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Was He 22 or 42?
Now Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers, and was buried. . . . And Jehoram his son reigned in his stead. . . . Thirty and two years old was he when he began to reign,, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years, and departed without being desired (2 Chr. 21:1,20).
And the inhabitants of Jerusalem made Ahaziah his youngest son king in his stead: for the band of men that came with the Arabians to the camp had slain all the eldest. So Ahaziah the son of Jerhoram king of Judah reigned.
Forty and two years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother’s name also was Athaliah, the daughter of Omri (2 Chr. 22:1-2).
If Jehoram began to rule at the age of 32 and died eight years later, this would make him 40 years old at his death. Of course it would be a little difficult for his son Ahaziah to begin ruling when Ahaziah was 42, for he would be two years older than his father.
To complicate matters further, 2 Kings 9:29 tells us, “And in the eleventh year of Joram, the son of Ahab, began Ahaziah to reign over Judah.” But 2 Kings 8:25 says, “In the twelfth year of Joram, the son of Ahab, king of Israel, did Ahaziah, the son of Jehoram, king of Judah, begin to reign.” This is more than just two different ways of reckoning, for verse 26 says, “Two and twenty years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign: and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Athaliah, the daughter of Omri king of Israel.”
These verses, especially 2 Chronicles 22:2, have baffled many for many years, well before Christ (and they baffled me until 1989). The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew text, began to be translated about 250 B.C. The translators saw the problem and changed the number to twenty. Matthew Henry, commenting on this verse about 1704 A.D., said, “He [Ahaziah] is here said to be forty-two years old when he began to reign (v. 2), but it is said (Kings viii. 26) that he was twenty-two years old. Some make this forty-two to be the age of his mother Athaliah. . .”1
Adam Clark, in his commentary of the early 1800s, said, “Ahaziah might have been twenty-two years old, according to 2 Kings viii. 26, but he could not have been forty-two, as stated here [in 2 Chr. 22:2], without being two years older than his own father! The Syriac and Arabic have ‘twenty-two,’ and the Septuagint, in some copies, ‘twenty.’ And it is very probable that the Hebrew text read so originally. . . . The reading in 2 Kings is right, and any attempt to reconcile this in Chronicles with that is equally futile and absurd. Both readings cannot be true.”2
A more modern commentary, the New Bible Commentary: Revised, says, “Forty-two years; an obvious scribal error.”3 The Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary says, “Forty-two years old would make Ahaziah 2 years older than his father. . .and no doubt a copyist’s error. ”4
All other commentaries I’ve read say about the same thing, and even the conservative Wycliffe Bible Commentary says, “Forty and two years old is impossible. . . . It is probably a copyist’s error for twenty-two (II Kgs 8:26).”5
I believe the forty-two years in 2 Chronicles 22:2 is correct and the answer to the problem is simple. The first clue in solving the problem may be the word “also” in that verse.
When Jehoshaphat of Judah died, his son Jehoram became king of Judah. “Now when Jehoram was risen up to the kingdom of his father, he strengthened himself, and slew all his brethren. . . . And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, like as did the house of Ahab; for he had [Athaliah] the daughter of Ahab as his wife: and he wrought that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD” (2 Chr. 21:4, 6).
For his wickedness, verses 16 and 17 tell us, “The LORD stirred up against Jehoram the spirit of the Philistines, and of the Arabians. . . . And they came up into Judah . . . and carried away all the substance that was found in the king’s house, and his sons also, and his wives: so that there was never a son left him, save Jehoahaz, the youngest of his sons.”
Notice that they took away “all” his substance and wives and left only his youngest son, Jehoahaz. All the others were killed. I suppose they could have taken “all” but Athaliah, or they may have given her back, but all the clues indicate they didn’t take Athaliah because she and Jehoram were not married at the time. Apparently Jehoram married Athaliah after he lost “all” his wives. “And after all this the LORD smote him in his bowels with an incurable disease” (2 Chr. 21:18).
Jehoram and Athaliah probably married for political reasons, and she was more of a dominate mother than a wife and used his sickness to her advantage. It seems she already had a son named Ahaziah before she married Jehoram, probably named after her brother, King Ahaziah of Israel. Jehoram’s youngest son, whose name was changed to Ahaziah, was 20 years younger than the son of Athaliah. When Jehoram married Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab, Jehoram’s real son became the grandson-in-law “of the house of Ahab” (2 Kings 8:27).
Athaliah must have had a son named Ahaziah before she married Jehoram, and she talked him into making her son king in the 11th year of Joram (2 Kings 9:29). They may have reasoned: Since he was his legal son and the oldest, let him be king. Apparently many in Jerusalem didn’t like this, so in the 12th year of Joram (2 Kings 8:25-26), after Jehoram died, the people of Jerusalem made Jehoram’s real son king. “And the inhabitants of Jerusalem made Ahaziah his youngest son king in his stead” (2 Chr. 22:1).
The Broadman Bible Commentary says, “This was not the usual custom . . .”6 It was customary for a king to pick his successor rather than the people, which it seems he had already done in the 11th year of the King of Israel. And it was his 42 year old stepson, Ahaziah. Judah now had two kings. One picked by King Jehoram and the other by the people. And both followed the prophets of Baal. Concerning the 22 year old, 2 Kings 8:25-27 says:
In the twelfth year of Joram the son of Ahab king of Israel did Ahaziah the son of Jehoram king of Judah begin to reign. Two and twenty years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign; and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. And his [step] mother’s name was Athaliah, the [daughter of Ahab and the grand] daughter of Omri king of Israel. And he walked in the way of the house of Ahab, and did evil in the sight of the LORD, as did the house of Ahab: FOR HE WAS THE SON-IN-LAW of the house of Ahab. (Emphasis mine.)
