Daniel 5:31
And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old.
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(31) Darius the Median.—Note the LXX. variation: “And Artaxerxes of the Medes took the kingdom, and Darius, full of days and glorious in old age.” (See Excursus D.)

Tooki.e., received it from the hands of a conqueror. (Comp. Daniel 9:1, where Darius is said to have been “made king over the realm of the Chaldeans.”)


It appears from the account given by Daniel that Darius the Mede was the sovereign appointed to rule over Babylonia after the death of Belshazzar. Cyrus, after the capture of Babylon, appointed a man named Gubaru (Gobryas) as his governor at Babylon. Can he and Darius the Mede be the same person? It is impossible to identify Darius with any personage mentioned in profane history, and hitherto no traces of any such name have been found in Babylonian inscriptions belonging to this period. Till time or circumstances shall give further information, we must maintain that a book like Daniel’s, which is correct on many minor points, cannot fail to be accurate upon the subject of Darius.

Difficulties were experienced at a very early time in reference to this subject. The LXX., assuming that Ahasuerus (Daniel 9:1) was Xerxes, identified him with Artaxerxes. The opinion of Josephus is that Darius (Antt. x. 11, § 4) and his kinsman Cyrus destroyed the supremacy of Babylon; and at the fall of the capital, this Darius, son of Astyages, took Daniel with him to Media, and placed him in an exalted situation. St. Jerome agrees to this relationship between Cyrus and Darius. St. Ephraim is silent; but Theodoret goes further, and identifies Darius with Cyaxares, son of Astyages. In modern times the identity of Darius with Cyaxares II. has been strongly maintained, though without paying sufficient attention to the very slight evidence in favour of the existence of the latter. The identification of Darius with Astyages has an obvious refutation, for in B.C. 536 Astyages would have exceeded the age ascribed to Darius by Daniel (Daniel 5:31).

It is evident from history that Cyrus was the immediate conqueror of Babylon, and that no Median Empire came between the Babylonian and the Persian Empires. It is also clear that Daniel regards Darius as one who “received the kingdom” (Daniel 5:31), and who “was made king” (Daniel 9:1). If the word Darius means “a maintainor,” all that is mentioned in this chapter amounts to no more than the statement that a Median governor took the kingdom.” How. ever, the use of the word (Daniel 9:1) requires the name of a person rather than an office.

5:18-31 Daniel reads Belshazzar's doom. He had not taken warning by the judgments upon Nebuchadnezzar. And he had insulted God. Sinners are pleased with gods that neither see, nor hear, nor know; but they will be judged by One to whom all things are open. Daniel reads the sentence written on the wall. All this may well be applied to the doom of every sinner. At death, the sinner's days are numbered and finished; after death is the judgment, when he will be weighed in the balance, and found wanting; and after judgment the sinner will be cut asunder, and given as a prey to the devil and his angels. While these things were passing in the palace, it is considered that the army of Cyrus entered the city; and when Belshazzar was slain, a general submission followed. Soon will every impenitent sinner find the writing of God's word brought to pass upon him, whether he is weighed in the balance of the law as a self-righteous Pharisee, or in that of the gospel as a painted hypocrite.And Darius the Median took the kingdom - The city and kingdom were actually taken by Cyrus, though acting in the name and by the authority of Darius, or Cyaxares, who was his uncle. For a full explanation of the conquests of Cyrus, and of the reason why the city is said to have been taken by Darius, see the notes at Isaiah 41:2. In regard to the question who Darius the Median was, see the Introduction to Daniel 6, section II. The name Darius - דריושׁ dâreyâvêsh, is the name under which the three Medo-Persian kings are mentioned in the Old Testament. There is some difference of opinion as to its meaning. Herodotus (vi. 98) says, that it is equivalent to ἑρξίης herxiēs, "one who restrains," but Hesychius says that it is the same as φρόνιμος phronimos - "prudent." Grotefend, who has found it in the cuneiform inscriptions at Persepolis, as Darheush, or Darjeush ("Heeren's Ideen," i. 2, p. 350), makes it to be a compound word, the first part being an abbreviation of Dara, "Lord," and the latter portion coming from kshah, "king." Martin reads the name Dareiousch Vyschtasponea on the Persepolitan inscriptions; that is, Darius, son of Vishtaspo. Lassen, however, gives Darhawus Vistaspaha, the latter word being equivalent to the Gustasp of the modern Persian, and meaning "one whose employment is about horses." See Anthon's "Class. Dict.," and Kitto's "Cyclo.," art. "Darius." Compare Niehbuhr, "Reisebeschr.," Part II. Tab. 24, G. and B. Gesenius, "Lex." This Darius is supposed to be Cyaxares II.((Introduction to Daniel 6 Section II.), the son and successor of Astyages, the uncle and father-in-law of Cyrus, who held the empire of Media between Astyages and Cyrus, 569-536 b.c.

