Dissertation 24


Daniel 6:28

Could we ascertain accurately when death closed "the reign of Darius," most of the controversies concerning the history of these times and personages would be set at rest. We have first to determine who Darius was? and secondly, to discover whether a portion of his reign is contemporaneous with that of Cyrus? With respect to the first point, it ought to be fully understood that there is no actual correspondence between this monarch and any well-attested ruler mentioned in profane history. The balance of probabilities is in favor of his being Cyaxares, but we have already stated how Xenophon, Ctesias, and Herodotus differ on the point; and we are careful to repeat this, because the futility of the Neologian arguments might otherwise entrap the unwary. For instance, Dr. Wells has the following Note: -- "It is to be observed that in Ptolemy's Canon the two years of Darius the Mede's reign are reckoned to Cyrus, who accordingly has therein nine years assigned for his reign; whereas Xenophon assigns but seven years to it, reckoning the first year the same as Ezra doth, viz., from the death of Darius and Cambyses." Wintle again states, "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 allotted by Scripture to Cyrus the Persian." (Preface, where reference is made to a Memoir by M. Freret, containing many just and accurate dates assigned to the life and transactions of Cyrus.) The reader cannot fail to perceive that this sentence leaves the two important questions in as much doubt as ever. Dr. Eadie, of the American Presbyterian Church, states, too, positively, "The kingdom of Babylon was given by Cyrus to Darius the Mede, or Cyaxares II., as a reward for his services; and after his death, at the end of two years, this kingdom returned to Cyrus, and hence Cyrus is spoken of as if he were the successor of Darius at Babylon. Daniel 6:28." -- (Art., Daniel, in his Bibl. Cycl.) Willet informs us that Tertullian and Cyril of Jerusalem took Darius for Darius Hystaspes, and the noble Duke, to whom we have already referred, agrees in this opinion, and argues very elaborately in its favor.

The German Neologians have not been slow to construct a charge of inaccuracy against Daniel, in consequence of these historic difficulties. Bertholdt, Bleek, and De Wette, treat it as an error to call Cyaxares II. by the name of Darius, and suppose it a confusion with the son of Hystaspes. But before the commentator on Scripture ventures to use the phrase, "historic inaccuracy," he must first clearly ascertain what historic accuracy really is. An unlearned reader might suppose from their reasonings that all the profane historians agreed in their accounts, and that the only element of confusion was that introduced by the narrative of Scripture. But the truth is far otherwise. No two authors agree in their statements throughout. Ancient history is, in fact, simply an ideal deduction from a variety of conflicting traditions. Of Cyaxares II., for instance, neither Herodotus nor Justin say anything. Neither of them mention any son of Astyages. Diodorus Siculus, Strabo, and Polyaenus, agree with them in asserting that the Median empire closed with Astyages, and the Persian began at once with Cyrus; and yet there is evidence to shew that Darius the Mede was a real person. "Still farther," says Hengstenberg, "the author agrees in another special fact with profane history. Xenophon relates 1 that soon after the taking of Babylon, the conquered lands were divided into provinces, and governors set over them. All this is stated in our book, too." Are we, indeed, to infer, from a mere difference of names, that the author is chargeable with confounding them? The Cambyses of profane writers is called in the book of Ezra, Achaschverosh (Ahasuerus). Pseudo-smerdis bears in profane writers two different names -- in Ctesias, Spendates; in Justin, Oropastes; and in Ezra he appears under a third name, Artachshasta (Artaxerxes). "Now, why is this appearance in all other cases unanimously explained on the ground that the names of kings were not nomina propria, but surnames, whilst, on the contrary, in this single instance, this explanation is not once proposed as possible? And yet in this very case this explanation is quite natural, since it is generally allowed that the name Darius in particular is an appellation. That it was a mere title appears from this, that several different kings bear it." Herbelot says the name Dara is Persian, and appellative, signifying "sovereign." 2

When we descend to the historians of the Christian era, we find in the Armenian Chronicle of Eusebius a confirmation of the narrative under review. In a short appendix to a fragment of Abydenus, found also in the Praeparatio Evangelica, Darius is distinctly mentioned as king; so that if it be impossible to be certain as to the identity of this king with Cyaxares, yet it must be remembered that profane history, independently of Scripture, is at variance with itself, and that no new clement of discord is introduced by our Prophet. Let the objector first settle what the events connected with the overthrow of Babylon from uninspired authorities really were, and we shall then be prepared to shew that the writer of this book was free from inaccuracies, and that all the obscurity hovering over the subject arises from our very imperfect knowledge of the occurrences of this period. And the more fully the assertions of the Neologists are investigated, the more baseless will their charges against this Prophet of Jehovah appear.


