Archeology Daniel



AUTHOR, PLACE AND DATE OF WRITING 
    The book of Daniel gives the Bible interpreter two clear alternatives: Either it was recounted by Daniel himself or by a person close to him and is historically trustworthy, or it was written by a religious zealot during the Maccabean revolt and is pure fiction. 

    The question of authorship is essentially dependent upon the issue of when the book was written. The supposition that it was recorded by Daniel or an associate from Babylon and later Persia implies a date of approximately 530 B.C. The suggestion that it was instead composed during the Maccabean wars places the date of writing at approximately 165 B.C. The arguments for either side are complex, but there is good reason for considering Daniel to be historically trustworthy and written early in the Persian period. 


AUDIENCE 
    Based upon the assumption of an early date of composition (530 B.C.), Daniel wrote to his fellow Jewish exiles in Babylon to remind them of God's sovereign control over world history and to encourage them with God's promises of restoration. 


CULTURAL FACTS AND HIGHLIGHTS 
    Advocates of a late date of composition (c. 165 B.C.) argue that the book was intended essentially to encourage Jews locked at that time in conflict with the ruthless Seleucid king Antiochus IV. From the perspective of scholars holding to this view, Daniel was meant to persuade the struggling Jews of that much later time that there were historical examples of godly Jews having overcome pagan kings and their persecutions of God's people (Da 3-6). In addition, these researchers argue, the prophecies of chapters 2, 7, 8 and 11 were intended to encourage the people that all of the troubles they were enduring under Antiochus had been foreseen and that the fullness of the kingdom of God would come immediately after Antiochus's downfall. Intrinsic to this interpretation is the presupposition that all of these historical examples and prophecies were in fact aspects of a pious fraud. 
    
    Against this, and apart from the fact that the inclusion of a "pious fraud" in the Bible would be, to say the least, theologically troublesome, it may be helpful to note that the pagan kings in Daniel are at times portrayed in positive terms (4:1-3,36-37; 6:19-28). If the historical context of Daniel were the much later Jewish war against Antiochus IV, a man who set up an image to Zeus and sacrificed pigs (ritually unclean animals) at the Jerusalem temple—a man who in fact tried to eradicate Judaism—this positive portrayal of pagan kings by a zealous Jewish combatant would be inexplicable. 

    But what is the purpose of Daniel if it is understood to be a historical document from 530 e.c.? Evidently the book was intended to encourage Jews of the exile and Diaspora to remain faithful in the face of a prolonged period during which Israel would remain at best an obscure, subservient nation under the rule of a series of Gentile world powers. Some Gentile rulers would be harsh and oppressive, while others would be tolerant and even supportive of the Jews. Yet through it all, generations of Daniel's readers could take heart in the fact that God had foreseen their trouble and would go on to see them through it. 


AS YOU READ 
    The riveting narratives in chapters 1- 6 will easily hold the reader's attention. Look for examples of uncompromising faith in the face of the worst possible odds—that is, without God's sovereignty taken into account. 

    As you tackle the apocalyptic literature found in the rest of the book, you might find an in-depth Bible commentary a welcome companion. A well-researched commentary will no doubt point out and discuss similarities between this highly symbolic portion of Daniel and ,tie book of Revelation at the end of the New Testament. 


DID YOU KNOW? 
  • Daniel had been carried off to Babylon as part of a deportation in 605 B.C., but he was still there in 539 B.C. and still alive when the first exiles returned to Jerusalem (Da 1:1). 
  • Belshazzar, Nabonidus's son, was coregent with his father and ruled Babylon during Nabonidus's ten-year absence from the capital city (5:1). 
  • The identity of "King Darius" is puzzling. In this instance, "Darius" was evidently a throne name for someone ruling on orders from Cyrus or else Cyrus's throne name in Babylon (6:1). 


THEMES 
    
Daniel's themes include: 

1. God's sovereignty. The narratives in Daniel emphasize God's faithfulness and absolute autonomy over world history (2:47; 3:17-18; 4:28-37; 5:18-31). Despite appearances, God is in control over global events, kingdoms and governments (5:21). 

2. Faithfulness to God. God rewards those who are sincerely devoted to him and acknowledge him (cf. 1:8 with 1:15-20; 2:17-18 with 2:19; 2:27-28 with 2:48-49; 3:12,16-18 with 3:26-30; 5:16-18 with 5:29; 6:7-12 with 6;19-24). The book reveals that it is possible for God's oppressed people to survive and even thrive in a culture hostile to their faith. 

