The King Praises the God of Daniel and Daniel Prospers
25 Then Darius the king wrote to all the people, the nations, and the languages living in the whole earth, “May your prosperity become great! 26 ⌊I make a decree⌋ that in all the dominion of my kingdom people will be trembling and fearing before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God and endures ⌊forever⌋ and his kingdom is one that will not be destroyed and his ⌊dominion has no end⌋. 27 He is rescuing, delivering, and working signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth, for he has rescued Daniel from the ⌊power⌋ of the lions.” 28 So this Daniel prospered during the kingdom of Darius and during the kingdom of Cyrus the Persian.
Harris, W. H., III, Ritzema, E., Brannan, R., Mangum, D., Dunham, J., Reimer, J. A., & Wierenga, M. (Eds.). (2012). The Lexham English Bible (Da 6:25–28). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Darius’s Letter of Proclamation and Doxology (6:25–28 [6:26–29])
25–27 Like his predecessor King Nebuchadnezzar (see comments on 4:1–3), King Darius writes a royal letter (v. 25a), or “epistle,” since publication is intended for a “universal audience” (i.e., the peoples of his vast realm; cf. Collins, Daniel: with an Introduction to Apocalyptic Literature, 61, 72). The letter is Darius’s personal confession of his own experience with Daniel’s God, Darius having witnessed Daniel’s miraculous deliverance from the lions’ pit. According to Goldingay, 129, whether or not King Darius “converted” to the Hebrew religion is not the point; rather, it is his confession acknowledging the living, eternal, saving, and active power of Daniel’s God—an affirmation desperately needed by the Hebrews enduring the dark days of Babylonian exile (cf. Porteous, 92).
Both royal epistles offer the same greeting or salutation, “may you prosper greatly” (v. 25b; see comments on 4:1–3). The formal proclamation of Darius here (vv. 26–27) contains the additional literary forms of decree, commanding the subjects of his kingdom to respect the God of Daniel (v. 26a). Both “encyclicals” (as Seow, 95, labels them) conclude with a doxology in praise of the God of the Hebrews (vv. 26b–27). The hymnic language of the doxology justifies the poetic format of the king’s decree in the more recent English translations.
The decree of Darius that his subjects must hold “the God of Daniel” in awe is stated more positively than the decree of Nebuchadnezzar that threatened dismemberment to anyone who defamed “the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego” (3:29). To “fear” (lit., “tremble,” Aram. zûaʿ) and “reverence” (lit., “fear,” Aram. deḥal) God mean to both “respect Him and recognize that they could be hurt by Him, Darius thus admitting that this God’s power extended far beyond the boundaries of Judah” (Wood, 175). The decree of Darius serves two purposes: first, it gives official sanction to the God of the Hebrews as a legitimate and even superior deity to the gods of the Babylonian pantheon; and second, it rescinds the “irrevocable” edict that Darius had earlier published forbidding petition to anyone but the king (cf. Redditt, 112). How ironic, as Seow, 95, observes, that “now the king himself publicizes to the world the reversal of his supposedly unchangeable edict, for God has brought about the change.”
The doxology of Darius repeats the epithet “the living God” (v. 26b; cf. v. 20), whereas Nebuchadnezzar makes reference to the Most High God (4:2). The reference to God as “the living God” not only contrasts Yahweh with the lifeless gods of the nations (e.g., Jer 16:18; Hab 2:19) but also calls attention to his capacity to preserve life as a God who saves and rescues his followers (v. 27a). The doxology of Darius extols the eternality of God and the indestructibility of his kingdom, echoing the affirmation of Nebuchadnezzar (4:3). Like Nebuchadnezzar, Darius also testifies to God’s ability to perform “signs and wonders” (v. 27a; see comments on 4:1–3). Lastly, God’s power to perform signs and wonders is applied specifically to his rescue of Daniel “from the power of the lions” (v. 27b).
Both royal epistles make the same claim—God alone is sovereign, and “he does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth” (4:35; cf. Seow, 95). Perhaps for the Hebrews in Babylonian captivity the testimony by a pagan king to God’s power to perform signs and wonders and deliver his people stirred thoughts of the “signs and wonders” associated with the exodus from Egypt and the possibility of a “second exodus” (cf. Lucas, 153).
