Damien F. Mackey
Daniel was, as I have argued following Jewish Talmudic writers,
the new Moses, and he may have lived equally long as had Moses.
The usual version of the life of the prophet Daniel allows the great man far less years of life than does my revised version of him. He, beginning as a youth and captive (exile) in Babylon right at the commencement of the lengthy reign of king Nebuchednezzar II ‘the Great’ (whose reign is conventionally dated to c. 605 – c. 562 BC), is thought to have departed the official scene, at least, early in the Medo-Persian era (c. 555 BC): “The last mention of Daniel in the Book of Daniel is in the third year of Cyrus (Daniel 10:1)”:
“Rabbinic sources suppose that he was still alive during the reign of the Persian king Ahasuerus (better known as Artaxerxes – Babylonian Talmud, Megillah 15a, based on the Book of Esther 4, 5), when he was killed by Haman, the wicked prime minister of Ahasuerus (Targum Sheini on Esther, 4, 11)”.
But even that is to cut Daniel’s life far too short, at least according to my recent:
Even more to Daniel than may meet the eye
Daniel was, as I have argued following Jewish Talmudic writers, the new Moses, and he may have lived equally long as had Moses.
During the reign of Nebuchednezzar II
“Daniel and his friends refuse the food and wine provided by the king of Babylon to avoid becoming defiled. They receive wisdom from God and surpass “all the magicians and enchanters of the kingdom”.”
Whilst Daniel, qua Daniel, is not accorded a specific tribe, nor is he given a genealogy, or even a patronymic, I have concluded – following the Septuagint version of Bel and the Dragon wherein Daniel is called a priest, the son of Habal – that Daniel was a Levite, a priest.
We read a standard version of Daniel’s life in the court of kings at Wikipedia:
The Book of Daniel begins with an introduction telling how Daniel and his companions came to be in Babylon, followed by a set of tales set in the Babylonian and Persian courts, followed in turn by a set of visions in which Daniel sees the remote future of the world and of Israel.
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were among the young Jewish nobility carried off to Babylon following the capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.
The four are chosen for their intellect and beauty to be trained in the Babylonian court, and are given new names. Daniel is given the Babylonian name Belteshazzar (Akkadian: … Beltu-šar-uṣur, written as NIN9.LUGAL.ŠEŠ), while his companions are given the Babylonian names Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Daniel and his friends refuse the food and wine provided by the king of Babylon to avoid becoming defiled. They receive wisdom from God and surpass “all the magicians and enchanters of the kingdom.” Nebuchadnezzar dreams of a giant statue made of four metals with feet of mingled iron and clay, smashed by a stone from heaven. Only Daniel is able to interpret it: the dream signifies four kingdoms, of which Babylon is the first, but God will destroy them and replace them with his own kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar dreams of a great tree that shelters all the world and of a heavenly figure who decrees that the tree will be destroyed; again, only Daniel can interpret the dream, which concerns the sovereignty of God over the kings of the earth. When Nebuchadnezzar’s son King Belshazzar uses the vessels from the Jewish temple for his feast, a hand appears and writes a mysterious message on the wall, which only Daniel can interpret; it tells the king that his kingdom will be given to the Medes and Persians, because Belshazzar, unlike Nebuchadnezzar, has not acknowledged the sovereignty of the God of Daniel. The Medes and Persians overthrow Nebuchadnezzar and the new king, Darius the Mede, appoints Daniel to high authority. Jealous rivals attempt to destroy Daniel with an accusation that he worships God instead of the king, and Daniel is thrown into a den of lions, but an angel saves him, his accusers are destroyed, and Daniel is restored to his position.
[End of quote]
Whilst this basically sums up the best known part of the career of Daniel (the Book of Daniel), there is significantly more now that will actually need to be added to the situation, I believe, from both a biblical and an historical perspective.
First of all I should like to recall my expansion of Nebuchednezzar II to include the alter ego of that mighty neo-Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal. This enables for, amongst other things, the historical identification of the strongly biblically-attested conquest of Egypt by Nebuchednezzar II – but which is all but missing from the Chaldean records.
King Ashurbanipal is, of course, famous for his utter devastation of Egypt, all the way down to the city of Thebes (c. 664 BC, conventional dating).
Secondly, I have recently identified the prophet Daniel with the governor, Nehemiah (despite the conventional separation here of some 150 years).
