- The first three verses of Ezra duplicate the last two verses of 2
- In the first year of King Cyrus' reign, Cyrus made a proclamation that
was the fulfillment of Jeremiah's prophecy (see Jeremiah 29:10 and
Isaiah 44:28-45:6). (v. 1)
- The prophesy in Isaiah was written over a century earlier.
- These events are in 538 or 359 BC, about 48 years after Nebuchadnezzar
destroyed Jerusalem, defeated the southern kingdom of Judah, and
carried the Jews away to Babylon as captives. Nebuchadnezzar died in
562, and because his successors were not strong, Babylon was overthrown
by Persia in 539, just prior to the events recorded in Ezra. Both the
Babylonians and the Persians had a relaxed policy toward their captives,
allowing them to own land and homes and take ordinary jobs.
- In Ezra 1:2-4, we have an official document, presented by Cyrus to the
- Cyrus probably gained his knowledge about God through Daniel.
- Cyrus declares that the Lord has appointed him to build a Temple in
Jerusalem. (v. 2)
- In verse 2, note that God is referred to as "the God of heaven." This
is a unique designation given to him in the post captivity books (Ezra,
Nehemiah, and Daniel). The reason is that God can no longer be identified
with the Temple, because the temple had been destroyed.
- Cyrus gives permission for all of the Jews to return to Jerusalem to
rebuild the Temple. (v. 3)
- Cyrus encouraged all the Jews to contribute to the expenses of rebuilding
the Temple. (v. 4)
- Cyrus was not a Jew, but God worked through him to return the exiled Jews
to their homeland. He gave the proclamation allowing their return, and he
gave them protection, money and the Temple articles taken by Nebuchadnezzar.
A lesson for is is that when we face difficult situations and feel
surrounded, outnumbered, overpowered, or outclassed, remember that God's
power is not limited to our own resources. He is able to use anyone to
carry out his plans.
- God stirred the hearts of the Jews from the tribe of Judah and Benjamin
to return to Jerusalem. (v. 5)
- Although the decree went out to all 12 tribes of Israel, only Judah and
Benjamin responded. Most likely, the other 10 tribes of the northern
kingdom had been so fractured and dispersed by Assyria, and so much time
had elapsed since their captivity, that many have been unsure of their
real heritage. (Life Application Bible notes)
- Many Jews chose to go to Jerusalem, but many more chose to remain in
Babylon rather than return to their homeland. The journey back to
Jerusalem was difficult, dangerous, and expensive, lasting over four
months. Travel conditions were poor; Jerusalem and the surrounding
countryside were in ruins; and the people living in the area were
hostile. Persian records indicate that many Jews in captivity had
accumulated great wealth. Returning to Jerusalem would have meant
giving up everything they had and starting over. Many people couldn't
bring themselves to do that; they preferred wealth and security to the
sacrifice that God's work would require. Compare with Mark 4:18-19 --
their priorities were upside-down. We must not let our comfort, security,
or material possessions prevent us from doing what God wants.
(Life Application Bible notes)
- The neighbors of the Jews contributed supplies for the journey. (v. 6)
- When God calls his people to move, only a portion will respond.
- Those who don't respond should support those who do. Think, for example,
of missionaries. Not everyone is called to be a foreign missionary, but
we are all called to support the missionaries - if not in direct,
tangible ways, then through other ways such as prayer.
- King Cyrus even brought out the items that had been previously taken from
the Temple by King Nebuchadnezzar. (v. 7-11)
- Note how God works here - first He stirs Cyrus' spirit, then he stirs the
peoples' spirits. The lesson for us is that God often acts by stirring our
spirits, which causes us to act.
- Chapter 2 lists the numbers of the people who returned.
- The governor excluded people from priestly duties whose ancestry could
not be traced. Remember that the Lord has set up specific rules and
guidelines for who is eligible to serve in a priestly capacity. (v. 62)
- About 50,000 people returned to Jerusalem. This is a small fraction of
those who had been carried away. Throughout history, God has saved a
"remnant" of his people. (v. 64-67)
- The priest, Levites, singers, gatekeepers, and Temple servants, and some
of the common people settled near Jerusalem. The rest of the people
returned to the various towns in Judah. (v. 70)
- Notice that the priests were among the first people to return.
- One of the main themes in Ezra is the return of the Jews. By returning
to the land of Israel from Babylon, the Jews showed their faith in God's
promise to restore them as a people. They returned not only to their
homeland but also to the place where their forefathers had promised to
follow God. This important because it shows that God shows his mercy to
every generation. He compassionately restores his people. No matter how
difficult our present "captivity," we are never far from his love and
mercy. He restores us when w return to him.
- The people collected offerings for the rebuilding of the Temple. Even
though the offerings were generous, the amount of money that David had
gathered for the original building was a thousand times more.
