Daniel Chapter 6: The Decree Of This Darius!
Under Darius, the second great world empire was established about 538 B.C. the Medo-Persian Empire, as it was known, had already been prophesied in Nebuchadnezzar’s great image in the arms and chest of silver. Silver of course being inferior to gold suggests the degeneration of this empire as compared with Babylon.
In this series of historical pictures that are presented, it will be remembered, the moral features, which will distinguish, in the last days, the last form of Gentile sovereignty. If Belshazzar, therefore, typified the impiety that dared to lift itself up against the Lord of heaven, Darius sets forth the exaltation of man, and indeed, the substitution of man for God, as an object of worship. This is by no means altered by the fact that he was betrayed into taking this position, or that he himself was a man of an amiable character; for it is still true that he signed the decree, that whosoever should ask a petition of any god or man for thirty days, save of himself, should be cast into the den of lions (Daniel Ch.6v7). It is not what he was in himself, but what he did, that contains the prophetic instruction; and it is quite possible that he, who in a future day will oppose and exalt himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, and who will sit in the temple of God, and show himself that he is God. 2 Thessalonians Ch.2v4 will possess many features, which will extol the admiration and homage of men. When the Lord was upon the earth there was no beauty in Him that men should desire Him; there was nothing in Him to commend Him to the natural man; but, on the other hand, when Antichrist appears on the scene he will be marked by the features which will attract the hearts of men as men of the world. The world will love its own, whereas Christ, who was not of the world, was hated by it. It is just because Darius was naturally a man of an admirable character that he was fitted to shadow out in this respect this future ruler in his self-exaltation and deification.
The first three verses of this chapter furnish the groundwork of what follows, the occasion of the actions that issued in the casting of Daniel into the lions' den. On taking possession of the throne of Babylon, Darius reorganized the affairs of the kingdom; and he "set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes . . . and over these, three presidents, of whom Daniel was first. Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm" (Daniel Ch.6vv1-3). Surely Daniel is enjoying the prosperity of obedience. Belshazzar had, on the eve of the capture of his city, proclaimed Daniel as the third ruler in the kingdom; Darius promoted him to the first place under himself, being God's instrument in doing so for the accomplishment of His purposes. Daniel was no unknown man; and he was hated both as a Jew and as a true worshipper of the God of heaven. His exaltation in the government still further provoked the envy and jealousy of the nobles, the princes, and the presidents over whom he had been placed. Men of corrupt and covetous hearts could not love a man of incorruptible fidelity, and seeking only to commend himself to God. They therefore determined in some way or other to compass his deposition or destruction; and first of all they sought to find occasion against him concerning the kingdom, concerning his administration of the government. Watch the conspiracy of the presidents. There are none so eagle-eyed as malicious men; so that nothing, whether in matters of finance or other branches of the affairs of this vast empire would escape their notice; "but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him" (Daniel Ch.6v4). They searched Daniel’s public life, they examined Daniel’s private life, and they remembered Daniel’s prayer life. What a testimony to the integrity and uprightness of this servant of God; and it is all the greater because, as we read in the next verse, it was a testimony borne by his enemies, They knew not that Daniel laboured under the eye of Him who beholds the secrets of the heart, and that it was the joy of his life to walk in the favour and blessing of his God.
Foiled in this direction, with the inventiveness, which ever characterizes the evil heart; they chose another ground of attack. They said, "these men" (a term seemingly chosen to express their iniquity) "we shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God" (Daniel Ch.6v5). Idolaters as they all were, and having a sovereign who was also an idolater, it was easy, they thought, to entangle Daniel in their net on such a ground. But Darius could scarcely have been ignorant of what had transpired between Daniel and Belshazzar, or of the fact that he was a godly Jew; and this will account for the method adopted by these princes and presidents. They did not proceed to charge Daniel with worshipping his God; in greater subtlety they determined, first, to flatter the king by offering to him the place of absolute supremacy, supremacy over heaven as well as earth, and then to bring Daniel into conflict with, as well as disobedience to, the king.