This now means that the “Artaxerxes king of Babylon” of the Book of Nehemiah was Nebuchednezzar II of Babylon, and not a later Persian king.
So, Daniel’s life during the reign of “Nebuchadnezzar” must now include, as well, the governorship of Nehemiah during years 20-32 of the reign of the king of Babylon, a phase not covered in the Book of Daniel (Nehemiah 5:14): “I was governor from the 20th year until the 32nd year that Artaxerxes was king. I was governor of Judah for twelve years”.
Already, even during the mid-reign of Nebuchednezzar II – and not some 150 years later in the Persian era (c. 440 BC) – the utterly destroyed city of Jerusalem had begun to be re-built, thanks to the intercession of Daniel-Nehemiah, a great favourite of the king of Babylon.
Young Daniel and the Susanna Incident
“As [Susanna] was being led to execution, God stirred up the holy spirit of a young boy named Daniel, and he cried aloud: ‘I am innocent of this woman’s blood’.”
Another incident that belongs to the time of Daniel’s youth, in Babylon – hence also during the reign of Nebuchednezzar II – when the Jewish sage is described (in Theodotion’s version) as “a young boy [παιδαρίου] named Daniel”, is encountered in the story of Susanna.
The story reads as follows (with a few of my comments added to it):
In Babylon there lived a man named Joakim, who married a very beautiful and God-fearing woman, Susanna, the daughter of Hilkiah; her parents were righteous and had trained their daughter according to the law of Moses. Joakim was very rich and he had a garden near his house. The Jews had recourse to him often because he was the most respected of them all.
Mackey’s comment: I have identified this highly “respected” Jew, Joakim, as the Mordecai of the Book of Esther, and Susanna, his wife, as Hadassah, the future Queen Esther.
For, according to Jewish tradition, Mordecai was actually married to Hadassah (Esther).
See e.g. my:
Well-Respected Mordecai. Part Two: As Joakim, Husband of Susanna
Lovely Susanna became the great Queen Esther
That year, two elders of the people were appointed judges, of whom the Lord said, “Lawlessness has come out of Babylon, that is, from the elders who were to govern the people as judges.” These men, to whom all brought their cases, frequented the house of Joakim. When the people left at noon, Susanna used to enter her husband’s garden for a walk. When the elders saw her enter every day for her walk, they began to lust for her. They perverted their thinking; they would not allow their eyes to look to heaven, and did not keep in mind just judgments. Though both were enamored of her, they did not tell each other their trouble, for they were ashamed to reveal their lustful desire to have her. Day by day they watched eagerly for her. One day they said to each other, “Let us be off for home, it is time for the noon meal.” So they went their separate ways. But both turned back and arrived at the same spot. When they asked each other the reason, they admitted their lust, and then they agreed to look for an occasion when they could find her alone.
One day, while they were waiting for the right moment, she entered as usual, with two maids only, wanting to bathe in the garden, for the weather was warm. Nobody else was there except the two elders, who had hidden themselves and were watching her. “Bring me oil and soap,” she said to the maids, “and shut the garden gates while I bathe.” They did as she said; they shut the garden gates and left by the side gate to fetch what she had ordered, unaware that the elders were hidden inside.
As soon as the maids had left, the two old men got up and ran to her. “Look,” they said, “the garden doors are shut, no one can see us, and we want you. So give in to our desire, and lie with us.
If you refuse, we will testify against you that a young man was here with you and that is why you sent your maids away.”
“I am completely trapped,” Susanna groaned. “If I yield, it will be my death; if I refuse, I cannot escape your power. Yet it is better for me not to do it and to fall into your power than to sin before the Lord.” Then Susanna screamed, and the two old men also shouted at her, as one of them ran to open the garden gates. When the people in the house heard the cries from the garden, they rushed in by the side gate to see what had happened to her. At the accusations of the old men, the servants felt very much ashamed, for never had any such thing been said about Susanna.
When the people came to her husband Joakim the next day, the two wicked old men also came, full of lawless intent to put Susanna to death. Before the people they ordered: “Send for Susanna, the daughter of Hilkiah, the wife of Joakim.” When she was sent for, she came with her parents, children and all her relatives. Susanna, very delicate and beautiful, was veiled; but those transgressors of the law ordered that she be exposed so as to sate themselves with her beauty. All her companions and the onlookers were weeping.
