Bible Book List
Encyclopedia of The Bible – Cambyses

CAMBYSES kăm bī’ sez. The eldest son and successor of Cyrus II the Great, the conqueror of Babylon. He is mentioned in both the Nabonidus Chronicle and the Cyrus Cylinder as “son of Cyrus” in Babylon shortly after the conquest of the city in Oct., 539 b.c. (cf. ANET, 306, 316).

He was formerly thought to be the “Ahasuerus” of Ezra 4:6, but the latter is now identified as Xerxes (vv. 6-23 constitute a parenthetical history of opposition to the Jews down to Ezra’s time). Cambyses does not appear in the OT except by implication (Dan 11:2), where he must be the first of three kings that followed Cyrus.

After turning the administration of Babylonia over to Gubaru his governor, Cyrus departed for Ecbatana, leaving his son Cambyses as his personal representative to carry on the ritual prescribed for the king at the New Year festival of Nisan 1 (27 March 538 b.c.). Eight years later, Cyrus died in a campaign at the NE frontier, and Cambyses became sole ruler of the great Pers. empire.

Cambyses secured his position on the throne by having his brother Smerdis (or Bardiya) murdered, and by 525 b.c. completed preparations for the long awaited invasion of Egypt. The Egyp. armies under Psammetichus III were totally defeated at the Battle of Pelusium in the eastern delta, and Cambyses took the throne as the first king of the twenty-seventh dynasty, organizing the land as a satrapy of the Pers. empire. However, his efforts to conquer Carthage, Ethiopia, and the Oasis of Ammon in the Egyp. desert failed.

To gain favor with his new subjects, Cambyses took the Egyp. royal name and titulary, wore the royal costume, and antedated his rule in Egypt to the beginning of his rule in Persia. On his way back to Babylon in 522 b.c., he received news that one Gaumata (who claimed to be his murdered brother Smerdis) had usurped the throne and had been widely accepted in eastern provinces. He died near Mount Carmel in Pal., prob. by suicide, leaving no heirs. Darius Hystaspes, a Pers. officer of a collateral royal line, succeeded in killing the Pseudo-Smerdis within a few months, and consolidated the empire. The reign of Cambyses fell within the period of Gentile opposition to the building of the second temple (Ezra 4:5; Hag 1:4). See Cyrus; Darius the Mede; and Darius.

Bibliography W. H. Dubberstein, “The Chronology of Cyrus and Cambyses,” AJSL (1938), 417-419; A. T. Olmstead, The History of the Persian Empire (1948); R. Ghirshman, Iran (1954); K. M. T. Atkinson, “The Legitimacy of Cambyses and Darius as Kings of Egypt,” JAOS (1956), 167-177; J. C. Whitcomb, Jr., Darius the Mede (1963).