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The Temple as the Place of the Lord. (Period previous to Ezra)
The Most Important Fundamental Facts
A.—THE DECREE OF CYRUS—THE DEPARTURE FROM BABYLON–THE RESTITUTION OF THE SACRED VESSELS
I. The Decree of Cyrus. Ezra 1:1-4
1Now 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, 2Thus 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 a 3 house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 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. 4And 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, besides the free-will offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.
II. The Departure from Babylon. Ezra 1:5-6
5Then 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. 6And all they that were about them strengthened their hands with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, and with beasts, and with precious things, besides all that was willingly offered.
III. The Restitution of the Vessels of the Temple Ezra 1:7-11
7Also 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; 8Even those did Cyrus king of Persia bring forth by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and numbered them unto Sheshbazzar, the prince of 9Judah. And this is the number of them: thirty chargers of gold, a thousand 10chargers of silver, nine and twenty knives, Thirty basins of gold, silver basins of a second sort four hundred and ten, and other vessels a thousand. 11All the vessels of gold and of silver were five thousand and four hundred. All these did Shesh bazzar bring up with them of the captivity that were brought up from Babylon unto Jerusalem.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Ezra 1:1-4. The decree of Cyrus placed here at the beginning constituted the basis of all that followed, first of all, of the re-establishment of the temple and the renewal of the congregation. And although this decree was issued by a heathen prince, it yet involved a great act of fulfillment on the part of the Lord. It is manifest from the first verse that the Lord was there present and acting to fulfil His word.
Ezra 1:1. And in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia.—The וְ (and), which under other circumstances might be deemed unimportant, here, in view of 2 Chronicles 36:22, connects the subsequent re-establishment with the previous destruction. The first year of Cyrus naturally refers to that first year, in which he began to come into consideration as ruler with reference to the Jews, that is, over Babylon, and indeed not mediately, as the sovereign of Darius the Mede, in view of Daniel 6:1, but immediately. It was the year 536 B. C.—[Rawlinson contends that “by the first year of Cyrus is to be understood his first year at Babylon, which was the first year of his sovereignty over the Jews. This was B. C. 538.”—Tr.]—כּוֹרֶשׁ corresponds with the old Persian kurus, the Greek κῦρος, and is perhaps connected with kurus the name of prince in ancient India [and the kuru race, according to Rawlinson, who also thinks that the Masoretic pointing is incorrect for כּוּרֶשׁ.—Tr.].—Vid. Delitzsch, Com., Isaiah 44:28. פָּרַם (in the best editions with pathah under resh, for which we have qametz in strong pause, as with silluq, Ezra 4:3) is in the cuneiform inscriptions Paraça, in the native dialect Parça, vid. Schrader, Keilinschriften, S. 244 [Rawlinson, Appendix to Com. on Persian words in Ezra.—Tr.].—That the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled.—לִכְלוֹת would generally be rendered: in order that it might be completed. The subject would then be properly regarded as the period of seventy years which the divine word had determined (so Berth, and Keil); yet as this is not the subject, but rather the word of the Lord itself, we are compelled to render: in order that it might be fulfilled. כָּלָה means properly to be ready, and thence, on the one side, to be finished, e. g. Exodus 39:32, especially of buildings, as of the temple, 1 Kings 6:38, but likewise of predicted events, Daniel 12:7; in the Piel, to finish, 1 Kings 7:1 sq.; in Pual, to be completed, Genesis 2:1; on the other side, to pass away. Taking it thus, לִכְלֹות is essentially the same as לְמַלּאוֹת, which is used as its synonym, 2 Chronicles 36:21 (Vulg. ut compleretur), although this term rests on a different idea. The word of God is not as with מַלּאוֹת to be regarded as a measure to be filled full, but as the vital beginning of that which is to be carried out.—That our author, as well as the author of Daniel 9:1, brings into consideration above all the prophecy of Jeremiah 25:11 sq. and Jeremiah 29:10, not that of Isaiah 41:2-4; Isaiah 41:25; Isaiah 44:24-28; Isaiah 45:1-6; Isaiah 45:13; Isaiah 46:11; Isaiah 48:13-15, is to be explained from the fact that he is concerned, as we see from 2 Chronicles 36:21, not merely with the deliverance after the exile, but likewise with the time of that deliverance, that is, with its beginning, after the expiration of the seventy years of the exile, which is foretold in Jeremiah alone. Besides the prophecies of Jeremiah were the more popular as they were older and more fundamental.1 The seventy years of the exile, to the first year of Cyrus, can only be made out by going back to the first beginning of all the Chaldean wars, conquests and captivities of Israel—that is, to the victory of Nebuchadnezzar over Pharaoh–Necho at Carchemish in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, 606 B. C. [Rawlinson and Smith both make the date 605 B. C. The former contends that seventy is a round number sufficiently fulfilled by sixty-eight years, which he makes between 605 and 538.