Answers to historical problems in the Book of Daniel (Part 2)

The Bible and Archaeology (1/5)

For many more archaeological evidences in support of the Bible, see Archaeology and the Bible . (There are some great posts on this too at the bottom of this post.)

Till Is Batting Around .250 on Daniel
by Everette Hatcher III

1999 / March-April

Let me address three of the historical situations that Till spends a great deal of time discussing. (Last time I covered the first of these questions: “Did the author of Daniel suppose that Darius Hystaspis preceded Cyrus?”)

(2) Is there a possible answer to the identity of “Darius the Mede”? Till wrongly assumed that I hold the view that Darius was a governor appointed by Cyrus (May/June 1998, p. 2). While I don’t dismiss that possibility, I do favor a different view. I do not claim dogmatically that this view is true, but it certainly is a realistic possibility. Many evangelicals have put forth the theory that Darius is a title for Cyrus (D. J. Wiseman, “Some Historical Problems in the Book of Daniel,” Notes on Some Problems in the Book of Daniel, Tyndale, 1970, pp. 9-16; J.M. Bulman, “The Identification of Darius the Mede,” Westminster Theological Journal, Volume 35, 1973, pp. 247-267; J.G. Baldwin, Daniel, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, InterVarsity, 1978, pp. 26-28, 127). Dual titles were not uncommon. Daniel and his friends had dual names. Kings were known by two names at times. For instance, 1 Chronicles 5:26 reads, “So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul King of Assyria, even [Hebrew conjunction waw] the spirit of Tiglath-Pileser King of Assyria.” We now know that Assyrian records indicate that Pul was Tiglath-Pileser’s native name (James B. Pritchard [ed.], Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, Princeton University Press, 1950, p. 272). Likewise, Wiseman translates Daniel 6:28, “Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, even [Aramaic conjunction waw] the reign of Cyrus the Persian” (Wiseman, p. 12). If Wiseman is correct on this translation, then it may be a good explanation for this missing person case. The critic Isaac Asimov did note that Cyrus was “indeed about 62 years old at this time” (p. 608), and Daniel 5:31 says that Darius was 62.

The conservative Stephen Miller stated:

Bulman reasonably suggests that the author preferred the title Darius the Mede because it had particular significance for the Jews (Bulman, p. 263). Both Isaiah (13:17) and Jeremiah (51:11, 28) had predicted the downfall of Babylon to the Medes, and Daniel employed the title to emphasize the fulfillment of these prophecies. Yet Daniel also used the title Cyrus the Persian in order to explain the king’s relationship to the world of that day he was ruler over the whole Medo-Persian Empire. “The author may have assumed that 6:28 would make the identification clear enough for the circle addressed” (Bulman, p. 252; Miller, pp. 175-176).

In fact, the critic Brian E. Colless concluded, “Everything seems to point to the same conclusion: Darius the Mede is synonymous with Cyrus the Persian in the Book of Daniel” (“Cyrus the Persian as Darius the Mede in the Book of Daniel,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Vol. 56, 1992, pp. 113-126).

I must admit that the argument concerning “Darius the Mede” is the most difficult problem remaining for the inerrantist to resolve. However, this problem involves only the identity of “Darius the Mede,” and it does not concern the incorrect view that the Medes reigned between the Babylonians and Persians. Also I must point out that Till himself admits that appealing “to historical silence is considered a weak type of argumentation” (July/August 1998, p. 8). Yet Till considers this type of evidence concerning Daniel “very compelling” partly because Ezekiel makes no “unequivocal” reference to Daniel. Till asserted:

Ezekiel did mention the name Daniel three times, but these were in contexts where this person was associated with ancient biblical heroes like Noah and Job (14:14, 20; 28:3). Since the name is spelled “Danel” in some texts, this Daniel is thought to be the “Danel” of Ugaritic legend found on clay tablets excavated at Ras Shamra, so it seems rather strange that Ezekiel would have written 48 chapters without once referring to a captive who had become a prominent Babylonian official (July/August 1998, pp. 8, 10).

