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Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible Coffman's Commentaries
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Daniel 6". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ bcc/ daniel-6.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Daniel 6". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://studylight.org/
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In this chapter we have the famed story of Daniel in the lion's den.
The events of this chapter occurred at the beginning of the reign of Darius the Mede who preceded Cyrus as king of the Medo-Persian empire. The fact that profane history has no record of this Darius the Mede has, of course, led to all kinds of irresponsible and inaccurate allegations by Biblical critics. The two great errors current in such criticisms are (1) that this Darius was Darius Hystaspes, a supposition which would make the account in Daniel a gross error, and (2) the notion that the writer of Daniel here thought that a Median empire preceded the Persian empire. Neither allegation is true.
Based on the sacred record, "This Median Darius was a son of Ahasuerus (Daniel 9:1), of the seed of the Medes; and according to Daniel 11:1, the angel Gabriel stood by him in his first year." This would suggest that Gabriel was the mighty angel who prevented injury to Daniel in the lion's den. This he would have done not in his own authority, but as an instrument of God.
Now concerning the whole question of whether or not the Darius of this chapter is a historical person or not, many volumes have been written; and our purpose here is not to explore the multiple facets of this question. Our own view is that this Darius the Mede was none other than Cyrus' great general Gobryas who actually captured Babylon and held the government for a couple or three years until Cyrus the real king could take over the government. During that period, Darius would have held full authority as king and would have been so addressed and honored by the citizens of Babylon. Our reasons for this preference are:
(1) The resemblance in the names. The name Darius might easily have been a corruption of Gobryas, the names having the same number of syllables, and the "y" or `T' sound accented in the penult in both. Also, the fact of different languages being involved increases this possibility.
(2) What is definitely known of Gobryas fits what the Bible says of Darius in this chapter. "From Cyrus' annalistic tablet we know that he appointed his general Gobryas to be governor of Babylon, and that Gobryas set up sub-governors. The mention of 120 satrapies in this chapter appears unreasonable to the critics; but the record defies their criticism. There were no less than 127 subdivisions of this same empire in the days of Esther (Esther 1:1); and besides, as Jeffery noted, "The Jews used the word `satrap' in a wider sense than it had in official Persian usage."
(3) Ptolemy's Canon gave the reign of Cyrus the Perisan who succeeded Nabonidus (and Belshazzar) as nine years; and Xenophon referred to the reign of Cyrus as seven years. The assumption is that the first two years of the nine credited to Cyrus were actually the reign of Darius. "The supposition that Darius reigned two years over Babylon is correct."
(4) The Babylonian kingdom was destroyed sixty-eight years after the commencement of the Exile. The seventy years of the Exile were completed in the first year of the reign of Cyrus (2 Chronicles 36:22f; Ezra 1:1), therefore Cyrus became king two years after the overthrow of Babylon. Darius the Mede was king during the other two years. (Keil develops this carefully).
(5) A gold coin called the Daric has been excavated from Babylon, and it must be identified with an older Darius than Darius Hystaspes, most likely the Darius the Mede of Daniel.
(6) There is even the possibility that Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian (Daniel 6:29) were one and the same person. It might be that the man had two titles. Wiseman suggested that we should translate Daniel 6: 28 thus, "In the reign of Darius, even in the reign of Cyrus the Persian." Independently of any such scholarly postulation as that of Wiseman, this writer was impressed by that same possibility, suggested by the very proximity of the two names in Daniel 6:28. "We do know that it was common for kings in those days to have two or more names."
(7) There is also an enigmatic passage in the profane writer Abydenus' writings which was preserved by Eusebius: "Cyrus, after he had taken possession of Babylon, appointed him margrave of the country of Carmania. Darius the king removed him out of the land." This is almost certainly a reference to Darius the Mede of this chapter.
Despite our preference for the identification of Gobryas as the Darius of this chapter, there are other postulations just as reasonable. Keil, for example cited the possibility that Darius was actually Cyaxerxes, whom Cyrus visited following the fall of Babylon, and who gave Cyrus his daughter for wife. Cyrus enthroned him in Babylon for a two-year period. Keil favord this explanation, and it might be correct.
In any case, it is no longer possible for critics to scream "unhistorical" when this character is mentioned. It is true, of course, that practically nothing is known of him, except what is written in this chapter, but the muddled and confused affairs of both the Medes and the Persians of that distant time make it perfectly reasonable that a short inter-regnum kingship like that of Darius would have been completely passed over by the profane histories of the period. "Therefore, the absence of all notice by Berosus, Herodotus, Ctesias, etc., can furnish no substantial ground" for denying the historical facts of this chapter.
