Thursday, October 15, 2009

P r e f a c e





Dr. Asher Eder©

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilize in any form or by any means, electronic or me- chanical, including ph- otocopying, recording, or by information storage or retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher.


P r e f a c e

One of the most astonishing, indeed uniquely outstanding figures in human history is the Persian King Cyrus – mentioned by Prophet Isaiah as Shepherd and Messiah of the Lord.

The more so it is astounding that the confluence of mundane history and Scriptural teaching in that unique personality and its tremendous impact on history and culture go rather unnoticed in comparison to that of Caesar; Alexander; Napoleon; and others.

I have to admit that also my interest in King Cyrus was sparked off only in a conversation with a friend of mine, Ms Rahel Yarden ז"ל which took place more than 35 years ago. Unexpectedly she pointed at the ongoing 2500 years celebrations in Persia since King Cyrus. She said that we Jews ought to thank him not less than the Persians. For, besides releasing the Jewish captives from Babylon and providing for the rebuilding of the Temple, it is to his credit that the sages of then could dedicate themselves to the compilation of the Tanakh [=Hebrew Bible]; and that he was called, by Prophet Isaiah, Shepherd and Messiah of the Lord.

After I returned home from that conversation, I looked up the Book of Isaiah to see for myself what he had to say on the subject. To my surprise, the Hebrew text has indeed the Lord G-d of Israel speaking of Cyrus as “his shepherd”, and “his Messiah”. This fact had so far escaped me as I was used then to read the books of the prophets mainly in their English translations which render the Hebrew word Messiah as anointed.

Now my interest was aroused deeply. What are the criteria of a Messiah? What distinguishes a Messiah from a Prophet; from a redeemer; from a saviour? Or from a king? What was so special in Cyrus’ case that the Prophet, even Isaiah, spoke of him as Messiah, and for that matter spoke not his own mind but quoted the Lord God of Israel as speaking to “his Messiah, to Cyrus”?

A Gentile Messiah of the Lord G-d of Israel – neither a Christian, nor a Jew - how to understand that?

Now, as I am writing these lines, we commemorate the “3000 years of Jerusalem”, or, to be more accurate, King David’s transforming the Canaanite city of Salem into Yerushalayim [=Jerusalem] as the city of hope for peace among all mankind. Before this background, it seems quite appropriate to remember and honor also King Cyrus, Shepherd and Messiah of the Lord.

In our awkward world situation, there are many circles in Judaism, in Christianity, in Islam, as well as in other cultures, who expect the coming soon of a redeemer, or Messiah, or Mahdi, or Avatar, etc. Could an understanding of King Cyrus have some bearing on our respective expectations? I wanted to find out for myself. Now, after more than twenty years’ study of the subject, which I had to do besides my daily work, I think that the findings could well be of interest and of value to many readers.

Cyrus’ peerless personality, his skills as warrior and statesman, his benevolence and righteousness, were praised by friends and foes alike throughout the ages. Reflecting his true devotion, these features of his stood in glaring contrast to the widespread practice of unparalleled atrocities and open gloating therein which characterized the centuries before Cyrus’ rule.

While already this observation may justify adding another monograph to the long list of books written about him, it is the confluence of Biblical and mundane history in his person which calls for elucidation and for the attention so-far hardly anyone has paid

King Cyrus, well known in history as the founder of the Medo-Persian Empire but ignored as the Shepherd and Messiah of the Lord G-d of Heavens and Earth, could in that capacity of his well play the model role in elevating the present quandary and quarrel over Jerusalem into its universal acceptance as the “city of peace”, for the benefit of all.

After all, Cyrus gave history of mankind a new direction:

*Essential concepts, such as democracy and freedom of religion, trace back to Cyrus;

*Without Cyrus’ benevolent deportment and helping hand in restoring Jerusalem and in facilitating the building of the Second Temple destroyed by the Babylonian King Nebukadnezzar shortly before, we Jews would probably not be here; and our Book, spoken of as the Bible in English, would at best have remained a collection of poetically jot down hopes and wailings of another people vanquished in history; and Christianity and Islam would not have come into existence.

*Besides the Tanakh, the Koran praises him, to.

*Zecharaiah’s vision of the Menorah flanked by two olives, has one of its roots in King Cyrus’ stance. This vision carries a message for our time. The State of Israel, relating to that vision, has adopted the Menorah flanked by two olive branches, as the Symbol of State.

*The Sages said: “Prophecy that was needed for the generations to come was written down; that which was not needed for the generations to come was not written down” (Babylonian Talmud, Megillah, 14a). That is, incorporating Prophet Isaiah’s word about King Cyrus Shepherd and Messiah of the Lord; and Prophet Zechariah’s vision of the Menorah, were seen by the Sages as essential for the generations to come.

The book is an attempt to fuse the relatively sparse Biblical and historic records about Cyrus. It endeavors to shed light on the unparalleled personality of King Cyrus and on his times, as well as on those feats of his which made him truly a Messiah. In our reflections, necessarily so, it will be highly stimulating to look somewhat beyond the personality and the times of King Cyrus, and trace the influence of his stance on history and religions even unto our times.

The book is dedicated to all those who may in their own pondering about the quest of Jerusalem, find in Cyrus a thought provoking figure whose famous edict concerning Jews and Jerusalem has not lost anything of its actuality and validity.

The publication of the manuscript was delayed due to lack of interest in the subject. But now, in 2009, two facts encourage me yet to publish the manuscript:

a) the technical facility to bring it out as eBook;

b) in the last decades, numerous “Peace Nobel Prices” have been awarded to various politicians – Israeli; Arafat; Americans – put peace seems to be farther away than ever.

Hence, may this book show the common root of the three so-called “Abrahamic Religions” and the implication of that awareness as exemplified by King Cyrus.

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