Information About Pertinent Persons/Places

Abed-nego - The Babylonian name given to Azariah. It means "servant of Nebo."

Ashpenaz - He was the chief eunuch guarding the family of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (605-562 B.C.) (Dan 1:3). He controlled the life, including the diet and complete life-style, of the eunuchs. Under his control were also Daniel and his three friends commonly known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. It appears Daniel developed a close, loving relationship with him.

Azariah - The Hebrew name given to one of Daniel's friends taken to Babylon with Daniel. It means "Whom Yahweh helps"

Babylon - When this city started is not known. Though not well known, it was probably in existence as long as 3000 B.C. It is located on the Euphrates River in Mesopotamia (mostly modern Iraq). It became a provincial and cult center, later to become the grand capital of the eighteenth century B.C. King Hammurabi. Thereafter, it remained a great center of culture and religion. It was sacked in 689 B.C. by the Assyrian king Sennacherib, who destroyed much of it. Due largely to Sennacherib's deliberate destruction of the city, very little of Babylon known before 721 B.C. remained. Esarhaddon, Ashurbanipal, and Nabopolassar (Nebuchadnezzar's father) undertook a rebuilding, but Nebuchadnezzar II (605-562 B.C.) brought Babylon to her glory. It really became known during the New-Babylonian period (625-539 B.C.). It was the largest and most beautiful city in the Middle East, considered by classical tradition with its renown Hanging Gardens and massive walls to have been one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was large, filled with beauty and splendor, but was corrupt. It was filled with pagan god worship, as will as human leadership and idol worship. The entire culture was built around pagan ritual. Daniel was put n a fence many times because of the conflict of his Jewish upbringing and the pagan ideals. Regrettably, the ruins of Babylon have long served as a quarry for building materials.

Belteshazzar - This was the name the Babylonians gave to Daniel. It means, "May Bel protect his life."

Cambyses - He was the oldest son of Cyrus. Some scholar writings speak of Cambyses as Ahasuerus and identified as the Zerxes of Ezra and Daniel. However, there does not seem to be written or real evidence to Ahasuerus. When he ascended to the throne, Cambyses had Smerdis, his brother, secretly killed to prevent a possible rebellion. In 525 B.C. he conquered Egypt. He eventually committed suicide.

Chaldeans - The area of Chaldea was situated in central and southeastern Mesopotamia that would be the land between the lower stretches of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

One group of the area was called the Chaldeans. This homeland was a flat, plain of few natural resources, many marshes, spring flooding, and very hot summers.

At first the Chaldeans lived in tribes. They rejected the society of the Babylonians to the northwest. It was named after the city of Babylon (referred in the Bible over 300 times). As time passed, the Chaldeans gradually acquired domination in Babylonia. In the process they also took on the title "Babylonians," or more exactly, "New-Babylonians" (Greek: New Babylonians). As a result, the terms Chaldea(ns) and (Neo-)Babylonia(ns) may be used interchangeably (Ezek. 1:3; 12:13).

In the eighth century B.C., the Chaldeans emerged as the champions of resistance against Assyria; a dangerous, aggressive imperial force in upper Mesopotamia. At this time the Chaldeans begin to appear in the Old Testament, first, as possible allies with Judah against Assyria, but later, as a direct threat to Judah and Jerusalem.

Cyrus the Great - He was the third king (550 B.C.) of Anshan (town in the western foothills of Judah). According to some histories, Astyages, his grandfather, dreamed that Cyrus would one day succeed him as king before the reigning monarch's death. Therefore, he tried to put the boy to death. The officer charged with the execution instead of killing the boy carried him into the hills to the shepherds. A shepherd reared Cyrus. Cyrus eventually organized the Persians into an army and revolted against his grandfather and father (Cambyses I). He defeated them and claimed their throne.