3. Prophecies of future events. Daniel's four visions contain predictions of future periods of persecution, as well as of the return of the triumphant Christ (7:11,26-27; 8:25; 9:27; 11:45; 12:13). Daniel's visions encourage God's faithful people who are living under oppression and persecution by offering a divine perspective upon reality that differs from the purely visible: God will ultimately win the victory, so believers of any era can live their lives in the expectation of final triumph (2:44; 7:27; Rev 11:15). 


OUTLINE 

I. The Captivity, Faithfulness and Elevation of Daniel and His Three Friends (1) 
        II. The Destinies of the Nations (2-7) 
    A. Nebuchadnezzar's Dream of a Statue (2) 
    B. Nebuchadnezzar's Golden Image and Its Worship (3) 
    C. Nebuchadnezzar's Vision of a Large Tree (4) 
    D. Belshazzar's and Babylon's Downfall (5) 
    E. Daniel's Deliverance From the Lions' Den (6) 
    F. Daniel's Dream of Four Beasts (7) 
       III. Israel's Destiny (8-12) 
    A. Daniel's Vision of a Ram and a Goat (8) 
    B. Daniel's Prayer and His Vision of the 70 "Sevens" (9) 
    C. Daniel's Vision of Israel's Future (10-12) 




 When was Daniel written?


    DANIEL 1 The dating of Daniel is controversial (see also the book introduction). Traditional scholarship holds that the book Was composed in the sixth century B.C., concurrent with the historical information it provides. But common arguments for dating Daniel in the second century B.c. are as follows: 
  • Jesus ben Sirach (Sir 44-50), writing in approximately 180 B.c., cited numerous Old Testament heroes—but not Daniel.  
  • Belshazzar is called"king" of Babylon in Daniel 5; the actual king was Nabonidus. 
  • Darius the Mede (ch. 6) is otherwise unknown. 
  • The stories of Nebuchadnezzar's insanity, and of the fiery furnace read like pious legends—far-fetched miracle stories common in intertestamental Jewish texts. 
  • Half of Daniel was written in Aramaic, a language Jews spoke during the intertestamental period. Daniel 3 also includes three Greek words—suggesting that the book was written after Greek culture had invaded the Near East. 
  • But this evidence is not as strong as it appears: 
  • Ben Sirach also omits mention of other famous Israelites, including Ezra. Also, Sirach may himself have been influenced by Daniel. In Sirach 36:10 he prayed,"Hasten the day, and remember the appointed time"—verbiage resembling Daniel 11:27, 35. It may be that ben Sirach offhandedly cited Daniel, which of course implies that the book already existed in his lifetime. 
  • The book demonstrates familiarity with the history and culture of the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. Daniel rightly portrays the of Belshazzar, coregent with Nabonidus. He could have appropriately been called "king" (5:1), but in 5:16 Belshazzar offered to make the one who could interpret the writing on the wall "the third highest ruler in the kingdom." As Belshazzar himself the second ruler, this was the highest honor he could confer.  
  • Darius  the Mede is not mentioned by that name outside the Bible. This is the king of historical puzzle scholars frequently encounter in ancient texts. In contrast, intertestamental Jewish works of religious fiction lack historical credibility in a way that has no parallel in historical works. The Apocryphal book of Judith,  for example, written during the reign of Antiochus IV, contains absurd historical blunders and it is altogether unlike Daniel.  
  • The miracles of Daniel are outside the ability of history or archeology to prove. Still, the following observations are pertinent:  
         Miracles do not prove that a works is fictional. 
         Nebuchadnezzar's madness was a rare but authentic clinical condition called boanthropy. "Made-up" miracles stories
         contain outrageous elements with no clinical analogy (e.g., in Tb 2:9-10, another Apocryphal book, Tobit goes blind
        because of sparrow droppings in his eyes).    