—Tr.], when Jeremiah first uttered the prophecy under consideration. (comp. Jeremiah 25:1 sq. and Jeremiah 46:1). We are fully justified in doing this, as is now again generally recognized. That already in the fourth year of Jehoiakim there was really a conquest of Jerusalem and a carrying into captivity of Jews of the principal families, is shown not only by the fact that this year had to Jeremiah the significance of an important crisis, comp. Ezra 25, not only, moreover, from the statement, 2 Kings 26:1, that Nebuchadnezzar made a first expedition against Jehoiakim, and then reduced him to submission for a long time, but likewise from the combination of very definite historical statements. Here belongs especially the remark of Jeremiah 46:2, that Nebuchadnezzar defeated Pharaoh Necho in the fourth year of Jehoiakim at Carchemish, and in connection therewith the account of Berosus, that he pursued the Egyptians in conquest into their own land, and then when the account of the death of his father recalled him, had carried away captive the Jews among other nations. Besides, 2 Chronicles 36:6 may be adduced as an evidence of this fact (with Bertheau), since the account there manifestly taken from ancient sources, that Nebuchadnezzar had ordered Jehoiakim to be bound with an iron chain, in order to bring him to Babylon, cannot be referred to the last campaign against Jehoiakim, in which he perished in his native land, but only to a previous expedition. The fact that Jeremiah makes no mention of a capture of Jerusalem in the fourth year of Jehoiakim cannot count for the contrary opinion; for Jeremiah touches upon the history of Jerusalem only in so far as it determined his own history; and there is no more importance to be given to the fact that Jeremiah, Jeremiah 36:9 sq., caused to be read in the fifth year of Jehoiakim and the ninth month a prophecy that Nebuchadnezzar would come and destroy the land. Jehoiakim was ever thinking of rebellion, and the people were of like spirit, and would not believe that ruin actually threatened them from the Chaldeans. They were therefore still in especial need of such a threatening, even if the misfortune had already begun. It might also under these very circumstances be as unwelcome to them as it appears from Jeremiah 36:11 sq. In contrast with their hopes and efforts it was certainly the most undesirable (against Bähr on 2 Kings 24:1). At that time they held a fast, and that they thereby would lament a misfortune already suffered, and not merely avert one that was to be feared, is in connection with the false security so natural to them, and their effort to suppress those gloomy thoughts that were anywhere about to have vent, is at least highly probable.—The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus.—This does not mean that Cyrus was influenced in the same way as were the prophets, upon whom, with their greater susceptibility, the Spirit of the Lord came; but yet an influence in consequence of which Cyrus made the will of God his own will, and executed it in the things under consideration. God gave him the resolution and the desire to execute His intention, comp. 1 Chronicles 5:26; 2 Chronicles 21:16; Haggai 1:14 sq. That the Lord at this time chose a heathen, and indeed the ruler of a heathen empire, as His instrument, was in accordance with the new position that the empires of the world were henceforth to assume with reference to the kingdom of God.—He made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also (made known) by writing. Usually הֶעֱכִיר קוֹל means “to cause to be made known through heralds,” comp. Ezra 10:7; Nehemiah 8:15; 2 Chronicles 30:5; Exodus 36:6; that it is to be taken here in the same sense is clear from the use of גַּם before בְּמִכְתָּב, which is thus adjoined in zeugma, so that we must supply a new verb with a general meaning, such as “he made known.”
Ezra 1:2. The decree of Cyrus immediately following was not merely designed for the Jews; accordingly was by no means merely to be communicated to them secretly; but, according to Ezra 1:4, it was directed to all the subjects of the Persian empire. All the more striking therefore is the open confession of Jehovah, which Cyrus makes at the very beginning.—All the kingdoms of the earth hath Jehovah the God of heaven given me, and He hath charged me to build Him a house.—We are not therefore to suppose that the author simply imputed to Cyrus the acknowledgment of Jehovah or indeed that he altogether invented this entire edict. Chapter Ezra 5:17; Ezra 6:3 suffice to disprove this supposition. It is not to be supposed, indeed, that Cyrus spake in his edict of Jehovah as the God of heaven who had given him the lands; for his subjects would have regarded it as an apostasy from the Persian religion, which might have been fatal to him; moreover such a thing would be without any analogy.2 Against this view there cannot be cited the case of that king of Hamath who in the inscription of Sargon at Khorsebad and Nimrud is called Jahubihd, in another inscription however Ilubihd‚ who thus seems not only to have employed the name of El., but likewise of Jehovah. Comp. Schrader, l. c., S. 3 sq. Without doubt the Persians had an entirely different self-consciousness from the Syrians, who as a matter of course were much more closely related to the Israelites. Notwithstanding this, however, it is clear from the fact of the edict itself and the dismission of the Jews, that Cyrus tolerated the religion of Jehovah, at least as much as so many others in his wide realm, yea we may certainly conclude therefrom that he favored it. He would not only have Jehovah recognised as a God alongside of other gods; for such a polytheistic syncretism would have accorded but little with the strong monotheistic bent of the Persian religion, and would still less accord with that recognition of Jehovah which is declared in the decree before us. Cyrus might very well have regarded the Jewish religion as a method of worshipping the highest God, which deserved a preference above many other sensuous conceptions of the Deity. He might have seen in Jehovah, so to speak, only another name for Ahura mazda, and might have been so much the more inclined to this conception, as the Persians had an idea of God which in itself was purer than that of other nations, which has been obscured for the first time by more sensuous religious elements, pressing in upon them from Media and the West. Comp. Döllinger, Heidenthum und Judenthum, S. 351 sq. [also Rawlinson’s Ancient Monarchies, III., p. 97]. A good impression in this respect might have been made upon him by the fact that his conquest of Babylon had been very desirable to the Jews, yea that they had placed their hopes at once in him as their deliverer. It is then but probable that they made their disposition and expectations known to him, and if they laid before him, as Josephus (Arch. IX., i. 7) informs us, at once likewise the prophecies referring to him in Isaiah 41:2-4; Isaiah 41:25 sq.; Isaiah 44:24-28; Isaiah 45:1 sq., this must have given him a very favorable disposition towards them. Moreover, as Cyrus recognised in the Jewish God, so might the Jews easily find in