Young believed that, "It is possible that Darius was some hitherto unknown figure who may have been entrusted with the kingship by Cyrus." However, in the same paragraph, Young mentioned that:
Our own view is that every line of the Bible is truly historical, and superior in every way to all profane writings. As Culver remarked, "The language of Daniel 5:31 and Daniel 9:1 requires us to believe that Darius was sub-king under Cyrus who was king of the whole Medo-Persian empire."
The chapter divisions are: the new king is pleased with Daniel (Daniel 6:1-4); his fellow officers, through envy and jealousy, plot to destroy Daniel (Daniel 6:5-9); Daniel ignores the decree which the king signed (Daniel 6:11-15); Daniel is cast into the den of lions (Daniel 6:16-18); the king early the next day discovers that Daniel is unhurt (Daniel 6:19-23); Daniel's accusers and their families are cast to the lions (Daniel 6:24); Darius publishes a decree legitimizing the Jewish religion (Daniel 6:25-27); and Daniel prospers in the reign of Darius and Cyrus (Daniel 6:28).
"It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom a hundred and twenty satraps, who should be throughout the whole kingdom; and over them three presidents, of whom Daniel was one; that these satraps might give account unto them, and that the king should have no damage. Then this Daniel was distinguished above the presidents and the satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm."
DANIEL'S FAVOR WITH THE NEW KING
The profane writers exhibit the most radical differences in the number of satraps Babylonian kings are said to have appointed. Xenophon stated that Cyrus appointed six over the whole realm; Herodotus said that Darius Hystaspes divided the country into twenty satrapies; other historians mention twenty-four and twenty-nine; Xerxes had 127 provinces (Esther 1:1); later in the Grecian period, there were seventy-two of these; and Josephus even claimed that there were 120 satraps for each of the three presidents, making 360 in all! Keil discusses all of this at length. We only mention this here to suggest that before the critics can criticize the number of satraps mentioned here, they should first straighten out all the profane historians on the same subject.
The big point in this passage is the ability and consequent popularity of Daniel with the new king Darius. Darius was even considering the appointment of Daniel as prime minister over the whole of his realm. When Daniel's peers learned of this, they were filled with envy and jealousy and immediately laid a trap which they hoped would lead to his destruction.
"That the king should have no damage ..." "The repetition of the word `king' might imply that Darius was not the king whose loss of revenue was to be guarded against." This of course would reflect the relative positions of the sub-king Darius over Babylon and of Cyrus the great king over the whole empire.
It is of interest here that there is no mention of Darius having appointed Daniel as one of the three presidents; and Keil suggested that, "We may only conclude that Darius merely confirmed Daniel in the office to which Belshazzar had appointed him."
The mention of the age of Darius (Daniel 5:31) as sixty-two years "is the only mention of the age of a Gentile accession to a throne in all canonical records; this was probably the age of Cyrus' general Gobryas when the Babylonian kingdom fell in 539 B.C."
"Then the presidents and the satraps sought to Find occasion against Daniel as touching the kingdom; but they could find no 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, unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God. Then these presidents and satraps assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live forever. All the presidents of the kingdom, the deputies and the satraps, the counselors and the governors, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a strong interdict, 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 interdict, 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 interdict."
THE PLOT TO DESTROY DANIEL
Although the language here might be construed as meaning that all of the persons mentioned, the presidents, satraps, counselors, etc., were consulted, such was manifestly not the case. Daniel had not been consulted. Furthermore, it is exceedingly likely that the accusers of Daniel were quite a limited number. All of the show of unanimity here was merely window dressing to induce the king to go along with the plot. Poor old weak and unskilled Darius was an easy prey for that kind of intrigue. All of this account is absolutely reasonable and fully in keeping with the inevitable situation that always typified the kind of despotism that was fashionable in antiquity.
Biblical enemies never overlook anything, no matter how trivial, as a possible grounds for complaint; and therefore it is not surprising that some would allege a disunity in Daniel on the grounds that "the fiery furnace" was the means of execution in the days of Nebuchadnezzar, while here it is "the lions' den!" Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom was Chaldean, however; and the kingdom here is that of the Medes and Persians. "The Persians, being Zoroastrians, held fire to be sacred. Hence for them it would have been improper to cremate or execute by fire."