  • The fact that half of Daniel is written in Aramaic is a mystery with regard to any proposed reconstruction of its history. But the Aramaic of Daniel os "official," or "imperial" - the standardized Aramaic used in official correspondence when Aramaic was the lingua franca of the Near East (see 2Ki 18:26; Ez 4:7; Da 2:4), not the colloquial, regional Aramaic of second-century B.C. Palestine, at which time the common language of the region was Greek.
            All three of the Greek words of 3:5 are musical terms. Greek poets and musicians were renowned, so their musical 
         vocabulary came into use early. What would be surprising is how little Greek appears in Daniel, if the book had been
         written in the second century B.C., when the world was thoroughly Hellenized.
            The Persian words in Daniel are of an older, pre-Hellenistic Persian. 
  • The Dead Sea Scrolls have thrown new light on Daniel. Cave 1 at Qumran contained several fragments of the book (1QDan a-b) in a script suggesting a second-century B.C. date. Other Daniel fragments from Cave 4 are in a style suggestive of a late Hasmonean or early Herodian date. It would be unlikely that such an unusual book, written as late as 165 B.C., would have been so quickly accepted and circulated as authoritative Scripture.    




 The Kingdoms of Daniel's Prophecies 


    DANIEL 2 Daniel 2 and 7 together present a prophetic look at four kingdoms that would dominate the world. They are represented both by an image of four metals (ch. 2) and by a vision of four beasts (ch. 7). One interpretation holds that these kingdoms are Babylon, Media, Persia and Greece, respectively. However, Media never attained the status of a world power. Its independent period was contemporary with that of Babylon, but it was ruled as part of Persia after Babylon's fall in 539 B.c.In approximately 550 B.c.Cyrus, the king of Persia, defeated the last king of Media, Astyages, and merged the two kingdoms.' In fact, the book of Daniel treats Media and Persia as a single power (cf. 5:28; 6:8,12,15; 8:20). 

    A more plausible interpretation holds that these kingdoms are Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece and Rome, according well with the symbolism and factual history of the kingdoms mentioned.The first kingdom is identified as Babylon (2:38),2 the head of gold (v. 32) and winged lion (7:4). The lion was a recognized symbol of Babylonian royalty, as demonstrated by statues and reliefs of lions excavated from Babylon's ruins. The plucking of wings and subsequent trans-formation into a man perhaps represents Nebuchadnezzar's illness and restoration.

    The second, bear-like beast, "raised up on one of its sides" (7:5), corresponds to the Persian domination in the Medo-Persian Empire after the defeat of Astyages by Cyrus II (the fact that the bear is raised on one side symbolizes the ascendancy of the Persians over the Medes).4 Similarly, the ram of Daniel 8 is described as having two horns, one longer than the other, identified as the kings of Media and Persia (8:20). Under Cyrus and his son Cambyses three kingdoms were"chewed up," as represented by the three ribs in the bear's mouth (7:5). These kingdoms were Lydia (546 B.c.), the Chaldean Empire (539 B.c.) and Egypt (525 B.c.). 

    The third beast, a four-winged, four-headed leopard (7:6), represents the Greek Empire., The swiftness and agility of the leopard (cf. Hab 1:8 on Babylonia) symbolizes the speed of Alexander the Great, who con-quered all the known world between 334 and 323 B.c.After his untimely death the kingdom was divided among four of his generals, as symbolized by the four heads of the leopard: (1) Cassander over Greece and Macedonia; (2) Lysimachus over Thrace and Asia Minor; (3) Seleucus over Syria and the Middle East, and (4) Ptolemy over Egypt! At the same time, the number four should probably not be pressed here; the Greek kingdoms after the death of Alexander were for some time quite unstable, and various dynasties rose and fell (Lysimachus, e.g., was slain in battle in 281 B.c.,and no dynasty followed him). The number four is probably just representative of the several Greek kingdoms that at various times controlled parts of the Near East and, in particular, the Holy Land. 

    The final kingdom,"different from all the former beasts" (7:7), denotes Rome.8 The two iron legs of the image (2:33) may reflect that the empire could generally be characterized as having two major parts, one in the east (where Greek was the principal language) and the other in the west (where Latin dominated). The ten horns may represent the various rulers and dynasties who governed the Roman Empire (again, "ten"here represents a plurality and should not be pressed for ten specific  historical counterparts). Throughout its his. tory the empire was ruled by the republic,by various generals who seized power during the late republic (examples include Marius, Sulla and Julius Caesar) and by various dynasties that ruled after Augustus had consolidated power under himself. Vying for power through intrigue, assassination and outright civil war was a regular feature of Roman history, and this seems to be reflected in the diversity of the image (iron mixed with clay). 

    An interesting motif of the four kingdoms is that they become increasingly large, diverse, violent and unstable. Babylon is portrayed as highly unified, while Persia is in two parts (one dominant over the other). Greece has four heads and Rome has a multiplicity of divisions. 


