Iran in the Bible
Iran has rich Biblical heritage. Iran, or Persia, is mentioned many times in the Bible, and features as a key component of God’s plans for His people.
In the Old Testament, the stories of Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah and Daniel came from the Persian Empire. Their physical evidence can be seen with the tombs of Esther, Daniel, Habakkuk and Cyrus the Great. (The image above is the tomb of Cyrus the Great, found in Pasargadae, near Shiraz in Iran).
We first hear of Persia in the Bible in Esther 1. But there are mentions throughout the books of 2 Chronicles, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Ezekiel and Jeremiah. As well as references through the New Testament.
In Jeremiah 49:39, the Lord promises that in the last days, he will “restore the fortunes of Elam”. Elam was situated in the far west and southwest of modern-day Iran, covering modern Iran’s Khuzestan and Ilam Provinces.
Iran was also home to the Biblical Kings of Persia that took over the Babylonian Empire (including the exiled Jewish people) – Cyrus the Great, Darius, Xerxes (Ahasuerus), Artaxerxes. The Persian Empire was created by Cyrus the Great in the 6th century BC and destroyed by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC.
It was King Cyrus who obeyed God’s command to return the Jewish people to their homes in Judah 70 years after their exile under the Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar. Ezra 1 tells us it was the Lord Himself that moved his heart to do this. Cyrus put in motion his Edict of Restoration in 538 BC (2 Chronicles 36:22), a fulfilment of an earlier prophecy by the Prophet Jeremiah. He even helped the Jewish people to rebuild their temples (Ezra 1:4).
In the New Testament, the Wise Men who came with their gifts to worship the baby Jesus were likely to have been Magi, astronomers from Yazd, Southern Iran, who would observed the heavens to identify changes that would indicate significant events, such as a star!
In Acts 2, on the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit gave utterance in the languages of ‘… devout men from every nation under heaven…Parthians, Medes, Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia…’ These groups all come from what is now Iran.
As the early Church grew, Iran continued to be touched by Biblical history. Iran was part of the church expansion led by the Apostle Thomas, who was identified as the ‘apostle to the Parthians’. Origen recorded that “Thomas’ allotted field of labor was Parthia”, where he worked with Bartholomew before travelling on to India.
Pray with us for Iran. Pray that rulers will rise up again that are anointed by God (just as the Bible tells us Cyrus was) and will do the will of God for the people of Iran.