Cyrus the Great

When his father Cambyses I dies in 559 B.C., Cyrus II of Persia ascends the governorship of Persia. After unifying several Persian tribes, Cyrus II initiates his rebellion against the dominance of Media and his grandfather king Astyages. His battlefield victories earned him the name Cyrus the Great, and by 550 B.C., Astyages was his prisoner, and Media was a Persian province.

While Media no longer existed, Cyrus the Great retained the capital city of Ecbatana as his own and retained Media's government structure and administration; thus, the Achaemenid Empire was also known as the Medo-Persian Empire.

When Daniel has his vision, he sees a ram with two horns of differing lengths “with the longer one coming up last" (Dan 8:3), and the angel Gabriel identifies the two horns as representing the kings of Media and Persia (Dan 8:20). While history records Asyages of Media and Cyrus the Great of Persia as ruling for about the same amount of years, the Median Empire lasts 75 years the Achaemenid Empire endures for over 200 years.

During his southern expansion, Cyrus the Great conquered Babylonian provinces like Elam, and by 539 B.C., took Babylon without a fight. The Middle East was no longer dominated by the Babylonian Empire.

When Daniel provided the meaning of the handwriting of the wall to Babylon's regent king Belshazzar, the city fell that evening to the forces of Cyrus the Great (Dan 5:1-31).

Roughly some 175 years earlier, Isaiah would prophesize about a man named Cyrus who would play a significant role in God's plan for His people (Isa 44:28-45:4), and make indirect references of him as the means to punish Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon for its sins (Isa 13:17; 43:14).

Jeremiah, who prophesized from the reign of Josiah until the Exile of Jerusalemites (approx. 627-582 B.C.), was a contemporary of Daniel. Like Isaiah and before the fall of Jerusalem, Jeremiah would prophesize against Babylon for their sins against Israel (Jer 50:1-51:64), and specifically says, the “Lord has aroused the spirit of the kings of the Medes, because His purpose is against Babylon to destroy it; for it is the vengeance of the Lord, vengeance for His temple." (Jer 51:11, 28). Belshazzar, Babylon's regent king, would die for his blasphemous use of the Temple's gold vessels (Dan 5:1-31).

Among his notable accomplishments, Cyrus the Great authorized the return of the Jews to the Promised Land (2 Chron 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4; 4:3; 5:13-6:13), and the Temple was rebuilt. In this light, Isaiah' prophecy of “Cyrus His anointed" (Isa 45:1), the only Gentile to be so named by God, is understood.


Tanner JP, The Historical Background to the Book of Daniel, from the website of

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