Dave Burnette's Commentary

Ezra Chapter 1

Written By: God through Inspiration
Penned By: Ezra
Date Penned: (450 BC)
Overview: The Return of the Jewish Exiles (c 1-10)
Theme: The Return Led By Zerubbabel (c 1-6)
Message: King Cyrus Releases Captive Jews (1-11)

Ezra 1 Commentary 

(1:1) A Defeated Nation - The book of Ezra opens in 538 BC, 48 years after Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem, defeated the southern kingdom of Judah, and carried the people away to Babylon as captives (2 Kings 25; 2 Chronicles 36). Nebuchadnezzar died earlier, in 562. Because his successors were weak, Babylon was overthrown by Persia in 539, just prior to the events recorded in this book. Both the Babylonians and the Persians had a relaxed policy toward their captives, allowing them to own land and homes and to take ordinary jobs. Many Jews, such as Daniel, Mordecai, and Esther, rose to prominent positions within the kingdoms. King Cyrus of Persia took things a step further: He allowed many groups of exiles, including the Jews, to return to their homelands. By doing this, he hoped to win their loyalty and thus provide buffer zones around the borders of his empire. For the Jews this was a day of hope, a new beginning.

(1:1) Cyrus Shows Mercy - Cyruss, king of Persia (559-530 BC), had already begun his rise to power in the ancient Middle East by unifying the Medes and Persians into a strong empire. As he conquered cities, he treated the inhabitants with mercy.

Although not a servant of God, Cyrus was used by him to return the Jews to their homeland. Cyrus may have been shown the prophecy of Isaiah 44:28-45:6, written over a century earlier, which predicted that Cyrus himself would help the Jews return to Jerusalem. Daniel, a prominent government official (Daniel 5:20; 6:28), would have been familiar with the prophecy. The book of Daniel has more to say about Cyrus.

(1:1) Jeremiah's Prophecy - Jeremiah prophesied that the Jews would remain in captivity for 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11; 29:10). The 70-year period has been calculated two different ways: (1) from the first captivity in 605 BC (2 Kings 24:1) until the altar was rebuilt by the returned exiles in 537 (Ezra 3:1-6), or (2) from the destruction of the temple in 586 until the exiles finished rebuilding it in 515. Many interpreters prefer the second approach because the temple was the focus and heartbeat of the nation. Without the temple, the Jews did not consider themselves reestablished as a nation.

(1:2-4) The Jews Work Together - This proclamation permitted the Jews to work together to accomplish the huge task of rebuilding the temple. Some did the actual building, while others operated the supply lines. Significant ventures require teamwork, with certain people serving in the forefront and others providing support. Each function is vital to accomplishing the task. When you're asked to serve, do so faithfully as a team member, no matter who gets the credit

(1:4) God's Resources - Cyrus was not a Jew, but God worked through him to return the exiled Jews to their homeland. Cyrus gave the proclamation allowing their return, and he gave them protection, money, and the temple articles taken by Nebuchadnezzar. When you face difficult situations and feel surrounded, outnumbered, overpowered, or outclassed, remember that God's power is not limited to your resources. He is able to use anyone to carry out his plans.

(1:5-6) Wrong Priorities - Many Jews chose to go to Jerusalem, but many more chose to remain in Babylon rather than return to their homeland. The journey back to Jerusalem was difficult, dangerous, and expensive, lasting over four months Travel conditions were poor, Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside were in ruins, and the people living in these areas were hostile. Persian records indicate that many Jews in captivity had accumulated great wealth. Returning to Jerusalem would have meant giving up everything they had and starting over. Many people couldn't bring themselves to do that; they preferred wealth and security to the sacrifice that God's work would require. Their priorities were upside down (Mark 4:18-19). We must not let our comfort, security, or material possessions prevent us from doing what God wants.