 Nebuchadnezzar's Madness 


    DANIEL 4 Nebuchadnezzar reigned from 605-562 B.C. over Babylon at the peak of its power) Inscriptions reveal his great pride over his achievements in building temples and greatly fortifying the city of Babylon.The book of Daniel records that God struck Nebuchadnezzar with a strange affliction in order to humble him. Extrabiblical records deal with his infirmity only obliquely. The ancient Jewish historian Josephus cited a report by the Babylonian priest Berossus that Nebuchadnezzar died following a period of weakness.' The Christian writer Eusebius preserved a tradition from the Greek historian Megasthenes (c. 300 B.c.) that Nebuchadnezzar, having ascended to the roof of his palace, became inspired by some god. (In antiquity insanity was looked upon as possession by a deity.) 

    The illness described in Daniel 4:22-34 appears to have been a delusional disorder. The typical onset for this kind of malady occurs in later life; it frequently lasts from months to years and remits spontaneously, often without subsequent relapse. Lycanthropy, in which patients imagine themselves to be wolves, is one such disorder. Nebuchadnezzar's condition has been described as boanthropy, or cow-like behavior. However, the imagery implied by his behavior may be related to a figure of the Gilgamesh Epic.This myth, known from the library of Ashurbanipal (668-626 B.c.), tells of Enkidu, a savage, animal-like creature who was hairy, unclothed and ate grass until becoming civilized—the antithesis of what would be expected of a cultured, self-sufficient builder of cities like Nebuchadnezzar. 

    Little is known of Nebuchadnezzar's final years in power.The seven "times," or periods (4:16,23,32), of the illness could represent years, months or various other units of time. If his illness lasted seven years,then its onset must have been toward the end of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, after the completion of his numerous building projects. 



 Nabonidus and Belshazzar 


    DANIEL 5 Belshazzar (meaning "Bel protect the king") was the son of the Babylonian king Nabonidus (r. 556-539 B.c.) and the principal monarch from approximately 550 to 540 B.c. Although Nabonidus claimed to be a rightful heir to Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom, it is clear that he was not originally in line to become king. An inscription found in Harran indicates that Nabonidus's mother, Adadguppi, was responsible for his rise to power. Some suggest that she was a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar; hence Nebuchadnezzar would have been Belshazzar's "(grand)father" or "(fore)father" (Da 5:2). Others propose that Belshazzar may have played an active role in advancing his father to the throne—by murdering a man named Labasi-Marduk who had a better claim to succession. 

    A Babylonian text, the Verse Account of Nabonidus, relates that Nabonidus placed the military troops under Belshazzar's command and entrusted the kingship to him before departing to the west. During the approximate ten-year reign of Belshazzar, Nabonidus remained on campaign in Tema (Arabia). Nabonidus also was apparently devoted to the god Sin; he had no interest in the worship of Marduk (the chief Babylonian god) and even ceased to observe the traditional New Year festival. He was thus despised as a heretical and negligent monarch. Curiously, Nabonidus seems to have been one of history's first archaeologists, having carried out excavations at Agade, Uruk and Ur. 

    Though always referred to as "son of the king" in Assyrian sources, Belshazzar exercised all the functions of kingship, including receiving tribute, granting leases and attending to the upkeep of the temples, as attested in several business letters and contracts contemporary to his reign. He was apparently as impious as his father (seen in his lack of regard for the God of Israel),and ruthless as well. As"second" ruler, he promised Daniel the position of "third" ruler (v.16). Little is known of Belshazzar's final years in power. Babylon was well fortified when the Persians attacked in 539 B.C., but Cyrus is said to have diverted the waters of the Euphrates and opened an access into the city. Herodotus and Xenophon relate that Cyrus found the city in celebration and took it with relative ease. Nabonidus returned to Babylon in 539 B.C. but was captured at Borsippa and exiled to Carmania in the east.



 Darius the Mede


    DANIEL 6 Daniel 6 informs us that after the Persian conquest of Babylon,' the city was ruled by a king called "Darius the Mede." This statement poses a problem: There is no record of such an individual outside of the Bible—a fact that has brought the historicity and authorship of Daniel into question. Many believe that an unknown author wrote Daniel hundreds of years after the fall of Babylon and that the figure Darius the Mede, like most of Daniel, is pure fiction.2 But is it appropriate to patently dismiss Darius the Mede on the assumption that he never existed? 

