01 - The Argument from Silence - Studies in the Book of Daniel by Robert D. WilsonCHAPTER I
THE ARGUMENT FROM SILENCE
I SHALL begin the consideration of the historicity of Daniel and of the book of Daniel with a discussion of the argument from silence, not merely because of its intrinsic importance, but because of its bearing upon many of the objections made against the existence of Daniel himself and against the authenticity and genuineness of the book which bears his name. Before considering these objections, it may be well to state explicitly what is meant in this connection by an argument from silence. When the argument from silence is invoked against a statement of a record of any kind, it is implied that the statement is probably not true because there is no evidence to be gathered from other sources of information in support or confirmation of it. It is a purely negative argument. For example, our Lord is said to accompanied his parents to a feast at Jerusalem in his twelfth year and to have been present at several feasts in the same place during the years of his ministry. Nothing is said in the gospel records about his attendance at the feasts during the period intervening between his twelfth year and the beginning of his Judean ministry. It would be an argument from silence to maintain that Jesus was never at a feast at Jerusalem during this long period of his life, inasmuch as no mention of his having been there is to be found either in the gospels, or in any other credible document. But the argument is clearly inconclusive and unsatisfactory, because it may be used as well to show the probability that he was there at many, or all, of the feasts of the intervening years, -that it was his habit to attend the feasts. Certainly, the fact that his presence at a feast in his twelfth year is mentioned in but one of the gospels does not render that statement improbable. Nor does the fact that his attendance at certain other feasts during the years of his ministry is stated in but one of the four gospels render such an attendance improbable. The commands laid upon the Israelites to go up three times a year to the feasts, the rigid observance of these commands by other Israelites of that period, and the well-known obedience of our Lord to the injunctions of the law, would make it probable that he observed the feasts. The fact that he is said to have been present at several of them would imply that he probably was present at more. But the mere failure of more than one of the sources, or even of all of them put together, to mention his attendance at a given feast during the whole period from his twelfth year onward, cannot be regarded as proof of his absence from it.
The failure, therefore, of any given authority to mention an event recorded in another, or the fact that a given event is recorded in only one authority, while others pass it by in silence, does not prove that the event did not occur. Most events of antiquity of which we have any knowledge are mentioned in but one contemporary source of information. For most of the history of Cyrus, Cambyses, Smerdis, Darius, and Xerxes, we are absolutely dependent for our information upon Herodotus, often at best a second-hand and unreliable source. For Artaxerxes I, Darius II, and the first part of the reign of Artaxerxes II, we have the fragments of Ctesias, the partial accounts of Xenophon, and allusions and short references in Thucydides and a few other writers. For the history of Assyria and Babylonia, and for that of Syria, Phenicia, and Egypt before 500 B.C., we have no historian, strictly so-called, either native or foreign, who was contemporaneous with the events which transpired. For the history of the Hittites and for that of Elam, Lydia, Media, and Persia, we have no native historians, of any age, whether contemporaneous or not. For the history of all of these countries from 500 B.C. to 300 B.C., we are limited as to contemporaneous historians to the Greeks, especially to Herodotus, Ctesias, Thucydides, and Xenophon. About 300 B.C., a native Egyptian, Manetho by name, wrote in Greek what purported to be a history of Egypt from the earliest times, which, he asserted, he had derived from the records of the Egyptians. About the same time, also in Greek, Berosus wrote a history of the Babylonians; Menander, a history of Tyre; and Nicolaus, a history of Damascus. Unfortunately, fragments only of these historians have been preserved to us, mostly excerpts found in Josephus and Eusebius.
