We still are not sure who Darius is historically. There is pretty clear evidence that Cyrus was king of Persia, so you are left with two theories:
- Darius was the person put in charge of Babylon or perhaps a nickname for Ugbaru who is credited as the general who conquered Babylon.
- Darius is a title and not a name. So instead of King Cyrus it was Darius Cyrus.
For the second theory, you have to interpret verse 28 as “during the reign of Darius, that is the reign of Cyrus the Persian” or something similar to that. This is apparently a poorly documented period of history so it is possible that there is some other resolution we just don’t know about.
Daniel finds himself again in a very high-powered government position, though it was probably his last since he was in his 80s and the Persians allowed Jews to return to Israel. Daniel must have had a pseudo-retirement (by choice or by force) after Nebuchadnezzar died since he was unknown to Belshazzar in chapter 5.
No one is sure who Darius is historically
It is interesting to see the difference in power that Darius has compared to Nebuchadnezzar. Notice that the officials appeal to the law as the sovereign rule in the kingdom. And then when Darius wants to free Daniel, he is powerless to do it. This was seemingly not the case with Nebuchadnezzar, who did pretty much whatever he wanted without any checks and balances.
Apparently the sentence did not account for how long someone must stay in the lion’s den. It was likely unprecedented for someone to survive that long. It would be really interesting to hear Daniel’s account of that evening. I imagine it would be very similar to Jonah’s account from the whale…lots of prayer.
How come nothing huge came about from the decrees of both Nebuchadnezzar and Darius ordering everyone to worship the God of Daniel? Were the kings just lax in their enforcement of their decrees? It stands in stark contrast to the decree Constantine made in the fourth century, making Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. That changed the course of Christianity permanently, whereas the Jewish nation or religion never really return to prosperity after this.
Daniel is likely in his 80s at this point
Two things continue to impress me about Daniel. First is how he once again finds himself in a high position with an extremely powerful leader who trusts him greatly. He was obviously a very hard worker and did what he could to make his boss successful. The second and most convicting thing about this chapter for me was how they couldn’t find anything to smear Daniel’s character with. I’m pretty positive you could find something with me. This is likely one of the most famous chapters in the Bible because of the lions, but the lesson of the chapter is that Daniel lived above reproach in quite literally every area of his life.