In Chapter 6 we begin exploring the story of Daniel and the Lions’ Den. This chapter is the last historical section of The Book, concluding the narrative of Daniel and his interactions with those around him. Leading up to the Lions Den, we examine powerful rulers, taxes, satraps and the role they play in the story, culminating in the king’s decree.
Today we come to chapter 6 of Daniel. And this is the last of the historical section of Daniel.
Chapters 1-6 is the history of Daniel and his interaction with other people. He has interpretation of dreams in chapters 1-6; but they’re generally other people’s dreams he’s interacting with.
Next time, we’ll start in chapter 7, and this is the prophetic section; and we have the dreams that Daniel is writing about himself. These are the dreams or visions that came to Daniel.
We’re going to have three points to today’s lesson. First part, we’re going to do an historical background because to really understand this Daniel-in-the-lions’-den passage you really have to know what’s going on in the historical time setting here to get the full sense of what’s happening.
Then we’re going to talk about the story itself, Daniel in the lions’ den.
Then we’re going to look at the life of Daniel since this is the last historical lesson on Daniel and the amazing lesson that his life is.
If we were going to put headlines on this, we might put headlines like Vast Bureaucracy, Amazing Courage, and a Life Worth Copying.
So let’s just read the first couple of verses and then we’ll talk about the historical background.
Daniel 6:1. It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred and twenty satraps, to be over the whole kingdom and over these, three governors, of whom Daniel was one, that the satraps might give account to them, so that the king would suffer no loss.
OK, so Darius is the king. We saw that in chapter 5:30, the handwriting on the wall. That very night Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, was slain. And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.
We went through that last week, how the Persians dammed up the river and crawled under and took the city with no resistance because they were in there having a big party. And that was corroborated by Herodotus. And, also, there’s another historian, I think, that corroborated it, Xenophon, as well.
So Darius the Mede receives the kingdom.
So here we have, It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom—
Who was Darius?
One of the things that’s interesting in reading about the history of this, nobody’s sure exactly who this Darius is. When the Biblical scholars go to the secular historians and try to mesh what the biblical account says with other archeological finds, they’re really not sure what to make of it.
There are multiple theories about who it is. The secular skeptics always come to the Bible with the view of—how can we discredit the Bible? So they say, well, obviously, Cyrus was king of Persia when this great victory over Babylon took place, so the Bible is inaccurate.
But that’s really weak.
If we look over to 6:28, the last verse of this chapter, So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian. The writer here is perfectly aware of Cyrus. This is no mistake. And anyway, if someone was going to write a document that’s concurrent with people who know the history, they’re not going to make an obvious mistake like that and misname who the king is.
There are two main theories. One is that Darius was king of the Babylonian kingdom under Cyrus. And the other is that they’re one and the same person.
And if you look at the Hebrew—and I’m not Hebrew scholar—but this phrase and in the is actually not in the Hebrew. It just says So this Daniel prospered reign of Darius reign of Cyrus the Persian. So you have to interpret what that means. And you could interpret this as in the reign of Darius, even the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
Historically Cyrus’ mom was a Mede, and his dad was a Persian. So he was both. And so it’s perfectly reasonable to think it could be one and the same person. If that’s the case, then why would Daniel want to use the phrase “Darius the Mede” for the person who took over rather than Cyrus the Persian, and what does the Bible have to say about Cyrus the Persian?
Who was Cyrus?
Well, let’s just look at Cyrus first.
If we look at 2 Chronicles 36:22, it says Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the Spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation that they return.
If you look at Ezra 1:1—Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia— Verse 2: Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. So obviously that is something that the Bible fully recognizes. This is Cyrus.
Further, in Isaiah 44:28, there’s a prophecy, and it says:
Who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd,
And he shall perform all My pleasure,
Saying to Jerusalem, “You shall be built,”
Now Isaiah is in the 700s B.C. So here’s Isaiah saying, by name, Cyrus is going to say “rebuild my house,” by name. He names him. “Cyrus my shepherd.”
So why when the Bible says Cyrus is going to rebuild Jerusalem and Daniel knows this—because Daniel, we know, is a biblical scholar, we know that from his reading of Jeremiah and saying, “Hey, we’ve got 70 years. We’re getting close. God, what’s happening here?”
So why would he want to use the term “Darius the Mede”?
Well, interestingly, if we go to Jeremiah 51:11—and this is a proclamation of Jeremiah against Babylon. And it says:
Make the arrows bright!
Gather the shields!
The LORD has raised up the spirit of the kings of the Medes.
For His plan is against Babylon to destroy it,
Because it is the vengeance of the LORD,
The vengeance for His temple.
The Bible predicts the Medes will overturn Babylon, and the Bible predicts that Cyrus will cause the house to be rebuilt. And it seems reasonable that one of the very distinct possibilities is—it’s one and the same person. Darius the Mede who conquered Babylon, Cyrus the Persian who restored the temple, could be the same guy. Could be two different guys—
But as we know, the Bible is pretty fond of one person fulfilling multiple prophecies, even as Jesus did. Now we’ve got the suffering servant Messiah in the Old Testament, Joseph; and we’ve got the conquering Messiah, David. And it turns out to be the same person even though they do two completely different things.