But while, strictly speaking, we have no histories from any of the nations who came into contact with the ancient Israelites, we have from some of them a large number of documents affording us for certain periods the sources, or materials, from which to construct a more or less continuous history, and to obtain for certain epochs and individuals a more or less satisfactory knowledge of their civilization and especially of their political conditions and relations. The relative and even the absolute chronology of the times in which the Israelites flourished is becoming clearer and more definite. The geographical terminology and limitations are becoming known. The laws, manners, customs, science, art, and religion are becoming revealed. Some kings of Assyria, such as the Tiglath-Pilesers, the Shalmanesers, Ashurnasirpal, Sargon, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, and Ashurbanipal have left us annals which supply the place of histories and cause these kings to stand out before us as real characters. Hammurabi, Merodach-Baladan, Nebuchadnezzar, and Nabunaid, kings of Babylon, have left us inscriptions from which we can in a measure construct their biographies. The inscriptions of Nabunaid, Cyrus, and Darius Hystaspis enable us, also, to supplement what the Greek historians and the biblical writers have to say about the early days of Persia; while the Egyptian and Phoenician records, though not as satisfactory, give us at least a chronological background and check for much of the history. The records of the Hittites, Lydians, and Elamites, also, are being resurrected in part from the graves of oblivion, and even the Arabian deserts are yielding up their long-buried secrets.
But when all these discoveries are taken into consideration, they present at best but a very imperfect view of the general or particular history of the nations of antiquity, that preceded the empires of Greece and Rome. It is impossible as yet to write a continuous history of any one of them. The records are so incomplete and sporadic that they fail frequently to give us information where we most desire to have it. Moreover, when we compare the records of one country with those of another, we find that most frequently those of a given country fail to mention matters which are found recorded at length in the documents of another. Most of them abstain from mentioning occurrences derogatory to the dignity of their kings or to the honor of their country. It is often only from silence or inference that we can supply the gaps, which indicate defeat in the midst of victory, or periods of decay lying between periods of comparative prosperity. The silence of one record, therefore, is no disproof of the accuracy or truthfulness of another. It does not even show that the writer of the record was not cognizant of the event. It is simply and absolutely no evidence at all.
In order to show the futility of the argument from silence when adduced against the trustworthiness of an event, or the existence of a person, mentioned in the Old Testament records, and as a special introduction to the discussion of the following chapters which are chiefly concerned with proving the veracity of the statements of the book of Daniel with regard to historical matters, I shall now proceed to give a series of parallels illustrating the fact of the silence of certain documents with reference to the statements made in others.
I. In the Scriptures themselves many examples can be cited of the silence of one book with regard to an event which is mentioned in another. For example, in Isa 20:1, Sargon is called king of Assyria, although he is not mentioned elsewhere even by name. In view of the fact that Sargon was one of the greatest of the kings of Assyria; that according to the monuments it was he, or his general, who actually captured the city of Samaria, which Shalmaneser, his immediate predecessor, had besieged; and that he reigned from 722 B.C., the year of Samaria's fall, till 705 B.C., i.e., through a large part of Hezekiah's reign, this silence of the Scriptures with regard to him is a noteworthy fact, especially since, according to his own inscriptions, Sargon fought with Gaza, Ashdod, Samaria, Damascus, Egypt, and other powers in the immediate neighborhood of Jerusalem.
Again, it is said in Ezr 4:10, that the great and noble Asnapper brought various peoples over and settled them in Samaria. Whoever this Asnapper may have been, he is not mentioned elsewhere in the Scriptures, unless he be the same as “Esarhaddon, king of Assyria” who, according to Ezr 4:2, had brought the inhabitants of Samaria thither. But if Asnapper be Esarhaddon, this transaction of his, so great in its bearing on the history of the Jews, is not mentioned elsewhere in the Scriptures. Esarhaddon, it is true, is named in 2Ki 19:37 and in the parallel passage, Isa 37:38, as the son and successor of Sennacherib, and is referred to in 2Ch 33:11-13, as the “king of Assyria” who captured and carried captive to Babylon and afterwards released Manasseh, king of Judah; but nothing is said in any of these books, or elsewhere, of a settlement of nations made by him, or by anyone under him, in Samaria, or in any other place. If the importation described in 2Ki 17:24-41 refers to this event, it is remarkable that out of the five names of the peoples imported, as given in Kings, only one, that of Babylon, should be given in the list of names found in Ezr 4:9; Ezr 4:10. If, however, as is more probable, Asnapper be Ashurbanipal, the successor of Esarhaddon, this transaction of his is mentioned nowhere else, either in the Scriptures or in the monuments.