After conquering Lydia, capital of Sardis, the Babylonian Empire was next in his path. Engaging the Babylonian army at Opis, Cyrus' troops routed them and moved on Babylon. The people in the capital welcomed Cyrus with open arms. Seeing him as a liberator rather than a conqueror. All that remained was Egypt, which he left for his son, Cambyses II. Cyrus truly was the ruler of the world.

Cyrus' military exploits have become legendary. However, he is best remembered for his policies of peace. His famous decree in 539 B.C. (2 Chron. 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4) set free the captives Babylon taken during its harsh rule. Among these prisoners were the Jews taken from Jerusalem in 586 B.C. They were allowed to return to rebuild the Temple and city. Along with this freedom Cyrus restored the valuable treasures of the Temple taken during the Exile. Since the Jews had done well in Babylon financially, many of them did not want to return to the waste of Judah. From these people Cyrus exacted a tax to help pay for the trip for those who did wish to rebuild Jerusalem.

An astute politician, Cyrus made it a practice to publicly worship the gods of each kingdom he conquered. In so doing, he won the hearts of his subjects and kept down revolt. He was referred to as Yahweh's shepherd and anointed (Isa. 44:28-45:6) because of his kindness to the Jews and worship of Yahweh.

Daniel - The Hebrew name given to the prophet of the book of Daniel. It means "God is judge."

Darius - This was a common name for several Medo-Persian kings. The examination of the various Darius' is necessary to understand the total Persian picture.

Darius the Mede was the successor of Belshazzar. He is also referenced in Dan 5:31. His age, parentage, and nationality are recorded. There is no other recorded information known about "the Mede". Some say he is Gabaru, the governor of Babylon, Gabaru is documented. Some have tried to identify him with Cambyses, Cyrus, or Ahasuerus, husband of Esther. He tried and failed to conquer Greece.

Darius I (Hystaspis) - He was known as Darius the Great. He reigned over Persia for 37 years (522-486 B.C.). He divided the kingdom into 29 provinces. He decreed and financed the rebuilding of the Temple in 516 B.C.

Eunuch - This is a man who has been deprived of his testes. This was done to eliminate the sexual needs, desires, and capabilities. By doing this, they became men of high trust with leaders such as Nebuchadnezzar. The men could be trusted to not be tempted by the women (especially wives) and, therefore, could administer to them easily.

Hananiah - The Hebrew name given to one of Daniel's friends taken to Babylon with Daniel. It means "Yahweh is gracious."

Jehoahaz - He immediately succeeded his father Josiah (609 B.C.). He was king for only about three months. He was just as evil as the fathers before him were (not the converted Josiah). Because of the evil of his reign, Pharaoh Neco of Egypt removed him from his office.

Jehoiakim - Means "Yahweh has caused to stand." He was a son of Josiah. He was king of Judah (609-597) after the removal of Jehoahaz, his brother. Jehoiakim was a throne name given to him by Pharaoh Neco of Egypt, who deposed his brother Jehoahaz. His original name had been Eliakim (2 Kings 23:34). At the beginning of Jehoiakim's reign, Judah was subject to Egypt. In about 605 B.C., Babylon defeated Egypt. Jehoiakim seemed to be content to be under Egypt. However, he transferred his allegiance to Babylon. He rebelled after three years. At his death his son Jehoiachin succeeded him.

Josiah - Means "Yahweh heals." Josiah was Judah's king from about 640-609 B.C. This man will be remembered as one of Judah's greatest kings. His father Amon, an idolatrous king, ruled only two years before being murdered by his servants (2 Kings  21:19-23; 2 Chron. 33:21-24). The people of the land avenged Amon's death by putting the assassins to death (2 kings 21:24). Josiah then became king at the age of eight. Josiah reigned for thirty-one years (2 Kings 22:1; 2 Chron. 34:1. See the Background paragraph for more details.

Judah - This was one of the two regions into which the Palestinian area was divided: Israel and Judah. It contained many of the main cities of interest, especially Jerusalem.

