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Bible Commentaries
Ezra 1

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-11

Let's turn now to the book of Ezra.

The book of Ezra, the first part was probably written by Ezra but written from the records. Actually at the time that Cyrus gave the decree to build the temple, Ezra wasn't even alive. Ezra doesn't come into the story, into a firsthand account until you get to chapter seven. The first six chapters deal with the first of the repatriation of the nation Israel after the Babylonian captivity.

Now in the first year of Cyrus the 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 of his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus the 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 a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah ( Ezra 1:1-2 ).

Now he mentions here, "In order that the word of the prophecy of Jeremiah might be fulfilled." And as you turn to Jeremiah chapter twenty-five, we find that the Lord hath predicted that they would be in Babylonian captivity for seventy years, Jeremiah 25:11 . "And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon for seventy years. And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the LORD, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations. And I will bring upon that land all my words which I have pronounced against it" ( Jeremiah 25:11-13 ).

And then also in Jeremiah chapter twenty-nine, verse ten, "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. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, they are thoughts of peace, not of evil, to give you an expected end. And ye shall call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, I will gather you from all the nations, and from all of the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive" ( Jeremiah 29:10-14 ).

All right, now turn to Daniel chapter nine. "In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans; in the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by the books the number of years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: and I prayed to God, and made my confession" ( Daniel 9:1-4 ), and so forth. So that Daniel, knowing the prophecy of Jeremiah that the period of captivity would be seventy years, during this period he began to seek the Lord as to what part the Lord might have him to play in the repatriation of Israel.

Now let's turn to Isaiah chapter forty-four, verse twenty-eight. Now remember, "now in the first year of Cyrus the king of Persia the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled." Now in Isaiah 44:28 ,"That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to 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" ( Isaiah 45:1; Isaiah 45:1 ).

You remember how Belshazzar, it says that his knees smote together the night that he heard that the, he saw the handwriting on the wall, and it says that his knees began to smite one against another. And so here is a prophecy of that experience that Belshazzar had. "I will loose the loins of the kings to open before him the two-leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: and I will give thee the treasures of darkness, the hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel. For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though you have not known me" ( Isaiah 45:1-4 ).

So here the prophecy of Isaiah was uttered two hundred years before this particular event where we read now, "In the first year of Cyrus the king of Persia." The fellow that, even according to Isaiah the man that God names, that "I've named you even though you haven't known Me." God named him two hundred, hundred and fifty years before he was born God named him and declared that he would be the one that would allow the people to go back and to start rebuilding the temple. So fascinating prophecies, many of you see how much scripture is tied together in really just the first verse here in Ezra as we see the prophecies of Isaiah, the prophecies of Daniel. For Daniel predicted that the Medo-Persian Empire would overthrow the Babylonian empire, and of course, the prophecies of Jeremiah, the seventy years of their captivity in Babylon and then that God would release them from that captivity.

So it's exciting times in Bible history when you come down to the point where God is now fulfilling the things that He promised. When you start seeing the things fall together. When you know that the Lord said, "Seventy years will be your time of captivity." And you can count and you know when seventy years are up, you start getting excited. All right, God's going to start moving, you know, because the seventy years are about up.

When Cyrus is the name of the general that takes over in Babylonian, then you really get excited because you know that God said, "Hey, I've called you by your name and I've surnamed you though you haven't even known Me. And you will do my bidding. You will do my desires in allowing the people to go back from their captivity." So you see things beginning to come together and there's always a lot of anticipation and excitement.

And hey, the day in which we live today is just that kind of a day, because we see things coming together. And it's exciting to see the things happening in the world because all of a sudden we think, "Yeah, that's what the prophet Ezekiel said was going to be. Yeah, that's what the Lord said would happen there in Isaiah. Yes." And you see how God is setting the whole thing together, and we're moving again to a period of history just like it was here in the first chapter of Ezra where God is getting ready to fulfill His promises and His word, and He has set the stage. Things are coming to pass, and there's just an excitement in the air because you know that God's word is being fulfilled around you, and you know what's going to be happening. As God has declared these events, they are going to take place. So we look at the world today and we realize that Russia will soon be making her move into the Middle East.

We know that Russia's going to attack the Middle East, and for us, as Christians, it's really exciting because we know what a threat Russia is to our own security and to our own peace. And to realize that they're going to make this military mistake and blunder and try to take Israel first before she goes against the United States. We know what's going to happen and so we rejoice that God has given to us advance warning, advance notices, so that we will actually believe when we see these things happen.

Jesus said, "I've told you these things before they come to pass, so that when they come to pass, you might believe" ( John 13:19 ). And so it's always exciting to live in those periods of history when God starts to put things together and you know, hey, this is the time that the prophets were speaking about. These are the events God said were going to take place. Wow, this is it. Look at that! And you see the whole thing beginning to just sort of well together and it's just really exciting times.

