A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi and Jonah/Commentary on Haggai and Zechariah/Introduction

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INTRODUCTION.

 

THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF
THE PROPHECIES OF HAGGAI AND ZECHARIAH.

 
§ I. CYRUS.

The career of Cyrus was watched with the intensest interest from the beginning by all the peoples of western Asia. The boldness and success of his invasion of Media in 550 B.C., and the vigour with which he enforced his sovereignty over this great kingdom, drove Crœsus of Lydia and Nabonidus of Babylonia to an alliance with each other and with Ahmes of Egypt for their common protection. The degree of interest among the Babylonians appears from a chronicle of the period in which there is an account, not only of the Median campaign, but of one, three years later, in another direction, as well as of that which in 539 B.C. resulted in the occupation of Babylon and the submission of the empire of which it was the capital.[1] When the conqueror finally invaded Babylonia the inhabitants took different attitudes toward him. The king and his party, including the crown prince, Belshazzar, of course, did what they could to withstand him. The priests, on the other hand, whom Nabonidus had oflfended by neglecting the worship of Marduk and bringing the gods of other cities in numbers to the capital, favoured him. In fact, they betrayed their country into his hands and welcomed him as its deliverer.[2] There was a similar division among the Jews settled in Babylonia. Some of them, much as they may have heard of the magnanimity of the Persian king, dreaded his approach. It is they, perhaps, to whom certain passages in the second part of the book of Isaiah were addressed, notably the following:

9. "Woe to him that striveth with his Maker,—
a potsherd among the potsherds of the ground!
"Doth the clay say to the potter, What makest thou?
or his work, Thou hast no hands?
11. "Thus saith Yahweh,
the Holy One of Israel, even his Maker:
"Of future things ask me,
and concerning the work of my hands command me.
12. "I myself made the earth,
and man on it I created;
"My hands stretched out heaven,
and all its hosts I commanded.
13. "I myself aroused him in righteousness,
and all his ways will I direct;
"He shall build my city,
and all my captives shall he release;
"Not for hire, and not for reward,
saith Yahweh of Hosts."[3]

There was, however, another party. At any rate, the author of the lines just quoted was enthusiastic in his faith, not only that Cyrus would succeed, but that his success meant deliverance to the Jews in exile. He recognised in the Persian king an instrument of Yahweh. Cf. Is. 412 ff. 25 4611. Indeed,—and he must thereby have greatly scandalised many of his countrymen,—he went so far as to identify Cyrus with the Ideal King for whom the Jews had long been praying and looking. Cf. Is. 4428 451. He was so confident of victory for this divinely chosen champion that he boldly foretold the fall of Babylon and exhorted the exiles to prepare for their departure. Cf. Is. 461 f. 471 ff. 4820 f. 5211. Finally, he predicted that Cyrus, having released them from captivity, would rebuild Jerusalem and restore the temple, its chief ornament. This last prophecy is so important that it deserves to be quoted entire. It runs as follows:

24. "Thus saith Yahweh, thy Redeemer,
and he that formed thee from the womb:
"I am Yahweh, that made all things,
that stretched out heaven alone;
when I spread out the earth who was with me?
25. "That thwarteth the signs of the praters,
and maketh diviners foolish;
"That confuteth the wise,
and turneth their knowledge into folly;
26. "That establisheth the word of his servants,
and fulfilleth the counsel of his messengers;
"That saith of Jerusalem, It shall be peopled
(and of the cities of Judah, Let them be rebuilt),
and its ruins will I restore;
27. "That saith to the deep, Be dry,
and thy streams will I dry up;
28. "That saith of Cyrus, My shepherd,
and all my pleasure shall he fulfil;
"That saith to Jerusalem, Be built,
and to the temple, Be founded."[4]

Cyrus seems to have more than, fulfilled the expectations of his Babylonian partisans. The chronicle to which reference has been made says, "He gave peace to the city; Cyrus proclaimed peace to all Babylonia. Gobryas his lieutenant he appointed governor of Babylon." It adds a most significant item, namely, "From Kislew onward to Adar the gods of Akkad, whom Nabonidus had brought down to Babylon, returned to their cities."[5] Cyrus, in an inscription of his own, refers to the same matter and claims further credit for restoring both the gods and the people of certain districts on the Tigris to their homes. He adds a prayer that these gods in return may daily remind Bel and Nebo to lengthen his days and bestow upon him their favour.[6]

These interesting records must not be misunderstood. They do not mean that at this time the Persian conqueror abandoned the religion of his fathers and adopted that of the Babylonians; but that, being magnanimous by nature, he made it his policy to conciliate his subjects.[7] If, however, such was his disposition, there is in this fact a warrant for supposing that, unless there were reasons for a different course, he favoured the return of the Jews to their country. He does not mention them among the beneficiaries of his clemency, nor is there, among the known relics of his empire, any record concerning his actual treatment of them. The only direct testimony on the subject is found in the Hebrew Scriptures and works based on them.[8] The Chronicler, in a passage a part of which is preserved at the end of the second book of Chronicles and the whole at the beginning of the book of Ezra, recites that, in the first year after assuming the government of Babylonia, Cyrus issued a formal proclamation announcing that "Yahweh, the God of heaven," had given him "all the kingdoms of the earth" and commissioned him "to build him a house in Jerusalem"; summoning the Jews who were moved so to do[9] to return to their country and assist in the project; and commanding the neighbours of those who responded to the call to provide them with "silver, and gold, and cattle, together with a freewill offering for the house of God … in Jerusalem." The author adds (vv.5 ff.) that these instructions were loyally fulfilled, and that a company of exiles under Sheshbazzar "were brought up," with "the vessels of the house of Yahweh," "from Babylon to Jerusalem." The number of those who took advantage of this opportunity to return to Palestine is said to have been 42,360, besides their servants and a company of singers. Cf. Ezr. 264 ff..