In the midst of the people the two old men rose up and laid their hands on her head. As she wept she looked up to heaven, for she trusted in the Lord wholeheartedly. The old men said, “As we were walking in the garden alone, this woman entered with two servant girls, shut the garden gates and sent the servant girls away. A young man, who was hidden there, came and lay with her. When we, in a corner of the garden, saw this lawlessness, we ran toward them. We saw them lying together, but the man we could not hold, because he was stronger than we; he opened the gates and ran off. Then we seized this one and asked who the young man was, but she refused to tell us. We testify to this.” The assembly believed them, since they were elders and judges of the people, and they condemned her to death.
But Susanna cried aloud: “Eternal God, you know what is hidden and are aware of all things before they come to be: you know that they have testified falsely against me. Here I am about to die, though I have done none of the things for which these men have condemned me.”
The Lord heard her prayer. As she was being led to execution, God stirred up the holy spirit of a young boy named Daniel, and he cried aloud: “I am innocent of this woman’s blood.” All the people turned and asked him, “What are you saying?” He stood in their midst and said, “Are you such fools, you Israelites, to condemn a daughter of Israel without investigation and without clear evidence? Return to court, for they have testified falsely against her.”
Then all the people returned in haste. To Daniel the elders said, “Come, sit with us and inform us, since God has given you the prestige of old age.” But he replied, “Separate these two far from one another, and I will examine them.”
After they were separated from each other, he called one of them and said: “How you have grown evil with age! Now have your past sins come to term: passing unjust sentences, condemning the innocent, and freeing the guilty, although the Lord says, ‘The innocent and the just you shall not put to death.’ Now, then, if you were a witness, tell me under what tree you saw them together.” “Under a mastic tree,”* he answered. “Your fine lie has cost you your head,” said Daniel; “for the angel of God has already received the sentence from God and shall split you in two.” Putting him to one side, he ordered the other one to be brought. “Offspring of Canaan, not of Judah,” Daniel said to him, “beauty has seduced you, lust has perverted your heart. This is how you acted with the daughters of Israel, and in their fear they yielded to you; but a daughter of Judah did not tolerate your lawlessness. Now, then, tell me under what tree you surprised them together.” “Under an oak,” he said. “Your fine lie has cost you also your head,” said Daniel; “for the angel of God waits with a sword to cut you in two so as to destroy you both.”
The whole assembly cried aloud, blessing God who saves those who hope in him. They rose up against the two old men, for by their own words Daniel had convicted them of bearing false witness. They condemned them to the fate they had planned for their neighbor: in accordance with the law of Moses they put them to death. Thus was innocent blood spared that day.
Hilkiah and his wife praised God for their daughter Susanna, with Joakim her husband and all her relatives, because she was found innocent of any shameful deed. And from that day onward Daniel was greatly esteemed by the people.
Mackey’s comment: From this case of wise judgment, and also from the famous incident of young Daniel’s properly recounting, and interpreting, king Nebuchednezzar’s Dream, Daniel became a legend even when he was yet a boy/youth.
That is why the prophet Ezekiel can declare ironically to the pretentious King of Tyre (Ezekiel 28:3): “You are wiser than Daniel; no secret is hidden from you!”
On this, see my:
Identity of the ‘Daniel’ in Ezekiel 14 and 28
The wicked and conspiring “two elders” of the above story of Susanna may possibly be the ill-fated pair, Ahab and Zedekiah, as mentioned in Jeremiah 29:21: “Thus said the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, of Ahab the son of Kolaiah, and of Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, which prophesy a lie to you in my name; Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon; and he shall slay them before your eyes”.
During the reign of Belshazzar
My solution, typically, has been to shrink the conventional neo-Babylonian sequence
by identifying Nebuchednezzar with Nabonidus, and Evil-Merodach with Belshazzar.
The Book of Daniel jumps straight from the incident of the insanity of king Nebuchednezzar (chapter 4) to the termination of the reign of king Belshazzar with the famous incident of the Writing on the Wall, followed by mention of that wicked king’s death (chapter 5).
Presumably there was a fair amount of time in between, because Belshazzar, as we shall see, reigned for at least three years, and Nebuchednezzar would experience a period of greater power after his bout of madness (Daniel 4:36): “At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before”.