II. Parallels are numerous, also, where the Scriptures are silent as to events or persons that are mentioned on the Monuments. For example, Shalmaneser III of Assyria (860-825 B.C.) mentions a campaign against the king of Damascus and his allies, among whom was Ahab of Israel, who contributed 2000 chariots and 10,000 warriors to the army of Hadadezer, king of Damascus.1 The Scriptures do not mention this event in the career of Ahab, nor Shalmaneser's five later campaigns against Damascus and her allies in 849, 848, 845, 842 (?), and 839 B.C. 2
Shalmaneser claims also that in his eighteenth year, 842 B.C., he received the tribute of Jehu, son of Omri.3 No mention of this is found in the Scriptures. Again, Sargon says that he subdued the land of Judah4 although there is no mention in the Scriptures of this conquest and only one mention of his name, to wit, in Isa 20:1.
III. Further, the Scriptures in general are silent as to the history of the great world monarchies, and also of the smaller kingdoms, in the midst of which the Israelites were placed.
For example, of the history of Egypt from Solomon’s time down to the time of Alexander, only a very few persons and events are named in the Scriptures.5
IV. The instances, also, are numerous where the Scriptures mention events and persons that are not mentioned on the monuments.6
Among persons we need only name Abraham, Lot, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, Esau, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, all the judges, and their antagonists; all the prophets; Saul, David, Solomon, and, in fact, all the Kings of both Israel and Judah, except Azariah, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and Manasseh, of the kingdom of Judah, and Omri, Ahab, Jehu, Menahem, Pekah, and Hoshea, of the kingdom of Israel. Nor do we find on the monuments the names of Zerubbabel, Daniel, Esther, Mordecai, Ezra, or Nehemiah, nor of any of the high priests from Aaron down to Jaddua, except of Johanan, the predecessor of the last named.7 Nor do we find in any hitherto discovered monuments the names of Jabin, king of Hazor, of Barak and Eglon, kings of Moab, of Cushan-Rishathaim, king of Aram-Naharaim, nor of Nahash, Hanun, and Baalis, kings of the Ammonites.
Among events not mentioned except in the Scriptures, are the sojourn in Egypt, the plagues, the exodus, the wanderings, the conquest, the wars of the Judges and of David and Solomon, the expedition of Zerah, king of Ethiopia (Cush), the wars of Israel and Judah with each other and with the immediately surrounding tribes and cities (except what is recorded on the Moabite stone), the whole story of the relations between Judah and Babylon from Merodach-Baladan down to Cyrus, and, also, of those between the Jews and the Persians in general, and in particular, except the information supplied by the lately discovered Egyptian papyri.
V. There are numerous decades and even centuries of Israelitish history as to which there is a universal silence in the Scriptures. For example, nothing is stated as to the history of the people during their long sojourn in Egypt, except a long account of why they went there and another of why and how they came out. Thirty-eight years of their sojourn in the wilderness are relieved by scarcely a notice of events. The same is true of numerous decades in the time of the judges, and of long periods of time in the history of nearly all the great kings of Israel and Judah. The forty-seven chapters of the books of Kings contain all that is said of the history of Israel from the accession of Solomon to the destruction of Jerusalem! Seven verses only are devoted to the events of the reign of Jeroboam II, who was the greatest king of the Northern Kingdom and ruled forty years; and a like number to those of Azariah, king of Judah, who reigned for fifty-two years! Eighteen verses only are given to the fifty-five years of Manasseh, most of them taken up with a description of his idolatry and of the punishment certain to follow (2Ki 21:1-18).
VI. There are numerous decades and centuries of Israelitish history, as to which there is absolute silence on the Monuments.
For example, on the Egyptian monuments, there is but one reference to Israel down to the time of Shishak, that is, in the song of triumph of Merenptah, in which he says. “The people of Israel is laid waste, their crops are not.”8 These two monarchs, are separated, according to Petrie, by a period of 250 years. After Shishak, there is no reference on the Egyptian monuments to any relations between Egypt and either Israel or Judah.
