Daniel 6:1-28 (6:2-29)

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The conquest of Babylon and the territories that had been under the control of the empire required the establishment of a new arrangement for governing the region. Darius saw fit to appoint 120 (127 [LXX]) satraps (governors of provinces) to be over the whole kingdom. According to the Septuagint, Darius made these appointments when he “was full of days [had lived a long time] and honored in advanced age.” (6:1[2]; see the Notes section.)

Over the 120 satraps, Darius appointed three higher officials or governors, and Daniel was one of the three. Their role was to receive reports from the satraps so that the king would not suffer loss on account of failure on the part of any satrap to administer affairs of state properly. The Septuagint does not mention that the satraps had to render account to the three governors. (6:2[3])

Daniel distinguished himself as excelling the two other high officials and the satraps, “for an extraordinary spirit was in him,” and the king planned to appoint him over “all the kingdom” or the whole realm. The Septuagint portrays Daniel as having “authority over all in the kingdom.” He was dressed in purple, was great or prominent and influential and honored (éndoxos) before King Darius, “because he was honorable [éndoxos] and prudent and insightful, and a holy spirit [was] in him” (being divinely endowed to make known the revelations of God), and he prospered or succeeded in carrying out the matters of the king. According to Rahlfs’ printed Greek text, “then the king decided to appoint Daniel over all his kingdom and the two men who were appointed with him, and the 127 satraps.” (6:3[4]; see the Notes section.)

Daniel’s outstanding abilities led to his becoming an object of envy and murderous hostility. According to the Aramaic text and the Greek version of Theodotion, the two high officials and the satraps started plotting against him. They realized that they could not find occasion for serious complaint or discover a serious fault about the way Daniel performed his duties in the realm, “for he was faithful” or trustworthy and no error or fault could be “found in him.” According to the Septuagint, the ones who plotted against Daniel were the two other men who had been appointed over the satraps. The Septuagint refers to them as “young men” who spoke to one another and agreed upon a plan against Daniel. (6:4[5])

The Aramaic text and the Greek version of Theodotion indicate that the high officials and satraps who plotted against Daniel recognized that they could not accuse him before the king of having failed in his duties. Therefore, they needed to find something they could use against him “in the law of his God.” The Septuagint indicates that, because of not having found any “sin or ignorance” they could use to accuse Daniel before the king, the two young men decided to formulate a decree that no one could present a petition or pray to a god for thirty days except to Darius. Otherwise, the individual would be put to death. By means of the decree, the two men thought to bring about the overthrow of Daniel, for they knew that he prayed to his God three times a day. Then, by identifying Daniel as having violated the decree, they planned to maneuver matters to have the king throw him into the lions’ pit. (6:5[6])

By prior agreement, the two high officials and the satraps went to the king as a group. They addressed him in the customary way to wish him a long life. “O Darius the king live forever” (to limitless time; “into the ages” [Theodotion]). The Septuagint rendering indicates that only the two men went to the king and presented their proposal. (6:6[7])

All the high officials of the realm, the prefects and the satraps, the state counselors, and the governors told Darius that they had consulted together and proposed that he establish a statute and make it a binding edict that whoever “makes a petition to any god or man for thirty days except to you, O king, will be cast into the lions’ pit.” In the Greek version of Theodotion the officials are designated as “commanders” (strategós), “satraps,” “high officials” (hýpatos), “local governors” or “local officials” (topárches). According to the Septuagint, only the two high officials had formulated the edict and appeared before Darius. (6:7[8])

The officials (the two high officials [LXX]) asked Darius to sign the proposed statute into law so as not to be changed. According to the law of the Medes and Persians, no established royal statute could be annulled. The Septuagint rendering indicates that the two officials knew that Daniel prayed three times a day and so the unchangeable statute would force Darius to have Daniel thrown into the lions’ pit. (6:8[9]; see the Notes section.)

