by Clarence E. Macartney

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Great Characters of the Bible (2 of 12)
God in History -- Cyrus
Clarence E. Macartney
Isa. 45:5

Cyrus, king of the Persians and conqueror of Sardis
and Babylon, was one of the nobler pagans of
antiquity. As in the case of so many of the characters
who achieved world empire and fame, legend and fancy
have busied themselves with the origins of his life
and history. One story makes him an outcast on the
mountains who was suckled by a dog and educated by a
shepherd; another tale makes his nurse and deliverer a
shepherd's wife. But when he emerged upon the stage of
great events and became a conqueror whose empire
stretched from India to Asia Minor, we can follow his
history with a degree of certainty. All the sketches
of his life show him as a man and ruler with singular
loftiness of spirit and kindness. When he captured
Sardis, the capital of Lydia, Croesus the king was
condemned to be burned, as was the cruel custom of the
age. As Croesus was about to be consigned to the
flames, Cyrus chanced to overhear him repeat a saying
he had heard once on the lips of the Spartan
philosopher Solon, "Count no man happy until the end."
Struck with this sentiment, Cyrus ordered the king set
at liberty.

As a child Cyrus was taught to shun the intoxicating
cup. Once, on a visit to his royal grandfather in
Media, Cyrus asked to be permitted to act as the
cupbearer at the feast. He did everything to
perfection and was warmly applauded by the nobles
present, who were delighted with his mimicry of the
cupbearer, stepping grandly and solemnly about. The
king, too, praised him but called his attention to one
omission-he had neglected to taste the wine, as the
cupbearer always did, before handing it to the king.
Cyrus said he had not tasted the wine because he
thought it had been poisoned. Asked why he thought
that, he answered: "It was poisoned the other day when
you made a feast for your friends on your birthday. ...

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