As inspired of Satan, their project was cleverly devised, and they sought immediately to put it into execution. What subtlety there is in this plan! Accordingly they "assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever"; and they then informed his majesty that, after due consultation, they had agreed "to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any god or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions" (Daniel Ch.6v 7). The only thing wanting to ensure the validity of the decree was the king's signature, and then it could not be changed, "according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not" (Daniel Ch.6v8). The king, flattered probably by the homage and subjection of his nobles in his new dominions, fell at once into the snare they had woven about his feet, and not pausing to consider the awful place, which he was accepting, a place belonging to God alone, "signed the writing and the decree" (Daniel Ch.6v9).
Nebuchadnezzar had made an image, and had commanded his nobles to be present at its dedication, and to unite in rendering it homage; but Darius himself now took the place of God, and forbade any of his subjects for the space of a whole month, whether in private or in public, to fall down before any "god" but himself. It was the deification of man, which will, as we have pointed out, have its counterpart in the last days, and towards which men are even now preceding with such rapid steps. The displacement of God by man is seen even in Christendom; what wonder then if, after the church is gone, when the energy of Satan will be unlimited and unhindered, man publicly and avowedly assumes the place of God, even with approbation. Such a consummation is only gradually reached. The steps toward it are silently and unwittingly trodden; for the minds of men are so prepared through teachings which in their fruit must bring in this conclusion, that they will scarcely be astonished when a man who has won their homage by his earthly wisdom and power, declares that he is God, but what of Daniel in the presence of such a decree? Will he yield obedience to it? Or will he, like his three companions of the captivity, disregard the king's commandment? Who could doubt what his course would, be? Look at the fidelity of the servant! Seeing how faithfully he had spoken both to Nebuchadnezzar and to Belshazzar? The fact, moreover, that, within the circle of his responsibility and allegiance to his monarch, he had served so well that even his enemies could not find matter of accusation, affords a guarantee that he, a servant of the God of heaven, will be no less conscientious in that other sphere where God is supreme. Darius, however had been entrapped and had stepped outside of the circle of his authority, and had, in signing this decree, intruded into God's circle, where man has neither right nor place. If Daniel, therefore, would maintain a good conscience towards God, he had no alternative but to refuse subjection to the decree that had been issued. When therefore he "knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime" (Daniel Ch.6v10). What a spectacle! A man of another race, an object of the envy of the Chaldeans, and enjoying his exaltation simply by the king's favour, dares, at all cost, the power of the whole realm, because he would not be unfaithful to his God! And observe that there was no ostentation in the course he pursued. He continued in his usual course; it was "as he did aforetime." He might have closed his windows and escaped observation, but to do this under the circumstances, would have been all one as if he were respecting the king's decree. His windows had ever been open towards Jerusalem, and they must still be kept so. Daniel, thus morning, noon, and evening, cried to the Lord "as he did aforetime," regardless, by the grace of God, of the consequences of his act, Daniel was found in his usual place of prayer, in his usual position of prayer and in his usual plan of prayer.
There was a reason for his windows being opened towards Jerusalem. At the dedication of the temple Solomon had prayed thus concerning the people, should they be carried away into captivity in the enemy's land, far or near: “If thy people go out to battle against their enemy, whithersoever thou shalt send them, and shall pray unto the LORD toward the city which thou hast chosen, and toward the house that I have built for thy name: Then hear thou in heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause. If they sin against thee, (for there is no man that sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near; Yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried captives, and repent, and make supplication unto thee in the land of them that carried them captives, saying, We have sinned, and have done perversely, we have committed wickedness; And so return unto thee with all their heart, and with all their soul, in the land of their enemies, which led them away captive, and pray unto thee toward their land, which thou gavest unto their fathers, the city which thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for thy name: Then hear thou their prayer and their supplication in heaven thy dwelling place, and maintain their cause” (1 Kings Ch.8vv44-49). Daniel was consequently resting on the sure word of God in thus praying, for the Lord had said to Solomon, "I have heard thy prayer and thy supplication, that thou hast made before me" (1 Kings Ch.9v3).
