Corresponds with Sabbath School Study Guide: Oct 30-Nov 5
The story recorded in chapter six of Daniel has many parallels with the story from chapter three at the levels of structure, vocabulary and theme. Similarities in vocabulary are as follows:
- The list of officials (3:2, 3 and 6:7)
- The Jews “pay no heed to you” (3:12 and 6:13)
- “I make a decree” (3:29 and 6:26)
Similarities in structure and theme in the two chapters are as follows:
- The order to worship false gods (3:1-9 and 6:1-8)
- The faithful refuse the order (3:10-13 and 6:9-18)
- The faithful sentenced to death (3:14-18 and 6:19-24)
- The faithful delivered and the king repents (3:19-28 and 6:25-28)
- The king utters a hymn of praise to God (4:3, 34-35 and 6:26-27)
The story is very important in the book because in chapter three only Daniel’s friends are mentioned, while he himself is mysteriously absent. In chapter six, however, he is subjected to a very similar test and, just like his friends, he is miraculously saved by God.
The event in this chapter is not explicitly dated, but it must have happened shortly after the fall of Babylon around the year 538 BC just like the events from the previous chapter as well as from chapter nine. The Medo-Persian kingdom that took control of the world became at its height the largest empire up to that time, stretching from Egypt to India (Esther 1:1). The small kingdom of Judah belonged to its fifth satrapy. The founder of the empire, Cyrus the Great, was known throughout the region as a tolerant emperor, whose generous policies supported the local gods and laws.
This chapter is another in a series of records about the triumph of Daniel’s God over the earthly powers. All of the previous triumphs took place in or around the city of Babylon, while the place where the one recorded in this chapter happened is not identified and it is assumed that it was Babylon. The place of the event was not as nearly important to the author of the book as was God’s mighty act of delivering his faithful servant.
As it has been the case with the previous chapters, this one too, follows a chiastic-concentric plan that may be demonstrated as follows:
The chapter begins and ends with Daniel’s success at the court. His arrest and sentence, match his release and his enemies’ doom. At the heart of the story is Daniel’s deliverance. A saving decree replaces the fatal one. The chapter ends with yet another hymn of praise to Daniel’s God.
Relevant Biblical Passages
- Daniel 6:1-4. The person of Darius the Mede is introduced in the last verse of the previous chapter. His identity and place in history have not been clearly determined by scholars. Among several proposals, the most attractive are the following two: (1) Extra-biblical sources reveal that a high ranking officer was in charge over Babylon right after its fall into the hands of the Medo-Persian army. The name of this person was either Ugbaru, Gubaru, or Gobryas. The Nabonidus Chronicle claims: “Cyrus entered Babylon, green twigs were spread in front of him-the state of “Peace” (šulmu) was imposed upon the city. Cyrus sent greetings to all Babylon. Gobryas, his governor, installed (sub)governors in Babylon.” (2) Some scholars find Biblical evidence which leads to a conclusion that the title Darius may have been Cyrus’ Median title. Old Testament prophets Isaiah (13:17) and Jeremiah (51:11, 28) taught that Babylon will be conquered by the Medes, not the Persians. In addition, D. J. Wiseman has suggested that there may be an explicative waw in Daniel 6:28, and the verse should be read as “So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius which is the reign of Cyrus the Persian.” From our text here, what can we can learn about Darius’ attitude toward Daniel?
- Daniel 6:5-11. Compare and contrast the character of Daniel’s enemies with his own! Were the satraps and administrators right when they said that “all [officers] have agreed”? Why did Daniel pray with his windows open? Why did he pray in the direction of Jerusalem? Was there a conflict here between two unchangeable laws? The Book of Esther also talks about the laws of the Persians and Medes, reversing the order of the two names.
- Daniel 6:15-20. The king is now trapped. He cannot do much to help Daniel. Yet he does a few things. What are they? (prayer, sealing of the den, fasting, keeping vigil, hurrying early in the morning to the den …).
- Daniel 6:21-23. Daniel is saved from the lions. How does he explain the way in which he was rescued? What are the two reasons mentioned in the text that explain why he was saved?
- Daniel 6:25-27. This is the last hymn of praise in the book, and this one also comes from the mouth of a pagan emperor and it is another echo of Daniel’s praise from chapter two. What do we learn about God from this hymn? How do the words of this hymn of praise compare to those from the previous ones?
Lessons for Life
The story in this chapter is built on the theme of professional jealousy, while its plot is built on the conflict between two unchangeable laws, one human the other divine. Daniel’s attitude sets a good example for others to follow. Centuries later, Christ’s followers stated before the Sanhedrin: “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God” (Acts 4:19). Yet the story stresses that Daniel’s respect for the king and his faithful service were unwavering.
Daniel’s attitude in the story is presented in a stark contrast to that of his enemies. When they show some politeness, it is a result of a careful calculation. They greet the king only the first time they come to him (cf. verses 6, 12 and 15). Daniel, on the other hand, is polite in the most desperate situation. As an old man, while he was still down at the bottom of the pit with the lions, he greets Darius “O king, live forever!” (6:21).