Friday, January 27, 2017

Living Lives Of Purpose: Lessons From The Book Of Daniel. Day 20, Darius The Mede

Living Lives Of Purpose:
Lessons From The Book Of Daniel
Day 20
Darius The Mede

Yesterday Daniel concluded by telling us that on the same night he interpreted the writing on the wall, Darius the Mede took over the kingdom at the age of sixty-two. The identity of this man is not known outside the Bible. Many critics of the Bible have attempted to claim the book of Daniel was written much later, after the reign of Darius I Hystaspes (Darius The Great), and that the author of Daniel became confused with the order in which the Persian kings reigned. The same critics once claimed no such man as Belshazzar from the book of Daniel ever existed, and as we learned earlier in our study, his existence and his co-reign with his father Nabonidus are now confirmed facts and established by archaeology. 

Darius I Hystaspes, who reigned later than Cyrus of Persia, was not a Mede and his father was not Xerxes, as Daniel states in Daniel 9:1. So he cannot be the same man as Darius the Mede who was the first governor, or king, when Babylon was conquered by Cyrus and the Medo-Persian Empire. It's quite possible that the title of Darius in Daniel's day was a throne name taken by the man Cyrus placed to govern the territory of Babylon. The Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III, when he ruled over Babylon, was know by the throne name of Pulu there. The Assyrian king Shalmanezer V was known as Ululaia in Babylon. And the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal is apparently the same person known in Babylon as Kandalanu. If he followed the same tradition, the man known to Daniel as Darius the Mede would have been called something completely different in his own land. 

Some historians have attempted to identify Darius with Cyrus, and although Cyrus had some Median ancestry, Daniel makes it clear that these are two different men. He tells us that he prospered "during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian". (Daniel 6:28) There is also the problem that the father of Cyrus was Cambyses I and not Xerxes whom Daniel says was the father of Darius. 

The same problem occurs in trying to identify Darius with the son of Cyrus. His name was Cambyses II, he was a Persian, and of course his father was Cyrus and not a man named Xerxes "of Median descent". (Daniel 9:1) Daniel also tells us that Darius was a man who "was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom", indicating that someone of greater power placed him in charge of the province. 

The best candidate for Darius, of the known historical figures of the time, was Cyrus' general Gubaru. Two men named Gubaru are found in the chronicles of King Cyrus, which makes things even more confusing, but the second man named Gubaru does not appear to have held a position as king or governor, while the former is the man credited with capturing the city of Babylon on the night the people were celebrating a feast. Considering that Cyrus did not take for himself the title "King of Babylon" for the first fourteen months, this would line up with having placed a vassal king in charge. After all, Cyrus had conquered many lands and could only be in one place at a time. When a king conquered other nations he had to place officials to oversee them. Daniel only mentions the first and second reignal years of Darius and by that we can assume he either died or was replaced sometime during his second year. The general Gubaru was originally believed to have died three months after taking Babylon because of the dating system used in the chronicles of King Nabonidus of Babylon, but some scholars now believe there are some textual problems and that Gubaru lived one year and three months after taking Babylon. This would give him a first year and a partial second year as king if he is the man Cyrus placed in charge. It would explain why he suddenly disappears from the book of Daniel and why Cyrus began to call himself King of Babylon fourteen months after conquering it. In addition, this could be why Daniel tells us Darius was sixty-two when placed in charge of Babylon. That was quite a senior age for a battle-scarred army man to achieve in those days and it wouldn't have been unusual for a man to be considered elderly in his sixties in ancient times, or to die in his sixties. 

There remains the possibility that Darius is not a man named anywhere in history and if so, unless archaeological evidence is found, we may never know any more about him. But as in the case of Belshazzar, we would be wrong to doubt he ever existed. Those who once claimed Belshazzar was a fictional character have had to eat their words. 

The Babylonian record of the city's fall goes like this, "In the month of Tashritu, at the time when Cyrus battled the forces of Akkad in Opis on the Tigris River, the citizens of Akkad revolted against him, but Nabonidus scattered his opposition with a great slaughter. On the 14th day, Sippar was taken without a fight. Nabonidus then fled for his life. On the 16th day, Gubaru the leader of Gutium along with the army of Cyrus entered Babylon without any opposition. Later they arrested Nabonidus when he returned to Babylon. On the third day of the month Arashammu, Cyrus marched into Babylon, and they laid down green branches in front of him. The city was no longer at war, peace being restored. Cyrus then sent his best wishes to the residents living there. His governor, Gubaru, then installed leaders to govern over all Babylon." This lines up nicely with Daniel saying, "It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel." (Daniel 6:1-2a) 

Cyrus' own account of the taking of Babylon is that this occurred without a battle. The Greek historians Herodotus and Xenophan state that the city was besieged, but this does not mean a battle was ever fought. The purpose of a siege is to induce surrender, to make conditions inside a city so desperate that the king gives up or the citizens revolt against their king and come out with their hands up. There's no sense losing men in battle if you don't have to, so siege was a popular and effective means of conquering cities. Daniel tells us that Belshazzar died the same night the city fell but Cyrus makes no mention of anyone dying in battle. There is a legend (considered unreliable) that one of Belshazzar's own officers betrayed and killed him that night. The last we saw of him he was quaking in fear and, since he was a man given to the excesses of rich food and much wine, he could even have had a heart attack. If he perished of natural causes that may be why neither Cyrus nor Nabonidus describe his death. Belshazzar disappears from history at the same time Babylon fell and by this I think we can conclude he did die, but we may never know how he died.

The people of Babylon were unhappy with the co-reigning kings Nabonidus and Belshazzar. Nabonidus had more or less repudiated the chief god Marduk in favor of the moon god Sin and had abandoned the capital city. Belshazzar seems to have been a man given to carnal pleasures and wickedness. Cyrus viewed himself as a liberator and, if the account of the people placing green branches down for him is to be believed, the citizens of Babylon viewed him as a liberator. When the Lord foretold, through the prophet Isaiah, that a man named Cyrus would release the captives from Judah, He said He would "open doors before him so that gates will not be shut". (Isaiah 45:1) There are a couple of legendary accounts of the gates of Babylon being open. One states that they were "mysteriously" left open, as if there was a conspiracy against Belshazzar to allow the army in. Another account states that when Belshazzar heard a tumult outside the city he ordered that the gates be opened to see what was happening and the army of Cyrus rushed in.

We may never know the identity of Darius or the precise details of how the army of Cyrus captured the city. Today's study has not been especially spiritual but I felt we needed to get the best historical grasp of it that we could before we study Daniel's dealings with Darius. I believe the word of God is completely without error and if Daniel says a man named Darius the Mede ruled in Babylon, we can accept it as fact. Archaeology may yet give us the answers as it has in so many other cases. People and places mentioned in the Bible were once thought never to have existed, but as usual archaeology backs up the Bible. It does not refute it. Daniel, faithful servant of God, can be trusted to accurately tell us what happened in the Babylon of his day. 

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