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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 18–24
Verses 18–24

Here is, I. The melancholy night which the king had, upon Daniel’s account, Dan. 6:18. He had said, indeed, that God would deliver him out of the danger, but at the same time he could not forgive himself for throwing him into the danger; and justly might God deprive him of a friend whom he had himself used so barbarously. He went to his palace, vexed at himself for what he had done, and calling himself unwise and unjust for not adhering to the law of God and nature with a non obstante—a negative to the law of the Medes and Persians. He ate no supper, but passed the night fasting; his heart was already full of grief and fear. He forbade the music; nothing is more unpleasing that songs sung to a heavy heart. He went to bed, but got no sleep, was full of tossings to and fro till the dawning of the day. Note, the best way to have a good night is to keep a good conscience, then we may lie down in peace.

II. The solicitous enquiry he made concerning Daniel the next morning, Dan. 6:19, 20. He was up early, very early; for how could he lie in bed when he could not sleep for dreaming of Daniel, nor lie awake quietly for thinking of him? And he was no sooner up than he went in haste to the den of lions, for he could not satisfy himself to send a servant (that would not sufficiently testify his affection for Daniel), nor had he patience to stay so long as till a servant would return. When he comes to the den, not without some hopes that God had graciously undone what he had wickedly done, he cries, with a lamentable voice, as one full of concern and trouble, O Daniel! art thou alive? He longs to know, yet trembles to ask the question, fearing to be answered with the roaring of the lions after more prey: O Daniel! servant of the living God, has thy God whom thou servest made it to appear that he is able to deliver thee from the lions? If he rightly understood himself when he called him the living God, he could not doubt of his ability to keep Daniel alive, for he that has life in himself quickens whom he will; but has he thought fit in this case to exert his power? What he doubted of we are sure of, that the servants of the living God have a Master who is well able to protect them and bear them out in his service.

III. The joyful news he meets with-that Daniel is alive, is safe, and well, and unhurt in the lions’ den, Dan. 6:21, 22. Daniel knew the king’s voice, though it was now a lamentable voice, and spoke to him with all the deference and respect that were due to him: O king! live for ever. He does not reproach him for his unkindness to him, and his easiness in yielding to the malice of his persecutors; but, to show that he has heartily forgiven him, he meets him with his good wishes. Note, We should not upbraid those with the diskindnesses they have done us who, we know, did them with reluctance, and are very ready to upbraid themselves with them. The account Daniel gives the king is very pleasant; it is triumphant. 1. God has preserved his life by a miracle. Darius had called him Daniel’s god (thy God whom thou servest), to which Daniel does as it were echo back, Yea, he is my God, whom I own, and who owns me, for he has sent his angel. The same bright and glorious being that was seen in the form of the Son of God with the three children in the fiery furnace had visited Daniel, and, it is likely, in a visible appearance had enlightened the dark den, and kept Daniel company all night, and had shut the lions’ mouths, that they had not in the least hurt him. The angel’s presence made even the lions’ den his strong-hold, his palace, his paradise; he had never had a better night in his life. See the power of God over the fiercest creatures, and believe his power to restrain the roaring lion that goes about continually seeking to devour from hurting those that are his. See the care God takes of his faithful worshippers, especially when he calls them out to suffer for him. If he keeps their souls from sin, comforts their souls with his peace, and receives their souls to himself, he does in effect stop the lions’ mouths, that they cannot hurt them. See how ready the angels are to minister for the good of God’s people, for they own themselves their fellow servants. 2. God has therein pleaded his cause. He was represented to the king as disaffected to him and his government. We do not find that he said any thing in his own vindication, but left it to God to clear up his integrity as the light; and he did it effectually, by working a miracle for his preservation. Daniel, in what he had done, had not offended either God or the king: Before him whom I prayed to innocency was found in me. He pretends not to a meritorious excellence, but the testimony of his conscience concerning his sincerity is his comfort—As also that before thee, O king! I have done no hurt, nor designed thee any affront.

IV. The discharge of Daniel from his confinement. His prosecutors cannot but own that the law is satisfied, though they are not, or, if it be altered, it is by a power superior to that of the Medes and Persians; and therefore no cause can be shown why Daniel should not be fetched out of the den (Dan. 6:23): The king was exceedingly glad to find him alive, and gave orders immediately that they should take him out of the den, as Jeremiah out of the dungeon; and, when they searched, no manner of hurt was found upon him; he was nowhere crushed nor scarred, but was kept perfectly well, because he believed in his God. Note, Those who boldly and cheerfully trust in God to protect them in the way of their duty shall never be made ashamed of their confidence in him, but shall always find him a present help.

V. The committing of his prosecutors to the same prison, or place of execution rather, Dan. 6:24. Darius is animated by this miracle wrought for Daniel, and now begins to take courage and act like himself. Those that would not suffer him to show mercy to Daniel shall, now that God has done it for him, be made to feel his resentments; and he will do justice for God who had shown mercy for him. Daniel’s accusers, now that his innocency is cleared, and Heaven itself has become his compurgator, have the same punishment inflicted upon them which they designed against him, according to the law of retaliation made against false accusers, Deut. 19:18, 19. Such they were to be reckoned now that Daniel was proved innocent; for, though the fact was true, yet it was not a fault. They were cast into the den of lions, which perhaps was a punishment newly invented by themselves; however, it was what they maliciously designed for Daniel. Nec lex est justior ulla quàm necis artifices arte perire suâ—No law can be more just than that which adjudges the devisers of barbarity to perish by it, Ps. 7:15, 16; 9:15, 16. And now Solomon’s observation is verified (Prov. 11:8), The righteous is delivered out of trouble, and the wicked cometh in his stead. In this execution we may observe, 1. The king’s severity, in ordering their wives and children to be thrown to the lions with them. How righteous are God’s statutes above those of the nations! for God commanded that the children should not die for the fathers’ crimes, Deut. 24:16. Yet they were put to death in extraordinary cases, as those of Achan, and Saul, and Haman. 2. The lion’s fierceness. They had the mastery of them immediately, and tore them to pieces before they came to the bottom of the den. This verified and magnified the miracle of their sparing Daniel; for hereby it appeared that it was not because they had not appetite, but because they had not leave. Mastiffs that are kept muzzled are the more fierce when the muzzle is taken off; so were these lions. And the Lord is known by those judgments which he executes.