Being - Margin, "He as son of." The marginal reading is in accordance with the Chaldee - כבר kebar. It is not unusual in the language of the Orientals to denote the age of anyone by saying that he is the son of so many years.

About - Margin, "or, now." The word, both in the text and the margin, is designed to express the supposed sense of his "being the son of sixty years." The language of the original would, however, be accurately expressed by saying that he was then sixty years old. Though Cyrus was the active agent in taking Babylon, yet it was done in the name and by the authority of Cyaxares or Darius; and as he was the actual sovereign, the name of his general - Cyrus - is not mentioned here, though he was in fact the most important agent in taking the city, and became ultimately much more celebrated than Darius was.

This portion of history, the closing scene in the reign of a mighty monarch, and the closing scene in the independent existence of one of the most powerful kingdoms that has ever existed on the earth, is full of instructive lessons; and in view of the chapter as thus explained, we may make the following remarks.


(1) We have here an impressive illustration of the sin of sacrilege Daniel 5:2-3. In all ages, and among all people, this has been regarded as a sin of peculiar enormity, and it is quite evident that God in this solemn scene meant to confirm the general judgment of mankind on the subject. Among all people, where any kind of religion has prevailed, there are places and objects which are regarded as set apart to sacred use, and which are not to be employed for common and profane purposes. Though in themselves - in the gold and silver, the wood and stone of which they are made - there is no essential holiness, yet they derive a sacredness from being set apart to Divine purposes, and it has always been held to be a high crime to treat them with indignity or contempt - to rob altars, or to desecrate holy places. This general impression of mankind it was clearly the design of God to confirm in the case before us, when the sacred vessels of the temple - vessels consecrated in the most solemn manner to the worship of Jehovah - were profanely employed for the purposes of carousal. God had borne it patiently when those vessels had been removed from the temple at Jerusalem, and when they had been laid up among the spoils of victory in the temples of Babylon; but when they were profaned for purposes of revelry - when they were brought forth to grace a pagan festival, and to be employed in the midst of scenes of riot and dissipation, it was time for him to interpose, and to show to these profane revellers that there is a God in heaven.

(2) We may see the peril of such festivals as that celebrated by Belshazzar and his lords, Daniel 5:1 following. It is by no means probable that when the feast was contemplated and arranged, anything was designed like what occurred in the progress of the affair. It was not a matter of set purpose to introduce the females of the harem to this scene of carousal, and still less to make use of the sacred vessels dedicated to the worship of Jehovah, to grace the midnight revelry. It is not improbable that they would have been at first shocked at such an outrage on what was regarded as propriety, or what would have been deemed sacred by all people. It was only when the king had "tasted the wine" that these things were proposed; and none who attend on such a banquet as this, none who come together for purposes of drinking and feasting, can foretell what they may be led to do under the influence of wine and strong drink. No man is certain of not doing foolish and wicked things who gives himself up to such indulgences; no man knows what he may do that may be the cause of bitter regret and painful mortification in the recollection.