Meshach - The Babylonian name given to Mishael. It means "Who is what Aku is?"

Mesopotamia - Strictly speaking, Mesopotamia (Greek "between the rivers") is the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Mesopotamia applies more generally to the entire Tigris-Euphrates valley. Mesopotamia was the homeland of the patriarchs (Gen. 11:31-12:4; 24:10; 28:6).

Mesopotamian gods - There were thousands of gods in the complex system of the people of Mesopotamia. Some of the most important are reviewed here:

After the political rise of Babylon, Marduk was considered the chief god and was also called Bel (equivalent to the Canaanite term Baal), meaning "lord" (Isa. 46:1; Jer. 50:2; 51:44). Marduk slew Tiamat (the sea goddess, representative of chaos). From the blood of another slain god, Ea created mankind. Marduk's son Nabu (Nebo in Isa. 46:1), the god of nearby Borsippa and of scribes, became especially exalted in the new-Babylonian period as seen in the name Nebuchadnezzar.

Several important gods were associated with heavenly bodies. Shamash was the god of the sun. The moon god Sin was revered in the cities of Ur and Haran, both associated with Abraham's origins (Gen. 11:31). Ishtar (the Canaanite Astarte/Ashtoroth) was goddess of the morning and evening star. Ishtar fulfilled a dual role as the goddess of war and the goddess of love and fertility. Temple prostitution was an important part of her cult that resulted in a sordid reputation. Among the masses, Ishtar was very popular and referred to as the "queen of heaven" (Jer. 7:18; 44:17-19). Closely connected with Ishtar was her consort, the spring vegetation god Tammuz. Associated with fertility was the storm god Adad, the Canaanite Hadad.

Mishael - The Hebrew name given to one of Daniel's friends taken to Babylon with Daniel. It means "Who is what God is?"

Nebuchadnezzar - Personal name meaning, "Nabu protects." He was the king of Babylon 602-562 B.C. He was the son of Nabopolassar and inherited the throne upon the death of his father. Nebuchadnezzar served as a general under his father and was a brilliant strategist. His victory over the Egyptian forces at Carchemish (605) signaled the completion of Babylon's conquest of Palestine.

Officials - A term that can refer to designated leaders of officers. In the Daniel context, it refers to eunuchs.

Overseer - This is someone who holds a position similar to a supervisor or manager. Various translations use overseer for secular posiations (household manager, Gen. 39:4-5; Prime Minister, Gen. 41:34; foreman or supervisor, 2 Chron. 2:18) and ecclesiastical (Acts 20:18) offices.

Pseudo-Smerdis - (a false or pretending Smerdis) impersonated Smerdis (Cambyses brother; see Cambyses) on the throne for 8 months. Cyrus was a believer of one god. It is thought Cambyses was a believer in one God. However, this Pseudo-Smerdis did not wish to follow the example of his "father" Cyrus and allow the Jews the freedom Cyrus had given. Pseudo-Smerdis worshipped the earth, air, water, and fire (pantheism). He was overthrown and killed by Darius.

Shadrach - The Babylonian name given to Hananiah. It means "command of Aku" (the moon god).

Shinar - Generally, the biblical texts use Shinar as a designation for Mesopotamia (Gen. 10:10). See Mesopotamia.

Xerxes - He is sometimes identified in profane (secular, non-religious) history as Ahasuerus, from the book of Esther. He was a much more powerful and rich than his immediate predecessor. His father was Darius I. He invaded Greece; that did not make Alexander very happy. It would be of some excellent historical background to study Ahasuerus in the book of Esther. It is well known about the size of his empire, extreme riches, sensuality, feasting, and tyrannical behavior (Esther 1:1-22). He required very rigid military discipline. Because of his anger when his queen, Vashti, would not react to his requirement to show herself off at the drunken party, he removed her and made Esther his queen. After 21 years, he was killed by two of his officers.

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