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Cyrus the Great

Cyrus the Great

According to our modern calendar, on the night of October 5/6, 539 B.C.E., the seemingly impossible happened to the city of Babylon, capital of the Babylonian Empire. On that fateful night, the city was overthrown by an army of Medes and Persians, commanded by Persian King Cyrus, also known as Cyrus the Great. His strategy was brilliant.


“When Cyrus set his sights on Babylon it was already the most venerable of Middle Eastern cities—perhaps of all cities in the world,” states the book Ancient World Leaders—Cyrus the Great. Babylon sat on the Euphrates River, which also filled moats surrounding the city’s massive walls—a combination of defenses that made the city seem impregnable.

Upstream from Babylon, Cyrus’ men diverted the Euphrates, causing the water level in the city to fall. The soldiers then waded into the river to the city gates, which had been left open, and took Babylon with little resistance. According to Greek historians Herodotus and Xenophon, the Babylonians felt so secure behind their city’s defenses that on the night of the attack, many were feasting, including the king! (See the box  “The Handwriting Is on the Wall.”) Moreover, Cyrus’ conquest fulfilled some amazing Bible prophecies.

Cyrus’ conquest of Babylon was foretold in the Bible


The prophecies of Isaiah are especially noteworthy because they were recorded about 200 years in advance—perhaps 150 years before Cyrus was even born! Consider the following:


Earlier, in 607 B.C.E., Babylonian armies razed Jerusalem and led most of the survivors into exile. How long would the Jews be held? God said: “When seventy years have been fulfilled I shall call to account against the king of Babylon and against that nation . . . and I will make it desolate wastes to time indefinite.”Jeremiah 25:12.

As mentioned, Cyrus captured Babylon in 539 B.C.E. Soon thereafter, he released the Jews, who began to arrive in their homeland in 537 B.C.E.—exactly 70 years after their deportation. (Ezra 1:1-4) As for Babylon, it eventually became “desolate wastes”—again confirming the accuracy of Bible prophecy.


Consider this: The Bible foretold (1) the 70-year exile of the Jews, (2) Cyrus’ conquest of Babylon and key aspects of his strategy, and (3) the ultimate desolation of Babylon. Such advance knowledge could not come from mere men! A more reasonable conclusion is this: “Prophecy was at no time brought by man’s will, but men spoke from God.” (2 Peter 1:21) Surely, the Bible merits our consideration.

^ par. 36 The terms refer to monetary weight. For a detailed explanation, see chapter 7 of the book Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophecy! published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.