Then Daniel answered with counsel and wisdom to Arioch the captain of the king's guard…
The immoderate anger of the king had only aggravated his trouble without bringing a remedy. Uncontrollable temper is suicidal, it robbed Nebuchadnezzar of his kingly dignity, of the use of reason, of the power of memory. For the time being he had forgotten that, in all matters of practical wisdom, he had found Daniel to surpass all other state councillors. Now he was on the point of staining his conscience and his throne with wanton cruelty, with the waste of life, with the most precious blood that Babylon held.
I. IT WAS A CASE OF REAL EMERGENCY. The terror of the king, caused by his midnight scare, had only an imaginary foundation. Natural cheerfulness was enough to drive that spectre of evil out of the royal chamber. He might have laughed it out of existence. But now a real distress impended over Daniel and all the wise men of Babylon. It was not merely a fear of future disaster; reputation, property, life, were in imminent peril. The royal edict had gone forth for their summary destruction. The executioner was already preparing the murderous weapons. Before another dawn the die might be cast - the deed be beyond recall. Daniel's anxiety was awakened as much for others as himself. With his devout trust in God, death was not to him draped in sable gloom. There were worse evils, in his regard, than violent death. To die in defence of truth; to die in vindication of God's cause, was a noble deed. But others, not so prepared for the tremendous change, were included in the peril. Eternal shame would cover the king. The foundations of the throne might be sapped. The fortunes of God's people might sink into a yet deeper night. Israel's prospects might suffer a blacker eclipse. The mind of Daniel would be impressed with the folly of putting trust in man. The king had, not long before, shown him special favour - had expressed both regard and friendship; yet now, Daniel is condemned to death unheard, unjudged. More fickle than the vernal sunshine is the ephemeral smile of royalty. "Put not your trust in princes."
II. THE TRUE ORACLE SOUGHT. Whether the magicians and sorcerers adopted any measures to avert the approaching calamity, we are not told. Possibly they were paralyzed with fear, and could only hide their heads in cowardly shame. Now the worth and power of true piety emerge into the light. In the darkest hours of trouble, religion shines in brightest colours. There was:
1. An exercise of preventive prudence. However imperative be the duty of prayer, there are other duties which must not be neglected. The want of practical prudence often robs prayer of its efficacious lasses, The wise general will dispose his forces well on the battle-field before he makes an onset. Daniel's first step was to stay the hasty execution of the edict. He calls into exercise his well-disciplined wisdom. He uses his acquired standing in the realm to secure delay. He overlooks no point of precaution. He employs his just influence with the king to gain a temporary respite. He does not attempt to reason with the monarch in his angry mood - that would be a foolish enterprise. He moderates his demand so as to bring it within the compass of a possible success. Prudence is a step towards greater acquisitions.
2. There was united supplication. Daniel's heart was not excited with selfish ambition to secure the honour of a triumph for himself. He solicited the aid of his companions in this holy task, and addresses them by their proper Jewish names, which names reminded them that theirs was an accessible Deity. "Union is strength" in prayer, as much as in toil. The lack of humility, or earnestness, or preseverance, in one may be supplied or may be promoted by another Combined fervour has special promises of success. "If two of you shall agree touching any matter in my kingdom, it shall be granted unto you."
3. There was strong confidence in God. In a spirit of calm and unquestioning confidence, Daniel assured the king "that he would show the king the interpretation." Already Daniel knew that in some way the response would come. Unbelief might have whispered into his car that Jehovah had never yet answered such a request as this. Where, in the range of Jewish history, had it been recorded that the God of heaven had disclosed to one a dream which had lapsed from the memory of another? But faith would reply, "That objection is not to the point. There must be a first occasion, on which God will reveal his will to men on any matter. Let this be the first instance of its kind. The request I make is not in itself wrong or improper. It is not hostile to the purity of God's nature. It does not spring from a selfish or carnal motive. My success will bring honour and homage to the true God. My petition must succeed. Has not Jehovah said, by the mouth of David, our model king, 'Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me'?"
4. There was becoming humility in the posture of their souls. "They desired mercies of the God of heaven." Daniel and his fellow-suppliants presented no claim. They abandoned themselves to the abounding mercy of their God. In a word, they confessed personal unworthiness, and approached the heavenly throne as culprits suing for mercy. This is men's only chance of success. For, wanting all personal merit, they have no opportunity of feigning a false merit in Jehovah's presence. With a glance of his eye he strips the veil of pretence from every suppliant, that while he rewards the contrite, he may dismay the proud and the hypocrite. "He requireth truth in the inward parts." The poor in spirit, he enriches; the boastful rich, he empties.
III. THE ORACULAR RESPONSE OBTAINED. "Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision." In what particular way this desired knowledge was imparted is not said. This is not important. Possibly the dream or vision of the king was reproduced before the imagination of Daniel, with the further disclosure of its signification. But whatever was the modus operandi, it was done. Ascertained fact overrides all pre-assumed difficulties. The same God who permits us to have dreams at all can surely repeat the shadowy spectacle; and if he is the sovereign Lord of men, he can certainly make known to intelligent minds his purposes respecting the future. "With God nothing is impossible."
1. The mode of deliverance resembled, inform, the cause of distress. A dream was the occasion of Nebuchadnezzar's alarm - the occasion of the wise men's peril; a night vision was also the method of relief. Jacob's carnal struggle with Esau was his sin, and also his ground of anxiety; Jacob's midnight struggle with the heavenly stranger was the source of his triumph. Serpents had bitten with death the Hebrews; by gazing on a brazen serpent, they are healed. The fruit of the forbidden tree was the occasion of sin; the fruit "of the tree of life is for the healing of the nations." "By man came death; by man came also the resurrection from the dead."
2. The outcome was gratitude and gladness. "Then," without any lapse of time - "then," while the sense of benefit was fresh, "Daniel blessed the God of heaven." His faith was furnished with an additional proof that Israel's God was a real and living God; that he was accessible to the prayers of men; and that he was a Refuge in every hour of need. It is a blessed necessity that drives us to the throne of grace. As the hosts of winter prepare the soil for a more prolific harvest, so trouble, if rightly used is pregnant with blessing. Now it would be known all through Chaldea, that while the heathen oracles are dumb, the heavenly oracle is ever vocal. The false systems of human invention are covered with shame; the system of God's truth receives new honour. In that hour of anguish, Daniel learnt new lessons in heavenly wisdom - obtained fresh discoveries of the Divine goodness - discovered new methods in the Divine procedure. Now he learns that "God giveth wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding." They that use their capacities shall enlarge them. The man who trades with his ten talents shall gain ten more. He who sows in prayer shall reap in praise. - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then Daniel answered with counsel and wisdom to Arioch the captain of the king's guard, which was gone forth to slay the wise men of Babylon: