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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary

Daniel 6



Verse 3

Daniel 6:3

I. This excellent spirit to which Daniel owed his preferment was a spirit of self-control. He kept his body under. He held the mastery of his animal nature. He laid the iron hand upon his appetites and passions. He crucified the flesh. "He purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine that he drank."

II. This excellent spirit was a spirit of genuine piety. Much as we admire the temperance, the lofty courage, the sublime moral heroism of Daniel, we must go deeper than this to find the secret of his strength. He was, above all, a man of God. He endured, as seeing Him who is invisible. He had constant intercourse with heaven. To him God was a reality, a living and reliable Friend, to whom he could take every difficulty, and on whom he could trust in every danger. Yet all this tenacity to religious principle was united with a courtesy and urbanity that secured the admiration of all, and bespoke the true gentleman. He knew how to be firm and yet polite; conscientious, yet forbearing.

III. The excellent spirit to which Daniel owed his preferment was a spirit of unshaken faith in God. All through his troubles—and they were many and great—he never lost confidence in God, never failed to betake himself to Him in prayer. Beautiful as Daniel's character was, he felt himself a sinner before God. No penitent ever was more humble in his confessions than he. No saint ever expressed himself more clearly as altogether dependent on Divine and covenant mercy. Of all the prophets of the Old Testament none more distinctly predicted the coming of Jesus; none indicated more plainly the object of His coming as a substitute to atone for the guilty. All Daniel's hope for salvation was founded on the Messiah's work, who should "finish transgression and make an end of sins, and make reconciliation for iniquity and bring in everlasting righteousness."

J. Thain Davidson, ForewarnedForearmed, p. 233.

References: Daniel 6:3.—S. Macnaughton, Real Religion and Real Life, p. 292. Daniel 6:4-10.—R. Payne-Smith, Homiletic Magazine, vol. xii., p. 351. Daniel 6:5.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 149.

Verse 10

Daniel 6:10

I. Daniel knew that the writing was signed which threatened him with death if he did his duty. It is well that we should all know it. There is no wisdom in telling even the youngest amongst us that his path will be a smooth one. It is a law that altereth not, which declares the contrary; a law more sure than any ordinance of Medes and Persians, for it rests on the unchanging qualities of human nature. As long as men are what they are, so long will they find it hard to be righteous, both from the fault of others and from their own.

II. "Daniel prayed and give thanks to his God as he did aforetime." It was not any unusual show of devotion; he did neither more nor less than he was used to do; three times in every day did he open his house towards Jerusalem and call upon God. The two things together are the secret of a holy life. Spiritual prayer, lest what we say be no better than the vain repetitions of the heathen; and frequent prayer, lest the spirit, being exercised too seldom, should leave us during the greater part of our lives the servants of sin.

III. It is the great art of the enemy of our souls to hinder us from thinking of God; to keep the question of obeying Him or not as much as possible out of our minds. Let us steadily bear in mind that the writing is signed against us; that if we will serve Christ we must be partakers of His suffering; we must take up our cross and follow Him. Yet, though we know this, not the less for this knowledge let us resolve to serve Him steadily; and that we may serve Him let us kneel down on our knees before Him, not once a day, much less once a week only, but often, but perpetually. And in the intervals of our work or our amusement let us link together, as it were, our more special and solemn devotions by a golden chain of heavenward thoughts and humble prayers; not trusting to our general good intentions but refreshing our continued decays and failings with as continued a recourse to the ever-open fountain of the grace of God.

T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iii., p. 175.

I. It was no new thing for Daniel to pray; he did not do it out of bravado, he did not do it from ostentation; it was his habit thus to pray; he prayed "as he did aforetime." Those words give us the secret of his life. It was a consistent life. It was a life built throughout on the fear of God. It was a life every stone of which was a prayer. His worst enemies could find no fault in him, they acknowledged, except as touching the law of his God. They might taunt him for his religion; they might mock his faith; they could not deny the nobleness of his character, his uncorrupt integrity, his sterling worth, the wisdom as well as the uprightness which marked his conduct. The purity of his life they could not assail; it was a consistent life, a life based and built upon the fear of God.