Till dismissed the three times Ezekiel mentions Daniel because Ezekiel is speaking of a Daniel spelled “Danel” referred to in Ugaritic literature around the 14th century B. C. Other critics agree (e.g., Hammer, p. 3; Owens, p. 374). However, the context in Ezekiel seems to contradict this view. Ezekiel 14 is a message against the idolatrous elders. The conservative H. Dressler asks, “Is it conceivable that the same prophet would choose a Phoenician-Canaanite devotee of Baal as his outstanding example of righteousness? Within the context of Ezekiel this seems to be a preposterous suggestion” (H. H. P. Dressler, “The Identification of the Ugaritic Dnil with the Daniel of Ezekiel,” Vetus Testamentum, Vol. 29, 1979, p. 159). Furthermore, even the critic John Day admits “there are no linguistic objections to the equation of the Daniel of Ezekiel XIV:14,20 and the hero of the book of Daniel. Ezekiel simply spells the name without the vowel letter yodh.” Day made these comments in an article maintaining the critical conclusion that Ezekiel is referring to the Ugaritic Danel (“The Daniel of Ugarit and Ezekiel and the Hero of the Book of Daniel,” Vetus Testamentum, Vol. 30, 1980, pp. 174-184).

Critics seem never to learn. Earlier there was “very compelling” evidence from silence that Belshazzar never existed. The conservative scholar Alan Millard stated:

Nebuchadnezzar had, of course, ruled over Babylon, but Belshazzar’s name was nowhere to be found outside the Biblical text. The Greek chroniclers who had preserved lists of ancient kings identified Nabonidus, a successor to Nebuchadnezzar, as the last native ruler of Babylon; Belshazzar was not even mentioned. Belshazzar, declared one commentator named Ferdinand Hitzig in 1850, was “obviously a figment of the Jewish writer’s imagination” (Ferdinand Hitzig, Das Buch Daniel, Leipzig: Weidman, 1850, p. 75, as quoted by Millard, “Daniel and Belshazzar in History,” Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 1985, pp. 74-75).

It was in this atmosphere that Albert Barnes finished his commentary on December 26, 1851. He could have put his faith in the current evidence of the day or the unchangeable word of God. His choice was clear. He asserted:

The testimony of Daniel in the book before us should not be set aside by the statement of Berosus, or by the other confused accounts which have come down to us. For anything that appears to the contrary, the authority of Daniel is as good as that of Berosus, and he is as worthy of belief. Living in Babylon and through a great part of the reigns of this dynasty; present at the taking of Babylon, and intimate at court; honoured by some of these princes more than any other man in the realm, there is no reason why he should not have had access to the means of information on the subject, and no reason why it should not be supposed that he has given a fair record of what actually occurred” (Notes, Critical, Illustrative, and Practical on the Book of Daniel, Leavitt and Allen, 1858, p. 237).

Barnes considered God’s unchangeable word more reliable than historians, and Alan Millard pointed out that historians soon after made some changes:

Then, in 1854, a British consul named J. G. Taylor explored some ruins in southern Iraq on behalf of the British Museum. He dug into a great mud-brick tower that was part of the temple of the moon god that dominated the city. Taylor found several small clay cylinders buried in the brickwork, each about four inches long, inscribed with 60 or 50 lines of cuneiform writing. When Taylor took the cylinders back to Baghdad, he showed them to his colleagues (see E. Sollberger, “Mr. Taylor in Chaldaea,” Anatolian Studies, Vol. 22, 1972, pp. 129-139). Fortunately, his senior colleague was Sir Henry Rawlinson, who was one of those who had deciphered the Babylonian cuneiform script. Rawlinson was able to read the writing on the clay cylinders.

The inscriptions had been written at the command of Nabonidus, king of Babylon from 555 to 539 B.C. The king had repaired the temple tower, and the clay cylinders commemorated that fact. The inscriptions proved that the ruined tower was the temple of the city of Ur. The words were a prayer for the long life and good health of Nabonidus and for his eldest son. The name of that son, clearly written, was Belshazzar!

Here was clear proof that an important person named Belshazzar lived in Babylon during the last years of the city’s independence. So Belshazzar was not an entirely imaginary figure (pp. 74-75).

