Online Midweek September 16

The Persian

In ancient times God used a foreign power to restore Israel to her own land and national identity.

This man is referred to in the Scriptures as “Cyrus, King of Persia”.

What he did was of great spiritual and historical significance. It was without precedent and would be repeated onlSy once in history.

If Scripture repeats something it is because it has great significance.

Cyrus’ decree allowing the Jewish people is referred to at various places throughout the Old Testament. It is first encountered in the closing verses of the Book of II Chronicles

(Chapter 36, verses 22-23) and is then repeated in it’s entirety in the opening verses of the very next book of Scripture, Ezra (Chapter , verses 1-3). Ezra proceeds from there to offer a detailed account of this happening.

Ezra 1

 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill 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 all 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 his God be with him! 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. 

4 Every survivor, at whatever place he may [a]live, let the men of [b]that place support him with silver and gold, with goods and cattle, together with a freewill offering for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.’”

5 Then the heads of fathers’ households of Judah and Benjamin and the priests and the Levites arose, even everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up and rebuild the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem. 

6 All those about them [c]encouraged them with articles of silver, with gold, with goods, with cattle and with valuables, aside from all that was given as a freewill offering. 

7 Also King Cyrus brought out the articles of the house of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and put in the house of his gods; 

8 and Cyrus, king of Persia, had them brought out by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and he counted them out to Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah. 

(From here Ezra details the items, the people involved etc.)

Critical to both of these returns was the existence of a world leader able to support and sanction it.

In the ancient world that leader was Cyrus.

In the modern world it was the President of the United States Harry S. Truman.

For Truman to be in this place at the exact time needed required the convergence of a number of events. He was a new running mate for President Franklin Roosevelt, who in some areas held decidedly different views. Truman was vice president for only 3 months before becoming President of the United States. He inherited a State Department that in many ways seemed to reflect FDR’s seemingly anti-Semitic views. They fiercely opposed his support of the nation of Israel and fought him at every turn. However, Truman, a stronger character than they supposed him to be prevailed.

There are striking similarities between Cyrus and Truman.

Cyrus began his reign about 560 BC and continued to reign until his death in 530 BC, giving him a 30 year span in government.

Truman accepted his first governmental office in January 1923 and continued in public service until his presidency ended in January 1953, giving him a 30 year span in government.

The defining moment of Cyrus’ rise to power came in the autumn of 539 BC. It was then that he defeated Nabonidus, the last king of the Babylonian Empire. He was now ruler of the largest and most powerful empire created up to that time. Most scholar place his date of birth between 600 – 599 BC, making him about 60 years of age when he became the most powerful man in the world as he knew it.

The defining moment in Truman’s rise to power occurred in the spring of 1945 when the mantle of the presidency was passed to him. It happened as the United States was becoming the world’s super power. Truman was now in command of the strongest military, political, cultural and economic power on earth. He was 60 years old.

The return of Israel in both instances came in the aftermath of war in which the country that made it possible for them was the victor.

 

Other similarities:

The symbol of Cyrus and the Persian Empire was the eagle, so too is that of the United States.

The Cyrus Decree” and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights championed by Truman.

Their exists a clay cylinder known as the “Cyrus Cylinder” which is the decree read about in the closing verses of II Chronicles and the opening verses of Ezra.

The words on the Cyrus Cylinder: “I returned to these sacred cities on the other side of the Tigris, the sanctuaries of which have been in ruins for a long time, the images which used to live in them, and I established for them permanent sanctuaries. I also gathered all their former inhabitants and returned to them their habitations.”

Even the Founding Fathers of the United States sought inspiration from Cyrus, what he did in Babylon as described by the Cyrus Cylinder, and how he ran a country. Thomas Jefferson owned two personal copies of Xenophon’s book Cyropaedia – the Education of Cyrus – which was “a mandatory read for statesmen.”

The Cyrus decree has long been considered the world’s first Declaration of Human Rights, including the right of people to live in their own native land without fear of another power forcibly moving them.

Truman championed the same basic human rights, including the right of the Jewish people to return to their ancestral land.

Thus far only 2 world leaders have set forth such a document.

The date of the Cyrus declaration is 539 BC, the same years that the Jewish people

The date of Truman’s declaration was 1948.

Both occurred after a significant 70 year period in Jewish history.

In the case of Cyrus it was 70 years from the carrying away of the Jewish people

In the case of Truman it was 70 years from the first Jewish settlement in Israel.

 

Going farther:

In Cyrus’ first year of power he specifically issued a decree to release the Jewish people from captivity and to allow them to return to their homeland.

Turman: Less than 30 days after Truman became president World War II ended in Europe. Europe was now filled with people displaced by war, none more so than the Jewish refugees, many of whom were held in camps behind barbed wire and with armed guards.

In 1945 the U.S. State Department sent Earl Harrison to investigate the camps.

Harrison issued a scathing report in which he likened the treatment of the Jewish detainees in the camps to the treatment they had received from the Nazis. The report landed on Truman’s desk in late August. A week later he wrote to the British Prim Minister Clement Atlee citing the findings of the report with an urgent request to release 100,000 Jewish refugees and to allow them to return to their homeland, Israel.

Atlee’s response was resistant and basically warned Truman not to meddle there.

Truman’s response was to release the results of the report to the public. Soon after that he also authorized the release of the letter he had sent to the British Prime Minister.. The resulting pressure forced the British Empire to begin the release of the Jewish exiles, with the results that multiple thousands of them came to Israel.

Truman’s letter also had another consequence: The pressure for the return of the Jewish exiles would ultimately lead to the British Empire ending it’s occupation of the land, which in turn would lead to the rebirth of the nation.

Cyrus, in fulfillment of prophecy had ended a 70 year exile of the Jewish People

Truman, in fulfillment of prophecy had ended a 2000 year exile.

 

In both cases it was their writing that set it all in motion.

Truman’s letter was sent on Friday, August 31, 1945. This would have been the beginning of the Sabbath. The Scripture for that Sabbath was Deuteronomy 30:3-5, a part of the prophecy of Moses:

3 then the Lord your God will restore [you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you. 

4 If your outcasts are at the ends of the earth, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you back. 

5 The Lord your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers.

A little more from Moses – remember the prophecy that preceded this one?

It told of the desolation of the land and what the stranger who visited it would say.

We saw that that prophecy was fulfilled in a special way by Mark Twain in 1867.

Truman related that when the pressure was on him to abandon his struggle for the Jewish people there was a quote in his office that helped to keep him centered and engaged. The quote said Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest. The quote was by none other than Mark Twain, who years after his death was still playing a part in the working out of the mystery.

In the spring of 1949, a year after Israel’s birth their first Chief Rabbi, Isaac Herzog came to the White House to visit President Truman. He told Truman that even before his birth while he (Truman) was still in his mother’s womb, the Lord had given him the mission of helping the Jewish people at time of despair and to bring about the fulfillment of the promise and prophecy of their return. He told Truman of Cyrus and read the words of Cyrus to President Truman: “The Lord God of heaven hath . . . charged me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah” assuring Truman that he like Cyrus had fulfilled the task given him by God, and that like Cyrus, Truman would hold a place of honor in the history of the Jewish people. It was an emotional time for Truman who was moved to tears.

Years later Truman summed up his life with the words: “I am Cyrus”

Both men had played their part in the history and blessing of the Jewish people and had played it well.