I have absolutely loved reading Andrew C. Skinner’s book, Prophets, Priests and Kings. It has given me a whole new light on how carefully Jehovah has placed people in the earth’s history for specific purposes.
Such is Cyrus:
That saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers:
That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid. (Isaiah 44:24-28)
Prophesied of, although not Jewish, Cyrus was a Persian King who captured Babylon in 539 BC and continued to rule for twenty years. He was a good and gentle king, who encouraged his subjects to live their own religions. The Jews, by this point, had been captured and recaptured, enslaved and their kingdoms destroyed until their temples had been hewn down, their synagogues razed and their religion driven underground. Seen as a liberator, beloved by all, he was a champion of downtrodden as well as the privileged. He strongly believed no one should be terrorized, by the government or criminals.
When Cyrus swept into Babylon he allowed the Israelites to come into the sunshine again. He rebuilt their temples and synagogues, he encouraged freedom, peace and prosperity and in doing so ruled over a loyal people.
Cyrus was given victory, honor and kingship not for his personal benefit but so that Israel could be blessed and, in turn, bless others.
This is an important principle for modern disciples to learn. We are called and blessed in order to bless others. The Prophet Joseph Smith used this very passage, Isaiah 45:4, to teach this principle: “That we may learn still further that God calls or elects particular men to perform particular works, or on whom to confer special blessings, we read . . . ‘For Jacob my servants sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee [Cyrus] by thy name,’ to be a deliverer to my people Israel, and help to plant them on my holy mountain.” (Andrew C. Skinner, Prophets, Priests and Kings, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 2005 13)
Cyrus, although not Jewish, was a man of principle and strength. As Jesus Christ would come into the world to free us from sin and death, Cyrus came into the world to free the Jews from crushing captivity under the Babylonians. During his reign he never turned to greed, avarice or sin, but continued to live his life according to value system established within his heart.
So devoted to the concept of a free and happy society, Cyrus, who had heard of the Jewish prophecies regarding him, asked to see them. So much did he believe these prophecies that he issued the following proclamation throughout Asia:
“Thus saith Cyrus the King: —Since God Almighty hath appointed me to be king of the habitable earth, I believe that he is the God which the nation of the Israelites worship; for indeed he foretold my name by the prophets, and that I should build him a house at Jerusalem, in the country of Judea.” This was known to Cyrus by his reading the book which Isaiah left behind him of his prophecies; for this prophet said that God spoken thus to him in a secret vision: “My will is, that Cyrus, whom I have appointed to be king over many and great nations, send back my people to their own land, and build my temple.” This was foretold by Isaiah one hundred and forty years before the temple was demolished. Accordingly, when Cyrus read this, and admired the Divine power, an earnest and ambition seized upon him to fulfill what was so written. (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 11.6.1 — Andrew C. Skinner, Prophets, Priests and Kings Deseret Book, Salt Lake City 2005 114-115)
Ancient and modern prophets have spoken of Cyrus, for his kingdom was a happy kingdom. He acted a deliverer, ruled in a benevolent and just manner and in many ways was a foreshadow and archetype of Jesus Christ. A messiah, in his own fashion, of people who had been enslaved and abused by the Babylonians were now free to worship as they may. Oh yes, Cyrus, prophesied and foretold of, served God well, although never a Jew.