Ashurbanipal and Nabonidus

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 Damien F. Mackey


Historian Paul-Alain Beaulieu (The Reign of Nabonidus, King of Babylon 556-539BC) has identified ‘the idea of imperial continuity with Assyria, centred on the figure of Ashurbanipal’ as one of ‘the main characteristics of Nabonidus’ personality’ (p. 2).





Not surprising that we are going to find many Book of Daniel-like elements in the biography of the eccentric neo-Babylonian king, Nabonidus, if I am correct in identifying him with both Nebuchednezzar II ‘the Great’ and:


“Nebuchednezzar” of the Book of Daniel


The likenesses between Nabonidus and the biblical king have amazed some biblically-minded writers who adhere to the conventional view that Nebuchednezzar II and Nabonidus were quite separate neo-Babylonian kings. Consider, for instance, the following extraordinary parallels rightly discerned by John A. Tvedtnes, but without his realising that this really is Daniel’s king (



Nebuchadnezzar or Nabonidus?

Mistaken Identities in the Book of Daniel


A classic example of textual errors caused by “careless transcribers” or “ignorant translators” is contained in the book of Daniel. The events chronicled in the present-day book would have originally been recorded in Hebrew, the early language of the Jews. However, the book of Daniel found in the Hebrew Bible is a combination of Hebrew and Aramaic, the language of the Jews after they returned from Babylon. From Daniel 2:4 through 7:8, the text is in Aramaic. [Dan. 2:4–7:8] It is in this middle section that we find discrepancies between the biblical text and other ancient records. These discrepancies involve the identity of Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king who first subdued and then destroyed Jerusalem.


During his forty-year reign, Nebuchadnezzar ruled much of the Near East and rebuilt the great city of Babylon, replete with its hundreds of temples and its world-renowned hanging gardens. Some thirty years before his death in 561 B.C., he subdued Jerusalem (598 B.C.), taking its king, Jehoiakim, captive to Babylon and replacing him with Jehoiachin. When Jehoiachin proved disloyal, he was also deposed and replaced by his uncle, Zedekiah. When Zedekiah, too, revolted against his overlord, Nebuchadnezzar attacked the city.


In 586 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem, taking the remainder of its people—along with many others from throughout the kingdom of Judah into captivity. (See 2 Kgs. 24–25.) One of the early Jewish captives, Daniel, won favor with the king and became known as a wise and trusted counselor.


Chapters two, three, and four of Daniel purport to contain accounts about Nebuchadnezzar. But only the first and best-known of these—the account of his dream about the great statue destroyed by a stone cut out of a mountainside—is actually about him. The stories in chapters three and four, as well as a reference in chapter five, are actually about another king named Nabonidus, not Nebuchadnezzar. [Dan. 2; Dan. 3; Dan. 4; Dan. 5]


Chapter three recounts that the king “made an image of gold … : he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.” (Dan. 3:1.) When this new idol was set up, a decree went forth that when music sounded, people were to prostrate themselves before the statue.


Chapter four tells of another dream of the king, this time about a great tree that was hewn down by order of God. [Dan. 4] Again Daniel was called upon for an interpretation. The tree, said the prophet, represented the sinful king, who would become mad, living for seven years “with the beasts of the field” and eating grass “as oxen.” (Dan. 4:23–26.) This prophecy was fulfilled when the king “was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws.” (Dan. 4:33.) Ultimately, the king was healed, returned to his throne, and praised God.


In chapter five, the scene changes abruptly. Here we find that “Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand.” (Dan. 5:1.) In verse two, he is identified as the son of Nebuchadnezzar, the king who had destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. At the feast, a finger appears, writing an ominous message on the plaster of the wall. Daniel, summoned to interpret the writing, informs the assembly that the Medes and Persians will take the kingdom.


It is this reference in chapter five that highlights the misidentification problem in the book of Daniel. Belshazzar was actually the son of Nabonidus, not of Nebuchadnezzar. And Belshazzar was never king [sic], but only crown prince.


Other ancient records establish that Belshazzar was actually Nabonidus’ son and that Belshazzar was never king—only crown prince. From the “Verse Account of Nabonidus,” preserved on a clay tablet and found at Babylon, we read a contemporary account of Nabonidus that sounds very much like the “Nebuchadnezzar” of Daniel 3–5 [Dan. 3–5]:


“His/protective deity became hostile to him,/and he, the former favorite of the gods/is now/seized by misfortunes: … against the will of the gods he performed an unholy action, … he thought out something worthless:/He had made the image of a deity/which nobody had/ever/seen in/this/country./ He introduced it into the temple/he placed/it/upon a pedestal; … he called it by the name of Nanna, … it is adorned with a … of lapis/lazuli, crowned with a tiara. …” (Pritchard, p. 313.)


The one difference between this story and the one from Daniel 3 is that the Babylonian text says the idol was made of brick, covered with gypsum and bitumin to make the facing brilliant, while the Daniel account says it was made of gold. But the ninety-foot-high statue could hardly have been made of pure gold. Continuing from the Babylonian text:


“After he had obtained what he desired, a work of utter deceit, had built/this/abomination, a work of unholiness—when the third year was about to begin he entrusted the ‘Camp’ to his oldest/son/, the firstborn, the troops everywhere in the country he ordered under his/command/. He let/everything/ go, entrusted the kingship to him and, himself, he started out for a long journey, the/military/forces of Akkad marching with him; he turned towards Tema /deep/in the west. … When he arrived there, he killed in battle the prince of Tema … and he, himself, took his residence in/Te/ma, the forces of Akkad /were also stationed/there.” (Pritchard, p. 313.)


The rest of the text becomes fragmentary, but we can discern that Nabonidus ordered the slaughter of many people in the northern Arabian town of Tema and that he enslaved large numbers of them. Column four on the tablet is in especially bad shape, but we can discern the words “The king is mad.”


This brings us to the account of “Nebuchadnezzar’s” madness in Daniel 4. The Babylonian accounts do not mention that Nebuchadnezzar became mad. But it is well known that Nabonidus did. Records kept by the Babylonian priests confirm Nabonidus’s temporary madness in the wilderness of Tema. The records show that Nabonidus “stayed in Tema” at least from the seventh through eleventh years of his reign, leaving “the crown prince, the officials and the army” in Babylonia. During this time, the New Year festival, over which only the king could preside, was omitted.




The Dead Sea scrolls found at Qumran in 1948 confirm that Nabonidus, not Nebuchadnezzar, was the mad king. A fragmentary document titled “The Prayer of Nabonidus” tells of a king NBNY (Hebrew uses no vowels) who, while at Tema, was diseased by the God of Israel. A Jewish adviser (no doubt Daniel) counsels him to honor God, reminding him, “Thou has been smitten with this noisesome fever … for seven years because thou hast been praying to gods of silver and stone, which gods are but stock and stone, mere clay.” (Theodore H. Gaster, The Dead Sea Scriptures, 3d ed., Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press/ Doubleday, 1976, p. 537.)


The fact that the gods of silver and gold were actually made of stock and stone might indicate gold or silver plating, which could identify the brick idol of Nabonidus with the gold idol mentioned in the book of Daniel.




How could such apparent errors have crept into the sacred record? ….


[End of quote]


My answer: Conventional neo-Babylonian history, and not the Book of Daniel, is at fault.


The great Assyrian ruler, Ashurbanipal, who so significantly influenced king Nabonidus, has certain features that also may remind one of Daniel’s “Nebuchednezzar” – so much so, in fact, that I had initially wondered about exploring an identification of the two.

I had then written:


Nabonidus is somewhat like an Assyrian king. He adopts Assyrian titulature and boasts of having the Assyrian kings as his “royal ancestors”. There is nothing particularly strange about his supposed long stay in Teima in Arabia. This was a typical campaign region adopted by the neo-Assyrian kings. There is nothing particularly remarkable about his desire to restore the Ehulhul temple of Sin in Harran. Ashurbanipal did that.

Nabonidus is said to have had two major goals, to restore that Sin temple and to establish the empire of Babylon along the lines of the neo-Assyrians. Once again, Ashurbanipal is particularly mentioned as being his inspiration.

Nabonidus was not singular in not taking the hand of Bel in Babylon for many years, due to what he calls the impiety of the Babylonians. Ashurbanipal (and now you will notice that he keeps turning up) could not shake the hand of Bel after his brother Shamash-shum-ukin had revolted against him, barring Babylon, Borsippa, etc. to him. He tells us this explicitly.

Nabonidus is not singular either in not expecting to become king. Ashurbanipal had felt the same.

…. They share many Babylonian building works and restorations, too.

…. Ashurbanipal of 41-43 years of reign (figures vary) … Nebuchednezzar II the Great of an established 43 years of reign.


The great Nebuchednezzar has left only 4 known depictions of himself, we are told. Ridiculous! ….

The last 35 years of Nebuchednezzar are hardly known, they say.


It is doubted whether Nebuchednezzar conquered Egypt as according to the Bible. … Ashurbanipal … certainly did conquer Egypt.

The many queries about whether an inscription belongs to Nebuchednezzar or Nabonidus now dissolves.

It was Nabonidus, not Nebuchednezzar, they say, who built the famous palace in Babylon.

Nabonidus’s well known madness (perhaps the Teima phase) is Nebuchednezzar’s madness.

Nabonidus calls Sin “the God of gods” (ilani sa ilani), the exact phrase used by Nebuchednezzar in Daniel 2:47 of Daniel’s God (“the God of gods”).

Looking for a fiery furnace? Well, Ashurbanipal has one. His brother dies in it.

“Saulmagina my rebellious brother, who made war with me, they threw into a burning fiery furnace, and destroyed his life” (Caiger, p. 176).


Oh, yes, and Belshazzar, they say, was Nabonidus’s son, not Nebuchednezzar’s son. Contrary to the Bible.

And Belshazzar was not a king, they also say.

Well he wasn’t a king while Nabonidus = Nebuchednezzar …. reigned.

But he was later. I’ll believe Daniel 5 (Writing on the Wall).


Ashurbanipal also apparently had a lions’ den.

For, according to Jonathan Grey, The Forbidden Secret (p. 102):




The biblical book of Daniel also records that the Hebrew captive Daniel was tossed into a den lions. (Daniel chapter 6)

That such ‘lion’s [sic] den’ punishment was in keeping with the times is now proven by the discovery of that same inscription of Ashurbanipal that we just mentioned. It continues thus:


The rest of the people who had rebelled they threw alive among bulls and lions, as Sennacherib my grandfather used to do. Lo, again following his footsteps, those men I threw into the midst of them.


On one occasion, as the famed excavator Marcel Dieulafoy was digging amid the ruins of Babylon, he fell into a pit that appeared like an like an ancient well. After being rescued by his companions, he proceeded with the work of identification. How astonished was he to find that the pit had been used as a cage for wild animals! And upon the curb was this inscription:


The Place of Execution, where men who angered the king died torn by wild animals.


Thanks to the Book of Daniel, King Nebuchednezzar ‘the Great’ can be identified with Nabonidus

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Damien F. Mackey


The historicity of the prophet Daniel and of the book that bears his name has become hopelessly clouded by factors such as the (i) inaccurate view of neo-Babylonian succession; (ii) a late authorship (C2nd BC) attribution; and the (iii) over-emphasis upon Aramaïc.  


Attempted interpretations of the Bible can suffer badly from erroneous extra-biblical factors, such as an over-inflated historico-archaeological model.

The biblical narrative is thus forced to squeeze fit, in Procrustean fashion, within a matrix that has no proper basis in reality, meaning that we end up with, not so much the prophet Jeremiah’s “Terror on every side” (e.g., 20:10), but with “Error on every side”. In Part One of this series (, however, and elsewhere, I have argued for a radical shortening of the conventional neo-Babylonian succession, with Nebuchednezzar II ‘the Great’, for instance, now to be identified with the King Nabonidus who so notably resembles “Nebuchednezzar” of the Book of Daniel.

The reason being, that Nabonidus was that Nebuchednezzar.