- In the seventh month, after the Israelites had settled in the towns, the
people assembled in Jerusalem. (v. 1)
- During the time between the return and beginning to rebuild the Temple,
we know that the people rebuilt their houses, because latter Haggai
rebukes them for rebuilding their homes and neglecting the Temple.
- Jeshua, Zerubbabel and their associates began to build the alter in order
to be able to offer the sacrifices that were required according to the
Law of Moses. (v. 2)
- They built the alter, even though they were afraid of neighboring
cultures. The people showed their trust in the Lord to protect them
from their adversaries by honoring Him in rebuilding the alter and
reinstituting the sacrifices. (v. 3)
- Notice that the alter was built in one day - they were offering sacrifices
on the first day of the seventh month. (v. 6)
- After the alter was built, they celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles and
began the regular offerings. (v. 4-6)
- They made the offerings, even though the foundation for the Temple had
not yet been laid.
- Notice that the first order of business for the returned Israelites, after
regaining their bearings, is to resume worship practices.
- In addition to returning to their land, the Israelites returned to the
Scripture and the prescribed worship practices. The application for us is
that what people think is not nearly as important as what the Bible says.
This is one of the things that I find so exciting about the method of
study we employ in our class - we are constantly going straight to the
- A wonderful example the Israelites provide for us is their unity in
rebuilding the Temple. How often do we find ourselves "bickering" within
the church family - either in our own congregation or amongst other
congregations or denominations. Just like all of the Israelites were
united in their zeal to rebuild the Temple, as Christians we should all
be united in our faith in Christ.
- The Israelites paid the skilled workers and material suppliers for
rebuilding the Temple. (v. 7)
- When Solomon build the first Temple, he also exchanged food and olive
oil for wood from Tyre and Sidon.
- In the second month of the second year after the return of the
Israelites (536 BC), Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the people began work on
rebuilding the Temple. (v. 8)
- The people began rebuilding the Temple before rebuilding the city walls.
This shows that their reliance was on God, as the Temple was the
spiritual center of their society.
- Ezra waited for the second year post-exile before doing what he wanted.
How patient are you (with self, God, others) when waiting for a new
- When the builders laid the foundation of the temple, there was a great
celebration of praise and thanksgiving, led by the priests and Levites.
- The sentiment in verse 11 (God's love to Israel endures forever) is a
them that is often repeated throughout the Bible.
- While most of the people celebrated the rebuilding of the Temple, the
older people - people who had seen the original Temple - wept because
the new Temple paled in comparison. (v. 11-12)
- See Haggai 2:1-5 for both a comparison of the old Temple with the new
Temple and for words from the prophet to encourage the people to build
- The sound of the celebration and the weeping was very loud. (v. 13)
- The rebuilding of the Temple started between fifty and seventy years
after its destruction.
- Even though the second Temple was obviously less glorious than the first
Temple, God is concerned with the attitude of the people. When we
concentrate on style, we are using our own standards. But when we
concentrate on attitude, we use God's standards. The substance of our
worship is much more important than the style.
- Do we have people that act like these "old-timers" today who discourage
other's enthusiasm? How? How should we respond?
- When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard about the rebuilding
project, they came and asked to be part of it. (v. 1-2)
- The adversaries of Judah and Benjamin mentioned in verse 1 were
descendants of colonists from other countries who had been planted in
the land when Assyria took the northern kingdom into captivity. These
colonists had intermarried with the Jews who remained in the land, and
their offspring became known as Samaritans.
- Their offer to help was an attempt to infiltrate and disrupt the
project. They wanted to keep a close eye on what the Jews were doing
and prevent them from becoming a dominant power again.
- Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the people refused to allow them
to help. (v. 3)
- The enemies set out to discourage and frustrate the building. This
lasted throughout the entire reign of Cyrus (29 years). (v. 4-5)
- Christians should expect to run into opposition when we try to do God's
work. If we expect the opposition and prepare ourselves for it, we will
be able to overcome the opposition.
- From Ezra 4:8 to Ezra 6:18, the text is in Aramaic.
- The enemies of the Israelites lodged a complaint with King Artaxerxes
against the Jews. (v. 7)
- Rehum sent the letter against Jerusalem. (v. 8)
- Ezra 4:11-16 is an official letter, as is Ezra 4:17-22. Again, we see
how the author of Ezra is incorporating historical records along with
narrative to tell the story of the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem
and the challenges that were encountered. These letters were written
after the Temple was completed and are in reference to the rebuilding
of the city. They show the general opposition that the Jews faced in
their rebuilding projects.