  • Darius the Mede cannot be the Persian king known as Darius I, since this later Darius was the successor of Cyrus, not his predecessor. Furthermore, Darius the Mede, who was purported to be sixty-two years old at the time of the fall of Babylon (5:31), was born in 601/600 B.C., whereas history indicates that Darius I was born in 521 B.c.Those who believe that Daniel is not a historical book sometimes suggest that the author was simply confused about Persian history and thought that Darius I preceded Cyrus the Great. If this were the case, however, the author's ignorance would truly be astounding; Cyrus the Great, the creator of the Persian Empire, is a prominent figure in the Old Testament. Also, Darius I is always presented as a Persian, but Darius the Mede is obviously asserted to be a Mede. 
  • Darius the Mede could have been Cyrus the Great.4 Daniel 6:28 might, according to this theory, be translated,"Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius,that is, in the reign of Cyrus the Persian." Normally, however, this would be translated simply, "and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian" (emphasis added), as most versions render it.Though a possibility, this interpretation is not persuasive. 
  • Darius the Mede could also have been a subordinate king appointed by Cyrus to rule over Babylon.The Hebrew of 9:1 supports this position, stating that Darius was made king, using a passive verb. Also, the Aramaic of Daniel 5:31 states that Darius "received the kingdom (NIV "took over the kingdom")." Normally an author would not speak of a conqueror"receiving" a kingdom.Thus, it may be conjectured that Darius the Mede was not a "king" of the same standing as Cyrus but rather a subordinate. It is important to note that the book of Daniel never refers to this Darius as the king either of Persia or of the Medes but simply as the ruler of Babylon. Darius the Mede's personal name might have been Gubaru, that of a governor appointed by Cyrus. Gubaru is mentioned in cuneiform documents, including the Nabonidus Chronicles. 



 The Ptolemies 


    DANIEL 7 Daniel 7:6 describes a vision in which a kingdom is represented by a leopard with four wings and four heads. The wings represent great speed, but the heads signify 124113. that the kingdom was split into several do-f1.7 mains.The leopard symbolizes the Greek kingdom of Alexander the Great, a kingdom that was established with lightning speed but that broke into several parts, ruled by various Greek dynasties, after his death.

    The Ptolemies were a dynasty of Greek irDa419 kings who ruled Egypt from just after the death of Alexander the Great to the time of the annexation of Egypt by Rome. Their history is closely connected to that of the region later known as Palestine in the third century B.C. (the Ptolemies ruled Palestine and thus also Jerusalem from 323-200 B.c.).2 Important Ptolemaic rulers were as follows: 
  • Ptolemy I Soter (323/305-282 B.c.): Immediately after the death of Alexander in 323, his general Ptolemy headed to Egypt and seized control of the administration, assuming the title"king" in 305. Ptolemy was highly intelligent and, after having taken control of a wealthy and relatively isolated domain (Egypt), was able to begin a dynasty that would last for a PC, over two centuries. His capital, Alexandria, was '017 • a Greek city in Egypt) Ptolemy was the "king of the South"in 11:5. 
  • Ptolemy II Philadelphus (282 — 246 B.c.): loma The reign of this king was prosperous and marked by impressive building projects, such as the completion of the lighthouse of Pharos and the library of Alexandria. He was also engaged in wars with the Seleucids over control of Palestine and Anatolia. Ptolemy II did much to establish Greek culture and edu-cation in Egypt and elsewhere but offended his Greek subjects by marrying his full sister, Arsinoe. 
  • Ptolemy ll Euergetes (246-222 B.c.): The reign of this king was marked by further wars with the Seleucids, brought about by the fact that the Seleucid king, Seleucus II, murdered Ptolemy's sister Berenice and her son.4 Berenice was the "daughter of the king of the South" in 11:6. 
  • Ptolemy IV Philopator (222-205 B.c.): This king is often described as a weak ruler, although he did defeat Antiochus III of Syria at Raphia in 217 B.C. He deployed Egyptian troops in his army (instead of using exclusively Greek soldiers), and some believe that this sowed the seed for future native revolts by the Egyptians. He is the"king of the South" of 11:11. 
  • Ptolemy V Theos Epiphanes (204-180 B.c.): During the administration of this regent Palestine was lost to the Seleucid kingdom (200 B.c.). The Rosetta Stone commemorates his coronation.
  • Ptolemy VI Philometor (180-145 B.c.): During his reign Ptolemaic control of Egypt nearly collapsed. Antiochus IV fought his way to Memphis in Egypt in around 168 B.C. and no doubt would have taken control of the country had he not been forced out by a delegation from Rome. 
  • Thereafter, Ptolemaic power declined as members of the royal family struggled for control and as Rome began to take an increasingly important role in the affairs of Egypt.The last Ptolemy to rule Egypt was the famous Cleopatra VII (51-30 B.c.). Intelligent and resourceful (she was the only Ptolemy who gained the loyalty of Egyptians by learn-ing to speak Egyptian, but she also murdered her brother, Ptolemy XIV, in order to secure the throne for herself), she used sexual relations with Julius Caesar and later with Mark Antony to better her political position in dealing with Rome. Her alliance with Antony proved her undoing, however. He was defeated by Octavian (Augustus) at Actium in 31 B.C.,6 and she committed suicide when she realized that Octavian was implacable toward her.



