Thursday, October 15, 2009

D) Cyrus' personality and feats

1) Cyrus' birth.

The personality of King Cyrus must have been extraordinary. Besides amazing events at his birth and upbringing, ancient historians stress the uniqueness of his character which must have been outstanding in many respects from the start (see below). Apparently he had a flare of anointment already in his early youth, perhaps comparable to that of David recorded in Ps. 89:21 which reads: "Then thou spakest in vision to thy pious ones, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty, I have exalted one chosen out of the people; I have found David my servant: with my holy oil have I anointed him" - and Prophet Samuel who was sent to Ishai (Jesse) had to anoint David, after he had to reject the elder brothers of the latter (1.Sam. 16:12,13). We may assume that Cyrus was likewise "found and exalted and anointed" by the Lord from birth, or even from before. To demonstrate this point, it seems appropriate to bring here in brief what the ancient Greek historian Herodot imparts to us:

Astyages, King of the Medes, dreamt one night that from his daughter Mandane came forth so much water that his capital and all of Asia were covered by it. Afraid that a child of hers would usurp the throne, he got her married not to a Mede nobleman as would have been customary, but to Cambysos, a quiet and good minded Persian of that vasall province. He thought he would have nothing to fear from this inferior tribe. Then, Astyages saw in a second dream that a vine grew from his daughter's womb which would cover all of Asia. Even more scared, he ordered Mandane who was already pregnant to be brought from Persia to his capital. Immediately after she gave there birth to Cyrus, Astyages called Harpagos, a relative of his and a high ranking official, and commanded him to take this child into his house, to kill it and burry it there. Harpagos, feeling duty bound yet hesitating to kill the child by his own hands, called for one of Astyages' shepherds who lived in the remote mountains, to take the child and to expose it there to the wild beasts. After returning home, his wife Spako (that is, beach), overwhelmed by the beauty of the child, suggested to him to expose and burry her recently still born child instead, and to raise Cyrus who then, already in his very young age, showed obvious traits of royalty. When Astyages found out that Harpagos had disobeyed the order to kill the child, he tricked the latter one's son into the royal palace, got him killed and cut into pieces. He then invited the unsuspecting father to a festive banquet where he was fed roasted parts of his son, and then given in a basket the remaining head and limbs. - Harpagos remained in office, outwardly faithful but secretively plotting against Astyages: He induced Cyrus to revolt against Astyages, and promised him to be on his side, together with many of the Medes' nobility. Herodot mentions then that Astyages sent an army under the command of Harpagos against the revolting Persians. We may infer that he saw nothing extraordinary in his previous treatment of Harpagos; or else how could he have expected the latter to remain faithful? Indeed, after a feign battle, Harpagos joined forces with Cyrus' Persians. Astyages, enraged, led personally another army against Cyrus. It mutineered, too, and Cyrus was made king over Media and Persia.

This story, quoted from Herodot's research and perspective, indicates that even according to his - the Greek's – understanding, Cyrus was destined to become the ruler of Asia.

Whether Cyrus had already in his early years contact with (Jewish/Israelite) prophets or sages, is rather doubtful. Such contacts could have come about with those exiled Israelites who founded Isfahan, and perhaps also other places in Persia. But Is.45:3,4 says:

"And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and the hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the Lord, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel...I have even called thee by thy name; I surnamed thee though thou hast not known me".

This seems to indicate that Cyrus had not known the Lord God of Israel, that is, he had not come in contact with a prophet or Hebrew teacher before he captured Babel, but that he was called upon directly by the Lord from his early youth - similar to young David, as we saw.

Cyrus' call got apparently confirmed in his encounter with Prophet Daniel (see below) as well as by the "treasures of darkness and the hidden riches of secret places" - most likely the sacred Temple utensils carried away by Nebukadnezzar to Babylonia and, at least partly, redeemed from there by Cyrus.