Four Persian Kings
The angelic message begins in Daniel 11:2,
2 And now I will tell you the truth. Behold, three more kings are going to arise in Persia. Then a fourth will gain far more riches than all of them; as soon as he becomes strong through his riches, he will arouse [uwr, “awaken, stir up, incite”] the whole empire against the realm of Greece.
This brief revelation about the future of Persia was meant to be an introduction to the story of Greece. It focuses on the four kings of Persia that were to rule after King Cyrus. The fourth Persian king was to arouse Greece, and from then we are given the consequences of this king’s actions toward Greece.
The “three more kings” obviously were to come after Cyrus, since this revelation came in the third year of Cyrus. The first was Cambyses, the son of Cyrus, who was first made co-regent in 529 B.C. when his father went to war with the Massagetae. Cyrus was killed in that war in 528, and then Cambyses became Persia’s sole ruler.
According to the Bible Research Handbook, Vol. 2, Serial 572.9353, the Massagetae were Israelites that had been taken captive by the Assyrians two centuries earlier. They had been deported to the territory east of the Caspian Sea, along with another group that came to be known by the Greek name Sacae. We read,
“It is now realized (as mentioned particularly by Tarn) that the term Massagetae means merely ‘the great Sak (or Sag) horde.’ For the purpose of this work, therefore, the Massagetai and the Sacae are accepted as being either identical or close kindred peoples.”
This source also explains that Sak is short for Isak (Isaac). The Israelites were first called Sagaz on the Amarna tablets and were identical with the Khabiru (“Hebrews”). The Amarna tablets were letters written by the Canaanite kings begging Egypt to defend them from the invading Israelites under Joshua. It appears from these letters that the Khabiru-Hebrews were remembered by the Canaanites as the children of Isaac (Sagaz).
Hence, it appears that King Cyrus lost his life on the battlefield fighting Israelites that had been deported by the Assyrians two centuries earlier.
So Cambyses, son of Cyrus, became the first of “three more kings” mentioned by the angel. He reigned from 530-522 B.C. The Encyclopedia Britannica tells us,
In 538 he performed the ritual duties of a Babylonian king at the important New Year festival, and in 530, before Cyrus set out on his last campaign, he was appointed regent in Babylon.
After his father’s death, Cambyses set out to conquer Egypt with the intention of capturing Carthage as well. Before leaving, he reportedly killed his brother Smerdis. He then conquered Egypt, and even took many of the Egyptian gods (statues), which were brought to Babylon. These gods remained in Babylon for more than two centuries until the Egyptian king Ptolemy Euergetes recovered them in 241 B.C.
As we will see in a later chapter, Daniel 11:8 prophesied the recovery of these gods.
Gautama, the Pretender, and Darius the Great
In 522 one of the Magi named Gaumata impersonated Smerdis (pretending that he was still alive) and seized the throne. Cambyses heard of this revolt while he and his army were in Syria, but he died in the summer of 522 before he could retake his throne.
Gautama (Pseudo-Smerdis) only ruled eight months before he was killed by Darius I (“The Great”). Darius then ruled for 36 years. Coming to the throne in 522, his first year began the following Spring in the year 521. He died in 486 B.C. Darius was the third of the “three more kings” prophesied by the angel.
Xerxes, the Fourth King
The fourth king, who was to gain great riches and power (Dan. 11:2), was Xerxes, son of Darius, who ruled 21 years from 485-465 B.C. Xerxes actually had an older brother (by a different mother), whose name was Artobazan. Normally, the oldest son was crowned as the successor, but Xerxes’ mother was Atossa, the daughter of King Cyrus, the liberator of Persia. He was able to claim greater succession rights on account of his direct descent from Cyrus and was crowned late in the year 486 B.C. after his father died.
Xerxes first marched to Babylon and Egypt in order to crush revolts that had broken out the previous year.
“In 484 BC, he outraged the Babylonians by violently confiscating and melting down the golden statue of Bel (Marduk, Merodach), the hands of which the rightful king of Babylon had to clasp each New Year’s Day. This sacrilege led the Babylonians to rebel in 484 BC and 482 BC….”
In 480 B.C. Xerxes invaded Greece with an army estimated by Herodotus to be a million men, including 10,000 elite troops known as the Persian Immortals. (More recent historians reduce this estimate to about 60,000.)
After the Battle of Thermopylae, the Persians took Athens. The city was burned, either by Xerxes or by the Athenians themselves who may have adopted a “scorched earth policy” while abandoning the city. The Greeks then won the Battle of Salamis in September of 480 BC. Being afraid that the Greeks would burn the Persian pontoon bridges over the Hellespont and trap the Persian army in Greece, Xerxes decided to retreat back to Asia.
Since there was still unrest in Babylon, Xerxes knew that if his army were trapped in Greece, the angry Babylonians would have revolted again. Xerxes left a small part of his army in Greece when he retreated, but these were defeated the following year, and so ended the Persian attempt to conquer Greece.
Xerxes’ wealth greatly exceeded that of his predecessors. Though he failed to conquer Greece, the invasion, along with the destruction of Athens (regardless of who was responsible), aroused an undying sentiment against Persia. Alexander the Great arose 150 years later and quickly conquered Persia.
Xerxes was the fourth great king of Persia. He aroused his kingdom against the Greeks, as prophesied in Dan. 11:2. Although many more kings would arise in Persia during the next 150 years, none were important enough for the angel to speak of them. The angel passed over them and spoke immediately of Alexander and the rise of Greece.