12

And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old. [Daniel 5:31]

I have read much about the possible identities of Darius the Mede; to me, the most convincing alias is that of Gabaru (mentioned in Nabonidus Chronicle column iii line 20).

However, there are a number of other theories, and it causes me to wonder: Who exactly was Darius the Mede? I know we cant know for sure (?), but what would make the most sense, in light of our faith?

5
  • 3
    Welcome to the Christianity Stack Exchange. We are glad you stopped by and hope you stay. If you haven't done so already, you might want to check out how we are a little different the most other sites. This is not a comment on the quality of your question, but rather a standard welcome message.
    – ThaddeusB
    Oct 28, 2015 at 3:13
  • @ThaddeusB Thank you for the link. I was looking for it but couldn't find anything. Oct 28, 2015 at 3:15
  • 3
    A Ph.D. thesis, apparently claiming a co-regency existed in 539 when Babylon was conquered, Cyrus became sole king in 537. academia.edu/9787699/Darius_the_Mede_A_Reappraisal
    – Bit Chaser
    Oct 28, 2015 at 6:49
  • The late Ellis Skolfield had an interesting interpretation of Daniel 8:26, 9:24 and 12:4 which speak of sealing up the prophecy. He claims that Daniel intentionally rearranged events and chapters and applied other prophetic encryption techniques so that the timelines of the prophecies would not be decipherable until late in history, when God would reveal the means of decrypting them to the church. Since God cannot lie, that means truthful but subtle alterations would make the full sense of the words beyond reach. May 5, 2022 at 14:36
  • This could include using private nicknames for people that have been lost to history. The fact that historians are baffled does not prove the Bible has an error, but that this sealing up of the meaning was highly effective and remains so today. May 5, 2022 at 14:36

7 Answers 7

3

Prior to Cyrus the Great, a Persian, the Medians were overlords of the Persians and other tribes in what is now western Iran. Cyrus overthrew the Median king, Astyages, and founded the Achaemenid Empire, with the Media as part of the empire. Cyrus went on to conquer Babylon in 540 BCE and soon after allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem, for which he is mentioned extensively in 2 Chronicles, Ezra and Isaiah (Second Isaiah) by the grateful Jews.

Cyrus was killed in battle in about 530 BCE, in Central Asia, and was succeeded by his son, Cambyses. In 522 BCE, while Cambyses was campaigning in the west, a usurper, Bardia or Smerdis, occupied the throne. He was quickly overthrown by Darius, who, although a Mede, was a military commander in the Persian empire. Darius I ruled Persia from 522 until 486 BCE and was succeeded by his son Xerxes (known as 'Ahasuerus' in the Bible).

The Cambridge Ancient History Volume III Part 2, page 395, says the Book of Daniel is generally considered to be a historically unreliable compilation of the second century BCE. Two of the historical errors in the Book of Daniel were to describe to Darius "the Mede" as the son of Xerxes and as the king who conquered Babylon, at the age of sixty two (18 years before he overthrew Smerdis and really became king):

Daniel 5:31: And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old.

An alternative view

Sara Raup Johnson (Historical Fictions and Hellenistic Jewish Identity, page 58) provides the background to another interesting explanation of "Darius the Mede". She tells us that Josephus, writing late in the first century CE, was baffled by the reference to "Darius the Mede", who ruled before Cyrus according to the Book of Daniel. Jewish Antiquities Book 10 closely follows the Book of Daniel, but Josephus is unable to identify another historical Darius who would preserve Daniel as a book of history. Johnson says that Josephus came up with a characteristically ingenious solution. Josephus wrote that Darius the Mede was a son of Astyarges the Mede, maternal grandfather of Cyrus "but was called another name among the Greeks", and that he assisted Cyrus in the overthrow of Babylon. She says (Page 59) that Josephus stands at the head of a line leading to modern scholarship's vain attempts to make historical sense of texts never written as pure history.

