Daniel 6
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Darius the Mede appoints over his kingdom 120 satraps with three presidents over them, one of the latter being Daniel (Daniel 6:1-2). On account of the regard shewn to him by the king, the satraps and presidents, being moved with envy, seek an opportunity to ruin him (Daniel 6:3-4). They accordingly persuade Darius to issue a decree, forbidding any one to ask a petition of God or man, except the king, for thirty days (Daniel 6:5-9). Daniel, however, continues as before to pray three times a day at his open window towards Jerusalem. The king, upon information being brought to him, reluctantly yielding obedience to the law, orders Daniel to be cast into a den of lions (Daniel 6:10-17). Next morning, to his astonishment and joy, he finds him uninjured; and publishes a decree enjoining men, in all parts of his dominion, to stand in awe of the God of Daniel, who had given such wonderful evidence of His power (Daniel 6:18-28).

Daniel has hitherto been uniformly prosperous: success and honours have attended him under each monarch with whom he has had to do (Daniel 1:19-20; Daniel 2:26 ff., Daniel 2:48-49; Daniel 4:19-27; Daniel 5:17 ff., Daniel 5:29), even including Darius (Daniel 6:2-3). But, in his old age, his trial also comes. His loyalty to his God, his determination not to disown the public profession of his faith, is put severely to the test. It is not, as with his three companions in ch. 3, a question of a positive sin which he will not commit, but of a positive duty which he will not omit. He finds himself placed in a position in which, if he worships the God of his fathers in his accustomed manner, he will become guilty of a capital offence. The situation is, in all essential features, the same as that of the faithful Jews under the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes (see 1Ma 1:41-64). The story of Daniel’s deliverance, notwithstanding certain improbabilities which (quite apart from the details which are avowedly miraculous) it seems, to some minds, to present, is a vivid exemplification of the value, in God’s sight, of courageous loyalty to Himself. Of course, in the ordinary operation of Providence, God’s servants are not delivered from bodily peril by a direct miraculous intervention of the character here described: but the narrative, like that in ch. 3, must be judged by the principle laid down in the Introduction (p. lxxii): the lesson, not the story in which it is embodied, is the point which the narrator desires to impress, and on which the reader’s attention ought to be fixed.

It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom;
1. an hundred and twenty satraps] see on Daniel 3:2. No other notice of this organization has come down to us. The Persian empire was first organised into provinces under ‘satraps’ by Darius Hystaspis (522–485 b.c.); and then the satrapies were only 20 in number (Herod. iii. 89[264]). The statement, upon independent grounds, is not probable; and if it is true that there was no king ‘Darius the Mede,’ some error or confusion must manifestly underlie it. It may have been suggested by the 127 provinces, into which, according to Esther 1:1; Esther 8:9, the Persian empire was divided under Xerxes.

[264] The Behistun Inscription; of Darius (col. i. par. 6) enumerates 23 provinces; the later (sepulchral) inscription of Naksh-i-Rustam (l. 7–9), 29: see RP.1 iii, v. 151 f. Darius, in the first of these inscriptions, mentions the ‘satrap’ of Bactria, and the ‘satrap’ of Arachotia (col. iii par. 3 and 9). See further details in Rawl., Anc. Mon.4 iii. 417 ff.

over] in, i.e. (R.V.) throughout.

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.
2. three presidents] Aram. sârak, prob. a form derived from the Pers. sâr, ‘head,’ ‘chief,’ ‘prince.’ In the O.T. it is found only in this chap. (Daniel 6:2-4; Daniel 6:6-7): in the Targums it stands often for the Heb. shôṭçr, ‘officer,’ as Exodus 5:6; Exodus 5:10; Deuteronomy 1:15; Deuteronomy 20:5; Joshua 1:10; Proverbs 6:7 (‘overseer’).

was first] was one: so R.V. rightly.

that these satraps might give account unto them] strictly, might be giving account, i.e. might be permanently answerable to them, that the interests and revenues of the king were properly guarded. No such officials are mentioned elsewhere,—except in so far as they may be regarded as the successors of the three Babylonian ministers, presupposed in Daniel 5:7; Daniel 5:16; Daniel 5:29. Darius Hystaspis, as a check upon his satraps, appointed in each satrapy an independent military commandant, and a royal ‘scribe,’ or secretary, whose business it was to report to the king the doings of the satrap (Hdt. iii. 128; Rawl., Anc. Mon.4 iii. 424).

