The Jews in Exile need a deliverer
One of the major miracles towards the end of the Old Testament period is the return of the Jews to Jerusalem. Scholars criticised the account of Cyrus’ edict found in second Chronicles until the discovery of an amazing clay cylinder…
Ezra 1:3 (ESV)
3 Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem.
The Cyrus Cylinder
‘Therefore He brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion on young man or virgin, old man or infirm; He gave them all into his hand. All the articles of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king and of his officers, he brought them all to Babylon.
Then they burned the house of God and broke down the wall of Jerusalem, and burned all its fortified buildings with fire and destroyed all its valuable articles. Those who had escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon; and they were servants to him and to his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfil the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths.
All the days of its desolation it kept sabbath until seventy years were complete. Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia—in order to fulfil the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah—the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying,
“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may the Lord his God be with him, and let him go up!’”’ (2 Chronicles 36:17-23).
Inscribed in cuneiform, the cylinder mentions the wickedness of Nabonidus, the last king of Babylon, and how Cyrus took the city of Babylon (in 539 BC) without shedding blood, ‘My vast troops were marching peaceably in Babylon, and the whole of [Sumer] and Akkad had nothing to fear.’
The biblical account is again confirmed accurate. Scholars attacked the politically sophisticated idea that a sixth-century B.C. Persian emperor would release captive peoples and give them freedom to pursue their own religion.
The Cyrus Cylinder provides us with the policy of Cyrus (559-530 BC)
`As for the population of Babylon [w]ho as if without div[ine intention] had endured a yoke not decreed for them, I soothed their weariness; I freed them from their bonds(?)…From [Shuanna] I sent back to their places – the sanctuaries across the river Tigris – whose shrines had earlier become dilapidated, the gods who lived therein, and made permanent sanctuaries for them.
I collected together all of their people and returned them to their settlements…and the gods of the land of Sumer and Akkad which Nabonidus – to the fury of the lord of the gods – had brought into Shuanna, at the command of Marduk, the great lord, I returned them unharmed to their cells, in the sanctuaries that make them happy.’