The release of the Jews, with permission to rebuild their temple, is so thoroughly in harmony with the policy of Cyrus that one is disposed to accept the Chronicler's account without question. When, however, one examines it more closely, there appear reasons for more or less skepticism. Kosters, as the result of his investigations, not only doubts the historicity of Cyrus's decree, but declares that "in the history of the Restoration of Israel this return must take, not the first, but the third place"; and that "the temple was built and the wall of Jerusalem restored before the exiles returned from Babylonia."[10] Meyer is less radical, but he, while he contends for the historicity of the return under Cyrus, characterises this account of it as a fabrication.[11] There are several reasons for suspecting its authenticity: 1. The language used in the decree is not that of a genuine document emanating from the king of Persia, but of a free composition from the hand of the Chronicler, as in the verses describing the fulfilment of its requirements.

2. The thought dominant in the decree does not properly represent Cyrus as he appears in undoubtedly genuine contemporary records. Thus, at the very beginning he is made to call Yahweh "the God of heaven," and claim that he (Yahweh) has given him "all the kingdoms of the earth"; which amounts to a confession that the God of the Jews is the ruler of the world and the only true God. Now, it is improbable that he would have made any such announcement. He could not have done so without seriously offending the Babylonians. Had he not, in the inscription already cited, given to Marduk the title "king of the gods," and said that it was this Babylonian divinity who predestined him to "the sovereignty of the world"?[12] If, therefore, he issued a decree permitting the return of the Jews, it must have been in a different form from that which has been preserved by the Chronicler.

3. Those who deny that the Jews returned to Palestine, in any such numbers as are given in Ezr. 2, in the first year of Cyrus, call attention to the fact that, in chs. 5 and 6, where this decree is cited, the erection of the temple and the restoration of the sacred vessels are the only matters to which it is represented as referring. Cf. 513 ff. 63 ff.[13]

4. Although the document reproduced in Ezr. 2, with its various classes and precise figures, reads Hke a transcript from a detailed report of the number and character of the exiles who returned to their country under the terms of the decree attributed to Cyrus, a critical examination renders this view untenable. The reasons for a dififerent opinion are: (a) that in the title (Ezr. 21) the persons enumerated are described as "children of the province" who "had returned to Jerusalem and Judah," that is, were settled in the country when the census was made; (b) that the same document, in a somewhat earlier form, is found in Ne. 7, where (v.5) it is called "a book of genealogy," that is, a genealogical register; (c) that the phrase, "of them that came up at the first," here found, is an interpolation,[14] and the list of leaders in both Ezr. 2 and Ne. 7 also evidently an afterthought;[15] (d) and that, if this list were retained, it could be used as proof of a great return in the first year of Cyrus only on the mistaken supposition that Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel are different names for the same person.[16] These considerations oblige one to confess that the document in question was not intended for its present connection, and that therefore it cannot be used to prove that any great number of Jews, by permission of Cyrus, returned to their country soon after the capture of Babylon.[17]

5. It appears from Zc. 610 that the Jews of Babylonia were free to return to Jerusalem when it was written, but neither this prophet nor Haggai betrays any knowledge of so great a movement as that described in the first two chapters of Ezra. In fact, Zc. 210/6 ff., where Zion is exhorted to "flee" from Babylon, indicates that no such movement had taken place when this passage was written. Cf. also Zc. 615 87 f..

These are the most serious objections to the Chronicler's account of the return of the Jews under Cyrus. They do not lie against a less spectacular view of the matter, derived, not from the prophecies of the Second Isaiah,[18] but from more nearly contemporary sources. 1. In the first place, as has already been suggested, the liberality of which Cyrus gives evidence in his memorial inscription would prompt him to favour the return of the Jews to their country. 2. It would also suit his plans against Egypt to have them reestablish themselves on the western border of his empire under his protection. 3. Again, the decree cited in Ezr. 513 ff., which makes the impression of a genuine document, although there is no mention of the release of the captives, implies that they were by the same instrument, or had been by another, permitted to return to Palestine, since it would have been mockery to order the restoration of the temple without allowing them to go to worship at its altar. 4. Finally, since most, if not quite all, of the better class of inhabitants had been carried into captivity by Nebuchadrezzar, the fact that at the beginning of the reign of Darius there were princes of the house of David as well as priests and prophets resident at Jerusalem[19] shows that a royal edict permitting them to return had then been in operation for some time. Taking these factors into account, and remembering that, according to Ezr. 62, the record of the alleged decree was finally found in Ecbatana, it seems safe to conclude that, after settling the affairs of Babylonia, the king, early in 538 B.C., retired to Ecbatana, whence he issued orders releasing the Jews from captivity and instructing Sheshbazzar to rebuild their temple and restore its sacred vessels; and that from this time onward they could, and did, return, as they were moved so to do, to their native land.[20]

