Bible Society of South Africa

God can even use non-believers – 23 June 2021

By Ben Fourie

Bible text(s)

Cyrus Commands the Jews to Return

1In the first year that Cyrus of Persia was emperor, the LORD made what he had said through the prophet Jeremiah come true. He prompted Cyrus to issue the following command and send it out in writing to be read aloud everywhere in his empire:

He is not called Cyrus the Great of Persia for nothing; he was one of the greatest kings of his time. As he played such an important role in making it possible for the Jewish exiles to return to their own country, it is necessary to look at his story.

He ascended to the throne of a small kingdom in 559 BC, but by the year 539 BC he had already achieved a lot. The seven Persian tribes were united under his rule, the Medes were conquered and what is now known as Turkey was made part of his kingdom. In 539 BC, he invaded Babylon and thereby also became king of Syria and Palestine. This meant that the Jewish exiles and those who had been left behind in Palestine now became his subjects. He was now the ruler of the biggest kingdom of his time.

He was a wise king who respected the customs and religions of the conquered nations. We do not know what his religion was as this is not obvious from non-biblical sources. In the Book of Ezra, we hear that he believed that the LORD, the God of heaven, made him the ruler of the whole world and that the remnant of the Jewish exiles were to go back to their country to rebuild the temple of God.

Cyrus’s name is mentioned 23 times in the Bible. In Isaiah 45:1 we read, “The LORD has chosen Cyrus to be king! He has appointed him to conquer nations; he sends him to strip kings of their power; to open the gates of cities for him.” The idea of a chosen one actually meant that Cyrus was God’s anointed one. Anointed ones in the Bible were usually from the Jewish people and always set aside for a very special purpose. Cyrus was no Jew, but he was still called an anointed one as God chose him and set him aside to open the way for His people to return to the Promised Land.

A worldly king in the service of God? Why not. God can choose and use even Cyrus the Great as God is himself greater than even the most important person on earth.

Prayer: You used a worldly ruler to free your people from exile in Babylon. Thank you that you also freed us from our exile in the country of sin and death, but this time through the King of all kings, your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

Bible Society of South Africav.4.16.20
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