(3) God has the means of access to the consciences of men Daniel 5:5. In this case it was by writing on the wall with his own fingers certain mysterious words which none could interpret, but which no one doubted were of fearful import. No one present, it would appear, had any doubt that somehow what was written was connected with some awful judgment, and the fearfulness of what they dreaded arose manifestly from the consciousness of their own guilt. It is not often that God comes forth in this way to alarm the guilty; but he has a thousand methods of doing it, and no one can be sure that in an instant he will not summon all the sins of his past life to remembrance. He "could" write our guilt in letters of light before us - in the chamber where we sleep; in the hall where we engage in revelry; on the face of the sky at night; or he can make it as plain to our minds "as if" it were thus written out. To Belshazzar, in his palace, surrounded by his lords, he showed this; to us in society or solitude he can do the same thing. No sinner can have any security that he may not in a moment be overwhelmed with the conviction of his own depravity, and with dreadful apprehension of the wrath to come.

(4) We have in this chapter Daniel 5:6 a striking illustration of the effects of a sudden alarm to the guilty. The countenance of the monarch was changed; his thoughts troubled him; the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote together. Such effects are not uncommon when a sinner is made to feel that he is in the presence of God, and when his thoughts are led along to the future world. The human frame is so made that these changes occur as indicative of the troubles which the mind experiences, and the fact that it is thus agitated shows the power which God has over us. No guilty man can be secure that he will "not" thus be alarmed when he comes to contemplate the possibility that he may soon be called before his Maker, and the fact that he "may" thus be alarmed should be one of the considerations bearing on his mind to lead him to a course of virtue and religion. Such terror is proof of conscious guilt, for the innocent have nothing to dread; and if a man is sure that he is prepared to appear before God, he is "not" alarmed at the prospect. They who live in sin; they who indulge in revelry; they who are profane and sacrilegious; they who abuse the mercies of God, and live to deride sacred things, can never be certain that in a moment, by the revelation of their guilt to their own souls, and by a sudden message from the eternal world, they may not be overwhelmed with the deepest consternation. Their countenances may become deadly pale, their joints may be loosed, and their limbs tremble. It is only the righteous who can look calmly at the judgment.

(5) We may see from this chapter one of the effects of the terror of a guilty conscience. It is not said, indeed, that the mysterious fingers on the wall recorded the "guilt" of the monarch. But they recorded "something;" they were making some record that manifestly pertained to him. How natural was it to suppose that it was a record of his guilt! And who is there that could bear a record made in that manner of his own thoughts and purposes; of his desires and feelings; of what he is conscious is passing within the chambers of his own soul? There is no one who would not turn pale if he saw a mysterious hand writing all his thoughts and purposes - all the deeds of his past life - on the wall of his chamber at night, and bringing at once all his concealed thoughts and all his forgotten deeds before his mind. And if this is so, how will the sinner bear the disclosures that will be made at the day of judgment?

31. Darius the Median—that is, Cyaxares II, the son and successor of Astyages, 569-536 B.C. Though Koresh, or Cyrus, was leader of the assault, yet all was done in the name of Darius; therefore, he alone is mentioned here; but Da 6:28 shows Daniel was not ignorant of Cyrus' share in the capture of Babylon. Isa 13:17; 21:2, confirm Daniel in making the Medes the leading nation in destroying Babylon. So also Jer 51:11, 28. Herodotus, on the other hand, omits mentioning Darius, as that king, being weak and sensual, gave up all the authority to his energetic nephew, Cyrus [Xenophon, Cyropædia, 1.5; 8.7].

threescore and two years old—This agrees with Xenophon [Cyropædia, 8.5,19], as to Cyaxares II.

There were two of this name, one called the Mede, another Darius called Persian. This in the text was he that with Cyrus besieged and took Babylon; he gave himself the name Darius, being before called Nabonnedus. He was chief in the siege, and first in the quarrel against the Chaldees.

