Media and Persia

Media and Persia.1843 ……Media and Persia.1850

The powerful Persian general, Cyrus, had recently tasted large-scale victory over the Lydian Empire in Asia Minor when he came against Belshazzar in 539 B.C. Babylon was taken by Cyrus in 538. Upon the fall of Babylon, Darius the Mede “took the kingdom”[1] having been appointed as Babylon’s ruler by Cyrus. It was Darius the Mede that had Daniel thrown into the lion’s den.[2] Also, it was while Daniel was ruling under king Darius that the prophet had the vision recorded in Daniel 9. Ellen White states that Darius died within about two years of Babylon’s fall. She further notes that, with the death of Darius, Cyrus became the sole ruler of the Medes and the Persians.[3] Cyrus’ title was “the Great” for good reason – he was generally popular throughout his kingdom, and his dominion extended over all the territories previously held by the Lydian and Babylonian Empires. Cyrus’ successor, Cambyses II, conquered Egypt thereby making the last of Medo-Persia’s three major territory acquisitions.[4] The three main territories taken by the Persians were prophetically represented as three ribs in a bear’s mouth.[5] The Persian “bear” reached the zenith of its glory during the reign of Darius the Great,[6] but history indicates that Persia never displayed as much spectacular wealth and luxury as Babylon had flaunted.  Indeed, it was “inferior to”[7] Babylon just as a “breast and arms of silver”[8] is inferior to a head of gold. The Persian Empire is often referred to as Medo-Persia since the Medes and the Persians were the people groups it was originally composed of. The Medes, though they arose as a significant political power first, became subject to Cyrus the Persian prior to his victories in Asia Minor. Thus Medo-Persia’s representative in Daniel 7:4 is raised up on one side. For the same reason, its representative in Daniel 8:3, the ram, has two horns with the larger of the two coming up last. We can read in Daniel 11:2 how, after Cyrus, “there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than [they] all: and by his strength through his riches he shall stir up all against the realm of Grecia.” The three kings reigning after Cyrus were Cambyses II, Smerdis, and Darius the Great. “The fourth” was Xerxes, husband of Ester. He was indeed wealthier than his predecessors and was the last king of Persia to invade Greece. Famous battles of his invasion included the Battle of Thermopylae and the Battle of Salamis. Upon Xerxes’ assassination, Artaxerxes succeeded his father to the throne. Artexerxes is most recognizable to students of prophecy as the king by whom was issued “the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem”[9] (457 B.C.), the historical marker for the beginning of multiple Danielian time prophecies.

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[1] Daniel 5:31.

[2] Prophets and Kings, 557.

[3] Ibid, 556-557.

[4] Lydia, Babylon, and Egypt.

[5] Daniel 7:5.

[6] Not to be confused with Darius the Mede.

[7] Daniel 2:39.

[8] Daniel 2:32.

[9] Daniel 9:25.

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