Ezra 1 GOD STIRS THE HEART OF CYRUS

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EZRA CHAPTER 1

Cyrus Helps the Exiles to Return

1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing: 2 “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: ” ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. 3 Anyone of his people among you—may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem. 4 And the people of any place where survivors may now be living are to provide him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.’ “ 5 Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites—everyone whose heart God had moved—prepared to go up and build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem. 6 All their neighbors assisted them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with valuable gifts, in addition to all the freewill offerings. 7 Moreover, King Cyrus brought out the articles belonging to the temple of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his god.  8 Cyrus king of Persia had them brought by Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah. 9 This was the inventory: gold dishes 30 silver dishes 1,000 silver pans  29 10 gold bowls 30 matching silver bowls 410 other articles 1,000 11 In all, there were 5,400 articles of gold and of silver. Sheshbazzar brought all these along when the exiles came up from Babylon to Jerusalem.

 INTRODUCTION

Cyrus allows the exiles to return—this kingdom stretched all the way from India to Ethiopia.  The first year of his reign was BC 538.  The Lord fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah and stirred the heart of Cyrus to issue a public notice and it was posted in all 127 provinces.  The notice begins by saying that God was behind the project and that he was acting in his behalf.  He empties the museum and crates up the entire artifact and lets Ezra take it back to its rightful owner.  Then God stirred the hearts of priests, Levites, and tribal leaders to pack for moving.  Cyrus was a “hands on king” and orders his treasurer to turn over to Sheshbazzar (the new governor appointed by the king) all 5400 items.  Keep reading for more details as I explore this book verse by verse chapter by chapter.