The first mention of the Israelites on the Assyrian monuments is that by Shalmaneser III in the narrative of his campaign made in 854 B.C.9 Twelve years later, he received the tribute of Jehu the son of Omri. Then, there is silence for about forty years, till Adad-Nirari mentions “the land of Omri.”10 The next notice is more than sixty years later in the records of Tiglath-Pileser IV, who mentions Jauhazi of the land of Judah as among his tributaries,11 and says that he ruled over all lands from the rising of the sun to the land of Egypt.12 He received, also, the tribute of Menahem of the city of Samaria,13 and speaks, on a fragment, of the land of Beth-Omri, all of whose inhabitants, together with their possessions, he carried away to Assyria, having killed Pekah their king and set up Hoshea in his place.14 Shalmaneser IV, the king who besieged Samaria, reigned for five years (727-722 B.C.), but has left to us but one inscription.15 Sargon,16 tells of his subjugating Judah17; and that he besieged and took Samaria, adding,18 that he carried 27,290 men away into captivity with 50 chariots, leaving the remainder in possession of their goods, but appointing over them his own officials and imposing on them the tribute which they had formerly paid. He adds, that he plundered the whole land of Bit-Omri19; that he conquered Samaria and the whole land of Bit-Omri,20 and finally,21 that he carried away captive and settled in the city of Samaria the people of Tamud, Ibadidi, Marsimani, Haiapa, and the distant Arbai, who inhabited the wilderness, who knew neither scholar nor scribe, and who had never before brought tribute to any king.
The references to Judah and its affairs by Sennacherib are numerous22; but from his death in 680 B.C. to the fall of Nineveh about 606 B.C., the only mention of Judah is found in the parallel lists of Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal, where Manasseh is called by the former, “King of the city of Judah,” and by the latter, “King of the land of Judah.”23 Esarhaddon informs us, indeed, that he was king of the kings of Egypt, of Patros, and of Ethiopia,24 and of all the kings of the land of the Hittites, including Manasseh king of Judah.25 Ashurbanipal, son of Esarhaddon, says, also, that his father entered Egypt and overthrew Tirhakeh, king of Ethiopia, and destroyed his army, conquering both Egypt and Ethiopia and taking countless prisoners, changing the names of their cities, and giving them new names, entrusting his servants with the government and imposing tribute upon them.26 He names, moreover, their kings and the cities they ruled over,27 and tells of his conquest of Tyre.28 He mentions, further, Psammetichus, king of Egypt, his revolt and his overthrow;29 and his wars with the grandsons of Merodach-Baladan, king of the Chaldeans;30 and with the kings of the Arabians, Edom, Ammon, Moab, and Nabatea.31 Yet, except the mention of Manasseh as being among the twenty-two vassals of the land of the Hittites, no notice of Judah is found on the Assyrian monuments after about 685 B.C.; that is, after the reigns of Hezekiah and Sennacherib.
On the Babylonian documents, neither Israel, nor Judah, nor anyone nor anything connected with either, is ever mentioned; though we know from one fragment of an historical inscription of Nebuchadnezzar that he invaded Egypt.32 Nabunaid, also, speaks of the kings of Phenicia33 and of the tribute of the kings of the land of Amurru;34 and says that he mustered the scattered peoples (ummania rapshati) from Gaza on the frontier of Egypt by the Upper Sea to beyond the Euphrates as far as the Lower Sea.
VII. There are numerous decades, or longer periods, during the history of Israel, which are practically a blank as far as the outside world is concerned, the most that is known concerning foreign nations being the occasional mention of the name of a king. The contemporaneous, or synchronous, history of these kings is consequently frequently impossible to establish; and even their order and the length of their reigns, we are often unable to determine.
For example, in the history of Egypt from about 1200 B.C. during the reign of the ten kings from Rameses III to Rameses XII inclusive, the succession “has long been doubtful and is not yet certain”; and even after the time of the Ramessids but little is known of the history of Egypt down to the time of the Persian conquest.35
Similarly, to cite a few instances from the history of Babylon and Assyria, for the interval-more than half a millennium-between the end of the First or Hammurabi Dynasty and the time of Nebuchadnezzar I; for the period-about two hundred years-between Tiglath-Pileser I and Ashurnasirpal II and for the much shorter interval-about twenty years-between the death of Ashurbanipal and the fall of Nineveh the historical information is very meager. Even regarding the Neo-Babylonian period we know comparatively little. There are only a few historical inscriptions and the numerous building inscriptions and contract tablets do not supply their deficiencies to any marked degree.
