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Daniel 11:2,

Now then, I tell you the truth: Three more kings will arise in Persia, and then a fourth, who will be far richer than all the others. When he has gained power by his wealth, he will stir up everyone against the kingdom of Greece.

Historically speaking, we know that more than four kings have ruled over Persia, yet the text in Daniel asserts that only four kings ruled over Persia before it succumbed to the mighty Macedonian/Greek empire. Why is that?

We do know that the schema of four successive kings/kingdoms has been a common motif in the Persian literature, and that the author of Daniel most probably drew from these sources as is evident from the dream of the four beasts in chapter 2. So could it be that the number four here is used rather liberally by the author through poetic license but is not meant to be taken literal, or is there some justification for the number four in relation to the Persian empire (perhaps it refers to four great kings of Persia) or is there any other deeper intended meaning (spiritual, symbolic) here that I'm missing?


Regardless of the question whether this prophecy was written before (and is thus genuine) or after the events, this passage seems problematic, since it doesn't seem to reflect the historical reality in the Persian empire.

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    You already give the explanation as it being a common motif. To explain why it's not historically accurate seems like something for Mi Yodeya or Christianity.SE to me. It's unclear what hermeneutical problem you want solved. – user2672 Jan 21 '19 at 7:38
  • In Ezra-Nehemiah, only 4 kings are named (all appear in Ezra 4:5-7). But this prophecy was said while Cyrus was already king (and mentions Darius the Mede as having already reigned), so "three more kings and then a fourth" would have to include another king as well for a total of six (Darius the Mede, Cyrus, and four more who probably include the Darius, Xerxes and Artaxerxes of Ezra-Nehemiah) – b a Jan 21 '19 at 11:54
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    @Keelan I'm obviously not satisfied with that as an answer! I was merely suggesting that four was a common motif and perhaps need not be taken literal, I would appreciate however a more effective solution to the problem (see for example the solution of ba). Perhaps you shouldn't be so eager to close questions before consulting the OP. – Bach Jan 21 '19 at 15:04
  • @ba actually this is not the case. Daniel in chapter 11 prophesizes in the first year of Darius the Mede (see verse 1) and tells him that there are four more to go (Cyrus, Xerxes, Artaxerxes and Darius II which is III according to the conventional chronology). It is generally accepted that Darius the Mede (with whomever you want to identify him) reigned before Cyrus. In any case, we know that far more than four or six kings reigned over the Achaemenid Empire, so regardless the text remains problematic. – Bach Jan 21 '19 at 15:22
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    As written it seemed to me that you were asking how to deal with this apparent inconsistency in a particular theological framework. That would not be a question for hermeneutics. With your addition, I can better understand why you want to ask here, but I still think the question can be clarified to avoid dogmatic answers. – user2672 Jan 21 '19 at 18:50
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I’m not suggesting this is the answer to your question but when I looked up the passage in Daniel which we in English read the Prince of Persia stood against me, the Septuagint reads, the king of the king.

“But the prince of the kingdom of Persia (king of the king LXX) was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings (plural) of Persia.” ‭‭Daniel‬ ‭10:13‬ ‭NASB‬‬

In light of that idea that behind the human king was a spiritual king/principality/elohim/god then the idea would follow that Persia only had four principalities total.

The idea is not so far removed considering Daniel makes reference to this “prince” that fought with Michael also a prince. It’s evident to me that this was happening in the spiritual realm and we were given a small glimpse into the spiritual warfare that was taking place to impede a prayer request which was sent and received on day one and the response was impeded for 20-21 days following.

This idea is already what it is, so I’ll run with it a little further. If indeed Daniel was referring to the principalities over the region of Persia according to the LXX and DDS reading of Deu 32:8 (also Psalm 82 and 89) then it wouldn’t matter how many human leaders there were in Persia the principalities of the air are only four in total. Granted there are ranks below kings and ranks below principalities.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood (I would emphasize - human kings), but against the rulers (I would word it rulerships or principalities), against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭6:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  • You are right in the assertion that Daniel 10 is about the spiritual realm but i'm not sure how this explains the four kings of Persia, or what you saw in the LXX. Also I'm not sure what you mean with four principalities. Can you elaborate a bit more? – Bach Jan 21 '19 at 18:43
  • A principality I equate to a son of Elohim or an elohim that has fallen which later are referred to as god of the nations. “When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of G-d.” ‭‭Deu‬ ‭32:8‬ ‭all I’m saying is that the four kings are not human kings in this concept but they are the fallen sons of G-d from Psa 82“"How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?” ‭‭Psa 82:2‬ “I said, "You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you” ‭‭Psa82:6 read verse 7 – Nihil Sine Deo Jan 21 '19 at 18:50
  • Your interpretation is provocative and novel, but I will give it some thought. Thanks – Bach Jan 21 '19 at 19:08
  • I find this interpretation to have incredible explanatory power, and it helps tie up so many loose ends that I’ve had in theology. It was the missing link for me. First I don’t take any credit for it. Second it took me a lot of time and research to understand it. This is highly condensed cliff notes what I’m sharing. If it were possible I’d go in so much more detail. – Nihil Sine Deo Jan 21 '19 at 19:22
  • @Bach do you think that the rulers are humans in this verse? I’m convinced it’s the daimonions (not daimons) who is being spoken about here or the principalities “None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭2:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬ – Nihil Sine Deo Jan 22 '19 at 22:48
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Your question is framed to include the assumption that to "stir up everyone against the kingdom of Greece" is synonymous with being conquered by Greece. This is obviously not what the text states, so let's look at history.

After Cyrus, the fourth King of Kings in the Achaemenid Empire was Xerxes I. But was he far richer than the others and did he stir everyone up against the Kingdom of Greece?

According to historians, Xerxes I established peace in his empire, embarked on many building projects throughout his empire, but was best known for funding and leading a massive army of around two million men against Greece. Read about his digging a massive canal a mile and a half long and the astonishing defeat of his navy at Salamis:

https://www.ancient.eu/Xerxes_I/

That Daniel's prophecy includes a motif common in Persian literature is still noteworthy, but there's no inference in the text that the fourth king would end the Achaemenid Empire.

  • Dieter read the next two verses, "Then a mighty king will arise, who will rule with great authority and do as he pleases. 4But as soon as he is established, his kingdom will be broken up and parceled out toward the four winds of heaven. It will not go to his descendants, nor will it have the authority with which he ruled, because his kingdom will be uprooted and given to others" This has been universally identified with Alexander the Great (Greek king), and no one in his right mind will disagree with this. So in verse 2 we are obviously talking about the end of the Persian empire. – Bach Jan 21 '19 at 18:48
  • What makes you conclude that Daniel's prophecy must include all kings rather than only the most significant kings? What prophecies in the Bible don't follow the pattern of skipping minor events to go on to the Next Big Thing? Xerxes I fits the prophecy precisely to each detail. The next major event is Alexander the Great (Philip of Macedon is skipped), followed by the division of his kingdom to his four generals.History supports my interpretation. – Dieter Jan 21 '19 at 20:39

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