Therefore, since the critics have been routed concerning the existence of Belshazzar, they have decided to turn to other arguments concerning Belshazzar. Till picked up on one of the weaker arguments when he commented:

If Daniel achieved such prominence in Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, he would have surely been familiar with the king’s family, but in chapter five, the writer of the story referred to Nebuchadnezzar five times as the “father” of Belshazzar….

Hatcher no doubt will parrot the inerrantist line and contend that the words father and son were not being used literally in this story but only figuratively in the sense of “ancestor” and “descendant,” as when Abraham was referred to as the “father” of all Jews (Isaiah 51:2), and as Jesus was called the “son of David” (Matt. 1:1). The examples are hardly parallel, however, because Abraham was separated by centuries from the Jews of Isaiah’s time, as Jesus was separated in time from David sufficiently for readers of such texts as these to know beyond reasonable doubt that father and son were being used figuratively (July/August 1998, p. 7).

Till is unaware of two biblical facts: (1) There is no word for grandfather in Hebrew or Aramaic. The word father could refer to a grandfather as in the case of Abraham and Jacob (Gen. 28:13; 32:9) or even to a great, great grandfather as in the case of David and Asa (1 Kings 15:10-13). (2) The term son can also mean successor. It is used this way in the Bible (1 Kings 20:35; 2 Kings 2:12; Robert Dick Wilson, Studies in the Book of Daniel, Grand Rapids: Baker, reprint, 1979, Vol. 1, pp. 117-118). Also it is used this way in the “Black Obelisk” of Shalmaneser III (c. 830 B.C.) when Jehu is called the “son of Omri” even though they were not related (James B. Pritchard [ed.], Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 2nd ed. Princeton University Press, 1955, p. 281). Similar usage in Egypt has been found. In the Westcar Papyrus (dating from the Hyksos period), King Keb-ka of the Third Dynasty is referred to as the father of King Khufu of the Fourth Dy nasty, a full century later. Daniel also followed this ancient custom of the time which was to recognize the king of Babylon as the “son” (or successor) of Nebuchadnezzar. No wonder the critic Philip R. Davies concluded, “The literal meaning of `son’ should not be pressed…” (Davies, Daniel, p. 31).

(Everette Hatcher III, P. O. Box 23416, Little Rock, AR 72221)

Is the Bible historically accurate? Here are some of the posts I have done in the past on the subject:

The Babylonian Chronicle
of Nebuchadnezzars Siege of Jerusalem

This clay tablet is a Babylonian chronicle recording events from 605-594BC. It was first translated in 1956 and is now in the British Museum. The cuneiform text on this clay tablet tells, among other things, 3 main events: 1. The Battle of Carchemish (famous battle for world supremacy where Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon defeated Pharoah Necho of Egypt, 605 BC.), 2. The accession to the throne of Nebuchadnezzar II, the Chaldean, and 3. The capture of Jerusalem on the 16th of March, 598 BC.

2. Hezekiah’s Siloam Tunnel Inscription.

King Hezekiah of Judah ruled from 721 to 686 BC. Fearing a siege by the Assyrian king, Sennacherib, Hezekiah preserved Jerusalem’s water supply by cutting a tunnel through 1,750 feet of solid rock from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam inside the city walls (2 Kings 20; 2 Chron. 32). At the Siloam end of the tunnel, an inscription, presently in the archaeological museum at Istanbul, Turkey, celebrates this remarkable accomplishment.

3. Taylor Prism (Sennacherib Hexagonal Prism)

It contains the victories of Sennacherib himself, the Assyrian king who had besieged Jerusalem in 701 BC during the reign of king Hezekiah, it never mentions any defeats. On the prism Sennacherib boasts that he shut up “Hezekiah the Judahite” within Jerusalem his own royal city “like a caged bird.” This prism is among the three accounts discovered so far which have been left by the Assyrian king Sennacherib of his campaign against Israel and Judah.

