Darius the Mede must not be confused with Darius I who ruled Persia from 522 to 486 and during whose reign the temple was restored by the Jewish remnant at Jerusalem. King Cyrus ruled the Persian empire from 539 to 530 and was succeeded by Cambyses (530–522 B.C.). There have been critical concerns about Darius the Mede because there is no historical evidence outside the Bible for his reign. However, several explanations are possible:
(1) Darius may have been another name for Cyrus. Daniel 6:28 may be translated, “So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius, even the reign of Cyrus the Persian.” It was common for ancient rulers to use different names over different parts of their kingdom. Darius may have been the Babylonian name for Cyrus. A second explanation is that Darius was appointed by Cyrus to rule over Babylon, which was a small portion of the Medo-Persian Empire. According to Daniel 9:1 Darius “was made ruler over the Babylonian Kingdom.”
This suggests that he ruled by appointment, rather than by conquest and so served under Cyrus, who appointed him. In the historical writings of the Nabonidus Chronicles, Babylon was conquered by Ugbaru, governor of Gutium, who entered the city of Babylon the night of Belshazzar’s feast. After Ugbaru conquered Babylon on October 12, 539 B.C., Cyrus entered the conquered city on October 29 of that same year. Ugbaru was then appointed by Cyrus to rule on his behalf in Babylon. Eight days after Cyrus’ arrival (Nov. 6) Ugbaru died. Darius the Mede may also have had the name Ugbaru. Since Darius was 62 years old when he took over Babylon (Daniel 5:31), his death a few weeks later would not be unusual.
Daniel 6:1-4 Darius appointed 120 governors called satraps whom he had confidence in to be rulers, for the administration of justice, for the collection of revenue, and to protect his interests over the newly annexed kingdom. Darius followed the same plan that Cyrus did over the nations conquered by him, and similar to Ahasuerus in Esther 1:1.
These satraps or princes possessed both civil and military powers. They were officers of high rank and esteem to the king, and as representatives of the king, they were accorded appropriate honor and majesty. Over these satraps were placed three higher officers, it is suggested that these three presided over distinct departments, corresponding somewhat to what we would call “secretaries” like Secretaries of State, of the Treasury, of Foreign Affairs, which would be the kings closest officials.
The king had to depend on his officers to see that the work was done well, and this meant he had to appoint officers he could trust. Darius must have suspected that the officers he had appointed were not doing their work faithfully but were robbing him of wealth, and his suspicions were correct. Darius soon learned about Daniel and the reputation he had for honesty and wisdom. Darius planned to make him his number-one overseer of the entire kingdom.
When the other leaders heard about this plan, jealousy caused them to do all they could to discredit him. They knew that with Daniel in charge, they wouldn’t be able to use their offices for personal profit and would lose their share of the graft that could go into their pockets. It’s also likely that they resented this Jewish exile having authority over them checking on their work.
It was another case of anti-Semitism that is found in Scripture from the days of Pharaoh to the end times (Revelation 12). Apparently these officials didn’t know God’s covenant with Abraham to bless those who blessed the Jews and curse those who cursed them (Genesis 12:1-3). When these men started to attack Daniel, they were asking for God’s judgment.
Daniel 6:5-9 Daniel’s character was so faultless that they could find nothing to accuse him of the only hope they had for attacking him was in matters relating to his faith. Daniel didn’t hide that he prayed in his home three times each day with his windows opened toward Jerusalem (Daniel 6:10), and his enemies knew this. They realized that this was the only area that they had any hope of getting rid of him and so they decided to come up with a plan that would make his faithful religious practices illegal. If the king made prayer to other gods illegal, then Daniel was as good as in the lions’ den! Darius must have been impressed when 122 of his rulers came before him.
Daniel of course, wasn’t there, even though he was the leading administrators but they made sure that he wouldn’t be included. They did however included him in their presentation, because they claimed that all the royal officials had agreed on the plan presented to Darius (Daniel 6:7). They gave the king the impression that they were all united in lifting him up in honor. They knew that Darius wanted to unify the kingdom as quickly as possible to assimilate the defeated Babylonians into loyal Persians.
What better way than to focus on the king himself and make him not just the supreme leader but the only god for an entire month! To emphasize the importance of this law, they requested that anyone who didn’t obey it would be thrown to the lions. Their flattery fed the king’s pride and he agreed to the law, and signed it.
Once signed, the law could not be changed or nullified based on the law of the Medes and Persians (Daniel 6:8,12, 15; Esther 1:19). It is apparent that Darius cared greatly for Daniel, but in his haste and blindness by flattery, the king had unwittingly signed Daniel’s death warrant. Daniel later described that in prophecy that such tactics would be used against God’s people in (Daniel 11:32).
