Persia and the Bible

By Edwin M. Yamauchi
Grand Rapids : Baker (1990). 578 Pages.

Reviewed by
2.2 (Fall 1991) : 218-219

The author, known for his ability to draw together textual and archaeological data, writes so that "readers of such books as Daniel, Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah may better appreciate their historical and cultural backgrounds" (p. 12).

Biblical persons and events are viewed within the larger framework of Persian history. This fresh perspective sheds light on the causative elements within the Persian experience. Biblical references to the Medes, Cyrus the Great, Darius, Xerxes, Artaxerxes I, Susa (the capital of Elam), and Ecbanta (the capital of the Medes) are interspersed throughout. Several studies focus on biblical issues: the order of Ezra and Nehemiah; Ezra and the renewal of the Law; Nehemiah the cupbearer of Artaxerxes I; Nehemiah a Eunuch? Nehemiah the Governor; Nehemiah's opponents; Nehemiah the Reformer. Several studies in the Book of Esther examine the identity and roles of Ahasuerus, Vashti, Haman, Esther, and Mordecai.

The author chronicles the scholarly debate and makes his own contribution regarding the identity of "Darius the Mede" (Dan 5:31; 6:1-2; 9:1-2; 11:11). He also draws together recent research regarding the Behistan inscription and the Delphic Oracle. Other helpful discussions include the Greek words in Daniel, the Magi including their historic relationship to the origin and dissemination of Astrology, and Zoroastrianism and Mithraism, including the latter's connection with fixing December 25 as the date of Jesus's birth.

In the appendix, the author discusses the once-widespread Apis cult which eventually interfaced with and was rivaled by Christianity at Alexandria in A.D. 391, and then finally on the island of Philae near Aswan about one-half century later.

The book is indexed by subject, place name, and other geographical designations including rivers, deserts, mountains etc., author, and Scripture reference. A select bibliography, combined with meticulous documentation, offers a wealth of primary and secondary source material.