EsoBites: Ancient Source of the Fama Fraternitatis (Part 2)
By the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s demise, the peoples of Judah and many other lands remained captives in Babylon. The great exile of peoples to Babylon was not reversed until the empire was conquered by Cyrus the Great in 540 BCE.
Though history proves that Cyprus II was an exceptionally able military commander and administrator, his policies with respect to treatment of minority religions are well documented in Babylonian and Jewish texts and historical accounts. Cyrus had a general policy of religious tolerance throughout his vast empire. He brought peace to the new empire.
His treatment of the Jews during their exile in Babylon after Nebuchadnezzar II destroyed Jerusalem is reported in the Old Testament. The Jewish Bible’s Ketuvim in (2 Chronicles 36:23).
“Thus saith Cyrus, king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD, the God of heaven given me; and He hath charged me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whosoever there is among you of all His people – the LORD, his God, be with him – let him go there.”
This edict is also fully reproduced in (Ezra 6:3–5).
“In the first year of King Cyrus, Cyrus the king issued a decree: “Concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, let the temple, the place where sacrifices are offered, be rebuilt and let its foundations be retained, its height being 60 cubits and its width 60 cubits; with three layers of huge stones and one layer of timbers. And let the cost be paid from the royal treasury. Also let the gold and silver utensils of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, be returned and brought to their places in the temple in Jerusalem; and you shall put them in the house of God.”
Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian, relates the favorable view the Jews had towards Cyrus in his Antiquities of the Jews, book 11, chapter 1:106.
“In the first year of the reign of Cyrus, which was the seventieth from the day that our people were removed out of their own land into Babylon, God commiserated the captivity and calamity of these poor people, according as he had foretold to them by Jeremiah the prophet, before the destruction of the city, that after they had served Nebuchadnezzar and his posterity, and after they had undergone that servitude seventy years, he would restore them again to the land of their fathers, and they should build their temple, and enjoy their ancient prosperity.
And these things God did afford them; for he stirred up the mind of Cyrus, and made him write this throughout all Asia: “Thus saith Cyrus the king: Since God Almighty hath appointed me to be king of the habitable earth, I believe that he is that 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 had 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 desire and ambition seized upon him to fulfill what was so written; so he called for the most eminent Jews that were in Babylon, and said to them, that he gave them leave to go back to their own country, and to rebuild their city Jerusalem, and the temple of God, for that he would be their assistant, and that he would write to the rulers and governors that were in the neighborhood of their country of Judea, that they should contribute to them gold and silver for the building of the temple, and besides that, beasts for their sacrifices.”
The return of the Jews to Judah for the rebuilding of the Temple is well known. What is not generally remembered is that Cyrus allowed others to returns to their homes, if they so desired, including, the mystical Hebrew and Hierophants of several mystery schools which brought to Babylon with Nebuchadnezzar.
To Be Continued