II. But if the secret of Daniel's success and courage was his consistency, what was the secret of his consistency? It was this: that he was a man of prayer. He kneeled three times a day in his chamber, and prayed and gave thanks to his God, as he did aforetime. (1) These words remind us beautifully and touchingly how, through all that long life, and though he had left Jerusalem only as a boy, the heart of the captive still turned towards the home of his fathers and the city of his God. (2) Notice how, anticipating by centuries the injunction of the Apostle—in everything by prayer and thanksgiving to make known our requests unto God—he who had just heard what he knew to be his own sentence of death, not only prayed, but gave thanks before his God as he did aforetime. There was no fear in that heart, there was no doubt of God's mercy, there was no questioning of God's providence, because he knew that the den of lions awaited him. He gave thanks now as he had done aforetime. (3) The man of prayer may not always be the successful man, judged by the world's rules, but he is the strong man, the calm man, the brave man, the man against whom his worst enemies can find nothing to accuse him, except it be as touching the law of his God.

J. J. S. Perowne, Sermons, p. 17.

We are not told what went to make the "excellent spirit" (which was, in other words, Daniel's religion) which made him so illustrious in his day and generation. But though it is not declared, we have no difficulty in saying what were some of the features of that excellent spirit. (1) Part of the "excellent spirit" was a deep humility. The strength of every man is his humility. (2) In that "excellent spirit" there was very great sympathy for the feelings of those around him. (3) In that "excellent spirit" there was a very great amount of common-sense, because religion is common-sense, and the man who has been dealing most with the realities of the unseen world, will be the man growing most in those intelligences which connect themselves with the common things of life. The excellent spirit in Daniel was acknowledged, and all his enemies could bring against him was "he prayed too much." Consider the subject of private prayer.

I. All distinct acts of prayer are chiefly valuable as promoting the general habit of prayerfulness in the mind. There is a danger when we speak of the importance of prayer so many times a day of persons running away with the thought that that is enough. But to very little profit will be prayer three times a day in the closet, if it does not minister to an habitual uplifting of the heart in dependence and praise all the day long.

II. Though it is very desirable in our private communion with God, not to be mechanical, or tied down to certain laws too much,—yet some method is very valuable, even in private prayer. Every prayer ought to have these outlines;—invocation, confession of sin, praise, requests for future blessings temporal and spiritual, intercession.

III. Remember that all your greatness depends on your nearness to God. Always look to that first, for as with Daniel, so with you, the success of all the outer life will depend on that which is going on behind the scenes. A man depends on that which is going on alone between him and his God.

J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 2nd series, p. 90.

References: Daniel 6:10.—Bishop Walsham How, Plain Words, 2nd series, p. 262; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiv., No. 815; vol. xx., No. 1154; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xiii., p. 213; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 422; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 279. Daniel 6:11-14.—R. Payne-Smith, Homiletic Magazine, vol. xiii., p. 221. Daniel 6:15-22.—Ibid., vol. xiv., p. 272. Daniel 6:16.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 248. Daniel 6:20.—J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes, 2nd series, p. 44; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 282.

Verses 21-23

Daniel 6:21-23

I. This story illustrates the fact that God often seems to crown the machinations of the wicked against the good with success.

II. The story illustrates the insidiousness of sin in drawing men into extremes of guilt which they never planned for.

III. The story illustrates the supremacy of duty over intrigue in the defence of the right.

IV. The story of Daniel illustrates the need which human governments often experience, of something like an atonement for the violation of law.

V. The story suggests that God's deliverance of the good is often by methods in which the marvellous borders upon the miraculous.

VI. The story illustrates, finally, the fact that the rescue of the good often involves the destruction of the wicked, by a very subtle law which may be called the law of retributive reaction. The enemies of the prophet-statesman fell when he was restored.

