|<< Daniel 6 >>|
Barnes' Notes on the Bible
Section I.-- Authenticity of the Chapter
This chapter Daniel 6, like the previous ones, has not escaped serious objections as to its authenticity and credibility. The objections which have been made to it have been derived from what is regarded as incredible in its statements. It is important, as in the previous chapters, to inquire whether the objections are insuperable, or whether this is so free from reasonable objection as to be worthy to be received as a portion of Divine truth. The objections, as urged by Bertholdt (Daniel aus dem Hebraisch-Aramaischen neu ubersetzt, etc., pp. 72-75, and pp. 357-364) and by Bleek, are capable of being reduced to the four following:
I. That it is wholly improbable that a monarch, in the circumstances of Darius, would give an order so unreasonable and foolish as that no one of his subjects should present any petition for a month to anyone, God or man, but to himself. It is alleged that no good end could have been proposed by it; that it would have perilled the peace of the empire; that among a people who worshipped many gods - who had gods in all their dwellings - it would have been vain to hope that the command could have been carried peaceably into execution; and that, whoever proposed this, it could not have been executed without shaking the stability of the throne. Bertholdt asks (p. 357, following), "Can one believe that among a people so devoted to religion as the Babylonians were, it should have been forbidden them to address their gods for one single day? Is it credible that the counselors of the king were so irreligious that without fear of the avenging deities, they would endeavor to enforce such an order as that here referred to - that no petition should be addressed to God or man for a month, except to the king? And was Cyaxares so destitute of religion as not to refuse to sanction such a mandate? And does this agree with the fact that in the issue itself he showed so much respect to a foreign God - the God of the Jews? Under what pretence could the ministers of the king give him this counsel? Could it be under any purpose of deifying his own person? But it remains to be proved that either then, or soon after that time, it was customary in Asia to attribute Divine honors to a monarch, whether deceased or living."
To this objection, Hengstenberg (Die Authentie des Daniel, p. 125, following) replies, by an endeavor to show that it was a common opinion in Persia that the king was regarded "as a representative, and an incarnation of Ormuzd;" and that nothing is more probable than that such a monarch coming to the throne of Babylon would be willing to appear in that character, claiming Divine honors, and early testing the inclination of his new subjects to receive him in that character in which he was recognized in his own land. In confirmation of this, he quotes two passages from Heeren (Ideen 3te Ausg. I. i. p. 446, 51) in proof that these ideas thus prevailed. "The person of the king," Heeren says, "is in Asiatic kingdoms the middle point around which all revolves. He is regarded, according to the Oriental notions, not so much the ruler as the actual owner of the people and land. All their arrangements are formed on this fundamental idea, and they are carried to an extent which to Europeans appears incredible and ridiculous. "The idea of citizenship, according to the European nations, is altogether a strange idea to them; all, without exception, from the highest to the lowest, are the servants of the king, and the right to rule over them, and to deal with them as he pleases, is a right which is never called in question."
Hengstenberg then remarks, that it is capable of the clearest proof that the kings of the Medes and Persians were regarded and honored as the representatives and incarnations of Ormuzd. In proof of this, he quotes the following passage from Heeren (p. 474), showing that this idea early prevailed among the followers of Zoroaster. "Zoroaster," says he, "saw the kingdom of light and of darkness both developed upon the earth; Iran, the Medo-Bactrish kingdom, under the scepter of Gustasp, is to him the image of the kingdom of Ormuzd; the king himself is an image of him; Turan, the Northern Nomadland, when Afraslab reigned, is the image of the kingdom of darkness, under the dominion of Ahriman." This idea, says Hengstenberg, the magi made use of when they wished to bring the king to their own interests, or to promote any favorite object of their own. The king was regarded as the representative, the visible manifestation of Ormuzd, ruling with power as uncircumscribed as his; the seven princes standing near him were representatives of the seven Amshaspands, who stood before the throne of Ormuzd. The evidence that the Persian kings were regarded as an embodiment of the deity, or that they represented him on earth, Hengstenberg, remarks (p. 126), is clear in the classic writings, in the Scriptures, and in the Persian monuments.
In proof of this, he appeals to the following authorities among the classic writers: Plutarch (Themistocl. cap. 27); Xenophon (Agesil.); Isocrates (Panegyri de Pets. princ. p. 17); Arrian (6. 29); Curtius (8. 5). Curtius says, Persas reges suos inter deos colere. For the same purpose, Hengstenberg (pp. 128, 129) appeals to the following passage of Scripture, Esther 3:4, and the conduct of Mordecai in general, who refused, as he supposes, the respect which Haman demanded as the first minister of the king, on religious grounds, and because more was required and expected of him than mere civil respect - or that a degree of homage was required entirely inconsistent with that due to the true God. In proof of the same thing, Hengstenberg appeals to Persian monuments, pp. 129-132. The proof is too long to be inserted here. These monuments show that the Persian kings were regarded and adored as impersonations of Ormuzd. To this may be added many of their inscriptions. In the work by De Sacy, Memoires s. divers. Antiq. de la Perse, Pl. i. p. 27, 31, the Persian kings are mentioned as ἔκγονοι θεῶν, ἐκ γένους θεῶν ekgonoi theōn, ek genous theōn, and θεοῖ theoi - both as offsprings of the gods, as of the race of the gods, and as gods.
If this is correct, and the Persian kings were regarded as divine - as an impersonation or incarnation of the god that was worshipped - then there is no improbability in the supposition that it might be proposed to the king that for a given space of time he should allow no petition to be presented to anyone else, god or man. It would be easy to persuade a monarch having such pretensions to issue such a decree, and especially when he had subjected a foreign people like the Babylonians to be willing thus to assert his authority over them, and show them what respect and homage he demanded. In judging also of the probability of what is here said, we are to remember the arbitrary character of Oriental monarchs, and of the Persian kings no less than others. Assuredly there were as strange things in the character and conduct of Xerxes, one of the successors of this same Darius, as any that are recorded in this chapter of the book of Daniel; and if the acts of folly which he perpetrated had been written in a book claiming to be Divinely inspired, they would have been liable to much greater objection than anything which is stated here. The mere fact that a thing is in itself foolish and unreasonable, and apparently absurd, is no conclusive evidence that a man clothed with absolute authority would not be guilty of it.
To all that has been said on this point, there should be added a remark made by Bertholdt himself (p. 357) respecting Darius, which will show that what is here said of him is really not at all inconsistent with his character, and not improbable. He says, speaking of Darius or Cyaxares, that "from his character, as given by Xenophon, a man of weak mind (Cyrop. i. 4, 22; iv. 1, 13); a man passionate and peevish (iii. 3, 29; iv. 5, 8; v. 5; i. 8); a man given to wine and women (iv. 5, 52; v. 5, 44), we are not to expect much wisdom." There is nothing stated here by Daniel which is inconsistent with the character of such a man.
II. A second objection made to the probability of this statement is drawn from the character of the edict which Darius is said to have proclaimed, commanding that honor should be rendered to Jehovah, Daniel 6:25-27. It is alleged that if such an edict had been published, it is incredible that no mention is made of it in history; that the thing was so remarkable that it must have been noticed by the writers who have referred to Darius or Cyaxares.
To this it may be replied:
(1) that, for anything that appears to the contrary, Daniel may be as credible an historian as Xenophon or Herodotus. No one can demonstrate that the account here is not as worthy of belief as if it bad appeared in a Greek or Latin classic author. When will the world get over the folly of supposing that what is found in a book claiming to be inspired, should be regarded as suspicious until it is confirmed by the authority of some pagan writer; that what is found in any other book should be regarded as necessarily true, however much it may conflict with the testimony of the sacred writers? Viewed in any light, Daniel is as worthy of confidence as any Greek or Latin historian; what he says is as credible as if it had been found in the works of Sanchoniathon or Berosus.
(2) there are, in fact, few things preserved in any history in regard to Darius the Mede. Compare Section II. The information given of him by Xenophon consists merely of a few detached and fragmentary notices, and it is not at all remarkable that the facts mentioned here, and the proclamation which he made, should be unnoticed by him. A proclamation respecting a foreign god, when it was customary to recognize so many gods, and indeed to regard all such gods as entitled to respect and honor, would not be likely to arrest the attention of a Greek historian even if he knew of it, and, for the same reason, it would be scarcely probable that he would know of it at all. Nothing would be more likely to pass away from the recollection of a people than such an edict, or less likely to be known to a foreigner. So far as the evidence goes, it would seem that the proclamation made no disturbance in the realm; the injunction appeared to be generally acquiesced in by all except Daniel; and it was soon forgotten. If it was understood, as it was not improbable, that this was designed as a sort of test to see whether the people would receive the commands of Darius as binding on them; that they would honor him, as the Persian monarch was honored in his own proper kingdom, it would seem to have been entirely successful, and there was no occasion to refer to it again.
III. A third objection urged by Bertholdt (p. 361), is derived from the account respecting the lions in this chapter. It is alleged by him that the account is so full of improbabilities that it cannot be received as true; that though the fact that they did not fall on Daniel can be explained from the circumstance that they were not hungry, etc., yet that it is incredible that they should have fallen on the enemies of Daniel as soon as they were thrown into the den; that the king should expect to find Daniel alive after being thrown among them; that he should have called in this manner to Daniel, etc.
To all this it is sufficient to reply, that no one can suppose that the facts stated here can be explained by any natural causes. The whole representation is evidently designed to leave the impression that there was a special Divine interposition - a miracle - in the case, and the only explanation which is admissible here is what would be proper in the case of any other miracle. The only questions which could be asked, or which would be proper, are these two; whether a miracle is possible; and whether this was a suitable occasion for the miraculous exertion of Divine power. As to the first of these questions, it is not necessary to argue that here - for the objection might lie with equal force against any other miracle referred to in the Bible. As to the second, it may be observed, that it is not easy to conceive of a case when a miracle would be more proper. If a miracle was ever proper to protect the innocent; or to vindicate the claims of the true God against all false gods: or to make a deep and lasting impression on the minds of men that Jehovah is the true God, it is not easy to conceive of a more appropriate occasion than this. No situation could be conceived to be more appropriate than when an impression was designed to be made on the mind of the sovereign of the most mighty empire on the earth; or that when, through a proclamation issued from the throne, the nations subject to his scepter should be summoned to acknowledge him as the true God.
IV. A fourth objection urged by Bleek (Theologische Zeitschrift, pp. 262-264) is, substantially, the following: that it is remarkable that there is in this account no allusion to the three companions of Daniel; to those who had been trained with him at the Chaldean court, and had been admitted also to honor, and who had so abundantly shown that they were worshippers of the true God. The whole story, says Bleek, appears to have been designed to produce a moral effect on the mind of the Jews, by the unknown author, to persuade them in some period of persecution to adhere to the God of their fathers in the midst of all persecution and opposition.
To this objection it may be replied:
(1) That it is wholly probable that there were many other pious Jews in Babylon at this time beside Daniel - Jews who would, like him, adhere to the worship of the true God, regardless of the command of the king. We are not to suppose, by any means, that Daniel was the only conscientious Jew in Babylon. The narrative evidently does not require that we should come to such a conclusion, but that there was something peculiar in regard to Daniel.
(2) as to the three companions and friends of Daniel, it is possible, as Hengstenberg remarks (Authentic, etc. p. 135), that they may either have been dead, or may have been removed from office, and were leading private lives.
(3) this edict was evidently aimed at Daniel. The whole narrative supposes this. For some cause, according to the narrative - and there is no improbability that such an opposition weight exist against a foreigner advanced to honor at court - there was some ground of jealousy against him, and a purpose formed to remove or disgrace him. There does not appear to have been any jealousy of others, or any purpose to disturb others in the free enjoyment of their religion. The aim was to humble Daniel; to secure his removal from office, and to degrade him; and for this purpose a plan was laid with consummate skill. He was known to be upright, and they who laird the plot felt assured that no charge of guilt, no accusation of crime, or unfaithfulness in his office, could be alleged against him. He was known to be a man who would not shrink from the avowal of his opinions, or from the performance of those duties which he owed to his God. He was known to be a man so much devoted to the worship Jehovah, the God of his people, that no law whatever would prevent him from rendering to him the homage which was his due, and it was believed, therefore, that if a law were made, on any pretence, that no one in the realm should ask anything of either God or man, except the king, for a definite space of time, there would be a moral certainty that Daniel would be found to be a violator of that law, and his degradation and death would be certain. What was here proposed was a scheme worthy of crafty and jealous and wicked men; and the only difficulty, evidently, which would occur to their mind would be to persuade the king to enter into the measure so far as to promulgate such a law. As already observed, plausible pretences might be found for that; and when that was done, they would naturally conclude that their whole scheme was successful.
