Chapter 14



  When a man is charged with having with his own hand committed a murder, the most conclusive defense is to prove an alibi, that is, that the accused was not at the place at the time when the murder was committed. Similarly, when it comes to historical statements, if it can be shown that the man about whom the statement is made did not live at the time or he could not have been in the place where the event is said to have transpired, it is sufficiently clear the statement connecting him directly with the event is false. Again, if an event is said to have been enacted in a certain building in a certain city at a certain time by a certain person, the statement is proved false if it can be shown that the person, or the building, or the city, did not exist at that time; or that if it did exist, its condition and circumstances were different from those described in the record. Further, if a document purports to have been written at a certain time by a certain person in a certain language, it would be sufficient to disprove its genuineness, if it could be shown that the person did not exist at that time, or that the language is such as that the document could not have been written at that time. Of course, this last statement would be subject to the proviso that the document in hand was not a later revision, or a translation, of the original.

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  In this and the following chapter I am going to consider some of the attacks made upon the genuineness of the book of Daniel on the ground that it contains anachronisms, that is, that it contains statements which could not have been written in the time of Cyrus.


  “The author was guilty of an anachronism in making Shushan (Susa) subject to Babylon.”1

  Or, as Cornill says, “Of the fact of Susa also having been a seat of the Babylonian court there may be a reminiscence in 8:2.”2


  There are in these objections two assumptions: 1, that in the time of Daniel, Susa was not subject to Babylon; 2, that Daniel 8:2, implies the anachronism that Susa was in Daniel’s time a seat of the Babylonian court.


  1. (a) As to the first assumption, discoveries made since Bertholdt’s time indicate that Susa was subject to Babylon in the time of Daniel. For as Winckler says of the division of the Assyrian empire between the Babylonians and the Medes: “All the country to the north of the river region from Elam to Asia Minor fell to the Medes.” “Elam itself appears as in the earliest times, to have fallen to Babylonia.”3

1 Bertholdt: Daniel, p.34.    2 Introduction to the O. T., p. 185.

3 Winckler’s History of Babylon and Assyria, Craig’s Translation, p. 384.

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  If we can accept the translation of Mr. Pinches, the Cyrus Cylinder supports the view of Dr. Winckler; for according to this translation, the city of Susa was one of those to which Cyrus returned its gods after he had captured Babylon and had received the homage of the nations, that up to that time been subject to Babylon, in Shu–anna the citadel of the city of Babylon.1 The province of Elam spoken of in 8:2, of which Susa was the capital will thus appear to have been a part of Babylonia during the period of the Babylonian monarchy.

  (b) But, even if Susa did not fall to Babylon in the division of the Assyrian empire, we must remember that it is possible (1) that Daniel was there in vision merely, or (2) that he may have gone thither on private or official business. In favor of (1) is the probable meaning of chapter 8:2, which reads: “I saw in the vision; now it was so, that when I saw, I was in Shushan the palace, which is in the province of Elam.” In favor of (2) is the fact that the cities of Babylon and Susa were separated by only a little over 200 miles and that for at least 1500 years the two cities had been bound together by the closest political and commercial relations. Susa lay on the direct land route from Babylon to India, and Babylon on the route from Susa to the Mediterranean. So that there may have been many reasons of a public or private nature why a man of Daniel’s position may have visited Susa. In his official capacity also as ruler “over the whole province of Babylon,”2 he may have been investigating the methods of government in the province of Elam. Or, if we take the reading of the Latin Vulgate, “province” or the LXX reading, “affairs”

1 See Pinches: The O. T. in the light of the Hist. Records, etc., p. 422, and KB. iii, ii, 126.

2 Dan. 2:48.  

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of Babylonia (a reading which depends merely upon a change in pointing of the Hebrew original), Daniel may have had oversight at this time of the governors of all the provinces, or affairs, of the empire. Or, Daniel may have been transferred from the government of the province of Babylon to that of Elam. It is altogether probable, that as Nabunaid, the son of Nabunaid, had been made sub–king of Harran in the extreme north of the Babylonian empire,1 so also, Belshazzar had been made king of Accad, Shumer, Chaldea, and Elam in the south. This would account for the third year of Belshazzar as the king of the Chaldeans.