the Persian God one closely related to their own, yea identical with Him. Without regard to the fact that the divine name Ahura = asura, from as = esse, to a certain extent coincides with יְהוָֹה (compare Böttcher, Rudimenta mythologiæ semiticæ, spec. I.), the Zoroastrian religion was nearer to the religion of Jehovah than any other, and it is very remarkable that it is predicted in Isaiah 41:25; Isaiah 45:3, not only that Cyrus will call upon and proclaim the name of the Lord; that he will recognise Jehovah as the one who has chosen him, but likewise that he will be a mighty instrument in the hand of the Lord for overcoming the respect of the Chaldean gods. In fact, since Cyrus and the establishment of the Persian empire, the temptation to the rude worship of idols has declined as never before, not only in Israel, but likewise there gradually came over the other nations, even over the Greeks and Romans from that time forth more and more a spirit of enlightenment that certainly paved the way for the agency of the second great instrument of God, the servant of the Lord foretold in Isaiah 42:0.—The introduction given by Cyrus to his decree: “all the kingdoms of the earth hath Jehovah the God of heaven given me, and hath charged me with building him a house in Jerusalem,” corresponds with the beginnings of the proclamations of the Persian kings, as they are preserved to us in the cuneiform inscriptions. These likewise frequently begin with the confession that they owe their dominion to the highest God, the creator of heaven and earth. (Comp. I assen, Die altpersischen Keilinschriften, Bonn, 1836, S. 172; and more recently Joach. Menant, Expose des elements de la grammaire Assyrienne, Par., 1868, p. 302 sq., according to whom the trilingual inscription of Elvend begins thus: deus magnus Aüra-mazda, qui maximus deorum, qui hanc terram creavit, qui hoc cœlum creavit, qui homines creavit, qui potentiam (?) dedit hominibus, qui Xerxem regem fecit, etc. [Also Rawlinson’s Monarchies, III., 348, and his Com. on Ezra, where he gives the inscription of Darius: “The great God, Ormazd, who is the chief of the gods; he established Darius as king; he granted him the empire; by the grace of Ormazd is Darius king.”—Tr.]). The words: “all the kingdoms of the earth” are explained from the wide extent of the Persian empire. When Cyrus conquered Babylon, he had already subjugated to himself almost the entire eastern Asia, even to the Indian Ocean (according to Berosus in Joseph, c. Ap.). Afterwards he pressed southward also, and entered even into Egypt and Ethiopia. The words of Cyrus: “He hath charged me to build Him a house,” would be possible and justified even if he had merely felt himself charged by circumstances to build the temple at Jerusalem, but is still better explained if the Jews, as Josephus, l. c., says, laid before him Isaiah 44:24; Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1 sq. [So also Rawlinson, who says: “It is a reasonable conjecture that, on the capture of Babylon, Cyrus was brought into personal contact with Daniel, and that his attention was drawn by that prophet to the prophecy of Isaiah.—Cyrus probably accepted this prophecy as a ‘charge’ to rebuild the temple.” Keil also refers to Daniel 6:0., which states that Darius the Mede made Daniel one of the three presidents of the one hundred and twenty satraps of the empire, and valued him greatly at court.—Tr.]. J. H. Michaelis therefore explains the passage thus: mandavit mihi, nimirum dudum ante per Jesaiam, cap. Isaiah 44:24-28; Isaiah 45:1-13. The reference to these prophecies is all the more apparent since there, as well as here, the same fundamental fact is so strongly and repeatedly emphasized, namely, that the Lord gave to him the kingdoms of the earth, comp. especially Isaiah 41:2-3; Isaiah 41:25; Isaiah 45:1 sq. Comp. A. F. Kleinert, Ueber die Echtheit sämmtacher in dem Buch Jesaia enthaltenem Weissagungen, Berlin, 1829.
Ezra 1:3. Cyrus would first call upon the Jews, but yet turn to all his subjects with his address; because he had something to say to those also who were not Jews, but were dwelling with the Jews.—Who among you, of all His people, etc. With all the people of Jehovah he also properly includes the descendants of the ten tribes. Yet these seem not to have been thought of, nor does it seem that any important element of them made use of the permission of Cyrus. The blessing:—His God be with him—thus emphatic in position, shows that that which follows is not so much command as permission, as if he would say: His God be with him should he go up and build. Besides, this wish involves not only the permission to build the temple, but at the same time the consent to all that was necessarily connected therewith, especially the emigration to Palestine.3 The additional clause, He is the God who is at Jerusalem, which would give the motive for building the temple of Jehovah, does not mean that Jehovah is present only in Jerusalem, and only has power in Canaan, for Cyrus has already ascribed to Him the power over the kingdoms of the earth—but it simply expresses the idea that. He has chosen Jerusalem, above all other places, as the holy place which He would have distinguished for His worship. [Compare the confession of Darius, Daniel 6:26, “He is the living God.”—Tr.]
Ezra 1:4. And as for every one of the survivors, let the people of his place assist him, etc.—The heathen, on their part, are to assist. כָּל־הַנִּשְׁאָר, is accusative absolute, placed before for emphasis. The designation of the exiles as survivors, properly those left over, is connected with the thought of the great and severe judgments that had overtaken Israel, and is found therefore especially among the Israelites themselves, comp. Nehemiah 1:2 sq.; Haggai 2:3 sq. This thought, however, was natural enough even for the heathen. The words: From all the places where he sojourneth, can only be connected with the subsequent clause. The Piel נִשָּׂא here means to assist, as in 1 Kings 9:11, etc.—With silver and with gold, and with goods (here perhaps clothing or tents) they are to enable the departing to emigrate.—Besides the free-will offering. This was something additional (עִם comp. Ezra 1:6) to the gifts, by which they were to contribute directly to the building of the house of God. Comp. Ezra 8:25; Exodus 35:29; Leviticus 22:25. [Rawlinson regards the free-will offering as that of Cyrus himself.—Tr.]
