the Greek form of the name of several Persian kings. (1.) The
king who obstructed the rebuilding of the temple (Ezra 4:7). He
was probably the Smerdis of profane history.
(2.) The king mentioned in Ezra 7:1, in the seventh year (B.C.
458) of whose reign Ezra led a second colony of Jews back to
Jerusalem, was probably Longimanus, who reigned for forty years
(B.C. 464-425); the grandson of Darius, who, fourteen years
later, permitted Nehemiah to return and rebuild Jerusalem.
properly a servant in charge of the wine (Gen. 40:1-13; 41:9).
The Hebrew word, _mashkeh_, thus translated is rendered also
(plural) "cup-bearers" (1 Kings 10:5; 2 Chr. 9:4). Nehemiah
(1:11) was cup-bearer to king Artaxerxes. It was a position of
great responsibility and honour in royal households.
merciful. (1.) One of "the children of the province" who
returned from the Captivity (Ezra 2:2); the same as "Nehum"
(2.) The "chancellor" of Artaxerxes, who sought to stir him up
against the Jews (Ezra 4:8-24) and prevent the rebuilding of the
walls and the temple of Jerusalem.
(3.) A Levite (Neh. 3:17).
(4.) Neh. 10:25.
(5.) A priest (Neh. 12:3).
convener, or collector. (1.) A Levite; one of the leaders of
David's choir (1 Chr. 6:39). Psalms 50 and 73-83 inclusive are
attributed to him. He is mentioned along with David as skilled
in music, and a "seer" (2 Chr. 29:30). The "sons of Asaph,"
mentioned in 1 Chr. 25:1, 2 Chr. 20:14, and Ezra 2:41, were his
descendants, or more probably a class of poets or singers who
recognized him as their master.
(2.) The "recorder" in the time of Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:18,
(3.) The "keeper of the king's forest," to whom Nehemiah
requested from Artaxerxes a "letter" that he might give him
timber for the temple at Jerusalem (Neh. 2:8).
There are three kings designated by this name in Scripture. (1.)
The father of Darius the Mede, mentioned in Dan. 9:1. This was
probably the Cyaxares I. known by this name in profane history,
the king of Media and the conqueror of Nineveh.
(2.) The king mentioned in Ezra 4:6, probably the Cambyses of
profane history, the son and successor of Cyrus (B.C. 529).
(3.) The son of Darius Hystaspes, the king named in the Book
of Esther. He ruled over the kingdoms of Persia, Media, and
Babylonia, "from India to Ethiopia." This was in all probability
the Xerxes of profane history, who succeeded his father Darius
(B.C. 485). In the LXX. version of the Book of Esther the name
Artaxerxes occurs for Ahasuerus. He reigned for twenty-one years
(B.C. 486-465). He invaded Greece with an army, it is said, of
more than 2,000,000 soldiers, only 5,000 of whom returned with
him. Leonidas, with his famous 300, arrested his progress at the
Pass of Thermopylae, and then he was defeated disastrously by
Themistocles at Salamis. It was after his return from this
invasion that Esther was chosen as his queen.
Ezra, Book of
This book is the record of events occurring at the close of the
Babylonian exile. It was at one time included in Nehemiah, the
Jews regarding them as one volume. The two are still
distinguished in the Vulgate version as I. and II. Esdras. It
consists of two principal divisions:
(1.) The history of the first return of exiles, in the first
year of Cyrus (B.C. 536), till the completion and dedication of
the new temple, in the sixth year of Darius Hystapes (B.C. 515),
ch. 1-6. From the close of the sixth to the opening of the
seventh chapter there is a blank in the history of about sixty
(2.) The history of the second return under Ezra, in the
seventh year of Artaxerxes Longimanus, and of the events that
took place at Jerusalem after Ezra's arrival there (7-10).
The book thus contains memorabilia connected with the Jews,
from the decree of Cyrus (B.C. 536) to the reformation by Ezra
(B.C. 456), extending over a period of about eighty years.
There is no quotation from this book in the New Testament, but
there never has been any doubt about its being canonical. Ezra
was probably the author of this book, at least of the greater
part of it (comp. 7:27, 28; 8:1, etc.), as he was also of the
Books of Chronicles, the close of which forms the opening
passage of Ezra.
a lily, the Susa of Greek and Roman writers, once the capital of
Elam. It lay in the uplands of Susiana, on the east of the
Tigris, about 150 miles to the north of the head of the Persian
Gulf. It is the modern Shush, on the northwest of Shuster. Once
a magnificent city, it is now an immense mass of ruins. Here
Daniel saw one of his visions (Dan. 8); and here also Nehemiah
(Neh. 1) began his public life. Most of the events recorded in
the Book of Esther took place here. Modern explorers have
brought to light numerous relics, and the ground-plan of the
splendid palace of Shushan, one of the residences of the great
king, together with numerous specimens of ancient art, which
illustrate the statements of Scripture regarding it (Dan. 8:2).