28 Baldwin, 132, observes that the chapter ends with “an enigmatic note connecting the reign of Darius with that of Cyrus,” understanding that the conjunction “and” (NIV, NASB) actually conveys the explicative force of “namely” or “that is” (i.e., “during the reign of Darius, namely, Cyrus the Persian”). Thus the writer explains to the reader that the two names, “Darius” and “Cyrus,” belong to the same person. Given the current state of scholarship on the book of Daniel, this solution is as plausible as any of the attempts to identify the “King Darius” mentioned in ch. 6. The approach has merit in that it unifies the court-stories section of the book by forming an envelope construction with the reference to Cyrus in 1:21 (cf. Lucas, 153).
6:25–28 / Reminiscent of earlier chapters (2:46–47; 3:29; 4:34–37), the king extols the God of the Jews. Here he does this by writing to all the peoples, nations and men of every language throughout the land (6:25). He addresses them with a customary greeting: May you prosper greatly! (6:25). Then he issues a decree that all his subjects must fear and reverence the God of Daniel (6:26). This is an advance over the decree in chapter 3, which is intended merely to prevent a behavior; people are forbidden from saying “anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego” (3:29). Here, the decree promotes an activity, commanding the people to respect this God; they are to tremble in awe before him. The former proscribes verbal attacks on God; the latter prescribes everyone to honor him. During the exile God had called his people to be witnesses to the nations (Isa. 42:6; 43:12; 49:6), promising that one day kings and foreign peoples would acknowledge that the Jews worshiped the one, true God (Isa. 45:14–15; 49:7, 22–23; 56:6–7; Zech. 2:11; 8:20–23; 14:16–19). Here a king fulfills that prophecy.
Unlike idols, Daniel’s God is living (6:26). As already noted, this confession of faith fits better here than previously (see the commentary on 6:20). The Jewish God also endures forever (6:26). Unlike human regimes, his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end (6:26). This statement is also reminiscent of earlier parts of the book, such as Nebuchadnezzar’s vision in chapter 2 (2:44) and his affirmations about the eternality of God’s kingdom in chapter 4 (4:3, 34). It also anticipates the vision of the next chapter (Dan. 7), which records the arrival of God’s everlasting reign. We are reminded that the book of Daniel is apocalyptic. Even though chapters 7–12 deal more with the end of time, the theme is not absent from the first half of the book. Finally, Daniel’s God is a God of salvation: He rescues and he saves.… He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions (6:27). This truth was intended to feed the hope of God’s beleaguered people being devoured by the Seleucid “lions,” that God may intervene in history to deliver them. Secondarily, it becomes a timeless message for every age.
The chapter concludes with a brief chronological note, locating Daniel’s prospering in the interval of time from the reign of Darius to that of Cyrus the Persian (6:28). This calls to mind Daniel 1:21, which says that “Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.” These two similar statements frame chapters 2 through 6, setting off this block from the preceding introductory chapter (ch. 1) and from the following, more apocalyptic chapters (chs. 7–12). Nevertheless, we must not forget that chapter 2 is also linked to chapter 7 by the theme of the four kingdoms and that chapters 2 through 7 form a chiastic structure, making them a unit. As further confirmation of their unity, it also bears mentioning that they are written in Aramaic. There is a further chronological reference to Cyrus in Daniel 10:1.
The book’s author uses repetition for theological effect. Four times he uses the Aramaic word meaning “law” or “religion,” but only once does it refer to God’s “law” (v. 5); every other time it refers to the “law” of the Medes and Persians (vv. 8, 12, 15). In this way, he creates a tension between divine and human requirements, so that as the story plays out, Daniel remains faithful to Jewish law, or religion, by praying, even though he risks his life to do so.