(4) there is no improbability, therefore, in supposing that, as the whole thing was aimed at Daniel, there might have been many pious Jews who still worshipped God in secret in Babylon, and that no one would give information against them. As the edict was not aimed at them, it is not surprising that we hear of no prosecution against them, and no complaint made of them for disregarding the law. If Daniel was found to violate the statute; if he was ensnared and entrapped by the cunning device; if he was humbled and punished, all the purposes contemplated by its authors would be accomplished, and we need not suppose that they would give themselves any trouble about others.
Section II.-- The Question About the Identity of Darius the Mede
Considerable importance is to be attached to the question who was Darius the Mede," as it has been made a ground of objection to the Scripture narrative, that no person by that name is mentioned in the Greek writers.
There are three Medo-Persian kings of the name of Darius mentioned in the Old Testament. One occurs in the book of Ezra Ezr 4:5; Ezra 6:1, Ezra 6:12, Ezra 6:15, in Haggai Hag 1:1; Haggai 2:10, and in Zechariah Zechariah 1:7, as the king who, in the second year of his reign, effected the execution of those decrees of Cyrus which granted the Jews the liberty of rebuilding the temple, the fulfillment of which had been obstructed by the malicious representations which their enemies had made to his immediate successors. It is commonly agreed that this king was Darius Hystaspis, who succeeded the usurper Smerdis, 521 b.c., and reigned thirty-six years.
A second is mentioned as "Darius the Persian," in Nehemiah 12:22. All that is said of him is, that the succession of priests was registered up to his reign. This was either Darius Nothus, B. c. 423, or Darius Codomanus, 336 b.c. See Kitto's Cyclop., art. Darius.
The remaining one is that mentioned in Daniel only as Darius the Median. In Daniel 9:1, he is mentioned as Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes. Much difference of opinion has prevailed as to the person here intended; but a strict attention to what is actually expressed in, or fairly deduced from, the terms used in Daniel, tends to narrow the field of conjecture very considerably, if it does not decide the question. It appears from the passage in Daniel 5:30-31; Daniel 6:28, that Darius the Mede obtained the dominion over Babylon on the death of Belshazzar, who was the last Chaldean king, and that he was the immediate predecessor of Koresh (Cyrus) in the sovereignty. The historical juncture here defined belongs, therefore, to the period when the Medo-Persian army led by Cyrus took Babylon (538 b.c.), and Darius the Mede must denote the first king of a foreign dynasty who assumed the dominion over the Babylonian empire before Cyrus. These indications all concur in the person of Cyaxares the Second, the son and successor of Astyages (Ahasuerus), and the immediate predecessor of Cyrus. - Kitto's Cyclop., art. Darius
In reference to the question, who was Darius the Mede, Bertholdt has examined the different opinions which have been entertained in a manner that is satisfactory, and I cannot do better than to present his views on the subject. They are found in his Vierter Excurs. uber den Darius Medus, in his Commentary on Daniel, pp. 843-858. I will give the substance of the Excursus, in a free translation:
"Who was Darius the Mede, the son of Ahasuerus, of whom mention is made in the sixth chapter of the book of Daniel, and again in Daniel 9:1; Daniel 11:1? It is agreed on all hands that he was the immediate successor of Belshazzar, the king of the Chaldeans Daniel 5:30. Compare Daniel 6:1. But, notwithstanding this, there is uncertainty as to his person, since history makes no mention of a Median, Darius. It is, therefore, not to be wondered at that various opinions have been entertained by commentators on the Scriptures, and by historical inquirers. Conring (Advers. Chronol. c. 13), whom many have followed, particularly Harenberg (Aufklarung des Buchs Daniels, s. 454, following), has endeavored to show that Darius the Mede was the fourth Chaldean monarch, Neriglissar, and that Belshazzar, his predecessor, was Evil-Merodach. John Scaliger (DeEmendat. Temporum, p. 579, seq.) recognized in Darius the Mede the last Chaldean king in Babylon, Nabonned, and in Belshazzar, the one before the last, Laborosoarchod, which hypothesis also Calvisius, Petavius, and Buddens adopted.
On the other hand, Syncellus (Chronogr. p. 232), Cedrenus (Chr. p. 142), the Alexandrine Chronicle, Marsham (Can. Chr. p. 604, following), the two most recent editors of AEschylus, Schutz (in zweiten Excurs. zu AEschylus' περσαι persai), and Bothe (AEsch. dramata, p. 671), held that Darius the Mede was the Median king Astyages, the maternal grandfather of Cyrus. Des Vignolles (Chronologie, t. 2. p. 495), and Schroer (Regnum Babyl. Sect. 6, Section 12, following), held him to be a prince of Media, a younger brother of Astyages, whom Cyrus made king over Babylon. Another opinion, however, deserves more respect than this, which was advanced by Marianus Scotus, a Benedictine monk of the eleventh century, though this hypothesis is not tenable, which opinion has found, in modern times, a warm advocate in Beer (Kings of Israel and Judah, p. 22, following) According to this opinion, it was held that Darius the Mede is the same person as the third Persian king after Cyrus, Darius Hystaspis, and that Belshazzar was indeed the last Chaldean king, Nabonned, but that in the first capture of Babylon under Cyrus, according to the account of Berosus in (Jos. c. Ap. i. 20) and Megasthenes (in Euseb. Proep. Evag. ix. 44), he was not put to death, but was appointed by Cyrus as a vassal-king; and then in the second taking of Babylon under Darius Hystaspis (Herod. iii. 150, following), from whom he had sought to make himself independent, he was slain.
This opinion has this advantage, that it has in its favor the fact that it has the undoubted name of Darius, but it is not conformable to history to suppose that Darius Hystaspis was a son of Ahasuerus the Mede, for his father, Hystaspis, was a native-born prince of Persia (Xenop. Cyrop. iv. 2, 46), of the family of the Achaemenides (Herod. i. 209, 210). Darius Hystaspis was indeed remotely related by means of the mother of Cyrus, Mandane, with the royal family; but this relation could not entitle him to be called a Mede, for, since she was the mother of Cyrus, it is altogether inexplicable that since both were thus connected with each other, that Cyrus should be called "the Persian" (פרסיא pâresâyâ'), and Darius the Mede (מדיא mâdây'ā), Daniel 6:28 (29). The supposition, moreover, that Nabonned, after the taking of Babylon, was appointed as a tributary king by Cyrus, is wholly gratuitous; since Nabonned, according to the express testimony of Xenophon (Cyrop. vii. 5, 26, following), was slain at the taking of Babylon.
"There is yet one other opinion respecting Darius the Mede, to which I will first prefix the following remarks:
(1) Darius the Mede is mentioned in Daniel 6:28 (29) as the immediate predecessor of Cyrus in Babylon.
(2) Belshazzar was the last Babylonian Chaldee king.
(3) the account of the violent death of Belshazzar, with which the fifth chapter closes, stands in direct historical connection with the statement in the beginning of the sixth chapter that Darius the Mede had the kingdom.
(4) Darius the Mede must, therefore, be the first foreign prince after the downfall of the Chaldean dynasty, which directly reigned over Babylon.
(5) the chronological point, therefore, where the history of Belshazzar and of Darius the Mede coincide, developes itself: the account falls in the time of the downfall of Babylon through the Medo-Persian army, and this must be the occasion as the connecting fact between the fifth and sixth chapters. According to this, Darius the Mede can be no other person than the Medish king Cyaxares II, the son and successor of Astyages, and the predecessor of Cyrus in the rule over Babylon; and Belshazzar is the last Chaldee monarch, Nabonned, or Labynet. With this agrees the account of Josephus (Ant. x. 11, 4); and later, this opinion found an advocate in Jerome.
"The existence of such a person as Cyaxares II has been indeed denied. because, according to Herodotus (i. 109), and Justin (i. 4, 7), Astyages had no son. But it should be remarked, that the latter of these writers only copies from the former, and what Herodotus states respecting Astyages has so much the appearance of fable that no reliance is to be placed on it. It has been objected also that Dionysius of Halicarnassus (b. i. Section. 1) says that the Medish kingdom continued only through four reigns, so that if we reckon the names of the reigning kings. Dejoces, Phraortes, Cyaxares (the contemporary of Nebuchadnezzar), and Astyages, there will be no place for a second Cyaxares. But is it not probable that Dionysius meant, by these words, only that the Median kingdom came to an end under the fourth dynasty? Finally, it has been objected that, according to Herodotus (i. 128, following), and Ctesias (Persik 2 and 5) Median prince sat upon the throne in Ecbatana after Astyages, but that with Astyages the kingdom of the Medes came to an end, and with Cyrus, his immediate successor, the Persian kingdom took its beginning.
Therewith agree nearly all the historians of the following times, Diodorus (ii. 34), Justin (i. 6, 16, 17, vii. 1), Strabo (ix. p. 735; xv. p. 1662), Polyan (vii. 7), and many others. But these writers only copy from Herodotus and Ctesias, and the whole rests only on their authority. But their credibility in this point must be regarded as doubtful, for it is not difficult to understand the reasons why they have omitted to make mention of Cyaxares II. They commenced the history of the reign of Cyrus with the beginning of his world-renowned celebrity, and hence, it was natural to connect the beginning of his reign, and the beginning of the Persian reign, with the reign of his grandfather Astyages, for, so long as his uncle Cyaxares II reigned, Cyrus alone acted, and he in fact was the regent. But if the silence of Herodotus and Ctesias is not to be regarded as proof that no such person as Cyaxares II lived and reigned, there are in favor of that the following positive arguments:
"(1) The authority of Xenophon, who not only says that a Cyaxares ascended the throne after Astyages, but that he was a son of Astyages (Cyr. i. 5. 2), and besides relates so much of this Cyaxares (i. 4, 7; iii. 3, 20; viii. 5, 19) that his Cyropaedia may be regarded as in a measure a history of him. Yea, Xenophon goes so far (viii. 7, 1) that he reckons the years of the reign of Cyrus from the death of Cyaxares II. Can anyone conceive a reason why Xenophon had a motive to weave together such a tissue of falsehood as this, unless Cyaxares II actually lived? If one should object, indeed, that he is so far to be reckoned among fictitious writers that he gives a moral character to the subjects on which he writes, and that he has passed over the difference between Cyrus and his grandfather Astyages, yet there is no reason why he should have brought upon the stage so important a person, wholly from fiction, as Cyaxares. What a degree of boldness it must have required, if he, who lived not much more than a century after the events recorded, had mentioned to his contemporaries so much respecting a prince of whom no one whatever had even heard. But the existence of Cyaxares II may be proved,
"(2) From a passage in Eschylus (Pers. verses 762, following) -
Μῆδος γάρ ἦν ὁ πρῶτος ἡγεμὼν στρατοῦ
Αλλος δ ̓ ἐκείνου παῖς τό δ ̓ ἔργον ἤνυσε;
Τρίτος δ ̓ ἀπ ̓ αὐτοῦ Κῦρος, εὐδαίμων ἀνήρ,
Mēdos gar ēn ho prōtos hēgemōn stratou
Allos d' ekeinou pais to d' ergon ēnuse;
Tritos d' ap' autou Kuros, eudaimōn anēr,
The first who is mentioned here as the Mede (Μῆδος Mēdos) is manifestly no other than Astyages, whom, before Cyrus, his son succeeded in the government, and who is the same whom we, after Xenophon, call Cyaxares. This testimony is the more important as Eschylus lived before Xenophon, in the time of Darius Hystaspis, and is free from all suspicions from this circumstance, that, according to the public relations which Eschylus sustained, no accounts of the former Persian history could be expected from any doubtful authorties to have been adduced by him. But the existence of Cyaxares II does not depend solely on the authority of Xenophon, in his Cyropaedia. For,
"(3) Josephus (Ant. x. 11, 4), who speaks of this person under the name of Darius, adds, νἦ Ἄστυάγους ὑιὸς, ἔτερον δέ παρὰ τοῖς Ἕλλησιν ἐκαλεῖτο ονομα nē.Astuagous huios, heteron de para tois Hellēsin ekaleito onoma - 'he was the son of Astyages, but had another name among the Greeks.' This name, which he had among the Greeks, can be found only in their own Xenophon.
