Ezra: Chapter 1 thru 4

Ezra: Chapter 1 thru 4

Ezra: Chapter 1 thru Chapter 4                  November 02, 2019          

  • We went through Book of Esther and saw what it did for the Jewish people.
  • But why and what happen for the need of Esther.
  • How did the Jewish people change, to need Esther
  • What did the Jews do
  • How was Esther really involved.
  • Let’s see how all these books fit together, a good overview.
  • The post-exile books of Ezra, Esther and Nehemiah cover about 100 years, closing the Old Testament historical books.
  • These post-exile books record the return from Babylon after its fall to the Persians under Cyrus,
  • The rebuilding of the Temple, Walls and Jerusalem, and
  • The reestablishment of the national life of the Jews.
  • Babylonian Empire was overthrown by Darius the Persian.
  • Daniel has just been put into a place of honor by Darius, the Mede, whom Cyrus appointed to rule over the Babylonian territories (Dan 5:30–6:3).
  • The first return was led by Zerubbabel (Ezra 1-6; Hag.; Zech.) cover the 23 years from the edict of Cyrus to the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem (538-515 B.C.).
  • The rebuilding of the temple was of vital importance for this group and was stopped construction by Cambyses (530 B.C.).
  • The second return was under Ezra (Ezra 7-10) in 458 B.C. The people needed reforming; they needed to return to their covenant obligations.
  • The third return was led by Nehemiah in 444 B.C. Nehemiah’s concerns were to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and, as in Ezra’s time, to lead the people back to obedience to the Lord.
  • The first six chapters of Ezra cover events during the first two or three years of the reign of Cyrus (538–530 B.C.) and the first six years of the reign of Darius I (521–486 B.C.).
  • The last four chapters record events during the first part of the reign of Artaxerxes I (464–423 B.C.). {Esther}
  • Nearly a fourth of the Book of Ezra was written in Aramaic; the rest was written in Hebrew.
  • The Aramaic sections (67 of 280 verses) are 4:8-6:18 and 7:12-26.
  • The material in these verses was mainly copied from official correspondence for which Aramaic was the standard language of the day.

The Proclamation of Cyrus

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,

Babylon fell to Cyrus, Lord said the Jews will return to Jerusalem.

For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. Jeremiah 29:10

Ezra 1:2 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 Jerusalem which is in Judah.

The Lord God told Isaiah, prophesied two hundred years before he was born.  Cyrus was impressed, his named is listed, only foundation be laid.

 Who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd, And he shall perform all My pleasure, Saying to Jerusalem, “You shall be built,” And to the temple,Your foundation shall be laid.” ‘ Isaiah 44:28

Ezra 1:3 Who is among you of all His people? May 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 God), which is in Jerusalem.

The temple was the most important thing in the life of the people of Israel. Without the temple there could be no sacrificial system, which was the nation’s lifeblood in its relationship to God.

Ezra 1:4 And whoever is left in any place where he dwells, let the men of his place help him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, besides the freewill offerings for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.

The Jews were to receive help from their non-Jewish neighbors in rebuilding the temple is similar in a sense, when the Israelites received from the  Egyptians before the Exodus.

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 Jerusalem.

The priests and Levites was needed for Temple service and teaching.

The Jews who returned totaled 49,897.  Many did not leave because they did not want to give up their property.

Ezra 1:6 And all those who were around them encouraged them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with precious things, besides all that was willingly offered.

The neighbors of the returnees obeyed the king’s decree by contributing.

The Lord God encourage their heart to give.

Ezra 1:7 King Cyrus also brought out the articles of the house of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from Jerusalem and put in the temple of his gods;

Even Cyrus contributed to the return by giving back the articles belonging to the temple of the LORD.

Ezra 1:8 and Cyrus king of Persia brought them out by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and counted them out to Sheshbazzar {Hebrew name: Zerubbabel} the prince of Judah.

Josephus says he was captain of the life – guard; and actual prince of Judah, in the David royal line.