But historians and biblical commentators almost universally adopt an approach quite different from mine. Blindly trusting in their conventional apparatus, they, upon realisation that the biblical data cannot comfortably be aligned with it, must emasculate the biblical account in, as I said, a Procrustean fashion. One example that stands out in my mind is that of the fallen walls of Early Bronze III Jericho, which adequately fits the account of it given in the Book of Joshua, but archaeologically does not correlate with the estimated time of Joshua, but, rather, with a much earlier era. Conclusion: The Joshuan account must have borrowed from some real historical situation that had occurred many centuries before.

But, how about this approach instead? The Joshuan account adequately fits a real historico-archaeological situation that is thought to have occurred much earlier than Joshua.

Let us re-examine the conventional apparatus to see if it has all been put together properly.


Now, in the case of the Book of Daniel, what has been so colourfully narrated about its king, “Nebuchednezzar”, seems to have been borrowed from a king named Nabonidus. So – and this has been my approach – could Nebuchednezzar and Nabonidus be just the one king, meaning that the conventional neo-Babylonian succession has been wrongly constructed, with kings being multiplied.

That is not the usual approach, though, as we shall read next.



Book of Daniel and historical evidences



“The Babylonian king Belshazzar in Daniel 5 reflects the historical Bēl-šar-us-ur, eldest son of Nabonidus and regent of the kingdom during his father’s ten-year absence in Arabia. The Daniel tradition erroneously makes him the actual king and portrays him as the son of Nebuchadnezzar”.


Paul-Alain Beaulieu




The methodology that I wrote that I favoured in Part Two (i) is by no means the usual approach, however, which latter is typically the one employed by Paul-Alain Beaulieu, in his nonetheless interesting article, “The Babylonian Background of the Motif of the Fiery Furnace in Daniel 3” (Journal of Biblical Literature, 128 (2009) 289-306), also available at:

Beaulieu, who has accepted the standard view of long oral traditions leading to a late authorship of the Book of Daniel, will nonetheless find that “the story of Daniel and his three companions being taken to the court of Babylon, given rations from the king’s table, and educated in the lore and manners of the Chaldeans, fits remarkably well with the evidence available from contemporary documents”:


…. The royal order to worship the golden image, the refusal of the three Jewish youths to comply with Nebuchadnezzar’s demands, their ordeal in the fiery furnace and miraculous salvation, followed by their reinstatement in royal favor, all raise fascinating literary and theological questions. The themes and motifs that make up this narrative underwent a long process of oral and written transmission that is extremely difficult to reconstruct.


Indeed, any proposal in that direction is bound to remain speculative. Changes inevitably occurred in the tale during the long process of its elaboration, a time span covering more than three centuries. This means that the original historical background remains partly concealed behind the final redaction. How much does Daniel 3 reflect the situation of Jewish exiles at the Babylonian court in the sixth century, and the political and theological debates which took place at that time?


I propose in the next few pages to address one aspect of this question, the motif of the punishment in the fiery furnace.


  1. The Account in Daniel 3


The episode related in Daniel 3 allegedly took place at the court of Nebuchadnezzar, the conqueror of Jerusalem who reigned from 605 to 562 …. Following the deportations he ordered, Jewish exiles settled in Babylonia in substantial numbers in the early decades of the sixth century.

The fate of some exiles is now documented by a group of cuneiform contract tablets stemming mainly from two localities in the region of Nippur, one of them called “city of Judah/of the Judeans” (Al Yahudu/Yahudayu), the Babylonian name of Jerusalem.


As the majority of the people appearing in the documents bear West Semitic and Judean names, it seems certain that this new Jerusalem in Babylonia had been founded by recent exiles. Those Judeans integrated to various degrees into the life of their new home. Some even gravitated around the royal court. Indeed, such a group of Judeans appearing in cuneiform tablets has been known since 1939, when Ernst Weidner published administrative documents discovered in Babylon at the beginning of the twentieth century in the storeroom area of the royal palace and datable to the thirteenth year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar.


A few tablets record deliveries of rations to groups of foreigners, some of them obviously state prisoners. Among the recipients one finds Jehoiachin, the king of Judah exiled in 597, and a number of unnamed Judean men and princes who presumably belonged to Jehoiachin’s retinue. 2 Kings25:27–30 tells us that in the twenty-seventh year of the exile, the Babylonian king Evil-Merodach (= Amēl-Marduk, son of Nebuchadnezzar II, reigned 562–560 … released him from prison, provided him with a regular allowance and received him every day at his table.


Mackey’s comment: I have identified this king Jehoiachin (Coniah) with the conspiratorial Haman of the Book of Esther:


Is the Book of Esther a Real History?


Beaulieu continues:


Therefore the story of Daniel and his three companions being taken to the court of Babylon, given rations from the king’s table, and educated in the lore and manners of the Chaldeans, fits remarkably well with the evidence available from contemporary documents.


While the general historical context of Daniel 3 seems relatively easy to assess, some aspects of its setting remain foggy. It has long been accepted that behind the Danielic Nebuchadnezzar lurks a memory of the historical Nabonidus, the last king of Babylon, who reigned from 556 to 539 ….


Mackey’s comment: But, according to my reconstructions, Nabonidus was not “the last king of Babylon”, but he was Nebuchednezzar himself, hence the Book of Daniel’s lurking “memory of the historical Nabonidus”.

Beaulieu will now, again missing the point, go on to write that Nabonidus’s son Belshazzar is a reflection of the “Babylonian king Belshazzar in Daniel 5”. The truth of the matter is that this is just the one Belshazzar. Thus we read:


The figure of Nabonidus emerges most clearly in Daniel 4 and 5. It is now generally accepted that the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s madness and his expulsion among beasts originates in a recollection of Nabonidus’s eccentric behavior, especially regarding religious issues, and of his withdrawal to the north Arabian oasis of Teima. The Babylonian king Belshazzar in Daniel 5 reflects the historical Bēl-šar-us-ur, eldest son of Nabonidus and regent of the kingdom during his father’s ten-year absence in Arabia. The Daniel tradition erroneously [sic] makes him the actual king and portrays him as the son of Nebuchadnezzar. This latter interpolation constitutes the strongest argument for tracing the Danielic narratives about Nebuchadnezzar to a cluster of historical memories of Nabonidus. This has led some scholars to seek in cuneiform sources relating to Nabonidus historical data that might provide a background to the story of the worship of the golden statue in Daniel 3. Such data came to light with the publication of the Verse Account of Nabonidus in 1924.


This polemical account, probably written at the behest of the Persian conquerors of Babylon, largely focuses on Nabonidus’s promotion of the cult of the moon-god Sîn at the expense of Marduk, the city-god of Babylon. It claims that Nabonidus made a horrifying new cult image of the god Sîn. The Verse Account probably refers in this case to the statue of Sîn that the king claims to have returned to the temple Ehulhul in Harran. Sidney Smith, the original editor of the text, did not fail to see the relation that this episode

bears to the tale of the fashioning and compulsory worship of the gold statue in Daniel 3.

The suggestion was later taken up by Wolfram von Soden and several other scholars since.

…. The statue might also be the image of a king, perhaps Nebuchadnezzar himself, or a symbol of his regal power. In ch. 2 of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar receives a dream vision of such a statue. Some ancient exegetes clearly saw a connection between chs. 2 and 3. In the second century, Hippolytus of Rome already interpreted the statue fashioned by Nebuchadnezzar as a reminiscence of his dream: For as the blessed Daniel, in interpreting the vision, had answered the king, saying, “Thou art this head of gold in the image,” the king, being puffed up with this address, and elated in his heart, made a copy of this image, in order that it might be worshiped by all as God.

….  Originally, the tale focused on the memory of Nabonidus’s crafting of a new image of the moon-god Sîn for the temple of Harran and his effort to impose it as state cult in the Babylonian empire of the sixth century. The tradition eventually substituted Nebuchadnezzar for Nabonidus [sic] and transformed the episode into an edifying theological tale of the arrogant attempt of a pagan king to impose the worship of a statue of his own design, a statue embodying imperial hubris. The Danielic tradition transmuted this memory of Nabonidus’s failed attempt at religious reform into a timeless critique of idolatry. Forced worship of the statue, however, merely sets the background for the other elements in the drama to unfold. As in most court tales, peer envy ushers the heroes into royal disgrace. Refusing to bow down to the statue, the three Jewish youths are denounced for impiety and are sentenced to the punishment prescribed by the king for defying his order: to be thrown alive into a furnace of blazing fire …. Burning as a death sentence occurs occasionally in the biblical and Near Eastern worlds. ….


  1. Punishment by Fire


Punishment by Fire in the Bible


The Bible contains few allusions to execution by burning. In spite of their small number, they indicate that punishment by being burned alive was part of the legal system of ancient Israel. For example, this punishment is prescribed for prostitution or fornication in the episode of Judah and Tamar (Gen 38:24) and, more specifically, for prostitution by the daughter of a priest in the laws of Leviticus (Lev 21:9). Leviticus also prescribes that punishment for the particular form of incest committed by a man who weds both mother and daughter (Lev 20:14). The same end befalls the thief of sacred paraphernalia and his family according to the episode of the sin of Achan (Josh 7:13–19), although Achan himself is stoned to death before being burned.

…. In the prophetic and apocalyptic literature of the postexilic period, burning is sometimes mentioned as a form of eschatological punishment, notably in Daniel7:11, where the beast of the fourth kingdom is killed and given over to be burned with fire. For the interpretation of Daniel 3, the most interesting mention of death by burning in the Bible is the execution of the false Jewish prophets mentioned in the letter sent by Jeremiah to the first wave of exiles in Babylon (Jer 29:1–23).


The time frame of the letter should be 594–593 … between the two captures of Jerusalem, when many in Judah still entertained hopes of casting off the Babylonian yoke. Yet Jeremiah encourages the exiles to settle in their new country and patiently await the term of seventy years prescribed for their return; he warns them against false prophets who predict Judah’s impending liberation (Jer 29:21–23NRSV):


Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning Ahab son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah son of Maaseiah, who are prophesying a lie to you in my name: I am going to deliver them into the hand of King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon, and he shall kill them before your eyes. And on account of them this curse shall be used by all the exiles from Judah in Babylon: “The Lord make you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire,” because they have perpetrated outrage in Israel and have committed adultery with their neighbor’s wives, and have spoken in my name lying words that I did not command them; I am the one who knows and bear witness, says the Lord.


Ahab, son of Kolaiah, and Zedekiah, son of Maasiah, both occur in a list of false prophets from Qumran (4Q339).


They proclaimed the end of Babylonian hegemony over Judah. Therefore, fear of their spreading a spirit of rebellion appears to be Nebuchadnezzar’s most likely motive for ordering their execution. Consonant with Jeremiah’s interpretation of history, Nebuchadnezzar acts here as a mere instrument of God’s plan. However, it is interesting that Jeremiah further indicts the two prophets for fornication, a crime that in some circumstances entailed death by burning in Israel and is listed here as the primary reason for their execution. Jeremiah provides a biblical rationale for their condemnation, a rationale that conceals the political motives of the Babylonians in carrying out that sentence. As I will dis-cuss below, death by burning occurs a number of times in Babylonian sources from the eighth to the third centuries … in some cases as a sentence imposed by the king. The punishment mentioned in Jeremiah 29 involved roasting in fire, but it does not say explicitly how, and therefore burning in a furnace cannot be excluded, even if death at the stake seems more likely. Be that as it may, Jeremiah 29 provides a crucial parallel to Daniel 3 and may yield some clues as to how the tale originated and expanded. Both narratives portray Nebuchadnezzar imposing capital punishment on rebellious Jewish exiles, and the punishment involves death by burning in the two cases.


Punishment by Fire in Ancient Egypt


Burning as a form of capital punishment is attested a few times in texts from the pharaonic and Hellenistic periods in Egypt.


Anthony Leahy has reviewed the various allusions to such punishment in Egyptian sources.