Ezra 1:5. The permission to march to Jerusalem was made use of by the heads of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin and the priests and the Levites.—We are to conclude as a matter of course that with the heads of the fathers4 the fathers themselves set out, and with the fathers their families; that is, that the divisions of a higher and lower degree accompanied their heads. But it does not mean that all of the heads of the three tribes mentioned set out, but all whose spirit God had raised.—It certainly must have been the most of them, otherwise it would not have been said so distinctly the heads of the fathers. The simple לְכָל (to be distinguished from וּלְכָל, Ezra 7:28) does not serve, in enumerations, to add in a short and summary way all the others, which have not yet been mentioned, as if the meaning were that besides the heads there were others also who set out (Berth. [A. V.]), but it adds to that which has been already said a still closer definition, which is important to the context, (comp. Neh 11:2; 1 Chronicles 13:1; 2 Chronicles 5:12), so that it corresponds with our “namely,” “that is” [Ew. § 310 a]. ל properly here, as elsewhere, indicates the belonging to a class or kind. The author has then, in a manner peculiar to himself, subordinated the following relative clause to the כָּל־ without אֲשֶׁר. God must awake the spirit of those who would ascend, that is, must make them willing (comp. Ezra 1:1); for the return home was not a matter that required no consideration. Their native land lay either desolate or occupied with heathen and barbarous nations. Great dangers threatened the little nation, that would put itself in opposition with the inhabitants and indeed severe tasks awaited them. In Babylon, on the other hand, their circumstances had become such that they could very well endure them, yea, they were favorable, as we can see from Isaiah 56:11-12, hence πολλοί κατέμειναν ἐν τῇ βαβυλῶνι τὰ κτήματα καταλιπε͂ιν ὀυ θέλοντες. (Many remained behind in Babylon, unwilling to relinquish their property (Joseph. Arch.XI. 1, 1).
Ezra 1:6. All they that were about them.—The call to assist the returning exiles was obeyed and their neighbors, who certainly included the Israelites, who remained behind, who if they had means, would especially contribute with liberality (comp. Zechariah 6:9) in order to a certain extent to make up for what they seemed to neglect by their remaining behind. But there were surely heathen, also, whom Cyrus had chiefly in view, under the supposition that the Israelites could not let his permission go by without using it. The example of the king and his exhortation must have already made them willing, but there were certainly here and there some who were influenced by their friendly relations to the departing. חִזַּק בִּידֵיהֶם means, like הֶחֱזִיק בְּיָד first of all to take by the hand, in order to hold or support (Berth., Keil), then passes over as the German “jemanadem unter die Arme greifen,” immediately to the meaning “assist” (although he construction with בְּ is against a full equivalence of the expression with the frequently–occurring חִזַּק יָד) as is clear from the context, which demands the meaning, assist, the בְּ before כְּלֵי־כֶסֶף the following noun זָהָב, and the נִשָֹּא corresponding to it in Ezra 1:4—Besides all that was willingly offered.—לְבַד is here connected with עַל, (which properly would have sufficed by itself), for the usual מִןGen 32:12. Comp. Exodus 12:37; Numbers 29:39. כָּל־ after עַל is certainly to be taken as neuter. הִתְנַדֵּב which is closely connected with the foregoing must have supplied not only אֲשֶׁר, but also the subject “what” he, namely, the giver, gave as an offering. הִתְנַדֵּב means properly “ to act freely,” is frequently used in this sense by our author, so likewise here “to give freely”, comp. 1 Chronicles 29:9; Ezra 2:68; Ezra 3:5, and indeed in the liturgical sense “give for the temple,” to a certain extent as an offering, נְדָבָה. Comp. Ezra 1:4.
Ezra 1:7-11. It was Cyrus himself who especially helped the returning exiles by bestowing upon them the vessels that had been plundered from the temple. These vessels might have been taken away by Nebuchadnezzar, at the very first capture of Jerusalem in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, comp. 2 Chronicles 36:7; Daniel 1:2. That nothing of the kind is mentioned either in 2 Kings 24:0, or by Jeremiah, is explained naturally from the fact that in general so little is expressly said with reference to that first campaign of Nebuchadnezzar. When Jehoiachin (Jechoniah) was carried away captive, there was certainly a plundering of the temple, and that seemed more worthy of mention, 2 Kings 24:13; Jeremiah 27:16; Jeremiah 28:1 sq.; whilst it is expressly said, 2 Kings 24:13, that Nebuchadnezzar at this time brake off the gold of the vessels, which seems to indicate that there were no longer vessels of massive gold, but merely vessels overlaid with gold. When Zedekiah was set aside by the governor of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuzaradan (2 Kings 25:13 sq.; Jeremiah 52:18 sq.), the vessels remaining were mostly of brass.
Ezra 1:8. Cyrus delivered over the vessels by the hand of the treasurer Mithredates.5—עַל־יַד, that is, so that he had at the same time to take them in his hands to inspect them, to recognize them as the vessels of the temple at Jerusalem, accordingly under his supervision. Comp. Ezra 8:33; Esther 6:9. גִזְבָּר is the Zend gaza–bara, treasurer, whilst the other form, נִּדְבָּר pl. גְּדָבְרִיןDan 3:2-3, corresponds with the old Persian gada-bara (gaint bara, modern Persian geng’ war) from gada or ganda. Comp. Keil, Dan. 5:36, Anm. 1.—Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah, to whom Mithredates counted out the vessels, meets us again in the Chaldee passage, Ezra 5:14; Ezra 5:16, and indeed as pecha or governor of the new community in Judea, who laid the foundation of the new temple, so that without question he is identical with Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:2; Ezra 3:8; Ezra 4:3) the son of Shealtiel (Ezra 3:2; Ezra 3:8; Ezra 5:2; Haggai 1:1, etc., comp. also Matthew 1:12; Luke 3:27), who, 1 Chronicles 3:19, is likewise a son of Pedaiah, a brother of Shealtiel, and belongs to the family of Daniel. Alongside of the more Chaldee name of Sheshbazzar, Zerubbabel was used as a more Hebrew name. The latter occurs even in the Chaldee part of the book, Ezra 5:2. In the same way Daniel and his three companions had with their Chaldee names, which they received when they entered into the service of the king of Babylon, likewise Hebrew names, Daniel 1:7. The meaning of Sheshbazzar is still more uncertain than that of Zerubbabel. Not even the pronunciation of the word is certain. The Alex. version has, in most accordance with the Masoretic form Σασαβασάρ, but likewise Σαβαχασάρ, and Σαναβάσσαρος. The latter form is found in accordance with the best MSS. Esdras, where the reading alongside of it is Σαμανασσάρ.
