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Ezra - The Foundation of the Temple Laid

Read Time: 8 Minutes

    Ezra was a priest and prophet who had set his heart to seek the Lord and do His commandments and teach His statues to Israel (Ezra 7:20). It is his duty, being a priest, and also his desire. The events in Ezra occur during the book of Nehemiah and after the events in the book of Esther and near the end of the book of Daniel. The king in Persia (formerly Babylon) at the time is Cyrus of Persia about 426 B.C.

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,
:2     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.
:3     Who is there among you of all his people?
            his God be with him,
        and let him go up to Jerusalem,
            which is in Judah,
        and build the house of the LORD God of Israel,
            (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem.
:4     And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth,
        let the men of his place help him with silver,
            and with gold,
            and with goods,
            and with beasts,
        beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.

    I was really impressed when I first read this, not knowing whom Cyrus King of Persia was. When I found out that Persia was where Babylon was my curiosity was really heightened. How did a foreign king get the inspiration to have the temple in Jerusalem rebuilt? The first time I read this I didn't have a good working knowledge of the scope of the Old Testament. Daniel 9 tells us who this Cyrus was; however, it is hidden in the language.

Daniel 9
: 1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus,
    of the seed of the Medes,
    which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans;
:2 In the first year of his reign
    I Daniel understood by books the number of the years,
    whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet,
    that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.

    According to E.W. Bullinger (and the time mentioned in verse 2) this would be Cyrus. Darius is an appellative meaning "The Maintainer" and Ahasuerus is an appellative meaning "The Venerable King". The Venerable King is Astyages (also and more commonly called Darius) and his son is Cyrus by Esther.

    Now we see the influence the Children of Israel had on their captors. Daniel first influenced Astyages (Darius the Mede), Astyages marries Esther and they have a son called Cyrus. Esther and Mordecai teach Cyrus about God and Cyrus supports his father's decision to rebuild Jerusalem.

    God is working in Cyrus king of Persia to finance and restore the temple in Jerusalem. This will help to unite God's people and help them adhere to God's commandments.

    The following is what they brought back to Jerusalem - no small treasure:

Ezra 1
:5 Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin,
        and the priests,
        and the Levites,
        with all them whose spirit God had raised,
    to go up to build the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem.
:6 And all they that were about them strengthened their hands with vessels of silver,
        with gold,
        with goods,
        and with beasts,
        and with precious things,
    beside all that was willingly offered.
:7 Also Cyrus the king brought forth the vessels of the house of the LORD,
        which Nebuchadnezzar had brought forth out of Jerusalem,
    and had put them in the house of his gods;
:8 Even those did Cyrus king of Persia bring forth by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer,
    and numbered them unto Sheshbazzar,
        the prince of Judah. (possibly Nehemiah)
:9 And this is the number of them:
        thirty chargers of gold,
        a thousand chargers of silver,
        nine and twenty knives,
:10   Thirty basons of gold,
        silver basons of a second sort four hundred and ten,
        and other vessels a thousand.
:11   All the vessels of gold
            and of silver
        were five thousand and four hundred.
    All these did Sheshbazzar bring up with them of the captivity
    that were brought up from Babylon unto Jerusalem.

    They returned to Judah with 5,400 vessels of gold and silver. That is a tremendous amount of treasure. Chapter two tells us how many people went to Jerusalem and Judah from Persia-42,360 of the congregation and 7,337 maids and servants (2:64, 65). These were people that Nebuchadnezzar had taken captive. Many of them had seen the original temple and when the temple's foundation was built they wept with joy (3:12, 13).

    Once the people of the land saw that the temple was being rebuilt they worked very hard stop it (chapter 4). At first they tried to infiltrate the workers by asking to participate. When they were refused they hired people to thwart their efforts and started a political letter writing campaign.

Ezra 4
: 4 Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah,
    and troubled them in building,
:5 And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose,
    all the days of Cyrus king of Persia,
    even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. [who is Darius Hystaspis who reigned after Cyrus]
:6 And in the reign of Ahasuerus,
        in the beginning of his reign,
    wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.
            [Ahasuerus - "the venerable king" - possibly speaking in retrospect of Astyages,
            Cyrus' father as mentioned in Nehemiah]
:7 And in the days of Artaxerxes ["the great king" used here of Cyrus] wrote Bishlam,
        Mithredath,
        Tabeel,
        and the rest of their companions,
    unto Artaxerxes king of Persia;
    and the writing of the letter was written in the Syrian tongue,
    and interpreted in the Syrian tongue.

    The opposition was very strong and we do not see any record of Judah going to God to squelch it. Verses 12 - 16 is this persuasive letter:

:12 Be it known unto the king,
    that the Jews which came up from thee to us are come unto Jerusalem,
    building the rebellious and the bad city,
    and have set up the walls thereof,
    and joined the foundations.
:13 Be it known now unto the king,
    that, if this city be builded,
        and the walls set up again,
    then will they not pay toll,
        tribute,
        and custom,
    and so thou shalt endamage the revenue of the kings.
:14 Now because we have maintenance from the king's palace,
        and it was not meet for us to see the king's dishonour,
    therefore have we sent and certified the king;
:15 That search may be made in the book of the records of thy fathers:
    so shalt thou find in the book of the records,
    and know that this city is a rebellious city,
        and hurtful unto kings and provinces,
        and that they have moved sedition within the same of old time:
    for which cause was this city destroyed.
:16 We certify the king that, if this city be builded again,
    and the walls thereof set up,
    by this means thou shalt have no portion on this side the river.

    These are very strong arguments and persuasive enough to cause Cyrus to command that the building be stopped. The building stopped from 425 B.C. until the second year of Darius Hystaspis, 410 B.C. I am surprised that Cyrus agreed to have the building stopped. Usually the people around the king will influence them greatly and that must have been what happened. Nehemiah had gone back to Persia for 12 years but the vast majority of God's people had left to return to Judah. From E.W. Bullinger's chronology Daniel is still alive yet he dies in 424 B.C. and this happens in 425 B.C. Nehemiah is still in Persian, he is there from 419 B.C. to 407 B.C. This may also explain why they stopped. Nehemiah wasn't there to encourage them to stand fast on God's Word and go to God for help.

    God is powerful and influential. We, as a people-God's people-need to stand strong and pray and believe for our counties. We need to pray for our leaders so they that we may live in peace. It is God's will that we prosper so we must believe God and expect it. Our countries are in constant jeopardy and influence from unbelievers. We must rise up and speak the Word to our leaders and get involved. We must pray for our countries and believe God for deliverance.

God's richest blessings on your lives.

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