"A Busy Man's Devotional Life"
There is a verse in the sixth chapter of Daniel that I wish could be spoken of every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, though I confess that it probably cannot be. Daniel had been promoted to a position of great prominence, and those around him were jealous. They wanted to find something for which to accuse him and pull him down. They could not. Finally they confessed, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”
Would it not be wonderful if that could be said of every Christian, especially of us? I am afraid that it cannot usually be said of us, because there are many things of which we can rightly be accused.
At times we can be accused of wrong actions. The world says, “That Christian is doing something that is not right. His (or her) actions are against what all people everywhere believe in.” If this is the case with us, we need to confess the sin and have it cleansed and forgiven by Jesus Christ. At other times we can be accused of laziness. The jealous peers of Daniel tried to fault him for negligence (v.4), but they could not prove that he had been neglectful of anything. Sometimes people accuse Christians of pride. They say, “Those Christians are no better than we are. In fact, they are much worse. They sin and are lazy, and then, to top it all off, they are proud of being like that.” This may be an unjust accusation in some instances, but Christians sometimes have been prideful.
Are we? If so, perhaps it will yet be said of us - even if it cannot be said of us at this moment “We will never find any basis for a charge against these people unless it has something to do with their faith in God.”
The story in which this comment is made is the best-known story in Daniel and in the Old Testament. It involves Daniel’s being thrown into a den of lions, and according to Daniel 5:31, it takes place under the reign of Darius, who succeeded Belshazzar as the ruler of Babylon.
But there is a problem here. Darius’s predecessor as king of Babylon, Belshazzar, was not known from archaeological or historical records until the middle of the last century. As a result, many scholars argued that Belshazzar never existed. They assert that the author of Daniel actually wrote much later than the book purports to have been written, that he merely invented Belshazzar for his own theological or polemical reasons. This theory has been discredited, as we saw. Belshazzar did exist, and he did reign in Babylon. But I review this problem to say that a similar situation exists in the case of Darius. Only in Darius’s case to date no reference to “Darius the Mede” has been discovered as the result of archeology. In fact, reference to Darius’s conquering Babylon even seems to be wrong, because the historical records give that honor to a general of Cyrus named Ugbaru.
What is the solution? So far three possible solutions have been offered.
1. Daniel is mistaken. This is the liberal solution, and it is consistent with liberal proclivities to late dating and the denial of the possibility of predictive prophecy. The liberal theory is that Daniel was written at the time of the Maccabees, about 165 b.c. According to this idea, the author mistakenly supposed that it was a ruler of the Medes who conquered Babylon (rather than Cyrus the Persian). Liberal scholars have a hidden agenda in this proposal. If they can assign the writing of the book of Daniel to the time of the Maccabees and separate the Medes from the Persians as world rulers, then there is no need for predictive prophecy. If this set of identifications does not work, Rome would still be future even by the liberal scholars’ own late dating.
We can conclude that Darius the Mede and Darius the Great have nothing to do with each other and that the liberal scholars are wrong both in their theory that the author of Daniel confused the two and in their late dating.
2. Darius is Ugbaru. Ugbaru was the general of Cyrus who engineered the fall of Babylon, and it is believed that he was appointed king of Babylon by Cyrus, who was urgently needed on another front shortly after taking over the capital. Ugbaru reigned in Babylon for about a year until Cyrus returned and was himself crowned king, later transferring the title to Cambyses.
There is good support for this position. Daniel 9:1 says that Darius “was made ruler” over Babylon.
Why then does Daniel call Ugbaru, Darius? We do not know the answer to that question. But ancient kings often had more than one name - just as Daniel himself had more than one name, being Daniel to the Jews and Belteshazzar to King Nebuchadnezzar. Besides, it is possible that Darius is derived from the Persian word dara, which means “king,” in which case the name may have been only an honorary title.
3. Darius is Cyrus. The third explanation is similar to the second, only in this case Darius is identified with Cyrus himself.
I do not know which of these second two explanations should be preferred, though the identification of Darius with Ugbaru seems best in my judgment. But I do know that it is wise to show humility in such matters and wait expectantly until further data come in. As in the case of Belshazzar, a discovery may yet explain who Darius was. Until then it is wise to trust the biblical narrative. There is no real reason for doubting the historical reliability of this or any other biblical book.