Damien F. Mackey
The Book of Daniel presents historians with difficulties regarding both the Neo-Babylonian and the Medo-Persian successions. An unknown king “Belshazzar”, given as the son (and presumably successor) of “Nebuchednezzar”, is slain, and his kingdom then passes into the hands of a likewise unknown monarch who is called “Darius the Mede”.
I am confident, however, that my revised history of the Neo-Babylonian dynasty can provide ready solutions to both of these conundrums (or, as some would prefer, conundra).
Part One: King Belshazzar
The many ‘historical inaccuracies’ that critics claim to find in the Book of Daniel are, as I have previously argued, not faults of ignorance on the part of Daniel (or whichever author[s]), but the limitations imposed upon historical knowledge by a one-dimensional conventional history.
See e.g. my”
“Nebuchednezzar” of the Book of Daniel
According to my revision here, King Nabonidus, the penultimate king of the Neo-Babylonian dynasty – who in so many ways fits the description of the “Nebuchednezzar” of the Book of Daniel (as critics have noted) – is an alter ego of the mighty Chaldean king Nebuchednezzar II.
Already this new vision of history manages to establish that:
- there was an historical king like Daniel’s “Nebuchednezzar”;
- and he, just like “Nebuchednezzar”, had a notable son named Belshazzar;
Now, given my equation, Nebuchednezzar II = Nabonidus, I was gratified to learn of documentary evidence attesting to some apparent mad or erratic behaviour on the part of king Nebuchednezzar II, to complement the well-attested “Madness of Nabonidus”.
I referred to this in my:
in which I also concluded – based on a strikingly parallel situation – that Evil-Merodach, son and successor of Nebuchednezzar II, was Belshazzar. I reproduce that information here (with ref. to British Museum tablet No. BM 34113 (sp 213), published by A. K. Grayson in 1975):
Read lines 3, 6, 7, 11, 12, and Mas referring to strange behavior by Nebuchadnezzar, which has been brought to the attention of Evilmerodach by state officials. Life had lost all value to Nebuchadnezzar, who gave contradictory orders, refused to accept the counsel of his courtiers, showed love neither to son nor daughter, neglected his family, and no longer performed his duties as head of state with regard to the Babylonian state religion and its principal temple. Line 5, then, can refer to officials who, bewildered by the king’s behavior, counseled Evilmerodach to assume responsibility for affairs of state so long as his father was unable to carry out his duties. Lines 6 and on would then be a description of Nebuchadnezzar’s behavior as described to Evilmerodach. Since Nebuchadnezzar later recovered (Dan. 4:36), the counsel of the king’s courtiers to Evil-merodach may later have been considered “bad” (line 5), though at the time it seemed the best way out of a national crisis.
Since Daniel records that Nebuchadnezzar was “driven from men” (Dan. 4:33) but later reinstated as king by his officials (verse 36), Evilmerodach, Nebuchadnezzar’s eldest son, may have served as regent during his father’s incapacity. Official records, however, show Nebuchadnezzar as king during his lifetime.
Comment: Now this is the very same situation that we have found with King Nabonidus’ acting strangely, and defying the prognosticators, whilst the rule at Babylon – though not the kingship – lay in the hands of his eldest son, Belshazzar.
The inevitable (for me) conclusion now is that:
Evil-merodach is Belshazzar!
Again, this new vision of history manages to establish that
- Belshazzar, the son of Nebuchednezzar II/Nabonidus, was in fact a king.
Hence, a solution to the first conundrum referred to at the beginning of this article: An unknown king “Belshazzar”, given as the son (and presumably successor) of “Nebuchednezzar” ….
Moreover, I am confident that this new vision of history will enable, in Part Two, for the true identification of that most enigmatic of biblical characters, “Darius the Mede” – an identification already hinted at in the title of this series.
Part Two (i): Medo-Persia
The Who, When, How, and Why of “Darius the Mede” of the Book of Daniel.
Having now established (I think) King Nabonidus’s son, Belshazzar, as the “King Belshazzar” of the Book of Daniel, then it ought to become self-evident – for those who know the basic facts about the historical Belshazzar – which Medo-Persian king succeeded him.
To put it in the words of the three young men when confronted by an irate “Nebuchednezzar” (Daniel 3:16): ‘Your question hardly requires an answer …’.
