Page:A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi and Jonah.djvu/39

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7
CYRUS

sons for more or less skepticism. Kosters, as the result of his investigations, not only doubts the historicity of Cyrus's decree, but declares that "in the history of the Restoration of Israel this return must take, not the first, but the third place"; and that "the temple was built and the wall of Jerusalem restored before the exiles returned from Babylonia."[1] Meyer is less radical, but he, while he contends for the historicity of the return under Cyrus, characterises this account of it as a fabrication.[2] There are several reasons for suspecting its authenticity: 1. The language used in the decree is not that of a genuine document emanating from the king of Persia, but of a free composition from the hand of the Chronicler, as in the verses describing the fulfilment of its requirements.

2. The thought dominant in the decree does not properly represent Cyrus as he appears in undoubtedly genuine contemporary records. Thus, at the very beginning he is made to call Yahweh "the God of heaven," and claim that he (Yahweh) has given him "all the kingdoms of the earth"; which amounts to a confession that the God of the Jews is the ruler of the world and the only true God. Now, it is improbable that he would have made any such announcement. He could not have done so without seriously offending the Babylonians. Had he not, in the inscription already cited, given to Marduk the title "king of the gods," and said that it was this Babylonian divinity who predestined him to "the sovereignty of the world"?[3] If, therefore, he issued a decree permitting the return of the Jews, it must have been in a different form from that which has been preserved by the Chronicler.

3. Those who deny that the Jews returned to Palestine, in any such numbers as are given in Ezr. 2, in the first year of Cyrus, call attention to the fact that, in chs. 5 and 6, where this decree is cited, the erection of the temple and the restoration of the sacred vessels are the only matters to which it is represented as referring. Cf. 513 ff. 63 ff.[4]

4. Although the document reproduced in Ezr. 2, with its various classes and precise figures, reads Hke a transcript from a detailed report of the number and character of the exiles who re-

  1. WI., 2.
  2. EJ., 72, 49.
  3. KB., iii. 2, 120 ff.
  4. Kosters, WI., 26.