c. 600 B.C. - c. 530 B.C.
God's Anointed Persian Kingby Rit Nosotro
Despite his non-Jewish roots, King Cyrus was God's anointed. This Persian king obeyed the Lord's instructions because God had chosen Cyrus to tell others about Him. Isaiah prophesied about Cyrus and why the Lord had chosen this pagan king to do His will. The Lord explained, "I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness--secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name. And why have I called you for this work? It is for the sake of Jacob my servant, Israel my chosen one. I called you by name when you did not know me. I am the LORD; there is no other God. I have prepared you, even though you do not know me, so all the world from east to west will know there is no other God. I am the LORD, and there is no other." 1 God had handpicked Cyrus to tell the world about the one and only true God, as well as to free God's people from the seventy years of Babylonian captivity. God told Isaiah that He would use Cyrus to fulfill His righteous purpose, that He would guide all of Cyrus' actions.
In circa 600 B.C., Cyrus, son of Cambyses, was born. At the time, Cyrus' father was the king of Anshan, the western part of Persia. 2 Cyrus showed exceptional potential even as a young boy. As he grew up and took charge of his father armies, other nations began to recognize him as a strategic and disciplined general, since he never lost in battle. Near the age of forty, his father died and Cyrus became king of Anshan. Around 550 B.C., Cyrus led an army to Ecbatana against Astyages, the last king of the Medes. However, Cyrus spared Astyages' life, demonstrating Cyrus' mercy and benevolence as a conqueror and ruler. 3 This event marked the beginning of the Persian Empire. After conquering Medes, he made Ecbatana the capital and left most of the Median institutions intact out of his respect for the Median culture. 4 Croesus, king of Lydia, had been allied with Astyages and felt obliged to make war against Persia. Cyrus gathered his army of Medes and Persians, and forced Croesus to the Lydian capital, Sardis, in Asia Minor. 5 Cyrus' army pursued the Lydians, and then went on to besiege and conquer the capital. It did not take long for Cyrus to gain control of all of Asia Minor. Thus, he continued to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah, "This is what the LORD says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut." 6
Yet, the most important prophecy had not yet been fulfilled. The Lord told Isaiah that Cyrus would restore His city and free His captive people-and not for a reward. 7 Around 540 BC, Cyrus took control of Babylon with little resistance. 8 During this time, the Jews had been in captivity because of their unfaithfulness to God. The Lord had told His people that they would be in Babylon for seventy years, but that He would eventually bring them back home. 9 Cyrus fulfilled the latter prophecy only one year into his reign over Babylon. God stirred the heart of King Cyrus to put the following proclamation into writing and send it throughout his kingdom: "This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem in the land of Judah. All of you who are his people may return to Jerusalem in Judah to rebuild this Temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, who lives in Jerusalem. And may your God be with you!" 10 Even though Cyrus was not a Jew, God used him to free His people from the Babylonians.
However, Cyrus did more than simply freeing the Jews. He commanded the Babylonians who lived near Jewish survivors to "contribute toward their expenses by supplying them with silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock, as well as a freewill offering for the Temple of God in Jerusalem". 11 He also returned all of the stolen items from the Temple when Nebuchadnezzar had captured Jerusalem. 12 Thus, he fulfilled the Lord's prophecy of Israel's freedom. 13 Cyrus did what very few heathen kings would have done, all because God's hand was upon him. After the conquest of Babylon, Cyrus had to deal with raiding Scythians, led by Queen Tomyris. 14 Instead of defeating his enemy, however, Cyrus lost his first battle and was killed in one of the skirmishes.
Although he lived over two thousand years ago, Cyrus was still remembered in recent history. In 1948, the United Nations helped establish the State of Israel, reuniting the Jewish nation. Israel recognized the efforts of the U.S. president at the time, Harry S. Truman.
Once, after his [Truman's] retirement, he was introduced as the man who helped create the state of Israel." Without a moment's hesitation, Truman shot back, "What do you mean, helped create? I was Cyrus, I was Cyrus" - referring to the Persian monarch who enabled the Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem after the first dispersion.15
Truman was considered as the deliverer to this new State of Israel. Because Cyrus had influenced and helped the Israel nation in such an important way, he also was a deliverer of the Jews. Like Moses before him, and Christ after, Cyrus saved the Jews from an unsettling situation. Through Christ, Cyrus fulfilled God's plan.
1 Isaiah 45:3-6. Bible. November 7, 2003.
2, 3, 8 Ritenbaugh, Richard T. Cyrus: God's Annointed. CGG.org. November 7, 2003.
4, 5, 14 Kimball, Charles Scott. The Persian Empire: The First Shah of Iran OFF LINE! Xenophile Historian. November 7, 2003.
6 Isaiah 45:1. Bible. November 7, 2003.
7, 13 Isaiah 45:13. Bible. November 7, 2003.
9 Jeremiah 29:10. Bible. November 7, 2003.
10 Ezra 1:2-3. Bible. November 7, 2003.
11 Ezra 1:4. Bible. November 8, 2003.
12 Ezra 1:7. Bible. November 8, 2003.
15 Tugend, Tom. Re-examining Truman's role. Jewish Telegraphic Agency. December 5, 2003.