Seven times we find words from the root meaning “to seek,” “to ask,” or “to pray.” The conspirators “tried” or “sought” (v. 4) to find a way to trap Daniel. The edict was that no one should “ask” “a request” (v. 7; the two words from the root are rendered by the one word, “prays,” in the niv) from anyone except the king. Yet, Daniel continued “praying” (v. 11) to God. The evil administrators reminded the king of his decree against anyone who “prays” (v. 12) to a god and indicted Daniel because he “asks” “his request” (v. 13; niv “prays”) three times daily. This highlights the importance of praying to God rather than seeking after other gods or humans.
There are five occurrences of the verb meaning “to rescue.” The king attempts “to rescue” (v. 14) Daniel, but fails. After casting Daniel into the pit of lions, Darius then expresses his hope that God will “rescue” (v. 16) Daniel. In the morning, he inquires whether God was able “to rescue” (v. 20) his servant. At the end, the king proclaims that God “rescues,” because he “rescued” Daniel from the lions (v. 27). The purpose here is that readers may infer something about the nature of God from the story: God rescued Daniel from the wild animals because that is his nature—he is a God who rescues and saves. This is further intended to engender hope for those who, like Daniel, are persecuted for their faith; God is able to deliver them.
Finally, there is the root meaning “to harm,” “to hurt,” or “to destroy.” The lions could not “hurt” Daniel, because he was blameless and had not done any “harm” (niv “wrong”) to the king (v. 22). After Daniel exits the pit, no “hurt” or “wound” (v. 23) is found on him. The closing edict affirms that God’s kingdom will never be “destroyed” (v. 26). The theological intention is clear: just as ravenous beasts could not harm Daniel, so nothing can harm or destroy heaven’s dominion. Daniel’s experience is symbolic and prophetic.
There are parallels in Daniel 6 to the life of Jesus. Daniel’s fellow administrators conspire against Daniel to ensnare him. Just so, the religious leaders conspired against Jesus (Matt. 26:3–5), and Judas betrayed him (Matt. 26:14–16). Daniel is arrested because he prays, contrary to the edict; Jesus was arrested after prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane because he defied religious authorities (Matt. 26:36–55). Darius struggles to save Daniel but is bound by law and pressured by his administrators, so he carries out the sentence (Dan. 6:14–15); Pilate was sympathetic to Jesus and washed his hands of the affair, but he felt pressure from the religious leaders, from the crowds, and from Rome (to keep the peace), so he allowed Jesus to be crucified (Matt. 27:18–24). The opening to the lions’ pit is covered with a stone and sealed (Dan. 6:17); Jesus’s tomb was treated similarly (Matt. 27:60, 66). Both come forth from their enclosures alive, although Jesus died, whereas Daniel did not. These parallel motifs to Daniel in Jesus’s life do not “predict” events which Jesus later “fulfills.” On the one hand, the parallels are close enough to say that maybe the Gospel writers thought of Daniel as a type of Christ. On the other hand, since they do not declare this unequivocally, perhaps the most we can say is that the parallels are remarkable but possibly coincidental.
6:26–27 people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. Two pagan kings, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (4:3) and Darius the Mede (6:26–27), each issue a royal decree—in strikingly similar poems—to honor the one true God. Not coincidentally these persons mark the beginning and the end of Judah’s exile. Nebuchadnezzar also praises God in 2:47; 3:28; and 4:34–35, 37. After reiterating the uniqueness of Daniel’s God as the “living God,” the king’s words turn to God’s sovereignty over earthly realms. The explicit language of God’s “kingdom”/“dominion” in 2:44 and 4:3 occurs again in 7:13–14, 27. This contrasts with the clearly marked transfer of kingdoms from Babylon to Persia in 5:30–31. The reference to “signs and wonders” at the end of the declaration recalls the “rescue” of Daniel’s friends from the furnace (3:24–27), as well as the judgment and healing of Nebuchadnezzar (4:1–3, 33–34). The idea of God performing “signs and wonders” easily applies to all three miracles. The usual twofold parallelism of this poem is altered slightly: (1) rescues, (2) performs, (3) heaven/earth.7 This emphasizes the God in heaven who works his will here on earth (contra the sages’ assertion in 2:11).