The Bible does not use the term grandson. The verses above are speaking of the 22 year old stepson of Athaliah, and he was a literal grandson-in-law of Athaliah’s father, Ahab. TheInterpreter’s Commentary, not interpreting the meaning, says, “Son-in-law is of course not to be taken lit., since it was his father who was son-in-law to Ahab.”7
Another clue that there were two Ahaziahs is found in 2 Kings 10:13. It seems Jehu met some Samaritans headed for Judah, and they told him they were the brothers of King Ahaziah. This must have been the brothers of the older Ahaziah, for 2 Chronicles 22:1 tells us the brothers of the younger Ahaziah were dead. The death account of Ahaziah in 2 Kings 9:27 is different than the account given in 2 Chronicles 22:9, another indication there were two Ahaziahs.
Just a casual reading of the events above would seem to indicate only one Ahaziah. But the arithmetic and other clues give us two. I believe God deliberately allowed it to be obscure, as He did many other things.
The Kings of Judah and Israel
In figuring the years for the kings of Israel and Judah, some kings were made to be co-ruling when they were not. In dealing with the kings of Persian Empire, historians have some ruling alone when they were co-ruling. (More about this in Appendix C.)
Another problem in chronology is the way ancient kings reckoned their rule. It is impossible to synchronize the numbers in many verses, especially 2 Kings 17:1 and 18:1-10, if both kingdoms were using only one system of reckoning beginning at the same point in the year. But if Israel and Judah were using two different systems and starting their New Year on different dates, the numbers can be synchronized.
For illustration: Suppose a king died in the month of Sivan and his son began ruling. The common way would consider the son’s 1st year as beginning in Sivan, but the month of Nisan of the following year would begin his first official year. When Jeroboam rebelled, he changed the place of worship and may have changed the point of reckoning from Nisan to the 7th or 8th month (see 1 Kings 12:32). If this is the case, Hoshea may have begun his common rule late in the 12th official year of Ahaz. Ahaz may have died early in his 16th offical year and Hezekiah began his common rule in the 3rd official year of Hoshea.
The chart below gives a rough outline down to Hezekiah and Hoshea.
Begin Rehoboam, 2C12:13...........1........1 Begin Jeroboam, 1K14:20
End Rehoboam, 1K14:21............17
Begin Abijah, 2C13:1-2............1.......18 18th year of Jeroboam, 1K15:1
Begin Asa.........................1.......20 20th year of Jeroboam, 1K15:9
..................................2.......22 Begin Nadab, 1K15:25
..................................3........1 Begin Baasha, 1K15:25-33
Asa’s 36th co-rule year,2C16:1.............. Baasha comes against Asa
.................................26.......24 End Baasha begin Elah, 1K16:8-10
.................................27........1 End Elah begin Omri, 1K16:15-22
.................................31......... Begin Omria at Samaria, 1K16:23-28
.................................38........1 Begin Ahab, 1K16:29
End Asa, 2C16:13.................41
Begin Jehoshaphat, 2C20:31........1........4 4th year of Ahab, 1K22:41-42
.................................17...1...22 End Ahab begin Ahaziah, 1K22:51
Ahaziah of Israel has accident...18...2....1 Begin Joram’s co-rule, 2K1:2-4;3:1
Jehoram begins co-rule, 2C21:3...22...1....5 5th year Joram’s co-rule, 2K8:16
.................................23...2....1 Ahaziah dies begin Joram, 2K1:17
End Jehoshaphat, 2C20:31.........25...4
Begin Jehoram at 32, 2C21:5.......1
End Jehoram at 40, 2C21:20........8.......11 Ahaziah over Judah at 42, 2K9:29
End stepson Ahaziah, 2C22:2.......1.......12 End Joram, 2K9
Begin Athaliah, 2C22:10-12........1........1 Begin Jehu
End Athaliah, 2C23................6
Begin Joash, 2C24:1...............1........7 7th year of Jehu, 2K12:1
..........................................28 End Jehu, 2K10:35-36
.................................23........1 Begin Jehoahaz, 2K13:1
..........................................17 End Jehoahaz
Joash’s 37th year................37........1 Begin Jehoash 2K13:10
End Joash........................40........2 2nd year of Jehoash, 2K14:1
Begin Amaziah, 2C25:1, 2K14:2.....1
...........................................5 Begin Jeroboam’s co-rule
..........................................16 End Jehoash
.................................15........1 Begin Jeroboam’s sole rule, 2K14:23
End Amaziah, 2C25:25, 2K14:17....29
Begin Uzziah 2C26:1-3.............1......... Jeroboam’s 27th co-rule, 2K15:1-2
(See also, 2K14:19-22)
..........................................41 End Jeroboam
...........................................1 Begin Zechariah, 2K14:29
..................................38........ End Zechariah, 2K15:8
..................................39.......1 Begin Menahem, 2K15:9-17
Jotham begins co-rule, 2C26:21....49...1..10 End Menahem, begin Pekan’s co-rule
..................................50...2...1 Begin Pekahiah, 2K15:23
End Uzziah, 2C26:1-3..............52...4...1 Begin Pekah’s sole rule, 2K15:27
Begin Jotham, 2C27:1...............1...5...2 2nd year of Pekah, 2K15:32-33
End Jotham, 2C27:8................16..20..17 End Pekah, 2K15:30; 2K16:1-2
Begin Ahaz, 2C28:1.................1
..................................12.......1 Begin Hoshea in Samaria, 2K17:1
Begin Hezekiah, 2C29:1.............1.......3 3rd year of Hoshea, 2K18:1-2
4th year of Hezekiah...............4.......7 7th year of Hoshea, 2K18:9-10
6th year of Hezekiah...............6.......9 End Hoshea, 2K17:5-6;18:10
(1) The Chronology of Persia
In “the third year of Cyrus” Daniel received a revelation concerning the Persian Empire (Dan. 10:1). He was told of four more Persian kings who would follow Cyrus. “And now will I shew thee the truth. Behold, there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than they all: and by his strength through his riches he shall stir up all against the realm of Grecia” (Dan. 11:2).