Nobody’s sure. There’s not a complete meshing of information, but that’s probably the most reasonable explanation based on what I’ve read.
Here we have Darius or Cyrus sets up the kingdom. I’m going to presume it’s the same person for the purpose of the historical setup.
So he sets over the kingdom 120 satraps.
Let me talk to you a little bit about what this kingdom was. This is from Wikipedia, which is on the internet, so obviously it’s true. Anything that’s crowd sourced, I think is probably more reliable than something that comes from someone who styles himself as an expert because experts, you know, have to be right all the time in order to sell something, even though they know better.
But it says this:
“By share of population, the largest empire was the Achaemenid Empire, better known as the Persian Empire, which accounted for approximately 49 million of the world’s 112 million people in around 480 BC – an astonishing 44%. Originating in modern-day Iran, the empire was first established by Cyrus the Great and included parts of Central Asia, the Mediterranean, North Africa, and even European territories such as ancient Thrace and Macedonia. It was larger than any previous empire in history. It is equally notable for its successful model of a centralized, bureaucratic administration (through satraps under the King of Kings), for building infrastructure such as road systems and a postal system, the use of an official language across its territories, and the development of civil services and a large professional army. ”
Alexander the Great
My studies of Alexander the Great, slight as they are, have been fascinating to me. Because Alexander the Great, as we’ll see when we get to 7, 8, 9, is this billy goat that just goes and furiously knocks down these empires.
The way he went about it is really fascinating. As I recall—and this is very high-level synthesis on my part, not an attempt to accurately represent best scholarship. But basically, the way I understand it is Alexander went in and took over some cities, conquered it like you’d normally conquer it. And went in and kind of assessed what was going on, and realized, the eunuchs, the bureaucracy, run everything in here. And the taxation is really high, and people hate these guys. So what I’m going to do is I’m just going to kill them, and I’m going to go find some honest guys, substantially cut taxes, and make people’s lives better.
He did that a few times, and word gets out. Word spreads. Hey, this guy’s a tax-cut politician.
Then he would go to a city, and he would roll up and say, “Hey, I’m here. Alexander the Great. I’ll give you two choices. One is you can throw the heads of all the guys that are overtaxing you over the wall, or I’ll come in and kill everybody; and I’m perfectly indifferent to which one it is. Take your pick.”
And, of course, the heads come over the wall, pretty much. So the cities drop just like flies. He just rolled it all up. He rolled an entire empire. You see how giant this empire was! He rolled it up in a matter of years. He didn’t so much conquer it as they welcomed him in because, hey, get rid of these corrupt bureaucrats and get somebody else. If I’m going to be a slave, I might as well be a slave to somebody who’s not a corrupt overtaxer.
So this comports with what I already knew of history.
Satraps and taxes
These satraps are interesting fellows, and we can see here that if we’re going to have 120 over the whole empire, can you imagine 4 billion people today—if we’re talking about half the world’s population—can you imagine 120 people controlling 4 billion people? That would be the proportion. If someone was in control of America—one person—“I get to tax all of America, and I’ll just keep a little for myself.” Can you imagine how rich that person would be?
Well that’s sort of what we see going on here.
Let me read you something about some satraps. Have you heard of the Seven Wonders of the World? Can anybody name the Seven Wonders of the World? Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Not the hanging baskets. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, that’s one. Any other ones? The Giza Pyramid, good. Anybody remember any others? Those are the two big ones. The Lighthouse of Alexandria. The Colossus of Rhodes is the only other one I can remember.
There’s one that no one would remember. I didn’t remember it. And it’s the Tomb of the Mausolus. We get a word from the Tomb of Mausolus. Can anybody guess what the word is? Mausoleum. And Mausolus built this tomb, and it was such an amazing aesthetic feat that it became an ancient wonder of the world.
Mausolus was a satrap. Not a king. He was a satrap in the Persian empire. And the tomb was probably built around 350 B.C.
Where would a satrap get the kind of money that it takes to build an artistic achievement that would rank among the Seven Wonders of the World? Yes! By taking taxes and taking a siphon off the taxes.
Now listen to this. Again, Wikipedia. “Part of the cause of the Empire’s decline had been the heavy tax burden put upon the state, which eventually led to economic decline.” (Couldn’t happen to us.) “An estimate of the tribute imposed on the subject nations was up to U.S. $180 million per year. This does not include the material goods and supplies that were supplied as taxes. After the high overhead of government—the military, the bureaucracy—whatever the satraps could safely dip into the coffers for themselves, this money went into the royal treasury.” I doubt it. I imagine it went first into their personal treasury and then into the royal treasury. “According to Diodorus, at Persepolis, Alexander III found some 180,000 Attic talents of silver besides the additional treasure the Macedonians were carrying that already had been seized in Damascus by Parmenion. This amounted to U.S. $2.7 billion.”
So anyway, vast sums coming from these taxes. Now. Let’s read these couple of verses again with that in mind.