A. Phelps, The Old Testament a Living Book, p. 277.

Verse 22

Daniel 6:22

I. Notice the workings of a strange conspiracy. An influential deputation asks the king to make a law to this effect: that no man shall, within thirty days, make a request to God or men, save of the king; that if he should do so he be cast into the den of lions.

II. Notice the object of the conspiracy—Daniel. They hated this man on account of his faith. Amidst the rabble of deities, gods, and goddesses, with all their splendour and all their circumstantial authority, in Babylon, he was true to his worship of the one living God; true to Jehovah and true to the covenant. Daniel was hated for his strange, holy, eccentric faith; he was hated for the life that sprang out of faith. They hated him also because he was a man of rare gifts; they sickened with envy at the sight of those rare gifts. He belonged by presidency to the Magi—not to the sacerdotal, but to the scientific, order. They hated him for his supremacy in office.

III. Notice the effect of this conspiracy. (1) The effect was first, to bring out Daniel's confession. (2) God sent His angel to stop the lions' mouths, and we may imagine their bland, caressing movements, as John Foster has it, round Daniel just as they used to be round Adam in Paradise. We are not placed in similar circumstances, but every one of us is tried sometimes to the fullest extent of our powers. You have lions of some kind to face; open your windows towards Calvary; open your windows towards the Great Sacrifice.

C. Stanford, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 328; see also Expository Sermons and Outlines on the Old Testament, p. 297.

Verse 23

Daniel 6:23

I. It is good—and they who have proved it in their own persons will be the foremost to confirm the words—to have had at times to bear witness alone and with none to sympathise, for the truth as God has taught them. It is only so that they can learn what is the strength of their faith; what it can bear; what it is worth. The faith that can bear to be alone with God in this world; that faith will pass unshaken through the gates of death, and meet God with no ignoble fear in the world to come. It is easy to believe, or think we believe, in a crowd. We feel, then, that the responsibility is divided; there is a sense of safety in the mere fact that many are trusting to the same hope as ourselves. But we may mistake trust in our clique for trust in our belief; and trust in our belief for trust in God. And it is good for such props to be at times rudely knocked away, if only that we may see whether we can stand alone; alone, as far as men are concerned; but not alone, "because the Father is with us."

II. It is not strange, therefore, that the Bible should be full of the histories of men who are distinguished by the quality of boldness. Abraham leaving his country and people to form a nation in a distant land; David going forth alone to meet the giant; Elijah before his enemy Ahab; the three children in the furnace of Nebuchadnezzar; Daniel in the wild beasts' den; to say nothing of the faithful rank and file of the earth; the "seven thousand" whose stories are not written in the chronicles of human penmen, but whose names are in the Book of Life; the seven thousand, the glorious minority, who in all times remain as God's witnesses, and will not bow the knee to Baal. It is not strange that characters like these should form the staple of the Scripture biography; for they are the men by whom the great fight has been fought and the victory won. The history of the cause of God in the world is, and must be, the history of brave men—of those who are not ashamed of Him, or afraid of their fellow-men.

III. Times change; standards of orthodoxy vary; forms of persecution have their day and cease to be; but two things remain the same, the will and nature of God, and the heart of mankind. Now, for ever in this world, the fight against the devil is to be waged by the brave. If our first needful prayer is "Lord, increase our faith," the next is "Lord, increase in us boldness," that we may not fear what men can do to us, nor what men can say of us.

IV. Though a brave man must needs be alone in the world, it does not follow that he who chooses to walk alone is therefore brave. There is a solitude in which we may be, not alone with God, but alone with self—alone with pride and uncharity and a rebellious heart.

A. Ainger, Sermons in the Temple Church, p. 1.

References: Daniel 6:23Homiletic Magazine, vol. xiii., p. 271. Daniel 6:28.—J. Foster, Lectures, 2nd series, p. 174. 6—J. G. Murphy, The Book of Daniel, p. 119; W. M. Taylor, Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 348; Ibid., vol. iv., p. 55.


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Daniel 6:4". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

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