King Darius signed the writing or the document. It then became a statute that imposed the penalty of death in the lions’ pit for violators. (6:9[10])

According to the Septuagint, Daniel knew that the interdict had been established against him. He, however, did not publicly defy the statute that Darius had signed into law, but he continued to pray privately to God as he had formerly. He opened the windows of his upper chamber toward Jerusalem and then, as he knelt three times a day, prayed to and praised God just as he had done before Darius had signed the document. (6:10[11])

The Aramaic verb regásh describes what the men who spied on Daniel did. This verb can mean “run together” or “enter as a crowd” or as a group. The Greek version of Theodotion contains a form of the verb parateréo, meaning “watch closely.” Based on the Aramaic text, the men forced themselves into Daniel’s private quarters. The version of Theodotion indicates that they watched closely, spying on him. They then found Daniel “petitioning and imploring” his God. The Septuagint indicates that the two high officials “watched” Daniel and “caught him praying three times a day each day.” (6:11[12])

Those who had spied on Daniel (the two high officials [LXX]) went to Darius and asked him whether he had not signed the interdict prohibiting any man from making a petition to any god or man except the king for thirty days on pain of death in the lions’ pit. Darius answered, “The matter is established according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” (6:12[13])

According to the Septuagint, the two high officials wanted to make absolutely sure that Daniel would be cast into the lions’ pit. They said to Darius, “We adjure you by the ordinances of the Medes and Persians that you do not change the matter nor that you favor the face nor that you weaken anything of the things stated and [that you] punish the man who did not abide by this decree.” Darius agreed to do according to what they said, adding that “this is firmly fixed for me.” (6:12[13])

Having succeeded in getting King Darius to commit himself, the two high officials made their accusation, “Look! We have found Daniel your friend praying and supplicating the face of his God three times a day.” The wording suggests that Daniel was no real friend, for he had disregarded the decree that Darius had signed into law. According to the Aramaic text and the Greek version of Theodotion, the entire body of officials joined in making the case against Daniel, referring to him as one of the “exiles from Judah” and saying that, by making his petition three times a day, he had disregarded the king and the interdict he had signed. (6:13[14])

When Darius heard the accusation against Daniel, it “was evil” or displeasing “to him,” and he set his mind on delivering Daniel and continued striving to rescue him until the sun set. The Septuagint indicates that this resulted in grieving for Darius and that he said for Daniel to be “cast into the lions’ pit according to the decree that he had established against him.” Nevertheless, the king “grieved exceedingly for Daniel” and, until sunset, tried to deliver him “from the hands of the satraps.” (6:14[15])

According to the Septuagint, Darius failed in his efforts to rescue Daniel from the satraps. “And he was not able to deliver him from them.” Neither the Aramaic text nor the Greek version of Theodotion include these words. They indicate that the accusers were determined to have Daniel cast into the lions’ pit. As a group, the enemies of Daniel went to King Darius, reminding him that, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, any interdict or ordinance that the king established could not be changed. (6:15[16])

Having been trapped into adhering to the law, Darius gave the command for Daniel to be brought and then cast into the lions’ pit. To Daniel, he then expressed his hope that the God whom he served continually would deliver him. The Septuagint says that Darius cried out, saying to Daniel, “Your God whom you serve continually three times a day will deliver you from the hand [the power] of the lions. Be courageous until morning.” (6:16[17])

A large stone was brought to the location and placed on the “mouth” or opening of the pit. Darius sealed it with his seal and with the seal of his nobles. These steps were taken so that nothing concerning Daniel might be changed. According to the Septuagint, this was done so that the nobles could not remove Daniel and so that the king could not pull him out of the pit. (6:17[18])

Darius went to his palace, fasted, and partook of no diversions. His troubled state did not permit him to sleep. In the Aramaic text, the diversions in which Darius did not share are called dachaván. There is considerable uncertainty about the meaning of this designation. Among the suggested conjectural possibilities are musical entertainment, concubines, or dancing girls. The Greek version of Theodotion says that no “delicacies” were brought to the king. Besides not eating before lying down for the night, Darius, according to the Septuagint, grieved concerning Daniel. Focusing on divine protection, the Septuagint continues, “Then Daniel’s God,” in caring for him, “closed the mouths of the lions, and they did not annoy Daniel.” (6:18[19])

“At dawn,” as it was getting light, Darius rose and hurried to the lions’ pit. According to the Septuagint, he took the satraps with him. Upon arriving, Darius stood at the “mouth” or opening of the pit. (6:19[20])

According to the Aramaic text and the Greek version of Theodotion, Darius, when he came near the pit where Daniel was, cried out in a “pained voice” (a strong voice [Theodotion]; a loud voice with wailing [LXX]), “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you serve continually been able to deliver you from the lions [the mouth of the lions (Theodotion)]?” In the Septuagint, the question is basically the same but is expressed differently. “O Daniel, are you still alive, and has your God whom you serve continually saved you from the lions, and have they not harmed you?” (6:20[21])

