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Dissertation 6

CORESH — WAS HE CYRUS THE GREAT?

Daniel 1:21

The last verse of this chapter is connected with an interesting inquiry, viz., Was the Coresh here mentioned Cyrus The Great, or any other Cyrus? The noble author of “The Times of Daniel” has thrown much “life” into the subject by his elaborate defense of a theory which we now proceed to state and discuss. Cyrus the Great he thinks identical with Nebuchadnezzar the First, and Cambyses with his son Nebuchadnezzar the Second; the exploits of the hero of Herodotus and Xenophon are attributed to the former, while Coresh becomes but a minor character, contemporary with Darius the Mede, after whom he is said to reign, and before Darius the son of Ahasuerus. This view also brings the story of Esther within the period of the captivity of Babylon. It has always been a subject of great difficulty with commentators on Daniel, to reconcile the scriptural narrative with those of both Herodotus and Xenophon. The majority finding this impossible, have decided in favor of one or the other of these historians; and the best modern writers usually prefer Herodotus. Lowth, in his Notes on Isaiah, says, “the Cyrus of Herodotus was a very different character from that of the Cyrus of the Scriptures and Xenophon;” and Archbishop Secker has taken great pains to compare all the profane historians with Scripture, and shews that the weight of the argument lies against the truth of the Cyropaedia. Whether Cyrus was the grandson of Astyages or not, many believe with Ctesias that he overcame him in battle, and founded the Persian empire upon the ruins of the Median dynasty. It is scarcely possible that it should be left for this nineteenth century to discover the identity between a first Nebuchadnezzar and this conqueror of the East; and while the clearing up of every historical discrepancy is impossible, yet it is desirable to reconcile the occurrences which are related by both Herodotus and Xenophon. The son of Cambyses the Persian, and of Mandane the daughter of Astyages king of the Medes, is said to have conquered Craesus king of Lydia, enlarged the Persian empire, subdued Babylon and the remnant of the Assyrian power, and placed his uncle Cyaxares over the united territories of Media and Babylon. After the death of this relative, he reigned over Asia, from India to Ethiopia, a territory consisting of 127 provinces. The manner of his death is uncertain, all the historians differ in their accounts, but the place of his burial is allowed to be Pasargadae, as Pliny has recorded in his Natural History. This tomb was visited by Alexander the Great, and has lately been noticed and described by European travelers. The plains of Murghab are watered by a river which bears the name of Kur, and is thought to be identical with the Greek Cyrus. A structure in a ruinous state has been found there, apparently of the same date as the remains at Persepolis, bearing cuneiform inscriptions which are now legible. The legend upon one of the pilasters has been interpreted, “I am Cyrus the Achaemenian;” and no doubt is entertained by the learned that this monument once contained the remains of the founder of the Persian monarchy. A single block of marble was discovered by Sir R. K. Porter, on which he discovered a beautiful sculpture in bas-relief, consisting of the figure of a man, from whose shoulders issue four large wings, rising above the head and extending to the feet. 344344     An engraving of this statue is given in Vaux’s Nineveh and Persepolis, p. 322. The whole value of such an inscription to the reader of Daniel is the legend above the figure, in the arrow-headed character, determining the spot as the tomb of Cyrus the Great. It shews, at the least, that he cannot be identified with Nebuchadnezzar.

