Who was Darius?
Darius the Mede (Daniel 6:1 ; Daniel 11:1 ) was the son of Ahasuerus (Xerxes) of the seed of the Medes ( Daniel 9:1 ).
(1) He received the government of Belshazzar the Chaldean upon the death of that prince (Daniel 5:30 , Daniel 5:31 ; Daniel 6:1 ), and was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans.
From Daniel 6:28 we may infer that Darius was king contemporaneously with Cyrus. Outside of the Book of Daniel there is no mention of Darius the Mede by name, though there are good reasons for identifying him with Gubaru, or Ugbaru, the governor of Gutium, who is said in the Nabunaid-Cyrus Chronicle to have been appointed by Cyrus as his governor of Babylon after its capture from the Chaldeans. Some reasons for this identification are as follows:
(a ) Gubaru is possibly a translation of Darius. The same radical letters in Arabic mean "king," "compeller," "restrainer." In Hebrew, derivations of the root mean "lord," "mistress," "queen"; in Aramaic, "mighty," "almighty."
(b ) Gutium was the designation of the country North of Babylon and was in all possibility in the time of Cyrus a part of the province of Media.
(c ) But even if Gutium were not a part of Media at that time, it was the custom of Persian kings to appoint Medes as well as Persians to satrapies and to the command of armies. Hence, Darius-Gubaru may have been a Mede, even if Gutium were not a part of Media proper.
(d ) Since Daniel never calls Darius the Mede king of Media, or king of Persia, it is immaterial what his title or position may have been before he was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans. Since the realm of the Chaldeans never included either Media or Persia, there is absolutely no evidence in the Book of Daniel that its author ever meant to imply that Darius the Mede ever ruled over either Media or Persia.
(e ) That Gubaru is called governor (pihatu ), and Darius the Mede, king, is no objection to this identification; for in ancient as well as modern oriental empires the governors of provinces and cities were often called kings. Moreover, in the Aramaic language, no more appropriate word than "king" can be found to designate the ruler of a sub-kingdom, or province of the empire.
(f ) That Darius is said to have had 120 satraps under him does not conflict with this; for the Persian word "satrap" is indefinite as to the extent of his rule, just like the English word "governor." Besides, Gubaru is said to have appointed pihatus under himself. If the kingdom of the Chaldeans which he received was as large as that of Sargon he may easily have appointed 120 of these sub-rulers; for Sargon names 117 subject cities and countries over which he appointed his prefects and governors.
(g ) The peoples, nations and tongues of chapter 6 are no objection to this identification; for Babylonia itself at this time was inhabited by Babylonians, Chaldeans, Arabians, Arameans and Jews, and the kingdom of the Chaldeans embraced also Assyrians, Elamites, Phoenicians and others within its limits.
(h ) This identification is supported further by the fact that there is no other person known to history that can well be meant. Some, indeed, have thought that Darius the Mede was a reflection into the past of Darius Hystaspis; but this is rendered impossible inasmuch as the character, deeds and empire of Darius Hystaspis, which are well known to us from his own monuments and from the Greek historians, do not resemble what Daniel says of Darius the Mede.
(2) Darius, the fourth king of Persia, called Hystaspes because he was the son of a Persian king named Hystaspis, is mentioned in Ezr (Daniel 4:5 , et al.), Hag (Daniel 1:1 ) and Zec (Daniel 1:1 ). Upon the death of Cambyses, son and successor to Cyrus, Smerdis the Magian usurped the kingdom and was dethroned by seven Persian nobles from among whom Darius was selected to be king. After many rebellions and wars he succeeded in establishing himself firmly upon the throne (Ant. , XI, i).
He reorganized and enlarged the Persian empire. He is best known to general history from his conflict with Greece culminating at Marathon, and for his re-digging of the Suez Canal. In sacred history he stands forth as the king who enabled the Jews under Jeshua and Zerubbabel to rebuild the temple at Jerusalem.
(3) Darius, called by the Greeks NoThus, was called Ochus before he became king. He reigned from 424 to 404 bc. In the Scriptures he is mentioned only in Nehemiah 12:22 , where he is called Darius the Persian, probably to distinguish him from Darius the Mede.
It is not necessary to suppose that Darius Codomannus who reigned from 336 to 330 bc, is meant by the author of Neh 12, because he mentions Jaddua; for (a ) Johanan, the father of this Jaddua, was high priest about 408 bc, as is clear from the Aramaic papyrus from Elephantine lately published by Professor Sachau of Berlin, and Jaddua may well have succeeded him in those troubled times before the death of Darius NoThus in 404 bc. And (b ) that a high priest named Jaddua met Alexander in 332 bc, is attested only by Josephus (Ant. , XI, viii, 5). It is not fair to take the testimony of Josephus as to Jaddua without taking his testimony as to the meeting with Alexander and as to the appeal of Jaddua to the predictions of the Book of Daniel.
But even if Josephus be right, there may have been two Jadduas, one high priest in 404 bc, and the other in 332 bc; or the one who was alive and exercising his functions in 404 bc may still have been high priest in 332 bc. He need not have exceeded 90 years of age. According to the Eshki Harran inscription, which purports to have been written by himself, the priest of the temple in that city had served for 104 years.
IBSE, "Isaac" (in the public domain) with minor edits.