The Praise of Daniel’s God (6:25–27)
6:25–27. Just as King Nebuchadnezzar did before him (4:2), so Darius issued a decree to all the peoples, nations and men of every language (cf. 4:2) declaring praise to the God of Daniel. Darius recognized the greatness of God: that He is the living God, eternal, sovereign and powerful, and able to rescue his people, even as He delivered Daniel from the power of the lions. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that Darius came to a saving faith at this point but instead accepted the God of Israel into the panoply of gods.
The pronouncement of the king (6:25–28)
6:25–28. The one who by his decree was being revered for a month as god (v. 7) now made a proclamation that all subjects of his nation (all the peoples, nations, and men of every language; cf. 3:4, 7; 4:1; 5:19; 7:14) must fear and reverence Daniel’s God. This was an amazing turnaround on Darius’ part! The reason for this, Darius wrote, is that Daniel’s God lives (He is the living God; cf. 6:20) whereas the gods of the Medes and Persians were dead idols. This God is eternal, His kingdom is indestructible (cf. 7:14), and He intervenes in people’s affairs and delivers those who trust Him. He works by miraculous power (signs and wonders; cf. 4:2–3) to perform His will, including the miraculous delivery of Daniel. Such a God is truly to be reverenced and worshiped. In spite of the opposition of the satraps and administrators, Daniel was honored and lived during the reigns of Darius and Cyrus.
25-27. Here Daniel adds the king’s edict, which he wished to be promulgated. And by this edict he bore witness that he was so moved by the deliverance of Daniel, as to attribute the supreme glory to the God of Israel. Meanwhile, I do not think this a proof of the king’s real piety, as some interpreters here extol King Darius without moderation, as if he had really repented and embraced the pure worship prescribed by the law of Moses. Nothing of this kind can be collected from the words of the edict—and this circumstance shews it—for his empire was never purged from its superstitions. King Darius still allowed his subjects to worship idols; and he did not refrain from polluting himself with such defilements; but he wished to place the God of Israel on the highest elevation, thus attempting to mingle fire and water! We have previously discussed this point. For the profane think they discharge their duty to the true God, if they do not openly despise him, but assign him some place or other; and, especially, if they prefer him to all idols, they think they have satisfied God. But this is all futile; for unless they abolish all superstitions, God by no means obtains his right, since he allows of no equals. Hence this passage by no means proves any true and serious piety in King Darius; but it implies simply his being deeply moved by the miracle, and his celebrating through all the regions subject to him the name and glory of the God of Israel. Finally, as this was a special impulse on King Darius, so it did not proceed beyond a particular effect; he acknowledged God’s power and goodness on all sides; but he seized upon that specimen which was placed directly before his eyes. Hence he did not continue to acknowledge the God of Israel by devoting himself to true and sincere piety; but, as I have said, he wished him to be conspicuously superior to other gods, but not to be the only God. But God rejects this modified worship; and thus there is no reason for praising King Darius. Meanwhile his example will condemn all those who profess themselves to be catholic or Christian kings, or defenders of the faith, since they not only bury true piety, but, as far as they possibly can, weaken the whole worship of God, and would willingly extinguish his name from the world, and thus tyrannize over the pious, and establish impious superstitions by their own cruelty. Darius will be a fit judge for them, and the edict here recited by Daniel will be sufficient for the condemnation of them all.
