Thursday, October 15, 2009

6) A message throughout the ages

The repeated stressing of Jerusalem as the place of the House of God by Cyrus, Artaxerxes, and Darius, had - and still has -theological as well as political bearings. It confirmed juridically11 the claim of the Jews to Mount Moriah and the Temple upon it, against the claims and the slander by other hostile peoples (see in the following chapter). In modern terms, we would say that Cyrus and the Persian kings after him as the highest world authority of that period established by their royal decrees binding international law which says that the Temple is to be built by the Jews in Jerusalem in accordance with the Divine ordinance ("the Lord God of Heavens", in the words of the edict). That means to say that the Persian kings, representing the second of the four World Empires envisioned by Prophet Daniel, acknowledged officially the binding overlordship of the "Lord God of Heavens". In line with King David, they accepted the Divine ordinance as a rule which has its bearings also in politics.

Concerning Jerusalem and its significance, this finds an appropriate reflection in the word of Prophet Zechariah, a contemporary of that period12:

"...Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem".

Jerusalem and what it stands for cannot be shifted to any other place.

Besides the royal decrees ordering the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, and supporting it financially, Darius II made an additional decree in which he put curses upon all those who should dare to alter these decrees, or dare to do damage to the House of God13.

The possibility of such an in-depth "Jewish connection" of the early Persian kings --besides the facts that Darius I made Daniel his chief overseer; that Mordecai served at the gate of the royal palace; that Nehemiah served Artaxerxes as his butler; and that Ezra found an open and willing ear in the king14 (and was perhaps even his scribe15) -- becomes even more obvious in a term which, too, has a very typical Hebrew connotation. It was used by King Darius II in his confirmation of Cyrus' edict, when he spoke of the "God that has caused his name to dwell" in Jerusalem15. While other peoples develop often the idea that their gods dwell in their respective sanctuaries, it is the Jews only who confess in compliance with King Solomon's prayer:

"See, the heavens and the heavens of heavens cannot contain thee, how much less so the house I have built... be thine eyes upon this house day and night, upon this place of which thou hast said, 'My name shall dwell there'..."17.

Very revealing and worth mentioning in this context is another decree of that king. One of the papyrii found on the isle of Elephantine in Upper Egypt records his royal order that the Jews living there ought to observe their Feast of Pessah18, and should not be hindered doing so by hostile neighbors. We may see it in connection with his attitude toward the "God of Daniel"19. Daniel, as well as the rescue of the Jews by Esther/Mordecai, must have made a deep impression upon the Persian kings, so much so that several generations later it was still alive in Darius II.

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