Burning is attested for adultery, murder, conspiracy to murder, sacrilege, and rebellion. It is uncertain whether legal codes prescribed it, but in some cases it could be ordered by royal decree. Execution by burning usually involved placing the condemned on the (“brazier, open furnace”). The Instructions of Ankhsheshonqy, a Demotic text from the first century … describe how the king ordered a group of conspirators to be burned in this manner; however, there is no agreement on whether the text refers to an open fire or an enclosed furnace.


Leahy points out two possible examples of large furnaces that could accommodate several individuals.


At Edfu a relief shows the king condemning four prisoners to be tied together in a type of box that is depicted also in Papyrus Salt 825, where it is identified as a “furnace” … with two men tied back to back inside it. He also gives examples of punishment by burning in the metaphysical realm; for instance, the Book of Gates depicts some large furnaces …. In Demotic the word … means both a censer or brazier and a large furnace.



Punishment by Fire in Ancient Mesopotamia


Execution by burning occurs in Mesopotamia both as a provision of the legal system for certain crimes and as a punishment imposed by the king.


It is attested already in the Old Babylonian period.



… the Babylonian king Nabû-šuma-iškun, who reigned in the middle of the eighth century, burned alive sixteen residents of the city of Kutha at the gate of Zababa in Babylon.


In a passage warning against the brazen confidence of strength and wealth, the Babylonian Theodicy remarks how the prominent citizen can be burned in fire by the king “before his time,” that is to say, before the natural end of his life.


In addition, the astrological series Enuma Anu Enlil mentions a royal condemnation to be burned.


There is also evidence in mythology and magic for burning as metaphysical punishment.


Punishment by the Fiery Furnace in Mesopotamia


The precise manner of execution in the texts discussed so far cannot be determined. Although death at the stake seems the more likely possibility, one can envisage a number of different ways in which a sentence of death by burning can be carried out. It is fortunate that we have three instances in Mesopotamia where the manner of execution by burning is specified, and all three cases involve being thrown into an oven or a furnace. However, these sources have not been discussed in previous commentaries on Daniel 3. The earliest text (BIN 7, 10) is a letter of King Rīm-Sîn of Larsa, who reigned from 1822 until 1763

… according to the middle chronology …. Thus says Rīm-Sîn, your lord. Because he cast a boy into the oven, you, throw the slave into the kiln.


The context of this letter cannot be reconstructed and remains enigmatic. Is the king quoting a proverb or some other form of saying, or is he ordering these officials to carry out an execution? The two words for “oven” and “kiln” are tinūru and utūnu. The latter derives from Sumerian UDUN, and occurs more rarely as atūnu, the form under which it entered the Aramaic language (Nwt) in Daniel 3). The second occurrence comes from a palace edict of the Assyrian king Aššur-rēša-iši I (1130–1113 …). It was originally published by Ernst Weidner, who noted with his usual acumen the parallel between the edict and the motif of the furnace in Daniel 3.


The relevant part of the edict reads as follows: …. They shall throw them, either the woman or the man, the eye-witness, in the oven.

The word for oven is again utūnu/atūnu, written here with the logogram udun. Unfortunately the edict is not fully preserved, so it is not entirely clear which transgression results in death in the oven. Many provisions in Middle Assyrian edicts sanction inappropriate behavior by palace women and personnel. Thus a misdemeanor of sexual nature seems probable. The third and final example occurs in a Neo-Babylonian school text from the Sippar temple library. It is datable to the first half of the sixth century and is therefore contemporaneous with the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar II and Nabonidus. The text may well have been composed earlier, however, since it purports to reproduce a letter of the Old Babylonian king Samsu-iluna (1750–1712) to a certain Enlil-nādin-šumi, who is given the title of governor …. The king orders the governor to inscribe on a stela an encyclical address to the superintendents of all cult centers of Babylonia.

…. To Enlil-nādin-šumi, governor of the land … superintendent of all [the cult centers of A]kkad, speak, thus [Samsu-ilun]a, king of the world …. “(Concerning) all the cult centers of the land of Akkad, all of those from east to west [which] I have given entirely into your control, I have heard (reports) that the temple officials, the collegium … priests of the cult centers of the land of Akkad, as many as there are, have taken to falsehood, committed an abomination, been stained with blood, spoken untruths. Inwardly they profane and desecrate their gods, they prattle and cavort about. Things that their gods did not command they establish for their gods.”

After having thus chastised local priests and officials for impiety and sacrilege, the king concludes his remonstrances with a series of curses, and instructs Enlil-nādin-šumi to enforce them: You now, destroy them, burn them, roast them, . . . to the cook’s oven . . . make their smoke billow, bring about their fiery end with the fierce flame of the box-thorn!

In spite of the gap in the text, it seems clear that the punishment by burning and roasting envisaged in the curses is effected by means of a cook’s oven. The term for oven here is

kīru, which refers normally to a lime kiln rather than the oven used by cooks and bakers. Remarkably, in his classic commentary on Daniel, James Montgomery noted that the furnace of Daniel 3 “must have been similar to our common lime-kiln, with a perpendicular shaft from the top and an opening at the bottom for extracting the fused lime.”


The Letter of Samsu-iluna provides the closest known parallel to Daniel 3, not only in the manner of execution but also regarding the context in which it is envisaged, that of a royal order on the correct performance of cultic duties. The text belonged to the curriculum of Babylonian schools. Apprentice scribes who joined the royal administration were required to copy and study it. The Letter propagates an idealized view of the Babylonian monarch as religious leader and custodian of traditional rites. Given its status as official text, it is hardly surprising that elements of its ideology resurface with a slightly different formulation in the Harran Stela of Nabonidus. The Harran Stela openly propagandizes Nabonidus’s devotion to the moon-god Sîn of Harran, whom he sought to promote as imperial deity. In a passage that recalls the tone and thematic content of the Letter of Samsu-iluna, Nabonidus chastises the administrators and citizens of the cult centers of Babylonia for behaving sinfully, committing blasphemy and sacrileges, and disregarding the true nature and worship of Sîn: The god Sîn called me to kingship. He revealed to me in a night dream (what follows): “Build quickly Ehulhul, the temple of Sîn in Harran, and I will deliver all lands into your hands.” (But) the people, the citizens of Babylon, Borsippa, Nippur, Ur, Uruk, (and) Larsa, the temple administrators (and) the people of the cult centers of the land of Akkad, offended his (Sîn’s) great godhead and they misbehaved and sinned, (for) they did not know the great wrath of the king of the gods, Nannar. They forgot their rites and would speak slanders and lies, devouring each other like dogs. (Thus) pestilence and famine appeared (ušabšû) among them, and he (the moon-god) reduced … the people of the land.



There are two other striking points of resemblance between the Letter of Samsu-iluna, the Harran Stela, and Daniel 3. In all three cases the Babylonian king addresses his subjects by means of an encyclical proclamation, and the individuals most specifically targeted by the anticipated punishment are the priesthood and high officials, who were generally royal appointees. Daniel 3 records that Nebuchadnezzar’s proclamation is addressed to “the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces” (Dan 3:2, 3), and the biblical material further emphasizes that the Jewish companions of Daniel had been nominated by the king to oversee “the affairs of the province of Babylon” (Dan 3:12). The motif of the Chaldeans denouncing the three Jewish appointees stems from the paradigm of the court tale, but the story of officials falling into disgrace because they contravened the king’s religious pronunciamentos very probably originates in actual conflicts that erupted during the reign of Nabonidus.



The executions recorded in Daniel 6 and in the story of Bel and the Dragon, effected by throwing the condemned into a lion’s pit, appear more feasible and on the surface more believable than the punishment in the fiery furnace. However, such a mode of execution finds no parallel in the ancient world. Karel van der Toorn argued that the story probably originated in the literalization of an ancient metaphor that is recorded in a letter addressed by the scholar Urad-Gula to the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal.


The scholar complains that he has unexplainably fallen into disgrace, and in a broken passage states that he prays to the king day and night “in front of the lion’s pit.” Earlier in the letter Urad-Gula had said that he used to eat “lion’s morsels,” which can be understood to mean the fine food apportioned to members of the staff of schol-ars who advised the king. ….


Mackey’s comment: Beaulieu will now proceed to discuss what he (wrongly, I suggest) considers to have been “the transformation of the figure of Nabonidus into that of Nebuchadnezzar”:


  1. Nabonidus and Nebuchadnezzar


A very important element in the elaboration of Daniel 3 is the transformation of the figure of Nabonidus into that of Nebuchadnezzar. This could have happened any time before the court narratives of Daniel 1–6 reached their final form. However, the discovery of the Prayer of Nabonidus among the Qumran manuscripts(4Q242) shows that even after the compilation of Daniel in the first decades of the second century [sic], there continued a parallel tradition that correctly ascribed to the historical Nabonidus the episodes of the royal disease and the residence in the oasis of Teima. These episodes appear in Daniel in the form of the sudden madness, animalization, and exile of Nebuchadnezzar among the beasts. The Danielic figure of Nebuchadnezzar does not entirely depend on a memory of Nabonidus, however. The book accurately portrays Nebuchadnezzar as conqueror of Jerusalem (Dan1:1–2) and builder of Babylon (Dan 4:30). Thus, in Daniel, various memories of the two kings were woven together into one archetypal figure. It seems difficult to deny that there is a very close relation between the story of the two false prophets burned by the historical Nebuchadnezzar in Jer 29:21–23 and the story of the three Jewish exiles thrown into the fiery furnace by the fictionalized Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3. The books of Daniel and Jeremiah share many more traits. For one thing, the two prophets were allegedly near contemporaries. The final redactors of Daniel highlighted this connection in their prophet’s reinterpretation of Jeremiah’s prediction of the length of the exile (Daniel 9).


Mackey’s comment: The Book of Daniel does not, in fact, need any “reinterpretation of Jeremiah’s prediction of the length of the exile”. What stands in need of “reinterpretation” is the neo-Babylonian succession, the incorrect estimation of which by conventional scholars has led to apparent discrepancies between Jeremiah and Daniel. On this, see my:


Prophet Jeremiah’s “Seventy Years” of Babylonian Rule

Baruch – a Chronology

Image result for baruch bible 


Damien F. Mackey


“… in the fifth year, on the seventh day of the month, at the time the Chaldeans took Jerusalem and destroyed it with fire”.

(Baruch 1:2)


“The fifth year referred to is not the fifth year after the destruction of Jerusalem, but the fifth year of the exile of Jeconiah [Jehoiachin], i.e., the fifth year of Zedekiah”.




Fixing a Time for Baruch


593 BC


Rev. A. Fitzgerald (F.S.C.), writing his commentary on “Baruch” for The Jerome Biblical Commentary, appears to me to have made a pretty good fist of pinning down, to 593 BC (conventional dating used in this article for convenience), the year when Baruch wrote his book, or scroll, “on the seventh day of the month in the fifth year after the Babylonians captured Jerusalem” (Baruch 1:2) – 593 BC being the fifth year of king Zedekiah, when the Temple was still standing.

For, those who would assign Baruch’s “fifth year” here to 582 BC, the fifth anniversary of the Temple’s destruction by Nebuchednezzar II, in 587 BC, run into the somewhat acute difficulty of there being no Temple standing in Jerusalem to receive the silver vessels referred to a few verses further on. Thus (vv. 8-9):


On the tenth day of the month of Sivan, Baruch took the sacred utensils which had been carried away from the Temple and returned them to Judah. These were the silver utensils which Zedekiah son of King Josiah of Judah had ordered made after King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia had deported Jehoiachin, the rulers, the skilled workers, the nobles, and the common people and had taken them from Jerusalem to Babylon.


