It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom;
It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom - Evidently over the kingdom of Babylon, now united to that of Media and Persia. As this was now subject to him, and tributary to him, it would be natural to appoint persons over it in whom he could confide, for the administration of justice, for the collection of revenue, etc. Others however, suppose that this relates to the whole kingdom of Persia, but as the reference here is mainly to what was the kingdom of Babylon, it is rather to be presumed that this is what is particularly alluded to. Besides, it is hardly probable that he would have exalted Daniel, a Jew, and a resident in Babylon, to so important a post as that of the premiership over the whole empire, though from his position and standing in Babylon there is no improbability in supposing that he might have occupied, under the reign of Darius, a place similar to what he had occupied under Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar. In dividing the kingdom into provinces, and placing officers over each department, Darius followed the same plan which Xenophon tells us that Cyrus did over the nations conquered by him, Cyrop. viii.: Εδόκει ἀυτῷ σατράπας ἤδη πέμπειν ἐπὶ τά κατεστραμμένα ἔθνη Edokei autō satrapas ēdē pempein epi ta katestrammena ethnē - "It seemed good to him to appoint satraps over the conquered nations." Compare Esther 1:1. Archbishop Usher (Annal.) thinks that the plan was first instituted by Cyrus, and was followed at his suggestion. It was a measure of obvious prudence in order to maintain so extended an empire in subjection.
An hundred and twenty princes - The word here rendered "princes" (אחשׁדרפניא 'ăchashedarepenayā') occurs only in Daniel in the Chaldee form, though in the Hebrew form it is found in the book of Esther Est 3:12; Esther 8:9; Esther 9:3, and in Ezra Ezr 8:36; in Esther and Ezra uniformly rendered lieutenants. In Daniel Dan 3:2-3, Daniel 3:27; Daniel 6:1-4, Daniel 6:6-7 it is as uniformly rendered princes. It is a word of Persian origin, and is probably the Hebrew mode of pronouncing the Persian word satrap, or, as Gesenius supposes, the Persian word was pronounced ksatrap. For the etymology of the word, see Gesenius, Lexicon The word undoubtedly refers to the Persian satraps, or governors, or viceroys in the large provinces of the empire, possessing both civil and military powers. They were officers high in rank, and being the representatives of the sovereign, they rivaled his state and splendor. Single parts, or subdivisions of these provinces, were under inferior officers; the satraps governed whole provinces. The word is rendered satraps in the Greek, and the Latin Vulgate.
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.
And over these, three presidents - סרכין sârekı̂yn. This word is found only in the plural. The etymology is uncertain, but its meaning is not doubtful. The word president expresses it with sufficient accuracy, denoting a high officer that presided over others. It is not improbable that these presided over distinct departments, corresponding somewhat to what are now called "secretaries" - as Secretaries of State, of the Treasury, of Foreign Affairs, etc., though this is not particularly specified.
Of whom Daniel was first - First in rank. This office he probably held from the rank which he was known to have occupied under the kings of Babylon, and on account of his reputation for ability and integrity.
That the princes might give accounts unto them - Be immediately responsible to them; the accounts of their own administration, and of the state of the empire.
And the king should have no damage - Either in the loss of revenue, or in any maladministration of the affairs. Compare Ezra 4:13. "They pay not toll, tribute, and custom, and so thou shalt endamage the revenue of the kings." The king was regarded as the source of all power, and as in fact the supreme proprietor of the realm, and any malfeasance or malversation in office was regarded as an injury to him.
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.
Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes - That is, he was at their head, or was placed in rank and office over them. "Because an excellent spirit was in him." This may refer alike to his wisdom and his integrity - both of which would be necessary in such an office. It was an office of great difficulty and responsibility to manage the affairs of the empire in a proper manner, and required the talents of an accomplished statesman, and, at the same time, as it was an office where confidence was reposed by the sovereign, it demanded integrity. The word "excellent" (יתירא yattı̂yrâ') means, properly, what hangs over, or which is abundant, or more than enough, and then anything that is very great, excellent, pre-eminent. Latin Vulgate, Spiritus Dei amplior - "the spirit of God more abundantly." Greek πνεῦμα περισσὸν pneuma perisson. It is not said here to what trial of his abilities and integrity Daniel was subjected before he was thus exalted, but it is not necessary to suppose that any such trial occurred at once, or immediately on the accession of Darius. Probably, as he was found in office as appointed by Belshazzar, he was continued by Darius, and as a result of his tried integrity was in due time exalted to the premiership. "And the king thought to set him over the whole realm."
The whole kingdom over which he presided, embracing Media, Persia, Babylonia, and all the dependent, conquered provinces. This shows that the princes referred to in Daniel 6:1, were those which were appointed over Babylonia, since Daniel Dan 6:2 was already placed at the head of all these princes. Yet, in consequence of his talents and fidelity the king was meditating the important measure of placing him over the whole united kingdom as premier. That he should form such a purpose in regard to an officer so talented and faithful as Daniel was, is by no means improbable. The Greek of Theodotion renders this as if it were actually done - καὶ ὁ βασιλεὺς κατέστησεν ἀυτον, κ.τ.λ. kai ho basileus katestēsen auton, etc. - "And the king placed him over all his kingdom." But the Chaldee (אשׁית 'ăshı̂yth) indicates rather a purpose or intention to do it; or rather, perhaps, that he was actually making arrangements to do this. Probably it was the fact that this design was perceived, and that the arrangements were actually commenced, that aroused the envy and the ill-will of his fellow-officers, and induced them to determine on his ruin.