The Chronicler does not say when the Jews started from Babylonia, or when they arrived in Palestine; but in Ezr. 3 he informs the reader that, "when the seventh month was come," they "were in the cities," and that on the first of the month Joshua and Zerubbabel had rebuilt the altar at Jerusalem, so that they could offer the daily sacrifice and observe the feasts in their seasons. Now, there is nothing surprising in this statement, so far as its main features, the restoration of the altar and the resumption of worship, are concerned, but some of its details seem incredible. In the first place, note that Ezr. 31 is evidently an adaptation of Ne. 773b and 81a, while the date for the resumption of worship (v.6) seems to have been borrowed from Ne. 8{{sup|2}. Again, observe that Sheshbazzar, at this time governor of Judea, who had been commissioned by Cyrus to rebuild the temple, and who, according to Ezr. 516, actually "laid the foundations of the house of God," is not mentioned in this connection. Finally, consider how strange it is that the Jews should be described (v.3) as urged by the fear of "the peoples of the countries," although they must have had the protection of the governor and a considerable force of Persian soldiers. These discrepancies, especially in view of the phraseology employed,[21] indicate that here, again, the Chronicler is reconstructing history, this time in the interest of his favourites, Joshua and Zerubbabel, the truth being that the great altar was rebuilt by Sheshbazzar, and that this is what is meant by ascribing to him the foundation of the temple in Ezr. 516.[22]

Ezr. 3, from v.8 onward, is devoted to a description of the laying of the foundation of the second temple. In this passage, also, the Chronicler is composing freely, aided to some extent by extant materials, including the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah. The phraseology is his[23] and the content is characteristic. The leader in this case is Zerubbabel. Had not Zechariah (49) said that Zerubbabel had laid the foundation of the house? He is assisted, as one would expect, by Jeshua (Joshua), son of Jehosadak, the high priest, whom the prophets named associate with him. The date given was probably suggested by that of the actual foundation in the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah. It is the second year, not, however, of Darius, but, that the prophecy of Is. 4428 might be fulfilled, of Cyrus. The names of the heads of the Levites (v.9) were taken from 240,[24] the author overlooking the fact that, on his own interpretation, it was not the persons bearing these names, but their sons, who were contemporaries of Zerubbabel. The functions of the Levites are the same here as in other passages in which the Chronicler deals with affairs of the temple. Cf. 2 Ch. 245. 11 349. 12. It is characteristic, too, for him to introduce music "after the order of David," whenever there is an opportunity. Cf. 1 Ch. 1516 ff. 2 Ch. 511 ff..[25] His idea seems to have been to make this occasion correspond in its significance to that when the ark was brought from Kirjathjearim to Jerusalem by David. Cf. 1 Ch. 16. Finally, the Chronicler describes the effect produced upon "the old men who had seen the first house" when the foundation of the new one was put into place: the cries of joy and sorrow mingled in a great and indistinguishable "noise." This is a clearly an enlargement upon Hg. 23. The whole account, then, is simply the product of an attempt to bring the facts with reference to the restoration of the temple into harmony with an unfulfilled prediction on the subject, and has no historic value.

The prolepsis just noted made it necessary for the Chronicler to explain why the completion of the temple was so long delayed. He had no data for the purpose, but, fortunately, the history of the restoration of the wall of Jerusalem suggested a means by which he could fill the embarrassing interim. Cf. Ne. 333 ff./41 ff. 41 ff./7 ff. 61 ff.. It was the "adversaries" of his people, he says (Ezr. 44 f.), who hindered the work begun the year after their return, just as they afterward did that of Nehemiah. Cf. Ne. 45/11. He does not at first divulge who these "adversaries" are, but finally he identifies them with the descendants of the heathen with whom the king of Assyria, here Esarhaddon, colonised northern Palestine after the overthrow of the kingdom of Israel. Cf. 2 K. 1724 ff.. It was they who "frightened" the Jews "from building, and hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus, king of Persia, even to the reign of Darius, king of Persia." The animus of this story is apparent. It breathes the hatred and contempt with which the Jews regarded their northern neighbours. Its unreality is equally evident. The request put into the mouth of these "adversaries" contradicts, not only the term applied to them, but all that is known with reference to their attitude toward the Jews and their sanctuary.[26] The passage, therefore, does not add to the trustworthiness of the preceding account of the foundation of the temple.

The general statement of Ezr. 45 might have sufficed to bridge the interval between the date there mentioned and that at which, according to the Chronicler, work on the temple was resumed, namely, the second year of the reign of Darius. The author, however, was not content to leave his readers without details. One of the incidents he cites is barely mentioned, the other is given in extenso. A certain Rehum and others, of Samaria, it seems, made a formal complaint against the Jews, setting forth that it would be dangerous to allow them to proceed with the operations in which they were engaged. The king, after an investigation, issued the desired decree, whereupon Rehum and his companions "went in haste to Jerusalem unto the Jews, and made them cease by force and power. Then," says the writer, "ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem; and it ceased until the second year of Darius, king of Persia." Cf. Ezr. 423 f.. The natural inference from the last clause is that both incidents were obstacles to the completion of the sanctuary, and that both occurred before the reign of Darius. This, however, is not the case; for it is clear from vv.13 ff. that it was the rebuilding of the city and its wall against which the Samaritans protested, and it is expressly stated that the first complaint was made in the reign of Xerxes, the son of Darius, and the second in that of Artaxerxes, his grandson. In other words, the Chronicler, for the purpose of enriching his narrative, here introduces incidents that had nothing to do with the temple, and happened, if they are authentic, many years after it was completed. They may be of value for the period to which they belong, but they have no place in an introduction to the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah.[27]

The Chronicler, then, has no reliable information concerning the Jews, or their condition and relations, for the period from the first year after the fall of Babylon to the second of the reign of Darius. The annals of Persia are almost as completely silent with reference to them and their country. Their neighbours generally, as vassals of Babylon, had promptly submitted to Cyrus. Gaza, probably at the instigation of the king of Egypt, hesitated; but it, like the Phœnician cities, finally accepted the new order.[28] A show of force may have been necessary, but soon, so far as Palestine was concerned, the king was free to devote his energies to a war with the Scythians by which, although it cost him his life, he greatly extended and firmly established, in the north and east, the boundaries of his empire.

