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Christian Pilgrim

 

125. Chronology of the Persian Kings




DARIUS THE MEDE

Darius the Mede was the son of Ahasuerus the Mede, and took over from the Babylonians:

Daniel 6:1 - "And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old."

Daniel 9:1 - "In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans"


Darius the Mede remained king over Judah at the same time as, or until Cyrus was king of Persia:

Daniel 6:28 - "So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian."


CYRUS KING OF PERSIA

In his first year, Cyrus set forth the decree to allow the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple :

2 Chronicles 36:22,23 - "Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, 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, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? The LORD his God be with him, and let him go up."

Ezra 1:1,2 - "Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, 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."


But whilst the Temple was being rebuilt, there was opposition, all the way through to the reign of Darius King of Persia:

Ezra 4:5 - "And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia."


Cyrus was king for at least three years:

Daniel 10:1 - "In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a thing was revealed unto Daniel, whose name was called Belteshazzar; and the thing was true, but the time appointed was long: and he understood the thing, and had understanding of the vision."


AHASUERUS

Ahersuerus reigned for at least 13 years, and was the husband of Esther:

Esther 3:7 - "In the first month, that is, the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of king Ahasuerus, they cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman from day to day, and from month to month, to the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar."


In his reign those opposed to the rebuilding of the Temple petitioned the king to get the work stopped:

Ezra 4:6 - "And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem."


It is not known whether Ahasuerus agreed to these petitions to stop the rebuilding of the Temple or not, but after the incidents mentioned in the Book of Esther, he would have as a result been favourable to Jews.

Matthew Henry equates Ahasuerus with Artaxerxes I (below). The reading of Ezra 4:5 and 6 could possibly offer this interpretation, but it is stretching the meaning of the text a little. Archbishop Ussher reckons that this Ahasuerus is Cambyses.


ARTAXERXES I

Artaxerxes I is NOT the same Artaxerxes as in Ezra 6:14, who came after Darius King of Persia, and approved the building of the Temple. Artaxerxes I definitely opposed it and got the work stopped:

Ezra 4:7,8 - "And in the days of Artaxerxes wrote Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their companions, unto Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the writing of the letter was written in the Syrian tongue, and interpreted in the Syrian tongue. Rehum the chancellor and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king in this sort:"

Ezra 4:11 - "This is the copy of the letter that they sent unto him, even unto Artaxerxes the king; Thy servants the men on this side the river, and at such a time."

Ezra 4:23 - "Now when the copy of king Artaxerxes' letter was read before Rehum, and Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem unto the Jews, and made them to cease by force and power."


Because the letter sent to him mentioned the fact that they were building the city walls (not just the Temple), some commentators think that this letter took place up to fifty years later and is out of synchronisation with the narrative. This is not true. The narrative stands perfectly chronological. The writers of this letter were lying about them building the city. They were only building the Temple:

Ezra 4:24 - "Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia."

It is not known how long Artaxerxes I was on the throne.


DARIUS KING OF PERSIA

Darius King of Persia reigned for at least four years:

Zechariah 7:1 - "And it came to pass in the fourth year of king Darius, that the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah in the fourth day of the ninth month, even in Chisleu."


In the days of this king, Haggai and Zechariah prophesied to the Jews to carry on rebuilding the Temple. Zerubabbel and Jeshua started doing this:

Ezra 5:1,2 - "Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them. Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them."


Opposition again came, and a letter was sent to Darius:

Ezra 5:3-5 - "At the same time came to them Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shetharboznai, and their companions, and said thus unto them, Who hath commanded you to build this house, and to make up this wall? Then said we unto them after this manner, What are the names of the men that make this building? But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, that they could not cause them to cease, till the matter came to Darius: and then they returned answer by letter concerning this matter."


Darius looked in the archives and found that Cyrus had indeed made a decree that the Temple should be built, so Darius allowed the building once more:

Ezra 6:1-3,7 - "Then Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in the house of the rolls, where the treasures were laid up in Babylon. And there was found at Achmetha, in the palace that is in the province of the Medes, a roll, and therein was a record thus written: In the first year of Cyrus the king the same Cyrus the king made a decree concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, Let the house be builded... Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in his place."


The Temple was finally finished according to the commandments of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes II (who gave a separate decree in chapter 7 when Ezra returned from exile):

Ezra 6:14,15 - "And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia. And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king."


ARTAXERXES II

Artaxerxes II reigned for at least 32 years:

Nehemiah 5:14 - "Moreover from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year even unto the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that is, twelve years, I and my brethren have not eaten the bread of the governor."

Nehemiah 13:6 - "But in all this time was not I at Jerusalem: for in the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon came I unto the king, and after certain days obtained I leave of the king:"


Ezra returned from exile in Artaxerxes II's seventh year:

Ezra 7:1,6-8 - "Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah... This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him. And there went up some of the children of Israel, and of the priests, and the Levites, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinims, unto Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king. And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king."

Note the phrase "after these things" shows that this is a different Artaxerxes from the Artaxerxes I above, as this Artaxerxes came after Darius' reign and decree to continue to rebuild the Temple.


Nehemiah returned from exile in Artaxerxes II's twentieth year to rebuild the walls of the city:

Nehemiah 2:1,3 - "And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence... And said unto the king, Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?"

Nehemiah 5:14 - "Moreover from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year even unto the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that is, twelve years, I and my brethren have not eaten the bread of the governor."


This chronology makes perfect sense. Most commentaries or Bible dictionaries that are available, lean too much on archaeology, and so have a completely different, and very complicated chronology, some giving three Persian Darius's and three Artaxerxes, making the text of Ezra in particular dart about all over the place. The simple text of Scripture is all that we need for our understanding, and archaeology serves no useful purpose when it is used solely to try to deny Scripture.

Scripture itself tells us that there will only be four more kings of Persia after Cyrus:

Daniel 11:2 - "And now will I shew thee the truth. Behold, there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than they all: and by his strength through his riches he shall stir up all against the realm of Grecia."

This fourth king is Artaxerxes II, after which Alexander the Great conquered Persia:

Daniel 11:3 - " And a mighty king shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will."

And we know this is Alexander because afterwards his kingdom is split into four (v.4). (cf. Daniel 8:8,22).