First post in this series can be found here.
This article is not my own, but was originally posted by Darwin’s Beagle. The author has given permission for the article to be reposted here.
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.
3 thoughts on “Skeptical Bible Study: Daniel Chapter 6”
Could you comment on the defense of the historicity of Darius the Mede by Dr. Steve Anderson here?
It looks like a pretty strong case.
From that link, I also went to this blog post where the argument was laid out in just a bit more detail:
It would take a lot of research into various sources to give his arguments the fullest treatment, and I’m afraid I don’t have time for that right now. But based off the research I’ve done in the past and considering the brief arguments he lays out in that post, I don’t find him especially convincing.
If the Bible were truly inspired, I find it hard to believe that God would have caused Daniel to record the name of this ruler in a way that would be so confusing for later generations. The Book of Daniel claims that Darius the Mede took over Babylon, yet we can’t verify that the Book of Daniel dates back to that period. And the contemporary sources we do have attribute Babylon’s fall to Cyrus of Persia. Daniel claims that Darius was the son of Ahaseurus, when we know that the later Persian king Darius had a son named Ahaseurus. To me, that’s too big of a coincidence. I can easily see it as the writer of Daniel having a few of his fact jumbled.
Dr Anderson suggests that Darius the Mede was actually Cyaxares II, and that the names “Darius” and “Ahaseurus” were throne names. But why would they be? The name “Cyaxares” could have served that role even better, since it had already been the name of a Median king.
There’s a passage in HH Rowley’s book Darius the Mede and the Four World Empires in the Book of Daniel that explains why Xenophon’s mention of Cyaxares II is not taken to be historically reliable by most scholars (it’s a little lengthy — sorry):
If you feel like there’s an especially strong piece of evidence for Anderson’s position that I overlooked, feel free to point me toward it.