Steven Anderson (https://www.academia.edu/9787699/Darius_the_Mede_A_Reappraisal) looks at some options for 'Darius the Mede' to have taken part in the conquest of Babylon. A critical assumption in this dissertation is that 'Darius the Mede' either existed or he did not; Anderson does not consider the possibility that Daniel's author displaced King Darius I in time. At page 51, he acknowledges that mainstream scholarship says that the Book of Daniel was a compilation of the second century BCE, at the same time cautiously raising his own doubts on this. The problem is that if the Book of Daniel was a late, pseudepigraphical work, we have no reason to believe it to be historically accurate. Anderson acknowledges that Jerome cited Josephus, whom Anderson acknowledges (page 5) as appearing to have been the first to identify Daniel’s Darius the Mede with Xenophon’s Cyaxares II. Thus, Josephus was the only independent source for this claim, and he is already well known for taking a biased view of history when it suited.

6
  • So you're saying that a) the bible is errant and b) that Darius is misplaced/doesn't exist? Oct 28, 2015 at 12:45
  • 1
    @CONOR'OBRIEN. recently, a number of reference works have favored an identification of Darius with Gubaru (commonly identified with the Gobryas mentioned in Xenophon’s Cyropædia), who became governor of Babylon after the Medo-Persian conquest of that city
    – Kris
    Oct 28, 2015 at 13:59
  • 3
    @ CONORO'BRIEN wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1200001124#h=14.
    – Kris
    Oct 28, 2015 at 14:03
  • 1
    @CᴏɴᴏʀO'Bʀɪᴇɴ In this answer, I am not expressing an opinion; I am simply answering a question by providing some history. I can see two links that do effectively provide an opinion, because they start from the premise that Daniel is inerrant (even if that then conflicts with other books of the OT) and work backwards from that conclusion to 'find' a Darius who suits their objectives. Oct 28, 2015 at 20:24
  • 1
    @CᴏɴᴏʀO'Bʀɪᴇɴ For benefit, I have added "An Alternative View" that shows how Josephus tried to reconcile Daniel with what he already knew about history. I did so without comment, but I could point out numerous historical errors and improbabilities in that alternative and in others put forward. Oct 28, 2015 at 21:03
3

One theory I have encountered is that Cyrus the Great is Darius the Mede and that Daniel is alluding to Cyrus's Median ancestry in part because Jeremiah 51:11,28 and Isaiah 13:17 suggest the Medes would play a crucial part in the overthrow of Babylon. This requires a reinterpretation of Daniel 6:28, 'So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian' so that the 'and' read 'even the reign of Cyrus the Persian'.

The advantages of this reading are historically Cyrus was present shortly after the overthrow of Babylon as far as I can tell everyone agrees with this (including the Bible, the Babylonian Chronicles, the Cyrus Cylinder, Herodotus of Halicarnassus, and Xenophon of Athens).

Secondly, from what we know of Cyrus from Cicero and Dinon, a fourth century historian, Cyrus would have been about 62 years old when he entered Babylon (being born in 600 BC, the conquest of Babylon taking place in 539 BC and Cyrus dying in 530 BC aged 70). This agrees with Darius age according to Daniel 5:30.

Thirdly, Herodotus gives a mythical(?) account Cyrus ancestry, suggesting that he was the grandson of the Median king Astyages by his daughter Mandine and Cambyses. This would lend credence to the idea that a Mede was involved in the fall of Babylon.

I would see the main problem with this theory being that Daniel speaks of Darius and Cyrus (why does he choose to use both names?) (Daniel 9, Daniel 10).

But also Daniel calls Darius 'the son of Ahasuerus' (Daniel 9:1) clearly this would make Darius a Persian and born several years later than the fall of Babylon if this was true. It could be that 'Ahasuerus' was a title applied to a number of Median and Persian rulers and that in context it refers to Astyages this would make sense of the context that tells us that Darius was a Mede by descent!

At the risk of presenting an opinion, let me explain where I am coming from on this: On balance, and at present, I favour this reading because try to approach the Bible with an assumption that it is trustworthy and true, and because I feel this makes most sense of the evidence of the Bible and history. I cannot imagine a mere general in Ugbaru writing laws into the statute book of the Medes and the Persians nor am I convinced of the chronology of other suggestions.