4. Biblical Cities Attested Archaeologically.

In addition to Jericho, places such as Haran, Hazor, Dan, Megiddo, Shechem, Samaria, Shiloh, Gezer, Gibeah, Beth Shemesh, Beth Shean, Beersheba, Lachish, and many other urban sites have been excavated, quite apart from such larger and obvious locations as Jerusalem or Babylon. Such geographical markers are extremely significant in demonstrating that fact, not fantasy, is intended in the Old Testament historical narratives;

5. The Discovery of the Hittites

Most doubting scholars back then said that the Hittites were just a “mythical people that are only mentioned in the Bible.” Some skeptics pointed to the fact that the Bible pictures the Hittites as a very big nation that was worthy of being coalition partners with Egypt (II Kings 7:6), and these bible critics would assert that surely we would have found records of this great nation of Hittites.  The ironic thing is that when the Hittite nation was discovered, a vast amount of Hittite documents were found. Among those documents was the treaty between Ramesses II and the Hittite King.

6.Shishak Smiting His Captives

The Bible mentions that Shishak marched his troops into the land of Judah and plundered a host of cities including Jerusalem,  this has been confirmed by archaeologists. Shishak’s own record of his campaign is inscribed on the south wall of the Great Temple of Amon at Karnak in Egypt. In his campaign he presents 156 cities of Judea to his god Amon.

7. Moabite Stone

The Moabite Stone also known as the Mesha Stele is an interesting story. The Bible says in 2 Kings 3:5 that Mesha the king of Moab stopped paying tribute to Israel and rebelled and fought against Israel and later he recorded this event. This record from Mesha has been discovered.

8Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III

The tribute of Jehu, son of Omri, silver, gold, bowls of gold, chalices of gold, cups of gold, vases of gold, lead, a sceptre for the king, and spear-shafts, I have received.”

View from the dome of the Capitol!9A Verification of places in Gospel of John and Book of Acts.

Sir William Ramsay, famed archaeologist, began a study of Asia Minor with little regard for the book of Acts. He later wrote:

I found myself brought into contact with the Book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth.

9B Discovery of Ebla TabletsWhen I think of discoveries like the Ebla Tablets that verify  names like Adam, Eve, Ishmael, David and Saul were in common usage when the Bible said they were, it makes me think of what amazing confirmation that is of the historical accuracy of the Bible.

10. Cyrus Cylinder

There is a well preserved cylinder seal in the Yale University Library from Cyrus which contains his commands to resettle the captive nations.

11. Puru “The lot of Yahali” 9th Century B.C.E.

This cube is inscribed with the name and titles of Yahali and a prayer: “In his year assigned to him by lot (puru) may the harvest of the land of Assyria prosper and thrive, in front of the gods Assur and Adad may his lot (puru) fall.”  It provides a prototype (the only one ever recovered) for the lots (purim) cast by Haman to fix a date for the destruction of the Jews of the Persian Empire, ostensibly in the fifth century B.C.E. (Esther 3:7; cf. 9:26).

12. The Uzziah Tablet Inscription

The Bible mentions Uzziah or Azariah as the king of the southern kingdom of Judah in 2 Kings 15. The Uzziah Tablet Inscription is a stone tablet (35 cm high x 34 cm wide x 6 cm deep) with letters inscribed in ancient Hebrew text with an Aramaic style of writing, which dates to around 30-70 AD. The text reveals the burial site of Uzziah of Judah, who died in 747 BC.

13. The Pilate Inscription

The Pilate Inscription is the only known occurrence of the name Pontius Pilate in any ancient inscription. Visitors to the Caesarea theater today see a replica, the original is in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. There have been a few bronze coins found that were struck form 29-32 AD by Pontius Pilate

14. Caiaphas Ossuary

This beautifully decorated ossuary found in the ruins of Jerusalem, contained the bones of Caiaphas, the first century AD. high priest during the time of Jesus.

14 B Pontius Pilate Part 2      

In June 1961 Italian archaeologists led by Dr. Frova were excavating an ancient Roman amphitheatre near Caesarea-on-the-Sea (Maritima) and uncovered this interesting limestone block. On the face is a monumental inscription which is part of a larger dedication to Tiberius Caesar which clearly says that it was from “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea.”

14c. Three greatest American Archaeologists moved to accept Bible’s accuracy through archaeology.

Despite their liberal training, it was archaeological research that bolstered their confidence in the biblical text:Albright said of himself, “I must admit that I tried to be rational and empirical in my approach [but] we all have presuppositions of a philosophical order.” The same statement could be applied as easily to Gleuck and Wright, for all three were deeply imbued with the theological perceptions which infused their work.

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