Daniel 6:16
Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spoke and said to Daniel, Your God whom you serve continually, he will deliver you.
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(16) They brought Daniel.—According to Eastern custom, the sentence was generally executed on the day when it was pronounced. This explains why the king’s efforts to commute the sentence were prolonged till sunset (Daniel 6:14). The lions were probably kept here for sporting purposes. The form of the den is unknown, but the etymology suggests a vaulted chamber.



Daniel 6:16 - Daniel 6:28

Daniel was verging on ninety when this great test of his faithfulness was presented to him. He had been honoured and trusted through all the changes in the kingdom, and, when the Medo-Persian conquest came, the new monarch naturally found in him, as a foreigner, a more reliable minister than in native officials. ‘Envy doth merit as its shade pursue,’ and the crafty trick by which his subordinates tried to procure his fall, was their answer to Darius’s scheme of making him prime minister. Our passage begins in the middle of the story, but the earlier part will come into consideration in the course of our remarks.

I. We note, first, the steadfast, silent confessor and the weak king.

Darius is a great deal more conspicuous in the narrative than Daniel. The victim of injustice is silent. He does not seem to have been called on to deny or defend the indictment. His deed was patent, and the breach of the law flagrant. He, too, was ‘like a sheep before the shearers,’ dumb. His silence meant, among other things, a quiet, patient, fixed resolve to bear all, and not to deny his God. Weak men bluster. Heroic endurance has generally little to say. Without resistance, or a word, the old man, an hour ago the foremost in the realm, is hauled off and flung into the pit or den. It is useless and needless to ask its form. The entrance was sealed with two seals, one the king’s, one the conspirators’, that neither party might steal a march on the other. Fellows in iniquity do not trust each other. So, down in the dark there, with the glittering eyeballs of the brutes round him, and their growls in his ears, the old man sits all night long, with peace in his heart, and looking up trustfully, through the hole in the roof, to his Protector’s stars, shining their silent message of cheer.

The passage dwells on the pitiable weakness and consequent unrest of the king. He had not yielded Daniel to his fate without a struggle, which the previous narrative describes in strong language. ‘Sore displeased,’ he ‘set his heart’ on delivering him, and ‘laboured’ to do so. The curious obstacle, limiting even his power, is a rare specimen of conservatism in its purest form. So wise were our ancestors, that nothing of theirs shall ever be touched. Infallible legislators can make immutable laws; the rest of us must be content to learn by blundering, and to grow by changing. The man who says, ‘I never alter my opinions,’ condemns himself as either too foolish or too proud to learn.

But probably, if the question had been about a law that was inconvenient to Darius himself, or to these advocates of the constitution as it has always been, some way of getting round it would have been found out. If the king had been bold enough to assert himself, he could have walked through the cobweb. But this is one of the miseries of yielding to evil counsels, that one step taken calls for another. ‘In for a penny, in for a pound.’ Therefore let us all take heed of small compliances, and be sure that we can never say about any doubtful course, ‘Thus far will I go, and no farther.’ Darius was his servants’ servant when once he had put his name to the arrogant decree. He did not know the incidence of his act, and we do not know that of ours; therefore let us take heed of the quality of actions and motives, since we are wholly incapable of estimating the sweep of their consequences.

Darius’s conduct to Daniel was like Herod’s to John the Baptist and Pilate’s to Jesus. In all the cases the judges were convinced of the victim’s innocence, and would have saved him; but fear of others biassed justice, and from selfish motives, they let fierce hatred have its way. Such judges are murderers. From all come the old lessons, never too threadbare to be dinned into the ears, especially of the young, that to be weak is, in a world so full of temptation, the same as to be wicked, and that he who has a sidelong eye to his supposed interest, will never see the path of duty plainly.

What a feeble excuse to his own conscience was Darius’s parting word to Daniel! ‘Thy God, whom thou servest continually, He will deliver thee!’ And was flinging him to the lions the right way to treat a man who served God continually? Or, what right had Darius to expect that any god would interfere to stop the consequences of his act, which he thus himself condemned? We are often tempted to think, as he did, that a divine intervention will come in between our evil deeds and their natural results. We should be wiser if we did not do the things that, by our own confession, need God to avert their issues.

But that weak parting word witnessed to the impression made by the lifelong consistency of Daniel. He must be a good man who gets such a testimony from those who are harming him. The busy minister of state had done his political work so as to extort that tribute from one who had no sympathy with his religion. Do we do ours in that fashion? How many of our statesmen ‘serve God continually’ and obviously in their public life?

