LAWTON CHURCH OF GOD, LAWTON OKLAHOMA

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NEBUCHADNEZZAR’S DREAM, PART 3

 

But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours. (Daniel 2:39 NKJV)

 

The Babylonian Empire, beginning with King Nebuchadnezzar, was the head of gold on the image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. The dream foretold that a kingdom will arise after his kingdom that will be in some degree inferior to his. The inferiority began with the generations of kings that followed Nebuchadnezzar ending with the surrender of Nabonidus to Cyrus the Persian on October 10, 539 B.C.

The silver chest and arms of the image in the dream represent the Medes and Persians in the Medo-Persian Empire. This empire is more properly the Persian Empire as the Persians were the predominant people of this kingdom. The two arms of the image certainly suggest the dual nature of the alliance within this kingdom.

Two names are predominant at the time the Persians overpowered the Babylonians: Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian, both of whom are mentioned in the Book of Daniel. Darius was the older of the two and identified with Cyaxares II, the last king of the Medes. Cyrus was Persian on his father’s side and Mede on his mother’s side and happened to be the nephew of Darius. Cyrus was the heir to the throne of Persia and a high ranking officer in the Persian army. Darius formed an alliance with Cyrus to consolidate their armies and annex the failing kingdom of Babylon. History suggests that Cyrus was really the leading force against the Babylonians and the expansion of the Persian kingdom. Darius appears to be credited in the Book of Daniel, possibly because he was the elder of the two, but more likely because he held the throne of Media at the time and was the one that lead in the overthrow of the city of Babylon. Daniel 5:31 records the fact that Darius “received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.”

The Medes and the Persians were essentially social opposites. It is said that the Medes were given to extravagance in dress, eating, and drinking. They liked jewelry and they painted their faces because they felt this made them beautiful people. They did not care about education but depended on their great wealth and beautiful appearance for success. Character was not of concern or an issue with the Medes. The Persians, on the on the other hand, were temperate, wore plain clothing and did not use jewelry or ornamentation. They placed great importance on education, especially their military schools.

The Medes entered history before the Persians. They were descendants of Madai, third son of Japheth, and grandson of Noah. They settled south of the Caspian Sea and called their country Media after Madai and referred to themselves as Medes. Their society fell into anarchy and almost destroyed itself having divided into six tribes. A Mede by the name of Dejoces to control, united the Medes, and established a monarchy in approximately 710 B.C. Dejoces was succeeded by his son Pharaortes, who reigned twenty-two years and conquered parts of Persia. He was later overpowered and killed by the Assyrians. Cyaxares I followed his father, Phraotes, on the throne and took Media back from the Assyrians. He reigned forty years and was followed by his son Astyages. Cyaxares had a daughter named Mandana whom he gave in marriage to Cambyses the Persian. The wife of Cyaxares died and he remarried and had a son he named Cyaxares II, also known as Darius. One year after the birth of Darius, Cambyses and Mandana had a son whom they called Cyrus and known in history as Cyrus the Great, the Cyrus of the Bible.

 The Persians settled in the southwest Iranian plateau around 850 B.C. Their territory was bounded on the west by the Tigris River and the south by the Persian Gulf, what is now the modern nation of Iran. The Persians called themselves the Parsa and were originally a nomadic people. They eventually formed an infrastructure to support their growing influence and established a capital city of Pasargadae. They were closely aligned with the Medes due to common ancestry. In 550 B.C. Cyrus the Great rebelled against the Medes for their mismanagement of the Persian interests and consolidated the Medes and Persians into the Medo-Persian Empire, or the Persian Empire. The dual nature of this Empire continued through the reign of Darius after which the throne continued only through the Persian line of succession.

Cyrus was educated in the lengthy Persian system and spent 13 years in military school until the age of forty. Cyrus was one year younger than his uncle, the Median king Darius, and had been in charge of the Medo-Persian army for about twenty-one years at the fall of Babylon. He was a humane ruler and tolerant of the religions of conquered nations. He was God’s man at this time in history with regard to the Jews. The Prophet Isaiah foresaw this and recorded in Isaiah 45:1–2

 

Thus says the LORD to His anointed, To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held—To subdue nations before him and loose the armor of kings, to open before him the double doors, so that the gates will not be shut: I will go before you and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze and cut the bars of iron.

 

It was under the rule of Cyrus that the Jews returned to Jerusalem from their Babylonian captivity and were given leave to rebuild the temple and the walls of Jerusalem. The fact that Cyrus was chosen by God is remarkable; Isaiah lived from about 760 to 695 B.C. and recorded the name and works of Cyrus almost two hundred years before the fact. Through Isaiah God calls his “His anointed” and describes his God-given mission to subdue nations. God even tells Cyrus that He will go before him and make the way for him to subdue the nations.

Cyrus ruled the Persian Empire from its inception at the fall of Babylon in 539 to his death in 530 B.C. Herodotus the historian wrote that Cyrus died in a fierce battle against Tomyris the queen of the Massagetae. Xenophon claims that Cyrus died peaceably at his capital city. Plutarch said that his tomb bore this inscription: O man, whosoever thou art and whensoever thou comest, for I know that thou wilt come, I am Cyrus and I won for the Persians their empire. Do not, therefore, begrudge me this little earth which covers my body.

Cyrus was followed on the throne by his son, Cambyses who reigned from 530 to 522 B. C. Cambyses was followed by his brother Smerdis, also known as Bardiys, who reigned only for a few months in 522 B.C. There is confusion and different understandings about Smerdis; he may have been killed by his brother before ascending to the throne and the man that sat on the throne may have been an imposter. Whoever he was, he was stabbed to death by some Persian nobles and replaced by Darius I in September 522 B. C. This is not the same Darius that captured the city of Babylon; this man reigned from 522 to 486 B.C.

The next king was Xerxes I, known in the Bible as Ahasuerus of the Book of Esther. He was known for his great wealth and the Jews prospered under his rule. One of his officials, Haman, tried to destroy all the Jews in the Empire and would have succeeded had it not been for the Jew, Mordecai. Xerxes set up the eventual destruction of the Persian Empire by forming an alliance with the enemies of Greece with the intention of adding Greece to his empire. Xerxes reigned from 486 to 465 B.C.

The remaining Persian kings were Artaxerxes, 465–424 B.C.; Darius II, 424–404 B.C.; Artaxerxes II, 404–359 B.C.; Artaxerxes III, 359–338 B. C.; Arses, 338 until his assassination in 336 B.C.; and Darius III, 336–330 B.C., the last Persian king. He was defeated by Alexander the Great of Macedonia in 331 B.C. and murdered by one of his satraps, Bessus—also his cousin, in 330 B.C.

Thus ends this silver kingdom, having lasted from the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C. to its defeat at the hand of Alexander the Great in 330 B.C.