Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him…
King Darius was free from many bad qualities which have stained the reputation of other monarchs. He had more gentleness and kindness - had more regard for the interests of others - than most Oriental kings. Yet he had grave faults also. He was too fond of ease. He was too ready to allow others to take the responsibility which of right belonged to him. To share the responsibilities of government with competent statesmen is an advantage to all; but his readiness to sign decrees without weighing their significance and design is a grave dereliction. The foibles which in a private person escape an adverse judgment may in a king be ruinous to the nation.
I. A THOUGHTLESS ACT REVEALS THE INTERNAL WEAKNESS OF CHARACTER. King Darius, having discovered the practical outcome of the rash edict, was "sore displeased with himself." This feeling is commendable. He does not blame the cunning, the envy, the malice of others, so much as the easy thoughtlessness of himself. Others may be more blameworthy accomplices than ourselves in an evil transaction; but if any blame attach to ourselves, it is wiser first to discover and remove the mote in our own eye, before we touch the beam in another's eye. An hour's serious reflection, at the right time, would have prevented this Oriental king much anguish and remorse. It was an alleviation of his inward grief that he had not intended to do Daniel harm; yet, in effect, his thoughtlessness had produced as much suffering on others as if he had been instigated by feelings of bitterest malice. He ought to have given the edict mature consideration before he gave to it the authority of his great name. He ought to have inquired into its purpose, its meaning, its probable effects on society. The very haste of the councillors ought to have awakened his vigilance. Too easily his supple will yielded to others' inclination. Too easily he swallowed the bait of human adulation. Truly saith our poet -
"Evil is wrought by want of thought,
As well as want of heart."
II. A THOUGHTLESS ACT GIVES SCOPE TO WICKED MEN TO EXECUTE THEIR PLOTS. Want of vigilance upon our part gives an advantage to our enemies, which they seize upon with avidity. We might often nip iniquity in the bud, if we were only on the alert against the secret machinations of the tempter. We encourage wicked men in their base intrigues, if only inadvertently we smooth the way for their success. We are counselled by a high authority to be "wise as serpents." Intelligence has been given to us for this selfsame purpose, and it is a sin to allow any faculty of mind to be lulled into needless sleep. Darius had both admiration and personal regaled for Daniel; but this very esteem and preference of the king brought with it elements of danger to the prophet. Hence the affection of the king ought to have been thoughtful, inventive, watchful. The mean-souled officials had prepared the axe, and unwittingly the king gave them the handle by which the better to use it. For want of wariness, we may lend sheep's clothing to human wolves.
III. A THOUGHTLESS ACT OFTEN LEADS TO SAD AND IRREPARABLE RESULTS. It was a settled principle in the Persian government that a law, having once received the sign-manual of the king, could in no way be altered or repealed. This principle in the main was beneficent and useful. In a period when communication between the palace and the remote provinces was difficult and tardy, it was a great advantage to the people to know that a law, once enacted, was fixed and irreversible. But the knowledge of this first principle ought to have made Darius all the more cautious and wary in affixing the seal of authority to any new decree. He was master of that simple act; but, having performed it, he was no longer master of its consequences. It would have imperilled his reputation, his influence, perhaps his government itself, if he should have ventured to rescind it. Yet no sooner was the effect of his rash deed discovered than remorse seized his mind. Conscience lashed him for his folly. His appetite departs. The desire for enjoyment ceases. Yea, the very capacity for enjoyment is suspended. Sleep forsakes his bed. His pillow is sown with sharpest thorns. No rest can the king find for body or for mind, because an innocent life, a noble life, is jeopardized through his rash deed. His mind roams over a variety of devices by which, if possible, he can yet protect Daniel from the ferocity of human wolves. But the king himself is powerless - as powerless as the meanest peasant - in this matter. He had, not long since, the power to deft, rid any and every subject, but he has thoughtlessly allowed the power to depart. It is in other hands now, and cannot be recalled. Opportunity has fled. The king is a prisoner in the hands of evil workers, and is compelled by them to do a disgraceful deed - to sign the death-warrant of his best friend. Nothing is left to him but his tears. Oh the bitter fruits of rashness! - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.