Nation of Israel Vs Persian Culture

Historically, the Jewish people migrated from Israel and to date; they have always maintained physical, religious, and cultural ties to it (Jairus, 2016). The Jewish Bible asserts that the Jews monarchy existed from the 10th century BC while the name “Israel” appeared in the secular historical records in 1200 BCE (Provan, Long & Longman, 2015). According to biblical records, the nation was divided into two kingdoms; the Samarian kingdom in the north and the Judaic kingdom to the south (Provan et al., 2016). Afterwards, the Assyrian empire took over the Samarian kingdom while the Babylonian empire conquered the Judaic kingdom.

However, the Babylonian empire did not last long and was defeated by the Persian Empire led by Cyrus the Great in 538 BCE (Rose, 2017). Consequently, the Jews returned to Jerusalem to be ruled by the Persian rulers.
One of the significant developments in Israel during the Persian rule was the construction of the second temple. According to Rose (2017), the Samaritan leaders and local governors resisted the project at first, but Cyrus the Great granted the Jews permission to proceed with the construction. It was completed in 515 BC and is known as the second temple as the first one had been completed by King Solomon (Rose, 2017). Politically, the Persian officers ruled over the Jews, but in general practice, the kingdom was a theocracy led high priests anointed by God (Rose, 2017). Afterwards, prophets Nehemiah and Ezra initiated reforms and the people no longer adhered to the Mosaic laws as the priests intermarrying with other non-Israelite communities which led to the deterioration of Jerusalem. Later, Nehemiah became the governor of Judah, and helped in restoring Jerusalem by raising forth a Jewish community (Rose, 2017). A semiautonomous government developed in Judah and enlarged the region’s borders to a size almost half of the original Judaic kingdom before its fall. According to Rose (2017), during the reign of the Persian Empire, Judah remained peaceful until Alexander the Great took over in 331 BC.
The economy of the Hebrew people during the Persian rule was stable. According to Provan et al. (2015), the standard currency was a gold coin commonly known as Daric. The standardized currency made transactions easier, thus growing the economic activities in the region. Unlike the earlier trade patterns that involved barter exchanges, most people preferred money and would exchange it for anything. Besides, the gold coins were more comfortable to transport. The officials also collected taxes in gold coins as opposed to goods and services, allowing them to measure the empire’s wealth easily (Provan et al., 2015).

The ability to accumulate wealth coupled with territory expansion allowed the construction of new capitals such as Parsa, which had great artistic and architectural designs (Provan et al., 2015). Therefore, the region’s economic potential was high leading to the development of other sectors such as arts and construction.
The Hebrew and Persian cultures have various similarities. For instance, the Iranians mark Nowruz (New Year) over the spring equinox, while the Jewish celebrates Purim holiday during springtime to commemorate the deliverance of their people from Babylon with the help of Cyrus, the Persian Emperor (Provan et al., 2015). In this regard, historians believe that the Jewish holiday was adopted from the Nowruz celebration practice. Also, Lag Ba’ Omer holiday among the Jewish is mirrored by Persian’s Chaharshanbe Suri (Festival of Fire) and both holidays commence at sunset (Provan et al., 2015). Another similarity between these two cultures is that they have one prophetic figure. The Persians recognize Prophet Zarathustra while the Judaists have Prophet Moses (Provan et al., 2015). These prophets are believed to bring a textual revelation from God while they existed in a similar time between 1500-1200 BCE (Provan et al., 2015). The last similarity between the two communities is that they believe in one God who is flawless and perfect. According to Provan et al., (2015), both cultures regard God as everything that is good and correct, and they are both Unitarian Monotheistic religions who believe that God is one person.
There are also several differences between the two cultures. For instance, the Judaists do not use statues and pictures of their spiritual leaders as religious icons. On the contrary, the Persians have drawings of Prophet Zoroaster, and they also permit symbolic images of God (Provan et al., 2015). The second difference is that the Persians believe in Eternal Life in Heaven, or Hell, while Judaists believe in a World to come and Reincarnation (Provan et al., 2015). Again, In Judaism, the means of salvation is through a belief in God while the Persians believe in good thoughts, words, and deeds
Ancient Israel has an established military system. During the post-exilic period, Cyrus the Great, the Persian ruler, became successful in conquering his enemies. As a way of ensuring that the conquered territories continued giving him tribute revenues, he left local rulers in control while also ensuring that the defeated communities still practiced their religious traditions (Rose, 2017). As a result, the conquered regions would still function economically thus reducing their chances of staging rebellions. According to Rose (2017), another strategy by militaries involved relocating the conquered communities to new regions to break their cultural and political unity hence rendering them powerless to the rulers. During those times, battles among militaries were prevalent as emperors aimed to expand their territories and capture new lands as a show of supremacy.
The influence of Persian rule on Israel had a significant impact on the development of the Old Testament. The Post- Exilic period, which lasted from 538 to 332 BCE mainly focuses on the Israelites after coming out of exile at Babylon and how the Persian rulers helped them to build the second temple (Rose, 2017). Five books that draw inspiration from this period are Malachi, Ezra, Haggai, Nehemiah, and Zechariah. Malachi, which is the last account in the Old Testament, discusses the activities in this period, such as the rebuilding of the temple and the construction of the walls of Jerusalem (Rose, 2017). Ezra highlights events that took place after Cyrus’s proclamation while also discussing the return of the Israelites from Babylon in 537 BC, the construction of the temple, challenges in the building of the temple, and its completion (Rose, 2017). The book of Haggai mainly focuses on prophecies about the period starting from 520 BC while also urging the Jewish leaders to commence the reconstruction of the temple (Rose, 2017). The book of Nehemiah talks about how the prophet organized teams build the wall and the strong resistance from Judah’s enemies (Rose, 2017). Lastly, the book of Zachariah encourages the Jewish builders to finish constructing the temple (Rose, 2017).


Conclusion


The ties between Judaism and Persian cultures started with the reign of Cyrus the Great in 538 BCE in what is known as the post-exilic period. The construction of the second temple is one of the significant achievements during this period. During this period, gold coins facilitated trade and exchange, thus creating a stable economy. Some of the similarities between the two cultures include having religious holidays that borrowed heavily from each other, believing in the existence of one God, and having prophetic figures. However, there are also several discrepancies in their religious beliefs. For instance, the Persians believe in statues and pictures as spiritual symbols while Judaists do not. Also, Persians believe in eternal hell and heaven while Judaists believe in reincarnation and a world to come. During the post-exilic period, there were active military systems and many emperors engaged in battles to expand their territories and supremacy. The Hebrew and Persian concepts inspired the books of Malachi, Haggai, Ezra, Zechariah, and Nehemiah, all found in the Old Testament.

Leave a Reply