Daniel 6:9
Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree.
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6:6-10 To forbid prayer for thirty days, is, for so long, to rob God of all the tribute he has from man, and to rob man of all the comfort he has in God. Does not every man's heart direct him, when in want or distress, to call upon God? We could not live a day without God; and can men live thirty days without prayer? Yet it is to be feared that those who, without any decree forbidding them, present no hearty, serious petitions to God for more than thirty days together, are far more numerous than those who serve him continually, with humble, thankful hearts. Persecuting laws are always made on false pretences; but it does not become Christians to make bitter complaints, or to indulge in revilings. It is good to have hours for prayer. Daniel prayed openly and avowedly; and though a man of vast business, he did not think that would excuse him from daily exercises of devotion. How inexcusable are those who have but little to do in the world, yet will not do thus much for their souls! In trying times we must take heed, lest, under pretence of discretion, we are guilty of cowardice in the cause of God. All who throw away their souls, as those certainly do that live without prayer, even if it be to save their lives, at the end will be found to be fools. Nor did Daniel only pray, and not give thanks, cutting off some part of the service to make the time of danger shorter; but he performed the whole. In a word, the duty of prayer is founded upon the sufficiency of God as an almighty Creator and Redeemer, and upon our wants as sinful creatures. To Christ we must turn our eyes. Thither let the Christian look, thither let him pray, in this land of his captivity.Now, O king, establish the decree - Ordain, enact, confirm it.

And sign the writing - An act necessary to make it the law of the realm.

That it be not changed - That, having the sign-manual of the sovereign, it might be so confirmed that it could not be changed. With that sign it became so established, it seems, that even the sovereign himself could not change it.

According to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not - Margin, Passeth. Which does not pass away; which is not abrogated. A similar fact in regard to a law of the Medes and Persians is mentioned in Esther 8. in which the king was unable to recall an order which had been given for the massacre of the Jews, and in which he attempted only to counteract it as far as possible by putting the Jews on their guard, and allowing them to defend themselves. Diodorus Siculus (lib. iv.) refers to this custom where he says that Darius, the last king of Persia, would have pardoned Charidemus after he was condemned to death, but could not reverse what the law had passed against him. - Lowth. "When the king of Persia," says Montesquieu (Spirit of Laws, as quoted by Rosenmuller, Morgenland, in loc.), "has condemned any one to death, no one dares speak to him to make intercession for him. Were he even drunk when the crime was committed, or were he insane, the command must nevertheless be executed, for the law cannot be countermanded, and the laws cannot contradict themselves. This sentiment prevails throughout Persia." It may seem singular that such a custom prevailed, and that the king, who was the fountain of law, and whose will was law, could not change a statute at his pleasure.

But this custom grew out of the opinions which prevailed in the East in regard to the monarch. His will was absolute, and it was a part of the system which prevailed then to exalt the monarch, and leave the impression on the mind of the people that he was more than a man - that he was infallible, and could not err. Nothing was better adapted to keep up that impression than an established principle of this kind - that a law once ordained could not be repealed or changed. To do this would be a practical acknowledgment that there was a defect in the law; that there was a want of wisdom in ordaining it; that all the circumstances were not foreseen; and that the king was liable to be deceived and to err. With all the disadvantages attending such a custom, it was judged better to maintain it than to allow that the monarch could err, and hence, when a law was ordained it became fixed and unchanging.

Even the king himself could not alter it, and, whatever might be the consequences, it was to be executed. It is evident, however, that such a custom might have some advantages. It would serve to prevent hasty legislation, and to give stability to the government by its being known what the laws were, thus avoiding the evils which result when they are frequently changed. It is often preferable to have permanent laws, though not the best that could be framed, than those which would be better, if there were no stability. There is only one Being, however, whose laws can be safely unchanging - and that is God, for his laws are formed with a full knowledge of all the relations of things, and of their bearing on all future circumstances and times. It serves to confirm the statement here made respecting the ancient custom in Media and Persia, that the same idea of the inviolability of the royal word has remained, in a mitigated form, to modern times.

