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Daniel chapter 6

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What does Daniel chapter 6 mean?

Rule over Babylon had passed from the Chaldean king Belshazzar to someone identified as "Darius the Mede" (Daniel 5:30–31). Scholars debate who this person was. Skeptics claim no such person existed. Various theories have been offered. Among these is a man called Gubaru, Gobryas, or Ugbaru, a general under Cyrus. It's possible this man was given his position by a higher authority (Daniel 5:31; 9:1), and that the name Darius was used as a title. Ultimately, his identity is a biblical mystery not yet fully explained.

Darius organizes his rule using 123 officials. Most are "satraps;" they were to be supervised by three high governors. Darius intended to make Daniel the most powerful of those advisors, thanks to his outstanding skill and integrity (Daniel 6:1–3).

The other politicians are jealous of Daniel's success. They scrabble for some criticism with which to destroy him, finding nothing. Daniel is just as moral and upright as his reputation suggests. However, he is also known for his devotion to his God (Daniel 1:8, 17, 20). The schemers realize that Daniel will never compromise his faith, even if that means breaking the law (Daniel 6:4–5).

The conspirators are said to approach Darius "by agreement;" the original text is not implying that all 122 came at the same time. Nor does it mean that every one of the satraps and governors were part of the plot. Yet, they certainly appeared in a group. They falsely told Darius that their plan was unanimous—Daniel obviously did not agree. Seeing many of his governors urgently presenting the law likely helped convince Darius that this was a good idea. In Persian culture, the king was the embodiment of the law, and the law was never wrong. Therefore, certain official decrees could not be changed or overturned—otherwise, it would imply the law was contradicting itself. Knowing this is a malicious trap, those scheming against Daniel ensure that Darius makes his proclamation in exactly this way (Daniel 6:6–9).

Daniel becomes aware of the new law and changes nothing. The law forbids prayer to anyone but Darius, yet Daniel refuses to stop praying to God. In fact, he continues to openly pray, in front of his windows. Rather than fear, Daniel expresses gratitude and love for the Lord. As he prays, the same core group of conspirators catch him in the act of breaking Darius's new law (Daniel 6:10–11).

Knowing that Darius never intended to harm Daniel, the scheming politicians ask the king to affirm that his new law is irrevocable. As soon as he agrees that it cannot be changed or overruled, they point out that Daniel was caught in violation of that very edict. The king is anguished, but apparently is bound to carry out a sentence that same day. He looks for a loophole but finds none (Daniel 6:12–15).

With great regret, Darius orders Daniel to be placed into the lions' den. This was probably a modified natural pit or cave, or an artificial enclosure. The lions were likely captured for this very purpose. The king follows all the required procedures, and Daniel is sealed in with the beasts. Darius is so upset that he cannot sleep and has no interest in the pleasures of his throne. This suggests a faint glimmer of hope. In normal circumstances, the king would simply accept that Daniel was dead. Instead, he agonizes over the possibility that Daniel's God will provide rescue (Daniel 6:16–18).

The following morning, the king anxiously hurries to the den and calls out. To his great relief, Daniel answers. Not only has he survived, but he hasn't so much as been scratched. Though Daniel was clearly guilty of breaking the law, his actions were never of any risk to the king. Nor were they sins in the eyes of God. As a result, he was spared. Daniel credits this rescue to God through the presence of an angel. This figure is not identified, though some suggest it might have been Michael the archangel or even a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus (Daniel 6:19–23).

Darius now turns his rage on those who conspired against Daniel. They suffer the fate which they'd plotted for others. Worse, following ancient custom, their families are also condemned to death. This was a step disallowed by Old Testament Law (Deuteronomy 24:16) but frequently applied in pagan nations. The lions' reaction proves they were not sick, weak, or disinterested. The new victims don't even have time to land at the bottom of the pit before being torn apart (Daniel 6:24).

The end of this chapter contains a decree from Darius celebrating the power of Daniel's God. Darius does not proclaim that Daniel's God is the only God. Nor does he forbid his subjects from worshipping the many other idols of Persia, Babylon, and the Medes. But he does command respect for Daniel's God, proving what an impression this incident has made (Daniel 6:25–28).

This passage continues a long segment recorded in Aramaic, rather than in Hebrew (Daniel 2:4—7:28). The stories contained in that section are primarily messages for Gentile peoples. This overlaps with the book of Daniel's shift into prophecy. Chapter 7 records, in Aramaic, a vision which Daniel had seen during the reign of Belshazzar but had kept to himself. The rest of the book contains prophecy written in Hebrew.
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