According to Fitzgerald (37:8-9):


As 1:1b-2a stand, they indicate that the prayer [of Baruch] was composed “in Babylon, in the fifth year, on the seventh day of the month”. The absence of a number before “month” is strange, but it is generally agreed that the fifth month is intended …. The fifth year referred to is not the fifth year after the destruction of Jerusalem, but the fifth year of the exile of Jeconiah [Jehoiachin], i.e., the fifth year of Zedekiah. Another fifth year with no month given is found in Ez 1:2. Here clearly 593, the fifth year of Zedekiah is the date indicated. If Jer 28:1-3 and 29:1-2 are the source of the incident recounted in 1:8 about the return of the silver vessels, we have another reason for understanding the date of 1:2 as 593 (Jer 28:1). In any case, such an understanding of the problem presented by 1:2b harmonizes perfectly with the rest of the introduction.

[End of quote]


A second date usually assigned to Baruch that I now think needs seriously to be questioned is this one that we find with reference to Baruch in the Book of Jeremiah (36:1-2, 4):


In the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: ‘Take a scroll and write on it all the words I have spoken to you concerning Israel, Judah and all the other nations …’.

…. So Jeremiah called Baruch son of Neriah, and while Jeremiah dictated all the words the Lord had spoken to him, Baruch wrote them on the scroll.


Whilst the 4th year of king Jehoiakim of Judah is a most crucial biblico-historical date, combining as it does in Jeremiah 25:1 the biblical fourth year of a king of Judah with the first year of a known secular ruler: “The word came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, which was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon” – not to mention a date from Jeremiah’s own prophetic career (v. 3): ‘For twenty-three years—from the thirteenth year of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah until this very day—the word of the Lord has come to me and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened’, I think that this date may need to be – in the case of Jeremiah 36:1 – amended to read the fourth year of Zedekiah.

Thus, instead of the traditional year of c. 605 BC for the 4th year of Jehoiakim, I think that we are in reality, for Jeremiah 36:1, in the year c. 594 BC, the fourth year of Zedekiah. [E.g., different versions of Scripture present, now Jehoiakim, now Zedekiah, for Jeremiah 27:1]. So, when immediately after 36:1, in Jeremiah 36:4, “Jeremiah called Baruch son of Neriah, and while Jeremiah dictated all the words the Lord had spoken to him, Baruch wrote them on the scroll”, we are now moving speedily towards our very starting point of 593 BC which greets us again in v. 9, “In the ninth month of the fifth year … ”.

But not only our same year, because the “ninth month” referred to here just happens to be the very same month, Sivan, as that referred to when Baruch returned the sacred vessels to Judah.

Jeremiah himself was restricted as to his movements at the time (Jeremiah 36:5): “Then Jeremiah told Baruch, ‘I am restricted; I am not allowed to go to the Lord’s Temple’,” and hence he was quite dependent upon Baruch (v. 6): ‘So you go to the house of the Lord on a day of fasting and read to the people from the scroll the words of the Lord that you wrote as I dictated’. Whilst Baruch faithfully carried out the task assigned to him, it was in itself a most dangerous act – so, little wonder do we read of this hostile reaction from the king (v. 26): “… the king commanded Jerahmeel, a son of the king, Seraiah son of Azriel and Shelemiah son of Abdeel to arrest Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet. But the Lord had hidden them”. Hence we can easily excuse Baruch for his agony at this time (45:1-5):


When Baruch son of Neriah wrote on a scroll the words Jeremiah the prophet dictated in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, Jeremiah said this to Baruch: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to you, Baruch: You said, ‘Woe to me! The Lord has added sorrow to my pain; I am worn out with groaning and find no rest.’ But the Lord has told me to say to you, ‘This is what the Lord says: I will overthrow what I have built and uproot what I have planted, throughout the earth. Should you then seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them. For I will bring disaster on all people, declares the Lord, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life’.”


This Divine encouragement no doubt gave new heart to both Jeremiah and to his junior scribal assistant (vv. 27-28, 32):


After the king burned the scroll containing the words that Baruch had written at Jeremiah’s dictation, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: ‘Take another scroll and write on it all the words that were on the first scroll, which Jehoiakim king of Judah burned up’. ….

So Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to the scribe Baruch son of Neriah, and as Jeremiah dictated, Baruch wrote on it all the words of the scroll that Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire. And many similar words were added to them.


Baruch 5:9 and 6:1-72 actually comprises: “A copy of the letter which Jeremiah sent to those about to be led captive to Babylon by the king of the Babylonians, to tell them what he had been commanded by God”.

Just some five years later, with the Babylonians now besieging Jerusalem, we read of a very similar situation of dangerous tension between the prophet and the king (Jeremiah 32:1-2):


This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. The army of the king of Babylon was then besieging Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was confined in the courtyard of the guard in the royal palace of Judah.


And, once again, the restricted prophet is dependent upon the aid of Baruch.

The year is:


589 BC


Jeremiah had famously at the time bought a field in Anathoth (32:6-25), and he had chosen Baruch to preserve the deed of purchase of the field (vv. 11-15):


I took the deed of purchase—the sealed copy containing the terms and conditions, as well as the unsealed copy— and I gave this deed to Baruch son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel and of the witnesses who had signed the deed and of all the Jews sitting in the courtyard of the guard. In their presence I gave Baruch these instructions: ‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Take these documents, both the sealed and unsealed copies of the deed of purchase, and put them in a clay jar so they will last a long time. For this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land.’


And once again we find the king, too, now Jehoiakim, now Zedekiah – but my argument is that it were all just Zedekiah – berating the prophet Jeremiah for his pessimistic predictions.

Compare 36:29-31:


Also tell Jehoiakim king of Judah, ‘This is what the Lord says: You burned that scroll and said, “Why did you write on it that the king of Babylon would certainly come and destroy this land and wipe from it both man and beast?” Therefore this is what the Lord says about Jehoiakim king of Judah: He will have no one to sit on the throne of David; his body will be thrown out and exposed to the heat by day and the frost by night. I will punish him and his children and his attendants for their wickedness; I will bring on them and those living in Jerusalem and the people of Judah every disaster I pronounced against them, because they have not listened’.


with 32:3-5:


Now Zedekiah king of Judah had imprisoned him there, saying, “Why do you prophesy as you do? You say, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am about to give this city into the hands of the king of Babylon, and he will capture it. Zedekiah king of Judah will not escape the Babylonians but will certainly be given into the hands of the king of Babylon, and will speak with him face to face and see him with his own eyes. He will take Zedekiah to Babylon, where he will remain until I deal with him, declares the Lord. If you fight against the Babylonians, you will not succeed’.”


Everything that Jeremiah, with the assistance of Baruch, had prophesied or proclaimed to the king and his officials, and to the people of Judah, would soon be fulfilled. For, the very next year, Jerusalem and its Temple fell to the Babylonians. And the king was taken into captivity.


587 BC


Jeremiah 39:2-7:


And on the ninth day of the fourth month of Zedekiah’s eleventh year, the city wall was broken through. Then all the officials of the king of Babylon came and took seats in the Middle Gate: Nergal-Sharezer of Samgar, Nebo-Sarsekim a chief officer, Nergal-Sharezer a high official and all the other officials of the king of Babylon. When Zedekiah king of Judah and all the soldiers saw them, they fled; they left the city at night by way of the king’s garden, through the gate between the two walls, and headed toward the Arabah.

But the Babylonian army pursued them and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho. They captured him and took him to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon at Riblah in the land of Hamath, where he pronounced sentence on him. There at Riblah the king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes and also killed all the nobles of Judah. Then he put out Zedekiah’s eyes and bound him with bronze shackles to take him to Babylon.


2 Kings 25:8-10:


In the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month—that was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon—Nebuzaradan, the captain of the bodyguard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. And he burned the House of the Lord and the king’s house and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down. And all the army of the Chaldeans, who were with the captain of the guard, broke down the walls around Jerusalem.


Not long after all of this had occurred, there was a rebellion against Babylonian authority, despite the warnings of Jeremiah against escaping to Egypt, and Baruch son of Neriah – apparently also still in the land – was accused of “inciting” the people along the same lines (Jeremiah 43:1-3):


When Jeremiah had finished telling the people all the words of the Lord their God—everything the Lord had sent him to tell them — Azariah son of Hoshaiah and Johanan son of Kareah and all the arrogant men said to Jeremiah, “You are lying! The Lord our God has not sent you to say, ‘You must not go to Egypt to settle there.’ But Baruch son of Neriah is inciting you against us to hand us over to the Babylonians, so they may kill us or carry us into exile to Babylon”.


The next is the last that we hear of Baruch, whose combined floruit in the books of Jeremiah and Baruch I have estimated to have been only about (593-587 =) 6 years – depending on when the exile to Egypt occurred (Jeremiah 43:6-7): “And they took Jeremiah the prophet and Baruch son of Neriah along with them. So they entered Egypt in disobedience to the Lord and went as far as Tahpanhes”.


So, what happened to Baruch after that?



Elihu the Prophet

Image result


 Damien F. Mackey


Was the young Elihu of the Book of Job (ch’s 32-37), as according to some, an enlightened prophet whose input is crucial to the dialogue, providing a “bridge” between Job and God, or, as according to Mason, “… an astonishingly pompous little windbag. He takes the entire first chapter, for example, plus portions of the second, simply to clear his throat and announce that he has something to say.”?


Not pompous, but modest



According to Tom Brown, “Why Job Suffered”, the poorly-known Elihu was given by God an “insight into the true nature of Job’s sufferings” (




Do you remember the last character in the book of Job? Elihu is his name. He was not one of Job’s friends. He was simply listening to Job’s friends judging him and Job defending himself. As he began to listen to all four, God gave him insight into the true nature of Job’s sufferings.

Out of all the human characters, only Elihu understood why Job suffered. It is amazing that I haven’t heard anyone ever mention Elihu. We almost forget him. But the truth is, Elihu was the only one with true insight, not only into the sufferings of Job but, insight into the sufferings of all mankind. This is why Elihu is the last to speak concerning Job’s sufferings. It is interesting to note that when God appeared to Job, He rebuked Job for not having insight and He rebuked Job’s three friends for falsely judging Job. Yet God never rebuked Elihu. Why? Because Elihu was correct in understanding suffering.

Elihu begins by saying,


I am young in years, and you are old; that is why I was fearful, not daring to tell you what I know. I thought, “Age should speak, advanced years should teach wisdom.” But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding. (Job 32:6-8)


Notice, Elihu is about to give wisdom not because of any human understanding, but because God’s Spirit gave him understanding. The first thing he does is correct Job’s friends.


I waited while you [Job’s three friends] spoke, I listened to your reasoning; while you were searching for words, I gave you my full attention. But not one of you has proved Job wrong; none of you has answered his argument. (Job 32:11-12)


Elihu showed Job’s friends that they were wrong in judging him. The second thing Elihu does is correct Job, but he does it in humility.


But now, Job, listen to my words; pay attention to everything I say. I am about to open my mouth; my words are on the tip of my tongue. My words come from an upright heart; my lips sincerely speak what I know. The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Answer me then, if you can; prepare yourself and confront me. I am just like you before God; I too have been taken from clay. No fear of me should alarm you, nor should my hand be heavy upon you. But you have said in my hearing–I heard the very words– “I AM PURE AND WITHOUT SIN; I AM CLEAN AND FREE FROM GUILT..” (Job 33:1-9)


Elihu saw one fundamental flaw in Job: that Job believed that he was without original sin. Job was self-righteous. Yes, he was righteous as far as men are concerned, but he was not righteous as far as God was concerned.

Since Job thought he was sinless and not under the curse of sin, he could not figure out how he could suffer. This bothered Job. But Elihu points out the fact that Job was a sinner like everyone else and is subject to the curse of sin which includes sickness and poverty.

People erroneously think that the book of Job was written to try to answer the question: Why does God allow good people to suffer? But Elihu has no trouble with that question because he knows that there are no truly “good” people in God’s sight. The thing that perplexed Elihu was not the fact that Job was suffering, but why weren’t he and Job’s friends suffering along with Job. In fact, Elihu is wondering why everyone doesn’t suffer all the time since everyone is a sinner.

