Son of Cambyses king of Persia, and Mandane, daughter of Astyages king of the Medes. He aided his uncle Cyaxares (called "Darius the Mede" in the Bible) in conquering Asia Minor, and afterwards their joint forces captured Babylon and overran the Assyrian empire. He married his cousin, the daughter of Cyaxares, and thus at length inherited and united the crowns of Persia Media. Cyrus was foretold by the prophet Isaiah, Isa 44:28; 45:1-7, as the deliverer and restorer of Judah, as he proved to be, 2Ch 36:22-23; Ezr 1:1-4. The prophet Daniel was his favorite minister, Da 6:28.
(Heb. Ko'resh), the celebrated "King of Persia" (Elam) who was conqueror of Babylon, and issued the decree of liberation to the Jews (Ezr 1:1-2). He was the son of Cambyses, the prince of Persia, and was born about B.C. 599. In the year B.C. 559 he became king of Persia, the kingdom of Media being added to it partly by conquest. Cyrus was a great military leader, bent on universal conquest. Babylon fell before his army (B.C. 538) on the night of Belshazzar's feast (Da 5:30), and then the ancient dominion of Assyria was also added to his empire (cf., "Go up, O Elam", Isa 21:2).
Hitherto the great kings of the earth had only oppressed the Jews. Cyrus was to them as a "shepherd" (Isa 44:28-45:1). God employed him in doing service to his ancient people. He may posibly have gained, through contact with the Jews, some knowledge of their religion.
The "first year of Cyrus" (Ezr 1:1) is not the year of his elevation to power over the Medes, nor over the Persians, nor the year of the fall of Babylon, but the year succeeding the two years during which "Darius the Mede" was viceroy in Babylon after its fall. At this time only (B.C. 536) Cyrus became actual king over Palestine, which became a part of his Babylonian empire. The edict of Cyrus for the rebuilding of Jerusalem marked a great epoch in the history of the Jewish people (2Ch 36:22-23; Ezr 1:1-4; 4:3; 5:13-17; 6:3-5).
This decree was discovered "at Achmetha [R.V. marg., "Ecbatana"], in the palace that is in the province of the Medes" (Ezr 6:2). A chronicle drawn up just after the conquest of Babylonia by Cyrus, gives the history of the reign of Nabonidus (Nabunahid), the last king of Babylon, and of the fall of the Babylonian empire. In B.C. 538 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, 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.
Illustration: Clay Cylinder of Cyrus
Koresh, from the Persian kohr "the sun," as Pharaoh from phrah "the sun." Founder of the Persian empire. Represented as the son of Mandane, who was daughter of Astyages last king of Media, and married to Cambyses a Persian of the family of the Achaemenidae. Astyages, because of a dream, directed Harpagus his favorite to have the child Cyrus destroyed; but the herdsman to whom he was given preserved him. His kingly qualities, when he grew up, betrayed his birth. Astyages enraged served up at a feast to Harpagus the flesh of his own son. Harpagus in revenge helped Cyrus at Pasargadae near Persepolis, 559 B.C., to defeat and dethrone Astyages, and make himself king of both Medes and Persians. Afterward Cyrus conquered Croesus, and added Lydia to his empire. In 538 B.C. he took Babylon by diverting the course of the Euphrates into another channel, and entering the city by the dry bed during a feast at which the Babylonians were reveling, as Isa 21:17;Isa 21:17; Jer 50:38; 51:57 foretell He finally fell in a battle against the Massagetae. (See BABYLON.)
His tomb is still shown at Pasargadae. In Da 5:31, at the overthrow of Babylon, we read "Darius the Median took (received) the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old." Isa 13:17; 21:2 confirm Daniel as to the Medes' share in destroying Babylon. Daniel (Da 6:28) joins the two, "Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian." Compare also Jer 51:11-28. The honorary precedency given to the Medes in the formula, "the law of the Medes and Persians altereth not," also in Da 5:28, marks their original supremacy. But the expressions "Darius received the kingdom" (Da 5:31), and "Darius the son of Ahasuerus (the same name as Cyaxares and Xerxes) of the seed of the Medes ... was made king over the realm of the Chaldaeans" (Da 9:1), mark that Cyrus was the supreme king and conqueror, and Darius made subordinate king under him.
It is probable that this Darius was representative of the deposed Median line of supreme kings, whether he is to be identified with Astyages or his successor Cyaxares II, and that Cyrus deemed it politic to give him a share of royal power, in order to consolidate by union the two dynasties and conciliate the Medes. (See DARIUS .) Darius reigned as viceroy at Babylon from 538 to 536 B.C., when Cyrus assumed the throne there himself; from whence Ezra (Ezr 1:1) regards the year of Cyrus' beginning to reign at Babylon as the first year of his reign over the whole empire, though he was king of Persia 20 years before. So also 2Ch 36:22. The prophecies of Isaiah attribute the capture of Babylon to Cyrus, not Darius: Isa 44:27-28; 45:1, "Cyrus My (Jehovah's) shepherd ... the Lord's anointed," a type of Messiah, the true King, Sun of righteousness (Mal 4:2), and Redeemer of His people from mystical Babylon.