"(4) To all this should be added, that many other data of history, especially those taken from the Hebrew writings, so set out the continuance of the reign of the Medes over Upper Asia that it is necessary to suppose the existence of such a person as the Medish king, Cyaxares, after the reign of Astyages. Had Cyrus, after the death of Astyages, immediately assumed the government over Upper Asia, how happened it that until the downfall of the Babylonian-Chaldee kingdom mention is made almost always of the Medes, or at least of the Persians, of whom there is special mention? Whence is it that the passage of Abydenus, quoted from Megasthenes, p. 295, speaks of a Mede, who, in connection with a Persian, overthrew the Babylonian kingdom? Is not the Mede so represented as to show that he was a prominent and leading person? Is it not necessary to attribute to this fragment a higher authority, and to suppose that a Medish monarch, in connection with a Persian, brought the kingdom of Babylon to an end?
Whence did Jeremiah, Jeremiah 1; 51, expressly threaten that the Jews would be punished by a Median king? Whence does the author of Isaiah 13; 14 mention that the destruction of the Chaldean monarchy would be effected by the Medes? The acceasion of Cyrus to the throne was no mere change of person in the authority, but it was a change of the reigning nation. So long as a Mede sat on the throne, the Persians, though they acted an important part in the affairs of the nation, yet occupied only the second place. The court was Medish, and the Medes were prominent in all the affairs of the government, as every page of the Cyropaedia furnishes evidence. Upon the accession of Cyrus, the whole thing was changed. The Persians were now the predominant nation, and from that time onward, as has been remarked, the Persians are always mentioned as having the priority, though before they had but a secondary place. As the reign of Astyages, though he reigned thirty-five years (Herod. i. 130), could not have embraced the whole period mentioned to the accession of Cyrus, so the royal race of the Medes, and the kingdom of the Medes, could not have been extinguished with him, and it is necessary to suppose the existence of Cyaxares II. as his successor, and the predecessor of Cyrus."
These considerations, suggested by Bertholdt, are sufficient to demonstrate that such a person as Cyaxares II lived between the reign of Astyages and Cyrus, and that, after the destruction of Babylon, he was the immediate successor of Belshazzar, or Nabonned, and was the predecessor of Cyrus. He was the first of the foreign princes who reigned over Babylon. It has been made a question why, in the book of Daniel, he is mentioned under the name of Darius, and not by his other name Cyaxares. It may be difficult to answer this question, but it will be sufficient to remark
(a) that it was common for Oriental kings to have many names, and, as we have seen, in regard to the kings of Babylon, one writer might designate them by one name, and another by another. This is indeed the occasion of much confusion in ancient history, but it is inevitable.
(b) As we have seen, Josephus (Ant. x. 11, 4) expressly says that this Darius had another name among the Greeks, and, as Bertholdt remarks, it is natural to seek that name in the writings of their own Xenophon.
(c) Darius was a common name in Persia, and it may have been one of the names by which the princes of Persia and Media were commonly known. Three of that name are mentioned in the Scriptures, and three who were distinguished are mentioned in profane history - Darius Hystaspis, Darius Ochus, or Darius Nothus, as he was known among the Greeks, and Darias Codomanus, who was overthrown by Alexander the Great.
An important statement is made by Xenophon respecting Cyaxares II, the son of Astyages, which may account for the fact that his name was omitted by Herodotus and Ctesias. He describes him as a prince given up to sensuality, and this fact explains the reason why he came to surrender all authority so entirely into the hands of his enterprising son-in-law and nephew Cyrus, and why his reign was naturally sunk in that of his distin. guished successor. - Cyrop. i. 5, viii. 7.
Section Iii. - Analysis of the Chapter
This sixth chapter of Daniel contains the history of Daniel under the government, or during the reign of Darius the Mede, or Cyaxares II, from a period, it would seem, soon after the accession of Darius to the throne in Babylon, or the conquest of Babylon, until his death. It is not indeed said how soon after that event Daniel was exalted to the premiership in Babylon, but the narrative would lead us to suppose that it was soon after the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus, acting under the authority of Cyaxares. As Daniel, on account of the disclosure made to Belshazzar of the meaning of the handwriting on the wall, had been exalted to high honor at the close of the life of that monarch Daniel 5, it is probable that he would be called to a similar station under the reign of Darius, as it cannot be supposed that Darius would appoint Medes and Persians entirely to fill the high offices of the realm. The chapter contains a record of the following events:
(1) The arrangement of the government after the conquest of Babylon, consisting of one hundred and twenty officers over the kingdom, so divided as to be placed under the care of three superior officers, or "presidents," of whom Daniel held the first place Daniel 6:1-3.
(2) The dissatisfaction or envy of the officers so appointed against Daniel, for causes now unknown, and their conspiracy to remove him from office, or to bring him into disgrace with the king Daniel 6:4.
(3) The plan which they formed to secure this, derived from the known piety and integrity of Daniel, and their conviction that, at any hazard, he would remain firm to his religious principles, and would conscientiously maintain the worship of God. Convinced that they could find no fault in his administration; that he could not be convicted of malversation or infidelity in office; that there was nothing in his private or public character that was contrary to justice and integrity, they resolved to take advantage of his well-known piety, and to make that the occasion of his downfall and ruin Daniel 6:5.
(4) The plan that was artfully proposed was, to induce the king to sign a decree that if anyone for thirty days should ask any petition for anything of God or man, he should be thrown into a den of lions - that is, should be, as they supposed, certainly put to death. This proposed decree they apprehended they could induce the king to sign, perhaps because it was flattering to the monarch, or perhaps because it would test the disposition of his new subjects to obey him, or perhaps because they knew he was a weak and effeminate prince, and that he was accustomed to sign papers presented to him by his counselors without much reflection or hesitation Daniel 6:6-9.
(5) Daniel, when he was apprised of the contents of the decree, though he saw its bearing, and perhaps its design, yet continued his devotions as usual - praying, as he was known to do, three times a day, with his face toward Jerusalem, with his windows open. The case was one where he felt, undoubtedly, that it was a matter of principle that he should worship God in his usual manner, and not allow himself to be driven from the acknowledgment of his God by the fear of death Daniel 6:10.
(6) they who had laid the plan made report of this to the king, and demanded the execution of the decree. The case was a plain one, for though it had not been intended or expected by the king that Daniel would have been found a violator of the law, yet as the decree was positive, and there had been no concealment on the part of Daniel, the counselors urged that it was necessary that the decree should be executed Daniel 6:11-13.
(7) The king, displeased with himself, and evidently enraged against these crafty counselors, desirous of sparing Daniel, and yet feeling the necessity of maintaining a law positively enacted, sought some way by which Daniel might be saved, and the honor and majesty of the law preserved. No method, however, occurring to him of securing both objects, he was constrained to submit to the execution of the decree, and ordered Daniel to be cast into the den of lions Daniel 6:14-17.
(8) The king returned to his palace, and passed the night fasting, and overwhelmed with sadness Daniel 6:18.
(9) in the morning he came with deep anxiety to the place where Daniel had been thrown, and called to see if he were alive Daniel 6:19-20.
(10) The reply of Daniel, that he had been preserved by the intervention of an angel, who had closed the mouths of the lions, and had kept him alive Daniel 6:21-22.
(11) The release of Daniel from the den, and the command to cast those in who had thus accused Daniel, and who had sought his ruin Daniel 6:23-24.
(12) an appropriate proclamation from the king to all men to honor that God who had thus preserved his servant Daniel 6:25-27.
(13) a statement of the prosperity of Daniel, extending to the reign of Cyrus Daniel 6:28.
1It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom;
It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom - Evidently over the kingdom of Babylon, now united to that of Media and Persia. As this was now subject to him, and tributary to him, it would be natural to appoint persons over it in whom he could confide, for the administration of justice, for the collection of revenue, etc. Others however, suppose that this relates to the whole kingdom of Persia, but as the reference here is mainly to what was the kingdom of Babylon, it is rather to be presumed that this is what is particularly alluded to. Besides, it is hardly probable that he would have exalted Daniel, a Jew, and a resident in Babylon, to so important a post as that of the premiership over the whole empire, though from his position and standing in Babylon there is no improbability in supposing that he might have occupied, under the reign of Darius, a place similar to what he had occupied under Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar. In dividing the kingdom into provinces, and placing officers over each department, Darius followed the same plan which Xenophon tells us that Cyrus did over the nations conquered by him, Cyrop. viii.: Εδόκει ἀυτῷ σατράπας ἤδη πέμπειν ἐπὶ τά κατεστραμμένα ἔθνη Edokei autō satrapas ēdē pempein epi ta katestrammena ethnē - "It seemed good to him to appoint satraps over the conquered nations." Compare Esther 1:1. Archbishop Usher (Annal.) thinks that the plan was first instituted by Cyrus, and was followed at his suggestion. It was a measure of obvious prudence in order to maintain so extended an empire in subjection.
An hundred and twenty princes - The word here rendered "princes" (אחשׁדרפניא 'ăchashedarepenayā') occurs only in Daniel in the Chaldee form, though in the Hebrew form it is found in the book of Esther Est 3:12; Esther 8:9; Esther 9:3, and in Ezra Ezr 8:36; in Esther and Ezra uniformly rendered lieutenants. In Daniel Dan 3:2-3, Daniel 3:27; Daniel 6:1-4, Daniel 6:6-7 it is as uniformly rendered princes. It is a word of Persian origin, and is probably the Hebrew mode of pronouncing the Persian word satrap, or, as Gesenius supposes, the Persian word was pronounced ksatrap. For the etymology of the word, see Gesenius, Lexicon The word undoubtedly refers to the Persian satraps, or governors, or viceroys in the large provinces of the empire, possessing both civil and military powers. They were officers high in rank, and being the representatives of the sovereign, they rivaled his state and splendor. Single parts, or subdivisions of these provinces, were under inferior officers; the satraps governed whole provinces. The word is rendered satraps in the Greek, and the Latin Vulgate.
2And over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first: that the princes might give accounts unto them, and the king should have no damage.
And over these, three presidents - סרכין sârekı̂yn. This word is found only in the plural. The etymology is uncertain, but its meaning is not doubtful. The word president expresses it with sufficient accuracy, denoting a high officer that presided over others. It is not improbable that these presided over distinct departments, corresponding somewhat to what are now called "secretaries" - as Secretaries of State, of the Treasury, of Foreign Affairs, etc., though this is not particularly specified.
Of whom Daniel was first - First in rank. This office he probably held from the rank which he was known to have occupied under the kings of Babylon, and on account of his reputation for ability and integrity.
That the princes might give accounts unto them - Be immediately responsible to them; the accounts of their own administration, and of the state of the empire.
And the king should have no damage - Either in the loss of revenue, or in any maladministration of the affairs. Compare Ezra 4:13. "They pay not toll, tribute, and custom, and so thou shalt endamage the revenue of the kings." The king was regarded as the source of all power, and as in fact the supreme proprietor of the realm, and any malfeasance or malversation in office was regarded as an injury to him.
3Then 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.
Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes - That is, he was at their head, or was placed in rank and office over them. "Because an excellent spirit was in him." This may refer alike to his wisdom and his integrity - both of which would be necessary in such an office. It was an office of great difficulty and responsibility to manage the affairs of the empire in a proper manner, and required the talents of an accomplished statesman, and, at the same time, as it was an office where confidence was reposed by the sovereign, it demanded integrity. The word "excellent" (יתירא yattı̂yrâ') means, properly, what hangs over, or which is abundant, or more than enough, and then anything that is very great, excellent, pre-eminent. Latin Vulgate, Spiritus Dei amplior - "the spirit of God more abundantly." Greek πνεῦμα περισσὸν pneuma perisson. It is not said here to what trial of his abilities and integrity Daniel was subjected before he was thus exalted, but it is not necessary to suppose that any such trial occurred at once, or immediately on the accession of Darius. Probably, as he was found in office as appointed by Belshazzar, he was continued by Darius, and as a result of his tried integrity was in due time exalted to the premiership. "And the king thought to set him over the whole realm."
