This chapter completes the six court narratives. Here, as in chapter 3, rival colleagues in the government accuse Daniel of a new charge they have specially cooked up in order to catch him in a state crime because they have tricked the king into foolishly signing a new law. However, once the king has signed this very stupid, self-serving law, there is no way to stop the order for an execution of Daniel, just as the three Hebrew captives, Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego, were caught in a trap in Daniel 3.
Once again, because of God’s providential intervention, Daniel emerged at the head of a list of three administrators who were over the 120 satraps in the Medo-Persian Empire (6:1-2). But despite the best-laid plans of mortals to thwart the plans of God, once again they are foiled and their plan backfires.
This passage has three or four scenes: (1) Jealousy in the new government leadership (6:1-5), (2) A governmental conspiracy, (6:6-12), (3) The Judgment is carried out against Daniel (6:13-18), and (4) The deliverance of Daniel by God (6:19-28). The setting of this narrative is the time when the Medo-Persian Empire ruled a good stretch of the Near East plus some adjacent areas. Our chapter ends with a doxology published as an edict by Darius (25-27), with an emphasis on “the Living God.” Even in the midst of “dislocation” caused by the Babylonian exile, God was still demonstrating his power to sustain and even prosper those whom the exile had affected.
Title: “Trusting the Living God”
Text: Daniel 6:1-28
Focal Point: vv. 26b – 27 “For [Yahweh] is the Living God and he endures forever; ….He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.”
Homiletical Keyword: “acts”
Interrogative: What are the acts of the Living God that will show his power to rescue and to deliver?
I. He teaches us how to live. (6:1-5)
A. Within Pagan Cultures
B. With Patient Endurance
II. He hears us when we pray. (6:6-12)
A. A Governmental Conspiracy
B. An appeal to the Government of Heaven
III. He is with us when all seems to be lost. (6:13-18)
A. The Charge by the conspirators
B. The Measures to Prevent Human Rescue
IV. He Rescues Us When We Think It Is the Least Likely (6:19-28)
A. A Dependence on God
B. A Deliverance from God
I. HE TEACHES US HOW TO LIVE (6:1-5)
A. Within Pagan Cultures
Unfortunately, some have attempted to connect the narrative of Daniel in the lion’s den with the later mythical intertestamental story of Bel and the Serpent/Dragon, which sometimes appears in one of the apocryphal additions [non-canonical] to the expanded book of Daniel. However, not only is this story a later addition and not in the canonical books of the Bible, but it is a polemic against idolatry and not one of the court narratives found in the book of Daniel. Moreover, the critical judgment of many is that this later addition to the enlarged form of Daniel was borrowed from the canonical story and appears to be more contrived, especially the part that has Habakkuk transported to Babylon to feed Daniel in the lion’s den.
Daniel was made one of the “Presidents” (Aramaic, sarak) because of the way he had “distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps” (3). At this point, Daniel had more than 60 years of public service to the former empire as he was now entering into the Medo-Persian civil service. This may have put him around 80 years of age. The excellence with which he carried out his office in government was part of his testimony for his Lord, just as the same is true for all who are believers today and who carry on their work in a secular field. Excellence on the job is part of the witness to the Living God.
The Darius [the Mede], spoken of in verse 6, is probably, as Donald J. Wiseman suggested in our previous lesson, the same person also called Cyrus the Persian. This is in keeping with the occasional dual name phenomenon of the times demonstrated by the Assyrian King “Pul” who was also known as “Tiglath Pileser” (1 Chron 5:26).
Others are concerned because the number of Administrative districts varies according to the time period. Sometimes it is 120 (Dan 6:1), at other times is 127 (Est 1:1) or in Persian documents it is either 20 or 27. But the word “satrap” in Aramaic referred to the “protector of the kingdom,” which could also refer to smaller divisions within larger territorial units.
Added to the list of problems in this book is the fact that the Aramaic or Greek documents from this same time period have no knowledge of three “administrators,” or of Daniel being a part in this government. But since none have turned up so far does not mean it does not exist; this is an argument from silence. The historian Herodotus claimed that Darius I divided his empire into 20 provinces. But these apparently were also sub-divided into 120 smaller groups.
