The Review and Herald


March 28, 1907

The Return of the Exiles—No. 2

The Decree of Cyrus


Over a century before the birth of Cyrus the Great, the prophet Isaiah was inspired to mention this ruler even by name, and to write a prophecy outlining his work, as recorded in the forty-fifth of Isaiah: RH March 28, 1907, par. 1

“Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two-leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: and I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the Lord, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel. For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have summoned thee, though thou hast not known me. RH March 28, 1907, par. 2

“I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: that they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the Lord, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” RH March 28, 1907, par. 3

“Cyrus, he is my shepherd,” the Lord declared, “and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.” “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, not for price nor reward, saith the Lord of hosts.” RH March 28, 1907, par. 4

The year that Cyrus succeeded Darius the Mede to the throne of Medo-Persia marked the completion of seventy years since the first company of Hebrews had been carried captive to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel, who was familiar with the prophecies of Jeremiah and Isaiah regarding the duration of the captivity, and with the prophecies of Isaiah regarding the restoration by decree of Cyrus, was still living, and was occupying a position of leading responsibility in the Medo-Persian court. His faith in these prophecies led him to plead with God in behalf of his people. And now, when the time came for the temple in Jerusalem to be rebuilt, God moved upon Cyrus as his agent to discern the prophecies concerning himself, and to grant the Jewish people their liberty. And furthermore, Cyrus furnished them the necessary facilities for rebuilding the temple of the Lord. RH March 28, 1907, par. 5

In the book of Ezra is found an account of this work of Cyrus, and a copy of his decree: RH March 28, 1907, par. 6

“In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah the prophet might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel (he is the God), which is in Jerusalem. And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, besides the free-will offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.” RH March 28, 1907, par. 7

“Let the house be builded, the place where they offered sacrifices, and let the foundations thereof be strongly laid; the height thereof threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof threescore cubits; with three rows of great stones, and a row of new timber: and let the expenses be given out of the king's house: and also let the golden and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took forth out of the temple which is in Jerusalem, and brought unto Babylon, be restored, and brought again unto the temple which is at Jerusalem, every one to his place, and placed there in the house of God.” RH March 28, 1907, par. 8

The Lord God omnipotent reigneth. All kings, all nations, are his, under his rule and government. His resources are infinite. The wise man declares, “The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” RH March 28, 1907, par. 9

Those upon whose actions hang the destinies of nations, are watched over with a vigilance that knows no relaxation by him who “giveth salvation unto kings,” to whom belong “the shields of the earth.” RH March 28, 1907, par. 10

There were faithful servants of the Most High who were prepared to respond to this decree. Over threescore years before, the Lord had declared that “after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return.... Then shall ye call upon me,” the Lord declared, “and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will harken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.” Those who were seeking the Lord were prepared to take advantage of the wonderful opportunity afforded them by Cyrus to return to their homes and to restore the temple of God. RH March 28, 1907, par. 11

“Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, with all them whose spirit God had raised, to go up to build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem. And all they that were about them strengthened their hands with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, and with beasts, and with precious things, besides all that was willingly offered. RH March 28, 1907, par. 12

“Also Cyrus the king brought forth the vessels of the house of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had brought forth out of Jerusalem, and had put them in the house of his gods; even those did Cyrus king of Persia bring forth by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and numbered them unto Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah. And this is the number of them: thirty chargers of gold, a thousand chargers of silver, nine and twenty knives, thirty basons of gold, silver basons of a second sort four hundred and ten, and other vessels a thousand. All the vessels of gold and of silver were five thousand and four hundred. All these did Sheshbazzar bring up with them of the captivity that were brought up from Babylon unto Jerusalem.” RH March 28, 1907, par. 13

The company that returned to Jerusalem was led by Zerubbabel (Sheshbazzar), a descendant of King David, and appointed by the king as governor of the restored Israelites. Associated with him were Joshua the high priest, and several of “the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites.” “The whole congregation together” that returned to the land of their fathers, under Zerubbabel, “was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore, beside their servants and their maids, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred thirty and seven: and there were among them two hundred singing men and singing women. Their horses were seven hundred thirty and six; their mules, two hundred forty and five; their camels, four hundred thirty and five; their asses, six thousand seven hundred and twenty. RH March 28, 1907, par. 14

“And some of the chief of the fathers, when they came to the house of the Lord which is at Jerusalem, offered freely for the house of God to set it up in his place: they gave after their ability unto the treasure of the work threescore and one thousand drams of gold, and five thousand pounds of silver, and one hundred priests’ garments. So the priests, and the Levites, and some of the people, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinims, dwelt in their cities, and all Israel in their cities.” RH March 28, 1907, par. 15

Soon after their return, in “the seventh month,” “the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem. Then stood up Joshua the son of Josedech, and his brethren, ... and builded the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings thereon, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God. And they set the altar upon his bases; for fear was upon them because of the people of those countries: and they offered burnt offerings thereon unto the Lord, even burnt offerings morning and evening. RH March 28, 1907, par. 16

“They kept also the feast of tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number, according to the custom, as the duty of every day required; and afterward offered the continual burnt offering, both of the new moons, and of all the set feasts of the Lord that were reconsecrated, and of every one that willingly offered a freewill offering unto the Lord. From the first day of the seventh month began they to offer burnt offerings unto the Lord. RH March 28, 1907, par. 17

“But the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid. RH March 28, 1907, par. 18

“They gave money also unto the masons, and to the carpenters; and meat, and drink, and oil, unto them of Zidon, and to them of Tyre, to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa, according to the grant that they had of Cyrus king of Persia.” RH March 28, 1907, par. 19

The faithful remnant who had returned were greatly cheered and encouraged by the re-establishment of the daily burnt offerings; and they now entered heartily into the preparation necessary for the rebuilding of the temple, in order that they might restore all the ancient services of the house of God. RH March 28, 1907, par. 20