King Nebuchednezzar II’s son-successor is known to have been – the albeit poorly attested – Evil-Merodach (evil by name, evil by nature), or Awel-Merodach.
The name actually means “man”, or “servant, of [the god] Marduk”, nothing to do with “evil”.
But, according to the Book of Daniel, Nebuchednezzar’s son-successor was “Belshazzar” (5:1), whom, the Jewish prophet reminds (5:18): ‘Your Majesty, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendor’.
The simple solution would be to identify Belshazzar as Evil-Merodach, considering that both were wicked and of short reign. And, historically, there was, in fact, a royal Belshazzar who post-dated Nebuchednezzar.
The only trouble is, this Belshazzar was a son of king Nabonidus, whose reign is conventionally dated to c. 556-539 BC, commencing some years after the death of Nebuchednezzar II.
My solution, typically, has been to shrink the conventional neo-Babylonian sequence by identifying Nebuchednezzar with Nabonidus, and Evil-Merodach with Belshazzar.
This conforms secular history to the sequence of kings in Daniel.
The Jews will “pray for the life of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and for the life of his son Belshazzar, so that their days on earth may be like the days of heaven” (Baruch 1:11).
Apart from the Writing on the Wall incident in chapter 5, we learn nothing more personally about king Belshazzar. We are told in chapter 7, though, that Daniel “had a dream, and visions” in that king’s 1st year of reign (7:1-3):
In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying in bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream. Daniel said: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea. …”.
And again, in chapter 8, Daniel experienced “a vision” in the king’s 3rd year of reign (1-4):
In the third year of King Belshazzar’s reign, I, Daniel, had a vision, after the one that had already appeared to me. In my vision I saw myself in the citadel of Susa in the province of Elam; in the vision I was beside the Ulai Canal. I looked up, and there before me was a ram with two horns, standing beside the canal, and the horns were long. One of the horns was longer than the other but grew up later. I watched the ram as it charged toward the west and the north and the south. No animal could stand against it, and none could rescue from its power. It did as it pleased and became great.
Daniel, who had been exceedingly great in Babylon during the reign of Nebuchednezzar II, and who was already a legend amongst his own people, appears to have faded into the background at the time of Belshazzar. It is “the queen” who has to remind the king (5:11): “There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods”.
And king Belshazzar asks Daniel who he is: ‘Are you Daniel …?’ (vv. 13-16):
“So Daniel was brought before the king, and the king said to him, ‘Are you Daniel, one of the exiles my father the king brought from Judah? I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you and that you have insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom. The wise men and enchanters were brought before me to read this writing and tell me what it means, but they could not explain it. Now I have heard that you are able to give interpretations and to solve difficult problems. If you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom’.”
During the reign of Darius the Mede
‘This is the inscription that was written:
mene, mene, tekel, parsin
Here is what these words mean:
Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.
Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.
Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians’.
The prophet Daniel spells it out clearly here.
The Chaldean kingdom has now come to an end, and the Medo-Persian one will take its place.
And the Book of Daniel supplies the next specific detail (5:30): “That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two”.
At first it would appear that Daniel might have been destined to live under a more serene and well-ordered ruler, after the fierce and mercurial Nebuchednezzar and his ne’er do well, son, Belshazzar. For, ccording to Daniel 6:1-3:
It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.
Here, at last, was a mature king who appeared to know what he was doing.
Unfortunately, however, the Babylonians, as we shall find, did not like their new king.
And they were jealous of Daniel.
What was Daniel’s status at this time?
As suggested in Part Three, Daniel appears to have faded into the background during the reign of Belshazzar – after his phase of high exaltation during Nebuchednezzar’s reign.
That all changed, though, when Belshazzar had, in a state of fright, promised to make Daniel ‘the third highest ruler in the kingdom’ (5:16).
That begs the question, who held the second place in the kingdom?
My solution, based on my view that king Belshazzar was the same person as Evil-Merodach, is that the exiled king of Jerusalem, Jehoiachin (or ‘Coniah’), already occupied second place.
I refer to this text from 2 Kings (27-30):
In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the year Awel-Marduk became king of Babylon, he released Jehoiachin king of Judah from prison. He did this on the twenty-seventh day of the twelfth month. He spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat of honor higher than those of the other kings who were with him in Babylon. So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes and for the rest of his life ate regularly at the king’s table. Day by day the king gave Jehoiachin a regular allowance as long as he lived.