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 the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel - The word rendered "occasion" (עלה ‛illâh) means a pretext or pretence. "The Arabs use the word of any business or affair which serves as a cause or pretext for neglecting another business." - Gesenius, Lexicon The meaning is, that they sought to find some plausible pretext or reason in respect to Daniel, by which the contemplated appointment might be prevented, and by which he might be effectually humbled. No one who is acquainted with the intrigues of cabinets and courts can have any doubts as to the probability of what is here stated. Nothing has been more common in the world than intrigues of this kind to humble a rival, and to bring down those who are meritorious to a state of degradation. The cause of the plot here laid seems to have been mere envy and jealousy - and perhaps the consideration that Daniel was a foreigner, and was one of a despised people held in captivity. "Concerning the kingdom." In respect to the administration of the kingdom. They sought to find evidence of malversation in office, or abuse of power, or attempts at personal aggrandizement, or inattention to the duties of the office. This is literally "from the side of the kingdom;" and the meaning is, that the accusation was sought in that quarter, or in that respect. No other charge would be likely to be effectual, except one which pertained to maladministration in office.
But they could find none occasion nor fault - This is an honorable testimony to the fidelity of Daniel, and to the uprightness of his character. If there had been any malversation in office, it would have been detected by these men.
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.
We shall not find any occasion ... - We shall not find any pretext or any cause by which he may be humbled and degraded. They were satisfied of his integrity, and they saw it was vain to hope to accomplish their purposes by any attack on his moral character, or any charge against him in respect to the manner in which he had discharged the duties of his office.
Except we find it against him concerning the law of his God - Unless it be in respect to his religion; unless we can so construe his known conscientiousness in regard to his religion as to make that a proof of his unwillingness to obey the king. It occurred to them that such was his well-understood faithfulness in his religious duties, and his conscientiousness, that they might expect that, whatever should occur, he would be found true to his God, and that this might be a basis of calculation in any measure they might propose for his downfall. His habits seem to have been well understood, and his character was so fixed that they could proceed on this as a settled matter in their plans against him. The only question was, how to construe his conduct in this respect as criminal, or how to make the king listen to any accusation against him on this account, for his religious views were well known when he was appointed to office; the worship of the God of Daniel was not prohibited by the laws of the realm, and it would not be easy to procure a law directly and avowedly prohibiting that.
It is not probable that the king would have consented to pass such a law directly proposed - a law which would have been so likely to produce disturbance, and when no plausible ground could have been alleged for it. There was another method, however, which suggested itself to these crafty counselors - which was, while they did not seem to aim absolutely and directly to have that worship prohibited, to approach the king with a proposal that would be flattering to his vanity, and that, perhaps, might be suggested as a test question, showing the degree of esteem in which he was held in the empire, and the willingness of his subjects to obey him. By proposing a law that, for a limited period, no one should be allowed to present a petition of any kind to anyone except to the king himself, the object would be accomplished. A vain monarch could be prevailed on to pass such a law, and this could be represented to him as a measure not improper in order to test his subjects as to their willingness to show him respect and obedience; and at the same time it would be certain to effect the purpose against Daniel - for they had no doubt that he would adhere steadfastly to the principles of his religion, and to his well-known habits of worship. This plan was, therefore, crafty in the extreme, and was the highest tribute that could be paid to Daniel. It would be well if the religious character and the fixed habits of all who profess religion were so well understood that it was absolutely certain that no accusation could lie against them on any other ground, but that their adherence to their religious principles could be calculated on as a basis of action, whatever might be the consequences.
Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever.
Then these presidents and princes assembled together - Margin, came tumultuously. The margin expresses the proper meaning of the original word - רגשׁ râgash - to run together with tumult. Why they came together in that manner is not stated. Bertholdt suggests that it means that they came in a procession, or in a body, to the king; but there is undoubtedly the idea of their doing it with haste, or with an appearance of great earnestness or excitement. Perhaps they imagined that they would be more likely to carry the measure if proposed as something that demanded immediate action, or something wherein it appeared that the very safety of the king was involved, than if it were proposed in a sedate and calm manner. If it were suggested in such a way as to seem to admit of deliberation, perhaps the suspicion of the king might be aroused, or he might have asked questions as to the ground of the necessity of such a law, which it might not have been easy to answer.
King Darius, live for ever - The usual way of saluting a monarch. See the note at Daniel 2:4.
All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellers, 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.
All the presidents of the kingdom, the governor ... - Several functionaries are enumerated here who are not in the previous verses, as having entered into the conspiracy. It is possible, indeed, that all these different classes of officers had been consulted, and had concurred in asking the enactment of the proposed law; but it is much more probable that the leaders merely represented or affirmed what is here said in order to be more certain of the enactment of the law. If represented as proposed by all the officers of the realm, they appear to have conceived that there would be no hesitation on the part of Darius in granting the request. They could not but be conscious that it was an unusual request, and that it might appear unreasonable, and hence, they seem to have used every precaution to make the passing of the law certain.
Have consulted together to establish a royal statute - Or, that such a statute might be established. They knew that it could be established only by the king himself, but they were in the habit, doubtless, of recommending such laws as they supposed would be for the good of the realm.
And to make a firm decree - Margin, interdict. The word used (אסר 'ĕsâr - from אסר 'âsar - to bind, make fast) means, properly, a binding; then anything which is binding or obligatory - as a prohibition, an interdict, a law.
That whosoever shall ask - Any one of any rank. The real purpose was to involve Daniel in disgrace, but in order to do this it was necessary to make the prohibition universal - as Herod, in order to be sure that he had cut off the infant king of the Jews, was under a necessity of destroying all the children in the place.
Of any god or man - This would include all the gods acknowledged in Babylon, and all foreign divinities.
For thirty days - The object of this limitation of time was perhaps twofold:
(1) they would be sure to accomplish their purpose in regard to Daniel, for they understood his principles and habits so well that they had no doubt that within that three he would be found engaged in the worship of his God; and
(2) it would not do to make the law perpetual, and to make it binding longer than thirty days might expose them to the danger of popular tumults. It was easy enough to see that such a law could not be long enforced, yet they seem to have supposed that the people would acquiesce in it for so brief a period as one month. Unreasonable though it might be regarded, yet for so short a space of time it might be expected that it would be patiently submitted to.
Save of thee, O king - Perhaps either directly, or through some minister of the realm.