The whole kingdom over which he presided, embracing Media, Persia, Babylonia, and all the dependent, conquered provinces. This shows that the princes referred to in Daniel 6:1, were those which were appointed over Babylonia, since Daniel Dan 6:2 was already placed at the head of all these princes. Yet, in consequence of his talents and fidelity the king was meditating the important measure of placing him over the whole united kingdom as premier. That he should form such a purpose in regard to an officer so talented and faithful as Daniel was, is by no means improbable. The Greek of Theodotion renders this as if it were actually done - καὶ ὁ βασιλεὺς κατέστησεν ἀυτον, κ.τ.λ. kai ho basileus katestēsen auton, etc. - "And the king placed him over all his kingdom." But the Chaldee (אשׁית 'ăshı̂yth) indicates rather a purpose or intention to do it; or rather, perhaps, that he was actually making arrangements to do this. Probably it was the fact that this design was perceived, and that the arrangements were actually commenced, that aroused the envy and the ill-will of his fellow-officers, and induced them to determine on his ruin.
4Then 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.
Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel - The word rendered "occasion" (עלה ‛illâh) means a pretext or pretence. "The Arabs use the word of any business or affair which serves as a cause or pretext for neglecting another business." - Gesenius, Lexicon The meaning is, that they sought to find some plausible pretext or reason in respect to Daniel, by which the contemplated appointment might be prevented, and by which he might be effectually humbled. No one who is acquainted with the intrigues of cabinets and courts can have any doubts as to the probability of what is here stated. Nothing has been more common in the world than intrigues of this kind to humble a rival, and to bring down those who are meritorious to a state of degradation. The cause of the plot here laid seems to have been mere envy and jealousy - and perhaps the consideration that Daniel was a foreigner, and was one of a despised people held in captivity. "Concerning the kingdom." In respect to the administration of the kingdom. They sought to find evidence of malversation in office, or abuse of power, or attempts at personal aggrandizement, or inattention to the duties of the office. This is literally "from the side of the kingdom;" and the meaning is, that the accusation was sought in that quarter, or in that respect. No other charge would be likely to be effectual, except one which pertained to maladministration in office.
But they could find none occasion nor fault - This is an honorable testimony to the fidelity of Daniel, and to the uprightness of his character. If there had been any malversation in office, it would have been detected by these men.
5Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.
We shall not find any occasion ... - We shall not find any pretext or any cause by which he may be humbled and degraded. They were satisfied of his integrity, and they saw it was vain to hope to accomplish their purposes by any attack on his moral character, or any charge against him in respect to the manner in which he had discharged the duties of his office.
Except we find it against him concerning the law of his God - Unless it be in respect to his religion; unless we can so construe his known conscientiousness in regard to his religion as to make that a proof of his unwillingness to obey the king. It occurred to them that such was his well-understood faithfulness in his religious duties, and his conscientiousness, that they might expect that, whatever should occur, he would be found true to his God, and that this might be a basis of calculation in any measure they might propose for his downfall. His habits seem to have been well understood, and his character was so fixed that they could proceed on this as a settled matter in their plans against him. The only question was, how to construe his conduct in this respect as criminal, or how to make the king listen to any accusation against him on this account, for his religious views were well known when he was appointed to office; the worship of the God of Daniel was not prohibited by the laws of the realm, and it would not be easy to procure a law directly and avowedly prohibiting that.
It is not probable that the king would have consented to pass such a law directly proposed - a law which would have been so likely to produce disturbance, and when no plausible ground could have been alleged for it. There was another method, however, which suggested itself to these crafty counselors - which was, while they did not seem to aim absolutely and directly to have that worship prohibited, to approach the king with a proposal that would be flattering to his vanity, and that, perhaps, might be suggested as a test question, showing the degree of esteem in which he was held in the empire, and the willingness of his subjects to obey him. By proposing a law that, for a limited period, no one should be allowed to present a petition of any kind to anyone except to the king himself, the object would be accomplished. A vain monarch could be prevailed on to pass such a law, and this could be represented to him as a measure not improper in order to test his subjects as to their willingness to show him respect and obedience; and at the same time it would be certain to effect the purpose against Daniel - for they had no doubt that he would adhere steadfastly to the principles of his religion, and to his well-known habits of worship. This plan was, therefore, crafty in the extreme, and was the highest tribute that could be paid to Daniel. It would be well if the religious character and the fixed habits of all who profess religion were so well understood that it was absolutely certain that no accusation could lie against them on any other ground, but that their adherence to their religious principles could be calculated on as a basis of action, whatever might be the consequences.
6Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever.
Then these presidents and princes assembled together - Margin, came tumultuously. The margin expresses the proper meaning of the original word - רגשׁ râgash - to run together with tumult. Why they came together in that manner is not stated. Bertholdt suggests that it means that they came in a procession, or in a body, to the king; but there is undoubtedly the idea of their doing it with haste, or with an appearance of great earnestness or excitement. Perhaps they imagined that they would be more likely to carry the measure if proposed as something that demanded immediate action, or something wherein it appeared that the very safety of the king was involved, than if it were proposed in a sedate and calm manner. If it were suggested in such a way as to seem to admit of deliberation, perhaps the suspicion of the king might be aroused, or he might have asked questions as to the ground of the necessity of such a law, which it might not have been easy to answer.
King Darius, live for ever - The usual way of saluting a monarch. See the note at Daniel 2:4.
7All 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.
All the presidents of the kingdom, the governor ... - Several functionaries are enumerated here who are not in the previous verses, as having entered into the conspiracy. It is possible, indeed, that all these different classes of officers had been consulted, and had concurred in asking the enactment of the proposed law; but it is much more probable that the leaders merely represented or affirmed what is here said in order to be more certain of the enactment of the law. If represented as proposed by all the officers of the realm, they appear to have conceived that there would be no hesitation on the part of Darius in granting the request. They could not but be conscious that it was an unusual request, and that it might appear unreasonable, and hence, they seem to have used every precaution to make the passing of the law certain.
Have consulted together to establish a royal statute - Or, that such a statute might be established. They knew that it could be established only by the king himself, but they were in the habit, doubtless, of recommending such laws as they supposed would be for the good of the realm.
And to make a firm decree - Margin, interdict. The word used (אסר 'ĕsâr - from אסר 'âsar - to bind, make fast) means, properly, a binding; then anything which is binding or obligatory - as a prohibition, an interdict, a law.
That whosoever shall ask - Any one of any rank. The real purpose was to involve Daniel in disgrace, but in order to do this it was necessary to make the prohibition universal - as Herod, in order to be sure that he had cut off the infant king of the Jews, was under a necessity of destroying all the children in the place.
Of any god or man - This would include all the gods acknowledged in Babylon, and all foreign divinities.
For thirty days - The object of this limitation of time was perhaps twofold:
(1) they would be sure to accomplish their purpose in regard to Daniel, for they understood his principles and habits so well that they had no doubt that within that three he would be found engaged in the worship of his God; and
(2) it would not do to make the law perpetual, and to make it binding longer than thirty days might expose them to the danger of popular tumults. It was easy enough to see that such a law could not be long enforced, yet they seem to have supposed that the people would acquiesce in it for so brief a period as one month. Unreasonable though it might be regarded, yet for so short a space of time it might be expected that it would be patiently submitted to.
Save of thee, O king - Perhaps either directly, or through some minister of the realm.
He shall be cast into the den of lions - The word "den" (גוב gôb) means, properly, a pit, or cistern; and the idea is that the den was underground, probably a cave constructed for that purpose. It was made with so narrow an entrance that it could be covered with a stone, and made perfectly secure, Daniel 6:17. "The enclosures of wild beasts," says Bertholdt, pp. 397, 398, "especially of lions," which the kings of Asia and of North-western Africa formerly had, as they have at the present day, were generally constructed underground, but were ordinarily caves which had been excavated for the purpose, wailed up at the sides, enclosed within a wall through which a door led from the outer wall to the space lying between the walls, within which persons could pass round and contemplate the wild beasts." "The emperor of Morocco says Host (Beschreibung von Marokos und Fess, p. 290, as quoted in Rosenmuller's Morgenland, in loc.), "has a cave for lions," - Lowengrube - into which men sometimes, and especially, Jews, are cast; but they commonly came up again uninjured, for the overseers of the lions are commonly Jews, and they have a sharp instrument in their hands, and with this they can pass among them, if they are careful to keep their faces toward the lions, for a lion will not allow one to turn his back to him.
The other Jews will not allow their brethren to remain longer in such a cave than one night, for the lions would be too hungry, but they redeem their brethren out of the cave by the payment of money - which, in fact, is the object of the emperor." In another place (p. 77), he describes one of these caves. "In one end of the enclosure is a place for ostriches and their young ones, and at the other end toward the mountain is a cave for lions, which stands in a large cavern in the earth that has a division wall, in the midst of which is a door, which the Jews who have the charge of the lions can open and close from above, and, by means of food, they entice the lions from one room into another, that they may have the opportunity of cleaning the cage. It is all under the open sky." Under what pretext the crafty counselors induced the king to ratify this statute is not stated. Some one or all of the following things may have induced the monarch to sign the decree:
(1) The law proposed was in a high degree flattering to the king, and he may have been ready at once to sign a decree which for the time gave him a supremacy over gods and men. If Alexander the Great desired to be adored as a god, then it is not improbable that a proud and weak Persian monarch would be willing to receive a similar tribute. Xerxes did things more foolish than what is here attributed to Darius. Instances of this are not wanting. Of Holofernes, in Judith 3:8, it is said that he "had decreed to destroy all the gods of the land, that all nations should worship Nabuchodonosor only, and that all tongues and tribes should call upon him as god."
(2) It may have occurred to him, or may have been suggested, that this was an effectual way to test the readiness of his subjects to obey and honor him. Some such test, it may have been urged, was not improper, and this would determine what was the spirit of obedience as well as any other.
(3) more probably, however, it may have been represented that there was some danger of insubordination, or some conspiracy among the people, and that it was necessary that the sovereign should issue some mandate which would at once and effectually quell it. It may have been urged that there was danger of a revolt, and that it would be an effectual way of preventing it to order that whoever should solicit any favor of anyone but the king should be punished, for this would bring all matters at once before him, and secure order. The haste and earnestness with which they urged their request would rather seem to imply that there was a representation that some sudden occasion had arisen which made the enactment of such a statute proper.
(4) Or the king may have been in the habit of signing the decrees proposed by his counselors with little hesitation, and, lost in ease and sensuality, and perceiving only that this proposed law was flattering to himself, and not deliberating on what might be its possible result, he may have signed it at once.
8Now, 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.
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.
9Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree.
10Now 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.
Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed - Probably there was some proclamation made in regard to that decree.
He went into his house - That is, he went in in his usual manner. He made no change in his habits on account of the decree.
And his windows being open in his chamber - Open in the usual manner. It does not mean that he took pains to open them for the purpose of ostentation, or to show that he disregarded the decree, but that he took no care to close them with any view to avoid the consequences. In the warm climate of Babylon, the windows probably were commonly open. Houses among the Jews in later times, if not in the time of the exile, were usually constructed with an upper chamber - ὑπερῷον huperōon - which was a room not in common use, but employed as a guest chamber, where they received company and held feasts, and where at other times they retired for prayer and meditation. See the note at Matthew 9:2. Those "upper rooms" are often the most pleasant and airy part of the house. Dr. Robinson (Researches, vol. iii. p. 417), describing the house of the American consularagent in Sidon, says, "His house was a large one, built upon the eastern wall of the city; the rooms were spacious, and furnished with more appearance of wealth than any I saw in the country. An upper parlour with many windows, on the roof of the proper house, resembled a summer palace; and commanded a delightful view of the country toward the east, full of trees and gardens, and country-houses, quite to the foot of the mountains."
Toward Jerusalem - It is not improbable that the windows were open on each side of the chamber, but this is particularly mentioned, because he turned his face toward Jerusalem when he prayed. This was natural to an exile Hebrew in prayer, because the temple of God had stood at Jerusalem, and that was the place where he abode by a visible symbol. It is probable that the Jews in their own country always in their prayers turned the face toward Jerusalem, and it was anticipated when the temple was dedicated, that this would be the case in whatever lands they might be. Thus in the prayer of Solomon, at the dedication, he says, "If thy people go out to battle against their enemy, whithersoever thou shalt send them, and shall pray unto the Lord toward the city which thou hast chosen, and toward the house which I have built for thy name," etc., 1 Kings 8:44. And again 1 Kings 8:46-49, "If they sin against thee, and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near; if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried captives, and repent - and pray unto thee toward their land which thou gavest unto their fathers, the city which thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for thy name, then hear thou their prayer," etc.
