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The Persian Empire began with the victories of Cyrus the Great (around 550 B.C.E.), and it continued until the Persians themselves were conquered by Alexander the Great (around 330 B.C.E.). At its height, the Persian Empire extended from Greece in the west to India in the east. In the Old Testament, following their defeat of the Babylonians, the Persians allowed the Jews who had been exiled in Babylonia to return to Jerusalem beginning in 539 B.C.E. Under Persian rule, the Jewish leader Zerubbabel, together with the Prophets Haggai and Zechariah, rebuilt the temple. During this period, Ezra the scribe made the law of Moses the norm for Jewish life, and Nehemiah the governor rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. The books of Daniel and Esther tell of encounters between Jews and Persian rulers.

AUTHOR: Robert Brusic, Seminary Pastor Emeritus

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