Daniel was no "secret disciple"; his habits of prayer were known, and accordingly his enemies understood how to discover whether he was, or was not, obedient to the decree. "Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God" (Daniel Ch.6v11). The term "these men," as in verse 5, is again employed see also vv. 15, 24, doubtless to express the divine estimate of their wicked conduct. But they had gained their point; their wicked device had so far prospered; and, exulting over their success, "they came near, and spake before the king concerning the king's decree" v.12. Had not his majesty, they enquired, signed the decree? The king replied, "The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not." Alas! The king was in the hands of these unscrupulous men. He had accepted their flattery, and now he had become their helpless slave. He himself had unsuspectingly riveted his own chains. Having thus secured the monarch in their vice like grip, they proceeded to unveil the purpose of their malicious hearts; and the very words they used did but betray the depth of their iniquity. They said before the king, "That Daniel, which is of the children of the captivity of Judah, regarded not thee, O king, nor the decree that thou hast signed, but makes his petition three times a day" (Daniel Ch.6v13). Their personal enmity to Daniel and to his race, together with their envy because of his position, are plainly revealed, as well as the fact that they had but used the king, in their professed desire for his absolute supremacy, as their tool for the accomplishment of Daniel's destruction. The king was in this way brought face to face with the fruit of his own doings, and could no longer conceal from himself the real object of the writing he had signed. How often it is that we are blinded to the nature of our actions until we encounter their irrevocable consequences! So was it with Darius and when he heard the accusation against Daniel, he 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" (Daniel Ch.6v14). Learn from the sincerity of the king. His efforts were a testimony to his appreciation of Daniel, and also to the kindness of his own heart; but he was no longer his own master. He himself had declared the immutable character of the laws of the Medes and Persians; and Daniel's enemies were not slow to take advantage of this admission; for they again "assembled unto the king, and said unto the king, Know, O king, that the law of the Medes and Persians is, That no decree nor statute which the king establisheth may be changed" (Daniel Ch.6v15). They asserted their power; and their language, "Know, O king," betrayed their purpose to maintain it at all costs; so that Darius did not dare to trifle any longer with the most influential nobles of his realm, for they, through his own folly, had the law on their side. He therefore "commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions" (Daniel Ch.6v16). There is without doubt a reality about the den of lions. The deed was consummated, and these men triumphed over both Daniel and Darius. But there was another on Daniel's side on whom his enemies had not counted; and, as will be seen in the following narrative, their short-lived victory was but the prelude to their own defeat and destruction. If God is for His people none can be successful against them, whatever the appearances for the moment. Even Darius had, in some way or other, the conviction that Daniel would not be allowed to perish. "Thy God," he said, "whom thou servest continually, He will deliver thee" (Daniel Ch.6v16b). And yet he was still in the power of his servants, and was compelled to carry out his decree to its bitter end; for after the stone had been "brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel" (Daniel Ch.6v17). Before passing on, a remark may be permitted upon the similarity between the action of Darius and his lords and that of the chief priests and Pharisees, as recorded in Matthew's gospel. These had been allowed of God to compass the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus, and after His death He was buried in the sepulchre. Not content with the attainment of their object, they obtained leave of Pilate to make "the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch" (Matthew Ch.27v66). In both cases man thought to secure his end by making intervention and rescue impossible, but God was not in all his thoughts; and what can man do when he ventures to fight against God?
The heart of Darius was not in what was done has been plainly seen; and now that the deed had been accomplished, notwithstanding his expressed assurance that God would deliver Daniel, he was filled with remorse. He passed the succeeding night fasting, dispensed with his usual music, his sleep went from him, and, rising early in the morning, he went in haste unto the den of lions. All his thoughts were for the time centred on Daniel. "And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel. And the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?" (Daniel Ch.6vv18-20). God had not forgotten His servant; and though Daniel had been exposed to the full display of Satan's power, he was not, and could not be, injured, for he was under the omnipotent protection of the living God. He was therefore able to reply to the king's question, after the customary loyal address, "My God hath sent His angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me, forasmuch as before Him innocence was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt" (Daniel Ch.6v22). It was, of course, an actual den of lions into which Daniel had been thrown; but we see no reason for departing from the usual typical significance of the lion in Scripture. It was thus still true that “the angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them” (Psalm Ch.34v7). It should be noticed, however, Daniel claimed that "innocence" was found in him before God. The lesson is, that we could not be consciously under God's protection, nor could we claim, or rather expect, His succour, if we had not a good conscience in His sight. Before the king Daniel was as clear as before God; like the apostle, he had a conscience void of offence both towards God and towards men; and God, later on, stepped in and, vindicating His servant, delivered him, like Paul (2 Timothy Ch.4v17), from the mouth of the lion.
