We read how three Persian kings (559-424BC) appeared in Jewish history. Who are they and what did the Bible say about them. Most importantly how did these kings treat the Jewish people and their God? We shall read them in three short blogs.
The Indo-European Persians were nomadic pastoralists from S Russia, probably entered the Iranian plateau late in the 2nd millennium BC. The Achaemenes was claimed as founder of the dynasty by later kings. The three kings we mention here were his descendants.
All Scriptures are quoted from the Bible New King James Version (NKJV).
1.Cyrus II, the Great. (=Darius the Mede?) 559-530BC. 2 Ch.36:22-23; Ezr.1:1-4,7-8;5:13-17;6:3; Is.44:28;45:1; Dn.1:21;5:30;6:28;10:1
2.Darius I, the Great. 522-486BC. Erz.4:5;5:6-7;6:1; Hg.1:1; Zc.1:1
3.Artaxerxes I (Longimanus) 465-424BC. Ezr.7:1,21-26; Ne.2:1-8
Cyrus II defeated Babylon in 539BC. He gave back the Jews the precious vessels looted from the Temple of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. More important, he gave royal authorization for the rebuilding of the Temple to any Jew who wished to return to Judah. (Ezr.1:1-4) He appointed a Jewish prince, Sheshbazzar, as governor. (Ezr.5:14)
Cyrus fulfilled the prophecies of Jeremiah 29:10 of the return of the Jews to Jerusalem after seventy years of exile, and Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1 of Cyrus being raised to carry out God’s purpose.
Jeremiah 29:10 For thus says the Lord, “After seventy years re completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good words toward you, and cause you to return to this place.”
Isaiah 44:28 Who says of Cyrus, He is My shepherd, and he shall perform all My pleasure, saying to Jerusalem, “You shall be built,” And to the temple, “Your foundation shall be laid.”
2 Ch.36:22-23 That the above prophecies be fulfilled in the first year of Cyrus’ reign, the Lord stirred Cyrus’ spirit and he made proclamation to allow the Jews to go back to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of the God of Israel. Cyrus confirmed this in writing, “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And he has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you of all His people? May the Lord his God be with him, and let him go up!”
Isaiah 45:1-7 God described Cyrus as His anointed, and promised, “To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held—to subdue nations before him and loose the armor of kings, to open before him the double doors, so that the gates will not be shut: I will go before you and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze and cut the bars of iron…I am the Lord, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me…that there is none beside Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other…”
Indeed, Cyrus II was the grandson of Cyrus I and he rebelled against his Median overload, killed him and took over his capital in 550Bc, and defeated the seemingly all powerful invincible Babylon in 539BC. He conquered other kingdoms too. Daniel prospered during his reign.
Cyrus recognized and gave honor to the God of Israel. This was written in his decree about God’s favor for him to conquer other kingdoms on earth. He also expressed his obedience to God’s command for him to build the temple of God in Jerusalem. (2 Ch.36:22-23; Ezr.1:1-4,7-8;5:13-17;6:3)
“All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And he has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah.”
Ezra 6:3-5 recorded the decree of King Cyrus II authorizing the re-building of the Temple of God at Jerusalem. it specified the foundations, the building materials of stones and timber, the payment from the king’s treasure, and the return to Jerusalem all the gold and silver articles which the former Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar had plundered from the Temple and brought to Babylon, “to be restored and taken back to the temple in Jerusalem, each to its place; and deposit them in the house of God.”
King Cyrus II was the most powerful ruler then but he acknowledged another who was more powerful than him. He acknowledged and honored the God of Israel. It is interesting to note he knew God wanted him to re-build the temple. Unlike other foreign conquerors he decided to adopt a new system of government. He allowed freedom of worship and local government autonomy through appointing Jewish citizens to be officials. His successors continued his policy which fitted into God’s plan for Israel. By aligning with God’s plan King Cyrus II prospered and his kingdom became strong and powerful just as God had promised through the prophet Isaiah.
July 30, 2016.
(To be continued)