- The letter indicated that the Jews were rebuilding the city of
Jerusalem, including fortifying its walls. (v. 12)
- The letter also warned that when the Jews were able to fortify
Jerusalem, they would quit paying taxes. (v. 13)
- The letter encouraged the king to search the archives to verify that
Jerusalem has a history of rebellion. (v. 15)
- The king replied to the letter with a letter of his own. (v. 17)
- The king's letter says that a search of the archives confirmed that
Jerusalem has a history of rebellion. (v. 18-20)
- The king's letter orders Rehum to stop the rebuilding of Jerusalem
until the king gives the order that it can resume. (v. 21)
- As soon as the letter was delivered, Rehum and the other enemies of
Jerusalem forced the Jews to quit rebuilding. (v. 23)
- Because of this exchange of letters, the rebuilding of the Temple came
to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius. (v. 24)
- Temple construction ceased in 534 BC. This was after two years of
- Haggai and Zechariah prophesied to the Jews, encouraging them to work
on the Temple. (v. 1)
- Haggai spoke to the people's consience. Zechariah spoke to their
- Zerubbabel resumed work on the Temple. (v. 2)
- Temple construction resumed in 520 BC, 14 years after it had ceased
in 534 BC.
- Notice that the construction resumed by the authority of the Holy
Spirit, through the prophets, not by a decree from a king.
- When the Jews started rebuilding the Temple, thew were challenged by
the governer of the area. (v. 3-4)
- God protected the building project and they continued to rebuild until
a written reply from Darius could be received. (v. 5)
- It looks like red tape is preventing the opposition from shutting down
- The governor of the area sent a report to Darius. (v. 6-7)
- The report states that the Jews are building the Temple and making
rapid progress. (v. 8)
- The report states that the Jews were questioned as to by whose authority
they were building the Temple and who was involved in the construction.
- The report states that the Jews answered that they were servants of God
and were rebuilding His Temple. (v. 11)
- The Jews recounted their history of being sent to exile for their
disobedience to God. (v. 12)
- The Jews claim (correctly) that Cyrus issued a decree (19 years earlier)
authorizing the rebuilding of the Temple and that he helped by returning
furnishings from the Temple that had been taken. (v. 13-15)
- The Jews state that they have been rebuilding the Temple under proper
authority from God and man. (v. 16)
- The report asks the king to search the records to see if King Cyrus did
in fact issue such a decree. (v. 17)
- The governor seems to be a fair man, asking for an investigation of the
answer from the Jews instead of simply shutting them down. Or perhaps,
he hoped to trap the Jews in a lie.
- King Darius issued an order to search the archives. (v. 1)
- A scroll was found in Achmetha, the city that used to be Cyrus'
capital city. (v. 2)
- Verses 3-5 contain the official document, a memo, from Cyrus related
to the Temple rebuilding. Verses 6-12 contain the official decree from
Darius which allowed the Temple construction to be completed.
- The scroll contained Cyrus' decree that the Temple be rebuilt with
money from the royal treasury and that the Temple articles be returned.
- It's somewhat humorous that Darius would not have known of the official
decree from Cyrus had not the enemies of the Jews insisted that a search
in the archives take place.
- The political structure of the time made it impossible for Darius to
alter Cyrus' decree. Darius realized that it was a law of the Medes and
Persians, and could not be altered or changed. So Darius makes a further
- Darius instructed the officials to not interfere with the rebuilding of
the Temple. (v. 6-7)
- Additionally, Darius instructed the officials to pay the building
expenses out of the royal treasury and to provide for their sacrifices.
- Finally, Darius imposed heavy penalties (death and destruction) for
anyone who changes this edict. (v. 11-12)
- Because of Darius' decree, the officials carried out his wishes with
dilligence. (v. 13)
- The elders of the Jews were able to continue building the Temple, while
Haggai and Zechariah preached. (v. 14)
- They completed the Temple construction in 516 BC, 20 years after
construction began. (v. 14-15)
- There is a great lesson for us here - God works through humanity. The
Jews did the physical work for the Temple. God also worked within the
political system to allow the climate to be favorable for the Jews to
rebuild the Temple. We cannot simply sit around and wait for God's will
to happen - we have to take an active role in affecting His will.
- There was a great celebration and dedication of the Temple. (v. 16-18)
- This was a great celebration, but it should be no surprise that Solomon's
dedication ceremony was bigger (see 1 Kings 8:63, e.g., to see that
Solomon had more offernings). Fortunately, Ezra does not dwell on this,
and neither should we. The important thing to note is the joy that the
people had as they celebrated. Solomon was able to provide for more,
and he did. These people were not able to provide for as much, but they
celebrated with all their might. Again, God looks at the attitude of the
worshiper, not necessarily the outward signs. So should we. Faith has
to do with things unseen.
- It is natural that the Jews have a great celebration at the dedication
of the Temple. It was for the purpose of rebuilding the Temple and
Jerusalem that they were brought out of exile. This is a major step in
the reestablishment of Jerusalem, and the Jews had great reason to
- The exiles celebrated the Passover at the appropriate time. (v. 19)
- This was just five weeks after the completion of the Temple.
- The Jews celebrated with great joy because God changed the attitude of
the king of Assyria, so that he assisted them in the building of the
Temple. (v. 22)