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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

Ezra 1

I. The Return of the Jews from Babylon under Cyrus. Restoration of the Temple and of the Worship of God at Jerusalem - Ezra 1:1

When the seventy years of the Babylonian captivity had elapsed, King Cyrus, by an edict published in the first year of his rule over Babylon, gave permission to all the Jews in his whole realm to return to their native land, and called upon them to rebuild the temple of God at Jerusalem. The execution of this royal and gracious decree by the Jews forms the subject of the first part of this book - Ezra 1:1-11 and 2 treating of the return of a considerable number of families of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi, under the conduct of Zerubbabel the prince and Joshua the high priest, to Jerusalem and Judaea; the remaining chapters, Ezra 3-6, of the restoration of the worship of God, and of the rebuilding of the temple.

Verses 1-4

In the first year of his rule over Babylon, Cyrus king of Persia proclaimed throughout his whole kingdom, both by voice and writing, that the God of heaven had commanded him to build His temple at Jerusalem, and called upon the Jews living in exile to return to Jerusalem, and to build there the house of the God of Israel. At the same time, he exhorted all his subjects to facilitate by gifts the journey of the Jews dwelling in their midst, and to assist by free-will offerings the building of the temple (Ezra 1:1-4). In consequence of this royal decree, those Jews whose spirit God had raised up prepared for their return, and received from their neighbours gifts and free-will offerings (Ezra 1:5 and Ezra 1:6). Cyrus, moreover, delivered to Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah, the vessels of the temple which Nebuchadnezzar had brought from Jerusalem to Babylon.

Ezra 1:1

The edict of Cyrus. - Ezra 1:1 The opening word, “ and in the first year,” etc., is to be explained by the circumstance that what is here recorded forms also, in 2 Chronicles 36:22 and 2 Chronicles 36:23, the conclusion of the history of the kingdom of Judah at its destruction by the Chaldeans, and is transferred thence to the beginning of the history of the restoration of the Jews by Cyrus. כּורשׁ is the Hebraized form of the ancient Persian Kurus, as Κῦρος , Cyrus, is called upon the monuments, and is perhaps connected with the Indian title Kuru; see Delitzsch on Isaiah 44:28. The first year of Cyrus is the first year of his rule over Babylon and the Babylonian empire.

The proclamation - “Jahve the 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” - corresponds with the edicts of the great kings of Persia preserved in the cuneiform inscriptions, inasmuch as these, too, usually begin with the acknowledgment that they owe their power to the god Ahuramazdâ (Ormuzd), the creator of heaven and earth.

In conformity with the command of God, Cyrus not only invites the Jews to return to Jerusalem, and to rebuild the temple, but also requires all his subjects to assist the returning Jews, and to give free-will offerings for the temple. מי בכם , who among you of all his people, refers to all those subjects of his realm to whom the decree was to be made known; and all the people of Jahve is the whole nation of Israel, and not Judah only, although, according to Ezra 1:5, it was mainly those only who belonged to Judah that availed themselves of this royal permission. עמּו אלהיו יהי , his God be with him, is a wish for a blessing: comp. Joshua 1:17; 1 Esdras 2:5, ἔστω ; while in 2 Chronicles 36:23 we find, on the other hand, יהוה for יהי . This wish is followed by the summons to go up to Jerusalem and to build the temple, the reason for which is then expressed by the sentence, ”He is the God which is in Jerusalem.”

Ezra 1:4

וגו וכל־הנּשׁאר are all belonging to the people of God in the provinces of Babylon, all the captives still living: comp. Nehemiah 1:2.; Hagg. Ezra 2:3. These words stand first in an absolute sense, and וגו מכּל־מּקמות belongs to what follows: In all places where he (i.e., each man) sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with gold, etc. The men of his place are the non-Israelite inhabitants of the place. נשּׂא , to assist, like 1 Kings 9:1. רכוּשׁ specified, besides gold, silver, and cattle, means moveable, various kinds. עם־הנּדבה , with, besides the free-will offering, i.e., as well as the same, and is therefore supplied in Ezra 1:6 by על לבד . Free-will offerings for the temple might also be gold, silver, and vessels: comp. Ezra 8:28; Exodus 35:21.

Verses 5-6

In consequence of this royal summons, the heads of the houses of Judah and Benjamin, of the priests and Levites, - in short, all whose spirit God stirred up, - rose to go up to build the house of God. The ל in לכל serves to comprise the remaining persons, and may therefore be rendered by, in short, or namely; comp. Ewald, §310, a. The relative sentence then depends upon כּל without אשׁר . The thought is: All the Jews were called upon to return, but those only obeyed the call whom God made willing to build the temple at Jerusalem, i.e., whom the religious craving of their hearts impelled thereto. For, as Josephus says, Antt. xi. 1: πολλοὶ κατέμειναν ἐν τῇ Βαβυλῶνι τὰ κτήματα καταλιπεῖν οὐ θέλοντες .

Ezra 1:6

All their surrounders assisted them with gifts. The surrounders are the people of the places where Jews were making preparations for returning; chiefly, therefore, their heathen neighbours (Ezra 1:4), but also those Jews who remained in Babylon. חזּקוּ בידיהם is not identical in meaning with יד חזּק , to strengthen, e.g., Jeremiah 23:14; Nehemiah 2:18; but with החזיק בּיד , the Piel here standing instead of the elsewhere usual Hiphil: to grasp by the hand, i.e., to assist; comp. Leviticus 25:34. על לבד , separated to, besides; elsewhere joined with מן , Exodus 12:37, etc. התנדּב connected with כּל without אשׁר , as the verbum fin . in Ezra 1:5, 1 Chronicles 29:3, and elsewhere. האלהים לבית must, according to Ezra 1:4, be supplied mentally; comp. Ezra 2:68; Ezra 3:5; 1 Chronicles 29:9, 1 Chronicles 29:17.

Verses 7-10

King Cyrus, moreover, caused those sacred vessels of the temple which had been carried away by Nebuchadnezzar to be brought forth, and delivered them by the hand of his treasurer to Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah, for the use of the house of God which was about to be built. הוציא , to fetch out from the royal treasury. The “vessels of the house of Jahve” are the gold and silver vessels of the temple which Nebuchadnezzar, at the first taking of Jerusalem in the reign of Jehoiakim, carried away to Babylon, and lodged in the treasure-house of his god ( 2 Chronicles 36:7 and Daniel 1:2). For those which he took at its second conquest were broken up (2 Kings 24:13); and the other gold and silver goods which, as well as the large brazen implements, were taken at the third conquest, and the destruction of the temple (2 Kings 25:14.; Jeremiah 52:18.), would hardly have been preserved by the Chaldeans, but rather made use of as valuable booty.

Ezra 1:8

Cyrus delivered these vessels יד על , into the hand of the treasurer, to whose care they were entrusted; i.e., placed them under his inspection, that they might be faithfully restored. ממרדת is Mithridates. נּזבּר , answering to the Zend gazabara , means treasurer (see comm. on Dan. p. 514, note 4). This officer counted them out to the prince of Judah Sheshbazzar, undoubtedly the Chaldee name of Zerubbabel. For, according to Ezra 5:14, Ezra 5:16, שׁשׁבּצּר was the governor ( פּחה ) placed by Cyrus over the new community in Judah and Jerusalem, and who, according to Ezra 1:11 of the present chapter, returned to Jerusalem at the head of those who departed from Babylon; while we are informed (Ezra 2:2; Ezra 3:1, Ezra 3:8, and Ezra 4:3; Ezra 5:2) that Zerubbabel was not only at the head of the returning Jews, but also presided as secular ruler over the settlement of the community in Judah and Jerusalem. The identity of Sheshbazzar with Zerubbabel, which has been objected to by Schrader and Nöldeke, is placed beyond a doubt by a comparison of Ezra 5:16 with Ezra 3:8, etc., Ezra 5:2: for in Ezra 5:16 Sheshbazzar is named as he who laid the foundation of the new temple in Jerusalem; and this, according to Ezra 5:2 and Ezra 3:8, was done by Zerubbabel. The view, too, that Zerubbabel, besides this his Hebrew name, had, as the official of the Persian king, also a Chaldee name, is in complete analogy with the case of Daniel and his three companions, who, on being taken into the service of the Babylonian king, received Chaldee names (Daniel 1:7). Zerubbabel, moreover, seems, even before his appointment of פּחה to the Jewish community in Judah, to have held some office in either the Babylonian or Persian Court or State; for Cyrus would hardly have entrusted this office to any private individual among the Jews. The meaning of the word שׁשׁבּצּר is not yet ascertained: in the lxx it is written Σασαβασάρ , Σαβαχασάρ , and Σαναβάσσαρος ; 1 Esdras has Σαμανασσάρ , or, according to better MSS, Σαναβασσάρ ; and Josephus, l.c., Ἀβασσάρ .

Ezra 1:9-10

The enumeration of the vessels: 1. אגרטלים of gold 30, and of silver 1000. The word occurs only here, and is translated in the Septuagint ψυκτῆρες ; in 1 Esdr. 2:11, σπονδεῖα . The Talmudic explanation of Aben Ezra, “vessels for collecting the blood of the sacrificed lambs,” is derived from אגר , to collect, and טלה , a lamb, but is certainly untenable. עגרטל is probably connected with Arab. qarṭallah , the rabbinical קרטיל , the Syriac karṭālā' , the Greek κάρταλλος or κάρταλος , a basket (according to Suidas), κάρταλος having no etymology in Greek; but can hardly be derived, as by Meier, hebr. Wurzelwörterbuch, p. 683, from the Syriac ‛rṭl , nudavit , to make bare, the Arabic ‛arṭala , to make empty, to hollow, with the sense of hollow basins. 2. מחלפים 29. This word also occurs only here. The Sept. has παρηλλαγμένα (interpreting etymologically after חלף ), 1 Esdr. θυΐ́σκαι , the Vulg. cultri , sacrificial knives, according to the rabbinical interpretation, which is based upon חלף , in the sense of to pierce, to cut through (Judges 5:26; Job 20:24). This meaning is, however, certainly incorrect, being based linguistically upon a mere conjecture, and not even offering an appropriate sense, since we do not expect to find knives between vessels and dishes. Ewald ( Gesch. iv. p. 88), from the analogy of מחלפות (Judges 16:13, Judges 16:19), plaits, supposes vessels ornamented with plaited or net work; and Bertheau, vessels bored after the manner of a grating for censing, closed fire-pans with holes and slits. All is, however, uncertain. 3. כּפורים , goblets (goblets with covers; comp. 1 Chronicles 15:18) of gold, 30; and of silver, 410. The word משׁנים is obscure; connected with כּסף כּפורי כּס it can only mean goblets of a second order (comp. 1 Chronicles 15:18). Such an addition appears, however, superfluous; the notion of a second order or class being already involved in their being of silver, when compared with the golden goblets. Hence Bertheau supposes משׁנים to be a numeral corrupted by a false reading; and the more so, because the sum-total given in Ezra 1:11 seems to require a larger number than 410. These reasons, however, are not insuperable. The notion of a second order of vessels need not lie in their being composed of a less valuable metal, but may also be used to define the sort of implement; and the difference between the separate numbers and the sum-total is not perfectly reconciled by altering משׁנים into אלפים , 2000. 4. 1000 other vessels or implements.

Verse 11

“All the vessels of gold and of silver were five thousand and four hundred.” But only 30 + 1000 אנרטלים , 29 מחלפים , 30 + 410 covered goblets, and 1000 other vessels are enumerated, making together 2499. The same numbers are found in the lxx. Ancient interpreters reconciled the difference by the supposition that in the separate statements only the larger and more valuable vessels are specified, while in the sum-total the greater and lesser are reckoned together. This reconciliation of the discrepancy is, however, evidently arbitrary, and cannot be justified by a reference to 2 Chronicles 36:18, where the taking away of the greater and lesser vessels of the temple at the destruction of Jerusalem is spoken of. In Ezra 1:11 it is indisputably intended to give the sum-total according to the enumeration of the separate numbers. The difference between the two statements has certainly arisen from errors in the numbers, for the correction of which the means are indeed wanting. The error may be supposed to exist in the sum-total, where, instead of 5400, perhaps 2500 should be read, which sum may have been named in round numbers instead of 2499.

(Note: Ewald (Gesch. iv. p. 88) and Bertheau think they find in 1 Esdr. 2:12, 13, a basis for ascertaining the correct number. In this passage 1000 golden and 1000 silver σπονδεῖα , 29 silver θυΐ́σκαι , 30 golden and 2410 silver φιάλαι , and 1000 other vessels, are enumerated (1000 + 10000 + 29 + 30 + 2410 + 1000 = 5469); while the total is said to be 5469. But 1000 golden σπονδεῖα bear no proportion to 1000 silver, still less do 30 golden φιάλαι to 2410 silver. Hence Bertheau is of opinion that the more definite statement 30, of the Hebrew text, is to be regarded as original, instead of the first 1000; that, on the other hand, instead of the 30 golden כּפורים , 1000 originally stood in the text, making the total 5469. Ewald thinks that we must read 1030 instead of 1000 golden אגרטלים ( σπονδεῖα ), and make the total 5499. In opposition to these conjectures, we prefer abiding by the Hebrew text; for the numbers of 1 Esdras are evidently the result of an artificial, yet unskilful reconciliation of the discrepancy. It cannot be inferred, from the fact that Ezra subsequently, at his return to Jerusalem, brought with him 20 golden כּפורים , that the number of 30 such כּפורים given in this passage is too small.)

הגּולה העלות עם , at the bringing up of the carried away, i.e., when they were brought up from Babylon to Jerusalem. The infinitive Niphal העלות , with a passive signification, occurs also Jeremiah 37:11.

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The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Ezra 1". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kdo/ezra-1.html. 1854-1889.