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.
3. was preferred] distinguished himself, or (R.V.) was distinguished. The root idea of the word is to shine, hence to be illustrious. It is common in Syriac in the sense of praeclare se gessit, representing for instance the Greek διαλάμπειν, εὐδοκιμεῖν, εὐδοξεῖν (Payne Smit[265] col. 2438). ‘Was preferred’ means here was advanced or promoted, in accordance with the old sense of ‘prefer,’ preserved now only in ‘preferment’; see Esther 2:9; John 1:15; John 1:27; and the Bible Word-Book.

[265] yne Smith R. Payne Smith, Thesaurus Syriacus.

princes] satraps. Song of Solomon vv4, 6, 7.

an excellent spirit] a surpassing spirit, as Daniel 5:12.

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.
4. sought to find occasion, &c.] They were evidently jealous that a man of alien race and creed should be exalted above themselves.

concerning] as touching (R.V.): lit. from the side of. The meaning of course is, any charge of disloyalty, or any remissness or neglect in the discharge of his public office.

error] or negligence: Daniel 3:29.

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.
5. law] dâth, the same Persian word, which is found in Daniel 2:9; Daniel 2:13; Daniel 2:15, and also in Daniel 6:8; Daniel 6:12; Daniel 6:15, and constantly in Esther. Here, as in Ezra 7:12; Ezra 7:14; Ezra 7:21; Ezra 7:25-26, it denotes the Jewish law (Heb. tôrâh).

Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever.
6. assembled together] came thronging (A.V. marg.; R.V. marg. came tumultuously). The word occurs several times in the Aramaic of the Targums, where it corresponds to Heb. words signifying to be in commotion or tumult, as Psalm 46:6, ‘nations were in tumult,’ Ruth 1:9, ‘and all the inhabitants of the city were in commotion on account of them’; and it occurs once in Heb., Psalm 2:1, ‘Why do the nations throng tumultuously?[266]’ The expression is thus a more vivid and graphic one than would be inferred from the rend. of A.V.: the courtiers, in their animosity against Daniel, are represented as flocking tumultuously to the king, for the purpose of gaining his co-operation in their plan.

[266] Cf. the cogn. subst. throng, Psalm 55:14 (so R.V.), Psalm 64:2 (R.V. ‘tumult,’ marg. ‘throng’).

live for ever] see on 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.
7. All the presidents] of course, with the exception of Daniel, who was one of them (Daniel 6:2). But the misrepresentation may be meant to be intentional, as though to lead the king to suppose that the proposal had Daniel’s approval.

the governors, and the princes, the counsellers and the captains] the praefects (Daniel 2:48), and the satraps, the ministers (Daniel 3:24), and the governors (Daniel 3:2). Cf. the enumeration of officials in Daniel 3:2-3; Daniel 3:27.

to establish a royal statute] Of course, indirectly,—by prevailing upon the king to take action. A.V. marg. ‘that the king should establish a statute, and make’ &c., expresses the meaning more distinctly; but it is a less natural rendering of the Aramaic.

and to make a firm decree] and to make a stringent interdict. ‘Interdict’ (so A.V. marg., and R.V.) is lit. a binding, or restraining; and almost the same word is used in Numbers 30:2-4, &c. of a restraining vow (A.V., R.V., ‘bond’). The passive partic. of the cognate verb is common in the Mishna in the sense of ‘prohibited.’

a petition] The meaning probably is, not any petition absolutely, but any petition of the nature of a prayer, or request addressed formally to a superior. The interdict has been deemed an incredible one; but some allowance must be made for what an oriental despot might prescribe in a freak of humour. Nevertheless, it is remarkable that the king should accede so readily to the proposal made to him, without either consulting the minister whose judgement he specially trusted (Daniel 6:3), or reflecting upon the difficulties in which it might involve him.

the den of lions] the reference is “to the custom which existed already among the Assyrians, and from them was passed on to the Persians, of keeping lions for the chase” (Bevan): cf. Ezekiel 19:9. The word rendered ‘den’ means properly a pit or dungeon: see the Targ. of Genesis 37:22; Jeremiah 38:6-7; and cf. Daniel 6:23 (‘taken up’), and Daniel 6:24, end.