When Cyrus became king of Persia, he made his son Cambyses a king also. Not all kings did this, but it was a common practice in ancient times. The Britannica says, “On a tablet dated from the first year of Cyrus, Cambyses is called king of Babel . . .”1 Cambyses may have gone to Egypt shortly after Cyrus made him a king and Darius, the Mede, was left in charge of Babylon where he ruled for about a year before being removed. The angel told Daniel, “Also I, in the first year of Darius, the Mede, even I, stood to confirm and to strengthen him” (Dan. 11:1).
After the co-rule of Cyrus and Cambyses, it seems when two kings stood up at the same time, the one standing the longest is the one the angel counted for chronology. I believe the four kings of Daniel 11:2 are: Darius I, Artaxerxes I, II, and III. Perhaps Cambyses wasn’t counted because he was already standing with Cyrus, and Xerxes wasn’t counted because he and Artaxerxes stood up at the same time. (According to Herodotus, Darius did not appoint Xerxes until about his death, but it seems Xerxes, like Cyrus, made his son Artaxerxes a king in his first year.)
Note that Daniel 11:2 says the “fourth” king would “be far richer” than the rest and would use “his riches” to wage a war against Greece. All the kings of Persia were rich, but Artaxerxes III was the richest. He spent much of it in his war against Greece and left an empire about to collapse. The last two kings, Arses and Darius III, were insignificant.
Down through the years Persia had lost some of its control, especially in the West. It was not until Artaxerxes III, the last great king of Persia, that the “authority” of the empire was restored “everywhere.” The Britannica says, “The reign of Artaxerxes II ended, in 359 B.C. . . . His successor, Artaxerxes Ochus, succeeded yet again in restoring the empire in its full extent.”2
It is said Artaxerxes III “was a cruel but energetic ruler.” A. T. Olmstead, professor of oriental history at the University of Chicago, says, “Ochus had already shown his savage character; as Artaxerxes III he was reputed the most bloodthirsty of all Achaemenid monarchs.” 3
Artaxerxes III, called “the Great King,” inherited the wealth of Persia and got richer by all kinds of taxes. He began to assemble a massive army in the East for the invasion of the West. He also paid Greeks to fight Greeks. In his book History of the Persian Empire, Professor Olmstead says, “Rumors [in Greece] filled the air: Artaxerxes would be a second Xerxes who planned that again the Greeks would enslave their fellow-Greeks; the rumormongers even knew that twelve thousand camels were on their way bringing gold to purchase Greek mercenaries.”4
In his book Alexander of Macedon, Peter Green says, “Some 15,000 Greek mercenaries, not to mention numerous doctors, engineers, technicians and professional diplomats, were already on the Persian pay-roll . . .” 5
In a speech against fighting Persia, Demosthenes said war with the king will be difficult, for, though Athens has the better men, the king has more money.612 Josephus says the last Artaxerxes also “imposed tributes on the Jews.”7 Josephus is writing about the last days of the last Artaxerxes. Then he writes about the last days of Persia and the rise of Alexander the Great. He says, “About this time it was that Philip, king of Macedon, was treacherously assaulted and slain . . . and his son Alexander succeeded him in the kingdom.”8
After the death of Artaxerxes III in 338 B.C., the “mighty king” of Daniel 11:3 stood “up” and did “according to his will,” and the tables were turned. The Greeks under Alexander the Great defeated Darius III in 334 B.C. and ended the Persia empire at the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 B.C.
Cambyses..........Xerxes I......Darius II
I believe the above may be the correct chronology of the Persian Empire from the Decree of Cyrus. The one below is the accepted one, give or take a year.
36...521-485 Darius I
20...485-465 Xerxes I
40...465-425 Artaxerxes I
1...425-424 Xerxes II & Secydianus
20...424-404 Darius II
45...404-359 Artaxerxes II
21...359-338 Artaxerxes III
6...336-330 Darius III
Concerning the 208 years, the Britannica says, “The chronology is exactly verified by the Ptolemaic canon, by numerous Babylonian and a few Egyptian documents, and by the evidence of the Greeks.”9
I believe some of the kings listed co-ruled during this time. Co-ruling was a common practice in those days. Before the fall of Babylon, Daniel says Belshazzar was king but makes reference to him being second in power. Daniel didn’t mention Belshazzar’s father, Nabonidus. The first Babylonian documents we discovered didn’t mention this co-rule and had no room for a king named Belshazzar.
