We have before us the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, which were probably one book originally. Moreover, it is also quite possible that Chronicles/EzraNehemiah was originally one book. As we consider this, it would obviously be helpful for you not only to read through these books, but also through the book of Esther, as well as the books of Zechariah and Haggai. In order to get the blessing from these books that we would like to get, one of our first responsibilities is that of getting oriented. That will include the surrounding territory.
Now 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, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying . . . (Ezra 1:1).
So let us stop at the first verse and ask the questions we need to ask to keep from getting disoriented. It is also necessary to explain that on matters of biblical chronology, there is almost always considerable disagreement, and so it is necessary for me to explain what chronology I am following — even if I do not take the time to try to prove it in exhaustive detail. And so we begin with Cyrus. Who is he?
The modern Iranians are descended from the Persians, and we will begin by getting straight on their kings from this period. We will start by using the Greek names for them, which are the most common.
Cyrus reigned from 539 to 530.
Cambyses II reigned from 530 to 522.
Darius I reigned from 522 to 487.
Xerxes I reigned from 487 to 466.
Artaxerxes Longimanus reigned from 465 to 425.
The period stretches from 539 B.C. to 425 B.C. During this time, the Greeks defeated the Persians at Marathon and Salamis, Pericles reigned in Athens, the Greek tragedians flourished, Socrates taught, Cincinnatus was dictator in Rome, and the Buddha and Confucius both lived and died.