It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred and twenty satraps—So these 120 guys are going to control the bureaucracy over his whole kingdom—to be over the whole kingdom and over these, three governors, of whom Daniel was one, that the satraps might give account to them, so that the king would suffer no loss. You get it? Would suffer no loss. No loss of what? Money!
There are two things a king can worry about losing. One is his kingdom to an army.
Now at this point in time, this is about 66 years after Daniel was first brought to Babylon, so he’s probably in his 80s by now. Would you take an 80-year-old eunuch and put him over your palace guard to keep from getting your kingdom taken away from you? No. I don’t think so.
You put in charge of the people to whom are going to give account so the king would suffer no loss—you put the most honest guy. So you’ve got three governors, of whom Daniel was one, that the king might suffer no loss.
Verse 3. Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps—
If your job is to give account and suffer no loss, how would you most distinguish yourself? The most money going into the treasury which means less money is going where? Into the mausoleum fund. Get it?
Okay, so Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm.
The satraps plot to stop Daniel.
What’s going to happen to the mausoleum funds, all 120 of them, if Daniel gets set over the whole realm? “My river house is at stake. My art collection is at stake. My lifestyle is at stake.” I’ve got a real problem, if I’m a satrap here, right?
When you’re a bureaucrat and you have a problem and that problem is an honest fellow-bureaucrat, what do you do? There’s only one thing to do: assassinate them.
You can either assassinate their character and discredit them so that they have no more influence, or you can kill them.
Now when would you choose killing them? When it can’t get back to you. When there’s a way to do it where there’s no fingerprints on it. Obviously! Right? If you’re thinking like a bureaucrat.
If you can’t do that, then you discredit them.
Does that happen today? Humanity hasn’t changed all that much, right?
And remember, when we saw in Revelation, we saw the single beast that was like all the kingdoms that went before it. We see vast bureaucracy building even today across the world. And people in democratic nations are starting to say, “Hey, wait a minute, I thought I voted for somebody that represented me. Who are these guys making these laws over me?” We’re fighting the same thing today because these kingdoms are all built one another.
Verse 4. So the governors and satraps—did the only reasonable thing that bureaucrats do when they’re at risk, they—sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom;
What you do is you find something they’re doing wrong. Are you doing the same thing wrong? Of course you are! But if all of you get together and accuse this other of doing this same wrong thing, then you only apply the law against the people who are getting in the way, right? That’s the way we do things in bureaucracy-world.
But they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; See, he was actually collecting the taxes and not keeping any payola. If he were keeping just ten percent as much as they were, they could still get him. But he’s totally honest.
What’s Daniel thinking here, right? All this money going through his hands! It’s perfectly okay with the culture to take his share. He could have had a mausoleum that was Daniel’s mausoleum. He could have even put his testimony in it! Think of all the people who could have been saved! He could have justified himself. Everybody else is doing it!
Nope. Not Daniel. He’s just going to serve the pagan king, and the pagan king that came in and took over from the previous guy. He’s just going to serve him and collect all the taxes honestly.
nor was there any error or fault found in him. What a guy, huh? He’s in his 80s now! This guy’s in his 80s, and he’s still at it! It’s pretty amazing.
Verse 5. Then these men said, “We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.”
So now these guys, they’ve looked at his administration, they’ve tried to find some corruption. This in modern days is called opposition research. You do a deep dive. And in our world, if you can’t find someone breaking a rule, then you make up something that they did wrong. You just make it up, and accuse them of that, and prosecute them anyway.
They were just too honest. That’s the problem.
They know he’s righteous. They know they don’t have anything against him under their law; so they go do a different law. Let’s find something under the law of his God.
So these governors and satraps thronged before the king, and said thus to him: “King Darius, live forever! No doubt these are the same guys that told Belshazzar, “Live forever.” But, you know, you adapt.
All the governors of the kingdom—All the governors of the kingdom. See, social proof here, right? Everybody thinks what we’re about to tell you. All the governors of the kingdom—Does that include Daniel? Of course it does, according to this representation, right? All the governors of the kingdom, the administrators and satraps, the counselors and advisors, have consulted together to establish a royal statute and to make a firm decree, that whoever petitions any god or man for thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions.
Now, O king, establish the decree and sign the writing, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which does not alter.”
So the Medes and Persians had this law. It’s a kingdom of laws and a bureaucracy. So they had this law that if the king made a law, it could not be revoked.
Now you think about the wisdom of that. Remember when Nebuchadnezzar said, “Kill all the Chaldeans; Kill all the wise men,” what Daniel said is, “Why is the king’s edict so hasty? What’s going on here?”
And they’re kind of slow-playing killing the wise men. They probably killed a few guys that nobody liked anyway. They’re kind of slow-playing it because the king might change his mind.
And what the Persians did is they made a rule, if you make a law, it has to be followed. It has to be followed. You can’t change it.
These guys come in, and they say, hey, all of us want to do this; and they’re playing on the king’s ego, obviously. “We just want to worship you for 30 days. We want to get up and do our devotional to you. You know why? Because all we care about is you! That’s all we love. We love you. Only you.”
Hey, that might make a good song. Only you.
So, no! And Darius is like, boy, if all of my governors want to do this, who am I to stand in their way?
Therefore King Darius signed the written decree.