A LESSON IN THE STUDY OF THE PERSIAN KINGS OF GOD’S WISDOM AND LOVE FOR HIS OWN
“Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto Messiah the Prince…..” (Dan. 9:25).
I believe there will be a beautiful lesson in how God takes care of Israel, even when they are lo-ammi, not His people (and by extension, how He cares for all who are His) once we understand who it was that issued the commandment to rebuild Jerusalem.
I believe that this subject will be easier to understand if we first discuss the building of the temple. We read in II Chron. 36:22-23, “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah the prophet might be accomplished…… . Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, ‘All the kingdoms of the earth hath the Lord God of heaven given me: and He hath charged me to build Him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all His people? The Lord his God be with him, and let him go up”. We learn from this that Cyrus king of Persia was first to allow Israel to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.
But we read in Ezra 4:6-24 that Cyrus halted the building of the temple because some had said that Israel would be rebellious and not pay taxes after the temple has been built. “Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia” (Ezra 4:24). We read in Ezra 6:1 that “Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in the house of the rolls, where the treasures were laid up in Babylon ” . In that search Darius found the decree that had been sent by his predecessor Cyrus, that the temple should be built. In verse 7 we read of Darius’ reaction to this former decree. “……let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in His place“. In verse 15 we read, “and this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king“.
We know from the fact that Cyrus began the building of the temple and later stopped it, and that Darius completed the building of the temple, that Cyrus obviously preceded Darius as the king of Persia.
We read in Ezra 6:14, “And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia”. The note in the Companion Bible is helpful here. It reads, “Note the Fig. Polysyndeton, to mark the important fact that three kings, at various times, were concerned in the rebuilding of Jerusalem. The last named was the first in order”. We know from the fact that there are three kings mentioned in Ezra 6:14 that neither Cyrus or Darius is Artaxerxes. The Companion Bible tells us that “Artaxerxes” is a title, not a name. Who was Artaxerxes? We know from Neh. 2:1-8 that it was Artaxerxes from whom Nehemiah requested permission to rebuild Jerusalem. But who was Artaxerxes?
It is time then to look at Ahasuerus, the king of Persia. Ahasuerus is the only other Persian king that is mentioned in God’s Word that lived at that time. One clue as to who Artaxerxes was is found as we compare Esther 2:16-17 with Neh. 2:6. . We know from Esther 2:16-17 that Ahasuerus was the King who took Esther as his wife. That passage reads, “So Esther was taken unto the king Ahasuerus into his house royal …..and the king loved Esther above all the women….so that he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen….”. Then we read in Neh. 2:6 that Artaxerxes was considering Nehemiah’s request to rebuild Jerusalem, “The king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him)….”. I believe that the queen is mentioned because the queen was Esther. Certainly there would have been no reason to include the fact that Esther was “sitting by” the king, and Esther would have had a great interest in Nehemiah’s request to rebuild Jerusalem.
So I believe that it was king Ahasuerus that issued the command to rebuild Jerusalem and therefore Esther becomes an even more important figure in Israel’s history than having saved her people, Israel from Haman.
In Esther’s captivity she was made the bride of king Ahasuerus. May we assume (and it is only an assumption) that God had placed Esther in that position so that she might influence her husband to rebuild the city, and also her son Cyrus to allow the temple to be rebuilt?
If that was the case, it shows that even while Israel was lo-ammi, God was protecting them from those who would do them much harm, such as Haman. And He was also putting the plan in motion to free His people and have His temple rebuilt. We may, by extension, conclude that God also loves and cares for all those who are His in the present dispensation of the mystery.
APPENDIX I: WHICH WAS BUILT FIRST, THE WALL OR THE TEMPLE?
To be sure, many have studied the question of whether the temple or the city was built first, but they have done so (at least in part) from the writings of secular historians. I have studied it solely from Scripture. I make no apology for that, but it may account for why my conclusions may differ from others.
We read in Neh. 7:1, “Now it came to pass when the wall was built…..”. Then in verse 4 we read, “Now the city was large and great…..but there were few people in it, and the houses had not yet been rebuilt“. This tells us that the wall was built before the houses.
As we go to Hagg. 1:3 we read, “Is it time for you yourselves to be living in your houses, while this house (the temple) remains a ruin?” This tells us that the houses were built before the temple.
