Iran and the Persian Empire
Today with 81 million people Iran is the 18th most-populous county in the world and in square miles, the second largest country in the Middle East. But long before the 1979 revolution that forced the Shah to abdicate and Ayatollah Khomeini started breathing out threats against Israel and the U.S., Cyrus the Great united the Medes and Persians, conquered Babylon, and then stretched his empire to the north, the west, the south and the east.
This Medo-Persian Empire became the silver breast and arms in Nebuchadnezzar’s vision (Daniel 2) as well as the powerful bear, raised up on one side, in Daniel’s vision of the four beasts that came up out of the raging sea (Daniel 7).
So, as we begin chapter 8, it is appropriate that Daniel was transported in a vision 220 miles to the east of Babylon to Susa, the city that would become the capital of Medo-Persia.
“In the third year of King Belshazzar I, Daniel, experienced a vision. It was after the previous vision that I had had. I was in the citadel of Susa in the province of Elam, beside the Ulai canal. I lifted up my eyes and saw there standing on the bank of the canal was a ram. It had two horns, and both horns were large, but one stood higher than the other although it came up later. I saw the ram charging and goring. He charged to the west toward the Mediterranean, to the north, and to the south. No one could stand before him, and there was no one to deliver from his hand. He did whatever he pleased and became great.”
The Medo-Persian Empire stretched from Eastern Europe to the Indus Valley, the largest empire in the world up to that time. From the books of Ezra and Nehemiah we know how Cyrus allowed the Jews to return from Exile and later to even rebuild the fortifications of their holy city, Jerusalem.
Like Nebuchadnezzar, the beastly nature of a world dominating ruler, was tempered for a brief time, but quickly the invincibility and power led the Persian Empire to become overbearing in pride and decadent, following their own lusts. We will see how quickly another conqueror took the stage and the ram could no longer do whatever he pleased.
LORD, protect me from the arrogance that flows from success and the deceitfulness of thinking I am indestructible. Instead, help me today not to live to please myself, following my own desires, but to please you in humility, obedience, and reverence.
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