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Bible Dictionaries

Holman Bible Dictionary

Medes, Media

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(meedess, mee dih uh) The region south and southwest of the Caspian Sea in the Zagros Mountains inhabited by the Medes, an Aryan people from north and west of the Caspian Sea. It is north of Elam and west of Assyria. The traditional capital of the region was Ecbatana.

Before 1500 B.C. the region was part of the Mitanni kingdom. Later the Elamites controlled the region and its nomadic inhabitants. The people known as the Medes entered the area over a long period between 1400,1000 B.C.

The Medes were first reported in history by the Assyrian Shalmaneser III about 850 B.C. They were a group of nomadic tribes rather than a state or kingdom. The Assyrians controlled them or sought to for more than 200 years, though the Medes enjoyed some periods of freedom before the Scythians conquered them in 653 B.C.. Sometime before this, Deioces were united and organized the Medes. Despite the Scythians' invasion, the Medes continued to develop as a kingdom.

The greatest Median king was Cyaxares (625-585 B.C.). He was the third ruler of the united Medes and was able to defeat the Scythians. Afterwards, Cyaxares turned his attention to the Assyrians, attacking Nineveh, the Assyrian capital. Before Nineveh fell in 612 B.C., Cyaxares conquered Asshur, the ancient center of the Assyrian Empire. Then, with the aid of the Scythians and Babylonians and others, Nineveh was taken. The end of the Assyrian Empire was near.

Babylon and Media divided the Assyrian Empire with Media taking the land east and north of the Tigris River. Nebuchadnezzar II and Cyaxares' grandaughter wed to seal the pact. The Medes turned their attention to the north and toward Asia Minor. After a five-year war with Lydia, Cyaxares concluded a peace in 584 B.C., again sealing it with a marriage. His son Astyages married the daughter of the Lydian king. Astyages became king of the Medes when Cyaxares died.

The end of the Median kingdom came with the rise of Cyrus II, founder of the Persian Empire. Cyrus was king of Anshan and a vassal to Astyages. Indeed, Cyrus' mother was Astyages' daughter. About 550 B.C., encouraged by Babylon, Cyrus rebelled against the Medes. His rebellion led to the defeat of Astyages. The kingdom of the Medes was replaced by the kingdom of the Persians. See Persia; Cyrus .

Though conquered by the Persians, the Medes continued to hold a place of honor in the Persian Empire. Media was the second-most important portion of the Empire after Persia itself. Biblical references frequently combine “the Medes and the Persians” (Daniel 5:28; compare Esther 1:19; Esther 10:2 ). The kings of the Persian Empire are called “the kings of Media and Persia” (Daniel 8:20 ). The most famous Mede in Scripture is Darius the Mede (Daniel 5:31; Daniel 9:1 ). See Isaiah 13:17; Isaiah 21:2; Jeremiah 51:11 ,Jeremiah 51:11,51:28 ); but the Medes also had to drink the cup of God's judgment (Jeremiah 25:25 ). Their final appearance in Scripture is the presence of Jews or Jewish converts from there at Pentecost (Acts 2:9 ). See Babylonia; Elam; Assyria.

Albert F. Bean

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Medes, Media'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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