1
  • Welcome to Christianity.SE. For a quick overview, please take the Site Tour. For more on what this site is all about, see: How we are different than other sites. Meanwhile, thanks for offering an answer here. I hope you'll browse some of the other questions and answers. Jun 23, 2017 at 21:47
3

Dr. Steven Anderson wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on Darius the Mede. His conclusion that Darius the Mede is Cyaxares II mainly derived from Xenophon’s book Cyropaedia. Xenophon was a student of Socrates, a soldier and a historian. Dr. Anderson believes that Cyrus had a coregency with Darius the Mede (Cyaxares II) his father-in-law then became sole king on the death of Cyaxares II. Dr Anderson goes on to give 8 major supporting arguments for his conclusion.

https://truthonlybible.com/2016/01/08/darius-the-mede-a-solution-to-his-identity/

We would probably have a more accurate and complete history of the Persian Empire if Alexander the Great had not burned the library of Persepolis upon defeating the Persians. As it is Persian history is written by Greek historians.

I personally believe that this so-called Darius the Mede is the Darius mentioned in Chapters 5, 6 and 11 of the Book of Daniel but the Darius mentioned in Chapter 9 of the Book of Daniel may be a different Darius. In Chapter 9, the Darius is said to be the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes. This statement naturally implies that while this Darius was of Median descent, he was naturalized into some other race; say Persian.
This Darius could possibly be Darius I in secular history and his first year would date about 522 BC when Daniel was probably well into his 90’s. In verse 23, Daniel is said to be highly esteemed, perhaps this because he has lived a long life of faith and devotion to God. There is disagreement on when the 70 years of desolation mentioned by the prophet Jeremiah began and ended but I believe the following scenario. In Daniel 9:17-18, Daniel is distress because there is no Temple in which to worship and the 70 years is nearing an end. In 522 BC, while work on the Temple had been started, the work had been stopped. It would be just 6 years before the rebuilt Temple would be finished in 516 BC (in the 6th year of the reign King Darius, Ezra 6:15, 70 years after the destruction of Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple in 586 BC, which I believe began the desolation spoken of in Daniel 9:2).
In Haggai Chapter 1, even though many Jews had returned to their land the land was unproductive (desolate) because the Temple had not been rebuilt. Therefore, if the Darius in Daniel 9 was Darius the Mede it would be about 538 BC and 20 years before the new Temple’s completion (not all that close). That is why I believe Daniel 9 is a different Darius (Darius I, the Great).

2

From what I can tell in other answers, it is eluded to that Daniel is speaking to King Darius I. I would like to bring some evidence that the Book of Daniel was written around 600 BC (Dr. Bryan S. Rennie, REL 101: Understanding the Bible, Westminster University) to help us get back on track to finding out who this "Darius" truly is.

In the prophecy Daniel 11:1-4, he tells this "Darius" that there would be 3 more great kings and then a 4th king more powerful than his predecessors (Xerxes I: Encyclopedia Iranica, Xerxes). So if the Darius he is speaking with is King Darius I, wouldn’t the prophecy be more correctly worded “1 more king” rather than “3 more kings and then a 4th?” That would be after Cyrus' rule, about 500 BC, so that would put Daniel in a different era entirely. And the way he is speaking, he's talking from a perspective of about 600 BC (again referencing the fact that he is speaking of these rulers in future tense).

Now, the dates of Daniel’s prophecies have been debated many times to have been written in 200 BC and to be a scam rather than a prophecy. However, the research done by BibleArchaeology and History.com expresses just the opposite. The bronzed papyrus parchment for the Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as some languages used in scholarly transcription date back to at least 150 BC. It is written in some forms called Qumran Hebrew, but mostly in Nabataean-Aramaic and New Greek which scholars say was not popular until that time (John C Reeves, Pursuing the Text). Latin and Arabic were also used. Thus, a popular supportive theory is that the documents were being transcribed from ancient languages hence the different levels of vocabulary and the fact that the many dialects in DS Scrolls were necessary to effectively translate what was being conveyed from the ancient languages in the original texts. 5 different Semitic languages and 7 Indo-Mediterranean languages died between the 7th and 4th centuries (LinguistList.com). And that's just what we know about. We don't know for sure which one Daniel spoke, but in light of this research, chances are high that it was a language put to death close to or by the time the DS scrolls were written. Alexander’s last will and testament was read and carried out between 221-146 BC (Roisman & Worthington - Ancient Macedonia). And because the DS Scrolls were transcriptions of ancient works rather than recent works the Book of Daniel would have been written at least 100 years before this era (DeadSeaScrollsOrganization) thus, qualifying at least the latter part of Daniel 11:1-4 as a prophecy.