He shall be cast into the den of lions - The word "den" (גוב gôb) means, properly, a pit, or cistern; and the idea is that the den was underground, probably a cave constructed for that purpose. It was made with so narrow an entrance that it could be covered with a stone, and made perfectly secure, Daniel 6:17. "The enclosures of wild beasts," says Bertholdt, pp. 397, 398, "especially of lions," which the kings of Asia and of North-western Africa formerly had, as they have at the present day, were generally constructed underground, but were ordinarily caves which had been excavated for the purpose, wailed up at the sides, enclosed within a wall through which a door led from the outer wall to the space lying between the walls, within which persons could pass round and contemplate the wild beasts." "The emperor of Morocco says Host (Beschreibung von Marokos und Fess, p. 290, as quoted in Rosenmuller's Morgenland, in loc.), "has a cave for lions," - Lowengrube - into which men sometimes, and especially, Jews, are cast; but they commonly came up again uninjured, for the overseers of the lions are commonly Jews, and they have a sharp instrument in their hands, and with this they can pass among them, if they are careful to keep their faces toward the lions, for a lion will not allow one to turn his back to him.
The other Jews will not allow their brethren to remain longer in such a cave than one night, for the lions would be too hungry, but they redeem their brethren out of the cave by the payment of money - which, in fact, is the object of the emperor." In another place (p. 77), he describes one of these caves. "In one end of the enclosure is a place for ostriches and their young ones, and at the other end toward the mountain is a cave for lions, which stands in a large cavern in the earth that has a division wall, in the midst of which is a door, which the Jews who have the charge of the lions can open and close from above, and, by means of food, they entice the lions from one room into another, that they may have the opportunity of cleaning the cage. It is all under the open sky." Under what pretext the crafty counselors induced the king to ratify this statute is not stated. Some one or all of the following things may have induced the monarch to sign the decree:
(1) The law proposed was in a high degree flattering to the king, and he may have been ready at once to sign a decree which for the time gave him a supremacy over gods and men. If Alexander the Great desired to be adored as a god, then it is not improbable that a proud and weak Persian monarch would be willing to receive a similar tribute. Xerxes did things more foolish than what is here attributed to Darius. Instances of this are not wanting. Of Holofernes, in Judith 3:8, it is said that he "had decreed to destroy all the gods of the land, that all nations should worship Nabuchodonosor only, and that all tongues and tribes should call upon him as god."
(2) It may have occurred to him, or may have been suggested, that this was an effectual way to test the readiness of his subjects to obey and honor him. Some such test, it may have been urged, was not improper, and this would determine what was the spirit of obedience as well as any other.
(3) more probably, however, it may have been represented that there was some danger of insubordination, or some conspiracy among the people, and that it was necessary that the sovereign should issue some mandate which would at once and effectually quell it. It may have been urged that there was danger of a revolt, and that it would be an effectual way of preventing it to order that whoever should solicit any favor of anyone but the king should be punished, for this would bring all matters at once before him, and secure order. The haste and earnestness with which they urged their request would rather seem to imply that there was a representation that some sudden occasion had arisen which made the enactment of such a statute proper.
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.
Now, O king, establish the decree - Ordain, enact, confirm it.
And sign the writing - An act necessary to make it the law of the realm.
That it be not changed - That, having the sign-manual of the sovereign, it might be so confirmed that it could not be changed. With that sign it became so established, it seems, that even the sovereign himself could not change it.
According to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not - Margin, Passeth. Which does not pass away; which is not abrogated. A similar fact in regard to a law of the Medes and Persians is mentioned in Esther 8. in which the king was unable to recall an order which had been given for the massacre of the Jews, and in which he attempted only to counteract it as far as possible by putting the Jews on their guard, and allowing them to defend themselves. Diodorus Siculus (lib. iv.) refers to this custom where he says that Darius, the last king of Persia, would have pardoned Charidemus after he was condemned to death, but could not reverse what the law had passed against him. - Lowth. "When the king of Persia," says Montesquieu (Spirit of Laws, as quoted by Rosenmuller, Morgenland, in loc.), "has condemned any one to death, no one dares speak to him to make intercession for him. Were he even drunk when the crime was committed, or were he insane, the command must nevertheless be executed, for the law cannot be countermanded, and the laws cannot contradict themselves. This sentiment prevails throughout Persia." It may seem singular that such a custom prevailed, and that the king, who was the fountain of law, and whose will was law, could not change a statute at his pleasure.
But this custom grew out of the opinions which prevailed in the East in regard to the monarch. His will was absolute, and it was a part of the system which prevailed then to exalt the monarch, and leave the impression on the mind of the people that he was more than a man - that he was infallible, and could not err. Nothing was better adapted to keep up that impression than an established principle of this kind - that a law once ordained could not be repealed or changed. To do this would be a practical acknowledgment that there was a defect in the law; that there was a want of wisdom in ordaining it; that all the circumstances were not foreseen; and that the king was liable to be deceived and to err. With all the disadvantages attending such a custom, it was judged better to maintain it than to allow that the monarch could err, and hence, when a law was ordained it became fixed and unchanging.
Even the king himself could not alter it, and, whatever might be the consequences, it was to be executed. It is evident, however, that such a custom might have some advantages. It would serve to prevent hasty legislation, and to give stability to the government by its being known what the laws were, thus avoiding the evils which result when they are frequently changed. It is often preferable to have permanent laws, though not the best that could be framed, than those which would be better, if there were no stability. There is only one Being, however, whose laws can be safely unchanging - and that is God, for his laws are formed with a full knowledge of all the relations of things, and of their bearing on all future circumstances and times. It serves to confirm the statement here made respecting the ancient custom in Media and Persia, that the same idea of the inviolability of the royal word has remained, in a mitigated form, to modern times.
