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Madai

Media was an ancient region generally located to the south and west of the Caspian Sea (see map below) in what is today part of western Iran and southern Azerbaijan. Its people were known as Medes, Medians, or Madai. Their origin is found in early Genesis, as some of the descendants of Noah's son Japheth (the territory of the Medes was not far from Mount Ararat, where Noah's Ark came to rest after The Flood, see also Evidence of The Flood): "The sons of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras" (Genesis 10:2 RSV). In later Bible History, the Medes, although annexed by the Persians under Cyrus the Great, were a very prominent national group within the Persian Empire (Cyrus' mother was the daughter of a Median king), so much so that it is also known as the Medo-Persian Empire.

Persian Empire Map

The Medes

As the northern kingdom of Israel (see When Israel Became "Israel" and "Judah") was gradually conquered by the Assyrians (see also The Galilee Captivity), prior to the fall of the Assyrians (see Ancient Empires - Assyria) to the Babylonians (see Ancient Empires - Babylon), and before the Babylonians fell to the Medo-Persians (see the Fact Finder question below), some of the people of Israel were exiled to Media:

"Then the king of Assyria invaded all the land and came to Samaria, and for three years he besieged it. In the ninth year of Hoshea [see Kings of Israel and Judah and Israelite Dynasties], the king of Assyria captured Samaria, and he carried the Israelites away to Assyria, and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes." (2 Kings 17:5-6 RSV)

By the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, and the return to Jerusalem by the people of Judah, Media was a Province within the Persian empire:

"Then Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in Babylonia, in the house of the archives where the documents were stored. And in Ecbatana, the capital which is in the province of Media, a scroll was found on which this was written: "A record. In the first year of Cyrus the king, Cyrus the king issued a decree: Concerning the House of God at Jerusalem, let the House be rebuilt, the place where sacrifices are offered and burnt offerings are brought; its height shall be sixty cubits and its breadth sixty cubits, with three courses of great stones and one course of timber; let the cost be paid from the royal treasury. And also let the gold and silver vessels of the House of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the Temple that is in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon [see also Raiders Of The Lost Ark], be restored and brought back to the Temple [see Temples] which is in Jerusalem, each to its place; you shall put them in the House of God." (Ezra 6:1-5 RSV)

The famous "handwriting on the wall" incident during the time of Daniel involved the fall of the Babylonian empire, under Belshazzar, to the Medes and Persians:

"And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven; and the vessels of His House have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them; and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored. Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN. This is the interpretation of the matter: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians." (Daniel 5:22-28 RSV)

It was Daniel's respectful defiance of an idolatrous law of the Medes and Persians that got him thrown to the lions, although, as long as Daniel had God-given work to complete, it was the lions, not Daniel, who were in danger as long as they were a threat to Daniel's safety (see also God's Marines)

"Now, O king, establish the interdict and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked." Therefore King Darius signed the document and interdict. When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem; and he got down upon his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and supplication before his God. Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the interdict, "O king! Did you not sign an interdict, that any man who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?" The king answered, "The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked." Then they answered before the king, "That Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no heed to you, O king, or the interdict you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day." (Daniel 6:8-13 RSV)

By the time of the New Testament, Medes were still an identifiable group, and at least some of them were no longer idol worshippers:

"When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place ... Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians" (Acts 2:1,9-11 RSV)

Fact Finder: How did the Medo-Persian Empire fit into Prophecy?
See Daniel's Statue

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