Daniel's vision of the 'Son of Man'

Dan 6:1-28   Daniel is appointed as one of Darius’s top three administrators, but is persecuted for his Jewish faith by other jealous members of the royal household. Daniel is flung overnight into a den of lions, but God protects him and he is restored to power under Darius.

 

Persian Official on a relief from the Palace of Darius at Persepolis (British Museum)

A Persian Official on a relief from the Palace of Darius at Persepolis (British Museum)

 

Dan 7:1-28   Daniel has a vision of the ‘end times’. In his dream he sees the "Ancient of Days" (a Jewish name for God) seated on his throne in heaven. Then “one like a son of man” (i.e. someone who looks like a human being) approaches the “Ancient of Days” and is given authority and sovereign power. All nations worship him and his kingdom will never end.

Many Jews subsequently intepret this vision as a prophesy relating to the promised ‘Messiah’. Christians later interpret it as a reference to Jesus, the ‘Christ’ or anointed one.

Dan 8-10   Daniel has further dreams and visions in which he is standing beside the Ulai Canal near the fortress at Susa (Shush in modern day Iran), and on the banks of the River Tigris.

Dan 11:1-45   Daniel predicts the overthrow of the Persian Empire by a mighty king from Greece, and the subsequent break up of his empire into four parts. This prophesy is fulfilled in 331BC when Alexander the Great conquers Persia and his kingdom is divided between four of his generals when he dies.

 

Relief showing Alexander the Great

A relief showing Alexander the Great at the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul

 

The Downfall of the Persian Empire

The Persian Empire reached its zenith under Darius I and Xerxes I, with 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush in Upper Egypt (see Esther 8:9).

Darius built a splendid new capital at the old Achaemenid city of Susa and started another palace at Persepolis. In Egypt, he built the first Suez Canal (now the Al-Isma’liyyah Canal) linking the Gulf of Suez (now the shallow Bitter Lakes) at Ismalia via the site of Biblical Pithom to the Tanitic branch of the River Nile at Bubastis (modern-day Al Zaqaziq, north east of Cairo). Darius suceessfully beseiged the Greek city of Miletus, before being defeated by the Athenians at the Battle of Marathon in 490BC.

 

Gold armlets from Persepolis

Gold armlets from Darius's Palace at Persepolis (British Museum)

 

Xerxes I (486-465BC) succeeded his father on his death in 486BC. His luxurious palace at Persepolis, where he built the magnificent colonnaded audience hall whose ruins can be still be seen today, was similar to Darius’s earlier royal palace at Susa - the glorious setting for the Biblical story of Queen Esther (see Esther 1:1-8). Bas-reliefs from Xerxes’ palace at Persepolis can be seen in the British Museum in London.

Having quelled rebellions in Babylon and Egypt, Xerxes proceeded overland to mainland Greece where he defeated the Greek army headed by three hundred Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae in 480BC, occupied Athens, and carried off the religious treasures from the sacred buildings on the Athenian Acropolis.

This sacriligious act was avenged a hundred and fifty years later, in fulfilment of Daniel’s prophesy (see Daniel 11:2-4), when the Greek King Alexander the Great of Macedon conquered Persia in 331BC and Persepolis was burnt to the ground. In accordance with Daniel’s prophesy, Alexander’s kingdom was subsequently divided between four of his generals when he died in 323BC. Ptolemy became King of Egypt, Seleucus became King of Syria and Babylonia, Cassander ruled in Macedonia, and Lysimachus in Thrace.

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