A remarkable example of this is related by Sir John Malcolm, of Aga Mohammed Khan, the last but one of the Persian kings. After alluding to the present case, and that in Esther, he observes, "The character of the power of the king of Persia has undergone no change. The late king, Aga Mohammed Khan, when encamped near Shiraz, said that he would not move until the snow was off the mountains in the vicinity of his camp. The season proved severe, and the snow remained longer than was expected; the army began to suffer distress and sickness, but the king said while the snow remained upon the mountain, he would not move; and his word was as law, and could not be broken. A multitude of laborers were collected and sent to remove the snow; their efforts, and a few fine days, cleared the mountains, and Aga Mohammed Khan marched." - History of Persia, i. 268, quoted in the Pict. Bible, in loc.
Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree.
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.
Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed - Probably there was some proclamation made in regard to that decree.
He went into his house - That is, he went in in his usual manner. He made no change in his habits on account of the decree.
And his windows being open in his chamber - Open in the usual manner. It does not mean that he took pains to open them for the purpose of ostentation, or to show that he disregarded the decree, but that he took no care to close them with any view to avoid the consequences. In the warm climate of Babylon, the windows probably were commonly open. Houses among the Jews in later times, if not in the time of the exile, were usually constructed with an upper chamber - ὑπερῷον huperōon - which was a room not in common use, but employed as a guest chamber, where they received company and held feasts, and where at other times they retired for prayer and meditation. See the note at Matthew 9:2. Those "upper rooms" are often the most pleasant and airy part of the house. Dr. Robinson (Researches, vol. iii. p. 417), describing the house of the American consularagent in Sidon, says, "His house was a large one, built upon the eastern wall of the city; the rooms were spacious, and furnished with more appearance of wealth than any I saw in the country. An upper parlour with many windows, on the roof of the proper house, resembled a summer palace; and commanded a delightful view of the country toward the east, full of trees and gardens, and country-houses, quite to the foot of the mountains."
Toward Jerusalem - It is not improbable that the windows were open on each side of the chamber, but this is particularly mentioned, because he turned his face toward Jerusalem when he prayed. This was natural to an exile Hebrew in prayer, because the temple of God had stood at Jerusalem, and that was the place where he abode by a visible symbol. It is probable that the Jews in their own country always in their prayers turned the face toward Jerusalem, and it was anticipated when the temple was dedicated, that this would be the case in whatever lands they might be. Thus in the prayer of Solomon, at the dedication, he says, "If thy people go out to battle against their enemy, whithersoever thou shalt send them, and shall pray unto the Lord toward the city which thou hast chosen, and toward the house which I have built for thy name," etc., 1 Kings 8:44. And again 1 Kings 8:46-49, "If they sin against thee, and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near; if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried captives, and repent - and pray unto thee toward their land which thou gavest unto their fathers, the city which thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for thy name, then hear thou their prayer," etc.
Compare 1 Kings 8:33, 1 Kings 8:35, 1 Kings 8:38. So in Psalm 5:7 : "As for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy: and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple." So Jonah it. 4: "Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple." So in the first book of Esdras (Apocrypha), 4:58: "Now when this young man was gone forth, he lifted up his face to heaven, toward Jerusalem, and praised the King of heaven." Compare Intro. Section II. V. C. Daniel, therefore, in turning his face toward Jerusalem when he prayed, was acting in accordance with what Solomon had anticipated as proper in just such a supposed case, and with the prevailing habit of his people when abroad. This was not, indeed, particularly prescribed as a duty, but it was recognized as proper; and it was not only in accordance with the instinctive feelings of love to his country and the temple, but a foundation was laid for this in the fact that Jerusalem was regarded as the peculiar dwelling-place of God on earth.
In the Koran it is enjoined as a duty on all Mussulmen, in whatever part of the earth they may be, to turn their faces toward the Caaba at Mecca when they pray: "The foolish men will say, What hath turned them from their Keblah toward which they formerly prayed? Say, unto God belongeth the East and the West; he directeth whom he pleaseth in the right way. Thus have we placed you, O Arabians, an intermediate nation, that ye may be witnesses against the rest of mankind, and that the apostle may be a witness against you. We appointed the Keblah, toward which thou didst formerly pray, only that we might know him who followeth the apostle from him that turneth back on his heels: though this change seem a great matter, unless unto those whom God hath directed. But God will not render your faith of none effect, for God is gracious and merciful unto man. We have seen thee turn about thy face toward heaven with uncertainty, but we will cause thee to turn thyself toward a Keblah that will please thee.
Turn, therefore, thy face toward the holy temple of Mecca; and wherever ye be, turn your faces toward that place." - Sale's Koran, chapter ii. Wherever Mussulmen are, therefore, they turn their faces toward the temple at Mecca when they pray. Daniel complied with what was probably the general custom of his countrymen, and what was natural in his case, for there was, in the nature of the case, a reason why he should turn his face toward the place where God had been accustomed to manifest himself. It served to keep up in his mind the remembrance of his beloved country, and in his case could be attended with no evil. As all visible symbols of the Devine Being are now, however, withdrawn from any particular place on the earth, there is no propriety in imitating his example, and when we pray it is wholly immaterial in what direction the face is turned.
He kneeled upon his knees three times a day - In accordance, doubtless, with his usual custom. The amount of the statement is, that he did not vary his habit on account of the command. He evidently neither assumed a posture of ostentation, nor did he abstain from what he was accustomed to do. To have departed from his usual habit in any way would have been a yielding of principle in the case. It is not mentioned at what time in the day Daniel thus kneeled and prayed, but we may presume that it was evening, and morning, and noon. Thus the Psalmist says: "Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud; and he shall hear my voice" Psalm 55:17. No one can doubt the propriety of thus praying to God; and it would be well for all thus to call upon their God.