Daniel responded with the customary formal wish, “O king, live forever” (to time without limit [into the ages [Theodotion]). The Septuagint does not include these words, but quotes Daniel as saying in answer to the “loud voice,” “O king, I am still alive.” (6:21[22])

Daniel explained why he was still alive, “My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouth [mouths (Theodotion)], and they have not harmed me.” As to the reason his life was preserved, Daniel continued, “I was found innocent before him, and also before you, O king, I have done no injury” (have not committed transgression [Theodotion]). The Septuagint makes no mention of an angel, but quotes Daniel as saying, “God [the Lord (P967)] saved me from the lions.” Before God, “righteousness” was found in Daniel; and before Darius, “neither ignorance nor sin was found” in him. The reference to “ignorance” could apply to transgression committed in ignorance. In the Septuagint, the verse concludes with words regarding Darius that are not found in the Aramaic text nor in the Greek version of Theodotion. “But you listened to men who deceive kings and cast me into the lions’ pit for destruction.” (6:22[23])

Darius was very happy that Daniel was still alive and commanded that he be pulled out of the lions’ pit. After Daniel was lifted out of the pit, those present saw that he had not been harmed in any way. This was “because he had trusted in his God.” The Septuagint refers to all the mighty men as assembling and seeing Daniel and noting that the lions had not annoyed him. (6:23[24])

Darius ordered that the men who had accused Daniel (the two high officials [LXX]) be cast into the lions’ pit. With their sons or children and their wives, they were then tossed in. The lions attacked them before they even reached the bottom of the pit, and the bones of all of them were crushed. The Septuagint says that “the lions killed them and crushed their bones.” (6:24[25])

Darius wrote to “all the peoples, nations [tribes (Theodotion); territories (LXX)], and languages” (the people speaking languages native to the regions where they resided). The reference to the people as “dwelling in all the earth” applies to the people residing throughout the whole empire. At the beginning of the letter, the wish is expressed that all the subjects would enjoy security and well-being. (“May peace be increased to you.”) The introductory words of the letter are not found in the Septuagint. (6:25[26])

The letter of Darius commanded that all subjects in the realm should tremble before and fear Daniel’s God. The reason for this proper fear was his being “the living God,” the one who is eternal (enduring to time without limit [into the ages (Theodotion)]), and whose kingdom will not be destroyed, and whose “dominion is to the end” (or for all time to come). According to the Septuagint, the letter directed all the “men” or people in the realm to prostrate themselves before and to serve the God of Daniel, “for he is an enduring and living God from generations to generations, unto eternity” (literally, “unto the age”). (6:26[27])

Darius identified the God of Daniel as one who “delivers and rescues” and who works “signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth.” The king based this on Daniel’s deliverance from the “paw” or power of the lions. “Signs and wonders” in heaven could apply to eclipses and other celestial phenomena visible to humans. The rendering of the Septuagint is significantly different. Darius expressed his determination to prostrate himself before and to serve the God of Daniel all his days, “for the handmade idols are not able to save like God redeemed Daniel.” (6:27[28]; see the Notes section)

During the time Darius ruled and the period when Cyrus the Persian exercised sole kingly authority in the empire, Daniel prospered. Regarding the death of Darius, the oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967) uses a common Hebrew expression (“King Darius was added to his fathers”). In the Septuagint, including P967, the verse concludes with the words, “and Cyrus the Persian received his kingdom.” (6:28[29]; see the Notes section.)


Possibly (if not original) the number 127 came into the Septuagint text in verses 1[2] and 3[4] on the basis of Esther 1:1.

The unchangeable aspect of the law of the Medes and Persians (verse 8[9]) may have been influenced by how they viewed lying. According to Herodotus (I, 136, 138), the Persians taught their children not to lie, starting at the age of five, and they considered it to be very disgraceful to tell a lie.

For verse 27(28), the rendering of the Septuagint follows the text of the oldest Greek manuscript (P967).

Before the words “and Cyrus the Persian received his kingdom” (verse 28[29]) in Rahlfs’ printed text, there is a phrase regarding Daniel (“and Daniel was appointed over the kingdom of Darius”). In the partially preserved text of P967, this basic phrase appears after “their bones” in verse 24(25) and may be rendered, “and Daniel was appointed over the entire kingdom of Darius.”

