Editorial Note: The following article was written at the request of the Shimran District Education Office in connection with the 2,500th-year celebration of the Iranian constitutional monarchy, as observed in Pasargadae, Iran. Under the title "God's Chosen Founder of the Empire of Iran" it appeared in English and Farsee in the official bulletin of the anniversary observance. It has been adapted for use in our magazine.
FROM ancient times the world has witnessed the rise and fall of nations and empires. Some are remembered only by their inanimate relics brought to light through excavations. Others have gone through great transformations and change, with the present greatly different from the past. Today one can see the relics of the Assyrian, the Babylonian, and the Hittite empires in the museums, neatly arranged on the shelves. Like blazing meteorites, these empires of the past appeared in the sky, only to disappear from the vast expanses of human history as quickly as they had come.
Therefore, it is with great wonder and admiration that we find, in comparison, one world empire of antiquity still ablaze, trans formed into a modern, fast-developing nation, with monumental reforms and progress growing brighter and brighter into the midday zenith of the twentieth century. Its unrivaled and miraculous progress, under the leadership of its rightful monarch, is reminiscent of the wise and courageous founder, Cyrus the Great.
Man of Prophecy
Where lies the secret of this perpetual, uninterrupted monarchy now 2,500 years old? How firm were the foundations producing such stability, will to survive, and sovereignty? Was it pure chance, just a coincidence? Nay, but Divine Providence. For nearly 210 years before the birth of Cyrus the Great the prophet of God had foretold:
Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut. ... I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith the Lord of hosts (Isa. 45:1-13).
That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid (chap. 44:28).
Through the tyrannical years of Assyrian and Chaldean kings such as Sargon II, Sennacherib, and Nebuchadnezzar, the Jewish nation was subjected to inhumane treatment and persecution.
It was the method of the national policies to deport en masse the subjugated nations, hoping thus to stamp out the national identity of the people. This plan resulted in much havoc and bloodshed. Houses were burned and the places of worship desecrated.
In striking contrast to such merciless and sadistic treatment, the considerate and generous Cyrus was a man after the heart of the Almighty. He was the great leader through whom God could carry out His purposes in freeing the Jewish captives and returning them to their home land, also providing necessary funds for the rebuilding of Jerusalem the city walls and their Temple. He was willing to learn of God, and in return the Lord entrusted him with God fearing and benevolent statesmanship. The kingdom he established has a striking record of tolerance toward religious minorities throughout the twenty-five long centuries of its history.
Providence at Work
God's overruling providence was manifest in the manner in which Cyrus the Great came to power and in his subsequent conquests. His own unique inscriptions bear silent witness to his awareness of his holy calling.
In infancy his life was spared when Astyages, influenced by a dream of the world-conquering infant of Mandane, sought to destroy him, delegating the responsibility to Harpagus, his trusted general. Harpagus entrusted the infant to a shepherd family. As a young man he was appointed vassal king of Anshan. In 549 B.C. Cyrus moved his armies from his capital at Pasargadae against Astyages in Ekbatana. The armies of Astyages, under the command of Harpagus, whose son was slain in the hands of Astyages, deserted him to join forces with Cyrus. Astyages was defeated, and Media became a permanent satrapy of the Medo-Persian Empire.
By his conquest of the Median Empire, Cyrus became the ruler of Assyria, Mesopotamia, Syria, Armenia, and Cappadocia.
In quick succession Ashur, Cilicia, Cappadocia, and Armenia received him as the rightful successor to Astyages. Finally, Sardis, the capital of Lydia, fell to him in 546 B.C., and Croesus was taken captive.
After capturing the eastern part of the Iranian plateau and consolidating his power, Cyrus focused his attention on Babylon. By his archaizing reforms Nabonidus had alienated the priest hood of Marduk, at whose expense the reforms had been made. Religious freedom was repressed, leaving the people eager to welcome the deliverer.
The Accadian armies were defeated in Opis, and the defeat was followed by the capture of Sippar. Nabonidus fled to the city of Babylon, where his eldest son and coregent was in power.
The Fall of Babylon
That it was the will of God that the Babylonian Empire should fall to the Medo-Persian armies is clearly depicted in the account of what happened the memorable night of the fall. Belshazzar, the eldest son of Nabonidus and his coregent, had arranged a great banquet. In defiance of the God of the Jews he had ordered the sacred vessels of the Temple brought in for the occasion. Frivolity and drunkenness continued far into the night. Suddenly a mystic hand appeared on the Temple wall, leaving a message in letters of fire: Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin. With fear and trembling, Belshazzar had Daniel the prophet called in to interpret the writing. Fearlessly he gave the meaning: Your days are numbered. You have been weighed and found wanting, and your kingdom shall be divided and given to the Persians.
True to the prediction, that very night the armies o£ Cyrus under the leadership of Ugbaru (Gobryas), governor of Gutium, took the city by diverting the waters of the Euphrates River. On the third day of Marcheshvan, Cyrus entered the city as a great deliverer, being received by the plaudits of the people.
A Magnanimous Ruler
Cyrus restored peace to the city, gave protection to the places of worship, and granted religious freedom. Thus, in fulfillment of prophecy, God granted victory to Cyrus' marching armies. The historians Herodotus, Xenophon, Josephus, and others give a detailed account of the battle.
When Babylon fell to Cyrus he became ruler of the political, commercial, and religious center of the world. The new ruler inaugurated a policy of generosity toward his subjects, and sought in every way to promote their welfare. He was a wise statesman, a shrewd politician, and a kindhearted ruler, always planning methods by which he could better the condition of his people. He was ready to espouse their cause, almost to the point of risking his throne. He revered their God, and where their sacred sanctuaries had been neglected 01 desecrated he was solicitous for their restoration. His stated national policy was to undo the wrongs committed by former empires on their subjugated peoples.
Cyrus and the Jews
This policy called for a royal proclamation issued in favor of the Jews.
Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, 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. Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem. And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem (Ezra 1:2-4).
This decree is confirmed in his famous Cyrus Cylinder, where it is stated that he restored their sanctuary and the people to their original homes.
This royal policy of repatriation, accompanied by great financial gifts and the return of the sacred vessels of the Jewish Temple, was a model to be followed by the later kings of the Achaemenian Dynasty. And thus through the subsequent decrees of Darius and Artaxerxes, in 457 B.C. the building of the walls of the city and the Temple was completed.
So prominent a place does the kindness and generosity of these Iranian kings have in Jewish history that some of the greatest time prophecies of the Old Testament are geared to this notable decree.
Ever since the righteous reign of Cyrus the Great, who came to power through direct providence of God and instituted great models of democracy and religious freedom, this land has continued to be a bulwark of religious tolerance.
The wise and enlightened policies of and the protection that the government of His Imperial Majesty Shahenshah Aryamehr is offering to the varied and numerous religious bodies in modern Iran are reminders that we live in a country established through divine providence. And it is our sincere desire that our uninterrupted constitutional monarchy may ever continue under the wise enlightened leadership of the Pahlavis.