As he did aforetime - Without making any change. He neither increased nor diminished the number of times each day in which he called upon God; nor did he make any change in the manner of doing it. He did not seek ostentatiously to show that he was a worshipper of God, nor was he deterred by the fear of punishment from doing as he had been accustomed to do. If it should be said that Daniel's habit of worship was ostentatious; that his praying with his windows open was contrary to the true spirit of retiring devotion, and especially contrary to the spirit required of worshippers in the New Testament, where the Saviour commands us when we pray to "enter into the closet, and to shut the door" Matthew 6:6, it may be replied,
(1) That there is no evidence that Daniel did this for the purpose of ostentation, and the supposition that he did it for that purpose is contrary to all that we know of his character;
(2) As we have seen, this was the customary place for prayer, and the manner of the prayer was what was usual;
(3) The chamber, or upper part of the house, was in fact the most retired part, and was a place where one would be least likely to be heard or seen; and
(4) There is no evidence that it would not have been quite private and unobserved if these men had not gone to his house and listened for the very purpose of detecting him at his devotions. No one could well guard against such a purpose.
Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God.
Then these men assembled ... - Evidently with a design of finding him at his devotions.
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 they came near - That is, they came near to the king. They had detected Daniel, as they expected and desired to do, in a palpable violation of the law, and they lost no time in apprising the king of it, and in reminding him of the law which he had established. Informers are not apt to lose time.
The king answered and said, The thing is true ... - It is undeniable, whatever may be the consequences. There is no reason to suppose that he as yet had any suspicion of their design in asking this question. It is not improbable that he apprehended there had been some violation of the law, but it does not appear that his suspicions rested on Daniel.
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 answered they ... That Daniel which is of the children of the captivity of Judah - Who is one of the captive Jews. There was art in thus referring to Daniel, instead of mentioning him as sustaining an exalted office. It would serve to aggravate his guilt to remind the king that one who was in fact a foreigner, and a captive, had thus disregarded his solemn commandment. If he had been mentioned as the prime minister, there was at least a possibility that the king would be less disposed to deal with him according to the letter of the statute than if he were mentioned as a captive Jew.
Regardeth not thee ... - Shows open disregard and contempt for the royal authority by making a petition to his God 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.
Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself - That is, for having consented to such a decree without deliberation, or with so much haste - or for having consented to it at all. It is remarkable that it is not said that he was displeased with them for having proposed it; but it is clear that he saw that the guilt was his own for having given his assent to it, and that he had acted foolishly. There is no evidence as yet that he saw that the decree had been proposed for the purpose of securing the degradation and ruin of Daniel - though he ultimately perceived it Daniel 6:24; or if he did perceive it, there was no way of preventing the consequences from coming on Daniel - and that was the point that now engrossed his attention. He was doubtless displeased with himself,
(1) because he saw that he had done wrong in confirming such a decree, which interfered with what had been tolerated - the free exercise of religion by his subjects;
(2) because he now saw that it was foolish, and unworthy of a king, thus to assent to a law for which there was no good reason, and the consequences of which he had not foreseen; and
(3) because he now saw that he had involved the first officer of the realm, and a man of unsullied character, in ruin, unless some way could be devised by which the consequences of the statute could be averted.
It is no uncommon thing for men to be displeased with themselves when they experience the unexpected consequences of their follies and their sins. An instance strongly resembling that here stated, in its main features, occurred at a later period in the history of Persia - an instance showing how the innocent may be involved in a general law, and how much perplexity and regret may be caused by the enactment of such a law. It occurred in Persia, in the persecution of Christians, 344 a.d. "An edict appeared, which commanded that all Christians should be thrown into chains and executed. Many belonging to every rank died as martyrs. Among these was an eunuch of the palace, named Azades, a man greatly prized by the king. So much was the latter affected by his death, that he commanded the punishment of death should be inflicted from thenceforth only on the leaders of the Christian sect; that is, only on persons of the clerical order." - Neander's Church History, Torrey's Translation, vol. iii. p. 146.
And set his heart on Daniel to deliver him - In what way he sought to deliver him is not said. It would seem probable from the representation in the following verse, that it was by an inquiry whether the statute might not properly be changed or cancelled, or whether the penalty might not be commuted - for it is said that his counselors urged as a reason for the strict infliction of the punishment the absolute unchangeableness of the statute. Perhaps he inquired whether a precedent might not be found for the abrogation of a law enacted by a king by the same authority that enacted it; or whether it did not come within the king's prerogative to change it; or whether the punishment might not be commuted without injury; or whether the evidence of the guilt was perfectly clear; or whether he might not be pardoned without anything being done to maintain the honor of the law. This is one of the most remarkable instances on record of the case of a monarch seeking to deliver a subject from punishment when the monarch had absolute power, and is a striking illustration of the difficulties which often arise in the administration of justice, where the law is absolute, and where justice seems to demand the infliction of the penalty, and yet where there are strong reasons why the penalty should not be inflicted; that is, why an offender should be pardoned. And yet there is no improbability in this statement about the perplexity of the king, for
(1) there were strong reasons, easily conceivable, why the penalty should not be inflicted in this case, because
(a) the law had been evidently devised by the crafty enemies of Daniel to secure just such a result;
(b) Daniel had been guilty of no crime - no moral wrong, but had done only what should commend him more to favor and confidence;
(c) his character was every way upright and pure;
(d) the very worship which he had been detected in had been up to that period allowed, and there was no reason why it should now be punished, and
(e) the infliction of the penalty, though strictly according to the letter of the law, would be manifestly a violation of justice and equity; or, in other words, it was every way. desirable that it should not be inflicted.
(2) Yet there was great difficulty in pardoning him who had offended, for
(a) the law was absolute in the case;
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 nor statute which the king establisheth may be changed.
Then these men assembled unto the king - The Chaldee here is the same as in Daniel 6:6, "they came tumultuously." They were earnest that the law should be executed, and they probably apprehended that if the king were allowed to dwell upon it, the firmness of his own mind would give way, and that he would release Daniel. Perhaps they dreaded the effect of the compunctious visitings which he might have during the silence of the night, and they, therefore, came tumultuously to hasten his decision.
