Ancient Greek Coin, Gold Persian Daric, Great King kneeling with bow by Unknown artist

Unknown artist

Ancient Greek Coin, Gold Persian Daric, Great King kneeling with bow, c.450 BCE, Gold, Hoberman / UIG / Bridgeman Images

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Returning with the Wealth of Nations

Commentary by

Darius I introduced the gold daric into his kingdom during the latter half of the sixth century BCE. At least four versions of the coin were minted. The type II version of the coin depicted here reveals the image of a bearded king, running with his knees bent. His raised left-hand clasps a bow, and his right hand wields a spear, with a quiver of arrows tucked between his arm and body. Much of the detail, impressively, remains visible in these tiny masterpieces: the ornamented crown, arrows from the quiver, together with the king’s beard and eye. The intricacy of the coin’s design complements its monetary value. Weighing approximately 8.5 grams, the coins were minted with a high percentage of gold (95%).

Coins such as these contributed to the inordinate wealth with which the Israelites returned from captivity. After the Persians defeated the Babylonians in 539 BCE, the Persian king, Cyrus the Great, permitted all nations exiled by the Babylonian empire to return to their homelands. Then in 458 BCE, Ezra led a group of Israelites from Babylon to the district of Judah. Ezra 7 repeatedly reminds readers of the wealth with which the returnees left the land of their captors. Specifically, the phrase ‘silver and gold’ repeats in verses 15, 16, and 18, and further references to wealth appear in verse 22: ‘100 talents of silver, 100 cors of wheat, 100 baths of wine, 100 baths of oil’. Additionally, the king offers ‘all the silver and gold which you will find in the whole province of Babylon’ (v.16).

Artaxerxes I, king of Persia, primarily offered such wealth to procure the blessing of Israel’s God, ‘so that there will not be wrath against the kingdom of the king and his sons’ (v.23). From a biblical perspective, however, emphasizing the wealth with which Israel returned to Judah reinforces the faithfulness of God’s promise to restore his people to their land: ‘Your sons shall come from afar … the wealth of the nations shall come to you’ (Isaiah 60:4–5).

 

References

Alram, M. 1994. ‘Daric’, in Encyclopaedia Iranica, VII/1, ed. by E. Yarshater, Costa Mesa, California: Mazda, pp. 36–40

Hill, A. and Walton, J. 2009. A Survey of the Old Testament, 3rd edn, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, pp. 335–36