Thursday, October 15, 2009

R) Cyrus' tomb. Its inscription and bequest

Cyrus not only facilitated the Second Temple. As we saw, he serves also as a token that these prophecies can come true. His simple tomb bore, according to Herodot, the inscription:

I, Cyrus, the Achaemenian

(Literally translated, it means: I, Cyrus, the Friend of Men)

Cyrus lived truly up to this epithet. In his person, this Persian title was confluent with the Hebrew term Messiah, Anointed of the Lord. Submitted to the spirit of the Lord, he was genuinely a friend of men. He introduced in deed a new epoch in mankind's history. He proved that a true friend of men is by virtue also a friend of the Jews, and vice versa that a true friend of the Jews is by virtue a friend of men. For, all of us form as the descendants of Adam the family of mankind.

A fundamental aspect of Cyrus' attitude was that he, truly an Achaemenian, did not rule as a despot; he rather counseled with his officers and was willing to adhere to their advice if it seemed to be better. By that he laid the foundation for what the Greeks developed then as the idea of democracy, and what in recent time became known as team work.

In this context it is surely remarkable that in Judaism the institution of the Prophets was superceded by the Sanhedrin in the Persian period1.

Since prophecy is seen as an expression of the special and unique relationship between God and his people, with the Prophet as one who imparts the Divine message, its cessation is often felt as part of the spiritual punishment that Israel must endure for its sins2. It seems to me that this cessation was, and still is, a logical necessity in that grand scheme in which the period of the Second Temple introduced by King Cyrus, and the sequacious long-lasting dispersion of the Jewish people among the nations gives the latter the chance to accept the "Torah from Mount Sinai" and to live up to its instructions. The Divine - חן חן grace, grace - extended to them, provides for them the gifts of heaven. It allows them to choose between continuing in the footsteps of Cyrus, Darius, Artaxerxes, and the "heroes of faith" mentioned in the Epistle of Hebrews3; or in those of Haman, Antiochus Epiphanes IV, Nero, Hadrian, Justinian, Tomas de Torquemada, Mufti Amin el-Husseini, etc, climaxing in Shoah and Jihad. Prophet Zechariah says in this respect: "...with great wrath I am wroth with the nations that are at ease; for I was but a little wroth (over my people) but they (the nations) helped forward the disaster"4.

By either rejecting or accepting the Divine Revelation from Mount Sinai they prove the justification of Israel's election.

These "Times of the Gentiles" commence by date with Nebukadnezzar who, as the "servant of the Lord"5, had to bring the era of the First Temple to its end. While King David, the founder of Zion, proclaimed foremost in his Psalms the Lord God of Israel as the Divine King over all mankind; and while we may perceive Prophet Isaiah with his extended prophecies of a new world peacefully united under the Lord God of Israel5 as its chief visionary advocate, it was Cyrus who began to implement this ideal in world politics. He generated a new gist in human history, gave it a positive turn. His premature death on the battlefield may be taken as an indication that also symbolically his work remains unfinished till to-day.

The inscription on his original tomb is both his confession and his legacy to mankind.

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