Know, O king, that the law ... - That is a settled matter about which there can be no debate or difference of opinion. It would seem that this was a point so well settled that no question could be raised in regard to it, and, to their minds, it was equally clear that if this were so, it was necessary that the sentence should be executed without delay.
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.
Then the king commanded ... - See the note at Daniel 6:7. Some recent discoveries among the ruins of Babylon have shown that the mode of punishment by throwing offenders against the laws to lions was actually practiced there, and these discoveries may be classed among the numerous instances in which modern investigations have tended to confirm the statements in the Bible. Three interesting figures illustrating this fact may be seen in the Pictorial Bible, vol. iii. p. 232. The first of those figures, from a block of stone, was found at Babylon near the great mass of ruin that is supposed to mark the site of the grand western palace. It represents a lion standing over the body of a prostrate man, extended on a pedestal which measures nine feet in length by three in breadth. The head has been lately knocked off; but when Mr. Rich saw it, the statue was in a perfect state, and he remarks that "the mouth had a circular aperture into which a man might introduce his fist." The second is from an engraved gem, dug from the ruins of Babylon by Captain Mignan. It exhibits a man standing on two sphinxes, and engaged with two fierce animals, possibly intended for lions. The third is from a block of white marble found near the tomb of Daniel at Susa, and thus described by Sir Robert Ker Porter in his Travels (vol. ii. p. 416): "It does not exceed ten inches in width and depth, measures twenty in length, and is hollow within, as if to receive some deposit. Three of its sides are cut in bass-relief, two of them with similar representations of a man apparently naked, except a sash round his waist, and a sort of cap on his head. His hands are bound behind him. The corner of the stone forms the neck of the figure, so that its head forms one of its ends. Two lions in sitting postures appear on either side at the top, each having a paw on the head of the man." See Pict. Bible, in loc.
Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God ... - What is here stated is in accordance with what is said in Daniel 6:14, that the king sought earnestly to deliver Daniel from the punishment. He had entire confidence in him, and he expressed that to the last. As to the question of probability whether Darius, a pagan, would attempt to comfort Daniel with the hope that he would be delivered, and would express the belief that this would be done by that God whom he served, and in whose cause he was about to be exposed to peril, it may be remarked,
(1) That it was a common thing among the pagan to believe in the interposition of the gods in favor of the righteous, and particularly in favor of their worshippers. See Homer, passim. Hence, it was that they called on them; that they committed themselves to them in battle and in peril; that they sought their aid by sacrifices and by prayers. No one can doubt that such a belief prevailed, and that the mind of Darius, in accordance with the prevalent custom, might be under its influence.
(2) Darius, undoubtedly, in accordance with the prevailing belief, regarded the God whom Daniel worshipped as a god, though not as exclusively the true God. He had the same kind of confidence in him that he had in any god worshipped by foreigners - and probably regarded him as the tutelary divinity of the land of Palestine, and of the Hebrew people. As he might consistently express this belief in reference to any foreign divinity, there is no improbability that he would in reference to the God worshipped by Daniel.
(3) He had the utmost confidence both in the integrity and the piety of Daniel; and as he believed that the gods interposed in human affairs, and as he saw in Daniel an eminent instance of devotedness to his God, he did not doubt that in such a case it might be hoped that he would save him.
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.
And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den - Probably a large flat stone sufficient to cover the mouth of the cave, and so heavy that Daniel could not remove it from within and escape. It was usual then, as it is now, to close up the entrance to sepulchres with a large stone. See John 11:38; Matthew 27:60. It would be natural to endeavor to secure this vault or den in the same way - on the one hand so that Daniel could not escape from within, and on the other so that none of his friends could come and rescue him from without.
And the king sealed it with his own signet - With his own seal. That is, he affixed to the stone, probably by means of clay or wax, his seal in such a way that it could not be removed by anyone without breaking it, and consequently without the perpetration of a crime of the highest kind - for no greater offence could be committed against his authority than thus to break his seal, and there could be no greater security that the stone would not be removed. On the manner of sealing a stone in such circumstances, compare the note at Matthew 27:66.
And with the signet of his lords - That it might have all the security which there could be. Perhaps this was at the suggestion of his lords, and the design, on their part, may have been so to guard the den that the king should not release Daniel.
That the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel - By the king. Probably they feared that if there was not this security, the king might release him; but they presumed that he would not violate the seal of the great officers of the realm. It would seem that some sort of concurrence between the king and his nobles was required in making and executing the laws.
Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of musick brought before him: and his sleep went from him.
Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting - Daniel was probably cast into the den soon after the going down of the sun, Daniel 6:14. It was not unusual to have suppers then late at night, as it is now in many places. The great anxiety of the king, however, on account of what had occurred, prevented him from participating in the usual evening meal. As to the probability of what is here affirmed, no one can have any doubt who credits the previous statements. In the consciousness of wrong done to a worthy officer of the government; in the deep anxiety which he had to deliver him; in the excitement which must have existed against the cunning and wicked authors of the plot to deceive the king and to ruin Daniel; and in his solicitude and hope that after all Daniel might escape, there is a satisfactory reason for the facts stated that he had no desire for food; that instruments of music were not brought before him; and that he passed a sleepless night.
Neither were instruments of music brought before him - It was usual among the ancients to have music at their meals. This custom prevailed among the Greeks and Romans, and doubtless was common in the Oriental world. It should be observed, however, that there is considerable variety in the interpretation of the word here rendered instruments of music - דחון dachăvân. The margin is table. The Latin Vulgate, "He slept supperless, neither was food brought before him." The Greek renders it "food," ἐδέσματα edesmata. So the Syriac. Bertholdt and Gesenius render it concubines, and Saadias dancing girls. Any of these significations would be appropriate; but it is impossible to determine which is the most correct. The word does not occur elsewhere in the Scriptures.
Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions.
Then the king arose very early in the morning ... - No one can doubt the probability of what is here said, if the previous account be true. His deep anxiety; his wakefulnight; the remorse which he endured, and his hope that Daniel would be after all preserved, all would prompt to an early visit to the place of his confinement, and to his earnestness in ascertaining whether he were still alive.