Ezra 1:9-10 This is the number of them: thirty gold platters, one thousand silver platters, twenty-nine knives, (10) thirty gold basins, four hundred and ten silver basins of a similar kind, and one thousand other articles.

These were the dishes, pans, bowls, and other articles Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Jerusalem temple in 605 B.C.

Ezra 1:11  All the articles of gold and silver were five thousand four hundred. All these Sheshbazzar took with the captives who were brought from Babylon to Jerusalem.

The Exiles Return

Ezra 2:1 Now these are the people of the province who came back from the captivity, of those who had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away to Babylon, and who returned to Jerusalem and Judah, everyone to his own city.

The list is divided into several parts. All of the people of the province (i.e., of Judah) returned to their hometowns

Ezra 2:2 Those who came with Zerubbabel were Jeshua {Joshua, the High Priest}, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah. The number of the men of the people of Israel:

Then Ezra listed people by their 18 families and clans, totaling 15,604 (2:3-20).

Ezra 2:3-20 the people of Parosh, two thousand one hundred and seventy-two; (4) the people of Shephatiah, three hundred and seventy-two; (5) the people of Arah, seven hundred and seventy-five; (6) the people of Pahath-Moab, of the people of Jeshua and Joab, two thousand eight hundred and twelve; (7) the people of Elam, one thousand two hundred and fifty-four; (8) the people of Zattu, nine hundred and forty-five; (9) the people of Zaccai, seven hundred and sixty; (10) the people of Bani, six hundred and forty-two; (11) the people of Bebai, six hundred and twenty-three; (12) the people of Azgad, one thousand two hundred and twenty-two; (13) the people of Adonikam, six hundred and sixty-six; (14) the people of Bigvai, two thousand and fifty-six; (15) the people of Adin, four hundred and fifty-four; (16) the people of Ater of Hezekiah, ninety-eight; (17) the people of Bezai, three hundred and twenty-three; (18) the people of Jorah, one hundred and twelve; (19) the people of Hashum, two hundred and twenty-three; (20) the people of Gibbar, ninety-five;

Next came a listing of inhabitants (totaling 8,540) from 21 towns and villages (vv. 21-35).

Ezra 2:21-35 the people of Bethlehem, one hundred and twenty-three; (22) the men of Netophah, fifty-six; (23) the men of Anathoth, one hundred and twenty-eight; (24) the people of Azmaveth, forty-two; (25) the people of Kirjath Arim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, seven hundred and forty-three; (26) the people of Ramah and Geba, six hundred and twenty-one; (27) the men of Michmas, one hundred and twenty-two; (28) the men of Bethel and Ai, two hundred and twenty-three; (29) the people of Nebo, fifty-two; (30) the people of Magbish, one hundred and fifty-six; (31) the people of the other Elam, one thousand two hundred and fifty-four; (32) the people of Harim, three hundred and twenty; (33) the people of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, seven hundred and twenty-five; (34) the people of Jericho, three hundred and forty-five; (35) the people of Senaah, three thousand six hundred and thirty.

Then the priests (4,289 of them) were listed (vv. 36-39), followed by 341 Levites which included singers and gatekeepers (vv. 40-42).

Ezra 2:36-42 The priests: the sons of Jedaiah, of the house of Jeshua, nine hundred and seventy-three; (37) the sons of Immer, one thousand and fifty-two; (38) the sons of Pashhur, one thousand two hundred and forty-seven; (39) the sons of Harim, one thousand and seventeen. (40) The Levites: the sons of Jeshua and Kadmiel, of the sons of Hodaviah, seventy-four. (41) The singers: the sons of Asaph, one hundred and twenty-eight. (42) The sons of the gatekeepers: the sons of Shallum, the sons of Ater, the sons of Talmon, the sons of Akkub, the sons of Hatita, and the sons of Shobai, one hundred and thirty-nine in all.

The temple servants (vv. 43-54) and descendants of the royal servants (vv. 55-58) totaled 392.

