It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom;…
Now when Daniel knew, etc. (ver. 10). Daniel stands here before us a magnificent instance of strength of soul (Psalm 138:3). We have also the advantage of seeing him contrasted with a blameworthy and contemptible weakness, as well as with something worse - with weakness passing into wickedness.
I. STRENGTH. As exhibited by the saint, statesman, and prophet. See it:
1. Advancing to the throne in common life. The new organization included a hundred and twenty satrapies; over these three presidents in close relation to the king; of these Daniel was "one (not the first"). But he stood out in bold relief against the other ministers of the crown. By intelligence, experience, industry, and piety, he moved at once to the front (ver. 3). Religion king in every realm. Fidelity in common things (ver. 5).
2. In the absence of egotism. Shallow scepticism charges Daniel with egotism, partly on the ground of ver.
3. The tables may here well be turned on the adversary. Considering the exalted power and position of Daniel, that we have here too autobiography, the absence of self-allusion and self-praise is wonderful, and that throughout the book. Besides, this seeming self-praise was necessary to account for the action of enemies. Moreover, moral greatness does not quite preclude all allusion to self (Numbers 12:3; 1 Corinthians 15:10; Nehemiah throughout).
3. In Daniel's continuance in the habit of saintly life. (Ver. 10.) Note:
(1) The simplicity of action. "He kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed."
(2) The absence of ostentation. No opening of the windows in order that all might see. To have so done would not have been to exhibit religious courage, but foolhardiness. Such conduct would have been bravado. Religious courage is a calm, wise, brave thing. Picture the palace-house of one so great; the parlour on the roof; the lattices closed (as in hot climates) towards the east and south, but open (at least in the early hours, perhaps always) on the west, and intentionally "toward Jerusalem."
(3) The fearlessness of consequences.
(4) The reason of the act. "Because [Chaldee] he had done so aforetime." The persistence of the strong. "What he was as a dear little child, when his mother taught him, and prepared him with prayers and tears for the perils of Babylon - albeit she did not know he was to live the hard life of an exile - that he is now, though his hair be grey and his body bent with years." One holy, consistent life.
4. In the permanence of his patriotism. "Toward Jerusalem."
5. In the grandeur of his faith. After all these years and vicissitudes, the home of his soul was still in the Hebrew tradition - in the Hebrew history, literature, prophecies, liturgies, etc,
II. WEAKNESS. As illustrated in the character and conduct of the king. The moral weakness of the man appears:
1. In the evasion of responsibility. There is evident an indisposition to uttered to the affairs of government, which are left in the hands of officials. No surer mark of moral weakness than to leave what should be alike our duty and honour to others - possibly to the incompetent.
2. Accessibility to flattery. Keil's view of the proposal of ver. 7 commends itself to us, that it referred only to "the religious sphere of prayer. On this assumption the king would be regarded as the living manifestation of all the gods, of the conquered nations as well as of Persia and Media; and the proposal was that all prayer to all divinities should for thirty days be stayed save to this divinity - the king. The inflated vanity which could accept so obsequious homage!
3. Pliability to the will of others. (Ver. 9.) He had not the courage to live his own life, to think his own thoughts, and act them out.
4. Indifference to suffering. Weakness of soul means usually the weakness of every part - a feeble, emotional nature, at least on its nobler side, as well as weakness of intellect, conscience, will. Note the den of lions" (vers. 7, 24). Deficiency of sympathy, leading on to frightful cruelty, is oft the result of feeble moral imagination. No child or man could torture insect or man who vividly realized the exquisite agony.
5. The violence of passion. (Vers. 14, 18-20, 24.) Take the violence of his grief and indignation alike.
6. Moral helplessness. What an humiliating picture have we in vers. 14, 15 1 (The speech of the conspirators is clearly prompted by what they had observed on the part of the king - an attempt to evade the law, vers. 19, 20.)
III. The strength of Daniel, his magnanimity, is here set, not only against the weakness of the king, but also against the darker background of WICKEDNESS exhibited by those who conspired against the prophet. Moral weakness is not far off deep depravity; e.g. the depravity of Ahab - perhaps the weakest character in the Old Testament. Observe:
1. The vision given to these men. Of a saintliness like that of Daniel - elevated in its devotional life, ripe with the maturity of years, clearly manifesting itself in common scenes, excellent beyond all praise by their own admission (ver. 5). A beam, a ray from the holiness of God.
2. The Divine aim in the vision. Beneficent and moral we may be sure. To awaken admiration; to bring home the sense of defect; to lead to penitence; to arouse to efforts after likeness.
3. The human frustration of that aim, What was intended for salvation became the occasion of moral ruin, the cause being the deep depravity of these hearts. Note:
(1) The audacity of their aim. Men usually come to perpetrate great crimes step by step. These aimed at the ultimate of evil from the first - the utter ruin and destruction of the prophet.
(2) The recklessness of their counsel. If there be no law sufficient to crush, they will make one.
(3) The pertinacity of their pursuit of their miserable object. Shown in their dealing with the king (ver. 15).
(4) The meanness of their conduct. Over that parlour on the roof of Daniel's palace-home a watch must have been meanly set.
(5) The mercilessness of their cruelty. (Vers. 16, 17.)
4. The judgment that befell. (Ver. 24.) - R.
Parallel VersesKJV: It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom;