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Ezr 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,
Ver. 1. Now ] Heb. And; for the former history, recorded in the Chronicles, is continued by Ezra, that ready scribe, and perfect in the law, Ezra 7:6 . Yet not so prompt or perfect can I deem him, as that he should, by memory, restore the Bible that was burnt, together with the temple, by the Babylonians. And yet that was the opinion of many ancients, grounded upon some passages in that Apocryphal Esdras (Irenae., Tertull., Clem. Alex., Jerome, Aug., Euseb.). We read also of one Johannes Gatius Ciphaleditanus, who, out of the vain confidence of his learning and memory, was wont to give out, that if the Holy Scripture should be lost out of the world, he would not doubt, by God’s grace, to restore it whole again. Of Cranmer indeed (a far better man, and a profounder divine) it is storied, that he had memorised most of the New Testament by heart. And of Beza, that, being more than eighty years of age, he could say perfectly, without the book, any Greek chapter in St Paul’s Epistles (Mr Leigh, Annot. on Joh 5:39 ).
In the first year ] Heb. In the one year. The Hebrews oft use one for first. So do also the apostles in Greek, Matthew 28:1-20 : John 20:1 ; John 20:19 1 Corinthians 16:1-24 : 2 Kings 6:1 ; one being the first number; neither was it without a mystery that Pythagoras bade his scholars ever to have respect, εις μοναδα ; as Moses also his, saying, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord," Deuteronomy 6:4 .
Of Cyrus ] Heb. Coresh, so named by God more than a hundred years before he was born, Isaiah 40:28 , and so honoured by the Persians (as the founder of their monarchy) that they liked the better of all that were hawk-nosed, like unto him. See the like of Josiah, 1 Kings 13:2 . The Persian word signifieth a lord, or great prince, as Hen. Stephanus noteth; and thence the Greeks have their κυρος , authority, κυριος , lord; and we our word sir, as some will have it. Plutarch, in Artaxerxes, saith that the Persians call the sun Cyrus. And it may very well be so, for the Hebrews also call the sun הרס Cheres, from its glistering brightness.
King of Persia ] So he had been more than twenty years before this, and done many great exploits; but this was the first year of his empire, of his cosmocraty Ruler of the world , of the monarchy translated from the Babylonians to the Persians. The greatest kingdoms have their times and their turns, their rise and their ruin, when they shall live by fame only. Persia, having oft changed her masters since Cyrus, remaineth a flourishing kingdom to this day; but wholly Mahometan. Which abominable superstition the Turks received from them when, in the year 1030, they won that country under their Sultan Tangrolipix. Where it is hard to say, saith mine author, whether nation lost more, the Persians, by the loss of so great a kingdom, or the Turks, by embracing so great a vanity. To this day they acknowledge the Persians better Mahometans than themselves, which maketh the Turks far better soldiers upon the Christian than upon the Persian.
That the word of the Lord ] For it was he that spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, Luke 1:70 , and his word cannot be broken, John 10:35 , for he is the God of Amen, as the prophet David calleth him, Psalms 31:5 ; and all his promises are the issue of a most faithful and right will, void of all insincerity and falsehood, Proverbs 8:8 .
By the mouth of Jeremiah ] That admirable preacher (as Keckerman calleth him), that most eminent prophet (as another), with whose writings, about this very restoration, Daniel consulted, and therehence collected, that the time was come, Daniel 9:2 , which put him upon that heavenly prayer; for he knew that God’s promises must be put in suit; and it was to him that the angel afterwards said, I came for thy word, Daniel 10:14 . God will come, according to his promise, but he will have his people’s prayers lead him. This liberty here granted to the Jews, after so long captivity, was the fruit of many prayers, founded upon the promise, Jeremiah 25:12 ; Jeremiah 29:10 .
Might be fulfilled ] As indeed it was exactly by the death of Belshazzar, slain by Cyrus, who succeeded him: Daniel 5:30 , "In that night was Belshazzar slain," because then exactly the seventy years were ended. So, for the same reason it is noted, Exodus 12:40-41 , that at midnight the firstborn of Egypt were slain, because just then the four hundred or four hundred and thirty years foretold were expired. So punctual is God in keeping his word. It is not here, as with men, A day breaketh no square, &c., for he never faileth at his time.
