God’s People, part 106: Darius

Read Ezra 6

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭NLT‬‬).‬‬‬‬

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

 Part 106: Darius. King Darius I of Perisa (aka Darius the Great) is yet another example how history is weaved in and throughout the Bible. While the Bible does not offer too much background information on Darius, he is one fo the Persian kings mentioned in Ezra and was an ancient ruler of historical significance. Darius was an influential king during the rise of the Persian Empire, especially in regard to the Jews exiled in Babylon. In fact, he brought the empire to its peak.

While an entire volume could be written on Darius. In fact, several volumes have been written on Darius. If you are a history buff and you are interested in getting a more in depth view of Darius’ life, you can search for “Darius the Great” on Amazon.com and if you have an Amazon Kindle, or the Kindle App and are a Prime member, you can download one of the books, “Darius the Great: Makers of History”. Otherwise, there are plenty of options that come up in the search results.

As for the purpose of this devotion, I will focus on a brief summary of Darius and how he is significant in the history of God’s people. Darius was born in 550 CE, forty-eight years following the first deportation (which included Daniel and his friends), forty-seven years following the second deportation, thirty-seven years following the destruction of Solomon’s Temple and third wave of deportations, and thirty-three years following a possible fourth wave of deportations. What’s important to note here is that the Babylonian Exile happened in waves spanning a time period of 15 years. Think about the devastating effects that would have on a people and/or a nation.

Darius was born into a noble family, but not one of royal blood. His father was a governor and was given the title of “king” (a fancy title for governor) of one of the Persian Provinces, and served under Cyrus the Great, who was king of the entire Persian Achaemenid Empire. While governors got the title of “king”, Cyrus was THE KING and was also known as Great King and King of kings. It can also be said that Darius was not trusted by Cyrus who had a dream that Darius was king of the whole world. The dream was seen as an omen that Darius had treasonous plans. As such, Cyrus sent Darius’ father back to Persis, where Darius lived, to closely watch over his son.

While Darius did not end up trying to immediately usurp the heir to the throne, Cyrus’ dream did become a reality and Darius became king, under suspicious circumstances, at the age of 28. Because he became king suspiciously, a number of rebellions rose up against him throughout the empire and he successfully put an end to them within a year as his powerful army was loyal to him. Following that, he focused the beginning part of his reign on strengthening and expanding his empire and began a successful campaign to conquer and control Egypt. In 516 CE he also invaded the Indus Valley, and by 515 CE had conquered that land and expanded his empire going as far east as what is now known as Pakistan.

Following those campaigns he turned his sights on Babylon, which had been conquered early by the Persian King Cyrus the Great (at a later point) but were rebelling against the empire. It his here where Darius the Great enters in to the Biblical narrative. He, of course, quelled the Babylonian revolt and ruled over Babylon in the same way that Cyrus had. Though a devout follower of Zoarastrianism, Darius, and his successors, were extremely tolerant and allowed for others to have religious and cultural freedoms so long as they were submissive to his rule and peaceable. This historical fact is clearly reflected in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

Like Cyrus before him, Darius gained the respect of the Jewish people under his rule. Cyrus had permitted Jews, if they wished, to return home to Jerusalem and to begin to rebuild the holy city and its temple. To ensure that happened, Darius gave funding to help the efforts of rebuilding of the Jewish Temple. While he was not a Jew, nor did he worship the Jewish God, he certainly showed respect for their people and their God, just as he did toward the Egyptians and to the Greeks who allied with him (though the Greeks eventually united and defeated him at the Battle of Marathon, which set up the events of the film 300 about the 300 Spartan warriors led into battle by King Leonidas at Thermopylae against Darius’ son (who’s believed to be Esther’s husband) Xerxes I.

This goes to show us that God can and does work through anyone. The Persian King Darius was no observer of the Jewish religion, and yet he had a respect for the Jews and their religion and, as such, became the vehicle through which God fulfilled Jeremiah’s prophecy that one day God would bring the Jewish people back home as shepherd leads his or her sheep (Jeremiah 31:10). The challenge for us is to remember that all the children of the earth are God’s people, whether they realize it or not, for God created them and loves and can work through them. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

There is no one, and nothing, that can separate us from the love that God has for us.

PRAYER

Lord, help me to be less judgmental and more open to see your handiwork in the world. Amen.

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