Arguments for the Conventional Dating (29 December, 2014, 7 Tevet, 5775)
Concerning the dates for Darius Hystaspes, whilst Heifetz's arguments are interesting, we should be asking ourselves why comments made in the SECOND century CE should be considered any more reliable that those of Josephus who wrote his histories in the FIRST century CE and was of a very different opinion. He clearly did not believe that there were only four kings of Persia and he believed that Esther married Artaxerxes I Longimanus.
"AFTER the death of Xerxes, the kingdom came to be transferred to his son Cyrus, whom the Greeks called Artaxerxes. When this man had obtained the government over the Persians, the whole nation of the Jews, with their wives and children, were in danger of perishing; the occasion whereof we shall declare in a little time; for it is proper, in the first place, to explain somewhat relating to this king, and how he came to marry a Jewish wife, who was herself of the royal family also, and who is related to have saved our nation" (Antiquities xi.vi.1).
Also, the omission of kings in the Tanakh cannot be taken as evidence that those kings did not exist. Where in the Tanakh, for example, is there mention of the Chaldean kings Neriglisar and Labash-Marduk? Whilst the book of Daniel mentions Belshazzar king of Babylon, nowhere in the Tanakh is Belshazzar's father Nabonidus once mentioned. We have only the oblique reference to his existence in Dan 5:29 when Belshazzar makes Daniel the THIRD ruler of the kingdom, this being the highest honour he could possibly have conferred on Daniel. Belshazzar is called "son of Nebuchadnezzar" (Dan. 5:22), all reference to his father Nabonidus being avoided. Why?
The argument that only FOUR kings of Persia are known to the Jews is also spurious as the book of Ezra clearly mentions FIVE. One of these five is recorded as ruling AFTER Darius I Hystaspes, which throws a further spanner in the works as far as Heifetz's hypothesis is concerned! His suggestion that Darius I Hystaspes was the last Persian king before the invasion of Alexander the Great does not therefore stand up to scrutiny.
Before looking at the book of Ezra, it should be stressed that there were in fact TWO seventy year prophecies. The first concerns the Babylonian Empire itself which would last for seventy years:-
"And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years" (Jer. 25:11).
"For thus saith the L-rd, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place" (Jer. 29:10).
This is Yeremiahu's prophecy which was fulfilled when Babylon fell at the hands of Cyrus king of Persia in the 20th year of his 29 year reign. This first 70 year period is confirmed by Daniel (Dan. 9:1). The other seventy years was calculated from the 19th year of Nebuchadnezzar, which is when we are told that Jerusalem was taken and the temple destroyed, to the second year of Darius Hystaspes, which occurred PRECISELY 19 YEARS after the fall of Babylon at the hands of Cyrus king of Persia â€“ 9 years of Cyrus + 7 years 5 months of Cambyses + 7 monthhs Bardiya + 2 years Darius.
It should also be mentioned that Darius the Mede was 62 years old when he started to reign (Dan. 6:1), which means that he cannot be identified with any of the usual kings, namely Cambyses, Bardiya or Darius Hystaspes. At that age, he could only have ruled for a relatively short period of time and he will only have been a local ruler, ruling from Babylon. Daniel describes him specifically as "king over the realm of the Chaldeans" (Dan. 9:1). According to the Nabonidus Chronicle, his name was Ugbaru.
These then are the FIVE kings of Persia mentioned in the book of Ezra:-
"Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and harried them while they were building, and hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia." (Ezra 4:4-5)
"And in the reign of Achashverosh [Cambyses], in the beginning of his reign, wrote they an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem." (verse 6)
"And in the days of Artaxerxes [Bardiya/Gaumata] wrote Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of his companions, unto Artaxerxes king of Persia." (verse 7)
"Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem; and it ceased unto the SECOND YEAR of the reign of Darius [Hystaspes] king of Persia." (Ezra 4:24)
"Now AFTER THESE THINGS, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia..." (Ezra 7:1)
Note that work ceased for two years at the most until the SECOND YEAR of Darius Hystaspes.
"Now the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem..." (Ezra 5:1)
Cue the book of Zechariah:-
"Upon the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Shebat, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the L-rd unto Zechariah the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo, the prophet, saying...