And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and 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?
He cried with a lamentable voice - A voice full of anxious solicitude. Literally, "a voice of grief." Such a cry would be natural on such an occasion.
O Daniel, servant of the living God - The God who has life; who imparts life; and who can preserve life. This was the appellation, probably, which he had heard Daniel use in regard to God, and it is one which he would naturally employ on such an occasion as this; feeling that the question of life was entirely in his hands.
Whom thou servest continually - At all times, and in all circumstances: as a captive in a distant land; in places of honor and power; when surrounded by the great who worship other gods; and when threatened with death for your devotion to the service of God. This had been the character of Daniel, and it was natural to refer to it now.
Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever.
Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live forever - The common form of salutation in addressing the king. See the note at Daniel 2:4. There might be more than mere form in this, for Daniel may have been aware of the true source of the calamities that had come upon him, and of the innocence of the king in the matter; and he doubtless recalled the interest which the king had shown in him when about to be cast into the den of lions, and his expression of confidence that his God would be able to deliver him Daniel 6:16, and he could not but have been favorably impressed by the solicitude which the monarch now showed for his welfare in thus early visiting him, and by his anxiety to know whether he were still alive.
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.
My God hath sent his angel - It was common among the Hebrews to attribute any remarkable preservation from danger to the intervention of an angel sent from God, and no one can demonstrate that it did not occur as they supposed. There is no more absurdity in supposing that God employs an angelic being to defend his people, or to impart blessings to them, than there is in supposing that he employs one human being to render important aid, and to convey important blessings, to another. As a matter of fact, few of the favors which God bestows upon men are conveyed to them directly from himself, but they are mostly imparted by the instrumentality of others. So it is in the blessings of liberty, in deliverance from bondage, in the provision made for our wants, in the favor bestowed on us in infancy and childhood. As this principle prevails everywhere on the earth, it is not absurd to suppose that it may prevail elsewhere, and that on important occasions, and in instances above the rank of human intervention, God may employ the instrumentality of higher beings to defend his people in trouble, and rescue them from danger. Compare Psalm 34:7; Psalm 91:11; Daniel 9:21; Matthew 18:10; Luke 16:22; Hebrews 1:14. Daniel does not say whether the angel was visible or not, but it is rather to be presumed that he was, as in this way it would be more certainly known to him that he owed his deliverance to the intervention of an angel, and as this would be to him a manifest token of the favor and protection of God.
And hath shut the lions' mouths - It is clear that Daniel supposed that this was accomplished by a miracle; and this is the only satisfactory solution of what had occurred. There is, moreover, no more objection to the supposition that this was a miracle than there is to any miracle whatever, for
(a) there is no more fitting occasion for the Divine intervention than when a good man is in danger, and
(b) the object to be accomplished on the mind of the king, and through him on the minds of the people at large, was worthy of such an interposition.
The design was evidently to impress the mind of the monarch with the belief of the existence of the true God, and to furnish in the court of Babylon proof that should be convincing that he is the only God.
Forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me -
(1) Absolute innocency in reference to the question of guilt on the point in which he had been condemned - he having done only what God approved; and
(2) general integrity and uprightness of character. We need not suppose that Daniel claimed to be absolutely perfect (compare Daniel 9), but we may suppose that he means to say that God saw that he was what he professed to be, and that his life was such as he approved.
And also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt - That is, he had in no manner violated his duty to the king; he had done nothing that tended to overthrow his government, or to spread disaffection among his subjects.
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.
Then was the king exceeding glad for him - On account of Daniel. That is, he was rejoiced for the sake of Daniel that he had received no hurt, and that he might be restored to his place, and be useful again in the government.
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.
And the king commanded, and they brought those men, which had accused Daniel ... - It would seem probable that the king had been aware of their wicked designs against Daniel, and had been satisfied that the whole was the result of a conspiracy, but he felt himself under a necessity of allowing the law to take its course on him whom he believed to be really innocent. That had been done. All that the law could be construed as requiring had been accomplished. It could not be pretended that the law required that any other punishment should be inflicted on Daniel, and the way was now clear to deal with the authors of the malicious plot as they deserved. No one can reasonably doubt the probability of what is here said in regard to the conspirators against Daniel. The king had arbitrary power. He was convinced of their guilt. His wrath had been with difficulty restrained when he understood the nature of the plot against Daniel. Nothing, therefore, was more natural than that he should subject the guilty to the same punishment which they had sought to bring upon the innocent; nothing more natural than that a proud despot, who saw that, by the force of a law which he could not control, he had been made a tool in subjecting the highest officer of the realm, and the best man in it, to peril of death, should, without any delay, wreak his vengeance on those who had thus made use of him to gratify their own malignant passions.
Them, their children, and their wives - This was in accordance with Oriental notions of justice, and was often done. It is said expressly by Ammianus Marcellinus (23, 6, 81), to have been a custom among the Persians: "The laws among them (the Persians) are formidable; among which those which are enacted against the ungrateful and deserters, and similar abominable crimes, surpass others in cruelty, by which, on account of the guilt of one, all the kindred perish" - per quas ob noxam unius omnis propinquitas perit. So Curtius says of the Macedonians: "It is enacted by law that the kindred of those who conspire against the king shall be put to death with them." Instances of this kind of punishment are found among the Hebrews (Joshua 7:24; 2 Samuel 21:5, following), though it was forbidden by the law of Moses, in judicial transactions, Deuteronomy 24:16. Compare also Ezekiel 18; Maurer, in loc. In regard to this transaction we may; observe
(a) that nothing is more probable than that this would occur, since, as appears from the above quotations, it was often done, and there was nothing in the character of Darius that would prevent it, though it seems to us to be so unjust
(b) it was the act of a pagan monarch, and it is not necessary, in order to defend the Scripture narrative, to vindicate the justice of the transaction. The record may be true, though the thing itself was evil and wrong.
