Belshazzar is slain by the Medes (Persians) and Darius is set to rule of the conquered Babylon. Do not confuse bible facts with nay-sayer historians who claim Cyrus was the ruler. Yes he was at this time; Asian ruler along with the more loosely knit confederation (of sort) Medes. Cyrus ruled the empire. Darius, for a very short time, ruled Babylon. The Bible gives us facts we often miss the reason for why. Things like proper names and places; in this case the Bible specifically gives us the age of Darius in the very last verse of chapter 5. He was 62 years old.
We should ask ourselves since such information is seldom given if it is given for a reason? Darius ruled for a short time then either died or stepped down into retirement. He is NOT the King Darius on the throne of Babylon 40 years later. However, the Book of Esther comes within the next 40 years.
It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom;
As mentioned at the end of our study of chapter 5, there is some debate over the identity of Darius. Critics have pointed to Daniel’s assertion that Darius the Mede was king of Babylon as proof that the book of Daniel was not an eyewitness account, but rather the work of a much later author who was confused about the details of this period. Critics are quick to make bold assertions that are based on biased opinions rather than objective facts. Professor Robert Dick Wilson who spent a lifetime studying these things states: “This confusion is a matter of evidence. With all due deference to the opinion of other scholars, I am firmly convinced that no man today has sufficient evidence to prove that the author of Daniel was confused. There are no records to substantiate the assertions of confusion. Neither is it clear to the critics nor can they make it clear to others, that the author of Daniel either did not understand the facts with regard to Darius the Mede, or clearly express himself about them.” (Studies in Daniel)
Among the various opinions put forward, the ones favored by most scholars are as follows:
- Darius was not the name of a person but simply a title meaning “holder of the scepter”. Certainly there are five later Persian rulers with the same name, which lends some support to this argument.
- Donald J Wiseman of the British Museum puts forward the idea that Darius was indeed a title and our character in question was in fact Cyrus himself. Scholars have noted that the closing verse of this chapter could also be translated in such a way as to imply that Darius is Cyrus. (JIV: It is translated this way in the footnotes of the N.I.V.)
- Another view is that Darius was Cambyses, the son of Cyrus, although his age as revealed at the end of chapter 5 would seem to discount this; as would the fact that this would then leave a gap of approximately four months with no king over Babylon from the death of Belshazzar until Cambyses was eventually appointed as king of Babylon in 538 BC. However, it is wise to take note that Daniel even mentions his age at his ascension to the throne of Babylon. There is often a reason why God leads writers of scripture to make such statements.
- Finally, the view that seems most consistent with what we know from the Bible and history is that Darius the Mede was Gubaru, the general of Cyrus’ Mede army who had taken Babylon on the night of Belshazzar’s feast, aged about 62. Cyrus rewarded Gubaru with a regional governorship for capturing the capital of the Babylonian Empire. What we do know from the ‘Nabonidus Chronicle’ and Josephus is that on October 12th 539BC, Gubaru entered Babylon at night, killing Belshazzar and conquering the city without a fight since the Babylonian army was not even there.
On October 29th Cyrus entered the city, being met at the gates by Daniel with a scroll of Isaiah in his hand. Over 150 years earlier Isaiah had prophesied:
“Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself; That frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish; That confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messengers; that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built, and I will raise up the decayed places thereof: *That saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers:That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: **even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid. Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of (Belshazzar) kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel….” (Isaiah 44:24 – 45:6)
Note that Isaiah even mentions the access of the Medes and Persians into Babyloon; the river that has been dried up (diverted) so the troops simply walked in under the water gates of the river that flowed into Babylon.
**This is the prophecy of Isaiah almost 200 years earlier that the “captive” Judeans would be released to return to Jerusalem by a king named Cyrus.
Only a few weeks before, Cyrus had instructed Gubaru to take the ‘impenetrable’ city of Babylon by diverting the river Euphrates into a canal upriver so that the water level dropped “to the height of the middle of a man’s thigh” (Herodotus). Thus the city’s flood defenses were rendered useless and the Persian army was able to march right into the city through the river bed. As Cyrus is now reading this portion of Isaiah he must have been ‘blown away’. Not only does this Jewish prophet, who had been dead for 150 years, mention him by name, but the passage describes how the city would be taken and the fact that Belshazzar’s loins were loosened – something that was no doubt common knowledge by now.
