Daniel 6 is a pivotal chapter in the book. It is the last of the court narratives, and the first chapter of the Persian period. It is also a puzzling chapter because of the mention of “Darius the Mede.” There is no historical record of any king named Darius in the time of Daniel 6. Even Daniel states that Cyrus was king of Persia (6:28). The fact that as of yet we have uncovered no archaeological information doesn’t mean that he did not exist; it only means that we haven’t found the evidence outside of Scripture.
There are three basic proposals as to his identity:
-Some scholars identify him with Cyrus’s uncle, Cyaxares.
-Some scholars identify this is a throne name taken by Cyrus, and that 6:28 should be translated “during the reign of Darius, that is the reign of Cyrus.”
-Some scholars identify him with a subordinate of Cyrus, such as his son, or a governor, or a general.
The specific identity of Darius the Mede is an unsolved mystery of the Bible, but not a crucial issue in terms of understanding and applying the text.
There are obviously many similarities between this account and Daniel 3. The major difference is that in Daniel 3 the Hebrews are persecuted for not worshipping false gods, while in Daniel 6 he is punished for worshipping the true God.
Bear in mind that Daniel would have been quite old at the time of this account. He was taken to Babylon in 605 BC, and this account occurs sometime after the fall of Babylon in 539 BC. So Daniel was probably over 75 years old.
I. The Plot Against Daniel (6:1-9)
A. Daniel’s promotion (6:1-3)
1. Darius begins to reorganize the newly conquered Babylon (6:1-2a).
2. Daniel is appointed as one of three “presidents” (6:2b).
3. Daniel’s excellent spirit was recognized by Darius, who intended to make a virtual prime minister over Babylon (6:3). This is very similar to the way Joseph’s excellent character continually leads him to rise to the top of every situation in Genesis.
B. The jealousy of the other officials (6:4-5).
1. Just as the promotion of the three friends raised the ire of the jealous Babylonians in Dan. 3, Daniel’s promotion triggers jealousy in the officials of the new regime, and they unsuccessfully try to find fault with Daniel (6:4).
2. A great tribute to Daniel is the fact that they recognize the only ground on which to fault him is his religion (6:5).
C. The conspiracy of the officials (6:6-9).
1. The officials propose a new law regarding prayer to Darius (6:6-8).
a) The new law says that Darius will be the only authorized mediator through whom the people can pray for thirty days. Notice that this was not the king’s idea, unlike the image in Dan. 3 which was the king’s idea.
b) The penalty for disobedience: cast into a dens of lions (the ancient people invented all kinds of grisly ways of executing people).
c) Notice that they say “all” the officials had agreed to this – a clear lie.
d) They also emphasized that “the law of the Medes and Persians” was irrevocable (Esther 1:9; 8:8).
2. The king signed the law (6:9).
3. This sets up a clear contrast between “the law of his God” (6:5) and “the law of the Medes and the Persians.”
II. Daniel’s Test (6:10-18)
A. Daniel’s faithfulness to prayer (6:10).
1. Daniel’s response is to continue praying as he always had.
a) Windows open toward Jerusalem, location of the former temple (cf. 1 Kings 8:35-36).
b) Three times a day (Ps. 55:17), which became a traditional practice among the Jews.
2. Daniel’s response is neither to fear the law or to flaunt the law, but to keep doing what he always did.
B. Daniel’s arrest (6:11-15).
1. The conspirators apparently knew when and where to look for Daniel praying, and immediately reported his disobedience to the king (6:11—13).
2. The king unsuccessfully tried to pardon Daniel (6:14-15).
a) Much different from Nebuchadnezzar’s angry response in Daniel 3, Darius…
(1) Was distressed at the prospect of losing such a valued official.
(2) Was determined to keep Daniel from the punishment.
(3) Worked all day to try to make this happen
b) But the conspirators reminded him of the unbreakable law of the nation.
C. Daniel’s punishment (6:16-18).
1. Daniel was cast into the lion’s den (6:16a).
2. The king expressed hope that Daniel’s God would deliver him (6:16b), unlike Nebuchadnezzar who claimed that no god could deliver the three Hebrews (3:15).
3. The den was protected with a stone and then sealed to make sure no one tampered, including the king (6:17).
4. The king had a difficult night – more difficult than Daniel’s turned out to be! (6:18).
III. Daniel’s Deliverance (6:19-24)
A. The king’s inquiry (6:19-20).
1. The king went at “break of day” to inspect the den (6:19).
2. His voice expressed great concern about Daniel’s fate as he asked whether Daniel’s God had delivered him (6:20).
3. Note: Longman suggests that this may be read as a “trial by ordeal,” in which there is some question as to the guilt of the accused (see Tremper Longman, Daniel, NIVAC, p. 162-163).
B. Daniel’s response (6:21-22).
1. Addresses the king with respect – “O king, live forever” (6:21).
2. Says that God has delivered him (6:22).
a) God sent an angel (cf. 3:28).
b) Shut the mouths of the lions (cf. Heb. 11:33-34).
c) Because Daniel was blameless.
C. The king’s response (6:23-24).
1. Just as he was distressed when he knew what was going to happen (6:14), the king was very glad when Daniel was unharmed (6:23).
a) Notice there was “no kind of harm,” cf. 3:27.
b) This was because Daniel “trusted in his God.”
2. The king also commanded that the conspirators and their families be thrown in the den (6:24-25).
a) They met the fate they intended for Daniel to meet, cf. Haman in Esther 8:10 (see also Prov. 28:10).
b) Their families also paid the price, as was customary in Persian law (Young, Daniel, p. 138).
c) The ferocity with which the lions consumed them highlights the great miracle of Daniel’s deliverance.
IV. The King’s Second Decree (6:25-28)
A. The king wrote a new decree to the empire (6:25-27).
1. The gist of the decree is that all people in the kingdom are to fear “the God of Daniel” (6:25-26a).
2. While Darius was still a pagan and saw Daniel’s God as one among many, his statement of praise in 6:26a-27 is a powerful testimony to the impact the episode with Daniel had on him (cf. 3:29).
B. Daniel prospered during the new regime (6:28).