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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary
Ezra 1

 

 

Verses 1-11

THE CLOSING VISION, granted to the prophet Daniel, was given to him in the third year of Cyrus, king of Persia. If now we open our Bibles at the book of Ezra, we are carried back to the first year of that great monarch, whom the prophet Isaiah mentioned by name some two centuries before he ascended the throne. If we turn to Isaiah 44:28, we read the prediction of what he would do. Ezra 1:2 records his doing what Isaiah foretold.

The opening verse of the chapter refers to the prophecy of Jeremiah, which so stirred the spirit of Daniel, as he recorded in his ninth chapter. The prediction is found in Jeremiah 25:11-14. Daniel saw that its fulfilment must be near, and it moved him to the remarkable prayer that is recorded. Ezra has placed on record the exact way in which it was fulfilled.

The word 'Lord' in verse Ezra 1:2 is of course Jehovah, and Cyrus recognised Him as the 'God of Heaven', and not merely of the kingdoms of the earth. Nebuchadnezzar had been brought to a similar confession, as we saw in Daniel 4:37. As one reads the summary of the proclamation that Cyrus issued, recorded in verses Ezra 1:2-3, one cannot but think that he must have been informed of the prophecy, recorded in the opening verses of Isaiah 45:1-25, as well as the closing verse of the preceding chapter. It was no small thing that Cyrus should acknowledge the supreme glory and power of God in this striking way, and act in obedience to what God had commanded. It is not surprising that God should have spoken of him as, 'His anointed'.

The proclamation did not name any person or persons who were to go to Jerusalem and build the house, but rather threw the door open for any Jew to go, whose heart stirred him up to do so, giving him the assurance that he was to be liberally helped in the project before him. Being thus worded it meant that those who responded would be in the main men of piety, whose hearts were alive to the glory of God and to the place of His Name, while the more worldly-minded and selfish would be inclined to remain in their comfortable homes, established during the seventy years of captivity, and leave the task to others who were prepared to face the difficulties and privations.

It is to be noted that what Cyrus had in view was the building of 'the house of the Lord', and he was not concerned with the desolate state of the city. It was Nehemiah who, at a later date, became so concerned about the waste and desolate condition of Jerusalem that he obtained the permission of Artaxerxes to restore and to build the city. The decree granted to Nehemiah is the starting point of the prophecy of the 'seventy weeks', as noted in Daniel 9:25. It was a case of God's house, first; the city where men dwelt, second. This is a principle of abiding significance.

Yet the tendency to forget it is very strong. Those who answered to the proclamation of Cyrus soon forget it, as we discover when we read Haggai's prophecy. Very soon they were building their 'ceiled houses', while the house of God was lying 'waste'. The same tendency is strongly at work amongst the people of God today.

So let us carefully observe the analogy that exists between what happened in the history of Judaism and what has happened in the history of Christendom.

In Judaism the law given through Moses was largely ignored, and the kingly authority, established in David, so corrupted that the Babylonian captivity fell upon them. In Christendom the purity of the Gospel was soon lost, and the rule of the Spirit, through the Word, was perverted and corrupted into the carnal rule of men, called 'popes' in Rome, many of whom were leaders in iniquity. This corruption reached a climax in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Now, just as a revival of an outward and geographical sort began under Cyrus — though a number of men of true piety were engaged in it — so in the sixteenth century God granted the beginning of a revival of a more inward and spiritual sort in the history of Christendom; and out of the spiritual 'Babylon', an emergence began, which has continued to our day. In the light of this, let us see what lessons we may learn from the opening chapters of the book of Ezra.

Verse Ezra 1:5 of the first chapter shows that there was a real work of God in the souls of many, including leaders both civil and religious, which led them to embrace at once the opportunity that was given for a return to the land of their fathers, to re-establish the worship of God by rebuilding His house. In the providence of God this was actively promoted by Cyrus, in addition to vessels of value, given by Jews who did not participate in the expedition to Jerusalem, he restored all the holy vessels of the house of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had placed in the house of his gods. The spiritual work of God in the souls of His people was matched by a providential work of God in the surrounding world. Thus it has been again in more recent times.

 


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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Ezra 1:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fbh/ezra-1.html. 1947.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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