And Darius the Median took the kingdom,.... This was Cyaxares the son of Astyages, and uncle of Cyrus; he is called the Median, to distinguish him from another Darius the Persian, that came after, Ezra 4:5, the same took the kingdom of Babylon from Cyrus who conquered it; he took it with his consent, being the senior prince and his uncle. Darius reigned not long, but two years; and not alone, but Cyrus with him, though he is only mentioned. Xenophon (k) says, that Cyrus, after he took Babylon, set out for Persia, and took Media on his way; and, saluting Cyaxares or Darius, said that there was a choice house and court for him in Babylon, where he might go and live as in his own:

being about threescore and two years old; and so was born in the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar, the year in which Jechoniah was carried captive, 2 Kings 24:12, thus God in his counsels and providence took care that a deliverer of his people should be raised up and provided against the appointed time. Darius was older than Cyrus, as appears by several passages in Xenophon; in one place (l) Cyaxares or Darius says,

"since I am present, and am "elder" than Cyrus, it is fit that I should speak first;''

and in another place (m), Cyrus, writing to him, says,

"I give thee counsel, though I am the younger''

and by comparing this account of the age of Darius with a passage in Cicero, which gives the age of Cyrus, we learn how much older than he Darius was; for, out of the books of Dionysius the Persian, he relates (n), that Cyrus dreaming he saw the sun at his feet, which he three times endeavoured to catch and lay hold upon, but in vain, it sliding from him; this, the Magi said, portended that he should reign thirty years, and so he did; for he lived to be seventy years of age, and began to reign when he was forty; which, if reckoned from his reigning with his uncle, then he must be twenty two years younger; or if from the time of his being sole monarch, then the difference of age between them must be twenty four years; though it should be observed that those that make him to reign thirty years begin his reign from the time of his being appointed commander-in-chief of the Medes and Persians by Cyaxares (o), which was twenty three years before he reigned alone, which was but seven years (p); and this account makes but very little difference in their age; and indeed some (q) have taken them to be one and the same, their descent, age, and succession in the Babylonian empire, agreeing.

(k) Cyropaedia, l. 8. c. 36. (l) lbid. l. 6. c. 2.((m) lbid. l. 4. c. 21. (n) De Divinatione, l. 1.((o) See the Universal History, vol. 5. p. 181. and vol. 21. p. 64, 65. (p) Xenophon, Cyropaedia, l. 8. c. 45. (q) Nicol. Abrami Pharus Vet. Test. l. 12. c. 24. p. 338. Pererius in ib, Graeci Patres apud Theodoret. Orat. 6. in Daniel.

And Darius {o} the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old.

(o) Cyrus his son-in-law gave him this title of honour, even though Cyrus in effect had the dominion.

31. And Darius the Median (or the Mede, as Daniel 11:1) received the kingdom] The idea of the writer appears to be that the Medes and Persians were acting in concert at the time of the capture of Babylon (Daniel 5:28); but that when the city was taken, ‘Darius the Mede,’ by a joint arrangement between the two peoples (or their rulers), ‘received’ the kingdom, or (Daniel 9:1) ‘was made king,’ and (ch. 6) took up his residence in Babylon as his capital. Darius, though bound by the laws of the two allied peoples, the ‘Medes and Persians’ (Daniel 6:8; Daniel 6:12; Daniel 6:15), clearly, in ch. 6, acts not as viceroy for another but as an independent king, organising his kingdom into satrapies (Daniel 6:1), otherwise both acting as king and receiving the title of ‘king’ (Daniel 6:3; Daniel 6:7-8, &c., 25): his reign, moreover, precedes, and is distinct from, that of Cyrus (Daniel 6:28 : see also Daniel 11:1-2, Daniel 11:1, as compared with Daniel 10:1; and cp. on Daniel 8:3). It is true, this representation does not agree with what is known from history, for though the Medes (see on Daniel 2:39) joined Cyrus in b.c. 549, and formed afterwards an important and influential element in the Persian empire[263], there is no trace of their exercising afterwards any independent rule; in the Inscriptions, Cyrus begins his reign in Babylon immediately after the close of that of Nabu-na’id. Contemporary monuments allow no room for a king, ‘Darius the Mede,’ between the entry of Babylon by Cyrus and the reign of Cyrus himself. The figure, it seems, must be the result of some historical confusion,—perhaps (see the Introd. p. liv) a combination of Gubaru, the ‘governor’ (peḥâh), who first entered Babylon, and took command in it, at the time of Cyrus’ conquest, with (cf. Sayce, Monuments, pp. 528–30) Darius Hystaspis, father (not son) of ’Ăḥashwçrôsh = Xerxes (Daniel 9:1).