Compare 1 Kings 8:33, 1 Kings 8:35, 1 Kings 8:38. So in Psalm 5:7 : "As for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy: and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple." So Jonah it. 4: "Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple." So in the first book of Esdras (Apocrypha), 4:58: "Now when this young man was gone forth, he lifted up his face to heaven, toward Jerusalem, and praised the King of heaven." Compare Intro. Section II. V. C. Daniel, therefore, in turning his face toward Jerusalem when he prayed, was acting in accordance with what Solomon had anticipated as proper in just such a supposed case, and with the prevailing habit of his people when abroad. This was not, indeed, particularly prescribed as a duty, but it was recognized as proper; and it was not only in accordance with the instinctive feelings of love to his country and the temple, but a foundation was laid for this in the fact that Jerusalem was regarded as the peculiar dwelling-place of God on earth.
In the Koran it is enjoined as a duty on all Mussulmen, in whatever part of the earth they may be, to turn their faces toward the Caaba at Mecca when they pray: "The foolish men will say, What hath turned them from their Keblah toward which they formerly prayed? Say, unto God belongeth the East and the West; he directeth whom he pleaseth in the right way. Thus have we placed you, O Arabians, an intermediate nation, that ye may be witnesses against the rest of mankind, and that the apostle may be a witness against you. We appointed the Keblah, toward which thou didst formerly pray, only that we might know him who followeth the apostle from him that turneth back on his heels: though this change seem a great matter, unless unto those whom God hath directed. But God will not render your faith of none effect, for God is gracious and merciful unto man. We have seen thee turn about thy face toward heaven with uncertainty, but we will cause thee to turn thyself toward a Keblah that will please thee.
Turn, therefore, thy face toward the holy temple of Mecca; and wherever ye be, turn your faces toward that place." - Sale's Koran, chapter ii. Wherever Mussulmen are, therefore, they turn their faces toward the temple at Mecca when they pray. Daniel complied with what was probably the general custom of his countrymen, and what was natural in his case, for there was, in the nature of the case, a reason why he should turn his face toward the place where God had been accustomed to manifest himself. It served to keep up in his mind the remembrance of his beloved country, and in his case could be attended with no evil. As all visible symbols of the Devine Being are now, however, withdrawn from any particular place on the earth, there is no propriety in imitating his example, and when we pray it is wholly immaterial in what direction the face is turned.
He kneeled upon his knees three times a day - In accordance, doubtless, with his usual custom. The amount of the statement is, that he did not vary his habit on account of the command. He evidently neither assumed a posture of ostentation, nor did he abstain from what he was accustomed to do. To have departed from his usual habit in any way would have been a yielding of principle in the case. It is not mentioned at what time in the day Daniel thus kneeled and prayed, but we may presume that it was evening, and morning, and noon. Thus the Psalmist says: "Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud; and he shall hear my voice" Psalm 55:17. No one can doubt the propriety of thus praying to God; and it would be well for all thus to call upon their God.
As he did aforetime - Without making any change. He neither increased nor diminished the number of times each day in which he called upon God; nor did he make any change in the manner of doing it. He did not seek ostentatiously to show that he was a worshipper of God, nor was he deterred by the fear of punishment from doing as he had been accustomed to do. If it should be said that Daniel's habit of worship was ostentatious; that his praying with his windows open was contrary to the true spirit of retiring devotion, and especially contrary to the spirit required of worshippers in the New Testament, where the Saviour commands us when we pray to "enter into the closet, and to shut the door" Matthew 6:6, it may be replied,
(1) That there is no evidence that Daniel did this for the purpose of ostentation, and the supposition that he did it for that purpose is contrary to all that we know of his character;
(2) As we have seen, this was the customary place for prayer, and the manner of the prayer was what was usual;
(3) The chamber, or upper part of the house, was in fact the most retired part, and was a place where one would be least likely to be heard or seen; and
(4) There is no evidence that it would not have been quite private and unobserved if these men had not gone to his house and listened for the very purpose of detecting him at his devotions. No one could well guard against such a purpose.
11Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God.
Then these men assembled ... - Evidently with a design of finding him at his devotions.
12Then they came near, and spake before the king concerning the king's decree; Hast thou not signed a decree, that every man that shall ask a petition of any God or man within thirty days, save of thee, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions? The king answered and said, The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not.
Then they came near - That is, they came near to the king. They had detected Daniel, as they expected and desired to do, in a palpable violation of the law, and they lost no time in apprising the king of it, and in reminding him of the law which he had established. Informers are not apt to lose time.
The king answered and said, The thing is true ... - It is undeniable, whatever may be the consequences. There is no reason to suppose that he as yet had any suspicion of their design in asking this question. It is not improbable that he apprehended there had been some violation of the law, but it does not appear that his suspicions rested on Daniel.
13Then 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.
Then answered they ... That Daniel which is of the children of the captivity of Judah - Who is one of the captive Jews. There was art in thus referring to Daniel, instead of mentioning him as sustaining an exalted office. It would serve to aggravate his guilt to remind the king that one who was in fact a foreigner, and a captive, had thus disregarded his solemn commandment. If he had been mentioned as the prime minister, there was at least a possibility that the king would be less disposed to deal with him according to the letter of the statute than if he were mentioned as a captive Jew.
Regardeth not thee ... - Shows open disregard and contempt for the royal authority by making a petition to his God three times a day.
14Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him: and he laboured till the going down of the sun to deliver him.
Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself - That is, for having consented to such a decree without deliberation, or with so much haste - or for having consented to it at all. It is remarkable that it is not said that he was displeased with them for having proposed it; but it is clear that he saw that the guilt was his own for having given his assent to it, and that he had acted foolishly. There is no evidence as yet that he saw that the decree had been proposed for the purpose of securing the degradation and ruin of Daniel - though he ultimately perceived it Daniel 6:24; or if he did perceive it, there was no way of preventing the consequences from coming on Daniel - and that was the point that now engrossed his attention. He was doubtless displeased with himself,
(1) because he saw that he had done wrong in confirming such a decree, which interfered with what had been tolerated - the free exercise of religion by his subjects;
(2) because he now saw that it was foolish, and unworthy of a king, thus to assent to a law for which there was no good reason, and the consequences of which he had not foreseen; and
(3) because he now saw that he had involved the first officer of the realm, and a man of unsullied character, in ruin, unless some way could be devised by which the consequences of the statute could be averted.
It is no uncommon thing for men to be displeased with themselves when they experience the unexpected consequences of their follies and their sins. An instance strongly resembling that here stated, in its main features, occurred at a later period in the history of Persia - an instance showing how the innocent may be involved in a general law, and how much perplexity and regret may be caused by the enactment of such a law. It occurred in Persia, in the persecution of Christians, 344 a.d. "An edict appeared, which commanded that all Christians should be thrown into chains and executed. Many belonging to every rank died as martyrs. Among these was an eunuch of the palace, named Azades, a man greatly prized by the king. So much was the latter affected by his death, that he commanded the punishment of death should be inflicted from thenceforth only on the leaders of the Christian sect; that is, only on persons of the clerical order." - Neander's Church History, Torrey's Translation, vol. iii. p. 146.
And set his heart on Daniel to deliver him - In what way he sought to deliver him is not said. It would seem probable from the representation in the following verse, that it was by an inquiry whether the statute might not properly be changed or cancelled, or whether the penalty might not be commuted - for it is said that his counselors urged as a reason for the strict infliction of the punishment the absolute unchangeableness of the statute. Perhaps he inquired whether a precedent might not be found for the abrogation of a law enacted by a king by the same authority that enacted it; or whether it did not come within the king's prerogative to change it; or whether the punishment might not be commuted without injury; or whether the evidence of the guilt was perfectly clear; or whether he might not be pardoned without anything being done to maintain the honor of the law. This is one of the most remarkable instances on record of the case of a monarch seeking to deliver a subject from punishment when the monarch had absolute power, and is a striking illustration of the difficulties which often arise in the administration of justice, where the law is absolute, and where justice seems to demand the infliction of the penalty, and yet where there are strong reasons why the penalty should not be inflicted; that is, why an offender should be pardoned. And yet there is no improbability in this statement about the perplexity of the king, for
(1) there were strong reasons, easily conceivable, why the penalty should not be inflicted in this case, because
(a) the law had been evidently devised by the crafty enemies of Daniel to secure just such a result;
(b) Daniel had been guilty of no crime - no moral wrong, but had done only what should commend him more to favor and confidence;
(c) his character was every way upright and pure;
(d) the very worship which he had been detected in had been up to that period allowed, and there was no reason why it should now be punished, and
(e) the infliction of the penalty, though strictly according to the letter of the law, would be manifestly a violation of justice and equity; or, in other words, it was every way. desirable that it should not be inflicted.
(2) Yet there was great difficulty in pardoning him who had offended, for
(a) the law was absolute in the case;
(b) the evidence was clear that Daniel had done what the law forbade;
(c) the law of the realm prohibited any change;
(d) the character and government of the king were involved in the matter. If he interposed and saved Daniel, and thus suffered the law to be violated with impunity, the result would be that there would be a want of stability in his administration, and any other subject could hope that he might violate the law with the same impunity. justice, and the honor of the government, therefore, seemed to demand that the law should be enforced, and the penalty inflicted.
(3) It may be added, that cases of this kind are frequently occurring in the administration of law - cases where there is a conflict between justice and mercy, and where one must be sacrificed to the other. There are numerous instances in which there can be no doubt that the law has been violated, and yet in which strong reasons exist why the offender should be pardoned. Yet there are great difficulties in the whole subject of pardon, and there are more embarrassments in regard to this than anything else pertaining to the administration of the laws. If an offence is never pardoned, then the government is stern and inexorable, and its administration violates some of the finest and most tender feelings of our nature for there are cases when all the benevolent feelings of our nature demand that there should be the remission of a penalty - cases, modified by youth, or age, or sex, or temptation, or previous character, or former service rendered to one's country. And yet pardon in any instance always does just so much to weaken the strong arm of the law. It is a proclamation that in some cases crime may be committed with impunity. If often exercised, law loses its force, and men are little deterred from crime by fear of it. If it were always exercised, and a proclamation were sent forth that anyone who committed an offence might be pardoned, the authority of government would be at an end. Those, therefore, who are entrusted with the administration of the laws, are often substantially in the same perplexity in which Darius was in respect to Daniel - all whose feelings incline them to mercy, and who yet see no way in which it can be exercised consistently with the administration of justice and the prevention of crime.
And he labored - He sought to devise some way in which it might be done.
Till the going down of the sun - Houbigant understands this, "Until the sun arose;" but the common rendering is probably the correct one. Why that hour is mentioned is not known. It would seem from the following verse that the king was pressed by his counselors to carry the decree into execution, and it is probable that the king saw that the case was a perfectly clear one, and that nothing could be hoped for from delay. The law was clear, and it was equally clear that it had been violated. There was no way, then, but to suffer it to take its course.
15Then these men assembled unto the king, and said unto the king, Know, O king, that the law of the Medes and Persians is, That no decree nor statute which the king establisheth may be changed.
Then these men assembled unto the king - The Chaldee here is the same as in Daniel 6:6, "they came tumultuously." They were earnest that the law should be executed, and they probably apprehended that if the king were allowed to dwell upon it, the firmness of his own mind would give way, and that he would release Daniel. Perhaps they dreaded the effect of the compunctious visitings which he might have during the silence of the night, and they, therefore, came tumultuously to hasten his decision.
Know, O king, that the law ... - That is a settled matter about which there can be no debate or difference of opinion. It would seem that this was a point so well settled that no question could be raised in regard to it, and, to their minds, it was equally clear that if this were so, it was necessary that the sentence should be executed without delay.
16Then 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.