This is most ominous.
Far from Daniel now settling into a period of peace and tranquility, he has been placed third in the kingdom – despite his protest (5:17) – but playing second fiddle to Jehoiachin.
And this Jehoiachin was, according to my reconstructions, e.g.:
Is the Book of Esther a Real History? Part Two
that Haman who will almost succeed in having the faithful Jews annihilated.
No doubt Haman was very much to the fore when the high officials in the kingdom, faced with the possibility of Daniel’s becoming the king’s second, organised this conspiracy (6:4-5):
At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said, ‘We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God’.
The effect was that Daniel famously ended up in the den of lions, the king being constrained to carry out the sentence owing to the rigid Medo-Persian law (vv. 6-27).
In Daniel 14, there is another account of the prophet’s being consigned to the den of lions.
This takes place during the reign of king Cyrus, and it is usually considered to be an incident separate to the one narrated in Daniel 6.
The background is somewhat different in that it occurs after the Babylonians had become incensed with Daniel, and with Cyrus, for the destruction of their idols, Bel and the Dragon. There is no reason, however, why this situation cannot go hand in hand with the jealousy of the king’s high officials towards Daniel, as narrated in chapter 6.
The account in Daniel 14 is admittedly somewhat different from that in Daniel 6.
But, as we well know, the same tale when told by two different people will result in two quite distinctive accounts. And I have argued similarly in:
Toledôt Explains Abram’s Pharaoh
that the Book of Genesis offers to divergent accounts, emanating from two different sources, of the one tale of the abduction of Sarai (Sarah), wife of Abram (Abraham).
Is it likely that the prophet Daniel had to suffer two ordeals amongst the lions? On this, see my:
Was Daniel Twice in the Lions’ Den?
If Darius the Mede be identified with Cyrus, as I believe he must – and some expert scholars have come this conclusion as well (Wiseman, D. J. (25 November 1957). “Darius the Mede”. Christianity Today: 7–10) – then something momentous will occur in the 1st year of that king’s reign, and presumably before the den of lions’ incident.
Ezra tells of it, the return from captivity (1:1-4):
In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing:
“This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:
‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them. And in any locality where survivors may now be living, the people are to provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem’.”
The priest-scribe Ezra I have already identified with Daniel. See e.g. my:
Even more to Daniel than may meet the eye
He, Ezra, had already, as Nehemiah, done a great work for his people during the mid-reign of Nebuchednezzar (i.e. “Artaxerxes”), when he had re-built the wall of Jerusalem.
Not surprisingly Daniel’s visitation by the angel Gabriel, in that same 1st year of Darius/Cyrus, pertained to the mater of “the desolation of Jerusalem” (9:1-3, 20-23):
In the first year of Darius son of Ahasuerus (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom— in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.
While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the Lord my God for his holy hill— while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. He instructed me and said to me, ‘Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the word and understand the vision …’.
According to Daniel 1:21: “… Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus”.
The “there” presumably refers to Babylon. From there, Daniel would have removed to Susa. But, firstly, he (as Nehemiah) had to participate in the return of the captive Jews back to Jerusalem (Ezra 2:2-2): “Now these are the people of the province who came up from the captivity of the exiles, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken captive to Babylon (they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to their own town, in company with Zerubbabel, Joshua, Nehemiah …”.
In the 3rd year of Cyrus Daniel will experience another revelation through a vision (chapter 10).
This was the same regnal year, the 3rd, as we read about early in the Book of Esther – in which king Cyrus is called “Ahasuerus” – when queen Vashti will be deposed (Esther 1:3): “… in the third year of his reign [Ahasuerus] gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. The military leaders of Persia and Media, the princes, and the nobles of the provinces were present”.
Daniel, as Nehemiah, may be the Nehuman (Mehuman) serving the king of Esther 1:10.
But Daniel would be, on the occasion of his visitation by Gabriel of that same year, geographically well apart from the king enthroned “in the citadel of Susa” (Esther 1:2).
For Daniel was then “standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris” (Daniel 10:4).
Susa was apparently about 250 km (160 mi) east of the Tigris River.
It would be almost a decade before the Hamanic conspiracy in the 12th year of king Ahasuerus (Esther 3:7) took its full effect. So, between Daniel’s release from the den of lions, and Haman, and afterwards, it could be said that (6:28): “Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius … the reign of Cyrus the Persian”.
