Ezra 1:1-11
Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled…

The valley of the Euphrates was the centre of three out of the five great empires of antiquity — the Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian. In the eighth and seventh centuries before Christ the first of these was in its strength, and from its capital, Nineveh, dominated peoples and lands from the Persian Gulf on the south to the Euxine Sea on the north; from Palestine on the west to the Caspian on the east. But among the many subject cities and tribes there was one city and there was one tribe which with special impatience bore the yoke and with special vehemence sought to east it off. The rival city was Babylon, some three hundred miles further south, situated on and watered by the Euphrates, as Nineveh was by the Tigris. In the province of Babylonia one caste or tribe, the Chaldeans, became distinguished for its energy and enterprise and gradually imprinted its character and its name upon the people of the whole province. But despite all efforts to throw off the yoke, the Assyrian grip held fast. Nineveh ruled Babylon; the Assyrian dominated the Chaldean. The rival tribe was that of the Medes, to the east and north of the province of which Nineveh was the centre. Closely allied with and kindred to the Medes was another tribe, destined through Cyrus to give a famous name to history — the Persians. As yet the more civilised Medes have the mastery, and the hardier warriors follow the standard of the Median king; but both perforce acknowledge the supremacy of the lord of Nineveh. Thus it was till nigh the close of the seventh century B.C. A common policy and hatred and the presence of two able leaders then brought Babylonians and Medes into a temporary alliance. The city of the south and the tribes of the east joined hands and forces. Nineveh was besieged and taken, and the Assyrian empire ended. Babylon now entered upon a brief but brilliant career. Hers is the "Golden Empire" of antiquity. Under Nebuchadnezzar she mounted to the very zenith of her greatness. Meanwhile the Median kingdom became consolidated; and still the Median supremacy over the Persians is unchallenged. But about 560 B.C. a youthful hero-prince named Cyrus summoned the archer horsemen of the clans to arms. A long and bloody struggle ensued; in the end, by the aid of the young commander's genius, the conquerors were conquered and the foundations laid of the mighty Persian Empire. Cyrus is one of the most benign figures of history. His name (from the sun, "the sunny one") indicates his nature. When Xenophon sought a sovereign of sagacity and piety to sit as a model for his ideal king he found what he sought in Cyrus. On the downfall of the Medes, he conciliated the good-will of the vanquished by permitting one of their own race to be titular king, whilst the real power of both nations resided in himself. The nominal king reigns but Cyrus rules at Ecbatana. Powerful as he is, his position is one of even greater danger than power. An alliance of three out of the four Great Powers of the day is formed against him. The young lion awaits not the huntsman but prepares to spring. He selects as his first foe Croesus, the king of Lydia. He surprises and storms the city of Sardis, Croesus is taken prisoner, and the Lydian dominion is ended. The Greek cities that fringe the coast of Asia Minor next feel his power and acknowledge his sway. Then he turned his attention to the east, and compelled the Bactrian and Parthian warriors to own him as their master. Cyrus is now free for the great enterprise of his career, the struggle which is to decide whether the Persian or the Chaldean is to rule in Babylon, the seat of the world's empire. He is now brought within the sweep of the Biblical record. There is an ethnological as well as a religious interest attached to this Persian advance upon Babylon. It is the first great collision on which clear light of history falls between two great families of nations, the final result of which was to push back the Semitic races from the front rank of humanity and to place in their stead the Aryan nations who were henceforth to occupy the high places of the field. Aryan and Semitic thus meet in arms before the walls of Babylon. It is most fitting that the advent of the leader of a movement which had such far-reaching results should be inaugurated with so sublime an expectation as that with which Cyrus is hailed by Isaiah. He was the Morning Star of the Aryan races. Persia made way for Greece, and Greece prepared for Rome, and out of Rome has sprung the modern world, and in the modern world the most vigorous branch of the Aryan stock more and more unmistakably rules. On the downfall of Babylon, Cyrus does not immediately take possession of the position he has won. With the same politic end in view as had previously caused him to make a Median Prince precede him at Ecbatana, he now places another of the same nationality upon the vacant throne of Babylon. For two years Darius reigns, then dies; and Cyrus quietly takes possession as the sole ruler of the territories he had inherited and conquered. Henceforth the Persian who rules from Babylon is "The Great King." The edict for the return of the exiles and the rebuilding of the temple was issued 536 B.C. It was the Declaration of the Imperial Policy, and the basis of all that came after. It announced by implication friendship between the empire and the Jews — a friendship to which the Jews remained faithful till, two hundred years afterwards, Alexander the Great erected the Brazen Empire upon the ruins of that of Silver. Cyrus was a man of war to the close, and died in battle, disastrous according to one account, victorious according. to another.

(G. M. Grant, B. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying,

WEB: Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of Yahweh by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, Yahweh stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and [put it] also in writing, saying,

The Decree of Cyrus; Or, All Things for the Church
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