The death of Cyrus took place in 530 or 529 B.C.[29] By this time a considerable number of Jews must have returned to Palestine. Their condition was not an enviable one. Of this one can assure one's self without the help of the Chronicler. In the first place, even if the great altar had been rebuilt, it cannot but have emphasised the desolation by which it was surrounded. Moreover, those who lived at Jerusalem were constantly reminded by the prostrate walls of the present weakness as well as the former strength of their city. Finally, some of the returned exiles were suffering actual want; for, according to Hg. 216 f., when the temple was founded, it had been a long time since there was a normal harvest. Zechariah (810) bears similar testimony, referring also to the constant annoyance his people had suffered from hostile neighbours. The discouragement that these hard conditions would naturally engender had doubtless found frequent expression. Perhaps, as some scholars incline to believe,[30] Is. 63 f. are among the literary products of the period. At any rate, the sufferers could hardly have put their complaint into more fitting or forceful language. The following lines from ch. 64 are especially appropriate:

8/9. "Be not, Yahweh, very wroth,
nor remember iniquity forever:
"Look, see, I pray thee,
we are all thy people.
9/10. "Thy holy cities have become a desert;
Zion hath become a desert,
Jerusalem a waste.
10/11. "Our holy and beautiful house,
where our fathers praised thee,
hath been burned with fire,
"And all that was precious to us
hath become a ruin.
11/12. "And wilt thou still restrain thyself, Yahweh?
be quiet? nay, greatly afflict us?[31]
 

§ 2. CAMBYSES.

The successor of Cyrus on the throne of Persia was Cambyses. His chief exploit was the conquest of Egypt. It is probable that Cyrus had planned the subjugation of this country, and that, at his death, he had bequeathed to his son the duty of punishing Ahmes for joining Crœsus and Nabonidus in a league against him. A second reason for undertaking this enterprise was that the king of Egypt had shown a good degree of vigour and prudence in the recent past. He had compelled the island of Cyprus to pay him tribute,[32] and contracted an alliance with the Greeks of Cyrene[33] and Polycrates the tyrant of Samos,[34] thus threatening Persian dominance in Asia Minor. Finally, there was the Achæmenid lust for dominion, which only the conquest of the world could satisfy.

The immediate cause of the breach between the two powers is unknown.[35] Whatever it may have been, it must have arisen early in the reign of Cambyses, for by 526 B.C. he was ready for the conflict.[36] In that year he set in motion his army, which, as it neared Egypt, was supported by a fleet of Greek, Cyprian, and Phœnician vessels that had been collected at Akka.

The Jews must have been deeply interested in this expedition, and equally impressed by its magnitude, as it passed through Palestine. If any of them were disposed to disparage its strength, they were speedily disillusioned, for at Pelusium Cambyses routed the Egyptian army, and shortly afterward, at Memphis, he captured Psammeticus III, the son and successor of Ahmes, thus completing the conquest of the country.[37]

There is wide disagreement among the authorities with reference to the treatment of the Egyptians and their religion by the conqueror. A nearly contemporary record, the inscription on the statue of Uzahor, says that, when Cambyses had established himself in Egypt, he took an Egyptian prænomen, Mesut-ra, received instruction in the religion of the country, recognised the goddess Neit by purging her temple, restoring its revenues and worshipping at the renovated sanctuary, and finally made offerings to all the other gods that had shrines at Sais.[38] The story told by Herodotus is very different. He pictures Cambyses as torturing Psammeticus by cruelty to his children, abusing the mummy of the dethroned king's father, fatally wounding the bull in which Apis had recently manifested himself and making sport of the images in the temple of Ptah, the tutelar divinity of Memphis.[39] The truth seems to be that at first he was disposed to respect the customs and prejudices of the conquered people, but that, after his return from his disastrous expedition against Ethiopia, he treated them and their gods as if they were responsible for its failure. Then, according to Uzahor, there happened "a very great calamity" affecting "the whole land," during which he (Uzahor) "protected the feeble against the mighty." He adds,—and this statement shows that the religious interests of the country had thereby suffered seriously,—that, on the accession of Darius, he was commissioned "to restore the names of the gods, their temples, their endowments and the arrangement of their feasts forever."[40]

The reign of Cambyses was not so unfortunate for the Jews. He seems to have continued toward them the policy adopted by his father, a policy which was prudent as well as liberal, in view of his designs against Egypt. When he had conquered that country he gave proof of his favour by sparing their temple at Elephantine.[41] If, however, they were cherishing dreams of independence suggested by the earlier prophets, his reputation for jealousy and cruelty must have chilled their ardour and deterred them from activities that could be interpreted to their disadvantage. Moreover, being on the route by which the Persian army entered Egypt, and by which it had to be re-enforced, they must more than once have been obliged to meet requisitions that sorely taxed their slender resources. It is not surprising, therefore, that there is no evidence, in the Scriptures or elsewhere, that, during the reign of Cambyses, they made any attempt to complete the temple or even to put their city into a defensible condition. If there are any psalms or other literary remains of the period in the Old Testament, they cannot, for obvious reasons, be distinguished from those of the latter part of the reign of Cyrus.

The reckless ways of Cambyses in Eygpt made the name of Persia hated in that country. The murder of his own brother, Bardes, which he had hitherto succeeded in concealing, now bore fruit in the alienation of his own people by the impostor Gomates, who seized the throne of Persia and proclaimed himself the missing son of Cyrus. When the news reached Egypt the king, although he at first shrank from a contest in which success, however he achieved it, meant lasting infamy, at length, by the urgent advice of his counsellors, put himself at the head of his army and started for Persia. When he reached Syria, however, his courage failed him, and, calling together the nobles who attended him, he first confessed the assassination of Bardes and appealed to them to dethrone the usurper, and then committed suicide.[42] Thus, the Jews must have been among the first to learn of an event of the greatest significance for them and their interests.


