CYRUS II
(si' ruhs) HEBREW: KORES
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King of Persia from 559 to 530 B.C., Cyrus permitted the exiled Jews to return from Babylon to Jerusalem, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Jeremiah: "When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfil to you my promise and bring you back to this place" (Jeremiah 29:10).

After uniting all the Persian tribes living in what is noe southern Iran, Cyrus moved against the Medes, a closely related group who had established a kingdom powerful enough to have overthrown the Assyrians. Cyrus himself was half-Mede: his mother was the daughter of the Median king Astyages; his father was a vassal to that ruler. In the revolt against his grandfather and overlord, Cyrus allied himself with Babylon and was aided by a turncoat Median army. By subsequently defeating the Medes, Cyrus gained control over much of the land lying within the borders of modern Iran as well as the Median provinces of Assyria, Mesopotamia, Syria, Armenia, and Cappadocia.

Cyrus next defeated Croesus of Lydia in Asia Minor - a king whose very name has come to symbolize wealth. This victory made Cyrus master of most of Asia Minor and overlord of the Greek cities on the Aegean coast, setting the stage for Persia's invasion of Greece in the fifth century B.C. Cyrus then moved to subjugate all the remaining Iranian tribes to the east, as far as India. In the process he established the largest empire the world had yet seen, for which he is known as Cyrus the Great.

But Cyrus's place in the Bible depends on another exploit, his conquest in 539 B.C. of the Babylonian empire that Nebuchadnezzar had ruled. That conquest gave him control of the city of Babylon, where Jerusalem's exiles lived, as well as of Jerusalem itself. It was Cyrus's policy to allow conquered peoples to return to their homelands and resume their local worship; the application of this policy to the Jews is described in 2 Chronicles 36:22-23: "The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia so that he made a proclamation... 'The Lord... has charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people.... Let him go up." In obedience to Cyrus's decree, exiled Jews did indeed leave Babylon for Jerusalem, where they began rebuilding the temple.

{E2 Dictionary of Biblical People}

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