Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Is Darius Artaxerxes?

I wrote an (incomplete) series on the Post-exilic chronology (Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.) In it I listed the Persian kings mentioned in Ezra-Nehemiah.

KingReference
Cyrus Ezra 1:1–4:3
Ahasuerus Ezra 4:6
Artaxerxes Ezra 4:7–24
Darius Ezra 4:24–6:22
Artaxerxes Ezra 7:1–Nehemiah 13:9

The series began outlining the common reconstruction then argued for a what I labelled a sequential reconstruction. The sequential construction identifies Darius with the second Artaxerxes above. It is possible that Artaxerxes is a title like king or Pharaoh. Here I would like to consider (but not propose) that the first Artaxerxes above may also be Darius.

Ezra 4 opens with a complaint against the Jews addressed to Ahasuerus. This is followed by a letter to Artaxerxes which results in a decree to stop building the city.
Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes.... The king sent an answer:... make a decree that these men be made to cease, and that this city be not rebuilt, until a decree is made by me. (Ezra 4:8, 17, 21)
So the building stopped until the second year of Darius (Ezra 4:24). In response to the preaching of Haggai and Zechariah building recommences on the temple in the second year of Darius (Ezra 4:24; Haggai 1:14-15).

At this Tattenai the governor of the Trans-Euphrates asks the Jews what they are doing. They respond that the rebuilding is in response to Cyrus' earlier decree and Tattenai writes to Darius to confirm this. A search is made of the records and Cyrus' decree is reaffirmed and Darius offers to pay the cost from the royal treasury.

So the temple is completed in Darius' 6th year (Ezra 6:15). Previously I have argued that the temple completion passage should be translated,
They finished their building by decree of the God of Israel and by decree of Cyrus and Darius, that is Artaxerxes, king of Persia. (Ezra 6:14)
There seems little doubt to me that Artaxerxes of Ezra 7 (and Nehemiah) is Darius. But what of the earlier Artaxerxes? If he were an earlier king it would make sense of his letter commanding the building of Jerusalem to stop until a decree otherwise by him. If he were Darius then the subsequent letter to build the temple, and a latter command to Nehemiah to build the walls would seem to be a change of mind.

Yes, but. The first decree was to cease building the city, so building the temple may have been permitted even while the city was halted. Darius would not need to change policy so quickly to allow the temple to be built. Cyrus' decree could have led to a change of heart, but Darius may have just seen it addressing the issue of the temple. By the time of Nehemiah in Artaxerxes 20th year, a change of policy concerning the city, specifically the walls, would be reasonable. The behaviour of Judah towards Persia would be well assessed by that time.

It also seems that the duration the Jews were not engaged in building the temple was brief. They stopped when they received Artaxerxes' letter and restarted in Darius' 2nd year. Depending on how long Artaxerxes reigned (if he is not Darius) this may have been some years. Yet the response of the Jews to Tattenai was that the temple had been built continually (Ezra 5:16) from the time of Cyrus' decree until now (the second year of Darius). Building had stopped for a time as Haggai rebuked them for ceasing work on the temple and building panelled houses instead. If the first Artaxerxes is Darius then the letter from Rehum would be either in Artaxerxes accession year or his first year. If the command to stop came in his first year and building restarted in his second year then the temple could be said to have been being built from Cyrus to now with only several months break. This is especially the case if the Persians (or Ezra and Nehemiah) reckoned years from the 7th month (Neh 1:1; 2:1). The rebuilding started in the 9th month of Darius' second year which could mean only a few months break.

1 comment:

  1. Keep it up, it's this kind of writing that helps tease out the questions in scripture and add to the reader's understanding. Thanks again.

    ReplyDelete

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