What a contrast between the night passed in the lions’ den and the palace! ‘Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage,’ and soft beds and luxurious delights of sense bring no ease to troubled consciences. Daniel is more at rest, though his ‘soul is among lions,’ than Darius in his palace. Peter sleeps soundly, though the coming morning is to be his last. Better to be the victim than the doer of injustice!

The verdict of nightly thoughts on daily acts is usually true, and if our deeds do not bear thinking of ‘on our beds,’ the sooner we cancel them by penitence and reversed conduct, the better. But weak men are often prone to swift and shallow regrets, which do not influence their future any more than a stone thrown into the sea makes a permanent gap. Why should Darius have waited for morning, if his penitence had moved him to a firm resolution to undo the evil done? He had better have sprung from his bed, and gone with his guards to open the den in the dark. Feeble lamentations are out of place when it is still time to act.

The hurried rush to the den in the morning twilight, and the ‘lamentable voice,’ so unlike royal impassiveness, indicate the agitation of an impulsive nature, accustomed to let the feeling of the moment sway it unchecked. Absolute power tends to make that type of man. The question thrown into the den seems to imply that its interior was not seen. If so, the half-belief in Daniel’s survival is remarkable. It indicates, as before, the impression of steadfast devoutness made by the old man’s life, and also a belief that his God was possibly a true and potent divinity.

Such a belief was quite natural, but it does not mean that Darius was prepared to accept Daniel’s God as his god. His religion was probably elastic and hospitable enough to admit that other nations might have other gods. But his thoughts about this ‘living God’ are a strange medley. He is not sure whether He is stronger than the royal lions, and he does not seem to feel that if a god delivers, his own act in surrendering a favoured servant of such a god looks very black. A half-belief blinds men to the opposition between their ways and God’s, and to the certain issue of their going in one direction and God in another. If Daniel be delivered, what will become of Darius? But, like most men, he is illogical, and that question does not seem to have occurred to him. Surely this man may sit for a portrait of a weak, passionate nature, in the feebleness of his resistance to evil, the half hopes that wrong would be kept from turning out so badly as it promised, the childish moanings over wickedness that might still have been mended, and the incapacity to take in the grave, personal consequences of his crime.

II. We next note the great deliverance.

The king does not see Daniel, and waits in sickening doubt whether any sound but the brutes’ snarl at the disturber of their feast will be heard. There must have been a sigh of relief when the calm accents were audible from the unseen depth. And what dignity, respect, faith, and innocence are in them! Even in such circumstances the usual form of reverential salutation to the king is remembered. That night’s work might have made a sullen rebel of Daniel, and small blame to him if he had had no very amiable feelings to Darius; but he had learned faithfulness in a good school, and no trace of returning evil for evil was in his words or tones.

The formal greeting was much more than a form, when it came up from among the lions. It heaped coals of fire on the king’s head, let us hope, and taught him, if he needed the lesson, that Daniel’s disobedience had not been disloyalty. The more religion compels us to disregard the authority and practices of others, the more scrupulously attentive should we be to demonstrate that we cherish all due regard to them, and wish them well. How simply, and as if he saw nothing in it to wonder at, he tells the fact of his deliverance! ‘My God has sent His angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths.’ He had not been able to say, as the king did before the den was opened, ‘Thy God will deliver thee’; but he had gone down into it, knowing that He was able, and leaving himself in God’s care. So it was no surprise to him that he was safe. Thankfulness, but not astonishment, filled his heart. So faith takes God’s gifts, however great and beyond natural possibility they may be; for the greatest of them are less than the Love which faith knows to move all things, and whatsoever faith receives is just like Him.

Daniel did not say, as Darius did, that he served God continually, but he did declare his own innocency in God’s sight and unimpeachable fidelity to the king. His reference is probably mainly to his official conduct; but the characteristic tone of the Old Testament saint is audible, which ventured on professions of uprightness, accordant with an earlier stage of revelation and religious consciousness, but scarcely congruous with the deeper and more inward sense of sin produced by the full revelation in Christ. But if the tone of the latter part of Daniel 6:22 is somewhat strange to us, the historian’s summary in Daniel 6:23 gives the eternal truth of the matter: ‘No manner of hurt was found upon him, because he had trusted in his God.’ That is the basis of the reference in Hebrews 11:33 : ‘Through faith . . . stopped the mouths of lions.’

Simple trust in God brings His angel to our help, and the deliverance, which is ultimately to be ascribed to His hand muzzling the gaping beasts of prey, may also be ascribed to the faith which sets His hand in motion. The true cause is God, but the indispensable condition without which God will not act, and with which He cannot but act, is our trust. Therefore all the great things which it is said to do are due, not to anything in it, but wholly to that of which it lays hold. A foot or two of lead pipe is worth little, but if it is the channel through which water flows into a city, it is priceless.

