James Nisbet Commentary - Daniel 6:16 - 6:16

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James Nisbet Commentary - Daniel 6:16 - 6:16

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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:


‘Into the den.’ … ‘Out of the den.’

Dan_6:16; Dan_6:23

Daniel was made one (R.V.) of the three presidents of the kingdom, but he so outshone the others by the excellent spirit that was in him that the king thought to set him over the whole realm. Hence arose the envious conspiracy of the other courtiers.

I. Mark here, first, the spirit of murder that lurks in envy.—The very excellence of Daniel’s spirit bred in his enemies all that was evil and murderous, as ‘the sun breeds maggots in a dead dog.’ Happy is he in whom the only cause for envy is his virtue, but he must lay his account for it that his very virtue will draw out towards him the hatred of the evil-hearted. The strength of sin is the holy law of God. A minister once exclaimed from his pulpit: ‘O Virtue! if thou wert embodied, how all men would love thee!’ On the same day his colleague rejoined: ‘Virtue has been embodied. Did all men love her? No; she was despised and rejected of men, who led her to Calvary, where they crucified her between two thieves.’ And the servant is not above his Lord.

II. The culpable blindness of pride.—As the efforts of the plotters were set against the high excellence of Daniel, so they made their appeal to the kingly pride of Darius. They interpreted his nature by their own, and they so far judged accurately. According to Babylonian theology, the king was ‘the living manifestation of all the gods.’ Hence the decree which they drew from Darius was calculated to make him feel that now he was given the real semi-divine status of a Babylonian king; and so he was completely blinded to the motive that lay behind their adulation, and to the doom that was intended for Daniel. Darius was quite evidently a high type of an Eastern potentate. But, like many another, he was led blindfold by his own pride, and in the agony which he endured when he saw the precipice to which he had been dragged, he was made to feel the culpability of the pride that seeks to pose as Divine.

III. The steady courage of the prayerful heart.—The decree was signed and Daniel knew it, but he went openly on with his thrice daily times of prayer. That was the testing point for Daniel. He did not flinch when it came to the lions’ den, but the secret of his courage lay back at that moment when, after he had heard the decree, he first threw open his lattice towards Jerusalem. As a good general does not wait till the enemy is upon him ere he makes his dispositions, the faithful soul makes prayer the battlefield of his life, and when the actual peril comes, it finds him calm and steady. David Brainerd tells of an intended visit of a band of savage Indians which perturbed him much, but he spent the intervening time in a great agony of prayer, and when they came, the steadiness of his faith awed them and won many to his Master. As with his Lord, the Christian’s Gethsemane ought always to come before his Calvary. The disciples failed at Calvary because they slept through Gethsemane.

IV. The angel in charge.—The victory was already won, and all the rest lay with God. The king was at first infected by the faith of Daniel, but he had had no open lattice, and ere the morning came he was smitten with abject fear at the outcome of his blind pride. But the angel had been in charge, and no hurt was found on Daniel. As Jesus has taught us by His answer to Satan, the angel is not in charge when we presumptuously tempt the keeping power of God, but when we are found in the path of duty and testimony, then the angel of the Lord encampeth round about us; and whatever form our lions may take, though we may not see the angel, by the shut mouths we always know that he is there. This is the great compensation in all trial for His Name, that it does bring us into the near company of all holy beings, while the craven heart never feels even the refreshing breeze from the angel’s wing.

V. Lastly, see how God brings His servants through trial to triumph.—The plotters were caught in their own snare, while Daniel was left peerless, and the story of his life closes in sunshine. But the greatest triumph of his faith was the issue of the king’s second decree. The first was meant to minister to his own vanity, but this to give all the glory to the God of Daniel. Surely that was Daniel’s greatest triumph. His firm faith had brought the king, and the people through the king, to acknowledge the supreme rule of the living God, Who is steadfast for ever. It is much if we have such faith as keeps the angel near us in our lions’ den, but the wider glory of all faithfulness is that it brings others to look for the angel too. And though, as we have seen, such virtue may be despised and rejected of the evil-hearted, to such as are ‘disposed towards eternal life,’ she becomes, when once their eyes have been opened to behold her, omnipotently attractive.