Daniel, advanced in age (I would estimate in his early seventies) by the time of Haman’s conspiratorial revolt, may now have been in semi-retirement – no longer acting in a fully official manner in the kingdom.
Thus we find the Benjaminite Jew, Mordecai, now stepping into the breach.
During the reign of Darius the Persian
… as Herb Storck well argued in 1989 (History and Prophecy: A Study in the Post-Exilic Period, House of Nabu), it logically follows that Ezra’s impressive emergence, in the 7th year of “Artaxerxes king of Persia”, must be the very year after the Temple was completed, in the 6th year, and that king Darius must be none other than Ezra’s “Artaxerxes king of Persia” (as distinct from the “Artaxerxes king of Babylon”, i.e. Nebuchednezzar, of the Book of Nehemiah).
With the passing of the Haman crisis during the reign of king Ahasuerus, and the passing, too, of Ahasuerus himself – who I take to have been king Cyrus – the way was now straight for the Jews to complete the work that Cyrus had allowed from the start, when (Ezra 1:1-4):
In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing:
“This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:
‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the Temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them. And in any locality where survivors may now be living, the people are to provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem’.”
- 7: “Moreover, King Cyrus brought out the articles belonging to the Temple of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his god”.
Nehemiah (= my Daniel), was amongst the leaders of the return (Ezra 2:2).
But, due to opposition, it was not until the reign of Darius the Persian that the project was able to be brought fully to completion (Ezra 6:1-5):
King Darius then issued an order, and they searched in the archives stored in the treasury at Babylon. A scroll was found in the citadel of Ecbatana in the province of Media, and this was written on it:
In the first year of King Cyrus, the king issued a decree concerning the Temple of God in Jerusalem:
Let the Temple be rebuilt as a place to present sacrifices, and let its foundations be laid. It is to be sixty cubits high and sixty cubits wide, with three courses of large stones and one of timbers. The costs are to be paid by the royal treasury. Also, the gold and silver articles of the House of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took from the Temple in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, are to be returned to their places in the Temple in Jerusalem; they are to be deposited in the House of God.
Hence (v. 15): “The Temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius”.
Now, as Herb Storck well argued in 1989 (History and Prophecy: A Study in the Post-Exilic Period, House of Nabu), it logically follows that Ezra’s impressive emergence, in the 7th year of “Artaxerxes king of Persia”, must be the very year after the Temple was completed, in the 6th year, and that king Darius must be none other than Ezra’s “Artaxerxes king of Persia” (as distinct from the “Artaxerxes king of Babylon”, i.e. Nebuchednezzar, of the Book of Nehemiah) (Ezra 7:1-7):
After these things, during the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah, the son of Shallum, the son of Zadok, the son of Ahitub, the son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth, the son of Zerahiah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Bukki, the son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest— this Ezra came up from Babylon. He was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the Lord, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him everything he asked, for the hand of the Lord his God was on him. Some of the Israelites, including priests, Levites, musicians, gatekeepers and temple servants, also came up to Jerusalem in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes.
Ezra is, again (as I have argued), Daniel, and it is here that we finally encounter Daniel’s important genealogy and patronymic – as an Aaronite priest.
He is clearly the leading priest at the time.
But it appears from the Second Book of Maccabees that his time (now as Nehemiah) dips right down into the Maccabean era – quite an impossibility in conventional terms. For, according to 2 Maccabees 1:20: “Years later, when it pleased God, the Persian emperor sent Nehemiah back to Jerusalem, and Nehemiah told the descendants of those priests to find the fire. They reported to us…”.
Here is the Maccabean account of Nehemiah’s important service under the Persian king (Darius), and the miracle that then occurred – which came to the attention of the Persian king (vv. 18-36):
On the twenty-fifth day of the month of Kislev we will celebrate the Festival of Rededication just as we celebrate the Festival of Shelters. We thought it important to remind you of this, so that you too may celebrate this festival. In this way you will remember how fire appeared when Nehemiah offered sacrifices after he had rebuilt the Temple and the altar. At the time when our ancestors were being taken to exile in Persia, a few devout priests took some fire from the altar and secretly hid it in the bottom of a dry cistern. They hid the fire so well that no one ever discovered it. Years later, when it pleased God, the Persian emperor sent Nehemiah back to Jerusalem, and Nehemiah told the descendants of those priests to find the fire. They reported to us that they had found no fire but only some oily liquid. Nehemiah then told them to scoop some up and bring it to him. When everything for the sacrifice had been placed on the altar, he told the priests to pour the liquid over both the wood and the sacrifice. After this was done and some time had passed, the sun appeared from behind the clouds, and suddenly everything on the altar burst into flames. Everyone looked on in amazement. Then, while the fire was consuming the sacrifice, Jonathan the High Priest led the people in prayer, and Nehemiah and all the people responded.