The decree having been executed, for the penalty of its infraction as that the offender should be cast into the lions' den, not that he should be killed by the lions, the king was freed from the strangle hold of his lords. The law had been vindicated, and Daniel had suffered its punishment. Darius could therefore, no one forbidding on the ground of the unchangeable laws of the Medes and Persians, exercise his prerogative, and command that Daniel should be taken up out of the den; and being taken up, "no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God" (Daniel Ch.6v23). The whole secret of his protection and deliverance is here revealed. Faith, divinely produced in his soul, brought in God, who shielded His servant from the malice of his enemies by subduing and restraining the natural and ravenous instincts of the lions. The apostle, with Daniel in mind, speaking of the prophets, says, "Who through faith . . . stopped the mouths of lions" (Hebrews Ch.11v33). It was one of the victories of faith that should encourage the people of God to trust in, and to count upon, Him at all times, remembering that while all things are possible with God, all things are also possible to him that believeth; and it is of this wondrous truth that Daniel is here the exemplification.
The king's work was not completed with the deliverance of Daniel. Made fully aware, by what had taken place, of the enormity of the iniquity of his presidents and princes, he, in righteous indignation, "commanded, and they brought those men which had, accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions, them, their children, and their wives; and the lions had the mastery of them, and brake all their bones in pieces or ever they came at the bottom of the den" (Daniel Ch.6v24). "These men" thus fell into the pit, which their own hands had opened, and into the snare, which they had laid for Daniel, were their own feet taken. In this way God testified to His servant, and executed judgment upon His enemies.
A profound impression was made upon Darius by the events he had witnessed; and he sent a proclamation throughout the whole of his realm, to the different nations "that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. I make a decree, that in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for He is the living God, and steadfast forever, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and His dominion shall be even unto the end" (Daniel Ch.6vv25-26). How far he entered into the truth of the words he caused to be written; is not revealed. However this might have been, it was no mean testimony he rendered to God and to His sovereignty. He went much farther than Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel Ch.3. This monarch contented himself with forbidding his subjects, under extreme penalties, to speak anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Darius commanded that in all his dominions men should tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, because He was the living God, and His kingdom was everlasting. In such a marvellous way did God make the wrath of man to praise Him, and the attempt to quench forever the light of His testimony in Babylon was made the means of kindling it throughout the whole earth.
At the commencement of this chapter we saw that Darius, in accepting the place, which his counsellors offered him, was a type of the future head of the last form of Gentile sovereignty who will accept divine honours, and have his deification enforced upon his subjects Revelation Ch.13vv8-12. The deliverance of Daniel is also typical. He prefigures the remnant, God's faithful remnant, which will be found in Jerusalem and in the land during the days of Antichrist's fearful sway. Through the machinations of their enemies they will be cast, as it were, into the lions' den, surrounded on all sides by the various displays of Satan's power, and their destruction will appear to human eyes to be imminent and certain. But God will Himself protect them, and interposing for their release by the appearing of Christ, will bring upon their enemies the very judgment, which they had designed, for His people. This situation of the remnant, previous to the appearing of Christ in glory, is often depicted both in the prophets and in the Psalms. A citation from the latter will make this clear: "My soul," says the Psalmist, speaking as the mouthpiece of the Spirit of Christ in this remnant, "My soul is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword" (Psalm Ch.57v4). Then turning upward, he cries, "Be Thou exalted, O God, above the heavens let Thy glory be above all the earth," (Psalm Ch.57v5). Knowing that when the glory of God is thus displayed at the appearing of Christ, the time of the remnant's deliverance will have arrived. As indeed he says in a previous verse, "He shall send from heaven, and save me from the reproach of him that would swallow me up. God shall send forth His mercy and His truth" (Psalm Ch.57v3). Yet again, in correspondence with the prophetic character of Daniel's deliverance, he says, "They have prepared a net for my steps; my soul is bowed down: they have digged