The Decree Of Darius The Mede In Daniel 6 -- By: John H. Walton

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 31:3 (Sep 1988)
Article: The Decree Of Darius The Mede In Daniel 6
Author: John H. Walton


The Decree Of Darius The Mede In Daniel 6

John H. Walton*

In the sixth chapter of Daniel we find Daniel brought, apparently out of retirement, into a high position in the newly established Persian rule of Babylon. As one of three commissioners over the 120 satraps Daniel enjoys the confidence and trust of Darius the Mede, named as the ruler of the empire. This also makes him the object of the jealousy of his colleagues and eventually embroils him in a political power play of some sort.

The hinge of the story, though certainly not its purpose or main point, is the decree that Darius was convinced to issue. This decree was used as an instrument of Daniel’s enemies as they attempted to depose and destroy him. It is the nature of that decree that is the subject of this investigation.

The decree itself reads: “Anyone who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, shall be cast into the lion’s den” (Dan 6:7 NASB), A few observations that can be made are as follows: (1) Darius apparently did not consider Daniel as having violated whatever it was that he had intended to prohibit. The act that he was prohibiting must have been considered serious since it carried the death penalty, yet the king sought for ways to free Daniel (v 14). (2) Daniel did not consider himself to have violated the spirit of the decree because he claims that he has committed no crime before the king (v 22). Certainly the violation of a decree of the king would have been a crime. (3) While the narrator is careful to tell us that Daniel’s continuing of his practice was not in ignorance of the decree (v 10), we cannot be sure that Daniel would have considered his practice a violation of the decree. We are not told how much Daniel was aware of the plot against him.

Conclusions from these observations would lead us to suspect that when the decree was presented to Darius for his approval and promulgation there was a certain viable and beneficial objective that the decree was presented as having that was persuasive to Darius. Judging by his and Daniel’s reactions, it seems unlikely that it was actually intended to outlaw the practice that Daniel was engaged in. The nature of the ploy of Daniel’s enemies was that they were able to employ sufficiently ambiguous wording so that Daniel could be prosecuted though Darius would never have considered his prayers a violation. This leads us to examine what it was that the decree intended to establish or prohibit.

I. The Traditional View Of The Decree

The commentators genera...

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