I read Ezra and am in Nehemiah and my first observation is that is seems unfeasible that King Cyrus of Persia allows the Israelites to rebuild the Temple that the Babylonians destroyed. The Persians ruled the conquered Israel nation, so why would the King not only allow Ezra to rebuild the temple and the walls to the city of Jerusalem but the later King Darius even paid for it with money from the royal treasury?
In the eyes of unbelievers this story simply seems to be a fancy fable, because it seems impossible that the King of Persia would allow and pay for the rebuilding of a conquered nations temple. However, in 1879 the Cyrus cylinder was discovered in Babylon (modern-day Iraq) and it gave the account of how Cyrus, after conquering Babylon, essentially set the conquered people free to rebuild their temples and gave back their sacred artifacts. King Cyrus is such a great example of what a conquering king should do with the people that he had defeated that “a replica of the cylinder is displayed prominently at the United Nations headquarters in New York City http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/exhibits-events/cyrus-cylinder-begins-american-tour/.
My third observation that I have is concerning world religions in light of Ezra and Biblical archeology. Many non-believers look at the Old and New Testaments as fable, analogy, and maybe rooted in some sort of actual truth but in no way containing the word of some god. According to the World Factbook https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2122.html, 56.35% of the world’s population (2013) had the Old Testament as part of their religious history and belief (Jewish, Christian and Muslim) which is more than all other “religions” combined even when you include atheists. I know that just because “everyone is doing it”, it doesn’t make it right. However, I believe that it does beg the question of why would the majority of people and a vast majority of people of faith look to the Old Testament as a Holy Book?
What I find even more interesting is that when you look at the definition of the word “religion”. It required the belief in a “god”. If you rule out the “religions” that World Factbook list that don’t believe in a supernatural god you are left with very few religions and I say you should rule out Hinduism simply because they believe in all gods including Jesus Christ, Allah and Yahweh. Buddhism doesn’t believe in a god of any kind, and obviously atheist don’t either. It really looks like the only other monotheist religion is Baha’i. I think that truth draws us humans toward it and that is why almost all people of faith in a God look to the Old Testament as a Holy Book.