Ahasuerus is another form of Cyaxares, whom Xenophon represents as uncle of Cyrus and son of Astyages. The pure monotheism in which Cyrus had been reared as a Persian predisposed him to hate the Babylonian idols and favor the Jewish religion. Zoroaster about, this very time reformed the popular nature worship of Persia, and represented the sun or fire as only a symbol of the one God. In Cyrus' decree for the Jews' restoration from Babylon he intimates his acquaintance with Isaiah's and Jeremiah's prophecies concerning him, which he doubtless heard from Daniel the prophet of Belshazzar's doom: "the Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He hath charged me to build Him an house at Jerusalem which is in Judah ... He is the God." Smith's Bible Dictionary (B.F. Westcott) truly says: "the fall of Sardis and Babylon was the starting point of European life; and the beginning of Grecian art and philosophy, and the foundation of the Roman constitution, synchronize with the triumph of the Aryan race in the East."
Cyrus represents eastern concentration and order, Alexander western individuality and independence. The two elements exercised an important influence upon the history of the world and of the church, and Cyrus' restoration of the Jews is one of the great turning points in the development of God's mighty scheme for ultimate redemption. Xenophon (Cyrop. 1:2, section 1) celebrates Cyrus' humanity. This, with his Zoroastrian abhorrence of idolatry and its shameless rites, and veneration for the "great god Ormuzd," the special object of ancient Persian worship, would interest him in behalf of the sufferings of the Jews, whose religion so nearly resembled his own. Thus, their restoration, an act unparalleled in history, is accounted for. His acknowledgment of "the Lord God of heaven" (Ezr 1:2), whom he identifies with the Jehovah of the Jews, and his pious ascription of his wide dominion to His gift, accord with his belief as a votary of the old Persian religion.
His gift of the golden vessels out of the treasury (Ezr 1:7-11; 6:5), the allowance of the temple rebuilding expenses out of the royal revenue (Ezr 6:4), and the charge to Ills subjects to "help with silver, gold, goods, and beasts" (Ezr 1:4) accord with his characteristic munificence. His giving so high a post as the government of Babylon to a Mede agrees with his magnanimity in appointing two Medes in succession to govern the rich Lydia (Herodotus, 1:156,162). See Rawlinson's Historical Illustrations of Old Testament J.W. Bosanquet gives reasons for thinking that the Cyrus (son of Cyaxares and grandson of Astyages) who took Babylon is distinct from Cyrus son of Cambyses who conquered Astyages.
Called several times in scripture 'the king of Persia,' though from the monuments he is found to have been also king of Elam, and is otherwise called the founder of the Persian empire. On his taking Babylon, the second great Gentile empire of Daniel was set up. He was prophesied of by name long before his birth; that he would be God's shepherd, to perform all His pleasure, and that he would say to Jerusalem, "Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid." He is also called the anointed of Jehovah, to subdue nations (type of Christ restoring Judah in the last days). Isa 44:28-45:1. When the 70 years' captivity of which Jeremiah prophesied, were expired (Jer 25:12; 29:10) God stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, and a proclamation was made that the house of the Lord God of Israel was to be rebuilt, and permission was given to the captives to return. He also restored the holy vessels that had been carried from Jerusalem to Babylon. It was called the first year of Cyrus, when he began to reign alone over Babylon. Ezr 1; 2Ch 36:22-23. This would be about B.C. 536, the 70 years of captivity having begun in B.C. 606, the date of the first captivity of Judah. Daniel continued till the reign of Cyrus, and speaks of his third year. Da 6:28; 10:1.
An ancient cylinder speaks of the forces of Cyrus as 'marching like a cloud, and his army as the waters of a river: opposition comes to nothing before him.' Daniel, in the vision of the kingdom founded by Cyrus, and seen under the figure of a ram, saw it pushing "westward, and northward, and southward; so that no beasts might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his own will, and became great." Da 8:4. For a list of Persian kings see PERSIA. The name of Cyrus has been found thus:
(the sun), the founder of the Persian empire --see
--was, according to the common legend, the son of Cambyses, a Persian of the royal family of the Achaemenidae. When he grew up to manhood his courage and genius placed him at the head of the Persians. His conquests were numerous and brilliant. He defeated
The edict of Cyrus for the rebuilding of the temple,
was in fact the beginning of Judaism; and the great changes by which the nation was transformed into a church are clearly marked. His tomb is still shown at Pasargadae, the scene of his first decisive victory.
