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DURING REIGN OF PERSIANS, JEWS WERE ALLOWED TO LEAVE BABYLON

The Persian rulers styled themselves "king of kings" and "king of the lands."

In governing and unifying their empire, the Persians instituted a policy much more humane and tolerant than that of earlier empires.Persia, in its overthrow of Babylon, was seen by the Jews as their liberator. When Persia's King Cyrus defeated the Babylonians, he ordered that there be no mass slaughter of the inhabitants and no forced marches of people into captivity.

He issued a decree allowing some of the Jews to return to the land of Judah and rebuild the temple at Jerusalem, possibly as a token of gratitude for assistance given to him in his conquest of Babylonia. (Ezra 1:1-11; 3:7.) According to Ezra 2:64-65, approximately 50,000 people made the first trip back to Jerusalem.

In addition to Cyrus, the Old Testament mentions other Persian kings. When Babylon was defeated, Darius the Mede was made king over Chaldea. Darius Hystapis - called "Darius the Great" - extended the kingdom of Persia from India to the Greek Isles. Little mention is made of Xerxes I. Artaxerxes is the name of at least two Perisan kings. Aratxerxes I, third son of Xerxes, was also called Artaxerxes Longimanus. It was during his reign (464-425 B.C.) that Ezra and, later, Nehemiah, arrived in Jerusalem.

In the seventh year of Artaxerxes' reign, Ezra and a band of nearly 1,500 men (Ezra 8:1-14), plus women and children, left Babylon with a substantial amount of gold and silver. (Ezra 8:25-27.) They arrived in Jerusalem within four months. (Ezra 10:9.)