Who was Darius?

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The name Darius appears in the Bible in the books of the prophets Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah. In the book of Daniel, the prophet closely connects the death of Belshazzar with the accession of a man named “Darius the Median” to the throne (chs. 5:31; 9:1; 11:1). He was “the son of Ahasuerus” (ch. 9:1). After Babylon’s fall, the Babylonian Empire was ruled by this king who ruled from 538 to 536 BC. He was “made king over the realm of the Chaldeans” (ch. 9:1). And he was “about” 62 years old at the time (ch. 5:30, 31).

In Daniel 6, we read how the enemies of Daniel fabricated a plot to destroy him in the lion’s den but God in His mercy saved him. Seeing the miraculous power of God’s protection over His prophet, King Darius decreed that “people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end” (Daniel 6:1–28).

The book of Ezra also writes about a king called Darius I. He was the son of Hystaspes, and the founder of the Persian dynasty that ruled from 521 – 486 BC. His rule followed Cyrus the Great. Darius I was noted for his assistance to the Israelites, that had returned from the Babylonian captivity, in rebuilding the Jerusalem temple. And when the Jew’s enemies thwarted the construction of the temple by soliciting permission from kings Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes to stop the work (Ezra 4:1–24), Darius I gave a new command in the second year of his reign to continue the construction.

Again, the Jew’s enemies through Tattenai, the Persian governor of Judea, asked the king to order the Jews to cease building the temple. But Darius I not only gave permission to the Jews to continue but he personally appropriated royal funds for the expenses of the work and warned that anyone that would obstruct their work will be punished severely (Ezra 6:1–12). And, the rebuilding of the temple was completed in the sixth year of his reign (Ezra 6:15).

Finally, in the book Nehemiah 12:12, we have another reference to a ruler named “Darius the Persian.” The Darius of this verse could be either Darius II (424/23–405/04 B.C.) or Darius III, the last Persian monarch (336–331 B.C.), who was defeated by Alexander the Great.

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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