The Lord stirred up the spirit ] It was the mighty and immediate work of God (in whose hand are the hearts of all, both kings and captives, lords and lowlies) to bring this wise and great prince, in the very first entrance into his monarchy, before things were fully settled, to dismiss so great and so united a people, in respect of their custom and religion, and so given to insurrection (as was generally held) into their own country, with such a fair and full patent. This was the Lord’s own work, and it was justly marvellous in the eyes of his people; who could hardly believe their own eyes, but were for a while like those who dream. Then was their mouth filled with laughter, and their tongue with singing, &c., Psalms 126:1-2 . Then was the great power and goodness of God, in stirring up Cyrus to do this, acknowledged. Then also was the king’s clemency and courtesy no less cried up and magnified than was that of Flaminius, the Roman general, at Athens, where, for delivering them from servitude, he was little less than deified; or that of our Queen Elizabeth, who, for her merciful returning home certain Italians that were taken prisoners in the eighty-eight invasion, was termed St. Elizabeth by some at Venice; whereof one told the Lord Carleton (afterwards Viscount Dorchester), being there ambassador, that although he was a Papist, yet he would never pray to any other saint but that St. Elizabeth.
That he made proclamation ] Heb. He caused a voice to pass, sc. by his messengers and ministers. The posts went out, being hastened by the king’s commandment, Esther 3:15 , even those Angarii. The Lord Christ also proclaiming liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound, Isaiah 61:1 , causeth his word to run and to be glorified, to spread like a sunbeam, as Eusebius saith the gospel did at first; to be carried as on eagles’ wings, or on angels’ wings, as it was through all Christendom, when Luther first sent forth his book, De Captivitate Babylonica, of the Babylonish Captivity.
And put it also in writing ] That it might be posted up, and everywhere published. Vox audita perit: littera scripta manet. Christ hath written for us also the great things of his law; and should they, then, be counted a strange thing? Hosea 8:12 . See Trapp on " Hos 8:12 " His Gospel likewise he hath written to you that believe on the name of the Son of God, 1 John 5:13 , and ponder his passion especially, which is, therefore, so particularly set down by four faithful witnesses, that men may get it written, not on the nails of their hands (as one once did), but upon the tables of their hearts, there to abide as a perpetual picture; Non scripta solum, sedet sculpta, as he said; that we therein beholding, as in a glass, the love of our Lord, might be changed into the same image, till our hearts became a very lump of love to him who "loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and made us kings and priests unto God and his Father," Revelation 1:5-6 .
Ezr 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.
Ver. 2. The Lord God of heaven hath given me ] This good language Cyrus might well learn of Daniel, who flourished under his reign, Daniel 5:28 , and probably acquainted him with the prophecies that went before of him, Isaiah 44:28 ; Isaiah 45:1 . Jaddeus, the high priest, did the like, many years after, to Alexander the Great; who not only thereupon spared the Jews, but highly honoured them, as Josephus relateth. Here, then, we see this potentate of the earth giveth unto the Lord the glory due unto his name, Psalms 29:1-2 , acknowledging him the blessed and only potentate, 1 Timothy 6:16 . One that both is in the heavens, and also doeth whatsoever he pleaseth, both in heaven and in earth, Psalms 115:3 ; Psalms 135:6 . The God of heaven, saith he, hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth. This was far better than that of Alexander the Great, whom, when Lysippus had pictured looking up to heaven with this posy, Iupiter asserui terrain mihi, tu assere ccelum, &c., Alexander was so delighted with it, that he proclaimed that none should take his picture but Lysippus (Plin. lib. 6, cap. 16).
