6.1 Summary of Chapter 6
Darius the Mede divides the kingdom up into regions to be ruled over by 120 princes. These princes report to 3 presidents. Daniel is first among the three presidents. This creates jealousy among the others, and they decide to take him down. The princes and the other presidents trick Darius into signing an irrevocable order saying that for the next 30 days the penalty for praying to any god other than that of Darius would be punished by having the person put into the lions’ den. Daniel, of course, prays to Yahweh and is reported to Darius. Darius tries to get Daniel off, but the order is irrevocable so Daniel is thrown into the lions’ den. Darius calls to him hoping that Daniel can get God’s help to survive through the night.
Darius is upset and cannot sleep that night. The first thing in the morning he checks to see if Daniel made it through the night. Daniel tells Darius that he is indeed OK and God has closed the lions’ mouths. Darius is extremely happy and takes Daniel out of the lions’ den. He then has the princes, their wives, and their children thrown into the lions’ den in his place. The lions “crush the bones” of these people before they even hit the ground.
According to Persian records, it was Darius I, the father of Xerxes, who divided the kingdom up into regions controlled by satraps (princes). Many scholars take this as evidence that the author of Daniel based the mythical Darius the Mede on Darius I. Note also that dividing the kingdom into 120 regions is something that only a king, and not the governor of Babylon could do.
Note the high level that Daniel supposedly obtained. According to this narrative, he is intimately involved in the ruling of an empire. How could a person so involved have made such historical mistakes as outlined in previous posts? It is impossible. So Daniel must have been fictitious.
Once it becomes clear that Daniel is fictitious, it becomes obvious that this story, along with tales of Daniel and his friends’ arrival at Nebuchadrezzar’s court, and the fiery furnace are myths designed to show the virtue of maintaining one’s faith in the presence of overwhelming persecution. This is just the situation that the Jews were under during the reign of Antiochus IV (also known as Antiochus Epiphanes) during the Maccabean revolt (ca 165 BCE). Note the mythical elements of the tale: Darius the Mede is tricked into doing something he doesn’t want to do, but can’t get out of it, Daniel is magically saved, the instigators of the plot receive their just rewards in the end (although one could argue about how just it was to throw their wives and children into the lions’ den to have their bones crushed before they reach the ground as well).
Needless to say, there is no historical record of such a wholesale purging of upper-level leaders in or around that area.
The next post will deal with Chapter 7. It concerns one of Daniel’s prophecies and will be much more substantive post.