(c) Yet the same thing substantially occurs in the course of Providence, or the administration of justice now. Nothing is more common than that the wife and children of a guilty man should suffer on account of the sin of the husband and father. Who can recount the woes that come upon a family through the intemperance of a father? And in cases where a man is condemned for crime, the consequences are not confined to himself. In shame and mortification, and disgrace; in the anguish experienced when he dies on a gibbet; in the sad remembrance of that disgraceful death; in the loss of one who might have provided for their wants, and been their protector and counselor, the wife and children always suffer; and, though this took another form in ancient times, and when adopted as a principle of punishment is not in accordance with our sense of justice in administering laws, yet it is a principle which pervades the world - for the effects of crime cannot and do not terminate on the guilty individual himself.
And the lions had the mastery of them - As the Divine restraint furnished for the protection of Daniel was withdrawn, they acted out their proper nature.
And brake all their bones in pieces or ever ... - literally, "they did not come to the bottom of the den until the lions had the master of them, and brake all their bones." They seized upon them as they fell, and destroyed them.
Then king Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you.
Then king Darius wrote unto all people ... - Compare the note at Daniel 2:47; Daniel 3:29; Daniel 4:1. If there is a probability that Nebuchadnezzar would make such a proclamation as he did, there is no less probability that the same thing would be done by Darius. Indeed, it is manifest on the face of the whole narrative that one great design of all that occurred was to proclaim the knowledge of the true God, and to secure his recognition. That object was worthy of the Divine interposition, and the facts in the case show that God has power to induce princes and rulers to recognize his existence and perfections, and his government over the earth.
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.
I make a decree - Compare Daniel 3:29.
That in every dominion of my kingdom - Every department or province. The entire kingdom or empire was made up of several kingdoms, as Media, Persia, Babylonia, etc. The meaning is, that he wished the God of Daniel to be honored and reverenced throughout the whole empire.
Men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel - That they honor and reverence him as God. There is no certain evidence that he meant that he should be honored as the only God; but the probability is, that he meant that he should be recognized as a God of great power and glory, and as worthy of universal reverence. How far this pagan monarch might still regard the other deities worshipped in the empire as gods, or how far his own heart might be disposed to honor the God of Daniel, there are no means of ascertaining. It was much, however, that so great a monarch should be led to make a proclamation acknowledging the God of Daniel as having a real existence, and as entitled to universal reverence.
For he is the living God - An appellation often given to God in the Scriptures, and probably learned by Darius from Daniel. It is not, however, absolutely certain that Darius would attach all the ideas to these phrases which Daniel did, or which we would. The attributes here ascribed to God are correct, and the views expressed are far beyond any that prevailed among the pagan; but still it would not be proper to suppose that Darius certainly had all the views of God which these words would convey to us now.
And stedfast for ever - That is, he is always the same. He ever lives; he has power overall; his kingdom is on an immovable foundation. He is not, in his government, to cease to exist, and to be succeeded by another who shall occupy his throne.
And his kingdom what shall not be destroyed ... - See the Daniel 4:3, note ; Daniel 4:34, note. The similarity between the language used here, and that employed by Nebuchadnezzar, shows that it was probably derived from the same source. It is to be presumed that both monarchs expressed the views which they had learned from Daniel.
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.
He delivereth and rescueth - As in the case of Daniel. This attribute would of course be prominent in the view of Darius, since so remarkable an instance of his power had been recently manifested in rescuing Daniel.
And he worketh signs and wonders ... - Performs miracles far above all human power. If he had done it on earth in the case of Daniel, it was fair to infer that he did it also in heaven. Compare the notes at Daniel 4:2-3.
The power of the lions - Margin, hand. The hand is the instrument of power. The word paw would express the idea here, and would accord with the meaning, as it is usually with the paw that the lion strikes down his prey before he devours it.
So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius - That is, to the end of his reign. It is fairly implied here that he was restored to his honors.
And in the reign of Cyrus the Persian - Cyrus the Great, the nephew and successor of Darius. For an account of Cyrus, see the note at Isaiah 41:2. How long during the reign of Cyrus Daniel "prospered" or lived is not said. During a part of the reign of Darius or Cyaxares, he was occupied busily in securing by his influence the welfare of his own people, and making arrangements for their return to their land; and his high post in the nation to which, under Divine Providence, he had doubtless been raised for this purpose, enabled him to render essential and invaluable service at the court. In the third year of Cyrus, we are informed Daniel 10-12, he had a series of visions respecting the future history and sufferings of his nation to the period of their true redemption through the Messiah, as also a consolatory direction to himself to proceed calmly and peaceably to the end of his days, and then await patiently the resurrection of the dead, Daniel 12:12-13. From that period the accounts respecting him are vague, confused, and even strange, and little or nothing is known of the time or circumstances of his death. Compare Introduction Section I.
From this chapter we may derive the following instructive
(1) We have an instance of what often occurs in the world - of envy on account of the excellency of others, and of the hoonours which they obtain by their talent and their worth, Daniel 6:1-4. Nothing is more frequent than such envy, and nothing more common, as a consequence, than a determination to degrade those who are the subjects of it. Envy always seeks in some way to humble and mortify those who are distinguished. It is the pain, mortification, chagrin, and regret which we have at their superior excellence or prosperity, and this prompts us to endeavor to bring them down to our own level, or below it; to calumniate their characters; to hinder their prosperity; to embarrass them in their plans; to take up and circulate rumours to their disadvantage; to magnify their faults, or to fasten upon them the suspicion of crime. In the instance before us, we see the effect in a most guilty conspiracy against a man of incorruptible character; a man full in the confidence of his sovereign; a man eminently the friend of virtue and of God.
"Envy will merit, as its shade, pursue;
But, like a shadow, proves the substance true."
- Pope's Essay on Criticism.
"Base envy withers at another's joy,
And hates that excellence it cannot reach."
- Thomson's Seasons.
"Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow,
Thou shalt not escape calumny."