He now says, The edict was written for all people, nations, and tongues, who dwell in the whole earth. We see how Darius wished to make known God’s power not only to the neighbouring people, but studied to promulgate it far and wide. He wrote not only for Asia and Chaldea, but also for the Medes and Persians. He had never been the ruler of Persia, yet since his father-in-law had received him into alliance in the empire, his authority extended thither. This is the sense of the phrase, the whole earth. This does not refer to the whole habitable world, but to that monarchy which extended through almost the entire East, since the Medes and Persians then held the sway from the sea as far as Egypt. When we consider the magnitude of this empire, Daniel may well say, the edict was promulgated through the whole earth. Peace be multiplied unto you! We know how kings in this way soothe their subjects, and use soft persuasions for more easily accomplishing their wishes, and thus obtain the implicit obedience of their subjects. And it is gratuitous on their part to implore peace on their subjects. Meanwhile, as I have already said, they court their favour by these enticements, and thus prepare their subjects to submit to the yoke. By the term “peace,” a state of prosperity is implied; meaning, may you be prosperous and happy. He afterwards adds, the decree is placed in their sight, that is, they display their command before all their subjects. This, then, is the force of the phrase, my edict has been placed; that is, if my authority and power prevail with you, you must thus far obey me; that all may fear, or, that all may be afraid and tremble before the God of Daniel! By fear and terror he means simply reverence, but he speaks as the profane are accustomed to do, who abhor God’s name. He seems desirous of expressing how conspicuous was the power of the God of Israel, which ought properly to impress every one, and induce all to worship with reverence, and fear, and trembling. And this method of speaking is derived from a correct principle; since lawful worship is never offered to God but when we are humbled before him. Hence God often calls himself terrible, not because he wishes his worshippers to approach him with fear, but, as we have said, because the souls of men will never be drawn forth to reverence unless they seriously comprehend his power, and thus become afraid of his judgment. But if fear alone flourishes in men’s minds, they cannot form themselves to piety, since we must consider that passage of the Psalm, “With thee is propitiation that thou mayest be feared.” (Psalm 130:4.) God, therefore, cannot be properly worshipped and feared, unless we are persuaded that he may be entreated; nay, are quite sure that he is propitious to us. Yet it is necessary for fear and dread to precede the humiliation of the pride of the flesh.
This, then, is the meaning of the phrase, that all should fear or be afraid of the God of Daniel. The king calls him so, not because Daniel had fabricated a God for himself, but because he was his only worshipper. We very properly speak of Jupiter as the god of the Greeks, since he was deified by their folly, and hence obtained a name and a celebrity throughout the rest of the world. Meanwhile, Jupiter, and Minerva, and the crowd of false deities received their names from the same origin. There is another reason why King Darius calls the God whom Daniel worshipped Daniel’s God, as he is called the God of Abraham, not through deriving any precarious authority from Abraham, but through his manifesting himself to Abraham. To explain this more clearly—Why is he called the God of Daniel rather than of the Babylonians? because Daniel had learnt from the law of Moses the pure worship of God, and the covenant which he had made with Abraham and the holy fathers, and the adoption of Israel as his peculiar people. He complied with the worship prescribed in the Law, and that worship depended on the covenant. Hence this name is not given as if Daniel had been free to fashion or imagine any god for himself; but because he had worshipped that God who had revealed himself by his word. Lastly, this phrase ought to be so understood as to induce all to fear that God who had made a covenant with Abraham and his posterity, and had chosen for himself a peculiar people. He taught the method of true and lawful worship, and unfolded it in his law, so that Daniel worshipped him. We now understand the meaning of the clause. Thus we may learn to distinguish the true God from all the idols and fictions of men, if we desire to worship him acceptably. For many think they worship God when they wander through whatever errors they please, and never remain attached to one true God. But this is perverse, nay, it is nothing but a profanation of true piety to worship God so confusedly. Hence, we must contemplate the distinction which I have pointed out, that our minds may be always included within the bounds of the word, and not wander from the true God, if indeed we desire to retain him and to follow the religion which pleases him. We must continue, I say, within the limits of the word, and not turn away on either one side or the other; since numberless fallacies of the devil will meet us immediately, unless the word holds us in strict obedience. As far as concerns Darius, he acknowledged the one true God, but as we have already said, he did not reject that fictitious and perverse worship in which he was brought up;—such a mixture is intolerable before God!
