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Bible Commentaries
Ezra 1

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3468. B.C. 536.

The proclamation of Cyrus, for the release of the Jews, and building of the temple, Ezra 1:1-4 . The return of many of them, Ezra 1:5 , Ezra 1:6 . Orders given for restoring the vessels of the temple, Ezra 1:7-11 .

Verse 1

Ezra 1:1. Now in the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia This is that famous Cyrus who, one hundred and forty years before the temple was destroyed, and two hundred years before he was born, was mentioned by name in the prophecies of Isaiah, as raised up, and appointed by God, for the restoration of his people, Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1; Isaiah 45:4. This remarkable prediction, it is probable, Daniel showed to Cyrus, and that it induced him to give forth the following edict. So Prideaux thinks, with many other learned men. Cyrus, it appears, at his first coming to Babylon, found Daniel there, an old minister of state, famed for his great wisdom over all the East; and hence he not only himself employed him as such, but, upon settling the government, made him first superintendent, or prime minister of state, over all the provinces of the empire. In this station of life Daniel must have been a person of great authority at court, and highly in the esteem of his prince; and, as there could be no doubt but he would use his good offices in behalf of the enlargement of the Jews, so it is not likely he should use them in vain, especially if he showed Cyrus the prophecies just mentioned, which, it is evident from the decree itself, that Cyrus had seen. It must be observed that, strictly speaking, this decree was not given forth in the first year of Cyrus’s reign; for then the Jews were not his subjects; but in the first year after his conquest of Babylon, where the Jews then lived in captivity.

That the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled Who foretold that after seventy years the king of Babylon and the Chaldeans should be destroyed, and the people of Judah restored to their own land. This prophecy was first delivered in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah, which was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar; and the same year Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judea, besieged and took Jerusalem, made Jehoiakim his subject and tributary, transported the finest children of the royal family and of the nobility to Babylon, to be bred up there for eunuchs and slaves in his palace, and also carried away the vessels of the house of the Lord and put them in the temple of his god at Babylon. Seventy years from this time will bring us down to the first year of Cyrus, (2 Chronicles 36:22; Ezra 1:3,) when he made his proclamation for the restoration of the Jews, and for the building of the temple at Jerusalem. This computation of the seventy years captivity appears to many to be the truest and most agreeable to Scripture. But, if we fix the commencement of these seventy years at the time when Jerusalem was burned and destroyed, their conclusion will fall about the time when Darius issued his decree for rebuilding the temple, after the work had been suspended and stopped. Or, if we fix their commencement at the time when Nebuzaradan carried away the last remainder of the people, and completed the desolation of the land, their conclusion will fall about the time when the temple was finished and dedicated, and the first passover was solemnized in it. “So that,” as Dean Prideaux says, “taking it which way we will, and at what stage we please, the prophecy of Jeremiah will be fully and exactly accomplished concerning this matter.” It may be said to have been accomplished, indeed, at three different times, and in three different manners, and therefore, possibly, all might have been intended, though the first, without doubt, was the principal subject of the prophecy.

The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, king of Persia God, who had long before designed him for this work, now suggested these thoughts and intentions to him, and excited him to begin to prosecute them, (for it was not all accomplished in the first year of Cyrus,) which he did, not only by causing his will and pleasure to be proclaimed, but to be put in writing, that none might mistake his meaning.

Verse 2

Ezra 1:2. The Lord God of heaven It is observable, says Mr. Locke, that God, in the former books, is called the Lord of hosts, but in the last of Chronicles, in this, in Nehemiah, and Daniel, that is, in the books written after the captivity, he is styled the God of heaven, and not Lord of hosts, though the sense of both expressions is the same. Probably those who showed or interpreted to Cyrus the prophecy of Isaiah concerning himself, acquainted him that the God, whose prophet Isaiah was, was worshipped by the Jews, not as the God of their particular country merely, but as the Creator and Lord of heaven and earth. And Cyrus, though it is likely he did not entirely forsake the religion of his country, yet might acknowledge and revere Jehovah, the God of the Hebrews, as the true and great God. For, though the Jews were strictly commanded to worship one God, and not to admit another into fellowship with him, yet many in the heathen nations, while they worshipped idols, acknowledged a true and supreme God, and often worshipped the gods of other countries in common with their own. Hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth All in those parts of the world; all those large dominions which the Assyrians and Babylonians had possessed: the eastern kings were wont, as they are still, to speak magnificently of their dominions. The gift of these Cyrus ascribes to the great God, through the above-mentioned prophecy of Isaiah concerning him, which must have carried a great evidence with it, especially to him who was so highly encouraged by it; or through some special illumination which God had vouchsafed to him, as he had to Nebuchadnezzar and Darius, and some other heathen princes. And he hath charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem So he might conclude from the prophecy just referred to, (Isaiah 45:13,) where God says of Cyrus, He shall build my city, of which the temple was a principal part, and more plainly from Isaiah 44:28, He shall say to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.