(1:5-6) A Lack Of Vision - Cyrus was king over the entire region that had once been Assyria and Babylon. Assyria had deported the Israelites from the northern kingdom (Israel) in 722 BC. Babylon, the next world power, had taken Israelites captive from the southern kingdom (Judah) in 586 BC. Therefore, when the Medo-Persian Empire came to power, King Cyrus' proclamation of freedom went to all the original 12 tribes, but only Judah and Benjamin (the southern kingdom) responded and returned to rebuild God's temple. They had been taken captive just 48 years earlier, so the event would have still been fresh in their memories. The ten tribes of the northern kingdom, however, had been carried into captivity almost two centuries earlier and had been so fractured and dispersed by Assyria that many may have been unsure of their real heritage. Thus, they were unwilling to share in the vision of rebuilding the temple.

(1:5-6) A Move Of God - God moved in the hearts of the leaders, family heads, priests, and Levites and gave them a great desire to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. Major changes begin on the inside as God works on our attitudes, beliefs, and desires. These inner changes lead to faithful actions. After 48 years of captivity, the arrogant people of Judah had been humbled. When the people's attitudes and desires changed, God ended their punishment and gave them the opportunity to go home and try again. In the New Testament, Paul reminds us that "it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). Doing God's will begins with your desires. Are you willing to place his desires before yours, to be open to his opportunities, and to move at his direction? Ask God to give you the desire to change in order to follow him more closely.

(1:7) God Keeps His Promises - When King Nebuchadnezzar ransacked the temple, he took many of the valuable furnishings with him. What he did not take, he burned (2 Chronicles 36:18-19). Most of the captured items were made of solid gold (1 Kings 7:48-50), and Cyrus kindly (and amazingly!) returned them to the Jews for the temple they would soon rebuild. (1)Sheshbazzar was either the Babylonian name for Zerubbabel, one of the Jewish leaders during the first return (2:2; 3:8; 4:3), or the name of another government official with responsibility for the returning party. The reasons Sheshbazzar may be identified with Zerubbabel are as follows: (1) Both were called governors (5:14; Haggai 111); (2) both laid the temple foundation (Ezra 3:8; 5:16); and (3) Jews in exile were often given Babylonian names (see Daniel 1:7, where Daniel and his companions are given new names). Every article of gold and silver was a witness to God's protection and care. This list does not add up to 5,400 articles, so perhaps this sampling includes only the most important things. Although many years had passed, God delivered these temple articles back to his people. We may be discouraged by events in life, but we must never give up our hope in God's promises to us. The turning point may be just ahead.



Dave Burnette's Life Application

Sin Brings Judgement

 Each day we walk through the Bible chapter by chapter making an application of our text to help us grow in the Lord. Many applications can be made from each day's text. Today we start the book of Ezra with Chapter 1 and we see the first group of exiles return to the land as King Cyrus releases the captive Jews after a 70 year exile led by the Babylonian Empire. What catches my eye is how judgement came upon God's people after their repeated disobedience. Just as the people of Moses in the wilderness it seems that the Lord allowed a generation to die off before delivering the Jewish nation. In making application we see the results of sin and judgment. Be not deceived, God is not mocked, and whatsoever a man soweth - that will he also reap. Today many mistake God's grace for apathy or weakness but the truth is that a Holy God will judge sin in His Timing. Judgement might come today, tomorrow, next week, next year, etc... but Judgement is coming so if you have been extended grace you must repent before it is everlasting too late. To some this might seem negative but only a loving God provides a way to be forgiven, a convicting Holy Spirit to warn, and a Bible full of examples of Judgement of a Holy God toward a sinful man. How about you? Do you see the results of sin ending in Judgement. Let us learn from the mistakes recorded of the Jewish nation in the Bible to remember that sin brings judgment.  


Ezra 1

Ezra 1

 1Now 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,

 2Thus 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.

 3Who 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.

 4And 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.

 5Then 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.

 6And 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.

 7Also 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;

 8Even those did Cyrus king of Persia bring forth by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and numbered them unto Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah.

 9And this is the number of them: thirty chargers of gold, a thousand chargers of silver, nine and twenty knives,

 10Thirty basons of gold, silver basons of a second sort four hundred and ten, and other vessels a thousand.

 11All 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.