*Minor differences ignored. Grouped by changes, with first version listed as example.
The Prophet now relates, as I have said, the origin of a temptation which might naturally cast down the spirits of the elect people as well as his own. For although Daniel alone was cast into the lion's-den, as we shall afterwards see, yet, unless he had been liberated, the condition of the people would have been more grievous and severe. For we know the wicked petulantly insult the wretched and the innocent, when they see them suffering any adversity. If Daniel had been torn by the lions, all men would have risen up in a body against the Jews. God, therefore, here exercised the faith and patience of his servant, and also proved all the Jews by the same test, since they saw themselves liable to the most extreme sufferings in the person of a single individual, unless God had speedily afforded the assistance which he rendered. Daniel, first of all, says, he excelled all others, since a more excellent or superior spirit was in him It does not always happen that those who are remarkable for prudence or other endowments obtain greater authority and rank. In the palaces of kings we often see men of brutal dispositions holding high rank, and we need not go back to history for this. In these days kings are often gross and infatuated, and more like horses and asses than men! Hence audacity and recklessness obtain the highest honors of the palace. When Daniel says he excelled, he brings to our notice God's two-fold benefit: first, a greater portion of his Spirit was bestowed upon him; and secondly, Darius acknowledged this, and raised him to honor when he saw him endued with no ordinary industry and wisdom. We now understand the Prophet's teaching, here, as first divinely adorned with prudence and other endowments; and then, Darius was a competent judge of this, in estimating his prudence and other virtues, and holding them in great repute. Since, therefore, a noble spirit was in him, hence he overcame all others, says he; therefore the king determined to set him above the whole kingdom, that is, to place him first among the three satraps. Although it was a singular privilege with which God once blessed his people and his Prophet, yet we ought to weep over the heartlessness of kings in these days, who proudly despise God's gifts in all good men who surpass the multitude in usefulness; and at the same time enjoy the society of the ignorant like themselves, while they are slaves to avarice and rapine, and manifest the greatest cruelty and licentiousness. Since, then, we see how very unworthy kings usually are of their empire and their power, we must weep over the state of the world, because it reflects like a glass the wrath of heaven, and kings are thus destitute of counsel. At the last day, King Darius alone will be sufficient to condemn them, for he had discretion enough not to hesitate to set a captive and a foreigner over all his satraps; for this was a royal, nay, a heroic virtue in Darius to prefer this man to all his own friends. But now kings think of nothing else than preferring their own panders, buffoons, and flatterers; while they praise none but men of low character, whom God has branded with ignominy. Although they are unworthy of being reckoned among mankind, yet they esteem themselves the masters of their sovereigns, and treat the kings of these days as their slaves. This happens through their mere slothfulness, and their discarding every possible anxiety. Hence they are compelled to deliver up their command to others, and retain nothing but the title. This, as I said, is a sure proof of the wrath of heaven, since the world is at this day unworthy of the government which God exercises over it by his hand. With respect to the envy felt by the nobles, we see this vice rampant in all ages, since the aspirants to any greatness can never bear the presence of virtue. For, being guilty of evil themselves, they are necessarily bitter against the virtue of others. Nor ought it to seem surprising that the Persians who sustained the greatest labors, and passed through numerous changes of fortune, should be unable to bear with an obscure and unknown person, not only associated with them, but appointed as their superior. Their envy, then, seems to have had some pretext, either real or imaginary. But it will always be deserving of condemnation, when we find men selfishly pursuing their own advantage without any regard for the public good. Whoever aspires to power and self-advancement, without regarding the welfare of others, must necessarily be avaricious and rapacious, cruel and perfidious, as well as forgetful of his duties. Since, then, the nobles of the realm envied Daniel, they betrayed their malice, for they had no regard for the public good, but desired to seize upon all things for their own interests. In this example we observe the natural consequence of envy. And we should diligently notice this, since nothing is more tempting than gliding down from one vice to a worse. The envious man loses all sense of justice while attempting every scheme for injuring his adversary. These nobles report Daniel to have been preferred to themselves unworthily. If they had been content with this abuse, it would have been, as I said, a vice and a sign of a perverse nature. But they go far beyond this, for they seek for an occasion of crime in Daniel. We see, then, how envy excites them to the commission of crime. Thus all the envious are perpetually on the watch, while they become spies of the fortunes of those whom they envy, to oppress them by every possible means. This is one point; but when they find no crime, they trample upon justice, without modesty and without humanity, and with cruelty and perfidy lay themselves out to crush an adversary. Daniel relates this of his rivals. He says, They immediately sought occasion against him, and did not find it Then he adds how unjustly and perfidiously they sought occasion against him. There is no doubt they knew Daniel to be a pious man and approved by God; hence, when they plot against his holy Prophet, they purposely wage war with God himself, while they are blinded with the perverse passion of envy. Whence, then, does it spring? Surely from ambition. Thus we see how pestilential a plague ambition is, from which envy springs up, and afterwards perfidy and cruelty! Besides this, Daniel admonishes us by his own example to study to strive after integrity, and thus to deprive the malevolent and the wicked of all occasion against us, which they seek. We shall find no better defense against the envious and the slanderous than to conduct ourselves righteously and innocently. Whatever snares they may lay for us, they will never succeed, for our innocence will repel