A remarkable example of this is related by Sir John Malcolm, of Aga Mohammed Khan, the last but one of the Persian kings. After alluding to the present case, and that in Esther, he observes, "The character of the power of the king of Persia has undergone no change. The late king, Aga Mohammed Khan, when encamped near Shiraz, said that he would not move until the snow was off the mountains in the vicinity of his camp. The season proved severe, and the snow remained longer than was expected; the army began to suffer distress and sickness, but the king said while the snow remained upon the mountain, he would not move; and his word was as law, and could not be broken. A multitude of laborers were collected and sent to remove the snow; their efforts, and a few fine days, cleared the mountains, and Aga Mohammed Khan marched." - History of Persia, i. 268, quoted in the Pict. Bible, in loc.

9. Such a despotic decree is quite explicable by remembering that the king, as the incarnation of Ormuzd, might demand such an act of religious obedience as a test of loyalty. Persecuting laws are always made on false pretenses. Instead of bitter complaints against men, Daniel prays to God. Though having vast business as a ruler of the empire, he finds time to pray thrice a day. Daniel's three companions (Da 3:12), are not alluded to here, nor any other Jew who conscientiously may have disregarded the edict, as the conspirators aimed at Daniel alone (Da 6:5). The sum of all was this; they had a plot against Daniel and his people, to throw him out of place and favour; to effect that, they fall upon him in the point of religion, which they would make to be treason. How so? They contrived an act of uniformity, by an unalterable law, to ask no petition of any god or man, but of the king, for one month, upon pain of death. They wheedled the king into it, and passed it into a law. The king sees the plot to be against Daniel, and would have saved him, but they held the king to it; they were zealous for executing laws of their own procuring; it was a net they had privily laid for this holy man, and had got him fast.

1. We see the horridness of this decree against God, for it was to ungod him for a time, that Darius might be deified.

2. It is marvellous that Darius should suffer himself to be persuaded to this idolatry, blasphemy, and sacrilege, but that we know it was common to the kings of the East to show themselves willing to be accounted gods. Some give three reasons why Darius was persuaded to it.

(1.) Because he was old, and had not much authority, and by this means he would gain it highly.

(2.) Because by this the superstitious Chaldeans, newly conquered, would be the better kept under.

(3.) Hereby he would seem not at all to be beholden to Cyrus for the share of his government.

3. The wickedness of this decree appeared also in this, that it brake all the bonds of nature’s laws, between superiors and inferiors, for one month.

4. The craft of this cursed cabal is seen in this, that they mind Darius that it was his honour, interest, and duty to see this law executed, seeing it was the custom and constitution of the Medes and Persians, and he himself was a Mede. The Babylonians had no such law and custom, but the others had of old, Esther 1:15,19 8:85. The courage, zeal, and sincerity of Daniel in not baulking the course of his devotion for fear of the king’s edict; but as if he had not been concerned at all in it, being overawed by the fear of God, who was superior to all the gods and princes of the world, he made the command and institution of God alone the rule of his worship.

Wherefore King Darius signed the writing and the decree. Moved to it by the number and importunity of his principal men; and chiefly through affectation of deity, which this law gave him; and that he might have an opportunity of ingratiating himself into his new subjects by his munificence and liberality, not being aware of the snare laid for his favourite, Daniel. Wherefore king Darius {d} signed the writing and the decree.

(d) In this is condemned the wickedness of the king, who would be set up as a god, and did not care what wicked laws he approved for the maintenance of it.

9. decree] interdict.

Daniel 6:9The king carried out the proposal. ואסרא is explicative: the writing, namely, the prohibition (spoken of); for this was the chief matter, therefore אסרא alone is here mentioned, and not also קים (edict), Daniel 6:8.