There is plenty of legitimate, scholarly evidence in this post and outside of it to support Daniel’s prophecy in Daniel 11:1-4 and its legitimacy. However, it is only enough to combat the myth that Daniel was written around 200 BC.

The Point – Based on the dating from this research for the Book of Daniel, Daniel was most likely NOT speaking with King Darius I in Daniel 11:1-4.

Other theories for consideration would be that the name Darius the Mede was a title rather than a name. Or that “Darius” is a rough translation for a different name noted in history. Also possible that it is the name of general rather than a king.

1
  • I appreciate your general thrust, but to claim that Daniel was written 600 B.C. is just plain wrong. Cyrus conquered Babylon 539 B.C. installing Darius the Mede to be the King of Babylon (as a Persian province important enought o retain a king) within the Persian Empire. "Daniel continued until the first year of King Cyrus" (Dan 1:21) most likely meaning 538 B.C. and furthermore meaning the book was written after this time. Jun 19, 2021 at 22:43
2

Who was Darius the Mede?

It is often suggested it was Gabaru (also called Gobryas or Ugbaru). It needs to be understood that this general entered Babylon on the 16th Tashritu (Tishri) but died on the 11th Arahshamnu, which was the following month. He lived less than a month after capturing Babylon. The length of time needed for the events relating to Darius the Mede in the book of Daniel mean Gabaru must be excluded as a possible candidate. See "The Ancient Near East, an anthology of texts and pictures" Ed. James Pritchard; 2011; pages 281 -282.

It is often claimed that there is no evidence of Darius the Mede outside the Bible in the book of Daniel. Those who claim this tend to accept the testimony of Josephus, writing in the first century ad, and tend to dismiss the testimony of earlier writers.

It is obviously true that the currently available evidence is sketchy; had there been no demise of the ancient library at Alexandria in Egypt and at Persepolis in Persia (destroyed 330 bc) we would doubtless have much more extra-biblical evidence.

A hint from Berossus, writing beginning of 3rd century bc

C. F. Keil in his commentary on Daniel quoting Berossus wrote:

"Cyrus, after he had taken possession of Babylon, appointed him [Nabonidus] margrave of the country of Carmania. Darius the king removed him out of the land." (See page 1061 of https://archive.org/details/biblicalcommenta00keil9/page/n1057/mode/2up?q=Darius)

A comment is made on this in an article by Stephen Anderson and Rodger C. Young:

Nabonidus was between sixty-five and seventy years old when he became king [of Babylon] in 556 BC which means that he would have been between 99 and 104 years old when Darius Hystaspes ascended to the throne in 522 BC, if he were still alive (possible, but unlikely). In addition, the mention of King Darius is in the context of the fall of Babylon and before Berossus concluded his account of the reign of Cyrus, or even of the career of Nabonidus. Thus, Berossus seems to have believed that there was a King Darius who reigned concurrently with Cyrus and who had greater authority than Cyrus within the Medo-Persian Empire.

Evidence from Harpocration

In the same article of Anderson and Young:-

Valerius Harpocration was a lexicographer who wrote in the latter half of the second century AD and who was a tutor of the emperor Verus (reigned AD 161-169). He was associated with the great library at Alexandria and consequently had access to many ancient books that later were lost when the library was destroyed. His only surviving work is "Lexicon of the Ten Orators", a glossary to terminology used by Greek orators. The portion of Harpocration's work that is significant for the issue of Darius the Mede is his entry for the word "daric". Herodotus claimed that Darius Hystaspes invented the daric coin as a memorial to himself (Histories 4.166). By contrast, in Harpocration's entry for "daric," he wrote, "But darics are not named, as most suppose, after Darius the father of Xerxes, but after a certain other more ancient king." This is the second reference that Keil cited as evidence, outside of the book of Daniel, for the existence of Daniel's "Darius the Mede" as a historical figure.

