“When King Astyages
Was laid to rest
With his ancestors,
Cyrus the Persian
Succeeded to his kingdom.”
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.
“Yahweh of hosts,
The God of Israel,
I am bringing punishment
Upon Amon of Thebes,
As well as her kings.
I am bringing punishment
As well as those
Who trust in him.
I will hand them over
To those who seek their life.
I will hand them over
To King Nebuchadnezzar
And his officers.
Shall be inhabited
As in the days of old.’
Yahweh of hosts, the God of Israel said that he was going to bring punishment to Thebes, a large ancient city on the lower Nile River. Yahweh was going to punish Amon, a major god in Egypt with one of the world’s largest temples. Besides that, the punishment would extend to all of Egypt with its gods and kings. Even those who trusted in the Pharaoh would be punished. Yahweh was going to hand them over to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and his officers, who were after their lives. Finally, Egypt would be restored like in the old days.
“I found the following written in it. These were the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of those exiles whom King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had carried into exile. They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his town. They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, and Baanah.”
This is very similar to Ezra, chapter 2. Most of the 12 people named, that is 7, are exactly the same people as in the beginning of chapter 2 of Ezra, Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Bigvai, and Baanah. These exiles were lead by Zerubbabel. Jeshua was the head of the priests. This Nehemiah is not the Nehemiah writing this book. Mordecai played a major role in the Book of Esther, so that it is hard to believe that this is the same person here. Bilshan is only mentioned in these listings. The family of Bigvai will sign a covenant. It is hard to tell the role of Baanah. The other 4 named may be variations of the same name. Azariah may be the same as Seraiah. Raamiah may be Reelaiah. Mispereth may be Mispar, and Nehum may be Rehum. That leaves only Nahamani as a new person. These exiles supposedly returned to their own towns. According to 2 Kings, the poor people were not taken into captivity.
“Now these were the people of the province who came from those captive exiles whom King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had carried captive to Babylonia. They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, all to their own towns. They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah.”
These people were captured by King Nebuchadnezzar around 582 BCE. This return is around 537 BCE so that some of these people may have still been living. Although the prophet Jeremiah had predicted 70 years, that might include the years of the first attack. These exiles supposedly returned to their own towns. According to 2 Kings, the poor people had stayed there. These exiles were lead by Zerubbabel. There is a dispute about whether he is the same person named earlier Sheshbazzar. More likely, they were 2 different people. He might have been the governor later under King Darius. Jeshua was the head of the priests, even though he was born in Babylon. This Nehemiah is not the Nehemiah mentioned in the book with this name. There were 10 other people with the name of Seraiah. This is the only mention of Reelaiah, Bilshan, and Mispar. Mordecai played a major role in the Book of Esther, so that it is hard to believe that this is the same person. The family of Bigvai will sign a covenant. Rehum may have been some kind of lieutenant governor. It is hard to tell the role of Baanah.
“King Nebuchadnezzar made the brother of King Jehoiachin Zedekiah king over Judah and Jerusalem. King Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he began to reign. He reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the sight of Yahweh his God. He did not humble himself before the prophet Jeremiah, who spoke from the mouth of Yahweh. He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God. He stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to Yahweh, the God of Israel.”
There are some major differences from this story as in 2 Kings, chapter 24. Instead of being succeeded by his uncle, here King Zedekiah is the brother of King Jehoiachin. There is nothing about the mother of King Zedekiah. He would be older than King Jehoiachin, either 3 or 13 years older. Here it does not say that the king of Babylon established him as king and gave him a new name, King Zedekiah. Both accounts agree that he ruled for 11 years in Jerusalem and he walked in evil ways. However, he did rebel against the king of Babylon, which was not always a good idea at this time. There is also an insertion about the prophet Jeremiah that was not in 2 Kings.
“His son Jehoiachin succeeded King Jehoiakim. He was eight years old when he began to reign. He reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the sight of the Yahweh. In the spring of the year King Nebuchadnezzar sent and brought him to Babylon, with the precious vessels of the house of the Yahweh.”
King Jehoiachin, the son of King Jehoiakim took over from his father. He had practically the same name as his father. How is that for names being almost alike except for the endings of ‘kim” and “chin.” There is a question as to whether he was 8 years old as here, or 18 years old as in 2 Kings, chapter 24. Both accounts agree that he only reigned 3 months, but here there is an additional 10 days. There is no mention of his mother as there was in 2 Kings. Of course, he was evil like his father instead of being good like his grandfather, King Josiah. It is hard to figure out what he might have done so badly in just 3 months. Never the less, King Nebuchadnezzar brought him to Babylon with the precious vessels of the house of the Yahweh, just as he had done with his father. Maybe this was some kind of family reunion. He had already taken the sacred vessels with his father, so why take them again?
“King Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he began to reign. He reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the sight of Yahweh. Against him, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came up and bound him with fetters to take him to Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar also carried some of the vessels of the house of Yahweh to Babylon. He put them in his palace in Babylon. Now the rest of the acts of King Jehoiakim, and the abominations that he did, and what was found against him, are written in the Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah.”
This is a condensed version of 2 Kings, chapters 23 and 24. King Jehoiakim was actually older than this brother King Jehoahaz. He had a different mother than his brother, but she is not mentioned here like she was in 2 Kings. So it is clear that the good King Josiah had more than one wife. King Jehoiakim ruled for 11 years in Jerusalem. However, he followed in the old royal Judean way of doing evil in the sight of Yahweh, not like his good father, King Josiah. King Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 BCE) ruled in Babylon 43 years so his influence was quite profound over this area. King Jehoiakim of Judah was his servant years before he rebelled against him, but that is not mentioned here. There is no mention here about the attacks of other groups as in 2 Kings. This appears to be a punishment for Judah because of King Manasseh. Like many of the other kings of Judah, we can read about him in the lost “Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel and Judah,” not just Judah. He died sometime after his captivity, but there is no indication of where he is buried.
“In the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came with all his army against Jerusalem. He laid siege to it. They built siege works against it all around. So the city was besieged until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. On the ninth day of the fourth month, the famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land. Then a breach was made in the city wall. The king with all his soldiers fled at night. They went through the gate between the two walls, beside the king’s garden, despite the fact that the Chaldeans were all around the city. They went in the direction of the Arabah. But the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king. They overtook him in the plains of Jericho. All his army was scattered, deserting him. Then they captured the king. They brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah, who passed sentence upon him. They killed the sons of King Zedekiah before his eyes. Then they put out the eyes of King Zedekiah. They bound him in fetters. They took him to Babylon.”
It is rare that we have exact dating, but here it is very specific not some vague “at that time.” King Nebuchadnezzar in the 9th year of his reign, the 10th month, the 10th day, 10/10, came with his army to Jerusalem to besiege the city. Perhaps this biblical author may have been an eye witness. King Zedekiah had probably began to plot with the Egyptians and rebelled against the king of Babylon. This siege began in the 11th year of King Zedekiah. However, there is a discrepancy, since Nebuchadnezzar took over in 605 BCE, 9 years later would be 596 BCE, but King Zedekiah took over in 598 BCE and 11 years later would be 587 BCE, which is the generally accepted date for the fall of Jerusalem. After 4 months, the king and his army escaped through a hole in the wall. However, they were run down by the king of Babylon and his troops at Jericho. The Israelite troops scattered and deserted the king. He was captured and his sons were killed in front of him. Then he was blinded, bound up and sent to Babylon.