Many did not believe the account of Daniel until we dug up the evidence over 2000 years later. The Britannica says: “The picture of Belshazzar in [Daniel] chap.V. has quite generally been pronounced unhistorical by modern scholars, but recent discoveries have tended to show that the historical background of the chapter is substantially correct. Documents in cuneiform prove that Belshazzar, the son of Nabonidus, exercised at Babylon such administrative powers as belonged to no mere crown prince; indeed, it is expressly stated that in the third year of Nabonidus the king entrusted the kingship to his eldest son, Belshazzar.”10
The critics now accept Daniel’s Belshazzar but not his Darius. The fact that Daniel wrote about Belshazzar, which the Greeks knew nothing of, is a strong indication that Daniel was there and wrote about it. The critics believe the book of Daniel is a forgery, written about 163 The reason many historians have so much trouble believing the Bible, and especially the book of Daniel, is because much of the Bible is history written in advance. They can’t fathom how some men are inspired of God to write about things to come. He also inspired them to write about things of the past, and to get it straight.
* * * *
The Babylonian documents mentioned were written in cuneiform on clay tablets; others were carved in stone. The discovery of all this has shed much light on ancient Babylon, Persia, and the Bible, but cuneiform is difficult to read and much of the information has been misinterpreted because of bias and preconceived ideas.
Cuneiform was not understood and the translation was not even attempted until about 200 years ago. Not only are the inscriptions hard to interpret correctly, the integrity of the writer is often in question. The official and unofficial versions of these ancient empires often contain truth and error; it is sometimes difficult to know which is which. They, and especially Darius, were concerned with what history would think of them. Concerning Darius I, the Encyclopedia Americana says, “Some authorities insist . . . that evidence points to Darius as a ‘monumental liar’ and as a usurper of the throne.”11
The Britannica says, “The principal source for his history is his own inscriptions, especially the great inscription of Behistun. . . . In modern times his veracity has often been doubted, but without any sufficient reason; the whole tenor of his words shows that we can rely upon his account. The accounts given by Herodotus and Ctesias of his accession are in many points evidently dependent on this official version with many legendary stories interwoven.”12
Concerning Herodotus, who is called “The Father of History,” the Britannica says, “The history of the Persian empire was often written by the Greeks. The most ancient work preserved is that of Herodotus, who supplies rich material up to 479 B.C. These are drawn partly from sound tradition, partly from original knowledge.”13
For the order of kings, Herodotus has Cyrus, Cambyses, Darius, and Xerxes. He writes of Cambyses’ invasion of Egypt. On his way back to Persia, the story goes, Cambyses committed suicide after he heard that a certain Smerdis had declared himself king of Persia. (Herodotus says he died in an accident.)
According to Herodotus, when Cambyses left for Egypt, he left in charge of his household a certain Magi who had a brother. Herodotus says this brother “happened greatly to resemble Smerdis, the son of Cyrus, who Cambyses, his brother, had put to death. And not only was this brother of his like Smerdis in person,” says Herodotus, “but he also bore the selfsame name, to wit Smerdis.”14
Herodotus also says that this false Smerdis, claiming to be the son of Cyrus, declared himself king of Persia and ruled eight months before it became known he was an impostor. Darius and six others killed him and they became the famous “Seven.” A few days later, out of the clear blue sky, “there was a flash of lightning, followed by a thunderclap. It seemed,” says Herodotus, “as if the heavens conspired with Darius and hereby inaugurated him king.”15
Herodotus says the only difference between the true and false Smerdis was that the false one had no ears and this is how he was exposed.16
The account of Herodotus seems to be based primarily on the inscription at Behistun, which Darius had carved in the side of a mountain some 300 feet above ground, “in the three official languages” of that day. It is still there to this very day.
In this autobiography, Darius says that Cambyses killed his brother Smerdis, also called Bardiya, and he, along with six others, killed the false Smerdis. If Darius says he killed a Smerdis, he is probably telling the truth. But the odds are, he killed Cambyses’ brother, or had him killed. When the truth became known, he may have blamed it on Cambyses and spread the story about a false Smerdis.
Exactly what happened when and where, is anyone’s guess. Professor Olmstead says, “Darius claims that Bardiya, younger brother of Cambyses, was put to death by that brother. Yet there is complete disagreement between our sources as to the time, place, and manner of his murder. Darius puts the episode before the Egyptian expedition of Cambyses, Herodotus during it, and Ctesias after.”17
* * * *
Cyrus the Great made Persia the more prominent power in the dual kingdom, and Media became part of the Persian Empire. After Cyrus, Darius stood “up” and became No. 1. He had some victories, but his army was defeated in Greece at Marathon, and Egypt revolted. It was while he was preparing for a new invasion of the West that he died. Herodotus says that Darius “reigned in all six and thirty years. . .”18
Concerning the 36 years of Darius, Herodotus’ information could have been wrong, some editor after him could have added “thirty years,” or the “in all” may include a number of years that Darius co-ruled before his last six.
The Medo-Persian Empire often had more than one king ruling at the same time. Co-ruling was a common thing, and when they spoke of how long they ruled, they didn’t always bother to mention that some years were spent sharing power.
