Ezra 1

Cyrus Commissions the Temple

King Cyrus

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia . . . (Ezra 1:1)

This photo shows the only known historical depiction of Cyrus, also known as Cyrus the Great. This carving was originally accompanied by a trilingual inscription above the figure, which read, “I am Cyrus the King, an Achaemenian.” The inscription was destroyed within the last century. Pasargadae was the capital established by Cyrus.

Cyrus's Decree

Yahweh stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he issued a proclamation (Ezra 1:1).

The proclamation recorded here by Ezra finds a close parallel in an imperial decree known as the Cyrus Cylinder. The British Museum also owns fragments of the same text recorded on a tablet, rather than on a cylinder. Although the Cyrus Cylinder does not mention the Jews specifically, Cyrus does claim to have returned all the peoples and gods/sacred objects which the Babylonians took from their homelands, and to have supported the worship of each nation’s God/gods.

The Temple

He has appointed me to build a house for Him in Jerusalem, which is in Judah (Ezra 1:2).

The available evidence indicates that the temple built by Solomon, and here commissioned by Cyrus to be rebuilt by Jewish returnees, was located in approximately the same place where the Dome of the Rock is situated today, visible in this aerial photo as the golden-domed building. This is north of the old city of Jebus, on the highest elevation on the ridge.

Temple of Marduk

And King Cyrus brought out the articles from the house of Yahweh which Nebuchadnezzar had brought from Jerusalem. He had put those things in the house of his gods (Ezra 1:7).

A ziggurat dominated the center of every major city in ancient Mesopotamia. Ziggurats were temple-towers constructed of mudbricks, which were cemented together with bitumen. The main ziggurat of Babylon was called Etemenanki, which is Sumerian for “the temple (lit., ‘house’) of the foundation of heaven and earth.”

Treasury at Persepolis

He had them brought out by Mithredath the treasurer (Ezra 1:8).

The great columned hall in this photo is part of the Treasury at Persepolis. It was built during the reign of Darius I, at about the time that the temple of Yahweh was being rebuilt in Jerusalem (cf. Ezra 4:5). Unlike the practice of Nebuchadnezzar, who used local temples as treasuries, this treasury is part of the palace complex. It was here that the Persian kings accepted tribute from foreign dignitaries and handed out gifts in return.

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