Ezra 2:43  The Nethinim: the sons of Ziha, the sons of Hasupha, the sons of Tabbaoth,

The Nethinims were probably descendants of the Gibeonites, whom Joshua made subject to taskwork (Josh 9).

Ezra 2:44-58 the sons of Keros, the sons of Siaha, the sons of Padon, (45) the sons of Lebanah, the sons of Hagabah, the sons of Akkub, (46) the sons of Hagab, the sons of Shalmai, the sons of Hanan, (47) the sons of Giddel, the sons of Gahar, the sons of Reaiah, (48) the sons of Rezin, the sons of Nekoda, the sons of Gazzam, (49) the sons of Uzza, the sons of Paseah, the sons of Besai, (50) the sons of Asnah, the sons of Meunim, the sons of Nephusim, (51) the sons of Bakbuk, the sons of Hakupha, the sons of Harhur, (52) the sons of Bazluth, the sons of Mehida, the sons of Harsha, (53) the sons of Barkos, the sons of Sisera, the sons of Tamah, (54) the sons of Neziah, and the sons of Hatipha. (55) The sons of Solomon’s servants: the sons of Sotai, the sons of Sophereth, the sons of Peruda, (56) the sons of Jaala, the sons of Darkon, the sons of Giddel, (57) the sons of Shephatiah, the sons of Hattil, the sons of Pochereth of Zebaim, and the sons of Ami. (58) All the Nethinim and the children of Solomon’s servants were three hundred and ninety-two.

The 652 returnees who could not clearly trace their ancestry (vv. 59-63) were listed last.

Ezra 2:59-63 And these were the ones who came up from Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Cherub, Addan, and Immer; but they could not identify their father’s house or their genealogy, whether they were of Israel:

(60) the sons of Delaiah, the sons of Tobiah, and the sons of Nekoda, six hundred and fifty-two; (61) and of the sons of the priests: the sons of Habaiah, the sons of Koz, and the sons of Barzillai, who took a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called by their name. (62) These sought their listing among those who were registered by genealogy, but they were not found; therefore they were excluded from the priesthood as defiled. (63) And the governor said to them that they should not eat of the most holy things till a priest could consult with the Urim and Thummim.

Ezra 2:64-65 The whole assembly together was forty-two thousand three hundred and sixty, (65) besides their male and female servants, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred and thirty-seven; and they had two hundred men and women singers.

Ezra 2:66-67 Their horses were seven hundred and thirty-six, their mules two hundred and forty-five, (67) their camels four hundred and thirty-five, and their donkeys six thousand seven hundred and twenty.

Ezra’s grand total of 49,897 list of the returnees to Jerusalem.

The journey from Babylon to Israel was about 900 miles and took about four months (cf. 7:8-9), but Ezra did not state how long the return trip took. His focus was not on the people’s hardships but on their task of rebuilding the temple.

Ezra 2:68-69 Some of the heads of the fathers’ houses, when they came to the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem, offered freely for the house of God, to erect it in its place: (69) According to their ability, they gave to the treasury for the work sixty-one thousand gold drachmas, five thousand minas of silver, and one hundred priestly garments.

When the returnees arrived back in Jerusalem at the house of the LORD they gave of their possessions according to their ability.

Ezra 2:70 So the priests and the Levites, some of the people, the singers, the gatekeepers, and the Nethinim, dwelt in their cities, and all Israel in their cities.

Rebuilding the Altar

Ezra 3:1 And when the seventh month {Fall Feast Days} had come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered together as one man to Jerusalem.

The first task facing the people was the rebuilding of the altar of burnt offering, directly east of where the temple building itself would be located.

Ezra 3:2  Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brethren, arose and built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God.

Joshua, High Priest, descendant of Aaron, Zerubbabel, governor, descendant of David and in the linage of Jesus, the Messiah.

Altar is needed for the burnt offering sacrifices.

Ezra 3:3 Though fear had come upon them because of the people of those countries, they set the altar on its bases; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the LORD, both the morning and evening burnt offerings.

