Cyrus the Great figures in the Old Testament as the patron and deliverer of the Jews. He is mentioned twenty-three times by name and alluded to several times more, viz.: II Chron. xxxvi. 22 (twice), 3; Ezra i. 1 (twice), 2, 7, 8, iii. 7, iv. 3, 13, 14, 17, vi. 3; Isa. xliv. 28, xlv. 1; Dan. i. 21, vi. 28, x. 1, and 1 Esdras 2 . From these statements it appears that Cyrus, king of Persia, was the monarch under whom the captivity of the Jews ended, for in the first year of his reign he was prompted by Jehovah to make a decree that the temple in Jerusalem should be rebuilt and that such Jews as cared to might return to their land for this purpose. Moreover, he showed his interest in the project by sending back with them the sacred vessels which had been taken from the temple and a considerable sum of money to buy building materials with. As a result of Cyrus' policies, the Jews honored him as a dignified and righteous king. He is the only Gentile to be designated as a messiah (divinely-appointed king) in the Old Testament.
After the work had been stopped by enemies of the Jews it was recommended under the exhortations of the prophets, and when the authorities asked the Jews what right they had to build a temple they referred to the decree of Cyrus. Darius, who was then reigning, caused a search for this alleged decree to be made, and it was found in the archives at Ecbatana ('Achmetha.' Ezra 6:2), whereupon Darius reaffirmed the decree and the work proceeded to its triumphant close. Daniel was in the favor of Cyrus, and it was in that year of Cyrus that he had the vision recorded in his tenth chapter.
Cyrus issued the decree of liberation to the Jews (Ezra 1:1, 2), concerning which Daniel had prayed (Daniel 9:3) and prophesied (v. 25). The edict of Cyrus for the rebuilding of the Second Temple at Jerusalem marked a great epoch in the history of the Jewish people. However, some of the non-Jewish peoples of Samaria hired counselors to frustrate the Jews from completing the rebuilding throughout the reign of Cyrus, Xerxes ('Ahasuerus'), and Artaxerxes, until the reign of Darius. Darius discovered Cyrus' original decree "at Achmetha [R.V. marg., "Ecbatana"], in the palace that is in the province of the Medes" (Ezra 6:2), and recommissioned the building of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem.
A chronicle drawn up just after the conquest of Babylonia by Cyrus, gives the history of the reign of Nabonidus ('Nabuna'id'), the last king of Babylon, and of the fall of the Babylonian empire. In 538 BC there was a revolt in Southern Babylonia, while the army of Cyrus entered the country from the north. In June the Babylonian army was completely defeated at Opis, and immediately afterwards Sippara opened its gates to the conqueror. Gobryas (Ugbaru), the governor of Kurdistan, was then sent to Babylon, which surrendered "without fighting," and the daily services in the temples continued without a break. In October, Cyrus himself arrived, and proclaimed a general amnesty, which was communicated by Gobryas to "all the province of Babylon," of which he had been made governor. Meanwhile, Nabonidus, who had concealed himself, was captured, but treated honourably; and when his wife died, Cambyses II, the son of Cyrus, conducted the funeral. Cyrus now assumed the title of "king of Babylon," claimed to be the descendant of the ancient kings, and made rich offerings to the temples. At the same time he allowed the foreign populations who had been deported to Babylonia to return to their old homes, carrying with them the images of their gods. Among these populations were the Jews, who, as they had no images, took with them the sacred vessels of the temple.
- Seder Olam Rabbah (part 2) - Solomon's Temple, and Zerrubabel
- Chronicle of Nabonidus and other documents in the British Museum.
Initial text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897 and Schaff-Herzog Encyc of Religion
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