The Sands of Time series intends to explore the archaeological evidence of the Bible`s authenticity. This month, in room 55 of the British Museum lies a treasure that many have celebrated as the earliest secular declaration of human rights: the Cyrus Cylinder. Wrapped in ancient Akkadian cuneiform, one of the oldest written languages, the artifact is of particular interest to the Judeo-Christian world, as it emerged during a time of restoration for the Jewish people.
Discovered in 1879 by archeologist Hormuzd Rassam, the artifact is made of baked clay with stone deposits found within. It in part details the military exploits of Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian Achaemenid empire, stretching from eastern Europe to the Indus Valley. He has conquered Babylon and denounces the city`s previous king. The text later delves into Cyrus` treatment of all peoples in his empire, freeing them from bondage, their “yoke”, and allowing them to live in peace. He is also known to have even tolerated the religions of the many nations folded into his empire.
Here we come to the interesting part, as what is written on the artifact about Cyrus runs parallel with what the Bible tells us about the very same man. It is known historically that over 2500 years ago King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon laid siege to Jerusalem and in 597 BC began deporting Jews to Babylon. For the next 60 years they would be forced to live there until Cyrus conquered the Neo-Babylonian empire. The biblical books of Ezra and Nehemiah record that God moved the heart of Cyrus and he allowed Jews to return to Jerusalem. We see even further corroboration of the historicity of Cyrus and his policies in that he allowed Ezra and his people to rebuild God`s temple:
“This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:
“‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them. And in any locality where survivors may now be living, the people are to provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.’” – Ezra 1:2-4
Some scholars suggest that Cyrus` purposes were more politically motivated than of divine origin, but then I suppose anyone who does not take the Bible at face value would assume that is the case, just as they had assumed this entire event was only myth…until 1879. Thank God for archaeology and the burning hearts that continue to search for traces of the Lord`s truth. The evidence has been presented, the rest is on us. Keep on digging!