Cyrus 2 of Persia, commonly known as Cyrus the Great (also known as Cyrus the Elder), was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire (modern-day Iran). Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, and then expanded on that to include most of southwest & central Asia. He created the largest empire the world had ever seen to that point!
The reign of Cyrus the Great lasted about 30years. He built his empire by conquering the Median Empire, then the Lydian Empire, & eventually the Neo-Babylonian Empire.
God had promised to deliver His people from Babylon. Through Isaiah, God even named the one through whom His rescue would come about; see Is. 44:28; 45:1. These words of comfort came to God’s people just before Babylon fell to Cyrus’ army; see Is. 44:24–45:13.
Prior to Cyrus’ invasion of Babylon, the Neo-Babylonian Empire had conquered many kingdoms. In 539BC, 11yrs after the young general named Cyrus had become the mighty king of Persia, he marched – practically unopposed – into the city of Babylon and took it; see Is. 21:1-10.
History records how Cyrus captured the city of Babylon. He diverted water from the mighty Euphrates River, which protected several gates of the city. When the water was low enough, he and his foot soldiers crossed… and entered the city virtually unopposed.
Cyrus was received by the Babylonian people with shouts of joy!
After taking Babylon, Cyrus the Great proclaimed himself “King of Babylon, King of Sumer & Akkad, King of the 4 Corners of the World”; see Ezra 1:2.
Cyrus the Great respected the customs and religions of the lands he conquered. He demanded political obedience, especially as it came to paying taxes, but he allowed religious freedom… and his taxes were no more burdensome than what was usual before he conquered a people; see 2Chron. 36:22,23; Ezra 1:1-8.
– For Cyrus…
He is considered one of the most powerful rulers in the history of the world! Yet, even Cyrus “the Great” was ultimately a tool in the hands of God. God said of Cyrus in Is. 44:28: “He is My shepherd, and he shall carry out My purpose”. Isaiah was able to foretell that Cyrus would rebuild the temple of God in Jerusalem. Just as God said, Cyrus conquered Babylon and decreed that all the Jews who had been exiled to Babylon could return to their homeland if they wanted to rebuild their temple.
– For God’s People…
It marked the end of the 70yr Judean exile in Babylon. These 70yrs had brought much change in God’s people; their faith was no longer identified with a temple, but with Scripture. Their worship centers became synagogues… which stressed the reading of the Torah (the 1st 5 books of the Bible). The exiled Judeans had become a people of the Book!
You can read the biblical account of Cyrus’ story in Isaiah 21,44,45; 2 Chronicles 36:22,23; & Ezra 1.