"All the presidents of the kingdom ..." (Daniel 6:7)." This passage does not imply that all of the satraps, counselors, etc. were engaged in the conspiracy, but that they were all present on that occasion. Their presence as a company was due to their having been convened by the presidents (without Daniel); and the claim that all of that host had been consulted and that they had all agreed that the proposed edict should be signed was an unqualified lie. Daniel had not be consulted. Furthermore, "The Aramaic text does not indicate how many came into the presence of the king; and the Septuagint (LXX) indicates that only the other two governors (presidents) were involved." If that was indeed the case, then it is likewise possible that only those two, along with their families, were cast into the lions' den. "It was the other two presidents and the satraps ... who came before the king; but they claimed to speak in the name of all classes of government."
"Which altereth not ..." This aspect of Medo-Persian law also appeared in the edict against the Jews, as contrived by Haman (Esther 1:19; 8:8). It was, of course, a stupid and unreasonable conceit which thus interpreted their laws; and some commentators have tried to soften it. Adam Clarke, for example, thought that the irreversible aspect of their laws extended only for the first thirty days. This appears to be erroneous. "The laws remained unchangeable and irrevocable, because the king was regarded and honored as the incarnation of deity, who is unerring and cannot change."
Critics, ever eager to discover some flaw, have alleged that such a decree was so foolish and unreasonable that it should be viewed as a fabrication by some author who made up this tale in Daniel to support "a religious truth!" This view is totally in error. Jeffery, however, is correct in stating that, "There is nothing inherently absurd in the idea of such a decree. An ancient Sumerian king might well have issued one ... a Japanese emperor at the end of the 16th century issued a somewhat similar edict!
Another unreasonable worthless criticism is that of Owens who declared that, "The idea of keeping a lion in a pit would only be used by a writer unfamiliar with lions outside of the pages of literature." The implication of such a canard is that, of course, the narrative here is an invention by someone, certainly not Daniel! The truth is that no scholar could make a complaint like that who was familiar with either the excavations of ancient Babylon or with the Word of God. The Sacred Scriptures make reference to the den of lions in the Book of Nahum; and the garden walls, as well as the avenues of approach to the palace in ancient Babylon were all beautifully decorated with magnificent bas-relief lions done in turquoise, gold, and yellow colors. The basis of the critical assault on this part of Daniel is their mistranslation of the lions' den, reading it as "cistern" or "pit." The translators of all acceptable versions of God's Word reject such renditions. We do not have any detailed description of just exactly how ancient lions' dens were constructed; and the total ignorance of the critical community on the same subject is grounds enough for rejecting their ridiculous criticisms. The citizens of ancient Babylon probably knew more about how to use lions for their national purposes than any other government of human history. The conceit that one can take the sketchy references to the lions' den in this chapter, blow them up out of context to postulate an entire engineer's drawing of how lions' dens were made, and then to use that fabrication as a criticism of what is written here ... that is a measure of the critic's bias against the
"And when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house (now his windows were open in his chamber toward Jerusalem); and he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. Then these men assembled together, and found Daniel making petition and supplication before his God. Then they came near, and spake before the king concerning the king's interdict, that every man that shall make petition unto any god or man within thirty days, save unto 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, who is of the children of the captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, O king, nor the interdict which thou hast signed, but maketh his petition three times a day. Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him; and he labored till the going down of the sun to rescue him. Then these men assembled together unto the king, and said unto the king, Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians, that no interdict nor statute which the king establisheth may be changed."
DANIEL CONTINUES TO BE FAITHFUL
What a feeling of exultation must have come to the conspirators against Daniel at such a complete success of their diabolical plot. They had calculated everything perfectly (so they thought). The king, unaware of their hatred and of their evil purpose had signed the decree. True to what they knew would happen, Daniel went on in the faithful exercise of his holy religion without regard to human legislation. They were able to catch Daniel "in the act." Daniel did not even bother to deny the charges. The king was caught in the cruel vice of his own stupid law; and these enemies of Daniel must have thought at that juncture of affairs that they had everything under control. They overlooked the will of God, which is a universal characteristic of all wicked men.
WINDOWS OPEN TOWARD JERUSALEM
"Windows open toward Jerusalem ..." (Daniel 6:10). "This habit of praying toward a particular point has been maintained till this day by the Mohammedans who pray in the direction of Mecca."
