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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary

Daniel 6



Verses 1-28

THE MEDO-PERSIAN EMPIRE now became the dominant world power, and Darius became king in Babylon. It appears that historians have difficulty in identifying this man. It may be that he was only a vassal king, under the suzerainty of Cyrus king of Persia; but this is a matter that need not detain us. In the Babylonian section of the new empire he arranged things as he saw fit, and again we find Daniel promoted to a place of great power. The hand of God was in it, though on the human side two things may have been in his favour. First, he was not a native of Babylon. Second, Darius almost certainly would have heard of the dramatic scene in the palace, just before he captured the city that seemed so impregnable, and thus of Daniel's superhuman understanding.

The scene brought before us in chapter 6 is very true to human life and nature. Daniel's exalted position filled the hearts of lesser men with envy and hatred. If possible, they would destroy him. This purpose of theirs brings to light a remarkable testimony as to his character — 'he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him.' As a result they concluded that no attack on him would succeed unless it were made, concerning the law of God.

Here we must pause, and consider our own ways. What point of attack does each one of us present to those who in an antagonistic spirit survey us critically? Very frequently, we fear, we present more points than one. Hence the constant exhortations to a life of godliness, that we find in the Pauline epistles. To the Philippians, for instance, he urged, 'that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life' (Philippians 2:15, Philippians 2:16). If we today, as well as the Philippians nineteen centuries ago, can be thus described, crooked and perverse folk who wish to accuse us, will have to base their attack on the word of life, or the way in which we hold it forth, rather than on our personal ways. Let us each be very much exercised as to this matter.

The presidents and princes were shrewd men. They knew the power of flattery and how men love to exalt themselves. Hence they suggested to Darius a decree of self-exaltation; practically deifying himself for the period of a month. Into this trap Darius fell, and we learn in connection with it that in this kingdom of 'silver' the power of the monarch was not so absolute as in the kingdom of 'gold'. Nebuchadnezzar did just what he liked without curb laid upon him. The Medo-Persian kings had to consider their captains' and counsellors' advice, and a law. when once promulgated, could not be altered. The law was signed, by which under pain of a terrible death, any who feared the God of heaven, should be cut off from Him for thirty days. In principle he was doing again the great sin, attempted in chapter 3. Nebuchadnezzar demanded worship through his golden image. The method of Darius was far less spectacular, but equally against God. For all practical purposes there shall be no God but Darius for thirty days!

In Daniel 3:1-30, Daniel is absent, and courage was given to his companions to stand firm in their allegiance to the one true God, and refuse to bow down to the image. In the present chapter the three companions are absent and Daniel alone is seen. Exactly the same spirit is seen in him. They would not for one moment bow down to worship a god of man's devising. He would not for one day cease to pray to the true God, whom he knew. They acted negatively, defying the king's command to worship Satanic powers. He acted positively, maintaining contact with the God of heaven, though it involved defying the command of Darius. In both cases God stepped in, and miraculously sustained and delivered His servants in a way that exposed the folly of the kings.

Darius indeed was quickly made to discover his folly. Daniel made no sensational protest; he only went on doing what had been his custom. Three times each day he knelt before God with thanksgiving and prayer, and he made no secret of it, since he did it with windows open, and thus all could see.

But why did he have his windows open 'toward Jerusalem'? Read 1 Kings 8:46-50, and the reason is plain. He believed God would answer that petition in Solomon's prayer, so he fulfilled the stipulation that the prayer should be made, 'toward their land... the city which Thou hast chosen.' Such was the record in the Scriptures. In obedience he fulfilled it, and went on fulfilling it in spite of the king's decree.

Let us seriously ask ourselves if we are as observant of Scripture as Daniel, and moved by it to obedience, as he was.

His courage has become almost proverbial. 'Dare to be a Daniel!' has become a well-known phrase. Good advice it is. But what gave him the courage to dare? The answer surely is — his reliance on God and His word. We may safely affirm that, down to our own time, all the saints who have acquired courage to stand for the truth, and suffer for it, have been fortified in the same way. In the tolerant, easygoing lands where English is spoken, compromise is the fashionable thing. But this was not Daniels' way, and should not be ours.

Hence, though 'an excellent spirit' was in Daniel, the jealous 'princes', who were under him, had no difficulty in denouncing him to the king, who foolishly and blasphemously had signed the decree, which could not be altered or revoked. Realizing his folly, the king made desperate attempts until nightfall to release Daniel, and incidentally himself, from the entanglement, which he himself had created. But all in vain.

So, just as in Daniel 3:1-30, we saw the three faithful Hebrews going to their doom, now we see Daniel going to his. And with the same result. God intervened; altering the order of nature, and delivering His servant. Here we have a miracle equally remarkable with that recorded in chapter 3. God has established a certain order in creation, whether in the action of fire or that of living animals. Fire will uniformly burn clothes and even human bodies that wear them. Hungry wild beasts, such as lions, will uniformly spring upon and devour their prey. God, who has established this order can reverse it, should it please Him so to do. It did please Him to do so in both cases. And His control of the lions in this case is equally remarkable with His suspension of the action of fire.

Some may wish to enquire why God has not acted in this way on behalf of His servants far more frequently? The answer surely is, that God acts in this miraculous way at the beginning of some change in His dealings with men, though He may often act on behalf of His saints in a providential way. It was so, for instance, at the beginning of the Christian dispensation. Peter was miraculously delivered from prison and death, as recorded in Acts 12:1-25. Since then, many a saint has died in prison for the sake of the Gospel, though some have been providentially delivered.

As we ponder over this, one reason for it at least becomes clear. In the two cases before us the times of the Gentiles had just begun by the complete overthrow of Israel and the destruction of Jerusalem. The natural conclusion to be deduced was that the gods of the Babylonian world were more powerful than Jehovah, whose temple was at Jerusalem. They were not, and God demonstrated it by these miraculous deliverances of His servants in the teeth of the powers of darkness. At the end of the age He will demonstrate it by the damnation of His foes, and theirs.

The same thing may be said of this present Gospel age. Acts 12:1-25, which begins with the deliverance of Peter, ends with the judgment of Herod. In both cases an angel 'smote.' He smote Peter up for deliverance, and then smote Herod down to a miserable and disgusting death. God has not repeated these actions, just because we live in this Gospel age, which is characterized by grace. When this age of grace ends, we shall see God's saints completely delivered, and their oppressors completely judged.

In Daniel 6:1-28 we see not only Daniel delivered but also the evil men, who conspired against him, judged. They and their families suffered the exact fate that they had designed for Daniel, and that by the order of the king they had deceived into the evil law.

The end of the chapter reveals the salutary effect of the whole episode on the mind of Darius. His confession and decree, which was sent so widely abroad, was similar to the edict sent forth previously by Nebuchadnezzar. Thus in the second of the four great world-empires this tribute to the One, confessed not only as 'the God of Daniel', but also as 'the living God, and steadfast forever', was sent out to all men. The time had not come for the love of God to be manifested, but His power was declared in striking fashion, and everywhere men, under the sway of Darius, were commanded to 'tremble and fears before Him.

Let us notice the 'decree' of verse Daniel 6:8, and by way of contrast, the 'decree' of verse 26. Both were issued in an empire that permitted no alteration or cancellation of its decrees, yet they do stand in contrast. The first was nullified as to its penalty; the second was soon nullified as to its performance. The subsequent history of that empire shows that men did not tremble and fear before the living God, as they were commanded to do. No empire can legislate in the things of God; and so this 'law of the Medes and Persians' was soon flatly and universally broken! We see this, for instance, in the book of Esther.


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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Daniel 6:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". 1947.

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