After the death of Darius, Herodotus says Xerxes was more concerned with Egypt than Greece. Mardonius, a cousin of Xerxes, said to him, “Master, it is not fitting that they of Athens escape scot-free, after doing the Persians such great injury. Complete the work which thou hast now in hand, and then, when the pride of Egypt is brought low, lead an army against Athens. So shalt thou thyself have good report among men.” Then Herodotus says, “In the year following the death of Darius, Xerxes marched against those who had revolted from him . . . and laid all Egypt under a far harder yoke than ever his father had put upon it.”19
* * * *
It seems Babylon was a special prize. Cyrus had made Cambyses king of Babylon in his 1st year.20 Like Cyrus, perhaps Xerxes made his son Artaxerxes king of Babylon in his 1st year before he went off to war, and the 32 years in Nehemiah are reckoned from that time. Artaxerxes was still referred to as “king of Babylon,” even in his 32nd year.a Professor Olmstead says, “A Persian custom decreed that the king should not leave his kingdom unprotected when he left for a foreign war but should appoint his successor. Before Cyrus took his departure for the campaign against the Massagetae, he therefore recognized Cambyses as regent by permitting him to use the formal title ‘King of Babylon.’ ”21
It is said that Xerxes ruled for 20 years. Nehemiah began work on the wall in the 20th year of Artaxerxes, but the king ordered the work stopped so the “kings” would not be “hurt” by a strong Jerusalem.b Like Nabonidus, maybe Xerxes is the other king not mentioned and died about the 20th year of Artaxerxes.
While Xerxes was preparing for war, Artaxerxes may have handled such things as the decree allowing the temple to be finished. Xerxes had success in Egypt but the “report” from Greece was not good. He was defeated in Greece at the Battle of Salamis and Artaxerxes probably became more prominent after this.
When Artaxerxes died, his son Xerxes II was recognized as his successor but lasted only 45 days. He was killed by another son named Secydianus. Secydianus lasted only six months before he was killed by Ochus. Ochus took the name Darius ll and named his son “crown prince” of Babylon at the “beginning” of his reign. His son took the name Artaxerxes II.22 I believe Artaxerxes II is the third king of Daniel 11:2, for he and Darius II stood up at the same time.
* * * *
The primary source for the history and chronology of Persia comes from Greek historians. That they don’t agree was recognized some 1900 years ago by Josephus, the Jewish historian. He writes concerning the Greeks ability to get their own history straight, much less Persian history. He says, “What a great disagreement there is between Hellanicus and Acusilaus about their genealogies; in how many cases Acusilaus corrects Hesiod: or after what manner Ephorus demonstrates Hellanicus to have told lies in the greatest part of his history: as does Timeus in like manner as to Ephorus, and the succeeding writers do to Timeus, and all the later writers do to Herodotus. . . . Nay, Thucydides himself is accused by some as writing what is false, although he seems to have given us the exactest history of the affairs of his own time.”
Concerning the Greeks writing about “the expedition of the Persians,” Josephus says, “There are so great differences!”23
The Hellanicus and Thucydides that Josephus mentions lived in the 5th century B.C. Thucydides says Hellanicus treated the events of 480-431 briefly, superficially, and with little regard to chronology.24 Josephus made his errors also. One was: He followed established Greek chronology from Cyrus to Alexander, which allowed no room for the co-rule of certain Persian kings.
Historians will quote ancient writers to try to establish whatever they are trying to prove. But if the source is wrong, no matter how long an error is repeated—it’s still an error.
Concerning the time in question, we don’t have the works of many writers. It would be interesting to see their chronology. And those we do have, often it’s only fragments pieced together with guess work. Also, we can’t be certain they had it right or that we even have what they actually wrote. There could be many errors in copying and their works may have been altered by many editors down through the ages.
Many believe established history is without error and reject the account in the Bible. Others believe that the Bible is true but have tried to make it fit the errors of historians. The Bible is our only yardstick of absolute truth and we should use it to adjust history—not the other way around.
(2) Esther Misplaced
Nebuchadnezzar ruled Babylon about 45 years. During his first 20, he carried away captives from Judah on three different occasions. Esther 2:5-7 tells us Mordecai, who adopted Esther, was taken captive during this time:
Now in Shushan the palace there was a certain Jew, whose name was Mordecai . . . who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captivity which had been carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away. And he brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle’s daughter: for she had neither father nor mother, and the maid was fair and beautiful; whom Mordecai, when her father and mother were dead, took for his own daughter.
The Jeconiah in Esther 2:6 and Jehoiachin are the same person. He was taken to Babylon in the 8th year of Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 24:12).
It seems after Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon became a second rate world power. The No. 1 power was Medo-Persia under King Ahasuerus. Esther 1:1 tells us he “reigned from India even unto Ethiopia,” but Babylon was on his southern flank. It was under King Ahasuerus, during the Babylonian captivity, that a plot was conceived to exterminate the Jews, and it was Mordecai and Esther who saved them. Ezra 2:1-2 mentions a Mordecai returning to Jerusalem from the Babylonian captivity. The odds are it is the same one mentioned in the book of Esther.
Babylon still had a measure of independence and power during the days of King Ahasuerus, especially the city. Professor Olmstead says, “Nebuchadnezzar’s engineers formed that city and its surroundings into the world’s mightiest fortress.”25
Cyrus may have been there, but it was Darius, the son of Ahasuerus, who conquered the city. Right before it was taken, Daniel told the king, “God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. . . . Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians. . . . In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old” (Dan. 5:26-31).