They made haste because of the many enemies around them.

Rebuilt the altar on the same base or spot on which it had formerly stood.

Ezra 3:4 They also kept the Feast of Tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings in the number required by ordinance for each day.

Ezra 3:5 Afterwards they offered the regular burnt offering, and those for New Moons and for all the appointed feasts of the LORD that were consecrated, and those of everyone who willingly offered a freewill offering to the LORD.

Ezra 3:6 From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the LORD, although the foundation of the temple of the LORD had not been laid.   {notice – from Trumpets}

Ezra 3:7 They also gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre to bring cedar logs from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the permission which they had from Cyrus king of Persia.  {Same thing Solomon did}

Rebuilding the Temple

Ezra 3:8 Now in the second month of the second year of their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the rest of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all those who had come out of the captivity to Jerusalem, began work and appointed the Levites from twenty years old and above to oversee the work of the house of the LORD.

Because Priests had to get organized and secure the building materials was why there was a 7 month delay to start construction.  25 was the minimum age for tabernacle service for Levites, the age was only twenty for temple service.  Law required age 30, age reduced to 25, then David lowered to 20.

Ezra 3:9 Then Jeshua with his sons and brothers, Kadmiel with his sons, and the sons of Judah, arose as one to oversee those working on the house of God: the sons of Henadad with their sons and their brethren the Levites.

Zerubbabel appointed the Levites as supervisors of the construction project

Ezra 3:10 When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD, according to the ordinance of David king of Israel.

Nothing is mentioned about the actual process of laying the temple foundation or the length of time involved.

Ezra 3:11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD: “For He is good, For His mercy endures forever toward Israel.” Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.

The priests and the Levites led the dedication service for the temple’s foundations with trumpets and cymbals.  *Psa. 136:1-26

Ezra 3:12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes. Yet many shouted aloud for joy,

Ezra 3:13 so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard afar off.

Among Eastern people, expressions of sorrow are always very loud and is indicated by wailing,

The Rebuilding of the Temple Opposed

  • Ezra’s account of this interim period differs in tone from Haggai’s account of opposition (from 520 to 518).
  • Ezra did not dwell on the sinful condition of the people as they lived in the land as did Haggai (Hag 1).
  • Ezra’s account focused on external pressures from the surrounding peoples, whereas
  • Haggai focused on the internal attitudes of the people who valued material possessions above spiritual things (Hag 1:4-6).

Ezra 4:1 Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the descendants of the captivity were building the temple of the LORD God of Israel,

These two tribes are mentioned in particular because they now constituted the majority of the nation, and it was largely in their old territories that the remnant now lived.  Samaritans.

Ezra 4:2 they came to Zerubbabel and the heads of the fathers’ houses, and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we seek your God as you do; and we have sacrificed to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.”

These people were the descendants of these mixed peoples and the forefathers of the New Testament Samaritans.  No friendly intention.

Ezra 4:3 But Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the fathers’ houses of Israel said to them, “You may do nothing with us to build a house for our God; but we alone will build to the LORD God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.”  {righteous refusal}

They had two reasons for not wanting to be sidetracked by this offer of help.

First, the temple was for the LORD the God of Israel, who was not the god these people worshiped. 

Second, they had been commissioned by King Cyrus himself to undertake the building project and therefore had every right to carry it out on their own. 

Ezra 4:4-5 Then the people of the land tried to discourage the people of Judah. They troubled them in building, (5) and hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.  {ruled from 521 to 486}

The enemies tried to discourage the workers and make them afraid.  Samaritans lawyers to represent them against the Jewish community at the Persian court.

This is an insert from the main topic

Ezra 4:6 In the reign of Ahasuerus {Xerxes}, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.

Cyrus died in battle, and his successor Cambyses [also called Ahasuerus (Ezra 4:6)] was pressured to stop the work.

Opposition continued during the time of Xerxes.  Xerxes, also known as Ahasuerus in the Book of Esther, ruled from 485 to 465.  Esther time.