 EXPOSITION TO EZRA 1

1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing: Cyrus had been ruling over Persia for 20 years but this iss the lst year of his reign after conquering Babylon, his reign began in March BC 538 in 2Chronicles 36:22 we have the same wording as this verse.  Isaiah calls Cyrus his “Shepherd and his anointed.”  Isa. 44:28 Isa. 45:1 Jeremiah had foretold the length of the captivity Jer. 25:11,12; 29:10.  The Jews had been taken to Babylon as war slaves in BC 606 so 70 years later would make it BC 536.  The proclamation of Cyrus would have been carried by postmen to all parts of the providence and posted for public reading. 2 “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: ” ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. The word “God of heaven” occurs 22 times in the Old Testament and seventeen times here in this book.  Cyrus says that “the God of heaven” had given him this kingdom.  Dan 2:38-40.  3 Anyone of his people among you—may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem. Cyrus is benevolent to the Jews and lets them return to their homeland. 4 And the people of any place where survivors may now be living are to provide him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.’ “ The survivors are the remnant that was left from the massacure by the Babylonians.  Add….. 5 Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites—everyone whose heart God had moved—prepared to go up and build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem. Family heads simply meant that they represented all the branches of the family.  God had moved the heart of the remnant ones to pack up and move to their homeland. 6 All their neighbors assisted them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with valuable gifts, in addition to all the freewill offerings. When God calls you to do something he will equip you for the task.  In this verse we see the neighbors assisting them with cash, supplies and livestock and then a freewill offering for the temple treasury. 7 Moreover, King Cyrus brought out the articles belonging to the temple of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his god.  Cyrus has all the temple articles inventoried and catalogued so they can be sent back to the temple that God has told him to build. 8 Cyrus king of Persia had them brought by Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah. This verse tell us the name of the treasurer.  These valuables had been kept in the house of the gods of the Babylonians for public display. 9 This was the inventory:        gold dishes 30        silver dishes 1,000        silver pans  29 Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel was probably the same person—was the probable Persian name and Zerubbabel was the Jewish name.  (Remember that Daniel was called by the Babylonians Belteshazzar).  Here is my reason for believing that they are the same person—Both were Governors 5:14, Haggia 1:1; 2:2 both laid the foundation 3:2-8; 5:16; Haggia  1:14,15;  Zech. 4:6-10  Josephus Ant . identifies Sheshbazzar as Zorrubabel. HOW CYRUS, KING OF THE PERSIANS, DELIVERED THE JEWS OUT OF BABYLON AND SUFFERED THEM TO RETURN TO THEIR OWN COUNTRY AND TO BUILD THEIR TEMPLE, FOR WHICH WORK HE GAVE THEM MONEY. Over 1900 years ago Joshephus wrote the following regarding the events that occurred during the reign of Cyrus.  This is a quote from his book. Joshephus  Book  11 chapter 1 article 1-3
  1. IN the first year of the reign of Cyrus (1) which was the seventieth from the day that our people were removed out of their own land into Babylon, God commiserated the captivity and calamity of these poor people, according as he had foretold to them by Jeremiah the prophet, before the destruction of the city, that after they had served Nebuchadnezzar and his posterity, and after they had undergone that servitude seventy years, he would restore them again to the land of their fathers, and they should build their temple, and enjoy their ancient prosperity. And these things God did afford them; for he stirred up the mind of Cyrus, and made him write this throughout all Asia: “Thus saith Cyrus the king: Since God Almighty hath appointed me to be king of the habitable earth, I believe that he is that God which the nation of the Israelites worship; for indeed he foretold my name by the prophets, and that I should build him a house at Jerusalem, in the country of Judea.”
  2. This was known to Cyrus by his reading the book which Isaiah left behind him of his prophecies; for this prophet said that God had spoken thus to him in a secret vision: “My will is, that Cyrus, whom I have appointed to be king over many and great nations, send back my people to their own land, and build my temple.” This was foretold by Isaiah one hundred and forty years before the temple was demolished. Accordingly, when Cyrus read this, and admired the Divine power, an earnest desire and ambition seized upon him to fulfill what was so written; so he called for the most eminent Jews that were in Babylon, and said to them, that he gave them leave to go back to their own country, and to rebuild their city Jerusalem, (2) and the temple of God, for that he would be their assistant, and that he would write to the rulers and governors that were in the neighborhood of their country of Judea, that they should contribute to them gold and silver for the building of the temple, and besides that, beasts for their sacrifices.
  3. When Cyrus had said this to the Israelites, the rulers of the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, with the Levites and priests, went in haste to Jerusalem; yet did many of them stay at Babylon, as not willing to leave their possessions; and when they were come thither, all the king’s friends assisted them, and brought in, for the building of the temple, some gold, and some silver, and some a great many cattle and horses. So they performed their vows to God, and offered the sacrifices that had been accustomed of old time; I mean this upon the rebuilding of their city, and the revival of the ancient practices relating to their worship. Cyrus also sent back to them the vessels of God which king Nebuchadnezzar had pillaged out of the temple, and had carried to Babylon. So he committed these things to Mithridates, the treasurer, to be sent away, with an order to give them to Sanabassar, that he might keep them till the temple was built; and when it was finished, he might deliver them to the priests and rulers of the multitude, in order to their being restored to the temple. Cyrus also sent an epistle to the governors that were in Syria, the contents whereof here follow:
 “I have given leave to as many of the Jews that dwell in my country as please to return to their own country, and to rebuild their city, and to build the temple of God at Jerusalem on the same place where it was before. I have also sent my treasurer Mithridates, and Zorobabel, the governor of the Jews, that they may lay the foundations of the temple, and may build it sixty cubits high, and of the same latitude, making three edifices of polished stones, and one of the wood of the country, and the same order extends to the altar whereon they offer sacrifices to God. I require also that the expenses for these things may be given out of my revenues. Moreover, I have also sent the vessels which king Nebuchadnezzar pillaged out of the temple, and have given them to Mithridates the treasurer, and to Zorobabel the governor of the Jews, that they may have them carried to Jerusalem, and may restore them to the temple of God. Now their number is as follows: Fifty chargers of gold, and five hundred of silver; forty Thericlean cups of gold, and five hundred of silver; fifty basons of gold, and five hundred of silver; thirty vessels for pouring [the drink-offerings], and three hundred of silver; thirty vials of gold, and two thousand four hundred of silver; with a thousand other large vessels. (3) I permit them to have the same honor which they were used to have from their forefathers, as also for their small cattle, and for wine and oil, two hundred and five thousand and five hundred drachme; and for wheat flour, twenty thousand and five hundred artabae; and I give order that these expenses shall be given them out of the tributes due from Samaria. The priests shall also offer these sacrifices according to the laws of Moses in Jerusalem; and when they offer them, they shall pray to God for the preservation of the king and of his family, that the kingdom of Persia may continue. But my will is, that those who disobey these injunctions, and make them void, shall be hung upon a cross, and their substance brought into the king’s treasury.” And such was the import of this epistle. Now the number of those that came out of captivity to Jerusalem, were forty-two thousand four hundred and sixty-two.   10 gold bowls 30 matching silver bowls 410 other articles 1,000 This verse identifies more of the inventory. 11 In all, there were 5,400 articles of gold and of silver. Sheshbazzar brought all these along when the exiles came up from Babylon to Jerusalem. The above inventory adds up to 2499 but when all the other articles that are not mentioned by name are counted we have 5400.  
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Ezra 1 GOD STIRS THE HEART OF CYRUS

