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Bible Commentaries

Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Ezra 1

Verses 1-11


The Return of the Jews from Captivity

The chapter narrates how Cyrus, king of Persia, permitted the Jews in Babylon to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple there, and restored the vessels taken from it.

1. Now, etc.] The book of Ezra begins with the last words of 2 Ch; Ezra 1:1-2 and the first half of Ezra 1:3 occurring in 2 Chronicles 36:22, 2 Chronicles 36:23. The three books, Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah, were probably at first continuous, in this order; but subsequently the arrangement in the Hebrew Bible was altered to Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles, Ezra being placed first in order to form a sequel to the history contained in Kings. 2 Chronicles was then made to conclude with the same words that form the beginning of Ezra.

In the first year of Cyrus] i.e. of Cyrus’ rule over Babylon, 538 b.c.

The word of the Lord.. Jeremiah] see Jeremiah 29:10; Jeremiah 25:11-13 cp. also Ezekiel 11:7; Ezekiel 37:12. The period of the Captivity was described by Jeremiah as 70 years and by Ezekiel as 40 (Ezra 4:6). Its actual duration, reckoned from the Fall of Jerusalem in 586, was about 50 years, but the interval between the destruction of the Temple and its restoration in 516 (Ezra 6:15) was almost exactly 70. The accordance of the event with predictions uttered so long before witnesses to the remarkable faculty of prevision possessed by the Hebrew prophets, inasmuch as there was nothing (so far as can be judged) within the political horizon at the time when the predictions were made to create such an expectation.

The Lord stirred up, etc.] Josephus states that the divine will respecting the Jews was made known to Cyrus by the prophecies of Isaiah (see Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1-4, where Cyrus is styled ’the Lord’s servant’ and the Lord’s anointed’). Be this as it may, God’s purposes were fulfilled, whatever may have been the motives by which the Persian king was consciously actuated. From the inscriptions it appears that Nabunahid (Nabonidus), the last king of Babylon, had caused great discontent by removing to his capital the gods of various cities, and that Cyrus sent them back to their respective sanctuaries; and the restoration of the sacred vessels (Ezra 1:7) of the Jews, whose God was not represented by any image, was doubtless part of the same policy. The permission given to the Jews themselves to return to Jerusalem to reconstruct the Temple there conciliated a number of people who might otherwise have been a source of danger to the empire. The old idea that Cyrus as a Zoroastrian had sympathy with the religion of the Jews is disproved by evidence from the monuments.

2. The Lord God.. hath given me] Cyrus showed great regard for the religious sentiments of his various subjects; and just as in his inscriptions it is represented to the Babylonians that he had obtained his victories through Merodach their chief god, so here in a decree issued to the Jews his success is ascribed to the Lord. But it is possible that the Hebrew colouring of the decree is due to a Hebrew scribe, commissioned to make it intelligible to his countrymen, rather than to its royal author.

4. Whosoever remaineth] RV ’whosoever’ (of the captive people) ’is left’ (cp. Nehemiah 1:2), there being an allusion to the remnant of Israel.

The men of his place] i.e. his Babylonian neighbours (Ezra 1:6).

5. Whose spirit, etc.] It was only a small proportion of the exiled Jews who were inspired with such zeal for their land and the sanctuary of their God as to exchange the comfort of Babylon for the desolation of Judæa. In this passage those who took advantage of Cyrus’ decree are represented as belonging to Judah and Benjamin only, but there were also among them some from Ephraim and Manasseh: 1 Chronicles 9:3.

7. Had brought forth] see 2 Kings 24:13; 2 Chronicles 36:7.

8. Sheshbazzar] It seems probable that this was the Persian or Babylonian name of Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:2). In favour of the view that the same person is designated by the two names is the fact that the foundation of the Temple is ascribed to both (Ezra 5:16; Ezra 3:8), whilst the double name may be paralleled by the instances of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah (Daniel 1:6-7), Eliakim, and Mattaniah (2 Kings 23:34; 2 Kings 24:17). But some distinguish between the two (as is done in 1 Esdras 6:18), and either regard Sheshbazzar as identical with Shenazzar the uncle of Zerubbabel, or take him to be a Persian commissioner accompanying Zerubbabel (for although he is here called the prince of Judah, i.e. the representative of Judah’s royal line, the LXX in Ezra 5:14 styles him ’the guardian over the treasure,’ or ’treasury’).

9. Chargers.. knives] The words probably mean different kinds of vessels.

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Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Ezra 1". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/ezra-1.html. 1909.