“In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: ‘Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.’”

Williams says, “Cyrus himself need not have known that it was God who ‘stirred up’ his spirit and directed his thoughts to the restoration of his people. On the other hand, it might well have been that God used his servant Daniel, who was still in the king’s service, to influence Cyrus and even to inform him of Jeremiah’s prophecy, which he knew about. Either way, it was the sovereign God directing events, which teaches us as Christians to view what is happening on the international scene from the divine perspective. As we watch the news programs on TV, and see the world scene with its rebelliousness and political unrest, and shaky foundations, we might become fearful for the future. But in it all, the judgments and purposes of God are being worked out.”[1]

According to the “Cyrus Cylinder,” we see that he made similar proclamations regarding all the gods of the peoples of the land that had been previously conquered and enslaved by Babylon. His purpose was only political.  He referred to himself as the “great king” to whom God had given “all the kingdoms on earth.” The truth revealed to us in Ezra is that this “Great King” was a pawn in the hands of the only Great King, the Lord God Himself. He used Cyrus as an instrument to accomplish His purposes with His own people, and when God was done with Cyrus, he let him go the way of all nations before him. Remember Shelley’s poem, Ozymandias? The earth’s so-called “Great Kings” are just like him.

I met a traveler from an antique land

Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown

And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.

And on the pedestal, these words appear:

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

God alone is sovereign. He is sovereign over the kings of the earth, and he is sovereign over the lives of men and women as well.

[1] Williams, Peter. 2006. Opening up Ezra. Opening Up Commentary. Leominster: Day One Publications.