Elihu realized that sinners are under the curse of sin, and therefore have no legal right to get mad when they suffer. They should realize that they deserve to suffer and if they are not suffering, they should praise God even more because He is having mercy on them.


Elihu asked the right question, “Why does God allow sinners to be blessed?” The answer: Because God is merciful.

In other words, before Job had his trials, he experienced the mercy of God. But when Job had his trials, he experienced the justice of God–he only got what he deserved.

Immediately after Elihu spoke, God answered Job in a whirlwind and rebuked him for falsely accusing God of injustice. Job wisely repented. ….

[End of quote]


By contrast with Brown’s favourable view of Elihu, is the put-down of the young man by Mason as already quoted (


Despite all the good that might be said of Elihu, the fact remains that he really is an astonishingly pompous little windbag. He takes the entire first chapter, for example, plus portions of the second, simply to clear his throat and announce that he has something to say.


Two quite contrasting views here, Elihu a man of ‘true insight’ (Brown), Elihu ‘a pompous little windbag’ (Mason)!

Nigel Bernard’s most sensitive estimation of Elihu is likewise, as Brown’s, a favourable one. Elihu is a “modest” (not pompous) “messenger of God” (thus not bent upon self-justification)


Elihu: The Messenger of God


Now comes the part of the whole story that is my personal favorite, at least my favorite character. You see, sitting back and listening to everything that was being said was a young man named Elihu. He was never mentioned before, probably because he was too young to be noticed. But once he starts talking, there is no doubt he possessed a spiritual discernment unknown by the others.


Elihu’s Modesty


It’s pleasant to notice Elihu’s modesty and tact in entering the discussion with his elders. It says that his “wrath was kindled” against Job and the three friends. This is explained later when he talks about the constraining of the Spirit within him, so that he was “ready to burst.”

Ezekiel refers to this “heat of the Spirit” when the Lord had moved him to speak. Jeremiah spoke of God’s word being “in his heart like a burning fire” and being “weary of holding it in. Indeed (he) could not” (Jeremiah 20:9). When “the Sovereign Lord has spoken, who can but prophesy” (Amos 3:8)? “Woe to me, if I do not . . .” (I Corinthians. 9:16).

Who could blame Elihu? Here he was sitting there as he saw Job becoming more and more concerned about clearing his own character than justifying the love and character of God. He also watched as his elders condemned Job without mercy and never were able to find an answer to Job’s complaints or to explain to him God’s purpose.

Elihu realizes that he is in a very delicate position for a young man. How is he going to speak to these dignified seniors? He holds himself back, waits and watches for the right moment. If indeed the Spirit of God has chosen him to be the “interpreter,” he will wait until He opens the way for him.

That is where many of us miss it. We think that just because we have a message from the Lord, whether it is to a specific brother or sister or in a congregational time of worship, we have to give it now! Do you notice the urgency? I’m sure we have all said, “Lord, what would you have me to say?” However, we also need to ask, “Lord, when would you have me say it?”

Proverbs 15:23 says: “A man has joy in making an apt answer and a word spoken in the right moment—how good it is!”

So finally, there’s a pause. The friends “stopped answering Job” and “the words of Job are ended.” The Lord’s message comes to Elihu and he obediently speaks. He takes from the beginning a place of humility and acknowledges his youthfulness and confesses how he had shrunk from saying what was on his heart because of their age and his respect for them. He knows there’s “a spirit in man,” and that it’s “the breath of the Almighty” alone that gives understanding and not age or position. So he is going to be obedient to the Lord and boldly say “Listen to me” although he is young.

He had waited and listened very attentively to every word that the older men had “searched out to say” while they were reasoning with Job, but he saw that they had utterly failed to convince him. “Not one of you has proved him wrong and none of you has answered his arguments. Look, Job hasn’t said anything to me, so I’m not going to answer anything he said. All I want to do is speak for the truth, not revenge.”

After all that, Elihu pauses almost as if he was waiting for some kind of encouragement from them or something. But they just sit there.

“You sit there baffled and embarrassed with no more replies. Should I just sit here and wait because you haven’t said anything?” No, he must be faithful to God regardless of their silence. He has to fulfill his “part” in God’s purpose and give the light that has been given to him. ….



Ezekiel’s contemporary



Elihu, who must have been – according to my reconstructions of the life of the righteous Job – a contemporary of the prophet Ezekiel, is found to have “similarities” with that prophet.



According to my reconstructions of the life and times of Job (as Tobias, son of Tobit) such as:


Job’s Life and Times


Stellar Life and Career of the holy Prophet Job


Job’s long life during the neo-Assyrian era took him at least as far as the destruction of Nineveh (c. 612 BC, conventional dating). This would mean that Elihu, a young man when Job was already old, had lived during the Chaldean era. And the Chaldean era was, of course, the very era during which the prophet Ezekiel had lived and prophesied.


Now, returning to Nigel Bernard, we read of these intriguing comparisons of Elihu and Ezekiel (


There are several similarities between Elihu and Ezekiel. Comparisons include whirlwinds; sitting for seven days; not speaking; and rebuking elders even though they themselves were much younger.


IN LAST MONTH’S article we considered Elihu and Elijah. In this second article we consider Elihu and Ezekiel. As in the previous study, a whirlwind plays an important role.




In the opening chapter of Ezekiel we read of a whirlwind: “And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire” (v. 4). Just as the speech of Elihu was terminated by a whirlwind, the first vision that Ezekiel sees begins with a whirlwind. In Job the whirlwind provided a demonstration of power out of which God spoke. The whirlwind in Ezekiel is spoken of in more detail, and from it emerge the cherubim.


Sat seven days


When Job’s friends came to him (and we know that Elihu was also there) we read, “So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great. After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day” (2:13; 3:1). Likewise, Ezekiel spent a period of seven days simply sitting with a group of people, apparently saying nothing—at least, not words from God: “Then I came to them of the captivity at Tel-abib, that dwelt by the river of Chebar, and I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days. And it came to pass at the end of seven days, that the word of the LORD [Yahweh] came unto me, saying . . .” (Ezek. 3:15,16).

In Job 21:5 Job says, “Mark me, and be astonished, and lay your hand upon your mouth”. Ezekiel later follows in the spirit of Job’s request, being “astonished”, and effectively having his hand upon his mouth. Yet, in the case of Job, all the time Elihu was indeed laying his hand upon his mouth, no doubt humble enough to be astonished too.



As we read the speeches of Job and his three friends, the presence of Elihu can be felt. We know that he is there listening, but he restrains himself from speaking: “And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said, I am young, and ye are very old; wherefore I was afraid, and durst not shew you mine opinion” (32:6). He was voluntarily dumb, a dumbness out of respect and fear for his elders, on the basis that “Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom” (v. 7).

Ezekiel was also to be silent, speaking only when God caused him to speak. But his silence, unlike Elihu’s, was miraculously enforced, for he was made dumb: “and I will make thy tongue cleave to the roof of thy mouth, that thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be to them a reprover: for they are a rebellious house. But when I speak with thee, I will open thy mouth, and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD [Yahweh]; He that heareth, let him hear; and he that forbeareth, let him forbear: for they are a rebellious house” (Ezek. 3:26,27).

Ezekiel was made dumb because the house of Israel were rebellious. In contrast, after Elihu and God had spoken, Job showed humility towards God and repented “in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).




As we have seen, Elihu says to Job’s friends, “I am young, and ye are very old”. This theme of a younger person rebuking elders is also echoed in Ezekiel. Assuming that it is his age which is being spoken of, Ezekiel tells us that it was in his “thirtieth year” that he saw “visions of God” (1:1). At his comparatively young age he had to deal on more than one occasion with the elders of Israel, as the following verses show:


“And it came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I sat in mine house, and the elders of Judah sat before me, that the hand of the Lord GOD [Yahweh] fell there upon me” (8:1);

“Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me” (14:1);

“And it came to pass in the seventh year, in the fifth month, the tenth day of the month, that certain of the elders of Israel came to enquire of the LORD [Yahweh], and sat before me” (20:1); “Son of man, speak unto the elders of Israel, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD [Yahweh]; Are ye come to enquire of Me? As I live, saith the Lord GOD [Yahweh], I will not be enquired of by you” (v. 3).


In the case of both the friends of Job and the elders of Judah, old age proved to be no guarantee of wisdom or obedience. Their rebuke by younger men only served to heighten their folly.


Priest and ancestry


[Mackey’s comment: In the following section, Bernard, whilst continuing to find similarities between Elihu and Ezekiel, will distinguish between “Ezekiel … the priest” and “Elihu … not a priest”. Whether or not Elihu was a priest has yet, I think, to be determined].


Ezekiel is described as “the priest, the son of Buzi”. That he was both a priest and the son of Buzi provides a link with Elihu. Malachi wrote that “the priest’s lips should keep knowledge” (2:7). Although not a priest, Elihu sought to live the spirit of these words, for he said, “my lips shall utter knowledge clearly” (Job 33:3).

Elihu is said to be “the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram” (32:2). That Elihu was a Buzite could mean that he was a descendant of Buz, the son of Nahor (see Gen. 22:20,21), and/or he lived in a territory called Buz. According to Strong, “Buzi” in Ezekiel 1:3 is the same word as “Buzite” in Job 32:2. This is a rare name in Scripture. That both Elihu and Ezekiel have this name mentioned in their ancestry alerts us to look for other similarities between these two men.


Other links


There are other significant connections between the book of Job and Ezekiel, which, although not relating directly to Elihu, form an important background to the links we have seen.

For example, some aspects of the cherubim reflect the words used by God of creation in His speech to Job. God asks Job, “Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go, and say unto thee, Here we are?” (Job 38:35). In Ezekiel it is said of the cherubim, “and out of the fire went forth lightning” (1:13). God also asks Job, “Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom, and stretch her wings toward the south?” (Job 39:26). The Hebrew word for “hawk” is related to the word translated “sparkled” in Ezekiel 1:7, where it is stated that the feet of the cherubim “sparkled like the colour of burnished brass”. As the hawk flew swiftly south, it did so with a flashing brilliance, sparkling against the sun. As such, as the cherubim came sparkling from the north, it was like the hawk flying toward the south.

The Hebrew word Shaddai occurs forty-eight times in the Bible and is always translated ‘Almighty’. It is a key word in Job, occurring thirty-one times. It is used only four times in all of the prophets: once in Isaiah, once in Joel, and twice in Ezekiel. It is significant that a key word in Job, so rare in the prophets, should occur twice in Ezekiel.

Of course, Job is actually mentioned in Ezekiel: “though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD [Yahweh]” (14:14). Furthermore, the phrase “these three men” is itself taken, ironically, from the book of Job, ironic because here it refers to the three friends of Job, who were delivered as a consequence of the prayer of Job: “So these three men ceased to answer Job . . .” (32:1).


[Mackey’s comment: How fascinating! Bernard is perfectly correct here. The exact same Hebrew phrase (שְׁלֹשֶׁת הָאֲנָשִׁים הָאֵלֶּה), “these three men”, is found in both Ezekiel 14:14 and Job 32:1].




As we have seen in this and the previous article, there are several connections between Elihu and the two prophets Elijah and Ezekiel. As well as helping us to understand the work of Elijah and Ezekiel, these comparisons also help us to see Elihu in a new light, supporting the view, in my opinion, that Elihu’s speech was vital for preparing the mind of Job for when God would speak to him.


Elihu may even be Ezekiel



Elihu and Ezekiel were contemporaries, both of whom referred to Job (Elihu addressed Job),

Buzites, they experienced similar awesome theophanies, and were filled with God’s spirit.




  1. Taking Elihu Seriously


Continuing firstly with the view that Elihu, far from being a pompous young upstart, was an inspired messenger of God, let us consider what Mark Block wrote about him (4th February, 2013 – full reference no longer available), in his section, “Reasons to Accept Elihu’s Speech”:


Many Bible interpreters disavow what Elihu has to say in the Book of Job. Below I will give a few reasons why I believe his speech to Job is true and is good theology.