§ 3. DARIUS I, HYSTASPES.

Cambyses, who had no son, was finally succeeded by Darius Hystaspes, representing a collateral branch of the Achæmenids. The story of the method by which he obtained the crown, as given by Herodotus,[43] is full of romantic details. The new king himself, in the inscription already cited, gives this concise and simple account of the matter:

"There was not a man, either Persian or Median, or any one of our family, who could dispossess of the empire this Gomates, the Magian. The State feared him exceedingly. He slew many people who had known the old Bardes; for this reason he slew the people, lest they should recognise him as not being Bardes, the son of Cyrus. There was not any one bold enough to say aught against Gomates, the Magian, until I arrived. Then I prayed to Ormazd. Ormazd brought help to me. On the tenth day of the month Ragayadish, then it was that I slew this Gomates, the Magian, and the chief men who were his followers. At the fort named Sictachotes, in the district of Media called Nisæa, there I slew him. I dispossessed him of the empire. By the grace of Ormazd I became king. Ormazd granted me the sceptre."

It was one thing to dispose of Gomates, and quite another, as Darius soon discovered, to get possession of the power that Cambyses had wielded. One after another the principal provinces rebelled, until the whole of the eastern half of the empire, under various leaders, was in arms against him. The following is his catalogue of the insurgents he had to suppress before he could call himself, as he does at the beginning of this Behistun inscription,[44] "the great king, the king of kings, the king of Persia, the king of the provinces":

"One was named Gomates, the Magian. He was an impostor; he said, I am Bardes, the son of Cyrus. He threw Persia into revolt.

"One, an impostor, was named Atrines, a Susian. He thus said, I am the king of Susiana. He caused Susiana to revolt against me.

"One was named Nadinta-belus, a native of Babylon. He was an impostor. He thus said, I am Nabochodrossor, the son of Nabonidus. He caused Babylon to revolt.

"One was an impostor named Martes, a Persian. He thus said, I am Imanes, the king of Susiana. He threw Susiana into rebellion.

"One was named Phraortes, a Median. He spake lies. He thus said, I am Xathrites, of the race of Cyaxares. He persuaded Media to revolt.

"One was an impostor named Sitratachmes, a native of Sagartia. He thus said, I am the king of Sagartia, of the race of Cyaxares. He caused Sagartia to revolt.

"One was an impostor named Phraates, a Margian. He thus said, I am the king of Margiana. He threw Margiana into revolt.

"One was an impostor named Veisdates, a Persian. He thus said, I am Bardes, the son of Cyrus. He headed a rebellion in Persia.

"One was an impostor named Aracus, a native of Armenia. He thus said, I am Nabochodrossor, the son of Nabonidus. He threw Babylon into revolt."

The courage and vigour that Darius brought to his herculean task are amazing; yet these essential qualities would hardly have availed him, had he not been loyally supported by several able generals, among whom was his own father, Hystaspes. He himself, having apprehended and punished Atrines for claiming the crown of Susiana, turned his attention to Babylonia, where, after fighting two battles, he took the capital and put to death the impostor, Nadinta-belus. While he was thus engaged the rest of the provinces revolted. As soon as he was free to do so he hurried to Media to assist Hydarnes against Phraortes, whom he overthrew in battle and finally executed. While here he sent a force into Sagartia under one of his generals, who defeated Sitratachmes, the usurping king, and brought him back a prisoner. Meanwhile, with some assistance from him, Armenia had been subdued and Hystaspes had restored order in Parthia and Hyrcania. The satrap of Bactria had also suppressed the uprising in Margiana. Finally, Darius himself saw the end of the second in Persia and Arachotia, while Intaphernes was subduing the second in Babylonia.[45]

The above outline, which is intended merely to indicate the probable order of the events mentioned, might convey an erroneous impression with reference to the duration of the struggle between Darius and his adversaries. It really lasted about three years. There ought to be no difficulty, with the data given, to construct a chronology of his victories; but, unfortunately, although he gives the month and the day of the month in almost every case, he does not mention the year to which these belong, or arrange his narrative so that the omission can always be supplied. Still, it is possible, with the help of Babylonian tablets belonging to the period, to determine approximately a number of important dates. Thus, the impostor Gomates must have set up his claim to the throne of Persia in the spring of 522 B.C.[46] The death of Cambyses occurred late in the summer of the same year.[47] In the following autumn Gomates was overthrown by Darius,[48] who began his reign before the middle of March, 521 B.C.[49] Toward the end of this year occurred the first revolt in Babylon, which probably occupied him until the summer of 520 B.C.,[50] when he went to Media to finish the subjugation of that and the adjoining provinces. The second revolt of the Babylonians, which seems to have been the latest of these protests against the authority of Darius, was probably not suppressed before 519 B.C.[51]

If Cambyses died in the summer of 522 B.C. and Gomates was overthrown before the end of the year, the first full year of the reign of Darius began with Nisan (March–April) 521 B.C., and the second with the same month in 520, before he had taken Babylon the first time. Now, "the second year of Darius the king," "the sixth month," and "the first day of the month," or about the middle of August, is the date on which Haggai approached Zerubbabel and Joshua, the then leaders in Jerusalem, with a message from Yahweh requiring them to rebuild the temple, and it was only a few days later that the work was actually begun. Cf. Hg. 11. 15. In other words, the movement among the Jews to rebuild the temple took place just when the latest news from the East seemed to warrant them in expecting the speedy collapse of the Persian empire. This can hardly have been a mere coincidence. It means that, whatever may have been the policy of Cyrus, that of his successor had been more or less repressive, and that the Jews, who, having one of their own race for governor, had now begun to think of autonomy, took the first favourable opportunity to provide a rallying-point for patriotic sentiment in the growing community.