The great hall of this palace (Esther 1) "consisted of several
magnificent groups of columns, together with a frontage of 343
feet 9 inches, and a depth of 244 feet. These groups were
arranged into a central phalanx of thirty-six columns (six rows
of six each), flanked on the west, north, and east by an equal
number, disposed in double rows of six each, and distant from
them 64 feet 2 inches." The inscriptions on the ruins represent
that the palace was founded by Darius and completed by
help. (1.) A priest among those that returned to Jerusalem under
Zerubabel (Neh. 12:1).
(2.) The "scribe" who led the second body of exiles that
returned from Babylon to Jerusalem B.C. 459, and author of the
book of Scripture which bears his name. He was the son, or
perhaps grandson, of Seraiah (2 Kings 25:18-21), and a lineal
descendant of Phinehas, the son of Aaron (Ezra 7:1-5). All we
know of his personal history is contained in the last four
chapters of his book, and in Neh. 8 and 12:26.
In the seventh year of the reign of Artaxerxes Longimanus (see
DARIUS ¯T0000975), he obtained leave to go up to Jerusalem and
to take with him a company of Israelites (Ezra 8). Artaxerxes
manifested great interest in Ezra's undertaking, granting him
"all his request," and loading him with gifts for the house of
God. Ezra assembled the band of exiles, probably about 5,000 in
all, who were prepared to go up with him to Jerusalem, on the
banks of the Ahava, where they rested for three days, and were
put into order for their march across the desert, which was
completed in four months. His proceedings at Jerusalem on his
arrival there are recorded in his book.
He was "a ready scribe in the law of Moses," who "had prepared
his heart to seek the law of the Lord and to do it, and to teach
in Israel statutes and judgments." "He is," says Professor
Binnie, "the first well-defined example of an order of men who
have never since ceased in the church; men of sacred erudition,
who devote their lives to the study of the Holy Scriptures, in
order that they may be in a condition to interpret them for the
instruction and edification of the church. It is significant
that the earliest mention of the pulpit occurs in the history of
Ezra's ministry (Neh. 8:4). He was much more of a teacher than a
priest. We learn from the account of his labours in the book of
Nehemiah that he was careful to have the whole people instructed
in the law of Moses; and there is no reason to reject the
constant tradition of the Jews which connects his name with the
collecting and editing of the Old Testament canon. The final
completion of the canon may have been, and probably was, the
work of a later generation; but Ezra seems to have put it much
into the shape in which it is still found in the Hebrew Bible.
When it is added that the complete organization of the synagogue
dates from this period, it will be seen that the age was
emphatically one of Biblical study" (The Psalms: their History,
For about fourteen years, i.e., till B.C. 445, we have no
record of what went on in Jerusalem after Ezra had set in order
the ecclesiastical and civil affairs of the nation. In that year
another distinguished personage, Nehemiah, appears on the scene.
After the ruined wall of the city had been built by Nehemiah,
there was a great gathering of the people at Jerusalem
preparatory to the dedication of the wall. On the appointed day
the whole population assembled, and the law was read aloud to
them by Ezra and his assistants (Neh. 8:3). The remarkable scene
is described in detail. There was a great religious awakening.
For successive days they held solemn assemblies, confessing
their sins and offering up solemn sacrifices. They kept also the
feast of Tabernacles with great solemnity and joyous enthusiasm,
and then renewed their national covenant to be the Lord's.
Abuses were rectified, and arrangements for the temple service
completed, and now nothing remained but the dedication of the
walls of the city (Neh. 12).
the holder or supporter, the name of several Persian kings. (1.)
Darius the Mede (Dan. 11:1), "the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed
of the Medes" (9:1). On the death of Belshazzar the Chaldean he
"received the kingdom" of Babylon as viceroy from Cyrus. During
his brief reign (B.C. 538-536) Daniel was promoted to the
highest dignity (Dan. 6:1, 2); but on account of the malice of
his enemies he was cast into the den of lions. After his
miraculous escape, a decree was issued by Darius enjoining
"reverence for the God of Daniel" (6:26). This king was probably
the "Astyages" of the Greek historians. Nothing can, however, be
with certainty affirmed regarding him. Some are of opinion that
the name "Darius" is simply a name of office, equivalent to
"governor," and that the "Gobryas" of the inscriptions was the
person intended by the name.