Daniel 6:28

THE prolongation of our Prophet's life till the era specified in this verse, is worthy of our notice, that we may, if possible, accurately ascertain his age at leading periods of his history. We cannot ascertain precisely the year of his entrance into public life. He was born shortly before King Josiah's death, probably about 620 B.C.; and thus he had many opportunities of cultivating that early piety for which he was conspicuous. He was about fourteen years old when taken captive to Babylon. Three years afterwards, the king of Israel threw off the Babylonian yoke, and thus he and his companions became hostages and forerunners of the capture of the whole nation. From Jahn's Biblical Antiquities, we learn how skilled he was in various sciences after three years' training, (pages 99, 100;) and the high opinion which was entertained of his integrity, wisdom, and piety, is confirmed by this remarkable honor paid to him by the Prophet Ezekiel. He is connected, while alive, with Noah and Job. (See Ezekiel 14:14, and Calvin's comment on the passage in our Edition, volume 2.)

The dream and its interpretation in Daniel 2 occurred during Daniel's youth, and resulted in his promotion with his three friends to the highest offices of the kingdom. We now lose sight of him for thirty years, and it is impossible to determine whether he sat at the king's gate during the whole of this period. The erection of the image on the plains of Dura, and the subsequent punishment of his three companions, seem inconsistent with his residence at that time at Babylon as an adviser of his sovereign. The three "children," as they are termed in Daniel 1:17, were now about fifty years of age; and it has become necessary to remark this, because some have spoken of them as still children when thus miraculously delivered from destruction. We too often take for granted impressions of this kind, which we have imperceptibly imbibed in our earliest days; and besides this, the works of the great masters in painting have fostered the error. These splendid productions of European art are often glaringly untrue, yet while based upon fabulous anachronisms, they too often adhere to the imagination, and influence our thoughts in days of more mature advancement. At the period of the dream in Daniel 4 Daniel was about fifty years of age; and thus we have another gap of about fifteen years. Belshazzar had now ascended his grandfather's throne. The mystic characters on the wall soon reveal a fearful reality. Darius the Mede still esteems the upright counselor, and he had become a venerable "ancient of days" before he is thrust into the lion's den. During the first year of King Darius, he learned, from the Book of Jeremiah, the approaching period of Judah's deliverance. During the third year of Cyrus, he is favored with a vision on the banks of the Tigris. (Jeremiah 10:1-4.) We cannot ascertain how long he lived after this period, but he was at least eighty years of age when he died. Various assertions and traditions exist among the Jews respecting both the time and place of his decease, and these have passed current, through the unsuspecting simplicity of some of our older expounders, who record as certain the hazardous statements of the authorities on which they rely. Dr. Wells, after comparing various dates, concludes, "that Daniel was about eighty-nine or ninety years old in the third year of Cyrus;" he pays no regard to the conjectures of some, who make him to have lived one hundred and thirty-eight, or one hundred and fifty years, and adds the possibility of his reaching one hundred years.

Our object in view in impressing this chronology is to disabuse the public mind of the Romish ideas connected with what they term, "The song of the three children." Their usual method of treating these three martyrs for truth and holiness is utterly erroneous, and like every other error of theirs, injurious and pernicious in proportion as it deviates from the Written And Infallible Word Of The Living God.

1 Cyropaedia, lib. 8, chapter 6, etc.; Berth., 2 p. 848, ff.; Rosen. Alterthumsk, 1 50, p. 369; Jahn. Arch., 2 50, p. 244.

2 See Hengstenberg's Authorities on p. 41, where Gesenius and Winer are quoted as well as Heeren Ideen, 1:1, p. 163; and Volney Rech. Nouv., t. 1 p. 144. Edit. Paris, 1814.