus was the first before whom prostration was practised. It is an undesigned mark of genuineness that Daniel should mention no prostration before Nebuchadnezzar or Darius
7. The Persian king was regarded as representative of the chief god, Ormuzd; the seven princes near him represented the seven Amshaspands before the throne of Ormuzd; hence Mordecai ( Esther 3:4 ) refused such homage to Haman, the king's prime minister, as inconsistent with what is due to God alone. A weak despot, like Darius, much under the control of his princes, might easily be persuaded that such a decree would test the obedience of the Chaldeans just conquered, and tame their proud spirits. So absolute is the king in the East, that he is regarded not merely as the ruler, but the owner, of the people.
All . . . governors . . . counsellors, &c.--Several functionaries are here specified, not mentioned in Daniel 6:4 Daniel 6:6 . They evidently exaggerated the case of the weak king, as if their request was that of all the officers in the empire.
den of lions--an underground cave or pit, covered with a stone. It is an undesigned proof of genuineness, that the "fiery furnace" is not made the means of punishment here, as in Daniel 3:20 ; for the Persians were fire-worshippers, which the Babylonians were not.
8. decree--or, "interdict."
that it be not changed--( Esther 1:19 , 8:8 ). This immutability of the king's commands was peculiar to the Medes and Persians: it was due to their regarding him infallible as the representative of Ormuzd; it was not so among the Babylonians.
Medes and Persians--The order of the names is an undesigned mark of genuineness. Cyrus the Persian reigned subordinate to Darius the Mede as to dignity, though exercising more real power. After Darius' death, the order is "the Persians and Medes" ( Esther 1:14 Esther 1:19 , &c.).
9. Such a despotic decree is quite explicable by remembering that the king, as the incarnation of Ormuzd, might demand such an act of religious obedience as a test of loyalty. Persecuting laws are always made on false pretenses. Instead of bitter complaints against men, Daniel prays to God. Though having vast business as a ruler of the empire, he finds time to pray thrice a day. Daniel's three companions ( Daniel 3:12 ), are not alluded to here, nor any other Jew who conscientiously may have disregarded the edict, as the conspirators aimed at Daniel alone ( Daniel 6:5 ).
10. when Daniel knew . . . writing . . . signed--and that, therefore, the power of advising the king against it was taken from him.
went into his house--withdrawing from the God-dishonoring court.
windows . . . open--not in vainglory, but that there might be no obstruction to his view of the direction in which Jerusalem, the earthly seat of Jehovah under the Old Testament, lay; and that the sight of heaven might draw his mind off from earthly thoughts. To Christ in the heavenly temple let us turn our eyes in prayer, from this land of our captivity ( 1 Kings 8:44 1 Kings 8:48 , 2 Chronicles 6:29 2 Chronicles 6:34 2 Chronicles 6:38 , Psalms 5:7 ).
chamber--the upper room, where prayer was generally offered by the Jews ( Acts 1:13 ). Not on the housetop ( Acts 10:9 ), where he would be conspicuous.
upon his knees--Humble attitudes in prayer become humble suppliants.
three times a day--( Psalms 55:17 ). The third, sixth, and ninth hour; our nine, twelve, and three o'clock ( Acts 2:15 , 10:9 , 3:1 , 10:30 ; compare Daniel 9:21 ).
as . . . aforetime--not from contempt of the king's command.
11. assembled--as in Daniel 6:6 , "assembled" or "ran hastily," so as to come upon Daniel suddenly and detect him in the act.
12. They preface their attack by alleging the king's edict, so as to get him again to confirm it unalterably, before they mention Daniel's name. Not to break a wicked promise, is not firmness, but guilty obstinacy ( Matthew 14:9 , 6:26 ).
13. That Daniel--contemptuously.
of . . . captivity of Judah--recently a captive among thy servants, the Babylonians--one whom humble obedience most becomes. Thus they aggravate his guilt, omitting mention of his being prime minister, which might only remind Darius of Daniel's state services.
regardeth not thee--because he regarded God ( Acts 4:19 , 5:29 ).