There is no intimation in the prophecies of Haggai or Zechariah that the project they were urging met with any opposition from the Persian government. The Chronicler does not claim that anything was done to hinder it, but he says that the Jews had no sooner begun work than Tattenai, the governor of the satrapy west of the Euphrates, and certain others, appeared and inquired who had given them authority to rebuild the sanctuary.[52] They replied that Cyrus had done so in the first year of his reign, and that Sheshbazzar had actually laid the foundations of the building at that time. Cf. Ezr. 513. 16. Thereupon the governor reported to the king, asking that an examination be made to ascertain whether such a decree had ever been issued. Cf. Ezr. 517. The result was that a record to this effect was found at Ecbatana, and the governor was instructed not to interfere with the Jews in their work, but rather to assist them from the revenues of his district, that they might "offer sacrifices of sweet savour to the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king and his sons." Cf. Ezr. 61 ff..

The authenticity of this account has been disputed by Wellhausen, but the tendency, even among the more radical authorities, is to admit that, whether the Chronicler, to whom it owes its present form, composed (Schrader), compiled (Kosters) or only edited (Kuenen) it, it contains more or less material of a genuinely historical character. This opinion is favoured by the following considerations:

1. The general impression made by the story, as compared, for example, with 11 f., 47 ff. or 616 ff., is that it is temperate and plausible.

2. The consideration shown the Jews, first by the governor, and then by the king, is in harmony with the demands of the historical situation. The whole East had revolted against Darius; but as yet there had been no trouble in the western part of the empire, and it was very desirable that this state of things should continue. That the king realised this is clear from his treatment of the case of Oroetes, the satrap of Lydia, who was not removed, although he was known to be secretly disloyal, until the eastern provinces had been reduced to submission.[53] Probably Tattenai had received instructions to keep a close watch upon his district, but not to create unnecessary friction. When the case came before Darius, he would naturally make it a point to honour a decree of his great predecessor, knowing that, once firmly seated upon his throne, he could easily check any abuse of his liberality by the Jews of Jerusalem.

3. The mention of Sheshbazzar (516) is significant. It shows that the Chronicler, when he introduced it, was borrowing from an older source, a source from which, in ch. 3, he found reason for differing, and in which, on this account, the reader should have the greater confidence.

4. When the Jews began work on the temple, Media was in rebellion; but, by the time the report of Tattenai reached Darius, he had regained control of the province, including Ecbatana, where the edict of Cyrus was finally discovered. Cf. Ezr. 62.

5. There are certain features of the rescript in reply to Tattenai (Ezr. 66 ff.) that speak for its genuineness. Thus, the request for an interest in the prayers of the worshippers of Yahweh (v.10) reminds one of Cyrus's appeal to the gods that he had restored to their shrines to intercede for him and Cambyses with Bel and Nebo;[54] while the warning against tampering with the decree (v.11) has a parallel in the conclusion of the Behistun inscription where Darius himself says:

"If, seeing this tablet and these figures, thou shalt injure them, and shalt not preserve them as long as thy seed endures, then may Ormazd be thy enemy, and mayest thou be childless, and that which thou mayest do may Ormazd curse for thee."

The curse in v.12, however, is justly suspected of being an interpolation.[55]

It must have taken some time, several months, for Tattenai to get his instructions. Meanwhile the Jews proceeded with their work. At first they wrought with feverish, fanatical energy. On the twenty-fourth of the ninth month (December, 520 B.C.), the enthusiasm seems to have reached its height. This is the date on which Haggai prophesied the destruction of "the strength of the kingdoms of the nations." Cf. 322. Later the work began to drag. At any rate, Zechariah, in 46 f. of his prophecies, pictures the task before Zerubbabel and his associates as a "mountain." If they finally received any assistance from the government, it must have been delayed many months, as such grants are apt to be, for, according to the Chronicler (Ezr. 615), the temple was not completed until the third of Adar in the sixth year of Darius, or February, 515 B.C.

For some time after the suppression of the great uprising in the East Darius was employed in strengthening his hold on his vast dominions. To this end he removed ambitious satraps, like Oroetes, occupied strategic points in India and Asia Minor and thoroughly reorganised the empire. In the course of these activities he had to devote some attention to Egypt, where Aryandes, an appointee of Cambyses, was usurping royal functions and provoking disorder. Perhaps he had already sent Uzahor, an official already (p. 15) mentioned, to repair some of the damage done to the country by his predecessor.[56] Finally he himself visited Egypt. There is no direct evidence bearing on the date of this visit, but Wiedemann,[57] by combining an inscription recording the death of an Apis with a notice by Polyænus[58] of a reward offered by the king for the discovery of another, has made it appear that it was, or began, in his fourth year, that is 517 B.C.[59] His first act was to depose and execute the satrap. Then he proceeded to restore order, institute necessary reforms, and otherwise display his wisdom and efficiency as a ruler. The greatest of his undertakings was the canal by which he planned to connect the Nile with the Red Sea, and thus open communication by water between Persia and the Mediterranean.[60]