"Then the angel of the L-rd spoke and said: 'O L-rd of hosts, how long wilt Thou not have compassion on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which Thou hast had indignation these SEVENTY years." (Zech 1:7 & 12.)
This 70 year period fits the conventional chronology well. It DOES NOT fit Heifetz's reconstruction. He has completely ignored this sequence of kings given in the book of Ezra.
It should be noted that the book of Nechemiah is dated to the 20th year of Artaxerxes. As the Artaxerxes mentioned in the book of Ezra only ruled for 7 months, and as the people mentioned in the book of Nechemiah are completely different to those of the time of Ezra, it follows that Nechemiah arrived at a much later date. The Artaxerxes in question appears to be the king known as Artaxerxes I Longimanus, the son of Xerxes I. Note that Nechemiah was "in the palace" (Neh. 1:1), which could not have happened until sometime after the time of Esther. (NB: I notice that the Hebrew word "Bira" is translated as 'castle' by Mechon Mamre.) Nechemiah also records the THIRTY-SECOND year of Artaxerxes (Neh. 5:14 & 13:6), which can ONLY be Artaxerxes I Longimanus.
In a previous email, I mentioned that Amestris the wife of Xerxes was Esther and the story of the shawl which she gave to Xerxes is a heavily distorted version of the story given in the book of Esther where Masistes of Herodotus is to be identified as Haman. In the Tanakh, we are told that Esther was the daughter of Mordechai's uncle who was adopted by Mordechai and his wife Avichail (Esth. 2:7), though in another place, she is specifically called 'daughter' (Esth. 9:29). In Herodotus, her father is called Otanes, and I have pointed out that the psychological profile of Otanes, how he gave his daughters Phaedyme and Amestris in marriage to the kings of Persia (Phaedyme marrying first Cambyses and then Bardiya), using them to obtain information of royal matters, matches that of the biblical Mordechai.
We are told that "this is Achashverosh who reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, over a hundred and seven and twenty provinces" (Esth. 1:1). India was not one of the 23 provinces mentioned by Darius I in the Behistun Inscription dated to the beginning of his reign. It was added to the dominion of Persia in the second half of his reign, and any attempt to date Esther previous to Darius I therefore meets with serious problems. I would also point out that the India (or Hodu) of those times is NOT the India which we know today, but was the region around the Indus river in the north. The Greece which came under Persian control was likewise mainly northern Greece. The Persian armies did not penetrate as far south as the Peloponnese, which was to be the subject of Xerxes' campaign. We all know the outcome of that campaign!
The Behistun Inscription confirms that neither Greece nor India had at that time (at the beginning of Darius' reign) been added to the Egyptian Empire. Darius' general, Megabyzus, added many Greek lands to the Persian Empire, again towards the latter half of that king's reign. His son Xerxes, who inherited the empire from his father, soon lost control of the Greek territories. Nevertheless, at the beginning of his reign, he indeed did control the vast territory mentioned in the very first verse of the book of Esther.
A bit of extra information concerning Darius the Mede which I have just come across:-
According to the Nabonidus Chronicle, Ugbaru was the name of the king of Babylon who ruled for less than one year. He was invested in the fourth month and died in the eleventh month of that same year.
Ugbaru was called Harpagus by Herodotus (Herod. I:127-130, 162, 177-178). Notice that Ctesias called Harpagus Oiabaras (Persica §.13, 36, 45), which is but a variation on the name Ugbaru. Harpagus was called "Lieutenant of Cyrus" by Strabo (Geography VI:1) and "Commandant of Cyrus" by Diodorus Siculus (Library IX:31:1) and prior to being made king regent of Babylon was responsible for administering the kingdom of Gutium in the land of the Medes. He himself was a Mede.
For my source, see pages 13 & 14 of Dating the Reigns of Xerxes and Artaxerxes which can be downloaded from https://www.academia.edu/2421036/Dating_the_reigns_of_Xerxes_and_Artaxerxes. Note also that the author is suggesting that Xerxes I was co-ruling with his father for the first ten years of his reign.