The Wartburg Project

February 21st, 2024

99. Cyrus and Darius

Your note at Daniel 6:28 suggests that Cyrus the Persian and Darius the Mede were the same person. Why would a king use two different names?

“Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius, that is, during the reign of Cyrus the Persian.”

The key translation issue here concerns the Hebrew word which the EHV renders that is. It is the extremely common one-letter Hebrew word vav, which indicates an additional thought, and which is usually rendered and.  However, vav simply connects two things, and it indicates other kinds of connections besides the addition of another thing. Sometimes the term following the vav is explanatory of the first term. An example is found in 1 Samuel 28:3: “Samuel was dead, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in Ramah, which was his hometown.” The Hebrew reads “in Ramah and his city.” There are not two cities here, but one. Ramah was his home town.

Whether the vav in our verse is translated and or that is indicates whether the translator believes that Darius and Cyrus are two names for the same person or they are two different kings. The note in the EHV Study Bible offers further explanation.

The identity of Darius the Mede is one of the most debated issues concerning the book of Daniel. It is likely that Darius the Mede is another name for Cyrus the Persian, the great founding king of the Persian Empire, but some historians think that Darius is the same person as Gubaru, a subordinate of Cyrus, who was acting as his regent in Babylon.

Some factors in favor of understanding Darius and Cyrus to be the same person include the fact that Cyrus had combined the Median and Persian dynasties under his sole control by seizing power from his Median grandfather. Through his mother, he was a royal descendant of the Median kingdom; through his father, he was an heir in the line of the Persian throne. Cyrus may have wanted to emphasize both aspects of his kingship. Similarly, the United Kingdom is a kingdom in which the English throne forced Wales and Scotland into a united kingdom. A reflection of this is that the heir of the English throne is called the Prince of Wales and the husband of Queen Elizabeth II was the Duke of Edinburgh.

It was quite common for ancient kings to have more than one name: personal names and throne names, or names reflecting additions to the kingdom. The Greek historian Herodotus notes that Cyrus was not this king’s original name, but that he had been given a different name by his Median mother. In chapter 6, Darius exercises sweeping, empire-wide authority—an unlikely role for a temporary regent in Babylon (Daniel 6:25). Finally, the events in Daniel 6 and 9 seem to span more time than the very brief administration of Cyrus’s agent Gubaru in Babylon. The name Darius was also used as the royal name of three of Cyrus’s successors.

The identification of Darius with Cyrus is a plausible suggestion on the basis of circumstantial evidence. It is not provable beyond a reasonable doubt. It is possible that Darius was a member of the Median royal family with whom Cyrus had a power-sharing arrangement as a temporary concession, but there is no known king in Babylon that can be placed between Belshazzar and Cyrus, This suggests that they are the same person. Sixty-two was Cyrus’s age when he conquered Babylon—the same age as Darius was at the capture of Babylon (Daniel 5:1). It seems unlikely this is just a coincidence.