Matching many of the Bible's prophetic passages to documented historical events is a chilling exercise. These proofs confirm, beyond doubt, that the Bible is not only accurate, but is God's inspired word. The prophet Isaiah wrote an interesting prophecy about the future of Jerusalem,
"Confirming the word of His servant and performing the purpose of His messengers. It is I who says of Jerusalem, 'She shall be inhabited!' And of the cities of Judah, 'They shall be built.' And I will raise up her ruins again. It is I who says to the depth of the sea, 'Be dried up!' And I will make your rivers dry. It is I who says of Cyrus, 'He is My shepherd! And he will perform all My desire.' And he declares of Jerusalem, 'She will be built,' and of the temple, 'Your foundation will be laid.' Thus says the LORD to Cyrus His anointed, Whom I have taken by the right hand, To subdue nations before him and to loose the loins of kings; To open doors before him so that gates will not be shut: I will go before you and make the rough places smooth; I will shatter the doors of bronze and cut through their iron bars. I will give you the treasures of darkness And hidden wealth of secret places, So that you may know that it is I, The LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name. For the sake of Jacob My servant, And Israel My chosen one, I have also called you by your name; I have given you a title of honor though you have not known Me." (Isaiah 44:26 - 45:5)
In order to understand the extraordinary revelation in this prophecy it is helpful to understand the historical context in which it was made. Isaiah wrote this prophecy about 740 BC during the reign of King Uzziah. The people of Israel, and specifically Jerusalem, were alive and well.
During that time Isaiah claims of Jerusalem, 'She will be built,' and of the temple, 'Your foundation will be laid.' Yet, while he makes this statement, Jerusalem and the temple are alive and well. The destruction of Jerusalem didn't come until about 576 BC, when Nebuchadnezzar and his troops besieged the city, destroying it and the temple. Why then, with the temple standing before him, would Isaiah make such an absurd statement as, Your foundation will be laid?
Isaiah continues saying, not only will Jerusalem and the temple be rebuilt, but the decree will go forth from a man named Cyrus, of whom God says, I have also called you by your name. There are several things that Isaiah also says about this man named Cyrus. He will be a shepherd. He will subdue nations. He will shatter the doors of bronze and cut through their iron bars. He will be very wealthy and have a title of honor, though God does not know him, he is a Gentile.
About 150 years later, around 590 BC, a child was born and given the name of Cyrus. Not too much is known about the early years of Cyrus, other than that he was reared by shepherds after his grandfather, Astyages, king of Media, ordered that he be killed. Evidently, Astyages feared a vision that he had, believing that Cyrus would assume his crown before his death. The soldier ordered to carry out the execution delivered him the shepherds instead.
True to his grandfather's vision, Cyrus led a revolt against his father and grandfather and assumed rule of the Medo-Persian empire in about 550 BC. Cyrus continued his campaign into Sardis, and then India, the powerful Babylonian Empire, and finally Egypt (taken by his son). Known by a title of great honor - Cyrus the Great, King of Persia - by 545 BC he ruled most of the known world and controlled its great wealth.
Perhaps the greatest thing Cyrus is known for, however, is not his great military conquests, but his peacetime decrees. In 539 BC, just as Isaiah had prophesied, Cyrus issued a decree that the Jews be released to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the city. This is the proclamation as recorded by Ezra,
"Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, 'The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with him! 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. Every survivor, at whatever place he may live, let the men of that place support him with silver and gold, with goods and cattle, together with a freewill offering for the house of God which is in Jerusalem." (Ezra 1:2-4)
More than 200 years after Isaiah foretold these events, they came to pass with unimaginable precision. This prophecy and hundreds others like it give me chills. To consider this a coincidence, that the direction of nations fulfills these words by chance, is absurd. Clearly, this is the hand of God.