  The presumptuousness of making hasty statements, unsupported by any proper evidence, with regard to the events which happened, and state of affairs in that distant past in which Daniel lived, cannot be better illustrated than in the assertions which Bertholdt made in the introduction to his commentary on Daniel which was published in 1806. We read:

  The book of Daniel contains mistakes which it would have been impossible for Daniel to compose and which can be explained only on the supposition that the book was written long after the occurrence of the events described. In Chapter 8:1, 2, Daniel says of himself: “In the third year of the reign of Belshazzar the king, I found myself in Shusan the palace, in the province of Elam.” In the 27th verse he says that he had royal business to transact in that place. In these words lies an insoluble difficulty, if Daniel has written them. Elymais never belonged to the Chaldean court of Babylon. Later, under Cyrus, Daniel may indeed have come into this land; but how

1 See Pognan: Inscriptions Sémitiques, Part 1.

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could he already much earlier have had to transact there the business of king Nabonned? One might perhaps say that he went thither as an ambassador to the Persian court. But only if it were not certain that the kings first after Cyrus made it their winter residence —that Darius Hystaspis first caused the buildings requisite for this to be erected, that thus in Nabonned’s time there did not exist a court or a royal palace (Burg) in the chief city of Elymais! Clearly a later composer betrays himself here who has confused either the later Persian residence city Susa with Babylon, the capital of the Chaldean kings, or indeed Nabonned with a ruler of the Persian dynasty, or a later event from the life of Daniel with an earlier.1

  The only answer needed to this self–raised difficulty is found in Herodotus III, 70, where we read: “Darius, the son of Hystaspis, arrived at Susa from Persia, where his father was governor (hyparch).” From which we gather, first, that, at the time before Darius Hystaspis became king, Susa existed; and secondly, that it was not in Persia even then, but in Elam. So that Bertholdt’s great insoluble difficulty was all in his own mind!

  2. The assumption that Susa was in Daniel’s time a seat of the Babylonian court is based upon two further assumptions: (1) that Belshazzar was at this time a Babylonian king, or king of the Babylonians, and (2) that the Hebrew bira means “palace.”

  (1) As to the first of these assumptions, it is sufficient to remember that Belshazzar is never called a Babylonian king. In Daniel 5:30, he is called “the Chaldean king,” and the narrative in the fifth chapter implies merely that he was for a short time in some sense the king of Babylon. Chapter seven, verse one, speaks of his first year as king of Babylon. all the statements

1 See Bertholdt, Daniel, pp. 34, 35.

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with regard to the reign of Belshazzar can be reconciled only by supposing that his third year, spoken of in Daniel 8:1, was his third year as second ruler in the kingdom, or as a sub–ruler under Nabunaid. As the Nabunaid–Cyrus Chronicle says, that a son of the king, i.e., of Nabunaid, was commander of the army in Accad, and as it is generally believed that this son was Belshazzar may very well have been at Susa, the largest city next to Babylon in the southern part of Nabunaid’s dominions. Daniel may have been on business in Susa, either by commission from the sovereign, king Nabunaid, or as an official under Belshazzar. The court of Susa, then, if court there was, would have been not the Babylonian court of Nabunaid, but the court of Belshazzar the Chaldean. That the years of a sub–king of a sub–kingdom might be dated otherwise than from the time of the accession of the chief ruler, is evident from the fact the years of the reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah are reckoned from the year of the accession of the subject and not of the sovereign king. Sometimes, the year of the reign of each is given, as in Jeremiah 25:1. And again, the documents of Babylon under the reigns of Shamashshumukin et al., although they reigned as subordinates to the kings of Assyria, were dated according to the years of the sub–kings and not after the years of the overlord.

  (2) It is an assumption, however, that a court is spoken of at all in Daniel 8:2. The Hebrew word Bira is certainly a loan word from the Assyrio–Babylonian, where it does not mean “palace” but “fortress,” and is a synonym for halsu, “fort,” and for karashu, “camp.” It is more probable, therefore, that in Daniel 8:2, the phrase is to be rendered “the fortress of

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Susa,” rather than “the palace of Susa.” With this translation, the assumption that there is any reference to a court falls to the ground.


  The above discussion has shown that the statements of the book of Daniel with regard to Susa are, so far as is known to–day, in exact harmony with the facts revealed on the monuments.

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Home Up Chapter 15

Studies In The Book Of Daniel: A Discussion Of The Historical Questions by Robert Dick Wilson. New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, The Knickerbocker Press, 1917.

E-Text transcribed from the 1917 edition.