Handbook of Ezra
Return from Captivity
Ezra's Journey to Jerusalem
Ezra is thought to have been author of this book.
The last two verses of II Chronicles are the same as the first two of Ezra, probably because Chronicles and Ezra were originally one book. This proclamation, permitting the Jews to return to Jerusalem, was issued shortly after Daniel had read the handwriting on the wall, in which it was declared that Babylon would fall to Persia; which came to pass the same night (Daniel 5:25-31). Probably Daniel showed to Cyrus the prophecies that were thus fulfilled (Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:10); and also the prophecies of Isaiah, who 200 years before had called Cyrus by name, stating that under him the Jews would return and rebuild Jerusalem (Isaiah 44:26-28; 45:1, 13). No wonder Cyrus had high regard for the Jews' God (3).
42,360, besides servants (64, 65). The total of the itemized numbers fall about 11,000 short of this number. This surplus of 11,000 is thought to have been composed of exiles from tribes other than Judah. Ephraim and Manasseh are mentioned in I Chronicles 9:3. "Israel" is named in Ezra 10:25. The term "All Israel" is used of those that returned (2:70; 6:17; 8:35). 12 bullocks and 12 he-goats were offered for "all Israel." This looks as if the returning exiles of Judah, in their homeward journey, gathered in some from other Tribes. It helps us to understand how, in New Testament times, Jews were still spoken of as the "Twelve tribes" (Luke 22:30; Acts 27-7; James 1:1).
I the 7th month of the 1st year of their Return, they built the Altar, and kept the Feast of Tabernacles, in joyous thanksgiving to God. In the 2nd month of the following year, when the foundation of the Temple was laid, they made the heavens ring with
their glad hosannas. But the older men, who had seen the first Temple, wept aloud, so insignificant was this compared to that. "Zerubbabel" (2), governor (Haggai 1:1), was grandson of king Jehoiachin, who had'been carried to Babylon (I Chronicles 3:17-19).
He was the one who would have been king, if it had been a kingdom. With fine courtesy Cyrus appointed him to be Governor of Judah.
As work on the Temple, and Wall (16), progressed, the peoples to whom the Jews' land had been given, and their neighbors, began to object; and, through bluff and intrigue, succeeded in stopping the work for 15 years, till the reign of Darius.
Darius was friendly to the Jews; and, in his 2nd year (520 s.c.), 16 years after the Jews had been home, under the encouragement of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, work on the Temple u'as resumed. Shortly came the decree from Darius for the Temple to be completed, with an order to draw on the royal treasury for the needed
money. Within 4 years (520-516 B.C.), it was completed, and dedicated amid great rejoicing.
The famous Behistun Inscription, which supplied the key to the ancient Babylonian language was made the same year the Temple was completed, by this same Darius.
For some reason or other, after the Temple was completed, the work of restoring the city went on further for some 70 years.
This was 457 B.C., in the reign of Artaxerxes, who was queen Esther's stepson, about 60 years after the Temple had been completed, 80 years after the Jews had first gone back to Jerusalem. Ezra was a priest. He went to teach Judah the Law of God, to
beautify the Temple, and restore the Temple service.
When Ezra arrived in Jerusalem he found a situation that made him heartsick. The people, priests, Levites, princes and rulers had freely intermarried with their Idolatrous neighbors: a thing that God had again and again forbidden the Jews to do, the thing that had led the Jews into Idolatry, which had been the cause of their
Captivity. God had sent prophet after prophet, and judgment after judgment, and at last had resorted to the Captivity, almost wiping the nation out of existence. Now a little remnant had come home cured. And very first thing they were up to their old tricks of intermarrying with idolatrous peoples. Ezra's measures to rid them of their Idolatrous wives, to us, may seem severe. But it was effective. The Jews, who up to the Babylonian Captivity just would be Idolaters, were cured; and from that day to this, generally speaking, have remained cured.
Ezra helped in further reforms, as noted in the book, of Nehemiah. Tradition makes him originator of Synagog worship, and president of the "Great Synagog".