EZRA part 2
1 – 2
Tonight we are going to dig in to our text in Ezra and discover the awesome power of God’s providence at work. Let begin in,
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, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put
it in writing, saying, 2 Thus
says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD God of heaven
has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at
This was amazing time in history because we have a heathen King who did not believe in one particular God who ended up becoming a vessel for God as he was the main reason God’s promise was fulfilled that He made through Jeremiah and Isaiah. The first thing I want point out are some of the main points our verses have taught us.
Since these events are so precisely dictated by prophecy and that prove that God had a hand in these events, I want to share with you some historical proof that has been found in regards to these events.
In 1879, an explorer by the name of Hormuzd Rassam discovered
the famous “Cyrus Cylinder” at the site of ancient
“I returned to these
sacred cities on the other side of the
This gives us strong external proof that King Cyrus did exactly what the book Ezra said that he did and it also shows King Cyrus’ benevolent attitude toward those whom were under his power. King Cyrus was not a cruel King like many others had been. Instead, he was kind and fair man and his character is also founded in external history. For instance,
Xenophon, a Greek writer who was contemporary with Cyrus and fought in his army, described the Persian ruler as psuchen philanthropotaton, i.e., as a humane, benevolent, loving soul (8.7.3; cf. 1.2.1).
George Rawlinson, Camden Professor of ancient history at
“Of all the Persian monarchs, he was the one most distinguished for mildness and clemency; the one to whom the sufferings of a captive nation, torn violently from its home and subjected to seventy years of grievous oppression, would most forcibly have appealed” (1873, 194).
Cyrus kind nature made him the perfect king to carry out God’s promise to the Jews. It also interesting that Cyrus called the Jews God, “God of heaven” because based on the external history of the Persians and Cyrus himself they believed in multiple God’s and they considered “The God of Heaven” as being their supreme God. Yet, we find Cyrus giving this title to Jehovah. In regards to this Keil says the following,
"The edicts of the great kings
While Cyrus most likely didn’t believe the Jehovah was the only God, he did believe that Jehovah was responsible for him coming into power and that he needed to fulfill what Jehovah wanted done namely the building of His house and the release of His people.
Our text says that God stirred up the spirit of Cyrus. Now we are not told how this was done in the Bible. However, the first century Historian Josephus gives us a good idea of how this king may have been stirred up by God. He said that God,
“…stirred up the mind of Cyrus, and made him write throughout all Asia: ‘Thus says Cyrus the king: Since God Almighty has 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.’
“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 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…” (Antiquities 11.1.1-2).
Now, I know I have no way of proving this is the way Cyrus was stirred up, but it seems the most logical way that happened. Either he read what Isaiah said about him almost 200 years before he was born or maybe one the prophets told him about it. If I were in his shoes and began to read Isaiah prophecy about me, it would be enough to convince me that I need to pay attention to what God wants me to do. Notice this is part of what he could read from Isaiah,
Isaiah 45:1 "Thus
says the LORD to His anointed, To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held -- To
subdue nations before him And loose the armor of kings, To open before him the
double doors, So that the gates will not be shut: 2 'I will go before you And make
the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze And cut
the bars of iron. 3 I will
give you the treasures of darkness And hidden riches of secret places, That you
may know that I, the LORD, Who call you by your name, Am the God
Then he could have also read,
Isaiah 44:26 Who
confirms the word of His servant, And performs the counsel of His messengers;
Who says to Jerusalem, 'You shall be inhabited,' To the cities of Judah, 'You
shall be built,' And I will raise up her waste places; 27 Who says to the deep, 'Be dry!
And I will dry up your rivers'; 28
Who says of Cyrus, 'He is My shepherd, And he shall perform all My
pleasure, Saying to
He could have easily seen this was
talking about him and how he would become king and it also fits perfectly with
how he defeated the Babylonians. Another thing the Cyrus Cylinder
reveals that we talked about earlier is that the Persian commander took the
However, he was stirred up, we can see that he was not going to resist what God
wanted him to do so he made a decree for the Jews to return to
Some Jews choose to stay in
One last point I want to make about our
text is that when it says this return of the Jews happened in the first year of
King Cyrus’ reign it talking about his reign over
Ezra 1:5 Then
the heads of the fathers' houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests
and the Levites, with all whose spirits God had moved, arose to go up and build
the house of the LORD which is in
King Cyrus decree included all the Jews.
However, we verse 5 only mentions the heads of the family of Judah and Benjamin
along with the Levites and priest that had assembled and made their way to
Verse 6 teaches that all the people that were around them encouraged them with silver, gold and other items. This means that not only did the Jews that remained behind gave toward this event, so did all their heathen neighbors, including the Babylonians.
Verse 7 and 8 are referring to the
vessels that had been carried away by King Nebuchadnezzar in his first conquest
against the Jews under the reign of Jehoiakim because during Nebuchadnezzar’s 2nd
conquest he broke up the vessels that he took (2 Kings 24:13). King
Nebuchadnezzar had taken these vessels and put them up as trophies in the house
of his Gods. Later on, under King Belshazzar in Dan. 5 we learn that he sent
for these sacred vessels to drink from them and they did. That is when the
finger of man’s hand appeared and wrote of the wall and then
Once these vessels were retrieved, they
were given to Sheshbazzar who most believe is Zerubbabel because some the same
things are attributed to Sheshbazzar are also attributed to Zerubable. Zerubbabel
was born in Babylonian captivity and Sheshbazzar was most likely his Chaldaean
name. This was common practice just like Daniel and his 3 companion were given
new names. This man took the money and then lead the children of
In Ezra 2 we have another genealogy list, which is repeated in Nehemiah 7 and it shows those who had returned to Jerusalem and this list would have been used to keep the records straight of what family would receive certain portions of land and also it be used identify those who could serve as priests and it would be used identify the lineage of David.
Instead, of reading all these names, I just want to break this list down in the following parts:
· Those who returned according to families (Ezra 2:3-19)
· The number of those who returned according to localities (Ezra 2:20-35)
· The number of priests arranged according to their families (Ezra 2:36-39)
· The number of Levites, likewise arranged according to their families (Ezra 2:40-42)
· The families of the Nethinim (Ezra 2:43-54)
· The families of "Solomon's servants" (Ezra 2:55-57)
· Those who could not show their genealogy (Ezra 2:59-63).
As with any OT story you and I can learn a great deal about God and how we can improve our relationship with Him. We have learned that God can use His providence to bring about His promises. We have gained further proof of the existence of God and the accuracy of His Word because these events can be proven from external history. Once this story was proven historically, there is only one logical way that prophecies written over hundreds years before this event could have happened just as God’s Word said they would, and that is that God foretold these events through His prophets, which means that the Words that we have in our Bible are true and the are from God. This story also proves that God keeps His promises. So we can gain great comfort and hope when we study chapters like these.