Now Daniel had predicted that the Medo-Persian Empire was going to overthrow the Babylonian Empire, and Daniel actually became a counselor. He was a counselor in the court of Nebuchadnezzar. However, by the time that Belshazzar his grandson came around, Daniel was sort of in retirement, and when the handwriting came on the wall, they brought Daniel in. And Belshazzar really didn't know him. "Are you that Daniel that helped my grandfather?" And so forth. And Daniel then interpreted the dream for Belshazzar telling him that that night his kingdom was going. That was it. He had had it. His days were numbered and finished. That was all for him. And he had a very short span on the scene.

Daniel was probably at this time close to ninety years old. He probably lived to be a hundred and ten, a hundred and fifteen. He lived to the time that the temple was rebuilt. And he, because it was, as we get tonight, it was Darius who gave the order to start work again. Cyrus gave the order to start, and about fifty thousand of the Jews returned, as we will be reading, and started rebuilding the temple and resettling the land.

Then about, then actually, Cyrus was removed. Another king came in who wrote and stopped the building of the temple. And then Darius came on the throne, and he wrote and started the whole project again about sixteen years later. Now it is the same Darius that was a close friend of Daniel. It was Darius the king who was tricked into making the decree, "If any one prays to any god other than me for thirty days, you know, let him be thrown in the lion's den." And he signed this proclamation and then they came and said, "Hey, there's a guy down here that broke your law and he's got to go on the lion's den." And he said, "Who is it?" "It's Daniel." And of course, he was grieved because he loved Daniel. And he sought all day to try and reverse things, but the law of the Medes and the Persians could not be changed once it had been sealed. And so he encouraged Daniel and said, "Daniel, the God you serve, He is able to deliver you out of the hand of the lions." And Daniel said, "Don't worry; I'm an old tough customer. I'll get by okay."

So they threw Daniel into the lion's den, and of course, the king didn't sleep all night long. He was really troubled over the whole thing. And in the morning he went out early, and I like it; the Scriptures said, "And he cried in a lamentable voice, 'Oh, Daniel,'" however the lamentable voice was. "Is your God able to deliver you?" And he said, "Live forever, king. God sent an angel down and stopped the mouths of the lions, and I'm in good shape." So they brought Daniel out, and then the guys that conspired against Daniel were tossed into the lion's den. And before they could even hit the bottom of the den, they were devoured of the lions.

Now this is the Darius that we will get to in a little while, who gave the order to start building again, even ordered them to pay whatever money they needed to help. So we'll start putting the story together for you as we move along.

So Cyrus the king made a proclamation that whatever people there were of the Israelites who wanted to return could go up to Jerusalem and build the house of the Lord, the God of Israel, for He is the God which is in Jerusalem.

And whosoever remains in any place where he sojourns, let the men of his place help him with silver, with gold, with goods, with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem. So there rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, and all of them whose spirit God had raised, to go up to build the house of the LORD which is at Jerusalem. And all they that were about them strengthened their hands with vessels of silver, gold, with goods, with beasts, and precious things, beside all that was willingly offered. Also Cyrus the king brought forth the vessels of the house of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from Jerusalem, and put in the house of his gods; even those did Cyrus the king of Persia bring forth by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and numbered them unto the prince of Judah. And the number of them: were thirty chargers of gold, a thousand chargers of silver, twenty-nine knives ( Ezra 1:4-9 ),

And so forth.

It was the policy of the Assyrians and of the Babylonians when they conquered people to take them out of their land and to just place them in other lands that they might lose their national identity and they might any fighting spirit. It was the policy of the Persians, they were far more humane than were the Assyrians or the Babylonians, and the Persian's policy was to sort of repatriate the people.

Now it is mentioned here that those of Judah, the Levites and Benjamin; later on we'll find that it also mentions those of Manasseh and those of Ephraim that returned. I make mention of that because there is what is referred to as the ten lost tribes of Israel and those who try to make an identity of the Anglo-Saxon nations with Israel and say that we are a part of the ten lost tribes. The Bible never refers to ten lost tribes. In fact, in the New Testament there are references "to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greetings" ( James 1:1 ). And there were people from the twelve tribes that were living and still identified with those tribes during the times of the New Testament. And so you really don't have lost tribes. That's sort of a misnomer that people have developed saying the ten lost tribes.

Even here there were those from the tribe of Benjamin which was, well, that was a part of Judah and Benjamin were together, but then those of Manasseh, those of Ephraim and the Levites. And of course, you have the tribe of Judah so that even already we have many of the tribes identified. And by the New Testament, Paul the apostle said he was of the tribe of Benjamin, and he knew the tribe from which he came. And of course, there was the Levites and all during the time of Jesus Christ. So there, they may not know their identity today as to which tribe they're from. It isn't necessary. It was only necessary to keep the tribal distinctions until the coming of Jesus Christ.

It had to be that He was of the tribe of Judah, and once He came forth from the tribe of Judah, not necessary to keep tribal distinctions any longer. It was all fulfilled. But God knows where they are. In fact, God is going to seal them, twelve thousand from each tribe, in just a very short time as He gets ready to put the final touches upon the whole earth system before the return of Jesus Christ. God is going to seal twelve thousand from each of the tribes of Israel, 144,000 all together. So God knows exactly who they are, where they are, and all. Even though they themselves may not know what tribe they're from, yet the Lord does know.


Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Ezra 1". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/ezra-1.html. 2014.
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