He adds, Because he is alive, and remains for ever! This seems to reduce all false gods to nothing; but it has been previously said, and the circumstances prove it true, that when the profane turn their attention to the supreme God, they begin to wander directly. If they constantly acknowledged the true God, they would instantly exclude all fictitious ones; but they think it sufficient if God obtains the first rank; meanwhile they add minor deities, so that he lies hid in a crowd, although he enjoys a slight pre-eminence. Such, then, was the reasoning and the plan of Darius, because he held nothing clearly or sincerely concerning the essence of the one true God; but he thought the supreme power resident in the God of Israel, just as other nations worship their own deities! We see, then, that he did not depart from the superstitions which he had imbibed in his boyhood; and hence, we have no reason for praising his piety, unless in this particular case. But, meanwhile, God extorted a confession from him, in which he describes his nature to us. He calls him “the living God,” not only because he has life in himself, but out of himself, and is also the origin and fountain of life. This epithet ought to be taken actively, for God not only lives but has life in himself; and he is also the source of life, since there is no life independent of him. He afterwards adds, He remains for ever, and thus distinguishes him from all creatures, in which there is no firmness nor stability. We know also how everything in heaven, as well as heaven itself, is subject to various changes. In this, therefore, God differs from everything created, since he is unchangeable and invariable. He adds, His kingdom is not corrupted, and his dominion remains for ever. Here he clearly expresses what he had formerly stated respecting the firmness of God’s estate, since he not only remains essentially the same, but exercises his power throughout the whole world, and governs the world by his own virtue, and sustains all things. For if he had only said, “God remains for ever,” we are so perverse and narrow-minded as to interpret it merely as follows:—God, indeed, is not changeable in his own essence, but our minds could not comprehend his power as universally diffused. This explanation, then, is worthy of notice, since Darius clearly expresses that God’s kingdom is incorruptible and his dominion everlasting.
Secondly, he calls God his deliverer. Those who consider this edict as an illustrious example of piety, will say Darius spoke evangelically as a herald of the mercy of God. But, as we have previously said, Darius never generally embraced what Scripture teaches concerning God’s cherishing his people with clemency, his helping them through his being merciful to them, and nourishing them with a father’s kindness. King Darius knew nothing of this reason. Daniel’s deliverance was well known; this was a particular proof of God’s favour. If Darius had only partially perceived God’s loving-kindness towards his servants, then he would have acknowledged his readiness to preserve and deliver them. This would be too frigid unless the cause was added,—God is a deliverer! since he has deigned to choose his servants, and bears witness to his being their Father, and listens to their prayers, and pardons their transgressions. Unless, therefore, the hope of deliverance is founded on God’s gratuitous adoption and pity, any acknowledgment of him will be but partial and inefficient. Darius, then, does not speak here as if truly and purely instructed in the mercy of God; but he speaks of him only as the deliverer of his own people. He correctly asserts in general, “God is a deliverer,” since he snatched Daniel from the mouth of lions, that is, from their power and fierceness. Darius, I say, reasons correctly, when he derives from one example the more extensive doctrine concerning the power of God to preserve and snatch away his people whenever he pleases; meanwhile, he acknowledges God’s visible power in a single act, but he does not understand the principal cause and fountain of God’s affection to Daniel to be, his belonging to the sons of Abraham, and his paternal favour in preserving him. Hence this instruction should profit us and touch our minds effectually, since God is our deliverer; and, in the first place, we must confess ourselves to be admitted to favour on the condition of his pardoning us, and not treating us according to our deserts, but indulging us as sons through his amazing liberality. This then is the true sense.
He afterwards says, he performs signs and wonders in heaven and earth! This ought to be referred to power and dominion, as previously mentioned; but Darius always considers the events before his eyes. He had seen Daniel dwelling safely with lions, and all the rest destroyed by them; these were manifest proofs of God’s power; hence he properly asserts, he performs signs and wonders. But there is no doubt, that Darius was admonished by the other signs which had taken place before he possessed the monarchy; he had doubtless heard what had happened to King Nebuchadnezzar, and then to King Belshazzar, whom Darius had slain when he seized his kingdom. He collects, therefore, more testimonies to God’s power, for the purpose of illustrating his glory in the preservation of Daniel. In short, if Darius had renounced his superstitions, the confession of his piety would have been pure, and full, and ingenuous; but because he did not forsake the worship of his false gods, and continued his attachment to their pollution, his piety cannot deserve our praise, and his true and serious conversion cannot be collected from his edict. This is the complete sense.