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.
8. decree] interdict.

altereth not] lit. passeth not away. On the unalterableness of the edicts of a Persian king, cf. Esther 1:19 (‘let it be written among the laws of the Persians and Medes, that it pass not away’), Daniel 8:8 (a royal edict, properly signed and sealed, ‘may no man reverse’).

Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree.
9. decree] interdict.

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.
10. and his windows, &c.] more exactly, and also more clearly, now he had in his roof-chamber open windows fronting Jerusalem. The clause is parenthetical, and describes the constant and habitual arrangement of Daniel’s windows.

roof-chamber] usually rendered upper chamber, which however does not at all suggest to an English reader what is intended. The ‘roof-chamber’ was (and still is) an apartment ‘raised above the flat roof of a house at one corner, or upon a tower like annex to the building, with latticed windows giving free circulation to the air’ (Moore on Jdg 3:20). It was thus cool in summer (Judg. l. c.), and a part of the house to which anyone would naturally retire if he wished to be undisturbed (cf. 1 Kings 17:19; 2 Kings 1:2; 2 Kings 4:10-11). In the N.T. the roof-chamber is mentioned as a place of meeting for prayer (Acts 1:13; Acts 20:8; cf. Acts 10:9 : see also Acts 9:37; Acts 9:39). Comp. Thomson’s The Land and the Book, ed. 2, ii. 634, 636 (with an illustration).

open] i.e., either without lattices at all, or without fixed lattices (cf. 2 Kings 1:2; 2 Kings 13:17) opp. to ‘closed windows’ (Ezekiel 40:16; Ezekiel 41:16; Ezekiel 41:26), or ‘windows with closed wood-work’ (1 Kings 6:4), the lattices of which did not admit of being opened.

toward Jerusalem] To pray, turning towards Jerusalem—or, if in Jerusalem, towards the Temple—became in later times a standing Jewish custom: we do not know how early it began; but it was based doubtless upon 1 Kings 8:35; 1 Kings 8:38; 1 Kings 8:44; 1 Kings 8:48 (in this verse with reference to exiles in a foreign land), cf. Psalm 5:7; Psalm 28:2. The custom is alluded to in the Mishna (Běrâchôth, iv. 5, 6); and in Sifrê 71b it is said that those in foreign lands turn in prayer towards the land of Israel, those in the land of Israel towards Jerusalem, and those in Jerusalem towards the Temple. Mohammed at first commanded his disciples to pray towards Jerusalem; but afterwards he altered the ḳibla (‘facing-point’) to Mecca.

and he continued kneeling.… and praying, and giving thanks before his God, forasmuch as he had been wont to do (it) aforetime] inasmuch as it had been his regular custom, he still adhered to it.

three times a day] Cf. Psalm 55:17 (‘at evening, and at morning, and at noonday will I complain and moan’). In later times, the three hours of prayer were—not as is often supposed, the third, sixth and ninth hours, but—the time when the morning burnt-offering was offered (תפלת שחר), in the afternoon at the ninth hour (our three o’clock; cf. Acts 3:1; Acts 10:30), when the evening meal-offering was offered (תפלת מנחה), and sunset (תפלת הערב) see Schürer, ii. 237. The custom may well have arisen before the 2nd cent. b.c. On the prayers which, at least in later days, were used at the three times, see Hamburger, Real-Encyclop. vol. vii., arts. Morgen-, Mincha-, and Abendgebet.

before his God] a usage of the later Jews (as in the Targum constantly), who, from a feeling of greater reverence, said ‘to speak, pray, confess, &c. before God,’ rather than ‘to Him.’ Cf. Daniel 6:22, end; also Daniel 2:9, with the note. The later Jews even extended the same usage to cases in which God was really the agent: cf. Matthew 11:26 (οὔτως ἐγένετο εὐδοκία ἔηπροσθέν σου) Matthew 18:14 (see R.V. marg.); Luke 12:6 (ἐπιλελησμένον ἐνώπιον τοῦ Θεοῦ); Numbers 14:8 Onk. (‘if there is good pleasure in us before Jehovah’); and see Dalman, Die Worte Jesu, pp. 172–174.

Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God.
11. assembled] came thronging (Daniel 6:6),—flocking tumultuously about Daniel’s house.

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.
12. before the king] cf. Daniel 6:10; and see on Daniel 2:9.

decree (twice)] interdict. So Daniel 6:13.

altereth not] lit. passeth not away (Daniel 6:8).