The presence of Darius in the West was a boon, not only to Egypt, but to Palestine. He may have visited Jerusalem as he passed through the country and, having personally inspected the rising temple, made further provision for its completion. At any rate, the latest of Zechariah's prophecies, which is dated in the fourth year of Darius (71), in its tone and content indicates improved conditions. It is evident that, when it was written, the Jews, who had previously been almost entirely confined to Jerusalem, and constantly annoyed, as they went and came, by the "adversary," had begun to occupy the surrounding country and enjoy the fruits of order and security. Cf. 810 ff.. Their ideas had meanwhile changed with their circumstances. They had laid aside, for the time being, their political aspirations,—Zerubbabel is not mentioned,—content that Jerusalem should be, not the capital of a great, independent kingdom, but, as in the visions of the Second Isaiah, a sanctuary for all nations. Cf. 822 f.. Note, too, the emphasis the prophet, in chs. 7 f., lays upon justice, mercy, etc., and the clearness with which he teaches that the practice of these homely virtues is the condition of the continued enjoyment by the individual and the community of the favour of Yahweh.

  1. K.B., iii, 2, 128 ff.; Pinches, OT., 411.
  2. K.B., iii, 2, 124 ff., 132 ff.; Pinches, OT., 415 f.
  3. Is. 449 ff. On the changes and omissions in the passage as here rendered, cf. Cheyne, SBOT.
  4. Is. 4424 ff. Duhm and Cheyne omit the next to the last line and transfer the last to v.26, but the omission of the fourth line of that verse makes any further pruning unnecessary. On the minor changes in the text, cf. Cheyne, SBOT.
  5. K.B., iii, 2, 134 f.
  6. K.B., iii, 2, 126 f. Pinches, OT., 422.
  7. On this point Nöldeke has some remarks that are well worth quoting. He says: "If in these two inscriptions (the Chronicle and Cyrus's Cylinder) Cyrus appears as a pious worshipper of the Babylonian gods, and indeed, according to the Cylinder, Merodach himself led him bccause he (Merodach) was angry with the native king for not serving him properly, sacerdotal diplomacy of this sort should not deceive the trained historian. The priests turned to the rising sun without regard to their previous relations with Nabonidus. Cyrus certainly did not suppress the Babylonian religion, as the Hebrew prophets expected; the splendour of the ritual in the richest city in the world probably impressed him. When, however, the priests (by whom the inscriptions were prepared) represent him as an adherent of the Babylonian religion, that does not make him one, any more than Cambyses and some of the Roman emperors are made worshippers of the Egyptian gods by being represented on some of the monuments of the land of the Nile as paying them due reverence just like Egyptian kings." APG., 22.
  8. 1 Esd. 2; Jos.Ant., xi, 1.
  9. There is no such modifying clause in the Massoretic text of Ezr. 13, but it is easily supplied from v.5 and must be restored to complete the meaning. See Guthe, SBOT.
  10. WI., 2.
  11. EJ., 72, 49.
  12. KB., iii. 2, 120 ff.
  13. Kosters, WI., 26.
  14. It cannot be construed with the preceding context. Cf. Guthe. SBOT.
  15. Cf. Guthe, SBOT.
  16. This view was formerly common, and there are some who still hold it. So Ryle, on Ezr. 18; van Hoonacker, PP., 543. The following points, however, seem conclusive against it: (1) The Chronicler, who alone has the name Sheshbazzar, gives his reader no hint that it is intended to designate the same person as Zerubbabel. (2) In Ezr. 516 he represents the leaders of the Jews as using the name in such a way that it cannot fairly be understood as a designation for one of their own number. (3) If, as Meyer (EJ., 77) and others claim, the Shenazzar of 1 Ch. 318 is Sheshbazzar, the author must be reckoned a positive witness against the identity of the person so called with Zerubbabel. Cf. DB., art. Sheshbazzar.
  17. In 1 Esd. 5 the same document appears as a part of an account of a return with Zerubbabel at the beginning of the reign of Darius.
  18. Compare the phraseology of Ezr. 11 ff. with that of Is. 412 and 4428.
  19. Hg. 11 21 f., etc.
  20. Cf. Meyer, EJ., 47f. André (83 ff.) supposes two distinct expeditions to have been organised, the first of which left Babylonia under Sheshbazzar soon after the decree was issued, the second under the twelve elders, among whom were Zerubbabel and Joshua, somewhat later.
  21. The expressions characteristic of the style of the Chronicler are the following: set up and countries, v.3; each day, lit., day with day, v.4; willingly offered, v.5; cf. Driver, LOT.6, 535 ff.
  22. Cf. Meyer, EJ., 44 f.
  23. Cf. house of God and appoint, v.8; have the oversight, vv.8 f.; after the order, v.10; praising and giving thanks, v.11; further, Driver, LOT.6, 434 ff.
  24. For Judah read Hoduyah. The fourth name, Henedad, seems to be a later addition suggested by Ne. 1010/9.
  25. In 2 Ch. 3412, where, according to the Massoretic text, the repairs on the temple would seem to have been made to the sound of trumpets and cymbals, the latter half of the verse has probably been added by a thoughtless scribe. Cf. Nowack, who thinks the latter half of v.13 also is ungenuine.
  26. Cf. Meyer, GA., iii, 101 f. There is a similar case in Ne. 220, where the Chronicler would lead one to infer that the Samaritans had offercd to assist Nehemiah in his work; whereas, from documents recently discovered, it is clear that, so far from recognising the pretensions of the Jerusalemites, they favoured local sanctuaries, and recommended the restoration of the one at Elephantine. Cf. Sachau, Report of the Smithsonian Institution for 1907, 603 ff.; Lagrange in Revue Biblique, 1908, 325 ff.