The manner in which the author of “The Times of Daniel” has commented on the prophecies relating to the overthrow of Babylon, is worthy of notice here. Isaiah 45:14, is referred by Dr. Keith to Cyrus, and objection is made to the supposed fulfillment in the person of Cyrus, Keith is said to apply to Cyrus the primary historical fulfillment of all the prophecies relating to the overthrow of Babylon, and the justness of this inference is doubted. Isaiah 13-14:27, is one of the passages where the asserted allusion to Cyrus is questioned, since it relates to a period in which the power of Assyria was in existence. The Assyrian is supposed to be Sennacherib, to whose predecessor both Babylon and Media were subject. “The Chaldeans, mentioned in Isaiah 13:19, I have already explained to have been a colony of astronomers, planted in Babylon by the Assyrian kings to carry on their astronomical observations, in which science they excelled.” Again, Isaiah 21:2, “Go up, O Elam; besiege, O Media,” is applied by Dr. Keith to Cyrus, to which the noble author objects, as well as to the supposition “that the overthrow of Belshazzar during his drunken revelry was predicted in Scripture, and that the minute fulfillment by Cyrus is recorded by Xenophon.” “The feast of Belshazzar,” it is added, “does not appear to correspond with the festival described by Xenophon, which was apparently periodical, and which, not a portion of the nobles, but all the Babylonians, observed by drunkenness and revelry during the whole night.” “It also agrees with the mode in which Zopyrus got possession of Babylon.” Calvin seems to give it this turn, “A treacherous one shall find treachery,” etc. Further comments are then made upon Isaiah 44 and 45, and on Jeremiah 50 and 51, evading the force of their application to Cyrus, and combating with some degree of success the assertions of Keith; for the noble author, who is earnest in pulling down, is ingenious in building up. “From this short examination, it appears that the prophecy of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 50 and 51) corresponds with the capture of Babylon by Darius the Mede of Scripture, and by Darius Hystaspes, according to Herodotus.” Some writers have supposed Cyrus to be identical with this Darius the Mede; and Archbishop Secker acknowledges some ground for such a conjecture. “The first year of Darius the Mede is by the LXX. translated the first year of Cyrus,” 345345     Wintle’s Transl., prelim. Dissertation., and the Canon of Ptolemy favors the identity. “Now all agree, as far as I have seen,” says Wintle, “that the year of the expiration of the captivity, or the year that Cyrus issued his decree in favor of the Jews, was the year 212 of the era of Nabonassar, or 536 A.C.; and there is no doubt but Darius the Mede, whoever he was, reigned, according to Daniel, from the capture of Babylon, till this same first year of Cyrus, or till the commencement of the reign alloted by Scripture to Cyrus the Persian.” “The Canon certainly allots nine years’ reign to Cyrus over Babylon, of which space the two former years are usually allowed to coincide with the reign of Cyaxares or Darius the Mede, by the advocates of Xenophon.” (Prelim. Dissertation.) Herodotus, Xenophon, and Ctesias all agree in the original superiority of the Medes, till the victories of Cyrus turned the scale, and gave rise to the Persian dynasty. At the fall of Babylon, and during the life of Darius, the Medes are mentioned by Daniel as superior, but at the accession of Cyrus this order is reversed, and Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, all assign the foremost place to the Persians.

The life of Daniel, Rosenmuller reminds us, was prolonged beyond the first year of king כרוש, Coresh, for the tenth chapter informs us of his vision in the third year of that monarch’s reign. He explains the apparent contradiction, by saying that it was enough for Daniel to live, or to the liberation of the Jews in the first year of the reign of Coresh; that was the crowning event of his prolonged existence. The conjectures of Bertholdt and Aben-Ezra are mentioned, only to be disposed of by a few words of censure. An ingenious conjecture of a French critic is found in the Encycl. Theol., Liv. 27. The objection of Bleek, Ewald, Winer, and De Wette, are ably treated at length by Hengstenberg, and really meet with more serious attention than they deserve. It is a useless waste of precious time to enter minutely into every “phantasy” of the restless neology of Germany, while the chronology of Daniel’s life will form the subject of a subsequent Dissertation. As some Neologians dwell much on the historian Ctesias, and lest the unlearned reader should be misled by their confident assertions, we may here state that we have only an epitome of his work preserved by the patriarch Photius. Bahr states that he lived about 400 B.C., in the reign of Darius Nothus, being a Greek physician who remained seventeen years at the Persian court. Diodorus informs us that he obtained his information from the royal archives, but there are so many anachronisms and errors of various kinds, that his statements cannot be safely followed as if historically correct. Ctesias, for instance, denies all relationship between Cyrus and Astyages. According to him, he defeated Astyages, invested his daughter Amytis with the honors of a queen, and afterwards married her. F. W. Newman, indeed, prefers this narrative to that of both Herodotus and Xenophon, and thereby renders their testimony to the scriptural record uncertain and valueless. He also treats “the few facts” in regard to the Persian wars, “which the epitomator has extracted as differing from Herodotus,” as carrying with them “high probability.” The closing scene of his career, as depicted in the narrative of Ctesias, is pronounced “beyond comparison more credible” than that of Herodotus. This great conqueror died the third day after his wound in a battle with “the Derbices,” and was buried in that monument at Pasargadae, which the Macedonians broke open two centuries afterwards, (Strabo, lib. 15 Section 3; Arrian, lib. vi. Section 29,) and which has lately been explored and described by Morier and Sir R. K. Porter. 346346     See Kitto’s Bibl. Cyc., art Cyr., and Vaux’s Nineveh, p. 316.

Notwithstanding the hypothesis which has lately found favor with the modern writers whose worlds we have quoted, we feel that the views of the older critics are preferable; and, on the whole, Calvin’s exposition can only be improved upon in minor details. The authorities enumerated by Archbishop Secker, as given by Wintle in his preface, page 18 and following, are worthy of attentive perusal; and we must refer again to Hengstenbergs able replies to a variety of objections which we are unable to notice. See Daniel 1:6 and following, Edit. Ed.


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