Ezra One

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

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Ezra 1:1 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying,

Ezra 1:2 Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.

Cyrus. Cyrus was prophetically named long before he was born (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1, 13), presumably during or soon after the reign of King Hezekiah, about two hundred years before its fulfillment as recorded here by Ezra. In fact, this is one of the main arguments by those who say there were “two Isaiah's,” with the second one writing the section beginning with Isaiah 40. This skeptical notion is invalid, however. The ancient Jewish scribes and other scholars, as well as the New Testament writers, indicate there was only one Isaiah. The New Testament writers quote from both divisions of Isaiah, referring both to the same prophet (e.g., Matthew 8:17, quoting Isaiah 53:4; Matthew 4:14-16, quoting Isaiah 9:1, 2).

The Lord God of heaven. It is noteworthy that a heathen emperor, Cyrus the Great, had somehow come to recognize the fact that Jehovah Elohim, the God of the Jews, was actually the God of creation. It may be that the prophet Daniel, who (according to the Jewish historian Josephus) was Cyrus' prime minister, led him to this conviction. Josephus relates that Daniel read to Cyrus the prophecy of Isaiah that gave his name and indicated he would enable the Jews to return and rebuild Jerusalem and the temple.

house at Jerusalem. Ezra 1:1-3 is essentially a quote of the final verses of 2 Chronicles (2 Chronicles 36:22-23). This is one of the reasons why many believe that Ezra was the scribe who researched the old records of the various kings of Judah and then organized them into the books of Chronicles.

Ezra 1:3 Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem.

let him go up. The archeological discovery of the “Cyrus cylinder” showed that Cyrus—perhaps because of the divine prediction of the Jewish return as his special ministry—did the same for various other captive peoples in his empire. This clay cylinder on which was inscribed an account of the decree of Cyrus was found in the nineteenth century in present-day Iraq (ancient Babylonia). It not only described the capture of Babylon but also his permission for the peoples captured by the Babylonians to return to their homelands.

Ezra 1:4 And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.

Ezra 1:5 Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, with all them whose spirit God had raised, to go up to build the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem.

Ezra 1:6 And all they that were about them strengthened their hands with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, and with beasts, and with precious things, beside all that was willingly offered.

Ezra 1:7 Also Cyrus the king brought forth the vessels of the house of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had brought forth out of Jerusalem, and had put them in the house of his gods;

vessels. When Nebuchadnezzar had plundered the temple at Jerusalem, the empire of Babylon was at its height. In the meantime, however, the Persian empire had defeated the Babylonians and was now preeminent in the world. It is noteworthy that, although Cyrus had his own “gods,” he had somehow come to recognize the true “God of heaven” (Ezra 1:2), and acknowledged that “He is the God” (Ezra 1:3).

Ezra 1:8 Even those did Cyrus king of Persia bring forth by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and numbered them unto Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah.

Even those. The prophet Jeremiah had promised that, not only would the Jews return after their captivity, but also the temple vessels taken by Nebuchadnezzar would be returned (Jeremiah 27:22).

Sheshbazzar. It is commonly believed that Sheshbazzar is the Chaldean name for Zerubbabel, since both are called “governor” of the returning exiles (Ezra 5:14; 2:2; Haggai 1:1). It is possible, however, that Zerubbabel succeeded Sheshbazzar as governor.

prince. The term “prince” does not have to imply royalty, but only “principal.” However, Zerubbabel was actually a grandson of king Jehoiachin (1 Chronicles 3:17-19).

Ezra 1:9 And this is the number of them: thirty chargers of gold, a thousand chargers of silver, nine and twenty knives,

chargers. That is, large flat dishes.

Ezra 1:10 Thirty basins of gold, silver basins of a second sort four hundred and ten, and other vessels a thousand.

Ezra 1:11 All the vessels of gold and of silver were five thousand and four hundred. All these did Sheshbazzar bring up with them of the captivity that were brought up from Babylon unto Jerusalem.