Read Daniel 6
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Sharpen the arrows! Lift up the shields! For the Lord has inspired the kings of the Medes to march against Babylon and destroy her. This is his vengeance against those who desecrated his Temple.” (Jeremiah 51:11 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 104: Darius. At the end of the fifth chapter of Daniel, and all throughout the sixth chapter, we run into what is a bit of a historical mystery in the Bible. The question that plagues scholars and theologians is this, who in the world was King Darius the Mede? If you Google “King Darius” your top results will point you to a Persian king named Darius I who was also known as Darius the Great. At a quick glance, one would think that this Darius must be Darius the Mede; however, when you pay close attention to the details, the Persian king (though the Persian Empire included the kingdom of Media) cannot be the same king as Darius the Mede.
According to the author of Daniel, Darius the Mede ruled in between the reigns of King Belshazaar (who I wrote about in the last part of this series) and the Persian king Cyrus. Yet, we know that King Darius the Great was the third king to succeed the thrown following the death of Cyrus. Thus, Darius the Mede and Darius the Great were not the same person.
So, who was Darius the Mede? This question leads us into the reality that not all of the books in the Bible were intended to be historical records, but were stories intended to convey a certain point and/or theology. Daniel may be one of those examples, as there is no record of there ever having been a Darius the Mede that ruled Babylon between the crown prince Belshazaar (who was given the title of King in the book of Daniel, but never really was king) and Cyrus the Great. The lineages of kings were important and meticulous records of those types of things were kept in the ancient world.
That is how we know so much about Cyrus and Darius and the other Persian kings. So, the fact that there is no historical record, whatsoever, of Darius the Mede can only mean that there was never any such person by that name who ruled Babylon prior to the Persians conquering it under Cyrus. Many scholars believe that Darius was a fictitious character that was a mashup of King Darius the Great with the words of Jeremiah 51:11.
What’s more, many scholars believe that the Book of Daniel itself is not a reliable work of history, but is, rather, and legendary tale, written in the second century BCE. These scholars question whether there ever was a Jewish person named Daniel in Babylon, as they say that there is no such Daniel mentioned anywhere else in the Bible. Yet, there are scholars now questioning that belief, as Ezekiel 14:14, 20 mention a “Daniel” who very well might have been the same Daniel. If so, then Daniel may have been written in the sixth century BCE.
Much more could be written about this, but it matters not for the purpose of this devotion. Whether Daniel was the theological retelling of a legendary hero or a real person who had an excellent relationship with a real king who eludes us in the remaining historical records, we can still pull Biblical truth out it and its characters. In the Book of Daniel, Darius the Mede is first introduced in chapter 5. Belshazaar, after having the cups and plates that were pillaged from Solomon’s Temple be used for a great feast, was cursed by God to be killed that very night at the hands of a “Darius the Mede.”
Indeed, that comes to pass that very night and Darius becomes the King of Babylon. Darius quickly becomes impressed with Daniel and promotes him to a high office within Darius’ court. This, of course, makes Darius other officials angry and they plot to have Daniel killed. They carry this out by tricking the king into signing a royal decree (one that cannot be reversed) that no one can pray to any being, human or god, for an entire month. During that month the only being one could pray to was Darius. They conspirators stated that this was to prove the loyalty of Darius’ subjects.
Daniel, protested that and continued to pray, resulting in him being put into the lions’ den. Darius was destressed at the fact that he HAD TO throw his Jewish friend and confidant into the lions’ den. Yet, by morning, Darius found Daniel still alive, praised Daniel’s God and decreed that anyone who spoke ill of Daniel or his God would face certain death. The Median King then through the conspirators into the den, where they were eaten alive by the lions.
Whether or not Daniel is historical, the book’s point is 100% true: God is with us all and those who listen to and follow God will be blessed. Whether one is a loyal follower of God or a person who has never known God but is open to the Holy Spirit, all such people are God’s people and we are not to judge their character by the human labels (such as race or religion) that divide us. Let us be challenged by this. Yes, there is only ONE God, and that God is revealed to us in the Bible; however, who are we to limit God’s ability to work in and through all people? Let’s be humbled and challenged.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“I think you have to meet God kind of head on and I think sometimes when you live in a Christian culture that it’s hard to do that because we have all these preconceived ideas about who God is.” —Rich Mullins
Lord, help me to be humble enough to see that I don’t know you in the fullness of your glory. Amen.