(2.) Darius, king of Persia, was the son of Hystaspes, of the
royal family of the Achaemenidae. He did not immediately succeed
Cyrus on the throne. There were two intermediate kings, viz.,
Cambyses (the Ahasuerus of Ezra), the son of Cyrus, who reigned
from B.C. 529-522, and was succeeded by a usurper named Smerdis,
who occupied the throne only ten months, and was succeeded by
this Darius (B.C. 521-486). Smerdis was a Margian, and therefore
had no sympathy with Cyrus and Cambyses in the manner in which
they had treated the Jews. He issued a decree prohibiting the
restoration of the temple and of Jerusalem (Ezra 4:17-22). But
soon after his death and the accession of Darius, the Jews
resumed their work, thinking that the edict of Smerdis would be
now null and void, as Darius was in known harmony with the
religious policy of Cyrus. The enemies of the Jews lost no time
in bringing the matter under the notice of Darius, who caused
search to be made for the decree of Cyrus (q.v.). It was not
found at Babylon, but at Achmetha (Ezra 6:2); and Darius
forthwith issued a new decree, giving the Jews full liberty to
prosecute their work, at the same time requiring the Syrian
satrap and his subordinates to give them all needed help. It was
with the army of this king that the Greeks fought the famous
battle of Marathon (B.C. 490). During his reign the Jews enjoyed
much peace and prosperity. He was succeeded by Ahasuerus, known
to the Greeks as Xerxes, who reigned for twenty-one years.
(3.) Darius the Persian (Neh. 12:22) was probably the Darius
II. (Ochus or Nothus) of profane history, the son of Artaxerxes
Longimanus, who was the son and successor of Ahasuerus (Xerxes).
There are some, however, who think that the king here meant was
Darius III. (Codomannus), the antagonist of Alexander the Great
comforted by Jehovah. (1.) Ezra 2:2; Neh. 7:7. (2.) Neh. 3:16.
(3.) The son of Hachaliah (Neh. 1:1), and probably of the
tribe of Judah. His family must have belonged to Jerusalem (Neh.
2:3). He was one of the "Jews of the dispersion," and in his
youth was appointed to the important office of royal cup-bearer
at the palace of Shushan. The king, Artaxerxes Longimanus, seems
to have been on terms of friendly familiarity with his
attendant. Through his brother Hanani, and perhaps from other
sources (Neh. 1:2; 2:3), he heard of the mournful and desolate
condition of the Holy City, and was filled with sadness of
heart. For many days he fasted and mourned and prayed for the
place of his fathers' sepulchres. At length the king observed
his sadness of countenance and asked the reason of it. Nehemiah
explained it all to the king, and obtained his permission to go
up to Jerusalem and there to act as _tirshatha_, or governor of
Judea. He went up in the spring of B.C. 446 (eleven years after
Ezra), with a strong escort supplied by the king, and with
letters to all the pashas of the provinces through which he had
to pass, as also to Asaph, keeper of the royal forests,
directing him to assist Nehemiah. On his arrival he set himself
to survey the city, and to form a plan for its restoration; a
plan which he carried out with great skill and energy, so that
the whole was completed in about six months. He remained in
Judea for thirteen years as governor, carrying out many reforms,
notwithstanding much opposition that he encountered (Neh.
13:11). He built up the state on the old lines, "supplementing
and completing the work of Ezra," and making all arrangements
for the safety and good government of the city. At the close of
this important period of his public life, he returned to Persia
to the service of his royal master at Shushan or Ecbatana. Very
soon after this the old corrupt state of things returned,
showing the worthlessness to a large extent of the professions
that had been made at the feast of the dedication of the walls
of the city (Neh. 12. See EZRA ¯T0001294). Malachi now appeared
among the people with words of stern reproof and solemn warning;
and Nehemiah again returned from Persia (after an absence of
some two years), and was grieved to see the widespread moral
degeneracy that had taken place during his absence. He set
himself with vigour to rectify the flagrant abuses that had
sprung up, and restored the orderly administration of public
worship and the outward observance of the law of Moses. Of his
subsequent history we know nothing. Probably he remained at his
post as governor till his death (about B.C. 413) in a good old
age. The place of his death and burial is, however, unknown. "He
resembled Ezra in his fiery zeal, in his active spirit of
enterprise, and in the piety of his life: but he was of a
bluffer and a fiercer mood; he had less patience with
transgressors; he was a man of action rather than a man of
thought, and more inclined to use force than persuasion. His
practical sagacity and high courage were very markedly shown in
the arrangement with which he carried through the rebuilding of
the wall and balked the cunning plans of the 'adversaries.' The
piety of his heart, his deeply religious spirit and constant
sense of communion with and absolute dependence upon God, are
strikingly exhibited, first in the long prayer recorded in ch.
1:5-11, and secondly and most remarkably in what have been
called his 'interjectional prayers', those short but moving
addresses to Almighty God which occur so frequently in his
writings, the instinctive outpouring of a heart deeply moved,
but ever resting itself upon God, and looking to God alone for
aid in trouble, for the frustration of evil designs, and for
final reward and acceptance" (Rawlinson). Nehemiah was the last
of the governors sent from the Persian court. Judea after this
was annexed to the satrapy of Coele-Syria, and was governed by
the high priest under the jurisdiction of the governor of Syria,
and the internal government of the country became more and more