Koresh, from the Persian kohr "the sun," as Pharaoh from phrah "the sun." Founder of the Persian empire. Represented as the son of Mandane, who was daughter of Astyages last king of Media, and married to Cambyses a Persian of the family of the Achaemenidae. Astyages, because of a dream, directed Harpagus his favorite to have the child Cyrus destroyed; but the herdsman to whom he was given preserved him. His kingly qualities, when he grew up, betrayed his birth. Astyages enraged served up at a feast to Harpagus the flesh of his own son. Harpagus in revenge helped Cyrus at Pasargadae near Persepolis, 559 B.C., to defeat and dethrone Astyages, and make himself king of both Medes and Persians. Afterward Cyrus conquered Croesus, and added Lydia to his empire. In 538 B.C. he took Babylon by diverting the course of the Euphrates into another channel, and entering the city by the dry bed during a feast at which the Babylonians were reveling, as Isaiah 21:44;Isaiah 21:27; Jeremiah 50:38; Jeremiah 51:57 foretell He finally fell in a battle against the Massagetae. (See BABYLON.)
His tomb is still shown at Pasargadae. In Daniel 5:31, at the overthrow of Babylon, we read "Darius the Median took (received) the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old." Isaiah 13:17; Isaiah 21:2 confirm Daniel as to the Medes' share in destroying Babylon. Daniel (Daniel 6:28) joins the two, "Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian." Compare also Jeremiah 51:11-28. The honorary precedency given to the Medes in the formula, "the law of the Medes and Persians altereth not," also in Daniel 5:28, marks their original supremacy. But the expressions "Darius received the kingdom" (Daniel 5:31), and "Darius the son of Ahasuerus (the same name as Cyaxares and Xerxes) of the seed of the Medes ... was made king over the realm of the Chaldaeans" (Daniel 9:1), mark that Cyrus was the supreme king and conqueror, and Darius made subordinate king under him.
It is probable that this Darius was representative of the deposed Median line of supreme kings, whether he is to be identified with Astyages or his successor Cyaxares II, and that Cyrus deemed it politic to give him a share of royal power, in order to consolidate by union the two dynasties and conciliate the Medes. (See DARIUS.) Darius reigned as viceroy at Babylon from 538 to 536 B.C., when Cyrus assumed the throne there himself; from whence Ezra (Ezra 1:1) regards the year of Cyrus' beginning to reign at Babylon as the first year of his reign over the whole empire, though he was king of Persia 20 years before. So also 2 Chronicles 36:22. The prophecies of Isaiah attribute the capture of Babylon to Cyrus, not Darius: Isaiah 44:27-28; Isaiah 45:1, "Cyrus My (Jehovah's) shepherd ... the Lord's anointed," a type of Messiah, the true King, Sun of righteousness (Malachi 4:2), and Redeemer of His people from mystical Babylon.
"Ahasuerus" is another form of Cyaxares, whom Xenophon represents as uncle of Cyrus and son of Astyages. The pure monotheism in which Cyrus had been reared as a Persian predisposed him to hate the Babylonian idols and favor the Jewish religion. Zoroaster about, this very time reformed the popular nature worship of Persia, and represented the sun or fire as only a symbol of the one God. In Cyrus' decree for the Jews' restoration from Babylon he intimates his acquaintance with Isaiah's and Jeremiah's prophecies concerning him, which he doubtless heard from Daniel the prophet of Belshazzar's doom: "the Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He hath charged me to build Him an house at Jerusalem which is in Judah ... He is the God." Smith's Bible Dictionary (B.F. Westcott) truly says: "the fall of Sardis and Babylon was the starting point of European life; and the beginning of Grecian art and philosophy, and the foundation of the Roman constitution, synchronize with the triumph of the Aryan race in the East."
Cyrus represents eastern concentration and order, Alexander western individuality and independence. The two elements exercised an important influence upon the history of the world and of the church, and Cyrus' restoration of the Jews is one of the great turning points in the development of God's mighty scheme for ultimate redemption. Xenophon (Cyrop. 1:2, section 1) celebrates Cyrus' humanity. This, with his Zoroastrian abhorrence of idolatry and its shameless rites, and veneration for the "great god Ormuzd," the special object of ancient Persian worship, would interest him in behalf of the sufferings of the Jews, whose religion so nearly resembled his own. Thus, their restoration, an act unparalleled in history, is accounted for. His acknowledgment of "the Lord God of heaven" (Ezra 1:2), whom he identifies with the Jehovah of the Jews, and his pious ascription of his wide dominion to His gift, accord with his belief as a votary of the old Persian religion.
His gift of the golden vessels out of the treasury (Ezra 1:7-11; Ezra 6:5), the allowance of the temple rebuilding expenses out of the royal revenue (Ezra 6:4), and the charge to Ills subjects to "help with silver, gold, goods, and beasts" (Ezra 1:4) accord with his characteristic munificence. His giving so high a post as the government of Babylon to a Mede agrees with his magnanimity in appointing two Medes in succession to govern the rich Lydia (Herodotus, 1:156,162). See Rawlinson's Historical Illustrations of Old Testament J.W. Bosanquet gives reasons for thinking that the Cyrus (son of Cyaxares and grandson of Astyages) who took Babylon is distinct from Cyrus son of Cambyses who conquered Astyages.