1) God never rebukes Elihu. After God has finished speaking, He states that His wrath is upon the three other friends that gave counsel to Job. God does not include Elihu into the group of people who have not spoken rightly. (Job 42:7)


2) There is a break in the text to introduce him. The words of Elihu in Job 32:1-3 are not continuing what the other three friends have said, but stating something new. There is a break in the text that introduces something new. Elihu should not get lumped into the group of the other three friends with bad theology.


3) Six chapters are given to Elihu in the Book of Job. The writer of this Book devotes six chapters to Elihu. With much space given to Elihu, surely there is some importance to it.


4) Elihu shows how Job’s other friends are wrong. God also rebuked Job’s other three friends.


5) Elihu claims to be full of the Holy Spirit. In chapter 32 Elihu uses similar language to what Jeremiah used. He reminds me of Jeremiah saying, that the word of the Lord it is like a fire shut up in his bones. Elihu says, “For I am full of words; the spirit within me compels me. Indeed my belly is like wine that has no vent; it is ready to burst like new wine skins. I will speak, that I may find relief…”


6) Elihu signals Gods coming to speak. In 37:11-12 Elihu is describing a whirlwind and attributes the whirlwind to God. We see just a few verses later that God is answering Job out of the whirlwind. Verse one in chapter 38 states, “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind.” Notice the writer of this book did not say “A” whirlwind. But he says, “THE” That means that there must have been a whirlwind that was taking place, that had already been mentioned previously in the Book of Job. All throughout Elihu’s speech we see him referring to nature. I believe that Elihu is referring to what was actually taking place in front of Job and his three friends. He is describing what was going on while also signaling that God is coming to speak.


What do you think? ….

[End of quote]


Well, to answer Block here, I, for my part, “think” that Elihu was definitely a Jeremiah type, a prophetic messenger sent by God, wholly aflame with the spirit of God, full of eloquence yet humble and modest, and young at the same time that Jeremiah was young.

As we read in Part One, Elihu was, like Jeremiah, enflamed with the Holy Spirit:


It’s pleasant to notice Elihu’s modesty and tact in entering the discussion with his elders. It says that his “wrath was kindled” against Job and the three friends. This is explained later when he talks about the constraining of the Spirit within him, so that he was “ready to burst. …. Jeremiah spoke of God’s word being “in his heart like a burning fire” and being “weary of holding it in. Indeed (he) could not” (Jeremiah 20:9).


But, if I should have to choose a biblical alter ego for Elihu, my preference – based on what we have read in Part One and Part Two would be for the prophet Ezekiel, rather than Jeremiah.

“Ezekiel [too] refers to this “heat of the Spirit” when the Lord had moved him to speak”.


  1. Can they be the same?


“Elihu [was the] son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram” (Job 32:2).

“Ezekiel [was] the priest, the son of Buzi …” (Ezekiel 1:3).


We now know that Elihu and Ezekiel were contemporaries.


They also have in common the rare name, Buzi: “According to Strong, “Buzi” in Ezekiel 1:3 is the same word as “Buzite” in Job 32:2. This is a rare name in Scripture. That both Elihu and Ezekiel have this name mentioned in their ancestry alerts us to look for other similarities between these two men”.


Ezekiel 1:3: (בּוּזִי)

Job 32:2: (הַבּוּזִי).


They both refer to Job:


Elihu says (Job 33:1): ‘But now, Job, listen to my words; pay attention to everything I say’.

Ezekiel twice has God proclaim (Ezekiel 14:14, 20): ‘… even if these three men—Noah, Daniela and Job—were in it, they could save only themselves by their righteousness …’.


And most strikingly in relation to this situation we learned that: “The exact same Hebrew phrase (שְׁלֹשֶׁת הָאֲנָשִׁים הָאֵלֶּה), “these three men”, is found in both Ezekiel 14:14 and Job 32:1.


Then in Part Two, we further learned of a whole variety of parallels and links between Elihu and Ezekiel, for example: “Comparisons include whirlwinds; sitting for seven days; not speaking; and rebuking elders even though they themselves were much younger”.


Nigel Bernard, who had provided us with some of the best of these likenesses, did, however, distinguish “Ezekiel … “the priest, the son of Buzi”. That he was both a priest and the son of Buzi provides a link with Elihu. Malachi wrote that “the priest’s lips should keep knowledge” (2:7)” from Elihu: “Although not a priest, Elihu sought to live the spirit of these words, for he said, “my lips shall utter knowledge clearly” (Job 33:3)”.

To which I had attached this comment: “Whether or not Elihu was a priest has yet, I think, to be determined”.

The prophet Ezekiel was most definitely a priest, as is clear from 1:3: “Ezekiel the priest …”. So, in order even to consider whether or not Elihu and Ezekiel could be the same person, one would need to be able to show that Elihu’s genealogy (the only one given in the Book of Job) (32:2): “… son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram”, was Levite.

Given that this is the only reference in the Bible to the name Barachel, the task is a difficult one.

Moreover, the phrase “of the family of Ram” (מִמִּשְׁפַּחַת-רָם), has led some to the conclusion that young Elihu was an Aram(= Ram)ite, i.e., of the Syrian race.

However, the Hebrew phrase rendered here invariably refers to “family”, rather than to race.



Elihu the Prophet



Elihu, who, as we found, is very much in the mould of the prophet Ezekiel, his contemporary – so much so that I think he may even be this Ezekiel – similarly shares some close likenesses with the ancient prophet Elijah.



Nigel Bernard, to whom I was indebted in Part One for some of the best comparisons there presented between Elihu and Ezekiel, has also likened Elihu to the celebrated prophet Elijah


Elihu and the prophets


  1. Elijah ….


THERE ARE several comparisons that can be made between Elihu and the prophets Elijah and Ezekiel. A consideration of these comparisons increases our understanding both of the work of the prophets and of the importance of Elihu. …. We begin by considering the similarity of the names of Elihu and Elijah.




Elihu and Elijah are very similar in spelling and occur next to each other in the concordance. Their meanings are also very similar, both incorporating the Hebrew word ’el. Elihu means ‘My God is He’ and Elijah means ‘My God is Yah’.



[Comment: Similarly, according to Larry J. Waters, “The Authenticity of the Elihu Speeches in Job 32-37”, “Elihu is similar to the name Elijah”:]


The proper name [אֱלִיהוּא] means “He is my God” or “My God is He.” The latter is adopted by E. W. Bullinger (The Book of Job [Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1990], 161). Elihu is similar to the name Elijah, “Yahweh is my God.” Elihu’s name bears witness to [El] as the highest God. Elihu’s name may even be “an expression of his theological program”: It is Yahweh who speaks through his speeches. Wisdom says that as it turned out, “the message epitomized in his name became an integral part of Elihu’s message to Job (e.g., 33:12-13; 34:18-19, 23, 31-32; 35:2-11; 36:26; 37:22-24)” (Thurman Wisdom, “The Message of Elihu: Job 32-37,” Biblical Viewpoint 21 [1987]: 29). Elihu’s identity is also connected with three other names, Barachel, Buz, and Ram. Elihu is therefore the only character in the book with a recorded genealogy, which “may point to his aristocratic heritage” (Robert L. Alden, Job, New American Commentary [Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 19931, 316; also see David McKenna, Job [Dallas, TX: Word, 19821,225).


[End of quote]




The end of the record concerning both men is marked by a whirlwind. Following the closing words of Elihu it is written, “Then the LORD [Yahweh] answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said . . .” (Job 38:1). Of Elijah it is written, “And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (2 Kgs. 2:11)….




Both Elihu and Elijah emphasised the role of rain in the purpose of God. In Job 36 Elihu said, “For He maketh small the drops of water: they pour down rain according to the vapour thereof: which the clouds do drop and distil upon man abundantly” (vv. 27,28). In 37:6 he says, “For He saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth; likewise to the small rain, and to the great rain of His strength”. And later on in the chapter Elihu says, “Also by watering He wearieth the thick cloud: He scattereth His bright cloud: and it is turned round about by His coun­sels: that they may do whatsoever He commandeth them upon the face of the world in the earth. He causeth it to come, whether for correction, or for His land, or for mercy” (vv. 11-13).

In 1 Kings 17:1 it is written, “And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD [Yahweh] God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word”. From James 5:17,18 we learn that, not only did Elijah later pray for rain to come (which we read about in 1 Kings 18:41-45), but he had also originally prayed for the rain to stop: “Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit”. Elijah would have been mindful that the Law spoke of rain being withheld if Israel sinned: “Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; and then the LORD’S [Yahweh’s] wrath be kindled against you, and He shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD [Yahweh] giveth you” (Deut. 11:16,17). By praying for rain to stop and then come, Elijah was show­ing all three aspects of Elihu’s words concerning rain; how it could be used “for correction, or for His land, or for mercy”.


Bernard will next proceed to point out strong interconnections between Luke 12 and Elijah, and also with Elihu, before concluding this section with:


That Christ alludes to both the speech of Elihu and the life of Elijah in Luke 12 reflects the strong link between these two men. The way Christ also seamlessly moves between the speech of Elihu and the speech of God that follows, also provides evidence that Elihu’s words were rightly spoken.


Then Bernard, in his final paragraph, arrives at the conclusion that it was probably Elihu himself who actually wrote the Book of Job:


Last word?


The point was made earlier that the Scriptural record concerning both men ends with a whirl­wind. But of course this is not the last we hear of Elijah. Wherever he was taken, he was later to write a letter to Jehoram (see 2 Chron. 21:12-15). And it seems that Elijah was raised from the dead to meet with Christ at the transfiguration. It may also be the case that the whirlwind is not the last we hear of Elihu. In Job 32 Elihu says, “They were amazed, they answered no more: they left off speaking. When I had waited, (for they spake not, but stood still, and answered no more;) . . .” (vv. 15,16). These words sit a little awkwardly in his speech. This can be explained by the suggestion that Elihu was the man who wrote the book of Job and these verses are inspired words of Elihu which he inserted into the record to tell the reader how the friends reacted to him.

Elihu the Prophet, Son of Barachel the Buzite, family of Ram


But the anger of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram burned;

against Job his anger burned because he justified himself before God”.

 Job 32:2




Previously in this series we considered some likenesses between Elihu and the prophet Ezekiel, which others have picked up, and the question was asked:


…. Can they be the same?


“Elihu [was the] son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram” (Job 32:2).

“Ezekiel [was] the priest, the son of Buzi …” (Ezekiel 1:3).


We now know that Elihu and Ezekiel were contemporaries.


They also have in common the rare name, Buzi: “According to Strong, “Buzi” in Ezekiel 1:3 is the same word as “Buzite” in Job 32:2. This is a rare name in Scripture. That both Elihu and Ezekiel have this name mentioned in their ancestry alerts us to look for other similarities between these two men”.


Ezekiel 1:3: (בּוּזִי)

Job 32:2: (הַבּוּזִי).


They both refer to Job:


Elihu says (Job 33:1): ‘But now, Job, listen to my words; pay attention to everything I say’.

Ezekiel twice has God proclaim (Ezekiel 14:14, 20): ‘… even if these three men—Noah, Daniela and Job—were in it, they could save only themselves by their righteousness …’.


And most strikingly in relation to this situation we learned that: “The exact same Hebrew phrase (שְׁלֹשֶׁת הָאֲנָשִׁים הָאֵלֶּה), “these three men”, is found in both Ezekiel 14:14 and Job 32:1.


Then … we further learned of a whole variety of parallels and links between Elihu and Ezekiel, for example: “Comparisons include whirlwinds; sitting for seven days; not speaking; and rebuking elders even though they themselves were much younger”.


Nigel Bernard, who had provided us with some of the best of these likenesses, did, however, distinguish “Ezekiel … “the priest, the son of Buzi”. That he was both a priest and the son of Buzi provides a link with Elihu. Malachi wrote that “the priest’s lips should keep knowledge” (2:7)” from Elihu: “Although not a priest, Elihu sought to live the spirit of these words, for he said, “my lips shall utter knowledge clearly” (Job 33:3)”.