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.
13. children of the exile of Judah] Daniel 2:25, Daniel 5:13.

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.
14. was sore displeased with himself] was sore displeased (R.V.): ‘with himself’ is incorrect. The expression is the Aram. equivalent of the Heb. phrase found in Jonah 4:1; Nehemiah 2:10; Nehemiah 13:8.

laboured] rather, continued striving; Theod. ἡγωνίσατο, Pesh. מתכתש הוא. The idea expressed by the word is that of struggling.

to deliver him (second time)] to rescue him (R.V.: so Daniel 6:27 A.V.); a different word from the one rendered ‘deliver’ just before.

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.
15. assembled] came thronging or tumultuously, as Daniel 6:6.

Know, O king, &c.] The courtiers, in their violence against Daniel, address Darius, as in Daniel 6:12, abruptly and peremptorily, without any respectful words of introduction (Daniel 6:6).

decree] 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.
16. Now the king spake, &c.] The king answered, &c. The asyndetic construction is characteristic of the Aramaic portion of the book: Daniel 3:19; Daniel 3:24; Daniel 3:26, Daniel 5:7; Daniel 5:13, Daniel 6:20 (notice italics in A.V.), al.

he will deliver thee] Rather, may he (emph.) deliver thee! The king hopes, even against hope, that Daniel may by some means or other be spared his fate. Throughout the narrative Darius shews solicitude for Daniel (cf. Daniel 6:14; Daniel 6:18-20). He does not willingly consign him to death: he has been entrapped by his courtiers; and in acting as he has done, he has merely, like Herod (Matthew 14:9), yielded to what he supposes to be the necessities of his position.

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.
17. sealed it with his own signet] seals were in common use alike among the Assyrians, Babylonians (cf. Hdt. i. 195, ‘every one has a seal’), and Persians; and numbers, especially from Babylonia and Assyria, have been brought to European museums during the past half century. The signet cylinder of Darius Hystaspis represented the king as engaged in a lion hunt (Rawlinson, Anc. Mon. iii. 226, 227). Cf. (in Israel) 1 Kings 21:8; and (in Persia) Esther 3:12; Esther 8:8; Esther 8:10.

that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel (R.V.)] i.e. that nothing might be done, either by the king, or by anyone else, to rescue Daniel. The word, meaning properly will, purpose, is here used in the weakened sense of thing, which it has in the Aramaic of Palmyra (Lidzbarski, Handbuch der Nordsemitischen Epigraphik (1898), p. 464, l. 6, ‘about these things’), as well as constantly in Syriac, as Sir 32:19 (Pesh.) ‘Do not anything without counsel.’

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.
18. instruments of musick] The meaning of the word thus rendered is unknown. The root in Aram. and Heb. means to thrust, overthrow (Psalm 36:12; Psalm 118:13). In Arab. it means further to spread, spread out, and is also used specially in the sense compressit feminam. The ancient translators and commentators conjectured a meaning suited to the context. Theod. (ἐδέσματα), Pesh., Jerome (cibi), render food; Rashi (12 cent.), a table (cf. A.V. marg.); Ibn Ezra, stringed instruments (supposing, improbably, to thrust to be used in the sense of to strike); Saad. (10 cent.), dancing-girls; many moderns (from the Arab. meaning of the root, mentioned above), concubines. But it is very doubtful whether it is legitimate to explain an Aram. word from a sense peculiar to Arabic, and there, moreover, only secondary and derived. By assuming a very small corruption in the text (דחון for לחנן), we should, however, obtain the ordinary Aram. word for concubines (Daniel 5:2-3; Daniel 5:23): so Marti, Prince. But whatever the true meaning, or reading, of the word may be, the general sense of the verse remains the same: the king did not indulge in his usual diversions.

fled (R.V.) from him] lit. fled upon him: in accordance with the idiom explained on Daniel 2:1. For ‘fled’ cf. Genesis 31:40; Esther 6:1.

Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions.
19. Then the king arose at dawn, as soon as it was light] lit. at dawn, in the brightness. The words used imply that day had fully broken. The first word (‘dawn’) stands in the Targ. for ‘morning’ in Isaiah 48:8; and the second (‘brightness’), in its Heb. form, in Isaiah 52:1.

in haste (Daniel 3:24)] So anxious was he to learn how Daniel had fared.