 The Prayer of Nabonidus


    DANIEL 8 Nabonidus was the father of King Belshazzar of Babylon, with whom he ruled as coregent for at least several years.' A Qumran scroll dating between 75 and 50 B.C., commonly called The Prayer of Nabonidus, or 4QprNab, is an Apocryphal account of a healing of Nabonidus that is probably based on Daniel 4. This text tells us that King Nabonidus was inflicted with a physical ailment for seven years, until a Jewish exorcist pardoned his sins. This Jewish man then encouraged Nabonidus to document the event and to give praise to God, who pardoned him. In the final section of the scroll Nabonidus declared that his prior supplica-tions to the gods of the world concerning his ailment had gone unanswered. 

    The scroll suggests that Nabonidus jour-neyed to Tema, Arabia, and remained there for a number of years.This detail is accurate. In fact, it was during his stay in Tema that Belshazzar reigned in Babylon.Therefore, 8:1 refers to Belshazzar as king, for the Babylonians saw him as their ruling authority. Apart from that, however, there is little reason to regard The Prayer of Nabonidus as historical. It appears that the story is based on the Biblical account of the healing of Nebuchad-nezzar.2 Other Apocryphal books, such as Bel and the Dragon, are also popular legends that grew out of the canonical book of Daniel.3 As such, The Prayer of Nabonidus can neither confirm nor refute the historical reliability of the story of Daniel 4. 



 The Chaldeans 


    DANIEL 9 The Chaldeans were a seminomadic ethnic group first mentioned in ancient sources from the ninth century B.C. as a people from the land of Kaldu. Living in the southern frontier of Babylon, they were organized into tribal "houses," each of which was headed by a tribal leader. As these tribes assimilated into the predominant culture and subsequently inherited the empire of Babylonia, the terms "Chaldean" and "Babylonian"became synonymous (Isa 47:1; Da 9:1). The first notable Chaldean recorded in Scripture was Merodach-Baladan, king of Babylon, who sent envoys to Hezekiah of Judah for the purpose of forming an anti-Assyrian coalition (2Ki 20:12-19; Isa 39:1). Merodach-Baladan united the Chaldean tribes and, with Elamite assistance, managed to overthrow Assyrian dominance in the region and to rule for a decade before being driven out (c. 722-710 B.c.).1 By 626 B.C., as Assyrian power declined, Chaldean power in Babylon experienced a resurgence during the reigns of Nabopolassar and his son Nebuchadnezzar. This last dynasty of Babylon is thus known as the Chaldean, or Neo-Babylonian Empire. 

    The reign of the Chaldeans brought the greatest flowering and fame of the Babylonian Empire. Nebuchadnezzar, under whose rule the kingdom of Judah was conquered and exiled (Jer 52),2 in addition to his military achievements is credited with the grandest rebuilding of Babylon's cultural and religious life.3 The city came to be regarded as one of the wonders of the ancient world and was, in the prophet's words, "Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms, the glory of the Babylonians' pride" (Isa 13:19). 
    
    Because Babylon was famed as a city of learning, the term "Chaldean" came to stand for priests, astrologers and the educated class (Da 2:10; 4:7; 5:7). This Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian period marked the beginning of accurate historical, economic and astronomical record keeping, as well as the rise of Aramaic as the lingua franca (common, commercial language) of the Near East (2:4).4 Ultimately the Neo-Babylonian Empire fell to Cyrus of Persia,5 and the glory of Mesopo-tamia faded into history. 



