Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom;VI.
(1) Princes.—See Excursus A. The LXX. make the number 127, so as to agree with Esther 1:1.
And over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first: that the princes might give accounts unto them, and the king should have no damage.(2) Three presidents.—See Note on Daniel 5:7. If there had been a triumvirate in Babylon, Darius continued the form of government which he found already existing, and retained Daniel in the official post to which he had been promoted by Belshazzar.
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.(3) Was preferred.—Literally, he outshone the others. The pronoun “this” is prefixed to Daniel’s. name so as to point him out as the favoured one already mentioned. (Comp. Daniel 6:5; Daniel 6:28.)
Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him.(4) Concerning the kingdom—i.e., in his official capacity. The plan of the conspirators was to place Daniel in such a situation that his civil and religious duties might be forced to clash with each other.
Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.(5) This conspiracy was evidently the result of jealousy on the part of the other officers at the advancement of Daniel.
Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever.(6) Assembled.—See margin. Such conduct was very unusual in Eastern Courts, where, as a rule, the strictest decorum and order was preserved. This breach of etiquette must have prepared the king to expect some terrible crisis in the State.
All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellers, and the captains, have consulted together 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.(7) All the presidents.—Observe the order in which the State officers are mentioned—civil rulers, legal advisers, military governors—and comp. Note on Daniel 3:2. The spokesman represents all these officers to have come to a fixed determination after due deliberation. This was false, as it is plain from Daniel 6:24 that all were not involved in the conspiracy. The object of the decree was political, as well as hostile towards Daniel. By consenting to the plan proposed, Darius would acknowledge the Babylonian system of theology, according to which the king was “the living manifestation of all the gods,” while, at the same time, his subjects would have an opportunity of doing him religious homage. Probably this prevented the king from perceiving any plot against Daniel. We see from this history the antiquity of espionage in political matters.
Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not.(8) Sign the writing.—Literally, record the decree, so that there might be no possibility of its being recalled. (Comp. Esther 8:8.)
Now when Daniel 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.(10) Toward Jerusalem.—On the custom of praying thus see 1Kings 8:33; 1Kings 8:35; Psalm 5:7; Psalm 28:2; and on prayer at the intervals mentioned here, see Psalm 55:17. There is nothing ostentatious in Daniel’s prayer. He removed the lattices (see Ezekiel 40:16) from his window, that he might see as far as possible in the direction of Jerusalem, and then continued his devotions just as though the king’s decree had not been recorded. The prophet must by this time have been close upon ninety years of age, but still his faith is as firm and unwavering as that of his three companions many years before.
Then answered they and said before the king, That Daniel, which is of the children of the captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, O king, nor the decree that thou hast signed, but maketh his petition three times a day.(13) Which is of the children.—By adding this to the charge of disobedience to the king’s commandment, they hoped to incense him still further against the prophet. Here was a foreigner, who had received the highest favours from the Court, setting himself up in antagonism to the laws of the kingdom.
Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee.(16) They brought Daniel.—According to Eastern custom, the sentence was generally executed on the day when it was pronounced. This explains why the king’s efforts to commute the sentence were prolonged till sunset (Daniel 6:14). The lions were probably kept here for sporting purposes. The form of the den is unknown, but the etymology suggests a vaulted chamber.
And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel.(17) Sealed it.—This sealing both by the king and his nobles appears to have been due to the fear that the nobles had (Daniel 6:16) of the king’s attempting to rescue Daniel. The nobles also would be unable to put Daniel to death in the event of his escaping the fury of the lions.
Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of musick brought before him: and his sleep went from him.(18) Instruments of musick.—A word of very doubtful meaning. The root whence it is derived means to rejoice, but what is signified cannot be exactly ascertained.
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?(20) Is thy God . . . able?—The faith of this king is very weak. In Daniel 6:16 he expressed a vague hope that God would protect His servant. That hope seems now to have died out, though afterwards (Daniel 6:26) it appears stronger than that of Nebuchadnezzar. (Comp. Daniel 4:37.) The phrase “living God” is remarkable, coming as it does from a heathen king. (See 1Samuel 17:36.)
My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.(22) His angel.—Comp. Psalm 34:7; Psalm 34:10; Daniel 3:28.
Before thee—i.e., thou knowest full well.
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 stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end.(26) Unto the end.—The language of this decree is remarkably Scriptural. This is due, no doubt, to the share which Daniel had in the composition of it. By the “end” is meant the end of all the heathen kingdoms which shall arise upon the earth, or, in other words, the setting up of the kingdom of the Messiah.
So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.(28) So this Daniel.—The first part of the book, which terminates here, concludes with a notice similar to that in Daniel 2:48; Daniel 3:30. The history of Daniel and of the three holy children has thus far been traced in its relation to their work amongst the people in the midst of whom they were living as exiles. We have seen the purpose of the miracles which God wrought in behalf of His servants, all tending to exalt Him in the eyes of the Gentiles. The second part of the book, which begins with Daniel 7, speaks of the future destinies of the kingdoms of the world in relation to the kingdom of God. The whole of this remaining section presents to us a series of revelations supplementary to that which was recorded in Dan. Ii.