Four Persian Kings: The Bible, Herodotus And Archaeology -- By: Michael J. Caba

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 25:4 (Fall 2012)
Article: Four Persian Kings: The Bible, Herodotus And Archaeology
Author: Michael J. Caba


Four Persian Kings: The Bible, Herodotus And Archaeology

Michael J. Caba

The Persians

Having been launched by Cyrus the Great in c. 550 BC and finished by Alexander the Great in c. 330 BC, the opulent Persian empire lasted for more than 200 years.1 Between these two “Greats” much history and mischief was accomplished, both by the Persians and their neighbors alike. Furthermore, some would contend that the very survival of Western culture, which was still in its infancy, hung ever so precariously in the balance during this window of time. Indeed, were it not for the bravery of 300 Spartans (immortalized in the movie 300) or the foresight of key leaders (e.g. Themistocles2),the classical civilization of Greece— and its Roman offspring—may very well have died in the cradle from a Persian sword, never to flourish and influence as it did.3 Further still, for the student of Scripture there are additional matters of interest in this era of Persian supremacy; in particular, what might the Bible say about this time frame, and, for those who are interested in historical studies, what correlations can be seen between this discipline and the sacred text? On this later score we are fortunately left with an abundance of both written records and material remains from the Persian period that can be compared with the Scriptures, with one section of the Bible in particular having a nice bit of numbering that can help the reader to remember its location and content. This little gem and related sections of the Bible, as well as a unique opportunity afforded in the Persian era, are discussed in more detail below.

Ezra 4

In written nomenclature our target is situated in Ezr 4:5-7; but, if you say it aloud, the full location sounds out in nice numerical order as, “Ezra four, five, six and seven.” The actual passage, abbreviated for our purposes, reads: “...during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia. At the beginning of the reign of Xerxes...in the days of Artaxerxes king of Persia [my emphasis].”4 Thus, in these three verses four Persian kings5 in their order of reign are laid before the reader, thereby opening the text to an examination of its historicity by the scalpel of scholars as to names, dates and details. Of particular interest in this regard is the fact that our selected section of the Bible, which was written in the fifth centur...

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