 Persepolis 


    DANIEL 10 Persepolis (meaning "Persian city") was a capital city of the Achaemenid kings. Its remains, known as Takht-i Jamshid, are located northeast of Shiraz, Iran, 140 miles (226 km) inland from the Persian Gulf. Trilingual inscriptions on the site report the building activities of several generations of Persian monarchs.' Darius I (521-486 B.c.)2 began construction of the city after having created a platform of 33 acres, 40 feet (12.2 m) above the plain. He erected fortifications, a monumental stairway to the platform, a palace, an audience hall and other buildings. The audience hall, or Apadana, employed 72 stone columns, each 65 feet (20 m) in height, of which 13 still stand. Its eastern stairway was decorated with images of delegations of Persians, Medes, Egyptians, Assyrians, Greeks and others bearing tribute and in their customary dress. 

    Xerxes I (r.486-465 B.c.) added a larger palace, harem and treasury. He began the "throne-hall of 100 columns" and built the "Gate of All Nations," ornamented with colossal winged and human-headed bulls. Thousands of Elamite tablets from the reigns 
of Darius, Xerxes and Artaxerxes 13 were recovered from the treasury, among which are featured a number of Jewish names, including Baruch, Zechariah, Abijah and Hezeki(ah). Artaxerxes I (465-425 B.c.) completed the throne-hall, and Artaxerxes Ill (359 —338 B.c.) added a staircase to Darius's palace. Alexander the Great destroyed the city in 330 B.C. as retribution for Xerxes' destruction of Athens in 480 B.C. Tombs of the Achaemenid kings, cut into cliffs at Naqsh-i Rustam, are located 3.5 miles (5.7 km) north of the city. 



 Antiochus IV Epiphanes 


    DANIEL 11 Antiochus IV Epiphanes ruled the Seleucid (Syrian) kingdom from 175 to 164 B.c.' Epiphanes means "manifest," and the name indicates that he claimed to be the earthly manifestation of Zeus., Antiochus attempted to unify his empire by imposing Hellenistic culture upon all its inhabitants. This policy brought him into sharp conflict with the Jews of the region later known as Palestine. Most Biblical scholars believe Antiochus IV to have been the "small" horn in Daniel 8:9 and the "contemptible person" of 11:21. His relations with the Jews are recorded in 1 and 2 Maccabees (Apocryphal books) and are prophetically depicted in Daniel 8:9 —12,23 — 25 and 11:21-34. He was infamous for establishing pagan worship in the Jerusalem temple. 

    In about 174 B.C. Jason, the leader of a pro-Greek faction in the Jerusalem priesthood, bribed Antiochus to install him as high priest, after which Jason set about turning Jerusalem into a Greek city (2Mc 4:7-22). In 171 B.C., however, another man, Menelaus, in turn bought the priesthood from Antiochus. Jason, believing that Antiochus had died, seized Jerusalem by force. But Antiochus returned in 169 and carried out a massacre of the city. He then moved upon Egypt but was humiliated by the Roman legate C. Popilius Laenas and forced to make an undignified withdrawal to the north. There-after, this tyrant vigorously sought to Hellenize Jerusalem. 

    In 167 B.C. Antioch us dispatched his tax collector Apollonius against Jerusalem with 22,000 men.They attacked on the Sabbath, killing most of the male population and enslaving the women and children. Jerusalem's walls were demolished and a Seleucid military garrison stationed immediately south of the temple. All Jewish rites were outlawed, resulting in the cessation of the daily sacrifice. An altar to Zeus was erected over the Jewish altar of burnt offerings, and worship of Zeus was instituted in the temple. On December 25,167 B.c., a pig was sacrificed on the Zeus altar; this was the "abomination that causes desolation" in Daniel 9:27,11:31 and 12:11. 

    Enraged, the Jews rebelled against their Greek overlords and, under Judas Maccabeus, defeated the armies that Antiochus had sent against them. After a three-year struggle Jewish forces gained major concessions from the Greeks, and the Maccabees became the de facto rulers of Judea. Most notably, they purified the temple and reinstated the daily sacrifice, an event commemorated in the feast of Hanukkah. Antiochus himself, who had moved off to the east to campaign in Elam, died in Persia in 164 B.C.