[263] Under the Persian kings, Medes are repeatedly mentioned as holding high and responsible positions (Rawl. Herod. App. to Bk. i, Essay iii, § 2). On the large amount contributed by Media to the Persian revenue see Rawl., Anc. Mon.4 ii. 428.

about threescore and two years old] We do not know upon what tradition, or chronological calculation, the age assigned to ‘Darius the Mede’ depends.

Verse 31. - And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about three score and two years old. It is probable that the Massoretic division of the chapters here is to be preferred. According to it, this verse is assigned to the begining of the next chapter, but most of the more ancient versions, Theodotion, the Peshitta, and the Vulgate, agree with our English arrangement. The Septuagint, like the Massoretic text, assigns this verse to the sixth chapter. Its rendering manifests several striking peculiarities, "And Artaxerxes of the Medes received (παρέλαβε) the kingdom, and Darius was full of days, and reverend (ἔνδοξος) in old age." This is the product of doublets ארְטַחְשַׁשְׁתְ, Artaxerxes, being suggested by some scribe as in his opinion a more probable name than Darius. So the one name begins the first clause, and the other the second. The last clause is evidently due to כְּבַר (kebar), "about" ("as the son of"), being read כַבֵר (kaber), "great," "multiplied" - a meaning this word has in Syriac, but not in Chahlee (Genesis 35:11). Theodotion and the Peshitta agree with the Massoretic text. The uncertainty as to the name has to be noted. We shall reserve for fuller discussion the question of Darius the Mede, only we would say that the name not improbably was modified from a less-known name to one somewhat like it but well known. We know that "Go-baru," or "Oybaru" - "Gobryas," in Greek - was appointed governor by Cyrus when he conquered Babylon, and that, in the script of the Sindschirli monuments, Gobryas, or . is not unlike Darius. One point to be noted is the fact that the verb used is wrongly translated "took." really means "received." When this is said, we naturally expect some one, either God or man, from whom he has received this honour. If this purported to be a history of Babylonia, then it might be reasoned that the implied source from whom the kingdom was received was God; in such a case קבל would be used of one who succeeded to the kingdom by inheritance; this cannot be the meaning here. In this passage it is merely incidentally mentioned in order to explain the events that immediately follow. The more natural interpretation is that he was put on the throne by another person, his superior. The instance quoted by Professor Bevan, in which this verb is used of the accession of Julian the Apostate, tells really against his contention. Julian expected to have to conquer the empire: but, by the death of his cousin, he received it as an inheritance. Nothing could be more unlike what occurred in Babylon, according to his theory of what the author of Daniel meant. He maintains that the author of Daniel thought Darius conquered Babylon, and so ascended the throne. The example he brings does not show that קבל could be used in that sense.

Daniel 5:31With the death of Belshazzar that very night the interpretation given by Daniel began to be fulfilled, and this fulfilment afforded a certainty that the remaining parts of it would also sooner or later be accomplished. That this did not take place immediately, we have already shown in our preliminary remarks to this chapter.
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