This writer feels a certain appreciation of this text, which was the basis of a sermon delivered in the Sixteenth and Decatur Streets Church in Washington, D.C. in January of 1953, attended that morning by Major General Charles I. Carpenter, Chief of the Armed Services Board of Chaplains, for the United States of America. As a result of the General's strong approval of that sermon, he extended an invitation for this writer to spend three months in the Far East as a guest of the U.S. Military, conducting Preaching Missions throughout the Far East. Later a plan was worked out to allow a vast expansion of the number of ministers from Churches of Christ privileged to participate in the chaplaincy programs of the U.S. Military.
A. Daniel's attitude:
1. Was not one of defiance (he did not kneel outdoors).
2. Was not one of cowardice (he did not hide).
3. He continued in his normal pattern.
B. As he did aforetime:
1. A man's habits are the key to his destiny.
2. It is always what one is in the habit of doing
that determines the course of his actions.
I. Daniel had his windows opened toward Jerusalem:
A. Not open toward Babylon.
B. Not opened toward the king's palace.
C. But open toward Jerusalem, from whence the Word of God came.
D. Similarly people today should refuse to open the
windows of their souls toward Paris (for fashions),
or toward Moscow (for politics), or toward New York
(for financial news), or toward Washington (for
governmental support), etc.
E. But let them open the windows of their souls to Jerusalem,
to the word of the Lord, which alone is able to save the soul.
II. Daniel was faithful:
A. Without regard to personal enemies,
B. Without regard to human legislation,
C. Without regard to personal danger,
D. Without regard to impending death.
III. Daniel's faith was rewarded:
A. God heard his prayer and answered it.
B. His enemies saw his faithfulness.
C. The king reluctantly executed the penalty.
D. The king rejoiced when Daniel was safe.
IV. The purpose of God was advanced gloriously by Daniel's rescue.
A. The king's edict
B. It guaranteed for Israel their religious freedom for yet awhile.
C. This was a key episode in the rescue of Israel from their second
captivity (the first was in Egypt).MONO>
"Three times a day ..." (Daniel 6:10) Andrews gave the hours of prayer as, "the time of the morning burnt offering, the ninth hour (which was 3 p.m.), and at sunset." The same writer also stated that the Jews frequently spoke of praying "before God," instead of praying "to God." The Talmud instructed that the Jews in foreign lands pray toward Jerusalem, and that persons in Jerusalem should pray toward the temple.
Commenting on the true purpose behind the ridiculous law which Daniel, in conscience, violated by his prayers three times a day, Keil pointed out that, "The fundamental principle of heathenism is that the king is the son, the representative, the living manifestation of the peoples' gods." However, it could not have been any concern for the protection of the peoples' religious systems that prompted the presidents who initiated the movement for the law passed in this situation. The prime motivation was the desire to destroy Daniel; and all the rest of the campaign in favor of the law was pure hypocrisy.
The evil strategy of Daniel's enemies (probably the two colleagues of his in the presidency) appears in a number of particulars. (1) They first rehearsed the terms of the new law and procured the king's agreement that it was indeed an irrevocable statute. (2) In their charge against Daniel, they left off any mention that he was one of the presidents, saying only that he was "of the children of the captivity of Judah," a despised foreigner, of course. (3) Thomson suggested that, "The subordinate position of Darius, occupying the place of king of Babylon only for a season, instead of Cyrus, would have made it very difficult for Darius to override any constitutional maxim." The king was indeed effectively trapped by his own evil law. Of course, he should have violated that law at whatever cost to himself. "Not to break a wicked promise is not firmness; it is guilty obstinacy." This writer has known parents who were pressured into signing up with some church to rear their children in a certain faith, and who, upon learning "a more excellent way" of serving the Lord, nevertheless honored their prior wicked commitment by observing it. In such cases, the keeping of a wicked promise is more dishonorable than the breaking of it.
"Interdict and statute are mentioned together in Daniel 6:17 as if they were two documents, as is more clearly visible in Daniel 6:9. The style of rhetoric here is called "hendiadys." This is a device in which "two words are used to express the same idea as a single word with a qualifier." There was only one document in view here, whether called a writing, a statute, or an interdict.
"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. 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 nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting, neither were instruments of music brought before him: and his sleep fled from him."
DANIEL CAST IN THE LIONS' DEN
Any man, trapped and frustrated by his own words and deeds, is to be pitied; and Darius spent an agonizing night, no doubt realizing just what a fool his unscrupulous lords had made of him. On the other hand, they must have enjoyed a banquet of feasting and rejoicing. However, there was to be a sequel to this event which none of them could have foreseen.
