A Treasury of Jewish Letters: Letters from the Famous and the Humble - Vol. 1

By Franz Kobler | Go to book overview

4
Persian State Papers which changed the Course of Jewish History

THE letters inserted in the Book of Ezra are exclusively written by Persian kings and officials. But the irresistibility of the forces which were bringing about the revival of Israel is nowhere more manifest than within these letters, particularly in the three following documents. Through their medium the voice of Jewish prophecy makes itself heard, they are instrumental in its fulfilment and serve the purpose of Israel's rebirth, although some of them, such as the second of the reproduced specimens, seem to be directed against it. These records, incorporated into the Bible and transmitted in the holy tongue, are, therefore, in spite of their foreign origin, inseparable from the history of Israel's letters.


1. The Edict of Cyrus

The overthrow of the Babylonian empire by the Persian king Cyrus in 539 B.C.E. was followed almost immediately by the edict which became the great charter of the restoration. Its author was welcomed by the exilic Isaiah as the Shepherd, the Anointed of the Lord, and his deeds were praised as works inspired by God. The proclamation of the edict was, indeed, in the Book of Ezra (I. 1) as well as in the Chronicles ( 2 Chron. XXXVI. 22), expressly related to the prophecy of Jeremiah: '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, put it also in writing saying:


CYRUS, KING OF PERSIA, TO THE JEWISH PEOPLE IN HIS KINGDOM

'Who is there among you in all his people? His God be with him and let him go to Jerusalem'

[ Ekbatana, 539 B.C.E. ]

Thus saith Cyrus, King of Persia: All kingdoms of the earth hath the Lord, the God of heaven, given me; and He hath

-16-

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