Nehemiah’s prayer went something like this:
Lord God, Creator of all things, you are awesome and strong, yet merciful and just. You alone are king. No one but you is kind; no one but you is gracious and just. You are almighty and eternal, forever ready to rescue Israel from trouble. You chose our ancestors to be your own special people. Accept this sacrifice which we offer on behalf of all Israel; protect your chosen people and make us holy. Free those who are slaves in foreign lands and gather together our scattered people. Have mercy on our people, who are mistreated and despised, so that all other nations will know that you are our God. Punish the brutal and arrogant people who have oppressed us, and then establish your people in your holy land, as Moses said you would.
Then the priests sang hymns. After the sacrifices had been consumed, Nehemiah gave orders for the rest of the liquid to be poured over some large stones. Immediately a fire blazed up, but it was extinguished by a flame from the fire on the altar.
News of what had happened spread everywhere. The Persian emperor heard that a liquid had been found in the place where the priests had hidden the altar fire, just before they were taken into exile. He also heard that Nehemiah and his friends had used this liquid to burn the sacrifice on the altar. When the emperor investigated the matter and found out that this was true, he had the area fenced off and made into a shrine. It became a substantial source of income for him, and he used the money for gifts to anyone who was in his good favor. Nehemiah and his friends called the liquid nephthar which means purification, but most people call it naphtha.
In the next chapter, 2 Maccabees 2:13-14, we learn of Nehemiah’s Solomonic-like zeal for the preservation of Hebrew wisdom and knowledge (likewise befitting the wise Daniel):
Nehemiah also narrated the same things in his writings and journals. He also told how, when Solomon established a library, he gathered the scrolls concerning the kings and prophets and the scrolls of David and letters of kings regarding offerings for solemn promises. In the same way, Judas [Maccabeus] also gathered together all the scrolls that went missing because of the war, so that those documents are now in our possession. So if you need them, send messengers to carry them back.
During the reign of Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’
… Daniel, to whom “the Man clothed in linen” had said (Daniel 12:13):
‘As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance’, he would – during the reign of Antiochus IV – die a most terrible death ….
Back in the third year of king Belshazzar, just prior to the rise of the Medo-Persians under Darius the Mede, the angel Gabriel had alerted Daniel to the eventual defeat of the Medo-Persian kingdom (“the two-horned ram”) with the advent of the mighty Alexander the Great (rather unflatteringly symbolised by “the shaggy goat”) (Daniel 8:19-21):
He said: ‘I am going to tell you what will happen later in the time of wrath, because the vision concerns the appointed time of the end. The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia. The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between its eyes is the first king. …’.
This occurred much sooner in time than is allowed by conventional history.
For it will occur not that long after (“soon”) even “the third year of Cyrus” (Daniel 10:20): ‘Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come …’.
The long-lived Daniel would live to see all of this, and even beyond Alexander the Great to the era of (8:22): ‘The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power’.
He would live even until the time of the terrible king, Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’ (vv. 23-25):
‘In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a fierce-looking king, a master of intrigue, will arise. He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy those who are mighty, the holy people. He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power’.
And Daniel, to whom “the Man clothed in linen” had said (12:13): ‘As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance’, he would – during the reign of Antiochus IV – die a most terrible death. See my:
Ezra ‘Father of the Jews’ dying the death of Razis. Part One: Introductory section
“A certain Razis, one of the elders of Jerusalem, was denounced to Nicanor as a man who loved his compatriots and was very well thought of and for his goodwill was called Father of the Jews. In former times, when there was no mingling with the Gentiles, he had been accused of Judaism, and he had most zealously risked body and life for Judaism”.
2 Maccabees 14:37-38
Ezra ‘Father of the Jews’ dying the death of Razis. Part Two: “Razis” of 2 Maccabees likely to be an aged Ezra