"A stone was brought ... etc." (Daniel 6:17). The critical picture which is imported into the text here, alleging that this "den" was a little tiny cistern with a bottle top entrance that could be easily covered up with a single stone is ridiculous. The lions were kept in commodious quarters and were fed at regular intervals and occasionally released to provide quarry in a hunt in which the king participated. No one knows exactly the dimensions, or the arrangements of those "dens." The word "cistern" is a critical perversion of the text for the purpose of rendering it ridiculous. No reputable version of the Bible thus translates the word.
"Instruments of music ..." Alternative renditions of this word are "dancing girls" or "concubines" or "tables for food." The king wanted none of the usual treatment, but he was in terrible distress and anxiety on behalf of Daniel whom he had been compelled reluctantly to condemn to death.
"Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions. And when he came near unto the den to Daniel, he cried with a lamentable voice; the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live forever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, and they have not hurt me; forasmuch as before him innocence was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt. Then was the king exceeding glad, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he had trusted in his God."
THE KING FINDS DANIEL UNHURT THE NEXT MORNING
"Forasmuch as before him innocency was found ..." The innocency here is in no sense absolute; and as Jamieson noted, "Therefore this passage does not justify Rome's doctrine of works meriting salvation."
"God hath sent his angel ..." (Daniel 6:22). Even in the current dispensation of God's grace, it is stated that angels are "ministering spirits, sent forth to do service for them that shall inherit salvation" (Hebrews 1:14). Serving the interests of God's people is thus one of seven different functions set forth in the Bible as performed by angels. All seven are: (1) in the general sense, as here; (2) to watch over little children (Matthew 18:10); (3) to bear away the souls of the righteous in death (Luke 16:22); (4) to execute the punitive judgments of God upon the incorrigibly wicked (Acts 12:23); (5) to aid providentially in bringing sinners to hear the gospel of Christ (Acts 8:3); (6) to excercise influence over human rulers and princes as in the case of Persia (Daniel 10:20); and (7) to hold open forever the "Word of God" until the dispensation is ended (Revelation 10).
"Then the king commanded, and they brought those men that 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, before they came to the bottom of the den."
DANIEL'S ENEMIES PUNISHED
Critics have interpreted "the accusers of Daniel" here as meaning all of the 120 satraps, the presidents, the counselors, the governors, and the deputies, and then have alleged that the lions' eating up that many people before they ever hit the bottom of the "den" is a monstrous absurdity; but the only real absurdity is the allegation of the critics. As Keil put it:
We have already noted that in all probability, only the two presidential colleagues of Daniel were the actual accusers of the prophet and that, accordingly, only those two with their wives and children were executed.
It is extremely interesting that Josephus has supplemented the information here with a number of observations which sound much like the truth, although of course Josephus' words never carry the authority of Scripture.
"Then king Darius wrote unto all the peoples, nations, and languages, that dwelt in all the earth: Peace be multiplied unto you. I make a decree, that in all the dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel; for he is the living God, and stedfast forever, 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."
DARIUS' DECREE CONCERNING DANIEL'S GOD
The overwhelming proof of the wonders reported in Daniel is inherent in one tremendously important historical certainty, namely, that Israel did indeed return, after a full seventy years, from their Babylonian captivity and were again settled in the land of Palestine, where they rebuilt the temple and the walls of Jerusalem.
Now that undeniable fact proves that the wonders here recorded actually occurred. Otherwise, Israel would never have returned.
This marvelous decree published by Darius was very similar to the edict of Nebuchadnezzar subsequent to God's delivery of the faithful three from the fiery furnace; indeed it used some of the very terminology of that prior edict.
The acute need for this very type of encouragement and protection of God's people was far more than sufficient grounds for God's intervention here in order to bring about the full achievement of his purpose of redemption for mankind. Biblical wonders must always be understood in their relation to the universal, worldwide purpose of God's redemptive intention for Adam's race.
Most scholars agree that Darius did not become a monotheist by this experience. What he apparently did was to accept God as indeed the greatest of the gods, but not as the one and only true God.
Daniel 6:28, So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
See the chapter introduction for a discussion of the historical difficult of these two names. One possible reading of this verse was given by Millard thus:
"The reign of Darius, that is, the reign of Cyrus the Persian." It is of course true that ancient kings often had more than one name; and this reading of the passage is not as far-fetched as some might think. One of these days, the whole truth about these two names may be excavated from the mud of ancient Babylon; and when this is done, the Bible will, as always, be completely supported and proved to be correct. In the meanwhile, the Bible needs no such support or corroboration from pagan sources.