Kings of Babylon/Persia: (Cyrus, Artaxerxes, Darius II)

Ezra Time Frame: (537BC-456BC)

Nehemiah Time Frame: (445BC-432BC)

King Cyrus Time (559BC-530BC)

King Xerxes I Time: (465BC-424BC)

King Darius I Time: (423BC-404BC)

I studied the life of (Xerxes I or Ahasuerus or even Artaxerxes I), Queen Esther, Queen Vashti, and the Persian kings, and it’s confusing, It’s important to note that none of these details are in the biblical account, and there is no way to confirm their veracity.

CYRUS — (559 – 530 BC)

In the year 559 BC a thirty year old man named Cyrus, from the province of Anshan in Media, began his rise to power. Within twenty years he had conquered almost all the then known world, including Media, Persia, and Asia Minor. The nation he had not yet subdued, however, was Babylon, which at this time was perhaps the mightiest nation on earth. King Nabonidus of Babylon (the successor to Nebuchadnezzar), and his oldest son Belshazzar, were becoming increasingly concerned over the military successes of Cyrus. They set up elaborate defenses and prepared themselves for war. In 539 BC Cyrus marched upon Babylon, anticipating the "mother of all wars." However, when the Babylonians beheld the tremendous might arrayed against them, they threw open their gates and surrendered without a fight. Cyrus thus became the undisputed ruler of Asia, which came to be known as the Persian Empire.

With the capture of Babylon, Cyrus also became the new master of the exiled Jewish people. The Jews rejoiced over this political change, as conditions had grown increasingly severe under King Nabonidus. In his first year as monarch, Cyrus issued his famous decree allowing the Jews to return home and to rebuild their Temple (Ezra 1:1-4). All of this had been predicted before Cyrus was even born (Isaiah 44:28 – 45:13).

Oddly, many Jews did not want to return to Palestine. They had become established in this new land; many had been born and raised here; their homes and families and businesses were here. Also, they were now prospering under the leadership of Cyrus. Thus, only a remnant actually returned. There were a total of about 60,000 Jews who took advantage of Cyrus’ gracious offer. They returned in three separate groups, led by three notable men — Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah.

The first group set out on the 800 miles journey in 536 BC under the leadership of Zerubbabel, a prince of the house of David. Also in leadership positions were Joshua, a descendant of the priests, and Shesh-bazzar, who had charge of the sacred vessels of the Temple which King Nebuchadnezzar had taken from Jerusalem in 586 BC. According to Ezra 2:64-65, some 49,897 people made this journey back to Palestine in this first group. Their primary mission was to rebuild the city and the Temple, and to restore the worship of God in Jerusalem.

At first, the work progressed well. The foundation of the Temple was laid amid great rejoicing (Ezra 3:10-13). Initial enthusiasm gave way to despair, however, when they began to experience opposition from the peoples who were living in the land of Palestine at the time of their return.

  • It was from these Jews who had not been taken captive, and who had intermarried with the pagans, that the Samaritans would come.

Ezra 4:4-5 points out that their opposition was so great, and their discouragement so deep, that all work on the Temple ceased for about 14 years. During this time of discouragement, Cyrus was killed in a battle with some nomads on the eastern frontier of his empire.