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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Ezra 1

Verses 1-4

Ezra - Chapter 1

Decree of Cyrus, Versus 1-4

The closing verses of Second Chronicles (2 Chronicles 36:22-23) are parallel to the first three verses of this passage, except for the last clause. In those verses the author anticipated the events of the Book of Ezra for his readers, while the author of Ezra proceeds to show how the pro­clamation of Cyrus was carried out and eventually accomplished.

The historical background of this first chapter of Ezra includes the fall of Jerusalem and the carrying of its inhabitants into captivity in Babylon (2 Chronicles 36:11-21). Jeremiah had prophesied and warned the people of Judah and Jerusalem of this eventuality (Jeremiah 25:8-14, and many other passages). Isaiah had given a very vivid description of the fall of Babylon and even named the king who would conquer it (Isaiah 44:24 to Isaiah 45:7), some hundred and sixty years before it came to pass. There is a Jewish tradition that Cyrus was fold of these prophecies by Jeremiah and Isaiah, and feeling flattered by them, immediately set about to bring it to pass.

Just what manner was used to provoke King Cyrus to allow the return of the Jews to Jerusalem is not recounted, but that it was the work of the Lord is clear from verse 1, for the "Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus." There was no delay either in the king’s compliance with the prophecy for it came in the very year of his reign. It is significant that Cyrus put his proclamation concerning the Jews and their temple in writing, for in time to come it will enable them to overcome those who would hinder their work.

Cyrus first gave his reason for the decree, the best possible, the Lord had directed him to do it. Men must do what the Lord directs them to do if they are to reap the greatest blessings of God. The decree was addressed to the purpose next, to build the Lord’s house again in the city of Jerusalem in the land of Judah. The third point of the procla­mation concerns those to whom it is directed, "his people," the people of the Lord dwelling in the empire of Cyrus king of Persia. Its direction was that all who desired should go, with God’s blessing, to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple.

The decree was expanded also to those Jews who may not have been disposed to return to Jerusalem. There was an important part for them to do with relation to those who were going. They were to help those from their towns, or places of sojourning, who were returning, by giving them silver, gold, materials, animals, along with a freewill offering for the temple to be restored. h is interesting that all the Jews were to co­operate in this work. God expects all His servants to co-operate and act in harmony in carrying out His will (Matthew 18:19).

Verses 5-11

Preparations, Vs 5-11

The chief men of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah took the initiative in making up the party to return to Jerusalem according to the king’s proclamation. They were joined by priests and Levites also, all of whom were led of the Lord to take the venture. Also according to the command of the king those who did not intend to return "strengthened" the hand of those who were returning. They contributed gold and silver vessels, as well as goods the travelers would need along the way, and animals on which to pack their things.

It is rather interesting to note that the Lord had not left His people bereft of His blessing during their captivity. They had left their homes in Judah seventy years earlier, perhaps many of them in destitution, but here they seem to have prospered quite well. They were able to contri­bute even things of gold and silver as well as the many other things their compatriots would need to return to their homeland (Isaiah 51:16).

The king also made his contribution to their return. He brought out the sacred vessels of the temple, which Nebuchadnezzar had stolen in the beginning of the captivity, and sent them back with the returnees. Their last appearance in the Scriptures had been at Belshazzar’s drunken feast, on the night Babylon fell (Daniel 5:2). Cyrus had his treasurer bring them out and give them the Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah, who was in charge of leading the people in their return. The sacred vessels are enumerated in verses 9 and 10. The most important ones were thirty gold chargers (or platters), a thousand silver platters, twenty-nine knives, thirty gold basins, four hundred ten silver basins of a secondary sort, and a thousand miscellaneous vessels, for a total of five thousand four hundred. All this was placed in the hands of Sheshbazzar and his people to be returned to Jerusalem.

Lessons from this chapter: 1) the Lord supervises the history of the world so that His will shall certainly be done; 2) all servants of the Lord need to be united in accomplishing His work; 3) God is able to supply all that is needed in any venture for Him.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Ezra 1". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/ezra-1.html. 1985.