Daniel is depicted as a friend of Darius and he is not regarded as poorly as he was under King Belshazzar in the former government. Just how Daniel came to the attention of Darius, we are not told. Could it be that stories of his deciphering the handwriting on the wall and his interpreting the king’s dreams in the Babylonian government had come to the ears of the new regime? Or were his character traits well known?
The later seems to be the case, for the text specifically says that Darius was attracted to Daniel because of “his exceptional qualities” (3) and because he was “trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent” (4). That is quite a commendation for a politician, when in such a huge operation as Darius controlled, there must have always been the temptation for all sorts of lapses in morals and justice with the potential for cover-up strategies.
To work with so many people as Daniel had over the years, in two different governments and in so many areas, and yet come up as “Mr. Clean” is remarkable to say the least. Surely such a record is a problem for ambitious, envious aspirants for the same office as Daniel held.
Envy of his record tempted the administrators and satraps to seek fault with Daniel; however, the only fault they could find with him was his habit of keeping the law of God (5). If Daniel had acted as those seeking to catch him in some fault no doubt acted, then he would have blended into the culture much more readily. But the chances of finding some fault with Daniel, a man who kept God’s word and his law, was going to be hard indeed – unless they invented some such novel law. It was the decrees and laws of God that taught Daniel how to live. That principle is still in force even to this day, for the Torah, “law,” meant “to point” or “to direct” a person as to how they should live.
Moreover, the king provoked the jealousy of Daniel’s colleagues when he promoted him to a place of supremacy in the kingdom (3). Daniel’s promotion came as a result of his abilities in managing governmental affairs and his impeccable character. Therefore, the conspirators’ shift from examining his professional conduct to making a personal attack was their only possible move.
B. With Patient Endurance
Daniel, keen as he was to what usually goes on in government based on his years of experience, must have surmised there was envy and jealousy aimed at him by his fellow workers in government. But that was no reason for compromise. That point had been demonstrated in the first court narrative in Daniel 1. There comes a point where the one faithful to the word of God has to draw the line. The Scriptures drew that line for him in the law of God.
As Solomon taught in Proverbs 27:4, “Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy/envy?” When jealousy and envy are the driving forces, unless God intervenes, absolute mischief lies in front of the servant of the Lord.
II. HE IS WITH US WHEN WE PRAY (6:6-12)
A. A Governmental Conspiracy
Conspiracies or collusions in government (or any other line of work) are not a new thing, but Darius’ gullibility is rather amazing. Could he not see through the great and sudden concern for the king by his own officials? Thus it was that they came as a “group” (6) and greeted him royally! The word picture here is that they conspired to “agitate,” or that they literally “swarmed” him, perhaps to the point of stampeding him into acting favorably to heighten his honor and reputation as a sovereign for the next thirty days (7). Why would it last for only thirty days? Why just thirty? These and other questions should have alerted the naïve king.
The proposed edict was exaggerated in that it claimed to have expressed the will of “all” his subordinate officers. However, even mothers learn very early on to disregard the alleged polls taken by their children in school when their sons or daughters claim: “Everyone is now dressing this way!” or “All the other parents are providing vast amounts of spending money to their children!; our family is the only one out of step!” Can’t this monarch likewise see that he is being trapped into getting at someone they wish to displace? They want a decree that stated: “Anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown in the lion’s den” (7c).
Previously, the three Hebrew captives had been the victims of tattling by similarly envious colleagues (Dan 3), but now these royal conspirators want execution of any offender by exposure to the lions. Should not that demand have been enough for a wise king to say: “Why so harsh a judgment, especially for first- time offenders?” Perhaps he was so flattered by being a god and king for thirty days that he lost his sense of judgment and fairness. And why was it enacted only for thirty days, especially since it could “not be repealed” (8c)? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms – unrepealable for thirty days? This was straightforwardly a ploy to appeal to the king’s pride, and he took the bait hook, line, and sinker, not asking what motivated all of these officials to see that only the king was worshipped or prayed to– and that only for thirty days!