Cyrus, approximately one and a half years later in 537 BC, went on to sign a decree allowing the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild their temple all by Daniel’s beckoning of him. This decree is recorded at the end of 2 Chronicles and at the beginning of Ezra: “Now in the first year of *Cyrus king of Persia [NB: 539 to 538 = Ascension year, therefore 538 to 537 = first year of reign], that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled [see Jer 29:10], the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? His God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem. And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourned, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.” (Ezra 1:1-4)
*King of the Persian Empire therefore over the appointed King Darius of Babylon.
In addition to this decree recorded in the Bible the above is a cylinder, now known as the ‘Stele of Cyrus’, which now resides in the British Museum. On the cylinder are the words:
“…without any battle, he entered the town, sparing any calamity:…I returned to sacred cities on the other side of the Tigris [river], the sanctuaries of which have been ruins for a long time… and established for them permanent sanctuaries. I also gathered all their former inhabitants and returned to them their habitations”
The ‘Stele of Cyrus’ – British Museum, London
Returning to the ‘who is Darius?’ question: From archaeological discoveries we know that Cyrus was known as ‘king of lands’ (i.e. ruler of the empire), and because the empire was so vast, it was normal to appoint kings over districts or regions. Thus it is reasonable that Cyrus would have appointed someone he trusted to be king of Babylon, and who better than his trusted general Gubaru who had just taken the city for his king? This starts out as a plausible theory but is soon confirmed by rereading the closing verse of chapter 5:“And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old.” Initially we read ‘and Darius became king…’ but that is not what this verse states. What we are told is that ‘Darius the Median took the kingdom…’ The word translated ‘took’ is ‘qebal’ (Aramaic) meaning ‘to acquire’, also translated elsewhere as ‘receive’ or ‘take’. As we have already mentioned, it was Gubaru (AKA: Darius) who acquired the kingdom on behalf of Cyrus, thus this verse would seem to identify Darius the Mede as Gubaru. This is also consistent with Daniel 9:1 where we are told that Darius was ‘made king over the realm of the Chaldeans’ (made = ‘malak’ (Aramaic) ‘to induct into royalty’).
(Gubaru is also sometimes written as Ugbaru or Gobryas [Greek])
And over these, three governors of whom Daniel was first: that the satraps might give accounts unto them, and the king should have no damage.
Continuing from verse one, Darius had 120 governors with three presidents or governors overseeing everything. Daniel was the chief president, second to the king himself.
Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes….
Not only did Daniel outrank all the other government officials, we are told that he was preferred above them all. Now, human nature being what it is, you can almost hear the murmuring in the background already ‘who does he think he is…?. He was just a captive Jew from Judah.’ Daniel continued his government ranking from Nebuchadnezzar to Darius.
…because an excellent spirit was in him;
Daniel’s whole life seems to be an example of what God can do in a life that is yielded to Him. We are called to be salt and light in this world, that men may see our good works and glorify our Father in Heaven (Matt 5:13-16). We are to be an example in word, conversation, charity (love), spirit, faith, purity and work (1 Tim 4:12). We are to work hard for our employers (Colossians 3:23) so that the name of our God and His doctrine are not blasphemed (1 Tim 6:1). We are to allow no corrupt communication to proceed from our mouths, but only that which is helpful and will build others up (Ephesians 4:29).
…..and the king thought to set him (Daniel) over the whole realm.
This did not go down well with the other non-Judean [Jews] officials. No doubt Darius had enlisted some of the best men of Babylon and added them to his own Persian staff, probably people that had served with him in the army. Now this ageing Jewish exile is almost being made king! This hate for the local, once captive Judeans reveals itself once again in the Book of Esther some 40 years later. Mordecai was set up for death as he was a Jew hated by the royal court; Haman. (King Ahasuerus, commonly identified as Xerxes I, reined 486–465 BCE). Esther was his queen.
Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him.
Jealousy is a powerful motivator. It overrides common sense and logical thought.
Proverbs 6:34-35 says: “For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance. He will not regard any ransom; neither will he rest content, though thou givest many gifts.”
Once the ‘ball of jealousy’ is rolling, nothing will stop it. But notice again, despite trying to find fault in Daniel there was nothing in his life that he had to hide, no secret sins, nothing to regret.
Next article we discover the events that followed. It picks up in verse 5 of Daniel 6. This reminds me of a gospel Chorus/Song back in the 60’ with words that go something like this…
IF YOU WERE ARRESTED FOR BEING A CHRISTIAN;
WOULD THERE BE ENOUGH EVIDENCE TO CONVICT YOU?