All the kingdoms of the earth ] i.e. Many of them, so that he was Aυτοκρατωρ , a mighty monarch, an absolute emperor. But to be κοσμοκρατωρ , sole lord of the whole world, was never yet granted to any; though the great Cham of Cataia is reported to cause his trumpets to be sounded every day as soon as he hath dined, in token that he giveth leave to other princes of the earth (whom he supposeth to be his vassals) to go to dinner. And the proud Spaniard, who affecteth to be catholic monarch, was well laughed at by Sir Francis Drake and his company, for his device of a Pegasus, flying out of a globe of the earth set up in the Indies with this motto - totus non sufficit orbis. But he affecteth a universal monarchy; and so perhaps did Cyrus, which maketh him here speak so largely
And he hath charged me ] Et ipse commisit mihi, so Junius rendereth it. The word signifieth to visit one, either for the better or the worse. But according to the Chaldee and Syriac use, it signifieth to charge or command, as it is here, and 2 Chronicles 36:22 , fitly rendered. But how knew Cyrus this charge of Almighty God, otherwise than by books? Like as Daniel (who probably showed him those prophecies of Isaiah concerning him) understood by Jeremiah 25:12 ; Jeremiah 29:10 , that the seventy years’ captivity were accomplished; and by Ezekiel 31:1-3 , &c. (which he had read, likely, and revolved) he was the better able to give a right interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, Daniel 4:19-27 .
To build him an house at Jerusalem ] i.e. To rebuild that which had been once built by Solomon (whence Hegesippus, not having the Hebrew tongue, will have Jerusalem so named; quasi ιερος Sολομωντος , Solomon’s temple), a stately house indeed, and one of the seven wonders of the world. For albeit it was but one hundred and twenty feet long, and forty feet broad, whereas the temple at Ephesus was two hundred forty and five feet long, and two hundred and twenty feet broad; yet for costly and choice materials, for intricate and exact workmanship, for spiritual employment, and for mystical signification, never was there the like edifice in the world. And happy had it been for Cyrus, it, laying aside all his warlike expeditions and achievements, he had wholly applied himself to the building of his holy house, and to the study of those things that there he might have learned for his soul’s health.
Jerusalem, which is in Judah ] Jerusalem was part of it in Judah, and part in the tribe of Benjamin. The house here mentioned, viz. the temple, stood in Benjamin, as was foretold it should by Moses, four hundred and forty years before it was first built by Solomon, Deuteronomy 33:12 , "And of Benjamin he said, The beloved of the Lord," that is, Benjamin, his darling, "shall dwell in safety by him; and the Lord shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between his shoulders," that is, betwixt those two mountains, Moriah and Sion, wherein the temple was built. Now because Benjamin was the least of all the tribes of Israel, and because so much of it as lay within Judah Joshua 19:1 ; Jos 19:9 was comprised under Judah, 1Ki 11:13 therefore is the temple here said to be in "Jerusalem, which is in Judah." Hereby also this Jerusalem in Judah is distinguished from any other Jerusalem, if there were any place in the world so called besides. We read of Pope Sylvester II. (who sold his soul to the devil for the popedom), that, saying mass in a certain church in Rome, called Jerusalem, he fell suddenly into a fever, whereof he died, the devil claiming his own; for the bargain between them was, that he should continue pope till he sang mass in Jerusalem: and now intellexit se a Diabolo amphibolia vocis circumventum: little dreamed the pope of any other Jerusalem but this in Judah, and this cost him his life, A.D. 1003. Eusebius telleth us (Lib. 5, cap. 17) that Montanus, the haeresiarch, called his Pepuza and Tymium (two pelting parishes in Phrygia) Jerusalem; as if they had been the only churches in the world. Hofman, the Anabaptist, had the like conceit of Strasburg, in Germany, and Becold, of Munster; both which places they called the new Jerusalem.
Ezr 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.
Ver. 3. Who is there among you of all his people? ] Many there were among them that affirmed deeply of being the people of God, who yet ( tanquam monstra marina ) passed by this proclamation with a deaf ear; and preferring haram domesticam arae dominicae, a swine sty before a sanctuary, chose rather to abide in Babylon, and there to dwell amongst plants and hedges, 1 Chronicles 4:23 , making pots for the king’s garden, than to go up to Jerusalem. So that, besides this O yes, by the king, God was fain to cry, "Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north." "Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon," Zechariah 2:6-7 . "Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest: because it is polluted, it shall destroy you, even with a sore destruction," Micah 2:10 . Look how the eagle hath much ado to get her young ones out of the nest, pricking and beating them with her wings and talons; so was it here: and neither so could the Lord prevail with the most of them, being as loth to depart as Lot was out of Sodom, vel canis ab uncto corio, or a dog from a fat morsel.
His God be with him ] And then he needs no better company, no greater happiness; for he is sure of a confluence of all comforts, of all that heart can wish or need require. Tua praesentia, Domine, Laurentio ipsam craticulam fecit dulcem, saith an ancient, Thy presence sweeteneth all our occurrences (Aug.). This was, therefore, a good wish of King Cyrus; neither did he therein any disservice to himself; for God hath promised to bless those that bless any of his, Genesis 12:3 , and not to let a good wish to such go unrewarded, 2 Corinthians 13:9 .
Let him go up and build, &c. ] As God had charged him, Ezra 1:2 , so doth he them. And it is as if he should have said with that father (Bernard), Unless I stir up your hearts, as the Lord hath done mine, unless I lay God’s charge upon you to set strenuously upon this service of his, Vobis erit damnosum, mihi periculosum. Timeo itaque damnum vestrum, timeo damnationem meam, si tacuero. If now you go not up upon so great encouragement, God will surely meet with you.
He is the God ] The only true God, John 17:3 , none like him, Micah 7:18 . "The Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty and a terrible," Deuteronomy 10:17 . Is it not fit, therefore, that he have a temple, a place of Divine worship, which the heathens deny not to their dunghill deities?
Which is in Jerusalem ] The city of the great King, where he kept his court, and afforded his special presence, not of grace only in his ordinances, but of glory also sometimes in his holy temple, 2 Chronicles 5:14 , as in another heaven.
Ezr 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.
Ver. 4. And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth ] Heb. Gershom. A name that Moses gave his eldest son born in his banishment; for he said, "I have been a stranger in a strange land," Exodus 2:22 . These poor captives had been longer so than Moses in Midian, and met with more hard measure, Psalms 137:1 ; Psalms 137:8 . But as those who are born in hell know no other heaven (as the proverb is), so fared it not with a few of these; loth to be at the pains and run the hazard of a voyage to the Holy Land. A little with ease is held best. Let us, who are strangers here, haste homeward, heavenward. Some of these poor Jews had a mind to return, but wanted means. For these necessitous people the king takes care and course here, that they be supplied and set forward on their journey, after a godly sort, or worthy of God, as St John phraseth it, 3 John 1:6 , who else will require it.
Let the men of his place ] Whether Jews or proselytes, brethren by race, grace, or place only.
Help him with silver ] Heb. Give him a lift out of the dust, as Job’s friends did him off the dunghill; as Joseph did his brethren when he filled their bags, and returned them their moneys; and as all Christians are bound and bid to support or shore up their weaker brethren, 1 Thessalonians 5:14 ( Aντεχεσθε των ασθενων ).
With silver, and with gold ] These are notable good levers at a dead lift in this present world where money bears the mastery, and answereth all things, Ecclesiastes 10:14 , a satisfactory answer it giveth to whatsoever is desired or demanded. He that helpeth a man, therefore, in his necessity with silver and gold is a friend indeed. Let a man make God his friend, and then (saith Eliphaz) the Almighty shall be his gold, and he shall have plenty of silver, Job 22:25 ; Jacob shall be sure of so much as shall bring him to his journey’s end, a sufficiency, if not a superfluity, of all things needful to life and godliness.
And with goods ] Heb. Recush (whence haply our English words riches and cash), chattels, movables, gathered substance, as the word signifieth, which whosoever he was that first called substance was utterly mistaken; sith wisdom only (that is, godliness) is durable substance, Proverbs 8:21 . Wealth is but a semblance, Proverbs 23:5 1Co 7:31 And he that first called riches goods was a better husband than divine. But it may be thought the most are such husbands; since the common cry is, Who will show us any good? a good booty, a good bargain, a good beast? &c., Psalms 4:6 . That one thing necessary, that is both Bonum hominis, the good of man, Micah 6:8 , and Totum hominis, the whole of man, Ecclesiastes 12:13 , lieth wholly neglected by the most.
And with beasts ] Those most serviceable creatures, both ad esum and ad usum, for food and other uses, as sheep, horses, camels, dromedaries, swift, patient, painful.
