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Bible Commentaries

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible

Ezra 1

 

 

Verses 1-11

Analysis and Annotations

I. THE RETURN UNDER ZERUBBABEL AND THE REBUILDING OF THE TEMPLE

CHAPTER 1

1. The proclamation of Cyrus (Ezra 1:1-4)

2. The response of the chiefs of Judah and Benjamin (Ezra 1:5-6)

3. The vessels of the house of the LORD restored (Ezra 1:7-11)

Ezra 1:1-4. Cyrus (meaning “the Sun”) the King of Persia was, according to ancient historians, the son of Cambyses, Prince of Persia, and Mandam, daughter of Astyages, King of the Median Empire. The theory that he was the offspring of Ahasuerus and Esther, and was trained by Mordecai and Nehemiah, lacks all historical foundation. The heart of Cyrus in the beginning of his reign was stirred by the LORD, because the time had come that the Word of the LORD spoken by the mouth of the prophet Jeremiah might be fulfilled. And this was the Word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah: “For thus saith the LORD, that after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place” (Jeremiah 29:10). The seventy years were ended and God was about to act in behalf of His people Israel. Daniel was praying in Babylon after also having read the words of Jeremiah (Daniel 9:1-2). Cyrus was the chosen instrument of the LORD to bring about the return of the Jews and the rebuilding of the temple. Almost two hundred years before his birth the LORD had revealed his name and his work to the prophet Isaiah. Twice Isaiah mentions the name of this Persian King: “That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasures, even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built, and the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid. Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut” (Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1). “I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways; he shall build my city and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith the LORD of Hosts” (Isaiah 45:13). This was written by this prophet of God over a century before the temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. Previously in Isaiah Jehovah had spoken his challenge to the idol-gods to show their power: “Let them bring forth, and show us what shall happen, let them show the former things, what they be ... or declare us things for to come; show the things that are to come afterward” (Isaiah 41:22-23). In naming Cyrus the king, and the great work he would do for the exiles and for Jerusalem, the LORD demonstrates His power to declare things to come and to make the future known. And who would doubt that an omniscient God, who knows all things, the end from the beginning, could do this? Only infidels and destructive critics. The latter have invented a Deutero-Isaiah who, it is claimed, wrote the above prophecies concerning Cyrus after he had come into existence and done the work.

It will be seen that the Spirit of God through Isaiah spoke of Cyrus as the shepherd, the anointed, the man of my counsel (Isaiah 46:11); whom the LORD loveth (Isaiah 48:14); whose right hand the Lord upholdeth (Isaiah 45:1); who will perform the LORD’s pleasure (Isaiah 44:28); and yet he is also called “a ravenous bird from the East” (Isaiah 46:11). Cyrus is, as the chosen instrument, a type of the Messiah, Christ. A comparison of Cyrus with Christ, the work Cyrus did for Israel and the work Christ will do in His second coming, is interesting.

The proclamation which Cyrus issued and sent in writing throughout his kingdom speaks of God as “the LORD God of heaven,” and in his edict Cyrus declares, “He hath charged me to build Him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.” How did Cyrus receive this knowledge? Beyond question he knew Daniel, and may have heard from his lips the history of Nebuchadnezzar as well as the great prophecies. This prophet may also have acquainted Cyrus with the prophecies of Isaiah. According to Josephus, the great Jewish historian, Cyrus read the book of Isaiah himself. When he came to the place in which Isaiah mentioned him by name, an earnest desire and ambition seized upon him to fulfill what was written in these prophecies. From the record here we learn that it was the LORD who stirred him up to issue the proclamation. In it permission was granted to those Jewish exiles throughout his kingdom to return to Jerusalem to build the house of the LORD and those who remained were to help with silver and gold, with goods and beasts, besides free-will offering for the house of God. Thus God’s Word spoken over two hundred years before was fulfilled in this proclamation of Cyrus: “He shall let my captives go;” “Saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid”; these were the two great prophetic statements of the work he was to do. And so it came literally to pass. All predictions of a future restoration of Israel to their land, not through a Gentile king, but through the coming of Heaven’s King, the Shepherd of His sheep, will soon find all their literal fulfillment likewise.

Ezra 1:5-6. There was at once a response from the heads of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites. What joy must have filled their hearts when they read the proclamation of Cyrus. What they had longed and prayed for had come at last. God was acting in their behalf and His promises were about to come to pass. It was the LORD who stirred them to action and to turn their faces towards Jerusalem. But not all were ready to go back; only a small remnant was willing. The great majority preferred to remain in Babylon. There was nothing to attract them to Jerusalem--the city of ruins, with the once magnificent temple in ruins. Those who returned, loved Jerusalem, the place the LORD had chosen, where alone the appointed offerings and sacrifices could be brought. They belonged to those who sat by the rivers of Babylon and wept when they remembered Zion and said, “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning; if I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy” (Psalms 137:5-6). And the Jews who remained helped them generously in every way.

Ezra 1:7-11. Then Cyrus restored the vessels of the house of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had brought from Jerusalem and put into the house of his gods (Daniel 1:2). His grandson, Belshazzar, defiled them at his licentious feast (Daniel 5:2). In that night Belshazzar was slain and Babylon fell. No doubt Cyrus had these vessels collected and carefully guarded. Mithredath the treasurer handed them to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah. This prince was Zerubbabel: Sheshbazzar was the name the Babylonians had given him. He was born in Babylon; his name Means “stranger in Babylon.” He became the princely leader of the returning exiles. Besides being mentioned in Ezra we find his name also in the book of Zechariah. In all there were 5,400 vessels of gold and silver which were handed over to Zerubbabel to take back to Jerusalem. How it all shows that God had not forgotten His people, and when His appointed time came He manifested His power in their behalf. Nor has He forgotten His promise to bring a remnant back from the great dispersion among all the nations of the world. When that return comes, a greater than Zerubbabel the prince of Judah will be the leader. The Lord Jesus, the Son of David, will be their Deliverer.

 


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Bibliography Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Ezra 1:4". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/gab/ezra-1.html. 1913-1922.

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