Note on the Decree of Cyrus
Cyrus the Persian, who captured Babylon in 538 B.C. and ended the Babylonian captivity by restoring the Jews to their own land, has been given a great deal of credit which may or may not have been deserved. According to Ezra 1. 2 he made this proclamation "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 . . . ." This sounds as though he had a considerable reverence for the Lord God of Israel. But at much the same time he gave orders for the restoration of the Temple of Sin, the Moon-god, at Ur of the Chaldees, and had bricks used for the restoration inscribed with a very similar story. "Sin, the illuminator of heaven and earth, with his favourite sign delivered into my hand the four quarters of the world, and I returned the gods to their shrines. The great gods have delivered all the lands into my hands: the land I have caused to dwell in peaceful habitation."
It is of course possible that Cyrus perceived little or no difference between Sin, the Moon-god of the Babylonians, and the God of heaven of the Jews, and used in each inscription the term which he thought would best suit the people to whom he was proclaiming his intentions. Ezra himself has the best light on the matter. He says that "the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia" (ch.1.1) to do this thing. Cyrus himself may have had his own motives and they were probably mixed ones. Behind him and unknown to him was the overruling power of God, causing times and circumstances to work together in such a fashion that it only needed the astute mind of the Persian monarch to perceive the advantages of a friendly nation installed in Jerusalem to effect the long awaited and long promised deliverance of Israel exactly on time, as promised by Jeremiah some seventy years earlier. (see Jer. 25. 11. 12 and Dan. 9. 2).