The video below is of Neil Macgregor (Director of the British Museum 2002-2015) speaking about Cyrus the Great (r. 559-530 BCE) and the Cyrus Cylinder …

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While a full outline of Cyrus’ tenure is beyond the scope of this posting,  there are a large number of citations in the Bible about Cyrus. Examples of references to “Koresh” (Cyrus’ name in the Bible) are:

  • The generosity of Cyrus as reflected in the Old Testament where he is cited as Yahweh’s anointed (See Book of Ezra Chapter 1 to witness the high regard that Cyrus was held by the Jews). Cyrus is viewed as savior of the Jews in the 2nd Book of Isaiah.
  • Koresh, is hailed as a Messiah by the Jews. Isaiah cites Cyrus as: “He is my Shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose” (Isaiah, 44.28; 45.1; see also 35, 40-55).

The Cyrus Cylinder housed at the British Museum (Picture Source:  Angelina Perri Birney).

Cyrus ordered sacred Hebrew utensils confiscated earlier by Nebudchadnezzar to be restored to Jewish ownership:

“Also Cyrus the king brought forth the vessels of the house of The Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had brought forth out of Jerusalem, and had put them in the house of his gods; Even those did Cyrus king of Persia bring forth by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and numbered them unto Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah” (Ezra I:7-8)

The tomb of Esther and Mordechai in Hamedan, northwest Iran. External view (left) and the interior of the tomb (right).

Cyrus also allowed the Jews to rebuild their Temple in Jerusalem and supported that reconstruction with an imperial stipend from the treasury:

“They gave money also unto the masons, and to the carpenters; and meat, and drink, and oil, unto them of Zidon, and to them of Tyre, to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa, according to the grant that they had of Cyrus king of Persia.” (Ezra III:7)

The tomb of Daniel in Khuzestan in southwest Iran. The main structure (note cone-like dome) as it stands today (left) and Iranian pilgrims paying homage within the tomb of Daniel.

The Achaemenid Empire continued to support the Jews as indicated by a decree issued by Darius the Great (549-486 BCE) in 519-518 BCE allowing the Jews to complete the reconstruction of the Jerusalem Temple:

“Then came the same Sheshbazzar, and laid the foundation of the house of God which is in Jerusalem: and since that time even until now hath it been in building, and yet it is not finished. Now therefore, if it seem good to the king, let there be search made in the king’s treasure house, which is there at Babylon, whether it be so, that a decree was made of Cyrus the king to build this house of God at Jerusalem, and let the king send his pleasure to us concerning this matter.” (Ezra 5:13-17)