Daniel 9:1 tells us “Darius” was “the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans.” When Darius conquered Babylon, Daniel knew the seventy years were about over and it was time to go home (Dan. 9:2).
Daniel was taken to Babylon in 3480, the 3rd year of Jehoiakim.c Eight years later Jehoichin was taken to Babylon and put in prison for 37 years. He was released in 3525 when Evil-merodach became the new king of Babylon.d The new king may have been a puppet of Medo-Persia.
Ahasuerus may have begun his rule about this time and had something to do with the release of Jehoichin. Some twelve years later, the Jews were saved from extermination and the first Purim was celebrated (Esther 3, 9). This would give us forty years between the last siege of Jerusalem in 3497 and the first Purim in 3537, which would explain the forty years in Ezekiel 4:1-8.
Ezra 4:6 says, “And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.” The New Scofield Reference Biblesays, “Verses 6-23” of Ezra 4 “are parenthetical, referring to later periods.” I believe the verses are parenthetical. Verses 7 through 23 are referring ahead to the troubles under Artaxerxes; but verse 6 is referring back to Ahasuerus, during the time of Esther. Some Jews may have returned to Judah from the East at the beginning of Ahasuerus’s reign, and the “small number” of the “remnant” mentioned in Jeremiah 44:14,28 may have returned from Egypt the first Purim, 430 years since Israel rebelled against Judah. If so, this was the second time the children of Israel came out of Egypt after a period of 430 years. They may come out of Egypt for the third time.
It’s interesting to note that the Jews were saved because Queen Vashti, who “was fair to look on,” would not participate in Ahasuerus’ beauty contest. When Ahasuerus heard this, he was told: “Let the king give her royal estate unto another who is better than she.”
Vashti may have been the daughter of the Persian Vishtaspa and the mother of Darius, though this would make her a little old for a beauty contest. But Esther may have been much younger and “better” looking than Vashti, for a distinction is made between the two. Esther was “fair and beautiful,” and “young.” Perhaps Vashti just looked “fair” for her age. (After seven days of drinking wine, I suppose anything looked fairly good. See Esther 1:10-12.)
King Ahasuerus and Esther have been put into the wrong place in history. And this is not a recent error. The translators of the Septuagint thought Esther was queen under Artaxerxes I. Some modern translations have her under Xerxes. In 1977 I wrote, “We don’t as of yet have any archaeological discoveries to throw much light on King Ahasuerus and his son Darius, nor that Esther was made queen of the Median-Persian Empire before the fall of Babylon. Nevertheless, the historical accuracy of the Bible on these points will one day be proven.”26
We still haven’t dug up any new discoveries about Ahasuerus and his son Darius, but we may not need too. The proof might be in plain sight above ground, and the world has been looking at it for over 2000 years.
(3) Where’s Daniel’s Darius?
John F. Walvoord says, “From the standpoint of biblical scholarship . . . more attention has been directed to Darius the Mede, the king of Babylon at this time, than to the events of the chapter itself. The reason for this is that much of the critical unbelief in relation to the book of Daniel is based on what is claimed to be a palpable historical error, for it is claimed that history allows no room for such a person by this name. The alleged error is another important argument used to prove a second-century date for Daniel at which the true facts of four hundred years before would be obscure. The problem has attracted scholars who continue to write entire books discussing the questions involved.”27
One critic, H. H. Rowley, says, “The references to Darius the Mede in the book of Daniel have long been recognized as providing the most serious historical problem in the book.”28
Most conservatives believe that Daniel’s Darius existed. Some believe he had his moment of glory and simply passed from the scene. Until the late 80s, this was my position. Others suggest he was the Median king Astyages, or his son Cyaxares; others suggest he was Gobryas or Ugbaru, who led an army under Cyrus; still others believe he was Cambyses or even Cyrus himself. Walvoord says, “Rowley offers rather thorough proof that none of these suggestions are valid and supports the conclusion that there is no reliable evidence that a person named Darius the Mede ever lived.”
Not only did this Darius exist, we may have his portrait and autobiography carved in the mountain at Behistun. It seems to have never dawned on anyone, far as I know, that Daniel’s Darius and Darius I could be one and the same. Darius I was forever saying: I am a Persian, son of a Persian. Don’t believe the lie!
After Cyrus, Darius the Mede may have simply become “Darius, king of Persia.” Ezra, Haggai and Zechariah refer to Darius I as king of Persia many times, but he is never called a Persian. And neither is his grandson Artaxerxes I. Nehemiah 12:22 refers to Darius II who followed Artaxerxes I, and he is called a Persian. It is said “perhaps” the reason Nehemiah calls him Darius the Persian is “to distinguish him from Darius the Mede.”
Perhaps there is more truth to this than the writer above realized and Nehemiah was making a distinction. The Darius of Daniel, Ezra, Haggai and Zechariah was the same person, a Mede. The one mentioned in Nehemiah was a Persian. Darius II was called “the bastard.” According to Ctesias, his father was not Artaxerxes but the Persian Pissuthes. 29
Ctesias was in a position to know. Professor Olmstead says, “Ctesias did not return to his post as court physician. Instead, he retired to his native Cnidus and wrote up what he had learned during his seventeen years at court. He claimed that his Persian History was based on royal parchments; actually it gives the court gossip he had gleaned from Parysatis and his other Persian friends.”30
According to Xenophon, the Medes rebelled against Darius II.31 Darius I, Xerxes I, and Artaxerxes I may have been of the seed of the Medes, and this may have been common knowledge. Thucydides, considered to be a good Greek historian, lived and wrote during the days of Darius II and Artaxerxes II. He wrote about the Greek civil war of his day and mentioned the two past invasions by the leaders of the Persian Empire, but he calls them Medes.