By combining what we have learned from these two passages we learn that the wall was built but the houses were not, and the houses were built before the temple. So the order was: 1) the wall; 2) the houses; 3) the temple.
But how are we to reconcile Ezra 3:8 where we read, “Now in the second year of their coming unto the house of God at Jerusalem….”. This seems to say that the temple was already built by the second year of their coming. This seeming contradiction is answered as we read in verse 6, “From the first day of the seventh month began they to offer burnt offerings unto the Lord. But the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid”. In other words, verse 6 tells of their coming to a temporary structure, i.e. one without a foundation.
APPENDIX Il: THE SEEMING CONTRADICTION OF ISAIAH 45:13
I have stated above that I believe that King Ahasuerus issued the commandment to rebuild the city, i.e. the commandment of Dan. 9:25. In the interest of thoroughness we must also consider Is. 45:13, as it seems to suggest that it was Cyrus who issued that commandment. “I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he shall build My city and he shall let go My captives…….”. This chapter begins, “Thus saith the Lord to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden…..”.. We know that verse 13 is still about Cyrus because of the phrase “he shall let go My people”. It was Cyrus who let Israel go from their captivity, as we read in II Chron. 36:23, “Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, ‘All the kingdoms of the earth hath the Lord God of heaven given me; and He hath charged me to build Him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all His People? The Lord his God be with him, and let him go up?” The question remains: was it Cyrus or was it Ahasuerus who issued the commandment of Dan. 9:25 to rebuild Jerusalem?
I believe that it was Ahasuerus who issued that commandment for two reasons. 1) We know that both Cyrus and Darius had a hand in building the temple, but Ezra 6:14 mentions three kings in that regard, i.e. Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes. I have given the reasons in the body of this paper for my belief that Artaxerxes is Ahasuerus. Ahasuerus is never said to have had a hand in building the temple, so the only reason he would have been mentioned is if he had issued the commandment to rebuild the city.
2) We read in Neh. 2:5 that Nehemiah asked the king, “If it please the king…..send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers‘ sepulchure’s, that I may build it…..”. Nehemiah asked the king to send him to build the city. We know from this passage that Nehemiah asked for and received permission, and material with which to build the city. This request was granted by Ahasuerus. How then can we understand Is. 45:13 which says the Cyrus built the city?
We know that there are no contradictions in the Word of God. I suggest therefore, that the question raised by Is. 45:13 is answered with another question, i.e. what does it mean to build the city? If it means the wall and the gates one would conclude that it was Ahasuerus who built the city. If, on the other hand, one thinks of the city being rebuilt in terms of the houses, then one may conclude that it was Cyrus. Actually both are true. That is to say, Ahasuerus issued the command to Nehemiah to rebuild the wall and the gates, and Cyrus allowed for the houses to be rebuilt. So there is no contradiction between Neh. 2 and Is. 45. Neh. 2 tells us that Ahasuerus gave the command to build the wall, and Is. 45 tells us that Cyrus allowed the houses to be built. May I remind the reader that the houses were built before the temple, see Appendix !. So it makes perfect sense that houses were built to accommodate those who were building the walls and laying the foundation of the temple.
APPENDIX III: IS. 44:28
We read in Is. 44:28, “That saith of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd, and shall perform all My pleasure; even saying to Jerusalem, ‘Thou shall be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid'”. Let us consider this verse in context.
We read in verses 24-28, “Thus saith the Lord thy redeemer, and He that formed thee from the womb, ‘I am the Lord That maketh all things….That frustrateth the tokens of the liars…..That confirmeth the word of His Servant…That saith to Jerusalem, ‘Thou shalt be inhabited’; and to the cities of Judah, ‘Ye shall be built….. That saith to the deep “Be dry’. That saith to Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd, and shall perform all My pleasure; even saying to Jerusalem, ‘Thou shall be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid'”
The note in the Companion Bible on the phrase “even saying” in verse 28 reads, “and saying: i.e. Jehovah the Speaker from vs. 24, and in the preceding clause. It does not mean that Cyrus spoke of rebuilding Jerusalem (for he did not) but it records what Jehovah would say of Cyrus, and what He would say also to Jerusalem“. In other words, it is not Cyrus that said that he will build Jerusalem, it is Jehovah saying that He would build the city.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond to it, please e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org