(Ezra 6:2 marg.). (See ACHMETHA ¯T0000069.)
(Ezra 6:2), called Ecbatana by classical writers, the capital of
northern Media. Here was the palace which was the residence of
the old Median monarchs, and of Cyrus and Cambyses. In the time
of Ezra, the Persian kings resided usually at Susa of Babylon.
But Cyrus held his court at Achmetha; and Ezra, writing a
century after, correctly mentions the place where the decree of
Cyrus was found.
Heb. Madai, which is rendered in the Authorized Version (1)
"Madai," Gen. 10:2; (2) "Medes," 2 Kings 17:6; 18:11; (3)
"Media," Esther 1:3; 10:2; Isa. 21:2; Dan. 8:20; (4) "Mede,"
only in Dan. 11:1.
We first hear of this people in the Assyrian cuneiform
records, under the name of Amada, about B.C. 840. They appear to
have been a branch of the Aryans, who came from the east bank of
the Indus, and were probably the predominant race for a while in
the Mesopotamian valley. They consisted for three or four
centuries of a number of tribes, each ruled by its own chief,
who at length were brought under the Assyrian yoke (2 Kings
17:6). From this subjection they achieved deliverance, and
formed themselves into an empire under Cyaxares (B.C. 633). This
monarch entered into an alliance with the king of Babylon, and
invaded Assyria, capturing and destroying the city of Nineveh
(B.C. 625), thus putting an end to the Assyrian monarchy (Nah.
1:8; 2:5,6; 3:13, 14).
Media now rose to a place of great power, vastly extending its
boundaries. But it did not long exist as an independent kingdom.
It rose with Cyaxares, its first king, and it passed away with
him; for during the reign of his son and successor Astyages, the
Persians waged war against the Medes and conquered them, the two
nations being united under one monarch, Cyrus the Persian (B.C.
The "cities of the Medes" are first mentioned in connection
with the deportation of the Israelites on the destruction of
Samaria (2 Kings 17:6; 18:11). Soon afterwards Isaiah (13:17;
21:2) speaks of the part taken by the Medes in the destruction
of Babylon (comp. Jer. 51:11, 28). Daniel gives an account of
the reign of Darius the Mede, who was made viceroy by Cyrus
(Dan. 6:1-28). The decree of Cyrus, Ezra informs us (6:2-5), was
found in "the palace that is in the province of the Medes,"
Achmetha or Ecbatana of the Greeks, which is the only Median
city mentioned in Scripture.
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
(Heb. Ko'resh), the celebrated "King of Persia" (Elam) who was
conqueror of Babylon, and issued the decree of liberation to the
Jews (Ezra 1:1, 2). He was the son of Cambyses, the prince of
Persia, and was born about B.C. 599. In the year B.C. 559 he
became king of Persia, the kingdom of Media being added to it
partly by conquest. Cyrus was a great military leader, bent on
universal conquest. Babylon fell before his army (B.C. 538) on
the night of Belshazzar's feast (Dan. 5:30), and then the
ancient dominion of Assyria was also added to his empire (cf.,
"Go up, O Elam", Isa.21:2).
Hitherto the great kings of the earth had only oppressed the
Jews. Cyrus was to them as a "shepherd" (Isa. 44:28; 45:1). God
employed him in doing service to his ancient people. He may
posibly have gained, through contact with the Jews, some
knowledge of their religion.
The "first year of Cyrus" (Ezra 1:1) is not the year of his
elevation to power over the Medes, nor over the Persians, nor
the year of the fall of Babylon, but the year succeeding the two
years during which "Darius the Mede" was viceroy in Babylon
after its fall. At this time only (B.C. 536) Cyrus became actual
king over Israel, which became a part of his Babylonian
empire. The edict of Cyrus for the rebuilding of Jerusalem
marked a great epoch in the history of the Jewish people (2 Chr.
36:22, 23; Ezra 1:1-4; 4:3; 5:13-17; 6:3-5).
This decree was discovered "at Achmetha [R.V. marg.,
"Ecbatana"], in the palace that is in the province of the Medes"
(Ezra 6:2). A chronicle drawn up just after the conquest of
Babylonia by Cyrus, gives the history of the reign of Nabonidus
(Nabunahid), the last king of Babylon, and of the fall of the
Babylonian empire. In B.C. 538 there was a revolt in Southern
Babylonia, while the army of Cyrus entered the country from the
north. In June the Babylonian army was completely defeated at
Opis, and immediately afterwards Sippara opened its gates to the
conqueror. Gobryas (Ugbaru), the governor of Kurdistan, was then
sent to Babylon, which surrendered "without fighting," and the
daily services in the temples continued without a break. In
October, Cyrus himself arrived, and proclaimed a general
amnesty, which was communicated by Gobryas to "all the province
of Babylon," of which he had been made governor. Meanwhile,
Nabonidus, who had concealed himself, was captured, but treated
honourably; and when his wife died, Cambyses, the son of Cyrus,
conducted the funeral. Cyrus now assumed the title of "king of
Babylon," claimed to be the descendant of the ancient kings, and
made rich offerings to the temples. At the same time he allowed
the foreign populations who had been deported to Babylonia to
return to their old homes, carrying with them the images of
their gods. Among these populations were the Jews, who, as they
had no images, took with them the sacred vessels of the temple.