Again, of the reign of Men-kheper, from 1074 to 1025 B.C., he says, “There are but poor remains of this long reign” (id., 211); of the next ruler, “There is nothing to show that this prince reigned” (id., 214). The documents of Pasebkhanu, 1006-952 B.C., give merely his cartouche and call him a son of Pinezem (id., 219). There is but one important document from the reign of Nesibadadu, 1102-1076 B.C. (id., 220). Of Pasebkhanu I, 1076-1035 B.C., we know that he refounded a temple at Tanis and surrounded it with a mighty wall and that he built a temple at Gizeh (id., 221-233); of his successor, Neferkara, 1035-1031 B.C., we have nothing except the mention of his name in Manetho (id., 223); of the next king, Amenemapt, 1031-1022 B.C., we know only that he continued to build the temple at Gizeh (id., 223); of the next king, Siamen, 1022-996 B.C., we know nothing of importance, except that he built a temple at Tanis (id., 224, 225); of the next, Hez-haq-ra, 987-952 B.C., scarcely anything is known (id., 225). Of the kings of the twenty-second dynasty, “very little is known about the reign of Uasar-kon I, 930-894 B.C. - (id., 240); Takerat I, 901-876 B.C., was formerly not even recognized as king (id., 244); of Takerat II, 856-831 B.C., no historical facts are recorded (id., 254); of Shishak IV, 782-742 B.C., “nothing whatever is known” (id., 259).
In the twenty-third dynasty, there were two Pedu-basts who reigned between 755 and 736 B.C.; but “we can only infer which is the earlier of these” (id., 262). Of the other kings of this dynasty, scarcely the names even are known (id., 263-265).
Of the twenty-fourth dynasty, nothing is known of Kashta, 725-715 B.C., (id., 280); of Shabataka, 707-693 B.C., “not a single fact of history is recorded” (id., 287); of the remaining kings very little is known, except about Tirhakeh, 701-667 B.C. (id., 230-311).
Of the twenty-fifth dynasty, from the first reign, that of Tafnekht II about 749-721 B.C., we have only two steles (id., 314); of Tafnekht II (Uahab-ra), scarcely anything is known (id., 317, 318).
As to the documents from Tyre, Sidon, Moab, and other sources, they are so few, short, and fragmentary, that it would be utterly impossible to relate them in any way with the general history of the ancient world, or to one another, were it not for the annals of the Israelites, and of the Assyrio-Babylonians. The almost entire absence of documents from Persian sources must also be noticed here. Strictly speaking, with the exception of the Nabunaid-Cyrus Chronicle and the Cyrus Cylinder, which are both written in Babylonian alone, the polylingual Behistun Inscriptions of Darius Hystaspis are the only historical documents from the Persians; and from the Medes not one document has survived. Some historical information, it is true, may be gathered from miscellaneous inscriptions of the Persian kings, Darius Hystaspis, Xerxes, and the three Artaxerxes, and from their coins and the ruins of their buildings; but in general it may be said that from the time of the Behistun inscription (cir. 515 B.C.) to the destruction of the Persian empire by Alexander of Macedon we are dependent for our information as to the history of Persia upon external sources, such as the Hebrew and Greek historians, the Babylonian tablets, and the Aramaic papyri.
VIII. There are numerous cases in which events which are mentioned in the documents of one country are entirely wanting in those of another. For example, the Tel-el-Amarna letters give us much information about the relations existing between Egypt on the one hand and Assyria and Babylon on the other; but the scanty Assyrian and Babylonian documents of that time are devoid of any reference to Egypt. After the time of Amenophis IV, however, the Egyptians make no explicit reference whatever to either Assyria or Babylon. Ashurbanipal gives lengthy accounts of his campaigns, and of that of his father, against Egypt, giving us the names of the kings and governors of Egypt; but the Egyptian records are silent as to the Assyrian invasions and dominations, unless indeed there be an allusion to them in the inscriptions of Mentemhet, “a prince of the Theban principality,” from the time of Taharka, where he speaks of the whole land as having been overturned as a divine chastisement.36 Of the Babylonian invasion of Egypt, the Egyptians have left no record. In fact, outside the Scriptures, the only reference to it is in the fragment of Nebuchadnezzar found near the Suez Canal and written in Babylonian.
