Damien F. Mackey
Conventional chronology has served up far too many Persian kings, this leading to a quite unrealistic assessment of the ages of Persian-era men, such as Ezra the scribe.
Thanks to Herb Stork (History and Prophecy: A Study in the Post-Exilic Period, House of Nabu, 1989), some real sense was injected into the discussion about the succession of Persian kings and how this relates to the likes of Ezra/Nehemiah.
I have actually suggested:
Herb had argued that, to suggest a delay of arrival of Ezra in Jerusalem to the 7th year of an “Artaxerxes” well separated from the actual completion of the Temple in the 6th year of Darius, is quite nonsensical, and that Ezra had arrived instead close to the completion of the Temple. He also tells how scholars have been divided as to whether Artaxerxes I or Artaxerxes II was intended by Ezra 7’s “Artaxerxes”. While it is already stretching things to suggest he must have been Artaxerxes I, it is biologically impossible that he could have been Artaxerxes II.
Here is the conventional list of Persian kings from Darius ‘the Great’ to Artaxerxes II.
- Darius I (Darius the Great) (521–486 B.C.)
- Xerxes I (Xerxes the Great) (486–465 B.C.)
- Artaxerxes I (464–425 B.C.)
- Xerxes II (424 B.C.)
- Darius II (423?–404 B.C.)
- Artaxerxes II (404–358 B.C.)One can easily see that Darius ‘the Great’ and Artaxerxes II are well separated in time. The Passover kept on the 14th day of the 1st month of the 7th year. Both King Darius of Ezra 6 and Artaxerxes of Ezra 7 were concerned for their own life and the life of their sons:
- If Darius and Artaxerxes are one and the same king (as above), then we can expect a similarity in phraseology, family life etc. This we also find:
- And he then proceeds to show some striking similarities in favour of his identification:
- If Darius Hystaspis of Ezra 6:14–15 and the Artaxerxes of 7:1 are the same king then we find Ezra, approximately 27 days later, after the temple was completed, preparing for his trip (7:9). Four months go by and he came to Jerusalem (7:9). On this ‘common sense’ basis alone (i.e. Ezra not waiting 49 years but only 27 days before making preparations for his trip to Jerusalem), we would expect these kings to be one and the same.
- Not surprisingly, then, Austin’s solution is the same one with which Storck had previously come up, “Darius” must be “Artaxerxes”:
- Then Ezra, full of concern and zeal for the house of the Lord (who ‘had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments’—Ezra 7:10) holding back this concern for 49 years! Because of the character and zeal revealed in Scripture of this man, it cannot be imagined that this urgent matter would result in action only when he was a very old man of about 121 years.
- The temple completed on the 3rd day of the last month (Adar) of King Darius’ 6th year.
- Then he writes (“Longimanus” referring to Artaxerxes I): “The ‘80 year gap theory’ has the Artaxerxes of Ezra 7:1 as Longimanus,14 and therefore his 7th year would be about 49 years later than the Darius Hystaspis of Ezra 6:14–15 …. This then would make Ezra’s age approx 121 years when he made his trip from Babylon to Jerusalem”. Austin considers to be – as Storck, too, had – a quite unrealistic scenario both in terms of age and zeal:
- In the chronologies of Bishop Ussher and Floyd Jones there is an unsubstantiated gap or space of 80–82 years between the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity and the commencement of the 70 weeks of years of Daniel 9:24–25. The main reason for such a space is the unproved assumption that the Darius (Hystaspis) of Ezra 6:14–15 is a different king to the Artaxerxes of Ezra 7:1. This paper shows these two are the same king and that there is therefore no such gap in the Bible but instead a continuous chronology from creation to Christ.
- Now, I find a similar sort of sensible thinking to Storck’s in a Creation Ministries International article by David Austin: “Is Darius, the king of Ezra 6:14–15, the same king as the Artaxerxes of Ezra 7:1?” (http://creation.com/darius-is-artaxerxes) – whilst not necessarily agreeing with everything else in the article (e.g. his interpretation of the Great King in the Book of Esther). Austin prefaces this article with this statement:
- Ezra 6:10—‘Pray for the life of the King and of his sons.’
- Ezra 7:23—‘Why should there be wrath against the King and his sons?’