Then the king commanded ... - See the note at Daniel 6:7. Some recent discoveries among the ruins of Babylon have shown that the mode of punishment by throwing offenders against the laws to lions was actually practiced there, and these discoveries may be classed among the numerous instances in which modern investigations have tended to confirm the statements in the Bible. Three interesting figures illustrating this fact may be seen in the Pictorial Bible, vol. iii. p. 232. The first of those figures, from a block of stone, was found at Babylon near the great mass of ruin that is supposed to mark the site of the grand western palace. It represents a lion standing over the body of a prostrate man, extended on a pedestal which measures nine feet in length by three in breadth. The head has been lately knocked off; but when Mr. Rich saw it, the statue was in a perfect state, and he remarks that "the mouth had a circular aperture into which a man might introduce his fist." The second is from an engraved gem, dug from the ruins of Babylon by Captain Mignan. It exhibits a man standing on two sphinxes, and engaged with two fierce animals, possibly intended for lions. The third is from a block of white marble found near the tomb of Daniel at Susa, and thus described by Sir Robert Ker Porter in his Travels (vol. ii. p. 416): "It does not exceed ten inches in width and depth, measures twenty in length, and is hollow within, as if to receive some deposit. Three of its sides are cut in bass-relief, two of them with similar representations of a man apparently naked, except a sash round his waist, and a sort of cap on his head. His hands are bound behind him. The corner of the stone forms the neck of the figure, so that its head forms one of its ends. Two lions in sitting postures appear on either side at the top, each having a paw on the head of the man." See Pict. Bible, in loc.
Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God ... - What is here stated is in accordance with what is said in Daniel 6:14, that the king sought earnestly to deliver Daniel from the punishment. He had entire confidence in him, and he expressed that to the last. As to the question of probability whether Darius, a pagan, would attempt to comfort Daniel with the hope that he would be delivered, and would express the belief that this would be done by that God whom he served, and in whose cause he was about to be exposed to peril, it may be remarked,
(1) That it was a common thing among the pagan to believe in the interposition of the gods in favor of the righteous, and particularly in favor of their worshippers. See Homer, passim. Hence, it was that they called on them; that they committed themselves to them in battle and in peril; that they sought their aid by sacrifices and by prayers. No one can doubt that such a belief prevailed, and that the mind of Darius, in accordance with the prevalent custom, might be under its influence.
(2) Darius, undoubtedly, in accordance with the prevailing belief, regarded the God whom Daniel worshipped as a god, though not as exclusively the true God. He had the same kind of confidence in him that he had in any god worshipped by foreigners - and probably regarded him as the tutelary divinity of the land of Palestine, and of the Hebrew people. As he might consistently express this belief in reference to any foreign divinity, there is no improbability that he would in reference to the God worshipped by Daniel.
(3) He had the utmost confidence both in the integrity and the piety of Daniel; and as he believed that the gods interposed in human affairs, and as he saw in Daniel an eminent instance of devotedness to his God, he did not doubt that in such a case it might be hoped that he would save him.
17And 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.
And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den - Probably a large flat stone sufficient to cover the mouth of the cave, and so heavy that Daniel could not remove it from within and escape. It was usual then, as it is now, to close up the entrance to sepulchres with a large stone. See John 11:38; Matthew 27:60. It would be natural to endeavor to secure this vault or den in the same way - on the one hand so that Daniel could not escape from within, and on the other so that none of his friends could come and rescue him from without.
And the king sealed it with his own signet - With his own seal. That is, he affixed to the stone, probably by means of clay or wax, his seal in such a way that it could not be removed by anyone without breaking it, and consequently without the perpetration of a crime of the highest kind - for no greater offence could be committed against his authority than thus to break his seal, and there could be no greater security that the stone would not be removed. On the manner of sealing a stone in such circumstances, compare the note at Matthew 27:66.
And with the signet of his lords - That it might have all the security which there could be. Perhaps this was at the suggestion of his lords, and the design, on their part, may have been so to guard the den that the king should not release Daniel.
That the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel - By the king. Probably they feared that if there was not this security, the king might release him; but they presumed that he would not violate the seal of the great officers of the realm. It would seem that some sort of concurrence between the king and his nobles was required in making and executing the laws.
18Then 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.
Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting - Daniel was probably cast into the den soon after the going down of the sun, Daniel 6:14. It was not unusual to have suppers then late at night, as it is now in many places. The great anxiety of the king, however, on account of what had occurred, prevented him from participating in the usual evening meal. As to the probability of what is here affirmed, no one can have any doubt who credits the previous statements. In the consciousness of wrong done to a worthy officer of the government; in the deep anxiety which he had to deliver him; in the excitement which must have existed against the cunning and wicked authors of the plot to deceive the king and to ruin Daniel; and in his solicitude and hope that after all Daniel might escape, there is a satisfactory reason for the facts stated that he had no desire for food; that instruments of music were not brought before him; and that he passed a sleepless night.
Neither were instruments of music brought before him - It was usual among the ancients to have music at their meals. This custom prevailed among the Greeks and Romans, and doubtless was common in the Oriental world. It should be observed, however, that there is considerable variety in the interpretation of the word here rendered instruments of music - דחון dachăvân. The margin is table. The Latin Vulgate, "He slept supperless, neither was food brought before him." The Greek renders it "food," ἐδέσματα edesmata. So the Syriac. Bertholdt and Gesenius render it concubines, and Saadias dancing girls. Any of these significations would be appropriate; but it is impossible to determine which is the most correct. The word does not occur elsewhere in the Scriptures.
19Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions.
Then the king arose very early in the morning ... - No one can doubt the probability of what is here said, if the previous account be true. His deep anxiety; his wakefulnight; the remorse which he endured, and his hope that Daniel would be after all preserved, all would prompt to an early visit to the place of his confinement, and to his earnestness in ascertaining whether he were still alive.
20And 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?
He cried with a lamentable voice - A voice full of anxious solicitude. Literally, "a voice of grief." Such a cry would be natural on such an occasion.
O Daniel, servant of the living God - The God who has life; who imparts life; and who can preserve life. This was the appellation, probably, which he had heard Daniel use in regard to God, and it is one which he would naturally employ on such an occasion as this; feeling that the question of life was entirely in his hands.
Whom thou servest continually - At all times, and in all circumstances: as a captive in a distant land; in places of honor and power; when surrounded by the great who worship other gods; and when threatened with death for your devotion to the service of God. This had been the character of Daniel, and it was natural to refer to it now.
21Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever.
Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live forever - The common form of salutation in addressing the king. See the note at Daniel 2:4. There might be more than mere form in this, for Daniel may have been aware of the true source of the calamities that had come upon him, and of the innocence of the king in the matter; and he doubtless recalled the interest which the king had shown in him when about to be cast into the den of lions, and his expression of confidence that his God would be able to deliver him Daniel 6:16, and he could not but have been favorably impressed by the solicitude which the monarch now showed for his welfare in thus early visiting him, and by his anxiety to know whether he were still alive.
22My 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.
My God hath sent his angel - It was common among the Hebrews to attribute any remarkable preservation from danger to the intervention of an angel sent from God, and no one can demonstrate that it did not occur as they supposed. There is no more absurdity in supposing that God employs an angelic being to defend his people, or to impart blessings to them, than there is in supposing that he employs one human being to render important aid, and to convey important blessings, to another. As a matter of fact, few of the favors which God bestows upon men are conveyed to them directly from himself, but they are mostly imparted by the instrumentality of others. So it is in the blessings of liberty, in deliverance from bondage, in the provision made for our wants, in the favor bestowed on us in infancy and childhood. As this principle prevails everywhere on the earth, it is not absurd to suppose that it may prevail elsewhere, and that on important occasions, and in instances above the rank of human intervention, God may employ the instrumentality of higher beings to defend his people in trouble, and rescue them from danger. Compare Psalm 34:7; Psalm 91:11; Daniel 9:21; Matthew 18:10; Luke 16:22; Hebrews 1:14. Daniel does not say whether the angel was visible or not, but it is rather to be presumed that he was, as in this way it would be more certainly known to him that he owed his deliverance to the intervention of an angel, and as this would be to him a manifest token of the favor and protection of God.
And hath shut the lions' mouths - It is clear that Daniel supposed that this was accomplished by a miracle; and this is the only satisfactory solution of what had occurred. There is, moreover, no more objection to the supposition that this was a miracle than there is to any miracle whatever, for
(a) there is no more fitting occasion for the Divine intervention than when a good man is in danger, and
(b) the object to be accomplished on the mind of the king, and through him on the minds of the people at large, was worthy of such an interposition.
The design was evidently to impress the mind of the monarch with the belief of the existence of the true God, and to furnish in the court of Babylon proof that should be convincing that he is the only God.
Forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me -
(1) Absolute innocency in reference to the question of guilt on the point in which he had been condemned - he having done only what God approved; and
(2) general integrity and uprightness of character. We need not suppose that Daniel claimed to be absolutely perfect (compare Daniel 9), but we may suppose that he means to say that God saw that he was what he professed to be, and that his life was such as he approved.
And also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt - That is, he had in no manner violated his duty to the king; he had done nothing that tended to overthrow his government, or to spread disaffection among his subjects.
23Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God.
Then was the king exceeding glad for him - On account of Daniel. That is, he was rejoiced for the sake of Daniel that he had received no hurt, and that he might be restored to his place, and be useful again in the government.
24And the king commanded, and they brought those men which had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions, them, their children, and their wives; and the lions had the mastery of them, and brake all their bones in pieces or ever they came at the bottom of the den.
And the king commanded, and they brought those men, which had accused Daniel ... - It would seem probable that the king had been aware of their wicked designs against Daniel, and had been satisfied that the whole was the result of a conspiracy, but he felt himself under a necessity of allowing the law to take its course on him whom he believed to be really innocent. That had been done. All that the law could be construed as requiring had been accomplished. It could not be pretended that the law required that any other punishment should be inflicted on Daniel, and the way was now clear to deal with the authors of the malicious plot as they deserved. No one can reasonably doubt the probability of what is here said in regard to the conspirators against Daniel. The king had arbitrary power. He was convinced of their guilt. His wrath had been with difficulty restrained when he understood the nature of the plot against Daniel. Nothing, therefore, was more natural than that he should subject the guilty to the same punishment which they had sought to bring upon the innocent; nothing more natural than that a proud despot, who saw that, by the force of a law which he could not control, he had been made a tool in subjecting the highest officer of the realm, and the best man in it, to peril of death, should, without any delay, wreak his vengeance on those who had thus made use of him to gratify their own malignant passions.
Them, their children, and their wives - This was in accordance with Oriental notions of justice, and was often done. It is said expressly by Ammianus Marcellinus (23, 6, 81), to have been a custom among the Persians: "The laws among them (the Persians) are formidable; among which those which are enacted against the ungrateful and deserters, and similar abominable crimes, surpass others in cruelty, by which, on account of the guilt of one, all the kindred perish" - per quas ob noxam unius omnis propinquitas perit. So Curtius says of the Macedonians: "It is enacted by law that the kindred of those who conspire against the king shall be put to death with them." Instances of this kind of punishment are found among the Hebrews (Joshua 7:24; 2 Samuel 21:5, following), though it was forbidden by the law of Moses, in judicial transactions, Deuteronomy 24:16. Compare also Ezekiel 18; Maurer, in loc. In regard to this transaction we may; observe
(a) that nothing is more probable than that this would occur, since, as appears from the above quotations, it was often done, and there was nothing in the character of Darius that would prevent it, though it seems to us to be so unjust
(b) it was the act of a pagan monarch, and it is not necessary, in order to defend the Scripture narrative, to vindicate the justice of the transaction. The record may be true, though the thing itself was evil and wrong.
(c) Yet the same thing substantially occurs in the course of Providence, or the administration of justice now. Nothing is more common than that the wife and children of a guilty man should suffer on account of the sin of the husband and father. Who can recount the woes that come upon a family through the intemperance of a father? And in cases where a man is condemned for crime, the consequences are not confined to himself. In shame and mortification, and disgrace; in the anguish experienced when he dies on a gibbet; in the sad remembrance of that disgraceful death; in the loss of one who might have provided for their wants, and been their protector and counselor, the wife and children always suffer; and, though this took another form in ancient times, and when adopted as a principle of punishment is not in accordance with our sense of justice in administering laws, yet it is a principle which pervades the world - for the effects of crime cannot and do not terminate on the guilty individual himself.
And the lions had the mastery of them - As the Divine restraint furnished for the protection of Daniel was withdrawn, they acted out their proper nature.
And brake all their bones in pieces or ever ... - literally, "they did not come to the bottom of the den until the lions had the master of them, and brake all their bones." They seized upon them as they fell, and destroyed them.
25Then king Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you.
Then king Darius wrote unto all people ... - Compare the note at Daniel 2:47; Daniel 3:29; Daniel 4:1. If there is a probability that Nebuchadnezzar would make such a proclamation as he did, there is no less probability that the same thing would be done by Darius. Indeed, it is manifest on the face of the whole narrative that one great design of all that occurred was to proclaim the knowledge of the true God, and to secure his recognition. That object was worthy of the Divine interposition, and the facts in the case show that God has power to induce princes and rulers to recognize his existence and perfections, and his government over the earth.
26I 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.
I make a decree - Compare Daniel 3:29.
That in every dominion of my kingdom - Every department or province. The entire kingdom or empire was made up of several kingdoms, as Media, Persia, Babylonia, etc. The meaning is, that he wished the God of Daniel to be honored and reverenced throughout the whole empire.
Men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel - That they honor and reverence him as God. There is no certain evidence that he meant that he should be honored as the only God; but the probability is, that he meant that he should be recognized as a God of great power and glory, and as worthy of universal reverence. How far this pagan monarch might still regard the other deities worshipped in the empire as gods, or how far his own heart might be disposed to honor the God of Daniel, there are no means of ascertaining. It was much, however, that so great a monarch should be led to make a proclamation acknowledging the God of Daniel as having a real existence, and as entitled to universal reverence.
For he is the living God - An appellation often given to God in the Scriptures, and probably learned by Darius from Daniel. It is not, however, absolutely certain that Darius would attach all the ideas to these phrases which Daniel did, or which we would. The attributes here ascribed to God are correct, and the views expressed are far beyond any that prevailed among the pagan; but still it would not be proper to suppose that Darius certainly had all the views of God which these words would convey to us now.
And stedfast for ever - That is, he is always the same. He ever lives; he has power overall; his kingdom is on an immovable foundation. He is not, in his government, to cease to exist, and to be succeeded by another who shall occupy his throne.
And his kingdom what shall not be destroyed ... - See the Daniel 4:3, note ; Daniel 4:34, note. The similarity between the language used here, and that employed by Nebuchadnezzar, shows that it was probably derived from the same source. It is to be presumed that both monarchs expressed the views which they had learned from Daniel.
27He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.
He delivereth and rescueth - As in the case of Daniel. This attribute would of course be prominent in the view of Darius, since so remarkable an instance of his power had been recently manifested in rescuing Daniel.
And he worketh signs and wonders ... - Performs miracles far above all human power. If he had done it on earth in the case of Daniel, it was fair to infer that he did it also in heaven. Compare the notes at Daniel 4:2-3.
The power of the lions - Margin, hand. The hand is the instrument of power. The word paw would express the idea here, and would accord with the meaning, as it is usually with the paw that the lion strikes down his prey before he devours it.
28So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius - That is, to the end of his reign. It is fairly implied here that he was restored to his honors.
And in the reign of Cyrus the Persian - Cyrus the Great, the nephew and successor of Darius. For an account of Cyrus, see the note at Isaiah 41:2. How long during the reign of Cyrus Daniel "prospered" or lived is not said. During a part of the reign of Darius or Cyaxares, he was occupied busily in securing by his influence the welfare of his own people, and making arrangements for their return to their land; and his high post in the nation to which, under Divine Providence, he had doubtless been raised for this purpose, enabled him to render essential and invaluable service at the court. In the third year of Cyrus, we are informed Daniel 10-12, he had a series of visions respecting the future history and sufferings of his nation to the period of their true redemption through the Messiah, as also a consolatory direction to himself to proceed calmly and peaceably to the end of his days, and then await patiently the resurrection of the dead, Daniel 12:12-13. From that period the accounts respecting him are vague, confused, and even strange, and little or nothing is known of the time or circumstances of his death. Compare Introduction Section I.
From this chapter we may derive the following instructive
(1) We have an instance of what often occurs in the world - of envy on account of the excellency of others, and of the hoonours which they obtain by their talent and their worth, Daniel 6:1-4. Nothing is more frequent than such envy, and nothing more common, as a consequence, than a determination to degrade those who are the subjects of it. Envy always seeks in some way to humble and mortify those who are distinguished. It is the pain, mortification, chagrin, and regret which we have at their superior excellence or prosperity, and this prompts us to endeavor to bring them down to our own level, or below it; to calumniate their characters; to hinder their prosperity; to embarrass them in their plans; to take up and circulate rumours to their disadvantage; to magnify their faults, or to fasten upon them the suspicion of crime. In the instance before us, we see the effect in a most guilty conspiracy against a man of incorruptible character; a man full in the confidence of his sovereign; a man eminently the friend of virtue and of God.
"Envy will merit, as its shade, pursue;
But, like a shadow, proves the substance true."
- Pope's Essay on Criticism.
"Base envy withers at another's joy,
And hates that excellence it cannot reach."
- Thomson's Seasons.
"Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow,
Thou shalt not escape calumny."
"That thou art blamed shall not be thy defect,
For slander's mark was ever yet the fair:
So thou be good, slander doth yet approve
Thy worth the greater."
(2) We have in this chapter Daniel 6:4-9 a striking illustration of the nature and the evils of a conspiracy to ruin others. The plan here was deliberately formed to ruin Daniel - the best man in the realm - a man against whom no charge of guilt could be alleged, who had done the conspirators no wrong; who had rendered himself in no way amenable to the laws. A "conspiracy" is a combination of men for evil purposes; an agreement between two or more persons to commit some crime in concert, usually treason, or an insurrection against a government or state. In this case, it was a plot growing wholly out of envy or jealousy; a concerted agreement to ruin a good man, where no wrong had been done or could be pretended, and no crime had been committed. The essential things in this conspiracy, as in all other cases of conspiracy, were two:
(a) that the purpose was evil; and
(b) that it was to be accomplished by the combined influences of numbers. The means on which they relied, on the grounds of calculation on the success of their plot, were the following:
(1) that they could calculate on the unwavering integrity of Daniel - on his firm and faithful adherence to the principles of his religion in all circumstances, and in all times of temptation and trial; and
(2) that they could induce the king to pass a law, irrepealable from the nature of the case, which Daniel would be certain to violate, and to the penalty of which, therefore, he would be certainly exposed. Now in this purpose there was every element of iniquity, and the grossest conceivable wrong. There were combined all the evils of envy and malice; of perverting and abusing their influence over the king; of secrecy in taking advantage of one who did not suspect any such design; and of involving the king himself in the necessity of exposing the best man in his realm, and the highest officer of state, to the certain danger of death. The result however showed, as is often the case, that the evil recoiled on themselves, and that the very calamity overwhelmed them and their families which they had designed for another.
(3) We have here a striking instance of what often occurs, and what should always occur, among the friends of religion, that "no occasion can be found against them except in regard to the law of their God" - on the score of their religion, Daniel 6:5. Daniel was known to be upright. His character for integrity was above suspicion. It was certain that there was no hope of bringing any charge against him that would lie, for any want of uprightness or honesty, for any failure in the discharge of the duties of his office, for any malversation in administering the affairs of the government, for any embezzlement of the public funds, or for any act of injustice toward his fellow-men. It was certain that his character was irreproachable on all these points; and it was equally certain that he did and would maintain unwavering fidelity in the duties of religion. Whatever consequences might follow from it, it was clear that they could calculate on his maintaining with faithfulness the duties of piety.
Whatever plot, therefore, could be formed against him on the basis either of his moral integrity or his piety, it was certain would be successful. But there was no hope in regard to the former, for no law could have been carried prohibiting his doing what was right on the subject of morals. The only hope, therefore, was in respect to his religion; and the main idea in their plot - the thing which constituted the basis of their plan was, "that it was certain that Daniel would maintain his fidelity to his God irrspective of any consequences whatever." This certainty ought to exist in regard to every good man; every man professing religion. His character ought to be so well understood; his piety ought to be so firm, unwavering, and consistent, that it could be calculated on just as certainly as we calculate on the stability of the laws of nature, that he will be found faithful to his religious duties and obligations. There are such men, and the character of every man should be such. Then indeed we should know what to depend on in the world; then religion would be reapected as it should be.
(4) We may learn what is our duty when we are opposed in the exercise of our religion, or when we are in any way threatened with loss of office, or of property, on account of our religion, Daniel 6:10. "We are to persevere in the discharge of our religious duties, whatever may be the consequences." So far as the example of Daniel goes, this would involve two things:
(a) not to swerve from the faithful performance of duty, or not to be deterred from it; and
(b) not to change our course from any desire of display.
These two things were manifested by Daniel. He kept steadily on his way. He did not abridge the number of times of his daily devotion; nor, as far as appears, did he change the form or the length. He did not cease to pray in an audible voice; he did not give up prayer in the daytime, and pray only at night; he did not even close his windows; he did not take any precautions to pray when none were near; he did not withdraw into an inner chamber. At the same time, he made no changes in his devotion for the sake of ostentation. He did not open his windows before closed; he did not go into the street; he did not call around him his friends or foes to witness his devotions; he did not, as far as appears, either elevate his voice, or prolong his prayers, in order to attract attention, or to invite persecution. In all this he manifested the true spirit of religion, and set an example to men to be followed in all ages. Not by the loss of fame or money; by the dread of persecution, or contempt of death; by the threatenings of law or the fear of shame, are we to be deterred from the proper and the usual performance of our religious duties; nor by a desire to provoke persecution, and to win the crown of martyrdom, and to elicit applause, and to have our names blazoned abroad, are we to multiply our religious acts, or make an ostentatious display of them, when we are threatened, or when we know that our conduct will excite opposition. We are to ascertain what is right and proper; and then we are modestly and firmly to do it, no matter what may be the consequences. Compare Matthew 5:16; Acts 4:16-20; Acts 5:29.
(5) We have, in the case of Darius, an instance of what often happens, the regret and anguish which the mind experiences in consequence of a rash act, when it cannot be repaired, Daniel 6:14. The act of Darius in making the decree was eminently a rash one. It was done without deliberation at the suggestion of others, and probably under the influence of some very improper feeling - the desire of being esteemed as a god. But it had consequences which he did not foresee, consequences which, if he had foreseen them, would doubtless have prevented his giving a sanction to this iniquitous law. The state of mind which he experienced when he saw how the act involved the best officer in his government, and the best man in his realm, was just what might have been expected, and is an illustration of what often occurs. It was too late now to prevent the effects of the act; and his mind was overwhelmed with remorse and sorrow. He blamed himself for his folly; and he sought in vain for some way to turn aside the consequences which he now deplored. Such instances often occur.
(a) Many of our acts are rash. They are performed without deliberation; under the influence of improper passions; at the suggestion of others who would be thought to be our friends; and without any clear view of the consequences, or any concern as to what the result may be.
(b) As an effect, they often have consequences which we did not anticipate, and which would have deterred us in each instance had we foreseen them.
(c) They often produce reset and anguish when too late, and when we cannot prevent the evil. The train of evils which has been commenced it is now too late to retard or prevent, and they now inevitably come upon us. We can only stand and weep over the effects of our rashness and folly; and must now feel that if the evil is averted, it will be by the interposition of God alone.
(6) We have in this chapter an affecting instance of the evils which often arise in a human goovernment from the want of something like an atonement, Daniel 6:14, following As has been remarked in the notes, cases often arise when it is desirable that pardon should be extended to the violators of law See the notes at Daniel 6:14. In such cases, some such arrangement as that of an atonement, by which the honor of the law might be maintained, and at the same time the merciful feelings of an executive might be indulged, and the benevolent wishes of a community gratified, would remove difficulties which are now felt in every administration. The difficulties in the case, and the advantage which would arise from an atonement, may be seen by a brief reference to the circumstances of the case before us:
(a) the law was inexorable. It demanded punishment, as all law does, for no law in itself makes any provision for pardon. If it did, it would be a burlesque on all legislation. Law denounces penalty it does not pardon or show mercy. It has become necessary indeed to lodge a pardoning power with some man entrusted with the administration of the laws, but the pardon is not extended by the law itself.