IX. There are numerous cases, also, where certain events of a man’s life are mentioned in one of his documents and entirely passed over in others, which might have been expected to mention them.
For example, a recently published inscription of Sennacherib,37 contains an account of two great expeditions of the Assyrians against Cilicia in the time of Sennacherib, of which the latter has said nothing in his numerous inscriptions previously published. So in the case of Nebuchadnezzar, his conquest of Egypt is mentioned only in the fragment found in Egypt; but even the name of Egypt is absent from his other records. Again, in the three accounts on the Babylonian monuments of the war between Cyrus and Astyages, the Cyrus Cylinder says simply, “the land of the Kuti, the totality of the host of the Manda he (Merodach) caused to bow at my [Cyrus’] feet”; the Chronicle says that the latter’s troops revolted against him and that he was taken and delivered up to Cyrus; the Abu-Habba inscription says that “Cyrus the king of Anzan, his insignificant (small) vassal, scattered with his few troops the widespread armies of the Manda, and that Astyages their king was seized by Cyrus and brought as prisoner to his land.” He adds, also, that it was in the third year, presumably of Nabunaid, that the event happened. In like manner, Nabunaid’s dream about the destruction of the Umman-Manda is mentioned only in the Abu-Habba inscription, though others of his dreams (for he was a great dreamer) are mentioned elsewhere.
X. There are cases, also, where the silence of an author with regard to the method of his procedure in drawing up a document has misled us into a false interpretation of it. Perhaps the best exemplification of this is to be found in the brilliant study of Sargon by Dr. A. T. Olmstead,38 in which the author shows that many misapprehensions and misinterpretations of the campaigns of Sargon have arisen from a failure to understand that some of Sargon’s inscriptions are chronological, some geographical, some logical, and some a mixture of two or all of these.
XI. There are many nations and persons, whose names merely are known, but over whose history the pall of a universal silence has fallen, as far as native records are concerned. The most notable examples of this kind from antiquity are the Medes and the Carthaginians. With the exception of a few votive and many almost identical mortuary inscriptions, the sources of information which we have with regard to the city of Dido must be found in the works of her enemies. If only we could find the memoirs of Hannibal! With regard to the Medes, we have absolutely no original information, since Weissbach has very conclusively shown39 that the third language of the inscriptions of the Persian kings is not the language of the Medes. In view of this, what an astounding statement is that which was made in Dean Farrar’s Daniel, that Daniel could not have existed, inasmuch as his name does not appear on the Median monuments! Other examples of nations of antiquity about which we know nothing from native records are the Trojans, the Scythians, the Cimmerians, and the Gauls.
There are many other nations known to have flourished about which we know nothing from any source, except their names. For example, in Herodotus’ list of the nations subject to Darius Hystaspis,40 the Milyens, the Hygennians, the Pantimathians, the Aparytæ, the Paricanians, and the Pausicæ are absolutely unknown except by name. Many other cases can readily be gathered from the great work of Herodotus. So, also, in the inscriptions of the Assyrian kings, numerous examples of nations conquered by them, are found as to which we know nothing except the names. In view of the general trustworthiness of their information where it can be tested by other testimony, as in the case of the Hittites and Elamites and Israelites and Babylonians and Egyptians, no one could reasonably doubt that what they say as to their conquest of these otherwise unknown nations is true.
XII. Again, there are many persons said to have been men of eminence in their day, who are merely mentioned by name and title, or position, about whom we know absolutely nothing further. In Herodotus there are scores of such men, as for example in the catalogue of the generals and admirals of Xerxes. In the inscriptions of Darius Hystaspis, in the contract and historical documents of Assyria and Babylon, in the royal lists of Egypt, and in the synchronous and eponym tablets of Assyria and Babylon, there are the names of hundreds more of such men.
XIII. There are thousands, perhaps we might better say tens of thousands, of eminent men, whose names even are never mentioned on any document, but who we know must have existed. Take Egypt, for example. Every once in a while a new mummy, or monument, or papyrus is discovered, which reveals to us the name and deeds of some hitherto unknown individual, who in his day loomed up large in the view of his contemporaries. Not to mention others, we might speak of Mentemhet from the reign of Taharka, Ibe from the reign of Psamtik I, Nesuhor from the reign of Apries, and Pefnefdineit from the reign of Amasis. All of these were distinguished as priest, steward, general, or physician; and the inscriptions of these which have come to light enable us to get a comparatively fair view of their life and character. But during the long period of the Egyptian dynasties, how many thousands of others equally eminent in every walk of life must have flourished, though their very names have passed into oblivion!