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?
20. when he came] as he drew near.

with a lamentable voice] or, with a pained voice. The same expression (with an inappreciable difference of form) occurs in the Targ. (Ps.-Jon.) of Exodus 12:31, and in that of Esther 4:1.

and the king, &c.] the king answered and said.

the living God] The same emphatic and significant title, found in Deuteronomy 5:26; Joshua 3:10; 1 Samuel 17:26; 1 Samuel 17:36; 2 Kings 19:4; 2 Kings 19:16; Jeremiah 10:10; Jeremiah 23:36; Hosea 1:10; Psalm 42:2; Psalm 84:2.

Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever.
21. O king, live for ever] cf. Daniel 6:6.

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.
22. sent his angel] cf. Daniel 3:28.

shut &c.] cf. Hebrews 11:33 (ἔφραξαν; Theod. here ἐνέφραξεν).

before thee] see on Daniel 6:10 end, and Daniel 2:9; and cf. Luke 15:18; Luke 15:21.

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.
23. for him] to be omitted (like ‘with himself’ in Daniel 6:14).

because he believed—or (R.V.) trustedin his God] cf. Hebrews 11:33.

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.
24. The king’s vengeance on the men who had maliciously accused Daniel.

accused] see on Daniel 3:8.

their children, and their wives] according to the rough justice—or, to our minds, injustice—of antiquity: cf. Joshua 7:24-25; 2 Samuel 21:5-9; Esther 9:13-14; Hdt. iii. 119. Cf. Mozley’s Ruling Ideas in Early Ages, p. 87 ff., in explanation of the principle involved.

had the mastery of them] or fell upon them—a sense which the Aram. phrase, properly meaning to rule over, has in the Targums (e.g. Jdg 15:12; 2 Samuel 1:15).

in pieces] These words should be followed by a comma (as in R.V.), the words or ever &c., having reference to both the preceding clauses (the order in the Aram. is ‘and they reached not the bottom of the pit, ere the lions’ &c.).

or ever] i.e. before; the expression being a pleonastic, reduplicated form of ere (A.S. ær, Germ. eher), frequent in Old English. So Proverbs 8:23 (A.V., R.V.), Ps. 53:8 (P.B.V.), Psalm 90:2 (P.B.V., A.V., R.V.), Song of Solomon 6:12 (A.V., R.V.), Acts 23:15 (A.V., R.V.); Isaiah 65:24, in Coverdale’s version, ‘Or ever they call, I shal answere them’; and several times in Shakespeare. Mr Wright (Bible Word-Book, s.v.) quotes from Latimer’s Sermons, ‘The great man was gone forth about such affairs as behoved him, or [= ere] I came.’

Then king Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you.
25. unto all the peoples, … unto you] verbally identical with Daniel 4:1.

25–27. The edict of Darius, enjoining all his subjects to dread and fear the God of Daniel. Cf. the decree of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3:29, forbidding men anywhere to speak against Him; and his proclamation in Daniel 4:1-3; Daniel 4:37, declaring to mankind His doings. The thought and phraseology of the edict are strongly Jewish.

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.
26. I make a decree] almost exactly as Daniel 3:29.

in every dominion] in all the dominion &c.

tremble and fear before] Cf. Daniel 5:19 (of the dread felt towards Nebuchadnezzar).

stedfast] or subsistent, enduring,—a common epithet of God in the Targums, and often representing the Heb. ‘living,’ as in the passages quoted on Daniel 6:20[267]. The combination, ‘living and enduring’ (חַי וְקַיָם), is also frequent in post-Biblical Jewish literature.

[267] Also regularly in the phrases, ‘(As) I live,’ ‘(As) Jehovah liveth,’ 1 Samuel 14:39; Ezekiel 5:2, &c.

and his kingdom &c.] Cf. Daniel 2:44, Daniel 4:3; Daniel 4:34 b; also Daniel 7:14; Daniel 7:27.

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.
27. He delivereth and rescueth] And not Darius (Daniel 6:14): cf. Daniel 3:28-29.

signs and wonders] Daniel 4:2-3.

from the power] Aram. from the hand, as in Heb., Psalm 22:20 (21), Psalm 49:15 (16), &c.

So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
28. After this signal deliverance Daniel’s gainsayers were silenced; and prosperity attended him through the rest of the reign of Darius, as well as in that of his successor Cyrus.

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