Some have objected that there is no external evidence for the irrevocability of Medo-Persian law. But that claim fails to note how Diodorus Siculus, a second century B.C. historian of Darius III, in a fit of rage condemned a certain Charidemus to death. Later, “When the king’s anger had abated, he at once repented … but it was not possible, for what was done by royal authority to be undone.” So the law of the Medes and the Persians was irrevocable.
To make sure the king does not have time to reflect on what he was doing, these co-conspirators urged him to put this decree into effect immediately (8-9). The gullible Darius obliged them and enacted the edict into immediate effect. No doubt they all came with the written decree already in hand for the king to sign. Notice to what lengths vanity can drive a person.
B. Appeal to the Government of Heaven
When Daniel learned of this edict, he took the matter directly to his heavenly Father (10a). In his own “upstairs room,” he opened his windows “toward Jerusalem” (10c). In so doing, he carried out the teaching Solomon had given when he dedicated the temple (1 Kgs 8:35, 38, 44, 48). Solomon had prayed: “If [in the land of their captivity] they turn back to you with all their heart and soul…. And pray to you toward the land you gave their fathers, toward the city you have chosen and the temple I [Solomon] have built for your [God’s] name, then from heaven, your dwelling place, [I will] hear their prayer and their plea and uphold their cause.” (1 Kgs 8:48-49). In a similar manner, the prophet Jonah prayed in his hour of desperation inside that great fish as he “looked towards [God’s] holy temple (Jon 2:4). That is how David prayed as well (Ps 5:7; 28:2).
Also the custom of praying three times a day likewise stemmed from the psalmist who prayed to God, saying: “Evening, morning and noon, I cry in my distress, and he hears my voice” (Ps 55:17). Moreover, when Daniel prayed, despite the jam he was in, he still was “giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before” (Dan 6:10d). Later, the Apostle Paul would formalize this truth into a principle, as it is here as well: “In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be known unto God” (Phil 4:6). Since he now acts as he “had done before,” the point is that good prayer habits give deep confidence in God’s providential care. Thus the Psalmist taught: “Surely [one] will never be shaken… He will never fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes” (Ps 112:6-8).
Daniel’s prayer (10) involved: 1.) faith, “because he had trusted in his God” (Dan 6:23); 2.) worship toward the city and temple God had chosen; 3.) humility, for he kneeled down on his knees before God, 4.) regularity, for he prayed three times a day, as he “had done before” (13); and 5.) thanksgiving (10d), as mentioned above.
III. He is With Us When All Seems to Be Lost (6:13-18)
A. The Charge by the Conspirators
There is a trace of anti-Semitism as the officials in collusion charged, “one of the exiles from Judah” (13a), not one of the Presidents, or any other title, “pays no attention to you, O King” (13a). They can charge such only because of the decree they had crafted with the king’s authority was to catch exactly one of the administrators of the king. Nevertheless, despite the high risk, Daniel remains true to Yahweh, for there is no other place to rest one’s trust and hope.
Talk about privacy invasions! How did these busy officials happen to know what Daniel’s practice was had they not deliberately spied on him (13d)?
B. The Measures to Prevent Human Rescue
When Darius heard this, suddenly he put it altogether (14a). He was not only “deeply distressed,” but he “made every effort until sundown to save [Daniel]” (14). Darius had been trapped by his own logic and pride! In the name of law and order, he was now party to one of the worse injustices about to be performed.
Note how the Evil One can operate under the guise of law and order just as well as under the mantle of permissiveness! Therefore, the Devil has a conservative mask as well as a revolutionary mask. How could such a loyal civil servant be hit with the charge of sedition? It was unspeakably unfair!
The conspirators did not let up, especially when their hideous plan was so close to being enacted. They kept “swarming,” or as a “group,” to Darius, now for a third time (15), presumably to remind the king of the necessity of real “law enforcement.”
In defeat, Darius gave the order, “throw Daniel to the lions,” adding piously, “May your God whom you serve continually, rescue you” (16). There was such jealousy and animosity from these conspirators against Daniel that they wanted to make sure that the king would not play for time, which incidentally, this same Daniel had once saved their own necks when they too had played for more time (Dan 2) to interpret the dream that they could not give for the king. So distressed was Darius that he could not eat or sleep, and he went that night without any “entertainment” or “diversion” (18) of activity.
