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Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Gleanings from Daniel [11]

denThe Lion Den (Daniel 6)

Daniel chapter 6 is the last real narrative of the book of Daniel.  From chapter 7 onwards the book turns to prophecy. 

Remember, Daniel is composed of two languages: Hebrew, the language of Israel, and Aramaic, or what would be the common language of the secular world at that time.  The majority of the narrative chapters are written in Aramaic, meaning as I believe, God wanted to convey His sovereign authority to the most powerful pagan nations in the ancient world. 

This last official narrative passage has God displaying His power to the new king Darius.  Chapter 5 ended with the Babylonian kingdom falling to the Medo-Persian empire and Darius receiving the kingdom.

Who was Darius? Two possibilities:

Gubaru (Gobryas)

He is said to have been a previous Babylonian governor who turned to the Persians to help them over throw the Babylonian kingdom.  Three reasons why some see Gobryas as the historical Darius

1) Nabonidus Chronicle says Gubaru was installed as a sub-governor under Cyrus.  Daniel 6:1-2 seems to confirm this.

2) Darius is said to have “received the kingdom” meaning, from a superior ruler who would be Cyrus.

3) Daniel 6:28 reads, “So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.”  The text suggests two distinct individuals.

Cyrus

“Darius” is just an official title for Cyrus, who was the only sole ruler of Babylon.  Four reasons why historians say this:

1) Dual titles were common in the ancient world.  For example, Ahasuerus represents the Hebrew translation of the Persian title for Xerxes.

2) Cyrus had a Persian father, but a Median mother.

3) Ancient historian, Cicero, records that Cyrus died at the age of 70 and ruled the kingdom for 9 years and this would be about the same age of the Darius mentioned at the end of Daniel 5.

4) Daniel 6:28 the “and” could be rendered “even” implying a translation, “Darius, even Cyrus” meaning they are the one and same person.

I personally take the position that Darius was just another title for Cyrus. 

None the less, once Darius took over, he immediately demonstrated wise skills in governing.  He set over the entire kingdom 120 sub-governors, the Satraps, to rule the kingdom.  Over that group of 120 Satraps, He appointed three specific officials to govern the Satraps.  Daniel was one of those three officials.   It should be noted, also, that the translation “…of whom Daniel was one” could possible be rendered the idea of first, or the head over the other two.  Meaning that Daniel was the main guy over all of them.

What ever the case, Daniel distinguished himself as being the preeminent man over all the others.

He had what the Scripture describes as an excellent spirit, which implies his life being divinely directed by God.  He also had a good reputation; obviously because of his past history with Neb. when he spoke before him with authority.  More importantly, Daniel had integrity, something the new king needed with a governor in order to prevent governmental corruption. 

He had all of these qualities because he was blessed of God.  So, when a man like Daniel stands for conviction, integrity, purity, his enemies rise up to find fault. When they could not find anything to pin upon his character in order to take him down (vs. 4), the only option they had was to manufacture a phony plot to ruin him.  A typical move by the wicked against the righteous. 

So let me consider this vain plot against Daniel:

I. The Plot Conceived (6-9)

We are not certain how many individuals conspired against Daniel.  The only area where they could possibly impact him was religion.  Appealing to the King’s sense of pride, they went to him to enact a new decree.  The text says they “came as a throng” which speak more to a rebellious conspiracy.  They asked Darius to make a decree that no one worship or pray to any god other than the king.  The king, of course, agreed.

II. The Plot Executed (10-17)

Knowing that Daniel would not abide by Darius’ decree, they sought to expose him.  In fact, note how Daniel went home upon hearing the news of the decree and he prayed.  Which means He knew about the decree and prayed anyways: He chose to obey God rather than men.  His political enemies spied him out to accuse him and they saw him praying.  Immediately, they went straight to the king to bring charges against him for defying the king’s decree.  Darius was grieved over his stupid decision (vs. 14).  Regrettably, he had to execute Daniel on account of the decree that was unalterable. 

The form of execution was throwing Daniel into a den of lions. This was a typical form of capital punishment.  It was bothlions violent and gruesome.  Liberal scholars describe the reason for Daniel’s safety in the lion’s den was due in part to the lions being sick and weak from mistreatment.  But this is an absurd stretch to deny God’s power to save.  Lions are extremely dangerous animals.  In 1898, during the construction of the Kenya-Uganda Railway in Africa, two male Tsavo lions were responsible for the grisly killings of 28 railway workers. Unofficial reports put the number even higher at 135 men killed.  Hunting primarily at night, the two lions were bold enough to enter camps and drag men out of their tents while they slept.  They were nicknamed the “Ghost” and the “Darkness” and their reign of terror lasted from March of 1898 to December 1898 until they were shot and killed.   But, even though Daniel’s situation looked to be dire, Darius had confidence in God to rescue him. 

III. The Plot Failed (18-28)

Darius was so worried about Daniel, he fasted and prayed all night long.  Early the next morning, before even the sun came up, he went to the den.  His response is touching.  He called down into the pit with a lamenting voice and asked, “has your God whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?”  Daniel replied out of the darkness of the den that God had in deed saved him.  Daniel was alive and untouched, because an angel kept the mouths of the lions shut.

Then, in a twist of scriptural irony, those who accused Daniel were brought before Darius and condemned.  They, along with their families, were thrown into the pit and all of them were destroyed.  As the Bible states, they were killed before they even came to the bottom of the den.  All of them perished.

After Daniel was delivered, Darius made another decree:

=> He calls all the people to fear God

=> He proclaims God’s authority and dominion

=> He testifies as a witness to this God’s ability to save and deliver in a miraculous fashion

As a post script, Daniel is blessed of God so that he prospered during the reign of Darius who was Cyrus the Persian.

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