Writing of the invasion under Darius I and the return of his son Xerxes, Thucydides says, “Not many years after the battle of Marathon was fought between the Medes and the Athenians the barbarian returned.” Xerxes was also defeated, and Thucydides mentions “the retreat of Xerxes.” After Xerxes retreated, the city of Athens got busy building a wall. Thucydides says, “The Athenians completed their wall and commenced their other buildings immediately after the retreat of the Mede.”32 The two invasion forces were made up of Medes and Persians. Perhaps the reason they were called Medes is because they were led by the Medes—Darius and then Xerxes.
Babylon was conquered by the Medes and Persians. Darius took the city, but he may have had to play second fiddle to Cyrus and his sons while they were in power. The Britannica says, “When Cyrus conquered Babylon in 539 B.C. he [Cambyses] was employed in leading religious ceremonies. . . . On a tablet dated from the first year of Cyrus, Cambyses is called king of Babel . . .”33
In his inscription at Behistun, Darius speaks of restoring the power taken from his family by the false Smerdis. Professor Olmstead says, “Such was the official version, presented in the autobiography and advertised to the world on the Behistun rock. It was accepted by the Father of History, by Ctesias, and by their Greek successors. Yet there are not lacking indications that it is far from true to the facts. . . . There is no reason to believe that he was considered next in line for the throne.”34
Darius may be telling the truth, or at least some of the truth. He may have lost his power to Cyrus and his sons and only regained it when he killed the real Smerdis, not a false one. Darius probably considered himself not only next in line but that Cyrus broke in line, and now Smerdis was doing the same. So he killed him, blamed it on Cambyses, and then hatched the story about a false Smerdis who just “happened” to look like the real one. And the world has believed his tale to this very day.
According to Herodotus, just before Cambyses died, he said, “Persians, I charge you all, and specially such of you as are Achaemenids, that ye do not tamely allow the kingdom to go back to the Medes”35 I don’t believe Cambyses was worried about a false Smerdis taking the kingdom. He was worried about Darius, the Mede.
It is generally thought that Darius was an usurper, not of royal Persian descent. But, he says, “I am Darius, the great king, king of kings . . . son of Hystaspes, an Achaemenid, a Persian, son of a Persian.”36 If this is Daniel’s Darius, then only part of his statement could be true. His father was Ahasuerus, a Mede.
Cyrus was the father-in-law of a Darius. It’s also possible that Vashti was a Persian and the mother of Darius. After the death of Cyrus, Darius may have killed Smerdis and simply emphasized his Persian descent and ties, which enabled him to seize the throne of Persia. It’s also possible that Hystaspes was only the legal father of Darius. Darius may have been the illegitimate child of Ahasuerus, and many knew it. The fact that Darius emphasized a Persian father so strongly raises questions. Darius wrote at Behistun, “Believe me; for a lie do not take it . . .”37
Scripture References for Appendix C [a] Nehemiah 13:6, [b] Ezra 4:22, [c] Daniel 1:1-6, [d] 2 Chr. 36:5-10, 2 Kings 25:27
Where Is Dan?
Dan was one of the twelve sons of Israel. Dan’s most famous son was Samson, known for his long hair and physical power. He was a great warrior and savior of his people. Dan may have another son, who will also be known for his powers and thought of as a savior. It is thought by some that Dan is missing from Revelation 7 because the Antichrist comes from that tribe. Even before Christ, some Jewish scholars thought the man of sin mentioned in Daniel might come from the tribe of Dan.
Many believe the Antichrist will be a Gentile. Others believe he will be a Jew who will betray his people—a Judas. He will not try and kill all Jews, only those who don’t worship him. During the tribulation, the Danites may even help him in the persecution of the other tribes. In fact, they may have already done so once during this century. Jacob said, “In the last days . . . Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward” (Gen. 49:1,16-17).
Jacob concluded his prophecy about Dan, the serpent, with: “I have waited for thy salvation, O LORD” (verse 18). This salvation from the serpent and his judgment goes back to the Garden of Eden, where God told Satan, who used the serpent, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15).
Even where the tribe of Dan settled may be significant in relation to judgment. They first settled near Jerusalem, but most of the Danites went north and settled in Bashan near the headwaters of the Jordan River. It was there that they set up and worshiped the silver “image” (Judges 18).
The New Bible Dictionary says the Hebrew word Dan is commonly associated with judging. And the Hebrew word “Jordan” means “the descender.”1 It has been suggested that the Jordan River was named after Dan, but Jacob may have named Dan after it. The river itself is symbolic of Satan the serpent, judgment, and death. It begins from on high, but it literally snakes itself to the lowest spot on earth—the Dead Sea—the place where Sodom once stood.