Daniel 6:10-11 – They immediately published the decree so they could quickly rid themselves of Daniel. When Daniel prayed toward Jerusalem and the temple, he was claiming the promise that Solomon spoke of when he dedicated the temple (1 Kings 8:28-30,38-39,46-51). Jonah did the same (Jonah 2:4). It was during the first year of Darius that Daniel learned from the Book of Jeremiah that the Babylonian captivity would end after 70 years, and he prayed about that as well (Daniel 9:1ff).
Like the plot against the Jews in Esther, this plot against Daniel was a demonic attack on Jewish people from whom the seed of the woman would come and crush the serpent (Genesis 3:15). Daniel could have compromised and found excuses for not maintaining his faithful prayer life.
He might have closed his windows and prayed silently three times a day until the month was over, or he could have left the city and prayed somewhere else. But he committed his life and protection to the Lord who already proved faithful to him and those who trusted him in the midst of their captivity. Daniel feared the Lord; and when you fear the Lord, you need not fear anyone else (Acts 5:29). Some of the leaders spied on him, heard him pray, and brought the report to the king.
Daniel 6:12-18 The men who had spied on Daniel informed Darius that Daniel had disobeyed the law. We see their anti-semitic bent when they call him “one of the exiles from Judah”; God’s people in every age have been falsely accused, persecuted, and killed (2 Timothy 3:12). The king was upset at this attack on Daniel because he come to regard him as a friend and his greatest help in the governing of the empire, and he didn’t want to sign his death warrant. Darius wanted to deliver Daniel but his vanity and failure to consult Daniel earlier had caused him to sign the conspiratorial law.
God though had allowed events to proceed as they did so that Daniel’s enemies could be exposed and judged. Darius tried to free Daniel, but all his attempts all failed. The lions weren’t fed often or limited with food so that their appetites would be intense so they would be effective in case there was to be an execution. The king prayed that Daniel’s God would deliver him because Daniel was faithful in serving His God. He then had the pit sealed so that everything was done according to the law. When the pit was opened, everybody would have to confess that God had performed a great miracle if Daniel survived. The king had a bad night, like Ahasuerus in Esther (Esther 6).
Daniel 6:19-23 Darius ran to the den at dawn he ordered the seals be broken and the stone removed and called out to Daniel. He confessed that Daniel’s God was the living God, and that He had the power to deliver him. Daniel’s faith brought him faith as well as assurance but it wasn’t strong faith that’s why he asked “Is your God able to deliver you?” When he heard Daniel’s voice he knew that his friend and faithful servant had been delivered.
Daniel gave God the glory in sending one of his angels to protect him from the lions the angel not only controlled the lions but kept Daniel company (Psalms 34:7;91:11). We learn a great deal about angels in the book of Daniel. The Lord delivered Daniel because of his faith and because he was innocent before the king and before the Lord (Daniel 6:22).
This means that the king’s law about prayer was rejected in heaven and that Daniel was right in disobeying it. God saved Daniel because it brought Him glory and because Daniel still had more work to do. God’s servants are immortal until their work is done.
Daniel 6:24-28 God could have prevented Daniel from going into the lions’ den, but by allowing him to go in and bringing him out unhurt, the Lord received greater honor and the city and country no doubt learned of the God of Daniel and Israel through this great miracle and act of faith on Daniel’s part. His accusers were then thrown into the lions den by the king (Proverbs 26:27).
Pharaoh ordered the Jewish male children destroyed in Egypt and God’s response was for all the Egyptian firstborn to die. He commanded that they be drowned in the Nile, and his own army was drowned in the Red Sea. Haman tried to destroy the Jewish people wound up being hanged on the gallows he had made for Mordecai. Darius did more than execute the criminals. He also issued a decree to the whole empire, commanding his subjects to show fear and reverence to the God of Daniel, the God of the Jewish exiles (Daniel 6:25-27).
In doing this, Darius joined King Nebuchadnezzar by giving public testimony to the power and glory of the true and living God. Daniel was respected by Darius and Cyrus and continued to be a witness for the Lord. He lived to see Cyrus issue the edict that permitted the Jewish people to return to the land and rebuild the temple (2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4) and may have been used of God to help bring about the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy (Daniel 9:1-2; Jeremiah 25:11-12).
His prayers played an important role in the attitude Cyrus had toward the Jewish people. All of the events in recorded in Daniel had to have brought great encouragement to the Jews in exile. They knew about Jeremiah’s prophecy and wondered if their God would really deliver them.