Besides the freewill offering ] Which the king presumeth all God’s free-hearted people (volunteers, every soul of them, Psa 110:3 ) will be most forward unto in so good a work, so acceptable a service. See Leviticus 5:6 ; Leviticus 5:12 ; Leviticus 14:10 ; Leviticus 14:21 ; Leviticus 14:30 . God straineth upon no man, Exodus 25:2 ; Exodus 35:5 . Lex quaerit voluntarios, The law calleth for volunteers, saith Ambrose, see Isaiah 56:6 2Co 8:12 ; 2 Corinthians 9:7 , and learn to come off roundly and readily in works of piety and charity; for else all is lost; since Virtus nolentium nulla est, unwilling service is nothing set by.
That is in Jerusalem ] This city he so often nameth, that he may seem delighted with the very mention of it; and to be of the same mind with those pious captives that vowed to prefer Jerusalem (that joy of the whole earth) before their chief joy, to make it ascend above the head of their joy, as the Hebrew hath it, Psalms 137:6 . How then should it cheer up our hearts to think of heaven, and that we are written among the living in Jerusalem, Isaiah 4:3 ; fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of heaven, Ephesians 2:19 .
Ezr 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.
Ver. 5. Then rose up the chief of the fathers ] Those, who are therefore crowned and chronicled in the next chapter. Those magnates magnites, that drew on others by their example. Those Viri gregis, he-goats before the flocks, men of public places and authority, active for reformation, who hearkened to that divine call, Jeremiah 50:8 , "Remove out of the midst of Babylon, and go forth out of the land of the Chaldeans, and be as the he-goats before the flocks." These nobles arose, being roused and raised by that noble spirit of God, Psalms 51:12 , that kingly spirit, the Chaldee rendereth it; such as was found in Araunah, that famous Jebusite, 2Sa 24:23 Zechariah 9:7 ; and is a quickening spirit in every good soul, causing them to make riddance, as Baruch did, Nehemiah 3:20 , and to take long strides toward heaven, as Jacob did toward Padanaram, Gen 28:5 for, Nescit tarda molimina spiritus sancti gratia, The spirit of grace knoweth no slow paces, but is quick of despatch (Ambrose). Up get these chieftains when once they hear, Surge, age, Summe Pater, as one said once to the bishop of Rome, exciting him to make war upon the Turk.
And the priests, and the Levites ] Fit it was that these should be of the first and most forward at temple work; whose proper employment it was to teach Jacob God’s judgments, and to put incense before him continually, Deuteronomy 33:10 , to wait at the altar, and to be partakers with the altar, 1 Corinthians 9:13 .
With all them whose spirit God had raised up ] Not of Judah and Benjamin only (those best of the tribes, and truest to their princes and principles), but also of Ephraim and Manasseh, 1 Chronicles 9:3 , with Ezekiel 37:16-17 ; Ezekiel 37:21-22 , even as many of the Israelites as were acted by God’s spirit of judgment and of burning, Isaiah 4:4 , firing them up to a holy contention in so noble and necessary a business, and leading them into the land of uprightness, Psalms 143:10 . The fruit of this good spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth, Ephesians 5:9 ; the work of it upon the sons of God who are led by it, Romans 8:14 , is not only an external invitation by the word and sacraments, or a mere moral persuasion (Cyrus’s proclamation here would have availed but little with this people, if God had not moved their hearts), but an effectual drawing of the heart, whereby operating irresistibly, the sinner is converted; and whereby co-operating infallibly, he persevereth in grace unto the very end, John 6:44 . This conduct of the Holy Spirit we must both earnestly beg with David, Psalms 143:10 , and as carefully observe and obey his motions as ever David did the out goings of God in the tops of the mulberry trees, 1 Chronicles 14:15 , for these are the sound of his goings, and the footsteps of his anointed, Psalms 89:51 .
To build the house of the Lord ] This was what they aimed at, rather than their own liberty. Choice and excellent spirits can easily drown all self respects in the glory of God. It was the care of those good people in Joel’s days, that there might be a meat offering and a drink offering unto the Lord their God, whatever became of their own carcases, Joel 2:14 . And when the daily sacrifice ceased by the tyranny of Antiochus, they looked upon it as an abomination of desolation, Daniel 9:27 . The Jews at this day are very earnest to be rebuilding the destroyed temple at Jerusalem, out of their blind zeal; but they have neither any Cyrus to encourage them (Julian the apostate once did, in spite to the Christians, but it came to nothing) nor the Spirit of God to excite them to such an unwarrantable work.