 The Seleucids 


    DANIEL 12 After the death of Alexander the Great, his massive empire was divided among his generals, who vied for power.One of the major victors was Seleucus I (born c. 358 B.c.), who seized control of a domain centered in Syria. His dynasty, the Seleucids, governed there from 321 to 64 B.C.: 
  • Seleucus 1 Nicator (r. 312-281 B.c.): A childhood friend of Alexander, he took control of Babylon. A rival Greek general, Antigonus Monophthalmus, forced him to take refuge in Egypt with another Greek general, Ptolemy.' Seleucus I returned to power in Syria and Babylon in 312 B.C. In 301 B.C. he moved his capital west to Syrian Antioch, a city he had founded. By the terms of a peace treaty he should have gained control of Palestine—which Ptolemy refused to relinquish. Thereafter, the Seleucids regarded Palestine as rightfully theirs. 
  • Antiochus I Soter (r. 281-261 B.c.): The son of Seleucus I, he fought with Ptolemy II of Egypt in a struggle for control of Palestine and Anatolia (Turkey). Antiochus 11 Theos (r. 261-246 B.c.): This ruler was successful against Ptolemy II in the ongoing struggle for control of Anatolia. Ptolemy persuaded him to marry his daughter Berenice, a union that caused dynastic troubles among the Seleucids. Seleucus's first wife, Laodice, established a rival court at Ephesus' and, after Antiochus's death, had Berenice and her son murdered. This resulted in renewed war between the Seleucids and the Ptolemies (the latter now under Ptolemy III, Berenice's brother). Antiochus II is the"king of the North" in Daniel 11:6. 
  • Seleucus 11 Callinicus (246-225 B.c.): Son of Antiochus II and Laodice, his reign began with a war against Ptolemy III. During his lifetime the Seleucid Empire nearly collapsed. 
  • Seleucus III Soter (225-223 B.c.): His brief reign focused upon a failed campaign to regain control of Anatolia.  
  • Antiochus III the Great (223-187 B.c.): The younger son of Seleucus II, he was the Seleucids' most successful warrior-king. He first campaigned south into Palestine against the Ptolemies but was stopped at Raphia by Ptolemy IV in 217 B.c. Turning east, he won victories against Bactria and Parthia. In a new war against the Ptolemies, now under Ptolemy V, he wrested control of Palestine in 200 B.C., after which he focused on regaining Anatolia. War broke out between Rome and the Seleucids, and Antiochus III was defeated in several battles. Antiochus Ill is the"king of the North" in 11:11-13. 
  • Seleucus IV Philopator (187-175 B.c.): The son of Antiochus III, his reign was ham-pered by the financial strain of heavy tribute payments to Rome. 
  • Antiochus IV Epiphanes, (175 -- 164 B.c.): A younger son of Antiochus III and a usurper of the throne after the assassination of Seleucus IV, Antiochus was the most infamous Seleucid. He attempted to extirpate Judaism and replace it with a Hellenistic culture; his enormities are recorded in 2 Maccabees 5, an Apocryphal book. His oppression prompted Jewish rebellion in the Maccabean revolt. Antiochus Epiphanes almost conquered Egypt in 168 B.C. but turned back when the Roman C. Popilius Laenas warned him to proceed no further. 
  • Antiochus V Eupator (164 — 162 B.c.): Two men, Philip and Lysias, contended for control of this boy during his brief reign; the confusion left an opening for the Jewish Maccabees against the Greeks. Though not entirely suc-cessful, they did win religious concessions. 
  • Demetrius I Soter (162-150 B.c.): A son of Seleucus IV, he had Philip and Lysias put to death and assumed the throne himself. Wars with the Jews continued. Judas Maccabeus was killed in battle and replaced by his brother Jonathan, who defeated the Seleucids. 
  • Thereafter Seleucid power weakened steadily. A usurper named Alexander Balas contended ineffectively for the Seleucid throne. Demetrius II, son of Demetrius I, seized power and ruled from around 145 to 140 and again from approximately 129 to 125 B.C. (between which times he was a prisoner of the Parthians). Meanwhile, Antiochus VI Epiphanes Dionysus (a son of Alex-ander Balas), Antiochus VII Sidetes (a brother of Demetrius II) and Tryphon (another usurper) vied for power. This situation made the Jews power brokers, further illustrating how far the Seleucids had declined. The last Seleucid ruler was Antiochus XIII Asiaticus (69 — 64 B.c.); in the final year of his reign Pompey the Great made Syria a Roman province.