CYRUS, son of Cambyses the Persian, and of Mandane, daughter of Astyages, king of the Medes. At the age of thirty, Cyrus was made general of the Persian troops, and sent, at the head of thirty thousand men, to assist his uncle, Cyaxares, whom the Babylonians were preparing to attack. Cyaxares and Cyrus gave them battle, and dispersed them. After this, Cyrus carried the war into the countries beyond the river Halys; subdued Cappadocia; marched against Croesus, king of Lydia, defeated him, and took Sardis, his capital. Having reduced almost all Asia, Cyrus repassed the Euphrates, and turned his arms against the Assyrians: having defeated them, he laid siege to Babylon, which he took on a festival day, after having diverted the course of the river which ran through it. On his return to Persia, he married his cousin, the daughter and heiress of Cyaxares; after which he engaged in several wars, and subdued all the nations between Syria and the Red Sea. He died at the age of seventy, after a reign of thirty years. Authors differ much concerning the manner of his death.
2. We learn few particulars respecting Cyrus from Scripture; but they are more certain than those derived from other sources. Daniel, in the remarkable vision in which God showed him the ruin of several great empires which preceded the birth of the Messiah, represents Cyrus as "a ram which had two horns, both high, but one rose higher than the other, and the higher came up last. This ram pushed westward, and northward, and southward, so that no beast might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will, and became great," Da 8:3-4,20. The two horns signify the two empires which Cyrus united in his person, that of the Medes and that of the Persians. In another place, Daniel compares Cyrus to a bear, with three ribs in its mouth, to which it was said, "Arise, devour much flesh." Cyrus succeeded Cambyses in the kingdom of Persia, and Darius the Mede (by Xenophon called Cyaxares, and Astyages in the Greek of Daniel 13:65,) also in the kingdom of the Medes, and the empire of Babylon. He was monarch, as he speaks, "of all the earth," Ezr 1:1-2; 2Ch 36:22-23, when he permitted the Jews to return into their own country, A.M. 3466, B.C. 538. He had always a particular regard for Daniel, and continued him in his great employments.
3. The prophets foretold the exploits of Cyrus. Isa 44:28, particularly declares his name, above a century before he was born. Josephus says, that the Jews of Babylon showed this passage to Cyrus; and that, in the edict which he granted for their return, he acknowledged that he received the empire of the world from the God of Israel. The peculiar designation by name, which Cyrus received, must be regarded as one of the most remarkable circumstances in the prophetic writings. He was the heir of a monarch who ruled over one of the poorest and most inconsiderable kingdoms of Asia, but whose hardy inhabitants were at that time the bravest of the brave; and the providential circumstances in which he was placed precluded him from all knowledge of this oracular declaration in his favour. He did not become acquainted with the sacred books in which it was contained, nor with the singular people in whose possession it was found, till he had accomplished all the purposes for which he had been raised up, except that of saying to Jerusalem, as the "anointed" vicegerent of Heaven, "Thou shalt be inhabited;" and to the cities of Judah, "Ye shall be built, and I will raise up their ruins." The national pride of the Jews during the days of their unhallowed prosperity, would hinder them from divulging among other nations such prophecies as this, which contained the most severe yet deserved reflections upon their wicked practices and ungrateful conduct; and it was only when they were captives in Babylon that they submitted to the humiliating expedient of exhibiting, to the mighty monarch whose bondmen they had become, the prophetic record of their own apostasy and punishment, and of his still higher destination, as the rebuilder of Jerusalem. No temptation therefore could be laid before the conqueror in early life to excite his latent ambition to accomplish this very full and explicit prophecy; and the facts of his life, as recorded by historians of very opposite sentiments and feelings, all concur in developing a series of consecutive events, in which he acted no insignificant part; which, though astonishing in their results, differ greatly from those rapid strides perceptible in the hurried career of other mighty men of war in the east; and which, from the unbroken connection in which they are presented to us, appear like the common occurrences of life naturally following each other, and mutually dependent. Yet this consideration does not preclude the presence of a mighty Spirit working within him; which, according to Isaiah, said to him, "I will gird thee, though thou hast not known me." Concerning the genius, or guardian angel, of Socrates, many learned controversies have arisen; but though a few of the disputants have endeavoured to explain it away, the majority of them have left the Greek philosopher in possession of a greater portion of inspiration than, with marvellous inconsistency, some of them are willing to accord to the Jewish prophets. In this view it is highly interesting to recollect that the elegant historian who first informed his refined countrymen of this moral prodigy, is he who subsequently introduced them to an acquaintance with the noble and heroic Cyrus. The didactic discourses and the comparatively elevated morality which Xenophon embodied in his "Memoirs of Socrates," are generally admitted to have been purposely illustrated in his subsequent admirable production, the Cyropaedia, or "Education of Cyrus;" the basis of which is true history adorned and refined by philosophy, and exhibiting for universal imitation the life and actions of a prince who was cradled in the ancient Persian school of the Pischdadians, the parent of the Socratic. Isaiah describes, in fine poetic imagery, the Almighty going before Cyrus to remove every obstruction out of his way: