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Bible Commentaries

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Ezra 1

Verses 1-11

Ezra 1:1-11 Ezra’s Divine Commission Ezra 1:1-11 records Ezra’s divine commission. We often find a divine commission at the beginning of the story of God’ servants in the Scriptures. We see in the book of Genesis that Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob each received their commissions at the beginning of their genealogies, which divide the book of Genesis into major divisions. We also see how Moses received his divine commission near the beginning of his story found within Exodus to Deuteronomy. Joshua received his commission in the first few verses of the book of Joshua. In addition, we see that Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel each received a divine commission at the beginning of their ministries. The book of Ezra opens with a divine call to rebuild the Temple and the book of Nehemiah begins with a call to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, which callings Ezra and Nehemiah answered. In the New Testament, we find Paul the apostle receiving his divine commission in Acts 9:1-22 at the beginning of the lengthy section on Paul’s life and ministry.

Each of these divine callings can be found within God’s original commission to Adam in the story of Creation to be fruitful and multiply. For these men were called to bring the about the multiplication of godly seeds. The patriarchs were called to multiply and produce a nation of righteousness. Moses was called to bring Israel out of bondage, but missed his calling to bring them into the Promised Land. Joshua was called to bring them in to the land. Esther was called to preserve the seed of Israel, as was Noah, while Ezra and Nehemiah were called to bring them back into the Promised Land. All of the judges, the kings and the prophets were called to call the children of Israel out of sin and bondage and into obedience and prosperity. They were all called to bring God’s children out of bondage and destruction and into God’s blessings and multiplication. The stories in the Old Testament show us that some of these men fulfilled their divine commission while others either fell short through disobedience or were too wicked to hear their calling from God.

Ezra 1:1-4 King’s Cyrus’ Decree to Restore Jerusalem and End the Babylonian Captivity Ezra 1:1-3 are a repetition of 2 Chronicles 36:22-23, which is evidence to a common authorship between the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles and Ezra.

It is interesting to note the words of Josephus regarding Cyrus’ decree. This ancient Jewish historian tells us that Cyrus was stirred in his spirit as a result of reading the prophetic passage of Isaiah 44:28, which was written one hundred and forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem.

“This was known to Cyrus by his reading the book which Isaiah left behind him of his prophecies; for this prophet said that God had spoken thus to him in a secret vision: “My will is, that Cyrus, whom I have appointed to be king over many and great nations, send back my people to their own land, and build my temple.” This was foretold by Isaiah one hundred and forty years before the temple was demolished. Accordingly, when Cyrus read this, and admired the Divine power, an earnest desire and ambition seized upon him to fulfill what was so written; so he called for the most eminent Jews that were in Babylon, and said to them, that he gave them leave to go back to their own country, and to rebuild their city Jerusalem, (2) and the temple of God, for that he would be their assistant, and that he would write to the rulers and governors that were in the neighborhood of their country of Judea, that they should contribute to them gold and silver for the building of the temple, and besides that, beasts for their sacrifices. ( Antiquities 11.1.2)

Josephus says Cyrus was so moved by the fact that his name was mentioned in this Scripture that he issued the following decree to send the Jews back to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple.

“And these things God did afford them; for he stirred up the mind of Cyrus, and made him write this throughout all Asia: “Thus saith Cyrus the king: Since God Almighty hath appointed me to be king of the habitable earth, I believe that he is that God which the nation of the Israelites worship; for indeed he foretold my name by the prophets, and that I should build him a house at Jerusalem, in the country of Judea.” ( Antiquities 11.1.1)

Ezra 1:1 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying,

Ezra 1:1 “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia” Comments The times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24) was ushered into world history through the prophecies of Daniel, where Israel’s dominance subsided and the Gentile nations of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greek, and Roman empires would rise. This time began with the fall of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Daniel 1:1 is the last biblical event in redemption history that is dated by the calendars of the kings of the nation of Israel. At this point forward, all redemptive events recorded in the Holy Scriptures will be dated around Gentile rules (Daniel 2:1; Daniel 7:1; Daniel 8:1; Daniel 9:1; Daniel 10:1; Daniel 11:1, Ezra 1:1; Ezra 6:3; Ezra 7:1, Nehemiah 2:1, Esther 1:1-3, Luke 2:1-2; Luke 3:1-2). Even the book of Ezekiel seems to blend the Jewish calendar with the fall of Israel by the Babylonians in his collection of prophecies.

Luke 21:24, “And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”

Comments - Cyrus the Great was the founder of the Persian Empire, ruling over various parts of this region from 559-530 B.C., a period of twenty-nine years. His rule began in 559 B.C. in Anshan, a region of the Median Empire. His reign was extended in 550 B.C. when he overthrew the Median king, taking full control of Media. Cyrus conquered Babylon in 539 B.C., extending his reign over most of the Middle East. [32] The Old Testament references to Cyrus the Great date his reign beginning with the overthrow of Babylon in 539 B.C. (2 Chronicles 36:22-23, Ezra 1:1-8; Ezra 3:7; Ezra 4:3; Ezra 4:5; Ezra 5:13-17; Ezra 6:3; Ezra 6:14, Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1, Daniel 1:21; Daniel 6:28; Daniel 10:1), perhaps because his role in redemptive history did not begin until this period of history. Thus, in the first year of his reign as king ( מֶלֶךְ ) over the Medo-Persian Empire in 538 B.C., Cyrus fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah (740 - 701 B.C.), who ministered about one hundred and fifty years before this event took place, by ordering the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem (Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1), and by asking the Jews to return and fulfill this decree, thus ending the Babylonian Captivity of the Jews after seventy years, as prophesied by Jeremiah (Ezekiel 1:1-4). During the third year of his reign (535-534 B.C.), Daniel was given the vision recorded in Daniel 10-12.

[32] Jack Martin Balcer, “Cyrus the Great,” in The World Book Encyclopedia, vol. 4 (Chicago: World Book, Inc., 1994), 1208.

Isaiah 44:26-28, “That confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messengers; that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built, and I will raise up the decayed places thereof: That saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers: That saith of Cyrus , He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.”

Isaiah 45:1, “Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut;”

Ezra 1:1-2, “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.”

Ezra 1:1 “that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled” Comments - Jeremiah’s prophecy of the end of the Babylonian Captivity and Israel’s restoration is recorded in Jeremiah 25:11-12; Jeremiah 29:10.

Jeremiah 25:11-12, “And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the LORD, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations.”

Jeremiah 29:10, “For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.”

Ezra 1:1 “the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia” Scripture Reference - Note:

Proverbs 21:1, “The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.”

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Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Ezra 1". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/ezra-1.html. 2013.