Ezra 1:9. In the enumeration of the vessels their names, as well as their numbers, afford difficulties. Instead of the usual names for temple vessels, others are chosen here, perhaps, because they were preferred as more comprehensive and popular terms. The detailed numbers do not correspond with the sum total in Ezra 1:11. Thirty golden and one thousand silver אֲנַרְטָלִים were numbered first of all, according to the Alex. version ψυκτῆρες (wine coolers), Ezra 2:11,σπονδεῖα, cups for drink-offerings, according to the interpretation of the Talmud in Aben Ezra from אָגַד to collect, and טָלֶה, lamb, vessels for collecting the blood of lambs, which is certainly untenable. Probably we have in the Arabic kirtallat, Syriac kartolo, Greek κάρταλλος, the same term, accordingly a basket coming to a point below (see Suidas). The twenty-nine מַחֲלָפִים which follow, are judged according to their small number merely a subordinate kind of the preceding, which differed from them in some special kind of decoration or arrangements, thus not cultri, sacrificial knives (Vulg.), according to rabbinical interpretation, from חָלַף to penetrate, to cut in two, but rather according to מַחֲלָפוֹת= braids, Judges 16:13; Judges 16:19, adorned with net work (Ew.) or provided with holes above, designed for incense (Berth.), or likewise from חלף in Piel and Hiph. to change, sacrificial dishes serving for the pouring out of the blood of the sacrifices.
Ezra 1:10. The thirty golden cups כְּפוֹרִים (properly covered vessels, 1 Chronicles 28:17) are followed by silver ones in parallelism with verse 9. מִשְׁנִים has been taken by the ancient and more recent interpreters as an adjective in the sense of secundarii, as if the silver cups were thereby compared with the golden as expressive of a less good, merely second sort and quality. Since this closer definition seems strange and at any rate superfluous, it is more appropriate to suppose that משׁנים (pointing it, as it were, as a Piel participle) designates a subordinate kind of cups, corresponding with the מַהֲלָפִים in the previous ver. and with essentially the same meaning, which likewise served for pouring out; or it has arisen from a numeral, perhaps אַלְפַיִם (Ezra 2:12), so that not 410 but 2410 silver cups were returned. If we find a subordinate sort indicated by משׁנים, then the number must be supplied to the previous principal sort. Of the subordinate sort there were 410, and of other vessels 1,000 more.
Ezra 1:11. The sum total, 5400, is more than double the detailed numbers given in our text of the 9th and 10th verses, 2499, and can only be made out by conjecturing the number of the silver cups as 1000 or 2000. If we supply 2000, the sum total of 4499 results, thus in round numbers 4500, and it is possible this may be the correct sum, arisen from 5400 by transposition of numbers. But at any rate the LXX. already favored the text, as we have it, and Esdras which has 1000 golden and 1000 silver σπονὁ͂εῖα; 29 silver θυΐσκαι, 30 golden, and 2410 silver φιάλσι, and 1000 other vessels, in all 5469, has ventured to conjecture, in order to reach the sum total in some measure. [So Keil, but Ewald, Gesch. IV. p. 88, Bertheau et al. more properly find the key to the difficulty in Esdras.—Tr.]. It is however possible that the author, as J. H. Michaelis asserts against Clericus, passed over many subordinate vessels in the detail, but in the sum-total has taken them all into consideration. [Rawlinson thinks the sum-total in our passage a corruption.—Tr.].—All these did Sheshbazzar bring up with (or at) the bringing up of the captives.—(הֵעָלות is the infin. Niph. with passive meaning as in Jeremiah 37:12). This statement passes over lightly the long and difficult journey from Babylon to Jerusalem. It is possible that the documents used by our author, contained something more on this subject. But the author himself has hardly given anything more that has been lost, but he hastens to his proper topic, to come to the building of the temple in Jerusalem. In Ezra 5:1-6 some verses are found respecting the journey of those who returned under Darius. Darius sent with them 1000 cavalry, in order to bring them in peace to Jerusalem, with musical instruments, with kettledrums and flutes, and all their brethren played, etc. Fritzsch and Bertheau are of the opinion that these verses were taken from a Hebrew original and conjecture that they originally stood in our book of Ezra, and referred to the return under Cyrus. But their contents are so cheerful that we have no reason for finding any greater authority for them than that afforded by 1 Chronicles 13:8, and similar passages.
THOUGHTS UPON THE HISTORY OF REDEMPTION
Ezra 1:1. That it might be fulfilled.—This chapter contains nothing less than the beginning of the fulfilment of all the great and glorious prophecies with which the prophets before the exile brightened the gloomy night of the severe judgments of God—the dawning light of the grace of God in all its greatness, that would re-awaken the people of God from death and the grave, and enable them to live a new and glorious life—the glorious liberty of the children of God in the fullest and highest sense. What a great revolution of affairs was now to be expected! What a fulness of salvation after the night of misfortune—the entire extent of Messianic redemption! The beginnings were very small, very insignificant. There was no king to rule in strength out of Zion and conquer the world, to restore the ancient theocracy in the political sense, if it were only in the old proportions, not to speak of greater proportions and a more complete form. There were no people, great and strong, of their own increase in numbers, breaking through their boundaries and imparting themselves to the world (comp. Micah 2:12-13). There was no territory, broad and free, yea, not even a little piece of land, that the people could really call their own, on which they could really feel that they were free. In other cases, when the Lord had redeemed His people from severe afflictions, or had intended to produce a new and better beginning of their development, He had awakened from their midst an instrument endued with an especial fulness of the Spirit and power. But now even this failed them. It was the heathen king whom He used as His instrument. Moreover not the people as such, but only a small portion of them, were permitted to re-people Jerusalem. The reorganization of a political commonwealth was not allowed, but only the re-establishment of the temple and its worship. Instead of a people, who might have organized and vindicated themselves as such, there could now only be a religious congregation in Jerusalem and Judah. Faith in God’s faithfulness and truth, in Israel’s lofty destiny and future glory, so far as it at all existed, or was about to awaken afresh, was now once more put to a severe test, even when its confirmation seemed to be in prospect. But if the Lord had so often and so long been obliged to wait until Israel turned in repentance to Him, how unreasonable and presumptuous would it have been, if now Israel had been unwilling likewise to wait and see whether the Lord would yet again turn in grace to them. The Lord was obliged to have such extraordinary patience with men, that men, if they knew themselves even to a very limited extent, could never find reason or justice in being impatient with the Lord. Besides it was very well calculated for those who were to be placed on a higher stand-point and have the eyes of their faith made more sensitive, and certainly for those who came after them, who might look over these small beginnings, in connection with their results, because of its very insignificance, to enable them to foresee, or at least forebode therein, the indications of the highest and brightest end, and to wonder all the more at the really divine operation of God; as indeed it was permitted to more than one pious singer, looking at the glorious end, to raise already his triumphal cry and ever re-echo it anew: the Lord is King, He clothes Himself with salvation. Comp. Psalms 93:1; Psalms 96:10; Psalms 97:1; Psalms 99:1 (on the basis of Isaiah 52:7).
