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by Wayne Blank
Of all of the human empires that affected the people of Israel, the Persians did something rather unique - they permitted the return of the people of the southern kingdom of Judah, by God's command (see above verses), 70 years after their exile by the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar.
At its peak, the Persian empire reached from the India to Greece, and from the Caspian Sea to the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea. The Persians are believed to have originated in Media, which today corresponds to western Iran and southern Azerbaijan. They settled in Persia, on the eastern side of the Persian Gulf.
The Persians were Aryans, speaking one of the eastern Indo-European group of languages. Two lines developed from an early leader, Teispes, who had conquered Elam in the time of the decline of the Assyrian Empire - one line in Anzan, the other in Persia. Cyrus II, king of Anzan, united the nation, and conquered Media, Lydia, and Babylonia. His son, Cambyses, took Egypt, which was later ruled by Darius, the son of Hystaspes. Persepolis (see map) was an ancient city of Persia that served as a ceremonial capital for Darius and his successors.
From a Biblical perspective, the Persians were a link in the chain of human empires that molded Bible History - the Egyptians (see The Ancient Egyptians) from which the Exodus occurred, the Assyrians (see Ancient Empires - Assyria) who conquered the "Lost Ten Tribes," the Babylonians who conquered the southern Kingdom of Judah (see Why Babylon?), the Persians who permitted the return to Jerusalem, the Greeks (see Ancient Empires - Greece) who covered much of the time between the Old and New Testaments, and the Romans (see Ancient Empires - Rome) who covered the time of Jesus Christ and beyond (see Daniel's Statue).
Fact Finder: Which Persian (Cede) king conquered the Babylonian King Belshazzar after the famous "handwriting on the wall" incident?