These men did not trust Darius, for they wanted the lion’s den sealed, not just with the King’s “signet ring” (17), but to make sure no story of a surprising deliverance was concocted by the king, they affixed their rings on the seal so that nothing happened without their knowing it. The “signet ring” was an engraved stone placed on a ring or an inscribed stone worn about the neck on a rope or chain which became in effect a person’s signature.
IV. He Delivers Us When We Think It Is the Least Likely (6:18-28)
A. A Dependence on God
So distraught was Darius after a sleepless night, that “at the first light of dawn” (19a), he rushed out to the lion’s den and called in a voice of anguish to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the Living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?” (20). This epithet for the “Living God” is used fifteen times in the Old Testament and fourteen times in the New Testament. Therefore, the teaching about the “Living God” is not just a doctrine, a philosophy, an idea, or just about some kind of The Force; instead, he is a person who is alive, active, powerful and awesome in his ability to know what is going on in the earth and to bring judgment or blessing as the occasion deserves (20, 26).
B. A Deliverance from God
Daniel’s life had been spared, for even the brute creation served as a sign to this monarch that everything on earth was under his Sovereign control. Even the dumb animals sensed God’s purpose and will, while some of God’s more intelligent beings showed a much lesser awareness! Some would make the stone on the lion’s den, upon which the king and officials’ seals were placed, a type of the stone that closed the tomb of Jesus. It is said then that the story here foreshadows or predicts Jesus’ own resurrection. But there is nothing here that would lead a Bible reader to make that association! Jesus’ resurrection is true on other Biblical and historical grounds.
Who this “angel” was is never defined in the text. But a good guess is that this may well have been none other than “the Angel of the Lord,” i.e., the Lord himself, rather than one of his angelic host. In fact, that is how the LXX (Greek Septuagint) understood this agent to be a Christophony.
C.The King’s Decree and Doxology
There is no question but that the king was overjoyed at the outcome of this ordeal. Darius, therefore commanded that “the men who had falsely accused Daniel” be brought to the lion’s den along with their wives and children” (24). Some are horrified by this expression of corporate solidarity, if not offended by it. But it is important to notice that the Bible merely records this event without approving or disapproving of the king’s command.
This event, however, does appear as an example of one of the persons of faith in Hebrew 11:33-34. Thus, the text emphasizes the positive aspects of faith without commenting on the judgment meted out by the mortal king.
Just as Nebuchadnezzar wrote a letter to all his subjects after his seven years of literally being out to pasture on grass for his food (Dan 4:1-3), so King Darius/Cyrus similarly wrote a royal letter to all those in his vast realm. On the basis of what he had experienced, he decreed that in “every part of [his] kingdom, people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel, for he is the Living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions” (25-27). This doxological hymn surely glorifies the One and Only True God as being alive and most powerful.
That is some tribute from a pagan king! Darius exalts the eternality of God and the indestructibility of his kingdom, much as Nebuchadnezzar had in Daniel 4:3. Interestingly enough, this edict seemed to rescind the “irrevocability” of edict as the king publicizes his reversal of what he himself previously had struggled with as being irreversible. But Darius was certain that Daniel’s God was the “Living God,” which title he now repeats (20, 26).
Did this mean that either or both of these kings were converted? There is just not enough data here to determine the answer to that question.
The chapter ends on a somewhat strange note as it connects the name and reign of Darius with that of Cyrus (28). The writer, it seems, wants us to know that the two names belong to the same person.
1. Envy may be one of the meanest of all human sin.
2. Envy destroys homes, Churches, the state, and persons.
3. The Bible teaches that “the Angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him” (Ps 34:7)
4. It is a losing battle to fight against the people of God.
5. Be careful of the trap of personal vanity and the lengths it might drive you to.
6. The decrees and laws of God can direct believers how to live and succeed even in very hostile environments.
Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., PhD
Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. website: www.walterckaiserjr.com