The word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah.—All the previous prophecies of the impending judgments of God, and the temporary ruin of Israel, had again combined in the words of Jeremiah, and developed into the greatest definiteness. As a great prophet, who on the ἀκμή of a critical period, yea, immediately on the brink of the abyss, had caused the call to repentance once more to sound forth with mighty power, and bad brought the prophecy of the impending judgment to a conclusion; like Elijah he became typical of the angel which the Lord would send before Him, before the coming of the great and terrible day, Malachi 3:1. As the Jews expected Elias, so did they Jeremiah, before the advent of the great Messianic events, Matthew 16:14; Luke 9:19; Bertholdt’s Christol. S. 58. Now it was just this preacher of repentance and chastisement who had become for the exile times and those immediately following, the most important preacher of salvation, as is clear likewise from Daniel 9:2. The Lord could not limit through him the duration of the time of chastisement without therewith at the same time predetermining the time of the beginning of the period of redemption, so that, so long as the question of the time seriously occupied the soul, the references were made chiefly to Jeremiah. Thus in fact the divine word of chastisement ever goes hand in hand with His word of salvation, and His negative with His positive working. His chastening is in truth ever a helping; yea, His killing is a making alive. He puts to death only the dead.
The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, king of Persia.—The Lord had hitherto made use of the heathen nations and their kings, when He would chastise Israel. They had been His rods and had been obliged to act in a negative relation to Israel. Now, on the other hand, He makes the mightiest empire of the world, yea, its greatest king, to assist in the accomplishment of very positive ends, in the realization of His most important and greatest designs of redemption. Egypt had once been obliged to help Israel with her possessions (Exodus 11:2), being a weak type, so now the heathen who had previously plundered Israel were obliged to restore a part of their possessions; and Cyrus, the king of the same empire that had robbed Israel of her most sacred possessions, was obliged to restore the holy vessels, in order to assist in rebuilding the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. Comp. Esth. 8:25 sq.; 2Ma 3:35; 2Ma 13:23. This was in fact much more and bore stronger witness to the truth of the Lord and His final victory over the heathen world and its idolatry than the awakening of a great king and prophet in Israel. It already involved something of what the great prophet had uttered in the severest times of affliction as the greatest consolation, that the same heathen who threatened to tread Israel as a worm under their feet, should bring the children of Israel near in their bosom; yea, in that the mightiest king of the earth, the great king of Persia, had assisted Israel even to the accomplishment of their highest and noblest task, the honoring of their God, the word that the kings should be the nursing fathers of Israel, and their queens their nursing mothers (Isaiah 49:22-23), already received the very best fulfilment. But it involved something still greater and more important. Since Israel remained in such a weak and dependent position, and was no longer able to give their spiritual blessings political security by a mighty commonwealth of their own; it must be shown, as never before, that the truth, whose bearers they were called to be, was able to stand by its own indestructible power, and was strong enough of its own fulness and glory to protect the congregation of its adherents and preserve them, notwithstanding their external dependence, in internal freedom and independence.
Ezra 1:2. With exalted self-consciousness Cyrus could say not only that all the kingdoms of the earth had been given to him, but also that God the Lord Himself had given them to him. Moreover he says this with humility, for it is with the feeling and recognition of the task thereby imposed upon him by God of building His temple. Naturally enough, he does not behold,—yea, he does not even surmise, what a high mission he has, that he is thereby bringing into existence the bud out of which the kingdom of God in its time is to break forth as the loveliest blossom and noblest fruit as well to the blessing of all nations, as for the complete glorification of the divine name; but however little he understood this, he yet nevertheless in praiseworthy respect before the holiest things of a nation reached forth his hand full of help, and fulfilled unconsciously the highest mission of a temporal prince. What he accomplished was indeed still something in embryo, but we can see in the covering still wrapped about it already the sprouting forth of the richest and most wonderful life. Hence it is that the sacred Scriptures have accorded him a significance that is given to no other foreign king. The Lord does not call him His servant as Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 25:9; Jeremiah 27:6; Jeremiah 43:10), but His shepherd, who will fulfil all His pleasure, yea, His mashiah (Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1). It has been said that in Isaiah 40-48. Cyrus comes into consideration even for Messianic prophecy; for the servant of the Lord is placed in prospect for the accomplishment of the higher Messianic hopes, Cyrus for the lower. This is correct, inasmuch as the external political work that is necessary for the accomplishment of salvation is assigned chiefly to him, since indeed the proper mediator of salvation is to execute a higher spiritual ministry. It may therefore be said with a certain propriety (Starke) that he is a type of Christ in His royal office. Placed at the beginning of a new period, when the congregation was to be constituted no longer as a political, but as a religious body, he is the first of those who put external political affairs in such a relation to that body, that whilst something different from, they are yet friendly, supporting and protecting; and he is well adapted to represent for all time this ministry of the patron. His name has been incorrectly explained as “sun.” In modern Persian the sun is char; in Zend, hvare; sunshine is charsid, with a weak initial ch, which, according to Rawlinson, Spiegel, et al., would lead us to expect in ancient Persian uwara, whilst Cyrus on the monuments is kuru or khuru, on a block of marble in the valley of Murghab, near the tomb of Cyrus; K’ur’us, so likewise Beh. 1:28, 39 etc. (comp. Schrader, l. c., S. 244), with initial hard k. But the prophet did actually view him as possessed of a sunny nature and activity, since he represents the Lord as inquiring with reference to him; who raised up righteousness from the east; called him to his foot, etc. (Isaiah 41:2), and is constantly putting him in relation to the sunrise (Isaiah 41:25; Isaiah 46:11).