Ezr 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.
Ver. 6. And all they that were about them ] Both their countrymen the Jews (that thought not good to themselves or not yet, till they should see further: there is none so wise as the sluggard, Pro 26:16 ), and others of the neighbourhood: for the Egyptians may lend jewels to the Israelites, dogs may lick Lazarus’s ulcers, and the earth may help the woman, by opening her mouth, and swallowing up the flood cast out after her by the dragon to drown her, Revelation 12:16 .
Strengthened their hands ] Which else, for want of such support, would have hung down, and their feeble knees buckled under them, ere they had come to their own country; neither could they without such supplies have so comfortably carried on the work they went about. For, if wisdom be a defence, or a shadow, to those that have seen the sun (as in the former verse) and are scorched with the heat of it, so is money too, saith Solomon, Ecclesiastes 7:12 ; and though wisdom without wealth is good, yet it is better with inheritance, Ezra 1:11 , which is not only an ornament, but an instrument of virtue. When men go on Virtute dace, comite fortuna, then it is well with them as it was with good Josiah, Jeremiah 22:15-16 . But Agur would not be poor, lest he should be put upon ill courses, Proverbs 30:9 , put to his shifts. Poor Hagar, when the water was spent in the bottle, cast the child under the shrubs, Genesis 21:15 .
With vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, and with beasts ] See the note on Ezra 1:4 . These are things that men do not usually so easily part with to others till they needs must. Euclio in the comedian sits abrood upon his heaps and hoards, and will not be drawn off. Shall Nabal take his bread and his flesh, and give it to those he knows not? 1Sa 25:23-31 Misers will as soon part with their blood as their gold; whence the Chaldees call their money dam, that is, blood. Many a man shows himself like the Cornish crow, which will steal a piece of money, and hiding it in some hole, will never help herself or any other with it afterwards. Hermocrates, being loth that any man should enjoy his goods after him, made himself, by his will, heir of his own goods. Athenaeus telleth of one, that at his death devoured many pieces of gold, and sewed the rest in his coat, commanding that they should be all buried with him. But these in the text seem to have been of the race of those Persians spoken of, Isaiah 13:17 , which regarded not silver, and as for gold, they cared not much for it. Or if they were proselytes to the Church, then they had learned (with Tyrus, now also converted) to give over heaping and hoarding of wealth, and therewith to feed and clothe God’s poor saints; and so to furnish them for their journey to their Father’s house, that they may eat sufficiently, and have durable clothing, Isaiah 23:18 . This was God’s work upon their hearts; and Quando Christus magister, quam cito discitur quod decatur? (Augustin.) Whereunto may be added, that Cyrus, who set forth this edict, as he was an absolute sovereign (and so his word went for a law), so he was a gracious and courteous prince, ita ut Patris nomen meruerit, so that he merited the name and title of Father of his Country, and might command anything of them.
And with precious things ] Even the very best of the best they had. The word signifieth praestantissimum et pretiosissimum in quocunque genere fructuum, metallorum, gemmarum, vestium, the choicest and chiefest of all kind of commodities. Such as Eliezer gave to Rebekah and her brother, Genesis 24:53 , and as Jehoshaphat gave his younger son, 2 Chronicles 21:3 . For the purchase of the pearl of price, the wise merchant makes a thorough sale of all. Barnabas parteth with his lands, Zaccheus with his goods, Matthew with his meat, the centurion with his money, to build those synagogues that wicked Antiochus had thrown down; and these in the text, with their most precious things, to refurnish that temple that Nebuchadnezzar had burnt.