Revelation 7 is not the first omission of Dan. Long before the birth of Christ, Jewish rabbis referred to Dan as “the lost tribe.” In his book Guardians of the Grail, J. R. Church says, “In I Chronicles 1-8, the Israelite tribes are listed— all, that is, but the tribe of Dan. . . . By then, Dan had become a lost tribe.”2
Dan was one of the largest tribes, but Judges 18:1 says the Danites had not received “an inheritance to dwell in,” so they left the south. They left sometime during the time of the judges, between 1400 and 1100 B.C. The New Bible Commentary says, “The Danite migration must have taken place at an early point in the period of the judges. Probably some Danites remained behind in the southern territory.”3
Those who stayed in the south may have lived with the tribes of Benjamin and Judah and eventually were called Jews. (Judas may have been from the tribe of Dan.) Some who went north may have eventually mixed in with Manasseh, but most may not have stayed. It seems they left the Promised Land mentioned in Genesis 15:18 and lost their inheritance and this is why they were not mentioned in I Chronicles 1-8.
Moses had predicted they would leave the land. He said that Dan as a lions whelp would “leap from Bashan” (Deut 33:22). Just where they went has been a mystery. J. R. Church says, “From there the Danites made a symbolic leap into obscurity. It is my opinion that they could have landed in Europe.”4
We know that many of the children of Israel eventually wound up in Europe after the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D., but Dan may have been the first to go, long before the Assyrian captivity. About 300 B.C., the king of the famous Spartans of southern Greece wrote a letter to Jerusalem, which said in part:
Arius, king of the Spartans, sends greetings to Onias, the chief priest. It has been found in a writing concerning the Spartans and Jews, that they are kinsmen, and that they are descended from Abraham. Now since we have learned this, please write us about your welfare. (See I Maccabees 12:19-23.)
The letter from the Spartans was written shortly after the death of Alexander the Great. Alexander himself claimed to be a descendant of Achilles, who was worshiped by the Spartans. Achilles was the hero of the Trojan War and the central figure of Homer’s Iliad. Josephus, a Jewish historian of the first century, also mentions the letter from the Spartans and says its “seal” was “an eagle, with a dragon in his claws.”5
Dragons and serpents were often thought of as being the same. Revelation 12, the chapter that deals with the persecution of Israel, associates them both with Satan.
Ungers’s Bible Dictionary makes an interesting comment on Dan. “The standard of the tribe was of white and red, and the crest upon it, an eagle, the great foe to serpents, which had been chosen by the leader instead of a serpent, because Jacob had compared Dan to a serpent. Ahiezer substituted the eagle, the destroyer of serpents, as he shrank from carrying an adder upon his flag”6
In ancient Israel, Samson was the Danites greatest warrior. To the ancient Spartans, that title went to Achilles, from which we get the medical term, Achilles’ Tendon, which is attached to the heel. The World Book Encyclopedia says, “Achilles . . . in Greek mythology, was the mightiest warrior on the Greek side during the Trojan War. . . . Achilles could only be killed by a wound in the heel . . . Achilles was killed when he was struck in the heel by an arrow shot by Paris and guided by Apollo.”7
Apollo was the Greek god of light who turned evil, and Paris was the villain in the story. Zeus, the king of the gods, had Paris judge a contest over the Apple of Discord, and it involved “the most beautiful woman in the world.”8
Early Greek history is based on legends; and just what happened when and where is anyone’s guess. But this story by Homer could have come from the Danites in Greece, who mixed the truth with legend and reversed the roles in Geneses 3:15 and 49:17. They pictured their hero as the noble warrior being struck in the heel by the evil one.
Commenting on the possibility that the Spartans came from the tribe of Dan, J. R. Church says:
Aside from the fact that the Spartans wore long hair as a symbol of their power (like Samson) there is a legend written about the son of Belus, king of the Spartans—in which is given the story of one named “Danaus,” who arrived in Greece with his daughters by ship. According to the legend, his daughters called themselves Danades. They introduced the cult of the mother goddess, which became the established religion of the Arcadians and developed over the years into the worship of Diana. (Diana may be another form of Dan.) The Spartans so loved their king that they called themselves Danaans—long before they adopted the name of Spartans. Also in the legend is a record of the arrival of “colonist from Palestine.” Please note, the man who headed the expedition was named Danaus. He may well have been of the tribe of Dan, and thus would have been the progenitor of the ancient Spartans.9
It is said some of the Spartans migrated northeast across the Aegean Sea and built the ancient city of Troy. They came to be called Trojans. Homer wrote of the Spartans famous Trojan Horse and said the founder of Troy was named Dardanus. The Encyclopedia Britannica says that Dardanus “called the whole land Dardania.”10
It is said the Spartans and Trojans went to Europe; and Rome itself was founded by Romulus and Remus, twins of a Trojan prince. The Britannica says, “For a thousand years the myth of descent from the dispersed heroes of the conquered Trojan race was a sacred literary tradition throughout western Europe. The first Franco-Latin chroniclers traced their history to the same origin as that of Rome, as told by the Latin poets of the Augustan era; and in the middle of the 7th century Fredegarius Scholasticus . . . relates how one party of the Trojans settled between the Rhine, the Danube and the sea.”11
Rome indeed may have been founded by descendants from the tribe of Dan. The eagle was the symbol of Rome, and it judged Israel. Many from Dan may have settled in Austria and Germany, along the Danube River. They also picked the eagle for a symbol. Hitler himself may have been a Danite, who judged his own race without realizing it. It’s possible the Antichrist is a descendant of a Danite who stayed in Judah in the days of the Judges; he will work with the Danites of a United States of Europe, “and shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel” (Gen. 49:16-17).
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