The narration of Josephus (Antiquities, X, xi, 4-7), though much like the biblical account, includes information that is not found in the Aramaic text, the Greek version of Theodotion, and the Septuagint, including P967. His account reads as follows:

“… When Babylon was taken by Darius, and when he, with his kinsman Cyrus, had put an end to the dominion of the Babylonians, he was sixty-two years old. He was the son of Astyages, and had another name among the Greeks. Moreover, he took Daniel the prophet, and carried him with him into Media, and honored him very greatly, and kept him with him; for he was one of the three presidents whom he set over his three hundred and sixty provinces, for into so many did Darius part them.

“However, while Daniel was in so great dignity, and in so great favor with Darius, and was alone entrusted with everything by him, a having somewhat divine in him, he was envied by the rest; for those that see others in greater honor than themselves with kings envy them; and when those that were grieved at the great favor Daniel was in with Darius sought for an occasion against him, he afforded them no occasion at all, for he was above all the temptations of money, and despised bribery, and esteemed it a very base thing to take anything by way of reward, even when it might be justly given him; he afforded those that envied him not the least handle for an accusation. So when they could find nothing for which they might calumniate him to the king, nothing that was shameful or reproachful, and thereby deprive him of the honor he was in with him, they sought for some other method whereby they might destroy him. When therefore they saw that Daniel prayed to God three times a day, they thought they had gotten an occasion by which they might ruin him; so they came to Darius and told him that the princes and governors had thought proper to allow the multitude a relaxation for thirty days, that no one might offer a petition or prayer either to himself or to the gods, but that he who shall transgress this decree shall be cast into the den of lions, and there perish.

“Whereupon the king, not being acquainted with their wicked design, nor suspecting that it was a contrivance of theirs against Daniel, said he was pleased with this decree of theirs, and he promised to confirm what they desired; he also published an edict to promulgate to the people that decree which the princes had made. Accordingly, all the rest took care not to transgress those injunctions, and rested in quiet; but Daniel had no regard to them, but, as he was wont, he stood and prayed to God in the sight of them all; but the princes having met with the occasion they so earnestly sought to find against Daniel, came presently to the king, and accused him, that Daniel was the only person that transgressed the decree, while not one of the rest durst pray to their gods. This discovery they made, not because of his impiety, but because they had watched him, and observed him out of envy; for supposing that Darius did thus out of a greater kindness to him than they expected, and that he was ready to grant him pardon for this contempt of his injunctions, and envying this very pardon to Daniel, they did not become more honorable to him, but desired he might be cast into the den of lions according to the law. So Darius, hoping that God would deliver him, and that he would undergo nothing that was terrible by the wild beasts, bid him bear this accident cheerfully. And when he was cast into the den, he put his seal to the stone that lay upon the mouth of the den, and went his way, but he passed all the night without food and without sleep, being in great distress for Daniel; but when it was day, he got up, and came to the den, and found the seal entire, which he had left the stone sealed withal; he also opened the seal, and cried out, and called to Daniel, and asked him if he were alive. And as soon as he heard the king’s voice, and said that he had suffered no harm, the king gave order that he should be drawn up out of the den. Now when his enemies saw that Daniel had suffered nothing which was terrible, they would not own that he was preserved by God, and by his providence; but they said that the lions had been filled full with food, and on that account it was, as they supposed, that the lions would not touch Daniel, nor come to him; and this they alleged to the king. But the king, out of an abhorrence of their wickedness, gave order that they should throw in a great deal of flesh to the lions; and when they had filled themselves, he gave further order that Daniel’s enemies should be cast into the den, that he might learn whether the lions, now they were full, would touch them or not. And it appeared plain to Darius, after the princes had been cast to the wild beasts, that it was God who preserved Daniel, for the lions spared none of them, but tore them all to pieces, as if they had been very hungry, and wanted food. I suppose therefore it was not their hunger, which had been a little before satisfied with abundance of flesh, but the wickedness of these men, that provoked them [to destroy the princes]; for if it so please God, that wickedness might, by even those irrational creatures, be esteemed a plain foundation for their punishment.

“When, therefore, those that had intended thus to destroy Daniel by treachery were themselves destroyed, king Darius sent [letters] over all the country, and praised that God whom Daniel worshiped, and said that he was the only true God, and had all power. He had also Daniel in very great esteem, and made him the principal of his friends.”