Reflecting on Isaiah 45:1,4-6
I can think of several warlords operating in the world today who would be forever changed if they allowed themselves to be inspired by the great King Cyrus of Persia, the only non-Jew in scripture whom the Jews themselves called “anointed” (Messiah), and the star of today’s first reading (Isaiah 45:1,4-6).
He’s an extraordinary figure in world history, beloved to the Iranians as their wise ancestor, and to the Jews as the magnanimous victor who, after conquering Babylon, allowed the exiled Jews to return to Jerusalem, taking with them the money which Nebuchadnezzar had stolen when he destroyed their city fifty years before.
“Go home,” King Cyrus said. “Take all that was stolen from you. Rebuild your Temple and your lives. Only, pray for the Royal Family and me.”
Even today, as far as we’ve come as human beings, it’s still astonishing to think that a conquering king looked at all the different ethnic groups who had been brought in chains to Babylon and didn’t think about how he could humiliate them further. Instead, he recognized that the most good they could do him and the world would be to return home.
Yes, the Jews would pay tax to the Persian Empire. But they would be in a position to do so because they would be in their homeland, worshiping their own God and restoring themselves in Israel as the Chosen People.
The sociopaths presenting themselves as ISIS would never get this, of course. Nor would any of the radical groups menacing the world today. But there once was a great king who understood that might did not mean right, and that religious liberty was a God-given right for all.
Do you have a world figure who inspires you?