  27. A suggestion with reference to tne text of Ezr. 46–10, however, may not be out of order. It is that, in vv.7 ff., the author is reporting the transmission by a higher Persian official of the substance of a letter received from a subordinate. The interpretation will then be as follows: In v.7 the author says that, in the reign of Artaxerxes, Mithredath (Mithridates), originally the only person named, wrote a despatch to the king, of which there was an Aramaic translation. In v.8 he gives the words with which Mithredath introduces the matter of the letter: "Rehum, the commandant, and Shimshai, the scribe, have written this letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king, to wit." Then (v.9) follows the list of complainants with which the letter began: "Rehum, the commandant, and Shimshai, the scribe, and the rest of their associates," etc. "And now," says Mithredath (v.11), by way of introduction to the letter proper, "this is the copy of the letter that thy servants, the men beyond the River, have sent to Artaxerxes the king"; and he gives his master the contents of the letter. It appears from v.17 that Rehum was an official resident at Samaria. Mithredath, therefore, was probably the incumbent of the fifth satrapy, which included Palestine. According to Meyer his residence was at Aleppo. Cf. GA., ii, 137.
  28. Nöldeke, APG. 23; Prášek, GMP., i, 232 f., 235.
  29. The latter is the date usually given. So Wiedemann, . 224 f.; Nöldeke, APG., 26. The Ptolemaic Canon, however, places his death in 530, and the contract tablets of the latter part of that year bear the name of his successor. Cf. Prášek, GMP., 200, 246 f. It is probable, however, that, when Cyrus started on his unhappy expedition against the Massagetæ, he placed the regal authority in the hands of Cambyses, who thus began to reign some months before his father's death. Cf. Herodotus, i, 208; vii, 4; Prášek, GMP., i, 242.
  30. Bleek, Einl., 346.
  31. Bacthgen, with more or less confidence, refers to this period the following Psalms: 16, 41, 56, 57, 59, 64, 79, 85, 120, 123, 124, 125, 127, 131 and 137.
  32. Herodotus, ii, 126.
  33. Herodotus, ii, 181.
  34. Herodotus, iii, 39 ff.
  35. For the stories with reference to the subject current in the fifth century B.C., cf. Herodotus, iii, 1 ff.
  36. Prášek, GMP., i, 252. There is difference of opinion with reference to the date. Brugsch (Hist., ii, 312 ff.) insists that the invasion of Egypt took place in 527 B.C., but Wiedemann (GÄ., 226 ff.) seems to have shown that he misread Serapeum 354, the inscription on which his conclusion was based. Petrie, HE., iii, 360, supports Wiedemann. Duncker's (HA., vi, 145) date is 525 B.C.
  37. Herodotus, iii, 10 ff.
  38. Petrie, HE., iii, 360 ff.
  39. Herodotus, iii, 14 ff., 27 ff., 37.
  40. Cf. Petrie, HE., iii, 362. Jedoniah, in his letter to Bagoses, says that "the temples of the gods of Egypt were all overthrown" by Cambyses. Report of Smithsonian Institution 1907, 603 ff.; Revue Biblique, 1908, 325 ff.
  41. Report of the Smithsonian Institution, 1907, 603 ff.; Revue Biblique, 1908, 325 ff.
  42. The statement of Herodotus (Hist., iii, 64), that the death of the king was accidental, is contradicted by the Behistun inscription, in which Darius says expressly that "Cambyses, killing himself, died." RP.2, i, 114.
  43. Hist., iii, 71 ff.
  44. RP.2, i, 126.
  45. RP.2, i, 116 ff.; Nöldeke, APG., 31 f.
  46. The time of year is determined by a tablet dated in "Airu [April–May], the year of the beginning of the reign of Bardes, king of Babylon, king of the lands." KB., iv, 294 f. The year can hardly have been 523 B.C., as Prášek (GMP., i, 266) asserts, since Cambyses must have been informed of the event within a few weeks after it occurred, and must have taken steps to meet the usurper very soon after the receipt of such information. He did not, however, according to Prášek himself (GMP., i, 267) leave Egypt until the spring of 522 B.C. This, therefore, was probably the year of the beginning of Gomates's usurpation.
  47. Prášek, GMP., i, 275.
  48. Prášek, GMP., i, 282.
  49. This statement is based on a tablet dated the twenty-second of Adar (February–March) in "the beginning" of his reign. KB., iv, 302 f.
  50. According to Herodotus (iii, 152), the siege of the city lasted a year and seven months.
  51. So Meyer, GA., i, 613 ff. Duncker, following Herodotus, prolongs the first Babylonian revolt until the autumn of 519 B.C., making it necessary to suppose that the second was not suppressed until 517 B.C. Cf. HA., vi, 239 ff., 249 ff., 270 ff.
  52. Ezr. 53. The text adds a clause rendered (after S T) in RV. "and to finish this wall"; but the vocalisation of אֻשַּׁרְנָא indicates that the Jews read אֻשִׁיָא, foundations, as in v.16. Haupt (SBOT.) regards it as the Aramaic form of asru, an Assyrian word for sanctuary. If RV. is correct, the whole clause is probably an accretion.
  53. Herodotus, iii, 120 ff.
  54. KB. iii, e, 126 f.
  55. Meyer, EJ., 51.
  56. The country from which Darius sent Uzahor on this mission, according to Petrie (HE., iii, 362), was Aram, Syria, but, according to Brugsch (Hist., ii, 305), Elam.
  57. GÄ., 236 f.
  58. vii, 11, 7.
  59. So also Nöldeke, APG., 41.
  60. Wiedemann, GÄ., 241 f. The project was abandoned because Darius's engineers told him that the level of the Red Sea was higher than that of Egypt and that, therefore, if the canal were opened the country would be flooded.