King Belshazzar was succeeded by King Cyrus.
|King Cyrus of Persia also refers to Belshazzar when he conquered Babylon in his writings:|
|“A coward was put in charge as the king of this country . . . With evil intents he did away with the regular offerings to the gods . . . and desecrated the worship of the king of his gods, Marduk.” BM90920|
|Cyrus’s statement that Belshazzar desecrated the worship of his god Marduk matches very closely to the story in the book of Daniel. Although it wasn’t Marduk whose handwriting appeared on the wall, but the one true God of Israel.|
|According to the Bible, Belshazzar was holding a feast at the time the city of Babylon was run over by the Medes and Persians.|
|The fall of Babylon as recorded by the ancient historians Herodotus, Berosus and Xenophon verifies this:|
“Cyrus then dug a trench and diverted the flow of the Euphrates river into the new channel which led to an existing swamp. The level of the river then dropped to such a level that it became like a stream. His army was then able to take the city by marching through the shallow waters . . . The Babylonians at the time were celebrating intensely at a feast to one of their gods and they were taken totally by surprise.”
[End of quotes]
Unfortunately, some of these semi-historical ancient texts seem, at times, to mix up Nabonidus and Belshazzar.
The Book of Daniel identifies this same Medo-Persian king as “Darius the Mede” (5:30-31):
… at Belshazzar’s command, Daniel was clothed in purple, a gold chain was placed around his neck, and he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom.
That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.
Daniel 9:1 adds a little more biographical information about this new king:
In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent, who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans ….
Part Two (ii):
Some Favourable Views
There are some historians who have come to the conclusion that the “Darius the Mede” of the Book of Daniel is likely to have been King Cyrus “the Great” himself.
- J. Wiseman
“Donald John Wiseman OBE FBA FSA (25 October 1918 – 2 February 2010) was a biblical scholar, archaeologist and Assyriologist. He was Professor of Assyriology at the University of London from 1961 to 1982”.
Donald was the son of P. J. Wiseman, whose brilliant archaeologically-based insights into the structure of the Book of Genesis (the toledôt “family histories”) I have found most illuminating. See e.g. my P. J. Wiseman-inspired:
- J. Wiseman advanced his “Darius the Mede” as Cyrus theory back in 1957, in his article, “Some Historical Problems in the Book of Daniel”
(see: http://www.thedivineconspiracy.org/Z3205D.pdf) There he wrote:
The basis of the hypothesis is that Daniel 6:28 can be translated ‘Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, even (namely, or i.e.) the reign of Cyrus the Persian.’ Such a use of the appositional or explicative Hebrew waw construction has long been recognized in Chronicles 5:26 (‘So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria even the spirit of Tiglath–pileser king of Assyria’) and elsewhere.
[End of quote]
We know that “Pul” was the same person as Tiglath-Pileser, king of Assyria.
Correct translations of this verse, like the New King James Version, in this case, phrase it as “the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, that is, Tiglath–Pileser king of Assyria”.
William H. Shea
Dr. William H. Shea, retired associate director of the Biblical Research Institute, has written a book on this subject (Daniel), as well as his 1982 up-dated article specifically on the identification of “Darius the Mede”:
Although Shea gives some reasons in favour of “Darius the Mede” as Cyrus, his conclusion is ultimately that: “…this theory makes the dated references to these two kings in Daniel appear to be quite haphazard in arrangement, since it provides no explanation why Daniel would refer back from the third year of Cyrus, king of Persia (10:1), to the first year of Darius the Mede who was king over the realm of the Chaldeans (11:1)”.
George R. Law
His published version of a 2010 dissertation, written on our very subject, is a fully comprehensive treatment of the issues involved – a must read in fact. And Law comes out firmly on the side of “Darius the Mede” as Cyrus. We read this useful summary of the book at: http://www.readyscribepress.com/home_files/DariustheMede.html
Identification of Darius the Mede
|Identifying Darius the Mede has been a problem because of the lack of a direct correlation between the names in the ancient records of Babylonian kings and the record of the Hebrew Scriptures. Certainly, the prophet Daniel knew the Babylonian King whom he stylized as “Darius the Mede,” even if modern readers are uncertain, since this King Darius cast him into a den of lions.
In his book, Identifying Darius the Mede, George Law offers a scientific method which examines the data from the original sources concerning six potential candidates who might be identified as Darius the Mede: Astyages, Cambyses II, Cyaxeres (II), Cyrus the Great, Darius I (the Persian), and Gubaru (Gobryas). Law’s scientific method disqualifies most of these potential candidates and leaves only Cyrus the Great and Gubaru for further consideration. In his extended consideration of Gubaru, a governor of Babylon, Law offers the following evidence explaining why Gubaru cannot be identified as Darius the Mede. In the original sources, there is no evidence of the following:
1) Gubaru being called “king” in Babylon in 538-536 BC
2) Gubaru being governor of Babylon from 538-536 BC
3) a district called “Babylon and the Region across the River” existing in 538-536 BC
4) a new governor (administration) being established in Babylon in 538-536 BC
5) Darius the Mede acting as a vassal king.
On the other hand, Law considers how the evidence concerning Cyrus the Great does fit Daniel’s description of Darius the Mede.