11: Daniel 6

The Pattern for the Future

Peace at last
In 1945, when the Second World War ended, I was a primary school pupil and had a wonderful thought. “The war is over. There’ll be no more wars.” My father, born before the First World War (1914-1918), quickly disabused me of my “wonderful thought.”

When Babylon fell, if the Jewish people had been like that eight-year-old they would have been thinking that the future looked good. Tragically, within a short time of the Medo-Persian conquest, the spirit of persecution again reared its head.

Babylon had fallen. Belshazzar was dead. There was now a new ruler in the city. “Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two (Daniel 5:31)” in 539 B.C.

Who was Darius?
We know that Cyrus conquered Babylon, but who was Darius? There were three Persian kings called Darius. Darius I (the Great) ruled the Persian Empire from 521 B.C. to 486 B.C. Darius II ruled from 424 B.C. to 404 B.C. Darius III ruled from 336 B.C. to 330 B.C. So, he could not have been any of these.

Attempts to identify the Darius of the Book of Daniel have resulted in three theories. (1) Cambyses, Cyrus’ son and successor, who ruled jointly with his father for a time. (2) Gubaru, Cyrus’s officer who actually took the city of Babylon, and may have ruled the conquered Babylonian kingdom under Cyrus for a year or so. (3) Cyaxares II, the son of Astyages, who according to the Greek writer Xenophon was Cyrus’ uncle and father-in-law, and whom Cyrus might have retained temporarily as a figurehead king to please the Medes.1

One day we could well discover the real identity of this “Darius the Mede” — from archeological evidence. Why? Because of previous archeological discoveries. For example, until 1882 all historical evidence indicated that the Bible was wrong about Belshazzar. Nabonidus, it was said, was the last king of Babylon. Then the missing evidence, the Nabonidus Chronicle, was translated. Belshazzar was regent in the absence of his father. The Bible had been right!

Well, Daniel (6:1-2) tells us, it pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel himself. The 120 satraps were made accountable to the three administrators.

In Persian times this title [satrap] was given to officials at the head of the largest divisions of the empire, called “satrapies.”2

Babylon has fallen. There’s a new order.
The future looks good. Sorry! This is a story of dashed hopes, disappointment, fear, trust and deliverance — a story of envy, hostility, manipulation, lies and attempted murder.

What follows is an exposé of the spirit of Babylon — still very much alive.

Now Daniel so distinguished himself in his new role by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. He was trustworthy and was neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally they agreed, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God (Daniel 6:3-5).”

Have you ever had anyone who was always hostile toward you, who habitually disliked you, who, as we say, “had a set on you?” It didn’t matter what you did. You could never do what pleased them. Daniel was in that situation.

So the administrators and the satraps went as a group to the king and said: “O King Darius, live forever!”

Notice that they made sure that Daniel wasn’t with them. They had consulted together and were quite prepared to speak in his absence. He was unaware of what they were up to.

They continued, “The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, will be thrown into the lions’ den. Now, O king, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered — in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians.”3

The proposal appeared to be absolutely watertight. From their perspective there was no way out!

King Darius put the decree in writing.
It is a fact of life. Anyone who is different from the main group is often the subject of gossip, is ostracized, ridiculed or, at the worst, persecuted. Accepted? That would be too hard.

Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.

Daniel’s religion was his way of life.
I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; … I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken (Psalm 16:7-8).
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, … You are the salt of the earth. … You are the light of the world.…(Matthew 5:11-14)”

When these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help, they went to the king and reminded the king of the decree, and its details. The king assured them that it was still valid.

Then they reported, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.”

When the king heard this, he was so distressed that he sought to rescue Daniel making every effort until sundown to save him. The delegation returned to the king and said, “Remember, O king, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.” So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den.

This was Daniel’s “fiery furnace.”
The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”

Compare this with the threats Nebuchadnezzar had made toward Daniel’s three friends. “What god will be able to rescue you from my hand (Daniel 3:15)?”

A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed. Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment. He could not sleep.

Like the imprisonment of Daniel was the burial of Jesus. His enemies, including His archenemy, Satan, imagined that that would be the end. However, there is a higher, and better, power in charge. God is at His best when things are at their worst, when, humanly speaking, there is no way out.

If those officers had ever heard of the deliverance from the fiery furnace, I wouldn’t be surprised if they thought that this kind of thing could never happen twice! Everyone knows the difference between fire-walking and escaping hungry lions.

At the crack of dawn, Darius was up and at the den. Near it he called in anguish to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”

“O king, live forever!” Daniel called back. “My God sent his angel, and shut the lions’ mouths. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king.” The king was overjoyed and gave orders for Daniel’s removal from the den. When Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13, NRSV).

God is faithful to the faithful!
“Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8),” but “my God has sent His angel.” The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them (Psalm 34:7).

The greatest angel-deliverer is Christ.
St Paul, recounting one of his court appearances wrote: “…the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen (2 Timothy 4:17-18, KJV).”

Hear Jesus himself. “He that endureth to the end shall be saved (Matthew 10:22, KJV).”

At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. Before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions had overpowered them.

Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations and men of every language throughout the land:

May you prosper greatly!
I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom
people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.
For he is the living God and he endures forever;
his kingdom will not be destroyed,
his dominion will never end.
He rescues and he saves;
he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth.
He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.

So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

This brings us to the end of the historical section of the Book of Daniel the Prophet.
In these words of Darius, a gentile king, the pattern is set for the four great prophecies that will follow.
“ … the God of Daniel …is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves ….”

So, the message of Daniel 6 is this.
There are two kingdoms existing side by side. There is God’s kingdom. It is everlasting. It had Daniel’s allegiance. Until its King returns, we are still in Babylon. Ancient Babylon might have fallen, but the spirit of ancient Babylon persists. The enemy’s territory can rightly be called “spiritual Babylon.” In fact, “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived (2 Timothy 3:12-13).”

The ironic tragedy occurs when the spirit of Babylon governs the behavior of those who call themselves Christians. It is in this sense that God appeals: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes (Revelation 18:4-5).”

As citizens of God’s everlasting kingdom may we share in the spirit of its King, our King, Jesus Christ — and may we do so, in His absence, until He returns.


  1. See Horn, Siegfried H., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association,1979), art. “Darius” and also Gaebelein, Frank E. (ed.) The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 7 (Grand Rapids, MI., Zondervan, 1985). Pages 76-77.
  2. Nichol, Francis D., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association,1978), Vol. 4, Daniel 6:1
  3. Esther 1:19; 8:8

© 2010, Angus McPhee