Faith may or may not bring external deliverances, such as it brought to Daniel; but the good cheer which this story brings us does not depend on these. When Paul lay in Rome, shortly before his martyrdom, the experience of Daniel was in his mind, as he thankfully wrote to Timothy, ‘I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.’ He adds a hope which contrasts strangely, at first sight, with the clear expectation of a speedy and violent death, expressed a moment or two before {‘I am already being offered, and the time of my departure is come’} when he says, ‘The Lord will deliver me from every evil work’; but he had learned that it was possible to pass through the evil and yet to be delivered from it, and that a man might be thrown to the lions and devoured by them, and yet be truly shielded from all harm from them. So he adds, ‘And will save me unto His heavenly kingdom,’ thereby teaching us that the true deliverance is that which carries us into, or something nearer towards, the eternal home. Thus understood, the miracle of Daniel’s deliverance is continually repeated to all who partake of Daniel’s faith, ‘Thou hast made the Most High thy habitation . . . thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder.’

The savage vengeance on the conspirators and the proclamation of Darius must be left untouched. The one is a ghastly example of retributive judgment, in which, as sometimes is the case even now, men fall into the pit they have digged for others, and it shows the barbarous cruelty of that gorgeous civilisation. The other is an example of how far a man may go in perceiving and acknowledging the truth without its influencing his heart. The decree enforces recognition of Daniel’s God, in language which even prophets do not surpass; but it is all lip-reverence, as evanescent as superficial. It takes more than a fright caused by a miracle to make a man a true servant of the living God.

The final verse of the passage implies Daniel’s restoration to rank, and gives a beautiful, simple picture of the old man’s closing days, which had begun so long before, in such a different world as Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, and closed in Cyrus’s, enriched with all that should accompany old age-honour, obedience, troops of friends. ‘When a man’s ways please the Lord, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.’Daniel 6:16. Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, &c. — The king at last, though with great reluctance, and against his conscience, yields to the violence of Daniel’s enemies, and signs the warrant for his execution: and that venerable, grave man, who carried such a mixture of majesty and sweetness in his countenance, who had so often shown himself great upon the bench, and at the council-board, but was greater upon his knees; that had power with God and man, and had prevailed, is, purely for worshipping his God, brought, as if he had been one of the vilest malefactors, and thrown into the den of lions to be devoured by them. Thus the best man in the kingdom is made a sacrifice to the vilest! Who can think of it without the utmost compassion for the sufferer, and the utmost indignation against the malicious persecutors? Now the king spake unto Daniel — Partly, perhaps, to encourage him, but chiefly, it seems, to excuse himself for giving his consent to so palpable an act of injustice and cruelty, which he ought to have resisted, whatever had been the consequence; Thy God, whom thou servest continually — Here the king bears testimony to Daniel’s integrity and fidelity to his God, notwithstanding that it had influenced him to disobey the new law; he will deliver thee — So the Chaldee, the Greek, and Vulgate; but the Syriac and Arabic render the words optatively, May he deliver thee, which seems best, as it is not likely the king, after consenting to so wicked an act, should be inspired with a persuasion from God (and he could have it no other way) of Daniel’s deliverance. He might, indeed, have heard of the miraculous preservation of Daniel’s three friends in the fiery furnace, by the power of their God, in the days of Nebuchadnezzar; but he could have no assurance that a similar miracle would now be wrought by the same God. All, therefore, that his words were intended to express, seems to be only a wishful hope, but no certain persuasion.6:11-17 It is no new thing for what is done faithfully, in conscience toward God, to be misrepresented as done obstinately, and in contempt of the civil powers. Through want of due thought, we often do that which afterwards, like Darius, we see cause a thousand times to wish undone again. Daniel, that venerable man, is brought as the vilest of malefactors, and is thrown into the den of lions, to be devoured, only for worshipping his God. No doubt the placing the stone was ordered by the providence of God, that the miracle of Daniel's deliverance might appear more plain; and the king sealed it with his own signet, probably lest Daniel's enemies should kill him. Let us commit our lives and souls unto God, in well-doing. We cannot place full confidence even in men whom we faithfully serve; but believers may, in all cases, be sure of the Divine favour and consolation.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.

16. Thy God … will deliver thee—The heathen believed in the interposition of the gods at times in favor of their worshippers. Darius recognized Daniel's God as a god, but not the only true God. He had heard of the deliverance of the three youths in Da 3:26, 27 and hence augurs Daniel's deliverance. I am not my own master, and cannot deliver thee, however much I wish it. "Thy God will." Kings are the slaves of their flatterers. Men admire piety to God in others, however disregarding Him themselves. The king commanded: he had a good mind to do Daniel a kindness, but he could not stem the tide of his flatterers, who being crossed might machinate some mischief against him; having this plausible pretence for it, that they stood for the fundamental laws of the land, which the king endeavoured to null by his prerogative for the sake of one person, his pure vassal, being an alien, and of another religion, which was contrary to that which was by law established. Cast him into the den of lions: thus the best man in the kingdom becomes a sacrifice to the malice of the vilest men; the king consenting and commanding it against his conscience, but for reasons of state; being inexcusable for assuming the honour and worship of a god, exclusive to all other gods and worship; and, for all that he was convinced of the true God, would not worship him, nor suffer others to do it, under pain of death.

Thy God will deliver thee. No thanks to him. Why, then, did he cast the servant of God to the lions to try experiments upon him? No, to excuse himself, and to comfort Daniel; but to little purpose either. Then the king commanded,.... Being overawed by his princes and fearing they would conspire against him, and stir up the people to rebel; and consulting his own credit lest he should be thought fickle and inconstant; he ordered the decree to be put in execution against Daniel, and delivered his favourite into their hands:

and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions; not the princes but proper officers employed by them: according to the additions to this book of Daniel, there were seven lions in this den, in the Apocrypha:

"And in the den there were seven lions, and they had given them every day two carcases, and two sheep: which then were not given to them, to the intent they might devour Daniel.'' (Bel 1:32)

but, according to Joseph ben Gorion (g), there were ten, who used to devour ten sheep, and as many human bodies every day; but this day they had no food, and ate nothing, that they might be more greedy, and devour Daniel the sooner:

now the king spake and said unto Daniel; being brought into his presence, in his palace, before he was cast into the den; or at the mouth of the den whither the king accompanied him:

thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee; he calls the Lord Daniel's God, not his own, as he was not, he served other gods; yet he suggests that Daniel was right in serving him continually, in praying to him daily, the very thing for which he was cast to the lions; and expresses his confidence that his God he served would deliver him from being devoured by them; which he might conclude, from, the innocency, integrity, and faithfulness of Daniel, and from his being such a peculiar favourite of God as to be indulged with the knowledge of future things; and perhaps he might have heard of the deliverance of his three companions from the fiery furnace: though the words may be rendered, as they are by some, as a wish or prayer, "may thy God &c. deliver thee" (h); I cannot, I pray he would; it is my hearty desire that so it might be.

(g) Hist. Heb. l. 1. c. 10. p. 34. (h) "liberet te", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Grotius, Cocceius, Michaelis.

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.Verse 16. - 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. The Septuagint Version here is not so likely to represent the original text, as there are symptoms of displacement, "Then Darius the king called out and said to Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually three times a day, he will deliver thee out of the power of the lions; till the morning be of good cheer." The opening clause of the next verse in the Septuagint really represents the first clause of the verse before us, "And the king was grieved, and spake to cast Daniel into the den of lions." Theodotion and the Peshitta agree with the Massoretic text. The circumstances cannot fail to remind the reader of Herod with John the Baptist, and the still greater crime wrought by weakness - Pilate and our Lord. Darius had failed to overbear the opposition of the legalists who had determined on Daniel's death; he is obliged, therefore, to give the order that the sentence be executed. In doing so he commends his friend to the God, or the gods, if we take the K'thib instead of the Q'ri. Darius probably knew nothing of Daniel's religious beliefs, and therefore would be prone to imagine that he worshipped several gods, and to them he commends him. The addition of the Septuagint is picturesque, "Be of good cheer until the morning." Moreover, it fits in to what follows, and at the same time it is not of such a nature as that it should suggest itself to the ordinary interpolator. The partic. Aph. מהחצפה standing after the noun in the stat. absol. is not predicative: "on what account is the command so hostile on the part of the king?" (Kran.), but it stands in apposition to the noun; for with participles, particularly when further definitions follow, the article, even in union with substantives defined by the article, may be and often is omitted; cf. Sol 7:5, and Ew. 335a. חצף, to be hard, sharp, hence to be severe. Daniel showed understanding and counsel in the question he put as to the cause of so severe a command, inasmuch as he thereby gave Arioch to understand that there was a possibility of obtaining a fulfilment of the royal wish. When Arioch informed him of the state of the matter, Daniel went in to the king - i.e., as is expressly mentioned in Daniel 2:24, was introduced or brought in by Arioch - and presented to the king the request that time should be granted, promising that he would show to the king the interpretation of the dream.
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