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Persian Religious Non-Interference

Despite their autocratic rule, the ancient Persian kings usually did not interfere with the religious practices or everyday customs of their subjects. When the Persian king Cyrus overthrew the Babylonian kingdom1 in 539 B.C., for example, he permitted the Hebrews to return from exile in Babylon to Palestine, which was designated as the province Yehud, from the name of the southern Hebrew kingdom Judah. From this geographical term came the name Jews, the customary designation of the Hebrews after the exile. Cyrus allowed the Jews to rebuild their main temple in Jerusalem, which had been destroyed by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II in 587 B.C., and to practice their religion. Like the rest of the subjects of the Persian kings, the Jews were permitted to live as they pleased, so long as they did nothing to foment revolt, impede the regular flow of taxes to the royal treasury, or hinder the occasional dispatch of soldiers to the royal army.

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