To which I had attached this comment: “Whether or not Elihu was a priest has yet, I think, to be determined”.

The prophet Ezekiel was most definitely a priest, as is clear from 1:3: “Ezekiel the priest …”. So, in order even to consider whether or not Elihu and Ezekiel could be the same person, one would need to be able to show that Elihu’s genealogy (the only one given in the Book of Job) (32:2): “… son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram”, was Levite.

Given that this is the only reference in the Bible to the name Barachel, the task is a difficult one.

Moreover, the phrase “of the family of Ram” (מִמִּשְׁפַּחַת-רָם), has led some to the conclusion that young Elihu was an Aram(= Ram)ite, i.e., of the Syrian race.

However, the Hebrew phrase rendered here invariably refers to “family”, rather than to race.

[End of quotes]


At this stage I had to interrupt my pursuit of an understanding of Elihu’s (Ezekiel’s?) genealogy, to write some articles reconstructing the life of the prophet Elisha, for instance:


Elisha – Terminator of Baalism in Judah




which I considered to be necessary to fill in certain ancestral details (e.g. Rechabitism) pertaining to Elihu. The prophet Elisha was identified here with both Jehonadab the Rechabite – Jehu’s partner in the destruction of the northern Baalists – and with Jehoiada, the reforming priest in Jerusalem. Now, it is in this revised package:


Elisha = Jehonadab = Jehoiada,


that, I think, we can find crucial clues for putting together in a satisfactory manner those enigmatic biographical details associated with Elihu:


“… son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram”.


Elihu a descendant of

the prophet Elisha




The priest Jehoiada, with whom I am identifying Elisha, was otherwise known as Barachiah, or Berechiah (Matthew 23:35): ‘… on you will come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar’.

Cf. 2 Chronicles 24:22: “King Joash did not remember the kindness Zechariah’s father Jehoiada had shown him but killed his son, who said as he lay dying, ‘May the LORD see this and call you to account’.”

The name Barachiah was in this case more of a title than a proper name, I suggest, stemming from (and this is where Jehonadab the Rechabite comes in) the Hebrew ben [bar] Rechab.

He was Jehonadab son of Rechab


וִיהוֹנָדָב בֶּן-רֵכָב


Appropriately, now, Elihu was “son of Barachel”. And, as we see from the following list from Abarim (


Associated Biblical names






♂Jeberechiahוִיהוֹנָדָב בֶּן-רֵכָב


the name, Barachel can be associated with Berechiah.

Barachel was not, therefore, Elihu’s direct father, but rather his famous priest-ancestor, Berechiah (= Jehoiada), who I am saying was the prophet Elisha himself.

This would mean that Elihu of the Book of Job was actually a priest, thereby strengthening my hopeful equation of Elihu with “Ezekiel the priest …” (Ezekiel 1:3), who was, according to the same verse, “the son of Buzi”. I take this to be, as in the case of Elihu, a geographical indicator – that Elisha was from the land of Buz, not that Ezekiel’s father was called “Buzi”.




Was Elisha (Barachel) geographically a Buzite?

Unfortunately it is difficult to be definitive about this because geographical details are, at this present stage of our knowledge, somewhat uncertain. Whilst we know from I Kings 19:16, for instance, that “Elisha … [was] from Abel-Meholah ….”, we do not encounter certainty as to the location of this place.

It is frequently described as being “unknown”.

Saint Jerome gave its location as about ten Roman miles south of Beth-Shean:

According to this latest find (


“… archaeologists have discovered the remains of a house that probably was the house where the prophet Elisha lived. The Bible says that the prophet Elisha was the son of Shaphat and lived in the Israelite city of Abel-meholah (1 Kings 19:16). Elisha was a disciple and the successor of the prophet Elijah. The building that archaeologists believe was the house where the prophet Elisha lived was discovered at the site of Tel Rehov, a few miles from Abel-meholah.

According to the Institute of Archaeology of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Rehov was “the location of the largest ancient Canaanite and Israelite site in the Beth-Shean Valley and one of the largest tels in the Holy Land.” The site was occupied in the 10th-9th centuries B.C. during the reigns of David and Solomon and during the reigns of Omri and Ahab.

During the excavations at Tel Rehov, archeologists found a broken piece of pottery with an inscription written in red ink with the name “Elisha.”

[End of quote]


Others place it “east of the Jordan River”:

For instance, “Abel Meholah in Gilead”


The matter is further complicated by uncertainty as to the location of the “land of Buz”. However, it is commonly associated with the land of Uz (Job’s home), which land we have determined, in:

A Common Sense Geography of the Book of Tobit


to have been the fertile Hauran valley region of Bashan.


King Esarhaddon of Assyria mentions both lands, Uz and Buz, his Ḫazû and Bazû, with the latter being 75 miles further (reckoning from Nineveh), according to F. Delitzsch. See e.g.:

An “Abel Meholah in Gilead”, bordering on Bashan, would appear to be a suitable scenario. “The limits of Bashan are very strictly defined. It extended from the “border of Gilead …”.”

A location in Gilead would mean that the prophet Elisha hailed from the same land as did “Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead …” (I Kings 17:1), with whom Elisha was a very close acquaintance – he being Elijah’s chosen disciple.


Family of Ram


Despite the difficulties that commentators have had in explaining Elihu’s “family of Ram” – e.g. does “Ram” stand for Aram (Syrian)? – I think that we can be quite clear about its meaning now in light of the fact that our Barachel (Jehoiada), great ancestor of Elihu, was married to the daughter of king Jehoram (Ram) of Judah. She was Jehosheba (2 Kings 11:2):


But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah, took Joash son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the royal princes, who were about to be murdered. She put him and his nurse in a bedroom to hide him from Athaliah; so he was not killed.


Elihu’s “Ram”, then, must refer to Jeho-Ram, indicating Elihu’s royal connections through his ancestor, the priest Jehoiada (var. Barachel/Elisha).








Nehemiah bridges Persia and Greece

Image result for alexander the great


Damien F. Mackey

“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”.

2 Maccabees 1:20

This verse from First Maccabees greatly intrigues me because, according to it, governor Nehemiah of the Persian era was in contact with priests of the Maccabean era.
Consider what this means from a chronological point of view.
Nehemiah, customarily dated to c. 445 BC, the Persian era, is said to have been personally in touch with “priests” of the Hellenistic era. The “us” to whom these priests “reported” were, as we learn at the beginning of this Maccabean chapter, “the Jews of Jerusalem and Judea” (1:1), these living in “the year 169” of the Greeks (1:7), which date, we are told, “corresponds to 143 B.C”.
Nehemiah must have been extraordinarily old these three centuries (445=143) later!
Poor Nehemiah really get played around with. As if three centuries of life span were not enough for him, “he” re-emerges later, supposedly – still as an agent of Persia – in the C7th AD:

Two Supposed Nehemiahs: BC time and AD time

Now that is really stretching things!

“Two Sanballats”

“If we are to put any confidence in the story of Josephus, then there must have been at least two Sanballats, and probably two Jadduas, and at two different times a son of a high priest must have married a daughter of a Sanballat”.

Conventional patterns of history are famous for having to invent extra persons of the same name (e.g. a “Sanballat” I, II and III; a “Jaddua” I and II) in order to bridge over-inflated chronological estimations. Thus we read in an article, “Ezra-Nehemiah”

Neither language nor style can be assigned as a ground for asserting a date later than the 5th century BC as the time of the composition of the book. A much stronger reason against placing the final redaction of the books at so early a time is the mention of a Jaddua among the high priests in Nehemiah 12:11,22, it being assumed that this is the same Jaddua whom Josephus mentions (Ant., XI, viii, 4) as having filled the high-priestly office in the time of Alexander the Great. In view of the fact that Josephus is the only source of information as to the period between 400 and 300 BC, it seems unfair to accept what he says as to the existence of this Jaddua, while rejecting substantially all the rest of the same chapter in Josephus which tells about Sanballat, Manasseh and Alexander’s meeting with Jaddua. Inasmuch as the Sachau papyri, written in the 17th year of Darius Nothus, that is, in 410-408 BC, mention the sons of Sanballat the governor of Samaria, the Sanballat who was their father must have lived about 450 BC. The same papyrus mentions Jehohanan (Johnnan of Nehemiah 12:22) as the high priest of the temple at Jerusalem, and Bagohi (Bagoas) was the Persian governor of Jerusalem in 410-408 BC. Since, according to Nehemiah 13:6, Nehemiah was governor in 434-433 BC, the 32nd year of Artaxerxes, Bagoas would be perhaps his immediate successor. If we are to put any confidence in the story of Josephus, then there must have been at least two Sanballats, and probably two Jadduas, and at two different times a son of a high priest must have married a daughter of a Sanballat. While this is not impossible, it seems better to suppose that Josephus has confused matters beyond any possibility of disentanglement, and we might be justified in throwing over entirely his account of a Sanballat, a Manasseh, and a Jaddua as living in the year 330 BC, when Alexander conquered Syria. As far, of course, as the Jaddua of Nehemiah 12:11,22 is concerned, he may well have been high priest as early as 406 BC, and have continued to serve till 330 BC. On the other hand, another of the same name, probably a grandson, may, for all we know to the contrary, have been high priest in 330 BC. ….

[End of quote]

Such painful duplicating ceases to be necessary within my revision, according to which the Medo-Persian kingdom is to be greatly streamlined, enabling for Nehemiah himself to become a bridge between it and the Hellenistic period inaugurated by Alexander the Great.

Ezra 4’s Cyrus, Ahasuerus, Artaxerxes, and Darius


Damien F. Mackey

Here continues the task of revising ancient Persian history, with an anticipated severe reduction in the number of kings that one will find listed in the text books.

Part One: A Revised Overview


Ezra 4:4-6 is thought to give the overall range of Persian history to be covered in this chapter, from Cyrus down to Darius:

Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, 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.

before the sacred writer(s) proceed to fill in the details – especially regarding the forced interruption of work towards the building of the Temple (vv. 6-23).

The narrative then returns to, and concludes with, king Darius in v. 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”.

The framework that we are given in Ezra 4, bookended by Cyrus and Darius, is as follows:

Cyrus (v. 5)

Ahasuerus (v. 6)

Artaxerxes (vv. 7-23)

Darius (vv. 5, 24)

Whilst there is not much dispute amongst commentators about the identifications of Cyrus and Darius, they can differ about who were “Ahasuerus” and “Artaxerxes”.

Generally they, following the standard list of Persian kings,

List of the Kings of Persia from 550 BC to 330 BC

Persian Kings

Period of Reign (Approx)

Cyrus II “the Great”

550-529 BC

Cambyses II

529-522 BC

Darius I

522-486 BC

Xerxes I

486-465 BC

Artaxerxes I

465-425 BC

Xerxes II

425-424 BC

Darius II

423-404 BC

Artaxerxes II

404-359 BC

Artaxerxes III

359-338 BC


338-336 BC

Darius III

336-330 BC

will regard Cambyses as both “Ahasuerus” and “Artaxerxes”.

Less commonly some commentators prefer, for the identification of “Artaxerxes”, the usurper, Gaumata, sometimes equating him with the obscure Bardiya.

The Matthew Henry Commentary, for instance, favours a double identification for Cambyses:

[Cyrus] then either died or gave up that part of his government, in which his successor was Ahasuerus (v. 6), called also Artaxerxes (v. 7), supposed to be the same that in heathen authors is called Cambyses, who had never taken such cognizance of the despised Jews as to concern himself for them, nor had he that knowledge of the God of Israel which his predecessor had. To him these Samaritans applied by letter for an order to stop the building of the temple; and they did it in the beginning of his reign, being resolved to lose no time when they thought they had a king for their purpose. ….