a pit before me, into the midst whereof they are fallen themselves" (Psalm Ch.57v6). This psalm was written at least five hundred years before the time of Daniel; and yet its resemblance to his experience is so striking as to arrest the attention of any devout reader of the Scriptures. The explanation is, that the circumstances of David, which furnished the occasion for the psalm, as well as those of Daniel, were both very prophetic of those of the remnant in the last days. And it may be remarked again for the help of the younger students of Scripture, that very few of the narratives of the Bible are simply historical. As histories they are full of interest and afford moral lessons of great value; but they are also often typical and prophetic. For example, David is a historical personage, and much instruction can be gleaned from his life and conduct, instruction that yields both encouragement and warning. But we have also, in all his rejection and persecution before ascending the throne, to view him as a type of Christ when He came to His own and His own received Him not. So afterwards in the kingdom he presents to us Christ as the King of righteousness, while Solomon, his son, shadows forth the Messiah as King of peace. David, moreover, as we know on the authority of the apostle Peter Acts Ch.2v30, was a prophet, and hence it is, as in the Psalm above referred to, that many of his writings are descriptive of the future, whether of the position and state of the remnant or of the blessings and glory of Messiah's reign and kingdom. It greatly enhances our interest in the Scriptures to remember this, and it enables us at the same time to understand their profound character and God's purpose in the special events recorded. It only remains to point out that Darius's confession of Daniel's God as the living God is also typical, inasmuch as it prefigures the conversion of the Gentiles, consequent upon the interposition of Jehovah for the rescue of His people, and for judgment upon their enemies. In Psalm 18 we thus read, after a description of Messiah's victory over His foes, "Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people; and thou hast made me the head of the heathen [nations]: a people whom I have not known shall serve me. As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: the strangers shall submit themselves unto me." And again, "He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, Thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: Thou hast delivered me from the violent man. Therefore will I give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, among the heathen, the nations', and sing praises unto Thy name" (Psalm Ch.18vv43-44 +vv 48-49). We learn, therefore, as from all the prophetic writings, that the Lord will deliver His people through unsparing judgments, and that, after He has visited His wrath upon their oppressors, He will establish His throne, and that then all kings will fall down before Him, and all nations will serve Him.
Born on a Kansas farm and educated in a one-room school, he lived a tough and difficult existence as a boy. Glenn and his brother kept the school's fire going, and one morning when the boys poured kerosene on live coals, the stove blew sky high. Glenn would have escaped, but his brother had been left behind. Rushing back to help, he suffered terrible burns, as did his brother. His brother died, and Glenn's legs sustained severe damage. The story does not end here, however. Glenn had long dreamed of making a track record. Through a period of discouragement, disappointment, and threatened meaninglessness, he somehow kept going. More, he made up his mind that he would walk again--and he did! That he would run--and he did! That he would discipline himself--and he did! That he would master the mile--and he did! That he would break the international record--and he did! Glenn Cunningham purposed in his heart. The purpose in a person's heart captures the soul and has power to transform the ugliest circumstances into the richest blessings. James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 274.
To date, the example we have in these six chapters is to set our face as a flint to serve the Lord with all of our heart and give Him our all and not just a part. It is evident that Daniel and indeed his three friends are enjoying living in the power of the Lord, proving once again that God’s conquering power is available to all surrendered to Him completely. In the ages past, God has put down the attempts of man to overthrow righteousness and holiness. And He will continue to do so, as we read in the second Psalm: “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them with his sore displeasure” (Psalm Ch.2vv2-5). For centuries now God has been speaking to rebellious hearts and vexing them in His sore displeasure, but the day will come when Christ will return and all the enemies of the Lord shall be destroyed. It most certainly will be as God prophecies in Psalm 2v9, “Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potters vessel.” Brothers and sisters, will it then be with us as it was with Daniel, we will stand up for our God?