Cyrus allows the exiles to return—this kingdom stretched all the way from India to Ethiopia. The first year of his reign was BC 538. The Lord fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah and stirred the heart of Cyrus to issue a public notice and it was posted in all 127 provinces. The notice begins by saying that God was behind the project and that he was acting in his behalf. He empties the museum and crates up the entire artifact and lets Ezra take it back to its rightful owner. Then God stirred the hearts of priests, Levites, and tribal leaders to pack for moving. Cyrus was a “hands on king” and orders his treasurer to turn over to Sheshbazzar (the new governor appointed by the king) all 5400 items. Keep reading for more details as I explore this book verse by verse chapter by chapter.

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Ezra 2 RETURNING TO THEIR HOMELAND.

This chapter will list the family names of the exiles who returned from Babylon. Remember that they were slaves in Babylon and after the war were taken to Persia and now are allowed to return to the land of their ancestors.
Three families had lost their genealogical records so until they had God’s approval was not allowed to officiate in priestly duties. A total of 49,897 people, including servants and singers return to their homeland of Israel. You are now invited to join with me in a verse by verse exposition.

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Ezra 3 DREAMS THAT FUELED THEIR PASSION.

It was the dreams that fueled the passion of the exiles.  This book shows us that God will supply the desire as he moves in our heart.  This chapter begins with building an altar according to the instruction in the Law of Moses.  It was built on the old site and sacrifices were offered.  They also observed the festival of tabernacles.  All of this occurred before the foundation of the temple was laid.  They hired masons and carpenters from Tyre to help in preparing and transporting materials for the temple.  The work force had supervisors which were under the direction of Jeshua the General Foreman.  They dug the footers and laid the foundation stones and upon completion of the foundation a religious gathering occurred and a band played music—singers sang—it was a joyous occasion—and shouting could be heard in a far distance.

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Ezra 4 SHUTTING THE TEMPLE BUILDING PROJECT DOWN.

As the exiles rebuild they were approached by their enemies who volunteered to help them with their project. But Zerubbabel and the leaders told them that they had neither part nor lot in the matter. These same people did everything possible to stop the work. First they tried to frighten them and then tried bribery. This went on during the administration of Cyrus and Darius. Later after Cyrus is dead and Xerxes came to the throne the enemies tried to get the new king to shut the project down. We are told that the letter was in Aramaic language and the king responded by shutting the job down. The work had stopped and would not resume for the next sixteen years.

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Ezra 5 A DECREE TO STOP BUILDING THE TEMPLE

This chapter introduces us to Haggai and Zechariah two of the prophets of that era.  Zerubbabel the Governor of Judea re-starts the building project which had been stopped years earlier.  However, Tattenai (a regional Governor of Trans-Euphrates in the Persian empire {there was 20 such Governors which had control over the 127 provinces of the empire} also called Satraps.)  This regional Governor and his staff pay a visit to Jerusalem and did not like what they saw.  Their regional report was sent to Darius with a request to look up the original decree and issue a ruling to block all efforts to rebuild the temple.  A full examination of the letter is reserved for the commentary.

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Ezra 6 . DISCOVERING THE ORIGINAL DECREE.