their malice like a shield. Meanwhile we see how Daniel escaped utter ruin, since they sought a pretext against him in something else, namely, his worship of God. Hence let us learn how we ought to esteem piety and an earnest desire for it of more value than life itself. Daniel was faithful and upright in his administration: he discharged his duty so as to close the mouth of his enemies and detractors. Thus, as I have said, integrity is the best of all protectors. Again, Daniel was in danger because he would not leave off the sincere worship of God and its outward profession. Hence we must bravely undergo all dangers whenever the worship of God is at stake. This temporary life ought not to be more precious to us than that most sacred of all things -- the preservation of God's honor unstained. We therefore see how we, by these means, are urged to the cultivation of integrity, since we cannot be more secure than when fortified by a good conscience, as Peter in his first epistle exhorts us to the same purpose, (1-Peter 3:16.) Now, whatever we may fear, and whatever events await us, even if we become subject to a hundred deaths, we ought never to decline from the pure worship of God, since Daniel did not hesitate to submit to death and enter the lion's den, because he openly professed the worship of Israel's God. As these nobles entered into this barbarous and cruel counsel for oppressing Daniel under the pretense of religion, here, again, we gather the blindness and rashness of mankind when ambition and envy seize upon their minds. For it is a matter of no moment with them to come into collision with the Almighty,  for they do not approach Daniel as a fellow-creature, but they leap into an insane and sacrilegious contest when they wish to extinguish the worship of God and give way to their own indulgence. Thus, as I have said, we are admonished by this example how ambition is to be guarded against and avoided, and also the envy which arises from it. The nature of this charge -- the worship of God -- afterwards follows: --
1 - The French editions of 1562 and 1569, a Geneva, translate the idiomatic phrase, susque deque illis est, by ce leur est tout un; "it is all one to them." -- Ed.
Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes - That is, he was at their head, or was placed in rank and office over them. "Because an excellent spirit was in him." This may refer alike to his wisdom and his integrity - both of which would be necessary in such an office. It was an office of great difficulty and responsibility to manage the affairs of the empire in a proper manner, and required the talents of an accomplished statesman, and, at the same time, as it was an office where confidence was reposed by the sovereign, it demanded integrity. The word "excellent" (יתירא yattı̂yrâ') means, properly, what hangs over, or which is abundant, or more than enough, and then anything that is very great, excellent, pre-eminent. Latin Vulgate, Spiritus Dei amplior - "the spirit of God more abundantly." Greek πνεῦμα περισσὸν pneuma perisson. It is not said here to what trial of his abilities and integrity Daniel was subjected before he was thus exalted, but it is not necessary to suppose that any such trial occurred at once, or immediately on the accession of Darius. Probably, as he was found in office as appointed by Belshazzar, he was continued by Darius, and as a result of his tried integrity was in due time exalted to the premiership. "And the king thought to set him over the whole realm."
The whole kingdom over which he presided, embracing Media, Persia, Babylonia, and all the dependent, conquered provinces. This shows that the princes referred to in Daniel 6:1, were those which were appointed over Babylonia, since Daniel Daniel 6:2 was already placed at the head of all these princes. Yet, in consequence of his talents and fidelity the king was meditating the important measure of placing him over the whole united kingdom as premier. That he should form such a purpose in regard to an officer so talented and faithful as Daniel was, is by no means improbable. The Greek of Theodotion renders this as if it were actually done - καὶ ὁ βασιλεὺς κατέστησεν ἀυτον, κ.τ.λ. kai ho basileus katestēsen auton, etc. - "And the king placed him over all his kingdom." But the Chaldee (אשׁית 'ăshı̂yth) indicates rather a purpose or intention to do it; or rather, perhaps, that he was actually making arrangements to do this. Probably it was the fact that this design was perceived, and that the arrangements were actually commenced, that aroused the envy and the ill-will of his fellow-officers, and induced them to determine on his ruin.
The king thought to set him over the whole realm - Intended to make him grand vizier or emir ul amrim. This partiality of the king made Daniel the object of the other presidents, and the grandees of the kingdom.
Then this Daniel (b) 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.
(b) This heathen king preferred Daniel a stranger to all his nobles and those he was familiar with, because the graces of God were more excellent in him than in others.
Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes,.... Not only above the princes, but the presidents, being the first of them, as before: or, "he was victorious above them" (y); he got more credit and applause than they did, being more exact, diligent, and laborious, faithful, and conscientious:
because an excellent spirit was in him; meaning not a spirit of grace, piety, and religion, which the Heathen king was no judge of, nor valued him for it, though it was in him; but a spirit of knowledge of civil affairs, and of prudence in managing them, and of integrity throughout the whole of his conduct:
and the king thought to set him over the whole realm; or, "wherefore the king thought" (z), &c.; because there was such a spirit in him, which so qualified him for public business, he began to think of abolishing his triumvirate of presidents, and making Daniel his viceroy over the whole empire, which very probably they had got some knowledge of; and this, as well as being above them, drew the envy of them on him, and put them upon the following scheme.
(y) "victorem se gerebat", Piscator, Michaelis. (z) "ideo rex", Gejerus, Michaelis.
Daniel was preferred--probably because of his having so wonderfully foretold the fall of Babylon. Hence the very expression used by the queen mother on that occasion (Daniel 5:12) is here used, "because an excellent spirit was in him."
king thought to set him over the whole realm--Agreeing with Darius character, weak and averse to business, which he preferred to delegate to favorites. God overruled this to the good both of Daniel, and, through him, of His people.
*More commentary available at chapter level.