The Median kingdom had successfully overthrown mighty Babylon and now began to enforce a new administration in the region which consisted of 120 men working as princes to manage the various business affairs of the kingdom.
1 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom.
Concerning Darius it has been said by a historian that “nothing happened anywhere that he himself had not decreed”. To this effect “he built roads so that his orders might be carried without delay to the furthest parts of his kingdom.” Darius also had an intelligence service consisting of men who spied on people working for him, including highest officials. These were known as “the king’s eyes and ears”. This information should help us understand the fearful situation Daniel found himself in when he was appointed a senior satrap to whom all other princes reported.
2 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.
The “damage” stated in the verse above refers to loss, as in what can result from financial mismanagement, dishonesty, or theft. Clearly the Median administration was astute at accountability in their business affairs. To know that Daniel was the man most trusted with this task of ensuring accountability is an important lesson for believers: Whether one is about spiritual work or otherwise; honesty, integrity, and sincerity should be the hallmark of their character. Whether one works for a righeteous or sinful man, he should be faithful – “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord” (Eph.6:5-8).
3 Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm.
Modern presidents are addressed with the words ‘Your Excellency’ upon their attainment of the political office, not as a result of their virtuous lifestyle. Similarly a lawmaker or parliamentarian in a Commonwealth country is often referred to as ‘Honourable’, whether he or she is morally bankrupt or not. But as of Daniel, favour followed him, even in the lands of heathens, by virtue of his “excellent spirit”! His excellency did not begin from outside by virtue of what people conferred on him but was from within a heart full of integrity and sincerity.
The enemy from within
With the immense responsibility of presiding over 120 princes, Daniel must have had a busy life of always attending to different queries and reports. This required working closely with the other two presidents. We need to be aware that these people were not believers and their work was certainly never easy being led by a man of high integrity. Although Daniel had an excellent spirit, having a gentle demeanour but yet being firm in matters of accountability, his personality must have altercated with his workmates. Jealousy was aroused in them. They worked closely with him but with a bad attitude of always trying to find where he would err, and thence raise an accusation against him. This is how the world always works, and for one to try to impress people around him in order to achieve happiness is simply a futile exercise. Carnal man will always be carnal and will only appreciate what satisfies his egoistic inclinations.
The wicked men conspired against Daniel. As they could not find fault in him they resorted to manipulating aspects of the empire’s legal system that bordered on religious freedom. All this was done to implicate Daniel, a man faithful and devout to Yahweh.
4 Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him.
5 Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.
6 Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever.
7 All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that 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.
This was another test for Daniel. The king Darius had so much respect for Daniel but wicked men plotted a scenario which would make Daniel look disloyal to the Median king. The wicked men took advantage of the strong and uncompromising legal system of the kingdom which required that no decree which had been signed into law could be altered!
8 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.
9 Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree.
King Darius did not know the trap at play. But, he would discover it later when it was too late.
Daniel was steadfast in faith; he defied the command and continued making his supplications before God. Like he had always done, he prayed facing toward Jerusalem, the land from where he was taken captive.
10 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.
11 Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God.
In praying whilst facing toward Jerusalem, Daniel, a captive in a foreign land, was fulfilling Mizrah. This is a practice by Jews living in diaspora to face the east (where Jerusalem is) when praying. This is in accordance to the prayer of Solomon when he dedicated the newly built temple: “And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place: and hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place: and when thou hearest, forgive… If they sin against thee, (for there is no man that sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near. Yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried captives, and repent, and make supplication unto thee in the land of them that carried them captives… and pray unto thee toward their land… Then hear thou their prayer and their supplication in heaven thy dwelling place, and maintain their cause” (1 Kin.8:30, 46-49). This became the practice of faithful people wherever they were. Even Jonah, whilst in the belly of the great fish that swallowed him, made effort to pray towards the east: “I am cast out of thy sight, yet I will look again toward thy holy temple” (Jon.2:4).
Daniel, from his teen years and now in his eighties, faithfully held on to the promises of God and continued to pray for the deliverance of the Jews. A lot of people had known of his devoutness to Yahweh. The wicked men knew that their conspiracy would work because this man would never give up on his faith. They did all this to an innocent and harmless man.
Evil men fall in their Trap
Men conspired and passed judgement on Daniel:
12 Then they came near, and spake before the king concerning the king’s decree; Hast thou not signed a decree, that every man that shall ask a petition of any God or man within thirty days, save of thee, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions? The king answered and said, The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not.
13 Then answered they and said before the king, That Daniel, which is of the children of the captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, O king, nor the decree that thou hast signed, but maketh his petition three times a day.
14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him: and he laboured till the going down of the sun to deliver him.
15 Then these men assembled unto the king, and said unto the king, Know, O king, that the law of the Medes and Persians is, That no decree nor statute which the king establisheth may be changed.
16 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.
17 And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel.
Yes, “the king sealed it with his own signet …that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel”, but, there was a higher judge, God, who was about to over-turn what man had purposed.
This incident so distressed the king that he fasted that night. The king had found himself a victim of a conspiracy. Things had to be done according to the decree. Words had been decreed and had to be obeyed. To all other onlookers and hearers Daniel had defied the words of the king and hence was condemned. But God does not judge after sight or facts of men – “he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears” (Isa.11:3).
18 Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of music brought before him: and his sleep went from him.
19 Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions.
20 And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?
21 Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever.
22 My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.
23 Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God.
God was the judge of Daniel and His judgement requires that “Whoso causeth the righteous to go astray in an evil way, he shall fall himself into his own pit: but the upright shall have good things in possession” (Pro.28:10), and that is what happened to the people who conspired against Daniel:
24 And the king commanded, and they brought those men which had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions, them, their children, and their wives; and the lions had the mastery of them, and brake all their bones in pieces or ever they came at the bottom of the den.
25 Then king Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you.
26 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, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end.
27 He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.
28 So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
This ends the first half of the book of Daniel which had considerable detail of historical accounts. In the next half (from Chapter 7 through 12) Daniel narrates various visions he had.
 Gombrich, E.H. (1985). A little history of the World. London: Yale University Press