The Letter to King Xerxes

Ezra 4:7 In the days of Artaxerxes also, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabel, and the rest of their companions wrote to Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the letter was written in Aramaic script, and translated into the Aramaic language.

Opposition against the Jews was strong during the time of Artaxerxes. The focus of the narrative is on two letters written during his reign (464-424).  Because the enemies’ letter and the king’s reply brought the work on the city walls and foundations to a halt,

Ezra 4:8  Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to King Artaxerxes in this fashion:

Probably Persians who were persuaded to write the letter.

Ezra 4:9  From Rehum the commander, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their companions–representatives of the Dinaites, the Apharsathchites, the Tarpelites, the people of Persia and Erech and Babylon and Shushan, the Dehavites, the Elamites,

Letter pointed out this opposition were from various parts of the world.

Ezra 4:10  and the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Osnapper took captive and settled in the cities of Samaria and the remainder beyond the River–and so forth.

Ezra 4:11 (This is a copy of the letter that they sent him) To King Artaxerxes from your servants, the men of the region beyond the River, and so forth:

The letter itself is recorded in 4:12-16, out of time order by 80 years)

Ezra 4:12 Let it be known to the king that the Jews who came up from you have come to us at Jerusalem, and are building the rebellious and evil city, and are finishing its walls and repairing the foundations.

Ezra 4:13 Let it now be known to the king that, if this city is built and the walls completed, they will not pay tax, tribute, or custom, and the king’s treasury will be diminished.

Ezra 4:14 Now because we receive support from the palace, it was not proper for us to see the king’s dishonor; therefore we have sent and informed the king,

Ezra 4:15  that search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers. And you will find in the book of the records and know that this city is a rebellious city, harmful to kings and provinces, and that they have incited sedition within the city in former times, for which cause this city was destroyed.

Ezra 4:16  We inform the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, the result will be that you will have no dominion beyond the River.

If they are allowed to finish, Jerusalem would control would no longer pay taxes or tribute money to the crown. This would dishonor the king.  Money.

The King Orders the Work to Cease 

Ezra 4:17 The king sent an answer: To Rehum the commander, to Shimshai the scribe, to the rest of their companions who dwell in Samaria, and to the remainder beyond the River: Peace, and so forth.

Ezra 4:18 The letter which you sent to us has been clearly read before me.

Ezra 4:19 And I gave the command, and a search has been made, and it was found that this city in former times has revolted against kings, and rebellion and sedition have been fostered in it.

Ezra 4:20 There have also been mighty kings over Jerusalem, who have ruled over all the region beyond the River; and tax, tribute, and custom were paid to them.

The king did search the archives and found that Jerusalem had been powerful at one time. What an encouragement this must have

Ezra 4:21 Now give the command to make these men cease, that this city may not be built until the command is given by me.

  • In his reply the king actually strengthened the position of the Israelites by leaving open the possibility that their work might resume later by his permission.
  • Remember, for the laws of the Medes and Persians changed not! except how the letter was written.

Years later at the request of Nehemiah the decision was reviewed

Ezra 4:22 Take heed now that you do not fail to do this. Why should damage increase to the hurt of the kings?

The Jews to stop rebuilding the walls of their city so not to do what they did before against the kings.  Now the people commit a major sin.

Ezra 4:23 Now when the copy of King Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum, Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem against the Jews, and by force of arms made them cease.

Ezra 4:24 Thus the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem ceased, and it was discontinued until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.

The narrative now picks up where it left off after verse 5 (vv. 6-23 are a lengthy parenthesis).

The result of the opposition during Cyrus’ reign was that work on the temple was suspended until the second year of Darius (520 B.C.), some 18 years after the people had returned to the land for the purpose of rebuilding the house of God.

Ezra 5:1 Then the prophet Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophets, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them.

The work on the temple had been stopped, from 535 to 520 B.C. Now under the influence of two important prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, it was resumed.

Insert Haggai here

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