Verse 3

Ezra 1:3. Who is there among you of all his people? Not of the tribe of Judah only, but of Israel also, who were under his government, the Assyrians and Medes, among whom they were scattered, being his subjects. Accordingly Josephus says, that Zerubbabel sent the edict of Cyrus into Media to the rest of the tribes. His God be with him Let his God help him, as I also shall; and let him go up to Jerusalem Thus he not only makes a proclamation to them of liberty to go to their own country, but desires them to go, and prays God to be with them, and prosper them in building his house, saying, He is the God, and thereby evidently acknowledging him to be the true, if not also the only God.

Verse 4

Ezra 1:4. Whosoever remaineth in any place where be sojourneth, &c. This seems to relate to such as were desirous to go up with their brethren, but were forced to stay behind for want of necessaries to support them in so long a journey. To such he would have a supply of all things needful to be given by the inhabitants of the places where they lived, who could afford it, besides sending by them an offering toward the rebuilding of the temple.

Verse 5

Ezra 1:5. Then rose up the chief of the fathers, &c. Eminent and experienced men, from whom it might justly be expected, that, as they were above their brethren in dignity, so they should go before them in duty. Of Judah and Benjamin And with them some of the other tribes, as appears from 1 Chronicles 9:3; but these only are named, because they were most considerable for number and quality. And the priests and Levites Who, as became them, were among the first that set their faces toward Zion. If any good work is to be done, let ministers take the lead in it. With all whose spirit God had raised, to go up Whom he had inspired with reverence and love for himself as the God of Israel, and a deep concern for the restoration of his worship at Jerusalem, and with that resolution and fortitude which were requisite to enable them to break through the difficulties and discouragements which were in their way. These were undoubtedly great and many; such as their present penury; the length, and hazards, and expenses of the journey; their being dispersed in several and distant places, which prevented the conjunction of their counsels and actions; the multitude of their enemies; the actual possession of their country by others; the ruinous state of Jerusalem, and the other cities and towns of Judea; and the great backwardness of many of their own brethren to go with them. Add to this, the temptation was strong to some of them to stay in Babylon, being conveniently and comfortably settled there, and having contracted an acquaintance with their neighbours, such as was agreeable and pleasing to them. By these and such like considerations, many were induced to remain where they were, or at least not to go with the first that went. But there were some that broke through these difficulties, and they were those whose spirits God had raised up: whom by his Spirit he had inspired with a generous desire of liberty, and a gracious affection to their own land, the land God had given them, and a desire for the free and public exercise of their religion. Had God left them to themselves, and to the counsels of flesh and blood, they would have stayed in Babylon: but, as he had raised up the spirit of Cyrus to proclaim this liberty, so he raised up their spirits to take the benefit of it, and set their faces toward Zion, as strangers asking the way thither, Jeremiah 50:5. For, being a new generation, they went out, like their father Abraham, from this land of the Chaldees, not knowing whither they went.

Verse 6

Ezra 1:6. All that were about them strengthened their hands Some of them, probably, because they had embraced, or at least favoured, the Jewish religion, concerning which they had been instructed by the Israelites, who had now for a long time dwelt among them; and others, that they might hereby gratify the king, and procure his favour, perceiving him to be friendly to the Jews, and forward and hearty in the work of helping them. Thus God, when he pleases, can incline the hearts of strangers to be kind to his people; yea, make those strengthen their hands, who formerly weakened them.

Verse 8

Ezra 1:8. And numbered them Caused them to be delivered to the Jews by number; unto Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah The captain and governor of these returning Jews, Ezra 2:2. The sceptre, therefore, was not yet departed from Judah. This person’s name was originally Zerubbabel, but it was common for the great men of Judah, at the time of the captivity, to have two names, one of their own country, which was domestic, and another of the Chaldeans, which was used at court. “Zerubbabel was born at Babylon, and his name, which signifies an exile, or stranger in Babylon, implies the misery of the people of Israel at that time; but Sheshbazzar, which is a compound of two words, signifying fine linen and gold, seems to be a name of better omen, and to denote their future and more flourishing condition. So Bishop Patrick. Dr. Trapp, however, says that Sheshbazzar signifies joy in tribulation. Some are of opinion, that among the sacred things which Cyrus ordered to be restored, the ark of the covenant was one; but it nowhere appears that this ark was carried from Jerusalem to Babylon. They tell us, indeed, that in the second temple sacrifices were offered as in the first, and all solemn days observed, especially the great day of expiation, when the law ordained that the blood should be sprinkled before the mercy-seat, and the mercy-seat, say they, was part of the ark; but besides that the ark, without the Shechinah, (which was then certainly withdrawn,) would have been of no great significance, the Jews universally acknowledge that the ark was one of the five things which were wanting in the second temple.” Dodd.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Ezra 1". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/ezra-1.html. 1857.
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