Ezra 1:3. Let him go up and build.—In former times Israel had needed external political independence and a government of their own, simply because they were still too weak to preserve the pound entrusted to them for the entire human race, without external props and means of protection; because the sweet and saving kernel which was to develope in Israel could only ripen as it were in a sufficiently firm shell. The danger of their giving themselves over internally to heathenism was for the most part overcome by their having been externally abandoned in exile among the heathen. The tendency to heathenism, that previous to the exile broke out again and again with ever-increasing strength, and which in the previous centuries could have been overcome with difficulty, owing to the fact that it had the appearance of being an advance in enlightenment beyond the ancient faith of their fathers, had been rendered disgusting to them by the cruelty and severity of the heathen themselves. Thus it was now possible that there should be a new form of life and activity entirely different from any thing previous. It was the most important change of affairs that could take place at any time before Christ (comp. Ewald, Gesch. Israels IV. S. 35). The task of establishing a grand independent form of government for the national life, and securing it by the development of power externally, could now be abandoned; the task of cultivating the worship of the true God could be made much more preponderating in its influence; Israel could become a religious congregation instead of a political commonwealth; they could—expressing the idea with the words of Cyrus—go up and build the temple of the Lord. That this great change was now actually accomplished, in that there was so little cohesion in Israel itself, and, for the most part, there was so little thought of again constituting a powerful body externally, whilst Cyrus, on his part, did not afford them political freedom, but only religious liberty; that was in truth no hindrance to the development of the kingdom of God, but an indication of what the Lord would accomplish with His people, a preparation of the kingdom of God as a kingdom which is not of this world, which in truth deserves to be called the kingdom of heaven. The blessing that was to come from Israel upon the families of the earth was thus too spiritual and internal to be brought about among the nations through a government with external means. Israel’s proper and highest task could henceforth only be to let the external opposition to the nations of the world more and more pass away, to subordinate themselves more and more in external and temporal things; at the same time disappearing among them as an external body, in order to permeate them so much the more internally with the holy and divine things committed to their trust.
Ezra 1:5. “And the heads of the fathers arose.”—It was also already a step nearer to the end and a hint of what must transpire in greater and greater proportions, that Israel no longer as such, or according to an external necessity of nationality, but that only a part of Israel by virtue of free resolution marched to Jerusalem to constitute the new religious community at that place. Individual freedom, and accordingly the importance of the single person and the right of the personal subject, have their proper place in the kingdom of God. Only those marched up whom the Spirit of God awakened, that is, only the zealous and the awakened, whose spirits allowed themselves to be filled from God with courage and joy to overcome all the difficulties that opposed them, and with a longing for the land of their fathers that outweighed every other consideration. This limitation was, moreover, entirely in accordance with the divine purpose. They must bring with them a zeal for the service of the true God that could not be quenched, at least entirely by the difficult and gloomy circumstances in Judea, that might be enkindled and fed in some of them by these very circumstances. For although those remaining behind still retained an importance with reference to the kingdom of God, yet the most direct and greatest importance was henceforth to be given to the congregation in Judea; they were to constitute first and chiefly the ground in which the highest and noblest things might become possible.
Ezra 1:6. “And all their neighbors helped them.” The world generally will be pleased only with the worldly members of the congregation, the lukewarm and faint-hearted. The more decided and zealous provoke opposition, and are often enough met with hostility, oppression and affliction. Yet there are times when the world is obliged to make manifest the fact that they have more respect for the zealous than for the indifferent, when they cannot but show their goodwill and friendship, yea, act favorably towards those very efforts that are directed towards divine things. Even the men of the world have, so long as they have not become entirely hardened, two kinds of hearts within them, and it is only necessary that a suitable impulse should be given them, that the better heart may assert itself within them. Even they have a certain feeling that their best and deepest needs can only be satisfied by God and His Spirit, as He comes near to them in the true congregation.