A frequently recurring phrase on the Assyrian monuments, after a record of a conquest of numerous countries and kings, is: “I set my officers over them as governors, or deputies.” But the names of these high officials are not given. It may be truly said, that one would never expect to find the name of an Assyrian governor (qipu, shaknu, or bel pihati) on a royal inscription. Tiglath-Pileser I says that he conquered sixty kings of the Nairi-land; but only one is mentioned by name.41
Of all the sub-kings, governors, deputies, and generals who must have served under the dominion of the Chaldean kings of Babylon from 625 to 538 B.C., the Babylonian historical and building inscriptions mention none by name except Nabunaid II and Belshazzar, the sons of Nabunaid I. On the contract tablets from that period, we find the names of only fourteen asharidus, twenty qipus, and four bel pihatis. No shaknus are mentioned. In the inscriptions from Persian times we find the names of no sub-kings, of only two satraps, of three pihatis, of three bel pihatis, of twelve asharidus, of twenty-one qipus, and of no shaknus. In Herodotus, whose history of Persia extends from 555 B.C. to 480 B.C., we find the names of three or more sub-kings and of about a dozen archons and hyparchons.42 With the exception of a score or so of judges, scarcely any civil officers are mentioned among the thousands of names collected by Tallquist.43 With the exception of those mentioned in the Behistun inscriptions, very few generals are named in the Persian or Babylonian documents; though the frequent mention of them in Herodotus and in other Greek historians would teach us that there must have been hundreds of them from 625 B.C. to 330 B.C.
XIV. Lastly, it must be remembered, that, when all has been said, we have discovered but a very limited proportion of the ancient documents which once existed. This is true as to both public and private documents. For example, of the kings of Persia, we have no public documents of Cambyses, Smerdis, Darius II, Xerxes II, Sogdianus, Arses, and Darius III, and only one each of Artaxerxes I and III, two, possibly, of Cyrus, and two of Artaxerxes II, six of Xerxes I, and about a dozen all told of Darius Hystaspis. Of private documents from the time of the Persian kings we have few after the time of Artaxerxes II, and the ones we have are nearly all from Babylonia. There are at most two in Babylonian from the time of Artaxerxes II, who reigned from 404 to 359 B.C.44
The places also where the records of Babylon and Persia have been found are comparatively few in number compared with the numerous places where they must have existed; and in these places, but a very few of the whole number that once existed have come down to us. Thus, there were doubtless many banking firms, like the Murashu and the Egibi houses at Babylon and many storehouses for contracts; but most of the contracts known have come from a few localities. Aramaic papyri were probably composed in a score of other Jewish colonies, but unfortunately only the one great find of Elephantine has thus far been made. The letters to Amenophis III and IV found at Tel-el-Amarna were most likely not the only ones ever sent by the vassals of the Egyptian kings to their sovereign lords. The reports to Assyrian kings thus far discovered are doubtless but a small part of those which must have been sent to Nineveh during the 500 years from Tiglath-Pileser I to Ashurbanipal.
In concluding these general remarks upon the so-called argument from silence, and having in view our almost absolute lack of first-class evidence bearing upon the historicity of the statements made in the Old Testament in general and of Daniel in particular, we refuse to accept as true the indiscriminate charges and multitudinous specifications entirely unsupported by evidence which are often made against the truthfulness of the Old Testament writings. A man is presumed to be innocent until he is proven guilty. A book, or document, is supposed to be true until it is proven false. And as to particular objections made against the historicity of a person or event mentioned in the book of Daniel on the ground that other authorities fail to notice them, would it not be well for us to possess our souls in patience, until such charges are supported by some direct evidence bearing upon the case? Why not give Daniel the benefit of the doubt, if doubt there be?
Studies in the Book of Daniel by Robert D. Wilson
This book was originally copyrighted in 1917, published by G.P Putnam's Sons in New York and London by The Knickerbocker Press. It has now lapsed into Public Domain.