[End of quote]

Whilst Herb Storck (History and Prophecy: A Study in the Post-Exilic Period, House of Nabu, 1989, p. 64), accepting that “Ahasuerus” is Cambyses, thinks that “Artaxerxes” must be Gaumata/Bardiya:

The section of Ezra iv. 6-23 involves the whole reign of Cambyses and Bardiya. The subject … structure, prosopography … syntax and vocabulary … of the section naturally supports this interpretation. As the text can thus sustain this interpretation it remains only to show reasonable grounds that the sequence Cyrus, Ahasuerus (Cambyses), Artaxerxes (Bardiya) and Darius can be justified from what is known of them historically. It will now be argued that Ahasuerus can be Cambyses and that Artaxerxes may be Bardiya/Gaumata. As this thesis is almost never argued in current scholarship, it will require a careful and rather lengthy discourse. ….

[End of quote]

What I take from the Matthew Henry Commentary is that only one king is being referred to under the two names of “Ahasuerus” and “Artaxerxes”.

But I think that he is not Cambyses.


Whilst I expect to have more to say later about this idiosyncratic king and his place in history, I have already opened proceedings towards an entirely new assessment of Cambyses by drawing some parallels between him and Daniel’s King Nebuchadnezzar about whom one may read in my:

“Nebuchednezzar” of the Book of Daniel

Re my different view of Cambyses, I refer to this series of articles:

Nebuchednezzar and Cambyses

Common factors here may include ‘divine’ madness; confounding the priests by messing with the Babylonian rites; and the conquest of Egypt and Ethiopia.

Nebuchednezzar and Cambyses. Part Two: Messing with the rites

As was the case with King Nabonidus (= Nebuchednezzar II), so did Cambyses apparently fail properly to observe established protocol with the Babylonian rites.

Nebuchednezzar and Cambyses. Part Three: Egypt and Ethiopia

Of Nebuchednezzar II’s conquest of Egypt, well-attested in the Bible, it is extremely difficult to find substantial account in the historical records. Not so with the conquest of Egypt and Ethiopia by Cambyses.

Cambyses Mad Yet Great

And even, right out of left field:

Cambyses and Julius Caesar


The Book of Esther presents us with a Great King who is variously called “Ahasuerus” and “Artaxerxes”. And this is good enough for me. I have identified him as both “Darius the Mede” and Cyrus:

Is the Book of Esther a Real History? Part Three: “King Ahasuerus”

I concluded this article with:

According to my radical truncating of the number of Chaldean kings of this era, Nebuchednezzar II’s son, Evil-Merodach (or Awel-Marduk), was the last of the rulers of this dynasty – and he was the same person as Belshazzar:

Neo-Babylonian Dynasty Needs ‘Hem Taken Up’. Part One (b): Evil-Merodach is Belshazzar

Hence it is likely that the Medo-Persian king who succeeded Belshazzar, “Darius the Mede” – who I believe to have been Cyrus himself (see e.g.):

Darius the Mede “Received the Kingdom”

was the Great King “Ahasuerus” (“Artaxerxes”), whose wife Queen Esther was.

[End of quote]

Darius the Great

More recently, in my article:

“Three Kings” and the “Fourth” of Daniel 11:2

I have identified:

Darius the Mede = Cyrus the Great = Darius the Great

thereby most radically shortening Medo-Persian history.

This would mean that only the one Medo-Persian kings is actually being referred to in Ezra 4.

Now, the description of Ezra’s king Ahasuerus/Artaxerxes fits tolerably well with what we learn about the Great King of the same names in the drama of Esther, supplemented with parts of the Book of Daniel.

Apart from Mordecai’s dream, in the second year of Ahasuerus, we do not engage the reign of the Great King until his third year of reign (Esther 1:3), when he was in high celebratory mode.

Likely earlier than this incident was that of Ezra 4:6: “And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem”.

However, that King Ahasuerus had severe trouble early in his reign is apparent from a comparison of Daniel 6 (in which he is called “Darius the Mede”) and, more emphatically, Bel and the Dragon (in which he is called “Cyrus of Persia”):

Daniel 6:24: “At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children”.

Bel and the Dragon (1:28-30): “When they of Babylon heard that, they took great indignation, and conspired against the king, saying, The king is become a Jew, and he hath destroyed Bel, he hath slain the dragon, and put the priests to death. So they came to the king, and said, Deliver us Daniel, or else we will destroy thee and thine house. Now when the king saw that they pressed him sore, being constrained, he delivered Daniel unto them …”.

This conspiracy against the king could well pertain to the conspiracy that Mordecai uncovered (Esther 2:21-23): “Once, while Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigsan and Seresh, two officers of the king’s night guards, became angry at the king, and they conspired to poison the king. Mordecai found out about it, so he told Queen Esther, and Esther told it to the king, citing Mordecai as her source. They investigated the matter, and it was verified, and they were both hanged on gallows. It was then recorded in the royal book of chronicles”.

When we move on to Ezra 4’s account of “Artaxerxes”, we encounter a name, “Bishlam”, or other variations, that is not unlike that of the conspirator, “Bigsan”, or other variations (e.g. “Bigthan”).

D. Clines (Esther Scroll: has put forward “the supposition that Haman was himself implicated in the conspiracy of [Bigthan and Teresh] which Mordecai uncovered, as is suggested by both the Greek versions …”.

Ezra continues:

In the days of Artaxerxes, Bishlam and Mithredath and Tabeel and the rest of their associates wrote to Artaxerxes king of Persia. The letter was written in Aramaic and translated. Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king as follows: Rehum the commander, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their associates, the judges, the governors, the officials, the Persians, the men of Erech, the Babylonians, the men of Susa, that is, the Elamites, and the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Osnappar deported and settled in the cities of Samaria and in the rest of the province Beyond the River. (This is a copy of the letter that they sent.) “To Artaxerxes the king: Your servants, the men of the province Beyond the River, send greeting. And now be it known to the king that the Jews who came up from you to us have gone to Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are finishing the walls and repairing the foundations. Now be it known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and the walls finished, they will not pay tribute, custom, or toll, and the royal revenue will be impaired. Now because we eat the salt of the palace and it is not fitting for us to witness the king’s dishonor, therefore we send and inform the king, in order that search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers. You will find in the book of the records and learn that this city is a rebellious city, hurtful to kings and provinces, and that sedition was stirred up in it from of old. That was why this city was laid waste. We make known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls finished, you will then have no possession in the province Beyond the River.”

Similarly, Haman informs Ahasuerus/Artaxerxes of this allegedly rebellious and lawless people (Esther 3:8-9): “There is a nation scattered and separated among the nations throughout your empire. Their laws are different than everyone else’s, they do not obey the king’s laws, and it does not pay for the king to tolerate their existence. If it pleases the king, let a law be written that they be destroyed, and I will pay to the executors ten thousand silver Kikar-coins for the king’s treasury”.

And Queen Esther, in her prayer, would note that (vv. 19-20) “… our enemies are no longer satisfied just to see us in slavery. They have made a solemn promise to their idols not only to destroy the people who praise you, but to do away with your Law and to remove forever the glory of your house and altar”.

That is just what the enemies of the Jews were intending in the Ezran drama.

And, just as Ahasuerus/Artaxerxes will respond to this accusation (Esther 3:9-10): “The king removed his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, persecutor of the Jews. The king said to Haman, ‘Keep the money, and do whatever you want with that nation’,” so, too, did he, in Ezra, harken to Rehum and his crew (4:17-23):

The king sent an answer: ‘To Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe and the rest of their associates who live in Samaria and in the rest of the province Beyond the River, greeting. And now the letter that you sent to us has been plainly read before me. And I made a decree, and search has been made, and it has been found that this city from of old has risen against kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been made in it. And mighty kings have been over Jerusalem, who ruled over the whole province Beyond the River, to whom tribute, custom, and toll were paid. Therefore make a decree that these men be made to cease, and that this city be not rebuilt, until a decree is made by me. And take care not to be slack in this matter. Why should damage grow to the hurt of the king?”

Then, when the copy of King Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum and Shimshai the scribe and their associates, they went in haste to the Jews at Jerusalem and by force and power made them cease.

Haman’s feigned concern that “… it does not pay for the king to tolerate” the Jews, may echo the rebels’ feigned solidarity: “Why should damage grow to the hurt of the king?”

Part Two: Darius the Great

Though the foundation of the Temple of Yahweh was laid in the second year of Cyrus, this incident has been wrongly re-dated by commentators to a presumed king “Darius”, thought to have been of several reigns later than Cyrus.


Ezra 3:8-10 makes it abundantly clear that “the foundation of the Temple of the Lord” was laid already in the second year of the return from captivity:

In the second month of the second year after their arrival at the house of God in Jerusalem, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak and the rest of the people (the priests and the Levites and all who had returned from the captivity to Jerusalem) began the work. They appointed Levites twenty years old and older to supervise the building of the house of the Lord. Joshua and his sons and brothers and Kadmiel and his sons (descendants of Hodaviah) and the sons of Henadad and their sons and brothers—all Levites—joined together in supervising those working on the house of God.

When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the Lord, as prescribed by David king of Israel.

Yet the prophet Haggai’s reference to this important event, now about half a year later, in the ninth month of the second year of Darius (Haggai 2:18; cf. v. 10): “From this day on, from this twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, give careful thought to the day when the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid”, is generally estimated by commentators (who distinguish Cyrus from Darius) to have occurred two reigns later:

Cyrus II “the Great”

550-529 BC

Cambyses II

529-522 BC

Darius I

522-486 BC

That is, almost two decades later (Cyrus 538 – Darius 521 = 17).

With my identification of the aged Jeremiah, post-exilic, with both Haggai and Zechariah

Complete Jeremiah

operating in “the second year of Darius” (cf. Haggai 1:1; Zechariah 1:1), I am perfectly happy not to have to extend Jeremiah’s age by a further 17 years.

Nor do I think that the evidence demands it.

“Three Kings” and the “Fourth” of Daniel 11:2


Damien F. Mackey

So he said, ‘Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince)’.

Daniel 10:20-21

This text, given in the context of “… the third year of Cyrus king of Persia” (10:1), may provide us with a crucial clue for identifying the kings of Daniel 11:2, usually translated along the lines of:

‘Now then, I tell you the truth: Three more kings will arise in Persia, and then a fourth, who will be far richer than all the others. When he has gained power by his wealth, he will stir up everyone against the kingdom of Greece’.

The “prince of Persia”, whom the speaker is about to resume his “fight against”, can only be, here in “the third year of Cyrus king of Persia”, Cyrus himself.

Daniel 11, dated to “… the first year of Darius the Mede” (11:1), who is also Cyrus himself, informs us that it is the fourth king who ‘will stir up everyone against the kingdom of Greece’.

So, we must already be at the time of that fourth king in Daniel 10 and 11, meaning that the three other kings referred to have already passed. This is contrary to all translations, which present the four kings of Daniel 11:2 all in a future context, ‘will arise’, ‘will be far richer’, ‘will stir up’. Hebrew (עֹמְדִים) is not by any means restricted to “will arise”, however.

See: e.g., “were standing”, “had served”.

The predecessors of Cyrus, presumably the kings of the Chaldean empire (Nabopolassar; Nebuchednezzar II; Belshazzar?), are here described as ruling (לְ) (not necessarily “in”) Persia. Persia is perhaps mentioned here because this prophecy has occurred within the Medo-Persian era.

The Medo-Persian empire was indeed considerably vaster, and hence “far richer than” the previous ones (“all the others”).

This has ramifications because it was Darius “the Great” Hystaspes who would ‘stir up everyone against the kingdom of Greece’. The way that my revision of the Medo-Persian empire is developing, Darius the Mede, who was Cyrus, may also be Darius “the Great” Hystaspes:

Darius the Mede = Cyrus the Great = Darius the Great

But Darius would finally have to contend with “the prince of Greece [Javan]”, who was Alexander, also known as “the Great”. I Maccabees 1:1: “After Alexander son of Philip, the Macedonian, who came from the land of Kittim, had defeated Darius, king of the Persians and the Medes, he succeeded him as king. (He had previously become king of Greece.)”.

We are much, much closer to the Greek era than the conventional historians have realised.