There is a precise date to this prophetic happening, August, 520 BCE, the second year of the great King Darius of Persia (522-486 BCE). During his reign, he ruled over nearly ½ of the known world, over 50,000,000 people. The word of Yahweh came through the prophet Haggai, although there is no mention of his family. Perhaps he was one of those returning from the exile in Babylon. In the Book of Ezra, chapter 5, Haggai and Zechariah were explicitly mentioned as prophets. There was also a eunuch servant Haggai in the Book of Esther, but there seems to be no connection to this Haggai. This Haggai was to prophesize to Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, who was the grandson of one of the last kings of Judah, King Jehoiachin (598 BCE). Thus, he could be in the Davidic line. He probably died sometime around 520 BCE, sometime around the events described here. King Cyrus had appointed Zerubbabel to be the Governor of Judah in 538 BCE, when he was among the first exiles sent back to Jerusalem. Joshua, the son of Jehozadak was the high priest in Jerusalem from 515-490 BCE.
Then King Cyrus became angry at Daniel. He called in the priests of the idol god Bel. He told them to tell him who was eating the provisions that were set out for this god Bel. If they did not tell him, they would die. However, if they could prove that Bel was eating these provisions, then Daniel would die. One way or other, someone was going to die. The king accused Daniel of blasphemy with his statements about Bel. Daniel agreed to this proposition, death for him or the Bel priests.
King Cyrus got into a conversation with Daniel about Bel and his living God. The king maintained that Bel was also a living god, since he was able to eat and drink every day. Then Daniel laughed at him. He told the king not to be deceived. Bel was only made of clay and bronze, so that it was not capable of eating or drinking.
King Cyrus and Daniel got into a conversation about Bel, the Babylonian god. The king wanted to know why Daniel did not worship Bel. Daniel explained that he did not worship or revere man made idols. Instead, he revered and worshipped the living God, who created heaven and earth. Thus, his God had dominion over all living creatures.
This god Bel was Bel Marduk, the great god of the Babylonians, mentioned by Jeremiah and Isaiah. Every day, the people provided this idol 12 bushels of choice flour, 40 sheep, and 6 measures or about 50 gallons of wine. The king Cyrus revered Bel, as he worshipped this god on a daily basis. Bel may have been popular in Persia also. However, Daniel worshipped his own God, but there is no indication where he did this.
This last chapter of the Book of Daniel is often referred to as the story of Bel, the god, and the dragon. Daniel will show how each one was useless. Once again, this chapter is only in the Greek Septuagint, so that it is often called apocryphal. This story takes place at the later part of the life of Daniel, since Cyrus the Persian (598-530 BCE) was the King. His rule in Persia began in 559 BCE and lasted about 30 years. Here, he is still only the king of Persia that he received from his father, King Astyages (585-550 BCE). The sister of King Astyages was the wife of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Thus, you can see the connection, as Cyprus would have been the nephew of the Babylonian king. Eventually, Cyrus took over Babylon in 539 BCE.
The Babylonian king spoke with all his new young court people. These 4 young Israelite royal students, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were very successful, since no one could compare to them. Thus, they were stationed in the king’s court. In anything about wisdom and understanding, these 4 court attendants were 10 times better than the more traditional Babylonian court magicians and enchanters. These 4 young men became the favorites of King Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel, in fact, stayed the whole time in the royal court until King Cyrus of Persia took over around 538 BCE. Thus, Daniel would have spent pretty much his entire life in the Babylonian royal court, about 70 years.
Zerubbabel was the governor of Judah appointed by the Persian King Darius I, thus ending the Babylonian captivity, sometime between 538-520 BCE. He was the grandson of one of the last kings of Judah, King Jehoiachin. In this new role, he was actually an official governor in the Persian state for the area of Judah, but he was born and raised in Babylon. He along with Jeshua began to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. There is some confusion with the name of Sheshbazzar, who either was his uncle or another name for him. Some hold that Sheshbazzar was appointed by King Cyrus as the governor of Judah in 538 BCE. Then King Darius I named Zerubbabel. Both are mentioned in the Book of Ezra, chapter 2. Zerubbabel was also mentioned by the Minor Prophets, Haggai and Zechariah. Finally, there is the idea of the signet ring. Does it apply to temporal power or the restored power of Yahweh? Interesting enough, Sirach does not mention Ezra at all among his famous men.
“When Tobias’ mother Anna died, he buried her beside his father. Then he and his wife and their children returned to Media. He settled in Ecbatana with Raguel his father-in-law. He treated his parents-in-law with great respect in their old age. He buried them in Ecbatana of Media with honor and magnificent funerals. He inherited both the property of Raguel and that of his father Tobit. He died highly respected at the age of one hundred seventeen years. Before he died, he heard of the destruction of Nineveh. He saw its prisoners being led into Media, those whom King Cyrus of Media had taken captive. Tobias praised God for all he had done to the people of Nineveh and Assyria. Before he died, he rejoiced over Nineveh. He blessed the Lord God forever and ever. Amen.”
After the death and burial of his mother Anna, Tobias with his wife and children returned to Ecbatana to be with the parents of his wife Sarah. He treated his elderly in-laws well, and buried them correctly. He then inherited both the estates of his father Tobit and his father-in-law Raguel. It made sense to return to Ecbatana, so that his wife could be with her elderly parents. Before Tobias died, King Cyrus took over Nineveh and Assyria. In fact, Tobias praised God for the Persians and King Cyrus. There definitely was a strong tendency to favor the Persians over the Assyrians and Babylonians. He died blessing God forever, so that it was fitting to end with an Amen.
“Then, according to the word sent by King Darius, Governor Tattenai of the province Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and their associates did with all diligence what King Darius had ordered. The elders of the Jews built and prospered, through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah son of Iddo. They finished their building by command of the God of Israel and by the decree of King Cyrus, King Darius, and King Artaxerxes of Persia. This house was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.”
The leaders from Samaria were diligent in following the orders of King Darius. The elders at Jerusalem under the guidance and support of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah finished building the Temple. It is not clear where all the labor came from. Nevertheless, by the command of God, King Cyrus, King Darius, and even King Artaxerxes they completed the house of God in the 6th year of the reign of King Darius I that would be around 516 BCE. However, if it was King Darius II, it would be a century later around 418 BCE. The time of King Darius I of 516 BCE is more plausible, yet there was that dispute about the wall with King Artaxerxes.