The right interpretation of the subject-matter and of the foundation of the law which was sanctioned by the king, sets aside the objection that the prohibition was a senseless "bedlamite" law (v. Leng.), which instead of regulating could only break up all society. The law would be senseless only if the prohibition had related to every petition in common life in the intercourse of civil society. But it only referred to the religious sphere of prayer, as an evidence of worshipping God; and if the king was venerated as an incarnation of the deity, then it was altogether reasonable in its character. And if we consider that the intention of the law, which they concealed from the king, was only to effect Daniel's overthrow, the law cannot be regarded as designed to press Parsism or the Zend religion on all the nations of the kingdom, or to put an end to religious freedom, or to make Parsism the world-religion. Rather, as Kliefoth has clearly and justly shown, "the object of the law was only to bring about the general recognition of the principle that the king was the living manifestation of all the gods, not only of the Median and Persian, but also of the Babylonian and Lydian, and all the gods of the conquered nations. It is therefore also not correct that the king should be represented as the incarnation of Ormuzd. The matter is to be explained not from Parsism alone, but from heathenism in general. According to the general fundamental principle of heathenism, the ruler is the son, the representative, the living manifestation of the people's gods, and the world-ruler thus the manifestation of all the gods of the nations that were subject to him. Therefore all heathen world-rulers demanded from the heathen nations subdued by them, that religious homage should be rendered to them in the manner peculiar to each nation. Now that is what was here sought. All the nations subjected to the Medo-Persian kingdom were required not to abandon their own special worship rendered to their gods, but in fact to acknowledge that the Medo-Persian world-ruler Darius was also the son and representative of their national gods. For this purpose they must for the space of thirty days present their petitions to their national gods only in him as their manifestation. And the heathen nations could all do this without violating their consciences; for since in their own manner they served the Median king as the son of their gods, they served their gods in him. The Jews, however, were not in the condition of being able to regard the king as a manifestation of Jehovah, and thus for them there was involved in the law truly a religious persecution, although the heathen king and his satraps did not thereby intend religious persecution, but regarded such disobedience as only culpable obstinacy and political rebellion."

(Note: Brissonius, De regio Persarum princ. p. 17ff., has collected the testimonies of the ancients to the fact that the Persian kings laid claim to divine honour. Persas reges suos inter Deos colere, majestatem enim imperii salutis esse tutelam. Curtius, viii. 5. 11. With this cf. Plutarch, Themist. c. 27. And that this custom, which even Alexander the Great (Curt. vi. 6. 2) followed, was derived from the Medes, appears from the statement of Herodotus, i. 99, that Dejoces περὶ ἑαυτὸν σεμνύειν, withdrew his royal person from the view of men. The ancient Egyptians and Ethiopians paid divine honours to their kings, according to Diod. Sic. i. 90, iii. 3, 5; and it is well known that the Roman emperors required that their images should be worshipped with religious veneration.)

The religious persecution to which this law subjected the Jews was rendered oppressive by this: that the Jews were brought by it into this situation, that for a whole month they must either omit prayer to God, and thus sin against their God, or disregard the king's prohibition. The satraps had thus rightly formed their plan. Since without doubt they were aware of Daniel's piety, they could by this means hope with certainty to gain their object in his overthrow. There is no ground for rejecting the narrative in the fact that Darius, without any suspicion, gave their contrivance the sanction of law. We do not need, on the contrary, to refer to the indolence of so many kings, who permit themselves to be wholly guided by their ministers, although the description we have of Cyaxares II by Xenophon accords very well with this supposition; for from the fact that Darius appears to have sanctioned the law without further consideration about it, it does not follow that he did not make inquiry concerning the purpose of the plan formed by the satraps. The details of the intercourse of the satraps with the king concerning the occasion and object of the law Daniel has not recorded, for they had no significance in relation to the main object of the narrative. If the satraps represented to the king the intention of compelling, by this law, all the nationalities that were subject to his kingdom to recognise his royal power and to prove their loyalty, then the propriety of this design would so clearly recommend itself to him, that without reflection he gave it the sanction of law.

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