For further reading see the online article: "THE REMEMBRANCE OF DANIEL'S DARIUS THE MEDE IN BEROSSUS AND HARPOCRATION" by Steven D. Anderson and Rodger C. Young http://www.rcyoung.org/articles/darius.html

See also the wikipedia article on Cyaxares II which presents both sides of the argument as to whether he existed. If Cyaxares II did in fact exist then his story matches very closely the sketch of Darius the Mede we have in the book of Daniel. As for the objection that "Cyaxares" does not sound like "Darius", monarchs did, and still do, give themselves coronation/throne names which are not necessarily their birth names.

1

Recently, Tom Finley, professor emeritus of Old Testament and Semitics at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University, wrote an article on this subject.

He discusses three options for the identity of Darius the Mede, namely that he was:

  • A certain Gubaru, whom Cyrus appointed governor of Babylon,
  • A certain Cyaxares, whom Xenophon identified as the maternal uncle of Cyrus the Great, or
  • Cyrus the Persian.

He concludes that, for the following reasons, Darius was an alternate name for Cyrus:

  • Ancient Babylonian and Greek sources identified the king who conquered Babylon as Cyrus.
  • Cyrus did not appoint Gubaru as king of Babylon. He appointed his son Cambyses in that position. Cyrus appointed Gubaru as governor of Babylon. And that was only several years after the conquest of the city.
  • Xenophon describes how Cyrus organized the empire. Nothing indicates that Cyaxares was doing anything of substance in Babylon or that Cyrus was subject to Cyaxares as the real king of the Medo-Persian empire. Xenophon, like Herodotus and the Babylonian documents, ascribes to Cyrus what Daniel 6 ascribes to Darius the Mede.
  • Most historians view Cyaxares as “wholly unhistorical.”
  • Daniel 6:28 may be translated as: “Darius, that is, in the reign of Cyrus the Persian” (a marginal reading found in an earlier edition of the NIV (2011)).
  • Cyrus’ father was Persian but he married the daughter of the king of the Medes. This would make Cyrus part Persian and part Median. His Median ancestry follows the Jewish custom of tracing the ancestry of a person of mixed parents through the mother (cf. Ezra 6:3).
  • Daniel never called Darius the king of the Medes but Cyrus is called “the king of Persia” (Dan 10:1).
  • At Daniel 11:1, both ancient Greek versions (the Old Greek and Theodotion) substitute Cyrus for Darius the Mede.
0

In another (older) article, William Shea made a different proposal, namely that Darius the Mede refers to Ugbaru; the general who conquered Babylon for Cyrus. By comparing the book of Daniel to the Nabonidus Chronicle, Shea provides four reasons for this proposal:

(1) Both were in Babylon that night.

Darius was in Babylon the night the last Babylonian king was slain (Dan 5:30-31). Ugbaru was also there because he was the general who conquered Babylon.

Since Cyrus was not in Babylon when Belshazzar was slain, Daniel 5:30-31 implies that Darius cannot be another name for Cyrus.

(2) Both were made king.

Darius was “made king” (Dan 9:1 - NASB); by implication, by Cyrus.

Ugbaru appointed governors. This implies that he also was king. After the conquest of Babylon, he probably was the military governor and was “made king” when Cyrus arrived in Babylon two weeks later.

(3) Both ruled only the Chaldean province (Dan 9:1).

In other words, they did not rule the entire empire.

This confirms that Darius is not another name for Cyrus because Cyrus ruled the entire empire.

(4) Both appointed governors (Dan 6:1-2).

As discussed above

CONCLUSIONS

Consequently, Shea proposes that Ugbaru took the throne name of Darius, by which he appears in the book of Daniel.

A possible objection to this proposal is that Ugbaru died only three weeks after he conquered Babylon. Shea continues to show that it is possible to fit the events of Daniel 6 into that period. This includes that Darius appointed governors quickly and in a very undemocratic style.

Shea’s explanation implies that Daniel received the prophecy in Daniel 9 (See Daniel 9:1) during the three weeks after Ugbaru conquered Babylon.

The narrow time frame may explain why historians have not found other evidence for Darius elsewhere in the Scriptures or in secular sources.

See here for a summary of Shea's article.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .