I watched a fascinating TED talk today about the 2600 year old Cyrus Cylinder which records the exploits of King Cyrus who in the Bible is credited with allowing the Jews to go back to Jerusalem. Here's the link:
And here is a partial transcript from the Cyrus Cylinder provided from the British Museum:
- He [Marduk] took the hand of Cyrus, king of the city of Anshan, and called him by his name, proclaiming him aloud for the kingship over all of everything.
- He made the land of Guti and all the Median troops prostrate themselves at his feet, while he shepherded in justice and righteousness the black-headed people
- whom he had put under his care. Marduk, the great lord, who nurtures his people, saw with pleasure his fine deeds and true heart,
- and ordered that he should go to Babylon He had him take the road to Tintir (Babylon), and, like a friend and companion, he walked at his side.
- His vast troops whose number, like the water in a river, could not be counted, were marching fully-armed at his side.
- He had him enter without fighting or battle right into Shuanna; he saved his city Babylon from hardship. He handed over to him Nabonidus, the king who did not fear him.
- All the people of Tintir, of all Sumer and Akkad, nobles and governors, bowed down before him and kissed his feet, rejoicing over his kingship and their faces shone.
- The lord through whose help all were rescued from death and who saved them all from distress and hardship, they blessed him sweetly and praised his name.
- I am Cyrus, king of the universe, the great king, the powerful king, king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four quarters of the world,
- son of Cambyses, the great king, king of the city of Anshan, grandson of Cyrus, the great king, ki[ng of the ci]ty of Anshan, descendant of Teispes, the great king, king of the city of Anshan,
- the perpetual seed of kingship, whose reign Bel (Marduk)and Nabu love, and with whose kingship, to their joy, they concern themselves. When I went as harbinger of peace i[nt]o Babylon
- I founded my sovereign residence within the palace amid celebration and rejoicing. Marduk, the great lord, bestowed on me as my destiny the great magnanimity of one who loves Babylon, and I every day sought him out in awe.
- My vast troops were marching peaceably in Babylon, and the whole of [Sumer] and Akkad had nothing to fear.
This presents a problem with the Biblical account which is very similar, but also very different:
Isaiah 44:28 [Thus saith the LORD] That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid. 45:1 Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; 2 I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: 3 And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.The account on the Cyrus Cylinder - presumable dictated by Cyrus himself - says that it was MARDUK who called Cyrus "by name" and "held his hand" and made him a "shepherd" of many peoples. The Bible says the same thing, except it replaces the name of Marduk with Yahweh.
So which is right? It seems to me that the authors of the Bible rewrote history to include Yahweh when Cyrus was actually attributing his success to Marduk.