(b) The anxiety of the king in the case is an illustration of what often occurs in the administration of law, for, as above observed, there are cases where, on many accounts, it would seem to be desirable that the penalty of the law should not be inflicted. Such a case was that of Dr. Dodd, in London, in which a petition, signed by thirty thousand names, was presented, praying for the remission of the penalty of death. Such a case was that of Major Andre, when Washington shed tears at the necessity of signing the death-warrant of so young and so accomplished an officer. Such cases often occur, in which there is the deepest anxiety in the bosom of an executive to see if there is not some way by which the infliction of the penalty of the law may be avoided.
(c) Yet there was in the case of Darius no possibility of a change, and this too is an illustration of what often occurs. The law was inexorable. It could not be repealed. So now there are instances where the penalty of law cannot be avoided consistently with the welfare of a community. Punishment must be inflicted, or all law become a nullity. An instance of this kind was that of Dr. Dodd. He was convicted of forgery. So important had it been deemed for the welfare of a commercial community that that crime should be prevented, that no one ever had been pardoned for it, and it was felt that no one should be. Such an instance was that of Major Andre. The safety and welfare of the whole army, and the success of the cause, seemed to demand that the offence should not go unpunished.
(d) Yet there are difficulties in extending pardon to the guilty;
(1) if it is done at all, it always does so much to weaken the strong arm of the law, and if often done, it makes law a nullity; and
(2) if it is never done, the law seems stern and inexorable, and the finer feelings of our nature, and the benevolent wishes of the community, are disregarded.
(e) These difficulties are obviated by an atonement. The things which are accomplished in the atonement made under the Divine government, we think, so far as this point is concerned, and which distinguishes pardon in the Divine administration from pardon everywhere else, relieving it from all the embarrassments felt in other governments, are the following:
(1) There is the utmost respect paid to the law. It is honored
(aa) in the personal obedience of the Lord Jesus, and
(bb) in the sacrifice which he made on the cross to maintain its dignity, and to show that it could not be violated with impunity - more honored by far than it would be by the perfect obedience of man himself, or by its penalty being borne by the sinner.
(2) pardon can be offered to any extent, or to any number of offenders. All the feelings of benevolence and mercy can be indulged and gratified in the most free manner, for now that an atonement is made, all proper honor has been shown to the law and to the claims of justice, and no interest will suffer though the most ample proclamation of pardon is issued. There is but one government in the universe that can safely to itself make an unlimited offer of pardon - that is, the government of God. There is not a human government that could safely make the offer which we meet everywhere in the Bible, that all offences may be forgiven: that all violators of law may be pardoned. If such a proclamation were made, there is no earthly administration that could hope to stand; no community which would not soon become the prey of lawless plunder and robbery. The reason, and the sole reason, why it can be done in the Divine administration is, that an atonement has been made by which the honor of the law has been secured, and by which it is shown that, while pardon is extended to all, the law is to be honored, and can never be violated with impunity.
(3) The plan of pardon by the atonement secures the observance of the law on the part of those who are pardoned. This can never be depended on when an offender against human laws is pardoned, and when a convict is discharged from the penitentiary. So far as the effect of punishment, or any influence from the act of pardon is concerned, there is no security that the pardoned convict will not, as his first act, force a dwelling or commit murder. But in the case of all who are pardoned through the atonement, it is made certain that they will be obedient to the laws of God, and that their lives will be changed from sin to holiness, from disobedience to obedience. This has been secured by incorporating into the plan a provision by which the heart shall be changed before pardon is granted: not as the ground or reason of pardon, but as essential to it. The heart of the sinner is renewed by the Holy Spirit, and he becomes in fact obedient, and is disposed to lead a life of holiness. Thus every hinderance which exists in a human government to pardon is removed in the Divine administration; the honor of law is secured; the feelings of benevolence are gratified, and the sinner becomes obedient and holy.
(7) We have in this chapter Daniel 6:16 an instance of the confidence which wicked men are constrained to express in the true God. Darius had no doubt that the God whom Daniel served was able to protect and deliver him. The same may be said now. Wicked men know that it is safe to trust in God; that he is able to save his friends; that there is more security in the ways of virtue than in the ways of sin; and that when human help fails, it is proper to repose on the Almighty arm. There is a feeling in the human heart that they who confide in God are safe, and that it is proper to rely on his arm; and even a wicked father will not hesitate to exhort a Christian son or daughter to serve their God faithfully, and to confide in him in the trials and temptations of life. Ethan Allen, of Vermont, distinguished in the American revolution, was an infidel. His wife was an eminent Christian. When he was about to die, he was asked which of the two he wished his son to imitate in his religious views - his father or his mother. He replied, "His mother."
(8) The righteous may look for the Divine protection and favor Daniel 6:22; that is, it is an advantage in this world of danger, and temptation, and trial, to be truly religious; or, in other words, those who are righteous may confidently expect the Divine interposition in their behalf. It is, indeed, a question of some difficulty, but of much importance, to what extent, and in what forms we are authorized now to look for the Divine interposition in our behalf, or what is the real benefit of religion in this world, so far as the Divine protection is concerned; and on this point it seems not inappropriate to lay down a few principles that may be of use, and that may be a proper application of the passage before us to our own circumstances:
(A) There is then a class of Scripture promises that refer to such protection, and that lead us to believe that we may look for the Divine interference in favor of the righteous, or that there is, in this respect, an advantage in true religion. In support of this, reference may be made to the following, among other passages of Scripture: Psalm 34:7, Psalm 34:17-22; Psalm 55:22; Psalm 91:1-8; Isaiah 43:1-2; Luke 12:6-7; Hebrews 1:14; Hebrews 13:5-6.
(B) In regard to the proper interpretation of these passages, or to the nature and extent of the Divine interposition, which we may expect in behalf of the righteous, it may be remarked.
I. That we are not to expect now the following things:
(a) The Divine interposition by miracle. It is the common opinion of the Christian world that the age of miracles is past; and certainly there is nothing in the Bible that authorizes us to expect that God will now interpose for us in that manner. It would be a wholly illogical inference, however, to maintain that there never has been any such interposition in behalf of the righteous; since a reason may have existed for such an interposition in former times which may not exist now.
(b) We are not authorized to expect that God will interpose by sending his angels visibly to protect and deliver us in the day of peril. The fair interpretation of those passages of Scripture which refer to that subject, as Psalm 34:7; Hebrews 1:14, does not require us to believe that there will be such interposition, and there is no evidence that such interposition takes place. This fact, however, should not be regarded as proof, either
(1) that no such visible interposition has ever occurred in former times - since it in no way demonstrates that point; or
(2) that the angels may not interpose in our behalf now, though to us invisible. For anything that can be proved to the contrary, it may still be true that the angels may be, invisibly, "ministering spirits to those who shall be heirs of salvation," and that they may be sent to accompany the souls of the righteous on their way to heaven, as they were to conduct Lazarus to Abraham's bosom, Luke 16:22.
(c) We are not authorized to expect that God will set aside the regular laws of nature in our behalf - that he will thus interpose for us in regard to diseases, to pestilence, to storms, to mildew, to the ravages of the locust or the caterpillar - for this would be a miracle and all the interposition which we are entitled to expect must be consistent with the belief that the laws of nature will be regarded.
(d) We are not authorized to expect that the righteous will never be overwhelmed with the wicked in calamity - that in an explosion on a steam-boat, in a shipwreck, in fire or flood, in an earthquake or in the pestilence, they will not be cut down together. To suppose that God would directly interpose in behalf of his people in such cases, would be to suppose that there would be miracles still, and there is nothing in the Bible, or in the facts that occur, to justify such an expectation.
II. The Divine interposition which we are authorized to expect, may be referred to under the following particulars:
(a) All events, great and small, are under the control of the God who loves righteousness - the God of the righteous. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without his notice; not an event happens without his permission. If, therefore, calamity comes upon the righteous, it is not because the world is without control; it is not because God could not prevent it; it must be because he sees it best that it should be so.
(b) There is a general course of events that is favorable to virtue and religion; that is, there is a state of things on earth which demonstrates that there is a moral government over men. The essence of such a government, as Bishop Butler (Analogy) has shown, is, that virtue, in the course of things, is rewarded as virtue, and that vice is punished as vice. This course of things is so settled and clear as to show that God is the friend of virtue and religion, and the enemy of vice and irreligion - that is, that under his administration, the one, as a great law, has a tendency to promote happiness; the other to produce misery. But if so, there is an advantage in being righteous; or there is a Divine interposition in behalf of the righteous.
(c) There are large classes of evils which a man will certainly avoid by virtue and religion, and those evils are among the most severe that afflict mankind. A course of virtue and religion will make it certain that those evils will never come upon him or his family. Thus, for example, by so simple a thing as total abstinence from intoxicating drinks, a man will certainly avoid all the evils that afflict the drunkard - the poverty, disease, disgrace, wretchedness, and ruin of body and soul which are certain to follow from intemperance. By chastity, a man will avoid the woes that come, in the righteous visitation of God, on the debauchee, in the form of the most painful and loathsome of the diseases that afflict our race. By integrity a man will avoid the evils of imprisonment for crime, and the disgrace which attaches to its committal. And by religion - pure religion - by the calmness of mind which it produces - the confidence in God; the cheerful submission to his will; the contentment which it causes, and the hopes of a better world which it inspires, a man will certainly avoid a large class of evils which unsettle the mind, and which fill with wretched victims the asylums for the insane.
Let a man take up the report of an insane asylum, and ask what proportion of its inmates would have been saved from so fearful a malady by true religion; by the calmness which it produces in trouble; by its influence in moderating the passions and restraining the desires; by the acquiescence in the will of God which it produces, and he will be surprised at the number which would have been saved by it from the dreadful evils of insanity. As an illustration of this, I took up the Report of the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane, for the year 1850, which happened to be lying before me, and looked to see what were the causes of insanity in regard to the inmates of the asylum, with a view to the inquiry what proportion of them would probably have been saved from it by the proper influence of religion. Of 1599 patients whose cases were referred to, I found the following, a large part of whom, it may be supposed, would have been saved from insanity if their minds had been under the proper influence of the gospel of Christ, restraining them from sin, moderating their passions, checking their desires, and giving them calmness and submission in the midst of trouble:
Intemperance 95 Loss of property 72 Dread of poverty 2 Intense study 19 Domestic difficulties 48 Grief for the loss of friends 77 Intense application to business 3 Religious excitement 61 Want of employment 24 Mortified pride 3 Use of opium and tobacco 10 Mental anxiety 77 (d) There are cases where God seems to interpose in behalf of the righteous directly, in answer to prayer, in times of sickness, poverty, and danger - raising them up from the borders of the grave; providing for their wants in a manner which appears to be as providential as when the ravens fed Elijah, and rescuing them from danger. There are numerous such cases which cannot be well accounted for on any other supposition than that God does directly interpose in their behalf, and show them these mercies because they are his friends. These are not miracles. The purpose to do this was a part of the original plan when the world was made, and the prayer and the interposition are only the fulfilling of the eternal decree.
(e) God does interpose in behalf of his children in giving them support and consolation; in sustaining them in the time of trial; in upholding them in bereavement and sorrow, and in granting them peace as they go into the valley of the shadow of death. The evidence here is clear, that there is a degree of comfort and peace given to true Christians in such seasons, and given in consequence of their religion, which is not granted to the wicked, and to which the devotees of the world are strangers. And if these things are so, then it is clear that there is an advantage in this life in being righteous, and that God does now interpose in the course of events, and in the day of trouble, in behalf of his friends.
(9) God often overrules the malice of men to make himself known, and constrains the wicked to acknowledge him, Daniel 6:25-27. Darius, like Nebuchadnezzar, was constrained to acknowledge him as the true God, and to make proclamation of this throughout his vast empire. So often, by his providence, God constrains the wicked to acknowledge him as the true God, and as ruling in the affairs of men. His interpositions are so apparent; his works are so vast; the proofs of his administration are so clear; and he so defeats the counsels of the wicked, that they cannot but feel that he rules, and they cannot but acknowledge and proclaim it. It is in this way that from age to age God is raising up a great number of witnesses even among the wicked to acknowledge his existence, and to proclaim the great truths of his government; and it is in this way, among others, that he is constraining the intellect of the world to bow before him. Ultimately all this will be so clear, that the intellect of the world will acknowledge it, and all kings and people will see, as Darius did, that "he is the living God, and steadfast forever, and his kingdom what shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be unto the end."