Beside all that was willingly offered ] A freewill offering then there was Ezr 1:4 brought in by God’s willing people, Psalms 110:3 , that wait for God’s law, as Isaiah 42:8-9 , and hold with that ancient, that it is nimis augusta innocentia ad legem bonum esse, to do no more service to God than needs must, to get so much grace only as will keep life and soul together (that is, soul and hell asunder), this they judge to be a low and unworthy strain of some good people. David voweth freewill offerings often, and could beteem God a great deal more love and service than he is able to perform to him, Psa 5:6 1 Chronicles 29:8-9 . Those good souls, Zechariah 8:21 , call upon themselves and one another to be continually going before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts: I (saith each for himself) will go also. Hannah went up with her husband every year to the feast, 1 Samuel 1:4 ; 1 Samuel 1:21 ; so did the Virgin Mary to the passover with her son Jesus, Luke 2:41-42 ; yet none were expressly commanded so to do but males, and those also nothing under twenty years of age, as fit to be numbered, Exodus 30:14 . So those among us that hear weekday sermons, as Mary did, Luke 10:42 , and many other good people in our Saviour’s days, Luke 19:47-48 ; Luke 21:37-38 . Hereby we shall show our love, and do a service highly accepted in heaven.
Ezr 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;
Ver. 7. Also Cyrus the king brought forth the vessels ] For example to others, et iussit, et gessit, he did himself what he commanded to be done, and so became a living law, a walking statute. So Justinian would not put the vessels of the Temple (taken by Titus, and recovered from Gensericus) into the public treasury, but restored them.
Which Nebuchadnezzar had brought forth ] With profane and sacrilegious hands some of these sacred vessels and utensils of the Temple he had cut in pieces, 2 Kings 24:13 , and others he carried away, 2 Chronicles 36:7 , whole and entire. This he did out of covetousness (that auri sacra fames ) and in scorn of all religion (rather than hatred of the Jewish superstition, or to avenge the quarrel of God’s covenant), like as for the same reason his successor Cambyses destroyed the Egyptian idols, Isaiah 10:26 .
And had put them ] There was a sweet providence in that; to the end that being there reserved, they might in due time be restored (as here they are) to the house of God at Jerusalem. And although that was a most unfit place to keep them in (for "what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?" 2Co 6:16 ), and Belshazzar most profanely abused them, Daniel 5:2 , in that drunken feast of his (hence he is called the festival king, Eze 21:5-6 ), yet being sanctified again, and dedicated to the true and first owner, the God of Israel, they might lawfully be made use of. Not only things indifferent abused may yet be used in the service of God (as those six waterpots were by our Saviour John 2:6-7 , though they had been superstitiously abused for private purification), but also idolatrous things and places. As Gideon took the bullock appointed for Baal and the grove, and offered the bullock with that wood in sacrifice to the Lord, Judges 6:26 . The like the Bethshemites did by the Philistines’ cart and kine. The Mount of Olives was shamefully abused to idolatry by Solomon and others, so that it was called the mount of corruption, 2 Kings 23:13 , and yet was it our Saviour’s usual oratory or place of prayer.
In the house of his gods ] Bel and Nebo, Isaiah 46:1 . These were Babylon’s chief gods. The original of Bel is said to be this: Ninus having made an image of his father Belus, all that came to see it were pardoned for all their offences; whence in time that image came to be worshipped, and then afterwards a multitude more; insomuch as that in Hesiod’s time the number of heathenish gods was grown to thirty thousand, πρις γαρ μυριοι εισιν . And in China at this day some tell us that there are no fewer than a hundred thousand idols.
“ O curas hominum! O quantum est in rebus inane! ”
Gods these idols are called here, not because they were so (for there is one God only, said Pythagoras, and other heathens, Eις μονος εστι θεος , &c.), but because Nebuchadnezzar falsely held them so. Like as elsewhere the gods of Damascus are said to have smitten Ahaz, who therefore sacrificed to them, 2 Chronicles 28:23 , not as if those idols were anything in the world, or could do anything at all to him, Jeremiah 10:5 1 Corinthians 8:4 ; but only that he conceited so, and that the devil (who is ειδωλοχαρης , as Synesius truly saith) abused his credulity.
Ezr 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.
Ver. 8. Even those did Cyrus king of Persia ] So styled, because, though he was monarch of many countries, yet Persia was his hereditary kingdom, and Persepolis the place of his residence; which great city was afterwards burnt by Alexander the Great, at the motion and by the request of a base harlot.
By the hand of Mithredath the treasurer ] Heb. Gizhar; Inde Gasper, saith one. Mithridates, king of Pontus, was famous in later ages, or, rather infamous, for his craft in saving himself, and his cruelty to the Roman merchants, trading through his territories, killing eighty thousand of them with one letter (Val. Max.).
