Dissertation 20.


Daniel 5:28

IT is highly interesting to the student of prophecy to trace the origin and progress of these empires which have gained repute in the history of our race. This interest is increased when we discover that the narratives of profane writers illustrate the sacred text. And as great efforts have been made to impugn the authenticity of this Book, we must again refer to some of the arguments which induce the best divines to rely on its historical accuracy.

The history of Media and its people frequently impinges upon the eccentric orbit of the Jewish tribes. It has been supposed that the name of the country was derived from ydk, chadi, the third son of Japhet, but this conjecture is rendered futile, when we remember that the first establishment of the kingdom dates only 150 years before Cyrus. It must never be forgotten, when treating of these early times, how very modern all writers are who lived after the times of Solomon. To us they appear ancient, and their authority for the truth of an event conclusive; but those historians of Asia, upon whom we are compelled to rely, lived many ages after the occurrences which they record. It seems now to be admitted, that we have lost many centuries between the flood and Abraham; hence the attempt to assign the origin of any empire to the immediate descendants of Noah is highly deceptive. We can only take the best testimony which we have, but with it we must correct the uncertainty of even the most positive assertions. The Medes, if we may trust Herodotus, were an offset from the Assyrians. They broke off from their sway, after the Assyrians had held the empire of Upper Asia for five hundred and twenty years. The interesting story of Deioces, and the foundation of Ecbatana is recorded, the account of that city corresponding precisely with that handed down to us in the Book of Judith. 1 In process of time the neighboring tribes were subdued and united, till Phraortes, having reduced the Persians under his dominion, led the united nations against the Assyrians. Cyaxares his son succeeded him, and both extended and consolidated the Median sway. Astyages, the grandfather of Cyrus, was his son and successor; and during the whole period of these monarchs' reigns province after province was added to the growing empire. The constant testimony of history from Herodotus to Ctesias asserts the acquisition of Media by Cyrus to have been a forcible seizure. Here our chief object is to impress upon the reader the scantiness of our early materials, and the distance of time at which some of the historians who record them lived after the events. Ctesias, for instance, was a young physician at the Court of Artaxerxes, the brother of Cyrus the younger. Although he wrote twenty-three books of Persian history, we have but a few fragments collected by the diligence of Photion. Our attention is therefore turned with the greatest earnestness towards the deciphering of the monuments which abound on the banks of the rivers of Babylonia, and throughout the whole land of Shinar. These have become the best evidence in favor of the trustworthiness of Daniel, and against the ingenious and inconsistent guesses of neology.

M. M. J. Baillie Fraser and W. Francis Ainsworth have treated the geological and geographical portion of the subject with great success; the former in his work on "Mesopotamia and Assyria," and the latter in "Geological Researches." See also the two papers on "The rivers and cities of Babylonia" by the latter writer, in the New Monthly Magazine, August and September, 1845. The Duke of Manchester has collected much information from ancient historians, but has not availed himself of the antiquarian researches, which describe and identify the mounds and ruins at present in existence. Vaux's "Nineveh and Persepolis" also affords much material illustrative of this portion of Daniel.

1 Chapter 1:1, and following.