Zoroastrianism and Biblical
Connections (by this author)
Dr. Darius Jahanian
Tribute Bearers of Persepolis...
Novruz in Persepolis..
One of the significant events in ancient history is the
conquest of Babylon by the Persian king, Cyrus the Great.
On October 4th, 539 BC, the Persian Army entered
the city of Babylon, which was then the capital of the Babylonian state (in central Iraq).
This was a bloodless campaign and no prisoners were taken. Later, on November 9th,
King Cyrus of Persia visited the city. Babylonian history tells us that Cyrus was greeted
by the people, who spread a pathway of green twigs before him as a sign of honor and peace
(sulmu). Cyrus greeted all Babylonians in peace and brought peace to their city.
On this great event, Cyrus issued a declaration, inscribed
on a clay barrel known as Cyruss inscription cylinder. It was discovered in 1879 by
Hormoz Rassam in Babylon and today is kept in the British Museum. Many historians have
reviewed it as the first declaration of human rights.
The Babylonian annals, as well as the first section of the
Cyrus inscription, shed light on the religiopolitical plight that had angered the
people of Babylon and why they invited Cyruss military campaign. Evidently, the
Babyloninan king, Nabonidus, eliminated the festival of the new year and Nebo (one of the
gods) was not brought into the city, and Bel (another god) was not taken in the procession
of the festival. Also, the worship of Marduk, the king of the gods, was changed to an
abomination and Nabonidus tormented the inhabitants with unbelievable oppression and
forced labor. The sanctuaries of all their settlements were in ruins and the inhabitants
of Sumer and Akkad had become like the living dead. Marduk, the king of the gods, scanned
and searched for a righteous ruler, finally coming upon Cyruss good deeds and his
upright mind and ordered him to march against the City of Babylon. The angry inhabitants
of Akkad had revolted but were massacred by Nabonidus, who, upon his return to Babylon,
was arrested, but nevertheless was treated with respect. When Nabonidus died in the year
following, Cyrus participated in the national mourning time that was proclaimed for him.
The gods of Akkad were then returned to their sacred cities. All the inhabitants of Sumer
and Akkad, including princes and governors, greeted Cyrus as a master who brought them
back from a living death. All who had been spared damage and disaster revered his very
"I am Cyrus, the king of the world, great king,
son of Cambyses
whose rule Bel and Nebo loved and whom they
wanted as king to please their hearts.
"When I entered Babylon as a friend and established
the seat of government in the place of the ruler under jubilation and rejoicing,
Marduk, the great lord (induced) the magnanimous inhabitants of Babylon (Din Tir) (to love
me) and I daily endeavored to praise him. My numerous troops walked around in Babylon
in peace, I did not allow anybody to terrorize (any of the people) of the country of
Sumer and Akkad. I strove for peace in Babylon (Ka Dingir ra) and in all his
(other) sacred cities. As to the inhabitants of Babylon (who) against the will of
the gods (had/were
I abolished) the corvee (yoke) which was against their
(social standing). I brought relief to their dilapidated housing, putting an end to
their main complaints. Marduk, the great lord, was well pleased with my deeds and sent
friendly blessing to myself, Cyrus, the King, who reveres him, to Cambyses, my son, as
well as to all my troops, and we all (praised) his great (name) joyously, standing before
him in peace
I returned to (these) sacred cities on the other side of the
Tigris, the sanctuaries of which have been ruins for a long time, the images which
(used) to live therein and established for them permanent sanctuaries. I (also) gathered
all their (former) inhabitants and returned (to them) their habitations. Furthermore,
I resettled upon the command of Marduk, the great lord, all the gods of Sumer and Akkad
who Nabonidus has brought to Babylon (su sa na) to the anger of the lord of the gods
unharmed in their chapels, the places which make them happy.
May all the gods whom I have resettled in their sacred
cities ask Bel and Nebo daily for a long life
(six lines destroyed) and always with
good words remember my good deeds
that Babylonians incessantly cherished me because
I resettled them in comfortable habitations
I endeavored to strengthen the
fortification of Imgur-Enlil and the great fortification of the City of Babylon
side brick wall by the citys trench which the former king (had built and had not
finished). This was finished around (the city), that none of the former kings, despite the
labor of their yoked people, had not accomplished. I rebuilt and completed with tar and
and installed large gates
entrances were built by cedar wood covered
with brass and copper pivot
I strengthened all the gates
I saw inscribed the
name of my predecessor, King Ashurbanipal."
On this historical turning point, by order of Cyrus, all
the captive nationalities held as slaves for generations in Babylon were freed and the
return to their homeland was financed. Among the liberated captives were 50,000 Jews held
in Babylon for three generations whose return toward the rebuilding of their temple in
Palestine, a policy that was followed by Darius and his successors. Some of the liberated
Jews were invited to and did settle in Persia. Because of such a generous act, Cyrus has
been anointed in the Bible. He is the only gentile in the Bible, who has been titled
Messiah, an is mentioned explicitly as the Lords shepherd and his anointed
(Messiah). Other references to Cyrus are attested in Isaiah 45:4 where Cyrus is called by
name and given a title of honor; he is also called to rebuild the Gods city and free
His people (Is. 45:13) and is chosen, called and brought successful by God (Is. 48:14-15).
What took place after the victory in Babylon was contrary
to the standard of the time. Based on the inscriptions of the neighboring countries
(Assyrians, Babylonians), it was customary to destroy the vanquished cities, level houses
and temples, massacre the people or enslave the population, replace them with snakes,
wolves and even carry away the soil to make the land barren. But here, peace and liberty
replaced the massacre and slavery, and construction substituted for destruction. After
Cyrus, his son Cambyses ruled for eight years (530BC to 522 BC) and captured Egypt, and as
a sign of respect toward their culture and religion, he prostrated himself before the
goddess, Meith and paid homage to Apis, the Egyptian totem (Bull).
After Cambyses, Darius took over the throne and ruled form
522BC to 486BC. From 518BC to 515BC he established peace and tranquility in Egypt and also
paid homage to their totem, Apis. Darius, in his inscriptions, expresses faith in the
commands of Ahuramazda. He declares "Whoever worships Ahuramazda, shall receive
happiness in life and after death." He calls Elamites faithless, and because they did
not worship Ahuramazda, yet he does not pressure them to change faith. Darius exhorts his
successors "thou shalt be king thereafter, protect yourself from the lies and punish
the liar and deceitful."
He entreats Gods grace for the protection of Persia
against rancor, enemy, famine and the lie. At times he alludes to other gods that may
either indicate the old Aryan gods who still had strong followings or the gods of other
nations under his rule, for the display of reverence toward their religions.
A. Arfaee, The command of Cyrus the Great (in Persian), quoted the
opinion of Sydney Smith.
Grayson, Assyrian and Babylonian chronicles, p110, dates the fall of Babylon on Oct. 12th
and Cyruss entry on Oct 29th.
J. B. Pritchard, The ancient Near East, Vol. 1, 1958, p203.
A fragment in the Yales Babylon collection was identified in 1970 by
professor of Munster, Germany, as part of Cyruss cylinder that was transferred to
the British Museum and added to the cylinder, who wrote in the journal of Assyrology
(Zeiserrift fir Assiriologie), July 25, Vol. 64. The remainder of the text is quoted from
A. Arafaee, which was the missing portion kept in Yale University.
Bible, 2 Chronicles 36:15-23
Bible, Ezra 1:1-11, Ezra 2:12-70
Bible, Ezra 7:8
Bible, Ezra 6:3-4-5
Bible, Ezra 7:15-25
Bible, Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1