Drinking Deeply

Monday, December 10, 2007 at 12:01 AM

Kings in Ezra

Had an interesting discussion with someone today about historicity and inerrancy of Scripture. Essentially he asked me if there would be any issues if there actually was an error in the Bible. And I think the answer is, "yes, because then it wouldn't be God's Word!"

But any case, the reason I bring that up is I'd like to deal with something that someone might bring up as an error that confused me a little bit today.

In Ezra, there's a progression of kings, with a slight hiccup. It begins with King Cyrus (Ezra 1). In Ezra 4, we read that opponents of Israel interfered with the rebuilding of the wall from King Cyrus all the way to Darius. And then all of a sudden we read that a letter was written during the reign of King Ahasuerus, but then a letter was written to Artaxerxes. Confused yet? The letter causes the Israelites to stop building and only during King Darius does the building restart (Ezra 5). It is finished in Ezra 6 and there's a great celebration.

All of a sudden, at the beginning of Ezra 7, we read "7:1 Now after this, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia..." and we're really confused, because it seems that this comes historically after all that had happened before, but Artaxerxes was earlier!

I read my NIV Spirit of the Reformation commentary, and it stated that Ezra 4's discussion of Ahasuarus was actually parenthetical, meant to prove something else. But that really doesn't work, because it seemed clear that the letter was the direct cause of the stoppage of the work, not a parenthetical remark that has to do with it. But yet there still is Ahasuerus being named twice, once before Darius and once after, with the time markings distinct.

The only possibility I could think of was that there were two kings named Ahasuarus (kind of like King George the 2nd, except without the number). And as I was searching about in the prophets yesterday, I stumbled upon this passage, that supports the earlier one pretty clearly, and the later one is well established by the time markings in the text.

Daniel 9:1

9:1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus

Now, this doesn't sort everything out (I think Ahasuerus is identified with Artaxerxes, but I'm not sure why), but does seem to be a step. If anyone has anything else to add, I'm open to hearing it.


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