And numbered them unto Sheshbazzar ] Joy in tribulation, this is the signification of the word; a fit name for a prince, who should be Deliciae orbis, as Titus the emperor, of whom it is said, that he never sent away any suitor sad or discontented, Neminem a se dimisit tristem (Sueton.); and remembering on a day that he had not done any poor man good, he cried out to his friends, Hodie non regnavimus: Amici, diem perdidi, accounting that day lost wherein he had not showed some man courtesy. Such a gracious prince was Job, Job 29:12 , "I delivered the poor that cried," saith he, "and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him." The Great Turk styleth himself, The world’s refuge; professing that all that lament unto him shall have redress and help. James V of Scotland was called "The poor man’s king," for his readiness to right and relieve the afflicted. Zerubbabel, however he came by this name Sheshbazzar for that he was the man I take for granted, Ezra 5:16 ; Ezr 3:8 Zechariah 4:9 , though Junius thinks otherwise), he deserved it doubtless; and of him it might well be said, as the historian Vopiscus doth of Probus the emperor, Si probi nomen non haberet, habere cognomen posset, pity he had been called anything but Probus, so honest a prince he was: think the like here. The parliament here held A.D. 1376 was called The Good Parliament; and another not long after Parlamentum benedictum, The Blessed Parliament. God grant us such a one next (this was written, May 18, 1653); for at present we are without any, but not without cause to cry out, as those in Jeremiah 8:20 ; Jeremiah 8:22 , The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not helped. "Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered? We looked for peace, but no good came; and for a time of health, and behold trouble!" Jer 8:15
Ezr 1:9 And this [is] the number of them: thirty chargers of gold, a thousand chargers of silver, nine and twenty knives,
Ver. 9. And this is the number of them ] Had they not been things of great price and use, they would not have been numbered: Song of Solomon 6:8 , the queens and concubines are numbered how many; but not the virgins, that bring not forth fruit to God. Men use not to count how many pebbles they have in their yard, or piles of grass in their field, as they do how many pence in their purse, or sheep in their fold. When the Great God shall count his people’s flittings, bottle up their tears (as sweet water), book up their sighs (as memorable matters), Psalms 56:8 , shall we not say of them as the Jews did of Lazarus, when Jesus wept, Behold, how he loves them? When the very hairs of their head are all numbered, Matthew 10:30 , so that not one of them falleth to the ground without their heavenly Father’s knowledge, what store, think we, setteth he by their persons, by their performances? I know thy work, and thy labour, Revelation 2:19 . I pity this people, they have been with me now three days, and fasting they are, and far from home, and faint they may, if sent away empty, Matthew 15:32 . Lo, is not this a wonderful condescension, that Christ should consider tantos tantillos et tales, and reckon every circumstance of their service so particularly and punctually, that he might give to every man according to his works? Oh, his jewels, his book of remembrance, &c., Malachi 3:16-17 ; See Trapp on " Mal 3:16 " See Trapp on " Mal 3:17 "
Thirty chargers ] Serving to hold such parts of the sacrifices as were to be eaten by the priests and others.
Nine and twenty knives ] Sacrificing knives, richly hafted.
Ezr 1:10 Thirty basons of gold, silver basons of a second [sort] four hundred and ten, [and] other vessels a thousand.
Ver. 10. Thirty basons of gold ] These were to hold the sprinkling water, or blood.
And other vessels ] Of sundry sorts, whereof see 1 Kings 7:50 .
Ezr 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.
Ver. 11. All the vessels of gold and of silver ] Those best of metals, and therefore fittest for his use and service who is good, Psalms 106:1 , better, Psalms 108:9 , best, Philippians 1:23 , goodness itself, Matthew 19:17 . Whose great purse is the earth, with all that is either on it or in it, Psalms 24:1 ; whose great storehouse are the stars and planets, the sun especially making these metals, and causing plenty, Deuteronomy 28:12 . Let us lavish out of the bag, and when we have honoured the Lord with the best of our best, cry out with David, Of thine own, Lord, have we given thee, 1 Chronicles 29:16 ; and with Justinian, dedicating a very rich communion table, τα σα εκ των σων σοι προσφερομεν οι δαυλοι σου , &c.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Ezra 1". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13