Archaeology, z426
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2,500-year-old inscription of Persia’s King Darius found in Israel

Relief of King Darius the Great
Credit: Surenae/Wikipedia/Creative Commons 4.0

Eylon Levy serves as an advisor to Isaac Herzog, the president of the state of Israel. In December, he and a friend were walking among the paths at Tel Lachish National Park, when he saw a piece of pottery. Picking it up he realized immediately that it had writing etched on it, Israel365 News reports.

When he saw this rare find, Levy immediately thought it had been planted, and he expected cameras to show up as part of an elaborate joke. However, they didn’t appear and Levy knew there was more to this discovery and turned it over to Israel Antiquities Authority.

In a few weeks, he would find out how significant it was. Written on the shard, were the words “Year 24 of Darius”, a reference to one of the Persia’s greatest kings, Darius the Great, who ruled about 2,500 years ago. It was the first reference to this Persian king found in Israel.

This is not the Darius mentioned in the book of Daniel, but rather the Darius found in the book of Ezra who as a friend of the Jews helped construct the Temple (Ezra 6).

This Darius reigned from (522 BCE–486 BCE) and is connected to another book of the Bible, Esther, as he was the father of King Ahasuerus, who married Queen Esther, resulting in the Jews being saved from a national genocide.

With the shard stating it was in the 24th year of Darius’ reign, this would date it to around 498 BCE.

Archaeologists working at Tel-Lachish discovered that it served as an administrative center for the Persian empire, which received taxes or tribute paid by nations subservient to Persia. This piece of pottery may have been part of a larger inscription that recorded these payments.

When Ahasuerus succeeded his dad he was reigning over a massive empire that included millions of square miles stretching from Egypt to the Balkans to India and Central Asia.

The first verse in the book of Esther hints at the size of the Persian empire at that time:

Now it happened in the days of Ahasuerus, the Ahasuerus who reigned from India to Cush over 127 provinces, in those days as King Ahasuerus sat on his royal throne which was at the citadel in Susa,” (Esther 1:1-2 NASV)

The Book of Esther is unique among the Old Testament canonical books in that it is the only one that does not have a single reference to God.

Though God is missing by name, Mordecai, Esther’s foster father, insinuated that God had raised Esther up to be Queen at this important time, to protect the Jews from a potential genocide:

“If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14 ESV)

The book also tells us that Esther called upon the Jews to fast before she entered her husband’s throne room to intervene. Though, not stated in the passage, it is clearly implied that the Jews were to call upon God for Esther’s protection (Esther 4:16).

So why is there no mention of God in Esther?

The Jewish rabbis believed the book was written by Mordecai, while he served in Persia under King Ahasuerus. They believed he avoided mentioning God in order not to offend the polytheistic king and protect himself from the numerous enemies the Jews obviously had in Persia.

READ: 2,500-year-old inscription bearing name of biblical King Ahasuerus’ father found in Israel AND Advisor to Israel’s President Finds Rare 2,500-Year-Old Inscription with Name of Persian King Darius

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