Ezra 1:7-11. And Cyrus the king brought forth the vessels of the house of the Lord.—Israel had not then been brought so far as to have been able to recognize with full clearness their pure spiritual calling, as to have been able to separate altogether with entire certainty the spiritual and the divine, in which their calling consisted, from the external, earthly and temporal. The time when God would have His place of worship neither in Jerusalem nor on Gerizim, could only come with a new and higher stage of the divine revelation of Himself, yea, only with the fulfillment of that revelation. Until that time the Lord had Himself ordered, in accordance with the lower and limited stand-point of His people, that one particular, chosen place, a special sanctuary, with its vessels, and a priesthood set apart from the people, should to a certain extent share in the sanctity which was properly appropriate only to the Holy One Himself. As the Lord brought about the restoration of the temple itself, so He did also the restitution of the sacred vessels; and the great numbers of them given back to the returning exiles, although in itself unimportant, yet was notwithstanding an evidence that He could re-establish His worship in a magnificence and dignity as great as possible in accordance with the ideas of the times.—In connection with the awakening of the enthusiasm for the ancient and honorable sanctuaries, it might easily happen that their sanctification might be overdone, yea, that they might take the place of the essence of religion itself, so that the externalizing of religion, although in a new form, might creep in anew, that a hierarchy might arise instead of the kingdom of God; but a congregation, in which the only truly holy one has once been recognized so decidedly as in Israel, carries the kernel of reformation ever in itself. And by the fact that the hierarchy also shows itself as something unsatisfying, empty and vain, the hunger after that of which it is the mere phantom must be awakened with all the more strength, at least in the souls of the more spiritual.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
The pledges of redemption possessed by the congregation of the Lord even in the severest afflictions: 1) God’s unchangeable faithfulness, which fulfils the promises He has given at the right time; 2) God’s infinite grace, which chastises indeed, but does not give over to death, but, on the contrary, breaks forth anew in its time in spite of the severest judgment; 3) God’s unsearchable wisdom, which advances towards the end, even in the most improbable manner; 4.) God’s all-conquering power, which even makes use of the powers of the world and their means. The redemption from Babylon a type of the redemption from the bonds of the devil and hell: 1) With reference to the Redeemer; He breaks into the kingdom of the enemy (Babylon) and conquers it; 2) With respect to the Redeemed; the susceptible arise in order to march home; 3) With respect to the end of redemption; the temple of the Lord, a tabernacle of God among men, is built. Or: 1) With reference to its occasion; the greatness of the misery excites God’s compassion; 2) With reference to its source; it is the divine grace notwithstanding human sin; 3) With reference to its extent; the susceptible are awakened to accept redemption; 4) With reference to its end; it is the glorious freedom and blessedness in the internal communion with the Lord. Brentius remarks respecting those remaining behind in Babylon: adumbrant omnes illos, qui fiduciam suam in hunc mundum collocant, satius esse existimantes, felicitate hujus mundi frui, quam per infelicitatem ad perpetua gaudia ingredi.—Divine grace after wrath: 1) Its time; it waits until God’s chastening judgment has been accomplished, but does not tarry, but rather corresponds with the divine veracity; 2) its method; it works often secretly, but shows itself to be all the more appropriate and glorious whether we regard the instruments that it uses or the persons in whose behalf it is employed, or the gracious acts that proceed from it; 3) its end; it is the highest and noblest that there is, the building of the temple, that is, the reconciliation of man with God for their salvation and His glory.—God’s wonderful ways, that He chooses in leading His people: 1) Out of the depths up on high; 2) By changing enemies into friends; 3) From small beginnings to a glorious end.
Ezra 1:2. The universality of God’s revelation of Himself: 1) To whom made; even the heathen, even a Cyrus; 2) What it reveals: a) that God is the author of all things, the source of all power and strength; b) That He is the end of all things, that every one is obligated to honor Him.—The prince endowed with God’s grace: 1) He derives his power from God: 2) He puts himself at the service of the divine honor.—Man in his true subordination to God: 1) he ascribes his possessions to God; 2) he employs them in the divine honor.
Ezra 1:3. The work of the redeemed: 1) to be pilgrims, namely, on the march to the holy city; 2) To build the temple of God; 3) To honor God therein and be saved.
Starke: Ezra 1:1. No one will be ashamed who patiently waits for divine help (Psalms 25:3; Sir 2:7; Sir 16:13). The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord as brooks of water, and He inclines it whither He will (Proverbs 21:1; Job 12:24). God often touches the hearts even of unbelieving princes, etc.; therefore let us ever pray for them (1 Timothy 2:12).
Ezra 1:2. As Cyrus was of humble origin, lived in his childhood as an humble shepherd, and then God had been with him in a truly wonderful manner, used him, moreover, to deliver the people of God from captivity, so all this is to be found in Christ, although in a much more extraordinary manner. It is a very easy thing for God to make His enemies the benefactors of His Church (Proverbs 16:7).
Ezra 1:6. We are bound, in whatever station in life we may be placed, to employ our means for the advancement of the true worship of God (1 Chron 30:6; 2 Chronicles 24:4; 2 Chronicles 31:10).
[Scott: When God has work to do, they whom He hath chosen to perform it find their minds enlarged to entertain noble designs.—That which is devoted to the service is entrusted to the protection of the Lord.—Henry: Those are much honored whose spirits are stirred up to begin with God and to serve him in their first years.—Well-willers to the temple should be well-doers for it.—Our spirits naturally incline to this earth and to the things of it; if they move upwards in any good affections, or good actions, ’tis God that raiseth them.—Wordsworth: Cyrus is contrasted with Pharaoh, who resisted God’s Spirit.—Egypt gave up its gold and silver and jewels to Israel at their Exodus; Babylon gave back the vessels of gold and silver to God’s house. The enemies of Christ will one day be made subjects tributary to Him (Acts 2:35; 1 Corinthians 15:25).—Tr.]
[The author adopts the view of Ewald, Hitzig, et al., that the second part of Isaiah was written by “the great unknown in the latter part of the exile.” This view is to be rejected, and the unity of Isaiah maintained with most evangelical critics. Hence the author’s statement of the priority of Jeremiah falls.—Tr.]
[We have here not a citation of the very words of the decree, as is so often the case in Ezra and Nehemiah, but rather a free reproduction of it.—Tr.]
I see no sufficient ground, with Ewald, Lehrbuch, § 734, either to strike out entirely יְהִי or change it into יַהֶוֶה, after 2 Chronicles 34:23. In Ezra 2:5 we have for it ἔστω.
[רָאשֵׁי הָֽאָבוֹת for the fuller form רָאשֵׁי בֵית הָֽאָבוֹת, Exodus 6:14, that is, heads or chiefs of the fathers’ houses or families, which were subdivisions of the מִשְׁפָּחוֹת, as the latter were of the שְׁבָטִים or tribes. Thus the fathers’ houses of the going up from Babylon are in striking contrast with the tribes of the going up from Egypt.—Tr.]
[Mithredath. Rawlinson: “The occurrence of this name, which means given by Mithra.” Persian Mithradata=Mithra, “the Sun-God,” and data past part. of da= “to give,” or dedicated to Mithra, is an indication that the sun worship of the Persians was at least as old as the time of Cyrus. (Comp. Xen, Cyrop. Ezra 8:3, § 24.”—Tr.]
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Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Ezra 1". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19