At Ecbatana in the fortress a copy of the original decree was found in the archives. All the specs were in the original decree including height and width. It was to be built on the original site and the royal treasury of Persia was to pay all expenses and the museum pieces were to be returned. So, Darius sent the following official letter to Tattenai: Stay away—Do not disturb—keep your mouth shut—allow the work to proceed. You must pay all construction costs from taxes collected in your province, supply all sacrifices plus wheat, salt, wine, and olive oil fro daily needs. Any violations of my decree will result in beatings, and confiscation of property. Darius issued the decree and it must be obeyed with all diligence. This commentary will illuminate the text and move you to be an Ezra to someone.

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Ezra 7 A NATIONAL PASSION FOR THE WORD

Dramatic change is about to occur—the crowd is electrified—Ezra is weeping—confessing their national sins and begging for forgiveness. The fire of revival can be felt from priest to peasant. They had never heard such a passionate preacher. He loses no time in getting to the point. He opens the old book and the sweet flow of the love of God and his word flows like a river. There was a passion for God and a hunger for getting right with the Lord. May God stir our hearts today for a national response to have the fervor and emotion that would transport us into a spiritual ecstasy and rapture like that of the Protestant Reformation. May God lift us out of our apathy, indifference and coldness. Pray for God to awake us.

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Ezra 8 CAMPING AT THE AHAVA CANAL

They are on their 900 mile journey to the homeland of their fathers when the roster was looked at and Ezra saw that no Levites were among them. Ezra realized that the worship would be hamstrung without these men. So, they remained camping at Ahava Canal for 3 days while Ezra sent some of his staff to Iddo in Casiphia to help find some Levites. They prayed and fasted for a safe journey which would take a little more than 3 months. God heard their prayer. Twelve leaders from among the priests were in charge of the safe arrival of silver and gold etc. They were to guard it with their life. On the 8th. of April BC 458 they broke camp and started the long journey from the Ahava Canal, upon arrival they rested 3 days and on the 4th. day deposited the valuables in the temple and entrusted it with those in charge. The exiles sacrificed burnt offerings and a copy of the king’s decrees was delivered to Governors in Trans-Euphrates, upon reading the decree these Governors then cooperated by supplying the aforementioned materials. The commentary section will provide additional information.

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Ezra’s 9 EZRA LAYS THE SCRIPTURES ON THEM

Some of the Israelites had intermarried with the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. So the holy race was being polluted with the detestable practices of the heathen and to make matters worse, the officials and leaders are some of the worst offenders. Ezra flies into a rage, he is appalled, enraged, incensed, furious and irate. Ezra realized that these priests and leaders are not fit to associate with the common folk. He lays the scripture on them and then sat down appalled till the evening sacrifice. At 3 O’clock he stood up, his clothes were torn and he lifted his hands in prayer and said he was ashamed, he said that their sins were piled higher than their heads that their guilt had reached to heaven. Ezra recounts God’s grace in their history and claims that they have polluted the land. He claims that they are an escaped remnant and that none of them could face God in such a condition. He resented what was happening like a new broom in an old mess. The answer to Ezra’s prayer will come in the next chapter.

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Ezra 10 BOILING WITH INDIGNATION.

Ezra prayed, wept, confessed and was in an ecstasy of rage.  He resented what was happening like a new broom in an old mess.  Boiling with indignation he threw himself on the ground and a group came and wept with him.  Shecaniah suggested the following plan:  Make a covenant with God and then divorce the heathen women.  He encourages Ezra to take courage and that all is not lost.  So Ezra stood up and made them swear with a solemn oath that they would keep the law of God.  A proclamation was issued for all exiles to come to Jerusalem.  Three days later on the 19th. Of December sitting or standing in a soaking rain they confessed their sins and promised to separate themselves from the pagan women.  However, this required some time for the judicial system to hear the cases and issue judgment.  The plan was followed and beginning on December 29th. Court was in session and concluded by March 27th. Priests were named—gatekeepers were named—everyone guilty had his name published.  Without an Ezra the nation would have repeated their sinful excesses.  Pray that God will send us an Ezra!

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