Posts Tagged ‘Achaemenid empire’

458 B.C., when Iranians and Jews worked together

June 20, 2015

The God of Providence sees to it that his people have opportunity for historical renewal when it becomes necessary.

Such is the lesson that this Christian believer distills from my reading of a scholarly treatise in biblical history and theology, written by Kyong-Jin Lee: The Authority and Authorization of Torah in the Persian Period,  (Peeters 2011)

Now I am no scholar. However, I am a student of history; I have appreciated this book, and managed to learn from it, even though it was written mainly for academic scholars.

Professor Lee explores the working relationship between 5th-century BCE Achaemenid rulers and the the local priests whose leadership legitimatized Persian channels of authority throughout their vassal countries.

Following well-worn paths of scholarly research, Kyong-Jin Lee examines several case studies in which the ancient Persian kings and their appointees consistently worked within pre-existing channels of local authority, religious and political, to collectively maintain a Pax Persicus. Her exegesis reveals a modus operandi of very practical Persian administrations. Regional satrapies, appointed by the Achaemenid King, generally sought to understand how each vassal state had habitually operated religiously and politically. Then the dutiful satraps  acted in an informed manner to legislate effectively. Utilizing native leadership, the Achaemenids would work to construct productive channels for effective localized administrations. Thus a network of King-appointed priests or governors worked to maintain peace and order throughout the Persian empire.

Through Kyong-Jin Lee’s careful analysis of steles and documentary fragments from Egypt and Asia Minor antiquity, a consistently Persian legislative approach to governing emerges for the reader. It is inclusive, cooperative and ultimately pragmatic. Her chosen precedent case studies help the reader gain understanding about  the main object of Lee’s study: the working relationship between king Artaxerxes and his emissary to the Jews of Jerusalem, Ezra the scribe. About ~458 BCE.

This Christian reader has little experience navigating the meticulous academic exegeses of such scholars as Peter Frei, Joseph Blenkinsopp, Lisbeth Fried, Juha Pakkala and other noteworthy scholars upon whose research Kyong-Jin Lee builds her case. Nevertheless, I must say:

Reading this book has been quite a learning experience for me.

Circa the 5th-century BCE, the rise of the Achaemenid Persians under the conquerors Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes and Artaxerxes, brought about new political conditions favorable for the Jewish people, who had been deported to Babylon about seventy years earlier by Nebuchadnezzar. By an edict of the Persian king Artaxerxes, the Babylonian Jewish scribe Ezra was commissioned to travel to Judea on a fact-finding mission which eventually became a Persian-backed restoration of Jewish religious practice in Jerusalem. Imagine that. This development contributed not only to political stability in the Judean “beyond the River” satrapy, but incidentally also contributed (Providentially, from my faith perspective) to Torah, and later the written Bible.

So I find my 21st-century Biblical reader-self feeling cognitive gratitude to these Persian monarchs of long ago–Cyrus, Darius, Artaxerxes, whose benevolent rulership facilitated a rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem and hence the continuing worship of Y__H. Therefore, this believer infers this historical lesson:

After a time of great trial–an era of captivity and chastisement under an oppressive (the Babylonian) empire– the God of history can arrange for the restoration of his people. He can raise up foreign potentates to facilitate their homeland aliyah, and thereby allow the ministrations of the loving, Providential God to continue among them through the ages, right up to the time of his supreme Sacrifice for the good of us all, such a time as then and now, when a Passover lamb would no longer be necessary.

Smoke

Persian ram, Grecian goat

April 5, 2015

If you wonder where all that Iranian bluster comes from,

take a look at what in Persia, long ago, was done.

Out in the  Zagros mountains about 2500 years ago,

a band of Persians came together to put on quite a show.

They spread out in a way to make the world’s first empire;

from Nile to Indus, from Caspian to Gulf, they did not tire.

A fellow named Cyrus, who was known to be Great,

subjugated peoples far and wide to start this ancient state.

Before anyone named it Iran, or Persia, it was called Achaemenid,

like the name of former President Ahmadinejad, and what he thought they did.

 

After Cyrus the Great had died, and also Cambyses his son,

a Magian usurper tried to abscond their royal Persian run,

but Darius,  distant relative of Cyrus, slew that pretender,

then gave credence to Zarathustra, and whatever Ahuramazda might render.

Darius the Mede, who ruled from Persepolis to Phrygia,

extended Achaeminid lands from the Hindus to Lydia.

But Persian conquest was in Greece contested;

its expansion was halted– at Marathon arrested.

Then young Pheideppides ran 26 miles from Marathon to Athens

to tell Athenians about their defeat of Darius’ Persian I’ryans.

 

This fierce Persian/Greek contention had been foretold in a biblical vision

by the Hebrew prophet, Daniel, with symbolic precision.

He saw a ferocious horned goat attacking a great horned ram

which is what happened, metaphorically, when Alexander conquered anciant Iran.

These days it seems them I’ryans are on the move again,

now declaring Islamic Republic, Shariah, and all things Shia Mohammedan.

Their hegemony looks restrictive, legalistic and  Islamist totalitarian,

with dissidents imprisoned, like Daniel in  lions’ den.

Now ayatollahs want to raise new Islami-I’ryan Persian empire

with Shia militia, Hesbollah, and centrifuged ire.

 

If we be lucky today, the Greeks will again stop them Persians.

But it may not happen; Greece has gone broke with too many dispersions.

So what will the world do when I’ryans insurge to destroy Arab leagues?

Will it be like the last Reich, in Aryan blitzkriegs?

 

Smoke