14. displeased with himself--for having suffered himself to be entrapped into such a hasty decree ( Proverbs 29:20 ). On the one hand he was pressed by the immutability of the law, fear that the princes might conspire against him, and desire to consult for his own reputation, not to seem fickle; on the other, by regard for Daniel, and a desire to save him from the effects of his own rash decree.
till . . . going down of . . . sun--The king took this time to deliberate, thinking that after sunset Daniel would be spared till morning, and that meanwhile some way of escape would turn up. But ( Daniel 6:15 ) the conspirators "assembled tumultuously" (literally) to prevent this delay in the execution, lest the king should meantime change his decree.
16. Thy God . . . will deliver thee--The heathen believed in the interposition of the gods at times in favor of their worshippers. Darius recognized Daniel's God as a god, but not the only true God. He had heard of the deliverance of the three youths in Daniel 3:26 Daniel 3:27 and hence augurs Daniel's deliverance. I am not my own master, and cannot deliver thee, however much I wish it. "Thy God will." Kings are the slaves of their flatterers. Men admire piety to God in others, however disregarding Him themselves.
17. stone . . . sealed--typical of Christ's entombment under a seal ( Matthew 27:66 ). Divinely ordered, that the deliverance might be the more striking.
his own signet, and . . . of his lords--The concurrence of the lords was required for making laws. In this kingly power had fallen since it was in Nebuchadnezzar's hands. The Median king is a puppet in his lords' hands; they take the security of their own seal as well as his, that he should not release Daniel. The king's seal guaranteed Daniel from being killed by them, should he escape the lions.
18. neither were instruments of music, &c.--GESENIUS translates, "concubines." Daniel's mentioning to us as an extraordinary thing of Darius, that he neither approached his table nor his harem, agrees with XENOPHON'S picture of him as devoted to wine and women, vain, and without self-control. He is sorry for the evil which he himself had caused, yet takes no steps to remedy it. There are many such halters between good and bad, who are ill at ease in their sins, yet go forward in them, and are drawn on by others.
19. His grief overcame his fear of the nobles.
20. living God--having life Himself, and able to preserve thy life; contrasted with the lifeless idols. Darius borrowed the phrase from Daniel; God extorting from an idolater a confession of the truth.
thou servest continually--in times of persecution, as well as in times of peace.
is thy God . . . able--the language of doubt, yet hope.
21. Daniel might have indulged in anger at the king, but does not; his sole thought is, God's glory has been set forth in his deliverance.
22. his angel--the instrument, not the author, of his deliverance ( Psalms 91:11 , 34:7 ).
shut . . . lions' mouths--( Hebrews 11:33 ). So spiritually, God will shut the roaring lion's mouth ( 1 Peter 5:8 ) for His servants.
forasmuch as before him innocency--not absolutely (in Daniel 9:7 Daniel 9:18 he disclaims such a plea), but relatively to this case. God has attested the justice of my cause in standing up for His worship, by delivering me. Therefore, the "forasmuch" does not justify Rome's doctrine of works meriting salvation.
before thee--Obedience to God is in strictest compatibility with loyalty to the king ( Matthew 22:21 , 1 Peter 2:17 ). Daniel's disobedience to the king was seeming, not real, because it was not from contempt of the king, but from regard to the King of kings (compare Acts 24:16 ).
23. because he believed--"Faith" is stated in Hebrews 11:33 to have been his actuating principle: a prelude to the Gospel. His belief was not with a view to a miraculous deliverance. He shut his eyes to the event, committing the keeping of his soul to God, in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator ( 1 Peter 4:19 ), sure of deliverance in a better life, if not in this.
24. ( Deuteronomy 19:19 , Proverbs 19:5 ).
accused--literally, "devoured the bones and flesh." It was just that they who had torn Daniel's character, and sought the tearing of his person, should be themselves given to be torn in pieces ( Proverbs 11:8 ).
their children--Among the Persians, all the kindred were involved in the guilt of one culprit. The Mosaic law expressly forbade this ( Deuteronomy 24:16 , 2 Kings 14:6 ).
or ever--that is, "before ever." The lions sparing Daniel could not have been because they were full, as they showed the keenness of their hunger on the accusers.
26. Stronger than the decree ( Daniel 3:29 ). That was negative; this, positive; not merely men must say "nothing amiss of," but must "fear before God."
28. It was in the third year of Cyrus that Daniel's visions (Daniel 10:1-12:13') were given. Daniel "prospered" because of his prophecies ( Ezra 1:1 Ezra 1:2 ).