Darius the Mede “Received the Kingdom”



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:


Neo-Babylonian Dynasty Needs ‘Hem Taken Up’. Part One (b): Evil-Merodach is Belshazzar




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.


According to (http://www.biblehistory.net/newsletter/belshazzar_darius_mede.htm):


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.




  1. J. Wiseman


“Donald John Wiseman OBE FBA FSA (25 October 1918 – 2 February 2010)[1] 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:


The “Toledoths” of Genesis




  1. 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.



The Cyrus Cylinder is often heralded as the first “human-rights       charter”  to proclaim  freedom to  everyone  in a  multicultural  empire.  Whether or not  this is  exactly  true,  there  is  ample  evidence  that   Cyrus  the  Great  did   grant   freedom   to   Babylonian  slaves. In  addition,   the   Jewish   Scriptures  record  that   during Cyrus’ first  year (538 BC), he fulfilled prophecy  when he  granted  freedom to  the  Jewish  captives  living in  Babylon. His proclamation of  freedom  for the Jews  allowed  their  return  to  the  land  which  was  “promised” to them  by  their   God,   Jehovah,  and  also  provided for  the eventual rebuilding of their Temple in Jerusalem.



        The Book of Daniel  records  part of the  history of this era of  empire-building by     Cyrus the Great. The  author  of  Daniel  calls  the  conqueror  of   Babylon  “Darius  the  Mede”   instead  of  “Cyrus.” This curious description of Babylon’s conqueror has spawned many explanations over the years.

In Chapter Three of  his dissertation,  George  Law  offers a scientific method for considering candidates  who could  potentially be  identified  as  “Darius  the  Mede.” In  Chapter Four, relevant supporting evidence is  gathered  for  each  of  six   potential  candidates. The  employed   method   proceeds  to

eliminate from  consideration  the  candidates who  are  unqualified,  and  then  it  further  investigates specific  details  in  order to  determine which  qualified  candidate  is the  best match for all the available evidence describing Darius the Mede.  Numerous relevant ancient  documents and their  translations are provided in the  Appendices to allow  other  scholars  to follow these trails of evidence.         Chapter Five  provides  insightful correlations between many ancient Mesopotamian concepts, even some  humorous  pagan  prophecies,  and  their  relevance  to  this  great  conqueror of  Babylon.  This  final  chapter  concludes  with  an  analysis  of  the   Scriptural  data  recorded  in  the  Book  of  Daniel,  and  explains  their  significance for a  complete  understanding of this  character  Daniel called  “Darius the Mede.”


[End of quote]

Part Two (iii):

Textual Clues






Was Daniel twice in the den of lions? Once under “Darius the Mede” and once under Cyrus?

No, not if – as according to this series – Darius the Mede was King Cyrus.






Toledôt Assistance


Sometimes the sacred Scriptures present us with two or more versions of the same incident, but written by different authors and hence from a different perspective. Because of seeming contradictions between (or amongst) these texts, arising as they do from different sources, critics can pounce on these as examples of biblical contradiction and error.

One such situation that I looked at were the two very similar – though in some ways quite different – accounts of Abram’s wife, Sarai, and Abraham’s wife, Sarah, being abducted by “Pharaoh” (in the case of Sarai), and by “Abimelech” (in the case of Sarah):


‘Toledoth’ Explains Abram’s Pharaoh




These tales I concluded, with the benefit of P. J. Wiseman’s illuminating toledôt theory, were recording the one and same incident:


From the now well-known theory of toledôt (or Toledoth, a Hebrew feminine plural), we might be surprised to learn that so great a Patriarch as Abram (later Abraham), did not sign off the record of his own history (as did e.g. Adam, Noah, and Jacob). No, Abram’s story was recorded instead by his two chief sons, Ishmael and Isaac.

“These are the generations of Ishmael …” (Genesis 25:12).

“These are the generations of Isaac …” (Genesis 25:19).

So, there were two hands at work in this particular narrative, and this fact explains the otherwise strange repetition of several famous incidents recorded in the narrative. And it is in the second telling of the incident of the abduction of Abram’s wife, Sarai (later Sarah), that we get the name of the ruler who, in the first telling of it is called simply

“Pharaoh”. He is “Abimelech” (20:2).

[End of quote]


Whilst the Egyptianised Ishmael (or his family) was recounting the story from the perspective of Egypt; Isaac (or his kin) gave the story from a Palestinian perspective.

Archaeologically we have learned that Egypt had, at this time, most appropriately, flowed over into southern Canaan.


And so with Daniel and the two accounts of his ordeal in the den of lions (Daniel 6 and Bel and the Dragon), it now follows that – given our identification of “Darius the Mede” with Cyrus – that only the one incident is being referred to, but presumably related by different authors. Hence, as with the case of the abduction of Sarah, it can read as if referring to two separate incidents. This, whilst being possible, is highly unlikely given Daniel’s advanced age at this time.

Let us consider the points of comparison:


The scene is Babylon (4:30; Bel v. 3).

In both cases, Daniel is on very good terms with a Medo-Persian king (6:3; Bel v. 2).

The people conspire against Daniel (and the king) on religious grounds (6:4-5; Bel vv. 28-29).

The king, under extreme pressure was distressed (6:14; Bel v. 30).

The fate was a den of lions (6:7, 16; Bel v. 31).

The king comes to the den to see what fate has befallen Daniel (6:19; Bel v. 40).

Daniel has been miraculously delivered (6:21; Bel v. 40).

The king rejoices, praises Daniel’s God (6:23; Bel v. 41).

Daniel is lifted out of the den (6:23; Bel v. 42).

His accusers are thrown into the den and are instantly devoured (6:24; Bel v. 42).


Perhaps the biggest apparent difference between the two narrations is the length of time that Daniel was in the den. Bel v. 31 is explicit. It was six days: “Who cast him into the lions’ den: where he was six days”. Daniel 6:19, on the other hand, gives: “At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den”.

However, that does not mean that Daniel was lifted out from the den that next day.

Daniel 6 may be telescoping events here.


The “Chiasmus” Guide


In the “Abram’s Pharaoh” article (above), chiastic parallelism also came to the aid of my theory that Abram’s “Pharaoh” was the same as “Abimelech”. A reader – one albeit critical of some of what I had been writing – had e-mailed to show that “Pharaoh” and “Abimelech” actually dovetailed chiastically. Thus he wrote: “Note how B. 1 and B’. 1’ merge beautifully with “Pharaoh” in B. 1 reflecting “Abimelech” in B’. 1’.”

Not that a chiastic parallelism of names necessarily means that the same person must be intended. Bern Sadler has, in his magnificent deciphering of the Gospel of Matthew: http://www.structureofmatthew.com/The%20Structure%20of%20Matthew.pdf

has drawn such a parallel between the name “Jacob” (Matthew 1:2) and “James” (Matthew 4:21). Most interestingly, “James” is the English form of the Hebrew name “Jacob” (Yaʻaqov).


Now, James B. Jordan has in The Handwriting on the Wall, on p. 314, shown a similar chiastic convergence of “Darius the Mede” (5:31) (his A.) and ‘Cyrus” (6:18b) (his A’).








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