Chapter six is the conclusion of the historical half of the book and picks up within the first several months after Babylon fell to Persia (Daniel 6:1-3). There is some debate as to whether this plan was limited to Darius’ province of Babylonia or whether the 120 regional governors covered the entire Persian Empire. Regardless, there were enough of them within the area of Babylon, who had enough clout with Darius, that he would consider taking their advice without Daniel present. Daniel was not a regional governor but one of three prime ministers who served directly under Darius and was poised to report to Cyrus himself.
The exact reason for the hatred against Daniel is never mentioned, but it seems to have been fueled by at least two things: his integrity and their anti-Semitism (Daniel 6:4). It is also possible that his age and experience in Babylon – exactly what Darius appreciated – was against him with them. Their plan was similar to the one against Daniel’s friends in chapter three: attack him with his own religion. Using Darius’ own vanity against him, they presented a plan to make sure he consolidated control of the many religions and factions that were present in Babylon by suggesting that he temporarily handle all requests personally. Anyone who did not would be executed for treason. This was not a command to worship him but rather to recognize his authority as the representative of the Persian gods. He agreed without considering the full ramifications (Daniel 6:6-9).
As they expected, Daniel’s accusers found him continuing to pray to God, so they turned him in to Darius, who was just as mad at himself as he was at them (Daniel 6:10-18). Yet the law had to be enforced, so Darius had Daniel – now in his early 80s – thrown into a pit of lions. His only consolation was that maybe the God Daniel kept praying to could rescue him.
And he did. At daybreak the next morning Darius personally went to the pit to see if Daniel had survived the night (Daniel 6:19-24). He was relieved to hear Daniel confirm that God had sent an angel to keep the lions’ at bay. In a rush of justice, and probably personal vengeance, Darius had Daniel’s accusers (people Darius obviously could not trust) and their entire families thrown to the lions. Like Nebuchadnezzar had done decades earlier, Darius publicly acknowledged Daniel’s God because of the powerful miracle he had done on behalf of his obedience servant, Daniel.