Page:A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi and Jonah.djvu/38

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there is in this fact a warrant for supposing that, unless there were reasons for a different course, he favoured the return of the Jews to their country. He does not mention them among the beneficiaries of his clemency, nor is there, among the known relics of his empire, any record concerning his actual treatment of them. The only direct testimony on the subject is found in the Hebrew Scriptures and works based on them.[1] The Chronicler, in a passage a part of which is preserved at the end of the second book of Chronicles and the whole at the beginning of the book of Ezra, recites that, in the first year after assuming the government of Babylonia, Cyrus issued a formal proclamation announcing that "Yahweh, the God of heaven," had given him "all the kingdoms of the earth" and commissioned him "to build him a house in Jerusalem"; summoning the Jews who were moved so to do[2] to return to their country and assist in the project; and commanding the neighbours of those who responded to the call to provide them with "silver, and gold, and cattle, together with a freewill offering for the house of God … in Jerusalem." The author adds (vv.5 ff.) that these instructions were loyally fulfilled, and that a company of exiles under Sheshbazzar "were brought up," with "the vessels of the house of Yahweh," "from Babylon to Jerusalem." The number of those who took advantage of this opportunity to return to Palestine is said to have been 42,360, besides their servants and a company of singers. Cf. Ezr. 264 ff..

The release of the Jews, with permission to rebuild their temple, is so thoroughly in harmony with the policy of Cyrus that one is disposed to accept the Chronicler's account without question. When, however, one examines it more closely, there appear rea-

    bccause he (Merodach) was angry with the native king for not serving him properly, sacerdotal diplomacy of this sort should not deceive the trained historian. The priests turned to the rising sun without regard to their previous relations with Nabonidus. Cyrus certainly did not suppress the Babylonian religion, as the Hebrew prophets expected; the splendour of the ritual in the richest city in the world probably impressed him. When, however, the priests (by whom the inscriptions were prepared) represent him as an adherent of the Babylonian religion, that does not make him one, any more than Cambyses and some of the Roman emperors are made worshippers of the Egyptian gods by being represented on some of the monuments of the land of the Nile as paying them due reverence just like Egyptian kings." APG., 22.

  1. 1 Esd. 2; Jos.Ant., xi, 1.
  2. There is no such modifying clause in the Massoretic text of Ezr. 13, but it is easily supplied from v.5 and must be restored to complete the meaning. See Guthe, SBOT.