Ezra 6:22, Darius King of Assyria? Error or Typological Biblical Theology?

Time was slipping away from me yesterday, so some parts of the sermon manuscript got passed over. For instance, in Ezra 6:22, the king of Persia, Darius, is referred to as “the king of Assyria.” Here’s how the part of the manuscript that got skipped read:

Ezra isn’t confused here about the identity of the king (cf., e.g., 1:2 “of Persia,” 3:7 “of Persia,” 4:3 “of Persia,” 5:13 “of Babylon,” 6:14 “of Persia,” 7:1 “of Persia”). The point of the reference to Assyria is the linkage of Assyria, Babylon, and Persia, all of which represent the evil empire over against the kingdom of God. Those who oppose Israel are identified with one another, just as Ezra identifies his own generation with the generation who returned to the land and successfully rebuilt the temple.

Ezra knows that Darius is king of Persia and calls him that in Ezra 4:24, “until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.” It’s possible that calling Darius the king of Assyria in 6:22 is merely an incidental way of referring to the territory or realm that was first ruled by Assyria, then Babylon, then Persia. But even that incidental conflagration has significance for our understanding of what Ezra took for granted.

I’m inclined to think that Ezra intentionally refers to Darius as king of Persia in 4:24 then as king of Assyria in 6:22 to make a point. Similarly, he has referred to Cyrus as king of Persia in 4:5 only to call him king of Babylon in 5:13.

The point Ezra is making by referring to King Darius of Persia as the king of Assyria in Ezra 6:22 represents a profound, yet subtle, biblical theological move that reflects the typological identification of Assyria, Babylon, and Persia. The enemies of God and his people are distinguished from one another, but at the same time they are identified with one another because they are, in a sense, all the same.

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  1. Yea I always thought it was kind of like some commentators being less than precise when referring to East Germany or Poland as a part of the Soviet Union during the cold war. Maybe the terms were catch all terms like calling all soft drinks coke.

  2. Jim,

    It seems to me that your interpretation could be seen as simply stretching to maintain the premise that the scriptures are absolutely error free.

    I don’t understand why it diminishes the integrity of scripture if we concede that, in copying the text, simple errors were made.

    Hope this finds you well!


    1. RD,

      I have no problem with the idea that errors were made in the process of copying. That’s why text criticism exists.

      What I’m arguing is that the author, and in this case I think that’s Ezra, didn’t make an error but made a deliberate linkage between Assyria, Babylon, and Persia.

      I think that’s easy to grant . . . others have argued the same for references to Assyria in Jeremiah, if I recall correctly.



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