The Book of Daniel (7)
The Decrees of Darius the Mede
The defeat of Babylon by the Persian monarch Darius, or Ahasuerus, or
Astyages, (the same man), made him the ruler over a vast part of the world from
India to Ethiopia, as we see from the Book of Esther who of course became his
queen. He deposed the head of gold on the image of Nebuchadnezzar's dream -- he
was the breast and the arms of silver. As we shall see his power was not
absolute, as was the power of Babylon's king. Nebuchadnezzar was an autocrat, a
dictator: 'Whom he would he slew, and whom he would he kept alive'. Darius,
however, was shackled by his servants, and had to obey the laws made by his
ministers of state, referred to in this Book of Daniel as 'the law of the Medes
and Persians which changes not'.
'It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty
princes, which should be over the whole kingdom; And over these three presidents;
of whom Daniel was first: that the princes might give accounts unto them, and the
king should have no damage' (verses 1,2).
Because Daniel was preferred above them all, and an excellent spirit was
in him, Darius thought to set him over the whole realm, but the princes conspired
to find some fault in Daniel because of this. They knew the only way was to find
an occasion against him concerning the law of his God, and they devised a decree
which they proposed to the king:
'... whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty
days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king,
establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to
the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. Wherefore king Darius
signed the writing and the decree' (verses 7-9).
After many years of faithful service to this king, Darius decided to make
Daniel his prime minister. This can only mean that Daniel must have been a man
of outstanding ability, integrity, character and power. Just fancy a captive
from the despised people of Israel now about to be offered the first position in
this mighty empire! There is only one other man who can compare with this
remarkable honour, and that is Joseph at the court of the Pharaoh of Egypt. One
thing both had in common, a determination to remain faithful and loyal to their
God. In adversity and prosperity they never deviated, and it is surely something
we must emulate and seek to follow.
It is not surprising that the elevation of Daniel caused the envy and
animosity of all the ruling class among the Persians. They realized there was
only one way that they could cause his downfall: it was on the question of
worship. Playing therefore upon the personal vanity that could hardly be absent
in those days of an eastern king, these Persian dignitaries set their trap. As
they expected, Daniel quietly ignored the decree, and continued his usual
practice of worship.
'Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into
his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled
upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as
he did aforetime' (verse 10).
Then these men went to the king and having repeated the decree he had
just made, reported that Daniel had ignored the decree, and continued to make his
petition three times day. When the king heard this, he realized what he had
done, and sought some way to deliver Daniel, but the men reminded him that no
decree nor statute which the king established may be changed. So the trap was
sprung, and the king, greatly desirous of saving Daniel, was utterly powerless.
This Darius was no autocrat. There was something that was more powerful than he,
namely the law of the Medes and Persians, and Daniel was thrown into the den of
'Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him
into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God Whom
thou servest continually, He will deliver thee. And a stone was brought, and
laid upon the mouth of the den' (verses 16,17).
What a contrast to the mighty Nebuchadnezzar who sought to kill Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abed-nego, but could not, despite the fact that whom he would he
'Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting ...
and his sleep went from him. Then the king arose very early in the morning, and
went in haste unto the den of lions. ... he cried with a lamentable voice ... O
Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, Whom thou servest continually,
able to deliver thee from the lions?
Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever. My God
hath sent His angel ...' (verses 18-22).
Notice the deep concern of the king for the safety of Daniel. Also the
truly remarkable words, 'O Daniel, servant of the living God ...'. When it is
considered these were the words of a pagan monarch, who worshipped idols made of
wood or stone, this truly is an amazing utterance. Just look at the decree this
king had published to all the nations throughout his vast empire, as a result of
Daniel's faithfulness to his God!
'I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men
tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for He is the living God ... His
dominion shall be even unto the end' (verse 26).
There is also a relationship between this chapter and chapter 12. As the den of
lions was sealed and God delivered Daniel, so in chapter 12, Daniel is commanded
to seal the book: 'shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the
end' (verses 1-4). So all the faithful in Israel shall be delivered and raised
from the dead to live for ever in resurrection at the day of the Lord.
In this chapter Daniel himself has a dream, and in it he has a vision of
four beasts. He is also given the interpretation of the dream, and is told it
has to do with the time of the end of the age.
'In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a
dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the
sum of the matters' (verse 1).
This vision was written in the Gentile language of Chaldee (or Syriac or
Aramaic) because it brings us up to the end of Gentile dominion over Israel.
(See Luke 21:24 -- '... and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until
the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled'). It took place three years before the
events of chapter 6, and throws further light upon the final events of chapter 2
concerning the dream given by God to Nebuchadnezzar. That dream referred to the
beginning and duration of Gentile dominance over Israel, Daniel's dream the end
'Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and,
behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. And four great
beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.
The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I beheld till
the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made
stand upon the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it.
And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised
up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth
of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh.
After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had ...
four wings of a fowl ... also four heads ...
After this ... behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible ... and
it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it: and it had ten horns ...
there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the
first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the
eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things' (verses 2-8).
Daniel then sees in his dream the Ancient of days upon His throne, the
judgment was set, and the books were opened. The fourth beast was slain and
utterly destroyed by fire, but the other beasts had their dominion taken away,
yet their lives were prolonged 'for a season and time' (verses 9-12).
'I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man
came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought
Him near before Him. And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom
... which shall not be destroyed' (verses 13,14).
In chapter 2 the setting up of the kingdom of the Lord is symbolised by
the stone becoming a great mountain and filling the earth. In chapter 7 the
prophet describes the investiture of the Son of man with sovereignty. In chapter
2 the Lord in judgment crushes the image to powder, and in chapter 7 the same
Lord in judgment consigns the beast to the burning flame.
Now apparently there is a school of thought that assumes that chapters 2
and 7 are co-extensive, that Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome as illustrated by
the gold, silver, brass and iron in the image of chapter 2, are again represented
as the four beasts of Daniel's dream in chapter 7. Now this cannot possibly be
so, firstly because the kingdoms of chapter 2 succeed one another, whereas the
four kingdoms of chapter 7 are existing at the same time. This is made quite
clear in verse 12, for after the fourth beast had been slain, the other three are
allowed to live 'for a season and time', i.e. for an appointed period. This
would be impossible of interpretation, and make no sense whatsoever, if these
kingdoms succeeded one another over several centuries.
Secondly, in verse 17 we read that the angel who interpreted the dream
for Daniel, explained that the beasts were symbols for four kings that 'SHALL
arise out of the earth'. In other words this vision was prophetic and had to do
with a future period, a time that is associated with the day of judgment and the
books being opened in verse 10, and with 'the end' in verse 26 when Satan is
The interpretation of the dream found in verses 15-27, will be considered
in our next article.